Sword of the Spirit – Hope and a Future #1147

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1147

“Hope and a Future”

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11

Do you ever feel that you are trapped in a dry and parched land? Do you feel you are languishing there without hope?

Does it seem that everything you have planned and dreamed for has stalled and all but died on the vine? David was in such a place when he penned Psalms 63 and 42.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.Psalm 63:1

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation – Psalm 42:5

We have plans for our life and God has plans for our life. He will not abandon us. It is a blessed thing when we seek Him and trust Him with our planning.

For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”Jeremiah 31:25

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.Proverbs 16:3

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.Proverbs 16:9

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.Proverbs 19:21

God’s plans are for our welfare and He loves us enough to thwart our plans that He knows will do us harm.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

God’s plans are to give us a future and a hope in this life and for eternity with Him. This promise is for those who accept the free gift of salvation through Jesus.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.John 14:6

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.Psalm 33:18-22

Commit your plans to Him. Seek His presence continually. Set your hope and trust in Jesus alone.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.Romans 15:13

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Sword of the Spirit – In His Hands #1146

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1146

“In His Hands”

In you, O Lord, do I take refuge…I trust in you, O Lord…I say, “You are my God.”My times are in your hand; – Psalm 31:1, 14-15

We live in troubling times: The Coronovirus pandemic and its mutations; Shelter in place orders; Businesses failing; Unemployment; War in the Middle East; Inflation; Threats of conflict in the Far East; Cancel Culture; Religious persecution; Southern border crisis and the list goes on and on.

Many of us and those around us are fearful for our future and the future for our children and grandchildren. However, none of our current circumstances comes as a surprise to Our Father in Heaven and He tells us, His children, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’ve got this. I’ve got you. Trust Me’

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Psalm 139:16Isaiah 41:10

Our times have been in His hands since before we were born. We have made choices, both good and bad, that have brought consequential circumstances, yet none of these surprised Our Father and He worked all of them for good, for us and for others.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

We have to be honest with ourselves. Do we lament our current troubling circumstances because of our love for the world? Are we downhearted because of the disruption of our finances, plans and thoughts of how we expected and wanted our life in this world to be? Would we resent the Lord’s sudden return for His church because ‘there are things I have yet to do or enjoy in this world’?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. – Psalm 42:5 1 John 2:15

We should be living our lives in eager expectation of Jesus’ return for His church while occupying until He calls us home.

Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.Luke 19:13 – Matthew 24:46-47

Our present times are fleeting. There is no pleasure in this world that can compare to what the Lord has prepared for us for eternity with Him.

Pray continually for the Lord to protect us and carry us through these evil times. Trust in Him always. Seek His presence continually and do not let your heart be troubled.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. – John 14:1

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Sword of the Spirit – Uzzah #1145

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1145

“Uzzah”

…Uzzah put out his hand to take hold of the ark, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and he struck him down because he put out his hand to the ark, and he died there before God. – 1 Chronicles 13:9-10

Have you ever read this passage and wondered: ‘Why, God? Uzzah was only trying to help.’

The fact remains that Uzzah knew better. In fact, David and the entire company knew better. They were all acting in disobedience and disrespect toward the holiness of Almighty God. God made His point with Uzzah and the Israelites regrouped to move the Ark in accordance with the Law and with a renewed reverence for the holiness of God.

Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek him according to the rule.” – 1 Chronicles 15:13

Note that the Philistines were not struck down when they put the Ark on the cart in the first place before sending it back to Israel. Note also that the Lord struck the people of Beth-shemesh when it arrived there because they looked inside the Ark.

Now He fatally struck some of the men of Beth-shemesh because they had looked into the ark of the Lord. … – 1 Samuel 6:19 (NASB)

The Philistines had no knowledge of the significance of the Ark of the Covenant, yet the Israelites did and were held accountable for their knowledge. God holds us accountable for our actions and behavior in light of our knowledge of Him.

…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. – Luke 12:48

Only God is holy. God is separate from all sin. His nature and character is morally perfect. The fear of the Lord is that of reverential awe for those who know Him.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; – Proverbs 1:7

Why, then do we act like irreverent fools referring to God as ‘The big guy’ or ‘the man upstairs’? Why do we use His Name in vain, spouting off ‘G-D’ and ‘J-C’ in rants of rage? Even the generic versions such as ‘Gol darn’ and Jesum Crow’ cross the line and border on irreverence.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. – Psalm 29:2Hebrews 12:28-29

May the Holy Spirit kindle a right spirit in you of reverence and awe for the holiness of God. May every aspect of your life – what you say and do – be acceptable worship of Him.

There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, – 1 Samuel 2:2 1 Peter 1:15 Deuteronomy 10:12

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Sword of the Spirit – The Fragrance of Christ #1144

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1144

“The Fragrance of Christ”

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. – 2 Corinthians 2:14

Fragrances make us feel something. They can trigger memories, make us salivate even though we may not be hungry and can make us feel happy, contented and at peace. Fresh baked bread, lavender, citrus, and peppermint are all ‘feel good’ aromas.

This phenomenon is the basis for Paul’s use of the aroma metaphor as he continues in his letter to the Corinthians.

For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life… – 2 Corinthians 2:15-16

The context of our reference scripture was a familiar scene to the Corinthians. The triumphal procession was that of the victorious army returning to the praise and cheers of the crowds who would throw fragrant flowers in their path. There would often be prisoners from the defeated enemy marched in the procession on their way to be executed. To the victors the fragrance was life and to the defeated, the fragrance was that of death.

Is the ‘fragrance of the knowledge of Christ’ left behind in your daily interactions with people outside of the church community of believers?

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.Acts 4:13

Does your lifestyle example live up to being the ‘aroma of Christ’ not only to those who are being saved but also to those who are perishing? For some that are perishing the ‘aroma of Christ’ that you impart may trigger a memory – something implanted by the Holy Spirit in their heart – and they will repent and come to salvation through Jesus.

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.Isaiah 55:11

Others that are perishing may harden their hearts because of the ‘fragrance of the knowledge’ of Jesus that you bring. This is a root cause of the persecution that the Body of Christ is experiencing throughout the world even today.

But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness,1 Thessalonians 2:2Acts 4:29

May you boldly live your faith in Jesus in this world. May the fragrance of the knowledge of Christ be evident in all your daily interactions as you are empowered by His Holy Spirit.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

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Sword of the Spirit – Past is Past #1143

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1143

“Past is Past”

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Say not, “Why were the former days better than these? For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.Isaiah 43:18Ecclesiastes 7:10

Do you live with regret about your past?

Are you reluctant to enter into new relationships or to move forward with your life because of your past hurtful experiences?

Do you have reservations about what the future holds because of fears born from the past?

We have all played the ‘Woulda, shoulda, coulda’ mind game about our past decisions. It is water under the bridge. Thoughts about what we would have done, should have done, or could have done serve only to paralyze and stifle our present and future. We need to learn the lesson and move on.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.Philippians 3:13-14

Some of us dwell on past hurts to point of breeding bitterness and unforgiveness. Remember Jesus’ teaching about the parable of the prodigal son. Focus on the father of that son – how he waited and watched ready to forgive and welcome him home. The father chose not to dwell on or remember the offense from the past.

…while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. – Luke 15:20

Remember from the Book of Genesis what was done to Joseph by his brothers and the ordeal Joseph endured as a slave and prisoner in Egypt as a result of their actions. Remember what Joseph said to his brothers years later when he was in a position to help his family.

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.Genesis 50:20

We have to trust and believe in the truth of the Word of God that even past offenses and trials will be worked together for our good and the good of others.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.Romans 8:28

The enemy seeks to get us to dwell on our past sins in order to steal our joy in Jesus.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.Hebrews 8:12Psalm 103:10-12

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.2 Corinthians 5:17

Embrace today and what the Lord has planned for your tomorrow. Leave the past in the past.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118:24

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.Jeremiah 29:11

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Sword of the Spirit – Eternal Life #1142

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1142

“Eternal Life”

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.John 17:3

Have you ever pondered what eternal life is?

Is eternal life something we have to wait for and do not experience until our physical bodies die?

Is eternal life an unending conscious existence year after year?

God’s Word instructs us that eternal life is available to us now. It comes from the moment we exercise our faith in God and in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. This eternal life is an ever increasing and growing knowledge and personal relationship with the Triune God, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life… Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  – John 3:36 John 5:24 John 6:47

Jesus states in our reference Scripture that eternal life is the knowledge of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

We may know of God through His creation and we may know of Jesus as a historical figure but do we know them through a personal relationship with God as Abba, Father and Jesus as fully God and fully man who came to redeem us and die for our sins?

Jesus said“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. John 11:25 – Romans 6:23

Do you desire to grow in the grace and knowledge of God?

take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 3:17-18

Study and pray the Word of God. Seek the presence of Jesus continually. Walk with Him. Talk with Him. Learn to hear his voice speaking to your heart about avoiding sin, how to forgive, and how and when to bless others in His Love and for His glory.

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!1 Chronicles 16:11

The assurance of salvation and eternal life is yours now through the personal and continually growing relationship and knowledge of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This knowledge and relationship is worth more than anything you can possess of this world.

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. that I may know him and the power of his resurrection… – Philippians 3:7-14

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Sword of the Spirit – Celebrating Sin #1141

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1141

“Celebrating Sin”

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God… – 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

We live in a hedonistic world that viciously reviles the Word of God and openly celebrates sin that is an abomination to God.

As Christians, we live among a people that are running headlong to hell and are proud of it. The saddest part of this is that many of these people profess to be Christian, yet deny the Truth of the Word of God and instead embrace sinful societal norms.

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. … – Hebrews 10:26-29

When New York Gov. Cuomo signed the legislation legalizing late-term abortions he had the spire of the World Trade Center lit up in pink to celebrate. We have seen similar celebrations in Argentina and Ireland when the murder of the unborn has been legalized.

A couple recently announced on social media their intent to live together outside of marriage. God’s Word calls it fornication yet so many of the congratulatory comments celebrating their ‘commitment’ came from professing, church-going Christians.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.1 Corinthians 6:18

There are worldwide gay pride celebrations held every year in a party atmosphere celebrating a sin that God calls an abomination to Him.

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.Romans 1:24-27

It is a helpless feeling to watch family, friends, neighbors and coworkers on the broad path to destruction and eternal separation from God. What can we do? We can pray and speak Truth as the Holy Spirit directs. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that will change the hearts of others to turn them away from sin. Our prayers may be sighs and groans but the Lord understands them,

And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city…and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”Ezekiel 9:4

May you stand firm with the full armor of God. Pray in the Spirit for those who are perishing and be ready to speak the Truth of salvation through Jesus to those whose hearts have been prepared to receive it.

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.Hebrews 3:13

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Sword of the Spirit – You are Not Your Own #1140

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1140

“You are Not Your Own”

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

In contemplating the events of the Passion of Christ this Easter season I was struck by the enormity of the price Jesus paid to make a way for our salvation.

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.1 Peter 1:18-19

We need to realize that we cannot earn our way into eternal life in Heaven. We cannot be good enough, do enough – these are all ‘futile ways’ that amount to nothing but ‘filthy rags’ in the presence of God.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. – Isaiah 64:6

It is only by accepting the free gift of salvation through the sacrifice that Jesus willingly made to pay the price for our sins and ransom us that we are saved.

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Matthew 20:28 Hebrews 10:10

Having accepted Christ we are born again and the Holy Spirit dwells in our heart.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:13-14

We were bought with a high price – we are not our own. We must not become enslaved by the rules, rituals, and works righteousness taught by men.

You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.1 Corinthians 7:23

Jesus ransomed us by His death and resurrection – we are not our own. We must walk in the Spirit, glorifying God in this earthly body that is now a sanctified temple of His Holy Spirit.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:10

Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us – we are not our own. Yet we have a freedom in Christ but not to indulge the sinful desires of our flesh and defile our bodies as the temple of His Holy Spirit.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. – 1 Corinthians 6:12-13

There is no greater love than the love demonstrated by Jesus at Calvary. We were bought with a price. We are not our own. Let us serve Him in love and glorify Him in the body.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

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Sword of the Spirit – Honor Parents #1139

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1139

“Honor Parents”

Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.Deuteronomy 5:16

Living and working near the world’s largest retirement community has given me insight into our cultural attitude toward aging and how fragmented our family unit has become. Every day, I see the struggle of adult children caring for elderly parents as well as the opposite: elderly parents struggling to survive on their own largely abandoned and ignored by their adult children.

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.1 Timothy 5:8

‘Cancel culture’ is a term that is in vogue right now, but this is not a new thing. The media has been subtly working to cancel the culture of honoring parents and the importance of the family unit for decades. Think about how television programming has transitioned from The Walton’s and Father Knows Best to the likes of The Simpson’s and Married…with Children.

Take note also how TV ads have portrayed a dumbed down Dad figure as well as bumbling, incompetent parents with children who are the intelligent ones and in control. Fractured families and dishonored parents are what we are reaping from what we have sown for decades. This is a sign of the last days.

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,2 Timothy 3:1-2

God’s Word reveals to us the example of Jesus to follow relative to honoring our parents.

Jesus balanced honoring His relationship with God, The Father and His earthly parents,

And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them… – Luke 2:49-51

Jesus spent frequent time with His Father. How regularly are you in contact with your parents, checking on their well-being, maintaining a relationship with them, sharing thoughts and ideas, etc.? Do you care enough to go beyond a dutiful obligation to contact them for birthdays and holidays?

But Jesus Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.Luke 5:16 (NASB)

Jesus made provision for His mother while He was dying on the cross. As we reflect on the Passion of Christ this Easter Season, notice that as He was dying on the cross bearing the punishment for our sins, He thought to make provision for the care of His mother.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.John 19:26-28

May the Lord give you the grace to repair relationships with your parents and to strengthen family bonds.

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Sword of the Spirit – Covetousness #1138

SWORD OF THE SPIRIT                                                                                               1138

“Covetousness”

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.Exodus 20:17

The classic definition of covet is to desire something wrongfully without any regards for the rights of others. We covet when we desire someone’s position, property or possessions with the attitude that we deserve it more than they do.

God’s Word equates covetousness with idolatry. It is an attitude of heart that is not satisfied with God’s provision and will for us thereby making it sin.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in youFor you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.Colossians 3:5 Ephesians 5:5

We often lump covetousness with envy and jealousy and although related, they are distinctly different. Envy wants what others have and motivates you to get it to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.

Jealousy is a vengeful emotion that transitions out of envy. It not only wants what others have but it desires that they do not have it until you have it also. It can spur us to sinful acts against others.

Covetousness is the only one of the Ten Commandments that deals with a matter of the heart rather than an action. Like envy and jealousy it wants what others have but in your heart you feel more worthy to have it than the other person. For example: being passed over for a promotion – can you be genuinely glad for the other person? In a game of chance, another person wins the grand prize – can you be genuine in congratulating them?

Coveting not only breaks the tenth commandment it also violates the Greatest Commandment to love.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 22:36-40

Covetousness is the quiet, secret sin that harbors in our hearts. Outwardly, we smile and say we are happy and glad for the relationships, position or possessions that others are blessed with while inwardly we feel discontented with our lot in life. We feel we deserve it also if not more than others and we begin to question God’s love for us.

Jesus cautioned us to be on guard against covetousness.

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”Luke 12:15

May you trust in the Lord and seek His presence continually. Abide in Him and the Holy Spirit will empower you to guard your hearts and minds against covetousness which will steal your joy.

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