This is the heart of God - He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. One day when the curtain rises, and life begins without any mixture of darkness; you will find the hand of God on your face, wiping away all the regret, all the pain, all the rejection, all the abuse, all the hatred, all the...
When we are cynical about people, the future, the church or anything else, we are advancing the agenda of hell and hindering the work of heaven. Negativity can be a word that you speak to somebody, that's just a critical, well-aimed word from hell, to demean and diminish others. We are...
God came down to planet earth and became one of us, to lift us by grace and truth to a life that is new forever. When we believe we are released from our slavery, we are released from all of the destructive gravity of sin. This gravitational pull is so strong, it drags us into addictions, it...
When you miss grace, you're always going to stay away from God like a stern parent that you can never please. Religion leaves you stuck, and wears you out. It tries to appear perfect, and tries to force a change that always seems to snap back into old patterns. When you live without grace, you...
Matthew 7:1-2 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." If you and I, in our arrogance chose to judge others, look down on others, de-value others, to diminish the worth...
1 Peter 2:10 says, "Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy." Everyone who receives adoption as a child of God enters that new life through His mercy and grace. We cannot be a church of the living...
The Bible is first about a person; Jesus. It is a story that leads up to one story in Jesus, and that story reveals the very face of God on planet earth. The story rose on the third day and the story lives in this day for you and I to choose not to live small overwhelmed lives about us...
Ephesians 4:29 says, "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." Do you handle other peoples reputations gently? Do you handle their failures gently or are you quick to point...
Can you imagine for yourself anything more that where you are now? Can you imagine anything else more than the addiction? Can you imagine anything else more than your unhappiness? Can you imagine anything else more than searching for that next empty person to try to fill your heart? Can you...
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:3 Blessed refers to a deep joy of the soul; it overwhelms all of the darkness, all of the loss, all of the grieving and all of the woundedness. Scripture says to be...
Can I invite you to think? Sometimes we act like if we're going to believe, we have to turn off our brains. No, your brain is part of the image of God! Your curiosity, your imagination, everything inside of you, all of your faculties need to be brought fully to bear in seeking first the Kingdom of God! And if you're not yet a believer, I want to challenge you to think and to question and to explore in a seeking journey!
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus tells a parable:
"The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed..." - It's small.
Now think about that in terms of your life on earth. Some of you are discouraged because God isn't bigger in the world and bigger in your life and there's pain and hurt and sorrow, but you have to understand somethings about big and small:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” -Matthew 13:31-32
What Jesus is doing is giving us an invitation to imagine mystery and to explore through curiosity what this unseen Kingdom is like. He says it looks like it starts small. It looks insignificant often in the moment, but if you will receive it and if you will plant it in your life, let it grow and give it time, you will find that it absolutely astonishes you!
It will be more than you ever would've imagined it would have been in the beginning --that's what the Kingdom of God is like!
I want you to understand that you and I as sinful, broken people-- and all of us are sinful--we have all substituted our will for the will of God. We think we know more than we really do and our confusion about big and small is really huge!
I want to share with you that in this broken world, broken people die confusing big and small. When we stand before God at the judgement, the essential mistake that will have been made by billions is that they missed the bigness of the love of God!
It seemed small and insignificant at the time, so many other things going on in life! So many priorities and pursuits going on that this 'God Story' just seemed like a nothing and yet this tiny little seed will prove to be the biggest thing in all of eternity. We are the people who experience the kingdom and must spread it to others! -Dr. Drew Shofner
They emerge from beneath the water to party music and the roaring approval of the crowd. If there’s a celebration in the Worship Center, you can be sure there’s an even bigger celebration in heaven.
Baptism. A public way of showing that you have asked Jesus to be in charge of your life. There’s nothing special about the water. There’s nothing magical about the words that are spoken. There is however, something really cool about taking part in the very same act that Jesus demonstrated for us in the Jordan River. When we follow his example of baptism by submersion we show the world with our body what has happened within the confines of our soul.
Falco was raised in the Catholic church and was baptized as an infant. He started attending services at The Church at Severn Run in April of 2015. He was inspired by the church’s passion for Jesus instead of religion. Each baptism Sunday he watched as people walked down into the waters and came out again. He realized that he had no ownership in the act of baptism that was performed on him as an infant so long ago and felt the Spirit moving him to experience a believer’s baptism. He felt that baptism was an important part in the process of being a fully devoted follower of Christ.
Falco and his fiancé began to meet with Pastor John for premarital counseling. Pastor John asked about his faith journey and suggested that perhaps Falco should to baptized as a first step to entering into a Christ-centered marriage. It was as if Falco had been waiting for that very invitation. He said, “Absolutely!” and he couldn’t wait to dive right in (pun intended).
Kari’s relationship with Jesus began at a summertime VBS as a child. She felt an urgency to be baptized but wanted to make sure it was the right time for her. Fast forward a few years later to a Friday night at Collide (Severn Run Student Ministry). Pastor Chris approached Kari and asked her if she was getting baptized in August. Without thinking, she automatically said yes.
After responding in such haste, Kari began to think through what it means to be baptized and how such a seemingly simple act was going to impact her life. She realized she couldn’t wait to finally get baptized and start a new chapter in her relationship with Jesus. On Sunday, Kari experienced some anxiety about being on the stage in front of so many people. However, once she emerged from the waters she felt like a completely new person. Kari says, “I felt like I could walk on water, but unlike Peter, I can keep my eyes on Jesus.”
Baptism is a personal experience performed in public—not unlike a marriage. For some it may be uncomfortable to be the “center of attention” during a baptism (or a marriage ceremony), but what some may fail to realize is that the attention is on the Lord and HE is not uncomfortable. A baptism is a family celebration that one more brother or sister has been born into the Kingdom of God and it’s an honor and a privilege for us, as the audience, to join the believer in that celebration.
Kari says, “If you are reading this and wondering if you should get baptized, the answer is yes!”
What I want you to do, more than anything else, is to 'Think Kingdom.' To live kingdom, you have to think kingdom. The reality is that when we ignore what Jesus says, we miss what Jesus gives! It sounds so simple to say, "We need to pay attention to what Jesus says." Right?
But the truth is that I find, in my own life, that I often don't listen deeply. I feel like often times, God looks at me and says "Drew, you're not listening." So, I really want to develop in us, as a community, this very sense of listening deeply to what Jesus says in a real world kind of way. Because it's the only way we can receive what Jesus wants to give us!
In Luke 12:32, Jesus says, "Do not be afraid little flock..." Don't let fear dominate your living. Don't let it make you small and shrink back from the challenges of overcoming a broken world. Don't let fear kill you. Why? "...for your Father has been pleased to give you the Kingdom."
Most of us hear that and we say "I know that." But I don't think we understand what those words mean; that we have received a Kingdom!
Jesus died to bring an eternal kingdom into your life! You and I live in the kingdom of the world; the kingdom of earth. The reality is that they are kingdoms in conflict! There is a conflict between the kingdom of earth and its values and visions and the values of the Kingdom of God. They are two different realms!
What is the Kingdom of God? Well, it is not merely a place and it is not in the future. The Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven are interchangeable terms. The Kingdom of God is the realm where God's worth, His authority and His sovereignty are recognized and His will is joyfully lived in love!
Jesus came to reveal a Kingdom and over and over in His conversations, Jesus worked to reveal what the Kingdom of God was like to us. But most of us and most of the church lives as if the Kingdom of God does not exist on earth. We don't think about it, we don't talk about it, we don't use Kingdom language, but if we are not thinking 'kingdom' conscientiously , then we are unconsciously thinking 'world' and there's no in-between!
We need to train ourselves to "Think Kingdom First!"
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus gave a command: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." It's not nice moral advice, and it's not a Hallmark happy thought of the day. It is the command of God! It is the way of life for those who would truly live life connected to God. It is a practice that we must do in every area of our lives, in our relationships, in our longings, our pain and our woundedness.
In everything in life, in this world, Jesus said we are to seek first His Kingdom!
What Jesus came to do is to deliver us from the kingdom of darkness, the kingdom of earth, and to move us into the kingdom of light, the Kingdom of God!
When you and I yield our way to the way of God, when you and I say yes to God and no to ourselves, and when you and I actually see the ugliness of our willful brokenness and we reach for the beauty of God's love --the Kingdom comes and the Kingdom flows out through us! -Dr. Drew Shofner
The pastor graciously invited the team to his church for refreshments. Joe ducked through the doorway of a shed no taller than 4 feet high and 10 feet long. It had no electricity and the walls were made of mud. He and the nine members of his team sat shoulder to shoulder, crammed into what they were told was a church building. As he sipped his tea and nibbled biscuits, Joe realized that after being in the country of Nepal for less than 24 hours, he was already getting a glimpse of the kingdom of God.
Joe began his journey in Hawaii, at the training base for Youth With a Mission. Out of the group of trainees, 9 would become his lifelong friends. After two and a half months of training, they were ready to head to Nepal.
It was in Katmandu, inside the church (shed) of the pastor, that Joe understood for the first time the gift of the mission he was about to undertake. That he would be forever changed not because of anything he was going to do but because of how the Holy Spirit would use the people of Nepal to teach him about being in relationship.
In Katmandu the team worked a lot with the church youth. They went into the slums to share the gospel through the season of Christmas, lead music, minister to shut-ins, and do intercessory prayer at Buddhist and Hindu temples.
After about 3 weeks they boarded a bus to ride 25 hours over dirt-packed, rutted, winding roads to the eastern Nepal city of Dharan. They spent another 8 hours driving and 10 hours hiking to a village that was building an orphanage to house abandoned children.
The team helped with the construction of the orphanage. In doing so, Joe met a village woman who had been taking orphans into her own home for years. She and her husband housed and fed the children and taught them to farm. This woman was not a Christ-follower. However, some of her adopted children became recipients of Operation Christmas Child boxes. In the boxes they received, she found and read the gospel message in Nepalese. She accepted Christ and is now starting a church in the village.
Next the team traveled 36 hours in the opposite direction to west Nepal. They served at a medical camp in a remote village where they treated some seriously affected individuals. In addition, they helped in church ministry by preaching the gospel, leading soccer camps, and taking food to the slums.
The Himalayas can be quite chilly in February so the team sought warmth within the mud walls of an out-kitchen. As Joe huddled next to the stove a young orphan began to describe the hopelessness of being born into the caste system. With no ability to rise any higher than the lowest caste, he found little will or reason to work hard. Joe shared with him that God sees his unlimited potential. That God has a special plan for him and that he is unique and priceless. But as God often does, even as he was sharing with the boy, God showed Joe his own worth and identity in Christ.
Over the course of six months, Joe had some amazing experiences. God showed him the importance of relationships. People are the same in Nepal as they are in Severn, and those people want to be seen and be in relationship with others, and with Jesus. Joe learned the importance of being able to depend on his teammates for everything from safety, to borrowing items, to living and traveling together, to prayer. Most importantly, Joe realized, “God is bigger than I allow him to be”.
So true. We all need to BELIEVE BIG and allow God to do what only he can do!
Joe has just accepted a position to be a leader with YWAM this fall, read more about it from his personal blog here. If you’d like to support Joe and celebrate God's call in his life, and Joe's willingness to serve, please follow this link to get more information.
The truth is, most of us believe we're dealing with a disappointed God who's angry instead of a loving father who's forgiving! No matter how old you are or how much you have failed, God's dreams are not over for your life!
If you could only get a glimpse of how near God is to you, all the pain and loneliness that you may be feeling and carrying in your life would be overwhelmed and overcome by the nearness of the love and joy and peace of Jesus Christ.
He is a God of new beginnings, not only of second chances, but our God is a God of infinite grace for those who dare to believe in His goodness!
As we walk into the future, life doesn't have to get worse. Day by day, things can honestly move forward and get better because of Jesus, and why not experience the very best we can before we see Jesus face to face? - Dr. Drew Shofner