Praying Without Ceasing

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“Pray without ceasing” is the apostle’s instruction for the saints (1 Thess. 5:17). And some may ask, how do we even do that? But maybe the question we should be asking is this one, How can pretend we can live this day without praying without ceasing?

The moment we get up from bed (or even in bed!) our minds start to rush. So many things to be done, things to be said -and not said-, decisions that we must make, expenses that we must plan. We receive many texts and emails with prayer requests. Our own burdens are present, we know there are hard fights we must face. How will we go through all these?  “Pray without ceasing,” we read.

Praying without ceasing is a command, but if you think about it, it is also a wonderful balm. The fact that we can come to God in prayer every day and all day long and lay all our petitions and anxieties at the feet of Jesus is an invaluable gift of grace.

We must carry our cross, yes, but not on our own, there are mercy and grace to help us in time of need at the throne of Grace. We just need to draw close before this heavenly throne in the name of Jesus. Oh, that we may have eyes to see this as the reality it is! The fountain of mercy and grace is open for us every day all day long! There is no need for us to walk through the day carrying our own burdens and trying to alleviate our own anxieties; we can pray without ceasing! That is our privilege as children of God. That is our right as coheirs of the grace of God with Christ Jesus our Lord.

So just as we breath to inhale oxygen, we pray to receive mercy and grace. We make dinner and pray. We drive running errands and remember a portion of the Bible we read in the morning and also our friend in need and so we pray the Words of God back to Him. We listen to our audio Bible as we fold laundry and as we listen we are reminded to pray for someone in a very specific way. We receive a prayer request and we pray -right there. We are about to have an important meeting, we pray asking God for help. We sin and we pray. We fight sin and we pray. Until we are called to God’s presence, there will be no ceasing of our battles, so why would we cease to pray?

Praying without ceasing is what we do because we know how great is our need and how compassionate is our God. We pray without ceasing because if we don’t we will despair and find ourselves buried under our anxious thoughts. We pray without ceasing because we know down deep in our hearts and in our bones, that we can do nothing apart from Jesus. We know that apart from Him there are no answers to our questions, no peace for our hearts, no place to find rest. We pray without ceasing because how can we not if there are so many needs around us and in our own lives? We pray without ceasing because how can we not?

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Photo by Alyson McPhee on Unsplash

Read Your Bible to Fight Unbelief

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Why do we stop reading our Bibles?

Really, think about it.

It is not because we lack the time to do it. If we are breathing we have time -and God knows we do have time! In reality, we stop reading our Bibles because we lack the faith to believe that God himself speaks to us through it.

We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we start living as if we were autonomous and knew well how to do this thing called life without any direction from the Holy Spirit. We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we decide to listen to our troubled heart heavy with anxieties instead of listening to what God has to say in the midst of our troubles and anxieties. We stop reading it when we sin, because, in our unbelief, we think it is not profiting us or that God cannot forgive us -again. From the beginning, since our fathers fell in the Garden, it has been unbelief who has kept us from honoring, believing, and obeying God’s Word.

So, dear Friend, be reminded of this: the only way to battle unbelief is by being in the Word. Keep coming, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, book after book, day after day. God will fulfill His purpose in you and will strengthen your faith as you take the Book and read it.

Be encouraged! Persevere!

Under His Sun and by Grace,

Becky

To Know God in 2019

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When the fullness of time came, Jesus, the Son of God entered our timeline in swaddling clothes, and made His dwelling among us. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Word who created the world and all that is in it, became flesh to give us eternal life, and eternal life, He said, is to know the only One and true God.

The Son of God took human form and humbled himself to the point of death to redeem us. What for? So that we may know the Father. And this we know because it is written in His book.

If you have been redeemed by God, if you have been born again, if you have laid your sins at the feet of the cross and embraced God’s forgiveness; remember that you have been saved to enjoy eternal life, to enjoy knowing the Triune God and all the promises and good gifts He loves to give His children.

This is important for us to keep always in front of us an important theological truth, but also inside of us as the powerful truth which holds us secure: We can know and love God, only because He knew us and loved us first (1 John, Ephesians 1).

When Jesus prayed to His Father he said,  “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 ESV) Let this truth sink in your heart, you were saved not only from eternal damnation, but unto eternal joy, so that you may know God and enjoy Him forever (as the Westminster Catechism teaches us).

And how can we know Him?

God has decided to make Himself known through this world and through His Word. When we look around at the intricate and huge world God created we can learn many wonderful things about Him, but it is only through what He has revealed about Himself in the Scriptures that we can fully know Him and our need for Him. Only when we take the Bible and read it (or hear it preached), the Holy Spirit can convict us of our sins and grant us repentance and saving faith. There is no way for us to know God as our Savior, as our Father, as our Redeemer, apart from what is written in His Word.

Oh, thanks be to God that we were not left to ourselves to try to find a way to God. Thanks be to God that He gave us a book and the Holy Spirit to teach us all things that pertain to life. Praise be to God for faithful pastors and teachers in our churches  who preach with an open Bible each Lord’s day. Praise be to God for faithful friends who encourage us to persevere in the Word each day. Praise be to God for so many plans laid out for us so that we can follow our daily readings.  Praise be to God that He wants us to know Him! Praise be to God for the Bibles in our homes!

Let us join the prophet Hosea this year and say,

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is as sure as the dawn;
He will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth,”  (Hos. 6:4)

And the apostle Paul when he wrote to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

May the Lord grant us an undivided heart this year, Friends. May we press on to know God. Don’t be content with a bible verse or two each day. Dive deeper into the living waters of God’s Word, strive to be immersed in them. Let them saturate your heart, your mind, your daily life. He will come as the spring showers to water your soul and make you fruitful.

May we live to know God and enjoy Him forever. Starting today.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Let Us Press On to Know God

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“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

Parenting With No Guilt-Strings Attached

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We know that Christian parents must raise their children in a gospel centered way. And we also know that any gospel-center thing must carry the gospel message within and that is this:  We are sinful by nature and need to repent and believe in Christ the Savior. Only Jesus can break the bondage of sin and deliver us from its curse so that we may have abundant life.

But when it comes to raising our children in a gospel-centered way the temptation parents will many times face is do it with guilt-strings attached.

Let me explain. We do want to proclaim the gospel to our children, we want them to know what sin is, why repentance is important and what forgiveness looks like. But the temptation that many Christian parents face -especially when they want to see quick results- is to parent installing guilt in their children.

“If you really love Jesus, you would have not been disrespectful to your dad.”

“If you really, really, repented from that lie yesterday, you would not have lied to me again.”

“If when you said, “forgive me, mom” you really meant it, you would not have disobeyed me again.”

Sin is brought up in each of the examples above, yes, but the cure given will prove to be poisonous.

Many times I am surprised at how much Christian parents are afraid of God’s Grace. We are afraid that our children could abuse it (as if that was even possible!), so we try to build dams to “protect” our children from tasting it. What if they taste God’s amazing grace and then underestimate sin? What if they taste true forgiveness…maybe they will not see their future sins as grievous anymore? What if our home tastes likes grace… maybe they will not taste the horrors of sin anymore?

What is happening here? The truth is that when we act like this we act in unbelief.  We do not believe that when read the Word of God to our children, that when we speak about it as we go on our daily lives, the Holy Spirit can convict them of their own sin. In our unbelief we try to help God by bringing up the sins of our children over and over again -so that they will “have the opportunity” to search themselves to see if there has been true repentance. When we do this we imitate the Devil in what the does best, and so we become the accusers of our own children from the rising of the sun to the end of the day.

Our accusations become the seed, the soil, and the water that bring forth the rotten fruit of insecurity in our children.  How will our children grow to be assured of the Father’s love and forgiveness if we are the ones who are always doubting their motives, their tears, their repentance, their words?  How will our children taste the assurance of God’s forgiveness if we always tell them that “maybe their repentance was not from their heart”?  How will they drink from God’s fountain of grace if we keep them away from it -fearing that they will not see their sin if they come?

May God help us to bring with much joy and much confidence our children to Christ! That we will be instruments in His hand to assure them of the Father’s love! That when we teach them to pray the Lord’s Prayer, they will never doubt that their Father in Heaven hears them when they cry out to Him! God forbid that we, their own parents, become a stumbling block to them!

But you might rightly ask, but what do we do then when our children keep sinning? What we should do is exactly what the Father has taught us to do: We repent, we believe, and from the fullness of Jesus we drink grace upon grace.  We need to open the Scriptures before our children and show them what the Word says about that particular sin they are struggling with, and we tell them that in Christ there is always (always!) forgiveness for those who repent and believe. And then we assure them, from the same Holy Scriptures, of the Father’s love.

And lastly we do something that we almost always forget to do: we equip our children with the Word of God to help them fight sin in their lives. We teach them how Jesus’ way is more precious and joyful and satisfying than any sin. Because like us, they will continue to battle, and like us, they need all the counsel of God to fight and win.

Many parents are prone to point their children’s sins to them -every day and on their face, literally pointing a finger to them, to “remind” them of their shortcomings, to “encourage” them to repent quickly, and then they leave them in tears, but disarmed to fight, to win, to be assured of God’s love for them.

We must stop parenting our children with guilt-strings attached and start parenting them with grace-strings attached. How we need to teach our children the promises that we have in Christ to overcome sin. We must teach them, with our Bibles open, what are the weapons God has given us to battle our flesh, the world, and the Devil. How much our children need to hear of the power of the Word, the power of a prayer life, and the blessedness of the means of grace! How we must teach them to take the sword, which is the Word, and fight to win instead of always sending them to their rooms to do a morbid introspection of their hearts. And, oh, how much, like Paul, we need to pray with them and for them until Christ is formed in them!

Friends, unless we bring our children to Christ so that He can touch them with His grace, unless they see how precious all of Christ is to us, they will not want to come and taste and see the goodness of the Lord. Unless we stop being afraid of giving them grace in the same measure that we have received it, our generations will keep swimming in lukewarm water, never assured of the Father’s love for them.

May our children hear us say with much assurance and joy when they ask for forgiveness, “I too received mercy when I acted in my unbelief. And just like the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Jesus Christ, it now flows for you. Look not to your own heart, my child, but look up to Jesus! He is the author and perfecter of our faith. Come,come with me, let us run and bathe in the ocean of God’s amazing grace!”

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

 

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.