Showing items filed under “Spiritual Growth”

5 Verses To Give You Peace

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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!

Posted by Zach Baum with 0 Comments

#MyStory :: When God Says Go

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In less than a year, God has completely turned my life upside down.

My family and I began attending the Church at Severn Run about two and a half years ago. Though I missed my old church, I tried to get in the swing of things, participating in the college-age Connect Group, SMASH, and working in the preschool wing. Other than teaching Sunday School for the three year olds, which I’d done before I came to Severn Run, I wasn’t really interested in taking up any other leadership positions.

Last summer, I attended a church conference that encouraged those of us still in college to start Bible studies on campus, and to spread the Word particularly on secular campuses, such as UMBC. Initially, I thought about it, but ultimately decided I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t outgoing enough; I didn’t know enough about the Bible. I came up with dozens of excuses.

I went home, and life went on, until, last fall I was asked to co-lead SMASH when some of the original leaders were moving away. My mind went back to the sermon at the church conference, and after good deal of prayer and discussion with my parents, I agreed. It was scary and outside of my comfort zone, but this, I figured, was all God was going to call me to for a while.

My life continued to change, though I didn’t see it at the time. I’d kept in contact with Joe Thompson while he was in Hawaii with YWAM. [Read Joe's story here] One night, after attending a campus Bible study that was focused on missions, I remember telling him that I would never be able to do what he was doing. I couldn’t go so far away from my home and my family. I’ve never even been away from my parents for more than a week. I’m also extremely introverted. So many excuses, all saying that I felt I was not made to go to distant lands to teach or spread the Word.

Meanwhile, I was beginning to feel run down. My education classes, though rewarding, weren’t teaching me what I felt that I needed to know. They told me that I needed to adapt my lessons for students with learning disabilities and linguistic differences, but they weren’t telling me how to do it. I felt that I was inadequately prepared to be a teacher even though I’ve wanted to be a teacher since I was in kindergarten. I began to pray about whether this was the career path that God wanted me to follow.

Not long after, I saw a video posted about a Teaching English as a Second Language Program at YWAM. The program would teach the students how to create lessons and units for English Language Learners, and then, because Hawaii has such a diverse language population, it would allow the prospective teachers to actually teach those students.

I was somewhat interested, but knew that there would be too many obstacles. I start student teaching in the fall, and the schedules obviously wouldn’t line up. The funds were also an obstacle. As a child in a family of six where the parents are now trying to put three kids through college at the same time, my family simply doesn’t have the money to fund this type of trip. Nonetheless, I was strangely compelled to look into the program, and the scheduling. 

Surprisingly, due to the new law in Maryland that schools cannot start until after Labor day, I wouldn’t have to start student teaching until after the program had finished, and my job, which is directly connected to that of the school system, would only be marginally affected. UMBC’s academic schedule cooperated too. The more I looked into this option, the more it looked like God was giving me a good kick in the pants. It was as if there were a billboard saying, “Cara, this is where I’m sending you. Now, go. Apply.”    

I’ve learned I’ve been accepted into the program, and I leave July 11. With some donations from family and a bonus for extra professional development from work, I’ve bought the plane tickets, and I will officially be going to YWAM for a 6-week program over the summer. I don’t know what God has in store or how He will provide the funds for the tuition, but I do know that God has a plan for my life. I can’t wait to see what it is!

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Cara Campbell is a senior at UMBC, majoring in Literature and Elementary Education who works in the after school childcare program. She is the oldest of four children and has been a believer for as long as she can remember. If you are interested in learning more about this story or Cara’s mission trip, please contact the church office.

Posted by Cara Campbell with 0 Comments

Overcoming Self Hatred by Understanding My Value in God

 

When Jesus responded to the question regarding the greatest commandment, he states in Matthew 22:39, “And the second is equally important, love your neighbor as yourself.”  This verse puzzled me, yet it had a profound impact on my life for years to come.

It was a typical Sunday. My family, all dressed in our Sunday best, piled into our pale green station wagon and headed down the washboard worn dirt road in central Minnesota. Our destination was a small Baptist church in the heart of our small town.

