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

I AM

Just about once a month, I am brought down and told lies about my life. I’m told that I’m not worthy of being loved or finding loved. Told that I am not wanted, that I do not belong, that the people who I call friends only tolerate me and would rather be free of my presence… Lie after lie spoken to me in my own voice with words that are not my own. Even though I know that these words are false, I am weighed down and my spirit crushed. The enemy attacks very specifically, tactfully and I always know that it’s coming. The thing that makes all of this worse, is that I am dying on the inside and yet nobody seems to notice. Nobody seems to care (false).

I am partly to blame for people not realizing that I am suffering. I have a tendency to carry myself as if nothing is wrong and that I am well despite being suffocating. A few of my closer friends have begun to take notice and call me out when they can sense that I’m masking my struggle (thanks Madison!). I’ve also been more intentional of speaking up when I’m faltering. I’ve also come to learn that I am not alone in being attacked in this way. I and some of the other leaders of my college ministry are also attacked in this very similar way. Why? What is it that the enemy is seeking to do? Why does he seek to sow discord among us and our peers? I am baffled as to why we’re being attacked in very similar circumstances with almost identical statements of isolation. Yet my God is bigger. His word is clear.


After Moses killed a man and fled into the wilderness, he dwelled in Midian where he was met by God through a burning bush. “Moses, Moses,” God called out to him, “here I am… I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” God makes it clear that Moses known who He is and proceeds to give Moses a seemingly impossible task: to lead Israel out of the land of Egypt. Moses, like many of us questions God, asking, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out Egypt?” In this moment, Moses doubted his capability to overcome what appears to be an insurmountable mission and God responds with, “I will be with you.” Moses again questions God how should he answer should the Israelites ask the name of God who has sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt. “I AM WHO I AM. Say to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”


God is immutably clear when He approaches us. He leaves no room for question or doubt. I am who I am. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob. God states the relationship He has had with people with whom Moses as well as Israel would be familiar with. In doing this, God establishes a trustworthiness and gives Moses a reason to trust that God is going to work through Moses to fulfill His will. Moses’ encounter with God spurs a level of confidence that I find difficult to relate to. I do not know why I am so lacking. Why am I not confident in my faith? Why am I so timid about sharing my faith? Why do I find it so hard to believe that God is going to provide?

When my life becomes difficult, as it currently is, and lies are being spoke about me God is clear. Here I am. I am. God is present all the time and is speaking against the enemy! He is making His presence known. Here I am. Furthermore, God wants to be the center of our lives! He wants us to be secure in His will and to know that He is our God. How can I give any credence to the lies that are drowning out reality and God could barely speak in a whisper and put the lies to silence? God has a purpose of my life and He wants me to trust Him. Who am I to doubt God? Who am I to question His timing?

Honestly, I don’t know where I’m going with this post. I lost. Wandering life in circles. I don’t get it… I’m conflicted because I know God and yet I do not blindly trust Him. I know He is leading me and yet I want to flee. I know God loves me but I question Him. I know God has a purpose for me and yet I do not believe it. Why am I so broken? Why am I failing? What is it that is keeping me from being fully invested in the work of God? Why do I believe the lies? Why do I speak negatively of myself? Why do I compare myself to others?

One thing is clear. My God is bigger than my shortcoming. My God is bigger than my doubts. My God is louder than the lies. My God loves me even when I don’t. My God has gone before me to prepare a way. My God has established why I can trust Him. My God has shown me why I can love Him. Why I can worship Him. Why I can know that He is who He is.

My God made a nation from Abraham, my God delivered His people out of the hands of Egypt, my God gave Israel a king in David, God made a new covenant through Christ. God fulfilled every promise He made. My God has followed through in every covenant He made. My God is alive and He is living in me! My God has told me who I am. Now I have to believe that I am who God says I am.

God has made a place for me in this life. God has given me a family to love. My God has given me friends to share in life with. My God has given me a savior who died for me. No matter the lies, the doubt, the fear, the rejection, My God is bigger! His word is clear! I can be bold. I can trust that I am His. I am God’s child and I have no need in fear. I have no need in doubt. I can. I am because of who I AM is.

Why Me?

Little more than a month has passed since that last time I sat down to write something here. Well, that’s not entirely true… I’ve attempted to write on four or five topics but have been stumped by writers block at every turn. I’ve been able to get words onto the page but they failed to communicate what I was attempting to say and were not up to par with my own standards. I trip over my own words as I often trip over my own tongue and awkwardly fumble from one interaction to another. I’m sort of a mess… So I’m not going to write anything today. At least, I’m setting aside the Bible scholar hat and writing something personal and likely as informal as they come. Here goes something.


 

Why me, God? Why have you made me like I am? Why do I feel the way that I do? Why do I yearn for that which I do not have? Why do you continue to bless me while I am entirely underserving? I feel as if I am stumbling forward in life. None of it makes sense to me, God! I am abrasive. Rough around the edges. I do not deserve all that You have blessed me with! Why do You love me like You do? I do not understand…

I am not equipped for what You have presented to me. I am not worthy of what You gifted me. I amount to nothing yet You say that I am beyond measure. Why? I have not done anything to be worthy of Your gaze. I lack in qualifications, but You have presented me with opportunity. I do not deserve love, but You pour yourself out for me. I am irredeemable and still You redeemed me.

I overthink. My heart wanders. I am awkward. I have trouble speaking clearly. I am a mess. How could You ever deem me worthy of Your mercy? How could I ever be worthy of being adopted by You? I doubt You. I run from You. I hurt You. Yet You are always there waiting for me. You always forgive me. You always encourage me. You point me in the right direction. Why? Why are You for me when You should be against me? I should be Your enemy but You call me friend.

Teach me to doubt my doubts. Teach me how to love You more. Lead me to where I belong. Show me my place in this world. I ask You to give me heart for the things of You. To break me down and build me up. I beg that You wear down my edges and mold me into the man that I should be. Let me see the things of You and teach my heart to sing Your praises! Build my life according to Your will. Keep me. Bless me as only You do! Show me how to love like You and to forgive like You. I need You! I am lost without You! God, You are so infinitely good to me and I do not understand. I cannot wrap my mind around it. Why? Why me? Why are you so good to me?

Trust the Process

Living the dream. I just returned from a week of chaos, the Fourth of July, a friend’s surprise party, my first classes at Liberty University, and then leading at a student camp. I went into camp excited yet hesitant. I doubted my ability to leader, doubted God’s purpose for my being there, and what the future held for me. Through and through, I had reservations. The speaker for the week, took us on a study of Jospeh and how God used him in ways far beyond his expectations.  I was surprised, taken aback really, by how much this message impacted by our students and us, the leaders.


 

God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever

imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

-Ephesians 3:20


 

I was shaken to my core by this camp and God made sure that I got the message loud and clear. This camp was pivotal in so many regards and it took me back to where I was over ten years ago as a freshman in high school. The first summer camp I attended after returning to the church was quite influential in my life that would set me down the path that I now walk. The focus of that camp was on being transformed. What would our lives look like if we embraced what we claimed to believe and sacrificed our lived to Christ? So this exploration of the life of Jospeh has presented itself as a springboard into this very topic once again. Now that I have an understanding and appreciation of the bigger and greater plans God has for my life. Recognizing that God’s plans are far better and bigger than our own, submitting ourselves to His work brings us to Romans 12.


 

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

-Romans 12:1-2


 

When I was getting ready to graduate from high school I thought that I would be going into education to become a teacher. When that did not work out I had no idea what was going to do. Through my experience just after I graduated and began seeking out where God was taking me, I felt my heart being tugged toward ministry, specifically toward student ministry. At the time I had no idea what that would look like or what it entailed. When I began to study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary this became more clear and I began to serve alongside the students at my local church. During this camp, God really reaffirmed my calling to the ministry and that my doubts were unfounded. I felt or heard, like a faint whisper, ‘trust the process.’

I was convicted because I was not trusting God with my life and kept trying to force my way into things that I am/was not prepared for. My plans were on a different timeline than that of God’s and I was full of discontentment because they did not align with my desires. Anything area that God pointed out to me is that I still have work to do on myself. To hone my abilities and to be flexible, bendable in how I approach leading students. To be loving and gracious in how I engage with my students. I want to learn and to grow so that I may be a better leader to these students. I am still rough around the edges and have need of seeking out guidance and teachers of my own.

I know my calling is in ministry and God has only made it more and more clear to me. Trust the process. Recognize that He has something far greater and better planned that I do and that His timing is perfect. So, if I can impart anything to y’all through my experience, is to trust the process. Trust God with your life.

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

The Single Life: A Season of Life

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up