Can you imagine?

And I John saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of Heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:2

When we think about having something new, it usually brings an outward smile to reflect the happiness that we feel. We instinctively share with others who will be just as happy as we are; but there is a catch to feeling enjoyment from something new, our excitement abates. In spite of the elated feelings that new and needful things provide, the passing of time causes us to lose our enthusiasm.

In Revelation 21-22, John tells us of the vision he saw of the New Heaven and the New Earth. When I read the description of the beauty along with the promise of all things being made new by God, I felt excitement as I contemplated on the joy of seeing Jesus face-to-face and the promise of living eternally on a perfect earth. Even so, am I able to maintain the zeal to continuously do my part in the plan of Salvation?

How often do we lose our excitement of living eternally when the trials of life are weighing heavily on our shoulders?

By taking the time to study the Word od God and contemplate on the New Heaven and New Earth, which we can only imagine, will help us to know that God has the most wonderful plans for our future.

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
As Jeremy Taylor puts it: “Days without nights, joys without sorrows, sanctity without sin, charity without stain, possession without fear, society without envying, communion of joys without lessening; and they shall dwell in a blessed country where an enemy never entered and from whence a friend never went away.”

Hold steadfast to God’s promises of hope and a wonderful future; it is beyond anything we could ever imagine.

Prayer for today: Dear God, Many times we let the cares of life make us lose sight of your precious and wonderful promises. We ask you to give us the strength that we need to keep pressing forward and to keep our minds stayed on you. We look forward to the future that you have for us on the New Earth. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019

Barberry Orange Sunrise leaf

Starting Over in Relationships

For many of us it is the cry of admiration and love for God: O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. Psalm 95:6

After a very painful dissolution of my marriage 25 years ago, and learning to live as a single woman again, I met and married my current husband at the age of 50. At a time when I least expected it-three years later; God answered my prayer to have love again in my life, and we will celebrate our 10th year anniversary later this year.

Throughout my lifespan, I have an on and off again relationship with God. I had an inconsistent prayer life, studied the Bible once or twice a week, and attended church according to my inclinations of whether I felt tired or rested. As a result of turning my heart away from God, I initiated the breakdown of the most important relationship–in fact, my spiritual relationship with God almost ended.

However, God is love, and so full of grace and mercy. When I was losing my way, God reached out and said, “My child, I love you, come back to me.” He used a prayer warrior to invite me to study the Bible with her on a daily basis, and that was the beginning of my journey of reconciliation with God.

As I continue to pray and study the Word of God, I am learning who God really is: God is my provider; God is my protector; God is my Father who nurtures me with his love; God never fails me–He always answers my prayers.

Human relationships will always have challenges along with uncertain outcomes. In spite of the effort we put into them, there are good times, rough roads, moving forward, falling backward, and for various reasons, our relationships may come to an abrupt end. Even so, God has promised to never leave us or forsake us, and because He loves us unconditionally with an everlasting love, we can always start over in our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Prayer for today: Dear God, It is our desire to return to you. We ask you to give us strength as we start over in our relationship with you. We love you. We acknowledge that if it was not for your grace and mercy, we would be in a hopeless situation. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019

The Way to Live

Be that new person who was made to be like God, truly good and pleasing to him. Ephesians 4:24 ERV

The Apostle Paul was a writer of letters that provided guidance to believers and followers of God. It is a fact of life that we are exposed to the declining morals and values of our society; even so, as Christians we must not assimilate as chameleons, changing ourselves to adapt to our environments.

How do you identify yourself? Are you assertive or passive?

Some children are born with strong, assertive personalities while others may have passive qualities which either result in quiet strength or giving in to the persuasion of others. It is likely the child will possess those same traits as he/she grows and develops into adulthood.

Regardless of our personalities, we have a natural desire to be accepted in our relationships with our families, our social circles, among our coworkers, and even in our marriages. There is a phrase, “Go along to get along.” Certainly, there are times when it is easier to just go with the flow because we fear exclusion or being labeled as disagreeable. Our humanity is revealed everytime we are faced with making the choice to choose good over evil, right vs wrong, and when truth overshadows error. How we choose to live is based on our decision to please God or to seek acceptance from others.

If you are facing the dilemma of choosing the world over God–reflect on the times that you have remained silent when you should have verbalized peaceful opposition to the presenting situation–compromise usually results in enmity against God.

God anticipated our desire to be accepted, and He lovingly provided guidelines on the way we should live as believers.

Ephesians 4:17-23 ERV reads:

“I have something from the Lord to tell you. I warn you: Do not continue living like those who do not believe. Their thoughts are worth nothing. They have no understanding, and they know nothing because they refuse to listen. So they cannot have the life that God gives. They have lost their feeling of shame and use their lives to do what is morally wrong. More and more they want to do all kinds of evil. But that way of life is nothing like what you learned when you came to know Christ. I know that you heard about him, and in him you were taught the truth. Yes, the truth is in Jesus. You were taught to leave your old self. This means that you must stop living the evil way you lived before. That old self gets worse and worse, because people are fooled by the evil they want to do. You must be made new in your heart and in your thinking. Be that new person who was made to be like God, truly good and pleasing to him.”

God instructed the Apostle Paul to write the Book of Ephesians as guidance and instruction to the believers in Ephesus where he had established a ministry. Ephesians teaches believers how to remain faithful by practicing godly principles in our lives regardless of the problems in our homes, workplaces, and communities.

We do not have to compromise! God will always provide when we stand for His truth. Do not be concerned with exclusion or labels; we have more important duties in our Christian walk with God, and that is to remain faithful by obedience, to witness by sharing the plan of Salvation, and preparing ourselves for Eternal life.

Prayer for today: Dear God, We ask you to give us the strength to never compromise against your principles of truth. From this day forward, we commit to pleasing only you through obedience and living a faith-based life. We ask you to forgive us of our sins and shortcomings. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayers. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019

A Full Pardon

For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Sin is deadly! There are always consequences to making the decision to go against God.

Sin separates us from God! We cannot vacillate-be indecisive and usually obey God’s commands; but, then disobey God based on our personal desires. Eventually, our compromise to commit wrongdoing will become habitual and God’s truth will become blurred and insignificant in our lives.

In the legal system, a commutation of sentence is a reduction in sentence. In a commutation of sentence, the person is not absolved from a conviction completely; but his/her punishment is substituted with a lesser punishment. For example, a death sentence may be commuted to a sentence of life imprisonment.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:23

When a person has a terminal illness, the disease is progressive, whether it is a slow or rapid pace, it is a certainty that a predictable death will occur.

Sin also brings a progressive and predictable death; when we sin against God, we decline spiritually which leads to loss of our promise of eternal life.

Sin always results in death! Although we may not immediately die a physical death when we sin against God, we should not believe that we have received a commuted sentence. It is from God’s wonderful grace and mercy that we are given the opportunity to confess and repent of our sins.

The Omniscient God knew that Adam and Eve would sin; therefore, we can be assured that Jesus’ commitment to die for us–the plan of salvation–was already in place prior to the creation of human life. Remember we are the children of God who were created out of love and in the image of God. It would serve no purpose for God to create us to destroy us.

We must contemplate on the full pardon that we have received from Jesus’ death. He agreed to take the punishment that we deserve for our willful choice to sin. What is more important than life? We are of free will to believe in Christ and accept the greatest gift of eternal life, based on the condition of faithfully obeying God and renouncing sin.

The Pardon from sin has made us free!

Prayer for today: Dear God, We thank you for the gift of your Son who agreed to die for our unrighteousness. We ask you to forgive us for our willful rebellion against you. It is our desire to renounce the sinful pleasures of this world and dedicate our lives to you. We look forward to the gift of eternal life. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019

Believe to see God’s Greatness

So they moved the stone away from the entrance. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. I know that you always hear me. But I said these things because of the people here around me. I want them to believe that you sent me.”

After Jesus said this he called in a loud voice, “Lazarus come out!” The dead man came out. John 11:41-43

In 2016, my brother and husband stood at the foot of our Mother’s hospital bed and my spiritual sister and I stood on the side of her bed as she closed her eyes and loss consciousness. We watched the Cardiac Monitor reflect a falling heart rate of 32 beats per minute as I heard “Code Blue room 120” announced overhead.

Immediately a rapid response team entered the room and asked if she was a DNR-Do Not Resuscitate. My mother had previously expressed to me that she did not wish for CPR or life-support when it was time for her to close her eyes and sleep in Jesus. In a couple of minutes, the monitor aggressively alarmed as the screen reflected a flat line. We watched our Mother’s lips turn blue and gasp her last breath–she was clinically dead. Not one of us moved from her bedside, the hospital staff were respectful and maintained complete silence.

For the longest minute of my life, I can recall the deafening silence of death. I begin to rub my Mother’s hair with my hand trying to grasp the reality that she was gone. As I removed my hand to steady myself by clenching the bedrail, we heard a loud noise as she inhaled a deep breath, opened her eyes, and asked, “Why is everyone staring at me?”

We heard the door open to her room as the physician entered with a look of amazement, he did not expect to see his patient alive and smiling. Afterward, he relayed to me that the report he received was one of imminent death. As I continued to listen to him speak, the only words that I can remember are, “Now I believe that there is a God.”

The history of my Mother’s condition is that she was diagnosed with End Stage Heart Failure in 2015 with an ejection fraction (EF-Ejection fraction is a measurement of the percentage of blood leaving your heart each time it contracts) of only 10%. A normal EF is from 55%-70% and indicates the heart is functioning in its normal capacity.

My mother will be 86 years of age this year and still performs all of her own activities of daily living, including cooking and laundry duties. She acknowledges that she is blessed and highly favored by God. She still reads the Bible, prays, sings, and has a mischievous side that my sister and I inherited.

I witnessed two miracles on that eventful day; the gift of life and the physician’s change of heart from an Unbeliever to a Believer in God and His mighty power.

In the same way, I tell you, “Joy breaks out in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who changes both heart and life.” Luke 15:10 CEB

It is a simple step to “Just believe in God.” He is waiting to show you that He loves you, He cares for you, and that He is the GREATEST.

Prayer for today: Dear God, You are great and we thank you for your love, your grace, and mercy. We believe in you because you first loved us and you only want the best for us. We acknowledge that we have not done our part by serving you faithfully. Thank you for the blessings and the miracle of life that we have today. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019

Kravica Waterfalls

The Reflection in the Mirror

…But Jesus stooped down and started writing on the ground with his fingers…Then Jesus stooped down again and wrote on the ground. John 8:7-8 NLT

Do you have mirrors in your home, if yes, what is the purpose that you utilize it for? Most of us would agree that it is to see the reflection of our physical body. And if we love ourselves, then the mirror provides the reassurance that all is well, and because our reflection is pleasing, we then approve of what we have seen with our eyes.

But we must beware, the mirror has great limitations, it can only portray our outward appearance; the physical body that we are able to manipulate by applying cosmetics, salon based hairstyles, clothing that reveals our personal preferences and quite often our priorities in life.

This is not an inference to the excesses of vanity or narcissism, it is healthy for our appearance to reflect that we lovingly care for ourselves. Even so, there is something else that should take priority over our physical appearance, and that is Our Character!

We are unable to use our hands to make changes or adjustments as to who we really are. The mirror is unable to reflect our individual mental, moral, and spiritual qualities–the mirror that reflects whether our character is Christ-like is the Mirror of the Word of God.

Elements of a Christ-like Character

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5: 22-23 NKJV

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 ESV

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Luke 6:37

Read John 8:1-11

The woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus because the Pharisees desired to catch him saying something wrong. It was their intention to trick Jesus-the Son of God. After all, why would they bring a guilty woman to Jesus who held no position as a judge in the Jewish society?

Because of their hatred, they were fixated on proving that Jesus would falter in making a decision to either obey the Law of Moses which commanded death by stoning or go against the Law by showing mercy to the adulteress.

Only Jesus could have victory in this dilemma! He knelt down and began to write on the ground with his finger. The Jewish leaders repeatedly asked their question: Obey or disobey the Law of Moses?”So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.’ ” John 8:7

Have you ever wondered what Jesus was writing on the ground? Was it their secret sins? Were those sins exposed to one other? We only know that the leaders walked away and the adulteress was forgiven of her sins.

Reflect on your character; would you have stood as an accuser, seeking the death penalty for Jesus as well as the woman?

The spiritual mirror has no limitations, it always reflects the truth of our character. We must commit to a life of moment-to-moment repentance and obedience if we are to possess a Christ-like character.

What do you reflect in the mirror?

Prayer for today: Dear God, We come to you as an accuser and we ask you to forgive us for the pretense that all is well with our lives. Our character is out of alignment with your Word. We have been more concerned about our outward appearance than with having a Christ-like character. Please help us as we strive to become more like you. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019

Why would you?

Yesterday a challenge question was posed to the online crocheting group that I am a member of: Why would you spend $92 on crafting supplies when the ready-made item cost $7? The question stumped a lot of individuals who agreed: yes, why am I spending money to crochet? My answer was: Because it’s made with my hands…and having that talent is priceless. It was disappointing to read the responses of those who did not realize it is a gift to be able to take yarn and a hook and create beautiful handcrafted items.

Each of us is born with a spiritual connection to God; eventually, we realize that there has to be a higher power and source outside of ourselves. When we fail to establish a meaningful relationship with God, our lives reflect an overall state of discontent. Without God, a permanent void exists, and we seek to fill that emptiness with people, places, and things.

If you were asked, “Why would I serve God?” how would you respond to the person? It may be disconcerting to be confronted with such a fiery question; yet, in order to effectively witness, we must be prepared for the most challenging questions. Remember, it is not our mission to convince others that serving God is a necessity; something has already happened that has prompted them to seek knowledge about God.

The origin of the human life-the story of Creation is an excellent beginning (no pun intended) when witnessing. The story of Creation is not commonplace knowledge nor does it share the popularity of the Evolution theory. In fact, the evolution theory pervades our society and is reinforced by educational institutions, the media, and television programs. Therefore, the person you are witnessing to may be unaware that God lovingly created Adam and Eve with his hands and breathed life into their bodies.

You may face resistance when you share the story of Creation; do not be concerned, provide a biblical reference, and allow the Holy Spirit to take over. Remain prayerful and thank God for the opportunity to witness. Remember that you are sharing one of the greatest stories of how life began-the gift of being fearfully and wonderfully made by God’s own hands and that in itself provides an open door for the individual to develop a personal relationship with God.

Prayer for today: Dear God, Thank you for creating us in your image. Help us to never forget that it is you who breathes life into us, it is you who sustains us, and it is you who loves us with an everlasting love. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2019