Last week I got to chat with a Colorado police officer after seeing his swirling blue lights in my rear-view mirror. He clocked me going 50mph in a 35. The worst part? I could see the 65mph sign just a little further down the road.
I could blame the rental car company because they set ‘set me up’ with a 2022 cherry red Ford Mustang. I could blame this little Colorado town because it felt like a speed trap. I could even blame the police department, since it was the end of the month and I’m wondering if quotas were being made.
The reality was I was in the wrong. I was speeding. It was me. Not the car and certainly not the rental agency, the speed trap, or a potential quota.
It’s easy to blame someone else when we’re in the wrong with a traffic infraction. The same is true with sin. We can justify sinful behavior in ourselves, when in reality we’re really in the wrong.
In the speeding ticket scenario, I was wrong…and likely I deserve way more speeding tickets than I actually receive. Why? Because I’m not caught by a cop every time I speed.
Yet, God sees every sin. Every day. And the reality is that we are essentially “caught” each time.
Isaiah 1:1-8 tells us about how God sees the persistence of sinful people rebelling against Him. The Bible also discusses how God acknowledges that we are a broken people who may be generally good at heart, but must be rejected because of our sinful nature. Several chapters to the right we find that the New Testament offers us salvation through Christ on the cross. Our sinful nature should get us immediately rejected. Instead it is forgiven when we accept Jesus as our Savior.
Sin is sin to our Father. But sin is forgiven by the act of Christ’s crucifixion and our acceptance of that gift.
While we deserve the flashing lights and issued ticket for each and every one of our sins, God has provided a path towards salvation through grace to cover each of those infractions.
I had my grandsons this last week for five days. I love them. They are amazing! Andros is 4 and Kalan is 2, and they are sincerely so smart and funny! But they WORE. ME. OUT. Especially Kalan! I didn’t realize just how much they are always on the go until I watched Kalan run in circles around the island of our kitchen for almost 23 minutes. And I’m not exaggerating; it was hysterical! He would take a turn around, go past our dog, Ruger, say ‘Scuse me’ and keep going around and around.
I don’t know where he has the energy. However, the one thing I noticed because he’s non-stop is that my patience would start to wear thin. He wasn’t doing anything wrong, but when a child that’s so focused wasn’t paying attention to what I was saying, I would start to get irritated trying to rein him in.
Thank goodness for a God who is patient with us! Over and over in the bible, it says that He is slow to anger, gracious, and loving. And that’s even after we run around and do what we want to do without paying attention to His words and commands!
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;” –Exodus 34:6
“But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindess and truth.” –Psalm 86:15
“’And rend your heart and not your garments.’” Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindess and relenting of evil.” –Joel 2:13
“who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.” –1 Peter 3:20
Even when the Lord was waiting for repentance from the people in the days of Noah, or when the Israelites were complaining in the wilderness, and when Jonah ran and hid (unsuccessfully), He had patience and gave time for them to repent and to turn back to Him! He did not just immediately get mad and cut them off. He gave us opportunity to walk our way back to Him and His ways.
I thank God for the patience that He has for us! I’m thankful that He’s not like us where we can fall so quickly to irritation and getting upset. I pray that this week we can see the patience of God in His love for us and model that towards those around us.
On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment. I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted. It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured.
We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted. Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured. Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives. For forever.
Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units. It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.
The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning. Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones. In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.
It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss. In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad. But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him. The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.
The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him. It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness. The road to rejoicing is often through mourning. When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.
Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors. As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I was thinking about prayer a lot today. Tomorrow, Peyton turns 18, and I’ve prayed with her every morning before school (whether she wanted to or not). I’ve prayed for her when she’s hurting. I’ve prayed for her when she’s had victories. And now, my prayer changes ever so slightly as she ventures into the realm of ‘adulthood.’
Prayers in general tends to be a hot topic. We were talking about it a few weeks ago during Table 8’s weekly Bible study. The discussion of what constitutes a good prayer and how often we don’t take things to God for ourselves because it feels selfish or trivial was on the table.
I was thinking about that later that night. I don’t believe it’s wrong to pray for something that you want. Clearly in the Bible, there are passages that tell us that we are tell God what we want.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” –Philippians 4:6
“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” –James 1:6
There are even great examples of people who prayed for things that they wanted. Paul asked the Lord to remove the thorn is his flesh three separate times and God denied the request. He told Paul that His grace was sufficient and to find strength in his weakness (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Hannah prayed for a baby, and she was finally made pregnant with baby Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11). Jesus Himself prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane for God to take the cup from Him before He was tortured and ultimately killed (Mark 14:36).
The important thing to remember when we are seeking God in prayer for things that we want, is to recognize and allow for the answer that God gives. The answer from God will be His will, not necessarily ours. While we may be thankful for the response that He gives us to a request for some things, we may not like the answer on others.
We must also understand that if God’s answer is the opposite of what we want or desire in an answer, we are not to take over and ‘make it happen.’ I’ve been guilty of this so many times in my life. I think I know the answer, God is clearly closing the door, and I still manufacture the outcome, because I’m pretty sure I know better than God…how ridiculous does that sound?!
I pray, dear friends, that as you seek the Lord this week that you share with Him what you want. Nothing is too trivial for God to hear. He desires for you to bring it to Him. Then wait for His answer and trust the outcome. His way is always the right way!
Recently our family added one of those manual push mowers that are reminiscent of the 1950s. My husband wanted it to mow the steep bank near the road. I wanted it to mow without an engine near the beehives. While I calmly pushed the mower back and forth in straight lines by the hives, I watched the bees flitter to and fro.
While doing a seemingly menial task, I had several moments to mentally review a scripture that my small group has been memorizing as a group this last month.
Philippians 2:14-15 (NASB) “Do all things without complaining or arguments; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generations, among who you appear as lights of the world.”
I recited it a couple times, but I kept getting distracted by the rolls of sweat that were coming off my face and straight into my eyes. I blinked several times and then started reviewing the scripture again. Only to have it happen several more times.
Finally, I stopped mowing, took off the bee suit hat and face shield, removed my glasses and started wiping my face off. Put my glasses back on and they instantly fogged up. Put the bees hat/face shield back on. Sweaty hair stuck to my forehead and glasses. Take hood off, fix hair, glasses smudged…and then…sweat rolls into my eyes.
Insert frustration, some real tears, and a few choice words.
And then a bubble of laughter came out of my mouth. There I was half in a bee suit in 100-degree heat of Alabama, with a 1950s-ish mower, and sweat stinging my eyeballs, when the first part of my memory verse came to mind. “Do all things without complaining or arguments…”
While the verse is specifically addressing the previous admonitions that Paul had mentioned in the Philippians letter, it sure did feel like it applied directly to me in that moment. All the murmurings…all the discontentment…all the complaining in that moment were not useful. They weren’t assisting me with completing the task, nor were they going to exemplify Christ in that moment.
I’m so grateful for the corrections that God’s holy word provides us; the conviction from the Holy Spirit for us to change course.
It got me to reassess my own attitude in the moment of “lawn mowing time” with some heat, humidity, sweat and tears all mixed together.
For each of us, I pray this next week will be one without complaining or argument.
From the time my children were little, they were taught gun safety. They are aware of the ways in which to handle and carry a gun. They know how to load and shoot guns, as well. It was important as their parent for Chris to teach them how to use and take care of guns responsibly.
While I don’t believe in a “zombie apocalypse,” it HAS been the running joke for years that we need to have protection, know how to defend ourselves in the event of an attack and what an arsenal would look like in a situation like that.
This makes me think of our own personal Biblical arsenal. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit. It is the part of the Armor of God that allows protection against the devil’s schemes and attacks against us. It is to be used at all times! A biblical arsenal can be a book of scripture or your actual Bible that you have with you. Maybe you have a notebook that you’ve written some verses down in or a Bible study book that you keep handy.
Many verses in the Bible speak to knowing scripture and having scripture handy as a necessity.
“This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.” –Joshua 1:8
“I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.” –Psalm 119:11
“The Law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” –Psalm 37:31
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” –Colossians 3:16
I know that I write a LOT about knowing scripture. I do this twofold.
The first, because I know how important it is to have a Biblical arsenal handy in times of struggle, attacks, and trials. I can’t stress enough how calming it feels when a verse that you’ve memorized or read dozens of times pops into your head courtesy of the Holy Spirit during a time of need. It’s comforting. It feels like confidence. It feels as if you’re not alone. It also opens up the opportunity to take a moment to pray and thank God for the arsenal He’s given.
The second, because I need the reminder even now. And I know I’m not the only one that needs this reminder. It’s work to look up and learn verses. But it’s work that isn’t regretted.
When you are struggling to find joy in your day and the Holy Spirit lays on your heart Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” it allows for a moment to reflect and give praise to our Father. It allows a change of direction in our attitude. When we feel the attack of the devil, perhaps one of the verses you’ve got in your arsenal is “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only,’” Matthew 4:10, the words of Jesus to Satan.
If you’re not great at memorizing, I’d like to suggest something that has worked for me for years. I’ve carried with me 3×5 spiral-bound notecards. I found it in Walmart and started writing verses in it that were important to me. There are verses about salvation and verses about God’s love. There are verses like the previous ones mentioned. There’s verses in it about prayer. They are simply my own hand-written biblical arsenal that I can carry to help me through at a moment’s notice.
I encourage you to put together your own arsenal! Let us know in the comments below what your biblical arsenal looks like!
Now that school is out for the summer, I feel like I can share a conversation that I had with one of my son’s teachers this last year. The students were studying space; galaxies, planets, stars, and specifically the history of constellations and how to identify different constellations. While in that section, the teacher taught of the constellations affiliated with what is commonly known as the zodiac signs.
I was 100% behind the lessons to this point.
Once they learned about the constellations associated with the zodiac, they were introduced to horoscopes. One step further; they were tasked with looking up their birthday, figuring out their zodiac sign, reading the personality traits associated with that zodiac, and then determining if they were aligned with their zodiac sign.
My son came home that day and pretty innocently mentioned this activity that they’d conducted in class. I must admit, I nearly lost my mind. I asked dozens of questions to the point that Kambell became alarmed that something was clearly not right. I contacted the teacher for further clarification. I expressed my displeasure that Kambell was introduced to something that I believe is pagan and against scripture.
She responded that it was “just a fun way for them to learn about the constellations.”
Ummm. No, no it’s not “just a fun way…” for them to learn anything except the ways of the world and a path that Satan would love to have them on. One that takes this kids away from God, not closer to God. 1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.”
It only takes one introduction to something pagan…one careless thought…one glimpse at a worldly concept…one misstep, which can lead to something so much more sinister.
Please know that I’m very pleased with the public-school education that my child is receiving and I’ve fallen in love with our school district and the teachers dedicated to assisting with raising future productive citizens of our Nation.
Please also know that I recognize that I’m a tad hyper-sensitive to pagan activities, due to having being a practicing Wiccan for seven years.
As a result, please know that I fully understand that some think I’m taking it too far to be upset about my 5th grader learning about horoscopes.
Those some who think I’m taking it too far…they won’t be in front of God one day justifying how they raised this child. They will be accountable for their own actions and behaviors. As for me, I don’t want to explain to God why I made decisions (or allowed others around my child) to decide to introduce him to less-than-Godly behaviors. Scripture shows us in 2 Corinthians and Romans that we will each be accountable.
“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.” ~2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)
“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” ~Romans 14:12 (NASB)
When someone says “it’s just for fun,” but you still have unrest about the scenario in your heart, you should listen. That is often the nudge of the Holy Spirit for you to further analyze and pray about the situation. Remember also, you stand before the judgment seat by yourself. Are you comfortable reporting to God regarding your behaviors, thoughts, and actions?
Finally, remember that what is fun for some is likely folly for others.
I hiked last week. A lot. Emily is training towards a monumental goal in a couple of years, and so on occasion I’ll go on hikes with her. And what I really mean is, we were on vacation and I had nothing better to do, so I let her take me all over northern Georgia area and got sweaty.
Now, anyone that knows me knows that I’m not shy, never have been and I never will be. And on this particular day, she had picked a hike that was actually part of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Because I know her goal, I make it my mission in life to talk to anyone that looks like a “serious” hiker. If you don’t know what a serious hiker looks like, they have a pack that looks too heavy (even though it’s usually not), a bedroll or tent attached to make the pack look even bigger, filters or Life Straws in water bottles, great hiking boots, hair maybe a little messy, you get what I’m throwing down.
It was a great hike orchestrated by Emily. However, there was a moment that God orchestrated that day that we simply would never have imagined on our own—a moment that you know was simply the hand of our Maker.
We walked around two miles of this particular stretch called Hog Pen Gap and were headed back to where we came from. The group got separated and Chris and I ended up bringing up the rear at about 5-10 minutes behind Emily. As we were walking, we passed a woman who looked like one of those serious hikers. We exchanged hellos, but as she passed us, she stopped, turned around, and inquired about whether there was a water source ahead going in her direction.
That led to a small conversation with her. She was, in fact, one of those serious hikers! She explained she was “couch-to-trail” meaning no training. She just got up one day, decided she wanted to hike the AT, made a few plans, put some stuff together and hit the trail! She then explained that she was hiking by herself and that one of the hardest parts of hiking that way was the loneliness that sets in. She said in one stretch, she went four days without seeing another soul! As she spoke, I felt the Holy Spirit nudging. I wanted her to know that she wasn’t alone.
I asked her for her name. She said “Rochelle.” I said to her, “Rochelle, I don’t know if you’re a believer, but I am, and I’m going to be praying for you on this journey. I want you to know that you have people everywhere rooting for you. And I’ll be praying that you won’t feel alone.” She replied she was and thanked me. Before we left, I told her Emily was right up the trail and I was going to tell her about Rochelle, too. I told her I was going to have Emily look her up on the Appalachian Trail FB groups to find her and we would be rooting for her and praying for her! And then we went our separate ways.
When I got back to the car and told Emily, she knew exactly who I was talking about! She’d seen her on the trail, but hadn’t really had a chance to talk. And wouldn’t you know, that going off of only her first name and a guess of the way it was spelled, we found her on FB among dozens of Rochelle’s in about five minutes later that day! We were able to connect with her, shoot her a word of encouragement and keep up with her journey! God knew exactly what He wanted when He planned that moment.
You see, maybe that moment was meant for Rochelle. Maybe God wanted her to hear from another sister in Christ that she wasn’t alone and to be encouraged. But I think that moment was just as much for me.
While I’m no stranger to strangers, it still takes courage to talk about God to people. I constantly have to exercise that commandment, and it means sometimes I have to open the conversation and be willing to be vulnerable. In today’s culture, while we don’t have it as bad as the apostles did with persecution and stoning, we still have to be prepared for rude remarks, demeaning comments, and ridicule. It can be nerve-wracking!
The bigger lesson, however, to me was a reminder that even when we feel alone, we are never really alone.
I’ve been walking through some very rough waters these last few months. Just read a few of my blogs since March, and you’ll understand my need to completely rely on God. I know there are many people around me that are doing and feeling the same. It can feel lonely and discouraging, wishing the heartache would just stop. We want God’s miracle and we want it now because the feeling of being alone in the storm feels so heavy.
Because of that moment with Rochelle, I was reminded of a verse in the Bible that I can hold on to in those moments, Isaiah 41:10.
“Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not be afraid, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, I will also help you,
I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
We do not have to feel alone. Our greatest strength, our Heavenly Father, is with us as we navigate through sickness, mental health, and despair. He hasn’t left our side as we struggle through marital problems and job worries. And He even walks with us when we’re alone on the Appalachian Trail. Even when we feel the heaviness, we can be assured that He will carry the burden and that He will uphold us. We never have to do it alone.
I pray, Iron Porch, that each of us always feel His presence in our moments of loneliness.
