Growing in Faith

Posted by Zach Baum on

Faith is believing in what we cannot directly observe. Faith is trusting in God instead of our own nature. In Hebrews 11:1, Paul encourages the Hebrews by describing faith and later goes on to provide multiple examples of people who showed tremendous faith throughout the bible. A common theme in...

#Triggered - What to do when your Facebook is at war

main image

Following one of the most controversial election cycles in modern history, where the political drama was only amplified by the voices of our friends and family online, the social media bashing of one another’s views has not stopped. It’s easy to get swept away in it all. Convictions, opinions, emotions and confusion are still running rampant online and it can lead to moments of regret or moments of inflated pride. It’s time for us, as Christ-followers, to take a step back and reassess our witness on social media.

How do we do this? Remember this truth: if you claim to follow Jesus, you represent him. Everything you say and do should represent his heart. Here are some practical ways you can be sure that you a representing Jesus well.

Take a break.

If you have spent a lot of time on social media lately, chances are your head is spinning. Maybe because you’re actually confused on where you stand, or maybe because your convictions are being tested so much that it leaves you in a borderline or all out rage. No matter where you stand on this spectrum, it’s healthy for all of us to step back from the keyboard for a time.

There’s a simple test you can give yourself to see if it’s time for a break; let’s call it the Fruit Test (Galatians 5:22-23). After you spend some time online, assess what you are feeling. Is it love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, or self-control? If you wrote some things yourself, are these fruits present in your words? If the answer is no, it’s time for a break!

Jesus often retreated from the chaos to align His heart with His Father. (Matthew 14:13 is just one example, what others can you find?) When you find your fruit is not of God step away and realign your heart with His. Spend as long as it takes to move your heart close to His once more.

Remember that behind every post and comment is a person whom Jesus loves and wants to have a relationship with.

Let’s face it. Our newsfeeds are full of people who are not yet in relationship with Jesus! This means that we are definitely going to see something that does not line up with our beliefs. So what do we do when we see those posts? Remember that those who do not yet know Jesus do not yet understand our beliefs because they do not have the Holy Spirit at work in them helping them to understand.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 emphasis added

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

How will our friends begin to understand? Only through a relationship with Jesus! Did you catch that? They aren’t going to understand a Spirit point of view unless the Spirit is in them! This means that arguing your point until you are blue in the face (or fingers) is not going to change them. Only a relationship with Jesus can do that!

There is a reason Jesus said “Go and make disciples!” (Matthew 28:19-20) and not “Go and prove your point!” It is our job to be in relationship with those who need a relationship with Jesus.

Arguing with strangers on a comment thread is not going to reveal Jesus, because a comment thread is not a relationship. If you’re ready to make disciples, go and be in relationship with the people you are most offended by online. Tell them about Jesus and who He is, and allow the Spirit to inform their viewpoints once they enter into a life-changing relationship with Him.

Learn how to have a discussion.

The biggest issue with social media is the strange social construct it creates. The more time we spend online, the less grounded in actual truth we tend to be. We build ourselves a network of people who mostly agree with us, we follow pages we like, and we ignore or hide the ones we don’t. This creates a phenomenon called an “echo chamber” where our own perceptions are solidified by what we are seeing online.

These echo chambers can cause us to stand more firmly behind our personal perceptions than on the Word of God.

Take the time to understand what is informing your opinions. Is it social media or Scripture? If you are spending more time online than you are in Scripture, then go back to step one and dig in to the Bible. Align your heart with Jesus’ and then come back and see if your opinions still stand through the filter of God’s Word.

Once you have a clear picture of where your convictions lie, you might start to feel compelled to share, post, comment or reply again. The healthiest thing to do before posting at all is to take a beat and pray before you even begin typing. Then after you’ve typed up your post, pray again. Reread your words and allow God to speak to you about them. And remember the Fruit Test: is the post full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If it meets this test, you might be able to share it.

Another test you should give yourself is the relationship test. If you are about to comment on another’s post, ask yourself, “Do I have a meaningful relationship with this person?” if the answer is yes, then ask, “Can I look this person in the eye and say this to their face?” If the answer is no, delete it and move on, my friend! You are not called to be a keyboard warrior, you are called to be in relationship with other broken people. Use social media only as an extension of relationship, not a fabrication of relationship.

Finally, get educated!

Be sure you have a full understanding of topics you are discussing. Understand the bias you are bringing to the conversation. Research and learn from multiple outlets (and dare we say, books!) before chiming in.

Times of online strife are no fun for anyone, and it is in those times more than ever that we should be prepared to represent Jesus in real ways. This call requires a lot of work on our part, but it is a work that can please our Father. If you feel you’ve already tarnished your witness online, remember there is grace. Spend some time in confession offline with God in prayer, and then allow Him to do a new work in your life.

And when the next online war is waged, remember that Jesus can and will be glorified through you if you seek his heart!

IN THE MIDST OF THE BROKEN

main image

To live as followers of Jesus, we must not ignore the example Jesus set.

Jesus didn’t talk about religion in buildings. He didn’t spend his time in Torah studies discussing the merits of this teacher or that. Those things have their place…but more often than not during his years of ministry, Jesus was right in the middle of crowds of people.

He was in the midst of the broken, but he wasn't telling them what they needed to do to get right with God. Instead, Jesus was lovingly addressing their needs first. Feeding the hungry. Healing the sick. Helping the poor. Holding the children. Loving the unlovable.

Changing lives.

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'  
Acts 20:35 ESV

Although our world looks much different than Judea of old, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Right here. Right now.

We are the ones who need to get close to the hurting. To help the poor. To hold the children. To love the unlovable. We are the ones Jesus is calling to shine his light in this broken and dark world.

When we put aside our comfort and reach out to show the love of Jesus to the uncomfortable, we are truly thinking Kingdom and living Jesus. There is no other way to do it. There is no way around it.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 

 

First John 3:17

Does your heart break for the oppressed?

Do you break down when you see the homeless on the street?

This is the Spirit telling you where God wants you to get to work.

Bear one another's burdens,

 

and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

 

Galatians 6:2 ESV

Can you easily share some of your food or money or time with the poor?

Do you have a soft spot for children, the elderly, or the terminally ill?

This is where God wants you to serve.

Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.  Proverbs 28:27

Some believers have a Spiritual gift to do these things, so it comes easily and naturally—it is a passion. But passion or not, we all have the responsibility to do something to make things better for the broken and thereby point to the love of Jesus.

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.  Hebrews 13:16

The good news is, you don’t have to figure out how to get close to the broken on your own. The Church at Severn Run has many ministries and program partners in the Baltimore area where you can fulfill the calling Jesus has put in front of you.

Here are some ways you can get involved—Right Here! Right Now!

With Ministries Like:

The Transformation Center

Bringing about transformed lives and transformed communities leading to a transformed city. It is the hub for many of our ministry Impact Project including Lilies Place (clothing and food distribution), Celebrate Recovery, and Beautiful Feet (homelessness ministry). There will be many upcoming opportunities as well such as the building construction projects, the school they are starting called Hope Academy, and the GED/Jobs Programs.

The Well

Based in Curtis Bay, The Well is a community of women mentoring and learning identity, value and giftedness. Lives are transformed through long-term relationships and practical programs that offer community, give opportunity and promote responsibility to lead women to the purpose God has for them. They need volunteers to help the women of the ministry.

Morningside House of Friendship

The first Thursday of each month you’ll find a room full of youth mingling, talking and singing with the elderly guests of Morningside as they participate in Collide’s monthly missions program. Morningside House of Friendship is an assisting living facility in Hanover MD. that partners with Severn’s youth ministry, Collide.

The International Justice Mission

A global organization that protects the poor from violence in the developing world. Their global team includes more than 750 lawyers, investigators, social workers, community activists and other professionals who work at 17 field offices, one of which is close to our area.

Partnering with Local Organizations Such As:

Or with Churches Including:

Grace Redeemer Church

Building lives is a work of art. It is the work of the Master Artist - Jesus Christ.  Come see what God has been doing through Grace Redeemer Community Church and get involved in their great missions projects.

Elevate Church

Elevate Church is a diverse community of people. Located in the Eastport neighborhood of Annapolis, we desire to be a church that makes a difference in the lives of the community. Elevate Church exists to elevate the name of Jesus, equip believers for service, and to engage the community with service projects and the message of the transforming power of Jesus Christ. They are always looking for volunteers to help with missions projects.

The Broken Wall Project

A community of faith in West Baltimore seeking to integrate the values of authenticity, community, advocacy, and transformation as they follow Jesus believing that diversity ethnically, educationally, financially, and relationally makes everyone better. They hold services on Saturday evenings and need volunteers to help with many different projects.

Captivate Christian Church

Founded in Baltimore, Captivate Church is focused on bringing life by connecting people to God through Jesus. They provide a very real place of healing, grace and forgiveness. They need volunteers to help with projects in the Baltimore area.

Severn Run

Of course there are also many ways to serve at Severn Run as a volunteer in any of our ministries listed at severnrun.com/serve or specifically helping with some ministries reaching the broken and based on our campus like:

The Christian Assistance Program

A coalition of Severn-Odenton churches that provides food and clothing to needy families in the community. Donations are welcome every Sunday (you can find the monthly need focus in the church bulletin). Volunteers are always needed.

Kairos

The Kairos Prison Ministry shares the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women, and youth, as well as their families, to help them become loving and productive citizens of their communities. Volunteer opportunities include prayer partners, food support, and for those speaking to inmates in the prisons.

Companions of Hope

A support ministry for cancer patients and their caregivers. Volunteers are needed for helping with welcome baskets, card making and writing, providing transportation to appointments, making meals or phone calls, and prayer.

Blanket the City

Spend a Saturday morning giving blankets, prayer and encouragement to the homeless in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. This opportunity only happens once per year, but affects lives for much longer.

Winter Relief

Volunteer to help Severn Run host homeless men and women for a week at the church during the colder months of winter. This event takes many hands to make it work right. Volunteer to bring and serve food, or help during the day or nights wherever you are needed to help make our guests feel welcomed and loved.

Operation Christmas Child

In partnership with Samaritan’s Purse, Severn Run is a collection station for OCC Christmas boxes collected each fall. Fill a box, or volunteer to help collect, manage, pray for and deliver the boxes each Christmas season.

And more exciting opportunities to come like Samaritan Women and Hope House.

 

It all makes a difference. It all shows the love of Jesus to a broken world.

Where will you get involved? And when? 

Here’s what to do next:

Here’s what not to do:

Don’t ignore this opportunity to share the love of Jesus as you were commanded.

 

 

Understanding God's Love

main image

In the next 15 seconds, name as many ways as you can think of that other people show they love you. Ready? Go…

 

What did you come up with? If you are like me maybe things like, they are kind and considerate, they do things for me, they say they love me, they give hugs, they bring comfort, share words of encouragement, listen when I talk about my day, and they take care of me when I am sick or grumpy.

Not bad…its all good stuff. A bit self-centered, but good stuff.

But still, a list like that can leave us asking, is there more? Or is that it?

Some would say, yes, that’s it. End of story.

The Bible would tell you a different story.

How about a love that loves us even when we don’t deserve it? While we committed one sinful act after another, we are loved.

How about an unconditional love that sacrifices everything for us, even unto death? Ponder for a few moments Roman 5:8: “But God demonstrated his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Really, who does that?

God does.

Really.

But why? Why would God do that?

The answer becomes clear to us in one of the most famous verses in the Bible. Often this is the first verse memorized when a child attends Sunday School or an adult begins studying the Bible. John 3:16 says, “For God so love the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s why.

Pure and simple.

Not because we earned it, bought it, or deserved it.

Its because he loves us.

How does one respond to that? What is it we are to do?

The expectation is simple. It is to accept it.

Then we are to live it.

We are to be thankful for it.

We are to give it away. 

Ultimately we will bathe in it for an eternity.

In the words of the Psalmist, “Give thanks to the God of Heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Psalms 136:26

Amazingly, his love doesn’t end there.

Not only did he love us first and will for an eternity, he has given us a gift. A gift that lives in us. “…God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:5b

The Holy Spirit is our guide, comforter, and helper. He is with us and in us. He is an example of God’s love. He is God.

The prophet Zephaniah also explains, “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud song.” Zephaniah 3:17

You might be thinking, that’s all well and good. Sounds wonderful. But, is it really THAT big of deal? Life is good. I got it.

It is a choice, there is no doubt about that.

We can choose to live our lives in the status quo, same old, same old.

Or instead, we can choose to live our lives in the new. New life with a new beginning that is given to us when we admit our sins, believe in Jesus, and commit our lives to him.

There’s no promise of a fairy tale ending but instead we can have a life filled with…

Joy

Peace

Purpose

Support

Love

A love that began before us.

It is the never-ending love of our Lord and Savior.

A Call to Serve

main image

People are apprehensive about serving at church. I know this because I’m one of them. After all, who doesn’t want to enjoy as much of their weekend as they can in relaxation, right? Volunteering to spend all day Sunday at church can seem really daunting. The thing is, if we call ourselves Christians, if we truly believe that Jesus was Lord, then we are called to serve.

The one thing that we endeavor to is following the example of Jesus by doing what he did throughout his life. If we’re honest with ourselves, then we already know the answer to this endeavor is service. There are other things that we can do, yes, but if you look at the life of Jesus, he was almost always acting in service to someone. Whether it was washing people’s feet, feeding them, or healing the sick, Jesus was constantly looking for ways to put the needs of others above his own. Therefore, what is it that we are called to do? We are called to serve. But, don’t take my word for it…

Jesus called them all together and said, “You know that the rulers of the heathen have power over them, and the leaders have complete authority. This, however, is not the way it shall be among you. If one of you wants to be great, you must be the servant of the rest; and if one of you wants to be first, you must be the slave of the others— like the Son of Man, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life to redeem many people.” -Matthew 20:25-28(GNT)

Why Serve?

So, what does it really mean to serve at church?

Service should be more than just a volunteer “job” that we do once in a month of Sundays. If you look at the ‘religious’ view of what serving is, then the definition you get is something along the lines of earning our way to heaven. Service is good, yes, but in and of itself it does not grant access to eternal life with Jesus. So, why then are we called to serve? What is the point? Let’s take a look at Paul’s letter to some of the New Testament churches to see why we are supposed to serve.

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. -Ephesians 4:11-16

Paul knew that we are stronger when we are unified and living in service to both each other and to non-believers. And again, we see here that we are called to be like Christ; that we are to strive to emulate everything that he represents. The ultimate point is for us to be more like Christ so we can resist temptations and be the example of true love to a world that desperately needs it. 

Where Do I Serve?

It would be naive to think that we should all jump blindly into service, just for the fact of serving. Yes, we are called to serve, but we can be smart about it. The Bible speaks of spiritual gifts, and it teaches that we all have different ones. Some people may be more suited to watch and teach children, while others may be musically inclined and thrive being on stage in front of everyone. Others yet are more content to run the lights and sounds and remain in the background. There is no “right” or “wrong” place to serve, there are just places that are better suited to our gifts.

Don’t feel like you have to do something you hate, just to honor God and the people around you. You don’t have to know what your spiritual gift is, (but in case you’re wondering, you can head on over here and take the test to see what it might be). This is not a guarantee to be a perfect fit, but that’s the great thing about serving at church – you can be free to test the waters and find out what suits you most!

Now, you might be thinking that you already know what your gift is, and perhaps that gift is not something that you can do at church right now. In part, this might be true, but give it some thought. Is there really just not a need for your gift at church at the moment? This is unlikely, and there is generally always a way to use your gift. After all, God gave it to you for a reason.

There may be a case where at this moment in time, the church doesn’t have an opportunity for you. And that’s perfectly OK. There are millions of places out there in the world where you can use your gift. It doesn’t have to be at church. But chances are, if you can use it “out there”, then you can use it here too.

