The Game of Chance

And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Matthew 24:12

A concept is causing significant dissension and division among Christians–prosperity! When we hear messages based on God promising us wealth, we will react in one of two ways, “It’s a false teaching” or “Yes, Jesus says to ask anything in His name, and He will do it.” Yet, Jesus has told us “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…” Matthew 6:19, first part.

Sin has given us a natural longing to desire the things we do not have. Is it possible for us to be content? The answer of yes or no is an individual one, which reveals our relationship with Jesus Christ. We will explore the response of no, which many hesitate to say. They usually respond with, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19). And the conflict of truth versus error begins.

The Desire–Are you familiar with the phrase, “Some people are their own worst enemy?” We begin the decline into sin by our heartfelt desires. We have entered Satan’s Game of Chance as inexperienced players at this stage. But Pride continually urges us to pursue our dreams. Unsure of ourselves, we seek and select people who agree that we should follow our hearts. We make sure that we keep our strategies a secret, especially from the Saints of God who always say, “Pray and wait on God.” We grow weary of God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11. So, we begin listening to…the Influencers.

The Influencers persuade us to chase our dreams now. Many have become successful in the financial arena. We readily listen to the testimonials of social media’s elite, successful entrepreneurs or peruse the websites of powerful investment companies. JP Morgan advertises, “Set up a call or virtual meeting with a J.P. Morgan Advisor to discuss your investment goals and help keep them on track.”

An unequally yoked relationship is today’s believers’ second most prevalent deception. We have lost control of our senses, especially our eyesight. When children are younger, they are immature and desire the pleasant things they see. Yet, as they mature if taught restraint, they learn that not everything pleasing to the eyes is good for you.

The Rebellion–In these last days, Satan’s two deceptions are causing an internal conflict for first place in our hearts, seeking prosperity and having unequally yoked relationships with unbelievers. Chasing wealth and giving into lustful desires has many “Christians” renouncing God. Because compromise has overtaken the desire to obey God, they worship God with works–attending church or making tax-deductible contributions. But their minds are far from giving God the reverence of total obedience. “For let, not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:7-8).

The desire for what we do not possess has existed since the conflict with Lucifer in heaven. Adam and Eve gave up immortality and face-to-face communion with Jesus in the Garden of Eden for the deceptive lie of having God-like omnipotence–knowing all. We do not care! The Bible provides God-breathed historical accuracy in the Scriptures of fallen humanity and proof of God’s love, grace, mercies, and restoration. Yet, pursuing our desires becomes the driving force, and we willingly become players in the Game.

The Knocking on the Door of Our Hearts–“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

The Failure–Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He intervenes, and our dreams that we brought into fruition fail. The loss of our financial investment, or the business falters into bankruptcy, and the relationship [no matter how dedicated you loved] is over when the unbeliever continually disappoints or walks away without remorse.

The Choice–God’s Restoration: With heartfelt sorrow, we confess and repent, [leaving the sinful Game] and receive spiritual restoration from the blood of Jesus Christ. “For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight…” (Psalm 51:3-4).

The Choice–Remain a Player: Many become angry and depressed, blaming God for not blessing their pursuits or relationships. They embrace the trending belief, “You can’t have success without failures,” and they decide to develop different strategies and continue to pursue their desires. Pride consoles them as they up the ante, “I’ll develop different strategies or find another individual with different values.” Now they have no need for God’s divine direction. They think of themselves as experienced players in the Game of Chance.

The Apostle Paul has forewarned us in 2 Timothy 3 regarding the condition of the last days. There is no middle ground. The player is seeking earthly rewards. But the righteous believe Jesus’ promise to supply all of our needs. We ask in prayer for God’s will to be done and patiently wait for God’s blessings. “He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7).

Prayer: God, we thank You for seeking us to save our souls when we have wandered away. We pray for forgiveness, not because of the devastating consequences we have suffered. But because we desire to leave the Game of Sinful pleasures. Today, we surrender our hearts and ask to renew our covenant vow with You. In Jesus’ Worthy Name, we pray. Amen.

Who Was Our Best Example of Faith?

Sharing this Daily Devotional by D. Winn

I have often asked groups of people to nominate whom they believe to be the best example of “faith” in the Bible. Most people favor the familiar heroes of faith: Abraham, Job, Moses, or Elijah. Some mention John the Baptist or David.

When asked to explain their choices, people usually speak of those events, such as Abraham’s offering of Isaac, in which people do remarkable things that don’t appear to make any sense. For many Christians it appears that faith has more to do with blind incredulity than with a life-changing relationship.

Jesus Christ is our best example of faithfulness!

Jesus spoke explicitly of His faith relationship with divinity outside of Himself: “I do nothing on my own authority, but in all that I say, I have been taught by my Father.  He who sent me is present with me, and has not left me alone; for I always do what is acceptable to him” (John 8:28, 29, N.E.B.).  The divinity that charged Jesus’ life with power and purpose was not His own, but His Father’s.

Prayer: God, we pray for an increase in faith and the desire to obey Your will for our lives. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Living With Joyful Anticipation

We have so much to be thankful for. Yes, God’s mercies are new every day. Great is His Faithfulness! We have provisions, protection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and God’s overwhelming love, as demonstrated by many scriptural promises. “The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with loving devotion.'” (Jeremiah 31:3).

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for God has said: ‘Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you. I will never leave you or forsake you.'” (Hebrews 13:5)

Yet, many live with anxiety and worries regarding a situation or the future. And then there are the overconfident individuals who are self-reliant–directing their steps by using prior experience or strategies without ever thinking of asking for Divine intervention. Last, we have people who always run to friends and family to resolve their hardships.

How did believers who Christ says be one with Him become so diverse in our mindsets? It is not surprising that unbelievers do not trust God when they see and hear the inconsistencies [faithlessness] of those who say God is great! We must stop living with fear and self-reliance. We are privileged to serve God and represent Jesus to an unbelieving world.

God never expected us to figure life out. He knows the opposition [spiritual warfare] that we face every day. God promises to take care of us. “God can do nothing for me until I recognize the limits of what is humanly possible, allowing Him to do the impossible.” Oswald Chambers

Seek God first every morning, always praying throughout the day and ending with an evening prayer of gratitude. Pray earnestly for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Decide to fully trust in God by anticipating the fruition of His promises in your life.

Reflect on your life journey and acknowledge that God worked supernatural miracles to bring you through as blessed and highly favored. Live in joyful anticipation of blessings every day! Change your way of thinking by entirely relying on God, our Heavenly Father. Behold, is there anything too hard for me?

God desires that we have cheerful dispositions even in times of hardships. Faith in God gives us inner peace and the ability to possess childlike expectancy. Remember that our living is not in vain. One glorious day we will behold our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Prayer: God, we thank You for loving us, for the gift of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, and for Your long-suffering toward us. We pray for the renewal of our minds. And we praise You with joyful anticipation as You continue to direct our lives. We pray in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Change in the Atmosphere, part 2, The Apostle Paul

For the past week, I have been studying the life of the Apostle Paul. The conversion of Saul, a murderer of Christians, to a devout and faithful disciple is evident throughout the 14 books in the New Testament. In his Second Letter to Timothy, Paul was fully aware that the end of his life was near. Paul’s imprisonment was unjust, but the Roman leaders believed that Christianity would phase out with Paul, the agitator incarcerated. The message of a Savior, Jesus Christ, opposed the ancient Roman pagan belief system. Still, their main concern was the impact on the possibility of decreased financial gifts.

The Roman Empire was a primarily polytheistic civilization, which meant that people recognized and worshiped multiple gods and goddesses. Despite monotheistic religions within the empire, such as Judaism and early Christianity, Romans honored the presence of numerous deities. Jul 6, 2018, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/article/gods-and-goddesses-ancient-rome/#:~:text=The%20Roman%20Empire%20was%20a,Christianity%2C%20Romans%20honored%20multiple%20deities.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you. 2 Timothy 4:5 NLT

Paul’s only offense: God designated Paul to preach the gospel to the Gentiles who believed in gods and goddesses. Financial offerings were given by the people, which sustained the greed of the governing leaders. Even so, Christianity grew in leaps and bounds due to the continual witnessing by the Apostle in heavy chains. While imprisoned, he endured extreme suffering for many years. Yet, Paul’s abounding faith was an example of Jesus’ suffering, leading to many Roman guards’ acceptance of Jesus Christ. Bible scholars estimate his age to be between 60-68 at the time of death. The wicked Emperor Nero was responsible for the execution by the beheading of God’s faithful Apostle.

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Timothy 4:6-8

The Apostle Paul clearly reveals that immortality is not received at the time of a person’s death. Yet, many believers hold on to the false concept that the person is either in heaven or burning in hell at death. Jesus answered, “You are mistaken because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matthew 22:29.

Jesus’ body was in Joseph’s tomb when He was resurrected. Angels were sent from heaven to roll back the heavy stone. Although the Jewish leaders spread the false news that the disciples had stolen His body, the guards witnessed the event.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord and that He had spoken these things to her. John 20:16-18

The Holy Spirit is truth. The Human Effort of praying for the discernment and guidance from the Holy Spirit is vital to our belief in the scriptures, spiritual growth, perseverance, and endurance. We must decide to believe the biblical truth or to embrace the twisted concepts of our greatest Deceiver. It is a conscious decision to faithfully obey God by asking that His will be done in our lives. Turning our eyes upon Jesus requires wholehearted commitment. We have a Spiritual Team ready 24/7 to assist us in our journey on the Path of Righteousness. Through Christ, we can live holy and righteous lives, witnessing to others with confidence that we have fought the good fight, just as the Apostle Paul.

Prayer: God, we thank you for salvation. Please reveal the method of how we can witness the Good News of Jesus Christ to others. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Give Us This Day

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34 NLT

Have you ever had worries about your future? If yes, then most likely you have not memorized Matthew 6:19-34. Jesus provides the reassurance and guarantees that He will provide for every necessity in our lives. Beyond knowing the due dates for monthly bills or pending appointments, we should have no concerns regarding the future–not even tomorrow. We are not even guaranteed the next day, so we should be extremely grateful for the mercies of life for today.

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” Matthew 6:31‭-‬32 NLT

Recently, I listened to the testimony of a young man who said that the Holy Spirit spoke to him during church service to give all of the money he had in his pocket, which wasn’t enough to last until payday [the next week]. He obeyed. The next day at work, he realized that he previously promised to meet a couple of coworkers for lunch. As he drove to McDonald’s, without a penny, he would tell his coworkers that he wasn’t hungry. But on the way, he stopped to help an older man who had car trouble. From that act of kindness, God blessed him with enough money to last until payday.

This is a story of obedience and a giant leap of faith and trust in God. In verse 32, Jesus reveals our status as faithless and compares us to unbelievers who constantly worry when we think about tomorrow. We have an immediate decision to make–to live with or without faith. It’s up to us. Be aware of the consequences of choosing to rely on yourself. Without faith, we live miserable lives. It is not possible to have unspeakable joy and peace without total belief in God, our Provider.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10. “Abundant life” refers to life in its abounding fullness of joy and strength for mind, soul, and body. Jesus promised that if we live day by day and fully trust in Him that our joy would be complete. Go ahead, thank our Jehovah Jireh for His loving care of always giving us needful provisions. Living a faith-based life guarantees us the fulfillment of God’s promises.

Prayer: God, we ask for forgiveness of our doubt and unbelief in you. We thank you for your promises of “Yes and Amen.” In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Resilience of Humanity

The most phenomenal event that I have ever witnessed occurred when I was in nursing school. I was in the Maternal-Child clinical rotation for 6 weeks and was disappointed because I had not seen the birth of a baby. There was an influx of mothers admitted as high-risk pregnancies, and the hospital’s policy restricted student nurses from being assigned to that category of patients.

After 3 weeks, I received the good news that I was assigned to a healthy young mother in labor with her first child. All went well, and within four hours, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. In witnessing the birth, I almost fell to the floor. No, it was not because of fear. At that moment, I knew that God was greater than my mind could ever comprehend. I was so overwhelmed that I wanted to fall to my knees and worship the Creator of all humanity. Even so, I had to exercise complete restraint or risk being expelled from the nursing program.

Although I studied Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, etc., and possessed theoretical knowledge, I was not prepared for the magnitude of seeing a new life enter the world. Perhaps that is the breakdown. If we took the time to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of our mind and body, our perspective of God would be one of reverence and grateful servitude.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

Is it because I was born into a family with the hereditary gift of artistic creativity that I can create visual imagery of God bending down, making a man from dust, and breathing life into the first human being? Surely not! We have lost our desire to contemplate the wonders of God as represented in the human body and mind. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. Psalms 139:14

Have you ever thought about your heart that beats without your intervention?

Your heart beats about 100,000 times in one day and about 35 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/heart/heartfacts.html

What did King David realize when he said that we are fearfully and wonderfully made? The emotional trauma or physical injury that many have endured does not stop the heart from beating or the lungs from breathing. The residual effects of sadness may cause us to feel as if we will not live another day, but we continue. And at some point, we accept that we are compelled to move forward. With each new day, even if therapeutic intervention is needed, we provide our bodies with the food and fluids required to sustain our lives. All it takes is a shred of hope and a mustard seed size of faith, and we begin to regroup and rebuild our lives.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 CSB

For those who have children, a parent will rarely throw in the towel on their maturing child. They respond to the child’s needs [or children] by using their mental and emotional strength to push them through the process of growth and development. Our Father God created us with the resiliency to keep going despite our circumstances. Even when we reject Him, God does not retaliate by distancing Himself or by ending our lives. He surrounds us. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence. Psalm 139:7

We must address the impact of the hardships of life that pierce our souls. 

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him. For the help of His countenance. Psalm 42:5

In reading the Psalms, we recognize that David was a musician who was very intense and emotional.  Although he was a king who had all of the physical amenities of life, David struggled with discouragement. And rightly so, the individuals living in the palace despised the fact that God had anointed him to be their King. Many of us can relate to not having the love, understanding, and nurturing from those we lived with or were raised by. Yes, it produces sadness. But we do not have to end up the way we started. God is a healer of all infirmities. He is a God of new beginnings!

Even in his distress, David was aware that his duty was to maintain a close relationship with God. The book of Psalms portrays a man who experienced roller-coaster emotions, yet, David constantly acknowledged God’s omnipresence. The verses of his songs reveal the condition of the fragile human heart along with God’s compassion and His desire to heal our brokenness and soothe our hearts with His never-failing love. David continuously acknowledged his love and adoration for the God who always sees, is ever-present and never forsakes us.

Let us make the concerted effort to thank God for our highly complex mind and body that He made in His image. But also remember, we have a soul that longs for a constant spiritual connection to God. The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

Prayer: God, we ask for your healing touch on our minds and bodies. Please comfort our hearts and reveal your love as we continue to faithfully serve you. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

For the Love of Money

Strong, self-reliant, in-control, achiever, talented, and powerhouse are just a few adjectives we use to describe the people we respect. Striving to achieve wealth is a core value among most individuals who live in Capitalistic nations. 

Capitalism is often thought of as an economic system in which private actors own and control property in accord with their interests, and demand and supply freely set prices in markets in a way that can serve the best interests of society. … It is this rational self-interest that can lead to economic prosperity. https://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2015/06/basics.htm

The issue with Capitalism lies within the goal, “chasing economic prosperity”. Money produces divisions in social classes. But the love of money is more addicting than every illicit drug. The emotional roller-coaster that most ride on is caused by the love of or the lack of money. It is nearly impossible not to fall in love with the prosperity that money brings to our lives.

Most are powerless to their desire for wealth. Money embraces us with her comforting arms while blinding our spiritual eyes. We easily become the victim to its demand for servitude–“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24

Our assets promote confidence and place us in a cozy comfort zone. We have no worries when our liabilities are under control. Living with plenty makes us kick our shoes off and throw our clothes on the floor, as we relax listening to some great music. Yes, we congratulate ourselves on our achievements. Life is good! Isn’t it?

Before we become annoyed by asking, “What’s wrong with enjoying the fruits of my labor and possessing savvy financial management?” That is a separate issue from, “It is this rational self-interest that can lead to economic prosperity.” Because I am a believer in the Most-High God, my life is patterned after Jesus Christ. So my blogs are from a believer’s perspective based on the Word of God–the Bible.

By no means do I consider myself a Bible scholar. But throughout my years of studying, I cannot find any scriptures that support Capitalism. In fact, the Four Gospels [written by four different men with varied personalities] vividly relays Jesus’ perspective on accumulating wealth. throughout their writings, King Solomon and the Apostle Paul addressed the complicated consequences that loving money brings. Read Ecclesiastes 5:10, Hebrews 13:5, and 1 Timothy 6:10.

Why was Jesus adamant about the destructive consequences of “riches?”

And He said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourselves against every form of greed, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Luke 12:15 BSB. The Pharisees were hypocrites who lived by double standards. Their responsibility was to teach others about God’s laws, but they thought too highly of themselves to obey said rules for the ordinary people.

Luke 8:4-15, The Parable of the Sower, is a powerful revelation of the different types of people who hear the gospel of truth and how they react. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life and bring no fruit to maturity. Luke 8:14. When serving God, we must produce fruit while living a faithful, obedient life. We die daily to our sinful nature by striving for righteousness.

The pursuit of wealth chips away at your inner resolve–chasing wealth and comforting yourself with a “no worries ever” mindset weakens your God-given mental, emotional, and spiritual strength. Your perspective is fixated on your accomplishments and the good life. Where does dependency on God fit in?

I recall Joyce Meyer sharing a story of a red dress she purchased. One day while cleaning out her closet [to give to a woman in need], she saw the red dress, and pushed it to the keeper’s side of the closet. “I heard the voice, ‘Take out the red dress and lay it on the bed.” As she bypassed the dress and pulled out more clothing, the command repeated itself only louder. “God, is that you? I know that you are not telling me to give away my favorite red dress that I have never worn.” The shortened version of her testimony is that she took the dress out of the closet and gave it away. From her encounter with God, Joyce Meyer was taught humility and the purpose of her ministry, to provide for those in need, spiritually and physically. 

Every day we see the earth’s rich covering of beautiful and colorful plant life, the varied species of animals, and the diversity of humanity, which reflect God. The Master Artist loves “Perfect Beauty.” It was never God’s purpose for us to live in poverty or be plagued with social issues and rampant diseases. Sinful desires have escalated beyond our control. The love of money has prevented our nations from eradicating the misery of poverty and the rapid growth of diseases. Yes, we have gone too far. What human being is worth $208 million for a few games?

For the love of money, many believers have traded in their desire to live in the New Heaven and New Earth. We have thrown in the towel on preparing ourselves for Jesus’ Second Coming. Grasping the here and now has empowered us to create a “heaven on earth,” as reflected in the Lifestyles of the Rich Believer.

But Luke 12 relays Jesus’ Parable of the Rich Fool:

Then I will say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry!”‘ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’ This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”…Luke 12:19-21 BSB

Prayer: God, please have mercy on us. We are distracted by the pursuit of happiness. We have lost our desire for eternal life. Living in the New Heaven and New Earth is a vague memory because of our love for money and earthly possessions. Forgive us, Heavenly Father. Create a clean heart and renew a spirit of humility within us. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry