The Cost of Disobedience [Updated]

I am not sure if I’ve shared this story from my life with people before. As with most memories, especially ones from long ago, which fade into the back of our consciousness and are prone to loss or misidentified details. These memories lay dormant in our minds until something rips them back to the surface and brings back the great deal of sights, sounds, and smells that were experienced all those years ago… Within the last week or so, I had a memory ripped from the depths of my mind and I was filled with remembrance of an event which began like most…

I was four years old when my parents decided to move across the state. Texas, for all three of you who do not know, is huge! Given it’s immense size, you could travel through at least four European countries in the time it takes you to drive from Texas’ northern boarder to the Gulf of Mexico. Everything seems bigger when you’re four years old! Your school was huge, your imagination was vivid, and your energy was limitless! If you were to walk down the hallways of your elementary or primary school now, as an adult, you’ll almost be guaranteed to have an overwhelming sense that it somehow shrunk over the years. Our outlook toward life and existence shrinks as we grow older; more jaded or cynical (but that’s a topic for another day).

Sometime later, after settling into the house that we were renting at that time, my mother took myself and my siblings to go swimming at a friend’s house. I don’t remember exactly what time of year it was, I believe closer to Spring than to Summer… but what do I know? I also remember being an overcast day, like so many of my memories are, though it was just as likely to have been sunny. I’m sure a mathematician could work out the probability of the number of sunny days we experience versus the number of cloudy days and come up with something close to fifty/fifty (I assume). All things considered it was just a day to swim!

When we arrived, I’m sure my mother made us all put sunscreen on and I’m absolutely positive that I had ‘floaties’ on my arms to help me swim, though I remember being a fairly decent swimmer at four years old (I’m sure my parents could dispute the details of this event as I’m looking back through two decades of time which has since come to pass…). The pool was huge! Blue water against a white stone boarder which backed up to a wooded creek! Talk about scenic and tucked away! After getting lathered up with sunscreen and putting goggles on, I dove in! Soon everybody was in the pool and we had a lovely afternoon swimming! The end… Not really.

During our time I discovered some sinking pool toys which you throw into the deep end of the pool and swim to retrieve them from the bottom [Editors note: I have been informed by my mother that I was, in fact, not as good at swimming as I remember]. I don’t remember if they were rings or sticks or both, but I remember standing on the steps of the shallow end of the pool and throwing them to the deep. I recall swimming from one end to the other, taking the deepest breath my little lungs could, diving to the deepest part of the pool, gathering the toys, and racing back to the surface for air! With a large gasp and splash, I returned to the steps of the shallow end and started this process all over again.

This process repeated several times and for what I remember to be several hours. Remember how I described everything as being bigger when you’re a tiny adolescent child? Yeah, there’s also things children don’t realize either… like how much your parents do for you, why things are not fair, or your own strength. I would throw the pool toys as far as I could because to me the pool was way bigger than it really was. Expectation and reality were not matched up at all. The best way in which I could describe would be that I thought this backyard pool was about the size of an Olympic swimming pool. So… absolutely massive! What ended up happening was that I would over shoot the pool and the toys would bounce off of the hard concrete deck. This happened over and over and over and over again.

My mother warned me to not throw the toys out of the pool, which I would not miss for another few minutes. Over time, however, my accuracy diminished and I’d receive another warning from my mother. I do not remember that I was being willful or outright disobedient (she may disagree, but I’m not inherently the best witness to my own actions) but I eventually annoyed her or upset her enough that I was placed into ‘timeout’ and had to go sit on a bench next to the house. My punishment didn’t last too much longer after that, but long enough to get me in a huff and puff [Editor’s Note: I’ve been informed that I was being willful, and was jealous that nobody was paying attention to me at the time]. Timeouts also seem to take forever when you’re young… however, at long last I was let out of timeout to resume swimming with another strong warning to not throw the toys out of the pool. I wish I could say that I learned my lesson.

I got back in the pool, gathered the toys once more, and… immediately proceeded to throw one beyond the boundary of the pool and into a flowerbed… Oops… I was sternly ordered to go fetch said toy and so with the splashing, sloshing pitter patter of my wet feet running across the deck I took one step into the flower bed and pain shot through my body straight from my foot to my head. A sharp, electric pain that instantaneously registered in my head as bad! I jumped back and yelled out to my mother ‘SNAKE!’

I ran over to my mother, my face red as tears flooded down my face. She didn’t believe me, why would she? Why would a four year old know that it was a snake that had bitten him? She examined my foot. Lo and behold, three tiny droplets of blood revealed where I had been bitten by something. So rushes to the phone and (I assume) calls my dad first. I’m sitting on the edge the pool, foot above the water, crying. Next thing I remember is her being on the phone with the Center for Disease Control asking what she needed to do. Mind you, this was a time before cell phones were as pervasive and prominent as they are today. My mother gets some basic information and the next thing I know, I’m in the backseat of our car and she’s rushing home to back her bags. I guess she was advised that she could stop long enough to get clothes for herself and I because I sat in the back of the car while she ran into our rental house.

I guess my dad had met us at the house or had been at home because I recall him driving me to the hospital with my mom in the passenger seat. I’m still bawling my eyes out, mind you, as the evening sun beamed in my face as we sped down the freeway. Now, we all know and have seen those people who go way too fast on the highways. Speeding closer to 100 mph than the legal speed limit, zipping in and out and around traffic, being a tad reckless. This was my dad that day. He had his emergency lights on, sped around traffic, and (I may be mistaken here) eventually got pulled over for the reckless driving… which I think (again, I could be entirely off base here) then got us a police escort to the medical center in downtown [Editor’s Note: This part did not happen… I was four… forgive me].

Eventually, I don’t recall how quickly or if I even had to wait, I was in the hospital, meeting with doctors and nurses, and describing exactly what it was I experienced and witnessed. So a few things here: First, I saw the snake that bit me. I was able to describe what it looked like, where it was, and etc. I had even told my mother where it was when we were at the swimming pool, but she was unable to locate it herself. All things considered, I was a fairly smart four year old. I think that I’ve mentioned here on this blog before, but I have always been am inquisitive child, now adult. I was always asking my parents why? Why things work, how things work, what makes things things? Secondly, being that I live and am from Texas, you would think that snake bites are fairly common. You’d be wrong! Snake bites are very uncommon! It was determined that I was bitten by either a copperhead or a water moccasin snake and that it was likely to have been a juvenile snake at that. See, I wasn’t bitten once, but twice!

Adult snakes have the ability to control their venom sacks and how they dispense it to their prey. They use their venom judiciously for attacking and self preservation. Juvenile snakes, however, will, upon biting, completely empty their venom sacks which makes them somewhat more dangerous than their adult counterparts. Juvenile snakes usually have what is known as a dry bite first. They bite but don’t inject their venom into their prey, which is when the second bite occurs. I was, if my memory serves, bitten twice in the span a few milliseconds! In the time my neurological system registered the electrical data which travelled from my foot to my head, I had been bitten twice!

By the time that I would get out of the hospital, I spent four sleepless, painful night and three days of exhaustion. I was put on anti-venom which is, as I was told, more painful than the venom I received from the snake. I remember my mother staying with me the entire time I was in the hospital, refusing to leave my side. Being that snake bites are so uncommon, I was one of the most popular patients in the hospital because every nurse [Editor’s Note: I learned from my mother today that my main nurse had a phobia of snakes and could hardly work with me… She apparently had to conquer her fear of snakes with me] and doctor would come by to see, learn, and examine my injury. This was also the only time in my life that I could honestly describe myself as being popular. Yeah, it wasn’t worth it. One more anecdote about my time in the hospital, my nurses were told to measure, hourly I believe, how far the venom was creeping up my leg. I guess something was lost in translation because the doctor meant in the records, but here I was, every hour on the hour, with a nurse taking a Sharpie to my leg and thigh drawing lines, numbers, initials, and so on. I wish I had pictures to show you, because it was very comical now that I look back on it. It’s also the closest I will ever come to having a tattoo!

Growing up, as I would tell my peers about this story they would not believe me. They doubted that I had really been bitten by a venomous snake, but I had. I have medical bills to prove it! However, more so than telling a story, I believe that there is a lesson to be learned in everything. We are the products of our experiences, the things that have shaped us into who we are today. Obviously, I am writing this post and I obviously survived and went on to live another healthy twenty years. Spoiler alert for anyone who did not get that by this point. Hi, I’m alive and writing this to you! *waves*

I never set out on that day to get bitten by a snake. I never set out to be disobedient to my mother or to cause anyone harm. In fact, my actions were very innocuous! My throwing of the pool toys never harmed anyone in and of itself (mother you may correct me if I am remember this differently than it occurred). Yes, I may have annoyed my mother but I was not hurting anyone. Why, then, did it matter whether or not I was stronger than I knew and was missing the pool? Well, because I was told to stop missing the mark. Because I kept missing the pool, I eventually got myself in a whole lot more trouble due to my actions. If I hadn’t thrown the toy out of the pool, then it is very likely that I would have never been bitten by a snake. As the old idiom goes, if you play with fire, you’re going to get burned.

Unfortunately, for many of us, that is exactly how we treat the sins in our lives. We think that they are innocuous, trivial, insubstantial because they are so tiny or seemingly limited to ourselves. We jump back into those sins over and over again because we don’t get caught or they feel comfortable. We justify our sins because they do not affect others directly, and yet they eventually consume us because they grow in secret. Another idiom which seems to line up with my story is don’t bit the hand that feeds you, but thats exactly what sin does.

Sin resides within the depths of our heart, often in secret, where we feed them and give them a safe place to grow and take root. Eventually, those innocuous sins bite back and our lives take a hard turn because they are either exposed or we are caught in a compromising position. My compromising position was the moment when I disobeyed my mother again, took one step into the flowerbed with my hand reaching for the toy. In one instantaneous moment, everything that day changed! Little things matter and they can have monumental effects upon our lives. When we belittle sin and treat it like a puppy instead of the wild beast that it is, we are quickly blindsided by something that we never honestly expected.

My sin was not that I threw the pool toy and God was not punishing me for that. My sin was that I did not obey my mother’s words. I threw the pool toy too far/hard again, and that time, after many, many times before that, resulted in me coming face to face with a snake. Jonah’s actions, initially, did not harm anyone other than himself. Jonah ran from God’s call on his life out of fear. Jonah fled from God and drug other into his mess with him. When the storm came, the people Jonah brought into his sins tossed him overboard in an attempt to save themselves. We all know how the Bible story goes, though much less Disney-like than what you and I learned in our childhoods, and Jonah continued to be disobedient to God. Jonah was contemptuous to the people God called him to speak to, and Jonah eventually had to face God over his anger and disobedience.

Now, my story is not exactly the same as what we find in scripture. Nor should it be. Mine is not inspired by the Holy Spirit or maintained by God. My story is my experience which I think has something teachable contained within it. Each of us has areas in our lives where sin resides. Areas where we cover to keep God and others from touching. We fear that people will reject us, mock us, and think less of us because of our sins. As Matt Chandler so bluntly put it at Passion 2019, to be 99% known is to be unknown. Either we are known by God or we are not. And guess what, God wants to come into that 1% that you are holding on to. To take away that sin and shame, so that you may be free. God knows exactly what is going to happen to that sin if it’s not addressed. It will escalate, grow, and multiply until you are consumed by it. Not with it, but by it! When we give sin a stronghold in which to reside, it has a place from which to attack us at all times.

There have been so many examples of Godly people falling to sin because they kept it secret. They let what they thought was innocent, little, and harmless have a place to stay and it would eventually be their downfall. Their undoing. There are an infinite number of what ifs we could trace if we wanted to. What if I had obeyed? Would I have been bitten by a snake then? What if I didn’t have any pool toys to begin with? What if? I have for so long be stuck on the what ifs, and I have learned that they do not matter. I can dwell on them all day and night and still get no where! What matters is not what may happen but what is happening. You and I are aware of the sins in our lives and what we need to do with them. We need a savior! We need someone who is appropriately qualified to deal with sin. We need Jesus!

When Jesus first began his ministry, he ate with the lowest of the low. The people that other despised and rejected. The Pharisees, the religious elite, complained and questioned Christ on why he would spend so much time with those they had deemed as unworthy and unclean. Luke 5 gives us a clear resounding answer, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” The only person qualified to meet the need in your life is Jesus! He came not for those who were healthy, for who truly is healthy? Christ came for sinner because they knew of nothing else! Christ offers freedom from sin so that we may be made whole once again! Christ asks that we step from being 99% known to 100% known by standing in the light where darkness cannot reside! There is no such thing as a harmless sin, and we would be fools to believe so! But we have a great savior who came to liberate us from the wages of sin!

The Turning Point: A Story of Redemption

I use to be the happiest, jovial child! I was inquisitive, curious, and carefree! My parents swear that I had such a unique smile that never left me at that time. Looking back, I believe that I had a strong sense of justice. I was very sensitive and could gage right and wrong as well as justice and injustice. I was just a happy kid! This may just be nostalgia but life seemed so much more simple when I was a child. I did not have to worry about what major to take, how I was going to pay for things, girls had cooties (though I always got along with them), and the biggest concern was what fun would be had any given day. I loved Star Wars, and if you accused me of being obsessed you’d be correct, and it filled my vivid imagination. By the time of fourth grade, or 2001 for reference, I was still very much a happy, happy, happy child. However, as I entered fifth grade, that smile that my parents talked about would disappear. In the past few years, when we’ve talked about that time and where I am now, they’ve mentioned that that smile I had never really did return.


 

Family Photos


 

When I entered fifth grade, I found out how cruel other children could be. The way my middle school was set up meant that we had a homeroom that would stay together all day, except for our single elective period, moving from one subject to the next. Around this time, too, my family split from the church we had been attending for reasons I still do not know to this day. We tried a new church, the church I am now attending and serving in, but from around this point forward we were unchurched. Anyway, I spent five days a week, nearly eight hours a day with the same kids who choose me as their victim. They’d tease me, bully me, and would find any means in which to antagonize me. This went on for the entirety of the school year. I distinctly remember reaching a point that I no longer wanted to go to school. I remember fighting with my mom one morning adamantly refusing to go to school. I wanted no part of it. I was completely traumatized, looking back the things the kids would say and mock me with were rather trivial and inconsequential, because I was subjected to it every day. As this continued, I grew more and more spiteful, hateful.

I grew calloused and resorted to fighting back in whatever way I could. I learned how to swear and would throw words back at them. I’d take my anger out on my closer friends because I was hurting. I’d make every effort to toughen up and carry the weight of the pain and suffering. I tried to endure. And Y’all, I failed miserably. I became a very angry person. I hated everyone. I’d take out my anger on doors, walls, my siblings. I was explosive. Anger and hate sat just under the surface and would implode by the slightest issue. Even as I moved on to sixth and seventh grade, the bullying lessened as I got bigger and larger than most of my peers. However, the pain that I experienced as a child lingered and worsened. I isolated myself which led me into greater sins that I will not discuss at this time. I avoided people as best I could. My anger became my most valuable weapon during this time in my life. I also adapted my words to be nuanced through sarcasm to mask the hate I’d spread.

I very truly entered into a self-destructive path between 5th and 8th grade because I had an issue in controlling my anger. I also became a skeptic and a cynic. I trusted nobody apart from myself. At some point between the eighth grade and ninth grade, my entire family began going to counseling for other issues. I definitely wasn’t having it either. Let alone, I didn’t trust this shrink, who is actually a pretty fantastic person whom I have much respect for now, who was trying to invoke in us a change. However, what I needed was this person holding up a mirror to myself and my family to reveal the issues that were dwelling within my broken soul. My tongue spread nothing but hate and lies to those I came into contact with. Y’all, when the Bible says the tongue can either give life or it can kill its not lying! So for a good chunk of my schooling life, I was lost and angry and bitter.

Something changed toward the end of my freshman year. I was reintroduced to the church. I slowly, hesitantly made my way back to the place full of broken people. It would take the rest of my time in high school to begin to change my ways. I was fortunate to have a youth paster who was willing to battle through my transition into a new stage. Y’all my words had become different, they were sarcastic and cruel, but were guised as humor. Through my sophomore year, I was still in my ways speaking sarcasm and being a jerk. I was terrible. I was a mess. I find it funny now, that toward the end of high school that God would place a calling on my life to love others. To make every effort to love anyone I come in contact with.

Allowing God to do a work on our lives is a process. One that takes more time than we might imagine. Even to this day, I have to be careful with how I speak and I admit that there are times when I’ve not kept the sarcasm in check. My attempt at humor is biting, especially when it’s not intended to be so. I can, in all praise to God, look back at where I was then and where I am now as a completely different person! In some ways, I’m still the same but I’m no longer burdened with anger. I am free from the shackles of anger and hate that weighed me down for so many years. Now, I know that I cannot undo the hurt that I inflicted to people, my family, my friends, but I recognize the purpose God has placed upon me. To move from where I was then, and identify those needing love. To build up people, to encourage people, to share unconditional love to all who need it. This takes many forms, a word, a smile, a side-hug (cause modesty), a funny story, a conversation around a trashcan after dinner, and so on. We all want to feel wanted. To feel like we matter. To feel like we’re appreciated. To feel the appropriate kind of physical love (like a hug or a pat on the back). The tongue can do just that, give life or tear somebody down. I never want to be that person again, the one who tore others down. I never will be thanks to the power of Christ’s sacrifice and drawing us to a place of redemption.

So now, nearly done with college and quickly approaching my thirties, I have a purpose before me both at church, work, and at home, to share life with those I come into contact with. I have a purpose in my service to both my high school and college students, to be a source a life to them. Why? Because I know the transformative years that are high school and early college. The uncertainty of the future. The need for a foundation. The fear of what’s coming. I eagerly look forward to being a church where I find myself every week! I love my peers for no particular reason, but just because I love them! I look forward every day to to hear about their weeks, to hear about their wins, to listen to their stories, to play games together, to worship together, to share in the lives! I am endlessly grateful that I have the ability, now, to love people! To recognize those who are needing encouragement! To be a source of life to someone! Y’all, it’s all because of God! Because of Christ! I can smile again! I am happy again! I have love! I have life! I have a purpose! I have a reason for living! I am free! I am redeemed! While that smile that my parents saw as a child has never returned, it’s been replaced by a smile of somebody who has happiness, who has love! It’s a different smile! This is a small part of a larger testimony of what God is doing in the lives of people across the globe. It is my hope, that even as I write this blog for myself, that my testimony may have an impact on all who come across it. God loves you! God wants to do a work in you! He wants to give you a purpose and reason for existing! It is my prayer that through my life God will be glorified and that people will see the work Christ has done in my life! My motivation is not my own glory, because I could not on my own change from my hateful, angry ways, but to be a source of life to people just as Christ has given me a source of life!

 

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

The Life of Obedience: A Wake Up Call

So I was originally going to write this post from a very different context. I just finished a weekend event at church with our student ministry on discipleship. While I lead a house full of freshmen, I also was asked to be the event’s videographer, so I’ve spent the better part of a day rendering media out and turning huge files into usable pieces. To pass the time as my computer rendered out about a terabyte of footage, I decided to do a little reading. Have you ever given someone advice on something, but only to then have to swallow your own medicine cause you’re not doing what you just advised someone to do? That was me, just a few minutes ago. Thanks God, for the correction and the conviction!

Anyway, back in January I attended Passion in Atlanta, Georgia with a group of friends and some of our high school seniors. While I was there, I bought Ben Stuart’s book Single, Dating, Engaged, Married as I have enjoyed Stuart from his time as the lead pastor/teacher at Texas A&M’s Breakaway Ministries. In 2015, I was able to hear Stuart speak at Passion and I’ve been listening to his sermons from Passion City Church D.C. via podcasts. Y’all, Stuart doesn’t hold his punches back, nor does the Holy Spirit lessen it’s lessons. You see, for my small group during this past weekend the focus was on truth. For more than a handful of the young men in my group said that they were at this weekend event to grow closer to God. Well, through the course of the weekend it was evident that they were not spending time with God. And honestly, neither have I.

In my college small group, for many weeks now we’ve been going back to a point that was brought up at Passion in January. The enemy, sin, has power over us because we are unable to identify where the temptation, the whispers, the lies are coming from. We do not know truth! Frankly, looking at my generation and the generations coming behind me, it’s painfully apparent that they don’t know truth either! The point is, is that lies look freaking stupid when held up against the truth! The lies look foolish! We all know those people growing up. You know who I’m describing. The people who try so hard to be something that they’re not. They stick out like a sore thumb. They’re fake. And while they may look the part, the moment they open their mouths to speak, the illusion is broken. How can we know truth from the lies? From the fake news, not to get political. Y’all, while fake news and misguided information is spread everywhere from our social media pages to the evening news, the devil is the most consistent source of fake news!

Long story short, while I was waiting for my media to finish rendering I was reading Ben Stuart’s book. One thing I’ve been focusing on and truly seeking from the Lord is ways to love people better. To share the love that God has for them through a word, a look, and/or a touch. To make an impact on the lives of those around me, and while I’ve been able to do some of that… I had a hard pill to swallow tonight. I’m not even half way through the first chapter and the Holy Spirit slapped me across the face. Y’all, I’ve been kind of idle. I’ve not been reading the Word, I’ve not been praying much. I’ve just been going through the motions. I’ve been fake. I was the very thing I was warning my students about being. Just as we have to know the truth in order to weaken the power of the lies, so too do we need to have a source of life to be a source of life to another. I’ll quote Stuart as his words are far more potent than mine.

“When you have a source of life, you are a source of life. But where there is scarcity, desperation will set in. And desperation can easily become exploitation of others. If you are disconnected from a source of life, your “oxygen tank,” then you will attempt to suck life out of someone else. You will be tempted to use people to try and get your sense of self validated.” –Single, Dating, Engaged, Married. Page 4.

Ouch. Y’all… I hate to admit it, but I’m not going to let shame have any hold over me. I’ve not been clinging to my source of life. Rather, I’ve just been going through the motions. As a leader, as someone who has people who are seeking that source of life, I’ve been letting them down. I’ve been failing myself, and failing them. You see, I haven’t been obedient in the pursuit of God. I’ve formed a habit of not doing that. While I do not believe that I’ve sucking the life out of others, nor do I believe that I’ve been exploiting people for my own gain. I do see where selfishness has crept up into my life and taken hidden roots. My desires, frustrations, and motivations have been slowly leeched by selfishness and disobedience. My ability to be a source of life to others has been corrupted, but not extinguished.

For a book that is geared toward relationships… it does not stumble from making it perfectly clear that before we can even consider pursuing someone we must first pursue God. Like a mirror, I had to read the medicine that I was giving out with some remorse. I had to evaluate where I’ve been lingering and take a look around to see the signs of structural instability and get out of there. My heart sunk realizing that I’ve put myself in this situation, the realization that I’ve been unfaithful to God. That I’ve cast aside the truth in favor of lies and selfishness. Fortunately, God sent us a helper in the Holy Spirit to convict us of our wrong doing and to place back onto a path of restoration. Anyway, I’m going to end this here, y’all.

 

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 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