Remember: Remember Who You Are

Y’all, today was a long day. Those day’s where your body and mind are sore and restless. The kind of day where you’d rather do nothing and don’t want to be doing whatever task is required of you. Today was that day. I did not want to be at work, at all. Today was the polar opposite of the day before, when I was given a compliment that stopped me in my tracks, which is a rarity. I’m not one to normally be phased by words of encouragement, well, at least ones that catch me off guard. However, that was the highlight of yesterday. So today, after work, I sat down in my car and was staring at the miniature cow that sits on my dashboard and thinking about just how blessed I am.

Last year, I started at Chick-fil-A and one of the first purchases I made was of a plush cow to place in my car as a reminder of the blessing of getting a job after being unemployed for nearly a year. Today, I was not feeling very grateful. The Holy Spirit hit me with some of that good ole conviction. Well, to be honest, I had lost sight of the blessing God had graced me with. When I got home from work, I got into a call with a friend of mine at Seminary and proceeded to use two hours to catch up on the importances of life. Through this, I was reminded of the numerous times that Jesus or the Apostles would tell people to remember the many, many occurrences where God poured our blessings upon His chosen people, and how His provision carried them throughout history. Now, one cheeky Lion King reference for a title and a head full of thoughts and a simple premise. Remember who you are.

As believers, we are pulled in countless directions. The enemy tries to keep our focus everywhere but where we ought to be focused. We must keep our focus on God. Why? Because He is the source of our identity. Y’all, for those of you who are believers, followers of Christ, we are children of the one true king! We are valued beyond all measure, and God has made every attempt to show us His love and goodness! He is the provisioner of our needs, our comforter, our secret place. Yet, like me today, we forget and get distracted from the reality of our connection to God. So today, instead of extrapolating some lesson from my life with some Biblical connection, I wanted to encourage you, the reader. Remember that you belong to God, that He has called you by name. He knows you! He loves you! Remember that God has called you into His flock! Remember who you are!

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

A Study of Job: Chapter One: Character

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

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


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

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

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

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

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

The 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

Finding Love: The Valentines Day Post

Today is Valentines Day, a day dedicated to love! Cupid is aflutter shooting his arrows into people. Love is in the air! At work today, random people would wish me a happy valentines day without knowing my circumstances or predicament on this particular day. For me, Valentines day is nothing special. It is just another day on the calendar and no more meaningful than any other given day. I’m not offended or put off by their wishing that I’d have a good day, but I found it perplexing none the less. I’d describe Valentines day as a celebration of the romantic love, which is a uniquely specific kind of love. While some celebrate in different ways, such as the popular Galentines day or in sharing the occasion with mothers and fathers, I do not find my stock in it. Yet, a celebration of love is a curious thing. Of the many forms or displays of love, I am keenly interested in the love between friends.

C.S. Lewis describes the different forms that love takes in his aptly named book The Four Loves. Exploring the different forms of love that we experience in life, the majority of the book focuses on the love between friends. The Philia: The Friend Love. You see, I did not really begin to follow Jesus until the end of my freshman year of high school. I had been saved as a child at a vacation bible school some many, many years earlier, but had not taken steps to pursue God until I was pulled back into the church in high school. For a good chunk of time I was not attending church. I was not involved and I was a troubled, angry person. The circumstances of life, being bullied and other things, had driven me to be a bitter, resentful individual. I despised people. I wanted nothing to do with them. I was mean and cruel and directed my anger toward those closest to me. Fortunately, I do not remember most of the time from that part of my life, but I remember the path that I walked which brought me to where I am today.

Even after bring drawn back into the church by my youth paster, a Godly man who poured into my life and was my mentor, I was on a process of undoing and unlearning the ways in which I viewed others. Learning to love others took some time and even moving through my sophomore year, I still had yet to master it. Sarcasm was my weapon, a means of hiding my distain. A mask, though shallow, to cause others to guess whether I was serious or if I was being funny. I wasn’t, usually. Y’all, I was a broken person hurting people. I cannot say that I am shameful of the past, but I recognize where I was, and where I am now.

Throughout this time, I was apart of a group of people that became a sort of family. We got along, mostly. We went of mission trips, summer camps, and grew deeper together. My high school youth group was a pivotal component in developing me as a person. However, when I graduated, I was dropped off from the youth. Why? Well, a new stage of life. For a time, I tried to reconcile the change by serving and volunteering, but I now lacked something that I needed. I tried a newly singles group at the same church where I attended youth. However, I didn’t fit with these thirty somethings and married couples. I was suddenly disengaged from an oasis that I had found during high school. The years passed and I had yet to find a place of connection. I moved to a new church home and began serving. A couple years passed from then, and a spark of something was on the horizon.

Our church was looking at creating a college bible study, and had brought on someone to create and lead this group. It was here where the seeds of community where planted. I’ve gushed about the blessing God bestowed upon me with this ministry many, many times before! Y’all best believe that I’m about to do so again! The class started off small, with ten or so people. Most where younger than myself and I once again had to learn how to interact and engage with the people. However, as we grew deeper as a ministry, so too did we mature and blossom into the men and women that we are today.

I met a few people, a couple in fact, who changed my life in many ways. After jump starting the ministry a new pastor was brought on to further grow the ministry. For a time, this person had been the student ministry intern/worship leader. He and his wife, during his time as the student ministry intern, had started a bible study out of their home. It was through this home group where I found a new family. As he and his wife transitioned into his new role as college pastor, they had developed myself and my friends into leaders. As the years went on, more and more people were added to the family.

I adore these people! They hold a very deep and meaningful place within my heart! They have shown me so much love and have challenged me to be a better man. Our relationship to one another is unique as we are, in the truest sense of the word, a family. They are examples of Philia. Their love is pure and genuine. Their love seeks out goodness in others, to speak to their insecurities and to encourage them. When I think about what it means to love people, I think about them. The example that was set by the couple which took it upon themselves to love us in such a meaningful way. We all came from different backgrounds, we have different convictions, and we walk different paths. Yet, we love the Lord and we pursue his will for our lives. We were brought together, not out of happenstance or chance, but through a purposeful design.

I do not find it a surprising that this person, who was the college pastor, is one of my closest friends and mentors. I do not find it surprising that his wife has molded myself and the other men of this family of friends to think beyond ourselves. They have led by example and have shaped the lives of so many people! While we see everyone constantly throughout the year, we gather every year for a gathering of thanksgiving, a Friendsgiving, to celebrate and express gratitude of God bringing us together. We share in life together. We are a family, as real as any other, and I love all of them dearly!


friendsgiving-4


So on a day like today, a day of love, a Valentines day, I can’t help but think about this group of people. They are the expression of Philia and Agape! You see, I found love in this group. They love Jesus and are the embodiment of the his love! I found a home and a family! I do not believe that as the years go by that we’ll not remain deeply rooted together. We may go to the ends of the earth, but we’ll always be a family! So happy Valentines Day to you, in whatever form that takes! Do not take the people closest to you for granted, for they might just be the best thing to ever happen to you.

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

Helplessness: The Need of Someone Greater than Myself

Being in a situation where you are powerless, helpless is something none of us wish to experience. The inability to control the circumstances of our lives strikes fear and anxiety in some, and over the past week myself. While there are a great many things in the universe that we have no power over, like black holes or lightning bolts, there are things that we do have control over that betray us. This past week, my body decided to revolt by getting very ill. I spent the last week with some lingering illness that stole my energy and appetite. I have lived on water, Sprite, and electrolytes. I’ve not eaten much, and only today have I gone back to ‘normal’ food. Being sick is never pleasant, ever. I am fortunate that I do not fall ill very often and the last time I needed to see a doctor for some illness was in 2015. However, the torturous frustration that mounted with this lingering illness is that I began to feel better halfway through last week only to then get sick again. I truly felt helpless… I didn’t feel fear or anxiety, but as time went on I grew more and more frustrated. I would feel better only to then get sick again and again and again! Ugh!

Yet, in falling ill and having some new founded energy, I look back upon that sense of helplessness and see how in life I and so many others have been helpless. Y’all, life is hard! Being an adult is like being a toddler that is just learning to walk. We bump into things and stumble through the world around us hoping just to stay on our feet. Fortunately, for toddlers at least, there are usually parents around to catch them and keep the child removed from any serious dangers. Falling is not something to fear, for we can just get back. It comes when we fall into something, like a table or the stone mantle of the fireplace where things become a little more serious. Unlike the toddler, we, as adults, do not always have our parents around to be a safety net. Independence has given way to an ever encroaching sense of helplessness. What job do I take? Who do I date? How do I make ends meet? How am I going to afford this and that? This sense of helplessness is largely apparent in the millennial generation. Why? Well, a shift in some political focus has driven many, not all, to seek governmental intervention in perceived injustice. The appeal for governmental assistance in healthcare, wages, and many other areas are, at least in my eyes, an appeal by people who feel helpless in their situation. They, in their helplessness, have sought the aid of the government. Their appeal is to a higher power, to an entity that is perceived to have more power then they currently have. Now, I am not inherently making any assessment on political views, as my views are my own. Yet, I am making an observation of the power dynamics at hand. An observation.

I lost all of last week to the illness that had befallen me. It, as I previously said, was lingering. It would not leave me! Being able to recognize that I was not getting better meant that I needed to seek a higher authority than my senses, which meant seeking out my doctor. So too, in the life of the believer, have we had to seek a higher authority. The Christian life is one of reflection, as I’ve mentioned in many previous posts. As I have had time to recount over my troubles of the last week, I have come to draw a connection between my life before Christ and my life after Christ. Y’all, before becoming a follower of Christ, I was like the toddler. I stumbled through life. I was helpless. I did not have a purpose, I did not have clarity. I was sinner. See, sin is like the illness that I had. It lingers within us, and it, unlike my illness, is not curable. There is nothing you or I could ever do to fix or remove sin from our lives. Sin has corrupted us, like a virus corrupts the cells of our bodies, and has resulted in our selfishness, our wickedness. There is no antibiotic for sin, nor is there any medication that eases the pain of sin. Sin weighs us down, wears us down until we feel total depravity. Total helplessness. Once we can recognize the helplessness of our fight against sin, can we then seek the one whose sacrifice may atone for sin. The atonement of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross.

Y’all, Christ died on the cross after living a perfect life! He was tempted just as we are, and yet he did not sin. He did no wrong, and yet he was killed on a cross for the sin of the world. For you and I! It was only in my helplessness that I could see that Christ was the only means of being taken out of my helplessness. You see, I’ve always been an inquisitive individual. I never (hardly) take what I’m told at face value. I must come to a conclusion on my own before I accept something as truth. You could tell me that the sky is blue, and I would be agreeable to your assertion, but I would not accept it until I have completed my research. The same thing is true of my path to becoming a follower of Christ. I had to seek God out, I had to do my research. Ultimately, I found that there was no other means by which I could be taken out of my helplessness except through Christ. Why is this? I had to appeal to a higher power, a higher authority. Why? Cause I do not know what is best for my life. I am like that toddler that is stumbling through the living room. I need someone to guide me and to show me the way. I have support, not a safety net. Nothing is promised to me, and yet I am promised security in Christ. I am no longer helpless.

While this may not be my most well thought out piece, nor is it my most polished work, it is a small glimpse into my reflection. I am thankful to be slowly feeling more and more normal. I am thankful that I am not helpless. While I hardly become ill, this previous week has been an important reminder that I cannot alway rely on myself and my wits to secure my healing.

