But for the Grace of God

Helplessness is not a characteristic any modern person wants to admit. In our do it yourself mentality, we feel that others expect us to be like the unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame; we never give up, we’ve got this, we just do it.

 

We shudder to think of anyone considering us “less than” or incompetent or that we may need help with something. Yet with God, humility and lowliness of mind is considered a blessing. He created Eve as a helpmate for Adam, and stated that it is not good for man to be alone.

 

He put all authentic Believers in a Body with Christ as our head, and adopted us a co-heirs with Jesus of His Kingdom. No one is an island; we are not good alone. When we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).

 

Coming to the end of our rope is good place to be, because we can let go of our struggles, and let God be God. We end our war with our flesh, the world and the devil and we submit to God instead.

 

There is no pat answer, secret formula or magic carpet that will whisk us out of our trying circumstances. God’s Spirit delivers us from our fight with the flesh described in Romans 7 and sets us free into the fullness of Romans 8:1-2; no condemnation and the liberty of a child of God.

 

We run out of self-effort and fall broken and spent at the feet of Jesus. The only way to look is up…up into His compassionate face of love. His forgiveness fills our heart and His confidence floods our soul.

 

Prayer:

Father God, regardless of how hard we try, we cannot achieve any lasting results in our life without You. Empty victories and short-lived success just does not bring the satisfaction that we gain from a life hidden with Christ in You. We realize that only when we are truly broken can we do all things through You.

 

Remind us that only as we serve You and accomplish Your perfect will for our life can we ever hope for any lasting fruit in this world (Romans 7:21). Help us to see that we may build a tower and put our name on it, but it can fall the next day by one aggressive act of nature or terrorism.

 

Thought for the Day:

We are no longer slaves of unrighteousness, because Jesus Christ Himself set us free from the Law of sin and death (Romans 5:15-25, 8:1-2); we no longer dwell in this carnal world with the concepts and principles at play that attempt to control our life; when Jesus sets us free we are free indeed (John 8:36).

 

A Fruitful Life

One work of the Holy Spirit in our life is to sanctify us by continually, although often slowly, replacing in us the negative attributes of our personality with His spiritual fruit.

 

Galatians 5:22-23 describes for us the fruit of the Spirit…”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

 

Sometimes, it is confusing to put the meaning of these words in simple terms. The definitions I like are:

Love – affection for others

Joy – exuberance about life

Peace – serenity

Patience – willingness to stick with it

Gentleness – compassion from the heart

Goodness – kindness that pervades our entire being

Meekness – humility and service

Self-Control – guided by the Spirit

Faith – trust that God knows what He’s doing

 

When I compare these to their opposites, the negative characteristics cause me to shudder. I certainly want no part of them in my character:

Envy, strife, hatred, bitterness, self-centeredness, pride, criticism, worry, depression, quitters and complainers, backbiters, and people who put work and fun ahead of God. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

 

The Good News is that the Spirit of Jesus Christ within us sanctifies us moment-by-moment! He replaces:

hatred with love,

depression with true joy,

discontentment with peace,

irritation with patience,

criticism with gentleness,

backbiting with goodness,

pride with meekness,

excess with self-control,

and worry with the faith of God as we are controlled and guided by His Spirit.

 

Prayer:

Father God, we thank You for putting Your fruit in us in place of the negative traits we learned from others, those that are ingrained in our personality with which we are born, and those that we develop through the disappointments of life.

 

We give our life to You to mold and make into the divine nature of Christ as He abides within us. We want to be lights of Your character to the world around us, and to have the mind of Christ rather than the whims of our flesh, the world or the devil. Thank You for Your sanctifying work in our life.

 

Thought for the Day:

God replaces our negative character traits with the fruit of His Spirit as we willingly submit to His surgeon’s scalpel, the Word of God, which divides our flesh from our spirit.

– Hebrews 4:12

 

Improving our Quality of Life

We clutter our life by collecting more than we need and things we rarely use. This lack of order effects our soul and spirit as well. We feel confusion within and are troubled by negative emotions because of the chaos.

 

A good rule to follow to prevent this malady is to make sure everything you purchase has a place and to keep everything in its place. Material possessions do not make us any happier and often contribute to our depression when they irritate us with clutter.

 

Keep each room sparsely furnished and make sure you have enough drawers, cabinets, closets and shelves to keep everything organized. If not, give it away to a friend or a charity thrift store.

 

This makes cleaning easier and more attractive to our soul, because we do not have to push the clutter around in order to dust or clean the floors. Seeking material possessions never really makes us happy.

 

We also feel more out of control if we reap too much debt in response to our spending. We tend to feel like a victim and ignore our personal responsibility in our problems.

 

Investing our life and finances in people, ministry and furthering God’s Kingdom is much more rewarding then spending it on more possessions. Mingling with our church family keeps us aware of their circumstances and burdens that we can help to relieve.

