Devotional

Suddenly

photo(89)I woke up this morning, looked out my window and was struck by the blanket of snow covering everything. Pure, milk-colored snow. I was expecting it but when I actually saw it, its beauty captivated my eyes. And it reminded me of God. The way He suddenly changes things in our lives. Suddenly, the waiting is over. Suddenly, the pain is over. Suddenly, hope shoots up like Spring in our hearts. Suddenly, God…

A few days ago a kindred spirit spoke to me of God’s “suddenlies” and to have an expectant heart. I’ve decided to keep my eyes peeled, and I hope you will too. Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t lose hope for that miracle. Keep believing because what He promises He fulfills. Take a moment to read the messages God sends to you through nature; all those subtle reminders of God moving all around you. He’s nearer than you think. Can you feel His breath?

You may be smack dab in the middle of a storm, but a sudden move of God can drastically change the course of your life at just the right time. I know this to be true in mine. Years of waiting suddenly turned on a dime. It was over and orchestrated with so much love that when the fog of pain lifted, I was able to look back and see God’s fingerprints molding it all for my good.

As time goes by, I hope to see more clearly, but not with my eyes.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. You don’t have to see it to believe it. You have to believe it to see it.

Wait for His suddenly. It’s coming!

Letter to a Friend

Tree SwingDearly BELOVED friend,

I decided to stop what I was doing to encourage you.

You’re not alone. Even when it doesn’t feel like it. Even when there’s no one physically beside you. Even when you haven’t talked to any one for days.

I’ve been there. I know.

It was when the space around me felt so frigidly empty, that I was filled.

When all my friends scattered like wind-blown leaves, He was the deeply rooted tree that sat beside me; sheltering me.

His silent presence filled the empty space that burdened me. He was there. I could feel His warm breath whispering life to my naked and battered soul.

When I stopped filling my hands and stood empty-handed, He came.

It was when everything was stripped from me, that He gave me all of Him.

Don’t let your eyes fool you, my friend.

Close your eyes tightly to the reality around you and you’ll know the TRUTH.

You’re NEVER alone.

Loving you hard,

Ibelisse

The Old Paths, The Good Way

Chicago Botanic GardenFinding our way back home isn’t always easy. We’ve wandered rather far. Actually, it’s in our nature to wander. We’ve been sidetracked. Our pride, shame, fear, guilt, anger, unbelief yanked us by the neck and veered us to the right and to the left. We’ve swerved down a lengthy, winding road, took a wild, treacherous one and even crossed some abysmal waters. We’ve even traveled down newfangled paths others have freshly carved, leading us to where we are today.

But where are we exactly? Some of us have been wandering around in circles for years and haven’t moved an inch. We’re clearly not where we’re supposed to be. Drained and dehydrated from the journey, we keep walking or running and not moving forward.

If we replay our thoughts we’d see how they guided every step we’ve taken, every stride made. Many of our decisions felt right, in their season. Some were complete dead ends. The blazing Do Not Enter sign warning us must’ve blinded us. Some were clearly marked Private Property, yet we trespassed anyway.

Whatever the case may be, here we are. But is here where we are to be? And where is here? Are you satisfied with where you are?

Most of us are just plain weary and burdened from trekking through life without some measure of purpose. We hear that promise from long ago, faintly. That there’s a future out there, a plan, a hope. We believe we can do it. We can get there. Wherever there is. Where are we going, anyway?

Are you interested in unearthing those old paths, the good way to get to where you’re supposed to be? If so, you’ll need a light for your path and a lamp for your feet. What path? The one that leads to that garden where you can hear the heartbeat of God. Where you smell His fragrance and breathe in His very love. You know. The one from once upon a time, in the land of Eden. The one where something unforeseen slithered into our lives. The one we left behind.

We may not be able to retrace our steps, but there’s a voice calling out to us that will lead us there, saying, Where are you?

 Thus says the Lord:

“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.”

Jeremiah 6:16

Why are the Angry Birds angry?

photo(47)Truth is I’m not a smartphone game app player. In fact, I’ve never downloaded one to my phone. I mean, really. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat! {smile} I prided myself on holding out on those timestealers but my curiosity got the best of me. Which one did I gravitate towards? Angry Birds, of course. And so have over a billion other users.

