Tag Archives: love

Healing Our Racial Division with the Fiery Passion of Pentecostal Love

As our American friends are in the midst of their 2016 presidential election, politicians are on the campaign trail explaining the reason to be voted as a president. The country is divided in many ways where activists ranging from race, to gender, to class and to religion are all crying out to be heard. When it comes to race, the division is much more sharp and piercing. Both Democratic and Republic politicians are professing to be the glue to unify their nation and mend the divide between Black, White, and Brown people.

Canadians may laugh at the made-for-t.v., political circus and comic show down South. Yet there are challenges of division with racism as deals with Afro-Canadians/Caribbean and First Nations and its offshoot religious racism with Muslims/Syrians/Middle East migrants and residents. It seems that both nations are having a difficult time closing the divide and opening our hearts. Americans are more blatant in their vitriol whereas Canadians are subtler. Either way – both are dehumanizing! I believe the Pentecostal Church could provide a road map for unity and reconciliation where both countries could learn from.

The Pentecostal/Charismatic Church is the fastest growing church in the world and approaching the size of the Roman Catholic Church as the largest Church family. The phenomenal growth and size is not by fluke. It is intentionally based on an open door and outreach position for diverse cultures and nations to embrace the message of Gospel love. Where did this attitude of passion fiery love come from for Pentecostals/Charismatics to reach out to Russians, Brazilians, Filipinos, Nigerians, Chinese etc.?

On April 1906, in a rundown church in Los Angeles, a passionate Black preacher William Seymour with a loyal group of Black Christians who prayed for racial unity and Christian unity. What made this prayer and fervor unique was in the midst of Jim Crow laws that these brave Christians were extending themselves to hug racist White Christians. God rewarded their desires by a phenomenal event where those Black Christians miraculously spoke in a different language never taught to them. This documented event echoed biblical times just after Jesus’ death and resurrection where the Early Church spoke miraculously through God’s Spirit in a different language to share the good news of Jesus to a diverse yet divided crowd in Jerusalem. What happened in Los Angeles 1900 years later known as the Azusa Street Revival had the similar effective power where it drew different races. Many of them experienced this miracle of speaking in a different language (called tongues speaking) and other miracles like healing. But the biggest miracle was the beginning to heal the divide of racism (and sexism) between people and their segregated churches. The reason being the experience was bigger than any race or culture (or gender). This Déjà vu moment was God pouring his love on all people, which humanized and humbled racist and sexist people to see each other with dignity and equality.

Although the Pentecostal Church is a human organization, not perfect and still struggles with racism and sexism like other organizations, but they have learned principles and practices to overcome the sin by God’s love. And the people are their fruit. This compassionate experience plus a compelling story is what our respective countries need to hear – especially our politicians. And quite possibly, they can feel the fire of unity that these men and women felt at Azusa Street. We can only pray in tongues for that miracle to happen.

~ Denley W. McIntosh

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Head with the Heart…Not with the Head

Roman statesmen and orator Cicero once said “If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words”. Believe it or not, as people, we feel much more than we think. Duh… news flash you may say sarcastically. True. But let’s slow down and ‘think’ about the implications. Cicero didn’t say that we can persuade him by proving him deathly wrong by using undeniable facts or by some amazing logic. We can persuade him by simply identifying with him, and feelings are critical element.

When we provide advice and feedback to family and friends, the answers many times they are seeking is not logical per se but more relational. There is an immense feeling component that must be embedded with our advice. We have to meet them at the heart level as well as the head level.  Our answer must be empathetic or else we don’t identify. We move on feelings and not on the other’s facts.

I share an example of death. When someone passes away, we wouldn’t want to say to a grieving person “Oh buck up! I lost someone close to me too you know. You can make it if you do step 1, 2 and 3 of my plan.” Sounds pretty crass right? The best solution for that moment is a hug and a look of sympathy. We know reasonably that the grieving person will eventually move on with life if they take care of themselves. However, a rational answer is not the answer they are looking for at this time. They want a relational answer. Yet we are ever – so – tempted to want to hear ourselves talk and pontificate an answer. This is where we shoot ourselves in the foot and do more damage than good. The grieving may wish we were in the coffin too at that point!

Now the death scenario may not be a routine thing. So let’s make it more practical. Think about the tasks we do at home or at work. I think there is nothing worst when someone comes into my personal space at home or at work and tell me how to do my task better. Granted, they are probably right. I may be doing the tasks ineffectively or at least inefficiently for how many years. However, the fact you criticize my routine leads to my mulish resistance. (The criticism may not be truly critical but that’s how I perceive and feel!) The relational answer is to praise my routine and ask if you can offer suggestion for improvement. I’ll go on to further to say that I prioritize tasks that I feel it’s easier to do. This does not mean it makes sense to do it first. Hardly! But it feels as such, so I do as such. I could care less of the logic but more so the feeling of freedom that I chose the course of travel.

Now I know I’m in good company saying that. (Don’t leave me hanging on this reader.) When I offer my tried-and-true method to some struggling sap (as I think during my regrettable moment of pride), she looks at me as if I have two heads. Dare I tell her how to do her work better she says inwardly! She rather you offer a solution that makes her feel good about herself and not belittle her expertise. This is why in a disagreement or fight, it is not enough to win an argument; but you must win a friendship. The issue is rarely a head but a heart matter.

The late author and personal development coach, Stephen Covey talked about seek first to understand than to be understood.  The classic guru on understanding people, Dale Carnegie mentioned sympathy is what every person desires and needs. Similarly Jesus of Nazareth taught his followers the timeless truth of considering first the feelings of others as a way to love our neighbors. Covey and Carnegie (both influenced by Jesus’ teachings in this area) clearly indicated that the logical answer was not enough. Our advice must be relational. It must be emotional.

Think about all people challenges at home or at work. Think about the issues encountered which seems to persist and possibly getting worse with mom, dad, sister, brother, best friend, boss, coworker or worse everyone. Think about why we are always spinning our wheels and not getting anywhere in many of our relationships. Could it be we have been brainwashed by culture and upbringing to think in terms of arguments and not affection? Could it be that we are bypassing the heart to get to the head? Could it be we are ignoring the true secret to influence? With persuasion, the head follows the heart and not the other way around; I believe this is the essence Cicero was saying.

Remember, people are not just looking for the right answer when we interact with them. They are looking for the right feelings as well. We are not human doings but human beings.  And feelings make up our inner being from that perspective. We indeed move on feelings and not just on facts. If we head in that direction, we will always reach the heart of the matter!  

~ Denley W. McIntosh

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Mandela: Through Eyes of Faith

These last couple weeks have been a month of reflection for the world as we think about Nelson Mandela’s life.  There has been a plethora of coverage on Mandela’s passing. You cannot seem to turn somewhere whether on television or social media and not run into some biography, video montage or reflection. Many Black pastors are chiming in during their worship services to say their peace in ad nauseam about Mandela. Understandably, this has made some Christians anxious and uneasy. There are some sincere Christians who may be saying “Aren’t we idolizing Nelson Mandela? Why are we talking about him in a church setting? I came to church to hear Jesus not a man!” Questions like these require pastors to demonstrate that their speech and action is grounded in Scriptures. They must prove their rhetoric coheres with the narrative and teachings of Christ and the Apostles. What does the Bible have to say about this concern? If Pastors are not familiar enough with Scripture to give a sound reason, then what else should sincere Christians do – but worry. I hope to allay some of those fears with this short thought for you to build on.

When dealing with these kinds of issues of respect versus reverence, we always run the risk of going from one extreme to another: idolizing Mandela on one hand to ignoring Mandela on the other. Is there a middle ground? I will suggest there is: interpreting Mandela. More accurately – rightly interpreting in light of Scriptures… The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8, has given us something to consider when dealing with these issues. “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” The key terms are honorable and worthy of praise. Both terms in the original Greek of the New Testament carry the similar sense of esteemed, noble and well-respected. St. Paul has encouraged the Philippian church during the 1st Century to think and reflect on these things. Notice that Paul has not qualified his statement by saying the admirable thing, action or person has to come from a Christian. It just has to be right and good. Christians can agree with non-Christians when something is esteemed, noble and well respected. Christians can celebrate non-religiously with non-Christians with the understanding that God has orchestrated this achievement. Whatever that achievement is, if it is honorable and worthy of praise, we can celebrate it. However, to balance our praise, the Apostle Peter reminds us as well to “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Considering that fear or better said reverence is a stronger word than respect for esteeming someone, it is clear from St. Peter on whom we should concentrate our praise on – the Lord Jesus. Whether Nelson Mandela was a Follower of Christ or not is not the issue. We can praise the actions of someone if it reflects the Kingdom – the way that God intended society to be fair and just. The Scriptures in Romans 13:1-5  and 1st Timothy 2:1-3 tells us that God appoints leaders (i.e. presidents, prime ministers, kings etc.) to help bring order and peace in the society we live in. This order includes the removal of apartheid and the commencement of reconciliation between Black South Africans and White South Africans. Therefore, we should have no problem saying that God used Nelson Mandela to that providential end. We can rejoice not just for Mandela but the God of justice, peace and reconciliation who made this happen ultimately.

God shows us the embodiment and standard of these virtues through Jesus Christ whom Mandela patterned. By celebrating the work of Mandela, we uphold the Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:8.  This means we do not ignore. By thanking God for Mandela’s work, we equally uphold Scripture’s teachings. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior…” (1st Timothy 2:1-3 NLT) This means we do not idolize. Now we are just left to interpret rightly and appropriately.

I encourage us as Followers of Christ to use Nelson Mandela’s actions toward justice, peace and reconciliation as a springboard to the Good News. An opportunity to share our faith! If one man can bring powerful leaders, friends and enemies alike into one palace, in unity with guns and weaponry laid at the altar so to speak, how much more Christ? How much more should we long the day when Christ will be the centre of the world’s attention like Mandela’s memorial service? The day Jesus brings men and women, rich and poor, rulers and commoners, Black and White alike to worship him in speech and song forever within the new world! Let’s use Nelson Mandela’s life as a reminder to us and especially others that Jesus, the Messiah will create a world of justice, peace and reconciliation. The way the world ought to be. So let’s do our part as Mandela did his.

~Denley W. McIntosh

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Love – A Cause Worth Dying For!

I remembered talking to a woman about marriage not so long ago. The woman indicated that she thought about getting married a few times in her previous relationships. At the end, she decided against it, because she wanted to live life still. I replied to her that marriage is not about losing freedom. However, I concurred there are few things that one would have to give up, because a new life is taken on so to speak. I asked her if she is with someone presently and she replied yes. I sensed from her reply that there is a desire for marriage and beginning a family. However, there were some reservations holding her back, because of her view of marriage. Her view (and many others) of marriage is the phase of life where one settles down to have children. I indicated to her that she should not view marriage as a time to just settle down by virtue of a marital certificate. Marriage however should be viewed as the courageous life that you are willing to pursue, fight, and love for the lover’s sake.

The only way you will know that you are ready for marriage if you are willing to literally die for your partner – your love. If you (or your partner) cannot say that, you should continue to live your free life, because you maybe are just wasting your time (and tax-payer dollars for a divorce). A marriage of that nature would be – at best – unfulfilling and worst – ending in divorce.

Let me clarify what I mean by dying for your partner. They are seen in the countless stories of police officers that get wounded in the line of duty to save the innocent who are in danger; firefighters who literally jump into burning houses to save the lives of the faceless; and soldiers who throw their bodies on landmines to save the wounded from the enemy’s camp. These are courageous men and women who put their bodies on the line. Many suffer paralysis, burns, sickness and death because of their love for people. They are willing die for people who they do not know – strangers. How much more of a burden for us who are in an intimate relationship? Are we willing to die for our love?

Please understand that the spotlight of intimacy shines at its brightest during the scenes of courage and selfless acts between lovers. In the face of bullets of criticism, the torpedoes of insult, and the bombs of rejection from your hostile love does not change the fact that the cause still remains great, significant and worthy. This leads to the critical questions: Am I ready to be hero/heroine when the spotlight is on me? Will I give of myself at all cost? Would I put my body on the line for my love till the point of pending death? This is the test for marriage readiness – nothing more, nothing less. It is the ability to translate the heart of a soldier into this fragile and sensitive world of relationships and marriage. If I am willing to do the extraordinary, these consistent and ordinary acts of kindness will be always possible:

1)     Walking away from quarrels and fights in order to find peace with one another.

2)     Giving your partner affection during times of mutual discomfort or fatigue.

3)     Encouraging your partner to spend time with their friends who are positive to their life.

4)     Creating days of undivided attention for your partner.

5)     Getting involved in your partner’s activity that you might not always enjoy doing.

6)     Resisting the urge of being unfaithful to your partner.

7)     Endeavoring to see the world from your partner’s point of view.

Here is the principle to remember. If I am willing to do the more challenging and courageous act of dying for my partner, then every other selfless act or sacrifice becomes trivial with respect to the magnitude of dying.

I want you to imagine this with me. Put your hand on your heart. Feel it beat for a minute. Imagine if your heart was not beating. Would you agree nothing else matters then? You are aware if that heart stops beating at any point; your life is at the cusp of death. Similarly, if you believe your partner is your heart but they are not beating for you – guess what – you are having a heart attack. If your partner does not beat for you, your relationship will eventually wither and die. Again, nothing else truly matters then. The same is true with you. I ask you to remember this connection, because no heart lives for itself. It shares its life and many ways gives up its life for the body to grow.

Relationship especially marriage is the school where we are taught the unending course of selflessness. It is the profession that we learn to risk our lives, so love can live. Now I ask you… are you willing to die for your love to always live? Simply, is it a love worth dying for…soldier?

~ Written By: Denley McIntosh

P.S.

I think about the tragic shooting in Colorado as a contemporary and evocative example where we heard surreal tales of heroic and sacrificial effort mightily exuded through “ordinary” men and women to protect their beloveds from death’s door. Seeing and feeling the pain of death has not beclouded the light of love refracted through the prismatic stories of these courageous individuals. I must say, within the dissonance of the pain and sadness, it was beautiful to hear the love these fallen had died for. My heart goes out to them and others alike.

 

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