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

The Load is Heavy!

I have two very good friends both named Barbara. They are unaware of the other’s existence because they live 1600 miles apart from one another. But today, God used both of my BFFs as rams in the bush to provide encouragement. Throughout the Apostle Paul’s writings, he emphasizes the importance of the body of believers staying connected to each other. If you have not heard from friends or family, please reach out to them. Sometimes the load is too heavy for them to lift a finger to text or call.

Love God, Love others, and Love yourself. 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Photo credit: Barbara, Albany

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

The Prevailing Darkness

“Home is where the heart is” PROVERB: Your home will always be the place for which you feel the deepest affection, no matter where you are.

Our homes are the safest place, non-threatening, lovingly embracing, and sheltering us from the chaos, confusion, and busyness of our external environment. We enjoy the moments of solitude and silence from the never-ending maximum speed of the world surrounding us.

The dynamics of human life have escalated to the point that many individuals are leaving their corporate positions, selling their homes, and seeking that perfect place that provides peace and tranquility. Yes, getting away from it all has its advantages. Still, it will not stop the vicissitudes [a change of circumstances or fortune, typically one that is unwelcome or unpleasant] of life.

In fact, I recently listened to a young wife express her devastation over the years they planned an extraordinary lifestyle–RVing, purchasing a few acres of forested land, and visiting every state within the U.S., only to have their dreams shattered. Within six months of living their dream, the husband developed stage 4 cancer and passed away. 

Sin and death were not God’s plans or His fault. Yes, He is Omniscient and was aware that Lucifer would incite an insurrection, and that human beings, His masterpiece would disobey and fall deep into the abyss of darkness. With unconditional love, God created us, gave us the greatest gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who still serves us. As our Heavenly Intercessor, Jesus hears our prayers of confession, and repentance, readily forgiving us. All of our prayers are sent through by the Holy Spirit, including prayers for comfort, and physical necessities. Jesus Christ forgives us daily and presents us as faultless to God, our Father. We should have a committed relationship with God, our Creator who gives us a never-ending supply of love, grace and mercies every day.  

Sadly, humans have been deceived by Satan, our Arch-enemy since the fall of Adam and Eve. Where did the deception take place? In the Garden of Eden–the first couple’s home, their safe-haven. And why was the Prince of Darkness so effective in his diabolical plot? Because he presented God as withholding the best–superior knowledge like gods possessed from Adam and Eve. But deep in the recesses of his mind, Satan also thought that God would destroy the first human beings, Adam and Eve for their disobedience. But little did the Prince of Darkness realize that humanity would not be destroyed. The Plan of Salvation and Redemption–Jesus’ death and resurrection was set into place before Adam and Eve were created.

Isaiah 14:12 tells us, “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!” Isaiah 14:12. To be called the “Son of the Morning” [morning star, son of the dawn], Lucifer’s beauty was beyond our most active imagination. Are we mesmerized by beauty? Yes, exterior appearances, the excellence of natural talents and abilities of people is who we worship–the entertainment industry, the sports arena, art, fashion, and glamour, is fueled by billions of dollars while our social problems escalate globally. 

Lucifer had the desire for much more than he was given by God. He convinced some of the angels that God was unfair and he led an insurrection against the Creator of angels and humanity. If we were created lower than the angels, [For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:5], then know that he easily twisted God’s commands. His deceitful words caused Eve to doubt God. Satan’s lies also led her to act on her desire to eat from the forbidden tree. Adam had the choice not to sin, but like many of us today we make the decision to commit the grievous sin of disobedience. And that was the beginning of the Fall of Man–humanity.

We cannot be compelled or forced to sin. It is our desire to sin fueled by desire, doubt, and disbelief in God.

And we are still falling deep into the abyss of darkness, pulled by our desire to possess more than God has given to us. We are drawn into Satan’s darkness through his deception–he presents the fun activities of the occult, mysticism, spells, witchcraft, voodoo, Goth, the exciting thoughts of entering realms from beyond, going backward or forward into time, and our all-time favorite–magic: the power of illusion.

In fact, Disney’s movies Black Widow, Cruella, Magic Camp, Soul, etc., have been used to introduce Satan’s “darkness” into our families–the children whose minds are like sponges eagerly ask to watch the deceptive wickedness. Once act on our desires, the seed of darkness is planted, and it grows out-of-control. Eventually, our homes become a dwelling-place for the satanic behaviors of abject disobedience, bullying, mental and emotional neglect. We become tangled in the web of deception and our character changes. Love dissipates through the open door and windows, producing unhealthy family relationships, and dissolves our desire to worship God.

Yes, our frustration with life has led us to seek an alternate route for resolution of our problems. We are inundated with fortune-tellers, tarot card readers, witches, and warlocks, potions, etc. Loneliness has driven us to accept the biggest deception; active communication with the dead. This area is Satan’s playground. Many “Christian believers” also engage in speaking to the deceased or knowing their future. This is what God says:

“For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; there is no longer any reward for them because all memory of them is lost.” Ecclesiastes 9:5

Do you think that delving into darkness has no consequences? I recently saw on TikTok a lifelike doll created in the exact image of the baby that had died. It is known as the “Reborn Doll.” It gives the parents the ability to touch, hold, and speak with their deceased baby forever. If this phenomenon does not make you awaken you to the prevailing darkness in this world. Pray immediately! You have become desensitized to the power of evil.

God has given us His guidelines. Read the warnings in Leviticus 19. The only evil practice that has changed from biblical times to the present is the sacrifice of human beings [as far as we know]. The Israelites loved to engage in pagan worship.

“Do not defile yourselves by turning to mediums or to those who consult the spirits of the dead. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:31

The Bible provides the most accurate history of paganism. The Israelites freed from Egyptian slavery never received their reward of entering the Promised Land. “We remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted.” Numbers 11:5. If their complaints were not accurately documented in the Bible, one may think and laugh out loud, “Who would desire to return to slavery over food?”

Our carnal cravings have propelled us into a world of darkness far more advanced than the biblical Israelites. We have embraced ungodly beliefs, rituals, art, movies, music, morals, values, and norms that feed our desires for the unknown–a dimension beyond our boring existence. The pursuit of happiness is causing us to achieve our desires by any means necessary. 

Satan’s most significant achievements in the 21st Century:

  1. Acceptance of false teachings and false prophets who speak false prophecies.
  2. Churches who water down the scriptures. Pastors preaching motivational speeches as the money flows in from members hearing “feel-good sermons.”
  3. Sexual immorality. Marital infidelity, etc.
  4. The state of the dead–the belief they are among us, reincarnation, rebirth, ghosts, the dead presently in heaven or hell, etc.
  5. Chasing success and material wealth.
  6. Fascination with the occult.
  7. Abusive and neglectful relationships.
  8. Challenging God’s truth–the Bible.
  9. Presenting himself as a victim–Lucifer, the fallen angel who God refused to forgive.
  10. Leading us to turn ourselves into idols. “I worship myself by pursuing my right to happiness.”
  11. Just believe that God exists, and you will receive eternal life.

But the greatest modern-day deception is that “Jesus Christ is not the Son of God and He is not the way to God or salvation.” Read: John 14:6.

Many have given up the hope that Jesus Christ is coming again. Even so, it is of no consequence how we believe. He said it and God cannot lie.

“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

The Reality: The darkness in our world can only be overshadowed by the Light of the World–Jesus Christ.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 5:1-7

We cannot blend righteousness with ungodly people, places, and rituals of this life. God has planned a perfect home for the faithful. Read Revelation chapters 21-22 every day until you can form a visual picture of your forever home.

But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Prayer: God, we pray for your strength and power to shield ourselves against the spiritual wickedness on earth. May we have the desire and make preparation for eternal life in the New Heaven and New Earth. In Jesus’ name. 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 

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

Independence in Every Aspect

First and foremost, I thank Jesus Christ for His sacrifice that we can receive INDEPENDENCE from sin. And it was His blood that provides freedom from the chains of sin. Redemption is all-inclusive for all humanity. Eternal life is the reward for the faithful. And for this reason, I bow and kneel to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Thanking God for the brave men and women who fought for America’s independence from oppression. We salute and thank every member of the military, law-enforcement officers, first-responders, freedom-fighters, and others who are keeping us safe.

And, thank you, God, for the brave people with loving hearts [throughout the world] who believe God created all of humanity in His image! The root of true independence is unconditional LOVE. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

The Declaration of Independence [excerpt]

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

SPIRITUAL Freedom through Jesus

Triumph [Victory] from Trials, Tribulations, and Temptations

Since the age of five, I have believed in Jesus. My mother was a woman of God who lived by the Word of God. She gave a simplistic explanation that Jesus loved and died for me, was resurrected, went to heaven, and was preparing a home in heaven where we would live forever. Attending church reinforced my belief that God is love, prompting me to love Jesus throughout my childhood.

But reality surfaced as I matured and left home. I noticed that my life was no longer manageable. One problem after the other bombarded my life, and eventually, I decided that serving God had no benefits. Truthfully, I did not study the Bible, nor did I have a consistent prayer life. It is “Human effort plus Divine Intervention that equals Victory.” I held God responsible for the failure of a thriving spiritual relationship with Him. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge [they do not know me]. Hosea 4:6

Many years later, in 2006, I met an elderly woman while shopping who witnessed to me about returning to my first love, Jesus Christ. I started attending revival services, made the commitment to follow Jesus, and was baptized [Human Effort]. Even so, God had plans to produce a different outcome [Divine Intervention]; the church had a New Believers program. I was assigned a spiritual mentor that helped me through the roughest times: The transition of renouncing–giving up worldly pleasures to serve Jesus.

And it is during those turbulent times, many believers fail to understand the purpose of hardships and how they are related to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

    1. Your life becomes tougher: Serving God means giving up all of the ungodly people, places, and things you love and are familiar with. Yes, you may be living a clean and sober life and free from your past habits [Praise God!], but now that you are a member of the “body of believers,” which requires you to give up everything that prevents spiritual growth and inhibits your relationship with God. I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13. The Holy Spirit helps us to develop a new lifestyle that reflects our commitment to God. Everything changes when we become a disciple of Jesus Christ. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. 2 Corinthians 6:17
    2. Learning to study the Bible and praying: Building the spiritual foundation with God requires diligently studying the Bible and praying every day. Here’s some unspoken guidance about prayer, if you can count the times you have prayed today, then you are not praying enough. Staying connected to the Vine-Jesus requires faith, trust, obedience, courage, strength, discipline, and self-control. [Read John 15:5]
    3. Forming new relationships: I must admit that this is one of the most challenging parts of serving God. Jesus must become your best friend. “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. You made the commitment to follow Jesus, so you must build your relationship with Christ first. God will reveal the friends that we need in our Spiritual-Social Circle. The Holy Spirit amazingly gives us the gift of discernment to know when the person or activity does not glorify God. 
    4. Forming new relationships, part 2: It is not easy making new friends at any stage in life. Even so, pray and ask God for guidance. Ask the Pastor to assign you a spiritual mentor if the church has not provided one. If you accepted Jesus without church intervention, then you may have to accept isolation for a little while. Do not despair! Remain obedient to God. He will reveal the path [the plans] that He desires for you to follow, including a Bible-based church. Pray and wait on the Lord. Do not follow an emotional response to cope with being alone. Put God first! Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he? 1 Corinthians 10:22
    5. Our life becomes full of peace, joy, and happiness: No, this is not a contradiction. “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. Pray and ask for help! “God, I’m having a tough time. I need your help. Amen.” Enter the spiritual team of God, the Father, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Holy Spirit, our Teacher, and Comforter, along with messenger/guardian heavenly angels who we have on our side. What worries should we have? “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14 
    6. Know, understand, and embrace the trials, tribulations, and temptations: We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and difficulties, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:3-5 

Our characters must align with God’s requirements. Every trial, tribulation, and temptation is to produce the Fruit of the Spirit within us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Trust in God: 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

Need Encouragement? Jesus says, “I am he that lives, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.” Revelation 1:18. Saints of the Most-High God, never forget: Victory belongs to Jesus! Amen and Amen!

Our Goal: Eternal life 

Bible Reading: Romans 5: 1-11

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. [Psalm 19:14]. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson

VIP Status

Why are we feeling depressed, worried, and anxious? As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are on the Who’s Who list with God. He knows our name, needs, the number of hairs on our head, and our strengths and weaknesses. And, never forget, we are the only created beings made in His image, not the angels or the animal and plant kingdoms. Jesus died for humanity. That is the greatest love we will ever know. No earthly status compares to our level of importance when we align ourselves with Jesus, our Lord, and Savior. The reward is eternal life living in a New Heaven and New Earth forever and ever. Amen.

God, many times we forget the level of importance that you place on us. Thank you for Your love, grace, and mercies. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson