Tuesday, March 8, 2016

God, Why Did You Forsake Me?

Have you ever been let down? Been abandoned? Felt betrayed? Of course, you have. We all have experienced feelings of betrayal, disappointment, and abandonment by others. The three feelings mentioned here are like stairs on ladders that we have all found ourselves on at different times in our life, and often perpetrated by various people, sometimes on several occasions. Each stair is like a descending escalator slipping us into a dark basement of disillusionment and distrust.

We are often told that pain and suffering at the hands of people have a greater purpose. But why? And How? What possible good purpose could the irresponsible act of letting someone down who depended on you, or abandoning them bring?

In the story of Lazarus, Jesus' friend in the Bible, I suppose Lazarus sister, Martha felt the same way. Martha was disappointed that Jesus let her brother die. I sympathize with her disappointment because Jesus was very enthusiastic in healing people all over the place, many that he didn't know personally. Why couldn't Jesus heal his friend Lazarus? The sickness was reported to him in enough time for Jesus to go and simply put his healing hand on him, or even just to speak the healing word like he had done for a stranger once before. Martha was a dedicated volunteer in Jesus' ministry. That could be felt like a betrayal to her and her family, who were all close to Jesus.

How many times do we feel like God has let us down so hard? Abandoned us when we know he could have easily corrected our situation?

When we look at these questions from a realization of our personal concerns and needs, then we can only answer with feelings of hurt and anger. However, when we look at those same questions from a more panoramic view of the problems and needs of society, then it is possible to comprehend a greater purpose. You see, God sees everything as an investment in people.

Jesus once said, "...except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. But if it die, it brings forth much fruit."-St. John 12:24

The world is full of sorrow and despair. God loves to use individuals and individual incidents to bring hope and deliverance to a greater number of people. The same way he chose to let Lazarus die so that he can raise him from the dead rather than heal him from a sickness, is why God will very often allow situations to die in order to unfold a greater purpose in mankind. We can only embrace this truth if we see ourselves as more of a universal unit, comprised of a society of people where we are part of a body, not an individual part.

We are not made for ourselves but must see ourselves as seeds in the earth. We are seeds that are planted for the well- being of a whole garden. We must live our life as an offering, and look at not only our talents as a gift to society, but also our struggles as an offering.

Pain and suffering are often an investment on behalf of a greater cause.

Sometimes, our individual cries are a cry of society's pain.

Scripture teaches us that when Jesus walked the earth among us, He was tempted in all the ways that we are and is familiar with the pain and struggle we experience on a daily basis. He too experienced betrayal and abandonment. God allowed him to feel "forsaken" while Jesus hung there on the cross, in his darkest moment, weak and stripped of his popularity and ministry.

When he cried out in his humanity, "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me;" he cried out the pain of all mankind that often feels forsaken by God in our darkest moments. Again, very often our individual cries are a cry of society's pain. The Apostle Paul spoke of this phenomenon to the Corinthian Church when he noted that all of our personal struggles are common struggles among civilization. When one person in New Mexico experiences the death of a family member via a car accident, someone else in Maine experienced the same loss. A  woman suffering betrayal in South Carolina will feel the same emotional pain as a woman in Russia who experienced betrayal. A man suddenly becoming homeless in New York City is just as painful as a sudden onset of homelessness by a man in Brazil. As Jesus did on the cross, when we cry out for ourselves, we must also learn to recognize the simultaneous pain of society and cry out to God on behalf of universal deliverance.

Whenever we experience death and loss, we must remember that we are not alone in our suffering. There must be those among us that will universalize their suffering also to feel the pain of others with similar experiences. Let us notice that often people who have suffered loss through tragedy or injustice, will translate their loss into advocacy for others either with similar experiences or similar vulnerabilities to their loss. One great example is Nicole Paultre Bell, former fiance of the late Sean Bell, who died at the hand of New York City Police officers in 2006. Paultre Bell translated her pain into advocacy by becoming an activist, organizer, and founding an organization to assist families experiencing injustice. Michael J. Fox, an actor, diagnosed with Parkinsons, started a foundation to help eliminate the disease. Judy Van Niekerk grew up being physically and sexually abused by her father, forced to be his wife from age six until she was 20 years old when she finally escaped. Judy forgave her father, experienced healing and became a best-selling author, inspirational speaker, mentor, and entrepreneur. She spends her life teaching others how to celebrate their challenges. The list can go on. Using our pain and suffering to intercede and advocate, whether through prayer, advocacy, inspiration, or other channels can not only help us to rise out of despair but can also help others to rise. When we engage our pain in this way, God, in his faithfulness, will always cause us to rise by the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave. For this same reason, may we learn to follow the example of Jesus, as we are commanded to do his works, and cry out to God the same pain that is felt by the people of this earth.

When Jesus cried out,  "My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me;" he not only cried out regarding his own pain, but he was identifying with the feelings of abandonment we all feel at times. We often feel and cry out  about God forsaking the earth and allowing all of this evil to take place. The evil that will sometimes take away a loved one that we may judge should not have been taken away just yet. As he set the example in his cry for us and commanded us to "pick up our cross" also, we must in turn learn to cry out in our pain regarding others experiencing the same or similar.

This kind of intervention is our inheritance. It is an intercession on behalf of other parts of the universal body of mankind. Until we fulfill our true and full inheritance in carrying out this sacred obligation, we fall short of discipleship, while yet being full of religion. Cry out the pain of mankind and let your groanings rise to God as a memorial to him. Not only will he hear, but he will send deliverance.  A  Moses can enter your life through a situational rescue, or through an emotional rescue by a simple enlightenment or a profound healing that will inspire others.
When you experience disappointment, abandonment, or betrayal by God, or individuals, remember that you are not alone.
Don't forget to use that pain to empathize with others that may come across your path, or may not come across your path. Empathize with other parts of the body of mankind that experience abandonment or betrayal, or some other pain. If you are a person of prayer, then intercede in prayer. If you are a person of advocacy, advocate through whatever vehicle you have at your disposal. Whatever you offer, let your empathy rise to meet your fellow mankind where it is needed.
If you groan for others with your empathetic spirit, God hears those groans, and you align yourself with God's universal principle of the royal law: Do unto others, as you would have done unto you.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Power Of Self Love

The amount of love you show your neighbor reflects how much you love yourself.-Tessy Igbinoghene
The second(great commandment) is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these. St Mark 12:30

I recall a story two decades ago by a well known Christian author Josh McDowell, who was also considered an expert in speaking on relationships and Christian Apologetics.
His brief story of a brief encounter not only profoundly impacted and changed him, but influenced and changed me forever.

Josh had been traveling around the country on his speaking engagements when he got on a plane this particular day and was seated next to a certain woman. He noticed the woman had a dozen lavishly arranged roses and struck up a conversation with her. While verbally admiring her roses,  Josh made reference to her husband buying her the flowers.
Well, to his astonishment the woman stated to him that she had bought them for herself as a gift. After a pause, he asked her why did she buy flowers for herself. The woman stated, “because I like myself.”
She explained to Josh that when you like and admire someone, you tend to buy them flowers. Josh said that as soon as he got off the plane, he immediately bought himself two dozen roses!
His messages of love, intimacy and relationships had significantly been impacted from that moment on.
The art of loving has perplexed the world over as the difficulty in expressing love, maintaining love, enduring love, and most of all, receiving the love that we desire has gripped us.
This woman tapped into outwardly expressing the greatest love of all, as the songwriter puts it, loving herself. Dr. Margaret Paul of Inner Bonding says, “we cannot give to another what we do not have within.”

What I have found over the years is that actively expressing love to myself not only enhances inner security and self-worth but has also enhanced my ability to express love to others in a myriad of ways and expressions. Love pours out so much easier, comfortably, and most importantly, securely. Many cannot express love securely, because of hurts, disappointments, etc.

It would be a good idea for those individuals to start first with self-love.
How does one obtain self-love?  How can you begin to actively express love to yourself if you simply don’t have it?

While psychologists, therapists, and other experts may have a host of therapeutic suggestions that may be worthy of exploring, I will simplify things by cutting to the chase, and go to the source of all love…God himself.  The Bible teaches us that God is love. Wow! You mean the creator of us all is love incarnate? Yep! He sure is.
To achieve this love, we must spend time receiving it from the source of all love, the creator of life itself, God.
Have any of you ever went into prayer to God, and come out feeling unloved?  Of course not. There is no way that anyone can leave from communication with the creator of human life without experiencing some level of love touch.
Many of us know that the more we spend time with a person, communicating with them, discussing issues with each other, we produce familiarity and intimacy. The time spent in their presence either causes you to feel worthy and loved by them, or the opposite. Please understand that we experience the same with God. The more time we spend in God’s presence, we experience so much love, and self-worth, that we cannot help but to come out feeling loved and worthy. The problem with most is that we don’t act on it in our everyday lives.
We must see and treat ourselves the way God has shown us that he sees us as. It is the same way as actively treating ourselves the way a loved one treats us.
Being in God’s  presence and feeling and seeing his love is one thing.  However, when we actively carry out the love for ourselves as God loves us when we emerge from his presence is another thing.
After all, we are commanded by God to love people the same way we love our self.  He apparently is expecting us to love ourselves.

Why is it that we want everyone else to say continually, “I love you,” but we won’t tell it to ourselves? We want our loved ones to praise and shower us with words and acts of appreciation but won’t do it to ourselves. I imagine that anyone that spends time in prayer any length of time will eventually hear and feel God’s love and appreciation despite our many faults and failings. Why not give yourself the same love and appreciation that you hear and feel from your creator, despite your many shortcomings? God is trying to tell us that we’re worthy of loving ourselves and actively expressing it, if he can love us and knows everything about us.
Of course, it is very healthy and appropriate to receive love and praise from those around us, but this is far from being enough of the love that we need.
I’m not talking about the canned religious love where you have to hug everyone in your house of worship and say encouraging words to them throughout the service. That is done to loosen everyone up and to speak faith into the atmosphere to jumpstart our mental processes to be able to leave with some level of edification.

We need active self-love.
Tapping into God's love fuels our ability to love ourselves. Without knowing and experiencing his love, simply praising oneself becomes pride and bigotry because it's a false self-love and requires you to put others down to experience it.
When you see a person that truly loves himself, you'll see them loving others very easily, and serving others with ease and passion. Conversely, when you see a person putting down others and lifting themselves up, these have self-hatred and insecurity as they hide it by putting down others. Tapping into God's love is what will nourish our need to be loved. Love is a basic human need. The problem is finding it because humans search for it everywhere else but where the source is. That source is God because he is love incarnate.
I challenge you to express self-love actively, by verbally affirming and appreciating yourself, thanking yourself and physically nurturing your self-appreciation as you would someone else.
I challenge you to reminisce mentally over the positive things you have done, achieved, and tell yourself how great of a job you have done. Then, continuously thank God for allowing you and helping you to achieve those things. Go deep and think of all of the good things about you. Write them down. Then, continuously thank God for his love and mercy that allows you to be those things.
You may ask, “what does mercy have to do with all of this?”
Good question. By always earnestly acknowledging and giving respect to God for his mercies in your life, you disallow your failures and shortcomings from handicapping your self-worth. You cannot walk in condemnation or low self-esteem, after spending so much time in God’s presence basking in his forgiveness, and feeling his love.

It is the same thing as if you had made a grave error at work, that, by most accounts, is worthy of firing. You go to your boss for forgiveness. Your boss happily forgives you, encourages and praises you, tells you that you’re awesome, and how much he/she supports you. Well, when you leave out of your boss’ office, you are beaming with both confidence and humility, along with a new vigor for conquering your tasks with a vengeance.  
If any of the other fellow employees try to condemn you for your error, it will be utterly useless. It will have no effect on you at all. It is because you had a personal encounter with the boss, who forgave you, and you personally know that your boss fully backs you.It might have been different if someone else told you your boss forgave you. Your confidence wouldn’t be that strong. You would have lingering doubts. However, because you spoke to the boss yourself, no one can challenge your personal experience and dialogue with the boss.
It is the same way with God. It is not enough for a Pastor, Priest, Rabbi, or Imam to tell you these things from a pulpit. Your personal encounter with the boss is priceless in these situations.

Go for yourself. Do it often.
In doing these things periodically, you will wrap yourself in a blanket of love, worth, and humility that will help fuel your contributions to yourself and mankind.
Personally, I have found over the years that even through the many hurts and disappointments, love losses, I am still flowing very freely with love.
It is because of the high level of self-love fueled by the love that I know God has for me, that has filled me with an endless source of love that flows like a river outward.
I believe that this is available to every human being as we actively love ourselves.

Whoever does not love, does not know God, because  God is love.-I John 4:8(NIV)

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Fate Of Hate

I was living in the heat of my own lands,
Harvesting provisions with my own hands.
You came upon us with trickery, and swarmed us with bands.
You took us to a land that wasn’t flowing with milk and honey,
But yet with our skill and hard work,
With it we made you money,
We made this land flow with the honey.
Because of your hate, you will need to be replaced.
Power must be had, by no one that is mad.
We don’t hate you, but we will replace you.
Read my prophecy, with the eyes of your spirit.
You will behold a better democracy, with less hypocrisy.
Because the prayers of the righteous, and the blood of the martyrs,
Along with the work of the gardener, in God’s eyes have been precious.
As God’s eyes stay steadily on the sparrow, we know he has been watching over us.

What you presently see, is not what we will be.
You have seen what we can build, and are afraid of what we can do.
We will build this thing better, a democracy that is true.
As we made it flow with honey, and burst forth with money,
We will make this place brighter, and much more sunny.

Do not fear, we won’t  bring you to tear. We will handle with care, and share, and relieve the bare.