The Prayer of a Sincere Heart

Question: Describe your best friend. I will begin. He is loving, humble, caring, and protective, always warning me before making a mistake. Still, the best gift that he gave me was to die for me to have a new forever home when He comes back again. The initial description probably had you thinking she has a great man–husband or best friend. But the ending caused a mental reroute to the spiritual realm. Yes, my best friend is Jesus Christ.

Truth be told, it took me a few decades to understand that Jesus was my best friend. I accepted Jesus as my Savior. Still, my knowledge of Jesus was superficial. I attended church one to two times a week and helped those in need. I did not intentionally break the commandments. Nor did I engage in sinful, worldly pleasures. But my prayer life and studying the scriptures were at the bottom of my priority list. I fulfilled my Christian duties. Even so, my heart was in conflict.

Sadly, I didn’t realize I had a heart [relationship with Jesus] problem. It was an online sermon that brought the flashing red warning lights. Like a half-baked cake that appeared good to eat, but the inside was soggy, my relationship with Christ was based on an insincere and disobedient heart. A spiritual analysis of my lifestyle reflected priorities based on self. And my prayers asked God to bless my dreams, not reveal His plans for my life.

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Psalm 37:23

Although many Christians acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, their mindsets are self-directed. They live to please themselves, which leads to disobedience–the dilemma of sin. The love of self leads us to a life of disobedience, which puts us outside of the will of God.

“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14-15 ESV).

Jesus is our role model. In His humanness, Jesus prayed, “He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, ‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.'” (Matthew 26:39 NLT). It wasn’t that Jesus had an insincere heart, or was seeking a way out, He was fully aware of the agonizing physical torture and death that He faced.

For Jesus’ priceless sacrifice and promise of Eternal life, a sincere heart reflects much gratitude. In humility and thankfulness, our daily prayer is, “God, Not my will, but Your will be done in my life. Amen.” A simple yet heartfelt and powerful prayer that keeps our hearts devoted and obedient to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Weary, Worn Out, and Walking Away

Recently, I read a couple of comments from believers who made the decision to walk away from serving God. The Journey of pain and suffering was too much and too long. ” I’m over it” and “I’ve waited long enough” were the emotionally charged comments left in response to a posted scripture of Waiting on the Lord. Psalm 27:14. For those who are unaware that suffering and persecution is the life of a disciple are not studying the Scriptures. Remember, only the Apostle John died a natural death.

“O my people, what have I done to you? What have I done to make you tired of me? Answer me! Micah 6:3 NLT was the question that God asked the Israelites who enjoyed paganism.

Yes, the Believer’s life is a rugged journey. Sanctification is the lifelong spiritual process of being transformed to become like Christ. In Proverbs 13:15, the scripture reads, “Good understanding gains favor, but the way of the transgressors is hard.” So, an individual intentionally chooses to live without God, has a hard life on this Earth as opposed to going through hardships with the help of an entire Spiritual Team, which includes guardian and messenger angels to assist us through the fiery trials?

I tried life without God and the comment, “I’m over it,” is truly applicable to living a godless, non-productive lifestyle. Realistically, when I am feeling weary and worn out, I start praying a lot and include God’s promises from the scriptures in my prayer. By the time I stop praying, I’m feeling a 100% better.

Serving God reaps many rewards. Spiritual back up is available 24/7. And we know that, and we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Prayer: God, we thank you for the Sabbath, 24 hours of communion with you. We ask for spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical healing. We thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus Christ who suffered for us, that we may have eternal life. Lord help us to never forget what you did for us on the cross. We ask this prayer in the Worthy name of Jesus. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers and Woman, You Are Loved by God Ministries

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

Exempt From Situations and Circumstances

The reply to a blogger’s statement of “Do not focus on your circumstances, pray and God will see you through” was, “Why would you say that, all we have is circumstances?” Although the blogger had good intentions, the first part of his statement is inaccurate. The righteous are exempt from situations and circumstances.

Our journey consists of running a marathon and jumping over the hurdles of trials and tribulations. Suffering involves hardships and sorrows because spiritual refinement is required to align our character, create dependency on God, and build faith. Yes, our tribulations have a purpose. God is preparing us for eternal life.

Living righteously means that we put God first. With a concerted effort, we make sure that God is involved in every aspect of our lives. We pray, have faith, trust, and obediently wait for God’s answer. As disciples of Christ, whose sufferings were extreme, we were forewarned that suffering is required to serve God: I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart [have courage], I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.

Yes, at times, we become tired, and the weariness weighs us down. But we press on because we do not rely on our strength to run the race. In fact, we are always victorious. How? We have the advantage because Jesus provides us with His strength, “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13.

We acknowledge God’s gifts of unmerited and abundant grace and mercies that are freely given. God does not rain on us. God reigns over us. Our storms do not last forever: And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who is called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10.

However, the reply to the blogger’s statement was the truth. In my lifetime, I have heard many times, “I have a situation.” Without God, one’s life is full of situations, circumstances, predicaments, and the consequences that are certain to follow. Praise God! Saying yes to Jesus’ knock at the door of our hearts provides us with the opportunity of not only being exempt, but we also are never alone, always covered by the love of God.  It is the human effort of faith and God’s divine intervention that guarantees our win-win outcome.

Blessed [happy, spiritually prosperous, favored by God] is the man who is steadfast under trial and perseveres when tempted; for when he has passed the test and been approved, he will receive the [victor’s] crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. James 1:12. Amplified Bible

Prayer: God, thank you for the trials and sorrows that prepare us for the reward of immortality in the perfect and sinless New Heaven and New Earth. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. © 2021 Sonya Johnson, Faithful Fishers Ministry

100% Commitment Required

Can you imagine falling in love with your soulmate? The excitement and feelings from being in a love relationship with another person are second only to our love relationship with Jesus Christ. But as time passes, your “soulmate” is not as enthusiastic and appears emotionally detached. You ask, “Are you okay?” to which he or she may blame it on feeling tired or involvement in a stressful situation. Usually, soon after that conversation, you receive the sad news that things are not working out, they are not ready for a serious relationship.

How did their feelings change so fast? Why didn’t you see it coming? The Red Flags were evident. Because of your commitment and ability to give unconditional love, you were blinded. Unfortunately, you were the only one who gave 100% commitment, and now you are dealing with the heartbreak of a love no more, and the stages of grief that accompany a broken heart. Many of us know this story quite well. Even so, “He heals the brokenhearted, and bind up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3 

When we enter into a relationship with God, we are saved from sin through Jesus Christ. We may not realize that it takes 100% total commitment to worship and serve God. Still, God’s standards have no leeway or a gray area.

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14.

Listen, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Deuteronomy 6:4

We are depressed, anxious, and worried because our perception of God differs from who God says He is. We give to God the time that we think He deserves. Most of us would never believe that we do not give God 100% commitment. Red Flags: How often are we studying the Bible or communicating with God through prayer? When do we give time or money to help those in need?

We do not see ourselves as desperate people who need God for our existence. Our mindset of self-sufficiency and independence becomes evident in times of prosperity. Those are the times we smile, laugh, and have joy because all-is-well. Yes, we are thrilled in the good times as we proclaim that “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good.” 

What prevents us from being committed to our love relationship?

We worship many idols: Self, jobs, material things, pleasure-seeking activities, people, etc. These are the distractions that consume our time and indicate who or what is the priority in our lives. But God being the loving Father that He is, takes action to redirect our focus. Yes, it is God who reminds us that we need Him.

Our true perception of God is revealed when the bitter trials and seasons of darkness invade our peaceful existence. Do we proclaim that God is good? Are we thanking God for His grace and mercies during challenging times? Does adversity make us wipe the dust off from our Bible to search for God’s promises to deliver us? “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27. Are these the times that we fall on bended knees with fervent prayer?

The “I Am” requires wholehearted commitment: And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5

We cannot have an emotional roller-coaster [based on the high and low times] relationship with God. Whether we are in good times or stormy trials, we must stay committed to our Jealous God by giving Him our whole heart. God sets the standard for the level of commitment that He is willing to accept. Our priority is God because He is the Lord alone.

There is a sweet peace that is always present when our heart is 100% committed to God. We have the advantage that God will never leave us or forsake us. He remains 100% committed to humanity. God created us from love, in His image. We are the recipients of Jesus’ blood sacrifice, and God’s gifts of grace, mercy, and provisions. And for this, God deserves our everything!

And if it seems evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15

Bible Study: Deuteronomy 6

God, we say thank you for setting the standard for serving you. Thank you for loving us unconditionally. We desire to give you 100% commitment from today forward. 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.

Sabbath Devotional: Living with Faith, Hope, and Gratitude

Life in the 1970s in a small Texas town was tough. There was a significant disparity between the financially wealthy and the rest of us. Poverty transcended all barriers; there were only two classes of people, the rich and the poor.

But, we also belonged to a church family who looked out for each other. Most of us had very little, yet, we were happy. Our faith in God was strong. We prayed continuously and were confident that God would answer. Our joy was evident because we always knew that God would give us our essential needs (Matthew 6). In addition, every Sabbath after lunch, we passed out literature in our assigned areas. Yes, those times are precious memories.

We had great faith as we prayed, prepared, and looked forward to Jesus coming again. 

Fast forward to the 21st century, and many believers are feeling anxious, worried, overwhelmed, depressed, and hopeless. What brought about the change?

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. Luke 17:12-13. The men with leprosy heard of the great Messiah who healed those with many illnesses and raised the dead. When they saw Jesus, all ten men used their loud voices to ask Him for mercy.

Jesus commanded them to go and show themselves to the priest, which took unwavering faith. Remember that lepers were outcasts and not allowed to mix with other people. All ten obeyed Jesus’ command to, “Go.” Because of their faith and obedience, they received healing from the dreadful disease that excluded them from society. 

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, “Praise God he fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Luke 17:15-16. Jesus healed ten lepers, yet only one returned to say, “Thank you.”

In this story, the desire to receive healing was reflected by their desperation. But even more importantly, they recognized Jesus and ten men loudly asked Him for mercy. When Jesus told them to go to the priests, they didn’t say, “Jesus, we are not allowed to go into the city, nor can we go into the synagogue.” The lepers faithfully obeyed Jesus’ command, and received healing. But only one of the ten had a grateful heart. And it is gratitude that caused him to turn around to thank Jesus.

Why was the man’s ethnicity of being a Samaritan emphasized? Because the Jews had no interactions with the unbelieving and unrighteous Samaritans. Even so, he did not care about society’s restrictions. The healed man took another giant leap of faith and went back to Jesus to say, “Thank you.”

Most believers of today acknowledge the deity of God, our Creator. Yet, we are so distracted by our circumstances that our faith is almost nonexistent. “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27. 

Our outlook is bleak when we enter the season of darkness [hardships, trials, and sorrows], nor do we focus on the fact that God always keeps His promises. 

What happens when we accumulate wealth? Due to financial prosperity, we begin to forget where the prosperity comes from. We take our eyes off Him and start looking at our wealth. We begin to worship the tangible things instead of the Creator. Alexis, contributor

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

We have adapted and conformed to the “self-help” mindset of the world. As we try to figure out the solutions, we are desperate, but our desperation is not for Jesus.

The busyness of our lifestyles has prevented us from having an up-close and personal relationship with God. Simply put, we do not have time to put God first.

Although our faults are many, we can change our current way of thinking, acting, and living. Jesus paid a high price for us. He kept his promise to die for our sins. And now Jesus is still serving us by being our Heavenly Intercessor, presenting us as faultless before God when we confess and repent of our sins.

Always put God first! When we possess a spirit of gratitude, we recognize every blessing, great or small, and we readily thank God for His never-ending grace and mercies.

This is our blessed hope: Jesus promises us that He is coming again!

12 “Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:12-13, 20

Bible Study: Matthew 6, and Revelation 22

God, we are so caught up in life’s circumstances that we have lost our faith, hope, and total belief in you. We ask forgiveness for focusing on ourselves. We acknowledge that without your love, grace, and mercy, we would be hopeless. Please give us the strength to change and to put you first. We ask for a renewal of our commitment as we faithfully serve you and prepare for the Second Coming of your Son, Jesus Christ. 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.