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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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An Interview with Author Diana Lovegrove -and a Giveaway-

 12.12.15

Buy here.
I am so very happy to introduce you to a wonderful devotional book that is clearly steeped in the Scriptures: Dear Pilgrim by my dear friend Diana Lovegrove.

So, dear friends, grab a cup of tea and enjoy this interview with my Diana Lovegrove.

B-Why this devotional: Dear Pligrim: A Series of Exhortations and Encouragements

Diana -First of all, I want to thank you, Becky, for inviting me to this interview and allowing me to visit your beautiful blog. May the Lord richly bless you!

Pilgrim began with a visit to the mountains. We so easily focus downwards, on what is around us, our circumstances, and our eyes get drawn down. But the Lord showed me the importance of us having a heavenly perspective, of making an ascent or Aliyah – going up! As I started reading in the Word of those occasions when our eyes are lifted up, it became clear that the Lord brings revelation at those times. And it is through revelation that our God transforms our lives.

As I continued writing and following themes throughout the Scriptures, I discovered that no matter where I began, or what topic I was looking at, I was always led to Christ, to look up to Him, to feed from Him. So every chapter is, in essence, an ascent. And from there, from that place on the mountain peaks, we gain the strength and perspective to continue our journey in grace and righteousness, even if that journey takes us to the lowest valleys. For He tells us that “the land you are crossing the Jordan to take possession of is a land of mountains and valleys that drinks rain from heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:11). If we’ve been on the mountain top with Him, we can go with strength into the valley below, knowing that the valley also drinks in the rain from heaven. As we grow in our understanding of the depths of the riches of our inheritance in Him, the light on our path becomes brighter and the honey in His Word becomes sweeter. Through Pilgrim I wanted to encourage others to see the riches that are ours in Christ, riches that we can enjoy today in our walk with Him, being made whole in Him, and to exclaim and delight in those truths together!

B- When and how did your pilgrimage begin? 

Diana  -I was brought up in a church-going family and regularly attended an Anglican church. Lots of ritual, and lots of good behavior. But I never understood that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins. My dad was killed in a car crash when I was 13 years old, and we drifted away from church after that. I never stopped believing in God, but I lost my way in finding Him. I became interested in New Age thinking, and even encouraged my mum to take up Transcendental Meditation. I was 20 when the Lord finally opened my eyes to the beauty of the gospel message. I’d been away at university for a term, and when I returned home for Christmas, I was struck by the difference I saw in my mum’s behavior. Whilst I’d been away, she had become a Christian. The change I saw in her life drew me to find out more about Jesus, and when a friend of hers explained the gospel to me, I repented of my sins and believed in Him. 



B -What has been the hardest thing to learn in your pilgrimage?

Diana 
-To die. I spent the first 18 years of my Christian walk going round and round in a circle of despair. It was the most frustrating experience, and I had severe bouts of depression. I was filled with guilt and condemnation. I knew that God loved me, and had forgiven me, yet I couldn’t seem to walk in that truth, and I kept trying to earn His love for me and failing miserably. Looking back, I can see I hadn’t died. The cross had not slain me. I had crossed the Red Sea and had escaped from Egypt, but I hadn’t yet crossed the Jordan to enter into a land flowing with milk and honey, the place of inheritance. I was going round and round in circles in the wilderness. Praise God, He used our time of malnourishment in a seeker-sensitive church to draw me to search for the gospel message in all its fullness, and when my eyes were finally lifted up to behold the Lord in all of His glory, I died - and I have to continue to die every day. There is a passage in Luke 13:10-13 which tells of a woman crippled by a spirit and bent over for 18 years. Jesus came and touched her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. This could be my own testimony, including the length of time she was crippled and bent over! I can’t wait to meet this woman in glory one day!

B -What has been the most joyful?