I’m greedy for any information about birds nowadays. So I asked myself, Why are the Angry Birds angry? I had absolutely no idea. I decided to find out before downloading the app. In my quest, I came across a blog post by Marwa Aly, a former Muslim Chaplain. Her post, Angry Birds or Self Sacrificing Soldiers? got my wheels turning.

My answer to her question is both. The birds are angry because some blue pigs kidnapped their eggs and ate them. Now they’re out for revenge, and losing their life in the process isn’t stopping them. Aly says that when we play the game, we are the angry birds. That blew my socks off!

By playing the game we’re subconsciously agreeing to the premise of the game; self-sacrifice to achieve an end. We’re not only applauding the mission of these angry birds, we’re stepping into their shoes, or shall I say their wings? Over and over and over again, we’re going after those blue pigs.

What about real life scenarios? What do we do when we’re offended? When someone steals something of value from us? Before we put on the angry bird super-hero(ine) costume and propel ourselves with a slingshot to squash our target, let’s pause and think about why we do what we do. Where does our anger take us? Would we die for something we believed in? Is it for justice or revenge, to save another life or for something entirely vain? Is losing our life ever worth it?

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be an angry bird. I’m attracted to the idea of a sacrificial life though. We don’t necessarily have to lose our physical life to live one either. A sacrificial life is meaningful, even if the days are shortened. Empty days trying to figure out why we’re here are drudgery. If done with a noble motive, it can be life-transforming and life-giving.

We give our lives over to something everyday, whether we’re aware of it or not. Either we lose our days to unworthy causes or we’re investing them in something other than ourselves. The latter is the kind of living that leaves a legacy. It gives us purpose.

I’m thoroughly convinced that the most widely known model of self-sacrifice in the history of history is Jesus. He laid His life down for the world. Not for the innocent either. For the guilty. For those that despised Him, rejected Him, spit on Him, and cursed Him. It was love that motivated Him to willingly lay down His life. He did it for His friends. He did it for His enemies. He did it for me and He did it for you.

Jesus teaches us that love should motive our sacrificial lives. Not anger. Not revenge. Love for God and love for others.

Harps Hanging on Willows

Harps Hanging on WillowsBy the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land? (Psalm 137:1-3)

People plummet down the depths of despair when tragedies occur; a world without hope, scraping for answers to the why of evil. Christians get caught up in the whirlwind of emotions as well. Occasionally we too get blindsided by the fiery darts of the enemy.

When the dust settles and the shock wears off, we scramble to anchor ourselves in God’s peace and comfort. Yet, we hear the echoes of travailing souls stuck in pits of darkness, grasping at straws. Then they look to us.

We’re barely surfacing from the deep-sea of heartache and the world asks us for a song. How on earth are we supposed to sing when the wounds still sting? And why are they asking us to sing?

When the children of Israel were taken captive and exiled in Babylon, their captors asked of them the same thing. They asked them to sing songs of Zion and required of them mirth. Whether their intent was to taunt or satisfy their curiosity, the motive behind their request is unknown.

Regardless of the motive, it would be safe to assume that the Israelites refused to sing. How could they sing and betray their sadness? How could they sing songs and forget their desolated temple and city? It was simply inharmonious to do so. They had hung their harps on the willows by the rivers of Babylon and had no intention of picking them up.

There’s no doubt that we will continue to be eyewitnesses to the pandemonium of the forces of darkness upon the earth. We can expect the worldly system to despise us, to ridicule us, and to attempt to carry us captive into its deviant beliefs, culture and lifestyles. Yet, we’re reminded that we are in this world but not of this world.

Despite their animosity toward us, during times of crises, the world will look to us for hope. Why? Because they have no personal memories of God’s goodness. They’ve wandered far from God. Barren trees grow by the rivers of Babylon. They offer no sustenance or assurance to its people.  We, on the other hand, should have reservoirs of God’s faithfulness tucked away in our spirit’s memory closet, spilling with garments of praise of varied colors and textures.

The world will ask us to sing because they know we carry hope deep within. Will we hang our harps on the weeping willows or sing songs of deliverance to a world caught in the throes of deception and pain?

Bursting the Veil

Read Hebrews 9:1-9; Judges 1:9-15

There is a hidden love story with an incredible “The End” in one of the unlikeliest of places in the Bible—in the first chapter of the book of Judges. Among the tale of the conquered Canaanites by the tribe of Judah after the death of Joshua, is a gem of a story that women will Ooo and Aah over and men will respect.

Long story short, Caleb offers his daughter Achsah in marriage to the man who conquers the city of Kirjath-Sepher. His younger brother, Othniel, wins the prize. End of story? Not quite. Once married to Othniel, Achsah urges him to ask her father for land. Caleb gives them a southern land but she also asks for a water supply and he gives her the upper and lower springs.

Are you at the edge of your seat yet? I know you’re not. A superficial reading of this story has probably left you huffing and puffing at the arranged marriage. Hang on! A closer look reveals a fresh perspective and the study of biblical Hebrew adds an astounding depth to its meaning.

Humor me for a few minutes. We’ve already read the text in a straightforward fashion. Suppose we read the story slightly different and substitute God for Achsah’s father Caleb and Jesus for Othniel, whose name means lion of God. Nothing less than spine-chilling! Jesus as the bridegroom puts His life on the line to redeem Achsah when He took possession of Kirjath-Sepher or city of the book. Debir, which means Holy of Holies, was formerly known as Kirjath-Sepher.

As the innermost sacred space of the tabernacle, the Aaronic high priest only entered the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement—no bells, no speaking and barefoot (Leviticus 16:1). When Jesus died on the cross, the temple veil dividing the holy place from the Most Holy tore in two from top to bottom, granting believers access to the Almighty God through Jesus’ substitutionary death (Matthew 27:50-51a).

With that said, here’s the icing on the wedding cake: Once married to Jesus, the church-bride Achsah enters God’s throne room and asks for a special favor from God and she’s given the gift of His Spirit with an unending flow like rivers of living waters. Achsah’s name means anklet or adorned, but according to Hitchcock’s Bible Names Dictionary it also means bursting the veil. Only her feet covered with the gospel of peace, which is the Wordof God, would allow her to enter with boldness into the Most Holy place where the Shekinah Glory of God dwells.

Dare we as the body of Christ—the bride without spot or blemish—imagine what life would be like if we truly claimed our spiritual inheritance through Christ Jesus? We would be bursting through the veilto grasp the promises of God as abundant gifts wrapped and ready for a receiving heart; expecting more spiritual riches from our heavenly Father than what we’ve settled for. The end of this sweeping romance opens the door to a promised land flowing with much more than milk and honey.

This is a repost of my Bible Study on Charisma Magazine’s website. Click LINK to view.

Between Time and Eternity

One day our journey will take us to the brink of everlasting life. One final step and our destiny with or without God will be sealed. Countless souls long for a never-ending communion with God Himself. Yearning to be face to face. Our spirit and soul finally at peace as we bask in the perpetual presence of His love.

Did you know that life and death are what separate time and eternity? This actually happens in the spiritual realm. Spiritual death prevents us from experiencing eternal life, whereas spiritual life opens the door to the eternal.

What if you could experience ‘eternal life’ now? It’s a simple but profound truth found in John 17:6: Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. Eternal life is not just about living forever and ever. It’s about knowing the Eternal God and knowing His Son. Jesus bridges the gap between temporal and eternal life. Jesus’ divine existence as the Word of God preexisted His incarnation as the Son of man. As fully human and fully divine He transcends the laws of time and space. Knowing Him is life eternal!

The Word

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.  John 1:1-3

John, the beloved disciple of Christ, knew something so astounding about Jesus’ origins that it would challenge the world’s understanding of who Jesus is.  Because of His intimate knowledge of Him, John dared to reveal that Jesus’ existence before His incarnation reached into eternity past.  Not only did His existence pre-date time as we know it, but He co-existed with God, the Father.  This means that Jesus was a distinct person alongside God.  If this was not enough for mortal minds to grasp, John also blasted any and all pre-conceived notions when he unveiled Jesus’ divinity.  The Word was God!  Although He was distinct in personhood, in essence, He was God.  With this revelation, Jesus’ ceases to be just a teacher, priest, prophet, or king.  He is God Himself! What a grand beginning for the universe, for the gospel John wrote, and for our understanding of who Jesus is.  John introduced Him to us as the Word of God.  God’s voice could be heard in the beginning when He created the heavens and the earth with the Word, when He said “Let there be…”  It was the Word of God that created all things that exist. God’s Word has creative power. In John’s heart and mind, there is no mistaking Jesus’ identity.  Jesus is the beginning of all things.  Embrace this life-transforming Word and bury it in your heart.  After all, it is from the heart that life springs eternal.

Escuchando Voces

Vi un drama de televisión hace unos años sobre el asesinato de una escritora joven, prometedora y capaz. La persona que la mato quería robarle sus escritos y hacerlos propios. El asesino creía que la joven escritora poseía dos cosos que el carecía — una voz y un futuro. Lo que el asesino equivocado  no sabía es que todos tienen una voz y la voz de otro saliendo de la nuestra sonara fuera de tono e inauténtica.

Nuestra voz es nuestro lenguaje personal inimitable — como nos expresamos, sea a través de las artes o de otras innumerables maneras de compartir nuestras experiencias vividas. Cada voz cuenta una historia única. Al darle voz a nuestras experiencias, invitamos a otros a conocer un poco de nuestras luchas, nuestros sueños, nuestra fe — nuestra historia.

La fe es lo que hace la diferencia en la historia de un cristiano y en la manera en que su voz es expresada. Cada historia incluye a Dios como el protagonista, quien muchas veces es presagiado a través de nuestras vidas hasta que es revelado como el director y productor de nuestra historia. Su presencia y dirección creativa trae el momento crucial que le da sentido a nuestra historia. Es ese encuentro esencial que es expresado a través de nuestras voces in formas variadas y hace que nuestras historias valgan la pena contarlas y que esos sonidos preciosos valgan la pena escucharlos — dejando ecos persistentes en nuestras almas.

Roca Eterna

Cuando Jesús les enseño a las multitudes lo que reconocemos como el Sermón del Monte, concluyo con una advertencia a los que oían Sus palabras.  El comparo a cualquiera que oía Sus palabras y actuaba fundada en ellas, con una persona prudente que construyo su casa sobre una fundación de piedra.  Aquel que no obedecía Sus  palabras, El lo consideraba insensato por edificar su casa sobre la arena, que cayo cuando las lluvias, los ríos, y los vientos combatieron contra ella.

Cristo es la roca de nuestra salvación.  El es el refugio seguro que nos guarda de las tormentas de la vida.  Cuando las lluvias descienden, encontramos nuestro escondite en El.  No tenemos que correr y buscar un refugio en otra parte.  Fuerte es Su habitación y la paz de Su presencia calma las tempestades en nuestro ser y las que nos rodean.

Cristo es la piedra espiritual que da vida.  Cuando Moisés hirió la peña en el desierto de Zin, agua en abundancia salio de ella para saciar la sed de los hijos de Israel.  Sin embargo, beber la inundación de mentiras venenosas que el mundo ofrece ahoga nuestra alma.  A pesar del diluvió de maneras para gratificar nuestro ser, solamente Jesús nos ofrece esa bebida espiritual que nos lleva hacia una vida de resurrección.

Cristo es la roca inconmovible.  El es la Verdad que permanece a pesar de los vientos cambiantes de filosofías efímeras nacidas de mentes carentes de Dios.  Ideas superficiales caen por sus fundaciones inestables.  La Verdad nunca cambia porque es eterna y los vientos variables a nuestro alrededor, encontraran en El una piedra de tropiezo contra quien ellos no prevalecerán.

Construye un altar sobre la Roca de los Siglos y ofrécele tu vida.  Edifícate sobre la verdad de Su Palabra.  Fortifícate  contra el ataque furioso del enemigo con el poder y la sabiduría de Dios que es Cristo Jesús, para que también puedas ayudar a edificar a otros sobre El.  Solamente edificando nuestra casa sobre la Roca Eterna podemos tener la seguridad que no estaremos empapados de mentiras, lanzados por vientos violentos, y ahogados por las aguas oscuras y profundas de un mundo perdido e insensato.