“Me versus We” Where Do We Stand?

When I awaken each morning, I enter into worship, thanking God for receiving the new mercies for a new day. This morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read my evening devotional, which spoke about “a life centered in self.”

In the mid to late 90s, I worked in New York City, which required public transportation due to limited parking and traffic gridlocks. The New Jersey Transit system accommodated their interstate commuters with comfortable buses, making the 60-75 minute commute tolerable. I experienced an entirely new dimension of life in Upper Manhattan. The diversity of the various cultures revealed itself through the foods, clothing, languages, stores. Yes, it was fast, but every aspect of the city’s daily activities was exciting, with one exception. One concept boldly stood out–people had no consideration for others. Their observable behaviors and spoken words reflected “Only Me.”

Growing up with a Mother who is an ordained minister produced a benevolent spirit within me. In the church we attended, members helped each other along with many people in their communities. My elementary education was in a private Christian school, which instilled in the students to help those in need. We had field trips 1-2 times monthly to participate in charitable community activities. But a change has occurred in my mindset since I now live as head of household. My prevailing thoughts usually consist of my present and future.

“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

So, lets look at two perspectives [ psychosocial and spiritual] of “Me versus We.”

“Me versus We” is not a new concept. Sociology is a social science that analyzes human interactions, the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society. 

One big difference that psychologists have found between cultures is the difference between independence vs. interdependence as ways of thinking. These two ways of thinking come down to how we think of ourselves. One way of thinking is to consider yourself as an independent entity, focused on your own needs and desires. Another way of thinking is to consider yourself as an interdependent entity, focused on how you fit within a group of people. http://socialpsychonline.com/2016/01/independence-vs-interdependence-mindsets/

New research has shown that these mindsets can have a lot to do with how we visually see the world around us. socialpsychonline.com.

What a powerful and revealing concept; we are influenced by what we see.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. Mathew 6:22.

The things that we visualize with our eyes can propel us into changing our morals, values, and influence us to participate in sinful and dangerous activities. David warns us of looking without restraint: I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Psalm 101:3. Our eyes feed our desires. Eventually, we become desensitized to the devastation of sin. Instead of hating sin, as God does, we begin to enjoy the things that our eyes see.

We may console ourselves by saying, “But I do help others through my contributions.” Yes, we have philanthropists, non-profit organizations, persons who give charitable contributions and perform good deeds because they are motivated to help those in need. But that is not how God sees the spiritual aspect of “Me versus We.” Being a servant of God is not the same as a being a financial contributor. Jesus is the role model for the believer. Throughout Jesus’ life, His love and compassion is displayed for humanity by meeting their physical and spiritual needs through teaching the Word of God, and countless acts of alleviating suffering. He stood for justice [remember the woman caught in adultery?], fed multitudes, healed physical ailments, and raised the dead.

Jesus’ conversation with His disciples:

When evening came, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is already late. Dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” “They do not need to go away,” Jesus replied. “You give them something to eat.” Matthew 14:15-16.

We are also Jesus’ disciples. Where do we stand? Which mindset are we embracing, Me or We? Are we dismissing those in need by looking the other way? Do we consider giving back our tithe and offerings enough? What does God require of us?

Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the needy. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people. Psalm 82:3-4

In all things, I have shown you that by working hard in this way, we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:35

Carry the burden of souls upon your heart, and by every means in your power, seek to save the lost. As you receive the Spirit of Christ—the Spirit of unselfish love and labor for others—you will grow and bring forth fruit. The graces of the Spirit will ripen in your character. Your faith will increase, your convictions deepen, your love be made perfect. More and more, you will reflect the likeness of Christ in all that is pure, noble, and lovely.”—Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 67, 68.

Bible Study: 2 Kings 4 [Elisha Helps a Poor Widow]

Prayer: God, we confess and ask repentance for possessing a “Me” mindset. We desire to serve others as you continue to serve us. We ask you to please reveal the persons who need physical provisions and spiritual comfort. As we enter the Sabbath, please help us to focus on your life of serving humanity. In Jesus’ Holy name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

God’s GPS-Global Positioning and Protection System

Life is full of learning opportunities, but it also has many risks. Whether good or bad, most often we learn from experience. Truthfully, my preferences are to take the challenges to God and wait for guidance. Even so, God also provides us with the opportunities to learn from other individuals who have “been there, done that” and will share how to avoid a negative outcome–consequences. 

When the GPS directional system first became popular, my mom was in the hospital. Her Pastor and I were in the visitor’s lobby chatting about different things. And then, we started talking about the benefits of the GPS-Navigation, which provided the ease of putting in an address and simply following the directions versus maps. We laughed as we spoke about the wonders of human innovation and embracing progress. 

But then the conversation changed regarding the downside–yes, the cons of using a GPS. The system operates and is dependent on satellites–Satellite Navigation is based on a global network of satellites that transmit radio signals in medium-earth orbit. faa.gov. Pastor G. then proceeded to warn me against total dependency on the step-by-step directions, especially to a place you are traveling to for the first time. Your endpoint destination may differ from your desired destination, and inclement weather may interfere with or render the GPS useless. His last words, “God has given us a sound mind and common sense, technology cannot replace our ability to adapt to any given situation.”

In February, when traveling from Texas to Florida for relocation, I remembered and embraced the wise advice from Pastor G. The journey was 1400 miles in uncharted territory. I used Google Maps to plug in five destination points for my four-day journey and printed out several pages of directions. Several times during my trip, thunderstorms and heavy rain rendered my GPS Navigation useless. 

We face a life-long journey of unexpected challenges and dangers during our time on earth. Truthfully, humanity has a rough and rugged path to travel on from the day of our birth. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33 BSB. Even so, isn’t this the reason that we serve God?

Surrender and commitment to God, the Father, Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit is a requisite of serving God. He has positioned us in the 21st century [we are living in the last days] and provided us with the instructions and knowledge to tell others of Jesus. Through the power of our spiritual team along with faith, trust, and obedience, we can live a victorious life, and reach our final destination. And all of the instructions and spiritual road maps are neatly packaged in God’s Positioning and Protection System.

For us to be under God’s GPS, we must accept these doctrines:

Jesus Christ is the only one way to God. [Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6]. Fact: Every religion with the exception of Christianity negates Jesus as the only Way to Salvation.

Love: “‘Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:37-39

Faith: God has given each of us a measure of faith. Faith is action, we must believe without doubts.

And without faith [believing that God will always fulfill His promises] it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Prayer and Bible Study: Connects us to God and gives us the power to overcome.

The Bible-our roadmap to live righteously and have victorious outcomes.

Prayer-“Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend.” Ellen G. White

Human Effort + Divine Intervention = A Victorious Outcome and the Reward of Eternal Life

  1. Human Effort: Maintaining our relationship with Jesus is the only way to be an overcomer. “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
  2. Human Effort: Prayer is our life-line. Pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5:17] 
  3. Human Effort: Diligently study the Bible. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
  4. Human Effort: We need wisdom. Having knowledge is not enough. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:5
  5. Human Effort: Total obedience is required. There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12
  6. Human Effort: Pray for the Holy Spirit. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. John 14:26
  7. Human Effort: The Great Commission. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…Matthew 28:19-20, first part
  8. Divine Intervention: We are never alone! And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20, last part
  9. Divine Intervention: God-given instructions on how to overcome the temptations from Satan. Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41
  10. Divine Intervention: God promises that He would always take care of us by fighting our battles. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.
    Exodus 14:14
  11. Divine Intervention: Our sorrows, trials, and hardships will not overtake us. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

God’s Protection

Truth: For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

There is a trending fear expressed by many individuals on TikTok: Evil spirits can invade us [as in demon possession], our families, and our homes, although we are doing our best to serve God. Yes, we can expect attacks from the evil one. Satan enjoys placing fear, discouragement, doubt, and unbelief in our minds with many false beliefs and teachings. Do not believe the lies that the fallen angel is more powerful than the team of humanity and divinity! Hallelujah!

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

Satan and his evil angels are present on this earth. But in the next verse God gives us detailed instructions on what we need to do:

Human Effort:

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—Ephesians 6:14-19

Divine Intervention: For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up [hold you up], Lest you dash your foot against a stone [so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone]. Psalm 91:11-12

Everyday, our angels are protecting us from the evil ones [spiritual warfare]. If Satan had unleashed power, he would have killed Job [read Job chapter 1] and every present believer in the Omnipotent and Omniscient God would be dead. Do not fear! God loves us, and He has us. Even in our darkest storms, God will never let Satan beat us down. We are always protected by our Heavenly Father!

God’s Spiritual Positioning and Protection System works 24/7, especially during our storms. Let God direct you in every aspect of your life. Jesus loves us, died, and was resurrected for humanity. Stay under the protection of the Trinity Godhead. Do not look to the left or to the right. Keep your spiritual eyes focused on Jesus. Despite the last-day events and hardships we face, God’s directions are leading us home. Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1

Bible reading: Psalm 91, a song of protection

Prayer: God, we thank you for placing us under the safety of your GPS. We desire to receive our reward of eternal life. God, please give us strength to continue our journey. We ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit to give us understanding, and wisdom as we study the scriptures. Thank you for loving us and the gifts of grace and mercies of a new day. In Jesus’ Worthy name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

My Heart Belongs to You

We often think of the invisible God as being very distant from humanity. But is that accurate? Isn’t it in our hardships and sorrows that we feel abandoned? In Psalm 27, King David expresses that he was surrounded by enemies–men who were his closest advisors but wished his death. Was David aware that God knew his circumstances? Yes, but he honestly expressed his innermost feelings of being afraid. And rightfully so, we cannot imagine living every day with people in our homes plotting our demise.

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
so why should I tremble?
2 When evil people come to devour me,
when my enemies and foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though a mighty army surrounds me,
my heart will not be afraid.
Even if I am attacked,
I will remain confident. Psalm 27:1-3

Our Heavenly Father sees and knows that the human heart is fragile. God is also aware that our hardships usually result in disconnecting ourselves from Him when we feel threatened and powerless. We are weakened by the unexpected; spiritual warfare, financial difficulties, family issues, loneliness, material loss, illnesses, broken relationships, the death of a loved one. First, we must acknowledge that the trials and sorrows in our lives cause pain and suffering, mentally, emotionally, and physically in illnesses. But have confidence, knowing that it is not God’s purpose to break or crush us. God’s purpose for our trials: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4 

During our challenges, human effort is required. God is waiting for us to seek His help and strength through prayer. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Within each of us is the buried response of “where is God? During our trials, we quickly forget God, our Deliverer when faced with overwhelming circumstances. Fear instead of faith comes easily when we perceive that our hardships are bigger than God. Identifying our perception of God involves an honest and in-depth self-evaluation. “How do I see God?”

Without believing, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27, we will continue to doubt the Omnipotence–supernatural power of God, our Creator, Provider, and Sustainer.

Still, in His loving-kindness and mercy, God reaches out to His beloved.

    1. Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23
    2. My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.” Psalm 27:8

We may acknowledge the power of God, but do we belong to him? Have we given God our hearts? Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” John 10:14. Our commitment to God is reliant on surrender, commitment, total faith and trust. Doing our part means having a dependent relationship with God, our Father. Yes, we are to become as little children, totally dependent on the love and power of our Heavenly Father. Human Effort + Divine Intervention = Victory!

To experience daily spiritual growth, our hearts must stay connected to Jesus Christ, who is the only way to God. “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

There are many benefits to giving our hearts to God. First, we gain total peace, resulting in spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical strength. Faith and trust in God, even during stormy trials, give us courage, contentment, and confidence. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:7

We can achieve peace during the harshest trials and sorrows. Knowing that we will feel the pain that accompanies spiritual growth; yet, trusting in God gives us the strength to press on, in Jesus’ name. God is preparing us for eternal life. Jesus gave His life that we may receive immortality and live in the New Heaven and New Earth when He comes again. Giving our heart [total commitment] to our Savior will produce the character traits of love, faith, trust, patience, obedience, courage, and confidence. Yes, it is time for us to have a heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God, we are going through some hard times and we need your love, comfort, and divine intervention. Please give us the strength to endure our trials. We are confident that you will bring victory. We ask this prayer in the powerful name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Having Certainty in Chaos

We live in a time of constant change. Despite our astute skills and life experience, many individuals struggle to maintain balance and consistency in their current lifestyles. The pressure remains for us to embrace and pursue upgrades from the food we eat to the vehicles that we drive. Instead of our homes representing a safe haven and comfort zone, someone has convinced us that happiness and tranquility are only available when purchasing their amenities. And yes, we convince ourselves that spending money does result in a comfortable and fulfilling life.

Technology represents power and demands a presence that remains unmatched in its hypnotic effects on our brains. We must have it, the latest and the greatest. The cellular device we bought six months ago is worthless and ready to be recycled. The dream of 5G and beyond has reached fruition and is the here and now. Is 5G available in your area? Because the big V not only “Has Thousands of Smarter 5G towers,” they also proclaim “This is 5G Built Right,” and we can “Feel the power of 5G Ultra Wideband.” Yet, a significant security breach has occurred, and customer’s demographics and other personal information have been displayed between the firm’s employees and customers. Bitdefender Total Security. Are we compromising our values to overlook the exposure of highly confidential data?

Yes, we are striving for the lifestyles of the animated series [cartoon], “The Jetsons,” created by Hanna-Barbera that aired from 1962-1963. Almost six decades ago, the future was represented as the epitome of perfection. We were supposed to achieve self-actualization by the 21st century. Where is our utopia? “A utopia is an imaginary community or society that possesses highly desirable or nearly perfect qualities for its citizens.” Wikipedia

Sadly, we sacrifice our mental and emotional health to fulfill our desires [that others have convinced us that it was our idea] for material possessions. We readily embrace the deception of a false sense of security that comes from possessing tangible assets. At what point do we say, “Enough is enough?”

We have so little time to give to God. Our spiritual health is suffering from malnutrition. In tough times of adversities that Jesus promised would happen: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33, we crash and burn because we do not have the knowledge of God’s promises. There is no time to build and sustain a relationship with God. The distractions of the “little gods” of this world have caused us to promise our Creator that we will do better tomorrow [by praying and studying the Bible], but tomorrow never comes. 

We can change if we have the desire and courage to change!

Embrace the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and My sheep know Me, just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep.” John 10:14-15 (BSB),

Jesus says to “Build on the Rock.” He is the only source of certainty in the chaos that engulfs our minds, bodies, and souls. It is the “Rock” that provides peace, true joy, and the reward of eternal life. 

Certainty: A firm conviction that something is the case.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 (BSB)

Prayer: God, we admit that we do not know where to begin in achieving certainty in our lives. Yes, we desperately need your help and your guidance. Today we say, “enough is enough.” Please forgive us and reveal your plans to get us out of our chaotic lifestyles. We ask this prayer in the powerful and worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Do not Fear!

This message was written in the 1800s and addresses a serious issue that has escalated among today’s believers, Fear. Be blessed, pray, and receive the victory from fear.

Morning Devotional by Ellen G White

Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Isa. 43:1

Often our trials are such that they seem almost unbearable, and without help from God they are indeed unbearable. Unless we rely upon Him we shall sink under the burden of responsibilities that bring only sadness and grief. But if we make Christ our dependence, we shall not sink under trial.

When all seems dark and unexplainable we are to trust in His love; we must repeat the words that Christ has spoken to our souls, "What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter." Do not go about as if Jesus were in Joseph's tomb, and a great stone were rolled before the door In the trial of your faith show that you know you have a risen Saviour, One who is making intercession for you and your loved ones.

The Bible places the responsibility of our happiness upon ourselves. We are to look to the light of life. Our usefulness depends on our own course of action. We are so anxious, all of us, for happiness, but many rarely find it because of their faulty methods of seeking, in the place of striving. We must strive most earnestly and mingle all our desires with faith. Then happiness steals in upon us almost unsought.

When we can, notwithstanding disagreeable circumstances, rest confidingly in His love and shut ourselves in with Him, resting peacefully in His love, the sense of His presence will inspire a deep, tranquil joy. This experience gains for us a faith that enables us not to fret, not to worry, but to depend upon a power that is infinite.

We shall have the power of the Highest with us. Jesus stands by our side. As the trials come, the power of God will come with them.

From My Life Today – Page 189 Ellen G White

Your “Red Sea” Experiences

In 2002, I relocated from Upstate NY to New Jersey following the layoff of my nursing position. Unemployment barely provided enough money to pay my monthly expenses. The process for obtaining my NJ RN license was close to $400, which left me with no options other than to work in New York City. As I sent out resumes, I was excited because of the 90% response. Red Flag! Deciding on the right fit was based on the highest salary. Since I had worked for Division of Parole and in Behavioral Health, I decided to take a position in an all-male inpatient Rehab facility. The job was excellent, with one exception: the location required on-street parking.

