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


“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

“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)


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).


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?

A Solemn Promise

Nehemiah 10:28-39


Then the rest of the people—the priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers,
Temple servants, and all who had separated themselves from the pagan
people of the land in order to obey the Law of God, together with their
wives, sons, daughters, and all who were old enough to understand—joined
their leaders and bound themselves with an oath. They swore a curse on
themselves if they failed to obey the Law of God as issued by his servant
Moses. They solemnly promised to carefully follow all the commands,
regulations, and decrees of the LORD our Lord:

“We promise not to let our daughters marry the pagan people of the land,
and not to let our sons marry their daughters.”

“We also promise that if the people of the land should bring any
merchandise or grain to be sold on the Sabbath or on any other holy day,
we will refuse to buy it. Every seventh year we will let our land rest,
and we will cancel all debts owed to us.

“In addition, we promise to obey the command to pay the annual Temple tax
of one-eighth of an ounce of silver for the care of the Temple of our
God.” (Nehemiah 10:28-32)


The wall was completed, and the agreement God made with his people in
the days of Moses was restored (Deuteronomy 8). If God’s chosen people
were going to witness for him in an unbelieving world, they needed
united, God-fearing families. They also needed to avoid any enticements
to worship the idols of the people who lived around them. This was why
God prohibited marriage between Israelites and the inhabitants of the
land (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). God also knew that the lure of money would
conflict with the need for a day of rest, so trade was forbidden
inside the city on the Sabbath. By deciding to honor God first,
the Israelites would be refusing to make money their god.


This covenant has principles that are important for us today. Our
relationship with God must go far beyond church attendance and regular
devotions. It should affect our relationships (Nehemiah 10:30), our
time (10:31), and our material resources (10:32-39). When you chose
to follow God, you promised to serve him in this way. Our culture
often makes us choose between convenience and profit on the one hand
, and putting God first on the other. Look at your work and worship
habits. Is God really first?

Joseph’s Troubles and Triumphs

Ponder: The Life of Joseph/His good example

Today’s Scripture: “He sent a man ahead of them – Joseph was sold as a servant. The shackles
hurt his feet; his neck was placed in an iron collar, until the time when his prediction
came true. The LORD’s word proved him right.” (Psa. 105.17-24).

Was Joseph, son of Jacob, not a faithful son of God? Was his life not important to the glorious
plan of humanity’s salvation that fourteen out of fifty chapters in Genesis mention his life?
Yes, Joseph was faithful to our Father in heaven, and He used him as an instrument for
righteousness. Giving him power to interpret dreams, God lifted Joseph to power when Pharaoh
noticed that the Living God was with Joseph.

You might wonder why Joseph had such a life of troubles before he was lifted to greatness by
our Father? God doesn’t promise that if we are faithful he will give us lives without troubles.
God uses our troubled lives to build our character and get us through. We see that theme time
and time again throughout the Scriptures.

Joseph’s longsuffering teaches us four life lessons.

Firstly, circumstances matter far less than how we respond to those circumstances.
Joseph could have sat around moping all day about how bad he was treated by his older
brothers when they sold him into slavery. But he didn’t. Instead, just like our Savior,
the rejected son was faithful to God and became the savior of many.

Secondly, with God’s help any situation can be used in God’s glory and eternal purpose.
Joseph, like Jesus and even the Apostle Paul, believed that whatever their sufferings as
long as God was being glorified were worth it.

Lastly, with God it will all work out for good. How many people give up when their plans
don’t work out? Set backs are opportunities. Consider the exponential growth of the Church
soon after the execution of Stephen and the persecution that began that day.

Joseph is a wonderful example for us. Let us be more like him in that he was faithful to God
despite the circumstance in his life. We can learn more from Joseph.

Prayer: Dear God of the living, your Word is my guide and my light. Help me learn more from
it every day. In Jesus’ most holy name.

Song: “Joseph’s Dreams”
Mario A Marin, Taft CA

The Starfish Story (cont.)

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands
of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and
stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the
ocean. “Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks. “Because the sun is up
and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.” “But,
old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it!
You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact,
even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.” The old man
listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into
the sea. “It made a difference to that one” (copied).

Again, “How can we minister to the whole world? The answer, “One soul at a time.”
We may not be able to change the entire world, but we can make a difference to a small
part of it.

Not all will respond in a positive, soul saving, way. This is made evident within the
context of Ezekiel chapter three. But there are two lessons to be learned from the
Ezekiel text, 1) We will have fulfilled our obligation, 2) We will have made a
difference to some, if not all. You, and I, can make a difference. Will we make a
difference? “Yet if thou warrn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor
from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul”
(Ezekiel 3:19).

Hymn: You Never Mentioned Him To Me

Prayer: Our heavenly Father we thank You for the loving concern that You have for Your
creation. We thank You for the physical blessings that You constantly bestow upon us.
Likewise we are thankful for the spiritual blessings, especially the hope of an eternal
home in heaven. I pray that we, too, would have a serious concern for both the physical
and the spiritual well being of our fellow man so that we will make a difference in their

Roy Allen Crutcher, Mount Carmel, IL
At least we can change

The Starfish Story

Text: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the
word at my mouth, and give them warning from me” (Ezekiel 3:17).

In our text a warning is given to, God’s then people, Israel. With the understanding that
God’s dealings with Israel, under a different covenant, does not directly apply to us I do
believe that we can agree that the concept of the text does apply to us under a new covenant.

Regardless of the Biblical “age”, whether it be the Patriarchal, the Mosaic or the
Christian age, the fact is that God has always loved, and cared for, all of mankind.
Likewise, God has always desired that we, as well, love and seek the best for our
fellow man. Consider the following admonitions
We are to love our neighbors (Matthew 19:19).
We are to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
We are to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).
Some may be prone to think of God’s concern as relating to only the physical well being
of man. Not so. It also applies, and much more so, to man’s spiritual well being. Relative
to our concern for the well being of others, we are told to “Go into all the world and
preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). Because of His love God has desired
the best for all of mankind, especially for our salvation.
The question is, “How can we possibly minister to the whole world?” I think the following
story give us a logical answer to this question.

What? Lose My Life?

Scripture: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life
for My sake, he is the one who will save it” (Luke 9:24).

This sounds like a paradox. Who wouldn’t want to save his life? How can a man save his
life by losing it? Come on, this is just crazy! We will go to any length to preserve
our lives, our well-being. We don’t want to lose either.

Jesus isn’t talking about our physical dying. No, He is talking about something much more
serious. Let me paraphrase what Jesus said. If I make it my priority to live my life
according to worldly standards, then I will forfeit my spiritual life.

James said it this way, “Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself
an enemy of God” (James 4:4b). Strong words, yes, but they are necessary to gain eternal

Jesus left us an example to follow. He exposed sin, He confronted hypocrites, He submitted
Himself totally to the Father, He lived a godly life, He resisted worldly fame, and He gave
up His rightful position in heaven to come down here (Philippians 2:6-7). Paul says, “Have
this same attitude in yourselves” (Philippians 2:5a).

Is it important to you to live a life enjoying what the world offers? The world offers riches,
pleasure, sinful behavior, and freedom to do what you want. It is a most attractive offer for
the here and now. The world says that you are your own boss.

Jesus says to give up the worldly things, obey Me, serve God, clean up your behavior, clean
up your words, and surrender your life and will to Me. If you yield your life 100% to Jesus,
then you will not lose your real life. If you are trying to straddle the fence, you will
have a pleasant life here, but a horrible life in eternity.

Song: “I Surrender All”

Father, we fall short of living like we must. Forgive us please. Help us to commit our
lives more fully to Jesus. We beg this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Ed Wittlif, Denver, Colorado


Hand Print

Today’s Bible Passage: “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them,
but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them,
‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs
to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like
a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands
on them and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-16).

Recently, a friend wrote the following statement relative to her five year old little boy.
“Cleaning today, getting ready for family to come for the holidays, I saw a dirty little
handprint next to the light switch. I almost wiped it away, but something stopped me quickly.
I realized how precious that little hand is. It shows that my little boy is alive and
healthy in his home. I thought how badly I’d miss that little hand if it were suddenly taken
from me. Guess what? For this season there’s a little handprint stain on my wall. I love
it there. My house may not be spic and span but that’s because a family lives here and we
may be too busy hugging, laughing or sometimes arguing to always sweep or mop. But on my
death bed, I bet I don’t say, ‘man. I should’ve cleaned more.'”

The Handprint
By Roy Crutcher

Today I found a handprint
That It started to wipe away,
But something said, “don’t do it”
You’ll be happy you didn’t some day.
That dirty little handprint,
Looks so bad there on the wall,
But what if there were no little child,
To put it there at all?
Children are so precious,
We love them all so much,
So why get upset
When we see a smudgy touch?
So innocently was it put there,
As they went about their play,
Able to run and jump and yell,
And all the other stuff they can to today.
Tomorrow holds no promise,
For what a child can do,
Or even it he’ll be here,
This is a fact that’s so true.
So cherish the child each day,
Hold them close and hug,
Tell them that you love them,
And cherish that handprint smudge.

If we truly love and nurture our children; if we teach them the ways of the Lord; if we show
patience and yet instill discipline when they are small, they will, likely grow up to be
individuals that we can be proud of. What’s more. God will be well pleased.

Hymn “Jesus Loves The Little Children”

Prayer: Father it is my prayer this day that we will encourage all parents to be godly
parents who will set the proper examples before their children, and continually instruct
them in the ways of the Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Roy Crutcher, Mount Carmel, IL


Ponder: “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life” (Matthew 6:27).

I read Colin Powell’s latest book, “IT WORKED FOR ME In Life and Leadership.” He has thirteen
rules for life and leadership. The first one is, “It ain’t as bad as you think. It will
look better in the morning.” I like his opening statement about this rule. “Well, maybe
it will, maybe it won’t.”

How often have you gone to bed with a nagging problem weighing you down, and in the morning
it was still there and just as bad? Powell goes on to say, “This rule reflects an attitude
and not a prediction.” Jesus said, don’t be consumed by worry; worry solves nothing and
changes nothing. When we allow worry to dominate our thinking, we can easily fall into
a constant “woe is poor me” attitude.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let
your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). This is a strong verse. Let the
Father know not just by asking, but with begging and with an attitude that He will take
care of you. Also, you must be thankful for past answered prayers and for His being a
loving, caring Father. Sometimes, after we earnestly pray, the problem is still with us.
Like Paul and his thorn, we might need to accept that God’s grace is enough.

We know that all things can turn out for good. Read Romans 8:28-39. It is just that we stop
short of God’s time table because we want an answer right this instant. Plus the fact that
we fail to see the future like God does. Just trust your Father, who cares for you, and turn
your worries over to Him. Our Father will make things better tomorrow.

Song: “Be Not Dismayed Whate’er Betide”

Our Father, often I worry and stress myself out by keeping my concerns bottled up within me
when I could turn all my worries to You. Father, I trust You, please help my trust to grow.
I ask this in the name of my Lord, Jesus. Amen.

Ed Wittlif, Denver, Colorado