Life as a Branch

What does a branch do? Not much. The roots, vine and leaves of a plant do most of the work. Without them, the branch will wither and die, and be pruned and thrown into the fire and burned up (Matthew 7:19).

 

Yet, securely connected to the vine, the branch will bear much fruit (Matthew 7:18). The vine is one long system with many branches flaring out from it. It uses rocks, other plants, trees or any viable support for growth.

 

The vine helps to fertilize the soil over which it spreads, holding in moisture needed by the branches to bear fruit. It colonizes and spreads quickly. When pruned, the branches bear even more fruit (John 15:4-8).

 

The vine always moves toward the light in order to position the leaves of the plant to access the most and best sunlight. The vine will even overcome walls, fences and ravines in order to spread. So like our spiritual walk.

 

Vines stabilize the plant on which they attach as a support, and also help to hold soil in place and to cover parts of the earth that would otherwise be bare, parched soil.

 

A stem is stationary and remains in one spot, but a vine spreads out and up and around. Jesus could have used the word “stem” instead of vine in illustrating our connection to Him.

 

However, His use of the word vine shows that He is interested in spreading His gospel as quickly and prolifically as possible. The roots of the vine also spread out in the soil, offering stability and nourishment for the whole vine and branches.

 

Roots act like tiny straws, sucking up water and minerals from the soil. The little hairs sticking out from the roots help in this absorption process too. Roots anchor the vine much like God’s Spirit anchors us in life.

 

Roots also store extra nutrients for later use, ensuring that the Vine and branches have the provision they need for healthy growth now and in the future.

 

The leaves on the branches join the roots in providing much needed food for the vine and branches. They use sunlight, water from the soil and carbon dioxide from the air in photosynthesis to make a sugary energy drink for the vine and branches.

 

Living apart from God’s presence, the nurturing of His Spirit and the Body of Christ, we cannot survive in this world (John 15:5). We would wither and die, be pruned and discarded.

 

Prayer:

Father God, thank You for providing Jesus as the support for our life as our Vine. We are amazed at how You piece together the Body, the Spirit and Your presence to make us healthy, and a viable conduit of Your life in order for us to bear fruit for Your Kingdom.

 

Remind us that we are useless without You, Your Spirit and Your Body, because we could not bear fruit. We rely on You for everything we need for life and godliness (2 Corinthians 1:12; 2 Peter 1:3). Use our fruit to feed the multitudes who come to gather in Your presence.

 

Thought for the Day

The symbolism which Jesus used of the Vine and branches is such a perfect picture of the Christian life; the fellowship, comradery, spiritual nourishment and support provided to us by Jesus, His Spirit and His Body is invaluable to our personal growth in Christ.

 

 

The Lost Art of Grieving

Loss is a part of living; but grieving is a lost art. We do not want to face the pain, so we stuff it inside, wallow in self-pity and depression, and ignore the one safety valve God gave us to overcome the deep abiding sadness we carry around with us every hour of every day.

If we would allow Him to, our God of all comfort would fill us with His joy and peace as we trust in Him. He enables us to overflow with hope by the power of His Holy Spirit within us (Romans 15:13).

People usually ignore us when we are grieving, because they do not know what to say. They may want to speak to us but cannot decide how to word their feelings. This is common and we do not need to feel insecure.

We can simply say, “I am not sure what to say, but I want you to know that I care about you and that I am here for you in any way that I can be of help.”

We tend to use phrases like: passed on, passed away, graduated to heaven, went to be with the Lord, etc. Using the word “died” will allow the grieving person to realize that it is okay to refer to their loved one in that same way.

We can express our concern by sharing our sorrow that they are experiencing this loss. “I am so sorry for your loss. I really care about you. How may I help you?”

A simple, “What do you need from me right now?” or “What can I do for you?” are appropriate ways to offer help, because they show you support them during this time of grief.

Do not tell the grieving person that their loved one is in a better place, or that they will get over their grief in time, or that this loss was part of God’s plan, or that you know how they feel. Instead, ask them, “How are you feeling right now?”

