Read The Word, Pray the Word

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The men and women of God through history are people who pray. And I imagine we all want to know what is it that made their prayer life rich and effective. I would say that one thing they all have in common is that they pray according to the Word of God.

We want to have a rich prayer life too, and having heard of this idea of “praying the Scriptures back to God,” we take a notebook and start jotting down promises, Bible verses that we believe will enrich our prayer life and strengthen our faith. And what a blessing that is. We hold dearly to these words of life. We let them be the last word we hear in our minds to silence our anxious thoughts and fears.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Ex.14:4

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Is. 40:29

“Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” Prov.30:5

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Is. 41:10

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Rom. 8:32

These are only a few, there are so many more promises, more than we can count and all are yes and amen in Christ for those who are His. Each one of these promises is powerful and comforting. Each one is like a lifeline thrown from Heaven to us, as so we grasp them by faith.

But there are times when the trials of life are too deep and too dark, they rage against us fiercely, and the pain is hard to bear. We grab our notebook with Promises, and barely find our breath to pray through them… our voice has drowned under our tears.

It is in those times when knowing the God who gives these Promises will keep us alive. It is then when not only one or two Promises will revive us and give us hope, but when we need the whole counsel of God to be our stronghold.

There are times when our flesh will fail us, and our knees will be weak, and in these times every Word we have read in the Bible, every story in it will prove to be the backbone of our life. We may fall one, two, three, seven times, but we will not be crushed because the Word of God has the power to hold us against the enemy.

Oh, how important is is to be immersed in all the Word of God! How important it is to fill our mind and heart with all the stories of the Bible. Stories in which God reveals to us not only His character, but the way He loves to write stories. The Promises we love and count as precious, are not magic words. These promises belong to some part of God’s  story, and when we know the story in which they were spoken, we gain much more assurance.

I have been there, praying with the Bible open, praying not one or two verses, but story after story back to God.  With my Bible open, I have prayed to the God of the Bible because I know Him, I have read His Word, I have read how He is faithful when we are not. I have read how He is just and holy and at the same time merciful and compassionate. I have read story after story how He loves to redeem and restore His own children. I have read how He disciplines those He loves and how He walks with them through the consequences of their sin. I have read in the Bible how He saves those who don’t deserve to be saved. I know how much He loves to show Grace. I have read over and over, from Genesis to Revelation, stories that reveal to us who God is. I can know Him, because He wants me to know Him. I have my Bible in my hands as a proof for that. I know the Triune God of the Bible in whom millions and millions have trusted before and in whom I will trust too.

I will not stop reading. My life depends on the very Words spoken by God, written for me.

I will keep coming, I will keep reading. I want to know my God more, to trust Him more, to love Him more.

I still carry my notebook with Bible promises with me, but in my heart I carry the whole story that gives life to each one of those promises.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky

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Faithful Obedience by Elise Warner

Elise is one of the of those women that does the hard things with a tender heart. She and her husband have been close friends to my children and they all say that she is a very special friend, a loyal friend, a godly friend. Today I’m honored to have her share with us in our series, Faithful Obedience.

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Perfect Grace and Blueberry Muffins
by Elise Warner

My whole body shivered uncontrollably as I curled up on my side, trying to position the pillow perfectly to cradle my neck without putting any pressure on the screaming nerves and muscles. My husband gently placed the heat pack on my shoulders as he has countless times over the course of our relationship. I smiled, but I wanted to cry. Not this week, Lord. Not this week. Why now? It was Josiah’s first week of medical school. And it wasn’t going according to plan.

If you were a fly on the wall of my home, you would quickly realize that I have a thing for charts. There is a wall calendar, a daily planner, a work to-do list, and an ideal daily schedule in the room with me as I write. My brain craves order. And while that is not a sin, control has often been my idol—an idol that is never satisfied and leaves me filled with anxiety as I try to predict what the next day, month, year will hold.

I was nineteen when the subtle theme of needing to surrender and trust my God became a resounding cymbal. Now I like to joke with my family that my stubborn do-it-all attitude meant God needed to slap me upside the head to stop me from running off a cliff. And he did it through a pinched nerve in my neck that set off a chain reaction leaving me bed-ridden for a short time and physically limited for, well, seven years now.

Josiah and I spent the weeks leading up to the start of medical school carefully preparing. We wrote down principles, guidelines, and (of course) schedules to help us navigate this new season. I thought we were ready. That I had everything in place to control how this week would go. I had even planned out what I needed to pack for his lunches and how I would make him blueberry muffins for his first day as a surprise breakfast item. I had everything ready, all my ducks in a row, and I was going to make starting school easy for my husband.

Instead, I spent the first three days in worst pain than I have been in for over a year—exhausted, unable to stomach much food, barely able to hold my five month old without feeling sick. I got behind in my Bible reading—little boxes left unchecked. The idea of blueberry muffins was laughable. I needed my husband to put our daughter down, rock her, play with her while his pile of schoolwork loomed large on the desk in our room.

Thursday I woke up feeling physically better. Spiritually, I was grumpy. I struggled to pray out my frustration, to confess my anxiety, to find gratitude, to believe that the Lord could work through me. How can I be a good mom if I can’t even play with my daughter? How can I be a good wife, run a hospitable home, bake those stupid muffins if I am so easily debilitated? I grudgingly opened my Bible, knowing that I needed to preach truth to myself. I checked my reading plan to see what I needed to catch up on. 2 Corinthians.

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weakness that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

How gracious is our Lord? He uses my small trial to topple my idol over and over. And when I come back to him broken, frustrated, and confused—he always meets me and reminds me of the kind of God I am learning to surrender to. His grace is always enough. He will do far more with my weakness than I can ever do with my plans and schedules. He is my strength, my shield, my keeper, my redeemer. And when he demands that I surrender and trust him, he is doing it for my own good so that he can bring me more and more into the light of His glory. To surrender to him is to be made strong.

I don’t know if my head injury will ever be healed—if I will ever be able to play a game of volleyball or go on a run without meeting pain the next morning or if I will ever be able to do a small morning workout without wondering if it will throw my daily plans out the window. I wish that I could entirely predict what will cause a horrible episode like this week. I pray that one day it will simply be gone. But even more than I wish for healing, I wish that I never forgot His promises. I wish that I could wake up one day and never doubt His goodness, never question whether I really should trust Him. I pray that I will be a woman filled with peace and freedom, knowing that my God is in control. My flesh and heart fail me daily. But God’s grace. God’s grace never fails and never runs out. It meets me in my need through His Word, pointing me outward and upward towards Him. It meets me in my daughter and husband and all the gifts I have to rejoice in. It meets me in medicine and doctors and heat packs. When I faithfully open my eyes to find his grace, it overwhelms every aspect of my life. Even in blueberry muffins baked just a few days late.

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Don’t know where to find a plan that will help you start, keep up, and finish reading the Bible? Find us here! We would love for you to join us!

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“It Is Written” And So We Read

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How  else will we know what a great love the Father has for His own children, if we don’t open our Bibles to read them?  How will we know how immeasurable are God’s grace and mercy towards us if we rarely read the Scriptures? How will we know how deep our sins are and how great our Savior is if we don’t read the Holy Scriptures? How will we know what the Father promises to us if we keep shutting our eyes and ears making no room in our hearts for the Word of God in our lives? How will we know God, how will we taste and see that He is good, if we are just too busy for that? Friends, All these things have been written so that we may know them and the Author of Life. These things have been written so that we may read them! Each of these words has been written so that we may believe them and live by them!

Because “it is written” we know the wonderful news of the gospel. Because it is written, we know that if we repent and believe in Jesus and His words we can have eternal life. It is written that those who believe in Him have passed from death to life, what a joy to read what God has determined for us to read. Think about this, you and I would have never known these news, news that carry eternity within them, if Jesus had never spoken and if His words had never been written.

This world neither would have ever been if Jesus had never spoken it into existence. God’s Word created galaxies with planets and stars and waves that make music in the heavens for us to discover. God spoke and His Word created creatures under the seas that even now are hidden from our eyes. Today, this minute, this world keeps spinning and your nails keep growing, and flowers keep blooming and babies keep crying, because Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God “upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1).” Jesus “is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1).

There are more riches in the Word for us to discover than galaxies in the heavens. There is more to know about God and His ways than we can possibly imagine. The vastness of the treasures to be found in the Scriptures and the hugeness of God should not keep us from pursuing our desire to know them. On the contrary, to know that these treasures are waiting for us, should encourage us to seek more diligently, to read more attentively, and to pray more fervently asking God that we will not miss any of them. It is written so that we may read and believe. And as you immerse yourself in the Scriptures, “think every line you read, that God is speaking to you,”[1]

And so we keep coming and keep opening our Bibles, and keep reading, because, really? Who doesn’t want to know the Triune God? Which Christian who has been called by name before the foundation of the Lord, doesn’t want to know more about God? The fact that we can know God is such good news that it starts to sound almost like a big bang in the ears of those who try hard to suppress the truth of God with lies. But nonetheless, it is true, it is written: God wants to be known! So we will keep coming to our Bibles each day because we want to keep breathing, living, discovering, knowing, worshiping. God wants to be known! It is written! Thanks be to God!

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth. (Hosea 6:3)

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

[1] https://gracegems.org/Watson/reading_the_scriptures.htm Accessed Sept,14 ’18
Photo credit: Lilian Dibbern via Unsplash

Don’t know where to start reading the Bible? Join us on today’s reading! Find the schedule here.

Faithful Obedience by Emily Abens

I am so happy to have my friend Emily Abens writing for this series today. She is such a fun and thoughtful friend who makes the yummiest meals ever. When we get to have lunch together,  I always find it a delight to see how the Lord is at work in the lives of all His children. Emily’s love for God and His Word are evident in her life and that is always contagious!

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A Roadmap to Walk in Faithful Obedience
by Emily Abens

What does faithful obedience look like in my season of life? I have a “roadmap” of sorts that helps me as I do my best to live a life of faithful obedience. These are big picture concepts and they will apply in the tiny details differently for each person. How this roadmap plays out in the nitty gritty, everyday, practical ways of my life will not be the same as how it plays out in the details of your life. Nor will this roadmap play out the same for me tomorrow as it did 10 years ago. This is a beauty of life, yes? The practical details of faithful obedience differ from woman to woman and from season to season, yet the big picture concepts remain. So let’s dive in.

We ought to take care how we build our foundation, and Christ needs to be the cornerstone (1 Corinthians 3:10–15 and Ephesians 2:19-20). Building and keeping a firm foundation is one of the most important things we should do as Christians. If our foundation is off or needs work, we need to fix what is faulty before moving on. Our foundation centers in Christ and throughout the years I have found that these three things help me maintain and strengthen my foundation:

First, live your life knowing that no amount of works can save you. Nothing you do will get you into heaven. It is only by Jesus’ blood and righteousness. Salvation is a gift–the most amazing gift–and nothing we do allows us to boast in anything other than the Gospel.

Second, stay close to God. Pray and be in the Word daily. Even if you don’t “feel” fed that day, you are being nourished. Stay disciplined in this. I find I have days when I do not feel like reading my Bible or praying – even when I do read and pray these days, I still don’t “feel” fed. Yet I know that although that’s how I’m “feeling”, it isn’t true. God is feeding me because that’s what He’s promised to do and we can trust that His word is truth (John 6:35). church membership and weekly attendance are another critical component for my walk with God. These are very important in staying close to God and helps with accountability.

Finally, surround yourself with a team of people who will push you to be more Christ-like. This team will know that works cannot save you–only Christ can. They will walk alongside you, keeping you accountable in your walk with the Lord, reminding you to pray and be in the Word daily. They will pick you up by the bootstraps of your baptism; they will point out what’s right and wrong; they will remind you when you forget who Christ is, what He has done for you, and what that truth means for your life. I’ve found that it is especially important to have people in my life who will notice when I’m in the wrong. These people will graciously come alongside to lovingly correct me by emphasizing Biblical truths when I’m forgetting the love of Christ.. You become like the people you spend the most time with or they become like you. You are either being influenced or you are influencing others in each relationship. Make sure your Christian brothers and sisters are pushing you towards Christ and you are planting seeds of the Gospel in the non-christians in your life. For me this team of people is anchored by the Godly family I have been given and includes close Christian friends. If you don’t have an obvious team–pray for one! Ask God to give you ideas of who might be members of this team and then ask them if they would be willing to come alongside you! This team is especially helpful in fleshing out the details of the rest of the roadmap. They are often the people I give myself to most, and they do the same for me.

Living my life knowing that nothing I do will ever save me, staying in the Word, and being surrounded by Godly people isn’t simply a matter of checking off the boxes and “calling it good.” Rather, these three points are continuous–keeping a firm foundation is part of becoming a better image-bearer of Christ, which is a never ending process. This foundation allows me to confidently jump to the rest of the roadmap, knowing I can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).

God calls us to live a life worthy of our calling and for the Lord, always giving glory to Him (Eph. 4), so what now? You’ve built and will continue to build a solid foundation, so the next step is figuring out what giving yourself to others looks like. Figuring out what this looks like can often be challenging, but throughout the Bible, God promises that He will act and make our paths straight (Psalm 37:5; Proverbs 3:5–6)! Pray bold prayers–God promises to hear and answer them (Matthew 7:7-11). Pray for direction and ask God to make your next step clear!

However, don’t move towards the next step or responsibility without asking the Lord if you are being diligent with the ones He has already given you. Luke 16:10 tells us that one who is faithful in very little is also faithful in much. Faithfulness in a lot of little things adds up to a big thing, so don’t be surprised when being diligent with what God has already given you takes a lot of time, energy, resources, and sanctification. What does diligence and faithful obedience look like in your God-given roles (being a Christian, daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, church member, employee, boss, etc.)?
Being diligent and faithful does not mean being perfect. I often ask myself whether or not I’m pushing brothers and sisters in Christ towards Him and whether or not I’m trying to share the Gospel with non-Christians. If you’re unsure whether you’re being faithful and diligent in your God-given responsibilities, don’t be afraid to ask your trusted team of people I mentioned earlier!

If you’re being diligent to the best of your abilities, take the next step God gives you. Pray that God gives you clarity on what that next step is and that He equips you with the wisdom and skills to do that task well to His Glory.

As you look to God for the next step, ask yourself whether you’re equipped with the skills needed for the upcoming stage in your life. This could be preparing to be a student, employee, boss, wife, mother or grandmother. If you aren’t prepared, work on those skills. Titus 2 calls older women to mentor younger women – how cool is that? Find a Godly mentor with the skills you are lacking and diligently watch and learn from her. While receiving wisdom from her, try to help out where you can to assist her with her duties. This can be as simple as helping her fold the laundry while you chat!

For me, preparing for the next stage looks like giving myself to the church, mentoring younger girls, helping my siblings with their kids or watching others run their households, seeing both Godly examples to follow and ungodly examples to run from. Being single gives me more time and energy to choose what I spend time, energy, and money on. Those who are married don’t have this flexibility and although it is my desire to be married, I know God has graciously gifted me this time of singleness to bless those who are around me as much as I can.

The next part of my roadmap is something I’m very passionate about–people. Specifically, giving myself to others. Giving to others is seen frequently throughout the Bible, yet it gets run over in today’s age of self-love. John 15:13 says “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”. Christ died for us and calls us to do the same for those around us. To do this, start by asking a few questions:

First, what has God placed in your path? God has called each of us to serve. Every week in this series, we have seen how each woman has a different calling within faithful obedience. I have always felt called to the people God has placed directly in my path; this is how the Lord “wired” me. If God has called you to be a missionary in Timbuktu and your top priority is the tribe that you are serving, glory be to God. If God has allowed cancer to take over your body, again, glory be to God. If God has given you four little souls under four years old to change diapers for, to disciple, to love, yet again, glory be to God. It’s important to examine your sphere of influence and who we are called to serve. For now, I know that I’m called to help equip the Saints and share the Gospel with unbelievers that God has placed specifically in my path such as my immediate and extended family, church, friends, coworkers, clients, and acquaintances that I spend time with on a regular basis (i.e. bible study group, members of various sports teams, neighbors, etc.). These categories are very malleable–there have been times when I spend most of my time with an acquaintance or when a specific friend needs me more than my family does.

Second, what does it look like to give yourself to others above and beyond the responsibilities God has given you? Before answering this, I think it’s important to know the skills you have. Are there things you do that don’t feel like work? Things that come naturally and often bring you joy? Is there something or someone God continues to place on your heart? Something you notice that blesses you when present, but the lack of it bothers you? This could be childcare, cooking, crafts, event planning, communicating, creative thinking, problem-solving, organization/administrative work, networking, including others, empathy, cleaning, car maintenance, medical skills, gardening or landscaping, budgeting, reading, studying, laundry, or other household items. I love what Doug Wilson had to say about this in a recent sermon:

“Recognize that when you see a need, this is not given to you so that you might blame everybody else for not meeting it. Your ability to identify a need should be taken by you as an indication from God on what you ought to be doing. If you look around at the body, and see a bunch of discouraged saints, then perhaps you have the gift of encouragement. If you see doctrinal ignorance, then perhaps you have the gift of teaching. If you see dirty bathrooms, perhaps you have the gift of helps.”

 

This doesn’t just apply to the church – it applies to all areas of life! God has given me a certain set of skills, ones that are unique to me. He has given you a certain set of unique gifts also. Use the skills God has given you. God equips each one of us differently for His Glory and to His Glory. The body of Christ needs every part of the body – we can’t all be ears or eyes. If you aren’t sure about the gifts God has given to you – check with the people who know you best. What do they say?

What it looks like to give myself to others is something that ebbs and flows. Sometimes we are on the receiving end: a friend is working hard to bless us. What a gift! Other times, we are on the giving end and we have the opportunity to be that blessing to someone in need. Again, what a gift! In both circumstances–whether giving blessing or receiving blessing or a combination of both–we are called to be faithful and thankful.
I fail in many things, and often could live this roadmap out much better than I do. There are opportunities to serve that I pridefully look over, or that I’m blind to. There are also times that I serve and God allows me to fall flat on my face! Giving ourselves to others is often hard, but this is one of the things I love about life: we can’t do anything on our own. We need to fully surrender ourselves to Christ and, oddly, there is so much comfort and confidence in that. It’s sacrifice, it’s laying down your life, it’s often enduring hardship, but it’s also important Gospel work.

Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ and when we have a firm foundation, we can confidently live our lives for the glory of Christ, whether on the giving end or receiving end of His perfect blessing. I think faithful obedience can be summed up simply: pursue hard after Christ first and foremost, and then work to make an impact for the Kingdom in what God calls you to–pursue the people God puts in your path, giving yourself to them with the skills God has given you.

Now of course for most of us, none of these concepts are mind blowing or new– we’ve heard that we ought to be in the Word, surround ourselves with Godly men and women, and give ourselves to others. But often the most obvious, basic truths are the ones we most easily forget–everyone wants to change the world for Christ, but no one wants to be faithful in the little, nitty-gritty, often hard things. But what I’m telling you is the way to change the world is to do exactly that: be faithful in all things.
All for His Glory and to His Glory!

Emily Abens (With help from my team of absolutely wonderful God fearing and faithful people whom I love and cherish dearly. They help me stay faithful and help me follow and flesh out this roadmap on a daily basis.)

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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

Faithful Obedience by Rachel Jankovic

Rachel Jankovic is a friend who has taught me many things. And of the things I’ve learned from her is how obedience, simple obedience looks like on a day to day basis. It looks like a joyful task, and it actually laughs out loud. It smells like bread coming out of the oven. It looks beautiful, like vibrant colorful threads in the loom. It loves to work hard, and never complains about a messy kitchen, little dirty hands, and the  to-do list that never ends but keeps growing. Faithful obedience, she has taught me through her example, is always grounded in the Word of God and grows when it feeds on the perfect obedience of Christ.

The wonderful thing about pursuing this kind of faithful obedience is that, by the the grace of God and with His blessing, it bears loads of fruit. But we know that if we have lots of fruit -even the most delicious and beautiful- sitting in a basket it will rot very quickly. So this kind of obedience gets all the fruit it bears, puts it in many baskets (one is never enough!), and then sets those baskets on the porch, on the corner of the streets, in the church, so that anyone who passes by may freely take all the fruit they want! And as all things that God blesses, the seeds of all this fruit multiplies a thousand times!

So thank you, Rachel, for your friendship, your example, and your willingness to write for the Faithful Obedience series today.

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A statement of faith is a way of communicating what you believe about God and His relationship to man throughout history in a short and succinct way. But it covers creation, the fall, redemption, the mechanism of salvation, and ultimate destiny for mankind. It is simply a way to put a hand hold on the biggest beliefs that we have so that they can be quickly communicated.

A profession of faith is a Christian personally expressing a statement of faith. It is the same words, simply with “I” in front of it. I believe in God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, I believe in the resurrection of the dead, etc.

But faithfulness is walking through your life holding fast to your profession, and living your statement of faith. Hebrews 10:23 says “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)”

Faithfulness has to hold fast because life is moving along. We are inevitably carried by the passage of time through many changes and events that will make holding fast necessary.

I remember when I was a young mother of several children realizing that I was being called to live – to actually live – what I had only up until that point believed in the abstract. I believed that children were a blessing. I believed that this was a good thing. I believed that my work was important, that my joy and contentment in it were meaningful. But I was being called to hold fast to that profession through the things that might want to separate me from it. There comes an inevitable moment when if you do not hold fast to your profession you will no longer be professing it. And that is where faithfulness comes in. Holding fast when the storms of life are inviting you to let go.

I was raised in a believing family and have been blessed monumentally by the faithfulness of those ahead of me. I can see with my own eyes what it is to hold fast through so many different phases of life. My Grandfather is finishing his final laps in the Lord – holding fast his profession about what life and death means to a Christian as he approaches the finish line. My parents are living with him to care for him – holding fast their profession that God has called them to honor their father and mother. Those two have walked together through cancer, holding fast their profession that God is faithful, and that He is God even of cancer. They have lived their christian lives in front of us, alongside of us, always joyfully bearing more burdens than us, always rejoicing in the goodness of God with us, always blessing us with their example.

My husband and I are closer to being grandparents now than we are to being newlyweds – and God invites us to hold fast to our profession daily. As we grow older we find we have more opportunities to claim as our own parts of our statement of faith that we had up until this point only believed. Now we must live it. We are surrounded by siblings who are holding fast to their professions through different callings and obstacles and life phases. Holding fast through a brain tumor, through a life that will always be affected by that. Holding fast their profession as they live faithfully whatever God has called them to. And we have our children and our nieces and nephews – some holding fast to their profession as they enter adulthood, some holding fast as they learn to negotiate adolescence and even the three year old – learning what it means to salute Jesus and hold fast.

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.

Rachel Jankovic

You can find the table of contents of this series here.
The latest post on the series was about how to cultivate faithful obedience in our own lives.