The Free Gift

A few days ago, I put two boxes of books out on the corner of our lawn with a sign that says “Free books!  Help yourself!”  These were some books that we’d already read and decided not to keep in our collection.  We thought to ourselves that maybe someone walking by would see the books and grab one or four so that they could enjoy one of the titles we had left.

The pile started with about 40 books and slowly, we’ve whittled the pile to about half that.  I’m kind of surprised that they’re not gone.  I’ve seen people walk past, stop and peek in as if to see if there’s really something in there.  I’ve also seen people start to take them and then change their mind, looking around as if to see if there’s some kind of trap I’ve set up!  Like I’m going to spring out of the bushes screaming, “IT SAYS FREE, BUT YOU CAN’T HAVE ALL OF THEM!”

Sometimes, people can be that way when we present the truth of Jesus.  God encourages us to spread the gospel to every creature.  Telling everyone about the gift of salvation is so simple and the steps to accept Christ as your personal Savior seems so easy, yet does it really have the “FREE…take it!” sign in front of it?!  It’s ours to just take?!

The answer is yes!  Choosing to have a relationship with God is a gift that He gives us freely and openly.  We only need to repent of our sins, ask forgiveness, turn ourselves over to Him, and ask Him to live in us forever.  There’s nothing fancy about the request.  There’s no special handshake or secret code you have to know.  We can take that free gift, knowing that it completely changes our lives.  I’m so thankful that I accepted that free gift so long ago!

How about you, dear friends?  Is there someone you know that needs to hear about that gift of salvation?  We can be praying for them.  Or perhaps you want to accept that gift yourself?  Message us at the Iron Porch, and we’d love to show you how.

~Erin

The Free Gift

Culinary School Expectations

My husband and I often tag-team in the kitchen.  We normally work as a pretty good team on favorite recipes, but new ones tend to create drama. I begin to lose patience and get some attitude.  It’s usually accompanied by a snotty comment. Inevitably, my husband throws up his hands and says something to the effect of “you’re the one who went to culinary school, you do it.”

I think this is a more common reaction than we recognize.  When we lose patience or when we get aggravated, we have similar reactions.  When we feel we know better or when we feel that someone should behave a certain way, we have similar reactions.  It’s the reaction of literally or figuratively throwing up your hands and saying “you’re the one who…blah, blah, blah” and you’re able to insert whatever finish to that statement that you want.

At work, one could add “you’re the one who is in charge or has the degrees.”

At the grocery store, one could add “you’re the one who works here.”

At church, one could say “you’re the one who went to seminary or has been a Christian longer.”

I’ve been thinking about it for a few weeks, and I’ve concluded that when we use this reaction at work, in relationships, and especially at church, it’s not helpful.  It becomes blame-shifting in a passive-aggressive manner while justifying why we should be held more accountable for the interaction.

When you look at the Garden of Eden, you see Adam react in this blame-shifting manner when God asks what has happened after they ate the fruit.  In Genesis 3:12-13, Adam states “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  Adam blames God and the woman.  In turn, Eve replies, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”   Neither takes responsibility for their own role in the sin.

Because we don’t accept our own sinful behavior, we end up not exercising grace. And that dear sisters is when we start to say things like “you’re the one who….blah, blah, blah.”

Even though I really did go to culinary school, I’m going to try to control my patience level and not push my husband to the point he throws his hands up at me.  I challenge you to find an area of your life that you can work on too!
~Emily

chef

Brick by Brick

When I was about nine and attending Sunday School, large cardboard blocks laid stacked against the wall for free time.  They looked like real oversized bricks, allowing us to build life-size forts around the room.  They were usually our favorite things to play with.

One morning, the teacher called us to our seats.  She sat at her table and started talking to us about Jesus and His love for us.  She picked up a block and placed it in front of her.  She reminded us that Jesus loved us so much that He came to earth to die for us.  She told us how it was so important that Jesus lives in our hearts.  She stacked a large block on top of the first.  She talked about how just like we have an earthly father, we have a Father in heaven who loves us.  She arranged another block.  Another example, another cardboard block.   With just a few examples, while we could hear what she was saying, we couldn’t see her.  We wanted to see her as she told us the story.  So someone in the class asked her if she could move the blocks.  That’s when the real lesson began.

Sometimes, she said, sin is like that wall she had in front of her.  When we have Jesus in our hearts and sin, we put up our own block.  It doesn’t seem so bad and we don’t ask for forgiveness.  It’s just a block.  But then we sin again.  Another block goes up.  And brick by brick, we create a wall between us and God.  We can hear Him and He can always hear us, but it’s a wall between us that doesn’t let us have a real relationship that He really wants to have with us.

When we talk to God and ask for forgiveness, the bricks are removed.  And she pushed one block off and then another until they were all back on the floor.  We could see her again.  We could hear her better.  When the bricks were removed we could have a real conversation filled with interaction.

When God gives forgiveness, He breaks down that barrier.  He removes the shame, judgment and condemnation and replaces it with a love that only He can give.  Our closeness is restored to the Creator.

I pray that each of us removes any bricks that may be holding us back from having full communion with God.

~Erin

Stop Complicating it!

Why do we always try to complicate things?  Why can’t a simple direction mean exactly as it sounds?  We find ourselves following unnecessary steps or skipping the direction to get the solution because we’ve added in perceived ideas of how the journey is supposed to look.

Look at Naaman for instance.  In the bible, it was said he was captain of the army of the king of Aram.  He was highly regarded and a “valiant warrior.”  But he was also a leper.  Back in those days, leprosy was no joke.  They usually separated you outside the city, and when you saw people coming from afar, you had better be shouting ‘UNCLEAN!’ so as to warn them not to get close to your flesh-eating zombie self.

Upon recommendation, Naaman went to Elisha, a prophet of God, to seek healing from the bacterial nightmare.  Elisha sent a messenger to him advising to go wash in the Jordan seven times and he would be cleaned.  That’s it.  End of discussion.  Go dunk in the Jordan, not once, not twice, but seven times and the leprosy will be gone.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

But the dude needs to complicate it!  Naaman gets angry and beings to leave shouting how there are better rivers than the Jordan to do something like that in!  Why can’t Elisha just wave his hand and do a little hocus pocus and cure him?!

Thank goodness for the faithfulness of his servants who reminded him in 2 Kings 5:13, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?  How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

And so that’s exactly what Naaman did.  He went to the Jordan, dipped himself seven times and saw the miraculous healing of God through the words of His prophet, Elisha.

Our Christian walk doesn’t have to be so difficult, an elaborate and legalistic 27-step process to know Him better.  Salvation isn’t some intricate series of steps we think we need to do in order to have full fellowship with Him.  He says Believe in Me, Trust in Me, Follow Me, and Go.  The rest comes with faith and devotion.  The Holy Spirit comes to live in you and helps you in your walk with our Heavenly Father.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, there’s never a time like right now.  Speak to Him, confessing your sins, admitting you’re a sinner, and asking Him to live in you and make you whole.  If you’ve turned your relationship with Jesus into a tricky maze of do this, do this, do that, and you’d like to renew that desire to let go of “steps” and just fall into His arms of grace and listen to what He’s telling you, now’s the time.  Ask Him to renew your faith and allow you to trust Him wholly and with abandon.

He’s right here, waiting for you.

~Erin

_My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it_ How much more then, when he says to you, 'Wash, and be clean'__

Did I Just Throw My Kid Under the Bus?!

A few weeks ago at church, we were reading one of my favorite stories in the New Testament.  A boy, blind since birth, was given sight again by Jesus.  For those who aren’t familiar with the story, the disciples walked by this boy and asked Jesus who had sinned to make him blind, him or his parents.  Jesus answered that neither had sinned; it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:3).

Jesus then bent over, spit into some clay on the ground to make a mud and put it over the boy’s eyes, telling him afterward to go wash in the pool of Siloam.  It was after the washing that he gained sight.  People were shocked and asking if it was the same boy since he could see now.  He was brought to the Pharisees who asked him how he received his sight and about the “man” that had enabled this to happen.

Now that’s the part of the story I’ve always loved and remembered….Jesus taking His own spit and the dust of the ground to perform a miracle.  It’s beautiful.  But what gut-checked me is what we read after that sweet part of the story.

As the Pharisees questioned him, unbelieving what the boy had to say, they called out to his parents and asked them if he was truly their son and how he could now see.  The parents’ response?  “We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind; but how he now sees, we do not know; or who opened his eyes, we do not know.  Ask him; he is of age, he will speak for himself,” (John 9:20b-21).

Wow.  For fear of excommunication from the worship and fellowship of the church (John 9:22), these parents threw their child, who historians say was somewhere aged 13-20, under the bus to answer for himself.  Was it hurtful?  Yes.  In the end, was the boy thrown out of the synagogue?  Yes again.  Did the parents act maliciously towards the boy?  No.

I would like to think that I’m “so much better” than those parents who cowered to peer pressure, but I know I’m not.  I’ve done things and I’ve said things that have hurt my children.  Where there should have been trust, they may have found doubt.  Where there should have been attention, there was times of disregard.  Sometimes as parents, even when we do everything in our power to protect our children, fear and lies of the devil creep up and overtake.  Then we’re left heartbroken at the end because we didn’t stand up to the pressures of the world and our children become collateral damage.

Parents, guardians, aunts, uncles, grandparents, we are human.  We make mistakes.  What we do with those mistakes is what’s important.  Seek forgiveness from God for the sin committed, and if necessary, ask the child for forgiveness.  My girls have heard me say more than once “I’m sorry” for something I’ve done.  They appreciate it and it models a humble heart.

I’ll never be a perfect parent but with God’s help, I’ll keep getting better and better at it.

~Erin

I'll never be a perfect parent.