The Light In the Darkness

The willingness to accept Jesus Christ as our Redeemer and Savior is from a responsive heart, which embraces Jesus’ sacrifice to give humanity salvation. As a result, we receive a spiritual transformation with a transformed heart that leads to a life of loving and caring. And yes, Jesus gives us a life complete with joy and peace, but also one of trials and sorrows as we travel down the Path of Righteousness. 

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled; do not be afraid.” John 14:27

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

If accepting Jesus and serving God provides us with peace and joy, then why are we in the predicament that even caused David to question himself: Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and my God! Psalm 43:5

The ongoing hardships of the 21st century have produced believers plagued with discouragement, depression, and a mindset surrounded by darkness. Something isn’t right! I asked a couple of individuals to give me their opinion of why we have so little faith and trust in God. They were not sure of how or why the mental and emotional conditions have increased throughout the years. Still, I do not wish to present only my viewpoint of this terrible dilemma. 

I deferred the question to my mother, who is 88 years young. “Mom, why do you think that modern believers do not possess the faith, trust, joy, and peace that serving God offers?

Her response, “They do not know God. Prayer and Bible study are not their priorities. How can you have faith and trust in someone that you don’t know? Life is tough, but God has promised to never leave us or forsake us.” 

History reveals that most individuals decided to walk into a church to turn their lives around by accepting Jesus. They were aware that their habits and behaviors had to change. Attending church, praying, and studying the Bible were the building blocks to forming a solid relationship with Jesus Christ. New believers were told that suffering through trials was necessary to change their character and to be a disciple. They understood that hardships would show up as changes in their lives, job loss, sickness, etc. We sang songs with lyrics that told us to faithfully hold on because Jesus will work it out.

Our conversations consisted of trusting in God because faith believes that God does the impossible. We kept hope alive by telling each other to expect deliverance and never give up while waiting for God’s answer. Oh, and the songs we learned and sang, “Trouble in my way, Jesus will fix it, after awhile,” “Victory is Mine,” “We are Marching to Zion,” and “Trust and Obey,” provided the additional strength to make it through those tough times. We prayed all day and night for stronger faith and trust in God. And we demonstrated our love for each other by calling, praying with them, and home visitation, always asking, “What do you need?”

Fast forward to 2021, and we now have a body of believers who have accepted Christ and do not attend church. They may find out through social media that believers must study the Bible and pray without ceasing. The “babes in Christ” require nurturing to help them through their spiritual journey. Sadly, many fall prey to the loneliness of being a Christian and succumb to discouragement and temptation.

Then we have the seasoned Christians who are mature, but are more concerned about self. They are the believers with spiritual strength, Yet, they have no desire to help the new believers or anyone overcome by the tribulations of life. In fact, the trending behaviors of performing random acts of kindness, pass it forward, giving tax-deductible charitable donations, and paying for the person’s groceries standing behind you while filming it for TikTok, they have consoled themselves with the thought that good deeds are acceptable to God. 

Still, these actions are not the same as having the “Character of Christ” and the “Fruit of the Spirit. “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you? And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'” Matthew 25:44-45

In the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, God has given us a record of the many events that reveal Jesus’ character. The life of Christ is given by four different men who followed Jesus. The Gospels agree that the Son of Man ministered to others without discrimination. Yes, Jesus was stern when He pointed out the pride and hypocrisy of the rulers who were teaching the law but oppressing the people with man-made rules that they did not keep. The central theme of the Bible is based on the Love of God. Jesus was loving, fair, tender, and full of compassion.

Remember the woman caught in adultery? Have you ever wondered why Jesus bent down? And what was He writing on the ground? What caused the people to turn and walk away?

4 they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” 6 This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. 7 So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 8 And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. John 8:4-8

Adultery for the woman was punishable by stoning to death. A theologian gives this answer, “Two scriptures point out that Jesus was writing on the ground. Many ask, “Why was Jesus writing on the ground?” He was writing the secret sins of her accusers. Once exposed, all they could do is turn and walk away in shame.”

One would think that Jesus’ disciples would possess His character. No, they had the same mindset that many possess right now:

That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. Matthew 14:15-17

When we accepted Jesus’ invitation, He accepted us just as we were, no questions asked. However, by studying the scriptures, we learn that our surrender to God involves a complete spiritual makeover. 1 Corinthians 13, The Love Chapter, gives us God’s definition of love, Galatians 5:22-23 tells the importance of being anointed with the Holy Spirit and the characteristics we are expected to possess. The Apostle Paul commands us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32.

The believer’s financial responsibility: But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3:17

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12. 

We have the free will of choice to serve God. Even so, with our commitment [to surrender], we agree to the transformation of our hearts and mind. Submission to the will of God is no longer an option. Giving ourselves wholeheartedly–without reservation allows us to conform obediently to our Heavenly Father.
We become transformed into the likeness of Christ. The person that we used to be, no longer exists. God uses trials to purge undesirable behaviors and negative traits from our character.

We must die daily to the fleshly desires of self [Romans 8:13]. Sanctification is a life-long journey on the Path of Righteousness. Preparation to receive the reward of eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth requires Divine intervention. We cannot save ourselves. Allowing God to do a great work within gives us the perseverance to move forward in Jesus’ name.

The struggle is real. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, suffering is part of our servitude. Still, we have a loving, compassionate, and powerful Heavenly Intercessor, Jesus Christ that promises to see us through. Always remember that Jesus is the light that will shine through the darkness in our lives.

“being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; Philippians 1:6

Prayer: Thank you, God. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Holy Spirit. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Returning to Jesus, Our First Love

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Do you remember when you first accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? At that moment, you realized that anyone who would suffer and die on the cross to save you from sin that you wanted a relationship with Jesus. The promise of a new life through Jesus Christ and the opportunity for eternal life placed peace and joy in your heart. You were excited to share with others that God is love and Jesus sacrificed his life for us.

You were running well. Who hindered you, not to obey the truth? Galatians 5:7. The vicissitudes [a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant], trials, temptations, and sorrows are more than we can deal with alone. Yes, many have support from friends and family, but they cannot fill the emptiness in our souls. “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 tells us we can do nothing without Him. But we certainly try until we are worn and weary, leaving us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually depleted. Please know the distractions that we focus on will always lead us to the wrong path, causing us to walk further away from Jesus. Eventually, we forget to pray and ask God for help. Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22.

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“The reason the Father loves Me is that I lay down My life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.” John 10:17-18

Search the scriptures, the central theme of the Bible is love. God is unconditional love. Jesus Christ told His Father, “I will die for them that they may have redemption from sin. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5

Our love for Jesus enables us to serve God with humility, faith, trust, and obedience. We rarely think about the concept that every individual before their death and before the Second Coming of Jesus is given the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. 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. 

Today, recommit your life to God. Jesus’ gift to humanity is priceless. For those who never made the commitment  to follow Jesus, consider this an opportunity to accept and embrace Jesus Christ. We are never alone in our journey. Yes, the road is rugged. Still, we have a powerful and loving spiritual team who loves us, intervenes for us using their divine, supernatural power, and is committed to caring for us until we take our last breath. 

“Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:20.

Prayer: God, we thank you for your unconditional love. We ask for forgiveness for excluding you from our hearts. It is our desire to commit our minds, bodies, and souls to serve you. Jesus, we thank you for suffering and dying for us. Please give us the strength to withstand the stormy and dark seasons in our lives by always stay connected to you. We love you. In Jesus’ worthy name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

“But Who Do you Say I Am?”

Whether we learn from experience or from researching every possible detail before purchasing, or acceptance of “proven theories or methods,” we still rely on the expertise of other individuals. No person is “self-made.” Seeking knowledge coupled with wisdom is the foundation for living a fulfilling life. It is a personal decision to evolve in a world that consists of dynamic processes, norms, and values determined by the people for the people. Even if, we agree or disagree with the global culture, we are compelled to make the decision to fit in or exclude ourselves. Our convictions always involve some level of risk. Yes, we have the freedom to stand against the status quo, but that decision takes courage and self-confidence. Most often, exclusion from one’s peers can lead to a lonely existence.

Humanity has several common threads. We thrive off knowing the most credible, the elite, the record-breakers, the billionaires, etc., on a global level.  When you need to source accurate information on the past history, achievements, and current activities of leading world figures, from heads of state to sporting greats, The International Who’s Who 2020 published by Routledge is available for the discounted price of $960.

But an issue has arisen that plagues modern civilization. The Who’s Who are being challenged by the up-and-coming who desire that their opinions are heard. And that is the dilemma that many of us face in changing times, “Who do I listen to?” Why are people who possess similar credentials and considered experts in their profession or discipline on the opposite ends of the spectrum? There are many factors, but one that readily projects itself, we have the freedom to express our opinions–whether factual or not. Our focus is on people. Many have lost or never possessed the motivation to research credible sources to know the truth of the matter.

At the age of 17, I entered the healthcare profession as a licensed vocational nurse [LVN, LPN]. Years later, when I became a registered nurse, my knowledge, along with my clinical responsibilities, increased substantially. However, there was one subject that remained the same, Human Anatomy and Physiology, throughout the pursuit of my advanced nursing degree. The structure and function of the human body are valid and unequivocally non-refutable. The disagreement among physicians is limited to the varied treatment modalities for their patients. Still, there is not much leeway in the delivery of patient care. All healthcare professionals are governed by regulatory agencies.

Sadly, humanity has a more significant problem than the anarchy against world leaders, disagreements between medical experts, and the chaos between federal agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and politicians. We are involved in a spiritual war between Christian religious leaders and their followers of the various Protestant denominations. Within the body of believers, there is disagreement over the Holy scriptures, disbelief of the Trinity, and whether or not, God really cares about human beings. Satan has gained additional followers–former believers because his deceptions include the promise of wealth. One of his tactics is that human beings have the power of manifestation to produce money and other material objects. The catch: They must proclaim their allegiance to him. The war of believers has escalated to the point that many have forgotten why they committed to serve God.

When did God become a religion or denomination? 

Is there one and only true God? Why didn’t God forgive Satan? The study of the Bible, is it important? Why is the life of believer so hard? I know what I did was wrong, but doesn’t God promise forgiveness? These are just a few of the questions that many believers are asking. Many of the religious leaders are avoiding the answers to these questions by preaching motivational messages.

Does anyone remember that the most critical aspect of our lives is to have a relationship with Jesus Christ?

Historically, dissension among religious experts has existed since biblical times. “One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.” Matthew 16:1

  1. After 6AD, Jewish religious leaders were appointed by the Romans.
  2. The High Priests were both secular and religious leaders of the Jewish community. 
  3. Rabbis were Jewish religious teachers who taught and discussed interpretations of the Jewish law…Jesus was regarded as a Jewish rabbi (‘teacher’) by most of his followers (see Mark 10:1, 17, 35 & 51). The teaching of most rabbis reflected one of the three main religious schools of thought – Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes.
  4. The Jewish Council (the ‘Sanhedrin’) was also both a religious and political assembly. It enforced the religious laws regulating Jewish worship and legislated on day-to-day affairs in Jerusalem and throughout Judaea. Prominent members of the council in Jesus’s day included Nicodemus (see John 3:1), Joseph of Arimathea (see Mark 15:43 & John 19:38-39), and Gamaliel (who was Paul’s religious tutor) (see Acts 5:34 & 22:3).

There is a growing phenomenon in 2021 when people hear or read conflicting opinions. They readily accept the false and the inaccurate information but disregard the truth. “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24. Either they lack knowledge from not studying the Bible or possess the will to serve God according to their mindset.

The book of John is an account of Jesus’ disciple who was an eye witness to the events that He documented. Whenever Jesus taught, He was always challenged by the religious leaders [Matthew 16:1-4]. But their attempts were futile. They were very knowledgeable in the scriptures and doctrines, still they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God. Regardless of the supernatural miracles Jesus performed, the religious leaders refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah–prophesied in Isaiah 7:14. Jesus’ parables [a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.] exposed their diabolical mindsets, making them appear as leaders uneducated in the Scriptures.

Jesus did not have an easy life. He dealt with rejection, anger, and was always avoiding the people’s desire to stone Him to death. Even Jesus’ disciples had their own agenda. The disciples argued amongst themselves quite frequently over “Who was the greatest?” Severe rivalry existed between the twelve men. They were so competitive, when Jesus attempted to warn them of the deception of the religious leaders, they misunderstood His words. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” At this, they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.” Matthew 16:6-7

It would be interesting to know how they would have answered the religious leader’s confrontational questions. Sadly, even though the disciples were in the physical presence of Jesus as God Incarnatethe Son of God who is God in human form, manifesting divinity, holiness, and righteousness, their minds were filled with foolishness.

After making the Pharisee’s and Sadducees stand down [Matthew 16:1-4] Jesus and the disciples traveled to Caesarea Philippi; Jesus asked His disciples two questions:

  1. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Matthew 16:13
  2. “But who do you say I am?” Matthew 16:15

We can easily search the Internet to answer the first question. Countless religious articles describing various doctrinal beliefs of who Jesus really was [yes, other religions view Jesus in past tense] are available. They say that Jesus was a prophet, a great man, etc., but never the Son of God. Nor do religions apart from Christianity believe in the Second Coming of Jesus [Revelation 22]. 

Question #2 is up-close and personal. “Who do you say I am?” confronts your intimate, personal beliefs of who Jesus is to you. Salvation is a 1:1 relationship with God who is only available through His Son, Jesus Christ. The saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time,” is only applicable to humanity. We can never fool God at any time!

The Holy Spirit motivates us to self-evaluate, which is only possible when using the scriptures as our standard. We must come clean and face the most crucial relationship in the life of a believer. During worship this morning, I questioned the strength of my relationship with Jesus while reading Matthew 16. I could easily use many adjectives to describe the Alpha and Omega, but that would not answer the question, “Sonya, who do you say I am?”

Prayer: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson