Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

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Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth

Reaching the Edge

This is how I describe what it feels like to me:  I’m in a pool with all of my friends and we’re just hanging around.  I’m getting tired, and I swim over to the edge.  I can almost touch it but it’s out of my reach….and stays out of my reach.  I kick my feet that last little bit only to see that the edge is still not finding my outstretched hand.  I still can’t touch it.  I’m getting tired, anxious, and overwhelmed from all the swimming.  I’m not going under.  I’m staying afloat, but I just. can’t. reach. the. edge.  And now I’m scared.

That’s what my depression feels like to me.

I was first diagnosed when I was 19, and I’ve battled it for 20 years.  Some years, it’s wonderful.  I pass through the seasons of life and everything feels peaceful.  Other years, it gets a grip on me and feels like it could swallow me whole if I let it.  I’ve been on multiple medications and gone to some of the most amazing counselors.  The resources that I’ve had available to me have been a blessing when I struggle with the monster.

No one’s depression looks the same.  It affects us in different ways.  I’ve seen it manifested for some, through cutting.  Others may have thoughts of suicide.  Some just have this sadness that they can’t escape, while others might have physical symptoms.  From the outside looking in, the symptoms are all the same, but how they’re painted on our life canvas looks vastly different from person to person.

When I’m struggling hardest with depression, I reach past the overwhelming feelings of being alone and afraid and I cry out to God.  It’s hard sometimes.  While I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time, in my depression, it’s difficult to call out for help, even from God.  I’m the leader.  I’m supposed to have myself together.  God gave me a calling, so I shouldn’t need to be so….needy.   But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

He’s the Healer.  He’s the Living Water that keeps us nourished, even when it feels like a dry desert.  I re-read this passage of scripture the other day and it was such an encouragement to me.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord.  For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but it’s leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NASB)

Droughts will come.  Hardships, heartaches, anxiety, depression, hurt…it will come.  But if we trust Him, He will carry us through.  When we extend our roots out to the stream of Living Water, He sustains us.  And that verse reminds us that even if those dry seasons, we’re still producing fruit for His glory.

I’m in that pool right now, kicking and swimming and trying to get to the side.  And I haven’t reached it yet.  I take medication to help and I know God has me in His hand.  I’ll reach the edge soon.

Anyone have a verse that they use in the throes of depression that helps carry them through?  Share it in the comments below.

~Erin

Blessed is the man who trust in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves wil

Mental Health: When You Need More Than Prayers

I have been in a crazy-spiral for the last two weeks. I’ve been feeling anxious, depressed, and disengaged.  I want to sleep or eat all the time.  I don’t want to converse with people.  Or the opposite…I want to fight & argue with people (**insert public apology to my husband and son).

In a casual conversation I was having with someone last week (**please, refer to the last paragraph where I admitted I didn’t want to talk to people), she told me that my “funk” just needed to be turned over to God. I needed to pray about it, give it to God, and move on with life knowing that He would take care of all those worries.

Ummmm, hello ‘Linda,’ I know that.  (**for the record, her name isn’t Linda, but I often use that name as a substitute when trying to protect the innocent).

I know I should pray about it and turn it over to God.  The truth of the matter is that there are other things that I need to do for my mental health too.  I need to take long deep breaths. I need to exercise and eat right. I need a long bubble bath.  I need to journal.  I need to speak to a therapist or counselor. I need a little white pill. All of that, in addition to praying and taking it to our Father.

This woman was trying to be helpful.  She was trying to remind me to take the issues to God. The reality is that this woman’s words were hurtful. She made me feel like I hadn’t already discussed this with God…and if I had, then I wasn’t doing it right if it wasn’t resolved.

Within Christian circles, there is often a stigma associated with mental health assistance. I needed help these last two weeks. Yet, some Christians around me were thinking that I just need to pray.  I did pray.  But for these last two weeks that wasn’t enough.

I believe whole-heartedly in the power of prayer for healing and changing lives.  I also believe in seeking help holistically or through modern medicine. I think there is value in combining these approaches and I think that each person will find what combo works best for them.

If someone breaks their leg, we pray for their healing.  However, we’d be appalled if we heard that they were at their home setting the break themselves with just an herbal tea for pain management.  We have an expectation that for physical health, we’d combine prayer, modern medicine, and potentially holistic medicine.

Why don’t we extend that grace to mental health, as well?

As Christians, we are doing a disservice to those with mental health illness when we have a judgmental attitude or if we are superficially saying that prayer alone will fix these issues.  Prayer alone may work for someone.  However, if they need more tangible help of medication or therapy sessions, then we should support and encourage those steps too.

I promise it’s okay to do the combo.   I also promise you aren’t alone.  There are plenty of us rocking on the porch trying to figure out our combinations.

~Emily

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

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Regret Reflections at a Funeral

This morning I will attend the funeral of a kind-spirited man that I served with in the military.  I didn’t know him well, but in the few times I worked with him I discovered that he was professional and genuinely nice.

I learned of his death on Facebook. To say I was shocked is an understatement.  The most shocking part?  He’s my age and died of “natural causes.”  That puts your own mortality into perspective when someone in your age bracket dies.

As a result of not knowing him well, I have only one regret about my interactions with him.

I don’t know if he was a Christian.

Lately, that’s one of the first things that comes to my mind when I hear of a tragic accident or death…were they a Christian?

Guess what?  My question is too late.  I should be asking the questions about a person’s belief in Christ prior to hearing about their demise.

This is the type of regret that lingers, even when I understand I can’t rewind time to ask the question.  This type of regret often motivates us into action.

In the New Testament, we see that Paul was a determined persecutor of Christians prior to his own conversion (Acts 9:1, Galatians 1:13, 1 Timothy 1:13).  After Paul becomes a Christ-follower, he has lingering regrets about his bloody actions against Christians (Acts 22:16).

In Ephesians 3:8, he titles himself “the least of all the saints” and in 1 Corinthians 15:9 he confesses he’s “the least of the apostles.”  He’s claimed those titles as a result of the guilt he has regarding his past violence against the church.

The reflections spurred by guilt, caused Paul to initiate mission campaigns to preach the Gospel of Christ.  He endured persecution himself but became a stronger advocate for Christ as a result of being driven into action based on his guilt.

What lesson is there to be learned through guilt?

To the degree that regret can be fixed, we should fix it.  Paul took his guilt and began sharing the Good News.  My regret over not knowing someone’s status with Christ should spur me towards sharing the Good News as well.

Don’t allow the reflections of guilt at a funeral be for nothing.

~Emily

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Cardboard Testimony

Do you remember in the early to mid-2000s the start of the phenomenon in churches called the “Cardboard Testimony”?  The premise is a sweet one…in a few words, you share your past before Christ on one side, flip the cardboard over, and share your “now” with Christ. Essentially a quick blip testimony.

I love this concept. Just a few words to showcase what God has done in your life.

Some of the ones that I’ve seen before include:

Battling Infertility to Adoption

Thief to Redeemed

Suicidal to Living for God

Single Parent to Raising Kids with God

Cancer Diagnosis to Fully Healed

Lonely to Fulfilled

Eating Disorder to Feasting on the Word

Inmate to Prison Ministry

If you are anything like me, you’re juggling thousands of tasks and titles.  The concept of a cardboard testimony reminds me to take a moment in the midst of all the tasks to think about my testimony at that moment. It’s potentially an opportunity to change a negative into a positive.

If you had to do one today, what would your cardboard read? 

Dirty Clothes to Clean Heart

Screaming Children to Still Soft Voice of God

Uncompassionate Traffic to More Time With Praise Music in the Car

Canceled Dentist Appointment to Bible Study Time

Wi-Fi Failure to Time for a Book

Regardless of if the cardboard testimony is truly your testimony or if it’s a moment to see positives in the negative, the concept gives us a moment to draw closer to God.

~Emily

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Sorrow for Judas

I re-read the couple of verses over and over again in my head.  Then I read them out loud.  These verses were not new to me.  And the story behind it was something I’ve heard my whole life.  Judas Iscariot, the great betrayer, had given Jesus up for 30 pieces of silver.  We all know how vile his actions were, how hard his heart was.  But this day, Matthew 27:3-4 brought fresh eyes to an old story.

Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”  But they said, “What is that to us?  See to that yourself!”

While I’ve never been taught to hate Judas, this disgust of him and his actions has always been forefront in that story.  How could someone who dropped everything to be a follower of Jesus be so easily swayed?  How do you get from listening to the words of Jesus Christ and seeing Him heal the blind and lame to trading him for blood money?

What must have gone through his head when he kissed the face of Jesus?  To see Him calm and ready to go with the soldiers….willing to do what needed to be done to save humanity.  Jesus Himself told them that death was imminent.  Did Judas just not believe what He said?

But today, reading these two verses made me realize how my hatred toward Judas had turned to sorrow.  I may not have betrayed Jesus in this way, but I know that I’ve betrayed Him in the actions of my past more than once.  And I know the sadness and emptiness I’ve felt when I’d realized what I done and just how far I’d gone.

This new perspective of Judas has allowed me to see past the story I’ve learned my whole life, and notice the broken man underneath.  I’ve been there, and I’m grateful that I’ve chosen true repentance over mere remorse.  I’m grateful that we have a God that sees our hearts and loves us right where we are, betrayer AND betrothed.

~Erin