Expecting an Answer

I was reading about the four men who lowered their friend through the roof down to Jesus in Mark 2 this week during church.  It’s the story of the paralyzed man who was healed.  These people brought their friend who couldn’t walk to be healed, and upon getting there, couldn’t get into the room where Jesus was speaking.  Verse 4 tells us that when they couldn’t get through, they went up to the roof, cut a hole in the ceiling and lowered him down to see Jesus.

Mark 2:5 says, “And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

I don’t know how this feels to you, but this whole story screams of courage.  More importantly it took faith, a tremendous amount of faith.  They had an air of expectancy when they walked up to that house.  They didn’t come hoping Jesus would heal their friend.  They EXPECTED that Jesus would heal their friend.  They believed that Jesus being who He is would heal the man.  And in that day, not only did Jesus forgive the man of his sins and heal him spiritually, He told him to pick up his pallet and go home (vs. 11) and healed him physically.

Do we have that same expectancy when we come to Jesus with our petitions?  I know there are times when I wish His answers were as clear as the answer given to the paralyzed man.  But I also recognize that I need to come to Him with an expectation that He WILL answer my petition…in the way that most brings Him the glory. 

I think that coming to him with the expectation that there will be an answer allows me to be content with whatever the answer is.  Think about those 4 friends and Jesus’s immediate answer to the paralyzed man.  The initial answer wasn’t that he could walk.  He DID, however, give him an answer that still healed.

I pray, Iron Porch, that as we come to the throne of God with our petitions, seeking Christ, that we have that same air of expectancy of an answer.  Because the answer He gives will be the right answer for you.

~Erin

Become Forgettable

In the New Testament, there are five mentions of a man that you may be unfamiliar with.  I wasn’t familiar with him.  Honestly, I had read his name often but did not recognize his significance.  He’s mentioned in Acts 20:4, Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7, 2 Timothy 4:12, and Titus 3:12. 

His name was Tychicus. 

And he’s quite forgettable within all the narrative of the New Testament. 

He appears near the end of Paul’s mission work in Ephesus.  He had been selected to deliver several letters for Paul.  He was with the former runaway slave, Onesimus, when he converted and went to Colossae.  Could he have witnessed the riots that started with Demetrious the silversmith whose business was impacted by Paul’s sermons on idol worship? Possible. Could he have been Paul’s scribe for some of the letters in the New Testament?  Possible.  Could he have been trusted to deliver more letters than we know? Also, possible. 

Throughout the second half of Paul’s ministry, Tychicus was likely present for nearly every significant event.  Yet, he was in the background.  He became forgettable.

We live in a society that demands we are remembered.  Social media imprints, how we dress, High School reunions, our speeches and volunteer work, board meetings, medals and decorations with a few promotions thrown in…all ways where we strive to be remembered.  We are seeing the creation of “mini-celebrities” in an effort for all of us to be remembered in some capacity.

Even within the church. 

Some leadership structures allow Pastors to have celebrity status.  Others create titles for ministry leaders that lead to elevation of status.  Social media platforms embellish ministry work or community impacts.  Slowly, we become enamored with our own voice and status and forget about the voice of the One we should be most reliant on. 

Yet, the church needs more servants like Tychicus.  Ones who want the Gospel known but don’t care if they ever are.  The ones who do seemingly tedious work in order to advance the Kingdom, but aren’t seeking their own recognition.

This week I’ll be praying that each of us can be more like Tychicus…that we become forgettable.

~Emily

Fearing Persecution

I live in Bible country.  You’ll find a large majority of people in my area who go to church regularly, memorized scripture as far back as they can remember, or who talk about Jesus without a second thought.  Around here, it’s pretty easy to speak about God or tell someone that you’re praying for them.

But what about in other areas?  What about in the places you aren’t familiar with?  What about the bigger cities or businesses you frequent?  What about your jobsite?  Would you have the same confidence that the people you are surrounded by are unfazed or irritated that you would bring up Jesus?

We see more and more these days, Christians having to defend what they say and how they believe.  Often, we’ll hold our tongues in certain situations because we aren’t familiar with the surrounding audience.

But friends, we’re told that persecution and trials will happen!  We know that some will mock us for our beliefs.  You may receive harassment for your feelings on sensitive topics.  Dare I say some of us could lose friends for standing on the Rock of our Salvation.   The Bible tells us those who willingly accept it are blessed for going through it! 

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” –James 1:2-4

“If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of Glory and of God rests on you.” –1 Peter 4:14

“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:10

We should be proud of the fact that our home is in heaven!  I saw a wonderful testament to this just this week.

Most of you have seen the NFL football game on Monday that resulted in the Buffalo Bills’ player, Damar Hamlin, going into cardiac arrest.  As they worked on him at the 50-yard-line, people were stunned, crowds quiet, many of the players and crew taking a knee as they waited to see if he would be ok. 

The following morning during a broadcast, Dan Orlovsky, an ESPN commentator, was speaking about what happened to Damar. 

Now hear me when I say, I know nothing about this man.  I’ve only read he’s an “outspoken Christian.”  I don’t know what his faith-walk looks like and I don’t know what skeletons are in his closet.  What I do know is that he courageously said on national TV that even though he didn’t know if it was the right thing to do, he wanted to pray for him right then with eyes closed and head bowed.  And he did. 

That.  Takes.  Guts.

Would we do the same?

I’m encouraged, Iron Porch!  Those that know me, know that I would talk to a door if it would talk back.  However, I want to be so fearless that I would stand WHEREVER and proclaim that I will pray to our Jehovah-Rapha, The God who Heals.  I want to be unashamed to talk to anyone about Jesus without fear of persecution because I know that persecution brings glory to our Father.

I’m asking you, dear friends…let’s stand strong in our faith, proclaiming to all the goodness and mercy of God that everyone might know who He is!

~Erin

Roman gods and the Changing of the Calendar

Time for a history lesson.

Did you know that the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus.  Janus was a god with two faces.  One face is filled with sadness and seems to look backwards.  The other face is filled with hope as it looks forward.  It becomes the two faces of the New Year…one that looks back at the previous year and one that looks forward to the new year. 

At what point in the year does that hope-filled face realize that it’s the sad face of despair again?  For me a couple weeks into January, I realize any concept of resolutions aren’t important and/or aren’t going to come into fruition.  Perhaps the hope filled face starts to slip a bit by the end of the first month of the year.

As believers, we can be assured that our hope doesn’t have to tie to the flipping of the calendar page to indicate a New Year.  Our God is the same “yesterday, and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).  God is over our past, our present and our future. He’s not just there on the 31st of December as we make promises to ourselves about how much better the next year will be.

And if that’s true, well then…it doesn’t matter what the date is on the calendar.  It truly doesn’t matter which way the face is turned…the reality is that there is hope in our face of happiness and sadness.  It’s the hope of a future with Jesus. 

One of the greatest promises we can read in the Bible is when God promises that He will never leave us or forsake us in Hebrews 13:5. This promise stands year-round, year after year.

Read that again…a promise that stands year-round.  Every year.

Our God is an awesome God who provides for us through trials and tribulations.  And He provides for us through triumph and victory.  It does not matter what we are going through, He will be with us. It does not matter if we are happy or sad, He will be with us.  It simply does not matter what season of life we are in, He will be with us.


There’s no need for us to subscribe to the Roman god’s concept of having two faces for our year…we have the one true God to rely on.  I pray you know this now and every day of 2023. 

Happy New Year!

~Emily

A Heavy Christmas

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 love you and Merry Christmas,

Erin

Destroying the Busy-Body

“Busy-Body” is a phrase with a negative connotation that describes someone who is nosy, meddling, and very interested in what other people are involved with.  Often these are the folks who have many tasks on the “to-do” list, they offer unsolicited advice and are known for trying to help in scenarios whether they are welcomed or not. 

This time of year seems to bring out more of these to-do list types of nosy people.  The Christmas Busy-Body.  People who want to counsel on grief during the holidays, or offer financial inputs on how much you may be spending on gifts…or worse, someone who just wants to know your business for no apparent reason.    

Think of the busiest of all the busy “busy-bodies” in your circle.  It could be someone in your family, someone at work, or even someone with whom you volunteer at church.  Maybe you are so lucky, you’ve only run into a busybody in a novel or on tv.  Consider just how much work that person does, how crazy full their calendar is, or just how much they strive to accomplish. 

It’s exhausting to think of just how busy these people are.

And yet, Satan is even busier.  He’s a true busybody.

He’s so quick to whisper lies in our ears.  He’s crafty at preventing people from seeking the Truth of Christ’s gift of salvation.  He gets people to subscribe to our progressive and permissive culture…both in and out of the church.  John 8:4 reminds us that Satan is “a liar and the father of lies.”

