About Becky Pliego

I am grateful because God, in His grace, called me out of darkness and into his admirable light. When I did not look for Him, He found me. When I was in a pit of sin, He rescued me. I am not walking this road alone, my family is always with me, and we love Him, because He loved us first.

Live This Week Under the Potent Grace of Christ

J.R. Miller wrote a book entitled Weekday Religion that has many wonderful gems for us. Today I am sharing this excerpt about being Christian on weekdays that I am sure you will find encouraging.

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How to carry our religion into all parts of our life, is the question which perplexes many of us. It is not hard to be good on the quiet Sundays, when all the holy influences of the sanctuary and of the Christian home are about us. It is not hard, in such an atmosphere, to think of God, and to yield ourselves to the impact of the divine Spirit. It is easy then to accept the promises and allow them to entwine themselves about our weakness, like a mother’s arms about feeble infancy. Most of us have little trouble with doubts and fears, or with temptations and trials, while sitting in the peaceful retreats into which the Sunday leads us.

Our trouble is in carrying this sweet, holy, restful life—out into the weekday world of toil, anxiety, strife and pain. Ofttimes with Monday morning—we lose all the Sunday calm, and resume again the old experience of restless distraction. The restraints of godliness lose their power, and the enthusiasm for holy living, so strong yesterday, dies out in the midst of the world’s chilling influences, and we drop back into the old bad habits, and creep along again in the old dusty ways.

The Sunday has lifted us up for a day—but has no power to hold us up in sustained elevation of soul. The duties we saw so clearly, and so firmly determined to do, while sitting in the sanctuary, we do not feel pressing upon us today with half the urgency of yesterday. Our high resolves and our excellent intentions have proved only like the morning cloud and the early dew. So our religion becomes a sort of luxury to us—a bright unreal dream only which for one day in seven, breaks into the worldliness and the self-seeking of our humdrum lives, giving us a period of elevation—but no permanent uplifting.

It is only as when one climbs up out of a valley into the pure air of a mountaintop for one hour, and then creeps down again and toils on as before, amid the mists and in the deep shadows—but carrying none of the mountain’s inspiration or of the mountain’s splendor with him back into the valley.

Yet such a life has missed altogether, the meaning of the religion of Christ—which is not designed to furnish merely a system of Sunday oases across the desert of life, with nothing between but sand and glare. Both its precepts and its blessings—are for all the days. He who worships God only on Sundays, and then ignores him or disobeys him on weekdays—really has no true religion. We are perpetually in danger of bisecting our life, calling one portion of it religious and the other secular. Young people, when they enter the church, are earnestly urged to Christian duty, and the impression made upon them is that Christian duty means reading the Bible and praying every day, attending upon the public means of grace, taking active part in some of the associations, missionary or charitable, which belong to the Church, and in private and personal ways striving to bring others to Christ.

Now, as important as these things are, they are by no means all the religious duties of any young Christian, and it is most fallacious teaching that emphasizes them as though they were all.

Religion recognizes no bisecting into sacred and secular. “Whether therefore you eat, or drink—or whatever you do—do all to the glory of God.” It is just as much a part of Christian duty—to do one’s weekday work well—as it is to pray well. “I must be about my Father’s business,” said Jesus in the dawn of youth; and what do we find him doing after this recognition of his duty? Not preaching nor teaching—but taking up the common duties of common life and putting all his soul into them! He found the Father’s business in his earthly home, in being a dutiful child subject to his parents, in being a diligent pupil in the village school, and later in being a conscientious carpenter. He did not find religion too spiritual, too transcendental, for weekdays. His devotion to God—did not take him out of his natural human relationships into any realm of mere sentiment; it only made him all the more loyal to the duties of his place in life.

We ought to learn the lesson. True religion is intensely practical. Only so far as it dominates one’s life—is it real. We must get the commandments down from the Sinaitic glory amid which they were first engraved on stone by the finger of God—and give them a place in the hard, dusty paths of earthly toil and struggle. We must get them off the tables of stone—and have them written on the walls of our own hearts! We must bring the Golden Rule down from its bright setting in the teaching of our Lord—and get it wrought into our daily, actual life.

We say in creed, confession and prayer—that we love God; and he tells us, if we do—to show it by loving our fellow-men, since professed love to God which is not thus manifested, is not love at all. We talk about our consecration; if there is anything genuine in consecration, it bends our wills to God’s, it leads us to loyalty that costs, it draws our lives to lowly ministry.

“One secret act of self-denial,” says a thoughtful writer, “one sacrifice of selfish inclination to duty—is worth all the mere good thoughts, warm feelings, passionate prayers, in which idle people indulge themselves.”

We are too apt to imagine, that holiness consists in mere good feeling toward God. It does not! It consists in obedience in heart and life to the divine requirements. To be holy is, first, to be set apart for God and devoted to God’s service: “The Lord has set apart him who is godly for himself.” But if we are set apart for God in this sense, it necessarily follows that we must live for God. We belong wholly to him, and any use of our life in any other service—is sacrilege, as if one would rob the very altar of its smoking sacrifice to gratify one’s common hunger. Our hands are God’s—and can fitly be used only in doing his work; our feet are God’s—and may be employed only in walking in his ways and running his errands; our lips are God’s—and should speak words only that honor him and bless others; our hearts are God’s—and must not be profaned by thoughts and affections that are not pure.

True holiness is no vague sentiment—it is intensely practical. It is nothing less than the bringing of every thought and feeling and act—into obedience to Christ! We are quite in danger of leaving out the element of obedience, in our conception of Christian living. If we do this, our religion loses its strength and grandeur—and becomes weak, nerveless and forceless. As one has said, “Let us be careful how we cull from the gospel such portions as are congenial, forge God’s signature to the excerpt, and apply the fiction as a delusive drug to our violated consciences. The beauties and graces of the gospel are all flung upon a background of requirements as inflexible as Sinai, and the granite. Christ built even his glory, out of obedience.”

Now, it is the weekday life, under the stress and the strain of temptation; far more than the Sunday life, beneath the gentle warmth of its favoring conditions—which really puts our religion to the test and shows what power there is in it. Not how well we sing and pray, nor how devoutly we worship on Sunday—but how well we live, how loyally we obey the commandments, how faithfully we attend to all our duties, on the other days—tell what manner of Christians we really are.

Nor can we be faithful toward God and ignore our human relationships. “It is impossible,” says one, “for us to live in fellowship with God—without holiness in all the duties of life. These things act and react on each other. Without a diligent and faithful obedience to the calls and claims of others upon us—our religious profession is simply dead! We cannot go from strife, breaches and angry words—to God. Selfishness, an imperious will, lack of sympathy with the sufferings and sorrows of other men, neglect of charitable offices, suspicions, hard censures of those with whom our lot is cast—will miserably darken our own hearts, and hide the face of God from us.”

The one word which defines and describes all relative duties is the word LOVE. Many people understand religion to include honesty, truthfulness, justice, purity—but do not think of it as including just as peremptorily: unselfishness, thoughtfulness, kindness, patience, good temper and courtesy. We are commanded to put away lying—but in the same paragraph, and with equal urgency, we are enjoined to let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil-speaking be put away, and to be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another. The law of love in all its most delicate shades of application— to attitude, word, act and manner—is the law of all true Christian living.

Thus the religion of the Sunday, like a precious perfume, must pervade all the days of the week. Its spirit of holiness and reverence, must flow down into all the paths of every-day life. Its voices of hope and joy, must become inspirations in all our cares and toils. Its exhortations, must be the guide of hand and foot and finger, in the midst of all trial and temptation. Its words of comfort,, must be as lamps to burn and shine in sick-rooms and in the chambers of sorrow. Its visions of spiritual beauty, must be translated into reality in conduct and character.

So, in all our life, the Sunday’s lessons—must be lived out during the week! The patterns of heavenly things shown in the mount—must be wrought into forms of reality and act and disposition and character. The love of God which so warms our hearts as we think of it—must flow out in love to men. We must be Christians on Monday—as well as on the Sunday. Our religion must touch every part of our life—and transform it all into the beauty of holiness.

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May the potent grace of Christ sustain us each day of this coming week.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

Thanks to the editor of Grace Gems who encourages all Christians to freely distribute all the content on their website.
Photo by Jisu Han via Unspalsh

How To Cultivate Faithful Obedience

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 5.30.59 PMWe have been reading testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of Christian women in the series of Faithful Obedience (we’ll read many more in the next months), and we have seen how these women have learned, by God’s grace, to respond in obedience to God’s will for them.

But maybe you have been reading this series and keep thinking how is it even possible to learn to respond in this way? How can these women face chronic diseases, the loss of husbands, infertility, the loss of children, the diagnose of breast cancer with such a humble and joyous heart? How is it possible to open our hands and receive God’s will for us with so much gratitude even when it looks like a heavy loss? Yes, you have been going to church for many years but you wonder if you would be able to respond in faithful obedience to God’s Providence in your life when a hard Providence comes your way?

The truth is that none of us will be able to submit to God’s will with joy and gratitude and faithful obedience on our own strength. None of us. We are shortsighted, our vision most of the times is blurry. Left to our own, we can’t submit joyfully to what we don’t understand. And faithful obedience to God seems just something beyond our capacity. So how can we cultivate this kind of response in all sort of trials?

Our brothers and sisters who have gone through the toughest trials, have been able to submit willingly and joyfully to God, and to respond in faithful obedience to Him because they have learned to do one thing consistently: look up to Jesus. And Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith, the One who is sited at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

And how do we keep looking up to Christ? How does that look like? “Look up to Christ” is not an inspirational phrase, but a reality that has the power to sustain us through it all.

1. We first look up to Christ when we recognize that we can’t do anything to save ourselves from our own sin and the consequences of our sins -or the sin in the world (sickness, abuses done to us, etc). This is the place to start because only those who look up to Christ can be saved. And only those who have been saved can look up to Him for comfort, strength, mercy, and grace.

2. We look up to Christ when we take God’s Book, the Bible, and see Jesus on each one of its pages. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and the way to come to Him in the Scriptures. We have not been left to ourselves to try to imagine God or find our own way to Him. Who He is and how we can approach Him is written, so we open our Bible and read it.

When we read our Bibles we are confronted with the Holiness of God and the Spirit convicts us of our sins. The Holy Spirit then uses the same Word of God to bring us repentance and wash us, and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. And once our sins are forgiven, we can see more clearly what a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus. We look up to see Him without a veil in our eyes we see Him more clearly and brightly.

We look up to Christ when we read our Bibles because it is a way of saying “I truly don’t know the way, Lord. Teach me your ways and guide me in them. I want to obey you in the here and in the now.” And on the other hand, when we fail to come to consistently to the Word of God, we are in a way saying, “I know the way, I can be my own guide” and in doing so we deliberately take off our eyes from Jesus and put them in ourselves, or in an idol that we think can save us.

We look up to Christ each day when we read our Bible because it is only there that we can see Jesus as the source of food that sustains and water that quenches our thirst. We look up to Christ when we read His Word because it is there that we come to understand that He Himself is our shelter and sure help in time of need. The journey is long and only those who eat the Word and delight in it will find the strength needed to persevere until the end.

In our Bibles we can also read the warnings of all the dangers and the enemies that we must face. But as we read chapter after chapter, book after book, we learn how we are to fight in this world -and we read how victory is only possible to those who have their eyes fixed on Jesus, to those who persevere looking up, waiting on Him for their deliverance.

We also find in the pages of the Bible the promises of God which belong to His children. Promises that build up our faith, that cause us to rejoice in the midst of a storm, that remind us of the hope that we have -one that is never in vain. Promises that point us to Jesus and remind us to live looking up to Him.

And the more we come to the Word, the more Scripture we intake, memorize, mediate, and believe, the more we will be ready to use it as the only effective sword to fight the Devil, our own sinful thoughts , and our feelings when they rebel against God.

3. We also look up to Christ when we pray without ceasing, for there is nothing like a life of prayer to declare how much we need Christ and how lost we are without Him.

A Christian who loves the Word of God loves to pray, and a Christian who loves to pray loves the Word of God. These two can never be separated. If we separate them our time in the Word will be fruitless and dry, and our prayer life will lack substance and words. The whole Bible is full of examples of prayers so that we may learn how to pray in all circumstances. When we cannot find the right words to pray and our minds are heavy and confused, we can find in the Psalms the words to express our anxieties, our fears, our many “Why, God?” and “How long, Oh, Lord?” Jesus prayed these prayers and in His name we can pray them too.

It is only through the merits of Jesus that we can approach the Throne of Grace and find grace and mercy in time of need. And it is only in the name of Jesus that we can make our requests of God with the certainty that He will hear us. How can we not look up to Christ if He is the way to the Father of all Comfort?

4. Another way in which we look up to Christ is when look around and see how many brothers and sisters we have in Christ. When we stand in the congregation of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and are ready to encourage many and be encouraged by others in the Lord, we are, in a very practical way, looking up to head of body which is Christ. Sometimes we will have the opportunity to give a glass of water to one who thirsts, but many other times, God will put us on the other end. And when that times come, we must be ready to stretch out our hand in gratitude and receive that glass of water that we desperately need as if the Lord Jesus Himself were giving it to us -because He is indeed.

So we look up to Christ when we look up to Him to be saved, when we are in the Word of God each day, when we live a life of dependence to Him praying at all times, and when we are an active part of the body of Christ, serving others and being served by them too.

When we live looking up to Christ, we will find that faithful obedience will become the natural response to His Providence in our life. And by “natural” I don’t mean that it will necessarily be easy every time, but that it will always be possible.*

The more we train ourselves to look up to Christ, to be in the Word, to live by prayer, to do life with other believers, the more we will long to respond in faithful obedience. “Not my will but yours be done” will become the heart of each one of our prayers.

The Lord has prepared many circumstances to test us and to teach us to respond in faithful obedience to Him. He has prepared seasons of want and seasons of plenty, and in both we are called to walk in obedience, just like Jesus did. We must learn to ask ourselves, how does faithful obedience would look like in my present circumstance?

Look up to Christ even today so that through His merits, His perfect life, His perfect death, and His perfect obedience to the Father, you may find great satisfaction in obeying Him in whatever season He may have you now.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

* I learned this from Elisabeth Elliot. In her book Discipline: the glad surrender she wrote,”Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”

Photo by Jan Romero via Unsplash

Faithful Obedience by Kate Sumpter

God has ordained specific trials for each one of His children, but with each trial God has promised the grace and the strength needed to walk through it. In this series of Faithful Obedience we are being encouraged to remember that God’s children never walk through suffering in vain because God is faithful. And also, because we know that God is faithful, we can trust Him and respond in faithful obedience at every turn of the page.

Today, Kate Sumpter, a dear Sister in Christ who loves the Lord and His Word deeply, shares with us how she and her husband have walked from the day they heard the hard news of infertility to the joyous news of adoption -always taking the next step sustained by God’s faithfulness.

Read it, share it, be encouraged, and pray for Kate and her family.

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Waiting in Faithfulness

My husband and I are on an adoption waiting list for our second child. We also have a blonde headed six year old daughter whom we adopted as an infant. We’re so thankful to be parents as we were diagnosed with infertility not long into our marriage. Children are a joyful gift of marriage and the union of a man and woman used by God to create new life. And yet, Adam and Eve ate the fruit. Sin entered the world. And wombs are barren.

My husband and I are both from big families and our hope has always been to have many children. I remember having a discussion before we were married about raising kids and that we both thought adoption would be a really neat thing for us to pursue someday. I had watched my friend’s family adopt internationally and God’s goodness to them was evident. I saw adoption as a unique way for God to proclaim His glory.

