The Sting of Pride

Pride…what a seemingly two-edged sword.  We’re taught to be proud of who we are and of what we’ve accomplished.  We’re encouraged to be proud of the stand we take or decisions that we have made.  Yet there are multiple verses in the Bible that tell us pride is wrong.

“But He gives a greater grace.  Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” –James 4:6

“This is what the Lord says, ‘Let no wise man boast of his wisdom, nor let the mighty man boast of his might, nor a rich man boast of his riches;” –Jeremiah 9:23

“When pride comes, then comes dishonor; but with the humble there is wisdom.” –Proverbs 11:2

“Through overconfidence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel.” –Proverbs 13:10

You may be asking now, “Erin, how do you know whether the pride you feel is godly?”  That’s a great question!  Pride is not just an unbeliever thing, as we all know.  It’s something that I struggle with, and I’m constantly having to ask this question of myself.  That sin applies to all of us. 

I PRIDE MYSELF on the fact that I know a little about a lot in the Bible.  It makes me feel good to know that I can help people get an answer to something that they might not have previously known.  But am I being prideful in the wrong way?

Have I acknowledged that my parents, BECAUSE OF GOD’S MERCY, accepted the Lord as their Savior and took me to church from birth.  The Sunday School teacher, BECAUSE OF GOD, decided to answer the call to lead children and talk to me about the Bible stories.  The private school I was sent to that was affiliated with my church…GOD provided the opportunity.  GOD led the preachers to teach on topics.  GOD gave me my brain to be able to soak up the knowledge.  GOD directed conversations that I have with people that allow me to tell them what I know.

I know that’s a lot of capital letters in that paragraph, but the point is, I shouldn’t be taking pride in myself.  I should be humbled that through GOD, I was given amazing opportunities.  The difference in Godly pride and ungodly pride (if I may distinguish), is our humbleness about what we’ve achieved and WHO has allowed that achievement.  Who is really getting the glory?

We can be proud of every single accomplishment or decision or of the things we say.  But if we don’t understand and acknowledge that it would have been nothing without God’s kindness, grace and mercy allowing it, it’s simply sinful pride.  We must be able to have humility and recognize that apart from God, we can do nothing (John 15:45).

I pray that as we go through this week, we can be humble in what we do and recognize what God has allowed us to do and who He has allowed us to be!

~Erin

The Christmas Gift

We celebrated Christmas with my oldest daughter and her family this last weekend.  It’s exciting to go down and have a “second” Christmas with the grandbabies, watching their excitement as they see gifts they weren’t expecting as Christmas had long since been over.

I dutifully wrapped the gifts for each of them and handed them out, one by one.  Andros, that sweet little boy, opened his first gift.  He looked at me and said, “A shirt?  I have shirts!” Everyone started giggling, but the best part of the evening was when he went to open his second gift.  To an adult, the second gift was obviously too small to be an item of clothing.  As he slowly unwrapped it, he looked at me and said, “It’s not a shirt, right?!”

We got such a giggle out of that!  He’s only four, and while his momma is teaching him about being grateful and gracious about what’s given to him, sometimes he just doesn’t quite understand and acts like the little boy he is!

Do you ever think that we are like my grandson with God?  He provides for us.  In fact the Bible tells us in Philippians 4:19, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

It doesn’t mean the needs that we’ve asked for.  It doesn’t even mean He meets the needs that we want!  God knows our needs and supplies them.  However, just like little Andros, we get something and we look at it and say, “Hmmmm…that’s not what I asked for!”   When He provides for us again, we pray and say, “It’s not that one thing is it, God?”

I don’t think we do this on purpose, either!  I think in sin, we assume that we know what’s best for us.  We know what will make us happy or content or pleased.  We think that this thing or that thing will be what we need to make everything better.  In reality, God already know our needs, and He will give them to us when it’s the right time.  Often times, even though it’s hard to admit, the things that He gives us we don’t even realize we need until we look back on that moment in our life and say, “Yes!  I see where you were, God, and how You provided for me!”

I encourage you, friends, let’s take the time to ask God to supply our needs, and then step back and take all that He gives us with open hearts and gracious spirits.  You never know if the one thing you don’t think you want is exactly the one thing you’ll need!

~Erin

P.S. His second gift was a book for us to read together!

My sweet grandson with his ever-present chocolate milk mustache!

Hemingway-Type of Bad Day

Have you ever had the horrible day when all you can say is “Today was a bad day”?

Recently I had a bad day.  Nothing seemed to go right. Work, knee pain, angry drivers, parenting a pre-teen, call to mom, gym time…all of it seemed to have some horrible moment. I literally wanted to weep in frustration, anger, and pain.

Ernest Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us…”

I certainly felt that life was doing it’s very best to break me. 

I wanted all the badness (is that a word?) removed from that day.  In that regard, I relate to Paul and his thorn in the flesh. In 2 Corinthians he asked the Lord three separate times for the thorn to be removed.  

In response to his plea, Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NASB), “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I delight in weakness, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ: for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Ponder that for a moment; ”my grace is sufficient for you…” 

Well, yes God, your grace is sufficient for me.  But in the moment, it sometimes doesn’t feel as though my heart can embrace that phrase.  Continue reading…

“For power is perfected in weakness…”  If I’m feeling despair, frustration, or anger, I am essentially being perfected in that weakness.  Paul goes on to write that he’d rather boast about that weakness in order to glorify the power of Christ.  He’s excited to be weak so that he becomes stronger.  Interesting concept.  

The more and more I dive into the Word, the more and more I begin to understand that reading scripture for context is so very important.  In the midst of a bad day, it would be easy to fall back on a portion of scripture which states that His grace is enough.  Maybe that would make me feel better…or maybe not.  

However, when I continue the verse, I begin to understand that every experience can be used to worship the Lord. I can embrace His grace being enough, but if I embrace that when I’m weak, the Lord is working to make me stronger. 

As Hemingway said, “life breaks all of us.” I believe there is purpose in that breaking.  There is purpose in the bad days.  The badness used for goodness, in order for me to grow into a more mature Christian.

Pray with me this week that the bad days of weakness become examples of your strength in Christ.

~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

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crooked Path: A Redemption Story

Until recently, I thought a childhood that included an introduction to Jesus seemed normal in America.  More often than not, individuals stray from a childhood relationship with Christ.  Perhaps we stray in High School or College with poor decisions.  Sometimes that straying is a conscious decision to pull away from God as a result of a life event.  In nearly every case, it’s a result of the enemy meddling in our thoughts and with our hearts.

It becomes a crooked path from Christ, away from Christ, and hopefully back to Christ.

In the book “Saving Me From Myself” by Brian “Head” Welch, the reader is taken through a biographical example of how a child accepts the gift of salvation and then crumples under the snare of Satan.  The story of Brian, as the former lead guitarist for the metal band Korn, is fascinating from several levels.  It shows the long-term impact of evangelism.  It illustrates the persistence of the enemy. It demonstrates how far we can veer from a righteous path. It shows the absolute beauty of grace and redemption.

I read this book, cover-to-cover, in one night.  It was a story that kept me turning pages into the wee hours of the night…long after my typical bedtime.  My fascination with Brian’s story was driven by his return to Christ.  Our God loves us through thick and thin.  He loves us when we are disobedient.  He loves us when we make horrible decisions.  He loves us most when we return.

Each of us has a story of the enemy trying to impact our lives.  Each of us has an even better story of that grace and redemption. Brian chose to share his story very publicly through total lifestyle changes, through quitting the band, and by publishing multiple books.

What is your story?  How has the enemy meddled in your life?  How have you persevered in your walk with Christ?  Who are you telling as an example of God working in your life?

~Emily

“In Him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” ~Ephesians 1:7

“In Him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” ~Ephesians 1_7 copy

A Sports Mom & Grace

I have a love-hate relationship with baseball season.

I’m not talking about Major League Baseball—not the Yankees and the Red Sox.  I’m talking about 7-8 coach pitch baseball.  Coaches pitching to 7 and 8 year old boys.  This was my son’s 2ndyear playing ball and his 1styear as catcher. The regular season ended last week and has provided an opportunity for me to reflect on this love-hate relationship.

I love how happy my son is being on a team, while exercising, and learning a sport. I love watching his eyes dance when he catches the ball or hits a run.  I’m content being behind the camera catching the intense moments of concentration.  I adore that the coaches pray with the boys before practices and games.  I’m grateful that he hasn’t been on a team that chose white uniform.

Despite the “love” part of being a baseball-mom, I have some issues with baseball season.  I hate 7 pm games, which means I’m in a dinner dilemma…to feed before or to feed after???  I hate that late weekday games equals cranky mornings…for the kiddo and for me.

And I have come to hate the group texting with parents for snacks and practice times.  Each time my phone indicates a text message; I start dreading the massive text chain. Why?  Probably because I’m a very organized, type A personality, who has been in the military for over 20 years. I have a hard time with loose schedules and lack of pre-planning.  I want lists of snack responsibilities.  I want to know who has scoreboard or dug out duty for each game.  I want to know when the team party and photos are scheduled. Not knowing these things in advance makes me cringe.

Not knowing makes me less gracious.

Grace has been defined in several different ways.  Typically, we think of God’s grace in relationship to His providing a way to salvation through acceptance of His son.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Essentially grace is God providing for us even when we don’t deserve it.  Knowing about God’s grace is not enough. We have to accept God’s grace. Then the hard part…we have to demonstrate God’s grace by showing grace to one another.

Grace for others is demonstrated in our thoughts, words, and actions.

If we think dreadful thoughts, we aren’t illustrating grace.  When I have grouchy thoughts about a 7pm, mid-week game, I’m not demonstrating grace in thought.  We are given guidance on our thoughts in Romans 12:2 (NIV), “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

If we speak negative words, we aren’t speaking grace.  When I complain to my husband about the lack of snack organization, I am not demonstrating grace in speech.  We are given guidance on our voice in Colossians 4:6 (NIV), “Let your conversations be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

If we roll our eyes or have huffy behavior, we aren’t acting in grace. When my Type A personality encourages me “take over” team mom responsibilities, I am not demonstrating grace in action.  We are given guidance on our actions in Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV), “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

If we act in grace, then we honor the grace God has provided for us.   I need to work on turning my thoughts, words, and actions into grace-filled examples of God’s love for each of us.  I need to turn my love-hate relationships into love-love relationships. Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

phdLadies,

I want to have grace flowing from my heart….not just behind the camera, but rather in all of my thoughts, words, & actions.

Do you?

~Emily

 

 

 

A Sinner’s Heart

I was pregnant with my second child when I was removed from the nursery schedule at the church I attended.  At approximately four months along, my belly was growing at a far faster rate than my first pregnancy.  Though I wasn’t tiring out easily, the nursery director wanted to ease any discomfort I might encounter while taking care of babies and toddlers as their parents were listening to the preaching down the hall.  While I felt a twinge of guilt at the extra duty the volunteers would inevitably encounter in an underserved area, it was a welcome reprieve from the Sunday morning routine.

Four weeks into my mini nursery-vacation, however, I was splashed with an ice-cold bucket of judgment that left me wondering if I would ever be worthy of my Jesus.  A friend confided that the respite I had been given was less about discomfort for me and more about the discomfort of our small church.  “How on earth would it look to have an unwed pregnant woman taking care of the babies in our nursery?” was the true reason I was asked to step aside in the role of nursery volunteer.

Yes…I was pregnant.  And unmarried.  I began having a relationship with the man who would eventually become my husband, and due to sinful nature, I became pregnant prior to any kind of wedding day.  And just like that, the feeling of being worthless and unusable for God’s glory came rushing into my life.  “What kind of example could I be for women now?” I thought.  I was no longer able to fulfill God’s calling in my life to minister to women.  I had ruined my ability to do so.

I cried for months over the torturous shame I felt.  I begged God to forgive me over and over again.  I mourned for the loss of my servant ability in the church, and I felt so far from Him.  Yet little by little, I was finally able to drown out the lies of the devil long enough to hear these two verses my Savior was whispering to me.

He shall again have compassion on us; He will subdue and tread underfoot our wickedness [destroying sin’s power]. Yes, You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (AMP)

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; Acts 3:19 (NASB)

Those verses are beautiful, aren’t they?  I had forgotten that when true repentance happens, my sins are as far as the east is to the west (Ps. 103:12).  They are thrown into the depths of the sea, having been given whole restoration in Jesus Christ.

That sin is not one of my finer moments in life, and I fully recognize that what I did was willful disobedience.  But just as God commanded us to do, I repented and asked for His forgiveness.  He granted me the grace I so desperately desired.  There was no need to continue to live in the guilt and shame anymore.  God could (and WOULD) still use me for His honor and glory.

Iron Porch is proof of this.  God took this broken mess of a woman, full of mistakes and sinful nature, and molded her into a willing vessel for Jesus.  His grace and love is just that sufficient.  Any day that I doubt my calling, Jesus reminds me that the kind of example I’m supposed to be is the kind that shows our God is bigger than any sin or mistake I’ve ever made.  And I’ll take that calling any day of the week.

~Erin

Hang-ups, Phobias, & Quirks…Continued

When you wrestle with deep soul secret keeping, you risk your relationship with God, with yourself, and with others.

In 1998, I practiced a quickly growing, cultish behavior when I joined a Wiccan coven.  I committed; I practiced; I researched; I participated; I went all in with a pagan walk and turned my back on our Heavenly Father.

For seven years, I deliberately disobeyed God.  I denied Christ. I knew I was wrong. I kept it from my friends and family.

I became the deceivable woman.

2 Corinthians 11:3 (NIV) states, “the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness.” Deceived exapato means “to seduce wholly; “ “To persuade into disobedience.”

Utilizing the 2 Corinthians passage, we are able to see that in Genesis, Eve is an example of a woman who was persuaded to do wrong.  When she was alone, she was vulnerable to temptation.

She was the first deceivable woman.

In my last post, I stated that quirky tendencies are not necessary sinful.  It’s when we keep secrets deep in our soul that we become vulnerable to sinful behavior.

In the case of practicing Wicca, I was committing sinful behavior, which I was keeping secret.  Is there a difference? Perhaps.

Once I shared the secret of my sinful behavior with my closest friends and family, they immediately began praying for me to be restored to a Christian walk.  That did not happen immediately, but it did happen eventually.  When we selectively share our hearts with other believers, they are able to bolster us.  They are able to hold us accountable.  They are able to approach the Father on our behalf.

Last week’s hang ups, phobias, and quirks seem very miniscule when compared to my absolute avoidance of the occult aisle at the bookstore. I avoid horoscopes, moon cycles, and other pagan related calendar items.  I steer my child away from tarot cards and subtle pagan television shows. Avoiding and dismissing occult and pagan related issues has become a hang-up, phobia, and quirk.  It’s one that will not be a secret in my life, because I refuse to have that sin ever take hold of me or my house again.

I was the deceivable woman. It wore me out being that woman with the deep-seated secret.  If you have sinful behaviors that are wearing you out…that you are keeping secret…I am urging you to find a strong Christian woman to confide in so that she can go to the Lord in prayer on your behalf.

Turn from the secrecy. Ensure you aren’t falling into a sin trap because of secrets.

~Emily