As believers, we know with our hearts that this particular busybody doesn’t get to win. Jesus came to destroy him while providing us a hope that can only come through knowing Christ.  1 John 3:8 states, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.” Once we become believers, Satan does not have a claim over us…unless we become willing to listen to the lies, he tells us.  Thus, the work of the devil becomes null and void with the victory of Christ’s crucifixion. 

There is even more hope in knowing there will be the ultimate victory for Jesus’ followers.  Romans 16:20 promises us that victory.  “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under our feet.”

In the next week, I’d like to encourage you to pray about where Satan’s lies have come into your life.  Know that Jesus has disarmed the devil.  Believe that Jesus’ victory destroys the devil’s work in fear, lust, pride, hatred…and any other negative work he dapples with. 

We don’t need to have any more thoughts spent on the “captain of the busy-body club.”

~Emily

Thanksgiving Humble Pie

Several years ago at a Thanksgiving dinner, an extended family member said an unkind comment to me that I still remember each year as I reach for dessert.  A couple of months ago, I watched an eruption on social media over the dresses worn to the Homecoming dance.  Weeks before that, I’d seen outrage over a video that a football player posted.  In all three instances, there were comments from all parties that lead to apologies…in person and online.  And yet, we often know that apologies are helpful, but don’t always repair the hurt over some of those comments or judgments. 

Have you ever misspoken? Stepped out of line? Gotten caught gossiping or lying? Or worse sins?  Have you ever been confronted with your own sin-filled life…or have you ever confronted your own sin?  Have you ever had to delete a social media post?  Or a comment?

If so, you may have had a serving of humble pie.

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, humble pie is a figurative serving of humiliation usually in the form of a forced submission, apology, or retraction. 

As a child, I didn’t understand it as an act of humiliation.  Rather, I saw the phrase as a means of making things right when I had made things wrong.  To me, “eating humble pie” was an act of becoming more humble through an apology. 

One of the areas that I struggle with being humble is on social media.  Like many others, I share all aspects of my life on social media. I try to not be braggadocios or prideful in my posts. I find myself most guarded in my responses where I strive to not be condescending. 

Solomon gives us guidance here, which encourages us to have a deep reading with thoughtfulness, rather than quick skimming and indignation in our responses.  Proverbs 29:20 states “Do you see the man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Solomon also advises that “the wise will inherit honor” (Proverbs 3:35), which lets us know that wisdom is honorable.  This includes not being quick to respond…for often the hasty response will be one that later requires apologies.

As I’ve meditated on being humble in my responses on social media, I’ve come to realize that a   humble character is showcased through social media…but it must be cultivated before social media.  No other time in human history has it been so easy to display pridefulness (through social media), but likewise, there is no other time in human history that it’s been so easy to display humbleness.  The more we understand humility and pride, the less often we must eat that humble pie.

Next week, let’s concentrate on how pride versus humility is displayed in our lives.  Try to pay attention to how it is exhibited in our daily lives…and on social media.

And please, please, please have a Happy Thanksgiving with a slice of delicious pie!

~Emily

The Owner’s Manual

I bought a new car a few weeks ago.  I wanted something just a bit bigger, and it seemed like the right time to take the plunge.  One of the things the salesman handed me as I walked out the door with keys in hand was a ginormous owner’s manual.  It amazes me how detailed the manual is, giving you specific instructions on not only the strange button you find on the side of your console but how to properly put your car in Drive.  If I need the owner’s manual to learn how to put it in Drive, I’m not sure I should be buying a car just yet!

As Christians, we also have an owner’s manual!  When we accept Christ as Lord of our life, we have the Bible that teaches us about how to live for God every day.  It teaches us seemingly small things like being kind.  It teaches us big things like how to apply appropriate church discipline.  It reminds us that to love the world means we hate the Father.  It also gives us reminders of what can happen when we look back after God has taken us out of the ungodly situation (pillar of salt, anyone?).

Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

He also says in Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

The Bible is meant to guide us and shape us.  It’s God letter to us, rich in wisdom.  When we read it daily, it’s a direct line to our Heavenly Father.  Even when there’s something tough to read or hard to swallow, it’s our Father giving us the right way to live our lives.  We need no other book!  It loves.  It corrects.  It chastens.  It guides.  It heals.

As we read our Bibles this week, I pray that we hear God’s voice in the scriptures.  And if this will be the first time you’ve picked up your Bible in a while, I pray that God’s love pours over you in words.  If you’re looking for a place to start, try starting with the book of John.  It will remind that you God is love.  And that love allowed Him to become a sacrifice for you so that you might know what eternity in heaven is.

~Erin

Hiding Under the Couch

In the late 1990s, I was stationed in California.  While there, I lived next door to a young family in a condo-style building.  The oldest child, Merissa, was about 3 years old when I first met her.  Anytime she was in trouble or afraid, she’d hide under the couch in the living room.  Imagine the sweet little face of a toddler half smooshed under the couch, peeking out to see if the coast was clear. 

Do you have a spot you “hide under” when you’re in trouble or scared? Is it under the covers? In a bubble bath? In a tub of ice cream?  Does that hiding spot also include times you want to try to hide from God?  Notice I used the phrase “try” to hide from God.  Trying to hide is a human quality that does not consider God’s omnipresence.

Jeremiah 23:24 (NASB) shows us that God is everywhere.  “’Can a person hide himself in hiding places so that I do not see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the Lord.”

The infinite spirit of God includes omnipresence, which means He is present everywhere in creation. And that my friends…is really hard to wrap our minds around. That omnipresence is awe-inspiring and difficult to understand, but it should also motivate our own sanctification. 

In regards to sin: It helps us with blatant and deliberate sin to remember that God is in all places at all times.  He is a literal witness to all of our sinful behavior.  When I remind myself that God is watching, it often makes me more hesitant to commit the sin.  On the other hand, when I let myself forget that God is omnipresent, I find myself making poor choices.   

In regards to service: It helps us with creating a ‘servant’s heart’ in our own life when we remember that God is in all places at all times.  He is witness to our kindness, our sweet words and actions, and our giving of talents, time, and tithes.  We should not be acting kindly simply because God is watching, but rather it should assist us with becoming more eager to please Him.   

Regardless of if you are hiding under the couch like a toddler or under the covers with ice cream, remember that God’s omnipresence misses nothing. 

~Emily

Clean the Dishes

I hate doing dishes.  Any by hate doing dishes, what I really mean is that all housework feels horrific to me and I’d rather chew my nails down to stubs than do clean my house. (Don’t ask my husband.  I don’t want him to have to hurt my feelings by acknowledging this sad fact!) 

Now, there are fewer people eating in my house as my children grow up and move out, but it feels like there are just as many dishes as there ever have been.  I’m going to chalk it up to me deciding to be a gourmet cook and the necessity of needing 32 bowls to make macaroni and cheese.  There are dishes everywhere!  And as I was scrubbing out the inside of a bowl yesterday, my mind went to Matthew 23.

Jesus was among a crowd of people that included not only the average townspeople but also Pharisees and the disciples.  Jesus spoke of the Pharisees, essentially stating that they do not practice what they preach.  He went on to give Eight Woes, one of which is in verse 25 and 26.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may also be clean.”

Yikes!  The Pharisees were a group of Jewish men who were typically well versed and knowledgeable in the legal traditions and laws of the Jews.  They were constantly reminding people of the correct ways to worship, how to tithe, and how certain rituals and festivals were correctly completed.  They were considered scholars in Jewish law.

Jesus wasn’t very fond of them by all accounts because of the hypocrisy in not only their lives but in the worship of the Father.  They were often known to ignore their own sins but to willingly point out everyone else’s.   

In these verses, Jesus was telling them how they made themselves look pure, clean, and just on the outside so that people could SEE their righteousness.  They appeared polished and pristine.  But their inside…what a mess!  Sins of pride, ego, arrogance soiled them and perverted the process of sanctification.  There was nothing clean about them.  By not truly surrendering to God, repenting, and cleaning up their minds and their hearts, they made their outside actions futile, unworthy of praise.  I would even offer up that because of this, they could’ve easily caused an unbeliever to continue in their unbelief or perhaps a new/seasoned Christian to stumble.  They were doing for themselves and not for the Creator of this world!

The question for us then becomes, how does we relate to this?  I’m so glad you asked!  Our outward actions and life should reflect the inner surrendering of self to God.  When we have fully surrendered and accepted the free gift of salvation, we should then be striving for daily sanctification.  Our eyes should never leave Him.  Our inner thoughts of devotion to the Father should match the outward devotion to Him.  This, in turn, allows friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, strangers, ANYONE to see Christ shining through us!

Friends!  Let’s clean the inside as much as we try to clean the outside!  Let our prayer be that we keep the inside and the outside clean, solely focused on His perfect will in all aspects of our lives.

~Erin