Why Establish Healthy Boundaries in Relationships?


Why do we need healthy boundaries?

You cannot break free from unhealthy individuals while standing in their presence. You will need healthy boundaries, because without healthy boundaries it will almost be impossible to maintain your physical, emotional and spiritual health. It is very important to stay alert, to develop a heightened sense of awareness, similar to Homeland Security. Your homeland is your body, your mind, and your spiritual health. The number one tactic of the enemy, using unhealthy people, is to catch you off guard– to catch you unaware.

If you become fascinated or intrigued by the unhealthy aggressive and manipulative behavior, you are vulnerable.  Breaking free from these attractions will require you to become more observant, to listen, not just hearing, but listening to what the unhealthy are saying. It will require discernment, prayer, educating yourself through God’s word and accountability to an individual who is spiritually grounded in the Word.

Paul has much to say about mind control and the devastation that occurs when we live according to the desires of the flesh. He must have known something about unhealthy and unsafe people.

But that’s no life for you. You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It is rotten through and through. Get rid of it!  And then take on an entirely new way of life—–a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduced His character in you. What this adds up to, then, is this: no more lies, no more pretenses. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we are connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you are lying to yourself. Ephesians 4: 20-25, MSG

Believe it or not, you can set boundaries and still be a loving individual. In fact, setting boundaries is a loving act. Imagine what it would be like if we had no boundaries.

What if we said yes to every request that came along?

There are legitimate boundaries. Legitimate boundaries are those we have for protection. We have the responsibility to protect our emotions, for controlling our behavior, our attitudes and our Christian beliefs.

Individuals who are relentless and persistent, those unhealthy individuals who have a hard time understanding the word “no,” will often be upset with our boundaries. Boundaries protect your time, your love, your energy, your emotional, spiritual, and physical health. Remember there is only so much of you to go around, and you alone are responsible for how you disperse each of these areas of your time, your love and your energy.

I love what John Bradshaw said in his book titled, Homecoming. It is never too late to have a healthy childhood. By that he means that, through new healthier boundaries, we can care for the child within us—raising him or her in healthier ways, to mature into the man or woman God created us to be. Boundaries help us learn and maintain our identity in Christ and keep us from placing others in the position of idols in our lives.

So how do we maintain our own identity in Christ and still serve and love one another well? We will look at some hard questions to ask ourselves in our last post.

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The Faces of Islam


In recent days, there has been so much violence in the Middle East directed toward Americans. And our reaction is, understandably, to take a defensive position. I want to defend myself and my friends, shout from Twitter and everywhere else that not all Americans are “like that” (whatever “that” may be). Whether the riots are about the anti-Islam movie trailer or not, I want them to know that some Americans watched and thought it was horrible. Horrible acting (at the very least), horrible caricature of their culture, disrespectful, most likely offensive.

But I also want to say, “Violence is certainly not the way to protest a cheap movie that portrays your faith as violent.”

I want to say those things to them. But I have no way to make contact with the Muslim world. I do, however, have the ability to make contact with the American, Christian world. And with this tiny little platform I have here on the Internet, I want to remind you that while this may be the face of Islam we think is blowing up the world today…


(Photo Credit, Mohammed Abu Zaid, AP)

…these are the faces of Islam that rocked my world and flipped my perspective upside down when I spent time in Kabul and Dashti Barche, Afghanistan, in 2007.

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Don’t let the face of Islam overshadow the faces. Remember the faces.

Pray for the faces.

Pray that the Prince of Peace will continue to make Himself famous in the lives of these precious people.

Pray that Christians in America will remember that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness.

Pray that we will see these people not as our enemies, but as prisoners of war who are held captive by our spiritual enemy.

Pray.

Children’s Books, God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will


The last couple of years I have taken to reading youth fiction. It’s a great balance for the heavy reading I do for school, and I love revisiting books that I read as a child. They take on a whole new meaning as an adult. A truly gifted writer is able to weave together multiple, complex themes, and some of those themes are only visible after time and maturity grow us up a bit.

The Chronicles of Narnia are a prime example. I read them two summers ago for the first time since I was in the 5th grade, and they came alive to me in a completely different way than they did when I was eleven. It is a treat to be able to go back and glean deep theological truth found on such simple terms. To describe God in the words of a child is a literary skill I envy.

While on vacation a few weeks ago, I found a copy of Madeline L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time at a thrift store, and I purchased it. Her writing intrigued me as a child as well, and I looked forward to reading it through the lens of adulthood. I’m finishing it today, and I as I read the conversation below, it struck me as such as simple yet profound way of describing the concept of God’s sovereignty and humanity’s free will working simultaneously in harmony with one another. Being fiercely independent, the concept of God being in complete control and me still having any choice in the matters of my life never really meshed, but this makes sense to me.

“In your language, you have a form of poetry called the sonnet.”

“Yes, yes…”

“It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”

“Yes.”

“But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”

“Yes… You mean your comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?”

“Yes. You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet for yourself. What you say is completely up to you.”

I tend to think that either I’m in control or someone else is. But God is pleased to work with us, within our lives. He has given us the structure in which He desires us to work. God gives us a range of choices for our lives; “This is the will of God for your life…” But within that strict structure, we are free to create a masterpiece or a trainwreck of the sonnet he has asked us each to write.

Seems to me, in my simple human mind, that this may be a good way of describing how God works in our lives. God gives us choices in life, any of which He would be pleased with. He has given us boundaries in which to live, guidelines to follow, and reason, knowledge and logic with which to make decisions.

And considering we are told in Ephesians that we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece, I don’t have a problem at all with the idea of my life being a sonnet. Or a Haiku. Or any other type of art in which the artist is required to express his or her genius within certain boundaries. In fact, I believe expressing yourself within a set of externally given guidelines is more beautiful and more challenging than just “freestyling” whatever comes to mind.

So I guess the only question is: what is your sonnet going to be about?

Do You Bully Jesus?


Yesterday’s post was admittedly inflammatory. Yet I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit working through Paul intended that passage to be so. God is serious about sin, and He desires us to be as well. Our Savior is only as big as we recognize our need to be saved. Small sin, small savior. Usually one made in our image that we pull out in times of trouble, like he’s a good luck charm. That’s not a Savior; that’s an idol. A lucky rabbit’s foot, maybe.

Paul’s illustration of forcing Jesus to participate in sexual sin is shocking. It jars us to the core. It scars for life, as one friend told me this week when I shared the illustration with her. But how does that same principle play out in the sins that we as people find not quite so heinous? Humans are notorious for ranking sin, and usually the sins of others rank far worse than our own pet sin. But to God, they are all equally heinous. There are not big sins and smalls sins because they are all infinitely offensive to an infinitely holy God. It’s not that there are no big sins; it’s that there are no small ones.

“I don’t participate in any sort of active sexual sin,” you may say. Don’t think yourself in the clear. This principle of forcing Jesus into sin applies to ALL sin, not just sexual sin.

In addition to my counseling ministry, I teach at a local high school. And if you work with teens, you daily deal with the one recurring and constant torture: bullying. Whether it’s physical, verbal, psychological or technological, bullying and peer pressure are a daily part of the teen age experience. But it’s not just for teens. Once I had a student ask me in tears how old you had to be when girls would stop being so mean and just be nice to one another. I told her that I wasn’t sure, but when I reached the age that it happened, I would let her know. I’m 31 and I’m still waiting.

Bullies are generally defined as those who pick on or mess with other students. Those who force others to do things their way, who run the show, command attention, fear, and control. Nobody likes a bully, usually even the bully.

If we apply the principle found in 1 Corinthians 6, that because we are one with Christ in the Spirit, sin in the life of a believer forces Jesus to participate in acts against his will, then we can only conclude that every time we as believers sin, we bully Jesus. Think back to the day of His crucifixion. He knows bullying intimately. He was beaten, scorned, mocked. I can imagine that growing up wasn’t a piece of cake for him either. He never took part in bullying other students and was probably mocked as well. We know his brothers picked on him and claimed He was crazy right up to the moment He appeared to them after the resurrection. Jesus knew the pain and rejection of being bullied on this earth.

Jesus knows it today. He desires to be with us and we psychologically bully him by isolating and ignoring His call to our hearts for worship and fellowship. He wants no corrupt communication to proceed from our lips, but only words that will build up fellow believers, yet we force him to participate in venomous backbiting and gossip. Jesus desires to be healthy physically so He is able to do the will of the Father to best of His ability, yet we entrap him in physical cages of gluttony like a 6th grader stuck in a locker.

Understanding the heart of Christ helps us understand the brokenness He experiences over our sin. At the end of Luke 19 we see both his broken heart and his righteous anger over the hard heartedness of His people and the blatant sin that it caused. While looking over the city, He weeps for their short sightedness and coming destruction because of their refusal to repent and believe. Once He gets to the city, He righteously cleans out His Father’s house of prayer. Jesus loves his people fiercely; but He hates their sin severely.

So what do we take from this short series on the impact of sin?

1. God’s Word is for our good, the best and ideal from the only One who loves any of us perfectly, as we desire to be loved.

2. Refusing to trust Him and His love leads us to false loves and choices that cause us, at best to settle for less than what He has for us and, at worst, brings us horribly painful consequences.

3. Our sin breaks the heart of God. All sins. Every last one. His heart breaks because of His great love for us and his great hate for the sin that damages our lives and separates us from Him.

4. To solve this seemingly hopeless situation, He showed His great love for us in that, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

The one who was bullied took the punishment for the bullies so that He might have relationship with them. Oh, what a Savior!