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What Happens When the Door Closes and you are in the Storm?

This is the post excerpt.

Reflection on our lives reveals that we have overcome many obstacles. The last challenge was just resolved, and now another stormy trial has come into our lives. A storm may include the loss of our jobs, finances, health, relationships, marriages, and even the death of a loved one.

It’s just too much! We feel overwhelmed with the present and unexpected life events. Our reaction of anxiety or anger to this storm [sometimes called a wilderness experience] can open the door leading to the emotional chaos of fear, worry, anxiety, sadness, and depression.

It is natural for our emotions to escalate at disproportionate levels when we perceive our hardships as impossible. Nevertheless, these negative emotions leave us spiritually disoriented, forgetting that God is in control. Trials, sorrows, and difficulties are designed to give us spiritual growth and dependency on God. Without faith, we cannot please God or believe in His promises.

Our Heavenly Father continues to allow the storms to redirect our focus to Him. Our faith must be unrealistic. Not looking at our circumstances, but to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Remember, we are never alone. Jesus is with us in every stormy trial.

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). Peter stepped out on the water but became distracted by the raging waves. He began to sink because he took his eyes off of Jesus.

The human effort of faith and trust and Jesus’ Divine intervention always ends in victory! During the challenges of a raging storm, Jesus is saying, “Come to Me.” Yes, brothers and sisters, “Go Ahead! Walk on the Water. © Sonya D. Johnson 2022

Quiet Time with God

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Quiet time with God

“Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear and your soul shall live, And I will make an everlasting covenant with you.” Isaiah 55:3

The motivation video was entitled, “What God Wants from You.” As I listened intently, the five speakers, each with a two-minute limit spoke about the habit of praying, saying Amen, and then quickly moving forward with our daily tasks. We often accuse God of being silent. Yet, we do not take the time to meditate and listen quietly to receive His answer.

Communication with God is vital for our salvation. Prayer is so important we are told to, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It is not saying audible prayers or chanting throughout the day and night. In our waking hours, we develop the habit of keeping our minds in a prayerful mode. Having an active prayer life increases our faith, gives us confidence, and keeps us obediently in the will of God. Divine strength is given to us when we call on God. So, when troubles arise, we do not panic, we go to God first.

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)

God is aware that we need Divine Intervention to develop a heart-to-heart relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is involved when we pray. “Likewise, the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered (Romans 8:26). And the Holy Spirit is our Teacher, Comforter, and Guide.

Jesus is our Heavenly Intercessor. “…It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:34). We pray, the Holy Spirit takes our prayers and presents them to Jesus. We receive answers from God through His Spirit. God uses His Spirit to speak to us in various ways, our thoughts, His Scriptures, sermons, Devotional readings, and through those who are anointed.

Doing our part: “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6)

Every day, put God first! The importance of being in our secret place is to shut out the noise of busyness which prevents an intentional focus on God. Otherwise, we cannot hear His answer, and then we are led into deception by Satan. God is aware that we are in an ongoing spiritual war. Still, we can be victorious if we follow His commands.

Staying in the will of God requires solitude and quiet time to pray, study, and meditate. We can never be led astray when we listen and obey. Hearing the voice of God assures us that we will remain on the Path of Righteousness.

Prayer: God, give us strength to shut out the noise that prevents us from hearing Your voice. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Making Great Accomplishments

One of the greatest joys in life is experiencing the end result of our hard work. With joyful anticipation, we eagerly wait for our dreams to come to fruition. Being in love, marriage, having children, taking vacations, purchasing a vehicle or home, starting a new career or business, graduating from high school or college, and retirement are considered milestones–completing achievements in one’s life.

We put forth great effort to make accomplishments in our lives. And when our goals are in sync with God’s perfect will, He opens the windows of heaven and gives us great blessings. We gladly share our testimonies of being blessed and highly favored by God, but we ignore God’s expectation that we use our blessing to also bless others.

Many believers have the mindset of “Thank You, God for blessing me.” And a lifestyle that reflects stashing their resources and living comfortably as if wrapped in a blanket on a chilly winter day. Jesus’ disciples shared a similar [self-centered] value system. The 5,000-plus individuals would have never eaten if it were left up to His disciples.

“Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food, because we are in a remote place here.” (Mark 6:36)

Jesus’ counter answer surprised the disciples, “But He answered and said to them, ‘You give them something to eat'” (Mark 6:37). Even after being with Jesus and knowing His selflessness, the disciples did not have concern for the needs of others.

Ask yourself, “How many people have I helped this year?” A truthful self-evaluation is something that every Christian believer should perform. “Who can discern his own errors? Cleanse me from my hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).

The parable in Matthew chapter 25 about Jesus separating the sheep from the goats is not speaking of believers versus unbelievers. Both groups are believers. Those who did nothing throughout their lives to help others were represented by the goats asking Jesus, “When did we see you…?”  Sadly, these believers were told by Jesus to Depart from Him.

Even those who have little financial means can offer encouragement to those who are walking in darkness. Since 2020, our world has been in chaos. Who doesn’t need compassion and kind words? Ask a stranger if can you pray with them. Even if they refuse, you can still say, “God bless you. Have a great day.” The Holy Spirit knows if their hearts are receptive to accepting Jesus as their personal Savior. We just need to do our part.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (luke 6:38)

Receiving the reward of eternal life “Well-done though good and faithful servant” when Jesus comes is not based on our earthly accomplishments or fulfilling our dreams. It is only our faithful obedience to God’s commands that will be counted in the end. Remember, only what we do for Christ will last.

Prayer: God, we ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Please reveal our purpose in serving others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Holy, Holy, Holy, [Lord, Send Me]

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Sonya Johnson

Holy, Holy, Holy [Lord Send Me!]

The ministry of Bishop Dale Bronner reveals the manifestation of God’s power. At the age of 14, he started a Bible study in his home from 1976-1989 and the Praise the Lord Club at his school when he was 15. Woffamily.org/about-us

Most parents and those who exhibited rebellious behaviors can agree that the teenage stage is a tumultuous one. Yet God used a teenager to begin Bible study and witness to his peers by starting a Christian club. For 14 years, he was diligent in teaching others about the saving power of Jesus Christ. God rewarded his faithfulness by blessing him with a thriving ministry currently serving thousands of individuals in church and online.

God Uses Ordinary People to Complete His Work

In Israel’s great spiritual apostasy, the prophet Isaiah was given a vision in which the Holy of Holies was revealed to him (chapter 6). “Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!’” (Isaiah 6:2-3).

As Isaiah watched the seraphim reverently worship God, he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips… (Isaiah 6:5)

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar and he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8)

God is aware that we have deceitful and desperately wicked hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Hence the reason for the sacrificial offering of His Son, Jesus Christ. With intentional surrender, humility, and reverence, we can boldly approach the throne of God. Yes, the Holiness of God surpasses the comprehension of the human mind. Even so, as God called Isaiah, we are also given a spiritual assignment that we must pursue every day with diligence. Prayerfully, we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice by wholeheartedly giving our lives as one of service to God.

Our Great Commission is to witness the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a dying world. Commit yourself to God: “Here I am Lord, send me!” and the Holy Spirit will provide you with spiritual direction.

Prayer: God, we humbly offer ourselves as a living sacrifice. Please reveal our spiritual assignment. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Longsuffering Never Ends

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Sonya Johnson

Longsuffering Never Ends

Dictionary definition: Longsuffering is “having or showing patience despite troubles, especially those caused by other people.”

Spiritual Definition: The word longsuffering in its scriptural context implies a patient forbearance of repetitious wrongs, accusations, offenses, or troubles. In simple terms, longsuffering implies patient endurance. Philadelphia Church of God

There is a vast difference in the spiritual definition of longsuffering as opposed to the worldview of longsuffering. Showing patience can be accomplished through pretense or as a performance. We can pretend that everything is alright by exercising restraint, showing fake smiles, and saying, I’m okay, yet deep inside we are annoyed or angry.

The practice of only showing outward signs that “all is well” has its repercussions. Eventually, our internal level of frustration [from others’ intentional actions toward us] will reach its limits. Often something insignificant may trigger an unexpected emotional meltdown [such as explosive anger] because we really do not possess longsuffering as a character trait.

Have you experienced a deep spiritual awareness of the requirements of the Fruit of the Spirit? The Fruit are character traits that all believers must possess. For every situation that arises, God expects us to respond appropriately because our character is in alignment with the Fruit of the Holy Spirit. Would you agree that longsuffering [patience] is one of the most difficult?

“Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.” (2 Corinthians 11:25). Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-33, Acts 14:19, and Acts 16:22.

The Apostle Paul shares his experience, yet, he demonstrated longsuffering and did not retaliate or harbor unforgiveness for their heinous actions against him. The challenge is for us to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us a total spiritual makeover of our characters and hearts.

Seeking transformation requires perseverance. Daily, we must pray for the inward anointing of the Holy Spirit. The testing of our character to produce longsuffering comes in various ways. Stop, think, and pray before speaking the wrong words. The very situation that is raising our level of frustration is the test that we will pass when we pray for Divine Intervention.

Prayer: God, we pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit so that we may experience the needed change in our characters. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Striving for Spiritual Excellence

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Sonya Johnson

Striving for Excellence

O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, Who have set Your glory above the heavens! (Psalm 8:1)

In the past two decades, most are aware there has been a significant decline in love, moral responsibility, and values. Still, the greatest decline is in striving for excellence. Do you remember when companies proudly stressed that the customer was their most valued commodity? Now, the customer service script begins with “I understand your frustration,” or an automated voice with many prompts makes it nearly impossible to speak to a human being to resolve the issue.

Excellence is not perfection. Perfection [in humanity] does not exist, which explains why it is impossible to achieve. What is excellence? Striving for continuous improvement. Yes, excellence is a tough master, but it motivates us to push ourselves to do our best.

What does God expect from us in serving Him?

“I pray that your love will overflow more and more and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” Philippians 1:9-10 NLT

In the NKJV, verse 10 reads, “that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ…(Philippians 1:10).

Our perception of God determines our desire to strive for excellence. “Be holy, for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Our minds must not shift and focus on the impossibilities of holiness. Know that God has not left us alone to reach the high standards that He requires of us. First, we must have a strong desire to be transformed into the likeness of Christ—Sanctification.

The human effort of surrendering our hearts to Jesus Christ invites the power of the Holy Spirit to intervene, allowing us to achieve above and beyond our natural abilities. Studying the Scriptures gives us knowledge. Maintaining a steadfast relationship with God through continuous prayer imparts the gift of wisdom. Faith and obedience invite the Divine Intervention of the Holy Spirit to give us supernatural strength to achieve excellence in all areas of our lives.

When the faithful strive for humility, obedience, and purity along with praying for guidance, we possess wisdom and discernment of spiritual excellence. It is then that our posture is in alignment with God’s will and our Spiritual Team empowers us to reach His standards of excellence.

Prayer: God, we pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We desire to grow in knowledge, wisdom, and holiness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Not Created for Multi-Tasking

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification–Not Created for Multi-Tasking

In reading Genesis chapter 1, have you noticed that God had a systematic plan for creating the earth? He completed creation and in verse 31, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good…” (Genesis 1:31). God completed His daily plan, and “saw that it was good” before He started a new day.

In strategic planning, Development, Execution, and Satisfaction from Success or Disappointment from Failure are three vital components that result in a positive or negative outcome. Whether from a team effort or one person’s idea, staying focused is the expectation of achieving innovation.

Today I listened to a spiritual eye-opener: Humanity was not created to multitask. Not only does multitasking weaken the astute skills of concentration required for completion, but we also become mentally and physically fatigued, which weakens our ability to worship God and form our best ideas. Under the pressure of attempting to complete several tasks, our level of frustration is high, creativity weakens, and the stress of extra effort [like running in place] leads to burnout. Have you ever been too exhausted to enjoy a great celebration?

The discipline needed to maintain our focus and utilize important critical thinking skills becomes impaired when we have to split our focus to perform various tasks simultaneously. Think about your daily responsibilities. If you have become forgetful, need frequent cups of coffee, or are always frazzled by the end of the day immediate changes are required. Develop a schedule that allows the completion or near completion of one task before beginning another task.

Spiritual Implication [Missing Daily Worship]: Mental burnout and physical fatigue results in not having the desire, concentration, and energy to study the Bible. Nor can we remember God’s promises when facing spiritual warfare. Our prayers become meaningless words spoken quickly just to say we prayed. Breaking the habit of multitasking takes prayer and the discipline of self-control. Pray for the Holy Spirit to help with the process of elimination or rearranging your responsibilities. Always make God your priority by putting Him first.

Prayer: God, we have too many things to do in our lives. We need Your help to eliminate the busyness that prevents us from worshipping You. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.