Boundaries are important in every facet of life. This is something I am constantly reminded of during my day-to-day encounters. I had yet another reminder as my dog Max was nearly bit by an unleashed uncontrolled dog. The dog owner apologized as per usual, but this wasn’t the first time this very same dog came after mine as we took our daily walk. The question that continues to be posed to me every time I encounter a “free” dog is the same one—if we love someone or something, should we not want what we love to be protected with boundaries?
For some, there is this old saying that if we love something, we let it go—that if it loves us it will return to us. That is a wonderful saying; however, there is more to that statement. The real question is how we love first. Yes, if we love something—with a love like God demonstrated—then the freedom thereafter follows. It would mean that just as God loved, we love—and it would mean that as God gives us free will, then we respect each person (or dogs) free will thereafter. But with every relationship there should be boundaries, expectations, an order. This is biblical. This is loving. This is what God did and does still today. If we truly love something, we would want the protection. Being free without the protection is not love. It’s folly. It’s ludicrous.
When we look at the Bible, we see covenants. This was a way for relationships to have clear understandings of expectations and boundaries. Kings did this with nations. People did this with other people. God did this with His people and His covenant is still in place with us even today. This is something we should continue if we want to function with harmony and order. This means dogs have suitable containment and leashes. This means having expectations and boundaries for relationships – family members, friendships, dating/spouse relationships. As parents, we give children a set of rules and permissions because we love our children and want the best for them. This is actually freedom. With all relationships, when we have these perimeters, we have a hedge of protection over what matters to us. Yes, there will be times people, and dogs, will overstep the boundaries and we should want to respond with grace and truth. In the end, love wins. Let us be a people of love. Let us be a people who speaks clearly, loves deeply, act in wisdom, and live for His glory!
“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” – Psalm 16:5-11 [ESV]
One of the hardest things for me to do as a parent is to call my kids (and my dogs) to account. When they do something to not meet expectations, it hurts me to have to hold them accountable. Nonetheless it has to be done. I love them and I want the best for them. They aren’t too keen on facing the consequences, but they come to understand it is for their own good.
God calls us to account too. He says that those He loves He corrects, He guides and prods. And why? It is “so that they’ll live at their best.” He wants the best for you. The best. Not second best. Not an okay life. Not a good life. THE BEST. So you will be prodded. You will be corrected. You will be guided. All because He loves you and wants the best for you.
Let us thank God that He calls us to account. Let us praise Him for His correction. Let us thank Him that He wants only the best for us. Now “up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!”
“The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God!” – Revelation 3:19 [MSG]
We all can think back to a time when we expected that something would go differently. Even things we have prayed for did not turn out the way that we had imagined in our minds. When I was a teenager, one of the hardest periods of my life was when the healing I expected for my Grandfather did not come. Sometimes God has another plan—a better plan. We cannot always understand it. We cannot necessarily predict it. Honestly speaking, there are moments when we don’t always like it either because we cannot see the bigger picture.
Naaman had leprosy. He expected that Elisha would come out to him and wave his hands over the leprosy and call on the name of God to heal him. Naaman expected to stand there and watch Elisha summon the Lord for healing. Instead, Elisha gives him directions via a messenger. He was to wash in the Jordan seven times—the Jordan River, not even the most likely body of water for healing in Naaman’s eyes. Naaman became angry, so angry that he stalked away.
There are moments when we get angry. We expected something to turn out differently. We followed the path God directed us to take but it is not like we expected. There’s suffering. There’s hardship. There’s challenges. There’s mountains to climb. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It takes work. This is not what we expected. Today, don’t let your expectations cloud you from your focus on God who has something for you that is beyond your expectation. When something doesn’t go the way you expected, trust that He has a better plan.
“But Naaman became angry and stalked away. ‘I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!”’he said. ‘I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the LORD his God and heal me!’” – 2 Kings 5:11 [NLT]
Almost a year ago I sat down to write about Daniel 3:18. When I write, there are two different ways that I begin. First, there are moments when I am walking my dog Max and the Lord leads me to something. Second, there are moments when I am reading my Bible (many times during my lunch break), when He leads me to something and I will scrawl down some notes for later. Nonetheless, this week I was again reading Daniel 3:18 and was led to write about it. But it felt very familiar.
I considered that perhaps I had written about it before. After writing devotionals, other books, papers, sermons, lessons, etc., it was a possibility. I felt this overwhelming need to search, and then I found it, “But Even If.” Does someone need to hear it again? Yes, and God knew—it was me!
Life has been very difficult lately. Life in general is difficult, but lately I have been feeling exhausted. Not tired. Exhausted. Everything is a battle. I have followed the narrow path. But when we are on the journey God has placed before us, our expectations of the outcome might be very different from where God takes us. Hence the exhaustion. For some of us it’s frustration or even worse. But God reminds each of us that He is with us and He has a great plan for our lives. No matter where we are at on the journey, no matter what our expectations for a situation, our lips should say, “But even if he doesn’t” we will still press forward and live each day firmly rooted in Him. I’m pressing forward. He is my hope and my confidence.
“But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:18 [NLT]
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [NIV]
The Israelites were in the desert hungry and God promised to rain down bread from heaven. The Lord provided for the Israelites and they called this manna. As time progressed, they were tired of the manna. It still was suitable for food. It still could satisfy their hunger needs. The problem was they wanted something else—the manna was no longer enough for them in their eyes.
The people went as far as to say “we hate this horrible manna.” The horrible manna fed them; Exodus 16 says the Israelites ate it for forty years. But the people wanted more and they were no longer so thankful for the provisions of the Lord. Perhaps God provided, but they had something different in mind.
We also receive provisions but do not always respond with a thankful heart. There are moments in life when we only have canned pasta to eat. We would rather have steak. Our expectations are different. Today be thankful for all of God’s provisions, not simply the ones that delight us the most.
“And they began to speak against God and Moses. ‘Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?’ they complained. ‘There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!’” – Numbers 21:5 [NLT]
As a parent it can be very frustrating to constantly be repeating the same thing over and over again. There may be a rule that you have for your child’s benefit and you find yourself having to repeat it because it is not followed. It can be very nerve-wracking when you sound like a broken record with some rules, and yet you find that the repetition doesn’t always equal obedience.
Today I had to spend a great deal of time fixing my son’s computer because he failed to follow the rules that I have enforced since he learned how to use a computer. For some reason, his desire to follow the other way caused him to neglect my rule, a rule which was set for his own good and for the benefit of his computer’s health.
We do this all the time. God has left us His Word and within we find a lot of rules to follow and an example of how to live better. Yet we find ourselves constantly disobeying again and again. The Bible is very repetitive but we still don’t get it. We still fall short. Thankfully my son has a mom who is a bit of a tech nerd who can fix the consequences caused from disobeying the computer rules. Thankfully we have a Savior who has taken the punishment once and for all for each one of us despite our disobedience.
Today, thank God for His love and His sacrifice and pray for a more obedient heart—a heart devoted to Him.
“And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.” – 2 John 1:6 [NIV]
“And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” – 1 John 2:17 [NLT]
When going for a haircut, many people like to take photos with them of how they wish to have their hair look when it is complete. I remember taking photos in to the stylist and asking to have my hair a particular way. When the job was finished, I would look at the photo and at my hair and notice that things did not match up. Every time I took in a photo, my hair was different. It didn’t matter the stylist or the style.
When we go into the salon to get our hair style changed, taking with us a photo, we are looking at how great someone’s hair looks on someone’s head. It will look differently on our own head. In the same way, God has a different photo for each of us, a different plan for each of our lives. We can have this photo of how we would like things to look, but our photo is not going to match up with someone else. We can imagine things turning out a particular way, but our expectations are not met.
We must remember that our perspective is very different from God’s perspective. Today don’t try to hand God a photo of how you want things to be, but rather, ask Him for His will for your life. That photo is so much greater.
When Abraham sent his servant to seek out a wife for his son Isaac, the servant, a loyal man who relied on God throughout the mission, was met by Rebekah. The servant of Abraham prayed for God’s guidance with selecting a wife for Isaac, and included some signs to point to the woman who should be taken back to be Isaac’s wife. The signs pointed to Rebekah.
Now while reading Genesis 24, we see Rebekah providing a great example of one who is devoted.
- Energetic – When she was providing the servant & his camels with water, Rebekah “ran back to the well” (v. 20). She was full of energy as she aimed to serve this man—passionate to help another.
- Eager to serve – When it was time to provide water, she was ready to serve. She even offered the servant a place to stay for the night (v. 25). When it was time to set out to return to Isaac, she was ready.
- Embracing the call – When asked if she would go, she embraced this calling upon her life (v. 58)
- Exceeded expectations – The servant of Abraham prayed for particular signs to point to the woman who would be the wife of Isaac. Rebekah went beyond meeting those signs requested by the servant. Not only did she let down her jar and water the camels, but she went to the point that they “had enough to drink” (v. 19) to be satisfied. She also offered the servant a place to stay for the evening, as well as a food and shelter for the camels (v. 25).
When we look at God’s calling for our lives, are we energetic? Are we eager? Are we embracing the calling? Today, consider what God has called you to do in life. Think about these four areas. Do you still have passion for God’s calling? When we are energetic, eager, and embracing what God has called us to do, He will use us to serve His Kingdom—and we will exceed expectations as His vessels. When we allow ourselves to be His vessel, when it is all about Him, when the passion is there, we, like Rebekah, will be passionately seeking to serve the Lord with joy, ready for whatever He puts before us.
I love taking my dog for a walk. It’s great exercise for the both of us, and it gives me a chance to take a break from everything. Yesterday I invited my children to partake in the adventure. They were having fun racing each other to the next tree and playing games along the way. I started to notice that the peacefulness of my walk was absent. Then something else happened. I had a misstep and ended up having a fall.
It seemed as if I was trying my hardest to hit every body part possible as I landed. The worst of the contact was made when my knee hit the ground. Instant bleeding and swelling. The children were asking if I had a first aid kit stowed away in my pockets; I was wondering how I was going to get back home. It was a slow walk back.
Still this morning I am in a lot of pain and finding it difficult to move my knee much. Walking has become a chore. I realized through this all, how lucky I am to be able to walk. I have my limbs. I have a nice, safe area to walk. I have the time to walk. I have sneakers to use to walk comfortably. I have healthy enough to walk. These are things I don’t think about very often. In overlooking them, I neglect to give proper thanks to Him who provided all things.
We all get busy and we do not look at the things we take for granted. We expect them to be there, because they always are there. We do not consider how life would be if they were not there, because that surely would never happen. Today, as we give thanks to our Lord who showers us with blessings, may we be able to see what we have overlooked. May we thank Him for the big things and the little things, the provisions He alone provides.
“Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness,
Come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the LORD Himself is God;
It is He who has made us and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
And His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the LORD is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting
And His faithfulness to all generations.”
– Psalm 100 [NASB]