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Before Doing the Next Thing

 9.6.16


"Just do the thing in front of you” Elisabeth Elliot said, and I have always believed that statement to be true, but now I am on a different place and I'm seeing things from a different angle. Yes, doing the next thing God calls us to do is mandatory, but sitting still for a while before moving towards the next thing is as important as moving forward. Finding a quiet time is, many times the next thing we ought to do. Especially for those of us who are prone to move.

Our second son just got married, and we are very grateful for the new daughter that we now have. We love her deeply. We are grateful for the many, many prayers we have prayed before our Father who hears us for our son and this wife; we are grateful for the gift of seeing them start their new family with prayer, anchored in the Word. I am truly grateful and very happy. But it is still a hard thing to let your son go. Doing the next thing for me now looks like slowing down and reading my Bible more and making more room for prayer.

My dear friend and I had this conversation a few days ago, that made me think more on what it means to feel this void in the heart that is very hard to explain because, paradoxically, my heart is more full now. She said that when we marry a child we finish a job, and finishing a job is always something solemn and sober that calls for reflection. How I agree with her!

You know, Friend, turning the page quickly to the new chapter of your life sometimes cannot be done quickly. Sometimes it is good and important to take the time to reflect and pray before doing the next thing. To recall the many prayers you have prayed, the answers God has given, the promises that have sustained you is a good thing to do. Morbid introspection has no place here. It is not about us, remember, it is about God's glory and His promises, it is about His perfect and sovereign plan and us becoming more like Christ. Doing the next thing many times is not necessarily moving forward, but  slowing down and praying more, asking God to give you a promise that you can hold unto in the days and months to come.

Some days and life events should look more like your favorite book: you finish a chapter and you love it so much that instead of not wanting to put your book down to see what comes next, you close it and want to linger on it a bit more. It is so good, so rich, that moving quickly to the next chapter is not a good idea. You need to let the story sink down. And then, when you turn the page, you understand the story better and love it even more.

We are so quick to move, to do the next thing right away that we end up living an unexamined life, and Socrates got it right, an unexamined life is not worth living.

So yes, let's do the next thing, but first let's take time to slow down and consider Christ and the work of His Spirit in our own lives.


Under His sun and by His grace,


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Christian Marriages and the Culture War

 13.5.16

In a world gone mad, in a world where many -pretend- not to know the differences between a man and a woman, a boy and a girl; in a world in which limits are being pushed beyond common sense and against God's order, in that world, our world, we are doing the sane thing, the Biblical thing, the thing that others are condemning as insane: we support our children to marry young with other God-fearing Christians while at the same time we fight for our marriages.

Christian marriages, Friends, are a declaration of war against those riding the tide of sin that wants to drown the Kingdom of God.

The devil wants to give children "two moms" or "two dads," and one effective way to fight him is supporting our young Christian people to marry in Christ and have children and raise them in the fear of the Lord and teach them to love Jesus.

We also fight this heresy the world is preaching by striving to be better moms and dads. We can't fight the devil's lie by living ourselves in a lie. We kill the sin that is in us and is making us bad parents. We do something more than hope to become better parents: we kill the sin in us: anger, laziness, bitterness, etc. we put our phones down, we read books together with our kids, we laugh with them and eat as families, we hug and kiss our kids, and hug and kiss our husband; we go to church together and pray together. We ask for forgiveness and grant forgiveness. We live the Gospel and are not ashamed of it. All these are war tactics and we make use of them by faith.

The devil wants to kill babies, so we, Christians, have babies and teach little ones the Gospel. And as these littles grow, we faithfully teach them the sanctity of life and about the Giver of Life.

The devil is deceiving people into believing that the DNA God has written for each one of us is irrelevant, that people can choose their own sexual identity. So we go to war by teaching our children the differences between a man and a woman. We teach men to be men and women to be women. Both strong. Both biblical grounded. Both understanding the different roles God has given us, and we teach them to embrace the differences with gladness. Both, man and woman, loving Christ and the Kingdom of God, and His Church. Both fearless of the years to come because they know the Scriptures and know in Whom they have believed.

And yes, at the same time, we turn to the one to whom we said "I do," and we look for his hand and his chest and we do that by faith also. We work on our own marriage and do not grow weary of doing good, of building, of loving, of walking an extra mile. We fight for our own marriage because we cannot run away from the battlefield. That would be suicide and we know that. We persevere because God is for us and never against us, because His mercies are new every morning. And we know that too. We don't try to find how to tweak the Scriptures and find and easier and more comfortable way to explain "submission" and "respect." We don't fear those words, and we teach our girls not to fear them- because we fear God not man and God's design is good, very, very good indeed.

So hope in God and fear not. Fight the good fight of faith.

Under His Sun and by His grace,


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Humility, Grace, and Peace of Mind

 3.3.16


View of Arles with Irises by Vincent Van Gogh

"Clothe yourselves, all of you with humility toward one another, for 'God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.' 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." 1Peter 5:5b-7

One of the reasons we fail to fully trust God and completely leave all our anxieties before Him is our prideful and arrogant heart.

First of all in the passage above we see the connection that Peter makes. We must dress ourselves with humility not only before God, but before one another (it is easier to say that we are humble before God, but another different thing is to show that humility in action in the way we relate with another), and we need to do this because Grace is given to the humble not to the proud.

One area in which we certainly need Grace is when it comes to laying all our burdens and anxieties before God. But Grace, remember, is only given to the humble person.

Now let's look closely at these two, Grace and humility,  put together.

Think of this, one of the reasons we battle with anxiety is because we are prideful. We say we believe in prayer and we like the verses that encourage us to come and leave all our burdens before God, but because of our prideful heart, we don't really leave our burdens at the feet of Jesus. Instead, we try to hide them -hoping that God won't notice-  in our heart and mind, and then we leave our prayer closet thinking that we need to keep pondering about it because, in our arrogance, we persuade ourselves that if we think hard enough about those worries, we will sure come up with a solution. And sure enough, Arrogance wins and we lose. Anxiety takes hold of us and it seems harder to cast our burdens before the Father.

Humbling ourselves before God in prayer, trusting that He cares for us is the only way for us to stop being anxious. Because, you see,  when we are in that humble state, He gives us grace to endure, to wait, to trust.

Peter continues,

"Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 5: 8-11


So, are you battling anxieties, are your burdens too heavy? Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will give you Grace to walk through any dark valley -of death, of confusion, of fears. And be watchful, because after you cast your burdens at the feet of Jesus, the devil will be prowling around trying to convince you to take that burden and carry it yourself. But we can resist him because God gives Grace to the one who humbles himself under His mighty hand, and Christ himself restores, confirms, strengthens, and establishes us. He is sovereign over all. All the spheres of our life are under His dominion. We are even given the Grace to believe this and rest assured on His promises.

So fall on your knees today (literally!) and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God casting all your anxieties before Him knowing that He cares for you.

Under his sun and by His grace,


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Are we Busy or Distracted?

 24.2.16

Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Diego Rodriguez DaSilva y Velázquez

"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”" Luke 10: 38-42 
Wait. Read that passage again. Two more times, maybe?

I have been mediating on this passage and it came to my attention that Martha's problem was not necessarily being busy, it was something else.

Martha was busy at her home, and she understood that hospitality is a big word that implies big work. She got that part and that is good. But keep reading. Her problem was not that she was busy doing what needed to be done, hers was a heart problem that is seen as follows:

1. Martha was distracted by much serving. Much serving was not the problem, having a house full of guests, or littles at home to feed or grown-ups to listen to, or having to make extra soup for a friend in need, or classes and papers to grade, and doctors' appointments to make, and laundry and exams, and a husband to embrace and a friend in need to listen to are not the real problem. The problem is how that busyness, how that much serving can distract our hearts and draw our attention to something else that will destroy our relationship with God and others.

Jeremiah Burroughs in his book, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, says that Christian contentment is "opposed to an unsettled and unstable spirit, whereby the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships towards God, ourselves and others."


This is exactly what I see in the passage. Martha's heart got distracted and her heart became unsettled and unstable. Instead of looking at Jesus, the object of her service, she looked at herself and in turn, her eyes veered to her sister in comparison.

2.  Notice that after Martha's heart is distracted, she turns to Jesus, but not to listen to Him. He looks to Him in order to complain. How could He have missed the fact that she was doing more than Mary? How could He not see her diligent service and her sister's poor attitude towards their duties?

Jesus' answer goes directly to the heart of the matter. He does not address the "how-much-I-am-doing vs. the-how-much-she-is-not-doing" argument (that we moms have heard from our children too often, just like our Heavenly Father has heard from his children more than often!). Martha's problem was anxiousness, a troubled heart -not busy hands, and also the fact that she started comparing herself with her own sister. She wanted Jesus to make her an example before Mary. Martha clearly had not learned contentment in the midst of a busy day.

Again we read Jeremiah Burroughs' wise words: "[Christan contentment] is opposed to murmuring and repining at the hand of God..." and "Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious, frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God's wise and fatherly disposal in every condition."

How challenging and fitting it is for us to read this passage. Many of us are in a season in which our lives are full, trying to do less is what we dream of, but in reality we just can't.  But we can do one important thing: check the attitude of our heart in the midst of all those busy moments. In doing so, we will be choosing "the good portion" that Jesus wants us to choose.

So let's check our own heart: Am I continually and quietly murmuring and complaining -even in prayer? Is it my tendency to be distracted in my heart only to find myself comparing my days with those of my neighbor? Can I see my present condition and my hands full, and praise God and see Him and listen to Him as I come and go? Or am I using this busy season in my life only as an excuse to not come to Jesus to worship Him?

"A Christian knows that he should not be diverted by small matters, but should answer every distraction, and resist every temptation." Jeremiah Burroughs.
Grace upon grace,


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Soften Our Hearts to Receive Forgiveness

 17.2.16

Jim Lepage Art
The story of Joseph is one of my favorites in the Bible mainly because Joseph is clearly a powerful type of Jesus.

In Genesis 50 we read that after Israel (Jacob) died, Joseph's heart grieved for him and he, along with his brothers, mourned and cried, and buried his father Israel. But not long after that, Joseph's brothers came to him with great fear.

The past still haunted them. Their past sin's shadow had not yet departed from them. They had once asked Joseph to forgive them from their sin against him, and Joseph had expressed his forgiveness with words and tears, and actions (Gen. 45). Joseph even called them and brought them near to him, to a safer place where they would lack nothing. But now that their Father was gone, now that their circumstances had changed, the questions came back and the shadows grew darker and bigger as the memories of that day rushed back like cataracts -the Dreamer, the tunic, the well, the merchants, the look on Joseph's eyes, his cries, his pleas, the blood of the animal, the lies all had to make up, the moment they faced their father, his loud cry, and the way their lives were changed forever- all were tangible memories that made them shiver and sweat.  What if Joseph had changed his mind? What if Joseph's forgiveness was just a show to make their father happy? What if he had not really forgiven them? So they came and again asked for his forgiveness one more time because, you see, forgiveness and restoration and all-is-forgotten-and-all-is-made-new is too good to be true, and it just can't be that easy, right? Their nightmares were real, but more real than Joseph's promise of forgiveness?

However, Joseph didn't change his mind. He "wept when they spoke to him" and said to them, "Do not fear... " and then again, "Do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." And the author tells us that with these words "he comforted them and spoke kindly to them."

If we could only see and understand how Jesus forgives us! How many times we are haunted by our past sins, by memories that out of nowhere spring up and cast a heavy shadow on our hearts. How many times we have asked God to forgive us for the same sins over and over again? We are like Joseph's brothers, we doubt the character, the goodness, the free gift that Jesus gives us. We can't possibly believe that God forgives the worst and calls us and brings us close to him to feed us with the best of the land, with bread and wine. "No," we say, "that can't be."

But we must believe and not fear to come when God bids us to come. God's love for us and His forgiveness are not dependent on anything we do or don't do; His forgiveness doesn't rest on the circumstances around us, His forgiveness comes from His immutable character and perfect love. He even leads us, in his kindness, to repentance. We ask for forgiveness because He softens our hearts to be able to do that.

Don't fear the shadows of past sins. Repent and believe that He delights to forgive His people.

And there is one more layer to unwrap in this story. One more lesson on forgiveness.

How do we extend forgiveness to others? Like Jesus to us? Like Joseph to his brothers? Joseph knew -and never denied- that what their brothers did to him, they did full of malice and meant it for evil. However, he fully forgave them and did all that was possible for him to do to restore that relationship. Why did he do that? How was that even possible? Again, because Joseph knew God and His character. He understood one thing above all else: God is sovereign over all the events of our lives, even over those things that people do and say against us. He even told his brothers, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God?" (50:19)

Let us learn to be like Joseph -and even more like Jesus. Let us welcome those who have hurt us and have meant evil against us, let us start saying more often kind words that can bring comfort, "Do not fear, come..." 

Soften our hearts, Oh Lord, to receive and extend forgiveness. 

Under His sun and by His grace,


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Who is Becky?

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Becky
If I am happy it is because of God! God, in His sovereign grace, has called me out of darkness into His Admirable light. He has opened my eyes and has shown me the way to Eternal Life. He has set my feet on a journey, and now I am walking Daily on My Way to Heaven. I did not find Jesus, He found me. I did not seek Him, yet He called me. I did not love Him, yet He loved me. I deserved death and He gave me Life. This is the place where I keep a journal of my life under His sun and by His grace!
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Borrowed Words

"It becomes us to spend this life only as a journey toward heaven... to which we should subordinate all other concerns of life. Why should we labor for or set our hearts on anything else, but that which is our proper end and true happiness?"

Jonathan Edwards

"I am still pondering God's greatness in His creation. I have so many questions that I would like to ask the Lord about the universe, creation, the fall of man... But when I'm in heaven, I wonder if I will even remember them. At that time, being in the presence of God will be enough. I'm thankful that I can look forward to that day."

-Persis

“Heaven is not here, it’s There. If we were given all we wanted here, our hearts would settle for this world rather than the next. God is forever luring us up and away from this one, wooing us to Himself and His still invisible Kingdom, where we will certainly find what we so keenly long for.”

- Elisabeth Elliot, Keep a Quiet Heart



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