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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Don’t know where or how to start reading your Bible? Join us today. You can jump in on today’s readings found here.

Image via Unsplash

Do Not Waste Your Sighs

Screen Shot 2019-07-04 at 1.14.24 PM“Dear reader, in the time of your trouble, do not roam; do not send out your sighs into vacancy; do not let your thoughts wander, as though they were looking for some  one on whom to fix; for some one to whom you could tell the story of your heart’s need, and desolation. Fix your heart, as the Psalmist did, and say, ‘Unto Thee will I cry.'”

P.B. Power, The ‘I Wills’ of the Psalms

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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An Important Distinction

Screen Shot 2019-06-03 at 12.43.19 PM Here is a very simple, but important distinction that might change your life.

Thinking about something without ceasing is NOT the same thing as praying about something without ceasing.

Thinking about *it* will make you anxious, but praying about *it* is what God wants us to do and will lead us to a place of peace and hope.

In 1 Peter we read,

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

When we worry about something and think about it all day we are not humbling ourselves before God. Humbling ourselves before the mighty hand of God involves casting all our anxieties before Him knowing and trusting that He cares for us.  And this is humbling because it means that we must recognize that we can’t do anything about that thing that is causing us all this worry; and so we cast our fears, anxieties, worries before our God who is indeed able to do far more abundantly than we can imagine or think (Eph. 3:20-21).

We can pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) by turning every anxious thought, every worry into a prayer to God.

Let’s learn to turn our worries into prayers, remembering that our Heavenly Father loves to hear the prayers of His children.

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

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PC Priscilla Du Preez

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

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