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.

Jesus, the Sin Bearing Messiah

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Jesus, the Sin Bearing Messiah

Do you remember whistling teapots? When the pressure from the boiling water reached a certain point, the teapot started whistling. But the noise did not stop immediately even though the pot was removed from the burner. As the pressure decreased the sound of the whistle slowly ceased. Yet, the water was still hot.

Two days ago, the United Nations Secretary-General issued this statement, “We are gridlocked in colossal global dysfunction,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, adding that “our world is in peril — and paralyzed.” AP News

On September 14th, the headlines read, “The world has never been in a better position to end the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization said on Wednesday, his most optimistic outlook yet on the years-long health crisis which has killed over six million people.” Reuters.com

On September 20th, Fortune Well published a COVID update, “Just in time for fall, there’s a brand-new COVID variant making headway in the U.S.”

The majority’s reaction to our world predicament is to keep moving forward with their plans. Most people are sick and tired of hearing that things are worsening. Many have joined the movement of relocating to a country dwelling, growing a garden large enough to be self-sustaining, and homeschooling their children. Although there is nothing wrong with improving the quality of one’s life, we cannot stop the rapid progression from living in the last days to reaching the end of time.

We have reached the boiling point and the burner is at a high temperature. According to the Scriptures, our high alert of a critical status will worsen. “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

Before God created the earth, He knew that Adam and Eve would disobey and sin. The Plan of Salvation that mandated the death of Jesus was made before God said, “… ‘Let there be light…” (Genesis 1:3). Jesus committed to becoming our sacrificial Lamb so we may have the opportunity for eternal life.

The prophet Isaiah received God’s message that Jesus was our sin-bearing Messiah. “He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 53:3). Yes, Jesus was rejected by the majority of those He came to seek, serve, and save. And sadly, many present-day believers have also rejected Christ through the disobedience of self-gratifying pursuits.

Every Christian believer is aware of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet, due to the delay of Jesus’ Second Coming, many have grown comfortable living in their temporary earthly home. We have become paralyzed—we do not hear the whistling of this warning “these are the last days of earth’s history, Jesus is coming soon.”

Thankfully, God always has a remnant of people who are diligently seeking and serving Him. In Romans chapter 11, the Apostle Paul tells of the conversation between God and the prophet Elijah when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him. “Lord, they have killed Your prophets and torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life?’ But what does the divine response say to him? ‘I have reserved for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal’” (verses 3 and 4).

“So too at the present time, there is a remnant, chosen by grace” (Romans 11:5). Jesus did not die in vain! The Apostle John saw a great multitude, which no man could number who received their reward of eternal life. We must wake up to recognize the warnings that God is sending. Like David, we should pray daily for God to search our hearts for any wickedness and repent. Ask for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and continue to witness to others that Jesus is our Savior, Deliverer, and Heavenly Intercessor.

Prayer: God, we pray that You would search our hearts and reveal the sins that would keep us from receiving our reward of eternal life. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus, Amen.

The Gift of His Peace

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—The Gift of His Peace

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

Although our world is in chaos, Jesus has promised to give the righteous His peace. Jesus’ peace gives us a deep inner calm and confidence that cannot be shaken by life’s changes and challenges.

There is an opposing worldview that spiritual peace only comes from Jesus. Based on success and wealth, they assert, “I have peace.” What is your source of peace? Self-confidence, knowledge, a stable career, financial stability, or a great marriage? Would you still have peace if your circumstances changed and you faced the loss of your career, money, or marriage? The present status of a good life could easily slip away and your conception of peace would be replaced with disbelief, sorrow, and maybe anger.

For every promise of God, Satan attempts to produce a counterfeit. Peace is not a willful state of mind. Nor is peace achieved by moving to a rustic location that provides solitude—that is defined as a peaceful environment. We cannot download peace from an app. Nor do we gain peace from transcendental meditation, or listening to serene music. The temporary state of peace quickly vanishes when the hypnotic words or music are turned off.

Wait! Are you saying Christians who have Jesus’ peace would have peace despite severe loss? Yes! We are not superhumans. By putting God first, we have a dependable relationship with Jesus who sustains us every day. Jesus tells us the importance of staying connected to Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Jesus Christ is the reason we never lose our peace. Faith is the catalyst that allows us to receive and keep our gift of peace under all circumstances. When faced with life-altering situations, we experience sorrow, but we do not despair and lose our faith or hope in Jesus. With diligent prayer and study of the Scriptures, anger, distrust, or hopelessness can never replace our gift of true peace.

Our peace remains consistent because we have a relationship with the Giver of all good gifts. Jesus’ peace prevents our hearts from becoming overwhelmed with the circumstances we face. Even in suffering our faith is steadfast because we believe in God’s promises. “…I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Through trials and sorrows, Jesus promised to provide us with spiritual strength and give us peace. The same promise that the apostle Paul received also applies to us, “Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ can work through me.’” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Our love for Jesus makes the difference. We surrender our hearts fully to Him. Yes, Jesus is our Father and Friend. Trusting in the supernatural power of God keeps us connected to Jesus, the Source of peace.

Jesus has promised to heal, deliver, and give us restoration. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (John 15:5). And we know that our Savior will never fail us!

Prayer: Jesus, we admit that we are not in a relationship with You. Today, we surrender our hearts and lives because we love You. We pray for the gift of your peace and ask for strength in our daily lives. Thank You for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in Your name. Amen.

Remaining a Faithful Servant

Devotional—The Struggle of Sanctification—Remaining a Faithful Servant

“And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:27-28

The topic of Post-modern Christianity has gained a lot of focus among pastors, theologians, and older Christians. Many new issues have arisen in today’s churches, emotional insecurities, depression, anxiety, the failure to study the Bible, embracing prosperity messages, and not giving tithe and offerings. Yet, the problems among today’s believers are much deeper than the obvious.

Imagine speaking with a couple of new believers who tell you that they feel alone and confused since becoming Christians. You listen attentively, repeat a couple of encouraging scriptures [God’s promises] and they give you a blank stare. “Do you study the Bible?” They hesitate and answer, “Not really.”

I watched a testimonial of a woman, in her mid-forties who heard about Christ on social media. She decided to give her heart to Jesus, purchased a Bible, and began looking for a church home. As she began researching the various denominations, she narrowed her focus to three. The church she chose was not Bible-based, but it fit her lifestyle.

Trending among Christians is a sense of entitlement. We desire convenience and fast service which has led to the post-modern term–the microwave society. Family dinners are eaten at restaurants or ordered online for delivery. The preference to stay home and watch virtual services has caused a downward spiral in family bonding and in-person church attendance. After all, it fits into our schedule.

Pastors have shortened their regular church services to one hour to resolve the complaint of “The church service is just too long.” Sacrificial giving of our time and effort is an inconvenience, even for God.

Another individual shared proof of satisfying one’s desires over serving God. “In the past ten years, all of my friends have gone astray. They no longer serve God. They chased success, and relationships, or chose other worldly options that provided happiness.”

Current studies by Reach Right Focus reveal that in-person attendance is only 36-60% of what it was pre-COVID. Church attendance has decreased because individuals have lost their interest in serving God.

Spiritual Warfare: The strategist’s solution is to use engagement techniques to bring new members into the churches. Too much emphasis is placed on making one feel good. One strategy is not to overwhelm the members with too many Scriptures. Believe it or not, church leaders have responded by changing their regular service to one or two hours of singing, which is designed to produce happiness.

Sadly, these are the members who become despondent when faced with trials. Without spiritual food from the Word of God and fervent prayer, we cannot have a steadfast relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowledge of God’s promises along with receiving the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the strength to overcome our hardships.

When we love God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, no one has to convince us to serve Him. True worship is an outward reflection of a steadfast relationship with Jesus Christ. Serving God is probably the most challenging thing a Christian will ever do. Discipleship is a life of humility, surrender, and obedience. Through prayer and studying the Bible, we allow the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts from satisfying our desires to becoming humble servants.

Jesus’ disciples also had many issues, including hearts overcome by pride. Their antagonism toward one another was fueled by the desire to be the greatest. At the Last Supper, it was Jesus [the Son of God] who washed His disciple’s feet. Humility is not a character trait we are born with. Our carnal nature opposes the meek and lowly traits of servitude. Yet, becoming a servant is discipleship.

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (John 13:14-17).

Prayer: God, we pray for the many individuals who have given up and lost their way that they will return to their first love, Jesus Christ. We ask this prayer in Jesus’ worthy name, Amen.

What is the Most Important Thing in Your Life?

Sabbath Devotional–The Struggle of Sanctification–What is the Most Important Thing in Your Life?

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

A relationship with Christ is the most crucial aspect of a believer’s life. Our covenant vow to become a follower [disciple] of Jesus is demonstrated through the daily surrendering of our desires. Jesus gave us a complete explanation of the requirement to follow Him: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37).

Loving God requires humility and obedience. “LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23).

We give up independent thought processes and desires by praying daily, “God, not my will, but Your will be done in my life. Holy Spirit, today, I ask for guidance, wisdom, and discernment to recognize distractions from warfare. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Give us this day, our daily bread. Wisdom and discernment are spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit which require us to ask for them daily. We build a relationship with Christ through diligent prayer and by studying the Scriptures. Worship provides us with the spiritual nourishment and strength we need to stay connected to God. And our hearts are prepared to hear the Voice of God through the Holy Spirit.

“Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.” (Romans 12:3, last part)

All have received the gift of faith. We can compare it to a seed. Faith is a gift that needs to be cultivated and nurtured to produce growth. Our faith grows from completely trusting in God’s promises despite the giants that we face. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through Him, the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

We fight the battle of trusting our judgment versus having faith in the invisible God. Feeling that we have to act instead of praying and trusting in God places us in the predicament of our will versus God’s will. Many have given up because it’s too hard to wait, trust, and obey. Yet, without faith, we can never have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  

Faith gives us hope and proclaims that we believe that God knows best, that He never fails, and will provide the perfect solution. Even if we have faith the size of a mustard seed, we open our hearts to receive Divine Intervention. Yet, faith has no gray area or middle ground. Either we are all in or completely out.

All relationships require trust including Jesus plus us. Whether it is a miracle, the solution to a hardship, or pursuing a dream, our faith enables us to wait on God. The struggle happens when we allow our fears to override God’s plans. Even if we do not know God’s will for our lives, we pray, ask, and wait. “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

Waiting produces thriving faith, yet, it also requires courage. The waiting period proves if we are really connected to Jesus. Many become discouraged during the silent phase of waiting. Satan uses this time to place doubt in our minds. Has God forgotten my prayer? Where is the miracle? If God doesn’t do something quickly, then…, or we begin to compare ourselves to our peers–everyone else has achieved their dreams, why am I the only one who has nothing?

We usually think of someone performing a life-saving action as courageous. Faith requires all the mental, emotional, and spiritual strength we possess to have 100% trust in God. Our relationship with Jesus is based on our faith that is fueled by courage. Come to Jesus just as you are–He is aware of the little we offer. But little becomes much in the Master’s hands.

Jesus patiently teaches us how to exercise the courage that produces unrealistic faith in Him. Our love relationship with Jesus is based on the human effort of faith. When our faith begins to waver, we need to immediately pray and reinforce our faith with the promises of God. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

Being determined in our efforts, and keeping our relationship with Jesus is always our priority. With Divine authority, every day, Jesus takes our frail weaknesses uniting them with His strength and we receive the spiritual empowerment to persevere and run the race in this earthly journey of life.

Prayer: God, we pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. We need Your direction and the strength to keep striving despite our obstacles. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Desires of Jesus’ Heart

Sharing this wonderful Devotional, from His Healing Love by D. Winn

THE LONGINGS OF JESUS’ HEART

“I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3, N.I.V.

Our understanding of heaven takes its first shapes from the stories and pictures of childhood. I can recall the time when heaven seemed attractive to me for three reasons. I would be able to fly without effort, I would be able to play with a lion without fear, and I wouldn’t have to pull weeds.

As I grew older and faced a few more of the realities of this sin-damaged world, I began to be drawn toward heaven because of its promised relief from pain and death. I have found that heaven can be craved as an end of poverty, war, prejudice, and even taxes! Unfortunately, our desires for heaven often fixate at these rather materialistic levels, and we fail to let God stir in us greater longings. We seldom even know what those desires should be.

So let us listen with our hearts to Jesus’ own longings about heaven. What about heaven stirred Him to look forward to it with such eagerness? In His well-known farewell conversation with His disciples Jesus told them that He was returning to heaven to make preparation for His friends. But then He made a very personal promise. He said that He Himself would return for us, to “take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

In Jesus’ mind the most satisfying joys of heaven are not centered in its lovely architecture, its economy, or even its ecology. For Jesus, heaven is a great place to be with His friends–with us! Jesus knows that the greatest need of our hearts is not for a tame lion, quick transportation, or even a weed-free garden. Our greatest need is for a loving, trusting relationship with a close friend. We are, after all, made in His image. Those needs are a reflection of His own heart.

Of course, heaven will be a marvelous exquisite place, with nothing to mar its perfect joys and beauties. But that’s just the way He does things for His friends. He did not intend that the tearless bliss of heaven should be a sop for our selfishness. Rather He intended that nothing should be in heaven that would detract from the enjoyment of its truest essence: loving, growing friendships.

Wouldn’t you love to spend eternity with such a Savior?

Prayer: God, help us to take the focus off of ourselves and think of Jesus who gave Himself for sinful humanity. Thank you, Jesus for your great sacrifice. We love you and ask this prayer in your Worthy Name. Amen.