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In Grace, By Grace, and Under Grace -On Raising Our Children -

 24.5.13



My Man and I were talking in the car -trapped in traffic-, the tears and fears, and thousand questions were all there. It was 12 years ago, in that car, that we decided we were going to start homeschooling our children (three at the time). This was way too crazy for us to do, we personally didn't  know any family doing this, we had really no idea on how to start or if it would work or not. What about socialization? And paper work? All those questions -and many more- were in our minds -in our hearts-. But it seemed that we didn't have any other choice if we wanted to provide to our children an education that didn't divorce our beliefs with what they were being taught at school. Not one Christian school was around for us to even consider that as an option (even now, there are only a few "Christian schools" that are only "Christian" in name -we live in Mexico City, remember?).

I tucked my children in bed that night, Santiago was 8, Annie 6 and Nico 4 (Isabel only existed in the plans of God at that time). And I kissed them with the kind of kiss that is mingled with tears. We loved our children, and we knew we had to be purposely involved in their education if we wanted to bring them up in the Covenant. That night, in my dreams, the Lord reminded me of a prayer I had prayed over and over in my teenage years, "Lord, I want to serve you full time. I want to be used by you to change the world, to fight for Your Kingdom, to be a godly influence in the world, to reach many, to touch lives." And you know what? I remember how I cried so much every time I prayed this prayer because all the ideas I had about ministries that will change the world were always doors that were impossible to break through,  no matter how hard I tried to bring them down they remained closed. But this night was different. As the Lord reminded me of that prayer of my youth in my dreams, I knew He was graciously answering my prayer in a much unexpected way: I was given the opportunity to change the world, to fight for the Kingdom, to be a godly influence, to reach many, to touch lives by reaching to my children first.

Morning came and new mercies too. We still had a huge list of questions, fears, doubts, but the direction of the Lord for our family was clear. There was not turning back. And many new mornings came and each one brought new mercies with it.

Today classes are officially over at VPSA (one of the most important ways God answered to my fears!), and Annie and Nico (who decided to graduate earlier) finished highschool and will be joining Santiago in College next Fall. I look back now and cannot see anything but grace upon grace. Every day with them has been a day we started and finished in grace, by grace, and under grace. All our doubts and fears, and questions never conquered us, and not because we were too smart, or too disciplined, or too savvy, or had a great support group and many friends, nor even because we had the kind of faith that moves mountains. Oh no, we didn't! We conquered the doubts and fears, and questions because we knew we were small and our God big. We took everyday five little stones and faced the Giant face to face, knowing in whom we had put our trust.  We obeyed and we trusted in Him because the well of mercy and grace never dried up.

Today I look at them, two young men and a young lady. And I see how they love each other with genuine love, how they long to be always together, how they support one another, how they enjoy being with our little Isabel. I see them well grounded in love and in the faith. I see them too raising their eyes to the horizon, getting hold of their own Sword and ready to fight Giants and Dragons. They are arrows ready to pierce the enemy. They are blessed warriors who long to build families and have their own quivers filled with children and raise them up in the Covenant of Grace.

And I give thanks to my God, because isn't that the only natural response to a Grace-filled life?

Now I see Isabel, and think of how her journey will be very different. And because God hasn't changed His orders for us, we'll remain in this path. Again I have fears and doubts, and questions. Again I have tears in my eyes as I think of only having one child in our little homeschool. Again I think that this is crazy.  And yes, as my friend Ann says, I have "soul-amnesia."

This time the encouragement comes not in a dream. The Lord used my son, Santiago, to remind me of the goodness and faithfulness of our God. He recounts the blessings, the answer to our prayers. "Mom, remember how you had no idea how you were going to teach us Logic, and Rhetoric, and Physics, and Algebra? Remember, Mom, how God provided for us an online school -a brand new school at the time- that was clearly an answer to your prayers [and how we found that school! An old catalog handed to me by someone who didn't know anything about Classical Education and was given this catalog by a missionary when he left...]. Mom, remember this.... remember when... Remember, He will lead you now and show you what to do with Isabel. It will be good."

So I look back and recount His blessings. And it is amazing how looking back and remembering His goodness, His hand leading us every day, gives us hope for the day ahead. I cling to my Rock one more time and I hold my peace.