Diana
-To walk in assurance of His love and forgiveness, whatever the circumstances, whatever the difficulties, that is a place of deep joy, blessing and of peace. To be at peace with God, the Creator of the Universe, the Holy, Holy, Holy God….to be reconciled to Him, all because of what His Son accomplished for us, to be free of condemnation - there is no better state. The devil will seek to kill, to destroy, to rob us of that joy – and admittedly there are times when I am shaken, and despair threatens to creep back in. But the moment I lift my eyes, the very moment - nothing can take away the assurance He brings through His Spirit. And then to discover that the inheritance He has for us is a land flowing with milk and honey….what provision He has made for us…I have tried to capture that joy in Pilgrim as He has revealed some of that abundance to me.

B -What has sustained you through it?

Diana
  -He has! In my darkest moments, I was intent on self-destructing. I had pushed God away, and I had completely isolated myself from those around me. It makes me tremble now to recall how cold I was towards those who loved me. Yet He never let go of me. More than that, He pursued me. He sought me out and He rescued me from the prison of my despair. And He continues to sustain me. Time and again, He reveals to me the weakness of my flesh – which makes me more desperate to cling to Him. He provides everything I need to keep on keeping on. 



B  -How is it important to have faithful companions in our pilgrimage?

Diana 
-I don’t believe God ever intended for us to pilgrimage alone, and yet so many of us have this mistaken view that all that matters is our own individual walk with the Lord. That was my own mindset. But it is not true – God’s purposes are much greater than that! I have been so blessed by my husband, Peter. His love of the Lord, and his faithful love to me over the years has never wavered. He has been such a firm rock and support to me. And then the Lord has brought along friends in the Lord to encourage. I must make mention of Liz, who wrote one of the chapters in Pilgrim. The Lord brought her into my life when I was still trying to find my way out of despair, and He used her faith-filled words of counsel to encourage me to look up, to reach out for a touch from Him. When someone knows their God, has spent time in His presence because of the revelation He has given them of Himself, it affects the way they see things, their language, everything. There is an aroma of Christ about them. People have testified as to how they have found Dear Pilgrim to be warm and encouraging – this is because it reflects the warmth and encouragement that my own ears have heard from those around me who have exhorted and encouraged and comforted me in the Lord.

And then the local church – truly, we have been so blessed as a family through our church, Gateway Christian Fellowship, in Yateley. This small fellowship came together almost 4 years ago, and we have grown so much in our walk and understanding of the Lord since then. Our dear pastor, Tom Chacko, and his wife, Dorothy, pour themselves out for us as a fellowship. Tom’s heart, reflecting the heart of the Lord, is that we will learn to walk together as a community of believers, being involved in one another’s lives during the week and not just on Sunday. We are gradually learning this, and we are beginning to taste the firstfruits of the richness this brings to us as a fellowship.

B -I know you love to sing, to play the guitar, and to compose music (and poetry!) for our God. What role has music had in your pilgrimage?

Diana
  -I began writing songs when I was in despair, and whenever I sang those angst-filled songs, I would remind myself of my misery. It is such a blessing instead to be able to write songs of praise to the Lord that we sing in our fellowship! Songs that take our focus away from ourselves and onto Him! As a fellowship we were recently blessed when one lady wrote a beautiful poem called “All to His glory” that I was able to set to music – and this is inspiring others in our fellowship to write – the children are now writing their own songs too!

B. Where are you heading now in your pilgrimage?



Diana
  -We are currently in a season as a family where I am working part time as an accountant to enable my husband to retrain from teaching into accountancy, and also devote time to serving the local fellowship through teaching the Word and the other duties he has as a deacon. We also have some important decisions to make regarding the schooling of our son, Harry, as it is our hope that Peter will begin homeschooling Harry next year. We are also excited to see where the Lord takes us as a church fellowship. Whatever we do, wherever the Lord leads us, we need to spend time with Him on the mountains so that He can supply us with all we need to walk in the good works He has prepared in advance for us.

*******

Thank you, dear Diana, for taking the time to share with us more about you, your pilgrimage, and your book.

Now let me share with you about the giveaway of this beautiful devotional book! To enter, please leave a comment here, and if you feel inclined to do so, share this interview on social media for extra chances to win.

I will announce a winner next Saturday, December 19 (the draw will happen Friday, December 18 at 7:00 PM CT).

Grace and Peace,


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The Forgotten Role of Women

 3.12.15

Simeon and Anna Praise the Infant Jesus by Arent de Gelder

We have read of all the many and different roles Christian women have. We know of the stay at home mom, the faithful wife, the single woman, the teacher, the counselor, the friend, the writer, the one who is always there to encourage others, the one who is always willing to serve, the first to come and the last to leave-, etc. We need all of these women in the church and we need the gifts God has given each one of us to help us grow and become more Christ-like.

However, I have seen that there is one role that is many times forgotten among women. We don't talk about it; we forget how much we need it and how much we should strive for it. That is the role of women who intercede, who live in the face of God, who can say, like the psalmist, "For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere." (Psalm 84:10)

This week as I was reading Luke, the account of Anna touched me deeply. Look at it with me: Anna was an eight-four years old widow (she was only married for seven years), and Luke tells us that, "she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day." And on an specific day and hour, the day and hour Jesus was presented in the temple, she came to the temple and  "began to give thanks to God and speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Israel." (Luke 2:36-38). Anna was a woman who was not thinking too much about what was she supposed to be doing with her life in the midst of her circumstances, she chose the best part -just like years later Mary would choose (Luke 10: 38-42), she was happy to be a woman of who loved being with God. Anna did exactly what I want to practice doing more and more, she worshiped God, she gave thanks, she prayed, she fasted. She waited. And her waiting was not in vain, she saw her Savior, her prayers were answered, her reward came.

How much do we hear of women exhorting women to become women who are faithful intercessors?

Young women, start now. Start in the midst of your circumstances, start in the early morning hour before going to school. Start now, on the commute to your job. Start now, while you cook breakfast and dinner for your husband. Start now, while changing diapers and organizing closets. Start now. Start today, don't wait until you are older to become a woman who values intercession. Don't wait until the hard trials come. Don't wait until the well of your soul dries up. Pray now. We need your prayers and you need your prayers.

Is your nest starting to look empty? Is mid-life staring at you on the face? Are you still waiting for *that* promise? This is the place to start. Start praying. Pray more. Pray faithfully. Pray with thanksgiving. Pray without ceasing. Pray to the God who hears. Pray with hope. Pray waiting for an answer. Pray big prayers to a big God.

I love to see that Anna's prayer life was not something that was kept locked inside a closet. Notice that Anna came out of the temple, the place where she would meet with God, and because she had seen her Savior there, she was able to speak of Him to those who were in need. A rich prayer life leads to a rich life with others.

Note that she was not a teacher -I love to teach and I love teachers, but this is not what Anna does here-. She spoke God's words to those in need, she spoke about Jesus, the Spoken Word, the Incarnate Word of God. You cannot have a true woman of prayer if you don't have a woman who loves the Word and abides in the Word, and studies the Word and meditates and prays the Word. And when you have a woman like this, you want to be close to her. She will speak words of hope, words that promise a redemption to those around her. She will reach out and give the Word.

This Advent season pray that you may pray more. Wait before Him in quietness and prayer, and then go out and share Jesus and His Word with those around you.

Under His sun and by His grace,




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Heavy Hearts With Big Prayers

 28.11.15

This year I am more ready for Advent than any other year. I actually started a couple of weeks ago to dig in through the Gospel of Luke and I really hope to finish sometime around the end of the 12 Days of Christmas.

As I was reading through Luke 1 when the birth of Jesus was foretold by the angel Gabriel to Mary (vv.26-38), I had to stay there a bit longer -a day longer actually- to really take in something that I had not seen before.

When the angel told Mary that she had already found favor in God's eyes and was going to have a child who would be the Savior of the world, Mary's heart sank because of the bigness of the promise. "How will it be, since I am a virgin?" She asked, and the angel responded saying that she had to do nothing else than to believe the promise and carry it within her. God, the Holy Spirit, would come upon her and overshadow her with the power of the Most High, and therefore the promise would be fulfilled and have a name (I love that *therefore* on verse 35). Do you see it? How we need to dare to hear and to ask "How will it be?" and then, after you ask, trustfully rest and wait on the God who keeps His promises.

