The Last Time

What would you do differently if you knew it was the last time?

The last time your little one hugged you in public…

The last time you would kiss your spouse goodnight…

The last time you went to a movie theater/roller skating rink/bowling alley…

The last time you would spend Christmas with your parents…

The last time you would fall asleep peacefully…

The last time you saw a particular friend…

The last time you watched the sunset…

 

What would you do differently?

Would you pause at that moment and breathe in the sweetness of that “last” experience…?

Would you be sad or would you be happy…?

Would you take a mental photograph…?

Would you say one last “I love you” …?

While the question “what would you do differently” is applicable to death or dying, reflect on your last times because of anything that isn’t death related.  The last times could be because of a divorce, an ill-timed comment, a sickness/disease, the passage of time/growing up, a move, a promotion, finances, etc., etc.

The last times are only last times, once we recognize they were the last time.  In most instances, we don’t know that it’s the last time we’re experiencing a particular event.  It won’t be until much later that you think back “when was the last time that xyz happened?”

There’s one “last time” that we know will happen, even when we don’t know the exact timing–the last days and the last times people will have an opportunity to hear the Gospel in order to make decisions about their own salvation.

We see the phrase “end times” and “last hour” in several scriptures, such as 1 Peter 1:5, 1 Peter 1:20, or 1 John 2:18.  In fact in 1 John, “the last hour” is the closest adherence to Greek.  The concept of the last hour or last day is a foreshadowing that Christ will come to Earth once more to gather all the believers to heaven.

While scripture is not clear about the exact timing of Christ’s second coming, the prophecy of what is to come is very clear.  Christ is coming. Believers go home to Heaven. Non-believers stay on earth and they will endure unimaginable horrors.  This means we, as Christians, are tasked with fully understanding that more “last times” are coming.  Some would argue they are coming soon.

The most important thing you can do in your lifetime is to share the Gospel. With an impending end times prophecy, sharing the Gospel becomes even more important.

Don’t let the last time create a scenario where the question “what would you do differently?” includes your regret about not having shared the precious gift of God.

~Emily

The Last Time

Jealous of the Disciples

I’ve always had a secret jealous streak when I think about the relationships that the disciples had with Jesus.  They walked with Him, slept near Him, and ate with Him. They literally had a front-row seat to His teaching, to His storytelling, and to His faithful prayer life. They had THE model right there with them…day in and day out.

There are times in my Christian walk that I’ve struggled with following the guidelines provided by Jesus.  I’ve prayed and felt like I didn’t hear an answer. I’ve failed again and again.  I have this irrational thought that if I had walked at the same time as Jesus, that somehow that would make my relationship stronger with Him.

I know it’s irrational.  Yet, it makes me slightly jealous that the disciples were able to ask questions face to face. They were able to make a prayer request and hear the voice of God respond.  I wish I had the literal face-to-face time with Jesus, in the flesh.

This week, while doing my homework for my small group “Maximum Joy” by Dr. David Anderson, I had a realization.  We all have the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord, much like the disciples did.  In 1 John 1:1:3, John wrote “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Scripture tells us that if we are following the direction of the Word, as well as the insights provided by the ones who walked with Christ, then we too can have the sweet joy of fellowship with the Lord.

I’m excited that the next several months studying 1 John will help me have deeper intimacy that leads to fellowship rather than just a relationship.  I’m also excited that it’s going to dispel this idea that I should be jealous of the disciples when I too can have a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Who else is harboring secret jealousy? Come to the porch and tell us…

~Emily

Bible2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Gifts

My husband and I were recently sitting around a campfire while camping on the beach when our 8-year-old son side-swiped us both with a deep faith-related question.

“Can your spiritual gifts change throughout your life?”

Imagine our surprise that this was a question from our 3rdgrader! Neither of us could recall ever talking about spiritual gifts around him.

After much discussion, we assured him that his spiritual gifts could change throughout his life depending on how he grew in his relationship with God.  He asked some follow-up questions about if some spiritual gifts were better than others, which launched another discussion about God using everyone’s gifts to win hearts for Christ.

This conversation got me thinking about adult perceptions of spiritual gifts.   Does the average adult Christian know what their spiritual gift is? Do you know? How many times have you taken the spiritual gifts test?  Have your own gifts morphed throughout the years?  Are you utilizing your gifts to bring glory to God?

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) tells us “each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

I’d venture to guess that your gift is one that is already apparent in your life, even if you haven’t acknowledged it as your gift. Those who are naturally content to host and feed guests are likely gifted with hospitality.  If you have this gift, you may love having people over to your home. Perhaps it’s time to host a small group for your church, which would meet in your home.  Those who are in the education field are likely gifted with teaching.   If you have this gift, you may be a teacher as a profession.  Perhaps it’s time to consider teaching a Sunday school class.

This week I’d like to encourage you to reflect on your spiritual gifts.  Do you know what gifts you’ve been given? Are you using them for God’s glory?  Are you willing to stretch yourself a little to try something new with your gifts?

Come to the porch and let us know how your gifts are evolving.

~Emily

Spiritual Gifts

Strappy Sandals

Since becoming a civilian, I’ve fallen in love with wearing strappy sandals and heels.  It’s a glorious feeling after 25 years of combat boots to wear cute girlie shoes.  Except that I feel so plump and inflexible, that I can’t really latch the straps very easily.  I struggle to lean over to the buckle, only to discover I latched onto a hole that is too loose or too tight.

I keep on trying because those shoes are so cute! I feel like the reward is worth the sweaty wrestling match with my tummy rolls to latch the straps.

There are times I feel the same way about my walk with the Lord.  I’m struggling to get the “strap” to fit just right.  I become really involved with my prayer life, only to draw back and not pray. I become really involved with a Bible Study, only to withdraw to mindless tv shows.  I volunteer for service projects, only to determine I want to be at home.

Like the cute strappy sandals, I keep struggling with my faith to make it fight just right, but often it’s too tight or too loose. That does not mean I’m struggling with my faith, but rather I’m struggling to make God my first priority. And that I’m struggling to make God a priority voluntarily, not out of a sense of obligation.

The Bible is very clear that God wants to be the first and only priority.  This is evident in Exodus 20:2-3 (NIV), “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.”

I want God to be the priority in my life, but how do we demonstrate that we truly love God and want His teaching placed first in our lives?

In 1 John 5:3, the apostle John offers this answer, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.  And His commandments are not burdensome.”  We illustrate loving God when we strive to keep His commandments.

John offers further encouragement in 1 John 2:4-5 “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him.”

Therefore, we keep trying to hold true to God’s commandments. We keep trying to show His love for others through our own obedience.  We keep trying to make our walk with the Lord a good fit, rather than too loose or too tight.

What isn’t fitting just right in your life?  How can you adjust to make God more of a priority?

~Emily

heels

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shell Seekers

The first full day at the beach started with the boys leaving at 4:30am to go fishing and me headed to the shore to watch the sunrise over the waves.  While walking, I spent my time chatting with God.  About a mile into my conversation, I came across three siblings who were gathering seashells into plastic buckets.

The youngest girl was grabbing any shell in a willy-nilly manner.  She had no concern whether the shells were whole or broken and jagged.  She simply wanted an abundant collection and it seemed her only discriminatory thought was if they were “pretty.”

The boy was only picking up shells that were deemed “perfect.”  He disregarded dozens before he would place one gently into his bucket.  Unlike his younger sister, he had very few shells in the bottom of his bucket.

The oldest of this group was only selecting shells that had a small hole near any of the edges.  She wanted the shells that had a “pre-drilled” hole from their time with relentless ocean waves.  She was planning to string these shells into a necklace but did not want to have to create the hole herself.

I continued walking, but these three shell seekers stayed on my mind.  It reminded me that during our Christian walk we fall into one of these three categories when we allow people to speak into our lives: The abundant collector of people, The seeker of perfect people, and The one who searches purpose in people. Shells

If we are the youngest girl, we allow anyone to speak advice into our lives.  These people could speak the truth, but there is a risk that they won’t.  They may not be saved and therefore will speak from the world rather than from scripture.  I’m not saying we can’t have broken-jagged people in our lives, but rather I think we need to be careful about how much influence they have over our lives.

If we are the middle boy, we search only for the seemingly perfect people to allow into our lives.  These people are a façade.  They frankly don’t exist.  Because there has only been one perfect person to walk the earth, we will be disappointed in the lack of people we can associate with.

If we are the older girl, we align with people who serve a purpose in our lives. We know they may not be perfect on the edges, but there is something in them that is useful for enhancing our walk with Christ. Perhaps they speak truth into our situations or they offer new study techniques or they may even encourage us in a manner we weren’t expecting.

This week think about those who you allow to influence your life.  Are you the youngest, middle or oldest child?

~Emily

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.”        ~Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)

The Shell Seekers

Cut To The Quick

I would like to think I’m a strong woman.  I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life.  I was, at one time, entrenched in sexual sin.  It’s not something I’m proud of.  However, through the Holy Spirit, I was reminded I was a beautiful child of the King who didn’t need her value and worth determined by a man.

I spent literally years praying to God and asking Him to forgive me for my actions and behaviors before I finally took heed to God’s Word.  It says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”  Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgression from us.”  When I finally took those verses and truly hid them in my heart, I realized I was free of that sin.  When I repented and asked for His forgiveness, God gave it to me without hesitation.

But that doesn’t mean insecurity doesn’t creep in.  Last week while chatting with a group of friends, someone made an incredibly embarrassing comment about my past.  The remark was hurtful and degrading.  While I don’t think it was meant maliciously, it cut me to the quick.  It reminded me that while I have moved on, the devil still fights to keep my testimony mired down in humiliation and regret.

For quite a while, all I could think about was how I would never live down my past and how I would ever really be able to serve women.  Could I ever be able to fully commit to a ministry when my past is the fodder for jokes?

The answer the Holy Spirit gave me was clear.  YES.  My past and my sin may be humor for some, but it is no laughing matter to Jesus, because He let it go when I repented.

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.’” –Isaiah 1:18

My sins were covered and cleansed by Christ Himself.  My past, while not ideal, gives me the testimony to speak to women today.  It shows them that Jesus Christ can and does have the victory in our lives.  It doesn’t allow for judgment or shame, because our God took that shame and cast it away with the cry of redemption.  Thank you, Jesus for that grace.

For any who are ensnared by the lies of satan that your value is measured by your past, please take one of the verses written above and memorize it.  Hide it in your heart and speak it out boldly when the enemy tries to tear you down.  Allow God to have the victory in your past, present, and your future.

~Erin

Though your sins be as scarlet

The Day Before Surgery

Last month my mother-in-law, Renee, earned herself a helicopter ride to the ER after having stroke-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, she was scheduled for surgery to remove a brain tumor that had metastasized from kidney cancer.  The day before her surgery, five days after her helicopter escort, she still hadn’t regained use of her right arm.

Through all the visitors who trickled in and out of Renee’s room the day before surgery, our little family was well aware that these may be our last moments with her.  We had spent much of the day laughing and storytelling.  Brittney, my sister-in-law, had the outstanding idea to pack a picnic lunch so that the grandkids could share “snacks” with Grandma one more time.

As the evening drew to a close, Brittney and I offered to wash Renee’s hair, which hadn’t been washed the entire time she’d been in the hospital.  We kicked the husbands and the kids out of the room (We weren’t sure how wet we would get, let alone how much skin would be revealed!).  We gathered towels, basins, warm water, and a little bottle of baby shampoo.  While Renee sat upright in bed with pillows propped up against her lower back and a slack right arm, Britt and I pour water and lathered suds.  We rinsed and rinsed.  We controlled drippy water like experts and Renee hummed in the satisfaction of having her hair washed.

A trio of women focused on a humanizing task…no one else in the room.  Two serving one.  Not just because Renee needed her hair washed (which she did), but because two daughters-in-law loved their mother-in-law enough to want her to feel special.

In the hallway, a nurse said, “She’s so lucky to have a family to care for her with servants’ hearts.”

That statement sat in my heart for several weeks. I wasn’t sure that “servant’s heart” was the correct phrase.  Perhaps it was; perhaps it wasn’t.  I didn’t feel like I had a servant’s heart at that moment.  I just knew that Renee had been subjected to humbling tests and treatments…ones that strip a person of their privacy.  I knew at that moment, I wanted to tag team with my sister-in-law to make Renee feel “human.”

Scripture tells us to regard our family members with acts of service.  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ~1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV).

Scripture also tells us how to regard our elders with acts of service.  “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” ~1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

The act of washing hair may be worthy of saying “servant’s heart,” but it was definitely a moment where family was taking care of family. It was an act of love.  It was one where humility was exhibited by all three women.

God blessed that action; just as He has blessed every act of service done while modeling Christ’s love for one another. He’s blessed this family and He has wrapped His arms around Renee as she has faced the uncertainty of life and death this last year.  She survived brain surgery.  After a few complications, she is doing well in rehab and is starting to regain movement in her right arm.  God is good. All the time.

Cancer is a terrible road.  I wouldn’t want this reality for any family.  But I will freely admit that I wouldn’t change one moment of that “day before surgery.”  I wouldn’t change the picnic lunch or grandkids’ giggles.  I wouldn’t change the parade of visitors or watching my husband hold his mom’s hand.  I wouldn’t change the group prayer around her bed, as we left for the night.  And I certainly wouldn’t have changed any part of the hair washing.

~Emily