We can live happily ever after. But it doesn’t just happen. Marriage needs constant care. It deserves our time and attention.
Jesus affirms that tithing (along with seeking justice, mercy and faithfulness) is something that his followers should be doing. Let’s explore a few reasons why Jesus tells his followers they should tithe.
Faith is believing in what we cannot directly observe. Faith is trusting in God instead of our own nature. In Hebrews 11:1, Paul encourages the Hebrews by describing faith and later goes on to provide multiple examples of people who showed tremendous faith throughout the bible. A common theme in...
This Week's Life Lifter: For God loved the world so muchthat he gave his one and only Son,so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16) Think back to a time you fought for something. Was it important to you? We fight for things we...
There is an old saying that goes, “Stay prayed up!” This is one way to keep the devil at bay and to remain closer to God. Who doesn’t want to be closer to God? There are many ways to develop a close relationship with Christ. Over all the praises, songs, prayers, and...
We have all heard about Satan or the devil, envisioning anything from the snake in the garden to the red-suited, pointed-eared, trident-toting, Halloween costume. Satan in mentioned throughout the Bible and is referred to by many names including the evil one, the devil, our adversary, the...
At the end of last October, I took my family to serve for one evening of the Winter Relief program. It was a very remarkable experience and as I reflect back on it, there are three main takeaways that made a huge impact on my family...
Too often we confuse magic with prayer. Magic is instant. Magic is showy, we just kind of wave a wand and it happens -but that's not supernatural!Prayer is for THROUGH and not around!Prayer is the window through, but we want around! So many of us, on our journey, have been stopped by Satan...
Luke 11:4 says, "and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us." Now, this is a difficult thing to do. It's one of those things that sound easy but is very, very difficult. It's been said that forgiveness is kind of like drinking poison to punish someone else. We all have...
“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Acts 1:14 People often have an idealized idea of what praying as a family should look like. In a perfect world, praying with children would be easy. We would sit around the table with our well behaved children (who would have...
In October I ended up serving at Winter Relief, although it was not quite my plan for the night. I came for the youth Bible study, but it was cancelled because the church was hosting the Winter Relief guests. I decided to go up to where Winter Relief was happening and I met a man with a really heartbreaking story. He told me about how he loved to work. He explained to me that his son was a heroin addict, and his life had gone downhill. He used to be a great student, physically fit, and very smart. He could have been a programmer and had a good life. Instead, addiction had destroyed his life, and he was living on the streets.
This man told me he was working so he could get his son off the streets. Every day he would give him money so he could rent a hotel room, or buy food. Of course, addiction tends to affect priorities so the money would often go to drugs instead of housing. Still, there wasn’t much else this man could do, every day he could he would bring his son to the addiction treatment center, but if he didn’t want to join the program, no one could make him.
So, here was a father who was just doing everything he could to give his son a chance to recover his life, even at his own expense. It vaguely reminded me of the prodigal son; his father didn’t care what he was wrapped up in, he only wanted his son to be okay. As I listened to this man talk, more and more I wanted to pray for him. This was kind of a new and weird experience for me, because I’m not the best at praying for people and I get nervous about praying in public. But God wouldn’t take away the feeling I was having that I had to pray for him. Eventually I asked him if I could pray for him and his son.
Lately I’ve been in a lonely spot in life, and that’s made life depressing for me. When I started praying with this man though, it was really strange…I felt like I suddenly had a real connection with someone. In that short moment I wasn’t lonely. Having that common relationship and trust in God, and having the willingness to call on him together brought us closer in that moment, and that destroyed my loneliness.
It seems to me that when we connect with other people and do what God is calling us to do, we can feel more fulfilled and happier.
Saved people serve people. That’s a phrase that you probably haven’t heard very often, right? That is, unless you attend the church here at Severn Run of course. Then you’re probably rolling your eyes at me because we hear it all the time right now. Hopefully you’re not too tired of hearing it though, because we really don’t want people to get tired of it.
Saved people really do serve people, and because we’re so serious about it around here, we have a ton of different ways that you can serve, and we’ve been highlighting a lot of those so that you can find a spot that’s just right for you. We understand that not everyone is used to serving, and that serving on some of the larger or more visible teams might seem a bit foreboding, so we wanted to highlight a few places that were more ‘low key’, and where you don’t have to jump in head first serving an entire Sunday. (Of course, if you want to do that, we’d welcome it, and we have a lot of opportunities for you to do so!)
