The Day I Lost Faith In Humanity

Like most people, when I wake up, I often reach for my phone as if I’ve missed out on some huge event in the 6-8 hours I’ve been asleep. Which means I failed to hug my wife or greet her and many days that’s ok with me. I may tell myself, “She isn’t awake anyway” or “You know if you wake her up she’s just going to be crabby” (Which is true, she’s not a morning person and that’s ok). Yet deep down, I know that my phone is not and should not be my top priority, specifically as a husband. You may be reading this thinking, “What kind of guy is this?” Or you may be thinking, “I do the same thing but I just don’t admit it.” Maybe you don’t do that but maybe you text during dinner when your significant other wants to talk. Maybe you scroll through Instagram while your kid needs you. Maybe you’re on Snapchat taking a million pictures while missing out on the very event that you’re snapping about. Do you see the irony? Maybe you’re the one who won’t look people in the eye when they talk to you. Maybe everytime someone asks you, “How are you doing?” You reply, “I’m good” but deep down you’re not good, you’re nowhere close to good. What stops you from telling someone the truth about your situation or feelings? Is it because you don’t feel united with anyone? My question is: What kind of society do we live in where face-to-face conversations are not just a lost art but they seem to be avoided at all costs?

Some days I look at the events of our society and I feel many emotions from anger to sadness, pity to fear, confusion to hopeless and probably every other emotion known to mankind. I see a country that is divided. I see cities that are divided. I see people groups that are divided. And maybe most importantly, I see a church that is divided. Which reminds me of the Greek storyteller Aesop or the Gospel of Mark or I’m sure many other places where we’ve heard an all familiar phrase, “United we stand, divided we fall.” A person can look across the board at just about any culture, people group, organization, business or government in our society and see just how divided we as people are. Key in point: You are either Democrat or Republican, Black or White, Rich or Poor, Educated or Dumb, Christian or Atheist… Get the point yet? As if that is not enough, the division between us gets worse when you dig deeper. People are not just Democrat or Republican but there are different factions within those two groups. People are not just Black because  there are real Blacks and Uncle Toms. People are not just White because there are Trailer Trash and Upper Class. People are not just Educated but if you go to Harvard compared to your local technical or community college your education will be looked at differently. Even us as Christians, we are not just Christian, we are either Pentecostal or Baptist, Methodist or Lutheran, etc. and the list could go on but I will spare us all the boring details.

Then there is the issue of Black Lives Matter vs. Blue Lives Matter as if a person can’t believe both. As a man of faith and conviction, I am DISTURBED, genuinely disturbed, when a Black man loses his life at the hands of police. Yet, I am also disturbed when two Black babies on the North side of Minneapolis are shot at the hands of another Black person and there is no protesting. I am disturbed when police, like the 5 in Dallas, are killed in the line of duty. I am disturbed when 4 Minneapolis police officers walk off the job (working security at the game I assume) at the Minnesota Lynx game at Target Center because Lynx players had warm-up shirts that had silent protest writings on them. What’s disturbing is obvious yet what’s disturbing is also not so obvious. Obviously the loss of life is a tragedy yet what is also tragic is the fact that we believe that we have to pick sides in this current state of our nation. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is a problem with police brutality. I know racism is real on both sides of the fence. I know racial profiling exists because I’ve been a victim to it all too often. Yet that doesn’t mean that I have to pick sides. I believe Black Lives Matter. I believe Blue Lives Matter. I believe All Lives Matter and I am not going to be swayed into biting the bait set out for us all. Satan loves division and by the looks of my Facebook timeline, he is enjoying himself an awful lot lately.

Today I almost lost faith in humanity because of the viral videos of young men being shot by police. Today I almost lost faith in humanity because I saw a video of a 13 year old boy standing over his Daddy’s casket- a fallen Dallas police officer. Today I almost lost faith in humanity because in my city there are tons of churches but none of them want to break down the barriers of denominations, doctrines and philosophies and unite together. Then I went to my church and during worship my little nephew Israel came to me and wanted me to pick him up and so I did. He hugged me for about 5 minutes without letting go and it was as if, the Lord was saying to me, “Son, you need a hug- a small gesture of love- to let you know that I have everything under control.”

Do you need a hug today? Hug somebody you love. Hug a stranger. Sometimes we all need a hug.

Isn’t it ironic that as a society we’ve escorted God right out of our lives, schools, jobs and communities yet we turn around and have the audacity to ask “Where’s God?” when tragedy strikes?

I leave you with this: 2 Chronicles 7:14– Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

 

 

 

 

Do I Need A Mentor?

“Do I need a mentor?” I think that is a question that most people ask themselves at one time or another during life. Personally, I’ve asked that of myself multiple times. I’ve asked myself that internal question at a time when I didn’t even know what it meant or what mentorship really was, which did indeed lead me to mentorship. I also asked myself that question after growing apart from previous mentor/s. I thought to myself, “I’ve been mentored on and off but is it something that I really still need?” Sometimes bad decisions lead us to ask this question. Other times it may be that we long to learn first-hand, from someone experienced on how to be a true man or woman. Regardless of the reasoning- the importance of mentorship is not always instilled in those who need it most, in times of life when they may need it the most.

 

How many fathers or mothers are out there in the world who never had someone to show them how to do it? How many couples are out there who don’t have an older married couple that can pour into their lives? How many kids grow up loving sports but never actually have an experienced athlete teach them the ins and outs of the game? How many young men or women have the call of God on their lives but no godly mentor to teach them how to be faithful in their faith, how to identify their spiritual gifts and use them, and how to be devoted in prayer and devotions? To make my point, I share this story with you: I once had a close friend tell me this, “I never had a dad bro, no one ever showed me how to be a dad, so I don’t know how to be one. I’m scared of being a father. Of being a failure. Pray for me.” I could go on and on with examples to validate the need for mentorship but I think that one will suffice.

 

On top of all of that, some of us may find ourselves in a position to mentor others which may lead us to more confusion. It may be easy to make yourself believe that because you are personally mentoring someone else that you yourself no longer need to be mentored. As if there is a certain age or level in life that you can obtain where mentorship no longer applies to you. Is there a level one can obtain that makes mentorship an obsolete practice? or are we just deceiving ourselves? I experienced both sides of the fence, both personally in my own life and also in the lives of others. There was a time I knew I needed mentorship so I pursued it. Then in my own logic I graduated from that and became immune to mentorship- this tends to happen when we think we know it all. We become so busy with life, work- both God’s work and man’s work, family, marriage, etc. that we may feel unable to succumb or be submissive to a mentor. After all, we are grown now and we don’t need someone else telling us how to run our lives. Or do we?

 

What is mentorship? Many people may have many different models, styles or opinions on and for mentorship but I figured I would just share what mentorship has meant to me. After some poor choices, tragedies in life and spiritual fatigue, I am back at the place of being mentored, and this time around it is so revitalizing and revolutionary for me. When you can become transparent and just “do life” with other brothers (or sisters for the women) in Christ, with your Pastor, or whomever God sends your way to be authority figures in your life, you begin to find value in things that seem odd to the world. Most people don’t want to talk about their deep inner feelings, struggles or even sins. Growing up it seemed that the picture that was painted for me, by society, in regards to being a man, was that men don’t cry, men don’t share their feelings, and men certainly DO NOT ask for help. Pretty much anything that could make you look “weak” or “helpless” was frowned upon and one could say that it even dictates your level of MANHOOD. Yet, mentorship has taught me the value in sharing my feelings, thoughts, struggles and even admitting my sins to others. It has taught me that we all need help in different areas of our lives. I need help, my brothers need help, my Pastor needs help, everyone needs help. Mentorship has taught me how to be in community with people outside of the shallow social interactions that most of us consider friendships. It has also taught me that I am not as crazy as I thought. My wife is not crazy. My family is not crazy. When you hear others talk about their own problems at home, work, with family, in temptation or just in life, you realize that you’re not alone. In fact, a lot of what you are struggling with, others are struggling with as well or have struggled with in the past, and that is where mentorship becomes an invaluable practice in life.

 

Why should anyone try to do life alone? Life was never designed to be this way. We were designed to be in community. We were designed to hold each other accountable. We were designed to be united. The evidence of that comes in the form of the Triune God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even God is in community with Himself and He desires to be in community with us too but for centuries mankind has messed up what true community is. Adam & Eve, Cain & Abel, Slavery, Racism, Social Class, & Social Media (Ironic huh?) are just a few ways that true community has been or is damaged, but I don’t want to leave you on a bad note. There is a group of people who got it right- The Early Church. If you have any free time, I encourage you to read Acts chapters 1 & 2 to get a look at what true community looks like. They were so close, so full of love for one another and so united that anyone outside of that community saw it and deeply longed to be a part of it- that’s why the Bible says, “And God added to their numbers daily, those that were being saved.”  So I ask you, wouldn’t it be revolutionary if we got back to that model of life? Where deep relationships exist. Where everyone has enough. Where those who struggle, no longer have to struggle alone. Where those who we call “brother & sister”, actually become that close to us. A community where love flourishes.

 

 

Thoughts from a former Pot Head

Today is the day that millions of pot heads around the world will get stoned out of their minds in an attempt to advocate for their favorite drug of choice. I used to be one of these people. I smoked so much pot in my lifetime that I often look back and think of all the money I wasted to get high, when that money could have went to something much more productive, such as- my college education or a car. I think about something, anything that holds merit compared to the thousands of dollars I smoked up. 

Yes, it made me feel good and it brought popularity and friendship to my life, or so I thought, but ultimately I smoked up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of pot.

I am glad that I no longer need or want to consume THC. I am thankful that I don’t have to live a life that is dependent upon a chemical. I don’t need it to make me happy or to feel complete. For many years I found my identity in things like being a known “pot head.” If people knew you had weed, sold weed, etc. then you became a person of status. You became cool. So when people labeled me as a “pot head” I thought it was a prestigious honor to be known as that. I now look back on this and I chuckle because I was deceived.

 What a sad reality it was for me personally to be known as a “pot head.” If that label is the first thing people knew me as when they thought about my life then there was a pretty big problem unfolding. People didn’t say I was a man of character, someone who is trustworthy, someone who is loyal, or anything that would deem a person a good person. They labeled me as a pot head. There are many other things that I have been labeled throughout my life and we don’t have time to discuss all of them. But I will say this: We should understand that we were created for more than these labels. Being a pot head was a roadblock that was standing in my way from becoming the man I was created to be.

 I am not here to condemn any potheads, so please don’t label me a hater. If you are a pot head or you know people who are pot heads, that is their choice to make. Each of us have a free will to live how we choose to live. My point is to simply point you to a life of purpose that I believe we were all created to have. And the great thing about it is this: You don’t have to clean yourself up before you come to this life of purpose. A life that is only found through Jesus Christ. For many years I thought I had to “get my act together” before I sought God. But in reality, God loved me, even when I was a sinner without Him in my life, Christ died for me. And even now, He still loves me when I sin.

I can now rest in assurance that my identity is found in the Creator of the Universe. Philippians 3:8 says this: Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Be blessed.

A Contrite Heart

I posted a status on Facebook yesterday that simply read, “My heart is broken” and I wasn’t really looking for sympathy. Yet many people- whom I’m privileged to call my friends- began to ask me about my well-being. So I’ve decided to blog about what’s going on. What I am about to say is very heavy on my heart and maybe it will touch you in a way that would cause you to hit your knees in intercession, along with myself and others who are sensitive to the matters at hand. 

There is an epidemic in Native America. Kids are committing suicide at alarming rates on the Pine Ridge reservation. As I contemplate the term “alarming rates” I wonder how alarming it is to the many Pastors and Christians I know. Questions arise in my head, such as, “How many of them even know about these tragedies?” and then the questions get a bit deeper, such as, “How many of them care?” Who cares about the poor and dirty little Native kids off on their reservation? Now please, don’t misunderstand me- this post is not meant to attack anyone or guilt you into “caring” all of the sudden. I am just a very frustrated young man who at times has run out of words to pray to my Heavenly Father. Last night I literally just groaned and wept. I didn’t have words to even mutter and the crazy thing is, I was ok with not having the ability to form another “intelligent” prayer sentence. 

I’ve been troubled at night especially. I haven’t been able to sleep very well over the last two days because I can feel the spiritual battle going on for these kids because the devil wants them to keep believing the lies that they are worthless. I had a friend share with me last night at our Bible study that he knows a family whose 10 year old hung themself. 10 years old. When I was 10 I was thinking about my favorite WWE wrestler or about riding my bike all day with my friends. I can’t get over the number 10. It’s just unfathomable. 

In the midst of all this information I always am asking God, “Why do I care so much?”… I already know the answer to that question but I continue to ask it. Maybe the real question I should be asking Him is, “God can’t I just be desensitized to these tragedies like everyone else seems to be?” Because maybe sometimes that’s what I’m looking for, I don’t know.  One Pastor friend of mine said to me, “For some reason God has laid this on your lap.” And so now I am just asking God what my part may be in this entire situation. I will most likely be going to Pine Ridge sometime within the next few months and it is not something I am taking lightly. 

If you are compelled to do anything after reading this, then I would urge you to commit this matter to prayer. Pray for the young people who are being influenced to take their own lives. Pray for those on Pine Ridge that are in the thick of the battle. Pray for a divine solution to come to pass. I personally have never even been to Pine Ridge but as another friend said to me recently, “Pine a Ridge is a place that once you go there, it never truly leaves your heart, it’s always on your heart.” So I can only imagine what those who are there may be feeling or going through. 

I will end with this verse. It is what I petition the Lord with over this whole situation: Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. (‭Isaiah‬ ‭59‬:‭1‬ NKJV) and my prayer is that God would stretch out His hand and touch Pine Ridge. 

A Native Scholar

I was playing basketball with some associates of mine. There was a good mix of multicultural people in the gym but one conversation in particular struck a thought deep within my mind. I had come from church to the gym and my attire was a bit dressy. I had some nice tan jeans, (which may have appeared to be dress slacks), a maroon sweater and a visible dress shirt and tie underneath… Because I like to dress nice for church, although not always. I just figure that the world dresses up for far less significant events than going to the house of the Lord so why shouldn’t we dress up for church?

When I began to get ready to put my gym clothes on my friend who is Native said something about the way I was dressed. He jokingly asked, “What, are you running for tribal chairman?” which I did find humorous, as did others around us. He then proceeded to say, “You look like one of them guys in the pictures back when Natives used to be scholars.” And then I replied, “Bro, I am a scholar….”

During the rest of the day I began to think about what his second statement meant. “Back when Natives used to be scholars.” I found it to be a sad reality for much of Native America. How many Natives are scholars? How many have even graduated high school, let alone had the thought of college? There are many various circumstances that hinder our people but the biggest one may be the view we hold towards education. Getting a solid education, staying in school and pursuing bigger and better things through college undergraduate and graduate programs is not a common attitude to have in Native America. I’ve even heard that some organizations have scholarship money set aside just for Natives who would pursue a Master’s Degree because so very few ever do, and if anyone does pursue that, these organizations want to be prepared to assist any potentials.

My course of thought is not just one of remorse or pity towards anyone. I seriously wonder what it will take to raise the importance of education to a Native man or woman right now who resents school and education and more significantly, has never seen a successful Native scholar with their own two eyes. Who do we know that has graduated college? Who do we know who has received their Master’s degree. Some of us can look to people like myself as a man with a Bachelor’s degree, my friend Dustin who is on track to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree this year or they can see my brother Jake who is pursuing his Master’s degree as we speak, but three people cannot swing the momentum back into our people’s favor.

The change that is needed to bring about lasting success for Native America which will produce active and productive members of society and of God’s Kingdom will take participation from many of us and many of you. Today I am asking myself what my role will be in all of this and I urge you to ask yourself the same question? Native America has been overlooked for far too long.

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God and Tupac

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. (‭Luke‬ ‭2‬:‭9‬ NKJV)

This was a verse I was meditating on yesterday as I read my Bible. It dawned on me that the glory of the Lord caused these people to be greatly afraid. Just His glory. It does not say He appeared to them in visible form because we all know (or now we all should know) no one can see God and live.

Then I began to think about the most famous quote from Tupac Shakur (my favorite rapper growing up), he said, “Only God Can Judge Me”. This is a quote that thrives in the hip hop culture especially but is also very prominent here in American society but what does it mean? What are we really asking for when we state such a phrase with a strong hint of pride?

I recall a conversation I had with a good friend and mentor of mine named Pastor Chris Skeet during my internship at his church in Elton, LA. He said, “I can’t stand when people say only God can judge me because they don’t really understand what they are asking for when it comes to the judgment of God.” I never forgot this conversation.

So now I come back to reality and begin to feel sadness for a country that seems so willing to reject God at times. On the day of reckoning, when we all have to stand before the Creator of the universe and we will be required to stand in His very presence not just “His glory”, I wonder if any of us will even have the slightest ability to think let alone mutter such a phrase as “Only God Can Judge Me?”

DISCLAIMER: This is not a condemnation of anyone. I myself have to come to terms with this fact too. The fact that I will stand before the Lord and give an account for everything I’ve ever done.

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A Sad Reality…

I have been back home for less than a month. I was gone for 45+ days preaching the Gospel and evangelizing in places most Christians have never even heard of, let alone have went to. They were dark places full of oppression and demonic activity. Places where suicide is up to 5 times the average. Places where the Gospel is seldomly preached. Broken places full of broken people. But don’t get it twisted. These places are very spiritual. They just happen to be more like walking into “Paranormal Activity” than into your local religious institution.

These places were not out of the country in some foreign place. These places are right here in America. Places in which I bet 90% of people who read this (or more) won’t even know where they are. They are forgotten places, full of forgotten people. Wait, forgotten may not be the right word. The word “neglected” seems to fit better when I open my Bible.

What has happened to the Church? Why do we make evangelizing so hard? Why do we neglect the Great Commission just like we neglect the places I just mentioned? I’m convinced that if Jesus is so good and is our Redeemer then wouldn’t we be compelled to run tell all?

Since I’ve been back I feel out of place in church. I feel surrounded by love yet all alone at the same time. During worship I often find myself wondering how many people in these services have actually been bold enough to tell someone about Jesus, or led someone to Christ. I wonder because it hurts me to see people refuse to walk in the anointing. It vexes me to know that for some, the routine of church and life seems to be enough for us at times. Then we turn around and wonder why we feel incomplete…
I don’t say this to portray to you that I’m better than the average person because I’m not. This is not condemnation. This is a call. A call to reality. Dr. Myles Munroe once said this, “When the righteous keep quiet, the wicked will grow.”

I leave you with 1 Corinthians 3 and a challenge to become workers of the harvest because the harvest is SO ripe.

Success or Failure?

1620423_10201843427912534_1706583100_n I am a little over two weeks away from becoming a college graduate. It has been a process that has lasted for five years. The first year of college was the hardest because I had been out of school for a LONG time and I had probably killed so many brain cells during my 8 year stint as a drug addict and alcoholic And the next 4 years were not necessarily easier either. .There were many times where it got hard to continue: Lack of finances, battling severe anxiety, ending a long-term relationship, being diagnosed with a heart condition, unemployment, depression, and the list goes on, yet the one that stands out the most is FAILURE. I have been told by numerous people, EVEN loved ones, that I would fail. That I was a fake. That I am not who everyone thinks I am or what my persona says I am. Yet I am motivated to prove all of the doubters and all of the haters wrong. Not because I want to be SOMEBODY but because I want them to see the faithfulness of God and the potential that they have as well.

 God is not a respecter of persons. The same love and grace and strength He has for me and has bestowed upon me during the last five years isn’t restricted to me, it is available for everyone that wants it. This Bachelor’s degree isn’t just for me or my wife, it is for my family, friends, even enemies and most of all it is for YOU. It is for all the haters, all the doubters, all the supporters, all the people who prayed for me in the last five years. It is also for my homies I grew up with. After all, someone has to break the cycle in our neighborhoods and communities and show people that when you truly follow the will of God that the opportunities are endless. I wonder how many people I know who could have made it to the NFL or NBA if they were encouraged from a young age to pursue their dreams and never have been introduced to drugs and alcohol? How many could have went to college and graduated and became doctors, lawyers, actors, businessman, etc..? How many would have avoided jail, prison, probation and parole? Maybe my brother would have went on to play college basketball or even the NBA instead of sitting in prison about to miss one of the biggest days of my life, if he would have simply listened to people trying to invest in his life. Maybe my friend would have never joined that gang and eventually been shot and killed. I could share so many stories but I don’t want this to be perceived as a pity party. Also I am not better than anyone. I don’t think I am, in fact I know that I still have a lot of things to learn and a lot of growing up to do but I know my God is faithful. 
 The point is college enrollment is a foreign concept to much of my family and friends that I grew up with, let alone college graduation. This is for my Natives who are stuck in the cycle of generational strongholds and setbacks. I hope that just one of them can look at me and see a glimpse of their own potential. So this is why I stuck it out, this is why I never gave up, and this is why I never quit. If I quit or allowed my trials and circumstances to shackle me down, I would have become just another failure who never reached his potential or accomplished his goals and dreams. And when I look back on life I want to be able to say that I never gave up and never quit pursuing my dreams. Even when life got hard or tragedy hit. I don’t believe in using trials and life events as an excuse to why I couldn’t become who God created me to be. There are enough people making excuses for why they can’t be who their Creator created them to be. I was one of them people. Now I sit here typing this, on the brink of graduating telling you the reader that it can be done. I believe the power of God is sufficient for me to make it regardless of what happens to me or how I feel. I believe I am Christ’s workmanship, created to do good works that were prepared for me in advance!!! You should too! Who will be the next to pursue their dreams? It is never too late!!!!!!

The struggles of inner city ministry…

I’m sitting here at North Central University waiting to watch the women’s basketball team play and some thoughts on my mind are disturbing me. I’m thinking about young men that I know. They come to youth group or other various events and they enjoy it but when it is time to go home some of them seem to not want to go home. I don’t know why. Maybe they don’t have a dad and that’s why they like the men who try to mentor them. Maybe their home life is chaotic. Maybe they feel neglected. My guess, if I had to put my money where my mouth is… I would say that they just want to be loved. Because when they’re with us, we take time to listen to their thoughts. We ask them how they are doing. We pray for them. Maybe they don’t get that level of relationship with anyone else. How sad it is if they don’t. If you’re reading this maybe you take such things for granted. I hope you know that there are people out there who would give anything for such affection…

I find myself vexed. And more often than not, it is because of the situations or problems of other people. There are days when I ask God, “Why do I care so much?” And then He reminds me that I prayed to know His heart. I prayed to see with spiritual eyes. I prayed to be like Jesus. And I’m certain Jesus is 100 times more vexed than I am. My prayer is that I do all I can to help others. And I pray that you who are reading this do the same. Don’t sit around and hope that others are doing the work. Don’t sit around and hope that workers go into the harvest. You go out and do something. You go out and help people. You go out and love those who are dying to be loved…

“The Harvest is plentiful but the workers are few…”

He called, He sent, and He said…

This is the intro to the sermon I am preparing for Sunday, January, 12th, 2014. The text that will be used is Luke 9:1-
There are 3 questions that we as humans have asked of God, are currently asking of God, or will ask of God in the future. What has God called me to do? Where is God sending me? What is God saying? They are profound questions that make us think we need profound answers. We have become wrapped up in our theology and knowledge but most of the time that Jesus spoke in the N.T. it wasn’t perplexing to our knowledge. It was perplexing to our very nature. Jesus wasn’t trying to confuse people then. And He isn’t trying to confuse us now. The problem is not that we don’t understand what God wants or is calling us to do. The problem is often times we don’t like the answers. Often times we find it too simple. Often times it goes against what we want and therefore we pretend to play coy with the very will of God, which just so happens to be the reason for our existence…Which leads me to when the Good Book says, “Many are called but few are chosen.”