“Gray Matter” by David Levy

Although never recommended this book by anyone in particular, I saw it everywhere when looking through books regarding medicine from a Christian perspective. Not knowing what exactly to expect, but feeling intrigued by the back cover teaser, I decided to purchase it. Upon receiving my shipment, this was the first book I began and finished reading.

The book explores the events that unfold after neurosurgeon Dr. David Levy decides to begin asking his patients if he could pray for them during the pre-operation period. His convictions to do so, wavering at first, are solidified throughout the book as he experiences the powerful effects of prayer and forgiveness on his patients, the nurses, his colleagues, and himself.

The novel calls for a greater reliance and worship of our gracious God. Even when trials arise, with unexpected complications and circumstances causing stroke and permanent brain damage, Levy shows his daily dependency on our sovereign Creator through constant prayer. Even though there were times when he felt angry at God for allowing his inadequacies to cause his patients suffering, the ultimate response is praise to our Father, who holds all things together for His own glory (Col. 1:17). We just need to trust Him.

Reflecting upon finishing the book, I definitely had moments that caused me to worship Him all the more. A sudden and dramatic turn of events or unexpected responses led me to praise Him for His sovereignty. One such moment (hopefully without giving too many spoilers) is when Levy is confronted by one of the nurses after he decides to begin praying for his patients in their presence. Instead of receiving negative criticism, she asks him to let her and other nurses know whenever he begins to pray for a patient. Moments like those held my breath until I realized the power of prayer and the power of our sovereign God, and then I’ll release it comforted in that knowledge of the most High and holy.

The book reminded me to constantly bathe everything in prayer, showing our ultimate dependency in our daily lives on our sole provider, Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:6). In the end, whether the outcome is good or bad, it’s all for His increased glory, honor, and praise.

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CYIA 2012

Ever since my transition to college from home, I’ve felt that I have grown in so many ways due to the new college environment and being able to spend time fellowshipping with and learning from those at Grace Community Church and Grace On Campus. But upon coming back to CYIA, I realized that I’ve really been in a sheltered environment of security and safety where I can cultivate my walk with God. Chasing after God isn’t all butterflies and dandelions, like it is for me at UCLA. Relatively.

A weeklong retreat-style conference which trains young adults in evangelizing children, Christian Youth In Action is a highlight for my summers. Being able to gather and fellowship with friends that I only see once a year is a blessing in itself. Seeing them faithfully proclaim God’s work in their own lives is a huge encouragement to me as well. But unlike me, where I can grow in my faith in a safe and enjoyable college environment, others that attend camp are not as blessed.

One of my cabin mates fights daily with respecting his father, a pragmatic Christian who “is a Christian when it’s convenient”, as a friend puts it. Not that he doesn’t want to honor him. But when his father buys into some of the lies and deceit that Satan pours into his heart and beliefs, it’s difficult for my cabin mate to show his respect for his father while still pointing him in the way of Truth. His struggles in living out his beliefs at home overflow to requests for prayer while he was in our cabin. One such plea to our God is his ability to be baptized, which he “wants to obey and follow so bad, if it weren’t for his father’s restrictions. Most people take it for granted that they have parents that allow them to be baptized!” he shared with us in tears.

Still others have even rougher home conditions. A fellow camper shared his story about the night when his younger brother pulled out a large meat-cutting knife on his mother and father. Still others relate stories of molest, abandonment, drug addictions, and depression. The list is endless.

But the most amazing thing is to see how God constantly draws them back to Himself. In the midst of their sin and their struggles, our gracious Lord and Savior brings them even closer to Him, as their Guard and Protector. He has become the solid Rock that they stand upon, and their dependency on Him and the sufficiency they find in following Him encourages me in my walk, as well as increases my view of the One who gives grace so freely.

It is impossible to hear their testimonies and their stories without praising our Father who is so faithful and mighty to save those who are so willing to give up everything for Him. This week has truly given me a reminder of those who suffer in taking their cross daily to follow Him, and the rewards of their doing so.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name

On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand!

The Solid Rock, Hymn

Resolved 2012

I almost didn’t make it to this conference.

Originally, when the conference was first announced, I didn’t have much interest in attending at all. Additionally, I would be finishing CYIA camp that same day, and I didn’t feel that it’d profit me to go. I figured that it’d be better just to take some time to relax at home and prepare myself for the rest of summer.

But when I looked into the opportunity to go, I saw God’s providence in my ability to make attending the conference work. Before I had known that it would be the last Resolved conference ever, I decided that I wanted to give it a go.

There is zero regret in that decision.

Through the amazing expository preaching from Austin Duncan, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, Rick Holland, Steve Lawson, and CJ Mahaney, I definitely grew a deeper passion and convictions on my view of the church. Particularly, two take-aways I had after the conference is conviction on my own self-righteous view of perfection in the church and an expanded view of potential future pastoral ministry.

1. Ever since attending Grace Community Church and Grace On Campus in the fall of freshman year, I’ve been blessed to be under the pastorship and ministry of John MacArthur, Austin Duncan, Enfield, and Chris Gee week after week. Their ever faithful preaching of God’s Word and their strict adherence to the literal-grammatical interpretation of the Word has caused me to become very critical of my own home church’s view of Scripture and the way they exposite it. This, in addition to my criticism of the worship music they play, caused me to turn hard-hearted towards the possibility of learning anything from my church at home. I became prideful through my growth at Grace On Campus and Grace Church, almost developing a “holier-than-Thou” attitude towards my friends and family because of the major differences I saw between Grace Church and Bridges Community Church/ Fremont Chinese Evangelical Free Church.

Through convictions throughout the year, namely Spring Retreat, as well as the messages from Resolved, I realized my sin in this area of my life and am working on repenting from that. Mahaney preached from Philippians 2:12-16 and emphasized that no church is perfect, but that instead we should be looking at the fruit of the labor of God who works tirelessly and restlessly in sanctifying His church, and giving Him the glory for doing so. By drawing attention to the grace exemplified in the lives around me in the church, God can be glorified. And as presented by Tony Payne, in the end, “it’s not about me… stupid.”

2. As I prayerfully considering pursuing seminary in the future (either near or further down the road), I have had my eyes opened to the role of pastors in the church. They have an extremely difficult job: they are responsible for the souls of the sheep of which they minister to. They will be accountable to God for the ministry that they perform and any heresy and misleading on the pastor’s part ultimately affects the eternity of the congregation. At the same time, it is the utmost priority for him to faithfully minister in the grace that God has granted to him. I heard this quote from CYIA camp, although I can’t cite the original author of this: “God can bestow no greater compliment than to place His book into your hands and call you, ‘teacher’.” If this is my true calling in the future, would I be faithful in this pursuit? Can I manage the responsibility of having the stewardship of the souls of another? There are eternal implications to my ministry should I fail.

Encompassing both points is balancing my love for doctrine with my love for the Lord. Jonathan Rourke reminded me from Rev. 2:1-7 that even though my doctrine may be great, comprehensive, and true, my lack of passion and love for my Creator is my sin that I need to repent from as well. With great classes like Intro to Systematic Theology offered through Grace On Campus and the great expository preaching I receive every week, it has become so easy to form solid doctrine and beliefs, and to concentrate on that aspect of Christianity and Christian living. But I feel that through it, somewhere, I lost my undying passion to live for Him and to love Him beyond all else.

My ultimate resolve? To faithfully pursue future ministry through my own study of Scripture and my love for my Creator. More specifically:

1. To consistently grow through “grace-motivated, consistent application of Scripture and learning over several months or years” (Mahaney).
2. To further recognize the power and work of God and His grace in those around me, especially in the context of my church, and to cultivate that through the ministry that I can offer through my growth at Grace. 

This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. -John 17:3 NASB

Oh, that I may know and love Him more.

“Job the Film” (NR)

We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

-James 5:11 NASB

So many times have I prayed or told others that “God is sovereign” and that “God is good”. But little did I understand how sovereign and good he actually is. And little do I still.

We just finished viewing “Job the Film”, a “short, dramatic poetic narration of the account of Job, complete with accompanying images” (That was Albert + my combined, deliberated, and ultimately formed description of the short). It recounts the story of Job, who, amidst trials, suffering and difficulty did not fail to remain steadfast to the goodness and grace shown to him by God.

After watching the whole clip, two main questions stuck out to me and convicted me:
1. What does it mean when “God is good”? Do we really and truly believe that “in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17 NASB) and that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28 NASB)? In the midst of his pain, Job never wavered from his unfailing trust on the Most High. Even when Job went through his suffering he still saw the blessings that God even still poured out onto him. And that encourages me to endure for the sake of holiness and to truly trust in God’s sovereignty and goodness and grace that He extended to me; even at the cross, where I still turned away while He showed ultimate kindness to me.
2. What does it mean when “all I have is Christ”? When all is stripped away from me, do I cling to the fact that Christ is all I have, and Christ is all I need? Job went from a state of being ever blessed to being “ever cursed” in the eyes of his wife and his friends, and yet he stood solid on the fact that even when he has nothing, he still has Christ to sustain him. Could I say the same about myself when I am brought down from the highest to the lowest point in my life, with nothing to cling to except for my God?

May I constantly remember and pray the psalmist’s prayer, that “Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Ps. 73:25-26). May I be reminded of the ever-abounding mercy and grace shown to me even in the midst of my failings and my struggles. May I belong to the Lord and abide in Him, and may He be my only want and need.