Humility, Grace, and Peace of Mind

 

View of Arles with Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

 

“Clothe yourselves, all of you with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:5b-7

One of the reasons we fail to fully trust God and completely leave all our anxieties before Him is our prideful and arrogant heart.

First of all in the passage above we see the connection that Peter makes. We must dress ourselves with humility not only before God, but before one another (it is easier to say that we are humble before God, but another different thing is to show that humility in action in the way we relate with another), and we need to do this because Grace is given to the humble not to the proud.

One area in which we certainly need Grace is when it comes to laying all our burdens and anxieties before God. But Grace, remember, is only given to the humble person.

Now let’s look closely at these two, Grace and humility,  put together.

Think of this, one of the reasons we battle with anxiety is because we are prideful. We say we believe in prayer and we like the verses that encourage us to come and leave all our burdens before God, but because of our prideful heart, we don’t really leave our burdens at the feet of Jesus. Instead, we try to hide them -hoping that God won’t notice-  in our heart and mind, and then we leave our prayer closet thinking that we need to keep pondering about it because, in our arrogance, we persuade ourselves that if we think hard enough about those worries, we will sure come up with a solution. And sure enough, Arrogance wins and we lose. Anxiety takes hold of us and it seems harder to cast our burdens before the Father.

Humbling ourselves before God in prayer, trusting that He cares for us is the only way for us to stop being anxious. Because, you see,  when we are in that humble state, He gives us grace to endure, to wait, to trust.

Peter continues,

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5: 8-11

So, are you battling anxieties, are your burdens too heavy? Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will give you Grace to walk through any dark valley -of death, of confusion, of fears. And be watchful, because after you cast your burdens at the feet of Jesus, the devil will be prowling around trying to convince you to take that burden and carry it yourself. But we can resist him because God gives Grace to the one who humbles himself under His mighty hand, and Christ himself restores, confirms, strengthens, and establishes us. He is sovereign over all. All the spheres of our life are under His dominion. We are even given the Grace to believe this and rest assured on His promises.

So fall on your knees today (literally!) and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God casting all your anxieties before Him knowing that He cares for you.

Under his sun and by His grace,

Becky

The Forgotten Role of Women

Simeon and Anna Praise the Infant Jesus by Arent de Gelder

We have read of all the many and different roles Christian women have. We know of the stay at home mom, the faithful wife, the single woman, the teacher, the counselor, the friend, the writer, the one who is always there to encourage others, the one who is always willing to serve, the first to come and the last to leave-, etc. We need all of these women in the church and we need the gifts God has given each one of us to help us grow and become more Christ-like.

However, I have seen that there is one role that is many times forgotten among women. We don’t talk about it; we forget how much we need it and how much we should strive for it. That is the role of women who intercede, who live in the face of God, who can say, like the psalmist, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.” (Psalm 84:10)

This week as I was reading Luke, the account of Anna touched me deeply. Look at it with me: Anna was an eight-four years old widow (she was only married for seven years), and Luke tells us that, “she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.” And on an specific day and hour, the day and hour Jesus was presented in the temple, she came to the temple and  “began to give thanks to God and speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel.” (Luke 2:36-38). Anna was a woman who was not thinking too much about what was she supposed to be doing with her life in the midst of her circumstances, she chose the best part -just like years later Mary would choose (Luke 10: 38-42), she was happy to be a woman of who loved being with God. Anna did exactly what I want to practice doing more and more, she worshiped God, she gave thanks, she prayed, she fasted. She waited. And her waiting was not in vain, she saw her Savior, her prayers were answered, her reward came.

How much do we hear of women exhorting women to become women who are faithful intercessors?

Young women, start now. Start in the midst of your circumstances, start in the early morning hour before going to school. Start now, on the commute to your job. Start now, while you cook breakfast and dinner for your husband. Start now, while changing diapers and organizing closets. Start now. Start today, don’t wait until you are older to become a woman who values intercession. Don’t wait until the hard trials come. Don’t wait until the well of your soul dries up. Pray now. We need your prayers and you need your prayers.

Is your nest starting to look empty? Is mid-life staring at you on the face? Are you still waiting for *that* promise? This is the place to start. Start praying. Pray more. Pray faithfully. Pray with thanksgiving. Pray without ceasing. Pray to the God who hears. Pray with hope. Pray waiting for an answer. Pray big prayers to a big God.

I love to see that Anna’s prayer life was not something that was kept locked inside a closet. Notice that Anna came out of the temple, the place where she would meet with God, and because she had seen her Savior there, she was able to speak of Him to those who were in need. A rich prayer life leads to a rich life with others.

Note that she was not a teacher -I love to teach and I love teachers, but this is not what Anna does here-. She spoke God’s words to those in need, she spoke about Jesus, the Spoken Word, the Incarnate Word of God. You cannot have a true woman of prayer if you don’t have a woman who loves the Word and abides in the Word, and studies the Word and meditates and prays the Word. And when you have a woman like this, you want to be close to her. She will speak words of hope, words that promise a redemption to those around her. She will reach out and give the Word.

This Advent season pray that you may pray more. Wait before Him in quietness and prayer, and then go out and share Jesus and His Word with those around you.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Heavy Hearts With Big Prayers

This year I am more ready for Advent than any other year. I actually started a couple of weeks ago to dig in through the Gospel of Luke and I really hope to finish sometime around the end of the 12 Days of Christmas.

As I was reading through Luke 1 when the birth of Jesus was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Mary (vv.26-38), I had to stay there a bit longer -a day longer actually- to really take in something that I had not seen before.

When the angel told Mary that she had already found favor in God’s eyes and was going to have a child who would be the Savior of the world, Mary’s heart sank because of the bigness of the promise. “How will it be, since I am a virgin?” She asked, and the angel responded saying that she had to do nothing else than to believe the promise and carry it within her. God, the Holy Spirit, would come upon her and overshadow her with the power of the Most High, and therefore the promise would be fulfilled and have a name (I love that *therefore* on verse 35). Do you see it? How we need to dare to hear and to ask “How will it be?” and then, after you ask, trustfully rest and wait on the God who keeps His promises.

The promise was too big to bear for Mary, -and honestly, too big to be believed, but at the same time she didn’t have to do anything else other than believe and carry the promise within her until the fullness of time (oh, Waiting, how sanctifying you are!). Because God had decided to look on Mary with favor, because He had promised the Promise, because God’s Holy Spirit was overshadowing her and giving her the gift of faith to believe, because it was His doing, *therefore* she was able to believe, to carry the weight of the promise, to wait and see the fulfillment all the way through. She not only saw and felt the baby growing in her womb, she delivered the baby and laid Him on the manger, she saw Jesus grow and saw Him being betrayed and hanging on the Cross. But she was there also to see Him conquer Death. She was given the gift to believe God’s Promise, the big promise, the heavy promise. Calvin said that we, Christians,  have one thing in common with Mary, and that is Grace. Grace! What else do we need in the longing, in the waiting, in the meantime?

This Advent I want to pray that God will grant me the same gift of faith that Mary had. My heart, like that of Mary’s sometimes asks when I am facing a promise too good and too big to believe, “How will this be…?” But at the same time, I want to join Mary and hang onto the Promise and carry it within me until the time of its fulfillment comes. And I know that I can do that because God’s Holy Spirit has been given to me to believe. He helps my unbelief.

Think of this, which is harder to believe, that God’s Holy Spirit will overshadow a virgin woman and have her conceive the Savior of the world, or God saving your own child, or giving you that child you long for, or that job, or that husband, or that friend, or that reconciliation you have been praying about? Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. The angel of the Lord said before departing from Mary, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” His promises are true and firm and never change because He is both, the Promise Giver and the Promise Keeper.

Someone said, “God’s promises claim us, we don’t claim them” and, Oh, how I agree with that! If we are His children, we have already found favor in His eyes. We have been given Jesus, the Promised One,  and with Him we have received faith to believe all of His promises which are true, all of them are yes and amen. Just say “yes” to his promises, He will bring them to pass.

This Advent I want to pray big and believe big. I don’t want to be doubtful and not dare to believe that God wants to save many, to reconcile many, to give husbands and wives, and children to his people, and healing, and good jobs, and endurance, and joy, and forgiveness of sins,  and more faith, and more perseverance and patience. I want to embrace the promises as much as they are embracing me and wait expectantly to see their fulfillment.

I pray that as you read this, you won’t think that I am foolishly embracing the “claim-it, get-it” unbiblical approach to God’s promises (the so called Prosperity Gospel). No. Not all. But at the same time, I think that we, hardcore Calvinists, Sound-Doctrine-Lovers, need to wake up and see the Promise-Giver with open hands and stop trying to see if that promise “fits” in our perfect-by-the-book-theology, we need to learn how to receive His promises and believe in His goodness as much as we believe in His Sovereignty. How we need to embrace His promises by faith and believe His Word, and pray over it and wait to see how God will fulfill each one of His promises. We don’t dare to pray eagerly for the lost, for example, trusting that God can and wills to save them because of the “what if they are not elect” that is always present in our minds. How often do we dare to pray for the big things in concrete big ways?  Oh, how easily we forget that God is big and His promises are big and His grace is big! I will pray big prayers and trust that God can bring big promises to pass.

May our hearts this Advent be heavy with many big prayers and big promises. May the Holy Spirit come upon us and overshadow us so that we may believe and wait.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Christian Charity is our Duty. But….

WTSBooks

I love this quote from the book I am using to teach in our Ladies’ Bible Study, and thought that maybe you will find it useful too.

“The exercise of Christian charity is an essential duty, yet it is not to override everything else- God has not exercised love at the expense of righteousness. The exercising of love does not mean that the Christian himself is to become a nonentity; a mere straw blown hither and tither by every current of wind he encounters. He is never to please his brethren at the expense of displeasing God. Love is not to oust liberty. The exercise of love does not require the Christian to yield principle, to wound his own conscience, or to become the slave of every fanatic he meets. Love does enjoin curbing of his own desires and seeking the good, the profit, the edification of his brethren; but it does not call for subscribing to their errors and depriving himself of the right of personal judgment. There is a balance to be preserved here: a happy medium between cultivating unselfishness and becoming the victim of the selfishness of others.”  A.W. Pink, The Prayers of the Apostle (p.26) (emphasis mine).

My Pastor says it well, “Grace has a backbone.”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Importunate Prayers

Sometimes we are importunate with our words because we speak (or write) too fast. Without giving our thoughts, our words a second thought. With God, in prayer, we will never be importunate. What if instead of letting the words come out of our mouth (or fingertips) unedited before our friends (or in social media), we first pray about that particular worry, situation or person?

Let’s remember that there is never an importunate time to meet with God with our needs, concerns, with our petitions.

“Importunity is made up of the ability to hold on, to press on, to wait with unrelaxed and unrelaxable grasp, restless desire and restful patience. Importunate prayer is not an incident, but the main thing, not a performance  but a passion, not a need but a necessity… Few things give such quickened and permanent vigour to the soul as a long exhaustive season of importunate prayer.

Our seasons of importunate prayer cut themselves, like the print of a diamond, into our hardest places, and mark with inefaceable traces of our characters. They are the salient periods of our lives, the memorial stones which endure and to which we turn.”

E.M. Bounds

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

A Prayer and a Reflection for the Week -Based on Psalm 143:8-11

“Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You. Show me the way I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, O Lord, for I hide myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, for you are my God; may your gracious Spirit lead me on level ground. For Your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.”    Psalm 143:8-11

J.R. Miller wrote a wonderful reflection on this Psalm which I would like to encourage you to read today, the Lord’s Day, and mediate on it through out all the week (you can find it here).

“He who lives without prayer—lives without God. He who lives a life of prayer—walks with God by day and by night. The more we have to do, and the more care we have—the more do we need to begin our days with prayer! No day starts well without its morning prayer. We need to get the touch of Christ’s hand upon us, to give us calmness and strength as we go forth” J.R. Miller

Praying that the Lord will help us to abide in Him today, tomorrow, and the days to come.

Becky