The Bold Love program at Northstar was founded on the basic belief that when Jesus appeared before the disciples in Galilee and instructed them to “therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” it was not a suggestion or a sentiment. So we have our marching orders. We also know we can’t just preach revolution without acting revolutionary. Bold Love was the means to put our vision into action by planting churches to spread the gospel starting in Panama City.
Over the last year, God has been doing a great work in our church, with people weekly accepting Christ as their Savior. I read the numbers with praise and also humility which is rooted in the awareness that the growth of the church comes not from our human efforts, but through God’s initiative through the Holy Spirit. We expect and experience great things in faith as we engage in God’s mission.
We would like to put a face on people who have found Jesus or returned to Jesus as a result of the Bold Love Initiative. The following are the stories of people who have had their lives impacted through Bold Love.
Finding The Silver Lining – Tiffenie Johnson’s Story
In the unconventional romantic comedy, Silver Linings Playbook, Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, seeks to take back his life from the consequences of his destructive behavior that led to losing everything in his life. Pat is convinced that he can find the silver lining amidst the struggles in his life and be forever transformed.
Struggling with life is not uncommon, nor is the desire to find the silver lining that can free us from the struggles in our lives. There are so many stories of people who found their silver lining, and the ability to transform their lives in the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of those people is Tiffenie Johnson. This is her story.
Tiffenie wasn’t sure how it had got to this point, but had to accept the fact that her addiction to prescription medicine had a powerful hold on her. It started slow. There was the rationalization that since it comes from a pharmacy, it must be safe. But all of the rationalizing in the world did not change the fact that anxiety was building as the growing side effects began to change who she was and eventually her behavior.
“I bought into the illusion that I was in control – of my family, my home, my circumstances, and my future,“ Tiffenie recalls. “I thought I can handle this. Over time, the illusion began to unravel. I was in a gigantic rut. The addiction slowly took away everything from me. My life was headed in the wrong direction. I needed help.”
With nothing left to lose, she instinctively turned to God to be the silver lining that would transform her life.
“I started taking intentional steps to trust Him. One of those first steps was the decision to go back to church. I had always been a “church person. But I can’t say it took hold.”
Since Jesus was not part of her life, she wasn’t sure how to make the needed changes despite her basic faith in God and His life changing grace. Like Pat in Silver Linings Playbook, she needed help. Her help began when her brother Tyler convinced her she needed to find a church home and invited her to Northstar. Tyler too was going through some difficulties in his life and was searching for something better as well. It was not a hard sell because even though Tiffenie hadn’t gone to church for a few years, she believed that life was more difficult without God in her life. In addition, after experiencing various church denominations, she wanted to check out a non-denominational church. So she checked out the Beach campus one Sunday.
“Northstar felt like home from the first time I visited. That sense of welcome has only increased now that I know the people behind the smiles and handshakes. The services are fantastic. I’m a rock and roll girl and I love the way the music throbs through the building. Aside from the music, seriously the music is awesome, I really appreciate the sermons. I find them empowering. I appreciate that Marty presents the Bible in a thought-provoking, life applicable manner that I can apply to my life.”
Tiffenie truly appreciates the fact that Northstar is not judgmental.
“I came to Northstar because I felt that I owed it to my brother to give it a try. When I came, I kept thinking to myself, “What if these people knew what I was really like?” The truth is, they did know what I was really like, and they loved and accepted me as I was. I was blown away by the smiles, happiness, and love I experienced. It doesn’t matter that you have your struggles. It doesn’t matter if you have it all figured out or if you have nothing but doubts. You are still welcome and what’s more you will be loved and accepted. Northstar has replaced the old people, places and friends in my life. That is exactly what I needed. I now had a new view of what life can be. I feel blessed that God led me to Northstar.”
Tiffenie is a different person today.
‘I’ve attended the Journey classes at Northstar and I have learned a great deal. There are still a ton of things that I have yet to learn, and for me, life is constantly showing me that I don’t know everything. I have learned that God is working in the background of our lives and that the challenges I faced were carefully crafted to change my heart and lead me back to Him. I just thank God that He never let hold of me in all my struggles.”
The challenges have not stopped.
“ I am still facing challenges in my life. My boyfriend, Zachary, was diagnosed earlier this year with a malignant brain tumor, after experiencing a seizure. Although the doctor said it was common, it was obviously a circumstance that we didn’t foresee. Doctors considered chemo or radiation, but decided on surgery as the best solution. After surgery Zachary will probably still need chemo and or radiation. There are no guarantees, so we are walking through another uncertain future. While I have been down that road, this time I am walking through it with the peace, love and grace of God. We are leaning on our faith. It is so hard to have it in tragic times, but that is when we must have it even more. I am trusting God and praying for healing for Zachary.”