The promise was too big to bear for Mary, -and honestly, too big to be believed, but at the same time she didn't have to do anything else other than believe and carry the promise within her until the fullness of time (oh, Waiting, how sanctifying you are!). Because God had decided to look on Mary with favor, because He had promised the Promise, because God's Holy Spirit was overshadowing her and giving her the gift of faith to believe, because it was His doing, *therefore* she was able to believe, to carry the weight of the promise, to wait and see the fulfillment all the way through. She not only saw and felt the baby growing in her womb, she delivered the baby and laid Him on the manger, she saw Jesus grow and saw Him being betrayed and hanging on the Cross. But she was there also to see Him conquer Death. She was given the gift to believe God's Promise, the big promise, the heavy promise. Calvin said that we, Christians,  have one thing in common with Mary, and that is Grace. Grace! What else do we need in the longing, in the waiting, in the meantime?

This Advent I want to pray that God will grant me the same gift of faith that Mary had. My heart, like that of Mary's sometimes asks when I am facing a promise too good and too big to believe, "How will this be...?" But at the same time, I want to join Mary and hang onto the Promise and carry it within me until the time of its fulfillment comes. And I know that I can do that because God's Holy Spirit has been given to me to believe. He helps my unbelief.

Think of this, which is harder to believe, that God's Holy Spirit will overshadow a virgin woman and have her conceive the Savior of the world, or God saving your own child, or giving you that child you long for, or that job, or that husband, or that friend, or that reconciliation you have been praying about? Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing. The angel of the Lord said before departing from Mary, "For nothing will be impossible with God." His promises are true and firm and never change because He is both, the Promise Giver and the Promise Keeper.

Someone said, "God's promises claim us, we don't claim them" and, Oh, how I agree with that! If we are His children, we have already found favor in His eyes. We have been given Jesus, the Promised One,  and with Him we have received faith to believe all of His promises which are true, all of them are yes and amen. Just say "yes" to his promises, He will bring them to pass.

This Advent I want to pray big and believe big. I don't want to be doubtful and not dare to believe that God wants to save many, to reconcile many, to give husbands and wives, and children to his people, and healing, and good jobs, and endurance, and joy, and forgiveness of sins,  and more faith, and more perseverance and patience. I want to embrace the promises as much as they are embracing me and wait expectantly to see their fulfillment.

I pray that as you read this, you won't think that I am foolishly embracing the "claim-it, get-it" unbiblical approach to God's promises (the so called Prosperity Gospel). No. Not all. But at the same time, I think that we, hardcore Calvinists, Sound-Doctrine-Lovers, need to wake up and see the Promise-Giver with open hands and stop trying to see if that promise "fits" in our perfect-by-the-book-theology, we need to learn how to receive His promises and believe in His goodness as much as we believe in His Sovereignty. How we need to embrace His promises by faith and believe His Word, and pray over it and wait to see how God will fulfill each one of His promises. We don't dare to pray eagerly for the lost, for example, trusting that God can and wills to save them because of the "what if they are not elect" that is always present in our minds. How often do we dare to pray for the big things in concrete big ways?  Oh, how easily we forget that God is big and His promises are big and His grace is big! I will pray big prayers and trust that God can bring big promises to pass.

May our hearts this Advent be heavy with many big prayers and big promises. May the Holy Spirit come upon us and overshadow us so that we may believe and wait.

Under His sun and by His grace,


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Hands and Feet - and Knees-

 12.11.15




This place has been quiet, but not my heart, and not my mind.

Lately I have been thinking about how owning a sound, historical, and biblical theology matters -and it matters a lot!- but also, how we flesh out that theology, that set of beliefs that drive our motives and actions, our responses to the good things and hard things that come our way matters a big deal too.

Studying big books about the Bible like commentaries, systematic theology, and other very important titles like The Institutes of Calvin, etc. is absolutely important; but we should never forget that the ultimate goal of knowing more is to love more. Love God more, love our neighbor more, love our family more, love the Word more, love to meditate on the Word more.

The more we know, the more responsibility we have to apply that knowledge in the life God has given us with the people God has given us. We need hands and feet to flesh out what we have studied in the Word -and in the big books we love to read. If we don't do that, if the people around us cannot see that the more we study the more compassionate and understanding, and loving and helpful we are, then we are not truly growing in the Lord. We are just deceiving ourselves. People around us will know us because of the fruits we bear, not because of the many books we read- if you know what I mean. Fruits cannot be faked.

And this same principle applies to prayer. If we read a lot of big books, and know every point of our theology and can argue for this or that side of the debate, but we are not praying more, then something is terribly missing. Our study of the big Theology books can never substitute our time with God in prayer. Never.

Becoming women of the Word is not only about reading more and studying more, but about becoming more like Christ and longing to be with Him more.

I want to be known not by what I say I believe, but by what I do with what I say I believe.

Sound theology needs hands and feet and knees to be fleshed out.


Under His Sun and by His grace,



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Oh, How Wonderful it is to Come to His Table!

 29.3.15

source


Sometimes the days are too long,
the nights don't bring rest to our mortal bodies.
The minutes pass by slowly,
while our heartbeats run faster.

Some weeks the thorns and thistles
pierce our skin and hearts deeper.
But the Word does it work daily in us:
Dew in the morning,
Medicine in the midday,
Hope at night.

A Bible verse tucked in the back pocket of a pair
of old jeans day after day. Ready to be read.
One more phone call.
A prayer.
The Promise Giver won't let us go.
His Promise is holding us.

It's true, we are still standing,
Only because He sustains us.
The Word we have eaten,
The living Water we have drank
Runs through our veins even in the darkest of days.

And then Sunday comes.
Oh, how we love your day, Lord!
And we sing to our Maker.
And we all read the Scriptures together.
A Communal Table to feed the souls of many.

We confess our sins.
We confess what we believe.
We pray the Lord's Prayer.
We sing Psalms and Hymns.
We bless our Maker and
Bless each other.

We listen to the Word proclaimed,
A fountain of life.
And we soak in all of it.
We, hungry pilgrims,
Are gathered together
Because we love Him,
Because He loves us.
Because we exist for this.

And then, a mystery before us unfolds again,
We look around, and we are together,
A body of believers, as one.
Ready to eat.
To remember.

The Bread is broken in front of us,
and we remember.
We pass it, we eat it.
Slowly.
My children -all of them- eat.
We smile.
We have longed for this all week,

The Wine is poured,
and we remember.
His blood for us.
We believe.
We drink.
My children -all of them- drink.
We smile.
We have been baptized,
and we remember who we are:
The sheep of His pasture.

We are at the Father's Table again.
And we know that because of Jesus,
We are welcomed.

He has prepared this table for us
In the presence of our enemies.
We are ready to feast,
To remember His victory,
His love for His people,
The hope of Eternal Life.

Isn't this what we needed this week so much?
This sacrament of communion,
To remind us that all will be well?
That we are His?
That He is ours?

Oh, how wonderful it is
To come to His table!
To remember how He saved us!
To have communion with Him
In the company of our brothers and sisters.
To eat and drink,
To remember all of His benefits.

Oh, how wonderful it is
To come to your table, Oh, Lord!





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Words, Words, Words

 6.3.15

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Words, words, words. We either use them like healing drops or killing poison. We all try hard to say less words, to keep our mouths shut, to use our words wisely, but we need to realize that we won't succeed unless we abide in the Word of God.


The prudent woman not only speaks fewer words than the fool, but she knows when to speak wise words that bring healing and joy (Prov.12:18; 15:23). This kind of words, words that edify, words that bring healing and joy, words that tell the truth, can only come out -naturally- from our heart through our mouths, when the Word of the Builder, the Word of the God who heals and brings life, the Word of the God of all joy and perfect peace, the God of all Truth is dwelling in us. Remember that Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45) and that His Word must abide in us (Jn.15:7), do you see the connection there?

Reading the Word, memorizing it, meditating on it, listening to it, is really the only way for us to fill our hearts and minds with the kind of words that will build up and encourage others. Only when we make it a habit to have the Word dwelling richly in us, is that we will start winning our fight against the problem of having a loose tongue and foolish talk.

The Word of God dwelling richly in us will sanctify us (Jn.17:17) -including the way we use our words! The Holy Spirit through the Word of God dwelling in us, will remind us when we should keep our mouths shut, when we ought to speak, and what words to say and not to say. The Lord alone can put a guard over our mouths (Ps.141:3), and it is through His Word and the work of the Holy Spirit that He does that.

"Let the Word of God dwell richly in you." Col.3:16

Under His sun and by His grace,






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Starve Your Idols to Death

 2.3.15

When we have friends visiting us in Mexico, we like to take them to many places including the National Cathedral in downtown. Entering in there, as a Protestant, is shocking, especially for those who have never been in a Roman Catholic church before. All the idolatry, the icons, the saints, the superstition, the candles, the smoke, the smells, all quench your spirit at once. But, you know what? Every time I enter in the Cathedral, I remind myself that the hidden idols of the heart are as deceiving, obstinate, and as sinful as the ones in there.

Idolatry destroys us and leads us to despair, to turmoil, to death, the Bible clearly tells us this. So it is a good thing to be on guard against any idol that tries to rise silently in our own hearts. If we don't pay attention and neglect being watchful, we may start building a shrine for it without even noticing it.

How do we find and face those idols? Some are easier to see, to discern. Maybe you are eating more -or less- when you are anxious. Maybe the only thing that makes you rise from the bed every morning is the gym, not the desire to spend time with God. Maybe it is social media, clicking one more time, just once more time, a quick look and that will be it, and at the end of the day your seconds, your minutes, your hours, your days are all slained and offered up before the idol of Staying-Connected. Maybe your idols are (and I have seen this trend growing more among young American Christians) the same icons that I have seen destroying my nation, used as decorations in your homes, in your bracelets, in your shirts. Or maybe it is wine, the need for it at the end of a long day is becoming more and more a need, a demanding need. Maybe your idols are your friends, your job, your dreams, your family, your job, your "freedom in Christ."

God is gracious and He shines His light through the dark corners of our heart and provides a way for us to see, to repent, and to destroy the idols in us. But, remember, the tearing down of idols, the mortification of sin is always painful.

Sister, maybe you know that the Lord has been trying to convict you of that particular idol (sin) with His Word or through the exhortation of other saints, but with your mind you keep trying to persuade yourself that no, that *that* particular issue is not an idol, that what your friend or your husband, or your daughter or your pastor, or your mom or your teacher, have told you is just an exaggeration, it is just how they perceive things, but, hey, they really don't know what's in your heart, then, Sister, put it to test. Starve it and see if it doesn't go wild in your heart demanding your attention, your all in all.

If you don't think social media is an an issue, put it to test. Don't login at all during a week (or a month?). See what happens.

If you suspect that perfectionism may be an idol in your life, put it to test. Don't wash the dishes right after dinner. Stay, instead, longer around the table enjoying the conversation. Clean the kitchen next morning, and go to bed at the same time than your husband.

Maybe it is the gym. No, you say. Well, put it to test. Miss going a week to your trainings, and stay in bed reading your Bible and praying, or playing a board game with your children.  Check what happens in your heart.

Or maybe it is food. Next time you go shopping, buy non-organic, non-local, non-free-range chicken, make something yummy and enjoy it. Or don't stop at Starbucks for a couple of weeks.  Or eat a whole slice of pie with your friends at a coffee shop and be at peace with it. Or maybe, for you, eating a salad, a smaller portion will be the the way to check what is in your heart.

Maybe it is the fear of not having enough money. Give more this week, then. Take your children to get their favorite ice-cream -with three toppings, and do it in faith. The Lord will provide.

For others,  the way to test if there is an idol of the things they can easily get would look differently, maybe it would be not shopping at the first impulse, not books -not even good, theological books-, not clothes nor accessories. Be at peace with what you have now and look for ways to bless others. Put others first.

Or what about that dress that some "legalistic people" at church dare to call immodest. Put it aside (along with the leggings and the low cleavage), and pay attention and see what happens in your heart.


