God hears your prayers, every one of them! In Jeremiah 29:12 the scripture says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you…” God hears and He answers well. The scripture goes on to say in verse 13, “You will seek me and find me when you...
Every bad decision and every bad place that we've ever been is because at a crossroads, we took the path that lead us to where we ended up. I want to say again, that if you and I will learn to manage our turning point decisions, we will have the ability to lead a life that is more! If we...
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...
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...
I don't know if some of you know, but we've got a pretty serious and solid purpose here at The Church at Severn Run! It is to reach as many people as possible, by creatively revealing the love of the Father through the life of the Son, in the power of the Spirit! We've heard our pastor say it...
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!...
Over and over in my life, I have looked at what I have and was mad that I didn't have more. We look around at what other people have, and in all of that comparison there is this basic foundational accusation, "God, you are not good. You didn't give me a winning hand, therefore I can't win, so...
1 Samuel 16:7 is a great story, its the story of Israel choosing a king. Samuel is a prophet who's name is a combination of "Shem" (he hears) and "u'el" (with God). Being named Samuel as a prophet of God, Samuel is a man who hears God. So here is Samuel, coming to the family to choose Israel's...
Jesus illuminated life in the most amazing ways and we get to experience the brilliance of Jesus not as a historical story, but as a present tense reality. In Matthew 7:15-20 Jesus gave us a window to evaluate and filter some things in life.Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They...
As Jesus spoke during the Sermon on the Mount, the heart of God was beating on earth, and the very voice of God was speaking into the very ears of men and women and boys and girls in a way that never happened before. In Matthew 5:48 Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your...
God hears your prayers, every one of them! In Jeremiah 29:12 the scripture says, “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you…” God hears and He answers well. The scripture goes on to say in verse 13, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart…” The Holy Bible knows nothing of half heartedness. It knows nothing of the religion of appearences. It knows nothing of a heart that wants to appear ‘God given’ but is actually withheld and self guided. In the Holy Scriptures you see people who are all in! You see people who come to the end of themselves who go to God and cry out to Him and we ask for Him and we seek Him with all of our hearts!
The truth is, the Savior on the cross knows nothing of half heartedness and God will not accept half heartedness on our part. But when we seek Him, we will find Him when we seek Him with all of our heart! “I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.” (Jeremiah 29:14) God never intended for us to love anyone or anything more than Him! And in prayer, we have this amazing opportunity to open up the corridors of Heaven itself, for our hearts and for the world around us! -Dr. Drew Shofner
Every bad decision and every bad place that we've ever been is because at a crossroads, we took the path that lead us to where we ended up. I want to say again, that if you and I will learn to manage our turning point decisions, we will have the ability to lead a life that is more!
If we continue to be emotionally driven, if we continue to be helpless and without hope and power in our lives, then we are adrift in life and are going to be driven by the winds of circumstances, feelings and other peoples decisions.
I'm here to tell you that you can manage your turning point decisions. When life offers you bad, and it has, we have to go to the good of God and we have to soak in the presence of Jesus! This is everything, this is the call of God, and the way forward!
This is what hell doesn't want you to know, but it's the whole truth of the scripture of the Bible. It's what God wants us to do and it's what Jesus did in Matthew 14:1-3; 23 in the story of the murder of John the Baptist.
There will always be this drive in us that wants to run away from God and yet there's going to be this whisper inside of us that tells us that we have to go to God.
Here's the choice we have to make because the simple reality is 'what your heart does with pain is going to determine just about everything in your life!'
Where you go with your pain is going to determine your emotional health, your spiritual health -all of your health!
With pain, we try a variety of techniques and strategies. Sometimes we just try to stuff pain down and ignore it. You need to know that's about as effective as ignoring cancer in your life! You can stuff pain down and ignore it but it's gonna grow and be cancerous and infect other areas of your life!
So when we come to these turning points, we have a choice of 'where are we going to find good?'
There is the 'good' that we identify and think is the answer and there is the good of God; which is completely different.
So you're in pain...where do you go?
You gotta do something to end the pain right? The bottom of the can seems like the way to go. Maybe it's the joint? Maybe it's the porn on the computer? I feel bad and maybe this is gonna be something! We rarely call these things good but they are 'the good' that we are going to --to answer our pain!
Your marriage isn't going very well...you know there will always be an endless procession of other human beings out there who are empty and you're empty and you're gonna come together without God! Empty on empty trying to be filled! I won't even say good luck with that, I would just say I hope you fail very very quickly so that your damage is less than failing in a bigger way!
Your sin nature is going to try to find alternatives to the 'good of God.' You're going to turn to something to answer your pain. Whether it's the bottle, whether it's the respect of other people at work, the idolatry of ego. Whatever it is, in these turning point moments, if you turn to anything other than God, you're going to be overwhelmed by evil!
Here's why...when evil comes into our lives it just seems so big. Have you ever felt hopeless in your life? Have you ever felt so utterly alone you don't even know how to go forward? Have you ever been so wounded by somebody's choices and so angry that you just wanted to strike back?
Satan doesn't want us to recognize when we're in a turning point place but that's the first thing you have to do. The move that we have to make is to go to the good of God and to do what Jesus did! He ran into the presence of God! In the face of all of the evil (the murder of His cousin, John the Baptist) He soaked in the presence of God and He was reminded of how infinitely powerful God is and what a great plan God has for the world and how loving the Father is!
He was reminded that human decisions have power for a season but not for eternity! He was reminded of all that God is and all that God was going to do and in the presence of the Father --everything changes!
Guys, this message is so simple but I'm just telling you it's probably one of the most life changing messages I have ever preached or will ever preach and what it means, you will have to go and spend the rest of your life figuring that out -but it will change everything!
You see the turning point strategy of Jesus' life was very very simple: He went to the Father and He soaked in the glory of God!
Just as it's impossible to stay cold on the sun's surface, it is impossible to stay lost, discouraged, depressed, self-defeated, hopeless, angry or wounded in the Father's presence. You cannot be cold on the surface of the sun!
You and I cannot stay wounded, bitter, down, defeated, depressed and unloving! We can't stay hating the person in the mirror, we can't stay in any of those places in the presence of God!
Because in the presence of God is the fullness of joy! In the presence of God there is everlasting love! In the presence of God there is overwhelming goodness! In the presence of God there is ever lasting victory and the only way you and I can live a small, defeated, addicted, broken down sinful life is if we keep our distance from God! -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
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 don't know if some of you know, but we've got a pretty serious and solid purpose here at The Church at Severn Run! It is to reach as many people as possible, by creatively revealing the love of the Father through the life of the Son, in the power of the Spirit! We've heard our pastor say it over and over again, and when I read our mission statement, I got news for you, it looks a whole lot like that group back in Acts chapter 4 doesn't it?
It says this in Acts 4:32, "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had."
There was no relational poverty. There were no lonely people that were involved in this particular group. They were all united in heart and mind and they felt that what they owned, was not their own!
So they shared everything that they had and folks, this was not some political thing, or some government saying 'we are going to take everything that you've got and redistribute it equally among everybody else,' that's not what was happening. These people were 'crazy'--they were literally giving up everything that they had and then redistributing it so that nobody else had need inside of their community - oh my goodness!
One of the most remarkable statements of this chapter is in Acts 4:34, "There were no needy people among them." None! This does not mean that they were all driving around in Mercedes Benz. It means that there were no needs, nobody went without a meal in their community. Nobody was trying to figure out how to make sure the electric got paid in their community--their needs were being met! This was an entire community of 5,000 worshiping together and none of them had a need! That's called crazy-town!
They realized that God had not put them on the planet to acquire 'more stuff' or to build more wealth, they knew that life was about relationship with God and that it was about relationship with others; nothing more, nothing less! The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of Jesus and God's great blessing was upon them all.
They recognized that what Jesus had really been there to do was to change the hearts and minds of every single man, woman, boy and girl. And here's what they did, they got on the road with Jesus, because Jesus' passion was that every man, woman, boy and girl from the time that He was crucified and left planet earth, would never again experience loneliness and the destructive element that this world has to offer!
These were not people that went into a classroom to try and learn as much as they possibly could. These were people that from day one, got out on the road, they followed after Jesus, they ran into as many unbelievers as they possibly could and they met their needs and they shared the Jesus story!
We can finish what they started, don't you believe that church? They are no different than you and I, they were united in heart and mind and they had a solid purpose - like our own! -Pastor John B. Smith