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

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

2015: Live Looking Up!

©Blue by Annie Pliego

2015 is here and I am ready to live fully under God’s sun and by His grace.

This year is, for me, a year to focus in living with my eyes fixed on Jesus. This meditation by J.R. Miller sums my sentiments perfectly well:

Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!” Luke 21:28

We are entering upon a new year, we shall have . . .
new toils,
new trials,
new temptations,
new troubles.

 

 

In whatever state, in whatever place, into whatever condition we may be brought this year — let us seek grace to follow our Lord’s loving advice, and “look up!
Do not look back — as Lot’s wife did.
Do not look within — as too many do.
Do not look around — as David did.
But “look up!” Look up to God — He is your Father, your Friend, your Savior. He can help you. He will help you. He says, “Look unto Me, and be delivered — for I am God!”
Look up for light to guide you — and He will direct your path.
Look up for grace to sanctify you — and the grace of Jesus will be found sufficient for you.
Look up for strength to enable you to do and suffer God’s will — and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.
Look up for comfort to cheer you — and as one whom his mother comforts, so will the Lord comfort you.
Look up for courage to embolden you — and the Lord will give courage to the faint; and to those who have no might — He will increase strength.
Look up for endurance to keep you — and the God who preserves you will enable you quietly to bear the heaviest burden, and silently to endure the most painful affliction.
Look up for providence to supply you — and the jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry; but God shall supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Look up in faith — exercising confidence in the Word of a faithful God.
Look up in prayer — asking for what God has graciously promised.
Look up in hope — expecting what you ask in the name of Jesus.
Look up with adoration — and adore the sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom of God.
Look up constantly — let nothing daunt or discourage you! Rather say, “Our eyes are on the Lord our God — until He shows us mercy.”
Look up — for this will keep . . .
the head from swimming,
the heart from sinking,
the knees from trembling,
the feet from slipping, and
the hands from hanging down!

It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year — but “Look up!” This direction, if properly attended to, will . . .
procure for us all that we need,
secure us against all that we dread, and
make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? “Look up” and hear Jesus saying to you, “Do not be afraid — I Myself will help you!”

Are you discouraged? “Look up” — and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle’s, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!

Are you desponding? “Look up” for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.

Do not look too much at your sin — but look at the infinitely meritorious blood of God’s dear Son!Do not look too much at self — but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you — loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will . . .
  bind up your broken heart,
  calm your perturbed spirit,
  cheer your drooping mind, and
  fill you with His own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
  for all that you need;
  from all that you fear;
  through all that would obstruct your way.

Look up every day, saying with David, “In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and will look up!” Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying “I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!”

Do not look at your sin — it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self — it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan — he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men — they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials — they will deject you!

“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us — looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!” Hebrews 12:1-2

Look only, look always, look intently — to Jesus!

Run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking — to Jesus, who is at God’s right hand in glory.

Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!



Becky

Ruins, Spices, and Mysteries

You can travel to faraway lands
and find mysteries unsolved:
some are hidden under tree roots,
stone temples,
hardened soil,
hardened hearts;
behind deep clouds of smoke,
and weak smiles,
and men whose legs are no more,
“an anti-human mine” 
they’d say.

You can travel to faraway lands
and find new flavors and smells.
Sweet fragrances that transport you
To places you thought
Could only exist in your dreams.
Lemongrass and cinnamon,
Galangal and taro,
Sweet Basil and tamarind,
The children’s dreams,
The women’s pain,
The shame of men,
All mixed under the heat of the sun.
and the humidity in the air.

You can travel to faraway lands
And find how unanswered pleas
Are strangely mixed in the air with smoke.
A magic land indeed.
Black smoke.
It is incense burning here and there,
I tear up.
It is incense offered to gods who can not
See,
Hear,
Reach.
I am crying.
The smoke is heavy.
Black. Magic?
How can they see?
How can they breath?
Who will tell them?
A child covers her nose,
I tear up again.

And the woman is there again,
In this faraway land,
Day after day at the feet of her god
In the temple,
Selling to all passing men
The flowers and the food,
The charms and the incense,
The spices.
I watch and
See ruins all around me.
Mysteries unsolved in this woman’s heart.
I murmur a prayer,
That she may see
Through the smoke.
Through her pain.
Through her years
The One and True God
With One face
Who needs no more
Offerings.
I pray through the smoke,
And offer her my smile.
Smoke again.
Black.
Ruins.

You can travel to faraway lands to hear
Of a prince who left his palace,
All his riches,
All his comfort,
To see and try to understand
The suffering of men.
And, yet, with his four faces:
Charity,
Compassion,
Sympathy,
Equanimity
This Prince could not see
Cannot see
The emptiness in his
follower’s faces.
Smoke again.
Black.
Ruins.

This prince left it all
And cannot give anything back.
This prince with the many hands
Cannot carry the burdens,
The sins,
The deepest pains.
His chest is empty.
Smoke surrounds him.
Black.
Again and again.
Silence.

I stare at the prince’s faceless figure,
“The robbers,” they say,
“They cut his head.”
And the incense burns,
And the women,
And the men,
And the children,
All bow down,
Again and again.
And their life remains in ruins.
Silence.
Smoke again.
Black.

That they may have eyes to see
Through the smoke,
Trough the ruins,
Through the silence,
Through the mysteries,
The Prince of Peace,
Jesus Christ.

Eyes to see the one face of the
King who left his palace,
Left it all
And became like us,
Suffered like us.
This Prince didn’t fail.
His one face has
Eyes to see,
Ears to hear,
Mouth to speak life.
Come to Him!
Come to Jesus Christ!
Breath in life,
Not smoke.

Jesus the King
Has two arms,
That hung from the cross.
His chest is not empty,
His heart was pierced
For the ruined temples,
For all the ruined lives,
The broken,
The blind,
The deaf,
The ones with empty hearts,
For us.

You don’t have to travel to faraway lands,
To see find this King.
The Prince of Peace
Sees through the hardened hearts of men,
Breaks them in pieces,
And makes them whole again.
He turns ruins into palaces
For his glory to shine through.
He loves broken vessels,
And picks them up,
And makes them new.

You don’t have to travel to faraway lands
To offer your prayers to a strange god
In hopes to be heard.
The King of kings, Jesus of Nazareth,
Rose again from the death
And He, the True God,
Hears the prayers of men.
Huge stones,
Hardened soil,
Disbelief,
Hatred,
Sin,
Could not hold Him back
In the grave.
He welcomes the broken men.
Offer your life as incense
To Him.
He hears the weary,
He bends the brokenhearted.
No more darkness.
No more smoke.
No more silence.

Come to Him,
To Jesus Christ,
The Prince who left
His home,
His heavenly palace,
And Became like us,
And died that we may die,
And rose again, and
Now lives so that we may live.

You don’t have to travel to faraway lands
To find life,
Jesus is the Way to Life.
He is Life.
Through darkness and smoke,
His Light shines through.
And welcomes the
Needy the poor in spirit,
The hungry he feeds,
And the thirsty he refreshes
With everlasting water.

Hear Him, Jesus Christ,
The Prince of Peace,
Calling your name,
In this land,
In this time,
In this ruined moment.
No more darkness.
No more smoke.
No more silence.

Becky

Refusing the Temptation of Take Matters into Our Own Hands

This is not the first time that I buy a book on Kindle, start reading it and end up buying a “real” copy to be able to underline it and write my notes -with real pens-, and truly make it my own. The book I am now talking about is by A.W. Pink and it is entitled Gleanings from Paul: The Prayers of the Apostle.

I plan to share some portions of it with you as I read through.

In Romans 1:8-12 we read one of the prayers of Paul, and among other things he asks the Lord to make it possible for him to visit the Christians in Rome  (v.10). Pink comments on this passage,

Let it be duly noted that he refused to take matters into his own hands and act upon an inward urge. Instead, he subordinated his own longings and impulses to the will of Him whom he served. This is very striking and blessed. Paul did not consider what many would regard as ‘the Spirit’s prompting’ a sufficient warrant. He must first be assured, by His providences, that this journey was ordered by His Master. Accordingly he spread his case before God, committing the matter to His decision and pleasure.”  (emphasis mine)

I don’t know about you, but for me the temptation to take matters into my own hands is real, which means that reading these words was convicting.

However, as with all temptations, there is way out; and we the effectual remedy against the temptation of taking things into our own hands is Prayer.

I read once that dependency is the heartbeat of prayer; and now think about this, when we decide to take things into our own hands -instead of praying and trusting in God and in His Providence- we are in a sense saying, “God, I don’t think you can handle this. I know which things need to be  done and I will start doing those few things that must be done right now -before it is too late-.” Sisters, as we start acting in urgency, responding to our own longings, impulses, and feelings we are in reality denying our dependency on God.  And that, we all know, is a sin from which we need to repent.

 

Really, Sisters, if we keep insisting into taking all the difficult circumstances into our hands instead of bringing them in prayer to God we will only going to make up messes. A.W. Pink reminds us, “Unless we ‘rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him’ (Psa. 37:7) only confusion and trouble will ensue.”

Prayer is the only way to resist and overcome the temptation of taking things into our own matters because in prayer we say, “God, I cannot handle this on my own. I need you. Give me patience to wait in you, in your Providence; draw me to your Word, Oh Lord. Grant me a humble heart to seek advice, and a quiet heart to trust in your timing. I am wholly dependent on you, my sovereign Lord.

Praying with you as we learn to be wholly dependent on Him at all times,

Becky

In Grace, By Grace, and Under Grace -On Raising Our Children –

 

My Man and I were talking in the car -trapped in traffic-, the tears and fears, and thousand questions were all there. It was 12 years ago, in that car, that we decided we were going to start homeschooling our children (three at the time). This was way too crazy for us to do, we personally didn’t  know any family doing this, we had really no idea on how to start or if it would work or not. What about socialization? And paper work? All those questions -and many more- were in our minds -in our hearts-. But it seemed that we didn’t have any other choice if we wanted to provide to our children an education that didn’t divorce our beliefs with what they were being taught at school. Not one Christian school was around for us to even consider that as an option (even now, there are only a few “Christian schools” that are only “Christian” in name -we live in Mexico City, remember?).

I tucked my children in bed that night, Santiago was 8, Annie 6 and Nico 4 (Isabel only existed in the plans of God at that time). And I kissed them with the kind of kiss that is mingled with tears. We loved our children, and we knew we had to be purposely involved in their education if we wanted to bring them up in the Covenant. That night, in my dreams, the Lord reminded me of a prayer I had prayed over and over in my teenage years, “Lord, I want to serve you full time. I want to be used by you to change the world, to fight for Your Kingdom, to be a godly influence in the world, to reach many, to touch lives.” And you know what? I remember how I cried so much every time I prayed this prayer because all the ideas I had about ministries that will change the world were always doors that were impossible to break through,  no matter how hard I tried to bring them down they remained closed. But this night was different. As the Lord reminded me of that prayer of my youth in my dreams, I knew He was graciously answering my prayer in a much unexpected way: I was given the opportunity to change the world, to fight for the Kingdom, to be a godly influence, to reach many, to touch lives by reaching to my children first.

Morning came and new mercies too. We still had a huge list of questions, fears, doubts, but the direction of the Lord for our family was clear. There was not turning back. And many new mornings came and each one brought new mercies with it.

Today classes are officially over at VPSA (one of the most important ways God answered to my fears!), and Annie and Nico (who decided to graduate earlier) finished highschool and will be joining Santiago in College next Fall. I look back now and cannot see anything but grace upon grace. Every day with them has been a day we started and finished in grace, by grace, and under grace. All our doubts and fears, and questions never conquered us, and not because we were too smart, or too disciplined, or too savvy, or had a great support group and many friends, nor even because we had the kind of faith that moves mountains. Oh no, we didn’t! We conquered the doubts and fears, and questions because we knew we were small and our God big. We took everyday five little stones and faced the Giant face to face, knowing in whom we had put our trust.  We obeyed and we trusted in Him because the well of mercy and grace never dried up.

Today I look at them, two young men and a young lady. And I see how they love each other with genuine love, how they long to be always together, how they support one another, how they enjoy being with our little Isabel. I see them well grounded in love and in the faith. I see them too raising their eyes to the horizon, getting hold of their own Sword and ready to fight Giants and Dragons. They are arrows ready to pierce the enemy. They are blessed warriors who long to build families and have their own quivers filled with children and raise them up in the Covenant of Grace.

And I give thanks to my God, because isn’t that the only natural response to a Grace-filled life?

Now I see Isabel, and think of how her journey will be very different. And because God hasn’t changed His orders for us, we’ll remain in this path. Again I have fears and doubts, and questions. Again I have tears in my eyes as I think of only having one child in our little homeschool. Again I think that this is crazy.  And yes, as my friend Ann says, I have “soul-amnesia.”

This time the encouragement comes not in a dream. The Lord used my son, Santiago, to remind me of the goodness and faithfulness of our God. He recounts the blessings, the answer to our prayers. “Mom, remember how you had no idea how you were going to teach us Logic, and Rhetoric, and Physics, and Algebra? Remember, Mom, how God provided for us an online school -a brand new school at the time- that was clearly an answer to your prayers [and how we found that school! An old catalog handed to me by someone who didn’t know anything about Classical Education and was given this catalog by a missionary when he left…]. Mom, remember this…. remember when… Remember, He will lead you now and show you what to do with Isabel. It will be good.”

So I look back and recount His blessings. And it is amazing how looking back and remembering His goodness, His hand leading us every day, gives us hope for the day ahead. I cling to my Rock one more time and I hold my peace.

It has been a long way, and it was lived day by day, minute by minute. Fully there, and fully aware that if the Lord didn’t build these children up, all we were doing was in vain. This has been a journey of grace and will continue to be so. I have messed things up many many times, I am a woman with many flaws. Many times I get behind in Math, and I’m not happy to do all the hands-on projects, and get -pretty ugly-mad- at them. But God, in spite of all my faults and shortcomings has heard my prayers and my cries and has given us grace to start each day, grace to continue, and grace to finish well. We have planted faithfully and have watered the seed of the Word in their hearts every day, all day, but God, and only God can make each seed grow and give fruit. And He has done so faithfully and I know He will continue to do it in this new stage of our family.

Today I remember this prayer of my youth, “Lord, I want to serve you full time. I want to be used by you to change the world, to fight for Your Kingdom, to be a godly influence in the world, to reach many, to touch lives.”  And I see how God has answered it as I look at each one of our children.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky