Faithful Obedience by Nancy Wilson

Nancy has been a faithful friend to me. She continually points me to Christ, to His Word, and always away from myself! Isn’t it true that we need more friends like that? Thank you, dear sister for your prayers, your friendship, and all the many cups of tea you have served me! 

I trust that you will be blessed by her encouragement today in our series on Faithful Obedience.

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Faithful Obedience
by Nancy Wilson

“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)

From my experience, and I imagine from yours as well, God seems to like His people to wait. We wait for deliverance from all kinds of afflictions: healing from sickness and disease, financial provision for our bills, or direction and guidance when we are confused or lost. A single woman waits for a husband. A married woman waits to get pregnant. An expectant mother waits for delivery. Those who grieve wait for comfort. The soldier waits for his homecoming. We wait for so many things: the outcome of a job application, an offer on a house, a letter in the mail, a deal to come through, the plants to grow, the child to speak, the weather to change, the surgery to end, the repair to be finished, the team to score, the house to be built, our apology to be accepted, the line to move, the light to change, the test to be over, the dinner to be served, the ride to arrive, the waiting to be over. Much of our lives are characterized by this waiting. We even have a name for it: the waiting game. And we have places for it: waiting rooms. Waiting is a universal human condition, so it seems we should learn to be good at this. But it is hard to wait, and we are not good at it.

God’s kind of waiting is not like the worldly variety of impatient waiting during an inconvenient delay (think airports). It’s not a game, but a difficult, character-building, spiritual exercise. If we are truly waiting on the Lord, we are are not looking at the clock or the calendar, and we are not tapping our foot. We are looking to Him (perhaps desperately) to supply us with the patience, courage, and strength we need to endure the waiting. We pray for the outcome that we desire, but we also pray (just as fervently) for strength to wait on the Lord with patience.

Notice the repetition in the psalm quoted above. “Wait, I say, on the Lord.” It bears repeating. We are to wait on the Lord and for the Lord. We are to wait and watch with readiness, alert and hopeful that God will soon act. But we cannot do this at all unless our waiting is with our eyes on the Lord. We cannot look at the circumstances without growing hopeless. We cannot look at the calendar without getting distracted. We cannot run out all the scenarios in our minds without getting worried. The right kind of fruitful waiting comes only when we look to the Lord with faith, counting on Him to supply patience, courage, and strength while we wait. We are waiting on the Lord, not just on the outcome or the verdict. That is an important difference. But how do we get there? How do we wait on the Lord?

First, when you are in a season of waiting, remind yourself (often) that God has perfectly ordained the timing. He has given this situation to you (on purpose) so you can steward it as an opportunity to look to Him with expectation. Rather than focusing on the possible outcomes, we are to focus on our Father in heaven and wait patiently for Him to act. We are to draw near to Him, we are to be content in Him, and we are to wait some more.
While we wait, we are to stick to our duties. We do the next thing, and we do it with joy. We work hard to keep our mind full of gratitude and thanksgiving, and that means singing with joy in our hearts to the Lord. This is what it means to abide in Him, and this is how we continue to watch and pray with courage.

This kind of waiting is obviously not a natural human ability, but God is able to provide all the strength we need to do this. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). The context of this verse is about contentment. Waiting patiently is certainly an example of practicing contentment. Contentment says, “I am satisfied with His time table. I am pleased with how He is writing my story. I am content to wait on the Lord. He does all things well.”

“They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isaiah 40:31). If we wait with our own feeble strength, we will soon collapse. But if we wait on the Lord, He gives us fresh supplies of strength, and this gives us hope, encouragement, and endurance. Wait on the Lord. This kind of waiting is faithful obedience.

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You can find the introduction and index to this series here.

Nancy Wilson has written some wonderful books that I highly recommend. You can find them here. Mu favorite ones might be Learning Contentment and The Fruit of Her Hands.

God Always Gives Sufficient Grace

We are back from church and ready to face a new week by grace through faith. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring and Jesus explicitly commanded us not to be anxious about it. And yet, we ought be ready for what tomorrow may bring.

J.R. Miller write this devotional that I have found very helpful to help us get ready for worried week-days. I hope you find it helpful too.

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We have only successfully acquired the art of living a Christian life—when we have learned to apply the principles of true religion, and enjoy its help and comfort in our daily life. It is easy to join in devotional exercises, to quote Bible promises, to extol the beauty of the Scriptures; but there are many who do these things—whose religion utterly fails them in the very places and at the very times—when it ought to prove their staff and stay!

All of us must go out from the sweet services of the Sunday—into a week of very real and very commonplace life. We must mingle with people who are not angels. We must pass through experiences that will naturally worry and vex us. Those about us, either wittingly or unwittingly, annoy and try us. We must mingle with those who do not love Christ. We all meet many troubles and worries in ordinary week-day life. There are continual irritations and annoyances.

The problem is to live a beautiful Christian life—in the face of all these hindrances! How can we get through the tangled briers which grow along our path—without having our hands and feet torn by them? How can we live sweetly—amid the vexing and irritating things and the multitude of little worries and frets which infest our way, and which we cannot evade?

It is not enough merely to ‘get along’ in any sort of way, to drag to the close of each long, wearisome day, happy when night comes to end the strife. Life should be a joy—and not a burden. We should live victoriously, ever master of our experiences, and not tossed by them like a leaf on the dashing waves. Every earnest Christian wants to live a truly beautiful life, whatever the circumstances may be.

A little child, when asked ‘what it was to be a Christian,’ replied, “For me, to be a Christian is to live as Jesus would live—and behave as Jesus would behave—if he were a little girl and lived at our house.” No better definition of practical religion could be given. Each one of us is to live just as Jesus would—if he were living out our little life in the midst of its actual environment, standing all day just where we stand, mingling with the same people with whom we must mingle, and exposed to the very annoyances, trials and provocations to which we are exposed. We want to live a life that will please God, and that will bear witness on its face to the genuineness of our piety.

How can we do this? We must first recognize the fact that our life must be lived just in its own circumstances. We cannot at present change our surroundings. Whatever we are to make of our lives—must be made in the midst of our actual experiences. Here we must either win our victories—or suffer our defeats. We may think our lot is especially hard—and may wish it were otherwise. We may wish that we had a life of ease and luxury, amid softer scenes, with no briers or thorns, no worries or provocations. Then we would be always gentle, patient, serene, trustful, happy. How delightful it would be—never to have a care, an irritation, a cross, a single vexing thing!

But meanwhile this fact remains—that our aspiration cannot be realized, and that whatever our life is to be made, beautiful or marred, we must make it just where we are. No restless discontent can change our lot. We cannot get into any ‘paradise’ merely by longing for it. Other people may have other circumstances, possibly more pleasant than ours—but here are ours. We may as well settle this point at once, and accept the battle of life on this field—or else, while we are vainly wishing for a better chance, the opportunity for victory shall have passed.

The next thought is that the place in which we find ourselves is the place in which the Master desires us to live our life.

There is no haphazard in this world. God leads every one of his children by the right way. He knows where and under what influences each particular life will ripen best. One tree grows best in the sheltered valley, another by the water’s edge, another on the bleak mountain-top swept by storms. There is always adaptation in nature. Every tree or plant is found in the locality where the conditions of its growth exist, and does God give more thought to trees and plants than to his own children? He places us amid the circumstances and experiences in which our life will grow and ripen the best. The peculiar discipline to which we are each subjected—is the discipline we each need to bring out in us the beauties and graces of true spiritual character. We are in the right school. We may think that we would ripen more quickly—in a more easy and luxurious life—but God knows what is best; he makes no mistakes.

There is a little fable which says that a primrose growing by itself in a shady corner of the garden, became discontented as it saw the other flowers in their mirthful beds in the sunshine, and begged to be moved to a more conspicuous place. Its prayer was granted. The gardener transplanted it to a more showy and sunny spot. It was greatly pleased—but there came a change over it immediately. Its blossoms lost much of their beauty and became pale and sickly. The hot sun caused them to faint and wither. So it prayed again to be taken back to its old place in the shade. The wise gardener knows best where to plant each flower, and so God, the divine Gardener, knows where His people will best grow into what he would have them to be. Some require the fierce storms, some will only thrive spiritually in the shadow of worldly adversity, and some come to ripeness more sweetly under the soft and gentle influences of prosperity, whose beauty, rough experiences would mar. He knows what is best for each one.

The next thought, is that it is possible to live a beautiful life anywhere. There is no position in this world in the allotment of Providence, in which it is not possible to be a true Christian, exemplifying all the virtues of Christianity. The grace of Christ has in it, potency enough to enable us to live godly, wherever we are called to dwell. When God chooses a home for us—he fits us for its peculiar trials. There is a beautiful law of adaptation that runs through all God’s providence. Animals made to dwell amid Arctic snows are covered with warm furs. The camel’s home is the desert, and a wondrous provision is made by which it can endure long journeys across the hot sands without drink. Birds are fitted for their flights in the air. Animals made to live among the mountain-crags, have feet prepared for climbing over the steep rocks. In all nature this law of special equipment and preparation for allotted places prevails.

And the same is true in spiritual life. God adapts his grace to the peculiarities of each one’s necessity. For rough, flinty paths—he provides shoes of iron. He never sends any one to climb sharp, rugged mountain-sides, wearing silken slippers. He always gives sufficient grace. As the burdens grow heavier—the strength increases. As the difficulties thicken—the angel draws closer. As the trials become sorer—the trusting heart grows calmer. Jesus always sees his disciples, when they are toiling in the waves—and at the right moment comes to deliver them. Thus it becomes possible to live a true and victorious life—in any circumstances. Christ can as easily enable Joseph to remain pure and true, in heathen Egypt—as Benjamin in the shelter of his father’s love. The sharper the temptations, the more of divine grace is granted. There is, therefore, no environment of trial, or difficulty or hardship—in which we cannot live beautiful lives of Christian fidelity and holy conduct.

Instead, then, of yielding to discouragement when trials multiply and it becomes hard to live right, or of being satisfied with a broken peace and a very faulty life—it should be the settled purpose of each one to live, through the grace of God—a patient, gentle and unspotted life—in the place and amid the circumstances He allots to us. The true victory is not found in escaping or evading trials—but in rightly meeting and enduring them. The questions should not be, “How can I get out of these worries? How can I get into a place where there shall be no irritations, nothing to try my temper or put my patience to the test? How can I avoid the distractions that continually harass me?” There is nothing noble in such living. The soldier who flies to the rear when he smells the battle is no hero; he is a coward.

The questions should rather be, “How can I pass through these trying experiences, and not fail as a Christian? How can I endure these struggles, and not suffer defeat? How can I live amid these provocations, these reproaches and testings of my temper, and yet live sweetly, not speaking unadvisedly, bearing injuries meekly, returning gentle answers to insulting words?” This is the true problem of Christian living.

We are at school here. This life is disciplinary. Processes are not important: it is results we want. If a tree grow into majesty and strength, it matters not whether it is in the deep valley or on the cold peak, whether calm or storm nurtures it. If character develops into Christlike symmetry, what does it matter whether it be in ease and luxury—or through hardship? The important matter is not the process—but the result; not the means—but the end; and the end of all Christian nurture is spiritual loveliness. To be made truly noble and godlike—we should be willing to submit to any discipline.

Every obstacle to true living should, then, only nerve us with fresh determination to succeed. We should use each difficulty and hardship, as a leverage to gain some new advantage. We should compel our temptations to minister to us—instead of hindering us. We should regard all our provocations, annoyances and trials, of whatever sort—as practice-lessons in the application of the theories of Christian life. It will be seen in the end—that the hardships and difficulties are by no means the smallest blessings of our lives. Someone compares them to the weights of a clock, without which there could be no steady, orderly life.

The tree that grows where tempests toss its boughs and bend its trunk, often almost to breaking—is more firmly rooted than the tree which grows in the sequestered valley, where no storm ever brings stress or strain. The same is true in life. The grandest character is grown in hardship. Weakness of character, springs out of luxury. The best men the world ever reared—have been brought up in the school of adversity and hardship.

Besides, it is no heroism to live patiently—where there is no provocation, bravely where there is no danger, calmly where there is nothing to perturb. Not the hermit’s cave—but the heart of busy life, tests, as well as makes character. If we can live patiently, lovingly and cheerfully, amid all our frets and irritations day after day, year after year, that is grander heroism than the farthest famed military exploits, for ‘he who rules his own spirit—is better than he who captures a city.’

This is our allotted task. It is no easy one. It can be accomplished only by the most resolute decision, with unwavering purpose and incessant watchfulness.

Nor can it be accomplished without the continual help of Christ. Each one’s battle must be a personal one. We may decline the struggle—but it will be declining also the joy of victory. No one can reach the summit—without climbing the steep mountain-path. We cannot be borne up on any strong shoulder. God does not put features of beauty into our lives—as the jeweler sets gems in clusters in a coronet. The unlovely elements are not magically removed and replaced by lovely ones. Each must win his way through struggles and efforts—to all noble attainments. The help of God is given only in cooperation with human aspiration and energy. While God works in us—we are to work out our own salvation. He who overcomes, shall be a pillar in the temple of God. We should accept the task with quiet joy. We shall fail many times.

Many a night we shall retire to weep at Christ’s feet—over the day’s defeat. In our efforts to follow the copy set for us by our Lord—we shall write many a crooked line, and leave many a blotted page blistered with tears of regret. Yet we must keep through all, a brave heart, an unfaltering purpose, and a calm, joyful confidence in God. Temporary defeat should only cause us to lean on Christ more fully. God is on the side of everyone who is loyally struggling to obey his divine will, and to grow into Christlikeness. And that means assured victory, to everyone whose heart fails not.

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Thanks be to God for the way His grace strengthens our hearts!

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 Brett Jordan via Unsplash

To Know God in 2019

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Photo by Bianca Gonçalves on Pexels.com

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

Soften Our Hearts to Receive Forgiveness

Jim Lepage Art

The story of Joseph is one of my favorites in the Bible mainly because Joseph is clearly a powerful type of Jesus.

In Genesis 50 we read that after Israel (Jacob) died, Joseph’s heart grieved for him and he, along with his brothers, mourned and cried, and buried his father Israel. But not long after that, Joseph’s brothers came to him with great fear.

The past still haunted them. Their past sin’s shadow had not yet departed from them. They had once asked Joseph to forgive them from their sin against him, and Joseph had expressed his forgiveness with words and tears, and actions (Gen. 45). Joseph even called them and brought them near to him, to a safer place where they would lack nothing. But now that their Father was gone, now that their circumstances had changed, the questions came back and the shadows grew darker and bigger as the memories of that day rushed back like cataracts -the Dreamer, the tunic, the well, the merchants, the look on Joseph’s eyes, his cries, his pleas, the blood of the animal, the lies all had to make up, the moment they faced their father, his loud cry, and the way their lives were changed forever- all were tangible memories that made them shiver and sweat.  What if Joseph had changed his mind? What if Joseph’s forgiveness was just a show to make their father happy? What if he had not really forgiven them? So they came and again asked for his forgiveness one more time because, you see, forgiveness and restoration and all-is-forgotten-and-all-is-made-new is too good to be true, and it just can’t be that easy, right? Their nightmares were real, but more real than Joseph’s promise of forgiveness?

However, Joseph didn’t change his mind. He “wept when they spoke to him” and said to them, “Do not fear… ” and then again, “Do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And the author tells us that with these words “he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.”

If we could only see and understand how Jesus forgives us! How many times we are haunted by our past sins, by memories that out of nowhere spring up and cast a heavy shadow on our hearts. How many times we have asked God to forgive us for the same sins over and over again? We are like Joseph’s brothers, we doubt the character, the goodness, the free gift that Jesus gives us. We can’t possibly believe that God forgives the worst and calls us and brings us close to him to feed us with the best of the land, with bread and wine. “No,” we say, “that can’t be.”

But we must believe and not fear to come when God bids us to come. God’s love for us and His forgiveness are not dependent on anything we do or don’t do; His forgiveness doesn’t rest on the circumstances around us, His forgiveness comes from His immutable character and perfect love. He even leads us, in his kindness, to repentance. We ask for forgiveness because He softens our hearts to be able to do that.

Don’t fear the shadows of past sins. Repent and believe that He delights to forgive His people.

And there is one more layer to unwrap in this story. One more lesson on forgiveness.

How do we extend forgiveness to others? Like Jesus to us? Like Joseph to his brothers? Joseph knew -and never denied- that what their brothers did to him, they did full of malice and meant it for evil. However, he fully forgave them and did all that was possible for him to do to restore that relationship. Why did he do that? How was that even possible? Again, because Joseph knew God and His character. He understood one thing above all else: God is sovereign over all the events of our lives, even over those things that people do and say against us. He even told his brothers, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?” (50:19)

Let us learn to be like Joseph -and even more like Jesus. Let us welcome those who have hurt us and have meant evil against us, let us start saying more often kind words that can bring comfort, “Do not fear, come…” 

Soften our hearts, Oh Lord, to receive and extend forgiveness. 

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Hands and Feet – and Knees-

This place has been quiet, but not my heart, and not my mind.

Lately I have been thinking about how owning a sound, historical, and biblical theology matters -and it matters a lot!- but also, how we flesh out that theology, that set of beliefs that drive our motives and actions, our responses to the good things and hard things that come our way matters a big deal too.

Studying big books about the Bible like commentaries, systematic theology, and other very important titles like The Institutes of Calvin, etc. is absolutely important; but we should never forget that the ultimate goal of knowing more is to love more. Love God more, love our neighbor more, love our family more, love the Word more, love to meditate on the Word more.

The more we know, the more responsibility we have to apply that knowledge in the life God has given us with the people God has given us. We need hands and feet to flesh out what we have studied in the Word -and in the big books we love to read. If we don’t do that, if the people around us cannot see that the more we study the more compassionate and understanding, and loving and helpful we are, then we are not truly growing in the Lord. We are just deceiving ourselves. People around us will know us because of the fruits we bear, not because of the many books we read- if you know what I mean. Fruits cannot be faked.

And this same principle applies to prayer. If we read a lot of big books, and know every point of our theology and can argue for this or that side of the debate, but we are not praying more, then something is terribly missing. Our study of the big Theology books can never substitute our time with God in prayer. Never.

Becoming women of the Word is not only about reading more and studying more, but about becoming more like Christ and longing to be with Him more.

I want to be known not by what I say I believe, but by what I do with what I say I believe.

Sound theology needs hands and feet and knees to be fleshed out.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky

Words, Words, Words

Shiloh Photography©

Words, words, words. We either use them like healing drops or killing poison. We all try hard to say less words, to keep our mouths shut, to use our words wisely, but we need to realize that we won’t succeed unless we abide in the Word of God.

The prudent woman not only speaks fewer words than the fool, but she knows when to speak wise words that bring healing and joy (Prov.12:18; 15:23). This kind of words, words that edify, words that bring healing and joy, words that tell the truth, can only come out -naturally- from our heart through our mouths, when the Word of the Builder, the Word of the God who heals and brings life, the Word of the God of all joy and perfect peace, the God of all Truth is dwelling in us. Remember that Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and that His Word must abide in us (Jn.15:7), do you see the connection there?

Reading the Word, memorizing it, meditating on it, listening to it, is really the only way for us to fill our hearts and minds with the kind of words that will build up and encourage others. Only when we make it a habit to have the Word dwelling richly in us, is that we will start winning our fight against the problem of having a loose tongue and foolish talk.

The Word of God dwelling richly in us will sanctify us (Jn.17:17) -including the way we use our words! The Holy Spirit through the Word of God dwelling in us, will remind us when we should keep our mouths shut, when we ought to speak, and what words to say and not to say. The Lord alone can put a guard over our mouths (Ps.141:3), and it is through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit that He does that.

“Let the Word of God dwell richly in you.” Col.3:16

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky