Sharing the Gospel

There’s been a lot of discussion in the last several weeks in both my Sunday School as well as my Bible study about sharing the gospel.  We’ve talked about learning to give your testimony in 3-5 minutes as well as how important it is to share how God has changed your life.  If someone should want to know how to accept Christ as their personal Savior and they ask you how it’s done, the ability to talk to them about asking God to become the Lord of their life is so important.

I was thinking about this when I posted on Facebook the other day.  Now that I live in a small town, I find myself really encouraging people to shop small business.  There are many people in our area who sell their crafted goods and food at such reasonable prices.  I love being able to share their information so that they might be able to snag another customer.

Do I share that often about Jesus?  If someone came across my Facebook page, would they see notes of encouragement or verses from the Bible that are uplifting?  Would they read about how God provided me with the perfect house or a great opportunity on a deal? 

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying we only should post stuff about Jesus on our pages or wear shirts that proclaim us Christians or “Jesus Freaks!”  What I AM saying is am I putting just as many things that lead people to Christ on the internet as I do the posts that show just how much ‘stuff’ I buy or how much fun I’m having?

The Bible reminds us many times to tell others of Christ.  Are we following those commands?  One of the most well-known verses that tell us this is Mark 16:15—“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  That’s not a request!  We are to share the gospel with everyone! 

I pray that in the next two weeks leading up to Christmas (and even past that) there be opportunity after opportunity to share about the love of God and how He can change their life.

~Erin

Serving at Christmas: And Beyond the Holidays

During the Christmas season, we have a unique opportunity to build our own leadership skills while teaching others how to serve. Repeatedly throughout scripture, we see that Jesus used everyday circumstances to train his disciples (and us) how to serve and minister to others.  An example that immediately comes to mind is when Jesus feeds five thousand.  In John 6:1-13, notice all the times that Jesus had his disciples minister to the people. 

While conducting the miracle of feeding so many, Jesus taught others about ministry and serving.  He was modeling intentional relationship building with others.  He provided first hand experiences of how to minister…and what the rewards would be when service happens.  While Jesus showed us how to do this daily, we can use the holidays as a mechanism to “jump start” serving and ministry.

Often the holiday season becomes a time where serving is routine.  Without too much thought, we toss some change into a red kettle.  Perhaps we bring extra canned goods for the entrance to a craft fair.  We purchase small items for a shoebox ministry.  We take an angel tree tag and purchase a toy for a child.  

I’m not discounting those tasks as bad.  All of those are good things to do.  I am pointing out that they can become routine and we don’t pause to think or pray about the why…or the who…is behind these acts of service. I’m suggesting that before we toss change into the pot or purchase a toy for a stranger that we stop to pray.  Pray over why we are giving and pray over who will be receiving. 

I would also propose that we need to encourage others in serving during the Christmas season.  Jesus brought the disciples alongside him while He fed the 5000.  Why? Because it was a first-hand opportunity to learn how to serve effectively. 

– If you already serve in a ministry, ask someone to serve alongside of you.  This is a chance to ask those who are not typically involved to step out of their own comfort zones.  It may create relationships that develop into other serving opportunities. 

– If there isn’t an opportunity within ministry organizations, ask someone to come to a volunteer project outside of the church.  It could be as simple as writing letters to nursing home residents, or supervising a children’s event or doing yard work for those who need help.

– If you have children you are leading, brainstorm ideas with them of how to begin serving at Christmas and how that can continue into the new year.  Maybe your kids want to volunteer at the food bank for Christmas week and that evolves into a weekly or monthly volunteer project.

Once you’ve invited someone to serve with you, a scenario is created where they are empowered to continue serving on their own.  It requires that you are an intentional leader in assisting others in serving.  In the next few weeks, look for Christmas opportunities to encourage others to serve…and encourage service past the holidays.

~Emily

P.S. I’m so encouraged by the women of my church who chose to forgo a typical Christmas party this year to focus on raising awareness for The Elmore County Pregnancy Resource Center, Isaiah 58 Ministry, The Backpack Ministry, as well as writing Christmas cards for Nursing Home residents and deployed military members…they truly modeled Jesus’ behavior in serving others this season!

My Dog Is So Brave

Every morning between 4-6 am, my 10-month-old lab stands by the front door and hits the bells with his nose indicating he would like to go potty.  Every morning, I open the door to the complete darkness of early morning and he just stands there for a few seconds sniffing the air.  Once his sniffer assesses the air, he trots out to do his business.

He is so brave.

Nearly every morning I think about just how brave he is.  I certainly don’t want to step out into the darkness every morning to relieve myself.  We live in the country…do you have any idea what types of critters are hanging out around our house?!?!?!  There could be racoons, opossums, coyotes, spiders…lions…tigers…bears!!!!  Not to mention the bad guy or the zombie that could leap out of the woods!!!

He sniffs the air and then proceeds about his task.  He’s brave.

I want that type of bravery in regards to sharing the Gospel.  I want to “sniff the air” and proceed with telling people about Jesus.  However, more often than not, I allow my fear of the “critters in the yard” to dissuade me from stepping out into the darkness.  

In John 20:21 (NASB), we read, So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  In this passage, there is clear direction that He is specifically sending us to share the good news.  

Furthermore, He tells us in Matthew 4:19 that once we choose to follow Him, we will be made as fishers of men.  There is a task associated with being a Christ-follower…and that task includes sharing the gospel.  

From a knowledge perspective, I understand this.  I know the scripture, I know my responsibility in relation to this task, and I know how I should proceed.  The issue comes into play when I allow the fear of rejection or judgement of man to overshadow the need to proclaim Jesus as my Savior.  In order to combat this fear, I am committing to memorizing and implementing Romans 1:16 (ESV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This next week I plan to be brave, like my puppy.  I will sniff the air and then proceed out the door to proclaim the Gospel and what Jesus has done in my life.  Will you join me?

~Emily

Mismatched Socks

My sister-in-law works at a sock company and often supplies us with fun-loving, colorful foot coverings.  In the past we’ve gotten fish, kittens, avocados, sloths, mermaids, firemen, dragons and countless other ankle or knee-high socks.  

My son has taken to wearing mismatched, knee-high socks.  He doesn’t care if he’s wearing shorts or pants and he certainly doesn’t care if the socks match. 

I want to believe that he’s making a statement of individual thinking.  However, I think his mismatched sock fashion is a result of his not wanting to match the socks out of the dryer.  

Sometimes our thoughts are like mismatched socks.  We try our best to think one way, but there’s another version of the thoughts right there.  Scripture in Matthew 14:29 (NASB) reminds us that Peter’s thoughts were on Jesus and the faith to walk on water.  Jesus called him, and Peter was able to get out of the boat and walk towards Jesus on top of the water.  

Moments later, another thought enters Peter’s mind.  A mismatched thought; if you will.  He begins to doubt himself and subsequently begins to sink into the water.  Jesus saves him but chastises him for being of little faith.  

How often are mismatched thoughts entering your own mind?  

I’d like to help that single mother; contrasted with: I don’t have enough money to assist her.  

I want to spend more time studying the Bible; contrasted with: I have to pick up kids/make dinner/clean the house.  

I have an opportunity to present the Gospel to an unbeliever; contrasted with: I’m too scared that I’ll be rejected.  

Like my son’s mismatched socks, our thoughts are often in contrast with other thoughts.  This week, I’m praying that you have the wisdom and the strength to determine which thoughts you want to follow.  

~Emily

“And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.” ~Matthew 14:29 (NASB)

The Syrup-Creamer Difference

Every once in a while, my 9-year-old asks to add a splash of coffee to his hot chocolate in the morning.  And every once in a while I allow him to do so.

This morning, he asked if he could pour some coffee.  In a horrible mothering moment, I assumed he meant pour a small amount into his hot chocolate, as he had done before. Instead, he poured himself a full cup and then proceeded to add “vanilla creamer.” 

A few moments later, he brought me his cup and asked, “Why doesn’t it taste like yours?”

I took a sip and discovered it was pure coffee…with a VERY large helping of vanilla coffee syrup.  Not, creamer.  

Have you ever tried to substitute syrup for creamer?  In my opinion, it was disgusting!  Substitutes may taste slightly the same, but there are distinct differences.  

The same is true with God.  There are seasons of our lives that we make slight adjustments to our walk with God.  

Some adjustments may include the amount of time we spend in prayer, or the time of day we spend in prayer.  Those substitutes may be exchanging time reading a fiction novel for the time to read the Bible.  Perhaps I skip the pedicure and instead go serve at the community center. 

But what about when we substitute our Bible study time for shopping on line? When we sacrifice prayer time for reading a magazine?  When we choose to fiddle with the radio nob rather than take a moment to pray for the homeless person on the side of the road?

Sometimes the substitutes are for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Some are syrup and some are creamer. 

Take a moment this week and assess what is being substituted in your life…is it better or worse for your relationship with God.  I’ll be praying that you have healthy substitutes and grow closer to the Lord.  

~Emily

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

Poop Talk Transparency

In a world full of COVID precautions, it’s been months since I have been in routine scenarios with lots of people around me. Over the weekend I went to a farmer’s market to look at the fresh produce. While strolling by the tomatoes and cheese, I overheard the most endearing conversation between two middle-aged women who were clearly friends enjoying a kids-free outing to pinch peaches and sniff homemade soaps.

The first woman turned to the other and said, “I’m about ready to talk about where we should go eat lunch.”

Her companion laughed and said, “It’s only 9 am Mary!!! Let’s go to the bookstore next, then talk about lunch.  Plus, I have to poop and I know the bookstore has a decent bathroom.”

I HAVE TO POOP!!!  She said, “I have to poop” like it was a normal conversation topic to discuss with a close friend in a public farmer’s market!

I want that poop talk transparency in my life and I want these women as my friends.  Now, don’t get it twisted…I don’t need the bathroom habits of my friends in order to have transparency, but what I do need is women in my life that are willing to say what they mean and mean what they say!

You think the pants make my butt look big…tell me! You don’t think I should date that dude…tell me!  You wish I had a different outlook on a particular topic…tell me!  I want my friends to have the ability to be transparent about their own lives and to help me be transparent in mine!

When I reflect on that type of transparency between friends, it makes me also think about if others see transparency in my life as a Christ-follower.  It makes me think to myself, “Do strangers interact with me and leave knowing I have Jesus in my heart?”

In 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”

There is a nuance in this scripture that lets us know that transparency in a Christian walk includes presenting ourselves in a Godly manner, in an unashamed manner, and that we handle the Word of God with the truth.  The transparency of our walk with Jesus should be prevalent and it should be readily seen by others.

I’m not advocating for telling strangers or your best friends about your pooping needs….but I am praying for each of us to be just a little more transparent this week with sharing the love of God through our own actions and words.

~Emily

In 2 Timothy 2_15 (NASB), we see that it says “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”-2 copy

Learning New Culture

Our son had just turned 4 years old when we moved to Alabama from Washington DC.  I’m originally from Oregon and my husband from Pennsylvania, so imagine the culture shock we experienced moving to the South.  Everything from the slower pace, to the food and sweet tea, was different.

What was one of the most noticeable differences?  The “language”!!!  For instance, when we arrived we rented a house on Lake Jordan.  The native Alabamians sounded like they were saying “Light Jerden” every time they attempted to correct our pronunciation.  Don’t even get me started on how we “mispronounce” the name of our town now!

Not long after we settled into life in the South, my boys came home from breakfast at a restaurant chatting about a bunch of ladies who sounded like sheep as they departed their morning meeting.  I asked the boys to explain why they were comparing women to sheep.  Turns out all these women saying “bye” to one another in a southern dialect was heard by the PA boys as “bah,” as in “bah-bah,” the noise sheep make!   To this day, we still giggle as a family if we hear a strong southern “bah.”

Something as small as the dialect is something that is included in figuring out the culture of a new location.  It makes me think of how overwhelmed Ruth could have been when she left all she knew in Moab to follow her Mother-in-law, Naomi to Israel.  There was a new dialect, new customs, new food, and most notably in this story, a new religion.

In Jeremiah 29:11, God offers us a promise that He is looking out for our best interest and for our future…even in the middle of culture changes.  “’For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’” (NASB).

Imagine leaving the status of being a Moabite Princess to become a Jewish refugee in Israel. Ruth had so much to learn and a ton of new norms to become accustomed to…and yet, she did it with complete loyalty towards her husband’s family. The example Ruth provides is one of complete immersion into the culture.

Let me ask you this…when has God taken you out of your comfort zone and you’ve had to learn a new culture?  In the current climate in America, perhaps now is an appropriate time to learn about what others consider their culture.  I’m not saying you should move to another part of the country or forgo all you know, like Ruth.  I am suggesting, that it may be time to consider taking some steps towards understanding our fellow Christians and what type of cultures they hold dear.

It might be an opportunity to chat about God in a whole new way…

~Emily

Learn New Cultures

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

Expiration Dates

There I was standing in the shower with lathered suds sliding down my arm when I noticed my shampoo bottle from a different angle.  It was as though I was seeing the bottle for the first time in my life.  I noticed a detail that had escaped my observation for all of my life.

Did you know that shampoo has an expiration date?  Seriously, there’s an expiration date on my bottle of shampoo!

That got me thinking what else could be expiring? I know milk and eggs can expire but does toothpaste? Oh, my goodness, does chocolate?!?!?!

What doesn’t expire? Well, when properly stored, there seems to be a few items that will theoretically last forever. Honey. Salt. Sugar. Rice. Pure Maple Syrup. Dried Beans.

You know what else doesn’t have an expiration date?  God’s love.

Before, now, and always…God has loved each and every one of us.  He truly loves us and wants each one of us in heaven with Him.  The only caveat is that we have to accept His gift.

It’s crazy to think about how God loves us so completely that He not only sent his Son to show us how to love and live, but that He also allowed that Son to be used as a sacrifice to cover our sins.  Most of us learned John 3:16 as one of our first memorization verses.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16 (NASB)

Unlike my shampoo, God has offered a gift of eternal salvation that only expires when you don’t accept the gift.  God literally allowed His Son to be our ticket to eternity…all without an expiration date!

If you haven’t already accepted the gift of salvation, consider today as the day you change your life and put your life in Jesus Christ as your personal savior!  Contact the Iron Porch if you have questions about how to commit your life to Christ!

~Emily

Shampoo