“It Is Written” And So We Read

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How  else will we know what a great love the Father has for His own children, if we don’t open our Bibles to read them?  How will we know how immeasurable are God’s grace and mercy towards us if we rarely read the Scriptures? How will we know how deep our sins are and how great our Savior is if we don’t read the Holy Scriptures? How will we know what the Father promises to us if we keep shutting our eyes and ears making no room in our hearts for the Word of God in our lives? How will we know God, how will we taste and see that He is good, if we are just too busy for that? Friends, All these things have been written so that we may know them and the Author of Life. These things have been written so that we may read them! Each of these words has been written so that we may believe them and live by them!

Because “it is written” we know the wonderful news of the gospel. Because it is written, we know that if we repent and believe in Jesus and His words we can have eternal life. It is written that those who believe in Him have passed from death to life, what a joy to read what God has determined for us to read. Think about this, you and I would have never known these news, news that carry eternity within them, if Jesus had never spoken and if His words had never been written.

This world neither would have ever been if Jesus had never spoken it into existence. God’s Word created galaxies with planets and stars and waves that make music in the heavens for us to discover. God spoke and His Word created creatures under the seas that even now are hidden from our eyes. Today, this minute, this world keeps spinning and your nails keep growing, and flowers keep blooming and babies keep crying, because Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God “upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1).” Jesus “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1).

There are more riches in the Word for us to discover than galaxies in the heavens. There is more to know about God and His ways than we can possibly imagine. The vastness of the treasures to be found in the Scriptures and the hugeness of God should not keep us from pursuing our desire to know them. On the contrary, to know that these treasures are waiting for us, should encourage us to seek more diligently, to read more attentively, and to pray more fervently asking God that we will not miss any of them. It is written so that we may read and believe. And as you immerse yourself in the Scriptures, “think every line you read, that God is speaking to you,”[1]

And so we keep coming and keep opening our Bibles, and keep reading, because, really? Who doesn’t want to know the Triune God? Which Christian who has been called by name before the foundation of the Lord, doesn’t want to know more about God? The fact that we can know God is such good news that it starts to sound almost like a big bang in the ears of those who try hard to suppress the truth of God with lies. But nonetheless, it is true, it is written: God wants to be known! So we will keep coming to our Bibles each day because we want to keep breathing, living, discovering, knowing, worshiping. God wants to be known! It is written! Thanks be to God!

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

[1] https://gracegems.org/Watson/reading_the_scriptures.htm Accessed Sept,14 ’18
Photo credit: Lilian Dibbern via Unsplash

Don’t know where to start reading the Bible? Join us on today’s reading! Find the schedule here.

Faithful Obedience by Emily Abens

I am so happy to have my friend Emily Abens writing for this series today. She is such a fun and thoughtful friend who makes the yummiest meals ever. When we get to have lunch together,  I always find it a delight to see how the Lord is at work in the lives of all His children. Emily’s love for God and His Word are evident in her life and that is always contagious!

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A Roadmap to Walk in Faithful Obedience
by Emily Abens

What does faithful obedience look like in my season of life? I have a “roadmap” of sorts that helps me as I do my best to live a life of faithful obedience. These are big picture concepts and they will apply in the tiny details differently for each person. How this roadmap plays out in the nitty gritty, everyday, practical ways of my life will not be the same as how it plays out in the details of your life. Nor will this roadmap play out the same for me tomorrow as it did 10 years ago. This is a beauty of life, yes? The practical details of faithful obedience differ from woman to woman and from season to season, yet the big picture concepts remain. So let’s dive in.

We ought to take care how we build our foundation, and Christ needs to be the cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3:10–15 and Ephesians 2:19-20). Building and keeping a firm foundation is one of the most important things we should do as Christians. If our foundation is off or needs work, we need to fix what is faulty before moving on. Our foundation centers in Christ and throughout the years I have found that these three things help me maintain and strengthen my foundation:

First, live your life knowing that no amount of works can save you. Nothing you do will get you into heaven. It is only by Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Salvation is a gift–the most amazing gift–and nothing we do allows us to boast in anything other than the Gospel.

Second, stay close to God. Pray and be in the Word daily. Even if you don’t “feel” fed that day, you are being nourished. Stay disciplined in this. I find I have days when I do not feel like reading my Bible or praying – even when I do read and pray these days, I still don’t “feel” fed. Yet I know that although that’s how I’m “feeling”, it isn’t true. God is feeding me because that’s what He’s promised to do and we can trust that His word is truth (John 6:35). church membership and weekly attendance are another critical component for my walk with God. These are very important in staying close to God and helps with accountability.

Finally, surround yourself with a team of people who will push you to be more Christ-like. This team will know that works cannot save you–only Christ can. They will walk alongside you, keeping you accountable in your walk with the Lord, reminding you to pray and be in the Word daily. They will pick you up by the bootstraps of your baptism; they will point out what’s right and wrong; they will remind you when you forget who Christ is, what He has done for you, and what that truth means for your life. I’ve found that it is especially important to have people in my life who will notice when I’m in the wrong. These people will graciously come alongside to lovingly correct me by emphasizing Biblical truths when I’m forgetting the love of Christ.. You become like the people you spend the most time with or they become like you. You are either being influenced or you are influencing others in each relationship. Make sure your Christian brothers and sisters are pushing you towards Christ and you are planting seeds of the Gospel in the non-christians in your life. For me this team of people is anchored by the Godly family I have been given and includes close Christian friends. If you don’t have an obvious team–pray for one! Ask God to give you ideas of who might be members of this team and then ask them if they would be willing to come alongside you! This team is especially helpful in fleshing out the details of the rest of the roadmap. They are often the people I give myself to most, and they do the same for me.

Living my life knowing that nothing I do will ever save me, staying in the Word, and being surrounded by Godly people isn’t simply a matter of checking off the boxes and “calling it good.” Rather, these three points are continuous–keeping a firm foundation is part of becoming a better image-bearer of Christ, which is a never ending process. This foundation allows me to confidently jump to the rest of the roadmap, knowing I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

God calls us to live a life worthy of our calling and for the Lord, always giving glory to Him (Eph. 4), so what now? You’ve built and will continue to build a solid foundation, so the next step is figuring out what giving yourself to others looks like. Figuring out what this looks like can often be challenging, but throughout the Bible, God promises that He will act and make our paths straight (Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5–6)! Pray bold prayers–God promises to hear and answer them (Matthew 7:7-11). Pray for direction and ask God to make your next step clear!

However, don’t move towards the next step or responsibility without asking the Lord if you are being diligent with the ones He has already given you. Luke 16:10 tells us that one who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much. Faithfulness in a lot of little things adds up to a big thing, so don’t be surprised when being diligent with what God has already given you takes a lot of time, energy, resources, and sanctification. What does diligence and faithful obedience look like in your God-given roles (being a Christian, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, church member, employee, boss, etc.)?
Being diligent and faithful does not mean being perfect. I often ask myself whether or not I’m pushing brothers and sisters in Christ towards Him and whether or not I’m trying to share the Gospel with non-Christians. If you’re unsure whether you’re being faithful and diligent in your God-given responsibilities, don’t be afraid to ask your trusted team of people I mentioned earlier!

If you’re being diligent to the best of your abilities, take the next step God gives you. Pray that God gives you clarity on what that next step is and that He equips you with the wisdom and skills to do that task well to His Glory.

As you look to God for the next step, ask yourself whether you’re equipped with the skills needed for the upcoming stage in your life. This could be preparing to be a student, employee, boss, wife, mother or grandmother. If you aren’t prepared, work on those skills. Titus 2 calls older women to mentor younger women – how cool is that? Find a Godly mentor with the skills you are lacking and diligently watch and learn from her. While receiving wisdom from her, try to help out where you can to assist her with her duties. This can be as simple as helping her fold the laundry while you chat!

For me, preparing for the next stage looks like giving myself to the church, mentoring younger girls, helping my siblings with their kids or watching others run their households, seeing both Godly examples to follow and ungodly examples to run from. Being single gives me more time and energy to choose what I spend time, energy, and money on. Those who are married don’t have this flexibility and although it is my desire to be married, I know God has graciously gifted me this time of singleness to bless those who are around me as much as I can.

The next part of my roadmap is something I’m very passionate about–people. Specifically, giving myself to others. Giving to others is seen frequently throughout the Bible, yet it gets run over in today’s age of self-love. John 15:13 says “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. Christ died for us and calls us to do the same for those around us. To do this, start by asking a few questions:

First, what has God placed in your path? God has called each of us to serve. Every week in this series, we have seen how each woman has a different calling within faithful obedience. I have always felt called to the people God has placed directly in my path; this is how the Lord “wired” me. If God has called you to be a missionary in Timbuktu and your top priority is the tribe that you are serving, glory be to God. If God has allowed cancer to take over your body, again, glory be to God. If God has given you four little souls under four years old to change diapers for, to disciple, to love, yet again, glory be to God. It’s important to examine your sphere of influence and who we are called to serve. For now, I know that I’m called to help equip the Saints and share the Gospel with unbelievers that God has placed specifically in my path such as my immediate and extended family, church, friends, coworkers, clients, and acquaintances that I spend time with on a regular basis (i.e. bible study group, members of various sports teams, neighbors, etc.). These categories are very malleable–there have been times when I spend most of my time with an acquaintance or when a specific friend needs me more than my family does.

Second, what does it look like to give yourself to others above and beyond the responsibilities God has given you? Before answering this, I think it’s important to know the skills you have. Are there things you do that don’t feel like work? Things that come naturally and often bring you joy? Is there something or someone God continues to place on your heart? Something you notice that blesses you when present, but the lack of it bothers you? This could be childcare, cooking, crafts, event planning, communicating, creative thinking, problem-solving, organization/administrative work, networking, including others, empathy, cleaning, car maintenance, medical skills, gardening or landscaping, budgeting, reading, studying, laundry, or other household items. I love what Doug Wilson had to say about this in a recent sermon:

“Recognize that when you see a need, this is not given to you so that you might blame everybody else for not meeting it. Your ability to identify a need should be taken by you as an indication from God on what you ought to be doing. If you look around at the body, and see a bunch of discouraged saints, then perhaps you have the gift of encouragement. If you see doctrinal ignorance, then perhaps you have the gift of teaching. If you see dirty bathrooms, perhaps you have the gift of helps.”

 

This doesn’t just apply to the church – it applies to all areas of life! God has given me a certain set of skills, ones that are unique to me. He has given you a certain set of unique gifts also. Use the skills God has given you. God equips each one of us differently for His Glory and to His Glory. The body of Christ needs every part of the body – we can’t all be ears or eyes. If you aren’t sure about the gifts God has given to you – check with the people who know you best. What do they say?

What it looks like to give myself to others is something that ebbs and flows. Sometimes we are on the receiving end: a friend is working hard to bless us. What a gift! Other times, we are on the giving end and we have the opportunity to be that blessing to someone in need. Again, what a gift! In both circumstances–whether giving blessing or receiving blessing or a combination of both–we are called to be faithful and thankful.
I fail in many things, and often could live this roadmap out much better than I do. There are opportunities to serve that I pridefully look over, or that I’m blind to. There are also times that I serve and God allows me to fall flat on my face! Giving ourselves to others is often hard, but this is one of the things I love about life: we can’t do anything on our own. We need to fully surrender ourselves to Christ and, oddly, there is so much comfort and confidence in that. It’s sacrifice, it’s laying down your life, it’s often enduring hardship, but it’s also important Gospel work.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and when we have a firm foundation, we can confidently live our lives for the glory of Christ, whether on the giving end or receiving end of His perfect blessing. I think faithful obedience can be summed up simply: pursue hard after Christ first and foremost, and then work to make an impact for the Kingdom in what God calls you to–pursue the people God puts in your path, giving yourself to them with the skills God has given you.

Now of course for most of us, none of these concepts are mind blowing or new– we’ve heard that we ought to be in the Word, surround ourselves with Godly men and women, and give ourselves to others. But often the most obvious, basic truths are the ones we most easily forget–everyone wants to change the world for Christ, but no one wants to be faithful in the little, nitty-gritty, often hard things. But what I’m telling you is the way to change the world is to do exactly that: be faithful in all things.
All for His Glory and to His Glory!

Emily Abens (With help from my team of absolutely wonderful God fearing and faithful people whom I love and cherish dearly. They help me stay faithful and help me follow and flesh out this roadmap on a daily basis.)

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Wear the Habit: Eat the Word

In September 2017 I had the privilege to give a talk to launch the first round of the Bible Reading Challenge with the ladies from our church. Today I went back to it and I am so grateful to see how far the Lord has brought us. All is grace! And He is good! My dear friend, Rachel Jankovic had this idea of changing the methods to do women’s ministry and suggested that we should encouraging one another to “just be on the Word.” She  said, “What could go wrong if we make this big and invite more and more women to join us?” We know the answer. Nothing can go wrong when God’s people get into the Word, read it daily, love it, and pursue to obey it. Surely the Lord loved this idea too and now thousands of Christians around the world have joined us too, the feast is huge and infinite, and all are welcome to come! Join us here. This summer we will be reading all the New Testament starting on June 3. 

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Here are my notes from that talk I gave, and here you can find the recording -in case you are curious about my Mexican accent.

Father in Heaven, our Maker and Redeemer, we come to you in the name of Jesus asking you to please bless our time together this morning. We need your blessing, Lord, because without your blessing nothing we do can prosper or be a blessing to others. 

Our God, you have revealed yourself in your Word, please, please Oh Lord, draw us to your Word and bless us with the gift of eyes that see, ears that hear and feet and hands that are prone to obey you. Let your Words be our light and our salvation, our joy and our song, our very life. 

In the name of Jesus, Immanuel with us, we pray today. Amen.

I am going to ask you to imagine a woman with access to the best food in the whole world but starving -and thinking deceiving herself, at the same time, that she is well fed and strong. That was me for years. Since I was 11 years old I had access to a Bible. I grew up in church, I went to all the Bible studies I could, and even went to Bible college! But I was starving and the saddest part is that I didn’t know it. Weird right? I read the Bible with some regularity but only through my own lenses, my own experiences, my own interpretation of it; so even though I wanted to change (teenage years were a mess) and be a better Christian by trying harder, I could not because I was not letting the Word do the work the Word does. “I” the 1st person singular pronoun in my own conjugation was always on the way. 

But God had mercy on me and one day, around 15 years ago, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see my own weary soul and God’s amazing grace. The random and isolated (and out of context) verses I knew were all floating around my mind and they could not sustain me or hold me or give me peace -or life, and I had littles that needed a mom in the Word, especially if I wanted them to be children of the Word. These isolated verses were not sustaining many of the friends I had from my youth either and they started leaving the faith because, in their own words, “it didn’t have a backbone. It didn’t have answers to the hard questions of life.” We were all dying, starving with the Bread of Life in our hands -or on our shelves.

We are God’s daughters and yet how many times we see some of our sisters eating crumbs and facing the trials of life and sins in their own lives with no true strength whatsoever. Many women in this room have been feeding themselves for years now with the “Verse of the day” on their phone app or that Pinterest quote, or the verses that show up on their FB or Twitter feed. Having access to the Word of Life many choose to eat crumbs. Sisters, let us not forget that ALL Scripture is breathed out by God and All is good for us to eat. All of it! (2Tim 3:16)

And I don’t want you to take me wrong here. Choosing to eat crumbs each day for years instead of choosing not to pursue time in the Word is the problem. If you are very sick, or if you have your husband in the hospital and your fourth child is only 7 months old, or if you have your lost a dear one recently, please, know that reading, and I mean, you deliberately opening the Word, to eat and meditate a verse or two from your Bible a day is indeed a great mercy. God will multiply your strength through it. Be encouraged and Eat with faith.

And here, with hungry hearts at the starting line of this challenge that God willing, will not end in May. And the challenge is real and the fear to fail- again- is real too. But here we are, ready. With the Bible in our hands and the Grace of God leading the way. 

The first obstacle that we face is not physical, is not lack of time, is not even a lack of desire but one word we dread: HABIT.

When we talk about reading the Bible the word “habit” invariably shows up, so I want you to learn to love that word by pointing out something super interesting about this word. Habit also means the garment which a priest or nun or monk use to tell the rest of us who they are. They wear that habit daily and they don’t think about it. A huge part of who they are and what they do is tied up to that habit. I love this because it helps us see what we really want to pursue when we talk about the necessity of having the habit of reading the Word of God and praying. We want to wear that habit daily, without even thinking about it (like your underwear!), we want to own it, to have it (can you see how to have and habit share the same Latin root -from the verb habere? Don’t you love it?) So every time I use the word habit today, I want you to picture in your mind a garment that we own, that we have, that we wear daily.

A habit then, is not only something we do daily, but something we own daily, something we have and embrace and put on every day -and people see when we are wearing it well (especially our family). 

Now that we have this understanding, and feel comfortable using the word habit, we might still feel paralyzed.

Where do we start? Not on which book or chapter, but where in our heart?

Friends, the life of every Christian starts with grace meeting us in our sinfulness, in our not-wanting-to-know, not-wanting-to-obey, not wanting to change, in our sins.

 So yes, All is a gift. Passing from dead to life is a gift. All grace. And in grace, in this depending on God’s grace, we must grow every day. So for us to read the Word and understand it and believe it and trust it, and to live according to it, we need to receive God’s gift of opening our eyes. Yes, just like we received eternal life as a gift, we all desperately need -every day- the gift of seeing and the gift of savoring.

I want us to see something in this prayer that Paul made for the Ephesians (1:16-23): 

I do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 having the eyes of your understanding[a] being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling [think about this, fully knowing what is the hope of His calling] , knowing what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints [WOW! ], 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe [to fully know this treasure that belongs to us!] , according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

This is a prayer Paul made for the Saints, not for the unbelievers. Many times we pray that God would open the eyes of those who are yet not walking in the Lord, and that is what we ought to do, but we must also be praying this prayer for us, for our children, for our weaker brothers and sisters, as well as for our Pastor and the elders and deacons in our church.

Our sanctification involves having more light to see, to understand more and know Him more. And this can only happen when we take The Book and open it and start reading it trusting that God, because of His great mercy toward His children, will give us eyes to see. 

Friends, we cannot grow apart from God’s Word. That is just impossible. 

When we turn -by grace!- to the Lord, He opens our minds to understand how the Word of God, All of it is the Gospel that saves us and that we preach. This happened to the disciples after Jesus’ resurrection (and you can read it in Luke 24:44-49) “…Then He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures”

When He opens our minds and give us eyes to see, the veil is removed and we can start beholding the glory of the Lord on the words we read (2 Cor 3:14-4:1 and 4:6). (I am going to read these verses but, later, I recommend you read the whole chapters 3 and 4)
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14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.

But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless —listen to this: when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.Therefore, since we have this ministry , as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart for it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

”

And what is His glory but all that He is, all His attributes, all that is encompassed in His Name being revealed and magnified as with a telescope, so that we may be amazed about the Awesome God we have! By reading the Word and seeing we are being transformed (2Cor 3:14-15 ). And because of this promise, because of this gift, we do not lose heart.

Sisters. Did you hear me saying that? We don’t lose heart when we see all the areas that still need to be changed in our lives because we read in the Bible that we have been given all that we need for our sanctification in Christ. We do not lose heart in our pursuing of Christ either because He has pursued us first with His great mercy.

So we keep coming and we keep knocking, and He keeps welcoming us and opening the door for us. Oh, come and see, and taste and savour these truths. Open your hands and receive Him and His wonderful gifts. Our God and all He does is awesome indeed (Psalm 66:3)!

Once we understand that seeing Jesus in the Scriptures is a gift that gives us life, we are ready to wear our habit of reading the Bible daily and in such a way that we will not be putting the pronoun “I” in the first place. We will no longer be looking for isolated verses to accommodate to our own personal views, and we won’t be trying to ground our faith on random verses disconnected from the whole counsel of God. We will open the Word and read every day with a profound desire to see Jesus, the one who has given us eternal life and eyes to see! We will read one page after another, and one chapter after another, and one word after another, because we want to know Him and the Father who sent Him. We will read the Bible every day trusting that the Spirit will breath in these words into our hearts and transform us into the image of Jesus. And He will do it.

If we talk about the necessity of having the habit of eating the Word of God, we might ask ourselves, Now what about the gift of “savouring”? What about our feelings and emotions? Piper rightly says, “We should aim in all our seeing to savour his excellence above all things… we read, he says, in order to see in order to savour. We seek insight in order to enjoy. We seek knowledge in order to love. We seek doctrine for the sake of delight. The eyes of the heart serve the affections of the heart.” 

Remember all is a gift. All is grace. And in grace, not in our own will power, we persevere in our pursuing of knowing Him more in the Scriptures, in order that we may love Him more and worship Him more.

We will be reading our Bibles daily, and some days we will savour Christ more than others. Seeing Him will be easy when we read words of comfort; other times, however, our spirit will feel heavy, our bodies will be aching and our minds will be exhausted, but even in those days we can still take a verse or two from our reading, meditate on them, and pray over them through the day and savour Christ.

As we read and think about what we read, we´ll find out that not all the passages will be sweet to our mouth. No, Sisters. And it is better for us to understand that. We should be expecting passages that will make us uncomfortable, passages that will expose our sinful desires, thoughts, motives, and actions. Words that will demand we respond with repentance. Words that will demand we respond with obedience in hard ways. Words that will demand we respond with actions that many times other will take wrongly. We will see many examples of these as we open the Bible and read it. There are Words in this book that will be hard to swallow, like the medicine we give to our kids, like the chemo many of our friends have agreed to administer to their sons. The taste is bitter, the prescription is painful, but once it is administered, the fruit it bears in our own lives and in the life of our church is sweet, so incredibly full of life. David knew this and that is why we have Psalm 51.

To be able to persevere wearing this habit, we also need something that many times, when we talk about our time reading the Bible, we put aside, as if it were a totally different thing, and that is prayer.

Yes, prayer should be connected to our Bible reading as much as all our veins and arteries are connected to our heart. Praying the Word is one of the sweetest, surest, and most comforting things I have learned to do -to wear as my daily habit- through the years. Friends, let’s start every day of this his challenge called life praying to the Father. Pray and ask Him to give you a desire to open His Word, ask Him to make it sweet to you, ask Him to incline your heart to it. Ask your Heavenly Father to forgive you for not loving His Word, for not treasuring it and ask Him to make it your delight. This is the kind of prayer that He loves to answer and we never pray! He will not turn His face from us when we pray asking Him to bless our opening of the Word in His presence! He will not give us stones or serpents. He knows, He hears us, and He delights in answering us when we ask these things.

We read and we pray. And we pray and we read. And our love for the Lord increases and His grace in us increases too. And you know what? We will be saying our “Amens” with more vigour, because we will know that we are praying according to God’s will and for His glory -as Paul says in 2 Cor. 3451:20-21 

In our Webinars we will talk more about this and learn how to pray the Scriptures.

Many of us are excited about this project because often times we find it hard to be motivated to read the Scriptures or to persevere in our wearing of this habit. The good news is that God designed for our sanctification to be a community project lived within the context of the church (so don’t feel bad because you still “need someone to help you at this point with your Bible reading”). It is important for us to see the true need there is to encourage one another and to build one another up in the Lord (I Thess 5:11), we truly need to exhort one another with the Word to actually be in the Word every day, even today! that none of us may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb 3:12-13). Let us consider, Sisters, how to stir up one another to love and good works which flow from our relationship with the Father (Heb 10:24). “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…” (Hebrews 10:23-24) We are in this together!

So yes, we need the body of Christ to help us persevere walking in the light, so let’s be obedient here. I have always said that a true Christian friend will always ask you (for real!), “What are you reading in your Bible?” “What has God been teaching you in His Word?” So, take advantage of this opportunity, don’t let the momentum go by. Start talking with your friends, your family, on your coffee dates about the Word!

Sisters, even though this project is not equal to a Bible study – An in depth-Bible study (Bible studies are super important -I love, love, love to study the Word!- and they have its place in the life of a Believer, but this project is not a bible study), we will learn to read attentively, to see the connections that are plainly there for us to see. We will become students of the Word just by applying ourselves to it. 

John Calvin said, “Scripture is the school of the Holy Spirit” And Surgeon said, “Prayer is your best means of study.”

So, if we have a Bible, the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, and a heart willing to pray we are ready to enroll in this school, in this challenge.

My aim in every webinar, then, will not be to exhaustively teach or explain every passage we read (we give thanks to God for our Pastors who faithfully do that every Sunday), but to help you see that there is one storyline in the Bible, and One main character, which I guess you already know is not you nor I, but Christ. We will not be reading only (and I am emphasising the word “only”) to get moral lessons for us, as some do. Remember first Christ. Always. And then us. 

The moral lessons do not come first, just like God’s moral law didn’t come first. First we know God as our Redeemer. We see Jesus, the Promised One on the pages of His Book, and we see the Triune God gathering a people for Himself and setting them free, and then we see what He requires from us, what moral expectations are imposed on us. When did God give the Ten Commandments? Before of after He delivered the Israelites from Egypt? Yes, after. We see this in Ephesians also, three chapters of indicatives, what God has already done, what is our status in Christ before the Father and then three chapters of imperatives, on how to live in the light of what God our Redeemer has already done. Moral conduct in the life of the believers always flows as a response to a Savior who redeems His people because of His great mercy and not because of something inherently “good” in them. 

First Jesus. Always.

We will in the next months, by God’s grace, learn how to live our life in constant dependency of God through coming to Him in the Scriptures and in prayer. We will learn to love our habit. And by the grace of God we will walk together through this trail helping each other arrive at the destination and be awed at the amazing view: The whole counsel of God laid opened in front of us! What a sight! To see the Redemptive plan of the Triune God unveiled before us! What a gift! Come! Come! How can we not come? Let’s wear our habits with joy and start going! This is a good day to start!

So, in the name of our Lord, by the grace of God the Father, and the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s set our hearts, Sisters, to read All the Word of God, to believe it all, and to obey it all. God is the one who has started this good work in us, and He is the one who will perform it (Phil 1:6). The good news is that He is at work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Phil.2:13) In the name of our good and faithful God we will take His Book and read it. Amen!

Becky Pliego

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

Let Us Press On to Know God

landscape nature love water

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3

It is that time of the year again when we like to consider where we are in our relationship with God and where we wish we’d be. For many Christians, there is a sense of guilt when they ask themselves this kind of questions. “Again a year has gone by and again I didn’t read my Bible consistently… and prayer? Honestly I only prayed when things were going super bad.”

The thing is that God has not moved from where we can find Him. He has not chosen a new way for us to approach Him, or a “fresher” way to know Him. God has revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ and in the Holy Scriptures. And it is in the Bible that He has told us who He is, how we can approach Him, how does our relationship with Him should look like, and how He expects us to live and relate with others and this world. There is no other way to know God but through the Holy Scriptures. There is no other way to come to God apart from Christ. And there is no other way to understand and believe all this apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

In His kindness, God has not left us at the end of a dark maze filled with trials and dragons to see if we can -by our own merits or strength- find our way out to an everlasting life by the end of the year. No, our Heavenly Father has given us the key that opens heavy doors through the maze and a lamp that lightens up our way. God has given us the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit so that we may not remain lost in our sins, but live with assurance of eternal life. In the Word of God and in Christ we have all we need to live godly and victorious lives.

If you are a child of God, if you have repented of your sins and believed in the name of Jesus Christ, you have been called to know God. And this means that you have been saved  to have a relationship with Him (not only to get a “pass to Heaven”). Jesus came to seek and save sinners who were lost like you and me. He came so that we may be able to come to the Father in His name. Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God, came to make His dwelling among us so that we may abide in Him. What a wonderful news the gospel is!

I want to encourage you, Sister, to come to the Scriptures, to read them each day, to study them, to meditate on them, to believe everything that is written, to pray over what you read, to live by all that is written in the Holy Book. And this is not about about having more willpower to be in the Word and in prayer each day, but about having a huge desire to know God more deeper, so that we may love Him and worship Him more fully.

It is not legalism to set a time each day to be in the Word, to build the discipline. (Don’t let anyone tell you that!)  When we have a deep desire to be in communion with God, we will come every day and press on to know Him. And in our pressing on, we will find our  joy increase as we get to know deeper the One who knew us first and called us by name. Obedience and perseverance that flow from a heart that loves God are never legalism.

As you consider all this, it is important also to recognize the difference between guilt and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Satan and our flesh will always try to make us feel guilty about our lack of discipline, and the way we will try to get rid of the accusations they bring on us is by reading “at least a verse or a psalm each day.”  We will read and pray not because we want to know God and worship Him and obey Him more, but because we want to feel at ease with ourselves. After all, we are Christians, right? On the other hand, when the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins -our messed up priorities, our negligence, the lies we tell ourselves for not being in the Word, etc.. He will always lead us, in His kindness, to repentance which means that true change will happen in our lives.

So as we approach the end of this year, ask yourself the right questions. If the Holy Spirit is convicting you of a sin of omission, confess it to God and embrace His forgiveness. Start praying that the Holy Spirit will draw you more to the Father and by grace through faith come to the Word (read and preached) and to the Father in prayer.

The good news is that you can start today. No need to wait until January 1st, when the race of New Year’s resolutions starts. Today is the perfect day to begin.  By faith take the Book of God and read it, He will meet you there. He will come, his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

It is written and so we believe it is true.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

P.S. Don’t know where to start? Join us on today’s reading here.

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Bible Reading Challenge

Pray Expecting Answers

IMG_0923We have the Psalms, the prayers of the apostles, the prayers of many saints in Church history recorded for us; we know that Jesus himself taught us how to pray and we still feel that we don’t know how to pray.  We still feel inadequate and that our words are never the right ones. We don’t know what to ask for or how to ask for some things. We are Reformed Christians, we believe in God’s sovereignty and so we try our best not to sound like those who name and claim promises and demand answers from God as if they had the power to do so.

But I am afraid that because of this idea of wanting to pray aright -according to each of the points on which our theology stands – the prayer life of many has lost all fervency. The words that come out from our mouths are as dry as our hearts. Our eyes never cry because we don’t let them do so. We are more worried about controlling our emotions than the Psalmist. We know the motions and so we pray the Lord’s prayer not daring to be specific in our prayers. Our favorite prayer is “Let your will be done, Lord” and often pray it holding back, like in a strong dam, all that we really want to say.

Friends, it will do us good to read more of  what the Puritans, Spurgeon, Ryle, Pink, Owens, have written and learn from them how to be good theologians on our knees. The secret I have found in the writings of these men is that the main thing that ruled their prayer life was this: they all knew God and knew that God hears our prayers and answers His children. They prayed with fervency and much confidence. They knew that no Christian prays in vain, that no Christian waits in vain, that no Christian claims to God in vain. They all prayed expecting answers from God.

We should take our Bibles and pray the Scriptures back to God, and do it fervently, trusting that our prayers do reach the ear the Lord. But along with the Scriptures, we must also bring our anxieties, our own individual petitions -big and small-, our fears, our longings before God. We can earnestly plead to Him and ask for His divine intervention and trust that He will come and meet us in our needs. This is not arrogance, this is what coming boldly before the throne of grace in Jesus’ name looks like (Heb. 4:16).

O, how we need to pray more from the heart. How we need to expect more answers from the Lord. Why do we come to prayer more often than not, thinking that God will not answer us? Or why when we pray we think that He will always say no to our petitions? Haven’t we forgotten that God is our good Father who LOVES (yes, all caps!) to give good gifts to His children (Mt.11)? Haven’t we forgotten that He will never withhold from His people good gifts (Ps.84:11)? How we need to be reminded in our prayer closet of the words of the apostle Paul, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Rom. 8:32)!

Let us be praying people, but let us pray knowing that our God hears us and rewards those who seek Him: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb.11:6)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Recommended book: The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life, a collection of sermons by C.H. Spurgeon edited by Robert Hall.