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...
Father loves the lost, and prayer is the way the lost get found. When we pray, God does something in us and something through us! When we pray, we enter into the presence of God and if you go there often enough and you pray with all of your heart, and if you do not give up, you...
The day starts with the best of intentions. You tell yourself in the most convincing manner possible that today is the day. You will absolutely find the time. You will have the most amazing prayer time ever. Then its off to the races. Your feet hit the floor running. There’s no...
In Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has said to his people, “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a) This is one of...
As a church we are entering into a season of prayer. There is arguably nothing more central to the life of a Christian and to the life of a church than prayer. In the Gospels, Jesus models prayer and emphasizes it with his disciples. He makes prayer a central part of his life. Not just when...
In 1955 Pittsburgh, there was an accident in a steel Mill. Perhaps there were lots of accidents in steel mills during that time, but this one changed the perspective on race in one man’s mind.
Billy was working a fire in the mill. To make the fire hotter, a kind of lacquer was added to the flames. It only took an instant, once Billy added the lacquer, for the flames to leap up and engulf his arm. A man came to his rescue and as he lay in the hospital recovering from his own injuries, he recalled with great emotion, “The young lad was running, a ball of flames…I did all I could…” Billy’s father thanked him and later remarked, “I have a different heart and mind set about white people. Everybody stood there, frozen to the floor, but it was the white man who risked his life. He risked his life for my son and I have a different opinion now.”
Billy’s dad had faced many prejudices in his life. Not the least of which was the inequality he endured during his service in WWII. However, the selfless act of one person showed him that his ideas and opinions did not apply to an entire group of people. Sadly, Billy succumbed to his injuries and passed away. His accident though, was a catalyst for change in his family.
Billy’s sister, Arlene was profoundly impacted by her brother’s passing. Arlene went on to raise her five daughters with love in their hearts toward all people. Even though the community, school, and church where they lived was entirely black, many of the white teachers at their school were loving and poured encouragement and support into their lives. However, the girls did see and experience a lot of discrimination in the extended parts of their mostly-white church organization. It didn't stop them from worshiping with them or attending the events, but it helped them to learn how not to treat people.
Arlene worked at Teen Challenge year-round, and during the summers she took her five girls along with her. Patrice Lyle watched her mother minister with the love of Christ to people of all races. Because of this modeling, Patrice is driven to see and love others as Christ does; humans with beautiful differences all created in the image of God the Father.
After the events in Charlottesville, Patrice hosted a Coffee and Conversation event. She invited others as an opportunity to learn to love each other by getting to know each other...one conversation at a time. The meeting was attended by 3 of Patrice’s sisters, her brother-in-law and 1 white friend. Patrice was so thankful for the friend that came because it lent a different voice to the discussion. “Every time you allow yourself to hear a different perspective, it opens your heart and mind a little bit more,” Patrice said.
The bottom line for Patrice with racial reconciliation is trying to know and understand each other’s hearts. Most times when people begin a racial reconciliation conversation, even if they don’t necessarily say the “right” things, they’re trying to get there—to racial reconciliation or an understanding of one another. People willing to enter into these conversations need to understand that no one is intentionally trying to offend but to change themselves and their thinking.
Ultimately, Patrice says, “How can you bring people to Jesus if you see people as different from you? When we allow our differences to affect if we share Jesus with someone, it’s sin.”
Patrice refers to the “journey” of racial reconciliation. She offers these steps:
- Surround yourself with people different from you
- Understand how you process those differences
- Make intentional steps to lean, to understand, and then to love and embrace those differences.
Above all, Patrice says, “Allow yourself to be covered in grace. Grace allows you to not see the wrong and the faults in others”. This is great truth for interaction with ALL people!
*Quotes in the 1st paragraph are from “The Story of Billy” by Arlene Thompson. https://lilliethompson.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/the-story-of-billy/
We’ve talked about why it’s important to serve (see Serving Part 1 here), and hopefully by now you’ve decided that either you need to start serving, or you just need to serve more. Most of us are in one of these two boats.
There are a few people who serve a lot of their time, and that’s great, but we need to understand that they can’t carry this burden alone. And don’t get me wrong, most of the regular volunteers that we have at the Church of Severn Run are all very generous with their time, and they love serving! I bet if you asked any one of them how much they got out of it, they’d tell you it was a lot more than they put in.
Let’s take a little bit to look at just a couple serving areas in the church specifically where a few dedicated people are running most of the show and who could use some help.
One of the biggest areas we have, with the largest requirement of volunteers, is the kids’ ministry. We have rooms for babies all the way up through high school.
Let’s start with the little kids, because that’s our biggest group. Here’s some numbers to put our need for volunteers into perspective:
- For every 4 kids 2 years old and younger, we need one volunteer per service.
- For every 8 kids 3 years old or older, we need one volunteer per service.
Typically, we’re looking at having 2 adult workers per classroom for each service, equaling 12 volunteers per service, and 36 volunteers on a Sunday if everyone only worked one service. These kinds of numbers are what we’d need to be covered and not have anyone working overtime or more than they’d like to.
Preferably, we’d like to have around 40-50 volunteers a week so that in the case of cancellations, or extra kids, we’re covered. Generally, two adults per classroom is good, but sometimes we have more kids and need more help. Recently we talked with Kristin Wood, our Preschool Director, and we only had 28 volunteers on this particular Sunday. Granted, this is the summer time, and we’re constantly dealing with people being out for vacations and family things, but it’s pretty typical for us to see less-than-ideal volunteer numbers, even though Kristin noted that she was happy to have 28 this particular week.
We think that we can do better, don’t you?
Many of our kids’ volunteers work more than one Sunday service, sometimes even all three. While they love to do it, this can be tiring. If we had enough volunteers back there for each person to work one service once or twice a month, that would be the best-case scenario. Some volunteers would still work more than that, because that just what they like to do. But, we recognize that not everyone can do that, and having more volunteers would help make it so that everyone could work as much as they wanted to, and not be asked to, or feel like, they had to work more than they wanted to.
So, if your passion is young kids, or even if it’s just serving where God has called you to, please contact Kristin Wood for more information on how you can plug in and start helping with the little kiddos. It’s a real treat to be able to invest in these kids’ lives, and to give parents the ease of mind to go and pour Jesus into their lives on Sundays, so that they can pour into their kids for the next week.
If serving with the little kids isn’t your thing, there’s also the grade school, middle-school, and high school kids ministries.
The grade school kids are upstairs, and you can contact our family life pastor Steve Stolarek-Houston to work with those kids. We’ve got some really great workers up there with them, but they can always use more help. If you’re more interested in working with the older kids, contact the Student Pastor Chris Martin.
The middle school and high school kids also meet during the week, and they do lots of fun stuff, so this can be a really fun and rewarding way to give back. At these ages, kids are being influenced in lots of different ways, and the world is trying to confuse them from what they’ve learned as a kid. There’s a big opportunity here to literally change these kids’ lives and be Jesus to them.
Ok, so enough about the kids. Hopefully if you’re not a “kids person,” you’re still with me.
I’d like to take another minute to discuss a different area of the church that could use some help when it comes to volunteers. Of course, all areas and ministries are open to new faces, but this one in particular has caught my attention as being a little short-handed.
The area I’m talking about is the technical booth in the back of the service.
Everyone is familiar with the faces of the singers and musicians on stage who perform week after week, and whom we get to praise God with, but not many people pay much attention to the guys and gals behind the scenes. We have people who work the lights, the sounds, and the screens, among other things. While this generally only requires one person per job, we don’t have very many volunteers who work back there on a weekly basis. It’s typically the same 1 or 2 people who work week after week, usually all 3 services, for each need. Needless to say, this can be draining.
