Stuck in the Wilderness on the Way to the Promised Land

Around and around and around they went. They weren’t riding on a carousel, but they sure were stuck in a limbo.

I can see it in my head: the Israelites who were taken out of Egypt refused to allow God to take Egypt out of their hearts and so a journey that was supposed to take only 11 days took them a whole 40 years. They were walking around the same old mountains and the same old obstacles with the same old grumbling, the same old entitlement, and the same old bitterness.

Although, when you think about it, doesn’t that metaphorically represent a lot of us these days? 40 years later and it’s the same old anger, the same old gossip, the same old slander, the same old lust, the same old unbelief – the same old issue. And because we’re going around the same old circles, we end up being stuck in the same old place.

I’ve always liked telling people that we’re all in the process, but the reason why it’s a process is because it’s supposed to get us to the promise. The problem is that these days, we tend to romanticize the process and what we could journey in 11 days would end up taking us 40 years if we’re not careful. Most of us seem to have forgotten that the Lord brought us out of our own personal Egypts because He wants to bring us into our promised lands. We were never meant to be stuck in the wilderness. The last thing we want to do is miss out on God’s promises because of our preferences. If we want to move forward, we have to let Him take the Egypts out of our hearts. We cannot continue on being the same old us.

And we have to understand, us attending church and doing ministry doesn’t mean we are already in our promised lands. There’s so much more to it than that. Think about it: these people were journeying with the ark of the covenant. The presence of God was right there with them. They even had the provision of God as they were sent manna every single day without fail and none of the clothes and shoes they were wearing ever ran thin. But still, even then, they didn’t get to enter the promised land.

I will put it this way: you may be around the presence of God and you may have the provision of God, but that does not mean you are in the promise of God. He is kind and gracious and He will give you enough just to get by where you are at but goodness, He has so much more for you than that.

Do not think that just because you have come out from where you were that you are already where you need to be. It’s not enough that you are delivered from Egypt, you would want to experience the freedom of the promised land. That usually entails a journey through the wilderness – and you’d be surprised how comfortable you can get there.

We like to tell ourselves that we can stay in a certain place for as long as we want to and to take our sweet time walking through our issues, but the apostle Paul tells us this:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
-Hebrews 12:1-2a

Let. Us. See, here’s the thing. It is completely within your realm of capability not to let your fingers type out that website and not to let your eyes feast on what is being shown on your screen. It is completely within your realm of capability to stop replying to that boy that has been flirting with your emotions all year long. It is completely within your realm of capability to bite your tongue and control the words that go out of your mouth. You, even more empowered by the grace of God, can throw off the sin that so easily entangles.

And the truth is, more often than not you’re going to have to keep on throwing all these things off day in and day out because they’ll go creeping back up on you. That’s fine, as long as you keep throwing them off each and every time until they no longer have a hold on you.

After the generation of Moses died without stepping into the promised land, Joshua was commanded to circumcise all the Israelites. Why? Because they had to be consecrated before the Lord, and consecration usually means there has to be a major cutting off. It was painful, and they stayed there until they recovered, but they marched straight on after they healed.

In the same way, God will cut off certain things in our lives and we have to let Him. To enter the promised land, there has to be a circumcision in our hearts – it’s the whole point of the wilderness! And we will be given time to heal, but I reiterate: we cannot stay in that place longer than we should. Paul said we were to run (not stroll) after all.

Some of us are being told to wait on the Lord and that’s completely fine. It’s one thing to wait for God to give you the promise and another for Him to wait for you to get the promise. I’m talking to the people who are in the latter category.

If you’re in a place right now that is complacent, if you feel like you have reached a plateau, then maybe there’s something that needs to be done.

When the Israelites were walking into the promised land, they ran into a wall. Not a figurative one, but a very literal one. History tells us that the wall of Jericho was 34 inches thick and so fortified that no one came in and no one came out.

I’m pretty sure this has happened to a lot of us when we were on our way to our own personal promised lands. The things that should have happened did not happen and we got hit by a wall. This is the point people shake their fists at God, hurl their disappointments over failed expectations at Him, and some just walk away.

But Joshua did not walk away. Rather, he came to the Lord and was given instructions that did not make sense; instructions that seemed like they had completely nothing to do with the breakthrough they were waiting for. So even if they felt silly and did not understand, they obeyed anyway. Every day, they walked and did their laps around the wall in complete silence – because nothing speaks louder than faithfulness even when things are not going your way.

And after 7 days, the walls came crashing down and the Israelites took hold of the territory God had for them. Before they did, they rescued a prostitute named Rahab, who hid their spies, and her family. Rahab then became the mother of Boaz, who was the grandfather of Jesse, who was the father of King David. They may not have known it, but their small acts of obedience in the moment set the story up for the generations that were to come after.

That and they finally got their promised land.

It’s amazing to see how we don’t just fight to get to the promised land for ourselves, but we also do it for the world around us. In stepping into your destiny, you place yourself in a position that would help others step into theirs.

And while I could tell you that it doesn’t matter how long it takes as long as you get out of there, I wouldn’t. The time it takes for you to get there actually matters. I pray that you never overstay a season – not for a single second – and may you fight for and step into all your promised lands.

We don’t want to rush on ahead, but we don’t want to fall behind either.

Let’s Talk About Friendship

For the past few weeks, I’ve been pondering on why it’s so difficult to build true, soul relationships with other people. It’s difficult to start to begin with and eventually they become difficult to keep.

I’ve watched people come and go and I’ve watched friendships form and disintegrate. When I see this in my life and in the lives of the people around me, I can’t help but wonder why it has to be so hard. Why is there envy and strife even in friendships? Why do people gossip and take sides? Why can’t we all just love and support each other without turning it into a competition?

Is it even worth it to try anymore?

The Holy Spirit then started reminding me of certain memories.

Back in 2015, I was in Ilocos with my friends when the vacation turned into a battleground. I was prophesying over some and ended up being horrendously attacked by the enemy. When I was being beaten to the ground, the very friends I prayed for ended up being the ones covering for me.

When one of my friends confessed about being assaulted, in the midst of tears, pain and anger, we stood over her and bound everything that the enemy was bringing upon her. We ended the night singing songs of victory.

On one of our trips to Tagaytay, a birthday getaway turned into two straight nights of declaring healing over the lives of each other, bringing to light certain pains and hurts we have so long kept in the dark. Forgiveness was given and relationships were restored then and there.

Dozens of similar stories then started to pop in my head, because it was never just a one-time thing. This was something the fellowship lived and breathed and prayers were given without ever hesitating. These were friendships that went beyond shared hobbies and similar taste in music; these were friendships centered in Christ. We stood by each other through seasons and we fought for each other’s destinies and families.

When we said we had each other’s backs, we meant it life or death.

I see. That’s what makes it so difficult.

Because it was always powerful. Such relationships are powerful. It brings freedom and restoration and that is exactly why the enemy will do everything in his power to hinder and stop you from even wanting to try. He will have you turn on each other, get annoyed at one another, be too busy to even care. He will bring in doubt, impatience, slander, and anything else possible to break you apart. He will make you feel ignored, unwanted, dejected, and rejected so you keep your heart locked and safe, away from anyone who can make you feel the same again.

Look, it’s true that vulnerability is hard. It’s one thing to tell others how you are and it’s another to show your heart and open your life for them to see all the places you have yet to be holy. It’s absolutely frightening, especially for those that have experienced trusting others only to end up in betrayal and heartbreak.

And really, who hasn’t fought to open their heart up to someone only to find it pierced? Who hasn’t watched their friends turn into the mob and the jury, yelling accusations and demanding crucifixion?

Jesus Himself was betrayed by Judas after all.

But while the scars are bound to remind you to be careful next time, we are reminded that Jesus gained the scars in His hands while hanging naked on a cross – uncovered and unmasked.

Love doesn’t really get any more vulnerable than that.

And we were meant to live as Christ did after all.

“This is my command: Love each other as I have loved you.”
-John 15:12

It may be easier to hide your heart away, but we were never meant to live the easy way.

My relationship with my best friend Belle is probably the longest one I’ve managed to maintain that remains to be just as close, and when you view 7 years in comparison to those who have been BFFs since birth, it doesn’t really sound like it’s anything of a feat. But personally, the fact that it made 7 years even as we lived in different regions and now different nations is nothing short of a miracle.

We didn’t even really get along at the beginning. We just knew that God was calling us into the friendship. And I think that’s the only reason it lasted this long: because we fought for it. We have had the most horrible of fights and conflicts, but we also knew we had to fight against falling out. We understood that we were called into the commitment of covenant friendship and that we have to be deliberate about it.

And I thank God for all the friendships I’ve gained through the years after that were just a deliberate and just as true.

Community isn’t just suddenly found. Community is fought for and forged. We can’t keep on having superficial conversations and polite formalities. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of shallow “how are yous.” It may mean that no one gets hurt, but no one gets set free either.

Look, it’s very possible to be part of a group of friends and yet not really be intimate with each other. It’s actually rather common to find a routine that keeps everyone from getting to that point of being close because eventually, no one would want to break the status quo. Spending a lot of time together does not mean truly knowing each other.

This is why we have to dust off our fears and swallow our pride. It’s okay to be the first one to express the desire to want to go deeper. It’s better to be the one who tries.

And we have to open our eyes to the people around us who are also trying.

Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 4 to bear with one another in love and to make every effort to maintain the unity in the Spirit. He wouldn’t have said that if it was easy. It will get messy – I can guarantee that. Such is what happens when imperfect people come together. But iron sharpens iron and it is only through such that our edges can smoothen out.

We are all works in progress. We are all going from glory to glory. And we are all here because of Christ and for Christ. That is enough to bind us together and to keep us holding on to each other.

We remember that the Bible reinforces that we need to not give up on each other; that we have to keep on forgiving and keep on giving.

And we’re going to – even if others don’t.

Because the truth is, we all want to be fully known. We all want to be fully loved.

And beloved, it’s impossible to be fully loved if you are not fully known. In the same way, be wiling to fully love and fully know.

It doesn’t have to be with everyone you know. In fact, it shouldn’t be. This is a step done not just in faith, but also in wisdom. Ask the Lord who He has called you to, know the people you could walk with, and then build from there.

It may just be the first step, but it will be worth it.

“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul…”
-Acts 4:32

Fight for Your Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
– Proverbs 4:23

This verse has been preached a thousand times in a thousand different ways. But such are the joys of the Bible being living and active – there’s always something new to get from it every time.

Allow me to tackle this today in a different way.

I have recently gone through a process with the Lord wherein He took me to different places in my memories – memories that I somehow managed to forget were there. At first, I was apprehensive and tried to run away. I wasn’t quite ready to face where I was being taken and wanted to protect myself from the hurt that I knew was coming.

The Lord then had to talk me through it. “I’m not trying to break your heart. I’m trying to bind up your broken heart.”

