In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind. Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to...
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“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...
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...
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...
When I was nine or ten years old, the most desired item on my Christmas list was a Dr. Dreadful Food Lab. It was a lab kit that you could make all kinds of jello molds shaped like spiders, worms and all kinds of unappetizing things that kids can't get enough of. Now being, by far, the...
During the Christmas holidays it is custom that we listen to Christmas and winter themed music. Many of us go out and decorate, purchase greeting cards, and look for ways to see close but distant family members. What we also try to do is make lasting memories with our children and spouse. Many...
You see the message everywhere…billboards, television, shops, malls, front yards, newspapers, magazines…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!! Feel the joy! Joy to the World rings out from the radio, church choirs, elevators, carolers, and the speakers of every...
The last two months have been tough for America; we were horrified by the Orlando massacre and the Dallas assassinations. We sense evil amongst us and we can easily fall into despair. What will happen next? How do we stop the carnage? When senseless horrors like these occur, we are...
How should a Jesus Follower respond in times of tragedy like this weekend's attack in Orlando? Here are four steps to consider.
In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind.
Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to the flames. It only took an instant, once Billy added the lacquer, for the flames to leap up and engulf his arm. A man came to his rescue and as he lay in the hospital recovering from his own injuries, he recalled with great emotion, “The young lad was running, a ball of flames…I did all I could…” Billy’s father thanked him and later remarked, “I have a different heart and mind set about white people. Everybody stood there, frozen to the floor, but it was the white man who risked his life. He risked his life for my son and I have a different opinion now.”
Billy’s dad had faced many prejudices in his life. Not the least of which was the inequality he endured during his service in WWII. However, the selfless act of one person showed him that his ideas and opinions did not apply to an entire group of people. Sadly, Billy succumbed to his injuries and passed away. His accident though, was a catalyst for change in his family.
Billy’s sister, Arlene was profoundly impacted by her brother’s passing. Arlene went on to raise her five daughters with love in their hearts toward all people. Even though the community, school, and church where they lived was entirely black, many of the white teachers at their school were loving and poured encouragement and support into their lives. However, the girls did see and experience a lot of discrimination in the extended parts of their mostly-white church organization. It didn't stop them from worshiping with them or attending the events, but it helped them to learn how not to treat people.
Arlene worked at Teen Challenge year-round, and during the summers she took her five girls along with her. Patrice Lyle watched her mother minister with the love of Christ to people of all races. Because of this modeling, Patrice is driven to see and love others as Christ does; humans with beautiful differences all created in the image of God the Father.
After the events in Charlottesville, Patrice hosted a Coffee and Conversation event. She invited others as an opportunity to learn to love each other by getting to know each other...one conversation at a time. The meeting was attended by 3 of Patrice’s sisters, her brother-in-law and 1 white friend. Patrice was so thankful for the friend that came because it lent a different voice to the discussion. “Every time you allow yourself to hear a different perspective, it opens your heart and mind a little bit more,” Patrice said.
The bottom line for Patrice with racial reconciliation is trying to know and understand each other’s hearts. Most times when people begin a racial reconciliation conversation, even if they don’t necessarily say the “right” things, they’re trying to get there—to racial reconciliation or an understanding of one another. People willing to enter into these conversations need to understand that no one is intentionally trying to offend but to change themselves and their thinking.
Ultimately, Patrice says, “How can you bring people to Jesus if you see people as different from you? When we allow our differences to affect if we share Jesus with someone, it’s sin.”
Patrice refers to the “journey” of racial reconciliation. She offers these steps:
- Surround yourself with people different from you
- Understand how you process those differences
- Make intentional steps to lean, to understand, and then to love and embrace those differences.
Above all, Patrice says, “Allow yourself to be covered in grace. Grace allows you to not see the wrong and the faults in others”. This is great truth for interaction with ALL people!
*Quotes in the 1st paragraph are from “The Story of Billy” by Arlene Thompson. https://lilliethompson.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/the-story-of-billy/
“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.
When I was nine or ten years old, the most desired item on my Christmas list was a Dr. Dreadful Food Lab. It was a lab kit that you could make all kinds of jello molds shaped like spiders, worms and all kinds of unappetizing things that kids can't get enough of. Now being, by far, the most mischievous child my parents produced, I spent much of my time searching out the place my mom hid our Christmas presents. This particular year, she went with hiding them under her bed (c’mon mom, you gotta try a little harder than that). After I spent a few minutes sifting through what was surely gifts for my older brother and sister, I saw it.
My Dr. Dreadful Food Lab. And I couldn’t believe it!
