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Christmas in May

 25.5.12

Photography by Kalle Gustafsson -source-


I am reading a wonderful book, Heaven Misplaced by Douglas Wilson. It is a short book about Eschatology, and more specifically about postmillennialism -or "historical optimism"-. And no matter what your beliefs are on this matter, if you are uncertain on what exactly postmillennialism is and would like to study it, this is the book you need to read. Wilson does a fantastic work in explaining a difficult topic in such a way that you find yourself inside the narrative, immersed in it. And in a moment you find yourself saying, "Wouldn't it be glorious if this really were true?" 


I would love to share with you some quotes from chapter seven, What the Angels Said; Goodwill Toward Men,  that have found its way deep into my heart:

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:8-14

"Think of this book as a small effort to get Christians to believe their Christmas carols year-round.
We have trouble with this because Christmas is about grace, and grace is one of the most difficult things in the world for sinners to grasp. And as soon as we realize that it is difficult, we turn the "grasping of it" into a contest, giving those with the "right answer" a "best in show" award. But grace doesn't follow our rules. Grace means that some who have the wrong answers will be saved and others who have the right answers won't be."

"We have trouble with something as straightforward as "goodwill toward men." We are afraid of grace getting carried away, and so we want to slap some conditions on it."

"Grace has a backbone and knows how to define itself. Grace is not the word that we use as the "open, sesame" of the Church. Grace is not something we do. Grace is not something we can control. Grace is not something that we can manage. And this means that we in the Church need to recognize that the guardians of grace are frequently its most dangerous enemies. Grace is God's declared intention of favor for the whole world, whether we like it or not."

"We know our Bibles well enough to know that grace, properly understood, does not lead to a life of moral outrage. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? (Rom.6:1). Of course not. We know the Scriptures in this, but I am afraid that we do not know our own hearts. God's grace is a tsunami that will carry us away and deposit us in places we would not have anticipated -and all of it good. We analyze this carefully and say that  we want our grace to be true and pure water, just like the tsunami, but we want it to be a placid pond on a summer day that we can inch across gingerly, always keeping one pointed toe on what we think is the bottom of our own do-gooding morality. "
"Christ was born at night, and His birth was the arrival of the morning star."


Waiting in Him,


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Spinning in the Fog

 23.5.12

Annie Pliego Photography


It is a foggy day, just the way days have been lately.  The sun-rays come and go through the clouds, but most of the time there is fog.

She puts on her pretty dress, the one that swirls beautifully when she spins around.

Over and over again, she dances.

She spins with wide open arms in the fog. 

She stops. 

All is moving inside of her, outside her, all is unstable. At least that is the way it seems to be. 

And I look from the window, standing where the sun rays appear and disappear behind the clouds, the fog. All is moving, all is swirling inside my head, my heart. Thoughts. This, that. The next. The book, the girl, the man.

The fog won't rise.

The girl is spinning again.

What matters, what doesn't? What fights should I fight and which ones are not for me? All is swirling. This, that. Poetry. Calvin. Luther. Chesterton. Analogies. Fog. Love. Unity. Division.

She stops. 

Her legs are firm in the ground.

Her arms still opened wide. 

I stop. I press my Bible to my chest. Hard. I feel a hard lump in my throat. Words are hidden in the fog.

A sun ray shines on her and she starts spinning again.

All these terms, these theological questions. This, that. The passion for one or the other. The songs we sing. The books we read. The words we write. The conversations we have. The lives we live in the open. In the secret.  They all matter. They do. Even when the fog won't rise and all is moving inside us. It matters. It does matter. I am what I believe.

She spins.

It matters what I believe.

It determines how I will respond...

In the days of darkness.

In the days of joy.

In the days of trouble.

In the days of health.

In the days of sickness.

In the days of trials.

In the days of peace.

She still spinning.

All the days I will live

Under the sun,

Under the fog.

Today, tomorrow,

The time in between.

They all matter.

It does matter!

She stops. She grabs her dress as if by holding unto it she won't fall. 

I am still holding my Bible. Tight. I do not want to fall.

The sun rays are now coming back through the glass, this time shining on me. All is moving inside of me and tears have found a way to escape through my eyes. I have tried to hold them back but they won't stay in.

She is tired of spinning. Dizziness has overcome her.

I look at my Bible. The Word of God. It has never been moved. It will always remain. Firm. It never changes. Every word in it has been spoken by the Author of Life. The Alpha, The Omega, the Great I Am. I press it hard to my chest.

O how I love the Word that sustains my life in the midst of all the fog!

Oh how I love the Word of God!

He spoke and all was created.

He spoke and darkness was removed.

He spoke and the Devil did not overcome.

He spoke my name and I lived.

She is holding her dress and playing with it. 

She is content in the fog, and dizzy no more.

I try to smile, to remember what I have learned. How to be content. What I believe. Who am I. I know what it takes not to faint. It is not what I can defend with logic and arguments that sustains me when I am dizzy. No!

It is not that.

It is deeper than that.

It goes beyond that.

It is not what I believe in my head,

but in my heart that keeps me going,

and keeps me still.

It is His love burning in me.

How can I explain with logic and rhetoric, in English or Spanish, this, that, éso, aquéllo?  It is His love that captivates my heart, that sustains my life. It His light shinning through the fog, through tears, and the uncertainties of life that holds my life tight.

To be loved by the Great I Am.

To be known by name.

To be able to respond to that amazing love.

The Spirit  within me,

My cry: Abba Father!

The song He has put in my heart.

That He rejoices over me with singing.

All that undeserved grace.

All that has been forgiven.

How can you possible explain this, that?

And yet that is what sustains me.

That is what strengthens me when all seems to be spinning around.

I come out and hold her hands.

We smile and spin together.



And then we stop.


All is moving inside of us, outside of us, all is unstable. 

At least that is the way it seems to be.




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Praying the Psalms -Psalm 77-

 20.5.12


©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


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O Woman, Pray for Your Children

 19.5.12

Via Desiring God. Design by Jennifer Knight


Do not grow weary, my friend, pray for your children at all times.


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From My Reading Corner: Saving Leonardo

 14.5.12

One of the several reasons this blog has not being updated on a daily basis, is that I had so many good books to read, books that were not only in a wish list, but were already sitting on my shelves waiting to be read. Every time I passed by I could feel them staring at me with that reproach look that only a mad book knows how to give. I could not stand the thought,  "What if all those letters decide to come out from the pages and hunt me one night..." Too risky. So I decided to follow one of Wilson's advice and try start reading about two books a week. So far, so good. And I am very happy. No more books staring at me anymore. I now walk pass by the shelves, and give those books that look and can almost see them smiling at me.

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Monergism Books
This weekend I finished reading an amazing book, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meanings by Nancy Pearcey. This is a book that if it were a concert, I would have raised to my feet at the end of it to give an ovation to the author. I totally recommend it for every Christian who loves arts but also for those who doesn't understand the arts. It is a book for thinkers who love the Word of God and live, like the rest of us, in a fallen world where world-views must be discerned. Yes, in short, this is a book for all Christians.

Today I just want to share one quote that I absolutely loved:

"For God's truth is indeed beautiful -a drama so exciting and intense that we can hardly bear to consider it directly, just as we cannot look at the sun directly. Dorothy Sayers once said, 'The dogma is the drama.' That is, biblical doctrine is itself the gripping plot line of universal history. 'We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine -'dull dogma,' as people call it. The fact is precise the opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man.' No other religion teaches that the highest divinity, the one who created the universe, entered the human condition, shared its sufferings, and was condemned by his own creatures. 'The man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but  that man should play the tyrant over God... is an astonishing drama indeed.' Sayers writes. 'Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that.'

Even more astonishingly, we ourselves have the opportunity to participate in that drama through our own lives. The Bible's doctrines are inseparably rooted in the history of ordinary human beings... The implication is that every one of us, though we too are ordinary people, can lead lives imbued with the same world-revolutionary significance as we participate in the unfolding of God's redemptive plan.

The Church's artists and writers are those specifically gifted to convey the drama and excitement of the gospel. They should not be tamed or exploited, but nurtured and supported in their vital mission. Through their ministry, they help everyone recognize the beauty and cosmic purpose of their own lives."

Isn't this exciting to read?

Isn't it exciting to know that we are part of God's story?



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Praying the Psalms -Psalm 23: 4- A Prayer for Moms in Pain-

 13.5.12


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Lord, my Good Shepherd,
Help me remember that all those
Terrible and fearsome shadows
That hunt us in our Christian walk,
Are only shadows.

Help me remember that
Even death is a shadow,
Death has been conquered
Through Jesus' death and
Resurrection.
Death doesn't have the last word.
You do.
And you have promised Life,
eternal Life and the resurrection of the death.

Father, I pray you comfort today,
With your rod and staff, 
All those moms who have
Lost a dearest child, 
Or are barren.

Father help your daughters
Walk in light, 
And not fear the shadows of this world.

Let them be comforted in the shadows,
Let your Word strengthen their hope,
Let your Word be a lamp to their feet.

May your Spirit comfort them today.
Thank you for your promise,
The promise that He will come to
be with us and not leave us.
We believe it.

Let your light, O God,
Shine through the darkness, 
Through the shadows.
Help us fix our eyes on 
What is to come.
Strengthen our faith,
our knees, our heart.
That we won't lose hope.

 Amen



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The Greatest Temptation in the Wilderness

 11.5.12

Jan Havicksz c.1660


These are some reflections I gleaned this morning while reading Psalm 78 (especially verses 18-24 ).

We are just like Israel, whose greatest temptation in the desert land was to test God. We are like them when we are led by the Spirit to the wilderness and found ourselves starting to demand from Him food,  pleasures, and the same kind of satisfactions that the world, in which we were once enslaved, offers us. It is that longing in our heart, deep within, that rebels in the quiet, and speaks against God saying, "Can God spread a table in the wilderness?" that reveals our sin.

See what is there? We doubt God's goodness, His sovereignty, His promises. We start craving for the world because the satisfaction it offers is immediate. We forget that even in the wilderness He sustains his own. We forget that He has said that we are engraved in the palm of His hand, and that we are the apple of His eye.

How can we forget  that He has already provided Jesus, the Living Water, so that we won't thirst anymore? Our Lord Jesus was struck on the cross just as the rock in the desert and life, living water,  gushed out and streams overflowed. Why do we long to drink water from broken cisterns, from poisoned rivers?

How can we forget that Jesus himself said that He is the Bread of Life? How can we long for something else? Only He has words of eternal life. Only when we come to Him and eat at his table is that we will be truly satisfied. Only and only then.

How easily it is for us to stop believing in God and in His saving power. He will never, never, never let His people die in the wilderness. Never.

The Lord is our Shepherd,
        we shall not want.

The Lord is our Father,
        we shall never be abandoned.

The Lord is our Life,
       we shall not die.

The Lord is our Hope,
       we shall not despair.

The Lord is our Refuge,
       we shall not fear.

Come to the table, grab your bible, read it, mediate on it, pray over it. It is food to your soul, medicine to your bones. Goodness and life. It is Living Water, come drink, my friend, and thirst no more.


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Pray, Eat, Love: Three Things Needed in Motherhood

 10.5.12

©Annie Pliego Photgraphy


Today, May 10th, is Mother's Day in Mexico and I am looking forward to spending the day with my Beloved, my children (all but my oldest who is in his finals week in another country), and my mom and dad. I will try a new steak recipe for our meal with roasted spiced carrots, and bake an apple cake.

I love having special days to celebrate different things, events, or people through the year, and I love that because you are somehow forced to think about them. You stop and can take time to reflect on the role you play in life, or the role those people you celebrate have played in your own life.

I have not read the book Eat, Pray, Love, but I love the title (one day, I guess, I will have to read the book***). But today as I reflect on my role in life as a mom I was thinking how these three words are seriously needed in our everyday life as moms. The order, however, must be slightly different: Pray, Eat, Love.

On Praying:

Prayer comes first. Prayer should be the breathing of a mother. That is the way we start in the labor room, breathing. I was told not to lose the rhythm in my breathing or I would be in great pain. My husband was there. Breathing with me. Prayer in the life of a mother should be like that, it should be the rhythm of our days. Through the pain, through the hard moments, through the uncertainty, through joyous times, through tears: in and out, a rhythm of prayers.

If we stop praying, our labor will not be easy or enjoyable. I remember that clearly. If I would lose the rhythm of my breathing in that labor room, I would, all of a sudden, feel extremely nervous and fearful until I was able to catch it again. Our labor has not ceased, and if we lose the rhythm of our prayer life we will soon live in discontent, anxiety, fear, pain.

Pray all day, at all times. Intercede for your children. Let your breathing be a life of prayer.

On Eating:

I am sure you remember how hungry you get during the time you nurse your children. Everyone tells you how important it is to be well nourished during this time, so you gladly heed their advice. It is clear, if you are not well fed you will feel very tired and weak, and your baby won't be taking all the nutrients he needs from your milk.

So it is today. My children are not babies anymore, and yet I need to be well fed to be able to give and give and give to them.  I must eat daily from the Scriptures. God's Word must be my daily food, day and night. My mid-day snack, my craving, my joy. If I don't feed my Spirit with God's Word I will soon feel very tired and weak. If I stop eating from God's Word on a daily basis, I will soon start  murmuring and complaining. I will soon hear myself asking silly questions and demanding attention as if I were a queen. There is no way around. How can I possible give and give and give if I am not well nourished? If my soul is not well fed? If I never come to feast at the Word of God? How can I possible be a mom, a full time mom if I have not made God's Word my refuge, my strength, my life?

On Loving:

Aren't moms supposed to love and love *perfectly*? Isn't a mother's love always used as a picture of resignation and unselfishness? Well, I have to admit that my love is not like that. It is not perfect. Love always seems to be an easy thing until it demands something hard from us. But we know we just can't hide our sins behind our weaknesses. That would be just too easy to do and will make our lives and the life of those around us miserable. If we are to love the children God has entrusted in our hands, we must start working hard in loving them the way God wants us to love. Yes, I said it was not easy. Love, true love, is much more about dying to self than enjoying oneself.

Love is a verb, we have heard that, so how does this verb looks in your life around your children? How do we walk in love at breakfast and when all is a mess and we are late? How do we walk in love when lies come? How do we walk in love when we see in our children what we never thought we would? How do we walk in love when they don't think the same way we do? How do we live loving?


Happy Mother's Day to all my friends! Sharing this calling with you is a privilege. Thank you for all you have taught me in the kitchen, or over coffee, on Skype through the distance, on an email or on your blog. You know who you are. I love you!


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P.S. Today my daughter Annie published a photo-shoot in which I feel loved and honored. You can see it here.


©Annie Pliego Photography


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*** DISCLAIMER: Whoa! Really? I never thought I would have to clarify this... but here I go. I do not agree with any kind of Hinduism, neither am I promoting it. I just used these three words as a "prompt" to my blog entry today. Please, please, see things the way they are. If I ever read Elizabeth Gilbert's book is not because I am planning on including Hindu practices in my life. not.at.all. If I ever read it, is because many dear friends of mine who doesn't know the Truth have read it and I would love to know what is that they found so fascinating about it.I want to know what is going through their hearts and minds.
Now I hope you won't accuse me of not reading only Christian literature, because if that is the case, then I am guilty.

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A Wrinkle in Time - A Few Thoughts-

 9.5.12

My 8 yo daughter and I finished yesterday, A Wrinkle in Time, the first book in a series by Madeleine L'Engle. As I mentioned in Goodreads, Sci-Fi is definitely not my favorite genre -and this story has its good share of it- because I find it hard to get immersed in the story, to get lost with the characters, to believe I am in it. However, this was the first time my daughter read this genre and was immediately caught up by the story. As I read aloud to her I could see her full of excitement as if she were traveling through time, from planet to planet along with the characters. She was not looking from afar but felt as if she were part of the story. At the end I can say that we had a great time reading it, and we were able to find many important places to just stop and talk about the truths this story contains, the lessons we must learn and the pitfalls we must try to avoid in life.

Madeleine L'Engle said once, "You have to write the book that wants to be written, and if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children." I guess she is right. I wish I were more childlike at times.

If you are not familiar with the story, here is an excerpt from the book description:

"Everyone in town thinks Meg is volatile and dull-witted and that her younger brother Charles Wallace is dumb. People are also saying that their father has run off and left their brilliant scientist mother. Spurred on by these rumors, Meg and Charles Wallace, along with their new friend Calvin, embark on a perilous quest through space to find their father. In doing so they must travel behind the shadow of an evil power that is darkening the cosmos, one planet at a time...  A classic since 1962, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is sophisticated in concept yet warm in tone, with mystery and love coursing through its pages. Meg's shattering yet ultimately freeing discovery that her father is not omnipotent provides a satisfying coming-of-age element. Readers will feel a sense of power as they travel with these three children, challenging concepts of time, space, and the power of good over evil. (Ages 9 to 12)"
Now if you have read the story you can keep on reading (there are some spoilers ahead).

As I was reading I found a resemblance between the planet Camazotz, (a planet in which you may recall all was peace, equality and order, but in which individuality was lost and everyone's will was subject to IT,  a greater power that controlled all the inhabitants of the planet), and the world in which we live today. Many today have stopped thinking and have bowed down to the god of Tolerance in order to achieve some kind of peace, equality and order.  IT had control over people in Camazotz,  just as Tolerance has taken control over the thinking faculties of people in our day. "Tolerance" has become, in a sense, the IT in our planet. Tolerance is the god many are serving blindly.

The saddest thing is that this god Tolerance has found a niche in the heart of many Christians. They cannot see, they are frozen, they think just as Charles Wallace reasoned, that they can come inside IT and be part of it and not be absorbed into it. We cannot compromise; if we tolerate sin we will soon be absorbed by it. We have not been called to seek "peace, equality and order," but to seek the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness. We, as children of God, have been called to hold fast to the Word of God, to fight the good fight. We must resist. Mr. Murry and Meg won over IT because they fought it thinking differently. As Christians, we know we don't win the spiritual battles with our minds, but in a sense we do. What we think is what we believe. And we know that what we believe is what we act. Just look at how many times Paul in his epistles calls us to have the mind of Christ, to think, to reason. He urges us not be conformed in our minds to this world, but to be transformed in our thinking. Christians must start thinking accordingly to the Word of God at all times, in all circumstances. If we don't, we will soon be absorbed into the world. There must be a clear, distinctive difference in how we see things and how the world sees them. We have the Bible as our standard, they don't.

At the end, in L'Engle's story, love wins. But it doesn't win the heart and mind of all that have been enslaved in Camazotz. I liked that. Love wins the heart of the one special person that, from the beginning we knew had to be rescued. Love always finds its way through the deepest darkness into the hardened hearts of men.

Now I must to go, my little one wants to start reading the second book in the series, A Wind in the Door, so here we go. 

Happy reading, my friends!






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Sunday Psalm, a Psalm to Sing -Psalm 46-

 6.5.12



Covenant blessings are not meant to be looked at only, but to be appropriated. Even our Lord Jesus is given to us for our present use. Believer, thou dost not make use of Christ as thou oughtest to do.

When thou art in trouble, why dost thou not tell Him all thy grief? Has He not a sympathizing heart, and can He not comfort and relieve thee? No, thou art going about to all thy friends, save thy best Friend, and telling thy tale everywhere except into the bosom of thy Lord.

Art thou burdened with this day's sins? Here is a fountain filled with blood: use it, saint, use it.

Has a sense of guilt returned upon thee? The pardoning grace of Jesus may be proved again and again. Come to Him at once for cleansing.

Dost thou deplore thy weakness? He is thy strength: why not lean upon Him?

Dost thou feel naked? Come hither, soul; put on the robe of Jesus' righteousness. Stand not looking at it, but wear it. Strip off thine own righteousness, and thine own fears too: put on the fair white linen, for it was meant to wear.

Dost thou feel thyself sick? Pull the night-bell of prayer, and call up the Beloved Physician! He will give the cordial that will revive thee. Thou art poor, but then thou hast "a kinsman, a mighty man of wealth." What! wilt thou not go to Him, and ask Him to give thee of His abundance, when He has given thee this promise, that thou shalt be joint heir with Him, and has made over all that He is and all that He has to be thine?

There is nothing Christ dislikes more than for His people to make a show-thing of Him, and not to use Him. He loves to be employed by us. The more burdens we put on His shoulders, the more precious will He be to us.

"Let us be simple with Him, then,
Not backward, stiff, or cold,
As though our Bethlehem could be
What Sinai was of old."

C.H. Spurgeon 


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Hope in the Midst of the Consequences of Our Sin

 3.5.12

Annie Pliego Photography


My children and I are reading together Ezra after lunch and most of the times, with a bowl of ice cream out in our back yard.

Yesterday we came to Ezra 9, this is the passage in which Ezra gets the news that "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. For they have taken some of their daughters to be wives for themselves and for their sons, so that the holy race has mixed itself with the peoples of the lands."

Ezra's response to the sin of his people was like the one Jesus talked about on the Sermon of the Mountain, "Blessed are those who mourn..."  Ezra tore his cloak and even pulled hair from his head and beard in great distress. Ezra fasted as he mourned, and when the evening came, he fell on his knees and prayed spreading out his hands to God.

The faithlessness of the people, their sin had been great, and Ezra knew it. He confessed their great sin before a Holy God. No excuses, nothing else to add, it was but the cry of a repentant heart. A mourner.

"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt."
Ezra keeps crying on his knees to God, he knows that all the affliction that has come upon them has been a consequence of their great sin. And then these words come out of his mouth, and it was here where I found myself reading aloud with a lump on my throat:

"For we are slaves. Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery, but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem."
Even in the midst of the terrible consequences of our sin, we can find hope. Even there we find His grace. His grace towards his people never ceases. His mercies are new every morning. His steadfast love reaches to His own even when we have sinned.  He repairs what we have torn down. He revives our broken hearts. He frees us from the slavery. He protects us.

"And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, shall we break your commandments again and intermarry with the peoples who practice these abominations? Would you not be angry with us until you consumed us, so that there should be no remnant, nor any to escape? O Lord, the God of Israel, you are just, for we are left a remnant that has escaped, as it is today. Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this.”"

Ezra did not see the end of the story then. Jesus came and took our guilt, our punishment on his body on the cross. All the suffering that we deserved he bore in our place.

David knew this as well when he said,

"He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities." Psalm 103:10
"Behold, we are before you in our guilt, for none can stand before you because of this." Certainly we cannot stand before a holy God if we have not seen our desperate need for Him and have not repented from our great sins. We do not have hope to stand before God and not be consumed, apart from Jesus who came and died and rose again, and is now sited at the right hand of God interceding for us. He is the Way, the Truth, the Life.

Because of His great love towards His people, we have eternal hope even in the midst of the consequences of our great sins: We will indeed be comforted. The night will be gone and the day will arise. Our tears will be dried out, the fighting will be over. He will give us "beauty instead of ashes, oil of gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit" (Is. 61)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."










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Waking up to New Mercies

 1.5.12


Annie Pliego Photography

"Because of the Lord's mercies, we are not consumed — for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!" Lamentations 3:22-23

Oh, to wake up every morning to new mercies!  To open the windows and let the sun in, to open the Word and let it warm our hearts, speak to us, satisfy us.

"New mercies flow in upon you every morning — yes, every moment! Every friend is a mercy. Every morsel of provision. Every hour's sleep. Every kind word. Every moment's freedom from racking pain. Medicine is a mercy. A house is a mercy. You are therefore surrounded by mercies. But look at spiritual things — to know God, to have the revelation of His mind, will, and purpose, to have a throne of grace, an advocate in Heaven, a good hope beyond the grave, the prospect of a glorious resurrection! Here are mercies heaped upon mercies, and favors heaped upon favors. Mercies that would fill us with wonder, admiration, and gratitude, if our hearts were not like adamant, harder than a flint!"  James Smith, 1842

 Let us be aware today of His many mercies, all undeserved, all grace.





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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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