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

New Year’s Priorities with “Reasonable” Expectations

I love to scrapbook, but I feel like I can’t get caught up on decades worth of photos that are well organized in folders.  Each of these folders is waiting to be creatively placed with stickers on the pages of my books.  I have an entire basket of photos from the two years I was stationed in Europe…in 2010-2012!!!  What fun it would be to sit down and reminisce all the places I traveled, all the people I met, and all the food that I ate!   

While I want to eliminate the backlog of photos, I do not prioritize this as something that must be done.  Clearly other things have captured my attention over the years that have taken precedence over scrapbooking.   Things like getting married, finishing a degree, raising a child, or retiring from the military.  Other things were a greater priority to me than scrapbooking.  

If I were to set a goal to scrapbook the decades of photos that are waiting page placement, I would likely fail to meet the goal based upon it not being a priority to me. 

In fact, when I set goals in relationship to New Years, I tend to fail. I set unreasonable expectations.  And then I fail.  Finances, weigh-loss, relationship mending, Bible Studies, gardening…doesn’t matter what the topic, there seems to be a failure involved.  

As I assess the craziness of 2020 and what might come in 2021, I decided that I won’t make resolutions.  No resolutions this year. Instead, I’m setting priorities with reasonable expectations. 

And I’m only setting one.  

I’m making God a priority in 2021.  I want to make time each day to spend in the Word.  I recognize that some days may be an hour, while others might be 15 minutes.  The reasonable part of this priority is this: I’m going to spend time with my Bible each day and I am not setting a specific timeframe for how long it will be each day.  

I recently acquired a yearlong Billy Graham devotional, as well as a 90 day walk with Paul by Beth Moore.  Both of these resources have me excited to start.  However, I need to be clear about my priority of spending time with God in 2021…I’m committing to spending time studying the Bible each day…in addition to any other study or devotion that I might also be doing.  

In James 4:8 (NASB), we are instructed to spend time with God and we are told what happens when we do.   “Come close to God and He will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Come close to God and He will come close to you.

That is my priority for 2021.  I’m setting a reasonable expectation that I will do it every day without a time constraint. 

Come to the porch and share your priorities and expectations for 2021.  

~Emily

P.S.  I hope I get a little scrapbooking time too!!

The Syrup-Creamer Difference

Every once in a while, my 9-year-old asks to add a splash of coffee to his hot chocolate in the morning.  And every once in a while I allow him to do so.

This morning, he asked if he could pour some coffee.  In a horrible mothering moment, I assumed he meant pour a small amount into his hot chocolate, as he had done before. Instead, he poured himself a full cup and then proceeded to add “vanilla creamer.” 

A few moments later, he brought me his cup and asked, “Why doesn’t it taste like yours?”

I took a sip and discovered it was pure coffee…with a VERY large helping of vanilla coffee syrup.  Not, creamer.  

Have you ever tried to substitute syrup for creamer?  In my opinion, it was disgusting!  Substitutes may taste slightly the same, but there are distinct differences.  

The same is true with God.  There are seasons of our lives that we make slight adjustments to our walk with God.  

Some adjustments may include the amount of time we spend in prayer, or the time of day we spend in prayer.  Those substitutes may be exchanging time reading a fiction novel for the time to read the Bible.  Perhaps I skip the pedicure and instead go serve at the community center. 

But what about when we substitute our Bible study time for shopping on line? When we sacrifice prayer time for reading a magazine?  When we choose to fiddle with the radio nob rather than take a moment to pray for the homeless person on the side of the road?

Sometimes the substitutes are for the better, sometimes for the worse.  Some are syrup and some are creamer. 

Take a moment this week and assess what is being substituted in your life…is it better or worse for your relationship with God.  I’ll be praying that you have healthy substitutes and grow closer to the Lord.  

~Emily

Jealous of the Disciples

I’ve always had a secret jealous streak when I think about the relationships that the disciples had with Jesus.  They walked with Him, slept near Him, and ate with Him. They literally had a front-row seat to His teaching, to His storytelling, and to His faithful prayer life. They had THE model right there with them…day in and day out.

There are times in my Christian walk that I’ve struggled with following the guidelines provided by Jesus.  I’ve prayed and felt like I didn’t hear an answer. I’ve failed again and again.  I have this irrational thought that if I had walked at the same time as Jesus, that somehow that would make my relationship stronger with Him.

I know it’s irrational.  Yet, it makes me slightly jealous that the disciples were able to ask questions face to face. They were able to make a prayer request and hear the voice of God respond.  I wish I had the literal face-to-face time with Jesus, in the flesh.

This week, while doing my homework for my small group “Maximum Joy” by Dr. David Anderson, I had a realization.  We all have the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord, much like the disciples did.  In 1 John 1:1:3, John wrote “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Scripture tells us that if we are following the direction of the Word, as well as the insights provided by the ones who walked with Christ, then we too can have the sweet joy of fellowship with the Lord.

I’m excited that the next several months studying 1 John will help me have deeper intimacy that leads to fellowship rather than just a relationship.  I’m also excited that it’s going to dispel this idea that I should be jealous of the disciples when I too can have a deeper relationship with Jesus.

Who else is harboring secret jealousy? Come to the porch and tell us…

~Emily

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Kid Questions

“Do you have cancer?”

This was the question I heard a 5-year-old boy ask a balding gentleman, as I went into the aftercare building to pick up my son.

The adult responded with a chuckle and said, “No, I’ve just lost all my hair.”

My initial internal response was “what has this child seen or heard to make them instantly think bald equals cancer?”

My next response was “Thank you, Jesus, for the innocent questions of our little ones.”

Children have very few inhibitions when it comes to questioning the world around them.  They ask simply because they need understanding. They aren’t intimidated by politically correct wording or the emotions that questions may bring up.

Jesus asked a lot of questions too.  His weren’t always simple or designed for His own understanding. Most of His questions were crafted to get His followers thinking about God’s promises, about salvation, and about deliverance.  One of my favorite questions Jesus asked the disciples is “Who do you say I am?”

In several books of the Gospel, we read that Peter responds, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus could have easily said, “I am the Christ.”  Instead, He challenged the disciples to answer the questions of their own heart.

Jesus taught using a questioning method of presentation. It creates a learning atmosphere where the disciples (and subsequently us) are able to interpret and deliver our own answers to questions.  This often lends itself to a longer retention of information…and a stronger belief in the answers that we declare ourselves.

Like small children asking strangers about lost hair and cancer treatments, we as Christians must ask about and interpret the world around us.  Lucky for us, if we’re in the Word, we’ll find answers!

What questions are on your mind this week?  Come to the Porch and share!

~Emily

Kid Questions

 

Coffee Shop Bold

I ordered a coffee and then had confusion cloud my brain as I began to doubt if I’d called the cashier by Ma’am or Sir. I called them something but then questioned if it was the correct gender reference.  The confusion was not because I’m middle-aged, rather because the cashier was exhibiting traits that appeared to be male and female.  I wanted desperately to ask them, out of sincere concern but didn’t want to risk being offensive with my questions.

I received my coffee and went to a table to begin working on bible study homework.

The ladies at the table next to me were having a very lengthy conversation about a nightly escapade with a guy they knew. It was loud. It was lewd.  The more I tried to ignore them, the louder they got.  I desperately wanted to ask them if they knew they were sharing intimate details in a public setting, but I didn’t want to risk being told off or cursed out.

I closed my study material.  I sat back.  I prayed silently.

The cashier’s shift was over and they left. The ladies with the wild night antics were done sharing and they left.

I remained.

I asked myself and God why I was so afraid to engage with these two scenarios.  Why was I reluctant to have a conversation with individuals?  What reservations overrode the need to be bold? What if I had been bold and had used the opportunity to share Christ’s love simply through my words?  What if this was the only time those three individuals encountered someone who could share the gospel through action, rather than by being timid or worse browbeating?

I immediately thought of the verse in 2 Corinthians where it states that because we have hope (in Christ), we are bold.  I couldn’t remember the context or even the exact verse, so I had to open the Bible and dig in.

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold!

~ 2 Corinthians 7-11(NIV)

 I want to be bolder in my action.  I want to stand firmly for Christ.  I pray I’m bold as a lion!  Even if it’s simply engaging in a conversation with strangers at a coffee shop.

Ladies, be bold and be brave this week!

~Emily

 The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

~Proverbs 28:1(NIV)

 

Coffee Shop Bold

 

 

Love is…Bible Study Time

More often than not, I get stumped while reading the Bible.  I want to know all the details and frankly, the Bible doesn’t always give all the details.

The OCD in me wants to know who’s who and why of the Bible.  So, I spend time cross-referencing family lineage.

The historian in me wants to know what is happening on a timeline.  So, I spend time looking up historical references about what was happening during certain parts of the Bible.

The researcher in me wants to know why some versions use particular words, while others have selective different verbiage. So, I spend time cross-referencing different versions of the Bible.

The woman in me wants to know how it applies to me. Right Now.  In 2019.  So, I spend time in prayer and journaling in an attempt to fully understand a scripture.

A new technique that I’ve recently employed is putting myself into the scripture or the scenario.  This has afforded me an opportunity to hear God’s voice in a manner that I hadn’t previously tried.

For instance, imagine yourself as one of the disciples being asked to pray for Jesus the night before His death.  As you are sitting in the dark garden, would you have been faithful in praying?  Would you have fallen asleep? Would you have sat up chatting with the others in an effort to stay awake?

In that scenario, you can begin to picture what the disciples were feeling that night.  Perhaps you get a glimpse into how Jesus reacted that evening.  Whatever your reaction to this exercise, you begin to see the Bible through a new set of lenses.

Let me present you with a challenge to put yourself into a scripture.  I’m sure you are familiar with the scripture of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV), but for the purpose of this exercise, I’m asking you to break it into individual lines (you can do this in your journal or on a scrap piece of paper).

Love is patient,

love is kind,

it does not envy,

it does not boast,

it is not proud.

It does not dishonor others,

it is not self-seeking,

it is not easily angered,

it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Now, the harder part of studying and applying this passage.  Replace the word “Love” and the word “it” with your own name.  Once you do that, prayerfully ask the Lord and yourself if the statement is still true.  Ask the Lord for help to strengthen you where there is weakness and continue to protect you where there is a strength.

In this challenge, “Love is patient” becomes “Emily is patient.”  “Love is kind” becomes “Emily is kind.” So on, and so on.

Guess what?  Love is patient all day, every day.  Emily, not so much.  I lose patience all the time.  And that is an area I need to take to the Lord in prayer.  What happens in this Bible study time, through putting myself into a scripture scenario, I identify an area that I need to prayerful consider in time with the Lord.

Take the challenge.  See what God speaks to your heart through a new lens.

~Emily

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword.  It penetrates even to diving soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. ~Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

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Your Roots Are Showing

In my favorite movie Steel Magnolias, Ouiser Boudreaux tells Clairee, “Have your roots done!”

If someone tells you to “have your roots done,” or worse “your roots are showing” you may immediately get on the defensive regarding your hair coloring.

There may be another way to interpret those comments.  Perhaps someone telling you that your roots are showing is referring to the roots of your character.  These could be positive or negative characteristics.

If you are a cynical person, you are rooted in negativity. Your cynicism will show.              If you are a joyful person, you are rooted in positivity.  Your optimism will show.

If you are an untruthful person, you are rooted in distrust.  Your lies will show.                  If you are a trustworthy person, you are rooted in integrity.  Your truth will show.

If you are a gossiping person, you are rooted in meanness.  Your ugliness will show.          If you are a humble person, you are rooted in concern.  Your heart for others will show.

Deep roots of our childhood, our present circumstances, our education, or our faith make up who we are.  Those roots will show eventually.  Both the positive and the negative.  The good news is that with Christ in our heart, we can overcome the negative roots and strengthen the positive roots.

Life with Jesus is much like a tree.  It must be deeply rooted in order to continue to grow and produce fruit for the kingdom.  In Jeremiah 12:2 (NIV) God promises goodness for us if we dare to grown deep roots for Him; “You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit.  You are always on their lips, but far from their hearts.”

In the parable of the seed, Jesus warns of the danger of having shallow roots that are not deeply developed.  “Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.  It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” Mark 4: 5-6 (NIV).

We need to have deep spiritual roots.  We need those strong roots in order to improve our churches, our marriages, our families and our communities.  Deep roots take an effort to develop.

If you are willing, you can develop strong roots through prayer, Bible studies, and serving others.  Share the Gospel, practice grace, work for others to know Christ.

When someone tells you that your roots are showing…be confident that they are strongly developed, deep roots in Christ that are showing.

~Emily

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