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

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The Debt Struggle

I lease a car.  I know it goes against everything Dave Ramsey says, but I couldn’t help it.  I caved when I needed a new vehicle three years ago, and settled into my brand new Hyundai (which I adore by the way).  And now it’s time to make a decision on either leasing or purchasing.

When I went into the local dealership this morning, I spoke with the most amazing salesman.  We’ll call him Ricky.  (Which helps because that’s his actual name!)  Ricky was kind and funny, and he walked me through my options.  Peyton and I got a great chuckle when she insisted that any new vehicle we purchase needed a button start and an extra USB port, to which he replied, “Any other wants, Princess?”  He had watched me tease her about her desires for her own vehicle, and good-naturedly joined in the ribbing.

We had finally started talking numbers when the finance guy made his appearance. We’ll call him Finance Guy because I got upset enough to forget his name.  After much back and forth about what I was and wasn’t willing to negotiate, Finance Guy said to me, “You won’t really walk out over “$XXX, will you?”  And I promptly said yes, to which he replied, “Is money really that tight?”

For someone who’s never short of words, the FIRST words that came to my mind weren’t very friendly.  However, I replied to him that it wasn’t, but I had a budget and I was sticking to it.  “A $16 dollar difference may not be much to you, but I don’t need the car bad enough to go over my budget.”

At that point, Ricky very nicely offered me his card, and I told him I’ll get back to him.  This event made me realize I don’t want to lease, and when it’s time for me to actually HAVE to buy a car, I’ll definitely go to Ricky for my car needs.  Finance Guy won’t be invited.

This would never have been me years ago.  I was accustomed to buying what I wanted and credit cards always seemed like the best option to get what I wanted and when I wanted it.  A new pair of shoes?  Charge it!  Go out to eat at the fancy restaurant in the big city?  Put it on this card, please.  Darn…groceries were more than I thought.  Credit.

It was a never ending cycle.  Now, I’m not here to tout Dave Ramsey’s plan.  I DID attend Financial Peace University twice, and it was beneficial for me and my journey to being debt free.  What I want you to feel right now, is this:  you’re not alone.  I’ve been down this road.  There are things now that I pay for that others would think is crazy.  If I want to go to a movie, I go; and I get popcorn!  My Pop would call that popcorn a ridiculous purchase.  Other things, I’m not willing to give in and pay for.  If I can’t afford the fancy shoes by paying in cash, I just don’t get them.  I cut up and closed all of my credit cards…I don’t want the temptation.

Finance Guy thought that $16 was a non-issue and it quite possibly could be for some people.  But God tells me to be a good steward of my money.  I prayed about my car situation.  I felt God’s peace over a number.  I didn’t get it, so I walked away.

When I’m struggling with where my money should go and how I should be spending it, these verses always seems to come to mind:

The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. –Proverbs 21:5

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; -Hebrews 13:5a

If you struggle with that same problem—saving and spending in the right and God-honoring places—I encourage you to take this struggle to the cross.  Surrender your will regarding money at His feet, and ask Him to take on the burden for you.  He gladly will.

And here’s a quick practical tip that might help you when you’re in a store with a cart full of stuff you may not need.  If it’s not something I’ve already included in my budget, I walk around the store a little bit with it in my cart.  If I start second guessing whether or not I should buy it, I take it right back to its original home and walk away.  It’s not worth it if I’m questioning it at that moment!

What purchases do you struggle with that we can pray for?  I have an obsession with office supplies, namely pens and cool notebooks, so I’m literally having to ask Jesus to help me walk away from Staples or the supply section at Target on a daily basis! Share in the comments below.

~Erin

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The Empty Seat

If your child didn’t get off the bus, would you worry where they were?  If you went to the hospital to visit your loved one and they weren’t in their assigned room, would you worry where they were?  If you had a business presentation and your partner was running late, would you worry where they were?

Of course you would! The woman inside of each of us would worry about where those individuals were and why they weren’t where we were expecting them to be.

Let me ask you a harder question.  Do you worry about the empty seat next to you at church?

I’m not asking about the seat that is empty due to sickness, injury, or planned vacation. I’m asking about the seat that is empty due to spiritual sickness, lukewarm responses to the Gospel, or flat out thinking there’s something more important to do than sit in the House of the Lord.  We are not speaking of the empty seat due to plans that backfired…we are talking about the empty seat due to someone not even planning to sit there in the first place!

This empty seat is unable to sing glory to God.  The empty seat is unable to testify to answered prayers.  The empty seat is unable to witness to the newcomer.  The empty seat is unable to serve. The empty seat is unable to teach.

But the empty seat is not silent.  No. It’s not silent.  It tells a story of apathy.  It tells a story of an Easter-Christmas Christian.  It tells a story of lukewarm faith.  This is a tragedy for the walk of the lukewarm Christian’s life.

Understand this…God does not want a lukewarm reception, nor does he want a lukewarm follower.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” ~Revelation 3: 15-16 (ESV)

Both Ephesians 1:22-23 and Colossians 1:18 & 24 state that the church is the body of Christ, over which Jesus is the head.  If you are a follower of Christ, then you know you should be attending church. This is where you connect with God, where you worship God, where you focus your prayers, and where you fellowship with other Christians.  In short, it’s where you are an active part of the body.

As I write this, I want to be clear that I acknowledge that I am often the empty seat.  It’s all too easy to sleep in on the only day of the week that is alarm clock free.  It’s easy to let errands and chores take precedent. It’s easy to make excuses that I don’t want to sit by myself when my husband is out of town or working.  It becomes a slippery slope of not going. One Sunday becomes two; two becomes three; three becomes a full month, and so on. Suddenly, it’s been months or years that the seat has been empty.

“We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” ~Hebrews 2:1

I know I should be in church. I know that the Bible states church must be a priority in my scheduling. To not go is tragedy.  It’s a tragedy that causes our Lord sorrow.

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

The empty seat represents a lack of spiritual preparedness.  It represents a willingness to allow the world to be more important that the Lord.

If women worry about an empty seat on a school bus, in a hospital room, or the boardroom, then we should certainly be concerned with the empty seat in church!

Ladies, this is our chance to exalt the Lord, to learn, to encourage one another…and frankly, these are the front row seats to Heaven that we are discussing!  We are talking about seats for our children, our neighbors, our friends, our families…and we are absolutely failing them if we are not filling the seats of our churches!

Let’s start with assessing ourselves to ensure we aren’t the empty seat.  Then let’s start to look at the empty seats around us to see if there are members we should encourage to come back to church so they can fill their seat.  Finally, we need to seek the unbelievers, so that they can fill empty seats reserved for them.

Churches should be busting at the seams.  There should be a distinct need for additional service times.  It should be standing room only.  There shouldn’t be even one empty seat…

~Emily