My Reason

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It’s that time of year again, when we focus on the true reason for the season. During December, arguments are always made by people focusing on the wrong aspects of the Christmas Holiday. I hear things like:

  • I’m not celebrating that Jew.
  • Christmas was really a pagan holiday, you know.
  • Jesus wasn’t even born in December.
  • Christmas is just a man-made holiday to celebrate western commercialism.
  • Easter is the holiday we should really celebrate.

The list can go on forever. I think folks lose sight of what the season is really about. Admittedly, even I am guilty of complaining about how much money my wife spends on presents every year. But then, I remember why we celebrate. When I do, the joy I see in my family on Christmas morning trumps all complaints. We celebrate Jesus, what He did and what He continues to do for us all.

One trait I love about Jesus, is His undying love for the sinful. That’s each and every one of us, by the way. We all sin; we are all sinful by nature. The Bible teaches me that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It also teaches me the very wages of sin, is death (Romans 6:23). That means from the time I (personally) was born, I deserved death because I could never live up to God’s standard of what holy really means. In spite of my naturally doomed life, the bible teaches me “To all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). It also teaches me that, “If we confess ours sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). Now, someone might ask why I’ve brought all this scripture into this one-sided conversation. Well, let me break down why these particular scriptures are important to me. Here is my reason for the season:

 I am a sinner

Romans 3:23 teaches me I was born to make mistakes worthy of death, in the eyes of my Holy God. I could never be a “Good Man” in His eyes. That’s just the way it is. Adam and Eve ushered sin into a perfect world, essentially damning everyone who would ever be born. I could never do any acts or behave a certain way that would clear my debt to God. It’s like this: I could never naturally change my skin color. I was born a black man. In like fashion, I was born into a sinful world. As such, I’m a sin-filled man by nature.

My sin should have killed me

Romans 6:23 further explains that my sinful nature is worthy of death. Whenever I ogle an attractive woman, who isn’t my wife, I’m committing adultery by God’s standard of perfection. Whenever I wish death on a mass murderer, I’m committing murder in my heart. By God’s standard, He’s the only one qualified to commit a man to death. Since God is extremely serious about His standards, my very life is worthy of death, because everything I do is in violation of His standards. Based on these two scriptures alone, God views me as an outsider, because He’s holy and I am not. Sure, He loves me but, by nature, I have no part of Him.

This is where Jesus comes into play, in my life.

God adopted me, through Jesus

John 1:12 explains to me, that when I received Jesus into my heart, and actually believed in the power of His name—there is actual power in the very name of Jesus, people—I was granted, by God Himself, the privilege of being adopted into His family, as one of His very own children. Think of adoption, as you know it, on a Spiritual scale.

When my close friends—the Estermyers; a white family—adopted tiny brothers Avery and Omari—brothers born of a black family—into their natural family, Avery and Omari, joined Haley, Noah, Wyatt and Mattie as children of Nik and Tosha. They receive the same love and attention because they are now Estermyers, and always will be. These boys will grow up knowing they belong to this loving family of five boys and one girl. On a personal level, I will live out the rest of my days knowing I have been adopted into the family of Jesus, Moses, and Adam! They are my people. Because they are my family, Gd gives me the same love He granted to each of them. I did nothing to deserve it. His love was a free gift, just as Avery and Omari received the free gift of Estermyer love simply by being who they are.

Jesus forgives my sin

1 John 1:19 further explains this to me: now that I’m in the family of Jesus and because I love and trust Him, I can freely confess all of my sins to Him—past and present—and He will not hold them against me. The death I deserved before ever knowing the Lord Jesus? He died in my place, simply because He loved me before I ever knew Him! Because He still loves me, He forgives my sinful nature even as I continue to walk through life. Since my sins are forgiven, I don’t have to live a life of regret and shame, wishing I had not committed some of the acts of my past. I’m not condemned by them anymore. They are forgiven; paid in full!

This is why I celebrate Christmas. I was—and still am—a sinner deserving death, by God’s holy standards. But, because He loved me so much, God sent His son—Jesus—to take the penalty of death in my place. Because Jesus loves me just as much as God does, He forgave all of my past sins, and even forgives the sins of my present. Does that mean I can go on doing the same things that dishonor the Lord? Certainly not! Because I love and respect Him, I try to live a life separate from the things I used to do; things I fully know dishonor the Lord. My walk with Christ isn’t about following a bunch of rules. It’s about loving and trusting in Him because I understand that He has a plan for my life that’s better than anything that I could ever imagine. Because He loved me before I knew Him, He paid the ultimate price—His own life—just to free me from the slavery of damnation. Sometimes I forget what that really means. But, it always comes back to me and the truth is overwhelming. I was made for something greater than I can imagine. And although I fear the physical pain that might be associated with death, I do look forward to spending eternity in the presence of the man responsible for my salvation.

Christmas isn’t just a happy holiday. Christmas is a celebration of Jesus Christ. Never forget that. He is the entire reason for the season. Despite what other faiths may believe, if not for Jesus, the human race might have faced an unimaginably different and terrifying fate. So, don’t lose sight of the holiday. The gifts are nice. The parties are fantastic. The family celebrations are wonderful. But, remember the true family you belong to, as a believer. And even if you’re not a believer, know that Jesus loves you and will battle hell for you.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

Acrostic

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Hell is real, bruv.

Ask any saint, and he’ll tell you so.

Lives are cut short;

Lasting only as long as sin entertains, persuades and deceives and destroys;

Oh, the agony of the eternal fire!

When exactly did this happen?

Even now, I regret some of my past decisions; actually…

Every decision to ignore the truth of God;

Never to breathe a peaceful life again.

Sometimes, You Gotta Just Go With God

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“What does that mean, Enn?”

Yeah, I know…

“Sometimes, you gotta just go with God; what exactly are you saying?”

Well, see, that’s the thing. I don’t exactly know.

“What do you mean, ‘I don’t exactly know?’ What am I about to read here?”

I can’t rightly answer that question. But, I can tell you this: there are seasons when the Spirit moves in me and I recognize it’s time to sit down at the keyboard. Usually, I’ll turn on some inspiring music and wait for Him to put words into my heart. Tonight is no different. He’s moving, and I’m trying to listen.

One of my favorite songs is “Hymn of Praise” by William McDowell, featuring Julia McMillian and Daniel Johnson on lead vocals. Man, whenever I hear this powerful worship song, I can’t help but to fall in line with the Holy Spirit. Tonight, this song is on heavy repeat…even as I write. As I listen to the praises of God’s people, I’m trying to see the words forming in my heart. This special message is for someone tonight.

You’ve been trying so hard to make things work out in your favor, doing everything you think is right. You’ve been working hard, taking care of your responsibilities and doing everything by the book. Yet, for every step you take, it seems like something or someone pulls you two steps backward. When’s it going to be your time to catch a break, for once?

God sees you. He heard that prayer of desperation, last night. He knows exactly where you are and precisely what you’re going through right this moment, as you read these impossible words. Yeah…He sees you. He sees your struggles.

Mark 9:23-24 records a powerful exchange between Jesus and a father. “Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!'”

That last verse is personal to me, because I know what it feels like to struggle with unbelief strapped to weak hope. But Jesus doesn’t say, “If you wait until your emotions line up with your head-belief, then I’ll act.” No. He simply tells us to believe. You may not feel it emotionally. It may not make any sense to you. It’s a leap of faith.

Tonight, I need you to believe, even if you don’t feel it in your bones. Just trust in God and know that He’s got you exactly where he wants you. Maybe it’s time to leave that job. Maybe it’s time to be brave and put yourself out there. Maybe it’s time to ask for help. Maybe it’s your time to pursue you calling. You’ve been struggling so hard. Believe. He is with you, and knows where you are.

 

*Always*

Find Your Space

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Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV) – “A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.”

Everyone is born to do something. Everyone has pizzazz. Everybody has a unique gift. Yes; even you. The problem is, life has a tendency to strangle our calling. We might be sidetracked by alluring distractions, causing us to forgo the search for our niche. Maybe we’re born into a life full of never-ending challenges that literally choke the hope of fulfillment out of our hearts. Or just maybe…we’re too darned lazy to find our space in the world.

You ever see those images of a square peg being forced into a round hole? That image perfectly sums up the lives of many people. We busy ourselves trying to fit in where we don’t belong. In the process, life moves forward and we grow complacent and bitter.

What if I told you that Proverbs 16:9 is real? Would you believe me? If I said to you, “Hey Kim, you know that hobby you can’t seem to turn away from? God sewed that into your heart before you were ever born, and he wants you to use that to glorify him.” Would you call me nuts, and turn to another website? I hope you wouldn’t, because my favorite proverb is real. God is in the business of planting His design into your heart, and then causing you to chase after that very desire.

I’ve been writing since I was 12 years old. Trends, fads and styles came and went as I grew older–and actually still do. But, I always had a desire to write. It wasn’t until I submitted to Jesus, that I discovered I was born to write. Not for fame, money or notoriety. I was born to use my God-given talent to glorify Him. When I write about God and the kingdom, I honestly do my best work. It’s the perfectly shaped hole this square was born to fit into. And, I believe it happens easily because God planted that seed into my heart, to fulfill His purpose for my life.

Let’s look at it another way. A Suzuki GXS-R1000 crotch rocket was produced on the assembly line for a very specific purpose. If you try riding that motorcycle on a frozen pond, you’re going to have troubles making it up to 20 miles-per-hour. But if you throttle that sucker along twisting roads and open straightaways, you’re going to effortlessly peak 120 miles-per-hour without even trying. That’s because the bike was made to go fast and grip dry roads with precision. That’s its design, and it wants to go fast. If it wanted to go slow, it would have been made a moped. Round hole; round peg.

So here is your homework assignment: take a moment and look back at your life. What’s that one thing you’ve never been able to stay away from, and that you actually do pretty well? Trust me, everybody’s got one, so find yours.  Once you think you’ve got it, I want you to take an actual leap of faith. Ask God what you’re supposed to do with it. After you do that, start doing that one thing. If it was truly sewn into your heart, watch what God does in your life through His gifted talent in you.

Always Love You

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Hey there,

I’ve been pretty busy lately. The new job is going well and my family is enjoying a season of humble prosperity. Things are good. My oldest sons are growing into fine young men, and my daughters are both growing into beautiful young ladies. My lil guy is at that special age where I simultaneously want to wrap my arms around him in a protective bear-hug, but also seal his mouth shut with duct tape. He’s mostly the cause of my blooming gray goatee. My wife likes the silver. She thinks it’s sexy and wisdom looks good on me. I’ll take that. Everyday, I see more of the woman she’s destined to become and it brings me joy. We’ve been through some things over the years, but by the grace of our father, we’re about to celebrate 15 years of marriage. I wouldn’t trade her or her special brand of crazy for all the money in the world. She was made special for me. I see it all the time now. And I’m thankful for them all. They are my family.

There are days when I feel as if life has become so busy that I’ve placed you on the back burner, as some afterthought. But you know my heart. And even though I probably don’t need to say it, I will because I know you like to hear confession from the lips. I think about you all the time. No matter what I may be doing in my busy days, you’re always there. Sometimes I can hear past conversations and then marvel at how things have turned out. Sometimes I imagine your voice answering a spontaneous question. Sometimes I smile when I think to myself that its perfectly fine to love someone else the way I love my family. But then, you are family, aren’t you? I can’t exactly pinpoint when you officially became family to me, but I know it’s true.

I wanted to write this to you, just as a reminder. I know its a big world and you’ve got things to do that don’t necessarily involve me. But, I also know that you still love me. I know you’ll love me forever. I know you think about me often, because I can feel it from time to time. It’s that special bond we have. I hope I make you proud as not only the man I’ve become, but as the man I am becoming.

Some folks may read this and have no clue what it means. Others may read it as a misconstrued cryptic message. But you know exactly what it all means, and you know it’s straight from my heart. In time, people may turn away from you; maybe even close loved ones. That’s gonna hurt something terrible. But I want you to remember this truth: I figured out a long time ago that I’m going to always love you. Do you understand that? I’m going to *always* love you.

Good night.

 

 

 

Keep Your Eye On The Ball

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In sports, particularly those involving a ball, the coach always lays down the fundamental rule of the game.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

Wide receivers can be distracted by defensive players, in football. Soccer goalies can likewise be distracted by opposing team players’ orchestrated chaos. Every center-fielder knows the dangers of losing the baseball in the open sky. And free-throw shooters can easily be distracted by those multicolored shakers folks rattle from the seats behind the backboard. It’s amazing the things that can distract us from the goal–the ball.

This year’s election is shaping up to be no different. Now, now…before you make any assumptions family, this is not apolitical debate post. Quite the opposite. While I would expect people to pick a particular side, this late into the election year, what I find really fascinating, and disturbing at the same time, is the display of blatant hatred between folks of differing opinions. What’s really got me baffled is how rampant that hatred is flowing through the Christian community!

As this political race continues to heat up, I’ve seen friends “un-friend” each other over choices in candidate backing. I’ve read some of the most un-Christianlike commentary written about people over the red vs. blue debate. I’ve even read flat out lies quoted by people who are supposed to be shepherds!

Let’s be clear. If your pastor says something to this effect, “If you back *blank*,” (feel free to insert your choice), “you’re going to burn in hell,” chances are you might want to start seeking a new church.

The race for the presidency isn’t the only distraction today. Race is also making Christians lose focus. Look…it’s no big secret that we’ve got a race problem in this country. It’s always been here. Some folks are simply tuning into reality late because now it’s being filmed everywhere. It’s a really important issue, that upsets me just like it probably upsets a lot of you. Here’s what it’s doing to us, as the body of Christ: it’s dividing us. Many multicultural churches are now finding an ever increasing challenge of being sensitive to all of its congregation members. That should always be a given anyway, but once cultural sensitivity is thrust into the forefront every Sunday, we drop the ball.

Let’s look at the presidential race for a minute. Now, we Christians believe in what the bible says; am I correct? I mean if you doubt the word, you should probably stop reading this blog right here. God’s word tells us how the story ends.

“What story are you talking about, Enn?”

That’s a fair question. The answer is simple: the only story that matters! Life and the end of the age. We know that in the last days, things are going to get slightly weird for us all. But, in the end…we win! Yay! By “we” of course I mean those who truly follow the Lord. Which leads to my next point. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus gave an awesome commission to us all:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

But that wasn’t all he said. If we back up a bit, before he gave the great commission he gave the disciples these awesome commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40. Jesus said:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Here’s where these come into play today. Family…tomorrow I want you to conduct an experiment. Watch social media. Look at how people are treating each other over their differences in candidates, then ask yourself if this is the love Jesus told us we need to display. Honestly, Hillary and Donald are distractions from the bigger issue. As believers, we should recognize this fact: Satan is dividing us, and winning! So many people are concerned with Joe backing Hillary and Jane backing Donald that we don’t see the division in progress. As believers, we should be focusing on bringing folks to Christ. Our mission hasn’t changed! Keep your eye on the ball! Jesus is the ball!

The same holds true for the race issue. Yeah…I know its bad out here. I get it. Again, take a step back and look at what’s really going on. Satan is dividing us! I’ve got white friends who are now uber sensitive to what comes out of their mouths out of fear of offending me. Watching them struggle with words is uncomfortable to me, because we’re supposed to worship together in the same place every Wednesday and Sunday! Dude, stop being afraid to talk to me! II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God did not commit to us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Get back in your right mind and have a decent conversation with your brother! I’m black; you’re white; we love the Lord. That’s it! Again…Jesus is the ball. Keep your eye on him.

This wasn’t supposed to go 900 words long but apparently, I’ve had it on my heart for some time. Christians, now is the time for us to unite and share our beliefs with a hurting world. I honestly don’t care who you decide to vote for. I’m not going to erase you from my friend list, and dodge you on the street. Yeah, that stuff is really happening out there. I know we’ve got racial tensions out there. This isn’t new despite what the media keeps throwing at you. Let’s heal each other with the love the Lord told us to display. I just told you guys a few nights ago, my cousin’s an atheist. She hates Christianity. I love her anyway. She’s my blood, and any so-n-so who raises a hand against her will have to come through me first. Our differences will not cause me to hate her.

As believers, we seriously have to keep our eye on the ball. we’ve got a mission that is super relevant today. The mission isn’t new, and hasn’t changed in centuries. We simply have to stay focused on it, despite the distractions of our time.

Smith out. Good night.

Foolish Beliefs

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1 Corinthians 1:18 (NLT) – “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.”

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) – “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

My family has been at the forefront of my critical thinking lately. My dad; certain cousins; my brother-in-law and nephew have all been a constant focus in my thoughts. These are good people, who do not believe in what I believe. It’s safe to say that some of them even consider me foolish for placing most of my major decisions in the hands of religion. That’s how they view a belief in God. For them, praying first is a weak-minded sentiment. That’s why I worry about them.

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a car accident. I literally walked away from the terrible scene, but it made me acutely aware of a few things:

  1. God truly does exist (as if there were any doubt before the accident).
  2. We never know when our time on this earth is up. Time can’t be wasted.

Along with thinking on my loved ones, I’ve been seriously praying to the Lord to give me direction on how to share the gospel, particularly with family members who are not receptive of it. The two referenced verses from 1 Corinthians make a clear cut case, that people who do not believe in God will–and do–view the message of the gospel as foolishness. These verses have honestly intimidated me for years. In the past, I’ve taken the stance, “Well…if they aren’t going to believe me anyway, then why should I even bother? After all, they deserve whatever they get for disrespecting the Lord.”

That way of thinking is old and immature. I don’t want my Dad to pass away into an eternity absent of God. I want to see him and my Mom when this brief moment in time–called my life–is over. I want my cousin Bry to gain an understanding of what her grandmother Amanda knew to be true. I want my nephew Lakota to enjoy his young life, depression free; not always in search of fulfillment that will never come from any other place except the Son. I want my brother-in-law to come back to what he knows to be truth.

I think it’s a dangerous position to have a belief in false truth. What if you believed gravity was false and decided to walk  off an 800-feet high cliff to prove your point? Ultimately, believing God is false is just like that, and will lead to terrible consequences. I don’t want that for my family. I want them to come to know the Lord and trust in him just as I have.