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

Spring Cleaning: Renewal

Today marks the first day of Spring. With the symbolic move from the death of winter to the renewal of Spring come the need to spring clean. Both literally and figuratively. I spent the day cleaning out the untouched books from the shelf in my closet, gathering unworn clothes, and bagging them up for donation. Throughout the day, I’ve been frustrated as I’ve been home alone going through the motions of my day to day life. Getting up and going to work, going to school, going to church, then rinse and repeat. Every week feels the same, if I’m not at work, school or church, I’m at home feeling as if I’m doing nothing. Over the last year, I’ve wrestled with my situation. The sense of stagnation, purposelessness had and continues to linger, but recently I’ve come to a new realization. While we take the time to clean our houses and our closets, we do not always take the time to clean our spiritual lives. Today, I’ve had a lot of time to think and reflect while I cleaned out and simplified things that needed to go.

Over the last year, as I’ve discussed numerous times now, have been restless and frustrated with my situation. As I did chores today, I was sitting on two thoughts. First came from a line from the new Star Wars movie. In The Last Jedi, the main antagonist, Kylo Ren speaks to anther character about leaving behind the past. “Let the past die,” as the character speaks in a metaphoric change in the direction Star Wars is taking. This line has some philosophic value behind it that extends to you and I. Y’all, we far too often get hung up on the past. We get focused in on the things that we’ve done wrong, the times that we think we’re better or simpler, and we look backward instead of looking forward.

The past can weigh us down, and hold us back from taking steps to move forward. The other second thought came from C.S. Lewis who said, “I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Y’all, if you are truly a follow of Jesus then this life is just temporary. We get hung up worrying about today, tomorrow, our social status, and seeing how our lives compare to others when in reality we ought to be focused on the life ahead. I, we, have our priorities out of whack! We have placed emphasis on the immediate and not on the kingdom of God.

So why am I tripping? Why am I so hung up on the here and now? As I’ve gotten older, the more I’ve come to agree with Lewis. Unfortunately, I’ve been looking down in the moment instead of keeping my eyes on Jesus. Y’all, God can and will use you where you are. The strife and struggle to keep up with the ever changing, fleeting standards of society are not for our pursuit. We are to pursue the furthering of the Kingdom. We were designed to walk with God in the flesh and to worship Him. Just as Adam and Eve walked in creation with God, so too, we’re we intended to!

I’ll be honest, today I was frustrated with my life. I’m tired of feeling like what I’m doing has no merits or meaning. I want to have a life of meaning, of purpose. I want to be able to do more for God’s kingdom! So while I am here, where I’m at, it may be difficult to see all the ways in which God is currently using me, but I’m not stagnantly waiting for something greater. I may be in the same place, but God is using me where I am. And y’all, God’s using you too! So don’t loose sight of God and the things to come! Trust him and his sovereign plan for your life!

So here we are at the end of the day. It’s the beginning of Spring and we have an opportunity before us to reflect and look at our lives and do some tendering to our spiritual gardens!

Grace and Peace, Y’all,

Terren-It-Up

The Path That Lies Ahead: Leaving the Ideal Behind

This past weekend, I was a leader for a discipleship weekend for students in our student ministry. During the weekend, somehow we got onto the topic of relationships and what not. One of my students began seeking some advice and wisdom on this topic, and the room went silent in disbelief when I told my students that I had no experience in that area. Yes, it is true. I’ve never ventured into the realm of romantic relationships. Up until a few years ago, I never saw any purpose in it. During high school, I definitely did not see any need for that kind of unnecessary pressure. My life at that time would not have allowed for any kind of beneficial gains from that pursuit. Why? I was not as wise or as smart as I thought of myself. Secondly, I would have stumbled and ultimately have fumbled through the minefield that is romantic relationships. That was then and this is now. Still, into my mid-twenties, I have not dated. I am not ashamed of this, rather I am grateful. Grateful to have been able to watch other’s as a spectator, to learn from other’s mistakes and to learn from people’s successes. To watch Godly people come together in a union that points back to the goodness of God. To have mentors who live by example to myself and the many people they’ve taken under their wings. Even now, while I expectantly wait for God’s infallible timing, I look to those who pour themselves out onto others. So what am I getting at? Well, Y’all, I’ll tell you.

In the last couple years, I’ve grown restless. I’ve been discontent with my circumstances and have tried to force my hand and my will into places where it is either not needed or not the right time. I’ve relied on my own power, I’ve existed in a place where I’ve not seen what God’s been doing around me or in me. I’ve blinded myself from seeing the bigger picture. I am not resentful for my situation, and in fact, my singleness is only a small fraction of my life. I do not have remorse for not having dated or married. Yet, I see where I’ve failed to live up to the standard that Christ has called me to. Y’all, let’s be honest for a moment. I’m quite the idealist. Ideally, I would have been done with college by this point in time. I would have my own home. I’d have my own ministry to lead. I’d have my life together. Ideally. The problem is that my idea of what is ideal is flawed. Lacking the clarity found when examining the bigger picture. My perception of my life is singularly through my own lens. I’ve not had the sight that Christ has, nor the intuition to look beyond my circumstances.

I was continuing to read Ben Stuart’s Single. Dating. Engaged. Married. of which I’ve only managed to get a handful of more pages into before being convicted by the Holy Spirit (again). Y’all, this hurts in the right kind of why. While I have sought what I have found to be the ideal, I’ve not truly learned to value that which has the upmost importance and significance. I’ve not learned to fully trust God with my life and to find myself accepting the fullness and extent of his love. In an ideal world, Adam would have stopped Eve from eating of the fruit. In an ideal world, we would not know sickness or death. We would live in harmony with God in his creation. We would not feel the depravity of sin. We would not experience shame or guilt. We would be lacking nothing. However, because Adam stood by and did nothing as Eve was deceived by the snake, we have fallen into an unideal world. We experience pain, hurt, sickness, and death. We feel isolation, separation, and desperation. Why? Because we lack God. We’ve separated ourselves from the purpose of creation. By now, y’all are probably asking where my singleness comes into correlation with the ideal world. Well, I’m not entirely sure. Yet, I know that I’m lacking in so much.

My shortsightedness in regards to my life have put me into the perspective of comparison, at least in the recent past. The majority of people I graduated high school with have already completed college. A good handful have already completed their master’s degree. Some have married and have children. Others have bought homes. Some have started businesses. Others I have no idea. Yet, here I am. Still living in the same town, in the same house, staring at the same four walls. I’ve been restlessly trying to claw myself out of a pit that only I see. Only I feel that I’ve lagged behind the pack. That I’ve wasted time or lost opportunity. The truth is that I have not lost anything. I’ve just not learned to trust God. To see the things the way he does. What’s my hurry? Why am I so dedicated to make my life out to be the way I want? Why do I neglect my God who is so full of love and grace and mercy and incomprehensible?

The reason for my singleness, the reason for my circumstances at this stage of life is not, and hear my words carefully y’all, to punish me. God is not denying me something or holding something back. God is not toying with me or teasing me. God is not malicious. God wants me to value and appreciate what is best for me. That means trusting that what he has in store for my life is greater than what I have envisioned. Frankly, God’s plans are always far, far better than you or I could ever imagine. If I’m going to be honest, God’s given me a great many things that have assisted in forming me into a better and better man. I have a community of college students who pour into my life, who share in life together. I have a ministry of students whom I lead and serve. I have not one, but many job opportunities. From Chick-fil-A to my media contracting to the various odd and ends. I have an abundance of opportunity. I have an education that has not only given me a thorough understanding of theology but also a desire to apply scripture to my life. I have been blessed in countless ways, and I am not always grateful. So in the moment, the things we want and desire may not be what are best for us. They may not be beneficial. However, the things God has in store for us are always the best. Why? Because God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. He knows what is best for us. His best is exceedingly better than what ever idealistic, romanticized version of my life that I can come up with.

So, as I wait, I am expectant. Expectant that God will do big things. That he will use me to further his kingdom. That he will use my circumstances to bring other’s into his flock. That my life will be of engaged and intentional purpose. That he will exceed my wants and desires in such a way that it points back to his grace and mercy and goodness. So my singleness or lack of experience is not a detriment. It is not something of shame. It is not something being denied or held from me. Rather, it is a time for me to be exceedingly intentional in pursuing God. For him to be my sole focus, my sole desire. That I may not want or worry about what lies around the bend in the river, the fork in the road. But that my faithfulness would increasing abundantly. That my trust in him would be so blind that when he say go, that I would go without hesitation. My singleness, then, is not so single. My singleness is being bonded to God, pursuing his will. He and he alone is my source of life so that I may be a source of life to another. So whatever God in store for my life, whether it is here where I am or halfway around the world. I will be faithful. I will be trusting. I will go without question. I will go without hesitation. The path that lies ahead is one that I do not know, but is one that I will walk with blind trust.

Perhaps, when God says the time is right, I will meet the woman who will exceed my flawed perceptions but will be the one God intended all along. Perhaps, when God says the time is right, I will finish school and begin to follow God into the next stage of life. Perhaps, when God says the time is right, I will have a job that is not a job, but is a ministry. In the meanwhile, I can only be expectant of God to do big things. Both in my life and in this world. I must have faith. I must have trust. I must remind myself that what I want in the moment may not be what is best or appropriate, but rather a hindrance and a distraction. May you and you along, God, be the eyes in which I see life.

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up