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