For Amarii’

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Source: For Amarii’

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For Pryce

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Pryce,

You don’t know me. You’ve probably never even heard the name Ennis Smith cross the lips or roll through the voice of your dad. That’s because he and I never hung out together. Despite that fact, I think there was respect between the two of us because we were friends. Whenever we did see each other, in or outside of school, there was nothing but love: a pound; maybe a fist bump; a, “What up, Ennis?” in that trademark voice of his, followed by my own, “What up, Whimp?”. There was never any animosity between your dad and I. He was one of the coolest, most down-to-earth cats I ever knew. A testament to that will be the shear number of friends who will–and have already–paid their respects to your family, in his honor.

One memory that comes to mind is my senior prom. On the night of prom, your dad and I–along with our dates for the evening– shared a white limousine, to the Pontchartrain in Downtown Detroit, where legendary DJ Waxtax-N Dre would cut the Ones-N-Twos all night long. The four of us were all decked out in white and ready to celebrate. As soon as we arrived, the two couples split up to enjoy the atmosphere and the music. It was a good night. I can also remember bumping into him one or twice in Downtown nightclubs, back in my 20’s, when I would come home from college to party. He was a good brother, and judging by the many photos I’ve seen of you two together, he must’ve been an awesome dad.

Cancer is no respecter of persons, Pryce. It doesn’t discriminate. There was nothing your dad did to bring this beast into his life. It does what it does, and leaves a hole in our hearts after its damage is complete. I know personally, because 10 years ago I watched it take my Mom away from me. Eight months between diagnosis and death. There are no words of true comfort that can ease the pain of your loss, young brother. Folks will try their best. You have to understand they will genuinely want to help you through the difficult time. They will mean well, so try not to get angry at any of the well-wishers that pass through your life in these following days. I tell you that, because I really do understand what you’re going to face. I know about the different emotions you’ll struggle with.

I can promise you this, Pryce: the brokeness; that hole in your heart will mend in time. For me personally, I cursed God for allowing my Mom to die at a young age. But, somehow, in spite of my anger and rage at him, he walked me through that pain and actually drew me near to him for healing. I would probably still be mad today, if not for his love and patience. I don’t know if you’re ready to hear or process that, but what I want you to understand is that in time, the pain of loss will dull. You’ll have that one piece of your heart that will forever belong to your dad, but it just won’t hurt so much. We never forget our parents, when we lose them, but in time the pain goes away and is replaced by all the great moments, laughs and memories we shared with them.

My bible teaches me that Fathers are the spiritual heads of the household, so I’d like to think that you and your Mom are going to be okay, young brother. Pryce, I’d be willing to bet that your dad prayed for you and your Mom while he was with us. And men don’t pray unless they believe in God. So, I’d like to think he’s living peacefully with the Lord. The bible teaches that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. It also teaches that Jesus wipes away every tear, in heaven. I hope the day will come when you realize that he’s not gone forever. He’s waiting, young brother. That’s the encouragement I want to leave with you. He’s waiting, Pryce; waiting to see you again.

Pryce, on behalf of the Smith family, you have my condolences and my deepest sympathy for your loss. Your dad was a good man, who has my respect to this day.

Sincerely,

Ennis

R.O.C.K. (Who Are You Lord)?

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Before I dive into this acronym, I want to happily give credit where it’s due. This is NOT my original idea. In fact, the acronym was preached in my church (River of Life Assembly of God, 870 Savage Rd., Belleville, Mi 48111). So, the true credit goes to the author of the acronym; namely, Pastor J. Eddie Marcum. Pastor’s message was so powerful, that it caused me to really examine my personal relationship with the Lord. The basic principles behind the acronym were shared during his sermon. On my part, I wrote this piece based on some serious soul searching. My hope is that this post challenges you (dear reader) to search your own heart and honestly evaluate your relationship with the Lord. For the past few days, I’ve been asking myself a serious question:

“Who are you Lord?”

Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”

“Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah,” they answered.

“But,” Jesus retorted, “Who do you say that I am?”

Peter confidently replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Matthew 16:18 (NKJV) tells us that, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.'”

R – REVELATION

Simon–who was gifted with the new name, Peter, by the Lord–had received this truth by a revelation. In other words, the true nature of Jesus had been revealed to Peter by divine intervention on the part of GOD our Father. Peter hadn’t simply stumbled on the answer, on his own. He had to be shown who Jesus really is.

Family, in order for us to come into a deep relationship with the Lord, his true nature must be revealed to us. Sometimes we limit Jesus to being nothing more than our personal best friend. Sometimes we treat him as if he were our own personal genie, we call on when times are bad. I think these perspectives of the Lord are wrong. We all know a Christian brother or sister who constantly struggles to gain victory. Well…until there is a true understanding of just who Jesus really is, lasting victory is impossible. Sure, we might be able to suppress trouble areas of our lives for a time, but total victory can’t happen until we know who the Lord is and what he’s capable of doing in our lives. That’s why a wrong understanding of who he really is causes us to lack faith in what he can really do. We have to come to an understanding of who Jesus truly is. That revelation can’t come from your Pastor, your Mom, your Dad, or your best friend. They can all tell you what they may already know, but the revelation (for you) has to manifest in your heart. That revelation comes from God. He makes the true identity of Jesus personal for you.

O – OBEDIENCE

I’m going to go Old Testament for a moment here, so bare with me. When Saul was officially anointed first king of Israel, Samuel gave him specific instructions to obey the LORD. All he had to do was obey and things would go well for him. He didn’t, of course. Consequently, the kingdom of Israel was ripped from him and given over to another.

Christianity isn’t a lifestyle requiring a bunch of rules. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross gave us the ability to live in freedom. But don’t misunderstand; our freedom (as followers of Christ) should motivate us to obey God’s Word. Let me be clear: we are not bound by the law to perform certain tasks, or else. We are instead free to live without the chains that once bound us and because of the gratitude in our hearts, we ought to be moved to obey God’s Word.

Saul didn’t earn the title of king. It was given to him; a free gift of God. All he had to do to retain his title and secure his dynasty, was obey the LORD out of the love in his heart, for the LORD. But Saul felt pressured to live up to what he thought the people wanted him to be. His aim to please the people outweighed his love for the LORD, leading him to sin against GOD. Personally, I think he also developed the big-head syndrome. He began doing things the way he wanted, without consulting the LORD first.

Sometimes we do the same. We think to ourselves, “Eh, a little bit of this won’t hurt anybody.” That instantaneous choice to disobey God can have long lasting effects on our lives. How can we honestly expect Jesus to care for us, if we don’t care for him. Obedience to the Lord is not punishment. He wants us to be obedient, so that we might live in the fullness of him. Obedience to Jesus keeps us away from troubles we can’t see. His sight is long, while ours is very limited.

I know a young man who constantly struggles with the peer pressures of life. Whenever we talk, I usually hit him with the same questions. You would think after some time, he might catch the hint.

“Have you been reading your bible?”

“Have you been praying?”

“No” is always the answer. Yet…he can’t understand why he continues to trip over the same issues. I gotta tell you, this exasperates me, which leads to my greatest personal challenge of all.

C – COMPASSION

Family, I’ve got to be the least compassionate person I know. I’m not proud of it. My lack of compassion puts a huge stumbling block between the Lord and I. The problem is I see the block coming, as I continue this walk. Still, I stroll right up to it, and trip over it constantly! It took a long time for me to be able to admit this to myself, let alone others. It makes me feel sad; ashamed. But, lately, I’ve come to the realization that this is exactly why I need Jesus in my life.

You want to know what bible verse I’ve always struggled with? John 11:35. The shortest verse in the bible has always been the most complicated verse for me to take to heart. In my humanity, I also failed to understand why Jesus cried when he saw the others begin to cry, over the death of Lazarus. I figured, “C’mon, he knew exactly what he was gonna do all along!”

Jesus has compassion for me. Why else, and how else (for that matter) could he willingly die for me? He wept for Lazarus because of the compassion in his heart, for Martha and Mary’s pain. He defended the woman caught in adultery, because of the compassion he felt for her. Everything the Lord did for others, was done out of the compassion within his human heart.

He could have easily destroyed any of his attackers, at any time throughout his earthly ministry. He felt anger. He flipped tables. He cracked whips. He spoke a word, and a fig tree immediately withered! Jesus had every right to retaliate against his attackers, yet he chose to die for them.

This is a hard lesson for me to grasp. Even with the help of the Holt Spirit, I struggle. The young man I spoke of earlier, I constantly wrestle against the fleshy desire to wash my hands of him, in judgment. That’s what it is, family: Judgment.

My flesh says, “How long will you continue to put up with this boy? Just hit him over the head and let him drown in his own disobedience!”

Isn’t that ironic? I can easily judge his refusal to obey the Lord, while standing neck-deep in my own compassion-less judgment. This is NOT who the Lord is.

The “C” of the ROCK-acronym is my cross. I bear it everyday. I thank God for Pastor Eddie’s message, because today I recognize its importance in my walk with Christ. I can look across the landscape of my life and see instances where a lack of compassion has lain waste past relationships with old friends, put strain between my kids and I, even caused rifts in my marriage at times.  I realize the question of “Who are you Lord?” has a deep rooted meaning for me, because the blinders are coming off. I’m starting to see the relationship I thought I had, really isn’t what I believed it to be. How could it be? Jesus is all about compassion. I have to genuinely try to be more like him.

I hope this frees someone today. It’s freeing me, as we speak.

K – KINGDOM MINDED

Here’s where I go off sermon-topic. Pastor Eddie, as I  challenged myself with the acronym, the “K” hit me in a different way than what was originally preached.  That doesn’t lessen the significance of our need to bend our knees in prayer and worship to God, because the act of submission is vital to our relationship with the Lord. Kingdom Minded simply stuck in my mind as I thought this through.

I think when we try to understand who Jesus is and what he means to us individually, one of the things we must realize is that Jesus is all about advancing the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s the endgame for the Lord. He takes no interest in self gratification. He willingly became a servant in order to put the “kingdom Business” first and foremost.

I want to share something the Mrs. and I were actively trying to keep very private up until…now. We’re trusting in God to give us a new home. Fact is, our large family has outgrown our current home. The house we’re after literally contains the desires of our hearts, and we have been praying like we’ve never prayed before. The whole family is involved!

Today, the Mrs. sent a text message saying, “We need this house. I need to have a bible study. I have two ladies here (at work) that are experiencing some serious conflict about their religion.”

Amenities aside, my wife’s already committing the new house to God’s work. She’s thinking Kingdom-minded. And that’s the point. Sure we enjoy our stuff, but if we’re not using the gifts and the stuff to honor God,  what’s the point?  Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) says, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men,”. Like Jesus, we need to be about the business of advancing God’s kingdom in all that we do: in church; at work; on the soccer field; in the movie theater; wherever we go and in whatever we find ourselves doing.

As a gamer, I sometimes find the occasional player with a biblical gamertag. I actively seek them out. When they find out “Dadski40plus”–I know; it sounds wack–is a believer, we usually break into kingdom conversation. Yep…even in the gaming world.

So, who is the R.O.C.K.?

R-Revelation

O-Obedience

C-Compassion

K-Kingdom Minded

Jesus embodies all of these attributes, because he lives and displays them for all time. Once we understand that, we realize who He really is.

 

The Power In Prayer

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I’m an action/fantasy-movie fan. I love all things Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Matrix involved. When I was 11 years old, I must’ve watched “The Neverending Story” dozens of times. My dad managed to record it on VHS tape. As I sit here writing, I’m thinking about opening a box of Junior Mints and watching the Blu ray now, like I don’t have to get up to go to work in the morning!

C’mon, be honest. I can’t be the only one.

There’s just something about the “fantastic” in the root of fantasy that takes me to another place. I’m a dreamer at heart. Always have been. My head is so far into the clouds, I swear sometimes I dream of flying and the feeling of weightless flight resounds as familiar within my body and soul.

