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In the middle of what was supposed to be a restful night’s sleep, Bob Ogle heard from Jesus. It was 3 AM and He had a response for something Bob had been pondering.
Pastor Drew always encourages Severn Runners to serve outside of the walls of our church building. Bob and his Connect Group, Hearts and Minds, had been exploring options for where their group could become involved in Loving Well and Living Jesus in our community. At 3 that morning Bob felt his heart turn toward the men, women and families represented in the Anne Arundel County Western District Police Station.
Hearts and Minds decided they would utilize Valentine’s Day to share “Boxes of Love” that included a donated Chick-Fil-A gift card, a hand-written note, several edible goodies, and a laminated “Policeman’s Prayer” card. They prayed over the boxes and delivered them to the station on February 13th so that the officers coming in at midnight in the wee hours of Valentine’s Day would receive a box at the beginning of their shift.
On Valentine’s Day at 11:30AM, this “unofficial” response came via the Severn Run website:
“I wanted to take a second to thank you all for the Valentine’s Day gifts you brought to us at the Western District. I can’t explain just how much these acts of community service mean to myself and my colleagues, and how appreciative we are when our community reaches out to thank us.
This message is not being sent to you as representative of the police department, but as a fellow citizen and community member who is extremely moved by the gesture your church has made to us as law enforcement officers. I want you all to know that I am thankful to be able to serve you, and that coming in today to the box on my desk helps me to maintain the perspective that despite the troubled times we find ourselves currently facing in our profession, we have the support of our community. Thank you all.”
Signed “Thankful Detective”
Hearts and Minds are continuing to grow their relationship and ministry with the West County department. They performed lawnmower tune-ups for the officers, and recently teamed up with the Moms of Severn Run Group to host a Police Appreciation Breakfast in the Severn Run Atrium.
“You can really form relationships over a heaping pile of bacon!” Bob mused. “The officers got to see that we are not the ‘caricature of religion’ that Andy Stanley talked about in Go Fish and truly had a good time just getting to know us.”
The morning was lively and fun as officers let the kids attending the breakfast sit in their cruisers and blast the siren, and warm conversations abounded.
Next, Bob and the Hearts and Minds Group are planning to host a car wash and cook-out for the officers in the coming months.
“Our goal is to never let them forget that there are so many out there who respect them, admire them, and appreciate the sacrifice that they (and their families) make to keep us safe. AND to pray for them daily.”
Everyone loves a good party, a celebration that includes gifts, delicious food, joyful music, good friends and family. Add to that a baby. Everyone’s heart softens when a baby is part of the conversation. They are cuddly, cute, and generally smell wonderful. Add a small stable, a mystical star, angels, wise men and a few shepherds and you have one of the greatest and well-known stories in all of history.
Many people celebrate but most miss the point. Although the birth of Christ is a defining moment in history, it took another 33 years before it became meaningful. It took a death and a resurrection to make a birth a momentous occasion.
Without Easter, specifically without the resurrection of Christ, there would be nothing. No Christmas celebration, no New Testament, no early believers, no coming of the Holy Spirit. Basically there would be no Christianity as we have known it to be throughout history. This is a uncomfortable thought.
The more penetrating thought however is that there would have been no Savior. The curtain would not have been torn, death would not have been overcome, and we would not have the unconditional forgiveness, grace and eternal life now extended to us through Jesus.
This could have been the outcome of that quiet night in Bethlehem. Jesus had options, he could have chosen to end the story in the garden with a plea to his Father. Instead Jesus prays to be obedient, he prays for his disciples, and finally he prays for all believers.
Jesus’s death isn’t the end of his ministry, it was the finale that moved to new beginnings.
It was his glory.
The reason for his birth.
The death turned resurrection is the key to God’s saving grace and an outcome of his love for us.
Paul, writing to the people of the church of Corinth, in I Corinthians 15:3-4, said, “For what I received I passed on you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Paul makes it clear that the resurrection isn’t just important, it is of first importance.
From there Paul goes on to say in verses 13-14, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
It is the resurrection of Easter we remember and celebrate as the key to Christianity. Christ died and was resurrected giving us life. This is the only way life could have been given to us. It was through the love of God we are given what we don’t deserve.
John 3:16 sums it up for us: “For God so loved the world (us), that he gave his one and only son (Jesus) that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Believe, celebrate, and accept the love gift of eternal life God made available through Jesus to all on that Easter morning so many years ago.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
We all have the choice to hold the hammer, to pick up a nail and drive it into the hand of the son of God. Every time we choose our way, our sinful desires, our selfish wants, we drive a nail in the hand of the Savior. Every time we say “no” to God and his will for our lives we are the voice in the crowd yelling “crucify him!”
If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that there is something in us that is offended by Jesus. God’s will always will offend our human nature.
But God chose to sacrifice his son on the cross to allow Jesus to be IN US.
Isaiah 53:10 “Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
“God made him who had no sin to BE sin FOR us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21
When we come face to face with the will of God and the sacrifice of his son, we can choose to respond in one of two ways…
Reject his will and purpose for our lives. OR accept that his will and sacrifice is where we find our lives.
Until we are gladly yielding our will to Jesus; we’re actively opposing God’s work in the world.
Are you letting God’s will be louder than yours?
Are you living Jesus GLADLY or killing off his work in the world?
It’s time for us, his church to BE his work in the world.
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In February, The Church at Severn Run hosted a Royal Father Daughter Ball and the results were fantastic. Over two-hundred and fifty golden tickets were sold to church members and members of the surrounding kingdom. On the night of the ball, the young ladies were escorted to the ballroom, entering on a red carpet where they received enchanting tiaras fit for a royal.
From there, each proud king was announced by name while presenting his princess for the entire court to see. Culinary masters (AKA mothers of the young princesses) from all over the realm came together to create a dining experience that none would soon forget.
Dinner was served, lemonade flowed freely and once everyone had had their fill of the main courses, the vast table of cupcakes was unveiled. Chocolate, strawberry and vanilla cupcakes all topped with a rich icing made the evening even more magical. Competitions were held, and the princesses were delighted to see their royal fathers dancing to songs such as Can’t Stop the Feeling! and Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae). There was dancing, there was singing and each of those beautiful young ladies was absolutely beaming.
Now, while the ball was a huge success, let’s take a second to talk about the reason things like father/daughter dances are so popular right now.
Dads, you are so SO important in your precious little girls’ eyes. You are her hero. You are her love. You are her Daddy.
Life easily gets busy and chaotic; we as parents get so bogged down dealing with everyday trials that it can be easy to forget how much your daughters need you to invest in them. The relationship between father and daughter is so sweet. I am not saying that other relationships like mother/daughter, father/son are less rewarding or less important, but there is certainly something precious about a daddy and his little girl.
You, as her earthly father, have to opportunity to instill in her how much her Heavenly Father loves and values her. Remind her how very beautiful she is inside and out by pointing out the good you see in her. Turn her towards the scripture of Proverbs 31 and emphasize that the beauty that matters is the beauty that comes when Christ shines through her.
Dads, take you daughter out so you can establish A high expectation for a Godly relationship. Talk to her; ask her questions about her likes and dislikes, open doors for her. Show her how she should be treated as a precious Daughter of the Heavenly King.
Dr. James Dobson wrote a book I highly recommend called “Bringing Up Girls” (there is also “Bringing Up Boys” that I’ve heard great things about). In a chapter called, “Why Daddies Matter” Dobson has this to say: “There is a place in the female soul reserved for Daddy, or a daddy figure, that will always yearn for affirmation. Not every girl or woman is the same, of course, but almost every girl desires a close bond with this most significant man in her life. She will adore him if he loves and protects her and if she finds safety and warmth in his arms. She will tend to see all men through the lens of that relationship.”
He goes on to ask, “Why do girls and women have such intense needs for affirmation from their fathers, and why does the hurt caused by abandonment or rejection often reverberate for a lifetime? As you’ll recall, a primary reason for this inner ache is because a daughter’s sense of self-worth and confidence is linked directly to her relationship with her dad. What he thinks about her and how he expresses his affection is a central source of her perceived value as a human being. It also affects her femininity and teaches her how to relate to boys and men.”
So, in case you didn’t know already, Dads, you have a big job loving those precious daughters of yours.
It is my sincerest prayer that we, as parents, look to our Heavenly Father when guiding the little hearts and minds of the daughters and sons he has given us.
The mother of three little princesses
As Americans we generally like to be first. (Those of us with competitive tendencies like to be first more than others!) We are taught to be first and win the race of life starting at a very young age:
- First to walk and talk
- Climb to the top of the class
- Be the first to graduate from college
- Win the race up the corporate ladder
So we can be the best and get the best for ourselves and achieve the American Dream, right?
But wait...is there more?
What is God's perspective on this “be first, win the race, get to the top” concept?
The Israelites were farmers.They grew food not just as a livelihood but to survive. The idea of first fruits is seen in numerous places in the Old Testament when the Israelites are instructed to give God their first fruits. For example, in Exodus 23:19a they are told, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”
For as important as food production was to God’s chosen people, God’s expectation was that they give back to him the first and the best of their produce. After all, it was God’s blessing that allowed the plants to grow and provide more than sufficient food throughout the growing season.
The majority of us do not plant, grow, and harvest any substantial amounts of food. We work at any number of jobs or have income from various sources. We don’t live as nomadic farmers like the Israelites did so what does the idea of first fruits have to do with us today?
The British dictionary gives us a clear definition on how first fruits apply to not just a crop, but to all forms of production. It defines first firsts as “the first results, products, or profits of an undertaking”. No matter what we do to create income or achieve results, it falls under God’s exception of first fruits.
First Fruits is the top of the totem pole. It's the income that comes in first. It’s not after taxes, heath insurance, the phone bill, the mortgage payment, the trip to the grocery store or a stop at the mall. Its comes out of the first earnings.
Sounds painful and maybe even scary.
Is that really what God intends? I think so. In this way we demonstrate our trust in him and acknowledge that it is through his blessing we received the income. It’s not because we went to college, it’s not because we worked really hard and it’s not because the economy just happened to improve. It’s because God allowed us to earn the income. It is a blessing!
As you ponder the amount to give back to God, remember it’s the first fruits he’s asking for from us. Our first and best. It’s through giving this way that we win in God’s eyes.
By the way, if you want to set up automatic giving to make tithing your first fruits automatic, please follow this link.