Being Loved: Affirmation

Y’all, it has been a busy month. After nearly three months of writing at least one post a week, I’ve been away from this website for nearly four weeks. To quote perpetual troublemaker Farris Bueller, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” I’ve not written for lack of topics or ideas, but rather because I’ve been elsewhere. At work, serving at church, attending rehearsals, having game nights, spending a week sick with a sinus infection, etc. Life has been full of things vying for my attention. However, I am back with something to write about. Allowing people to love on myself and to build me up.

I love loving on people! Words of affirmation are one of the ways in which I love on people, however… I’m not very good at allowing people to love on me in the same way. A friend of mine paid me a compliment at lunch yesterday with some peers, and I did not accept it properly. It’s odd to try to explain, but I definitely did not fully allow this person to love on me. Why? I don’t know. I’m awkward sometimes. Anyway, I was thinking about it after I got home from lunch and felt convicted. I had robbed someone the joy of building me up. Of speaking into my life. I felt bad, because I enjoy loving people. Weirdly.

Before I stepped up and took on my faith as my own, I despised people. I hated them. I had no love for anyone. Myself included. God, in His sometimes ironic ways, changed my life and set me on a new path. One of the ways in which God changed me was by instilling within me a desire to love people. To genuinely love them. To speak life into others and to build them up. So when I poorly received somebody else’s love, I felt foolish. I was wrong, even though I did not outright wrong someone. I was wrong for not being willing to allow someone to build me up.

So this evening at rehearsal, I apologized to this person because I was in the wrong. They totally understood and made sure to let me know that I had nothing to apologize for. Through this conversation, we noted how odd it can be to accept someone else’s affirmation when we’re accustomed to being to one giving out affirmation. Honestly y’all, it really is odd. Like when you’re the person people come to for advice and how you feel like an alien when you’re having to ask others for advice. It feels like something isn’t fitting properly. Like a glove too big or small for your hand or a shoe that is too small. It’s awkward! Throughout the course of the night however, as this rehearsal continued, I could only thing about how much I love all of the people around me. The community God has placed me within.

From the people that I’ve known for years, to the strangers walking in the door for the first time. I love each and every one of them for different reasons. Sometimes for reasons I do not know, but still feel nonetheless. There are some I know intimately, whose company is vital in keeping me inline, and those who I am still attempting to get to know on a deeper level. Some I hardly know at all, but I seek ways to love them irregardless. Whether through a game of four square with invisible lines at the front of the auditorium, laughter over a game of cucumber at IHOP, over serious discussions in small groups, and so forth I seek to love people. But what I need to improve at, is allowing people to love me. To not have my guard so high up that I keep people out. To not steal the joy from others who are sharing God’s love with me.

Some lessons have to be learned through reflection. From seeing where we are in the wrong. I’m thankful that I can see that I need to improve here, and am willing to work on it. I hope this post makes some sense, as I’m really rambling here. Having abstract thoughts make writing a tad difficult, but I’m writing anyway. Thank you for reading, and as always:

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

Fleeing Discouragement

This evening has been a struggle, a battle really. The enemy has tried his best to drum up every bit of doubt and discouragement that he can muster within me. While I am not unaccustomed to going through periods of sadness or depression, this is something different. The last couple of months have been the precursor to change. This past weekend, my mother graduated with her Master’s degree in Theological Studies, we celebrated the Dean of my school’s resignation, and I’ve gone through the process of transferring schools. Seasons of change are inherently prone to uncertainty. I am not surprised that the enemy has taken this opportunity to attack me. God has been affirming me and working on my behalf to put things in order.

God has done a great deal of work in my life over the last year in order to further my growth and devotion to Him. I very recently became a co-leader of my college small group, I made preparations to finish my undergraduate degree, and have begun setting better habits in my spiritual walk. Through all of this, God has been providing and encouraging me. I just registered for a couple summer classes at Liberty so I may continue making progress. I still have no idea how I am going to pay for my education. While not much more expensive than my previous school, I am having to cover much, much more of it. Enter the enemy, who has spent much of this afternoon trying to stir up discouragement, uncertainty. Doubt.

He’s whispering every lie possible to turn my gaze away from God. You’re never going to finish school, Terren. You can’t afford it. Nobody is going to help cover the cost of your education. You’ll never get out of your parents house. You’ll never have a fulfilling life. You’ll never meet someone, have love, or whatnot. Lies that are entirely bogus, but not out of the realm of impossibility. The enemy is speaking through my insecurity, the areas where I have some second thoughts. Speaking through things that I am not entirely certain about. For what purpose? To distract me from the truth that God provides abundantly.

I bought a hammock last week with the purpose of using it to relax, but also to retreat into God’s creation and spend time with Him. While I spend a marginal amount of time at my house during the week when I’m not sleeping, the enemy likes to attack when I’m away from people. I have begun to take full advantage of being amongst God’s creation as creation speaks of the God who created it all. Away from my television, my computer, my phone, my gaming consoles, I am among the structured universe and the God who created it. This has been greatly beneficial for me, because I have to be purposeful in setting my tent up between the trees and then clearing my mind of every thought and idea that shoot endlessly between neurons. I am quite the over-thinker, and I have to discipline myself not to think. This has resulted in having conversations with God in a very different means than I am accustomed.

Instead of presenting a petition, I’ve just told God, “Hey, I’m going to just sit here and if You’d like to speak, then I’ll listen. But for now, I’m just going to sit here with you.” I can’t begin to explain to y’all the wave of peace that crashed over me. After some time, I’ll then begin to converse with God about some of the things that are in my mind. I don’t want to say that it is a casual conversation, but rather spoken like you would with a friend with whom you speak slowly and intimately and fully listen before response is had. As I’ve made purposeful, intentional efforts to deepen my relationship with the Father, I am not surprised that the enemy is attempting to disrupt that.

This evening I went and set up my hammock and shortly thereafter my mother came out to check on me, as it was apparent that something was amiss. Instead of stewing in the lies the enemy was spewing, I fled to where I would not be able to sit in it. I went and prayed. I went out and went to God to thank Him for all the He has provided. My heart poured out in overwhelming thanksgiving because God’s hand has been on my life for so so long and I have not always appreciated it. I have not been overtaken and the Father has set my life on a path of which He will use to bring glory back to Himself. I know that this path is far, far better than any one that I have imagined.

So if there is a lesson to be taken away from this, flee from sin. Flee from the enemy. Enter into the presence of God, sit and bask in His might and glory! Trust in His provision and know that He is for you, not against you.

Grace and peace,

Terren-It-Up

Dating: An Evaluation

The purpose in dating has changed dramatically in recent memory and has given rise to a minefield of potential problem areas if not navigated cautiously. The rules of engagement when it pertains to dating have also become lacking in clarity. Where one would have to go to the person of their affection’s home to state their intentions and ask for permission has now been replaced by the swiping through of images on dating apps based on basic, superficial indicators. Additionally, the rise of casual sex and the hookup culture present additional hurdles in the consideration of the dating relationship. This brave new world of dating presents Christians with a plethora of obstacles and dangers to navigate as they step into the season of relationships. What is the purpose of dating and how what does it reveal about God’s character and blessing?


I, as I have previously made clear, have never dated. I’ve been single my whole life, which is absolutely fine by me. I bring this up for transparency’s sake. I do not claim to be an expert on the topic nor do I have any experience in this area. However, I have learned under both great authors and Biblical thinkers as well as gained insight from mentors and friends as they have gone through this season. Thus, while I stand on the shoulders of people like Ben Stuart, Solomon, and other pastors, I hope to present an accurate summation of this season of life from the perspective of the Christian life. Furthermore, this is also not a guide to how to date or how to get a date. I don’t know how to get a date… Soooooooooo… if you will allow me, let us begin Y’all.


When we think of dating in the Christian culture, one of a few scenarios come to mind:

The Forever Alone,

Waiting to Find the Equally Yoked Phase:

Equally Yoked

Or…

The Forms of Christian Dating:

Christian Dating


Memes asides, Christian dating may be a slightly awkward stage to be in. Thankfully scripture gives us some valuable wisdom when it comes to our relationships, romantic or not. However, before determining the purpose of dating within the Christian life we must first examine the human nature. We are selfish, sinful creatures. Period. We have a need to fill that bottomless, God-sized hole in our lives which we will turn to a myriad of things to temporarily fill. As Ben Stuart made emphatically clear “where there is scarcity, desperation will set in.” Stuart’s point is that when we are without a source of life, we will use whatever we can get our sense of fulfill out of to temporarily sate our desires. Be it sex, drugs, money, things, people, etc. If we lack a source of life, we will, in desperation, find our fulfillment wherever we can get it. This extends to our approach to dating. If we approach it in the wrong state of mind, we will use and exploit people to fill our selfish desires. So let’s get one thing absolutely clear, Y’all. There is no single person who can ever fill the God-sized hole in your life. Period. Apart from Jesus, nobody will give you everything you are lacking. If you place that expectation on your friends, the person you are dating, or the person you’re looking to marry, then you are placing a weight upon that person that they cannot even attempt to carry! So let us be absolutely clear, no singular person will ever meet your every need, so do not place that sort of expectation on your relationships. When this occurs, then your relationships are set forth on a path of destruction and injury.

So what purpose does dating serve within the Christian life? Evaluation. Who is him or her? Does he or she love Jesus? Does their life reflect the change evident of someone who has given their live over to God? Do they serve others? Do they honor their parents? Do they encourage others? Who are they? That is the purpose in dating, to evaluate whether or not this person is someone with whom you are willing to join in a covenantal relationship before God with. Song of Songs (Solomon) gives use a fairly clear understanding of what this looks like. Song of Songs begins with the initial attraction between King Solomon and his beloved and moves through their evaluation of one another and ends in their marriage. Throughout the poetic language used throughout the book are tidbits of information that reveal a bit about culture and relationships. So let us imagine that you are interested in someone, you’re curiosity has been peeked. Is this person someone who wanders in search of things to fill their live with a sense of meaning, or do they wait upon God to give them what they need? Are they a wanderer or a waiter? Song of Songs gives us some insight into what this looks like.

“Tell me, you whom my soul loves, where you pasture your flock, where you make it lie down at noon; for why should I be like one who veils herself beside the flocks of your companions?” -Song of Songs 1:7 ESV

Timothy Ateek (T.A.), former director of Vertical Ministries at Baylor University and current director of Breakaway Ministries at Texas A&M, makes note that historically at the time that Song of Songs was written that prostitutes would veil themselves and go out and wander around waiting for a man to give her an invitation (Vertical Ministries Podcast). The woman in Song of Songs asks why should she be like those who wander around looking for the attention and affection for other men? She understands the value of waiting for Solomon instead of seeking out the approval of these other men. For Christians, we want our prospective significant others to wait for the Lord to tell them when to move. This is important as it reveals a willingness to be patient given whatever situation is before them. Why? Because when we wander and seek out our own ends it reveals our doubt in God’s ability to address the matter. If we are unwilling to be patient as the Lord sets a path before us, we reveal that our trust resides in our own abilities.

We also see that she wants to be where Solomon is, the attraction between the two is mutual. Matt Chandler highlights in his book The Mingling of Souls, “She wants to hang out in a more meaningful way. And of course, it’s quite natural for a relationship to grow in this way. We can call this the dating stage.” She wants to get to know Solomon better and see where this relationship is headed. We get to see how Solomon responds:

“If you do not know, O most beautiful among women, follow in the tracks of the flock, and pasture your young goats beside the shepherds’ tents. I compare you, my love, to a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots. Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments, your neck with strings of jewels.” -Song of Songs 1:8-10 ESV

Solomon tells her where she may find him and also affirms her through his compliment to her. This reveals to us the clear communication between the two. While they are not playing games with one another. He is not hiding from her to tease her, nor is he flirting meaninglessly. He affirms his attraction for her as well! We ought to be clear in our intentions and our communication with one another. This has the benefit of, first, keeping our actions from being questioned, and, secondly, from leaving room for misunderstanding. One of the issues with dating today is the vague nature in which we talk to potential dates. Do we call them? Do we text them? When we do ask them out do we call it a date? Do we just ask them to hang out? What does it all mean? Men, do not beat around the bush when stating your intentions. If you’re looking to ask a girl out, be a man and call it what it is. A date. Why? Because you do not leave her on a wire to guess what the purpose and intention you have. Is she getting ready to hang out with you and your friends or are y’all about to go to dinner and a movie? Does she need to call her best friends over to help her get ready for you, or does she need to show up casually? This extends even further after you do have a date. If you had a good time, then make sure to tell her and if you’re interested in a second date be sure to make it known before the date is over. Proverbs offers some wisdom in this:

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.” -Proverbs 15:28 ESV

Communicating clearly has great benefit to us in keeping us free from presenting ourselves falsely. Therefore we must think about how we’re going to talk to not only the person we’re pursuing but also those whom we come into contact with. No matter the circumstances or situation, our words must be carefully chosen so that we may not be taken out of context and may be free from distortion. This also applied when things are no going well. If it is clear that you and your date are not in the same vein then it is vital that it is communicated.

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” -Proverbs 27:5 ESV

“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” -Proverbs 16:24 ESV

Even when things are not ideal and we must make the hard choice to break things off, we are capable of speaking in love and affirming one another. Even when a relationship comes to an end, we as believers are capable and ought to build up one another. Unfortunately, as can be seen in Hollywood films which play up the drama, breakups can be quite the ordeal. When we mingle together and give parts of ourselves away before we should which results in a period of hurt from separation. Not unlike the feelings of withdrawal experienced when we remove caffeine or sugar from our diets. The last thing we as believers want is to give our hearts out in pieces. While we are healed, redeemed, and made new through the blood and sacrifice of Christ Jesus the pains of giving away of our hearts to those who do not deserve it can be lingering. Amanda Cook and Steffany Gretzinger of Bethel Music have a hauntingly moving song called Pieces which details the differences and shortcomings of human love versus God’s faithful, pure love for us.



I am keenly aware of the means by which they describe the relationships we experience between one another, particularly in a romantic sense. Phrases like love not being shy hints at people who closet their relationships and minimize the nature of their relationships. Stanzas of love being afraid to be seen with the significant other allude to hurts experienced at the hands of someone else. Then someone hiding themselves away to tease the recipient of someone’s affections makes it clear that there have been questions in the intentions of that person who ghosted them. Unfortunately, this is not a problem exclusive to any one sex.