I’m often amazed at how people can quickly accept the power of “The Force”–which is totally made up, by the way–but just as quickly reject the power of the living God. If you don’t know who Luke Skywalker is, you’ve either been in a coma since the early 70’s or you’re an alien visiting from outer space. If you’re an actual alien, I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, you don’t truly exist. Everyone knows the fantasy lore of Luke. But, not everyone knows the actual history of Jesus: the only begotten son of God.

What I love most about fantasy is watching characters develop special powers, and then growing mature in the use of those powers. It’s kind of like when a baby Christian learns to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit–totally real life stuff here–and then matures in the use of those powers. Prayer is definitely one of those Spiritual gifts available to everyone.

Christians are often reminded of the “Power of Prayer” but when I think about prayer akin to fantasy movies, I marvel at the very real power in prayer. Prayer is not science fiction or fantasy. It’s very real; very accessible; very attainable and extremely powerful.

There was a time when Jesus sent out his disciples to heal the sick and cast out demons among the people. But they ran into a problem. They encountered a boy possessed by a stubborn demon. They had to go get Jesus to cast the demon. When the task was completed, by the Lord, his disciples asked (in Ennis-vernacular),

“Say man, we heal people and cast out all kinds of demons! How come we couldn’t cast this one out?”

Mark 9:29 (NIV) tells us that Jesus replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

Now, for my friends who struggle to believe in God, let me tell you that history supports the life and miracles of Jesus Christ as depicted in the scriptures. Yes. Actual history. I can’t make this stuff up. On top of that, I know personally what the power of prayer can do to breathe new life into a troubled marriage. I think prayer gets such a bad wrap when we start to talk about Spiritual things.

“Have you prayed about it?”

“What’s that gonna do?” *Sigh*  “Sure, I’ll give it a try.”

That’s usually how it’s received; as the last resort to problem resolution. What if we were a people who actually believed in the miracle work of prayer before a problem even exists? What if we were a people who prayed for the things we need, believed that God would give them to us, thanked him in advance, and then celebrated when the blessing showed up? I mean…doesn’t that sound like fantasy stuff?!

Except it’s real. It works. It happens all the time among the believing body of Christ.

In this social media saturated age, we are big on chain-challenges. So, I’m going to propose one this morning. I’m daring my readers, friends and family to take this Prayer Challenge. I challenge you to pick one thing–be it a desire, a need or one in the same–and focus on it. Be specific, now. Don’t be lazy about this. For the next 25 days, I challenge you to pray on that thing, need, or desire. Here’s where it gets difficult for some. I want you to set your heart on believing it will be done, in the name of Jesus. I want you to thank him, in advance, for seeing it done. And for 25 days, I want you to simply trust in him to make it happen.

The real power in fantasy, is not that we accept it’s actually real life, but that we choose to buy into its allure temporarily. The real power in prayer is not its temporary fulfillment, but concrete lasting affects in our lives (that’s a-ffects with an “a” scholars). Prayer really works. I dare you to try it. I’d like to hear what happens in your lives at the end of the month.

 

~Always~

 

How’s Life Treating You, Young Brother?

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Dear Mr. Moore,

It’s been awhile, since I reached out to you. I never expect any response because, honestly that’s not my purpose in reaching out anyway. How’s life treating you, young brother? I know that may read as a cliché opening, but think about that question seriously…for just a moment.

As a brother in Christ Jesus, it’s my job and my pleasure to pray for you. That is (after all) what the Body of Christ is supposed to do. If I step on a tack, my brain registers the pain; my muscles spring into action; my fingers work feverishly and fervently to remove the attacking object and then attend to the foot. That’s what the body does. It takes care of itself. The fingers don’t cater to the foot, because they want the feet to take them somewhere in return for their services. They simply act because they are all different parts of the same body. As members of the Body of Christ, we should want to cater to one another, even from afar.

How’s life treating you, young brother?

From the perspective of a fan, I’ve seen changes in your public life. There’s no condemnation or judgment here; it’s merely an observation. As the bar of your success continues to rise, things are moving in different directions, as if caught up in the tailspin of hurricane winds. People are upset over you dropping the “Christian Rapper” moniker. People are upset over your website dropping the “unashamed” battle cry. People are upset over your choices in the company you keep as of late. People are upset over your hairstyle. Imagine that. People are upset over your success as an artist. People are upset over your radio interviews; your television interviews; your private interviews. It seems that people are just upset. I’ll tell you what I am. I am…steady.

