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.

How To Cultivate Faithful Obedience

Screen Shot 2019-05-04 at 5.30.59 PMWe have been reading testimonies of God’s faithfulness in the lives of Christian women in the series of Faithful Obedience (we’ll read many more in the next months), and we have seen how these women have learned, by God’s grace, to respond in obedience to God’s will for them.

But maybe you have been reading this series and keep thinking how is it even possible to learn to respond in this way? How can these women face chronic diseases, the loss of husbands, infertility, the loss of children, the diagnose of breast cancer with such a humble and joyous heart? How is it possible to open our hands and receive God’s will for us with so much gratitude even when it looks like a heavy loss? Yes, you have been going to church for many years but you wonder if you would be able to respond in faithful obedience to God’s Providence in your life when a hard Providence comes your way?

The truth is that none of us will be able to submit to God’s will with joy and gratitude and faithful obedience on our own strength. None of us. We are shortsighted, our vision most of the times is blurry. Left to our own, we can’t submit joyfully to what we don’t understand. And faithful obedience to God seems just something beyond our capacity. So how can we cultivate this kind of response in all sort of trials?

Our brothers and sisters who have gone through the toughest trials, have been able to submit willingly and joyfully to God, and to respond in faithful obedience to Him because they have learned to do one thing consistently: look up to Jesus. And Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith, the One who is sited at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

And how do we keep looking up to Christ? How does that look like? “Look up to Christ” is not an inspirational phrase, but a reality that has the power to sustain us through it all.

1. We first look up to Christ when we recognize that we can’t do anything to save ourselves from our own sin and the consequences of our sins -or the sin in the world (sickness, abuses done to us, etc). This is the place to start because only those who look up to Christ can be saved. And only those who have been saved can look up to Him for comfort, strength, mercy, and grace.

2. We look up to Christ when we take God’s Book, the Bible, and see Jesus on each one of its pages. God has chosen to reveal Himself to us and the way to come to Him in the Scriptures. We have not been left to ourselves to try to imagine God or find our own way to Him. Who He is and how we can approach Him is written, so we open our Bible and read it.

When we read our Bibles we are confronted with the Holiness of God and the Spirit convicts us of our sins. The Holy Spirit then uses the same Word of God to bring us repentance and wash us, and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. And once our sins are forgiven, we can see more clearly what a wonderful Savior we have in Jesus. We look up to see Him without a veil in our eyes we see Him more clearly and brightly.

We look up to Christ when we read our Bibles because it is a way of saying “I truly don’t know the way, Lord. Teach me your ways and guide me in them. I want to obey you in the here and in the now.” And on the other hand, when we fail to come to consistently to the Word of God, we are in a way saying, “I know the way, I can be my own guide” and in doing so we deliberately take off our eyes from Jesus and put them in ourselves, or in an idol that we think can save us.

We look up to Christ each day when we read our Bible because it is only there that we can see Jesus as the source of food that sustains and water that quenches our thirst. We look up to Christ when we read His Word because it is there that we come to understand that He Himself is our shelter and sure help in time of need. The journey is long and only those who eat the Word and delight in it will find the strength needed to persevere until the end.

In our Bibles we can also read the warnings of all the dangers and the enemies that we must face. But as we read chapter after chapter, book after book, we learn how we are to fight in this world -and we read how victory is only possible to those who have their eyes fixed on Jesus, to those who persevere looking up, waiting on Him for their deliverance.

We also find in the pages of the Bible the promises of God which belong to His children. Promises that build up our faith, that cause us to rejoice in the midst of a storm, that remind us of the hope that we have -one that is never in vain. Promises that point us to Jesus and remind us to live looking up to Him.

And the more we come to the Word, the more Scripture we intake, memorize, mediate, and believe, the more we will be ready to use it as the only effective sword to fight the Devil, our own sinful thoughts , and our feelings when they rebel against God.

3. We also look up to Christ when we pray without ceasing, for there is nothing like a life of prayer to declare how much we need Christ and how lost we are without Him.

A Christian who loves the Word of God loves to pray, and a Christian who loves to pray loves the Word of God. These two can never be separated. If we separate them our time in the Word will be fruitless and dry, and our prayer life will lack substance and words. The whole Bible is full of examples of prayers so that we may learn how to pray in all circumstances. When we cannot find the right words to pray and our minds are heavy and confused, we can find in the Psalms the words to express our anxieties, our fears, our many “Why, God?” and “How long, Oh, Lord?” Jesus prayed these prayers and in His name we can pray them too.

It is only through the merits of Jesus that we can approach the Throne of Grace and find grace and mercy in time of need. And it is only in the name of Jesus that we can make our requests of God with the certainty that He will hear us. How can we not look up to Christ if He is the way to the Father of all Comfort?

4. Another way in which we look up to Christ is when look around and see how many brothers and sisters we have in Christ. When we stand in the congregation of those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and are ready to encourage many and be encouraged by others in the Lord, we are, in a very practical way, looking up to head of body which is Christ. Sometimes we will have the opportunity to give a glass of water to one who thirsts, but many other times, God will put us on the other end. And when that times come, we must be ready to stretch out our hand in gratitude and receive that glass of water that we desperately need as if the Lord Jesus Himself were giving it to us -because He is indeed.

So we look up to Christ when we look up to Him to be saved, when we are in the Word of God each day, when we live a life of dependence to Him praying at all times, and when we are an active part of the body of Christ, serving others and being served by them too.

When we live looking up to Christ, we will find that faithful obedience will become the natural response to His Providence in our life. And by “natural” I don’t mean that it will necessarily be easy every time, but that it will always be possible.*

The more we train ourselves to look up to Christ, to be in the Word, to live by prayer, to do life with other believers, the more we will long to respond in faithful obedience. “Not my will but yours be done” will become the heart of each one of our prayers.

The Lord has prepared many circumstances to test us and to teach us to respond in faithful obedience to Him. He has prepared seasons of want and seasons of plenty, and in both we are called to walk in obedience, just like Jesus did. We must learn to ask ourselves, how does faithful obedience would look like in my present circumstance?

Look up to Christ even today so that through His merits, His perfect life, His perfect death, and His perfect obedience to the Father, you may find great satisfaction in obeying Him in whatever season He may have you now.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

 

 

 

* I learned this from Elisabeth Elliot. In her book Discipline: the glad surrender she wrote,”Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them.”

Photo by Jan Romero via Unsplash

Faithful Obedience by Noai Meyer

I am grateful for the gift of having Noai sharing with us in the series on Faithful Obedience. Noai has walked through a very hard road with much joy and unwavering trust in the Lord. Her life is an example of faithful obedience.

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Being Faithful with the Illness God Has Called You To

Psalm 84:11 “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

In 2018, shortly after the birth of my second daughter, we had the privilege of having my Multiple Scleroses come back with a scary vengeance. My vision was affected, my gait was affected, my arms and hands, and many other muscles and nerves. I remember one day sitting on the couch and crying because I had trouble even holding my newborn daughter. I did not feel so privileged at the time. But, through much prayer from the saints, and crying out to God, we look back on it now and can honestly say we wouldn’t have it any other way. It is good for me to have MS.

I think the biggest lie that we buy into all the time boils down to “God is not good.” We fear that He will take our child, or we fear that what we eat is killing us slowly, or we fear that we won’t find the right thing to help our bodies heal. Another lie is “I deserve something better”. I found myself thinking, “I just want to be normal!” Or I would think “but I want be a normal mom who can walk, all the other moms can walk!” I deserved to be like everyone else.
I was plenty able to walk; I just was projecting into the future…not a good idea. God’s grace and goodness were supplying my needs now, why should I go to a spot where He wasn’t? If I get there some day, He will be there and it will be good, and He will provide.

We so often forget that we don’t deserve any of this. Not even the opportunity to do dishes! I disliked doing dishes, and when God took that gift away, I realized even work was a gift. Every minute of every day is a gift and yet we brazenly complain when we don’t get the life we want. Many times I have cried out to God that He would heal me, and several times I have felt the answer to be “..for He knew what was in the heart of man” (John 2:25), or “You lust and do not have…that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:2-3). Did I really want God more than healing? Did I put Him as my “chief end” and goal? Or, was I wanting healing so I could go back to my “normal” life and spend it on my desires? Healing is great and God loves to give those kinds of good gifts, but He will always give good gifts, and sometimes that looks like MS. We must stop listening to the lies that health is good without God, or life is good without God.

God will do whatever it takes to draw you to Himself. He gives each of us unique trials that are fit just for us. As His children, He doesn’t withhold any good thing from us. If we have a chronic illness, it is because it is good. If He chooses not to heal us, it is good. It is so comforting to know that all of this is a part of God’s plan. We are under the skillful Surgeon’s knife, as T. S. Elliot put it. It is wonderful that “our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3). What could be better than God Himself?

“Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will deliver us” (2 Corinthians 9-10). He has “delivered us from so great a death”, what more could we ask for? And, of course he will deliver us!

Don’t ask, “What can I do to get out of this trial?” Instead ask, “How is God using this trial to bring me closer to Him?” Sometimes rampant fear and unbelief in God sneak in when we research how to get better. I often fell into this. I told myself, “I’m just trying to figure things out.” It is easy to find peace in activity instead of in God. The truth was I felt it was up to me to control my life. I couldn’t trust God to do it right. When we think like that, we lose that precious opportunity to throw ourselves on God and humble ourselves before Him “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (I Peter 5:6-7). There is nothing wrong with researching how to get better, just be aware that fear easily creeps in the back door at the same time. Stress and anxiety are good indicators of when you are putting your trust in the wrong things.

Trials tend to be great purging grounds for the dross of God’s people. They kick all your props out from under you, revealing what foundation you are really on. We are so easily distracted and subtly tempted from our first love. But God is merciful to teach us and lead us in just the way we need so that we might gain Him. Once those props have been knocked out, and your lack of faith revealed, start shifting your weight to the foundation of God’s promises.

So how can we be faithful with the time of illness God has given us? First, I think we need to recognize those lies that creep in easily when we are sick. Then we must run to Scripture and begin steeping ourselves and saturating ourselves with God’s promises. My husband counseled me not just to do this when the hard times hit, but especially when things are going well, because we all receive trials at some point if we are God’s children. Clothed in His armor we will be able to stand. “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6: 13).

I love promises about His promises: “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Numbers 23:19). This was just after Balak tried getting Balaam to curse God’s people and he couldn’t. There is nothing that can touch us that hasn’t been permitted by God. Another promise on promises is: “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20). You can and must put your trust in His promises.

Another good tactic for battling the fears is to get counsel or read books by Christians who have gone before us and conquered in these things. Some of the books that really blessed me during the hardest times were, “The Clouds Ye So Much Dread” by Hannah Grieser; “God is the Gospel” by John Piper, and “The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment” by Jeremiah Burroughs.

In the end, what do we really want? Do we want to see Jesus? “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:3). And, can we say with David, “One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4). Because this is his desire, David can say at the beginning of the psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

If God is good, and He is, what do we have to fear? “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:18-19). God’s loving hands are the ones that perfectly crafted your illness for you. He will complete His work in you (Philippians 1:6) and use whatever is necessary to give you what is truly good. Lean into the flame that consumes the dross.

Noai Meyer


You can find the index to the articles for this series at the bottom of the introductory post.

And maybe you would like to consider subscribing to this blog to continue reading this series on Faithful Obedience? Find the Subscribe button on the right side bar on the homepage.

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

Did You Resolve to Become a Better Christian This Year?

fashion woman notebook pen“Will I have the will power to achieve what I have purposed in my own heart for this new year? Will I have the strength to become a better Christian this year?”

We all know the answer is no. The flesh is weak, the world is tempting, and the Devil is just around the corner waiting to devour us.

The good news for those who belong to God, for those who have been born of God, is that we can actually become better Christians not by having a stronger will power, or by trying harder. We can only become better Christians because of the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in us.

We don’t have to wait until “tomorrow” to start afresh because we have each moment through the day to start afresh. Each day, when we open our eyes and yawn and stretch under the covers, we are breathing new mercies already. And through the many moments of our day when we fall, we repent, we believe, and we lean on God’s new mercies and grace again and again. And again and again, day after day, we take God’s book and open it, knowing that because the Holy Spirit is at work in us through His Word we are already being renewed and transformed into better Christians.

Remember Ephesians? (If not, please take the time today to read it, it will only take you 20 mins!). We walk in a life of sanctification as a result of the work of Christ on the cross on our behalf. Friends, we don’t have to try harder on our own strength. Christ has done the hard part already. We should not try to try our best to become better Christians, it will be like chasing the wind, or even worse it can draw us to rely on a faith based on works.  Our doing consists in believing in God and resting assured in the work of Christ on the cross (see John 6:28-29) on our behalf.

When we believe this truth, we start -and continue until the end- acting in faith as Christians. We cannot generate resolutions like pray more, read the Word more, love God more, mortify that sin harder, love our neighbor -and our enemies- more, can you see that? Only God can produce that in us!

So, what are we to do? Nothing? Sleep more until it is late in the day without opening our Bibles, without praying? By all means, no! We pray fervently and ask God to draw us to Himself and then act upon what we have read in the Word and prayed about. We take our Bible and open it trusting that He will indeed draw us to Him, that He will indeed transform us and help us overcome sin in our life. We take God’s book and read it trusting that He will satisfy us in the morning, every morning, with His steadfast love. We don’t lose hope, we keep coming, we keep reading, we keep praying and we keep obeying. We know that He is faithful so we approach Him and obey Him by grace through faith each day. We press on but always relying on God’s amazing grace.

Under His sun and by Hus grace,

Becky

Read Your Bible to Fight Unbelief

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Why do we stop reading our Bibles?

Really, think about it.

It is not because we lack the time to do it. If we are breathing we have time -and God knows we do have time! In reality, we stop reading our Bibles because we lack the faith to believe that God himself speaks to us through it.

We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we start living as if we were autonomous and knew well how to do this thing called life without any direction from the Holy Spirit. We stop reading it when, in our unbelief, we decide to listen to our troubled heart heavy with anxieties instead of listening to what God has to say in the midst of our troubles and anxieties. We stop reading it when we sin, because, in our unbelief, we think it is not profiting us or that God cannot forgive us -again. From the beginning, since our fathers fell in the Garden, it has been unbelief who has kept us from honoring, believing, and obeying God’s Word.

So, dear Friend, be reminded of this: the only way to battle unbelief is by being in the Word. Keep coming, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, book after book, day after day. God will fulfill His purpose in you and will strengthen your faith as you take the Book and read it.

Be encouraged! Persevere!

Under His Sun and by Grace,

Becky