Tuesday, December 10, 2013
The King of Pop once sang these song lyrics: “No one understands me”. How unfortunate it is to feel that way. But, the reality is that sometimes, life pitches curve balls we just can’t dodge. Loneliness is a part of humanity, and isolation keeps us from reaching out.
But the Bible teaches us that there is one who understands, personally, any trials we may go through. You see, Jesus came to earth as God in the flesh. Matthew 4:1-11 teaches us, after fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was tempted by the devil; the very same devil who threatens our peace today. Jesus, being the living word, was able to triumph over the devil’s plans to destroy him.
Because the devil tempted Him in every possible manner, Jesus recognizes the trials of everyday life. Because he was able to defeat the enemy, He can walk you through your pain; pain He also recognizes. The next time you feel alone in your sorrows, remember…He understands you. He knows what you go through. He’s closer than you can imagine, and there is no better friend than Him. He is Jesus.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
I never met Paul Walker personally. As a fan of action movies, I came to know of his talent through his various films. He had a certain quality about his personality that always shown through on screen, whatever part he played. There was always a glimmer of the real Paul underneath the façade of the character. I’m sure the people closest to him would surely agree with that. No matter the character part, Paul was always in there. The man’s smile was infectious, and his charisma was nonchalant. Paul was the quintessential new millennium cool guy. The ladies loved his steely blue eyes, and the guys wanted to hang out with him.
Paul breathed a humanistic quality into the lungs of Brian O’Connor that could never be replaced by another actor. We’ve seen it happen before. An actor passes away and Hollywood quickly pours a new actor into the shoes of the existing character (see the Harry Potter movie series and the Matrix movie series for examples of this). It doesn’t always work out. If my very existence is an act, and my actor passes on, he could never be replaced. The very qualities that make me Ennis would pass with him, and could never be duplicated. This is the legacy that Paul left for Hollywood. You see, he was Brian O’Connor right up to the point of his passing. We can’t envision Brian disappearing for a few months, then reappearing in Costa Rica with a new tan, a slightly different physique and a new plastic surgery job. It just doesn’t work. Paul embodied Brian, and both will be missed. I do not know what Paul’s life was like outside of the big screen. As a fan of his work, I only saw glimpses of the man behind the character. From what I saw through the lenses of media, he lived out loud but had a big heart, like his character.
As a Christian man, I pray that, before their time came, Paul Walker and Roger Rodas were genuinely straight with the house of the Lord. Let us not forget how short and precious life really is. Today, social media reports circulate speculations that the Porsche driven by Roger was speeding in excess of 100mph at the time of impact. Roger also breathed his last breath in that horrific crash. Two lives were claimed in an instant; two souls have gone on to meet their maker. Two families are devastated by life imitating art. For one brief moment, the consequences of real life fast and furious activity are center stage for the world to consider. Isn’t life that way in general? We never know when our number will be called. We are never sure when our time is up. I can’t begin to imagine the realization of what might have been going through their minds a split second before eternity. I don’t want that on my conscience.
Paul, the actor, and Brian, the character, will be missed. He, or they, left not only a host of fans behind, but a family. In the wake of his passing, I’m personally left with a few lingering questions. I’m about to walk out my door to begin a new day. If today is my last day, have I lived out loud? Have I made an impact on lives? Am I really straight with God? I pray the answers are yes and amen.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Proverbs 11:13 (ESV) – Whoever goes about slandering, reveals secrets,
But he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
Tasia is dealing with a family issue and confides in Kim. Three hours later, the secret has become common knowledge to everyone they know, unbeknown to Tasia. She can’t understand why all of her girlfriends are suddenly ignoring her texts. In a word: Gossip.
It’s human nature to spread the news, especially when the news is bad. The world loves a scandal. One form of slander is the act of damaging someone’s character by way of the gossip channel. In contrast, the Bible calls for us as Christians to keep certain secrets away from the public eye. True friends know when to keep a secret just between the two of you. True friends know that sometimes the only other person that should be involved in the knowledge of the secret, is God.
Slandering not only damages the victim, it also reveals (to the world) who you really are: untrustworthy. Slander is the devil’s mainline. When we gossip and slander, we’re not only fracturing someone else’s reputation, we fracture our own. Satan’s damaging two souls for the price of one. He or she who is trustworthy (in spirit) keeps a thing covered.
Proverbs 11:24 (ESV) – “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
Another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.”
“Tithes. Why should I give any of my hard earned money to a church whose financial statement is probably in better shape than my own? What can they do for me, except offer up a few prayers, before turning around and asking me to donate more money for some new cause? No thank you. I’ll keep my money to myself. If God wants me to tithe, he’ll bless me with more money so that I can afford to tithe.”
That was my logic, so I horded my money. In the end, I not only struggled financially, I lost my peace because I was consumed with an insatiable desire to covet more money. There was simply never enough. But God…in His patience, walked me through the temper tantrums and led me down the path of peace concerning tithing.
It’s a sacrifice. Sometimes, the money just isn’t there to give. It is during those times that my faith is truly tested, because today, I will not forgo my tithing, despite the holiday season fast approaching. I want the favor of the Lord on my family. I need God to protect the Smith’s from Satan’s constant attacks. I will obey God’s word, and I tithe. In doing so, He blesses my family in miraculous ways. There is a peace I never knew before submitting to him. My sacrifice is my gain. I may never become financially rich, but I remain rich in the Lord’s blessings of peace.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
So, I stop at the red light and reach for my steaming mug of hot coca, when my ears were suddenly violated. A quick glance left confirmed my suspicion.
“C’mon, man! You can’t be serious? My windows are up!”
It didn’t matter. My rear view mirror was quaking in unison to the rhythmic, thundering jungle beat pounding from the trunk of a…I don’t know…maybe a…late 60’s Chevrolet; whatever the “homies” are rolling in these days. I mean, my marsh mellows are literally dancing in my mug, as this guy’s trunk is rattling like a couple of cats fighting in a bag of tin cans. The guy’s stereo probably used more wattage than my washer and dryer together, but I see him nodding to the beat as if the trash is lulling him to sleep.
Meanwhile, the hairs in my ears are vibrating. I lean on the horn with no effect. The guy’s zoning right there at the stop light; sunglasses bobbing on a cloudy and snowy day. Then I see him lower his head and raise his hands in some weird kind of worship gesture.
“He’s gotta be high on something,” I’m thinking. No wonder he’s deaf. The kid’s probably high off reefer or drunk off of malt liquor.
The light turned green and I floored the Rover, peeling rubber through the snow covered road, just trying to get away from the gangster before he could wreck my automobile, distracted by the personal concert he had blasting. Another fine example of today’s youth. Someday, that kid will be someone’s role model.
Oh John, how I weep for you. What you don’t know is that young man recently surrendered his life over to me. What you don’t know is that the car was a gift from his late grandfather. You can’t possibly understand the fact that I speak to him through music, at this stage in his walk. The louder the music is, the clearer my voice reaches his heart.
John, you failed to see the tears trailing his cheeks behind the dark sunglasses: tears of repentance; tears of release; tears of joy. What you don’t know is that he traded in his Jay-Z collection, replacing it with Lecrae music. His raised hands, John? He took a moment to pray and worship me, right where you saw him.
What you don’t know is that I have plans to raise him up into a mighty man, fit to lead others into the Kingdom of my father; others who look just like him. John, what you don’t know is that I know him. I don’t know you.
Wednesday, November 6, 2013
Galatians 5:16 (ESV) – “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
The minute you perfect a style, it’s already obsolete. Everywhere you turn, life bombards you with choices and influences. You run with the popular clique, finding yourself boxed into doing what they do. Maybe you swing with the not-so-popular crowd and find yourself constantly comparing your lifestyle to what you think it should be. Or just maybe, you have no particular crowd to roll with. Yet, you feel “empty” inside; a deep rooted desire to be someone different.
You are someone different, in the eyes of Jesus. No matter what your style is, He loves you for who you really are, not what you’re longing to be. And, by submitting to Him, you learn a whole new way of life; a style that never goes out. Trusting in Jesus and following Him through his holy word, and through the power of His Holy Spirit, gives us a completely new desire: the desire for His love. Fading trends become unimportant; cliques are no longer needed; the “empty” void is filled with joy!
This is the meaning behind the scripture. Walking with God takes away the desires for anything meaningless. The desires of our humanity are replaced with a desire for the Lord’s truth. And truth will always set us free.
Sunday, October 13, 2013
Life for the Jones couple has entered its second act. Jeff, 42, is a hard working husband and father of twin teenage daughters. At 40, Jessica is just as hard working and tenacious as she was at 20, if not more so. Devoted Christians, the Jones couple has become consumed with long work days, activities for the girls, quick dinner evenings, church ministry and rest. Rinse and repeat. Date nights are a thing of the past. Quiet conversation takes a back seat to everything else. Bible study time together is non-existent.
For the past few years, Jeff has found his wife to be more beautiful than she’s ever been, recognizing the Holy Spirit within her. But Jessica thwarts his advances for intimacy at just about every turn. Lately, Jeff has begun to notice the warm smile of the young waitress at the local Tim Horton’s, every morning.
Men suffer mid-life crises. Women deal with menopause. Both are symptoms of the fallen human condition. Both are agents of the devil designed to throw a monkey wrench into the precision gears of marriage. Think about it, if Adam and Eve had never eaten of the fruit, they may have lived forever in eternal bliss. But they did. They partook. In so doing, they brought the death of perfection on us all.
Men enter into a season where their libido outpaces their performance. Conjoin this with the physiological changes a wife may experience during the season of menopause, and a couple may be well on their way toward the trial years of a marriage. We see it happen in the world everyday: Husband leaves wife and children behind, for a young mistress; married couple of 20 plus years suddenly separate; wife leaves a husband who lately spends more time with friends and hobbies than in her company.
Hollywood capitalizes on the devil’s work. Adultery films tend to thrive, especially when box office names are associated with the picture. Media paints the picture of a better life without a ball-and-chain holding men back; women can have the freedom they’ve always wanted without having to deal with a grown up child who pouts when he can’t have his way. Hollywood says, “When the going gets tough, leave.”
But that’s not what God’s word says about marriage. God calls for husbands to love their wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. Ephesians 5:28 (NIV) goes on to say, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.” Marriage is not about the fulfillment of a husband’s physical needs every single time he feels the need. At times, wives simple need their husbands to be close; to say some encouraging words; to listen when she speaks; to be her friend.
Although man and wife may not always see eye to eye on intimacy, God did make provision for physical needs and emotional food in marriage. Case in point, the scripture contained in 1 Corinthians 7:5 (NIV) says, “Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” In essence, to deny your spouse intimacy is to welcome the devil’s temptation right into your marriage.
Pornography is a serious detriment to the institution of marriage. The truth is…some men become victims to it, when they feel deprived in their marriage. But the little known, scarcely talked about fact is that a growing number of women are also addicted to it for the same reason. We have become a society so consumed with staying busy for the sake of our personal goals, we’ve denied ourselves the very pleasures of marriage. There’s simply no time to woo our spouses anymore. It takes up too much space in a day, to work for what you already have, right?
I once had a conversation with a divorcee. He spoke of the early years in his marriage, back when he and his (then) wife took on the world together. He spoke of how madly in love they once were, and how it seemed that nothing could separate the two. But, as time rolled by, she changed. Their intimate moments stalled and eventually stopped altogether. He found it increasingly difficult to complement her. Even the desire to sit in the same room alongside her was a struggle for him. His eyes began to wonder, settling on other women. By the time his adultery was discovered, it was a complete shock to her, but he almost immediately filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. A marriage of 27 years…destroyed.
Jeff and Jessica, our couple from the beginning of this article, represent Mr. & Mrs. America. They could be me. They could be you. They could be our mutual neighbors. They are us together. They are allowing Satan to ruin their marriage. To deny your spouse or to peak over the fence, is to invite him into your marriage. Take stock of what you have. Cherish what belongs to you because, in the blink of an eye, it can be taken away. Husbands, love your wives. Wives, honor your husbands. It’s what God intended marriage to be.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Ecclesiastes 11:4 (NIV) – Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
“I have to get right before I can start going to church,” he says.
“I have to study a bit longer before I’m ready to test,” she says.
When we wait for the times to be perfect, we are inactive. God often presents opportunities when He feels we are ready to handle the challenge. We have to step off the bleachers of waiting, into the arena of action, through our faith in Him.
As a writer, I’m often confronted with this obstacle: “Just a few more lines and it will be ready, after a few minor edits. Then, it will really be ready…after a few more descriptive words.” We make up excuses for not trusting in the Lord and putting ourselves into action for Him. We wait for perfection while ignoring the fact that we live in an imperfect world. We have to give God what we have right now, and trust His judgment.
Time is never on our side. It waits for no man. While it affects God in no way, the same does not hold true for us. Every wasted moment, is an opportunity (to serve our Lord) gone. In a word: fear. Fear holds us captive; makes us wait for the perfect time to act. God says that time is now: time to write that song; time to enroll in that class; time to act. There will never be as good a time as now.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Ecclesiastes 6:15 (NIV) – Naked a man comes from his mother’s womb,
And as he comes, so he departs.
He takes nothing from his labor
That he can carry in his hand.
Stuff. One of the most difficult obstacles to out maneuver throughout this lifetime of ours, is the accumulation of stuff. In the first five chapters of Ecclesiates, King Solomon ponders the meaningless pursuits of the human heart devoid of God’s direction. We tend to become consumed with the never-ending chase of acquiring more stuff to validate our own existence. Keeping up with the Jones; coveting thy neighbor’s boat; forgoing tithes to save up for that classic car of our youthful days; stuff can hinder our walk with God.
I have a neighbor who owns seven cars; his pride and joy being a classic ’67. Upon his death, he plans to have the car crushed and buried in an adjoining plot next to his casket. He plans to take the car with him into his afterlife.
In verse 10 of the same chapter, King Solomon states, “whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” Accumulation of stuff takes our focus away from dependence on God. If we pray, “give me just enough to sustain my needs” that pretty much negates a “need” to accumulate stuff. We enter the world with nothing, and we leave it the same way. God never said, “Bring the Cadillac.”
Sunday, September 1, 2013
“Are you sure about this one, Mark?” Tony leaned against the glass storm door watching the rain pour beyond his front porch. Despite the rainfall, the humidity outside caused the glass door to fog against the cool air-conditioned atmosphere inside.
“It’s a simple gig, brother.” Mark pitched the job over the living room telephone’s loud speaker. Calm and cool as always. It unnerved Tony. “Just meet the guy over on 12th; hand over the pictures you took of his wife; take the payment. I’ll stop by tomorrow to receive my cut; simple as that.”
Tony turned and gazed at the speaker-phone on the corner table. “Easy eight bills, eh?”
“Four hundred for you, the photographer and four hundred for me, the private eye.”
Tony visualized all variables for a moment: rendezvous with a stranger on a dark street after 10pm, in the rain; a one on one encounter. Something didn’t feel right about this job. But he quickly remembered the stack of overdue bills sitting next to the telephone. The electricity could literally be turned off any day now. The refrigerator was depleted. The choice was suddenly easy.
“Make the call, Mark. Tell him one hour.”
“That’s my man! One hour it is.”
Tony pushed a button on the receiver base, ending the call. He crossed the living room into the kitchenette and hoisted a small glass of bourbon from the linoleum counter top. He downed the drink in three gulps, before picking up his paperback copy of ‘Hamlet’ lying face down, next to the glass.
Arriving at the meeting spot fifteen minutes early gave Tony plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of his life. As the rain pounded against the rusty roof of his 1985 Chevy Monte Carlo, he stared at the large manila envelope containing pictures of an unfaithful wife.
“Just another job,” he told himself. “Just another payday. Mark lines ‘em up; you knock ‘em down with the proof.”
Tony glanced through the cracked windshield, up the dark road. For no apparent reason, he suddenly thought of his late mother, remembering Sunday’s spent in church. She had tried her best to raise him up to be a man of integrity; a man of honesty intentions; hard working and God fearing.
“A square, Momma. You wanted me to be a sucker.”
Up ahead, indigo blue headlamps pierced the darkness of the rainy night. Tony watched as a late model Mercedes slowly pulled up along-side his car. He cautiously reached between the driver’s seat cushion and the vinyl center console and thumbed the hammer of a small revolver. Through the rain, he watched the driver’s side window of the Mercedes lower. Tony flipped a toggle switch, lowering his own window; right hand still wrapped around the handle of the revolver. Heavy rain instantly invaded the cabin. The driver quickly tossed a padded envelope into Tony’s car. Simultaneously, Tony launched the large manila envelope into the mystery man’s Mercedes. The luxury car peeled rubber against the wet pavement and spun the corner at the cross street behind the Monte Carlo. Tony closed the window, disengaged the revolver, and reached for the heavy envelope that landed on the passenger seat. As he opened the package to an enormous stack of bills, his cellphone rang. Tony reached a finger up to activate his Bluetooth.
“Mister, I haven’t even opened the package fully, and I already know you overpaid. What’s with the extra?”
A smooth baritone voice chuckled.
“Perceptive, Tony. I figured a man of your…meager tastes could use a little incentive to,”
“Incentive to do what exactly?” Tony blasted.
“Forget you ever saw me; forget you took this job from Mark. Give him the agreed upon four hundred. You keep the remaining four thousand.”
Two days later, the top news story reported the murder of a respected city official’s wife. Police had no leads on any suspects but had not concluded the investigation at the time of the report.
“I’ll be damned,” Tony whispered, as he watched the news report on his new fifty-inch television.
In the ears of his mind, his mother’s voice replied, “You most certainly are, son. You most certainly are.”