Not My Way, but Your Way

I’m done. I tired of seeking my own end. Tired of trying to force my will upon Him. I’ve had enough! Who am I to put God in a box? Who am I to limit what God is capable of accomplishing? I am but a speck of dust, small and inconsequential compared to majesty and might of God! He is so much bigger than myself that I cannot even begin to comprehend the infinite vastness of His work! He is far better than I could ever be and He is working all things together for His good!

Last year while having a conversation with a friend about what God was doing in their life, they phrased something that has stuck with me ever since. They, in speaking of God, we’re feeling God drawing them out asking them to “doubt their doubts.” To let go of their hesitations and to run fully, freely into the calling God has placed upon their lives! The last year was just that, me slowly responding to God as he beckoned me out beyond my expectations and put into place things behind my wildest imagination!

I’ve been to three Passion Conferences, and each has been mightily impactful in nudging me into deeper faith and at chipping away at my heart. This year I did not sense that much was of what was shared was directed at me, but as I sit here now, I know that I’m wrong. Passion highlighted just how little I really do know… all the seminary classes, bible studies, and research I’ve done is moot… because God is better than I thought. Bigger than my intellect. Bigger than my understanding. Bigger than my doubt. I’ve been the skeptic. I’ve been the cynic. I’m done with trying to make sense of everything. I’m tired of trying to have everything boil down to something logical. I’m tired of the up and down.

God has made it quite apparent that His way is far better and stable than my own. I am going to cling to Him with all that I am! I’m committing myself to the path that He has laid and I’m going to be faithful to follow Him! Not my way, God, but your way! Not my will, but your will!


Y’all, I really don’t know what to say. For once in my life I am grasping at the words to express this feeling, this stirring in my heart and soul. Alas, I have not… any term or phrase which adequately describes where I am at in this moment.

I feel like a waterfall of emotions is cascading down around me; joy, peace, fear, doubt, love, praise, want, and so much more. This is not turmoil… but rather something stirring deep within my soul. If my suspicions are correct, this is God shaking me up and preparing me for something different. Revealing where I’ve resisted change, where I’ve let son take root, where I need to change. God is preparing me for something, and for the first time in a long time I feel something that only really appeared when I first took steps in faith.

I am not entirely sure where this started or how I got here. A sudden crash of emotions and overflowing of my heart, perhaps… I’m not even sure what I’m trying to communicate. I just know that God has been too good to me… and I have been so underserving… so unfaithful…

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

Out from the Valley: The Road to Passion

This year has been one of the toughest years on record, and that has only transpired since Hurricane Harvey. Now, while I was not directly affected by the hurricane in the terms of damage, though so many others were,  I was met with the difficulties of adjusting school schedules, time away from work, and just the stresses that come from such a storm. In March, I started at a new job as a full time employee, I’ve expanded my personal business as well, and I’ve been attending school full time for a couple years now. I have been, and at the moment, burning the candle at both ends. I’ll be honest, it’s been slowly wearing me down for months. I’ve not been depressed, but rather just tired. Not exhausted, but just tired. Over the last couple months, I’ve been scraping to reclaim any spare moment of time where I could remove myself from the world for a couple hours here and there just to recharge. Unfortunately, I’ve been been claiming some of that time from places that I probably should not have.

Every Sunday, I assist with the audio-visual media for the youth service of the congregation that I attend, then I co-lead a small group of ninth grade students from the youth group after their message, before going to my college Bible study class where I again assist with the audio-visual component of our displaced classroom. Lately, I’ve fulfilled my duties with the youth, and then going to my class to check their media needs before leaving just after the class begins. I slip out the door at the back of the classroom and head home to nap, play video game, and just rest. While this behavior is not inherently detrimental, especially due to rest being a necessity for our wellbeing, I’ve kind of just been idle for over a month. Here, in this idleness, this apathy, I’ve fallen into the trap of removing myself from community, a much needed community that I so fondly appreciate! So what did I do? Well, I took the week of Thanksgiving off from work. I spent a couple days catching up on some school work before spending the rest of the week resting and spending time with my family.

Come the next Sunday, I was recharged and found myself returning to a place where I was stepping back into proper reverence for my God! My mentality toward service returned to a place of opportunity, not a job. I had spent two months in a valley of darkness, a place of depravity where my soul lingered and was subsequently drained. Only to take one first step out into the incline of the mountain and once again stood into the light ready to linger in the presence of the Lord! Luckily for me, there are things to look forward to!

 


 

We all go through seasons of difficulty and seasons of success. The ups and down of life are both areas in which growth occurs. For me, during this time, I could not and still do not see where it is I am being grown and stretched. Yet, I know that the Lord is working and stirring within me for the benefit of His kingdom. Despite my limited, human view, I am faithful that this season is for my growth and greater dependance upon the Lord. Trust in the Lord is easy at time, while also being more difficult at times. So what makes entering into a place where you go idle is the lacking of perspective and understanding. It makes you question where your strength and energy originates. It makes you question where you are headed. I must admit that had I not had the perspective of where I was within the valley, it more than likely would not have been headed into a good direction.

Too, do I have exceptional friends, Jesus Family, that transcend blood and distance to keep me accountable. I’ve been blessed to have people reach out and pull me through this time, to talk, to listen, and to share in life. Being a student at a seminary working toward a degree in Biblical studies makes it difficult, for myself at the least, to find a way to work what you know and twist it around on yourself. Being a know-it-all is the easiest path to use the knowledge that you learn along the way, which is why I am so appreciative of my friends who are able to correct me and call me back to a place to recognize my faults, my sins. Looking back through this time, I believe this has been a season of preparation, to grow up, as things loom on the horizon.

In 2015, I attended my first Passion Conference at the Toyota Center in Houston. I attended the conference with my new college minister and the small core of our college ministry at that time. While I enjoyed my time, it was difficult to turn off my seminary mind and criticism of those speaking at the conference. Setting aside what I found to be poor interpretation and execution of Scripture, I was too hard of heart to let the Spirit speak to me through those there to speak to us. Well, in January, I will be going to Atlanta, Georgia to attend Passion 2018 with my college ministry which has grown larger in number and deeper in Spirit. I am eagerly awaiting the opportunity to be receptive to what I have to be taught by the Spirit. I earnestly ask to be broken down, knocked down a couple pegs, as someone who has need to be more compassionate, more personal in my application of Scripture.

Looking back, I see the path I’ve travelled and the walls of the valley which surrounded me, just for a season, and see where I could have done better. I look ahead, and see opportunity to be better, to mature, and to hold fast to the truth which I know. God has placed me on a path that I cannot explain, nor can I hope for myself. I am far better off along the path set before me than the one I tread myself. So if there is anything I can ask of the Lord at this time, anything that I am lacking, it is joy! Joy! Let me rejoice in the Lord, may I celebrate the work He continues to do in the lives of those around me. May I cheer on others who’s hearts the Lord is stirring. May I love others deeper, may my attitude reflect the endless, ceaseless grace that has been bestowed that I do not deserve!

This is the first piece that I plan to write in the next few weeks leading up to the Passion Conference. I appreciate that you took the time to read this post and visit my new blog. I hope that I will be able to continue to write in such a way that I may share my thoughts, experiences, and life with you as I move toward being a more faithful servant to the Lord.

Grace and peace be upon you,

-Terren