We lived in what was a typical rural Minnesota community. It had a K-12 school, a volunteer fire department, and several churches. The main street held two small grocery stores, a bank, a cafe, and a hardware store.

I was the youngest of four and as a result I was constantly the target of every opportunity the older siblings could find to tease, belittle, and insult my very existence. A favorite tale one of my brothers enjoyed telling me was that I wasn’t really part of the family—Mom and Dad had found me in a trash can. My sister, nine years older than me, came at me from a different angle. She made it clear that my presence, including in the bedroom we shared, was an invasion of her personal space and a situation she tolerated but resented.

My parents were kind and hardworking raised in a time when children were to be seen and not heard, each dealing with their own childhood challenges. Under the guidance of the then popular Dr. Benjamin Spock’s approach to child rearing, they did little to nurture, encourage or guide their offspring. I was well fed, taken care of, and provided a healthy middle class life style for mid-Minnesota. Although I knew I was loved I did not feel valued.

The day I heard Matthew 22:39 now seems so long ago. I was in the basement of the Pillager Baptist Church sitting in a child size pew near the back of the small Children’s Church area. At the tender age of eight, I heard that verse as the leader read, “… love your neighbor as yourself.”

I looked at the Bible I shared with the child sitting next to me. I read it again. Did it really say that? I pulled the Bible closer, leaned in and read the verse yet again. I thought to myself, hmm, that’s easy. Yet it seemed so not Biblical. I read it again. Sure enough that’s what said. My next thought was, if that is what it says, I am to love others as I loved myself, then I don’t have to like anyone. I don’t even need to be nice to anyone. After all, I hated myself.

 

There’s a popular song played on Christian radio in which the songwriter/singer wonders about having a conversation of with his younger self and if he could, would he? He imagines he could warn himself of all the mistakes he would make that could then be avoided.  He could make his life less painful, easier. Then he wonders if that’s such a great idea or not. After all it’s those mistakes that made him the man he is today.

Just a this songwriter ponders this idea, I too think about it. I wonder how my life could have been different if I could have embraced the truth behind Matthew 22:39. Instead, the words of Jesus became twisted and used by Satan to cause my life to be so misdirected.

There was choice after choice I made that were from a place of self hatred. I continued to attend church and Bible camp; read books, including the Bible, from cover to cover; tackled group and individual studies; and I had even attended Christian University.

The message my mind spoke to me daily never changed - “You’re worthless. God loves the world sure, but not you. He can’t forgive you, you have done too many horrible things.” I had heard these messages for years, from the time I was a small child well into my adult life. I appeared to be normal and well adjusted. No one new of my transgression or the battle within my mind. I was afraid to tell anyone any of the pieces. I knew others would be shocked and appalled at my behavior. No one would ever be able to accept me. 

A few years into my adult life, the leadership at the church I’d been attending occasionally had a change. At one point they posted a sign at the front door that said, “No Perfect People Allowed”. Finally, I fit in! If anyone was imperfect it was me. Even so, I still couldn’t overcome that internal voice and I continued to make horrible choices. I’d pray for forgiveness vow to stop only to find myself repeating this ritual again and again. The secrets were getting too big for me. I couldn’t handle the anxiety and the pain they created knocking on my heart all day long.

Everyone has heard that confession is good for the soul. The thought of confessing this to someone else scared me. It created it’s own anxiety, putting pit in my stomach every time I thought about it. God then opened a door to someone willing to listen. Knowing the conversation would be confidential, I made arrangements to meet. As I blurted out my history the expression on the recipient’s face never changed. No looks of condemnation, no utterance of “you’ve got to be kidding”, no expulsion from the office. Instead there were kind words of support with a list of Bible verses to read as often as the words from Satan saturated my thoughts. These verses made it clear that I am an adopted member of God’s family. He loves me and forgives me of everything and anything.

I also I found that my sins were no different than many of those around me including the leadership within our church. This lead me to believe that if they were forgiven I could be too.  I also discovered my value through God’s eyes. I am loved by a Father who is love. Over time I began to understand this value and God’s view of me. It changed how I saw and accepted myself  and others. It gradually affected every aspect of my life.

It’s been a long journey from reading that set of verses 10-20 times a day to today when I have moved to reading other verses. I am traveling closer to Jesus day by day. Is it over? Am I cured? No, the struggle is real and I expect to be at battle until I meet Christ face to face. Until then, I continually remind myself that I am God’s child, I am fully forgiven, I am immensely loved, and I am greatly valued.

If I could have that conversation with my younger self, would I? I think so. What would I say? I would tell myself the truth behind Matthew 22:39. The truth that is laid out clearly throughout the Bible and the message of Jesus. I would tell me to let the truth that you are truly loved sink deeply into you. Finally, I would say to never forget you are God’s child making you more than loved, you are valued.

 

If you are dealing with issues of low self worth, know that you are valuable beyond measure in Jesus. Here are some verses to help you take those negative thoughts captive and meditate on who God says you are.

Romans 6:6-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7 For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. 8 And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him.

Romans 8:14-17 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.

John 1:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. 13 They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

Galatians 3:26-28 New Living Translation (NLT)

26 For you are all children[a] of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.[b] 28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile,[c] slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:6-7 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 And because we[a] are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.”[b] 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.[c] And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

Ephesians 1:3-4 New Living Translation (NLT)

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

Ephesians 1:7-8 New Living Translation (NLT)

7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. 

#MyStory :: My Struggle and Jesus' Grace

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It’s easy to think that some people are “immune” to sin, or at least more resistant to it, based on outward appearances. Some people just seem to have it all together, and it feels like they couldn’t ever do anything wrong. The truth is that this is as far from the truth as it possibly could be. We all sin, even the people who don’t appear to on the outside. To show you what I mean, here’s my story…

I grew up in church. I was a Pastor’s Kid, and I spent a large portion of my childhood entrenched in everything Christian. I had loving parents who were devoted followers of Christ, and as I said, my dad was a pastor for many years. I remember playing in the church all the time as a kid. I went to Sunday school every week. I went to summer camps and VBS every year. I went to youth group at church. I did all the things that a “good Christian” should do. Life was perfect, right?

Wrong!

In many ways, I’m very thankful that I grew up the way I grew up. It definitely planted some seeds in my life that are integral to where I am right now, but the thing is, in my teenage years and early adulthood these seeds were dormant and never really grew into much of anything. In many ways, the seeds planted felt foreign to me. I knew everything I needed to know. I knew what the seeds were supposed to grow into, but I never cared to feed or water them of my own accord. Jesus was someone I knew of, but not someone that I walked with personally. I easily fell back into my old ways.

In 2006 I joined the military, got married, and moved to Germany. This is when my life really started to take a dark turn. Now that I was far away from almost everything I knew, I really had zero connection to a life that resembled anything touched by Jesus. I still knew what I knew, but it was distant and it barely had any effect on my thoughts and actions. The only thing that stuck with me through all the years was my conscious. There were many times where I did things that I knew were wrong; things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing, but I oftentimes did them anyways.

My wife and I had our first child in 2008. We didn’t have a lot of time to spend together before Ava arrived, so it was a bit of a shock to me once she was in our lives. We were happy, but things were very different. My wife, Rachel, changed. She used to be very lovey and attached to me. She used to be very physical, which I loved because one of my love languages is physical touch. But after our child, things were very much different. She didn’t like to be touched as much, and we certainly lost a lot of our intimacy. While I loved her and our daughter very much, this change was hard on me. And being that I was still growing as a man, I didn’t really know how to handle this change productively. I turned to pornography to fill the void in my heart. Of course, it never filled the emptiness in my heart, but it continued to be a problem for me for many years.

I also engaged in some very inappropriate behaviors at work. I would swear all the time, and I would not act in any way that a Christian should. I poured a lot of junk into my mind, and all these things just made it worse. It got so bad that at one point when my wife was gone on a trip back home, I spent some personal time with a friend’s wife and her friend, and I essentially cheated on my wife with my neighbor’s friend. Fortunately, I did not make the worst mistake I could have made, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wanted to. Needless to say, it was a close call, but ultimately I had committed adultery no matter how far it had gone. And this wasn’t the last time either.

In 2010 we moved to Guam. We got pregnant with our second child, which wasn’t planned, so this one was really strenuous on our marriage. Neither of us were in good places, and the tension almost ruined us. I was working nights for a long time, and was using pornography as an outlet even more. I also had someone I worked with there who I started chatting online with and developed a relationship. I eventually got to the point where I went on a date with this girl, and intended to be intimate with her. I remember being at home after I had gone out with her, and I was chatting with her. She gave me the option to come over to her place. Again, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t wanted to, but something inside me wouldn’t let me go. I knew that it was wrong. As much tension as there was in our marriage, I knew that I couldn’t do this to my wife. I’m pretty sure that God was watching over me that night, even though I had completely turned my back on him. I thank him to this day that I did not go over to that girl’s apartment.

However, I was still in a really bad place. Luckily, I cut off relations with that girl, but my heart was still very hard. There were a few other occasions where I almost made some really bad decisions, but each time my conscious (aka, God) kept me from doing it. I attribute that to the seeds that had been planted in my life so long ago, even though I was still neglecting them.

In 2013, I changed jobs in the military, and had to go to school in Monterey, California. This was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. We found a church there that reminded me who Jesus was, and it brought me back from the depths and breathed new life into my soul. I probably would not be where I am today if we had not gone there.

It took some time, but slowly my heart softened as I found forgiveness for my illicit convictions and stopped pouring darkness into my heart. I even ended up telling my wife all the things I had done, which was an incredibly hard thing to do. I knew it needed to be done, but I struggled with actually doing it for several months. Finally, I did, and by the grace of God she forgave me. I certainly didn’t deserve it, but I suppose that’s how grace works isn’t it?

I’m still not perfect. I still struggle with keeping my eyes focused on God and not on beautiful women. Of course, I still struggle with temptations, but I’m very proud of the fact that it’s been many years since I’ve searched for pornography or given a woman other than my wife more attention than she deserves. Our marriage is better for it, and my relationship with Jesus is stronger than it’s ever been. I still have a lot to learn, and I still have many ways in which I can grow, but for once in my life my faith is real, and it really makes all the difference.

 


We’re supposed to pick one woman and that’s the one that God meant for us to be intimate with. When we play with the idea of intimacy with any other woman, even a virtual one, that’s when the devil can get a foothold in our lives that will easily tear us down if not removed. It’s very common for men to struggle with this temptation. If that’s you, know that you are not alone, and you can overcome it with help from the Father. Allow his healing in your life, and you will find that EVERYTHING will be all the better for it.

If you struggle with addiction to pornography, please use these resources to get the help you need.

 

#MyStory :: Pam Zangardi - VBS Changed My Life

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At the tender age of 10 Pam walked into a VBS all on her own and heard the very first and only Bible verse in her life, John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever should believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life.” She memorized those words and clung to them for the next 30 years. “VBS is what started it all, its when the seed was planted,” Pam said.

Fast forward to July of 2009. Pam brought her children to VBS at the Church at Severn Run. “I didn't really care if they learned about Jesus, I really just wanted them to go somewhere for the day so I could get a break, but God got my attention.”

As Pam walked her kids into the doors that day the verse for the week was displayed on the screens...John 3:16. She knew right then and there that God was calling her back, calling her to have a personal relationship with him. Pam began coming to church and the following year she signed up to be a leader at VBS. “I was terrified that I didn't know enough, that I wasn't qualified or ready to lead children in the discussions, but God showed up every time and I realized that he doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called.”

Pam looks forward to leading at VBS now, and does it every year. “I don't only find satisfaction in seeing the kids grow and learn, but I grow and learn so much by teaching the kids and listening to them.” She tells anyone and everyone about how important VBS is.

“If you can speak into their lives when they are young and plant a seed, it could change their whole life.” She hopes that one day a child will look back 30 years from now and say, “My life was changed because of that week at VBS.”


If you would like to participate in VBS this year, you can get more information here.

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