One of the places where you can serve in the church on Sundays is at the Gear Shop. You’ve probably seen it if you’ve ever attended a service here. The Gear Shop is a place where you can buy goodies that we’ve created so you can share about Jesus and Severn Run wherever you go. We have mugs, coffee cups, t-shirts, magnets, car stickers, and a variety of other things. (Because who doesn’t want to drink coffee on the way to work in a spiffy Severn Run polo shirt while showing the upset driver behind you that they can find peace from the anger of you just (totally accidentally) cutting them off, right!?) Ok, maybe a bit over the top, but you get the picture. So yes, the Gear Shop is a totally cool way that you can serve and help people show those who they come into contact with what their values are.
We reached out to Rebekah Twardowski who’s the Gear Shop coordinator. Here’s what she said about getting involved at the Gear Shop.
I had been looking for a ministry that I felt God calling me to. I have two little ones and was trying to find something that I could really sink my teeth into. I had been praying about what to do when I was told that our church had a graphic design team. Earlier in the year I had started painting and lettering and had helped design a t-shirt for our Mom's Group. I loved it so much and I thought the design team is something I could step in to and use for God’s glory. In May, I finally emailed Bonni Mace about the design team, and she responded telling me that she was already planning on asking me to lead the Gear Shop. God's hands were clearly all over the situation preparing my heart for this.
We currently have six consistent volunteers in the Gear Shop. We have had a lot of interest with the ‘Be The Difference’ challenge, and are so happy to be adding new faces to the team! This summer we changed to an "after church" schedule - we are opened from the end of service until the atrium starts to clear after the beginning of the next service (about a 40-minute serving time). Serving includes putting out inventory, making sales, and greeting people with a smile!
Our mission is to creatively reveal the love of the Father through the life of the Son in the Power of the Spirit. We do that by equipping people with gear that they can wear into the world and proudly (and literally) wear their faith on their sleeve.
Our goal this next year is to keep things fresh by keeping our inventory numbers smaller and bringing in new designs fairly often. Our hope is to get some gender-specific t-shirts (since we have always just had unisex tees), and also new products like water bottles and mugs.
So, there you have it! If you’re creative, good at customer service, or just like to smile, the Gear Shop might just be the perfect place for you. If interested, you can go to SevernRunner.info and sign up directly via the ‘Be The Difference’ challenge under ‘Level One’ (look for ‘Empower people to share their stories with Severn Run gear’)!
This is a great place start serving for the first time because this is something that you’d be comfortable doing. If this serving opportunity doesn’t excite you, keep an eye on the blog because we will be highlighting lots of other places in the church and you just might find the perfect one for you.
My wife and I attended Northern Chesapeake Sheltie Rescue’s annual picnic on September 23rd. This year we went alone as our own Shetland Sheepdog, Chipper, passed away last spring.
We have been grieving his loss ever since and this picnic was a good opportunity to get reacquainted with those we had met over the years as well as to get our Sheltie fix.
Jackson is a nine-year-old rescue Sheltie who, in the first seven years of his life, was kept confined and isolated in a barn with little to eat or drink. He was abused and even though being in a loving home for the past two years, he still bears the scars and fears of his former life. When he was first rescued he did not bark and now he is happy to join the other shelties with his new voice.
Jackson is devoted to his adoptive mother and follows her everywhere, but he is afraid of strangers. At the picnic, our families sat near one another. Jackson was skittish and wary of my overtures of friendship but, under the watchful eye of “Mom,” I was able to pet him and, eventually, lift him up onto my lap.
Once there, he was happy and felt safe. Together, we experienced about an hour of mutual therapy.
Since his adoption, Jackson has been slowly healing from his abusive past and is becoming more comfortable around other dogs. However, he remains timid and fearful of people. His healing will be a lifelong process, which has been helped by the adoption of two more sheltie rescues to mentor him in his loving home.
It was certainly a pleasure on my part to not only be able to extend love to this sweet sheltie, but to know that – as he was giving me therapy – I was also showing him that he could be loved by other people. (The world is not as dark and fearful as he thinks.)
Despite our time together, just a short time later, as we were departing, Jackson again shied away from me. His wounds run deep, as so often do the wounds in our own human hearts.
Many of the shelties at this picnic come from abused backgrounds. That is why they have been rescued and adopted into loving homes. Most are very friendly and approachable. A few, like Jackson, need more time and encouragement.
It occurred to me that people are like that, too. We all come with our own – very mixed – baggage. There is no one universal approach to healing. We must be alert to the nuances of each situation and story.
For those most wounded, like Jackson, patience, persistence, and love are required. Like some people, Jackson expects the worst from others, including those who may intend no harm and actually have pure love to share.
Jonah Goldberg notes that, almost uniquely among animals, dogs “can read human body language and expressions.” For wounded creatures (human and animal), suspicions and fears can paralyze us and dull our senses. (Our perceptions are not always reality.)
Darkness has a way of blinding us to truth, to love, and to the good that surrounds us. It can blind us to the wounds within other people. And it can blind us to the love that our heavenly Father wants to share with His children.
In our case, we have Jesus to share with others. Let us help heal the Jacksons of this world with the love of Jesus, one encounter at a time, moment by moment, until the Light fully dispels the darkness.
If you’ve experienced times when God has picked you up, placed you on His lap, and lavished His love on you, then share those experiences with others. You never know whose heart might be healed. (It might even be your own.)
[Jackson’s mom emailed me writing, “Thank you for 'seeing' Jackson as he is.” It made me think; do we see God’s creatures through His eyes or through the lens of our own prejudices, pain, and fear?]
As a mom, I want to give my kids their hearts’ every desire; tempered with a healthy dose of fiscal responsibility and work ethic, of course.
As my kids create Christmas wish lists, we discuss the limits of our budget but also, that we indeed have a Christmas budget. While they may be disappointed that much to their dismay, we do not have unlimited funds for toys, books, games and the highly desired video games and electronics, they do have hope that some of the items on their lists may actually end up packaged neatly beneath the tree on Christmas morning waiting to be unwrapped.
However, this is not the reality for many children in Curtis Bay. They may or may not have gifts under their tree this Christmas.
This is why The Well hosts a Christmas Toy Store.
New, unwrapped donated toys are carefully displayed by age and gender in a large room that becomes the toy store. Community members begin lining up by 8 a.m. in a line that begins to snake around the building on the corner of Church Street and Pennington Avenue. Children are led inside, out of the cold, to a “Christmas Party” where they play and make crafts while their parents wait for their turn in the toy store. Line volunteers serve warm beverages and treats, while they make conversation and offer to pray with those waiting to get in.
At 10 a.m. the first of the community members comes inside. They are paired with a “personal shopper” to assist them through the toy store. The personal shopper gets to know their needs and guides them to the proper areas of the store where they are likely to find age-appropriate toys for their children. After they have made their selections, they make nametags for the packages and hand the toys over to gift wrappers.
The personal shopper leads the guest to The Well’s desk where they are given flyers and information about upcoming events and programs. They can make appointments to visit the Hope Chest (clothing closet) or fill out an application for the mentorship program. While they wait for their gifts to be wrapped and delivered, guests make their way upstairs to enjoy more treats and mingle with other community members before receiving their packages, picking up their children from the party, and heading home.
The Well’s Toy Store enables low-income families in Curtis Bay to purchase donated toys (valued at $10 or more) for a fraction of the store price ($2 per toy). The toy store allows them the opportunity to shop and choose toys based on their children’s interests as well as promotes dignity and responsibility in the act of being able to purchase toys while on a limited budget.
Severn Runners have the opportunity to be involved in a couple of different ways! Be sure to sign up on severnrunner.info and look for:
Be the Difference Level 2
- Donate new, unwrapped toys that are valued at $10 or more
Be the Difference Level 3
- Sign up for a volunteer position in the Toy Store
Help spread Christmas joy this year in Curtis Bay by helping meet such an important need for the community.
Psalm 31:4 "Keep me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge."
Did you ever feel trapped? Were you ever stuck someplace and unable to get out? Even for just a few minutes…which in retrospect seems like an eternity.
On a recent trip to California, I was walking along the beach in Carlsbad enjoying the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks. It was a beautiful, sunny day with temperatures in the mid seventies. I was walking along the rocks on the coastline-the rocks towered over 30 feet high. As the waves rolled in, there was nowhere to go to avoid the water. The waves came in and splashed me as I was leaning against the rocks. I realized if you were stuck here when the tide came in you would be trapped. The only way out would be to swim in the water or climb up the rocks.
In life, we can often feel trapped by our sin. We may be overcome with the sin of alcoholism, pornography, infidelity, gossip, lying, or other sinful behaviors.
When you are feeling trapped by sin, turn to God for guidance and direction. Take it one day at a time and continually lift up your prayers to Him.
Remember that God is a loving God and he forgives you for all your sins and unrighteousness. For we all fall short of the glory of God, but Jesus died on the cross so that our sins may be forgiven. "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him." (John 3:17)
How do you get out of feeling trapped?
Pray. Start with this from Isaiah 54:17a, "No weapon that is formed against thee [Satan] shall prosper..." Pray to God and ask him to defeat Satan in the name of Jesus and help you turn from sin. Seek his forgiveness. Then make the deliberate action of turning away from your sin (repent) and endeavor to separate yourself from this behavior.
If you need more help understanding the grace and forgiveness of God, or if you need help with a chronic sin, please feel free to reach out to us. We are a church of broken people (read not sinless) who love the Lord and want to help each other overcome.