You may ask, “Steady. What does that mean? What’s that got to do with anything?”

It means, I’m keeping my eye focused on the Lord. It means, no matter what might be happening in the lives of some of my favorite Christian artists and scholars, my faith will never be dependent on them. Man has the capacity to fail at some point. We can never be perfect. But God is the same today, as He was yesterday, as He will be tomorrow. I keep my focus on the Lord, and a distant watchful eye on everyone else. No matter what may happen in the lives of people, I know that as a single part of the entire Body of Christ, God would want me praying for those who are also His followers.

How’s life treating you, young brother?

You’ve come a long way since I first heard of an artist named “Lecrae” almost 10 years ago now. A Christian rapper, with word-play skills to match any of the secular artists of that day, and the music production to rival mainstream hip hop anthems?! I was hooked from “Rebel”. To this day, “Overdose” (off the Rehab: The Overdose album) is still one of my favorite tracks of all time; dude…of all time! Your lyrics were straight pushing Jesus, the Gospel and the Word.

As times changed, so did the music. With each follow up album, the message remained…but something was different. The lyrics began to take on more social issues and a bit less eternal kingdom. At the same time, each new album was increasingly more successful and accepted on the mainstream stage than its predecessor. Now…for the record…I am NOT a professional album critic, nor do I follow the musical charts for a living. In my little corner of the world, I can remember a time when no one knew of the Christian rapper Lecrae. Today, the rapper Lecrae is a household name among the millennials, both inside and outside of the Body of Christ. I would imagine that amount of work takes a toll somewhere. Something eventually has to give.

How’s life treating you, young brother?

Are you doing okay? I know you have responsibilities that I can’t fathom. I know you make decisions knowing someone somewhere is going to be mad at your choices. I know that 37 doesn’t exactly feel like 27 anymore, does it? Rookie. Talk to me when you reach 44. I know that more money inherently brings more problems in some fashion.

But honestly, all that is meaningless. The real question underneath the recurring question is this: is God still your source? Are you finding yourself going deeper in your relationship with Jesus, or are you distracted by the constant challenges of your everyday life? Don’t misunderstand me, brother. This isn’t any type of accusatory piece.

My life is pretty simple. I get up; go to work; provide for the family; play my music; occasionally write; play my games; go to sleep; rinse and repeat. Somewhere in that jumble of everyday monotony, I make time to seek the Lord. But even in my simple life, I still have to take a step back and figure out if I’m actually growing in Christ, or just existing off the past gift of his salvation? Am I living a fruitful life for Him; am I just coasting through one day at a time, stuck on one level; or am I actually slipping back into an old life I vowed never to return to?

By comparison, I see your very public life as insane by my personal standards. The places you visit, the things you see, the millions of people you try to influence, the businesses, the relationships, the professional music and maintain a positive role as husband and dad?! Only by the grace of the Lord, can one maintain such a lifestyle. And there is no way you can carry that spiritual load on your own. You are, after all, one piece of the entire Body of Christ.

That’s why I ask. That’s the purpose behind this letter. A lot of people have written you off as falling away from the faith, based on some of your public decisions and declarations. Personally, I don’t know about that. But what I do know is that, when a brother seems to be in need, the Body of Christ should be there to lift him up. It doesn’t matter if you’re Lecrae the rapper or LaCray, one of the waiters at the drabby corner diner off 76th and MLK Blvd. Both are professing Christians; both are men living in a fallen world; both could use the prayers of the saints from time to time.

Young brother, tonight let me ask you sincerely: how’s life treating you? Can I pray for you, for any specific reason? We all pray in general for those we don’t know personally. But when you really want to see God move, trying praying specifically; I’m talking about pinpoint specific. I’m one part of the same body you’re a part of. How can I help through prayer? I’m not hard to find, so reach out and tell me.

 

Your brother in Christ,

Ennis