I was confused because I was at a perfectly good place. At least, I thought I was. The Holy Spirit then kindly made me understand that there were issues I buried from years ago that I thought were already dealt with but in fact still had roots, and it was time to deal with them before they come back up rearing their heads. I really didn’t quite think they were worth paying attention to because the blows I took were not as horrible as others have received. However, we all break differently and such comparison of brokenness doesn’t invalidate the trauma.

There started a process that was painful, to say the least, but was also enlightening. You see, I thought I was protecting my heart by putting up walls and keeping it safe, but the truth is I was actually killing it.

We’ve taught ourselves to not talk about things of the past; to not think about things that hurt. We say what’s done is done, but does that really make it over?

There is constant talk about how the love of the Lord is like a soothing balm over our injuries and yes, that’s true. However, His love is also like disinfectant fiery over our wounds because His hands need to take the bullet out and stitch up the holes.

It hurts, but it’s necessary if we want to live.

If we want to really protect our hearts, then we have to stare all the painful memories right in the face and not look at away. We have to go back to those moments and bring the Lord with us.

It gets scary because we do have questions and regrets. “Why did I do that, how could I have been so stupid?” “Why did the Lord allow that to happen to me?” “Why is life unfair?”

And so it’s important to hold the Holy Spirit’s hand through all of it; we need to be aware of what He is saying about all the things we went through. We also need to be reminded of the fact that the enemy comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. He is actively working day in and day out to snuff out your hope and your spirit.

It might sound threatening but reality is, he’s threatened of you. He’s scared of all the things that you could become and is terrified of you reflecting all of God’s goodness and glory. Therefore, he has set up a thousand situations to take you out and has placed a million lies in your head, telling you you’re not good enough, that you’re unwanted and a burden, that it’s all your fault and that it happened because you had it coming anyway.

But one quick look at the Bible will tell you that even before the Lord formed you in your mother’s womb, He knew you. While you were still a sinner, He died for you. And His heart is to bless you, heal you, and give you life that is lived to the full.

You’ve probably heard of conspiracies regarding the Illuminati and that they make agreements with the devil so they can have the life that they want. Making such transactions with Satan is not the only way to have an agreement with him. Each and every time you agree with his lies towards you and even towards others, you are entering into an agreement with him.

We have to cut ties with those lies. This is not just about having low esteem. This is spiritual assault at its finest and this is why we have been implored to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.

Notice the term “take captive.” It’s a term that belongs to the vocabulary of soldiers and the military. This is because we are in a fight and we have to understand that trying to ignore the battle or deny the war does not mean we will be spared from it.

One of the common translations for one of the names of God “Jehovah Sabaoth” is “The Lord of Hosts.” The literal translation for this name is “The Lord of Angel Armies” and I like that a lot better. The Lord has been constantly accused of being a bystander, but He has been anything but. In fact, He has always been the frontliner, going forward as the sacrifice for the rest of the people.

We look at all the defeating blows humanity has received and point fingers because we have bought into the idea that we don’t have to fight because we have Jesus, but that is heresy and just another lie the enemy has managed to infiltrate in our culture. It’s like someone from the Navy saying, “I don’t need to fight, the Commander will do all of the fighting.” We have been called to fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12) and to take up the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). We have to realize that we have been slated into this war and were never meant to play civilians; we were meant to be warriors.

A verse that I commonly hear being quoted completely on its own is Exodus 14:14. “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still” as Moses told the people of Israel. What people fail to pay attention to is the context of the verse, because in the next verse, the Lord told Moses “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.”

You have a part to play. You have to keep moving forward. Don’t allow the enemy to belittle the things that the Lord has placed in your heart. Remember that Satan does not want you stepping into all that the Lord created you to be and will do anything to prevent that. He will try to break you down, discourage you, meet you with failure and dishearten you.

Wonder, love, grace, joy – the world wants to take it all away from you. Hell will fight you over what heaven has called you.

There will be doubts. You may be fronted with shame and judgment. Satan may even use people to mock you and look down on you, but don’t lose heart. Think of Joseph’s brothers and how they were so threatened of Joseph that they plotted to kill him. If you’re in that situation, know that it only cements the fact that there is a good future waiting for you and that if you push through, there is glory to come.

“So, it becomes the devils business to keep the Christian’s spirit imprisoned. He knows that the believing and justified Christian has been raised up out of the grave of his sins and trespasses. From that point on, Satan works that much harder to keep us bound and gagged, actually imprisoned in our own grave clothes. He knows that if we continue in this kind of bondage, we will never be able to claim our rightful spiritual heritage. He knows also that while we continue bound in this kind of enslavement we are not much better off than when we were spiritually dead.
We must face up to the issues and attitudes and doubts which constitute our fears, that keep us from being happy and victorious Christians with the true liberty of the children of God. We seem to quake about many things. In the first place, are you still afraid of your past sins? God knows that sin is a terrible thing?and the devil knows it, too. So he follows us around and as long as we will permit it, he will taunt us about our past sins.”
-A. W. Tozer

This also helps us be sensitive to the fact that everyone has their own battles. So be kind, be gracious, and love one another as Christ has loved you. Stand together in prayer and hold the ropes for each other. The Lord knows we all need it.

Don’t be afraid to bring to light all that you’ve hidden in the shadows. Don’t put your heart under a shade and hide it away. Don’t buy into the lies of false humility and shame.

Allow everything in your heart to shine and break through. If we truly want to protect our hearts, then we fight to keep them the way the Lord designed them to be – loving, selfless, brave, and free.

“As for myself, I have learned to talk back to him on this score. I say, “Yes, Devil, sin is terrible-but I remind you that I got it from you! And I remind you, Devil, that everything good -forgiveness and cleansing and blessing- everything that is good I have freely received from Jesus Christ!” Everything that is bad and that is against me I got from the devil -so why should he have the effrontery and the brass to argue with me about it? Yet he will do it because he is the devil, and he is committed to keeping God’s children shut up in a little cage, their wings clipped so that they can never fly!”
-A. W. Tozer

Fairytales

We live in a fairytale world of wonder and tragedy, where darkness is pitted against starlight and battles between good and evil happen everyday. Every day is a fight between love and hate, joy and despair, life and death.

Every day is a fight to hope.

Yet for all the twists and turns, for all the pain and tears, we know how fairytales end. Like little children at the edge of our seats, we anticipate what is to come. Marked by a battle between the hero and the villain, fighting to win the heart and life of the Bride, we are expectant. The Hero always emerges triumphant.

The tension is this: our fairytale didn’t happen once upon a time. It started from the beginning of time and it is happening still. We are not anymore in Eden. We are not twirling in a world of roses, sparkles all around. We are smackdab in the middle of the drama and the chaos, living in a warzone where there is a violent clash of swords and kingdoms. And so we anticipate the horrible and never embrace the beautiful long enough because we’re waiting for the clock to strike midnight, somehow convinced that every wonderful thing we hold right now is bound to be taken away.

But even when the magic fades, even when the evil villains reappear and it seems like they are winning, we can get our hopes up. For when it seems like all is lost, the Prince comes in h
His white horse, ready to save the day.

No matter how many more pages it takes, we know how the story ends. We know who truly wins. We know how it goes.

Happily ever after. Until then, the story is not over. Until then, it is not the end.

“I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by fairytales, but has since been ratified by the mere facts.”
-G. K. Cherston

Originally posted on Instagram – Nov. 18, 2017. Modified.

How to Pursue Your Boaz (Like Ruth Did!)

Is there anyone here not familiar with the story of Ruth? So often cited in Christian circles as justification why women can make the first move, we look at her story with profound interest. I’ve always been intrigued by the lives of the women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus and every time, I find myself thoroughly enjoying the way they were, in their own ways, rather scandalous.

Every year starting December 1, I re-visit the stories of the people part of Jesus’ ancestry and so once again dwelled on the story of Ruth. I thought of her as scandalous in the sense that she went and “made the first move”, which I figured was acceptable in their context and culture, but I came to see that things went much deeper than that.

The overarching theme of Ruth was Naomi’s bitterness turning into joy as she saw God redeem her and her family. Ruth’s story is that of an outsider being taken in and shown love and mercy. It’s much more of a testimony of God’s grace and faithfulness than anything else.

Don’t we all want our love stories to look like that? Here’s how Ruth got it right.

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.
-Ruth 1:16-18

Upon closer inspection, we could see that Ruth was anything but the take-control, aggressive woman we made her out to be. All throughout her book, we could only see one thing she was determined about: going where Naomi would go. In fact, it was when she was eligible to get married to younger, richer men that she decided to leave everything behind and follow wherever the Lord, through Naomi, would lead her and call her to. She basically gave up her right to live her life the way she wanted to.

Forgive me for saying this, but we have become a culture so obsessed with self. Instead of looking at our singlehood as an opportunity to serve, we see it as a time to focus on self.

I’m not saying that self-development and discovery is wrong in any way, but while we’re busy bemoaning our relationship status, complaining about the lack of available men, and scrolling through social media sites, children out there are dying of starvation, women are being sold and prostituted, and families are broken apart by sickness and poverty. We are present at every singles get-together and retreat, yet we wouldn’t even sacrifice a couple of hours to be of service to other people.

And then we have Ruth, who laid all of her to serve the person entrusted to her.

She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves after the reapers.’ So she came, and she has continued from early morning until now, except for a short rest.” She gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. And she took it up and went into the city. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She also brought out and gave her what food she had left over after being satisfied.
–Ruth 2:7, 17-18

From the very beginning, her intention and her service was for her mother-in-law. Every decision that she made from the time her husband died was not to her own advantage. In fact, she basically shunned the thought of marriage and prioritized working and providing for Naomi. Her desire was not for herself. Naomi then had to be the one to convince her to get back in the game again.

And even then Ruth in her humility responded,

“All that you say I will do” (Ruth 3:5).

I think one thing a lot of us overlook is that when Ruth approached Boaz, she didn’t do so because he was the one she desired or because he paid attention to her. She did so because he was her kinsman and culturally, one of the few people who can redeem her family lineage and legacy. She did not do so out of her own volition, she did so out of submission.

Her act of going to Boaz did not speak “I like you Boaz so please marry me” as most of us would interpret it. What she was truly saying was, “In order to redeem the family name of Naomi, I am willing to be a living sacrifice and thus offer myself as your wife.”

Ladies, let’s be completely honest here. We all want to be in a relationship, but how many of us are ready to offer ourselves like that? And if we wouldn’t even let God refine our hearts to get to that point, then why bother magnifying your desire for a guy in the first place?

At one point or another, you have probably come across a Jim/Elisabeth Elliot quote, but I love this one certain line from a letter before they got married:

“Let not our longing slay our appetite for living.”

We’re all always longing for something. Love. Relationships. Family. Peace. Provision. Security. Health. Beauty. Purpose. We’re all longing – each and every one of us. Yet all of these must not in any way hinder us from living; from embracing and thriving where we are now, with what we have now.

I’ve talked to countless women who said they were praying to end up with a godly guy, only to find out 5 sentences later that they’re doing so in the throng of bars, speed-dating, and matchmaking sites. I’ve had single women older than me come up to me and ask me to write about how we live in a generation where men are afraid of commitment and pursuit, more so than any other generation before.

And I’m not going to deny the statistics. The trend goes far beyond the romance department. Working for the ministry, high on the list of our greatest, most pressing needs are male missionaries who would be willing to go places and spearhead certain pursuits. We have a huge pool of women volunteering themselves to go to the most dangerous of places because there is such a lack of men willing to rise up. (While I would love to discuss that in length, this isn’t quite the place or post to do so).

Either way, I believe that this does not at all hinder God’s stories for His children. Our frustration does not in any way give us the right to grab the pen from God’s hands and try to overwrite what He has already spoken. The fact that the cute office-mate you have is brave enough to pursue you does not change the fact that he’s not a follower of Christ. You being convinced that it’s your season to be in a relationship does not mean that you’re right.

If God wanted you married by now, then He would have found a way to bring a man into your life by now. It would certainly entail obedience from both sides, but He is more than capable of using the most unlikely of circumstances to, at the very least, get things moving. He managed to bring Eve to Adam when Adam didn’t even know someone like her existed after all.

The thing about the book of Ruth was that there was no angel visitation or apparent supernatural manifestation but her seemingly ordinary life was marked with divine orchestration – all started by her humble act of submission and catapulted by her obedience. Ruth did not just happen to end up in Boaz’s field, where he took notice of her, and it was no coincidence that he was her kinsman redeemer. It was all God, moving behind the scenes all along.

God writes the best stories, but only if you allow Him to hold the pen.

So if you really want to pattern out the way you approach your love life according to Ruth, then here’s how you can start:

Yield. Surrender. Obey.

The 2018 New Year Post

Prayer and fasting week just ended yesterday and I was pondering on how God answered all my prayers from the previous year – and how, in a sense, He didn’t.

My ultimate prayer has always been that His will be done in my life, followed by bullet points of specific wants and requests that I have. All bullet points for 2017 were answered, some with a yes, some with a no, some with a few modifications in between. But one thing’s for sure, His will prevailed and with that, I couldn’t really ask for more.

I think everyone who reads this blog knows how I always thought I would have been married by the time I’m 21. Not that I prayed for it last year, but hey. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, I got the job I never knew I wanted, am living alone for the first time in my life and discovering more of what I actually want to do.

And I have just one thought: I’m really, really glad I didn’t get married at 21.

(I’m pretty sure my parents are too).

How gracious is He, to withhold the things we think we want so we can have the things we would truly want in the end. I’m glad I didn’t get everything I ever asked for, because then He gets to give me so much more.

So sure, I have my list this year. In fact, I was specific and very particular about my requests, and I have faith that they would come to pass.

But if they don’t, I have faith that He will give what’s better.

For our faith is anchored on Him, whose kindness and goodness is immeasurable. Our hope is in Him who knows and has the best for us.

I’ve seen Him put to death my greatest dreams and I’ve seen Him resurrect them in ways I never dared imagine. He can do it again as much as He wants to. I can die to myself, over and over and over, because then I get to experience Him breathing life in me again.

I have completely no clue what’s going to happen this year, but I know that someday when I look back, I’m going to be glad things were the way they were. For this we know: God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

In His will, there’s absolutely nothing to fear. The anxiety of uncertainty may try to come at you, but God’s already got you. You can surrender, you can let go, you can trust.

We can lose our control as long as we know that God has it all under control.

I am fully convinced that God wants the best for us more than we could ever want it for ourselves. If that’s the case, then how can it ever not turn out okay?

So, 2018, are you ready for what God’s going to do? I know I am.

Break.

"It's okay. Break. It's okay to break. It's okay to be broken."

How many times do we have to tell ourselves that our brokenness is forgivable?

This, this is one of the greatest things He has taught me. That we can be undone, and it's completely okay.

Some pain could be self-inflicted. Some pain could be world-induced. Some pain could be completely out of your hands. But none of those actually changes anything.

Pain and brokenness will either demand to be felt or they will demand that we feel nothing at all.

So feel. Beloved, allow yourself to be broken. Maybe you've been holding it together for the longest time. But you don't have to, not in front of Him. Let the tears come. You don't need to be afraid of what is broken, what could be broken, what will be broken. Not when He is not afraid of broken things; not when He is redeeming and restoring everything.

Let His love re-define you and the meaning of your brokenness. Let Him love you in your most disappointed, hurt, confused places. He wants to. Rock bottom becomes your stepping stone if you decide to walk it through.

I remember this song by Leonard Cohen that says, there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.

Let the love get in. But you have to break first, fully.

Then let all the broken, seemingly scattered pieces fall into place. Let Him put your pieces back into place.You can press your scars against His nail pierced hands and know that this, this is Someone who is not afraid of broken, this is Someone who understands pain.

You may think that you can't afford to feel because you have to be a leader first. You have to be a parent first. You have to be a sibling first. You have to be responsible first. But it costs so much more to forget that before all of that, you were God's child first. And He wants you to be super real with Him. He isn't surprised by how low you could go. You'd be surprised by how His love can chase you down there, even deeper.

Didn't you know that your broken heart breaks His? Didn't you know that you refusing to break open your heart breaks His?

And the Father has His arms outstretched, Christ comes to us showing the scars in His hands, the Spirit whispers inside us, "it's safe here."

Why do we need to fear being messy when it's never more than what our God can handle?

Break. At His feet. Before His throne. Offer your brokenness. Then watch Him fight for you. Hear Him speak grace and truth to you. Listen to Him tell you, "go in peace" (Luke 7:36-50).

You may be busted, but you are beloved.
You may be guilty, but you are not condemned.
You may be broken, but you are chosen.

So rather than pushing people away because "you don't understand my pain and you have no idea what I've been through", why don't we let them push through our hearts and maybe then we'll see them pull through for us?

It's fascinating to me, how the bread we eat and the juice we drink during communion represents so much more than we think they do. Wheat and grain have to be crushed in order to make the bread we commune with. Grapes had to be squeezed and pounded in order for us to have the juice that we drink. All the sweetness, the oneness, coming from broken.

We share this together – all this broken, together.

And all this pain and suffering, they all do things to us. They make us defensive. Bitter. Mean. Because, as they say, hurt people hurt people.

But everyone's hurt. In ways we will never know and in ways we won't fully understand, everyone is hurt, has been hurt, and will be hurt. And if we don't start responding in love in the face of pain, if we keep putting up walls rather than allowing the cracks, if we don't start reaching out instead of slapping away, if we'd rather make people break than be broken together, then the cycle will keep going on.

Hurt people hurt people.

Someone, somewhere, has to be brave enough, humble enough, to break the cycle by being broken.

Let that someone be you.

The truth is, there will always be someone who has something bad to say about you, something bad to do to you. Love anyway. The moment we feel most appalled, most disappointed, most repelled is the moment we need to love anyway the most. The heart that repels us the most is the heart we need to love the most.

Because we all need love when we feel we least deserve it – and that's exactly how God loves us anyway.

It's two-way, a cycle, this circle of love and life and pain.

Rather than comparing and criticizing who has the right to be broken because "I've been through worse but I turned out better", why don't we break our self-righteous pulpits instead?

Do you really have to give someone a piece of your mind when they need a piece of your heart? What if that person is not necessarily being difficult, it's just that she's having difficulty? Because we know it gets harder before it ever gets easier, and people need someone to help them through and tell them that it will get better if they don't give up when it's hardest.

Beloved, we will be known for our fruits, not our judgments.

So the ground has to be broken to produce crop and the seed has to break open to produce wheat and the wheat has to be broken to produce bread.

And Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (John 12:24).

We break ourselves open and we die to ourselves.

And then He puts us back together, the way we were always supposed to be. He binds us all broken people together.

Because, if anything, seeing how deep our brokenness makes us realize how deep His love is. And I deeply believe that what the enemy meant for evil, God will turn into good. I deeply believe that He can turn your bad broken into good broken. I deeply believe that no darkness nor evil nor spirits nor anxiety nor fear can keep you from His love and peace. When we are wounded by the world, we can find shelter in His Word.

And then we will know, truly, Christ was broken so we don't have to be.Our undoing will be our remaking.

The origin of the word suffer means "to bear under." To suffer means to bear under what we cannot control. Which is why we would rather avoid suffering at all. But we can bear under that which is beyond our control because we know that above all is the One who is in control. Whatever has been and whatever will be, we are being held securely in the hands of Him who is the Prince of Peace. We are held in the arms of the One who holds all things together.

Whatever we are wrapped up in, He sets us free.
Whatever we are accused of, He has taken the condemnation.
Whatever we lack, He will provide.
Whatever we have failed, He will redeem.
Whatever battle we face, He has declared victory.

For where we are weak, He is strong.

We imagine needing to go through things on our own, but in the darkness, in the valley of death, He is there with us. There's no season that we have been in, no season we are in, and no season we could be in that He will not go through with us. In the desert, in the valley, in the fire, He is right there with us. When everything is up in flames around us, He is right there with us in the middle of our burn.

It's not up to us to overcome our brokenness. We don't have to be okay before going to Christ. Rather, it is Christ who will have us overcome our brokenness and who will make us okay – even when things don't seem okay.

And now we who are broken, scarred, limping, we can be brokers of healing because we know where the wounds run. We know that compassion can heal what condemnation could not. We know that God will use all things for our good and His glory – from testing to testimony.

Taking it from apostle Paul, whose daily involved being stoned, flogged, persecuted, and imprisoned: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."

He can say that because amidst everything, here is his mindset: I am not a victim. And you are not a victim. Beloved, we should stop acting and thinking and living from a place of victim. And I do get that – that it will take time before we get out of that slave, victim mentality. But we'll let His love lead us through.

We confront our brokenness and own our beloved-ness.

For everything, everything, everything will work together for our good and His glory – even if we don't see it just yet. There will be stories to tell on the other side because we were never meant to wallow in our pain, we were meant to overcome.

He puts all our broken pieces together to form His body and we find His marks on each other. Let it sink, balm through the cracks: Christ is in you. You have the hope of glory in you.

And if we trace every scar, we can find there written along the lines:

Wounds run deep, but His love will always run deeper; the world will fight you and your own self will contradict you, but He has won the war – this Scarred, Victorious Savior.

And His triumph is counted as yours.

There Is More to Singlehood Than Being Single

In other words, if you are single, there is a higher calling upon your life in that season than just figuring out how to get married.

Shocking, I know. *note sarcasm*

But let’s be real here. We all know it in theory. In actual life, it can get a little blurry.

