The Kiss

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Sonya Johnson

Interestingly, 90% of cultures kiss to show affection to each other. The type of kiss we will focus on is not one of romantic kissing but a sign of love and commitment to a person that you have bonded with—family and friends.

Judas’ kiss of betrayal of Christ is well-known by most Christians. Have you ever wondered why Judas chose a kiss to perform his heinous deed? Kissing would not arouse suspicious thoughts from the other disciples.

The disciples were aware that one of them would betray Jesus. But Simon Peter asked Jesus, “…Lord, who is it?” (John 13:25) Which one of the disciples would suspect a kiss of reverent affection to be used to betray and initiate the process for Christ’s death? “But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’” (Luke 22:48). It was then that Peter used his sword (John 18:10).

Still, God gives us another definition of kissing, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him (1 Kings 19:28). King Ahab and Queen Jezebel had killed all of the prophets except Elijah. And the prophet feared for his life because of Jezebel’s threat. Elijah was always faithful to God, yet, he felt alone and fearful–running for his life. But our loving God reassures Elijah that he has 7,000 faithful people who are not worshipping idols. He did not have to fear because God’s hand of protection was on His life.

Kissing Idols–God defines the results of sin when He says “and every mouth that has not kissed him [Baal].” Sin affects us on a spiritual level. Sin causes us to become intimate with evil. We kiss sin with our mouths. Yes, there is a progression of our love affair with sin that leads to bondage. We experience a complete change of heart. Becoming desensitized, we begin to enjoy the pleasures that our affair offers. Our feelings escalate and we are all in—giving ourselves over to the iniquity. We are enslaved and no longer feel remorse. Without a repentant heart, our feelings become our behaviors–revealing the change in our characters.

Either we will kiss Jesus indicating our love and affection through obedience or kiss the idols which come in various forms of pleasure—money, success, drugs, alcohol, gambling, unequal relationships, sexual immorality, etc.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)

Prayer: God, we are entangled in love affairs with sin. We pray for forgiveness and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rest and Restoration

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Sonya Johnson

Many individuals worry about the things in life that they have no control over. The unknown future, unexpected situations, financial gain or loss, compromised health, maintaining a healthy family home environment, relationship problems, and the list could go on forever. Worry is our enemy—always preventing mental, emotional, and physical rest, along with spiritual restoration.

Trending is a concept to stop negative thoughts “you have to empty your brain to control your mind.” Well, we cannot empty our brains from the memories, current situations, and information gathered by our five senses. The brain immediately stores the things we are exposed to without our help.

Whether we are dealing with memories or present out-of-control occurrences—our brain is a never-ending file cabinet. Thankfully, we cannot retrieve everything that our brain gathers in and stores.

How do we rid ourselves of the mental noise? “The answer is not in thinking happy thoughts or chanting affirmations. Once you stop, it’s likely the throng of thoughts will flood back in.”

The incessant thoughts which flood our minds are related to our lifestyles. We have embraced the continuous noise of social media, screen time, and after-school or work activities that prevent rest. We lose our coping abilities because of mental and physical fatigue.

Our spiritual relationship with God is the first to decline when we are overwhelmed. God does not expect us to ignore our daily responsibilities of maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Yet our activities of daily living should not prevent us from adequate rest.

When overwhelmed with endless tasks, we miss out on the restorative benefits of peaceful sleep and relaxation. Too much on our schedules leads to fretting and worrying–negative thinking! Even more devastating, the busyness interrupts our spiritual connection with Jesus Christ. There is no time or energy left to have a meaningful relationship with God. How do we change the cycle?

“Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).

God has given us the gift of rest. Acknowledge that the vicissitudes of life [which we cannot control] will always happen. Pray and ask God to reveal through the Holy Spirit the changes that are necessary for you to have peace, rest, and restoration through Him. It’s up to us to pray and obey.

Prayer: God, we thank You for our gifts of rest and restoration. We ask You to reveal the things that we need to eliminate from our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

The Roadblock of the Familiar

Devotional–The Struggle of Sanctification—Sonya Johnson

One of the most devastating natural occurrences is wildfires. Many of us think of the destruction of beautiful plant and animal life. However, there is a cycle of life that God has orchestrated for all living things. “During wildfires, the nutrients from dead trees are returned to the soil. The forest floor is exposed to more sunlight, allowing seedlings released by the fire to sprout and grow.”

Everything Has Its Time—”To everything, there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

When change happens, many are resistant to the life cycle. Psychologists tell us that our mind desires the familiar. We are comfortable with the familiar people, places, and things that no longer serve a purpose in our new journey. Our cognition can be manipulated by emotional desires resulting in repetitive behavior, even if the circumstances are unhealthy. Resisting growth is counterproductive. Our world is dynamic—the earth spins on its axis [Earth’s Rotation]. The night gives into the daylight. We cannot remain stagnant and have mind-body homeostasis.

Yes, facing disappointment from unexpected life events is tough. Yet, God has designed the life cycle as necessary for us to move forward. The negative mindset is to seek the comfort of our past instead of moving forward. Either we bargain by accepting the unhealthy behaviors of others just to keep them in our lives, view the lost job as our only option, or become angry, and depressed and decide to do nothing. We fail to accept the change and fixate on our past. Because we crave the familiarity of who and what we know, we lack the motivation to seek new opportunities.

Our fulfillment comes from living our best life every day. God has given each of us a spiritual gift and natural talents. Yes, we were caught off guard when the unexpected life event happened, but God allowed the change to occur for our spiritual growth and development.

God’s Mercy—”Do not call to mind the former things; pay no attention to the things of old. Behold, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)

How do we let go of the familiar? First, pray and acknowledge your hurt and disappointment which may bring many tears. With a grateful heart, thank God for doing something new in your life. Acknowledge that only God can provide humanity with our best life. The little things that we give to ourselves count as nothing compared to God’s gifts. Focus on the “New Beginnings” that God has planned for you. God’s grace allows us to see a new day. Pray for guidance and direction every morning. Remember that we were created to accomplish the will of God.

Prayer: God, please help us to accept Your will for our lives, even if it brings disappointment. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Destination: Heaven

Devotional–The Struggle of Sanctification–Sonya Johnson

The last two years of nursing were brutal. The program requirements included a stringent grading system of reaching a minimum of 83% of 100 without exception. The program offered one opportunity of grace regarding failure to meet the 83% on the exam. The Professor reviewed the failed questions along with the rationale of the correct answers and one retake exam was offered with a three-day expiration period.

Ten students remained in August, the last semester. By this time, we had developed close family bonds with one another. Within four weeks, we lost three of our dearest friends to their inability to reach the grading requirement. We cried as we said our goodbyes with hugs and loving advice to never give up. The responsibility of giving safe and competent nursing care to our patients is of the utmost importance. Twenty-seven students entered the program and seven students graduated.

For the believer, our earthly journey is one in which we strive for a Crown of Life. “…let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Marathon runners practice daily and eat proper nutrients to stay in peak performance. They push their bodies beyond normal limits for the opportunity to win the race. Looking at their appearance enables one to see the results of their hard work: They are trim, sleek, running machines.

Running the Spiritual Race–Read Hebrews chapter 12

The spiritual race will be our most difficult journey. Yet, we are never left alone to figure out the training requirements for running. The Holy Spirit, our Teacher is just a prayer away. The Holy Bible is full of the failures and victories of humanity and God’s guidance. Yes, we will have many obstacles, still, we are given strength from the One who sacrificed His life for us. Jesus is our Heavenly Intercessor and has promised to finish the work in us [Philippians 1:6]. And we have guardian angels who protect us from spiritual warfare while running.

The obedient and faithful righteous will receive the reward of Eternal Life. Run brothers and sisters! Run!

Prayer: God, we thank You for the Spiritual Team who is available 24/7 to help us run the race. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

We Crave Comfort

A young couple worked tirelessly to refurbish a cargo ship to live on the Seine River in Paris, France. The design of the boat included stormproof ceiling-to-floor glass windows that enabled them to enjoy an expansive view of Paris. But the disconcerting statement, “We never have to leave our home with the exception to buy food” reveals the downside of making one’s home a sanctuary based on the self-gratification of comfort and ease.

Although this young couple’s behavior may seem extreme, most of our desires are for the things that make our lives comfortable. We crave and readily buy the material things that give us comfort. Billions of dollars are spent every year to feed our insatiable appetite for a lifestyle of comfort and ease. 

How has comfort affected Christian believers? Our desires have lulled many into accepting the false prosperity messages and we are desensitized to the needs of others. Just ask yourself, “How many people have you helped this week?” Being too comfortable puts one to sleep spiritually. The focus is no longer on Christ when we are concerned with living a life of ease. 

Jesus was aware that the earthly treasures we crave would place our hearts in captivity. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Satan uses a highly effective deception to distract us: We have too much confidence that we have time to do what we want and still be prepared for Revelation 22:12–“And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

The Apostle Paul warns us in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 that we must not join in the sleep-like trance of the unbelievers. The Day of the Lord is Coming: “So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clear-headed.” (1 Thessalonians 5:6 NLT)

Reflect on your life. Are you spiritually awake? Enjoying comfort prevents us from preparing for what is to come. Last Day Events are happening now! Keep your guard up! Pray and Study the Scriptures every day! Fight to stay spiritually awake by maintaining your faith and confidence in Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God, we pray for the Holy Spirit to anoint our minds with wisdom and discernment to recognize the distractions of comfort and ease. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Photo by Asad Photo Maldives on

Having It Our Way

“The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” Psalms 92:12

Pastor Jerry Flowers told of his disregard for the season to plant flower seeds. It was in October with daily temperatures in the 80s when he decided to plant the seeds. Despite watering and mulching the area the seeds refused to grow. The winter season passed. And the bad seeds that he gave up on and forgot about obeyed their Creator’s plan. Two months into spring with an active rainy season, the sprouts begin to flourish. The moral of the story is we cannot have it our way with the Creator God. When it is our time, we will grow and receive the blessings as determined by God.

Many of today’s Christians have decided to have it their way. In fact, the trend is to answer your own prayers and bless yourself. Loving God with all of our heart, soul, and mind is the foundation for Righteousness by Faith. “Be holy, for I am Holy.” (1 Peter 1:16).

One thing is for sure and two things are for certain–It never goes as planned and we will suffer the consequences of our disobedience.

Obedience is the determining factor that demonstrates the condition of our hearts. When we love God our focus is not to have it our way. Jesus was obedient even unto death. And if the Son of God had to learn obedience then what does God require of humanity?

God’s way is infallible and always leads us to have victorious outcomes, including the reward of eternal life.

Prayer: God, we ask You to order our steps. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

The Struggle of Sanctification

With a Made-Up Mind

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2)

Daniel was faced with the decision to eat the king’s meats, declared unclean by the law of Moses. Eating meats and alcoholic drinks was a privilege for his high position. Disregarding the food could lead to his death. Yet, Daniel did not hesitate. He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat or wine. (Daniel 1:8).

Serving God requires total surrender of our will to the will of God. Choosing who we will serve is a choice and is not easily accomplished. Putting God first is an intentional action. Everything we do requires conscious decision-making and control of our will.

Each day brings new temptations which test our loyalty to Christ on whether or not we will obediently worship God in Spirit and truth.
Consistent obedience to God can only be accomplished by praying in faith for the anointing and direction of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit guides us on the Path of Righteousness as we commit to being led. In humility and with a made-up mind, we intentionally align ourselves to the will of God.

Prayer: God, we pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We ask for You to lead, direct, and correct us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Jonah–The Story of a Prophet’s Judgmental Attitude

“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2)

Usually, when we hear a sermon of the prophet Jonah the primary focus is on his disobedience to God, running away, being thrown overboard, and being swallowed by the giant fish. Yes, he was disobedient, which is a sin against God. Still, our focus today is on his judgmental posture against unbelievers.

Acts of Disobedience: Jonah questioned whether God was telling him to do the right thing when instructed to go to the wicked city of Nineveh. He disobeyed God’s command by running to Tarsus. “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).

Many believers have received a command from God to help the homeless, those in abject poverty, feed hungry parents and their children, to comfort widows and widowers. We are told to “Go!” Yet, we discriminate against the people who desperately need to know that Jesus loves them.

What is the root cause of our disdain for those who need our help?

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'” (Matthew 22:38-40).

We do not have Christ’s sacrificial love for us or those suffering. Therefore, we cannot love the countless men, women, and children in despair.

Jonah delivers God’s message of pending destruction: “And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!'” (Jonah 3:4).

The people repent of their sins: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5).

God’s grace and mercy: “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it” (Jonah 3:10).

Jonah’s true feelings are exposed: “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry” (Jonah 4:1).

We cannot pass judgment on the prophet Jonah who wanted God to destroy the people of Ninevah. When we fail to meet the needs of others and fail to witness Jesus’ love and salvation, we covertly wish for their death and destruction.

The words are harsh that reveal the truth. Yet, Jeremiah says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

If we have amassed large bank accounts or refuse to volunteer our leisure time to help in shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, or elderly neighbors, pass out comfort bags to those living on the streets. Then we are disobedient to God.

The Great Commission: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.'” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Our duty to God and humanity: “Pure and unblemished religion [as it is expressed in outward acts] in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit and look after the fatherless and the widows in their distress and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the [secular] world” (James 1:27 Amplified Bible).

Many unbelievers assist the countless people in need. Yet, they will also be lost if they have not accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Discrimination against Jesus prevailed when He was on the earth, and it has risen in these last days of earth’s history.

Obedience and servitude are fruits of love for God. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal your spiritual assignment in helping others. But remember, we must possess a heart filled with overwhelming and unconditional love as Jesus had for God, His Father.

Prayer: God, we have lost our sight of You. We pray for the forgiveness of a selfish, discriminating, and uncaring heart. Please open our eyes and reveal our assignment in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and helping those in need. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen.