It’s All or Nothing

I can recall trying to find a nursing job in Orlando, Florida, when there was an overabundance of Registered Nurses. Finally, I found a position where I was hired on the spot. The irony of being immediately hired is that I had to have security clearance which involved fingerprints, DMV abstract, and nursing license verification. Yes, the red flags were waving from every direction. The following day I received a quick one-day orientation–policies, payday, dress code and was told that I needed to arrive at 6 am in the morning to do rounds with the Wound Care Doctor. Not a problem. The issue was that I never received a job description because the position was recently created.

My day started at 4 am, including travel time. All went well for the first week, which had me thinking that I had overreacted. Monday of the second week revealed the truth. The evening nurse who worked from 2:30 pm to 11:00 pm called out sick. I was notified that I needed to speak with the Assistant Director, who informed me that I would be working until 11 pm that night. The duties of a floor nurse were nonstop. I made it through the night. But decided that my last day would be the following week on payday.

The nurse did not return to work for three days. So, I double-shifted for three days and evenings and was told I would be happy with my check. I found out from the other employees that the facility had a very high turnover of evening nurses, and there was no guarantee the staff nurse would return. I must admit that for the first time in my career, I felt miserable. Being half-committed along with the administration’s dishonesty regarding my job description made me so stressed out that I did not make it until payday.

Our spiritual journey requires 100% commitment to God. Serving God is an All or Nothing covenant promise. We commit to a relationship with Jesus Christ that is high maintenance. Building our spiritual connection with Christ requires surrender, faith, trust, obedience, studying the Bible, praying, helping others, attending church, and allowing God to do a complete character makeover.

I have heard many people say, “It’s just too hard to serve God. The things that I cannot do or the things that I have to do for God it’s overwhelming. The dilemma of placing our desires before God is not a new concept. The Laodiceans possessed material wealth and felt their spiritual knowledge was equal to their social status. They were not interested in doing the practical duties required of the Christian believer in the early church. So, they decided not to stress themselves out. They felt that whatever they did was enough to serve God by continuing their daily routines and just showing up for church.

And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—”Revelation 3:14-17

It is difficult for those who feel secure in their attainments, and who believe themselves to be rich in spiritual knowledge, to receive the message which declares that they are deceived and in need of every spiritual grace. God leads His people on step by step. The Christian life is a constant battle and a march. There is no rest from the warfare. It is by constant, unceasing effort that we maintain the victory over the temptations of Satan. It is not enough to merely profess to believe the truth. All the soldiers of the cross of Christ virtually obligate themselves to enter the crusade against the adversary of souls, to condemn wrong and sustain righteousness. But the message of the True Witness reveals the fact that a terrible deception is upon our people, which makes it necessary to come to them with warnings, to break their spiritual slumber, and arouse them to decided action. Testimonies for the Church, volume 3. 

Serving God is not a laid-back, easy lifestyle that requires little to no human effort. We cannot attend church once a week or sing our way to heaven with uplifted hands. The motivational speeches that have replaced sermons based on scriptures have many deceived into thinking that serving God is based on an  emotional response. 

The Laodicean Church received a strong rebuke from Jesus. You have to be hot [completely committed] or cold [same status as an unbeliever] because lukewarm individuals [who have decided how they will serve God] will be spit out [no chance of receiving the reward of eternal life].

Matthew chapter 28:19-20 is the Great Commission, which is applicable to every believer–witness and make disciples. 

 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 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.

It’s up to each of us to serve God giving our All or Nothing. 

Prayer: God, we confess that we are not giving you our best and for this sin, we ask for forgiveness. Please reveal the work that you have for us to do as we prepare for Jesus’ Coming. We ask this prayer in the Worthy Name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry 

Come and Rest Awhile

How do you feel at the end of your day?

Taking a few minutes to analyze our daily and weekly schedule provides organization and consistency to our lives. Although we cannot anticipate unexpected challenges, we should prioritize our day-to-day responsibilities. Becoming aware of unnecessary interruptions not only allows us to establish boundaries, but we can also fulfill God’s plan for our day. So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

Busyness is intrusive and often goes unnoticed. Waking hours easily melt into night and before we realize it, our sleeping hours are significantly reduced. Too much on our agenda propels the aging process. It is not difficult to recognize the individuals who do not get enough rest. Their eyes and facial expressions reveal the effect of ongoing mental and physical fatigue.

Thankfully, God provides us with the mercies of a new day. But have you considered the time that you set aside to worship God? Even more devastating is the impact that lack of rest has on our relationship with God. We cannot engage in the depth of worship required for spiritual growth when we have overtaxed our minds and bodies. Falling asleep while reading the Bible or saying a three or four word prayer prevents us from receiving the much-needed spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical renewal and refreshment from the Holy Spirit.

God Speaks On Not Putting Him First

You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you. Exodus 34:14. 

Identifying the demands that prevent mental and physical rest is the first step to changing our lifestyle. Self-denial is required to shut down the stimuli that keep our minds in a constant whirlwind. Too much time on social media, ongoing phone conversations, texting, and placing too many errands on the to-do lists leaves us burned-out. Always taking on the responsibility of being the go-to person also puts us in a lose-lose situation. Time wasted can never be retrieved. 

Remember, spiritual warfare includes the temptations from the evil one. It is Satan’s plan to keep us distracted by presenting opportunities that we chase after. Chaos and confusion are not of God. The Creation story gives us the perfect example of the structure and order that God requires. Make a three-day time log. And on the fourth day, perform an evaluation of time spent. You may be surprised how easily additional responsibilities, personal habits, or performing duties for others who can achieve the task themselves chips away your rest and relaxation time.

Even so, God expects to be first on our daily agenda. In morning worship, we acknowledge the new mercies received of a new day. Praying for God’s will to be done along with protection from spiritual warfare and physical danger demonstrates obedience and dependency on our Heavenly Father. Starting our day with God provides spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical strength to sustain us for the rigorous opposition that we face.

Evening worship provides communion with God and should be the last activity before sleeping. Taking the time to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts through prayer produces endurance and perseverance. We develop a spirit of gratitude despite our hardships. Studying and memorizing God’s promises in the Holy Scriptures provides spiritual reinforcement in times of weaknesses and trials.

God is not intrusive. His Divine intervention is available 24/7. Still, He waits for our invitation. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10. To be still is not living in a state of doing nothing. It is setting aside time–quantity [without distractions] to establish and maintain a 1:1 relationship with Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Intercessor. Returning the love we receive from God is demonstrated by putting God first! He is the Sustainer of our being.

Develop Strategies for Eliminating the Extras

Learn to decline, “At this time, I am unable to do that or attend, etc.” [a tactful way of saying no]. Turn away from ceaseless activity. Resting from life’s stressors by communing with God imparts spiritual strength. We are energized by the heavenly power that connects humanity with divinity. Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. 3 John 1:2.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

Prayer: God, we ask you to give us the wisdom to identify and eliminate the busyness of our lives that prevents us from spending time with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Non-Compete Agreement

It was the disobedience of the Israelite nation that caused their captivity in Babylon for 70 years. Our surrender to serve God is a Covenant–an unbroken promise between God and us. We do not chase our desires. Love and faithfulness are demonstrated by our obedience and trust in God. Praying for His will to be done in our lives is reverence and respect that God is our Heavenly Father. There are no mistakes or consequences that will happen in our lives when we obey God. Pray for God to reveal your purpose and His will for your life. God always brings a Victorious Outcome! © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

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. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity. Jeremiah 29:11-14a.

You Are Not Your Own

Lord, I know that peoples lives are not their own, it is not for them to direct their steps. Jeremiah 10:23

When we surrender to Jesus Christ and accept the free gift of salvation, we commit to discipleship. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. John 10:27. We are followers–sheep. Jesus Christ is our Shepherd. Like many of us, the original twelve disciples were a rowdy, self-seeking group of men that had their own agendas. Why would Jesus choose men like this? Especially Peter, who was prideful [And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Matthew 14:28]. Yes, Peter was impulsive and lacked self-control. Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” John 18:10-11].

Again, Jesus reprimanded Peter: But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me. For you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Then Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.… “Matthew 16:23-25

The Apostle Peter who Jesus prayed for: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith will not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”… Luke 22:32, wrote the Books of 1 and 2 Peter giving us instruction in the areas that pose the greatest challenges, “Living for God” and “Suffering for being a Christian.”

The reason that Jesus chose the original twelve disciples is that He knew eleven of them would eventually experience a complete spiritual transformation. And Judas Iscariot would fulfill the act of betrayal that was required for the redemption of the human race. Yes, they were wayward, but each went through a complete spiritual makeover following the crucifixion of Jesus [Judas died before–Matthew 27:5].

Jesus chose every human–past, present, and future to willingly give His life for. If only we could make a definitive choice like Christ did. Can you imagine Jesus wavering in His decision to die for us? No, it is unthinkable. Yet, many individuals never hesitate to satisfy their desires through willful acts of disobedience against God.

For those who made the commitment to serve God, but are in the valley of indecision: “You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols.” 1 Peter 4:3. Is this Jesus’ disciple? Yes, but a changed man who allowed God to transform him into a spiritually converted Apostle.

We cannot serve God and seek after our desires. The Apostle Paul clarifies the status of Jesus’ disciples: Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

In accepting God’s gift of His Son, Jesus, we give up our natural inclinations to “Have it our way.” Full surrender and obedience are required, But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added. Matthew 6:33, which we willingly do because we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind. Matthew 22:37.

Many will fall away from God because they want to belong to themselves. Even so, for those of us who are weary from suffering the negative consequences of disobedience, and believe that we fully belong to God [as evidenced by our faithful obedience] Jesus is waiting to give us the reward of Eternal life:

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

Bible Readings: 1 Corinthians 2 and 1 Peter 4

Prayer: God, we ask forgiveness for seeking after our desires. We pray for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your love, grace, and mercies. In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

Love in Action

“Teacher, which commandment is the greatest in the Law?” Jesus declared, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.…And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:36-40

Our various backgrounds produce different views and definitions of what love is. A child raised in a hands-on affectionate home possesses an inner warmth, easily connecting with others. For the child who learned that love was associated with receiving tangible items, their defining characteristics for loving others consists of giving gifts or doing tasks for their loved ones. And then, the emotionally neglected child who received food, clothing, and shelter, the basic physiological needs, but grew up in an environment where love was [somehow] understood. A home full of provisions, but they never heard “I love you” or “you did a great job,” or received the joy of a parental hug. These are the quick handshake or “don’t touch me” individuals.” Unfortunately, they usually develop into people who do not possess the knowledge or the experience to give and receive the most powerful need, Love.

Even so, the child who has past emotional scars are the most dangerous to try to love. Abusive homes were corrosive eating away all of their intrinsic abilities to learn and embrace love. They are hurt, bitter, angry, and feeling dejected from past relationships gone wrong. Their capacity to love again is overshadowed by the darkness of unforgiveness, hatred, and revenge. Yes, they appear to be in a lose-lose predicament. But it is the battered ones to whom God reaches out and wraps them in His blanket of love that pierces the soul and erases the darkness while healing their broken, fragile hearts. It is then that they learn love does not hurt.

Love, is the emotion that caused God to create humanity despite knowing that we would mess up His perfect plans. Love was the foundation for the sacrificial gift of Jesus’ life. The covenant between the matchless Lamb of God and His Father provided redemption for the sins of the human race. Every person can receive the unmerited gifts of forgiveness, grace, and mercy from a loving God. We have the love and benefits from our Spiritual Team. Messenger and guardian angels keep us safe every day from evil and physical danger. Yet, we repay God with open defiance–disobedience by refusing to love Him with obedience, faith, and trust. Nor do we love one another unconditionally.

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35, RSV)

As a child, I witnessed the National Guard and the war of humans against humans in the 1967 Riots of Newark, New Jersey. I never thought I would relive this terror again on earth, but in 2020, America established a new diabolical standard of hatred. And on January 6, 2021, the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., was violently attacked by a mob of supporters of President Donald Trump. Our disregard for established government, hatred for one another as evidenced by our prejudices, lack of compassion for those in need, the pursuit of selfish desires, and abolishing godly morals and values has a deadly proliferative root. We do not love God!

Still, God lovingly reaches out to each person giving us the opportunity to embrace salvation. God knew that we would not understand how to love, so, He gave us the Bible whose central theme is love. Like the Pharisee’s, our spiritual insight would not understand the miracles throughout the Old and New Testaments were based on agape love. But God sacrificing His only Son, Jesus Christ should have opened our eyes and hearts to recognize that agape love–an unfamiliar level of love to most was the only reason for the suffering, shame, and spilling of Jesus’ precious blood on Calvary’s cross. God and His Son created an invincible team to save us.

Jesus died and was resurrected because we were born into spiritual bankruptcy. From the depths of our soul, we should acknowledge that Redemption is for humanity [we are the only living beings created in the image of God] who required mercy. Jesus did not die for the angels. It is you and me who are the recipients of the redemptive Plan of Salvation. Thank you, Lord and Savior, for giving us the opportunity for Eternal life. 

Reflection of our lives complete with God’s grace, mercies, and miracles should prompt us to desire immediate change. God specializes in New Beginnings. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland. Isaiah 43:19. We must empty ourselves of past dysfunctions and previous experiences by praying and fasting. Our thoughts are redirected toward God when we diligently study the scriptures. When we put forth human effort then Divine intervention provides completion. He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3

Loving others is a requisite to receiving eternal life. There will be no heavenly neighborhoods based on economic or social standing. Debating, anger, holding grudges will not be part of our character [Read Galatians 5:22-23]. We will have nothing to apologize for in the New Heaven and New Earth. If you do not enjoy the spectrum of colors now, you will not have the opportunity to see Jesus. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20

Learning God’s definition of love requires unlearning and acquiring new knowledge and wisdom. Loving God means putting Him first. Surrender to God equates to seeking His will in every aspect of our lives. It is then that we experience a complete spiritual, mental, and emotional transformation. Not one plan is developed or strategy executed without bringing it to God in prayer for His Divine approval. 1 Corinthians chapter 13 provides us with a complete definition of how to love others. The core emotion of unconditional love must permeate our hearts, souls, and minds. Love is not a word or a fleeting feeling. Love is an action that manifests itself in the manner in which we love others and bow in humility to serve a Most Loving, Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God.

Bible Reading 1 Corinthians 13

Prayer: God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, we just want to say thank you, and that we love you. In Jesus’ name. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Spiritual Journey–When Do the Trials End?

I can recall the introduction from the Instructor for the 5-day Auditor’s training. “This will be a brutal and relentless five days, but once you learn the guidelines and the software, the task you face for the next 22 weeks will be easy. You are nurses, and will rely on your knowledge of clinical practice to determine if the medical records meet the criteria.” The first two days were so demanding that when we received our 60-minute lunch break, the entire class of 30 escaped for precious moments of solitude. We made a mad dash to our vehicles just to be alone.

Although day one was brutal, all of us returned for day two. We were allowed a couple of extra breaks to regroup from the intensity and overload of learning the software program. But an issue arose on the second day. Many of the nurses began complaining. It was a significant distraction. Still, our Instructor continued her strategic plan without addressing the complaints. After class ended, the complainers huddled together to discuss their grievances. 

Our Instructor was energetic but patient with a laid-back personality. On day three, at 8:01 a.m., she announced that auditing is not a job that is appropriate for everyone. We were informed of a 10-minute break [in which she would return to her office] to give us time to rethink our decision to continue training as MR Auditors. If we stayed, then we would be required to comply with a zero-tolerance policy that prevented any further complaints as of that morning. With boundaries set, the negativity evaporated, and 100% of the trainees passed the course.

Most believers would agree that our spiritual journey challenges us beyond our human capabilities. God created us to love and worship Him with all of our hearts, souls, and minds. He also made us dependent on the Trinity, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for the strength and resolution of our fiery trials. God is aware of our fragile hearts and weakened strength. Still, God has established spiritual requisites and boundaries. He is also aware of our secret desires and the unholy character traits that our trials will erase. Yes, the struggle is real, but not one of us can escape.

Jesus forewarned us about the trials, sorrows, and tribulations we would encounter from serving Him. Christian means Christ-like. “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. Jesus reiterates the dependency, which is required from us, “that in Me you may have peace.”

I understand the purpose of suffering, for the Glory of God, to produce faith, trust, and obedience, and to get rid of my character defects. Truthfully, I desire that my trials would not last as long as they do and the hardships would come around less often. But the life of a disciple is not one of multiple choice. It is a faithful life of humility and obedience. God decides because He is God. I can recall hearing a sermon based on the steadfastness of God, “When we are in our stormy trials, we can cry, have a sad countenance, and pray to be delivered, but God will not change His plans. He knows the end from the beginning, and God desires that none of us perish.”

Here’s the reality check, when I read Galatians 5:22-23, 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. My character is definitely missing some of the “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Sadly, some of us assume that because Jesus accepted us, “Just As I Am,” that we have the option to keep our unholy character traits. In Revelation chapter 3, verses 14-21, God speaks to the Laodicean Church–the Lukewarm Church. They are the ones who place their priorities over God. But they are also the believers who have the most challenging struggles. Not because their trials and hardships are more severe. They have faith in themselves and their ability to resolve life’s challenges. These are the believers who only include God in their lives by word of mouth. Their time spent in prayer is limited. Bible studies are not a priority because they are content with making plans for a comfortable life. Determined to maintain complete control over their lives, they appear strong, yet, they easily become discouraged when facing hardships and quickly ask, “Where is God?”

God has no filter with His correction of wrongdoing. Even Peter, the stubborn, impulsive disciple who lacked self-control, was reprimanded by Jesus, “But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” Matthew 16:23. Even so, in Luke 22:32, Jesus showed compassion and concern for His wayward disciple: “But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.”

The books of 1st and 2nd Peter demonstrate Peter’s surrender and complete spiritual transformation. 1st Peter, chapter 4, reminds us that God has chosen us to be His disciples. So we must suffer because Christ suffered. He was perfect and without sin. Yet, Jesus suffered for our redemption and to glorify God, His Father.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 1 Peter 4:12-14

God does not continually rain on us. In fact, our Heavenly Father makes sure that we know He loves us and will never leave us alone:

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you, says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. 2 When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. 3. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. Isaiah 43:1-3

It is because of God’s grace and mercies that we are not consumed. There is always an end to the suffering of each trial that we face.

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

God puts us through the fiery trials to strengthen us, remove the impurities of sin, and increase our faith and trust in Him. Revelation chapters 21, and 22 remind us that we are preparing to live in a sinless and perfect New Heaven and New Earth. We must strive daily to run the race. We choose to live a faith-based life. God is Holy!

The Human effort of faith, trust, obedience, and perseverance, along with God’s Divine intervention, result in a life of Righteousness by Faith, which is pleasing to God. Jesus Christ is coming soon to give the faithful their reward of eternal life. So with a renewed commitment, let our prayer reflect King David’s prayer in Psalm 139:23-24.

Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life [Psalm 139:23-24]. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry 

Beware of the Fine Print

Two weeks ago, my laptop started running slow with delayed startup and freezing. After running daily scans, I realized that malware was not the problem. So, I did the Internet search chose a couple of tech Einstein’s who detailed the top three reasons for computer slowdown. I took care of a couple of the possible issues, but it did not help. After several freezes, I decided enough was enough. It was time to purchase a new laptop. 

This morning, I said a prayer to be anointed with the Holy Spirit before writing the devotional. Included in my prayer, “God, please fix my laptop.” The answer was, “Go to your settings.” What I saw came as a shock. There were 19 programs installed that I knew nothing about. Yes, I receive notifications for the updates that need to be installed for my Epson All-in-One printer. But there were 15 apps, including one that automatically gathered data from my activity. The other culprit was Microsoft who installed four apps for X-box. After deleting 19 apps, my almost trashed laptop has regained vigor and is dancing to the beat.

Do I feel as if I was taken advantage of? Yes! It is the consumer’s lack of knowledge that many companies count on to increase their profit margins. Knowing that I wasn’t the only person who does not pay attention to the “What” in automatic updates, I decided to do some research.

Fine print advertising. Those tiny words and sentences at the bottom of advertisements containing the details of an offer. The kind that requires a magnifying glass or extreme prescription glasses to actually see what is in an offer. Consumers have gotten so used to the fine print many do not even read further into the details. However, more people should pay attention to those tiny words because the devil is always in those details.

“The devil is always in those details.” The analogy of the devil’s deceptiveness in the things we ignore piqued my interest. We are impatient from the overwhelming busyness of life. And Satan, our greatest enemy, relies on our weariness to create skillful and diabolical schemes to blindside us every day. 

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12

Satan develops personalized schemes to bring us down. Like the beautiful talking serpent, he mesmerizes us by using subtle and familiar strategies to  present the temptations to make us fall. It is his daily plan to bring chaos into the life of those who serve the Most-High God. Many New-Age Christians feel as if they have the power to fight evil alone. We are not comic-book heroes. The power of evil is greater than our abilities. In fact, without God, we are facing a lose-lose situation. 

What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:4-5

Before we become prideful about our crowns, the prophet Isaiah tells us:

It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain. And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. Isaiah 40:22

God is fully aware of the weaknesses of humanity. Our power lies in the ability to make choices. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. … Joshua 24:15. Alone we are no match for the deceptive plans of Satan, a fallen angel. Pray for help!  It is through prayer, the Holy Spirit teaches, guides, and gives us discernment to recognize schemes. When we serve God, Jesus intervenes and says, “Get behind me, Satan.” We are under Divine protection. For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11. Because of God’s love, grace, and mercies we are covered 24/7. 

The Good-Great News is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, loves and died for humanity. His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection gave us redemption and the opportunity to have eternal life. Jesus, our Heavenly Intercessor, is victorious and holds the keys to hell and death. If Satan had his way, He would wipe out every believer. Refer to the story of Job, chapter 1, in which we read that Satan cannot do what he wants.

What happens when we fall into temptation? We did not take the time to use our eyes to look at the fine print and our ears to listen to the sugar-coated words. Nor did we step back and say, “You know what, I am going to pray about this, and I will get back to you.” When we include God in every decision that we make, the devil knows that he is defeated. 

We may think that it is of no consequence to having unwanted programs downloaded on our devices. But Satan, who cannot read our minds, has the astute skills of observing our behaviors. People who do not pay attention frequently suffer from unexpected consequences. Most of us have one friend or family member that is always involved in mishaps, bad deals, or some type of trouble. And most of us have gotten ourselves into a predicament once or twice.

For a 30 day free trial period at the gym, I ended up on a one-year contract because I didn’t read the fine print. My mind focused on the entrapment of the salesperson’s words, 30 free days, and great perks. I was told to let them know if I wanted to continue the membership, but the fine print stated that the cancellation had to be within the trial period. They didn’t have my credit card information, but I signed the temporary membership contract with the fine print that contained the contractual obligations. Gotcha!

We live, and we learn. As stated in the article, people do not take the time to read the fine print. Yes, we make mistakes when God is not included in every aspect of our lives. The Omniscient God already knows every deceitful plan and temptation we will face from birth until death. It takes the human effort of humility, prayer, and patience to ask and allow God’s divine intervention to protect us from harm’s way. There is confidence and peace from the safety of abiding in the presence of God.

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13 

Prayer: God, we thank you for the protection of your spiritual team. We pray for discernment and the guidance of the Holy Spirit when faced with temptation. We commit our lives to you and will fully trust in your plan. In Jesus’ Name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

The Voice of a Stranger

God has given us intrinsic safeguards against strangers. It is not the learned dislike for people that we are referring to. Feeling uncomfortable or being guarded with a stranger raises our awareness and keeps us safe from harm.

A baby is a perfect example of stranger-danger. Many parents are proud to show others their new addition to the family. But the time factor is limited when a stranger [even if it is an extended family member] can interact with the infant. The onset of stranger anxiety usually happens at the age of 6-7 months. No longer will a stranger’s smile produce a smile in a baby who is unfamiliar with the person.

