Regrets vs. Repentance

While I like to remind myself that every decision that I’ve made in my life has been used to make me the person I am today, I still have many regrets.  There are relationship regrets, professional regrets, travel regrets and even financial regrets.  

Every person walking the Earth has some type of regret, but not all have repented of the behavior that have lead to regrets.  

The grieving process of repentance is not crying in self-pity.  It’s not regrets over loss; nor remorse that our sins have been publicized. 

It is very possible to be deeply sorry because of the devastation which sin has wrought into our lives…and yet still not repent.  It is possible to be deeply sorry about the devastation which sin has brought into the lives of those around us…and yet still not repent.  It’s possible to have anguish over publicized sin…and still not repent.  

True repentance is so much more than simply being sorry. It’s more than an apology.  It’s more than regret about sin shattering our lives.  

True repentance is about a deliberate, conscious turning towards God and away from sinful behaviors and thoughts.  It is a commitment to follow God’s will for our lives, not our own will.  I’ve heard repentance described as a 180 degree turn…a change in direction.  More than that, it’s also a change of attitude and a yielding of our own desires and will.  

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” ~Acts 3:19 (NASB)

The act of repentance does not make us worthy…nor does it make us saved.  It’s a reflection of the condition of our hearts for God.  Once we repent of sinful behavior, God does the converting, the transforming, the changing…and the forgiving.

Sinful behavior and thoughts are like having issues with your back or neck.  When you schedule an appointment with a chiropractor for help with your skeleton system, you have a re-alignment and feel “straightened out.”  When you turn towards God in order to turn away from sin, He is able to re-align your heart in repentance…you feel “straightened out.” 

This week, I’d encourage you to look at your regrets and analyze if repentance is needed.

~Emily


“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping, and mourning…” ~Joel 2:12 (NASB)

Observations: Poop vs. Sin

“Have you ever noticed that everyone else’s poop smells way worse than your own?”

This was literally the first thing my 4th grade son told me, as he got into my car last week after school.  

Let me start by admitting that poop seems to be a pseudo-normal conversation in our house…he is a boy and for some reason the “y” chromosomes of my house are obsessed with poop and farts.   But I will admit that his observation about everyone else’s poop smells had me giggling (and wondering what happened at school for him to make this observation!!!!).  

Later when reflecting on his comment, I got to thinking that often I think of sin the same way my son was thinking about poop.

Everyone else’s sin is way worse than my own.

The much beloved Reverend Billy Graham wrote, “From a human standpoint some sins are certainly worse than others; sins like murder, assault, or stealing. These things deeply hurt others. But the Bible doesn’t tell us which sin is worst in God’s eyes, and the reason is because God hates all sin. God is absolutely pure and holy; even the smallest sin is evil in His sight.”

If both the Bible and Billy Graham agree that sins are not “ranked” and one is not worse than another, when did I start thinking someone else’s sin was more egregious than my own?

I believe that the enemy has a method of whispering in my ear.  In my humanness, I listen.  Satan convinces me that the differences between right or wrong aren’t as defined as the Bible tells us.  It’s his classic move.  He started using it in the Garden of Eden with Eve.  So of course, he’s using the same tactics on me.  

I have to acknowledge that my sin is my sin. No matter how big or small it may be (or how I may perceive it), ANY sin in my life breaks God’s heart.  Romans 3:12 (NASB) reminds us that there is not one of us who will get through this life without committing sin; “They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, There is not even one.”

His judgements stand firm.  We must repent, turn from our sin, ask for forgiveness and move forward.  We (I’m specifically talking to myself here) need to fully understand that not one single sin is greater or lesser than another.  They are all an affront to God.

While someone else’s poop may smell worse than yours, their sin is not worse than yours.

~Emily

Mentored By Another Generation: The Titus 2 Woman

A few months ago, my sweet friend trusted me enough to introduce me to her Aunt Bonnie.  If I had to guess, Aunt Bonnie is probably in her 80s, but mentally in her 30s.  I was enamored with her from the moment I met her and to her extended family’s amusement, I was also calling her Aunt Bonnie immediately. 

She showed me her craft room, encouraged me in learning quilting, asked about my childhood, and invited me to come spend the summer with her in Texas so we could gab and craft together.  This woman was lovely and I so honored to have met her for a brief afternoon.

My friend trusted me with her family treasure.  You see, I could have been stand-offish, impatient, rude, or unengaged. When we introduce our friends to our family, we have a small idea of how they will interact, but there is no guarantee that they will hold the same esteem for our older family members that we may. 

In my case, I jumped at the chance to learn from this lovely gal who clearly was more well versed in quilting than I was.  Not only was it selfish on my part to learn from her, I would also consider it Biblical.  

Titus 2:3-5 (NASB) states, “Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, no malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” 

Our conversation was not about religion, as we chatted about quilting techniques.  But here was a more mature woman, mentoring a middle-aged woman…and in that wonderful conversation, I had an example from her about loving my husband and child, about being sensible and pure, about working at home and being kind.  She was the Titus 2 older woman to me.  

As Christian women, we need to either be seeking a more mature woman to sit under…or we need to be the more mature woman willing to allow others to sit with us. 

While the Titus 2 description is specifically geared towards life as a Christian woman, remember that these mentoring sessions could also be opportunities to share the Gospel.   In both directions!  Be open to being a mentor.  And be open to finding one for yourself too!

Come to the porch this week and tell us about your mentors!

~Emily 

The “I” in Team

As a retired military member, I’ve been to plenty of leadership trainings that make sure to remind students that there is no “I” in “Team.”  It’s a sentiment that is often repeated in the workplace and indicates that there is no one person whose contributions are greater than another’s on the team.

At my work center, I’ve often encouraged others to use “we” or “ours” in referencing programs, processes, and successes.  I am a firm believer in acknowledging superb performance of individuals, but overall, the team seems to be more successful when there is cohesive ownership.  

On my son’s baseball team, I’ve often seen the coaches acknowledge an individual’s great job in a game, but they win & lose together as a team.  They practice together as a team.  They rejoice and they are disciplined…as a team.  Not as individuals.

If the concept of “no I in team” holds true for the workplace and for a sports team, does it also hold true with the church…with the disciples of Jesus Christ? 

In terms of the twelve disciples of Jesus, outlined in the Gospels, Jesus drew together a team of men who had a few things in common, such as fishing and tax collecting, but they each had differences, such as their personalities, strengths, and weaknesses.  As we walk through the New Testament, we can see that they collectively were working towards professing Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior for the sinners of the world. 

While some were praised for answering questions correctly (Peter answering “Who Do You Say I am?” in Matthew 16:17), or providing insight to others, none are raised above the others in terms of accomplishing the mission that Jesus gave them. 

While some were rebuked for betrayal (Jesus acknowledging that Judas would betray him at the Last Supper or that Peter would deny knowing him three times-John 13:21 and Mark 14:30), none of the others were raised above them in terms of accomplishing their ultimate mission.

This shows that Jesus’ leadership included acknowledging strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately He was more concerned with saving souls for eternity than praising and rebuking those on the team. Each disciple was part of the team and they were collectively being trained for a time when Jesus was no longer with them physically.  In my opinion, it’s a solid example of thereTea being “no I in team.”  

The secular leader in me wants to know if you are embracing the concept of team at work and on sports teams.  

The women’s ministry leader in me wants to urge you desperately to endorse this concept of teamwork (without acknowledging the I’s) so that we can work together on the mission we were given by Christ: to share the Gospel, to show the lost how to be found for all eternity, and to make disciples.

Does your team have an “I” on it?

~Emily

Not All Who Wander are Lost: Packing List for Heaven

I’m a self-declared lover of travel.  It could be one town over, the next State, or another country.  I love exploring new location, eating the local food, and meeting people who live in those destinations.  I have wanderlust and am most content planning the next trip. 

I completely embrace the quote “Not all who wander are lost.” 

One of the things I enjoy about traveling is the preparation.  I love the planning and researching to make the most of a vacation.  If it hasn’t been selected for me, I choose the location, the amount of time to travel, and the mode of transportation.  I make lists of foodie-related places to check out.  I figure out the historic or notable attractions to explore.  I game plan if I have any friends or family in the vacation location.  I count down to the departure date.  And then I pack.

Preparing for your vacation is similar to preparing for a journey to heaven.  Like a vacation destination selection, you must make the decision of if heaven is a location you’d like to go.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NASB) 

You must accept the gift of Jesus’ death for your sins, which essentially becomes the selection of your transportation.  The difference between an earthy vacation and a journey to heaven is that Jesus paid the price of the ticket for you to go to heaven.  Only Christ’s blood is a sufficient payment for this particular trip.  

Like earthly vacation research, our preparation for heaven does not end with choosing the destination and transportation.   No, we still have work to do.  Once we become Christians, our entire life should be focused on the journey and preparations that God has for our lives.  This could include Bible study, mission work, sharing the Gospel, tithing, holy living and even attending church faithfully.  

Are you a traveler?  

Are you going to heaven?

Have you started packing?

~Emily

For we know that if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NASB)

Discovery: Nazirite Vow

I must have been under a rock during the day I was taught about the Nazirite vow in Sunday school.  Maybe I was day dreaming; maybe I was absent that day; maybe it wasn’t even a subject taught at my church.  A devotion I read several weeks ago mentioned the Nazirite vow and I’ve had to really dig in so that I could understand this concept.

Numbers 6:1-8 describes the vow as a way to make a special Covent with the Lord.   It was a strictly voluntary, special in its intent, and indicates a separation from a temptation.  It seems that the vow was used most frequently during a time of difficulty or extremely hard trials and temptation…at that time, the person could take this vow as a way to grow closer to the Lord. 

Interestingly enough, Numbers 6:3 commands that anyone taking the Nazirite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol.  More specifically, it called for an abstinent from wine and all products made from the grape plant. This would have included grape seed oil or cream of tartar.  

Another aspect of the vow included continually growing one’s hair.  If one temporarily forgot the vow, a simple look in the mirror would remind them.  It became not only a reminder of the vow, but a testimony opportunity when asked why they were growing out their hair.  

This led me to another question…are there any examples in the New Testament that speak to the Nazirite vow?  Guess what? Of course, there is! 

In Acts 18:18 (NASB), Luke wrote “Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow.” 

Why was Paul exhibiting behavior associated with Nazirite vow?  He was traveling from Corinth towards Syria when he cut his hair.  His recent experiences in Corinth and in Athens, where he had apathetic encounters with non-believers, very few conversions to Christianity, a lack of new church establishment, and cult-like behaviors of worshiping Aphrodite.  His decision to take a special vow with an outward showing of cutting his hair was a way to mark the growth of his hair from the moment of the vow, as well as a means to protect himself and draw closer to the Lord during his trials.  

Most Americans would be able to tell you about the unique attributes of the wedding vows.  Heck, most would even acknowledge it’s a convent with/before God.  All would recognize that the wedding ring is the outward sign of the wedding vow having been taken.  We know about the wedding vows because we’ve attended ceremonies, watched them on tv, or even taken part in our own commitment with this vow.  We are comfortable with the concept of the wedding vow.

Why am I not as comfortable with this vow mentioned in Numbers and Acts?  How did I know about this very personal “Nazirite vow?”  In a moment of self-doubt, I felt like a horrible Christian that wasn’t studying her Bible enough.  And in the next instance, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I just need to keep studying…keep digging…keep praying.

What Biblical revelations have you had this week? Come to the porch and share!!

~Emily

Numbers 6:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.’”

The Silence of God

In a European prison cell, the following inscription was found; “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.  I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Sometimes it feels like God is so quiet! 

This last week, I had several conversations with God about this particular issue.  Yet, it felt like there was complete silence from God.  Several of my prayers started with something to the effect of, “I know scripture tells us that you hear us…that you hold each of our tears in your hand…but why does it seem that you aren’t responding!!!”  *Insert whining and moaning*  

Talk about the quintessential child who knows that the parent is parenting, but the child continues to question the methods!!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  If I’m honest with myself, questioning the silence of God is a dangerous place.  It causes me to question if I’m important to God or if my thoughts and requests are trivial compared to some of the bigger requests that He must receive on a daily basis.  It leads to doubt, which leads to fear, which leads to loneliness and a host of other negative emotions.  

As I should do often, I turned to the Word.  I started at Isaiah 41:10, which tends to be my “go-to” verse when I am in a funk.  However, mindless flipping through scripture had me landing on Job 34:29.  The NASB version reads, “When He keeps quiet, who can condemn? And when He hides His face, who then can look at Him, That is, regarding both nation and a person?”

Basically, scripture reaffirms that what God does is good. Always. Even when it appears that He is being silent.  Who am I to question that? Who am I to condemn the perceived silence?

Interestingly enough, I was sent a note later that day that said, “…often when God seems to be silent, it’s because we are too exhausted to listen.”  

Perhaps the silence is an indicator that I’m not listening well.  Just like that child questioning the parenting methods…

In some regards, we live in figurative prison cells, which God still works in.  Just like that European prison cell and the intuitive inmate who once wrote “I believe in God even when He is silent.” 

~Emily

Bystander to the Hurting

I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”

I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain.  But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else?  For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.  

In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi.  It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)

Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.

Why only two and not four?  

During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism.  While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested.  Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.  

It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting.  I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished.  They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation.  Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.  

God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting.  Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain.  He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting.  If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from. 

It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt.  Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I.  I’m sure you have as well.

In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting.  Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.

~Emily

Soup Explosions of Encouragement

I was employed as a personal chef, preparing a sweet and savory butternut squash soup, when I made the mistake of the year.  I put hot, freshly roasted butternut squash into the blender with broth.  Then hit the pulse button.  Without venting the lid to the blender.

About 10 seconds into the spin cycle, the lid catapulted vertically.  Before I could react, I was covered in butternut squash soup.  It was soaking my hair; it was in my shoes; it was literally dripping off the tip of my nose. 

Worst…it was covering my client’s kitchen.  The ceiling, the microwave, the floor, the curtains over the sink…all of it had evidence of orange splatter.  

As I stood in the center of the kitchen, covered in what looked like baby poo, I felt the tears start—plus I literally wanted to say a swear word.  

Of course, that was the moment that the lady of the house chose to come around the corner.  She took in the scene of her chef, and more importantly, her kitchen covered in orange goo…hours before a dinner party.  Her reaction?  She immediately started laughing. Then she started helping me clean.

To this day, when I think about how to build another up or how to encourage someone, I immediately think of her reaction to my mistake of the year. I think of her example because she found humor in the situation, because she assisted in the aftermath, and because she took the time to build me up.  In Romans 14:19 (NASB), we are told “so then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”  

We’ve all heard advice over the last year of COVID that includes being kind.  We’ve all heard reminders that we don’t know what others are going through.  We’ve probably all even observed scenarios where a nice gesture would have made someone’s day.

What’s more important than the advice, reminders, and observations is that scripture demands that we encourage each other.  In most instances provided by scripture, we are to encourage other believers.  In some instances of life, we provide insight into the Christian life and the Gospel when we encourage non-believers.  When we encourage the believer or the non-believer, we are making a difference in someone’s day. 

In the midst of the butternut squash soup explosion, I was encouraged.  I pray this week that you are able to encourage others…and that you notice when others encourage you.

~Emily

 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)

Crashing onto the Garage

There’s a small step from my laundry room into the garage.  

One that I completely missed a couple days ago.  The misstep had me crashing to the ground in an ungraceful, slow-motion, plump-middle-aged-lady-winning-money-on-America’s-Funniest-Home-videos, type of way.  

As I stayed still on my hands and knees for a moment, I did a mental inventory of my body.  

Palms, scuffed up but no blood-check.

Knees both in terrible pain, but no blood-check.

Right ankle/foot in an awkward folded position, but not broken-check.  

Tears-check.

Fast breathing-double check. 

My first thought after “owwwwww” was “that was a lot of weight to come crashing down on my knees!”

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not pleased about the amount of weight I’ve gained since I retired from the military.  I know the magic formula…eat less calories and exercise more.  Of course, I also know all the tricks and techniques of years of yo-yo dieting.

At that “hands and knees on the ground” moment, I realized that I needed to be more serious about evaluating what I can do with myself. I need a food and exercise game plan. I wondered what the Bible had to say about exercise-besides the “your body is a temple” type of verse. I found that in 1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB), the Bible states “…for bodily traning is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for hte present life and also for the life to come.”

That verse was so convicting! I don’t just need a game plan for food and exercise…I need to have an accountable increase in spritural matters too! While the bodily training has small benefits, it is the godliness benefits that are larger. Ironically, I had just told Erin that I thought my own preparations for Bible Studies, church, devotions, and even Iron Porch could be classified as a casual Christian walk.

In the next week, I’m going to get more serious about all my game plans. Meal planning, exercising…and a more deliberate approach to my prayer life and studying the Bible. Come to the porch and let me know what types of plans you have…and how you remember that little step that has you crashing onto the garage floor.

~Emily