If the specific ministry or outlet doesn’t exist yet in the church, then talk to someone on staff about getting that started. It’s possible that are there are a handful of others in the church who have a complementary gift that could mesh well with yours and get some amazing things going right here in our community.

The church also already has a lot of teams that you can serve on. (Keep an eye on the blog as there will be a continuation of this post describing several particular areas within our church that are in need of some extra volunteers.)

Remember, we need to serve because it is an outpouring of our faith. It’s a tangible way we can share the love of Jesus with others.

Running The Race(s) for Severn Run

main image

Stephen Hord is taking life as a Severn Runner “On The Road” literally. Through the heat, through the pain, through the training, and by running races, he strives to raise a donation of $5000 to Severn Run’s On The Road campaign. This is his story.

About two years ago, Stephen Hord and his wife were praying about finding a church close to their home. Although they drove past the church entrance often, one day God tugged on their hearts about visiting The Church at Severn Run. So they did. 

“We walked in and it felt like home so quickly,” Stephen shares. “We even ran into two families we knew.”

Stephen also says that he especially loved the church because we have Run in our name, and the congregation is referred to as Severn Runners.

“There are two activities that I love more than anything else; playing guitar and running,” said Stephen. “I feel most alive and closest to God when I’m out on the road and trails running with praise songs in my ears, (although don’t ask me to repeat that at mile 9 of a race--God is usually carrying me by then!)” he adds. “Long-distance running is such an accurate metaphor for the faith journey…I think this is why it’s one of Paul’s favorite illustrations in his letters to the churches.”

You may have seen Stephen on stage with the worship team, playing guitar. He has been giving music as his offering since coming to Christ. But when he heard about “On the Road” and the church’s mission to become a church of 5,000 believers, he knew he wanted to do more.

“Something was stirring in me to do more, something new, to use my love of running for the Kingdom. That is why throughout the year of 2017 I am running 32 races covering more than 262 miles ‘On the Road for The Church at Severn Run.’”

Because the mileage is the equivalent to 10 full marathons, Stephen has playfully nicknamed this his #yearofinsanity2017.

As we strive to be a church that reaches 5,000 people with the love of Jesus, Stephen has set a goal of raising $5,000 where each dollar represents one person who may or may not know that Jesus loves them.

This hasn’t been an easy endeavor for Stephen. He has fought physical pain, emotional upheaval, and the struggle of keeping his eyes fixed on the task God has set before him.

“Earlier this year, I had a string of difficult races and I even considered throwing in the towel in the middle of one. Then, late in the morning at mile 10 of a half marathon, two visions came rushing into my mind. First, the feeding of the 5,000 reminded me that there are still so many people who are looking to be fed with the miraculous love of Jesus. Then, my mind’s eye saw Jesus carrying the cross. I realized that no amount of temporary pain or discomfort or difficulty that I was experiencing would have stopped Him from his mission. I knew I had to press on. Acts 20:24 says it beautifully. ‘But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly the gospel of the grace of God.’” 

God is teaching him so much as he strives to stay faithful to this calling.

“The mantra I’ve adopted is “Run as far as you can, then take another step,” said Stephen. “It’s only by faith in His strength can I do anything. Proverbs 4:12 promises, ‘When you walk, your steps will not be impeded; and if you run, you will not stumble.’” He holds on to that one.

Stephen needs help to reach his goal of raising $5000.

He has been faithful to his running, and he is looking for others who will also be faithful to God’s tug on their hearts. Stephen is asking for prayer from everyone, as what he is doing takes a toll on the body. He is also asking for donations so he can do what God is asking of him and donate a dollar to On The Road for every member and potential member of our church of 5000.

You can follow Stephen on Facebook (@ facebook.com/thumper135) to see when he races and share your prayers and encouragement.

Please also visit this page  to donate, learn more about Stephen and see his finish times and upcoming races.

 

12345678910 ... 5556

Read Severn Run Stories, be inspired, and stay up to date with what's happening here!