Monday, November 24, 2014

Come in, Lord Jesus

Mark 2:13-16 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them.  As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

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Oh, Jesus, I get it. I understand why you wanted to eat with sinners.

I have sat around a table and broken bread with a group of women that our modern world would call sinners. We have laughed and talked and eaten way too much chocolate together. Then after the bread has been broken, we have broken open your word. We have swallowed down your hard truths and your beautiful love and your limitless grace. It has been glorious, an authentic place without the masks we often hide behind. 
And I have had the privilege to spend a moment inside the prison walls in Hagerstown. I was there after a weekend of your missionaries sharing the Good News with these brothers behind bars. I found your church in that place. I was blessed to stand with them and sing loud and off-key of your mercy and forgiveness. I heard them speak, tears streaming down their faces, of the love they never dared hope to find. They spoke of acceptance and the chance for a new beginning. Their souls soared beyond the guard towers and the barbed wire as they spoke of  You.

No wonder you loved to abide with sinners. You saw first-hand what a true encounter with you has the power to do to a wounded soul.
Forgive us Lord, when we forget we are sinners. Woe to us, like the Pharisees, when we deny our absolute need for you. When we measure our sins as small compared to some. Remind us that our righteousness is “as filthy rags” when compared to your holiness.

Help us to be real with each other.  Remind us of your grace and may we grant that grace to each other, for there is no room for judgment around a table of sinners.
Thank you that you still desire to dine with sinners so much that you stand at the door of our hearts and continually knock.

Come in, Lord Jesus, forever and always, come in. Amen.
Cyndi Word

Monday, November 17, 2014

Making An Impact

I lost a dear friend this past week.  She was my mentor, friend, and a great encourager to me; she influenced my life in many ways.  She encouraged me in my faith journey and to be a better mother, wife, friend, and Christ follower. 

When I think of her, many wonderful words come to mind… kind, grateful, so very encouraging, and immensely positive.  She loved her family so much and enjoyed life to the fullest.  She was intentional in the way she lived her life – making her days count.  She said to me on many occasions that she was in Act III of her life and she wanted it to mean something.
Well, she meant a lot to me and to so many others.  I met her almost 9 years ago when I started attending the same church as her.  We met through women’s ministry and I got to know her well when the team began thinking about how to implement a women’s mentoring program.  We were having a hard time figuring out how to get it started since most of us had never had or been a mentor.  I mentioned that I had always wanted one and had even prayed for one.  She called me a few days after that conversation and said, “I think God wants me to be your mentor.  Would you like to start meeting together regularly?”   I was overjoyed and excited to begin this new adventure.   

Over a 2-3 year period, we met regularly.  She had me in her home, usually for a delicious meal.  I remember that she always had cloth napkins; it was one of her ways to make me feel extra special.  The food and hospitality were wonderful, but the most meaningful thing to me was the time we spent talking and praying.        
She made a huge impact on my life because she took in interest in my life.  She made time for me.  She was relational, she asked me questions about my life, and she prayed for me – nothing was off the table to talk about.  She was so encouraging; sometimes we laughed and sometimes we cried.  But I always left her home feeling encouraged to keep going and pursuing my faith and to keep persevering as a wife and mother.  She was so positive and I felt loved and cared for by her.

She touched my life in an amazing way and I am a much better person for having known her and having spent time with her.  She influenced me in many different ways:  She inspired me to be a better friend to others by being a better listener.   She modeled to me the kind of friend I should be.  She made me aware that I need to be intentional with my life, making my days count, using my time to be a light in this world.    
As I looked around the very full room at her memorial service, I thought about how she must have influenced each of them.  People were there to celebrate the woman she was and the very impactful life that she had lived.  I left the service thinking about my own life and about how I’m doing as a wife, mother, and friend.  Do I invite others into my home for a meal?  Do I show them love and make them feel like they are the most important person in the world at that moment?  Do I take the time to really listen to those that God puts in front of me?  Do I make time to pray with them?    

One day it will be our memorial service.  What will others say about us?  Do we live impactful lives?  Do we make our days count?  Do we seek opportunities to be a blessing to someone?  Do we obey when God asks us to serve others?
I’m so glad my sweet friend was obedient to God when He asked her to be a mentor to me.  My life will never be the same because of her influence.  My hope is that I can be that same kind of person to others that she was to me.      

Angela Sutsakhan

Proverbs 10:7 "The memory of the righteous is a blessing". 

Monday, November 10, 2014

Who We Are In Christ

Citizen of Zion

What ‘ere you were before your birth
Is drowned beneath the sea
‘Tis who you are in Jesus Christ
And who you are is free
‘Tis Christ alone, exalted King
Who reigns with God above
His justice satisfied in Him
Who gave Himself in love
Forget the lies the devil tells
He only seeks to steal
The victory we have in Christ
Who crushed him with His heel
Because of Jesus’ sacrifice
Of Zion it will be said
This righteous soul was born in her
The flesh is reckoned dead

Deborah J Claypool
In our Red Hot Faith bible study, we have been studying about how we have to remember what God’s Word says about us in order to combat the lies that the devil tells us.  Satan wants to keep us in bondage to negative thinking and to replay the tapes in our minds that have been playing for years.  Thoughts like you’re not good enough, smart enough, worthy enough, loved enough, etc.   we can fill in the blank with whatever lie is played most in our minds.

Debby’s poem reminds us that it is who we are in Christ that we must focus on.  We are free, we are loved, we are righteous, and we are victorious (among many other things) because of what God has done for us.  We must remember these truths as we go about our lives and stay focused on Scripture.  We may not always feel free, loved, righteous, or victorious, but when we believe God’s Word, it helps us to know it, even if we don’t feel it.  Today, rest in HIS love, HIS peace, and HIS redemption.
II Corinthians 5:17  ...anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Burdened? Not Any More

Have you ever given your burden over to God and then taken it back?  I have many times.  God receives my burdens over and over again, and when I think he isn’t moving fast enough, I am quick to yank back my request and to try and manage it myself.  I have found over and over again that only our Almighty God has shoulders big enough for all of our burdens.  We just need to pocket the fear and trust Him for the peace.

Recently I received some seemingly adverse news from my mammogram.  The radiologist had seen a shadow and needed to take additional films.  Can you relate? 
I was unprepared for what came next.  The technician let me know that the shadow was something and they were sending me up to Frederick for a sonogram.  When the technician brought me the order for the sonogram she laid a hand on my back and said “try to not worry.”  Hmmm, I thought “should I be worried?”

I went up to Frederick, had the sonogram and sure enough there was a small spot, but to me it looked HUGE.  The radiographer suggested a six month follow up but my primary care doctor asked that I meet with the breast surgeon.  The surgeon diagnosed a cyst and had me schedule a needle aspiration.  YIKES, A NEEDLE!
I had been calm and trusting up to the morning of the appointment.  I told everybody that I knew God had the situation in His hands and that whatever the outcome, I knew that He already knew my future and we would just deal with it when the time came.  The closer my husband and I got to the building, the more anxious I got.  As I pulled into the parking space, the tears started to flow.  I was scared…not so much of the pain but of what they might find.  My husband, an engineer, tried to comfort me with engineer speak…”they will numb you up honey…you won’t feel a thing.”  Was the pain my biggest fear?

I was fighting back tears as I walked down the hall to the procedure room with the nurse.  I was struggling to get ahold of my emotions as I waited in the room for the nurse to come and get me for the procedure.  I remembered Matthew 11:28:  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  I called out to God and He did just that—he took the burden of fear pressing on me and gave me the calming peace that He promised.  I went through the procedure pain free with no adverse results and am back to being my old self again.
It is hard to let go of what burdens us and to trust God, mainly because we have to totally rely on our faith.  Hebrews 11:1 says “faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”  We don’t see God toting our burdens, but he faithfully does.  When we honestly give our burdens over to Him, he does exactly what he says he will do and we rest in the Peace that is our Lord Jesus Christ.

Prayer:  Almighty Father, it is through You and You alone that I find my peace.  Help me to always remember that you have the shoulders and strength to carry my burdens.  May I remember always trust You first and learn to not take back what I know you can carry.
Pat Sanders

 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Praise Him

Last week, I had one of “those” mornings – you know- one of “those” mornings when everything seems to go wrong.  We have all had them and wish we could have seen what was coming so that we could avoid them. 

It was the first day of a new teaching job and I thought I was prepared.  I had driven to campus the day before so I knew that it would take 25 minutes to get there.  I had my clothes picked out and pressed.  I had my lesson plans set, all of my papers copied and ready to give out to the students.  Well, the morning didn’t go quite as I expected.

It all started with the morning commute.  I left my house a full 65 minutes ahead of class time which would seem to be plenty of time to get there, park, and arrange my classroom.  The first part of the commute was going along fine, but then I saw it:  lots of brake lights and cars inching along.  There was an accident ahead of me and I still had about 5 miles to go.  I didn’t know any alternate routes since it was a new route to me.  I tried calling my husband to see if he knew another way to get to my destination, but he didn’t pick up.  I started to panic and a few choice words started to come into my mind and out of my mouth.

Finally, I made it to campus with about 10 minutes until the class would start and began to look for parking.  The day before, I had found parking with no problem, so I assumed it would be the same way.  I went to Parking Lot A and found no spaces and then on to B with no success.  Then, I remembered that I could park in a special lot for staff but I needed my name badge to open the gate.  Where had I put that thing?  I finally dug my badge out of my bag and proceeded to swipe my badge to lift the parking gate.  I did it once; it didn’t move.  Then, I did it again and again, but the parking gate didn’t budge.  By this time, there were some impatient drivers behind me waiting to do what I could not.  Thankfully, another employee who had arrived before me took mercy on me and came and swiped her card so that I could get into the parking lot.  I quickly gathered my things and ran to class. 
There were other annoyances that day and that week for that matter.  Sometimes we have “those” days, weeks, or seasons where our best made plans don’t work out.   Our response to those events is what God wants us to be mindful of.    Do we rest in HIS presence or do we start to fall apart at the first hint of trial?  Do we begin to say (or think) words of anger or words of praise?   I wish that I could say that I give God words of praise in the annoying moments of everyday life.  I can’t.  Unfortunately, many times I say (or think) words that aren’t pleasing to HIM. 

I read something recently that has begun to help me see things differently:  “When everything is going great , we should praise Him with everything we have. When everything feels like it's falling apart, we can rest in the knowledge that God is still good and deserves just as much praise!” 
God deserves our praise for what He has already done.  If HE never does another thing for us, HE has already given us the most amazing gifts.  Despite our surrounding circumstances, HE has already paid the price for our sin, given us a purpose, and promised us HE will be with us through every trial we face. Give HIM praise today!  Find something to be thankful for and tell HIM. 

Psalm 51:5  "Lord, open my lips. My mouth shall declare your praise."
Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for all of the blessings that you have given me.  Thank you for life and breath and your amazing creation.  Help me to praise you in the midst of life's annoyances.  I praise you today! Amen.

Angela Sutsakhan

Monday, October 20, 2014

How's Your Fruit?


            “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  Galatians 5:22

     Just the other day I had the opportunity to display all of the above, but instead chose to show not a one.  I became frustrated over a situation at work and reacted in a way that exhibited not even a trace of fruit.   As I responded to an upsetting situation I had no patience, no peace, no goodness, no gentleness, and no self-control.  I stewed alone for five minutes, and then when I saw my three colleagues I let loose all the words I’d been rehearsing in my mind as I waited for them to join me.  Been there, done this?
     It was only after I walked away from everything and felt the unrest inside me that I realized I had to ask for forgiveness for my actions.  I felt I needed to do this immediately, and since I could not leave my area, I took a moment to send all of them an e-mail.  I began the e-mail with, “I need to ask your forgiveness for my outburst.”  I spent a minute wrestling with my reaction not being an outburst, as that sounded so severe.  Then I stared at the computer screen and I felt the Holy Spirit clearly say, “It was an outburst, call it what it was.”  And I did.  Outburst…was it the most comfortable word I’ve ever used to describe my behavior?  No, it was not, but it was definitely the position of humility God desired of me in that apology.

