Monthly Archives: June 2014

Is My Love Evident?

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

– Galatians 5:6 NIV

 

How do your parents know that you love them? How do you know that you are loved by your parents? What do you look for in a relationship with a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, brother/sister or extended family member that lets you know, without a doubt, that you are loved, valued and accepted by them for the person you are. That is part of what real love involves.

Real love is unconditional love expressed towards another person, not because they deserve it, earned it, or because they are special, better, well liked, or even because they love you in return. You demonstrate this kind of love, because God first loved you and you want to give that love to someone else willingly, freely as He does to you. Think about your grandparents, or the adult in your life, who, no matter what you do, how bad you’ve been, or wrong you are they still listen, take time to understand, encourage you to do better and they are not afraid to let you know your stuff stinks if they have to!

They don’t demand without loving support, threaten to motivate, criticize harshly consistently, judge without understanding, or treat your feelings as if they are unimportant. They are not perfect, but they are consistent, considerate, and comforting when you talk with them. You feel encouraged, inspired and challenge yourself to do your best for them, because you don’t want to disappoint them. This person motivates you to do your best, put your best foot forward, and inspires you to seek to live in a way that allows the full potential and promise of your person to come alive to be lived out before others. You know you are loved by this kind of person! You don’t question it, guess about it, and neither do you consider whether they ever did, because you’ve always believed it whether they said it or not. You just knew in your heart and you accepted it.

You respect them for their love, support, aid and help they provide you to guide you and teach you what you need to know to help you succeed and achieve in life. Now before you go any further, ask yourself, do I have any people in my life right now whom I call ‘friends’ that demonstrate these qualities consistently? If not, I might consider why I call them friends. There is a friend, though, who sticks closer to you than a brother and will draw out of you all that is in you to become all that He intended for you to be if you are willing to listen to Him as you would those adult influences you have in your life. Let Christ be the friend He seeks to be for you, through prayer and spending time reading the bible, so you may experience the encouragement and endurance He seeks to provide you through His word and by His Spirit. Let your faith in Him express itself through love for Him and others.

May God bless you and help you to grow in the grace and truth of His love to encounter the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

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Excerpt: Chapter 2 Out of the Darkness

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!

Love Defined by God

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

– I Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV

 

How much do I love you? Let me count the ways. She loves me, she loves me not. Let me love you ‘til the morning comes. Let me love you down! And I-un-I-uh-I-uh-I-uh-I will always love you, but according to the song the relationship is ending. I luv peanut butter! Girl, I luv those shoes you got on! Ummmph!, Girl, I sure would luv to get me some of him! Mommy, I luuv the way you fit in ‘em jeans! I love you, but I’m just not in love with you. Yes baby, I was with her, but I love you! Love will make you do right, love will make you do wrong.I’m confused! I know it’s not right to be with her, because I am a girl, but you don’t understand I love her! God knows my heart and He loves me so I know He understands me even though I am homosexual and because He accepts everybody as they are He won’t send me to hell, because He loves me, right? Girl stop frontin’, if you loved me you would do it!

If my understanding of love is based on what I hear in music, see in the movies, or gather from what is going on around me in life I will never truly know what real love is, or what it looks like. Some people think that love is an emotion, a certain feeling you get that motivates and stimulates relationships. This is why people fall in and out of love and in and out of relationships. The truth about love is that the bible says that God is love. So to understand fully what love is we must first understand who God is.

If God is love, would love make me do wrong? If God is love, would love leave me confused and involved in relationships, or circumstances, that go against what God would want for me? If God is love, would love cause me to look at another person in a lustful, or sexual, manner? If God is love and love never fails, then how come marriages end in divorce when the two who got together vowed they would love each other until death parted them? When I say I love this or that, is that really love, or a strong liking or desire for something?

If I know God loves me and love does not delight in evil, and God is love, is He really okay with my choice in lifestyle when it goes against what He says in His word? The bible says that Jesus said that a man, who was born blind, was born that way so that the glory of God would be revealed in the man’s life. If a man born blind was restored to be as God intended him to be, out of love for that man, why would God allow me to remain in a state He never intended me to be in if He loves me?

May God bless you and help you to encounter His love in a way that transforms, enlightens, and empowers you to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

Love for God Begins with Surrender

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.”

– Romans 12:1 NIV

 

Some may say, ‘Living for God doesn’t sound like much fun.’ I won’t get to have fun like everybody else. All Christians seem to do is go to church, read the bible and pray. I feel like being a Christian is going to be booooriiiiiiiiiing!’ The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is a Christian. David Robinson, former San Antonio Spurs basketball player, is a professing Christian. Former President of the United States, George Bush, is a professing Christian. Academy-award winning actor, Denzel Washington, is a professing Christian. Boring would not be the word I would think of when I think about these select few who acknowledged Christ as the focus of their professing faith in God.

So when I think about someone’s concern about the Christian life being boring it makes me wonder what they consider to be fun. Surely drinking, smoking, having sex, cursing, fighting, expressing hatred for others, gossiping, looking at pornography and a host of other activities I do not have time, or space to mention would seem good, feel good to do, or have some value to them otherwise people wouldn’t do it. But if this is the fun we feel we would be missing by being a Christian then is this really fun and if it is then why do we, at some point, feel bad when we do it? How come what appears to be so much fun creates so much agony, heartache, dysfunction and destruction in people’s lives?

Adam and Eve were in a perfect environment and could freely have any and all that the garden of Eden provided except for one tree. Out of all they could have, even eat from the tree of life that would have allowed them to live forever, they chose what God did not want them to have that ultimately led to their spiritual death, separation from God and exile from paradise and our need for salvation because of sin. God wants us to understand that what we call fun, think is fun or desire to do that seems to be fun leads to spiritual death, separation from Him and, without faith in Christ to help us live for God as He would want us to, will keep us separated from Paradise and Him eternally to live in hell.

God desires that we choose life, through faith in Christ, and be willing to live for Him according to His word so that our lives can impact and influence others to do the same. The life God seeks for us to live for Him can only be accomplished through Him, because it is a spiritual life that requires spiritual power. That power is accessed through faith in Christ and put to use when we are willing to live for Him according to His word. Apart from Christ we are unable to live for God the way He wants and ultimately, apart from Him, the life we would live results in death.

May God bless you and help you to demonstrate the discipline of surrender as you walk by faith to experience the fullness of life Christ came for us to have.

God’s Priority in Life is Love

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

– Mark 12:30, 33 NIV

 

 

When we seek to be friends with God, experiencing our relationship with Him through our faith in Christ, we become loyal to God. Loyalty to God motivates devotion to applying His word to our life as the authority by how we live. This is what demonstrates to others Christ being Lord over us and in our lives. We acknowledge Him as Lord as we are willing to live by His word. To love the Lord with our whole heart means we are loyal to God over everyone else making God #1 priority, main focus for living, in our lives and we are devoted to His word as the standard by how we live.

When I love God with all of my soul, I am communicating with God about how I feel inside and what I am thinking about that affects how I feel. I am willing to talk to God about what is going on with me the same way I would with a friend. This means I am willing to be naked and truthful with God, even about the negative, intense emotions I sometimes feel. If I can share them with someone who really has no ability, or power, to change my circumstances, even how I feel on the inside, why not talk with the One who can and does for everyone who is willing to talk with Him.

When I love God with my whole mind I am actively reading, meditating on and seeking to apply God’s word to how I live everyday. I am sincerely and intentionally looking to make time to read the bible and grow in my understanding of His truth. I am committing His word to memory so I can allow His Spirit to bring it back to my remembrance to guide me in making wise choices daily. This will help me avoid committing willful sins, teaching me more about God and my relationship with Him through Christ and helps me to take advantage of opportunities of sharing it with others to encourage, comfort and urge others to live by faith in Jesus Christ and become devoted to God’s word.

When I love God with all my strength I am willing to do what God wants me to do over what I want to do. Loving God with all my strength means surrendering my will to His and being willing to live for Him, especially in areas of my life that are difficult to choose living for Him over what I want to do. This is accomplished by allowing His Spirit to help enable me to obey His word, but I have to be willing to obey. Seeking to live this way will motivate me to share the love I have for God with others because of the love He shares with me. I will love others because He first loved me through Christ.

May God bless you and help you to experience the fulfillment of loving Him with your whole heart, mind, and soul as you walk by faith.

Jesus is My Friend

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”

– John 15:13-14 NIV

 

The word of God says in John’s gospel, in the 14th chapter that Jesus promises to show Himself and come to those who obey His teachings. In the 33rd chapter of the book of Exodus, the bible said that God spoke with Moses as one would with a friend, face to face. We clearly see in John 15:14 that Christ refers to those who obey the word of God as friends. Can it be? When I devote my life to the effort of doing what God’s word instructs me to do and I am consistent in my effort, I am regarded as a friend of Jesus. In this life I am, at times, lonely, isolated, alone, rejected, betrayed and abandoned.

Even in the company of others, I can oftentimes feel unwanted, disregarded, unappreciated, devalued and mistreated. The study of scripture will reveal to me that since the beginning of time, God seeks out those who would respond to His invitation to share in the friendship He seeks to share with us. The book of Revelation illustrates Christ as one who stands at a door and knocks and to the one who hears his voice and opens the door, Christ will come in and eat with them. The bible illustrates God as one who sincerely seeks out those who would listen to His voice and choose to respond to His invitation for intimacy to get to know Him as one would a friend.

I believe friendship is a gift from God and I also believe God desires that we experience the gift of friendship in this life. Jesus spent His adult life with 12 men who followed Him for 3 years and in the company of the 12 there were 3, James, Peter and John, who shared a more intimate relationship with Him than the other disciples. Even though the disciples were friends with Jesus, Jesus experienced betrayal from Judas, Peter denying he knew Jesus and the others, including John, deserting Him. Even during the intensity of His suffering, Jesus cried out in agony that God had forsaken Him, while He was on the cross!

Yet it was God the Father who raised His Son from the dead when it appeared Jesus was all alone defeated in His circumstances. How much more will the Father be with you, and seek to be with you, with His Son living in you to aid you, support you and help you overcome your troubles and despair. Friendship is a gift, but the greater gift of friendship is to share in the friendship with Jesus Christ that God the Father seeks to share with all of His children. He promises to never leave you, nor forsake you. He promises to be with you in trouble and as you grow up as His child. He will never leave you alone! What a friend we have in Jesus! Pray and ask God the Father to help you share in His friendship He seeks you for.

May God bless you and help you to encounter His friendship as you walk by faith.

Excerpt: Chapter 1 Out of the Darkness

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 so you may endure, persevere, and overcome the circumstantial and spiritual darkness you may encounter as you walk by faith.

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Love for God is Obedience

“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 14:21 NIV

 

Loving your enemies, praying for people whom you just cannot get along with and doing good to people who go out of their way to do evil against you is difficult to think about, much less talk about with a positive attitude. Doing what Christ commands in loving your enemies is even more difficult to carry out willingly.

They don’t deserve it! They haven’t earned it! What if they continue to mistreat me? All justifiable reasons for not obeying Christ’s teaching of loving your enemy, so what’s the big deal? What if Jesus had the same attitude towards mankind and the people of His day? What would be the outcome of His unwillingness to obey the Father? Where would we be? Jesus said that His Father’s commands were not burdensome and when we think of His command to love our enemies we question what is Jesus saying when He says that the commands are not burdensome? Doesn’t He realize how difficult it is to be sincere in showing love towards someone who is being evil in their conduct towards me? Doesn’t Jesus understand how hard it is to try to love the unlovely?

The answer, and His response, to our concerns would be yes, because He had to do it too. The bible teaches in the book of Hebrews, in the 5th chapter, that Christ had to learn obedience through what He suffered. Even the Son of God had to learn to obey the Father’s commands. Just because Jesus was God’s Son, God did not spare Him the sufferings of being in this world, or keep Him from going through what we go through.God allowed His Son to suffer the trials and troubles of this life just as we do.

In the 4th chapter of Hebrews the bible says that Christ is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. I like that! Jesus understands me! He understands, because He had to go through the same thing I am going through now. The victory and power in knowing that Christ understands what I am going through is that since He has overcome the world and lives, in spite of what He suffered, I can overcome my troubles and live through my sufferings, because Christ now lives in me, by faith! I have the power, through Christ, to overcome whatever comes against me. Greater is He that is in me, than He that is in the world! His commands are not burdensome, now that He lives in me by faith. Jesus promises to help me carry out and follow God’s commands, even providing me the ability to love my enemies, pray for them and do good to them.

May God bless you and help you to grow in His grace and truth sufficiently to express His love in adverse and difficult moments.

Love from God is Shared through Us

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. We love because he first loved us.”

– I John 4:7-8, 19 NIV

 

Love is more than an emotion, a feeling, or that something we like to think of as the beginning stages of infatuation, or having a crush on someone. Whatever feelings I may have towards someone that are associated with care, concern, respect, admiration, like for someone, or appreciation, then those feelings prompt me to express those feelings with some sort of actions that validate my genuine feelings described about how I feel about that person.

If I say I care about someone, yet no actions are ever demonstrated, or associated, with those caring feelings, then one would have to question my sincerity of expressing my care for that person. However, if I only demonstrate concern, care or regard for people I get along with, or who demonstrate that same care and concern for me, am I really demonstrating true love?

The book of Romans, in the 5th chapter, teaches us that God demonstrated His love for us, through Christ’s death on the cross, while we were still in sin! The night Jesus was to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies to be crucified, Jesus washed the feet of the very person, Judas, whom Christ knew would betray Him. Jesus demonstrated care, concern and regard for someone who later would betray Him. Jesus also washed the feet of Peter that night. The same Peter who would later deny even knowing who Jesus was while Jesus was in his presence! Jesus washed the other 10 disciples’ feet that night and they all later deserted Him when He was being arrested by His enemies. Jesus expressed love, in washing their feet, towards a group of men who later would dishonor His act of love expressed towards them. He suffered death on the cross for a group of men who betrayed Him, denied knowing Him and deserted Him in His time of need.

Today we hear the voice of Jesus compelling us to love our enemies, pray for them that despitefully misuse and abuse us and do good to them that persecute us, because no servant is greater than his master and if people treated Christ that way, then people will do the same to us. This kind of love Jesus modeled is unconditional, redemptive and demonstrates the true love of the Father for all of mankind. The bible teaches us that God so loved the world that He gave His Son. True love gives to anyone, everyone willingly, generously without finding fault. That love comes from God and is expressed through us only when we are willing to love others as He loves us.

May God bless you and help you to allow His love to be expressed through you to others.

 

 

 

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