God’s grace to me in the heartbreaks

For some reason, I started going through my old blog posts on WordPress all the way back to my xanga days in high school. It was really crazy to see my thoughts during various seasons of my life – different struggles, joys, emotions, and the things I valued at the time. I can truly see God’s providential hand over my life in protecting me as I tried to pursue my joy in others, especially boys, even before I had committed my life to the Lord.

I can see what an idol feeling loved or having man’s approval was for me during high school and my early college years. I was so controlled by what boys thought of me that it became my identity. I wasn’t secure in who I was, so my value and worth was reflected in whether boys liked me or not.

Reading about my various heartaches, confusion, and unhealthy friendships with boys in which I led them on in pursuit of my own selfish desire to feel loved and accepted, I can truly see how God was working to prevent me from further going down a path of destruction, but instead slowly lead me to Him. So many of the boys who I liked during the early years of college had ex-girlfriends who they ended up getting back together with, or people who they ended up pursuing instead of me, and even though at the time I was SO hurt, confused, and heartbroken, this was God’s grace to me. This was his way of protecting me and sanctifying me.

Imagine what would have happened if I had continued relationships with these non-believing guys. Where would my life be right now? Would I have fallen further into sexual sin? Would I have potentially married a non-believer? Would I have even come to know Christ?

Thank you Lord for those years of brokenness and heartache that taught me that finding satisfaction in boys and others will never satisfy. Thank you for shielding me from Satan’s harm by preventing me from continuing relationships with boys who loved the things of earth and not the things above. Thank you for planting a supernatural desire to go back to church my junior year of college (by your grace and Spirit) and for the sure conviction to break up with my non-believing boyfriend at the time. Thank you for slowly planting seeds in my heart and growing a desire to pursue Christ and eventually commit my life wholeheartedly to you. Thank you for showing me that only you can truly satisfy and bring everlasting joy in my heart. Thank you for bringing me to Lighthouse Bible Church after I graduated and for growing me exponentially through gospel-centered preaching and the love of the church body, showing me what it looks like to live a life that is pleasing to you. Thank you for continuing to grow my heart for the Lord and for your enduring faithfulness in my life. Help me to love God above anything else on this earth.

You are so good, Lord. You are so good. All glory to God alone!

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The Consequences of Smartphones & Social Media

I’ve been reading a lot of articles about how our society is very bound to technology and attached to our smartphones. Most Christians admit to looking at their phones before doing their devotionals. I’m DEFINITELY guilty of this. In fact, this is something I’ve seriously been struggling with for several years ever since I got my smartphone back in 2014.

Among many other articles, this particular article from Crossway struck me and convicted me to the core. It talked about three reasons people are addicted to digital distraction. Here are some of the points taken from that article that resonated with me.

  1. To keep work away. I really struggle with going on my phone and browsing Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, basically ANYTHING to distract me from doing the work I know I should be doing. This in itself is sinful; I’m wasting the precious time God has given me that I’m meant to glorify Him. Instead, I’m pursuing my own selfish interests and desires for temporary satisfaction. Because I’m constantly clicking away, trying to find things to distract me, it makes it that much harder for me to concentrate and attend to a task, listen to a sermon, or read the Bible .. my mind is always wandering as I’m thinking of other things because of my trained mind to find distractions. This makes it much harder to be in the Word and meditate on Scripture because my mind is always wandering somewhere else.
  2. To keep thoughts of eternity away. I use my phone as an escape from the reality of my sin. When I feel the cringeworthy awkwardness of my fear of man being drawn out, when I’m struggling with loneliness or discontentment, or when I’m tired from a long day at school or work, instead of crying out to God in desperation and prayer, I find that I’ve turned to social media as an escape from the reality of my humanness. I turn to Youtube or Instagram as a temporary band-aid for my sinful nature. Instead of facing my struggle with fear of man in desiring affirmation from others, I mediate my fears with an entertaining viral video. Instead of going to God’s word for comfort when I’m struggling with discontentment, I scroll through Instagram or Facebook to look for something to distract my mind. Instead of praying to God through my tiredness and relying on God to give me the grace to endure each day, I go to Youtube to watch a video because I want to “relax” and escape. This makes me less sensitive to my sin and makes me more reliant on other things to temporarily cover up my sin or act as a “quick-fix” instead of facing sin or things that are hard head on and asking God to help me fight it. As a result, I am less in awe of the gospel and less reliant on God’s grace and the gospel to help me daily. My heart becomes numb to the awe and wonder of the cross.

This is something that I’ve been struggling for a long time. And I think it’s something that took me a while to really reflect on or even admit that it was really affecting me spiritually. But I was really convicted this morning in particular as I was praying on the way to church that I’m ultimately using Instagram to build up my own kingdom and storing up treasures on earth – treasures of affirmation and wanting people to see me as “hip” or “cool” based on my Instagram feed. Rather than using it for God’s glory, except for the occasional post on how God is growing me, I obsess over curating the perfect Instagram feed to portray me as a person who takes cool photos of cool things.

Rather than pointing to Christ – the author and perfector of my faith, my Savior, the King of Kings – I’m pointing to myself. I’m pointing at myself saying, “Look how awesome I am! Look at great my photos are! Look at how hip I am going to all these cool places! Look at ME!” I catch myself thinking about taking the perfect photo of whatever it is I’m doing, whether before eating a meal, when I’m on a hike, or when I’m at a hip coffee shop. I even catch myself doing this when I’m reading my Bible with the perfect cup of coffee and the perfect lighting. I do this before I’ve even done my devotionals. I’m already thinking about how I can post the perfect photo and create a caption with a Bible verse or something about how God is growing me.

If I’m being honest, it’s all for show. Am I really doing these things for God’s glory? Or do I just want to appear to be godly on the outside?

God looks at the HEART. He doesn’t care if I’m only appearing to be doing devotionals and acting godly by highlighting a bunch of verses and writing notes on the side. What matters is my heart motivation. Am I truly desiring to be in the Word? When I post a photo, do I truly hope to encourage others in the faith or share about how I’m learning/growing?

I’ve been so blind to how crippling this has been on my spiritual life! I need to cut it off, before I continue in sin and fall away to Satan’s temptations. I’ve decided to take a break from Instagram. I need to learn to not just try to distract myself when things are difficult and I don’t want to face reality. I need to learn to trust in GOD, the only one who can truly satisfy and bring lasting comfort for my soul.

Lord, help me to not look for virtual affirmation that in the end won’t matter. Help me to not store up treasures on earth or focus on building my own kingdom, but to be ETERNALLY minded and to seek to glorify YOU. You alone are to be praised and worshipped. Having an amazing Instagram feed won’t matter in heaven. Help me to invest in your church, in growing in my faith, and in spending time going deep in your Word and falling in love with who you are, especially during this season of singleness. Help me to steward my time, gifts, and energy in a way that glorifies you. Amen.

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25.

It was my birthday last week. I turned 25 years old.

It’s crazy to think how much God has grown me over the past year. Here are some of the things I’ve learned.

