The Family You Choose

Posted by Andrew Stevens on

  As a child, I never worried about living without my family. My parents were always around, I had my sister, and we would visit our extended family every year. I have so many fond memories as a child, playing with my cousins at my grandma’s house, going fishing with my dad, or...

The Family You Choose

 

As a child, I never worried about living without my family. My parents were always around, I had my sister, and we would visit our extended family every year. I have so many fond memories as a child, playing with my cousins at my grandma’s house, going fishing with my dad, or baking cookies with my mom. I realize that not everyone may have these exact same memories, but I do believe that they are fairly similar to memories that many others share.

As I grew older, these kinds of experiences occurred less and less often. I became more and more independent, and family became something that I simply took for granted. They were still there, but I wasn’t. That is to say, I was absent in the sense that I wasn’t as interested in doing all the things that I had done as a kid. When I joined the military when I was 20, this was confounded even more because I literally wasn’t around anymore. I shipped off to Texas for several months for training, and then I moved to Germany right after. I took my wife Rachel with me to Germany, so luckily I had someone, but besides her, there was no one else. We spent three years there and then we moved to Guam for another three years.

Suffice it to say, being halfway around the world from your family takes its toll on you. The things that I took for granted in my late teens became the things that I missed most in my mid-twenties and now into my thirties. I miss just hanging out with my dad watching football games, or going to the movies. I miss grabbing a coffee and talking about life with my mom. I miss spending time with my grandparents, who also live where my parents do. My wife and I have missed so many life events because we’ve been geographically separated from our families for so long – the deaths of close relatives, family vacations, and holiday gatherings just to name a few. Family has also been absent for the births of all of our three children.

I’ve found myself missing all of that, especially the small things, a whole lot more in the past few years. It’s been so much so that I applied to get out of the military early so that we could move back home and be closer to family. I was very hopeful that things would work out, trusting God and praying that whatever happened was where he wanted me to be. Though I was expecting a ‘yes’ to my application, that was not what I received. I was sorely disappointed, but luckily for me I’ve grown a lot over the past 5-6 years, and was able to accept the fact that this was where God wanted us for the time being.

This was around the beginning of October, and about a month and a half later God showed me something that I hadn’t seen before…

My little family was prepared to spend another holiday together, just the five of us. Sometimes for Thanksgiving we hang out with friends, and on several occasions, we’ve had friends over at our house. I think for most military families this is common, though we do know quite a few people around here who have family close by, which has made it a bit more difficult for us.

This year we were invited over to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving, and there were several other church families who we knew well who were also going. When we got there, there were about twenty or so people, with a mix of our friends, and a mix of the host’s family as well. By the time everyone had shown up, there must have been around fifty people including kids. To be frank it was chaos – a beautiful, turkey and stuffing-smelling, love without limits kind of chaos. After we prayed and everyone started getting their food, I just had to stand back and soak it in for a minute.

This was when it hit me…

Even though we didn’t have ‘blood’ family around to celebrate the holidays with, we still had family. I took a picture and shared the post on Facebook because I wanted to capture the moment, and I wanted others to see that the family of God can make a big difference when you’re feeling lonely and separated from your own kin.

As a military family, being separated from relatives is something that we’re quite used to, though the feeling of missing them never really goes away. As we’ve allowed God in our lives more, he’s given us good friends to help fill the void of missing our families. Of course, it’s not an exact replacement – no one can ever do that. But, it’s about as close as you can get to the real thing. And for many people out there who may not share a strong bond with their families, perhaps it could even feel like a suitable replacement altogether. When you have God in your heart, and when you allow others into your life, then God will bring people to you to build you up and be there for you when you need them. And the great part is, no matter where you go, there will always be someone there as long as you’re open and paying attention.

Another great thing about the family of God is that it’s always growing, and we can always add more brothers and sisters! This family crosses boundaries that blood typically does not – race, skin color, culture, as well as many other things! You will meet people you probably wouldn’t have normally, and it will make you a better for it. You will grow as a person, and you will grow in your faith.

With God as our Father, and countless brothers and sisters surround us everywhere we go, there’s no need to ever feel alone. If you do feel lonely, perhaps you only need to look around and realize, as I did, that you are surrounded by more family than you think you are.

If you don’t know about the joys of a family shared through Christ, then we invite you to attend Severn Run (if you live in the Baltimore-D.C. area), or otherwise look for a local church to get connected to. Wherever you go, if they make you feel like family, then you know you’re probably home.

And if that’s the case, then…

…welcome to the family!

 

Posted by Andrew Stevens with

When We Believe, We Become The Revelation Of God!

The church of the living God

The church of the living God is called to be a powerful community of eternally inspired people who break the dark by becoming the ever-increasing light of Christ on Earth! 

In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, "You are the light of the world…" He didn't say pastors are the light of the world or people with seminary degrees are the light of the world. He didn't say people who know all the Sunday school answers are the light of the world, He said, "You are the light of the world." 

If you believe in me, you are the light of the world…just like I am! 

Do you understand the role you are called to play on broken planet earth? The truth is, that most of us here have been underplaying our role! Most of us here believe somebody else is going to do it, but that's not the case. You are the plan of God for planet earth --there is no Plan B!

Some of you feel you're not talented enough, but the truth is it's not about us! If we do a bunch of 'stuff' that can be explained by us, then who gets the glory? But if God does amazing things through us, and it's clear to everybody, then that's revelation and that glory that goes to God!

The miracle of the incarnation is that God takes dead things and fills them with a life that is His! Jesus lives in you and when you become a believer, you become the revelation of God and the Spirit of God lives inside of you and you're no longer limited by your abilities and what you have. In fact, everything that you don't have becomes something that God uses to reveal Himself!

That's why the Apostle Paul says, "I praise God for my weakness for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10 paraphrased) 

We have no excuse for not changing the world! 

When we believe, we become the revelation of God! It is absolutely true because the point of inspiration is not education --it's transformation.  

It's time for you to allow the Spirit of God to stir up the eternal inside of you and to get inspired again! This can be the time when you 'Wake up, O sleeper' (Ephesians 5:14) and you find out who you really are and what you're capable of. It's time to fan and to flame the gift that is within you and to let God speak to you and use your gifts to change the world! -Dr. Drew Shofner

For When I Am Weak, Then I Am Strong.

For when I am weak then I am strong

When we stop living for our own glory, we stop being limited by our own abilities and our own efforts and we begin to live by the power of God - the Holy Spirit inside of us! That's very clearly what the scripture teaches. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, the Apostle Paul asked God three times to take away the thorn in his flesh and God said,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 
 
When we see God as infinite, our small is irrelevant! I believe that's exactly the meaning of the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 15:29-39. It's not a random event that occurred 2,000 years ago that makes you happy-- for some people who got a free lunch! There's so much more to the story. In the story, Jesus had compassion for these people, they had been with Him for three days and had nothing to eat. 

The truth is, most of us live in a drought of true love and true nurture in our lives, and when you live for a thirst and a hunger for love, it's very difficult for hungry people to feed hungry people! But when you have been filled with the love of God, it is not only easy, it is absolutely inevitable that you will pour out in love for other people! 

So, the God of the universe who took on flesh and walked among us, filled with all the infinite love of the Father, looked around at all the broken people and said 'I have compassion on these people, they are hurting, they have needs and I'm going to give my life away to meet their needs!' (Paraphrased)

Having compassion - Do we even see the brokenness anymore or are we so overwhelmed by all the brokenness and all of the evil and all the wrong in the world that we can't even look at it anymore? Jesus looked at people and He had compassion. Jesus wasn't bound by earthbound thinking. In Luke 18:27, Jesus said, "What is impossible with man is possible with God."  

Who are we to tell God what is and isn't possible?
 
The reality is that we as a church ought to be a church that has compassion on this broken world around us! If we don't engage the brokenness in our neighborhoods, in our families, in ourselves, in Baltimore City, in Curtis Bay and Brooklyn Park, I don't think we've got a God at all! Because the Jesus that broke the bread that night, saw His life torn apart and given to God so that God could make it infinitely more than it would have been had Jesus kept His life for Himself!

We don't want to just be a bunch of religious people sitting our backsides in seats each week, checking a box thinking we've done something! We've done nothing until we've taken the love that God has given us, and we are poured out into a broken world, loving people who are like us and unlike us and loving people who are near and far from us! 

All that I can give away does not leave less for me, it's just a matter of God pouring more into me, I cannot out give God, you cannot out give God-- it is impossible! The way that this works is that we let ourselves be broken and offered to the world, to the glory of God, just as Christ did! 

We serve God the infinite! Not God the weak and God the small and God the ignorant and uncaring! We serve an infinite God who is infinite in all of His attributes. His goodness. His mercy. His compassion. His wisdom. His grace and provision -they're all infinite in every direction! The size of this galaxy amidst a universe that is even bigger, is not even to scale of the size of our God -He is infinitely bigger in every direction!
 
Jeremiah 32:27 says, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?" You in your own life, the struggles of the needs not being met in your own family or your own finances. You need to ask yourself that question - is anything too hard for God?

Let your small be BIG in somebody else's life! We start where we are with what we have, we don't wait until we're ready! Our lack of resources and abilities all goes out the window when you stop living for your own glory. Get busy giving your small to the world that God loves in Jesus' name. God's glory is built upon our surrender, when we see God as infinite, we touch broken with glory!

So, the turning point is: That we see human need with a divine compassion in the world around us. When we refuse to be stopped by earth-bound thinking of what is and is not possible and when we stop living for our own glory, we become limitless! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Are you with me?

are you with me 1

If we don't believe we can win, we won't even try, but if we believe we've already won, we'll live The Win boldly! Some of you today need to resolve the question of whether you're a loser or winner in Christ. I'm not talking about your feelings, I am talking about a decision you make in your heart of hearts, based on Jesus and to say that "I believe that Jesus Christ has handed me the win and that He is with me. Not because of who I am first, but because of who He is!" 

You need to resolve whether you believe, in all of your pain, all of your trouble, all of your trial whether Jesus is with you. Most of us are not living our lives boldly in the world to change it for Jesus Christ-- we're playing another game. The church is the hope of the world and we have to decide what we believe as time moves forward! 

You need to start living your life in a larger way!

You need to celebrate your giftedness and you need to unleash it on the world creatively! 

You need to use your giftedness in the church, I'm not talking about this building, The Church is the living and breathing body of Christ! People whose lives have been changed by the gospel, the  good news of the grace of love!

I'm asking you church, in the name of Jesus, to resolve the question of whether or not you believe He is with you in a victorious, unstoppable, victorious kind of way!

"Are you with me Jesus?"

If you don't answer that question, you may be forfeiting the rest of your life, the dreams of God and of hundreds of other people who could have used your creativity, your gifting, your largeness, but you shrunk back and you lived small because you believed you weren't good enough for God to be with you!

I want you and I to dare to believe: what we believe and knowing that we've already won, we can live with a new kind of confidence and we can live differently from this point forward!

I'm praying that the church of the living God rises up and when they hear Jesus say, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age," that there is a new confidence and spring in our step because we're not just walking through life as failures, we're walking successfully in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords, coming soon to all of us! 

That's our destiny and that's our way of life! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Seek first the Kingdom of God

seek first the kingdom

You've heard me say that we're not ever going to refer to this "building" as the church. I want us, as a church, to begin new lives together seeking the kingdom of God and understanding that we are called far beyond religion - we are called to be a kingdom people!

In Matthew 6:33, the Scripture is really clear about what our priorities should be in this world, and it is this: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." That everything else we would need would be provide for us. That we wouldn't have to spend our lives and exert our lives in weariness and toil in seeking other things! We seek one thing and all other things are provided for us - it is the kingdom that we should be thinking about first!

I want you to join me in thinking 'new' about "church." 

Church has so many cultural attachments to it. You hear it on the news, and when some building burns down, they say a "church" burned down. Well, that's not possible unless there were hundreds of people inside!

Church: It is the body of Christ. You and I are the body of Christ that God has sent into the world to reveal His kingdom! Jesus spent His whole life communicating this, even from the very beginning. 

When you and I learn to think kingdom, it changes everything! I'm telling you, Satan doesn't even want you using the phrase 'kingdom of heaven' between your left ear and your right because when you think about the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God - it changes everything!

It changes your perspective, it changes your understanding, your filter, your lens that you're seeing life through! We have to think kingdom first and last and reject being religious! So when we "seek first the kingdom," that verse means absolutely nothing until we "seek first the kingdom" in practical ways-in our marriages, in our parenting, at our work - it's not an afterthought! 

There are two things that I want you to do. I want you to reject being religious as a way of life -just completely! I want you to think kingdom, first and last, and allow God to do a new work in your life as you conceive life in a new way! -Dr. Drew Shofner

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