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!
My heart hurts right now for the people who are celebrating Christmas during a tough time. I’m thinking about the family that’s saying an earthly goodbye to a mom. I think about the parents holding their son’s hand as he fights for his life in a hospital room. I think about the mom who’s spending her first Christmas without her son and the widow who’s now alone at Christmas.
How do you comfort someone on what feels like a joyous time of year when the human struggle inside reminds them of the pain and/or worry they feel? What do you say that doesn’t sound insincere or inadequate?
I’ve been struggling this week to find the balance for my blog post because of this. I wanted to write to you, Iron Porch, and talk about what the spirit of Christmas means. But when I sit down to write, I keep coming back to people who are suffering during Christmas and how much it just might hurt to see everyone so joyful and happy when the days, to you, seem to drag out or maybe even in the opposite direction, are going too quickly. I guess this is my attempt to find the balance…
Humanity messed up the idea of a sinless life. Because of that, God knew we needed a Savior. And He went big. It was foretold in Isaiah 9:6 (NASB), “For a Child will be born to us, a Son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
God knew we needed a sacrifice to cover our sins, a truly spotless Lamb. So He sent His perfect Son. It was the gift of all gifts. A gift we didn’t deserve. A gift we still don’t. And yet He so loved us that He sent Jesus down to earth to become that sacrifice. Jesus gives us perfect answers even when we don’t understand. He is just and merciful at the same time. His love as a Father far surpasses that of any human father, and He will bring peace to this Earth once again.
Joseph was told in a dream what was happening. “She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” –Matthew 1:21 (NASB)
He will save His people. God sent His Son for you. We celebrate Christmas because the Son of Man came into this world as a babe lying in a dirty manger, grew up, died on the cross, and rose again so that we could accept the free gift of salvation as believers.
Being believers, we know that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. Jesus called Him the Comforter (KJV). So here’s what I would say to the people I’m thinking about this week…
Because He dwells in us, He’s right there with you while you grieve. He’s there as you celebrate. He’s there as you mourn. He will not abandon you. He will sustain you.
I’m praying for these families as I go through this week and celebrate the birth of Jesus. I ask you to join me in prayer for them, as well, and for all families that may be going through a difficult Christmas season.
I’m going to tell you a secret…I’m not great at cleaning my house. Hahaha! Just kidding; that’s not a secret. That’s common knowledge!
My least favorite thing about the holiday season is making sure all of the nooks and crannies are sparkling. You know what I’m talking about. You want to make sure that when your guests come in your home, your mirrors are sparkling, the floors are freshly mopped, and the sheets in the spare bedroom are crisp and clean. You wash away the dirt and grime and make sure it’s refreshed. It’s nice to know that you’ve worked hard at cleaning your home!
It should be the same with ourselves. God reminds us of that in I Corinthians 6:19.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?
I think it’s easy for us to forget that what we ingest physically and spiritually affects how clean our temple is. It could be the shows that we watch; are they pleasing to God? Maybe it’s the books that we’re reading. Is the material something that edifies the body? How about the company we keep? Are these people bringing fellowship as a believer or are we finding ourselves turning in the other direction? Perhaps we’re missing church. We starve ourselves of spiritual meat and a body of believers. I could go on.
When we recognize that something or someone is preventing or stunting our maturity in a relationship with God, we should be correcting or purging it. I have to do this often. As I read the Bible more and study scripture, I start asking myself if what I’m currently engaged in is glorifying God.
Let me give you an example. For me, it started with TV. For the last two years, when my husband and I have turned on shows that we’ve always watched, I’ve found myself cringing at the sex scene or the use of foul language that had never bothered me before. When I recognized that it was making me uncomfortable, I started praying about what I was watching. Now, seasons of shows are left unwatched because I want the temple as clean as it can be.
Cussing is next. Growing up, in junior high and high school I cursed like a sailor (sorry, Mom!). And then there were a great many years when I never cussed. As I’ve gotten older, I got lax. Now, I’m praying that the Holy Spirit would guard my tongue. If I wouldn’t say it front of God, I don’t want to say it. I’m pretty sure God’s not calling someone the “B” word from His throne, so what makes it ok today? It’s a work in progress for me, and I find myself asking for forgiveness often. But I want the temple clean.
Does it mean we have to be perfect? Of course not! The only man that walked this earth to lead a sinless life was Jesus. But He does tell us in His Word over and over again to do what is pleasing unto the Lord. While pleasing according to world’s standards looks vastly different than God’s, I want to choose to honor Him every time!
This week, let’s take inventory on ourselves! Let’s clean out our temples of what distracts us from the work of the Lord and start fresh. Let’s aim to keep our temples clean!
I was 11, my brother 9, and we had been fighting like cats and dogs. I mean, what brother and sister don’t have fights, but to hear my mom tell it, it was all out war in the home. It was right around Christmas, just a few weeks until THE day, and my mother had had enough of our arguing.
“If I have to tell you one more time to knock it off, there will be no Christmas from your Pop and me.” (Please note here that we were not taught about Santa, so the presents from them were a big deal.) But does that sound real, folks?! Of course it doesn’t. Every parent says something like that once or 50 times in their life… “if you don’t knock it off, you’re gonna get a spanking/grounded/no tv/no dinner/no dessert, etc.” So you can imagine how keen I was on listening to her warning.
Until we woke up Christmas morning and the usually blocked off hallway leading to the living room was without it’s usual blocking. We walked into the open space….AND THERE WAS NOTHING UNDER THE TREE. For real. We bawled our eyes out, had breakfast and when on about our day. What kind of parent does that????
And despite the devastation I felt that morning, as an adult now, I recognize the need for that kind of correction.
Sometimes correction seems harsh or unjust. It doesn’t feel fair because we don’t see what we’ve done as “that bad.” In human eyes, we treat our sin as if it’s something that we can just brush off. There isn’t a need to make a big deal out of it. I mean, God forgives so what’s the harm?
Correction is needed for maturing and growth in your faith in God. It’s a necessary step in the walk that we have as Christians. Paul speaks of this in Hebrews 12:4-8.
4 “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin;
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and He scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”
Because God loves us, it’s imperative there is discipline when we are headed down the wrong path. When there is sin, we must be held accountable. It doesn’t mean that God will not forgive us when we repent. Rather, correction is meant to guide us back to the road that leads to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If we didn’t receive this, the Bible tells us we wouldn’t be children of the King.
What does discipline from God look like? I’m no theologian, but I suspect that it’s different for each person and for each thing God is trying to correct us on. Just like a loving parent does, three swats on the behind might be applicable to one offense, while an early bedtime with no dessert might work better for something different. Here’s what I can stand firm on—God knows what’s appropriate and best. And He loves us enough to do it. We can stand comforted that His discipline comes from a right and just place. He will always lead us back to Him.
I pray this week as we go about our business, that we recognize our attitudes and actions as Godly, adhering to the Word of God. If there is correction to be received, may you see that it’s loving.
P.S. We did finally get our presents…our parents woke up as at 1145pm to let us open the hidden presents. We never tested the waters again.
Three and a half years ago, I wrote a blog about my new friend, Mr. Parker. For those who are new, let me link that blog here. It was a chance meeting. I was given an earlier seat on a connecting flight in February 2019, and a friendship blossomed in just 40 minutes from Birmingham to Atlanta! Mr. Parker calls it divine intervention. I agree!
We’ve been hoping the last several years to figure out a way to see each other in person again. I was looking forward to meeting his wife and spending time together. But between Covid and us living across the country from each other, it wasn’t possible. I cherished every phone call we had talking about so many things, our families, the state of the country, the people we knew. But we both wanted to be able to sit with each other again and see each other’s faces. We both looked forward to the day that would happen.
Two weeks ago, we got our wish, and I took Emily with me just a short drive down the road to have dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Parker! When I walked into the restaurant and saw them standing there and got to hug both of them, the joy I felt from anticipating this long-awaited meeting was overwhelming.
I have the same anticipation for another meeting—the meeting of my Heavenly Father. I think to Paul writing to the Philippians. He was imprisoned at the time and looking to encourage the church in Philippi. He wrote to them about the gospel being preached and how he was trusting God even during the time he was in prison. And then he says this of his situation:
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;” –Philippians 1:21-23
He longed to be with Jesus. He anticipated his time in heaven, worshipping the God of salvation. While he loved his family and friends and he loved the ministry, he recognized that to be in heaven bowing at the feet of the Father far surpassed any wonderful thing he could experience on the earth.
