All posts by Joseph

God’s Long Awaited Promises

my father told me that....

As I was speaking to my dear friend and brother in Christ about having more questions than answers. I exclaimed that sometimes that’s the fun part, and of course sometimes it’s not so fun. I don’t think God intends for us to put Him in our small box of understanding. Proverb 25:2 comes to mind

Proverb 25:2 (AMP)
2It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

Later that evening when I couldn’t fall asleep so quickly, I decided to flip through the Bible, starting with the Proverb but that didn’t feel right with my heart, then my heart pointed me to the New Testament. I said to myself, I feel like spending time with Jesus! So I casually skimmed/read through the book of John, stopping in various places with brief intent focus before moving on the next. But when I came across this verse

John 3:8 (AMP)
8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it is coming from and where it is going; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

At that moment, my heart stirred once again and I remembered my conversation with my friend from earlier. I thought to myself – BINGO!

And then out of blue, I started writing down what I presume to be Holy Spirit guiding me as I write. I didn’t know if it was intended specifically for me, or my friend or even someone else reading this. Or even a combination of these. The message stayed on my heart until I sent this to my friend the next day. This is what I wrote down –

A man tries to plan,
tries to have it his own way.
Whether if good or ill-intended.
Our preconceived notion, ideas, plans doesn’t necessarily always line up with God’s grand master plan.

How can we constrain God’s way with our own limited way?
How can we constrain God’s way of thinking with our own limited thoughts?
If God says He will deliver, then He will deliver.
Even if it’s a long time coming.

Remember Abraham?
When he waited for so long to receive his long-awaited son,
he thought it was a good idea to try to “help” God.
But God already had this handled,
Already taken care of,
for His Holy Hand isn’t bound, nor is His arm too short.
Yet by Abraham’s flesh, he produced an Ishmael.
Yet by Abraham’s faith and God’s promise, a promised son was born nevertheless!
An Issac!

I remember a while back when God wanted me to go down a particular path in life. He showed me the end destination as for where I was go but I didn’t know all of the details yet. Like Abraham, he didn’t know how and when his promised son would come. I just took it in faith that God will deliver on His promise to deliver me to where He wanted me to be. My flesh also tried to “help” God by planning specific details in order to accomplish where He wanted me to go. I thought this was the specific path and how God would deliver into the next stage of life but yet my preconceived notion wasn’t spot-on! Despite my “help”, God’s plan was still proceeding precisely on schedule, so nothing had been lost nor delayed. Remember my previous blog entry about God opening and closing doors in our life? In my case, I went to the wrong door but fortunately God had it closed so I can go through the correct door. God will deliver on His promise for He is able to!

John 3:8 is so powerful since we are born of the Spirit. We can feel the wind, and know which direction it’s blowing in but yet we cannot hold/contain the wind itself. Our flesh prefers the idea of being in control and yet wind is something we cannot control. So when we’re born of the spirit, we’re essentially giving up our control in life (or at least trying/learning how to do so) and allowing God’s Holy Spirit to guide us. The process might be a bit unpleasant but necessary for our growth!

Looking beyond past and present circumstances

Mauritania

Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV)
16 This is what the Lord says—
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
17 who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
18 “Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.

Oftentimes God calls us out of our present and familiar situation and thrust us into new situations. That can include leaving behind our past and present relationships, jobs or places. The Bible shows a common recurring pattern for people called upon to follow God’s divine plan. This pattern can occur multiple times throughout a person’s life. Although this doesn’t mean everyone go through the exact same pattern since everyone is unique and different. Nevertheless it is still beneficial to learn from observing this pattern in others’ lives. These people usually go through the following pattern:

1. Deciding on whether to accept or reject what God has planned for them.

Taking that first step can be difficult sometimes because in some cases, God is asking us to give up familiar attachments we have (including relationships, jobs, places, lifestyle, etc…) before we can start our journey. Not everyone choose to accept this. One verse illustrates this point quite well –

Luke 9:61-62 (ESV) 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Another verse illustrates God’s invitation to partake in His shared blessings, notice that not all accept His invitation –

Luke 14:15-20 (NIV) 15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

Sometimes accepting what God has called us to do take a huge leap in faith, not knowing why or how they will accomplish what God had planned for them.

2. Undertaking what God has called them to do.

After accepting what God has called us to do, we enter a period of transition and change that comes with much uncertainty. Sometimes we second-guess ourselves or God on whether if we’re on the right path, if we have heard correctly, etc… Sometimes we longingly look back to the old days because that was familiar (and less painful) compared to present wilderness. It’s is not always easy in time of transition and test our obedience and faith in God. The question is, will we rise up to the challenge or dwell over present and past circumstances?

