“You’ve Changed!”

15 Then they came to Jesus. They saw the man who had been controlled by many demons. He was sitting there. He was now dressed and thinking clearly. All this made the people afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told them what had happened to the man. They told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to beg Jesus to leave their area.
Mark 5:15-17 (New International Reader’s Version)

When you grow in life and people see God moving you to your next level, you’ll have those people who will say, “You’ve changed!”  Usually, this is said with a hint of distaste directed at you.  When I was in college, people used to say that you “broke new” on them-with the same hint of distaste.  It can be irritating when you try to improve your life and live the best possible and some “so and so” hops up and makes you feel like you’ve offended them-even when you ascribe the power to God.

Today’s Scripture text is a familiar one that can answer your dilemma. It was the story of Jesus’s healing the man possessed by many demons called “Legion.”  You remember, this was the cat who hung out in the graveyard naked and cut himself whilst crying day and night; he was unable to be restrained.  Then Jesus cast the demons into a herd of 2000 swine, causing them to run off a cliff and into the nearby lake.  Next thing, we see the man clothed and sane with Jesus.  Now you’d think the people in the region would break into a praise and worship celebration at Jesus’s miracle.  No, these people wanted Jesus to leave.  Huh?  Why?

The theory I hold to came from my Black Church professor, Rev. Carter at Seton Hall University: the man was no longer an object of ridicule.  When the man was possessed, the people in the region felt superior to him and could marginalize him.  Now completely whole, the man was not longer an object of ridicule; plus he was an equal to the others-a person.  The man was changed and the others didn’t like it.  I also would dare to add that the other people were in some way under the demons’ sway since the demons originally didn’t want to leave the region (verse 10).  Now they see the man changed and moving forward in his life with God’s help, yet they seem to be stuck in their spiritual rut.

People who are stuck at a certain level in life get uncomfortable when God moves your from their level, or worse, from a lower level and puts you on a higher level-whatever it may be.  You my have been ridiculed or marginalized.  Or, you may have been at the same level as others stuck on stupid.  Then God comes and moves you on higher.  However instead of the others celebrating your change, they get upset.  Some may even eject you from their circles.

However, the story had a happy ending.  The man-now changed-wanted to join Jesus and his posse.  However Jesus told him to go back to his people and testify to God’s goodness in his life.  The man ultimately went throughout the Decapolis-or the Ten Cities- and told his story.  You too will have a happy ending as you go forth and tell others about God’s goodness to you-new people who will accept what God has done for you.

Sooo….if next time some “somebody” whines “You changed!”, smile, thank them, and move on.  And while you’re at it praise God!

Peace!

(Image: Military Park at Dusk. Newark, NJ. 2017)

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Deficiency or Necessity?

As Jesus went along, he saw a man who was blind. He had been blind since he was born. Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned? Was this man born blind because he sinned? Or did his parents sin?”

“It isn’t because this man sinned,” said Jesus. “It isn’t because his parents sinned. He was born blind so that God’s power could be shown by what’s going to happen.
John 9:1-3 (New International Reader’s Version)

I touched on this subject very briefly in my last post, “Gone…for Good.”  However, there are times where things need to be expanded for our growth and enlightenment.

The above Scripture passage is a familiar one from John’s Gospel, however these opening lines bear scrutiny.  When Jesus and company encountered our visually-challenged friend, the disciples ask was it his fault* or his folk’s fault that he wound up born that way.  The disciples demonstrate our human nature to point out one’s deficiencies as through some fault of their own: “They asked for it” as we’re wont to say.  However, Jesus flips their logic on its head by saying that the man’s being born blind was to serve a higher purpose: people could see God’s power in action (through Christ) in his upcoming healing.

The same could be said for whatever “deficiency” you may have.  You may not be the smartest in your family; wall papered with degrees and straight-A’s.  You may not be the wealthiest cat in your social circles.  You may be awkward in romance to the dismay of your partner.  You may not even be with your church’s “in crowd” headed by your pastor.  People will look at you and link that deficiency with you to the point it becomes your identifying quality.  This has caused people a lot of grief, heartache, and wounded lives.

However, if we go back to Jesus’s response above we can see who it applies to your “deficiency.”  If we look at the bigger picture, to God your “deficiency” is in really a “necessity” so He/She can manifest His/Her power through you.  You may not be the smartest in your family, however you’re the one God uses to offer rational and workable solutions to family crises.  You may not be he wealthiest cat in your social circles, however God uses you to bless others-and be blessed-while your “wealthy” pals are stagnant in their wealth.   You may be awkward in romance-even in the sack, however God uses you to be there for your partner when trouble comes in their life and be that loving and nurturing agent. You may not be in with your pastor and his/her “in crowd,” however God uses you to be a blessing for those who crave real intimacy with Him/Her by how you live.  Ultimately, the people who point out your “deficiency” will find it’s a necessity in their lives that God worked through you.

However, be prepared for those in your life that just won’t get it.  In the above Scripture, we would later see that Jesus healed the blind man.  Later in the story the Pharisees cornered the man and tried to discredit Jesus’s role in his healing (it was also on the Sabbath).  Despite the man’s trying to get it into the Pharisees’ thick skulls that Jesus did the healing, the Pharisees expelled the man from the Temple (a painful thing in Jewish culture, however a blessing for the man).  Today, there will be those in your life who will not get God’s using your “deficiency” as a necessity; they’ll think it’s impossible.  They will think that you can’t be used by God and that you’re still deficient.  Eventually, you may find yourself “expelled” from their lives, which will be a blessing for you in the end since God will still show His/Her power in your life.

So take heart.  What people see as your “deficiency” can be God’s necessity in your life that He/She can use.  Be blessed!

Peace!

*From what I recall in extra-biblical sources, in Jesus’s time people believed in reincarnation.  The disciples thought the man had sinned in some past life and was being punished in his present life with blindness from birth.

(Image: Community garden in Plainfield, NJ. 2017.  The lot may be a neighborhood “deficiency,” however it becomes a necessity.)

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Gone…for Good

36 “But no one knows about that day or hour. Not even the angels in heaven know. The Son does not know. Only the Father knows. 37 Remember how it was in the days of Noah. It will be the same when the Son of Man comes… 40 Two men will be in the field. One will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill. One will be taken and the other left.
Matthew 24:36, 37; 40,41 (New International Reader’s Version)

Good Evening.  Tonight’s post is not what you think it’s going to be.  Now with that PSA stated, I can go on with tonight’s post.

There are going to be people in your life that will eventually leave you.  These are the people who been with you; maybe even for a long time.  They can be your “bestie”, a close family member, or even a spouse.  However, there is something different about these folks.  These people were never truly on your side.  They’re the critical spouse: nothing you do is ever good enough for him/her, despite your love and devotion to them.  The discouraging dream-killer who wants to quash the vision God placed in you.  The parent who tries to live their vicariously through you instead of letting you be you.  The people who act “superior” to you because of some perceived “deficiency” in you-be it educational, financial, or physical.  They could be a pastor who tries to discourage your ministry that God called you to for fear of “outshining” them.   The list is endless. These people are found at home, church, school, work…even on that flight to Vegas with you!

These people are in  your life for a season.  I believe God has them with you for the moment so they can be blessed by your life; and hopefully change.  The spouse has your love and devotion to inspire them to do likewise.  The dream-killer sees your dreams so that he/she can discover their dreams.  The parent who will see your life and may bless it.  The “superior” ones who will see your “deficiency” as an asset (future post subject).  The pastor who sees your ministry, and maybe will bless and encourage it.  However, these people will more than likely be the opposition they build themselves up to be.

However, God will come to your aid.  Metaphorically speaking, God is going to say “Enough” and snatch those folks from your life.  I believe that God eventually removes the wicked from our lives.  No, He/She’s not going to bump them off like a mob hit-person.  No, God will take them out of your life-and quickly.  You’ll turn around and find folks out of your life-be it through divorce, move, or you giving the boot-they’ll be gone.  Plus, like the Noah analogy, it’ll happen to them so fast, they won’t know what hit them!  You’ll be free to live the life God called you to (or in the case of the married person love like God called you to), and not have to deal with those folks again.

You see, in the Scripture above, Jesus was explaining what the day of God’s Kingdom/Queendom coming will be like.  Jesus warned that it will sudden-like the flood in Noah’s day.  Plus Jesus warned that the wicked-not the righteous-will be snatched up.  Jesus used the analogy of how the authorities in his day will snatch someone from their place if they’re accused of a crime.  The righteous will be the ones left behind!  Thanks to John Nelson Darby, it was reversed when he started preaching Dispensationlism-causing confusion among the faithful for generations.

So tonight, be encouraged my friends.  These people who try to criticize your love, kill your dreams, look down on you, and discourage your ministry will one day be gone; and you’ll remain-not missing them at all.

They’ll be gone…for good.  Peace.

(Image: Inside an abandoned space. Newark, NJ. 2017)

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America the Irrelevant?

 

They say a house divided cannot stand. What about a house decayed?

36 The Lord will drive you out of the land. And he will drive out the king you place over yourselves. All of you will go to another nation. You and your people of long ago didn’t know anything about them. There you will worship other gods. They will be made out of wood and stone. 37 You will look very bad to all the nations where the Lord sends you. They will be completely shocked when they see you. They will mock you and make fun of you.

38 You will plant many seeds in your field. But you will gather very little food. Locusts will eat it up.
Deuteronomy 28:36-28 (New International Reader’s Version)

Remember back in 2003 when then President George W. Bush said that the UN needs to lend its support (militarily) to the military action against Iraq, or become “irrelevant”?   Funny just over 14 years later, Bush is living to see the mighty US of A sliding into the pit of irrelevancy.

This slide into irrelevancy is evident with our current presidency in America with Donald Trump, who is nothing more than an overgrown bullying frat boy who has the class of a boar.  This “president” Tweets his rants instead of confronting his opponents.  This is the individual who just pulled us out of the Paris Climate Agreement due to his being in bed with Big Coal and Big Oil.  Trump has shown blatant dis-acknowledgment for other NATO leaders due to his fragile ego, and in turn has prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel to say that Europe has to look past the US for leadership.

Not only that, we’re seeing China emerge as the new superpower: economically and militarily.  India is launching satellites into space, and is a tech powerhouse.  North Korea is developing missiles that might reach the US in the near future.  Africa is starting to show slow, yet promising economic growth.  America’s time on the world stage is starting to sputter badly.

Home is no better either-sad to say.  We have strayed from any ideals that could have made this country great: diversity; creativity; diplomacy; tolerance; and democracy.  We’ve traded in Christ for a evangelical straw man-especially among White evangelicals.  Women, non-Whites, GLTBQs are demonized. There are even bills being passed in Texas and California to secede from the United States as a whole.

The rest of the world is watching and laughing at America as it becomes more and more irrelevant.  If we keep this trend up, America will fall so far behind, we’ll be virtually invisible.  If we look at the Scripture above, we can see America in it.  Originally, the above passage was quoted by Moses as part of his “farewell speech” where he warned the Israelites the consequences of obedience (blessings) and disobedience (curses); obviously this passage is from the latter.  If I read this in modern terminology, God will remove the US from its place on the world stage.  We will end up “going to another nation”, or, having other nations call the shots that would affect us (uhh…China?).  We will “worship other gods…of wood and stone;” we’re already worshiping patriotism and false Christianity that will not save us.  We already look bad to other nations, shocking them with our very policies to the point we’re mocked and laughed at.  And in the end, we’ll be economically ruined as our GDP falls and other nations will benefit.

Before you laugh this off as some anti-American or anti-Trump rant, please take a look at what’s happening.  Look at the news-especially the foreign press-and see how the world views this nation.  Our nation is in trouble as we’re on the slippery slope of irrelevancy.  We need to realize this now if we’re going to salvage this nation and turn things around.  If we don’t, we’ll end up being a third-class nation that will become a failed state.  And despite how you feel about America, it would be a shame for us to wind up in that predicament.

America the Irrelevant?  It’s up to us.

Peace.

(Photo: Abandoned house in Union Township, NJ. 2017).

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Memorial Day 2017

Another Memorial Day come and gone.  I made no tributes.  I had no wreathes to lay at half-mast flags.  No war movies to binge on today (I’m trying to catch up on Dr. Who).  No parades to watch (it rained in my neck of the woods).  The cookout I did go to was on a lovely Saturday evening for my cousin who graduated from Howard University. I didn’t go to the Jersey Shore (that rain again).  No excessive Memorial Day shopping (except for a few groceries).  I did nothing to really “commemorate” today.

Today was a day dedicated to the dead-plain and simple.  We saw images of loved ones who served flashed on social media.  We also saw images of non-White and female vets who served a country that never recognized them.  We played “Taps” on bugles and “Amazing Grace” on bagpipes.  We visited the graves of loved ones either in civilian cemeteries or military cemeteries.  For our recent dead from Iraq, Afghanistan, or even the 1990s skirmishes of Kosovo and Somalia there are empty seats at our dinner and cookout tables today.  Despite all the pomp and celebration, today was (sadly) a day we honor those, who directly or indirectly ended the lives of others-be they combatant or civilian.

Despite all this “honor” we never learn anything.  We’ll still fight because we think it’s the right thing to do.  We’ll send our boys and girls (usually poor and/or non-White) to some far-flung killing field for hollow “democracy” and withering “freedom.”  We’ll make big fake-sounding speeches how “some gave all” and making the “ultimate sacrifice.”  We’ll hold up these people as paragons of “manhood” and “womanhood,” whilst even a dummy will tell you they were just corporate patsies.  We’ll have a cowardly president stand in front of us and give lip service to these people.  We’ll keep having Memorial Days over and over…

In the meantime, I will be the one on the sidelines, shaking his head.  I’ll still post in hopes that someone will read and maybe-just maybe-ponder on my words (and the words of others who feel the same)….

Until then, Peace.

(Image: Flag. 2016).

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Now What Do I Do?

Scriptural reference: Psalm 107

This is a follow-up to my last post, “The Danger of Trying to ‘Fit In’.”

Oh shit!  I have been trying to fit in all this time!  I never paid attention to the Spirit’s calling to stand out for God!  Now I am at this point in my life and feel as if I’ve screwed up big time!  My heart is broken and my soul’s crushed as I realized that I spent all these years trying to fit in, looking for love, for approval.  I took shit that even a fool wouldn’t just to be accepted and liked…

I’ve sold my soul for the proverbial mess of pottage and now my life’s a wreck-like Trump’s presidency!  I cannot look at myself…I’ve been used, abused, humiliated, and left on the curb-all with my approval!  I’ve burned up my funds trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” I’m divorced and paying (or receiving) alimony/child support. I surrendered my dreams seeking the “love” of another and wound up supporting theirs.  The ministry God had for me to pursue is stillborn…The list is endless.

Now what do I do?  Maybe I just need to trudge through life the best way I can and hope for the best.  Should I give up on what God may have for me and realize it’s too late?  Should I reach out to God, or has God given up on me?  Should I go back on those who took advantage of me and seek revenge, ruining their lives in turn?  Or should I give it all up and die…?

Before we fall into the “all is lost” trap, I suggest that we look at an interesting passage of Scripture.  About 20 years ago, I was going through some personal issues.  It was one day at work while I had a free moment I was reading my Bible-in the Psalms to be exact.  During that time, I stumbled upon the 107th Psalm and began to read it.  It was in this passage that God spoke to me and gave me hope.  And thank God, He/She allowed me to bless you by using it as a reference.

Psalm 107 talks about God’s saving those who have sinned against Him/Her in many ways.  These people strayed from God and wound up in deep shit.  Some were more lost than the Jupiter 2 or the USS Voyager.  These people however woke up and reached out to God-crying out to Him/Her.  God then delivered these people, restoring them, taking them to better places to live.  If we apply this psalm today, it gives us encouragement and hope that God is still willing and able to rescue us and bring us to the place He/She had for us from Day One.  We need to reach out to God-period.  No matter where we are we need to reach out to God, confess our straying trying to fit in, and ask God to lead us to where He/She wanted us to be.  THAT’S what we should do!

Now, I’m not to say God’s going to turn the clock back.  However, God can take us from where we are-right now-and move us to where we’re supposed to be.  In regards to those who have taken advantage of you?  I don’t think God’s going to strike ’em with plagues (for a moment that was my request); however, God will re-position them to a place of insignificance where they will see you blessed, yet will lose out on your blessing them.

However, like I said earlier, we must reach out to God.  It would be stupid to know our state, yet stay in it.  This in itself is a dangerous trap.  We must be willing to open up and be honest with God-even if it scares us.  Like those in in the 107th Psalm, we must call on God for deliverance.  This is what we must do if we’re going to truly stand out for God instead of trying to “fit in” with the world.

Take a moment to read Psalm 107, no matter the version (I originally read the NIV back in the day).  We will find ourselves in the passage; and we will find encouragement for our situation.  That’s the answer to tonight’s question, “Now what do I do?”

I pray that you will take that brave step out from fitting in and discover what God has for you to do.

Peace, my beloved.

(Image: This was a road taken near Leavenworth, Kansas last month when we were visiting our Godmother).

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The Danger of Trying to “Fit In”

You are not faithful to God. Don’t you know that to be a friend of the world is to hate God? So anyone who chooses to be the world’s friend becomes God’s enemy.
James 4:4 (New International Reader’s Version)

Since the dawn of humanity, we have tried to fit in with the crowd one way or another.  We will do anything to avoid the dreaded FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out.  We will change our personal style in clothes, music, politics, even career to be part of some “in crowd.”  Many of us will change our very persona-especially trying to nab a certain person for romance.  As I said earlier, we will change our career plans to jobs (that we would normally avoid like the plague) just to fit in with people we think are cool.  This fitting in starts in school while we’re a  young age; we try to fit in with the other kids.  It later manifests in adolescence through sports, certain clubs; or on the negative side, gangs.  In college, it’s joining a fraternity or sorority.  In adulthood it manifests even more since we’re job and mate hunting.

However, trying to fit in can manifest itself in deeper ways: many of us trade for what God made us to be.  You were called to be single so God can work with you, yet to fit in with family and married friends you marry and have a family.  You were called to be an artist, yet to fit in with your “professional” friends you get an MBA and slave work for Corporate America.  You were called to live in the low-rent part of town so you can minister to the locals, yet to fit in with your “bourgeois” pals you go in debt to your eyeballs and buy a “McMansion.”  God has called you to spend time with Him/Her so you can grow, however you try to fit in with your social media pals and go jet-setting all over creation.

Some of us even walked away from God Him/Herself, shutting our selves from Him/Her so we can fit in with our social circles.  This is dangerous-period!  Tonight’s Scripture is a punch in the gut for those trying to “fit in.”  James, who was Jesus’s sibling, warns us that being a friend to the “world”-the ego-driven, illusory, transient, shallow realm that all about us-is being unfaithful to God.  In fact, James minces no words when he wrote that friendship with the world is being God’s enemy.

And the sad part is that no matter how much we do fit in, it will never be enough.  We will continually compromise those things that God has for us.  No house, money, sex, position, social circle, status, etc is worth the trade off.  We will lose what God made us to be as the world swallows us up more and more until we are completely taken over.  And in the end, Jesus’s question will ring in our ears:

What good is it if someone gains the whole world but loses their soul?  Mark 8:36 (NIRV)

Trying to fit in with the world conflicts with what God desires for us and our lives: a fuller, deeper, and eternal abundance.  In fact, I daresay that God wants us to stand out: to go against the “world’s” status quo.  To let God shine though us so that our divine humanity can be seen by all.  God created us to be unique individuals and live that uniqueness through what we were given.  There we can be true representatives of the Realm of God in the world.  We can let our lights shine so people can see our good works.  We can be truly human, instead of trying to “fit in.”  And who know?  We may turn around and liberate those caught in the “fitting in” trap.

Trying to “fit in” is dangerous.  Let’s instead be what God created us to be.

Peace.

(Image by Me: Adirondack chairs, West Orange, NJ)

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