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...
Showing items for 'Christian Living'
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...
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your...
The best way to establish, develop, and maintain any relationship is through conversation. Relationships must be centered on trust. It is upon trust that intimacy is built. How do we establish trust and build intimacy? Through conversation. Prayer is conversation with God. Through...
Is GOD in Your Goals? As the new year begins, many of us dust off our goals for last year with the intent of revisiting them next year. Typically, we think of taking care of ourselves: eating better, exercising, being a better person, learning a new language and reigning in debt. These are...
Have you made a New Year’s resolution for 2017? Did you know the number one New Year’s resolution is to lose weight? Health, fitness, and weight loss are important goals and helps us to feel better physically and mentally. If you set a New Year’s Resolution to lose...
Be like the Son of Man. He did not come to be served.Instead, he came to serve others. He came to give his life as the price for setting many people free.(Matthew 20:28 NIRV) What does it mean that Jesus came to Earth? That he laid down his heavenly Glory, and...
It was a cold, dreary November evening when the shipment of Christmas trees arrived at the lot in the middle of town. Most of the people were getting ready to celebrate their Thanksgiving meals. All of the trees being unloaded off the trucks were handsome trees of all varieties. Some of them...
The Bible tells us that we are to make disciples of all nations, but how are we to do that when uttering a simple invite to church causes our palms to get sweaty, sends our hearts beating out of our chests, and causes our mouths to feel like the Sahara Desert during dry season? Therefore go...
When I was nine or ten years old, the most desired item on my Christmas list was a Dr. Dreadful Food Lab. It was a lab kit that you could make all kinds of jello molds shaped like spiders, worms and all kinds of unappetizing things that kids can't get enough of. Now being, by far, the...
I have a history of a back and forth relationship with God, but I have a feeling I’m not alone. We have times when we walk closely with God, but we might fall away. And then we will come to a point where we are at the end of ourselves and we realize how much we need Jesus. There is a drastic difference between a life lived in the darkness, and a life filled with the light. I want to show you this difference--the Jesus Difference--in my life.
In order to tell my story, I have to go all the way back to before I was even born. My mother and father were both raised in strong Christian families, and not just religious families, but they had parents who really loved Jesus and served in various ways, especially my father’s parents. My grandparents on my father’s side were extremely active in the Church. My grandmother was cherished by all, and led many people through hard times via her counseling. My grandfather has written many books and has been in leadership roles in churches for as much of his life as I’m aware of. Looking at my father, it’s obvious that the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. He met my mom while at seminary, and for about two-thirds of my life he’s been a pastor, or at least involved in ministry in some way. So yes, I guess that means you can call me a PK (pastor’s kid). But honestly, what does that have to do with anything???
Maybe not so much anymore, but back when I was in high school there was a certain perception about what a PK should be, and what they shouldn’t. Let’s just say that I did not fit the mold; at least, inwardly I didn’t. On the outside, I was the perfect pastor’s kid. I spent a lot of time at church, I served and helped my dad out a lot when he was pastoring several churches that he had started himself. And, I behaved (for the most part). However, internally there was no real relationship with God, and in fact I tried to keep whatever was there hidden from the rest of the world. I was ashamed of my faith, if we could even really call it that. I’ve always believed in God, but he was never truly real to me.
Because I had no real faith, I was just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. And sometime around 2007 I finally exploded…
In late 2006, I joined the Air Force. In truth, it was a good move for me, and honestly it was the only way that my wife Rachel and I could get married and not struggle financially. And where did we get sent? Only a few thousand miles away to Germany…
So, off we went to start our new life in a place where we knew no one, and where I had no real connection to the life I was previously living, except Rachel of course. I still had my morals, which were instilled in me by my parents, even if the faith part never really stuck. So, luckily, I at least had that, and in reality, it probably saved me from going down some even darker paths than I did. But, to be honest, I was already lost. My heart was not in the right place, and my thoughts were not thinking on Godly things. I did some things that I’m not proud of, and I hung out with people that only brought me down. I did not go to church, and in fact I didn’t really even want to. This lasted through three years in Germany, and got even worse our three years in Guam.
After the birth of our second child in Guam, which was not something we had planned, things got pretty grim. I almost made the worst mistake of my life, and made dozens of others that I really wish I hadn’t. I still wasn’t going to church. I was swearing as much as the worst sailor you’ve ever met (no offense to my Navy brothers and sisters). I was not being a good father, I was angry a lot, and I treated my wife poorly. However, again, my morals, as weak as they were by now, still kept me from tipping over the edge. I thank God to this day that he was watching over me, even before I was born. I know that the choices my parents made, and the way they raised me, was just so that I could survive through these trying times later in my life.
So, there I was living my life in the darkness, with no way that I really knew of (at the time) to get out. But then, everything changed…
Just as the dust of an explosion eventually settles, things in my life finally started to become just a little clearer. I was able to get back on my feet and begin to heal from the wounds, though it took time.
In 2013, I changed jobs in the Air Force, which took us to California for several years. For nearly 7 years I’d hardly stepped foot in a church, but when we arrived in California I felt the tug to look for a local church to attend. We tried one, which ended up not being the best fit for us, so I started looking for another. I don’t remember how I heard about Shoreline, I think it was through an online search, but when we tried it out we really liked it there. And for the first time in years I finally started to feel something. It started deep within my soul, and it was a very slow change, but God spoke to me in profound ways over the next year or so. At times, it kind of felt like going to the dentist - it was uncomfortable, but I needed to remove the dead and decaying parts of my life so that I could fully heal and recover. I don’t really remember a specific moment when everything changed, though perhaps Rachel could tell you if you asked her. It was not some big light that opened in the sky and unleashed Heaven’s full glory down on me, burning away all the bad parts of my life. It was just a slow process of change as my mind began to be reformed – old habits and interests slowly faded away, and new ones took their place.
You won’t ever hear me say that I’m wholly complete, but I can tell you that the difference between now and then is night and day. As Nathan "Nate" John Feuerstein, the artist known as “NF”, so wonderfully put it, “Christian is not the definition of a perfect me.” Christian only defines who I strive to be, and who I look to as an example.
So, what’s really different about me? Besides most of the bad stuff that’s gone (yes, I do still sin), I’m passionate about things that I used to not care abiyt. Take this blog post for one. The old me would never have considered sharing all my shame on the internet. The old me would never have freely volunteered to write something meaningful so that in some small way, others might find the courage or the strength to allow change in their own lives. Besides that, the way I think has changed a lot. I see people differently. I judge less, and love more. I treat people differently, and my anger is under control. Of course, I do still have some small outbursts when I have to drive in Maryland traffic, but anyways…
One of the other ways that I’ve changed is in my desire to serve others, which as you know if you’re a Severn Runner, is something that we’ve been talking about recently. I know that I still need to do more, but even that feeling of ‘I need to serve more’ is something I NEVER would have thought about a few years ago. I lived for myself, and that was apparent. Now, though I’m still a selfish human by nature, I consider others more often and have more of a desire to help them.
I know that there are many of you out there right now who are reading this and possibly needing to do some reflections on your own lives, even if it’s only mirrored through my own distant experiences from yours. We all have different lives and experiences, and that’s what makes us unique. God speaks to each of us in different ways. So, it’s my hope that at least through sharing my story you’ll take a moment to listen and see what he has to say about yours.
Is he calling to you? Is he asking you to come discover this Jesus Difference that we’ve been talking about? Or, perhaps he’s asking you to share your own story of the Jesus Difference in your life, so that maybe, just maybe, someone you can uniquely reach might find the courage to allow the change that they’ve been desperately searching for their whole life.
You never know just who your story can affect. You never know just who your story can reach. And you’ll never know unless you share it.
There are a million stories out there of people who’ve come to understand this Jesus Difference, and who will probably tell you that it has been the biggest and best difference in their lives to this day. There are millions of stories through the ages of lives that have been changed – lives once lived in darkness, that are now bathed in the light.
Will yours be one?
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.