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...
This Week's Life Lifter: For God loved the world so muchthat he gave his one and only Son,so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16) Think back to a time you fought for something. Was it important to you? We fight for things we...
There is an old saying that goes, “Stay prayed up!” This is one way to keep the devil at bay and to remain closer to God. Who doesn’t want to be closer to God? There are many ways to develop a close relationship with Christ. Over all the praises, songs, prayers, and...
We have all heard about Satan or the devil, envisioning anything from the snake in the garden to the red-suited, pointed-eared, trident-toting, Halloween costume. Satan in mentioned throughout the Bible and is referred to by many names including the evil one, the devil, our adversary, the...
At the end of last October, I took my family to serve for one evening of the Winter Relief program. It was a very remarkable experience and as I reflect back on it, there are three main takeaways that made a huge impact on my family...
Too often we confuse magic with prayer. Magic is instant. Magic is showy, we just kind of wave a wand and it happens -but that's not supernatural!Prayer is for THROUGH and not around!Prayer is the window through, but we want around! So many of us, on our journey, have been stopped by Satan...
Luke 11:4 says, "and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us." Now, this is a difficult thing to do. It's one of those things that sound easy but is very, very difficult. It's been said that forgiveness is kind of like drinking poison to punish someone else. We all have...
“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Acts 1:14 People often have an idealized idea of what praying as a family should look like. In a perfect world, praying with children would be easy. We would sit around the table with our well behaved children (who would have...
Father loves the lost, and prayer is the way the lost get found. When we pray, God does something in us and something through us! When we pray, we enter into the presence of God and if you go there often enough and you pray with all of your heart, and if you do not give up, you...
The day starts with the best of intentions. You tell yourself in the most convincing manner possible that today is the day. You will absolutely find the time. You will have the most amazing prayer time ever. Then its off to the races. Your feet hit the floor running. There’s no...
The end of August is synonymous with back to school. This one event affects a vast majority of the population. Children, teens, young adults, teachers, parents - everyone jolted from the ease of summer to the demands of the school year. There are a whirlwind of activities that surround this event. Once the flutter of initial activity begins to lull there is one thing that remains. The delight of studying. It does not subside or end if success is in the student’s future.
“Study hard!” “Don’t forget to study.” These are just a couple pieces of advice we give students.
The same could be said to all of us. This is especially true when looking at the most important book on the bookshelf. This book is more than just classroom material but instead something we consider a way of life. Do you see the Bible like this? If so, you too need to study.
How can the Bible be studied effectively so it is not just academic but a personal and applicable to our lives?
- read to receive inspiration
- examine with a group
- listen to a podcast
- take in a video series
- read, researched, and review
- read Scripture, Observe the culture and activities, Apply to life, bath in Pray (SOAP)
So many ways, so little time! Each approach may be of benefit to you or maybe just one is in your wheelhouse. Test them out and see what’s best for you and your way of learning.
Read to Receive Inspiration:
This is just what it says - jumping into reading, pondering, mediating on Scripture anywhere in the Bible. Then listen, gain insight, and be inspired. You may need to be patient. Some hear the voice of God sharing his insight… others often have to wait. Mediate on what you have read. What resonates could be the inspiration God has for you.
Investigate with a Group:
When we have a difficult topic to master at school, in college, or at work, we often try to get with others as a group. Investigating the Bible is no different. Its okay to not understand and to lean on insight from others. Gather some people together and read. You can then discuss what it means, how it makes you feel, how it applies, and why it’s important. Need a Connect Group? For more information, call the church office at 410-551-6654 or go on line at http://severnrun.com/connectgroups/.
Listen to a Podcast:
Although this may seem high tech to some, its not difficult to tap into and learn from podcasts. There are many great speakers that produce podcasts to educate on the the Bible. Google “Bible study podcasts” and you will get a plethora of choices. Well liked Biblically based teachers include Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, Andy Stanley, Ravi Zacharias, and Frances Chan, to name just a few. (If you are unsure about the Biblical beliefs of a podcaster, see if you can find a statement of their faith on their website or in the podcast description.)
Take in a Video Series:
Many women (and some men too!) love Beth Moore. Woman love her energy and excitement and most importantly her love for God and women. She brings excitement and energy to any space she enters whether physically or via technology. She and others teach using video series along with the study guides available for purchase on line or on dvd. Other Bible teachers include Pricilla Shrier, and Anne Graham Lotz. You can find these resources (and more) at lifeway.com.
Read, Research, Review:
The Bible is comprised of 166 books and two separate testaments. Where does one begin? The book of John is an often recommended starting place. This book is John’s account of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. After reading each chapter, take the time to consult with various resources such as study guides or internet searches that speak to the meaning of the passage. Go back and read again, determine from the text and your research what it means to you and applies to your life.
This is another approach to reading Scripture a section at a time. While you read, Observe the culture of the time and activities of the chapter. Move to Apply the principles of the text to your life. Finally bathe in Prayer what you have learned and how you will apply it each day. Additional reading on this approach available at www.soapstudy.com. Want to go deeper with this method? Read “The Devine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.
All these sound great but one thing is missing…YOU! What’s most important is that your study is an intentional and planned out process. Good intentions are only as good as the plan behind them.
It may be necessary to:
- Set aside time
- Put on your calendar
- Give up an activity (TV or device time)
- Get up earlier
- Go to bed later
- Ask another to hold you accountable
- Be patient!
This is a process. What works for one person may not work for another. God is faithful and will reward you regardless of which method you try or decide to use. Study his word. Take notes. Open your heart. Stretch your mind. See what happens.
Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers?
When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most about…our own! What wonderful changes we could make if we were better able to allow others, including non-believers, to see our daily walk with Jesus. We would be able to change lives by introducing them to a faith that is real and alive. One Severn Runner, Hillary, was willing to share her story about how she did just that.
“I was working as a therapist in a prison. I was ready to make a career move and had applied and accepted a conditional offer for a new position, but was waiting in a holding pattern for almost two years. It was easy to write it off as the pace of the federal governments hiring system, but in hindsight, I think God was keeping me there for a reason. Over that time other coworkers left only me and my coworker, Emily, on our team. Working in prison you find any reason to get out during the day and we regularly began getting afternoon coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I was under the assumption that Emily was a Christian, not the “I believe in God” type, but the active Christ following type. I am not really sure why I thought this, but I did. Our conversations over coffee were about relationships, family, and daily life. Our conversations got deeper and turned to issues of faith. I thought I was having deep conversations with a person who shared my beliefs and was coming from the same place of faith. I openly shared my thoughts, questions, and experiences. We talked about our churches and I was surprised how little she seemed to know about hers, but didn't think much of it. After several months, Emily shared with me that she had gotten baptized. I was so happy for her, but it was also the first time I recognized that she hadn't been in the same place of faith as me during our conversations. She told me how our conversations had been a part of her journey. Shortly after, I got a start date for my new job and left Patuxent [Institution]. It is hard to think that God didn't keep me there to have that experience with her – to share my faith freely and without inhibition because I didn't know I was sharing with someone might reject it.”
Wow! What a great misunderstanding that turned out to be. But there were a lot of ways that God was moving in Hillary's life to orchestrate the seemingly coincidental relationship she developed with Emily.
“I think God was working through me to share faith with her and draw her into the accepting community of faith. She got into a dating relationship that quickly became an engagement during that time and my marriage, Wes' and my involvement in YMP (Connect Group at Severn Run), and the other Christ centered couples we knew were able to be examples to her of what a Christ centered relationship can look like. Because she was my friend, I shared with her some messy and vulnerable times Wes and I walked through – and I think that realness was impactful for her. God was working through her and the situation to teach me to be bold in sharing my faith – I never would have spoken so openly if I had known there was a risk that she wouldn't be receptive.
Another thing I think is important is that in sharing with her, I talked about struggles, questions I had, barriers between sharing faith with my family, etc. A lot of times I feel like when sharing my faith I need to have the perfect thing to say or have it all wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow, but real faith is evolving and is sometimes difficult which is just as important to share.”
It’s easy to relate to Hillary's feelings on why we hold back when sharing our faith. We are worried about how we will be received, but the person on the other end really just needs to hear Jesus speak through our life's story. When we think we are “improving” our story by focusing on getting everything just right, we are probably just getting in the way.
“My main takeaway from the experience is how differently would I talk about my faith if I was never worried about rejection. I hope that others would hear that too – how differently, how much more frequently, how much more vulnerable would we be talking about our faith if we acted like everyone we talked to was a believer?” - Hillary Battle
Let us know: How does this encourage you to be more bold about sharing your faith in everyday situations?
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
There is hope, even in these turbulent times. The spirit of the world is divisive, angry, hateful and racist. Those forces can deeply affect how we view ourselves and those around us. But looking to Jesus brings us clarity, charity and peace.
Increasing racial tensions can quickly resurrect old wounds and cause them to burn with a vengeance. We can find bitterness an easy path to take, but it is one which wounds us even more deeply.
In our broken world, we are all wounded, often deeply, by the differences that divide us. Racism – and other divisive beliefs and attitudes – permeate this world, wounding and dividing us. But we can be at peace – and be peacemakers – in the midst of this turmoil.
Jesus rejected racism and identity politics. In him, we “are all one” – transcending all racial, class and gender distinctions. Jesus prayed to our Father: “ I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity” (John 17:22-23).
How is that possible? Because we have Christ incarnate in us. The glory Jesus gave us is himself.
We are a new creation in Jesus Christ, who reconciled us to God and “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
Now, we can have healing in our hearts and in our relationships through Jesus Christ. Jesus can – and will – heal our deepest wounds and soften the hardness of our own hearts.
At the cross, we see other people by the value of Christ’s blood. We see people of infinite worth in God’s eyes. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
We all need transformed hearts that are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ.
It is especially at troubled times like these that we must listen to and talk with one another. In so doing – in extending the grace, love and forgiveness of God to others – we minister to them and bring reconciliation.
Let us not get caught up in the superficial, the outward appearance, but rather look to one another as equals – brothers and sisters of Christ who are all equal at the foot of the cross.
Let us love one another, as God loves us.
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!
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.
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.
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:
Local Police Departments (like this Connect Group did)
Local Fire Departments
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
- Pray to see where God is telling you to serve
- Choose a place to volunteer
- Contact the church office or Vicki DeLair ( ) to get involved!
Here’s what not to do:
Don’t ignore this opportunity to share the love of Jesus as you were commanded.