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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.



Shall We Got To The Mountains?

“Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem” (John 4:21 NIV).

On top of a mountain, a father spoke to his daughter and said, “This is as close to God as you can get.” To his credit, he acknowledged that God was “out there” and getting close to God was vital to us all. He also shared the faith he had with his daughter. He had stopped, however, attending the church services because of church problems. I preached his funeral. A few years ago I preached the funeral for a brother in the church who gave up on “church” because of the way the issues of the day were being argued. This is a tragic story that time has told again and again.

Whatever the “real” reasons, I have learned that some people give up for “better” reasons than others. Now that might sound strange coming from a preacher. What I mean is this. Worldliness, materialism, selfishness, immorality have gotten the best of members and they quit because they no longer care about spiritual things. On the other hand, some have quit because their hearts are sensitive to the wrongs “good” people do to others. “There is too much hypocrisy in the church” they say, and they are correct. They see worldliness, materialism, meanness, cruelty, backbiting, gossip and vindictiveness in the church. But even these reasons are not good enough to quit attending service.

Having said all that, let me share with you something I said at the funeral. I may have raised some eyebrows. In as kind a way as I knew how, I said, “I wish I could have known him, and been able to talk to him about his reasons for giving up searching for ‘a church’ where he could know they were serving God.” Did not Jesus say, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another”? (John 13:35)

There are better reasons to continue worshiping and serving God through the church than quitting. In the first place, God ordained that we meet with fellow Christians to worship God together. The early Christians were warned not to forsake (abandon) the assembling of themselves together (Heb. 10:25).

Next, we discover that the church is not a man made institution, but a divine entity. Jesus said He would build it, and He did, with the purchase price of His blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28). Furthermore, Paul shows its ageless worth in that God has decreed to receive glory through it (Eph. 3:21).

Notice, also, how Paul emphasizes the importance of each member functioning in the body, the church: “from whom (Christ, rr) the whole body (church, rr) being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part (Christians, rr) causes the growth of the body (church, rr) for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16).

How can this be accomplished if we all “go to the mountains”? If those who “go to the mountains” return to the church, and are as good as they think they are, there would be fewer going to the mountains!

Hymn: “O Worship The King”

Dear Father, You have made it clear in Your word how important our worship is to You. May we never neglect to show You how grateful we are and how worthy You are of our worship and daily service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Rob Redden, Arroyo Grande, CA (rredden604@aol.com)



Pleasing God

Today’s Scripture: Ps 104:34 – “Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the Lord.”
An elderly man was traveling with a boy and a donkey. The man was leading the donkey and the boy was walking behind. In one village the townspeople said the old man was a fool for not riding, so to please them he climbed up on the animal’s back. The people of the next village chastised the old man for making the child walk, So, to please them, he got off and set the boy on the animal’s back and continued on his way. In the third village, people accused the child of being lazy for making the old man walk, and the suggestion was made that they both ride. So the man climbed on and they set off again. In the fourth village, the townspeople were indignant at the cruelty to the donkey because he was made to carry two people. The frustrated man was last seen carrying the donkey down the road.

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