13 weeks. 12 interns. 1 dorm.

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My life from August 17, 2013 to November 17, 2013 was transformational in more ways than one.  Sleeping patterns, cleaning duties, personal habits, diverse attitudes and varying conflicts were some of the challenges encountered during my ministerial internship in Alexandria, LA.

These challenges pale in comparison to the life-experiences I shared with my fellow colleagues. I do not believe that words would be adequate or suffice, but I’ll put forth an attempt to describe 5 highlights:

1.)  The First Session.  On Wednesday, August 21, Anthony Mangun, Senior Pastor of The Pentecostals of Alexandria (host church of the training center) spoke to us on knowing the calling and the voice of God. It was a simple, but yet admonishing message on the importance of serving in ministry out of dedication to the purpose of God, and not selfish ambitions. The most memorable account of this event was what occurred after the lesson. We were instructed to pray and seek the face of God. I found myself praying like I had never done before. As tears flowed relentlessly down my cheeks, my ears perked to the various sounds around me. Not only were my fellow colleagues praying, but the whole pastoral staff had joined us in that conference room and were speaking words of faith into our life. I’ll never forget the words of Vani Marshall, Prayer Coordinator, to me: “You’re a game-changer. Never underestimate the gifts of God. You will shepherd people.” That was the first week and my life was already changed.

2. ) The Saturday Morning Prayer Meeting. On Saturday mornings, we would meet at the church at 10am for street evangelism. This is where we would go into the poverty-stricken neighborhoods, hand out water bottles, and baptize individuals in the name of Jesus Christ. One particular morning, while we were waiting on the baptismal tank to be filled with fresh water, a few of us decided to go into the prayer room and wait. This was a decision that was immediately rewarded.  Unknowingly to us, there was a prayer meeting going on with several of the church members that was led by Jennifer Williams, the church receptionist. She invited us over to join them. She prayed over our feet and declared to us boldly that “our feet was preparing to go all over the world proclaiming the gospel.”

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3.)  Nursing Home Ministry. This was an intriguing part of our ministerial tasks. Three days a week we found ourselves sharing God’s love with nursing home patients in Alexandria, Pineville and Tioga LA. It was quite moving to see the faces of many who had lost hope and was unaware of their surroundings to join us in worship and lifting up the name of Jesus. During one particular service, a woman whispered “I love you” in my ear. I was beyond moved. My heart was stirred that day like never before.

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4.) Prison Ministry. This was one of the most exciting moments I had the privilege of partaking in. There was a surplus of joy in the room when I witnessed inmates lifting up their hands in adoration to the risen Savior. I witnessed many inmates sign up to get baptized. It was comforting to see how God’s grace and mercy encompassed all around them. Many of them requested many worship songs and they soaked in every minute we were there. I walked away with a newfound love for ministering in jails and prisons.

5.) The Essentials. I was blessed with many unique opportunities during my internship that consisted of the following: preaching at “The Spot,” a ministry for junior high and high school students living in poor, urban communities, going to Café Du Monde in New Orleans, partaking in communion at the pastor’s residence, baptizing over 75 people in a span of three months during street ministry and many other experiences. However, there is nothing that could replace what I will refer to as “the essentials.” After eating dinner in the home of Associate Pastor Terry Shock, we listened intently to his wife Melani explain the powerful concept of reading the Bible first thing in the morning and hearing God speak to you via his Word. Pastor Terry taught us that submission to God and pastoral authority will pave the way for many blessings in our life. John Russell, pastor of Calvary Tabernacle, poured his heart out by pleading to us to reach for lost people. He reiterated that Christ came to seek and to save that which was lost and that his mission should be our main priority. During our last session with Pastor Mangun, he told us with conviction in his eyes that if we do not have a prayer life, “ we are a JOKE.”  These are the essentials.

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My ministerial internship was the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my short 28 years of life. I’ve done my very best to express what took place, but I simply can’t. I am forever an intern of Jesus Christ. Forever a servant of his lordship.

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race

It is no secret to anyone that hasn’t been living under a rock recently that the issue of race has been at the forefront of almost every major headline news due to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman case. I will not bore you with any more details, seeing that it has been shoved down our throats on a daily basis.

But since race has managed to be at the core of the subject, I decided to address this topic.

I do not understand this excessive obsession with race. I do not wake up every morning with the thought “I am a black man.” It is something I’m acutely aware of and have embraced for all my life. Being a black is a part of who I am, but it is does not define my image.

Allow me to reference the Holy Scriptures as an example:

Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

1 Corinthians 6:19 – “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost [which is] in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”

Race is the main component of our bodies. Sure, it is impossible to look at someone in their physicality without noticing their tone of skin. When one looks at me, they see with their natural eyes a dark skin color, but that serves as a complimentary feature to my main feature: the image of God.

We were put on this mass planet to reflect the image of Christ. His image is not of certain biological roots or a specific anatomical make up. His image is a reflection of unconditional love.

Is it possible to change the conversation from race to possessing the image of God. To walk in God’s image is to simply love people as yourself. The more you know God, to more you become like him. To more you become like him, the more you begin to love others. You will find yourself looking at their spiritual epidermis, not their natural one.

When one reflects the light of Christ, it transcends racial and social barriers. If the Christian individual is only making visible their ethnic features, they are not conformed in the image of Christ.

Perhaps we should adopt the mentality that it is Christ that is in us. We are beholding his features—love and compassion.

Our racial features, whether black or white, serves as a bonus feature to an already divinely made human canvas.

tragedy

One can never fully prepare themselves for pain and anguish. There are times when we attempt to mentally brace ourselves for a tragedy that we see in the near distance, but there are no adequate words to describe the exact pain that one encounters once a crisis has actually occurred. It is natural to become numb to all of the other pleasantries of life and succumb to the hurt that has developed within once a tragedy has been experienced.

Some of the most pressing questions that we vocalize during a tragedy is “Where was God” and “Why would God allow this to happen?” It is difficult to comprehend an infinite God, full of compassion and love, allowing innocent school children to be victims of a tornado, or marathon participants to meet an early grave due to evil, terroristic acts. It is perplexing to our level of intellect that a destructive soul would be allowed to carry out such heinous acts that are contrary to God’s love for humanity.

In the wake of tragedies, we often feel alone and hopeless. The truth of the matter is that God still speaks to us. It’s not as easy to tune into the voice of God during a time of hurting, because we tend to lean on emotions and feelings, but there is a still, small voice that is being vocalized.

After the bombings that occurred at the Boston Marathon on April 15, there was a vast outpouring of love and support from many Americans nationwide. Through monetary funds and other resources, people expressed their concern and compassion for those who suffered tremendous loss. Their acts of love and kindness are the language of God. Even in the aftermath of a tragedy, God’s voice is amplified.

Tragedies, while often viewed as anguish and grief, can produce beauty. My grandmother died the day before my 7th birthday. As you can imagine, I went from expecting a birthday party with rambunctious-like neighborhood children to being confined to a state of mourning. It was fifty-four days after her death that I found myself at my church preparing myself to be baptized and filled with God’s Holy Spirit. I asked God about the timing and why it happened following a tragic event. He told me I was close to the creation, but not the Creator. The removal of a precious loved one was not intended to make me weak, but to experience God in a deeper and more intimate way.

I am convinced that God feels our pain and sorrow when we experience loss. Because God’s love for humanity caused him to sacrifice his own life, He is familiar with our sufferings.  It is important that even in a loss, we can grow to know God. With the comfort he provides in the midst of pain and the peace that surpasses our understanding, it permits us to trust Him.

The human vocabulary is simply not suffice to comfort those who have recently experienced a tragedy, but God’s language is. Through His grace, you will hear Him whispering sweet words of comfort. Through His mercy, you will feel Him uplifting you.