And let’s admit, the Worship Tribe and the tech people really do an amazing job helping us worship and connect with God every week. Many of the people who walk through our doors, especially if it’s only once, will only experience worship in the auditorium. We’ve had hundreds of new people visit our church during various holidays, and the tech people play an integral role in helping the church share Jesus with them. Even though the tech people in the back were probably not even noticed by these visitors, you can be sure that they showed Jesus to many who needed to see him. They were crucial in making worship relevant to people who desperately needed to see a version Jesus who wasn’t some all-powerful being sitting on a throne, casting down condemnation on them, but a Jesus who loved and lived and walked among them in a very real way. This is the kind of Jesus that the Worship Tribe shows people on a weekly basis, and they couldn’t do this without the support of their tech team in the back.
Whether you’re technically inclined or not, you can make a difference in people’s lives, just like the examples I provided above. It’s easy to learn, and the rewards are big, especially when you see the looks on people’s faces as a disco ball drops form the ceiling and the whole auditorium lights up like a thousand stars (yes, we actually did this once and it was awesome!). On the other hand, if you like to sing, or can play an instrument, the Worship Tribe is always open and welcoming of new talent. If you’re interested in either of these areas, please contact our Ministry Director, Gwen Hubbard, or our Communications Leader Bonni Mace.
So, what are you going to do now???
The ball is in your court. Do you hear God speaking to you?
Being realistic, I don’t expect hundreds of people to start volunteering for one of these areas of the church. I realize that these places may not be where you’re best-suited to serve, and that’s OK. But, hopefully in one way or another, you’ve heard God’s call in your life.
There are literally millions of ways that you can serve, and it doesn’t have to be here at the Church at Severn Run. But, it is our sincerest hope that you can find a place here where you can put your talents to use to help us share Jesus with the Baltimore area, and to advance his kingdom in your life and the lives of those around you. Follow this link to find out about more serving opportunities at Severn Run.
But beyond that, no matter where he’s calling you to serve, we hope and pray that you will realize all that God has planned for you in your life, and that you will do amazing things for his kingdom.
We pray that the world will be able to see something different in you, not just because of your talent or your service, but because you do it selflessly and with a smile on your face, showing Jesus to a world in need…
And always remember to Love Well, Live Jesus, and Believe Big!
I am a broken person living in a broken world. Like many of you, I've been mistreated, used, abused, and hurt by others. Often times Christians. For a long time I held onto bitterness, anger, hatred, and I even blamed God for the way people treated me. It hurts, it's unfair, it doesn't make sense, and it's quite lonely. I get it. But, what I failed to realize was that the people who I was hurt by, were also broken people living in a broken world. You see, you can't add brokenness to brokenness and hope that it will magically be made whole again.
Not very long ago there was an incident where someone's words and tone where very hurtful. In the moment I was full of rage and anger and all I wanted to do was lash out. In fact in my mind I wanted to grab the individual at their throat.
Luckily, I kept my cool and fled the scene. Still full of rage I sat on the edge of my bed thinking of all of the hateful things I should have said or done. In that moment when hate was overcoming me the Lord broke through and began to work on my heart. I felt as though He was asking me, "Why is your heart so wicked?" I began to place the blame on the individual who's words hurt me. I felt that my feelings were justified. I felt the Lord speak again and ask me "Joe, why is your heart so wicked? Don't you know that's my child too?"
In that moment I felt paralyzed. I really didn't know what to do or how to respond. I was the victim here, so why weren't my emotions and response justified? Didn't I have a right to be angry? That's what I began to ask the Lord. After crying, praying, and yelling, I felt God say "No your emotions and response weren't justified and you don't have the right to hold onto this bitterness and anger."
You see, the enemy will tell you that your emotions are justified and that you have every right to be angry and bitter, but that's because the enemy wants you to live in bondage.
When Jesus was murdered on the cross He didn't only die for our sin, but He also died for our offense, our anger, our bitterness, our rage. He died for it all. In that moment of trying to justify my rage I began to examine my heart and all of the wickedness inside of it.
