Category Archives: Theology

Dear Katina Powell

Dear Katina Powell,

I am writing you an open letter for a simple reason. Because I want you to know who you are. I have seen the quotes and the different things you have said in your book Breaking Cardinal Rules. I know all about the situation that is going on with the University of Louisville, yet I won’t be addressing that right here. I simply want to write a letter to you.

You have mentioned unashamedly that you sent your daughters to strip and prostitute themselves. As well you have mentioned that you would go  to church on Sunday afterwards.

Most people read those things and were stunned. I read those things though and wanted to write you this letter to tell you something that is simple and true; You are valued and loved!

Your value is not found in your body. It is not found in your ability to pleasure someone sexually. It’s not even found in your looks or your ability to hustle. No, your value is deeper and intrinsic.

You have value because the God of this universe who created the sun, moon and stars created YOU in his very image! He spent time creating every detail of your being.

But not only did he create you with deep value, he loves and cherishes you. And his love for you is amazing because it’s not a love that is based on your circumstances or what you do for him. His love has no condition to it. It is a great love that swallows you up completely as you are.

That is amazing, isn’t it? God loves us in spite of our selves.

I write this to you because seeing the news and reading the stories about you and the other ladies who are considered escorts, are all loved and cherished by God. Each of you are special. And I want you to know that as the book has come out and it’s apparent that you were in need of money, which means you may be searching for something in your life, God is in the business of giving hope to the hopeless.

He saved me, a sinner from a life outside of him. My life of sin deserved to be punished. I was a wicked and evil person who deserved judgment for my life of sin. But he had shown grace on me. I found out that he loved me so much that he sacrificed his only son Jesus, to die a horrible death THAT I DESERVED! The cross was shaped for me and I deserved it. It should have been me suffering eternal death because I am the one who sinned. But Jesus died in my place! That is true love.

Now when God looks at my life, he sees the life of Jesus. That is GRACE. Getting something I didn’t deserve. Jesus took my penalty. Now I can live freely serving him. I am not chained down by sin any longer but I battle my sin. I learn to live my life in repentance. Repent means to turn away from(Go in opposite direction).

Katina, I don’t know you and I can’t assume to. You have had circumstances in your life that have brought you to where you are today. But what I do know is that Jesus does offer hope to new life. He sat daily and talked with all sinners like you and me. I wanna share a last story that I really believe encompasses how we have to come to God.

This is from the Bible. Luke 7:36-50

36 One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

No matter our circumstance, God is a God who is ready to forgive and to give us new life that is in him. Katina, I pray that as I write these words, you would realize the hope in the Good news of Jesus. He can save you and give you a new life. A new slate. A new start.

That happens when you give your life to him. I hope and pray that this public letter makes it to you. I pray that this is received in love. I pray that you and the ladies you work with come to know the greatest lover of all. And I pray that like this woman and millions of others of people, you’d find new life in Jesus Christ.

God bless you Katina,
Mark Singleton

BTW,
There are some great God honoring programs that reach in the adult entertainment business. One of them in Louisville is Scarlet Hope.

As well, if you want to follow Jesus, connect with a good, bible teaching church in your area. If you need help finding one, please message my wife and I and we would love to help you find that. In West Louisville there is a good one called New Breed Church that meets in Shawnee High School.

When Not Helping Hurts

10398604_75131031835_8299277_n[1]Listen, I am like you. I wanna help the poor. I wanna help the Urban poor specifically.

But I also read “When Helping Hurts” and “Toxic Charity”. While I loved those books and was extremely challenged after reading them, I felt somewhat how you feel afterwards.

1. I felt discouraged about the amount of work I have put into serving the poor.

And I also felt

2. Confused about the direction I should go now in my ministry, not desiring to have a toxic or hurtful ministry.

Listen friend, this is a short but sweet call to some of us who needed a kick in the butt from those books but also for grace that we need to continue on after we have found out that we weren’t doing it right.

1. I like you felt discouraged about thinking through on whether or not my past ministries among the poor had been hurtful or wasteful. When I say discouraged, I’m talking about a discouragement that kept me from wanting to strategize ever again on this stuff thinking that I was gonna screw up others lives.

But God has done a mighty work. In time of doing Urban ministry for some years and learning these lessons on the ground, I have submitted my past work under the hand of a sovereign God who works IN SPITE of us. I felt like I was the worst for a while. I was down and out. But God revealed to me through his scriptures that he has ultimate control and has had it the whole time.

The work done in the past he may have used to impact many people in ways I will never know until heaven. I don’t need to be discouraged about the things done in the past. While I learn my lesson in realizing that there are better ways to do it, I also acknowledge that there is a sovereign God who may have used those things for his glory, and I can peacefully move forward to a new stage of ministry.

2. Confused on where I should go now in my ministry.

I HATE screwing things up. There is a lot of psychology to all of that, but my initial reaction to WHH/TC was nothing. Doing nothing. Not wanting to mess up so not doing anything.

In time I have realized that that is the wrong reaction to all of this. Don’t be afraid to work among the poor. Don’t be afraid to reach out within an Urban community. Just do it with care. Take all that you have learned in thinking through these tough questions of concern for the poor, and let your work be intentional and well thought out. But by no means, Don’t quit working.

I have thoroughly enjoyed ministering within Urban communities. I have learned a million things and screwed up a million times, but as well, I have noticed how simply my being there can be good for the community. Don’t be discouraged but be ENCOURAGED that Gods hand may have worked in spite of strategy mistakes you made in the past but also in that you have learned from those mistakes and can minister in a more effective way.

Disclaimer: I LOVE the books, When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity. PLEASE read both. Just afterwards, consider this article.

Police Killings and a need for unity among believers.

While on Brooklyn Bridge

A pic I took on the Brooklyn Bridge.

I have been nauseated throughout the day.

It’s the time of year when many people are sick for many reasons, but most are related to the weather.

My reasoning for having a sour stomach isn’t because of the weather though. It’s actually over the things I have read and heard about yesterday. Over the weekend two uniformed NYPD police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot to death in Brooklyn, New York while sitting in their police car. Both had families. One having just married while the other had children. The shooter left evidence proving that this was vengeance for Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Many news outlets have given detailed explanations to this situation.

This situation honestly sickens me. There are so many things that could be said.

Hearing about the faith of Officer Ramos and the realization that on this Christmas his wife, my sister in Christ will be a widow. His children will not see their dad in this life. Officer Liu has a newly married bride that is a widow before she can even share in an Anniversary with him. Before she can even have time to get over the wedding jitters.

This Christmas will probably be one of the more sober Christmas’ within my memory because of all the pain and heart ache I have heard about. As well having lost my mother-in-law just prior to Thanksgiving, I can’t help but to think about my wife.

As I read articles from all sorts of angles, seeing news networks and all political parties attempt to twist evil towards their political agendas, my heart cries out within me, “Come Lord Jesus.”

My knees feel worn out from cries of help within the caves of sorrow. It seems that every turn I make, I turn to hear someone tell of complete and utter tragedy.

I will pray for the many children on all sides of these tragedies who will not see their fathers this year. I pray for all of the mothers who have had to bury their own children. I will pray as our country continues to be torn within the hearts of her people. And I will pray for the unity of Gods people.

As much as I wanted to do so many things within this post, timing and the pain of seeing such horrid acts really leaves me having to just say, I must pray.

Prior to his death he had foreseen coming, Christ went to pray at a garden. He prayed with such intensity that drops of blood fell from his brow. His prayer was for us. For our unity.

Saints of all ethnicities and backgrounds, political parties and denominations, our need for unity may never have been stronger in the history of this country then it is now. Let’s commit to pray for each other. Let’s commit to build relationships across racial and political borders. Let’s seek to practice the primary sign of our Christian faith(John 13:35), to love one another.

The Humanity of our “Heroes of the Faith”

Momma Bear and I were up talking last night. We put the kiddos to bed and began talking through some ideas about the baby that’s on the way. We have a girls name that has been set since we started dating. We have a boys name. The boys name is based off two Christian preachers in evangelical history who have had some influence on me.

After writing on the puritans and their error regarding slavery, I’ve not been able to get it off my mind.

What if I was to name my son after a guy who supported slavery? What if I named him after a guy who had a racist heart?

So I’ve been asking around and doing some research on the guys who I admired for so long. Momma Bear and I have a name we are thinking about going with. But last night as we were up talking, I was thinking through how deep of an issue race is. Continue reading

So you know someone personally but they Snub you on Social Media…

I joined Twitter recently and became completely aware of something I didn’t expect: Social Media Snubbing.

The internet has become an introverts dream. Go to a place where no matter how much you feel embarrassed and uneasy about conversations with people, now you can talk to people you’d otherwise been scared to. This causes many people to change personality somewhat when they get on the internet. For some, they may be quiet in person and a beast on the internet. For others, they may do little on social media but racking up the superlatives for being most outgoing in reality.
Bradyhangin_medium

As I joined twitter and attempted to interact with people I know, I became somewhat surprised at the fact that many people I would follow and knew personally would not follow me. They may respond with one-word answers to questions but that would be the extent. Some people completely ignored me. I was somewhat shocked and felt like I was being snubbed.

I started wondering, is it because I don’t have enough followers? Is it because they are so popular on social media? I was getting frustrated.

Then I realized through the ‘snubbery’ that I found myself seeking interactions and attention. I wanted to get my followers up. I wanted to get a response and was embarrassed if I did not. I was(many times still am) trying to build myself. And I was disappointed if my interactions were empty.

As a Christian this is an interesting place because I know what the bible says about seeking approval of men. I know what the bible says about being hated by the world. But it still shook me pretty good.

10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. † Galatians 1:10

Honestly, I have learned through this to be constantly thankful for real relationships I have. Social Media can be abused by myself when I use it for improving my self-esteem. Its purpose at that point has been lost when I am hoping to have it become my own personal ladder of friendships and acceptance.

4 Reactions to receiving the Social Media Snub:

1) Be Focused on Real, Physical Relationships.

Don’t become another statistic of the person who is focused on becoming a hero to social media and a scumbag to his neighbors. Embrace reality first over cyber friendships.

2) Love your neighbor as yourself.

Use the snub to remind yourself of how to treat others. I remind our kids to remember times their feelings were hurt and how they felt so that when they interact with others they are aware and intent on showing love to all.

3) Don’t take it personal.

Fact: Some people are bad about calling you back, replying, texting back, responding to email and etc.

This is a hard fact for many to accept because most people are so dependent on their devices or tools for communication that when others don’t respond well they begin to assume many things that are simply not true. Give the benefit of the doubt to people. Show grace and be quick to forgive. Otherwise you’ll be forever frustrated with people over how they responded or lacked a response on social media.

4) Embrace the full acceptance from the Father.

Jesus accepts, approves and loves me. He “likes” me. He “favorites” me. When God the father looks at my life of sin, and sees the life of Jesus, that approval he’ll give will far outweigh any RT from a celebrity, any follow by a famous musician or any S/O by a famous Tweeter. His approval must be the only thing I seek.

“So what is your son?” and the Gospel

Me and my little man.

Me and my little man.

It’s not anything uncommon. But it’s something I was completely unaware of. Growing up, I was (still am) white living in a white world. I had not realized how I probably have contributed to it. But it’s been there the entire time.

I couldn’t put my finger on it. Things that have been slightly said that came and went like dust in the wind but left the impact of a freight train. Lately, I have become more and more aware since being in an Interracial Marriage and having now an interracial child(and being a stepfather to two African-American children) how slight comments are consistently said referencing my family and I that hurt deeply.

I expect this out of depraved sinners. But out of the people of God who have experienced the grace that declares us right in spite of us, this is troubling.

What are Racial Microaggressions?

Microaggressions as defined on Wikipedia:

“Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

When I heard of Racial Microaggressions, it took a second for it to register with me. I actually understood it best when viewing this post written by Heben Nigatu on Buzzfeed.

Seeing the pictures of people with comments that had been made about them brought a clear picture of what this really looks like. I began to realize that many of the comments that have been made about my newly born son(10/21/13) were offensive for my wife and I.

These aren’t small statements that are forgot about. They are not limited to being said among non-believers in Christ only. It’s in the church. It exists heavily and it’s been hurting many people of color for a very long time.

 

How Should We React:

Mad? Angry? Wrathful?

Many of us want to react that way rightfully. I myself have had moments where I (a church leader) was ready to go to blows with a man who made a disrespectful comment towards me and my family. I have felt that righteous anger over the sinful root of racism. It brings anger and hurt.

Remember

Guilty:

When understanding the Gospel and dealing with someone who makes an insensitive comment, intentionally or unintentionally, I remember my depravity.

The Gospel applies to this because when pointing out any sins in others lives (Mt 7:3-5), we must remember the sin in our own. We must remember that we are all poor and in need of Saving. We are all wretched and deserve eternal punishment. I can look at that man who made a comment about my family and be angry but the gospel reminds me that I have offended God just as harshly.

 

Justified:

God has justified you. He has created you from your mother’s womb. His word declares you to be equal with anyone else that is in the kingdom of God. You deserve to be at the table. You deserve the inheritance that has been given you.

This is all because of what Jesus has done. When the father looks at your life, he sees the perfect life of Christ. When he looks at you he sees his child. He sees his heir. You are adopted as his (Romans 8:14-16), completely his.


INTERact

My tendency when unjust things happen to me or those I love is to get angry, offended and ready to duke it out with words. But this is never helpful. God’s word teaches us not to repay evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9).

When I begin to probe gospel questions towards ignorant comments, it will show a gospel need in one’s heart. A friend of mine shared how he has a coworker who makes racial slights and claims to be a Christian. He began digging in to reveal to the guy a racist heart that is in need of gospel transformation. Many times these conversations can end where the person making the unmistakingly rude comment may leave angry because they may not want to believe the racism(sin) that exist somewhere in their heart. But the gospel does tell us a harsh truth about ourselves, we are sinners. Many of us hear that and because of our sinful hearts don’t want to receive it.

Pray

This is the typical church answer but truthfully, this is the most essential action that must follow sin.

We need to pray for ourselves that God would strengthen us to react to sin in ways that brings him glory. Pray that we would love the other person throughout the rightful frustrations we may feel.

We need to pray for those who were sinned against. Pray they would understand their value as being God’s creation. Pray they would not become embittered with the person who wronged them. Pray they would see a need for the gospel through this experience.

We need to pray for the one who sinned. Pray they would change heart because of the gospel issue in their life. Pray they would repent of their sin. Pray they would seek restoration for the relationship they (intentionally or unintentionally) have hurt. Pray they would come to faith in Christ through this situation.

During the Holiday’s, don’t hurt the poor…A Call for Pastor’s and Church Leaders

Thanksgiving and Christmas are quickly approaching. It’s an exciting time of the year. Imagining gifts, food, friends and family. It’s a great time for many people. Many families have different traditions that involve some type of service to the poor. As well many churches and ministries have programs that are centralized on giving freely to the poor.

homelessforchristmas.comI have helped and orchestrated many different gift drives and turkey giveaways. I’ve always enjoyed being apart of them. It makes me feel good to give to people who need it. But one thing I have noticed is that I walk in to these events feeling excited and leave feeling somewhat uneasy.

I remember how frustrated I was finding out that many of the recipients of the gift drive were 3rd and 4th generations of recipients. I would carry Turkey’s and christmas gifts to brand new cars that caused me to wonder how someone in need could have a way nicer car then myself. I would experience the chaos and division seen between the “haves” and “have nots”. I started leaving these events more disturbed then encouraged. Then I would goto food pantries and clothing closets and I would leave feeling the same way as the holiday give-aways, disturbed.

Collecting rooms full of toys and games that were to be given to the poor feels good.  Giving a turkey out for Thanksgiving seems nice. Handing out canned goods causes many to feel happy about themselves. But eventually one must look at this large collection of belongings and question who recieves the glory in these programs. Is it God or is it all the people who have defined their generosity with this pile of things.

What is it like for the father who comes home to find his kids have toys for christmas and he didn’t do anything about it. He feels shame. He feels somewhat bitter about those who gave the toys and he is disgraced.

I am not against christmas gifts. I am all for getting gifts for my family and helping see other families have the capacity to do so. My problem is that in the process of our charity, we many times hurt those we are trying to help.

Pastors and Church Leaders, as our churches begin to use this time of year to show compassion to the less fortunate, we must ask a few questions.

1) Is our program or event weakening those we are serving?

2)Is it fostering dishonest relationships?

3) Is it deepening dependency?

4) Is it eroding recipients’ work ethic?

(Questions from Bob Lupton’s “Toxic Charity”)

I would like to challenge Pastors and Church Leaders to start asking these hard questions and have a Vision to do greater things. Greater doesn’t mean neccesarily spend more money. Envision reaching the poor in the community spending less money while putting in more time for relationships. I know, you’re salivating. This is what pastor’s love. I’d love to see churches using their resources to serve the poor in ways that build healthy relationships and not rob the dignity of those who already can feel weak.

It takes a decision to change things. Start asking the hard questions about whether or not our program is effective. Then after that start brainstorming about ways to do programs that are relationship focused. Seek to do things that empower the poor. Walk alongside them and strategize for them to become more self sustaining. Help them purchase gifts. Help them purchase turkeys.

“Giving to those in need what they could be gaining from their own initiative may well be the kindest way to destroy people.”

-Toxic Charity

For more information, Check out:
Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert