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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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A Prayer for my Sons -Acts 18: 24-28

 22.1.16



In Acts 18:24-28 we read of Apollo, a man who labored with Paul to serve God and the saints in the primitive church, and who stood faithful to his calling to the end. The Lord has drawn me to read this passage several times lately and after mediating on it, I have made it a prayer for my sons (and my daughters' future husbands).

Father, I pray for my sons, for these men. Thank you because they have grown before You and grown in You.

Lord, I pray for them, for no matter where they are or how old they are, I will never cease to struggle in prayer for them before you. I know that you are the God who hears, who sees, who answers the prayers of your children.

I pray for my sons -and future sons-in-law- Father, that they will be eloquent and competent in the Scriptures, that they will understand that the only way to win arguments and hearts, and battles is with the Word abiding in them and working in them. Father, draw them to your Word and let it dwell richly in them.

Father, in your grace and kindness you have granted me and my husband the privilege and honor to instruct our sons in the Scriptures since their early years. Now they have become Men, now it is only You and them. Now it is my time to watch them, like robust trees, bear much fruit in their life. It is only You who through your Spirit, the Word, and your church, that can establish them, and make their roots stronger and deeper; only You can make them bear much fruit, only You can make them bold and zealous, and fearless -and humble.

I pray for my sons, Lord. I pray that they will be fervent in spirit, that they will speak and teach accurately all things concerning Jesus and the gospel. I pray that their lives will match the words of Truth that come out of their mouths.

I pray for my sons, Lord. I pray that they may speak boldly in the church, in their homes, in the corners, in the public square; but that as they grow in boldness, I pray that they will grow in humility. For what is a bold man without a humble spirit and a teachable heart other than a tyrant and a prideful man? Oh, Lord, Good Master, give my sons good teachers and friends, and pastors and elders, and the desire to humble before them to learn. Give my sons friends that will be like iron in their lives, friends that will encourage them to grow in piety and that will be good examples to follow, to imitate. Give my sons feet to follow the counsel of the wise and boldness to reject the one from the wicked. Give my sons eyes and ears to listen to all, and discernment to judge according to your Word. Help them consider all the "ifs" of this life through your Word. And at the same time, Lord, I beg you, make of them good examples for others to follow. Make their lives worth imitating.

Draw my sons more to you, and to your Word so that they may grow in grace. Father, as they grow in grace give them a desire to help greatly those who have believed in you. Help my sons to grow in grace so that when the opposition comes, when the arguments of the evil men arise, they will powerfully refute them. I pray that all the days of their lives, they will not cease to see it for themselves and show in the Scriptures to others that Christ is our Savior.

I pray for my sons, Lord, I pray that they will love You and your Word more, so that they might be able to love their own wives more and more.

I pray in the name of Jesus who lives and reign forever and ever,

Amen.



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And the Winner is!

 19.12.15


And the winner of the promised devotional, Dear Pilgrim by Diana Lovegrove is EJN!

Thank you to those who participated!

Have a most blessed Lord's Day!


Grace and peace,




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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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