Everyone deals with tragedies in various ways. For some, the sting of death lasts for what seems like an eternity, but through it all, God speaks through acts of love. His biggest question, in the midst of a raging sea, is “Do you trust me?”

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It is that time of year again for the National Day of Prayer. It’s a time where orange juice and biscuits will be the highlight of prayer breakfasts. Pastors and ministers will speak words of faith. The President will invoke words of encouragement and hope. Many individuals will gather at various prayer events in their cities and pray for their families, country and fellow man.

These events are certainly a synopsis of our religious culture. It serves as a reminder of how important these traditions are in Christendom and the need to commemorate them.

But there is something deeper missing in all these festivities. There is a bigger longing than a few scriptures quoted, a couple of choruses and melodies harmonized together, and an inspirational theme. There is a genuine lack of a prayerful lifestyle in America.

Prayer cannot simply be condensed into a holiday. It is not something that can be dusted off a shelf once a year and expected to perform at its highest magnitude. Prayer must simply be a lifestyle. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonians to “Pray without ceasing.” It is something that should be a consistent factor in our lives. Prayer is communication between man and God, and there should always be an active interaction between the Creator and his creation.

I am not desensitized by the traditional events surrounding the National Day of Prayer. The spiritual unity that is witnessed during this day is beneficial and definitely needed. However, this lone event does not account for a personal relationship with God and an active prayer life. Philippians 4:6 states: ” Do not fret or have anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.” Regardless if there is a national event, prayer breakfast or a host of religious officials around us, we must seek the Lord in prayer in all things.

There is a common and typical tradition of reaching out to God in times of crises and tribulations. This is not effective use of prayer. While God is truly certain to hear us in our times of desperate need, he is also worthy of prayer and praise when times are going well. Our prayer life should not be based on the ups and downs of the economy, our marital status,  or our job outlook.  It should be effective and active regardless of what surrounds us.

Prayer can change and alter any situation. When God sees an adamant desire by one to communicate with him, he feels compelled to intervene on our behalf. It is the power of prayer that makes an alcoholic feel an eradication for his desire of drunkenness. It is the power of prayer that can take a wounded heart of a depressed soul and set it free. The power of prayer faces no limits or boundaries. It is not bound by natural obstacles or setbacks.

In order to know God, we must communicate with him. A man doesn’t learn to love his wife by talking to her on a once-a-year basis. He talks to her constantly and builds a relationship with her on a day-to-day basis.

We will never learn to grow in our faith and relationship with God by simply waiting for a National Day of Prayer event to speak with him. Prayer must certainly be a lifestyle. It should be something we yearn to do. Prayer must be a lifestyle.

 “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”– 2 Chronicles 7:14

Make EVERYDAY your National Day of Prayer.

Pro-Life Causes and the issue of same-sex marriage

I was a featured guest on “The Brenner Brief” with Sara Marie Brenner of Columbus, OH. I was asked to discuss pro-life causes and the issue of same-sex marriage. If you fast forward t 47:20, you’ll be able to hear my segment. As always, I stood on biblical principles and morality in my discussion.

Link  —  Posted: March 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

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Black History Month is a time where we reflect upon the contributions of iconic African-Americans such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison who were the architects of the abolitionist movement, or Rosa Parks who refused to substitute her dignity and self-respect for blind prejudice, hatred and unjust laws. The rallying cry of “Let Freedom Ring” uttered Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. still echo throughout the chambers of our souls today.

Freedom is the universal gift that benefits every man, woman and child. It is the substantial force that breaks the bondage of oppression and government tyranny. It is the solemn reminder that America is the land where anyone can dream and where dreams can become a reality.

The daunting question we face in 2013 is: “Are we free?” In order to look forward, one must reflect on the accomplishments of the past.

We are forever grateful for the Civil Rights Movement, which highlighted the struggle for justice and equality. We are thankful for how blacks have been granted the right to exercise their vote in free elections. We’ve come far in improving racial harmony, with blacks being promoted to high levels of government: Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice both served as Secretary of State and of course Barack Obama became the first black President of the United States.

There are countless examples of America embracing diversity and providing equal opportunities for all, but yet, there is still a longing desire for freedom.

The parent of a poor black child that lives in an impoverished area of their community deserves the right to have their child attend the school of their choice, without that child’s freedom intertwined with the substandard performance of their educators. The fact that it is 2013 and many continue to advocate for school choice proves that for some, freedom must be put on hold in order to advance the agenda of big government.

I feel obliged to plea for freedom when I see single black mothers become manipulated by the welfare state that is promoted by liberalism. We are not a free society when black males are incarcerated, instead of at home raising their sons and daughters like good role models. As government seeks to take advantage of the absence of the black father, we must recognize that this is social tyranny, not freedom.

I am only a singular voice, but within the realms of my soul is a plea for African-Americans to begin a new history—economic freedom. There must be a rallying cry of an exodus from the plantation of liberal bondage. There must be a realization that government can easily take away what it freely gives, and that jobs, not handouts, are the most sufficient way to move up on the economic ladder.

I am surely thankful for Black History Month, but my heart cringes at the thought of what the future holds for the black community. Change needs to occur right now. Let us remember the words of Harriet Tubman: “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

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As the nation commemorates the Martin Luther King, Jr holiday, it is imperative that we reflect and embrace what was present at the core of King’s vision: freedom. 

In his letter from the Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963, King wrote that “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

I am positive that if the slain Civil Rights leader were with us today, his quest for economic freedom and justice would still be his beckoning call for America.

In his historic “I Have A Dream” speech, delivered near the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, King spoke distinctively on two freedoms: Freedom from racial discrimination and bigotry and freedom from “a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”

America has come a long ways toward racial harmony and the removal of prejudice. While there has been tremendous progress, there is little doubt among many that work stills needs to be done.

Currently, MLK’s vision of a freedom from poverty is being undermined by government oppression and generations of families dependent on government assistance.  We live in an America vastly different from the 1960s. Todays America values entitlements and a nanny-state America over entrepreneurship and a capitalistic society. We are being taught by liberal plutocrats that the socialistic philosophy of redistribution of wealth is the most effective way to alleviate the income disparities between the rich and poor. And while history proves otherwise, Americans are seemingly content to ignore such history for now. Instead, we are being fed a mythical notion that equal opportunity equates to equal outcome, and that accumulated wealth through hard work and determination is cancerous and must be cured. 

This is not freedom, this is 21st century captivity. In order to make MLK’s desire for freedom a reality, we must promote and advocate for ideas which empower the individual. Freedom is giving someone the choice to make sound economic decisions without inhabiting the fear of government stealing their earnings. Freedom is the ability for one to have a job, earn wages, and provide for their families without depending on a social program for permanent stability. When one has a free mind, they’ll unify with John F. Kennedy’s mandate of not asking what America can do for us, but what we can for America.

It is freedom which enables a parent to choose where to send their child in order to have the best education available. The fact that poor and minority children are relegated to failing schools simply because of their zip code is undeniably the Civil Rights issue of this current decade.

It is freedom that grants us the right to speak freely and think independently without facing rebuke from others for our beliefs.  I believe MLK would be appalled at the way black conservatives are ostracized for their beliefs. 

It is freedom that allows to defend ourselves from any present harm or potential government tyranny with the right to bear arms, given to us through the second amendment of the Constitution. Slaves were never allowed to defend themselves; free people are. 

It is freedom that vanishes the thought that we are owed something, but that we have the opportunity to accomplish our goals and fulfill our dreams, if we are willing to put in the hard work and go the distance.

At last, we must acknowledge that freedom does not come from an elected official or any government entity. It is given to us by our Creator and born into the heart of every man. 

MLK had a quest for freedom. He envisoned the glorious attributes of freedom when he shared his dream with America: “When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”