A Deeper Cure for the Brokenhearted

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We all have heard the saying, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” And we all nod because it is true.

But how can we be kind and help those around us who are facing hard battles?

How we answer to this question is important, but more important is how we act on the answer we give.

In a day in which relativism has crept into our Christian thinking more that we would want to admit, it is important to keep coming back to the Scriptures, and dig in there to prove what is true and act on that. It is important to remind ourselves each day  that the only way to effectively help someone (including ourselves!) who is fighting a battle against her own flesh, thoughts, and emotions is to give them the hope that is only found in Christ.

If you are a Christian woman I am sure you would agree with the statement above. Yes, yes, we all say, Christ is the answer. Solus Christus. From beginning to end, from top to bottom, in and out, always: Christ alone.

But the way we flesh out this answer is another different thing.

The world has many options to offer us as a cure for the pain that the battles we face bring to us. The cabinet of solutions to our anxiety, fear, depression (depression in teens, depression in postpartum women, depression in mid-age women, depression when we get our period, and depression when our periods cease), bad moods, moods that swing and moods that hurt others include breathing exercises, yoga poses, candlelight, silence retreats, quiet spaces, eat-this-food but this-food-not regimes, and all sorts of oils applied in all sorts of ways.

Why do many Christian women feel so tempted to open this cabinet and take one or two of these cures to offer to their hurting friend when we all have agreed to believe that the more potent, the true and deeper cure to our pain is found in Christ alone?

Friends, the way to be kind to those fighting a hard battle is to open the Word in front of them and give them true hope. Hope anchored in that which is not perishable, hope anchored in the words breathed out by God.

One way to see if we actually believe what we say is to listen to the words we say,  and pay attention to the solutions we think of first.

If my friend is struggling with mood swings, what is the first thing I think of? “Oh, I am going to recommend to her this breathing exercise, this oil, this ________” Or,  “Oh, I am going to message her every morning a verse of the Scripture to remind her that in Christ self-dominion is possible, that in Christ we are not slaves to our hormones. That because of the finished work of Christ we have been promised victory over our flesh.”

Or what if you meet a person who is not a believer and she shares with you all about her battles and emotional pain she is going through, what is the first thing you do? Recommend her this new diet, this new oil, this new ________? Or since you know that the heart of the problem needs a deeper solution you share the gospel with her?

We must fear the Lord and recognize that when we offer those hurting a cure for their emotional and spiritual pain outside the gospel, we are offering them something that might actually draw them away from God and the true hope which is found in Him.

Why would they need Christ to be joyful if they can find joy in exercising and burning their pain away at the gym?

Why would they need the Gospel to fight against mood changes if they can stop eating this and start eating that to find hormonal balance?

Why would they need to read and pray and mediate on the Word of God if they can cope with their fears and anxieties with an oil?

Our Creator, the One who made us, who knows each one of our cells and molecules and  dancing hormones, who knows the depth of our thoughts and the marrow of our souls, the One who knows the number of our hairs and has collected each one of our tears in a bottle, the One who doesn’t sleep and sees us tossing around at midnight and intercedes for us. The Almighty God who has called us by name and has become our Redeemer, has spoken words to heal our deepest hurts and satisfy our longings and give us life and hope that never fades.

In Isaiah there is a wonderful verse (50:4) that points us to Christ, and tells us that He will have words to sustain those who are weary.  The Prophet continues, and in different places he keeps pointing us to Jesus, our comforter. It is only the Lord who can make the wilderness like Eden and the desert like the gardens of God. He alone can bring joy and gladness and a heart full of thanksgiving to the one whose heart is now hard and dry and bitter (51:3). Only in Jesus’ words can we find everlasting joy and gladness because His words are our medicine (Is. 51:11, Prov 4:20-22).

Many of our anxious thoughts and fears are rooted in our sinful thoughts and habits, so only God’s forgiveness will set us free and bring true healing to our hearts. Nothing else will. Many things can apparently cover the symptoms for a season, but the pain, the heaviness of spirit, the discontentment, will always come back until we fall on our knees and repent and believe.

David knew this. He said,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”

(Psalm 103 ESV)

Nothing else. Just the goodness of the Lord and His Words coming like the rain will heal our weary souls and renew our strength.

And this other verse from Psalm 119 is encouraging too,

“I am severely afflicted,
give me life, O Lord, according to your word!” (v.107 ESV)

Can you imagine the pain the Psalmist was experiencing at the time he wrote this? And where does he turn for help? When he was severely afflicted, he knew better than to try to look for help in vain things for help, he turned to God and God alone. How we all need to believe in the Word in such a way that we would immediately turn to it when our hearts are in sorrow.

Friends, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, His faithfulness is great” (Lam.3)  We can come, dearest Sisters, to the Father in the name of Jesus and say, “The Lord is my portion, therefore I will hope in Him.” (Lam 3). If we place our hope in anything else than the finished work of Christ, the Lord himself will shatter it to pieces because He is a jealous God who wants His children to put their hope in Him alone.

Along with the Psalms, the epistle of 1 Peter is a wonderful read to help us build our hope in God. Consider these verses, for example (and then go read the whole epistle)  (emphasis mine):

“Blessed be the Lord and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…”

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

“He [Jesus] was  foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Let’s pray that the Lord will enlighten the eyes of our hearts that we may be able to see, to know what is the hope to which He has called us, and what are the riches of his glorious inheritance, and what is the immeasurable power toward us who believe in Him… (Ephesians 1: 15-23)

How we also need to understand the importance of praying earnestly for one another when we go through different trials. How we need to pray that the Lord will give us and our brothers and sisters spiritual strength to persevere,  and how we need to remind each other that “God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work with us.” (Eph 3:20-21)

Do we really believe that the Spirit can help us in our weaknesses? Do we believe with our flesh and blood that God who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all,  will also give us graciously with Jesus all things we need? (see Romans 8)

May we grow in our faith to a point in which it can be said of us what was said of Abraham,  in hope she believed against hope, she saw her weak body, and yet her faith did not weaken. No unbelief made her waver concerning the promises of God she knew well because she was in the Word always. She saw her weakness but her faith grew stronger because in all she did she gave glory to God and did not let unbelief take root in her heart. She was always convinced that God was able to do what He had promised. (Read Romans 5:13-25)

The only true safe place for us to be is before the throne of the Father in the name of Jesus. There we will always find “mercy and grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:14-16)

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky

No Other Gospel: Why Oils Are Not For You

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Photo by Mareefe on Pexels.com

We read in our Bibles, in the epistle Paul wrote to the Galatians this: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” And we immediately think of the obvious ways in which the gospel has always been distorted. We think of those who deny the Trinity, on those who teach that we need works to be saved, on those who think that we need to go back and do some OT rituals, etc. But what about this one distortion that is creeping in our midst smelling like lavender and orange peel?

What about Jesus + oils?

I know this is not an easy topic to discuss -at least not on a blog- but I will make an effort to explain why this is the case.

Why do I dare go all the way to what apparently looks like the other side and say that when we come to the topic of oils what we have is an issue of a false gospel creeping into the homes of many Christians? I dare say that the main way in which  Christians are promoting them and consuming them resembles a distorted gospel that preaches that to fully live the life we have as Christians we need to add oils to the already finished work of Jesus. And I say this with confidence after having carefully read what several Christian women who promote oils say.

For example, consider these statements made by Christian women talking to other Christian women:

Are your emotions taking control over your mood and are making your mornings hard? No problem, use x and y oil and you will see a difference! No more moody mammas and wives!

In this case they are saying that the provision of the Gospel is not enough to help you bring your emotions under the submission of the Word. You don’t need ten more minutes in the Word and in prayer, what you really need is the particular oil they sell. The heart of the problem is not the heart anymore, but hormones.

Here is another statement:

Are you feeling unhappy and dissatisfied with your life?
No problem, there is an oil, an oil business, and an oil community that will take care of that.

If you have heard something like this, consider how these sales women are selling not only a product but a way of living. “Satisfaction” and “happiness” can be achieved through oils.

Some questions they might raise to sell their products are these:

Do you find it hard to forgive? There is an oil for that. Do you need courage, Christian Friend? There is an oil for that. Are you struggling to fight the sin of discontent and ingratitude? There is an oil for that.

It breaks my heart to see that every day many more women are offering these as an alternative to the power of the gospel. And it is sad to see many others buying these promises. These Christian women, I am sure, would deny that this is the case, that they are not denying the power of the gospel, but I beg you, pay attention to what they are saying. They are not proclaiming that victory over sin is possible for those who are in Christ Jesus; they are indeed offering other Christian women (and others who are without Christ) a big lie. They are offering victory in their lives and over their sinful attitudes and feelings based on the use of these oils.  Yes, Jesus, maybe, but also these oils. Read their testimonies, read how these oils have changed their lives. Pay attention to their words and testimonies.

And we all know that it is easier to say, “Use this oil and feel well, victorious, joyful,” than saying, “Friend, because of Christ, you can mortify your sins. Victory over these bad attitudes and sins is possible when you abide in the Word and put your trust solely in the finished work of Christ.”

These women offer also a mix of some oils that promises “to help release buried emotional trauma resulting from accidents, neglect, the death of a loved one, assault, or abuse.” And then the product description continues saying,  “Left unchecked, emotionally draining episodes may be at the root of fatigue, anger, and restlessness.”

See what is going here? This is absolutely heartbreaking. How can Christian women dare to sell this oil to women who are bound to past traumas? Really? O, that these Christian women may see what they are doing. If they know Christ, if they know their Bibles, they should know better than to do this, than to sell lies. They would be fervently telling others not about this false idol, but about Jesus Christ our Savior who came to seek and save the lost, a Savior who bled on the cross so that we may be healed by His wounds.

How can someone who knows the Gospel dare to say that an oil can help cure abuse, or traumas, or assault, or the death of a loved one? How is that even a possibility? The fact that more and more women in our churches are consuming these, tells me that a huge number of women need to go back to the rudiments of our faith. I wonder what would happen if the women promoting these or those feeling the need to buy these studied more their Bibles and the Puritans. Why is no one talking about Owen’s book on The Mortification of Sin with their friends anymore? Or Matthew Henry’s book The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, or Thomas Watson’s, All Things for Good? Or this other one, a book by Jeremiah Burroughs entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment?

It is a lie to tell others that the root of our emotional problems is other than our sinful nature. We don’t need oils to heal these roots, we need a new life. We need to be cut out and be transplanted to a new soil. We need the life that is only found in Christ Jesus. We need to be feeding our soul with the Living Waters found in the Word of God, not with the expensive drops of oil that will soon be gone.

I live in Mexico where, sadly, the prosperity gospel has found millions of followers, and when I hear and read these Christian women selling these oils, I see another expression of the same false gospel. It goes something like this:

“Use this oil -that I can sell you!- and you will be healed, you will be made whole. ”
“Get this set of oils that promote “spiritual health” -and feel the difference”
“”Diffuse or wear [White Angelica oil] on top of shoulders, along spine, on crown of head, wrists, behind ears and on the back of the neck” to encourage “feelings of protection and security” and “enhance your body’s aura, which brings about a sense of strength and endurance.”
“We have the perfect oil for your Bible reading and praying time. Try this one, a blend that “promotes feelings of reverence and spiritual awareness with a blend of essential oils formulated to open the subconscious. This blend, considered a gift by many, enhances emotional equilibrium as it soothes and uplifts the heart.” (Who needs the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see wonderful things in His Word, if there is an oil for that, right? See the danger? Why do you choose not to see the danger?)

This is heartbreaking. Truly heartbreaking. Why do many have chosen to believe this? Why are so many willing to sell this as the “perfect add-on” to the gospel? Why many can’t see that with their fierce promotion of these oils and their strong faith in them, are actually denying the power of the cross, the power of godliness in the life of the believers (2 Timothy 3)?

I would like to add one more thing. Friend, if you are reading this consider also how these people selling these oils are using fear as a means to drive you to buy their products. They encourage you to detox not only your body, but all your home to avoid cancer. Do not succumb to fear. Do not let your heart be troubled, Christian Friend. It is in this Land of the Living, in this present age in which God has given us life, that we will see the goodness of the Lord. If the birds of the air are still finding their food today, and the flowers of the field are still being dressed even more beautiful than Solomon in all his splendor, and if the ants are still able to find food to store for the winter, then God will not leave us, nor forsake us. We will not die before our appointed day, a day God has chosen for each one of us. And in the same manner, we cannot add a day -not even a second!- more to that timeline, no matter how clean we might choose to live. Let us not yoke ourselves to fear, let us not. If we are Christ’s we are safe in His hand. If we are living under the shadow of the Almighty, why are we so afraid?

Dear Christian woman, look up, look to Jesus. Only Christ can satisfy your soul.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

NOTE: Two follow-up posts are now available: Slippery and Oily Slopes and A More Potent Way than the Oily One.

 

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

 

 

Our Mother Tongue

One of my dear daughters recommended that I should read “In Other Words”, a book by Jhumpa Lahiri. Kate knows me well, so of course I loved the book, and was inspired through its pages in many ways (for example, today I ordered some grammar books, and subscribed myself to a website with hundreds of exercises to perfect -hopefully- my English).

Speaking more than one language gives you more than the title of “bilingual,” it actually shapes you and changes you and the way you think in many unimaginable ways. As we add new words to our vocabulary, more adverbs and adjectives, grammar rules and their exceptions, we advance a bit further in the pool of that other language, we start feeling more comfortable; however, and I find it ironic, is that at the end of the day, we still catch ourselves not finding the “right” word at times. Not in English, not in Spanish, not in French.

I taught my children English (as their second language) since they were very little. My English was not perfect, my pronunciation, accent, and cadence have always been there, witnessing that English is not my mother tongue. But I wanted to give them this gift, and though it was so time consuming and much harder than just teaching them Spanish, my husband and I decided that we would do it anyhow. Now I can confidently say that all of them speak much better English than I do. All of them are my teachers and all of them (including my daughters-in-law) are patient with me when I ask them to help me understand a grammar concept, the usage of an specific word, and how to pronounce words like facade and entree.

All this helps me explain what I want it to be the heart of this post: there is one language that we, Christian mothers, need to teach diligently to our children from morning to evening, Sunday thru Saturday, and that is the Gospel language. We must do it intentionally, we must practice it ourselves, we must do all that it takes so that they may learn how to love it and make it their own.

No matter if we don’t -yet- understand all the ins and outs of it. No matter, if we don’t feel adequate or not. We must do it. We must open our Bibles daily and teach them from it, read from it, pray it with them until they know it by heart, until they can recognize it as their mother tongue. We can do this by faith, expecting that in God’s grace they will become better at speaking it, better at understanding it, better at remembering it, better at applying it, better at living it out than us.

And this is also where I come to realize that no matter how many languages a Christian person can speak, the language of the Kingdom of God, the language of the Gospel, of true love, of self-sacrifice, of compassion, is the language that we all need to be proficient in. The Gospel language is the one that we can never stop practicing. Because we all know that lack of practice is what makes one forget all the Spanish from highschool, ¿verdad?

May God grant us more love for His Word so that we may become more fluent in the language of the Kingdom as we speak to our children, our husband, our friends.

Grace upon grace,

Becky

Humility, Grace, and Peace of Mind

 

View of Arles with Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peter continues,

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

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

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

Under his sun and by His grace,

Becky

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