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 Wind That Blows

My office has a large window that looks out into the woods behind my house.  It’s windy today, and I’ve been watching the wind blow the trees back and forth as the weather gears up for what could be a big storm tonight.  The very tall and thin trees sway in the breeze, and it’s actually beautiful to watch…as long as you don’t think about the damage they could do if the wind caught it just right and knocked it over a little too close to my house!

God uses nature as lessons in the Bible a lot.  The wind is spoken of often, and since Table 8 (my Monday night Bible study) is studying James, chapter 1, verse 6 immediately came to mind; “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”

The Bible speaks to our belief in our Creator.  We don’t want to be blown about as we seek God.  We want to be confident in who He is and what He does.  We should know that His promises to us are good and true and pure.  He has the best plan for us, the best future. 

The wind can cause great damage when we are not firmly rooted in the truth and knowledge that is God.  We should be sure of His character and not be tossed about by the winds of uncertainty and sin.  We need to firmly root ourselves in Him.  That involves a personal relationship with Him.  It involves reading God’s Word, ceaselessly praying, involving ourselves in a community of believers.  All of those actions allow us to plant deep.  When the wind comes and sways us back and forth, we can be confident that the roots are deep enough and our faith strong enough to withstand the potential storm.

I pray, Iron Porch, that we root ourselves deep in Jesus Christ so that the wind, though it staggers us back and forth, knows no power over our Heavenly Father.

~Erin

All The Cursey Words

If there had been a swear jar in the room, I would’ve owed it a $10.  Maybe $20.  In a moment of anger, frustration, and worry, I said enough expletives to make a sailor cringe.  During a conversation with my daughter, I became angry and worried about a story she told me that involved her.  I was not cursing at her, but I definitely said some things about the situation and the other people involved.

Ironically enough, the week’s Bible study for Table 8 was on the taming of the tongue—not really what I wanted to think about in that moment.  In James 3:5-12, there is plenty of scripture that reminds us that the tongue, while such a little part of the body, carries a great weight.  What come from our heart flows out through the tongue. 

It’s so true.  In the moment, I felt anger, fury, irritation.  The words that came out were exactly those feelings.  At a time where I could’ve been an example to my daughter about being slow to anger or watching my words, I did exactly the opposite.  I simply showed her words with shock-value and no substance.  What exactly does an “F-bomb” bring to the table? You’re right…nothing.

Our words should bring glory to God.  They should show people who our Father is.  They should be edifying and spirit-lifting, without malice.  Yet, often we speak what we want without thought to who around us can hear, whether it be little ears or the Holy Spirit Himself.   

“Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” –Ephesians 4:29

How do we do that?  How do we strive to purify our speech?  We can’t do it on our own, friends.  We have to ask God to tame our tongue.  We need to ask Him to help control your tongue.  And then, Iron Porch, you lean in.  Lean into the God who saves and trust the Holy Spirit will continue to do a good work in you.  And fight….put on the armor of God that you might be prepared for your heart to stay strong and not allow vile speech to flow from it.

Praise God for forgiveness! I know that with my repentant heart, God has forgiven me for the sin of my speech in that situation.  Now, I must remember to guard my heart so that it may not tempt my tongue.

~Erin

What Do Our Works Say?

A few weeks ago, my girls and I decided to get tattoos.  It wasn’t really spur of the moment in the true sense of the phrase.  Peyton has been wanting mother/daughter tattoos for a while and since the three of us were together, we just went for it!

We each have a different dinosaur on our wrist. The theme is the same, but they don’t match.  We were wanting something that identified us as a unit.

This got me to thinking about how I’m identified as a Christian.  When people see me or talk to me, do they know I’m a believer?  Do they recognize I put my trust in Him? Do my actions scream ‘I love Jesus!’? 

In James 2:17-18 it says, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.  But someone may say, “you have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith BY (emphasis mine) my works.”

I LOVE that!  This doesn’t mean that works saves you.  What the scripture is telling us is that if you have faith (you are a believer), it compels us to do good work for the cause of Christ.  When we walk in Christ, we produce faith-filled works that represent who God is and what He commands us to do.  In Bible study, we say those actions are faith-based works and not a works-based faith!

The works we produce as believers bring about things like love, joy, peace, faithfulness, self-control….you might recognize these as some of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).  I love looking at these two passages of scripture together! 

When we see ourselves with a steadfast faith, we WANT to do things that show God in His glory.  When we do those things, the people around us see who our Creator is.  They see the power of an awesome Father who cares for His children.  People see something ‘different’ in the Christian who is doing works because they love God and want to honor Him as opposed to the person who is doing works for the rewards or accolades.

I pray that this year we see mighty works completed and that our faith-based works bring glory to the one true God!

~Erin

If My Life Was A Mess-Free Coloring Book…

We have the cutest coloring page on our refrigerator.  It’s one of those special pictures that only colors with the mess-free markers.  Those Crayola geniuses come up with some of the most amazing things!  It’s every parent’s dream invention that prevents those “innocent” little babies from markering up your entire dining room wall with Picasso scribbles only a toddler can make.

With Andros visiting, I wanted him to have something he could be creative with, and he just loves coloring the pictures and watching the ink appear on the page.  When he’s got the page on the table, I don’t have to worry about when he colors outside the lines or off the edge of the page.  It’s clean and neat!

Don’t we sometimes wish our lives were the same way?  If our life was the special paper and our choices and circumstances were the mess-free markers, would we stumble in what we do and how we act?  Would our reaction to trials be one of trusting God or trusting self? 

It would be great if everything stayed on the page.  When everything goes according to plan, exactly as it’s supposed to, we have no worries and no anxiety. It appears there’s no trouble.  But when our choices are not the mess-free choices that keep us within the bounds of our walk with God or hardships that we face are not within the lines of what we expect, it’s very easy to fall into despair.  How do we handle the trials that bleed off the edge of the page and throw us into frustration, fear, or confusion?    

God tells us in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” 

How do we remain steadfast under trial? We do it by remaining steadfast in our Lord.  He is beside us all the time.  He has given us the Comforter to live inside of believers.  We trust that our Almighty God will do exactly as He promises in Scripture.  He will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:8).  He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).  He will strengthen us and will help us (Isaiah 41:10).

I challenge you, friends.  Trust that whatever life has thrown at you, you have a Father that will hold you through it.  It’s ok if the marker falls off the page.  We have a God who is right there with you when it does.

Do any of you have a verse that helps you remain strong in the Lord when you are going through trials?  Share in the comments!

~Erin

Artist: Andros Minjarez

New Year’s Priorities with “Reasonable” Expectations

I love to scrapbook, but I feel like I can’t get caught up on decades worth of photos that are well organized in folders.  Each of these folders is waiting to be creatively placed with stickers on the pages of my books.  I have an entire basket of photos from the two years I was stationed in Europe…in 2010-2012!!!  What fun it would be to sit down and reminisce all the places I traveled, all the people I met, and all the food that I ate!   

While I want to eliminate the backlog of photos, I do not prioritize this as something that must be done.  Clearly other things have captured my attention over the years that have taken precedence over scrapbooking.   Things like getting married, finishing a degree, raising a child, or retiring from the military.  Other things were a greater priority to me than scrapbooking.  

If I were to set a goal to scrapbook the decades of photos that are waiting page placement, I would likely fail to meet the goal based upon it not being a priority to me. 

In fact, when I set goals in relationship to New Years, I tend to fail. I set unreasonable expectations.  And then I fail.  Finances, weigh-loss, relationship mending, Bible Studies, gardening…doesn’t matter what the topic, there seems to be a failure involved.  

As I assess the craziness of 2020 and what might come in 2021, I decided that I won’t make resolutions.  No resolutions this year. Instead, I’m setting priorities with reasonable expectations. 

And I’m only setting one.  

I’m making God a priority in 2021.  I want to make time each day to spend in the Word.  I recognize that some days may be an hour, while others might be 15 minutes.  The reasonable part of this priority is this: I’m going to spend time with my Bible each day and I am not setting a specific timeframe for how long it will be each day.  

I recently acquired a yearlong Billy Graham devotional, as well as a 90 day walk with Paul by Beth Moore.  Both of these resources have me excited to start.  However, I need to be clear about my priority of spending time with God in 2021…I’m committing to spending time studying the Bible each day…in addition to any other study or devotion that I might also be doing.  

In James 4:8 (NASB), we are instructed to spend time with God and we are told what happens when we do.   “Come close to God and He will come close to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Come close to God and He will come close to you.

That is my priority for 2021.  I’m setting a reasonable expectation that I will do it every day without a time constraint. 

Come to the porch and share your priorities and expectations for 2021.  

~Emily

P.S.  I hope I get a little scrapbooking time too!!

Humble Honey

As I was bragging about never messing up in the kitchen, I dropped a one-pound glass jar of honey, which promptly exploded and then oozed on the counter and floor.  An “eat your words” type of moment and a ginormous mess, to say the least.  It was a humbling moment considering I had just been boastful about not dropping items.

According to dictonary.com, humbling is a verb which means “to bring down the pride of another or to reduce her to a state of abasement: to humble an arrogant enemy.”  While I don’t classify myself as an arrogant enemy, I certainly had my pride reduced in that moment of oozing honey and glass shards.

For the rest of the day, I was humming a childhood song based on James 4:10. “Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord (echo) And He shall lift you up. Higher and higher and He. Shall lift you up.”

The song, on constant repeat throughout the day, drove the question; “Why should we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

First and foremost, we should humble ourselves before God because we are instructed to imitate Christ, who was in fact, humble.  As seen in Philippians 2:5, we see that Christ did not state equality with God was an attainable goal, but rather Christ humbled himself to become human for our benefit.

Perhaps another reason why we should humble ourselves is found in James 4:10 and in the song itself.  As we humble ourselves, God promises to exalt us.  When we are humble in the sight of God, we receive His blessings and grace in a unique manner.  He will lift us up.

 The song, still on repeat, drove the next question; “How do we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord?”

Speak well of others…on purpose (Ephesians 4:31-32).  When we speak negatively about others, we are putting them down and often making ourselves out to be better.  When we speak positively about others, we build them up and edify them.  Throughout my life, I have caught myself being less than humble in this regard.

Always Pray (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  When we pray, we are acting in a manner of dependence and humility. Prayer becomes a declaration of weakness.  In the moment of prayer, we admit to God that we can’t make it without Him and that we need Him in requests and in praise.  There are plenty of times that prayer is an afterthought in my life when in reality it should be my 1st thought.

Confess your areas of sin to God (Luke 18:9-14).  All of us are sinful, but few of us routinely and honestly tell God about that sinful nature. Every day, it’s easy to ask God to “forgive my sins” as a blanketed statement.  For me, it’s much harder to specifically assess areas of my life that are steeped in sin and then admit them to God.

Confess your areas of sin to other Christians (James 3:2). A test of true humility is when we are willing to confess our sins to others, just as we would confess it to God.  Obviously, discretion is needed about who you confess sin to, but the act of telling someone about our sin allows us space to be completely honest with ourselves and ultimately with God.  I struggle with this one because I don’t want others to know where I am weak or where I am failing.  Thus, pride interfering with humility in my life.

As I hummed the song “Humble thyself in the Sight of the Lord,” I was reminded of why I should want to be humble and how I can practice being humble at the feet of God.

A broken honey jar is just one tangible reminder of how much work I have to do in this area…

To those on the Iron Porch this week, I pray you seek humility in your daily interactions this week!

~Emily

honey

 

 

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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Cilantro Pandemic

As a professionally trained chef, I know it’s an unwritten rule to state that you hate a type of food or seasoning.

And yet, here I am.  I hate the taste of cilantro. There, I said it. True Confessions of a chef.  To me, cilantro tastes like soap.

Fun fact: The people who dislike cilantro for its soap-like taste have a genetic likeness.  It’s a variation of olfactory-receptor genes that allows us to detect aldehydes, which is a compound found both in cilantro and is also a by-product of soap.  We even have a name: “cilantrophoes” which are the people who taste soap when they eat cilantro.

Two groups of people associated with cilantro.  Those who like it and those who don’t.

In the last few weeks of apocalyptic behavior with the COVID-19 pandemic, I’m also seeing two “reaction” groups of people.

One group is the chaos group.  These are the “sky is falling” people. These are the people on social media who are flaming the fire of chaos and drama.  They’re the ones trying to profit off an unstable stock market and the ones running to the store to “stock up” on more than they could possibly need for two weeks. These are the fighting in the grocery store aisles on YouTube people. They are the ones blaming everyone for everything.

The second group is the hope-filled group.  These are the “glass is half full” type of people.  They are our realists, as well as our optimists.  They are the ones giving us hopeful memes and helpful tips for survival.  As far as leaders’ decisions they hold some accountable while praising those who are doing a good job. These are the visit nursing homes through a window or open the stores early for the elderly type of people.  They might have worries but they are prepared for the outcomes.

Either group can include Christians, but I believe Christ would want His followers to be the optimists and realists who are providing guidance and hope.  They recognize that God may provide differently than we are expecting, but that He will provide.  He will provide. Every time, all the time, always.

DNA dictates which cilantro group we fall into.  Our heart and relationship with the Father dictate which “reaction” group we belong to.

As we look at the next few weeks of pandemic uncertainty, search yourself about which group you’d like to be known for…the chaos group or the hope-filled group.

~Emily

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. ~James 1:17 (ESV)

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“I Know”

“Make sure you wash your hair in the shower.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old

“Today’s the day you need to turn in your globe project at school.” ~Mom-Me

“I know.” ~My 8-year-old.

If I said, “Neil Armstrong did Michael Jackson’s moon-walk while defending Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and discussing Thomas Edison’s impact on the death penalty in 2019, my son would say ‘I know.’”

It’s enough to drive a mother crazy!

How many of us ask God for guidance and then tell Him “I know”?  I’d venture to guess that most of us have told our Heavenly Father “I know” on several occasions. In fact, I’d argue there are two different types of “I know” that we tell God.

The first is similar to what our children say.  “I know” implies, I already have that information and you aren’t sharing anything new with me.  Often in human form, it is accompanied by an eye roll or heavy sigh.  An example of this is when God gives us a nudge, usually in regards to something we are doing that is displeasing to Him, and we reply with the “I know.”  For example, you are harboring unforgiveness towards someone for a perceived slight.  You feel convicted, as though you should reach out to that person.  You respond with the “I know, I know.  I should speak to this person and offer forgiveness. But….

This type of “I Know” does not always include action.  In fact, sometimes, this “I know” isn’t really acknowledging knowledge at all.  Rather, it’s a phrase to make the other person feel like you agree with them.  News flash: God knows you don’t really know…just like a mother knows that about her child.

The second “I know” comes with an exclamation point and often a bit of emphasis that indicates that we’ve just figured out the solution to a perplexing issue.  Essentially it’s the EUREKA of the “I know” world. An example of this is when we ask God’s guidance on a situation but then we implement our own solution with an “I know…I’ll do this or that.”

This type of “I Know!” often includes making a bigger mess.  We haven’t waited on God, but rather try to solve issues on our own. News flash: We tend to mess things up more with our tracts of solutions.

Whether we are answering “I know” to something He’s asked of us, or we say “I know!” like we’ve come up with our own answer to prayer requests, we are not honoring God or our parents with our know-it-all attitude.

A look at Scripture reveals that one of the best ways to determine if God is telling us to do something is to see if it is consistent with God’s teachings.  John 16:13 teaches, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” In other words, God’s Spirit will only guide you to do things that are consistent with what God has already taught as truth.

Another way to know when God is telling you to do something is through prayer.   James 1:5 states, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” If we are uncertain, we are to pray and ask for wisdom from God.

Rather than thinking you know, seek the Lord through scripture or through prayer.  If God’s Word is consistent with where you are being led and your prayers appear to confirm that leading, then maybe God is revealing a course of action for you…one that you don’t know about.

~Emily

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