Archive for May, 2014

“How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

– Exodus 33:16 NIV

What I have learned from the dialogue Moses had with God in Exodus 33 speaks to what I now recognize and identify as the ‘sacred lifestyle’ he was expressing as what would distinguish him and God’s people from all other people on the face of the earth. Is what Moses was inquiring about with God any different from what God desires of His people today?

Christian and non-Christian alike suffer and both succeed. You have Christians, as well as those who are not, who are wealthy, and both endure poverty. As Jesus declared, God will cause the sun to shine on the righteous and unrighteous and rain to fall on the just and the unjust. So when you read the conversation Moses was having with God regarding what would distinguish him and God’s people from all other people, what was Moses referring to?

‘The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’ Then Moses said to him, ‘If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.'” – Exodus 33:14-15 NIV

God is omnipresent. God is everywhere at the same time. But not everyone has the internal indwelling Presence of God filling them with His Holy Spirit. This exclusive privilege is set aside for those who believe in Jesus Christ as the risen Savior whose shed blood and sacrifice of life on the cross affords them the privilege of experiencing what Moses was inquiring to God in Exodus 33. Beyond the inhabitation of God’s Spirit living within the body of the believer, the ‘sacred lifestyle’ embodies the attitude Moses displayed by expressing the desire to be distinguished from all other people on the face of the earth.

‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.’ – Philippians 2:5 NIV Moses desired to be distinguished as one who belonged to God. He wanted to be different. He embraced the idea of being peculiar and felt it necessary to only go where God’s Spirit would lead. So the ‘sacred lifestyle’ encompasses the attitude and actions of someone who seeks sincerely and strives to be led by the Spirit of God and live in a manner that reflects one who belongs to God.

Do you think the challenges associated with striving to embody the ‘sacred lifestyle’ today is any different from what the people of Moses’ day faced?

Are the internal/external forces and challenges associated with walking by faith different today than in Moses’ day?

The sacred lifestyle requires something of the one who chooses to respond to the invitation to walk with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Embracing the ‘mind of Christ’ to emulate His attitude and striving to allow the power of the indwelling person of the Holy Spirit to replicate Christ’s actions is what allows a person to embody the ‘sacred lifestyle.’

May God bless you and help you to embrace the attitude and actions of Christ to embody the sacred lifestyle He came for us to experience as we walk by faith.

 

Introduction

Alone in the Darkness

 

Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that the darkness will spread over Egypt¾darkness that can be felt.’ So Moses stretched out his hand toward the sky, and total darkness covered all Egypt for three days. No one could see anyone else or leave his place for three days. Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they lived.

– Exodus 10:21–23 (NIV)

Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.

– Job 23:17 (NIV)

I invite you to take this journey with me toward the discovery of a deeper understanding of the subject of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Through the illumination of scripture, along with personal insights revealed through childhood and adulthood experiences, I offer to those who sojourn with me through the pages of this book an opportunity to grow in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ. I aspire to build up and strengthen the faith of those who, like me, desire to grow in the grace, truth, and knowledge of Jesus Christ and the assurance of what God teaches in His word on the subject of salvation. I pray that the eyes of your heart will be illuminated with His grace and truth through the revelation of Jesus Christ conveyed in this book.

Imagine yourself a child again, alone in your bedroom. You have said your prayers and have been tucked in and kissed good night. You have exchanged I love yous. It is nighttime, but sleep has failed to come to you. You remain awake, unable to drift away into slumber and rest. The house is now still and eerily quiet, and your room is dark. The warm, comforting feelings you felt a moment ago have been ushered away by shadows that creep along the walls, brought to life by the imagination of your mind and your fears of the dark. You now lie in your bed, paralyzed by the haunting, echoing thought that you are not alone in your room. “Someone is watching me,” you hear yourself say, and you ignore the gentle whisper within your heart that seeks to reassure you that there are no such things as ghosts or monsters.

The terror within your mind grips you like a boa constrictor squeezing the life out of its prey. You hear a deafening silence ringing in your ears. Your eyes search hopelessly within the darkness for the comfort and security of a familiar object that will release you from the sudden terror that has a stranglehold on your senses. Objects within the room appear to dance and shift within the shadows. You think to yourself that you should jump from under the covers and dash to the safety and security of your parent’s embrace. The weight of anxiety and fear of the dark presses you firmly against your bed, and every movement appears to last an eternity.

You want to cry out, but the terror you feel is not only inhibiting your ability to move but is also preventing you from crying out for help. Your tongue seems to have frozen to the insides of your mouth, and you are left motionless and speechless. You cannot cry out, but in your heart you scream and shriek with a sound that is as deafening as the silence that surrounds you. Unable to alert your parents to your distress, you begin to sense that the darkness within your room is now within you. It is a darkness that you can feel. Your imagination is now in overdrive, and it has convinced you that the darkness within your room is going to hurt you.

In your anxiety, you begin to wonder if this night will ever pass. Your eyes search the darkness for some point of reference that will bring you peace. Instead, you fixate on something that only heightens and increases your fear. The doorway to your bedroom closet is open!

Without warning, you feel as if you’re being pulled, against your will, into the closet. As this dark force pulls at you, your horror increases. You sense that you are outmatched in a grueling tug-of-war with the anxieties of your imagination, and the closet is winning.

Just as you are about to be consumed by your greatest fear, you realize that your tongue has loosened. What was first a silent siren of inner turmoil becomes the whimpering and mumbling of a child who is afraid of the dark. Your mutterings mimic the shrieks and cries you made when you rode the amusement park roller coaster. These sounds fall like feathers on the ears of the world outside your bedroom. You begin to notice that these meek sounds, though frail and faint, are strong enough to prevent you from being pulled through the closet doorway. With all the energy and strength you have, you summon the courage to cry aloud in the hope that you will be rescued from the fright that grips you. You shout! And then you shout even more loudly a second and a third time!

Suddenly the pull of the closet is chased away by the embrace of love! A flood of light engulfs your bedroom, shatters your fear of the darkness, and drives away the anxiety within you. You are blinded and startled by the light. Through squinting eyes, you can barely make out a face, but the soothing, gentle voice and the touch of compassion drive out worry and distress and replace them with comfort and peace. You are saved! Your weak cries of fear have brought rescue. Having the courage to cry out for help has delivered you into a loving embrace and has freed you from the anxiety of being consumed by your bedroom closet.

You rejoice, knowing you are safe, free, and loved. You don’t think about the reality of facing this experience again¾or the inevitability of the darkness coming back to torment you. Though you were momentarily troubled, you are tranquil in the embrace of love, trusting that you are safe and out of harm’s way. Before you know it, you drift off to sleep, and when your eyes open again, it is morning, and the darkness has given way to the light of dawn.

Your fear has subsided, and the bedroom glistens with the sun’s morning rays that break in through the windows. The light has transformed the ominous closet into a storage room filled with scrapbooks, toys, clothes, and shoes. You reach into your closet without hesitation to put on something to wear, intent on enjoying the day ahead of you.

If you’ve ever experienced the fear of being in the dark, then I am sure you can relate to the story I’ve invited you to envision. For some of you, this scene may be just as real today as it was when you were a child. Fear of the dark and of being consumed by my closet were among my own childhood experiences. In the process of writing this book, I reflected on those times. They remind me of my growing personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. They reflect God’s eternal gift of salvation made available through Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.

Within the pages of this book, I seek to share insights I have gained through God’s unfailing, unconditional love at work in me. This is my personal memoir and testimony of how He spoke the light of salvation into the darkness of my world and began His great work of creating the life of His Son in and through me. Since receiving salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, His words in Psalm 34 and 2 Timothy have provided me an escape from the darkness of this world.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all of my fears” (Psalm 34:4 NIV).

“For God did not give us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 KJV).

Seven times in Psalm 34, the author exclaimed that God would provide deliverance from troubles, fears, and afflictions. In each instance, the author declared a personal pursuit of deliverance through seeking the Lord, crying out to Him, and demonstrating reverential fear or respect toward Him.

Do you have a personal closet of darkness that you fear will consume you? It may be a closet of addiction, abuse, adultery, promiscuity, guilt, shame, grief, fear, pride, or insecurity. We all face fears of being consumed by something within us or outside of us. The Lord lovingly entreats and invites us to look to Him, to call upon His name and cry out to Him so we can be delivered from the fears, afflictions, and troubles we face in the darkness of this world. God desires to liberate us from the past sins and failures that haunt us, to provide healing from the pain that torments our souls, and to stand at our side to strengthen us. It is God’s desire to equip, enable, and empower us to overcome and prevail against the troubles of life that threaten to steal our enjoyment, our prosperity, and our future hope.

God has become a great light for me in this dark world, helping me learn to overcome my personal closets of fear, abuse, abandonment, low-self esteem, isolation, and my soul’s yearning to be embraced, loved, affirmed, accepted, and valued. I am growing in this relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. The circumstantial darkness of this world¾along with the reality of the darkness within me because of sin¾drives me to desire that His love will draw me ever closer to Him. In His word, God invites me to see Him as my hiding place and refuge, which shelters me from the darkness that surrounds me.

After years of longing and seeking for what my soul understood love to be, I am learning to accept and receive love from the Lord, who promises to supply all my needs and to satisfy my desires with good things. “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits¾who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles” (Psalm 103:2, 5 NIV). At one point as a young adult in my early walk with Christ, I remember a friend saying to me that, before I became a Christian, I always looked as if I was searching for something. Amazed, I replied to him, “Was it that obvious?”

