Deuteronomy 31:19 NIV
“Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them.
In the beginning of my Christian walk, I observed something about the family of churches that I was, and still am, a part of. The observation was that leaders within the church staff came and went a lot more often than they should have in my mind. Nevertheless, I chose not to make a big deal out of it and to trust God in each situation, telling Him, "God, this is Your kingdom; You won't let anyone degrade, defile, or belittle You. I trust You." This resolution has sustained me through the years; it definitely came in handy while Michelle and I lived in the Metroplex. You see, in 2003, the church leadership went through a major overhaul. The number of things that the church leadership was being called out on was great--too many to mention here. I'll just say that God saw what was happening and put a stop to it. Personally, this situation was liberating to a certain degree, because it was during this time that I wrote the music to a song that would eventually become "By My Spirit"; it was also during this time that God inspired me to write new lyrics to what the church knew as "The Glory Song". As much as I loved that song and the many different variations of it that I heard, the most recent one that was created boasted more about the church movement that began in 1979. After hearing a lesson during one worship service that stated that the kingdom of God didn't begin in 1979, my Spirit was stirred, and I knew that something had to be done about that song. Just like the above-mentioned Scripture, God told me to "write down this song and teach it" to my brothers and sisters within the church. You can listen to it here. Through this song, God's people are reminded of the establishment of His kingdom, how it reached the Jews and the Gentiles, and how important it is to stay in the spiritual battle.
What can be learned from 2003? Trust in God, not in man. Also, when you're prompted by the Holy Spirit within you to do something, do it. You never know how much of an impact God is making through you when you are existing for His glory.
Matthew 25:20 NIV
"The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.'"
After being married to Michelle for a year and five months, God made it clear to us that we needed to leave Columbia, SC and move to Houston, Texas in August of 1998. Not only was this move the best thing for our marriage, but it was also the best thing for my musical growth. At first, I chose not to immediately get involved with the music ministry that was established--you know, the whole "not tooting your own horn" conviction. It was about two months before I started getting involved. While we were there, there was a band that was getting started; at the time, it was called Revelation. When Michelle and I were asked to be a part of the band (which was in Katy on the the west side of Houston, while we lived in the Channelview area on the east side of Houston. For those who don't know, Houston is 50 miles wide!), the band's name was Know Fear. At the beginning of one rehearsal, the Spirit prompted me to share the biblical story of King Jehoshaphat and his army in 2 Chronicles 20 (check out the story--it's very inspiring). From that time and that Scripture, I suggested that the band change its name to The Forefront; the other members loved the idea and decided to run with it. Once we started getting an identity as a band, and once a choir was added to the worship ministry experience in Houston, Michelle and I were asked by the lead evangelist and women's ministry leader to move to Dallas in order to help bring some energy to one of the regions within a Dallas/Fort Worth congregation. We, as well as the Houston congregation, were shocked! We had just moved to Houston and started making a living there, and now we were being asked to just uproot and go? Well, one of the things we learned from that charge was to really pay attention to what the Holy Spirit wanted us to do. Who were we to say no? We belong to God--when He says, "Go," we go, unless we wanted to meet the same fate that Jonah met! So, in May of 2000, Michelle, Pepper (our cat at the time) and I moved to Lewisville, a town north of Dallas. We didn't know it at the time, but this move was the start of immense growth for me musically. It was there that God gave me the opportunity to glorify Him in the following manner:
Participating in the 2000 production of the musical "Slingshot" and the recording of its soundtrack
Serving as a worship leader within the Dallas/Fort Worth Church of Christ
Becoming involved in small a Capella groups
Directing the church's choir during various congregational services
Becoming involved in the church's band, inside and outside of services
Learning how to play piano, keyboard and percussion
Becoming a songwriter
Directing a children's theatre group called The Story Tree Gang
...all within three years of living in the Metroplex!
The reason the year 2000 is a milestone for me is because it was the beginning of my multiplying what God had entrusted to me. Once I knew that He gave me these musical gifts, He gave me the charge to honor Him with it through the praise of Him and the edification of His church. Woe to me if I don't use these gifts. Woe to you if you don't use yours. Remember, whatever gift you may have is from God--it's a loan. He wants a return on His investment; it gives Him no glory when you sit on those gifts, or when you use them for your own personal gain. Use your gifts to make Him known!
Genesis 2:18 NIV
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
God knew that I needed to have someone to be a part of this life journey with me; however, I tried to take matters into my own hands at first. After becoming one of Jesus's disciples, I started taking my sisters in Christ on dates in order to encourage them. Unfortunately, I thought that I liked every single sister I took out. You see, before Jesus became my life, not too many women gave me any kind of attention, and the relationships I had with those who did were unhealthy ones. After Christ, I got so much attention from them that I thought that there was a chance that one of them wanted to be with me for life. I was so fickle back then! It wasn't until January of 1995, when I was told to back off of pursuing a relationship with a sister that I was interested in, that I chose to surrender the situation to God and not make it a priority in my life. I decided to stop pursuing a dating relationship and just focus on encouraging my sisters with dates--no agenda. That was what God was looking for from me, because 1 week after making that decision, not only did Sanford Greene and Lesli Lawrence start dating steadily (they eventually married each other), but God also placed Michelle Meachen in my path. We instantly became friends, fell in love, and started dating each other steadily within three months of her moving from Hawaii(!) to South Carolina. We married each other on March 1, 1997. Michelle is the second greatest gift I've ever received from God; I'm so thankful to Him for entrusting her to me. She has been through this entire worship leader journey with me from its early stages; she has seen me at my best and at my worst, and yet, she's STILL with me! I tell ya, only by God's Spirit!
1997 was a milestone for me because I learned that there is a difference between going by my emotions and living by the Holy Spirit within me. Going by your emotions can lead you to uncertainty, doubt, and quite honestly, foolishness; living by the Holy Spirit leads you to God's will for your life, and there is certainty, confidence in Him, and wisdom, not to mention true peace. God knows what's best for you. Trust in Him and seek to know His will for you.
Romans 12:3 NIV
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
Fast forward to 1996. I was enjoying the growth, learning, and experience I was attaining while serving in the music ministry. Another song leaders conference was taking place in Los Angeles, CA in July; I was hungry for more learning and for more networking with other brothers and sisters with this gift, as I made many friends the year prior at the conference in NYC. Therefore, after asking the church staff, I was sent to LA for more training. The conference took place in conjunction with the AMS conference entitled "Taking It Higher". Unfortunately, I went to this conference with the mentality that I had it going on, that I could sing with the best of my musical peers, and that I should be on stage with them as well. I was humbled immediately by God once I saw that I didn't know as much about music as I thought I did and that I couldn't keep up with the other singers around me. My arrogant chest was deflated; at the same time, I felt defeated, feeling like I didn't deserve to be there and that I should just go back to South Carolina. However, it was then that God began to encourage me to lean on Him and to learn from the new friends I had made, like Peter Wade and his wife Monica. They helped me to get my head and my heart back on track; they even introduced me to the delectable combination of fried chicken and waffles! (Hey...don't knock it until you try it. Remember the story "Green Eggs and Ham"?) By the end of the conference, I was on stage that Sunday morning with Peter during worship service, singing in a mini choir that was put together just the day before. It's true what Jesus said:
Luke 14:11 NIV
"For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."
What made 1996 a milestone for me? It was a lesson in humility. Be confident in God and what He does through you, but don't toot your own horn--it's not wise to do so (Proverbs 27:2). Always remember that you wouldn't have the gifts, talents and abilities you have if God hadn't given them to you in the beginning. Stay grateful; stay grounded; stay humble.
1 Peter 4:10 NIV
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
In February of 1995, I was sent to New York City, NY to participate in a song leaders conference, entitled "I Hear God Singing". What an amazing learning experience! Before this event, I really didn't know how to read music. I knew the basics: What a treble clef was, what a bass clef was, the names of the lines and spaces on both staves--you know, those kinds of things. However, I didn't know how to associate what I saw on the page to what I heard in the music. Going to that conference was the beginning of my musical growth, because it was then that my natural, God-given musical tendencies were being nurtured and refined. After that conference, I felt so empowered that I came back to Columbia, SC, ready to share the things that I learned and to implement them; I learned right away that doing this wouldn't be easy, as what I had learned wasn't necessarily what was wanted--the church staff just wanted me to get some musical training. Regardless of the circumstances, I kept those newfound convictions to myself and lived them out; most of them showed themselves within the gospel choir I was commissioned to start. We called ourselves The Multitude. Some people misinterpreted what I was doing as my being rebellious or as my being conspicuous. I just wanted to move forward and to take our worship and praise of God higher. However, I did submit to my leaders' authority and did what I was told, keeping God as my focus along the way.
1995 was a milestone for me because I learned that, no matter what the circumstances, I am to serve others with the gift that I was given. Doing this will show a very small portion of God's immeasurable grace to the people I serve and, hopefully, open the lines of communication between God and them. No matter what your gift may be, once you know what it is, you need to understand that it was given to you not to keep to yourself or to gain temporary fame, fortune or glory, but to help others to see God more clearly. God's plan is far greater than us, but the cool thing is that it also includes us. Remember that.
Romans 12:1-2 NIV
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God---this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---his good, pleasing and perfect will.
As I mentioned before, I knew how to sing before I knew how to talk. Music has always been a big influence in my life. I remember times when my cousins and I would try to imitate some of our favorite R&B groups at the time, our favorite being The Jacksons (not The Jackson 5--yes, there is a difference). Imitating what I heard on the radio or on records and tapes that my family played was the way I developed my singing voice; I also loved going to music class in elementary and middle school. I didn't pursue music in high school because, at that point, I believed what I heard other people tell me. I was picked on and laughed at for my singing; it kept me from moving in that direction. This even happened in my early college years.
However, once I became a disciple of Jesus, I stopped listening to those negative voices and started listening to the Spirit. One of the things I wanted to know was what God wanted me to do for Him. Of course, I knew that the Great Commission was a major part of what He wanted me to do (Matthew 28:18-20), but I also knew that I had this desire to sing and to get involved with what I heard on Sunday mornings, which was some of the best singing I'd ever heard. I knew that I wanted to be a part of that. Although I had these desires within my heart, I was hardly asked to be a part of what I called the "song ministry"--but I wasn't asking, either. It wasn't until I placed myself before God and offered myself and my desires completely to Him that I began to see what He wanted me to do as a result of being His.
In the early years of my lifetime journey with God, I heard this song that resonated with me. It was called "The Glory Song". The first time I was exposed to it, it was a beautiful rendition of Jesus's three ministry years on earth. Thank you, Charo Maldonado, for allowing God to write such meaningful lyrics through you. Then, I heard the original version from the movie "Glory"--I was mesmerized! Finally, on a Wednesday night during midweek service in 1994, just over 2 years after being baptized into Christ, I heard another version that was based on the history of the family of churches I was--and still am--a part of. It was then that I heard the Holy Spirit say, "This is what God wants you to do." I was inspired and empowered. At the end of that midweek service, I started talking to my friends about this dream that I just grabbed; I started asking members of the song ministry how I could get involved. It just goes to show you that you receive when you ask (Matthew 7:7-8).
1994 was a milestone for me because the dream of serving as a worship leader was brought to the surface. However, it was only brought to the surface after I lived out what Romans 12:1-2 commanded. I had to offer my entire self to God and transform myself by renewing my mind. Once I started doing that, that was when I saw that this was what was mapped out for me. My personal journey as a worship leader had begun.
Remember, the only way that you will know what you were made to be is to surrender yourself to God and to transform and renew yourself. Only then will you be able to know what His will is for you. Once He reveals how He wants you to glorify Him, then you will truly begin your journey towards what you were made to be.
I was born on June 5, 1972 in Washington, DC; I lived there for the first 9 years of my life. Within that time, I let a number of things influence me--some great, some not so great. My mother and aunts influenced me positively. They, most of them being single parents, made sure that my sister, cousins and I were trained in the way that we should go. Whether we did or not was up to us. At the time, though, I didn't think that I had that choice...I thought that I was just being bossed around. Come to think of it, I was too smart for my own good, which got me into trouble a number of times. What also influenced me greatly was music. My mother told me once that I knew how to sing before I knew how to talk. (I thank my mother for those many trips to a speech therapist--and the trips to a local café for sweet potato pie afterwards--so that I may be able to talk more effectively. Before that, I used a lot of nonsense words.) I was exposed to a lot of music growing up. As I grew, I gravitated to some artists more than others, the biggest ones being Natalie Cole, Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament, The Jacksons (as well as Michael's solo career at that point), Stevie Wonder, Prince (and any project he had his hand on), and anything that Quincy Jones produced. On the flip side, I was also influenced by some not-so-great things as well. I was told that I was retarded; I was called a homosexual, when I knew that I wasn't; I would get beat up for fighting back or for no reason at all. However, the biggest thing that influenced me negatively was pornography. Yes, I was exposed to pornography within the first 9 years of my life. It became my drug; I saw and did things that no little kid should even know about. All of these things--the good and the bad--began to mold my character and my view of the world.
After turning 9 in 1981, my mother, sister, and I (my father wasn't in the picture, really) moved to South Carolina. Not only did I pack my clothes and my belongings, but I also packed my influences--every single one of them. While living in South Carolina, I was met with the same issues I had while in DC. My love for music and the fine arts grew, as well as my appetite for pornographic material. What also grew was my anger and frustration. As I grew older, I was getting tired of being disrespected, picked on, and not taken seriously. At one point, I was so malicious that I actually wanted to hire someone to kill a person who was bullying me in college back in 1991. Fortunately for everyone involved, nothing came of it. There was even a time when I wanted to take my own life, because I didn't know how to deal with the frustration and loneliness I was feeling.
This was when my quest for love began. I knew about God, but unfortunately, I tried to shape Him into what I wanted, so I could hold onto the things that I wanted to keep in my life. I had a "girlfriend", but it wasn't necessarily a meaningful relationship. (Side note: A relationship based on lust and selfishness doesn't last.) I "prayed Jesus into my heart"; I sincerely meant it. I realized that I had to get rid of certain things, but it was hard to do, because Jesus truly wasn't Lord of my life yet. It wasn't until April of 1992, when I went to church with a person who invited me, that I found out that praying Jesus into my heart was never a part of God's plan of salvation--it's nowhere in the Bible. This made me more interested in studying the Bible for the first time in my life. (My mother exposed me to the Bible a long time ago; I even knew a few Scriptures while growing up. It didn't mean that I knew God or what His Word said. I was even "baptized" at the age of 6, but even then I knew that I was just getting wet because I didn't know what I was doing.) However, when I started digging into the Bible, I wasn't being real with myself or with the people who loved me enough to take the time to help me. I was too busy trying to put up a front, saying things that would make me look or sound intelligent. I was given a wake-up call by Ceaser Gorman (thank you, my brother). He told me that, if I didn't get serious about myself and who I am before God, and stop trying to please people, then we would stop studying the Bible. I was at a crossroad at that point: either get serious about myself, or risk losing the opportunity to be with God forever. I chose to get serious. Once I did, I finally found real love in my life...I found it in Jesus and what He did for me on my behalf. I found it in the amount of grace and mercy God had--and still has--on me. How could I not respond to this great love? Therefore, on Wednesday, June 17, 1992, at 10:33 pm, I made the decision to believe in the gospel (which is the good news that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died for my sins, that He was buried, and that God resurrected Him on the third day), to repent (to change from a worldly way of thinking to a godly way of thinking), and to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. At that point, I was given an incredible gift: the gift of the Holy Spirit, who guides me and counsels me to live a life worthy of the calling I received, and to live this life according to God's will for me. This is the greatest decision I've ever made in my entire life. It's not an easy life, but it sure is meaningful and purposeful. I don't regret it one bit.
Colossians 3:3 NIV
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
1972 was the year I was born; 1992 was the year I was reborn. In 1992, I was no longer being for myself...I was being for God's glory. My entire identity and life are now hidden with Christ in God. Not only do I now know who I am, but I also now know whose I am; nothing and no one can ever take that away from me. I guess you could say that 1992 is more than a milestone in my life...it's a cornerstone, a foundation to build on--and that foundation is Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah. To build on any other foundation is a waste of time and energy (Matthew 7:24-27; 1 Corinthians 3:11).
In order to figure out your purpose for living on this earth, it all starts with laying a strong foundation in Christ. This foundation is available to everyone...yes, even you, who are reading this blog entry. I want to encourage you to get someone to help you get into the Bible and see for yourself what God has done for you. The Word leads to the way to God, which is through Jesus Himself. Afterwards, you will arrive at a crossroad. Will you believe in the gospel, repent, and be baptized into Christ, or will you make like Fleetwood Mac and "Go Your Own Way"? Your decision will make a huge impact on the strength of your foundation and the outcome of your life and the lives of others.