 

Prayer:

Father God, giving is a tradition during more than the Christmas season. Your generosity and love are ours all year around; and as we share them with others, we put a smile on every face, including our own.

 

Revive our Spirit within us (Psalm 51:10) with Your wisdom, love, peace and joy all through the year. Make us an instrument of Your love and a channel for Your peace on earth and in the hearts of others throughout our lifetime.

 

Thought for the Day:

Surrendering our budget, activities, thoughts and feelings to the Lord will keep us in a positive mood, which attracts more friends and improves our influence over our own life and the ministries in which we participate with our church family and in our community.

 

 

The Body of Christ – Safety in Numbers

As the body of Christ, we stick together, no matter where we live or how many miles separate us. We can stay connected through social media, even though we rarely see one another face-to-face.

 

In nature, it is the animal that wanders from the safety of the herd that gets attacked by a predator. Satan uses this same tactic on Believers. He finds us wandering alone and pounces (1 Peter 5:8).

 

God created Eve, because He saw that Adam suffered when he was alone. He also created us as His Body, because there is safety, encouragement and blessings when we dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1).

 

Without the Body of Christ we get lonely, roam from the straight and narrow path, and make poor choices. Alone, we are vulnerable, but a three-fold chord cannot be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The Body loves us and helps to protect us.

 

When we yoke with Jesus and other Believers, our load is lighter and we help each other with our burden of guilt, trials and storms in life. Our perspective is broadened by seeing things from another’s point of view.

 

Even Jesus chose 12 men to disciple and to keep Him company during His three years of focused ministry on His way to the cross. Daily, they walked together, healed the sick and reclaimed people from the devil’s kingdom of darkness.

 

Prayer:

Father God, help us to lay down our pride, to take the risks of being vulnerable which are inherent in relationships, and to encourage one another. Remind us that a best friend and prayer partner help us to diffuse our negative feelings and experiences, because they give us someone with which to share our burdens.

 

Friendships can be messy and cause problems in our life, but life is enhanced by transparent relationships, regardless of the ups and downs they may create. Thank You that You are our closest friend and that You always stick closer to us than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).

 

Thought for the Day:

Jesus knew the value of walking together with other Saints, although many turned against Him or deserted Him in the final hours of His life on this earth; He chose to live vulnerably in front of both the multitudes and His disciples.

Jesus is Our True Soulmate

God created us in the image of the Trinity as a triune being (Genesis 1:26). We are body, soul and spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). At birth, our spirit (pneuma) is dead in sin, which we inherited from Adam and Eve.

 

Yet, at the moment of our salvation, God’s Spirit quickens our spirit; and it is no longer dead in sin, but alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-10, 3:3-4). When we pass from this life, our body goes to the grave, but our soul and spirit go to our eternal reward.

 

Our soul (psuche) is the place where our thoughts, emotions and choices are decided upon. It is our deep-seated personality, conscience, appetites and passions; and it drives our body and hinders or promotes our spirit (Psalm 31:10).

 

As we pass from this life, our body goes to the grave. Our spirit and soul go to our eternal home of heaven or hell, depending on our belief in Jesus Christ as our Savior (John 3:18; Luke 16:22-24; Romans 2:9; Psalm 49:15).

 

At salvation, God also delivers our soul from corruption (Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 38:17; Job 33:18). If we allow His influence in our life, God is involved in every nuance of our moods to deliver us from evil (Acts 2:27; Hebrews 10:39; James 1:21).

 

When Jesus returns to earth to bring home His Bride, our spirit, soul and immortal body are reunited for eternity (1 Corinthians 15:45-57; 2 Timothy 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:17; Matthew 16:26).

 

With an eternity in hell, our soul continues to experience weary, hungry, bitter, grieving, loving, rejoicing, etc. emotions (Psalm 42:2; 107:9; Jeremiah 31:25; Leviticus 26:11; Job 30:25; Song of Solomon 1:7). Yet in heaven, there is no more sickness or negative emotions (Revelation 21:4).

 

The Trinity created us in their image and calls us to surrender our spirit, soul and body to Him (Job 33:4; Genesis 12:5, 17:14; Ezekiel 18:4). With Christ residing within us as our true soulmate, we no longer face the prospect of separation from God in this life and the next (Haggai 2:13; Leviticus 21:11).

 

Prayer:

Father God, many people fail to realize that our eternal state not only involves our spirit, but our soul as well. Our soul registers all of the thoughts and emotions that it does during this life, including pain and joy (Luke 16:22-24). We actually condemn our self to an eternity of torment by our choice not to believe in Jesus as our Savior (John 3:18).

 

Help us to be wise and to respond to Your call when Your Spirit draws us to step out of the devil’s kingdom of darkness and into Your Kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13). Remind us that You desire to rejoice over us with singing and You do not want anyone to perish in sin (Zephaniah 3:17; John 3:16-17; 2 Peter 3:9).

