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THE BIBLE STUDY


The Bible Study Trial by fire will let you know who your real friends are. God’s purpose will allow you to understand the “message” in life’s mess.

C. NaTasha Richburg


A Hoodie Ain’t a Coat: The Bible Study by C. NaTasha Richburg Cover Design by Atinad Designs. © Copyright 2012 SAINT PAUL PRESS, DALLAS, TEXAS First Printing, 2012 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner, except for brief quotations included in a review of the book. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or the publisher. Permission to quote: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of International Bible Society. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of International Bible Society. ________________________________________________________________________ The name SAINT PAUL PRESS and its logo are registered as a trademark in the U.S. patent office. ISBN-10: ISBN-13: Printed in the U.S.A.


To Ericka Michelle Richburg-Wheeler


(1) Wise Counsel The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. (Psalm 37:30) Jez is the firstborn son to a mother who gave birth to the firstborn son of his stepfather, Ramón. His mother, Anabela, is a former stripper who gave up the pole for Ramón. Ramón was different from Jez’s birth father because he stayed to raise Jez and his siblings. With a big heart, great hug and a strong moral foundation, Ramón is the kind of man that is not heartless like the other men his mother dated. Jez loved Ramón and dropped the “step” to call him Dad. Fully aware of his dad’s secret confidant, Poppa, Jez watched from afar the conversations of wise counsel that took place sometimes very late in the evening. Poppa is an angel with a secret relationship with Dad that provided comfort and guidance during the rough spots of life. Dad did not know Jez witnessed many conversations that solidified the Poppa-Ramón connection. It was on the porch after everyone had gone to bed that the deepness of the discussions brought Dad back to the good in negative circumstances. Having a family unit with both a mother and a father graced by an angel was a nice complement to Jez’s carefree life -- at least at first.


Scripture: Psalm 37:29-31 The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever. The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom, and their tongues speak what is just. The law of their God is in their hearts; their feet do not slip. Questions: 1. The mouths of the righteous utter_____________? (verse 30) 2. What does it mean to take the advice of wise counsel? 3. Does receiving wise counsel always feel good? Why or why not? 4. Can you offer wise counsel if you are a teenager with limited experiences? 5. What is the value of wise counsel? 6. When people destroy property and start fires in the street, do you know whether or not it is the result of wise counsel? 7. The law of God is in the __________ of the righteous? (verse 31)


Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for the wise counsel of the leaders You set before us. Thank You for providing a spirit that would allow everyone’s heart to receive the lessons of those who have gone before us. Please Lord, touch the mind of those who struggle with listening to and taking the advice of wise counsel. Knock down walls of stubbornness that are built to prevent the word of God from entering into our life’s decisions. Bless this lesson and the teacher of the lesson, in the blessed name of Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(2) Prodigal Son But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:18) Seven is Jez’s younger brother. He is a natural jokester with the gift of smiling coupled with laughter. Seven fit in perfectly in the family unit because the attention given to him afforded Jez an opportunity to slip away unnoticed. Jez was not a bad kid. He was a good kid looking to fit in and be accepted. The family did not realize that Jez’s attention was up for bid. His family thought they had Jez locked into the family unit like a star quarterback calling the plays in the huddle. However, the family did not realize Jez was searching for attention, receiving bids from the highest bidder...the streets! In other words, unbeknownst to his family, Jez did not feel accepted at home; each through their own set of eyes viewed Jez’s upbringing differently. Hanging out on the corner felt good to Jez; it felt like family was waiting on the corner. Appreciating the unconditional acceptance of a family unit without expectations for excellence, doing absolutely nothing felt better than trying


to succeed academically. With the hoodie positioned over his eyes, standing confidently waiting for his boys to enter into the “zone of mine” is where Jez rested his feet. He owns the corner. The girls loved the way Jez pulled his hoodie over his eyes. They called him “Smoky eyes Jezzzzz” because he did not need sunglasses to provide an illusion of privacy. Jez had a pose like an American gangster. The acceptance of that pose “felt like more.” The more Jez posed, the more he gained respect. He only had to fight a few times because once word got out about him, the young Gs knew not to step to him. Absolute acceptance was given for not contributing anything but a pose. Jez liked the new role he had on the corner.


Scripture: Luke 15:19-21 ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ Questions 1. What does it mean to be a prodigal son? 2. What happened when the father saw the prodigal son? (verse 20) 3. Do you think the son who left home has gained experiences that would allow him to want to go back home? 4. If so, what do you think the experiences taught him? 5. What kind of experience is gained on the street corner? 6. When the prodigal son came home, he said “I have sinned against heaven and against you.” What does he mean? How did he sin against heaven? 7. Would most parents and guardians approve of Jez’s street corner behavior? Why or why not?


Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for allowing us to witness Your forgiveness. Please, Lord, allow the reader of this lesson to know that it is never too late to go home. If home is where the heart is, let us embrace a heart of love that is filled with your peace. Please forgive any sins that have been committed against You. Cleanse us from thoughts that are not like You. Let us not hang out on the street corner unless we are speaking of Your goodness. We love and adore You, Lord, and pray that our focus remains on You, God. In the Blessed name of Jesus, we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(3) Belonging He replied, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family.’ (Genesis 24:40) Jez’s mom and dad give him a baby sister nick-named Breeze. Her real name is Rose but everybody called her Breeze since she enjoyed feeling the breeze brushing pass her face. She committed to the relaxation of the free flowing comfort pampering her face as the swing crested the upward and down motions. The smile on Breeze’s face was in full appreciation of an air brushed facial. Jez loved to push her back and forth on the swing until naptime but still felt like an outsider to the special relationship Jez’s younger brother, Seven, shared with Breeze. Seven loved Jez too. Though Jez and Seven were brothers from the same mother, Jez was not happy about having a different father. Walls of resentment blocked Jez from entering the special bond of siblings born of the same daddy. No one in the family noticed that Jez sat at the wall everyday using brick and mortar to enforce the wall’s foundation.


Seven was not aware of the special bond between siblings with the same daddy; he just loved his sister. He knew his love towards Jez was not reciprocated. So Seven kept a respectable distance from Jez given that it was hard for him to vibe in territory where he was not welcomed. Jez and Seven grow up apart in the same house. Seven did everything his parents asked, Jez stayed on the corner rockin’ that hoodie dealing with private thoughts.


Scripture: Genesis 24:39-41 Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’ He replied, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’ Questions 1. What happens if a child feels as though he or she is not welcomed within the family unit? 2. What may happen if we walk faithfully with the Lord? (Verse 40) 3. Do parents and guardians know what a child feels inside if the child never tells anyone? Explain. 4. What do you do if you have a sibling that just doesn’t like you no matter how hard you try to be liked? Explain. 5. Is it okay to have a favorite sibling? How would that make you feel if you are not the favorite?


Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for providing a sense of belonging in You. Without Your love we don’t know what to do. It is in Your love that we find peace, power, purpose and prosperity. Thank You. Continue to give us the strength to guard against the spirit of loneliness and rise to fullness in You. Let each person with a sibling allow them to bend the relationship that represents Your will and way. When it is not in our best interest to have a relationship with a person that is not good for us, give us the insight we need to love from a distance until the relationship will benefit us all. Amen. Notes:

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(4) Secret Love The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. (Psalm 18:1-3) The special relationship Seven shared with Breeze exacerbated the unspoken conflict between Seven and Jez. Without intending it to happen, Seven made Jez feel like an outsider not emotionally connected to his own siblings. Seven and Breeze had this special code language that only they knew. They never included Jez in their conversations. However, they thought Jez did not want any parts of them. The distant behavior exhibited by Jez is the reason why Seven and Breeze never included Jez in their conversation. Seven and Breeze did not understand that the corner would not allow Jez to shed the hard core corner facade that would make him “act like he cared.” Caring is an attribute of people who show their eyes. Jez’s eyes contained his private thoughts that included the realization of his mom’s secret. Her secret is that she continues to work as a private dancer for the Lee Street gang. Knowledge of his mom’s deceit was a source of personal anxiety. Jez cares so deeply for his family that if it were up to him, they would never find out the truth about the lie


he lived. The truth is, Jez loves his family, but does not know how to show love. From a distance Poppa watched Jez walk on the dark side of life going against the wishes of people who only want the best from him. Poppa knew in Jez’s private thoughts rested the dreams of a budding artist -- a future architect with a desire to resurrect dilapidated buildings. Jez watched from under his hoodie, the architect of the urban landscape.


Scripture: Psalm 18:1-3 I love you, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. Questions 1. Is showing love to family members easy or hard? Explain. 2. Have you showed love and had your heart broken as a result? Give an example. 3. Do you have dreams? 4. How do dreams help you get through troubling situations? 5. David sang to the LORD “I ______ you, LORD, my strength” when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul (verse 1). Prayer: Dear God, It is the whisper of “love” that speaks volumes to the soul starving for its warmth. Please, God, permit us to hear Your whisper and embrace it so that we may feel You. Touch our souls so that love can mend broken hearts that desire Your


healing. Allow our joy to rise within. Wrap Your blessings around our dreams, God, so that great things are manifested. Thank You for connecting kindred spirits that result from Your love. Thank You, God, for trusting us to learn to love You. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(5) Sins of the World I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. (Isaiah 13:11) Jez's boys had an artistic flair -- they wanted to fix cars, tag buildings and print tee shirts. Not one of them enjoyed math or the wonders of history like he did. To fit in, school was a place Jez went to socialize. It really did not matter to him if he passed or failed. Jez was not about to put himself out there like that to act like education mattered. In his mind, “I don’t want my boys riding my a%$ if I get good grades. I will read, study, but not try on the test. I have a rep to keep; honor roll don’t wear well on my shoulders.” It was late at night that Jez read books that put his mind in the place of where he wanted to be. Books fed Jez’s private thoughts, which fed his imagination, that fed his dreams, that could not move if he did not move from the corner. To keep up with the latest fashion, Jez began to participate in street corner pharmacy. He refused to call himself a drug dealer because that sounded too 1970s. Jez's parents began to get suspicious about the new sneakers and hoodies that exceeded the budget they had given him. Jez attributed his gifts to friends. His parents wanted to trust


their son and they did. Jez felt guilty about lying to his parents but did not stop his entrepreneurial intent. Jez had completely sold out to his image. This image took him to the street corner, kicked him into an illegal enterprise in which gang members solicited his participation. On the way out of the house to his business, Jez’s mom would say, “Jez, put on a coat.” Jez would reply, “I have on a hoodie.” “Boy, how many times do I have to tell you ‘a hoodie ain’t a coat’?” “Try to make it your last time,” Jez said under his breath as he walked out of the house wearing his favorite hoodie over the brow of his eyes.


Scripture: Isaiah 13:10-12 The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make people scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. Questions 1. Do friends make fun of you if you earn good grades in school? If so, how do you handle it? 2. Why do you think Jez would only read books late at night instead of during the daytime? 3. Jez continued to lie to his parents though they trusted him. Do you think he should have confessed to them about how he earned money? 4. What will happen to the world as a result of sin? (Verse 11) 5. Why do you think it was so important to Jez to purchase an item that helped to personify his image on the street corner?


Prayer: Dear God, We thank You for loving us in spite of the sins we commit both through commission and omission. Please, God, help us to forgive ourselves and to see the “message” in any “mess” we cause. Thank You for Your son, Jesus Christ, who shed his blood so that we may have an abundant life. Give life to the dead situations in our life. Do away with all situations that contribute to sin. In the precious name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(6) I Don’t Fit If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. (John 15:19) Jez knew that his boys and others called his brother, Seven, appalling names that ripped at the fabric of his positive character. The gang members kept Jez in their space and wanted no part of Seven. They never invited Seven into their conversations, or accepted him as one of them. Seven acknowledged the fact that he was not received by Jez’s boys. He let negative words roll off of his back like water off a duck. The rejection from the gang members caused Seven to focus on what he was called to do -- be a great student, brother, son and friend to his little sister. Seven watched Jez read all of the time. He followed that example. The alone time afforded by lack of people to hang out with gave Seven a badge of courage gained by not following the crowd. Breeze felt alone as well, but was happy that Seven spent time with her. They wanted a relationship with Jez that was “real,” but Jez just did not have any outward signs of interest in his siblings.


Most of Jez’s friends were from broken homes with messed up lives. Jez felt bad about the privileges life afforded him. He tried to hide his positive home experiences from his boys on the corner. Wanting to be more like his boys, Jez desired to experience gang life by living outside of the boundaries of the standards of his household. Jez distanced himself further away from the role of a good, obedient son. In turn, he sought membership in the Lee Street Gang by establishing a special relationship with its leader, Spider. It was in the relationship with the gang that Jez “thought� he had it all together. Though Spider would not let Jez jump into membership like the others, Jez did enjoy the camaraderie that being in the gang afforded him -- family, friends and funds. But the reality of the situation was about to hit Jez straight in the middle of his heart.


Scripture: John 15:18-20 “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” Questions 1. Jez made a decision not to be an obedient son. What potential problems could that cause within his family? 2. Jez sought membership in the Lee Street Gang. Was he trying to bring his family together when he made that decision? What was he trying to accomplish by becoming a gang member? 3. Jesus said to His Disciples “If the world hates you…” Who is “the world” (verse 18)? 4. What does the Scripture mean when it says “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own” (verse 19)? 5. Does enjoying the camaraderie of gang members mean the relationship is a good one? 6. The disciples were obedient to Jesus yet they were persecuted, why? (verse 20)


Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for letting us read in the Bible how “Haters� are a part of life that even the Disciples had to deal with. Allow us to continue to live in this world and not to be of the world. Give life to dead situations. Breathe life into our spirits. Let us experience the benefits of living for You, God. Please forgive us of all sins and allow us to forgive ourselves. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(7) Consequence of Deceit But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him [God] who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. (Luke 12:5) Jez’s boy, Keon, was jumped into the gang only to die from his injuries that punctured his lungs making him drown in his own blood at the hands of comrades. Devastated by the occurrence, Jez sought counsel from Spider. Jez enjoyed the privileges from being Spider’s favorite. He knew it and liked it that way. Keeping it together at Keon’s funeral was difficult. Tears fell without intent; Jez did not wipe them away until he noticed Lee Street members wipe their faces. Poppa went to the funeral and sat in the back row because he sought to stay close just in case Jez needed him. Spider gave the command that nothing would happen that day. No product would be sold. Spider, the big baller/shot caller gave the command to Jez that he could not rock the colors of the Lee Street crew. Devastated not to be included in the number, but more respectful of the command of the leader, Jez did what Spider requested of him. Spider commanded that all give respect to the fallen soldier. No one dared disobey Spider. Each soldier did as said without question. At the funeral, Jez stayed within


earshot of Spider while Poppa stayed within eyeshot of Jez the entire day. Spider would not let Jez get jumped into the gang, but had given Jez an opportunity to participate in every other way. Jez was about to learn why he was treated differently from his fellow soldiers.


Scripture: Luke 12:3-5 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him [God] who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Questions 1. In Luke chapter 12 Christ warns His disciples to take heed of hypocrisy. He gives a caution against materialism and greed. 2. Keon died as a result of a gang ritual. What could have Keon done differently to avoid injury? 3. Do you think Keon realized that he was at risk of losing his life when he joined the gang? Explain. 4. What does the scripture mean in context of Keon’s death that, “dark will be heard in the daylight”? (verse 3) 5. “After that can do no more,” refers to the people on earth that may kill the body. Who has authority after death? (verse 5) 6. Why is God to be feared more than men? (verse 5)


Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for the opportunity to live. Thank You for the chance to choose life. Please let all of our sins die as we continue to do everything we can to walk in the light. Please forgive us for not always making the correct choices in life. Help us find our way back to You. We will always be grateful for Your grace and mercy. In the precious name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(8) The Truth Revealed The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness. (Romans 1:18) The day after the funeral, Spider planned a business meeting on a yacht scheduled to leave the Baltimore Inner Harbor at 6:00 pm. A few hours after the yacht left the pier, Spider requested a private meeting with Jez. Before Jez learned about the private meeting, one of his boys told him that Spider had changed his name to Shane. Jez’s grandma, Mia, always told him that “if an adult male changes his name that means he is in the process of a major life change.” Prior to Jez coming into the room, Shane took a deep gulp of air and worked the caring tone into his voice when he said, “Jez, you may or may not have heard that my days on the streets are over. I love the Lee Street boys and they love me.” Jez felt shock and wondered, “Why so serious? What’s up with him? Is he salty because of the funeral?” Jez felt like putting his hoodie over his brow so he could think. Jez delved into his thought processes as he stood in the most threatening gangster position possible in front of Shane;


legs positioned in the ready mode with a sway in his back so the shadow of the brow was sinister and direct. None of that swayed Shane one bit.


Scripture: Romans 1:17-19 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. Questions 1. If you decide to change your life, do you need a plan? Explain. 2. Spider began using his birth name Shane. How important is a name? 3. God’s wrath against a sinful humanity is “revealed from ______ against” who? (Verse 18) 4. What does God do to make things known? (verse 19) 5. Why would Shane make so many changes in his life at one time? Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for revealing the truth about the life we live. Let us continue to be open to receive the truth about the life we live and not begrudge anyone who offers constructive


criticism. Help us to shade the baggage that is unnecessary and to enhance that which makes us better. We trust You when You whisper in our ear that a change is necessary. Allow us to embrace the change as a confirmation of its relevance for our destiny. In the blessed name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(9) When the Father Speaks And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous— to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17) Spider continued his oral dissertation while ignoring Jez’s posture. “The Lee Street Old Gs are aware and supportive of my move to become a record label executive. The deal was made tonight with the record company executive to start SG Records. Jez, the Old Gs want to participate in the legitimate profits, and my leaving the streets opens the doors to that opportunity. As a concession for entering this new phase in my life, the Old Gs also gave me the option to take my son completely out of the gang without any consequence or price put on his head.” “Which one of those knuckle heads is going into business with you, Boss?” Jez questioned. “You, son.” “Naw, Spider, boss, I mean Shane. What are you talking about? My mother told me that my father was in jail and did not want to be part of my life. If you are my...FATHER, why did you wait until now to tell me?” “I needed to get my life in order so I could be the positive example you need to move your life into the right direction,” Spider replied.


“I don’t know if I want to follow your direction. You are a sell out to the gang”, Jez said as he walked gangster style out the door with the intent of moving out of Spider’s life. The hoodie was still over the brow of Jez’s eyes as he brooded angrily pushing his way out of the door onto the deck. Under the cloak of the hoodie, Jez engaged his private thoughts. His thoughts befriended him during times of trouble. The cloak of the hoodie was the secret place that allowed Jez to rest when life was pressing down hard on his brow. Shane’s security team was on alert and knew not to engage Jez. When the yacht docked in Annapolis to let the record company executives meet their awaiting cars, Jez made his way off as well. Shane signed a major record deal. The last phase of Shane’s transformation required the services of a doctor. The doctor came into the cabin with the equipment needed to remove the last remaining tattoo on Shane’s neck. A new business, an acknowledged son, a muscular body with no visible tattoos: Shane Garcia was ready to be formally introduced to the world as President and CEO of SG Records.


Scripture: Luke 1:16-17 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. Questions 1. How important is it for you to have a relationship with parents and guardians? Explain. 2. Jez thought the gang leader was simply a friend, but he was his father trying to get to know his son one day at a time. Did Shane go about introducing himself to his son properly? If not, what could he have done differently? 3. God will “turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the____________.” (verse 17) 4. How can a broken relationship with parents and guardians be repaired? Prayer: Dear God, Today we come to You to say thank You. We thank You for being there for us to help us mend relationships. Thank You for giving us the ambition to do more with our lives. Please forgive us for wrong doings. Allow us to open up to our


parents and guardians who want to make it right and fix our relationship with You. Please help the pain of past digressions to subside so that healing may begin. In the blessed name of Jesus we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(10) Secret Place I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places. (Isaiah 45:3)

Confused and alone, Jez did not know where to turn. With no idea who he could openly talk to about this issue, Jez headed towards familiar territory -- the club house. The club house, a vacant row of houses in Baltimore City, was where his boys sold their products to neighborhood customers. At the house, the boys gave Jez some action to put some dollars in his pocket. Jez was not in a hustler state of mind after what went down on the yacht. Being out of sync could cause me to go to jail, Jez thought to himself. “Nah, man! I need to sit here awhile and get my head on straight,” Jez replied. “Yo! Who's renting space in your head? You got some chicken head trying to trap you and make you her baby's father?” Little Mike joked as his boys laughed. Jez laughed along with them since he was not ready to say what he was dealing with out loud. “Go ahead and take a day off, I could use the profits from your customers,” another one of Jez’s boys said. Jez left the room and went to the upstairs bedroom


and sat in the spot on the floor where he worked through life’s problems. In the stillness of the silence, unwelcomed tears took over Jez’s thoughts laced by confusion dripping with the act of betrayal from his hero, Spider. With Spider out of the picture, Jez did not know if he wanted to be included in Shane’s new life. Jez wanted his family more than ever now, but how could he bring this drama to a mother who never told him the truth about his father?


Scripture: Isaiah 45:2-3 I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Questions 1. Is there a special place you go to think through problems and situations that trouble you? Explain. 2. Are there people in your life that you can talk to to gain a better understanding about life? Explain. 3. How can God make Himself known to you? (verse 3) 4. Spider informed Jez that he is Jez’s father. Why would Jez feel betrayed by Spider? 5. Jez and Spider share DNA. What role does fellowship have in the father-son relationship? Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for helping us to understand that relationships with family are necessary and important. Help us to learn how to ensure we stay in relationships that grow us and not tear us down. Provide insight about what we must do when our life is at a crossroad. Please forgive us of our sins that prevent Your will from being done in our life. Tell us if we should stay, turn right, turn left or go straight so that we may better serve You. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.


Notes:

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(11) Trial by Fire In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” (Hebrews 1:7) Jez stayed upstairs in the bedroom for hours, locked away in his private thoughts. The hoodie did not bring the level of comfort or confidence it did on the corner. It was cold in that room. Jez thought, "a hoodie ain’t a coat” as he smiled thinking about Grandma Mia. “I need to talk to her right now,” Jez thought. When he got up to leave, and opened the door, the hall way was filled with smoke. He yelled downstairs for his boys, but no one answered. Not wanting to yell out of the window like a little girl, Jez tried to man up and run through the smoke and flames. The decision to run to the stairwell was the best solution if he did not want to die in the fire. Jez proceeded with his plan to run, but fell through the floor near the back door only to be knocked unconscious. Poppa was not far from Jez because he had been near throughout this entire ordeal. When Jez regained consciousness in the hospital, he was told that the firemen rescued him when they saw him through the front window unconscious near the door. The firefighters knocked down the door and carried Jez out of


the building into an awaiting ambulance. A fireman thanked Poppa for bringing to their attention that a young man was trapped in the house. He just smiled and stood in the midst of the crowd as the paramedics whisked Jez away. Poppa knew the power of the miraculous workings of grace. Jez’s life was a miracle in the making. The reprieve from the smoke unclouded the thoughts that prevented Jez from realizing what he had at home -- a loving father, a mother and two siblings.


Scripture: Hebrews 1:6-8 And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” In speaking of the angels he says, “He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.” But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. Questions 1. Jez’s friends did not help him when the fire started. Should Jez still consider his boys his friends after they left him in the burning building? 2. Poppa was Jez’s guardian angel who carried him, in his unconscious state to the window at the front door. Have you ever entertained angels? 3. Who did the angels worship? (verse 6) 4. God’s throne will last for “______________.” (verse 8) 5. In the last paragraph, “the smoke unclouded Jez’s thoughts.” What does that mean? Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for the fire in our life that purifies us from the sins of our past. Thank You for putting us into situations that stretch us. Thank You for the smoke that blocks the nonsense


that may prevent us from reaching our destiny. Thank You, God, for angels that are all around. Help us to entertain the angels as they speak the truth about the life we live. Please forgive our sins, Lord, and bring peace that surpasses all understanding. In the precious name of Jesus we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(12) Love Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (Deuteronomy 7:8-10) Jez woke up in the hospital to a family who loved him. His parents were the first people he saw after regaining consciousness. Not ready to deal with his mother, Jez asked that she leave the room. Left to deal with Jez’s sorrow, his dad was relieved by Grandma Mia who was prepared to speak love, life, happiness and healing. Jez let Grandma Mia talk, he let her sing and felt every ounce of love she brought as he deliberately digested every story of empowerment. Though Jez put on a face of anger about the Spider-Shane situation, the corner of the house taught him that love will stay around to make sure you are rescued. His boys only worried about getting caught selling drugs, not about his survival. Not one of them came to the hospital to see him. They probably thought he died in the fire. Finally, confronted by the love of his family during his time of need, Jez just wanted them to love him. Grandma Mia spoke Jez’s love language when he needed her most. When comforted with the choice to stay and die, versus running through the fire and engaging in life with imperfect people, Jez chose life. That life included Seven, Breeze, his


parents, Grandma Mia, and Poppa at a distance. Jez learned through the experience that adults make mistakes too. It is not the mistake that would kill you; it is doing nothing about the mistake that is the killer. Shane did something about his mistake by legitimizing his business venues. The trial by fire gave Jez the desire to forgive and live. The corner was the place Jez passed by on his way to be with his family. The corner provided the architectural model used for Jez to excel in math and history so he could one day construct that Great Building. The dream of becoming a great architect rested in the private thoughts under the brim of Jez’s hoodie. “A hoodie ain’t a coat,” Jez thought, as he smiled within his private thoughts. The brim of the hoodie is a cloak of cover that allowed Jez to fit in as he passes through the bottleneck of life on the way to his destiny. The dream of becoming an architect is Jez’s fuel; private thoughts contained the roadmap to his destiny. “Never look back” is the mantra Jez followed as Poppa watched his back, allowing him to engage in private thoughts that contributed to “next level success.”


Scripture: Deuteronomy 7:8-10 (NIV) But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him. Questions 1. Who surrounded Jez when he woke up in the hospital? 2. How important is it that family and friends provide comfort in times of trouble? 3. Have you comforted family and friends during their time of need?

Prayer: Dear God, Thank You for loving us regardless of the circumstances we get ourselves into. Thank You for family and friends that comfort us when we need comforting. Thank You for allowing us to forgive parents and guardians who love us but


sometimes make mistakes. Please, God, allow Your word to capture our attention and not allow the street corners to dictate our focus. Let us excel in school and become role models that represent the highly educated student. Please forgive us of the sins we have committed. Allow us to move positively forward and never look back at negative experiences. In the matchless of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen. Notes:

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(Questions) 1) Jez thought the gang leader was simply a friend, but he was his father trying to get to know his son one day at a time. Did Shane go about introducing himself to his son properly? If not, what could he have done differently? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________


2) Jez’s business associates/gang members/friends left him in the house to burn. Should Jez continue his relationship with them? Explain. _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________


3) Grandma Mia had the wisdom needed to walk Jez through his ordeal. Poppa watched Jez from a distance and intervened when needed. What roles do elders have in providing advice, guidance and oversight? _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________



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