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

 

A Deeper Cure for the Brokenhearted

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We all have heard the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And we all nod because it is true.

But how can we be kind and help those around us who are facing hard battles?

How we answer to this question is important, but more important is how we act on the answer we give.

In a day in which relativism has crept into our Christian thinking more that we would want to admit, it is important to keep coming back to the Scriptures, and dig in there to prove what is true and act on that. It is important to remind ourselves each day  that the only way to effectively help someone (including ourselves!) who is fighting a battle against her own flesh, thoughts, and emotions is to give them the hope that is only found in Christ.

If you are a Christian woman I am sure you would agree with the statement above. Yes, yes, we all say, Christ is the answer. Solus Christus. From beginning to end, from top to bottom, in and out, always: Christ alone.

But the way we flesh out this answer is another different thing.

The world has many options to offer us as a cure for the pain that the battles we face bring to us. The cabinet of solutions to our anxiety, fear, depression (depression in teens, depression in postpartum women, depression in mid-age women, depression when we get our period, and depression when our periods cease), bad moods, moods that swing and moods that hurt others include breathing exercises, yoga poses, candlelight, silence retreats, quiet spaces, eat-this-food but this-food-not regimes, and all sorts of oils applied in all sorts of ways.

Why do many Christian women feel so tempted to open this cabinet and take one or two of these cures to offer to their hurting friend when we all have agreed to believe that the more potent, the true and deeper cure to our pain is found in Christ alone?

Friends, the way to be kind to those fighting a hard battle is to open the Word in front of them and give them true hope. Hope anchored in that which is not perishable, hope anchored in the words breathed out by God.

One way to see if we actually believe what we say is to listen to the words we say,  and pay attention to the solutions we think of first.

If my friend is struggling with mood swings, what is the first thing I think of? “Oh, I am going to recommend to her this breathing exercise, this oil, this ________” Or,  “Oh, I am going to message her every morning a verse of the Scripture to remind her that in Christ self-dominion is possible, that in Christ we are not slaves to our hormones. That because of the finished work of Christ we have been promised victory over our flesh.”

Or what if you meet a person who is not a believer and she shares with you all about her battles and emotional pain she is going through, what is the first thing you do? Recommend her this new diet, this new oil, this new ________? Or since you know that the heart of the problem needs a deeper solution you share the gospel with her?

We must fear the Lord and recognize that when we offer those hurting a cure for their emotional and spiritual pain outside the gospel, we are offering them something that might actually draw them away from God and the true hope which is found in Him.

Why would they need Christ to be joyful if they can find joy in exercising and burning their pain away at the gym?

Why would they need the Gospel to fight against mood changes if they can stop eating this and start eating that to find hormonal balance?

Why would they need to read and pray and mediate on the Word of God if they can cope with their fears and anxieties with an oil?

Our Creator, the One who made us, who knows each one of our cells and molecules and  dancing hormones, who knows the depth of our thoughts and the marrow of our souls, the One who knows the number of our hairs and has collected each one of our tears in a bottle, the One who doesn’t sleep and sees us tossing around at midnight and intercedes for us. The Almighty God who has called us by name and has become our Redeemer, has spoken words to heal our deepest hurts and satisfy our longings and give us life and hope that never fades.

In Isaiah there is a wonderful verse (50:4) that points us to Christ, and tells us that He will have words to sustain those who are weary.  The Prophet continues, and in different places he keeps pointing us to Jesus, our comforter. It is only the Lord who can make the wilderness like Eden and the desert like the gardens of God. He alone can bring joy and gladness and a heart full of thanksgiving to the one whose heart is now hard and dry and bitter (51:3). Only in Jesus’ words can we find everlasting joy and gladness because His words are our medicine (Is. 51:11, Prov 4:20-22).

Many of our anxious thoughts and fears are rooted in our sinful thoughts and habits, so only God’s forgiveness will set us free and bring true healing to our hearts. Nothing else will. Many things can apparently cover the symptoms for a season, but the pain, the heaviness of spirit, the discontentment, will always come back until we fall on our knees and repent and believe.

David knew this. He said,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”

(Psalm 103 ESV)

Nothing else. Just the goodness of the Lord and His Words coming like the rain will heal our weary souls and renew our strength.

And this other verse from Psalm 119 is encouraging too,

“I am severely afflicted,
give me life, O Lord, according to your word!” (v.107 ESV)

Can you imagine the pain the Psalmist was experiencing at the time he wrote this? And where does he turn for help? When he was severely afflicted, he knew better than to try to look for help in vain things for help, he turned to God and God alone. How we all need to believe in the Word in such a way that we would immediately turn to it when our hearts are in sorrow.

Friends, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, His faithfulness is great” (Lam.3)  We can come, dearest Sisters, to the Father in the name of Jesus and say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lam 3). If we place our hope in anything else than the finished work of Christ, the Lord himself will shatter it to pieces because He is a jealous God who wants His children to put their hope in Him alone.

Along with the Psalms, the epistle of 1 Peter is a wonderful read to help us build our hope in God. Consider these verses, for example (and then go read the whole epistle)  (emphasis mine):

“Blessed be the Lord 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…”

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“He [Jesus] was  foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Let’s pray that the Lord will enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may be able to see, to know what is the hope to which He has called us, and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance, and what is the immeasurable power toward us who believe in Him… (Ephesians 1: 15-23)

How we also need to understand the importance of praying earnestly for one another when we go through different trials. How we need to pray that the Lord will give us and our brothers and sisters spiritual strength to persevere,  and how we need to remind each other that “God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work with us.” (Eph 3:20-21)

Do we really believe that the Spirit can help us in our weaknesses? Do we believe with our flesh and blood that God who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all,  will also give us graciously with Jesus all things we need? (see Romans 8)

May we grow in our faith to a point in which it can be said of us what was said of Abraham,  in hope she believed against hope, she saw her weak body, and yet her faith did not weaken. No unbelief made her waver concerning the promises of God she knew well because she was in the Word always. She saw her weakness but her faith grew stronger because in all she did she gave glory to God and did not let unbelief take root in her heart. She was always convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. (Read Romans 5:13-25)

The only true safe place for us to be is before the throne of the Father in the name of Jesus. There we will always find “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16)

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky

A More Potent Way than the Oily One

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I am reading this book, Letters from Spartanburg, which is a collection of letters that Arthur W. Pink penned to a dear friend when he was writing his very important book, The Sovereignty of God. I have found some really fascinating insights in this book on different subjects. Last night, for example, I came across the letter in which Pink is telling his friend how he disagrees with the author of the book they are currently reading and discussing together, and writes, “I feel like that this book will call for a brief (article) reply… A reply is called for in the interest of truth.”

So, just like Pink here, I think that another article about the oily business is pertinent, for the sake of truth.

On my first post, No Other Gospel: Why Oils Are Not for You, I wrote about the heart of the problem: the whole world of oils is becoming a false religion that encourages people to use oils to deal with issues that in the Scripture we clearly see we are to deal not with oils, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the Word of God and the grace that we have in Christ to mortify sins that will never die if we apply particular oils to our wrists.

Then I wrote a follow-up post, Slippery and Oily Slopes. In this one I veered a bit from my original post, not because I was shying away from what I wrote in the first one and tried to soften my view. No, if you read it again, you will see that I started it explaining that I was going to address some questions that had been raised.

On this second article I also  focused on the danger of not seeing that the lady who is selling you that one oil, belongs to a company that has core values, core principles, and a mission, a company that rewards her (with more money) if you buy three more oils, and then rewards her even more if you also become a sales lady.

I read some comments of people disagreeing with me here saying that we would not agree either with the vision, mission, and purpose of most of the companies from whom we buy our stuff, and yet we still get our lattes from them. True. The difference here is that when I but a latte from them, I am not being asked to embrace their vision, mission, and purpose. I am only asked to handle my  beverage with care because it is hot. And, they don’t ask me to start selling lattes to others, which I appreciate.

The most renown companies that are marketing oils for physical, emotional, and spiritual health, are structured as multilevel companies. They are shaped like pyramids. And if you pour gallons of oil on the side of a pyramid and try to walk carefully on it, you will notice that it is almost impossible to get a hold of the rails and there are no stoppers to be found around.  You buy one oil, and the company has trained these sales ladies to sell you the next oil, and then the next, and then they will  proceed to warn you of the toxic ways you are eating and doing laundry, which means that you will need to buy more oils, and then you are in. Without giving much thought, you are, all of a sudden, part of the community, part of the company. And when you are part of the company, you will have, by necessary consequence, to embrace the company’s vision, mission, and purpose.

So that is why it does matter -a lot- that you to consider all these things before saying yes to going on a hike on the oily pyramid.

Now we are on this third post that you owe to A.W. Pink. And as in my previous post, I will address some other concerns that have been raised by dear Friends and thoughtful readers. And then give you some more food for thought.

In my previous posts I was careful to include many links to the statements and product descriptions that the company from whom most of the people I know, who are in the business of oils, belong.  I encourage you to click on those and read and judge for yourself if I am misreading or misrepresenting what is written there.

One more concern that has been raised is that by writing about this, I am adding one more reason to cause unnecessary division among the church; that maybe those who are not using oils will now feel more righteous than the ones who do, and will start looking down on them. Well, the answer is that if that is that is the case,  then those who feel more holy because they never ever use oils like the others, will have to deal with that sin themselves. And the only way to deal with any kind of sin is repenting and believing on Christ’s perfect work.

Another question I have received: Do you have oils in your house? Yes, I do,  I have bought a few of them on different stores (never through people) because I love their smells, but have never let the sales lady explain to me what they are for. I always warn her, if you try to explain what benefits I will get if I use this oil, I will not buy it. They never know what to do with that.

I want to give you one more piece of meat to think and pray about. I want you, as a Christian, to consider that there is a more potent way to give your soul emotional and spiritual support than the way that the oils offer.

If you have read all your Bible you have noticed that the root of all kinds of sin is unbelief. Unbelief has different ways to manifest itself. It can show up dressed up like fear, anger, bitterness, ingratitude, etc. And unbelief likes to talk to us and make us doubt what God has said. For example, envy will say something like, “I don’t believe that what I have and where I am is God’s lot for me, so I envy your life.”

Oils offer you a way to deal with these bad emotions (which in reality are manifestations of the sin of unbelief that we all struggle with), and the company says  that there is scientific evidence to confirm that their oils will indeed help you and give you great support to deal with those bad emotions or feelings. But, here is what I want you to think and pray about, Christian Friend: why use oils when there is a more potent and sure way to deal with these sins (manifested through our emotions)? We don’t have to re-invent a new way, or a better way when the Bible is clear, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Please read Colossians 3, a super important passage here) and, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Rom. 13:14), and  this, “..do not be anxious about anything, but let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Paul to the Philippians)

Unbelief says,  “No, what those passages say cannot be enough. I must do something else.” So we try to add all sorts of other things, including oils that promise emotional and spiritual support, to help God deal with these bad attitudes in us, which at the root are sinful habits, sinful inclinations from our old nature. Unbelief will try to convince us that prayer cannot possible be enough to stop worrying and stop being anxious. What will we do then? Whom will we obey?

So, Friend, please, I want today to encourage you to choose the most potent and sure way. Choose God’s way to deal with fear, anxiety, anger, envy, ingratitude, discontent. Put to death these sins; by the grace of God it is possible, and put on Christ. His work on the cross is finished and is potent. By His blood we have been redeemed and have been made free. Let us live then like people who have been set free, and let us not put ourselves under the yoke of something that promises what only God can give. Do not believe the words of Unbelief, but trust the Lord!

One last thought. In Hebrews 3 (please consider reading Hebrews today) we read the strong admonition, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin...· (emphasis mine).

I emphasized two things in the passage above that are related among them: unbelief and deceitfulness of sin. See the connection? Unbelief is many times manifested in ways that are deceitful, hard to discern, hard to see. Unbelief’s natural response will always be, “No, that cannot be true. I am not being deceived.”  So be suspicious of yourself when you hear those words playing in your mind.

Now about the exhorting part in the Hebrews passage. Yikes. That is a hard one, right? For example, try exhorting others to consider if the whole philosophy behind the oil movement is deceptive. Hard thing to do right? Now add to that one more layer of complexity: this oil thing is an important means of financial gain for many. To see how difficult things can get when money is involved read Acts 19:21-41

Thanks for reading, dear Friends. Praying that the Lord will direct our hearts to the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. (2 Thess. 3:5)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Slippery and Oily Slopes

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I knew this one was a hard issue to address on a blog post, and  since I got some valid questions from dear friends, I want to write one more post on this. As you can already see, it will be impossible to address all the “But what about this …?” questions here, and I am learning to be OK with that. Isn’t that one of the main reasons that God has placed us in a local church? Bring your questions and concerns to your husband, your Pastor and/or elders.  And most of all ask them all the questions you may have with a heart totally open to admit that maybe they are seeing something you are not, and prayerfully bring those things that you might need to change before your God.

Many asked what about oils to cure simple things, like a headache, nausea, coughing. Aren’t the oils doing basically the same thing as an Advil? Aren’t those cases faithful ways to put the oils to use?

I would say yes, they might work for those things, and there is no problem at all with that. In my medicine cabinet, we have, for example, arnica ointment as well as Voltaren cream. We have medicine to relief coughing and yes, we do have a spray with some oils that help us breath better when we have a cough spam. The problem is not with the oil itself, but with the way many are putting all their trust in them, not only to help heal a sinusitis, but to help with attitudes and problems that the Bible clearly tells us find their root in our sinful nature  that needs to be mortified; or to help heal deep emotional and spiritual wounds that only our Father, through the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit to us, can heal.

But if you carefully read my post, that was not the point I tried to address. If we had people in our churches selling an oil to make your home smell delicious, and a peppermint oil to help pregnant women deal with nausea, we will not need to make a big deal out of this. See, some  prefer to buy their soaps at Walmart and some others prefer the organic ones found at the Farmers market  (that’s me). Some women like to burn any kind of candle in their home, some others prefer the ones made with natural ingredients  because they claim that the smell is better and the candles last longer (that’s me again). Some women prefer not wear perfume, others prefer to wear the same perfume for over 15 years (yep, that’s me). But this issue is not a matter of simple preferences, the problem is not that of using an oil to give your feet a good rub after a long day, the issue is clearly what that the industry which makes and sells these oils is saying about what their goal is and the way many women are choosing not to see it and the way many other women are choosing to embrace it. This company doesn’t really want you to use their lavender oil to make your sheets smell delicious, what they really want is to take over your whole lifestyle (read under “Our Purpose”).

Look, for example,  at this main industry’s mission:  “We honor our stewardship to champion nature’s living energy, essential oils, by fostering a community of healing and discovery while inspiring individuals to wellness, purpose, and abundance.”

See that? They don’t want you to be using the peppermint oil in isolation; part of their mission is to make sure you become part of them, part of their mission. They are openly telling us that they want their oils and philosophy of life to reach to your home, my home, your neighbor’s home. They also want to inspire you not only to wellness, but to purpose (a purpose they have defined and chosen and which clearly excludes God) and abundance (because like those preaching the prosperity gospel, your abundance quickly becomes their abundance).   They clearly want you to know that “[They] are committed to providing pure, powerful products for every family and lifestyle, all infused with the life-changing benefits of our essential oils.(emphasis mine) Their mission is not a secret.

It is strange to me that many choose to believe the promises these oils offer (physical, emotional and spiritual benefits), but at the same time choose to deny the unbiblical principles that the company stands on or try to detach the products they sell from the descriptions the makers provide about them.

Many will say, “But wait, I am not into that. It is possible for me to sell these products, for example, as a Christian woman committed to Biblical principles.”

The problem is that they are trying to do the impossible. The company behind them won’t let them do that because they are not ashamed of letting us know on what ground they are standing. It is as if I were trying to sell you a chocolate beet ice-cream promising that no beet will go in there. Would you buy it?

Or what about this other example. Let’s say that there is a Classical school five minutes away from where you live, which is known in the whole country for its academical achievements, and it also happens to cost  only 100 dlls per year, per family.  Yay! So you decide to go check it out, of course. Once you get there you see that the only problem is that the teachers are Buddhist monks. You are a bit concerned, and ask the lady who is giving you the tour of the school (who makes money for each student who enrolls) about all this and she promises that you can rest assured that they will never try to push their worldview on your children… (Though you can read their statement of faith, their mission and their purpose printed with big letters on their brochure). Would you enroll your children there?

So this is why I believe that the problem we have here is other than just a matter of different opinions and preferences. It runs deeper, but thanks be to God, the company who makes these oils has put big and clear signposts all over the slippery oily slopes for us to read where they are heading (and where they are leading their consumers).

Some other quick questions that I’ve received (I am not necessarily copying them verbatim) and some quick, broad answers:

Q: Why are you worried about this issue more than others? Anything can become an idol like oils, coffee after a bad night of sleep, a glass of wine at the end of a long day, etc.

A: Because many of the women in my life, which I dearly love, are not falling into those other ditches, but into this one.

Q: So you are saying that there is no place for true medicine if someone is clinical depressed? I mean, that is what I’m hearing you say in your post.

A: Please read my post again. And no, I am not saying that. I have encouraged friends to go see the doctor and take medicine for mental issues; and I am sure that many women would benefit from visiting their doctor, maybe they do have some hormonal imbalance that needs to be treated by an specialist.

Q: Have you read other articles that bring a balanced point of view to the whole thing?

A: No, I have not, and probably will not. I have read the statements of the company that makes and markets these oils,  I don’t think I need to read the way other people are choosing to reinterpret these.

Friends, my purpose with all this is to encourage you to pay attention to the words, the rhetoric, the testimonies of those who promote these oils. Dig in deeper before walking in deeper.

But most of all, see where your heart is in all this. Sit down and read carefully what the company is really offering you and prayerfully consider, with your husband if you are married, if this is what your family should do. Talk to your pastor, to your elders, and be willing to submit to each other. (Wives, if your husband is uneasy about these, drop the issue, don’t try to push this further. This is a place where submission to your husband might be required and God will bless you.)

Let us pray, Friends, and pray earnestly for each other, that we may not grow weary of practicing discernment in all things (Hebrews 5:14), may we all remember that we all can slip, that we all can fall.

And finally, may we all make Paul’s and the Psalmist’s  prayers our very own:

“..it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Paul (Phil. 1: 9-10)

“Teach me good discernment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.” (Psalm 119:66)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Latest post on the series: A More Potent Way that Oily One

No Other Gospel: Why Oils Are Not For You

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We read in our Bibles, in the epistle Paul wrote to the Galatians this: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” And we immediately think of the obvious ways in which the gospel has always been distorted. We think of those who deny the Trinity, on those who teach that we need works to be saved, on those who think that we need to go back and do some OT rituals, etc. But what about this one distortion that is creeping in our midst smelling like lavender and orange peel?

What about Jesus + oils?

I know this is not an easy topic to discuss -at least not on a blog- but I will make an effort to explain why this is the case.

Why do I dare go all the way to what apparently looks like the other side and say that when we come to the topic of oils what we have is an issue of a false gospel creeping into the homes of many Christians? I dare say that the main way in which  Christians are promoting them and consuming them resembles a distorted gospel that preaches that to fully live the life we have as Christians we need to add oils to the already finished work of Jesus. And I say this with confidence after having carefully read what several Christian women who promote oils say.

For example, consider these statements made by Christian women talking to other Christian women:

Are your emotions taking control over your mood and are making your mornings hard? No problem, use x and y oil and you will see a difference! No more moody mammas and wives!

In this case they are saying that the provision of the Gospel is not enough to help you bring your emotions under the submission of the Word. You don’t need ten more minutes in the Word and in prayer, what you really need is the particular oil they sell. The heart of the problem is not the heart anymore, but hormones.

Here is another statement:

Are you feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with your life?
No problem, there is an oil, an oil business, and an oil community that will take care of that.

If you have heard something like this, consider how these sales women are selling not only a product but a way of living. “Satisfaction” and “happiness” can be achieved through oils.

Some questions they might raise to sell their products are these:

Do you find it hard to forgive? There is an oil for that. Do you need courage, Christian Friend? There is an oil for that. Are you struggling to fight the sin of discontent and ingratitude? There is an oil for that.

It breaks my heart to see that every day many more women are offering these as an alternative to the power of the gospel. And it is sad to see many others buying these promises. These Christian women, I am sure, would deny that this is the case, that they are not denying the power of the gospel, but I beg you, pay attention to what they are saying. They are not proclaiming that victory over sin is possible for those who are in Christ Jesus; they are indeed offering other Christian women (and others who are without Christ) a big lie. They are offering victory in their lives and over their sinful attitudes and feelings based on the use of these oils.  Yes, Jesus, maybe, but also these oils. Read their testimonies, read how these oils have changed their lives. Pay attention to their words and testimonies.

And we all know that it is easier to say, “Use this oil and feel well, victorious, joyful,” than saying, “Friend, because of Christ, you can mortify your sins. Victory over these bad attitudes and sins is possible when you abide in the Word and put your trust solely in the finished work of Christ.”

These women offer also a mix of some oils that promises “to help release buried emotional trauma resulting from accidents, neglect, the death of a loved one, assault, or abuse.” And then the product description continues saying,  “Left unchecked, emotionally draining episodes may be at the root of fatigue, anger, and restlessness.”

See what is going here? This is absolutely heartbreaking. How can Christian women dare to sell this oil to women who are bound to past traumas? Really? O, that these Christian women may see what they are doing. If they know Christ, if they know their Bibles, they should know better than to do this, than to sell lies. They would be fervently telling others not about this false idol, but about Jesus Christ our Savior who came to seek and save the lost, a Savior who bled on the cross so that we may be healed by His wounds.

How can someone who knows the Gospel dare to say that an oil can help cure abuse, or traumas, or assault, or the death of a loved one? How is that even a possibility? The fact that more and more women in our churches are consuming these, tells me that a huge number of women need to go back to the rudiments of our faith. I wonder what would happen if the women promoting these or those feeling the need to buy these studied more their Bibles and the Puritans. Why is no one talking about Owen’s book on The Mortification of Sin with their friends anymore? Or Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, or Thomas Watson’s, All Things for Good? Or this other one, a book by Jeremiah Burroughs entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment?

It is a lie to tell others that the root of our emotional problems is other than our sinful nature. We don’t need oils to heal these roots, we need a new life. We need to be cut out and be transplanted to a new soil. We need the life that is only found in Christ Jesus. We need to be feeding our soul with the Living Waters found in the Word of God, not with the expensive drops of oil that will soon be gone.

I live in Mexico where, sadly, the prosperity gospel has found millions of followers, and when I hear and read these Christian women selling these oils, I see another expression of the same false gospel. It goes something like this:

“Use this oil -that I can sell you!- and you will be healed, you will be made whole. ”
“Get this set of oils that promote “spiritual health” -and feel the difference”
“”Diffuse or wear [White Angelica oil] on top of shoulders, along spine, on crown of head, wrists, behind ears and on the back of the neck” to encourage “feelings of protection and security” and “enhance your body’s aura, which brings about a sense of strength and endurance.”
“We have the perfect oil for your Bible reading and praying time. Try this one, a blend that “promotes feelings of reverence and spiritual awareness with a blend of essential oils formulated to open the subconscious. This blend, considered a gift by many, enhances emotional equilibrium as it soothes and uplifts the heart.” (Who needs the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word, if there is an oil for that, right? See the danger? Why do you choose not to see the danger?)

This is heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking. Why do many have chosen to believe this? Why are so many willing to sell this as the “perfect add-on” to the gospel? Why many can’t see that with their fierce promotion of these oils and their strong faith in them, are actually denying the power of the cross, the power of godliness in the life of the believers (2 Timothy 3)?

I would like to add one more thing. Friend, if you are reading this consider also how these people selling these oils are using fear as a means to drive you to buy their products. They encourage you to detox not only your body, but all your home to avoid cancer. Do not succumb to fear. Do not let your heart be troubled, Christian Friend. It is in this Land of the Living, in this present age in which God has given us life, that we will see the goodness of the Lord. If the birds of the air are still finding their food today, and the flowers of the field are still being dressed even more beautiful than Solomon in all his splendor, and if the ants are still able to find food to store for the winter, then God will not leave us, nor forsake us. We will not die before our appointed day, a day God has chosen for each one of us. And in the same manner, we cannot add a day -not even a second!- more to that timeline, no matter how clean we might choose to live. Let us not yoke ourselves to fear, let us not. If we are Christ’s we are safe in His hand. If we are living under the shadow of the Almighty, why are we so afraid?

Dear Christian woman, look up, look to Jesus. Only Christ can satisfy your soul.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

NOTE: Two follow-up posts are now available: Slippery and Oily Slopes and A More Potent Way than the Oily One.

 

Pray Expecting Answers

IMG_0923We have the Psalms, the prayers of the apostles, the prayers of many saints in Church history recorded for us; we know that Jesus himself taught us how to pray and we still feel that we don’t know how to pray.  We still feel inadequate and that our words are never the right ones. We don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for some things. We are Reformed Christians, we believe in God’s sovereignty and so we try our best not to sound like those who name and claim promises and demand answers from God as if they had the power to do so.

But I am afraid that because of this idea of wanting to pray aright -according to each of the points on which our theology stands – the prayer life of many has lost all fervency. The words that come out from our mouths are as dry as our hearts. Our eyes never cry because we don’t let them do so. We are more worried about controlling our emotions than the Psalmist. We know the motions and so we pray the Lord’s prayer not daring to be specific in our prayers. Our favorite prayer is “Let your will be done, Lord” and often pray it holding back, like in a strong dam, all that we really want to say.

Friends, it will do us good to read more of  what the Puritans, Spurgeon, Ryle, Pink, Owens, have written and learn from them how to be good theologians on our knees. The secret I have found in the writings of these men is that the main thing that ruled their prayer life was this: they all knew God and knew that God hears our prayers and answers His children. They prayed with fervency and much confidence. They knew that no Christian prays in vain, that no Christian waits in vain, that no Christian claims to God in vain. They all prayed expecting answers from God.

We should take our Bibles and pray the Scriptures back to God, and do it fervently, trusting that our prayers do reach the ear the Lord. But along with the Scriptures, we must also bring our anxieties, our own individual petitions -big and small-, our fears, our longings before God. We can earnestly plead to Him and ask for His divine intervention and trust that He will come and meet us in our needs. This is not arrogance, this is what coming boldly before the throne of grace in Jesus’ name looks like (Heb. 4:16).

O, how we need to pray more from the heart. How we need to expect more answers from the Lord. Why do we come to prayer more often than not, thinking that God will not answer us? Or why when we pray we think that He will always say no to our petitions? Haven’t we forgotten that God is our good Father who LOVES (yes, all caps!) to give good gifts to His children (Mt.11)? Haven’t we forgotten that He will never withhold from His people good gifts (Ps.84:11)? How we need to be reminded in our prayer closet of the words of the apostle Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)!

Let us be praying people, but let us pray knowing that our God hears us and rewards those who seek Him: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb.11:6)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Recommended book: The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, a collection of sermons by C.H. Spurgeon edited by Robert Hall.