How Jontez Knows God Is Real
By Amy Hammond Hagberg
Excerpt from 'How Do You Know He's Real: God Unplugged'
The music of multi-talented and versatile performer, Jontez, is a bold blend of pop, R&B, hop-hop and Latin rhythms. A rising star in contemporary Christian music, he is no stranger to success. Jontez is a former member of the multi-platinum group God’s Property, a high octane Gospel youth choir. He’s opened for artists like Amy Grant, Jaci Velasquez, Point of Grace and Erykah Badu.
Voted one of the Top 10 New Artists to Watch in 2005 by ChristianityToday.com, three of his songs will be included on the new, nationally syndicated TV show, Rosarito Weekend, which will air in the fall of 2006. His solo debut, “And So It Is” met with critical acclaim when it was released in late 2005.
Jontez will launch his acting career in the upcoming feature film “Woman to Woman,” which will be written and produced by Obba Babbatunde and directed by Emmy Award winning actor and director, Bill Duke. You can learn more about these projects and more at www.jontez.net.
Three things happened in my life that have convinced me that there is a God, that He is real and that I have a personal relationship with Him. I don’t need a preacher to convince me... I lived it out.
My grandfather was my pastor for my whole childhood. We had a very large extended family, and everybody attended church together. There was a whole army of us! At a very young age I developed a strong and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.
I lived in a small town about an hour south of Dallas. When you grow up in a smaller community, youth group is your social life. I was involved in everything – I was the youth president, I organized youth camps and implemented a lot of different programs at our church. I was the responsible one, the one everybody looked up to. I was the one who was the good example to the other students. But by the time I got into my late teens I was tired of it and no longer wanted anything to do with leadership. Frankly, I was tired of being a role model. It was a lot of pressure and I didn’t want the responsibility.
In other words, I went into a mode of rebellion. I rebelled against God and what I knew He had called me to do. My mom said, “You can run, but you can’t hide. If God has called you to it, then you’d just better accept it.” My mother, always the faithful prayer warrior, got down on her knees and prayed that God would do His work in me again. And it happened, God did work in my life - but not until he’d brought me through some trials and taught me that He is ultimately in charge.
In the early 2001, my 18 year old sister found a lump on her shoulder. I’ll never forget the day we sat in the doctor’s office and found out that my beautiful little sister had lymphoma, a particularly deadly form of cancer. They had found a fist-sized tumor in her chest that had developed around her liver and grown all the way up to her shoulder. She’d had it for at least two years before they found it and by then it was all over her body. Her disease was terminal – she didn’t have long to live.
It was hard watching her go through chemo and squirm in her bed because the pain was so bad. And it was hard watching her go from being a vibrant, beautiful young woman to basically nothing.
Chemo treatments cause you to lose all of your white blood cells and it’s important that patients avoid being exposed to any bacteria or they could get really sick. Now, I’m the kind of person who gets busy when tragedy hits. So, when my sister was undergoing treatment, I went to my mom’s house and cleaned it from top to bottom, bleaching and disinfecting the whole entire house.
When I got back to my apartment that night, the seriousness of the situation finally hit me. I realized why I was doing everything that I was doing – that my sister was really dying. I remember crying so heavily that I wasn’t even able to physically hold myself up. I slid down the wall in my hallway until my face hit the floor.
At that particular moment, I learned one of the biggest lessons of my life. At that moment, I told God, “If you decide to take my sister away from me, then so be it. I will love you the same. Whatever you decide to do God, I’m 100% behind you.” My love for God wasn’t predicated by what He did or did not do for me. It was based on my absolute love for Him. It was the hardest thing to be able to say that, but I meant it. Of course I prayed for my sister to be healed, but from that point on, I accepted His will – whatever it was.
In September it was time for the next phase of her treatment - a bone marrow transplant. The doctors tested me and all three of my brothers, but none of us was a match. A donor was finally found and my sister was prepped and ready to go ahead with the procedure. When all of the preliminary tests and examinations had been done, the doctor dropped a bombshell...
My mom called me at work that day with the news. The doctors could find no trace of cancer in her body. She wasn’t in remission, it was like she’d never had cancer at all! The disease was completely gone – the only evidence they found was some scar tissue where the tumor had been.
I didn’t know how to react. I wasn’t used to getting good news, every day she’d gone farther and farther downhill. It had been cloudy for 9 months, and then all of a sudden the sun came out. I was amazed – I mean I had seen the x-rays and she definitely had cancer. She’d gone through chemotherapy for God’s sakes! And then miraculously ... it was gone! I know God is real.
One of my dreams had always been to visit New York City. I was finally able to take a trip with a couple of friends of mine in September of 2001, shortly after my sister was healed. My coworker’s boyfriend went to New York pretty frequently, so I asked him where to get the best view of the city. He suggested I go to the north tower of the World Trade Center to a famous restaurant called Windows on the World. I wrote his recommendation down on a sticky note and put it on my computer.
The plan was to go with my friends on September 9th and 10th and then drop them off at La Guardia airport on the 11th for their 7:45 a.m. flight home. From there, I was going to go straight to the World Trade Center and check out Windows on the World. But at the last minute, their schedule changed and my friends decided to take a later flight.
I woke up to the phone ringing that morning. It was my mom, anxious to see if I was okay. I was irritated, “Mom, I’m asleep, why are you waking me up?” Then she told me to turn on the television. When I switched it on, I couldn’t believe the horrifying scene at the twin towers... right down the street from the hotel we were staying at. If my friends had stuck to their original schedule and taken that 7:45 a.m. flight, I would have been on the top floor when American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower at 8:46 a.m.
I remember walking in NYC on September 11th. Normally, Manhattan is loud with horns honking and all this activity going on. That particular day, however, I remember walking down the street with thousands of other people, but everybody was quiet. It was like a quiet panic – everybody was frantically trying to get off Manhattan, but too stunned to speak. It was surreal - almost an out of body experience. The sky was full of smoke and ashes and the sirens were wailing. And I could literally smell flesh in the air. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.
The freakish thing was going back to my office a few days later and seeing that yellow note still on my computer “Windows on the World, World Trade Center.” I thank God that He kept me from being harmed that horrible day and pray for those whose lives were changed forever.
There was a point after all of this happened – my sister’s healing and the 911 tragedy – that I got really sick. I was terribly weak and just sick all over, I don’t know how many times I fainted. I went to the doctor, but he couldn’t make a diagnosis, he said I was perfectly fine. But even though he said there was nothing physically wrong with me, I knew in my spirit that I had deliberately rebelled against God. That’s what was causing my symptoms.
Have you ever heard someone say something like, “You know, Grandpa just knew he was going to die?” Well, that’s exactly how I felt – like I knew I was going to die. I could feel this oppression; this horrible spiritual battle going on that I had no control over. It was almost like God had removed himself from me and said, “You can deal with this on your own.” I never told a single soul what was going on with me, not my pastor or anyone in my family. I kept it all to myself.
One evening I went out to dinner with my record label. I sat next to one of the producers, and his wife sat across the table from me. They kept asking me if I was okay, I know I looked just terrible. They suggested that I go home and relax. Instead, I went to church. I was on the worship team, so I was up on stage with the pastor when he said a collective prayer for those in the congregation who were sick.
When he got done praying, I grabbed him by his suit lapels, pulled him up to my face and said, “Pray for me right now.” That’s all I said. You know what he prayed? “I rebuke the spirit of death that hovers over you. I speak the life into you right now!” When he said that, I busted out in tears ... how had he known? And then I felt it lift – I felt the darkness and the oppression lift right off of me. I fell to my knees right there in front of everyone and thanked God for what He had done.
A lot of people don’t understand the spiritual side of life and won’t accept it. To many, it’s just too scary and unexplainable. But it is a very spiritual world we are dealing with. And warfare is real and is going on all around us. I grown to realize that when you have God’s calling in your life, the enemy is definitely going to attack you. To Satan, the worst thing that could happen is that you reach your destiny, because that would mean that God has had the victory.
Throughout my whole life, I’ve known that the enemy has come at me, to try and stop what God had started. That’s the devil’s job, to mess up God’s plans. As believers, it’s up to us to hold our heads high and walk through the battle zone. Just because we’re Christians doesn’t mean we won’t go through anything – it’s actually just the opposite. God allows us to go through things so that we can know just who God really is in our lives.
Before all of these bad things happened to me in 2001, I never would have been able to say that I would love God no matter. I couldn’t say that until I’d been through the test. Now I really know what that means, and I’m able to put myself completely aside and allow God to have His way in my life.
These events helped me put my life back into perspective and to really understand that it’s not all about me. It’s about God performing His will in my life. And when I submit myself to Him, I know I’ll be a lot happier and live a much more successful life. I’m just a fragile man, and I know I can’t do anything without God in my life. It might have taken three huge, life-changing experiences, but yeah, God brought me back around. And because of that, I know He’s real.
Taken from How Do You Know He's Real: God Unplugged Copyright © 2006 by Amy Hammond Hagberg; Due out November 2006 courtesy of Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg, PA ; Used by Permission.
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