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Posts Tagged ‘boundaries’

A friend of mine is an avid urban gardener. She and her family plant beautiful flowers and raise their own vegetables in the backyard. I noticed tall cylinder-shaped cages in the middle. She explained that was for training the flowering vines and tomato vines. The cages also protect them from critters who may wander into the yard looking for a juicy snack.

It made me think of how God’s Holy Spirit surrounds us. Psalm 5:12 says, Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

Boundaries are a good thing. We all need them in our lives. They protect us and steer us just as my niece’s tomato seedlings need their cages to grow and produce large, ripe succulent fruit. (I remember in my biology class that tomatoes are actually classified as fruit though we call them vegetables.)

Sometimes we resist these boundaries. Our independent spirit wants us to break out so we can be free. Teenagers especially. But we adults are not immune to fudging the rules now and then. We go 68 in a 65-speed zone. We make excuses for not doing our household chores and laugh about it on social media. We have that tempting brownie when we have been placed on a medically recommended diet. Who will know?

Then there are those little white lies…

However, because we are way too human in nature, we need to be caged in just like tomatoes or flowering vines. Otherwise, we may grow in a willy-nilly direction. The Lord, once we let Him establish Himself in our hearts and our lives, provides the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5) to guide us in how we are to treat others. His laws and commandments structure our behavior. We know we are the branches, attached to His vine for survival (John 15). All of these things, for our own good, and for the benefit of others, cage us in. We should be thankful for these boundaries, not resist them.

My friend also puts benevolent crawly things in her garden to ward off the ones who might chomp on her vegetables before her family gets a chance to do so. These creepy-crawlies as much as the so-called destructive ones so, the good ones also make my skin crawl. Blechh. However, she is thankful for them because she knows they have a beneficial purpose.

This extra measure of care reminds me that sometimes God brings things into our lives we do not normally consider as good, but in His wisdom, they are exactly that. For example, I couldn’t understand why my two elderly cats, the stability in my widowhood, had to die a few months apart. It was devastating. My mourning ran deep.

Then I underwent testing for allergies at the suggestion of my doctor because I’d kept having sinus issues for the past several years. Sure enough. I had developed a whopping allergy to cats!  Plus, my apartment complex underwent new management and they wanted another 200 dollars for an animal damage deposit per pet upon renewal of the lease. I had no idea both of these events were in my near future at the time the second one passed away, but God did.

Who knew my loving Lord would use tomatoes and cats to teach me a valuable lesson about his care, protection, and boundary setting reasons? Well, He did. What an awesome act of love!

cropped-storm-clouds-2-134981298598261vgu1.jpgOftentimes, tragedy can have a silver lining. God will purpose good from the devil’s evil schemes, proving once again He is in control and has a use for us right up until the end.  Even in the midst of sorrow, there can be joy, like a single sun ray bursting through the storm clouds.

This blog, Where Did You Find God Today, explores the multitude of ways God reaches, teaches, and sometimes preaches to us in our everyday lives. I hope the examples in this short article encourages you to open your faith-eyes to His wondrous ways. His lessons are all around us.

I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw (Proverbs 24:32).

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Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many. Jeremiah 5:6

Words fascinate me. So God uses them often to get my attention. Today I saw the same letters in two different ways.

W-O-L-F.

What comes to mind when you think of a wolf? For me, it is something wild, snarling, attacking, hunting prey.  Beautiful animals, from a distance. But don’t get too close.

Scripture talks of wolves in this manner. Where I live we don’t have wolves, but we have plenty of their cousins, the coyote.  I lost a kitten to one several years ago. It ventured underneath the fence and the coyote, lurking in the tall grass of the vacant lot,  snatched it in its mouth.  They are stealth in their prowess.

Spiritually, there are a lot of wolves out there. There are ideas that seem beautiful at the time. The lure to run free is tempting. And just when you think all is okay, snatch. The consequences are lethal to the soul.

Wolves run in packs. It is the same with temptations. One rebellious act leads to another. One little backslide sends a person teetering on a slippery slope, ready to tumble.

Now flip the letters around. F-L-O-W.

Eden had a stream flowing through it to bring water to the lush vegetation as well as Adam and Eve. The promised land was described as flowing with milk and honey.  Jesus said He was the living water and no one who came to Him would thirst.  In other words, to the obedient, God provides abundantly.

Instead of rebelling and heading off on our own where dangers lurk, we can choose to “go with the flow”, as the 1970’s adage states.  Not only can we float in the boundaries of God’s will, but we can be an example to others who either don’t realize that is an option or have considered it too stifling.

Jesus said in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 

So, it’s our choice. Be a lure in the right way to a thirsty world by letting His love flow, or go off on our own and be lured by the wolf called self who crouches waiting to devour our souls.

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 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved..John 10:9

I live in a gated community. In reality, it is little more than a false sense of security. I have lived here four years, and the code has never changed. Every pizza and package delivery knows it. The tenants who move in and out every six months to a year know it.  But even if the manager was more diligent in changing the code, it wouldn’t really matter.

The same gate that lets a car in also lets a car out. In this warren of residencies, one usually only has to wait a few minutes before another car appears, wishing to exit. No code needed. Slip right on through as they drive out. To avoid lawsuits, I imagine, the gates open and close very slowly, and if they detect a car in the path, they will stop and reopen. This allows at least two or three cars to zip through at a time.

What we need is a guard 24/7 to monitor who passes in and out. But that would be too pricey.

Why am I telling you all this? We each put up barriers and boundaries to keep us safe in our personal space. Rules, internal alarms, habits. However, there is also a gate. A gate you assume will stay closed during the times you want to stay safe, but in reality, can allow lots of things to seep in. That whisper that tells you this one time will be okay. You won’t really be breaking the rules. You are being bold, adventurous, trying something new. That new idea which makes you think perhaps your boundaries have been too rigid and unfair. An interpretation of Scripture that opens your eyes to a more broad understanding, adding a new lane along the road to salvation.

Jesus told His first-century listeners that He was the gate for the sheep. The people who heard His words understood the analogy. Shepherds would lead their sheep from pastures into a communal enclosed area at night. This was in order to watch over them and protect them from predators and poachers. The shepherds then laid down in the gap and guarded the entrance. Nothing came in or out without their permission.

The Holy Spirit is our mind’s gate. The gate code is the Word of God. Whenever something rattles our thoughts, we should ask, does it jibe with what I know to be Truth? Even so, if we rely solely on our own understanding, it can be a false security. Many people use the gate code, and not always for good purposes.

We need the Gatekeeper, 24/7. Don’tworry, He already paid the price.

 


Besides writing this  blog, I  have a digital ministry. The internet is a vast mission field. At Campus Crusades of Canada’s The Life Project, our free articles and devotionals glean a readership of 500,000 plus a month. Some are believers, others don’t know what to believe. All are seeking. We help them know Jesus.

But as with any missionary organization, we are funded solely through the donations of ministry partners. Find out more about my work as a writer and editor at  http://www.juliebcosgrove.com/missionary_support.html

 

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An author friend of mine, Anita Klumper, *took this photo.

anita klumper's hoolyhocks

I saw a godly message in it. If we stay within the boundaries God sets, we can grow high and bloom.

Decades ago, another author, a minister’s wife, wrote a little devotional book called Bloom Where You Are Planted. Hard to do. Our human nature wants us to sprawl, to go beyond the fence. But if we do, we will not grow correctly, will we? Like a tomato vine that needs training, we humans need boundaries. Today, free spirits of society whisper to  be self-orientated, follow your own path, dare to be different.

But, as Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, this is nothing new under the sun.  How much better to be under the boundaries of the Son! Our loving God wants us to grow correctly and safely, so His Word provides a fence for us. What is His fence?

Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. Deuteronomy 11:1.

Or as our Lord stated, Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39

So, unlike the old cowboy song sung by Roy Rogers, Don’t Fence Me In, I pray the opposite. How about you?

 

 

* check out Anita's faith-based fiction on Amazon.com

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A dear friend of mine, R.W. Ley, is a Christian suspense fiction author and also a public speaker. She spoke to my churchwomen’s conference over the weekend on the boxes we all carry.

Many of us use them for storage. We store not only the fond memories but the negative ones as well. You know the ones- the hurts, the grudges, the “I’ve been wronged” angers- things we can pull out whenever we need an excuse for what we are feeling or how we are acting. Some people carry them for decades. But that only weighs us down and wedges a wall between us and God’s mercy. How can we ever be healed if we are not willing to let go of all that we have stored up in our hearts?

Others use their boxes to hide in so they can barricade themselves from others so they never can be hurt again. It is the touch-me not attitude. Have you ever seen that little leaf? It grows close to the ground like a minuscule fern. Touch the leaves and they close up tight for hours.

But, God calls us to use our boxes as a platform. We need them so we can stand above whatever life throws in our direction and then bend down and help others up onto their up-turned boxes. God is in the up-turning business. It may not be pleasant to revisit all those negative things so we can toss them. It may be scary to step out of our hiding place and choose to be vulnerable. It may feel odd to be flipped around to where He can use us as a beacon to others.  It was a great talk.

On the way home, I pondered over her message about boxes.

There is one thing we must never do. Put God in a box. Just as it is wrong to harbor old feelings, or barricade ourselves from the world, or shrink from stepping up and out as a witness for His love, it is equally wrong to make God into our faulty image. We should not box in His grace with regulations and rules that keep others out of our churches or out of our lives. Too many Christians have boxed oeven other believers out on issues such as dress styles, whether or not to dance, drink wine, or how often we should take communion. Are we allowed accoustical guitars and drums in worship, or only an organ, or a piano, or no instruments at all?

We, who are supposed to be united in Christ, have segmented ourselves. The foot has been severed. So has the hand, the nose, the ears. How attractive to others is that? We push and battle for souls – no, don’t go to church over there. Open our box and come in. Their box is too confining for you, or their box is not confining enough so it might lead to sin. We will make you fit just right.

The religious authorities tried to box Jesus into their definition of a Messiah. When He did not fit, they turned away or declared him a blasphemous fraud.  God calls us to think out of the box. It is then that we can witness His miracles in our lives and the ones of those around us.  We can be vulnerable and still trust because, like an invisible and unmeasurable shield, He is our protection. Besides, what we don’t box in we have less of a tendency to hoard or claim as exlusively ours. All God has given freely we must receive, and then be wiling to share without boxing it up.

The only box we need is the one God gives us as a gift through accepting Christ- His eternal love. And that box has no boundaries.

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