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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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