Accepting Each Other Just As We Are

Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”  Romans 15:7

Allow me to ask you a question:  What would change in the most important relationships of your life, if you consistently accepted people just as they are?

There are two parts to accepting one another:

To Accept You Means That I Will Stop Trying to Change You


To Accept You Means That I Will Start to Cherish You

So much of the relational difficulties in life come down to pride, and maybe you didn’t recognize it as pride, but look closely and see if you can recognize pride in this statement:  The parts of you that aren’t like ME are getting on MY nerves, so I need you to be more like ME.


And it’s ugly.

And it’s damaging to relationships.

This is not to say that we don’t encourage each other to grow and mature and develop, but it IS to say, the constant pursuit to change someone and not to cherish them, breaks love down, rather than building love up between people.

The truth about relationships is, I can fight the differences between me and others, I can resent the differences, but how much better for LOVE, if I cherish others and the differences that we bring to our relationship.

Every woman wants to be cherished.

Every man wants to be cherished.

Every child wants to be cherished.

Every friend wants to be cherished.

One of the coolest parts of the Bible is in Genesis 2, where man and woman were first created and we read this:

“The man and woman were both naked and felt no shame.”  Genesis 2:25

Their physical nakedness was a metaphor for spiritual and emotional nakedness.

Adam and Eve felt no need to pretend, no need to hide, no need to fear that they wouldn’t be accepted by the other.

In the safety of that relationship, Adam and Eve felt accepted by one another and by God.  Naked and no shame.

Try it.  Today, choose to cherish someone you love rather than criticizing or suggesting a change.


Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church in Agoura Hills, CA

When You Need a Miracle

Often, we imagine a miracle happening in our life with God providing it while we passively accept it.  That is not how miracles happened in scripture.  Action and activity surrounded the work of God.  Women and men came to Him, took steps of action to engage the Lord. But I understand the “idea” of sitting passively and I even understand the temptation to sit passively.  When you need a miracle, it’s typically when you are at the end of your rope, the end of your resources, the end of hope and the end of your strength.  The last thing you want to do is make a move.

Yet, making a move is EXACTLY what you may need to do.  Here are 3 Questions to Get You Moving Toward Your Miracle:  

1. What do I need to move away from?   When Moses and God’s people were trapped between the approaching army of Egypt’s Pharaoh and the Red Seas, Moses needed to move away from the charging chariots.   For a person feeling trapped in an affair and crying out to God for help, move away from that person.   For the one mired in debt and overspending, you need to close the lap top and stop your online shopping or stay away from your favorite store or the mall.   We cry out to Christ in desperation that something is burning us, but we refuse to move our hand from the stove.   See, most of us don’t grasp this part.   WE HAVE A PART TO PLAY IN OUR MIRACLE   James wrote this: “You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete.”    James 2:22

Here’s the second question to ask:

2. What do I need to move toward?  God told the people of Israel, trapped seemingly trapped between ‘the devil and the deep blue sea,’ stop crying and get moving!!   That is some of the best advice you and I will ever receive.    There IS a time for crying, but then, there IS a time for moving.  But move where?  Well, ask yourself, what do I need to move away from and what do I need to move toward?   God freed the slaves from Egypt to move them toward the promised land.  The way to the promised land was through the deep water.  They had their direction.  They just had to move.   The drug addict needs to move away from friends and environments where he used to party and move toward sober, healthy people.   The person needing a miracle in business, needs to move toward someone who is succeeding in business and seek advice or mentorship.  You move away.  You move toward.

3. Who Do I Need to Move With?  I’ve said this many times: The quality of the rest of your life will be determined in large part by who you choose to have around you!   When you need a miracle, you need people around you advocating FOR you, believing IN you and moving in the direction you need to go.   When I’m stuck, when I feel I’m going under, when the walls are high and I am overwhelmed…when I need a miracle, I absolutely turn to Christ, but I also turn to my wife, and a couple of trusted friends. It’s easier to move toward solutions (miracles, even) when I’m moving with others.

When You Need a Miracle, You Need to MOVE Move away from Move toward Move with But MOVE!!!

Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church, Agoura Hills, CA Meeting in the Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel at 9:30AM and 11:00AM Every Sunday Morning.

Prodigal Son Story – It’s Not About About The Prodigal

I’ve been all over the board about him. My emotions have ranged from anger to apathy to compassion. He’s equal parts rational, cold and notorious. He’s the Prodigal Son’s older brother.

An early reading of the Prodigal’s story prompted me to quietly whisper to myself, “I am so glad the Prodigal encountered his father first when he returned home, rather than his brother.”

I know, as do you, that had he encountered his older brother first, the Prodigal would have never made it home. His brother would have rejected him and turned him back to the ‘far country.’

I know this intuitively and also empirically. I have been the Prodigal. I also made the long, arduous journey home to God. And since then, I have met many others with similar stories.

Though we all rejoice at the remarkable grace that God and many of His children extended to us, eventually, we each confess encounters with the spirit of the elder brother. And we each confess that the journey back to God was made so much harder because of the hurtful behavior of Christian brothers (and sisters).

Earlier, I expressed my belief that among other attributes, the older brother was rational. In an ‘eye-for-eye’ world, in a ‘if-you-hurt-me-I-will-hurt-you’ world, the angry rejection by the older brother made sense. After all, the Prodigal did so much wrong. This is Rational.

It was also rational for the older brother to believe that he had earned his own place in the family by good behavior and that the Prodigal should no longer be in the family because of his poor behavior. The concept of earning your way IN has merit and makes sense.

It must have seemed irrational to the older brother for the Father to call the Prodigal, “son” and throw a feast for him. It must have seemed irrational to discover that good behavior, after all, is NOT what “earns” a place in the family.

It must have been confusing for the older brother to learn that belonging to the family is a gift of grace, is the prerogative of the Father and that His love doesn’t diminish when hurt and doesn’t increase when pleased. He loves at all times.

The older brother obviously didn’t have a clue what his Father’s heart was like; how gracious, forgiving and loving.

I would suggest that though the Prodigal traveled far from the Father’s house, the older brother traveled far from the Father’s heart.

It’s insightful to see the lavish love poured over the returning Prodigal. But don’t miss the Father’s love for the older brother. Realizing that His oldest son was not at the ‘Welcome Home’ celebration, the Father went to retrieve his first-born. He wanted him included in the feast and festivities, too.

God has been lavish in His love toward me – a former Prodigal. And there are some who refuse to join me in the joy of my home-coming. Some in the Christian family, avoid me in public, shun me from their activities, and don’t celebrate my return. With such “siblings,” I must keep my heart pure. I must show the mercy I wish I had been shown. I must sincerely want them to experience God’s festivities; too, in the way I had hoped they’d want to include me.

We are quick to conclude that Jesus’ story in Luke 15 is about the behavior of the Prodigal. That misses the point. It’s really a story about the behavior and heart of the older brother

Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church, Agoura Hills, Calif. On the Web:

How To Manage Your Tongue

Isn’t it amazing how quickly your words can change? In one minute we’re saying, “Praise the Lord”, in the next we’re saying, “Shut up!” In one moment we say: “God is love!” In the next moment we say, “I’d love to punch you.”

The tongue is a strange contradiction. Why? Because WE are so inconsistent.

James 3:9 “The tongue we praise our Lord and Father and with the same tongue we curse people who’ve been made in God’s likeness. From the same mouth come praise and curses. My friends, this should not be.”

In this text of the Bible, the term “Cursing” doesn’t necessarily mean profanity. It means any kind of put-down-label. [When we call someone: stupid, clumsy, fat, lazy, etc.] Any kind of put down is a curse.

Do you struggle with an inconsistent tongue? James says we all have it. We speak lovingly in one breath and then lash out in the next. What gives? What’s the problem? Why do we do that? Why can we genuinely say something in love and kindness one minute and then genuinely say something in hate the next minute?

James gives the answer:

“Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” James 3:11-12

To use an agricultural example, whatever is in the well comes out in the water. Whatever is in the tree, comes out in the fruit. What is the likelihood of an apple tree producing cherries? Zip! Nada! Won’t happen!

Our problem is not really our tongue. Our problem is our heart. What’s in the heart is what comes out the mouth.

Have you heard someone say something really mean or hurtful and they explain, “I don’t know what got into me. It’s not like me to say that. I don’t know why I said that. It’s totally out of character. I didn’t really mean it.”

James would say, “Yes, it is. It’s just like you. Quit kidding yourself. What’s inside is simply coming out.”

We don’t have a spring that one minute gives salt water and the next gives fresh water. That’s inconsistent. It’s a natural law: what comes out of the well is what is inside of the well.”

Jesus said it like this: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:34

If you’ve got a problem with your tongue, it’s much more serious than you think. You have a heart problem.

A person with a harsh tongue has an angry heart.

A person with a negative tongue has a fearful heart.

A person with an overactive tongue has an unsettled heart.

A person with a boasting tongue has an insecure heart.

A person with a filthy tongue has an impure heart.

A person who is critical all the time has a bitter heart.

On the other hand, a person who is always encouraging has a happy heart.

A person who speaks gently has a loving heart.

A person who speaks truthfully has an honest heart.

Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church, Agoura Hills, CA meeting in the Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel each Sunday at 9:30AM and 11:00 AM

When You Are Worried

Worry seems to be a fact of life, a foregone conclusion in life, and an acceptable component through life. Yet, for all the worrying we do, no good has ever come from it.  As a matter of fact, most will agree that worry discourages and fatigues us.

In the middle of teaching a solution to worry, a follower of Jesus named Paul, wrote this:

“Thank God for all he has done.” -Philippians 4:6

This one point will defeat worry instantly.  The moment you become aware that you are being controlled by worry…STOP…and either say out loud or write down 3 things you know God has done for you.

And it can be in the past.  Most of my faith has come by looking back and giving thanks to God for all he has brought me through.

This is one of the most helpful habits you can form.  The lyric of an old church song stated it well:  Count your blessings.  Name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

What has God brought you through in life?  Even think about what you were worried about at this time last year (if you can even remember).  God brought you through.  Here you stand.  Thank Him for that.  Put it on your list.

Here’s what I know:  Gratitude and Worry CANNOT occupy the same space in your mind at the same time.

In the Old Testament, it was not unusual to have writers tell and re-tell the stories of God’s miracles and rescue through times past.  One example of this is found in Psalm 136:

“Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who made the heavenly lights—
His faithful love endures forever.
the sun to rule the day,
His faithful love endures forever.
and the moon and stars to rule the night.
His faithful love endures forever.

He brought Israel out of Egypt.
His faithful love endures forever.
He acted with a strong hand and powerful arm.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who parted the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
He led Israel safely through,
His faithful love endures forever.
but he hurled Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who led his people through the wilderness.
His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to him who struck down mighty kings.
His faithful love endures forever.
He remembered us in our weakness.
His faithful love endures forever.
He saved us from our enemies.
His faithful love endures forever.
He gives food to every living thing.
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His faithful love endures forever.

-Psalm 136

God’s past deeds remind me that He is present now. He loves me now.  He’s dependable now.  He will help me now. He’s with me now.

And each time I thank Him, worry controls my life a little bit less!

Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church, Agoura Hills, California

Faith Can Change Your Life

How many times in your life have you said, “This is the year it’s going to be different?”

Outside of your infant years, you likely said one version of that or another every year of your life.   Me too!

Think about the things that you want different in your life: your health, your finances, your relationships, your marriage, your career.

What’s missing to keep those changes from happening?  What do you need in order for all of that to come true?

