Choosing Joy, Peace, and Love

I have a strong distaste for pointless or meaningless small talk particularly with people whom I have a relatively founded relationship with. The dutiful exchange of ‘how are you?’ and ‘I’m good/fine/ok’ is done in such a way that it is apparent that nobody really cares and that they are performing their social obligation. The dull pleasantries that are exchanged in this manner do not yield fruit nor do they provide opportunity to further grow and develop the relationship. It is simply small talk that fades into the aether as soon as the moment passes. Thus I despise small talk. However, the question of ‘how are you’ does not have to be a pointless introductory question and there are some who are genuinely interested and concerned about how we are doing in life and are hoping for an honest answer.

I constantly ask the students in our youth group how their week has been, followed with how they are doing. Most of the time, you’ll get nearly identical answers from them (almost verbatim) which I find humorous because I already expect the ‘I’m fine’ answer. Using ‘I’m fine’ is typically the phrased used to save face or to hide what is actually going on. I do not pry, but you can tell that it’s not a honest response. However, I follow up with some variation of ‘What is one good thing God has provided you with this week’ or ‘Where has God given you joy this week.’ I am tickled because the question stumps them for a moment as they search through their recollection to find anything that matches the posed question. No matter what they had previously said or how their carried themselves, a smile breaks across their face as they remember something that brought them joy, happiness, or peace during the week. Some answers include but are not limited to ‘I took a nap’ or ‘I have Taco Bell’ or ‘my dog did this really funny thing.’ What I have observed is that we, myself included, are very much focused on what goes wrong during the week or what what did not go our way that we forget what good happened. Which what a testament is that to our fallen nature!

When God has done something incredible, miraculous scripture shows how easily mankind turns away forgetting what has just happened minutes, days, weeks before. For example, God empowered Moses to split the sea as the Israelites fled from Egypt and just days laters as Moses ascended Mount Sinai the Israelites decide to build a golden calf to worship as their god! After Christ performed many miracles and displayed his divinity to the Jewish people, they were given the choice of taking back Jesus or the murderer Barabbas and they choose Barabbas! The point being is that we are so prone to wander even when we’ve seen God move and do incredible things! For followers of Christ, we’ve seen firsthand how God has transformed our lives and we have experienced the peace and joy that is only found in God. So why do we still have such difficulty finding joy? Finding peace? Finding love? Why is our first instinct to hone in on negative things?

Choice. Who made the first decision in history? Who set all of life into motion? Who decide what would be and what would come? God did. Before time, matter, everything it was just God. God always was, always is, and always will be. God decided to create all thing. God chose to create the heavens and the earth. To populate the world with animals and the sky with stars. To separate the land with water. To create Mankind and to create women from the man. God decided. Thus God put into motion everything that we now know. God gave Adam the choice to name each of the animals, plants, and things. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and let them live as they were designed. They were capable of making their own decisions, able to move about freely, to do as they wished. However God gave them one warning, one command. Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for they would surely die. Adam and Eve had one simple command to follow and even they chose… poorly.


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Sure, the serpent tempted them but why would God give them the ability to choose whether or not disobey him? Because we’re not mindless, personality-less creatures. We were made with expression, with uniqueness, with purpose to worship God! Thus we had to be able to choose to worship God and we have the capability to disobey God. So this is where we ended up. Broken. Sinful. Separated from God. Yet God was not done working. God chose to make a way where there was no way. God chose to come to be a living sacrifice for the redemption of His creation. In doing so, God gave us even greater ability to choose. When Christ died on the cross for the sins of all of humanity He made a way where there was no possible way for man to choose between life and death. Just as God chose to be the ultimate example of selfless love, we can choose to die to ourselves and find joy, peace, and salvation in Christ!

We can choose to be joyful. We can choose to seek out the things that bring the heart of God joy in the midst of trials. We can find peace in the chaos. We can trust when we can so no possibility before us. We can choose to follow God when there’s temptation in front of us. There is freedom in Christ! There is freedom in the Cross! There is freedom in God! When we take on the heart of Christ, when we look through the lens of Heaven, then our outlook on Earth is completely different! Life is worth living! No matter how dark life may be, the light pierces through it! There is no power on Earth that can defeat God! So we can seek out positivity in our day to day lives. We can find things that God has put before us and celebrate that God is faithful, that God is good!

We are, of course, capable of conducting ourselves through life with a great deal of unwillingness. What I mean is that we can be grumpy and agitated by life as we walk through it. We can choose to be bothered by what God has done or by what God has withheld all while conducting ourselves in a begrudging manner. This is what I mean by an unwilling willingness. Frankly, I believe that a great many of us who call ourselves Christians (followers of Christ), have or are conducting ourselves in this manner. We have chosen to be resentful rather than joyful toward the life that God has placed us in. Thus we have the difficult choice of being intentional on what we set our focus on. All in all, we can choose to be of a despite myself mindset. We can chose to die to ourselves and rejoice in God’s plans. Let us not forget that we have hope because God created a way where there was not one. We can hope because we had no hope at one time. Choose joy, my friends as you go about your daily lives.


 

It is my sincerest hope that this website of benefit to you and that you might find hope, peace, and encouragement through these words. God is doing a great work in this world and He is moving ceaselessly! Take heart that God is faithful to love, faithful to provide for your every need! Rest in Him and be a source of life to those around you! Thank you for reading my blog!

-Terren-It-Up

Raging Storm & Sea

Life is full of unpredictable, unexpected circumstances. Things that we could not have foreseen in our wildest dreams. Our lives are marked by times of peace and still before being rapidly replaced by chaos. These storms are trials that we must face and opportunities to choose how we will respond. The sparks of anger, downturns in wellbeing, depression, drama, and so forth are examples of storms that we may face throughout our lives. In this life, there’s always a stormy day ahead.

How do we respond when trouble comes our way? When we are surrounded by a sudden storm on an otherwise peaceful sea? Frequently, we respond in panic and frantic angst. We worry and fret and make rash decisions. Why? Because our life has been shaken up. We lose sight of the horizon and scramble to make adrenaline fueled decisions that are less than ideal. This is in our nature to panic. When faced with conflict we experience our fight or flight which causes us to grind our feet into the ground and muscle through the storm or run away as quickly as our legs will take us. We as Christians, followers of Christ, can forget that God is here and present even when He is laying on the bow of the boat. The disciples experienced this.

On that day, when evening had come, he (Jesus) said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they (the disciples) woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” -Mark 4:35-41

By this point in Christ’s ministry, the disciples had throw aside their professions to follow Jesus. They had witness Christ do many miracles and rebuke the Pharisees for their improper execution of the law. However, they did not fully realize who Christ was. So when a storm rolled in and threatened their wellbeing they panicked. Christ, who was seemingly unaware in his sleep, acts completely counter to what would be seemingly appropriate. The disciples were worried about their lives, fearing their death at sea. This is clear when they question Christ on whether or not he cares that they are perishing! This may appear overly dramatic, and yet how many of us would respond to God in this way when we’re facing a raging sea in life?

Oh God, do you not care that I am perishing from loneliness? Do you not care that people gossip about me? Do you not care that I am depressed? Do you not care that I am growing in sin? Spoiler alert, God does. However, in the heat of the moment, when we’re experiencing pain, hurt, grief, and sadness we can forget that God is sitting before us and that he is in absolute control. Who is this that even the wind and seas obey? Who is this that knows our lives, knows our pain, and knows how much we long for something so much more? God! It’s God! The God who sent his son to live among his creation, to live without sin, and to die on a cross for the purpose of reconciling us back into relationship with him! Scripture is God’s written testimony of how he has wanted to reconcile our relationship. To restore the connection that we once had with him.

We were not designed to experience the pains of sin. We were not designed to know shame or guilt. We were designed to worship without the burden of sin! We were made for so much more! Far more that we could imagine! How amazing is it that God wants us to have share in a relationship with him? That when there was no possible way for us to do so he made one? I find it humbling! God loves us so much that we have no way of fully processing exactly what it means! Amazing!

Thus, when Christ died on the cross and rose again three days later, his blood was sufficient to cover our sins, to disperse the storms, and to bring us back into his flock. There is no circumstance that can overtake us. There is no person, no words, no storm that will overcome us. Why? Because the one who came to make a way, made a way. He has the power to calm the storm and still the sea. To calm the rage within us and to set us on a path of forgiveness and reconciliation to others. To teach us to love when we knew no love. To show us how to forgive when we knew not how. Christ came to abolish the old ways and to instill a new way. Do you believe that? Do you believe that Christ came for you? To love you? To show you what peace is?

Suffering is a form of worship and as followers of Christ we will suffer. We will experience storms and will have choose how we will respond. We must remember that even in the midst of raging seas and storms that God is with us and that we will not be overtaken. We will still face being hurt, feeling lonely, dealing with drama, and more, but none of that can undo what Christ has done already. While we walk this earth we can suffer well and be an example of the work Christ has done for us and in us. So no matter what you are facing at this time, Christ is bigger! Know that God remains in control even when it is difficult to see. Trust him and know that he is in control.

With grace and peace,

Terren-It-Up

Insecurities, Uncertainties, and the Nature of Doubt

The week before last, I house sat for my parents while they took a trip to Amish country. The course of the week went as normal between work, rehearsal, and church all while battling a sinus infection. However, on a fateful Thursday, thing unravelled quickly. Earlier that day I had left work early because I was not well and came home to find the hallway covered in a shallow puddle of water emanating from under the bathroom wall. Yikes! In the process of going up to the attic to examine the air conditioning unit and water lines, I slipped off the wooden 2x4s that allow passage throughout the attic and my foot went through the ceiling of a closet. Ouch. I called my mother regarding this additional issue and got into a spat with my father. To say that I was furious is an understatement. To say I was livid does not begin to cover the breadth of my anger and disdain. Throughout the course of the next few hours, I had exchanged messages with my mother expressing both my anger and my hurt. I was wrong and I went too far. I crossed a line. In this happenstance, however, I knew immediately what had triggered my anger.

My dad, through this occurrence and unbeknownst to him, had stuck into some insecurities that I have regarding my life. This year, I will be far closer to thirty than I am to twenty. I have not completed my undergraduate degree, I still work in fast food, I still live at home, and have not had much luck getting a leg up in life. I’m, seemingly, still living the same life that I was just after high school. The majority of my peers average in between 19-22 which is not that far from my own age, but does place them in a different stage of life than my own. Not necessarily suggesting that they are immature or incapable of sharing some of the same intrinsic properties that are universal to our way of living here in America, but where I was at 18, 19, 20, and so on were vastly different from each other. Despite growing and taking on more responsibilities, more opportunities, I have not been able to overcome the plateau to be able to fully take care of myself free from the ties to my parents. I’m independent, yes, but I’m dependent on my parents none the less. Couple this with people my age who are getting married, starting families, buying homes, and so forth, where does that suggest about myself? What do they know that I don’t? Obviously, nothing. Their lives are not mine nor is their path my own. Being of both a retrospective and philosophic mind, I understand the principal differences in my path and the paths of others. Yet, I still seem to be contained to the contrived timeline of millennials as suggested by media.

I have a love hate relationship with social media and I constantly find myself at odds with it. In many ways, it is a great communication tool and I have legitimate needs for it. However, social media is a lie. A curated, mathematical, algerithmic display of what a company thinks I want to see. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, etc all use algorithms to experiment and tweak our emotions. Movies, books, music all have this same issue. They are not true representations of life. They are stylized, romanticized, idealized representations of life. One of my favorite movies of recent is La La Land which the entire premise steams from setting up traditional expectations before subverting them. The tag for the movie, “Here’s to the fools who dream” reveals the subversion to the romanticized Hollywood representation of reality. Yet, even in its attempt of subverting our expectation, the movie is still dramatized, romanticized, and fictional. Yet, like La La Land, we are influenced by our entertainment. Having worked in a book store, I am not surprised by the sheer volume of trashy, poorly written romance novels targeted to women. They are in their essence entirely romanticized, sometimes erotic, works meant to sate our internal, often unexpressed desires. Thus I find myself at odds with myself. I have desires that extend beyond my current circumstances.

I am insecure about my future, about my prospects. These insecurities are fed by comparison, often conscious but regularly unconscious, to societies expectations. Do I meet up with the societal expectation that I should be established by this point? No. Am I living freely, selfishly with no regard to the status quo? No. Am I disinterested and disengaged? No. Yet, if we’re going by arbitrary status marks of success, then I do not match the norm. Have I completed a degree? No. Do I have a house/apartment? No. Do I have a sustainable job? No, not really. My point being that I’ve progressed personally, spiritually but I have not progressed in life. If that makes any sense. For example, there was a headline going around about a 30 year old who was evicted by his parents in upstate New York, while comical, it is a situation far too close to home for me. While I am not free loading and unproductive, I am still living at home. This person from the headline has been the butt of a good many jokes, but is a situation far from my own. The circumstances are very different and as such I do not compare myself to it. The reason I bring this up is to address that fact that I am, indeed, insecure about the future.

Insecurity in men is hardly addressed as compared to women. Going back to entertainment media, women’s insecurities are often played for jokes or for laughs. One example that comes to mind is the movie Mean Girls which features of myriad of jokes at the expense of women. Just as there a cultural expectations, societal expectations placed upon women, so too are expectations placed upon men. While I am no expert, looking at how men are portrayed in media over the last few decades reveal what society values in men. The 80’s were heavily set on macho men of action movies with the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and so forth. The 00’s swung the other way with men who embraced their more sensual side taking the forefront. Currently, men are represented in a war between both sides of the spectrum as culture seemingly debates what role men are too take. Setting aside conservative and liberal political agenda and perspectives, what am I to do? Who am I?

In this spat with my father, I broke down in tears that afternoon. Why? I cannot really explain. I do not believe that my tears were from anger, nor do I believe that them stemmed from sadness. I believe that they stemmed from defeat at the hands of insecurity. I sent my mother a text that conveyed, albeit in a much more hostile and explosive manner, some of the sentiments expressed here. These sentiments reveal some of my heart and my depravity and doubt in God. I also believe that the enemy, Satan, capitalized on my foot going through the ceiling and my father’s response to take my attention, my focus away from God. One statement that I made, which I will not repeat here because of my failings as a follower of Christ, expressed my displeasure for the life that I had been dealt. To paraphrase, I did not ask for this life. I did not ask for the things that life has dealt me, the trails and tribulations God has allowed so that I may rely on Him more. This statement, I believe, reveals my sinfulness because I, in that moment, rejected God and His sovereignty. I rejected God’s plan for my life because I thought that I knew better and deserved better. What I fool am I! Woe to me for my foolishness! Honestly, I doubted God and what for? He has provided plentifully and abundantly. By any approximation, my life has been good and is going great! Yet, in my broken heart, insecurity of the future has been harbored.

Therefore I find myself sitting here wrestling with my doubts of my doubts. Sometimes, I believe myself not good enough, handsome enough, kind enough. I doubt that I am worthy being loved. I doubt being able to finish school. To move out. To have an ‘adult’ job. To get married. To have a ministry. I doubt God. Honestly… and my heart and eyes are heavy writing this, I question how much faith I really have in God’s plan for my life. Why? Because I cannot see it. I am uncertain. Granted, I am not suggesting that I do not have faith in God or salvation through faith, but that if I had total control of every circumstance in my life that I would have done things very differently. I would choose the ideal path and not the necessary path. What does that say about me? What does that say about God? I really do trust God, in complete genuine faith, but at the very same time have doubts. How can this be?! How can I with one hand be fully vested in God’s will but with the other pick out specifics of where God is not meeting my expectations? Baffling does not begin to address this thought of comprehension. Who am I to tell God what is best for me? Who am I to be unsatisfied with what has been given?

I do not write this article, as difficult as it has been to express, for your sympathy or pity. Those I needn’t want or have. Yet, I am wise enough to realize that in my moment of brokenness that my anger and lashing out originated from my doubts, uncertainty, and insecurity. We all have doubts, insecurities about ourselves, our lives, and our futures. They are infinitely numerous among us all and they do, despite how much we might surprise them, affect the way in which we view our lives and how we seek to navigate them. Our insecurities, our fears cripple us if not kept in check. They seize us up and keep us from taking necessary risks, from putting ourselves out there, and are made of compromise.

I recognize that this post is vastly different from my many others and focuses in more on what may be seen as negatives. I write this because the Christian life is one of both positive and negatives. Of successes and of failures. The Christian walk is not easy and it is full of trials that we will navigate. Do know that all is well with me and that my life is one of good things on a good path. I have wonderful friends whom I consider family who keep me on the right path. I have mentors who challenge me to improve. I have challenges to overcome and brokenness that I need to address. While I do not have a solution to the matter addressed here, I write this because it is vitally important for believers to not mask or hide the struggles we face in our day to day lives. Sanctification is a process just as life is. The pursuit of righteousness, of holiness requires addressing the brokenness within us and understanding our total need for a savior who is Jesus Christ.

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

A Study of Job: Chapter One: Character

There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” Then Satan answered the Lord and said, “Does Job fear God for no reason? Have you not put a hedge around him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face.” And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your hand. Only against him do not stretch out your hand.” So Satan went out from the presence of the LordNow there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

This is a little deviation from my usual writing, which will continue, but I thought that I might try something new. Today, after I returned from my classI was struck with this want to simplify my life. To remove distractions from my living spaces. See, as I stated in one of my earlier posts, is that I have no been clinging to my source of life. Well, I took out the television, ripped out my Apple TV, boxed up my video game console, and left my desk with only my laptop, my Bible, and my school books. Y’all, none of those things were bad, nor where they detrimental to my life. However, I have found that it has been far too easy to waste time. Precious time. So, for the foreseeable future, I will be going without those things in my room. That doesn’t mean that I can’t or won’t enjoy them, but that I’ve set them aside for a while. You see, sometimes we just have to hit the reset button. To start over. To begin anew. That’s what today is for. Staring new.


We have a tendency to forget all the blessings that God has extended to us. The shelter, the internet, the entertainment, the beauty, the charm, the talent, the skills. We take pride in these things which were given to us for our use to further the kingdom of God. We selfishly look at these things and see the path in which they’ve taken us. We go blind to God, losing sight of the one who bestowed all these things upon us, and we squander them. Yet, as we see above, Job did not. He remembered all that God had given him, and God rewarded Job’s faithfulness by increasing his wealth. We also see that Job was purposeful in offering sacrifices for the potential sins his children may have committed. We see that Job was a man of character.

Y’all, we lack character. We lack a backbone. Particularly, we lack a backbone in our spiritual lives. We are so moved and thrown about by every temptation that is put before us, and we fall for every lie that is whispered into our lives. When times get tough, when things do not go our way, we falter. We give up. We neglect our relationship with God. Yet, when Job lost his children, his animals, his servants, he worships God. Why? How can a man who lost, for lack of a better word, everything stand or, in Job’s case, fall to his knees and worship God? Because, Y’all, he knew the source of all that had been given to him. He knew the provision of the Lord, and that the Lord would sustain him, with or without. Job’s character is revealed both in the times of peace and time times of trial. Job feared God and he had the upmost reverence for God. Why do we lack such convictions that we just abandon God when the slightest bit of discomfort appears in our lives? Why are we so quick to abandon God for sin? Why are we so easily put to curse God for failing us, when he, alone, is the one of provision?

Y’all, we’ve all been blessed by God in countless ways. We’ve been blessed so that we may be a blessing to others. To be stewards, good stewards, of what God has provided. That means being someone of good reputation, of good character. One that is not thrown about by the winds of change or the temptations of sin. I think of Paul who writes from prison that he knows what it means to have plenty and to be in want. To have more than he needs, and to have nothing. To be brought low, and to abound. Paul was content. Content in whatever situation God put him. Why? Because Paul knew God was with him, and that God would use his situation to bring others into the kingdom.

When life gets hard and we cannot see the hope that stands before us. When we’re walking in the valley and the top of the mountain seems unreachable. Will we rejoice? Will we honor God? Will we worship God no matter the circumstance? What would our lives look like if we just surrendered everything to God? If we gave up our lives so that God may use us to bring other’s into his flock? We must, and I must emphasize must, be believers who have character. Who have a reputation. We must be a light to those without hope. That means that we must cling to the sole source of life in order to be a source of light to others. We absolutely must trust God in whatever situation we face. In sickness and in health. In poverty and in wealth. In the times of stagnation and the times of progress. What does absolute trust in God look like? It looks like worship!

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

The Muted Voice: Finding Confidence

As the weekend comes to a close I find myself reflecting upon a conversation I had with a dear friend of mine earlier in the week after our college ministry’s small group gathering. She shared with me how God had been providing many opportunities to share Christ with her coworkers. Her excitement was clear and she was elated that God had answered her prayers for opportunity! First, it is amazing that God had called us into community so that we may share in the joy of others! Secondly, how amazing is it that God uses us to spread his testimony to those who have not heard or those who are needing to hear it again? Now, my friend recounted how her peers were asking questions, hard questions, about God and how she was having to research how best to answer their inquires. The entire conversation touched me in a profound way as her confidence in her faith was palpable. The conversation really centered on her and what she had shared as the topic returned to a message we both heard from Christine Caine at Passion 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia

For those of us who went to the conference, it is still fresh on our minds. From the adventurous bus ride there which was full of unexpected stops, prolonged breakdowns, bonding time on top of the bitterly cold Stone Mountain, and time of growth. Y’all, beyond all the fun that was had at and around the conference, the Holy Spirit stirred within the hearts of those at the conference. The Holy Spirit did a work on our ministry and has begun a process of pointing us into the next season of our lives as individuals and in the life of our ministry. Now, my conversation with my friend continued bringing about a message we heard during the Passion Conference from Christine Caine. Caine, the firecracker of a speaker, spoke upon Genesis 3 and the nature of shame. Shame is the only thing the enemy has to use against us. Shame of a past mistake, a poor choice, or any other myriad of things which weigh us down and steal our strength away. Man was not designed for shame. We were never meant to experience shame. Shame shackles itself to us as a means to slow down our progress, and it swallows us up on whispered lies. Shame seeks to silence our ability to hold truth up against the truth, for it knows that the truth will cause its lies to be revealed as ridiculous. Fortunately, we have been given a savior in Christ, who has unshackled our bonds and smashed their chains… Yet, we continue to hold onto them, and we shuffle at the feet of God to reclaim them. And to mirror the word of Caine, we walk into heaven with chains. The past is not to be forgotten, but it is not to cause us shame. Yet, the goal of shame is to silence our voices and to suffocate our confidence! But not today, Satan!

Hearing my friend share her excitement about the conversations she’s been able to have reminded me of what Caine had to say. It filled me with joy to hear that my friend was fully confident in what she was doing and that she had trust the God would give her the words to say, and an ear to listen. My friend embodied the confidence that shame seeks to steal. It was genuine, it was sincere, and it was fully vested in God’s truth. Wow! What an example to myself and to our generation! In that time, and earlier in our small group discussing spiritual warfare, I was reminded of Paul and the other workers who asked, constantly, for a fearlessness to share the Word. They sought to be unburdened from anything that would keep them from being ambassadors to God’s testimony. They feared not for their lives, nor did they fear for those whom would go to take up the mantle of spreading the gospel across the known world. Paul, particularly, is a testimony of not allowing shame to tie us down with the past. Paul did not allow shame from following Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to flow through him. He wrote the majority of the New Testament, and made thorough the testimony of God known.

 

” [Praying]… also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” -Ephesians 6:19-20 ESV

 

As believers, we are free. Yesterday, I attended the wedding of my friend and college pastor where they, before saying their vows and making their covenant with the each other and with God, asked everyone in attendance to sing the hymn Amazing Grace. The famous verses echo the idea of being freed from bondage, from the chains of sin. We are no longer slaves to sin, nor are we slaves to shame. Our chains are gone, we’ve been set free. Our God, our Savior has set us free! The truth, given from God, cannot be kept from us. So why do we allow shame to silence our voices? Why do allow shame to keep us from talking to other about God? Why do we allow shame to make us timid and feeble? We give away our confidence because we’re too willing to allow shame to drag us back into what has come and gone. In the course of talking with my friend, I was reminded of something the famous magician Penn Jillette, a stout atheist, recorded and shared after he was given a Bible after one of his shows by a fan.

 

 

 

Jillette describes this gentleman as being somewhat tense in the way he went about sharing that pocket Bible. And yet, Jillette compliments the fact that the man was so willing to share that Bible with him, knowing that Jillette is a strong atheist. Jillette makes a very bold statement, one that ought to tear into the hearts of believers. He says, “I don’t respect people who do not proselytize…” Proselytize means to present your beliefs to someone in a means to try and convert them. Thus, in the context of Christianity, means that we share God’s testimony. We tell others of the love that God has for them. Jillette, an avid atheist, recognizes this and appreciates that this random person who had attended his show, cared enough about him and believed in his faith so much, that he made an attempt to share that truth with himself! My heart aches thinking about how I’ve not been committed to that same degree. That I’ve fallen into the idea that someone else will come along to do the work. To be a passive Christian who might as well condemn people to hell, because I’m not willing to speak on God’s behalf.

We lack confidence. We as a church, we as believers, as followers of Christ; we lack confidence. However, Jillette was impacted by this one man who was confident enough, who loved God so much that he, too, loved God people, that he attempted to share the truth, the hope of God with Jillette! Jillette did not need to make that video, nor did Jillette need to compliment the man, for which he does not share the same beliefs, for doing what some might see as religious duty. Yet, Jillette was so moved, so impacted by the actions of that faithful person that Jillette filmed himself to share that moment with countless other people. Thus, the voice of that man, that faithful servant, was heard by many more ears! How convicting is it that I lack that confidence. How sad is it that I’m not willing to take the good news to those who are walking into the torment of hell. Yet, that is the result of shame. The lies that we allow to fester and whisper into our ears telling us that we’re not good enough to do the work Christ commanded. Telling us that we’re unworthy to tell others of the good news. Telling us that we’re unworthy to be loved. Telling us that we’re unworthy to have hope. Telling us that we’re unworthy to contentment. Telling us that we’re unworthy to be called children of God… but God tears those lies away and calls us into his fold. That love, that pure, unending love of God is poured out over us and it breaks the snares of shame, and breaks the chains of sin in two. We are free. Free to love, free to have joy, free to have hope! We are free! We’ve been given a purpose, a directive to love our neighbors as ourselves. To love others as we love ourselves. And like Jillette stated, we must hate somebody so badly, if we’re unwilling to share the truth of everlasting life with others! So go out in confidence, to wherever you go. To work, to school, to home, to wherever. Go confidently with the truth of Christ’s promise and share it with those who need it. Go confidently as children of God and bring light to those who are in darkness. Go confidently as ambassadors of the word and speak it fearlessly!

Converstations like the one I described are one of many example of the need for community. I am ever grateful for the community of believers God has surrounded me with. Thank you, El Presidente, for sharing your excitement with me! I pray for you as you seek to be a light to your coworkers!

 

Grace and Peace,

-Terren-It-Up