You do not need to remind them of all they still have to be thankful for or that they can find comfort in the fact that their loved one really cared about them.

Do not tell them what they should feel or do. Let God direct their steps in His timing and way. If they ask you, then start your comment with, “Have you ever considered …”getting a part-time job”, “volunteering at a shelter”, “helping us with our children’s ministry” (in the office, on workdays around the building).

The worst thing you can say is, “It is time to get on with your life.” You could say, “God still has plans for your life and He will show them to you as you are ready.”

Everyone has a different way to grieve and different time frames in which to do this. Some take longer than others. Some never get over the intense feelings of grief and it shapes their future life.

Many friends forget about the grieving person once the funeral is over. That is when the person needs us the most. Take them shopping, to get their hair done, or for a quiet walk in the park on a pleasant sunny day.

Take them a hot meal, but do not stay to watch them eat it. Offer to buy them some groceries or to do their dishes or wash a load of laundry. These basic needs often get neglected when we are grieving.

Send cheerful cards, invite them to a movie or over to your house to join mutual friends for dinner. Do not force them to be outgoing or cheerful. Just allow them to silently enjoy your company.

Honor their requests, don’t push your ideas on them, but ask them, “What would you like to do this week?” Do this regularly for the first year after their loss. Be patient and don’t push them. Love them with the love of the Lord.

Prayer:
Father God, knowing what to say to a grieving person is so nerve wracking and our ineptitude is paralyzing. Teach us how to comfort. Give us Your Holy Spirit’s wisdom for how to minister to each new grieving person. Put Your ideas in our mind, inspire our creativity with Your ideas on how to be a special blessing to this grieving friend, relative or church member.

We also ask that You comfort us in our grief. Help us not to wallow in self-pity but to rise and shine with each new day and to seek Your will in each new moment. Help us to realize that You have plans for us that do not include our loved one; and that we still have purpose and meaning for our life in You.

Thought for the Day:
Give a bereaving person the gift of your time and attention.

Let Me Tell You, Ladies

A man loves to be useful and to feel needed, admired, accepted as he is and appreciated. As his wife, we are his biggest fan and most vocal cheering section.

We encourage our husband, show him appreciation, leave love notes in his briefcase or lunchbox, get excited at his accomplishments and care about his day. We can ask him what he needs, and do all in our power to help.

Our husband is not our mule and a paycheck. His role in life is not to function as our servant. Even if we both work all day, and we share the chores and child care, he should choose the chores he feels comfortable doing.

When our husband has a day off, he needs some of that time for himself. Family time is important, but he needs some of that time to chill, to hang with his buds, to create in his shop, to surf the waves or the internet, or to play his gaming device.

He decompresses his stress this way and can pay more attention to the family during our time together. A date night is also important for us as a couple…a time to play, laugh, make memories, form a closer bond and do something fun.

If we make his favorite meals and have everything he needs for the next day in plain view and ready for him before we go to bed, his love for us will grow; and he will make more of an effort to care for our needs as well.

If he is withdrawn, irritable, angry, or exhibiting any negative emotions, we can give him some space and some time to work out his issues. We can ask if there is anything we can do to help, and then follow through with his requests.

When a disagreement occurs, we brainstorm and pray together rather than just caving in to our partner or fighting to get our own way. Once God shows us a scenario, which we both feel good about, we proceed with unity and joy in our heart.

Prayer:
Father God, Your Word warns us that all of the forces of hell, along with the temptations and disagreements of the world, unite to destroy our marriage. We often join them and make life more difficult for our partner.

Remind us that love never fails; so we can decide together that divorce is never an option, since divorce shreds our family and removes the support that our children need regardless of how old they are. Divorce makes Your Church vulnerable, unstable and defeated.

Revive us, O Lord, so that we can rejoice in You (Psalm 85:6). Satisfy us anew each new morning with your unfailing love, so we can sing for joy and rejoice all the days of our life (Psalm 90:14).

Thought for the Day:
There is nothing, which happens in a marriage that cannot be resolved, if both mates will prefer the other person, exhibit patience during a disagreement, join forces during a trial and spend time enjoying one another’s company.

The Beauty of Marriage

Marriage was designed by God in order for a man and a woman to appreciate the advantages of each other’s company. The Bible is full of verses, which speak about the benefits of two people sharing life together; and when we add Christ into the equation, the three of us are not easily defeated (Genesis 2:18, 20; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

When a man finds a wife, he opens up a whole world of benefits for himself and his future family (Proverbs 18:22). Like puzzle pieces, we learn to fit together perfectly and blend our two personalities to work as a team.

Our individual strengths help to overcome the weaknesses in one another. We never insist on our own way, but we talk out our issues until we find a third plan, on which we can both agree.

This prevents heated words, angry emotions and shredded feelings. If both members prefer one another over themselves, there is no issue in any relationship, which cannot be worked out.

Both partners must really listen to one another and take each other seriously. Even if the issue seems unimportant to us, it is important to our mate, so we should take it seriously.

This helps us not to over-react, because we know we are heard. It also allows us to gather all the facts before forming conclusions (Proverbs 18:13).

If we dwell together with understanding and prefer our mate over our self, then love grows (Peter 3:7). When we make God the priority in our marriage, and worship God and serve in a church together, our respect for one another increases.

Marriage also helps us to increase our wealth by either both working at different jobs, or by one staying home to frugally care for the house, children and family errands.

We build together rather than tearing each other down. Abiding by these principles tends to resolve many marital issues before they ever start, and we cherish and admire one another.

Prayer:
Father God remind us that in our marriage, we do not complete one another. Only Christ in us can truly complete us (Colossians 2:10). Neither do we compete with one another. Instead, we complement each other. We provide wisdom in decisions, companionship, physical assistance, and support for one another in body, soul and spirit.

Enable us to see that the longer we are married, the more we feel comfortable with one another, and we no longer feel the need to impress each other. We feel safe in the confidence that we are loved and cherished. We relax, breath easily and smile more often.

Remind us to enjoy one another’s company and to have fun together. Help us to understand each other, and to like, as well as love each other. Especially prompt us not to take one another for granted.

Thought for the Day:
When God gives us a mate to share our life with, we cherish, honor and protect one another for an entire lifetime. – Genesis 2:24

Healing from Loss

In this world we will have troubles and trials, but we can rejoice through them all because Christ IN us has already overcome them all (John 16:33).

However, it is important to allow our soul to grieve each loss. Everyone experiences loss at one time or another during our lifetime.

We all react to loss in a similar fashion. We suffer both emotional and physical distress in our grief, caused by the heightened levels of adrenalin in our bloodstream.

When a segment of our support system in this life crumbles, our assurance of security, safety and stability crumble as well.

Part of our purpose, identity, social status and provision vanish. Unfamiliar and unwanted issues occur, which demand our attention and time.

Our life is full of turmoil, loss, isolation and grief. We feel overwhelmed, depressed, hopeless and unable to cope. We find it difficult to function in both our normal roles and new responsibilities.

Some people are angry and others withdraw from society. We feel abandoned by significant others, and maybe even by God.

However, we have hope of full recovering when we cling ever closer to God. He gives us His peace, which transcends all of our circumstances.

Prayer:
Father God, our life on this earth is a series of losses from favorite toys, to special treasures, to important people and places, all of which helped to define who we are. Remind us to allow our self to work through the grief process and not to short-cut our time of healing.

Help us to reflect on the positive side of grief as an opportunity to evaluate our priorities in life, to examine our values and to deepen our beliefs. Guide us as we move toward a more mature relationship with You, and a stronger faith in Your faithfulness as we experience Your provision in all of our negative circumstances.

Thought for the Day:
The impact of loss is so profound that it reaches to the very core of our being and affects every aspect of our life–physically, emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually.

Christ, our Solid Rock

The power of prayer girding every circumstance in our life is laid on a foundation of the solid Rock of Christ and His sacrifice in our life. This solid bedrock supports us with both positive and negative experiences from our past. God used these incidents in our life to add to the emotional and mental framework of the house the Lord is building in our life.

Negative emotions are worm-riddled planks, which give our house an insecure structure. God replaces that rotting wood with His Truth about a situation. He may not use a Bible verse, but He will speak an impression in our spirit that is biblical and that we know is from Him. We renounce Satan’s lies about this issue and renew our mind with God’s Truth.

This frees us to forgive any person who harmed or wounded us in any way. The negative emotions, which plague us – especially people with a melancholy personality, are slowly replaced with thoughts that are factual, gracious, accurate, holy, divine, admirable and commendable. We focus on what we know is true about Christ in us, and His life in other Christians.

Then the peace of God will fill every corner of the new house, which God is building with our life (Philippians 4:7-9; 2 Corinthians 5:17). These new planks, these strong and solid Truths, add to our firm foundation of prayer and God’s presence in our life. Focusing on the Truths of God’s Word calms our fears, builds up our confidence in Christ within us (Colossians 1:27, 3:1-4; Galatians 2:20), and releases His power in our thoughts, words and deeds.

Prayer:
Father God, with our eyes focused solely on You and Your Word, we realize that regardless of the battles we experience in our world, You already overcame them all through the blood of Christ. You are working out everything, even negative circumstances, for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28). Help us to rely on You, rather than in worldly wisdom and strength, to fight our battles. For You are our mighty stronghold (Psalm 18:2). Remind us that Jesus is our firm foundation and nothing and no one can shake us out of Your hand (Romans 8:35-39). Regardless of the negative activity around us, we remain peaceful and calm within, with trust and hope in You alone (Psalm 62:5; Isaiah 26:3).

Thought for the Day:
Do not be afraid or discouraged by the negative activity and thoughts in your life, no matter how overwhelming they are; because there is greater power in us through Christ, who helps us to fight our battles, than the power of the flesh, the world or the devil combined. – 2 Chronicles 32:7-8

For help with a wounded past go to:
( http://www.theophostic.com )

God Never Fails

 

There are times in life when we feel devastated, overwhelmed and hopeless. We have no idea how to pay our bills, buy groceries or keep a roof over our head. If we keep our faith and hope in God, anything is possible (Mark 9:23). When trouble surrounds us and life is hard, we know that there is always a way out, because God loved us enough to lay down His life for us (2 Corinthians 4:8).

 

God has good plans for His righteous ones and there is always hope in our future (Jeremiah 29:11). We fear nothing, which life throws at us or people threaten us with. Full surrender to God’s will in every circumstance is the only way to stay sane. If we continue to strive for our own way, we will continue to feel frustrated and hopeless. Total surrender to God is the key to making sense of our circumstances.

 

If we call out to the Lord, and pray to Him for help, He never fails to hear us. Our cries always reach His ears (Psalm 18:8). Our Lord and Redeemer strengthens us and holds us up with His victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10, 13-14). Surrendering our present and future to God, walking away from our worries and leaving them in His hands is the only way to dwell in His rest (Hebrews 4:10).

 

We trust in God, not in our family or friends, job or bank account, talents or human reasoning, church or neighbors. We can put too much pressure on others when we expect them to support us more than they already are. They will feel undue stress and push back or ignore us. We have to get our eyes off our self and onto God. Then He will keep us in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).

 

As long as we are still alive, we have hope (Ecclesiastes 9:4). The Lord saves the brokenhearted and those crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). He binds our wounds and carries our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4, Psalm 147:3). Our hope comes from God alone and He gives us rest for our soul (Psalm 43:5; 62:5). As we put our hope in Him, the Lord rescues us from our trials (Psalm 39:7; 2 Peter 2:9).

 

Prayer:

Father God, even when we take our focus off You in the midst of our tribulation, we know without a doubt that You are always there for us, loving us unconditionally and giving us the victory through Your death and resurrection. Nothing this world has to offer compares to the hope we have, which comes only from You (Psalm 62:5; Ecclesiastes 9:4). You are always on our side, ever loving us and drawing us closer to Your heart (John 6:44; Psalm 136:1).

 

Thought for the Day:

God gives us grace to live for today, but remember that tomorrow’s grace will not come until tomorrow.