The lesson of broken streaks.

I hit 74 days. A streak of 74 days in the Bible app. And one day I didn’t get to open the app before 12AM… my streak went back to zero. Zero.

The disappointment my heart was filled with when I realized what happened was quite overwhelming. I hit a record streak. It felt good and right. It felt like I was doing well in my walk of faith overall. Each day was filled with the Word; if I couldn’t spent substantial amount of time reading and studying, I was using audio version in my spare minutes. I made sure my every day was filled with the Scripture…

Although… did I feel good about being in the Word or about myself doing so well for such a long time..?

The hard truth is I felt good about myself and my accomplishment. I felt like I was doing well. I realize that there were days I opened the app not even to immerse myself in the Word but to make sure the number went up again. I made this about me and how great I am at this.

But this is not about me. This is about knowing my Lord more, about learning things about Him and having my heart and mind transformed by Him, so that my love for God may grow.

This showed me once again how much of a performance-based Christian I am. I feel good about myself and my walk of faith if I do the right thing, when I am consistent with my devotions and prayer, and I feel like I’ve failed at Christianity when I don’t. It’s as if I try to earn God’s favor by doing well…

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, ” Ephesians 2:4… God loves and redeems me not because of what I do or not do, but because of His own character. He is rich in mercy. He has great love. And nothing that I, as his child, do can shift that. He is the one doing the work of salvation and sanctification and it does not depend on me.

I would like to finish with words of David Platt:

“…all who trust in Jesus, whether today for the first time, or for those of you who trusted in Jesus however many years ago, you have radically new rest from performance-based religion. Never forget how revolutionary this is. I think we miss this. I talk with so many Christians who feel so defeated, who feel like God is so upset with them all the time because they’re not measuring up in this way or that way. Do you ever feel like that? If that’s you, hear God’s Word to you today. God’s pleasure in you is not based on your performance for Him. God’s pleasure in you is based on Christ’s performance for you. Jesus has died on the cross to pay the price for all of your inability to measure up. If you are trusting in Jesus, you have radical rest in the love God has for you. God loves you, not because you are good enough, but because He is gracious enough! So rest in His grace.”

Discontentment can be good.

I think we all have faced discontentment in our life. Whether it is discontentment about the things we have, things we do, or just who we are. Someone else has a better job than you. Someone else is doing so well in school and you’ve failed yet another class. Someone else has a kind of friends group that you would want. You name it.

I have fought discontentment for a long time. And have come to realization that it isn’t always bad. It’s sometimes okay to not be satisfied with where you are.

What? You can’t be serious, Milyena. What about being happy with what you have and where you are?

It’s true that we ought to be content and fight for joy, reminding ourselves that where God placed us is where we need to be. Let me elaborate.

You meet someone who works in the same field you do. They are advanced in it, they are knowledgeable, proficient, and it looks like the job itself goes so much easier for them. You look at them and think, “I am not where this person is with my work and I want to be.” You start working more diligently, you learn various aspects of the job and you become a better professional.

You know someone in church who are the best kind of person. They love the Lord and are in the Word. They serve diligently and wholeheartedly. They truly love the people around them and create lasting friendships with others. You look at them and think, “I am not like that, but I want to be.” You start imitating them, striving to be a person who is as loving toward others. You start spending more time in the Word and with that person searching for what is it that makes this person so great. You want to be like them so you put effort to get there.

You read the Scripture and a passage pierces your heart. It describes something you have struggled for a while, but, if you are honest with yourself, you got used to it. You got used to failing and fighting your own self seems frightening because any change is. You are afraid you will fail so what’s the point of trying? And yet, you want out. You want to grow spiritually and know how to beat this in your life. You start searching for answers because where you are now is not good enough. You need it to get better. You take the necessary steps, get counseling, and do all that you can to work out your salvation.

I have learned that discontentment can serve as a motivator to put more effort into something than before. It can be a reminder that “good enough” is not always good enough. It can be better. I can be better.

I heard someone saying that while God accepts us the way we are, he never leaves us the way we are. So if there is someone or something that makes us feel dissatisfied with ourselves, maybe it’s a good thing. I think that if we are discontent about the good things, the heavenly things, it is not something to fight. If it makes us Christians who are always striving for holiness and perfecting everything we do, why not embrace it and do what is necessary to become those people?

We can trust that God redeems our discontentment and can use it for our good. My prayer is that he does so in me, first and foremost, and in you.

“I am with you always”. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

When I was 16, I thought that by the time I am 25, my life will be a settled one. I’ll get a degree, work (hopefully part-time), be married and have a kid (that’s why “part-time”), serve in ministry, and not worry about the next day because I will know what it will bring. In my dreams life was supposed to be simple and set. Predictable. Stable.

However, for the good part of it, my life doesn’t really look like what I imagined it to be. It’s not completely predictable. It feels like the winds of change and challenge can blow my way any minute and I will have no choice but to submit to them. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I don’t know where I will be led and taken next year and what decisions I will have to make.

(Maybe you can relate?)

Although it’s not what I imagined it to be, I would dare to say it’s better. God made sure I would grow, taste his goodness, experience his mercy and grace poured on me, and face the new day with assurance of his guidance and love. So when I confront my future, that is what my God shows me. He is already there.

In the midst of the storm of uncertainty, comes gentle wave of God’s promise – “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6)

My future may feel insecure, but my God secures me. He tells me, “…I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

He may lead me somewhere I do not imagine of going, but he comforts me, “‘My presence will go with you and I will give you rest'” (Exodus 33:!4)

But guess what, God doesn’t only promise his presence and guidance, he also performs a miracle of changing one’s mindset and expectations.

Over time, with prayer, searching and wondering, I have been learning couple of things:

  1. Uncertainty does not have to bring fear and worry. Leaving the planning of my future to the Lord gives a sense of rest. I don’t have to fuss up about what’s to come, how to make it happen when my God already took care of that. I can rest and face every morning with the comfort of knowing he’s got it.
  2. “Uncertainty” can match up to “possibility”. Instead of letting fear dominate, I am learning to turn my heart to excitement over what freedom God has for me to choose what to do with my life. I heard once that as long as you stay within God’s will of salvation and sanctification, as long as you are in the Word and prayer, you have the freedom to do whatever you want with your life. Do you want to you go to school? Then go. Do you want to try out for that promotion? Do it. Do you want to become a missionary overseas? It’s a noble calling, pursue it. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). If your first and foremost delight is in the Lord, then he is sure and faithful to mend your heart in a way that your desires align with his.

Maybe you are in the same spot as I am. Maybe you have envisioned your life in a different way. I encourage you, friend, to sit down and reflect on the ways God has led you until today, and to turn to his promise of love, care, and guidance as you consider your tomorrow. Sit down, list your worries, and battle them with his promises. I pray that God shows you that uncertain future doesn’t have to bring fear. I pray that God gives you rest and joy in this period of your life.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

Isaiah 54:10

Why do I journal

After writing every day for Februaryfreewrite challenge, I suddenly found myself drained. I thought it was going to serve as a boost for writing, but I didn’t realize how mentally and emotionally tiring it would be.

I thought it would be refreshing to absorb content instead of producing it for some time. So that’s what I did. I barely even journaled. I read books, listened to podcasts, and watched TV shows.

Friend who keeps up with my blog, thank you for your patience.

However, taking a break from writing makes room for thinking about why is writing important? What’s the point? Why journal and why express thoughts on a piece of paper?

I guess, it’s best to start in the beginning…

I picked up my first journal when I was around 12 years old. “Dear Diary…” I started and ever since I not-so-consistently recollected and recorded various ordinary and not so ordinary days of my life.

(A month or so later I stopped writing “Dear Diary” because it felt silly. I mean, I wasn’t going to pretend that my notebook is a living thing…)

They say there is no wrong way to journal.

Well, I discovered that it’s false. There absolutely is.

When you use it to accumulate your venting and your complaining, it is the wrong way to journal. You end up wallowing in self-pity, justifying your negative thinking, and focusing on your own persona. You end up believing the lies whispered to you by the enemy and your own mind. You fill your heart with bitterness toward people, circumstances around you, and eventually, God.

I had fallen into the category of one who swims in her own pool of emotions by recalling, recollecting, and recycling her thoughts.

And yet, the Lord was gracious to meet me in my pool. As he worked on my heart, on having me know him better and deeper, as he opened his Word to me, I found there was a better and a healthier way to journal.

However, keeping a diary doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I recently had a chance to visit Capitol Hill Baptist Church where Pastor Mark Dever asked whether we take the time to recount God’s goodness and leadership in our life. I was encouraged to collect memories once again for that reason. God has been beyond gracious and good to me, meeting me in my highs and lows, providing his guidance, encouragement, lessons, and love. So if keeping a diary will help me to remember those moments, I am willing to give it a try once again.

I imagine that King David didn’t think that his most personal thoughts were to be published and read by millions of people more two thousand years later. When I read Psalms, they very well look like journal entries to me. But notice this – a whole lot of them are formed in a version of prayers.