Looking back, I realize that my soul was longing for and searching for God, because God is love. I have since learned that God is the only one who can love me in the way my soul longs and needs to be loved. The pain and torment associated with growing up in a fragmented family and with being sexually abused produced feelings of abandonment and isolation. The tragedy of a failed marriage continued the cycle of family dysfunction into my adulthood, which precipitated intense feelings of loneliness, grief, and haunting thoughts of a life filled with emptiness without love.

Out of the Darkness describes God’s personal call for me to walk away from the pain of the past, the torment of failure, sin and emptiness, and thoughts of a hopeless future. It was a call to trust Him, to believe that He has plans to help us prosper, plans for our good and not for evil, plans to give us hope and a future filled with promise and rejoicing!

“‘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 will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I banished you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile’” (Jeremiah 29:11–14 NIV).

You can purchase your copy today from the link on this site!

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

 

‘In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles, carved idols and cast images.’

– 2 Chronicles 34:3 NIV

When I try to make connection to what is written in the Bible and what I encounter in the reality of the world I live in, as I have heard others say, I have wondered  why you don’t see the great miraculous acts of the bible occurring today as they did then. Did you ever actually try to speak to a mountain to see if it would be lifted up and cast into the sea? OK, I’m the only one:-)

Faith has since taught me that miracles occur everyday, though maybe not as grand as the Red Sea, they are no less significant. For the African-American, the nomination of President Barack Obama in 2008 as the first African-American president of the United States was miraculous and the culmination of one man’s dream for the nation proclaimed back in 1963! Going back to what I alluded to earlier about making connection with scripture to real life, what is mentioned about Josiah in 2 Chronicles 34, I imagine to be what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered in the United States of America during the Civil Rights movement of the late 50’s – 1960’s.

Josiah’s faith in God and his position as king over Israel put him in a unique position to influence revival for his nation. I see the same context for Dr. King, though his position was not as king, he served, by faith, the King of kings, in influencing revival for the nation. Fast forward to 2008, the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America is the fulfillment and culmination of many who sacrificed and invested much (including their lives) that we could be witness to the glory, majesty, and power of God to make such an event occur despite the thoughts and intentions of those who would oppose such an opportunity.

The historical account of both Josiah’s influence on his nation and Dr. King on his, reveals that a change of heart, way of thinking, and way of living had to occur in order for such an influence to occur nationwide. The expanse of their influence alone, suggests that a God-sized ripple effect would had to have been at the epicenter of such a movement of that magnitude and in both instances, sacrifice (denial of self) by the individual and reverential fear (faith in God) was the means by which each movement fueled the cause.

Though some may be outraged by and abhor the words spoken by Donald Sterling, is it understood that such views readily exist today, despite the advancement of many towards acceptance, racial harmony, and equality for all. I wonder if Jesus’ reaction would have been, ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’ Keep in mind He did mention to the woman to go and sin no more. I just wonder what He would say and whether what we witnessed from the perspective of history, through the lives of Josiah, Dr. King , the events of the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of President Obama, would require of us today?

May God bless you and help you to seek sincerely to invest yourself to being a light for justice, liberty, and God’s glory in making the world around us a better place.

 

‘When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.’

– Acts 11:23 NIV

What have you seen God do that you would categorize as amazing?

Walking by faith is teaching me to appreciate more the internal, redemptive, regenerative work of God’s Spirit that touches, changes, and transforms me, than seeking for God to do something external to validate His deity as God to me.

What I love about Acts 11:23 is the simplicity by which the encounter with God described was validated by an intimate, personal experience from what was seen as the evidence of God’s grace at work in that place and space in time. This encourages me and reassures me that God and the evidence of God is something to be encountered and He leaves evidence for those who seek sincerely to experience Him in the manner He chooses to reveal Himself and make Himself known.

The encounter with God’s grace promoted joy and inspiration that led to the admonishment to remain devoted to the Lord with one’s whole heart.

Have you ever had an encounter with God that moved you to inspire others to remain faithful to the Lord?

Ever been overwhelmed with joy because of God’s grace?

What is it about God that makes Him amazing to you?

Sometimes the reality of the condition of our current circumstances may begin to diminish, in our eyes, what is amazing about God and His grace, but then God does something, either in us, or around us that causes us to encounter His amazingness in a manner illustrated in Acts 11:23 that restores our joy and inspires us to encourage others. Yet, the reality of the condition of our current circumstances may, relatively, still be the same. Amazing!

May God bless you and help you to encounter His grace in a manner that invokes joy, inspiration, and provoke you to encourage others!