Above all things, I have Christ

Dear Celeste Li,

We are delighted to be offering you admission to the Samuel Merritt University’s Master of Occupational Therapy Program. We are offering this decision to a select number of students that are ranked at the top of our applicant pool in hopes that you will consider attending Samuel Merritt University for your Occupational Therapy graduate education. We would be delighted to have you as a student in our program.

I’m crying. I’m crying out of a thankful heart. I’m crying because I had such low confidence in my ability to get into programs and had a huge fear of what would happen if I didn’t get in. Yet God’s sovereign will opened this door for me. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time … and it’s overwhelming in the best possible way to think that I can finally pursue this. It’s finally here. And it’s all because of God, not because of anything I did or could ever do.

Looking back at the past year and a half, I see how God sovereignly orchestrated my life so that I didn’t get into schools the first round, for my own good and His glory. I was devastated – it really took a toll on my self-confidence, and to me it was a reflection of who I was as a person. Being rejected meant I wasn’t good enough or smart enough or talented enough or capable enough. I also felt the weight of societal pressure to be career driven and to already be on the track to pursuing higher education, so when I got rejected by all the programs, I felt stupid. I feared what people thought of me when I told them I had to reapply. I hated telling them I didn’t get in because it really made me feel so worthless. I think especially going to a church with brilliant people who all went to amazing schools and graduated from prestigious graduate school programs, I felt so inadequate compared to them.

God really revealed that part of my heart to me in this past year, and I’m thankful for that lesson that He taught me because of those rejections. Without it, my heart wouldn’t have been sanctified in that way to have been shown these idols in my life. And this time around, I definitely put much more effort into my applications, whereas the first time around I did everything at the last minute. I poured so much time and effort into my essays and studying for the GRE (which I still dislike with a passion – I barely got a better score the second time I took it this year), and I also applied for significantly more programs than I did last year out of fear that I wouldn’t get in.

Throughout this process of applying for graduate schools in the past few months, God has taught me to trust Him and to remember that ultimately, I have Christ and my salvation secured because of Jesus’ blood, so everything else pales in comparison. Whether or not I got into a program or not, God is still good. God is still sovereign. I am still saved. I am redeemed by my Savior, not because of anything I have done or could ever do, but because of His work on the cross. And because of that I’m so incredibly thankful. God taught me that He is of supreme importance, more than anything this world has to offer. Yes He’s blessed me with the opportunity to pursue occupational therapy and allowed me to be accepted, but I have Christ.

God is so faithful. He provides. He cares for me. He watches over me. He is my shepherd. He is my Father. He is sovereign. He is in control. God is so good. Thank you God, I praise you!! All glory to you alone.

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A Season of Sanctification

God has been gracious to me during this season of my life. I’ve been learning so much and God has been growing me in various ways. I’m thankful for His work in my life as I learn what it means to be a godly woman, what it means to completely trust God and submit my will to Him, and what it looks like to take up my cross daily.

  1. My heart has been challenged to consider what it is that I value when it comes to dating. I struggled a lot with the whole idea of attraction and compatibility and how important that is in a relationship. God taught me through various women in my life that I shouldn’t focus solely on physical attraction or compatibility, but more so on being able to identify godly traits in a man and whether he has a genuine desire to grow in Christ. I also realized how critical my heart can be as I battle between the world’s idea of dating and dating based on biblical principles. The world says that compatibility is crucial before two people can date, and that without that chemistry it’s pointless and a waste of time. But attraction is certainly something that can develop, and even if you’re not physically attracted to the other person, you can become attracted to them as you see their character over time. I’m thankful for the people who gave me wise counsel and really pointed me towards truth, causing me to check my heart and consider what it is that I value. What do I base my attraction to another person on? The fact that we “click” or have instant “chemistry,” or even basing it solely on physical attraction? I also learned that I have the freedom to choose who I want to date or not date. I don’t need to force myself to date someone simply because they show an interest. Obviously I still want to be gracious and loving towards that other person, but God gives us the freedom to choose who we date. As long as we align our will with God’s, then we shouldn’t have to worry about whether choosing not to date someone is the wrong decision. We need to trust in God’s sovereign will over our lives. That’s something I had a hard time letting go of.
  2. God has been gracious in allowing me three interviews next month. My heart is so thankful! It’s all by the grace of God. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I’d get interviews (I have such low confidence!) but God was gracious to provide opportunities for me. I’ll be traveling quite a bit next month, a few out of state, so of course that means a lot of expenses. Praying that I trust God to provide the funds and means to go to these interviews. I’m anxious about how the interviews will go, and whether I’ll even get into graduate school or not. It’s easy to cling to outcomes I’d like to happen, but I need to let go of that idea of being in control of the situation and let God be in control of my life. Do I truly trust that whatever happens in my life will be for my own good, and do I believe that God is still good even during seasons of trial? I pray that God would help convict my heart of these truths and that I’d find true joy and satisfaction in Him alone, not in my career or building up my reputation.
  3. I’ve been challenged to consider what “taking up my cross daily” really looks like, especially at home. I’ve realized how selfish I can be and how easy it is to want to be comfortable and focus on my own desires and needs, especially at home where I have a lot of things taken care of for me. God has been putting on my heart how dishonoring that is to be so inward focused, and I’ve been challenged to show love in action at home, whether it mean initiating to do the dishes, or cleaning my grandma’s bathroom accidents without complaining. My heart can be so full of grumbling, but there’s always so much to be thankful for. It can be easy to want to do these things to gain my parents’ approval or to receive verbal affirmation, but ultimately am I pleasing God with my heart motive? Am I doing things because I desire to honor God in my actions by showing the love of Christ in response to God’s love for me?

Thankful for these lessons God has been teaching and challenging me with.

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It Is Finished

I have been reading through Leviticus (for far too long) as I’ve been going through my chronological Bible reading plan, and I’m finally nearing the end of the book. Starting off, I found it completely dry, boring, and had no clue what I was supposed to get out of it. I didn’t understand the context of it or how it related to me. After reading through commentaries on Leviticus, I now have a better understanding of how it relates to the entirety of the Bible and have a newfound appreciation for what Jesus did on the cross.

After reading through the book, the overarching theme I got from it is that of God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, and our need for atonement of those sins. The precision of everything that God requires from the priests, from separating what’s considered clean versus unclean, points to God’s holy standard. I read an article on Leviticus from Gospel Coalition that was helpful in my understanding of the book. It talked about how in understanding Leviticus, it’s important to note that the law came after God’s exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. God first redeems His people, then gives them the gift of the law to serve as a guide to respond to His grace in obedience and love. God did not first give them the law and say “if you obey it, then I will save you.” The law is there to help the Israelites live this holy life as “the kingdom of priests and a holy nation” that God calls them to be.

This was mind blowing to me. I’d heard this so many times before, but for some reason when I read this in the context of the Old Testament, it moved me to view God’s law in a completely different way, particularly in the light of the new covenant. I think it can be easy for people to view laws and commands with a sense of drudgery and spite, seeing it as a list of do’s and don’ts. But when we look first at God’s abundant grace and mercy in our lives, which we do not deserve because of our sinfulness, our response should be one of grateful obedience to be holy as He calls us to be holy.

In chapter 16 of Leviticus, it describes The Day of Atonement that the Israelites were to carry out once a year to cleanse Israel of their sins. The priests would get two goats, cast lots, sacrifice one to God as a sin offering, and then present the other alive as a scapegoat to make atonement for the sins of Israel, sending it off into the wilderness.

  • And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins. And he hall put them on the head of the goat and send it away into the wilderness by the hand of a man who is in readiness. The goal shall bear all their iniquities on itself to a remote area, and he shall let the goat go free in the wilderness.” Leviticus 16:21-22

This article was really helpful in giving me a better perspective of this day and why Jesus’ work on the cross was so wonderful.

  • Jesus turned out to be far more than the Messiah had been expected to be. He was the consummate temple, Passover lamb, sacrificed goat, scapegoat, high priest, prophet and the King of kings. Here is the good news for Yom Kippur: Jesus the Messiah has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. The Day of Atonement: it is finished.

Jesus served as a one-time substitutionary atonement by bearing our sins on the cross. He was the scapegoat that led the people’s sins far far away into the wilderness so that our relationship with God would be made right. By experiencing the totality of God’s wrath, Jesus experienced the deep abandonment and separation from the Father so that God would view us as righteous because of Jesus’ righteousness.

How much more sweet and beautiful is the gospel in light of the Old Testament law! Jesus was the ultimate Messiah, the great High Priest who entered not only the holy of holies, but heaven itself. Jesus’ work didn’t just stop at the cross – He calls us to live a life of obedience and godliness in response to God’s gracious work through His son for us.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

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Grace, grace, grace

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

As I’ve been working on grad school applications and studying for the GRE, I’ve been struggling with anxiety. Anxiety about what schools to apply to. Anxiety about whether my stats are good enough to get into school. Anxiety about whether I’ll even get in. Anxiety about what I’ll do if I don’t get in. Anxiety about whether I’ll get a good enough GRE score. I’ve just been worrying constantly. And it’s clearly shown in my health and physical body; I haven’t been eating as regularly, have been losing weight, haven’t been sleeping as much, and am currently sick. I’m constantly tired, weary, and stressed.

God helped me question the heart behind my anxiety. What was I so afraid of? What does my heart really value? Reputation? Job “security”? A top-ranked elite graduate program?

By God’s grace, His word showed me that my anxiety is a result of my unbelief in future grace and in the promises He has for me. God promises that He will supply our every need. His Word says that He cares for us and desires what is best for us, and He promises in Philippians 4:6-7 that when we present our requests to Him, He will give us a peace that is beyond our understanding. Why should I have to worry when God promises to take care of my every need? And whether or not the outcome is what I desire, God’s plan is greater and He still sovereignly works for my good. So I should trust Him.

God reminded me that my value and identity is not in the things of this world. He promises future grace through the work of Jesus Christ, and so what do I have to worry about? My future and my salvation is secure in Christ. I can trust in His plan and His work in my life because He is in control.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

“Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7

I have been meditating and clinging to these promises that God has given me through His Word. My limitations as a human (my inability to stay focused on studying for very long, my weariness from studying or work, my body wearing down) reveals the reality of my weak flesh, and all the more points to the Creator who is all sufficient in His grace for me. I pray that God would use my weaknesses to show His strength, and that I would lean not on myself but on Him for strength and perseverance to get through this trial.

On a side note, I have such a thankful heart right now. God has been so good in His mercies and grace to me in so many ways. First, for bringing my discipler Julia into my life. She has been such a huge blessing to me and has really challenged me in my walk with God, showing me what it means to really be a follower of Christ who treasures God’s Word. After my talk today I just felt an overwhelming sense of thankfulness for how God has placed her in my life! Having an older, wise woman who loves God is such an encouragement to me, and she always points me to gospel truths. Thank you Lord for blessing me with such a wise older sister!

Secondly, I’m thankful for Lighthouse Bible Church. God has given me such a precious church family of people who love God and love people. The preaching has really been so convicting for my heart in the past year (it’s been about a year since I first started going now!) and I’ve seen so much growth in my walk and an alteration in my view of God and the Word. I have a more biblical view of the importance of the church, because Christ loved the church. I’m so thankful for the brothers and sisters I’ve met through Lighthouse and how He has used the church to sanctify me in so many ways. Praise God for providing me with such a blessing!!

Thirdly, I’m thankful for my family that God has provided me with. It has been on my heart lately that my dad is probably not a believer, and I’ve discussed it with some of my sisters multiple times over the past few months. Last weekend, my parents got into an argument (I wasn’t there) and my mom later confided in me that God was speaking to her, saying that maybe my dad isn’t a Christian. While I was listening to her talk, my heart broke, yet I was so overwhelmed with thankfulness that God softened my mom’s heart to reveal that difficult reality to her. I could see that she was struggling to understand how that could possibly be after all these years, yet God was so gracious to allow her to respond with grace to my dad.

I can see how God is working in her heart to see my dad the way God sees him – as a sinner in need of Christ. It’s no longer important about whether my dad hurt us this many times, or to get him to admit that he was wrong. Ultimately, he is a sinner in need of the grace of God. He needs Christ. Only God can change his heart. I’m so thankful for that moment my mom shared that with me. I was bawling my eyes out. I later suggested starting a weekly family bible study, and we’ve had two bible studies so far. It’s been so encouraging, especially because we haven’t done bible studies as a family in so long. My heart was so full of joy as we sung praise songs to God! We’re going through Hebrews chapter by chapter and have been sharing prayer requests. I pray that God would use that time to work in my dad’s heart, and ultimately I pray for my dad’s salvation. I pray we would be a good witness to him and be patient with him in our words and actions. He is no worse than us! We are all wretched sinners, but God extended mercy to us not because of anything we’ve done, but because of what Christ is done.

To Him be the glory.

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All things work together for good

Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

As I apply for graduate schools and begin to feel the weight of it all, anxiety is so prone to consume my thoughts, and questions, uncertainties, doubts, and feelings of discontentment tug at my heart. When it comes to deciding on which schools to apply to, I have to consider the schools I feel I can realistically get into and whether I’d actually go there or not, which has been rather tough and anxiety-provoking. I’m going to be taking the GRE in a little over a week, which will be a huge indicator of what schools I’ll ultimately decide on applying to. I worry that I won’t get the scores I need to apply to certain schools, which will greatly reduce the options I have. I worry that if I don’t get in, I won’t know what to do next, or what other path God could possibly want me to go down. I have a fear of what I’d tell people, and how that’d negatively reflect on my abilities and intelligence.

But worrying is a sin. It reflects a heart that doesn’t genuinely trust in God, a holy Father who is sovereignly working in each of our lives. Lord, I confess and repent for not trusting in Your plan.

I rest in these promises God has given me through His Word. I am confident that whatever the outcome, whether God opens or closes doors, He will ultimately work it for good. God has a plan that He is sovereignly carrying out in my life. He very purposely places me in various circumstances to grow me and to use me for His kingdom. Not my will, but Yours be done, Lord. I pray that God would help me to rest in Him, and that He would give me the discipline to study and the strength to persevere. My body is growing weary and tired, and I feel it everyday. I pray that I would not rely on myself, but that I would ultimately rest in Him and that His peace would truly “guard my heart.”

I pray that I would not find contentment in my career and what I do, or whether I get into this or that grad school, but that I would be humbled and know that I am nothing without Christ. I am nothing but a sinful, wretched being who deserves hell – yet God in His rich mercy saved me from the path of destruction and has made me righteous, imputing Christ’s righteousness on me. Christ died the death I deserved by bearing the sins of the world on the cross. I am now seen as clean before a holy, just God. Amazing grace, indeed!

God, help me to be satisfied in You. Help me to look to You alone for satisfaction. Calm my heart. Thank you for being my Shepherd and my Father.

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2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence”

I’m struggling with thoughts of discontentment. Thoughts that I’m never going to marry, that I’m going to stay single forever. Thoughts questioning me as a person and whether anyone will ever like me.

That sounds so incredibly self-absorbed, but it’s the honest truth. I struggle so much with feeling content in my singleness. I struggle to trust that God is putting me in my single stage for a reason, and that He’s using this time in my life to grow me in my faith, to become more like Him. While I know that to be true in my head, and I do see that God’s been growing my heart and my understanding of the Gospel and who God is, it’s still a constant struggle when I look at people in the church dating and I start having thoughts that I’m never going to date.

2 Peter 1:3 tells us that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. I should therefore not question that God is withholding something good from me. In reality, I have everything I will ever need in Christ and in His Word. So why do I still feel discontent?

Because I’m turning my eyes away from Jesus. Because I’m turning my eyes away from the blessings He constantly pours over me. Because I’m turning my eyes from His goodness to me, His faithfulness to me, His patience, His deep care, His shepherding heart. God cares for me. He knows what’s best for me. So I should never have the slightest thought that God may be withholding something from me. He is sovereign. He knows what I need.

So maybe right now, what I need is to be single. What I need is to fix my eyes on Jesus. To be encouraged by His Word that He has given me, which can nurture and bring peace to my worried, saddened heart. God is sovereign. And I trust that He will use this period of singleness to grow me and to become more like Him. And that’s what I want. I pray that God would help me find satisfaction in Him alone, and not in trying to pursue a significant other. Help me, Lord, to be content in Christ alone.

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I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me

God, I thank you so much for your gospel truth. I thank you that no matter how much I fail you, even when I turn my eyes from You and look to this world for satisfaction and find myself discontent with the things I have, You continue to show me grace and mercy by revealing the sin of pride in my heart. I have been struggling with discontentment as of late, but it reached a new peak within the past few days. I reached a really low point … a point I haven’t reached in a long time.

