Break Free: “One in the Gospel” (Galatians 2:1-10)

Radio Reconcile

 

Radio Reconcile

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.

Pen Therapy

I loved Adele’s last project, 21, its still in pretty heavy rotation. I was listening to her single ‘Someone like You’ and for some reason the words just seemed to stick with me for a couple of days. The tale that her words told was sad, but it was real. Then I began to realize just how many times her exact sentiments had been voiced over the past few years. Check out the quotes below, these quotes are lyrics from a variety of songs from a very diverse cast of artists. Keep in mind that all of these artists are singing to an ex-lover that is either engaged, married, or has moved on with someone else:

‘Hoped you’d see my face and be reminded that for me it isn’t over’  -Adele

‘Does she know that you told me you’d hold me until you died’  -Alanis Morsette

‘Do you ever think of me?’  – Ne-yo

‘When you see my face I hope it gives you hell’  -All American Rejects

‘In my mind I’ll always be his lady’  -Heather Headley

‘What we had don’t need no words…I know I should be your lady’  -Jill Scott

Their words express regret, anger, sadness, curiosity, and a kind of sad persistence. And for me these songs go hard because on some level the artist has captured exactly the way I’ve felt at some point. And when you hear lyrics as powerful as some of these, you’re forced to wonder what happened in their relationships? Surely they must have been done really wrong, or they must have had something really special, so special that they just can’t seem to let it go or get over it.

I’m going to take a step out, and just express how I feel about these lyrics. When I look at these words, I see the result of someone giving too much of themselves over to another individual in the wrong context. And now, it hurts entirely too much to see that this person has moved on. So all we have left to do is grab our pens and proceed to therapy.

The first time the small box that I had put sexual immorality in was blown up, I was listening to Eric Mason preach on the subject. He taught that most Christians only put sex in their box of sexual immorality, yet in all actuality sexual immorality has a very mental and emotional aspect.

Man, we are so quick to attach ourselves emotionally to someone, we get off on the good morning texts and late night phone calls, not even considering if this person we are giving our emotions to will even be in our future. Because we aren’t observing this person as a long term fixture in our life, we’re observing them as eye candy, attention, or stability. The fact of the matter is we may have never been between the sheets with someone, but unbeknown to them, we’ve mentally worshiped them day in and day out, giving ourselves over to them in our minds. We even go as far as giving ourselves away physically. And when it’s all said and done, no matter how it went down, physically, emotionally, or mentally, we’ve given a piece of ourselves away, and when the beneficiary leaves, we never get that piece of us back and that cuts deep.

In my mind there was so much to say or ‘preach’ about these lyrics. I thought about saying something like ‘Guard your heart,’ ‘Date with the purpose of marriage,’ ‘Don’t think on impure things,’ and ‘How are you gonna give away that which belongs to the Lord.’ And while all of that is Biblically correct and needed, I think my sentiments can be best summarized in two commands- Love God. Love Your Brothers & Sisters.

We get so hurt by this so called love, failing to realize that our actions have completely neglected love all together. Love God. Love Your Brothers
& Sisters. Do we thirst and love after God enough to completely surrender our minds, body, and soul as a living sacrifice? Dow we love our brothers and sisters enough to not take and abuse their emotions with no true intention? Do we love our brothers and sisters enough to not take from them in the bedroom? Do we love God enough to honor our brothers and sisters?

Christ’s love was a love that put us first, it was love with long term intentions, He loved us with a purpose, His love can be tough, but it always aims to build us up. He’s a lover who gives more than we could ever repay. It’s only because of Him that we can love and it’s only through Him that we can give love. He is the perfect example of love, because He is love. Outside of Him, our ‘love’ is leaving mental and emotional scars and until we can understand that, our only hope is to find an understanding pen, a melancholy beat, and a listening page of paper.

when God was absent, part I

I often don’t feel God“, is a saying that ruled me for a few months.

I’ll be blunt and to the point … I took a hiatus from writing because I didn’t feel worthy to write for a blog committed to truth & the transformation of lives through the love of Christ. I began to doubt if I were ever in it for the right reasons & I began to fall back from accountability, authority, & admonition from others. You too may feel this way in some facet of your life.

I do apologize. My mentality was that sin was so rampant in my life that I am unworthy & I would have to fix myself up before I was worthy to write again. But God, being so rich in mercy showed me that I think far too highly of myself.

Absence made me feel as though God was so far from me & it would take time to rebuild our relationship & just when it felt like we were getting better … I would sin again. Sin being anything from illegitimately fulfilling sexual desires, pridefully asserting authority over others, cowardly avoiding situations to share the love of Christ, arrogantly being self-absorbed, guiltily blaming myself for the guilt of others, & not feeling as if God loved me as much as He used too.

I once felt like me & God were so tight & I thought He had my best interests in mind. I thought that if I followed Him I would be like pastor such & such & always feel joy overflowing. But God, being rich in mercy put my faith to the test. Left & right everything in my life began going wrong. I went from best worker to worst, good painter to worst, and a decent preacher to worst. I felt so condemned.

Every night I stayed up contemplating how to get closer to God … every night I prayed & prayed, but seemingly to no avail. My greatest fear became the idea that my sin became greater than the Holy Spirit living in me. I was scared to even pray because I didn’t want to be let down by God again. This was when things took a turn for the worst & I completely lost who I was.

When I hit rock bottom was when healing came.

I learned that,

  • like Cain all I can do is offer my best offering but be careful because sin is crouching at my door like a predator waiting to pounce (Gen 4:6-7)
  • I was saved by the Spirit so I should stop trying to be sanctified by the flesh & the law (Gal 3:1-3)
  • it doesn’t matter if I look stupid for Jesus (Phil 1:27-28)
  • there is a God who loves me too much to give me over to my idols (thanks Tullian)
  • people actually care about me & I don’t have to pull stunts to earn affection (ain’t got no proof but I feel it, lol)
  • in the midst of sin God can use you to reveal His righteousness (Jonah 1:7-16)
  • an alien righteousness resides in me apart from anything that I do (Phil 3:2-11)
  • I should risk the ocean, because there is only grace (Sometimes – DCB)

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.

Anchoring Ambassadors

I love to re-read a book or re-watch a movie and discover something new. To me, it means that the book or movie has depth and it reflects the intellect of the author. With that said, the Bible definitely has depth and the Author’s thoughts are so far above ours, that I am constantly amazed at the new things the Holy Spirit is revealing to me every time I read.

In re-visiting the story of Noah and the ark, I was lead to think about the folk who didn’t make it on the boat. How many cats stood outside of the ark laughing at Noah? Day one of the rain came, and they figured “no biggie, it’s rained for whole days before.” Then day 2 came … then day 3 … and then day 6. When did they start to think to themselves that maybe Noah did know what he was talking about? How many folk were banging on the ark’s door as the water began to rise up their bodies? How many people tried to hang on to the ark or tried to climb on top of it; their efforts all in vain?

It’s a harsh reality, but an even harsher reality for some, is the fact that God will flood the earth again, but the second time it will be with fire, and the destruction will be forever. For folk who do not believe in Jesus Christ, there will be no second chance to get on the boat, no banging on the door, no pleading; the door will simply be closed.

If you are saved, you represent the boat folk. And as boat folk, we have a task at hand. We are ambassadors. We are called to anchor as many people as we can to the boat, so that when our Captain, Jesus Christ, comes back, we will all be ready to pull up and sail to paradise (Col. 1:28).

In Colossians, Paul expresses how much he works and struggles for the sake of spreading the gospel, training men to follow Christ. He tells the Colossians in chapter 2, verse 6, “Therefore as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

The word that sticks out to me is the word taught. In order for them to have learned, someone had to have taught them. Someone built them up, discipled them, and instructed them.  In verse 8 he expounds on why it is so important to teach and to make sure folk are rooted when he says, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world and not according to Christ.” Even then, a lack of theology, or a lack of roots, left men susceptible to worldly winds of theology that is not of God.

Sometimes we’re content to watch people who think they don’t need the Ark get swept away by pride. They either try to catch the wave of fame, or they get carried off by education and dreams of success. Little do they know that these futile waves are only carrying them out to danger, and they will disappoint them when they fizzle out – or will crush them when they get toppled by an even bigger wave. Then the day will come when it is too late to stop riding the waves of the world, and the boat folk will be called up.

This reality has got to lead us to compassion. It makes me think of myself and my efforts. Will I toil and struggle, and work, in order to anchor my family and friends in Christ? Who have I helped anchor so that they are not swayed by the religions and philosophies of this world? As an ambassador, who knows that soon the door of this second ark will be shut without any chance of re-opening, will I seize that fact with immediacy? Will I be moved to action?

Will you?

My Own Fiasco

Hands down, one of my favorite rappers used to be Lupe Fiasco. We haven’t necessarily parted ways, because I respect his talent, but we’ve just grown apart. I liked Cool Young Lu because he was intelligent, lyrically talented, and not afraid to mash on society or politics. I was jamming on pandora one day and ‘The Coolest’ came on. It’s funny how you can hear something so many times and not really realize what you’re listening to or what exactly you’re hearing. Verse one opens up with…

“I Love the Lord, but sometimes it’s like I love me more.”

And it’s like I said, the song isn’t new. I’ve heard it before, but I wasn’t really hearing it. But this time I heard it, and I think I heard it this time because I felt it. I felt it in my gut. Lupe had just put into words what I put into action. “I love the Lord, but sometimes it’s like I love me more.”

See love is something I’ve been struggling with. I was telling my pastor of my struggles to love people and he dropped a line that also hit me in my gut. He said, “You know we always think that there’s this one person that we’re bad at loving without realizing that we’re bad at loving everyone, including God.”

Immediately I was on the defense, saying to myself, “I love people! I love my family and close friends!” Right? And then it was like someone pushed play on a horror film inside of my head. I saw myself being unloving to the people I claimed to love the most. I saw myself answering phone calls only when it’s convenient for me. I saw myself interacting with these people, but mostly when it benefited me. I saw myself sitting stationary, knowing that someone needed Godly advice, knowing that they needed guidance and needed to talk. Forget first fruits, I saw myself giving God the last of all my fruits. I went on to name this horror film ‘I love you, but I love me more.’ I was disgusted.

I’m not struggling to love people or God; I’m struggling to get over myself. We have got to fight to walk as living sacrifices. Remember what it took for you to get saved? Remember the emotions you felt at your lowest time of brokenness-anger, frustration, depression-remember the mess you made when you were doing things your way? Can you see what placing your faith in Jesus Christ has done in your life, can you see the change? How can we still want to hold onto ourselves. I was hopeless without Him, I still am hopeless without Him, and I always will be hopeless without Him.

That’s enough motivation for me to let go of myself. That’s enough motivation for me to worship God. That’s enough for me to love God for what He’s done and translate the love that I receive from Him into love that I now give to others. I want to wake up every day and feel exactly like I’m mourning the loss of someone I loved dearly …

Me.

#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 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.

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