Ephesians 1:11-12 NIV
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
The above-mentioned Scripture has come to mean a lot to me recently; I thank God for using my brother and friend Dave Eastman for bringing it to the forefront of my mind. One of the biggest things I've gotten from this Scripture is actually a small, two-letter word: be. I know, right? It can be hard to miss if you're not looking for it. However, once the word was brought to the forefront of my mind, it began its journey to my heart and gave me a new perspective on my personal life and the world around me--a mantra, if you will.
For such a small word, there is so much power attached to it. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word "be" means "to have an objective existence; have reality or actuality." To be is to exist; therefore, when looked at from the perspective of Ephesians 1:11-12, those who are in Christ were chosen in order to exist for the praise of God's glory.
What an incredible honor! What joy it is to know that, by God's Spirit, I'm here to show just a glimpse of His power and greatness! And you know what the best part is? This representation isn't limited to me...you can represent a glimpse of His greatness as well! (More on how you can later.) This blog is a snapshot of my personal journey as a worship leader within the body of Christ, with the name of each entry being a milestone year that has helped to mold my being. It's not necessarily for worship leaders...it's for all who have a gift--and we all have gifts (Romans 12:6-8). My hope and prayer is that, through this journey I've shared, you will begin one of your own, and see what incredible things God has in store for you. Thank you for taking the time to come to this blog and read it. I hope not to take too much of it. Much love.
2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Galatians 5:13-15 NIV
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
No human being on this earth was ever meant to be oppressed. However, due to arrogance, pride, selfish ambition, and even fear, some people throughout the course of history have been oppressed, misused, mistreated, mishandled, abused, and even killed. Disciples of Jesus have gone through this type of treatment since the beginning of God's kingdom; it even started in Old Testament times before the coming of the Messiah.
Regardless of what mankind has done to one another over the centuries, oppression has never been and never will be a part of God's will. According to the Scriptures, God's people are called to be free, not oppressed. That freedom can only be attained through living by the Holy Spirit, not through living by man's sinful desires. When everyone within the body of Christ lives by the Holy Spirit, oppression ceases to exist. However, When God's people are oppressed, there's potential for the Spirit's fire to get quenched, leading to anger, frustration, and even rebellion. Surely, this is not the way to go.
To the oppressed within the body of Christ, I say to you, in the words of God through the apostle Peter:
1 Peter 4:12-19 NIV
...do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
In addition, put yourself in a position to exist for God's glorification. When you're in touch with the Holy Spirit and live by him, you will see what God's will is for you, and you will thrive, regardless of what may be going on around you. It doesn't mean that life will be forever easy, but it means that life on this earth will be easier to bear when you're yoked with Christ. It's also important to surround yourself with people who are like-minded as you, having the same Spirit and purpose (Philippians 2:1-2). God never meant for you to go at this whole thing alone.
To the oppressor, I give you this admonishment from God's word:
Matthew 7:12 NIV
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Do you want to be mistreated? If not, then don't mistreat others. Do you want to be shackled and limited by other people's thinking and actions? If not, then don't shackle and limit others with yours. Do you want to be oppressed? If not, then don't oppress others. As mentioned earlier, living by the Holy Spirit will alleviate all of this.
The ultimate goal for all of this is to honor God with our lives, to edify His church, and to give the lost an opportunity to be redeemed by Jesus, the only way to get to God. Let's make His ways more important in our lives than our own ways. Much love.
I called this album "Who's with Me" for a couple of reasons; both of them are based on one Scripture each:
1. Joshua 1:9 NIV
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
No matter what challenges I face, no matter what emotions I may feel, I know that, as long as I'm God's man, God will be with me through all of it.
2. 1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
There have been times when I felt like I was alone in the faith, fighting for righteousness on my own, with no one by my side to help or to get encouragement from. This Scripture shows that I'm not alone. I actually have friends all over the world who are tirelessly working for God's glorification, for His church's edification, and for the lost's opportunity for redemption through Jesus's example and sacrifice. For those of you who would like to know more about Jesus and what He's done on your behalf, send me your questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This album was created with two things in heart and mind: (1) To give the listener an opportunity to worship and extol God, and (2) to edify the listener with biblical truths. Any other blessings that may come as a result of the album being released is just icing on the cake in my eyes. That being said, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for inviting these songs into your life. If you haven't gotten the album yet, then you can stop by the store to order your copy, or you can purchase it from your favorite online music store. Much love.