It started with a small little spark – a single thought of discontentment that eventually fueled into a enormous, blazing forest fire. I found myself comparing my personality with Beth and others, wishing I was more outgoing, more vocal, more funny, more beautiful, more cool, less shy, less awkward. I looked at other girls who had guys talking to them left and right and wished I had guys who were trying to pursue me. I wondered why it felt like nobody was giving me attention and why I felt so alone. I wondered why it felt like no guys liked me. I wondered why I wasn’t as popular as it seemed like other people were at church. I wondered why I felt so lonely and why other people’s friendships seemed so close compared to mine. I wondered why I couldn’t be as loud as this person, or why I couldn’t be as cool that person. I wondered why I couldn’t have a certain kind of wardrobe.

Satan took those thoughts and completely ran me into the ground. He dug a deep, deep hole, and I crawled my way in. Consumed in my thoughts, I couldn’t get out. I was trapped. I felt helpless. I couldn’t stop crying. I kept thinking those thoughts over and over, and any time I felt like I was getting the short end of the stick, or that I seemed to be lacking the attention I so craved, I dug myself deeper and deeper into that ditch. I felt so disgusting and worthless and miniscule and small. And I felt like nobody could hear me or understand how I felt.

Julia Lee from church has been discipling me, and we’re going through a book called Disciplines of A Godly Woman. The chapter we were going to cover tonight was on contentment, which is totally and completely relevant to my situation. I was reading it through, and God was so good to my heart in that moment as He allowed me to realize several things. The chapter talks about how Eve was completely satisfied in the Garden of Eden because she was with Adam, she was walking with God, and she had everything she needed. It was only when she turned away from God’s voice to Satan that she suddenly felt discontent and felt that God was keeping something from her.

That really resonated with me as I saw how I had been turning my eyes away from God’s truth and the gospel to look at what the world offers that promises fulfillment and satisfaction, thus feeling discontent. That just shows how easily Satan can trick our minds into thinking that we are lacking things, causing us to question God’s motives or His sovereignty. “God, you must have made a mistake in making me in this way,” or “God, you are withholding good things from me.”

2 Peter 1:3 says “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” God has given us everything we need in Him. So why do we look to other things for satisfaction? Because we turn our eyes away from Jesus and from His truth, when in fact everything that will bring us lasting joy and satisfaction He offers through Christ and through His word.

Isaiah 58:11 “He will satisfy your needs in a sunscorched land.” God promises to provide for us when we are suffering, when we are in desperate need of something to quench this emptiness, this void in our heart that the world promises to fill but never truly will. Only through the knowledge of God can we be content.

My meeting tonight with Julia was truly humbling and so dang sweet for my soul. I cried my eyes out. I was raw and real about my discontentment. And she spoke truth to me with gentleness. She spoke the promises of God and how He will never forsake me, how only He can bring true lasting joy, and that my ultimate identity is in Christ. These things that we long for that the world says are good will never end. The more we have, the more we want. We will never be satisfied. She reminded me to question what the source of my longing was. There are certainly godly longings and ungodly longings. Question why it is that I want what I want. Is it selfish? It is prideful? Or is it because I desire to further God’s kingdom and bring Him glory?

Ultimately the heart of my discontent is pride. Pride in feeling like I deserve approval and attention from others. Pride in feeling like I deserve to be loved and to be pursued by guys. Pride in desiring to seek my own glory rather than God’s glory, to further my kingdom rather than God’s kingdom. It’s totally an idol for me to compare myself to others. I’m saying that I deserve all the love and attention rather than God. And that’s completely self-centered and wrong thinking.

God humbled me tonight, showing me the ugliness of my heart. I am completely sinful, continuously falling short of God’s standard of holiness, and continuing to seek my own glory rather than God’s, when in reality I am so messed up and continue to fail. God is faithful and gracious in showing me these things, and reminding me of His glory and power, His sovereignty, His goodness, His justice, His mercy shown to me by imputing Christ’s righteousness on me when I am completely deserving of hell because of my sin. God still loves me …. how crazy is that. God still loves me. God is so good! How can a holy and just God love such a sinner as me?

In Philippians, Paul talks about being content no matter the circumstances and how it is through Christ that he has the strength to be content. That is my prayer – that God would give me the strength to be content and to fix my eyes on Him, and that I would not desire the things of the flesh or the things of this world which can never satisfy, but to turn to Him and to see that He provides every need for me. I also know that I need to be reminded of that in my daily life. It’s not just this quick little realization. It takes conscious effort and prayer. I need to be prayerful and watchful, not allowing Satan to have a foothold for me to sin.

Thank you, thank you Lord for your goodness.

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