Have you noticed your mind is always at work, no matter what you’re doing? You can’t stop it, even when you want to escape the barrage of thoughts occupying your brain. Even in sleep our minds are processing, filing, pulling up information from the past, and influencing our actions.
            What we think and how we feel leads to how we act. So it’s imperative to establish margins, or boundaries, to reign in our mind and emotions. This is where the third part of our Soul comes in to play – our will. God has given us free will. We’re in control of what happens in our mind and emotions, and whether or not we will give this part of ourselves to Jesus Christ. He will not force us, but God warns of the dangerous consequences when our thoughts and emotions take over.
            This description of a Soul without borders is spot-on: “It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community” (Ga 5:19-20, Message).
            What borders should we establish then? This has been intriguing. As I studied scripture for this topic, it has surprised and blessed me more than any other in this series so far. Here’s what I believe the Bible says about the margins we need for our Thoughts and Emotions – boundaries to promote health, sanity, and productivity:

            If you’ve been reading since the beginning of this series, you’ll recognize the pattern – the first margin always goes to God. It is like the ‘tithe’ or ‘firstfruit’ we offer back to Him in gratitude for the ALL He gives us. The first margin is to love God more than our own thoughts and emotions, which toss us to and fro. This takes more than self-control; it takes giving up control, trusting God’s Spirit to lead us with perfect love.
            This trust helps us submit to His ways. He examines us with love – Ps 26:2; our trust is persistent – Isa 26:3-4; we love Him with our mind, will and emotions – Mt 22:37; we value His superior knowledge – Ro 1:28; we gain a whole new way of thinking – Ro 8:5-9 & Php 3:18-19; the Spirit knows our thoughts – 1 Co 2:11.
            The second margin is what we choose to focus on. Our thoughts tend to be unruly puppies scampering this way and that. They need guidelines to learn how to behave and please the Master. My favorite word picture for how this works is the instruction to ‘frisk’ any thought before it comes in the door of your mind and make sure it’s not trying to bring in contraband (take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ – 1 Co 10:3-5).
            Other “puppy training” tips are: focus on God as you fall asleep – Ps 63:6; invite God into your thought life – Ps 139:23-24 & Isa 55:6-9; think before you act – Pr 14:15 & 21:29; what you think about Jesus is key – Mt 22:42; put the Master first – Ro 12:2-3; grow up! – 1 Co 14:20 & 13:11; refocus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy – Php 4:8.
            This is a lot to digest. I hope before you read the next half you will take time to look up these scriptures and prayerfully consider what God wants to say to you in this area. In my next post, I will address the other two margins for our “Mind and Emotions”: Motive and Unity.