B.asic I.nstructions B.efore L.eaving E.arth

I used to sleep with a bible under my bed, because I thought it gave me safety to have a black pleather bible that I wold read on some Sundays and special occasions.  There was security in knowing that it was under my pillow.  No bad dreams could get me and every sin committed would not come back to me. Crazy: that I would put so much trust in pieces of folded paper.   Bad as that sounds, it’s not unlike what we do when we open the bible today.

The bible for many of us is the book that we go to to get nuggets of good wisdom to get us through our day.  A magic amulet that can ward of all evil and give us all knowledge.  It is B.asic I.nstructions B.efore L.eaving E.arth.  While it does have tremendous wisdom for life and living, the bible is more than just the “B.I.B.L.E.”  The bible is a book that from cover-to-cover is a book about Jesus.  The Old Testament is Jesus concealed.  He is the good news prophecy made in Genesis 3:15.  He is the fourth man in the fiery furnace.  He is the Wonderful Counselor spoken of in Isaiah.  He is where the temple and all the pieces of furniture in the temple point.  The Old Testament is about Jesus.  The New Testament is about Jesus.

That is what separates the Bible from any other book such as the Koran and the Book of Mormon.  The Bible isn’t a Good Book amongst many.  It is God’s progressive revelation about the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.  No other book was designed to grow your faith in Jesus and his ability and desire to save people.  When you pick up other books you may read good things and get good principles.  When you pick up the Bible you read about a good God-man, Jesus!  The bible was designed by God the Spirit to help us see Jesus as God and grow our faith and dependence on him.  “Faith (in Jesus) comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”  Romans 10:17. Stop reading it for good sayings and good quotes, begin to prayerfully read the bible to see Jesus and watch your faith in Him come alive.

Confessions of a Preacher

*preface* This may be too transparent for some of you. If you have an image of a crispy clean young man who’s “on fire” for God, read with caution if at all…

There are many times (really all the time) when I just pause at the idea of me being a Christian. I’m so much more morally bankrupt than those unsaved people around me. I stumble into pride, lust, hypocrisy, gluttony, laziness and foolishness often…there are folk who if they had my shoes would be doing much better morally, I know it. I know it because they are in situations much worse than me and are much more moral than I am. The fact that God’s mercy is new every morning is still not fully grasped in my heart, which is a lack of faith, another testament of my shortcomings and God’s grace in spite of myself.

I really don’t NEED to hang around folk. My desire and idolization of acceptance pushes me to hang around folk, but my other idol of self dependence and secrecy push me to be alone. Even when I play spades with folk, often my aim is to win and big up myself, not simply enjoy community. A thing as simple and seemingly innocent as spades becomes a prop to the idol of self preservation and improvement… I glory in being a winner, in being right, even in a stupid game of cards.

As much as I rail against the unloving self righteous pseudo Christian, I am extremely unloving to those people, or people I self-righteously judge to be so, making me just as bad as those I tweet/preach/facebook against. “Oh, I get on your nerves? Then don’t talk to me, it’s not like you’re adding anything to my growth. You don’t like how I preach? Well forget you then, if you knew the Gospel you’d like it. I don’t need your community or your love, I do well just by myself.” The same arrogant, entrepreneurial, hypocritical Christianity I preach against I myself find myself living in with sprinkles of “Gospel-centeredness” on top.

I work hard. Very hard. 3-5 jobs hard. I justify it by saying I’m giving it and saving it to plan for a family that will glorify God. I hardly give to the local church as much as I budget initially, and even when I do I battle a fierce beast of pride and self righteousness. I don’t look to the fact that Jesus has established me through His work on the Cross because I look at my own work and think I am established, or at least close. I fail to work out my salvation with fear and trembling and instead work to fill my pockets with fearless pride. I justify who and how valuable I am through the jobs and money I have saved, the things I can afford on my own, failing to realize God is the one who gave me everything to earn what I don’t even give back to Him.

….I could go on. But pause and think about this: God through Himself saved me knowing I would be where I am and loves me enough to continue to not leave me or forsake me, but in fact sanctify me. He continues to reign down on my life…mercies and grace. My life doesn’t make any sense in a karma sense. In fact, I deserve death, but God in the blood of my own menstrual rags of righteousness said live…I am so nobody. No..body. But Jesus is Somebody and was Somebody for me on the Cross dying and raising for me…freeing me from living up to the expectations presented by my parents, society, even the expectations set by myself. Those character flaws listed are not up to me to correct because they have been paid for on the Cross. Even me re-realizing my identity in Jesus and submitting to the Spirit is done through the mind of Christ given to me by Christ. Thankful.

Please pray for me. I want to love more, submit more, lead more….die more to live more.

I love you.

exhaustion.

do you see , what i see –
a body , exhausted – almost lifeless.
can you feel what i feel , a point of surrender.
stripped , his body is unclothed and explicitly exposed
to the world , for the world to see.

beads of sweat dripped , traveled down the side of his face
rolled down his expanded ribcage , as he lay there.
and all people could do was walk passed , shake their head , some laughed.
as his body laid there , helpless , hopeless
in front of the world , for the world to see.

when you’ve got nothing left to live for , do you surrender?
do you give up , let go because you have nothing left to hold?
are you afraid of what they may say or think?
if you lay your life down before the world , even further , before the Lord?
in front of the world , for the world to see how
lifeless your life has been – now that you’ve discovered
you’ve got nothing else to live for.

he did.

break free.

I know, first hand, that there are a ton of things we as humans latch ourselves on to as if we are leeches, refusing to let go of something until we find that complete satisfaction.  We allow ourselves to be trapped and held captive by things that, in truth, have absolutely NO power over us (if we are saved).  For instance, our old dirt, bad breakups, guilt,  getting drunk, free sex, shame, pornography, even the churchy things like self-righteousness, “living right,” etc.  But in all honesty, there is freedom from these things.  A freedom that can’t be lost.  One that isn’t just felt. One that changes.

I can’t express how deeply sorrowful and deeply compassionate I feel towards people, and even myself, for living in emotional and mental prisons.  Where the prison guards, PORNOGRAPHY, GUILT, and SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS, walk back and forth passed your prison cell with a grimy sneer surfaced on their face because they know that you have absolutely no power to break free from their imprisonment.  All of our energy is invested in the things that are futile … we fall short of believing in the factual and fulfilling Prince of Peace who holds the key to that prison we stay cooped up in, dying.

After a while, those chains get too heavy.  You can make one collect call for the day,  will you choose to call Him?  Will you hear Him out?  Will you allow Him to bail you out, to pay the price for your freedom?  Or will you rest, quietly and comfortably as the days pass by and what left you have of your life begins to seep out of you?  What will you do when you hear Him on the other line saying, “You don’t have to do any work to break free from this bondage you’ve placed yourself in.  I’ll do it for you.  Just listen to me.  Just trust me.  Trust who I am.”  Will you believe?  Will you walk out of that cell and not look back?  What will you do?

Come join us as we venture through the book of Galatians starting June 2nd at Good Hope (3015 N. MacGregor Way) every Thursday night at 7 p.m.  My prayer is that our lives will not just be touched, but that they will change and that we will be freed from the prison we’ve been resting in for all our lives.  There is Someone who has power over all things on this earth.  He loves you so much that He wants to free you from death.  I hope to see you there.

it is finished, you workaholics

“And it’s a shame, the way I want to do these things for You, yet don’t even cling to you, take time to sit and glean from You” – Lecrae

Work, work harder?

The day of a workaholic usually begins with the motive of proving their existence based on their ability to produce. The workaholic finds value in the quantity of quality products produced. The idea of rest is foreign & the notion of saying no is nonexistent. They are shackled to their schedule.

Is there hope?

I may be the worst person to write this, thus I’m probably the best person to write this. I am so identified with my work habits that if they die, I die; if they thrive, I live. One day I found myself so lost in thought, so hurt from past mistakes, so burdened by being a Christian leader, so obligated to produce work, so physically fatigued, and so dramatized by the expanse of work to be done that I broke down. It took everything just to hold back the tears in public. But, I found hope in a text message.

The conversation proceeded as such:

what is your purpose for serving?

Not sure, I want to say death in me will mean life for others.

There’s life in Christ not in you …

I was finding my identity in serving Jesus, but not Jesus. When Jesus shouted in victory, “τελείωσε” … it was all perpetually and perfectly completed. “It” being the defeat of sin, satan, death, the need for acceptance, the need to work, the desire to work harder, the shame from failed works, the guilt from failed future works, and the idea of finding identity in your work. Jesus did what was done on the cross, then sat down at the right hand of God. No assistance from man is necessary in Jesus’ saving work, as witnessed by the man on the cross next to him. Jesus said this day he would be with him in paradise apart from anything that he did, should’ve done, would do, or could do.

A helpful thought is that of Mary and Martha. Mary was awarded for sitting at the feet of Jesus gleaning from him, but Martha was told to fall back for thinking she had to work and impress Jesus. Be a Mary, not a Martha.

no work left to do?

The understanding of there being nothing for you to do is radical. We often feel as though we must pay God back, but Jesus said it is finished. Jesus paid it in full. “It” being the just wrath of God towards those who work when he said rest. God desires us to find rest in Christ’s work and see him as all sufficient. You will find so much joy by just sitting there meditating on the completed work in the death and life of Jesus. You will identify with Jesus so much that in his death, you die; in his life, you live.

working to death.

and he’s been working,
slaving and hustling to get paid
the wages that it takes to be
enslaved, shackled in chains.

back bent, bones brittle,
hour to hour he’s picking lustful
flowers and cottons coated in envy.
he works long, stomach empty
because he’s been missing out
on the Word that’s living.

while he’s working to do right and
to appear perfect on the outside,
he’s forgotten that, internally, his
body is expiring.

curdling and clumping like spoiled milk,
his body grows weary as he continues to
work his way to right standing with the
one he serves as Master.

little did he know, Master once was in
his place. Master took up those wages
and all the debts, He had paid.
Master was shackled in chains as a slave,
and had already picked all of his lustful and envious ways.

Master’s back was bent with brittle bones,
not to work Himself to death, but to pay the
wages of death – to put those wages to death.

Master did this to offer freedom to the people
like him, but to earn righteousness with the Master,
he didn’t see it as a sin.

“But I tell you, brother, the wages of sin is death, but
the free gift of Master is eternal life in Christ Jesus
our Lord.

Therefore, I declare you unemployed! You no longer
have to work, I AM giving you a choice!”

his guilt wouldn’t allow him to accept this
gift of Freedom – so he bore on his brittle back
all the wages death had promised and remained
enslaved as his Master watched over him saying,

“The debt, it’s already been paid.
Why must you continue to enslave
yourself?

Bruh, Man Up (Submission, part 1)

There’s a incorrect popular idea in masculine culture ,and especially even Christianity, that the practice and idea of submission is primarily the responsibility of the woman. The usual themes I see on Twitter, Facebook, college campuses, Sunday mornings,  Wednesday night Bible studies, etc., go something like this:

Woman Submits to Man, Man Submits to nobody. Man is King.

Let’s look at the story of a famous King and see how the popular idea of submission matches up.

So there was a man who God called to preach to a city called Nineveh; his name was Jonah.  After a crazy journey to get there, he finally preaches to the city of Nineveh to repent – to turn away from their sin and turn to God. This was the King of that city’s response:

Jonah 3

6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.7 And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

The city of Nineveh was horrible, very much like the terrorist culture of Al Qaeda. They were known for torturing folk, pillaging other nations, and the worship of various false gods. The King of this city literally ran all of these things. He was the head. Nineveh was his world, or so he thought. However, peep the text and let’s peep what he does in light of the message Jonah preached:

1. Arose from his throne

The King of this mighty nation, the ruler of everything around Him, this man of renown and power, arose from his throne. This man had a seat of authority, influence, wealth, power, women, you name it. But in response to God, the King got off of his throne. This points to the fact that he was willing to give all of what he had up to be in alignment with what God’s desires were for him.

2. Removed his robe

The robe of the King was a public display of his position. This is who he was. Folk saw this Kings robe and knew who he was. This was his identity. Again though, this man was willing to give up who he found himself to be, as well as who others found Him to be in response to God.

3. Put on sackcloth and sat in ashes

Even without knowing the Bible, The King was able to understand God’s will to such an extent that He was willing to take off “everything” and put on nothing. In this realization, the King was able to put on humility- and to sit in humility. All in response to a message from God.

Keep reading the text. Look at how he took these steps in response to God, leading his community to follow suit. This is what Biblical submission looks like for men. Men are called to submit to God. They are called to get off of the thrones of their own hearts, take off the identity given to them by the world, and sit in humility- agreeing to the role that God has for them- which is always one of leadership in some degree, and always one that leads others to turn to God.

So we know what submission is, but the question is how do we do this? It’s hard to get off the throne of your own herd, take off your identity that the world gives you, and then sit in humility. I dare say it’s impossible. So how do we do it? Quick verse and we’ll wrap up part 1…

Philippians 4:12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

The answer is Jesus. We need Him for us to submit … that means we repent -turn away from our sins and turn to Him, to believe in His work on His Cross where he paid the debt of sin against God that we owe. Through Him we can do this thing men. Next time we’re going to talk about another King who submitted so that we can really unpack this thing even further.

Part 2 coming soon!

grace and peace.

Facing Giants

Everywhere I go these days, I’m greeted with the same question. “So what’s after college?” And I give an answer, but usually it’s vague with no specifics. Not because I don’t have any plans, but because I have a fear of verbally expressing in detail exactly what I truly want to do with my life. Maybe I feel like if I actually say it, then people will hold me to it and will be disappointed if I don’t actually do it. Maybe I don’t say it, because I will be disappointed if I don’t do it.

It’s actually a point of frustration for me. I see my strengths and my attributes, and I see in my mind’s eye what I could actually do with my skills. I see how I could incorporate ministry and how I could create something special, and it’s a beautiful picture, but I get frustrated because I’m not sure I’ll ever get to see that beautiful picture in reality.

When God led the Israelites out of Egypt, He brought them to a land, they saw the land, and they saw how good the land was. God told them to go in and take possession of the land. Now they had seen some giants in the land and even though God had commanded them to take the land and had told them that He would go in before them, the Israelites started shakin in their boots. Moses recalls how they responded in Deuteronomy 1:26- 27…

“Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.”

Before truly reading this verse I would have said that the Israelites just had fear, they had a trust issue. I never saw their failure to ‘go in’ and ‘take possession’ as an act of rebellion also. They were in direct disobedience of a command from God.

Then there’s this murmuring part and I know exactly how that goes. “If God loved me he would make this happen for me!” “If God loved me he would take the challenge of pursuing my goals away!” “Why would God give me the desire to do this with my life, if He was gonna make it impossible for me to actually achieve!”

Rebellion & trust issues. Moses spends the rest of the chapter rebuking the people. He tells them to remember the awesome works that God had already performed in their lives. He reminds them that their swag is on one hundred thousand trillion, because God has been rolling with them the whole time. God has allowed us all to have gifts and talents and way back in Genesis, He told us to cultivate-develop, learn, and progress our talents to the fullest- and subdue-use our talents in the world to the glorification of God. That’s a command!

We see the fields that we can apply ourselves too, and we see how good it could be, and the Lord has told us to go into those fields and own them for Him. But then we start seeing giants. Big scary giants like the giants of hard work and the giants of impossibility. At the sight of these giants, we decide to blame God because we feel frustrated or restrained thinking that our dreams and goals are out of reach. As a believer, God’s hand has been too mighty upon my life for me to not trust in Him. I know He has my back so the only thing truly frustrating about my future is my rebellion or failure to cultivate and subdue. I know that in order to feel unrestrained I have to surrender all to God, giving Him the controls and trusting that He will provide. Whichever land I go in, there’s for sure gonna be a fight, a struggle. The giants aren’t going anywhere, and sure I’m only 5’10” but my shadow reaches beyond the heavens.

Mission Trip: New Orleans.

After months of fundraising, faithful supporters and prayers, this past week, myself and 9 other people were gifted the opportunity to travel to the vibrant city of New Orleans on a mission trip hosted by Mission Lab of Vintage Church in Gentilly, New Orleans, LA.

We stayed at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and the accommodations were excellent.  Our days started early at 7 a.m. and ended around 11 p.m. with activities for every hour of every day.  We were fed some of the best meals each day and we were given the opportunity to hear a message from the pastor of the church and his friend every other night while we were there.  The theme of the messages were “Loving the City” with emphasis on our responsibilities as the church.

Throughout our week in New Orleans, we were taken around the city and we were assigned various evangelistic opportunities such as renewing a baseball field, sharing our faith on different campuses (University of New Orleans and Xavier University), giving to the displaced people in the downtown area, prayer walking in the Irish Channel (one of the highest crime areas in New Orleans), visiting the Lower Ninth Ward and much, much more.

Visiting the city, I assumed that my assignment from God would solely be spreading His Gospel of Salvation and drawing others closer to His goodness.  That was only one part of the assignment He had for me, and I can confidently say the same on behalf of those who went with me.  He revealed and taught to us that the church is NOT the building that we walk into and go out of.  Instead, the church is WHO WE ARE.  Missions is not some task to be accomplished on a checklist.  It is a desire from God to reach the souls of others and for Him to sanctify and teach the souls of ourselves.

We were greeted with all types of personalities in New Orleans and everyday came with a new surprise.  I expected nothing of what I experienced and it was a journey that God took us on to not only speak to others, but for Him to speak to us a message we take lightly: love your neighbors as you love yourself.

Here are a few photos from our week in New Orleans and you can find a day-to-day summary with more photos at this website: http://ratedh.tumblr.com.

We stopped on our way to New Orleans to get something to eat.  It’s true when they say everything is bigger in Texas!
Our first night of worship.

This was our first assignment: to dig bases on a baseball field.
We visited the University of New Orleans to share our faith with the students on campus and we teamed up with students from Xavier University and a school from Georgia.The man on the right was preaching the Gospel while the young man on the left spoke against it.
This is a teddy bear that was found in the debris after Hurricane Katrina.
French Quarters.People search everywhere for the truth.

This is the Super Dome.This is our dear friend Mike from Mission Lab telling us about the Irish Channel before we began our prayer walk.
This is Kirk Joseph, the son of trombonist Waldren”Frog” Joseph.  He was just sitting out on his porch as we approached him and he offered us water, encouraged us with the song “When the Saints Go Marching,” told us about his late father and prayed with us in his home.  Add him on Facebook! :)
This is Waldren Joseph, Kirk’s father.  He has a wall in the house.This is Ms. Kathy.  We saw her on the corner of a street cutting grass from the cracks of concrete.  She said she had worked in an office for so many years that any chance she gets to go outside, she takes it and she goes out to help clean up the community, in the Irish Channel.  Her prayer and many others were the same, that the violence would stop and that children would stop killing one another.
Getting ready to give baby wipes, water, snacks and prayer to the displaced people in the New Orleans downtown area.

This is Mickey.  He was such an encouraging inspiration.  He said that all he plays is Gospel music and people hate that he does it.  But because he knows what God has done for him in his life, he refuses to stop praising him through song!  He even played and sang a tune for us.
During some down time, we heard live music and the guys decided to take advantage of it by enjoying the music and dance with strangers that became friends.
the levees right before we entered the Lower Ninth Ward.
If you look closely, you can see rust on the white thing that is hanging on the pole – that is where the water surfaced during Hurricane Katrina – 16 ft.  This is in the Lower Ninth Ward where the hurricane did the most damage.
This was our lot to clean out!
This is Ms. Linda Jackson, the President of the Lower  Ninth Ward Homeowners Association.  She gave us our assignment as well as some background information on Katrina and the Lower Ninth Ward community.
As we were working hard, we were greeted by Stanley Stewart, a Katrina victim, who now has an incredible story to share with the world.  He invited us in to tell us his story.
Stanley Stewart is now a renown name with an inspiring story on the rebuilding of his home, of his future.  Visit his website here.
Our lot after a long time of hard work!!!  God gave us some strength because it was a tedious task under the sun!
In return, God sent the ice cream truck right down our street and we were TOO excited!!!
The next day, we visited Xavier University to share our faith with college students.
These are the students of the Impact group at Xavier that we teamed up with.  They were a great help!!!
We got to park and ride on a trolly that took us downtown!  It was the longest ride ever.  But we all got to talk to other people riding  the trolly about their experience in New Orleans.
Live music and good food!

Our last night out together in New Orleans!!!

3 Minute Devotional

Let’s eat:

Psalm 84:10-11 (emphasis added)

10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly

_______________________________________________________________________

The writer of this Psalm was a king. He had many many great things. Women, land, money, whatever. It was his. In light of that fact, he writes this. One day as a doorkeeper (a servant, a non ruler, a slave) in the house of God is worth more than a 1,000 days anywhere else. Why? Because simply, God is good. He’s the source of life and a simultaneous protector. His worth outweighs whatever the world offers thousands of times over. The writer understood the weight of God and His Goodness by way of a promise. For us that promise has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Is a day in and with Jesus Christ worth a 1,000 days anywhere else for you?

Grace.