An Important Distinction

Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 12.43.19 PM Here is a very simple, but important distinction that might change your life.

Thinking about something without ceasing is NOT the same thing as praying about something without ceasing.

Thinking about *it* will make you anxious, but praying about *it* is what God wants us to do and will lead us to a place of peace and hope.

In 1 Peter we read,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

When we worry about something and think about it all day we are not humbling ourselves before God. Humbling ourselves before the mighty hand of God involves casting all our anxieties before Him knowing and trusting that He cares for us.  And this is humbling because it means that we must recognize that we can’t do anything about that thing that is causing us all this worry; and so we cast our fears, anxieties, worries before our God who is indeed able to do far more abundantly than we can imagine or think (Eph. 3:20-21).

We can pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) by turning every anxious thought, every worry into a prayer to God.

Let’s learn to turn our worries into prayers, remembering that our Heavenly Father loves to hear the prayers of His children.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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PC Priscilla Du Preez

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)
3:14- 4:1

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

The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit -Ch. 1-

N0Y8fkAXQGWq5hpoX4tgNwWith a desire to expose my dear daughter to the writings of the Puritans, I decided to pull out Matthew Henry’s book, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit. I remembered I loved this book, but I had forgotten how much I loved it. I am so glad my daughter and I are reading it together this time, because I can tell she is loving it too. (And who doesn’t want their children to love the Puritans?)

In the next weeks, God willing,  I will be sharing with you some quotes from this book, along with some comments. I am sure that you will find them encouraging , but honestly, I do hope that I can get you to buy yourself a copy and start reading it. There is so much goodness in it! And maybe, who knows, at the end of these series of posts we will be reading it together.

In the first chapter of his book Mathew Henry writes about the nature of meekness towards God and towards men, and the nature of quietness of spirit.

In relation to our meekness toward God, he says that keeping a meek and quiet spirit helps us to submit (come under) to the will of God and to His Providence. Henry helps us see how many times, when the “events  of Providence are grievous and afflictive, displeasing to sense,”  or  “dark and intricate and we are quite at loss what God is about to do with us..” we can learn to quiet our soul under these hard Providences remembering “the law of meekness that whatsoever pleases God must not displease us.” And so we embrace His perfect will for us and do not fret about what is now disclosed to us.

Mathew Henry writes,

“Meekness is the silent submission of the soul to the Word of God: the understanding bowed to every divine truth, and the will to every divine precept; and both without murmuring or disputing.”

This is important to consider because the only way to be able to submit ourselves to the Word of God is to be in the Word of God. If we never open our Bibles, if we never read them, and never meditate on the whole counsel of God, how are we to know what are precepts, His promises? How will we ever know God’s thoughts for us? Only when we know God’s character -as revealed in Holy Word- can we learn to come under His Providence without murmuring or disputing.

When Mathew Henry writes about meekness toward our brothers and sisters, he says that having this frame of mind is of great help to fight anger within us. The author helps us see, through the use of biblical arguments, that the Holy Spirit uses meekness to help us learn to “prudently govern our own anger.”

How is this? Well, he argues that the work of meekness does four things in reference to our anger:

1. It helps us “to consider the circumstances of that which we apprehend to be a provocation, so as at no time to express our displeasure, but upon due and mature deliberation.”  He continues, “The office of meekness is to keep reason upon the throne in the soul as it ought to be, to preserve the understanding clear and unclouded, the judgement untainted and unbiased in the midst of great provocations..”

Henry encourages us to cultivate a meek heart so that we may be able to keep silence before God when the tumult of our passions may want to drown His voice. He writes, “Hear reason, keep passion silent, and then you will find it difficult to bear provocation.”

How wonderful is this? To remain calm and unshaken when provoked, because meekness is our backbone.

2. “The work of meekness is to calm the spirit so that the inward peace may not be disturbed by any outward provocation.”

The author reminds us that as much as we need “patience in case of sorrow, so we need meekness in case of anger..” because “meekness keeps possession of the soul…” To not be at loss because of our ill tempter!

Another great quote:

“Meekness preserves the mind from being ruffled and discomposed, and the spirit from being unhinged by the vanities and vexations of this lower world. It stills the noise of sea, the noise of her waves, and the tumult of the soul; it permits not the passions to crowd out in a disorderly manner, like a confused, ungoverned rabble, but draws them out like a the train bands, rank and file, every one in his own order, ready to march, to charge, to fire, to retreat, as wisdom and grace give word of command.”

3. Meekness will also help us, Henry writes,  to keep our mouth bridled, especially “when the heart is hot.” Matthew Henry continues, “meekness will ‘lay the hand upon the mouth’ (as the wise man’s advice is Prov. 30:32), to keep that evil thought from venting itself in any  evil word, reflecting upon God or our brother.”

4. “Meekness will cool the heat of passion quickly, and not suffer it to continue. As it keeps us from being soon angry, so it teaches us, when we are angry, to be soon pacified, The anger of a meek man is like fire struck out of steel, hard to be got out, but when it is out, soon gone.”

And what are we to do when provoked? We all would agree with Mathew Henry when he says that “angry thoughts, as other vain thoughts, may crowd into the heart upon a sudden surprise,” but he doesn’t excuse an angry response from us just because of the sudden appearance of these in our hearts and mind. He continues saying, “but meekness will not suffer them to lodge there, nor let the sun go down upon the wrath, for if it do, there is danger lest it rise bloody the next morning.” How we need to consider this. We should never lodge in our heart anger -it never comes alone (we know!) but always  brings along bitterness and malice, and evil thoughts.

But that is not all, there are more good news. Meekness does not only helps us learn how to deal with our own passions and anger, but it also teaches us and enables us to “patiently bear the anger of others.”

Look at these quotes under this same point:

“A needful truth, spoken in a heat, amy do more hurt than good, and offend rather than satisfy.”

“It is indeed a great piece of self-denial to be silent when we have enough to say, and provocation to say it; but if we do thus control our tongues, out of a pure regard for peace and love, it will turn to a good account and will be an evidence for us that we are Christ’s disciples, having learned to deny ourselves.”

Another advice that is gold:

“When any speak angrily to us, we must pause a while, and study an answer, which both, for the matter and manner of it, may be mild and gentle.”

And meekness will help us to not only to refrain our anger, to be patient when others are angry at us, but also to move toward repentance when necessary. Henry writes, “Meekness teaches us, as often as we trespass against our brother, to turn again and say, “I repent” (Luke 17:4)”

In my next post I will be sharing what Mathew Henry has to say about the nature of a quiet spirit, which is his second main point in chapter 1.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

Faithful Obedience – By Norma Tochijara

Today I am happy to welcome my sister Norma Tochijara to this series on Faithful Obedience. I can attest that she is a woman who has striven in all things and through all things to be a faithful and obedient child of God.

Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 7.04.55 PM“Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1

There have been many situations in my life where my faith has been tested as well as my obedience. I can think of the big events like the death of my baby girl at birth, certain difficulties in my marriage, and the daily prayers of supplication for my loved ones. Many times I have felt that the wait is too long and the temptation to lose hope, to be discouraged, and to look at the immediate circumstances instead of looking to Him resting on Him has been real.

How does practical obedience looks like in the midst of all these? How do we respond in faithful obedience when we are going through difficult situations and our thoughts overwhelm us?

We look to Christ!

That is our hope. We look to Christ and not to ourselves!

I have failed to pray when I have been at my lowest points, but others were praying for me -that I would look up to Christ. Many times I lost my temper trying to ‘drill sense’ into my loved ones, and yet it was Christ who brought me to repentance.  I have been slow to learn, yet Christ has not been slow to teach me. I have been unfaithful, but He has always been faithful.

It is all Christ, dear reader!

It is all HIM! Look at Him!

I often think of the day when I will hear the words: “My good and faithful servant, come into your rest,” and I know it is because of Christ’s finished work that I will be called faithful, that I will be able to stand looking at Him.

Oh, what a blessed promise that is!

Do you see it?

Do you believe it?

If you look up to Christ, your troubles and hurts will bring you down at the feet of the cross. A life of supplication for mercy, a praying life soaked with many tears, asking the Lord to haste his answer and to increase your faith will be yours. Maybe you feel like a weary traveler, like one who seeks for a place of rest from her troubles. Friend, let me tell you, the rest is coming! Keep on walking. Keep persevering. Keep looking up to Christ! Believe Him! Believe His Word! We will enter into His rest, because rest has been promised to those who wait on Him. Do not lose sight of Jesus Christ. Keep looking up to Him!

I read in His Holy Word how all that came to Jesus were healed. He said: “Live!” And the dead rose from the dead, the lepers were healed, the blind saw. And so I pray, “Lord, please say the word, just say the word, and my loved one will live!” And then, in faithful obedience, I keep looking up and patiently wait.

We wait and we keep praying, crying, not as those without hope, but as those who look up to Christ, the author and finisher of our faith, the anchor of our hope.

We also manifest our faithful obedience to God by learning contentment with His will for us. Because we know that He does that which is best for us in every situation we are in, we can persevere knowing that in all circumstances we are being sanctified, made more like Christ. And isn’t that our goal? To be more like Christ? So let’s look up to Christ more and more.

By looking up to Christ and clinging to Him, we imitate Job, who he did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing even in the hardest trials (Job 1:22). God’s response to Job’s sufferings was not an explanation or a cheering voice in the background. It was God saying, “That you may know ME”.

Our faithful obedience to God, then, is not based on how much we understand or not about our trials or our sufferings, but on the character of God. When we look up to Christ we can see how God is all powerful, all sovereign, and all good. And so our absolute submission to His holy will, in faithful obedience, becomes the proper response of our hearts to Him.

So pray and look up to Christ, dear Reader. Pray and look up to Christ when you do not feel like it. Pray and look up to Christ like the man who insistently asks for bread until the owner of the house gets tired of him and gives him what he wants. Pray and look up to Christ even when it feels that you are alone in the room. Pray and look up to Christ in private. Pray and look up to Christ without ceasing (and if you fall, just start again and again as many times as are necessary). He hears our prayers!

‘As a Father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him” Ps.103:13

He will have compassion on us! What a promise!

Let us look up to Christ!

Norma

 

 

 

 

 

Faithful Obedience -A New Series-

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One of the reasons why we love to read the biographies of Christian women -and the stories of faithful women in the Bible- is that we can see how they endured many difficult circumstances not with a bitter attitude or a complaining spirit, but always focused on doing the next thing in front of them by grace through faith. In prisons, in the jungle, in their sickbed, in their kitchen, in a marriage with unfaithful husbands or  unbelieving children, these women set an example to us of joyful and faithful obedience to God in all sort of situations.

I love the story of Rahab (found in Joshua 2). She was the kind of woman that we would encourage our sons to run away from and yet, one day, she believed that salvation comes from God alone. She had a change of her heart, which was evident in her change of loyalties.  Rahab hid the spies that Joshua had sent to Jericho and helped them escape through the window of her house. Faithful obedience was the first fruit of her conversion. Rahab didn’t submit to the king of Jericho, but to her new King, the God of Israel and God blessed her for that. Rahab’s story doesn’t end there, the fruit of her faithful obedience is evidenced in that she became part of the linage of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 1).

Ruth’s faithful obedience was hard too. She was a widow with empty hands in a foreign land. The possibilities that her life would change for the better were few, but she chose faithful obedience instead of the despair of an unbelieving heart. Ruth came under the Covenant of the God of Israel leaving behind her false gods, and in doing so, she started doing the next thing  that God put in front of her. Event after event, all lined up as in a most natural sequence, God led her in His Providence to a path of obedience. And because she walked faithfully there, God brought her under the wing of a redeemer that  transformed all her circumstances and the history of the world -she became the grandmother of King David, and we know that from that line, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, would come.

Mary the Mother of Jesus is another example of faithful obedience in the Bible. She was chosen to carry in her womb the promised Messiah that would save the world. Faithful obedience could have cost her her own life, but she put aside her fears -which were real!- held fast to the Word of God (compare her song with the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1) and did the next thing: she answered to the announcement of the Angel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Her faithful obedience brought her to a place of true blessedness.

There are many more women in the Bible whom God used because of their faithful obedience. In the book of Acts, for example,  we read how women of great influence were key to the growth of the early church. Faithful obedience for them meant that they had to use their preeminence to support the apostles and the church. Persecution was always a danger, but they persevered faithfully where God had them and faithfully did the next thing.

And we can go on and on, telling the stories of many women in the early church whose faithful obedience led them to places in which blessedness looked differently than what the hashtag #blessed would mean today. The mouth of the lions, the stake, dark dungeons witnessed the day when they laid down their lives in faithful obedience to God. They loved Jesus more than life itself. They died as martyrs so that we could be encouraged to face opposition by the grace of God.

Monica’s faithful  obedience drove her to her knees day after day to pray for the conversion of her son Augustine. And after 17 years of faithful obedience -that in her case meant praying without ceasing for her son, the Lord answered her cries for mercy and she saw her son coming to the Lord. Augustine later became one of the most strongest pillars in the Christian faith.

Women in the Reformation were ready to offer their faithful obedience to contribute to the revival God was bringing to the world. They opened their homes, hosted meetings, sang hymns, wrote books, married and had children. They were faithful in the face of all opposition and set an example for us, so that we may too be encouraged to follow their steps.

Centuries later Corry Ten Boom and her family risked their lives hiding Jews during WWII . Why? Because they knew that obeying God rather men was where true joy was found. She and her family were taken prisoners into the Nazi camps and even there their faithful obedience to God was always present, always transforming the most horrible moments into opportunities that let them see God’s grace at work.

Darlene Deibler Rose tells her gripping story in her book, Evidence Not  Seen, A Women’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II. And as we turn pages, we see a woman who loved God and His Word so much that had a life in which faithful obedience was a mark of her Christianity. And her faithful obedience in extremely painful situations should make us want to persevere in faithful obedience where we are at today.

Elizabeth Elliot is another woman whose life was characterized by faithful obedience. She put aside over and over again her own feelings to do the next thing she knew God asked from her. She was never a slave to her emotions but at all times she submitted her emotions to the Word of God. Her faithful obedience is worth imitating.

The examples abound and they are not far from us or hidden from us. Even today, I can confidently -and very gratefully- say that we are surrounded by women whose lives are an example to us of faithful obedience to the Lord. They live faithfully in their own “here and now.” These women keep doing the next thing in front of them, and in their obedience they find their joy in the Lord increased and His peace in their hearts.

This is the heart behind this new series: How does faithful obedience looks like today in the life of ordinary Christian women? Some friends of mine will be sharing with us some of the stories in which they have experienced how choosing faithful obedience to Christ and His Word is better than anything else. I trust that the Lord will use these stories to encourage you to will and to work towards a life of faithful obedience.

As you read this series (every upcoming Wednesday)  you will notice one thing, faithful obedience to Christ is not possible because of the determination and forbearance of hard-core women. Faithful obedience is only possible when we are in Christ (read Ephesians). And it is only because of Him that learning contentment through the hardest circumstances is possible. It is only through Christ that we can do all things that He calls us to do. It is only by His grace that these women can say, “Faithful obedience to Christ and His Word is possible even in the midst of this.”

Let me close now with these words from Elisabeth Elliot,

“Does it make sense to pray for guidance about the future if we are not obeying in the thing that lies before us today? How many momentous events in Scripture depended on one person’s seemingly small act of obedience! Rest assured: Do what God tells you to do now, and, depend upon it, you will be shown what to do next.”

May we have a heart willing to obey God in the here and in the now.

Under His Sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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LINKS TO ALL THE POSTS IN THIS SERIES:

Screen Shot 2019-04-27 at 4.14.21 PM 1. Norma Tochijara writes about how looking up to Christ in the midst of various hard circumstances, like the loss of her daughter at birth and some difficult marriage trials, is how the Lord has helped her to respond in faithful obedience to God.

2. Noai Meyer shared with us how it looks like to live in faithful obedience with MS as a young wife with little ones.

3. Robin Zarate writes about the day in which she lost her first husband and how faithful obedience looked like at that time.

4. Liz Boyd shares with us how the Lord has helped her, in His mercy, to face being diagnosed with breast cancer.

5. Kate Sumpter shares how she and her husband have walked from the day they heard the hard news of infertility to the joyous news of adoption -always taking the next step sustained by God’s faithfulness.

6. My turn to write: I shared here how to cultivate faithful obedience in our own lives.

7. Rachel Jankovic writes about the importance of holding fast to our profession of faith.”The Christian life is a life of profession. We profess Christ in whatever situation we are in. And so the work of faithfulness is no different if you are being crushed by the weight of blessing or crushed by the weight of trial. The calling is the same – cling to Christ. Grab hold of your profession, which is found in Jesus Christ. For He that is faithful has promised.”

8. Laurie Ditton shares with us how God has been faithful to her and her husband after they obeyed Him and brought her elderly and sick mom to live with them. She writes, “We were honest with God, and while He did not always provide the specifics, He did answer. Gently but clearly, both from circumstance and from scripture. He called us to be faithfully obedient. To live out what we believed. To trust Him. My mother was to come home.

This kind of obedience is not difficult. Knowing exactly what God wants you to do is a great blessing. It’s afterward that’s sometimes a bit harder.”

9. Lisa Leidenfrost writes a super encouraging post on which she says, “So how do you handle a great disappointment, or disastrous turn of events? The first thing you do is to run to the one who gave you that trial. If you run away because God is too dangerous, you will be 
doubly hit, first with the trial and secondly from being cut off from the help you would have gotten. You must daily cry out to Him.”

10. My friend Hannah Grieser writes about the envy of trials, yes you heard right. This is a must read.  She writes, “There are women (and I’m afraid it very often is the women) the world over who must constantly and forever imagine themselves in the role of the martyr. They cannot bear to allow that anyone else has suffered more or could deserve more pity.”

11. Nancy Wilson writes a super encouraging post about the times in which faithful obedience means waiting on the Lord. Go read it now! It is so good!

12. Lindsey Tollefson encourages us to be faithful in the face of fear. Very encouraging! She reminds us, “Whatever circumstance you are in, faithful obedience to God means that you resist fear. It means that you use thanksgiving to crowd out your fears. ”

13. How does faithful obedience looks like when fr the empty nesters? Meredith Wilson shares some good thoughts here.

14. My friend Lydia Bowman shares about faithfulness in the quietness. She writes, “Faithful obedience doesn’t always look like something on the outside. Sometimes it is in the quiet, inward moments of the dark nights of sorrow or loss or pain when we must obey God by battling for our minds.”

15. Here Emily Abens shares with us a super helpful and encouraging map to faithful obedience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PC of Red Kettle (used throughout all the series) by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash
PC By Nicole Honeywill

The Paradox of His Providence

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Susannah Spurgeon wrote, after the death of her husband,  an encouraging prayer that will do us well to learn:

“Dear Lord, this is a paradox of Your providence, which both manifests and magnifies the glorious sovereignty of Your grace! Give us such true and tender trust in You, that Your “dealings” may never perplex or terrify us; but, rather, be the openings and discoveries of Your covenant love. Let us learn to read Your ways with us, as a skillful reader interprets a choice book, seeing the sentences in advance, as it were, and thus rendering a clear and continuous impression of the author’s mind and purpose.”*

May God continue to help us learn how to read His Providence as we open His Word and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us, to encourage us, and to increase our faith.

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

* http://gracegems.org/SERMONS2/a_basket_of_summer_fruit.htm