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

 

 

 

My Three Favorite Apps

I want to share with you three apps that I really, really like. These apps have actually helped me be more intentional through the day to be in the Word.

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 1.30.47 PMThe first one is Fighter Verses. This app is easy to use and  super helpful to help us memorize the Word of God -some memorization plans are already built on, but you can choose which verses you want to memorize.

It is a blessing to have this kind of help to saturate our heart and mind with the Scriptures and bring our thoughts under the submission to  God’s Word. Don’t you think?

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 1.44.58 PMNow, my favorite app for listening to the Bible is Dwell. Many times, especially when I find my mind is easily distracted,  I listen while reading at the same time (just make sure you change the reading speed to a faster pace).  This easy practice helps me be more focused!

I like the option of having different voices read the text. My favorite reader is Felix, a man from Africa, who reads the Bible with so much passion that is contagious!  There are also different kinds of background music that you can choose from. But if you don’t want background music, you can just mute it, that simple.

The app  also has many  “playlists” that will help you engage with specific parts of the Bible. For example, if you have a 43 min commute, you can choose to listen the Parables of Jesus. Or if you have 4 mins you can listen to some verses that will encourage you to fight temptation (each playlist tells you how long it will take you to listen).

The Dwell app has some Bible Listening Plans included. Note that since this is a rather new app, some OT books are still missing, but they are adding them quickly.

This app has been such a blessing to me! I highly recommend it. You can also give it a s a gift to your friends and children!

Screen Shot 2019-03-28 at 1.50.46 PMLastly, there is this other app called 5 Psalms that I also recommend. This is a very simple app, each day you have 5 different psalms to read, pray, and meditate.  So, simple, yet so good! And very convenient, right? We don’t necessarily have to have our Bible with us to go through the whole book of Psalms once a month; we can open this app through the day, and start making the Psalms our prayer book.

Well, Friends, I hope you have a great rest of the week!

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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

The Best Book on Decluttering Your Home

We all want a home that sparks joy. But many times we get confused and start doing things that promise in vain to spark joy and peace in our homes… like decluttering our garage, our closets, and our kitchen.

And though we all know how satisfying it is to declutter our closet, we also know that many times, after we are finished with that big cleaning project that took us all day, the atmosphere in our home can still feel very heavy.  Why? Because we are spending all our energy decluttering our house, while neglecting decluttering the most important thing to in our home: our marriage.

Pastor Douglas Wilson wrote a wonderful book called Decluttering Your Marriage that I strongly recommend to you. It is shorter than any other book that promises to spark joy in your life, and has a cover that, well… is not necessarily the cover of a book for your coffee table, but that you really need to get and read (even if it has to be 1 of the 30 books you choose to keep in your house).

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 1.01.17 pmIn this short -but not sweet- book, Pastor Wilson helps us understand how important it is to declutter our marriage from our daily sin to find true joy in our home.

It is important to understand and believe as Christian wives that our focus, when things start to look and feel ugly in our marriage, should be to deal with our own sin (note the possessive). Trying to declutter the attic and our husband’s heart seems easier to do than decluttering our own heart, our own attitudes, our own intentions, our own thoughts, and our own sins. We feel that just like we have the right to sort out things in our husband’s side of the closet, we also have the right to sort out his own sins. After all we are women, which means that we know better how to make things and relationships spark joy, right?

Pastor Wilson’s book is straightforward and written with the intent to help his readers live in good and godly marriages. Marriages in which sin doesn’t reign, marriages in which sinful messes are cleaned up quickly, where love covers a multitude of offenses, and forgiveness abound.

This is a very practical book. But this doesn’t mean that it deals with sin issues in marriage in a superficial or simplistic way. Pastor Wilson believes through and through in the power of the gospel: repent and believe because all sins can be forgiven in Christ. And this book is about dealing with sin in marriage with the gospel.

Decluttering Your Marriage is a challenging and helpful book, that at first will not spark joy in your life. It will make you uncomfortable, it will force you to look into your own heart and repent of your own sin before doing the next thing. But, oh boy, the joy, the true joy that doesn’t fade away like a spark that flies up in the air and then disappears,  will for sure invade your heart and home if you put all effort to declutter your marriage starting with your own sins.

You can buy this little book from Amazon, Canon Press, and also as an Audiobook (which you can listen in less than an hour!)

Under His sun and by grace,

Becky

 

Beautiful Illuminated Bibles

Following up with yesterday’s post about the dangers of the “Bible Journaling” movement, I now want to point out to you some beautiful modern examples of illuminated Bibles.

The first one is the ESV Illuminated Bible. This is a really beautiful Bible . The golden illustrations are exquisite and stand out on the cream colored pages.

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Another favorite in our home is The Four Holy Gospels illustrated by Makoto Fujimura and published by Crossway.

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Here is part of the description on the publisher’s website:

The Four Holy Gospels is an exquisitely designed and produced edition of the four canonical Gospels in the English Standard Version, published in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Version (KJV) Bible in 1611.

The Four Holy Gospels features newly commissioned original paintings representing the four Gospel Evangelists, illuminated initial letters, and other embellishments and design elements, printed in full color throughout and on high-quality art paper. The text of the Gospels is reproduced in a highly readable, large font; ideally suited for public reading, liturgical use, and as a family heirloom.

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The Four Holy Gospels stands in the historic stream of the beautifully hand-illuminated editions of the Gospels created many centuries ago. This exquisite and unique modern edition carries on a classic tradition, beautifully combining the words of the Gospels and original art, inspired by the text, and brilliantly executed for the glory of God.

Other beautiful illustrated books on the Psalms are these:

The Psalms of David with Illuminations by James F. Freemantle.

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And the Psalms of David: A Faithful Reproduction of the Original 1885 Edition, The Great Illuminated Psalter Dedicated to Queen Victoria. (Sadly, it appears that this book is out of print).

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Have a wonderful weekend, Friends.

And if you have the creative bug itching you, buy a canvas and draw your favorite Bible verse.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

Your Bible is Not a Canvas

I like the hasthag that Summer White used the other day: #ChalliesMadeMeDoIt so I am jumping on the wagon and will follow Tim Challies’ advice.

There is this trend among Christian women that has been growing out of proportion and is being spread as fast as the weeds in my backyard during the summer, and that is this thing called Bible Journaling (as I type this the tag #biblejournaling has 716K followers on Instagram).

What is this? Well, many women who love lettering, art, markers, stickers, glitter, fabric, and glue are now covering the pages of their Bibles with their art to get closer with God, to experience Bible reading in a fresher way. And when I say covering, I mean covering.

Look at these bible pages:

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Day Spring even has a tutorial that gives 7 Easy Steps to Bible Journaling. Read it for yourself and see the danger there. This is not a trend that encourages artists to draw or paint verses on a canvas or notebook to remind you of some bible verses. This is a trend that has become a faux spiritual practice among many. In this article (and many others that you can easily find all over the internet, like this one) women are encouraged to  make of each session a spiritual discipline. For example in the first article I linked to, we read how Day Spring suggest you start each drawing session this way:  “Read a devotional, turn on your favorite worship music, and focus on God. This practice will get you in the right frame of mind so you can make the most of each journaling session.” Then, “Pray for God’s direction, and listen. He knows, and He will call you toward the verse that will most benefit you at this time in your life.” and ask yourself, “What is God telling you? Jot down any heartfelt words of praise that come to you. What does the verse mean to you, and how can you apply it? What drew you to the verse you are working on? Leave a prayer or ask for guidance.” And lastly they encourage you to start drawing without worrying about “being messy!” (Also, do not forget that you can buy from them all the supplies that will make your spiritual project prettier and more meaningful, of course.)

Now, what is the problem with this?  Isn’t this the same thing as marking our Bibles as a means to study and understand the text better? No. This is like doing graffiti to a monument. This is vandalizing the text.

When we cover with paint and stickers and glitter the pages on our Bibles we are not embellishing the text, we are being disrespectful with the Words on the text.  We are deeming our art as more important than the text -that is why we cover it.

Let’s not fool ourselves, Ladies, this is not the way a serious Bible student, a serious disciple of Christ searches the Scriptures to find life. Marking on the margins of our Bibles  a prayer, a question, a study note, a reference (and even a little lettering verse!) is a totally different thing than what these women are doing to their bibles.

 

Another huge problem with this method of “studying and meditating” on the Word of God is that it starts with “me.”

What is the verse I feel like I need to illustrate and what does it mean to “me”?
How can I give “my own” interpretation of the verse using art?
Which verses should I cover and which verses should I illustrate – what? Did you say context? Forget about it! The important thing is that my “art” makes me feel closer to God.

The danger to become absolutely shallow in our understanding of the text by doing this is, I hope, evident by now. As Christians we are not above the Word, we are under its authority and when we cover the text or portions of the text with glitter we are showing how lightly we take the Scriptures. We trample on the authority of the Scriptures when we stop fearing God and His Word, and this is not something subjective, some personal preference, this is a real danger that needs not to be taken lightly.

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Another danger is that women initiate and perpetuate false teachings doing this. Since, there is no limit to the kind of  art a person can do, then there is no limit to the personal interpretations of a text. I can illustrate a passage with a Disney cartoon, a message that has nothing to do with the Bible, or anything that occurs to me at the moment, anything that inspires me and is meaningful to me is OK because it express “my own personal experience.”

 

The point is not to dig deeper in the text, as you can see, but to be bold and not fear being messy. The point is to let the inner artist in a person -that inner artist that God put there!- to create. And by doing this they are altogether missing the point.

No wonder why many Christian women are being tossed away from one false doctrine to the other, from one emotional high to an emotional pit. They are not well grounded in the Scriptures, they come to the Word and leave with no substantial nourishment because they are approaching it from a totally wrong angle. They are investing their time in “Bible Journaling Ministries” and hope to remain unshakable when a storm hits their lives.

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Life Way has an article that encourages this practice saying that, “With Bible journaling, you will find a creative and fresh approach to the age-old discipline of Bible reading.” Friends, we don’t need a fresh approach when it comes to reading our Bibles. (And keep in mind that almost everything labeled as “fresh” concerning our relationship with God ends in a heresy). What we need is a humble heart, hunger for the Bread of Life, a teachable spirit, and fear of God every time we approach the Scriptures. The Holy Spirit will use His Word to transform us into the image of Christ, and it is clear that He needs no crayons.

The Life Way article continues saying that, “No matter what your purpose for Bible journaling, the beauty of the movement is this: it doesn’t require a skilled artist. All that matters is that you’re willing to experience God and His Word in a creative way.” Do you see what they are saying? All that matters is you and your personal experience. If you feel that this practice will draw you closer to God, go for it, you don’t need to search the Scriptures to see that it is not about you, or your emotions, or your “personal experiences.” Sister, neither you or I can create our own personal way to approach God. That is a lie that leads us to worship false gods that we create in our imaginations and after our lusts.

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God is His kindness has given us the Scriptures so that we may know Him and our way to Him. In His kindness, He didn’t leave us to ourselves to try to find new ways to approach Him. There is only way to enter in a relationship with God and it is holy: The cross of Christ.

Oh, that we may learn to fear the Lord and His Word! That we may esteem it more valuable than gold. That we may treasure it in our hearts and give it the place it deserves in our hearts, in our homes, in our churches.

How many hours these women, I ask, are spending doing each illustrated page? And how many hours are they spending in the Word, actually reading it -all of it!? How many hours are they spending digging deeper in the text, making connections, finding treasures in the way the NT explains the OT, for example?

We are making our Christianity void, superficial, just like our lives. For many, Bible reading is not about learning more about God and the world He created anymore, but about a fun hobby to fill their days.

I have a journaling Bible that I love, I write on its margins, I mark it, and I have even written on the margin an specific verse with pretty letters, but I would never dare to cover the text with stickers and acrylic painting. My Bible is not a canvas. My Bible is my authority.

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May we be women of the Word. Women who know their Bibles, who love their Bibles, and read their Bibles. There is no other way to be strong emotionally and  spiritually apart from drinking deep form the waters of the Word of God.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

EDIT: All images were taken from Pinterest.