Following Your Heart?

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 16 Happy Sabbath!

Pursue happiness. Go for it. Follow your dreams. Live well. You only have one life. Look out for yourself.

Self-seeking gratification is at an all-time high. This behavior is the standard for most unbelievers, but are you aware that when believers make plans without seeking God’s approval, we are also guilty of pursuing our desires? For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. Romans 8:7

I can recall looking for a travel bag. I went to my favorite store first, and there it was the perfect bag. As I walked toward the bag, another person picked it up. No! I wanted that bag. But then something happened that I have only seen one time in my life. The woman bowed her head, prayed, placed the bag back on the rack, and walked away. Greedily, I grabbed the bag off of the shelf and thanked God for my blessing. But was it a blessing? I missed the message that God was sending to me. At the time, I had a serious problem with impulsive spending. I had three other travel bags, but I desired something new.

The story may seem insignificant. But following our heart’s desires always leads us in the opposite direction of God’s plans for us. Our goal is to always stay in sync with God by following His directions, which keep us on the Path of Righteousness. Even Jesus placed God’s will above His own. Everything He did pleased God. Saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.

Part One of Surrender and Submission: Incorporate Jesus’ prayer before planning your day-to-day activities, pursuits, and schedule. Present your short-term and long-term goals to God in prayer. We can rely on God to always answer our prayers with, “Yes, No, or Not Now.” Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5. Pray and wait for God’s answers. Imagine living your life and never making another mistake because you seek God’s will first.

I developed an action plan: Every day, I pray, “Not my will [which only seeks to please myself], but your will for my life. God, help me to recognize your answer to my prayer.” Amen.

Part Two of Surrender and Submission: We wait until God gives us the answer. “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6. How will I know? God never makes us play the game of chance. When He speaks, you will know. Our position is to remain passive. We do not have to keep praying about the same situation. God never forgets.

Every aspect of our lives is a test to build our character and keep us humble, obedient servants of the Most-High God. Remember, it was our choice to make a covenant vow with God. And His expectations will always place us in the position to prove that we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind.

Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character, and character hope. Romans 5:4

Bible Study: Proverbs 3

Prayer: God, we ask forgiveness for the never-ending pursuit to please ourselves. Our prayer is, “God, not my will, but your will be done.” In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson  

Desires of the Heart

Humanity shares a common trait, and that is to aggressively pursue the desires of the heart. We desire the dream house, career, vehicle, lifestyle, and above all, the forever relationship with the perfect soul-mate who will help us achieve our goals. So what is wrong with wholeheartedly pursuing your dreams? Nothing at all! But there are exceptions.

When I decided to start a tutoring business for nursing students, I had a firm knowledge base of nursing theory and clinical practice. Even so, I had to teach entry-level students critical thinking skills and nursing judgment who were unable to choose the correct nursing action for the given patient scenario. On the exams, they were presented with four possible answers [with two being distractors], yet, they always chose the incorrect answer. Nursing programs are based on guided study, lectures, textbooks, and clinical practice. But the root of the problem was their lack of reasoning skills. Please know that Nurses do not have leeway. The wrong decision always compromises the patient’s safety.

Following the desires of the heart:

The Reality: The primary issue is not our desire to dream or developing strategies to achieve a fulfilling life. What happens when Plan A hits roadblocks? Most of us have not developed Plan B because we never anticipated failure of our initial plans. You may think, “that is a pessimistic outlook to develop short and long-term goals, and also think of developing alternate plans just in case things don’t work out.” Whether we choose to embrace this concept or to disregard it, the uncertainties of life are sure to happen.

Teaching the common sense of nursing was challenging, but I was confident that I could complete the task. However, after extended research, I realized that I was not equipped to tutor anyone but myself. So, I changed my short-term goal of immediately registering my business. I became a full-time student, enrolled in online courses for teaching adult learners and Business Management classes. Plan A was developed with immediately following the desire of my heart, which left me without the necessary skills. Developing Plan B was worth it. I enjoyed 12 years of helping others to reach their goal of becoming a nurse.

Anticipate and prepare for the roadblocks or the detours when pursuing your dreams. Our excitement often prevents us from seeking much-needed professional advice, completing the necessary research, and gaining additional knowledge. We can never know enough! Approaching our goals with the mindset that we are on a life-long learning curve equips us to meet and overcome the challenges of achieving our goals. 

The consequences of following the heart and disregarding professional advice:

One of my worst experiences happened because I did not listen to the physician who told me not to accept the Branch Manager position at a Home Health agency. His main concern was regarding the business operations of that particular company because it was well-known for its shady reputation of cover-ups and manipulation of actual circumstances. I will never forget these words, “Sonya, you are a Christian, I cannot imagine you compromising your belief in God to participate in illegal activity.”

Two months into the job, I knew that I had to get out. After the management conference call with the corporate office, the words of warning echoed in my mind. Divine intervention to the rescue! God helped me in a time of trouble. The regional Nursing Director visited my branch a couple days after the call to relay a corporate decision. Since I was a Registered Nurse, I would have to assume the dual role of Branch Manager and Clinical Director effective immediately. As she walked out of my office, I closed the door, asked a prayer of forgiveness [for disobedience], and gave my resignation letter.

Truthfully, we cannot anticipate most of life’s detours.  But when we refuse to acknowledge that our plans may not work out, then the D’s hit hard: The fruits of Disappointment are Discouragement, Distress, and Defeat. Some individuals are resilient and bounce back by immediately developing new and improved strategies, but that is not typical. Our emotions can easily tilt to an unhealthy place when facing adversity. But we have a solution: For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

It has taken most of my life to give in and present my plans to God first. Finally,  I realize that I need to have faith and believe in God’s promises. My prayer has changed to “Not my will, but your will be done” because I have surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. The trials and sorrows still happen, but not due to failed plans. When God reveals His plans for you, there is no Plan B! God can never fail, nor does He change. His Word is Absolute!

Bible verses: Still, I am certain to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait patiently for the LORD; be strong and courageous. Wait patiently for the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14

Prayer: Hear our prayer, Oh Lord. We are tired of failed plans and the disappointments that follow because we did not include you in our dreams and goals. We ask for forgiveness. Please reveal the plans you have for our lives. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

How God Strengthens Our Heart

SHOUT the Cry of Victory 30 Days of Prayer Day 8

Yesterday, I read a beautiful story from a member of a FB crochet group. She posted a picture of her first arugami crochet animal, a teddy bear, and asked the group how to make the eyes symmetrical because they were crooked and one of the legs was a little larger than the other. But the following picture was of her granddaughter hugging the bear with a big smile as she said, “Thank you, Gran, he is beautiful, I will always love him.”

If only we viewed ourselves as children of God, our Heavenly Father, as the sinners that Jesus redeemed, and students of our teacher, the Holy Spirit, we would have faith and trust in God under all circumstances.

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” John 17:9

With all of our imperfections, selfish desires, and failure to rely on God, Jesus still serves as our Heavenly Intercessor. What does that mean? Jesus is in heaven praying to God, our Father, pleading for the body of believers. God gave His only Son, Jesus for sinful humanity. Our prayers of confession, repentance, thankfulness, and intercession for others are heard by our Spiritual team, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Yet, it is Jesus who presents us as faultless to God. 

“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

Jesus told us that our journey with Him would be challenging. But if we rely on Him through steadfast faith, Jesus also promised to bring us through every trial, sorrow, and heartache. Are you enjoying the peace that Jesus promises us when we stay connected to Him? If not, put all of your faith [belief] and trust in God who gave His Son to suffer, bleed, and die for the Redemption of our sins.

Human Effort + Divine Intervention = A Victorious Outcome

We owed a debt that we could never repay, and our debt is forgiven. Now is the time for us to make a covenant [relationship] with God and do our part to be faithful until Jesus comes again. Only those who are faithful and obedient will receive the reward of immortality and live in a perfect New Heaven and New Earth. We have been liberated from the chains of sin. Praise God!

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

Bible study: John 14

Prayer: God, I pray an intercessory prayer for the believers who are at the point of giving up because of their hardships. Help us see through children’s eyes that you are our Father. May we understand the purpose of our stormy difficulties and the seasons of darkness necessary to change our characters. Please give us your blessings of peace and the courage to remain faithful as we continue in our journey. I ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen. 

God’s Perfect Plans

“Whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” Luke 14:33

Discipleship: Our commitment to following Jesus means that we abandon all of our desires to obey God faithfully.

Satan’s deception: The Garden of Eden had countless trees that Adam and Eve could eat from (God gives us free will). There was only one tree that God commanded Adam and Eve that God instructed them not to touch. Yet, the desire to eat from that one tree caused the fall of humanity. Eve was deceived because she chose to involve herself in a lose-lose conversation with Satan. But it didn’t take any effort for Adam. He intentionally chose to disobey God by just taking and eating the fruit. When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” Matthew 6:24

Jesus tells us that it is not possible to live a double life. And this is an ongoing struggle. Our hearts pull us in the opposite direction of God’s plans. We are encouraged to follow our dreams. “Success” is aggressively promoted by our society. Where do we turn? Everyone else is achieving their goals, and we feel as if we have nothing. Praying for God to reveal His plans opens the door for many wonderful blessings that God is waiting to give to us.  

The Controversy: Yes, I love God, but…

Fixated on loving ourselves causes us to have minimal love for Jesus Christ. Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” Matthew 22:37. Accepting Jesus as our personal Savior and Lord of our lives means that we must renounce [to abandon all] our pursuits, our will, and our desires. So, does that mean that we cannot have dreams or goals?

God created us with a sound mind. He gave us talents, gifts, and abilities that we use to glorify Him first. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11. Yes, God desires that we reach for the dreams that are part of His plans for us. As disciples, we present our goals and dreams to God in prayer. And we wait for God to reveal His purpose for our lives. 

Answer to the dilemma: For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will. John 6:38. We are Jesus’ disciples. When we wait on God, He will reward us for our faithfulness.

God’s Omnipotence: Many, O LORD my God, are the wonders You have done, and the plans You have for us–none can compare to You–if I proclaim and declare them, they are more than I can count. Psalm 40:5

Peace and joy are fruits of obedience. Can our plans compare to the plans that God has for us? Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. Psalm 27:14

Bible study: Matthew 6

Prayer: God, we confess that we have not put you first. We ask forgiveness for attempting to live double lives. Let your will be done in our lives. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen.

The Perfect Life

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11

2021 brought so many changes in my life that I could have never imagined. Most of the changes didn’t feel good, nor did I understand God’s plan for me. In January, I received a call regarding the intent to sell the leased property that I had lived in for six years. I prayed, asking God to reveal His plans for my life. As I began to look for new housing, the waiting lists for vacancies were averaging six months. When did small-town life become so appealing? Still, I told God that I trusted in Him, although every door was closed. But those were my thoughts based on my circumstances. 

Because our Heavenly Father knows that we have fragile hearts and often become overwhelmed with our circumstances, He reminds us, “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27

God pushed the restart button. He revealed His love and plans by relocating me from point A to point B, 1500 miles away from my comfort zone. How did I know it was God? Because when God fulfills His promises, supernatural miracles are revealed that no human can perform. As you witness the blessings from the open windows of heaven (Malachi 3:10), it is evident that God’s divine intervention is at work. God does everything for His glory: And we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Never worrying about the future is our gift when we place our lives in the hands of God. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7.

Bible Study: Matthew 6:25-34

Prayer: God, we are weary from the worries and anxieties we have placed on ourselves from not trusting in you. We desire to put our lives in your hands. We come to you with many challenges that are unsolvable without your help. Please help us to overcome our lack of faith and trust in you. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Prayer of Faith

And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word.” 1 Kings 17:1

When I read the story of the prophet Elijah praying for rain to stop for three years, I asked myself, “Who was this man of exceeding faith, and how can I become faithful like he was?”

Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain, and the earth began to yield its crops. James 5:17-18

So let’s go to the scriptures to see what God has to say about us having the capability to have Elijah’s solid and unwavering faith.

    1. Our faith pleases God: And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6
    2. Stay in the will of God: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what the will of God is, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
    3. Ask and receive: “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.” John 16:23
    4. Get rid of a disorganized lifestyle: Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! Psalm 46:10
    5. Patiently wait for God’s answer: Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD. Psalm 27:14
    6. Obey His commands: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” Luke 6:46

Having faith over fear remains a challenge for most believers. The disciples who were in constant physical contact with Jesus, the Son of God also struggled with their faith. We have our own agendas and plans which are contrary to God’s plans, which prevents total faith and trust in God.

But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. Matthew 8:26

    1. Fear prevents us from having solid and unrelenting faith in God: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
    2. God is Omnipotent: Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:27
    3. Pray often, but do not fixate on yourself: Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
    4. God knows, and He cares: Even before they call, I will answer, and while they are still speaking, I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

Bible Study: 1 Kings 17 and James 5

Prayer: God, we are weary because our faith is weak. We are ready to have rock-solid faith like Elijah. Please teach us to take one day at a time in our spiritual growth. We desire to live faith-based lives by trusting you with all of our hearts. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen.

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2021, No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes without the author’s written permission.

The Cry of Victory! Happy Sabbath!

Prayer: God, we pray that you open our spiritual eyes. Amen.

Jesus is here, walking in front of us. We are entering another storm, even so, keep your eyes focused on the Savior. Follow your Guide! The path is narrow. Don’t look to the right or to the left! And if the cloudy darkness of hardships and sorrows blind you, just call out, “Jesus, I can’t see you, Jesus, please help me.”

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

It is a conscious decision to awaken to a new day and invite Jesus into our life. “Behold, I stand at the door [our heart, which is our mind] and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Revelation 3:20.

Struggles are necessary to develop the faith that keeps us totally dependent: “…Without Me, you can do nothing.” John 15:5. Yes, we are required to surrender our will, along with the way we think and the things we desire. And why not? For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Read Joshua chapter 6.

But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days.” Joshua 6:2‭-‬3.

Faith: Have we placed ourselves in the position to receive God’s plans? “Be still, and know that I am God;” Psalm 46:10. Prayer keeps us connected to God. Why is studying the Bible a necessity? Not only do the scriptures reveal the character of God, but they also teach and remind us that faith, trust, and obedience are required to stay in alignment with God. Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega is the only way to receive salvation.

Obedience: “Do not shout; do not even talk,” Joshua commanded. “Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!” Joshua 6:10

Victory: When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. Joshua 6:20

Like the walls of Jericho that fell, if we put God first, He will lead and guide us through every heartache, tribulation, and challenge. Put your faith and trust in Him. It is only then, we can cry the shout of victory!

Prayer: God, thank you for loving us. Please forgive us for our sins. We desire to faithfully serve, obey, and wait for you to reveal your plans for our lives. We thank you for the gift of the Sabbath–a time dedicated to redirecting our focus on you. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.

Did you get your gift?

Not many of us would turn away a free, no-strings attached gift. Yet, we have let the distractions and hardships rob us of Jesus’ gift of peace. A peaceful, quiet setting away from chaos and confusion is how the world defines peace.

But the peace that Jesus gives, exists in the middle of the chaos and confusion. Our faith is the catalyst that propels our mind, soul, and body to accept the peace that passes human understanding. Go ahead, get your gift. Jesus promises when you receive His peace, you will live free from all worries and anxiety.

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

God, we praise your name. Thank you, Jesus for giving us peace. Please forgive our doubt and unbelief. We pray in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen.

© 2021 Sonya Johnson Ruiz

We Have Everything We Need

When I pursued my nursing degree at the age of forty, I felt insecure because my classmates were in their twenties. Realizing that the sharpness of my cognitive abilities had passed their peak performance, I doubted God’s directive for me to relocate from New Jersey to Upstate NY. But during the first day of class, our tough-as-nails Nursing 1 professor reassured us that if we dedicated our time and efforts to learn, they [the professors] possessed the knowledge and teaching skills for us to achieve our goals. On the final day, it was only seven of us who completed the rigorous program. But it was a high-time of celebration. We embraced each other and shouted, “We made it!”

The most challenging journey that we will ever endure is the one of following Jesus Christ. Many succumb to the rigors of striving to live holy and simply give up. Would God give us the impossible? We have a team, God, the Father, Jesus, our Savior, the Holy Spirit, and messenger angels to ensure that we will make it through this turbulent journey called life. 

  1. 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 said to you. John 14:26.
  2. The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it in abundance [to the full, till it overflows]. John 10:10
  3. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
  4. And this is the confidence that we have before Him: If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we already possess what we have asked of Him. 1 John 5:14-15

Our responsibilities in the plan of salvation:

Mandatory: And without faith, 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

Faith knows that every day our lives bring uncertainties, but faith believes that God has the power to take care of our trials, sorrows, and hardships. Faith is not a feeling based on an emotional high or low. Faith requires total surrender to the Almighty God. 

Prayer and Study: It is from lack of knowledge [we must study the Bible] and inconsistent communication [always pray throughout the day and night] that our relationship with God lacks strength and depth. Just as the professor reassured us that they were well-qualified to provide everything we needed to become registered nurses if we did our part, God promises to bring us victory when we stay connected to Him. 

When sin struggles for the mastery in your soul and burdens the conscience, when unbelief clouds the mind, go to the Saviour. His grace is sufficient to subdue sin. He will pardon us, making us joyful in God. Let us no longer talk of our inefficiency and lack of power. Forgetting the things that are behind, let us press forward in the heavenward way. All heaven rejoices when weak, faulty human beings give themselves to Jesus to live His life. Ellen G. White

Redirect your focus: “We have everything we need.” Our spiritual team is always ready. Never give up! 

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Revelation 22:12-13

Bible Study: 1 John 5

Prayer: God, we ask you to forgive our doubt and unbelief. Thank you for loving and taking care of us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. 

© Sonya Johnson Ruiz 2021, No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted for commercial purposes without the author’s written permission.