 

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up

Pieces: A Glimpse of Perfect Love

Spotify is a wonderful means of listening to music. Full of curated playlists for different moods, environments, and needs, Spotify has music for just about everything. I have made myself a good handful of playlists for different things. I have many different playlists for the Dungeons & Dragons games, I have classic rock mixes, I have big band classics, and I have many worship playlists which usually fill my commute to work and school with endless praise. One song in particular has caught my attention and has brought me to a place to reflect upon the nature of love. That song, which this post is titled after (Pieces by Amanda Cook), is profoundly touching as it highlights the perfect, unfailing love of God.

Growing older and having been privy through observation witnessing friends, family experience the pitfalls of our broken world. From deep hurts of chasing others, games being played with emotions, cheating, divorce, and the like, I’ve and so many others have seen or experienced the pitfalls of our shortcomings. The effects of sin, which broke creation, have corrupted the very pure, purposeful need for love and affection that we all desire. From the time we are born, our mothers, hopefully, have shown us affection. Our fathers, hopefully, have instilled in us a love that is seen in confidence and leadership. We rely on our friends to build us up and share in life with one another. But no matter how seemingly perfect, seemingly innocent the love we experience in this life, it is never complete. There is always something lacking. The failures of human love are seen throughout scripture. David sent a man to his death so that he may sleep with his wife, Samson was betrayed by the Delilah, Able was killed by Cain because of jealousy, and Jonah condemned an entire people to God’s wrath. While there are many more examples in the Bible, the few listed here show the depravity of sin and how it has ruined our ability to fully love one another. However, there is one example of love that has stood throughout time, giving testimony toward God. That is God’s love and his desire to reconcile us back to himself.

From the time Adam and Eve sinned and were cast out of Eden, God moved to bring his creation back into his fold. Beginning with Abraham, God made a covenant to make a nation out of Abraham’s descendants. Then God found favor in Noah, who was righteous and kept God’s commands, and made a covenant to never again flood the earth. Next, God made a covenant with David, to make him a king, and that his descendants would always sit on the throne of the nation God promised to Abraham. Finally, God made the New Covenant. A promise to his people that there would be one to restore Israel back into God’s design. All of the covenants God made were purposeful to bring not only Israel back into his fold, but all of creation. These covenants were preparing the way for Jesus, who would be the fulfillment of God’s perfect love for us!

Y’all, God loves you more than you could ever comprehend! The depths of his love are unfathomable! Before you or I ever walked this earth, he knew us and loved us! Furthermore, God sent his son Jesus, who was and is fully man and fully God and lived a life without sin so that he may die on a cross, a cross made of his own creation, so that you and I may return to the design God had in store for us. I cannot think of a more perfect, unfailing example of love than that. That God loved us so much, that he made a means for us to return to him. Additionally, it is not happenstance that God’s relationship to his people is described as a bride and groom. Where the shortcomings of our ability to love are apparent, God’s love abundantly reveals the inherent perfection that can only be found with him. So this is where the song Pieces returns to the fold.

Amanda Cook’s song is haunting to me for many reasons, and it, in deep reflection, rends my heart having some insight into the pain that some I know have experienced. Yet, her song is a triumphant declaration of the perfection of God’s love for us. Below are the lyrics to Pieces:


Unreserved, unrestrained, Your love is wild. Your love is wild for me.
It isn’t shy, its unashamed. Your love is proud to be seen with me.
You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hide yourself to tease us.
Uncontrolled, uncontained, you love is a fire burning bright for me.
It’s not just a spark, its not just a flame, your love is a light that all the world will see.
That all the world will see
You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hide yourself to tease us.
You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hid yourself to tease us.
Your love not fractured, its not a troubled mind.
It isn’t anxious, Its not the restless kind.
Your love’s not passive, Its never disengaged, Its always present.
Its hang on every word we say.
Love keeps it promises. It keeps its word. It honors what’s sacred cause its vows are good.
Your love not broken. Its not insecure. Your love not selfish. Your love is pure.
You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hid yourself to tease us. 
You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hid yourself to tease us.
You don’t give your heart in pieces. You don’t hid yourself to tease us.

Take note of the language used by Cook and take note of who she is describing in this song. Much is steeped within the short and simple frames of this song. I am not sure why, but this song breaks my heart. It resonates with me for some inexplicable reason. Perhaps I feel the depravity of sin within myself, or perhaps I see my own shortcomings. Either way, I am awed by how simply yet extensively the simple words reveal the extent of God’s love for myself and the rest of creation.
The word choice throughout the song is purposeful. “Unreserved. Unrestrained. Your love is wild. Your love is wild for me.” God’s love is not held back, it’s not kept at bay. And the idea of wild has many different connotations. I view it like that of a wild, feral animal. Thanks to the rise of new film techniques and camera equipment, we’ve been able to see the fierce, ferociousness of nature thanks to programs like Planet Earth and other such documentaries. The wilderness can be an unforgiving place. Particularly because of the unrestrained instincts of animals. In the same view that nature is unrestrained in its wildness, God’s love is similarly displayed. Nothing stands in the way of God’s love! He does not hold it back, nor does he distribute it unevenly. It is wild, feral in it’s nature. Not in a negative or destructive way, but in a way that it lets nothing separate itself from us.
It isn’t shy, its unashamed. Your love is proud to be seen with me.” The opening stanza gives hint to a dichotomy, it is here in the second stanza where the dichotomy fully, at least for me, hits home. The dichotomy between the love between people and between God and us. I cannot help but see the lines Cook draws between the two, particularly in the context of the romantic relationship. Now, I must give some context as to my position and the lacking experience I have in this area. However, thanks to the power of observation, I am able to have some insight into the pitfalls and dangers of romantic love in our current society. God’s love is not shy. It does not remove itself from us. As with the opening stanza, this idea of shyness conveys that God’s love does not hide itself from us or from others around us. Additionally, God’s love is unashamed. The idea of unashamed conveys that love, particularly God’s love is not ashamed of us, of our failures, or of our sinfulness. God’s love transcends our sin, and seeks to speak to us.
Unfortunately, for our humanly relationships, it is possibly for our significant others to be ashamed of us. To be ashamed of ours (and theirs) shortcomings. Thus revealing the lacking, the brokenness in our ability to love. Combined, the idea of God’s love being unreserved, unrestrained, unashamed all culminate in the next phrase. God’s love is proud to be seen with us. Frankly, this is demonstrated in scripture, and gives us a sense of the depth God has gone to show us his goodness, his perfect love. You see, Christ lived with, broke bread with, and walked among sinners. Christ did not hide himself from people, nor did he hide his love from the sinners he sought to teach. The same occurs for us. God has not hidden himself from us. God has sent his son to walk among us, sent his spirit to teach us.
The chorus really tears me to shreds as it highlights the selfish nature of mankind. The majority of ‘love’ that we experience from others, from strangers, is given out purely to suit their wants and needs. Our, or rather my, generation plays games, plays with love in an inappropriate way. We give people we’re interested in just enough to get their attention, then they hide. They remove themselves from us, causing doubt and self consciousness in those who’s are left to guess why they the other person has, as the slang term goes, ghosted them. Romantic relationships today have become a game of cat and mouse, where one person, and from my observation is typically men, give enough interest and pieces of their hearts to get the other person interested, before hiding away to see whether or not they will chase after them. Pure selfishness is displayed, and it only leads to a more toxic relationship and a depreciation of self worth. However, God is not like this. His love is not like this. It is fully given to us, it is not broken. It is not given out in bits and pieces, and God does not tease us with the hope of love. God has freely given his love to us which is displayed by Christ! We’re not left to question God because he has left us. We don’t have to second guess God for loving us. We’re not played with by God. God affirms our worth and instills confidence in us! So ladies, never forget your pricelessness! You are precious to God, and his love is perfect in every way! Find yourself in God, find your worth in him! He will not fail you!
Cook builds this concept even more as the song continues, God’s love is described as a fire, being uncontrolled, un-contained! Recently, California has been subjected to devastating wildfires! The images of the fires are unprecedented, and as such show not only the power of nature, but also provide a visible, tangible illustration of God’s love. Cause really y’all, its impossible to fully understand and appreciate God’s love for us! It’s wild! How am I even capable of writing about it, let alone understanding it? God’s love being described like a fire is different than the ways in which we describe romantic love between people. Typically, described as a spark or a flame. Something short lasting and gone in a few moments! How depressing is that? To think of love as a spark or a flame that briefly appears before disappearing forever. However, like a wildfire which burns for week and even months, God’s love has not ceased for any period of time. From the time creation was made, to the time that Christ returns, God’s love for us has not changed. It has not ended! God’s love burns, as Cook described, for the world to see!
You see, many of the romantic relationships people engage in are quickly gone after a few weeks or a few months. They’re focus is solely on one another. Passion is fleeting and quickly gone. We’re left wanting for something more substantial. Something lasting. In this age of hookups and one night stands, we must be careful of remembering the weight and worth of ourselves to God. His love, unlike ours, is not faulty. His love ought to be on display for others. A beacon to call others into something bigger than the selfish desires we attempt to fill by taking what we want from others.
God’s love is not fractured, it’s not troubled. It is not anxious, its not restless. Here a different distinction is made which I think reveals the faults of our ability to love. We, because of sin, are broken creatures. We have doubts, we have fear, we are anxious about what our partners are feeling, thinking. Will they leave us? Are they satisfied in the relationship that we have? Because of our selfishness, its easy for us to get what we want out of a relationship and move on because we’ve become restless. We’ve become bored. We seek what we do not have, and what someone else will give us because our current relationship is not scratching that itch. It’s a devastating thought to think that we’re so broken that even our ability to love is faulty… However, as believers, we have an example of what true, perfect love embodies. God’s love is not fractured, it is not affected by sin. It is not troubled, it has no hesitation to be around us sinners. It is not anxious, nor is it restless. God’s love is relentless in its pursuit of us. It seeks us out, searches for us. God’s love is exactly everything that we lack.
God’s love is not passive, its not disengaged. It hangs on every word we say. All I can really say is wow! Wow! Y’all, how perfectly is this described and illustrated. I can think of a handful of occurrences where I’ve seen couples out on a dates where they’re both engaged solely with their phones, with minimal attention paid to one another. Worse, is when one person is seeking the attention of the other, but their partner is totally engrossed in social media. God’s love is not like this, at all. We’re too valuable to God for his love to be passive. If it were, we’d have no understanding of what love is! It’s attention is intently trained on us, it is eager to hear from us. It seeks us out, seeks to hear our hearts, our desires, our needs. God’s love is present every time, all the time! We’re not left abandoned, left wanting! Even when we choose to run, it is right there behind us ready to take us back into God’s presence.
God’s love keep its promises, which can be seen in the covenants of made to those in scripture and to us as well! God’s love keeps what is sacred. It does not compromise the vows made, the covenants made between us and God. See, God made a covenant with us through his son. Through Christ, we have been brought back to God. We can find peace, we can find true love! God has made a promise to his people, a covenant like that of a bride and groom. To treasure us, to cherish us, to maintain our honor, to care for us. In an unrelenting pursuit of our hearts, God has made every effort to reveal his love to us! To show us the perfect love that we were designed to experience! A love that is not broken, that does not play games, a love that exceeds our wildest expectations, a love that honors boundaries, our purity! God’s love is pure!
Y’all, God’s love is magnificent! I cannot come up with any other means of explaining it. No matter our brokenness, our insecurity, our doubts, our failures, God’s love pursues us! It seeks us out! It longs for us to be with us! God is truly amazing! God’s love reveals to us our worth to God! It affirms our lives, and calls us to be vulnerable! Love is a powerful thing, which is not treated with the reverence in this age. We take it for granted. We abuse it. God’s love presents an example of a love that is unconditional. That is intentional. A love that was displayed by purposeful sacrifice to reconcile our lives back to God! I am unable to fully convey this! My words are hallow compared to God’s. I am limited in my abilities to comprehend it! But I know that God’s love is constantly seeking me out! Calling me deeper! Calling me into the arms of God! So I know, that as I continue in this life, what true love looks like. That I may treat love with caution. That I may protect the hearts of those I come across. That I may know that we are worthy so much more to God, that we ought not sell ourselves short to fill some fleeting desire that will leave us worse off than before! Sin whispers those lies to us in attempt to cause us to auction off our worth to the lowest bidder. But God tells that we are priceless, and that he is better than anything we can seek in this life! So, my friends, cling to the love of God! Find yourself in it’s presence, and let not one steal your worth!
Grace and Peace,
Terren-It-Up

The Selfish Heart: A Lesson on Thanksgiving

Since I graduated from high school, I’ve made constant stints from one food establishment to another. I started off making coffee in a book store, then moved on to a real coffee shop, then I began my own business venture as a media contractor, then I made a very brief stint as a food runner at a movie theater chain, and then went unemployed for a period of time. Through all this time and many years gone by, I’ve learned quite a bit about myself, about people, and about work. All of which has helped shape me into the person I am today. Now, last year, I started a new job at Chick-fil-A. It is not the ideal job I wish for myself, nor is it what I see myself doing for the rest of my life (but what do I know, Lord?). I must say, being a team member at Chick-fil-A is one of the least stressful, most fulfilling jobs I’ve held. I’ve been blessed with better pay as a starting position than any of the management positions I’ve held previously, I work with talented people with many various passions, traits, and skills. Furthermore, I’ve got a purpose and things I want to achieve.

During my time at Starbucks, I wanted to get promoted. I spent a year working hard and seeking betterment for myself and my team. I did eventually get promoted and then spent another year honing my skills and abilities as a leader and as an individual. During that time, I also sought to become what is known as a Coffee Master. A Coffee Master is a specialized employee (or Partner as Starbucks calls them) who has spent time to learn and study the craft of coffee. They are familiar with the process of growing, roasting, and packaging coffee. They know the ins and outs of how different regions and altitudes and levels of roasting affect the flavor of coffee. They know how to pair coffee to different kinds of pastries to bring out different flavors of the coffee and/or dessert. Have you ever wondered why chocolate pairs well with coffee? Well, semi-sweet chocolate helps high light the cocoa notes of the very popular Central America sources beans! Try it for yourself, try drinking a black, and it needs to be black, cup of Central American dark roast with a chocolate chip cookie! Anyway, a group of my partners and myself went through this process and were awarded with knowledge and a special black apron which signified our knowledge of coffee.

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Now, at Chick-fil-A I seek to continue to become a better leader and a more well rounded person. I truly have been blessed and as my signature welcome goes, better than I deserve (thanks Dave Ramsey!). So how does this relate to the title of this post? Well, over the last year I’ve been rather discontent with my situation overall. Being a middle twenties college student who still lives at home and work in fast food is not quite what I had planned for myself. Not to say that my plans were grandiose or unrealistic, but they were not inline with reality. Thus, last night I was laying in bed, as you do, when I was struck with some deep conviction… I’ve not been thankful for what God has given me. Y’all, we are far too easily for focused on what we don’t have, that we lose sight of the bigger blessings that we were not looking for. We’re not thankful enough for what God is doing, and what he’s doing in our lives! We’re blinded by own own selfishness that we make ourselves blind to the blessing God has poured out upon us! I find it scary to realize the extent in which my selfishness affects my being!

Our selfishness breeds discontentment. Nothing is ever enough! Nothing we’ve been given can satisfy the endless desires of our wandering heart, each new item that it covets temporarily fills some void that refuses to say enough! Fortunately, Christ’s death upon the cross was sufficient for salvation and to allow us to say enough is enough. Christ’s sufficiency that was displayed on that cross was and is the ultimate means by which we can experience blessing! Who am I to take part in enjoying that blessing? Who am I with my endlessly selfish and coveting heart to be among the court of Christ? Fortunately, it lies within this sacrifice that I am able to be thankful. I can identify the blessings that God has extended toward me and I am able to count them with all joy.

A position of gratitude is not one that is not always pleasant. Especially when stepping into the presence of God and having to admit that what I had or what I was seeking was not up to the standard of what God ultimately gave in the end. A thankful heart is one of gratitude and of humility. When we say that what God gives us is not enough or not good enough, we reject God’s supreme authority. We essentially tell God that we’re better than what he has given and that we’re more knowledgable of what is best for us. Who are we to speak to God like that? Who are we to say that our path is better than the one God placed before us? We’d be foolish to denounce God’s direction and seek our own. Yet our selfish hearts put us onto that path. Our selfishness rejected God before we were saved, denounced the supremacy of God. We were walking blindly through life, seeking anything to satisfy the unsatisfiable. I, for one, am tired of chasing what cannot be satisfied. I’m tired of this game of running after the things that God has said would not be beneficial to me. I tired, and its time to count my blessings.