My parents are generous givers but by nine years old, I had learned that there was no guarantee of receiving what you had on your Christmas List. But this year I had, and of course I was too excited not to share. I ran to my older bother and told him what I had done and what I had seen. Once I had gone, he went to my mother and told HER what I had done and seen. My mother took this as an opportunity to teach her young daughter a lesson and without saying a word, returned the food lab and let me discover this on my own when come Christmas morning I had nothing to make jello in the shapes of spiders and worms.
I am sure many people can say the same but, growing up there were some years of plenty and some years of less when it came to the number of gifts under the tree. And you know what? To this day, there are only a handful of presents that I remember.
“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!” -Dr. Seuss, How The Grinch Stole Christmas!
Keeping Christmas special in a culture that teaches us it is better to receive than to give and that more is never enough, is a challenge. So how do we keep Christmas special in an over-commercialized society?
Give Christmas back to Jesus
There are so many things vying for attention during the Christmas season. Between mom stressing over out of town guest, parents stressing over how to pay for gifts, Santa and those reindeer and Elves on shelves, there are no shortage of distractions. Give all of Christmas back to Jesus. Not part of it. All of it. Make time to celebrate with your children and family the birth of Jesus. Make a point to talk about and obsess over the fact that Christ came to the earth in the form of an infant to save us all. Be passionate about this and stop to think about two scared teenagers who traveled a considerable distance on a donkey to give birth in a smelly, dirty stable to a baby who would grow up to redeem us from our sins.
Turn off the TV and stick to family favorite Christmas movies
We generally only allow our kids to watch approved movies. When they watch cartoons on regular TV, they are bombarded with an endless barrage of crazy toys on commercials that they are convinced they need. Literally year round I was hearing, “I want this! I need this! Can I get this for Christmas?!” Once we cut out TV with the commercials, the constant comments of “I want! I want!” were significantly reduced. It is a difficult task of raising children who are grateful for what they have, it is even more difficult when we put things in front of them they don’t need. We have a long list of Christmas movies that we regularly watch in our family. Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, The Small One (a story about the donkey Mary rode to Bethlehem), the old claymation Rudolf, Lord of The Rings (For adults only at this point. I have no idea how or why we started watching this at Christmas but we snuggle up with the lights off, a fire in the fire place and enjoy watching goblins, orcs, hobbits and all of the amazing Christian symbolism that J.R. R. Tolkien’s beautiful mind gave us) and last but not least, my personal favorite, The Muppets Christmas Carol. It doesn’t get much better than a bunch of sarcastic puppets telling a great story.
Or better yet, turn off TV and read books together
My Mother is a Reading Specialist and she has a knack for finding the most amazing books. There are several that I read as a kid that are still popular today:
- The Wild Christmas Reindeer, by Jan Brett
- The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg
- Bear Stays Up For Christmas, by Karma Wilson
- Letters From Father Christmas, by J.R.R Tolkien
And of course, by far the best Christmas story happens in the book of Matthew and Luke.
Celebrate Advent as a family
Growing up in the church, I remember the Advent wreath at the front of the sanctuary with four candles that someone would light every Sunday while reading a scripture verse. At the end of the service my sister and I would get to blow out the candles (blowing out candles and drinking the left over grape juice after communion were perks of being the Pastor’s kids). We get Advent from the Latin word “adventus” meaning “coming," it is the time for preparing for the coming of Christ and I can’t think of a better way to teach children and family about the birth of Jesus than inviting Advent into our homes. The advent calendars counting down to Christmas filled with chocolates are great but if you are looking for something more substantial, LifeWay.com has an article- 6 Ideas for Celebrating Advent as a Family, you can download a free Advent Family Guide that includes family activities, weekly devotionals and daily readings.
Create your own family traditions
Today with free WiFi, tablets and smartphones, it has never been easier to jump online and peruse the hundreds of websites and blogs filled with family friendly Holiday ideas. Do some good old fashioned research and find some ideas that fit your family. Some of my favorite traditions with my family are making Christmas cookies for our neighbors (that the kids decorate themselves...which make for some interesting looking cookies, who knew Christmas trees could be orange and purple?), my oldest daughters and I make a large batch of homemade cinnamon rolls to enjoy on Christmas morning, Maryland has several great places to see Christmas lights from the comfort of your car (adding some hot apple cider sounds even better). This year I want to try a hot cocoa party, where we get all bundled up, stay up late and drink hot cocoa, look at the stars and just spend time together.
In the end, the key to making Christmas special instead of commercial is time and a little preparation- take extra time to slow down this Christmas to really connect and make memories with family, friends and the community around you.