Adoption is a visible reminder of God’s faithfulness and goodness to us. He adopts each of us through the work of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:5-6 says He “predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.” He wills and predestined that we should be His children. Why? Because it gives Him good pleasure. Because He receives praise and glory. Our faithful response to His faithfulness is obedience, praise, and glory.

Faithfulness is practiced and taught. We start young with commands from our parents like make your bed. Brush your teeth. Say thank you. And we grow with each accomplishment into the next bigger task. Or the next harder task. Luke 16:10 reminds us that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.”

I know that all things work together for good, for those that love God (Roman 8:28), even the hard diagnosis of infertility. God was so clear when He closed the door to pregnancy. Our doctor told us that there was nothing else that the medical world could do. Understanding that diagnosis was a time of grief for us, but God graciously brought us through the grief with His Word, especially in hymns and psalms. I had to curb my own desires and plans for my life to faithfully follow where the Lord was directing my steps (Prov 16:9). Contentment isn’t something I am naturally gifted in, but something that God clearly was teaching me through those years. The Lord strips away our own wants and desires to give us His best. The psalmist says “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26) Our fallen flesh had failed and my heart grieved. Yet God sustained my joy and peace by providing Himself for my portion. I cannot lean on anything, but His sovereignty so that I can heartily say, “Not my will, but yours!”

God’s will is always faithful. We followed Him to adoption and for two years we prayed and waited. Then, after only two weeks of knowing she was coming, we received our daughter into our arms! She was a whirlwind gift and one of my favorites. And as she grew, we prayed many times for her to have siblings, but God always said wait. This fall, we saw Him clearly say yes as we pursued Him in our desire.

We prayed specifically for God to bless us with our needs and He answered abundantly. As we told our friends and family that we were hoping to adopt again, they offered to spread the word of our adoption and to help raise funds for us. In the opening of Psalm 67 we find that God blesses His people so that He may be glorified. “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.“ His blessings are a magnification of who He is and it’s something the nations see. His blessings enable us to glorify Him. As we reached each fee along the process, we were met by God’s people abundantly giving as much as was needed. We were overwhelmed by His goodness through His people and His clear answer to our prayers. The blessings poured over us.

A clear example of this came on the last day of last year. We had reached the end of the paperwork in November and our adoption agency told us to finish raising all the funds needed before proceeding. My husband and I brought this to the Lord. We prayed regularly that we could raise the final funds of $10,000 by the end of December. What a hefty figure! But we faithfully followed the Lord knowing that He would provide for us and open the door or He would close the door and give us something else. He is faithful.

By the morning of Dec 31st we knew we were close, but still short by $1,670. But we’re never short on God’s faithful provision. He brought us to the last day of the month to answer our prayer. I received a message from a friend saying there was someone who wanted to donate anonymously whatever final amount was needed. That afternoon when I picked up a check with the exact amount I had tears in my eyes because here was tangible grace in my hand. “As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” (1 Cor 2:9) God loves to answer our prayers and He answered this specific prayer. We asked for a certain amount of money and we asked for a certain day. He gave both.

So my husband and I are on an adoption waiting list for our second child. And if we wait 3 months or 3 years, we know that God has prepared us for His good work. Being faithful to Him through obedience glorifies Him. This is our portion and it is a good pleasure to be His children. We know what faithfulness is because we have seen it. We have seen Him. And so we can wait because He is faithful.

Kate Sumpter

NOTE: You can find the index to the posts in this series here.

Faithful Obedience by Liz Boyd

This week we will have one extra post on our series of Faithful Obedience because one of our guests writers will be going into surgery next Monday (05/06). Because of this, I would love to ask you , dear Sisters, to carry her in your prayers.

I need not say a lot about my Sister in Christ, Liz Boyd. The way she has responded to the news of being diagnosed with breast cancer has been a huge of example to all the women (and men!) in our church of what we read in 1 Peter 3:6: Liz is a daughter of Sarah, a woman who does good and does not fear anything that is frightening.

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I Do Not Deserve This by Liz Boyd

Becky asked me to write a bit about God’s faithfulness during my trial with breast cancer, so here I go! I will warn you first I’m not a writer!

If you don’t love Jesus with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27) this whole blog post might sound counter-intuitive, that’s because it is. The gospel itself, that Christ died for me, is completely counter-intuitive. I must die to live and if I seek to save my own life, I will lose it. This battles our flesh every moment of the day. I was reborn, born again, never to be the same 15 years ago and this post will reflect that, I can’t help it nor do I want to.

I struggle with cheerful obedience in the mundane. Yes, I know the small moments of life make up the big picture…that scares me! I fail in those small moments. I am often like Paul, doing what I don’t want to do and not doing that which I know that I should. (Romans 7:15-24) I struggle doing my chores cheerfully, making lunch cheerfully and folding laundry cheerfully. Other times I am so very cheerful, just not doing the good work the good Lord called me to do! It is so much easier to be cheerful writing a blog about cooking, schooling or potty training than it is to actually do those things in the flesh. It might surprise you to hear that obedience in cancer has been relatively easy. It is so big, so unplanned and so clearly from the hand of God that I ran right into His hands for comfort. For some reason, I fail to notice daily that laundry and making breakfast are from His hand as well and I hate making breakfast more than cancer most days!!!!!

I could walk you through this journey of mine, I could focus on cancer, the doctors, the fear, the exhaustion, and I would be right to do so. There have been a lot of those things. But that isn’t my focus. For some reason, I guess because it’s as clear as day, “you have cancer”, I know that this is God’s will. The fear and bigness of cancer have been replaced with the burden of preaching the gospel through cancer. This is a much stronger and sweeter burden.

The pain and fear of cancer have been present off and on. One minute I’m fine the next I’m weeping because I will never feel a hug from my children the same way ever again. That is a loss. I haven’t struggled with being angry, not at God, but when I explain that all of my nerves will be cut, that my feeling will be gone, that a hug will never ever feel the same again once both of my breasts are removed within the next week and someone reminds me that things are great…I get angry. I know things are great. God is good and all things that come from him are perfect. But I am mourning. I am suffering a loss. I am not suffering a loss of body image, I’m mama to seven children and that loss was suffered in my twenties, I am suffering a loss that is hard to put into words, a loss of feeling. Of course, it will be fine. I know this. But I am lamenting. Let me. Did you know that you could be sad, you could grieve, your heart could ache and it’s not a sin? It’s not. You can be sad and still glorify God, you can experience great loss, greater than your breasts, and still, love Jesus. I know that is true because I am experiencing that now. I love Jesus more now than I ever have before, and I am also suffering a loss.

I have had a lot of women, so many meaning well and meaning to support, tell me to feel angry. I’m not. I will say that I don’t deserve this! I don’t deserve any of this! I don’t mean breast cancer, oh no, not at all. I mean the grace of God. I don’t deserve all of the love we have been shown, I feel like shouting “Give this love to someone else, we’re not great people, we aren’t worth it!” and alas it keeps coming. I cry out to God, feeling overwhelmed every single day with his provision of grace, mercy, joy, and practicality “I DON’T DESERVE THIS”. I don’t. I don’t deserve the many, many, many cards, pictures, checks, meals, toys, clothing, games, flowers, dinners, gift cards, gift baskets, cakes, ice cream, lunch snacks and prayers that we have gotten over the past two weeks. I don’t deserve the friend that made me lunch, showed me her mastectomy scar and said: “Get ready to preach the gospel, no one stops you when you have cancer!”. I don’t deserve the letters filled with scripture or the child care offered for doctors appointments. I don’t deserve the offers to give my children rides to rugby and Logos. I don’t deserve my best friend filling my entire fridge with organic low estrogen foods and leaving her 16-year-old daughter here to love on my girls until my surgery was over. I don’t deserve the family doctor who wrote letters on our behalf to our insurance company with the hopes of them accepting our appeal and covering my medical bills and this was after he went down a rabbit trail to find my hiding cancer. I don’t deserve the many Christian doctors and nurses I have seen over the past two months who have prayed for me and over me. I don’t deserve any of this, and that my friend is the gospel. I am feeling the gospel every day.

Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Liz Boyd

NOTE: You can find the index to the posts on this series here.

Saturday’s Six

%r%XwMN7SNqjtI+r+G3xcAHere are six things for you on this Saturday:

1. The first one is a little anecdote that happened to me and my husband this weekend. We were in a large business dinner with people we were just getting to know, when, a few minutes into the conversation with the couple across the table, the gentleman asked my husband, “So, from what I know of you, and what you are saying, I am assuming you are Christian, Christian, Christian, right?”  To which we answered, “Yes, we are Christians.”

This made us chuckle afterwards and think how if in your head there exists room for someone to be a Christian or a Christian, Christian, Christian, then something is off in yous definition of Christian.

2. On our ongoing series of Faithful Obedience we have been reading of Christian women living out their faith in the “here and in the now.” Well, a dear family from our church, the Boyds, recently received the news that Liz has breast cancer. Her response to the news has been such a powerful example to all of us of what it means to live in faithful obedience. You can read it here.

3. Looking for books on contentment? These are the best 6 (the last two books are heavily inspired on the first three books):

1) The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by J. Burroughs
2) All Things for Good by Thomas Watson
3) The Mystery of Providence by John Flavel
4) The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit by Matthew Henry
5) Learning Contentment: A Study for Ladies of Every Age by Nancy Wilson
6) The Power of Christian Contentment by Andrew M. Davis

4. I love what these guys do. Check out their store here.

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5. On this week’s email -that we send to the women who are doing the Bible Reading Challenge, I hope to encourage them not to skim through the hard books of the Bible, but read diligently and intentionally. You can read it here.

6. Here is a wonderful resource to memorize and sing the Psalms. Our church has now a Spotify playlist with the Psalms of Dr. Erb that you will love. Find it here.

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Have a wonderful Sabbath!

Under God’s sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

 

Faithful Obedience by Robin Zarate

Welcome to another post on this series Faithful Obedience. The aim of this series is to encourage you to be faithful to God and His Word and persevere in faithful obedience. For this, I have invited some friends to share with us how they have learned to live in this faithful obedience to God in the “here and in the now” trusting that you will find good words that will exhort you to press on.

We all know that there are gifts that keep on giving. Well, let me tell you that Robin Zarate is a friend, a gift from God to me, that keeps on giving! We have been friends for many years now and she just keeps pouring into my life!  Robin is a woman that has learned how to be live in faithful obedience to God through many hard circumstances (for example, she has been a widow twice -with four sons, now adults, to raise on her own). And through all these hard Providences she has become more lovely, more joyous, and more like Christ each day. She is a remarkable woman and I am honored to have her share part of her testimony of God’s faithfulness with us today.

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The bathroom light pierced the dark, it was time to get out of bed. I wandered down the steps and caught the smell of fresh brewing coffee. Peter sat with his open bible near the fireplace motioning for me to join him for prayer and a few passages before taking our morning run. We were in our thirties and life was busy living in Mexico City, learning a new language, a new culture, growing a business and a family. I cherished the hours before the sun came up, before the responsibilities of life took us in separate directions for the day. I would joke with Peter that I got him “first” before the rest of the world. Seldom were many words spoken in those predawn hours. At that moment, I had no idea this mundane morning routine was soon to become a treasured memory.

The shocking news of Peter’s death came unexpectedly late that evening as I anticipated his arrival, a taxi robbery gone wrong. The headline of the newspapers the next day called it “Rogue Taxi Crime” as gangs would steal taxis in the city and rob unsuspecting passengers. I looked up the word rogue and found a definition that included, Rogue- “sinister in nature, meant cause to harm.” Like a demolition wrecking ball this news threatened to destroy the sturdy and secure looking life I had. I was heartbroken. Disbelief and shock obscured my view as I fought to make sense of my life being turned upside down.

Sleep never came that first night and as odd as it sounds, I could not cry. Oh, I cried out to God in anguish but not with actual tears. Sitting by the fireplace alone I felt the heat of the glowing embers against the numbing news that caused a deep agony in my soul. So many questions swirled in my head. Peter had been my rock, my husband and father of our children. Parenting four sons together was the joy of his life, how would I do it without him?

My mind raced as I thought of how I was going to break the news to our four small boys, asleep upstairs, unaware of the event that would change their world. I was in shock, everything in me was trying to remember. Remember the last time I saw him, his touch, our last words, my mind naturally wanted to recreate these moments, trying to come to terms with the truth of these unwanted set of circumstances.

I remembered the contents of the last sermon we heard together from Luke 1, the birth announcement of Jesus. I opened my bible and was amazed at how the narrative of Mary encouraged me to consider perhaps, just maybe God was up to something, greater and grander and more glorious than my eyes could see. It gave me hope that night and in the years since then.

The angel Gabriel announced the stunning news to Mary that though she was a virgin she would conceive a son. The scriptures state that she was greatly troubled and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. She could never have expected to hear the most incredible news that she would have a son who would be the promised Messiah. Although she could not comprehend how she would conceive the Savior, she responded to God with humble trust and obedience.

God has used this familiar portion of His word to teach and encourage me to learn to respond to life’s challenges with an informed faith that obeys.

Mary was a good Jewish girl, she knew the Holy Scriptures, she knew the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call him Immanuel.”

Although God’s plan for Mary held great honor, it required a costly obedience and would demand great suffering as well. There would be pain in childbirth and pain as mother of the suffering Messiah. Mary embraced God’s word by faith, despite her plans and how she thought her life was going to go. Her response was “Let it be to me as you have said, behold the handmaiden of the Lord”, she humbly put herself at God’s disposal. I pondered her response in a way I never had before.

In Mary’s famous song of Praise, The Magnificat, we see the evidence of her Old Testament knowledge and her wholehearted trust leading her to praise. As I rehearsed memories that led up to this night, it appeared while I went about my daily life, God’s providential plan was unfolding. No surprise to God, yet a big surprise to me. That’s what we find happening here in Mary’s story, and it planted a small seed of hope that God was up to something in the midst of my pain.

The first part of living a life of faithful obedience is knowing where our obedience comes from, how it is produced. Foundationally it comes as a result of God’s grace through faith because of our union with Jesus Christ. God gives the grace needed to strengthen us to live in faithful obedience amidst life’s painful and confusing circumstances. Genuine faith in Christ produces obedient lives that give God glory.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

It has been twenty-one years since Peter’s death. God continues to use Mary’s narrative to comfort and convict me. Her example of knowing God’s word and it’s call to trust, obey and praise God has been a constant theme. I have reared my four boys who are now grown men. That difficult part of what God called me to is behind me and yet, life circumstances continually give me fresh opportunity to trust God and the grace He supplies to bring about the obedience of faith.

There have been times of questions, doubts and deep wondering about how to live life this way, but God has been faithful. Through His word, the fellowship, love and prayers of brothers and sisters in Christ, God continues to expose the ways I still need be changed to the image of Jesus for His glory. By His grace my faith and love for Him has grown. When the circumstances of life threaten to overwhelm me, I especially remember Mary’s response to God’s appointed plan. Her example of simple but complete trust has encouraged me.

I look back after all these years to those difficult hours the night Peter died, and I see it differently through the eyes of faith. God’s loving care for me there in that room is evident in my mind now. He knew what it would take to grow me up and to this day it is a picture of His grace.

In my mind, I remember how the soft rays of sunlight began to illuminate the dark room in the early morning hours on my first day alone. The memories of my morning routine with Peter greeted me as I picked up the Bible sitting near the fireplace where he had left it. I opened where he had bookmarked and began to read these verses and as I did the first tears began to fall.

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:21-25

Robin Zarate