Plundering the Egyptians?

pexels-photo-250609.jpegOnly after ten horrible plagues, did Pharaoh let God’s people go. Not surprisingly, the people of Egypt were ready for the people of Israel to go –quickly, please . Their land was now devastated by the plagues, they had buried their firstborns, what was coming next? They were afraid all were going to die. The night of the great deliverance, of the great Exodus, Moses told the Israelites to ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold and silver, and clothes, and yes, the Lord gave the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians. (From the book of Exodus)

This story is wonderful, and that last line? It has become a favorite among Christians. But are we using it rightly?

What exactly did the Israelites plunder? Material things that would serve them well in their long journey to the Promised Land. God in His kindness, provided generously for His people. The days and nights are ahead were going to be many and hardship was awaiting.

There are many instances in the Old Testament in which we see this same thing. God goes before His people, they fight big battles and over and over again God gives them victories than seemed impossible. And so many times the Israelites plundered the nations God gave them into their hands (read the Old Testament to find for yourself all the many instances in which this happened).

And every time God told them what they should plunder and what they shouldn’t take from these nations. And the things they were never supposed to take were their religious views, their idols, and their ways of worshiping and living. The command was clear, but in their unbelief, in their practical atheism,* they brought with them these things, they tried to incorporate these gods, these spiritual ideas, these new ideas of worship into their lives, forgetting -or better yet, not wanting to remember, that judgment would come too.

But, “Why shouldn’t we bring in these ideas with us? Aren’t we being legalistic? Isn’t this *your* own interpretation? What is an idol? Please, define it first.” The Post-modern Christian today joins the Israelites in asking theses questions.  “We have been made free, we have God on our side, can’t anyone see how He has given us this land? We are God’s people, we are His, we can certainly bring with us some great ideas that they have used in their worship services, some systems of beliefs, some ways to deal with sin that might work well for some of us, right?”

Hint: Don’t forget that  God killed Uzzah  because he tried to keep the Ark of the Covenant from falling from the cart… Wait a minute, from where? From the cart? The Ark was never supposed to be transported in a cart that was an idea that the Israelites decided to plunder from the Philistines, and of course it sounded more practical than doing it the way God has established it should be transported (read  Numbers 4:15, 1 Chronicles 13, and 2 Samuel 2)

Well no. We shouldn’t even start considering plundering the religious ideas from the world, their belief systems, their way of feasting, their way of dealing with sin, their ways of worship. Those things can’t be baptized. That would only bring destruction upon us and our children, it would bring judgement, it would bring corruption to our families and churches. It will bring worldliness into our lives which should be holy.  Christian, Friend, we have Christ, we have the Word of God, we own the Truth. Think about that for a minute. Why would we even want to imitate the lives of the pagans and take their advice on how to live this life God has given us in Christ? Why would we want to add to the great and precious promises God has given us in Christ their beliefs? That is not plundering the Egyptians, that is foolishness and sinful, that is to willingly walk into a Baal altar to offer ourselves and our children.

Read the Old Testament. Read it all. Read the New Testament. Read it all. Now put the two things together. We don’t get to define what an “idol” is. We don’t get to define what “worldiness” means. We are the People of the Word, the People of the Book. Let God’s book define that for us and let us flee from all idols.

Many will say, “But wait, are you saying that we shouldn’t read the books authored by unbelievers, that we shouldn’t listen to their music, that we can’t enjoy their art and walk in the cities and parks they have built? By all means, no! What we are not to consider plundering from them is their idols, their religious systems, their definitions of the virtues that pertain to God, the way they think we should be doing life, they way they insist we educate our children, the way the want to get rid of the hierarchy God has established  for marriage,  the church, and the world.

My eldest son and I have been having some wonderful conversations about this and we thought that we all should start using the term “worldliness” more and more in our conversations with other Christians. Read the epistle of James and read his warnings against worldliness. Read it, Friends, and tremble and “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Cor.13:5).

Why do we believe that we are less vulnerable to be deceived by sin than the Israelites? Consider the weight of this warning, “take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”” Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews

The good news is that Christ has come to destroy the works of the evil one, He has come to set us free from all sinful habits, from all idolatry.  Repent and believe, and He will help you see that Christ’s way is the only way to live fully.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

 

*Practical atheism, a phrase I plundered from John Piper.

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

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

On Modesty: a Question for You, Sister, who are Tired of the Modesty Talk.

Yes, it happens in Mexico too. The “modesty talk,” and all the different opinions surrounding it. The arguments are the same, the same Bible verses about one’s liberty are also brought up. It should not surprise us, we are made of the same material here, in Brasil, in the USA, and Chile.

So, I won’t write another article to try to convince you that being immodest is a temptation for women, or that is a good, good thing to pursue modesty for the sake of God, your dad, your brothers in Christ, your future husband, your children, or your testimony (there are some who have done it wonderfully already).

I only have one question for you.

If you are a true believer and proclaim the love of Christ, why is it so hard for you to just say, 

“Because I love you, brothers and sisters in Christ, and because I have heard that the way I am dressing is a stumble block for many of you (I hadn’t stop to consider how hard it was for you to fight against pornography! Please, forgive me for not helping you!), I will just change the way I dress. No big problem at all. I love you more than I love this skirt or this top.”?

Please, dear Sister, try hard not to answer with one of the old arguments that you have already memorized. Answer this in the prayer closet (not over a coffee table with the group of friends whom you know will try to appease your conscience); be honest and give it a second thought. Pray about it, let the Scriptures speak to you and then answer it before God.

 

May God give us grace to love our neighbor as ourselves,

Becky

Well Worn Paths

Habits, says J.R. Miller, are well worn paths.

It doesn’t matter if at the beginning of this new year you decided or not to set new goals, or to try new habits. You will, by the end of 2014, have made well worn paths. We make habits and they make us. We better be intentional about them.

One day you open your email on your iPhone first thing in the morning, and three months later you keep doing it. You skimmed through “only one chapter” of an assigned book for school,  and when the semester is over you realize you didn’t actually read one whole book. One day you eat more than you should have (hey, it’s only “once a month”), and at the end of the year you are eating in the dark, when no one else is watching. You answer with a harsh word to your husband after dinner, and four months later, you don’t know other way to answer. You are too busy to look on your children’s face when you are at the computer, and a year later they don’t remember your eyes. Habits. And not one of them was planned. Well worn paths that lead to sin, to isolation.

May I encourage you -as I preach this to myself as well-to choose carefully which path you will walk day after day this year?

Print these articles and study them. Read them over and over until you have mastered them, until they become yours:

The Habit of Prayer.

“We should form the habit of praying at every step, as we go along through the day. That was part of Paul’s meaning when he said, “Whatever you do, in word or in deed—do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” He would have us include every word we speak—as well as every deed we do. Think what it would mean to have every word that passes our lips winged and blessed with prayer—always to breathe a little prayer before we speak, and as we speak. This would put heavenly sweetness into all our speech! It would make all our words kindly, loving, inspiring words—words that would edify and minister grace to those who hear. We can scarcely think of one using bitter words, backbiting words, unholy words—if his heart is always full of prayer; if he has trained himself to always pray before he speaks.”

The Habit of Thanksgiving.

“The only way to get thanksgiving into its true place in our lives—is to have it grow into a habit. A habit is a well worn path. There was a first step over the course, breaking the way. Then a second person, finding the prints of feet, walked in them. A third followed, then a fourth, until at length there was a beaten path, and now thousands go upon it.”

The Habit of Happiness.

“The secret of Christian joy—is the peace of Christ in the heart. Then one is not dependent on circumstances or conditions. Paul said he had learned in whatever state he was, therein to be content. That is, he had formed the habit of happiness and had mastered the lesson so well, that in no state or condition, whatever its discomforts were, was he discontented.”

John Angell Adams delivered on January 4th, 1856, an address to young men in England about the force an importance of a habit.This is an excellent read for the family table (especially when there are young adult children).

“Man is a bundle of habits.”

“It is of importance to remember, that though we are made up of habits, they grow out of single actions. And consequently, while we should be careful and solicitous about the habits we form, we must be no less so about the single acts out of which they grow.”

The Habit of Diligence.

James Alexander wrote a series of letters for his younger brother, and in one of them he tells him about the importance of the habit of diligence.

“Even small things are important, when they become habitual. Plato, the Grecian philosopher, once rebuked a young man very severely for playing with dice. “Why do you rebuke me so severely,” said the youth, “for so small a matter?” Plato replied, “It is no small matter to form a habit!”

While you have your books before you—try to think of nothing else. If you find yourself beginning to be weary, rouse your mind by thinking of the value of time, the use of learning, and especially your duty to your God.”

 

“Habit will make those things easy—which at first seem very hard. By constant practice, men become able to do astonishing works”

On the Formation of Habits, from another letter of James Alexander to his younger brother.

“Every habit you form is one stone laid in your character.”

“You are young, and cannot choose for yourself what is best. But your teachers select those studies which will tend to give your mind proper habits. Pay all possible attention to these studies. Be perfect in them. Every hour now is worth more to you than a day is to me. Every day is confirming you in some habit, either good or bad. And if you are not careful to aim at those which are good, you will most assuredly fall into such as are bad. You cannot be too much in earnest then; attend to everything which your teacher advises.”

Praying that I will be faithful in making good habits this coming year.

Becky

Intrusive Grace

Grace! We call for it,
We say we need it,
And at times we invoke her,
As if we were
Calling for a bird’s magic song
When we are called to
Repent and change,
But choose not.

Grace! We hide behind this word
All of our unrepentant sins,
All our dirty jokes,
Our open trespasses.
The limits we’ve
Intentionally broken and
We expect –demand– the rest of our
Brothers and sisters,
To love us.

Can’t they see,
Can’t they hear that we are
Saying “Grace”?
Grace!

Grace! We call for it
We say we need it
And at times it seems
That we are calling for it
As if we were calling
Our tamed dog.
“Sit here! Go out!
Move! Stay!”

Grace! Four letters.
Four letters that we have abused.
A short word in which we have
Hidden our responsibility,
A powerful word that we have vandalized,
We have striped it from its meaning.
We have used to hide cowardly our sins,
We have made it our flag to ask for tolerance.

Grace!
Grace!
Oh, Grace!

And when Grace,
True Grace comes.
It’s song is one of war.
It is never tamed.
It shatters our world.

Grace! True grace never asks
Permission to come in.
It is intrusive.
It rescues the one
who is in chains.
It opens the eyes of he
who loves darkness.
It gives life to the dead.

It is a light.
A bright light
That brings out all lies,
All bad habits,
And shameful behaviors.
All false reasonings,
And comfortable sins
Cannot hide from it.

Grace! It brings us to our knees,
to repentance.
It empowers us to fight
the good fight against
our flesh and sins.
It is like a strong wind that blows
where it wants.
Nothing can stop it.

Grace!
It is piercing.
It is painful.
It points us to our guilt
And then to the Cross.

That is Grace.

Grace destroys,
In order to build.

Becky