The Brother who was Called James


James; the brother of Jesus Christ.  An amazing character in the saga of the early Christian church.  But James didn’t start out as an amazing man, but as a confused individual who knew nothing of God’s plan for his life.

James wasn’t a great leader at first.  He didn’t believe in the person of Jesus Christ. He didn’t believe Jesus, his own brother.  He thought Jesus was confused and mentally unstable. He was ashamed of how Jesus presented himself, and he couldn’t understand the motives behind Jesus’ work.

Jesus actually hints at James’ unbelief when Jesus says in Mark 6:4 (NLT), “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.”

James was a nobody, and the doubt in his heart kept him from seeing the amazing works that Jesus was performing daily among the Jews and gentiles.  His doubt separated him from God, and that separation is an experience that is prevalent in many of us today.  We are yearning for something, but we just can’t quite figure out what IT is.  God calls us to put down the doubt, throw away the lack of faith and and let God pick you up from the ashes.

It took a while for James to realize this.  Jesus’ death on the cross wasn’t enough, The rumors and eye witnesses of the apostles claiming they had seen the risen Jesus wasn’t enough.

But when Jesus appeared to James, he realized he was wrong the whole time.  Jesus’ appearance to James isn’t in the gospels, but it is in 1 Corinthians 15:7 (NLT), Paul writes that Jesus “… was seen by James, and later by all the apostles.”

James went on to be the overseer of the Christian church in Jerusalem.  He became an amazing leader, and ultimately was martyred for his belief in Jesus Christ as the messiah.

But now, we are full of doubt, as humans, we want to be able to see so we can believe. But nevertheless, God is still there with open arms.  It doesn’t matter if we go to church every day, or have never stepped foot into one.  It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done, where you’ve been or how you’ve done it. God loves us all, and Jesus’ mercy is for all.  God’s grace is stronger than doubt, and definitely larger than any sin you or I have ever committed.

If you want to learn more about God’s grace, I strongly recommend looking up Romans chapter 5, and if you want to ask me questions, ask me, and I’ll get in touch with you.

 

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The Cop Out


In the last week or so, I haven’t really had much to say.  I could tell you that writing was pushed to the side during my Thanksgiving break, but that would definitely be a lie.  I thought about writing.  I ached over the fact that I hadn’t written.  To be totally honest, I was blank, and couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to write about.  But now I have something.  And it’s something I actually take to heart.  It’s important to me.  I’m going to write about something that deeply upsets me.  I do it, and I find that many around me, at my Christian University do too.

At my school, each student is required to partake in a “course” called CSER.  It stands for Christian Service, or Community Service, and many call it C-Serve.  Because I transferred into Liberty University this last year, I had never participated in CSER.  I went out job hunting so to speak, and I found a health and rehabilitation center here in Lynchburg that caters to the elderly.  It’s similar to an elderly home, but most of the patients here are younger, but have physical problems or illnesses that require constant monitoring.

Now I’ll dive into what upsets me.

I’ve been going since September.  And since then I have become friends with a few of the elderly gentlemen that live there.  There is one elderly man, whom I shall call Bob, that I have become good friends with.  I’m upset with myself because there will be days and weeks where I tell myself I’m too busy to go to hang out with Bob.  Every time I go, I enjoy Bob’s company.  We have great talks.  I really enjoy going, and every time when I leave, Bob thanks me for coming and spending time with him.  I am disgusted with myself because some days I’ll say I have too much homework to do, and then I’ll waste my time on Facebook.  I could be really making a difference in the lives of many people, but I sit on Liberty campus.  Nevertheless, I do go.  I’m glad I go, and I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else for CSER.

The fact that I don’t spend a lot of time at the health and rehabilitation center does upset me,  but there is something else that upsets me even more.

There are so many CSER opportunities out in the community.  There are tons, just to name a few, working at an elderly home, working for Habitat for Humanity, Invisible Children, volunteering at the hospital, or anything out in the community.  But I find that most people at Liberty find really horrible CSER opportunities.  Instead of being out in the community, where people need Christians, and Christians are needed to serve, like Jesus, they decide to do a CSER right here on Liberty University campus.  WHY?  The word of God and presence of Christians is already right here on campus.  But in Lynchburg, only 2 miles away from campus, I don’t find Liberty University students doing CSER.  People can choose to do a CSER on campus where they sit in a professor’s office and do paperwork, or you can work for the Liberty security and do office work for them.  To someone in the community, looking in on CSER, it would seem as if Liberty is just getting free labor.  I, as a Liberty student, see it that way too.

God has called Christians to be out and among the community.  If we are going to do Christian service, or COMMUNITY service, then Serve The Community. Working on campus for Liberty is a cop out.  God desires every one in the community to follow Him, and if we aren’t in the community, and off Liberty campus, how is that going to ever happen?  If  the CSER isn’t out in the community, then call it Liberty free service, where you work freely for Liberty that is right now spending 50 million dollars on their new Library.  They have the money pay people to work on campus, but they can’t pay people to love and care and desire a change in the community.

Mercy and Grace Abide


Thunder and lightning in His presence,

But still mercy and grace abide,

It’s like I was running within the shadows,

And He’s the only one with the light,

He is the light, and I was wandering,

For lack of better terms I was blind,

I saw my caricature of innocence,

But guilt had distorted it’s white,

I tried to walk the road straight,

But always ended up following a lie,

Sailing with the weeping winds,

Indulging in the nature of mankind,

I knew I was made for a mission,

And sin was not what God had designed,

I was given mercy and grace,

And such forgiveness cannot be declined,

For Jesus Christ paid my price,

And in my place He died,

A sacrifice that defeated all death,

So in Jesus Christ I confide,

No matter a storm of hell or claim of man,

Will ever push my heart to slide,

For it is in Jesus Christ,

That my heart and soul reside.

                                  -Zachary Pinkston

The Story of Djonke


First of all, before I start my story, I want to give you some background knowledge.  The name Djonke is pronounced with a silent D, and that his name in its native language means slave.  This story takes place in Bamako, Mali.  Mali is situated in West Africa, above Ivory Coast and to the south of Morocco.  This took place in French, and the year is 1998.  This is a true story.

The Story of Djonke

Hello, my name is Djonke, I am twelve years old, and I live in Bamako.  I don’t live with my parents, because they are right now in the country of Zambia.  My father is a diamond miner, and my mother stays with him.  They never had enough money to take care of me, so right now, I live with my uncle here in Bamako.  About a year ago, an American family moved into the house beside me.  They have a son, named Zachary, and I have become really good friends with him.  We do almost everything together, we fish, and even hunt lizards together with our homemade slingshots.  In the street, we play soccer with all the other kids from the area; dodging the traffic and the sewer since it runs right through the middle of the road.  I started talking to Zachary and his parents about their belief, and why anyone living in the United States would ever want to come to Africa.  They told me that they were Christians and believed that their mission in life was to bring people to know Jesus Christ personally.

I got interested in what they were teaching.  Every week, besides playing with Zachary, I would come over and listen to them teach about the Bible.  This Jesus character was very interesting, and if what they taught was true, I wanted to be a part of it.  Over the next few months, I learned more and more.  They gave me my own bible in French, and I took it to my house and hid it underneath my mattress.  I had to hide it because my whole family is Islamic and if they found out I was interested in Christianity, I could be in danger.  Because I share my bed with a few of my cousins, my bible was found, and my uncle interrogated me over it, and beat me because of it.  I went to Zachary’s family in tears.  I decided to leave my Bible at his house and come study it when I got out of school before going over to my house.  I learned more and more, and I believed that Jesus Christ was in fact the savior and that God had sent him to save the world of their sins.

I was a believer, and now, I too was a Christian.

It was around March now, and my uncle realized that I had drifted away from the Muslim faith and had become a Christian.  He was furious and treated me as an outcast.  Being beat by him was normal, and my cousins treated me like a disease.

A few days before Easter, my uncle came to me with a VHS tape, and three nails.  He said that on Easter, the whole family was going to ridicule me for what I believed in.  He said they were all going to beat me, and they would watch the VHs tape he had which was the Jesus film.  They would mock Jesus, and then as the crucifixion came, they would nail those three nails through my hands and feet mocking my faith.

I went over to Zachary’s house and talked to his parents, I was crying, and they shared in my sympathy.  I decided that I truly believed that God had sent his son Jesus, and that my faith in Christ was true.  If this was going to happen to me because of my faith, so be it.  I prayed that God would save me from this torture.

Easter day arrived, and I was afraid for my life.  I did not run, but I prayed that I would be saved.  All day I waited, and my uncle was no where to be seen.

It turns out that my uncle had had car trouble the day before Easter.  He never made it home that night.  During Easter day, he spent the whole day trying to get the car fixed in town and never even returned to the house.  When he did return, he had lost all memory of what he had planned to do to me.  No one in my family mentioned it, and somehow, he never brought it up again.

I returned to Zachary’s family in tears, this time tears of joy.  God had saved me from a man who hated me and truly wanted me dead.  I continued to be good friends with Zachary and his family, and got connected with other believers in the area.

Zachary’s family had to leave in 2000, they had been re-assigned to another part of the world and had to go.  I continued to grow in my faith, and being able to fellowship with other believers in the area really helped me.

Now, in 2012, I have been reunited with my birth mother, and she lives with me now. I came to find out I had younger siblings, and now, my mother and younger siblings have become Christians.  Jesus christ is real, and has changed my very existence.

When It Is Finished


Two days ago, I went running in downtown Lynchburg.  The weather was great; a perfect day to go running.  As I was running on the path, I passed an overweight gentleman who wore a weighted vest and was speed walking.  I presumed he was drastically trying to lose weight the best he could.  As I passed him, he nodded at me in a friendly gesture, and I replied, “how are you doing today?”  As I kept running, I heard his reply.  He said, “we’ll see when it’s finished.”  I guess he was in some pain from working out, and wouldn’t be able to tell how he really was doing until it was over.  This brought up a theological point to my mind.  Many people in this world don’t believe they can know their position in the eyes of God.  For Christians, we know exactly where our position with God is.

God doesn’t tell us that if we believe in Jesus Christ, we might be saved.  He tells us that if we believe in Jesus Christ, we will surely be saved.

John 3:16 NLT  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

This is a common verse, that many people quote everyday.  We don’t have to wait for the finish to know whether or not we are acceptable in the eyes of God. Because of God’s son Jesus, everyone who believes in Jesus Christ is made acceptable by Christ’s sacrifice.

The book of 1st John is a perfect read if you struggle with wondering whether or not God’s grace covers you.

1 John 5:11-13 NLT “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life , and this life is in his Son.  12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.  13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.”

There is no doubt.  If we believe in the Son of God, Jesus Christ, we have no doubt that we are saved.  We do not have to wait until the journey is over to find out how we did, or what “grade” we got.  Believing in Jesus Christ as our savior is the way to salvation, and the Bible clearly tells us that we can be sure of it.

Grace and Mercy


What is mercy? What is grace? Usually I would give a definition to explain what they both are.  I might reach into the mind of theological professors to find out what they believe grace and mercy are.  But today, I’m not interested in what the definition is.  I don’t need to know what others think they know about it.  Today, I have some real life situations I’d like to examine to show you what grace and mercy are.

Sometimes I get tired in my theology class, so I bring fruit chew candies to my class to keep myself awake. I decided I would offer two of my classmates a piece of candy.  The first guy declined my offer, and wouldn’t take a piece of candy.  The second guy accepted my offer without hesitation, and I gave him a Starburst.  But what if, in the minutes following, the first guy decided he did want the candy?  What if he changed his mind?  Would I have given him the candy? Would he have had the courage to ask me again? Or would he have waited until I again offered the candy?

In the movie Training Day, starring Denzel Washington, Ethan Hawke, Dr. Dre, and Ludacris, there’s a great example that I’d like to use.  At the beginning of the story, Ethan Hawke is a rookie police officer and is about to get a one day evaluation by Denzel Washington. Denzel wants to evaluate him to see if he’s good enough to be on the undercover drug team.  Denzel is sitting in a Diner, and Ethan walks in and sits down. Denzel then offers Ethan breakfast, but Ethan turns down the breakfast.  After a few minutes of them sitting there and having a conversation, Ethan decides to get some breakfast after all, but Denzel yells at him, and tells him that he messed that opportunity up, and now, can’t get breakfast.

This scene in Training Day is a great example of what God’s mercy and grace IS NOT LIKE.  If we deny the grace God has for us, but ask for it at a later date, He will not hold out on us.  No matter when we ask for it, He will have that salvation for us.  Denzel Washington had no mercy or grace, and when Ethan Hawke asked for breakfast later, he wasn’t allowed to get any.  But when we say no to God, say no to God, say no to God, and then say yes to God, He is there with open arms.  God’s love is so abounding, that a sinner, someone who denied Christ, someone who spat at the name of God, can be saved.  That’s what we see with Paul in the Bible.  He murdered Christians, and laughed at Christ.  He hated these followers of Jesus, and did everything he could to put them in jail, and have them executed.  But when he realized Christ was the Saviour, and that he had been wrong, God did not hold out his mercy and grace.  God’s salvation was freely given, because God’s grace and mercy covers all.

The Years To Come


Everyone dreams.  I too dream.  Ever since I was a small child, I would plan out my future and what I wanted to be.

The first thing I can remember wanting to be was a pilot for the military.  My grandfather, B. Smith was in the Navy for a while and learned to fly fighter jets.  I was really fascinated at how they could takeoff and land on a moving ship.  I kept that dream with me through elementary school, until I was in fourth grade.

Every morning in my fourth grade French class, the Haitian teacher would turn on the television and let us watch the daily news.  This particular morning, he turned on the news and the Montreal anchor announced to my class that there was a situation going on in the United States.  The date was September 11th, 2001.  I watched the events unfold, and I told my classmates that when I was old enough, I was going to join the United States Army.  Of course, none of my classmates believed me.

In 2007, I went on a mission trip with a group from Georgia to South Africa.  We spent a few weeks at an orphanage.  This particular orphanage mostly took in children who were HIV positive, or were orphaned because of HIV and AIDS.  It broke my heart to see a nursery full of babies who never knew their parents because of AIDS, and that many of these babies, were infected with and had to live the rest of their lives with the cripple of HIV.

I came back from my trip to South Africa changed, but my goal to be in the Army remained.

In 2009, I moved from Canada to the United States to start college.  That October, I joined the Arkansas National Guard so that I could get my degree, but be part of the military at the same time.  I also did ROTC for the first two years of my college career, but decided Officership was not for me.  I went through basic, infantry school, and airborne school in 2010.

While being in college, I realized that I loved to write, and that I wanted to do something with writing.  I decided a journalism major would help me achieve an opportunity to write professionally. I really liked reading about different cultures, especially those featured in National Geographic Magazine.  I read Thomas L. Friedman’s book, From Beirut To Jerusalem, and was inspired to be successful, but to be successful a world away from the United States.  I decided that I wanted to eventually work for National Geographic, and that to work for them as a writer would be the ultimate success when it came to journalism.  No other magazine held the prestige of National Geographic and I in turn wanted to be a part of that legacy.

Then, in the summer of 2011, I went on vacation with my family.  It was no ordinary vacation, in reality, it wasn’t a vacation at all.  We went to Haiti, where we worked in an orphanage for a few weeks.  I really fell in love with the country and people of Haiti.  The couple who directed the orphanage were natives of the United States, and in their late twenties. They had come down to Haiti to start this orphanage, and had planned it out quite well.  They had nannies who would take care of the children during the day, and then at night, the day nannies were replaced with a few nannies who worked the night shift.  The orphanage housed about 50 to 60 babies to the age of five.

This was different than the way the orphanage in South Africa worked.  In South Africa, they had about 6 nannies, and these six women were in charge of one house.  Each house was home to 8 to 10 children from the age of two all the way to eighteen.  Each house would have older children who would act as the older siblings, and the ages would diminish until there were younger sibling who had come from the nursery.  I thought this was a great system.  The children had a mother figure who would tuck them in bed at night and then go to their respective homes in the surrounding community.  After lights out, the older siblings would take care of any problems.

The nursery in South Africa had nannies who stayed there around the clock.  Most of these babies were sick, had been neglected, or HIV positive.

Over the 2011/2012 school year, I realized that I wanted to eventually start a magazine that focused on Africa, and what God was doing in the continent.  This is still something I dream of doing someday.

This summer, I was in New Mexico at a Christian college convention visiting my father.  One day, a group of the missionaries went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant, and I joined my father.  I sat by a gentleman named Randall Gallaway.  He asked me about my hobbies and what I enjoyed doing, and he found out promptly that I was in the U.S. Army.  He told me that he supported me, but then changed the tone.  He told me that as good as it was being in the Army, the Army doesn’t bring people to Christ.  That really affected me.  It is still affecting me today.  He told me that he had worked for many years with African students.  He told me that there was a huge need in the world for Christian men and women to start orphanages.  He explained that I would be perfect for it because of my military training, and that I could also write while directing an orphanage.  I told him I would pray about it.

The last month or so, I haven’t been able to get this conversation out of my mind.  I have worked in orphanages, I have loved working in orphanages, and I may have the skills to run a Christian orphanage.  I am really praying and asking God if this is what he wants me to do.  I know that it would not interfere with my writing, and if anything, would give me more to write about.  I’m really thinking about the possibility of directing an orphanage after I get out of the Army, in 2015.  I hope that the years to come prepare me for this, or whatever God wants for me in my life.