For so long I was holding onto bitterness that I was never designed to hold onto in the first place. Christ didn't die to bring partial freedom to our lives. He died to set us totally free! I had never realized the bondage I was living in until that evening when hatred was flowing through my veins. I began to realize the weight of the offense that I had been carrying around for far to long. I had a choice to make. Do I choose to live in the bondage of offense and anger or do I choose to live freely and give it to God?
About an hour after the incident I didn't have any hard feelings, no bitterness, no anger, and no rage. I even began to pray blessings upon the individual and others who had hurt me in the past. I was free. Don't get me wrong, I still get upset, and angry, and bitter just like any other broken person out there. It is a daily struggle to not hold onto offense, but, I've learned that I am not suppose to hold onto that garbage anymore. Besides, when we hold onto offense it's not hurting anyone but ourselves. Take a step towards freedom and begin to let go of your offense and offer forgiveness.
The end of August is synonymous with back to school. This one event affects a vast majority of the population. Children, teens, young adults, teachers, parents - everyone jolted from the ease of summer to the demands of the school year. There are a whirlwind of activities that surround this event. Once the flutter of initial activity begins to lull there is one thing that remains. The delight of studying. It does not subside or end if success is in the student’s future.
“Study hard!” “Don’t forget to study.” These are just a couple pieces of advice we give students.
The same could be said to all of us. This is especially true when looking at the most important book on the bookshelf. This book is more than just classroom material but instead something we consider a way of life. Do you see the Bible like this? If so, you too need to study.
How can the Bible be studied effectively so it is not just academic but a personal and applicable to our lives?
- read to receive inspiration
- examine with a group
- listen to a podcast
- take in a video series
- read, researched, and review
- read Scripture, Observe the culture and activities, Apply to life, bath in Pray (SOAP)
So many ways, so little time! Each approach may be of benefit to you or maybe just one is in your wheelhouse. Test them out and see what’s best for you and your way of learning.
Read to Receive Inspiration:
This is just what it says - jumping into reading, pondering, mediating on Scripture anywhere in the Bible. Then listen, gain insight, and be inspired. You may need to be patient. Some hear the voice of God sharing his insight… others often have to wait. Mediate on what you have read. What resonates could be the inspiration God has for you.
Investigate with a Group:
When we have a difficult topic to master at school, in college, or at work, we often try to get with others as a group. Investigating the Bible is no different. Its okay to not understand and to lean on insight from others. Gather some people together and read. You can then discuss what it means, how it makes you feel, how it applies, and why it’s important. Need a Connect Group? For more information, call the church office at 410-551-6654 or go on line at http://severnrun.com/connectgroups/.
Listen to a Podcast:
Although this may seem high tech to some, its not difficult to tap into and learn from podcasts. There are many great speakers that produce podcasts to educate on the the Bible. Google “Bible study podcasts” and you will get a plethora of choices. Well liked Biblically based teachers include Chuck Swindoll, Max Lucado, Andy Stanley, Ravi Zacharias, and Frances Chan, to name just a few. (If you are unsure about the Biblical beliefs of a podcaster, see if you can find a statement of their faith on their website or in the podcast description.)
Take in a Video Series:
Many women (and some men too!) love Beth Moore. Woman love her energy and excitement and most importantly her love for God and women. She brings excitement and energy to any space she enters whether physically or via technology. She and others teach using video series along with the study guides available for purchase on line or on dvd. Other Bible teachers include Pricilla Shrier, and Anne Graham Lotz. You can find these resources (and more) at lifeway.com.
Read, Research, Review:
The Bible is comprised of 166 books and two separate testaments. Where does one begin? The book of John is an often recommended starting place. This book is John’s account of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. After reading each chapter, take the time to consult with various resources such as study guides or internet searches that speak to the meaning of the passage. Go back and read again, determine from the text and your research what it means to you and applies to your life.
This is another approach to reading Scripture a section at a time. While you read, Observe the culture of the time and activities of the chapter. Move to Apply the principles of the text to your life. Finally bathe in Prayer what you have learned and how you will apply it each day. Additional reading on this approach available at www.soapstudy.com. Want to go deeper with this method? Read “The Devine Mentor” by Wayne Cordeiro.
