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

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

The Culture

Last week was my two-year anniversary of living in the beautiful state of Alabama!  I’ve loved every minute of living here, and there are no regrets with making such a huge move to make our home in the south.  While I could do without temperatures of 143° and 923° humidity, I love the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and the home we’ve created.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between here and California (where I lived for five years before moving here) are the amount of people who say they’re Christians and talk about God openly.  Church is almost a culture out here, a legacy that’s been passed down from generation to generation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone’s membership to a local church started with their MawMaw or GreatGranny taking their kids so many years ago!

In California, the conversation was not as free-flowing about Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t nonexistent.  You just didn’t hear, “I’ll pray for you,” or “God bless” as you left your local grocery store.  No one was asking random strangers if the church’s youth group could help clean up your yard!

Now, hear me out on this one.  I’m not looking to step on toes.  I’m not looking to rile up the great people of the south (or of California).  But this idea of Christianity being a “culture” around here got me thinking.

Have you fully surrendered to God?  Are you a blood-bought believer, saved by the grace of God, living for Him in every aspect of your life?  Or is it just a culture….a legacy that’s been given to you because it’s what the family has always believed?

These are not questions I ask lightly.  And these are not questions I have not already asked myself.  My parents were Christians.  My father was raised in a Christian home.  It’s what I’ve always known.  But I would be remiss in not recognizing whether or not my salvation is because I made a choice to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ or because it’s what my mom and dad “did” so I did.  My actions, my attitude, and my heart should be clear indicators as to whether or not I am a new creation.

The Bible speaks clearly to being not of this world and being about the Father’s world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” –Colossians 3:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” –Romans 12:2 

While it’s important to attend a church, have your children going, have your children’s children going, there must be more to the story than just a legacy.  Does our faith show?  Does our faith produce works that show?  Is our heart truly surrendered to the Creator of the Universe?

Our actions and our life should reflect 100% submission to God.  There should be no room for doubt when someone sees us that we are committed to Christ.  I’m not saying perfection.  I’m saying active pursuit of righteousness.

There’s one way to heaven.  I don’t get to go because my mom and pop were Christians or because my Grandma prayed for me.  I get to be a citizen of heaven because I made the personal decision to accept Christ as my Savior.

Maybe you’re reading this and recognize that you haven’t done that yet.  I encourage, dear friend, call on the Lord.  Tell Him you’re a sinner and that you’re nothing without Him.  Repent of your sins and ask Christ to come live in your heart as Lord of your life.  There is no greater moment than knowing you have stopped becoming a citizen of this earth and are bound for your true home in heaven!

~Erin

The Perfect Last Word

How often have you been in a scenario where you thought of the perfect come-back or retort…after the conversation was done?

Last week I had an encounter with a guy who was hogging up a spot at a gas pump while eating a burger.  He had me blocked in and there were two other cars behind me waiting for their turn at the pump.  When I tapped my horn to get him to scoot out of the way, he shook his head at me…and then he flipped me off.

I was shocked. And in disbelief, I managed to get around him and leave the gas station.  

Over the next few hours, I revisited the interaction often.  I wish I had gotten out of my car to chat with the man. 

I know, I know.  That’s not necessarily safe in our society. But I do wish I had gotten more involved.  Why?  Because of some contextual clues.  He had out-of-State plates, a military haircut, and an Air Force sticker on his bumper.  As a retired military member, I wish I had engaged to let him know that his behavior was reflecting on the entire military service.  

I wanted to have the last word. 

In John 19:13, Christ said, “It is finished.”  

He had the last word.  

In this instance the Greek translation is that of an accounting term and means that it’s been paid in full.  


What is paid in full?  

Our debt due to our own sins, which trace all the way back to Adam and Eve’s original sins in the Garden of Eden is what was paid in full.  Jesus was saying that “it is finished” in regards to removing the consequences of our sin nature.  

Earlier in the book of John, we see Jesus praying to the Father prior to his arrest by the Romans.  In John 17:4 He prayed to ‘finish the work you have given me to do.”  

Not only did Jesus state “it is finished” in regards to covering our sins with his blood, but also that His work on Earth was finished.  While they seem to be the same implication, there is a slight difference in knowing that Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy.  As part God and part man, He was able to fulfill that prophecy despite His own human experiences.  “It is finished” is the completion of the Old Testament prophecies.  

The will of God…The faithful service of Christ….The option for forgiveness of our sins…All of these are covered under the simple statement of “it is finished.”

Those famous last words of Christ, which are so much more profound than any last words we may have in an argument or altercation.  

In the next week, I pray your last words are ones of grace and love…and not just because you wanted to have the last word.

~Emily

Salt of the Earth

I love salt as an ingredient in food.  During culinary school, I ditched table salt for kosher salt, Himalayan salt, or crushed rock salt.  I like black salt, pink salt or white salt. Smoked or regular.  Added to pepper and garlic or finessed into a compound butter.  In short, I really enjoy salt. 

In today’s society you find salt easily available at every grocery store or restaurant.  However, in the ancient world, salt was a valuable commodity and coveted by the wealthy.  In fact, Roman soldiers were often paid in salt rather than money.  It’s where our phrase “worth his weight in salt” comes from.  

One of the reasons that it was such a valued trading commodity was because of its properties in preservation of other food.  Without salt, decay and rotting would occur.  

When Jesus told a gathered crowd, “You are the salt of the earth” it was a shocking statement.  You see, Jesus was essentially telling them that they were of great value, just like a currency used to pay for services and merchandise.  At the time of this declaration, Jesus had just finished teaching about the beatitudes (Matthew 5:13-21), so it’s important to note that Jesus was referring to those who had the characteristics of the beatitudes as “salt of the earth.”  

What are the beatitudes?

– blessed are those who are poor in spirit…

– blessed are those who mourn…

– blessed are the meek…

– blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…

– blessed are the merciful…

– blessed are the pure in heart…

– blessed are the peacemakers…

– blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…

Like salt’s value in the ancient world, people are also a valued commodity.  When we see one who embodies the beatitudes, we are likely to see someone who walks closely to the Lord.  This is someone who you can emulate, someone you can learn from, someone you can pray with.  

As the valued salt prevents rot and decay, so does the embodiment of the beatitudes.  Let us each strive to grow these characteristics of the beatitudes in our own lives.  Let us become the salt of the earth.

~Emily

False Teachers

I often get asked by my Bible study group or people that know I’m a Christian what I think of Pastor X on the TV or Pastor Y who has a large following.  Sometimes, I get asked about prominent national Bible study leaders and whether or not I listen/like/follow them.

Coincidentally, those types of questions have been lining up with our current Bible studies.  As we talk about false gospel or religion and heretical teachings, our group is diving into scripture to see what the Bible says.

Satan is always roaming around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  One of his greatest tactics is to manipulate Christians.  If he can get us to start interpreting scripture to meet our needs rather than the true context, he’s got a foothold.  If he can push us into sinful pride of wanting people to hear US as opposed to God, he’s gaining ground.  If he can mislead us we, in turn, can mislead others.

Because of that, the Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t be surprised at false prophets who are around us. 2 Peter 2:1 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

It happened in Biblical times, and it’s happening even today.  At least 180 Bible verses speak to false prophets and how they will distort the gospel and teach false doctrine.

The Bible also gives clear direction on what we are to do when we hear pastors/speakers/influencers.  We are not to just accept what they say but rather look at it, read it, study it, and examine whether it is biblical.  If it is not, we should reject that which is evil. 

Do not quench the Spirit, do not utterly reject prophecies, but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil.” –1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1 John 4:1

One of the best ways we can recognize false teaching is to be in the Word.  I’m not talking quick devotionals that give us a pick-me-up.  I’m talking the in-depth study and understanding of God’s Word.  We need to be taking time to dive into the Bible.  It’s how God speaks to us.  I used to say that I didn’t have time, that I was too busy.  And then my pesky iPhone started giving me my weekly updates!  Learning you’ve had 5 hours of screen time during the week is obnoxious!  That’s time I could’ve stepped away from Instagram or Facebook or YouTube and spent time reading the Bible.

I would also encourage you to pray and ask that the Holy Spirit give you discernment as you prepare to hear one of these speakers.  The Holy Spirit is one of our greatest lines of defense!  We underuse Him, and the Lord gave Him to us after Jesus left so that we could have the Helper within us.

Dear friends, we live in a time where heretical teachings are prevalent.  We must be on guard and aware of those false teachers so that we do not blind ourselves into walking down a path that allows us to stray from God!  I pray that the Holy Spirit gives each of us the discernment we need to see God’s truth!

~Erin

Am I a Fruity Tree?

When the girls were younger, both Peyton and McKenna preferred to sit with me in “big” church.  They were never really ones to want to go to the kid’s room where everyone their age hung out.  They never ceased to amaze after the sermon when we would discuss the pastor’s message just how much they would know and understand what had been talked about.

One Sunday, Pastor Galen spoke of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22).  Jesus came up to the fig tree with his disciples and upon seeing that the tree was bare when it shouldn’t have been, He cursed the tree.  It withered up at once.  The disciples were shocked and from that moment, Jesus was able to speak to them on the power of faithful prayer.  

Pastor Galen expressed additional thoughts on the correlation to us living out the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to produce fruit in our walk with God.  It was rich with meaning and incredibly helpful to think about how empty our walk with God can be when we are bare and not producing fruit for the Kingdom.

On our way home, Peyton asked me if she could ask a question.  “Mommy, am I a plain tree or a fruity tree?”  At 6 years old, she was able to understand what the pastor meant in the difference between the two.  It shaped a beautiful conversation that ended with Peyton reminding herself that as a Christian she should always want to be the fruity tree and talk to her friends about Jesus.

To have the faith of a child, right?!

We sometimes think that being fruitful in our Christian life is difficult.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s hard to handle things like patience and long-suffering.  It’s scary to talk to a random stranger about God and who He sent as a sacrifice on our behalf.  It’s demanding to think that we must die to self daily.  But isn’t that we’re meant to do?

In Colossians 1:10, Paul writes to the people and says he is constantly praying for them so that they will be filled with the knowledge of His will, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I believe that if we came to God with the faith of a child, innocently wanting to just be a fruity tree for Him rather than a plain one, we would recognize we can trust God to help us be that fruity tree.  We aren’t meant to become fruit bearers by doing it on our own.  With faithful study and meditation on God’s Word, we can know that we are meant to lean on Him as well as walk with Him as we flourish and produce the fruit. 

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with Him!  We don’t have to be scared because we aren’t doing it alone.  We produce the fruit as a faithful child of the King!

How about you, dear friends?  Tell me, do you long to be a fruity tree for the Kingdom of God?!  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

When the Bee Stings

I’ve officially been a beekeeper since March, but this last weekend was my first time being stung.  I immediately started humming the song ‘My Favorite Things’ where Julie Andrews starts singing about “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad.” 

That pretty little gal got me right at the end of my index finger.  And it was my own fault. Up to this point, my girls have been pretty docile and haven’t minded me going into their house.  I needed to add a small box to one of the hives because they’ve been so busy making honey.  I got bold and went into the hive without my bee suit or gloves because it was supposed to be a quick task.

She wasn’t having any parts of it, and she caught me unprepared.

Scripture tells us that there will come a time when many will be caught unprepared…and it won’t be over a simple bee sting.  

The return of Jesus Christ will be a surprise to those who believe in Him, but they will be prepared for this coming.  It will be a surprise to those who believe in Him, but may be unprepared for the second coming. And it will certainly be a surprise to those who don’t believe in Him, but thought they had had it figured out or that they had more time. 

Yet, each group should be prepared and should be on alert.  

In Matthew 24:42-44 (NASB), scriptures states “Therefore be on alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.  For this reason, you must be ready as well; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” 

For the believer, preparedness means knowing the Word of God.  

-Memorize scripture

-Know it well enough to pray it back to God

-Study different versions of the Bible

-Understand apologetics and how to explain God’s Word to others.

Preparedness also means having an active relationship with God and others.

-Active & deliberate prayer life

-Daily study and reading

-Sharing the Gospel with others

-Fellowship in a church and small group

We have no idea when Jesus will return, just like I had no idea when I would first be stung by the bees I’m keeping.  As a beekeeper, I have suits, gloves, & smoke to help me be prepared.  Likewise, we have the Bible, prayer with God and fellowship with others to assist us with getting prepared.  


When the second coming occurs, don’t be unprepared; that would be way worse than getting stung on the tip of your finger by a honeybee.

~Emily

Dog Days

Last week I had a big scare with our dog, Ruger.  Ruger is a sweet 8 year old lab who Chris has had since he was a pup.  I was home alone with him when he started acting funny.  He was opening up his mouth and leaning toward the sky like he was trying to grab something.  When he would look down, his jaw was tremoring, and then he would dig his nose into the floor for 15-20 seconds at a time.  I truly thought this loveable lug was having a stroke.  I shot off a couple of quick videos to Chris at work and then called him, begging him to watch them right away and tell me if I needed to get him to the vet ASAP.

After 2 minutes or so, Chris called back.  “He’s acting like he’s get something stuck in his nose?  Does he have something in there?”  To which I dutifully picked this dog’s nose like a newborn with a raisin up his nostril (THAT happened the week before).  Nothing.  Chris said, “Then check his throat.  I think he’s got something stuck somewhere!”  Ruger let me gently open his mouth.  In the very back, stuck between his farthest molars was the cap of a marker that he had chewed and managed to wedge in there!

That dumb dog, despite the fact he’s been trained as a duck dog and knows not to chew things, decided to enjoy an awesome plastic snack that ended up causing him pain and discomfort.  I was so grateful I called Chris and asked what he thought.  After I pulled it out, I started crying because I had truly thought that the dog was going to die on my watch!  I was glad he was ok.

As I sit and write this blog and share the story, I can think of so many biblical applications oddly enough that resonate with me and hit me in the eyes.

How about the fact that my husband knew what to look for?  He has taken the time to get to know his dog and how he acts.  He knows what a dog looks like stressed.  He took years of experience with dogs and was prepared for odd circumstances like this one.  Am I that prepared for the sneak attacks of Satan?

We should be vigilant because the Bible tells us to be!  It clearly tells us that satan isn’t just letting us be.  He roams around seeking those to devour (I Peter 5:8).  Have we trained ourselves to be ready for whatever affliction comes our way?  And the best way for us to be prepared is to fully surrender to God, be in constant prayer with Him and use our Sword–the Bible–daily!  When we have trained ourselves well, when things come up unexpectedly, we will be equipped with the proper outlook to help us.

How about that silly dog knowing he’s not supposed to be chewing things like that and yet he did it anyway?  Do I hide from sin that stupidly?!  Do I know what I am commanded to do biblically and still slink away trying to hide what I’m about to do as if God doesn’t see it or doesn’t know about it?!

I’m guilty of this more times than I can count!  I wish that I was constantly in God’s Word as much as I should be.  I wish I didn’t lose my temper and say mean or hurtful things.  I wish that my past didn’t include drunken nights and sexual immorality.  But I’ve done exactly as Ruger has done.  It looked fun.  It looked inviting.  So I took part.  Then shame takes over as I hide my behavior, knowing that what I’ve done is pure and simply sin.  The reminder of the disobedience, however, is never far away and then like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar, or a dog caught with a marker top stuck between his teeth, our sin has found us out and God is waiting for repentance!

My prayer, Iron Porch, is twofold.  First, I pray that we are vigilant and aware of our surroundings, building up our faith with active prayer, Bible reading and worship so that we may know when we have a problem.  Second, I pray that we don’t hide in our sin.  I pray that we are so steadfast in our relationship with God that we actively pursue a sinless nature.  And when we DO sin, I pray that we are immediate in our repentance and turning away from the sin.  God is quick to forgive when we come to Him with a broken and repentant heart.

~Erin

Our Buddy, Ruger!

I Remember…

On 25 June 1996, I was an Airman First Class stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. I’d been in the Air Force for two years, but had not yet been tagged to go on a deployment.  I sat in the lounge at the hospital and watched news reports about a horrible terrorist incident in Saudi Arabia, where Airmen in a dorm area known as Khobar Towers had been directly targeted.  It wasn’t easy for my 20-year-old, fairly sheltered, self to reconcile that these were my brothers and sisters who had been killed or injured. 

We lost 19 Airmen that night; 17 were enlisted.  Hundreds, and I mean hundreds, were injured.  Over 500 purple hearts were awarded for that night alone. This event changed lives.  For forever. 

Fast forward 26 years to 2022. This last week, the museum where I work, was able to host over 200 guests who were members at the Khobar Towers, family members of those hurt and those killed, as well as currently serving members representing the KIA units.  It was the first time in Air Force history that we specifically honored those who had survived the events of that horrific night.  

The courage of the survivors is also covered with mourning.  Mourning of the loss of dreams, opportunities, and loved ones.  In Matthew 5:4, Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn.” It’s appropriate to call on this scripture when our hearts hurt from loss.  

It’s also appropriate for us to recognize that Jesus was talking about mourning over our sinful nature; not just loss.  In response to understanding our brokenness, we may be sad.  But it allows us to see our desperate need for God and that if our sin is not addressed, it keeps us from Him.  The separation from God, due to sin, is worthy of mourning.  

The true good news is that God has provided a way to maneuver through the mourning of sin towards Him.  It is belief that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that by accepting that free gift, we can have the offered grace and forgiveness of our sins. The way to happiness is often through sadness.  The road to rejoicing is often through mourning.  When you come to the cross, you full comprehend just how happiness and mourning can co-exist.  

Each year the anniversary of Khobar Towers is hard for hundreds of families, friends, and survivors.  As I keep in mind their hearts, I am grateful for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

I remember them…and pray they have comfort.

~Emily