  1. My identity is in Christ. I applied for grad schools in this past year. During the process, I was reminded that my identity is not in school or my career, but in CHRIST. I felt so much more at peace with applying for grad schools this second time around because I knew that no matter what happened, God would be sovereign over the outcome. He is for my good, so no matter what happened, I could trust that God was working very purposefully for His glory.
  2. Christ-like love doesn’t mean loving those who are easy to love. I seriously struggle with loving people who I feel like I don’t “click” with and people who don’t affirm me (I’m a big words of affirmation person and I’m also very sensitive to people’s body language and facial expressions). But is that really what loving people the way God loves means? Not at all! That’s how the rest of the world loves, so how am I reflecting Christ in how I treat others if I don’t love those who are difficult to love? God pursued ME – a sinner, a rebel, someone who hated him. Yet he redeemed me, knowing my sinful heart and its desires, because he LOVES ME unconditionally and undeservingly. He saved me and bought me back through His son Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for my sins and whose righteousness was imputed to me so that I may have a right relationship with the Lord. How amazing is that? So knowing this, how can I choose not to love someone? Through the power of the Holy Spirit, I have all the more power in Christ to love others who I don’t naturally gravitate towards. People who I feel awkward with, people who are harsher in their words than I’d like, people who don’t have the same humor as me, people who have different interests than I do, people who I don’t have the greatest “chemistry” with. God calls me to love all people; oh how I fall so very short of that. But only God can do the transforming work, because I definitely wouldn’t have this heart on my own.
  3. I don’t deserve anything, including a relationship. Oh how God humbled me.
  4. My ultimate joy and satisfaction should be in Christ alone. I struggled during my first semester moving up to norcal. I lost the comforts I had in LA – family, friends, church family, good food, things to do. While all these things are good gifts from God, I realized how easily I turned them into idols or even distractions. I look to these things for comfort and satisfaction instead of our ultimate joy and satisfaction – Christ. Because I didn’t have access to these comforts when I moved up, I learned to depend on Christ even more and cling to him. It’s through trials that God humbles us and shows us our need for Him. And God was so gracious to provide so many things – my siblings up here in norcal, a few friends from college, a place to live in a great location with awesome roommates, the fact that I’m even in a grad program at all (so undeserving), and a church family. Yet how easily I looked at what I didn’t have and become discontent. How easily I turned my eyes away from God’s blessings and looked at what other people had and envied them. I realized how fickle my heart was and how prideful I was, thinking I deserve certain things. God reminded me that in this moment, I have everything I could possibly need. He is SOVEREIGNLY working in me. The specific circumstance I’m in is meant to grow me, challenge me, and sanctify me, so I can trust that He is at work and that He is good and faithful. I still struggle daily to set my joy in Christ alone, so I pray that God would continually work in my heart to make me desperate for him and that I would grow my love for Jesus.
  5. I need the church. Christians can’t run this race alone. We were made to be in community, and the church is meant to help us in our walks, rebuke us, admonish us, encourage us, point us to Christ, and bear our burdens. The church keeps us accountable, and we are meant to be under the care of pastors and elders to shepherd our hearts. We can’t do it alone. We need other people, and not just on Sundays, but we need to be integrated into the life of the church. Jesus loves and adores His bride. Do I love the church in this same way?

Praise God for another year. Praise God for how he grew me so much. Praise God for family, friendships, a church family, this season of life, and continual growth. Praying that God grows me more this next year to become more like His Son, and that I would fall in love with His Word and learn to treasure Christ above all things.

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I am not of this world

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

1 John 2:15-17

 

My earnest prayer for my heart.

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Today has been a frustrating day.

Sin is hard. I hate sin.

It cripples me, it blinds me, it distorts my thoughts. It makes me think things that are untrue. It makes me focus on things that are unimportant. It makes me take my eyes off Christ and makes me fixate on myself. This prevents me from looking at Christ as I forget the gospel, forget what He has done, forget what my hope is really in.

When I’m fixated on myself, I’m more prone to fear man. I fear what they think of me. My identity becomes controlled by thoughts of how other perceive me. And it makes my fellowship with them less genuinely because I’m so focused on myself. I’m not focusing on Christ’s love for me, a wretched sinner who deserves hell, and his undeserving grace and mercy in my life. I’m not focusing on God’s love poured out to me that should motivate me to pour out that same love to others and develop God-honoring relationships with his people.

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“Fear not, for I am with you;

Be not dismayed, for I am your God;

I will strength you, I will help you,

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10

Lord, I am afraid. Help me to put my trust in you. Help me to trust that you are my good shepherd, that you are in control. Thank you for being my God. Give me strength over the next few days, and I pray that the peace of God will guard my heart. Help me to know that you are watching over me, that you care for me, and to believe that no matter what happens, you are still good and sovereign.

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“Dear Celeste,

Congratulations! I am pleased to inform you that you have been offered admission to the Jefferson College of Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy, Entry-Level Master’s Degree Program at Thomas Jefferson University for the Fall 2016 term.”

Evidence of God’s work alone, and nothing of my own doing! I really liked this program when I went to go interview for it and am thankful that God allowed me to get accepted. I really didn’t think I’d get in, as it’s a competitive program. Grace upon grace.

My heart is thankful. All glory to God. All glory to God.

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