It has been a long way, and it was lived day by day, minute by minute. Fully there, and fully aware that if the Lord didn't build these children up, all we were doing was in vain. This has been a journey of grace and will continue to be so. I have messed things up many many times, I am a woman with many flaws. Many times I get behind in Math, and I'm not happy to do all the hands-on projects, and get -pretty ugly-mad- at them. But God, in spite of all my faults and shortcomings has heard my prayers and my cries and has given us grace to start each day, grace to continue, and grace to finish well. We have planted faithfully and have watered the seed of the Word in their hearts every day, all day, but God, and only God can make each seed grow and give fruit. And He has done so faithfully and I know He will continue to do it in this new stage of our family.

Today I remember this prayer of my youth, "Lord, I want to serve you full time. I want to be used by you to change the world, to fight for Your Kingdom, to be a godly influence in the world, to reach many, to touch lives."  And I see how God has answered it as I look at each one of our children.


Under His Sun and by His grace,



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Under the Shadow of His Wings

 14.5.13



 
Shadows


The shadow of the past,
The shadow of wrong decisions,
Shadows that hunt
In a spring day appear.

Shadows,
Bleak,
Gaunt,
Doleful,
Is there a way to hide from them?

A greater Shadow
As bright as the Sun?

A burning Shadow
Consuming all shame?

A Shadow that cures
All fears and tears?

Oh, that I may abide
Underneath it!

Under the Shadow of the Almighty,
I will make my refuge,
I will set my tent there
And not be moved.

The Lord hides His own
In the Shadow of His wings,
Until all storms of destruction
By the sound of His
Invincible voice 
are silenced to death.

No shadow can make me tremble
For under the Shadow of the Mighty God
I stand.
No Devil will dare to seek me
When under the Shadow of God The Father
I pray assured.




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Time to Do What the Lord Wills

 9.5.13


Photo Print by Laura Evans on Etsy

Some encouraging -and convicting- words from the pen of Elisabeth Elliot on the Discipline of Time:

"My times are in thy hand..." has become a part of my life. When the Lord has left me in agony of waiting over some decision, these words have put me a rest. His timing is always perfect, though it seldom seems to me, for my temperament longs for previews of coming attractions."

"There is always enough time to do the will of God. For that we can never say, "I don't have time." When we find ourselves frantic and frustrated, harried and harassed and "hassled," it is a sign that we are running on our own schedule, not on God's"

On our way too long to-do lists:

"But the lists must be reviewed daily with the Lord, asking Him to delete whatever is not on His list for us, so that before we go to bed it will be possible to say, "I have finished the work You gave me to do.""

Are you feeling frustrated and worried about your endless lists of things to accomplish and places to go? Maybe it will be a good idea to be reminded of these simple truths:

"Frustration is not the will of God. Of that we can be quite certain. There is time to do anything and everything that God wants us to do. Obedience fits smoothly into His given framework. One thing that most certainly will not fit into it is worry."

"Direct your time and energy into worry, and you will be deficient in things like singing with grace in your heart, praying with thanksgiving, listening to a child's account of his school day, inviting a lonely person to supper, sitting down to talk unhurriedly with wife or husband, writing a note to someone who needs it."

"People wish they had more leisure time. The problem is not too little of it, but too much of it poorly spent."

On our time spent with the Lord:

"Time management...begins for the Christian with time set aside for God. Other things cannot fall into a peaceful order if this is omitted."

All these quotes come from the book, Discipline: The Glad Surrender.



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The Family Table (Against a "Fast-Food" Kind of Theology of our Meals)

 7.5.13



“Every time you place a meal on the table with quiet satisfaction, you are sharing the joy of the Creator at the creation of the world when he declared everything good.” Tim Chester 

We all want to teach our children–and their friends–what the Christian life is and how we live it, but we may find ourselves asking, “How can we do this effectively?”

I say without a doubt: Let’s show them at the Family Table. Theology and Worldview are best taught around the Family Table when presented along with warm blueberry bread and bacon on the side. Yes. I am serious. It works.
 

Today is my turn to share about the importance of the Family Table over at Desiring Virtue. Please, come and read.







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Praying Ephesians - Ephesians 4:17-32-

 5.5.13

©Shiloh Photography


Father, I praise your name, your goodness, your mercy which lead us to repentance. Thank you, because you draw us to you and in drawing us to you You change us. Thank you for your Word, a double-edge sword, that pierces into our soul dividing darkness from light. I praise your steadfast love, my Lord, the one that pursues us until we are transformed!

My God, help me not to walk in the futility of my mind only let your light, your Truth shine in me, into my mind and heart delivering me from a darkened understanding. Oh, Father, how I pray that you will give me a humble heart willing at all times to admit and repent from all sin and error in me so that I may not grow a hardened and callous heart. Deliver me from all sensuality, from a greedy desire to to practice sinful habits that I have welcomed many times as "part of my natural way of being." Oh, that I may not forget, not for a moment, the way I have learned Christ! Father, I ask you today to help me put off daily my old self which is full of deceitful desires that draw me away from your Kingdom of Light. Give me discernment and a heart willing to obey what I know that the Holy Spirit is calling me to do; help me to be diligent in the habit of practicing discernment, first and foremost, within my own heart which is deceitful above all things. Create in me, day after day, a heart that is willing to put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Yes, in true righteousness and holiness, not in the one that is deceitful, fake, and raises from a puffed-up heart filled with nothing but filthy self-righteousness.

Help me, today, Father of Truth, to put away all kinds of falsehood: lies, slander, deception, flattery, gossip, and to be diligent in pursuing truth. Lord, that I may be true to the Word, true to myself, true to my convictions. That I may be willing at all times to speak the truth with my brothers and sisters remembering that we are indeed members one of another. Help me remember that spoken truth should always be spoken with the goal in mind to help each other grow in every way into the likeness of Christ.

Oh God, give me a quiet and gentle spirit, one that has learned to overcome the kind of anger that makes me sin. Father, that I may always have a heart whose natural response is to forgive and forgive, and forgive. Transform me daily in the light of your Word, that I may be in all areas of my life, different than the one I used to be when I did not know you nor the Gospel who transforms and gives life.

Deliver me, Lord, from all corrupt talking which only brings death and kindles enormous fires. Help me day after day, situation after situation, to speak -and write- only those words that are good to build up others, words that give grace to those who hear them. Help me to fill my heart with your Word even more, so that out of the abundance of my heart I may always speak.

Oh, Lord, deliver me from grieving your Holy Spirit by whom I have been sealed for the day of redemption! Deliver me from having deaf ears and blind eyes that won't let me hear and see where your Spirit is leading me. Deliver me, oh Lord! That all my life, even the deepest meditations of my heart may be pleasant to you.

God, only you, through the power of the resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit within me can help me put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander, along with all malice. Only in you can I overcome sin, and I give you thanks for the provision you have made for us to conquer and not live in bondage of any kind of sin anymore. Let my life, Father, be characterized by kindness, by forgiveness never forgetting that God in Christ forgave me.

In Christ, my Redeemer who lives and reigns forever more,

Amen


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Humble Orthodoxy -Not a Review-

 4.5.13


Source -A Conversation with Josh Harris
 How can one possible write a review of a book that comes as an answer to your prayers? It is not possible.

One of my most insistent prayers this past year has been in form of a question, "God, how can I possible embrace Truth and don't miss loving my neighbor -the one who believes things contrary to your Word-? How can I possible do that in a way that will honor you and the Truth you have entrusted to your Church and not sin against you by not loving others?" 

Joshua Harris in his little book, Humble Orthodoxy, doesn't provide all the answers to this dilemma, but he does go to the heart of it. He boldly admonishes us with the Scripture against spiritual (orthodoxy) pride and reminds us that we have been called to embrace humility.

The message of this book cannot be ignored, nor the call to fall on our knees in prayer asking forgiveness for the times in which we have, "in the name of discernment," puffed ourselves up.

The moment I closed the book I made my mind to live by this resolution:

The more I disagree with someone, 
the more I will pray that the Lord will bless him. 
The more we disagree with each other, 
the more I will ask the Holy Spirit to help me be like Job, 
who prayed for his "friends" (who in reality only acted as his enemies), 
and not be an accuser like the Devil himself, 
but as Jesus who is always interceding for us.

