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.

 

 

Not of This World

Our God is so awesome, mighty in power, gentle in mercy, constant in grace, consuming in His love for us and faithful beyond measure. We can trust in Him with our whole heart and depend on His intimate involvement in our life.

 

God never, ever leaves or forsakes us (Deuteronomy 31:6; Hebrews 13:5). His three personalities are all-encompassing (Isaiah 7:14; John 10:29; Matthew 12:32). God is our Creator and Heavenly Daddy; Jesus is the Trinity in the flesh who died on the cross to exhibit the Father’s love; the Spirit promotes Jesus and His words (John 3::8, 14:6, 26; Luke 24:49; Acts 16:7).

 

Through believing on Jesus we are constructed into the temple of the entire godhead of the Trinity (Romans 8:15; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 12:13). The Trinity is our Father, our Brother and our continual comfort and guide (Mark 1:10-11).

 

The Trinity’s presence in our life nourishes us to grow in godliness, to consecrate our life to Him and to do the work He created us to do (Ephesians 2:10). The Trinity draws us into unity with the Godhead (John 6:44, 10:30, 14:10-13).

 

We are raised from sin’s degradation to walk in a new life in order to share in the glory of the Trinity through a consecrated and holy life (John 17:22; Romans 8:11). We let His light in us shine, so that people look at us and are drawn to believe in and trust in the Trinity for their salvation as well.

 

Vacation homes, worldly hobbies, time shares, multiple cruises in a year, smart phones for every family member, TVs in every room, expensive clothing stores, excessive clothing accessories and jewels, a car for every driver in the family, etc. keep us in bondage to this world and limit our participation in activities that promote the Kingdom of God.

 

We are not of this world, we do not rely on our human nature or characteristics, and we do not develop plans and goals for this life. We only live here to build up the Kingdom of God while it is still day, because the night is coming when no one may get saved (John 9:4).

 

Prayer:

Father God, break our heart with what breaks Yours, give us a Kingdom mind and focus in this life and make the fact that we are not of this world a reality in our life (Romans 12:2; John 17:16). Help us to stop focusing on building our nest in this world and to change our attention to furthering Your Kingdom.

 

Remind us that Christ is our whole life and that we no longer live, but Christ lives in and through us (Colossians 3:3-4; Galatians 2:20). Draw us into a more intimate relationship with You, so that we are not sidetracked by the lies and schemes of the devil to get our focus on this world rather than on Your Kingdom.

 

Thought for the Day:

We develop a Kingdom mindset and allow God’s Spirit to draw our attention to the presence of God within us, which is our only true source of comfort and joy, rather than on the riches and trappings of this world.

 

 

A Good Marriage – The Little Foxes that Spoil the Vine

Over the years of marriage, we recognize who our partner is and what they are not. We also develop a better understanding of our self and why we respond to people and events the way we do.

 

We come to identify what triggers negative reactions in one another, so we can avoid these issues whenever possible. We make concentrated efforts on working together to find mutually acceptable plans when our original personal preferences conflict.

 

We also fearlessly attack our personal issues and give the Holy Spirit full reign in our life, so that He can transform us with the mind of Christ. One way to recognize our faults is to pay attention to what our spouse complains about – do we procrastinate, withhold affection, watch too much TV, neglect to help one another with projects or daily chores?

 

Small adjustments in our schedule or habits will make a big difference in marital bliss and harmony. We can learn one another’s love language and show each other love in ways that will fulfill our mate’s needs and allow them to feel nurtured and cherished.

 

This will erase the small irritations which eventually erupt into major disharmony – the little foxes that spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15). Do we expect too much from one another, forgetting that we are only human?

 

Do we greet one another as we would our best friend, or do we take one another for granted? We all appreciate being greeted with enthusiasm as someone who is highly cherished.

 

Do we agree to disagree or do we always feel like we are right and our partner is wrong? Do we need to have the last word, or do we stop talking when we have made our point?

 

No one like to live with condemnation, condescension, griping or constant belittlement. It is so good and pleasant when we dwell together in harmony (Psalm 133:1). This unity draws us closer to one another and makes us want to spend more time together.

Prayer:

Father God, teach us to recap once we calm down after a disagreement. Help us to honestly relate how we felt during the “fight” and what thoughts were going through our mind that we did not take the time to articulate. These thoughts fueled our emotional response during our discussion, and our spouse deserves to understand why we reacted as we did to their comment, behavior or reply.

 

Remind us to seek You in all of our decisions and discussions; not to rely on our own understanding, but to allow You to direction our thoughts, words and actions. Help us to be led by Your Spirit rather than to react in our flesh; but if we do act carnally, encourage us to ask for forgiveness from one another and to calmly discuss the situation until we find an equitable solution.

 

Thought for the Day:

Looking into each other’s eyes during a discussion enables us to see within the windows of each other’s soul; speaking honestly about how our partner’s words and actions make us feel will help us to understand one another better too and to make our interactions more intimate and productive. – Matthew 6:22-23

 

The Tyranny of Control

“Control Freaks” develop this habit out of fear and a desire to stay safe. They were deeply wounded at one time by physical, verbal and mental abuse. They were not given a “say-so” in the decisions made that affected their life.

 

Therefore, they decided to take control as soon as they got older. Now they are hyper-vigilant and over-reacting in their approach to life. They believe that “their” way is the only safe way; and therefore, the best way to do things and to make decisions.

 

They vehemently fight against anyone or thing that threatens their carefully choreographed routine in life. They hide behind anger in order to stay in control and to feel safe.

 

Most wounded people will adopt a mindset of attempting to control everything about the people in their life too – even when another’s decisions have no real effect on their life.

 

Our only hope of salvation from this demonic plague of fear, self-preservation and control is to realize that God has a perfect plan for our life. No matter what terrors we experience, God is with us in the midst of them, and worthy of all of our praise.

 

We can trust God with our life. No matter what terrors we experience, God is with us in the midst of them. His presence sustains us and provides for us. He is worthy of all of our praise.

 

With our confidence in God’s faithfulness, we speak up only when someone’s decision has an immediate bearing on our life, and we allow others reap the consequences of their own decisions. We mind our own business and pray for others.

 

We have our confidence in God alone, and that gives us peace and calm regardless of circumstances. We never insist on our own way, but we do insist on finding a Plan C when we and the significant people in our life cannot agree on their Plan A or our Plan B.

 

If they are unwilling to compromise their plans with us, then we give them the freedom to make their decisions; but then we prayerfully and calmly make our own decisions in order to keep our self safe from reaping the consequences of their decisions.

 

God has a perfect will for our life. We find it by praying without ceasing; we walk in it by walking in the Spirit, so we do not succumb to the idiosyncrasies and neurosis of our flesh (Galatians 5:15-25); and then, we reap the rewards of a life, which is faithful to His love and His will.

 

Prayer:

Father God, it is not natural for us humans to obey You or to rely on You from the depth of our heart. Our emotions are fickle and shallow at best. Yet, if we obey Your Biblical mandates, we prove that we love You and are willing to walk in Your ways.

 

If we surrender our will, desires, dreams and goals to Your Spirit’s direction, and live in Your will each moment of our day, we live a fulfilled, spiritual and successful life. We will prosper mentally, emotionally, financially and physically as well (John 14:15).

 

Thought for the Day:

There is healing from this unresolved trauma in the presence of God and our Savior Jesus Christ; this world is dysfunctional and trials are inescapable, but surrendering the pain of the past to the Trinity for healing is the only way to get completely free from its tyranny in our life.