Johnnys Blog
  • Perhaps He gave us EXACTLY what we need . . .

    (an apology for the office of Deacon within the church structure)

    Recently I was having a conversation in my office with a volunteer at our church. We were discussing the roles of servants and the massive job in front of us. 

    “The main vision behind the role of deacons in the church is they help do many ministry things such as care for people, benevolence, reaching our to orphan’s (children with just one parent) and taking care of elderly, and widows. The amount of needs in a church body is overwhelming but doable only through the work of many hands. Deacons are the glue that helps pull everything together. Having Deacons established allow a church to use resources efficiently by remaining focused on their dedicated areas of expertise”

    Ultimately, the purpose of this specific blog post is to continue casting Vision for Generations Christian Church in 2019. We had an incredible time this past week looking at our critical first priority mission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. I do believe that our church has deacon and deaconesses working and serving faithfully. I'm humbled to serve alongside them weekly in many capacities. Some people serve tirelessly and fall in the category explained in the books of Acts. There is merit in looking at what Acts teaches closely. For GCC, there is a more significant experience I don't want us to miss. It is the participation, knowing and reaching together what God's word says about Church governance. 

    Watch Sermon

    We had limited time to discuss the things that God has for this exact time and place as they pertain to our unique expression of the Body of Christ in North Tampa. The breaking news in this Vision post is that we intend to identify and install a body of deacons who will serve this local body of believers in this significant way. This may take all or most of 2019.

    There are a few statements that have resonated deeply while preaching through my first year as a Senior Pastor at GCC. One of those sayings stems from the structure for church governance seen in the book of Acts. I have repeatedly said, "Let's just do God things 'God's way.'" It is certainly not original with me. I've heard it said many times in different ways. Perhaps one version of this statement could be derived from one of the Restoration Movement founding ideals, "we speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent." God's Word has plenty to say about the setup and structure of Church governance. Our blueprint for the operation of the Church is 2,000 years old. It has outlasted empires and evolving political ideologies. It has the ability to adapt to different cultures yet still instruct us in dealing with every issue that may come up in the Church today. 

    I recently had a friend offer this perspective concerning the nomenclature of church offices; this is not an exact quote but the basic premise of their reasoning for not having ‘deacons' in their church governance model. "If you don't call someone by the biblical office of ‘deacon' and just call them ‘key leaders' it is easier to make a change in that ministry or get new people leading it." I agree that it would be easier to deal with a "Key Leader" who for some reason may be hurting ministry or has an unrepentant sin issue, it is not, for me, a good enough reason to stop following the framework laid out by the book of Acts for how a church should function.

    I'm not really stuck on the exact title of deacon as much as I am on the function and New Testament intent on the job and the need they fulfill in the Bible. There may be something to the clarity of calling the positions what they are in the Bible so that we don't walk away from what the original text points out as important. The original text talks about the qualifications needed to hold this specific office. This may seem like antiquated thinking, but as I constantly read about the things millennials find attractive about the church, I continually see gravitation to anything authentic. The weight of the liturgical forms of worship resonates deeply because there seems to be a rootedness in them. The service and felt needs that the deacon office attends to clearly lines up with core felt needs of the next generation. James talks specifically about the heart of the millennial’s disenfranchisement with much of what they see in Church, James 1:22-25 ESV, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. However, the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing”.

    I had a millennial on our staff read this section and talk with me about what is attractive in the Kingdom to their generation. He said, "I think what everybody craves and desires is to be a part of something bigger than themselves whether you're a millennial or have seen six decades. Moreover, that's what this whole millennial talk is all about these days as millennials and every generation. It's something more than what is just being sung at in a service. They want to be a part of the experience."

    Possible Results 

    Wrong Prioritization

    I have seen it happen when deacons are not serving in the body, that Elders start doing "lesser" things. It's important to know the origin of Deacons. It can be found in Acts 6. The church was growing in number, and there came some complaints to the Apostles about the neglecting of a certain group of widows. The Apostles gathered everyone together in an effort to fix the larger problem. Clearly, they wanted the widows fed. They wanted all the needs of the body to be met, and the deficiencies in their system as a new Church were continually coming to their attention to deal with. When they had summoned the young church together, they said this in Acts 6:2b NIV, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables.” Waiting on tables is not a bad thing. There is a prioritization for the elders to “not neglect the ministry of the word.”

    Financial Impact

    Churches start to pay for things that deacons are instructed to do. Not in all cases, but in some perhaps, paid staff is doing things when volunteers could handle them. One of the issues with church drop off in America is the transition that happened in professionalizing all aspects of the church. While I am all for trained vocational ministry leaders, there is also something to be said for workdays at church. There is a palatable sense of ownership that develops when we show up and contribute to the body, not just the building. We can pay one-person full time to go and check on all the widows of the church. At some point, the sustainability of this breaks down. To share the blessing with multiple people caring for widows in the body spreads the feeling of ownership and ultimately impacts the finances of the church positively. The early church leaders had finances to put someone on the waiting of tables full time. This wasn't the best plan then or now in some instances.

    The Deacon Target Removed

    These are noble things to work towards. In a day when apathy is killing a generation of men, the enemy has to be excited to extinguish the target for us. The book of Acts declares that we should all aim for these things: We have been given this picture of the moral character to shoot towards. It is an honorable purpose to work towards having the character described in the New Testament (see scriptures below). 

    I have a card on my desk from a widow that just needs some stuff done. It’s the kind of things that I need done and do around my house weekly: light bulbs changed, furnace filters, Christmas put up in the attic. I know this lady. She can’t do these things. We got the list taken care of about a year ago. I kept the card. It’s on my desk. It’s been a reminder to the things the Lord called us to and the tools He gave us to accomplish them. It’s not a bigger budget. It’s not more staff. It’s the biblical office of deacons serving our church.


    The lesser things are still Holy things

    I can't deny what Peter said about the prioritization of reading scripture, praying and teaching people. This was the lifeblood of the early church. People had to know the good news. However, when the services were over, and everyone went home, the needs of the body were real. I love that Stephen's example of serving is the next big thing to happen in the book of Acts. Stephen was one of the young believing men doing these ‘lesser' things. He served in such a way that the power of his testimony and ministry was so impactful that he was ushered into a conflict that led to his martyrdom. The first person ever killed for proclaiming Jesus as their Lord was doing these very ‘lesser' things. There are no small places of service in the kingdom of God. 

    The book of Acts allows the first recording of anyone being persecuted for their love of Jesus to originate not from a mighty preacher but an obedient servant! 

    Below is an excerpt from my weekly elder briefing I sent in the fall of 2018 to focus our prayer time for Vision in 2019. I invite you to pour over the scriptures concerning deacons and their place in a New Testament modeled church.


    I have become acutely aware of a governance structure we are missing in doing God's business. I have talked with each of you face to face about the need to re-establish God's plan for church governance and the office of Deacons in our body. I would hope to work on this in 2019. Here are some verses I would like to have us pray over as we continually shape our view biblically: 

    Philippians 1:1 ESV

    Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons."

    Paul writes to deacons and overseers (distinctly separate and distinct groups), and they were trusted with his instruction and precious letters to the church. They must have had function and place in the original intent of the New Testament Church.

     Acts 6:3-6 NIV
    "
    Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word. “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.  They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

    Our young men are aiming for the wrong goals because we have taken this God-given goal from them and it must be reinstated.

    1 Timothy 3:8-13 ESV

    “Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their households well. For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.



    He gave us exactly what we needed 

    I genuinely believe that the Word of the Lord stands forever. I doubt many other things and rightly so. I doubt my own ideas. I doubt my own heart. (Jeremiah says not to trust it at all.) So, I would advocate trusting what God gave us as far as guardrails for stewarding His church. He gave us exactly what we needed. The office of deacon is clear and biblical. Let's re-institute this publicly. May there be a deacon installation service at GCC in 2019 to the glory of God and edification of this body of believers. This project didn't seem to take too long in the early church to accomplish. We will be doing exactly what was described in Acts 6, "selecting from among the body” individuals who meet the qualifications outlined in scripture. It is so important to understand the whole counsel of God’s Word. In all of these church office appointments Paul instructs caution in 1 Timothy 5:22 ESV, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.” 

    Be excited. When we obey, God blesses.

    Be in Prayer. May God guide us in choosing the right people to serve in this area.

    Be encouraged. Be encouraged that God's Word is guiding the leadership of GCC.

  • The Rabbi

    “Who do you say that I am?”, The Rabbi asked Peter this question in Matthew 16 and continues asking us today. Some simply called him ‘Teacher’ or Rabbi because He clearly positioned himself at the beginning of His ministry time as a Jewish rabbi. He had a following of young students, taught in open forums and synagogues as His ministry began. From His first teaching around the Galilee region, to His final questioning before the Sanhedrin leadership council, they asked the same question of Him – “what kindof Rabbi are you?” As a Rabbi, he was confusing to people, and it's easy to see why many didn't understand. His teachings were new, they added to The Law, they explained The Law, and His teachings completed The Law.

    The first time I visited Israel I was filming for a teaching series on the life of Christ from the angle of what people of Christ’s day really knew about the greatest Rabbi ever, as He stood before them and taught.


    Once a person learns about the death and ultimate resurrection of Christ, it gets hard to rewind the tape and listen to the words of Jesus apart from that knowledge. I was on a journey to try and hear His teaching like the first audience. Like you perhaps, I have read and heard the Bible my whole life, and I was really ready for a physical journey to a special place, the Holy Land, where the Rabbi walked. People are still on journeys today to seek the Rabbi and sit under His teaching. This is some reminiscing and teaching from one of my adventures to this land. I invite you to join Jen and me as we prepare for another trip to Israel from November 10-19, 2019.

    Israel Trip Details & Sign Up Link

    We had a small, agile crew, with a tight schedule darting between the tourist buses and regular citizen transports. We had an ambitious filming schedule, and I was self-producing the trip, so my binder was full of specialized filming permits that required us to adhere to prompt regulations.

    The first few days played out about the same at every stop. We would arrive at a traditional, historical site. I would long for each one to be just like it was when Jesus walked there but, naturally, 2000 years later these sites are now beautifully manicured, and somewhat commercialized. Regardless, that didn’t deter our anticipation of discovery.


    Don't worry; the gritty version is there. You just have to beat the streets and look a few layers deeper. We were on a quest for the most bonafide experience. Everyone wants to experience the most authentic journey possible when walking in the Promise Land. The more reliable the facts are surrounding a specific site, the more popular it becomes. This is because everyone is naturally drawn to the most genuine Jesus experience. I don’t want to see jet skis on the sea of Galilee! I’m squinting, trying to block out anything that might not fit in my perception of what a day in the life of Jesus was like. We didn’t want to re-create our own mind’s version of what the most original landscape was. Our film team would leave the classic site and find an offbeat location to get a shot that pulled us back into the time that Jesus walked the earth.

    The tourist industry in Israel is organized and managed strictly by the government in a way that my American experience wouldn't understand until I saw the beauty of it in action. Our top-notch and credentialed guide explained that not just anyone can walk people around and explain the sacred history. He was most proud of the National Tree Planting Movement. Israel is crazy about planting trees everywhere and all the time.

    We were driving down from Mount Carmel where Elijah fought the prophets of Baal. There were so many new trees planted in the last 15 years I felt like I was in the foothills of Colorado with evergreens outlining the hills. The landscape is changing in the country. You could feel the optimism and sheer determination of these people to reshape their land.


    I sank deep down in my seat and thought about the terrain of the valley from the Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea 65 miles to the south. I remembered the time before Sodom was destroyed and Abraham let Lot choose the region that is now most like the Dead Sea. “How many days it would take me to hike from Galilee to the same hill that Lot looked out over as he chose this better land, I thought. I pictured a landscape full of furry animals and freshwater sources more fruitful than any untapped paradise I could imagine. We coasted down Mt Carmel. The van shifted its weight back and forth over the mountain’s descending switchbacks. Thought about how the land would look again as those trees continued to grow. The sunset over the trees. Most of them had been planted since the formation of modern-day Israel in post-World War 2 days.


    There are people from all around the world coming to the most incredible piece of real estate in the world. The Brazilian groups seemed to be the only people smart enough to have their leader carry a flag so everyone in the group could easily re-assemble after bathroom and gift shop breaks. It sounds so normal; gift shops, bathroom breaks, and then you realize you are standing next to the most interesting archaeological sites in the world.

    This is the place that God promised to the sons of Abraham. This is the most strategically placed country, not only in the days of the Old Testament; but the same is true even to this day. Israel is a land bridge between three continents: Africa, Asia, and Europe. Every empire eventually had to fight and win this connecting stretch of land between cultures and people. Rome conquered and held it during the time of Christ. The Ottoman Empire fought and won it for a season. Even Napoleon would march through on his way to Egypt. All of this history buzzed by right outside our windows as the van sped in and around traffic. Every dinner conversation we looked for new words to express our discovery that: "Truly, this is the center of our entire physical, literary and artistic world." Watching out the window the irony set in. We were searching for links to an ancient world that rejected the Son of God, and all of our world's advancement in technology, understanding, and knowledge would come to this place and wonder what a single day was like when the Rabbi came to town.

    The favorite treat stop by far is a coffee bar called Aroma. Aroma is a chain of coffee shops found all over Israel. They have a coffee flavored slushy-shake like drink that is on the ‘must have’ list. Three cups a day was the average in our van! 


    This chain of coffee shops, which has branched out to the US now, is plentiful in Israel and perfect to cool off after a hike back to the transport bus. After one Aroma stop our group was waiting for the last people to climb in and I thought out loud for all of us, "The world that Christ walked was just right here, not the asphalt at this specific Aroma coffee shop & gas station, it looks circa 1982, but perhaps over that hill on the other side of the road. Perhaps they walked that way one day to cut through to a village, and nobody else has since then. It makes so much sense that God would send His son to this place in the center of His world . . . the Rabbi came here." Like an unspoken but mutually understood rule was agreed to, we spent lots of time quietly looking out the window between shoots daydreaming about what history we walked upon at every spot we stopped to film. It wasn’t the history we were told about that had us peering through the windows, but the endless possibly stories we didn’t know about but trekked right on top of. John 21 reminds us that, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

    I found myself re-playing a song by the late great Rich Mullins called ‘Boy like you Man like me.' One line says, "I grew up around Indiana, He grew up in the Galilee." They regularly talk about how you have to dig down in many places to get to the part of the earth that was actually there 2,000 years ago. One can't help but wonder if a single grain of sand or water drop hadn't circulated through the clouds and storms from the shores of the Galilee to Lake Monroe, Indiana.

    You lose track of days when you fly halfway around the world. We rented a boat, rented a camel, rented a garden (THE GARDEN – as in Elvis ‘I come to garden alone' kind of Garden at Gethsemane" and had permits to shoot in the most important sites in Israel. 


    It was hectic. Every day feels like the best VBS you could ever imagine. As we lost track of the days, Sunday came as a surprise! Of course, we should go to church while in the Promise Land! We found a Jewish Messianic church through some local friends and made plans to attend. This worship experience caught me by surprise. I was ready for a special moment walking around the Galilee or when we first entered the gates of Jerusalem. Getting ready for church that day almost felt like a pause on the adventure part of the trip. We go to church all the time. It felt more normal than anything we had done in the past six days. The moment prepared for me wasn't one I had anticipated. Worship began, and a picture of the larger single church was overwhelming due to the number of projectors it took to put four different languages on multiple screens. We had Hebrew, Russian, English, and Aramaic. There was a nineteen-year-old boy in the band dressed in military dress. All Israeli citizens are required to serve. They have requirements for uniforms and keeping their weapon readily accessible. Needless to say, we were not in Kansas anymore.

    A fleeting memory came back to me of another specific culture shock moment. I hadn't thought about my boyhood move to Colorado in quite some time. We moved from a predominantly urban mixed culture of black and white middle-class families to a much larger Latino populated city. I remember the first time I saw a boy's name in my grade spelled out Jesús. Again, I hadn't grown up around Latino culture or language very much. I was struck at the normalcy of how many young boys had a derivative of the name of what I thought was Jesus. The name Josh wasn't weird in my 8-year-old experience. The name Jesus, for a young boy my age, was new to me, however. I was used to friends having the names of popular Bible people but never Jesus. It struck me as odd for a brief moment, and I never thought of it again. I had forgotten about this momentarily, to me, curious abnormality. The peculiar-ness of names and the identity we tie them to was for a small second representative of a larger idea I wasn't ready for. Like my 8-year-old friends, Jesus at one time had been eight years old too. His name was a neighborhood kid name of a real person at one specific point in time. That boyhood of memory mine came rushing back to me in an instant looking at the screens. All the languages. All the names of Jesus. Everyone crying out in their own heart language to the name of Jesus.

    Now at the age of eight, I wasn't aware of the linguistic derivative of the name Joshua coming from the Hebrew Yeshua. Nor was I aware that Joshua translated from Hebrew into Greek, in which the New Testament was written, the name Yeshua becomes Iēsous. The English spelling for Iēsous is “Jesus.” This means Joshua and Jesus are the same names. One name is translated from Hebrew into English, the other from Greek into English.

    In an instant, a fuller realization of the humanity that Christ ‘put on’ came upon me. Hebrews 2:14-18 explains, “He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason, he had to be made like them,fully human in every way, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”

    We all have a name in our native tongue that we attribute to the Son of God. What was more impactful in that room of worshipers was the thought of what my personal Jesus was called by those who followed him, for those who sat as He taught on those very hills our van drove on, that exact name Yeshua. The idea that Yeshua is what his dearest friends may have called him made my awareness of His human experience in some way more stirring in that moment. Singing a song to Yeshua in the land that He lived in turned into a very poignant experience.

    Every song that talked about the power or value of His name was instantly lovelier. Every song or scripture that flooded into my memory about His obedience to take on my form was more effectual. Snapshots of Jesus crying over His dead friend Lazarus, begging Peter to stay awake and pray with Him in the garden, asking the disciples if they too would leave Him ran like a new movie that I was familiar with, but all of a sudden was watching again for the first time with more profound understanding.

    You don't have to fly to Israel to have an epic adventure seeking the Rabbi. GCC experiences life with the Rabbi in our fellowship, breaking of bread and devotion to the scriptures through all of our activities. You are invited to join us! The Rabbi was way more than just a teacher. He is the ultimate master teacher. He is not evasive. The Rabbi can't be found under a rock in the country of Israel. 


    I did learn more about Him and understood many things on a deeper level from my visits to Israel. I do love to take people there to experience the very pulpit that Jesus himself taught from in the new Magdala dig. Jesus said somewhere around 2,000 words in the New Testament revealing Himself perfectly to us. If you want to really know the Rabbi, He isn’t hiding! If you would like to get your boots dirty and join Jen & I on an epic adventure, then we invite you to sign up for our November 10-19, 2019 Israel Trip. We will be seeking the most authentic experience possible . . . and Aroma coffee stops!

    Israel Trip Details & Sign Up Link

  • Spring Hill Plant

    I love church. I love house church, church plants, underground church, big church, inner-city church, and rural country church. When's the last time you were in church and everyone sensed the moving of the Spirit was happening right then? There is nothing better! This is the biggest thing on earth! There is no other business more important to Jesus than the changing, morphing, growing expressiveness of His Bride. I experienced that tonight with our church.

    I want to thank those who gave, dreamed and worked in obedience long before I was in service at GCC to make tonight a reality! Glory be to God! Here is the play by play of one church and how we walked through communicating the process of a Multi-Site Campus becoming an autonomous church!

    On January 22nd, a meeting was held at the GCC Spring Hill Campus to discuss the details concerning the desire of that body of believers to become an autonomous church. The elders of GCC and a Spring Hill appointed Transition Team gathered last night to seek the Lord and clarity in preparation for tonight's Spring Hill Congregational Meeting.

    I would point all of us to Paul's words for Church governance in Titus 1:5;
    "The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished        and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you."

    The very thing that Paul instructed to be accomplished in Crete is EXACTLY what is happening in Spring Hill! This might not be the exact vision that has always been in place by GCC leadership for the Spring Hill location but is clearly not out of bounds according to Paul's instructions. Paul continues his thoughts on Church governance by instructing what kind of men are to be called into the overseer position in Titus 1:6-9;
    “An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are       not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages          God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not             given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be               hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and                 disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught so that     he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

    The Elders of GCC met with the following Elder Candidates last night:
    Dennis DeRight
    James Sapia
    John Carver

    These men have been called to Biblical Eldership by Campus Pastor Al Squitieri and the Spring Hill Transition Team: Robert and Irene Nieman, Kaylene Squitieri, Tom Richards, Lee Lopez, John Murphy, Craig Bias, Ted Warren, and Herb Steffey.

    A word of encouragement I would give to our church at this point comes from Paul in the very next sentences. The same attacks have been used against the Bride of Christ since the start of the church. We are called in this very text to ‘silence them.' There are no new problems in the church. The old ones usually work just fine to trip us up! Let's have our guard on during this time of the Lord's moving. It is clear that what is happening in Spring Hill is not against what God set as guidelines for churches to follow. So let there by none of the types of disruptiveness that is described by Paul in the early church in Titus 1:10-11;
    “For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially     those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced because they are disrupting           whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach . . ."

    These scriptures were shared tonight, Wednesday, January 23rd, at our congregational gathering in Spring Hill. The following bullet points lay out some information concerning questions people may have as we move forward in working together to transition to ‘plant' Spring Hill successfully.

    • We desire to bring Clarity and Continuity of New Testament Church Fellowship
      • There is no reason to worry about the day-to-day and weekly operation of what God is doing in the church. We are walking closely to ensure that programming happens in every area of the church at a high level of quality.
    • The Generations Christian Church Trinity Eldership endorses this new direction and body of Elders.
      • We believe that the desire to be an independent church, functioning with a distinct culture and DNA that honors Christ, is an acceptable desire and we support the hope of a good many in the Spring Hill family to see this happen. This is the third meeting in over two months. The first was before Christmas. Pastor Johnny and some of our GCC Elders attended a large congregational meeting to simply listen. Two more open meetings have happened in an orderly fashion to include the full heart of Spring Hill in this decision.
    • We endorse the decision to continue exploration into the additional 5,000 square feet adjacent to current facility for immediate church needs.

    The Land:

    • The Elders of this new body have met and discussed the most prudent decision for Spring Hill. At this time, they do not want to take on any debt for the land.
    • GCC desires to continue all our efforts to bless the work in Spring Hill.
    • Our new goal is to gift a portion of this land free of debt to Spring Hill and still position GCC to continue a Multi-Site strategy in the future. To do this, we will begin to explore options that allow us to sell portions of the land to pay for the part that Spring Hill needs for the future site and also repay the $850,000 expenditure made by GCC in 2018 in acquiring this land.

    Timeline:

    • We are asking for your patience and grace as we work out many details. We will take as long as is needed to honor the Lord and follow the example of Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves”.

    We want to promote everyone to be ‘all in' for Spring Hill, in deep prayer and true encouragement. We will endorse a campaign for Spring Hill's future. Many at GCC have sacrificially given to the see the gospel proclaimed. Those Kingdom investments are growing and will produce fruit for the Glory of Jesus. Long before I arrived at GCC, the mission was to ‘connect people to Christ.' That central idea still compels us in every decision we make. This mission will continue in Spring Hill. We encourage everyone to be in prayer for our new sister congregation!

  • There’s a missing verse in your bible . . .

    There’s a missing verse in your bible. No, seriously, studying online one day in Matthew chapter 17, I noticed that a verse number skipped! Let me explain, I was reading verse 20, and then verse 22 began. "Where did verse 21 go?” I wondered. I went to another website thinking that it was just a mistake.

    Nope. The second web site skipped verse 21 also.

    I know how to count. This is the most studied and essential book in world. How do two websites BOTH skip verse 21? I was going old school. I went for my preaching Bible, and this is where it got bizarre. . . NOT THERE! Why would they skip a verse? It was just missing. I bet it is missing from your Bible too . . . Check it. (Don’t read the footnote for a clue to our fun mystery!) I will wait. Go to Matthew 17 and start reading in verse 20.

    It’s missing. The chances are excellent that it's missing! (There is a SMALL chance that in the Bible you are reading it’s NOT missing; keep reading.) I want to tell you about this missing verse, but first, can I tell you a story?

    The Story:

    “Do you sell Alcohol in your store?” said the voice on the phone before I could say a word. I thought it was someone like the famous central Indiana radio comic, Roy D. Mercer, who would prank call businesses. The voice that the cranky old caller used was so brash, direct, and goofy sounding that I seriously thought I was being pranked.

    You’ve got to know the setting of where the call came in and the way the conversation continued to play out to fully understand what was running through my head! It was my first college job, and I don't know how I landed it as a freshman! I worked in the center of campus at Cincinnati Christian College Bookstore. It was a bustling corridor for everyone coming and going to class. We sold Coca Cola, CD's (when you used to buy music on disks), and all the books required for a Seminary education. It was just a great place to work in the middle of all the social interaction on campus, and I loved it. How did my crazy uncle Larry hear that I got this job, get the number, and catch me at the front desk to prank call me already?

    “Do you sell tobacco products at your store?” came the voice firing back at me before I could even get an answer out to the first question.

    Pressing in with my questions I asked, "Is this Kevin calling from the dorm?" I didn't think Kevin could fake such an angry old guy's voice without breaking character at all. "You must be looking for another store, sir," I said to try and end the conversation. I was representing the single undergrad position on staff as the assistant to the bookstore manager, Darrin Bennet, and just in case this wasn’t a buddy from the dorms I had to hold some form of decorum.

    At this point, I began to think that I was dealing with some confused old guy and so I had decided to shut the dead-end conversation down with my final words, “We don’t sell things like that here sir, we have a student policy against both of those substances!”

    Well, the hook was set, and I was on the other line. It wasn’t the first time this routine phone call had been made. I still didn’t know it yet, but I might as well have been reading a script because I was being led masterfully so far to the triumphant moment he worked so hard for. His barking questions about our stock of tobacco and alcohol products pivoted, to the clinching line he couldn't wait to land on me “why don’t you sell alcohol and tobacco?” he demanded to know. The pause before his final zinger line was perfectly timed in the way that only a person who had delivered such a line many times before. So, he perfectly laid it out there . . . Wait for it . . .

    “You might as well sell alcohol and tobacco because you sell versions of the Bible besides The King James, don’t you!!”

    A mix between:
    Shock - that I fell for it.
    Laughter - that he tricked me with such practiced skill and intentionality.
    Anger - that people thought so legalistically about everything in this story!

    This happened. He didn't wait for a rebuttal. His work was finished. The prepared lesson had been given to the new pupil, and then he hung up on me. I walked back to Darrin, mouth still open and said, "you're not going to believe the phone call I just got! A guy asked me if we sold Alcohol . . ."

    "You heard from Rodger," said Darrin as matter-as-fact as I had ever heard anyone say anything before. Darrin didn't even look up at me. Honestly, I was elated at Darrin’s non-surprised response to such a crazy caller! “If that’s a normal day then this is going to be a great job," I thought to myself.

    It was. Until Darrin fired me because I was, in his words, “getting married and ready for a weekend ministry." Thanks, Darrin. I missed you, but you were right.

    I puzzled over that phone call for years. How could one get so zealous over the King James translation being the only credible version of the Bible that they would compare it, in their mind to other harmful substances? There were moments in seminary when the professor would note translation differences between versions of the Bible, but I couldn't list 10 for you that meant SOO much to me that I would escalate the conversation to an argument or a test of fellowship!

    Let’s go back to the mystery missing verse.

    Back to the missing verse:

    It helps to know the backstory with what is going on in the verses around our ‘missing scripture’ In Matthew 17, Jesus has an encounter with casting out a demon. The apostles tried and couldn’t; Jesus saw that a crowd was gathering, and he quickly helped them rid the demon from the boy. The apostles want to know why they were not able to cast this demon out, but Jesus did. They asked him later in private what the difference was. This is where the missing verse comes up. It’s always good to know the larger story of what is going on around the verses we read.

    • What was going on in the verse before the mystery missing verse?
    • The disciples were doing ministry with Jesus, and He had given them this authority in Matthew 10:1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them the authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
    • Jesus noted that the situation was a specific ‘kind’ of a demon that needs ‘prayer’ to cast him out. If this verse doesn't freak you out just a little bit, then reread it. There are levels of power in demons, and some need extra spiritual weapons to defeat it.
    • The same story is recorded for us in Mark's gospel too. Mark 9:28-29

    So, what IS the missing verse?? Well, if you happen to have a King James version of the Bible, you can read what many of the earliest Matthew 17:21 scrolls say, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”

    Is your Bible missing the words, "and fasting”? Wouldn’t that be important Demon advice? Jesus says, this kind is hard, you APOSTLES couldn't do it because you didn't pray and something else . . . What was it? I would stick around and listen to the second important thing needed to beat demons!!!

    I am NOT a King James ONLY guy. Our church uses NIV on the screens, and I actually hold and personally use ESV or NASB. After looking at the manuscript evidence available for keeping this portion of scripture, I agree that enough evidence is there to keep the words of Christ as saying "AND FASTING." The research on this is fascinating if you want to dig in for yourself. But there is a more significant point for our church in all of this!

    I want to invite you to something deeply spiritual. I encourage you to the spiritual discipline of fasting. Fasting has a deep history in the Bible:

    • King David, a man after God’s own heart, fasted so often he often looked sickly
    • Esther chapter 4 records a moment where the entire nation of Israel fasts for three days asking God to deliver them.
    • Jesus started His miracle after His period of fasting in Matthew chapter 3 for 40 days and 40 nights
    • Matthew 9:15 Jesus tells some of John’s followers why His followers are NOT fasting. Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.”

    There are many places for you to do some research on the health aspects of fasting and more biblical context. Here is one link I would suggest as a starting place if you feel called by God to participate in a fast:

    https://www.cru.org/us/en/train-and-grow/spiritual-growth/fasting/how-to-do-a-biblical-fast.html

    • Fasting can be a bring breakthrough.
    • Fasting can help release spiritual bondage.
    • Fasting can open our eyes to the new things God wants to do in our lives.
    • Fasting stretches our spiritual muscles.
    • Jesus Fasted.
    • The early church fasted.
    • We need to pray AND FAST!

    Join me in praying for

    • God’s vision for our church
    • Unity in our leadership and body
    • God’s provision
    • A spiritual awakening in Tampa
    • That Jesus’ name would be lifted high in our church and community
  • It is time for the THIRD!

    I want to let you in on something that I pray, we as a church, position our hearts toward this coming weekend. As we gather for our Christmas Eve celebration services, we are going to observe the 3rd! I know we will be thinking about the birth we celebrate on the 25th of our Lord; but we will worship by observing the 3rd! Did you know the Old Testament has three different types of specific giving it calls people to? It is so important for OUR CHURCH SPECIFICALLY to look at this teaching right now from the book of Deuteronomy. There is a very specific way that God told his people to give in the Torah. The Old Testament isn’t less true because Jesus came! Jesus fulfills the Old Testament and we see the character of God and the plan for Christ through the Old Testament.

    The Old Testament records these three types of giving:

    A Tithe to the temple

    • This is a tithe to given to the Levites to care for them and to run the ministry of the temple of the Lord.
    • Deuteronomy 18:21 “…to the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting.”

    A Tithe to the Festival

    • I know, it sounds like I am making this up but God’s Word is awesome and true and has great purpose! This year, we enlarged our Festival called ‘Trinity Fest’. A tithe to the Festival comes straight from His Word and is His plan for His glory. It is actually commanded by Him, that a separate initiative of giving should happen to have a festival that celebrated Him. The tithe commanded, that is actually called the ‘Festival Tithe’, can be found and practiced just as we did in the Old Testament.
    • Deuteronomy 14:22-26 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. Eat the tithe of your grain . . . in the presence of the Lord your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the Lord your God always. . . . Then you and your household shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice.” 
    • I had the fun opportunity to serve greeting people at the entrance as cars were being parked. One of the common things I heard was, “Can non-members of your church come to this festival?” I literally got choked up a number of times at this question! Has the enemy so distorted the view of God’s instrument for light in the dark world that people would think we would have a ‘Members-Only Party’? As thousands of North Tampa people walked on the property of our Trinity Campus this fall, the message was LOUD & CLEAR to our community: YOU ARE WELCOME HERE! Come with us and give Glory to the God of the harvest! Trinity Fest was a festival to His Glory!

    A Tithe to the Poor

    • Deuteronomy 14:28a-29  . . . bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.
    • It’s time to obey the 3rd tithe. We will be honoring the commandment to this tithe during our Christmas celebrations this year. What better way to honor the humility in which Christ came to experience our condition, than to give to those among us who are in need?
    • We will be listing many of our trusted local community ministry partners in the Christmas Eve Celebration Bulletin this coming week. We ask that, as a family, you prayerfully consider helping us help those who need it most in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord.

    100% of the funds collected at our offering time during the Christmas Eve services will be given to GCC Outreach Ministry Partners.

    We hope that you will join us at one of our Eve Services.

    Trinity Campus
    Dec 23: 5PM, 7PM
    Dec 24: 1PM, 3PM, 5PM, 7PM & 11PM

    Spring Hill Campus
    Dec 23: 7PM
    Dec 24: 1PM, 3PM, 5PM & 7PM

RSS Feed

Subscribe

Archive