Pouring Out

I love to read, and this time of year, I love to sit outside while I read feeling the warm breeze and looking at the new things springing to life.  I like to read Karen Kingsbury novels and blogs that get dropped into my email each week.  I read magazines about how to parent teens and online articles about faith issues.  Each of these resources plays a part in furthering my knowledge about how to better live the Christian life.  My most important resource, however, is the Word of God as it has the power to change my thoughts and ultimately, my life.  Just like a college student pursuing a degree, I am a student of God’s Word, and I never want to stop learning how to grow in my knowledge of the Lord.

One recent article I came across asserted the following statement:

“The goal is not to be a professional Christian, but to be an authentic one”.

I’ve thought about this statement over and over again, and it has caused me to examine some things in my life.  As I am gaining knowledge and tools for my Christian faith, am I using them in my day to day life?  Am I remembering the verses I’ve read when the frustrations of life come my way?

These frustrations are there for all of us:  the circumstances that do not change, the trying relationships, the job frustrations,  the health challenges, the wayward child or spouse – these are part of our lives.

Since I am a student of the Word, there has to be a purpose in learning it:  I’ve got to let the Word change me.  It does no good if I’ve attended bible study after bible study and I’m not putting into practice the things that I’ve learned.  What good is knowledge if what I’ve learned is never shared with others or displayed in my life?   I recently heard maturity defined as this:

Maturity is not how much you know; it is how much, what you know, changes you.

I want to be changed by God’s word.  I want HIS word in me so that I know it for myself and can retrieve it when the hard times come.   Just being filled up week after week is not beneficial to me or those around me.  I need to be “pouring out” by demonstrating what God is teaching me.

When I think about being an authentic Christian, I have to ask myself:  Do I share my struggles with others or do I pretend that everything is OK?  Do I get “dressed up” on the outside to go to church or bible study each week and then cover up my “stuff”?  OR Am I willing to say that life isn’t really as pretty as it seems on the outside and that I need God?

Sitting in a church pew week in and week out does not guarantee our faith or growth.  We might look like we are “professionals” because we are doing the right things.  But having head knowledge of the faith must become something more.    Somehow, we must ensure that this knowledge of the Bible and of who Jesus is makes its way from our heads to our hearts; from our hearts to our minds; from our minds to our lives.  It won’t always be easy and we will fail sometimes, but that’s part of living the authentic Christian life.

James 1:22    “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (NIV)

Angela Sutsakhan

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Accidents Happen

There I sat at a stop-light in downtown Bethesda. I was heading home after a day of work, singing along to the radio and waiting for the light to change. Suddenly screeeeeee-thump-smash, with the sound of scraping metal, a car swiped along the driver’s side of my vehicle from back bumper to front, ripping my side mirror off in an explosion of glass.

The other car made a left turn and kept right on rolling. I shook off my surprise, channeled my inner Avenger and zoomed after the retreating car, honking like a crazy woman. After a short chase, the other driver pulled to the side of the road. I jumped out of my car and came up to her window and stated what I thought was the obvious, “You just side-swiped my car!” Her response? “Oh, I thought I heard something.”

I was reminded of this experience recently. And I was the offender. No, I didn’t get into an auto-accident but I did side-swipe and dent the heart of one of my Christian sisters.  I had no clue. My wound was not intentional; in fact blindly I skipped away from the scene of the accident. She had shared her heart, I had been insensitive and she was left feeling misunderstood.

She didn’t chase me down and tell me that I had hurt her, but the Holy Spirit did.

It was several days later, I was on my way to serve the Lord and I was praying that He would bless the efforts. I was asking him to examine my heart and see if there was any offensive way within me. Well, don’t ask that question unless you want a very honest answer! The Holy Spirit metaphorically slapped me right upside the head and brought to mind my wounded sister.

This happens, doesn’t it? When iron sharpens iron there are bound to be some nicks and cuts. We are still living in our sin-coated flesh. We can’t be surprised when we injure a fellow believer or when we ourselves are hurt by a brother or sister in Christ but there are some things we can do to minimize the hemorrhaging.

We can ask for forgiveness. It isn’t always easy, coming with hat in hand and admitting we blew it, but we must do it anyway.

When we are hurt, we can run to our Daddy with a capital D, instead of gossiping with others in our Christian circle.

We can, in most cases, trust one another’s hearts. There are some un-safe people even in the church, but if we have walked alongside someone long enough to know their nature, we can usually offer them the benefit of the doubt.

And most importantly, if we are the one with the scraped heart, we can extend grace. I was so grateful to my Christian sister because she accepted my apology instantly.

Accidents happen, and we will sometimes be the hurt-er and other times the hurt-ee.  Yes, accidents indeed will happen, but we who know Jesus are truly in Good Hands.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:32

Cyndi Word

Why Do You Just Stand Here?

“As they watched, he was taken up and disappeared in a cloud. They stood there, staring into the empty sky. Suddenly two men appeared—in white robes! They said, “You Galileans!—why do you just stand here looking up at an empty sky? This very Jesus who was taken up from among you to heaven will come as certainly—and mysteriously—as he left.” Acts 1:10-11                               

Every day on my drive to work I see a sheep farm several miles from my home.  At this time of year there are quite a few lambs who entertain me with their rowdiness in the field, as I sit in traffic outside the fence.  Spring is finally here!

During the Christmas season on this same farm, there is always a stable with a star and a nativity in the field closest to the road.  It makes me smile as I drive by and see the sheep lying in front of the manger scene, much like the picture I have in my mind of that Holy Night long ago.

Now that spring has arrived, the plastic figures are gone but the stable remains.  Most days there are a few sheep lying in it where Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were just a few months earlier.  Recently as I looked over at them I was reminded of the above verses about Jesus’ ascension into heaven.  The sheep appear as though they are just sitting and waiting in the stable until the lit plastic figures return.  It will be a while before December, so in the meantime they are “lying down and doing nothing” every morning as I drive by.

How much are we like those sheep at times?  It may or may not be a while before Jesus comes again.  In the meantime, you and I have been given the life-changing Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit to go with it.  If we have accepted Jesus, the Holy Spirit has come upon us all.  It’s time to get going! We cannot share the powerful message of the love, forgiveness and grace of Jesus if we are standing still, “looking into the sky.” Jesus says when the Holy Spirit comes on us we have power; power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth.  We have a lot of territory to cover, and we need to get moving. Some of the people you and I see every day are so desperate for a Savior.

So, are we going to be like the sheep who are content just sitting idly each day for eight more months ‘til the lit figures return, or are we going to be about the call Jesus has put on our lives, to know Him and make Him known?  Who has God told you to speak to about the Savior of the world?  Who needs to know the grace work He has done in the “empty” places of your life and what He can do in their life as well?

“The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what He did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between Him and me!” Romans 10:8-10 MSG

Donna Bowles

New

I see your stash of band-aids

You keep hidden in a drawer

Locked up, but at the ready

For whenever the burden of your wounds gets too heavy.

But they say the only way for wounds to heal

Is to expose them

So rip off your earthly band-aids,

“let the air get to it”

(and by air I mean the breath of the Holy Spirit)

Because band-aids hold you back

You lose mobility, dexterity, agility,

And even in aesthetics they consistently lack

And in reality

Are they really even doing anything?

But with His love, His mercy, His peace, His grace allowed to enter in,

The skin of your soul is finally able to stitch itself back,

Back to a state where all that is left

Is the faint outline of a memory of what once was.

Even the Risen Christ had scars

Because you can’t erase the past,

But through him you can receive the sort of healing that will last

And when you die,

With these scars He isn’t through,

For in His New Jerusalem

He’s making all things new.

Jessie Madden