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.

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

When I Say I’m Praying for [him]

I say a prayer every time I think of you. Every. Single. Time.

I pray that you’re allowing what the Lord is doing in you during this season.

That you are completely yielded to the Holy Spirit and where He is leading you.

That you are fruitful and growing in wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

I pray for you.

I don’t pray about us.

I do tell the Lord about what I feel for you and openly express my desire to be with you, but I do not want to nag heaven with cries and petitions of what I want and how I want you.

Not that doing so is wrong, but then is it really right? Am I even truly praying for you if my intentions revolve around me?

I refuse to highlight what I want and how I feel, no matter how incredibly tempting it is for me to do so. The last thing I want is to make this journey of praying for you about me.

If I’m going to passionately bombard heaven with relentless prayers about you, I might as well make them into prayers that are actually, well, for you.

For your benefit and for your good and for His glory in your story.

Whether that story includes me or not begs to be seen, but that doesn’t change a thing.

I choose to pray not with palms clasped tight but with arms open wide.

More than anything else, I pray for His will to come to pass in every area of your life.

I pray to see His glory shine ever brighter in and through who you are and who He is making you to be.

I pray that you live a life of His best; even if that means it’s a life that does not include me.

I don’t pray that you’ll be mine. Just that you’d be His.

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.

Dear Future Daughter: “Am I Pretty?”

I can already picture it.

You at 3, in your favorite white dress all sparkly and poofy, coming up to me with eyes wide open with curiosity. A flick of hair here, a twirl there, and your heart begging to be delighted in.

"Mommy, mommy, am I pretty?"

I'm going to look you straight in the eyes and tell you the truth.

Yes, love, of course you are.

You might, at 5, walk up to me in jean shorts and your now-favorite "I love daddy" tee. You ask me if it's okay that you chose your own clothes, that you're not wearing the pinks I like dressing you in. You ask me if you're still pretty.

Of course you are, baby.

(And I might inwardly laugh at my failure to impart all my girly).

Then, at 13, you might run crying home from school. The boy you liked didn't like you back,
"Am I not pretty enough?"

I would look into your eyes stained with insecurity, see straight into your heart, and know now you're capable to receive the whole truth.

It's not that you're not pretty enough, maybe he can't handle all the pretty you have.

I'm not saying it to say it, I'm saying it because it's true.

This 5-letter word will never encompass all there is to you and it is even unworthy to hold all that you are. You are not "merely pretty", and you will never be.

You are pretty wonderful, pretty amazing, pretty intelligent, pretty artistic, pretty stunning, pretty mind-blowing.

I'll hand you a pint of ice cream, and I'll give you first-hand info:a guy who can't see beyond "pretty" will never be worthy of you.

I feel sorry for the lad who can't see past pretty – he who will never have the opportunity to see beyond the way you look to discover the way your mind thinks and your heart beats. He will never see the depths of your soul and the intricacies of your spirit.

So you will be the lady, at 15, flitting from store to store looking for the perfect prom dress, not so you could catch his eye but so you can celebrate and enjoy the beauty that you have in greater measure.

You will be the lady, at 18, reading books on femininity. And you might come across the ones that tell you that you have to be wearing dresses and skirts because it's the best way you can honor God with your beauty, but you would by then have already known the truth:

Femininity hasn't to do with dressing pretty; it has to do with becoming the woman who God created you to do be – stepping into your destiny.

You will never sit at a bar stool half clothed, desperate for a stranger to think your face is pretty enough.

You will never compete with women, pointed eyes looking up and down and trying to look for something to criticize in one seemingly too pretty.

You will never have to go lengths just to catch a man's eye, longing for affirmation that you're worth a glance.

For you know that there's One who has had eyes for you since the beginning of time; who, not for a single second, didn't love you. You no longer seek to be told pretty, you seek to reflect His beauty.

You risk every day to unveil this beauty to the world, bravely putting your heart on the line, refusing to allow the world and its cynicism to put a damper on your heart so filled with love, on your eyes always filled with wonder. And when it gets too much and when you get broken, you are the perfume bottle spilled at His feet.

Your life is the fragrance – enchanting, worship.

You will be the woman clothed with dignity, humility, joy, and fulfillment.

Pretty and so, so much more.

#ChristianGoals: Be Magical

This is the second installment of my #ChristianGoals series. To read the first post, click here.

Magic (n.) \’ma-jik\
:an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.
(Merriam-Webster)

I want to be magical.

Just kidding.

Well, maybe not so much. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fairy princess with luminous pink wings. I wanted to be an astronaut and an archaeologist too, but those are just side jobs. Primarily, I wanted to be a fairy princess with superpowers. Preferably one that is followed by pixiedust wherever she goes. Though eventually, I grew up old enough to realize that magical fairies did not exist, so instead I settled on wanting to be a warrior princess.

I still do.

I think every Christian should be a warrior princess (or prince): someone who understands that being royalty means living for others. Someone who is so secure that she (or he) focuses less on proving self and spends more time making others feel important. Someone who isn’t afraid to stand up and fight for what is noble and true. Someone who is beautiful in righteous fierceness.

I hate to say this, but more Christians are leaning to the “spoiled-brat” side of the royalty spectrum rather than the honorable side. It has become about me, myself, and I. We are the generation of believers who throw their hands up in the air not to lift Him up but to shake our fists at Him when things don’t go our way. We are the ones who scream and whine until people adjust to what we want. That’s why it has become so easy for Satan to convince people that Christianity is moot. We’ve allowed the war to wage in front of us as we sit back munching popcorn inside outlandish home theatres. We choose to fight the battle by hiding behind our computers, armed with memes and mic-drops, spitting venom and snark as we wave our swords in the comments sections of blogs and Facebook posts. We walk away feeling self-righteously victorious over our enemy, when in actuality it is Jesus who is left most injured.

Should we really be surprised that “Christianity” repulses so many people at this rate?

As the body of Christ, shouldn’t our arms be open to embrace those who are broken? Shouldn’t our hands be stretched out to those who are sick as we declare in faith? Shouldn’t our feet be going to places other people refuse to go? Shouldn’t our words be full of grace and truth rather than just grace or just truth? Shouldn’t our hearts be bleeding for all those who are voiceless and invisible?

Instead, our eyes refuse to see, our ears are unwilling to hear, our arms cross and close, our hearts stone hard and cold, our chins are adamantly raised high, our knees are reluctant to kneel, our mouths gossip about what the hand does, our eyes judge where the feet go. Our entity that’s supposed to be a beacon of light is more well-known for being the bully and for vilifying those who don’t believe the way we do than for reflecting Christ’s kindness and humility. We look more like Pharisees than we look like the apostles, sitting comfortably in our church pews so we can be spoon-fed as opposed to stepping out of our comfort zones to where God has called us so we can speak what He wants to be said, so we can do what He wants done.

I don’t believe in a social gospel because good works cannot save you. It’s impossible to have a kingdom without the King. But as people who claim to have the King with us, I believe that it is important to start acting like His kingdom. And He asks us to forgive (Mark 11:25-26); to give to the poor (Matthew 6:1); to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, and comfort those in distress (Matthew 25:34-36); to resolve disputes harmoniously (Matthew 18:15-17); to lead by serving (John 13:14); to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42); to honor our parents (Matthew 15:4); to make and teach disciples (Matthew 28:19-20); to love others as we love ourselves, including our enemies (1 John 4:7-21); and to walk as Christ did (1 Peter 2:21).

This applies to all Christians, it doesn’t “depend on one’s specific calling.” We differ in our gifts and specialized callings but sharing our blessings, seeking justice, showing mercy, loving people, and caring for the poor should be inherent in is as Christians. Being prophetic or having the gift to heal or do signs and wonders does not exempt you because you are “supernatural enough” as it is. These are important, definitely, but our character is still our loudest testimony, and there’s no use to “living a life of otherworldly miracles” if our hearts turn out to be Jesus-free.

Beloved, instead of wondering which verse would gain the most retweets or thinking of how to throw shade with your status at another person without losing all grace, we should be reflecting on whether or not we mirror Christ’s compassion, mercy, and dignity. Maybe we should be stressing less over how sensitive other people are to our “playful bullying” and “teasing sarcasm” and be wondering more if our words still honor Christ. Maybe we could start caring less about our Christian status symbols and caring more about the state of the rest of the world.

Because there is no sense in preaching the gospel when our lives preach otherwise. And evangelion, the Greek word for gospel, means more than “good news.” Its historical implication means that there is a saving message but beyond that, there is also a changing of the world for the better. Rick McKinley once wrote that taken out of the context of the kingdom, the call to faith in Christ gets reduced to something less than what the New Testament teaches. The gospel of Jesus Christ should be hand in hand with the gospel about Jesus Christ. To further quote, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Gospel is not just informative speech, but performative speech – not just the imparting of information, but action, efficacious power that enters into the world to save and transform.

I think people mistake what to expect when called as sons and daughters of God. Most would expect pampering, spoiling even. And yet the Firstborn Prince of God, the One called Lord of lords that we are so often reminded in the Bible to imitate, went down His throne, lived as part of the peasant class, allowed Himself to take the very nature of a servant, died for filthy, broken people like you and me, fought with sin, death, and the devil, and rose again victoriously for our restoration and redemption. I guess it’s about time we do royalty the way Christ did; it’s about time we wage war the way Christians should.

And the truth is, it frightens me knowing that fighting the enemy means far more than winning arguments and being simply nice. It means understanding that the opponent is a serpent and that he knows how to bring a citadel down from the inside. It means putting on the full armor of God and being alert (Ephesians 6:10-18). In the way I spend my free time. In the way I spend my money. In the way I speak. In the way I think. In the way I act. Daily. Moment my moment. Decision by decision. Second by second.

Think about it, truly living Christ’s way, and start counting the cost.

And then maybe we’ll find that Holy Spirit working in us and giving us grace to live this way is far and beyond supernatural. Maybe there is nothing more magical than a life saved and transformed by Christ; nothing more miraculous than a person choosing not to live in selfish whims or ambition, but choosing to live considering others more important than self.

Maybe we’ll find ourselves far more transcendent than fairy princesses with luminous pink wings, leaving light brighter than pixie dust in the wake of our trail.

“Truthfully the possibility for hypocrisy in this faith journey abounds. Though we speak of a perfect God, we ourselves are flawed, messy, wrecks destined to fall short—but that’s not a good enough excuse not to strive. Let our failure not come easily or without great effort at the beautiful alternative of stumbling after Christlikeness. If we are indeed to fall, let it be as we seek to fly.”
-John Pavlovitz

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
-Ephesians 2:10

We could start by having compassion for the crowds. Aside from (obviously) sharing the gospel, going to the mission field, or simply being more gracious and filled by the Spirit as we drive on roads or answer to certain comments, some advocacies I personally recommend are Real Life Foundation (gives out scholarships to underprivileged Filipino children), United Nations Population Fund (whose vision is a world where every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe), UNICEF (fights for children’s rights) Doctors Without Borders (they bring medical aid to where it is most needed), World Health Organization, The Malala Fund (focused on providing education to young girls), CARE (whose community-based efforts are deliberate on empowering women and fighting poverty), UN Women, Human Rights Watch (they investigate abuse cases and fight for human rights), and UN Refugee Agency among many others. For those interested in volunteering here in the Philippines, you can look for activities and causes that would fit your passion through iVolunteer. You can also ask your local church and government for scheduled outreach programs you can participate in.

I Give Up.

I give up.

There, I said it. I just can’t do it anymore.

I’ve never really talked about it on this blog and I only shared about it to very few friends, but let’s get it out in the open now.

I graduated from university almost two years ago with the idea that I’ll pursue either pursue world missions, further studies, or work straight after traveling for a bit. Slowly getting my options in a row, my e-mail was full of messages from Stanford MBA Admissions and London Business School, with job-interviews for Rockwell and Ayala lined up.

And so I still recall sobbing on the phone outside Apartment 1B a day after I got back from Taiwan, my brother beside me as the news that I had to put a hold on all those plans because God had other plans hit me out of nowhere. The only consolation I got that night was Wes ordering all the dessert from the menu to comfort me and Janna standing out of a balcony with me as the Ayala lights flickered away from across the street.

Not that I’m sitting outside a restaurant right now bawling as strangers did their best not to stare at me, but I find myself in the same internal setting once again: bewildered, a little lost, plans in a disarray as I turned down yet another job interview earlier this week because God told me that I can’t do so until He says go. I honestly can no longer count the number of times I’ve had to say no because He said so, and it’s been wearing me thin.

Don’t get me wrong. As much as I’ve been jobless and living in the province, the past year has been the most wonderful year of my life as it has been full of surprises, adventures, and so much of Him. 2015 made sense.

2016, so far, not so much.

You see, He told me beginning of this year to sit back and watch everything unfold because this year will be far better than 2015. But all I could see unraveling is my heart; the frustrations and doubts buried beneath layers of “God, it’s okay”, “I trust You”, “I surrender to Your will” coming out.

The first quarter of the year is almost through and let me tell you, nothing quite spectacular has happened so far. And so when He whispered a date to me twice earlier this month, I held fast to it.

“March 19.”

I counted down the days in fear and anticipation. But March 19, 2016 came and went without anything significant happening, and I felt my fears being justified. That is, until He told me again.

“March 19. Ask Me why.”

Those three extra words, and my head fell in shame. Out of my desire, I assumed instead of clarified. And when I clarified, I found out we were talking about two completely different things.

He asked me to check out my journal entry from March 19 of last year. I was baffled because I knew full well that there wasn’t anything special going on this time last year. But I wasn’t going to make the mistake of pushing what I wanted, so I did.

I approached my bookshelf praying dearly to God that I didn’t mishear Him on this one, and upon scanning my entry on March 19 of 2015, I knew I hadn’t.

Staring right back at me were words I have spoken in the past, words that resonate in me in the present.

“Teach me how to wait on You. I want things to come to pass as I like, but I know You have something better planned. It’s only March 19, and I know You have so much more in store. I will not go ahead of You. Teach me to enjoy the anticipation. As much as I want to pull off the blindfolds and see where I’m headed, I trust You. It’s hard. Some days, I feel like I’m just being stupid. But I know no word from You will ever fail. I wait for Your work and story to unravel.”

The stark contrast between my perspective last year and this year humbled me. I have allowed impatience and discontent to get the best of me. I have wanted to take control of circumstances as I have before.

He so perfectly knew that the best person to remind me of how I gave up before was me from a year ago. He perfectly orchestrated this meeting of past and present. And I know He will perfectly weave the past, the present, and the future.

That’s why, yet again, I give up.

I give up trying to predict You. I give up trying to chart the future and mapping out in my head all the things that were to come my way. I give up fixing my eyes on what is seen.

Rather, I fix my eyes on the One who sees the unseen; the One who already knows the journey, the climax, and the end of my story; the One who, as we speak, is working behind-the-scenes.

I don’t know what I’m waiting for, but I know whom I’m waiting on.

For if there is one thing I’m not giving up on, it’s this: that He is.

My dear, no matter where you’re at, know that He is. He is faithful. He is sovereign. He is trustworthy.

It’s okay to give up to someone like that. And when you do, He will give back. Indeed, it might not look like anything you’ve expected, but it just might be beyond your wildest dreams.

“For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you. Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
-Isaiah 64:3-4

Destined: Greater

From Higher: And yet why is it that so many Christians still fail to follow the road to their God-given destiny? How come people who are called to be greater cannot obey and surrender?

Fear.

The one thing that prevents Christians from fully walking into their destinies is fear. Fear in form of intimidation, fear in form of insecurities, fear in form of doubt, fear in form of pride. That’s why one of the most repeated phrases all through out the Bible is “do not fear.” Fear keeps us from fully accomplishing the great things God wants for us, from fully chasing after the big visions He has placed in our hearts. And as I wrote in Face Your Fears, we have to stop waiting for the fear to leave and instead, we attack it head on. 

Paul said in Ephesians 2:10 that God has predestined paths for us so we should walk in them. Note the word should. It didn’t say that we would. Big difference. It shows that we must be the ones to decide to fulfill God’s plans for us. As John Bevere once wrote, God has set the goals but it’s up to us to discover and accomplish these goals. One version of the Bible frankly stated Ephesians 5:17 this way: 

“Don’t be stupid. Instead, find out what the Lord wants you to do.” 

It’s up to us to find out what God’s specific purpose is in our lives. We can’t be complacent and apathetic waiting for a lightbulb to flash in our minds. We need to find it, seek it.

With that said, God usually communicates through our desires. As I’ve discussed in Unearthing Desire series, we just have to identify which ones are from God and which ones are not. So let’s say you have a vision right now, a dream you have nurtured in your heart. If it’s founded biblically, affirmed by godly and important people in your life, is focused on bringing God’s kingdom in some way here on earth, and is aligned to your skills and passions, we can say that there’s a huge possibility that dream is from God. And more often than not, the dreams we have terrify us because they are usually too big for us to imagine and they seemingly cannot be grasped. And so they remain just that – hopes and dreams. 

See, beyond understanding the concept and scope of grace, we have to understand another thing: grace works together with faith. All this we get to receive by grace through faith. But faith and fear are like oil and water, so if we want to utilize grace and abolish fear, we have got to constantly exercise faith. We have got to place “God said” higher than our “what ifs.” 
We have got to understand that God’s faithfulness never changes, but we only get to fully experience it if we get to a place where He can show it.

To emphasize this point, I want to talk about Peter when he walked on water. So many people focus on the fact that he didn’t have enough faith because he started sinking, but the truth is, he was the only who had faith enough to get out of the boat and to experience walking on water. The great thing about it is, he had enough faith to step out and to walk on water, so Jesus held him up and walked him through the entire thing. 

Like James said, faith without actions is dead because faith is made perfect through actions.

Ponder with me for a moment here. What made Jesus grieved most? What made Jesus pleased most? We will come to see through the Scriptures that He was most delighted when people simply believed and was deeply grieved when people refused to believe. The level of our faith moves Him most. The evidence of our faith moves Him most. Like Jesus wanted blind Bartimaeus to state what he wanted Jesus to do for him in faith, so He wants our faith to speak in our lives as well. 

We also need to realize that it’s possible to have a sincere heart and yet not have sincere faith. As we look at Bartimaeus’ story on Mark 10:46-52, we will see that a great crowd was following Jesus. They were following Him because they wanted more of Him. So how come Jesus only addressed Bartimaeus, when so many other sincere hearts surrounded Him? This is because this physically blind man wasn’t blind in faith, and he knew what he was in faith for so he spoke out and expressed this faith request specifically.

James once again spoke about this in James 4:2, where he said that the reason why so many people don’t have is because they don’t ask. And so like Bartimaeus, we need to start asking – specifically, in faith. Faith knows what it asks and who it asks of. And we need to understand that without this kind of faith, it is impossible to please God. Without this kind of faith, it is impossible to fully embrace our God-given destinies.

Amazingly, 2 Peter 1:3 states: 

“We have everything we need to live a life that pleases God. It was all given to us by God’s own power.” 

God’s power, meaning God’s grace. We can have faith because we are empowered by God’s grace. We can please God through our faith because we know how to access His grace. No longer just followers of the world, we are now influencers. We can step into the big destinies God has prepared for us because by grace, we can obey. And through faith, we can excel in our obedience. We now understand that like Peter, even when we falter in our faith at times, He is there to lift us up again. 

Because what matters is we take that first step of faith. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Don’t be afraid to fail. Just take that first step and allow God to guide you through it. Commit it to the Lord, and let Him establish your steps (Proverbs 16:3).

I do have to state at this point that we usually have to do a lot of things we don’t want to obtain what we ultimately want. For example, to get that managerial position means you have to work longer hours and you do extra tasks. Or like Jacob, in order to get Rachel, he waited fourteen years and worked at a menial position under her father. 

Sometimes, the career God wants us to enter into is not what we ultimately planned to get into. Sometimes, the task He asks us to do isn’t something we are comfortable doing. And so almost all the time in obeying God’s will, there will be sacrifices and there will be things asked of us that we’d rather not do. However, we have to decide that our faith isn’t based on how we want things to go, but how He wants things to go; that beyond our specific hopes and dreams, our ultimate destiny is following His hopes and dreams for us.

True faith acknowledges that He knows our hearts better than us – that His plans are better than our dreams and how we expect them to unfold. True faith knows that God’s grace empowers us and His divine nature is in us and so nothing is too out of reach for us. True faith understands that if we are so aligned to God’s heart, we can step out and act on our God-given desires trusting that He will catch us if we fall. True faith believes that no matter what happens, no matter how God answers, He is still faithful. To it’s very core, true faith is submitted to God’s will and so it obeys – unconditionally and relentlessly.

Even when the dream seems too big. Even when the circumstances seem to great. Even when the road seems unsure. Even when the sacrifices are too painful. Even when things aren’t going the way you want.

Because truth of the matter is, we need to have a character founded in God and faith fueled by His grace to completely accomplish His will. 

The deeper we go, the higher we can be built. The higher we are built, the greater we can be used. 

This our birthright. This is our destiny.

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Don’t let fear dictate your decisions. Take a flying leap of faith. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. It’s time to go all in. It’s time to go all out.
The All In Manifesto

Destined: Higher

From Deeper: The last thing we want to do is miss out just because we can’t handle a little digging up. The amazing thing about it is God has given us the grace to go through these poundings and diggings, and so we should understand just how grace goes beyond saving and how much it is empowering.


Let’s talk about grace.

The word grace has all too often been used as an excuse and as a license to sin, because people have confined the definition of grace to salvation. However, grace has actually set the bar higher. Indeed, we are no longer bound by law and rules, and yet since God’s nature now lives in us and we now have empowering grace inside us, we can easily turn away from sin and live out the standards Jesus has now set for us. For example, Matthew 5:27-28 states:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Looking at this scripture, we can see that the standards are now much higher than before. Under the Law of Moses, you had to commit adultery to sin. Now, simply desiring it is considered sin. This is because we are no longer living under law and have been inwardly transformed; thus it is no longer about the actions, it is about the heart. So ironically, grace that is so often used as an excuse to sin has actually set the rule of measure higher. But again, by grace, we are able to reach this higher standard. For because we no longer live by ourselves, but Christ in us (Galatians 2:20), we have received God’s divine nature as a part of us. 

It’s sad because lot of Christians believe that they are still sinners who have just been forgiven when their identity is no longer tied to “sinners”. Romans 6:6-7 says that we are no longer slaves to sin and we have been set free from the power of sin. The thing is, a lot of people just aren’t willing to give up their sins and struggles since holiness takes a lot of effort. Yet we are called to be holy as God is holy. We are called to be perfect as God is perfect. And Satan’s greatest fear is that we would realize just who God made us to be, just how great our destinies are. That’s why we have to embrace  God’s grace enabling us from the inside so we can live these out in faith. Not when Christ comes for us, not when we’re already in heaven, but now.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:8 that God is able to make all grace abound to us, and so having all sufficiency in all things at all times, we may abound in every good work. God has made all grace abound to us so we can abound in every good work at all times. Do you grasp the magnitude of that? Do you see all the superlatives there? And you need to understand, the Bible cannot lie so it doesn’t exaggerate. When it says all, it means all.

We need to start seeing how big our God is. The God who created the universe; who named the galaxies; who designed the atom that holds every single thing together has given you access to His power. Understand that. Believe that. God is more than a baby in a manger, He’s more than a judge waiting at the end of trial. Similar to the way we can’t limit God and His greatness, we cannot limit the power of His grace in us.

2 Corinthians 7:1 states that we have to cleanse ourselves from all filth unless of the flesh and spirit. Note how it says cleanse ourselves. Not God will cleanse us, but we cleanse ourselves. Don’t get me wrong. It is by Jesus and His sacrifice that we are cleansed of all sin and everything we are able to do is by God’s grace and kindness. But my point here is that we also have a part in it, we have to make an effort on our end. God’s grace – that we did nothing to earn or deserve – will give us the power for us to do so, nevertheless we have to make a choice to really walk in God’s empowering grace in light of His will and destiny.

And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 
-Acts‬ ‭4‬:‭33‬

Great power. Great grace. God has given each and every one who believes His grace, and so this great power written about in Acts can be operated by believers in this day and age such as you and me! That is how Jesus was able to say that anyone who believes in Him will be able to do the works He has done and even greater. Ponder on that. Anyone who believes will do even greater. That’s because the Spirit that lives in Him and the nature that He has is now also in us, and so why should we allow ourselves to be held back by sin, by fear, by intimidation? Grace has not only saved us, but it equips us to live our lives to their absolute fullness in Christ. 

See, we can now go deeper because grace enables us to do so. We are able to suffer gracefully, learn humbly, and so eventually, rise mightily. And when we do, we can go high beyond our imaginations because we have been dug down deep in the spiritual foundations. We can achieve things beyond our wildest dreams because as children of the living God, nothing is too out of reach for us.

Grace allows us to move beyond our ability and live extraordinarily. 

And yet why is it that so many Christians still fail to walk the path of their God-given destiny? How come people who are called to be greater cannot obey and surrender?

Continued here.

Destined: Deeper

This is a 3-part series about God and His plans and destinies for us. The first part is about how He lays down foundations so we can be equipped for His will, the second part focuses on revelations about His grace in order for us to fully understand and utilize its power, and the third part speaks of faith and how it should work with grace in order for us to walk in the fullness of His specific plans for each and every one of us.

Last week marked the 13th month of a season of some serious pounding and molding in my life. I was tired and exhausted, so I asked God why. In a whisper, He came and said “the higher the building, the deeper the foundations should be.”

Immediately, I understood. It was a revelation I received three years ago and I wrote about it in my old blog – about how God establishes biblical foundations and how one must go deeper in order to go higher. In 2012, what prodded me to write that piece was 3 months of some straight and serious laying down of foundations. What prods me to write this 3 years later is 13 months of serious digging up of dirt. Apparently God still has a lot deeper and a lot higher to go.

Here’s the thing. No foundation can be built without constructing and according to Merriam-Webster, constructing is synonymous to contriving, which is defined as bringing about with difficulty. And when we lay foundations, we have got to dig up the mud and dirt beforehand. And the higher we want the building to go, the more dirt we’ve got to expose and remove. 

I’m obviously using this as an allegory of how it goes with our lives as well. The greater the destiny God has prepared for us, the more He has to really cleanse us and weed us out. Doing so will of course hurt us, doing so will expose the things we’re hiding most – but it is something we have to go through in order to stand as strongly and as highly we were made to. One thing I’ve come to realize is God will only go as high as our foundations would allow Him to go, and so if we refuse to allow Him to go deeper into our lives and to dig up more of our muddy issues and past and secrets, then we’re at as high as we will ever be. We will never be able to go higher without dealing with our dirt.

God’s heart for us is that we will be so built in Him as our rock that we will be unshakeable even if trials come, even if earthquakes and storms try to topple us down. However, if we build on our own words and ways; if we build high without properly laying down foundation; if we build up without fully ridding of the stones and dirt down deep, then we shouldn’t be surprised if one day, a strong wind will blow and the structure will fall. We can keep up a facade of being beautifully big structures, but one shake and quake, and we will be seen for how strong and founded we truly are.

“Since you have accepted Christ Jesus as Lord, live in Union with Him. Keep your foundation deep in Him, build your lives on Him.”
-Colossians 2:6-7

Build. Build your lives on Him. Building takes a lot of time. But see, a lot of people don’t want to go though the process. They don’t want to go through the long painstaking task of properly placing a foundation. We’re so used to getting things quickly – fast food, instant messenging, etc. and we have brought that habit even to our lives. We want money without having to work for it, we want success without having to strive for it, and now we want the promise without having to wait for it. But God doesn’t work that way.

God called David at an early age, but He had to pound values and foundations for 15 years in order for him to fully have the character of an honorable king. Before God thought Moses ready to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he had to grow in skill by learning at the house of Pharaoh as a young man then grow in heart by leading Jethro’s flocks for 40 years hidden away in Mount Horeb. Abraham had to wait for 25 years before he received Isaac – God’s promise. Jesus Himself only started His ministry after living 30 years of His life seeking the Father. These great men of the Bible were only launched into the greatness of their destinies after years of growing in faith, seeking His will, and walking His path. The same is true with us. If such called, amazing men had to be prepared, what more us? 

Quoting Furtick, God has to strip away all the stuff on the inside that prevents us from being His wholeheartedly. God’s invisible work in you prepares you for His visible works through you. Like I wrote in Managing Strengths, there is no point in the promise without going through the process. The process is the point.

God cares more about our hearts. Like Moses, we may be skilled but we do not have yet the character to receive the promise. Or maybe like David, we also have to grow in knowledge and skill of what we are about to undertake before we can fully take the position prepared for us. Almost always, like Abraham, we are made to wait so we grow in faith. Either way, God always prepares. Always. And it usually takes longer than we expect.

We don’t want to be like Saul, who had so much unresolved issues that his foundation wasn’t properly founded on God when he became king, and so ultimately he and his throne collapsed and his kingdom was given to someone who had the character to handle it the way God wanted it to. That’s why we have got to be patient with ourselves, with how much God works through us. Even if it hurts and it takes so long, we’ve got to let Him dig up all the mess and the mud so He can replaced them with clean, solid rock. 

Allow God to prepare you for what He has destined for you.

The last thing we want to do is miss out just because we can’t handle a little digging up. The amazing thing about it is God has given us the grace to go through these poundings and diggings, and so we should understand just how grace goes beyond saving and how much it is empowering.

Continued here.