Turning the Corner

A month ago my wife had a pretty significant surgery.  The surgery was suppose to start at 2:30 and be done by 4ish.  What I’ve learned with doctors is time is merely a suggestion at best.  The operation didn’t begin until 4:30… Yes I am still angry… I am also sure they will want their payment on time.  I will be sure to send it in on “doctor’s timing.”

I was ok waiting for the first hour or so.  I had great company and white cheddar popcorn.  Those two things should make waiting easier for anyone right?  Well then the first hour went by… Then the second hour… Then the third hour… All the while no updates…  

This tends to be a little stressful when you are waiting to hear if your wife has cancer or not.  I have been some stressful moments in life.  Things like game winning kicks in games that don’t matter and trying to get to the gas station while on super empty. (Super empty is the empty you are on when you kept driving for some time to see how far you can go on empty.) For some reason none of these moments prepared me for this level of stress.

I Person after person was leaving the same waiting room I had been in longer than them.  I could not understand why they were getting good news and leaving and I was having to wait.  At this point I was trying to decide how vulgar I could get with a nurse in front of my mother.

I made up my mind that when my wife’s doctor came out that I was going to unload a combination of words towards her that would let her know how unpleased I was with my wait.  That’s a kind way of me saying I was going to go off in a spectacular way.

After five hours the moment finally came…  The doctor had to know I was furious because as she turned the corner before she was even close to me she said “good news there is no cancer.”  Immediately the anger and frustration was gone.  I knew Andrea was all right so every bit of waiting was ok.  It was when the doctor turned the corner with good news.

That night God spoke this to me for 2017.

2017 will be a year of turning the corner.  For a long time many people have wondered and wandered to find meaning to what seemed like closed door after closed door.  They were not closed doors as much as they were Godly direction.  It’s not that anything was wrong with you.  It’s that God has set you a part for something that did not fit within your realm of understanding.

When we set out in life to do the things God has put in our heart we view through our perspective.  What that simply means is we typically confine God to our understanding, our life experiences and what we have already seen.  We serve a God who is constantly beginning a new work so often times there is a season of life where God has to expand your thinking so you can entirely embrace where He is leading.  That’s where many of us have been.  He told us no to things to better shape in our hearts what He was saying yes to.

In the coming years I believe God is going to use less professionals for His work.  Christianity has become a profitable venture in America.  You can achieve wealth, fame and power in relatively short time frames.  Because of this many people have sought to be in ministry and become very good at doing ministry to satisfy those desires.  The American Church has more talent and gifting in it than possibly ever before.

The proclivity we have as people is to trust in our strengths.  I believe that has happened.  We believe God will move to greater measures because of our gifted speakers, dynamic worship and world class structure.  None of those things are evil.  In fact we should aspire for them; however, when those things are trusted in they form idols in our heart.  

So God is raising up people who have been considered “outsiders” if you will.  People who lack certain training or lack certain church etiquettes.  People who are seen as a liability because of their individualistic nature and people who don’t get it right always.  People who make established groups nervous because your only allegiance is to what you believe is right.  Why these people?  God is after willing vessels and not professional ones.

In 2 Kings 4 we see the story of the woman who is in financial need so her sons aren’t delivered into slavery so Elijah tells her to go and gather any empty vessels so God can fill them with oil.  What’s interesting about the command is Elijah did not say “go get any empty oil vessels.”  He said “any empty vessel.”  There are many people who are bound up in slavery to sin.  In this season God is saying the same message that Elijah said, “any empty vessel will be filled.”  All of this is so God’s children can be free.  

So yes you with the continual and perpetual sinful struggle can be used.  Yes you who has a tendency to be inconsistent can be used.  Yes you who still has a multitude of questions can be used.  You simply must present yourself empty before God.  The beauty of our weaknesses is they should be the very things that drive us to God’s feet and not away from Him.

I’m not sure why this is any surprise to us.  God didn’t use many formally trained people in scripture.  This is not an excuse to dismiss study and training.  The fact that God can use the unequipped is not a valid reason to remain ignorant and under developed.  This is simply a time to stop seeing those two achievements as the mark that you can be used by God.  We become a danger to ourselves and others when we believe God moves based off our work ethic, resources, and gifting.

Some of you have felt mismanaged, pushed to the margin and forgotten.  God bruised you to build you.  He allowed you to be torn down to team you up with the right people.  You have been seen as a “weak link,” “liability,” and “non-conformist.”  Man’s rejection was actually God’s acceptance all along.  God is going to use you to confuse the proud.  Your work will not always be done as good as those that came before you.  You will make mistakes.  The reason God is going to use what you are doing is not because you do everything right but because your heart is right.  Don’t allow success cause you to lose your innocence before God.

