We live in a broken world. We all know it and see it every day. We all want something to be done about it but we often fail to see that WE, the community of Christ, are the only group with the strength and support to make an eternal difference. Though we've all been called to serve (Romans...
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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...
If you are a young adult, you are probably finishing up some kind of school or beginning a new career. You may have grown up in church like my wife, who felt like going to church was “what you did” and rarely thought about what she would do when given the option of how to spend her...
We all want to be at peace, but we allow many things to come between us and that peace that we are looking for. Let's turn to the Bible for answers to those things that separate us from peace. 1) 1 John 3:1-2 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called...
How were you first introduced to Jesus? It’s a good bet that you learned about Jesus because someone shared with you. They shared their personal experiences and the joy that he brought into their life. That person shared with you because they knew the impact Jesus would have in your life...
So you are a new believer! Welcome to the family! You're excited to begin your walk and wondering… What's next? You may also be asking things like… How do I become a part of the church? How do I grow in my prayer life? Should I get baptized? Here's a good place to...
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...
In Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has said to his people, “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a) This is one of...
Severn Run had another amazing year serving and collecting for Operation Christmas Child. Each year Severn Run serves as a drop-off location during National Collection Week. Here’s what happened this year: 650 filled shoeboxes were returned to Severn Run 3,657 shoeboxes were brought from...
We live in a broken world. We all know it and see it every day. We all want something to be done about it but we often fail to see that WE, the community of Christ, are the only group with the strength and support to make an eternal difference. Though we've all been called to serve (Romans 12:1), here I am, in particular, challenging and encouraging men to take the lead in serving.
Men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families (Ephesians 5:23) and that includes leading through serving (Matthew 20:26-28). In order to explore this idea further let us consider Nehemiah and his example of leadership after he saw his home of Jerusalem broken and in ruin.
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. - Nehemiah 1:3-4
Nehemiah listened when he was told about the fall of the wall of Jerusalem. He did not wonder about how wicked the world is and how this could be allowed to happen to his people. He did not wish that someone else would do something about it. He turned to God and confessed his sins and the sins of his people. Nehemiah prayed to God for direction and for favor as he began to plan how to rebuild the wall and the hearts of the people of Jerusalem.
I pray that men would listen to the broken and respond as Nehemiah did to the seemingly overwhelming problems they faced. We need to recognize the hard truth that the fall of our communities is entirely due to our absence, because we failed to lead and love as Jesus sent us to do (John 20:21-23). We have to step up and respond to the darkness and despair that we see in the world today by serving in our community with the Spirit that lives in us.
Nehemiah went on to use the resources available (and probably some that he didn't think were available) as cupbearer to the king to do God's work in rebuilding his community. Likewise, we all have been gifted by God with talents, resources, and opportunities to build up our community. We must be willing to use them.
When Nehemiah took on a leadership role, the people of Jerusalem followed. Scores of people (listed in various chapters of Nehemiah) volunteered to rebuild their community because one man stepped up to lead. Not everyone got on board though, the Samaritans and Ammonites ridiculed the Jews. The Jews themselves began to question themselves and their mission. Likewise, evil will try to tell us that we are wasting our time and that the world is too far gone to be saved, but we know better.
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” - Nehemiah 4:14
Pray that God would reveal to us all the resources that he has given us so that we may use them to serve and rebuild our communities. Humble ourselves in recognizing the part men have played in allowing brokenness to exist unimpeded due to an absence of leadership. Understand the part we have to play in living out the gospel of Christ. Pray that we would be courageous to stand up and take the lead in bringing the love of God to his people. Let's step up!
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?
If you are a young adult, you are probably finishing up some kind of school or beginning a new career. You may have grown up in church like my wife, who felt like going to church was “what you did” and rarely thought about what she would do when given the option of how to spend her Sunday mornings.
Once she was in college she knew she wanted to have a strong faith, but she didn't know exactly how to live that out for herself. She and I struggled for a while to find our place in the community of Christ, really until we came to understand how important it was to build real and honest relationships with other Christians and to serve alongside them.
To find your place in the community of Christ, you have to get to know what that community looks like. Start by joining or starting a connect group for young adults (like SMASH, Real World, or YMP). Connect groups are where you can build close relationships with people who will understand what's going on in your life and will encourage you in your walk. You will need those relationships when dealing with the ups and downs that come along with college or starting a career.
You may feel a little lost as you transition from being part of your parent’s church activities to having your own church activities and relationships, but trust me when I say that you are not alone. There are many people just like you who are looking for others to connect and share life with. So look around and find some people who are prayerfully going to Jesus and asking him to lead them into developing a community like that described in Ephesians 4. Invite people to join you if you have to!
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
At this stage in life you have a lot of new time and freedom. This is the best chance you will ever have to serve in different areas of the church and find where you fit best.
If you are thinking that you want to have a Christ-centered family that does great things in Jesus name, you don't have to wait. That was a big “aha!” that encouraged me to get more active serving. I realized that I did not have to wait to be the head of the family that God wanted me to be--that I could be a part of something whether my family was just me, or me and my wife.
Here at Severn Run we are lucky because there are many teams and ministries where you can serve throughout the year. This is also a great way of getting to know people outside your small group who will also support you and who you can bond with through serving. This is the mature faith that Paul describes in Ephesians 4, that we would each grow together and support one another as the body of Christ.
We all want to be at peace, but we allow many things to come between us and that peace that we are looking for. Let's turn to the Bible for answers to those things that separate us from peace.
1) 1 John 3:1-2
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
We should reflect on God's love for us and study it. God's love for us is not earned, yet he calls us his own. God is not of Earth and because we are his children, neither are we. This explains why we have so many problems with living in the world. However, we can find great peace in considering God's love for us and that one day we will be with him forever.
2) Deuteronomy 31:7-8
Then Moses called Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and of good courage, for you must go with this people to the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it. And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
In Deuteronomy 31, Moses comforts Joshua telling him that the Lord goes before him, providing as he has promised. We cannot go anywhere God hasn't already been and where he hasn't already been working. We should be courageous because we trust that God is with us and he will not leave us.
3) Ephesians 2:14-18
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
In Ephesians 2, Paul describes how Jesus has broken down the things that separated the Jews and the Gentiles and now they can come together as one community identified as followers of Christ. Disharmony among believers or between believers and non-believers can only be resolved through Jesus. If we work on improving our relationship with Jesus, drawing him near, then we will see improvement in our other relationships. We are all identified as children of God and by growing closer to him we will grow closer to each other.
4) Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
A common barrier to peace is the desire for us to accomplish as much as possible in our professional life. Hard work does not have to be a bad thing, but we can begin to idolize our own success and forget to rest. When we rest, we are relying on God to take care of us while we focus on the blessings he has given us. It is important that we prioritize rest, where we do not worry about the future or struggle with our past but go to God and lay our burdens at his feet.
5) Colossians 3:15-16
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
Ultimately, we are our own barrier to peace. Sometimes we get caught in a place where we feel that someone or something in our life is keeping us from peace, but these thoughts are just wrong. The offer of peace is always there, we just have to be willing to soften our hearts and let Christ rule in our hearts as Paul wrote to the Colossians.
Jesus wants you to have peace because when you are in Him, you have all you need to live your life. He’s got this!
How were you first introduced to Jesus? It’s a good bet that you learned about Jesus because someone shared with you. They shared their personal experiences and the joy that he brought into their life. That person shared with you because they knew the impact Jesus would have in your life. Something about that interaction stuck with you, and your life began to change.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus is at the center of everything when it comes to sharing the gospel. It was Jesus that commanded us to go and make disciples. It is his Spirit that fills us and overflows to others. It will be Jesus that convicts someone and transforms their life when they welcome him into their heart. The number one thing to remember about sharing is that it all comes back to Jesus.
He should remain the center of our conversation:
- Ask what they think about Jesus.
- Share your Jesus story-about how Jesus is real and relevant to you.
- Talk about answered prayers, or how you’ve seen Jesus work in your life or the lives of others.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6
Prayer is always a great place to start. Pray for opportunities to share Jesus and know that they will come. We should also pray for boldness in those moments, as it will take some faith to act on those opportunities once they arrive. It can be uncomfortable to open up about your life and how Jesus has changed it. You have to make yourself vulnerable to describe the highs and lows of the walk with Christ, but what makes it uncomfortable is also what makes it so important. Those feelings of triumph and redemption are exactly what we need to communicate. That is real life and what sticks with someone long after.
We can also share Jesus in our every day lives. If we have allowed Jesus to be in every part of our lives then he will always be on our minds and come up naturally. A friend once told me that she thought a coworker was a Christian, so she would often talk to her coworker about their beliefs and what Jesus meant to them. She did not become aware that her coworker had not known Jesus until the coworker told her they had only recently began attending church and accepted Jesus into their life. That's how quickly and powerfully Jesus can transform someone's life once he has been introduced.
As you prepare to follow the command of Jesus to “Go and make disciples,” you can do these things:
- Pray that Jesus will bring people into your life who are seeking him, and for your courage and boldness to share.
- Know how Jesus has made a difference in your life. Think of a time when you knew that Jesus helped you either in a time of peace, a time of trouble.
- Learn how to talk about how Jesus is real to you in your everyday life. Have you seen answers to prayer? That’s something to share. Have you had peace in a time of trial? That’s a story about Jesus in your life.
- Make new relationships, or start bringing up Jesus in your conversations with people you know.
- Be willing to help people when they are in need, this is part of sharing Jesus.
- Love well and believe big!
If you have experienced the love of the Father through the life of the Son, then sharing that love is a natural next step.
Who are you sharing Jesus with this week?