What The Cross Means to a Believer

Posted by Dan Borchers on

The Cross--an instrument of cruel death--was used by God to bring life to all. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) Jesus fulfills those words at the cross. There, he paid the...

Every Story Matters!

Posted by Dr. Drew Shofner on

Every story matters! There are 175 more people attending life at The Church at Severn Run than there were a year ago! Every number is a story...every story has a name...every name is near and dear to God -and it matters! Can any of us say, toward God, that someone else's story doesn't...

What is "First Fruits" and Why Does it Matter?

main image

As Americans we generally like to be first. (Those of us with competitive tendencies like to be first more than others!)  We are taught to be first and win the race of life starting at a very young age:

  • First to walk and talk
  • Climb to the top of the class
  • Be the first to graduate from college
  • Win the race up the corporate ladder

Why?

So we can be the best and get the best for ourselves and achieve the American Dream, right?

But wait...is there more?

What is God's perspective on this “be first, win the race, get to the top” concept?

The Israelites were farmers.They grew food not just as a livelihood but to survive. The idea of first fruits is seen in numerous places in the Old Testament when the Israelites are instructed to give God their first fruits. For example, in Exodus 23:19a they are told, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”

For as important as food production was to God’s chosen people, God’s expectation was that they give back to him the first and the best of their produce. After all, it was God’s blessing that allowed the plants to grow and provide more than sufficient food throughout the growing season.

The majority of us do not plant, grow, and harvest any substantial amounts of food. We work at any number of jobs or have income from various sources. We don’t live as nomadic farmers like the Israelites did so what does the idea of first fruits have to do with us today?

The British dictionary gives us a clear definition on how first fruits apply to not just a crop, but to all forms of production. It defines first firsts as “the first results, products, or profits of an undertaking”. No matter what we do to create income or achieve results, it falls under God’s exception of first fruits.

First Fruits is the top of the totem pole. It's the income that comes in first. It’s not after taxes, heath insurance, the phone bill, the mortgage payment, the trip to the grocery store or a stop at the mall. Its comes out of the first earnings.

Sounds painful and maybe even scary.

Is that really what God intends? I think so. In this way we demonstrate our trust in him and acknowledge that it is through his blessing we received the income. It’s not because we went to college, it’s not because we worked really hard and it’s not because the economy just happened to improve. It’s because God allowed us to earn the income. It is a blessing!

As you ponder the amount to give back to God, remember it’s the first fruits he’s asking for from us. Our first and best. It’s through giving this way that we win in God’s eyes.

 


 

By the way, if you want to set up automatic giving to make tithing your first fruits automatic, please follow this link.

Growing in Faith

main image

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 these examples is that each person was able to do great things by putting their faith in God instead of putting their faith in their own abilities and circumstances.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Get Uncomfortable

Our faith grows when we push ourselves outside of our comfort zones in his name, into an area where we are not in control. That is where God can take over in our lives. 

God has called us to do great things, but these things require having faith in him as they did for those described in Hebrews 11. This means pushing ourselves to get to know other believers through Connect Groups or maybe to start our own Connect Group. This means sharing our faith with others around the world so that they too may come to know Jesus. This means finding our place to serve within the church even though it is easy to just be served by the church. 

Each time I have made myself uncomfortable by obeying what I understood to be God's will in my life, it has been an awesome experience that has grown my faith. I have been terrified to put myself out there, being an intovert by nature, but I consistently felt God speaking to me so I said yes to him even though my nature pushed back. 

God has always given me the strength and the voice when I take the first step, just as Proverbs 3:5-6 suggests, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.

Jesus tells Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness, from this we should understand that it will be uncomfortable when we push our human nature out and have faith in God. This is necessary so that when others see us doing the “impossible,” there can be no doubt that the glory belongs to God and it belongs to him alone. We too will know that it is only through God that we are able to accomplish these things, and this is how we grow our faith.

 

Posted by Zach Baum with

It's Never Too Late To Let Love Win!

let love win
 
We're all masters at missing the point. Almost all of the ugliness and damage that has been done in Christian and church history is because we miss the point. One of the crucial turning points of faith is rejecting the legalism that the human heart longs for. Legalism (religious rules) is a cheap alternative to grace-based living from a broken heart!
 
The truth is, there is something foundational that has to happen before you can ever be an authentic follower of Jesus Christ. To be an authentic follower of Jesus, something has to happen in your life that is about brokenness. Whether we can get to Jesus or not, really depends on our brokenness. We all want to find ways around our brokenness but you really can't do it because to be 'unbroken,' means that you're still in control!
 
When I talk about unbroken, I'm talking about us demanding control --that's the issue!
 
To come to Jesus requires a brokenness of surrender where you and I experience the pain of giving up control. Us wanting control is kind of an insanity loop that brings it's own kind of brokenness to life. 

It's kind of like steering the car and pressing on the brake after it goes off the cliff! Yes, you have control of the wheel but you're not really doing a whole lot of good in the situation. So it's like we're in a control that's not working but we don't want to give up control to a God who will make life work!
 
When we move toward Jesus without being broken, we get religion. Religion is based on a lot of things, but in addition to control, religion is based on rules. These rules can be written and unwritten. We come up with all of these rules and rituals and we're just making stuff up. We need to call ourselves out on our own hypocrisy and recognize that legalism is like gravity, it's a downward pull!
 
Part of authentic faith is recognizing that I am broken, that I am in danger, and that I need help. Jesus is the rescuer, and the process of rushing to Jesus is where the healing begins! 
 
Jesus takes our lives and brings us into a relationship where we soar! When we believe, Jesus helps us defy the gravity of earth and its brokenness.
 
If you've been broken and you've come to Jesus and experienced real hope in life, if you're not very very careful, at some point, you will stop soaking in the presence of God and experiencing the warmth and joy of God. If you're not careful in your spiritual journey, you're going to take a step back into the deadly ease of legalism and you're going to give in to the downward pull of rules, of ritual and of empty living!
 
In biblical Christianity we are only justified by faith through grace and our faith is based in the person of Jesus Christ! The justification that you and I have is the same, it is the love of God in the life of Jesus! (Ephesians 2:8-9)

It is a gift! So I cannot be proud of something I did not earn. I received this, and there is a real humility that comes when we understand that our justification comes from Jesus and not ourselves! 
 
Jesus' touch means something --it's a reason to celebrate, a reason to live, and to lift our hands and praise our God! It transforms us from living soul sick to becoming eternally alive!
 
What God said in the Old Testament is true for all of us, "These dead bones of ours can live again!" It's the breath of God --an up close and personal encounter that changes everything! (Ezekiel 37)
 
But Jesus only touches the willing, broken hearted people (Matthew Chapter 9).

If you want Jesus, you've got to run to Him! You've got to be broken and you've got to get on your knees and beg for a life change --that's when Jesus gets real! The rest is just religious garbage and legalistic lies! Until we're desperate in need and willingly loved, we'll die in the distance of legalism! 
 
There are so many of us longing to be loved but we're just not willing. Believe you can be loved! Let love win -it's never too late to let love win! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Get Out of the Boat!

Get out of the boat

As we talk about becoming a worshiping community of 5,000, it's not for ego -it's because there are 100,000 who don't know Jesus! We're not just gong to sit on the sidelines and watch them go to hell in disbelief...get out of the boat! (Matthew 14:22-33) 

Nothing glorifies God more than leading people toward faith in Jesus!

Champions for Christ do things with their lives that get Jesus noticed! Are you doing anything with your life that gets Jesus noticed?

Today is a turning point. You can live your life as a sideline-sitting, fear-filled, embarrassed-by-Jesus "church person," or you can get out of the boat and get into the teeth of the storm!

You can listen to the voice of Jesus in your life and you can attempt something impossible! I pray over and over again for the glory of God --you are called to be a champion for Christ!

Don't settle for a life filled with fear and all of hells lies --you have a turning point decision to make!

Whether to continue to live overwhelmed by the bad of life and the bigness of fear or to live as a child of God and champion for Christ! Whether to be overcome by the world or to be overcomers -that's our choice today! 

I'm asking you to make a move to declare that you're no longer a slave to fear but that you are a child of Christ and a champion! Live with courage--your faith! -Dr. Drew Shofner

If Any of You Lacks Wisdom You Should Ask God

ames 1:5

When bad things happen to me, I feel sorry for myself. I interpret it as evidence of God's absence. His lack of favor, my inadequacy, and being cursed really. But when I read what God says to do, it reframes the bad with the good. 

James 1:2-6 says, "2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything..."

How could any of us with our three pounds of grey matter approach the decisions of the complexity of life confident in and of ourselves that we've got it right?

Humility says I do need wisdom. 

Here's the great news of going to the good of God with the bad of not knowing: "5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God..." -It's prayer! "...who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you..."

If we have the humility to ask, God gives generously and abundantly. He gives wisdom to everyone who just dares to ask! 

Now the believing part, is that we have to do it with confidence in God's present response. 

"6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."

So when we read, we read believing in the presence of 'the presence.' And when we pray, we pray believing in hearing the Father confidently and we trust that the good of God is actually bigger than the bad of the world!

I'm just telling you, something super natural happens in our lives as the good of God answers the pain of life...overwhelms it...then the good of God pours out of us in authentic, life-changing ways for us and the people in our path! -Dr. Drew Shofner

123456

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