The only way to put to death the idols in our heart is through faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, Sisters, we are more than conquerors, we can starve to death those merciless idols. We can live victoriously when our soul is satisfied with the One and True God that gives life abundantly.

"Satan offers you things, and then accuses you for taking them. Christ offers you Himself, and blesses you in the reception." D. Wilson

Under His sun and by His grace,



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How HONY Has Met Me in my Big Little World.

 20.2.15

I am pretty sure you are familiar with HONY (Humans of New York). It is amazing that as for this day, the minute I am typing this, Brandon Stanton has 12, 245, 305 people who have liked his page on Facebook and 2.6m are following him on Instagram -and 246k on Twitter-. So, I am not going to explain you what exactly his project is about (if you have no idea what I am talking about, I invite you to go see it for yourself. Instead I want to share what has been going in my heart, what has been stirred up in me as I follow him through his telling of stories.

I read the comments and I see, for the most part, common grace overflowing. We all want to do something. People send hugs and encouragement through their comments.  People  feel like they want to send money (and they do it generously!) to those in need. We all read and wish we could help in a tangible way, so we say a prayer (maybe?). But then we click another key and move on to the next thing, until another of his pictures reminds us that there is a powerful story behind each face, a fight being fought (as the cliché says). And God is there.

One of the things that this guy, this Story Hunter, does, is that in a few minutes like a magician, he pulls from the stranger's heart a story that probably no one has ever heard before. And we all hear, we all pay attention, because we love stories, because stories draw us together.

But maybe, while thinking that we'd love to do something for these people, we are just being infatuated by stories that are happening far from us. Stories that, as with any fiction book, end the moment we decide to close the book and move on. 

One of the questions I have as I read these story-pictures is not necessarily how he approaches strangers and draws out those stories from them. My question always is, "What does he tell them afterwards?"What words come out of his mouth after they share their fears, their dreams for the future or the nightmares from the past with him? Just  "'Thank you, may I share your deepest secret with millions of people?" I have no idea,  but sometimes I wish I could know.

So here is where HONY, meets me.

There are stories around me. Walking stories. Happy stories and dreadful stories. Dreams and nightmares.  Stories that have never been told, that have been hidden on purpose until he comes with his camera and unlocks the treasure chest. But you know what? I haven't taken the time to draw near to them and ask the hard questions. It is easier to feel empathy, and a huge desire to help without even thinking, the woman Brandon Stanton introduced to us through one of his pictures, a woman who lives in The Democratic Republic of Congo, rather than to offer my help to my neighbor.   I have the Gospel, Friends. I have Jesus. I know the God who redeems lives, who turns darkness into light. The God who loves resurrection stories. If only I would start looking into the eyes of the lady who does my hair, the woman at the cashier, my next door neighbor, the person that I see at church every Sunday but I don't even know her name.

I cannot help all these faces with dreams of their own, but I have other Dreamers, other Faces walking around me. What can I do to bless them? How have I reached out to them?

We feel like we cannot possibly trespass some privacy boundaries, and yet this great photographer has done it over and over, and over again, and people respond to him, they are willingly sharing their stories with millions of strangers. They want to be heard. They need to be heard. Maybe we, the people of God, should dare to be more bold, to reach out, to ask. At the end of the day we know what the answer always is: The gospel of Jesus Christ.


Under His sun and by His Grace,



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Christian Charity is our Duty. But....

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 I love this quote from the book I am using to teach in our Ladies' Bible Study, and thought that maybe you will find it useful too.

"The exercise of Christian charity is an essential duty, yet it is not to override everything else- God has not exercised love at the expense of righteousness. The exercising of love does not mean that the Christian himself is to become a nonentity; a mere straw blown hither and tither by every current of wind he encounters. He is never to please his brethren at the expense of displeasing God. Love is not to oust liberty. The exercise of love does not require the Christian to yield principle, to wound his own conscience, or to become the slave of every fanatic he meets. Love does enjoin curbing of his own desires and seeking the good, the profit, the edification of his brethren; but it does not call for subscribing to their errors and depriving himself of the right of personal judgment. There is a balance to be preserved here: a happy medium between cultivating unselfishness and becoming the victim of the selfishness of others."  A.W. Pink, The Prayers of the Apostle (p.26) (emphasis mine).