All this is burning in my heart because I believe in a God that changes people -starting with me-. I believe in a merciful Father who hears our cries and brings us -each one of us- to repentance. I believe that even though we have been commanded to avoid those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that we have been taught in the Scriptures (1), we are also called to love them by interceding fervently for them -and for us too, so that we might be delivered from all spiritual pride and presumptuous attitudes which we all know are like the evil of idolatry (2)- I believe that if God has not "given-up" on me, I will never "give-up" on any person, but I will keep on praying with hope for them. God is good and God is able to save and open our eyes.

Some of the quotes that I underlined and circled, and pointed with arrows are these:

"Reading 2 Timothy reminds me of the sad reality of falsehood and lies. I wish I lived in a world where beliefs were like different flavors of ice-cream -no wrong answers, just different opinions. But that's not the world we live in. We live in a world in which God's true revelation and the smooth words of charlatans and false prophets compete for our attention..."

"Love for God and love for neighbor require us to oppose falsehood. There is nothing more unloving than to be silent in the face of lies that will ruin another person. Sometimes love demands that we say, "This philosophy, no matter how plausible or popular, is not true. This person, no matter how likable, gifted, or well intentioned, is teaching something that contradicts God's Word; therefore is untrue."

"When it comes to orthodoxy; it's not about you or me. The truth is not our truth; it comes from God. And the ability to uphold it with loving humility comes from him too."

"The message of Christian orthodoxy isn't that I'm right and someone else is wrong. It's that I'm wrong and yet God is filled me with grace. I am wrong, and yet God has made a way for me to be forgiven and accepted and loved for eternity. I am wrong, and yet God gave his Son, Jesus, to die in my place and receive my punishment. I am wrong, but through faith in Jesus, I can be made right before a holy God."


"Sound doctrine is vital. Godly example is essential. But they are not enough. Apart from humility of heart, we will be like Pharisees and will use the truth as a stick to beat other people over the head. And God will be dishonored in that. If we would honor God, we must represent truth humbly in our words, in our demeanor, and in our attitude."

"One test for whether we're pursuing humble orthodoxy is this question: Are we giving as much energy to obeying and being reformed by God's Word personally as we are to criticizing its detractors?"
And beside that quote I wrote this, "The spread of egalitarianism in the church concerns me and grieves me terribly. BUT, I must ask myself, am I living my role as a submissive wife in a way that faithfully represents the model of the church and Christ? Am I daily pressing on to become a godly wife who seeks to bring glory to God and honor and respect to my husband in all I do? Am I living in such a way that by my attitude as a wife, people around me can see a picture of the gospel?"

"Truth that is divorced from personal practice is hypocrisy, and living truth becomes a living lie when we fail to obey it ourselves."
Harris quotes Trevin Wax who said,

"There's a difference between having a critical mind that carefully evaluates and having a critical spirit that loves to tear down and belittle."

"We can demonstrate a humble orthodoxy, holding on to our identity in the gospel. We are not those who are right; we are those who have been redeemed."

I would like to keep this book at hand, in the "medicine cabinet," so that any time I feel the temptation to be arrogant and critical instead of prayerful and merciful, I will read it and be reminded of what God's Word clearly says.

Praying in hope,



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(1) Romans 16:17
(2) I Samuel 15:23 


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Proverbs 2: Three Ifs

 2.5.13

Shiloh Photography


Proverbs 2 is without any doubt one of my favorite proverbs and this morning as I was reading it I noticed three important ifs (v.1-4)  that lead us to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God (v.5-8). Three ifs that will help us understand righteousness and justice (v.9).

"My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to
understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures..."
Proverbs 2:1-4 (emphasis mine)

If you receive my words...

The only way to receive God's Word is with a humble and quiet heart. A proud heart, an unteachable heart will never have an attitude of inclining his heart and ear to attentively listen to what God is saying.  We need a quiet heart, a quiet spirit to listen humbly to what the Lord is saying in His Word.  I have many times sinned by trying to quench God's voice and choosing instead to listen to my own heart's desires or anxieties. I have sinned when I have not taken heed of the warnings that God gives us in His Word, when I have been stubborn and have embraced my own thinking as the correct one. And you know what? Those times I have sinned in this area is because I did not come to the Word with a humble and a quiet heart that is always ready to listen both the encouragement in God's Word as well as His warnings and admonitions.

If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you...

Again and again, we see this principle all over. How can I possible treasure up God's Word within me if  don't purposely do something about it? Memorizing the Word is the only way to meditate on it day and night. And if you think you can't memorize it, well, read it all day long. Carry the Word with you, have it open on your kitchen counter, on your coffee table in your living-room, download Apps on your mobile that will help you treasure it all day long. As John Piper said, "Let the Bible bring you back to reality over and over during the day."

If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding...

James told us the same thing: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." The key word in both passages is "call." We must call, we must ask God for it, knowing that He is the source of all Wisdom. There is no wisdom apart from Him. Let us not deceive ourselves, sisters, we know no better than God. Before calling your friend asking her for an advice, first search the Scriptures and go to your Heavenly Father in prayer. He has promised to generously give us the wisdom we need to live in this beautiful, crazy, and at times confusing world when we call for it, when we diligently seek it in prayer. The more wisdom I need the more prayer and the more reading of the Bible I need.

If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures...

So we need a humble heart to receive and treasure God's Word, we also need to call out to God for wisdom. Now how are we going to do this? Diligently, putting all effort in our quest for wisdom. It doesn't just happen. It is not like our justification in which we don't have to do anything to become children of God, no here we are called to action. We must seek it and search it as for silver and hidden treasures. It is a life long pursue, it a day to day endeavor. It is hard work. It means that we might have to wake up earlier to make time for reading the Scriptures and praying. It means that we must purposely bring our heart and thoughts in submission to what God says throughout the day. There are no shortcuts. If we want to grow in wisdom we must strive for it and seek it with all diligence.

Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God...

Please read verses 5-8. See? Isn't it amazing that the Lord does give wisdom? He has stored  sound wisdom for simple women like me!  When we listen attentively, when we call for it, when we search for it as for hidden treasures we come to understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.

Then you will understand righteousness and justice...

Now read verses 9-22. Look at these promises: wisdom will sure come to our heart and knowledge will be pleasant to our soul as a result of God answering our prayers. Discretion will watch over us and understanding will guard us (and watch and guard are strong verbs, they are definitely not passive ones!)

In verses 12-29 we see that when wisdom comes we will be able to discern and be delivered from the way of the evil and of men of perverted speech that deceive with their many words.  We will be delivered from the forbidden women (who always leads to idolatry and foolishness that drives men -and women alike- away from the covenant).

The last three verses give us a glimpse of the end of both the wise and the fool. And I know I want live and end my days walking in the way of the good, keeping to the path of the righteous. I long to live uprightly and in all integrity before my God. I want to live a wise life, so I will remember to listen humbly, to search the Scriptures, and to pray.

May God help us,


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Mid-Week Links -On False Teachers-

 1.5.13

Because being obedient to God's Word concerning the many warnings against false teachers is not an option, I am sharing three links to help you remember the great importance of this issue.

J.C. Ryle Quotes
 J.C. Ryle's Eight Symptoms of False Teachers*

1.  There is an undeniable zeal in some teachers of error–their “earnestness” makes many people think they must be right.

2. There is a great appearance of learning and theological knowledge–many think that such clever and intellectual men must surely be safe to listen to.

3. There is a general tendency to completely free and independent thinking today–many like to prove their independence of judgment by believing the newest ideas, which are nothing but novelties.

4. There is a wide-spread desire to appear kind, loving, and open-minded–many seem half-ashamed to say that anybody can be wrong or is a false teacher.

How would you recognize counterfeit Christianity? Seven Traits of False Teachers

In 2 Peter 1 we read about genuine believers. And in 2 Peter 2 we read about counterfeit believers. If you put these chapters side by side you will see the difference between authentic and counterfeit believers.

And also from J.C. Ryle, The Best Safeguard Against False Teaching.

"What is the best safe-guard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit."


May God have mercy on us, lest we may fall into deception.



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 *Via Tim Challies



 

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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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