Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I slowed to a stop and turned on my flashers about 50 yards ahead of the turn into one of the busiest gas stations on the highway.  Rylan was sitting there waiting for me.  He had been on his way to work when the alternator went out on his car, and he needed me to pick him up and help tow the car back to the house.

Let me say that there are several things wrong with this picture.  First, it was quitting time here in Alabama so all 8,000 cars in our area were in the same area at the same time.  Second, it’s a blind hill where he had stopped so I couldn’t quite see over the little hump to be able to know if I could turn around without enjoying a potential T-Bone dinner.  Third, I do not like to tow vehicles.  Oh, and fourth…I don’t really have a proper vehicle to tow.

HOWEVER, once I arrived, I sucked it up and we drove the long way back home.  If you were one of the several cars that got stuck behind us as we moseyed back at about 35 mph in the 55 mph zone, may I give a heartfelt apology!  While I may have been able to go a little faster, I was confident that slow and steady would win this race.

Paul talks about running the race in the bible.  He speaks at length to only looking what is before us and forgetting what lies behind.  He said “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of god in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14.

He lovingly tells the Corinthians that he doesn’t just go crazy trying to get done.  Rather, he’s patient and steadfast.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” –I Corinthians 9:24-27

When we are studying scripture or when we are growing in the knowledge of the Lord, it’s not about how fast we can read or how quickly we can get through the bible.  It’s about learning at the pace that allows you to mature and grow deeper in your faith.  It’s one thing to know what a piece of scripture says or where a story is at.  It’s another to know what that scripture is about, what its context is, and how it can point us back to our Father!

While reading the bible through in a year is great, (and I really do believe it is), there is power in recognizing that you need to go back and read parts again.  And again….to sit in the scripture and ask God what’s He’s revealing about Himself in the passage.  It’s ok if the year-long bible plan takes you 1 ½ years.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with spending more than one week on a bible study lesson because you find it rich with information.  Remember, the goal is just to keep moving forward.  When we are learning and developing in those lessons, we are always moving in the right direction.  Like Paul, we don’t want to have the aimless task or the thoughtless race.  This marathon we are on in our relationship with Him should be one that is the most meaningful journeys of which we will ever partake!

I pray that we can be encouraged that slow and steady maturing will bring a beautiful and meaningful relationship with our Creator!  Happy studying!

~Erin

Best, Worst, & Weirdest

When my son was in pre-school, he struggled with telling us anything from his day when we asked him at the dinner table.  As a result, I started asking him what was his best, his worst, and his weirdest part of the day.  It started as an exercise to get him to pay attention and recall events throughout the hours he was at school.  To this day, I still ask him these three questions each afternoon when I pick him up at the Middle School.

Most days he has thoughtful insights, but other days he shrugs with an “I don’t have one.”  

One of his most memorable best days included winning the spelling bee in 4th grade.

One of his most memorable worst days included the PE teacher called him a liar in 3rd grade.

One of his most memorable weirdest days included the janitor turning out the lights while he was still using the restroom. 

A few weeks ago, he turned the questions towards me. I gave him answers applicable to my workday.  However, it got me thinking over the next couple of days about what my best, worst and weirdest memories are involving sharing the Gospel.

Hands down, the best memories are when those around me accept the gift of salvation and become my brother or sister in Christ.  My favorite of those memories is when my own child accepted Christ.

My worst memories involve when those around me have rejected the gift of salvation. Some have been subtle rejections, while others have been rude in their overt denial of Christ.  While it hurt my feelings, I can only imagine how it must have grieved the Holy Spirit.  

My strangest interactions have come from the pagan community, specifically those within wicca. After having come out of a wiccan circle, I struggled to counter the argument that some were calling themselves Christian witches.  I was ill-equipped to share the Gospel with those who had changed truth to fit their own lifestyle and that has made for some of the weirdest moments in sharing the Good News. 

Regardless of my experience with sharing the Gospel have been the best, the worst, or the weirdest…. they’ve all been done with a spirit of trying to share the gift of salvation.  Scripture tells us plainly that we are save through faith…and that we cannot do it ourselves. 

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

What part of your day…or what part of your sharing about Jesus Christ…has been your best, your worst, and your weirdest?

~Emily

Have We Studied?

This week, a famous pastor posted about a quote about God that could not stand biblically.  Not even a little bit.  If you had inferred what you thought he meant, you might have been able to twist it into truth.  But as a post on a social media site, there isn’t a lot of room for inferences, especially when it comes to the Bible.

This had me up in arms with my Table 8 study group!  We laugh because they hear me say the same thing every single week at some point….you MUST be in the Word.  You must be reading and studying and seeking God.  You cannot guard yourself against wrong teaching, against incorrect theology, from false gospel if you don’t know what is in the Bible.

As well, how can we lead people to the Truth if we are not understanding of what’s in our Bible?!  Satan skulks around trying desperately to deceive us.  If he can distract us from the truth of the Holy Bible, he can prevent us from spreading the gospel.

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

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. –Hebrews 4:12

But his is delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. –Psalm 1:2

It is imperative as believers in the one and only Creator of this world that we know what He says in the pages of scripture.  I cannot stress this enough.  I encourage you, friends, be in the Bible.  Read His Word.  Start your day with His commands and precepts.  Revel in the words of love from our Father.

Let’s challenge ourselves to make it a habit to study the Bible so that when the deceiver tries to trip us up, we are prepared for battle!

~Erin

Don’t Hit the Deer!

Emily and I just got back from a trip where we drove cross-country.  Our relationship is one where I’m always the driver (insert my control factor here) and she’s the navigator (she really does a fantastic job).  I’ve always loved road trips and have never backed down from one.  I travelled all over Germany as a child, so it’s practically in my DNA to make a batch of lemon stickies, throw our pillows and blankets in the car with the suitcases and drive rather than fly anywhere.

As I’ve gotten older, however, I find I’ve begun to prefer less driving at night.  Five years ago, my girls and I would drive 15+ hours in the car on the first leg of the trip, driving late into the night so that we would have a short day the next day in the car.  It didn’t bother me in the least.  As I’ve aged, I’m actually now afraid that my eyes aren’t going to efficiently catch my surroundings.  Do you know what I’m afraid of?  I’m afraid of hitting a deer.  (Emily, we will NOT discuss the raccoon from a week ago until I’ve sufficiently recovered.)

They dart out in the darkness of night and think nothing of the people driving along the highway other than “your road is in my way.”  I’ve seen them multiple times just grazing right on the edge of the road, and I keep thinking to myself as I get closer Please stay there!  I have to be on my guard to make sure that I see what’s on either side and am prepared for what may bolt out into my path.

I should be just as aware when it comes to the wiles of the devil.  The Bible says in I Peter 5:8, “Be of sober spirt, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

The devil prowls around.  He’s lurking along the edges of our walk with God looking for ways to interfere.  It’s typically not blatant or obvious.  It’s subtle and crafty.  He’s standing just close enough to see when he might pounce.  He’s taking his time looking to see what’s available to mess with.  Then before we’ve realized it, he’s bounded into our path and worked overtime to hurt our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

We must be constantly vigilant about satan trying to wreak havoc.  Just like I have to be on guard for the deer jumping out in the road, we must make sure we are prepared for satan’s temptations.

How do we do that?  We start by having a relationship with Jesus and asking Him to be our Lord and Savior.  We have a faithful prayer life, bringing our petitions to God.  We pray that we will consistently put on the whole armor of God.  We read His Word.  The Bible is God-breathed.  We need only look on those pages to see what God would have us do and how to be ready for battle.  We commune with fellow believers!  Surrounding yourself with other Christ-followers allow us to join together as we battle the tempter.

Sweet friend, I challenge you to be aware of your surroundings.  Be prepared and vigilant for the fight against satan!  And remember, God always gets the victory!

~Erin

Fishing Obsessions

On our first date, my husband told me that he loves to fish.

That may go down as the biggest understatement that he (or anyone in the history of the world) has ever said.  

Eight years after that first date, I would argue he doesn’t just love fishing…he’s obsessed with it.

I’d also contend that he’s really, really, really smart about fishing. He knows all sorts of nuances about line strength, reading water, colors of lures, how to make replica eggs for bait, predicting fish behavior, and how to tie flies.  

He works for a fishing related company. He owns a fishing related business.  He owns multiple boats for different aspects of fishing…freshwater, saltwater, lake, river, pond, or brush pile building. There is a ginormous barn/shop on our property dedicated to the art of fishing.  Not a week goes by where there aren’t at least 3-4 nights that fishing consumes the dinner table chatter.  

He fishes morning, noon, or night (*Well, not technically noon…if you are the wife of a fisherman, you know high noon and mid-afternoon are not good times to go fishing).  He can fish with a fly rod…fish with bait…fish with lures..fish with custom rods…fish with a center pin reel…and the list goes on and on.   

I’ll go with him occasionally, but I’m more obsessed with reading, hiking, or hanging with friends. In the last few months, I’ve been trying to increase my memorization skills for Bible verses.  For most of my life I’ve struggled with memorization of anything, but especially scripture. I’m now employing some new techniques in memorization and attempting to master an entire chapter of Bible.

A few days ago, I read an article about the importance of scripture memorization. A notation at the middle of the article captured my attention. In my own words, it said something to the effect of we memorize or remember what we make most important to us.  If you can memorize lines from a movie, or sing along with your favorite song, then you don’t struggle with memorization.  You struggle with what is a priority for your memorization.  

Talk about getting my toes stepped on.  Ouch.  That’s me.  I can insert movie lines or the chorus of all kinds of songs into just about any conversation.  And yet, I’m telling myself that I’ve got this block about memorizing verses. 

That gut punch reminded me that I need to make Bible verse memorization a priority.  I need it to be the most (or at least one of the most) important things to me…so that I can be successful at placing those verses in my heart.  

I essentially want to take my husband’s approach to fishing and apply it to my own understanding of scripture. 

I want to be a subject matter expert.  I want to know it inside and out. I want to recall information instantaneously.  And I want to have confidence in my own abilities to appropriately handle the Gospel and scripture.  

I love that my husband has a fishing obsession.  I want to have a scripture obsession.

Come to the porch this week and let us know how you are making the scripture a priority in your life.

~Emily

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

The Trolls of Life

According to internet slang, a social media troll is someone who creates conflict on sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit (although it can be any site) by posting messages that are particularly controversial or inflammatory with the sole intent of provoking a typically negative emotional response from other users.

We’ve all seen them in action. 

On the Iron Porch, we’ve been blessed to have had minimal interactions with social media trolls.  However, the social media accounts that I am an admin for at work…those have plenty of social media trolls.  People who love to create conflict and drama. At work, we’ve found they use their real names, but they occasionally use fake accounts in an attempt to hide their cyberbullying.    

Some ways to spot a social media troll is that they occasionally use derogatory language, have an inability to listen to reason, and their internet fights seem to indicate lots of free time to start arguments.  They are soooooo persistent.  

Do you have the aggravating and provocative trolls in your personal life?  The people who create chaos and thrive in drama?  

In the world of social media trolls, the advice includes not taking it personally and not engaging with the troll.  

That’s hard to do with real-life people.  

As Christians, we’re often reminded to turn the other cheek, but that’s just as difficult in some scenarios. We’re are also reminded that our tongue becomes a weapon, so not speaking back to a troll is also a hard part of Christian living.  Of course, it’s also hard to not take it personally when we’re attacked in degrading ways.  

A verse that has been helping me keep the social media trolls at bay is Proverbs 20:3. “A fool’s anger is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor” (NASB).  I particularly like the New International Version of the same verse that states, “Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult.” 

I keep the verse written out in the folder that holds all my documents concerning my work-related social media accounts.  It helps remind me that I don’t have to engage with the trolls, nor do I have to take it personally. 

I know it’s not easy to have a troll in your life…in person or on social media.  I’d love to hear what scriptures you have been using for yourself while dealing with the trolls of life.

~Emily

At Each Other’s Throats

There are days lately where my heart hurts to be on Facebook anymore.  So many people at each other’s throats about what they think or what they believe.  I see people on one side of the fence calling the other side ‘sheep’ who approve of socialism and government over-reach.  I see people on the other side saying if you don’t decide to vaccinate or wear a mask, you are a moron incapable of being able to do intelligent research.  I watch someone call the other a “stupid right-wing nut job” for thinking President Biden isn’t handling Afghanistan well.  The other side says you’re too blind to see that President Biden couldn’t handle tying his own shoes.  These are actual things I’ve seen on social media.

It’s enough to make me scream.  What happened to being loving and gracious?  When did we become a people that believe we are the only ones capable of rational thought?  When did we become a society that put politics over prayer?

As Christians, we have a responsibility to love one another whether we agree or don’t.  As people who were made in God’s image, we are called to honor what He commands us to do like praying for one another, being kind, and tender-hearted.  We’re not to prove who’s wrong or right.  We’re not meant to make sure people feel stupid for making a decision you would never make.  And loving them and praying for them doesn’t mean you approve of their decisions.  It means simply that…you’re loving them and praying for them. 

What I’m saying is that no matter what side of the vaccine, masks, or presidency we’re on, we should be coming together to love, to witness, and to pray.  Pray for our nation.  Pray for our leaders.  Pray for our friends and family.  Pray for other countries.  Pray for our neighbors.  Pray for the doctors, nurses and hospitals.  Pray for our enemies. 

Satan would love nothing more than to divide Christians and keep us from focusing solely on God.  He relishes the thought of people going after each other rather than coming together to pray to our Jehovah-Rapha, the God who Heals.

I implore you, dear friends.  Take the time to love and pray for each other, no matter what side of the fence you’re on.  At the end of the day, there’s only one side… God’s.

~Erin

Chicken Dinner

We lost a chicken yesterday.  And by lost I mean something came in and decided raw chicken was better than fried chicken.  There were feathers everywhere.  Our teeny tiny Bantam rooster was no match for whatever got in there, and little Truffles became a meal for some creature in the woods.  

Peyton and Chris felt they had made a great enclosure.  They knew it wasn’t foolproof.  It didn’t have a real roof, but with a coop inside the large closed-in space to lock them up at night, they felt it was rather safe.  However, as the chickens got older and as Peyton started working, it was less frequent that she remembered to close the coop at night.  There hadn’t been a problem since we bought the chicks 10 months ago, and we got lazy in doing the little bit extra to keep them protected.

Are we the same way about sin?  God gives us clear scripture telling us of the need to protect ourselves from the wiles of satan.

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” –Ephesians 6:11

“Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” –James 4:7

“Be sober-minded; be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” –I Peter 5:8

“And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” –2 Corinthians 11:14

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” –John 10:11

It is well known that satan will do whatever it takes to keep us from full fellowship with God.  If he can tempt us with thoughts of coveting, greed, or selfishness, he will.  If he can get us thinking about how nice it would be to skip your bible study or miss church, he’ll do it!  There’s nothing he won’t do to try and steal our devotion to God.

We should be prepared for this!  We shouldn’t only be praying “Father, keep us protected from satan.”  We should be studying scripture, digging into the word, putting on the FULL armor of God to protect ourselves.  The more we are submitting and surrendering to the will of God, the harder it is for satan to get that access to us. 

When we’re fully prepped and ready, we aren’t sitting around waiting for the attacks of the devil.  We’re ready to keep those sinful deeds at bay before they even get close enough to become an action!

Ladies, let’s stand strong in our faithfulness to God and prepare ourselves properly for a possible attack before that nasty thief even gets close! 

~Erin

Too Much To Bear

What do you do when it seems the weight of the worst in on your shoulders?  How do you handle the struggles of this life speeding straight at you?  Who are you leaning on when it feels like it’s just too much to bear?

We’ve all had these times in our lives.  The heaviness of a death, an illness, or an addiction has probably touched someone who’s reading this in such a difficult way.  And to the person in the thick of it, the man or woman dealing with it, it feels like it will never end.

I know that you may not think that God is really listening.  You feel alone and unheard.  And you don’t understand why this torture is happening to you.  Why can’t God just fix it?  Why can’t He turn back time and make it ok again?  It doesn’t seem fair that you must suffer when everyone else around you seems to go on with life.  When you’re left feeling like you’re picking up pieces all around you by yourself, it hurts the most. 

I know you might not want to hear it, but I know you need to hear it.  You need to know that there is One who hears you and sees you.  He feels your pain.  He weeps when you weep.  And when it feels like there is nothing left to hold onto, you can hold on to Him.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very ready help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear, though the earth shake and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its water roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.” –Psalm 46:1-3

To the person who struggling with exactly this in this moment, I’m praying for you.  I’m fervently asking that God make His presence known to you.  You are not alone, and God will see you through.  I promise.  And He will see you through to the other side.

~Erin

Prayer Prompts

A few weeks ago, I participated in a “No Amen Challenge,” which has gotten me pondering on what specifically triggers me to start praying.  I began looking around for my personal prayer prompts.  

When I see starving children on television, a car crash during my commute, or difficult conversations occurring at a business, I am fleetingly triggered to begin praying.  Frankly, as quickly as I pray for these items, I likely have forgotten the prayer prompt.  I’ve moved onto the next occurrence of my day.  If I’m reviewing prayer requests from my small group, friends, or family members, I have been guilty of pushing through the prayers without pausing to reflect on the requests and results. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB) states, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” 

This verse caused me to start thinking that the ceaseless prayer, coupled with the “No Amen Challenge,” added to prayer prompts, would likely result in more deliberate…and remembered prayer time.  

The prayer prompts are a physical item that is attached to remembering a) to pray and b) what I prayed about.  It becomes a mental association between prayer and an object.  

For instance, I have a prayer board in my bathroom that has scraps of paper all over it with prayer requests from various people in my life.  As a brush my teeth or curl my hair, I have time to review my daily requests.  Initially, this began as a mechanism to “go through” the prayer request list.  Now, I can visualize where the prayer request scrap of paper is on the board and pray individually for each throughout the day.

Another example that I recently watched Erin use was setting an alarm on her phone.  Each time she heard the alarm, she was triggered to pray for a specific situation.   

At home, I wanted to be more deliberate about praising God.  As I watered the garden, I used the time to thank God for the availability of water.  As I collected eggs from the chickens, I praised Him for providing food.  As I drove down the driveway, I exalted the Lord for my employment that contributed to the purchase of our house.  

I also wanted to find a method to pray more frequently over my family.  In order to accomplish that, I took the mundane chore of laundry and began praying over the owner of each piece of clothing, as I folded.  

In my office, I have a ring of multiple verses on index cards that I switch out every week.  Each time that I read the verse of the week, I choose to pray the verse over a person or scenario associated with my workplace.  As I pass the US flag display first thing in the morning, I specifically pray over our country and our elected leaders.  

Each person’s prayer prompts will look different.  Just in the last few weeks, some that I’ve noted included prayer boards, phone alarms, gardening, driving, laundry, index cards or US flags.  It doesn’t matter what the prayer prompt looks like, rather what does matter is that it triggers the moment of prayer.  This in turn, becomes prayer without ceasing in the “no amen challenge” and subsequently are prayers that are remembered.  

I’ve even got a prayer prompt for Iron Porch…the blog, the dreams, the contributors and the readers.  I’ll use it, as I pray that the visitors of the Iron Porch will have their own prayer lives strengthened through the use of prayer prompts.

~Emily