My Pastor says it well, "Grace has a backbone."

Under His sun and by His grace,



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2015: Live Looking Up!

 6.1.15

©Blue by Annie Pliego
2015 is here and I am ready to live fully under God's sun and by His grace. 

This year is, for me, a year to focus in living with my eyes fixed on Jesus. This meditation by J.R. Miller sums my sentiments perfectly well:

"Look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near!" Luke 21:28
We are entering upon a new year, we shall have . . .
  new toils,
  new trials,
  new temptations,
  new troubles.


In whatever state, in whatever place, into whatever condition we may be brought this year — let us seek grace to follow our Lord's loving advice, and "look up!"
Do not look back — as Lot's wife did.
Do not look within — as too many do.
Do not look around — as David did.
But "look up!" Look up to God — He is your Father, your Friend, your Savior. He can help you. He will help you. He says, "Look unto Me, and be delivered — for I am God!"
Look up for light to guide you — and He will direct your path.
Look up for grace to sanctify you — and the grace of Jesus will be found sufficient for you.
Look up for strength to enable you to do and suffer God's will — and His strength will be made perfect in your weakness.
Look up for comfort to cheer you — and as one whom his mother comforts, so will the Lord comfort you.
Look up for courage to embolden you — and the Lord will give courage to the faint; and to those who have no might — He will increase strength.
Look up for endurance to keep you — and the God who preserves you will enable you quietly to bear the heaviest burden, and silently to endure the most painful affliction.
Look up for providence to supply you — and the jar of flour will not be used up, and the jug of oil will not run dry; but God shall supply all your needs, according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Look up in faith — exercising confidence in the Word of a faithful God.
Look up in prayer — asking for what God has graciously promised.
Look up in hope — expecting what you ask in the name of Jesus.
Look up with adoration — and adore the sovereignty, righteousness, and wisdom of God.
Look up constantly — let nothing daunt or discourage you! Rather say, "Our eyes are on the Lord our God — until He shows us mercy."
Look up — for this will keep . . .
  the head from swimming,
  the heart from sinking,
  the knees from trembling,
  the feet from slipping, and
  the hands from hanging down!
It is impossible to say what will happen to us, or what will be required of us this year — but "Look up!" This direction, if properly attended to, will . . .
  procure for us all that we need,
  secure us against all that we dread, and
  make us more than a match for all our foes and fears!

Fellow-Christian, are you fearful? "Look up" and hear Jesus saying to you, "Do not be afraid — I Myself will help you!"

Are you discouraged? "Look up" — and your youth shall be renewed like the eagle's, and fresh light, comfort, and courage shall be given to you!
Are you desponding? "Look up" for Jesus never breaks the bruised reed, nor quenches the smoking flax.
Do not look too much at your sin — but look at the infinitely meritorious blood of God's dear Son!

Do not look too much at self — but look at Jesus, who ever lives to make intercession for you in Heaven.

Are you stripped of your comforts, your props, and your goods? Then look up! He who stripped you — loves you! He will be more than all these to you! He will . . .
  bind up your broken heart,
  calm your perturbed spirit,
  cheer your drooping mind, and
  fill you with His own peace and happiness.

Look up . . .
  for all that you need;
  from all that you fear;
  through all that would obstruct your way.

Look up every day, saying with David, "In the morning, O Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You — and will look up!" Psalm 5:3

Look up in every trial, saying "I will lift up my eyes unto the hills, from whence comes my help: my help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and earth!"

Do not look at your sin — it will discourage you!

Do not look at your self — it will distress you!

Do not look at Satan — he will bewilder you!

Do not look to men — they will deceive, or disappoint you!

Do not look at your trials — they will deject you!

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us — looking unto Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!" Hebrews 12:1-2

Look only, look always, look intently — to Jesus!

Run looking, work looking, fight looking, suffer looking, live looking, and die looking — to Jesus, who is at God's right hand in glory.

Oh, look, look, look to Jesus!


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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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