myimmanuel:

The journey continues! You can purchase a copy of Out of the Darkness directly from my blogroll link for Tate Publishing! Thank you Chris Mooney for the ‘fuel!’

Originally posted on The Christian Writer's Corner:

This guest post is by Cortland Jones. His new book, Out of the Darkness releases December 23 with Tate Publishing (blurb below). You can follow Cortland at his blogs (links at bottom), on Twitter, and on Facebook.

Cortland Jones_400x400

The Journey is Worth the Struggle

A Word of Encouragement for the Aspiring Author

In the process of sharing my insights gained from the experience of becoming a published author, I also express sincere gratitude to blogger Chris Mooney, and others like him, who make information available to aid aspiring authors in their quest to become published. Contemplating what I would say, my hope is that I communicate something helpful, insightful, encouraging, and inspirational to individuals aspiring to make being an author a ‘lifestyle,’ and not just the event of becoming published.

‘Where there is no struggle, there is no progress.’ – Frederick Douglass My journey of becoming published began, in 2000…

View original 569 more words

A FAITH THAT TRANSFORMS MY CONTEXT

Posted: September 11, 2014 in Uncategorized

‘I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.’

- Ephesians 3:16 NIV

On the subject of ‘God & Money,’ and the concept of being ‘rich in faith,’ recent encounters I have had inspire today’s post. Being ‘poor in the eyes of the world’ and ‘rich in faith’ are two different contexts. ‘Poor in the eyes of the world’ simply means I have not ascended to the ‘rare air’ of the minority percentage of those who have been blessed to acquire the greater abundance of material wealth only a few possess.

Jesus addresses this in the gospel of Luke when He challenged the crowd to guard their hearts against all manner of greed, because a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

So today I am inspired to write from the thought of ‘reframing’ the way I understand wealth and riches, from the perspective of scripture, in order to experience the fullness of life Christ came for me to have that exceeds what wealth and riches can do for me. ‘Poor in the eyes of the world,’ is how someone is looking at me, or how I may see myself from the perspective of wealth. ‘Rich in faith,’ is how God wants me to see myself in context to what I have access to in relation to being an heir of God and co-heir with Christ.

Ephesians 3:16-17a addresses this to help me ‘reframe’ seeing myself as ‘poor in the eyes of the world,’ to being ‘rich in faith.’ Wealth and riches cannot and will never be able to help me access and take possession of the glorious riches God provides to strengthen me with His power through His Spirit in my inner being and allow Christ to dwell in my heart. Wealth and riches will not and can never provide me peace that passes all understanding that equips, enables, and empowers me to persevere, endure, and prevail against dark days and difficult moments that arise until my breakthrough comes. Wealth and riches will not and can never help me to walk victoriously, live in a manner worthy of the gospel, provide me healing, restore my soul, enable God’s Spirit to work in me and through me, or provide me the assurance of salvation and secure me in a relationship with God that sets apart Christ as LORD in my heart to position me to hear Him say, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant. Come, share in your Master’s happiness.’

Consider this, the Civil Rights Movement affected change across this nation and around the world, that continues to this day, through faith, prayer, obedience, humility, perseverance, endurance, persistence, boldness, courage, conviction, internal resolve, spiritual fortitude, peace, joy, singing, and love. God is saying to those who have ears to hear that there is a wealth, abundance, and access to riches that exceeds what earthly riches and wealth can accomplish, if those who believe in Me are willing to ‘reframe’ the way they see themselves ‘in the eyes of the world’ that will allow Him to exceed our limitations and extend us beyond ourselves for His glory!

May God bless you and help you to ‘reframe’ the way you see wealth and riches, from the perspective of scripture, that positions you to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

‘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?’

- James 2:5 NIV

Since deciding to begin the process of writing my next manuscript I have definitely encountered grace to aid me in learning about the subject of God & money. Through scripture reading, meditation, testimonies, personal experiences, I definitely have encountered a process of enlightenment opening my eyes to understand the subject better to allow me to write with clarity of thought and purpose.

When you read James 2:5 does it suggest that God does not want His children to be rich?

What does it mean to be ‘poor in the eyes of the world?’

One thing I am learning, currently, faith in God allows me to access and ‘take possession’ of what God promises according to His word. He owns a cattle on a thousand hills and the earth is the LORD’s, the fullness thereof, and all who dwell in it.

Wherever I am lacking God promises to cause His grace to abound towards me. 

To be ‘rich in faith’ starts with not being limited in my thinking about what is accessible to me to experience the fullness of life Christ came for me to have! Beyond giving me what I don’t deserve, can I expand my understanding of grace to the understanding that He exceeds my limitations and extends me beyond myself to accomplish something greater, better, new?

Where I may not have the money, or resources, God can supply and provide people and arrange for me to access what I do not have, or possess those things despite my limitations! The principle of ask, seek, and knock!

Get excited about what it means to be ‘rich in faith’ and allow God to expand your mind to allow Him to do exceeding, abundantly above all you could ask or think! Not in terms of blessing you with a windfall of money, but enabling you to advance, achieve, and succeed because of the riches of His glory!

May God bless you and help you to grow in His grace to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have!

Originally posted on Bucket List Publications:

I-used-to-think-the-worst-thing-in-life-was-to-end-up-all-alone

We live in a sad world surrounded by people who are questioning themselves and the importance of their lives, gripped by depression. We need to reach out and provide positive encouragement, support, and love before it’s too late.

View original 511 more words

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.