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Devotions for Life

Boundaries, Self-Control, and the Desire for Revenge

Matthew 5:38–42: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and
tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If
anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat
as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who
wants to borrow from you.”

Many of us have known people who, after years of being passive and
compliant, suddenly stop acting like a victim. This reactive phase
of boundary creation is a first step to get a person out of the
powerless, victimized place in which they may have been forced by
physical or sexual abuse, or by emotional blackmail or manipulation.
We are happy that they are no longer victims. But when is enough
reacting enough?

Reaction phases are not the same as maturity; they are necessary but
not sufficient for the establishment of boundaries. Even though in
finding our boundaries, we might find ourselves reacting. Eventually,
we establish connections as respectful equals. This is the beginning
of establishing proactive, instead of reactive, boundaries.

In Matthew 5:38–39, Jesus compared reactive persons to those who are
freely and proactively setting their own boundaries. Through his
teaching, we see that power is not something we demand or deserve;
it is something we express. How does withholding a counterstrike after
we’ve been harmed show our power? The ultimate expression of power is
love. Proactive people are able to love their neighbors as themselves
(see Mark 12:31) and respect others (see 1 Peter 2:17). They are able
to die to self (see 1 Peter 2:24) and not repay evil for evil
(see Romans 12:17). They have gotten past the reactive stance of
the law — “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” — and are able to
love rather than react.

When we truly have the power of self-control, another person’s evil
does not mean that we “have to” get revenge. We are free to do
something more redemptive and more constructive. In that way, we have
power to turn bad situations into good ones and not be dragged down
into the mire of bad behavior.

This devotional is drawn from Beyond Boundaries, by Dr. John Townsend.



Strengthening Ourselves in the Lord, Part 1

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him;
each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters.
But David found strength in the LORD his God. ~ I Samuel 30:6

READING: I Samuel 30

In most church plants, there come crisis moments similar to this episode
in David’s life when he juggled deep personal distress and the mutinous
wrath of followers who wanted to stone him. Setbacks – sometimes
staggering setbacks – are a fact of life in church planting. These
crisis times test our mettle as leaders.

What saved the day for David and his followers is that David acted like a
godly leader instead of getting swept up in the momentary angst.
Although David was every bit as distressed as his men, he turned to
God and found strength in Him.

What exactly did David do? We can make a pretty accurate guess that
he didn’t immediately ask God for guidance because it’s not until
after he found strength (here in verse 6) that he inquired of the
Lord (in verse 7). No, if we look for clues in many of David’s psalms,
it’s likely that his was a visceral flight to God as his most trusted
comforter and wisest counselor. We know God met David and delivered
him from his fears (Ps. 34:4). David remembered God’s sufficiency and
was able to find his footing again in God’s presence. After that deep
cleansing breath, David went back to being the clear-headed leader God
called him to be.

The next time life punches us in the gut, let’s run to the Lord
first to find the stabilizing strength that will make us wise,
calm leaders during crisis.

Dear Lord, Grant that I may learn to strengthen myself in You,
not only for the sake of my people, but also for the enormous
blessing it brings to my own soul. Amen.



Coming Clean

Nehemiah 9:1-37

Read

“But as soon as they were at peace, your people again committed evil in
your sight, and once more you let their enemies conquer them. Yet
whenever your people turned and cried to you again for help, you listened
once more from heaven. In your wonderful mercy, you rescued them many
times!

“You warned them to return to your Law, but they became proud and
obstinate and disobeyed your commands. They did not follow your
regulations, by which people will find life if only they obey. They
stubbornly turned their backs on you and refused to listen. In your
love, you were patient with them for many years. You sent your Spirit,
who warned them through the prophets. But still they wouldn’t listen!
So once again you allowed the peoples of the land to conquer them. But
in your great mercy, you did not destroy them completely or abandon
them forever. What a gracious and merciful God you are! …

“Even while they had their own kingdom, they did not serve you, though
you showered your goodness on them. You gave them a large, fertile land,
but they refused to turn from their wickedness.” (Nehemiah 9:28-31, 35)

Reflect

Israel was devastated by times of intense rebellion and sin. Yet when
the people repented and returned to God, he delivered them. The people
practiced open confession, admitting their sins to one another.

Reading and studying God’s Word should precede confession (8:18) because
God can show us where we are sinning. Honest confession should precede
worship, because we cannot have a right relationship with God if we
hold on to certain sins. God puts no limit on the number of times we
can come to him to obtain mercy, but we must come in order to obtain
it, recognizing our need and asking him for help. This miracle of
grace should inspire us to say, “What a gracious and merciful God
you are!” (9:31).

Respond

Sometimes the very blessings God has showered on us make us forget him
(9:28). We are often tempted to rely on wealth or other people or items
for security rather than on God. As you see what happened to the
Israelites, look at your own life. Do your blessings make you thankful
to God and draw you closer to him, or do they make you feel
self-sufficient and forgetful of God?