Did You Resolve to Become a Better Christian This Year?

fashion woman notebook pen“Will I have the will power to achieve what I have purposed in my own heart for this new year? Will I have the strength to become a better Christian this year?”

We all know the answer is no. The flesh is weak, the world is tempting, and the Devil is just around the corner waiting to devour us.

The good news for those who belong to God, for those who have been born of God, is that we can actually become better Christians not by having a stronger will power, or by trying harder. We can only become better Christians because of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in us.

We don’t have to wait until “tomorrow” to start afresh because we have each moment through the day to start afresh. Each day, when we open our eyes and yawn and stretch under the covers, we are breathing new mercies already. And through the many moments of our day when we fall, we repent, we believe, and we lean on God’s new mercies and grace again and again. And again and again, day after day, we take God’s book and open it, knowing that because the Holy Spirit is at work in us through His Word we are already being renewed and transformed into better Christians.

Remember Ephesians? (If not, please take the time today to read it, it will only take you 20 mins!). We walk in a life of sanctification as a result of the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. Friends, we don’t have to try harder on our own strength. Christ has done the hard part already. We should not try to try our best to become better Christians, it will be like chasing the wind, or even worse it can draw us to rely on a faith based on works.  Our doing consists in believing in God and resting assured in the work of Christ on the cross (see John 6:28-29) on our behalf.

When we believe this truth, we start -and continue until the end- acting in faith as Christians. We cannot generate resolutions like pray more, read the Word more, love God more, mortify that sin harder, love our neighbor -and our enemies- more, can you see that? Only God can produce that in us!

So, what are we to do? Nothing? Sleep more until it is late in the day without opening our Bibles, without praying? By all means, no! We pray fervently and ask God to draw us to Himself and then act upon what we have read in the Word and prayed about. We take our Bible and open it trusting that He will indeed draw us to Him, that He will indeed transform us and help us overcome sin in our life. We take God’s book and read it trusting that He will satisfy us in the morning, every morning, with His steadfast love. We don’t lose hope, we keep coming, we keep reading, we keep praying and we keep obeying. We know that He is faithful so we approach Him and obey Him by grace through faith each day. We press on but always relying on God’s amazing grace.

Under His sun and by Hus grace,

Becky

Read Your Bible to Fight Unbelief

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Why do we stop reading our Bibles?

Really, think about it.

It is not because we lack the time to do it. If we are breathing we have time -and God knows we do have time! In reality, we stop reading our Bibles because we lack the faith to believe that God himself speaks to us through it.

We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we start living as if we were autonomous and knew well how to do this thing called life without any direction from the Holy Spirit. We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we decide to listen to our troubled heart heavy with anxieties instead of listening to what God has to say in the midst of our troubles and anxieties. We stop reading it when we sin, because, in our unbelief, we think it is not profiting us or that God cannot forgive us -again. From the beginning, since our fathers fell in the Garden, it has been unbelief who has kept us from honoring, believing, and obeying God’s Word.

So, dear Friend, be reminded of this: the only way to battle unbelief is by being in the Word. Keep coming, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, book after book, day after day. God will fulfill His purpose in you and will strengthen your faith as you take the Book and read it.

Be encouraged! Persevere!

Under His Sun and by Grace,

Becky

To Know God in 2019

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When the fullness of time came, Jesus, the Son of God entered our timeline in swaddling clothes, and made His dwelling among us. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word who created the world and all that is in it, became flesh to give us eternal life, and eternal life, He said, is to know the only One and true God.

The Son of God took human form and humbled himself to the point of death to redeem us. What for? So that we may know the Father. And this we know because it is written in His book.

If you have been redeemed by God, if you have been born again, if you have laid your sins at the feet of the cross and embraced God’s forgiveness; remember that you have been saved to enjoy eternal life, to enjoy knowing the Triune God and all the promises and good gifts He loves to give His children.

This is important for us to keep always in front of us an important theological truth, but also inside of us as the powerful truth which holds us secure: We can know and love God, only because He knew us and loved us first (1 John, Ephesians 1).

When Jesus prayed to His Father he said,  “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV) Let this truth sink in your heart, you were saved not only from eternal damnation, but unto eternal joy, so that you may know God and enjoy Him forever (as the Westminster Catechism teaches us).

And how can we know Him?

God has decided to make Himself known through this world and through His Word. When we look around at the intricate and huge world God created we can learn many wonderful things about Him, but it is only through what He has revealed about Himself in the Scriptures that we can fully know Him and our need for Him. Only when we take the Bible and read it (or hear it preached), the Holy Spirit can convict us of our sins and grant us repentance and saving faith. There is no way for us to know God as our Savior, as our Father, as our Redeemer, apart from what is written in His Word.

Oh, thanks be to God that we were not left to ourselves to try to find a way to God. Thanks be to God that He gave us a book and the Holy Spirit to teach us all things that pertain to life. Praise be to God for faithful pastors and teachers in our churches  who preach with an open Bible each Lord’s day. Praise be to God for faithful friends who encourage us to persevere in the Word each day. Praise be to God for so many plans laid out for us so that we can follow our daily readings.  Praise be to God that He wants us to know Him! Praise be to God for the Bibles in our homes!

Let us join the prophet Hosea this year and say,

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is as sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth,”  (Hos. 6:4)

And the apostle Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

May the Lord grant us an undivided heart this year, Friends. May we press on to know God. Don’t be content with a bible verse or two each day. Dive deeper into the living waters of God’s Word, strive to be immersed in them. Let them saturate your heart, your mind, your daily life. He will come as the spring showers to water your soul and make you fruitful.

May we live to know God and enjoy Him forever. Starting today.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Let Us Press On to Know God

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“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

It is that time of the year again when we like to consider where we are in our relationship with God and where we wish we’d be. For many Christians, there is a sense of guilt when they ask themselves this kind of questions. “Again a year has gone by and again I didn’t read my Bible consistently… and prayer? Honestly I only prayed when things were going super bad.”

The thing is that God has not moved from where we can find Him. He has not chosen a new way for us to approach Him, or a “fresher” way to know Him. God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ and in the Holy Scriptures. And it is in the Bible that He has told us who He is, how we can approach Him, how does our relationship with Him should look like, and how He expects us to live and relate with others and this world. There is no other way to know God but through the Holy Scriptures. There is no other way to come to God apart from Christ. And there is no other way to understand and believe all this apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

In His kindness, God has not left us at the end of a dark maze filled with trials and dragons to see if we can -by our own merits or strength- find our way out to an everlasting life by the end of the year. No, our Heavenly Father has given us the key that opens heavy doors through the maze and a lamp that lightens up our way. God has given us the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit so that we may not remain lost in our sins, but live with assurance of eternal life. In the Word of God and in Christ we have all we need to live godly and victorious lives.

If you are a child of God, if you have repented of your sins and believed in the name of Jesus Christ, you have been called to know God. And this means that you have been saved  to have a relationship with Him (not only to get a “pass to Heaven”). Jesus came to seek and save sinners who were lost like you and me. He came so that we may be able to come to the Father in His name. Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, came to make His dwelling among us so that we may abide in Him. What a wonderful news the gospel is!

I want to encourage you, Sister, to come to the Scriptures, to read them each day, to study them, to meditate on them, to believe everything that is written, to pray over what you read, to live by all that is written in the Holy Book. And this is not about about having more willpower to be in the Word and in prayer each day, but about having a huge desire to know God more deeper, so that we may love Him and worship Him more fully.

It is not legalism to set a time each day to be in the Word, to build the discipline. (Don’t let anyone tell you that!)  When we have a deep desire to be in communion with God, we will come every day and press on to know Him. And in our pressing on, we will find our  joy increase as we get to know deeper the One who knew us first and called us by name. Obedience and perseverance that flow from a heart that loves God are never legalism.

As you consider all this, it is important also to recognize the difference between guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Satan and our flesh will always try to make us feel guilty about our lack of discipline, and the way we will try to get rid of the accusations they bring on us is by reading “at least a verse or a psalm each day.”  We will read and pray not because we want to know God and worship Him and obey Him more, but because we want to feel at ease with ourselves. After all, we are Christians, right? On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins -our messed up priorities, our negligence, the lies we tell ourselves for not being in the Word, etc.. He will always lead us, in His kindness, to repentance which means that true change will happen in our lives.

So as we approach the end of this year, ask yourself the right questions. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you of a sin of omission, confess it to God and embrace His forgiveness. Start praying that the Holy Spirit will draw you more to the Father and by grace through faith come to the Word (read and preached) and to the Father in prayer.

The good news is that you can start today. No need to wait until January 1st, when the race of New Year’s resolutions starts. Today is the perfect day to begin.  By faith take the Book of God and read it, He will meet you there. He will come, his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

It is written and so we believe it is true.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

P.S. Don’t know where to start? Join us on today’s reading here.

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Bible Reading Challenge

Parenting With No Guilt-Strings Attached

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We know that Christian parents must raise their children in a gospel centered way. And we also know that any gospel-center thing must carry the gospel message within and that is this:  We are sinful by nature and need to repent and believe in Christ the Savior. Only Jesus can break the bondage of sin and deliver us from its curse so that we may have abundant life.

But when it comes to raising our children in a gospel-centered way the temptation parents will many times face is do it with guilt-strings attached.

Let me explain. We do want to proclaim the gospel to our children, we want them to know what sin is, why repentance is important and what forgiveness looks like. But the temptation that many Christian parents face -especially when they want to see quick results- is to parent installing guilt in their children.

“If you really love Jesus, you would have not been disrespectful to your dad.”

“If you really, really, repented from that lie yesterday, you would not have lied to me again.”

“If when you said, “forgive me, mom” you really meant it, you would not have disobeyed me again.”

Sin is brought up in each of the examples above, yes, but the cure given will prove to be poisonous.

Many times I am surprised at how much Christian parents are afraid of God’s Grace. We are afraid that our children could abuse it (as if that was even possible!), so we try to build dams to “protect” our children from tasting it. What if they taste God’s amazing grace and then underestimate sin? What if they taste true forgiveness…maybe they will not see their future sins as grievous anymore? What if our home tastes likes grace… maybe they will not taste the horrors of sin anymore?

What is happening here? The truth is that when we act like this we act in unbelief.  We do not believe that when read the Word of God to our children, that when we speak about it as we go on our daily lives, the Holy Spirit can convict them of their own sin. In our unbelief we try to help God by bringing up the sins of our children over and over again -so that they will “have the opportunity” to search themselves to see if there has been true repentance. When we do this we imitate the Devil in what the does best, and so we become the accusers of our own children from the rising of the sun to the end of the day.

Our accusations become the seed, the soil, and the water that bring forth the rotten fruit of insecurity in our children.  How will our children grow to be assured of the Father’s love and forgiveness if we are the ones who are always doubting their motives, their tears, their repentance, their words?  How will our children taste the assurance of God’s forgiveness if we always tell them that “maybe their repentance was not from their heart”?  How will they drink from God’s fountain of grace if we keep them away from it -fearing that they will not see their sin if they come?

May God help us to bring with much joy and much confidence our children to Christ! That we will be instruments in His hand to assure them of the Father’s love! That when we teach them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, they will never doubt that their Father in Heaven hears them when they cry out to Him! God forbid that we, their own parents, become a stumbling block to them!

But you might rightly ask, but what do we do then when our children keep sinning? What we should do is exactly what the Father has taught us to do: We repent, we believe, and from the fullness of Jesus we drink grace upon grace.  We need to open the Scriptures before our children and show them what the Word says about that particular sin they are struggling with, and we tell them that in Christ there is always (always!) forgiveness for those who repent and believe. And then we assure them, from the same Holy Scriptures, of the Father’s love.

And lastly we do something that we almost always forget to do: we equip our children with the Word of God to help them fight sin in their lives. We teach them how Jesus’ way is more precious and joyful and satisfying than any sin. Because like us, they will continue to battle, and like us, they need all the counsel of God to fight and win.

Many parents are prone to point their children’s sins to them -every day and on their face, literally pointing a finger to them, to “remind” them of their shortcomings, to “encourage” them to repent quickly, and then they leave them in tears, but disarmed to fight, to win, to be assured of God’s love for them.

We must stop parenting our children with guilt-strings attached and start parenting them with grace-strings attached. How we need to teach our children the promises that we have in Christ to overcome sin. We must teach them, with our Bibles open, what are the weapons God has given us to battle our flesh, the world, and the Devil. How much our children need to hear of the power of the Word, the power of a prayer life, and the blessedness of the means of grace! How we must teach them to take the sword, which is the Word, and fight to win instead of always sending them to their rooms to do a morbid introspection of their hearts. And, oh, how much, like Paul, we need to pray with them and for them until Christ is formed in them!

Friends, unless we bring our children to Christ so that He can touch them with His grace, unless they see how precious all of Christ is to us, they will not want to come and taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Unless we stop being afraid of giving them grace in the same measure that we have received it, our generations will keep swimming in lukewarm water, never assured of the Father’s love for them.

May our children hear us say with much assurance and joy when they ask for forgiveness, “I too received mercy when I acted in my unbelief. And just like the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ, it now flows for you. Look not to your own heart, my child, but look up to Jesus! He is the author and perfecter of our faith. Come,come with me, let us run and bathe in the ocean of God’s amazing grace!”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

The Merciful Hand of the Lord

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The disciples, with their belly still filled with the bread and fish they had eaten among the five thousand, got into a boat. Jesus would meet them on the other side. No doubt the disciples were talking about the miracle they had just witnessed. Five loaves of bread and two fish for more than five thousand people! And they got to pass it around among the hungry! And, Oh, how it tasted… like heaven for sure!  The conversation was lively until darkness came. The waves roared and hit them so strong that their laughter was washed away.  The winds were against them and as they clung to their boat they let their peace go.

Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, who is “mightier than the waves of the sea, and the thunder of many waters,” (1) came to them, walking on the sea. They had read the book of Job, they knew that only God can tread on the waves of the sea (2). So, when they saw him they were not only terrified, but very terrified. (3) “It is a ghost!” they cried out.

The waves had not ceased to hit them. The winds kept lifting the waves higher. And Jesus was not asleep. He was not in the boat. He was walking on water watching the scene and approaching it slowly. This time, however, He did not speak to the waves and the winds, but to His men:”Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid!”(4)  His voice had to be louder than the roaring of the winds for them to hear Him.

Peter put his hands around his mouth and yelled through the storm, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” And Jesus said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (5)

And there he was, a man walking on the Word of God. Had anyone seen such a faith before? Such an obedience? Not a moment to hesitate. Just one word was enough for Peter. But all of a sudden his fears were more real than Jesus’s Spoken Word, and being afraid he started to sink.

But we must the stop the story here for a minute. Why, you say? Because we are -again- judging Peter too hard and too soon. (“Oh, Peter, just keep your eyes on Jesus, take him at His Word! Stop looking at the circumstances around you. You know better, Peter!”)

Put that Bible-Story narrative aside and keep reading. The big lesson is coming.

When Peter “saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”(6)
Who among us has never been afraid? Who never looks at the winds and the waves and trembles? Who among us hasn’t taken one step of obedience (because that is what steps of faith actually are, right?) and then starts sinking just thinking about taking the next?

We know the answer, we all are like Peter that way. Imitating Peter in that is not hard, it comes pretty natural for us. We all freak out and are quick to doubt the Word of the Lord, the Word that the Almighty speaks to us in the midst of the storm.

But we must learn to imitate Peter in the next thing he does, or we will sink.
As Peter began to sink, as his faith began to fail, he didn’t get mad at God for commanding him to come to Him (Why did you ask me to come if you knew I would sink, God?). Peter didn’t start making excuses. He didn’t even try to save himself. He knew, as he was starting to drown, what he had to do. Most of his faith had sank to the bottom of the ocean. He was thinking of nothing but the storm, that was all he could see now, but in his darkness, he found enough faith in his heart to cry out, “Lord, save me!” And that was enough.

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”(7)

Immediately Jesus took hold of Peter. Jesus had called him to come, he would not let him drown.

When Peter cried to the Lord the first time, Jesus heard his loud voice through the storm and answered him. This time, Peter’s voice was a faint and desperate cry, but it didn’t make a difference in the ears of the Lord. He heard him again, and again answered him.

In Jesus’ reproof, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  there is comfort for us. He knows that our faith weavers, that it is small, and yet He still comes when we call on to Him. What a comfort to know that Jesus knows that our faith is small and our weaknesses are big! Because He knows our frame and is compassionate toward us, He is interceding for you and me even now.(8)

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”(9)

Sometimes this happens. Well, actually many times this is the way things happen: The Lord will carry us to safety only after we have been close to seeing our end, thinking that we would for sure drown. Many times he calms the winds and the waves only after we stop having faith in our own faith to keep obeying.

When the only prayer we can mutter is, “Lord, save me!”  we must remember that our Savior is already there, closer than we think, ready to take us to a safe place in His arms.

The disciples saw the whole scene. And we know that in God’s story no one gets the role of spectator, so their part came and they did the right thing, “they worshiped Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

We might be going through something similar than what Peter went through in this story. Friends and family are watching us. But you know what? It is not our super strong faith that will draw them to fall on their knees before Jesus, no, it is the mercy and goodness of the Lord that will draw them to their knees.

It is not about trying to impress others with our radical obedience, our big faith that takes us to walk on water. It is neither about our weaknesses or our lack of faith when storms come. It is always about the faithfulness and goodness of our God who calls us to obey him and sustains us as we learn to obey Him.

Peter, who almost drowned, years later wrote:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”(10)

He learned the lesson well so that we can learn it too. May our faith, big or small, after being tested be found to result in praise and glory and honor for Jesus.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

(1) Psalm 93
(2) Job 9
(3) Mt. 14:26 ESV
(4) Mt. 14:28 ESV
(5) Mt. 14: 28-33 ESV
(6) ibid
(7) ibid
(8) Hebrews 4 and 11
(9) Mt. 14:32-33
(10) 1 Peter 1:3-9 ESV