Self-Denying or Self-Indulgent

We live in a world today that is all about the ‘ME.’  TikToks and IG posts are filled with “Top 20 Amazon Finds under $20” and the next “State of the Art Cookware.”  You simply must have the biggest TV to watch the Superbowl, and everyone must know about it.  I’m guilty of telling my husband I want the $1000 cookware that Gordon Ramsay swears by.  (Don’t worry, my husband gives me the same look you’re giving the screen as you read this!) Do I need it?  No.  But it’s so cool and the chefs use it.  It’s alright…you can roll your eyes at me!  We also often see talk of self-care and taking care of our own needs first.

Here, however, is where I out myself and possibly step on some toes in the process.  I can tell you the last time I went out for dinner but I can’t tell you the last time I gave to Missions at my church—at ANY church in the last 3 years.  Ask me about the last time I assisted a homeless person or prayed with one, yet I’ve made sure to cover myself in prayer when I had some shoulder pain.  Let’s look past monetary needs…when’s the last time I stopped myself from speaking negatively to my husband so I could have the last word and instead prayed silently for his relationship with Christ in that moment. I could go on forever.

The point here is, are we living a self-denying lifestyle or are we living a self-indulgent lifestyle?

We see a couple of examples in the Bible of people who chose a self-denying lifestyle.  Daniel declined to participate in the food and drink that King Nebuchadnezzar required of him.  He made a decision that he wouldn’t defile his body in things that God had said “No” to in order to please and honor Him.

We know the Jews told John the Baptist that he must’ve had a demon because he came fasting and refused to drink wine.  He chose to deny himself.  We see Paul talking multiple times about denying ourselves.  In fact, Paul wrote one of the most beautiful verses in Galatians 2:20.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which now I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Are we living like this?  Are we recognizing that the Holy Spirit lives in us as believers and that our lives are not our own anymore?  We were bought with a price.  That price was the blood of the Lamb.  It shouldn’t be asking too much for me to stop indulging this world, instead denying ‘self’ and giving myself to serve God.

I pray that this week we recognize where our indulgences are.  The challenge I’m throwing out there is to begin denying self and start honoring God.

~Erin

Selfish Ambitions

I recently was given an opportunity to attend six college classes related to my museum-related career.  This opportunity includes not only attending the courses but a portion of the coursework would be financed.  It would only cost my family about 50% of the original price.  The coursework would culminate with a Master of Art in Museum Administration degree.  I’d love to do it!

The catch?  I have to apply within the next two weeks, as courses start at the beginning of March. That’s okay…I’d love to do it!

As a lifelong learner, this is right up my alley. I love school and learning.  As a historian, this thrills me to learn more about how to showcase history.  And a discount?  That is the icing on the cake.  For sure…I’d love to do it!

But do I need the extra degree? Should I take the discounted classes, when someone else could possibly utilize the scholarship?  I already have a terminal degree. I’m already employed in museum work.  This degree won’t help me get promoted.  And frankly, without the discount had I even been considering another degree?   Yes, but…I’d love to do it!

More than the career implications, I want to consider what God has to say about ambition.  Was I being selfish in considering my application? 

James 3:14-18 (NIV) states, “But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.   But the wisdom that comes from heaven is, first of all, pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

The two-week deadline is what I initially struggled with.  I wanted time to pray about it and fully analyze the financial and time commitment that it meant for my family.  There’s nothing about selfish ambition that I want to be a part of.  It sounds horrible.  Even in my career, I want my ambitions to be God driven…God approved. 

Rather than jump the gun in selfish ambition, I’ve decided to wait. I’m changing that heartfelt desire to do this coursework to I’d love to do it…when it’s God’s timing for my career and my family’s schedule!

I pray that the Lord unveils any selfish ambitions in your own life!

~Emily

Expecting an Answer

I was reading about the four men who lowered their friend through the roof down to Jesus in Mark 2 this week during church.  It’s the story of the paralyzed man who was healed.  These people brought their friend who couldn’t walk to be healed, and upon getting there, couldn’t get into the room where Jesus was speaking.  Verse 4 tells us that when they couldn’t get through, they went up to the roof, cut a hole in the ceiling and lowered him down to see Jesus.

Mark 2:5 says, “And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

I don’t know how this feels to you, but this whole story screams of courage.  More importantly it took faith, a tremendous amount of faith.  They had an air of expectancy when they walked up to that house.  They didn’t come hoping Jesus would heal their friend.  They EXPECTED that Jesus would heal their friend.  They believed that Jesus being who He is would heal the man.  And in that day, not only did Jesus forgive the man of his sins and heal him spiritually, He told him to pick up his pallet and go home (vs. 11) and healed him physically.

Do we have that same expectancy when we come to Jesus with our petitions?  I know there are times when I wish His answers were as clear as the answer given to the paralyzed man.  But I also recognize that I need to come to Him with an expectation that He WILL answer my petition…in the way that most brings Him the glory. 

I think that coming to him with the expectation that there will be an answer allows me to be content with whatever the answer is.  Think about those 4 friends and Jesus’s immediate answer to the paralyzed man.  The initial answer wasn’t that he could walk.  He DID, however, give him an answer that still healed.

I pray, Iron Porch, that as we come to the throne of God with our petitions, seeking Christ, that we have that same air of expectancy of an answer.  Because the answer He gives will be the right answer for you.

~Erin

Tornadoes of Life

From my sliding glass door, I once watched a tornado form and touch down.  That was in Cheyenne, WY.  It wasn’t until I bought a house with my husband in Alabama that I was actually within a polygon for a tornado watch or warning.  And now…I’ve been in more than I can count.  It wasn’t until we settled into retirement in central Alabama that we found out this area is called “Dixie Alley,” as a parallel to “Tornado Alley” in the mid-west. 

In the last week, countless communities and lives have been impacted by a string of tornadoes that powered through Alabama.  The day of the storms was a tidal wave of emotions.  At first, very little concern over the weather.  Then I rush home to pick up outdoor furniture before deciding to go check my son out of school early.  While waiting in a mile-long line of parents picking up their own children early, we learned that a huge tornado had already touched down in Selma.  And we learned that the same supercell was heading toward the communities around us. 

It was a rare moment where I spontaneously began praying out loud while in line (although it was under my breath and not very “out loud”).  I prayed for protection over our small town that has already endured so many tragedies over the last year, but specifically, I was praying for the communities that had already been hit.  I had full confidence that the Lord heard these prayers.  Why?  Because in John 14:13-14 (ESV) we read, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

Do you want to know what was more touching than my simple prayers in line?  The response to those who were in need.  Within hours, massive clothing and food drives were organized. Teams of chainsaw-welding men patrolled neighborhoods.  Linemen from in and out of state restored power to all the homes of Alabama.  Social media sprung to life trying to connect photographs tossed miles from home to families. 

Why was there such an intense outpouring of love and response in the moments after these tornadoes touched down?  In some cases, it may be out of kindness or because you would hope that someone would do the same for you. 

For the Christian, it may be because Jesus told us to.  In John 15:12-13 (ESV) Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”   Jesus demonstrated an extravagant love for people.  While we can’t literally lay down our lives for others in daily life, we can choose to love extravagantly in smaller ways.  For instance, we can donate to those who need tangible items after losing everything in a natural disaster. 

God told us in Galatians 6:2, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  This means that we do not have to do life alone and that we should be trying to assist one another in burdens and tragedies.  When we see others struggling, we can choose to help with our support, our love, our finances, and any other resources that we may have.  This is a physical outpouring of the love Christ shows us and we in turn can show others.

In the midst of a natural disaster that doesn’t directly impact your home, it’s easy to praise God for sparing you and yours.  However, Hebrews 13:16 reminds us “And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”  This is a practical reminder to continuously look for ways to impact others with blessings.

The tornadoes that ripped through Alabama last week were devastating.  Yet, it’s been refreshing to watch how much love and care is being shown to the families who lost loved ones and those who are having to rebuild their homes and businesses.  The reality is this: we should react this way during a disaster.  But we should also react this way daily…even when it isn’t tragedy. 

I truly pray that we can act this way towards one another during a crisis and during the calm. 

~Emily

What is the Goal?

Have you ever thought about how easy it is to live in this world?  I’m talking from a Biblical viewpoint.  Because Satan’s domain is the earth and we have free will, our human nature automatically wants to jump to the easy things, the selfish things, the busy things, and the “fun” things.  Satan and his demons make the world look so enticing.  They also make things other than God seem like a priority.

I’ve thought about this a lot lately, especially in light of the message Pastor Trey preached on Sunday.  He was reading from 2 Peter 1:3-8, and he touched on the fact that godliness is our goal.  He certainly wasn’t saying we are in some way little gods.  But, per scripture, we are meant to live a godly life always pursuing righteousness.  By consistently pursuing righteousness, we gain greater Christian/Biblical perspective that enhance our relationship with Him and keep us from being ineffective in our work for the Lord.

He tells us in Romans 12:2 not to be conformed to the world.  We instead are to be transformed by the renewal of our mind (on Christ) so that we can know what the will of God is.  When we live IN the world, we lose sight of what our goals are in Christ.  We forget that faith is key.  Goodness is key.  Perseverance is key.  Self-control is key.  The list goes in. 

And lest I fool myself into thinking this doesn’t apply to me because I read my bible every day and write a blog, I remind myself of the times I was too busy to honor Him in reading the Word.  I remind myself of the times I could’ve volunteered at the local food pantry and instead chose to sleep in on Saturday morning.  I remind myself of the times I read the Bible and then got on the phone with a friend and said mean things about a co-worker.

It applies to all of us.  Our focus should always be on God.  With that comes remembering that we are not to be in the world.  When we remember that our pursuit should be on godliness, we can drown out our own sinful will and pursue one goal…our Heavenly Father.

~Erin

Become Forgettable

In the New Testament, there are five mentions of a man that you may be unfamiliar with.  I wasn’t familiar with him.  Honestly, I had read his name often but did not recognize his significance.  He’s mentioned in Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:12, and Titus 3:12. 

His name was Tychicus. 

And he’s quite forgettable within all the narrative of the New Testament. 

He appears near the end of Paul’s mission work in Ephesus.  He had been selected to deliver several letters for Paul.  He was with the former runaway slave, Onesimus, when he converted and went to Colossae.  Could he have witnessed the riots that started with Demetrious the silversmith whose business was impacted by Paul’s sermons on idol worship? Possible. Could he have been Paul’s scribe for some of the letters in the New Testament?  Possible.  Could he have been trusted to deliver more letters than we know? Also, possible. 

Throughout the second half of Paul’s ministry, Tychicus was likely present for nearly every significant event.  Yet, he was in the background.  He became forgettable.

We live in a society that demands we are remembered.  Social media imprints, how we dress, High School reunions, our speeches and volunteer work, board meetings, medals and decorations with a few promotions thrown in…all ways where we strive to be remembered.  We are seeing the creation of “mini-celebrities” in an effort for all of us to be remembered in some capacity.

Even within the church. 

Some leadership structures allow Pastors to have celebrity status.  Others create titles for ministry leaders that lead to elevation of status.  Social media platforms embellish ministry work or community impacts.  Slowly, we become enamored with our own voice and status and forget about the voice of the One we should be most reliant on. 

Yet, the church needs more servants like Tychicus.  Ones who want the Gospel known but don’t care if they ever are.  The ones who do seemingly tedious work in order to advance the Kingdom, but aren’t seeking their own recognition.

This week I’ll be praying that each of us can be more like Tychicus…that we become forgettable.

~Emily

Fearing Persecution

I live in Bible country.  You’ll find a large majority of people in my area who go to church regularly, memorized scripture as far back as they can remember, or who talk about Jesus without a second thought.  Around here, it’s pretty easy to speak about God or tell someone that you’re praying for them.

But what about in other areas?  What about in the places you aren’t familiar with?  What about the bigger cities or businesses you frequent?  What about your jobsite?  Would you have the same confidence that the people you are surrounded by are unfazed or irritated that you would bring up Jesus?

We see more and more these days, Christians having to defend what they say and how they believe.  Often, we’ll hold our tongues in certain situations because we aren’t familiar with the surrounding audience.

But friends, we’re told that persecution and trials will happen!  We know that some will mock us for our beliefs.  You may receive harassment for your feelings on sensitive topics.  Dare I say some of us could lose friends for standing on the Rock of our Salvation.   The Bible tells us those who willingly accept it are blessed for going through it! 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” –James 1:2-4

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests on you.” –1 Peter 4:14

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:10

We should be proud of the fact that our home is in heaven!  I saw a wonderful testament to this just this week.

Most of you have seen the NFL football game on Monday that resulted in the Buffalo Bills’ player, Damar Hamlin, going into cardiac arrest.  As they worked on him at the 50-yard-line, people were stunned, crowds quiet, many of the players and crew taking a knee as they waited to see if he would be ok. 

The following morning during a broadcast, Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN commentator, was speaking about what happened to Damar. 

Now hear me when I say, I know nothing about this man.  I’ve only read he’s an “outspoken Christian.”  I don’t know what his faith-walk looks like and I don’t know what skeletons are in his closet.  What I do know is that he courageously said on national TV that even though he didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, he wanted to pray for him right then with eyes closed and head bowed.  And he did. 

That.  Takes.  Guts.

Would we do the same?

I’m encouraged, Iron Porch!  Those that know me, know that I would talk to a door if it would talk back.  However, I want to be so fearless that I would stand WHEREVER and proclaim that I will pray to our Jehovah-Rapha, The God who Heals.  I want to be unashamed to talk to anyone about Jesus without fear of persecution because I know that persecution brings glory to our Father.

I’m asking you, dear friends…let’s stand strong in our faith, proclaiming to all the goodness and mercy of God that everyone might know who He is!

~Erin

Roman gods and the Changing of the Calendar

Time for a history lesson.

Did you know that the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus.  Janus was a god with two faces.  One face is filled with sadness and seems to look backwards.  The other face is filled with hope as it looks forward.  It becomes the two faces of the New Year…one that looks back at the previous year and one that looks forward to the new year. 

At what point in the year does that hope-filled face realize that it’s the sad face of despair again?  For me a couple weeks into January, I realize any concept of resolutions aren’t important and/or aren’t going to come into fruition.  Perhaps the hope filled face starts to slip a bit by the end of the first month of the year.

As believers, we can be assured that our hope doesn’t have to tie to the flipping of the calendar page to indicate a New Year.  Our God is the same “yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  God is over our past, our present and our future. He’s not just there on the 31st of December as we make promises to ourselves about how much better the next year will be.

And if that’s true, well then…it doesn’t matter what the date is on the calendar.  It truly doesn’t matter which way the face is turned…the reality is that there is hope in our face of happiness and sadness.  It’s the hope of a future with Jesus. 

One of the greatest promises we can read in the Bible is when God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. This promise stands year-round, year after year.

Read that again…a promise that stands year-round.  Every year.

Our God is an awesome God who provides for us through trials and tribulations.  And He provides for us through triumph and victory.  It does not matter what we are going through, He will be with us. It does not matter if we are happy or sad, He will be with us.  It simply does not matter what season of life we are in, He will be with us.


There’s no need for us to subscribe to the Roman god’s concept of having two faces for our year…we have the one true God to rely on.  I pray you know this now and every day of 2023. 

Happy New Year!

~Emily

The New Year

With a new year comes fresh starts.  Sometimes, it means setting resolutions or goals for yourself.  To others, it means looking to a Word of the Year.  Still, to some it just means another year down, another to go.  It’s something different for everyone.

Usually, I figure out a word of the year.  While I haven’t figured out what my word is, I do feel there is a shift in the air for me in 2023.  It’s been subtle, sneaking up on me.  Today, I feel like it’s practically attacking!

For many of us, change can be scary.  It can be alarming.  We’re comfortable with the norm and we don’t need to see something new.  It can sometimes feel overwhelming.  However, the subtle changes or dramatic beginnings often bring with it a fresh perspective and a new outlook.

For those who find what’s to come in the new year challenging or frightening, let me give you two verses that I’ve been reciting to myself these last couple of days.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28 (NASB)

“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.” –Psalm 56:3 (KJV)

I don’t quite know what 2023 holds for me yet.   I know there’s new circumstances that I’ll be navigating.  God assures me, though, that He can be trusted as I walk through it.  I’m certain that through Him, I can navigate 2023 with grace and understanding and with a steady walk because He walks it with me.

Praise the Lord for a God who already knows what next year holds!

Friends, are you excited or nervous about something that is going to happen in 2023?  Share with us in the comments!

~Erin

Word of God vs Word of the Year

In recent years it’s become trendy to assume a word that you will use to focus on during the coming year.  A modified New Year’s Resolution, if you will. 

Choose the word travel…and then plan more trips, read travel books, and travel more.

Adopt the word grace…and then practice extending grace to yourself and others.

Pick the word change…and then make the changes in your life you are striving towards.

It’s not a trend I’ve followed for myself, although I have seen it work well for some of my friends.  Those who know me best, know that I’m very goal oriented and find great joy in accomplishing new adventures.  So frankly…I struggle with selecting just one word for the New Year.  I want masses of words that I can form together for tangible accomplishments. 

Except now I find myself praying about making an exception.  In the next year, I want to focus on the word “Word.”  As in God’s Word.  I want to really concentrate on daily Bible Study, on memorization techniques, and on having His Word dwell in my heart.

Psalm 119:9-16 tells us that keeping God close to our hearts, spirit, and mind requires keeping our eyes on Jesus so that we can dwell in the presence of the Lord.  In order to keep those eyes focused on the goal, I need to be in the Word. 

What are the benefits of being in God’s Word?

Strengthened walk with Jesus

Forgiveness for sin & actively seeking to repent

Guarding against the enemy

Understanding of context and God’s intent

Sustainment against the stress of life

That’s a lot of words and it’s not even a dent in the reasons why we should want to be more fervently studying the Bible.  Even now, as I attempt to focus on one word…”Word”…I’m unable. I start finding all the words that support being more active in the Word.   

I’m back at square one.  Not picking a singular word for the year, but rather praying that I can focus on the Word. 

Whether you pick one word or draft a lengthy goal, my prayer for you, sweet reader, is that you will find the study of the Bible included in the next year.

Happy New Year!

~Emily