Choosing Joy, Peace, and Love

I have a strong distaste for pointless or meaningless small talk particularly with people whom I have a relatively founded relationship with. The dutiful exchange of ‘how are you?’ and ‘I’m good/fine/ok’ is done in such a way that it is apparent that nobody really cares and that they are performing their social obligation. The dull pleasantries that are exchanged in this manner do not yield fruit nor do they provide opportunity to further grow and develop the relationship. It is simply small talk that fades into the aether as soon as the moment passes. Thus I despise small talk. However, the question of ‘how are you’ does not have to be a pointless introductory question and there are some who are genuinely interested and concerned about how we are doing in life and are hoping for an honest answer.

I constantly ask the students in our youth group how their week has been, followed with how they are doing. Most of the time, you’ll get nearly identical answers from them (almost verbatim) which I find humorous because I already expect the ‘I’m fine’ answer. Using ‘I’m fine’ is typically the phrased used to save face or to hide what is actually going on. I do not pry, but you can tell that it’s not a honest response. However, I follow up with some variation of ‘What is one good thing God has provided you with this week’ or ‘Where has God given you joy this week.’ I am tickled because the question stumps them for a moment as they search through their recollection to find anything that matches the posed question. No matter what they had previously said or how their carried themselves, a smile breaks across their face as they remember something that brought them joy, happiness, or peace during the week. Some answers include but are not limited to ‘I took a nap’ or ‘I have Taco Bell’ or ‘my dog did this really funny thing.’ What I have observed is that we, myself included, are very much focused on what goes wrong during the week or what what did not go our way that we forget what good happened. Which what a testament is that to our fallen nature!

When God has done something incredible, miraculous scripture shows how easily mankind turns away forgetting what has just happened minutes, days, weeks before. For example, God empowered Moses to split the sea as the Israelites fled from Egypt and just days laters as Moses ascended Mount Sinai the Israelites decide to build a golden calf to worship as their god! After Christ performed many miracles and displayed his divinity to the Jewish people, they were given the choice of taking back Jesus or the murderer Barabbas and they choose Barabbas! The point being is that we are so prone to wander even when we’ve seen God move and do incredible things! For followers of Christ, we’ve seen firsthand how God has transformed our lives and we have experienced the peace and joy that is only found in God. So why do we still have such difficulty finding joy? Finding peace? Finding love? Why is our first instinct to hone in on negative things?

Choice. Who made the first decision in history? Who set all of life into motion? Who decide what would be and what would come? God did. Before time, matter, everything it was just God. God always was, always is, and always will be. God decided to create all thing. God chose to create the heavens and the earth. To populate the world with animals and the sky with stars. To separate the land with water. To create Mankind and to create women from the man. God decided. Thus God put into motion everything that we now know. God gave Adam the choice to name each of the animals, plants, and things. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and let them live as they were designed. They were capable of making their own decisions, able to move about freely, to do as they wished. However God gave them one warning, one command. Do not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil for they would surely die. Adam and Eve had one simple command to follow and even they chose… poorly.


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Sure, the serpent tempted them but why would God give them the ability to choose whether or not disobey him? Because we’re not mindless, personality-less creatures. We were made with expression, with uniqueness, with purpose to worship God! Thus we had to be able to choose to worship God and we have the capability to disobey God. So this is where we ended up. Broken. Sinful. Separated from God. Yet God was not done working. God chose to make a way where there was no way. God chose to come to be a living sacrifice for the redemption of His creation. In doing so, God gave us even greater ability to choose. When Christ died on the cross for the sins of all of humanity He made a way where there was no possible way for man to choose between life and death. Just as God chose to be the ultimate example of selfless love, we can choose to die to ourselves and find joy, peace, and salvation in Christ!

We can choose to be joyful. We can choose to seek out the things that bring the heart of God joy in the midst of trials. We can find peace in the chaos. We can trust when we can so no possibility before us. We can choose to follow God when there’s temptation in front of us. There is freedom in Christ! There is freedom in the Cross! There is freedom in God! When we take on the heart of Christ, when we look through the lens of Heaven, then our outlook on Earth is completely different! Life is worth living! No matter how dark life may be, the light pierces through it! There is no power on Earth that can defeat God! So we can seek out positivity in our day to day lives. We can find things that God has put before us and celebrate that God is faithful, that God is good!

We are, of course, capable of conducting ourselves through life with a great deal of unwillingness. What I mean is that we can be grumpy and agitated by life as we walk through it. We can choose to be bothered by what God has done or by what God has withheld all while conducting ourselves in a begrudging manner. This is what I mean by an unwilling willingness. Frankly, I believe that a great many of us who call ourselves Christians (followers of Christ), have or are conducting ourselves in this manner. We have chosen to be resentful rather than joyful toward the life that God has placed us in. Thus we have the difficult choice of being intentional on what we set our focus on. All in all, we can choose to be of a despite myself mindset. We can chose to die to ourselves and rejoice in God’s plans. Let us not forget that we have hope because God created a way where there was not one. We can hope because we had no hope at one time. Choose joy, my friends as you go about your daily lives.


 

It is my sincerest hope that this website of benefit to you and that you might find hope, peace, and encouragement through these words. God is doing a great work in this world and He is moving ceaselessly! Take heart that God is faithful to love, faithful to provide for your every need! Rest in Him and be a source of life to those around you! Thank you for reading my blog!

-Terren-It-Up

Finding Serenity: Peace

Y’all, this past week was phenomenal! Throughout the week God affirmed me in many different ways. Particularly and most noticeably through a friend at my college Bible study who simply paid me a much larger compliment than they knew. I was definitely standing on top of the mountain last week! Which brings us to tonight, I just sat down in my living room to watch my favorite baseball team after going for a stroll around my neighborhood. Where I would normally go walking with music I instead went without with the purpose of spending some time with God. As I began my walk I lifted up a prayer for some friends who have asked for it. One who’s currently working in Asia, one who’s preparing to head to the Middle East, one who’s family is experiencing loss, and then after I had raised my petitions on their behalf I told God that I’d stop talking to Him and talk the rest of the time to listen.

For Texas, it has been unseasonably cool and uncharacteristically overcast. The foggy, misty weather was more reminiscent of the Pacific-Northwest than of Texas. The sharp, deeply saturated greens of the plants contrasted nicely against the cool grey sky and slight mist falling through the air. Most curious, as I live in a neighborhood the is just adjacent from a major thoroughfare, was how quiet the world was. Not the eerie, artificial silence of scary movies but the tranquil quietness of a nature trail away from civilization. The absence of people, cars, and aircraft was noticeable. So as I walked, I just looked up to the sky, its blank canvas, and listened. I’m usually thinking about any myriad of topics with my internal dialogue. A ceaseless back and forth of analysis of situations, probabilities, and impossibilities. However, y’all, I was free of such internal squabbling.

Looking back over the last week, I was at peace with God, my circumstances, and the future. Honestly y’all, there is a ton of uncertainty in the air regarding my future. Today, I learned based on some changes coming to school that it would take me four more years (on top of the four I’ve already attended) to finish the last 33 credit hours of my degree. Yeah… No thank you! However, I have already begun to pray for the future and to cast out pieces of the puzzle to see where they land. I wholly trust God to carry me through all of this. Frankly, I have no idea what purpose it serves at this time but I know there is purpose in it. Some may find it odd, but I’m completely at ease! I have hope for the future; I am optimistic about where the Lord is leading! I have faith that God has good things in store for me!

I wait in eager expectation! Why? Because I’ve seen God move in my life over the last four years. I’ve seen the way God has grown my ministry and the ministry I’m apart of. I eagerly anticipate God to move ever further! To call me deeper into my purpose! So if it’s a job, a school, a wife, a whatever, I eagerly await God’s timing! Y’all, this is peace! Better yet, this is contentment! A full trust and foundation found in God! Psalms begins by making clear that blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord and that he is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in season, nor does its leaves wither (Psalm 1:1-3 (author paraphrase))! Being rooted in God’s plans and laws gives you and I have a foundation that can withstand the various seasons that come. We will not be withered down and wasted away by seasons of drought, nor will our fruits be lacking when the season of harvest comes! When we are rooted in the Lord we are completely secure! We are without worry! We can have peace!

This is what serenity is, a lacking of anxiety! There’s a reason that God’s peace is described as being beyond all understanding (Philippians 4:7), and that is because it defies our worldly logic! When we’re so busy being caught up with the every minute concern or doubt or fear that crosses our threshold we cause ourselves to suffer. We linger on the here and now because we it appears to be an insurmountable mountain. From our perspective that mountain of an issue appears beyond our capacity to handle, but God looks at it as the pebble that it is and beckons us to trust Him to get us over it, or around it, or through it. Y’all, we can have peace by trusting God with what He has given us. Did you know that God never gives us more than we can handle? Paul makes this abundantly clear to the church at Corinth who were caught up with political associations, the nature of the law, and the liberation found in Christ. Paul declares firmly that “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).” We will have hardships, we will be tempted, and we will have to endure them. But God has given us the capability to endure all things! He has provided a means of getting through it all! We can find solace in this fact! That when we are founded in God, rooted in His commandments we have no reason to fear! We can have peace through every changing season!

I do not worry about what life I have, or what school I will finish my undergrad at, or who my wife will be, or how I will provide for myself. I trust God to provide all of these things in their due time according to His will. What need do I have in worrying about who to marry? If I am to be married, then she will be moving in the same direction toward God! Where I get my degree does not matter, what God has for me to learn is far more important. How I will provide for my needs is of little concern because I can do just about anything in and so long as I am willing to work for it. The point, y’all, is that we have absolutely no need to get worked up into panic and anxiety. If you are a believer of God, a follower of Christ then you are secure in the hand of God and no thing can ever take you away from Him! Do you believe that? Do you honestly, deeply believe that God has you in His hands? If the answer to that question is no, then perhaps you ought to take a moment to pause and ponder upon what you’re holding to so much that it’s robbing you of experiencing peace. I do not know what it is, nor do I need to. And to be completely fair, I’ve never been much of a worrier. I’ve never had an anxiety attack. So I may not be the best source, but I know that God calls for us to not be worriers! I know that God is sovereign and holds all of creation within reach and is actively involved within it.

Our God is awesome, y’all! Bigger than we can ever know, greater than we can comprehend, and glorious beyond anything we can imagine! Do not let something hold you back from experience the peace that can only be found with God. Embrace God fully and bask in the safety that God provides! I know just how much peace I’ve found recently by letting go and trusting God. While I may just be some guy on the internet to you, I hope that this encourages you. I hope that you may experience peace and tranquility in your life. As I continue forward into this new week, I hope that God continues the work that He’s begun in me and that you would allow Him to do the same in you!

 

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up