Friday, January 27, 2012
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. John 11:33
i can't help but be perplexed by this verse, that it's somewhat contradicting in the context of what led to the weeping and wailing. Jesus was fully aware of lazarus's sickness and yet He intentionally delayed in his response for two days. He loved lazarus, he was His "dear friend", and still He let Him die. i understand that Jesus knew what He was doing all along. it's not as if He was like, "dang it. i waited too long and now he's dead." there was a greater reason for the stalling- it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this. John 11:4. what confuses me is why Jesus is angered and deeply troubled by the result. the thing is, we know Jesus was fully able to miraculously heal lazarus right away and avoid the drama of his death altogether. in His wisdom and divine purpose, He must have foreseen that this death would cause immense heartache and turmoil to martha and mary. even still, He allowed it to happen. Jesus knew how the story would end from the very start. He knew that He was going to supernaturally raise lazarus from the dead, displaying an even greater miracle than if he had simply been healed immediately. i find mary's reaction to Jesus so refreshing and honest. she falls at His feet and cries, "Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died." John 11:32. she's not afraid to be real and express what's burning on her heart- that she doesn't get why He didn't intervene sooner to save lazarus from death, and truthfully that the situation really sucks. she's not hiding her raw emotions here. there's no doubt that the glory and the joy that the sisters eventually experienced far outweighed the momentary grief and suffering. but when it comes down to Jesus standing face to face with the one that He loves and sees her weeping, He's so moved that He weeps with her. how true it is that He was familiar with pain and touched by our infirmities. He takes up our most dreadful, gut-wrenching, devastating experiences to demonstrate His awesome glory and power. yeah, i believe it and proclaim this over my own life. in the meantime, before our stories are redeemed and His glory is revealed, it's encouraging to know that we can be real with Jesus. we can tell Him when our hearts are offended and life isn't fair. we're allowed to be pissed when things aren't quite the way they should be and others wrong us. He doesn't expect us to always be strong and have it all together, like we could ever put up a front before the omniscient God anyways. i love the ending of this story. even though He very well could have raised lazarus in silence and discreetness, He shouts in front of a large crowd for him to come out of the grave, receiving further glory by those who came to believe in Him through what they witnessed. and this is what He's called us to. He never said it would be easy, but by offering our lives to be used to display the power of God through our weaknesses and struggles, we get be living testimonies of His majesty and wonder. i'm awaiting the day for Jesus to shout into my life to awaken the parts of me that were once hopeless and dead. Jesus, have Your glory!
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isaiah 53: 4-5, 10-12
Thursday, January 26, 2012
you know those kids that grow up in the shadow of a legendary mother or father who become bitter & resentful as they get older because they're expected to follow suit against their will? or take for example someone whose course of life has already been predetermined before they were old enough to voice any opposition- arranged marriages, career paths, etc. no questions asked. from birth, the child's destiny has already been decided for him/her. i never understood what the big deal was. this takes the stress and difficulty out of trying to pick a profession or spouse. just follow the plan, right? not that i'm claiming to be familiar with these predicaments, but i feel like now i can appreciate the suffocation and entrapment that those poor kids must face. without the horizon of choices and options, especially those so closely intertwined to our true identities and matters of the heart, we die a little bit inside. my parents have always been so supportive and prayerful of whatever path sis and i chose. they never imposed their will or agenda for our lives but gave us freedom to pursue whatever our hearts desired, within reasonable boundaries. so whatever expectations and limitations i placed on myself were self-imposed. it became perilous when i started subconsciously projecting these on the character of God. i naively led myself to believe that when the Lord asked me to give my whole life to Him, it would be rigid and predictable if i wanted to remain obedient. i put myself in a tiny little box and attempted to fit God in, too. i should have known that God does not and will not fit in any boxes. that's just crazy. it was literally as if i crawled out of the rock i was living under and was exposed to a world of opportunities. i seriously felt like a kid in a candy store, and i'm not referring to any old cheap candy store in the ghetto. i'm talking delectable, gourmet goodies that the most indulgent connoisseur would revel in. it's amazing how choices and the knowledge that there's often more than one right path liberates a person. through this enlightenment and above all, i believe the Lord was just showing me that there are so many ways to choose Him, to serve Him, to love Him- that He is everywhere. it's precisely because of His great love for us that He gives us the freedom to choose Him. and when it comes down to making those life altering or everyday decisions, we'll know it's right because He'll allow us to feel His pleasure over us. He'll give us peace and intense joy. who am i that He would delight in me? i'm so blessed!
Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
2007, until recently, was remembered as the year i lost my head and had my heart torn apart and trampled on as a result. it was indisputably one of the darkest and most tumultuous seasons of my life to date. even now as i reflect back on this year, i cringe at the thought of the desperation and hurt that i experienced. Lord, have mercy. oy vey. the unbearable weight of the rejection, betrayal, and heartache brought me to such a low point that i sought out professional help through Christian counseling. during this detox period of seeking healing and mending my heart back to its original design, i was part of a TLC (small group at church) called "Izreal." we named our group after receiving a prophecy and being commissioned at the beginning of the TLC year. we were to be marked as the greatest growth group, a compassionate army, and have a jacob spirit. after wrestling with God for blessings and encountering Him face to face, jacob's name was changed to israel because he struggled with God and with man and overcame. hence our tlc name, Izreal, which also appropriately fit because it was comprised of the most real, raw, down to earth (mostly) guys who probably didn't even know how to be fake if they tried. speaking of our remarkable guys, in the middle of the year, they intently decided to set aside a special day just for us five girls. they plotted and planned the entire "hawaii 5-0" themed event- chauffeuring us in luxury to a broadway show, treating us to a legit luau, preparing games and music, affirming & praying over each of us- and all we had to do was show up & enjoy. it was serendipity. it was over and beyond anything the girls expected and we were definitely spoiled and pampered. in retrospect, in the midst of all the pain and hollowness i felt inside, that day helped heal my soul.
now as i fast forward to 2011, i can't help but smile and be in awe of the parallels. on a clear word of the Lord, in july i dropped everything and jetted to hawaii for 3 glorious months of indulging in the manifest presence of God, reviving my heart, and discovering what real love is. it was paradise and it was absolutely perfect. every morning i woke up, i seriously felt like the most blessed girl who ever lived. then at the end of september, God opened the doors for me to live in israel for the next 3 months. while living in jerusalem, i finally discovered who i am and what i'm called to do. in genesis, God gave jacob a new name, but what's more significant is that He imparted his true identity and he was able to boldly step out and live in fullness. the fresh identity gave him his purpose and calling. and like jacob, i can share in the struggle with man and God and more importantly in the victory of overcoming. oh man, victory is so sweet.
cynics might believe that hawaii and israel were just pure coincidences. not a chance. i couldn't have scripted the fine details to intertwine and fit so effortlessly and meticulously if i were the author of my own life or left it all up to chance. how amazing is our God? He trades our filthy rags and shame for a crown of beauty. as He's expanding my tunnel vision to see more of His perspective, i'm discovering how the pieces of my life, even the parts i wish to forget, are working together for my good and ultimately for His glory. through every page and chapter, He is romancing us as He writes us into His epic love story and He's specifically using our ugliest hardships and redeeming those very things to become our greatest triumphs. winning!
the best is yet to come.
“I don't wonder anymore what I'll tell God when I go to heaven when we sit in the chairs under the tree, outside the city........I'll tell these things to God, and he'll laugh, I think and he'll remind me of the parts I forgot, the parts that were his favorite. We'll sit and remember my story together, and then he'll stand and put his arms around me and say, "well done," and that he liked my story. And my soul won't be thirsty anymore. Finally he'll turn and we'll walk toward the city, a city he will have spoken into existence a city built in a place where once there'd been nothing. ”
― Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life
Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
it is not in God's character to punk us. as ridiculous as this sounds, i think sometimes we are tempted to think that God enjoys teasing us without ever fully giving us what we want or need. like, He'll give us high hopes and desires, build up anticipation, take us 3/4 of the way and then leave us, just lost and utterly defeated. i admit, there have been times when i thought i had God all figured out. i read into seemingly clear and obvious signs and circumstances and connected the dots to predict what would happen next, partially because that's what my heart wanted to happen. in my mind, i subconsciously created a blueprint of my future with a detailed timeline and conveniently fit God in. i said to myself, "ahh, i see where this is going..." and dismissed the possibility that He might have something else for me. even with precaution and my carefully guarded heart, i allowed my dreams and convictions to slowly take control of what my future should look like. this is a dangerous and slippery slope because whenever we have more faith in a plan than God himself, we run the risk of being offended at God when things don't pan out like it was supposed to, according to our understanding. i'm not implying that i should second guess the authenticity of the promises and calling that He has for my life. i'm just learning to give Him free reign to take me there on His terms, in His timing, whatever it looks like. as unstable and elusive as it may seem, it's incredibly liberating to know that there isn't just one way and if i'm not on this one path that i can visibly see right now, then my life shifts to backup mode. i'm gaining the wisdom to realize that when i'm disappointed and stressed that my immediate circumstances don't match exactly the way i meticulously planned, God is ultimately making it work together the way it was always meant to be and it's for my good. just because i can't see it with my eyes or perceive it with my narrow perspective doesn't mean God doesn't want to take me there. from time to time, i feel like God reveals glimpses of how He wants to use me and places in me desires and inklings for things way out of my reach, for things out of this world. while it's all very marvelous and glorious, i have no idea how i will ever get there. just then He reminds me it's not up to me to figure it out, it never has been about me. this is true freedom- giving my life to God and actually letting Him be in control, regardless of how scary or uncertain His ways. His will for my life and His commitment to make something beautiful out of me is stronger and bigger than the grandest plan i could ever have for myself. is anything too difficult for God? nope. we can insist all we want on our own way but God will always win. and that's good news- that no matter what, we're still on plan A. oh yeah, and God is NOT punking us. phew.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
Isaiah 55: 8-13
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”
But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the Lord like that.”
Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:10-14
i remember reading this passage during one of my quiet times in jerusalem and it completely blew my mind- to the point where i had to read it several times over because i thought i had misinterpreted it. Jesus stepped into this world as one of us, to save us and redeem us and adopt us into His kingdom, in the most fascinating, unprecedented way. He came to us as a baby and was born of a virgin (what in the world...) because of a promise that He made to a king that no one hardly cares to recall. but we are all familiar with the ultimate fulfillment of the promise. i'm enthralled by this God who cares so much about relationship that He's willing to dare a king to ask for an impossible sign, putting His word on the line to prove that He's faithful to what He says. with all the odds stacked up against king ahaz, it seemed imminent that the kings of syria and israel would combine to attack and capture judah. so it's fitting that king ahaz would freak out and be filled with fear and trembling. but in that place of expecting to be defeated and with no hope, the Lord dares him to believe, "Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm." Isaiah 7:9. and although king ahaz lacked boldness in asking for a sign, the Lord went ahead and gave Him the most spectacular, unbelievable promise anyways. this is our God. even when we lack courage and our faith is so small, He goes above and beyond to reveal that He is faithful- that is part of His character and He is unchanging.
i had a dream in september where i came before the Lord and asked, lightheartedly but with hesitation, for a sign that He'll be faithful to fulfill something very specific that's been on my heart. with confidence as a daughter but somewhat reluctant to fully believe, i told God nonchalantly that it'll be cool if He provides this sign but it's not necessary. so in my dream, i chose the most random thing that first popped into my head and said, "ok God. please show this to me as a promise that You'll be faithful to my heart's desires. but even if You don't, i'll still believe." i woke up the next morning thinking how funny it was that i had made this request to God. although i didn't see it the following day like i had secretly hoped for, since the dream back in september, the Lord showed me this sign more than 10 times, just when my faith was running low or exceptionally personal moments when He just wanted to remind me that He hasn't forgotten about me. as silly as this sounds, an all powerful and mighty God making little pinky promises to people like me, i can't help but believe. there's too much evidence in my life to prove that He is forever faithful. He wants to cultivate relationship with us and cares about all the longings in our hearts that we only share with Him in that secret place. yes, there's an uncomfortable risk in faith, especially when circumstances aren't favorable, and i lack confidence if i only see with my eyes. it takes guts and radical faith to entrust my whole heart to a God i can't see. but when i close my eyes, ask for His perspective and confess that i trust Him but need Him to help my unbelief, my vision is crystal clear again. the greatest part of the deal is that the fulfillment of the promise isn't up to us. it wasn't because of what king ahaz did or didn't do that caused the virgin mary to give birth to the savior of the world. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven's Armies will make this happen! Isaiah 9:7