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

Blind Man with a Tattoo

A couple weeks ago, I saw a blind man in the airport while I was traveling for work.  I stood for a moment admiring how he was navigating the crowds with his blind cane.  He was moving quickly and with purpose…and that white stick with red reflective tape was swooshing back and forth.  As he passed, I noticed a fairly large tattoo on the back of his right calf. 

I was taken aback.  Why would someone get a tattoo that they wouldn’t ever see?  How does he know that it was what he asked for? How would he have known which colors were depicted?

I thought about this gentleman for several days and the reasons for him getting a tattoo.  Maybe he had gotten the tattoo and then later became blind; therefore, he’d know exactly what the tattoo looked like.  Maybe he never saw it, but it was the same tattoo with a best friend or family member, so it was special from that perspective.  Or maybe I shouldn’t be so concerned about why this stranger had a tattoo without sight. 

As I’m questing this blind man’s reasons for having a tattoo, it got me thinking about if strangers question our faith and the reasons for our faith. Are people seeing us walking in “blind faith”?

In John 20:29, we read that Jesus told us that blind faith is rewarded with blessings.  “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

As believers in modern America, it’s safe to say none of us have actually seen Jesus in the flesh, as the apostles had.  So what does our faith rest on?  It rests on our assurances of all things hoped for, that’s what Hebrews 11:1 says.  The next scriptures also tell us it’s the conviction of things not seen.  All things we hope for and things we have not seen assists with defining “blind faith.”

At yet…blind faith is a super hard approach to convince an unbeliever about the gift of grace through Christ’s death.  Subsequently we must have a plan ready to assist others with knowing Jesus in a way in which they also can exhibit blind faith.   Scripture tells us to prepare a defense in order to tell the Good News that gives us hope.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” ~1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

I’m sure if I had the time, or the moment of bravery, I could have asked the blind man with the tattoo his reasons behind his ink.  And he likely would have had a wonderful story behind it. 

I’m hopeful that if someone were to ask me about my blind faith, they would find that I had a planned approach that defend that faith while I gave them the story behind the greatest hope ever provided.  Jesus Christ.

If you don’t have that hope…if you haven’t given your life to Christ…if you don’t have the blind faith, please message Erin or I at Iron Porch.  We would love to chat with you about the plan God has provided us.

~Emily

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made of things that are visible. By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” ~Hebrews 11:1-40 (ESV)

The Culture

Last week was my two-year anniversary of living in the beautiful state of Alabama!  I’ve loved every minute of living here, and there are no regrets with making such a huge move to make our home in the south.  While I could do without temperatures of 143° and 923° humidity, I love the people I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and the home we’ve created.

One of the biggest differences I’ve noticed between here and California (where I lived for five years before moving here) are the amount of people who say they’re Christians and talk about God openly.  Church is almost a culture out here, a legacy that’s been passed down from generation to generation.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that someone’s membership to a local church started with their MawMaw or GreatGranny taking their kids so many years ago!

In California, the conversation was not as free-flowing about Christianity.  Don’t get me wrong…it wasn’t nonexistent.  You just didn’t hear, “I’ll pray for you,” or “God bless” as you left your local grocery store.  No one was asking random strangers if the church’s youth group could help clean up your yard!

Now, hear me out on this one.  I’m not looking to step on toes.  I’m not looking to rile up the great people of the south (or of California).  But this idea of Christianity being a “culture” around here got me thinking.

Have you fully surrendered to God?  Are you a blood-bought believer, saved by the grace of God, living for Him in every aspect of your life?  Or is it just a culture….a legacy that’s been given to you because it’s what the family has always believed?

These are not questions I ask lightly.  And these are not questions I have not already asked myself.  My parents were Christians.  My father was raised in a Christian home.  It’s what I’ve always known.  But I would be remiss in not recognizing whether or not my salvation is because I made a choice to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ or because it’s what my mom and dad “did” so I did.  My actions, my attitude, and my heart should be clear indicators as to whether or not I am a new creation.

The Bible speaks clearly to being not of this world and being about the Father’s world.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” –1 John 2:15

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on the earth.” –Colossians 3:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” –Romans 12:2 

While it’s important to attend a church, have your children going, have your children’s children going, there must be more to the story than just a legacy.  Does our faith show?  Does our faith produce works that show?  Is our heart truly surrendered to the Creator of the Universe?

Our actions and our life should reflect 100% submission to God.  There should be no room for doubt when someone sees us that we are committed to Christ.  I’m not saying perfection.  I’m saying active pursuit of righteousness.

There’s one way to heaven.  I don’t get to go because my mom and pop were Christians or because my Grandma prayed for me.  I get to be a citizen of heaven because I made the personal decision to accept Christ as my Savior.

Maybe you’re reading this and recognize that you haven’t done that yet.  I encourage, dear friend, call on the Lord.  Tell Him you’re a sinner and that you’re nothing without Him.  Repent of your sins and ask Christ to come live in your heart as Lord of your life.  There is no greater moment than knowing you have stopped becoming a citizen of this earth and are bound for your true home in heaven!

~Erin

The Greatest Gift

As Good Friday comes upon us, I pray that we all can take time to remember the great sacrifice that was paid for our sins.  The Bible tells us in Romans that we are all sinners.  “There is none righteous, no not one,” Romans 3:10 tells us.  We didn’t deserve for Jesus to come to earth so that He could be a sacrifice for our sins. 

Yet, He loved us enough that He did exactly that. John 3:16 tells us just how loved we are by God.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  He became sin for us so that we might know eternal life with Him.

Jesus was beaten and tortured.  He had a crown of thorns pushed into His scalp.  He was scourged with a cat of nine tails which had metal and glass and nails attached to the leather straps.  His flesh was torn off.  And if that wasn’t enough, they nailed Him to a tree.  They mocked Him.  But they didn’t realize that they were completing what the prophecies had foretold.

The blood that poured from His body was meant to be the sacrifice.  Our very own spotless Lamb was willing to let His blood cover our sins.  It covered it all.  It washes us clean.  It makes us whole.  And when He rose on the third day, He showed His power, His glory and His might.  Our God is a living God who reigns today!

Maybe you’re wondering how you can be washed clean by the blood of a risen Savior?  I encourage you to examine your heart today, right now, as you’re reading this.  If you don’t know that He is your Lord and Savior, here is a prayer for you to speak to God:  I know that I’m a sinner.  I ask for Your forgiveness.  I believe You died for my sins and rose on the third day.  I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life.  I want to trust You as my Savior. 

If you prayed that prayer today, then congratulations!  You are a part of the family of God!  Don’t forget to share this decision with someone, and get connected with a Christian you know or a church that can help you learn and grow in God’s grace!  It’s the best decision you could ever make! 

May you have a blessed Easter!

~Erin

The Moody Pre-Teen

I felt like I was mentally prepared for having a moody teenager in the house…in a couple years.

God help me; the mood swings of puberty have descended on my 10-year-old.  

Let’s be completely transparent.  I was not ready.  Not even a little bit.  It’s like a slow death of a 1000 paper cuts, while tip-toeing on egg shells in an attempt to not wake up (or anger) a mullet wielding dragon.  

One moment he’s my sweet, snuggly little man; the next moment pouting, angry, crying, eyerolling, muttering-under-his-breath, stomping-into-another-room, man-child. Without warning, he’s back to the little sweetheart. 

No matter what he’s still mine, but I don’t enjoy the crazy part of this pre-pubescent kid.

I’m sure God is looking at me right now thinking something similar.  I’m a cranky, huffy, temper-tantrum-throwing, moody woman who loves Jesus.  I act like a teenager in many situation (at least in my head I act that way).  

And yet…I’m still all His.  

No matter how crazy I may act; no matter how poorly I think; no matter how badly I react; I am still His Child.   How completely incredible is it that our God is 100% on our side, no matter how far we slide away or towards Him? 

It’s important to note that no matter how bad you feel like you’ve been, no matter how deep your sins, no matter what is in your past…our Father sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins and provide a path to heaven through acceptance of Jesus as your Savoir.  

Figuratively, you can have been a bratty pre-teen and still seek forgiveness of a loving Father. 

If you don’t know Christ as your Savior or if you have turned away from Christ, Erin and I would love to chat with you about where you are in life and how you can accept this gift from God.  Leave us a message if you are interested in knowing more about salvation.

I’m praying this week for all of us during times of our “moody pre-teen” behaviors and thoughts. 

~Emily

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved. ~Acts 4:12 (NIV)

Not All Who Wander are Lost: Packing List for Heaven

I’m a self-declared lover of travel.  It could be one town over, the next State, or another country.  I love exploring new location, eating the local food, and meeting people who live in those destinations.  I have wanderlust and am most content planning the next trip. 

I completely embrace the quote “Not all who wander are lost.” 

One of the things I enjoy about traveling is the preparation.  I love the planning and researching to make the most of a vacation.  If it hasn’t been selected for me, I choose the location, the amount of time to travel, and the mode of transportation.  I make lists of foodie-related places to check out.  I figure out the historic or notable attractions to explore.  I game plan if I have any friends or family in the vacation location.  I count down to the departure date.  And then I pack.

Preparing for your vacation is similar to preparing for a journey to heaven.  Like a vacation destination selection, you must make the decision of if heaven is a location you’d like to go.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 (NASB) 

You must accept the gift of Jesus’ death for your sins, which essentially becomes the selection of your transportation.  The difference between an earthy vacation and a journey to heaven is that Jesus paid the price of the ticket for you to go to heaven.  Only Christ’s blood is a sufficient payment for this particular trip.  

Like earthly vacation research, our preparation for heaven does not end with choosing the destination and transportation.   No, we still have work to do.  Once we become Christians, our entire life should be focused on the journey and preparations that God has for our lives.  This could include Bible study, mission work, sharing the Gospel, tithing, holy living and even attending church faithfully.  

Are you a traveler?  

Are you going to heaven?

Have you started packing?

~Emily

For we know that if our earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.” 2 Corinthians 5:1 (NASB)

My Dog Is So Brave

Every morning between 4-6 am, my 10-month-old lab stands by the front door and hits the bells with his nose indicating he would like to go potty.  Every morning, I open the door to the complete darkness of early morning and he just stands there for a few seconds sniffing the air.  Once his sniffer assesses the air, he trots out to do his business.

He is so brave.

Nearly every morning I think about just how brave he is.  I certainly don’t want to step out into the darkness every morning to relieve myself.  We live in the country…do you have any idea what types of critters are hanging out around our house?!?!?!  There could be racoons, opossums, coyotes, spiders…lions…tigers…bears!!!!  Not to mention the bad guy or the zombie that could leap out of the woods!!!

He sniffs the air and then proceeds about his task.  He’s brave.

I want that type of bravery in regards to sharing the Gospel.  I want to “sniff the air” and proceed with telling people about Jesus.  However, more often than not, I allow my fear of the “critters in the yard” to dissuade me from stepping out into the darkness.  

In John 20:21 (NASB), we read, So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be to you; just as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”  In this passage, there is clear direction that He is specifically sending us to share the good news.  

Furthermore, He tells us in Matthew 4:19 that once we choose to follow Him, we will be made as fishers of men.  There is a task associated with being a Christ-follower…and that task includes sharing the gospel.  

From a knowledge perspective, I understand this.  I know the scripture, I know my responsibility in relation to this task, and I know how I should proceed.  The issue comes into play when I allow the fear of rejection or judgement of man to overshadow the need to proclaim Jesus as my Savior.  In order to combat this fear, I am committing to memorizing and implementing Romans 1:16 (ESV) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

This next week I plan to be brave, like my puppy.  I will sniff the air and then proceed out the door to proclaim the Gospel and what Jesus has done in my life.  Will you join me?

~Emily

Counterfeit Repentance

I’ve been involved with several conversations this week about the concept of repentance.  I was anticipating it coming up in the Sunday School lesson from the book of Ruth, but imagine my surprise when it also came up during the sermon.  Don’t you love when God has a message for you and it’s reinforced repeatedly?!?!?!

According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of repentance is the act of turning away from a behavior; sincere regret or remorse.

Most Christians would agree that scripture details repentance as an integral part of salvation.  We acknowledge our sin, we repent of it, we ask forgiveness for it, and we accept that Jesus took our punishment and is our Savior.

God has offered us amazing grace.  However, I think there are many within the church who have fallen for the lies of the enemy that repentance is cloaked in grace.

In other words, true repentance is acknowledging sin and turning from that sinful thought or behavior. In the case of counterfeit repentance, church culture acknowledges the sin but does not turn from the sinfulness in the belief that grace will cover that sin.

Not only is that counterfeit repentance, but it is also counterfeit grace.  That is grace that allows us to remain in sin.  But it is not true grace.  God did not design grace in that manner.  In fact, the enemy delights in us falling for the counterfeit grace, as it does not lead us to the cross nor will it allow us to live life abundantly.

In order to combat “counterfeit-ness” in our lives, we need to get tough on our sins.  We need to complete an in-depth analysis of our thoughts, our words, and our actions.  Do they glorify God? Or are they steeped in sin?  Are we willing to turn from that sin, ask for forgiveness, and then do our best to not return to that sin?

I am praying that I will have a serious chat with myself about sin…I am praying that for you too.  I pray God reveals sin that we have previously excused. And I pray that we beg for forgiveness and turn from that sin.

At that point, we’ll have true repentance…and true grace can be experienced.

~Emily

Repentance

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Balance In Children’s Salvation

It has been a week since my son came up to me after watering the garden and said, “I’m ready, mama.”

“Ready for what, buddy?” I asked.

To which he said, “Ready to pray the prayer for Jesus.  Will you help me?”

Let me take a moment to convey the magnitude of that moment.  I literally felt my heart start racing and felt the tears welling up in my eyes.  I wanted to jump up and down inappropriately shouting “Smell My Victory!!!!”  (Although it probably would have been way more appropriate to start singing a gospel song or shouting scripture.)

Since his 2-year-old-self came into my life, I’ve been praying for the moment he would accept Christ as his Savior.  Just before Christmas last year, he started asking questions about salvation and asking Jesus to live in his heart.  Every time I’ve had a conversation with him regarding his questions, I’ve asked if he’d like to take the step to pray for forgiveness and in acknowledgment of this eternal gift of salvation.  Every time, he’s told me he wants to pray, but he was “too nervous” or “not ready.”

And let me tell you something ladies…every single time, my heart stopped. It broke. It took everything in me to casually say, “When you’re ready, buddy, I’ll be here for you.” In reality, I was choking back tears and reigning in the desire to ‘push-push-push’ for salvation.

I have found that the last eight months have been a challenge in patience.  It’s been a delicate balance between telling him the truth (to include urgency in making a declaration for Christ) and trying to create space for him to make this decision fully on his own (not in an effort to please his parents).

Since his decision to accept Christ, I’ve shared my eight-month struggle with a few Moms that have kids about the same age. Repeatedly, I heard the same story of trying to find a balance between encouraging a decision versus pushing for one. Apparently, we’re all trying to teach our children about Christ, but afraid we’ll push them prematurely into a false decision.

Yet no one is talking about it out loud.

I certainly wasn’t.  I thought I was alone with this burden.  I just walked through it and asked God repeatedly to not let me become a stumbling block to my child’s salvation.

So this week, I’d like to encourage all the Mamas, Mommies, Moms, Step-Moms, Grandmas, Mi-Mis, Nanas, Me Maws, Aunties, God-Mothers, Friends…Any woman who is praying for the salvation of a child.  I want you to know you are not praying alone.  You are not alone in walking the balance of push and pull.  You. Are. Not. Alone.

There are several of us on the Iron Porch who are or have recently been walking that balance with you.  And I will be praying for you to have peace on your hearts that your job is to sow the seed…then watch God with the harvest, so that your heart may leap for joy.

Those simple words, “I’m ready mama” brought such happiness to my heart.  While my son made that declaration on our back porch through praying out loud with me, his Dad and Erin, I know all of heaven was rejoicing with us too!

Your turn is coming soon…be patient!

~Emily

Salvation-Kids

 

 

 

 

Expiration Dates

There I was standing in the shower with lathered suds sliding down my arm when I noticed my shampoo bottle from a different angle.  It was as though I was seeing the bottle for the first time in my life.  I noticed a detail that had escaped my observation for all of my life.

Did you know that shampoo has an expiration date?  Seriously, there’s an expiration date on my bottle of shampoo!

That got me thinking what else could be expiring? I know milk and eggs can expire but does toothpaste? Oh, my goodness, does chocolate?!?!?!

What doesn’t expire? Well, when properly stored, there seems to be a few items that will theoretically last forever. Honey. Salt. Sugar. Rice. Pure Maple Syrup. Dried Beans.

You know what else doesn’t have an expiration date?  God’s love.

Before, now, and always…God has loved each and every one of us.  He truly loves us and wants each one of us in heaven with Him.  The only caveat is that we have to accept His gift.

It’s crazy to think about how God loves us so completely that He not only sent his Son to show us how to love and live, but that He also allowed that Son to be used as a sacrifice to cover our sins.  Most of us learned John 3:16 as one of our first memorization verses.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16 (NASB)

Unlike my shampoo, God has offered a gift of eternal salvation that only expires when you don’t accept the gift.  God literally allowed His Son to be our ticket to eternity…all without an expiration date!

If you haven’t already accepted the gift of salvation, consider today as the day you change your life and put your life in Jesus Christ as your personal savior!  Contact the Iron Porch if you have questions about how to commit your life to Christ!

~Emily

Shampoo