I want to be the same way, and as we study the book of Revelation, I’m reminded even more about the joy that will come from seeing the face of Jesus. I want to thank God for creating me. I want show reverence to Him for His sovereignty. I long to worship with the heavenly host singing praises about the glory of the King of Kings.
As much as I want to be here enjoying my time on this earth, I long even more to see the face of Jesus.
I pray that as we celebrate during this holiday season, we anticipate not only the celebration of His birth but the face-to-face meeting we will one day have!
This week, my daughter called me with an urgent request. “Take a look at this photo. What are your thoughts?” The left eye of my grandson, Andros, had turned sharply and suddenly veered inward, it was wobbling, and he was seeing double. She made an appointment to see the eye doctor and as he sat in front of the provider that same afternoon, he was told that he would need some eyedrops. The optometrist explained that just like when you get something spicy on your tongue, his eye would feel that way for just a minute but it would be ok. Now, Andros does NOT like spicy food. If it has a drop of pepper on it, he can taste it. And as the gentleman placed the drops into his tightly squeezed, terrified, waiting eyes, that sweet boy started crying and yelling, “MY SPICY EYES! MY SPICY EYES!” It’s a story we’re laughing about now days later.
I began to think of Saul as he lost his sight on the road to Damascus and reached for his story in my bible. He was a man who took great pleasure in persecuting Christians. He didn’t do it because he was a sociopath. He did it because he was a Jewish scholar who genuinely believed that what the Christians were saying was blasphemy to God. He felt he was expelling a problem. He was even present at the first martyr, Stephen’s, death. Then we see in Acts 9 him on the road to Damascus because he had found out about people there who were teaching about Jesus as the Son of God.
“Now as he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told to you what you must do.” The men who traveled with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; and leading him by the hand, they brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” –Acts 9:3-9
He was literally blinded by the light of Jesus! What a way to get his attention, right?! I wonder what he must have been feeling. There is nothing mentioned in the verses following about anyone witnessing to him. I’m not sure if there was. My personal belief is that he sat in his own darkness and fasted, recognizing the weight of what had just happened.
An encounter with Jesus is nothing small. Here was a man who felt confident his persecution of the Christians was acceptable. And in one brief moment, everything he believed was turned on its head as Jesus revealed EXACTLY who he was.
And lest we think that’s the only ‘WOW’ moment in that interaction, how about what Jesus told him to do! He told him to go to the city and it would be told to him what to do. Jesus didn’t give him the 3-year plan. He didn’t tell him he was going to become one of the greatest missionaries of all time. He wasn’t privy to knowledge that He would eventually be given direct revelation by God! He was told to go and he would be told to what to do.
How many of us are willing to just take that first directive and then sit and wait? I’m afraid disobedience would kick in for me. I’d be calling my friends, asking my mom to come to me. I’d be asking Emily to do some research. I’d be thinking of every scenario of what “will be told to do” implies. That, friends, is where we trip ourselves up.
Sometimes, the wait is part of the answer. There are times where God wants us to have a period of waiting until He’s ready to give us the next step in our walk, and we screw it up by thinking we know the next step. How easy it seems to just sit and wait for God, and how hard we make it by trying to navigate it ourselves.
The rest of the story for Paul is beautiful. He waits. God sends Ananias to him and tells him what to do. And literal scales fall from his eyes. Paul not only regains his earthly sight, but he’s given his spiritual sight! He goes on to lead thousands to the Lord and dare I say millions with how his words h shown people even today how to fully surrender to our Savior.
Iron Porch, I pray that as we encounter Jesus through Bible study, reading the scripture, and learning of God’s love, that each encounter is one that shows us who He is. I also pray that we learn to wait on the Lord, that we be patient in the space between, and that we trust God to fill in the blank.
I wanted to make some vegetable soup, so I scoured my pantry for some tomatoes. I knew that I had some of my Grandpa’s canned tomatoes still in there somewhere. Out of the last few jars of his I had left, there was just one of what I was looking for!
The man loved to can. He had what he called a garden and what I called a small farm of every kind of fruit and vegetable you can imagine. And he would harvest it all. He would can it, give it away, even trade with it. When we went to visit them in South Carolina, my Pop would always take me out to Grandpa’s canning shed to dig through hundreds of jars of vegetables and jellies to find what I wanted to take home. And as I opened that jar on Monday, I started to cry. Grandpa passed away in 2016 and it made me miss him so much.
While I’m sad that he’s gone, I know he was believer. When he left this earth, he was given a new body in heaven and is worshipping Jesus all day and night! I can praise God that when my day comes and I take my last breath, I’ll see him and his smile again!
This made me think about the people I know that may not have that same assurance of their place in heaven. I can be confident as a born-again Christian that when I die, I will be in heaven. But I know that there are friends of mine who have told me they believe they hope they’ve been ‘good enough to get a pass’ into heaven.
Please allow me just a brief moment to explain why this can’t be further from the truth. The Bible is clear that there is no one on this earth who is good enough to get into heaven. Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no not one.” We can’t be kind of good. We can’t be really good. The Ten Commandments given by God has ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ and ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ all in the same list. In humanity’s eyes, one of those sins is much worse than the other. In God’s eyes, ALL sin is abhorrent. We will never be righteous enough.
Because of that sin, what we deserve is death and eternal separation from God. We are told in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Because of the wicked nature of sin, our penalty is death. But the second half of that verse can give us hope! It says God has given us hope for eternal life in the form of a spotless Lamb.
Romans 5:8 shows just how much He loves us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While God says the price that we must pay for sin is death, there is undeserved grace. He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth. He lived a sinless life with the sole purpose of becoming a substitution. He was sent to be the sacrificial Lamb, covering our sins with His blood.
And because of that sacrifice, if we believe in Him, if we surrender our lives to Him and follow Him, we can and will go to heaven!
John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Asking Jesus to come into your heart isn’t something that you do to put in your back pocket ‘just in case.’ When you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, there is change in you. The Holy Spirit is residing in you! We become a new creation in Jesus, and the earth becomes just a temporary home.
Romans 10:9 tells us how we can know for sure when we die that we will be in heaven. “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus and you’ve haven’t surrendered your life to Him, I encourage and plead with you to call on the name of the Lord. Tell God that you know you’re unworthy of His grace, but grateful that He’s given it. Tell Him that you believe He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and that you believe He rose again and lives in heaven. Confess your sin and surrender your life to Him, asking Him to live in your heart.
If you realized that you needed Jesus and prayed, giving your life to Christ, make sure you tell someone! Share it in the comments, tell a friend, you can even message me or Emily. But it’s too wonderful of news not to share!
If you still have questions about what it means to surrender your life to Him, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would love to talk with you and help you know that you have a home in heaven!
The other day, I was on the phone with Andros, my 5-year-old grandson. I may sound biased, but the sweet boy is so smart. He knows the most unusual facts and uses words that usually come from adults. As we FaceTimed, I told him, “You know, Andros. You’re so handsome!” And he replied, “I know.” I giggled and retorted, “How do you know that, buddy?!” Without skipping a beat he said, “Because I look at my reflection!” Well alright then! Not only is he witty but he’s coming at me with the big words!
The truth is, he IS handsome! And how does he know that? Because his mom and dad tell him. Because his Mimi and Grandpa tell him. His Gigi and Pop Pop tell him. He recognizes that the people who love him most would never steer him wrong. What they tell him about himself is truthful.
Why do we have such a hard time recognizing that what God tells us about ourselves is true?! He is our Heavenly Father, the Creator of us all. He says so many wonderful things about us.
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” –Ephesians 2:10 (emphasis mine)
“Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” –Psalm 100:3 (emphasis mine)
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” –1 Peter 2:9 (emphasis mine)
These are just a few examples in the Bible that say we are special to Him. Yet, we often look down at ourselves. We struggle with feelings of not being enough, not being a good mother, wife, friend, co-worker. We recognize all the flaws and forget about the facts.
We are chosen. We are redeemed. We are loved. We are set apart. No matter how we may feel about ourselves, we need to recognize that our Father tells us TRUTH and that truth is that we are His.
I pray that we stop listening to the lies of the devil that tell us we aren’t worthy and lean into God-breathed scripture that tells us our identity is in Christ!
Emily was right, you know. In her last blog she said she rarely complains, and she’s right. Her right foot could be broken with her fingernail barely hanging on by the cuticle and head split open, and her response would be, “I’m alright. I’ll be fine. I don’t think I need Advil yet.” She just doesn’t complain.
Unlike me who’s favorite hobby is to forever think of some “horrible thing” that is going on in my world and to harp on it endlessly. Like hiking…seriously, people, who ACTUALLY LIKES HIKING?! I mean besides my best friend.
Anyway, while Emily was being convicted by the Holy Spirit about her instance of complaining and recognizing the truth of Philippians 2:14, I was being convicted of that very same thing but from a different perspective. Between my time with her on Sunday while we were hiking to my Monday night Bible study, it was weighing heavily on me about how my complaining affects my worship. Follow me on this….
The Bible has so many verses on worship. Psalm 95:6 says, “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” Psalm 100:2 tells us, “Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!” “Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name,” Hebrews 13:15.
There are instances where we see Abraham, Daniel, David, the woman at the well, the creatures and elders in heaven…all of them are worshipping Him. And it wasn’t just a one-time thing. Worship of our Savior should be a sunrise to sunset thing. It should be all hours of the day and night. Every time we are awake, our posture should be one of worship.
But how does that work when you’re constantly complaining about work or family or the stresses of your life? I’m not saying everything has to be roses. In fact, God tells us to bring our burdens to Him; He recognizes there are moments and seasons of struggle, sorrow, or anger. But taking our burdens to Him rather than complaining IS worship! When all I’m doing in mindlessly whining about my woes to those around me, I’m robbing myself of the honor of worshipping Him and robbing HIM of the rightful worship and adoration!
My complaining should be worship in the form of prayer to God asking Him to remove my negative thoughts that, let’s be honest, are probably trivial and not worth complaining about anyway. My time spent cooking dinner could be worship as I listen to praise music in the background, singing out loud about how great our God is! My worship can be a few extra moments reading and meditating on the scriptures that God has given us. There is so much more to worship and so many ways in which to worship Him!
Dear friends, this week my prayer is to ask the Holy Spirit to remove the complaining thoughts and replace them with a desire to continually worship Him. With my eyes fully focused on God and in a posture of constant worship, I can strive to be grateful about what I have or am doing through Him!
For the last couple of months, I’ve been feeling like I need a nap all day, every day. Coupled with my thyroid disease and the fact that I’m overweight, I knew I needed to be checked out. Turns out my Vitamin D is low and so is my B12. My thyroid (with my medication) is currently stellar. My provider wants me to take some supplements she’s now recommended and thinks I should see a marked improvement in my lethargy.
Here’s the thing…I was actually told that two years ago. So I know it’s a problem. I was advised to take the supplements then. I bought them, and I took them for about two weeks. And then I forgot to take them because I’m just plain bad at taking pills. I’ll remember at 1130pm at night and then be too tired to get out of bed to take them. I’ll say to myself, Take them first thing in the morning. But I forget in the morning, and by the time I remember…you see where I’m going with this. I need to start being intentional about taking my medication. If I don’t, I’ll never see any improvement and feel better.
Studying scripture needs to be the same way, and often it’s the quickest thing to be pulled off our daily list of things we want to do. I’m guilty of this myself. I want to start the morning off with my Bible study, but I oversleep. I’ll do it on my lunch, but I scroll social media. I think I’ll do it before I start dinner, but I still need to vacuum. The to-do list goes on. Before you know it, you’re able to squeeze five minutes in, if that, of time in the Word before you’re in bed and ready to end the day.
Intentionality is important. The dictionary defines this as the fact of being deliberate. While Bible study shouldn’t be just a thing we check off the list every day so that we can say it’s done, we still need to make sure our intention is to specifically spend time with God. This is how we grow our relationship with Him. This is how we prepare ourselves to speak with someone who might not know God as their Savior. And with that intention must come the deliberate act! We can have every intention to study, but we must also follow through!
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” –2 Timothy 2:15
When we are intentional, when we are diligent in our study, we become accurate in how we know Jesus and how we present Jesus.
How about it, dear friends?! Let’s strive to be deliberate in our study. Do you have a method that you use that reminds or allows you to be intentional with Bible study? Share in the comments!