So, that’s what I started doing. By writing my own prayers, I have become aware of what am I actually praying about and for. I can also analyze my prayers and learn to pray better. Jesus’ disciples, who have been praying their whole life, asked him to teach them to pray. I want to learn as well. So, collecting prayers helps me in my learning process.

Journaling serves as a way to perform self-analysis. I often don’t know what exactly is it that I think or feel unless I write it down and read it back to myself. And oh how helpful has that been so far. (“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves.” – 2 Cor. 13:5). I discover I understand less than I do, think about more than I realize, question more than I thought I did, and I need to address all of that.

So, I need answers to my questions and concerns. I need the Gospel to gain clarity. I don’t know about you, friend, but I tend to forget. I may read a passage and the information goes right in one ear and out the other. That’s where writing helps tremendously. I find that as I write down my notes while studying the Word (or the Word itself, writing out the verses that particularly stand out), the words become more real, more “alive” in a sense. They enter my mind so much more strongly and there’s less chance of them leaving it soon. It also gives me time to reflect on what is it that I’m writing and test my understanding of the Scriptures. Writing also gives a chance to go back, sit in the passage and its lesson, and let it penetrate the mind and heart again and again.

In my journey of self-reflection, I found John Piper’s words to be a tremendous encouragement:

“In other words, I found so much confusion and uncertainty in my mind about so many things that it was very hard to know what to think or feel or do. That’s a great impediment to obedience. It’s a great impediment to glorifying Christ.

If you’re constantly confused about the Bible and how to apply it, then it will impede growth. I needed clarity about Bible passages. I needed clarity about the will of God and the pros and cons of various paths for my life. I needed clarity about relationships — for example, what they should look like. These relationships were friends, in the early days, a girlfriend or not a girlfriend, and now wife and children and grandchildren. I needed clarity about social issues and ethical issues.”
https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/why-does-john-piper-journal

Ultimately, the point of journaling is not to write our thoughts down to be established forever. It needs to be a method by which we strive for a changed mindset and heart. It should glorify God (“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God” -1 Cor. 10:31), and serve as one of helpful tools in our sanctification (As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” -1 Peter 1:15) .

I know not everyone enjoys writing. But I highly encourage you to give it a try. There is a chance it might transform your Scripture study and your meditation on the Lord’s work in you own life. Find a way to remember God’s goodness toward you, to study his Word in a more efficient way, and gain clarity in life. If writing becomes that, I would be so glad.

Days 27-28 – Wait and Home

Continuing last blog post…

Are you waiting for your transition to home? To your heavenly home?

Sometimes I find myself getting ready to go to sleep and thinking “come sooner, Lord Jesus” as I ponder on the day that has just passed.

There is so much brokenness around. And not only around, in myself too.

Same sin to battle with. Same flaws to work on.

Day after day after day.

And I am waiting to go home.

Home where I won’t have to battle my own flesh.

Where I will enjoy the presence of my Savior continuously.

Where sin will be just a memory.

Or maybe it won’t. Maybe I won’t even remember. Sometimes I wish I didn’t remember.

Where nothing but my God will matter.

Where my joy won’t be interrupted by my own self getting in the way.

Where I will see my loved ones and won’t have to say good-bye anymore.

Oh I am so waiting to go home.

Days 25-26 – Release and Death

How often do you think about your death? I mentioned in my previous post that Christ’s death and resurrection have given us a chance to not fear it. But have you ever gotten to a point when you say that “to die is gain”?

Have you felt the weight of sin so much that you thought that life is a burden?

Have you thought that seeing your Savior is the first and foremost thing you want?

Do you view death as something that ends the pleasure of life? Something to think of as the end of all good?

Or do you see death as a release? “Oh who would deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 7:24.

Do you get tired of your sins so much that you pray for God to come sooner and free you?

How do you view death?

Day 23-24 – Grave and Resurrect

Oh, these two words are perfect together…

It is the ultimate message.

For while we were still weak, at the right time,

Christ died for the ungodly.

Romans 5:6

He died to resurrect us to life. He died to make the dead, heartless, sinful people alive in Himself, give them a new nature. He sacrificed everything for those who did not want him.

But imagine Christ takes this big step, suffers, dies and… that’s it. There’s nothing after that. He dies and his disciples go to their homes. They remain afraid, lost, and lonely, as they suffer the loss of their dearest Teacher. They are persecuted because they followed the man who was hated by the officials. They go back to their lives, struggling, not only because of circumstances around them, but because of their own sinful nature. Nothing changed. All they have is memories to live with.

However, Jesus’ resurrection paints a different picture. The fact that he rose from the dead gives all the hope and strength needed. He shows that he has power over what scares all people – the end. He shows that he has the strength to provide us with so that we can endure the toughest trials. He also has the strength to have us face our biggest enemy, ourselves.

I once read the following: “Never have I dealt with anything more difficult than my own soul”. And oh my, is that true. I feel like my biggest trial is my own self. But God, in his death and resurrection gives hope to face a new day with the same struggles, and keep going. His resurrection is something that we can stand on and face our daily challenges. We don’t have to fear. He won’t let us go. We are his.

For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14:8

Day 21 and 22 – Become and Incomplete

I recently attended a wedding. The happy couple was beaming with love. So, this became my inspiration for this post (see what I did there?)

We think that once that special person comes in our life, they will complete us and have us become the best version of ourselves. At least, that’s what I see on social media: “he completes me”, “he makes me better”, “I become a better person because of him.”

And it’s understandable. We want the intimacy of a relationship with someone. We want to be completed, joyful and satisfied.

But the problem is, once the “pink shades” stage fades, we see that we still are not complete. We are not who we thought we would be by now. We are not our “best version”.

Out spouse or friend cannot complete us. They’re flawed just as we are. And they are looking for someone to compelete them just the same way. It’s not even fair to put such a burden on them.

But Christ can complete us. And he transforms us in a way that we become what he wants us to be – the image of his Son. He can carry that burden and he is willing to take it. He, the one who is complete in every way, is the only one who has the ability to make us complete as well. He understands our desire. He sent his Son to mend our brokeness and make us complete in himself.

I want to finish with a quote:

Our hearts cannot help but be restless on this subject because it carries such weighty implications, yet our hearts can find genuine rest in the love, wisdom, and might of a gracious God

Josh Squires

Let’s seek to find rest in God’s grace and his gospel. Let’s surrender our longing at his feet and let him do his work in our hearts. For he will graciously give us what we ask for, for he promised and he is faithful to his promises.

Day 20 – Hour

A friend told me once “Take it one day at a time. God only gives you 24 hours to love him and love the people. Tomorrow might not come.”

I end up modifying that motto quite often into “Take it one hour at a time” A day sometimes seems so long. It almost overwhelms me. I’m sure many of you have experienced it, when there is so much going on that you think you can’t catch up with you own life. When you’re stressed about school, work, or something else to the extent that all you want to do is crawl under your blanket.

That’s when I take it one hour at a time. Just focus on this one hour. Just do what I can throughout it. The next hour will come. You can’t stop it, but you can let it not overwhelm you. For me, to focus on 60 minutes is easier than focusing on one day at times.

Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

It’s so comforting to know that our God knows exactly how we feel and what we are going through. He knows how overwhelming it might be to think about the future and how we are tempted to try to control it. We crave stability, we want to know if everything will be okay. But he doesn’t condemn us for being such worry-ers. He just reminds us that thinking and stressing out about tomorrow doesn’t do us any good. It’s not like we can change anything. So, we ought to focus on what we can do. We need to go through today, investing our time and our resources into our worship of Him, our relationship with Him, and showing love to those around us.

Day 19 – Desire

"Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above"

I was reading Romans this morning and ended up at 7:18: “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”

There is a big difference between “I want to do it” and actually doing it. How often do I find myself wanting to do well but actually doing the opposite. My flesh keeps getting out and then I keep asking myself “How did I get here? Why would I do this in the first place?” Looks like a personality split.

And there is a split. My desires are one thing, but my actions are often another. And the only hope for this situation is grace and the work of the Spirit of God in my heart. I can’t change my own desires, but God can. See the quote by Edward T. Welch below. I believe he describes the situation with our desires so well.

“Scripture, too, makes distinctions among our desires and passions. It talks about passions and desires as either good or evil. It commands us to put to death ungodly desires, and teaches us to nurture true spiritual passion. Our relationship to God in Christ should be characterized by holy, intense affections; our response to our own sin should be hatred and tears; our love for others should be such that we are moved by both their pleasure and pain. Scripture does not oppose strong desire; instead, it both approves and commands it. The problem is in what we are passionate about and why. Do our passions express a heart that seeks the glory of Christ? Are we passionate about the things for which Jesus is passionate? Or do our passions express our desire to serve ourselves and our own glory?”

Edward T. Welch, “Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave”

My prayer is that the Lord changes my desires. I cannot force myself to simply do things because I have to because I will always fall back into my old ways. I need help of God who can change my heart and my mindset. “Bind my wandering heart to Thee”.