Stuck Like Glue

I’m pretty sure Winnie has separation anxiety.  I’m slightly teasing, but our 11-month old pup cannot stand to be away from me or Chris.  She gets up on the couch and will “nose” you to get you to start petting her.  She has the weird sitting stance where she sits up straight like a statue as you pet her and then she slowly falls backwards until she’s almost off the couch.  If you stop, she nudges you again with to get close and get some petting time. 

When we get up, she gets up.  When we walk to the kitchen, she’s right there.  It’s become the running joke in our house that we tell her that we’re just “going to the bathroom and we don’t need her to watch.”  She still follows.

As she followed me into the other room this morning, I thought about my relationship with God.  Is it the same way? 

We often lean in close to Him when we are struggling.  We praise Him when a prayer has been answered.  We go to church on Sunday or attend a Bible study once a week.  But what about the rest of the time?  There’s so much scripture about drawing close to Him.

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.” –Isaiah 55:6

“Therefore let’s approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help at the time of our need.” –Hebrews 4:16

“The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth.  He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.” –Psalm 145:18-19

The Bible tells us him can approach with confidence.  It doesn’t say TRY and seek the Lord.  It says SEEK the Lord.  When we are always making our day about Him, leaning into Him, praying with ceasing, praising without ceasing, what does that do for our emotional and mental well-being?!  It brings contentment.  It brings a joy and a peace.  It cloaks you with the Armor of God; it brings protection!

If I followed God as faithfully as Winnie follows us, there would be no room for Satan to step in between.  Oh, he’ll try.  But when we are firmly planted by Jesus, the devil’s plans will be thwarted.  God will have the victory because we have not left a gap in our walk!

Do you have a pet (or even a child) that can’t stand to leave your side?  As you go through the week and you’re spending time with them, remind yourself to stay that close to our Heavenly Father.

~Erin

Expectation Vs Reality

We took a trip this last weekend to Mississippi for a concert.  Because it was over four hours away, we decided to get a hotel.  For road trips the task of choosing a hotel has always fallen to me.  Emily says it’s because I’m bougie.  I say it’s because it’s because I don’t want to find a cockroach sleeping next to me on my pillow when I wake up in the morning.  (It does not help that I used to be a travel agent and I also worked for a hotel, so I KNOW what hotels can be like!)

This time, I was looking at prices and trying to be a little practical and chose a hotel I wouldn’t normally choose.  Nothing is wrong with this particular chain, but if the name of the hotel doesn’t usually rhyme with Fyatt or Filton, it’s not on my radar.  Let’s just say that the pictures of this hotel and the reality of the hotel were, to quote scripture, as far as the east is from the west.  It was ok.  I didn’t die.  We got a good night’s sleep.  But my expectation versus reality was disappointing.

Aren’t we lucky that we have a Heavenly Father that is exactly as He says?! We don’t need to worry that He’s not the same as He’s portrayed in the Bible.  There were eyewitness accounts of who God and Jesus are!  Passages in the Bible show Jesus’s loving words and actions. 

We don’t have to worry about Him changing how He feels about us, because the Bible tells us that we are His children when we accept Him as our Savior.  He listens to our pleas, feels our pain, and knows our stories.  He doesn’t change His mind on a whim or lead us in a direction to say, “GOTCHA! I just wanted to mess with you!”  He’s constant, ever-present, all-powerful, and all-knowing.  He does not change!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever. –Hebrews 13:8

I praise God that He is this way.  In a world where the ebbs and flows seem to be dramatic and wildly moveable, I give thanks that we have a God whom we can count on.  We know what He expects of us, and we know what to expect of Him.

Join with me this week in praising God for being an unmovable and unshakeable Creator.   Let’s find ways to praise God for being exactly who He says He is!

~Erin

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

Regaining Quiet Time with God During Quarantine: Guest Blogger DeAnna Barber

In 2019 I ended my last day of work at an amazing job on a Friday.  On the following Saturday, I frantically packed up my life to escape the worst and scariest experience of my life; emotionally, verbally and leaning towards a physically abusive husband.  With the help of my family coming to my rescue I moved all my belongings, myself, and my son 200 miles back to my hometown to stay with my parents until I could get us back on our own again.   That Sunday was a blur, as was Monday, which was a holiday, and I began work on Tuesday.  I never took the time to breathe.  I never took time to just be still.  I was afraid to be still.  I was afraid I couldn’t make it through.  I didn’t want to reflect or think.  I wanted it all to disappear.  So I kept very busy all the time from then on.

But keeping so busy caused me to be exhausted and to struggle with setting aside quiet time with God; something that used to be my lifeline.  I never went a day without it before.  But catastrophe hit and I didn’t want to be quiet. I still had my faith and I wasn’t angry at God, I just didn’t want my mind to think about what had happened, what I had escaped, what would have happened if I had stayed or why it ever happened in the first place.  I had so many questions but I chose avoidance.

March of 2020 rolled around and another catastrophe hit which forced me to do nothing but slow down: the Covid-19 pandemic.  I was out of work and quarantined at home for 6 weeks which provided plenty of time to think and be quiet.  So I chose to take that time to rest, breathe, and get back into the groove of my daily quiet time with God.  And although I am still struggling to get back into that groove like I used to be this pandemic has helped me realize how desperately I needed this time to just be quiet, to slow down, reflect, and to enjoy the quality and quantity of time.

God’s word tells us in Psalm 46:10 to be still; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says to rejoice ALWAYS, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks no matter what; 1 Peter 5:7 says to cast all our anxieties on Him BECAUSE He cares. His word also offers comfort in Psalm 34: 17-18 that He hears us and delivers us from our troubles and that He is near the brokenhearted; Deuteronomy 31:8 promises that God goes before us and will never leave or forsake us; Isaiah 41:10 says we should not fear because God is with us, He will strengthen and uphold us.  Matthew 6:25-34 is certainly a wonderful set of verses to comfort us and remind us not to worry during this particular time in our world.  Lastly, Hebrews 7:25 states to draw near as well as James 4:8 which adds the promise that He will draw near to us.

I wish I had taken more time to be still and get closer to God this last year because 1) God commands it and desires us to get close to Him and 2) I know it would have helped me heal in a healthier way than I was choosing.  So, despite all the uncertainties of what is to come with Covid-19, I am thankful for the quarantined time I had because I was able to slow down and choose to be obedient and be still and quiet, to listen to God’s commands and to take comfort in His promises.  I allowed one catastrophe to disrupt my quiet time but God used another kind of catastrophe to help me get that quiet time back.

DeAnna

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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