Is He Watching?

There is no funny story today.  I’m here to tell you to read your Bible.  Why, Erin?  I’m glad you asked.  Because it’s God’s Word.  He fashioned it.  He formed it.  It’s God-breathed.  And while I may not get some spectacular “AHA!” moment every time I open those pages, reading it leads me to a beautiful place where I know God’s Word is just for me.

We started studying the book of Revelation recently, and I was reading chapter 2.  It’s the beginning of the seven letters to the seven churches.  Specifically, I was reading the letters to the church of Smyrna and the church of Pergamum.

The Church of Smyrna was known as the Suffering Church or Martyr Church because of the intense persecution the believers from that area received.  In fact, in the letter, there was not one weakness that God spoke of related to that church, only that they had fully endured suffering and despite that, continued to worship God.  God told them they were in for more suffering but to hold faithful even to the point of death and there would be a victor’s crown at the end of their life.

The Church of Pergamum was slightly different.  While they had some things God pointed out that were wrong, He says to the church that He see where they dwell, WHERE SATAN’S THRONE is!  He tells the church He knows they are right in the middle of something so evil, but He sees that they still remain true to Christ’s name.  He tells them of specific rewards that wait for them at the end of their life, too.

Let me tell you, Iron Porch, I felt such comfort in both of those letters.  Under normal circumstances, I might slide right past those verses only giving thought to how hard those two churches had it.  But what it really did was open my eyes to the idea that we’re never really alone.

Our circumstances can be difficult.  Many of you read my blog earlier this year that spoke of my younger daughter making a suicide attempt.  It’s been a hard year full of mental health challenges for everyone.  I have an AMAZING support system, but it doesn’t change the fact that there are times where I still feel by myself in the journey.

In these letters to the churches, God told them, “I see you.  I know what you’re going through.”  Even at what seems like some of the toughest times, He did not stop looking over them.  Rather, He’s reminding them that He’s there, and tells them there is a reward at the end of life for their faithfulness to Him.  How good is our God!

I am not truly alone.  God has seen where I’m at.  He’s not oblivious to what’s happening or what I’m going through.  He doesn’t hide in some corner, too busy to see the suffering.  He sees struggles and victories.  And through His Word, I can be assured of that promise.

No matter what you’re struggling with, friends, God is there.  He knows and you’re not unseen.  I pray that this week, you remember that He is forever watching over you and loving you as His child.

~Erin

Studying Revelation

Table 8 has talked for months, maybe even years, about studying the book of Revelation.  It’s been brought up casually, but I’ve never given it much thought.  Instead, after praying about what our next study would be, every time I would feel God leading us to a different book of the Bible. 

Emily has talked about studying Revelation.  She’s started and I’ve seen the copious amounts of notes she’s taken.  At one point, a church we went to was going through the book of Revelation while we were visiting.  It seems I can’t escape the book of Revelation…even though that’s an impossibility! (See what I did there?  Christian humor!)

In February, it got brought up again with Table 8 and I explained that I don’t know enough about the details of Revelation to go through the book as a leader.  Dianne replied, “You can learn along with the rest of us!  Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you have to have the answers up front!”  And, just like that, I felt the conviction to be leaning in.

You see, the reason I was never interested in digging deep into the book of Revelation was because the depth of the book actually scared me!  I know enough to know there’s a tribulation.  I’m confident I won’t be here when it takes place.  I know lots of PIECES due to excellent pastoral leadership throughout my life.  But to understand Bowl Judgments versus the Seals versus the Horsemen…it all just feels overwhelming!  Do any of you feel that way about studying this book of the Bible?!

However, Dianne was right.  While, as a leader, I’m responsible for knowing and understanding the material and guiding the women to better comprehend, it doesn’t mean I have to be the subject matter expert.  That’s what they create…mic drop…Bible study for!  There are dozens of great commentaries and study Bibles that can really teach you as you walk through Revelation.  I just have to be willing!

It’s so funny to me when I think about it.  I’ve been intrigued this last year or so with the idea of Christian Apologetics and learning from some great teachers, that I forgot that I can do the same as them!  I can read and study and grow in the knowledge of what the book has to say!  And lest you think the Bible doesn’t say something about that, 1 Peter 3:15 states “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.”

Peter is telling us that we should be ready to make an argument or defense FOR God at a moment’s notice.  Part of speaking to that hope that is in us involves not only who Jesus is and what He did for us, but what will be to come and what awaits us in heaven!  That is the full picture!

I was convinced.  Beginning in September, we’re going to be studying the book of Revelation.  I’m taking the time over the summer to learn more about it with Emily so that I can be at least a little prepared.  And Emily’s Tuesday’s Table is joining in to study Revelation alongside us!

I pray that if you’re on the fence about studying scripture, whether it be a verse or an entire book, do not be afraid like I was about what’s involved.  Studying brings maturity and with maturity comes a better understanding of what it says!  Let’s all get to cracking open the beautiful Word of God.

~Erin

Busted Can of Biscuits

I was sitting on the couch when I heard an explosion in the kitchen.  It sounded like a shelf had fallen and multiple glasses were rattling around in the cupboard.  I jumped up and ran to the kitchen, praying I hadn’t just lost a family heirloom.  I searched the kitchen and found nothing amiss. 

Until about 2 hours later when I went to refill my sweet tea.

Inside the refrigerator, a can of biscuits had literally exploded all over the top two shelves.  When I say everything was covered in unbaked biscuit dough, I mean EVERYTHING was covered on those top shelves.  

I heard the explosion and knew glass had been rattled.  I search for the cause and the effect, but couldn’t find what had made such a racket.  I went back to life.

There are times in our lives that God speaks to us with a loud voice.  An explosion, if you will, but we can’t find the root cause.  So, we choose to simply go on with our lives without properly assessing God’s message for us. 

What type of loud explosive noise will it take for us all to pay attention to God?

The Bible tells us that there will be a great trumpet sound. In most commentaries, the trumpet sound will be followed by an event we can’t even begin to wrap our minds around. Will that be the sound that gets our attention? 

 “And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.” Matthew 24:31 (NASB)

“…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:52 (NASB)

“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet.” Revelation 1:10 (NASB)

I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’” Jeremiah 6:17 (ESV)

A point to ponder this week.

When the trumpet sounds, will you pay attention? Or will you be like those in the Jeremiah scripture who declare that they won’t pay attention?  Will you be searching for the sound and responding to God’s calling?

Or will you go back to living your life, like you heard the busted can of biscuits but didn’t find the cause?

~Emily

Named By God

What’s in a name? Why are names significant? Why does God value them?

Think about some of the names of God and consider the meaning behind them…

El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)

El Elyon (The Most High God)

Adonai (Lord, Master)

Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)

Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)

Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)

Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)

Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)

Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)

Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)

Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)

Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)

El Olam (The Everlasting God)

Elohim (God)

Abbah (Father)

If God, our Father, allows that many distinctive names to describe Himself, don’t you think it’s amazing that He has prescribed names for us?  Names within the Bible and in Hebrew culture are declarations of destiny and purpose…. sometimes they had positive meanings and sometimes they had negative meanings.

Positive examples include Joshua, whose name means Yahweh is Salvation.  Joshua led the Israelites through Jordan and took over the promised land while allotting the twelve tribes within that Promised Land (Joshua 1:9).

A negative example includes Achan, whose name translates to the troublemaker.  Achan sinned and through that sin he caused many deaths in the Israelite army (Joshua 7:1).

Several characters within the Bible had names which were prophetic in meaning, but it leaves us in 2019 wondering if our names are prophetic in nature too.  If God knew you before you were knit in your mother’s womb, don’t you think that also means he knew your name and exactly what your life impact would be?

Our names mean something now.  As in the Bible and Hebrew culture, our names are declarations of destiny and purpose.  If God chooses to change our name, as He did with Paul from Saul or Israel from Jacob, then He does that with a declaration of destiny and purpose.

In the next week, consider what your name means. What is the definition according to different cultures? What does your name mean to God?   Read Revelation 2:17 to consider the re-naming in Heaven that will occur during the End Times.

~Emily

Names

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