As we pursue dating, we must have boundaries and expectations set and agreed upon to keep one another away from anything that would hurt or call one another’s character into question. In all honesty, by setting boundaries and keeping one another above reproach, you may effectively evaluate the potential in the relationship moving forward without placing one another in compromising situations. This is not to suggest that there will not be temptations or trials, especially as the relationship moves to be more and more serious. Fortunately, by doing so we are respecting the integrity and wellbeing of the other person. In the process of dating the result, whether moving toward marriage or in separating, ought to be glorifying to God and respecting the inherent priceless value His creation. This is what Paul asserts when he writes to Timothy giving instruction to the church at Ephesus:

Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

-1 Timothy 5:1-2 ESV

Why ought we treat women as mothers and sisters? Because they are made in the image of God and He has given them a value beyond what we could ever pay. I am not suggesting that women have monetary value, but rather the God has imbued value because they are His creation. Who are we to disrespect God’s creation? Who are we not to treat the people around us with dignity and respect especially in the pursuit of dating? We, as followers of Jesus, have a prerogative to assure that our romantic endeavors are honoring of God and that we are not compromising in character. We have no room to have a reputation of compromise. This is not the kind of compromise where we’re reaching common ground in a argument or in the decision of where to eat lunch. This kind of compromise is the kind that calls ours or their characters into question. We must live lives that are above reproach.

See, dating is not entirely about evaluating the person you’re looking to pursue, but a large portion of dating is self-evaluation. Are you tendering to your own garden? Are you allow God to prune away what is not necessary or dead? Your life is your garden, and while you’re not going to have a perfectly tendered garden are you allowing Jesus to come in an work in it? Are you willing to let the one who died for your sins to come in are show you where you’re falling short? We are very capable of looking at other people’s lives and making judgements upon them. We can look and compare our gardens to one another’s but that does not mean that because theirs is in a less well kept state that your’s is superior. By tending to our own gardens and faithfully allowing God to work within us, we may be able to be above reproach and evaluate where we stand. So where do you stand? Is your garden a mess? Does it need to be weeded so that what is beneficial may breathe and grow? Let me make note of this now while we are on this topic: You may of the mindset that you need to wait until your life is in perfect order before you should start dating. You may think that it is best to start dating once you’ve gotten your degree, gotten that adult job, gotten a house, and are financially stable. The issue is the false sense of security that comes with the appearance of having things in order. Let me caution y’all that nothing is ever guaranteed apart from the salvation that is found in Jesus. Life can flip in an instant and everything that you have put stock into like a job, a degree, a house, and so forth can disappear without warning. So I would not suggest that you make worldly milestones as your gauge as to when to pursue a relationship. Rather I recommend leaning upon God to tell you when the time is right. Even now, implying that you are single as I am, ask God to partner with you in this endeavor! Ask God to walk with you as you move from singleness into dating and then ask God to partner with you in your relationship! If we’re going to step into a season of life where two broken people are looking to move to becoming one, what better step is there to take than one with God?

For Christians, I believe that there is immense wisdom in asking God to partner with us in all of our relationships both romantic or plutonic. Let us not forget that God was the one who first made relationship with Adam and then relationship between Adam and Eve. Who knows more than God who is in constant relationship with Himself? Meaning that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (The Trinity) are in relationship with one another. Always in communication with each office and working with one another. You may have trouble wrapping your mind around that one and the theological implications thereof, but know that God is in relationship with Himself just as you are with your friends and family. Additionally, in keeping ourselves above reproach and accountable, surround yourself with friends who know you well enough to be invested in your relationships! Friends who are not afraid to confront you when you are in the wrong or in a relationship that is going no where. Friend who live out what we see in Proverbs 27:5 (seen above). Surround yourself with people who know you intimately enough to know when you are slipping and be willing to listen when they come to you with concerns. You may be surprised when they come to you in total support of your relationship! A sign that you are moving in the right direction!

This is what dating is for, to evaluate yourself and the person you’re looking to engage with. Are they following Jesus? Does their life reflect the change that comes from surrendering your life to Jesus? Does your life reflect Jesus? Are you pursuing God? Are you growing deeper? Are you standing idle? I do not know where you stand, but I know that we must first evaluate where we stand with God before we even consider a relationship beyond that with God. Why? Because we must first get our relationship with God right before we will ever get relationships with others right. This is abundantly clear when John expounds in 1 John 4:

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. -1 John 4:13-21 ESV

We can only know what love is because God loved us first. God did not blindly create us, He crafted us. The act of forming us within our mother’s wombs is in itself an act of love! God sending His son, Jesus, to live among us, to be made flesh, and reveal to us what God has done and to die on the cross for the sins of all, is an act of love! Only through God can we know love and only through God can we know how to love others! We love because God first loved us. A simple statement bursting with encouragement for the follower of Christ. God is so, so good, Y’all! Do y’all know that? Do y’all believe that? Do you trust that God loves you? This is why it is vital that we get our relationship with God right before considering any other relationship! Because apart from God we are nothing. We are dead in sin set on a path of self destructiveness. As Ben Stuart illustrated to be a source of life, you must have a source of life. To be a source of life every relationship you find yourself in, you must first have a source of life found in God.


Having said all of this, I once again make clear that I have not dated before. I have no experience in this area. I stand on the shoulders of scripture and great theological minds and pastors who have made an effort to address the heartbreak that stems from romantic relationships that have gone wrong and to affirm the perfect love that comes from God. Despite my inexperience, I know what I look for when considering a relationship, and I’d like to present a few of them here. Why? Because they’re important questions to have raised and they also reflect back on myself. So if I’ve going to consider pursuing somebody’s heart I must consider a few of these things.

Firstly, does she love Jesus? Is she submitting to the authority of God and living a life that reveals Christ to others? As I stated, these questions also apply to myself. Do I love Jesus? Am I submitting to the authority of God and conducting my life so that others see Christ through me?

Secondly, who is she around her friends? Who is she around authority figures? Who is she when she thinks nobody is looking? Who is she when times are going well? When times are going poorly? Is there consistency? Does her character waiver from different scenarios or is she consistent throughout? Does she rely upon God when things are difficult? Does she worship when things are beyond what was expected? Am I the same around my friends as I am around my mentors? Am I the same when life is tough as when life is easy? Do I rely upon God when things are poor and do I give thanks and worship God for the blessing He pours out on me?

Thirdly, is she encouraging to others? Does she build other’s up? Do I seek out to build up others and encourage them in their walks with Christ?

Fourth, how does she handle gossip? Does she put an end to it? Does she stand up for what’s right? Do I reject gossip and seek to defend whomever the gossip is about?

Fifth, is she patient? Does she wait for God or does she wander? Where does jump to conclusions or wait until she has an understanding before acting? How do I handle patience? Do I flee to what will provide instant gratification or do I wait for God to reward my faithfulness? Do I wait while God puts things in order and am I faithful to follow when God says to move?

Sixth, is she hospitable? Does she reach out to others? Does she go out of her way to meet people where they are at and make an effort to include them? Does she serve others? Do I meet people where they are at? Do I make an effort to make them feel welcome and included? Am I willing to serve them?

These are just a few things that yield very important implications when evaluating not only a prospective date but ourselves. Why? Because they reveal character. They reveal where we are with God. Are we faithful followers who are consistent throughout every season of life or are we wandering freely and changing as quickly as the seasons do. If it is the former, then there is evidence of the work of Christ in them. If it is the later, then there is evidence of something lacking. Why is this important? Because consistency now gives evidence of how they will be should you get married. Let’s think about the traditional wedding vows. For better or worse. Are you and this person going to be consistent when life is tough and unbearable as when life is going well and prosperous? In sickness and in health. Are you and this person going to be consistent when time goes by and illness sets in as when you’re free from disease? For richer or poorer. Are you and this person going to be consistent when there is some monetary security as when there is none? To love and cherish. Are you and this person going to be consistent in loving one another when the effects of age and gravity have taken hold and the outward appearance moves away from its youthfulness? Are you going to cherish them for who they are when the physical aspects are no longer what they were. Till death do us part. Are you going to commit yourselves to consistency in the commitment to one another? This last one is the biggest question that lingers beyond vow exchanged in a wedding ceremony. It is a question that needs to be answered near the time of engagement. Why? Because the vow being made here at the end till death do us part is a commitment of bonding together until death separates us. Not life, not money, not sickness, not beauty, not strength will separate us. Only death. This is the convenient of marriage. A union that bonds two people into one in the eyes of God. This is why when we are dating, we must be evaluating who we are and who the other person is. That is the purpose in dating. Not for a good time. Not for companionship. Not for exploitation. Not for satisfaction. To evaluate the prospects of a lifelong commitment.

