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

My Three Favorite Apps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Under His sun and by His grace,

Becky Pliego

Praying the Psalms -Psalm 138-

 

Psalm 138
Of David
 
I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.

 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
    for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.
Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Abba Father, I give you thanks with my whole heart. I give you thanks because out of love, you have given me so many wonderful things and have brought me through different situations in which I have learned how faithful you are and how much I need you.

Father, I give thanks not generally; I am not trying to be a grateful woman for the sake of being grateful. As your child I want to give thanks to you. Not to the gods of this world, not to fate, but you, Lord.

As I come to offer you a prayer of thanksgiving, remind me that bowing down is good for my soul. It reminds me that I am low, that I do not deserve anything and yet you bless me in so many ways. I am crowned with new mercies each morning and that is because it pleases you to do so.

Thank you for your steadfast love, your faithfulness. Thank you because you have exalted your Name and your Word above all things. Thank you because Your Name is powerful and your Word is a conquering sword. Thank you, Lord, because you promised that anything we ask so that the Father may be glorified in the Son, if we ask in your Name you will give it to us. Thank you, Lord.

Thank you for your Word, Father. It is there that we learn how to ask according to your will and not according to our selfish desires. Thank you for giving us your Word to show us the way, to live, to fight, to conquer over our enemies. Thank you, Father. Please, Oh please, may your Holy Spirit teach us to understand it and draw us to it every day.

Father, how many times I have called on you, and you have always answered me. How many times when I am weary or someone else in the body of Christ is weary and we pray you always answer us by giving us grace to endure the trials. You delight in increasing the strength of the soul of the weary ones. You always show strong when we are weak. You renew the strength of your people as the eagle’s.

Lord, thank you for the hope we have in the days that are yet to come. Thank you because we will see one day all the kings of the earth giving you thanks and bowing down before you. They will all know that the words of your mouth are all true and wise. They will all sing of your ways for great is your glory.

Father, give me this day, this week, a humble and meek heart; give me a quiet heart that knows that you are Sovereign and merciful, and that in such a grand truth my heart may learn to rest and hold its peace. Deliver me from all haughtiness, from all pride, from all self-righteousness, and forgive me, O Lord, for the many times I have sinned in this. Renew me, cleanse me. Give me a humble heart, which is always a grateful heart.

Lord, I don’t know what lies ahead of me this week, but I know that even if your will for me is that I may walk in the midst of trouble, you will most certainly preserve my life. You will stretch your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your hand will deliver me.

I know that you are faithful and you will fulfill your purpose for me, for my family, for my church because your steadfast love endures forever. Oh Father, do not forsake the work of your hands.

I pray this in the name that is above all names, the name of Jesus.

Amen

Becky

Praying the Psalms -Psalm 61-



Psalm 61
To the Choirmaster: With stringed instruments. 
Of David
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to you
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I,
for you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the enemy.
Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings!
                                                          Selah
For you, O God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Prolong the life of the king;
may his years endure to all generations!
May he be enthroned forever before God;
appoint steadfast love and faithfulness to watch over him!
So will I ever sing praises to your name,
as I perform my vows day after day.

Father, sometimes you bring us to situations in our lives in which we feel like we are at the very end of the earth, in a desolate land, where not only our body feels weary, but also where our heart faints. But right there, in the middle of our sadness and our confusion, your Spirit within us draws us to call to you, and You hear us.

God, our God, where shall we go when our little ones are fighting cancer, when we bury our spouses and our children? Where do we go when our daughters are in a hospital bed asking questions? Where do we go when there are tears we want to wipe off but they keep coming back? Where do we go when the marriage vows seem to be crumbling down? Where do we go when our songs are not anymore? Where do we go when we see injustice in this world?

We go to You.
We run to You.
We go to you:
our Rock,
our refuge,
our strong tower.

Oh God! That we may dwell in your tent forever! Safe from our thoughts, our own doubts, our fears, our own foolishness. Safe from the enemy of our souls that wants to devour our trust in You.

Oh God! Let us take refuge under the shelter of your wings! There and only there can we be safe. No enemy will be able to find us when our lives are hidden with Christ in You.

Thank you, that you hear our voice, Father.
Thank you because you have put in my heart a fear for your Name.
Thank you, Lord, for the wonderful promises that you have given us.
Thank you, because you look down to the ends of the earth
and see everything under the heavens.
Thank you because your dominion knows no limits.
Thank you, Father because even from the end of the earth,
You bring us to you,
and you wipe our tears,
and heal our diseases,
and mend our broken hearts

Father, let my praises to you reach to the end of the earth!

Amen

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:22

Becky

Praying the Psalms -Psalm 20-

A prayer of intercession.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary
and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings
and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!
Selah

May he grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfill all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your salvation,
and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfill all your petitions!

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy
heaven
with the saving might of his right
hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in
horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord
our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.

O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call.

Father, I come boldly before you in the name of Jesus. It is because of Him and through Him that I can come before you and be assured that you hear the voice of my prayer.

Your steadfast love, O Lord, is forever sure and your mercies new every morning. This morning, therefore,  I come before you to pray for my neighbor. That she might see your steadfast love and mercy anew in her life this day.

Answer to my friend’s prayer.  In the time of trouble she has seek your face and has not hidden from you. Her heart, her thoughts, her fears are before you. Oh Father, hear the voice of her prayer today.

She is troubled, her soul is heavy, she cries herself to sleep, and her troubles surround her day and night. Be her comforter. Be her protection, her support, her strength, her hiding place. Please, O God, answer her prayers according to your good will; she is your daughter, the apple of your eye, your child. Be with her today.

Lord you are full of mercy, and I pray that in your mercy you will remember her, remember all her prayers, her tears, her service to others, her love for your Word. Lord, let her know that you have not forsaken her. That you know the number of the hairs on her head.

Father, my friend has poured her heart before you many times. Her heart’s desires and plans are before you. Show her the way she should go. Bless her steps, and give her wisdom to decide the best in every circumstance. Lord, answer her. Please, Father, grant her the petitions of her heart, help her to wait patiently on you. May she shout for joy over your salvation and your glorious name.  May her rejoice in the God who hears!

Lord, I pray today for my friend. Some trust in so many things that are vain, but we know You. We know who is our only hope. We know that you hear the prayers of your children. We know that you will never leave us or forsake us. We know in whom we have trusted. We trust in You. We trust in your name, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Strong Tower, Jesus, Wonderful, Counselor.  We trust in every aspect of your name. We trust in You, in all of You, Oh Lord.

Rise my friend from the ground, Father,  help her stand upright. Be her victory. Be her song.

Blessed be your name, O Lord of Hosts.
Blessed be the King of kings who hears the plea of his servants.

Amen

 

Praying the Psalms -Psalm 77-

 

©Katie Lloyd Photography -used with permission-

 

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out
without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
Selah

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song
in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Selah

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.
Selah

When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were
afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Father in Heaven, there are times when some memories hunt me at night, times in which my soul grows weary to the point of refusing to be comforted. Some days as I lie on my bed, I remember and the pain pierces me still. I cannot speak, Father, in times like those I don’t know what to say, how to pray. I just ask questions in my heart, my face hidden in the pillow.

But you O God, always Merciful to your own, visit me at night. You remind me of all your goodness and steadfast love. You comfort me in the middle of those hard nights, and when the sobs are quieted, and I start to see more clearly, I only have eyes to see your mercies.

And as I open my eyes, I say,

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.

Yes, Lord, yes. I want to remember this. Help me not to forget! How you have worked wonders in my life even through the hardest providences. How the sins of my youth broke me in pieces and then you pulled all those pieces together and made me whole again. Who else could do something like that? There is no other one like You!

I will remember how it pleased you to made your ways known to me. O how you stretched your arms on the cross to redeem me!

When the waters that were trying to drawn me saw you, they feared you and retreated. In the midst of the hardest trials, You were there. I could not see your arrows going against my enemies because I was hidden under your wings. I couldn’t see beyond my pain and fears but you never left me. O God, my Shepherd, you have led me through all those hard trials to a place of quiet, a place of green pastures. I am grateful, so grateful, God.

Let me drink and eat from you now that the waters are low and the sky is clear blue, so that I will be prepared for the next storm. Let my heart be strengthen in you. Let me be established in your Word. Let me never forget that You alone are the God who works wonders.

Father, I love  you. I love you, Oh God of my Salvation.

Amen

Becky