I find it amusing when I sit down for a meal, at home or out with friends, and someone suggests that we ‘bless the food.’ One, the food was created by God for the nourishment of our bodies. Secondly, the food was already blessed because God provided it. A small qualm on my part, yet the idea of asking God to imbue divine favor (which is what the word bless is defined as) upon his creation is strange. I understand the sentiment, but we’re really giving thanks for the provision and not for God to divinely turn junk food into good calories. Well… I’m not sure what the health gurus do… you do you. It is here, where selfishness and thanksgiving collide is where I find myself. I’ve not been thankful. Or at least, I’ve not expressed my gratitude to God for his provision. Thanksgiving is demonstrated time and time again throughout the Bible. Expressed in a multitude of ways and means, thanksgiving is a celebration of provision that was freely given and/or met a need. Paul, throughout his letters (epistles), constantly begins with a statement of thanksgiving. Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians all begin with a passage where Paul thanks God for the work being done in and through these church congregations! Then throughout the letters, continues to thank God! Time and time again, Paul expresses his thanksgiving in a meaningful way.

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.”

-Romans 1:8

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge.”

-1 Corinthians 1:4-5

“For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saint, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him.”

-Ephesians 1:15-17

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”

-Philippians 1:3-4

“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.”

-Colossians 1:3-5

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.”

-2 Thessalonians 1:3

Paul expresses a very real and a very genuine gratitude, even in the midst of his own plights. He is thankful for the numerous churches who were faithful to God and faithful to the gospel and were carrying on the commands of Christ. Thanksgiving wasn’t some passing moment of a couple sentences spread over a meal, but rather a continued lifestyle that was evidenced through Paul’s letters. Paul’s attitude is revealing of the work God did in him. Paul was humble and confident. Grateful and meek. He understood that what God would provide was better than whatever situation he found himself. This idea is plainly seen in Philippians 4:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

-Philippians 3:10-13

Paul understood how God was working through him, and he was faithful to go where he led. I, over the last year or so, have not been. I desired things, good things, but the time was and is not yet right. I rushed God for things he has promised, before they are due to me. How foolish am I! Y’all, even now as I write this I’m still looking back and coming to make sense of the season of old. Of things I did not fully understand then, as I do now. There is much to be thankful for, and much to rejoice in. I’ve come to find that I’m not nearly as smart as I think I am, nor am I as holy as I think I am. Yet, I trust the Lord.

Being at the stage of life I am, I have desires which are appropriate but not yet at hand. I want to be married, to have a family, to have my ministry, to have independence, to have security. All of these are good things, but only in the time which they are appointed. I’m not ready yet.

Tonight, I was at our youth ministry where I serve. We were speaking on some things, a few topics, when we came to the very topic I now write. Anyway, this friend just made their relationship ‘Facebook official’ and we, as peers, have been celebrating it. I shared some of my experience over the last year or so, when they said something along the lines of ‘she’s coming.’ I smiled and replied, ‘and I’m waiting.’ You see, I’ve learned that it is far better to wait on God’s timing than my own. I could chase a relationship right now that would fulfill my desire of that kind of relationship. But it would not be the best of what God could provide. I could search restlessly for that someone fruitlessly, pushing God to make the time now, when I’m surely not ready. So too with the other aspect of my life, God will provide a means and a way when the time is right, and not when I want it to be.

There is so much to be thankful for, and I am thankful for the wait. God is not delaying or is he holding something back. Rather, he is growing me, challenging me, and calling me to something bigger, something better. And I am thankful for the lessons I’ve had to learn as I’ve gotten older about waiting patiently. I am thankful of the opportunities at work, to be poured into by my leaders, to be a leader myself, for the purpose and fulfillment that comes from work for God, for the ability to carry the gospel into a place where someone may need it. I am thankful for the ministry of people who surround me, who care for me, who seek to grow deeper in their faith. I am grateful for the second family that I’ve gain, who love me endlessly, challenge me to be more than I am, who instill in me qualities that make me Christ-like. I am grateful that I am able to see where I am lacking and can make attempts at addressing those areas. So, as I continue to grow older and I am continually blessed beyond imagine, I will be grateful and I will give thanks.

Grace and peace,

-Terren-It-Up


P.S. To my future wife, if you’re reading this, I pray for you now. That you’ll be held in the arms of God, that your heart is protected. I pray for your community, that they challenge you to be the faithful, Godly woman Christ has called you to be! Know that God cherishes you more than you could imagine! Trust in his timing, and find your refuge in him.

-T.

The Unengaged Life: Finding Purpose

Last week, I wrote about a conversation I had with a friend of mine regarding the excitement she had in God answering her prayer for opportunity to share the gospel with her coworkers. In examining the nature of shame and confidence, I began to think about the nature of living fearlessly, as Paul described in Ephesians. In the same fashion that shame steals our confidence, so too does sin lead us to a place of isolation and of inaction. However, God did not design us to stagnant or isolated creatures. We were designed to be social creatures who lived a life in community with himself and with others. So, too, were we designed to be laborers of both the physical and the spiritual worlds. Why, then, is our generation so isolated and disengaged? What has driven us to a place of inaction?

To begin, let us look at God’s intentional design. Genesis presents the creation account of the universe and mankind. He created man with a purpose and a design which is laid out in Genesis 1:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground… God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground — everything that has the breath of life in it — I give you every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good…

-Genesis 1:26; 28-31 NIV

This passage reveals a few things about creation and about mankind. Firstly, God created a system by which life behaves. All the animals, plants fall under the dominion of Man. They are created for a particular reason, such as food, and as such have a purpose in existence. Secondly, Man has an authority over the creation God assigned. Subdue it, God commands Adam and Eve, and multiply in it. As God finished creating the world, he brought all the animals to Adam and told him to name them. During this time, God observed that Adam had no one to assist him. So, to bring about God’s purpose for man, created a helper for Adam out of his flesh. God created woman, for she taken out of man, and she was to be a helper to Adam. Genesis 2 gives the account of the first marriage, the unbreakable bond between man and woman. They were charged with what is known as the Dominion Mandate, in which mankind is charged with ruling over the earth, and to fill it with more of their kind. Thus, with the creation of Eve, Adam was no longer alone and they, Adam and Eve, existed in creation with God. They were in community with one another and with God.

So from the beginning, mankind was designed for community. To be in the presence with others, to care for, to help, to build up one another, and as Proverbs would later say, to sharpen one another. When we isolate ourselves, we starve ourselves of the much needed correspondence that only come from others who are invested in our lives. We are separated from correction, form assistance, and from being a partner in the purpose God gave us. God called us into a place where we are interacting with others, to share in the lives of others. As believers, we are not to isolate ourselves, but to go out into the world and be examples of God’s love. Just as God charged mankind with dominion over creation, Jesus, too, commanded us to:

…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

– Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

Jesus charged us with a purpose, that like Adam and Eve, to continue the work that was presented to us. To make disciples. If and when we isolate ourselves, when we remove ourselves from others from the myriad of reasons that we seek to remove ourselves from people, we’re disobeying God. We’re rejecting the God given community that we’re designed to be apart of. Additionally, when we remove ourselves from society, we’re effectively denying the calling Christ gave us. Thanks to the fall, which is documented in Genesis 3, sin makes us seek isolation. Makes us seek a place to hide. Much like Adam and Eve, who before eating of the fruit we not ashamed to be naked (they did not know that they were naked), were ashamed to learn that they were naked and fled to clothe themselves.

Sin lies to us. Sin deceives us from finding community. Sin wants us to give it a place to find safe harbor. When we’re in community, specifically among other believers, sin seeks to make us uncomfortable. Sin attempts to silence our voices for when sin is revealed, its power and sway over us is weakened. This is why we must be engaged with others. Being an idol believer, we’re rejecting God. We’re disobeying the commands given to us. We’re selfishly hoarding the truth that we know to be true, and/or are harboring deep rooted sin that we’re unwilling to give up. It causes us to hide ourselves away, to denounce the important need of others, to reject correction, and to leads us to apathy.

The other aspect of the unengaged life is laziness. Laziness stirs within us and decouples ourselves from responsibilities. We don’t want to do anything. We don’t want to see anyone. And we don’t want to bear the breadth of responsibilities that are placed upon us. We sit idly by as the world continues to turn. Here, in this place of apathy, growth is stunted. Here responsibility is soured. Here we suffocate ourselves.

We were not designed to be lazy. We were made to rest. Rest that comes at the end of work. A time to recharge and be renewed for the days to come. However, laziness does not bring about a return to work. Laziness spins itself into a cycle of putting things off, delusions of things taking care of their own needs. God did not create us like that. Yet in this current age, there is more and more things to occupy our time for inconsequential, trivial laziness. We binge episode after episode of entertainment day after day after day. Whole weekends disappear with nothing being completed. Laziness breeds a lacking motivation. It removes the need to stir ourselves up into action. God designed us to need rest, but he gave us a responsibility to work.

The unengaged Christian is spiritually lazy. They don’t seek out God, they don’t seek out the Word, and they don’t seek to speak truth into the lives of others. I know I’ve been this kind of Christian in my life. I can attest to the destructive path this lifestyle takes. Yet I know that God sends people into our lives to spur us out of such patterns and calls us to do the work he called for us.

You see, when we’re not sure what our purpose is, we begin to slow down and wait. We wait until we’re somewhat interested in something before taking action. The truth, however, is that we have already been given a purpose. We’re to live a life in an worthy manner. A manner that reflects the perfect life of Christ. We’re to be a beacon on a hill to everyone around us that God had done something for us that the world will never be able to fill. We’ve been charged with making disciples, to work and labor for God’s people. To bring share his love with everyone that crosses our path. How can we do that if we’re not engaged? If we’re not actively seeking it?

There is much to be done, and we ought to run the race diligently, purposefully. We must, as believers, be actively engaged in pursuing the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth. We must seek community that challenges us, spurs us out of sin, pushes us to be faithful servants, and builds a community that makes disciples. The engaged Christian life reflects the life of Christ and the disciples that wholeheartedly sought to spread the good news to the ends of the earth. Their zeal was challenged along the way, but no obstacles kept them from proclaiming truth to all that crossed their path.

I wonder how this generation would be different if every believer was boldly confident, as I wrote of last week, fearlessly proclaiming the gospel, and was actively in pursuit of God’s charge. How would the world look? How could our communities, colleges, and cities look if Christians stood up and fought for the expansion of the gospel like the disciples did? I believe the world would be a much better place, and that more people would find peace that can only be found in the arms of Christ!

Grace and peace, -Terren-It-Up

The Muted Voice: Finding Confidence

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

Grace and Peace,

-Terren-It-Up

New Beginnings: Searching, Seeking, & Seeing

As the sleet and snow descend upon Texas, and I sit down with a cup of green tea steeping for maximum enjoyment I find myself looking forward to the year ahead. 2017 was a tough year full of its own struggles and difficulties. From the stresses of start at Chick-fil-A, the endless hours of school, a devastating hurricane, and changes to life and habits presented a challenge unlike most. I questioned what was I suppose to be learning through this season that I was walking, and I still have yet to really see where the lesson lies. By no means was 2017 a bad year, and in fact was one that was full of memories and experience that are unforgettable. The new year presents a metaphoric yet quite un-ironic opportunity for change. Reflecting back on the previous year and where I am now I’ve see where I’ve been drawn to leave behind some of what needs to be outgrown and a strong desire to gain some more skills that will benefit me as I continue to progress through life.

There is some importance in setting goals for ourselves as they assist in providing motivation, spurring commitment, and brings about a sense of fulfillment upon completion. So what is it that I’m seeking to accomplish, well, first of all the one each and every one of us need, a deeper relationship with God. The second is to learn how to cook, which is not only a vital life skill, but is a bonus when it comes to hosting others! Thirdly, I wish to be able to love on others better, or more effectively. This goes hand in hand with my desire to be a leader. A leader being someone who takes the initiative, who’s goal is not performance or achievement but rather the development and building up of others! These goals purely benefit in helping to make in being a more well-rounded person. So what do each of these goals entail and how am I seeking to achieve these?


Let’s begin at the end and work our way back to the beginning. What does it mean to be an effective communicator? What does it mean to love people? How does one go about accomplishing that? These are, despite the meta-quasi-author posed hypotheticals, valid questions that must be asked if for the sole purpose of providing narrative and outline. I recently sat down to read the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, while this book is swayed in the direction of (romantic) relationships it provides insight into the means in which people, both in romantic and plutonic relationships, experience love and the role it has in stirring something within them that results in what C.S. Lewis describes as Phillia (Greek) or the Friend Bond and/or Agape (Greek) or the Unconditional “God” love. Each of these types of ‘loves’ have a purpose and a means by which they are experienced.

For myself, my love language is words of affirmation, followed by both quality time and physical touch. Each of these means by which love is expressed are vital to loving others. So what do I mean by wanting to love people better? Well, specifically within the workplace, I seek to build others up. To develop a sincere, genuine appreciation of what they accomplish as individuals, as members of a team, and as members of God’s creation. Therefore, I seek to find ways in which to best express a friendly form of love to each individual member of my coworkers. Knowing best how I prefer to experience love from others, this places myself in position to see and understand how others experience love or appreciation. In many ways, this really has less to do with making myself greater or the better than others and more to do with loving others in the way in which God has communicated his love for us. Consequently, this leads us to the second aspect of loving people better, and that is being more like Christ.

Christ loved the sinner and the saint, he ate with those who were despised, and with those who were adored, he corrected the religious elite and taught the everyman. The life of Christ was God living in the flesh and displaying to all who encountered him what love looks like. Everything in Christ’s life was a display of love that was fully culminated on the cross where he was hung as a sinner to be, like the sacrifices of the time, an atonement for sin. Having knowledge of who Christ, who God is causes within us a reaction. A dismissal of God or a yearning to seek answers. Being a follower of Christ, being a disciple, I am called to live a life that bears evidence of the work of Christ in myself. Therefore, how can I reflect the love that God has for me to those around me? How can I be a living testimony to the testimony of God who loved us first, from the beginning of creation, through the fall, through the period of reconciliation, and through the ends of eternity? How can I, even in the smallest fraction, share the love of God to those around me?

This is a huge question, one that is not so easily answered or experienced. The goal, as I’ve said, is not to bring attention to myself but to point back to the source that has freed me from the chains of sin that weigh me down. To cause others to be drawn to God for the love and freedom that has been given to me for absolutely nothing, yet costing everything of Christ. The nature of this desire to be a better disciple,  to be faithful to the calling that God has placed upon all of his children. Thus, as I continue to pursue the calling of ministry that God has placed before me, how can I better love the students in our youth ministry? How can I better love my peers in our college ministry? How can I better love those whom I work with? The answer is simple, and that is by devoting myself discipline. To further build and grow my relationship with God, which is the first goal that I listed and will be addressing later on.


The second goal I have for myself is one that is rather simple, but has a greater importance than it probably should, which is to learn how to cook. At the moment, I am fairly proficient in using the microwave. I make a mean quesadilla, and can patiently wait for the perfectly golden grilled cheese. Not to brag, but those are the few culinary achievements that I’ve been given (by myself). However, over the last year I’ve sought to be more adult, which was largely formed out of discontentment in my current stage of life. My perspective was largely decided by what achievements or checkmarks of life I had accomplished versus my peers. This was inherently wrong and decidedly influenced my perspective, which caused quite a bit of discontent over the last year. Yet, despite my own faulted perspective, I’ve come to a place where I understand that life isn’t a game of checkmarks, accomplishments, or keeping up with what society states as being the norm. And for myself, I’ve come to a place recently where I’ve accepted my spot in life and seek to own it. Perhaps my sense of confidence is higher because I’ve behind a computer, yet I am excitedly seeking to pursue life without comparison to others.

So why learn to cook? Cause why not? Really, the idea is really take on more responsibility and to, again, be more well rounded as a person. I understand that the premise of cooking is not difficult, if you can read you should be able to cook. Well, I know how to basic half decently and should be able to transfer some of those skills to cooking. Anyway, its a basic goal, but it has real world reward and fulfillment.


Finally, I wish to better develop and strengthen my relationship with the Lord. As I’ve gotten older, the more I’ve realized the innate need I have for God. He brings not only peace, but joy, and understanding, and fulfillment! All of these, and more, are vital to life and my sense of purpose. Like hunger and thirst, I have need of sustenance which spurs in my subconscious a response telling me that my systems are out of sync. Furthermore, growth only occurs when we purposefully and intentional practice something and are disciplined in some skill or trait. Therefore, spending time with God and engaging in study if his laws and dominion ought to be easy. And it is, yet it is perhaps the most neglected thing in my, somewhat busy, life. Admittedly, there are plenty of other things I’d rathe do or that are more entertaining. Yet those things are not life-giving nor are they beneficial to my overall wellbeing. This, then, is indicative my own selfish tendencies and a reflection of my outlook toward both God and spirituality. I see a problem with that, and I’m intent on addressing it. Though I am with many fault and deficiencies, I am capable and determined to address my own shortcomings. Fortunately, I am not alone in this. From friends to family, I have people to keep me accountable for these things. Like the rest of life, this is a process. It’s not something that we busy and apply once for immediate results. Its not like a steroid which instantaneously effects the body. No, this is a process which requires both dedication and energy to complete. Yet the results of such discipline award results which only reveal the inherent goodness that is only found in God.

Grace and Peace be Upon you,

Terren It Up