3. Reaping what they had sown, whether good, bad or both.

What we do throughout our journey determine what we will sow for ourselves in the end. Our previous choices and how we respond to God’s plan has very important consequences. For some, we receive the long-awaited blessings and for some others, punishments. Don’t take this the wrong way, He is extraordinarily patient with us and our weaknesses. He truly desires that all come to repentance, for us to grow and prosper in Christ.

2 Peter 3:8-9 (ESV) 8 But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

An example of this pattern comes from a book of Exodus and Numbers. In the first verse below, God has declared His plan to rescue people from oppressive slavery in Egypt.

Exodus 3:7-9 (NIV) 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.

He had declared His promise that His people will settle in Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. We can see that God was acting out of His endless love for His people and wanted to remove them from negative circumstances and lead them to a better place (among many other reasons as well!). He wants this for everyone and He knows that the journey is not always easy! That’s why God guide us. That’s why we must depend on God’s guidance, not our own, for He knows the best path that lies ahead.

Later in the Exodus, we read about how God sent miracles after miracles, putting His plan in motion. God divided the waters of Red Sea to make way for Israelites to escape! He also provided them with heavenly manna and water to sustain them in barren wilderness. He also guided them by pillar of cloud during the day and pillar of fire during the night. How amazing is that? Despite numerous miraculous displays, some people still grumbled and complained about their present circumstances, thinking it was better to die in Egypt than in the wilderness.

Exodus 16:2-3 (NIV) 2 In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. 3 The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then prior to entering the Promised Land, Israelites sent out twelve spies to scout out the land. When they came back, ten out of twelve spies gave negative report and casted doubt that they could conquer the Promised Land. Only two spies had faith and believed that they could conquer the Promised Land, despite the giants in the land. The assembly still doubted and grumbled. They looked back to ‘better’ circumstances in the past rather than having faith that God will deliver them and lead them to better place.

Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV) 14 That night all the members of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. 2 All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

The Promised Land was theirs to seize, all they had to do was to act on that faith! Moses interceded on people’s behalf for their lack of faith. God forgave them. But nevertheless still punished them for their rebellion by not allowing them into the Promised Land for 40 years. Only their children will set foot in the Promised Land. Ten spies who gave bad report died by plague. The other two spies who gave good reports received God’s blessing of being able to set a food in the Promised Land.

This pattern doesn’t have to apply only to specific chapters of our life, but can apply broadly to our entire life. God has called on everyone to follow Him, bestowing each of them with unique God-given gifts. It is up to each individual if they want to follow God and use their gifts to advance His kingdom. The second part of this pattern consist most, if not all, of our life. We make series of choices that determines what we will receive in the end. The last part of this pattern happens when we die. We will either receive a blessing of eternity with God or a punishment of eternity without God. Remember, God desires that all come to repentance and follow Him. If we continue to keep faith and believe that Christ shed his blood for our sin then truly God will bless us with an eternity in Heaven.

Just keep chasing after Him and God will truly bless you! Just remember that journey will involve some sacrifices, ups and downs, and trials. But in the end, it will be worth it! Rest assured, God has your best interest at heart, and His kingdom as well! He is not doing this to torment us or to make our lives more difficult for no reason. It is simply part of our journey. He truly wants to see you succeed and prosper. He is breaking down what is not of Him and to build us up in Godly character – such as love, peace, joy, patience, etc…

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV) 5 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Philippians 3:12-14 (NIV) 12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

What does that mean for us? For some of us, God might be calling us to come out of our present relationships, jobs, or locations. It might not make sense at first. Just like how Israelites looked at the bleak wilderness and longingly thought of ‘better’ place in Egypt while the true blessings was in store for them in the future. As we saw, it was up to them to accept these blessings or not. As we read, many did not accept their promised blessings and chose not to go through grueling wilderness before receiving blessings from God. By looking to their past and present circumstances in a negative light, they actually hindered the blessings God had planned to give them in the present and the future. God didn’t withdraw his blessings from these people. Instead, they chose not to receive His blessing!

Some of us might be clinging onto old and unhealthy relationships (friendship/romantic/family) thus preventing us from opportunities for new relationships to emerge in our life. Perhaps God wanted to bestow us with something much better than what we have currently?? It could be just a simple character/personal development. It could be a new helpmate. It could be many other things. It’s not always an easy or pretty path to take, but nevertheless God will never forsake or abandon His children. He is continuously guiding us to a better place. Will we take a leap of faith? Even though it might cost us dearly?

By God’s own leading, not our own.

Arastradero Open Space Preserve

What does it mean to follow God’s own leading rather than our own? How do we know if our action is God-led or man-led? Where do we even start?

Earlier on the other day, I decided to set aside some time to write a post, not knowing what topic to write. So I grabbed a cup of water, set up my laptop, and sat down ready to type.

Then I sat there staring at a blank Word document… and nothing was coming to my mind. I waited a little bit.

And… still nothing.

So I took out my personal journal containing small tidbits of anything related to God (my own walk with Him, shortcomings, concerns, what I’ve learned, etc…) I looked through them, and it was refreshing to look back on what I’ve learned so far. I thought that might help jog my mind but then I looked back to a blank Word document again and was still getting nothing to my mind.

So I’ve concluded that it wasn’t the time to write a posting. I said something along the line of, “Okay God, I will wait then.” I realized that I was attempting to do this by my own leading, by my own predefined schedule. That’s not how it works with Holy Spirit!

Then later in the day, as I was busy fixing up my dinner and formulating an email to my brother in Christ, God chose at that moment to show me something simple but yet profound. Everything clicked in my head with earlier attempt and experiences in the past. I did find the timing to be funny (as in how God’s timing just happen to fall in a timing I wouldn’t choose) so I had to stop momentarily to collect my thoughts. I realized my experience earlier that day was a lesson by itself! God was showing me, in a very simple manner as my mind could understand it, that I was to follow by His leading, not my own leading. Despite how simple the lesson seems, it has a very powerful implication for the believers and those who profess Christ as their savior.

What God showed me in my heart, was the modern day churches I’ve experienced and read about, how man tries so hard to build effective programs that reaches out to people in order to increase their attendance. Many try to apply business model or man-made thinking to their churches, thinking that it will help further God’s kingdom, or in some cases their own man-made kingdom. Out of what I’ve experienced at churches throughout my lives, I never sensed or felt much of God’s leading in there. Everything seemed to be planned by man – one or two hour of church service at specific time with preplanned agenda (scripture reading at specific time, pre-planned prayer for you to cite, etc…) Even while growing up, that aspect always felt strange to me, as if I was being given a set of script to follow rather than trying to seek God and discover Him for myself. Looking back on this, I realized this hindered and constrained my spiritual growth and relationship with God. It took someone special to encourage me to seek God for myself and realize the inherent God-given gift I had within me all along.

Modern day churches are typically so busy and concerned with following their own man-made agenda, that they lose sight of whom they should really be following – their very own Creator! In doing so, they lose sight of what it really means to follow God and natural thinking increases as thinking in the Holy Spirit decreases. What happens is that people in man-made institution becomes so used to thinking in the natural and begin to view supernatural as strange occurrence (such as God leading or encouraging them personally). Folks like that think that God’s personal involvement or miracle *doesn’t* apply to them or *doesn’t* happen anymore in present-day. They think it’s strange that God would speak personally in their lives. But this kind of thinking reveals their lack of faith in what God are capable of. If you’re one of them, please don’t be alarmed or discouraged! Perhaps, the Holy Spirit is convicting you in this area and hopefully to provoke you to shift your focus toward God so you can start thinking in the Holy Spirit and seeing things from God’s perspective! God is very loving and patient, He desires that all come to Him. He awaits you with His arm wide open!

So that brings us back to this question – how do we go on with being led by the Holy Spirit?? Remember what I wrote about *striving* to attain by our own hand. We cannot *strive* to make Holy Spirit do something. Each person is different and God has a different way of helping each person. I believe if you truly want to be led by the Holy Spirit then ask God for His wisdom and His leading then He’ll help you along the way! Then believe it with all of your heart! After that, just relax and keep an eye on situations, circumstances, people, writings, or anything that might reveal God’s wisdom/leading in your life. He has a wonderful Divine plan for each of you, intricately designed and tailored to each unique individual. Will you come and follow Him? He only wants the best for each of you!

Hearing God’s voice in your life

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind with that phrase, “Hearing God’s voice”?

Some might say it doesn’t apply to me
Some say God doesn’t speak to us like the day of old
Some might say that’s only reserved for “highly spiritual” Christians or prophets – “I’m not worthy”
Some might already believe it or are actually experiencing this in some way
And so on…

While I don’t know how others will react with that phrase, but I could certainly imagine the varying reactions to it.

What if I told you that God can and does speak to us, even in present-day? Is that surprising? or not surprising to you?

Think about this for a moment – If God is truly LOVE and truly loves us in each own way, like a parent loving their own child. Wouldn’t He absolutely love to reach out to us and communicate with us?

Some of you might say – Huh? I’m not hearing His voices in my life?? How do I do this??

I don’t think there’s any particular formula or method that we can use to hear His voice in our lives. Each case is different since each individual is different. Although, I think in many cases, it boils down to whether if we are listening or not. I do believe that God do speak to each of us differently and we have to choose whether if we’re willing to take the time aside and listen for His voice in our lives. At first, it might be really hard because SELF gets in the way of hearing His voices. It’s not something you try to strive for, but more of just being aware of different ways God can answer us. In some cases, it could simply be a case where God is waiting to hear from you?

I know that seemed a little bit abstract, but I’ll connect these with concrete examples that you might be able to relate in your own life –

– Reading a particular bible verse and feeling stirred in spirit because it relates exactly to what’s happening in your life at the moment – that feeling deep down that God is right there with you, gently speaking into your spirit. It could be some comforting verses in times of trouble, a verse that inspires you to take action, etc…

– Before doing something wrong, a soft gentle voice deep inside pleading you not to go down this path. Or on other side of coin, before doing something right – a soft gentle voice deep inside nudging you to go down that path.

– Praying to God, and then receiving confirmation later on (via signs, someone you know, etc..)

Now, some of them can be quite subtle and make us second-guess ourselves, thinking whether if that from God or just a coincidence? Some cases can be quite obvious, leaving you with no doubt in your mind.

Also, when we pray, do we feel like we’re just simply talking to an empty wall or do we truly believe that we are communicating with a LOVING GOD who will communicate back with us? If we feel like we’re talking to empty wall when we pray, it could simply mean God is silent for a short time being or it could be a case where God is trying to reveal answer to us but instead we don’t know how to listen for His answers? Or our lack of faith that He will communicate back to us?

Remember that God is very LOVING and desires an intimate relationship with us – a wonderful loving relationship between a Creator and the created. Surely, His arm isn’t too short. He is able to and desires to communicate with us. The question is – will we let Him and will we listen??

A Christian Martyr – Kayla Mueller

Last night, I stopped by to visit a brother in Christ I hadn’t seen in a while. We caught up on what had been going on our lives. Then later on, a documentary on TV came on talking about Kayla Mueller. As I watched the program about her ordeal in Syria, my heart was truly touched and shaken to the core. I didn’t want to cry in front of my friend but when I arrived home, I allowed myself to cry a bit. It was a truly heart-touching story! I am writing this blog to honor her in memory and to highlight how her faith served as a light beacon shining for everyone to see. I will provide a brief summary with a link to the story below. But I warn you that it is a heartbreaking story to read and is not advisable for children to read.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/kayla-mueller-captivity-courage-selflessness-defended-christian-faith/story?id=41626763

For those who don’t know who Kayla Mueller was. She was a precious sister in Christ who had an abundant amount of compassion, sense of humor, and the heart of gold to help those who suffered. In other words, she had many wonderful traits in God’s eyes! Kayla had been involved in numerous organization devoted to helping suffering people. She had achieved so much in her life in helping others. As listed in this website – http://www.forkayla.org/ – She was involved in the following organizations:

African Refugee Development Center
Amnesty International
Contact Magazine
Danish Refugee Council
Food for Life Vrindavan
International Solidarity Movement
Just Peace
LHA Charitable Trust
New Day Peace Center
Northern Arizona University Center for Intercultural Education
Plum Village
Prescott Area Women’s Shelter
Save Darfur Coalition
STAND:NAU
Support to Life
Tibet Hope Center
Youth Count

Looking through this list, I can’t but admire her devotion and passion to helping others. I feel inspired by her action and look upon her as a role model. She was living out her faith in God virtuously through helping others.

As the story revealed, the terrorist organization ISIS kidnapped Kayla while she was helping at the hospital in Aleppo. What she endured was horrifying, yet she prevailed in the face of greatest darkness. It didn’t extinguish the light and love of Christ shining from her heart. As I read the story, I was amazed how she was still devoted to helping others even while undergoing unspeakable suffering – I am specifically referring to the part where she let the Yazidi girl escape while staying behind to increase their chance of success. She held on to her faith even to the point of death. Truly, God was with her every step of the way and strengthening her.  She died in February 2015, but exactly how she died is unclear. Nevertheless, she died as a Christian martyr. I do believe that God will reward her abundantly for her devotion and sacrifice in her life to the very end. I truly do hope I will have the privilege of meeting her in heaven one day!

I will close with two quotes from Kayla Mueller and a few verses from the bible.

I find God in the suffering eyes reflected in mine. If this is how you are revealed to me, this is how I will forever seek you. – Kayla

This is really my life’s work, to go where there is suffering. I suppose, like us all, I’m learning how to deal with the suffering of the world inside myself… to deal with my own pain and most importantly to still have the ability to be proactive – Kayla

Matthew 5:11-13 (ESV)
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (ESV)
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.