Clean the Temple

I’m going to tell you a secret…I’m not great at cleaning my house.  Hahaha! Just kidding; that’s not a secret.  That’s common knowledge!

My least favorite thing about the holiday season is making sure all of the nooks and crannies are sparkling.  You know what I’m talking about.  You want to make sure that when your guests come in your home, your mirrors are sparkling, the floors are freshly mopped, and the sheets in the spare bedroom are crisp and clean.  You wash away the dirt and grime and make sure it’s refreshed.  It’s nice to know that you’ve worked hard at cleaning your home!

It should be the same with ourselves.  God reminds us of that in I Corinthians 6:19.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

I think it’s easy for us to forget that what we ingest physically and spiritually affects how clean our temple is.  It could be the shows that we watch; are they pleasing to God?  Maybe it’s the books that we’re reading.  Is the material something that edifies the body?  How about the company we keep?  Are these people bringing fellowship as a believer or are we finding ourselves turning in the other direction?  Perhaps we’re missing church.  We starve ourselves of spiritual meat and a body of believers.  I could go on.

When we recognize that something or someone is preventing or stunting our maturity in a relationship with God, we should be correcting or purging it.  I have to do this often.  As I read the Bible more and study scripture, I start asking myself if what I’m currently engaged in is glorifying God. 

Let me give you an example.  For me, it started with TV.  For the last two years, when my husband and I have turned on shows that we’ve always watched, I’ve found myself cringing at the sex scene or the use of foul language that had never bothered me before.  When I recognized that it was making me uncomfortable, I started praying about what I was watching.  Now, seasons of shows are left unwatched because I want the temple as clean as it can be.

Cussing is next.  Growing up, in junior high and high school I cursed like a sailor (sorry, Mom!).  And then there were a great many years when I never cussed.  As I’ve gotten older, I got lax.  Now, I’m praying that the Holy Spirit would guard my tongue.  If I wouldn’t say it front of God, I don’t want to say it.  I’m pretty sure God’s not calling someone the “B” word from His throne, so what makes it ok today?  It’s a work in progress for me, and I find myself asking for forgiveness often.  But I want the temple clean.

Does it mean we have to be perfect?  Of course not!  The only man that walked this earth to lead a sinless life was Jesus.  But He does tell us in His Word over and over again to do what is pleasing unto the Lord.  While pleasing according to world’s standards looks vastly different than God’s, I want to choose to honor Him every time!

This week, let’s take inventory on ourselves!  Let’s clean out our temples of what distracts us from the work of the Lord and start fresh.  Let’s aim to keep our temples clean!

~Erin

Grandpa’s Tomatoes

I wanted to make some vegetable soup, so I scoured my pantry for some tomatoes.  I knew that I had some of my Grandpa’s canned tomatoes still in there somewhere.  Out of the last few jars of his I had left, there was just one of what I was looking for! 

The man loved to can. He had what he called a garden and what I called a small farm of every kind of fruit and vegetable you can imagine.  And he would harvest it all.  He would can it, give it away, even trade with it.  When we went to visit them in South Carolina, my Pop would always take me out to Grandpa’s canning shed to dig through hundreds of jars of vegetables and jellies to find what I wanted to take home.  And as I opened that jar on Monday, I started to cry.  Grandpa passed away in 2016 and it made me miss him so much.

While I’m sad that he’s gone, I know he was believer.  When he left this earth, he was given a new body in heaven and is worshipping Jesus all day and night!  I can praise God that when my day comes and I take my last breath, I’ll see him and his smile again!

This made me think about the people I know that may not have that same assurance of their place in heaven.  I can be confident as a born-again Christian that when I die, I will be in heaven.  But I know that there are friends of mine who have told me they believe they hope they’ve been ‘good enough to get a pass’ into heaven.    

Please allow me just a brief moment to explain why this can’t be further from the truth.  The Bible is clear that there is no one on this earth who is good enough to get into heaven.  Romans 3:10 says, “There is none righteous, no not one.”  We can’t be kind of good.  We can’t be really good.  The Ten Commandments given by God has ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ and ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ all in the same list.  In humanity’s eyes, one of those sins is much worse than the other.  In God’s eyes, ALL sin is abhorrent.  We will never be righteous enough.

Because of that sin, what we deserve is death and eternal separation from God.  We are told in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Because of the wicked nature of sin, our penalty is death.  But the second half of that verse can give us hope!  It says God has given us hope for eternal life in the form of a spotless Lamb.

Romans 5:8 shows just how much He loves us.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  While God says the price that we must pay for sin is death, there is undeserved grace.  He loves us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth.  He lived a sinless life with the sole purpose of becoming a substitution.  He was sent to be the sacrificial Lamb, covering our sins with His blood.

And because of that sacrifice, if we believe in Him, if we surrender our lives to Him and follow Him, we can and will go to heaven!

John 14:6 says, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Asking Jesus to come into your heart isn’t something that you do to put in your back pocket ‘just in case.’  When you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior, there is change in you.  The Holy Spirit is residing in you!  We become a new creation in Jesus, and the earth becomes just a temporary home.

Romans 10:9 tells us how we can know for sure when we die that we will be in heaven.  “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

If you don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus and you’ve haven’t surrendered your life to Him, I encourage and plead with you to call on the name of the Lord.  Tell God that you know you’re unworthy of His grace, but grateful that He’s given it.  Tell Him that you believe He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and that you believe He rose again and lives in heaven.  Confess your sin and surrender your life to Him, asking Him to live in your heart.

If you realized that you needed Jesus and prayed, giving your life to Christ, make sure you tell someone!  Share it in the comments, tell a friend, you can even message me or Emily.  But it’s too wonderful of news not to share!

If you still have questions about what it means to surrender your life to Him, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  We would love to talk with you and help you know that you have a home in heaven!

~Erin

Context is King

How many times have we read those memes about how punctuation can really change the context and understanding of the sentence?!  They’re some of my favorite things to see on my Facebook page.  You know what I’m talking about…the ones where one comma can change the sentence from “I like eating kittens and sleep” to “I like eating, kittens, and sleep.” What about the times we get just one part of story from someone and we realize we need to see the complete picture, not just the one piece they’re telling us? 

Context is king, and it’s even more important to understand the context of verses in the Bible to fully comprehend what God is saying in the passages of scripture!  It’s very easy to take a verse at face value.  We pick it out because it sounds helpful or we think it’s perfect according to our situation. 

While those verses ARE helpful, it’s important to understand what the verse is talking about as we use these verses.  There are many around us who may not fully understand scripture, and it’s important that we are not misrepresenting the Bible.

Let’s look at a few of the ones I’ve been researching:

James 1:5—“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given him.” 

If my Table 8 Bible study group heard this from me once, they heard it from me 100 times during our study of the book of James that many use this verse to preach the prosperity gospel.  “If you ask, He gives and He gives GENEROUSLY!  Keep asking!” 

That’s not what He says, though.  He doesn’t say ask for stuff.  He says if you lack WISDOM, ask and He will give it you.  This isn’t about what financial gain you can receive but rather wisdom.  As well, if you read the verses before, James is talking about trials producing endurance  and allowing it to have its perfect result.  This is about wisdom as you endure!

1 Corinthians 6:19—“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?”

I actually love this verse.  I often heard growing up this verse being related to drinking, smoking, sex outside of marriage, overeating, etc.  While I won’t negate that because your body is a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells, it’s important to treat your body well in relation to all of that.  But when you look at the context surrounding the verses, this verse is referring to sexual immorality!  Paul is saying that sexual immorality can truly invade not only your outside self but your inner soul, as well.  Sex is not ‘just sex.’ It’s something that, when not honored in the biblical way, can hurt your heart and soul. 

Friends, as I study the Bible and dig deep, I’m gaining such a better understanding of the scripture.  The study clarifies how it pertains to me and it has me digging even deeper to see the entire Bible and not just the bits that I can fit into a catchy phrase to share as I’ve done in the past.

I pray that as we go through our studies this week, as we dig into the scripture, that we are asking God to allow us to see it as a whole.  Let’s challenge ourselves to see the full context of what we’re reading and allow God to reveal exactly what His word says!

~Erin

False Teachers

I often get asked by my Bible study group or people that know I’m a Christian what I think of Pastor X on the TV or Pastor Y who has a large following.  Sometimes, I get asked about prominent national Bible study leaders and whether or not I listen/like/follow them.

Coincidentally, those types of questions have been lining up with our current Bible studies.  As we talk about false gospel or religion and heretical teachings, our group is diving into scripture to see what the Bible says.

Satan is always roaming around seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).  One of his greatest tactics is to manipulate Christians.  If he can get us to start interpreting scripture to meet our needs rather than the true context, he’s got a foothold.  If he can push us into sinful pride of wanting people to hear US as opposed to God, he’s gaining ground.  If he can mislead us we, in turn, can mislead others.

Because of that, the Bible teaches us that we shouldn’t be surprised at false prophets who are around us. 2 Peter 2:1 says, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

It happened in Biblical times, and it’s happening even today.  At least 180 Bible verses speak to false prophets and how they will distort the gospel and teach false doctrine.

The Bible also gives clear direction on what we are to do when we hear pastors/speakers/influencers.  We are not to just accept what they say but rather look at it, read it, study it, and examine whether it is biblical.  If it is not, we should reject that which is evil. 

Do not quench the Spirit, do not utterly reject prophecies, but examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good and abstain from every form of evil.” –1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” –1 John 4:1

One of the best ways we can recognize false teaching is to be in the Word.  I’m not talking quick devotionals that give us a pick-me-up.  I’m talking the in-depth study and understanding of God’s Word.  We need to be taking time to dive into the Bible.  It’s how God speaks to us.  I used to say that I didn’t have time, that I was too busy.  And then my pesky iPhone started giving me my weekly updates!  Learning you’ve had 5 hours of screen time during the week is obnoxious!  That’s time I could’ve stepped away from Instagram or Facebook or YouTube and spent time reading the Bible.

I would also encourage you to pray and ask that the Holy Spirit give you discernment as you prepare to hear one of these speakers.  The Holy Spirit is one of our greatest lines of defense!  We underuse Him, and the Lord gave Him to us after Jesus left so that we could have the Helper within us.

Dear friends, we live in a time where heretical teachings are prevalent.  We must be on guard and aware of those false teachers so that we do not blind ourselves into walking down a path that allows us to stray from God!  I pray that the Holy Spirit gives each of us the discernment we need to see God’s truth!

~Erin

Bookworm Beliefs

True confession: I’m a self-proclaimed-avid-borderline-obsessed reader….a bookwork, if you will.  

What does this bookworm believe?

1. there are always more books to read

2. you can never have too many books waiting to be read

3. all children should be granted access to books

4. reading is my 1st choice for learning & recreation

I probably have more books in my house waiting to be read, than dollars in the bank account (now, that may be a tad bit of an exaggeration).   I always have a book in close proximity to me.  I have to check the copyright date of books prior to reading them.  I keep lists of books I have read, want to read, and want to read again.  I follow authors rather than celebrities on social media.  

My obsession with books is 2nd only to my obsession to Chapstick.  

One of my 2022 goals was to read the entire Bible.  So, when the Pastor of my church recently challenged the entire congregation to read the entire Bible together in 2022, it aligned perfectly with my own goal and with my fixation on reading.

During that challenge the Pastor also mentioned that our personal choices of how we spend our time often trumps our choices of how we spend time with the Lord.  He gave the example of how we may say we don’t have enough time to pray or read our Bible during our busy week, but we manage to make time to watch several football games.  The point?  What is more important…the football game or your relationship with God? 

That has marinated with me for several weeks.  Every single time I’ve picked up a book to read for recreation, I’ve questioned if I had finished my Bible reading plan for the day.  More often than I would have predicted, I had neglected the Bible for another book.  With some reflection of that revelation, I realized that the Holy Spirit was nudging me closer and closer towards focusing on Biblical reading before pleasure reading.  

In John 16:5 and in verse 16, Jesus repeatedly told the disciples that he was leaving them.  He was preparing them for a time that they would not be able to physically see Him anymore.  However, in between those two verses is an interesting statement about the work of the Holy Spirit.

But I tell you the truth; It is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. ~John 16:7 (NIV)

It’s easy as a Christian to think that being with Jesus forever would be the best thing for us.  Yet, in John 16:7, we hear Jesus tell us that it’s better for us to not be with him and that if he didn’t leave, the Holy Spirit couldn’t come. Essentially Jesus was saying that it’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit. With that assertion, comes the knowledge that having the Holy Spirit in our lives means that we will be open to feeling convictions about our behaviors.   

We’re a mere three weeks into the New Year and already I’m finding myself convicted by the Holy Spirit regarding my reading behavior and my goal to read through the Bible this year. 

It’s time for this bookworm to adjust my beliefs…I need to focus on my Bible goals. 

Are you open to those nudges from the Holy Spirit?  

~Emily

Wasp Stingers & Convictions of the Holy Spirit

On Friday, just as I was getting ready to leave work, I felt a pin-prick stab in my stomach followed by an intense burning sensation.  I moaned ‘nooooooo’ in despair, as I watched a wasp fly away from my mid-section.  The last time I was stung by a wasp it took over a year before it stopped flaring up bright red and alternating between burning and itching. 

Earlier in the week at Bible Study, the teacher gave us a scripture with a nugget of truth that left me feeling the sting and burn of conviction. In that moment, I knew I wasn’t being prayerful, respectful, or loving in one area of my life.  Like the wasp sting, it hasn’t gone away after several days.  

The Bible is very clear that the feeling of conviction is from the Holy Spirit; the third part of the trinity. In my experience, these nudges from the Holy Spirit are in areas that the Lord finds displeasing.  Normally, they are behaviors that are sinful, that need repentance, and that are forgiven if we truly change our direction.  

John 16:8 (NASB) says, “And He, when He comes, will convict the world regarding sin, and righteousness and judgement.” 

You see, the key to conviction is that there will be judgement associated with it.  Therefore, we can’t ignore it…we have to actually do something to change the behavior.  If we fail to change behavior as a result of conviction, or we ignore that pinprick on our conscious, then we stay in a sinful spiral.  And no good comes from that. 

Josh McDowell wrote, “Having convictions can be defined as being so thoroughly convinced that Christ and His Word are both objectively true and relationally meaningful that you act on your beliefs regardless of the consequences.”

Just like the wasp sting, with its immediate pinch and days of itchy burning, the moments during and after a conviction spurred by the Holy Spirit, should also invoke feelings of a sting and continuous burn…until the behavior has been repented and changed.  

This week I’m praying that the ladies of the porch will listen to the Holy Spirit when you feel that moment of conviction…and that the wasps stay away from you!

~Emily

When You Know, You Know

Have you ever felt like something was wrong, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was that might be wrong?

Call it a gut feeling, women’s intuition, or a sixth sense. You know something isn’t right.

You could call it discernment.  The small voice of the Holy Spirit letting you know there’s an issue needing your attention.  The spiritual gift of discernment is mentioned multiple times in scripture.

Over the last year, my husband and I felt like something was wrong at our church. I couldn’t put a name to what was wrong, but I felt unsettled.  It felt like there was discord amongst the members, a lack of communication, straying from the Word of God, and yet, there wasn’t anything specific to point out to support any of those claims.  It was “just” a feeling I had.

I considered resigning as the women’s ministry leader.  My husband did not want to attend services anymore.  I started researching other churches in our local area.  I engaged my prayer partners to start praying over the situation.

I felt like a fraud that I was continuing to serve in a ministry leadership role and praying about leaving the church.  While I was concerned about the situation, through prayer I had zero peace about resigning or leaving the church.  I did not hear God telling me that we were supposed to leave.

During our first week of the state’s “Stay-at-Home” order in March, our Pastor resigned.  The story of why he resigned is one for him or his family to share.  However, the few details I received began to make sense as to why there was a feeling of unsettlement at our church.

By no means am I saying that the Pastor’s reasons for resigning were the reason for my dissatisfaction at the church.  What I am saying, is that the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart for months and let me know that “something” was not right.  It also made sense why I hadn’t gotten a clear message that the feeling of unsettlement was worthy of leaving the church.

Essentially, I was being prepared for there to be some turmoil and chaos at our church.  The Holy Spirit was talking in my ear allowing me to discern that something was amiss, while also not allowing me release to leave the situation.

John 16:13 (ESV) states, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”

Call it your gut, your female intuition, or your 6th sense.  I’m going to call it discernment.

And to me, the gift of discernment is the gift of truth.

I pray you have a truth-filled week of discernment.

~Emily

John 16-13

Going Solo to a Meeting with God

What is the craziest thing you’ve done by yourself?

This is often a scary thing to contemplate. Being alone.  Going to dinner alone…at a real sit-down restaurant. Going to a movie alone.  Going to a concert, play, or a museum alone.

I often do things alone, simply because I’ve refused to miss experiences when I can’t find someone to go with me. One of the craziest things I’ve done by myself was travel to Normandy, France over Memorial Day in 2012.  I couldn’t find anyone who could get the time off or wanted to see the beaches of Normandy. But I wanted to go…so I did.

This last weekend, I did something by myself that I hadn’t ever done before.  I went to a women’s Christian conference alone.  For complete transparency, I knew there were going to be a couple of women from my church attending, but I traveled, stayed in a hotel, and arrived at the conference solo.

Rather than my normally self-confident ways, I found myself floundering in the solo-ness of the experience.

As I found a seat in the midst of over 6,000 women, I was feeling self-conscious.  Were other women looking at me and wondering why I was by myself?  Were the ladies from my church remembering that I was also attending…would they invite me to sit with them?  How was I going to get through the day without having someone to pray with, someone to nudge when there was an especially good nugget, someone to wait in the bathroom line with me?!?!?!

And then the featured speaker, Priscilla Shirer, said something that touched my heart.  The summary of what she said included, “I’m going to challenge you to pray by yourself right now…. whether you came with 100 ladies from your church, 10 of your closest friends, or by yourself…we are taking time right now for each of you to have a one-on-one conversation with the Father.  You are here to chat with an audience of One.”

It was through her that I felt the ping of the Holy Spirit reassuring me that I was exactly where I was supposed to be at that moment.  That reassurance included knowing it was perfectly okay to be there by myself and that I only need to be concerned with my relationship with God.

It reminded me that Christ had to do the most difficult thing ever, go to the cross to die for all of our sins, all by Himself.  Or so it seemed…

You see, it also made me reflect that Christ was not truly ever by Himself.  The Father was right there with him throughout the trial, the torture, the long walk with a heavy cross, and even in His final moments as a human.

And the Father is with me always too. Through every single experience, both good and bad, the Father has been with me. In every event I’ve attended alone in flesh, the Father was with me.  Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

God was sitting right next to me when I struggled with being solo at a women’s Christian conference.  He’ll be right next to you when you’re struggling too.

Come to the porch and tell us the scariest/craziest/most fun thing you’ve done by yourself.

~Emily

Joshua 1-9