The Cost of Disobedience [Updated]

I am not sure if I’ve shared this story from my life with people before. As with most memories, especially ones from long ago, which fade into the back of our consciousness and are prone to loss or misidentified details. These memories lay dormant in our minds until something rips them back to the surface and brings back the great deal of sights, sounds, and smells that were experienced all those years ago… Within the last week or so, I had a memory ripped from the depths of my mind and I was filled with remembrance of an event which began like most…

I was four years old when my parents decided to move across the state. Texas, for all three of you who do not know, is huge! Given it’s immense size, you could travel through at least four European countries in the time it takes you to drive from Texas’ northern boarder to the Gulf of Mexico. Everything seems bigger when you’re four years old! Your school was huge, your imagination was vivid, and your energy was limitless! If you were to walk down the hallways of your elementary or primary school now, as an adult, you’ll almost be guaranteed to have an overwhelming sense that it somehow shrunk over the years. Our outlook toward life and existence shrinks as we grow older; more jaded or cynical (but that’s a topic for another day).

Sometime later, after settling into the house that we were renting at that time, my mother took myself and my siblings to go swimming at a friend’s house. I don’t remember exactly what time of year it was, I believe closer to Spring than to Summer… but what do I know? I also remember being an overcast day, like so many of my memories are, though it was just as likely to have been sunny. I’m sure a mathematician could work out the probability of the number of sunny days we experience versus the number of cloudy days and come up with something close to fifty/fifty (I assume). All things considered it was just a day to swim!

When we arrived, I’m sure my mother made us all put sunscreen on and I’m absolutely positive that I had ‘floaties’ on my arms to help me swim, though I remember being a fairly decent swimmer at four years old (I’m sure my parents could dispute the details of this event as I’m looking back through two decades of time which has since come to pass…). The pool was huge! Blue water against a white stone boarder which backed up to a wooded creek! Talk about scenic and tucked away! After getting lathered up with sunscreen and putting goggles on, I dove in! Soon everybody was in the pool and we had a lovely afternoon swimming! The end… Not really.

During our time I discovered some sinking pool toys which you throw into the deep end of the pool and swim to retrieve them from the bottom [Editors note: I have been informed by my mother that I was, in fact, not as good at swimming as I remember]. I don’t remember if they were rings or sticks or both, but I remember standing on the steps of the shallow end of the pool and throwing them to the deep. I recall swimming from one end to the other, taking the deepest breath my little lungs could, diving to the deepest part of the pool, gathering the toys, and racing back to the surface for air! With a large gasp and splash, I returned to the steps of the shallow end and started this process all over again.

This process repeated several times and for what I remember to be several hours. Remember how I described everything as being bigger when you’re a tiny adolescent child? Yeah, there’s also things children don’t realize either… like how much your parents do for you, why things are not fair, or your own strength. I would throw the pool toys as far as I could because to me the pool was way bigger than it really was. Expectation and reality were not matched up at all. The best way in which I could describe would be that I thought this backyard pool was about the size of an Olympic swimming pool. So… absolutely massive! What ended up happening was that I would over shoot the pool and the toys would bounce off of the hard concrete deck. This happened over and over and over and over again.

My mother warned me to not throw the toys out of the pool, which I would not miss for another few minutes. Over time, however, my accuracy diminished and I’d receive another warning from my mother. I do not remember that I was being willful or outright disobedient (she may disagree, but I’m not inherently the best witness to my own actions) but I eventually annoyed her or upset her enough that I was placed into ‘timeout’ and had to go sit on a bench next to the house. My punishment didn’t last too much longer after that, but long enough to get me in a huff and puff [Editor’s Note: I’ve been informed that I was being willful, and was jealous that nobody was paying attention to me at the time]. Timeouts also seem to take forever when you’re young… however, at long last I was let out of timeout to resume swimming with another strong warning to not throw the toys out of the pool. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson.

I got back in the pool, gathered the toys once more, and… immediately proceeded to throw one beyond the boundary of the pool and into a flowerbed… Oops… I was sternly ordered to go fetch said toy and so with the splashing, sloshing pitter patter of my wet feet running across the deck I took one step into the flower bed and pain shot through my body straight from my foot to my head. A sharp, electric pain that instantaneously registered in my head as bad! I jumped back and yelled out to my mother ‘SNAKE!’

I ran over to my mother, my face red as tears flooded down my face. She didn’t believe me, why would she? Why would a four year old know that it was a snake that had bitten him? She examined my foot. Lo and behold, three tiny droplets of blood revealed where I had been bitten by something. So rushes to the phone and (I assume) calls my dad first. I’m sitting on the edge the pool, foot above the water, crying. Next thing I remember is her being on the phone with the Center for Disease Control asking what she needed to do. Mind you, this was a time before cell phones were as pervasive and prominent as they are today. My mother gets some basic information and the next thing I know, I’m in the backseat of our car and she’s rushing home to back her bags. I guess she was advised that she could stop long enough to get clothes for herself and I because I sat in the back of the car while she ran into our rental house.

I guess my dad had met us at the house or had been at home because I recall him driving me to the hospital with my mom in the passenger seat. I’m still bawling my eyes out, mind you, as the evening sun beamed in my face as we sped down the freeway. Now, we all know and have seen those people who go way too fast on the highways. Speeding closer to 100 mph than the legal speed limit, zipping in and out and around traffic, being a tad reckless. This was my dad that day. He had his emergency lights on, sped around traffic, and (I may be mistaken here) eventually got pulled over for the reckless driving… which I think (again, I could be entirely off base here) then got us a police escort to the medical center in downtown [Editor’s Note: This part did not happen… I was four… forgive me].

Eventually, I don’t recall how quickly or if I even had to wait, I was in the hospital, meeting with doctors and nurses, and describing exactly what it was I experienced and witnessed. So a few things here: First, I saw the snake that bit me. I was able to describe what it looked like, where it was, and etc. I had even told my mother where it was when we were at the swimming pool, but she was unable to locate it herself. All things considered, I was a fairly smart four year old. I think that I’ve mentioned here on this blog before, but I have always been am inquisitive child, now adult. I was always asking my parents why? Why things work, how things work, what makes things things? Secondly, being that I live and am from Texas, you would think that snake bites are fairly common. You’d be wrong! Snake bites are very uncommon! It was determined that I was bitten by either a copperhead or a water moccasin snake and that it was likely to have been a juvenile snake at that. See, I wasn’t bitten once, but twice!

Adult snakes have the ability to control their venom sacks and how they dispense it to their prey. They use their venom judiciously for attacking and self preservation. Juvenile snakes, however, will, upon biting, completely empty their venom sacks which makes them somewhat more dangerous than their adult counterparts. Juvenile snakes usually have what is known as a dry bite first. They bite but don’t inject their venom into their prey, which is when the second bite occurs. I was, if my memory serves, bitten twice in the span a few milliseconds! In the time my neurological system registered the electrical data which travelled from my foot to my head, I had been bitten twice!

By the time that I would get out of the hospital, I spent four sleepless, painful night and three days of exhaustion. I was put on anti-venom which is, as I was told, more painful than the venom I received from the snake. I remember my mother staying with me the entire time I was in the hospital, refusing to leave my side. Being that snake bites are so uncommon, I was one of the most popular patients in the hospital because every nurse [Editor’s Note: I learned from my mother today that my main nurse had a phobia of snakes and could hardly work with me… She apparently had to conquer her fear of snakes with me] and doctor would come by to see, learn, and examine my injury. This was also the only time in my life that I could honestly describe myself as being popular. Yeah, it wasn’t worth it. One more anecdote about my time in the hospital, my nurses were told to measure, hourly I believe, how far the venom was creeping up my leg. I guess something was lost in translation because the doctor meant in the records, but here I was, every hour on the hour, with a nurse taking a Sharpie to my leg and thigh drawing lines, numbers, initials, and so on. I wish I had pictures to show you, because it was very comical now that I look back on it. It’s also the closest I will ever come to having a tattoo!

Growing up, as I would tell my peers about this story they would not believe me. They doubted that I had really been bitten by a venomous snake, but I had. I have medical bills to prove it! However, more so than telling a story, I believe that there is a lesson to be learned in everything. We are the products of our experiences, the things that have shaped us into who we are today. Obviously, I am writing this post and I obviously survived and went on to live another healthy twenty years. Spoiler alert for anyone who did not get that by this point. Hi, I’m alive and writing this to you! *waves*

I never set out on that day to get bitten by a snake. I never set out to be disobedient to my mother or to cause anyone harm. In fact, my actions were very innocuous! My throwing of the pool toys never harmed anyone in and of itself (mother you may correct me if I am remember this differently than it occurred). Yes, I may have annoyed my mother but I was not hurting anyone. Why, then, did it matter whether or not I was stronger than I knew and was missing the pool? Well, because I was told to stop missing the mark. Because I kept missing the pool, I eventually got myself in a whole lot more trouble due to my actions. If I hadn’t thrown the toy out of the pool, then it is very likely that I would have never been bitten by a snake. As the old idiom goes, if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

Unfortunately, for many of us, that is exactly how we treat the sins in our lives. We think that they are innocuous, trivial, insubstantial because they are so tiny or seemingly limited to ourselves. We jump back into those sins over and over again because we don’t get caught or they feel comfortable. We justify our sins because they do not affect others directly, and yet they eventually consume us because they grow in secret. Another idiom which seems to line up with my story is don’t bit the hand that feeds you, but thats exactly what sin does.

Sin resides within the depths of our heart, often in secret, where we feed them and give them a safe place to grow and take root. Eventually, those innocuous sins bite back and our lives take a hard turn because they are either exposed or we are caught in a compromising position. My compromising position was the moment when I disobeyed my mother again, took one step into the flowerbed with my hand reaching for the toy. In one instantaneous moment, everything that day changed! Little things matter and they can have monumental effects upon our lives. When we belittle sin and treat it like a puppy instead of the wild beast that it is, we are quickly blindsided by something that we never honestly expected.

My sin was not that I threw the pool toy and God was not punishing me for that. My sin was that I did not obey my mother’s words. I threw the pool toy too far/hard again, and that time, after many, many times before that, resulted in me coming face to face with a snake. Jonah’s actions, initially, did not harm anyone other than himself. Jonah ran from God’s call on his life out of fear. Jonah fled from God and drug other into his mess with him. When the storm came, the people Jonah brought into his sins tossed him overboard in an attempt to save themselves. We all know how the Bible story goes, though much less Disney-like than what you and I learned in our childhoods, and Jonah continued to be disobedient to God. Jonah was contemptuous to the people God called him to speak to, and Jonah eventually had to face God over his anger and disobedience.

Now, my story is not exactly the same as what we find in scripture. Nor should it be. Mine is not inspired by the Holy Spirit or maintained by God. My story is my experience which I think has something teachable contained within it. Each of us has areas in our lives where sin resides. Areas where we cover to keep God and others from touching. We fear that people will reject us, mock us, and think less of us because of our sins. As Matt Chandler so bluntly put it at Passion 2019, to be 99% known is to be unknown. Either we are known by God or we are not. And guess what, God wants to come into that 1% that you are holding on to. To take away that sin and shame, so that you may be free. God knows exactly what is going to happen to that sin if it’s not addressed. It will escalate, grow, and multiply until you are consumed by it. Not with it, but by it! When we give sin a stronghold in which to reside, it has a place from which to attack us at all times.

There have been so many examples of Godly people falling to sin because they kept it secret. They let what they thought was innocent, little, and harmless have a place to stay and it would eventually be their downfall. Their undoing. There are an infinite number of what ifs we could trace if we wanted to. What if I had obeyed? Would I have been bitten by a snake then? What if I didn’t have any pool toys to begin with? What if? I have for so long be stuck on the what ifs, and I have learned that they do not matter. I can dwell on them all day and night and still get no where! What matters is not what may happen but what is happening. You and I are aware of the sins in our lives and what we need to do with them. We need a savior! We need someone who is appropriately qualified to deal with sin. We need Jesus!

When Jesus first began his ministry, he ate with the lowest of the low. The people that other despised and rejected. The Pharisees, the religious elite, complained and questioned Christ on why he would spend so much time with those they had deemed as unworthy and unclean. Luke 5 gives us a clear resounding answer, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The only person qualified to meet the need in your life is Jesus! He came not for those who were healthy, for who truly is healthy? Christ came for sinner because they knew of nothing else! Christ offers freedom from sin so that we may be made whole once again! Christ asks that we step from being 99% known to 100% known by standing in the light where darkness cannot reside! There is no such thing as a harmless sin, and we would be fools to believe so! But we have a great savior who came to liberate us from the wages of sin!

Two-Thousand Eighteen: A Reflection

When we think about how much we change over time, our memories typically fall on the monumental, tentpole events which rocked our tiny lives in the sea of life. For better or worse, these notable events oft time result in immediate action to be taken. We are forced to make changes because the environment around us has changed. Our circumstances have changed. We are forced to adapt to the seemingly ever-changing world around us. However most of the changes in our lives occur slowly over time. They are small, almost unremarkable things which go unnoticed or outright overlooked. We are the results of our choices and habits that we have formed. Thus, when I look back through my social media at the places I’ve been and the people around me, I cannot help but see where I’ve gone and where I’ve grown!

I started the year off in Atlanta, Georgia with 50 of my closest peers for a conference! I experienced, for a native Texan, the very arctic like eleven degree temperatures. I was able to visit Stone Mountain Park and watch my friends go “snow” tubing down an artificial hill. I was able to worship and learn with fifty thousand plus college students at the Passion conference. I experienced what usually happens on church trips: buses breaking down and extended hours of time on the side of the road. Honestly, these are some of the best memories because the focus is not on the situation but the people you spent it with.

I took part in many church events from discipleship groups, to camps, to lock-ins. I also left my job at Chick-fil-A and began working in ministry vocationally! I transferred from Seminary to Liberty University to finish up my undergraduate. I’ve made many new friends and have grown away from others as well. I’ve been humbled and been built up. I started getting into photography, and I adopted a husky for a week. I had two very close friends get married, and had others get engaged! I’ve seen God do many, many incredible things in my life and my friend’s lives! Now, I’m settling into my new job and preparing to go back to Passion in the next week or so.

All of these events mark different points in my life over the last year. Places, people, and times. But I’ve changed. Who I was at the beginning of this year is not too different than I am currently. But I am different. I less rough around the edges. I’m less critical of myself. I’m not resisting God’s calling on my life or am I trying to make it happen. My desires have grown more strong and my opportunities have gotten more substantial. I’m more aware of other’s feelings and emotions. I am able to more effectively use my knowledge of scripture in a way that others may be able to understand. I’m less hardheaded. I have friends who know me far better than they did and have learned that we are more similar to one another that we knew. I have people to call me out and to encourage me. To rebuke me and to offer wisdom. Something is different about me, something’s changed. My dependance on God has only grown more and more. My perspective is less cynical. I am less of who I once was.

I can attribute all of these things to God who has orchestrated everything together. I do not find it a coincidence that I’m surrounded by the friends that I have or the ministry we are apart of. I am not surprised by the challenges I’ve faced or the crazy life changes that have occurred. All that I have has been given to me by God’s blessing! My job, my family, my health, my friends, my ministry, etc. has call come by God’s hand and timing! I must admit that I am grateful for all that God has done in my life because I am so incredibly different to who I was not too long ago. My life has been entirely transformed because of God and I am free! I am more fulfilled in life because of God! I am satisfied through God because He has provided exactly what I need and I trust that He will continue to provide and lead my life. I also trust and know that the desires that God has placed on my heart will come to pass in His timing! All I have to do is to move when He says move and to wait while He says to wait.

If I can leave this at this, I have been saved by God! I have been changed by God. He started a work in me and I will follow Him all the days of my life.

My dear friends,

I want you to know just how thankful I am for you. For how much you’ve impacted my life and have been a blessing to me. All the encouragement you’ve given me this year, the high fives, the hugs, the laughter, and the shared meals. You mean a great deal to me, so much so that I cannot find the words to express my love and affection for you. Y’all have had such a positive impact on my life, and I know that God brought us all together so that we may be a beacon of light in the darkness! Thank you for sharing in ministry with me, ministering to me, and for loving me! This year has been incredible for no particular reason other than that God is so good! I love y’all all so, so much! I honestly wouldn’t know what to do without y’all! Thank you for being part of my life!

Sincerely,
Terren

One Piece at a Time

Legos were one of my absolute most favorite toys growing up. The nearly infinite combinations and arrangements and assortments of the vastly varied pieces lent to great creativity. I, also, grew up during the resurgence of the Lego Company during a time in which they licensed popular entertainment properties to make in their now famous sets. When you buy a new Lego set, they come readily packaged in numbered plastic pouches and with a handy, but easily lost booklet of assembly instructions. A step-by-step guide to building a completed masterpiece and, sometimes, creative projects that can be made from the same parts found in the set. 

The fun of Legos are that you have a completed project to work on. I would spend countless hours assembling sets, staging epic battles, and getting lost into my imagination. However, Legos also take up a great deal of space while assembled and so they had to be torn apart for storage. Even now, I have boxes upon boxes of thousands upon thousands of Lego bricks just thrown together. What I no longer have is the instructions to reassemble all the parts of the sets that I have. With enough time and sorting I may be able to assemble most of what I had… granted that the vacuum has more than likely claimed more parts than it would like to admit. The fun of Lego comes in the construction and the inevitable destruction. Part of the fun was building massive towers out of all the assorted bricks until it would reach the point of no return. Hundreds of bricks go flying everywhere with a loud, plastic-y crash and I’m left with a gleeful smile! 

The thing about Legos was that I never had to think about how to put something together. I always had the instruction manual close at hand to help guide me through the process until I was left with the finished product. Unlike Legos, we are not given a step-by-step instruction manual for life. Life is not packaged in conveniently sorted packages for each stage we inhabit. We do not all share one path in which we progress through life. Life is more akin to the box of assorted bricks, a smorgasbord of randomly, colorfully mixed parts. We each have a foundation in which to work with, but the end products end up looking vastly different from one another.

God has created very purposefully and intentionally. He knows exactly how He wants to assemble us, but God didn’t give us an instruction manual which tells us how to get a job, how to be a husband, to be a productive adult. Why? Because God has set each of us down different paths. For some of us, we are walking down similar paths. but they’re not carbon copies of the others. Some of us walk a rather isolated path in which we rub shoulders with few headed the same way. God did not give us a step-by-step guide on how to walk through life, but rather a book on how we should live! The Bible tells us who God is, why He created us, why He works the way that He does, and how we should strive to conduct ourselves.

Life is full of unexpected changes. Challenges that seem unachievable. Times of great success and of great difficulty. Through this God is not looking for us to have a plan on how to get through it but that we would be faithful to lean on Him for direction and instruction. Proverbs 16:9 states, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We are very much free to plan our way through life but many of us are rigidly locked into our own perspective toward life. We, very arrogantly, go through life in a mindset of doing things our way. What inevitably happens is that we go head strong in the direction our hearts yearn for, and we reach the tipping point… and have no idea what to do. We stand on the precipice after pursuing what our hearts wish for in fear. 

Why is this a problem? Because the heart wanders and yearns for many things. It is constantly distracted by the superfluous. The heart focuses on what the best of what it wants while minimizing the issues. What the verse above reveals about us, is that we’re terrible at knowing what we want. If you’re like me (single, late twenties, etc.) then you’ll understand how you start wanting something that you don’t have, especially as your close friends are seemingly getting into relationships, getting engaged, and eventually married and you ask yourself why its not happening to you. In your heart, you desire to be in a relationship, but you aren’t seeing the full picture… but God is. The other half of the verse reveals something to us about God. That He is the one working in us and around us, guiding our steps, providing opportunities to be faithful to Him while we are where we are at.

God is the one laying bricks, constructing each of our paths. He is actively working around us (I’m hesitant to mention the flashing orange lights, orange “construction zone” signs, and orange safety vest…) preparing us for life. God is not asking us to do anything more than to be faithful to go where He leads. God is not interested in our own works, even our best Lego creations are rubbish to His work, but rather our hearts. Our attitudes.

So often in life, when things do not go as we please or had hoped for, we question God in frustration and exasperation. We, very selfishly, tell God that if He loved us, He’d do as we wanted. But God has told us, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand (John 13:7).” In the moment, as we’re looking at the half assembled parts of our lives, we doubt God. We question God. We are not satisfied with where we are at. We do not have the full picture. Obviously, we do not understand in the moment. We look in the mirror and cannot fully grasp what God is doing in our lives, but God reminds us that we will know later. 

I know that I can reflect back on my life and see where I’ve been disappointed by my circumstances. Where in the moment I was not given support to attend the colleges that I wanted out of high school, that I was not getting the degree that I wanted, that I was did not have a community to be apart of, that I was not progressing further in life… But I now have the benefit of looking back and seeing how God was moving for me good. Afterward, I understood. When the state colleges could only offer me loans for school, God provided a scholarship to attend an accredited Biblical college getting a degree in something that I had little to no interest in which is now something that I am passionately in love with! Being apart of a ministry that is both my home and mission field! God has provided much more than I could imagine. He’s building something far more extraordinary! 

I would be would be in the wrong if I did not recognize just how blessed I have been by God. Where my sense of timing seems right, God has provided when it was most needed, when I could no longer rely on myself and my own ability but on Him and Him alone! God isn’t seeking a carbon copy, molded people. He did not design us in the same way that Ikea cranks out its furniture. God created us uniquely and has a unique path for our lives. God is more interested in the state of our heart, our souls, and our minds than the state of our assembly process. 

That is why God gave us scripture. To reveal to us, not, how to get by in life, but how we ought to approach life. T0change the attitude of our hearts to match that of God’s! As we pursue God fully, meaning that we’ve laid our lives down at His feet and been born again, covered in the blood of Christ, we have a greater preparation for the road ahead. Our perspective changes from our here and now to that of God. We look at life through the lens of God through Scripture and prepare our hearts to respond accordingly. Once again, I will quote C.S. Lewis who said “Nothing you have not given away will ever really be yours (Mere Christianity).” God does not want part of us… He doesn’t just want our sin, our good deed, our church attendance, our love, our ideas, our hearts, our money… No, God wants every part of our being! It is only when we’ve laid down and given over every part of our lives to God that we understand the process that we’re going through.

I look back and see that I am no longer who I once was. My life looks less like it once had, and looks more and more like Jesus. My life has been transformed by God! The self-destructive, angry, resentful, hateful path I was once upon changed forever when I found Christ again at the end of my freshman year of high school! I was surrounded by people, whom God intended, to pour into my life, to walk alongside me as the abrasive, rough scales fell away, and to teach me the heart of Christ. I am truly, as I live and breathe, no longer the person that I was. I have been made new!

“Do you understand what I have done to you (John 13:12),” asked Christ to His disciples after washing their feet. He had made clear what His intentions were, though the disciples did not understand fully. Christ was preparing to die on the cross, to be a living sacrifice for the sins of you and I. Christ did cleanse us from the bondage and death of sin when He died on that cross and when He rose triumphantly from the grave! 

So as I stand amidst the scattered pieces of my life, the Lego bricks, I know that I do not need to fret. I have no need to worry, because God has a place for me. I do not need to worry about what piece goes where next, because God has already shown me that I can trust that He will take care of that. I just have to be faithful to follow where He leads. God is, piece by piece, building my life into what it ought to be. Removing that which is not needed and shaping, molding my heart to be more like His. Better yet, when the table starts to shake and the tower of plastic bricks start to tremble, I know that I have a solid foundation on which God has built my life. There will be no tearing down that which had already needed to go. I stand solidly upon God’s love!

Dress Your Heart

There are many occasions in which we are free to dress down to the studs. From first dates to business proposals, from interviews to weddings, we often dress to match the circumstances or the social expectations. Rightfully so, as some occasions we ought to put more thought and effort into how we look or conduct ourselves. How off-putting would it be if you showed up to a first date without showering, hair unkempt, teeth unbrushed, no deodorant, and in the most tattered, nasty clothes you owned? Obviously, I shouldn’t have to explain this to most anybody… well, maybe junior high students… but I digress. Yet, this is precisely how we approach God when we come to worship him! We dress up to attend service in our Sunday finest, but fail to dress our hearts before lifting our nasty, sin riddled hands to him in worship!

Our God is king of kings, lord of lords, Yahweh, Jahova, Elohim; he is our creator, our keeper, and the one worthy of our upmost! As we are welcomed into the court of God, before the glorious, heavenly throne of God we must assume a proper posture, one of reverence and humility. Should we approach God out of pride and selfishness, we have already presented ourselves as foolish. Our attention is not on God or His work, but rather on ourselves. We come before God with a list of grievances, complaints, and requests before giving a second thought to what God has done, what he has provided, or for life in general. Who are we to approach God in this manner? Who are we to complain about what God has given to us and about what he has not given? Yet, do not do just that?


“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


We cannot hide anything from God, no matter how nicely we dress ourselves God still knows our hearts. Thus, as we come before His throne kicking and screaming, He welcomes us with open arms just as we are. We may try our best to dress in our bests, to put up a facade, but God sees through our efforts to mask our brokenness. God is not impressed by fancy clothes, designer brands, or our attempts to pass ourselves off as something that we’re not. However, God calls us to approach Him confidently, to dwell before Him, and to seek refuge in Him! God, also, is there to care for us as we act like children.

In the midst of our selfish tantrums before God, He lovingly whispers to us ‘check your heart.’ A gentle reminder that we may be acting our of selfish intent or a reminder that He has something better in store. God nudges us and prods up to take up a proper posture as we move through the various stages of faith. God teaches us what it means to be humble, what it means to live a life of fulfillment, and what it means to be content. As we come to learn and build a relationship with God, the way in which we come to God changes. We begin to look up at what is before us through the lens of a Heaven and look beyond the circumstances around us.

Through this process, we begin to stop at the stoop of God’s domain and reflect upon our life for a moment to prepare ourselves. We check our hearts before going before God. We make sure that we are prepared to listen to God, to seek forgiveness, and to be taught! We have to prepare ourselves because we can be easily distracted, we can have selfish desires, or questionable wants. Thus, as we come to God through tears, in fear, with doubt, or in anger we have made it a practice to pause for a moment to prepare ourselves to listen! God is going to speak. God is going to comfort. God is going to teach. He’s going forgive. God is prepared to meet our needs, as He knows them before we do. He’s working and moving for our good, He’s set us on a path that is far better than our wildest dreams. God wishes for us to rely on Him at all time and for all our needs. God seeks a relationship with us the likes of which we’ve never experienced in life! God welcomes us as we are, but He does not expect us to stay the way we are. Hence the need for us to dress our hearts! Our relationship with God isn’t a first date where we dress our best and hide our insecurities. Our relationship with God is one of constant growth, one of intimacy! A bond unlike any other! So we ought not dress for the first date or the interview, but for the wedding!

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.


tenor


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

Who You Say I Am

For as long as I can remember, I have relied solely upon my own intuition. My perspective has been centered on my wants, my desires, my willpower. I have wrestled with God for years over my life and His timing. I have tried to force my will into fruition to no avail and I have seen God work despite my shortcoming and stubborn refusal to wait. I lament that I am so incapable of letting go and fully surrendering my life to Him. I have been having what you might call an identity crisis and have had to step back from what I thought I knew. I wrestle with the shifting perspectives of my life. How I view my life and how God sees my life. Who am I? It is a question that I’ve asked myself on many occasions. Why am I the way that I am? Why am I where I am? Why has God withheld things from me? Who am I suppose to be? Why am I not there yet? Why am I here? What is my purpose? Who am I?

In the sake of honesty and transparency, I am terrible at relying on God. I hold onto my burdens and refuse to let them go. I rely on my own strength, my own mind, and my own abilities when God has asked me repeatedly to trust Him and to rest in who He is. I have known for many years now that my life was on a trajectory that was headed toward vocational ministry and God has recently provided the opportunity to step into that ministry. I am blown away and I am somewhat grieved because I have not believed that He would provide. Despite the numerous times that God has provided great things in my life I still doubt Him. I refuse to believe that God is good and that He has promised great things for me. Why am I so stubborn? Why am I such a failure? Honestly, I do not understand (though I do know and understand) why God is so good to me? I do not deserve anything. I am a mess and yet He still pursues me.

God views my life very differently than I have. I have not been able to glimpse what that is because I have refused to let go of what I have known. What am I to do? I am not lost, but I do not understand. At this time, I exist in a state of flux. I fight for what I want but then remember that I am not my own. I am convicted that I have become so attached to what expectations I have for my life that I have missed out on God’s blessings. I have had to ask God to tell me who I am.



You see, I am not done being molded. There are still areas of my life that need to disappear. I have habits that originate from a time when I was bullied, depressed, and hopeless. Typically they rear their head under the guise of self-deprecating humor but the truth hides within humor. I do not know why I do this or why it manifests in the way that it does. I guess that some pain and self-doubt is rooted in my life and that I doubt myself on nearly every occasion. I am thankful that a dear friend of mine has seen through this and that they are willing to call me out on it. Perhaps I am just scared to surrender. Scared to let people in. To let God in.

I am scared. I am uncertain. I see what God is doing in the lives of those around me and wish that I had what they do. I wish to have what God has not said not yet to. Why can I not be a more devoted follower? Why am I so scared to take risks? To put myself out there? Why am I scared to be used by God? I grieve for my inadequacies and that I am so unworthy of what God has done. As cliched as it may be, I’m letting go. I’m tired, y’all. Tired of fighting against God. Tired of the strive and struggle. I’m tired of resisting. It is so exhausting trying to make my will be done. That is not what God wishes for my life. Or your life for that matter. My identify is totally founded in God. He sent His Son to die on a tree of His own creation to be a sacrifice for my sins. He has invited you and I to join Him and has made a place for us to sit with Him. How amazing is that?

I must doubt my doubts and ask God to help my unbelief. He has done so much for my life and I am at fault for not recognizing it. God has invited me into His home and He calls me by name. What more could I ever need? What more could I ever know? God has told me who I am. I just need to be obedient. God has been so unbelievably good to me and I am grateful! Grateful for friends who call me out, who encourage me, who are hopeful for my future, who share in this time with me. I don’t deserve them, but God has surrounded me with them. He has a reason for our gathering. He has gathered us for a purpose. How can I not be grateful for that? So I take a step back and look at who God says that I am and seek His council. May I trust more fully and be devoted to Him greater.