Now I do agree with the concept of active preparation. Yes, prepare for marriage even when you’re not married. Know the ins and outs of it before you even get there. Seek knowledge on how to be good spouse. That is wisdom.

On the other hand, I also think that God is interested in who we are becoming as an entire person and not just the part of us that becomes a husband or a wife. Singlehood is not just a season you get past to get there. It is is a wonderful time to be committed to the process of which God conforms our character to Christ.

And beloved, we have to be clear here. God is molding you not just because He wants you to be a good partner but also because He wants you to be a good child, friend, officemate, leader. He’s not just preparing you for marriage life; He’s preparing you for life in all of its entirety.

Please know that you cannot hold against God the fact that you sought first His kingdom and righteousness so “WHERE IS THE SPOUSE THAT WILL BE ADDED TO ME.” It doesn’t work that way. Becoming some spiritual giant is not license for God to suddenly give you a partner. Reaching a certain standard of spiritual maturity is not a pre-requisite to the “one” suddenly coming along. A husband or a wife is a gift from God, given according to His perfect wisdom.

Decide to be the person God wants you to be, married or otherwise, “mature and complete, lacking nothing" (James 1:4).

“Well I’m not called to singleness.”

But sweetheart, right now you are. And whether or not you will be next month or next year isn’t of the issue. It’s the fact that since God has not yet a brought a special someone in your life by now, then it means He has a plan for you as a single person, today. And He will be the One to give you the grace to squeeze everything that you can out of this season, to His glory.

Now please, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to desire to get married. God created marriage! It is His idea and it’s beautiful! Practically prepare, I’m sure your future family will thank you for it! But also do not overlook this opportunity to do so, so much more.

Singlehood is an opportunity to be single-minded about Christ and His mission.

Paul even wrote to the Corinthian church of how being unmarried is a great chance to have no distractions when it comes to serving Him. Our single years give us the ability to pour our resources, time, energy, and focus on the great commission more than ever.

So I encourage you, take advantage of it. I know, I know. You’re already living your single life “to the full” by travelling and meeting new people and exploring new things. And that is wonderful!

But wouldn’t it be so much more amazing not just to see His beauty in every opportunity you can grasp, but to reflect His glory in every opportunity as well? Prayerfully consider how you can not just see the wonders of the world but how you can also be His hands and feet to a lost and dying world. What does it look like to take up your cross and follow Him in this season? You can ask God to shift your passions and focus from the sacred calling of marriage to His sacred calling for your life right now. And you can trust that the steps you take towards this particular calling now will take you closer to where He would want you to be in the future – whether that looks like you with a ring on your finger or not.

You may be asked to pray for your family and community in greater measure. You may be called to pursue further education and gain more skills in preparation for what He has up next for you. You may find your heart wanting to minister to children or the elderly or the sick. You may see yourself on a plane to do a mission trip to Africa or you may stay right where you are, evangelizing to the people around you.

Practice sacrificial love to your family. Share life with your neighbor. Volunteer at your local church. The particulars don’t make it more or less significant; your heart fully surrendered to Him is what matters. As long as your actions are an outflow of your love for Christ, they will make a difference.

And we can overflow because right now, we have already been made whole. We are already complete in Christ. Not when we get married, not when we have children, but right now.

Loneliness is real and desire of companionship is true, but no human relationship, no matter how God-orchestrated, can substitute the joy of being with Christ. With every burst of yearning is a choice to either get lost in the feeling or to turn to God and draw closer to Him. Biological clocks may be ticking, but remember that it’s the Author of time you’re serving. It’s all in good hands.

Be faithful with where you are now, and then He will entrust you with more.

It’s Christmas and Everything Seems Dark

“Why are there no lights out?”

It’s early December and I was pouting to my brother how everything is as Christmas-sy as it should be except the new city mayor decided not to waste money on lights and decors this year.

A few days after that, we were on the drive home when he complained about how everyone had their headlights on full bright because it was so dark outside. I put my head out the window, strained to see, to catch even a glimpse of light, but there was none. No street lamps, no stars, no moon. Just the blackest night.

Christmas was supposed to be full of cheer and luster and sparkles spilling, so why did there seem to be no light in sight?

News recently broke over Aleppo, the 4-year war reaching its pinnacle and I sat there in the lunch table, everyone laughing and talking as my eyes were glued to my phone, pictures of people dying, my fingers scrolling, scrolling hoping to find something that will help make sense of everything. Christmas banners were hanging over us and I can’t stop thinking of how the civilians were made into chess pieces, clinging on to freedom banners, desperate for a sense of hope.

Hope. How to have hope when hope has failed you before?

I lie in the middle of the dark, masking the pain of broken plans and expectations as I stare at my journal, wondering what happened to God promising that this year will be far better than the last. I ache, wonder, ponder, the same way I broke down in the arms of a friend for the first time this year mere days before, letting the dam crack just a tiny bit in her compassion as I admit that I was so tired of waiting and hoping. I was never the hopeful sort in the first place because of my tendency to be very realistic.

And yet, still, I can’t seem to snuff out hope.

For there, in the middle of the mess and my so-called realism, a small sliver of light started fighting its way through my broken heart and I couldn’t do anything to force it back down.

Then I’m reminded that Christmas is not about everything being light and bright. It’s about that one star hovering over the manger, steady for those who have eyes to see. I recall how myrrh, the third gift of the wise men, is most commonly used for embalming – myrrh was presented to baby Jesus as the foreboding of His death. And that act in and of itself appears brooding and gloomy but it tells me one thing: Christmas isn’t about simply His coming, it’s about His coming to die that we might see that still, small light.

For right there, from the darkness of the womb, He emerged to the light of life. 33 years later, from the darkness of the tomb, He emerged to give us the light of eternal life.

This is the God who, from the very beginning, spoke out against the dark…

“Let there be light.”

Christmas reminds us that from darkness emerges light, always. Christmas reminds us that darkness will never overcome light. Christmas reminds us that even if the promise takes 4,000 years coming, it is still coming.

Here is a God who chose to come in the middle of a genocide, as a refugee, as a carpenter’s son. Here is a God who chose to die through the worst form of torture, lawful justice withheld from Him. Here is a God who not only knows our suffering but has been through world’s suffering.

Here is our God.

We can still hope because we know Who we’re hoping on.

Two days ago, my friends and I were walking to the park late in the evening to have a picnic when there, I saw.


Thousands of lights up along the streets and up in the sky. Shimmering, gleaming, radiant against the dark.

I breathed out against the chill.

Darkness couldn’t do anything to light because darkness is simply the absence of light. Fire up a small candle, put on a small bulb, and darkness has nothing on light. In fact, it is in the darkest darkness that light would be seen brightest.

The pits of failure, depression, anxiety, fear, and shame are real and they plunge murky and deep, but His love is real-er and it plunges so much deeper. His light will always chase you down. His power is made perfect in your weakness.

Because, Emmanuel.

The Bright, The Star, The True Light is always here with us, glowing, burning deep within our hearts, iIlluminating the dark.

Hope, against all hope.

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2, 6‬

I Want To Get Engaged Too

You guys, I’m not kidding.

Two men got down on one knee to propose to two of my friends last week and while I deeply rejoice with them, I can’t get out of my head the fact that life is quickly passing me by. It’s surreal to think that we went from talking about wedding plans to them actually already planning their weddings and here I am, still unengaged. The days have blended into each other, minutes and hours quickly whir past, and I’m left there standing, wondering, where did all the time go?

I don’t want to get left behind and so here I declare that even though I’m single, I will get engaged. I know, I know. Getting engaged is a commitment and it can be extremely difficult, but it’s something I want for my life.

I think it’s something you should desire too.

But first, I have to clarify. By engaged, I don’t mean someone putting a ring on my finger.

Engaged (adj.)
: to participate; to be fully involved in activity
: to be greatly committed and interested

Through all these years, I’ve tried. I force myself to pay attention and to fully be in a moment, but at the end of it, I revert back to my usual pacing – a little detached from reality. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m always charging full speed ahead. My brother points out to me that whenever God gives me a vision, I’d drop everything in the now and eagerly fixate on getting there, always one foot out the door. And that’s not bad, but maybe it’s not entirely good either.

Because how many of us can attest to the fact that God’s visions don’t immediately materialize in one night or one year or even one decade, for that matter?

You see, in attempts to live fully, I want to quickly get on to the next thing. I work and hurry thinking that I need to make up more time, that I’m making the most out of my time, but maybe all I’m doing is throw time away. Because it makes one ask, am I ever really present?

My friends and I would watch travel and adventure videos, and all we could think is: we want to be there, where they are, because here just seems so mediocre in comparison. There is adrenaline and exhilirating and here is… ordinary. However, I can’t help but wonder, what happens after all the rush goes away? They can’t exactly jump from a plane every day, can they? Then their there becomes our here and everything seems mundane again.

But is it really true? Does awe and wonder always have to be there, never here? In always aching to be there, am I ever really here?

Have I ever lived life fully and made the most out of every moment, moment-by-moment? Have you?

The clouds peeking through the buildings and billboards as the MRT speeds through, the extra time to undividedly speak with God when stuck in traffic, the friendly smile of your officemate as she walks past your area, the chocolate swirls that are your mother’s eyes, the iridescent colors of the sun appearing in the suds as you wash your dishes, the smell of flowers seeping through the whirl of the washing machine – it’s all there, but does anyone still notice?

It’s not as if I plan to do some rehabilitation and unplug from electronics. I’m not trying to say we all stop doing anything seemingly apart from nature. This is not a call to scale the Grand Canyon and to dive the Great Barrier Reef. Maybe what we lack is not more weekend getaways; maybe what we lack is a fresh perspective, a look through the eyes of wonder that see His hand in every detail.

I’m excited for the next season. I’m excited for all His promises to come to pass and I’m looking forward to experiencing Him in different ways.

But I also know that He’s just as here as He is there. His very name says it – I Am.  In the present is the presence of a very present God. 

I’m not there yet but I am here and I Am is here.

And I don’t have to wait until that special someone comes to get engaged with a person. Here, now, I can find a good number of people whose lives can fully intersect mine. Here, now, I can be truly, deeply aware of their lives and their situations. Here, now, I can stand with them in their battles and struggles.

Isn’t it time to stop knowing people through stalking their Facebook accounts and start knowing them by actually talking to them?

Don’t just behold life. Take part in life. Fully be where you are. Fully be, right where you are.

I don’t want to wake up one day and cry out, like Jacob, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I didn’t know it!”

For He is in air and space and time, and He is in the in betweens and the plot twists and the situations unwanted and the tough moments and the seeming delays. In Him, all things were created and in Him, all things hold together. His fullness is already here, not just there.

Grace is here. Joy is here. Glory is here. The full life is here, because God is here.

It’s that “yes” to God and the invitation to become His Bride. It’s that “yes” to life.

Here, now, we find the Perfect Lover whose love knows no end.

Doesn’t that make you want to get engaged too?