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.

What Are You Reading in the Bible?

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When I am far gone and people who knew me talk about me, I want them to remember me as a woman who always encouraged others to read all the Word of God, to love it, to pray it, to believe it all, to live by it every day.

And I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that God has provided for me to do what I have always done , but with a much bigger microphone this past year. God is good!

This week about a thousand women all over the world concluded the first Bible Reading Challenge put together by Christ Church: We read the whole Bible in 8 months following a plan that I put together trying to make it easy to follow because of its structure. Starting with the fact that the New Testament is the inspired commentary of the Old Testament and understanding that the Bible has one main story line: A Redemption Story, then I tried to pair the readings in a way that people would read the selections of the day and then say, “Aha! I now see this super clear connection that I never saw before!” So we read, for example, the book of Hebrews at the same time that we read the book of Leviticus. I tried to place most Psalms where they belonged in the timeline. We read specific Psalms at the same time that we read in the book of Samuel  the circumstances David was going through when he composed that specific Psalm.  The plan was also unique because we started and finished with Psalm 119 and the very last day we closed with Romans 8. So powerful!

Now many more women (over 2,000 as I am typing this and hundreds of men) are ready to start the Summer Bible Reading Challenge this coming Monday, June 4. These next three months we will be reading the New Testament, and if you choose to do the extended version, you will read the NT once plus many epistles three times all together. I planned it in such a way that we would read some epistles back to back and some other books by author to get the most of them, to be immersed in them. For example, we will start with John, his letters, and the book of Revelation, and those doing the extended plan will also read in a week two times the epistle of Paul to the Galatians. I really encourage you to join us, Friend. Find all the information for men and women (and in 6 other languages too!) here.

So, Friend, what have you  been reading in your Bible lately? What will you read next? Would you consider joining us?

Read the Word, read it all, believe it all, pray it all, live by it.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

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

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

Starve Your Idols to Death

When we have friends visiting us in Mexico, we like to take them to many places including the National Cathedral in downtown. Entering in there, as a Protestant, is shocking, especially for those who have never been in a Roman Catholic church before. All the idolatry, the icons, the saints, the superstition, the candles, the smoke, the smells, all quench your spirit at once. But, you know what? Every time I enter in the Cathedral, I remind myself that the hidden idols of the heart are as deceiving, obstinate, and as sinful as the ones in there.

Idolatry destroys us and leads us to despair, to turmoil, to death, the Bible clearly tells us this. So it is a good thing to be on guard against any idol that tries to rise silently in our own hearts. If we don’t pay attention and neglect being watchful, we may start building a shrine for it without even noticing it.

How do we find and face those idols? Some are easier to see, to discern. Maybe you are eating more -or less- when you are anxious. Maybe the only thing that makes you rise from the bed every morning is the gym, not the desire to spend time with God. Maybe it is social media, clicking one more time, just once more time, a quick look and that will be it, and at the end of the day your seconds, your minutes, your hours, your days are all slained and offered up before the idol of Staying-Connected. Maybe your idols are (and I have seen this trend growing more among young American Christians) the same icons that I have seen destroying my nation, used as decorations in your homes, in your bracelets, in your shirts. Or maybe it is wine, the need for it at the end of a long day is becoming more and more a need, a demanding need. Maybe your idols are your friends, your job, your dreams, your family, your job, your “freedom in Christ.

God is gracious and He shines His light through the dark corners of our heart and provides a way for us to see, to repent, and to destroy the idols in us. But, remember, the tearing down of idols, the mortification of sin is always painful.

Sister, maybe you know that the Lord has been trying to convict you of that particular idol (sin) with His Word or through the exhortation of other saints, but with your mind you keep trying to persuade yourself that no, that *that* particular issue is not an idol, that what your friend or your husband, or your daughter or your pastor, or your mom or your teacher, have told you is just an exaggeration, it is just how they perceive things, but, hey, they really don’t know what’s in your heart, then, Sister, put it to test. Starve it and see if it doesn’t go wild in your heart demanding your attention, your all in all.

If you don’t think social media is an an issue, put it to test. Don’t login at all during a week (or a month?). See what happens.

If you suspect that perfectionism may be an idol in your life, put it to test. Don’t wash the dishes right after dinner. Stay, instead, longer around the table enjoying the conversation. Clean the kitchen next morning, and go to bed at the same time than your husband.

Maybe it is the gym. No, you say. Well, put it to test. Miss going a week to your trainings, and stay in bed reading your Bible and praying, or playing a board game with your children.  Check what happens in your heart.

Or maybe it is food. Next time you go shopping, buy non-organic, non-local, non-free-range chicken, make something yummy and enjoy it. Or don’t stop at Starbucks for a couple of weeks.  Or eat a whole slice of pie with your friends at a coffee shop and be at peace with it. Or maybe, for you, eating a salad, a smaller portion will be the the way to check what is in your heart.

Maybe it is the fear of not having enough money. Give more this week, then. Take your children to get their favorite ice-cream -with three toppings, and do it in faith. The Lord will provide.

For others,  the way to test if there is an idol of the things they can easily get would look differently, maybe it would be not shopping at the first impulse, not books -not even good, theological books-, not clothes nor accessories. Be at peace with what you have now and look for ways to bless others. Put others first.

Or what about that dress that some “legalistic people” at church dare to call immodest. Put it aside (along with the leggings and the low cleavage), and pay attention and see what happens in your heart.

The only way to put to death the idols in our heart is through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, Sisters, we are more than conquerors, we can starve to death those merciless idols. We can live victoriously when our soul is satisfied with the One and True God that gives life abundantly.

“Satan offers you things, and then accuses you for taking them. Christ offers you Himself, and blesses you in the reception.” D. Wilson

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky