~ A G A P E ~

December 4th, 2007

Bretheren, what do you see in front of your eyes? What feeling, thought or emotion is conjured up? Please consider this as you read the following,

If you knew what I know about the power of giving, you would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.

Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.
Cherie Carter-Scott

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.
Sir Winston Churchill

Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy.
Gretta Brooker Palmer

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ''What's in it for me?''
Brian Tracy

If a sense of unrealistic expectations or foolish babble comes to mind, you may be a selfish person who is lost within their own self. If you felt your heart long for something then you are probably on the right track.

It is not the failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your failure to appreciate theirs.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Men are not disturbed by things, but the view they take of things.
Epictetus (55-135 A.D.)

Take a look at yourself; what do you see? What lies with in us gives us the power to move mountains. With faith, nothing will be impossible. But there is only one ingredient that's needed; an ingredient which is provided from only one source. An ingredient that is everywhere.

The purpose of life is to discover True Love; The secret is to discover the Present Moment.
Simon Heighwaya

A single day is enough to make us a little larger.
Paul Klee

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.
Helen Keller

One can make a day of any size, and regulate the rising and the setting of his own sun and the brightness of its shining.
John Muir

Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion.
Mary Manin Morrissey

Whatever you think you're waiting for has already started.
Ephraim Silverfox

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster. Your life will never be the same again.
Og Mandino

What are you waiting for? What is holding you back? Why have you not tapped into that potential? Everyday is an opportunity. Now you can either grasp that opportunity and live the moment; or you can stay in the same spot, oblivious to the wonders and beauty that is all around you.

What thoughts entered your mind when reading the above? What is it about forgiveness, happiness, giving to others, a something inside, a power within, an everyday opportunity, a door of happiness?? All of this has something in common. Do you feel it? It is that ingredient which makes us whole and complete; the very essence of our existence, the meaning of life.

What holds us back in this world.? Is it our confidence, control, doubts, and worries? Where does that negative stress come from?
He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)
Faith means trust. Trust is something that can be easily broken in this world; and as trust is broken, grief, sadness, disappointment, and doubt are common forms of distress that can follow. A person's inner strength and the wealth of that ingredient referred to thus far can be determined by their response to this untrustworthy world we live in. I had the unfortunate experience of coming to terms with this world when I blindly put too much faith in others without realizing the consequences of my overzealous actions and beliefs at the time. In other words, I was recklessly used and lied to and I couldn't help but be bitter for a time. It was one of my biggest wake up calls where I learned just how weak I was and just how much strength and common sense I lacked for these new situations I was facing. In addition to that I was now lacking faith; I was now lacking trust. As someone who always looked for the positive in situations and the good in every person I met, these were strange and unfamiliar feelings for me. When I decided to go back to school, I felt like I was born a kid again, full of hopes and dreams. So to have that candle of hope be blown out was quite a shock. And although I grew up being critical and weary of certain authority figures, I had never looked that way at people who I'd otherwise care deeply for. When people lie and betray you it makes it really hard to carry on a sincere friendship. In fact, it's impossible.

Because of the untrustworthy world we live in, people's hearts are hardened as mine had begun to. Often the obnoxious and rude people we run into are that way because they're afraid of opening up. They lack the strength to follow the words of wisdom I gave above because they are afraid of getting hurt. They lack faith, and that shortcoming affects every area of their life, and then they try to convince themselves that they're happy by masking the truth. Sex, alcohol and other stimulating drugs are a couple examples of what that mask could be. It's a downward spiral of destruction. Now the big question is how can we break free and truly live by the philosophy spoken of by the wise men and women whom I have quoted?

Strength, hope and motivation can be attained through many areas in life; friends, family, religion, work, exercise, etc. In my life I tried all of the above, but sometimes it just doesn't work. Why? As I continue to make it through life I learn that it's because it is not yet the right time. We have to remember that everything is a means to an end, never an end unto itself. Difficult times often prepare us for the future and must be seen as joyful oppertunities to grow beyond what we are at that moment. This is why the brother of our Master Yeshua admonishes us to,
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
Yet, it is not easy. And sometimes life doesn't work the way we expect it to, but the outward actions and appearance of a man is not the ultimatum of life. What truly matters is what's on the inside. Do you WANT to change, are you WILLING to get better, are you ATTEMPTING to strive towards a better life? If you answer yes, then do not give up hope; what you are waiting for is already happening. It just may not be finished yet.
...continue to work out your salvation... (Philippians 2:12)
For myself personally, as I continued to work out my salvation within my situation, I sometimes felt as if I was moving backwards. But each time I moved backwards I did feel as if I was learning something, and I sometimes questioned weather I needed to hit bottom again in order to change particular habits and regain that ingredient for life. I wouldn't exactly say that I hit bottom, but I did skip a day of work and took a weekend to be a hermit. And then as if an angel came down from heaven, all it took was the striving actions of a friend to change my heart. But as my heart was still somewhat hardened, I didn't trust that person completely. I couldn't believe that they were the way they said they were; I had to test them, I had to know, I had to selfishly prove it to myself. What a shameful lack of faith. But this beautiful person was anything but a let down. They are a friend to be cherished, a friend in whom you could trust. They are not perfect, but they are working out their salvation just as I had been (and still am) attempting, which makes for a wonderful sight to behold. During this cold winter, it was that shining beam of light that changed my attitude and woke those feelings back up which told me of how I ought to be acting again.

I'd now like to share with you what that special ingredient is and how striving to collect it can change your life forever. One of my jobs involves working in a fitness centre in a hospital, and the particular hospital I work at is under the Caritas Health group. Now one of the tasks I have there includes writing newsletter articles on health and wellness. One of the articles I wrote was on living up to their mission statement of "Healing the Body, Enriching the Mind, Nurturing the Soul". With in that article I mention how I've heard it said that nurses are angels in disguise. An angel in disguise would most certainly possess the ingredient I've been talking about this entire time. And what is this wonderful gift I speak of? Quite simply, it is love. One of our greatest gifts from our Heavenly Father is the ability to love. But not just any love. In Greek there are three distinct words for love, each one expanding on the meaning behind it rather than in the English language where we use the single word of love for many instances. Now as mentioned, the hospital I work at is part of the Caritas Health Group. I'm sure you've seen the Caritas Lottery in the mail. Well, Caritas comes from the word charity (or chastity) which in Greek is agapē. Agapē is that exact ingredient which I believe sums up all of the quotes I have in this article and should be the very ultimate thing to strive for in life. Agapē literally means unconditional love. It is the most commonly translated word for love from the Greek translation of the Apostolic Writings. It signifies the desire to help someone regardless of who they are; to give out of a genuinely compassionate heart. To love something or somebody sincerely no matter who they are, and to give or help without expecting anything in return is one of the noblest acts of kindness a person can do in this world. It is an act of sacrifice and a sign of goodwill. When you forget about yourself and instead go out of your way to help others because your heart is filled with love, that to me is what it means to be an angel in disguise. Or more accurately, that is the Mashiyach Yeshua living inside of you. Now the ability to do this and the strength to continue to do it regardless of what life throws at you, I believe that this is the ultimate goal in life. I consider it more important then starting a family, winning a world title, achieving my most prestigious career goals, or attaining any worldly possession on this earth. The ability to do it however must come from something greater than ourselves as we tend to live as carnal creatures in need of a boost. But consider that love has no bounds and can cure even the deadliest of wounds and it is for this reason that nothing should hold us back in finding that ability. Thinks about this: love is so important that the Scriptures mentions it approximately 700 times. Indeed, love is the very purpose of life and existence.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:1-8, emphasis added)

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another. For he who loves his neighbor has properly understood the Torah. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one instruction: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the true purpose of the Torah. (Romans 13:8-10 emphasis added)
I grew up as a somewhat aggressive young man who loved the martial arts and got no bigger high then when he was fighting. But yet, I was shown by our creator this beauty, and from my experiences seeing violence and fighting (and it's prevalence in our world today), it only made sense how much we needed this love.

General Choi Hong Hi, the founder of Taekwon-Do, created that particular martial art to promote peace and justice in the world. The philosophy of Taekwon-Do can be best summed up by last two phrases of the Student Oath,
"I shall be a champion of justice and freedom.

I shall build a better and peaceful world."
General Choi placed a heavy emphasis on moral culture with in Taekwon-Do, and many other martial arts do as well. It should be pointed out that without the moral culture martial arts are only barbaric fighting. But learning and following these ideals are no easy task. General Choi said that under taking moral culture should be as follows,
"It must indeed seem like an impossible undertaking to a mere mortal." (Taekwon-Do: The Korean Art of Self Defense, 1999)
How right he was. In our world, how difficult would striving to attain unconditional love be? How difficult is it to live up to the moral culture from the quotations provided at the beginning of this article? Growing up, everything I learned about morality and respect came from the martial arts. The martial arts, and more specifically my teacher, intiially taught me the ways of a successful and honorable life. But knowing these things was not enough. In fact, I was driven away from love because of my pursuit of fighting strength. A little quote from Kill Bill should sum up why,
"When engaged in combat, the vanquishing of thine enemy can be the warrior's only concern...
...This is the first and cardinal rule of combat...
...Suppress all human emotion and compassion...
...Kill whoever stands in thy way, even if that be Lord G-d, or Buddha himself... "
But even with that attitude it seemed that I continued to fight until I found love, and I found love when I hit bottom and my life changed forever. I gave up my current subterfuge dreams and strived for a better life with this love I speak of. And that love came from Creator of the universe, our Heavnly Father. He is the very source of love, who is Himself, love, as the apostle John so clearly teaches us,
"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from G-d; and everyone who loves is born of G-d and knows G-d. The one who does not love does not know G-d, for G-d is love." (1 John 4:7-8)
While the standards of unconditional love seem so far off, and while General Choi was quite correct in saying that is is an impossible undertaking for a mere mortal, it is not impossible for us to express. The beloved disciples our Master Yeshua asked Him about the difficulties of these things, and in the original Aramaic text He gives the imagry of a thick rope being stripped away (humbled) until it can fit through the eye of a needle. And this can only be done by our Heavenly Father, which is why immediately after Yeshua says,
“With the sons of men, this is impossible, but not with G-d; everything is possible with G-d.” (Mark 10:27b)
Amen. We can do all things through the Mashiyach who gives us strength (Phillipians 4:13). I pray that each and every one of you reading this can grasp part of the essence of the feeling which I'm attempting to articulate here. If some loving thought struck you inside while reading this, I further pray that you might have an opportunity to act on such a thought. I was inspired to write this because of the beauty of a friend of mine. Sometimes our Heavenly Father works through the most unexpected of ways to teach us the lessons we need to learn. And the beauty revealed to me helped to change my heart and reminded me of our Heavenly Father's grace and love towards us. Now if you guys happen to notice something beautiful in one of your friends, let them know. Everyone has something awesome to offer; sometimes they just don't realize it.
"Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living G-d. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 13:1-13, emphasis added)