Post-Halloween Lack of Awareness: Spiritual Warfare

Once upon a time, I was a practicing Wiccan.  I acted like a rebellious teenager and turned my back on God.  I participated in pagan religious activities for seven years.  There was a time that I was in Wiccan leadership positions, I was an advocate for military chaplains, and I was even involved in Congressional Legislation regarding Wicca being acknowledged as a religion. 

After leaving Wicca and re-aligning myself with a Christian walk, I have been very deliberate about pagan influences in my life.  I’ve stopped associating with those who were in my life during my pagan days.  I am careful about what my family is exposed to.  I avoid sections of bookstores.  I try not to notice full moons or solstices.  I don’t want to slip back into a pagan walk, so I guard myself very carefully in this regard. 

Each year, in the weeks leading up to Halloween, I pray extra hard and pay closer attention to the occult/pagan/satanic/societal influences that are happening around me.  Over the last few years, I’ve noticed apologetic Christians shining light more on the testimonies of former witches and Satan worshippers.  The time of year lends itself to others…and me being more aware. 

But in the weeks after Halloween, I often found myself letting my guard down.  It’s as though I’m relieved to be passed Halloween and able to focus on the coming celebration of Jesus’ birth. 

So here I am. A week after Halloween. Relieved.  Guard down.  Then I was confronted with a scenario where my pagan past was thrown in my face while I was at work.  Something I influenced while practicing Wicca, coming back to a military item that is being considered for display in the museum where I am employed. 

I was relieved and yet, I should not have let my guard down.  We, as Christians, absolutely must be constantly aware of the spiritual warfare that is always going on around us.  Scripture tells us that the enemy is on the prowl….he is always looking to create chaos and destruction in our lives.   1 Peter 5:8 (NIV) says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”    

In regard to spiritual warfare, is your guard up for you and your family?

Or are you like me and it’s up sometimes, but also falls down occasionally?

In the coming days, I will be concentrating on specifically praying about our post-Halloween awareness of pagan practices in America.  Will you join me?

~Emily

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

A Hurting Heart

My heart is hurting tonight.  Really, it’s been hurting for several months.  I can feel spiritual warfare down to my bones happening in this house.  And it feels like I’m powerless against it.  The heaviness is oppressing.  It’s a sadness that I almost feel I can’t escape.  I long to have the joy of the Lord back in this home, but it’s seems like an uphill battle of biblical proportions. 

And while I can feel this settling into the cracks and crevices, I know that I have a God that is greater than any spiritual warfare in this home and in my life. 

He promises me that He is faithful and assures me that He is protection. “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.” –2 Thessalonians 3:3

He tells me that I am His.  “But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” –John 1:12

He gives me strength.  “He gives strength to the weary, and to the one who lacks might He increases power.” –Isaiah 40:29

He gives me armor.  “Stand firm therefore, having belted your waist with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having strapped on your feet the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” –Ephesians 6:14-17

He gives me respite.  “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28

He is my Defender.  “The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.” –Exodus 14:14

I’m flooding this home with praise music.  I’m reading my Bible out loud.  I read it from room to room.  I pray throughout the house.  I know that even while I’m facing spiritual warfare, my God is defending me from every hit Satan and his minions try to take.  And I’m not giving up without a fight.

Thank you, God, for who You are.  

Is anyone else currently struggling with spiritual warfare?  Share in the comments below and know that Emily and I are praying faithfully for you.

~Erin

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

The Weeds

I have the most annoying vine looking weed that has thorns on it growing in one of the raised beds in my garden.  When I set it up two years ago, I fluffed the soil and added additional dirt, but I didn’t really pay attention to what was already around the area.  As a result, we’ve got this vine that chokes out whatever it is that’s planted along where it snakes around.  I went to grab it one day last year only to be stuck with one of the thorns.  Because I didn’t take it out by the root then or remove it properly from the garden, this year, it’s weaved its way around my flowers and nothing is really growing.  My flower garden is stagnant.

This is what happens when we allow sin to enter our lives.  When bitterness, resentment, and sin come into our lives, without taking the proper steps to ensure it doesn’t take root, it’s allowed to grow and fester.  It begins to take over our lives in ways we could never imagine.

God tells us that the fruit of the Spirit include joy, peace, patience, and self-control.  But when we aren’t properly weeding our faith garden, it affects those fruits.  The weed takes hold of the peace and leaves us with a feeling of jealousy that someone has something we aren’t able to have.  It stunts the patience we have learned to understand when the anger takes over at being passed over for a promotion we thought we deserved.  It strangles the self-control we have as we find ourselves trying to live in the world but not be of the world (Romans 12:2).  Those menacing vines steal the joy we have in the Lord when we don’t remove them…and remove them at the root.

Just as it is in gardening, we can pick the weed out.  We can pull at the vine to remove it to allow for more growth on the surface.  However, when we don’t remove the full root that it’s attached to, it’s allowed to continue growing and being a menace.

We can’t just ask for forgiveness of sins and “hope” it doesn’t come back.  We must repent—meaning to turn away—from what we have allowed to grow.  Then we must take the root out.  It may mean removing certain music from your life to prevent you from feeling a certain way.  It may mean reexamining your friendships.  It may mean recognizing that you need deeper study in the Word and less time on social media.  But when we take out the root, we remove the hinderance and can see the beauty in the growth of a full and complete garden.

This doesn’t mean that other choking vines or weeds won’t come, but when we take out the root of the issue, we can find our hope in the Lord that says we can be more vigilant about what may come next.  We can be prepared for what satan sends our way.  God can have the victory in our lives!

This week, I’m praying that God reveals what the weeds are in my garden so that I can take them by the root and remove them!  How about you?

~Erin

Horsefly Bites

I was bitten on the back of my leg by a horsefly during a workout at my gym.  Luckily, my partner that morning smashed it like she was trying out to be the heroine in my life movie.  

It was less that 30 seconds from the nip of the angry sky raisin to his untimely death via Angie’s shoe.  However, his actions impacted my life for days afterwards. The bite area became red and swollen.  My pants rubbed uncomfortably on the spot.  The bite mark alternated between itching and burning.  I woke myself up in the middle of the night scratching.  

In short, it was a nagging reminder for days that I’d been bitten by an insect.

Sin is like that in our lives.  A few seconds or moments, which impact several days, weeks, months or even years of our lives.  Sin is like the bite of an insect, which seems small initially until you truly feel the ripple effects.

The first bite of sin happened in the Garden of Eden when Eve was enticed by the devil to eating fruit from the forbidden tree.  Genesis tells us that Eve eats first and then Adam follows suit.  For years many have ‘blamed’ Eve for bringing sin into the world, myself included. However, it should also be acknowledged that Adam committed sin too.  He knowingly committed the sin and was punished alongside of Eve in Genesis 3. 

While Genesis 3 shows Eve committing the first sin, Romans 5 states that Adam caused sin to enter the world.  And as sin came through one man, Adam, it is also through the death of one man, Jesus Christ that the gift of salvation is offered to sinners.  It’s also interesting to note that while Eve was the first to enter into sinful behaviors, the solution to sin came through her seed (Genesis 3:15) with the birth, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

Scripture is clear that sin and death entered the world through Adam, while Eve is the first recorded to commit an overt act of sin with the bite of fruit from the forbidden tree.  

One bite.  

Which became a problem for all of mankind.

Just like one horsefly bite has become a problem for me.

~Emily

Hitting the Wall

This last week I had several moments of anxiety and I’ve felt so overwhelmed.  I have been super weepy and easily irritated.  I told my mom that I felt like I’ve hit a wall.  

According to internet idiom sites, “hitting a wall” is to become completely exhausted, fatigued, or worn out. By that definition, I truly have hit a wall this week…at work, in finding a church, with my knee diagnosis, with family dynamics, and with coordinating schedules. 

I’m anxious.  I know I’m not alone.  Anxiety is an issue for several people, but I’m seeing more and more people talking about their mental health issues.  It’s important for us to recognize that God has always been concerned about every aspect of our lives, which includes our mental health.  

Even King David experienced anxiety.  In Psalm 94:19, he wrote, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”  David’s heart was overwhelmed, just as mine has been this week.  David expressed confidence in God and choose to find joy and peace.  

As I continue to walk through this week of ‘hitting the wall,’ I take comfort in knowing that there is noting that God doesn’t already know.   And there is comfort in knowing He is always available for me in times of need.  His Word provides the comfort when I can’t find comfort myself.  In John 16:33 God told us “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” 

This assurance helps me know that through His victory, we can claim victory over all anxiety.  

I may have hit the wall, but soon I’ll either go through it…or around it.  With God’s help.

~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!

Your Biblical Arsenal

From the time my children were little, they were taught gun safety.  They are aware of the ways in which to handle and carry a gun.  They know how to load and shoot guns, as well.  It was important as their parent for Chris to teach them how to use and take care of guns responsibly.

While I don’t believe in a “zombie apocalypse,” it HAS been the running joke for years that we need to have protection, know how to defend ourselves in the event of an attack and what an arsenal would look like in a situation like that. 

This makes me think of our own personal Biblical arsenal.  The Bible is the sword of the Spirit.  It is the part of the Armor of God that allows protection against the devil’s schemes and attacks against us.  It is to be used at all times!  A biblical arsenal can be a book of scripture or your actual Bible that you have with you.  Maybe you have a notebook that you’ve written some verses down in or a Bible study book that you keep handy.

Many verses in the Bible speak to knowing scripture and having scripture handy as a necessity.

This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will achieve success.” –Joshua 1:8

“I have treasured Your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.” –Psalm 119:11

“The Law of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip.” –Psalm 37:31

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” –Colossians 3:16

I know that I write a LOT about knowing scripture.  I do this twofold. 

The first, because I know how important it is to have a Biblical arsenal handy in times of struggle, attacks, and trials.  I can’t stress enough how calming it feels when a verse that you’ve memorized or read dozens of times pops into your head courtesy of the Holy Spirit during a time of need.  It’s comforting.  It feels like confidence.  It feels as if you’re not alone.  It also opens up the opportunity to take a moment to pray and thank God for the arsenal He’s given.

The second, because I need the reminder even now.  And I know I’m not the only one that needs this reminder.  It’s work to look up and learn verses.  But it’s work that isn’t regretted. 

When you are struggling to find joy in your day and the Holy Spirit lays on your heart Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” it allows for a moment to reflect and give praise to our Father.  It allows a change of direction in our attitude.  When we feel the attack of the devil, perhaps one of the verses you’ve got in your arsenal is “Go away, Satan!  For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only,’” Matthew 4:10, the words of Jesus to Satan.

If you’re not great at memorizing, I’d like to suggest something that has worked for me for years.  I’ve carried with me 3×5 spiral-bound notecards.  I found it in Walmart and started writing verses in it that were important to me.  There are verses about salvation and verses about God’s love.  There are verses like the previous ones mentioned.  There’s verses in it about prayer.  They are simply my own hand-written biblical arsenal that I can carry to help me through at a moment’s notice.

I encourage you to put together your own arsenal!  Let us know in the comments below what your biblical arsenal looks like!

~Erin

Fun vs. Folly: The Slippery Horoscope Away From God

Now that school is out for the summer, I feel like I can share a conversation that I had with one of my son’s teachers this last year.  The students were studying space; galaxies, planets, stars, and specifically the history of constellations and how to identify different constellations.  While in that section, the teacher taught of the constellations affiliated with what is commonly known as the zodiac signs.   

I was 100% behind the lessons to this point.  

Once they learned about the constellations associated with the zodiac, they were introduced to horoscopes. One step further; they were tasked with looking up their birthday, figuring out their zodiac sign, reading the personality traits associated with that zodiac, and then determining if they were aligned with their zodiac sign.  

My son came home that day and pretty innocently mentioned this activity that they’d conducted in class.  I must admit, I nearly lost my mind.  I asked dozens of questions to the point that Kambell became alarmed that something was clearly not right.    I contacted the teacher for further clarification.  I expressed my displeasure that Kambell was introduced to something that I believe is pagan and against scripture.  

She responded that it was “just a fun way for them to learn about the constellations.”  

Ummm. No, no it’s not “just a fun way…” for them to learn anything except the ways of the world and a path that Satan would love to have them on.  One that takes this kids away from God, not closer to God.  1 Peter 5:8 (NASB) says, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to destroy.” 

It only takes one introduction to something pagan…one careless thought…one glimpse at a worldly concept…one misstep, which can lead to something so much more sinister.  

Please know that I’m very pleased with the public-school education that my child is receiving and I’ve fallen in love with our school district and the teachers dedicated to assisting with raising future productive citizens of our Nation.   

Please also know that I recognize that I’m a tad hyper-sensitive to pagan activities, due to having being a practicing Wiccan for seven years.  

As a result, please know that I fully understand that some think I’m taking it too far to be upset about my 5th grader learning about horoscopes.  

Those some who think I’m taking it too far…they won’t be in front of God one day justifying how they raised this child.  They will be accountable for their own actions and behaviors.  As for me, I don’t want to explain to God why I made decisions (or allowed others around my child) to decide to introduce him to less-than-Godly behaviors.  Scripture shows us in 2 Corinthians and Romans that we will each be accountable.

“For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive compensation for his deeds done through the body, in accordance with what he has done, whether good or bad.” ~2 Corinthians 5:10 (NASB)

“So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.” ~Romans 14:12 (NASB)

When someone says “it’s just for fun,” but you still have unrest about the scenario in your heart, you should listen.  That is often the nudge of the Holy Spirit for you to further analyze and pray about the situation.  Remember also, you stand before the judgment seat by yourself.  Are you comfortable reporting to God regarding your behaviors, thoughts, and actions? 

Finally, remember that what is fun for some is likely folly for others.    

~Emily