 

Thought for the Day:

There is no true profit for us if we gain the whole world, and yet to lose our own soul in the lake of fire for eternity – Matthew 16:26

 

 

 

 

A Good Marriage – Common Ground

Winning is not the ultimate prize of life; it is the manner in which we finish the race that counts the most. It is often the last straggler across the finish line that receives the most attention, because they persevered to the very end.

 

Winning an argument is not necessary to feel validated either. We can concede that we are wrong, if indeed we are, without any shame or recrimination.

 

We have a viewpoint that differs from our employer’s, friend’s, neighbor’s, child’s, parent’s or spouse’s perspective; but no less right or wrong than theirs.

 

There is nothing heroic about destroying a marriage, because we soon realize that we were acting as pawns on Satan’s game board, playing right into his hands and wreaking havoc for generations to come.

 

If both parties in a disagreement are willing to bear with one another and to lay our life down for each other, there is always a way to peacefully resolve all issues and to avoid fighting and drama.

 

Neither of us is the enemy, we are simply fellow sojourners in this life with equal rights and privileges in the family of God. Quickly apologizing from the heart for any hurt we cause during a disagreement goes a long way in keeping unity in our relations.

 

Repairing our relationships is so much more mature than rending them in half and going our separate ways – leaving a trail of broken hearts and lives behind us. A trained counselor can help us to negotiate our differences.

 

Seeking wisdom from God’s Word and His Spirit during times of prayer can also help us to breach any gaps in our unity. We negotiate until we find common ground on which to stand.

 

Prayer:

Father God, You remind us not to separate what You bind together. You admonish us not to break any vow that we make, but to honor our commitment to one another with charity, patience and kindness. You want us to work together to find an equitable solution to any conflicts in our marriage, as well as in our affiliations at work and in Your Body.

 

Give us Your wisdom to maintain peace and to show Your agape love to those who wound us; to turn the other cheeks and to bear with one another’s idiosyncrasies and foibles. Give us patience to love one another as Christ loves the church; so we can represent living sacrifices as a testimony to an unbelieving world.

 

Thought for the Day:

There is nothing heroic in winning at the cost of someone else’s expense; but in laying down our life and serving one another with the love of our Father toward us.

 

A Happy Marriage – Simplifying Life

Happily ever after is a misnomer. Marriage is tough by any standards. Some marriages are better than others, but we all struggle with disagreements from time to time. Let’s face it, we even frequently argue with our self.

 

Arguing is not really a negative issue. It is how we argue that makes it a problem. We can mildly disagree, vehemently disagree or destructively disagree. These destructive fights tear the fabric of our marriage, which affects our society as a whole.

 

Family life is stressful at best and almost impossible at its worst. We allow our children to be involved in more activities than they can bear, which puts a strain on the whole family.

 

Attempting to watch 4 different ball games played by 4 different children at 4 different gyms or parks all played at the same time is an example of the crazy conflicts that can stress us out.

 

The best rule of thumb is to sign up our children for one extra-curricular activity at a time, and to make sure that their schedules do not conflict. If they are interested in various hobbies and venues, this will be so much easier.

 

The financial strain on marriages today is enough to break the back of the strongest couple. With both partners working fulltime, the stress of homemaking and child rearing is also daunting, especially if everyone needs their own room, TV and smart phone.

 

Simplifying life can be overwhelming, but will drastically reduce the amount of stress on the family. With a more fluid schedule, we have more time to enjoy each other’s company.

 

Spending time together allows relationships to evolve on the same level and in more mutually satisfying ways. We weather the shifting winds of life as a family rather than alone.

 

Staying healthy emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually demands that we follow God’s will for our individual and corporate life. He has a perfect plan that sustains us through troubled waters and allows these trials to strengthen rather than to dissolve our relationships.

 

Prayer:

Father God, remind us that the only way to achieve lasting peace and joy in our life is to follow Your Spirit’s direction each moment of the day. As we increase our intimacy with You, our intimacy with others improves as well. Teach us to keep our focus on our own fallacies and idiosyncrasies rather than allowing our spouse’s issues to take precedence in our mind.

 

Remind us that we tend to blow their faults out of proportion unless we humbly compare them with our own flaws. Please change us from the inside out; keep us healthy in body, soul and spirit; strengthen us as individuals, a family and a society. Allow us to be that shining beacon of light to help others avoid the jagged rocks on the coastline of life. Help us to continually work on changing one aspect of our life at a time that will improve our relationships.

 

Thought for the Day:

As we take a searching moral inventory and decide what will make us more fulfilled as a Christian and as an individual, we will strengthen our personal life, our marriage and our family unit, and insure that we can better respond to the grace of God in the midst of every conflict.