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Jesus is With Us in the Storm

This is the post excerpt.

Despite our unexpected stormy trials, believers are never alone.  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Trials, sorrows, and difficulties are designed to give us spiritual growth and dependency on God. We were not created to live without God’s divine intervention. Yes, it is natural for our emotions to escalate when we perceive our hardships as overwhelming. But uncontrolled emotions make us forget the power of God. And then we lose our faith and hope.

Take the time to separate yourself and pray for help. Pray an honest prayer. “God, I am feeling overwhelmed and disappointed. I need your help. I know that you love me and will bring me victoriously through this situation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” Praise God and thank Him in advance for His Divine Intervention. Prayer does not take away our trials. Consistent prayer allows us to receive strength and guidance from the Holy Spirit.

Study the Scriptures every day. Include time for quiet meditation. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter. We hear the voice of God through our thoughts, the Scriptures, reading or hearing another believer’s testimony of victory, and sermons. Sometimes God uses spiritual dreams or another believer with who you may not have shared your situation. God is creative and He determines the method in which He will speak to us. Faith prepares us to recognize and receive God’s answers.

When the disciples were in the boat, fearing for their lives, Jesus appeared to them by walking on the water. “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Remember, we are never alone. Jesus is with us in every stormy trial. The human effort of faith and trust along with Divine intervention always ends in victory! During the challenges of the raging storm, Jesus says, “Come to Me.” Take the giant leap of faith and “Go Ahead! Walk on the Water.” © Sonya Darcell Johnson 2022

The Unexplainable Phenomenons of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ian [as witnessed by this writer]

During Hurricane Ian, the expectation was for downtown Tampa to be completely flooded by an overflow of forceful waters. The normal height of the water is indicated by the dark areas of the bottom half of the ledge and sea wall [on the right].

Yet, the waters receded exposing the rocky formation beneath the ledge of the sea wall. The explanation given by the meteorologists is one that is not logical. With concerted effort, humanity will always attempt to explain the unexplainable rather than defer to the power of God.

Also, the prediction of Hurricane Ian’s path did not come to fruition. Not only was downtown Tampa not flooded by Hurricane Ian, but there was also a change in its path. NPR news states, “The “cone of uncertainty” is the tool forecasters use to illustrate a hurricane’s likely path — and that title has been particularly apt for Hurricane Ian, whose predicted track has fluctuated by hundreds of miles as it developed into a dangerous storm.”

My original plan of evacuation was to travel to the Orlando/Ocala area for refuge. But the unexpected happened! On 9/27, Ian was downgraded to a tropical storm [changed its path] and then began making its way across Florida, toward the east coast–Orlando and Kissimmee. Before reaching Orlando, the city of Palm Bay [mostly residential areas] would be hit first by Ian with 40-50 mph winds and catastrophic flooding.

On Wednesday morning [9/28], I read Psalm 91 and began praying fervently for the city of Palm Bay and the quiet community where I reside. We were also under a tornado watch with the prediction of an electrical power outage with an unknown duration. While watching ABC’s news coverage of the path of Tropical Storm Ian, suddenly the storm shifted to the extreme left and bypassed our city, headed toward Orlando.

I lifted up prayers of thanksgiving to God for diverting the storm. My adrenaline was high and I couldn’t sleep, yet, my spirit was calm. At midnight, I opened my door slightly to watch the aggressive, howling southeasterly winds bending the tall trees as if they were bowing down to the Creator. The parking lot was covered with hundreds of broken branches, yet, there was no rain and the tornado warning ceased.

Update: It is Thursday, September 29th, at 5:30 pm. Although we experienced heavy rains, the city of Palm Bay was not flooded, the tornado never surfaced, and our homes and vehicles did not sustain any damage. Early afternoon, we had wind gusts of 40-50 mph that caused a temporary loss of electrical power for 15 minutes. The current temperature is 68 degrees, it is raining, but a peaceful calm exists.

“The righteous person faces many troubles, but the LORD comes to the rescue each time.” (Psalm 34:19)

I have been praying for one week asking for God’s divine intervention to save us from the devastation of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Ian. When we pray in faith and include God’s promises in our prayers, He will never fail us. Witnessing the supernatural gives us a deeper insight into the love of God. And then we thank God and testify of His goodness to others.

When speaking to my neighbor this morning, he expressed his amazement that the predicted destruction from the storm bypassed our city. I was able to witness by sharing the Omnipotence of our faithful and loving Heavenly Father who always keeps His promises.

Although Satan is wreaking havoc with storms, disease, and famines, he is limited to only what God allows. This is [and has always been] our Father’s world!

Prayer: God, we thank You for the privilege to seek You through prayer 24/7. Your promise to keep us safe in Psalm 91 was demonstrated during the storm. We give You praise, honor, and glory. Lord, we pray for those who have been displaced by the hurricane. We ask for the restoration of their losses and to give them peace and the courage to restart their lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

After the Failure, Now What?

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—After the Failure, Now What?

We did it! Feeling confident and overjoyed with our plans, we placed a bid on the home, started the business, left a stable career, or proposed to our soulmate. Yes, we are on top of the world. After waiting for years, finally, everything was going as planned, and then suddenly the turmoil started. The seller changed their mind about the house, the list of prospective clients refused to commit, and our soulmate told us they don’t think this is the right time for marriage. Our world crashes, bringing intense sorrow and more uncertainty, but why?

Strong emotions [love and trust] along with financial stability often drive us to fulfill our desires. Using strategic planning, and confidence in trustworthy partnerships, many individuals move forward because they are convinced that their plans are failproof. Fully trusting in their abilities, the loss was never considered. With disappointment and anger, they usually place the blame on others.  

On the other side are those who feel desperate because of loneliness, lack of achievements, or the desire for financial stability. They are fully aware that their pending decisions are risky. But console themselves with the thought that it’s better to try than to do nothing at all. So they gamble and go all-in with the mindset of a 50-50 outcome, sadly, they lose. With regret, they admit their current situation is worse than their prior circumstances.  

God has given us the ability to dream, but our dreams must align with His plans for us. The natural result of sin drives us to pursue our heart’s desires with or without God’s approval. Believers are also influenced by the world we live in. It is easy to become entangled in the worldview of success—pursue your dreams at all costs and failures are part of the process, just pick yourself up and try again. Yet, there is a high probability that you do not have the help to restructure your life because of your losses.

The Bible gives us a history of the consequences of pursuing our heart’s desires. One would think that King David would be disciplined after killing bears and lions as a shepherd boy, God using him to kill Goliath, and waiting for 15-plus years from his anointing by the prophet Samuel to becoming king. Yet, David saw and desired a beautiful, married woman and sent for her to come to the palace.

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba …the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” (2 Samuel 11:2-3).

Sin causes us to forget about an Omniscient [All-knowing] God who reminds us that He knows what we have done.

God sent the Prophet Nathan to speak to David: “Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites” (2 Samuel 12:9).

The Consequences: In reading the rest of the story, David suffered an immediate consequence, Bathsheba became pregnant, but the baby died. The long-term consequence had no end: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.'” (2 Samuel 12:11 NIV).

God’s love and mercy: “Nathan replied, ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.'” (2 Samuel 12:13, last part, and verse 14).

After our failures, now what? Confession, Repentance, and the Consequences!

Human Effort: With humility, we take the same heartfelt action that David took, “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13, first part). Read Psalm 51 for David’s prayer of confession and repentance.

We may measure sin as great or small, yet, all disobedience is rebellion against God. Even with true repentance, God allows some to recover quickly and others to experience the full impact of their transgressions. The level of suffering should not be our focus. Every disobedient thought that we act on is a sin that separates us from God.

Sin desensitizes us—we easily fall into subsequent temptations without feeling any remorse. And eventually, we no longer hear the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. Our desires become more worldly as we drift further away from God.

The plight of humanity: “As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12). “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23).

Our Heavenly Father is aware of the condition of our hearts, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9), which is the reason, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

God will never give us the burden of trying to figure out what we should do with our lives. Yet, our dreams must align with His plans. Always pray for direction before you make decisions that will bring devastating results. He will never leave us or forsake us even when facing the consequences of our actions. Thank You, Jesus.

Prayer: Father God, against you, we have sinned. We confess and ask for the forgiveness of our sins of disobedience. We pray for the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit. Please lead us on the path of righteousness and give us direction for our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Staying Alert–The Signs of His Coming

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Staying Alert—The Signs of His Coming

On September 23rd, Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency due to the active hurricane Ian. Although the West Coast [Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg] will suffer a direct impact, the land-falling hurricane is expected to impact 67 counties with damaging winds, torrential downpours, and flooding.

Florida residents including myself realize that preparation for safety and meeting our basic needs are of vital importance. If necessary, we intend to evacuate our homes to stay out of harm’s way. If a person does not prepare for the pending storms they are warned about, then they will not anticipate and have an emergency preparedness for unexpected storms.

We acknowledge that our world is in a spiritual state of emergency. Even so, many believers are apathetic toward the Second Coming of Jesus.

“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Jesus privately, saying ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” Matthew 24:3

“All of these are the beginnings of sorrows.” Matthew 24:8

1. “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:6-7, first part). The war between Russia and Ukraine appears to be a senseless act of oppression against those who desire freedom. And China has vowed aggression against Taiwan. Regardless of the delay, President Biden has promised Taiwan that the United States will fight their battle if China wages war against them.

2. “And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7, last part). “Today, the world stands on the brink of unprecedented famines. About 30 million people are experiencing alarming hunger, severe levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in north-eastern Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, and Yemen.” https://www.oxfam.org/ Do we need to mention the never-ending pestilence of COVID-19 that has claimed six million lives? While we eagerly welcome the cooler fall season, we will also face a new COVID variant.

Trending now:  Politicians, entertainers, and self-appointed prophets who are comparing themselves to Jesus Christ. Yet, the greatest deception will be Satan’s Impersonation of Jesus’ Second Coming. Without biblical knowledge, many will be deceived by the rumor of Jesus’ appearance on a mountain or in a certain country.

1. “And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” Matthew 24:4-5.
2. “Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not” (Matthew 24:26).

Time is not on our side. Satan desires for us to think that we have ample time to prepare for the future. The busyness of our daily schedules along with pursuing our heart’s desires leaves little to no time to worship. Without intentional obedience to God’s will, we lose sight of the importance of studying the Scriptures and having a consistent life of prayer. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us discernment of the truth when worshiping our Heavenly Father.

The last days are upon us! Changing our mindset to live comfortably [as if Jesus is coming much later] has placed many in a state of spiritual slumber. Preparing for Jesus is a daily commitment. Truthfully, how often do you think of living eternally in the New Heaven and New Earth? When we surrender our hearts to Jesus, we possess the spiritual mindset of a sojourner [traveler] who is just passing through.

Live daily with the expectation that Jesus will fulfill His promise in John 14:1-3. Stay awake and stay alert!

Prayer: God, in our busyness, we have lost sight of Jesus’ promise to come again. We surrender and recommit our lives to You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Eliminating Ungodly Relationships and Conversations

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Eliminating Ungodly Relationships and Conversations

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. –2 Timothy 2:16 NIV

A few days ago, I said good afternoon to my neighbor with the intention of not having a lengthy conversation. Yet, the question, “Do you have sugar ants in your apartment?” resulted in listening to mindless chatter [not gossip] which included him saying a few careless words of profanity. When I reached the point of no more, I ended it pleasantly with “Enjoy the rest of your day.”

The comparison of a child’s brain to a sponge within the first six years of life substantiates the reason a young child who hears profanity will repeat it again and again. Unless adults have a cognitive impairment, our brains also process and retain the ungodly conversations we listen to.

Yes, later, my mind kept playing back the conversation. As I reflected on my lifestyle, I asked myself when is the last time I listened to a conversation with profanity. I prayed for forgiveness and began to listen to praise and worship music. Yet, it took a couple of days for my brain to forget the conversation.

The Deception of the Familiar

Satan uses the noise of social media, current news, and familiar people to flood our minds with sinful distractions. Watching the worldly behaviors of high-profile individuals whether in fashion, sports, or entertainment appears to be exciting but is detrimental. Always keeping current with the negativity of daily news will push one into thinking that God is not in control of this earth. Our selection of streaming and Cablevision programs indicates our preferences for the information we feed our souls. 

Feeding our senses with pleasure fulfills our carnal desires. Our thoughts and habits change as we lose the desire to pray, study the Bible, and live righteously.

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

Many Christians feel they are in a dilemma when they accept Jesus as their Savior. How do we interact with unbelievers, especially when they are friends or family members? Are we supposed to completely cut them off? Do they respect and honor God? Our spiritual conversion requires us to witness [with courage] that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. The truth must be combined with love. Our declaration begins with a simple explanation to our friends and family, “I made the decision to serve God and I can no longer talk about or do the things that I used to do.”

Warning: Serving God can lead to a lonely walk in life. As time passes, you may notice a decline in their phone calls and invitations for you to attend get-togethers. It isn’t easy to take up our cross and follow Christ. Still, we must remain steadfast in declining conversations and invites that compromise our relationship with Jesus.

They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 1:18-19)

In 2017, I received a call from my uncle who was celebrating his birthday. “Hi niece, some friends are giving me a birthday party Friday night at a place downtown. I know that you are Christian, but there are some tables that are not near the liquor.” I did not get offended. I laughed and responded, Yes, uncle, I am a Christian, thank you for the invite, but I cannot come, have a great time. The irony of the call, a few days before his bar party, my uncle along with most of my cousins, and I met at a restaurant to celebrate his birthday.

Satan will use whoever he has to to make us fall. Our temptations come from those who we are close to and from strangers.  Do not become upset with the person, this is spiritual warfare that the Apostle Paul tells us to be girded up for in Ephesians chapter 6. The struggle is real, but victory is sure when our relationship with Christ is number one in our lives.

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also].’” (Matthew 16:24, Amplified)

There is no middle ground or gray area in serving God. To fulfill our divine purpose, we will have to give up familiar people, places, and things that do not bring honor and glory to God. Stay prayerful and be led by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer: God, we ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the ungodly habits that are keeping us from living righteously. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ name, Amen.