In light of this we need to be more patient with one another.  We need to disciple one another.  We need to remain humble before God.  Do everything for God’s glory only.  Watch out for a rebellious spirit.  The body of Christ is full of many different view points, understandings and ideologies.  All of which are needed and beneficial to God’s purposes.  We need each other.

This year God is making space inside for the outsiders.  It’s time to turn the corner for those who have been walking down the hall of waiting for a long time.  You may feel like you’ve waited forever but I can promise you it won’t matter when God turns the corner with good news.


Daniel Johnson

Lead Pastor, The Movement Church

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We Fly High

Have you ever watched the National Geographic Channel?  If you haven’t you are really missing out.  It’s incredibly exciting TV to watch.  Watching lions fight over a gazelle carcass is far more entertaining than watching Hillary and Donald fight over Presidency.  The only time I don’t watch is when they are showing the naked indigenous people.  I’m not big on nudity and tribal things so it loses me quickly.  Other than that I’m all in.

One time they did a special on eagles.  Not the terrible football team in Philly (Go Pack Go), or the 70’s rock band that some of our grey-haired readers may remember, but the bird of the United States of America.  Is there anything more patriotic than a bald eagle?  

One part of the show in particular was incredibly profound.  When an eagle is ready to lay eggs the female eagle begins building a gigantic nest high in the sky.  These nests are about 6 feet in diameter and 3 feet tall.  That’s about the size I feel my shirts are after I eat Krystals to be honest.  Then, when it’s time to lay the eggs, the eagle will lay them very gently in the nest that was built.

Over time the eggs are cared for and watched over incredibly close until the day finally comes…  The day the baby eagles are born.  From that day forward the parent eagles never sleep, never have quiet time, and are dead broke.  That’s actually just human parents for some reason.  Must be part of the fall of man.

What actually happens to the baby eagles is they sit in the nest very comfortably for a period of time.  They are fed and cared for diligently so they can become strong.  As they grow something starts to happen… The mother eagle begins taking the nice nest she made and breaks it.

She starts taking sticks and pointing them in towards the nest to make the young eagles uncomfortable.  Food starts coming less and less frequently.  (Maybe some of you parents who have kids over 18 living with you should try that.) What she is trying to do is make the nest so uncomfortable that the young eagles will eventually have no choice but to jump out of the nest and fly.

Here is the problem; the nest is so high and for so long it was so comfortable.  I know we understand this feeling.  Throughout our life God prepares a pretty comfortable life for us.  He sends us sermons from preachers, incredible worship, and common graces that we all enjoy.  Then one day something strange starts to happen.  We start to feel uncomfortable in what once was a comfortable place.  This doesn’t always mean something is going wrong.  In fact, often it means something incredibly beautiful is happening.  It means God is ready to teach you to fly.

But look at the drop.  What if I fall?  What if I plummet to my death?  What if I don’t catch the wind?  What if people are angry with me?  What if I don’t have enough money?  Those are all fair questions.  I would suggest a more important question though.  What if you are missing out on the most incredible moment of your life because of “what if’s?” 

God has spoken so many incredible promises and purposes over us.  They are beautiful and at the same time intimidating.  They are exciting and at the same time scary.  We learn to be afraid of so much that we typically would rather not chance the wind, but God loves us too much to not force us to.

So what God does is He makes you uncomfortable so you will have no choice but to fly.  So out of nowhere, friendships that have always felt right don’t feel right.  The things you once enjoyed don’t quite bring you the same joy they use to.  It can even get so intense that the church you’ve always enjoyed just seems different.  This is how God breaks the nest to help you fly.

You were made to fly.  You were made for greatness.  God has predestined goodness and glory to come pouring forth from your life like a song.  You are not just an ordinary person.  You are a child of God.  You are not your mistakes.  You are who your Heavenly Father says you are.

I think we often believe that God gives up on us when we make mistakes, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.  We are not identified by our mistakes but by God’s perfections.

So here you are standing on the edge of a mountain and the wind is stirring all around you.  Fear and excitement are rising simultaneously.  The drop looks frightful but the skies seem to be inviting you to join them.  This is your moment to jump and fly.  You were made to fly.

In August I finally made the jump when we started TMC and it was incredibly scary.  Forget was scary, it still IS scary.  At the same time, I have never been happier in my entire life.  Why?  Because I was made to fly.  You were made to fly.

In closing let me give you one incredibly important truth you need to remember when you jump.  Never take your eyes off Jesus.  When you are flying high set your eyes on Jesus.  When you are falling quickly set your eyes on Jesus.  That’s what Paul is telling us in Hebrews 12:1-2.  He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.  Which means He gives us the desire to fly and empowers us with the gift of flight.  He is everything.

So if God is calling you to do something but you are too scared to do it then I pray today that God makes your life so uncomfortable that you have no choice but to leap.  Why?  Because the wind is better than the nest.

Being fed and having a comfortable place to rest is great, but it doesn’t compare to the skies.  Now what I haven’t told you yet is some eagles don’t make it.  Immediate buzz kill right?  Wrong.  At least it died trying to be an eagle instead of survived by living like a chicken.  Time to fly.

— 

Daniel Johnson

Lead Pastor, The Movement Church


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Let’s Get Loud

As you guys know I have two daughters.  I love them to death.  So much so I would chance prison if one of your sons at the age of 7, 8, or 9 tried to flirt with them.  I truly couldn’t imagine life without them.  I know I joke about how easy life was before them, but the truth is life was really easy before them.  I also would never want to live without them now that they are here.  They make my life a better place to be.

Kate is my oldest.  She is a bit of a free spirit.  I honestly don’t think she knows where she is at any time.  She is a hippie trapped in the wrong generation.  Right now in Kate’s mind she is somewhere skipping through a field of daisies singing her favorite song, “Shhh and Dance with Me.”  The song is actually called “Shut Up and Dance with Me” but we don’t let them say “shut up.”  I guess it makes us feel like good Christian parents or something.

There is one problem with Kate… She is loud… When I say loud I am talking a dryer full of gravel loud.  I’m talking an entire college band playing at full blast in a phone booth loud.  I’m talking Heaven plays the trumpet for the whole world Jesus is returning loud.  Here is the real kicker with Kate, she is loud at all times.  Like right now she is yelling something somewhere.  

Somewhere in Heaven in the child-forming department there is an extra volume knob that was not installed and I have the child missing it.  Her whisper is nothing more than a normal talking level.

The most difficult thing about having a child that doubles as a walking loud noise is we want her to learn how to tone it down but we don’t want her to lose her voice and become someone she is not.  What makes her so special to us is her carefree spirit.  Just this week she hit me with this one, “Daddy, your next series should be on Star Wars because if the people don’t like your sermon at least they will like Star Wars.  Everyone likes Star Wars.”  After I cried alone in my bathroom for a few hours I finally got to laugh about how strong the force is in this one.

My wife and I are constantly going back and forth between letting her be Kate and trying to help her grow.  From time to time we get on to her and I can see how it hurts her carefree spirit.  The few times that happens she does something very strange.  She gets quiet.  

I think you and I know that feeling well.  We were created as the sons and daughters of God.  Meant to live with boldness and audacious faith.  In fact God has given us the most powerful voice in all of creation.  That voice has gone silent hasn’t it?

Over time things happen to us.  Some people reading this blog right now have had a mother or father walk away and never turn around.  Some have had people call us things that to this day are too difficult to mention.  We have had people who said they were going be here forever, determine that forever was too long, and they walked away.  Some of us have wrestled with our self worth since middle school and that fight still hasn’t ended.  These moments silence our voice.

Over time we also do things.  Some people reading this blog feel a shame so deep from an addiction to pornography.  Others believe they have slept with so many people that they have lost their ability to be loved by God.  There are some who carry a deep sense of guilty over a mistake of the past.  There are countless people reading this blog who simply don’t think they are a good enough Christian because of a lie that has taken root in their mind.  There may even be a few people reading this who believe they haven’t read their Bible or prayed enough to be considered a good son or daughter of God.  You guessed it, these moments silence our voice.

Over the years the things we once spoke boldly, we begin to say quieter.  Then the quiet whisper turns into absolute silence.  So what was once a bold child of God is an ashamed believer who is just trying to survive.  

What I feel strongly in my spirit is God restoring the voice of those who have been diligent and unnoticed.  I believe a shift is happening where those who have been mismanaged and forgotten are being brought to the forefront.  You have been sitting silently.  Now it is time to rise up loudly.  It’s not that you have been perfect either.  You have made mistakes.  What sets you apart is that God picked you and called you His own.

You tried to fit in but God would not let you.  Relationships that worked for others did not work for you.  Things that people were doing bothered you and not anyone else.  Why?  You are a part of a new movement of God.  A movement where God is using the diligent unnoticed. 

You have continued being diligent in what is in front of you.  You served without recognition.  You were faithful to relationships that turned out poorly.  You did what you thought was right even though there was an easier path.  You honored God and resisted the urge to submit to man.  Now the seasons are shifting and it’s your season to get loud.

God has given you a unique gifting.  He has anointed you for a task.  Believe in it.  Believe that He has been the Teacher and Mentor to you that you never had.  He is the righteousness that you know you do not have.  He is the provision for the vision He has put in your heart.  He is the qualification that you have been waiting on.

Speak your vision boldly.  Speak the wisdom He is sharing with you loudly.  Speak the truth He is depositing in you confidently.  You are His child.  Your confidence is in that alone.  You are not what they said about you, you are not what happened to you, you are not your mistakes.  You are a difference maker.  A Kingdom builder.  A child of God.

In this season I want to encourage you to believe in that.  A new movement is beginning where the diligent unnoticed are rising up.  I challenge you to be loud like a pretty little 8 year-old I know.  I can promise you they will hear you soon.

— 

Daniel Johnson
Lead Pastor, The Movement Church

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Down the Aisle of Progress

I’m writing this blog as I sit in the back of my dad’s smart car on the way home from Georgia.  We are so squished in this car we are legitimately a human suitcase.  I particularly feel like the socks you shove done in the sides of the suitcase.  My dad’s driving skills are a little sketchy… When I say sketchy I mean I have a good shot of dying as I type this, getting sick, or passing out from fear.  So if I never finish this blog you know why…

 So today I performed my sister’s wedding.  I know what you are thinking… Man he is getting old.  To that I would agree.  Last week I went to bed at 8pm, have a grey hair in my beard, and recently have started getting on Facebook to look at recipes.

 I’m not a big crier.  I cry at very few things.  For instance, when I got married, when my daughters were born, and when the Vols lose.  That’s really it.  Occasionally I cry when I have to leave the bed in the mornings as well.

 So today I was asked if I was going to cry while I officiated my sister’s wedding.  I was 110% confident that I was not going to cry.  It never even crossed my mind.  Heck, I left my waterproof mascara back in Tennessee.  I knew I was all good.

 Right before the wedding I wasn’t even nervous.  I was taking care of important things… like trying to get the Packer’s game on my phone, and playing “Toy Blast.” If you just judged me over Toy Blast then I think that’s fair. I literally had no nerves and no fear of the tears.  Well then the wedding started…

 I was doing great as I walked with my brother in law down the aisle. Was doing great when the wedding party started coming.  Then the Jr. Bridesmaids started coming… They were my daughters.

 In that moment a rush of emotion came over me because I realized “Crap, I’m getting closer and closer to them walking down that aisle.”  I mean they will be 57 years old before I know it and ready to get married.  Immediately tears filled my eyes.  I kept telling myself that I needed to pull it together but I couldn’t find “it” to pull.

 A few moments later the music changed and another wave of emotions hit.  I saw my dad walking my sister down the aisle.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.  I couldn’t believe my little sister was getting married.  It doesn’t seem like it was real.  I was happy for her and all in my feels.

 Then the emotions got flat out of hand when this thought crossed my mind, “If God wouldn’t have touched my dad after two major strokes then he wouldn’t be here to walk her down the aisle.”  I was officially in a flood zone.

 I’m sure that everyone in the wedding thought I was either drunk crying (I didn’t drink overly religious person who is analyzing this blog) or really close to my sister in some strange way.  Fortunately neither was true.  It was in that moment I was just so proud of all of the progress that people I love had made.

 My daughters are growing into two incredibly beautiful young girls, my sister is marrying an incredible guy and starting a family, and my dad is moving forward in life like he didn’t have two major strokes a couple years ago.

 You know, I can’t help but think this is how Jesus feels when He sees us.  The scriptures are clear that we are on God’s mind a good bit.  I know we often think those thoughts are probably negative, but as His child that couldn’t be further from the truth.  He sees you as righteous.

 I wonder how often He is proud of our progress?  I know every person reading this blog could make lists of things you need to do better.  All of which are probably true.  Regardless of that, I just know in my heart that when He sees us walking down the aisle of life He is proud of the progress.

Everyone wants to be perfect but it’s not possible.  That’s why we need Jesus.  That was the point of the Law.  To show we can’t do it on our own.  So walking with Jesus isn’t about perfection.  It’s about pursuit.

Don’t buy into the lies that God sees you and regrets saving you.  He doesn’t.  In fact I believe in my heart that He is proud of you.  Why?  Because of what Jesus did on the cross and your little bit of pursuit.

Stop doubting God’s love for you.  Continue pursuing Him, delighting in Him, and seeking His goodness.  It may be small goals you are after but that’s ok.  Life is about a bunch of small decisions over time that make a big difference.  Don’t give up on your relationship with God.  He isn’t giving up on you.

When God sees you walking His heart swells with love, maybe His eye’s swell with tears.  I know if that’s how I feel about my family how much more love could God feel towards us?

So as soon as you finish reading this I challenge you to think and pray about what progress and pursuit you can make today.  Why?  Because life isn’t about being perfect.  Life is about pursuing the One who is perfect.

As for me, I’m going to pray and fast that this smart car keeps making progress back to Tennessee with all of us in one piece.  

 

— 

Daniel Johnson
Lead Pastor, The Movement Church

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Why I was afraid of the gym

About three months ago I had one of the craziest ideas I have ever had in my life…  I had this idea that I was going to start getting in shape.  I’m not exactly sure what made this ludicrous thought cross my mind, but somehow it did.  It could have been the fact that all of my shirts looked stressed out when I wore them but who really knows.  I mean, who doesn’t enjoy eating a meal at McDonalds and chasing it down with a tube of cake icing?  Don’t act like you wouldn’t enjoy that…

So I decided it was time to put down the fast food and pick up the calorie counter.  It was time to say goodbye to Coke and say hi to water.  The first few days felt something like a break up.  I was thinking about them all day.  Wondering if they were doing well.  When I saw them in public I missed them and wished we were together again.  I thought about the times we spent together on long weekends, holidays, etc… It was tough but honestly I was kind of glad I was doing it.  I didn’t mind watching what I ate so long as I didn’t have to go to the gym…

One morning I was getting ready for work (which means deciding what shorts, t-shirt, and hat to wear) and my lovely wife made a suggestion to me.  She said, “If you really want to lose weight fast you should start going to the gym with me.” When she did it was like one of those moments in movies where the camera zooms in on the character’s face and everything pauses as they critically think about the question they were just asked.

Me?  Go to the gym?  No chance.  The only gyms I ever went to were Pokemon gyms to battle with imaginary pocket monsters.  (That last sentence probably disqualifies me from being an adult.)  I immediately responded with a very compassionate and thankful “no.” I thought I was incredibly clear but somehow Andrea didn’t hear “no,” she heard, “ask me over and over again until I go.” As I write this I am realizing this was my wife’s way of telling me we couldn’t afford to buy bigger shirts so head to the gym… 

Now I was in a real conundrum.  Do I go to the gym and face my fear of voluntary activity and sweating?  Do I continue saying no and surrender to a new normal of being asked by my wife to go to the gym every day until death do us part?  This was a no-brainer for me.  The gym couldn’t possibly be worse than being asked the same question every day by my bride…

You may be wondering what about the gym bothered me so much.  The answer is really simple.  I didn’t want to go to the gym because I knew everyone there had the physique of an Olympian and I have the physique of a slightly taller Umpa Lumpa. R.I.P. Gene Wilder.  Who wants to go to a gym and be the guy lifting the colored weights… You know which ones I am talking about.  The ones under your bed that you bought to go with the lose weight quick pyramid scam you signed up for.

I will never forget walking in for the first time.  I remember looking all around and seeing a bunch of people who looked like me.  There were some who were in the height of physical shape.  They would be lifting weights making them seem as if they were as light as a feather.  Then there were some who made lifting weights look as difficult as a Tyrannosaurus Rex trying to scratch the top of his foot.

What also surprised me was how encouraging everyone was.  Every time I would come I would meet someone new and they would say “you are doing great,” “you look great man,” “I can tell a difference already.” Now, I knew they were lying, but I certainly didn’t mind it.

I think many people have the same fear about walking into a church that I had about going into a gym.  “I’m sure every one there is better than me.”  “They probably will look at me and wonder why I am even there.” At The Movement Church this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reason we need to gather as a church is because we aren’t perfect, and we do have struggles, weaknesses, and inconsistencies in our heart.  Here is the good news; every person who attends a church has sinful struggles.  So you would fit right in.

At TMC we believe in giving grace space.  Grace is what saves us from ourselves but it is also what enables us to change and move forward.  We are all from different backgrounds, have different life experiences, and learn differently.  We believe because of that we need to give grace space to work in the lives of people.  Some people change quickly, and some change slower, some go all in, and some appear to barely jump in.  We believe that regardless of where we are, if we give grace space it will change us into the image of the God we serve 

At The Movement Church we believe in truth and grace.  The truth is you aren’t perfect.  You are right about your sin, you are right about your difficulties, but the whole truth is grace is stronger.  We call sin sin because we believe when we do we can truly call grace grace.  We also call sinners welcome because our church is full of sinners that are saved by grace

We believe the reason we come to church is to go and grow.  What that means is we come together to become more like God so we can go and pursue the purposes He has given us.  In essence we are a place for imperfect people who are chasing after perfection.  When we say perfection we mean Jesus.

I know some may be hesitant to walk into a church.  I understand that.  I don’t know if you will enjoy the preaching, worship, or other aspects of The Movement Church.  We think you will but who knows.  What I do know is you will be welcomed.  

When I walked into the gym I was shocked to see so many people like me striving to be in better shape.  When you walk into TMC it will be the same- just a bunch of people striving to be more like Jesus, and we have room for you.  The only difference between the gym and us is we smell better and don’t charge a monthly fee.

— 

Daniel Johnson

Lead Pastor, The Movement Church


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People and Picnic Tables

 

So yesterday I had something relatively strange happen.  I am currently working out of a friend’s office space.  It was either that or work from home and I have a suspicion that if I worked from home I would never make it past the recliner.  

So, the office I am in has the thermostat set somewhere between your freezer and Jack-in-the-water-at-the-end-of-Titanic.  (Yes there was plenty of room on the door for him too) In an attempt to thaw out my frozen fingers, I went out back to let the Tennessee heat raise my core body temperature back to that of a living being.

Once I got outside I took off my gloves, toboggan, parka, and boots so I could make a call.  After I stopped shivering, I called my wife to tell her a bunch of really nice and complementary things.  Ok, that’s not true.  I was actually asking about dinner.  What was about to happen next would forever change my life.

I looked up and saw it… Something I never would have imagined…

There was a man lying naked on a picnic table in his backyard tanning.  I felt violated, speechless, confused, and many more emotions.  It was like time stopped at the most horrific moment possible.  In fact, I’m not sure I will ever be able to look at a picnic table the same ever again.

My first thought was the same as everyone who’s reading this… I have to take a picture because no one is going to believe me.  Let’s not act like you wouldn’t have thought that.  So I did, but no worries, the photo will be omitted.  I like to keep it PG-13 on social media.  Could hurt my brand.  I didn’t think, “call the cops” or “run away.”  Its like I was frozen.  Actually I may have been frozen because of the office.

So I have shared this story with tons of people.  Who doesn’t want to hear about a naked man tanning on a picnic table?  Every person I have told has asked one question: “Did he have a nice tan?”  Kidding.  The question every time has been, “what was that guy thinking?” 

So since then I have been wondering that exact question.  (Yes I have spent some time wondering about the mindset of a naked picnic table tanner) I mean it is really hot in Tennessee.  Maybe he slept walked out there.  Maybe his picnic table is incredibly comfortable.  Maybe it was so cold in the office I was hallucinating.  Who really knows the answer?

One thing I have certainly learned in life is people are strange.  Maybe not tan naked in a neighborhood on a picnic table strange, but strange nonetheless.  Countless times a week I wonder, “what were they thinking?”  Not only are people strange, but they are also frustrating, annoying, agitating, and many more words I can’t type in a blog…

Throughout the Bible there is a very clear and consistent message:  It doesn’t matter what someone does, who they are, or what others think about them. They matter.  Jesus took time to be with leading people of the day and still had a drink break with a lowly woman at a well.  Jesus sat with a rich tax collector and still lay next to poor fishermen- turned-disciples.  Jesus lived a life that demonstrated the anywhere and anyone power of the Gospel.

We have a tendency to turn people into objects.  Instead of them being a person they are a “celebrity,” “alcoholic,” “democrat,” “the naked guy lying on the picnic table,” “republican,” etc.  I think the reason we do this is it helps us feel better about the judgments we pass on one another.  None of those titles change the fact that they were made in the image of God, whether they are true or false.  (Only exception is “Alabama fan.”  Kidding.  Kind of.)  So as believers we hold a responsibility to treat them as such.  People aren’t things.  People matter.

There aren’t many phrases I dislike more than “anyone is replaceable,” mainly because the Bible vehemently disagrees.  The Bible makes it clear that every person is unique because we serve a creative God.  You can replace someone’s position but you will never replace his or her essence.  Every person we come in contact with is a unique accomplishment of a creative God.  We should cherish one another.

Take a look at the people around you.  They are all products of their pasts and present.  They have fought battles you would never know.  They are even stranger than you may guess.  Maybe they aren’t a good person, but a bad person is still a person.  The people walking around you have been given a position a little lower than the angels but above all other creation.  They matter.  We should treat all people in a Christ-like way.

It’s easy to criticize people from a distance.  It’s Christ-like to get close enough to try and help what you criticize.  It’s easy to spread gossip about a person.  It’s Christ-like to share good news with a person.  It’s easy to write people off because of your feelings.  It’s Christ-like to decide people are more valuable than your feelings.  It’s kind of exactly what Jesus has done for us.  What greater compliment could the church be given than “I believe they treat me as Jesus would.”

Because of grace and mercy anything is possible.  We believe at The Movement Church that because of those two realities that no person is too far.  We should believe in people not because they deserve it, but because grace and mercy are too powerful not to believe in.  May we always believe in what God can do in a person more than we believe in what a person has done or doesn’t do.

There are a lot of questions about people we will never have answers to.  Really, the only question we should ask ourselves about people is this, “have I treated them as someone made in God’s image?”  If the answer is no, then there is no better time to start than today.

If God can love you and I, then really do we have any excuse to not do the same for others?  Take some time and sit down to get to know those around you.  I know of a picnic table you could probably use…


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Fireworks, Faith, and Fun

We have tons of great traditions in the Johnson home.  Some of my favorite ones are: getting our Christmas tree on the night of Thanksgiving, getting up every Saturday morning in the fall and putting on the Orange and White, going to Seaworld every summer, and many more.  There is one tradition I don’t enjoy much…

Every year as people are breaking out the grills and jumping into pools, my daughters are stretching out their vocal chords to get ready to cry all of July 4th.  Fireworks and the Johnson girls go together like Donald Trump at the Clinton family Thanksgiving table.  It never ends well.

This year was no different.  My wife and I were sitting in the living of a friend and I continually kept looking down at my phone.  This time it was not to check Twitter, it was to make sure we left in time to get in the home before the city fireworks started.  As a parent you understand the great lengths we may go to avoid a good cry from the kids.

In the midst of conversation I made an unforgivable mistake… I lost track of time.  Immediately the reality of a tear filled ride home sunk in.  We immediately rushed out the door and when we pulled out of the drive way you could hear the sound.  Yes fireworks and yes the cries of an 8 year old…  No one told me when I was becoming a father that they cry this late into life.

I did the normal dad thing where I tried to stay calm to help calm them down but something in the decibel level of a child’s cry really burns through my patience quickly.  By the time we pulled into our drive way the fear level with my girls was some where around the level you would imagine if you were being chased by a lion.

The whole time I was wondering what am I suppose to do.  I did what all dads would do… I decided I would force them to sit outside and watch them with me.  I am sure this will be one of those memories they seek healing from when they get older.  I thought after being out there after some time they would calm down and enjoy them.  I thought wrong…  

For the entire 20-30 minutes the girls just stood there and cried.  There wasn’t a moment it got worse or got better.  Just the steady shrill of two bundles of joy.  I am not sure why but it really bothered me that they were this scared.   When I laid down that night it hit me why them crying made me angry.  It’s because I wish they would know I wouldn’t stand with them in a place that would hurt them.  I wasn’t upset because they were afraid of the fireworks.  I was upset that me saying the fireworks were safe wasn’t enough for my kids.

I think we all know the feeling of fear very well.  I know I do.  Following God is a sure fire way to confront fear day in and day out.  Every day I am confronted with the reality that I am entirely in over my head, have areas of my heart that aren’t surrendered to God, and am responsible for raising two girls in a world that is rapidly changing.

It’s always been said that when encountered with fear all people either defer to fight or flight.  The more I read the Bible the more it becomes evident that we are privileged to a third option.  We do not have to run away and we do not have to run fearlessly forward.  We can look to our side and find comfort that our Father stands there with us.

I think our Heavenly Father would want us to realize what I wanted my kids to know.  I would not  take you somewhere that I could not keep you safe.  The beauty and the difficulty of serving a God who is always in control is there isn’t a place on the planet where He can’t keep us safe.  Also His definition of safe and our definition of safe rarely seem to match.

I guess this is where faith comes in.  Would a good Father allow anything to turn out that was not for the good?  If our Father says everything is ok shouldn’t that be enough?  The answer to both of these questions doesn’t necessarily make things easier.  You can know everything will work out good and that God is in control and still have tears in your eyes; however, when you know it you can have tears in your eyes and courage in your heart. 

We were made to fulfill a purpose.  To fulfill that purpose we are going to be taken places that makes us confront our fears.  Fear is natural.  Our response to fear should be supernatural.

So today we want to encourage and challenge you to see who walks with you.  Our Father commanded the stars and waves and they still hold their place.  He breathed into you and brought forth life and that breath is still sustaining you today.  He faced death and defeated it.  He has never been caught off guard and has never been overwhelmed.  He is seated in Heaven because He is entirely in control.  He is good. 

As we begin a new and exciting season with The Movement Church we do so with very real fears.  We also do so with very real comfort.  The loud noises are going off, the flashes are bright, and yet our Father remains incredibly confident.  Maybe the lesson from Peter walking on water was that we are allowed to panic about our fears when we see our Father panic.  Until then we can have fun on the waves. 

Have fears ever kept you from moving forward?  If so, there is no better time than today to make the move towards God your soul desperately seeks to make.  When we confront our fears with faith we open up the possibility of seeing God’s faithfulness over and over again.  

I think in the end of life things will end kind of like they did for me and the girls on a hot July night.  With some tears, some laughs, and the reality that no matter where I am I can trust my Father. 

 

— 

Daniel Johnson
Lead Pastor, The Movement Church

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The First Move

So a lot has changed the past few weeks in the Johnson’s life.  We made a huge decision as a family recently.  We decided to go with the fall decorations and it’s not even September yet.  I know… May be too soon but sometimes you just have to go with your gut.  I also recently decided that Jason Bourne definitely is more impressive than James Bond.  Not sure why it took me so long to watch these movies.  Oh yea, I guess we also began the process of starting a church.  The Movement Church to be more exact.

Andrea and I have been blessed to be apart of an incredible youth group for nearly nine years.  I started when I was 18 years old and single and now I am 29 and married.  Not to mention I now have one grey hair in my beard and hair.  It’s slipping quickly… 

About a year ago we knew our time in youth ministry was coming to close.  It was a tough realization for us.  We truly still love working with teenagers even to this day.  It’s only in youth ministry that you can have a deep and meaningful conversation about God one second and the next second be asked if you have heard the new Justin Bieber song.  “What Do You Mean” is a good album honestly…

Over the course of that year we have explored many different options.  We explored secular jobs, college courses, and new ministry positions.  We were offered positions that would have been wonderful opportunities for us but it was clear they were not right for us. One in particular really caught out attention in late January.

After thinking and praying about this ministry position into February it became clear once again that this was not where God was leading us.  It was then that we seriously began considering planting a new church.

As the months passed the feelings of planting a church became stronger and stronger.  It was at this time we shared with some of our friends where we felt God was leading us.  Through much prayer and confirmation God made it evident that this was the next step.

Now a few months later here we are!  We are incredibly excited to begin this journey.  We have had a heart to be apart of ministering to the Hendersonville and West Nashville area for some time now.  Like all things with God, you never know the timing, but it is clear that now is the time.

We are planting a Non-Denominational Church that is committed to glorifying God through serving the community of believers and the communities we live in through Biblical discipleship, sacrificially living for others, and authentically sharing in one another’s lives.  As we begin this journey we have been asked many questions and have had much excitement shared with us.  So we wanted to take a moment to update you where we are in the process.

We currently are just in the beginning stages of launching a church.  We have a name, a launch team, a bunch of dreams, and a lot to do.  This week has been an exciting week in the process of beginning The Movement Church. 

We have looked for a location to meet, began the process of filing the legal papers, developed a logo, and determined when our first gathering would be.  We have a lot to do but by the grace of God He is accomplishing much in us and through us very quickly.  I wish we were as far along in the process as others have shared but unfortunately that just isn’t true.  I have confidence in our team to make much progress in the time we have been allotted. Thankfully it’s not football season so even work Saturdays right now. (go vols)

Many have texted and called asking how they could help.  Truly what we need right now is much prayer.  We are currently praying for direction in regards to where to meet, a kid’s director, and how to financially be responsible with what we have been given.  

This is going to be an exciting journey and we will primarily give updates through these newsletters.  We are excited about the beginning of The Movement Church.  We know that by the grace and mercies of God one day we will become “a church to come to and a church to go from”. 
 

— 

Daniel Johnson
Lead Pastor, The Movement Church

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