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

Infinite Interruption: A Spiritual War

I went out with my friends last night after bible study to go see the first movie of the summer movie season, Avengers Infinity War. By all accounts the experience ought to have been the intense culmination of a decade long build up to this movie. However, what would transpire would greatly affect the way I viewed the film and would spark the inspiration of this post. Firstly, I am a huge nerd and film buff. From the moment we took our seats it was apparent that something was off with the picture quality of the projector. As someone who works in the media field, I noticed a stark lacking in the reds and greens. Ok, I can live with it. Yet, about two thirds of the way through the film, the projector decided that it had had enough and blew up. The sound died, the picture faded into the darkness, and an uproar began. Now, I’ve had projectors go out on me before in the middle of a showing so this was nothing odd. The theater did what they could to accommodate us for our troubles and did give us passes to see the movie again if we so wanted. So myself and my friends sat in the 3/4ths full theater for roughly forty-five minutes while they worked on the projector. The movie returned and as I left the theater I was struck by the stark lacking in feeling toward the movie and it was entirely due to the stark interruption of the projector going out! Why? Because for two hours the film had begun to build up tension and anticipation, expectation and excitement. When the movie was interrupted all those internal feelings had time to fade away and changed the way in which the movie impacted me. All in all, by the time I had left the theater I had been up for twenty-two hours and I was struck with one thought… For the follower of Christ, our outlook is based on the narrative we’ve planned for ourselves and when something comes along to interrupt and disrupt that path we lose our sense of understanding.

We all have plans for ourselves and very little do we foresee the challenges and obstacles that we will face in those plans. God, too, has plans for you and I and He works to place us upon the better path. Sometimes God is included in our plans, other times we try to place Him off to the side as if we know better than the one who created everything. In the Christian walk we will face obstacles and we have one of two ways of responding: acceleration and stagnation. Our basis of judging our walks with Christ is largely based on emotional, anecdotal evidences. We compare ourselves with those around us and their walks with Christ and try to measure up. You are not on the same walk that I am on, we may be heading in the same direction, toward the same God, but you and I are not the same persons with the same struggles. Comparison is just one of many hurdles that we must overcome as we move through life. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize just how little my expectations match reality. Even as someone who has been walking with God for the better part of my life, I see that my plans are nowhere near where God’s are. I’ve also struggled with reconciling the differences between what I plan and want versus what God has given and ordained. So what does this have to do with a movie and a projector blowing up? When life does not meet our expectations, when an obstacle stands in our path, we must respond in turn. How is it that we choose to respond to such crisis?

See, you and I can both be making progress in our spiritual walks. Life is good, we’re feeling it. We’re raising both hands up in worship at service cause we’re just totally engrossed with the things of God at the moment, but then something happens the next day that shakes up the groove you’ve been in and it throws everything off. A coworker is gossiping about you for some reason or other, your car gets towed, college is swamping you with work, a close friend betrayed your confidence, etc. Things happen all the time! Far too quickly does our focus shift from God to whatever this obstacle is and we stop. We shut down! Our focus is drawn onto the issue and we wallow in it, we live in it. We are consumed by the problem. When this happens, we begin to lose feeling toward the things of God. Why? Because we put God on the back burner until we’ve gotten around, under, or over the problem. My friend Alex sent me a message on Instagram, since I posted about the projector imploding, that read, “They gotta make the war last an infinity somehow.” Her comment was in reference to the movie, but it spoke straight to me regarding this topic. We are the they in that statement. We gotta make whatever disruption is vying for our attention last as long as possible. Why? Because the enemy wants our attention away from God! Y’all, spiritual warfare is a very real thing and I say this not to alarm you, because of you are a believer then you know this already.

Whether the enemy attacks in our plans by interrupting the direction we were heading, or by filling our minds with doubt, self-consciousness, fear, insecurity. The enemy, Satan, will do whatever he can to shift our focus away from God. Like the projector going out and disrupting the movie, the enemy attempts to throw off our sense of progress and connection to God. The momentum that we felt as we were walking with God, praying endlessly, rejoicing freely, worshiping thankfully becomes immediately more difficult and far off. Like taking three steps forward and four steps back. The irony is that Satan will throw something small and petty out there in front of us knowing that we will make a mountain out of a pebble and we will stray away from the path God has set us. See the projector going off and sitting in the theater for an extra forty-five minutes was not a big deal. Yes, it was inconvenient, but not that big of a deal. It was minor annoyance but one that allowed for laugher to be shared. I enjoyed the movie in spite of the inconvenience. So why do we become some hindered by pebbles? Why do we allow the obstacle to “last an infinity?”

Now, there are huge, big, enormous obstacles that we will face in life and those will take time for us to navigate and summit. Yet most obstacles we face and make convoluted ordeals out of are just pebbles that we could easily hurdle and propel further in our spiritual walks. Fortunately, God never leaves us even when we stagnate and focus in on the small things when we should be looking beyond them. Frankly, we can see over the pebbles without much concern as we hurdle over them and begin to measure us to the mountains that we will face. Along the way as we keep focus on the bigger issues, God is preparing us for the more pressing of matters. We must have faith in the training God has and is giving us as we overcome the issues in life. I’m not much of an athlete but I excel in a few areas. One area that I do not thrive in is running/cross country/etc. But I think of a sprinter running 100 meters with hurdles. How odd would it be if they stopped at each hurdle and contemplated every aspect of  the matter instead of leaping over it? They wouldn’t gain much momentum in that process. However, if they were to leap over each hurdle they would indeed gain momentum and let’s say that the last hurdle is far taller than all the rest. Which sprinter would have the momentum to properly clear the final, taller hurdle? Definitely not the one who took 15 minutes at each hurdle and tried to think their way around its existence. Yet we can be that person, sitting in the issue before us no matter how easy we could overcome it and we just lost momentum.

The Christian life does not need to be a stop go affair like traffic on I-35. We willingly make it that way. So when God, the enemy, or life throws us for a loop we can have the discipline to adapt on the fly and maintain the momentum to keep moving forward no matter the trial that stands before us. Nothing can stand in our way because God has already won and has already given us what we need to succeed! We do not need to even glance down at the petty pebbles Satan tries to catch our attention with, we just need to dedicate and devote ourselves to God!


So that is how one movie going experience sparked my mind and the thinks of God. I know it is unorthodox, but you never know when inspiration will spark. Sometimes it comes in the form of a projector dying and a friend making a playful remark about a Marvel movie.

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

Unending Faithfulness: God Provides

Today, I took my final steps down the staircase leading into Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. For four years, I’ve made weekly trips to the campus to learn under incredible men who serve as both educators and pastors. I’ve spent countless hours engaged with learning about God, history, and practical ministry in a place that is unlike any other classroom environment. I have gained immeasurable insight and wisdom when it comes to the ministerial vocation and have gain a greater appreciation for the wholeness of Scripture. God has brought me through many difficult seasons and has given me a place full of friends who have helped to shape me into who I am today. God has also provided. About a month ago, it was revealed to me that there were going to be some changes occurring with the school. Despite being over two-thirds of the way through my Bachelors of Science in Biblical Studies, the path the school is headed in would require me to take another four more years to complete my 125 hour degree plan. While taking eight years to complete my undergraduate degree is not nearly a terrible thing; it is quite illogical and not responsible. So last month, I inquired with Liberty University about transferring to their School of Divinity to complete my degree with their Biblical and Theological Studies. Throughout all of my time in college, God has been faith and has provided in amazing ways for myself and my family, and now as I pursue a new course God has already begun to show His unwavering faithfulness and provision!

When I graduated high school many, many years ago… like more than five but less than fifteen… I had no means of going to college. I had applied to ever major university across Texas. Sam Houston State, University of Houston, Texas State, Texas A&M, etc. When it came time at the end of my senior year to make a decision, I was left with no means of moving forward. At that time I had no idea how I was going to make things work. The obvious choice would be to go to community college, but even at 40 hour work weeks at minimum wage this was not very feasible. Two years passed before God would answer the need for further educated. My mom lost her job! Yeah, through my mother losing her job I was able to go back to school. How? She got hired by the school which enabled myself and my siblings, who had all graduated by this point, to go to school. God really meets us in unexpected ways and is faithful to give us exactly what we need when it is most appropriate. At the time I started school, I had no desire to study theology. I viewed it as more of a history degree rather than a religious study. I also had no choice in what I studied as I had limited options. Yet, a degree is better than no degree, so I began to slowly get back into the process of education. I was in for far, far more than I anticipated!

For the first couple semesters, I worked full-time and took classes part-time. From the get go, my professors were incredible! I quickly made connections with a handful of them outside of the classroom and learned that professors are people too who sometimes keep up with pop culture. I also discovered the treasure trove, an immense wealth of wisdom these professors had and were willing to impart upon myself and my classmates. I have some very fond memories from spending hours in the woods practicing orienteering with one professor in east Texas. I also recall accidentally hiking into posted territory my first semester during the middle of deer season. Oops! I recall all the laughter and stories shared with my peers. I remember watching my peers move through various seasons of life. From new jobs, to discovering marriage, and every thing in between. Things were mostly well as I worked through my season as well. I moved from one job to a new one. I got promoted at the new job, and I took on more course work. I got plugged even further to my ministry and watched my college ministry begin to blossom. God has definitely blessed me in this time.

About a year ago, the first signs of changes appeared. The scholarship I had was taken away. The school’s financial troubles meant that they were, supposedly, trimming the budget which meant I was left having to once again figure out how to pay for my education. Baffling how something that was freely given can be taken away with little recourse, and yet that’s what happened. Again, where there was a need God swooped in to provide. I was gifted another scholarship that allowed me to continue up until today where I had my final class at SWBTS. The last year gave more evidence that changes were coming and that I needed to adapt. One of the biggest changes being that the dean of my campus was resigning and the school was relocating. Not a big deal, except for my personal connection to both the school and the growing concern on the way in which the school was being operated and overseen. I’ll not lie that bitterness was growing within me toward the ones in charge of the school and their neglect of the campus I attended. Bitterness and discontentment can greatly hinder our ability to appreciate God’s providence and sovereignty. So as I began to inquire into other avenues, God began putting the pieces together.

A month ago, I had no clue how God would lead and I still do not know where He is taking me. I decided to but my entire trust onto Him and be faithful to follow where He leads. So I began throwing pieces out into the ether and let God put them in order. My first step was in seeking information from Liberty University. The next step came when I applied and sent in my transcript. While Liberty may take up to 90 credits for transfer students; they are not guaranteed to accepted them all. I had 89 credits and was currently taking a three credit hour class on contemporary evangelism. To my surprise, Liberty accepted all of my 89 credits which placed me as a senior in their system and placed me at having 57% of their degree plan completed! Ok God, I see what you’re doing! The whole process was very brisk and even as I sit here writing this post it has not entirely sunk in yet. I have no doubt that it was the work of the Lord and when the next hurdle came I would be surprised yet again! Despite being considerably older than the last time I went through the financial aid process, I was almost certain that I would be yet again left with loans as my sole ‘aid’ (if you can even call it that… debt is dumb, cash is king!). I received my financial aid offer via email and nearly scoffed knowing that it would be only loans. Yes, the majority were in fact loans, but I had also received some of the Pell Grant! What?!? God, this isn’t suppose to be going so smoothly!

I am still amazed to have gotten to the point that I have and I plan of beginning classes at Liberty in the fall semester. The rest of the path is not clear yet. Here’s the thing y’all, where there is a genuine need God will provide! God has and will always be the great provisioner of our needs! Do you truth Him to provide for your life? Do you honestly believe that God is big enough, powerful enough, trustworthy enough to provide whatever you are in need of? Y’all, far too often we doubt what God can do in our lives. And as one of the seniors in the student ministry I serve in said to me, “I have to learn to doubt my doubt!” The doubts that God cannot provide, that He will not provide. The doubts that God cannot use me to achieve some purpose, the doubts of God being able to take away what we are afraid to let go of. The doubts that God does not love us. We got to doubt our doubts y’all! I have doubted what God can do and what He has done for myself and my family. Ironically, every place where I have doubted God’s provision He’s delivered! Trusting God is not as easy as it is said. Trusting God is something of a challenge for us in our American culture. Do y’all trust God? Do y’all believe in what He has and will do for you?  I have no excuse to doubt God any more.

At every turn of my life, in every change, every upset, every reversal, every plot twist, God has been present and has been faithful to show me a way through. God is endlessly faithful to us! Can’t our faith look like that? Can we remain endlessly faithful and devoted to God? Can we trust in His plans for our lives and believe that whatever He has in store is far, far better than what we could imagine? When God closes doors and opens new opportunities we must trust in Him and be faithful to go. We must be faithful to move when God commands it! Y’all, we must also give thanks when God provides! Praise God, for He is the one who sustains all of creation and gives in abundance! What we lack, God gives freely! Time and time again I am reminded that we are not what we should be, what we were created to be! What I lack, I can ask for and God will provide! I am reminded of the prophet Isaiah responding to God’s call. Here I am, Isaiah said, send me (Isaiah 6:8, Author paraphrase). I am reminded of the disciples panicked by a sudden storm while Jesus slept undisturbed. Christ calmed that storm and asking why they were of so little faith (Mark 4:35-41, Author paraphrase). I am reminded of the promises God made to Abraham, to Moses, to David. The covenants that God would use them and sustain them. I am reminded of the New Covenant and the promise of Christ’s coming and the atoning sacrifice on the cross for my sins!

If God has done all these thing and then some while maintaining His creation, can He not sustain you and I? Will He not take care of our genuine needs? Let us have faith in God’s promises, Y’all! Let us celebrate God’s provision! Thankfully, God has provided a means for me to continue school. To continue in ministry. To respond in boundless faith to move when He commands it! I will praise Him because with God, I am nothing! I will praise Him for He provides!  I will praise Him because His blessings are beyond comprehension! God is so, so good, Y’all! My words will never be able to encapsulate just how great and mighty and awesome our God is! He is infinitely faithful to the promises He has made and He is committed to fulfilling them! I do not know what season you are in, or where God is working in your life. But I wish to encourage you to trust Him with your life! I wish to encourage you to doubt your doubts about God! He will sustain you, all you need to do is surrender to Him. So as you go about your week, think about what you’ve asked from God and write it down. If and when God responds and provides for whatever need you have, come back to what you have written down and give thanks for it!

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

The Single Life: Developing Good Habits

Over the last couple months I’ve been working through Ben Stuart’s book, Single, Dating, Engaged, Married, which has been added to my ever growing collection on the topic of relationships. I’d assume that the majority of people, myself included with them, have a desire to get married at some point in their lives. Statistically, a large majority of them will get married. So there is hope, however the rules and ways in which relationships develop have changed. The process of courtship has become something far more casual and far more murky. These changes in how we engage in relationships have resulted in the need to have a solid foundation before navigating through romantic relationships. This is especially compounded for the follower of Christ. So in the second of an indefinite number of writings on the topic we shall take a deeper examination of the purpose of singleness.

In my first writing, we established that the purpose of singleness is to devote ourselves to the will of God. In pursuing God and being intentional to devoting ourselves to Him we begin to have a well-centered, unshakable foundation in which we can navigate life. Ben Stuart highlights eight things in singleness by studying 2 Timothy 4:9-22 that we’ll break down and see how they apply in singleness and couplings. They are: Resolve to Never Stop, Invest in the Next Generations, Cultivate Deep Friendships, Keep Learning, Make Enemies, Forgive, Be Courageous, and Rest. Each of these have some intrinsic qualities that benefit in assisting our walks through life.


Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. -2 Timothy 4:9-22 ESV


Resolve to Never Stop:

The passage from 2 Timothy reveals a lot about Paul’s character. At the time of writing this letter to Timothy, Paul was in prison. He was literally unable to leave the confines of his imprisonment and yet he was actively engaged and coordinating a ministry across the world! Paul sent Crescens to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, Luke is with Paul, and asked Titus to get Mark on his way back to meet him. How amazing is that? That from a prison cell or a house arrest Paul was able to further the kingdom of God without letting the obstacle of immobility stand in his way! This shows us that throughout life we have a need to be continually active and engaged. There will always be some job needing completion, some deadline approaching, a chore needing doing, or a need being attended to. While there is a need for rest, which we will examine later, we will have to be intentionally engaged throughout life.

This also applies to when we begin dating, or for my old fashioned self in courtship, we cannot get so comfortable that we stop trying. I have seen idleness creep up into the lives of some of my peers growing up where their relationships begin to get strained because they’ve gotten so comfortable with their situation that they no longer put in effort that they did at the beginning. This can be seen in many situational comedies in which relational drama about long time romantic interests are tired of waiting for their significant others to step up and propose. Resolving to never stop is a practice that is vital to our participation in the work of Christ and in developing deeper relationships with our friends and significant others. Our relationships with one another, especially in ministry, are in need of constant cultivating. Like a garden, love and care must be put into our relationships. Becoming idle can lead to suffocation and with it comes the withering of the bonds of any relationship, plutonic or romantic.

Y’all, as we look through these eight things I hope that you begin to see where each of these carry over from our single life into our dating lives. The foundation we set now, while we’re single, will carry through to the next stage of life. For those who proclaim to be believers, this foundation is rooted in our devotion to God!

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lordand on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. -Psalm 1:1-3 ESV


Invest in the Next Generation:

One benefit of being single is having time to use toward the kingdom! The generations that come after us will face the same challenges, if not more challenges, than your or my generation did! Some things will change, but others have remained the same since the time Christ walked on this earth. Paul served with his disciples to further the mission of Christ! Paul poured out wisdom upon these men, some of who were younger than himself, from his experience and understanding of God. We have a need to engage in generational discipleship! While we like to gather with people who are like ourselves or close to our stage of life, we need to wisdom of the generation above us just as the generation behind us could benefit from our wisdom. Why? Because they are navigating through life with the same struggles as we have.

I know that I have benefitted from the lessons my high school small group guy have presented me, even though they do not know that they are challenging me to be a better leader. I have also found endless joy in seeing God working in and through their lives! In my short time with them, I’ve seen God work to liberate them from sins, to grow them up as leaders, and to get them thinking about what the Christian life means and how to live it! In my first post, I shared a photo of my peer from a discipleship weekend spent with the next generation, and just how much joy seeing my peers pouring out brings me! Sure, this is anecdotal but there is fundamental truth in sharing in the work of Christ. God has blessed me immensely ever since I began serving with our student ministry nearly 3 years ago now. I do not know how much of an impact that I’ve had on the students, I do not need to know, but I am grateful for the opportunity to invest in the next generation. Stuart poses a nice question for us all, “When you think about your plans for the future, do they include the men and women you will invest in?”

I was given some perspective last year from my friend and mentor regarding this topic in connection with marriage. I know that God’s calling on my life is in ministry and that means that if I am to marry, then that person would need to be supportive of my ministry. This is not to suggest that my ministry is more important than her, but that we would be partners in ministry together. Serving the next generations together. While we are single, while we are dating, and while we are pursuing marriage, we have a plethora of opportunity to share in ministry. While we have more time while we are single, Christians have a command to pour out onto the next generations.


Cultivate Deep Friendships:

As single people, we are not without love and companionship. We are surrounded by people who love us and care for us. They are our friends and they also serve as council to us as we approach many different situations in life. Cultivating deep, meaningful friendships also serves to give us insight into our lives through the perspective of those who know us best. Taking the time while we are single to cultivate these kinds of friendships allows them to share in our dating lives. They see where we have blinders, they express concerns when our pursuits are not glorifying God, they celebrate the relationships that do glorify God, and they keep us accountable. Having friends who know our lives well assists in that foundation in which we can navigate life. Plus what joy is it to share life with those closest to us?

I have a strong family of friend who have poured out into my life for nearly four years now. Having started as a small bible study at the home of our now student pastor, we have and continue to share in one another’s ministries. We seek wisdom and council from one another, and we celebrate each other’s wins, and the work God is doing in our lives. They are also not afraid to have the difficult conversations when we’re going astray or being stupid or sitting in sin. Because they know us well, they’re not afraid to call us out. Paul had a friend in Luke who shared in his ministry and in his life. The book of Acts recounts the time Luke and Paul shared on their missionary journey around the Near East. They understood the purpose in sharing in one another’s lives. Deep friendships offer something that our coworkers and acquaintances cannot and that is insight into our lives that stems from a proper heart. God’s heart. We know who those people are in our lives, and, if you are like myself, you cherish the unquantifiable value they are on your life.


Make Enemies:

This is not saying that we need to be antagonistic or purposeful in making enemies. Rather, by living our the commandments of God and sharing the good news with all we come across. By living faithfully, according to the commands of God, we will make enemies. We will run into people who are hostile to the things of God and will be hostile to us. Paul mentions a wrongdoing Alexander the coppersmith paid him, and how God would justly deal with Alexander. Paul did not take vengeance against Alexander, but rather placed the duty of carrying our justice on God. Throughout life, we will face opposition at nearly every turn. People who are against us personally, who are against our relationships, our ministries, our work. We cannot control those people, but we can live faithfully according to God’s will. So do not seek out to make enemies, but live faithfully.


Keep Learning:

We all have something to learn. Even the biggest biblical scholars have something to learn about God. Just as we ought to strive to not be idle, we should seek to always be learning something new! Head knowledge is good and social skills are beneficial. Scripture has an amazing tendency to spur us toward being well rounded people. While we can know a lot about God, we can also know God very little. As a seminary student, I can attest first hand to the dangers of knowing a lot about God without having a personal relationship with Him. Fortunately, God has presented opportunities to share my knowledge of history, scripture, and God in appropriate ways without being a know-it-all or a pedantic encyclopedia. Continuing to learn about God only helps to further strengthen and widen our foundations. Being rooted and founded with God places us in a position where we can weather any turmoil that comes our way We can be secure in the winds of change.

We also should strive to learn more about the people around us. Tying into cultivating deep friendships (hint, hint). In learning about others, we learn about their needs and where they need truth and life. We can be a source of life to those people. We may not know what needs they have, but in pursuing to learn more about people we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to them. The pursuit of learning can be exhausting, especially as we move through the college age where fatigue can set in quickly. However, we may find immense joy in continued growth in knowledge and wisdom.


Be Courageous:

We will face opposition in life, this has been made clear. We must stand firm. Paul was alone when he faced trial for his missionary work. No one came to his defense, and yet, as he stood firm in full assurance in God’s sovereignty, he was brought through it stronger. Let this be an encouragement to us! Trust God in all things! Have faith that God will bring you through whatever situation you face. Have faith that God will speak through your words as you share the gospel with those who need it. Have faith that God will work through you to bring other’s into His kingdom. Do no be afraid to pursue the mission of Christ! Be bold! Be courageous! Be encouraged throughout your life that God has a plan for you and your life! Do not hesitate when God tells you to go or when to stay! Step into any situation in full assurance that God will use you and take care of your needs!


Forgive:

This is perhaps the largest and most difficult thing of these points. Forgiveness. We’ve all experienced pain and hurt from people. We’ve all been slighted or torn down. The reality is that hurt people hurt people. Frankly, I’ve been that person. Holding onto the pains suffered at the hands of others keeps us down. It keeps us from fully embracing the love and freedom in God. Frankly, for followers of Christ, forgiving people is not optional! It’s also not an easy process either. If we’re unwilling to forgive those who have hurt us, what does that say about our perspective on Christ? What does that say about our claim to faith? In denying forgiveness to those who have wounded us, scarred us, and beaten us down, we are in essence denying the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. He died for the sins of you and me and He did so without question! Are you holding onto a grudge? Do you resent someone for causing you deep pain?

The willingness to forgive is entirely necessary in the Christian life. As we step into dating and marriage we must be willing to forgive our partners. There will be arguments, there will be misunderstandings, there will be misgivings, but for the believer in a relationship we must be willing to forgive and not hold grudges. Being petty is not glorifying to God nor does it bear fruit. Petty grudges and stubbornness breeds discontentment and it kills love. We must check ourselves at the door when we come to conflict of any kind. There is a need for humility and dying to ourselves at every part of our lives. Grace and mercy have been shown to us time and time again thanks to the sacrifice of Christ and the blood that he shed! Who are we do deny someone grace when we have experienced grace?

Sometimes, in order to forgive, we must first approach God before engaging with someone who has hurt us. Entering with a level head also allows for us to be good stewards of the life we claim in Christ. Again, this comes back to being a source of life to those we come into contact with. While forgiving someone may not be easy, we may be Christ to those who need Him most!


Rest:

Finally, we come to rest and the need for pause. Life is busy, Y’all! We need down time to recuperate and reset ourselves. Taking time to rest also enables us to get back into the will of God. In our American society, we can forget the need for rest as we work three jobs to make it through college. We can also fill every moment of our days with things that serve as distractions rather than recuperation. Take some time to rest and center yourself with the will of God! Life only gets busier and as we move toward relationships that only compounds as you’re working to schedule two people’s schedules in places of your own. So my friends, do not forget to rest!

 

Friends, I hope that you see where these things will appear in your relationships. I hope you see where they are beneficial in having a foundation in which to navigate through life. While this is just a small portion of the Christian life, I pray that they are beneficial to you! So as you go through the remainder of this week and into next week, go out in peace!

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

The Single Life: A Season of Life

Over the last couple of months I have been working through Ben Stuart’s book Single, Dating, Engaged, Married and as it so happens I’ve yet to finish. Coincidentally, both my college Bible study and the students ministry I serve in are concurrently going through series on relationships which has me in a place where I wish to share my perspective and understanding on the topic. This means that I am about to lock myself into a multi-issue series on relationships, so I better see this one through to completion. Which is likely as this topic is one that I, and statistically for most, is one of great interest. Why? Because we all long for companionship. We all long to feel wanted and loved. Which take vastly different forms! Yet the focus tends to bend toward romantic relationships and as such brings us to the first section of this multipart examination of relationships. Singleness.

While I’d like to claim that everything in this post is of my own intellectual power, a large portion stems from the various accounts and examination of others. I am fortunate to be able to stand on the shoulders of great theologians, thinkers, and people to share my observations and opinions on the nature of relationships. I shall make every effort to properly cite where the ideas stem from, as to not misguide anyone whom may come across this as to thinking that these are my own ideas and summations. They’re likely not. In fact, I’ve had little to no experience in the realm of romantic relationships. I am hardly an expert or the most reliable source. However, I’ve taken the time to explore this topic and have need to share and discuss the many factors that go into our relationships. I am a content single pringle, as a friend of mine described me once, solely seeking to explore this topic.

Statistically, a large majority people want to be married. Pew Research indicates that nearly 80% of people want to be married. The median age of people getting married today is 29 for men and 27 for women respectively. Pew Research Center’s research into peoples reasoning to married are as follow: 88% for love, 81% for a lifelong commitment,  76% for companionship, 49% for having children, 30% for a religiously recognized relationship in a religious ceremony, 28% for financial stability, and 23% for legal rights and benefits (8 Fact about Love and Marriage in America). These statistics reveal a great deal about the majority of people. According to a 2016 study, half of people aged 18 and older were married (however, the means in which this is worded is slightly deceiving and misleading as 18 and up included a very large swath of people of different ages.). Additionally, the number of people cohabitation, people who are not married but are living together, has been on the rise in recent years. Finally, the number of people looking to find love online has increased considerably. What these numbers indicate is that people are looking for love. However, for the Christian, the dating world has become more murky and unclear.

Ben Stuart introduces his book by explaining a tradition of Texas A&M university where they, being students of A&M which I am not, would go to Kyle Field at midnight to practice the cheers and chants for the football game the next day. However, once they would finish rehearsing, the lights would go out and, at least according to Stuart, they would makeout with the person they brought with them. If you didn’t bring anyone, then you’d hold up a lighter (old school, I know) and someone would come and find you. Secondly, Stuart continues by discussing his time as the leader of Breakaway Ministries through which he and his team asked their students who wanted to release the burden of guilt and shame to write down some of their secrets on cards. Going through them, Stuart was surprised by the amount of people expressing hurt and heartbreak that accompanied romantic relationships that had gone wrong. Which is where I begin, beginning with the season of singleness.


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I absolutely adore the photo above, it serves as my computer’s wallpaper. Taken just a few months ago when myself and many of my friends served in a Discipleship Now weekend at our church. I love this picture for many reasons and it brings a smile to my face every time I look at it. These people, each and every one of them are my family! I love all of them for their many traits, personalities, skills, and willingness to put up with my endless awkwardness. Also, we were not suppose to be on top of the tomb… but I didn’t know that when I set up the camera… oops. I am blessed beyond all measure to have a community of believers who love me, each other, and love God! I rely on them to keep me accountable, to share in life, and to grow deeper in our walks with God together. On the few weeks where we are unable to gather together for worship, fellowship, and study I suffocate a little. Why? Because they are a source of life to me. All of us need a source of life and where a source of life is lacking desperation sets in. Ben Stuart emphasizes this point early on stating:

“When you have a source of life, you are a source of life. But where there is scarcity, desperation will set in. And desperation can easily become exploitation of others. If you are disconnected from a source of life, your “oxygen tank,” then you will attempt to suck life out of someone else. You will be tempted to use people to try to get your sense of self validation.” –Single, Dating, Engaged, Married (4)

Y’all, we far too easily find our sense of validation in superficial things. We cling to money, sex, entertainment to fill our sense of worth and validation. Yet, for the believer, our sense of validation comes not from this world but from God! Why? Because Christ is our source of life! Without Christ, without His sacrifice on the cross, we would be spiritually dead where we walk! No person, no thing can every fill that God-sized need in our lives! As followers of Jesus we must cling to him because he is our source of life and it is through him that we have a purpose, a reason for existing! He, Christ, is sufficient for our ever need! Do you trust that Christ loves you endlessly? Do you honestly believe it? Christ said that you were worth dying for! I’ll admit that at times it is difficult for me to believe. What did I do to deserve such perfect, true love? Nothing. When I do elevate things above God, I forget just how much I am loved and consequentially I reel back from the pain of sinning against the God who loves me beyond measure!

Through Christ we see some characteristics of love as Stuart notes:  Love Sends, Love Sacrifices, and Love Stays. John gives a dense synopsis of love which speaks volumes to the extent and reach of God’s love for us!

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. -1 John 4:7-21 ESV

We know that love send because God sent his son to die on the cross for our sins. We know that love sacrifices because Christ sacrificed himself for our wrongdoing, and we know love stays because God sends the Holy Spirit to dwell within us. We know love because we know God and God is love! It is because of God that we can love one another. That we can find a family of people who are not related to us by blood like the people pictured above. God’s love is unconditional and fortunately for us it is poured out in abundance! God ought to be our source of life because God is perfect in his love, perfect in his ways, and he seeks us out! Without God, we would be so incredibly lost and hopeless in all things! There is nothing better than God, and, not to slight anyone, there is no person in this would who will ever be better than God! Y’all, we cannot get our relationship right without first getting our relationship with God right! This is the purpose of singleness: a devotion to God!

Y’all, we don’t know what the heck we want. Our desires are fleeting and changing at every moment. We do not know what is best for us nor do we fully value and appreciate the things that have already been given to us. Putting us in a season of singleness is not God trying to choke us out and it is not to hold us back or hurt us as Stuart notes. Rather singleness is, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:35 (NASB), “to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” Overall, all of us have some concept of appropriateness. Something is appropriate if it is proper given the context of the circumstances and situation. Something is inappropriate if it does not fit within the context of the circumstances. It’s the snickering of students at the inopportune moment in a sermon when everyone falls silent. It’s breaking social norms like wearing a swimsuit to a black tie event. Inappropriate things stick out because they do not fit with everything else. So what is the appropriateness of singleness? Well, Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 asserts correctly that “singleness, dating, and marriage, while important, are not the main story line of [our live].” The bigger story is one that we have a very brief moment in, God’s story! “The story line of the Bible is that God is on the move, and in the midst of the darkness, God broke in with a new kingdom.”

As much as we value our lives and are deeply concerned with the immediacy of our lives they are very much just brief moments in the larger scheme of things. God’s story is one of love, of redemption, of blessing. I’ll admit that I’m quite the romantic and I love a good story. As it so happens, The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies and one that contains every campy romantic fairytale trope. By this point everyone should know about the epic tale of Princess Buttercup and the modest Wesley and their love for one another! A love that knows no ends to defy death, to defeat evil, and to restore the kingdom of Florin! God’s story is so much better than any story that can be put to paper, to film, or to legend. Thankfully, God’s story is extended to us and it reveals the lengths that God has gone to reconcile our sinful, wandering ways back to himself! That is true love! A love that doesn’t quit, it doesn’t run away. So in our singleness, that time is for us to pursue God. To experience his endless love. Our singleness gives us access to so much more without having to jump through hoops or schedules. It is in our singleness that we can most freely serve the Lord! Singleness offers freedom!

If God calls you on a mission trip to the farthest place from where you currently are, then nothing is stopping you from going. If God calls you to pursue an opportunity across the country then you are free to go without having to consider somebody else. Singleness offers freedom of time as well! To be free from distractions on the pursuit of undivided devotion to God! You are free to spend time with others, pouring out into the lives of those in need. Singleness has a purpose and we are to seize it! Singleness does not mean that we do not need to desire marriage or companionship, but rather that we are free to move when the Lord commands it. Singleness gives us opportunity to be attentive to God’s word and to his work! Between our personal time and our in the world, we have every reason to grow deeper with God and to take our knowledge and impart it onto others in need of it. How great is that? We are free in so many ways that we overlook because we’re focused on the next stage of life! God is moving here and now! He is calling us to respond with obedience in this season.


I have no idea what the Lord has in store for my life. I’ve been single every minute of it thus far. It was not until recently, meaning within the last five years or so, that I’ve had a growing desire of marriage. I’m not at that place yet. In this season of longing for someone to share in ministry with, I’ve felt the pangs of want and the fogginess of infatuation. In this time, I’ve come to understand that I am not alone and that I am surrounded by people who love me. I have a family, as pictured above, that pour out into my life and challenge me to be a more Godly individual. I have a mentor who wants nothing but good things for me and serves to challenge me not to settle. This is companionship. C.S. Lewis, the incredibly thoughtful theologian, made a case for brotherly love or Philia.

We have affection for one another outside of romantic interests perhaps expressed better as fondness or friendship. Lewis makes an interesting observation which I think helps to illustrate the path in which single people such as myself head. “Lovers are always talking to one another about their love; Friends hardly ever about their Friendship. Lovers are normally face to face, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest” (The Four Loves). Friends never talk about their friendship, it just sort of blossoms over time and grows stronger as they move through life. See, friendship or companionship in this sense is sharing in life without bounds. Like the people pictured above, we are friends walking side-by-side through life toward God. Which is where the focus ought to be, on God!

See, one of the things that can easily happen in romantic relationship, which I can at least attest to through observation, is getting absorbed in infatuation for one another to the point that neither is moving toward God, but rather entirely enraptured with the other person. Their world goes from being the pursuit of God to being whomever this person they’re infatuated with. This will come up again when we begin to examine the season of dating and what its purpose is. Yet companionship is highly necessary in our lives though, as Lewis noted, we can live without it. “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art, like the universe itself (for God did not need to create). It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival. (The Four Loves).

I believe that my culture put far too much emphasis on romantic relationships that we look past the value of proper friendships. I know that I deeply appreciate everybody who crosses my path at my Bible study and that I greatly need their presence in my life. I believe that this is in part due to the calling that God has placed on my life to facilitate a place where all are welcome and freely given love. God has put a desire within me to just love on people. To those who need love, to those who have love, to those who do not want to be loved, those who are afraid of love. I have written about that here if you are interested in that. Thus that is part of my purpose in singleness. To love other and to devote my entirety to glorifying God! I am secure in God’s promise and blessing. I have no cause to strife and stress over who I am going to end up with. God has given me a community of people to love on, to encourage, to pursue him with, and to share in this life with! I have friendship which gives value to this life. I know that I have this God-sized need in my life and that no person or persons are going to be able to fill it apart from Christ. So I have no desire to waste my efforts in pursuing any woman that I come across, but rather trust that when the time is right that God will reveal her to me and that I will be able to give her my heart free from baggage and heartbreak.

I am so grateful for the community that I am apart of, because I can share God’s love with them. I can cultivate a place where all feel welcome and have a home. I do not know how to put it to words, but I love each and every person in the family of believers, pictured above, so deeply. They mean the world to me. They give value to this life as we move toward becoming more like Christ! There is no length that I would not go to meet a need that they may have, why? Because God has called us to share in this life together. To spur one another toward good works. To glorify him in everything. This is love: Not that we love, but that God loved us first. It is in God that we can love one another and it is only through God that we can ever experience true love without condition. Thus singleness is not a season without love, but a season where we must learn where love originates and cling to it with every bit of strength we can muster! This life is hardly about the pursuit of marriage or sex, but rather the pursuit of God! He is our source of life! Let us cling to him!

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up