Narrator: Spring 2020 brings exclusive editions of Jesus Always and Jesus Calling to your local Sam’s Club. Featuring a leathersoft cover, with comfortable print size and written-out Bible verses, find these exclusive editions of Jesus Always and Jesus Calling at your local Sam’s Club today!
Miles McPherson: We’re all made in the image of God, and the image of God in me is the same as the image of God in you, the image of God in everybody around the world. God made us all in this image of one God. So we all have the ability to have a relationship with God, to understand His word, to hear His voice, to express His love.
God’s People, Made In His Image, Working Together: Miles McPherson & Derek Evans – Episode #192
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. Our guests this week have found the power in recognizing that though we appear to be different, we are all created in God’s image and for His glory: pastor & former NFL player Miles McPherson & entrepreneur Derek Evans.
First up, Miles McPherson founded and has pastored the vibrant Rock Church in San Diego for the last 20 years. During college, Miles played football and got drafted into the NFL. During his time as a player, he hit a low with drug abuse that caused him to reassess the direction his life was headed. Miles knew that he needed to give his life back to God, and when he did, everything changed. After he left the NFL, Miles went on to start his church and to become an important voice for racial unity in the world—especially among Christians—which he talks about in his latest book, The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation.
Miles McPherson: I’m Miles McPherson, former NFL player, now pastor of the Rock Church in San Diego. [I am] married with three kids and one grandchild who’s four years old, and an author of The Third Option.
I went to Catholic school from first to eighth grade, so I learned to fear God and Catholic school. I knew about God, and knew about the fear of God, and knew about the Ten Commandments. I had a high level of respect for God, and I have never said God’s name in vain because I learned that was a sin. Lying was really hard for me because I learned it was a sin. But other stuff, you know, I was getting high and sleeping around. But there was still something in me that acknowledged there was a God and there was right and wrong. So when I heard about Jesus in a relationship that made sense to me because it was more than religion and rules, it was a relationship, of course, God wants that. And so that made a lot of sense to me.
Football, Fame, and Failures Lead to God
When I was ten years old, I started playing Pop Warner football. I played for years, played through high school and college. I went to a Division III school, so no scholarship. [It was a] very small college. They had never had a winning season. I didn’t get a scholarship out of high school, and I was the first All-American in history at that school.
And then I got drafted to the NFL. I had a coach who believed I could play the NFL. So did I. But I had a little doubt. He sent flyers to every NFL team for my whole senior year, every week. And then after the season, some teams came to watch film. They never saw me play live. And I got drafted to the Los Angeles Rams from the University of Newhaven. Came here to California, I got cut from that team. In every NFL pre-season, you have tryouts about six weeks long. And back then, every week, they would cut about ten guys, and you start with about 100 guys. I was cut during the last cut.
Then there was the NFL strike. This is 1982, and no one was playing football. So I was miserable up here. I wasn’t on a team, didn’t know what was going to happen in my life. Then the season restarted. I signed with the San Diego Chargers.
I played four years with the San Diego Chargers. And during my first year, I started doing cocaine. I had been smoking marijuana since high school, but cocaine was something I vowed never to do. And I started doing cocaine because some of the guys on the team would do it in the hotel. I did it for two years. And, you know, I never played high. But after practice, after the games, and during the week during the offseason, I was getting high all the time.
And it was an emptiness in my life because I was doing what I always dreamt to do. My dream came true. But yet there was something missing in my life.
And I went to a crack house with my teammate who was doing crack. And I didn’t do crack, but I did powder cocaine. I was watching him smoke this rock, and his eyes would roll back in his head. And I was sitting there going, What am I doing with my life? I was doing cocaine on a team plane, in the bathroom of the team plane, walking down the aisle of the plane. Guys were doing Bible study on our team plane, and they shared the gospel with me. And I watched them, the Christians on our team. They had a very strong witness and were very vocal. Every NFL team has a Christian contingent. They all have chapels. They all have chapel before the game. They all have a Bible study during the week. And so there was a group on our team, and I watched them and knew that what they had, I wanted.
“Every NFL team has a Christian contingent. They all have chapels. They all have chapel before the game. They all have Bible study during the week. And so there was a group on our team, and I watched them and knew that what they had, I wanted.” – Miles McPherson
And I said, “Okay, God, I’ve got to give my life to you, recommit my life, and I’m going to do it.” But for those five years, I was thinking about it, and God was whispering to me pretty much every day. Whenever you’re ready, whenever you’re ready, whenever you’re ready, that’s going to be the girl you marry. Whenever you’re ready, I’m going to get you off these drugs. And I just kept saying, you know, “One more day, one more day,” and just dragged it out, you know, for five years.
On April 12, 1984, I was laying on my couch at five o’clock in the morning. I had been doing cocaine all night, and my heart was pounding out of my chest. I was going to have a heart attack. And I just said, “Okay, Lord, I’m going to give my life to you.” And that day I stopped doing cocaine. I stopped smoking marijuana. My girlfriend, who I met in college in Connecticut, was now living in California. We got back together that day and we’ve been together ever since.
Building a Relationship with God
You know, the big difference for me was having people in my life to hold me accountable and just be there to be an example and a role model for me, because I had no one.
“The big difference for me was having people in my life to hold me accountable and just be there to be an example.” – Miles McPherson, on life after becoming a Christian
I didn’t know any Christians. I went through the NFL and didn’t know any. I started meeting a couple here, a couple there. But there wasn’t somebody that I really looked up to that could guide me in the right direction until I went to the Chargers, and the guys came onto the team that spoke to me about it.
Once I decided that I was going to give my life to the Lord, that was it. I stopped doing cocaine that day.
And then I asked the guys on the team to disciple me. Well, one, I was asking guys questions about the Bible, about God, and one of the guys who I kept asking questions of, he said, “You need to get discipled.”
I said, “What is that?
And he said, “Someone will sit down and teach you all of this.”
I said, “Well, will you disciple me?”
And he said, “No.”
And I was mad. I was like, “How could you say no?”
And he said, “You should ask this other guy named Sherman.”
So I asked him, and he said, “I’ll pray about it,” which to me sounds like a Christian way to say “I’ll think about it.” But he said, “Yes,” and he met with me every Tuesday. That was our day off. He met with me every Tuesday for three hours, me and two other guys. And that changed my life.
I played two more years, I played four total. In my last two years, obviously, I wasn’t getting high, I was walking with God. And my next year I was a starter. Then I got hurt and had surgery, and did one more year. My injury ended my career pretty much, but then I started youth ministry and I started speaking in schools and started a Bible study in my house with kids in my neighborhood. I go into prisons.
Fast forward sixteen years. We started the Rock Church in 2000, so we’re nineteen years old as a church. And then I wrote this book called The Third Option because of all the division in our country.
No More “Us vs. Them.” There’s a Third Option.
You know, every race conversation is about us vs. them. And the third option is that we honor what we have in common. We are all 99.5% genetically identical., and if we focus on and acknowledge what we have in common, the one thing of ethnicity that’s different will actually be a benefit and not a cause of division, because God made us different because He’s a creative God and He’s into variety. But in fact, we have so many countless things that are identical.
”Every race conversation is about us vs. them. And the third option is that we honor what we have in common.” – Miles McPherson
And so the book is about how we can learn how to honor one another through and amidst all this racial division in the world. I wanted to give people tools on how to do that, how to understand their own blind spots and how to understand how people perceive them, so we can break through the walls that racism has built up between us.
Every time you see someone, rename them, neighbor. You know, the greatest commandment is to love God with your heart, mind, and soul. And the second is just like it, to love your neighbor as yourself. So I am biblically obligated to love you as my neighbor. The Good Samaritan story tells us that everybody is my neighbor. So I have to love you as my neighbor. I love you as myself. But if I rename you something less than neighbor, I don’t need to love you. So when we look at people, we put all these labels on them that dehumanize them, and then we liberate ourselves from the obligation of having to love them because they’re not on our level. And we watch the news and news gives us those labels and social media gives us those labels. And then once you attach a label to someone that is less than neighbor or less than brother, you dehumanize them and you can’t relate to them above that label. So the first thing you can do is say, “That’s my neighbor.” If we would just start there and talk about people through the lens of a neighbor or brother or sister, we wouldn’t say a lot of the things we say.
“Every time you see someone, rename them neighbor. You know, the greatest commandment is to love God with your heart, mind, and soul. And the second is just like it, to love your neighbor as yourself . . .If we would just start there and talk about people through the lens of a neighbor or brother or sister, we wouldn’t say a lot of the things we say.” – Miles McPherson
We’re commanded by God to love people. We are commanded. He said, “The number-one thing you could do is love Me. And just like it is—you’ve got to love your neighbor.” If you can’t do those two things, because His whole book is about that. So He has a whole group of people that you’ve got issues with, okay?
We’re the ones that have to come together. God is love, and we have God. So we have to represent love in the most unselfish way possible. And one of the most visible ways is when people see you loving people that don’t look like you, and possibly don’t have anything in common with you other than the fact you’re made in the image of God.
Narrator: Miles has a mission to help people come together, despite their perceived differences from one another. He reads a passage from Jesus Calling and then reiterates that although we are all made uniquely for his glory—it is important for us to find that thing we all have in common—that we’re made in God’s image.
Miles: [This is the] July 20th [passage] from Jesus Calling.
Do not be afraid to be different from other people. The path I have called you to travel is exquisitely right for you. The more closely you follow My leading, the more fully I can develop your gifts. To follow Me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your desire to please other people. However, your closeness to Me will bless others by enabling you to shine brightly in this dark world.
God says, “I’ve done this for all of you.” That’s what we all have in common. Yet you are unique. That’s what we all have in common. God made us unique for His glory. He made us all the same so we can all be a family. The Third Option is focusing on what we all have in common. And I would challenge all your [listeners] as they look at people, homeless people, people that are in the furthest socioeconomic level from them, people that have the furthest distance in education from them that they’re all made in His image, and there’s some great in them that God is trying to call out. And if we can be part of that, we can live out the third option and bring unity to our world.
Narrator: To learn more about the ministry of Miles McPherson or to buy his book The Third Option, please visit MilesMcPherson.com.
Stay tuned to Derek Evans’ story after a brief message about a beautiful new edition of Jesus Calling that’s a perfect way to help you celebrate the Easter season.
Narrator: The Easter season is filled with joy and hope. Now, there’s a new way to focus on the holiday with the new book, Jesus Calling® for Easter. With 50 Jesus Calling devotions selected just for the Lent and Easter season, Jesus Calling for Easter includes Scripture verses alongside breathtaking imagery and exquisite design. Jesus Calling for Easter makes a stunning gift for those who love Jesus Calling and would like a new way to observe the Easter season. To learn more about this beautiful new edition of Jesus Calling, please visit jesuscalling.com/books.
From the time he was a little boy, Derek Evans knew his purpose was to make a difference for the least of these. As he grew older, Derek searched for a way to put his mission into action. But it wasn’t until he and a friend founded a T-shirt company that he found a way to make a difference for those in need in his community, but even for others all the way across the globe.
Derek Evans: My name is Derek Evans. I’m originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, born and raised. Right after college, I moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and started a company called Project 615. We’re actually a T-shirt and apparel company that has a mission to help people. So we’ve been doing that going on ten years, and we’ve seen a lot of awesome, beautiful growth here in this great city.
A Desire to Help Shapes a Little Boy
I grew up kind of inner-city in downtown Indianapolis, and my parents were your classic blue-collar family, something that I’m extremely grateful for. It was the eighties, and my mom and dad had three children, and I was the middle child. And, you know, having three kids in your twenties is not always the easiest.
One of my first memories, I was about four or five years old, and I went with my mother to the grocery store to pick up a few groceries for the family. And we go and get the things, and we get ready to check out, and it’s the same lady that we’ve seen there all the time. My mom did not have enough money to pay for the groceries, the food and things that we needed. And the lady basically said, “You know, I’m sorry. I’m not going to give you these groceries. You don’t have enough money.” And my mom’s, like, counting pennies in her purse, and she’s still coming up short. And the lady is getting aggravated with my mom. And Mom starts crying.
I just remember being like, Wow. And I think really, for the first time in my life, even being a four or five-year-old, that compassion kind of kicked in. And I was just like, Man, whatever I can do to help my mom or to help others, to help people, I want to make sure that people have an opportunity to be helped. And so that was really one of the first moments, and it’s kind of stuck with me throughout my whole life.
“The Beautiful Thing About Hitting Rock Bottom”
How I got to Nashville is somewhat of an interesting yet quick story. I had nearly every job under the sun in college, after college. And I was at a construction management company, and it was the middle of 2008. I’d recently gotten a raise, gotten my own office. I thought I was living the high life, right?
Not too long after I got the raise, got my own office, the owner of the company knocked on my door, walked in and said, “Hey, we’re actually firing you because we need to save some money.” And it’s kind of funny, because in that moment, I knew one person in Nashville, a good friend of mine from college. And I just felt God in that moment say, “You’re moving to Nashville.”
About six days later, I was in Nashville. I was excited. I’m a person that anytime there’s a change in my life, I’m more excited than fearful because I know that God always uses those opportunities to really strengthen us.
“Anytime there’s change in my life, I’m more excited than fearful because I know that God always uses those opportunities to really strengthen us.” – Derek Evans
It was really about a year and a half to two years of the Lord really molding me. You know, I didn’t have a family. I didn’t have any nearby family. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t have any money. I was single. My car broke down. I didn’t have a car. And [it was] truly rock bottom for the first time in my life. And the beautiful thing about being at rock bottom is that God truly uses that time to mold you, to really speak to you, to really transform your life. And so for me, it was a lot of days spent on my knees in prayer.
“The beautiful thing about being at rock bottom is that God truly uses that time to mold you, to really speak to you, to really transform your life.” – Derek Evans
For the first time—and I grew up in a Christian home, I went to two Christian camps, went to a Christian university—but here I was about twenty-four, twenty-five years old, for the first time just on my knees seeking the Lord and saying, “Lord, what? Why me? What is going on? What are you doing?” And I’m so grateful for that time, because if I didn’t go through that time, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.
Finding His Purpose
I found a really awesome church in Nashville that is still home for me today. And I ended up meeting some friends around the same age as me, and they invited me to go serve the homeless in downtown Nashville with this ministry called The Bridge Ministry that feeds and loves on and serves the homeless population in downtown Nashville. And so we fed them, had a worship service, and then the volunteers actually prayed with some of the homeless people that wanted prayer.
And I’ll never forget this. It was my turn to stand up as a volunteer to pray with this man who requested some prayer. And so, I and the friends that I met down there prayed with this man. And we’re praying over him, and for the first time in my life, I felt God say, “You’re no different than this man who you’re praying for.” That was when compassion sparked, and I wanted to live a life that really gave people second chances and really gave people hope and really love on the least of these because that’s what Christ has called us to do.
“As we’re praying over [this homeless man], for the first time in my life, I felt God say, ‘You’re no different than this man you’re praying for.'” – Derek Evans
So I began entering into the entrepreneurial arena. I had a good friend from college, Matt, we went to the same Christian college in Anderson, Indiana. We were in the same Christian fraternity. He was a graphic designer, and he ended up moving to Kentucky. He was like, “Hey, I’ll come down to Nashville for the weekend.”
And so I was like, “Hey, I’ve got this idea. As you know, I’m unemployed. I can’t get a job. I want to start a business. What do you think?”
And funny enough, he said, “That’s a great idea.”
I was like, “Huh? Really?”
He’s like, “Yeah, we could do this.”
I was like, “Wait a second. You’re right. We can do this!”
And he’s like, “I’d love to help. I’d love to be a part of this.”
We thought about everything. We wanted to write a book about Indiana high school basketball. We wanted to write comedy. We wanted to make logos for people. And then we eventually settled on making T-shirts.
And so a few months in, we saw some traction, and we were really excited. And so I had an opportunity to go with my church to Los Angeles to go on a mission trip to feed the homeless, and Matt did not attend my church, but he said he would like to go with me. And I was like, “Oh, that’d be great. Yeah, let’s do it.”
The trip ended up being one of those really, truly life-changing weeks for us. We saw people that had lived there before, and now were business people, that were now pastors, that were now leading nonprofits.
And so we were able to see God’s grace and mercy in a three-dimensional way. And so being able to see that transformation of people, we are really blown away by what God can do. Seeing God’s restoration was incredible. We were like, “You know that T-shirt company we’re trying to launch? What if we make this more of a mission company, a company that really helps people?”
Use What You Have to Help Where You Can
What we told each other early on is that we wanted to make products that people actually wear. We want to make great products that have a two-part mission. We’re giving some of our profits away to local nonprofits that are making a kingdom impact locally and globally, and we also want to give the gift of second chances. We want to give people our society says no to—we want to give them an opportunity to be a part of something greater than themselves. So we’ve given away over half a million dollars to different nonprofits here in Nashville, and we’ve also been able to hire over fifty-five people that are recovering from homelessness, addiction, and mental illness.
It is always the right time to #loveyourneighbor. Thank you for loving your neighbors in Middle Tennessee. 💙 This tee is now available in youth sizes in maroon! https://t.co/ajuJ1SwP0G #loveyourneighbor #nashvillestrong pic.twitter.com/KaKE5Uv74h— Project 615 (@project615) March 6, 2020
In 2018, we were at our annual retreat with all of our employees, and we were coming up with different goals for the year. And we threw out the idea of, “What do we really want to do with this company that people know of that gives back, that really impacts the world—what can we really do this year that really propels us into this company that really makes a difference?”
There were several people that said, “You know what? We should do an orphanage in a [developing] country.”
And everybody kind of was like, “Yes, that’s it. Yeah, that’s an awesome idea!”
And so we all kind of agreed that in 2018, we wanted to build an orphanage in a [developing] country.
We created a T-shirt. We let our fans and followers and customers know that we had this goal of $25,000. And at the end of it, as soon as we raise the money, if we raised the money, this home is going to be built just in a matter of days in this city in Uganda.
We had two months to raise the funds. We had a few weeks go by. We had about another few days left, and so we were still short about $8,000. And so we made an extra push, and all of a sudden, some people started pushing it themselves. Like, our customers got behind it and were tagging different celebrities, different musicians in town.
And I kid you not: at the very last hour of the very last day, we came up with $25,000. And it was such a really, really awesome thing. Just a few days later that, the home was being built. And to this day, eighteen boys who were orphans living on the streets, in the bushes, are now in this home that’s being run by a bunch of Christians in Uganda. That’s why we started this business: to do our part in changing the world and giving people second chances.
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GUYS! YOU DID IT! We are so thrilled!!! You helped us reach our goal of $25,000 to build a children’s home in Uganda! Fully funded! Because of your purchase, we are now able to break ground on this home with our partner & Nashville non-profit, @projectr12! We are so grateful for your purchases of our “Do Everything In Love” campaign tees! It was close to the very end, but because of you, 12 orphaned children in Uganda will now have a home! As part of our 8 year celebration, we wanted to do something BIG and we took a chance, but ya’ll came through and now together we can change the world! We want to say a giant THANK YOU to all of you who purchased in store and online. Much love-The Project 615 Team ❤️ #project615 #nashville #giveback #spreadlove #uganda #nonprofit #nash #nashvegas #tennessee
God calls us to different things, and not only does He call for different things, but He also plants different gifts and talents inside of us that He uses to further His kingdom. And so whatever that may be, I think that we have to be obsessed with pursuing that as much as we can, because if you are stuck in a job that you don’t feel like you’re making an impact, certainly pray about it. What is God calling you to do? And then, what is something that has never really left you? What is something that you constantly think of? And it’s like, “Oh, you know, I just don’t know if I can do that.” But if God is going to call you to do that, you need to be obsessed with pursuing that wholeheartedly.
“God calls us to different things, and not only does He call for different things, He plants different gifts and talents inside of us that He uses to further His kingdom.” – Derek Evans
Being the Light God Calls Us to Be
It just seems that now that we’re so connected, life is extremely busy for all people. And life is exceptionally busy for people who are running growing businesses, so if I don’t reflect and read through devotions like Jesus Calling, and journal, and write out my prayers, and spend time with the Lord, I’m going to be a wreck, really, because the rest of the day controls me. And so for fifteen to thirty minutes a day, that’s the one time where I’m able to control that time and I’m able to really, truly spend that time with the Lord and hear from Him and be reminded of His grace and mercy.
I know a lot of people aren’t morning people, and if that’s you at night, that’s you in your car at lunch, if that’s Saturday morning, if it’s Friday night—whatever it is, you have to make sure that you’re doing that to be able to take care of your soul.
[This is] Jesus Calling July 23rd.
I AM THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. Men crawl through their lives cursing the darkness, but all the while I am shining brightly. I desire each of My followers to be a Light-bearer. The Holy Spirit who lives in you can shine from your face, making Me visible to the people around you. Ask My Spirit to live through you as you wend your way through this day. Hold My hand in joyful trust, for I never leave your side. The Light of My Presence is shining upon you. Brighten up the world by reflecting who I am.
This connects with me so much professionally and personally, because that’s why this business exists: to use our platform to be the light in our community and around the world. And so for me as a businessman, how can I use what Christ has called me to do, to use this platform that He’s given us to truly shine His light onto others? Being able to be the light as a businessman, as somebody in the community, and really leading that company, I think, is impactful because I believe that the world is dark. So we must be the light, as Jesus calls us to be.
“We must be the light, as Jesus calls us to be.” – Derek Evans
If you’d like to hear more stories about caring for our neighbors, check out our interview with Joanne Rogers, wife of Mister Rogers.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we talk with author and speaker Lisa Bevere. As she speaks around the world, Lisa’s mission is to lift up women no matter where they are, and remind them of the God-given strength they have right at this moment.
Lisa Bevere: You know, I think it’s so fascinating that God is strong. But a lot of times women think, Okay, but strong is wrong, because we have actually associated strength with the things that would be ungodly: anger, punishment, rebellion. But strength is actually this incredibly beautiful expression of God in our life, and a lot of times women do not understand that strong is not wrong for them. You not only have the right, you have permission from God to be strong.
Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/media/video.