Discovery: Nazirite Vow

I must have been under a rock during the day I was taught about the Nazirite vow in Sunday school.  Maybe I was day dreaming; maybe I was absent that day; maybe it wasn’t even a subject taught at my church.  A devotion I read several weeks ago mentioned the Nazirite vow and I’ve had to really dig in so that I could understand this concept.

Numbers 6:1-8 describes the vow as a way to make a special Covent with the Lord.   It was a strictly voluntary, special in its intent, and indicates a separation from a temptation.  It seems that the vow was used most frequently during a time of difficulty or extremely hard trials and temptation…at that time, the person could take this vow as a way to grow closer to the Lord. 

Interestingly enough, Numbers 6:3 commands that anyone taking the Nazirite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol.  More specifically, it called for an abstinent from wine and all products made from the grape plant. This would have included grape seed oil or cream of tartar.  

Another aspect of the vow included continually growing one’s hair.  If one temporarily forgot the vow, a simple look in the mirror would remind them.  It became not only a reminder of the vow, but a testimony opportunity when asked why they were growing out their hair.  

This led me to another question…are there any examples in the New Testament that speak to the Nazirite vow?  Guess what? Of course, there is! 

In Acts 18:18 (NASB), Luke wrote “Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow.” 

Why was Paul exhibiting behavior associated with Nazirite vow?  He was traveling from Corinth towards Syria when he cut his hair.  His recent experiences in Corinth and in Athens, where he had apathetic encounters with non-believers, very few conversions to Christianity, a lack of new church establishment, and cult-like behaviors of worshiping Aphrodite.  His decision to take a special vow with an outward showing of cutting his hair was a way to mark the growth of his hair from the moment of the vow, as well as a means to protect himself and draw closer to the Lord during his trials.  

Most Americans would be able to tell you about the unique attributes of the wedding vows.  Heck, most would even acknowledge it’s a convent with/before God.  All would recognize that the wedding ring is the outward sign of the wedding vow having been taken.  We know about the wedding vows because we’ve attended ceremonies, watched them on tv, or even taken part in our own commitment with this vow.  We are comfortable with the concept of the wedding vow.

Why am I not as comfortable with this vow mentioned in Numbers and Acts?  How did I know about this very personal “Nazirite vow?”  In a moment of self-doubt, I felt like a horrible Christian that wasn’t studying her Bible enough.  And in the next instance, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I just need to keep studying…keep digging…keep praying.

What Biblical revelations have you had this week? Come to the porch and share!!

~Emily

Numbers 6:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.’”

The Frost

There’s a frost coming here in the area where I live.  This wouldn’t mean much except for the fact that I got antsy and planted my garden two weeks ago!  I was told by many a faithful Alabamian that I should not start planting until after Easter, because there’s always one last frost.  However, I just couldn’t wait and after some discussion, forged ahead with our raised beds.  You can imagine my nervousness over tonight’s potential freeze.  I don’t want to lose my very first southern garden.

We have plastic and blankets that we’ll be putting over the plants to help them during the night.  We’ll carefully drape them, protecting them from the overnight chill.  I’ll also be praying faithfully for the next few hours that my plants will make it. 

Just as cautious and careful I am to protect those sweet baby plants that are growing in the ground, I should be equally careful with what I place in my heart.  Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

I’d like to say that I’m always mindful about what I’m listening to and reading, what I’m watching on TV, or the attitudes and actions that filter through me throughout the day.  However, I know that I’m not always good at it.  God instructs us to be careful with our hearts because the things that consume our heart bleeds out into the actions of our everyday interactions and activities.  If I’m not guarding my heart from worldly desires it can very easily lead me astray and down a path that can not only hinder me but those around me as well.

When we guard our hearts and only fill it with the things of Christ, the love of Christ is what spills out onto others.  I long to guard my heart so that it’s filled only with the goodness of Jesus rather than the things of this world.

Dear friends, commit with me today to guard your heart at all times!

~Erin

The Silence of God

In a European prison cell, the following inscription was found; “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I don’t feel it.  I believe in God even when He is silent.”

Sometimes it feels like God is so quiet! 

This last week, I had several conversations with God about this particular issue.  Yet, it felt like there was complete silence from God.  Several of my prayers started with something to the effect of, “I know scripture tells us that you hear us…that you hold each of our tears in your hand…but why does it seem that you aren’t responding!!!”  *Insert whining and moaning*  

Talk about the quintessential child who knows that the parent is parenting, but the child continues to question the methods!!

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation?  If I’m honest with myself, questioning the silence of God is a dangerous place.  It causes me to question if I’m important to God or if my thoughts and requests are trivial compared to some of the bigger requests that He must receive on a daily basis.  It leads to doubt, which leads to fear, which leads to loneliness and a host of other negative emotions.  

As I should do often, I turned to the Word.  I started at Isaiah 41:10, which tends to be my “go-to” verse when I am in a funk.  However, mindless flipping through scripture had me landing on Job 34:29.  The NASB version reads, “When He keeps quiet, who can condemn? And when He hides His face, who then can look at Him, That is, regarding both nation and a person?”

Basically, scripture reaffirms that what God does is good. Always. Even when it appears that He is being silent.  Who am I to question that? Who am I to condemn the perceived silence?

Interestingly enough, I was sent a note later that day that said, “…often when God seems to be silent, it’s because we are too exhausted to listen.”  

Perhaps the silence is an indicator that I’m not listening well.  Just like that child questioning the parenting methods…

In some regards, we live in figurative prison cells, which God still works in.  Just like that European prison cell and the intuitive inmate who once wrote “I believe in God even when He is silent.” 

~Emily

Hear My Cry

Today was one of those days.  Everything seemed to be the number one priority and I couldn’t seem to grasp on to a schedule that put things in order.  Pulled in every direction is my absolute least favorite direction to be, and yet it had my head spinning as I ran full force into task after task.  I was worried things wouldn’t be done in a timely fashion.  I struggled with the feeling of being overwhelmed, of not being enough for my work, not enough for my home, not enough for my Bible study.

At the end of the day as I clocked out, my neck and shoulders tense from the stress, I realized not once did I take my burdens and my overwhelming feelings to God to bear the weight.  I tried to handle the day on my own.  How many of us do that on the daily?  I’m guilty of it, especially today.  I’ll get so frazzled and forget that my first call out should be to my Heavenly Father.

Psalm 61:1-2 says, “Hear my cry, God; Give Your attention to my prayer.  From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

Even when my heart is faint from the heaviness of the load, God will still hear my cry to Him.  He’ll lead us to the Rock of our Salvation and hold us up during the battle that rages around.

Dear friends, I pray that this week as you struggle with the overwhelming tasks that have you weary from handling it by yourself, that you know that you are not alone.  Call out to our Savior, “Hear my cry, God!”  and let Him take you into His shelter.

~Erin

Bystander to the Hurting

I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”

I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain.  But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else?  For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.  

In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi.  It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)

Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.

Why only two and not four?  

During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism.  While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested.  Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.  

It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting.  I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished.  They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation.  Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.  

God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting.  Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain.  He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting.  If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from. 

It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt.  Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I.  I’m sure you have as well.

In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting.  Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.

~Emily

A To-Do List or a Desire?

We’ve been studying the book of Philippians in Emily’s Bible study group.  It’s been encouraging to use a unique approach to this book of the Bible, looking at each chapter in detail from four different perspectives. 

Last night, we got on the topic of feeling inadequate which led to conversation about our time with God.  You know I’ve been writing a lot about that, dear friends, and I’m not stopping now!  Satan is always trying to make us feel inadequate.  He can make us even feel inadequate in our time with God.  We worry about whether or not we are spending enough time reading the Bible or enough time studying God’s Word.  Did we pray long enough?  Did we pray the right way, the wrong way, the insincere way?  It’s a never-ending battle within ourselves.  

I, myself, am a proponent of carving out a specific time to read the Bible at a certain time every day.  However, I’m also guilty of thinking I “didn’t do enough” when I only get through four or five verses. 

One of the ladies said something last night that will forever change how I think about that time.  She said, “Is it my to-do list or is it my desire?” 

BOOM.  MIC DROP.

Are we communicating with God out of an obligation?  Bible reading done? Check.  Prayer complete?  Check.  Or are we communicating with God because He is good and Holy and sacrificed His son, Jesus, on the cross for our sins?  This changes everything!

I long for my time with God to be a desire because it’s time well-spent with the Father.  Four verses isn’t anything to snub my nose at when I spend my time studying and meditating on God’s Word and what He’s saying in those four verses.  And it isn’t anything to snub my nose at when I spend that same quality time reading and studying two chapters when it’s time studying to know our God.

Let’s strive this week and going forward to make our time with God a desire and not just an obligation.  Our lives are sweeter for it!

~Erin

Soup Explosions of Encouragement

I was employed as a personal chef, preparing a sweet and savory butternut squash soup, when I made the mistake of the year.  I put hot, freshly roasted butternut squash into the blender with broth.  Then hit the pulse button.  Without venting the lid to the blender.

About 10 seconds into the spin cycle, the lid catapulted vertically.  Before I could react, I was covered in butternut squash soup.  It was soaking my hair; it was in my shoes; it was literally dripping off the tip of my nose. 

Worst…it was covering my client’s kitchen.  The ceiling, the microwave, the floor, the curtains over the sink…all of it had evidence of orange splatter.  

As I stood in the center of the kitchen, covered in what looked like baby poo, I felt the tears start—plus I literally wanted to say a swear word.  

Of course, that was the moment that the lady of the house chose to come around the corner.  She took in the scene of her chef, and more importantly, her kitchen covered in orange goo…hours before a dinner party.  Her reaction?  She immediately started laughing. Then she started helping me clean.

To this day, when I think about how to build another up or how to encourage someone, I immediately think of her reaction to my mistake of the year. I think of her example because she found humor in the situation, because she assisted in the aftermath, and because she took the time to build me up.  In Romans 14:19 (NASB), we are told “so then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”  

We’ve all heard advice over the last year of COVID that includes being kind.  We’ve all heard reminders that we don’t know what others are going through.  We’ve probably all even observed scenarios where a nice gesture would have made someone’s day.

What’s more important than the advice, reminders, and observations is that scripture demands that we encourage each other.  In most instances provided by scripture, we are to encourage other believers.  In some instances of life, we provide insight into the Christian life and the Gospel when we encourage non-believers.  When we encourage the believer or the non-believer, we are making a difference in someone’s day. 

In the midst of the butternut squash soup explosion, I was encouraged.  I pray this week that you are able to encourage others…and that you notice when others encourage you.

~Emily

 “Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, just as you also are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NASB)

The Beauty In Creation

We hit the crest of the hill and just beyond was the most beautiful landscape I’d ever seen in my life.  The greens, oranges, yellows and reds were so vibrant.  The sun hit the peaks of the Ozarks, and the clouds created the most beautiful shadows in the gorge as we meandered down the road.  It took my breath away.  The only time I’d seen something so stunning was in a beautiful painting, and that painting didn’t even compare to the sight that I was witnessing.  Deep in the valley, as we rounded the bend sat a small white church in the middle of a soft green meadow.  I was simply awestruck.  God’s beauty was all around, and it brought these verses in Psalm to mind.

For the Lord is a great God

And a great King above all gods,

In whose hand are the depths of the earth,

The peaks of the mountains are also His.

The sea is His, for it was He who made it,

And His hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us worship and bow down,

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

–Psalm 95:3-6

God is Elohim.  He is my Creator.  He formed nothingness into beauty, and we are the chosen ones to live in His beauty and creation.  How amazing is it that our Heavenly Father has given us such a beautiful space in which to call home!

Part of our daily prayer should be dedicated to the adoration of our King.  As we talk to Him, praise Him for what He has made!  Glorify Him for the splendor that is around us!  Thank Him for the exquisite gift of Earth that He’s given us to be a part of! 

I challenge you, dear ones, to spend time this week praising Him for the beauty that is all around us.  Thank Him each day for something different that you see as you drive around, take a walk, or look out your window.  Thank Him for this gift of creation!

~Erin

Crashing onto the Garage

There’s a small step from my laundry room into the garage.  

One that I completely missed a couple days ago.  The misstep had me crashing to the ground in an ungraceful, slow-motion, plump-middle-aged-lady-winning-money-on-America’s-Funniest-Home-videos, type of way.  

As I stayed still on my hands and knees for a moment, I did a mental inventory of my body.  

Palms, scuffed up but no blood-check.

Knees both in terrible pain, but no blood-check.

Right ankle/foot in an awkward folded position, but not broken-check.  

Tears-check.

Fast breathing-double check. 

My first thought after “owwwwww” was “that was a lot of weight to come crashing down on my knees!”

If I’m being completely honest, I’m not pleased about the amount of weight I’ve gained since I retired from the military.  I know the magic formula…eat less calories and exercise more.  Of course, I also know all the tricks and techniques of years of yo-yo dieting.

At that “hands and knees on the ground” moment, I realized that I needed to be more serious about evaluating what I can do with myself. I need a food and exercise game plan. I wondered what the Bible had to say about exercise-besides the “your body is a temple” type of verse. I found that in 1 Timothy 4:8 (NASB), the Bible states “…for bodily traning is just slightly beneficial, but godliness is beneficial for all things, since it holds promise for hte present life and also for the life to come.”

That verse was so convicting! I don’t just need a game plan for food and exercise…I need to have an accountable increase in spritural matters too! While the bodily training has small benefits, it is the godliness benefits that are larger. Ironically, I had just told Erin that I thought my own preparations for Bible Studies, church, devotions, and even Iron Porch could be classified as a casual Christian walk.

In the next week, I’m going to get more serious about all my game plans. Meal planning, exercising…and a more deliberate approach to my prayer life and studying the Bible. Come to the porch and let me know what types of plans you have…and how you remember that little step that has you crashing onto the garage floor.

~Emily

The Knick in the Line

Who would’ve guessed that a cable buried underground would be buried so shallow?!  We didn’t.  Which is why we knicked it with an edger on Sunday as we were putting in the dog fence! 

We wanted our pups to have some space to roam on our property while keeping them away from the road that could lead to demise.  Chris used the edger to prepare the ‘trench’ as we walked around some of the woods.  An hour later, our daughter came outside and let us know the internet wasn’t working.  When we finished the project and came into the house, we found it still not working.  I went to turn the modem off and on again and realized it was genuinely broken, and the technician that arrived late Monday afternoon let us know that we had done the damage!  It turns out that because of fear of hitting pipes, they run the cable just a mere inch under the surface!

It’s amazing how some of the simplest things can wreak havoc!  Because of the cut line, my daughter couldn’t do her research online and I couldn’t perform my job functions the next day until it was fixed. 

It made me think about some of the simplest things I do, seemingly ‘surface level’ sins that knick the line of communication with God.  Please know that there is absolutely no difference from one sin to the next.  There are no “big” or “little” sins.  They are all measured on the same yard stick in God’s eyes.  But often we, as humans, give levels to our sins.  And the sins like a mean spirit towards someone or some of the words we say are overlooked because it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. –James 4:17

Those examples (along with 100 others I could name), while not turning me away from God, prevent an open line of communication with God because of actions I take.  Sins, unrepented, can muffle what God is saying and teaching us because our hearts are clouded with the muck and mire that just keeps building.  One by one, these sins start piling up, and just like the wire that was knicked preventing us from accessing the important information we needed, we miss how God is speaking and maturing us.  We’re bogged down with the sins of this world instead of being lifted up with the life-giving grace of Jesus Christ.

I encourage you, dear sisters, to ask God to show you where the knicks are in your life.  Repent and reestablish that sweet connection with your Savior.  He’s longing to speak to you!

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9

~Erin