The Valley

valleyLife has given me reasons to cry

Especially in times my back is on the wall

But You gave me the strength to once more try

Even when it doesn’t make sense anymore

 

How high are the mountains you let my soles touch

I thought it was for good I’d feel this bliss

But when You showed me the valley, dark and rough

I’d like to run away, oh let me, please!

 

This lowland’s so scary, why am I even here?

The dirt, the mud, and the entire stench it brought

Are not just around me and under my toes

It cling to my skin and slowly bring me to rot

 

I tried to look up and saw a tree

It’s darker, it’s terrifying, a sign of death

Someone, someone is up there!

And the skies grew dim as I stop and stare

 

You were there pierced with dark mud and dirt

Held strong by my sin, my pain, and my hurts

You used the valley to show me the truth

That You are the price, now paid in full

 

I hear Your soft voice I as take every stride

“You’re not alone, you’re accompanied by Me

In this valley You’ll know Me better, you’ll be stronger

I’ll teach you something you won’t learn in the heights”

 

Now life has given me reasons to smile

Especially in times when I walk through the dark valley

For You are with me to laugh and cry

Even when it doesn’t make sense sometimes

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Trust God with the HOWs

“How will this be?’, Mary asked the angel,’since I am a virgin?’ The angel anwered,’The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you… For nothing is impossible with God.”I am the LORD’s servant,’ Mary answered.’May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:34-35, 37-38

OBSERVATION

What a mindblowing message from angel Gabriel. If Mary was the one writing this devotion I have about this incident in her life, she wouldn’t bother rationalizing and overthinking about the message of the angel. Why? Because she has this great ability to TRUST and to have FAITH. Oh yes, we all know TRUST and FAITH are common words. But do we really understand what it means to do so especially in a circumstance like Mary’s? We all know the Jewish law and the implication of her out of wedlock pregnancy. Yet Mary accepted this circumstance and gave the statement we all do say but not always mean: I AM THE LORD’S SERVANT.

Kung anong ipapagawa, ipapadala, or iaallow ng LORD, I am in no position to say no, to hesitate and overthink about it. I’m not gonna try to wrap my head around this mystery. No, I’m gonna TRUST. Trusting God is so much a big deal when we are facing life’s big deals. If Mary would overthink, she would ask too many questions. She only asked one (“How can this be?”), and the answer was already dumbfounding enough. There are mysteries that we don’t understand YET, that’s why trusting is very important element.

APPLICATION

Compared to Mary, WE HAVE THE BIBLE, we don’t need an angel to come down and tell us nothing is impossible with God. Instead of living out the promises of God in our own lives, we just resolve in sticking them to our shirts and ballers! Kaya tayo hirap magtiwala minsan kay Lord eh. We face the supernatural God and throw our little fists of logical and rational way of thinking! We always try to know how the story will end. Eh hindi nga laging ganun. Mary herself didn’t know what will specifically happen, she just knew that God will stay by her side and stick to her unlawful pregnancy blues while being chased down by the sword. Still, she and her husband remained faithful and kept their trust in the Lord. Eh tayo nga, we already know how the story will end. That Jesus will win, that through Him we will overcome. Like Mary, we just don’t know the specific HOWs. But let’s leave these HOW’s to the LORD, especially on our personal circumstances. Basta today, give your full trust in Him. That He will light our every path, guide our every step, comfort us in every moment, and all those HOW’s being added up through time will produce a great plan that glorifies God!

PRAYER

Dear LORD, Napakagandang reminder and promise that in every situation, living blamelessly before You and trusting You can take us a long way, albeit the tumultuous and crazy journey. Remove my fears, doubts, and indecision. Just teach me to trust in You today and every single day of my life. Amen!

Do Something! (A Book Review)

28537236_10211174133972385_130305918_nGot this book from the MIBF 2017 since I thought I should start reading and appreciating shortly written books, and because I sometimes have a hard time finishing thick ones. 🙂

This isn’t a book that tells you what exactly God’s will is in your life but it tells lots of principles about our sterotyped and overspiritualized approach in finding God’s will. We tend to ask and beat up God to give us specifics rather than focusing on giving Him glory, purifying our motives, and just simply be used by Him to whatever we want to do in life. DeYoung also shared, as his tagline suggests, liberating and biblical ways in finding God’s will.

The book tells it better than I do and so I want to share these insights I  really found helpful and challenging as well!

  • God is not magic 8-ball we shake and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for him.
  • Put aside the passivity and the quest for complete fulfillment and the perfectionism and preoccupation with the future, and for God’s sake start making some decisions in your life. Don’t wait for the liver-shiver. If you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, you will be in God’s will, so just go out and do something. 
  • God’s will for your life and my life is simpler, harder, and easier than that. Simpler, because there are no secrets we must discover. Harder, because denying ourselves, living for others, and obeying God is more difficult thatn taking another new job. Easier, because as Augustine said, God commands what He wills and grants what He commands. 

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We have so many choices in our generation which kinda lead us to many indecision and we have lots of information but lack biblical wisdom. I love the fact that Kevin interviewed his granddaddies (on his and his wife’s side) about the way how they lived their generation way back, and how living their Christian lives doesn’t have to involve agonozing themselves in finding God’s specific will. They are not after fulfillment, but rather faithfulness. That if there’s one thing to be anxious about, it’s being anxious in keeping God’s laws in our lives. That if there’s one thing we should fear, it’s not the future, but God alone.

As DeYoung puts it, the end of the matter is this: Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God. 

 

 

From Brokenness to Wholeness! (A Book review)

20180205_143621This is the first Stormie Omartian book I’ve read and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, I was searching for books that would be helpful in my season and this is one of the books that didn’t just captured my heart but also challenged my soul and my thought patterns as well. You see, a person who seeks restoration and healing doesn’t always realize the bulk of work it would take just to be whole again. As I read through Stormie’s experiences with rejection, depression, and different bondages before she came to know Christ, I was able to identify myself with her because we both tried to release ourselves from chains that we thought would be easy to break. God’s word is indeed true when it said in Zechariah 4:6 that “not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.” It is only by the power of prayer and intentional action steps that emotional wholeness and restoration will ever be possible. Essentially, she gave seven steps toward emotional wholeness:

  • Release the past – confessing our sins and releasing forgiveness to ourselves and to others
  • Live in Obedience – understanding that God’s rules are for our benefit and every step of obedience leads to total wholeness
  • Find Deliverance – recognizing who the enemy is and separating yourself to anything that separates you from God
  • Seek Total Restoration – refusing to accept less than all God has for you and knowing that finding wholeness is an ongoing process
  • Receive God’s Gifts – acknowledging the gifts God has made available for us in Christ Jesus and taking necessary steps to receive them
  • Reject the Pitfalls – getting free from negative traps and common deceptions that rob you of life
  • Standing Strong – believing that as long as you stand with God and don’t give up, you will always win

This book is based on Stormie’s personal journey toward wholeness and how she found that through tedious and dragging seasons of brokenness caused by her past. In the process she developed boldness in facing the sins and enemies of the past, and embracing the gift of love and redemption that Jesus offered. Throughout the book she also included powerful prayers that she prayed on a specific battle, and bible verses that she hold on to during her ongoing struggles.

Here are three major insights I’ve learned from this book (based of course on my personal journey as well):

1.) The Lord’s ways are SIMPLE. The Bible says, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). The enemy has the power to confuse our minds and make us disjointed to the point that it will lead us to making poor decisions. I’ve been through knots of conflict and argument with people lately and I didn’t realize this truth until Stormie shared it in her book. When we open doors for the enemy to enter, expect that he will literally wreak havoc. And when it comes to right and wrong, there are no gray areas. There are only black and white. It’s that simple. We should not let the enemy confuse us and frustrate us to think that we are beyond hope and help. Not on God’s watch. Solution is always available if we just know where to focus and Whom to obey.

2.) Most of our miseries and brokenness are products of unconfessed sins. As a disciple, this is already understood. But not all the time we can get away with just simply knowing this truth. When there are unconfessed sins, we put a scale on our eyes, we align ourselves to the prince of lies, we think that the people around us is the enemy, and we act and think according to enemy’s desire. Honestly, I had to recall what and who I’ve become since I came to know the Lord, and what are the common struggles I am facing today. In doing so I have identified attitudes and tendencies that can be traced back to not confessing a particular sin.

3.) Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t mean we don’t need any kind of deliverance. As Stormie said, all bondage comes from disobedience and behind every sin is an evil spirit. When we sin (which obviously we do everyday), we give that spirit a foothold in our life. True repentance is of course the privilege God has given us through Christ Jesus, but since the context is wanting to become whole, we are talking here about sins that have attached itself to our souls. And sometimes deliverance often takes place one layer, one bondage at a time. So we must always be on the lookout for areas in our lives that we know God is nudging us to put into the light and be delivered from it.

I would love to include all of my AHA! moments I had with this book but I think that sums it up. 🙂 One important thing to remember is that the length of healing and restoration process takes time. It doesn’t just depend on God’s timing. It also depends on the depth of our spiritual or emotional wounds, and on our obedience to God in carrying out the battle plan He will require of us. And as tough as it may sound, the battle is first won on the spiritual before it can manifest on the physical. So the real weapon here lies on our willingness to kneel and humble ourselves before God until the battle has been won.

I recommend this book for those people who are going through series of rough seasons and is aware of an existing emotional and spiritual crackholes in their lives.  It will help you identify and confront the enemy’s work in you and remind you that God has always been wanting to make you whole. You’re just walking in circles because you have no idea where to start. It will give you the simplest ways to walk through wholeness, but the success of that process solely depends on you. I’m also talking to myself, by the way. 🙂20180205_143747

Lord, help me to stand strong in You. Give me endurance to run the race and not give up. Strengthen me for the battle and help me to rise again if I fall. I look to You as my Healer and Restorer. Make me the whole person created me to be. 

– STORMIE OMARTIAN, Lord I want to be Whole

 

Humility and Honor

“Praise be to the name of God forever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells in him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, and make known to me what we asked of you.” Daniel 2:20-23

A Humble Steward

So just a few verses back the King had a dream, no one from his team called “Magicians” and “Enchanters” can actually tell and interpret the dream (you’ll be surprise how many call themselves such and such and yet do not live up to it), and yes you’re right, our Daniel was the one who interpreted the dream.

Given the fact that Daniel is gifted when it comes to understanding visions and dreams, and that he is the King’s favorite, it’s safe to assume at this point that he has developed an appetite for his ego. Of course, his position is prone to pride, selfishness, blindness, and deceit! Every teacher’s pet, every bunso in the family, every top 1 of the class, has at one point smirked at us and smiled at their treasured positions.

And yet again, he proves our assumptions wrong!

The more that he climbs in power and favor, the more he becomes humble! You only have one angle to look at to measure someone, GIVE THEM WHAT THEY ASKED FOR, and let their reactions speak for themselves. A self-centered and proud individual with his wish granted will either ask for more or won’t be satisfied. In short, they focus on what was given, how it was given, but never about the Giver! On the other hand a humble one with his wish or prayer granted will respond the way Daniel does. Guys get out now, I’m shutting this door, I’m kneeling to God, will raise my hand, and chant my dialogue of thanksgiving and appreciation. Don’t talk to me until tomorrow! I’m gonna be busy thanking God! That’s how honoring looks like, and it’s about time to check ourselves if we’ve ever honored God the same way that he did.

Our purpose in this life isn’t just all about the fulfiment our passion and gifts. Even though God already gave Daniel the ability to interpret visions and dreams, isn’t it amazing that he will still ask God for the answer? It’s because our purpose is also directly tied up to the degree of our obedience and honor to God. As John Maxwell put it, talent is not enough. Daniel is more than just a great talent (and by the way, a very rare and amazing talent at that!), He is all heart, attitude, and devotion. He wouldn’t use this talent, no matter how rare and great, without God’s instructions and go signal.

Moreover, despite that he knows about his skill and talent, he didn’t mind asking for help. He didn’t mind telling his friends that “Hey, I know that I can interpret dreams and visions, but I really don’t get the meaning of this one. Let’s ask God for help.” He didn’t mind that the answer didn’t come from him. He didn’t mind appearing clueless despite being considered one of the best in the kingdom. That is why God also didn’t mind Daniel being great in the eyes of other people. And because of that sense of humility and dependability to God’s wisdom and not on his own, Daniel elevated himself more. What a proud Parent God must be at that very moment! God didn’t mind giving Daniel what He asked for, because He knows that Daniel couldn’t care less about glory and honor. He knows that Daniel will always give the credit to Him.

An Honored Life

I think we cannot separate being HUMBLE and being HONORING. Because a genuine individual cannot humble enough if he doesn’t know WHO and HOW to honor enough! Those two will always be tied together. On the contrary, the proud will not honor anyone but himself!

So another thing that Daniel our man teaches us is that we cannot promote ourselves by our own skills and knowledge alone. And sometimes, the reason why God can’t promote us on his terms is because we’re busy climbing on our own ladder, not knowing that God can fly you directly to the top if you just know how to ASK Him and OBEY Him. If we are willing to hit the rock bottom of humility just like Daniel, God cannot help but exalt and lift us up! Humility is indeed acknowledging that without God, our talents are nothing.

Don’t just desire be GREAT in your endeavors! Be GREAT in your relationship and love with God and He will be the one to promote you before others, it’s just a piece of cake for Him after all! Live in awe, wonder, and humility that God is so much honored in your life that it will move His heart to pour out His overflowing anointing on you until your talent will just drown with it.

Daniel’s Secret

“The King assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the King’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the King’s service. Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazaar, to Hananaiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.” Daniel 1:5-6

I am chosen! I am chosen to… wait, WHAT?!

If these four men were all just face, muscles, and brain cells, they would see this opportunity as a great and undeserved favor. Who wouldn’t want to work at the King’s courts or at the President’s office? Everyone must have considered that as a very fine job.

However, that’s not the case. If we read and understood it from the context, these Jews just faced one of the greatest exiles they had in their history. So I assume they were broken, sad, and regretful. The Babylonians took their women, their children, burned their houses, and they created division among the people. Families were broken, livelihoods were ruined.

And for Daniel and his friends to hear the news that they were chosen to be trained to work for the King, I’m pretty sure they would have died rather than serve the one who destroyed their cities. They must have wished that they don’t have any talent or skills that these insidious people would only use for their gains. If they only have a choice, they wouldn’t pack their bags and ride away towards the training centers. If only.

These men are MEN OF GOD. They aren’t just a bunch of talents; they are rare individuals because of their CHARACTER and FAITH. And those three years of training is meant to erase and replace who they really are as Jews and as God’s followers. Even the change of their names symbolizes that they are to live not as who they WERE but as who the King expects them to be. They were expected to act and behave like the Babylonians. Pretty much like a makeover, but for them, is a ruin-over.

Chosen by God, not by the King

So yeah these four classmates went through college called the Babylonian University where they learn the Babylonians’ weird and pagan customaries, and master the art of pleasing and bowing to King Nebuchadnezzar. I can imagine their beards growing and some fancy make up in their faces.

On the eyes of the people, they were chosen by the King. But on the eyes of the One who controls everything, He chose these four. God is so jumping with joy to see that the more his children were trained to become like the rest, the more they set themselves apart! I think we have the same institutions right now that tell you to LIVE like the rest, that you must have what the others have, and that you should be like what your neighbor is like! Just look at these game changers. We need more of them! These four didn’t just excel academically on this training, but they were also trained spiritually. How that happened, only them and God knows. They were just… amazing!

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, regardless of how you call them – by their Jewish names, mommy-gave-me-this-name, or the Babylonian name – in the eyes of God they are still the same person. And that is because of their unwavering faith and strong convictions that many others could just wish for themselves. They are something that not any kind of name can ever describe.

There’s no other way they could have done it except through careful maintenance of their SECRET and PRIVATE lives. The Babylonian empire must have control over everything, but there’s one thing they cannot have access or control over: their hearts. Hearts that belong to God and is soaked in His presence produce an uncommon kind of peace that overflows and overlaps through any menacing outward circumstances.

And when we have the right hearts, we are giving the world a hard time to penetrate our walls of faith. People who take care of their private time with God and nurture their growth thru His word will always end up winning the war that wage outwardly. And the right heart is what Daniel and his friends have:

  1. A heart that doesn’t lose hope despite the brokenness they felt
  2. A heart that will obey and submit to the most outrageous calls of God, regardless of the situation
  3. A heart that will not abide in this world no matter how hard they try to recruit you
  4. A heart that beats worship, thanksgiving, and excellence for God alone

Of all the succeeding wonders and miracles in the book of Daniel, everything started with the RIGHT HEART.  Daniel has proved and will continue to prove to us that even if he lived most of his life in pain (exile), glory (King’s favor), and humiliation (den of lions), it’s still possible to be deeply rooted in God.

And so what the evil meant as harm for them, what the seemed to be a curse for them became a DIVINE FAVOR that led them to their DIVINE APPOINTMENTS. All because they have the right heart, the right attitude, and the right character.

Malayo talaga ang mararating ng isang pusong babad sa presensya ng Diyos.

Rebuke: A Way Out

Ezekiel 24:13-14 “‘Now your impurity is lewdness. Because I tried to cleanse you but you would not be cleansed from your impurity, you will not be clean again until my wrath against you has subsided. I the LORD has spoken. The time has come for me to act. I will not hold back; I will not have pity, nor will I relent. You will be judged according to your conduct and your actions’, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

Sometimes the way towards deliverance and transformation is through facing necessary consequences. For so long, we have regarded’consequences’ as a negative remark, but as painful as it sounds, there might be no other way in life than to walk through it. Every sin we commit will always have evil deposit in our life that may manifest in a small or huge way and at some point, we will be forced to face it.

When we sin, we disregard the VIEW of GOD towards evil and when we’re not willing to take responsibility or pay the price, we disregard the HOLINESS of GOD, the JUDGMENT that every evil thing so deserves, and the JUSTICE that God always want to bestow. Let’s accept it, we always have to do our part. And sometimes the best way we can play our part is to receive wholeheartedly God’s rebuke and correction. We might face disappointments, regrets, and sorrow, because if we will not go through that consequences of sins, we will just keep on doing such evil things. 

The wonderful thing is, for children of God who messed up and ruined a garden of plans and purposes of God, it’s never too late. God’s rebuke opens our eyes though we will cry; it will open our hands, despite the losing wrestle. It will free us. Yes, there’s a way out of your mess. It might be excruciatingly painful to face consequences, but still, it’s a way out. Embrace it.