What if I told you that the answer is FAITH?

Have you ever thought that a lack of faith was the reason your goals haven’t been reached, the changes you want have not been achieved?

The lack of faith is often behind our quitting, stopping short or giving up on a goal or change.  We don’t accomplish what we set out to change because the changes we want are not immediate. And because we can’t see that it will eventually happen, we quit.

Allow me to offer an example:  You’re in debt.  You have $10,000 unpaid on a credit card.  It’s killing you.  Crushing your spirit.  Eclipsing your joy.

So, you determine to start saving a little bit from every pay check, in order to pay more than the minimum each month on that bill.

You also decide there’s an area or two where you can trim spending.  And then you begin.

A whole month passes with discipline and sacrifice and it’s a little challenging, but you want your debt reduced.  YOU ARE DOING ALL THE RIGHT THINGS.

Then, that bill comes in the mail.  You are enthused.  You know you are going to pay extra on the debt.  You make the regular payment and then you add a couple hundred dollars extra.

And then…you consider what you have accomplished after thirty days of saving and sacrifice.  All you see is the $10,000 (after interest is added) dropping to $9,750.   And you think, “This isn’t working. This is too slow. I’ll never get there.”

This is exactly why we need faith to make significant, lasting change in life.  We must have faith to SEE that the result we want WILL happen.

Faith is BELIEVING in the result before you SEE the result.

You must believe the result WILL happen if you just keep doing the next right thing.  Over time, the cumulative result of small, good choices will compound and show up in a big way.  Don’t quit just because you haven’t seen the changes yet.

Think about health and fitness.  You set a goal, you get a plan and you start. You will not see noticeable change in your body for 4 weeks.  Your friends won’t see it for 8 weeks and the rest of the people in your life will see change in you at 12.  But before you SEE the change, you must BELIEVE the change will come, if you stay consistent.

Every day, make small good choices–and believe in a result that you can’t yet see.

The Bible describes it this way:

Hebrews 11:1  “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Believe it.  Believe it’s coming.  Believe it is happening.  Believe God is helping.  Faith changes everything!


Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church in Agoura Hills, CA.  The church meets in the ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel each Sunday morning at 9:30 and 11:00.


How To Make Lasting Change in Your Life

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm.”

I believe that with all of my heart. I have found it to be true in my life.

If I want to become debt free, I will not become debt free, if I approach my debt with the attitude of: “I kind of want to get out of debt.”   There’s no enthusiasm or passion there and therefore, there will be no accomplishment or success.

What if you want better health and fitness in the new year?  If you approach that goal with this attitude: “I really want to get in shape… but they won’t let me smoke in the gym,” you will never find the health you desire.

Half-hearted, low enthusiasm attempts at lasting change don’t get you to your goals and dreams.   You must be passionate. You must have enthusiasm or you’re never going to do it.

How do you maintain your enthusiasm–not for weeks, not for months–but for the rest of your life?

The way you stay enthusiastic for a lifetime is found in the word “enthusiasm.” The word comes from the Greek words en Theos. En is the Greek word for the English word “in.” Theos is the Greek word for “God.”

So, en Theos means to be “in God.”

When you get IN God, you will be enthusiastic. And it’s the kind of gut level zeal that fills your heart with such enthusiasm that it doesn’t matter whether the economy is tanking or it is soaring; whether it’s raining or it’s shining; or, whether things are going good or bad.

Enthusiasm is not dependent upon circumstances. True enthusiasm, life-changing enthusiasm is tied to the eternal God. If you are IN GOD, you have all you need to be perpetually enthusiastic.

To achieve the substantial, life-long changes we want to make in life–the ones that stick–You need God and so do I.   He is the source of our enthusiasm.

Brad Johnson is Pastor of California Community Church in Agoura Hills, CA.  The church currently meets in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel at the corner of Reyes Adobe and Agoura Road at 9:30 and 11:00 a.m. on Sundays.