Seeking a Life of Love & Truth: Rev Run & Justine Simmons and Matt Brown
Justine: We make it our business to try to make the other person happy. I want him to be happy. He wants me to be happy. So we’re kind of looking out like, Is he okay? Is she okay?
Rev Run: We look out for each other.
Justine: We look out for each other. So—
Rev Run: That helps.
Justine: That helps a lot.
Rev Run: Instead of fighting and being against each other, we’re trying to help each other.
Rev Run: Instead of [being] selfish, we’re selfless.
Seeking a Life of Love & Truth: Rev Run & Justine Simmons and Matt Brown – Episode #186
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. This week’s guests discuss all the qualities that embody love—from patience, to sacrifice, to acceptance—and how we can love others because God first loved us: entertainers and authors Rev Run and Justine Simmons, and evangelist Matt Brown.
When he founded the rap group RUN-D.M.C., Joey Simmons, as he was known then, had no idea the group would become so successful, topping charts and eventually landing the group into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. But more than any of the success he had in his music career, the minister who now calls himself Rev Run values his relationship with God, his wife of twenty-five years, Justine, and his family more than anything else. Rev Run and Justine talk about how Rev Run found God at the height of his rap career, the power of setting intentions, and why old school love works so well.
Rev Run: My name is Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons. I’m from the rap group RUN-D.M.C. I’ve also done many reality shows with my family. And I’m here with my wife, Justine.
Justine: Hi, my name is Justine Simmons, and I’m a mom, a wife, and my husband and I also put out a book [called] Old School Love: And Why It Works. I also have a children’s book called God, Can You Hear Me?
The Power of Setting Your Intentions
Justine: Well, for me, growing up, I sang a lot. So I think I thought I was going to be this big singer. That’s what I thought, because me and my friends, we sang a lot.
Rev Run: And for me, I was into rap music and deejaying and stuff. So with that going on, I got lucky enough to be involved with a gentleman named Kurtis Blow. I was known as the son of Kurtis Blow. And then as that moved on, I was able to form my own group called RUN-D.M.C. And with God’s graces, we exploded onto the scene.
Years ago, there was this house, and it’s still there now in Queens, that sat on a big hill. It was right off the highway, and it was a little bit from Hollis, Queens, where I was from. It was a little bit more affluent neighborhood.
And I remember writing it down—the Bible says, “Write the vision and make it plain.” So I wrote down, “Dear sir, one day I will buy your home.”
And then years later, when the gentleman passed, his family came to me with that same letter and said, “My dad remembered,” because he had passed, and said, “Do you want to buy the house?” And at that time, I had enough money and I bought the house. It’s just funny how you can visualize and set your intentions, and things just come to pass.
”It’s just funny how you can visualize and set your intentions, and things just come to pass.” – Rev Run
Crashing At The Top
Rev Run: I was very excited about being RUN-D.M.C. It was a big thing, it was all over televisions, and all over the charts, and it was a big thing. But, you know, there’s this void that success and money can’t fill. I was in a hotel room, just waiting for all these different luxuries. I had a car coming. Rolling Stone Magazine was coming, and I was ordering French toast. And I had my favorite drugs of choice—marijuana, weed, all this stuff. And then all of a sudden, it just crashed on me that none of these things were going to make me happy. So that top—some would say—became my bottom. And that’s when I started seeking out to find what was missing in my life, and that was Jesus Christ.
“There’s this void that success and money can’t fill.” – Rev Run
My top—my very top—became my bottom, because you keep looking for something to fill this, I want to be happy. I want to be happier. I want to be happiest. And you’d think that making hit records or money or cars or fame or people saying, “Oh, you’re the greatest,” people praising you for making your music would do it. But actually, when you start praising God, that’s when you get happy. That’s what happened for me.
“You’d think that making hit records or money or cars or fame or people saying, “Oh, you’re the greatest,” people praising you for making your music would do it. But actually, when you start praising God, that’s when you get happy.” – Rev Run
Narrator: Rev Run and Justine first met at a show that a fifteen-year-old Rev Run, known then as Joey, was deejaying at a roller rink. The two fell fast for each other, but Justine didn’t live in the neighborhood. As they got older, they lost touch—until years later, after Joey had hit it big with RUN-D.M.C., and two family members reconnected them.
Rev Run: My cousin was at a school in Long Island, he was the security guard, and he was bragging that his cousin, which was me, is RUN-D.M.C. And her sister was going to the school.
Justine: Little sister.
Rev Run: Little sister. She was in the school while my cousin was a security guard at the school. She said to him, “Well, okay, that’s good and all that that’s your cousin. But my sister used to date him when they were much younger.” And then he brought home the phone number, because I said, “Ask her sister, Michelle, for the phone number.”
Justine: When he called me and I picked up, when he said, “Hello,” it was still the shy person that I knew. And I melted right away. It was amazing. I knew right then, He’s still the same person. Then he brought me into his church, and that’s how I started going to church.
We would write letters, and he wrote that we would get married.
Rev Run: One day.
Justine: One day.
Rev Run: And then when I got back with her, I had letters, she had some pictures, old pictures, of us. She had a letter that I wrote to her with the little birds in the heart. And, you know, these words that you write down, setting your intention and visualizing, it works. And here we sit, with a book out on old school love.
Old School Love—And Why It Works
Justine: We did Old School Love because we feel like back in the day, a lot of people tried to keep it together more, and they had old school principals, like, go on a date, hold hands, and [they] were really trying to not break up. Whereas today you find [with] little problems people can have, and they just split right away instead of really trying to stick it out. Joey and I, we really try to make our marriage work. We make it an effort to try to make it work.
Rev Run: The power of commitment has kept us together, because, you know, if you have two to come together and commit to a common goal—I’ve read a quote that said, “Love is not so much looking into each other’s eyes, but it’s looking in the same direction.” I love that quote because looking into each other’s eyes is beautiful, but do you have this same mindset? How can two walk together, lest they agree? Cause if someone else is walking this way, and you’re walking this way, you come further apart.
Rev Run: But if you’re both walking together, according to the Bible, it can work.
Justine: Yeah. And, you know, some people see a lot of red flags before they get married, but they—
Rev Run: —go with it.
Justine: They go and say, “Maybe they’ll change once we get married.”
Rev Run: It doesn’t.
Justine: It’s not like if you hate football and your mate loves football—
Rev Run: —and you don’t want to go to any games, you don’t want it, why host his friends eating popcorn in your living room?
Justine: Why would you marry that?
Rev Run: You’re gonna argue all the time.
Justine: That’s an argument right there. You know, little things like that can be because we can become very big in our marriage, and that’s not the person for you because it doesn’t change. It gets worse if you get married.
Rev Run: Especially if it really aggravates you, what they love.
Justine: Right, right. But little things like that can become very big once you get married. So, him and I, we really like the same things.
Rev Run: Yep.
Justine: The reason why there is no cheating, there’s none of that stuff, is because of God. We don’t want to let Him down. That’s our main reason.
Rev Run: Forget the cheating on her. I’m cheating on God if I’m cheating on her.
Justine: He’s actually our foundation of our whole home. Even our kids, they know about God. They are in tune. That’s what motivates us to try to make our marriage work every day. Every day. I know a lot of people think it’s supposed to be an easy thing and no, it’s not easy. You have to make it work. And our faith is our foundation. And then from there, I love him so much, but I love God more.
“I love [my husband] so much, but I love God more.” – Justine Simmons
Rev Run: Amen.
Spending and dedicating time with God leads to a better hearing ear. People want to know, “How can I hear God? How do I know how God speaks? How do I know what God wants?” When you spend time with Him constantly and consistently, the next thing you know, you’re able to know what His will is. Besides the Word—you know what His will is from the Word—but you can know the little nuances of the day, of what God is putting in your heart. “Make the left. Make a right. Don’t do this. Don’t do that.” [That’s] special communication.
“Spending and dedicating time with God leads to a better hearing ear.” – Rev Run
Justine: I would have to say ditto to that.
Rev Run: It’s the same thing.
Justine: It’s true.
Rev Run: I have my own notes here from the book Jesus Calling. Let me read to you a passage from this wonderful book, [April 19th].
I love you regardless of how well you are performing. Sometimes you feel uneasy, wondering if you are doing enough to be worthy of My Love. No matter how exemplary your behavior, the answer to that question will always be no. Your performance and My Love are totally different issues, which you need to sort out. I love you with an everlasting Love that flows out from eternity without limits or conditions. I have clothed you in My robe of righteousness, and this is an eternal transaction: Nothing and no one can reverse it. Therefore, your accomplishment as a Christian has no bearing on My Love for you. Even your ability to assess how well you are doing on a given day is flawed. Your limited human perspective and the condition of your body, with its mercurial variations, distort your evaluations. Bring your performance anxiety to Me, and receive in its place My unfailing Love. Try to stay conscious of My loving Presence with you in all that you do, and I will direct your steps.
Well, it lets me know that grace is available, and that I don’t need to work and work and work in order to please God. It makes me feel like I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, and that as long as I am here on this earth, I am loved and protected. That will [be] a big thing that I have to prove to God to be accepted.
Justine: That’s good. And for me, it helped me see that when I have anxiety trying to go to sleep and thinking of this and worrying that He’s there and I need to give it to Him, He’ll take that away.
Rev Run and Justine’s #1 Marriage Tips
Justine: I would say the number one advice I would give to couples, is that it’s about give and take. That’s the only way it will work. It can’t be selfishness. You have to both be selfless, and it takes two.
Rev Run: I would say the number one way to keep a relationship going is to keep sparks flying. Keep little gifts happening, keep little fun times happening, keep the mystery. She’s always waiting to hear me say, “Guess what just happened?” There’s always a little mystery, there’s a little excitement, there’s a little thing I’m putting together. We’re getting ready to go away to Los Angeles next week. And I’m always trying to make sure that she’s excited about what I’m doing in my life. It’s not like I’m going to Los Angeles to do this work that’s kind of fun and I’m just going to say, “Well, you stay home. I’m going. It’s a business trip.” I’m like, “No. You know, it’s gonna be business and pleasure. I’d like you to join me on this particular job that I’m going to be doing, because we’ll have some days off and it’ll be fun for the whole family.”
Rev Run: We love doing everything the same.
Rev Run: We’re excited today, right after this interview, just to go handle little knick knacks. I’ve got to go pick up a hat for my show, and she has to go deliver something to our son Diggy, and she has to do some other errands. You run around together. For us, it’s as big as going on a vacation all the way to Hawaii, just being together. So we believe that, you know, enjoying each other’s company is probably a big part of staying together.
“Enjoying each other’s company is probably a big part of staying together.” – Rev Run
Narrator: You can find Rev Run and Justine’s book, Old School Love, at your favorite book retailer today.
Stay tuned for Matt Brown’s story after a brief message about an adorable new edition of Jesus Calling for Kids that’s a perfect gift for girls.
Narrator: Help your kids find peace in Jesus. The Jesus Calling for Kids devotional is adapted from the bestselling Jesus Calling® book beloved by millions around the world. Each day’s devotion shares the same theme as the adult version, as well as written-out Scripture verses, making it easy for parents and kids to share daily devotional time. Plus, this new edition of Jesus Calling for Kids comes with a pale-rose pink cover and interior that girls will love. Learn more about this adorable new edition of Jesus Calling for Kids at jesuscalling.com/books.
Narrator: Matt Brown is an evangelist and the founder of Think Eternity, a ministry dedicated to amplifying the gospel every day through various forms of modern media. Matt is committed to helping Christians learn how to love unconditionally in the hope that that love will represent Christ to the world, thus causing people to be more open to hearing His message of truth. Matt has written a book on this topic called Truth Plus Love.
Matt: My name is Matt Brown, @evangelistmatt on social media, and I’m an evangelist and author. I’m also a husband of thirteen years and dad of two with a little baby girl on the way. I’m the author of Truth Plus Love, a book that is about how God calls us to grow in both truth and and love in both areas of our lives.
Finding Your Place in The World
God has a way of making it clear to us where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do often through His word, but through other things as well.
I began to realize—and I think God was showing me, even after growing up in the church—that I kind of maybe had the wrong vision for where God wanted me to grow. And I began to realize Galatians 5:22 and 23, that that really looks a whole lot more like a whole lot of love. Enjoy in peace and patience and kindness in the Fruit of the Spirit.
And so, you know, just that became my framework, and started to rework what I was seeing as the way I was supposed to grow, because if we think we’re supposed to grow a certain way, we’re going to aim towards that. It’s so easy to aim towards the wrong things. I just began to realize it’s part of it, too, being hurt at times by leaders that I looked up to, people who had been mentors and disciplers in my life. And then part of it, I definitely know, is my own challenges that I probably cast onto others.
And so it’s just been liberating, and has brought so much joy. It’s really this idea that to grow in the Lord, and to reflect God to the world around us, we need both truth and love.
“God has a way of making it clear to us where He wants us to go and what He wants us to do. . . . To grow in the Lord, and to reflect God to the world around us, we need both truth and love.” – Matt Brown
Even though I had grown up in the church world, [to learn] what it really means to walk with God and to have a closer relationship with God and have a prayer life—that was life changing. I’ve never been the same since I began to learn what it means to really take time to seek out prayer in the Bible. And during that time, God began to put messages on my heart like sermons. I was thinking about different scriptures, and as that was happening, all of a sudden, people started to ask me out of the blue to come preach. And that kind of started a chain of events where about midway through Bible College, I began to travel and preach as consistently as I could and begin this evangelistic ministry I felt called to.
And after graduating from Bible college, my wife and I got married and I continued on that path of looking for opportunities and places to share about Christ and to share what God had done in my life and to share biblical messages. And within about a year, I came up with the name for our ministry, which is Think Eternity.
We can’t get caught up in our Christian lives and just living for what we see in front of us. But [we have] to remember that remember our eternity in heaven, to remember that what we do in the here and now affects the future, and just remember the values that God holds in our lives, which we can see in His Word.
And so that was the kind of thinking there, just, Man, let’s do this evangelist ministry, but let’s live with an eternal perspective and with an eternal hope and enjoy that no matter the circumstances in life, we can have because of Jesus.
And I continue to do ministry. That has grown into where we are today, where we’re able to share through social media with so many people every single day. We’re holding different events, and we really do see half of our ministry as ministering to people online as the opportunity that we have there. It’s just been a wonderful journey. We have a wonderful team of friends doing ministry together. God has just really blessed the work.
Making Family the First Priority
I’m just so thankful for my wife, Michelle. My wife also felt the call to ministry an early age. She has this sense of this mission’s call as well. And, you know, we’ve done a lot of ministry together. What that’s looked like for us has been a lot of times that we travel as a family, and [go to] these different conferences and outreaches and gatherings that we’ve been able to be involved with. We really like to do a lot of that together.
I really see that as my first focus in life, my first calling, and I believe this is true of all of us, is to love my family well and to spend as much time as I can with them and to just enjoy life with them.
My grandmother-in-law, who served as pastor alongside her husband over the years, and who is one of the most godly women that my wife and I have ever known—just full of wisdom. Anytime you talk with her, it spills out. She loves Jesus Calling. So that made me think, I need to get this. I want to read this devotional. I personally am excited to dive in myself, and I’m grateful for the impact and how it’s speaking to people right where they are, right what they need for that day.
For today, I want to read the Jesus Calling passage from September 15th:
Rest in Me, My child. This time devoted to Me is meant to be peaceful, not stressful. You don’t have to perform in order to receive My Love. I have boundless, unconditional Love for you. How it grieves Me to see My children working for Love: trying harder and harder, yet never feeling good enough to be loved. Be careful that your devotion to Me does not become another form of works. I want you to come into My Presence joyfully and confidently. You have nothing to fear, for you wear My own righteousness. Gaze into My eyes, and you will see no condemnation, only Love and delight in the one I see. Be blessed as My Face shines radiantly upon you, giving you Peace.
Coming to God by Grace
Something that’s really wrecked my heart lately is how is the world supposed to see the grace of God if the people of God are not gracious? That’s just what’s been so heavy on my heart, and I say this as I want to grow in this in my own life. I believe if we grow in these areas, we’ll be more impactful and influential even in our own homes, with our own families, for living with a lot of love and joy and peace, but also in our workplace and our community and our nation.
And so I think it’s a road map for Christians to become more influential for the sake of the gospel with the world around us.
“How is the world supposed to see the grace of God if the people of God are not gracious?” – Matt Brown
I love this excerpt from the book, and I just think it’s so wonderful and so important to remember that it’s not by our works. It never could be by our works, but it’s by His work and what He’s done for us and how He’s pursued us.
I think of the passage in the story Jesus told about the prodigal son who ran away and took his father’s inheritance, and the father was waiting for him to return and ran to him and embraced him when the son didn’t feel he was deserving or worthy. He was just thankful he was home. And I’m wondering if there’s people listening today who just need to come home, and know that God loves you so much. This passage is for you.
He wants you to just trust in what Jesus has done for you, and feel the father’s embrace in your life. You don’t have to earn it. You never could deserve it. But He has paid the price, and He’s pursued you, and you just need to open up your heart now to receive it.
Narrator: You can find Matt’s book, Truth Plus Love, wherever books are sold. And you can find other resources through Think Eternity by visiting ThinkE.org.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with Patti Callahan Henry, the New York Times bestselling author of Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis. As Patti studied Joy Davidman, the brilliant woman who would become the wife of one of the most beloved Christian thinkers of all time, Patti discovered the process Joy had to go through to realize what true love really looked like.
Patti: Joy was a child prodigy. She was brilliant. She won the Yale Younger Poets Award. She was incredibly well read. She was a genius. And that armor stood in the way of finding her true self. And once that happened and she was able to love herself, then I believe she was able to love another person in a way that allowed him to love her in return. And I do believe that it was the first time she ever truly loved, and it’s because she first found her true self in God.
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.