Planting The Fall Harvest

For the last several weeks my husband has actively been planting food plots in preparation for deer season. It has required deliberate planning for locations, tilling plots, research of specific crops, and sowing seeds.  After that, lots of prayer for rain to come and birds to not eat the seeds sown.  All these plans to entice deer to come to a pre-arranged buffet location.

One of the things we’ve discovered through this process is that we had to repeatedly till up the land because there are residual weed seeds at multiple layers of the soil.  Each time we disked it up we had to wait a while to watch the weeds take hold…then till again.  Repeat, rinse.  It’s been quiet the process to get up all the weeds in order to plant the food plots.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the process that Jesus told us to do in regards to the evil weeds of the world.  Jesus told the parable in Matthew 13:24-30 (NASB) that we should let the weeds grow up with the wheat.

“Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left. And when the wheat sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also became evident. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ And he said to them, An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No; while you are gathering up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Jesus goes on to explain that this field represents the world, that Jesus is sowing the seeds which are the Word of God, and the enemy is Satan who has planted the poisonous weeds.  Yikes.  Both the church and the enemy are sowing seeds…one is worth harvesting, and one will be burned. 

While believers are game to spread the seeds of the Good News, we try in vain to stay away from sin and evil.  Of note, most of us want to pull up the weeds by the roots and be done with the enemy and evil that he sows.  But that is not our job.  According to Matthew 7:5, the only evil we are required to root out, is the evil in our own lives. 

That does not negate our calling to sow seeds generously in the harvest fields (Matthew 13:1-23).  We need to keep sharing, keep praying, and keep planting the seeds of the Gospel.  We speak truth.  We vote according to our beliefs and we work against injustces that we see happening around us.  We continue to work for the Kingdom as the hands and feet of Christ. 

The weeds in the food plot planting for deer season must be dealt with through continuously tilling the soil.  But the weeds sown by Satan?  We leave those alone…let God deal with them on Judgment Day. 

I pray you have a fruitful week spreading the seeds of Christ’s true love.

~Emily

Context is King

How many times have we read those memes about how punctuation can really change the context and understanding of the sentence?!  They’re some of my favorite things to see on my Facebook page.  You know what I’m talking about…the ones where one comma can change the sentence from “I like eating kittens and sleep” to “I like eating, kittens, and sleep.” What about the times we get just one part of story from someone and we realize we need to see the complete picture, not just the one piece they’re telling us? 

Context is king, and it’s even more important to understand the context of verses in the Bible to fully comprehend what God is saying in the passages of scripture!  It’s very easy to take a verse at face value.  We pick it out because it sounds helpful or we think it’s perfect according to our situation. 

While those verses ARE helpful, it’s important to understand what the verse is talking about as we use these verses.  There are many around us who may not fully understand scripture, and it’s important that we are not misrepresenting the Bible.

Let’s look at a few of the ones I’ve been researching:

James 1:5—“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

If my Table 8 Bible study group heard this from me once, they heard it from me 100 times during our study of the book of James that many use this verse to preach the prosperity gospel.  “If you ask, He gives and He gives GENEROUSLY!  Keep asking!” 

That’s not what He says, though.  He doesn’t say ask for stuff.  He says if you lack WISDOM, ask and He will give it you.  This isn’t about what financial gain you can receive but rather wisdom.  As well, if you read the verses before, James is talking about trials producing endurance  and allowing it to have its perfect result.  This is about wisdom as you endure!

1 Corinthians 6:19—“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

I actually love this verse.  I often heard growing up this verse being related to drinking, smoking, sex outside of marriage, overeating, etc.  While I won’t negate that because your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, it’s important to treat your body well in relation to all of that.  But when you look at the context surrounding the verses, this verse is referring to sexual immorality!  Paul is saying that sexual immorality can truly invade not only your outside self but your inner soul, as well.  Sex is not ‘just sex.’ It’s something that, when not honored in the biblical way, can hurt your heart and soul. 

Friends, as I study the Bible and dig deep, I’m gaining such a better understanding of the scripture.  The study clarifies how it pertains to me and it has me digging even deeper to see the entire Bible and not just the bits that I can fit into a catchy phrase to share as I’ve done in the past.

I pray that as we go through our studies this week, as we dig into the scripture, that we are asking God to allow us to see it as a whole.  Let’s challenge ourselves to see the full context of what we’re reading and allow God to reveal exactly what His word says!

~Erin

Blind Man with a Tattoo

A couple weeks ago, I saw a blind man in the airport while I was traveling for work.  I stood for a moment admiring how he was navigating the crowds with his blind cane.  He was moving quickly and with purpose…and that white stick with red reflective tape was swooshing back and forth.  As he passed, I noticed a fairly large tattoo on the back of his right calf. 

I was taken aback.  Why would someone get a tattoo that they wouldn’t ever see?  How does he know that it was what he asked for? How would he have known which colors were depicted?

I thought about this gentleman for several days and the reasons for him getting a tattoo.  Maybe he had gotten the tattoo and then later became blind; therefore, he’d know exactly what the tattoo looked like.  Maybe he never saw it, but it was the same tattoo with a best friend or family member, so it was special from that perspective.  Or maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about why this stranger had a tattoo without sight. 

As I’m questing this blind man’s reasons for having a tattoo, it got me thinking about if strangers question our faith and the reasons for our faith. Are people seeing us walking in “blind faith”?

In John 20:29, we read that Jesus told us that blind faith is rewarded with blessings.  “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

As believers in modern America, it’s safe to say none of us have actually seen Jesus in the flesh, as the apostles had.  So what does our faith rest on?  It rests on our assurances of all things hoped for, that’s what Hebrews 11:1 says.  The next scriptures also tell us it’s the conviction of things not seen.  All things we hope for and things we have not seen assists with defining “blind faith.”

At yet…blind faith is a super hard approach to convince an unbeliever about the gift of grace through Christ’s death.  Subsequently we must have a plan ready to assist others with knowing Jesus in a way in which they also can exhibit blind faith.   Scripture tells us to prepare a defense in order to tell the Good News that gives us hope.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” ~1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

I’m sure if I had the time, or the moment of bravery, I could have asked the blind man with the tattoo his reasons behind his ink.  And he likely would have had a wonderful story behind it. 

I’m hopeful that if someone were to ask me about my blind faith, they would find that I had a planned approach that defend that faith while I gave them the story behind the greatest hope ever provided.  Jesus Christ.

If you don’t have that hope…if you haven’t given your life to Christ…if you don’t have the blind faith, please message Erin or I at Iron Porch.  We would love to chat with you about the plan God has provided us.

~Emily

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” ~Hebrews 11:1-40 (ESV)

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