Every Story Matters!

every story matters

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 matter? The heart of our faith is that every life is worth the blood of Christ! Every life is of infinite value to God! That's how He loves and because He values the stories of other people -we do too!

So, we just want to praise God for your willingness to invite others, to be a bridge and help other people know they really matter to God!

Every empty seat represents a story that is probably someone living their life without the knowledge and the benefit of the love of Jesus Christ. Every empty seat represents someone for whom Jesus died, that He's going after--but we're not. From now on, when you see an empty seat, I want you to see a person that we have to get out on the road and reach!

Our purpose as a church is to reach as many people as possible. How we're going to do that? I don't know, we're gonna walk with Jesus and see! We are gonna move out on the road to be creative in revealing the love of the Father in the Life of the Son in the Power of the Spirit and reach as many people as we possibly can because "God so loved the world..." (John 3:16). This is a Jesus-centered journey! He's passionate about every life! Every person matters, every human life is of infinite worth and value to the Lord our God!

Let's keep it up and reach as many people as possible -until heaven is full and hell is as empty as possible, our work isn't done! -Dr. Drew Shofner

I Am the Bread of Life!

Bread


In John 6:35 Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."

Some of you may have said "I've tried trusting God in the past and it doesn't work!" Well, don't keep your distance, it's time to make a move! Do something of faith! Go hard after Jesus and if you'll reach after Him for life, you'll find Him!

You've been given a free will, you've been given a life, you're not beat down, your story is not hopeless -this isn't the end!

Refuse to make peace with passive, some of us are so passive and we're waiting for God to do something. God has already done something! He lived, He died on the cross, He rose again on the third day and since the moment you drew breath on planet earth, He's been reaching out toward you! You respond to what He's done!

Stuck is a choice! You don't have to stay stuck in your sadness, you don't have to stay stuck in your own version of hell! You have been offered the touch of Jesus, and the hand of God is reaching toward you. Yes, we're gonna live in a broken world, 'til the new world comes. Yes, life is gonna be a challenge and it's gonna be hard, but it doesn't have to be hopeless! It can be joyful, purposeful, it can be full of growth and love and it can be full of relationship and life!

Most of all it can be full of Jesus and all that He is can be ours and change our reality! Or you can stay stuck and addicted, or you can try just a little more pornography - another woman or another man. Hey how about some more stuff? That'll do it! Spend yourself a little deeper into debt, then you'll be happy - oh wait, the bill comes!

Don't stay stuck, take the initiative of faith to respond to what God has already done, do something creatively today toward God. So many of us have gotten into such a passive mode that we don't even know how to seek God anymore and I just want to tell you that you gotta use your imagination! Each one of the people in the stories of Matthew 9:18-34 imagined a different way that Jesus could touch them or how they could touch Jesus and that's what you need to do today!

You need to use the creative imagination that God gave you and you need to seek God! Get out of the rut you're in and the routine of religion and go hard after Jesus until His touch changes everything!

Jesus said, "I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me will never go hungry, whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." No matter how hard your life is or what you're longing for that you can't get, if you will go to Jesus, if you won't keep your distance, He promises to satisfy! -Dr. Drew Shofner

How far is too far gone?

How far is too far gone

How far is too far gone? I mean you're alive! How many years has it been that Jesus has been reaching into your life? I'm just telling you that it's impossible to be too far gone! You just have to be willing to believe that you're lovable! Maybe not by your goodness, but because God is so astonishingly good that He chooses to love beyond what we deserve -beyond anything! We're not faking Him out, He knows and He loves anyway!

I don't know why we keep our distance from God -but we do! I know I do at times, but keeping your distance from God is like not taking a shower because you want to get cleaned up first. We feel like "I'm not good enough to come into the presence of God," and we keep our distance from God in so many ways, for so many wrong and so many lesser reasons. 

One of the reasons we keep our distance from God is ignorance, we simply don't see Jesus anywhere in our world. We feel like how can I move toward somebody that I don't know is there? I don't see them." So, we just don't know the story of love that has invaded life and that's one of the reasons we want to go on the road is to help people see Jesus in their life!

Another reason we keep our distance from God is arrogance. We see Jesus in our life or we see the story of Jesus but we just see no need. We're like "I got this, I'm OK!" For some of us in our arrogance, our religious relationship with Jesus is kind of like with the fire department, "If I need you, I'll call you, but if you show up before then it's kind of an embarrassment with the neighbors you know? So, Jesus, keep your distance, I'm good I got this and I really don't need you!"

The truth is, that small snapshot of "I'm OK right now," is not sustainable. 

When we fear God in a negative way, that's another reason we keep our distance - we just don't think He's good! We may feel like "If God comes into my life, He's just going to take away the things that I want and I just don't think He's good!" Have any of you all ever heard people say "If I give my life to God, He's gonna send me to Africa?" 

Let me just tell you, when I went to Africa, I wanted to stay! I would have loved to have been privileged to answer the call to be with some of the brothers and sisters there! I experienced more community and connection there in a village in two weeks than I have in some churches for years!

God's will is good - there's nothing to fear! There is no reason to stay away from love and there are so many of us here who are just stuck in some bad and dark places and today I want to tell you some stories from Matthew 9:18-34 that are stories of the touch of God that I think can change our lives and lead us from bad broken places to forever changed and hopeful places!

In Matthew 9:18, Jesus just made a statement that what He came to bring to the world was not religion! He no longer finishes speaking when a ruler comes up to Him and says 'My daughter just died!' He's kneeling down, broken before Jesus. Who can imagine the loss of a child? Your world just collapsed! And he says "But if you'll come and put your hand on her…" 

Where did that come from?  Faith! He imagined the touch of God! That there is so much life in Jesus, that 'life' would change death back to life! 

And so he comes to Jesus and says "If you'll just touch her…she will live!" This is just a picture of the power of the touch of God! Jesus got up and went with him and so did His disciples. You may not have lost a child, some of you have, but there are times when most of us will come to a place where we've lost everything that matters to us! And the question is --what now? Where's life now? What I built my life for and what I hoped for is gone. Where is my life now and what will I do?

You see, life is all about interpretation because you can interpret everything in great ways or in crazy ways! When Jesus raised Lazarus, half of the crowd thought it was amazing and the other half said we should kill him! Now, we can look at Jesus and we can interpret this positively or negatively and we can look at our lives and look at them positively or negatively! We can look at setbacks and failures positively or negatively. 

How we interpret life changes everything and how you interpret your life when everything that maters to you has been lost and you're asking this question "Where is my life now?" Let me just encourage you to reach out for the touch of Jesus! To interpret this as an amazing opportunity to see God work in your life! So, here's what I want you to do, don't keep your distance! Don't stay with the loss! Don't stay with the brokenness and the sadness and don't quit on God! Do something! Reach out to Jesus for life! 

So now this girl is dead in Matthew 9:18-34 and the dad is devastated and Jesus says 'yes' to the reach! The scripture tells us that as He is on His way there in verse 20 a woman who had been subject to bleeding came up behind him and touched the edge of His clothes. She 'touched' - these are stories of the touch of God! A God who touches still today!

One man imagines "If only Jesus touches my daughter…" This woman imagines "If only I touch His clothes…" There is no pattern to the love of God, God is limitless, He redeems in creative ways! 

We know from one of the other gospels that Jesus is in a crowd, and people are bumping and He asks "Who touched me?" Who had the faith in this faithless world to believe that things don't have to stay the same and broken? Who had the faith to dare to believe that I'm the God who redeemed broken, not the God who caused it? Who has the faith to believe that hopeless doesn't have to be home?

This woman touches His garment, His coat and the heart of Jesus is so sensitive to the power of touch that He turns and says "Woman, your faith has healed you!" (Matthew 9:22) What do you when nothing's working? For twelve years this woman has been trying to be healed! Reaching out in an authentic, real world kind of way and her world changes! 

When nothing's working what's next? Jesus.

Jesus goes on from there, leaves the healed woman behind, pushes through the crowd and now He is going toward someone. Not toward someone who is dying, but toward someone who 'is' dead! This little girl's hand was ice cold, there was no hope in the world. Most people would have just accepted, death wins, there's nothing to do; it's over. But not Jesus! Because of the ruler's faith, Jesus pushed His way through the crowd and in Matthew 9:24 says, "The girl isn't dead, but asleep." Then He touches her hand!

Jesus walks in, He sees death, and He answers it with a touch!

The touch of Jesus changes everything; it is the defining reality of life! Nothing you're facing right now is stronger than the touch of Jesus! There is no death in a marriage, there's no death in a relationship, there's no sin from the past, there is nothing that the redeeming touch of Jesus cannot change!

Father God I pray that you would help each one of us to imagine new possibilities in your love, and Lord to choose no to stay stuck. God, life takes courage. A broken world is sometimes a really hard place to navigate; but you'll lead us home! God help us to have confidence in your grace, in your ability and in your will. Everyone of us today needs to see the hand of God, the touch of God extended toward us and to realize all we have to do is reach back! It's time that we come into the presence of Jesus and just come alive!  You can't stay dead in the presence of God; nothing stays dead in the presence of Jesus! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Accept forgiveness and live courageously toward joy!

Hebrews 12:2

I probably don't need to tell most of you that life isn't easy. That it is a challenge. That it is hard and that it hurts. But still by grace we have been given a choice.

So I want to ask you: how are you going to live the next part of eternity?

Broken down and giving up or rising up and trusting God? 

Right now, where you are may seem so long and hard and overwhelming, but I just want to remind you that it's just one part of eternity. It's just one next in a long series until we begin the next part of eternity in the presence of God, or apart from God if we didn't want His love.

In Matthew 9:1-8, we read the story that took place in Jesus' home town. Here's a picture of Jesus, on the road, out in life, going after people and revealing the love of The Father in His own life in the power of an unseen Spirit in a way that changed everything!

Jesus stepped into a boat and crossed over and came to His own home town. Some men brought him a paralytic lying on a mat, and when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic something unexpected and something strange. Jesus said, "Take heart son, your sins are forgiven…" then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home!" And the man got up and he went home. No longer stuck in dead religion, no longer stuck in the realities of life, now the Kingdom of God had come and now the unpredictability of the love of God was let loose on planet earth - and everything changed!

What if, more than we need everything that is frustrating us in this moment. What if, not having them is what depresses us and discourages us? 

What if we just needed to celebrate our forgiveness and from this point forward, just live joyfully toward home knowing that this earth isn't it? 

What if we trusted that God is giving us, from His goodness, all that we need and that we can live joyfully on our way home? 

We've basically got a choice, we can follow sin: Sin means that we're all deeply broken like the layers of an onion at successive and concentric ways. We're all deeply broken all the way to the core of our being. It's all fractured, it's all broken, it's all leaking life! And you and I can live our lives in ever-increasing sin and brokenness to where the darkness continues to increase and the sadness is growing and the loss is adding up for the rest of this part of eternity - or we can follow forgiveness all the way home to joy! 

You see, that's what Jesus did.

We just celebrated Easter, and the scripture gives us an insight into what Jesus was thinking every step of the way. With every blow to His jaw, every time the whip was laid on His back...and every time the hammer drove the nails in...the scripture tells us what was on Jesus' mind. The scripture tells us in Hebrews 12:2, "Let us look to Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross scorning it's shame." He was heading home and in spite of that agony of the moment, He trusted God and lived courageously toward joy!

You and I need to live courageously grateful for the forgiveness of our sins, and if nothing ever happens in our life that we call good, we have the gift of the forgiveness of everything that leaks life, that tears us apart and destroys us in this part of eternity! We're coming to a part of eternity where there is going to be joy, if we will have it. But in this part of eternity where we're still on the ground and where it's hard, we are called by God to live courageously grateful for the gift that matters more than all the other stuff that we demand from God and put before it, and it's all found in this one phrase, "Take heart my child, your sins are forgiven." 

Despite what you believe, God does not have a bad attitude toward you. No, He says, "Take heart my child your sins are forgiven." -Matthew 9:2 (Take heart- The Greek word here means to have confidence and firmness of purpose in the face of adversity or testing.)

I want you to imagine the man paralyzed in Matthew. His day began bad like every other day...but in the presence of the freedom of Jesus, everything changed. I want you to follow my forgiveness in a way that transforms your sorrow into joy and I want you to live gratefully from this point forward and be courageous so take heart my son get up off of the broken place where you are and walk home! 

Can you imagine the joy his parents felt? Guys, that's you and that's me!

How many of us are laying on the ground and letting life pass us by? You don't have to hate yourself - you're free! We gotta make a decision. We gotta ask for forgiveness and until that day we gotta head home healed and live courageously. This is the life that we are invited to - accept forgiveness and live courageously toward joy! -Dr. Drew Shofner

Why does Jesus' death matter?

Why does Jesus' death matter

Why does Jesus' death matter?  

Not as some historical artifact of time passed, but why is it the center of what matters in my life and in your life? Matthew 27:1-45 talks about the death of Jesus, the murder at the center of all human history. 

With all that you have to do. With the bills to pay, the schools to go to, the things to learn, the love to find, the love to give, the children to raise - whatever it is that so occupies your mind and your heart, whatever it is that you think is most important right now, there is something more important still. It is not some long ago disconnected event, it is the centerpiece of your life! 

Romans 3:25 says "God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in His blood." The Atonement is where Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for sins. So Jesus became a sacrifice, and by believing in the meaning of what God did in dying for us, our sins can be lifted, forgiven, erased - carried away! 

It matters because Jesus' death defeats the gravity of 'The Fall' - that's what it does! In "The Fall," we chose our own way, we rebelled against God and the result was we were cast out of Eden. We wanted freedom from the love and relationship of God and what we got was insanity, chaos, brokenness and the gravity of sin introduced a cancer into all of life!

Gravity - There is this continual 'pulling down' of force that is unseen and unstoppable and it not only affects physical objects, it effects everything in your life! 

Every relationship. 
Every good intention that you have. 
It affects your mind and how you think about money and sexuality...there is a downward pull on those things. 

Let's think about being depressed. What does being 'depressed' mean? It means something is pushing down! 

In most of our lives, there are like one or two sins that are like drugs, they offer us something 'other than' God, and we turn to them over and over again. Then we say we'll never do that again and then 'gravity' happens and then the attempt to lift it up - but down it goes!

All of this is what the Bible tells us is part of 'The Fall'. 

In Jesus' death, He was an atoning sacrifice that literally answered and canceled all of the sin of all of humanity - when we believe! 

So the gravity of 'The Fall' is beaten, when we connect the death of Jesus with our living, and we can then live defying gravity until Heaven comes!

What I'm telling you is that when we believe in the death of Jesus, we become free and the downward force of the gravity is overcome! 

Now I want you to understand, we are living in the age of redemption. There is an age of restoration that is coming when there will be no more sin!

No more downward pull. No more gravity!

But I until then, if you are a believer, do not think that you are a failure because you have to struggle - you are a great success! An airplane has to struggle to get off the ground and defy gravity! Even after it launches into the air, it can't then say "Ok, I'm in the air, everything should be easy, shut the engines off!" Yet, some believers say "Oh, I accepted Jesus, everything should be easy if God loves me, no more tears, no more pain, no more crying." No, that's heaven, but until then, we have to go through it, we have to keep moving forward, we have to overcome in faith through God's grace! 

In our struggle, until the restoration, we have the promise of God that we do not have to be victims of our own lust, of our own consumerism, we do not have to live depressed and down, we can soar as high as the grace of God! There will always be a struggle here on planet earth, but so what, we can win! Jesus' death defeats the gravity of the fall; you are not fated to fail!

The scripture says, in 1 John 2:2, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, not only for ours, but for the sins of the whole world." Jesus died for you - If you and I will connect the meaning of His death to the ongoing meaning of our lives, everything changes! Father God I pray, in Jesus' name, that we would hear the story of the death of Jesus and that we would connect the meaning of His death to the living of our lives! -Dr. Drew Shofner

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