#Pause …

Lamentations 3…verses 22-24 (emphasis added)

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.24 The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.

I read this, and it made me #pause. First off, peep the whole chapter. It’s so depressing. The author’s life is a mess. He’s a joke in his community. He’s hated. Nothing is going right for him. Then he says, “but I remember this, and it gives me hope”. The next verses are the ones above. Look at that. The love of God never ends. His mercies never end and are steadfast; that means faithful/ dependable/ reliable/ trustworthy. Not only that, but God’s mercies are also new every morning.

STOP

Why does God’s mercy have to be new every morning? Personally I would be happy just having some here and there, but God “steps His game up” and gives them “new every morning.” That’s a level of loving grace and care that blows my mind to tears. Then I remembered the mercy, peace, justice, love, power, righteousness, kindness, patience, humility, and everything else that is perfect and good, that rose one morning, Sunday morning to be specific. Our hope lies in HIM.

Thankful … thankful … thankful.

God is good.

Grace and Peace.

the 5th gospel: is the Bible actually reliable?

Yeah the 5th gospel, talking about that Apocrypha. Let’s dig in.

Popular books & media, like the Da Vinci Code, have created this conventional thought that the church has either altered or hidden unspecified books of the Bible. Many people that I know will “amen” a Pastor and talk about how the Bible is the word of life, but at the same time, have deeply rooted doubts about the Bible.

I was one of those people.

One reason I refused to become a Christian was because I found it hard to believe that a book could be preserved by sinful man. If God had something to say why wouldn’t He just tell us directly?

That statement is felt by many, but few admit it.

Through actually reading the Bible for myself, my questions grew exponentially. I would ask people about the Bible, but they would just give me a “ya jus’ gotta have faith brotha” (which isn’t so bad of an answer, but I’ll get to that later). That wasn’t enough for someone who had little to no faith.

So what is the answer?

Well, the truth about these so-called altered, or hidden books, is that they aren’t altered or hidden. Some will say that the Catholic church hid them when, when in fact, they are extremely open about these books, like so. Also the idea of them being altered is very hard to prove. The Bible is the most preserved book of all time. Peep this helpful chart I found:

Author Date Written Earliest Copy Time Span Copies (extent)
 
Secular Manuscripts:
Herodotus (History) 480 – 425 BC 900 AD 1,300 years 8
Thucydides (History) 460 – 400 BC 900 AD 1,300 years ?
Aristotle (Philosopher) 384 – 322 BC 1,100 AD 1,400 years 5
Caesar (History) 100 – 44 BC 900 AD 1,000 years 10
Pliny (History) 61 – 113 AD 850 AD 750 years 7
Suetonius (Roman History) 70 – 140 AD 950 AD 800 years ?
Tacitus (Greek History) 100 AD 1,100 AD 1,000 years 20
 
Biblical Manuscripts: (note: these are individual manuscripts)
Magdalene Ms (Matthew 26) 1st century 50-60 AD co-existant (?)  
John Rylands (John) 90 AD 130 AD 40 years  
Bodmer Papyrus II (John) 90 AD 150-200 AD 60-110 years  
Chester Beatty Papyri (N.T.) 1st century 200 AD 150 years  
Diatessaron by Tatian (Gospels) 1st century 200 AD 150 years  
Codex Vaticanus (Bible) 1st century 325-350 AD 275-300 years  
Codex Sinaiticus (Bible) 1st century 350 AD 300 years  
Codex Alexandrinus (Bible) 1st century 400 AD 350 years  
(Total New Testament manuscripts = 5,300 Greek MSS, 10,000 Latin Vulgates, 9,300 others = 24,000 copies)(Total MSS compiled prior to 600 AD = 230)

Back to the faith thing.

“ya jus’ gotta have brotha” isn’t a bad answer because faith is not an abstract idea, but a measurable substance. Faith is measurable by actions.  Faith is always directed towards something. Therefore, it is the validity of the object of your faith which is important. No validity, no faith. To have faith in something means that the object must have the power to uphold that faith. Like a belt buckle (object) and a strap (faith).

Kinda like Christ, right?

Jesus has the power to uphold our faith. No credible scholar would ever argue the existence of Jesus until this so called “post-modern era.” Post-modernism tells us to question everything & all truth is relative. This silly notion is fun to poke at, but I’ll stay on subject. The truth-statements by Jesus are astounding and worth checking out. Jesus said that he became sin on your behalf to pay the price for sins you committed, and if you believe in him you will have eternal life? Basically, Jesus said he wants to be your belt buckle.

If you are still a skeptic you can literally read the oldest known Bible manuscript for yourself here.

the friend.

his name is nathan. the stranger (read more here) that became a friend. we met again – november 6, 2010. he was still at the same park. i spotted him from a long distance. i was filled with excitement. the fact that he was still there and that i was going to get another opportunity to sit and talk with him.
my feet began to move speedily through the crowd of lawn chairs occupied by other tenants of the park, giving praises to God. there had been a park church service going on. finally, i was close enough and spoke his name excitedly, “nate! how are you!?” he responded with grief and sorrow coated all over his voice, “i’m ok.” i said, “do you remember me!? we met about four months ago!” he tilted his head to get a glimpse of who i was with his deep sea blue-green eyes and said, “no. not really.”
his body language had been one of discomfort and shame. i could tell he did not want to be bothered and he looked as if the world was on his shoulders. i was tempted to turn away from him, to continue on with my day but i couldn’t. i just couldn’t because the bond we shared on first meeting one another was amazing. i was certain that it was not in vain. so i probed him a little more, then simply asked if i could pray with him and for him and he said yes.
after prayer, his mood shifted into a completely new position. he said, “i do remember you! jasmine! right?” his words and reaction inspired tears that i withheld and a smile and i responded, “yes.” i was in awe and disbelief at the power of prayer and the way the Holy Spirit moves in situations as such. we carried a light conversation before we departed. i told him how beautiful his eyes were again and he said, “you said that last time and since then, you’ve been the only one to tell me that.”  i reminded him about the scripture that he had given me from his Bible and he said “here you go!” while handing me another page that was crumbled into his pocket as his daily read, genesis 20. he, then, took a photo with me and allowed me to take one of him. i have never felt this type of feeling before.
i remember, so vividly, when i treated God as if He was a stranger. as if He had no purpose in my life. i rejected him. turned away from him. and now, i am experiencing the transition of a stranger to a friend, He calls me friend. and i know how unworthy i am of it. yet, He still calls me friend.
if you would like to come out and experience the presence of those who we so often pass by on the streets because they look “unworthy of our attention,” please, come out on Saturday at 9 a.m. to feed those without a home and without a promised meal.  we will be meeting in front of the center of hope at Good Hope (3015 N. MacGregor Way -Houston, Tx  77004).

this is where strangers become ex-strangers. this is why i am inspired daily. because strangers don’t have to carry that badge for the rest of their lives if we just make an attempt to make them ex-strangers.

power. part 3. now this will be a beautiful death.


imagine. the doctor tells you that you have 1 day to live. you know what is about to happen. you know you are about to die. your minor request is that your friends stay up with you and pray. you don’t ask for deeds, you just ask for presence. yet, your friends fall asleep on you while you are worried to death – to the point that you sweat blood. but your friends are sleeping like babies. that’s loneliness.

imagine. you’ve basically lived with someone for 3 years. you provide for them. you offer nothing but love to that person. then they betray you, with a kiss. a kiss. what was once one of the most precious signs of love is now once of the most recognizable signs of betrayal. the kiss of death. that’s betrayal.

imagine. being captured. seized. all of your “ride or die‘s” are with you. but they just ride out. and you, well, you are basically left to die. someone even runs away in so much fear that he’s naked. that’s abandonment.

imagine. being tried illegaly. being on trial when the court is supposed to be closed. the witnesses testifying against you collectively have false accounts that do not agree – yet, the death sentence is still demanded. you have already been beaten, slapped, punched, spat on, mocked, and flat out disrespected. unfairly. undeservedly. not guilty. innocent. that’s unfair.

imagine. you are stripped of your clothes. you are tied to a post. your entire back is exposed. you are being flogged by a leather whip with small bones and metal attached to such. in public. your skin is literally stripped off of you, as if it were mere velcro. because the whip. sticks. an extreme amount of blood is lost. most die after a flogging, but you are still alive. that’s humiliation.

imagine. you are then mocked. beaten even more. and a crown of thorns is shoved onto your skull. sarcastic symbols of royalty are given to you while you are being treated like a peasant. your beard is plucked, like that one strand of cotton hanging off of your shirt. ripped from your face. yet and still, you are getting beaten until you no longer even appear as a human. it seems as if they are trying to kill you. they are. that’s extreme.

imagine. after all of this. you walk. being alive is unfathomable at this point. walking is the last thing you can think of. but yet, you walk – with a 100+ pound cross on your back. the same back that has been ripped to shreds. you. walk. the road to glory death. that’s agony.

and this is all before Jesus died on the cross. these events are what preceded the cross. this all happened before Jesus even got on a cross. the loneliness, the betrayal, the unfairness, the humiliation, the extremity, the agony – before the cross, point to the loneliness, betrayal, unfairness, humiliation, extremity, and agony that Jesus would face on the cross.

imaginethe cross.

6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

in all its ugliness, that’s a beautiful death.

the stranger.

i met a stranger on may 6, 2010 – he was young.  he was handsome.  and it surprised me when he said that  he was homeless. he traveled to houston with no money, no shelter and no family. he was a tenant in the downtown park we visited to disperse lunches to the homeless. his spirit was lively, on first meeting him. he was without timidity and full of Joy. he had so much to say, as if he had been mute for months. he was vibrant and cheerful. he was a stranger.

in his possession were crumpled papers that were bound together by two staples. the layout and print of the pages appeared familiar to my memory. they were scriptures from a Bible he once owned. somehow, he was able to obtain and keep the middle pages of his Book. he had been reading isaiah 54 (the eternal covenant of peace), which he ended up giving to me, to keep. he wore a shirt that read “transformers: romans 12:2” and pictured on the shirt were transformers with a cross in hand. in my mind, he was a different breed – a stranger from a different breed.

it was amazing to me, you know, a homeless young man who had only a few pages left from his Bible, still made it a point to read it as often as possible. and he said that he reads it everyday, he reads what’s left of his Bible every single day. i stood in admiration because, even though i have a full Bible, it is hard for me to pick it up and read it faithfully, as he did. i was amazed and convicted all at once. he desired to be in his word as much as possible because as he said, “it’s all i have left.”

we spoke for a while and he had been pouring into me his life experiences and how he ended up where he was. i was in disbelief and wondered what his next step would be. i could not bring myself to ask but i was able to tell him how beautiful his deep sea blue eyes were to me. and when i said that, he was shocked. hesitated and then said, “thank you! i have never heard that before.” once we were ready to depart, he ran up to me and said, “take care of yourself. it was nice meeting you Jasmine.” i was shocked and asked, “how did you figure out my name?” he said, “i overheard you tell him.” i smiled with the deepest sincerity and said, “you take care of yourself as well. i hope to see you again.” he replied, “me too.”

this is the beginning of a story where strangers become ex-strangers. his name is nathan.

The Reason

“The greatest commandment is this:

…Love the LORD your God will all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength.” Mark 12:29-30

Uh oh!

I heard this super convicting sermon the other day coming from this scripture.

The pastor went in on just how we are supposed to love God.

He talked about how we’re supposed to:

  • love God passionately — be willing to live and die for Him!
  • love God with our full capacity of thought — spend time getting to  know Him intellectually
  • love God with our bodies — “don’t try and be holy in your hearts and hoes with your bodies” (#ouch, Pastor!)
  • love God with the full essence of our beings

Sitting there, I realized that I was lacking in all of these areas. As many things as I might be “doing” that look good, my passion and commitment are lacking. And as far as loving God with my full essence — I’m still way too selfish to be anywhere close.

BUT

The preacher touched on something else that gave me hope:

“We love Him because He first loved us,” 1 John 4:19.

This short verse reminded me of a couple things:

  1. God gave us the ultimate example of love.
  2. His love for us was never dependent on our love for Him.
  3. Our love is merely a response to His love.

At the beginning of the sermon, I found myself looking at the ways Jesus instructed that we should love God and trying to develop a checklist that I could follow.

However, when I stopped and remembered the extent of God’s love — that He would rescue me from His wrath and my own reckless endangerment of my life — and that He demonstrated this love while I still hated Him, well…

  • There were things that I stopped wanting to do — things that I know disappoint Him;
  • There were things that I started wanting to do — getting to know Him more, spending more time in His Word and in prayer

The sermon ended with the preacher reminding us that God is worthy of our love. He is worth our passion, our intellect, our physiques, and our souls.

In light of who He is and what He has done — nothing is truer. He is the reason why we should love.

power. part 2: “no one man should have all that power!”

as we saw in part 1, one of the definitions of power, via meriam-webster, is a possession of control, authority, or influence over others. according to the depiction of malcolm x by academy-award winner denzel washington, it is safe to say that malcolm x had some power.

i’m not just talking about any power, i’m talking about that “gimme a crisp pair of jeans, *** button up” power that literally ended the throwback jersey era. i’m talking about that eddie murphy in coming to america, “bark like a dog” power. that’s power.

in order to communicate a demand that will eventually become a reality is authentic power, power that Jesus exemplified above malcom x, jay-z, and prince akeem combined.

read mark 2:1-12 right quick and peep the power of Jesus!

in this instance, Christ Jesus showed his authority over forgiveness & sickness. not only did He heal the paralytic, but Christ forgave the paralytic’s sins – which seems to be of first importance. now that’s ultimate authority! Even the scribes were tripping at the fact that Jesus, a man, was talking like he was “God” or something! Only God can forgive sins, right? True, but the beauty is, although that Jesus is a man, He is God! And He has the same authority/power to this day!

no one man should have all that power – but a Godman should 😉

pray. sit. meditate. look around. look inside. how is God’s power manifesting in your life today?

After The Music Stops

“After the show, after the set, after the music stops, what’s next? Are we just writing songs or are we concerned with uniting a people to follow the great commission of Christ”

In one of Lecrae’s hits, “After the Music Stops,” he poses this question only to answer it later on in the song by saying “the importance of the show’s not to excite these folks but to make God’s truth relevant, ignite these folks.”

These convicting yet inspiring lyrics build up to the often overlooked importance of discipleship, an aspect of ministry we cannot neglect. I knew what being discipled had meant to my life, but I had yet to find out the impact I could make through discipleship on someone else’s life until I met Airwin Ward. Airwin is a young man out of Houston’s 3rd Ward community. I had the pleasure of sitting and talking with him. We talked casually about his past and his lifestyle before making a serious commitment to Christ. He portrayed a lifestyle filled with, as he put it, “things 15 and 16 year old boys had no business doin.”

(Ronnie on left, Airwin on right)

So what changed for the Houston teen? He began to be discipled by one of Houston’s own gospel hip hop rapper’s, Ronnie ‘Reconcile’ Lillard. Ronnie has taken it upon himself to spend weekends with Airwin. And he doesn’t just verbally tell him right from wrong and occasionally spoon feed him the gospel, he actually does life with Airwin and shows him actively how to live a lifestyle rooted in Christ.

I asked Airwin what life on life leadership in Christ looked like as opposed to the leadership he received outside of Christ. He replied:

“I was the high on Saturday in church by Sunday type of guy. Ronnie taught me I could worship and live for God all day every day. I realize now that my lifestyle is a choice. I can choose to live free and be fulfilled. Before I had brothers who showed me things that were real, but still fake. Now I see what’s really real. Ronnie uses the truths of the Bible to lead me. “

Witnessing the transformation of Airwin has deeply impacted me. I’m filled with so much joy as I see this new life emerging and evolving. It inspires and motivates me. And although I’ll never be a rapper, I do believe that we all have to come to a point in our lives when we ask ourselves-what’s the importance of the show?  After the music stops, at the end of the day, I got my salvation, so what’s next?

It’s a question that Ronnie has answered not just with words, but with actions. Ronnie isn’t just a friendly face that checks up on Airwin every once in a while. As Airwin puts it “Ronnie has become a brother from another mother …

And I mean that seriously when I say it, because he really is my brother.” As one of Houston’s hottest up and coming rappers, I believe Ronnie’s legacy will not be defined by a record and will not be confined to a stage. His legacy will be defined by the words of life that he breathed into the lives of those he touched on and off the stage. As part of his legacy he’s passed on an everlasting record that you can leave on replay for a lifetime. It’s the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you ask me that album is epic.

To lean more about Ronnie’s ministry go to www.frontlinemovement.org

and to scoop the free download of his EP hit up http://reconcile.bandcamp.com/album/burn-this-city-ep