     I often think about the way children throw around the word “sorry.”  When they are asked to apologize for something they have done, “sorry,” in their eyes, is sufficient to cover everything.  They say it and it is over.  First Corinthians 13:11 says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child; I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man (woman), I put childish ways behind me.”  As a woman continually working toward maturity in Christ, I need to ask forgiveness for my sins first of Jesus Who is the most offended by my disobedience, and then of any others I have offended.  A simply “sorry” is not enough.
      How would your family say you are showing love, patience, gentleness, goodness…as you relate to them each day?  Do your co-workers see joy, peace, kindness, self-control…when those difficult situations arise?  Has the Holy Spirit laid on your heart someone who needs to hear, “Forgive me for…”  Humble yourself and just do it!  He receives the glory and you receive His peace and freedom.  The choice is yours.

 Donna Bowles

Monday, October 13, 2014

Factory Reset

I “lost it” a couple of weeks ago.

I got a text from my office manager, telling me of some decisions that would affect my schedule. Changes I didn’t want, changes I didn’t like, changes I decided to get angry over. I felt the heat start somewhere in my midsection and then rise up into my face and head, like an old fashioned thermometer. I started pacing around, my mind racing. Instead of sinking to my knees in prayer, which at this point in my spiritual walk I should know to do, I stalked to the phone.

I called my poor unsuspecting mother and ranted and raved at the injustice I was suffering.  When she tried to insert some calm and reason into my monologue, I abruptly hung up. (If you know my saintly mother, insert a GASP here-my children certainly did when I admitted my bad behavior to them)

I went to bed angry and I think the reason Ephesians 4:26 warns us not to do that is because at about three in the morning, you always awaken to the fact that you acted like a fool.

It was at that hour of the morning that I finally had the conversation with the Lord that I should have had when I received the text from my manager. I admitted to Him that what that text really incited in me was fear. And that in fearing what was happening at work, when I got down to the core of the matter, I didn’t trust Him to take care of me.

Conviction of sin is a beautiful gift from God. It is that nagging sensation that something is not right in your soul and in your relationship with the Lord. It is a warning light on the dashboard of your spirit saying "Stop." I felt convicted of my sin, I admitted I wasn't trusting God's faithfulness and I asked His forgiveness. (Don't worry; I apologized to my mom too!)

The next day I asked God if He ever tires of forgiving me. Does He ever want to say, "Sister, you are wearing me out!" Does He really remove my sins as far as east is from west?

He answered by using my Nook. A Nook is an e-reader by Barnes and Noble and mine had stopped working. I'm sure it was my fault as technology and I have a love/hate relationship. I had somehow snarled my Nook into a knot of electronic death and wasn't sure it would ever recover. I decided to Google the solution and by pressing two buttons simultaneously while holding my breath and jumping on one leg, my Nook came back to life. It then asked me a beautiful question, "Restore to Factory settings?"

And God spoke. He is our Creator, the human heart Factory Foreman. He knows we need Him when we get our lives snarled and twisted and, like the perfect Father that He is, it gives Him pleasure when we bring it to Him to fix.  He does not tire of forgiving us because He knows how we are made.

 Psalm 103:13-14 As a father has compassion on His children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.

So how about you? Any lights blinking on the dashboard of your soul? Bring the problem to your Father; He is faithful to restore the human heart to His factory settings.

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—

who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion,

who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s Psalm 103: 1-5

Cyndi Word