Everyone has a past. Paul wasn’t always Paul. He was once Saul. And unfortunately, we forget WHO and what Christians really are. Sinners. There are those who find it much easier to point the finger at others than to point the finger at themselves, not realizing it’s a set up by satan. A setup by satan to distract people from seeing themselves; healing themselves; and to get people to spend their energy on critiquing and judging others. And I was reminded of this when I watched Iyanla Vanzant’s DMX episode. It was heart wrenching for many of us to watch. It was hard to see his brokenness. But let us not forget, God is close to the brokenhearted. I know. I am one of them.
It’s never too late for God to heal. And I wonder how many people, who had an opinion about DMX and his dysfunctionalism, saw their own dysfunctional family or neighbors. He’s not the only man on drugs or who’s suffered from mental illness or who fell short as a father. Many of us come from broken homes and communities and not everyone makes it out HEALTHY. Not everyone is up feeding the poor this morning or donating money to mental illness, especially those without health insurance. Let’s be honest, opinions don’t bring about change. And from God’s viewpoint every single one of us can use CHANGE in at least one area of our lives. Everyone. The pruning process of becoming like Christ is a process and a journey. Not a destination. And with God, it is NEVER too late to heal.
But that’s satan’s set up. Let’s gossip and shut down Kim Kardashian, a woman who is continuously beat up on in the media. Bashed maybe because she had sex with someone she shouldn’t have. Oh, how many of us can say that??! But I get it. Gossip often stops people from growing because they’re so consumed by the lives and shortcomings of others. It feels better that way, I guess, to talk about DMX and Kim K because it allows people to HIDE from themselves and their own backyard. But in order to have a relationship with God, it’s necessary to face yourself; it‘s necessary to face your junk; your past; and then allow God to reconcile you to Him; to heal; to help you to transition from Saul to Paul. We all need it. Some of us, way more than DMX and Kim Kardashian because we’re broken. All of us. And only God the Potter has the assets to rebuild us to be the masterpiece He had in mind. It is in my brokenness that God had a chance to show off in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, we all should be able to move forward from our past, but we have to first face it; recognize where we went wrong and DO BETTER. God doesn’t get caught up in our past and sin, particularly if we repent and do better. But we have to recognize hate for what it is. Hate is hate to God. It doesn’t matter how it’s packaged. Ignorance is ignorance no matter how you cut it. God is hurt by ALL sin, no matter what. Gossip is hate and so is planting a bomb and killing innocent people. The bottom line is…allow your past to be past and to move from glory to glory to glory. DO BETTER. This is what God requires. Not that we are all perfect; but that we are willing and humble to allow Him to do a work in us. So, while the world is consumed with the past of others; who’s who in somebody’s bed; and what new drugs to glorify; God is looking to fix the brokenness in all of us-some more obvious than others, some playing the role of perfect; but EVERY knee will bow. DMX. Kim Kardashian, you and I. I’m just smart enough to stay on my knees so that when God returns, I’m already in position.
Don’t allow Satan to make you see the problems in others and not in yourself. You might not be a drug dealer; maybe just a user; or purchasing the hot records that glorify it, but we’re all responsible for making this world a better place.
Philippians 3:13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,
Acts 9 Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him.
Everyone has a past. Whether it's good or bad, we can all say that we have a past. And Satan loves it because it allows us to live in guilt, fear, and pain-far away from the abundant life God wants us to experience. The Word is clear that Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we might experience life more abundantly. And many of us cannot live in victory with a YESTERDAY mind or heart. Victory usually entails moving forward.
Recently, I was visiting with a friend of mine who I've known for 20 years now and while it might not have been malicious, he continued to bring up my past. He's a Christian and while I knew Satan was using him to rouse up feelings of hurt and guilt, he didn't appear to realize how I was feeling. He continued to tease and bring up memories I totally left behind many years ago. I tell people all of the time, everyday we have the ability to allow Satan or God to use us. We can either speak death or life to our loved ones and because Satan is busy, we have to be more conscious of the words we speak, especially when it comes to reminding others of their past.
Whatever your past is, drugs, alcohol, men, women, disease, sex, overeating, gambling, molestation, prostitution, debt, it cannot be changed, but you can change how you respond to it- by not allowing your wounded emotions to take root and harm your future or deter you from moving forward. You will never see what God has in store for you focusing on your past. Your purpose lies in your future. Plus, your past IS PAID FOR by the blood of Jesus Christ. Whenever you have that OUCH moment, recalling your painful past, immediately speak that you are ACCEPTED and not REJECTED by Jesus Christ. Be aware that Satan will drown you with your past. It's part of his job, but when you speak the Word of God, Satan has to FLEE.
More importantly, God doesn't want his children to RUN from him because they're afraid their past is not forgiven. Never stop seeking God because of your past. This is Satan's "favorite thing" to do because he has no future. BUT YOU DO. RUN to your future and leave behind yesterday. And if people in your circle can't let go of your past, you might need to let go of them. God is waiting for you, MOVING FORWARD.
Isaiah 43:18 - "Forget the former things. Do not dwell on the past."
I’ve been to heaven. Unlike most of the other stories I’ve heard, mine is not as elaborate, but I have left earth for a few where I was met by angels in 1991. I never shared this story with anyone other than close friends because who would ever believe that I experienced heaven. Plus, again, I couldn’t write a book about it. It was short. Sweet. It was Heaven.
I was born to Sheila and William Kirkland on December 9, 1970 in Paterson, NJ. Both of my parents divorced and I was blessed with two amazing stepparents. One of those parents, Carter Jefferson Jr., was an iconic Jazz saxophonist who played for The Temptations, The Supremes, Little Richard and more. In fact, you might recall that R&B hit "You Are My Starship". But he is known as a Jazz icon. And so, I was raised by two legends really. My father BK, a radio legend, known for exposing Hip Hop to NY’s radio airwaves, via Mr. Magic and Marley Marl. And Carter, my stepfather, where my life sounded like an orchestra and surrounded with Jazz geniuses who never received the respect they deserved, the talented late Phyllis Hyman being one of them.
During one conversation with my stepfather, in approximately 1977 when I was seven years old, I learned something fascina- ting. I was in trouble for my mouth and talking back. Our conversation went as follows as I sat on my parent’s bed –
Carter –What are you going to do when you stand before God?
Me – Tell God how good I am.
Carter – That’s not going to work.
Carter – Because God sees everything you do.
I was startled and a light bulb went off. He went on to tell me God was all around me. From that moment on, my relationship with Christ began. I felt God’s eyes on me. We then became friends and he followed me everywhere. I began talking to God, real conversation, and we were more like play mates when I was a child. I read the bible, but more importantly, we spoke to each other about everything. A neighbor brought me to Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where I immediately knew God was there and I was home. Months later, after the nudging from a friend named Janet, I walked to the front of the altar and told Rev. Napier, I wanted to get baptized. Alone. I understood, my calling early. I attended church alone Sunday after
Sunday pretty much my entire life.
For whatever reason, I chose sin. I knew God, personally, but like many Christians, sin seemed more fun, especially for a teen. While I was always different and pretty much a “good” kid according to worldly standards, I chose what I wanted to follow about Christ. And in 1991, undeservingly, I was brought to heaven.
It’s comforting to me when I hear stories about people who have been to heaven. It lets me know that I’m not alone, especially the stories where people didn’t die such as the encounter in the book “Heaven is For Real.” I didn’t die. I did not ask
to go to heaven. I might have read the Word before going to sleep, and I might have not. That part, I cannot remember. I do not recall feeling sick. I didn’t ask for anything. But somehow I wound up in heaven.
Oddly enough, I was transitioned to heaven as I was sitting in my chair at home. Somehow, I went from a bed, to my green chair. As I sat in the chair, I was raised. Flying. I was flying in a very bright light. So bright, that I imagine if we looked with a human eye it would hurt. Similar, to looking into a light bulb. Extreme light. I then, was in the presence of Angels. There were quite a few and they were very happy. Extremely happy and the joy in heaven cannot be explained on this earth. I’ve tried and I can’t. The angels knew me and they were so happy to see me. And I was just happy period. Extremely. We danced, with joined “hands” (not hands, but I was holding something), going around and around in a circle. The angels I was with did not have
bodies. Yes, they were white, with wings, but I did not see faces. And while they had a form and were touchable, I could if I wanted to it appeared, put my hand right through them if I tried. Another thing that was clear, I was in WORSHIP. I could not stop praising God. I could only continue saying, “Praise God! Praise God! Praise God.” They said nothing, but danced and enjoyed me as I praised God over and over again. We flew around and I was in pure Worship and felt pure Joy and pure love.
I do not remember my actual body, but I recall when I was brought back to the chair, I saw my body and I continued to Praise God! Praise God! Praise God! My hand movements looked like I was doing the wave at a football game and I couldn’t stop worshipping. I BEGGED not to come back to earth. “No!! No!!” I said as I was descending back to earth. Not sobbing, but teary eyed. Very sad and I wasn’t even given the option. I had no desire to come back here to earth. And while in heaven, I also had no clue about earth. Not my relatives. Nothing. I just wanted to stay in heaven and praise God. I never saw Jesus. Not God. I just hung out with a few angels that loved me a lot and was in God’s precence. And we worshiped in bright light. They are very happy up there. Words can’t explain. If you have any relatives up there, trust me, they are ELATED. The way we love here is really nothing. Love there is unexplainable.
When I realized that I had been to heaven, I shared with my mother, hesitantly because while my mother was a Christian, she
didn’t really attend church. But the joy in my heart, had me elated and I said to my mother, “I’m not afraid to die! I went to heaven! I explained.” My mother was in shock and asked that I stop because it was too much. I know she remembers, but I never brought it up again, because well, it was unbelievable and just that good.
My stepfather and I didn’t always get along. Like Bobbi Kristina (Whitney Houston's daughter), my stepfather did drugs and was an alcoholic. While he was loving to me, taught me all I needed to know about music and my relationship with God, like Bobbi I loved a parent who got high and no matter how many times he went to rehab; no matter how many people praised him for his art; he struggled. After years of wear and tear on the body, my stepfather while on tour in Poland, his stomach erupted on stage. On my birthday a few days later, he went to that place I visited called heaven. He was 47 years old. Due to them not embalming him in Poland, I never had the chance to see him again and we received his body back 25 days later where we had his friends, the industry and family celebrate his life with one more concert. Today, it still hurts.
I cannot explain the depth of the pain of not only losing a parent tragically, without warning, but what it’s like to love a parent who is an addict. It’s very complex, but I can say it is possible for that addict to be a good parent and to be loving. Carter was and while he wasn’t perfect, he taught me love and to have a relationship with Jesus Christ, which is why I am sure I had the opportunity to see heaven because of relationship.
I know from visiting heaven, God is not anal. God is quite simple. And all he asks all of us down here is that we humble ourselves and master LOVE. We are so fixated on sin, ugliness, righteousness, that we’re missing God. God doesn't focus on your sin as much as you think he does, that’s why he sent his son. But what he does care about is how big your heart is and that you love like a child loves. He wants you to love BIG and sometimes sin stops you from loving they way we're supposed to. That’s where sin becomes sticky. But I will say never allow the guilt of sin to keep you from having a relationship with Christ. Repent. Do better the next time. Go and love on somebody. And keep it moving.
I decided to share my story on heaven because when I went to heaven I was a sinner. A good one and still can say the same today. In fact, I wasn’t brought back to being in God’s presence until over 15 years later. So, if you don't get anything from my story today, know that Love is your calling, just as it is mine. Master love and don’t give up until you get there. In fact, Carter's last words, I learned years later, was THINK POSITIVE.
"Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord
thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and great
commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)
"And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang
all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:39-40 KJV)
Check out some of Carter's work below.
Whatever will tempt you today to go outside of God's will is a SET UP. Temptations are really false promises. Don't believe the hype and lose God's favor in the process. Remember that temptations are lies that FEEL good, but the consequences hurt so bad. Part of growing up is not taking a bite of every apple that looks good and feels good. Ask Adam and Eve. At some point, you have to know that not everything you desire will lead to abundant living, but abundant hell, even if that hell exists inside that head of yours for a lifetime. Let me share more.
My only regret in life was having sex outside of marriage. There’s the temptation to have sex and then there’s the temptation to be loved. For men, sex is pretty much just one bite of the apple and they can discard the cork. For women, however, it’s rare
we can discard anything. That shiny red apple is simply our heart; we’re looking for LOVE. In a matter of minutes, you give into a temptation for LOVE or SEX and then, many of us find out it’s a false promise. That false promise turns into a soul
tie or a child out of wedlock. You really thought he’d commit or marry you and then you realize, it was a LIE. I’ve seen this over and over again. And false promises play out in so many ways. Whether it’s sex, drugs, or money, so many people answer the temptation instead of answering God. God’s plan ALWAYS makes more sense, but initially it might not FEEL good to walk away from sex, some quick money, or a hit of cocaine. It takes courage to walk away, but to do so otherwise is dangerous.
Turning God’s no into a maybe can change your life in a matter of seconds.
With this said, when you ask the Lord in the Lord’s Prayer to “lead you not unto temptation and to deliver you from evil,” MEAN IT. A craving will kill you and that “thing”you want so badly at that moment is a promise from Satan and not from God. Lust feels good and answers immediately, but the pain of a false promise can last a lifetime.