His Intimate Imminence

 READ Psalm 57

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.’ – Psalm 57:1 NIV

 

The gnawing feelings of loneliness, isolation, or emptiness seem to intensify in the face of adversity, opposition and moments of great difficulty and seasons of darkness. Experience has taught me that even in the company of others I can still feel the emptiness that comes with feeling lonely and alone. In becoming a Christian, will I escape the darkness of the world filled with moments of emptiness, isolation and loneliness?

What should my response to life’s circumstances be when I am feeling overwhelmed and held hostage by the debilitating thoughts and emotions associated with emptiness, isolation and loneliness? Even in the bible there are people, who having faith in God, found themselves in those dark places of life facing the trials that come with feeling alone, isolated and empty. A man named Job, who lost everything and was suffering from declining health, could not sense the presence of God with him in his troubles.

Even today my complaint is bitter, his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.’– Job 23:2-3,17 NIV Even Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son felt abandoned by God while suffering on the cross for the sins of the world to liberate mankind from sin, death and the realities of this world like loneliness, isolation, and emptiness. ‘ My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’– Matthew 27:46b NIV

Faith in Christ does not exempt me from bitterness, emptiness or feelings associated with grief precipitated by loneliness, emptiness or isolation. Faith in Christ enables me to overcome the realities of this world through a growing personal relationship with God! ‘Because he loves me, says the LORD, ‘ I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him;  I will be with him in trouble.’ – Psalm 91:14, 15b

May God bless you and help you to encounter His intimate presence to settle, strengthen, and establish you in encountering the fullness of life Christ came for us to have!

Chapter 3

Temporal Plans vs. an Eternal Purpose:

God’s Plan for Salvation

 

‘But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations.’
- Psalm 33:11 (NIV)

 

‘God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind.
Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?’
- Numbers 23:19 (NIV)

 

When I reflect upon the theme of this chapter, I can’t help but recall a lesson I learned from the Bible through the lives of Abraham, Sarah, Adam, and Eve. This is a personal experience that helps me vividly understand the wisdom of God expressed in His purposes and plans for the redemption of humankind through salvation. It also reveals to me, by contrast, the reality that His ways and thoughts are not like ours.

            In the book of Genesis, chapter 12, God told Abraham (then known as Abram) that He was going to bless him and make him the father of many nations. At the time, Abraham was seventy-five years old and did not have any children. Some ten years later, Abraham was still without a child. In chapter 15, God reminded Abraham of His promise to give him a child.

            In chapter 16, Abraham’s wife, Sarai (later known as Sarah), told Abraham to sleep with her servant so that she could have the child that God had promised her. “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her” (Genesis 16:2a). Abraham listened to his wife and slept with her servant, and the servant became pregnant. This story is interesting to me, because Sarah clearly believed that God was withholding His promised blessing from her. God was talking about birthing a nation, but she just wanted to build a family.

            During a Bible study with my mother and sister, I learned from Sarah’s example the consequences of leaning on my own understanding. Sarah reasoned in her mind that remaining barren¾despite God’s promise¾was the result of God’s withholding His promise to bless her. Sarah was challenged by the passing of time, unchanged circumstances, and the same tormenting thoughts and emotions that creep into my own heart and mind to produce doubt and unbelief. My personal experience of having to wait on God and trust in His faithfulness to fulfill His promises, causes me to empathize with Sarah instead of condemning her. My own failure to remain faithful and wait patiently motivates my sympathy for her as well. It also reminds me that God knows and understands that I will sometimes falter and fail in my ability to follow through with what He requires of me. He knows that I am but dust and remembers how I was formed. Knowing this helps me to remain patient with myself when my humanity gets in the way of His divine plan and purpose to bless me.

Let’s keep in mind that Abraham agreed to what Sarah requested of him. It may be because he reasoned to himself, “Well, it has been a while, and maybe this is the way God is going to bless me with the child He promised me.” Whatever Abraham was thinking, his actions compromised his ability to wait with perfect patience for God’s promise to be fulfilled in his life. I thank God that His love is patient toward me, even when I can’t remain patient with Him!

God’s plans for our lives are exceedingly and abundantly greater than what we can even imagine¾if we are willing to trust Him and allow Him to work in and through us. Needless to say, Abraham and Sarah, at the ages of one hundred and ninety, respectively, did have a child born from Sarah as God had promised. It simply took place twenty-five years after God had initially told Abraham what He was going to do. Keep in mind that it was God who came to Abraham and Sarah about the child, not the other way around. This was God’s plan for them. God kept His word and invited Abraham and Sarah to participate in His plans for His people. God has plans for us that He promises to fulfill in our lives and He invites us to allow Him to fulfill His promises and perform His miracles for His people. The process begins with salvation.

            When I came into the profession of teaching, my only goal was to make a difference in the lives of my students. I also hoped to write and illustrate children’s books someday. I recall God speaking clearly to me one day, saying, “Is that all that you desire to do? I have so much more planned for you.”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Jeremiah 29:11–14)

I have since imagined God standing with me at a table with my blueprint of my life rolled out before Him. It is all about my plans and my ideas about life and success for me. Of course, I am feeling pretty proud and confident that these are some great plans, and I believe that God will be impressed with the ideas I have for my life. Then God rolls out His blueprints next to mine, turns to me, and says, “That’s all you want to do? Well, these are the plans I have for you.”

I’m sure I don’t have to explain what this means to me, especially after the reminder that Sarah’s plans only involved building a family, while God was talking about building a nation. The same God who intended to build a nation through Abraham and Sarah, wants to do something great for anyone who is willing to allow Him to work through them and fulfill His plans and purposes for His people.

            “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20).

            “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may enjoy good health, just as it is well with your soul” (3 John v. 2 NRSV).

            As I began to understand the context of these two passages of scripture, I began to understand that God desired more for me than blessing me with material possessions and wealth. In fact, the context of both of these verses emphasizes a more intimate, personal expression of God’s grace, power, and blessing for me, if I am willing to allow His power to work in me. I believe the greater blessing or work of God in my life is in allowing the fullness of Christ’s person, or His character, to be expressed in and through me. I believe God desires for us to experience an exceeding, more abundant transformation of our character into the image and likeness of Christ.

At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus began to preach about the kingdom of God. He instructed us in Matthew’s gospel to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and not the things of this world. He emphasized the fact that our heavenly Father knows we have need of earthly things, but He challenged us not to seek after earthly things, like those who have no faith in God. Ephesians 3:20 and 3 John v. 2 both emphasize the idea that the greater work of God’s power or blessing is manifested in us¾as we allow Him to work¾so that our souls may prosper. In fact, I believe that without soul prosperity¾even if God prospers us with material blessings and good health¾we will neither appreciate the prosperity God blesses us with, nor be able to maintain it with the level of reverence for God that He would desire us to have.

Soul prosperity is the transformation of the heart, mind, and will, influenced and inspired by the Word of God and His Holy Spirit to sincerely seek after God. Our hearts become loyal to God, making Him the number-one priority in our motivation for living. Our minds become renewed in consistently generating the types of thoughts that are in line with a heavenly, eternal view of life and way of living. Our strongest desire and delight becomes seeking, sincerely and willingly, to do the will of God in the way we live daily. Soul prosperity becomes a passionate, relentless determination to remain vigilant and persistent in action and attitude in becoming and being a Christian in all aspects of one’s life. No matter what circumstances you face, no matter how trying and troubling life may become for you, and regardless of your socioeconomic status in life, your soul’s desire is to delight yourself in the Lord!

There are many in this world who have already been blessed immeasurably, more than they could have imagined, from a material perspective, but their souls are still empty, depleted and devoid of the character, spiritual blessing, and substance that God desires for them to have. They have not yet discovered a soul’s desire to delight itself in the Lord! This is why Jesus said to His disciples that there would be no profit for someone who could gain the whole world and yet lose his soul. “Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:15 NIV).

The message of seeking after God and His kingdom is given with the understanding that the soul is in need of peace, joy, love, hope, goodness, gentleness, patience, self-control, kindness, and faithfulness, which enable and empower us to live the full, abundant life that Christ came for us to have.

Where can I go to get peace? Who can supply me with faithfulness? To whom can I turn to receive self-control? When the one I vowed to love until death parted us has drained me of the ability to love, how can I receive refreshment and replenishment to continue to give, unconditionally, when I don’t feel like doing so? Whether I am at home or on the job, when I become acquainted with the stress and troubles of life, where can I turn to receive a much needed supply of patience? Where can I purchase the internal fortitude to endure until my circumstances change? Where will my help come from, when no one is available to help? When the infatuation wears off, the excitement of the latest purchase dies down, or the thrill of the moment flees, who will sustain me?

The insight that I have gained since obtaining salvation is the understanding that everyone can receive good, or blessings, from God, because God is good to everybody and loves everyone equally. But not everybody experiences the intimate expression of His grace, goodness, and blessing of the life of His Son growing in and through them, because not everybody has faith in Christ. This, to me, is the most intimate way God can express His glory, grace, and power in the life of a person. The transformation of one’s character into the likeness of Christ is the greatest blessing God seeks to give to a person, because it is what He initially intended when we were created in His likeness in the beginning.

When we really think about it, does God really need our help to do anything outside of us? God invites us to work with Him! I am learning to allow God to fulfill His purpose of growing me up in Christ, by being willing to allow His power to work in me so that His life is expressed through me. This is the greater work and blessing I can receive from God. God created me to depend on Him and to be used by Him as I learn to live through Him!

‘He gave you manna to eat in the wilderness, something your ancestors had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.’

- Deuteronomy 8:16-18 NIV

 

Reflection upon the topic of God and money has provoked numerous questions. One such question: What does it mean to be rich in faith? This inspired from what is recorded in the book of James 2:5, ‘Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?’ When you read that verse, what comes to your mind about the question of what it means to be ‘rich in faith?’

What thoughts are provoked within you when you read in Deuteronomy 8:16-18 when God states that He gives the ability to produce wealth? Is there a connection between being rich in faith and the ability to produce wealth?

Does this mean that by becoming a Christian I am assured the promise of becoming wealthy? The fact that it is clearly stated that it is an ability given by God to His people, is there a requirement of me with the ability in order for the wealth to be produced, or is this something that will occur without any effort, or intention on my part?

What comes to my mind regarding James 2:5 is the privileged election by God of those He chooses to be an example of how He performs the miraculous and the impossible among those who love Him despite their lack of wealth. Lack of wealth positions those who are not wealthy to be an instrument used by God to bring glory to Himself for what He accomplishes in and through us despite the nonexistence of wealth if we are faithful to honor His word and obey His commands.

‘For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.’ – Deuteronomy 7:6-8 NIV

This is consistent with what is written in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.’

Not being included in the top percentage of those who would be considered wealthy by the world’s standards, I am included in the greater percentage of those God has elected to bring glory to His name by how I allow Him to make use of me, in the ability He has given me to produce wealth, to inspire and influence others to make use of that same ability for His glory!

As I continue to reflect upon these thoughts I see 3 guiding principles related to this subject of God and Money: 1) Faith, 2) Heart Attitude, and 3) Money. Faith meaning what is God’s perspective of money? Heart attitude in relation to what my current thoughts are on the subject of money in relation to the context of scripture? In relation to money, how am I willing to apply what I learn from what I read regarding God’s perspective (what He requires of me in His word)?

What I love about James 2:5 is that there are no stipulations or conditions by how whom God has elected can be made useful to glorify Him. Maybe you are currently in debt, distressed, and discontented on the subject of money, but does that mean, financially you are exempted from being in position to encounter God’s favor to experience His glory being revealed in and through you to inspire and influence others to make use of their ability to produce wealth? Surely the same God who raised the dead, healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, made the deaf and mute speak and hear, can transform me in my circumstances to be an example for Him to make use of my ability to produce wealth! What is the purpose of faith beyond salvation?

That’s where the subject of faith comes into play. What do I believe? According to the Bible anything is possible to him who believes and what is not possible with man is possible with God! Heart attitude has to do with motivation for acquiring wealth. God deals with each of us individually on this matter and none of us is in position to judge another. As it relates to money and the application of scripture, where do I stand with God on this subject is where we all must examine ourselves and the word of God is the standard by how God judges.

I leave you with these 3 objectives to consider as you walk by faith on the subject of God and Money:

  1. Am I open to God about developing my potential to produce wealth?
  2. Am I willing to grow in the grace and truth of Christ on the subject of money according to His word?
  3. Am I willing to glorify God in becoming a wise steward of money?

May God bless you and help you to develop your ability to produce wealth so you may encounter the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

 

 

 

 

‘Who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.’

- 1 Timothy 6:5b NIV

 

So this summer I am seeking to promote my first published book while also beginning the process of creating the manuscript to my 2nd. On myImmanuel I am beginning a new series involving the theme ‘sacred lifestyle.’  Exciting time, because I currently feel writing has created its own momentum now and I am trying to keep up with it.

Sacred Lifestyle is an inspired look at what I understand living the Christian lifestyle entails in contrast to the myriad of depictions of what is presented before me daily that influences, tempts, and arouses within me desires that contradict the principle of ‘denying self, taking up my cross, and following Jesus.’

One thing I have learned in the time I have sought to walk by faith is the consistent effort to read, reflect, and share the inspired word of God helps me to keep my mind stayed on Christ and live in a manner worthy of the gospel and walk worthy in my calling to be Christ-like. Not always easy, but not impossible either.

Today, while organizing notes for my new manuscript, I was able to create the Table of Contents (excited) and researched the scripture references related to the text from 1 Timothy 6 on the subject of money. I have always been inspired, by the grace of God’s word, to share it with others, so this is not about preaching, or dictating to others how one should live, as much as it is about sharing what is written to allow others to decide for themselves what their response should be from what they have received.

As I reflected on today’s scripture reference from 1 Timothy 6:5, the thought came to me, ‘Godliness is not a means for financial gain.‘ Written plainly for us to see from the perspective of scripture, but how often have we been influenced to think, or it has been suggested to us that righteous living results in financial prosperity? From this reflection I have pondered whether some believe faith in Christ guarantees financial prosperity? I neither discourage nor promote the supposition, but leave the verses for each to decide on their own.

I sincerely invite my followers, visitors, and bible readers/enthusiasts to join me in dialogue about this subject of the sacred lifestyle associated with God and money, or any other posts that inspire a desire to engage in dialogue.

What I do promote is the necessity to read and understand for one’s self what to believe, allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate the word of God and not rely solely on what any one person says or believes alone. I believe God will provide revelation, clarity, wisdom, and appropriate application for the sincere seeker whose heart desires to understand what is written from His Holy words.

May God bless you and help you to grow in the grace and truth of Christ so you may experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

Chapter 2

Salvation: Redemptive Love in Action

 

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
- John 3:16 (NIV)

 

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.
- Romans 10:9–10 (NIV)

 

 

The insights I’ve gained from scripture about the subject of salvation, along with my reflections from my life experiences, help me to better understand the mercy, compassion, kindness, and grace of God’s love, expressed through His Son, Jesus Christ. Two recollections from my childhood, one involving my sister and the other a memory of a friend from college, reinforce lessons I’ve learned about salvation from reading the Bible. As I recall how their actions intervened in my life, I notice that, behind the scenes, the omniscient eye of God and His providential hand express His faithfulness to protect and provide for those He loves.

In my senior year of high school, I was enjoying what I’ve always felt was one of the best times in my life. School was always a place where I felt valued, accepted, and secure. It was during my senior year that I discovered something that was, for me, the zenith in peer acceptance, affirmation, and recognition. With my ability to draw and my interest in comic art, I became the author and illustrator of a cartoon comic strip for the school newspaper. I loved to draw, and more than anything I loved to draw cartoons. As I walked through the halls, people I didn’t even know called me “Mighty-Mite,” the name of the character I had created. It is one of the fondest and most enjoyable memories of my life. However, it was occurring at a time that was also one of the most troubling, unstable periods of my childhood.

My mom was losing her third bout with the symptoms of a nervous breakdown in what had become a four-year pattern of instability and all-too-familiar uncertainty for my family. At the time, I could not understand what I now realize were some of the consequences of my parents’ failed marriage and my father’s choice to abandon his family. Looking at life through the eyes of a child, I never saw my mother’s problems or our circumstances as the result of divorce. I always saw my mother as a single mom trying to raise her children. My father and mother separated before I was born, but the providence of God had brought them together one last time so that I could enter human history. According to my mom’s conversation with my father, my sister and I are not his children.

None of my mother’s four children grew up together in the same house for any significant length of time. There were even times when my mother was not able to live with her children because of her emotional struggles. I did not realize that they were influenced by the ravages of divorce and abandonment. I could see these things happening, but without explanation or understanding, I was just left to watch. In fact, the truth didn’t dawn on me until a recent conversation with my mom revealed to me that her circumstances were comparable to being homeless. The day we shared that conversation, I remember the momentary sinking feeling in my stomach as I reflected on that period of my childhood. I felt grief in knowing what life was like for our family then, and I am grateful to God for what we have persevered through and overcome. One day my mother said to me, “We are a family of overcomers.” To God be the glory!

To this day, I believe that God protected me from feeling the intensity of emotions that surrounded my childhood. It would have been difficult for me to handle the emotional impact of our family dilemma¾on top of remaining silent about the experience of my abuse. I have witnessed what other children experience today, and although I never truly felt the way they do, I am more sensitive to them. I refrain from saying that children and teenagers don’t really have any problems, for their problems are common to what we all face: the troubles Jesus said we would have in this life. And nothing could be worse for children than to lack engaged parents or an awareness of God and faith in Christ that could help them cope or redirect their focus away from their troubles toward something meaningful and rewarding.

It is painful to see children affected by tormenting thoughts and disturbing emotions and yet be unable to cope with them. The first order of business when working with them is to speak words of encouragement that will equip them with the necessary courage to talk with their parents openly about what they are wrestling with privately. I tell them not to be like me and remain silent but to speak up and seek help. My personal childhood experiences have truly equipped and enabled me to understand and be touched by the real and legitimate problems that I see children facing today. I truly cannot comprehend where I would be today, apart from God’s grace, had I felt the intensity of emotion I have seen other children trying to live with.

It was only over the past six years¾after I had begun working with students and listening to them talk openly about the personal hardships surrounding their families¾that I actually began to feel my own childhood circumstances. As I listened to troubled children, I could actually put words to what those emotions felt like. Helping them to identify their feelings about their circumstances actually helped me do the same for my inner child, which still wrestled with the fear of rejection and the need for affirmation and acceptance. I actually had the sense that I was being delivered from my own childhood circumstances by identifying with the emotions of my students and acknowledging to myself what it must have felt like for me in my situation. It was truly liberating!

Today I explain it as being and feeling alive for the first time. I never saw my circumstances as negative. Feelings that had been hidden away for years have resurfaced in my adulthood and tried to hinder my growth, maturity, and ability to enjoy life. If I don’t manage these feelings effectively and appropriately, they threaten to steal the promise and prosperity of a full and abundant future. My family had been fractured, and only in the last two to three years have my eyes been opened to the reality that I was the product of a divorced family. For the first time, I could understand why there had been so much instability in my family as I grew up, the youngest of four children. When I was in the fourth grade, and at the end of my seventh grade year, my mother suffered from severe depression, which caused the family to be uprooted repeatedly.

In my senior year, the haunting reality of my past childhood experiences and my father’s abandonment threatened to prevent me from enjoying my senior year and possibly to alter future opportunities to go to college. As my mother’s sickness became worse, my sister invited me to live with her. The debilitating impact of my mother’s illness hindered her from taking care of herself and paying the rent. At the time, I was not aware of these things¾until I discovered an eviction notice dangling on the front of the door to our apartment after returning home from school. However, we got through the crisis every time, and life continued on. How great and good God is to not allow anything to happen to us that we can’t handle. Mercifully and graciously, He will provide a way of escape so that we can bear up under our pain, momentary troubles, and temporary torment!

I remained with my sister until I graduated from college. Our mother was reunited with us and was able to see me graduate with a BFA degree in graphic design from the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC. My sister was married and had her first of two children when she took me into her two-bedroom apartment. Her acts of compassion, love, grace, and kindness allowed me to be the first in my family to graduate with a four-year degree. My sister looked upon my circumstances and chose to make a sacrifice that would allow me to live. She afforded me the opportunity to move ahead and become productive in life instead of remaining in the darkness of uncertainty, instability, confusion, and hopelessness. God gave His only begotten Son so that, through faith in Christ, we may live and experience His love, which upholds and uplifts us in such times.

            “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him” (John 14:19–21).

Just as my sister invited me to come and live with her, providing a refuge and shelter from the unstable environment created by my mother’s sickness, God invites us to live in the light of His love. Through our faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, God’s invitation ensures for us an eternal refuge in heaven and a place of rest and peace as we live for Him in this world ravaged by the sickness of sin. God’s love provides an anchor of hope in an unstable world tossed and driven by the influence of Satan and the consequences of sin.

My recollection of my sister’s invitation helps me to explain God’s plan of redemption and salvation for humankind. Redemption, the salvation of man, is God’s divine act of love to redeem His most cherished form of creation to Himself. In the beginning, as recorded in the book of Genesis, God revealed His divine purpose for the redemption of man from his fallen nature and His plan to fulfill the promise of victory over sin, death, and Satan.

            “So the Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [seed] and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel’” (Genesis 3:14a, 15 NIV).

            “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:8 NIV).

            “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you” (Romans 16:20 NIV).

The word salvation, in the Hebrew language, means “help, deliverance, victory, prosperity, or something saved.” Psalm 118:5, 21 says, “In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and He answered by setting me free. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.”

In Exodus 6:6, God told His servant Moses to tell His people, the Israelites, that He would deliver them from slavery in Egypt. “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement.’”

In Psalm 25:22, David, the king of Israel who defeated Goliath, cried out to the Lord to deliver His people out of their troubles. “Redeem Israel, O God, from all their troubles!”

In Hosea 13:14, God told His prophet Hosea to prophecy to the Israelites, who were living a sinful, rebellious lifestyle apart from God’s commands, that God would save them from the death and destruction of their sin. “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” Hosea, by the way, means “salvation.”

To redeem, in the Hebrew language, means “to deliver, avenge, purchase, ransom, to buy back a relative’s property, to release, preserve, rescue, to deliver by any means or to sever.” Essentially, redemption through God’s eternal plan of salvation is His divine purpose to avenge Himself, on behalf of man, against Satan’s deception of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, while preserving our lives from the death and destruction of sin. When we were held hostage by Satan and sin, God purchased our lives, with His Son, Jesus Christ, as the ransom.

The love God has for man is so great that He decided He would deliver humankind from the power of sin, death, and Satan’s influence by any means necessary, even the death of His Son on the cross at Calvary. The power of God’s love, expressed through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ¾along with the redemptive, regenerative life of His Spirit at work in and through us¾severed us from the grip of sin. God desired to express His love for us through His Son so that we could experience the power of His love, the victory of the resurrection, and the prosperity of eternal life.

God expressed His love through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in order to rescue us from the consequences of sin: separation from God and eternal existence in hell. The purpose of Christ’s death and resurrection was also to release us from a rebellious, sinful lifestyle that glorifies Satan and holds us captive in darkness and fear. This love, the power of God expressed through faith in Jesus Christ, is described in the Bible and is a gift freely given to all who are willing to receive His act of grace.

'Darkness should be embraced as a means to overcome it.'

You can purchase your copy of Out of the Darkness from this site at amazon.com or archwaypublishing.com today!

‘Honor one another above yourselves.’

- Romans 12:10b NIV

The past two weeks have been hectic as the 2013-2014 school year has come to an end! Whew, summer is finally here! What a treat to open my dashboard for myImmanuel and see the acknowledgement from The Busy Bird awaiting me! Praise Immanuel! I sincerely appreciate everyone who follows, visits, likes, comments, and reblogs posts from myImmanuel that continues to fuel my motivation and inspiration to share His grace.

11 facts about me:

  1. Born in Washington, DC in 1968 two months before the death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  2. Dr. King is a role model for me and I enjoy listening to his sermons/speeches
  3. Surrendered my life to Christ in Spring of 1993 at age 24
  4. My first writing (poem) was published in the school newspaper in elementary school (5th grade)
  5. I have been working with children since age 14 (32 years)
  6. Inspired by the artwork/artist Jacob Lawrence
  7. My favorite comic book hero is Spider-Man/Wolverine
  8. Enjoy watching The Walking Dead/Scandal/VH-1 I Love the 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s
  9. Like reading Shel Silverstein Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Giving Tree
  10. I have been teaching since 1992 (art/peer mediation/graphic design) middle/high school
  11. The Pittsburgh Steelers are my favorite football team since 1979 (Thank you Chuck Noll!)

The 11 questions my nominees need to answer:
1. Why do you blog?

One of my nieces blogs and she influenced/inspired me to start while I was still in the process of completing my manuscript of my first published book. It became a source of inspiration/motivation to make use of this platform to share God’s grace, through His word, with others. It allows me to improve the quality of my writing style/skill and satisfy my aspiration to make being an author part of my lifestyle moving forward.

2. What’s your favorite genre of music?

My favorite genre(s) of music include: gospel, r&b, rap, jazz, pop

3. If you could travel anywhere, where would that be?

Anywhere that has a beach

4. What’s your favorite color?

Red

5. If you could live during any decade, when would that be?

I’ve enjoyed the generation I have grown up in (The 80’s were fun)

6. Sweets or salty snacks?

Sweet

7. What do you like to do in your spare time, other than blogging?

Listen to music, play John Madden, read the Bible, take a good walk

8. If you could have any career, what would it be?

Other than teaching which I enjoy greatly, being a full-time minister (pastor) 

9. Favorite restaurant?

Cheesecake Factory

10. Do you have any siblings?

3, I am the youngest (2 older brothers and an older sister)

11. If you’re married, how long have you been with your spouse?

Married 10 years before we separated/divorced

I nominate the following bloggers for The Liebster Award: (in appreciation for visiting myImmanuel)

The Adventure of Fanny P

Chapter TK

Kinazilla

Mramusicplace

Storytime with John

Two Kids Plus Dad

TalkBlogResearch

CrazyinParis

Justawesomedays

A Worried Student

11 Questions for myNominees:

  1. Who/What inspires you?
  2. What is your favorite food?
  3. Pineapple or grapes?
  4. Growing up I wanted to be?
  5. Why do you blog?
  6. Favorite place to travel?
  7. When I watch TV I like to watch?
  8. A quote that I like is?
  9. What do you appreciate most at this point in life?
  10. Action movies, Dramas, Comedies, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, or Animations?
  11. A perfect day would include?

Thank you again Busy Bird! God’s blessings to everyone!

Chapter 1

Divine Paradox: Treasures of Darkness

 

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.
He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light.

—Lamentations 3:1–2 (NIV)

 

I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster;
I, the LORD, do all these things.

—Isaiah 45:7 (NIV)

 

During the process of writing this book, I discovered that darkness should not be feared but should be embraced, or accepted, as a means of overcoming fear. The things about and within me that taunt me, trouble me, and torment me must be mastered, if I am to experience by faith the fullness of life that Christ came to give me and declared that I should have. In order for me to master something, I must be willing to face it until I conquer it.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:35–37 NIV).

In the New Testament book of Romans, the apostle Paul declared the principle of mastery (“more than a conqueror”) as an act accomplished through God,who loves us. During the days of Adam and Eve, God addressed the principle of mastery over sin with Cain. But Cain rejected God’s admonition and murdered his brother Abel out of envy and jealousy.

“Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it’” (Genesis 4:6–8 NIV).

Scripture is not specific as to why God favored Abel’s offering over Cain’s. What is evident is Cain’s reaction to not experiencing God’s favor. God mentioned in scripture that Cain was angry and his face was downcast, depressed, or grieved. God acknowledged that Cain needed to do right in order to be accepted. Cain was disobedient, but he was still seeking God in some way, desiring and anticipating God’s favor. However, Cain was consumed by the darkness of his emotions, and he disregarded God’s warning, which ultimately led to Abel’s murder. Cain did not heed the light of God’s instruction to master the darkness within him, which greatly influenced his actions and behavior. This led to Cain’s isolation as a wanderer.

Cain, consumed by his pride and emotions, never acknowledged the murder of his brother or expressed remorse to God for his actions, even when God confronted him about his conduct. In fact, the only complaint Cain rendered was to express his displeasure with God over the severity of the consequences for his sin. He felt that he was being treated unfairly.

Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The LORD said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crop for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.” Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so, if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. (Genesis 4:9–15 NIV)

 The darkness in Cain’s world drove him to envy, jealousy, anger, depression, hatred, murder, dishonesty, indignation, and irreverence toward God. It also caused him to become isolated from God and a restless wanderer. But in spite of all the darkness that surrounded Cain, God provided His light of grace toward him by sparing his life and protecting him from his own fear of being murdered by others. God placed a mark of mercy and grace upon him that spared him from the fear of death and allowed him to experience life—even though his actions did not merit such favor from God.

In the New Testament book of Matthew, Jesus Christ declared His Father in heaven to be the o causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, which is what God did for Cain. Jesus Christ came into this world to spare us from a life of wandering aimlessly¾with no sense of God’s presence or sensitivity to Him¾and from being unproductive because of the curse of sin and the anguish, emptiness, and darkness that fills the soul. Through His Son, Jesus Christ, God warns us to receive His help to master our sin and to escape the consequence of sin and the fear of death. Through the intimate presence of His Holy Spirit within us, He provides us with a mark of grace and mercy that covers and protects us. God did these things out of love for us, so that we may experience a life with meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. These qualities enable us to overcome the darkness of this world and the world within us.

Seeking to gain a better understanding of the subject of darkness led me to a review of scripture from both the Old and New Testaments. My study provided insight on the types of darkness we encounter in this world: natural darkness, spiritual darkness, and circumstantial darkness. I also found myself plunged into discovering my own personal darkness during this inquiry. This made for an extensive, more personal encounter with God, even as I learned about darkness. I learned more about what a personal faith walk with Christ entails. I experienced challenges that tried me and drove me to trust and rely on Him. All of this drew me closer to Him.

The journey through my personal darkness led to the discovery of His unfailing love in a more intimate, personal way. It continually reassured me that He was with me in my troubles, protecting me and preserving my life. I learned about the necessity of sincere surrender to the will of God and believing that God will fulfill what He promises and perform what He speaks in the face of misfortune, adversity, and hardship. I am learning through the encounter with darkness that God is the great Light for me. He will help me navigate through the darkness of this world. The greatest discovery and fulfillment of life is to know Him and to encounter a personal walk with Him.

Genesis 1 reveals the subject of natural darkness through the story of creation. Scripture reveals that darkness existed before God spoke light into existence. Light and dark were separated and given names and specific functions. Light was called “day,” and darkness was called “night.” Within the darkness of night, God created heavenly lights and stars, which were provided as signs to mark seasons, days, and years. Insight reveals that darkness was given a specific function within God’s purposes. Through it, light became a point of reference within the darkness and a means by which darkness would be governed. Night was used as a reference point for the transition of days, seasons, and years. Within the darkness called night, light became a reference point to guide, provide direction, and help interpret the seasons of transition. Night had an appointed time of beginning and conclusion. It was always followed by the light called “day.”

Day or night, God provided a means for humankind to be governed by light as a reference point for guidance, direction, and new seasons of life. At the conclusion of the fourth day, when God did this, I imagine Him smiling with great joy as He declared, “This is good!”

May God bless you and help you to grow in the grace and truth of Christ to aid you in enduring, persevering through, and overcoming the circumstantial and spiritual darkness you encounter.

'Darkness should be embraced as a means to overcome it.'

Purchase your copy of Out of the Darkness today from the link on this site!