Roots of Bitterness

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. ~Hebrews 12:15 (NIV)

Imagine this: so much had been changing with the policies at my job that I considered looking for new employment.  I did not want to become bitter towards an organization that I’d given my adult life towards, so I began to think about when would be a good time to transition.

As I read Hebrews 12:15, it reminded me of the sentiment towards my job, but I was unsure if the roots of bitterness referenced in Hebrews were the same that I was feeling towards my employer.  Using prayer and research, I decided to dig in.

The scenario occurred well over a year ago, but it’s given me plenty of time to spend time in Hebrews and Deuteronomy trying to understand the “roots of bitterness.”

The KJV refers to the root of bitterness springing up and troubling you, which in turn will cause many to be defiled.  Within the NIV, one can see that bitter roots grow and cause trouble.  As you read this verse, it appears that the passage is directed at the entire church of believers rather than just one individual battling bitterness.

The context of the passage becomes even more clear when you consider Hebrew culture, where any poisonous plant was referred to as bitter.  If poison destroys, then the author of the book of Hebrews could arguably be using the metaphor of a bitter root for something that would destroy the church, much like poison would.

Taking this New Testament passage and crossing it to the Old Testament, one sees that in Deuteronomy 29:18, Moses cautions of being vigilant to the growth of bitter roots of poison.  In reviewing the covenant between God and Israel, Moses is referencing the “bitter root” of idolatry.  There are other references in the Old Testament where the concept of a bitter root is mentioned. For instance, in Amos 6:12 the unfaithful are called out as a bitter root.

Much like in nature, a bitter root in a church or individual’s life starts as a tender shoot.

If it’s nurtured and cared for, it begins to grow longer and stronger as the days go by.  The poison of that root begins to gain strength, subsequently becoming more and more dangerous.  The sin of the bitter root in a person’s life or within the church must be dug up, cut off, and not allowed to continue growing.  If it’s allowed to continue, there are catastrophic consequences: the spiral of more sin begotten of other sin or the lack of unification in church membership.  Essentially that bitter root becomes a stronghold for the enemy to mess with our lives.

Within the church, we are all responsible for cutting off the root of bitterness. It’s time to practice grace with one another. It’s time to speak truth to one another. It’s time to hold each other accountable.  It’s time to support one another.  It’s time to stop gossiping.

It’s time to stop nurturing the root of bitterness.

For me and my job challenges, I had to assess if bitterness was going to take root.  If it was, then I had choices to make in order to cut off that root.

During the next week, look at your life and determine if there are shoots that need to be pulled before they begin to take root!

~Emily

Roots of Bitterness copy

 

Conviction Truth

Recently I had a gal from my church share some truth with me….and it involved one of my Facebook posts from several months ago.  There was nothing sinful about the post, but she pointed out that the content could be a stumbling block for others, considering I am in a leadership position as the women’s ministry director.

Her truth gave me pause.  It created a scenario where I went to the Lord in prayer to ask for forgiveness and ask for Him to reveal any other places in my life where I may have been blind to such occurrences.

She was right.  And more than that, she was right to tell me.

How often have I known that I should speak to someone about a perceived wrong or sinful behavior? The Lord has prompted me before but I’ve been reluctant to follow that nudge.

Why? Why am I negligent in confronting truth with other Christians?  I know I’m capable of it. I am able to tell Erin when I think something is wrong. I’m able to speak to my husband about truth. Why can’t I tell others?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few days and I’ve concluded that it’s primarily fear that inhibits me from speaking truth into another’s life.  I don’t want to be shunned, or I don’t want to be wrong, or I don’t want to tarnish the relationship.

The truth of the matter is this…if God wants someone to feel convicted about a sin in their life, then He’s going to somehow let them know.  That may be through my words, or it could be through a podcast, or a Bible study, or countless other methods.

However, that does not absolve me of my responsibility to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.  Repeatedly throughout scripture, Christ-followers are instructed to hold one another accountable to “right” living.  For instance, Colossians 3:16 (NIV) states “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

I am grateful to those around me that are bold enough to speak truth into my life…and for pointing out where I may be straying.

As I walk through this next week reflecting how to better speak truth into other’s lives, I would love to hear your thoughts on truth convictions.  Come to the porch and share your thoughts!

~Emily

Conviction Truth

Cruise Ship Chapels

Erin and I just took our 1st cruise together and it was AMAZING!  Five days of nothing to do but relax without many expectations of either of us.  We have joked that all we did was eat and sleep. In full disclosure, we did a fair amount of both.

We also explored the entire ship.  We went to all the eating establishments and passed by every beverage station (both the coffee and alcoholic versions).  We attended the art auction.  We spent a very long-time watching people attempt to surf at the “Flow Rider,” as well as curvy slides and rock climbing.  We stepped into a silent disco (which was a surprisingly great time!), as well as entertaining the idea of watching a comedian, an ice-skating show and even a juggler.  We even watched a game of Bingo from the sidelines that brought many hoping they would win their next cruise.

We strolled through the casino but spent zero time there.  We went to the library and had a wonderful conversation with a college student leaving to join the Air National Guard soon.  We stumbled on the most delightful game of Lip-Syncing on the promenade.  We watched the ship leave port from the best Titanic location and we “supervised” the Captain from the behind the bridge on a viewing deck.

We even went to the fitness center.  Once. For a selfie.

Thank God we did not see the infirmary or the morgue, despite knowing they were both on the ship’s lower decks.

You know what we didn’t see? The Chapel.  We totally missed seeing the church area reserved on the ship.  It’s ironic that two Jesus loving girls who co-founded Iron Porch would miss that area, right?!?!?

Except that our ship didn’t have a chapel.  Many ships don’t have this area set aside for worship and/or prayer.  While some ships have chapels, but they are reserved for an exclusive wedding package.

I’ve been pondering on the lack of a chapel or religious services for a few days.  We were on a floating city for several days and had access to Wi-Fi, gambling, fitness center, spa and salon, entertainment, and impressive chef staff.  But we couldn’t go to a reserved spot to pray or read religious materials.

Interesting dynamic, don’t you think?

Does that mean the tourist and vacationing industry don’t see value in a religious space?  Is our spiritual walk not important on vacation? Does the average person take a “vacation” from their religion while they are on vacation?  In a politically correct world, are we so afraid of offending ship passengers that it was decided not to create religious space?

There are potentially bigger questions, as a result of the lack of vacation chapels.  When we aren’t on vacation, are we only seeking Jesus in a formal space, such as our churches or prayer closets?  Or are we seeking God in every and all situations, in any setting?

I’d venture to guess that many who make Jesus a priority in their lives will do it with or without a formal space, such as a chapel.  Erin and I found a way to stay close to God without a cruise ship chapel.  We prayed as we walked the outer deck and before meals. We had time to read devotions by the pool or on the balcony.

We made time to stay connected to the Lord on vacation.

I’m wondering if there were others like us who are deliberately making time.  Both on vacation and at home.  I’m wondering if the lack of formalized space, such as a chapel, leads to the temptation to step away from quality time with Jesus while on vacation…or in our everyday life.

Do you need the cruise ship chapel to be reminded to draw close to God?

~Emily

Cruise Ship Chapels

 

 

 

Time of Their Lives

On the end of the fishing pier, there were about 20 adolescent boys fishing their hearts out.  There was no talk of school projects or grades.  No talk of girls.  No talk of parents or problems at home.  Just teenage boys razzing each other and slinging fishing rods over the Atlantic Ocean. Every day for the entire summer they were planning to meet at this pier at sunrise and wait for parents to pick them up at sunset.  They were having the time of their lives.

When was the last time you had the time of your life?  Hanging out with friends?  No cares in the world? When was the last time you had the time of your life in your Christian walk?

While in High School, I had the time of my life every summer for a week at church camp. Started the mornings with a nature walk chat with God and prayer time in small groups followed by group Bible Studies in between playing in the pool during the days, ending with worship songs and smores around a campfire in the evenings.  Learning the Word and praising God, while hanging out with my closest friends in the foothills of Mt. Hood, Oregon.

When we’re having the time of our lives, do we even recognize it? Do we know we’re in a moment that won’t ever be recreated? Do those boys know that they are living their best lives getting tan and fishing with one another every day of the summer? Did I know that I was having the time of my life at a summer church camp?

In the months leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, did the disciples know that they were in a space of time with Christ that could never be recreated? Did they recognize the miracles, the travel, the teachings, even the rebuking for what it was? It was the time of their lives.

They may have missed it.  Just like the boys on the fishing pier this summer.  Just like me at summer camp.

As summer becomes fuller with activities, I’m praying that you are taking a moment to recognize what is happening around you. Are you living in a moment where you are having the time of your life?

~Emily

Fishing

The Influencing Friends

Through the years, I’ve been blessed with friends from all over the world.   These friends have explored new cultures with me, traveled with me, drank with me, held me while I cried, celebrated life with me, and prayed with me. I truly have been blessed and touched by each of their roles in my life.

Three friends stand out as being the largest influences over my life.

The 1st is Lindy, who was my very first best friend.  We met at age three and lived two houses apart so we played together often. She had the most amazing collection of Barbie dolls, but my mom didn’t want me playing with her dolls because I had a horrible habit of biting the feet of barbies (yes, you read that correctly…I used to bite the barbie’s feet).   Lindy is the friend who taught me about sharing, about compromise, and about truthfulness.

The 2nd is Linina, who became my closest friend in the 7th grade.  We were inseparable for the next six years and I can’t imagine how I would have done High School without her.  We shared every teenage secret, church camp, wintergreen gum, and heartache over boys.  Linina is the friend who taught me about Christ’s unfailing love, about loyalty, about perseverance, and about loss.

The 3rd is Erin, who became my prayer partner mid-way through my military career.  While we lived in the same city for a short period of time, our daily phone calls for the last ten years have enhanced my life.  We stood by one another as relationships crumbled, as children grew, and our love for God became the center of our friendship.  Erin is the friend who taught me about strength, about growing, and about contentment.

As I look back on my life at these three stages of besties, I’m reminded that scripture tells us we will have similar stages of spiritual growth.

Infancy

As an infant/young child, we are just beginning our walk with the Lord.  1 Peter 2:2     relates that we are like newborn babies who desire the milk of the Word.  It’s essentially a developmental phase where we are learning about our new Christian walk.

In the flesh, a newborn is completely dependent on a caretaker.

In the spiritual, the newborn Christian must be taught how to study and read the Bible because there isn’t a developed ability to ‘feed themselves.’

I saw this phase distinctly with Lindy, as three-year old’s, embarking on our first friendships where we were being taught the principles and boundaries of friendship.

Adolescence

Maturing into adolescence, the Christian has a strong faith in God and has learned about prayer and fasting.  While spiritually strong, there is often a lack of maturity at this stage.  1 John 2:14 states, “I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you and you have overcome the wicked one.” This stage is about learning submission and patience, rather than knowledge.

In the flesh, a teenager is knowledgeable and able to care for themselves, but they can be prone to missteps in decision making based on their experience levels.

In the spiritual, the adolescent Christian must practice restraint and continue to seek guidance from authorities.

As teenagers, I saw this phase in my friendship with Linina, when we thought we knew it all but still need to submit to the authority of our parents.  It was a season of becoming stronger in friendship and holding one another accountable, while still relying on guidance from wiser Christians.

Adulthood

In our Christian walks, maturity brings the realization that heaven is not our goal, but rather it is our destiny.  Our goal is to live as close as possible to the example provided by Jesus.  This includes continued growth in our personal relationship with God, as well as loving our neighbors deeply.  Paul reiterated this when he wrote, “..for me to live is Christ…” (Philippians 1:21), which is indicating that from his own conversion until his martyrdom, everything he did was to advance the gospel and bring glory to Jesus.

In the flesh, an adult is comfortable with continued learning but is often the one sought for advice.

In the spiritual, the adult Christian strives to meet believers and non-believers, in order to enhance everyone’s knowledge of the Bible and the gift of salvation. During this stage, there is conscious effort to win souls for the Kingdom.

I have seen the adult phase develop over the last decade, as my friendship with Erin has grown. This has been a season of building relationships and Iron Porch, as a space to share the gospel.

I can clearly track my spiritual growth through these phases, as well as in my friendships. I’m still friends with all three of these lovely ladies; Lindy, Linina, and Erin (obviously, Erin).  These three ladies influenced my “being” more than any others.

One started me on learning what friendship meant, one taught me about Christ’s love, and one has studied with me on how to bring Christ to the center of a friendship.

Each of those friendships is a reflection of the women influencing “Emily” and a reflection of the stages of a Christian’s development.

Come to the porch and share who has been influencing your development…

~Emily

The Influencing Friends

 

 

When Liars Become A Distraction

The enemy engages with us when we are least expecting it.  Often the enemy uses those around us to “get into” our head.  Occasionally, the circumstances seem genuine. Sometimes red flags are raised.  That’s how spiritual warfare works…sometimes subtly and other times overtly.

A “friend,” who I hadn’t heard from in years, contacted me via social media. This is a woman who I have had a challenging past with.  It’s also someone who thinks she has a vested interest in knowing about my life. Furthermore, it’s a gal who is very much into pagan paths of spiritualism.

Despite that past and her religious thinking, I wanted to believe the best of her intentions.   I chatted via emails over the course of a couple days.  Then she wrote something about one of her recent accomplishments, but it just didn’t make any sense to me.  I asked several questions, to which she had some interesting answers that also didn’t sound right.

God bless my Spidey-senses. God bless the Google-machine.  God bless a best friend who listened to my thoughts, helped investigate, and agreed with my assessment.  I reached the conclusion that her story was false. It was a farce. An untruth.

This seems like a fairly small and possibly benign daily encounter.  Except it interrupted my day. It took up space in my mind.  It made me question her motives.  And it frankly took time away from my family and my own endeavors.

Satan wants our minds to be cluttered with nonsense so that we lose focus on what is most important to us. I could have been reading with my son, exercising, cooking, or studying.  Instead, I was surfing the internet to investigate this woman’s claims.

A subtle form of spiritual warfare.

Exodus 23:1 (NIV) states, “Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.”

What can you do if there is a liar in your midst that is causing a distraction?

  1. Pray. There’s nothing better than prayer to calm a troubled heart or mind. Bring the situation to the Lord and allow Him to work on your behalf.  When we bring our angst to the Lord, He opens our eyes and our ears to truth.
  2. Create Distance. This may require a few days away from the individual. It may require a social media break. It may require a complete severing of the relationship. Distance allows us to evaluate a situation and it allows us time to spend with the Lord.
  3. Evaluate Yourself. Ensure that you reflect on your role in the situation or scenario. Have you encouraged or discouraged behavior?  Perhaps there is nothing you have done…perhaps there was.  God will help you with that self-reflection and the conclusions you come to.

I don’t need a false friend, nor do I want to condone untruths.  Yet, I didn’t want to assist the negativity by confronting her or escalating the situation.  I didn’t want to become a malicious witness.  I simply deleted the conversation.  I blocked the individual on social media.

This scenario is one small example of how we can discern if the interaction is glorifying to God.  Or if it’s one that the enemy is using to distract us.  I choose to be focused and undistracted.

I pray that God continues to allow the gift of discernment to work in my life. I pray it works in your life as well.

~Emily

Liars

 

 

When Your Calling Isn’t “Ministry”

“God placed His calling on my heart to be a Minister/Pastor/Sunday School Teacher.”

“Writing or Speaking is God’s calling on my life.”

“God has called me to go on a mission.”

All valuable statements. All truths in someone’s life. But…

But what if the calling on your life isn’t a “traditional” Christian role? What if that calling has nothing to do with what most would see as a typical Christian position?  Does that make it less valuable? Does it make it less God honoring?

I know this gorgeous gal, Chaunte Myers, who is absolutely in love with the Lord.  The calling on her life, and that of her family’s lives, has been to establish a non-profit organization that assists military members, veterans, and their spouses with transitioning into civilian jobs.  It would become a delicate balance to walk because of dealing with government agencies that do not overtly discuss religious views.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) states that each of us“…should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Nearly a decade ago, this family of seven veterans followed God’s urging and created Centurion Military Alliance (CMA).

Is this a traditional “positional” calling from God? Most would say no.

Why? Probably because we’ve conditioned ourselves to think that a worthy calling on a Christian’s life is narrowly confined to leadership roles in the church, such as Pastor, worship band, small group leader, etc.

Perhaps it’s time to re-define what we believe is a “calling” on our lives.  I would contend that anytime God calls you to do something…anything…that is a calling on your life.

How do you know that you have a God-ordained calling on your life?  It’s because the work you are doing touches people. It changes them for the better. It robs you of your sleep as you pray and collaborate on how to impact lives.

CMA is able to do that. They touch lives in a ton of different ways.

Tangibly, they assist veterans with building robust LinkedIn profiles, practicing elevator speeches, and crafting military lingo into civilian verbiage on master resumes. They create space where military members are able to become gainfully employed civilians.

Intangibly, they touch lives through living a Christ-like lifestyle.  This may be one of the few times a military member is able to see a family functioning together for the pure joy of fulfilling God’s calling. It may be the first time military members are seeing someone help them without expectations of return.  It may be the first time that individuals are able to witness God’s love without feeling condemnation.

God’s calling doesn’t have to be to a traditional Christian platform.  God’s calling is simply used to touch people.  It influences the basic human needs, as well as the heart.  It answers the question of how God shows up in people’s lives.

The members who attend a CMA workshop will see how God has shown up in Chaunte’s life.  They will see how He’s showing up in their lives, through her example. They may not see it immediately, but it’s there.

The sleepless nights thinking about drafting grants or dispositions, using the traveling points to go to the next location, missing the events of the littles, and praying through development and delivery of curriculum…all of it worth it…if it touches one person’s life.

Romans 8:30 reassures us of our calling, “And those He predestined, He also called; those He called, He also justified; those He justified, He also glorified.”

 In the end, doesn’t that mean that every single calling on one’s life is a ministry?

What’s the calling on your life?

~Emily

This is my shameless plug for Centurion Military Alliance.  If you know anyone with a military connection that needs transition assistance, please have them contact CMA…they love to connect the military member with the next chapter of their employment!

ministry