Because babies prefer familiar adults, they might react to strangers by crying or fussing, going very quiet, looking fearful or hiding. Fear of strangers usually becomes more intense at around 7-10 months of age. It can last a few months or continue for much longer.

As we mature, we begin to experience a change in our acceptance of strangers. How many broken heart experiences have left individuals wounded, bitter, and in despair? What happened that we readily let our guard down and invited an unknown person into the most intimate part of our being?

We are driven by the desires of our hearts. And we are willing to take the chance because “You only have one life” or  “It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.” Cliché’s based on chasing the deceitfulness of the heart breed disappointment. We cannot follow our hearts! 

For the believer, we face two additional hurdles, the voice of our carnal hearts [our desires] leading us to sin against God and recognizing the voice of false prophets speaking false teachings. But wait! How is this possible when Jesus said:

  • My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. John 10:27-29
  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…” Matthew 7:15-16

The answer is quite simple: “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. Becoming entangled in the web of deceit is the result of trusting in our own ability. Eventually, we cannot hear the Voice of God. Our habits take a drastic shift to pleasing self. The Bible that we fail to study is the guiding and warning Voice of God. And the prayers for strength to overcome temptation were never prayed. Remember, the “gut feeling” to decline and walk away, now we ignore it as nonsense. That was the Holy Spirit’s warning!

The voice of our desperately wicked hearts is powerful! Listening to our heart that is fueled by our desires produces the bitter fruit of disobedience. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. Galatians 5:17

The conflict between right and wrong demands that we make a choice. We cannot listen to the voice of our heart and also hear God’s voice. Without spiritual reinforcement, we gradually begin to accept false concepts–Did God say that? “Where is it in the Bible that we should not listen to secular music? What is wrong with tattooing and piercing my body? They really are not unbelievers, they just need time to learn how to serve God. God understands that I do not have enough money to give tithe and offerings.”

Challenging the Voice of God causes us to step onto the broad path that leads to destruction. Using vocal tones of comfort, Satan’s false prophets speak their updated versions of the scriptures to fit our needs in modern times. New Age sermons proclaim that “God understands we will sin.” Compromise is the gateway that fine-tunes our ears to only hear the voices of strangers–who we no longer fear.

Believe it or not, it doesn’t take much effort to disobey God. Without spiritual reinforcement, humanity is no match for Satan. He observes our behaviors and listens to our spoken words. Eve was mesmerized by the melodic voice of the beautiful serpent speaking words that supported her desire to disobey God.

Please know that your temptation is a strategically developed scheme that matches your sinful desires. Satan is creative. He uses a stranger’s voice in the music that soothes your loneliness, the attractive unbeliever who begins the conversation with “Hi” and a smile, or the YouTube and TikTok video of the financially successful person you perceive to offer the perfect solution to fulfill your dreams.

Believers, we must silence the voice of our heart and guard up against the satanic stranger’s deceptive voice. Do not allow your ears to be mesmerized by the diabolical words of Satan, our enemy. Include God in every aspect of your life by praying and waiting for His answer. How do we know it is the Voice of God? There is no catch or drawback in God’s plans. And Satan cannot invade our soul, when we fall down, we willingly gave ourselves to the sinful situation. 

Never forget, we have the Omnipotence of the Trinity, God, the Father, Jesus, His Son, and the Holy Spirit. They provide us with the spiritual strength to fight against Satan’s spiritual wickedness. Every one of us has guardian angels that fight the evil of satanic angels. God has protection for humanity!

  • The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7
  • Pray without ceasing–always pray. 2 Thessalonians 5:17
  • Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.” Matthew 4:10

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20

Prayer: God, we need your help. Many have lost their way and can no longer recognize your voice. We ask you to release Satan’s stronghold on their hearts that they may seek you in repentance. God, we are praying for complete cleansing and restoration of their hearts as only You can do. We pray for Your strength to regain the desire to study your Word and talk to you every day through prayer. We ask You to create in us a clean heart and to renew a steadfast spirit within us. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry