Dying 2 Live...!

Dying 2 Live...!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

True Discipleship is...?

This is a pertinent interview with a good friend of mine from college, Damian L. Boyd. Damian is now the pastor of a budding church-plant (Vertical Church-Atlanta). But more than his position in ministry is his heart for God. In this candid interview, I sat down with him to prick his brain about the matter of true and Godly discipleship...

Lead pastor: Damian L. Boyd

Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church: 12 years associate/young adult pastoral experience

Vertical Church–Atlanta: 1 year lead pastoral experience and counting

Defining Disciple/Discipleship: (Mark) M (Pastor Damian) PD

M – “How is a disciple or discipleship defined?”

PD – “I think in the simplest of terms, a disciple is someone that is being spiritually mentored… Not just a mentor but a spiritual mentor, someone who is being brought under another person’s wing with the expressed purpose of teaching them Biblical principles, giving them the examples, showing them how to live the Christ-like life, ‘life-on-life.’ Jesus was the best discipler. He actually was phenomenal… His example was: He lived in the midst of people. He did what He did among people and then taught them and showed them along the way. Life was discipleship for Jesus. He showed them based on His life and He taught them out of what they experienced. I think sometimes we can call ourselves making disciples by just telling people a lot of information, give them information and they’re disciples, have them rememorize a bunch of Scripture and they’re disciples. But that’s not real Biblical discipleship because that doesn’t mean they know how to work it out in life. Truthfully, the Bible says, ‘knowledge puffs up,’ so people who just learn more aren’t necessarily disciples. They can become Pharisees if you’re not careful. But disciples are people that [have] you in their life, you’re living in the midst of them and you’re growing them with the expressed purpose of them looking more like Christ."

M – “In that case, what is your version of a discipleship model, or a metamodel that you utilize?”

PD – “Our discipleship process looks like this: Our strategy is "Be, Do, Learn, Show." (1) Be – meaning who I am, who I am on the inside. Where we get rid of pretense and all the things we try to put on to look religious, to look spiritual. ‘I am who I am by the grace of God’ so as I’m being, that is something people should learn from my example. 1 Peter 5 starts out with Peter exhorting the followers of Christ spread abroad, the Diaspora of the Christians out there. He actually taught them. He was teaching the elders to be an example. We hear Timothy being taught the same thing by Paul, ‘Be an example.’ That’s where it starts, if I’m not living anything of any worth, I can’t expect the people that follow me to live anything of any worth. (2) Do – okay, we need to do something with what we believe. It’s not enough for me to mentally ascend to what I believe of my faith; I have to actually do it. I have to live it out. I have to walk it out; I have to do good for others. I have to be an example; I have to love one another, all the ‘one anothers’ of Scripture. That’s doing, that’s the things we do. Doing is the works that we do; that follow the faith that we have, not trying to prove our worth or value to Christ, but because we are worthwhile and we are valued by Christ.

M – “So your do is not something done out of duty, religious form or for numbers?”

PD – “No, it’s an abiding love for Jesus Christ. ‘That’s why we do. We do because He’s already done!’ I’m more about ‘impact’ than I am size and look. I can careless about the size and look; I care much more about impact. I’ll take 50 people that are engaged to make a difference than 5,000 that are just content to sit and look at and listen to me. Then the other one (3) is to Learn – there’s a ‘serious’ learning component in discipleship. It’s that growing; it’s understanding Scripture, understanding Scriptural background [historical], [and] understanding the depths of the Scripture. We’ve just taken 12 people through 6 months of intense discipleship at my home, based on Acts. ‘They committed themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship and to the breaking of bread.’ And all those things come together for us... Discipleship is intense and it’s intentional but we do it in several different ways to learning. We want to make sure that we’re learning; we’re understanding more Scripture. The more we understand, the more we can live out. Then you have the last part (4) which is to Show – you aren’t a disciple if you’re not willing to show somebody else. Jesus spent 3 years pouring His heart into these guys so that they could show it to other people. It wasn’t just enough for them to have been with Jesus and learned, no, they had to show and model that out. Jesus didn’t just preach to His disciples; He lived in the midst of His disciples. And He expected them to go and live that out before everybody else. You look at the Great Commission, you know, ‘Now go ye therefore.’ Why? Because I’ve given you 3 years of My life, and then given you My literal life. So guess what? Now you go and you do that for others. You make disciples among others, everywhere. That’s your job. Live in the midst of people. Yes, teach them but also be who He’s called you to be; do the work I’ve told you to do, teach them so they would learn and then show them the way I’ve shown you. See, the disciples knew how to cast out demons and they knew how to multiply fish and bread and do miracles. Why? Because Jesus showed them how, He didn’t just tell them to do it, He showed them; He modeled, He was a model for them.

M – “What are the materials and methods used for discipleship?”

PD – “I’ll use what ever possible. (1) I’ll use life, and I use life lessons. One thing we do is we serve in the community. So intentionally what we do is we take people out. New Christians, people considering becoming Christians: we serve the community. So you’re going to see me live it out before you. You’ll be in my life; you’ll be in my midst as we’re working. Actually serving others is how you learn how to be a disciple. (2) To add to that, we read books. We do a thing called discipleship journey, that’s the 6 months where you are in our home once a week, once every two weeks. And I taught very slowly, very intentionally through Mark 6-12, this is the most densely compacted teaching on discipleship in Scripture. Jesus is modeling; He’s showing, He’s an example and what we do is we look through those Scriptures with a very intentional focus on: ‘How does this make me_______?’, ‘What does this say to me as a disciple of Jesus Christ?’, and ‘What does this say to me as someone that’s a disciple-maker?’ So we look through those lenses… (3) We also do training and development for people to help them figure out: Who they are, How they’re wired, and Why they’re wired the way they’re wired, so they can do the very thing God has for them to do, rather than just doing the thing our church needs for them to do. We’re in the business of helping people find the thing God has for them, and we want to empower them to do that [very thing]. So we give them training and development to help them find that unique calling.

M – “So it seems like you’re saying 'God is bigger than just the four walls of Vertical Church or someone else’s building.'”

PD – “The Bible says that we are the Church. You can go to Europe and in Europe you’ll see these big, immaculate, beautiful buildings that have been turned into dance clubs and bars. So often we see the building for church; that’s not the Church. The Church are the people who are mobilized to communicate the Gospel.

M – “From that discipleship standpoint, as it relates to Church or discipleship, how is success determined in the discipleship process?”

PD – “We determine success in a few ways: (1) We look at the impact of people’s lives, outside of the building… as a community of faith, we have an impact in the community... the community knows us, they value us, we are important to the community. Why? Because we serve the community, but we want the same thing happening in the individual lives of the people; we want our people to have such an impact that others in their community, whether on their jobs, in their neighborhoods, other people around them are being impacted. (2) I think sometimes we look for such quick results, but real discipleship takes time. Jesus spent 3 years getting guys ready. So real discipleship takes time and the effect of discipleship is how people are doing the Great Commission, not how many people can be gathered in one place.

M – “Last question, what advice would a 'just getting started ministry or minister' need if they’re going to actually start a church, implement a discipleship process, and [successfully] evangelize?”

PD – “I think so often, one problem with many Seminaries is many of these people are going to be starting churches in a few years. But the problem is often these [folks] aren’t given enough of the background on what it takes to lead a church. Just because you understand the Bible doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good pastor. You need to understand business if you’re going to plant a church. You need to understand marketing if you’re going to plant a church. You also have to understand the shepherding side; the soft skills of working with people, the soft skills of seeing somebody fail you or fail God, and them still being able to see you believe in them, in the long run. You need to understand some basics around family counseling… Why? Because real people in their real lives go through real struggle, I mean those are all different things you need to know. One other thing that you have to have is perseverance and endurance. Church-planting is tough; it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done in my life, and there are so many variables that can’t be calculated. You have to have room and space for the unknown. If you're a person that every ‘i’ has to be dotted, every ‘t’ has to be crossed, this may not be the right thing for you. Why? Because there are ebbs and flows to church-planting, you have to be very flexible and there has to be room for some things to not go the way you want them, and it be okay. Here’s one thing I scream, there’s one book around church-planting that I encourage and it’s 'Church Unique.' I had a chance to sit down with the author not too long ago and get a chance to know him a little bit. Church Unique, the one thing it stresses that I love, that different form every other church-planting book, it helps you find who you are, to do what God wants you to do, in the area you need to make the impact. It’s a failure always to correctly exegete Scripture, and incorrectly exegete the culture that you are called to reach. That’s the key: You have to figure out who are, the job God has for you to do and the people that are where you’re needed. All 3 of those will help you decide the type of ministry you need to have… when you marry those pieces together, you’ll have a greater opportunity for success than you could've ever imagined.

(Pictured: Pastor Damian with his lovely wife Zarat)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Your Barometer May be Too High, even for God!

If you are an aspiring "anything" the notion is often "the sky's the limit." So like many people on the planet, you take it and run. Parents push their children to go to college, looking for pursuits in either lawyer, doctor or engineer-related fields. Anything less of degrees in these areas are known as unacceptable and blatant failure. Once children struggle in these fields, maybe due to the fact, they're not very good at science and mathematical formulas, they become frustrated with school and dropout, knowing they can't live up to their parents' expectations. However, regardless of these occurrences, parents still try to shove their kids into these fields or ones similar. Even the country as a whole promote that shoving behavior with implementing standardized test-based curriculum or rigorous standards for simple graduation.

Many children say, "forget all this, I'm going directly into the workforce!" And that's exactly what numerous amounts of them are doing while in their late teens and twenties. Here they're able to grasp some major experience as well as decent cash flow. Over time, they move up to another position or better job, making even more money. Also added into the equation may be a spouse, some kids, a home, a pet, etc. Life seems good for the moment until inflation rises, gas prices sky-rocket and new bills pile up. And you and your parents are again reiterating thoughts of heading back to college for the very thing your decided to leave it for---the lofty pursuits of a high paying position in a field that had curriculum and terminology way over your head. So now what? I guess go through the cycle all over again...

Uh oh, hear comes another aspiring notion, as if the sky's the limit wasn't aspiring enough. Now society wants you to "reach for the stars." So let me get this right! After I've nearly made it to the sky, now I must strain even higher to get to the stars. I guess next, after I'm at the stars; I'll be "jumping to the moon" or "flying with the angels." Now no one is saying, "settle for mediocrity." But in our attempts to excel, sometimes we go overboard and just way too far.

Even as Christians, we allow society to push us and our families into patterns and molds God never created for many of us to fit in. Many of these things, He never even intended. He knows our destiny and plans for us much better than society does. Who said you have to be a doctor, lawyer or even go to college? Who said you have to reach some pinnacle that is so super lofty, that you won't be happy or truly satisfied until you get there? Who said you have to be the next Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Peyton Manning, Barack Obama, etc?

How about this: why don't you just be yourself, and be the best you that you can possibly be? Why don't you make the most out of every opportunity you're given and let the chips fall where they may? For some apparent reason, we're always looking to get to that 1%. We look at the individuals on the Forbes list, or the oil barons, top CEOs and most influential evangelicals.

"Ladies and gentlemen, these folks aren't our barometer!"

If I could, I would write that 1,000 times within this post. They're the 1% and what we usually fail to realize; we're doing better than much of the other 99%. Better yet, we could actually be exactly where God wants us to be, and not even realize it. Often times when Jesus relayed a parable, He would use the 1, 2, and 5 scenario. Which is, God (or an individual representing Him) gave 3 people something (skills and talents, money, giftings, etc.) and ONLY required each of them to DOUBLE what He gave based on their ability. However, in modern day, we would change Jesus' parables and want for the people who received the 1 and 2 to get just as much as the one who received the 5. Thus, everyone would end up having 10 of whatever they had, instead of double. But God didn't say change things to modern day times. He made it clear that the kingdom of God is based on ability, not measuring up to the so called "elite." But because of peer-pressure, pleasure and pride we want to do things society's way instead God's. My prayer is that we stop trying to measure to society, and only do what God called us to do, nothing more, nothing less.

"For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you." (Romans 12:3 NIV)                              

Friday, August 10, 2012

Who's Your Theologian?(revisited)/Your Pastor is Too Famous!

I thought this post that I ran across from relevant magazine was worth a read. It'll expose a direction that Christians vividly go in that have little of nothing to do with Christ. Instead, it's all about us idolizing our theological, influential or ministry heroes. And it's totally understandable to want to glorify someone impressive, distinguished, talented, creative, ridiculously wealthy, intellectually sound or Biblically redefined. Thus, we flock to Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, etc. as citizens and John MacArthur, Charles & Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, and John Piper as Christians. But, these individuals as well as ourselves truly amount to nothing, apart from Christ (John 15:5). Jesus should be the ONLY center of attention (1 Corinthians 3:5-9)! Furthermore, we are all just crafted dirt (living pottery) without the life-giving breath of God (Genesis 2:7). I could go on reiterating facets from the article, but I'll let Stephen Mattson fully speak on that matter here.      

Monday, August 6, 2012

Silly Church: Emerging is for Kids!

I'm pretty sure we may have seen the commercial and heard the Trix cereal slogan, "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids!" Well, the church of Jesus, at many times, tends to be just as silly. The new facet of church separation is a movement known as the emerging church. Just what we need, another movement of church transitioning that divides more than unites us, this is the direction the emerging church seems to be heading in. At first Christians wanted to be Catholics, than Puritans and eventually Protestants. Next, they tired of those titles and decided to pursue becoming Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Pentecostals (Charismatics) and Seven-Day-Adventists. Later on, they decided to become non-denominational, Calvary Chapel, Word of Faith, Full Gospel, purpose-driven, seeker-friendly, etc. Now the big fuss is over becoming a part of the group known as the Emerging Church

The Emerging Church is a newly reformed movement of the way we do church. It is supposedly church as it should be, from a Westernized standpoint. Famed author and professor Paul Enns sees the modernism form of Christianity as lacking relevancy to cultural changes within society. The emerging church views evangelism in a distinctly different way from modernism.1 He also alludes to the fact that the emerging church opposes relativism and promotes biblical scholarship. But everyone doesn’t quite agree with this assumption. The Jesus of the emerging church, according to McLaren, is an amalgam of diverse theologies.2 A significant facet of the emerging church is intellectualism and seminary training, something the modern, evangelical church has strayed away from. To say I agree or disagree with Enns’ position on the emerging church is irrelevant to the overall aspects of the movement. He supports the neo-orthodoxy movement which is a foundational aspect of the emerging church. Although, sometimes, it seems as if Enns is giving us a mixed message. He praises the movement for them taking the Bible more seriously, but, then questions them for still retaining liberal foundations as well. All in all, Enns sees more of a need for biblical history and scholarship being proclaimed from pulpits, however, many others might not always see it that way. 

They may be more prone to preaching the Gospel apart from the enticing words of man’s wisdom. Paul denoted this too:

And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5)

However, this is not justification for dumbing down the Scriptures. But it is understandable that the information presented to believers must be clear and concise, not so deep that no one grasps what’s being implied but theologians. The goal is to teach with clarity so the people can then go and carry out what’s been taught. James 1:22-25 admonishes this realization:

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” 

Denominational sects that are more conservative in nature may still have problems with the emerging church. However, Darrin Patrick, Vice President of Acts 29 has pointed out "bad things" in the emerging church such as "the fascination with deconstructing almost everything while building almost nothing," and "ugly things" such as "conversing about God's Word to the neglect of obeying it, deviating from historical orthodoxy and the lack of clarity regarding issues of theology and sexuality."3

It’s like we’re having another rehashing out of Biblical theology versus systematic theology. But, we’re not. This is a clear-cut issue on old versus new. Yes, over time things change. We grow in every way imaginable: from stature to knowledge to relationships. But this is not quite how God works.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Therefore, even though the methods or models within ministry may change, the focus and foundations of ministry should remain consistently the same––“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

When the attention goes away from Christ, the cross and salvation, it starts to veer off into areas that should not necessarily be foundational. And relevancy is not one of those foundations and neither is traditional, modernism or denominational doctrine.

“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2) 
1 Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology: Revised and Expanded, (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 2008), 694.

            2 (Enns, 2008, 696) 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sexing Up Jesus

As we journey on our first installation of “The Uglyside of Church” we begin with “Sexing Up Jesus,” a future book to be pinned by myself. Yes, for a multiplicity of reasons local churches are afraid to talk about sex, especially to singles. Some ministries don’t mind alluding to it often for married couples, because according to Scripture those are the only ones who should be having it. Not to mention, all the sexual sins that are actually within marriage, such as acts practiced by homosexuals like oral and anal sex. So the married aren't in the clear, either.

But society begs to differ. We know singles are probably having much more sex than married couples. We're bombarded with this "if it feels good, do it" mentality. And many local churches want to desperately reach society or fit in with it, so they simply oblige to the cultural norm. You know, they want to be relevant and cutting edge. Now no one is knocking relevancy, but what’s more relevant in modern day than the issue of sex. Sexual innuendos are often used to sell anything from toothpaste to Gatorade, bubble gum to deoderant. The sex industry is nearly a $100 billion business annually. And church conferences usually lead the way for pornography pay-per-view channel subscriptions, within hotels and motels. When we see a male feministic-choir-director or over sensitive worship leader, what usually comes to mind? Or, how many people in your church are shacking up together, unmarried but freely having sex with their so called "partner?" The proof is in the pudding and track records of behavior rarely ever lie.

So why are churches so closed-minded about this issue? The concern may lie with the uglyside of church. One of the top reasons, over recent years, for pastoral failures has been infidelity; a leading cause of local church splits as well. Many Christian men and women are addicted in one form or another to sex; even the author of this blog isn’t exempt. Presently, I live in Atlanta which is one of the leading cities in the nation for homosexual pastors and churches. It’s also the headquarters for Exodus International, a leading organization in America helping Christians break free from homosexuality.

So again, why aren’t local churches addressing this issue more? Maybe it’s too painful, shameful of an issue to deal with. Could it be that pastors and leaders don’t want their own dirt and addictions within this area exposed. But I heard a minister say,

“We’re only as sick as our secrets!”

And the symptoms of sexual secrets are abundant, leaving us gravely ill. The illnesses may be seen as emotional baggage, sleepless nights due to sexual discontent, extreme pornographic addiction, lustful soap opera and romance novel fanaticism, etc. Our faculties are affected in numerous ways: emotionally, psychologically, physically, and even vocationally. So full fledged ministry doesn’t exempt us from addressing the secrets within ourselves. Still, there are many things we need to do for “real freedom.”

For starters, we should at least stop ignoring the pink elephant in the room–sex. It’s all over: television, songs, peer pressure, comedy shows, at the office, and in the church. Secondly, we need to deal with it; and I mean deal with it seriously. Jesus, Paul and others made no bones about that. A healthy place to start is with your own heart, getting out of denial and thinking you’re squeaky clean. Here is a resource that can help immensely (click on the broadcast "Recovering from False Intimacy"). Thirdly, you should intentionally get around better people who aren’t so sexually-driven. This list can go on and on. But instead of getting overwhelmed, just get started with the first thing. God is more than willing and able to give us victory in this area. All we need to do is be real, surrender and let Him do it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Uglyside of Church

In the coming weeks we will be embarking on this thought: "The Uglyside of Church." Many see the Church as a wonderful group of believers who exemplify the love of God, and rightfully so. But this concept usually fails to resonate well over to the local concept of church. The local church is not the best example of Jesus representatives. There are differences in denominations, gender aspects, socioeconomic backgrounds, weekend escapades, partiality, smugness, etc. Over time, we'll find that many of these aspects are extremely ugly and only God can tear these down, bringing real beauty to a church so in need of it.    

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Judge, Jury & Executioner

I know some generation Xers like myself, the recent oldies, are familiar with Pee-Wee Herman. His most reflective statement, "I know you are, but what am I?" was a beckoning call for effectively dealing with wrongful judgments and harsh criticisms. Even if the person called him a jerk, dummy, stupid or some other derogatory term; he would bounce it off of him with that statement.

But this post is not really about past and present adventures of Pee-Wee Herman, it's about you and I. First off, we shouldn't be spewing out wrongful judgments about others. As Christians too often that's our badge of honor---judging. For individuals who are suppose to be Christlike, biblical and Godly; we usually come off as anti-Christ, unbiblical and worldly. We go around worrying about things that weren't priorities for Jesus, but is somehow made to be our ultimate priorities in life for relating to one another.

Thus, we judge. We condemn. We criticize. And we continue to forcefully kick others while they're still down. The crazy thing, we condone it all with the ridiculous belief that we're doing the service of God in a more convincing manner. Again, these weren't a priority for Jesus and many of them He adamantly opposed.

In our willful pursuit of self-righteousness coupled with distasteful arrogance, we wrongly represent Christ. Secondly, we shouldn't be losing our perspective this badly. According to Scripture, we're called to love, serve and reconcile others to God, not nitpick and constantly judge them.  

Thirdly, Miles McPherson, pastor of the Rock Church - San Diego spells all of this out more precisely than I have through his current sermon series - EXPOSED. Check the Exposed series out here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Stop the Rivalries...!

We start off as a rambunctious baby ready to take on the world. We're grateful for milk in a bottle, diaper changing, comfortable cribs and loving parents. Life is good and we wouldn't want to have it any other way. Siblings help care for us with joy, we get chauffeured around in our own car seat and cruise in our own stroller. And then it happens, out of nowhere, we notice another baby cruising in the mall next to us. Their stroller is nicer in form, parent more attractive and outfit more stylish. What in the world is this! Dare I say it; someone's living it up better than you are. Instead of one sibling, they have three. Instead of one bottle, they have two. They have fluffy Elmo shoes, along with a Dora the Explorer hat.

In baby terms, they're in a higher Sesame Street tax-bracket. What injustice! How dare your parents deprive you of the grandest life possible! All that previous gratitude you were experiencing before, the feelings of love and acceptance suddenly goes out the window. You're angry at this slight; this new revelation that someone else in life is better off than yourself. So you cry and cry for hours at a time. It's not that you're getting deprived of your daily milk intake, or siblings' care. But it's the horrors of recalling your experience at the mall---the baby with the Elmo shoes.

Now this scenario sounds a bit bizarre for adults like ourselves. Babies don't care how well other babies are doing, or do they? Maybe they're doing a good job of concealing it. Often times, we go through life wearing a mask. As a result of insecurity, inferiority or depression we seek to be somebody we're not. We want to fit in, be welcomed, be adored. At any cost, we're battling for that acceptance. And the struggle is with others, unbecoming to ourselves, who are battling for the same thing. Actually, the Elmo baby is having some of the same feelings toward another baby in that same mall. And all these babies grow up, but many of those same feelings linger on. So we continue to play this cat-and-mouse game with each other. We even get good at it. It's just that we never seem to quite catch up, no matter how hard we chase.

All of a sudden, our lives become a continuous rivalry that's overwhelming and super-consuming. It's seemingly unending, and we can't ever find the breaks to this cycle. It goes something like this: the kid down the street just got a new toy, so we bug our parents night-and-day for a new toy; then it's a new bike, so we repeat the same nagging system to dad or mom for that bike. Then we grow a little older and it becomes the video game console, designer clothes, jewelry or shoes. As we age the discontent becomes more apparent, more expensive. Now it's a luxury car, Ivy League college, or budding career where we can climb some imaginable ladder for worth and acceptance. Next, it's that dream wedding, VP position, mansion in the suburbs and beautiful kids. And the cycle starts all over again with making our kids just as entrenched in this cycle as we are, their hopeless parents.

Eventually it has to stop; someone in the family has to wake up and cut the umbilical cord to foolish rivalries. Your neighbor has more toys (cars, boat, vacation home, etc) than you, so what! Your kids aren't the best in every sport, so what! You're not married to the love-of-your-life, so what! Life goes on and none of these things were ever meant to be a sole means to your happiness, gratitude and contentment. On the contrary, they may end up bringing misery, hopelessness and discontentment if you look for them to fulfill your life. They're not designed to do that; they're just stuff, lots and lots of stuff. Ask yourself: "How many trophies will be enough? When will I be totally satisfied with my appearance, looking in the mirror with freedom? What will bring me true happiness, not the fleeting kind?" After you've sat down and thought about it for a while, your answers may surprise you. And if you exchange rivalry comparison for gratitude, you find your life is much better off than you first thought.

"For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12 NKJV

"Now godliness with contentment is great gain." 1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV    

Friday, April 27, 2012

CHRISTIANITY: Complex or Ridiculously Basic?

When we hear words like "ridiculous" or "basic" we rarely associate them with Christianity. Contrary to that notion, we have no problem connecting the word "complexity" to Christianity. Sometimes it just doesn't seem like an exact science. And looking at it from varying points of view, at times, makes absolutely no logical sense.

From God: So you mean to say an unseen Father being from out of nowhere created everything, allowed it to fall apart and will eventually redeem it all back to Himself.

From Jesus: So you mean to say God left His throne, was born to only a virgin, became a man, ministered loving grace to the hurting and was falsely accused. Then He suddenly died a horrible death on a rugged cross at the hands of people who cared nothing for Him, on the 3rd day rose from the dead, ascended back into heaven and with open acceptance can live within our hearts.

From the Holy Spirit: So you mean to say the person of God in the form of a Spirit was sent from heaven by Jesus, came with the purpose to comfort us, lead us into all truth, convict us of sin toward salvation, give us spiritual gifts, infuse us with Godly power and restrain evil in the world.

Again, we can go on and on about preaching, fellowship, eternity, the Church, sin, heaven, @#!*% , and the fear of God. All of these share the varying array of complexities involved within Christianity; but thanks to individuals like Francis Chan, we all can have somewhat of a better understanding in realizing that Christianity can be ridiculously basic. Actually it's all about the presentation, heart and focus involved in relating to others its truth. Below is a link to a select group of videos from Francis that do that very thing here.

1.) Once you've clicked on the link above, the BASICSeries youtube channel will appear.

2.) Then play the trailer in order to get a general understanding of what's being explained.

3.) After the trailer is over, scroll down and locate the featured playlist on the right of your screen.

4.) Instead of the prescribed order listed, start from the bottom and go upward. Listed below is the arrangement desired for better understanding. The videos will go on continuously, based on how many are in that certain section. Instead of scrolling back all the time, just click on the 45 videos button and click on see all 45 videos in order to go back to the home page.

     a.) fear God
     b.) follow Jesus 
     c.) Holy Spirit
     d.) fellowship
     e.) teaching
     f.) prayer
     g.) communion

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Some Youthful Hope

For everyone who has exhausted you with statistics on how our youth are in a hopeless state of mind, that's not the end of the story. For everyone who has promoted more prisons being built and youth centers closing, there's a clear understanding that the reverse is more beneficial for society. And for the people constantly counting this generation of young people out from putting their mark on the world, making it a better place, then think again.

In our 3rd installation of the Hope Series, we maneuver around the country in order to see "some youthful hope." If this doesn't make you feel like there's still hope for our youth, I don't know what else will.

(Click on the color labels in order to see the links & videos)

1. Eddie James & Dream Life - Hamilton, AL

2. YMAD - Salt Lake City, UT

3. Lift Communities
    LIFT- Washington, D.C.

4. Westhill High - Stamford, CT

5. YAGA Program - San Antonio, TX

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sin Is Never On $ale...!

On last week or so, it was my hope that you all got your pick-me-up grove on from these songs. As we continue to embark on the Hope Series, we go into the 2nd installment - Sin is Never on $ale. You won't necessarily find it marked down at Macy's or your favorite boutique. It's not in a buy one get one free package; it's ridiculously expensive. If sin was a watch it wouldn't be a Casio, nor would it even be a Movado or Rolex. Sin would be a Piaget, Franck Muller or Cartier which can carry up to a multi-million dollar price tag.

Now I do realize when someone converses about sin, many tend to get all antsy, quickly offended and overly defensive. But here within this post, we'll seek to get you off of your high horse while simultaneously getting you away from walking on eggshells. In other words, you can relax and look at the bigger picture. One we all may be facing, and not just yourself. So put your defensive guard down for a moment, and try to listen from a general perspective, not just a personal one.

There's really no need to hash out the numerous vices found under the category of sin. Sin is what it is. You can look here for more of it's religious, traditional details. In simple verbiage, it's continual wrongdoing. We can sit up here all day and argue over right and wrong, asking "What constitutes wrongdoing?" Admittedly or unadmittedly, within each one of us is a moral barometer that is fairly universal in nature. We all have at least some agreed understanding of sin, which crosses culture, race or religion.

On a smaller scale, sin can keep you living life with a tedious struggle over your selfish human nature and a more loving one. On a larger scale, it can ruin your career, reputation and livelihood leading to murder or physical imprisonment. Regardless, we can all agree with the notion that sin cost. And it's definitely not cheap! It has devastated families, tainted legacies.

Okay. So what's new, sin is still sin. It's detrimental and problematic; blah, blah, blah.

But for the Christian, there's hope. Especially in the area of sin's cost, we don't have to keep trying to pay for that heavy cost. As cliche as it may sound, Jesus paid for the heavy cost of sin. And that cost is unforgiveness coupled with eternal death. It's like having a huge iodine, blood or ketchup stain on your favorite, expensive outfit. As much as you seek to hand wash it, if the stain is locked into the fabric, it's not coming out. But how about this? Many of us aren't even trying to wash it out. Rather we're expecting it to automatically go away by osmosis, being in denial that it's even messing up the appearance of our outfit. Others clearly see the stain but agree with your denial, hoping you don't reveal to them their own huge spot on their own outfit.

The old sentiment goes like this:

 "Sin will take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you are willing to pay."

Thankfully, Jesus brought hope in the form of the ultimate stain remover. But in this case, the huge stain is not on your outfit, it's within your heart and soul. It's within mine. And Jesus' removal fee is free of charge, find out here. Acclaimed rapper Da' Truth said it like this, "Sin cost me but I ain't have it in the budget. But I paid for it though; I paid with my joy. I paid with my peace, and a boatload of trouble." Below is his song with this concept, listen to the lyrics.

Monday, April 2, 2012

HOPE Series: 12 Pick-Me-Up Songs

Many people are constantly looking for a pick-me-up. Be it a cafe in the morning or a bar in the evening, we all look for something to ease our moods. We desire something that will lift our spirits, while living in a world of turmoil. Often times, it's not in the little 5-hour energy bottle or online dating scene. Nor is it usually found in the night clubs on the weekend or days off from work. Yet, the simplest forms of major relief can be found in one single word: HOPE. This doesn't necessarily mean one's situation has dramatically changed. But rather one's perspective has done all the changing. You begin to see things, not just how they are but, how they could and should be. It caters well with the glass-half-full philosophy. And a great way to initiate it is through music. Music somehow places individuals in an emotional moment where nothing else matters, but that moment. Life is at ease and a better day is on the horizon. Here are a few musical renditions that do that very thing for me; maybe, they'll do it for you too.  

Check these out! (Click on the colorful word labels for listening/viewing:)

1.) Hopeful by Twista feat. Faith Evans... A flavorful pick-me-up

2.) I Will Rise by Chris Tomlin... An eternal perspective pick-me-up

3.) God is Truly Amazing by Deniece Williams... An amazing God pick-me-up

4.) How He Loves Us by Jesus Culture feat. Kim Walker... A ridiculously loved by God pick-me-up

5.) Unbreakable by Alicia Keys... A marriage pick-me-up

6.) Didn't You Know by Donnie McClurkin... A with you always, reassuring pick-me-up

7.) Summertime by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince... A summer's coming soon pick-me-up

8.) Hero by Mariah Carey... A motivational pick-me-up

9.) U Saved Me by R. Kelly... A 2nd chance given pick-me-up

10.) Golden by Jill Scott... A freedom pick-me-up

11.) There's Hope by India Arie... A hopeful gratitude pick-me-up

12.) You Gotta Be by Des'ree... A stout determination pick-me-up

Do you have any pick-me-songs that encourage you in a time of need?

If so, what are your 12?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Where's HOPE When You Need It?

Even on our desired days off, we usually still hear bitterness, guile and hatred spew out of the mouths of numerous individuals. It's a daily basis kind of thing that makes it hard to relax while watching television. If you don't believe me, just tune into one of your 24-hour news networks---anchors will be screaming political ideology from Fox News Channel about how the democrats are left-winged jerks, godless liberals and out-of-touch with reality; or from MSNBC anchors' jargon will give way to republicans being identified as right-winged hypocrites, inconsiderate conservatives and greedy idiots. And that's negativity all day, not even counting the late-breaking horror-stories of crime coming from your area's local news station.

If that wasn't enough, try turning the channel to check out dysfunctional relationships: from the fights on Jerry Springer to the affairs and promiscuity on soap operas. Hit the clicker one more time, you may garner the privilege of being privy to some sort of new scandal in the world of sports: assistant coach molest little boys, athlete cheats on his wife with multiple partners or organization runs three-year bounty scheme.

So you wisely turn off the tube. Enough is enough. You're drained, not relaxed at all, feeling mentally exhausted, discouraged and in the dumps. But wait! We haven't even gotten to your actual life. On tomorrow, you may have to head back to work. You wake up early the next morning, shower, get dressed, grab some coffee and head off into hideous traffic. For some apparent reason, deadlines have been pushed up and your body is still sleepwalking. Your boss isn't the greatest. Most of your coworkers love to gossip, constantly complain and work your last nerve. After this, you still have to go back home.

Unfortunately, your place of residence is no oasis. After dealing with some more hideous traffic, you pull into the driveway. On your way to the mail box, you step into some dog dung. While wiping your shoes on the grass as well as checking the mail, you notice it's filled with increasing bills. Eventually, you walk into the front door. The house is loud, messy, children are running a muck, a migraine is quickly coming on and in order to get some type of relief you flop on the sofa, turning on the television. And you start to realize this is feeling so similar to your day off, all over again, but even worse. You wonder what can get you out of this rut, this cycle---new found fame, a vacation, hitting the lottery, a perfect spouse or a new career.

Sadly, this is a normal day in the lives of many individuals on the planet. And this is referring to most individuals living the so called "good life." A life consisting of one having a decent job, a home, a vehicle, a family, a dog, etc. Now if this is a seemingly goodlife, what about added problems to the equation? What if you get fired, your health starts failing, children get suspended, etc...? If you're struggling to hold it together when things are "normal," you'll simply fall apart at the sign of any major problem.

Fortunately for you, there's HOPE! Some people would like to know, "Where's hope when you need it?" When normality seems so crazy having you going in every wrong direction possible. Bad decision after bad decision, life turning your world upside down. Well, the next few blog posts will seek to give you some hopeful hiding places away from that type of normality.

What does normality look like for you, is it similar to this post or even worse?

Where have you found everyday HOPE, and how difficult was it to find?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What's Your Number?

What's Your Number? is a movie based on Karyn Bosnak's book---20 Times a Lady. The plot is based on this storyline: 

"When Delilah reads a survey revealing most people have 10.5 sexual partners in their lifetime, she begins to feel like a tramp. She's slept with 19 men so far—almost twice the national average. During a self-help moment, Delilah vows to cap her "number" at 20, swearing that she'll save her last spot for the right guy. But after losing her job she has a wild night on the town and falls into bed with Mr. Wrong.

Unwilling to up her number but unable to imagine a life of celibacy, Delilah dreams up a foolproof plan: she'll track down every man she's ever slept with in a last-ditch effort to make it work with one of them. Hitting the road in a rental car, she begins a madcap adventure that takes her across the country, from New York to Chicago, New Orleans to LA.

A hilarious romp through Delilah's past loves, What's Your Number? shines a spotlight on every woman's dirty little secret and proves that, when it comes to matters of the heart, sometimes numbers only tell a fraction of the story." (from Bosnak's Blog)

Now I'm by no means acknowledging fornication and promiscuity; but, I'm rather more focused on the title than the storyline. So "What your number?" is the topic at hand, not the novel or movie.

What's all this fascination with continuous counting, numerous zeros, projection figures and lofty numbers? Why does it matter so much? It's not unusual to see someone counting their calories, making certain they don't go over their prescribed daily intake. It's not unusual to hear water cooler lingo surrounding the amount of zeros in this month's lottery winnings. It's not even unusual to watch your supervisor pressure your team to match, maybe even exceed, projection figures for the company. And it's not really unusual to find leaders evaluating high numbers, large crowds and a hefty following as equivalent to success.

But what about the Church? What about your local church? What about the leaders there? Should we all be caught up in numbers? Even if it's an accepted way of life, is that how it really should be? Are numbers the main thing that matter, across the board (work, church, school, family, etc.)? Sometimes these questions prick a nerve, which tend to indicate something's grossly wrong here. Too often, many Christians base success by an astronomical number system. The local church has to be a mega one, or have at least multiple locations. The pastor has to reach millions through radio, television, books and online. Or else, their ministry is not a growing one, with power and relevancy. The giving has to come to a certain amount in the offering, if not, the members there are robbing God. The list can go on and on.

As of late, I have experienced Christian leaders, who are immersed with the numbers. So they purchase buildings they really can't afford, for an expectant influx of attendees. Others have jumped from conference to conference looking for the latest leading trend to follow, that presents large numbers. For some apparent reason many have forgot the sentiment that,

"Bigger and more expensive is not always better." 

Jesus discipled 12 men, and one of them betrayed Him. But the others, including the apostle Paul, were used to revolutionize the world. He didn't mind teaching lessons on leaving the 99 to go after the one, with heaven and the angels still rejoicing over that single soul. According to Barna, small churches of 200 or less are the majority of churches in America. You can be greatly effective, even if you only assist a few elderly at the nursing home. Or instead of feeding the world, you help restock your area's local food bank. Mentoring a small group of teens or visiting some prisoners can work wonders for their morale. Let's get away from only impressing the masses, catering to the crowds and going after the numbers. The small things in life count, and we should not mind counting them as big things.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Purpose-Given Life

Many aspects of life are uncertain: Where should I live? Who will I marry? Should I take this job or that one? How long will I live? What's my real purpose in life? These questions are abundant, to say the least. And as we age, they increase. Some have even sought to give us solace for our concerns in this area. Much of that solace has alluded to us discovering our own purpose in God.

Most are familiar with the renowned pastor of Southern California's Saddleback Church---Rick Warren. As a pastoral leader, millions highly respect him and associate much of his international acclaim with his book, The Purpose Driven Life.

In the book selling over 30 million copies to date, Warren focuses on the blueprint for Christian living in the 21st Century. The book's 40 chapters highlight 6 major categories for living out one's purpose (focusing more heavily on the last 5):

1.) What on Earth Am I Here For? (Identity)

2.) You Were Planned for God's Pleasure (Worship)

3.) You Were Formed for God's Family (Fellowship)

4.) You Were Created to Become Like Christ (Discipleship)

5.) You Were Shaped for Serving God (Ministry)

6.) You Were Made for a Mission (Mission)

As noted earlier, his following is abundant and many have adopted his Purpose-Driven philosophy, even a large group of notable church leaders. So it's pretty clear to see that he's on to something here. Anything uniting the Body of Christ in a positive manner is extremely beneficial. John 17:20-26 validates this as a primary focus of Jesus, in comparison to the connection between Him & His Father (God) being united.

The church I presently attend and have attended for the past 6 years are huge fans of Warren's ministry paradigm.

"Unsurprisingly, Warren's concepts are impactful, life-transforming and relational."

But they're incomplete. What? Incomplete! How? Now, before you all panic, hear me out! Don't get me wrong, I like Rick Warren. But there are some aspects he could have added, even he admits that in some of His small group video series. Thus, he promoted connecting studies on Life's Healing Choices by John Baker, The Relationship Principles of Jesus by Tom Holladay & a series on 40 Days of Love. And it wouldn't surprise me if many more studies are to come, all of which will aid the original Purpose-Driven one.  

Actually, these aren't the main things he left out. Believe it or not, the overall focus is what's basically incomplete. No, it's not necessarily wrong but it is incomplete. What am I getting at? Well, it's simply this: This life is not primarily about you or I and our individual purpose. What? That's right, it's not! The main thing will always remain the main thing, and that's clearly God.

"It's about God's purpose for us, not our own individual one."

God is not so focused on us living out The American Dream, or any other dream for that matter. He never promised that we will all be married to the love-of-our-life, enjoy a budding career, have a palatial home with a 2-car garage, perfect health, 3 beautiful kids, and an obedient dog. But many of us believe that is what He promised, and we have replaced God's purpose for our ideal purpose. Some have not, and have went immediately into the opposite direction. They feel their individual purpose must be poor, miserable and filled with preaching, in order to honor God. How so? Simply put, God has purposed you for what He's purposed you for. You don't fully control it. Even before you were born, it was already set-in-stone. See, God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). You just need to live life (with its ups and downs, bumps and bruises) and be obedience unto Him.

It's His purpose for you, not your purpose for Him. So let's be more about living out The Purpose-Given Life, as well as the Driven one.

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) NKJV  

Monday, March 5, 2012

Woulda, Coulda or Shoulda

"I wish I got married sooner; I wish I had waited to get married. I wish I studied harder in school and went on to college; I wish I'd skipped the college-scene and began earlier in the work force making money while gaining experience. I wish I had spent more time with my family; I wish I had a better family. I wish had a lot more friends; I wish I had only a few committed friends I could rely on..." Of course, this song and dance could go on forever. And it still wouldn't change this reality:

"Sadly, regrets are simply a part of life!"

Even if you don't fully believe it, that doesn't stop it from happening. That doesn't stop you from putting your foot in your mouth, at times, or wanting to redo something better if given a second chance. Understand, we reside in a fallen and depraved world, with sinful people. Actually, you're one of them! I have heard people say, "I don't have any regrets," only months afterward, regretting that very statement. Your life isn't as perfect as you would like for us to believe it is. God knows that and, honestly, so do you. So let's stop kidding ourselves!

There are many things in life God gave you a chance to get right. And to this day, some are still left undone. The first thing we can do is...

"Be Real!"

Next, we can open ourselves up to becoming better. And if that means we need to make restitution, then make restitution. If we need to forgive, then let's forgive. If we need to apologize, then get at it. What are you waiting for? If we need to walk in Godly wisdom, then immediately start walking. If we need to relinquish our self-inflicted fears, then let them go and loosen your grasp.

Lastly, we must get away from the woulda, coulda or shoulda routine. One of the best ways to do that is to stop living in the past. You remember the past, learn from the past; but, you shouldn't be living there. You need to stop allowing your past to stifle your present and taint your future. The video above and poem below should build some motivation in you taking those pertinent steps out of a life of regret.

Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda  BY Shel Silverstein

All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

Layin' in the sun,

Talkin' 'bout the things

They woulda coulda shoulda done...

But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas

All ran away and hid

From one little Did.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Who's Your Daddy?

It's no new thing to know:"Many have been raised without a physical father figure in their life." They have been labeled as coming from a single-parent household. And mom was forced to play the role of mother and father simultaneously---a double role she's incapable of performing and one that was never designed for her.

This is a debatable discussion for those who feel feministic in their views and devalue the role of males in society. Should the male role even be valued in the home, community or society at large? Regardless of my opinion or yours, God's perspective is what's most meaningful. And He highly values the role of father figure. Better yet, He chooses to fulfill the role of father figure Himself.

We have all seen the void boys and girls experience from the lack of this role in the home. They tend to spend much of their lives trying to fight off the feelings of neglect and abandonment. Or the over-achieving dissapointment they feel from seeking to measure up to a dad they never knew. Some even go throughout life with a spiteful determination never be anything like their father. And others are longing for a father's love and acceptance; so they go from relationship to relationship searching for that desired love.

Again, God has made it clear where He stands on the matter...

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling." Psalm 68:5 NIV

Former NFL player and present pastor Freddie Scott, II has written a book dedicated to this entire ordeal. He helps provide some pertinent background for the cause and solutional remedies for the cure to the problem of fatherlessness. Check out info on his book at the link below:


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

We're All Excons!

Dan Stevers can clearly be seen as a leading minister. Really though, he's not a Charles Stanley, Rick Warren or T.D. Jakes. No, you may not see him directly picking up a microphone speaking/preaching to hundreds at your next leadership conference. Nor will you hear melodious worship come from his vocals in song on your city's leading Gospel or contemporary Christian music (CCM) radio station. He's not some recognized television or radio preacher with a massive church attendance of 1,000s. But Dan is still definitely a minister, a leading one at that.

He ministers in multiple churches, conferences and events without ever stepping one foot in their buildings. He's ministering even now, all over the world. Simply put, Dan Stevers is a Christian video maker with astonding production skills. Some refer to him as, "a stunning visual effects artist." Many have been passionately touched, strongly impacted, and even truly saved by his videos---in other words, ministered to. 

One of his latest works is a video clip called The Cell. It captures the inner struggle we all face in relation to the stronghold of sin. Yes, I understand that Jesus has made us free from sin's power.

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. (John 8:34-36) NKJV

But the devil (that's right; the devil) doesn't want you to accept that freedom, the freedom that is indeed and definite. The freedom that gives you another option, a way out from sin. You don't have to stay in your prison cell; I don't have to stay in mine. We can both come out from the cells of addiction, lying, homosexuality, greed, hatred, jealousy, rage, depression, pornography, doubt, fear, and any other bondage.

"We're all bond by something, and we are all prisoners. But God is pushing for all of us to become excons."

Like the board game Monopoly, we all have a get-out-of-jail-free card which is offered to us. But we must go before God to receive it, and continually follow His lead to properly use it---staying out of jail. Surprisingly, even if we happen to go back in, the offer still stands.

Stevers' video above will show the ministry of this scenario in a clearer depiction. Check it out...

Also, check his entire ministry out at this link: http://www.danstevers.com/