We all experience pain in one form or another—if we live long enough life usually brings us something emotionally or physically difficult. Throughout these hard times we wish that things were better. We might blame others, ourselves, or perhaps even God for what has befallen us. We...
Showing items for 'Zach Baum'
I am often surprised and challenged by what I find when reading scripture. God can be subtle in how he reveals himself to us through his word. It is my nature to start asking questions. “What does the speaker think I need to hear?” “Does this make sense to...
We live in a broken world. We all know it and see it every day. We all want something to be done about it but we often fail to see that WE, the community of Christ, are the only group with the strength and support to make an eternal difference. Though we've all been called to serve (Romans...
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...
If you are a young adult, you are probably finishing up some kind of school or beginning a new career. You may have grown up in church like my wife, who felt like going to church was “what you did” and rarely thought about what she would do when given the option of how to spend her...
We all want to be at peace, but we allow many things to come between us and that peace that we are looking for. Let's turn to the Bible for answers to those things that separate us from peace. 1) 1 John 3:1-2 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called...
How were you first introduced to Jesus? It’s a good bet that you learned about Jesus because someone shared with you. They shared their personal experiences and the joy that he brought into their life. That person shared with you because they knew the impact Jesus would have in your life...
So you are a new believer! Welcome to the family! You're excited to begin your walk and wondering… What's next? You may also be asking things like… How do I become a part of the church? How do I grow in my prayer life? Should I get baptized? Here's a good place to...
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...
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...
We all experience pain in one form or another—if we live long enough life usually brings us something emotionally or physically difficult. Throughout these hard times we wish that things were better. We might blame others, ourselves, or perhaps even God for what has befallen us. We might be angry, or despondent, or overwhelmed. But there is also something else that is happening in tandem with the pain.
If you look back on what you’ve been through; on all the hard times that you’ve made it through so far, one thing is always true--you’ve changed.
You may not always change as much as you’d like, and you may not always change for the better, but no matter what it is, something has changed. Perhaps it’s just a different outlook on something, or perhaps our entire attitude towards life completely changes.
We know that life is not always easy. So why do we question why something hard is happening to us?
Although it isn’t a common profession, most people understand what a blacksmith does. Essentially a blacksmith’s job is to take a chunk of metal, and through a lot of hard work and sweat, mold it into something useful. The process is not simple. The metal must be heated and cooled constantly, and the blacksmith must pound it over and over until it finally resembles a weapon or tool that’s usable for some specific purpose. In its original state, the metal was basically useless for such a purpose, but through the blacksmith’s hard work over a long period of time, it finally becomes something that can be effectively used.
We are the same way. God uses our life experiences, both good and bad, to mold us into something that he can use for his purpose. We may not always understand what that purpose is, but God always has a plan.
Some of us may reject him for putting us through the hard times, and we often fight to meet our own vision of what purpose we think we should fulfill for ourselves. We don’t mold easily, and it’s especially tough during the hard times. It’s hard for us to see what purpose we’re being shaped for. But, if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from the hard times, then it will be easier for us, in the long run, to understand and fulfill the purpose that God has for our lives. If we accept his purpose, we will discover a world opened up to us that we could have never imagined before.
A sword used as a nail would be a frightful waste of craftsmanship. But, when a sword is used in the way that it was created, it can be a powerful weapon. And the great thing is, we’re not all crafted to be swords. We’re each uniquely crafted, with different capabilities and purposes. Unlike a giant pile of spoons, which only have one purpose, the body of Christ is like a chest full of various tools that could build an empire.
God has a big plan for you, and for the people around you. If we would all allow him to mold us into the people that we’re meant to be, there’s no telling what kinds of “impossible” things might become reality.
As you go through the hard times that life brings you, remember that God has a plan for your life. You may not see it in that moment, but trust in him, pray, and listen for his guidance. He will pull you through and bring you into a world that’s brighter than anything you’ve ever known.
I am often surprised and challenged by what I find when reading scripture. God can be subtle in how he reveals himself to us through his word. It is my nature to start asking questions.
“What does the speaker think I need to hear?”
“Does this make sense to me?”
“Is what I'm reading consistent with my beliefs and how I understand other parts of the bible?”
“How do I change my heart and mind so that it is?”
I have also wondered,
“Is it okay for me to feel the need to ask so many questions?”
“Why don't I just get it?”
It is okay! Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus,
...I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:17-19
God's love is so deep and covers so much that we can not expect to ever fully comprehend it. Don't be discouraged when you have questions and things aren't as clear as you would like for them to be. God made us curious so that we would seek him, and when we seek him he promises that we will find him.
We live in a broken world. We all know it and see it every day. We all want something to be done about it but we often fail to see that WE, the community of Christ, are the only group with the strength and support to make an eternal difference. Though we've all been called to serve (Romans 12:1), here I am, in particular, challenging and encouraging men to take the lead in serving.
Men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families (Ephesians 5:23) and that includes leading through serving (Matthew 20:26-28). In order to explore this idea further let us consider Nehemiah and his example of leadership after he saw his home of Jerusalem broken and in ruin.
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. - Nehemiah 1:3-4
Nehemiah listened when he was told about the fall of the wall of Jerusalem. He did not wonder about how wicked the world is and how this could be allowed to happen to his people. He did not wish that someone else would do something about it. He turned to God and confessed his sins and the sins of his people. Nehemiah prayed to God for direction and for favor as he began to plan how to rebuild the wall and the hearts of the people of Jerusalem.
I pray that men would listen to the broken and respond as Nehemiah did to the seemingly overwhelming problems they faced. We need to recognize the hard truth that the fall of our communities is entirely due to our absence, because we failed to lead and love as Jesus sent us to do (John 20:21-23). We have to step up and respond to the darkness and despair that we see in the world today by serving in our community with the Spirit that lives in us.
Nehemiah went on to use the resources available (and probably some that he didn't think were available) as cupbearer to the king to do God's work in rebuilding his community. Likewise, we all have been gifted by God with talents, resources, and opportunities to build up our community. We must be willing to use them.
When Nehemiah took on a leadership role, the people of Jerusalem followed. Scores of people (listed in various chapters of Nehemiah) volunteered to rebuild their community because one man stepped up to lead. Not everyone got on board though, the Samaritans and Ammonites ridiculed the Jews. The Jews themselves began to question themselves and their mission. Likewise, evil will try to tell us that we are wasting our time and that the world is too far gone to be saved, but we know better.
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.” - Nehemiah 4:14
Pray that God would reveal to us all the resources that he has given us so that we may use them to serve and rebuild our communities. Humble ourselves in recognizing the part men have played in allowing brokenness to exist unimpeded due to an absence of leadership. Understand the part we have to play in living out the gospel of Christ. Pray that we would be courageous to stand up and take the lead in bringing the love of God to his people. Let's step up!
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?
If you are a young adult, you are probably finishing up some kind of school or beginning a new career. You may have grown up in church like my wife, who felt like going to church was “what you did” and rarely thought about what she would do when given the option of how to spend her Sunday mornings.
Once she was in college she knew she wanted to have a strong faith, but she didn't know exactly how to live that out for herself. She and I struggled for a while to find our place in the community of Christ, really until we came to understand how important it was to build real and honest relationships with other Christians and to serve alongside them.
To find your place in the community of Christ, you have to get to know what that community looks like. Start by joining or starting a connect group for young adults (like SMASH, Real World, or YMP). Connect groups are where you can build close relationships with people who will understand what's going on in your life and will encourage you in your walk. You will need those relationships when dealing with the ups and downs that come along with college or starting a career.
You may feel a little lost as you transition from being part of your parent’s church activities to having your own church activities and relationships, but trust me when I say that you are not alone. There are many people just like you who are looking for others to connect and share life with. So look around and find some people who are prayerfully going to Jesus and asking him to lead them into developing a community like that described in Ephesians 4. Invite people to join you if you have to!
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
- Ephesians 4:11-16
At this stage in life you have a lot of new time and freedom. This is the best chance you will ever have to serve in different areas of the church and find where you fit best.
If you are thinking that you want to have a Christ-centered family that does great things in Jesus name, you don't have to wait. That was a big “aha!” that encouraged me to get more active serving. I realized that I did not have to wait to be the head of the family that God wanted me to be--that I could be a part of something whether my family was just me, or me and my wife.
Here at Severn Run we are lucky because there are many teams and ministries where you can serve throughout the year. This is also a great way of getting to know people outside your small group who will also support you and who you can bond with through serving. This is the mature faith that Paul describes in Ephesians 4, that we would each grow together and support one another as the body of Christ.