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.
May God be glorified through my entire life!