I miss living in Germany. I loved everything about it while I was there for two years…from the food to the people to the ease of travel to the crazy driving…even the obsession with Christmas markets and ornaments. I loved it all.
I didn’t recognize just how much I missed it until this last week, when we were on summer vacation in Helen, Georgia which is modeled after a little Bavarian town. This town has it all…the cool temps, the lazy tubing river, the schnitzel, the German bakery…even the spaghetti ice cream.
It’s interesting how you don’t know you miss something until there is a memory jogger. If you think about it, I’m sure there’s a song or a scent that takes you to another place. Perhaps the song takes you back to your first dance. A smell has you reminiscing about Grandma’s kitchen.
It makes me wonder if these experiences happened to people in scripture. Was there a moment after Jesus’ death, where Mary was preparing his favorite meal and it made her miss him more than normal? Did Paul ever pass a well and think about his boyhood well in Tarsus? If Peter passed a fishing net, did the smell take him back to his time as a fisherman?
Did the disciples miss Jesus after His death?
In Luke 24:44 (NASB) scripture reads, “Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all the things that are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
This offers an assurance that all prophesies about Jesus will be fulfilled. And if that is true, then it is also true that God has provided us with a means to be continuously surrounded by aspects of the Trinity. Jesus’ departure from the Earth enabled Jesus, as the Son of God, to no longer be subject to time, but rather embody the full power and authority of God in Heaven.
As promised, Jesus is available to all of us for guidance, for prayerful conversation, for forgiveness, and for grace. Most of all, He is available as the Savior to those who believe.
Did the disciples miss Jesus after his ascension into heaven? From a human perspective, I’m sure the answer is yes. Mostly because the face-to-face immediate responses were gone. However, God’s fulfillment of the Holy Spirit allows for continued relationship. Perhaps, the promise of God’s continued presence in a believer’s life mutes that emotion of missing the physical Jesus.
Missing Jesus in our lives isn’t as simple as missing Grandma’s cooking or the experiences living in another country. It can’t be replicated by something similar, like going to a small mountain town.
In this instance, you need the real deal relationship with Jesus to fulfill the emotion of “missing.”
If you are missing Jesus in your life, please come to the porch and let us know…we’d love to tell you how to become a believer!
On Memorial Day this year, I joined several other people at the gym I attend and we completed the Murph WOD. This particular workout is in honor of a serviceman who gave his life for our country. It is difficult. It consists of a 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 pushups, 300 squats, and another 1 mile run.
Seeing as how I can barely get myself to a regular workout, I had prepared myself for only doing part of it. However, somewhere towards the end, I was challenged by Emily to just finish it out. And we did…together! It was a big accomplishment to me.
When I went home to tell my husband, I explained to him about how I had modified some of the exercises (because I’m certainly not strong enough to do 200 straight pushups). But when I really started to think about how much work I had done, I thought, “why am I minimizing my accomplishment just because it doesn’t look exactly like everyone else’s?” Modifications are meant to be for those who want to do it but may not be capable of doing it the ‘standard’ way! I should be proud and I don’t need to explain to someone how I had to make some changes to make it work for me.
I think about how this compares in memorizing scripture. We work on memorizing a verse. We repeat it over and over again, but we still need to see a word to get the rest of it out. Maybe we have to sing it because that’s how we’ve been taught to memorize. You could have to record your own voice, reading the verse and then listening to it! I’ve seen multiple ways of learning something. I’ve also seen where it just simply takes someone longer to memorize than others. We see it as a weakness, something we have to explain away because it’s not the way everyone else does it.
I encourage you, dear friends, be proud of the studying and growing you are doing with the scripture memory. Learning the Word of God is not a one size fits all. What helps one may not help the other. What matters is that you have committed to hiding God’s Word in your heart. You have a desire to grow closer to God and understand what He says. That is key to maturing your walk with Him!
Tell us in the comments below your best study method for memorizing scripture, and let us know which verse you’ve memorized! And if you have memorized one yet, let us know in the comments which one you’d love to start with. You’ll never regret it!
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not see against Thee.” –Psalm 119:11