All these sound great but one thing is missing…YOU! What’s most important is that your study is an intentional and planned out process. Good intentions are only as good as the plan behind them.
It may be necessary to:
- Set aside time
- Put on your calendar
- Give up an activity (TV or device time)
- Get up earlier
- Go to bed later
- Ask another to hold you accountable
- Be patient!
This is a process. What works for one person may not work for another. God is faithful and will reward you regardless of which method you try or decide to use. Study his word. Take notes. Open your heart. Stretch your mind. See what happens.
Why is it so difficult to have real conversation about our personal relationship with Jesus, especially with non-believers?
When given the opportunity, we are quick to say that God has incredible power to transform lives, but we belittle the example of transformed life that we know the most about…our own! What wonderful changes we could make if we were better able to allow others, including non-believers, to see our daily walk with Jesus. We would be able to change lives by introducing them to a faith that is real and alive. One Severn Runner, Hillary, was willing to share her story about how she did just that.
“I was working as a therapist in a prison. I was ready to make a career move and had applied and accepted a conditional offer for a new position, but was waiting in a holding pattern for almost two years. It was easy to write it off as the pace of the federal governments hiring system, but in hindsight, I think God was keeping me there for a reason. Over that time other coworkers left only me and my coworker, Emily, on our team. Working in prison you find any reason to get out during the day and we regularly began getting afternoon coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I was under the assumption that Emily was a Christian, not the “I believe in God” type, but the active Christ following type. I am not really sure why I thought this, but I did. Our conversations over coffee were about relationships, family, and daily life. Our conversations got deeper and turned to issues of faith. I thought I was having deep conversations with a person who shared my beliefs and was coming from the same place of faith. I openly shared my thoughts, questions, and experiences. We talked about our churches and I was surprised how little she seemed to know about hers, but didn't think much of it. After several months, Emily shared with me that she had gotten baptized. I was so happy for her, but it was also the first time I recognized that she hadn't been in the same place of faith as me during our conversations. She told me how our conversations had been a part of her journey. Shortly after, I got a start date for my new job and left Patuxent [Institution]. It is hard to think that God didn't keep me there to have that experience with her – to share my faith freely and without inhibition because I didn't know I was sharing with someone might reject it.”
Wow! What a great misunderstanding that turned out to be. But there were a lot of ways that God was moving in Hillary's life to orchestrate the seemingly coincidental relationship she developed with Emily.
“I think God was working through me to share faith with her and draw her into the accepting community of faith. She got into a dating relationship that quickly became an engagement during that time and my marriage, Wes' and my involvement in YMP (Connect Group at Severn Run), and the other Christ centered couples we knew were able to be examples to her of what a Christ centered relationship can look like. Because she was my friend, I shared with her some messy and vulnerable times Wes and I walked through – and I think that realness was impactful for her. God was working through her and the situation to teach me to be bold in sharing my faith – I never would have spoken so openly if I had known there was a risk that she wouldn't be receptive.
Another thing I think is important is that in sharing with her, I talked about struggles, questions I had, barriers between sharing faith with my family, etc. A lot of times I feel like when sharing my faith I need to have the perfect thing to say or have it all wrapped up in a pretty package with a bow, but real faith is evolving and is sometimes difficult which is just as important to share.”
It’s easy to relate to Hillary's feelings on why we hold back when sharing our faith. We are worried about how we will be received, but the person on the other end really just needs to hear Jesus speak through our life's story. When we think we are “improving” our story by focusing on getting everything just right, we are probably just getting in the way.
“My main takeaway from the experience is how differently would I talk about my faith if I was never worried about rejection. I hope that others would hear that too – how differently, how much more frequently, how much more vulnerable would we be talking about our faith if we acted like everyone we talked to was a believer?” - Hillary Battle
Let us know: How does this encourage you to be more bold about sharing your faith in everyday situations?