Before the first day of orientation, I received a call with instructions to call the facility on arrival, give the exact location of where I parked, and an escort would be sent to accompany me to the locked facility. Red Flag! Although my orientation schedule was from 7 am-3:30 pm, my schedule would be from 2pm-10pm. At 6:40 am, I called, the escort arrived at my car, and I began to wonder why I required a male staff. When I questioned the security guard escort, he responded that it was the facility’s policy. At the end of the shift, I received instructions that I could not make eye contact or speak to any “individual hanging out” by my vehicle.

When we arrived at my car, 10 or 15 gang members were strapped with guns in full view . Yes, it was only 3:45 pm. “Remember what I told you.” As I started my car, I decided that I would not return the next day. At 5pm, I received a call from the Administrator, “How was your first day? I realize what you have seen may have surprised you, but we have never had an incident with our nurses. There is a level of respect on the streets when you are doing good for their community. Give us a chance and see you tomorrow.” All when well the first week. But on Wednesday of the following week, at 10 pm, I looked, and three men were sitting on the hood of my car. The guard immediately told me to let him handle the situation. I said a prayer and responded, “No, it is my car. I will handle this.”

The conversation: “You know what guys, I’m tired, I have a long ride home to Jersey and you are sitting on my car.” They started smiling, “We are sitting on her car.” So I asked, “Do you know who I am?” which brought laughter. “Okay, I will tell you. I am the nurse at the Odyssey House.” Immediately, I received apologies from men with guns, tatted with gang symbols. I said a quick thank you and drove off. From that day forward, I was told to park on that street, and they would always provide protection for me and my car. After a couple of paychecks, I obtained my NJ nursing license, and I resigned.

Fear was not something that I felt because I knew that God would answer my prayer and heavenly angels were protecting me, not men with guns. I have never been exposed to that level of danger again. But I would definitely count that as one of my worst “Red Sea” experiences.

And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:10-12

Although many individuals have never experienced the compromise of their physical safety to that extreme, we have another level of fear: the uncertainties of life. Mental illnesses among believers [in the Most-High God] are at an all-time high. The sermons have changed from preparing for Jesus to come again and having faith and trust in God to steps for relieving your anxiety and worries. The hymns, “Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” are songs of the old-time believers. Now lyrics include, “God, its me, not feeling like getting out of my bed this morning” and “God, where are you? Not feeling near to you, at all.”

This morning during worship, God reminded me of this gang-related incident. Our feelings [including mine] are out-of-control. We are not living faith-based lives, nor do we trust in God. When adversity and hard times hit, our first response is self-reliance. Instead of immediately asking God for help, like the Israelites, we feel that God has left us alone to fight our battles–Red Sea experiences.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” Exodus 14:12-13

“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:14

Jesus told us that our lives will be full of hardships: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33, Amplified Bible

God, is aware of every sorrow, trial, and hardship in our lives. We are not abandoned or left alone to figure out the answer. He is waiting for us to ask Him to fight our battles. If you do not memorize any other verse in the Bible, please remember this one: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27

Prayer: God, we need your help. We have forgotten how to pray, our faith is weak, and we trust in our own abilities. Please forgive our doubt and unbelief, and for neglecting you through prayer and study of the Bible. We desire a relationship with you built on faith, trust, and obedience. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.

Please note: All of the life experiences that I share with you are truth. When I reflect on my nursing employment in the Criminal Justice system, Behavioral Health (locked units) and providing care to gang members, I know that there is a God because I am still alive with my right mind. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

Power, Love, and a Sound Mind

The writings [letters] of the apostle Paul in the New Testament to the churches and young Timothy reveal his fatherly character. Paul was loving, kind, nurturing, promoted harmony and the appropriate conduct for believers. Yet, he was a disciplinarian who believed in self-control, structure, discipline, and strict obedience to God. The apostle encouraged the early Christians to strive for the mark because eternal life would be the reward for the faithful. And yes, they needed strong and consistent spiritual support because the Roman Empire persecuted and killed many of the early church Christians.

The emphasis is not a historical overview of the suffering of those who follow Christ but a reminder of our religious liberty and the freedom to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. The selection of churches and the decision to join a body of believers is a choice that we take for granted as modern-day Christians. Yet, in 2021, there are individuals who are forced to worship secretly. And how many are experiencing persecution from families and governments because of their commitment to serve Jesus?

“I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith…” 1 Timothy 1:2

Young Timothy had proven himself with the zeal and energy to witness. He was a faithful disciple who had a passion to make disciples. Timothy witnessed to many individuals who accepted Jesus as Lord. The Apostle Paul became his spiritual mentor, writing two letters–1st and 2nd Timothy to provide guidance on the practical matters of the church. Even so, it was Paul’s intent to teach Timothy that he was a spiritual role model who must have strong faith, a godly conscience, to remain above reproach, and utilize the spiritual gifts that God had given him (1 Timothy 4:12–16). Mentoring still remains a vital component of Christian believers: Those who are strong in faith and spiritually mature are admonished to provide mentoring to the babes in Christ.

Sadly, we do not see the need for spiritual support, and many new believers become overwhelmed. Feeling alone, they eventually give up and return to their former way of life.

By the time, Paul wrote the letter of 2nd Timothy, he was a prisoner waiting for execution. The natural and expected emotional reaction from Timothy occurred [being mindful of your tears…2 Timothy 1:4]. Paul acknowledged his grief but reminded him that he possessed faith. “when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.” 2 Timothy 1:5. But there was a greater problem, Timothy feared for his own life.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7

Not only did Paul confront Timothy regarding his fear of suffering and death, in reading the remainder of the letter [chapter] Paul reminded him that there is no shame in suffering, and to remain loyal to the Faith despite the outcome.

The letters of 1 and 2 Timothy are for us–today’s Christian believers. Many have little to no faith when faced with stormy trials, seasons of darkness, and daily hardships. Is lack of faith and possessing fear the characteristics of believers? Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Deuteronomy 31:6.

Be strong and courageous! We serve a powerful and loving God who promises to take care of us. Acknowledge and accept your God-given character: Fearless, powerful, loving, possessing mental, emotional, and spiritual strength–a rational mind knowing and believing in faith God will deliver us and bring victory to our situation.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. Isaiah 43:2

If any one should have anxieties, and worries, it should only occur in the unbelievers who do not acknowledge or serve God.

Believers in the Most-High God begin to study the Bible, pray without ceasing, and ask to be guided and directed by the Holy Spirit. We cannot be prepared for the revocation of religious freedom and the persecution that “we the free” will experience one day without the knowledge of God’s Word and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Nor can we remain faithful in trying times. Proclaim your heritage–God is our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ redeemed us from sin, and the Holy Spirit is our Teacher and Comforter!

Bible Study: 1 and 2 Timothy

Prayer: God, we admit that we are not studying the Bible as we should, nor do we pray enough. Our burdens are heavy. We didn’t realize all we have to do is turn the cares of this life over to you. We ask forgiveness for not doing our part in the plan of salvation. Please impart your strength to us that we may faithfully serve you until the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ. We ask this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

The Refreshing Relationship

Is there anything you feel is standing between you and God?

Many have created a spiritual comfort zone that includes certain behaviors and habits that compromise their relationship with Jesus Christ. Holding on to stuff, emotional scars, unforgiveness, relationships with unbelievers, wayward habits, and secret sins prevent us from having a serious relationship with God. Although our secret sins are unknown to others, God is fully aware of the self-seeking desires that keep us distanced from Him. Can you imagine being in a committed relationship with a significant other involved with you and someone else?

The above question contains two words, “you feel” which immediately places us in the realm of compromise. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9. God leaves no stone unturned when He says that we cannot evaluate ourselves according to our standards. No one is exempt. It is easy to say, “Oh no, I would never do that” or ask “How could they have done something so terrible?” Yet, we neglect God by placing more importance on the demands of people, places of entertainment, and things that make us feel good.

How do we know if we are obedient and following God’s commandments? The Bible is our guidebook to living faith-based righteous lives. The Bible is not a self-help book. Yes, we study the Bible for knowledge. Even so, God never expected us to travel this journey without His help. Our connection with God is vital because He is the source of our strength. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned.… ” John 15:5-6

It is our faith that causes us to have a totally dependent relationship with God. When we finally decide to serve God wholeheartedly, we can have trials of fire, seasons of darkness, and continually thirsty souls. Still, we also will have the confidence and courage to wait on the Lord our God who promises to deliver us.

The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought,
And strengthen your bones;
You shall be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:11

Prayer: God, we are standing in the need of prayer. We confess that we are wavering between you and our self-seeking desires, and for this we ask for forgiveness. We desire to have a relationship with you built on faith, trust, and obedience. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson