The Truth About Success

The Truth About Success

Video Courtesy of Church of Motion — Life Hacks – How God Will Build Your Career For You


Success is a relevant but slippery topic for Christian young adults. Many have graduated high school or college and joined the workforce, some with excitement. They find, however, that the world they entered is different than what they expected. Things they considered concrete may seem anything but, including how to measure accomplishments and achievements. Added to this is the idea that there is a massive amount of advice available about success and what it is.

This advice very often is given by people who have already reached the pinnacle of prosperity and spoken like the journey is merely following three simple steps. There is, however, no need to panic. Instead of finding simple steps, there are three truths a Christian young adult can use to find success. By keeping these in mind, the journey may be less daunting, but also it can be educational and be very enjoyable.

The first truth is to throw out the cultural idea of a standard definition of success. This may be a challenge because of the notion that concept is planted in our psyche from an early age. We are told about millionaires and presidents but not crossing guards and home care nurses. Society lauds students who get full scholarships to 20 colleges but not the student who is the first person to be accepted into college. There is no one size fits all because there is no one size fits all people. This is especially true with Christians.

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Ephesians 2:10 reflects this theme. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” If our lives are His plan, then He determines success. He sets the standard. He has already decided our good works, and all we have to do is find out His plan and follow along. This may be a hard habit to break, but as you continue to submit to the idea that the determination of what is “good works” is not yours, then it will be easier.

Success by definition is accomplishing one’s goals. The goal doesn’t matter. The achievement of the goal does. If God directs our lives and we achieve the good works He has prepared for us, that is the highest level attainment. This doesn’t always bring money or fame. If these things are the only way a person evaluates their accomplishments, it will lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.

The second truth is to realize that God tailors your success to how He made you. Many people believe that attainment is becoming an executive with a corner office, but in their hearts, they would much rather work with their hands. Or the government worker that would prefer to work in a food bank. Or a hair salon. This cognitive dissonance is akin to wearing shoes that don’t fit. Yes, they are shoes, but they may be someone else’s. Finding the right fit comes down to listening to God and watching for patterns.

Hearing God is not impossible. As a matter of fact, God very much wants to guide His children to the good works He has prepared for them. The Bible is full of passages in which God promises to guide us. Psalm 32:8 (NKJV) holds God’s promise; “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” This model of guidance points back to the truth that God knows what a fruitful and meaningful is for you and wants to lead you there.

A third step is to recognize that a job is not the only place in which a person can be successful. There is much emphasis put on having a career filled with awards and advancement. Picking the right career, right degree and right mentor, all these things are framed as the crucial steps for advancement. But what about those areas of life outside of work?

Remember, success is about accomplishing the goals and can impact every area of life. One could be a good father or a caring daughter. One could find fulfillment in being a good friend or a faithful intercessor. There is even achievement in weight-loss and sobriety. By removing the constriction of an occupation, accomplishing the goals enrich a whole life and can be measured in broader terms. Instead of a hard goal like being a millionaire, a goal can be being a better friend or saving more money.

God directs our achievements, and He determines the terms. He wants us to prosper in accomplishing His will. By living by these truths, letting go of the idea that there is only one route to achievement, understanding that God determines the good works in life even beyond our careers, the picture of success can become more evident. There isn’t one definition or destination. Success can, however, be reached by following God’s direction.

The Truth About Success

The Truth About Success

Christian Boys School Uses God to Build Black Leaders

Video Courtesy of  The Daily Signal


Success is a relevant but slippery topic for Christian young adults. A good number graduate from high school or college and join the workforce with a fresh enthusiasm about life. They find out, however, that the world is different than what than what they expected. Things they considered concrete might seem anything but, including how to measure accomplishments and achievements. Added to this is the idea that a massive amount of advice is available about success and what it is. Very often, the advice is given by people who have already reached the pinnacle of prosperity and spoken like the journey is merely following three simple steps.  There is, however, no need to panic. Instead of finding simple steps, there are three truths a Christian young adult can use to find success. By keeping these in mind, the journey may be less daunting, but also it can be educational and be very enjoyable.

Truth #1: No Standard Definition of Success

The first truth is to throw out the cultural idea of a standard definition of success, which may be a challenge because the notion is planted in our psyche from an early age. We are told about millionaires and presidents but not crossing guards and home care nurses. Society lauds students who get full scholarships to 20 colleges but not the student who is the first person to be accepted into college. No one size fits all because no one size fits all people, especially with Christians. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV) states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Ephesians 2:10 reflects this theme. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” If our lives are His plan, then He determines success. He sets the standard. He has already decided our good works, and all we have to do is find out His plan and follow along. This may be a hard habit to break, but as you continue to submit to the idea that the determination of what is “good works” is not yours, then it will be easier. Success by definition is accomplishing one’s goals. The goal doesn’t matter. The achievement of the goal does. If God directs our lives and we achieve the good works He has prepared for us, that is the highest level attainment. It doesn’t always bring money or fame. If these things are the only way a person evaluates their accomplishments, it will lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.

Truth #2: God Tailors Your Success to You

The second truth is to realize that God tailors your success to how He made you. Many people believe that attainment is becoming an executive with a corner office, but in their hearts, they would much rather work with their hands. Or the government worker that would prefer to work in a food bank. Or a hair salon. This cognitive dissonance is akin to wearing shoes that don’t fit. Yes, they are shoes, but they may be someone else’s. Finding the right fit comes down to listening to God and watching for patterns. Hearing God is not impossible. As a matter of fact, God very much wants to guide His children to the good works He has prepared for them. The Bible is full of passages in which God promises to guide us. Psalm 32:8 (NKJV) holds God’s promise — “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” This model of guidance points back to the truth that God knows what a fruitful and meaningful is for you and wants to lead you there.

Truth #3: You Can Be Successful Outside Your Job

A third truth is to recognize that a job is not the only place in which a person can be successful. There is much emphasis put on having a career filled with awards and advancement. Picking the right career, right degree and right mentor, all these things are framed as the crucial steps for advancement. But what about those areas of life outside of work? Remember, success is about accomplishing the goals and can impact every area of life. One could be a good father or a caring daughter. One could find fulfillment in being a good friend or a faithful intercessor. Many find achievement in weight-loss and sobriety. By removing the constriction of an occupation, accomplishing the goals enrich a whole life and can be measured in broader terms. Instead of a hard goal like being a millionaire, a goal can be being a better friend or saving more money. God directs our achievements, and He determines the terms. He wants us to prosper in accomplishing His will. By living by these truths, letting go of the idea that there is only one route to achievement, understanding that God determines the good works in life even beyond our careers, the picture of success can become more evident. There isn’t one definition or destination. Success can, however, be reached by following God’s direction.    

Connecting the Past and the Future of Black Ministries

Connecting the Past and the Future of Black Ministries

Bishop Kenneth Hill

The 15th Biennial Conference of the Church of God (Cleveland) Black Ministries, a division created to empower those who minister to people of African descent, marked a historic event. In a partnership with Pathway Press, Church of God Black Ministries published the African Descent Family Roots Bible. The Bible details the contributions of black ministers throughout the history of Church of God, giving voice to black ministers who have served in Church of God and recognizes them for the sacrifices and the challenges they faced. The Bible has great significance.

Bishop Kenneth Hill, the current head of Black Ministries, says of the project, “It gives a synopsis of who we are, our contributions, and what we’ll do in the future. It provides historical data of the origin of Black Ministries in the Church of God, and some of the highlights and historical facts of even females within the Church of God.” The Bible details the support Church of God has made to the black community, including contributing to the construction of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall.

It also highlights Edmond and Rebecca Barr, the first known black Church of God ministers to carry the gospel outside the United States. The Bible also shares the beginnings of Black Ministries in the denomination. Most of all, it shows how black ministers overcame great obstacles, one of which still plagues the current body of Christ, racism.

The Barrs faced racism when they served as ministers and current black ministers still face racism, but in a different way than the Barrs did. Of those challenges, Bishop Hill says, “One is, in many of the churches, except if you’re exclusively a black church, the opportunity to share your leadership. There is one thing about being a part of an organization, being faithful, being supportive and even attending their schools and receiving the highest doctoral degree. Then if you go back and say, ‘Okay, we’ve done all of that, allow us to play on the field and also allow us to make some decisions that gives credence to the field.’”

Bishop Hill points to the current challenge of black ministers not being given the opportunity to lead. He says, “We’re given the opportunity to go to the schools of higher learning and when that’s been accomplished, the questions are now, ‘Will you allow me to participate at the table of leadership to help make decisions and give directives?’” He praises the leadership opportunities that President Barack Obama has given the black community, but there is still a need for integrated leadership in the body of Christ. Because of that ongoing need, special attention needs to be given to black ministries.

Even though the black community has made significant contributions to the body of Christ, there is still a need for divisions specifically for black ministers. Bishop Hill states that he is often questioned about the need for a separate division for black ministers. “Many have asked the question, ‘Why do we need an office of Black Ministries?’” The answer was highlighted during a recent restructuring project within the Church of God. Bishop Hill points out, “One of the analyses [from the restructuring] was that we have to identify people groups within the church. Not just people, but people groups because there are people groups within the church. And the question was posed, ‘Is parity and fair recognition given to all people groups in the church?’” Another highlight of the need for parity is that the Church of God discovered that blacks and Hispanics are the fastest growing people groups within the denomination.

The goal of the Church of God Black Ministries speaks to the need of the black community as a whole. It is framed by three C’s: Connectivity, Creativity, and Continuity. Bishop Hill explains the mission of these:

“First, we’ve made it possible to connect with all ministers of the church, locally, district, state, region, national and international. Secondly, to create synergy that will to provide information, doctrine and supportability to the general church about what black ministries involvement is within the church. And thirdly, the continuity just to make sure black ministries umbrella or the flag is represented continually within the church.”

One of the goals of the Black Ministers Division is something Bishop Hill calls “make aware.” He says, “We want to get exposure. Not to become a threat but it is to make aware. There is an analysis called SWOT that deals with strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When you do that analysis you have to be fair and give parity to every ethnicity to be able to see where challenges lie.” One of those challenges, not only in the church, but also in society, is racism.

Bishop Hill’s intention, however, is not to express these challenges with harshness or offense, but to share the realities of racism in this country and in the church and stress the need for more blacks in leadership. “Within the church and within the black community, the representative must be there to support the issues of the black community and if we don’t have that support there at the table, it can be overlooked.” He acknowledges the significance of his position in Black Ministries. With the integration leadership, voice is given to not only black ministers, but to other ethnicities. He says, “I have a seat with a Hispanic brother at the table of leadership to help make decision for our general church.”

Bishop Hill gives some poignant advice to ministers called to reach people of color. He says, “To be faithful, many of our ministers have become introverted rather than extroverted. They are looking at what pleases or satisfies their portfolio rather than supporting the portfolio for the entire race.” He warns about the danger of this selfishness. “We can’t be selfish about what’s in it for me.” He points to the fact that many black leaders suffered selflessly and focused on what impact their contributions would make for others who would serve after them. He says, “If we look at it that way, as some of our forefathers did, we can continue to make grounds.”

He encourages ministers to look beyond themselves to the good of the black communities as a whole. He says when black ministers do that, “We’re then saying, ‘How do I effect the larger picture and make a sacrifice that is going to effect the masses of who I represent?’”

He suggests ministers ask an important question that will bring perspective to their ministry. “What are we doing to effect change for everyone, not just how does it help me in this local church or in this particular state?” This is not just advice he gives others, but it is the model he uses in his position as the head of Black Ministries. He says, “When I make decisions, that’s what I’m saying to my leaders around me and the pastors and ministers that I go to.” His decision making process goes beyond himself. “If I’m only in it for who I am or what it does for me, then I haven’t done my job. My responsibility as a leader is to empower, change and reach the masses for the kingdom.”

Tales from the ER: A Review of “Living and Dying in Brick City”

Tales from the ER: A Review of “Living and Dying in Brick City”

During my recent trip to the ER, there was a young girl also waiting to be seen. As it turned out, she swallowed a Lego and her mother had promptly brought her to the ER. I had heard stories like that before coming from friends who work in the medical field, but I’d never actually seen one before. I couldn’t help but chuckle when I heard the young girl explain to the doctor how she’d swallowed the Lego. Soon after, she went home, seemingly fine following her gastronomical adventure. If only all the stories coming out of the ER were so happy.

My incident came from the perspective of a patient, but what stories would an ER doctor tell? How interesting, or unhappy, would those stories be, especially told by someone dedicated to improving the health of others?

This is what I found in Sampson Davis’s book “Living and Dying in Brick City: An ER Doctor Returns Home. Davis is a native of Newark, NJ, and former ER doctor at the famed Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, so he has experience in telling the tales of life in the ER. Stories about healthcare in an inner city hospital that are heartbreaking, challenging, shocking, and hopeful. Stories that provide a snapshot of healthcare practices in the African-American community.

The book begins with something familiar, gunshot deaths of African-American males. As a matter of fact, most of the subjects in the book are familiar. There are issues and problems that we see among our brothers and sisters, friends and coworkers. From the perspective of an ER doctor we see domestic abuse, AIDS and HIV, drug addiction and obesity.

When I began this book, I thought it was another tale of how our young African-American males were dying too soon, but it opened up a broader, and more surprising look at African-American health care, and, in most cases, mortality. It covered how we as a race are dying too young, and more than that dying from preventable conditions. I found myself wondering how medical professionals deal with the grief of watching people needlessly die from treatable conditions.

The relationship between the medical profession and the African-American community is a strange, if not strained one. Even though more in our community are seeking medical help, many still do not trust doctors. Older African-Americans, probably from memories of the Tuskegee Experiment, are particularly resistant. Davis covers this phenomenon in the book and the challenge that comes along with distrustful patients.

He also covers another aspect of that strained medical relationship: those who take advantage of the system. He shares stories of patients who are not facing any real medical emergency but come in to be seen in the ER. These stories were as hard to read as the stories of AIDS and obesity, mainly because these people are using resources that could be truly helping someone else.

Despite all of this, the book is not all despair. Davis provides educative information at the end of each chapter, which is an important part of improving the relationship between the medical profession and African-Americans. This book drives home the point that people of color lack the information needed to make proper decisions. Unless we become informed about our health and take active part in our care, we will continue to see unnecessary deaths.

This is a timely conversation given the passage of the Affordable Health Care Act. Soon, millions of Americans will have access to medical care, but the lingering question is how many of them will take advantage of it. How many will miss out on care because they don’t understand the law or how it benefits them?

Although it isn’t explicit advice, Davis provides a helpful tip in the book on improving the lives of those around us by reaching out. He shares how he makes time to mentor and encourage those desiring to enter the medical field and the impact taking the time to reach out someone makes. Investing in the lives of others produces beneficial results. It can be something as small as encouraging a friend on a weight loss journey or making sure a family member has followed the doctor’s recommendations. These kinds of conversations not only hold people accountable, but it shows they care.

But none of the problems Davis discusses in his book has one simple solution. Instead, it will take education, conversation, and care to improve the health of the African-American community. Reading “Living and Dying in Brick City” could be the first step in healing our community.

What If? An Introspective Review of “The Other Wes Moore”

What If? An Introspective Review of “The Other Wes Moore”

As a writer, my life is framed by what if, the question at the base of all great stories. It sparks my creativity and leads me off on a journey of words. But not only in my writing do I find that question lingering in my mind. That wondering seeps out into other areas. I found myself asking many what if questions as I watched the George Zimmerman trial unfold. What if Trayvon had picked a different time to go to the store? What if George Zimmerman hadn’t followed Trayvon around the neighborhood with a loaded gun? What if the verdict in the case would have been different?

It’s challenging to look at these types of questions and not apply them to our life. Like the choose-your-own-ending books from my childhood, I wonder where I would have been if I made different decisions. What if one or two details essential to my development had been changed? What if my life was exactly opposite than what it is now?

Not many of us have seen the complete answer to those questions. We have caught glimpses of it in the lives of people around us. Often we encounter those who share a similar situations but who have made different, and sometimes, disastrous decisions. We had singular situations in common with others, but what if we met someone whose life was a study in contrast to ours?

This is the story of Wes Moore, the author of “The Other Wes Moore.” He caught a glimpse of the possibility of his alternate life on the day the Baltimore Sun ran an article about him receiving a Rhodes Scholarship. That same day, the paper ran an article about four young men being sought for a robbery turned murder. One of the young men was named Wes Moore. Told in a compelling parallel fashion, “The Other Wes Moore” chronicles the lives of the two Wes Moores, their upbringing and for one, his downfall.

Those two articles in the Baltimore Sun began a journey. Moore refers to the effect that the two articles had on him as “haunting.” That sense of haunting saturates the pages, especially when the two finally connect, one on his way to becoming a White House Fellow and the other to serving time as convicted felon. They formed a unique relationship and the book is a compilation of the two men’s memories and conversations.

Both young men were presented with the same opportunities to do both good and evil.  Spending their formative years in Baltimore City, both were presented with drugs, crime and sexual encounters. I think that is what is so striking about the story: the two men share so much in common like fatherlessness, inner city struggles, academic challenges, but their lives turned out so differently.

Very differently. The author Wes Moore has gone on the pen several books, served as a White House Fellow and on the board of both the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of Amer­ica (IAVA) and Johns Hopkins University. Author Moore has started an organization called STAND! that helps youth in Baltimore. The other Wes Moore is serving a life sentence for the murder of an off-duty police officer named Sgt. Bruce A. Prothero despite his most recent attempt for a new trial in July 2013. The two men’s lives continue on different trajectories, the difference between them continuing to grow.

Being a native Baltimorean, I can’t help but see myself in this story, especially since some of the drama in the story played out in places I know well. There were times that I didn’t have to imagine the street or neighborhood both Moores grew up in. I’d been to those same neighborhoods, walked those same streets. I faced the same challenges they had. But even with having that in common, my life is still different from either of them.

The author does not try to explain or analyze the outcome of their lives. He pulls the reader in with the curiosity of contrast. He does not advise or instruct. He only tells the story of two lives. In that, however, he reveals an important truth: decisions matter.

So often while reading this book, I saw the difference one little decision could make. Yes, there were some larger decisions made, like the author’s mother’s decision to relocate. There were, however, smaller decisions made that drastically changed the Wes Moores’ lives. Decisions, like friends, academics, and sadly, drug use that the younger generation sometimes carelessly make. The resounding message of this book: even simple choices impact a lifetime.

This book also raises a very familiar question about the African American community: what impact does environment have on upbringing? It would seem that the Wes Moores’ story would shatter any ideas that one cannot overcome a challenging childhood. The author grew up fatherless, improvised and had very common academic struggles. He proves that advancement can be made in any life, no matter how it begins. Even with this example, and many others, another question is raised: why are these stories the exception and not the norm?

As I read the book, I found myself wondering what made a difference in my life. I could have been a teen mother with more children than I could raise. I could have gotten a drug dealer boyfriend, became a drug addict, and lived a life of danger because of that relationship. The opportunities were certainly there.

I think for my life, the difference came because people stepped in at the right time and pointed me in the right direction. There was a teacher, librarian, and fellow church members who invested wisdom and guidance in my life at critical moments.

We would all like to fix the “system” that our young people are falling into, but I believe that begins with individuals. Maybe we can’t save every Wes Moore, but we can save the ones we have influence on. We can reach out to the one we see making similar decisions that we made, or almost made, and share the wisdom our choices brought us. We can help change his or her story with another question: what if I helped someone else?