Dress Your Heart

There are many occasions in which we are free to dress down to the studs. From first dates to business proposals, from interviews to weddings, we often dress to match the circumstances or the social expectations. Rightfully so, as some occasions we ought to put more thought and effort into how we look or conduct ourselves. How off-putting would it be if you showed up to a first date without showering, hair unkempt, teeth unbrushed, no deodorant, and in the most tattered, nasty clothes you owned? Obviously, I shouldn’t have to explain this to most anybody… well, maybe junior high students… but I digress. Yet, this is precisely how we approach God when we come to worship him! We dress up to attend service in our Sunday finest, but fail to dress our hearts before lifting our nasty, sin riddled hands to him in worship!

Our God is king of kings, lord of lords, Yahweh, Jahova, Elohim; he is our creator, our keeper, and the one worthy of our upmost! As we are welcomed into the court of God, before the glorious, heavenly throne of God we must assume a proper posture, one of reverence and humility. Should we approach God out of pride and selfishness, we have already presented ourselves as foolish. Our attention is not on God or His work, but rather on ourselves. We come before God with a list of grievances, complaints, and requests before giving a second thought to what God has done, what he has provided, or for life in general. Who are we to approach God in this manner? Who are we to complain about what God has given to us and about what he has not given? Yet, do not do just that?


“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


We cannot hide anything from God, no matter how nicely we dress ourselves God still knows our hearts. Thus, as we come before His throne kicking and screaming, He welcomes us with open arms just as we are. We may try our best to dress in our bests, to put up a facade, but God sees through our efforts to mask our brokenness. God is not impressed by fancy clothes, designer brands, or our attempts to pass ourselves off as something that we’re not. However, God calls us to approach Him confidently, to dwell before Him, and to seek refuge in Him! God, also, is there to care for us as we act like children.

In the midst of our selfish tantrums before God, He lovingly whispers to us ‘check your heart.’ A gentle reminder that we may be acting our of selfish intent or a reminder that He has something better in store. God nudges us and prods up to take up a proper posture as we move through the various stages of faith. God teaches us what it means to be humble, what it means to live a life of fulfillment, and what it means to be content. As we come to learn and build a relationship with God, the way in which we come to God changes. We begin to look up at what is before us through the lens of a Heaven and look beyond the circumstances around us.

Through this process, we begin to stop at the stoop of God’s domain and reflect upon our life for a moment to prepare ourselves. We check our hearts before going before God. We make sure that we are prepared to listen to God, to seek forgiveness, and to be taught! We have to prepare ourselves because we can be easily distracted, we can have selfish desires, or questionable wants. Thus, as we come to God through tears, in fear, with doubt, or in anger we have made it a practice to pause for a moment to prepare ourselves to listen! God is going to speak. God is going to comfort. God is going to teach. He’s going forgive. God is prepared to meet our needs, as He knows them before we do. He’s working and moving for our good, He’s set us on a path that is far better than our wildest dreams. God wishes for us to rely on Him at all time and for all our needs. God seeks a relationship with us the likes of which we’ve never experienced in life! God welcomes us as we are, but He does not expect us to stay the way we are. Hence the need for us to dress our hearts! Our relationship with God isn’t a first date where we dress our best and hide our insecurities. Our relationship with God is one of constant growth, one of intimacy! A bond unlike any other! So we ought not dress for the first date or the interview, but for the wedding!

Why Me?

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


 

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

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

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

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

Fleeing Discouragement

This evening has been a struggle, a battle really. The enemy has tried his best to drum up every bit of doubt and discouragement that he can muster within me. While I am not unaccustomed to going through periods of sadness or depression, this is something different. The last couple of months have been the precursor to change. This past weekend, my mother graduated with her Master’s degree in Theological Studies, we celebrated the Dean of my school’s resignation, and I’ve gone through the process of transferring schools. Seasons of change are inherently prone to uncertainty. I am not surprised that the enemy has taken this opportunity to attack me. God has been affirming me and working on my behalf to put things in order.

God has done a great deal of work in my life over the last year in order to further my growth and devotion to Him. I very recently became a co-leader of my college small group, I made preparations to finish my undergraduate degree, and have begun setting better habits in my spiritual walk. Through all of this, God has been providing and encouraging me. I just registered for a couple summer classes at Liberty so I may continue making progress. I still have no idea how I am going to pay for my education. While not much more expensive than my previous school, I am having to cover much, much more of it. Enter the enemy, who has spent much of this afternoon trying to stir up discouragement, uncertainty. Doubt.

He’s whispering every lie possible to turn my gaze away from God. You’re never going to finish school, Terren. You can’t afford it. Nobody is going to help cover the cost of your education. You’ll never get out of your parents house. You’ll never have a fulfilling life. You’ll never meet someone, have love, or whatnot. Lies that are entirely bogus, but not out of the realm of impossibility. The enemy is speaking through my insecurity, the areas where I have some second thoughts. Speaking through things that I am not entirely certain about. For what purpose? To distract me from the truth that God provides abundantly.

I bought a hammock last week with the purpose of using it to relax, but also to retreat into God’s creation and spend time with Him. While I spend a marginal amount of time at my house during the week when I’m not sleeping, the enemy likes to attack when I’m away from people. I have begun to take full advantage of being amongst God’s creation as creation speaks of the God who created it all. Away from my television, my computer, my phone, my gaming consoles, I am among the structured universe and the God who created it. This has been greatly beneficial for me, because I have to be purposeful in setting my tent up between the trees and then clearing my mind of every thought and idea that shoot endlessly between neurons. I am quite the over-thinker, and I have to discipline myself not to think. This has resulted in having conversations with God in a very different means than I am accustomed.

Instead of presenting a petition, I’ve just told God, “Hey, I’m going to just sit here and if You’d like to speak, then I’ll listen. But for now, I’m just going to sit here with you.” I can’t begin to explain to y’all the wave of peace that crashed over me. After some time, I’ll then begin to converse with God about some of the things that are in my mind. I don’t want to say that it is a casual conversation, but rather spoken like you would with a friend with whom you speak slowly and intimately and fully listen before response is had. As I’ve made purposeful, intentional efforts to deepen my relationship with the Father, I am not surprised that the enemy is attempting to disrupt that.

This evening I went and set up my hammock and shortly thereafter my mother came out to check on me, as it was apparent that something was amiss. Instead of stewing in the lies the enemy was spewing, I fled to where I would not be able to sit in it. I went and prayed. I went out and went to God to thank Him for all the He has provided. My heart poured out in overwhelming thanksgiving because God’s hand has been on my life for so so long and I have not always appreciated it. I have not been overtaken and the Father has set my life on a path of which He will use to bring glory back to Himself. I know that this path is far, far better than any one that I have imagined.

So if there is a lesson to be taken away from this, flee from sin. Flee from the enemy. Enter into the presence of God, sit and bask in His might and glory! Trust in His provision and know that He is for you, not against you.

Grace and peace,

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

Saying Yes: Being Faithful in the Small Decisions

Making decisions can be a relatively difficult task. Especially in light of bigger obstacles that seem to loom on the horizon. I have recently been made aware of things coming down the road that will have a significant impact on my life. The type of things that require decisions to be made and tough choices to be weighed. I can pivot and take a new path. I can do nothing and continue as I am. I could change everything entirely and try something new. Even now, as I sit here, these thoughts are on the back of my mind as they sit heavily in the realm of uncertainty. The unknown is scary and frustrating. The uncertain aspects of life challenge our sense of security and cause us to go into a place where we either flee or dig in. Ready to outrun or fight off whatever change seeks to come. What are we do to? How are we suppose to come to a conclusion? How are we to know what step to take next? These questions can and do go on indefinitely. For myself, a deep inward thinker and feeler, these types of situations cause lots of overthinking. 

The extent of my overthinking comes from the exploration of every possible path. There is some wisdom at looking where my actions may go and what impact they may have on myself and others. Seeing beyond the immediate also assists with seeing where potential trouble lies ahead. However, I can get hung up on exploring these paths entirely in my head till I reach a place of inaction. I’m stuck unable to come to a conclusion because all the pieces of the puzzle are not yet in place, or the time is not opportune. Like, should I take this job, should I ask that girl out, should I seek other areas of ministry, should I change schools, majors? Some of these questions are mundane in nature, but carry bigger implications. For instance, it’s easy to spend money on a video game when you’re not having to worry about gas, insurance, food, etc. Yet it is much harder when you’re justifying spending extra money when you’re thinking about dating, insurance, school fees, etc. Overthinking, at least in my case, is not anxiety or nervousness. My overthinking is an attempt to find the most ideal course of action. This in turn is also how I curate the way in which I may be perceived. I’m very careful of the images I like on Instagram, or the way I present myself on Facebook, or how I conduct myself at work. My character and reputation mean a great deal to me, and I take great care to maintain it. Like Paul, I seek to live above reproach and that requires examining how others my perceive me. So what am I to do?

My problem lies in my poor prayer life. Like many things in life, I have seasons where prayer is easy and times when its difficult. Part of my issue is my own stubbornness. Having the mindset, as a man, that I can take on any issue or situation by my own strength and determination is faulty. Why? Cause I’m poorly equipped to wage war on sin. I am loosely fastened for the loops and twists of life. My attention is pulled in too many directions, and my heart is not set in God. If I were judging my own life, I’d call myself a failure. I’m hopelessly, grossly failing at everything. Fortunately, I am not the judge of my life and I know that without God I cannot do anything. I recognize my deficiencies, I see my shortcomings. While I do not always address them immediate, as I rightfully should, I feel the necessity to do so. Inaction leads to nothing, and inaction with sin leads to more death. Additionally, not including God in my plans is like getting into a car without a steering wheel while going around a sharp turn at high speeds. It’s foolishness! I’m guilty of doing just that, trying to go through life without God leading my every decision. This is not to say that I do no make choices with God and righteousness at the forefront of my decision making, but rather that I neglect to make a concerted effort to seek God out.

Currently, my curiosity has been peeked by somebody and as I sit here weighing possibilities, which none of which have transpired yet, I feel foolish. Why? Because I hardly know where to begin. I’m weighing possibilities of changes in my college education, but as I wait for forms to be processed and financial aid potential to be offered, I laugh at myself. Why? Because nothing is happening today and I have no need to fill my mind with the potential possibilities of outcomes. I need to be praying to God, that if it is in His will that doors will be opened, that opportunities will be made available. That I may be faithful to follow when He leads. Some decisions are so mundane that God’s presence is not inherently needed, and yet I am whole needing of God’s blessing and permission to move forward in life. God is the one who guides my steps and calls me to a place of righteousness! To trust that His plans for my life are far, far better than the ones I’ve imagined for myself! And today, as I’ve mulled over a research paper that I was presenting today, I found solace in the fact that I need to surrender every part of my life back to God. See, when I was saved as a child, I did not wholly understand the implications of what that meant. When I actually stepped into my faith after living like a sinner for a good chunk my formative years (5th-9th grade) and began the process of sanctification I had not fully surrendered my life. I gave up most of it, but I continue to cling on to parts of my life that I want control over. Holding onto sin that I loved far too much than I trusted God to address. That was then, and this is now.

I’m reclaiming my life, reclaiming God as my refuge! Y’all, I need to tender my garden and at this point in my life I’m willing to hand my life off to Christ to weed and trim back the parts that are dead and not necessary. I’m willing to let God dictate how I am to live. Over the weekend, I was once again listening to a sermon from Breakaway at Texas A&M on the nature of purpose over position. In such Timothy Ateek (T.A.) explored the life of Nehemiah who saw a need and took it upon himself to rebuild Jerusalem after the years of captivity the two kingdoms endured. For Nehemiah, who was faithful to his king and to God, the need was clear. He would take it upon himself to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Due to his faithfulness to serve his king and his faithfulness to God in his actions, Nehemiah was given the approval of the king to go. Y’all, Nehemiah was faithful in every decision he made. No matter how big or small. It’s an important lesson for me to learn. Why? Because I know God’s calling on my life is to lead and teach high school and college students. To facilitate a place where all are welcome and that all make an effort to reach out to one another. Currently, I serve as a ninth grade small group leader, I serve as a media volunteer for my college ministry. I actively seek to get to know every new person that walk in our doors for college. I seek to make every effort to make everyone feel wanted and welcome to our home. While I do wish that I could work in the ministry as a staff member at my church, I recognize that I do not need a position to do so. I can lead where I am at. I also recognize that God is trying to teach me many things about ministry through my place as it stands, to prepare me for the future. Whether it be in marriage, in ministry, on the mission field, with money, with faithfulness! Y’all, God is trying to teach you something where you are placed and all He asks is for you to be faithful! To trust His timing, His perfect plan for you. I’ll admit that I fail to realize this all the time. I fail all the time. You see, no matter how deeply I think about things, how many possibilities I consider, and how many different outcomes I see, God’s plan is sufficient for my life. I accept that. I accept that God’s plan is more than sufficient and is far better in my favor than my own plans. So let me approach Him with all my needs, all my concerns, with all my hope! Let me ask of Him that if it is in His will, that it will be so! If it is appropriate by Him, that I will pursue whatever opportunity He places before me! To love every person whom He places in my life! To be faithful to every choice I make!

So instead of trying to make every logical leap and conclusion, instead of reasoning my life and choice out, I’ll hand it to God and let Him reveal what will be best for me. To place the entirety of my trust, hope, and faith on God! No matter how big or small the choice, I will rely upon my God! My hope, my strength, my refuge! So I ask y’all, where is God calling you to change? What is God attempting to take from your burden? Are you allowing Him to do so? Are you still clinging to some parts of your life and are afraid to hand it over to God? Let me encourage you, that even in my mere twenty-some-odd years on this earth, I still struggle to give things up to God. But let me also encourage you that dying to yourself everyday and trusting God will free you from the burden of overthinking. That God wants you to be faithful in all things! Trust God!

Grace and Peace,

Terren-It-Up