Spiritual Attacks

If you are a believer, you won’t go long without encountering spiritual warfare.  The enemy would love nothing more than for us to forget that there is constantly a spiritual battle going on amongst us.  We may not always see it and we may tend to forget that it’s going on, but it continuously brings chaos, turmoil, discouragement, fear, stress, and even defeat. 

The Bible reminds us that we should stay aware of Satan’s schemes, while staying close to the Lord. We’ve been armed for battle through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17), and also with the entire Word of God.  When we are able to pray God’s Words back to Him, we are utilizing a powerful weapon against Satan, as it’s the Truth being spoken out loud. 

Here are scriptures to read, pray, and memorize in regards to Spiritual Warfare:

Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. ~Luke 10:19 

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

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.  ~1 Peter 5:8-9

Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  ~James 4:7

For You have girded me with strength for battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.  ~Psalm 18:39

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:3-5

No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; and every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord. ~Isaiah 54:17

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. ~Ephesians 6:11-17

Remember sweet readers, when we belong to Christ, Satan never has the final word over our lives. We are fully in God’s hands.  Our responsibility in spiritual warfare includes being ready to pray, meditate, and speak the Word of God.  This battle belongs to the Lord, and He has the final victory…so fear not.

~Emily

The Business of Dying is Hard Work

Last month my mom said, “This business of dying is harder work than being born.”

She’s right.  It’s hard work for the one who is dying, but it’s especially hard work for the friends and family left after the death.  

In the last year, I’ve had friends mourn family members who died from COVID.  I’ve watched my Mom make the hard decisions about hospice for my Dad, just months after he was diagnosed with cancer.  I’ve watched my husband’s family mourn the death of their matriarch, Deea.  I’ve had High School classmates die from suicide and cancer.  

The business of dying is hard work.

So is the business of living.

In each scenario where someone has died, there are families and friends doing the hard work of continuing to live…paying bills, going to school or work, loving children, putting on a smile…all while grappling with the very real stages of grieving.  In the scenario where a spouse becomes a caretaker, it’s hard work to keep living…to juggle the knowledge that you aren’t a medically trained professional, but you are expected to advocate for your loved one.   In the instances where we just want to give up, it’s hard work to keep trucking along…to keep putting one foot in front of the other while wanting to scream profanities into your pillow.   

In John 10:10 (NASB) scripture tells us “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  

In this verse, Jesus promises that He’s come so that we’ll have life to the fullest.  We’re warned against an enemy whose primary mission is to steal our joy and taint our memories through destruction.  How can we have that promise of a full life?  

When we choose to intentionally make God the foundation of our lives, we receive clarity about the hard work of living.  As we walk through creating focus on Jesus, we are able to see ourselves making it through the “narrow gate” that is discussed in Matthew 7.  Through that scripture we are able to see a few foundational principles.  1. The rightful place of God is on the throne of our lives. 2. Jesus Christ and our faith in Him is the requirement for entry into heaven.  3. As Lord of our lives, Jesus allows us to focus on Him, which then allows all other priorities to become easier to walk through.  

This doesn’t mean we won’t have strife and trials.  It does not mean that we won’t grieve the deaths of those around us.  It certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t be anguished and full of questions when struggling with all the issues around dying.  

It does mean that we can have comfort, peace, love, and even joy in the midst of those horrible moments…if only we allow Jesus to help us with these difficulties.  


You see, both dying and living are hard work.  

But both can be made slightly easier with our reliance on Christ. 

I’m praying this week for each of us who are facing or have faced death recently.  Specifically, I’m praying that we each find comfort in knowing God is walking right beside us in these trials. 

~Emily

Leadership Lessons: Moving Up The Banquet Table

Have you ever wondered how some people are given a promotion over others?  Was it because of their merit? Their work ethic? Their personality? Or was it at the expense of others? Was it because their own ambitions drove them to promotion regardless of those around them? 

In the military environment (I’m confident that this is likely true in any corporate environment), I’ve witnessed this set of questions in regards to leadership.  Specifically, when someone is given increased responsibility and/or rank, those around the leader will often remark that they are either well-deserving of the promotion, or they will comment that they were moved ahead as a result of stepping on others to get there (this self-promotion can be overt or subtle, but it eventually shows itself for self-promotion, given enough time).  It does not appear that there is an in-between, but rather only the two extremes.  One leaves the followers happy, the other leaves them scratching their heads.  

How does one end up in the category of leading the happy followers?  How do you end up being promoted based on merit, rather than circumstances that are at the expense of others?  

In Luke 14:8-10, we see the example of waiting for an invitation to move to a place of honor.

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place.  But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honor in the sight of all who are at the table with you.”

In this parable, Jesus noticed how guests have ranked themselves at a wedding banquet.  Through this example, He is teaching the concept of humility vs pride.  In human nature it is easy to place oneself higher than others may see you in status or positional power.  Jesus is teaching us specifically to allow for the host to choose where we sit at the table, lest we embarrass ourselves (and those around us) with our own false sense of importance.  

Proverbs 25:6-7 (NASB) cross-references this concept.  

“Do not boast in the presence of the king, And do not stand in the same place as great people: For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen.” 

These scriptures remind me of a time when I attended a family wedding.  The ushers seated me in the 2nd row of the groom side, as part of the family.  I noticed many rows behind me Uncle Kevin and Aunt Barbara, who by rights of being in the groom’s family, should be in the same row with me.  I waved to them and invited them to come sit with me.  As they moved to join me, I distinctly remember Aunt Barbara saying that it was better for them to have sat at the back and waited for the invitation to sit in the family row.  

In a seemingly innocent conversation, two people illustrated a real-life example of living out the parables that Jesus taught us about humility and waiting for the invitation.  Clearly it was an impactful showcase of this lesson, if years later I can still distinctly recall the scenario.  

Something as simple as waiting for an invitation to be moved to a position of honor, translates to humility.  It would serve us well to remember this in our daily lives, in the military promotions, in corporate American, or our political parties.  

Our promotions to the head of the banquet table should be at the host’s discretion…not because of our own self-promotion.

~Emily

Bookworm Beliefs

True confession: I’m a self-proclaimed-avid-borderline-obsessed reader….a bookwork, if you will.  

What does this bookworm believe?

1. there are always more books to read

2. you can never have too many books waiting to be read

3. all children should be granted access to books

4. reading is my 1st choice for learning & recreation

I probably have more books in my house waiting to be read, than dollars in the bank account (now, that may be a tad bit of an exaggeration).   I always have a book in close proximity to me.  I have to check the copyright date of books prior to reading them.  I keep lists of books I have read, want to read, and want to read again.  I follow authors rather than celebrities on social media.  

My obsession with books is 2nd only to my obsession to Chapstick.  

One of my 2022 goals was to read the entire Bible.  So, when the Pastor of my church recently challenged the entire congregation to read the entire Bible together in 2022, it aligned perfectly with my own goal and with my fixation on reading.

During that challenge the Pastor also mentioned that our personal choices of how we spend our time often trumps our choices of how we spend time with the Lord.  He gave the example of how we may say we don’t have enough time to pray or read our Bible during our busy week, but we manage to make time to watch several football games.  The point?  What is more important…the football game or your relationship with God? 

That has marinated with me for several weeks.  Every single time I’ve picked up a book to read for recreation, I’ve questioned if I had finished my Bible reading plan for the day.  More often than I would have predicted, I had neglected the Bible for another book.  With some reflection of that revelation, I realized that the Holy Spirit was nudging me closer and closer towards focusing on Biblical reading before pleasure reading.  

In John 16:5 and in verse 16, Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that he was leaving them.  He was preparing them for a time that they would not be able to physically see Him anymore.  However, in between those two verses is an interesting statement about the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I tell you the truth; It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ~John 16:7 (NIV)

It’s easy as a Christian to think that being with Jesus forever would be the best thing for us.  Yet, in John 16:7, we hear Jesus tell us that it’s better for us to not be with him and that if he didn’t leave, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Essentially Jesus was saying that it’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit. With that assertion, comes the knowledge that having the Holy Spirit in our lives means that we will be open to feeling convictions about our behaviors.   

We’re a mere three weeks into the New Year and already I’m finding myself convicted by the Holy Spirit regarding my reading behavior and my goal to read through the Bible this year. 

It’s time for this bookworm to adjust my beliefs…I need to focus on my Bible goals. 

Are you open to those nudges from the Holy Spirit?  

~Emily

Tales from an Insomniac

It’s the middle of the night and every breathing creature is asleep in my house…except me.  I’m wide awake listening to the husband, son, and dog snore.  I drink some tea, read a chapter, count some sheep, take a warm shower, pop a melatonin, and continue to toss and turn.  A true insomnia moment.  

Rather than continue to fight sleep, I get up and start something productive. 

It’s the middle of the night and I’m doing dishes, laundry, or blog writing. On the nights I can’t sleep, I figure that I might as well cross items off my “to do list” rather than lay in bed getting mad I’m not sleeping. 

How often am I fighting God’s direction for my life, just like I tend to fight sleep?  

The truth is, that I likely fight Him more than I recognize. It’s so easy to question God…“Are you sure that’s what you need me to do?” or “What if I do xyz?” or “Why don’t we try blah-blah-blah?”  Always questioning and always fighting His direction.

What If I just got up and started being productive instead of lying there questioning and getting frustrated?!?!?!   

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) states that we should, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  

If in a scenario where I can’t sleep, I’m willing to do all types of different tips to get to sleep, why would I also do things to draw closer to God? 

Instead of questioning His guidance in making my path straight, I could confer with God in prayer, read the Bible, meditate, journal, or sing worship music.  Any of those tips would be more productive than my natural tendency to question God in frustration.  I could just get up and become more productive. 

Regardless of sleeplessness or challenging the Lord, I know the most effective methods of not getting angry in the situation.  Now I just have to utilize them.

Happy sleeping this week!

~Emily

Holiday Poverty

As we gear up for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, we will begin to see more and more solicitations for donations to families that are in need.  This is the time of year that thrives on canned food admissions to events, toy drives, and angel tree gifts.  Like a majority of the Iron Porch readers, I support these efforts to gather food, clothes, and items for children. 

Yet I’ve always wondered why we push so hard during the holidays for donations, but not the rest of the year.   As someone who grew up in a family that needed occasional assistance, I can attest to the fact that my parents needed food and clothing help throughout the year…not just at Christmas.  

The need for sustainable items is an example of poverty, but it’s not the one Jesus references when he speaks of the first beatitude being poor in spirit.  Initially, when we are poor in spirit we recognize that we are apart from God and that we crave the gift of salvation provided by Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for our sins.  The recognition of being separated from God, by sin, is a profound portion of being poor in the spirit.  

Being poor in the spirit doesn’t stop once we become a Christian.  Once we accept the Savior, we don’t necessarily lose the brokenness that we had when we first approached the cross.  In fact, that brokenness can drive our Christian path.  It’s fair to state that until we get to heaven, we will be in a constant state of spiritual poverty.  At this point Christians have two choices: 1. we continue to stay poor in the spirit, as we grow closer to Christ and develop ourselves as disciples or 2. we continue to stay poor in the spirit because we give into the brokenness and don’t develop as disciples.  

Personally, I’d rather identify as poor in the spirit while continuously growing.  

Except that I know it’s easy to slide into the “not developing” category.  Life takes over, we become lazy, other items take priority…but we stay in an “undeveloped” status.  Because it’s easy to slide, we can’t just push ourselves in spiritual poverty during one season, rather we need to continuously push ourselves spiritually year-round.  

As an unbeliever, we need Christ immediately, just as a family at the holidays may need immediate assistance from a canned food drive. 

Once a believer, we need to continue to develop that relationship with Christ, just as the needy family may need assistance throughout the year.  

I’m praying for those who are poor in the spirit this season (and yes, that means everyone—both believers and non-believers).  

~Emily

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” ~Matthew 5:3

AC-47 Testimonies

For those who don’t know, I work as a curator at a military museum.  While we have fantastic displays and precious artifacts on display, my favorite thing about working there is interacting with veterans and their families.  This last week we hosted a group of Vietnam Veterans who had each been involved with one particular aircraft; the AC-47, known as Spooky or Puff the Magic Dragon. 

During the ceremony, one of the pilots of this aircraft during the Vietnam conflict was the guest speaker.  His speech, titled “Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow” started with what it meant to be part of the “Spooky Brotherhood.”  

He discussed where they were yesterday and when each of their yesterday’s began.  

Then he recapped how they came to design monuments, selected where they were placed, and how they have reunions.  It was the today portion of his speech.

Finally, he spoke about their tomorrows.  At that pivotal point in his speech he told them he was concerned about their salvation and if he would see them as a brotherhood in their tomorrows.  He launched into sharing the Gospel and challenging them to get right with the Lord.  

I could not believe my ears!  You see, it’s rare at a military event for the Gospel to be presented in such an overt manner.  I was so proud of him for his boldness to speak truth in a military group.

He was truly living Romans 1:16 (NIV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

While I’m not ashamed of the gospel, there are plenty of situations I find myself in where I lose the opportunity to share. Maybe it’s the timing, or maybe it’s my own fear of rejection, or maybe it’s the atmosphere.  Regardless of why I don’t share, it’s a lost chance to win souls for heaven. 

I love that this Vietnam Vet took the step to care for the eternal souls of those in the audience.  He was not ashamed…not at all.

~Emily

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

Counterfeit Repentance

I’ve been involved with several conversations this week about the concept of repentance.  I was anticipating it coming up in the Sunday School lesson from the book of Ruth, but imagine my surprise when it also came up during the sermon.  Don’t you love when God has a message for you and it’s reinforced repeatedly?!?!?!

According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of repentance is the act of turning away from a behavior; sincere regret or remorse.

Most Christians would agree that scripture details repentance as an integral part of salvation.  We acknowledge our sin, we repent of it, we ask forgiveness for it, and we accept that Jesus took our punishment and is our Savior.

God has offered us amazing grace.  However, I think there are many within the church who have fallen for the lies of the enemy that repentance is cloaked in grace.

In other words, true repentance is acknowledging sin and turning from that sinful thought or behavior. In the case of counterfeit repentance, church culture acknowledges the sin but does not turn from the sinfulness in the belief that grace will cover that sin.

Not only is that counterfeit repentance, but it is also counterfeit grace.  That is grace that allows us to remain in sin.  But it is not true grace.  God did not design grace in that manner.  In fact, the enemy delights in us falling for the counterfeit grace, as it does not lead us to the cross nor will it allow us to live life abundantly.

In order to combat “counterfeit-ness” in our lives, we need to get tough on our sins.  We need to complete an in-depth analysis of our thoughts, our words, and our actions.  Do they glorify God? Or are they steeped in sin?  Are we willing to turn from that sin, ask for forgiveness, and then do our best to not return to that sin?

I am praying that I will have a serious chat with myself about sin…I am praying that for you too.  I pray God reveals sin that we have previously excused. And I pray that we beg for forgiveness and turn from that sin.

At that point, we’ll have true repentance…and true grace can be experienced.

~Emily

Repentance

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eclectic Christmas

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The small Alabama town my family calls home hovers around a population of 1000.  Each year this town hosts a walk-through Nativity scene with the assistance of dozens of churches.  This production is hosted on private property with amateur actors, real animals, campfires, and amazing singing angels.

Acting, donating, or visiting, our family has participated in some capacity for the last four years. Each year, the details of the production blow me away.

The visitor starts with a guide from one of the 12 tribes of Israel and is provided a gold coin for bribing Roman soldiers who barrage the group on horseback several times throughout the stroll.   As the group walks around a very large pond, visitors stop at stations to hear the Nativity Story.  One of the highlights is visiting the village, where fresh bread and fruits are offered, businesses are selling wares, priests are speaking…and an innkeeper is proclaiming no more room for the travelers.  Towards the end of the walk, there is an amazing stable scene with a real-life Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus amongst the sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Let me tell you why this is such an amazing community ministry. https://www.aneclecticministry.org

First; it started as a smaller church’s vision to reach the community, but has now grown to dozens of churches assisting.  There is no politics or denomination talk, but rather a presentation of the Nativity story as read in the Bible.

Second; it runs for a week each December and has been running consecutively since 2013. It has a longer past, but the formalization at its current location allows the community for miles around to have access to parking and the walk-through venue.

Third; it’s run entirely by volunteers. The clean-up crews, the marketing through the year, the costume design, the parking crew…even the sound, which we can hear through the woods over a mile away at our house (what a blessing to hear the music in our yard for a week solid every 20-30 minutes from 6-9pm!)

Fourth; the tour ends in a large white circus tent with the hosting church of the evening presenting the Gospel.  People who have church homes, meet new people. People without church homes are introduced to all of the churches participating over the week.  Unchurched folks hear the Gospel.  Folks are accepting Christ at this event.  There are souls being saved, y’all!!!

Souls being saved.  All because someone thought there should be a walking, live-action, Nativity Scene for the community.  Years later, dozens of churches later, hundreds of visitors later…and souls are still being saved!

What could happen in your community if you dreamed big dreams and let God work through your hands?  What could happen this Christmas if you listened to the nudge of the Holy Spirit?  Would souls be saved?

~Emily

townsoldiersEclectic Christmas