Do you realize that one of the greatest growth industries in modern America is the storage industry? The funny thing is as we gain more and gather more stuff that we don't need, we then have put this 'stuff' in storage. We can't get rid of it or give it to someone who might need it- God forbid!...
The truth is, God gives everything to those who give everything to Him. The church at Severn Run has to get on the road to impossible in order to live the future of God! We have to make 'impossible' our regular way of living. I'm telling you, 17 years ago when God called me to this church, God...
Real faith imagines a future that is touched by God's hand in a way that changes it, redeems it, blesses it, protects it and makes it more than it ever could be! The hand of God throughout the Old Testament is incredibly powerful and the scripture says God stretched His hand out and when He...
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.&rdquo...
In the kingdom of this world, we see by eye, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, we see by faith. That’s why the scripture says “We walk by faith, not by sight.” So often we live moments in which we are unconscious of God. In the kingdom of this world, we reason by the logic of this...
Those of us who follow Jesus do good because we want the attention to be given to our Heavenly Father; not to us! Matthew 6:1-4 says “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.So when...
Some of you are in good places in your family right now, and some of you are in bad places. Some of you are frustrated in your families and I just want to let you know that God cares passionately about your family and what you’re going through, and He’s here to fill your family with...
This is the heart of God - He will wipe away every tear from our eyes. One day when the curtain rises, and life begins without any mixture of darkness; you will find the hand of God on your face, wiping away all the regret, all the pain, all the rejection, all the abuse, all the hatred, all the...
When we are cynical about people, the future, the church or anything else, we are advancing the agenda of hell and hindering the work of heaven. Negativity can be a word that you speak to somebody, that's just a critical, well-aimed word from hell, to demean and diminish others. We are...
When you miss grace, you're always going to stay away from God like a stern parent that you can never please. Religion leaves you stuck, and wears you out. It tries to appear perfect, and tries to force a change that always seems to snap back into old patterns. When you live without grace, you...
Colossians 2:6-7 says, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness."
There's the open door, and when we receive Christ Jesus as Lord, then we will continue to live in Him and grow in Him. Into lives that are ever larger for Him! That means that our lives grow deeper and our identity is rooted more and more firmly in the love of God -we know who we are!
Your identity is set, your confidence in God grows and then you begin to grow up like a tree that spreads its branches.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, you're free to serve your life away without anybody ever knowing your name! In the kingdom of the world, you gotta have your name in the spotlight, but in the Kingdom of Heaven, when Christ takes root and begins to work through all of your life, you grow down deep into the soil of God's love.
Your life was designed by God to have an eternal impact in this world! Your creativity, your imagination, your talents, your gifts and abilities are supposed to come into play as part of the expanding kingdom of God --that's the way God designed it!
The plan of God is to fill you to the full measure of Christ Himself. As mush as Jesus was full of God on earth, that is the very plan of God for you according to Ephesians 4:11-13. When we let the Kingdom come, Jesus leads us into a God-sized life! -Dr. Drew Shofner
Can I invite you to think? Sometimes we act like if we're going to believe, we have to turn off our brains. No, your brain is part of the image of God! Your curiosity, your imagination, everything inside of you, all of your faculties need to be brought fully to bear in seeking first the Kingdom of God! And if you're not yet a believer, I want to challenge you to think and to question and to explore in a seeking journey!
In Matthew 13:31-32, Jesus tells a parable:
"The kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed..." - It's small.
Now think about that in terms of your life on earth. Some of you are discouraged because God isn't bigger in the world and bigger in your life and there's pain and hurt and sorrow, but you have to understand somethings about big and small:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” -Matthew 13:31-32
What Jesus is doing is giving us an invitation to imagine mystery and to explore through curiosity what this unseen Kingdom is like. He says it looks like it starts small. It looks insignificant often in the moment, but if you will receive it and if you will plant it in your life, let it grow and give it time, you will find that it absolutely astonishes you!
It will be more than you ever would've imagined it would have been in the beginning --that's what the Kingdom of God is like!
I want you to understand that you and I as sinful, broken people-- and all of us are sinful--we have all substituted our will for the will of God. We think we know more than we really do and our confusion about big and small is really huge!
I want to share with you that in this broken world, broken people die confusing big and small. When we stand before God at the judgement, the essential mistake that will have been made by billions is that they missed the bigness of the love of God!
It seemed small and insignificant at the time, so many other things going on in life! So many priorities and pursuits going on that this 'God Story' just seemed like a nothing and yet this tiny little seed will prove to be the biggest thing in all of eternity. We are the people who experience the kingdom and must spread it to others! -Dr. Drew Shofner
A topic that often isn't dealt with in churches, is the topic of doubt. No one in the Bible, outside of Jesus, has received higher praise than John the Baptist -and yet John the Baptist struggled, questioned and doubted. And maybe if God affirmed him in his struggle, maybe today God has something to say to you!
John the Baptist had had an amazing effective ministry preaching the coming of the Messiah out in the wilderness, and people had flocked from Jerusalem to hear this prophet speak the truth of God. And for speaking the truth, John was arrested by Herod and thrown into prison and John knew that his day of death was near. Matthew 11:1-3 "After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee." So John sent his disciples when he saw that Christ was near to ask him "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
This is an important detail to the conversation at this point because Jesus has something to say about John that He says intentionally after John's disciples have left so that this message does not get back immediately to John. As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." (Matthew 11:7-11)
What I want to share with you today is 'what it means to trust' and how we deal with doubt and fear and questions. The truth is, that I believe with all of my heart, that struggling through doubt is the heart of trusting! It's the heart of what it means to trust God! Not that we live in the absence of, but in the presence of doubt and questions, struggling through those toward Jesus Christ, we are expressing the highest heart of faith!
Believers throughout the centuries, from the early church fathers have talked about something called 'The Dark Night of the Soul.' - The Dark Night of the Soul is that time when God seems to be in eclipse! When the promises of God seem so far away from the realities of the moment. When God seems so distance and so absent, it is as though you were living in a God eclipse and in that dark, it is cold and it is death dealing and you feel alone and you feel flawed and you're wondering is it God? Is there a God? Is it you? What's wrong with me? But certainly this can't be right!
I want to share with you that everyone experiences a 'Dark night of the Soul'. Hear me, all you who are committed followers of Christ, you need to know that doubt is a normal part of the Christian life! It's an inevitable part of broken people discovering and entering into eternal life while passing through a very broken world!
Sometimes the experiences in life just seem so much more real than the promises of Jesus and in cultural Christianity, we learn to be dishonest and pretty unreal quickly in our lives but the God of scripture is a God that never leads us to pretend! One of the things that just makes me convinced of the reality of the scripture is just how the people in scripture are revealed.
I mean Noah after landing in the ark, gets drunk and is lying naked in his tent - well my hero is not like that! King David is committing adultery with a woman and then murders her husband! Well if I'm writing the Bible, I'm kind of editing those parts! And Jesus, my superhero, when He's on the cross, He's not gonna ask any questions! He's God, He has all the answers, He's not gonna cry out "My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?" The very fact that the Bible is so real and so raw and so human and so true, is one of the things that convinces me that this is the revelation of God - this is truth!
So how is it that we've become 'plastic' in gathering as a church? We have this idea that to be a real Christian means that I've got it all together! That I'm not hurting, that I have answers and that life is good because God loving me means that everything is OK - it's not a struggle!
Guys, I just want to be honest with you and tell you that I've been in many seasons where my soul felt in total eclipse of God.
Chuck DeGroat talks about 'Dark Nights' and he says "Dark nights provoke deep questions." Guys, as followers of Christ in the example of scripture, don't walk away from your questions! Read the book of Job if you want to see how questioning is handled with God...God can handle your questions and He will answer!
Deep questions deserve deep answers and so often we throw shallow answers into the face of the deep. Don't give shallow answers to deep pain! I know we all want to do that, we all want to fill in the pain, but sometimes the deepest answers are found in a holy silence - in seasons of brokenness and just listening in the presence of God!
Dark nights are both spiritual and psychological. They are spiritual and you have an enemy who is out to destroy you! He feeds off your pain, your tears are his drink! He is intelligent, he is strategic, he watches. He is not all powerful so there's no reason to be afraid of him, I'm just saying let's not be naive, we have an enemy who is actively at work to trip us up, bring us down, to literally destroy us and laugh at us!
Have you ever been tempted to do something and then after you do it...what's the voice that comes back in? "You idiot! How dumb can you be? You worthless person!" And you're like "you just told me that this would be great and awesome and it's not!" That's your enemy- that's who he is.
There is a profound spiritual basis for the 'Dark Nights of the Soul' for those seasons of struggling and times for questioning where we don't have all the perfect evidence and we're looking through the glass darkly and there is a very spiritual game being played out here. The reality is there are also psychological elements to that and you can't deny that!
The simple truth is, that you will come to a place, or have been in a place, or are in a place where the pain and the dark and the apparent distance of God are so deep that you will struggle and you will question and you will doubt - God does not condemn you for that!
Jesus said "Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist..." John the Baptist was mature, he knew and yet he still said "are you the one?"
Faith is letting Jesus be bigger than your pain. Jesus being more real than the darkness that you feel. It's allowing Jesus Christ to be the light in your darkness! We think sometimes faith means having no darkness, having no struggle, having no pain. No, real faith is struggling through doubt toward Jesus; that is the heart of trusting! You just gotta keep going! Keep moving towards Jesus, because the reality is there is a doubting that is a dialing back and turning away from Jesus and then there is a doubt that is a coming alive and fighting forward and struggling to see Jesus and to move toward him!
You see the goal of God is maturity - a faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone! That's God's goal for your life - that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting! -Dr. Drew Shofner
Proverbs 3:4-6 says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding..." You and I cannot understand the scope and scale of all that is around us, "But in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Trusting Him will change your life and your destiny! If you're following Him and you're struggling away from Jesus, I want to challenge you to struggle and walk toward Jesus because He will change your destiny. That's the miracle of God's love given in Jesus!
You see the goal of God is maturity - A faith that is not trapped in broken emotions locked in one moment of time. A faith that leans on the infinite glory of Jesus and Jesus Christ alone, that's God's goal for your life that you trust in Jesus alone! That the issue of your life is not your spouse, it is not your child, not your finances or your health or your past, it is not the fear of your future, the issue of your life is Jesus! Turning to Him, He becomes your foundation, He becomes your trust and though you struggle, you struggle forward in faith successfully - that is the heart of trusting!
When you make Jesus - and not your pain - the issue, something happens in the presence of the glory of God and the imagination of the restoration! Our pain begins to shrink down to the size of a marble and it is not our pain that is so big and overwhelming - it is our savior! The hope of Jesus will change your life! It will give you new perspective and give you hope. And you will be able to struggle through just as Jesus did on the cross, on to the resurrection and on to glory! -Dr. Drew Shofner
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 penalty for all of our sins.
Here is what the Bible says about Jesus on the cross:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18)
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. (Romans 6:8)
So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)
And it is there where we find him to receive the gift of everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
It is a free gift when we repent in faith.
Jesus actually predicted the manner of his death in the words preceding his great promise. In John 3:14-15, we read: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Notice that verses 15 and 16 end with almost identical words. Why? Jesus was drawing a parallel between a spectacular Old Testament event with his coming sacrifice on the cross.
As recorded in Numbers 21:4-9, the ancient Israelites rebelled against God in the wilderness. God punished them with “fiery serpents” who bit them, killing many. After the people repented, God provided a means of salvation:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
In similar fashion, whenever anyone who has sinned looks at Jesus in repentance and faith, they shall live.
Speaking to the crowd, Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself” (John 12:32). The next verse expressly states, “This he said, signifying by what death he would die.”
Just as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole to save all those who looked at it, God lifted up Jesus on a cross to save all those who put their faith in Him.
Let us all turn to Jesus, who beckons us with arms wide open.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)