Showing items filed under “Christian Living”

Cozy Up With a Good Read

main image

The Christmas season is a time for peace on Earth, goodwill to men, and a whole lot of craziness. Between the hustle and bustle of getting to the stores, planning and going to Christmas parties, and making sure that you’ve gotten presents for everyone and their mother, it’s no wonder that sometimes we can feel a little overwhelmed. I don’t know about you, but to me, nothing cuts through the craziness of Christmas like curling up with a good book. So, if you’re looking for a good read, check out the following suggestions.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

The Herdmans are absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world, according to the first line of the book. They lie and steal and cheat and they’ve certainly never set foot in the church. So, how on Earth do those kids end up with in the main roles of a small town church’s Christmas pageant, and, more importantly, what is going to happen next?

Other than the Christmas story in the Bible, this is the only other book that my family absolutely has to read during the Christmas season. On Christmas Eve, we all get dressed in our best clothes, clamber into the family van, and read the book out loud on our way to the Christmas Eve service. The book is technically meant for children, but even my brothers, who are 17 and 19, get a kick out of hearing this story. As someone who has met more than a few Herdmans in life, I can assure you that this book is a great reminder that God looks at people’s hearts, rather than the outside, and that even the worst behaved people in our lives can be changed by God’s love. 

The Door Within, by Wayne Thomas Batson

Aidan Thomas has never really been strong or smart or popular. His only claim to fame has been his best friend, Robby, and even that’s over, now that he’s had to move halfway across the country to take care of his sick grandfather. But, when he discovers a mysterious set of scrolls in his grandfather’s basement, he’s transported to a strange new land and sent on a quest to continue the mission of the one true King.

This is the first book in an allegorical Christian trilogy, telling the timeless tale of good and evil, light and dark, life and death; it’s vaguely reminiscent of the classic Chronicles of Narnia books, if Narnia had been written by a middle aged English teacher in central Maryland. One of the main things I liked about it was how relatable the characters were. I’ve been in a similar place to where Aidan is, both at the beginning and the end of the book, and I think it’s really cool how the character grows in that place. The book is supposedly meant for ages 8-12, but it’s really for anyone who has felt lost and alone, as it teaches the message of God’s love and sacrifice, with a little bit of fantasy and magic thrown in. 

Cookie Dough or Die (A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery) by Virginia Lowell

Olivia Greyson has had it kind of rough. She’s been though a messy divorce, she’s had to move back to her hometown, and now her entrepreneurial mentor, Clarisse Chamberlain has died. But, when Clarisse’s death seems suspicious to Olivia, she and her business partner Maddy take it upon themselves to solve her murder.

This book is a light and entertaining read. Though it’s not a Christian book, it is a clean read. There’s no bad language and no sex. The characters are a lot of fun, from Olivia, who is sarcastic and down to Earth, down to Maddy, her quirky, energetic business partner. Overall, if you’re into cozy mysteries, this might be the book for you.

 

Joy of the Season?

main image

 

You see the message everywhere…billboards, television, shops, malls, front yards, newspapers, magazines…it’s the most wonderful time of the year!!

Feel the joy!

Joy to the World rings out from the radio, church choirs, elevators, carolers, and the speakers of every store you enter. 

Is that real joy?

Start your list of shopping, baking, decorating, letter writing, card signing, party prep, volunteering, donating, caroling, gift wrapping and spreading of good cheer.

Where’s the joy?

Prepare for the relatives, for Santa’s visit, stuff the stocking, calm the children, fix the meals, settle the arguments,  diffuse the tension, set the perfect table, be seen at the right gatherings, and deal with the dissatisfaction.

There is no joy.

Swept up in the chaos of Christmas. Missing the joy of the season. The world eagerly steals our joy as we stretch and strive to meet and exceed all the expectations around us.

Can we find joy?

The Psalmist had some insight throughout the Psalms. When he spoke to God in Psalm 5:11 we read, “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name rejoice in you.”

In the rush of December and throughout the year, our God will protect us.  Loving God leads to rejoicing as he protects us from all that’s drawing us into the world.

Yet we want to meet the Christmas challenge head on, taking charge of all that is around us. We sleep less, we read our Bible less, we eat more, spend more and do so in the name of “holiday cheer”. 

We have a choice. Push ahead and force our way through, determined that we’ll get things right again in January. It’s Jesus’ birthday after all. It’s the key event to our Christian faith. It’s the least we can do is to be of service to him and others, right?

Or we can slow down and seek the presence of Jesus, knowing we will be right with Jesus now.

Let's change our mindset to celebrating the birth of Christ with Christ at the center. Drop the desire to meet all the world’s expectations. This is the service he wants from us. He just wants us.

Maybe it is a radical change in thought process. It may be uncomfortable at first. But as we spend time focusing on his presence we will find more than joy. We will find peace, be filled with love, and know Jesus more fully.

When we find Jesus is all we have, we will find Jesus is all we need knowing the best is yet to come! 

And that is the Joy of Christmas

Adoption is a Reflection of Jesus

November is National Adoption Month.

My wife and I have felt a calling towards adoption for some time and it finally came to fruition about a year and a half ago. We had two foster children, who are biological brother and sister placed in our home and this past summer we finalized their adoption. That means that at the moment we have four children (two biological: 1yr old & 6yrs old and two adopted: 9yrs old & 16yrs old) in our family.

This past year has been a roller coaster and if you would have caught me on a bad day, you might walk away from our interaction confident that you aren’t called to adopt. So why did we adopt? Why should anyone consider adoption? For me, it goes back to my own adoption.

I know that I am a sinner. Of all the things that scripture teaches me, the fact that I am a sinner is near the top of the list. Because of sin, I was hopelessly lost, separated from God with no ability on my own to get right with Him. I was outside of God’s family, an orphan with no father. The Bible describes this condition as being enslaved to sin. My condition meant that I desperately needed a redeemer, a father who would take me in and love me as his own.

That redeemer is Jesus Christ. Because of what Jesus did for me on the cross, my sins are forgiven. When I was forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ, the Bible says that I was adopted into his family. When I was in sin, I was separated, I was alone, I was an orphan. But in Christ, I am adopted into God’s eternal family.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, Abba! Father! (Romans 8:15)

Again, Paul says that God sent his son to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons… “So you are no longer a slave, but a son…” (Galatians 4:5,7)

In both of these passages Paul shows us that there are only two conditions — we are either slaves or we are adopted children. We either have the spirit of slavery and fear, or we have the spirit of adoption.

Our adoption is what brings us into God’s family. It is a spiritual reality, a spiritual change of condition that takes place when we are saved. But physical adoption is something that is desperately needed in our community and around our world. We need Christian men and women who are willing to model Christ’s love for us and give that love to children in need.

Why did my wife and I choose to adopt? I believe that adoption is central to the gospel. Christ adopts us when we are separated from him. I believe the church can show the love that God has for us by adopting children in need. When we show children that we are willing to be their earthly redeemer, they become open to the idea that they have a heavenly redeemer.

When we considered what Christ has done for us, we felt there was no clearer picture of the gospel than to adopt children who need a family. We chose to open our family, open our home, and open our hearts to these children. We chose to take them in and freely give them the gift of being a part of our family. We took the orphans and made them sons and daughters.

There are over 400,000 foster children in the United States. There are millions of orphans around the world who need loving families. I believe the church can be the leader in helping these children find their place in a home and family that will love and care for them. Since Christ died for my adoption, I feel called and compelled to show that love and do it for others.

When God Seems Gone - Weekly Life Lifter

main image

A Canaanite woman who lived in that region came to him. “Son of David!” she cried out. “Have mercy on me, sir! My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition.”  
But Jesus did not say a word to her. 
(Matthew 14:22-23)
 

Is this how you feel right now?

Are you crying out to God, only to feel lost in the silence surrounding your own echoes? Is your voice the only voice that you can hear? Perhaps you need only to listen better, or perhaps just never quit crying out.

And always remember, even Jesus felt as you do.

At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours. At about three o'clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” (Matthew 27:45-46)


Jesus could have given up then. He could have turned away from God, just as he felt God had turned away from him. But he knew what he had to do. He knew he had to stay the path and fulfill his purpose.
 
Just as Jesus did, so should we also stay our paths. Don’t give up on God. He will never give up on you, even if at times you don’t know where he is. God gave us the Holy Spirit, and promised to always be with us. Even if you don’t know if you can hear him, stay strong and know that he will be near to you always.

May God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

5 Reasons to Serve

main image

Serving is not about waiting tables at church. But it is about sharing food, handing out coffee, giving a smile, and using your skills and gifts to help, encourage, and support the people around you.

Serving is about volunteering your time and talents to fill a need. If you are an extrovert you can do this in a visible way like being a greeter, working in the nursery, or leading a group or class. If you prefer to work “behind the scenes” you can volunteer in the office, use your skills for the creative team or in the office, or by working in other non-public ways. You can volunteer for Impact Projects or help with ministries…there is always a need to fill using the gifts God gave you. 

Beyond knowing that there is a need, why volunteer for the church?

  1. God has Gifted You
    As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10 ESV)

    You were created by God on purpose, for a special purpose. You are where you need to be, you are who you need to be. God has designed work for you to do so you can be his hands, his feet, his love, to a hurting and needy world. Whatever it is that you know how to do is exactly what your community needs you to share with them.

  1. Service Demonstrates your Faith
    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2:17 NIV)

    Taking action by choosing to share your gifts to encourage and help others demonstrates that you have been changed by Jesus. Before we realize God’s love, we are self-centered and self-serving. But Jesus isn’t like that. Jesus cared for and served others—even as he died on the cross. If we have truly been touched by the love of Jesus, we will also want to be like him in service to others.

  1. Serving Blesses - Both You and the Recipient
    He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. (2 Corinthians 1:4 NLT)

    Encouragement and healing go hand in hand. As we encourage others they find healing, and we see God working so we are encouraged. This is why people who go on mission trips say they came home feeling like they went to be a blessing and came home blessed beyond measure.


  2. Serving Helps us Share the Love of Jesus
    Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. (Isaiah 58:10 NIV)

    We are called to share the love of Jesus with the world around us. But the fact is, it’s hard to reach a heart when someone has a physical or emotional need. You can’t cure physical thirst with only a testimony of Jesus’ love. If someone is thirsty, it’s better to give them a cup of water to quench their thirst first. Then they will be able to hear the message of God’s love. This is serving which leads to sharing the love of Jesus.


  3. Serving is Good for You
    Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6:38)

    Volunteering is so good for the mind and body that it can ease symptoms of stress and depression. It gets you out of your own head and doing something to better the world around you. Tapping into your gifts and passions builds self-confidence, energy, and strength. Serving others can also be the best distraction from our own worries.


There are so many places where you can use your gifts at Severn Run!

If you aren’t serving, maybe it’s time to start. Volunteer an hour, a day, a week. Help out a need. Do a project. You can even volunteer from home!

Here’s how to find a place to serve at Severn Run:

  1. Pray and ask God how he wants you to serve
  2. Go to severnrun.com/serve
    --Read through the serving opportunities and choose one that fits your skill set
    --Or click the Categories arrow and choose a place to serve by ministry
  3. Click the blue title of the serving opportunity
  4. Learn more about the need
  5. Sign up by filling out the form at the bottom of the page

 

Posted by Alane Pearce with

12...1112131415161718192021

Read Severn Run Stories, be inspired, and stay up to date with what's happening here!