Am I a Fruity Tree?

When the girls were younger, both Peyton and McKenna preferred to sit with me in “big” church.  They were never really ones to want to go to the kid’s room where everyone their age hung out.  They never ceased to amaze after the sermon when we would discuss the pastor’s message just how much they would know and understand what had been talked about.

One Sunday, Pastor Galen spoke of Jesus cursing the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22).  Jesus came up to the fig tree with his disciples and upon seeing that the tree was bare when it shouldn’t have been, He cursed the tree.  It withered up at once.  The disciples were shocked and from that moment, Jesus was able to speak to them on the power of faithful prayer.  

Pastor Galen expressed additional thoughts on the correlation to us living out the fruit of the Spirit and what it means to produce fruit in our walk with God.  It was rich with meaning and incredibly helpful to think about how empty our walk with God can be when we are bare and not producing fruit for the Kingdom.

On our way home, Peyton asked me if she could ask a question.  “Mommy, am I a plain tree or a fruity tree?”  At 6 years old, she was able to understand what the pastor meant in the difference between the two.  It shaped a beautiful conversation that ended with Peyton reminding herself that as a Christian she should always want to be the fruity tree and talk to her friends about Jesus.

To have the faith of a child, right?!

We sometimes think that being fruitful in our Christian life is difficult.  And don’t get me wrong.  It’s hard to handle things like patience and long-suffering.  It’s scary to talk to a random stranger about God and who He sent as a sacrifice on our behalf.  It’s demanding to think that we must die to self daily.  But isn’t that we’re meant to do?

In Colossians 1:10, Paul writes to the people and says he is constantly praying for them so that they will be filled with the knowledge of His will, “so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.”

I believe that if we came to God with the faith of a child, innocently wanting to just be a fruity tree for Him rather than a plain one, we would recognize we can trust God to help us be that fruity tree.  We aren’t meant to become fruit bearers by doing it on our own.  With faithful study and meditation on God’s Word, we can know that we are meant to lean on Him as well as walk with Him as we flourish and produce the fruit. 

That’s the beauty of having a relationship with Him!  We don’t have to be scared because we aren’t doing it alone.  We produce the fruit as a faithful child of the King!

How about you, dear friends?  Tell me, do you long to be a fruity tree for the Kingdom of God?!  Share with us in the comments below.

~Erin

Have We Studied?

This week, a famous pastor posted about a quote about God that could not stand biblically.  Not even a little bit.  If you had inferred what you thought he meant, you might have been able to twist it into truth.  But as a post on a social media site, there isn’t a lot of room for inferences, especially when it comes to the Bible.

This had me up in arms with my Table 8 study group!  We laugh because they hear me say the same thing every single week at some point….you MUST be in the Word.  You must be reading and studying and seeking God.  You cannot guard yourself against wrong teaching, against incorrect theology, from false gospel if you don’t know what is in the Bible.

As well, how can we lead people to the Truth if we are not understanding of what’s in our Bible?!  Satan skulks around trying desperately to deceive us.  If he can distract us from the truth of the Holy Bible, he can prevent us from spreading the gospel.

All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. –2 Timothy 3:16-17

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. –Hebrews 4:12

But his is delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. –Psalm 1:2

It is imperative as believers in the one and only Creator of this world that we know what He says in the pages of scripture.  I cannot stress this enough.  I encourage you, friends, be in the Bible.  Read His Word.  Start your day with His commands and precepts.  Revel in the words of love from our Father.

Let’s challenge ourselves to make it a habit to study the Bible so that when the deceiver tries to trip us up, we are prepared for battle!

~Erin

Recipe Follower

I have this thing about following a recipe.  While I sometimes try to go off-the-cuff with food, I more than likely have a paper pulled out.  Not only do I follow the recipe, I will read and re-read the recipe multiple times to ensure I make it right.    

I do the same thing with directions.  I’ll see on GPS that it says turn right in two miles only to find myself rechecking it again a half-mile later, then a mile after that!  I’m always worried about missing something or skipping a step that will make my dish turn out awful or find myself two hours from planned destination.

Sometimes, I’m a mess!

As I was cooking dinner tonight, I thought about this desire to make sure I’m getting it right.  Do I have the same thought when it comes to following the commands of God?  Do I meditate and focus on what God says in the Bible to allow me to stay on the right path, or do I get tripped up because I “think I’ve got it” and ignore the instinct to verify what the Bible says?

I used to rely a lot on my memory of what I’d learned growing up in church.  However, as I got older and really start deep-diving into His Word, I recognized that things that I learned years ago had a child-like spin on them.  As I matured in Christ, I recognized that I had to look at context and application.  I needed to look at all of it and not just bits and pieces. 

“All have sinned” didn’t just mean lying to my parents.  It was also lust in my heart for looking at someone inappropriately.  Watching your speech didn’t just mean not saying shut-up or not being kind.  It was recognizing that everything that comes out of my mouth needs to be edifying to the Lord and foul language isn’t included in that edification.  Binding it to your hand and forehead, writing it on the doorpost….it isn’t just about knowing. It’s about purposeful knowledge and studying of what our Heavenly Father tells us because He KNOWS what’s best for us.

When we only look at pieces of scripture or the ‘highlights’ we miss out what the full journey can bring with Christ.  I encourage you, friends, lets stop looking at just the bits and pieces.  Let’s read verse, chapter, book, and Bible to make sure we’re following the beautiful path God has laid out for us.

~Erin

The Armoire

My office is a disaster zone right now.  There are piles everywhere, furniture moved, and painting tape along the edges.  A week ago, I had Rylan paint my office from Royal Blue to “White Pepper.”  I’m sure you can imagine how bright it is now!

I realized I wanted to change some of the furniture around at that time, using my armoire for my printer and scanner instead of random storage.  But using that armoire required me to clean out what was already inside. 

Have I told you that I’m also a packrat?  I keep my children’s baby teeth, the CD I got signed 12 years ago, every card, letter, and picture Emily has ever sent, along with 312 crafting tools that never get used in that armoire.  As I go through it now, the piles outside the armoire grow larger as I decide how I need to rehome each item.  It really is a mess!

Scripture can sometimes be like that to me.  I have a story or passage from the Bible in my head that I’ve known for a while.  Often, however, I like to go back and revisit those chapters.  It allows me to grow deeper in knowledge of the situation.  It gives me the ability to study it better in regards to context.  Reviewing them permits me to dig deep and get application from God’s words.

In order to do that, I can’t just read through and hope I understand.  I must unpack it, bit by bit, verse by verse, and lean into each word.  When I’ve considered it, I then need to determine what it means relating to my walk with God; I want to give glory to Him with everything I do.

Just like unpacking my armoire, I need to unravel the scriptures from thought that I may have had previously.  Maybe I was taught something inappropriately.  Perhaps I have a misunderstanding of the Bible because I didn’t do adequate research the first time.  It could even be that a sermon or Sunday School lesson I heard in my childhood was framed differently in my mind as I got older. 

I strive to unpack the scriptures!  I want them replaced in the right spot…the spot that allows me to have a deep understanding of who God is and what He has done for us.  I want to know that I’m accurately representing what I say to my Bible study groups and people around me with whom I share the Word.

I pray you begin to unpack the beautiful words in the Bible.  It is filled with God’s love, grace and redemption!  Perhaps you’ll find something new in an older story or verse that you hadn’t realized before!

~Erin

Discovery: Nazirite Vow

I must have been under a rock during the day I was taught about the Nazirite vow in Sunday school.  Maybe I was day dreaming; maybe I was absent that day; maybe it wasn’t even a subject taught at my church.  A devotion I read several weeks ago mentioned the Nazirite vow and I’ve had to really dig in so that I could understand this concept.

Numbers 6:1-8 describes the vow as a way to make a special Covent with the Lord.   It was a strictly voluntary, special in its intent, and indicates a separation from a temptation.  It seems that the vow was used most frequently during a time of difficulty or extremely hard trials and temptation…at that time, the person could take this vow as a way to grow closer to the Lord. 

Interestingly enough, Numbers 6:3 commands that anyone taking the Nazirite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol.  More specifically, it called for an abstinent from wine and all products made from the grape plant. This would have included grape seed oil or cream of tartar.  

Another aspect of the vow included continually growing one’s hair.  If one temporarily forgot the vow, a simple look in the mirror would remind them.  It became not only a reminder of the vow, but a testimony opportunity when asked why they were growing out their hair.  

This led me to another question…are there any examples in the New Testament that speak to the Nazirite vow?  Guess what? Of course, there is! 

In Acts 18:18 (NASB), Luke wrote “Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow.” 

Why was Paul exhibiting behavior associated with Nazirite vow?  He was traveling from Corinth towards Syria when he cut his hair.  His recent experiences in Corinth and in Athens, where he had apathetic encounters with non-believers, very few conversions to Christianity, a lack of new church establishment, and cult-like behaviors of worshiping Aphrodite.  His decision to take a special vow with an outward showing of cutting his hair was a way to mark the growth of his hair from the moment of the vow, as well as a means to protect himself and draw closer to the Lord during his trials.  

Most Americans would be able to tell you about the unique attributes of the wedding vows.  Heck, most would even acknowledge it’s a convent with/before God.  All would recognize that the wedding ring is the outward sign of the wedding vow having been taken.  We know about the wedding vows because we’ve attended ceremonies, watched them on tv, or even taken part in our own commitment with this vow.  We are comfortable with the concept of the wedding vow.

Why am I not as comfortable with this vow mentioned in Numbers and Acts?  How did I know about this very personal “Nazirite vow?”  In a moment of self-doubt, I felt like a horrible Christian that wasn’t studying her Bible enough.  And in the next instance, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I just need to keep studying…keep digging…keep praying.

What Biblical revelations have you had this week? Come to the porch and share!!

~Emily

Numbers 6:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.’”

Find the Time

As a full time professional in the billing department of a hospital, I need to know what I’m talking about.  The majority of us know that medical insurance can be so frustrating and hard to understand.  My job requires me to have extensive knowledge of insurance billing for physicians, and on occasion I have to spend time explaining to patients what the charges/payments mean so that they can understand it in laymen’s terms.  It’s important for me to be doing continuous education on the insurance companies.

Do we treat our study of the bible the same way?

God wrote the most beautiful book for us.  It’s a history lesson of this earth prior to Jesus walking the streets of Jerusalem.  It’s the true story of the greatest sacrifice for love, and it’s the written promise of what’s to come.   God’s love letter is available to all of us to learn from, to grow from, to mature ourselves in our faith.  And yet I let days go between opening it to really read what God has written to me.

The psalmist wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.  I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word.” –Psalm 119:15-16.  My prayer is that I take those words to heart.

I want to develop a strong understanding of who God is and what He’s done and one of the best ways I can do that is to spend time each day meditating on His written word.  I want my study to be meaningful and give me true opportunity to dig in.  My bible can’t remain closed until I “find the time.”  Believe me, I’ve been there, and it happens to me even now.  I let things, people, phone calls, or TV take precedence over a chance to allow a scripture meaning to be revealed to me.

The challenge to myself, and one that I’m extending to you, is to set aside at least 15 minutes each morning when you first wake up.  Ask God to reveal Himself to you in the passage or verse you’ve chosen to read, read it aloud, and then use the rest of the time to find out “What does this mean to me?”  Allow yourself time to meditate on His ways.  You won’t regret it.

Is there a verse or passage that you’ve read that might encourage someone to start this challenge?  Come to the porch and share in the comments below.

~Erin

I will meditate (used)