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.

Deferred Hope, Misplaced Hope


Ever wanted something, hoped for something, even though you knew, deep down, that it was unlikely or impossible?

I have. More than once. And it’s hard.

I’ve hoped for a relationship that isn’t mine to have.

I hope for friends who have blown up their lives to have a change heart and return to the Lord.

I hope that relationships that have drifted apart and changed for unknown reasons will be restored.

I hope I can be a successful advocate for the single moms I’ve come to love in a village in Uganda.

I hope I have “Teacher of the Year” days every day and that I love and teach my students well.

I hope for an e-mail from God that maps out the next 30-ish years of my life for me.

I hope for a lot of things that end in deferred hope because the hope is uncertain, misplaced.

See, hope is anxious expectation.

Like a kid at Christmas; they don’t know exactly what they’re getting, but they know they’re getting something and it’s gonna be good.

Uncertain hope is no hope at all. It’s the inconsistency upon which we build crumbling dreams and broken hearts.

Maybe you’ve experienced deferred hope, too. Maybe it had to do with a relationship, or a job, or any variety of things. Maybe you’ve made up stories in your head of what it might be if it was finally a reality one day.

Hope in the face of hopelessness can be the rope we hang on to in impossible situations. Healing. Salvation. Restoration. God things. Hope pulls us through.

But hope in the face of hopelessness can also be the rope we use to hang ourselves.

Hope in the face of hopelessness is not the problem, but the object of our hope may be.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Prov 13:12

Hope deferred can be misplaced hope.

If your hope lies in someone or something that may or may not ever actually be yours, that uncertainty can eat away at your soul.

What’s the simple, Sunday school answer to the problem?

Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Psalm 37:4-5

But there is so much more to these verses than God, The Granter of Wishes.

When we delight in the Lord, He is the desire of our heart. And when He is the desire of our heart, no hope can be deferred, because all we have in Him is ours now.

So how to we heal a heart sick from deferred hope?

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Ps 42:5-6

Sometimes that means grieving the loss of that misplaced hope and realigning our hopes and dreams with God’s will for our lives.

Sometimes it means just giving it to Him as a the protector and keeper of your heart.

When our hope is in God, our hope will never be deferred. Our desires are altered and then fulfilled as we delight in Him and He is our tree of life.

Have you ever experienced a hope deferred? How did your heart heal?

The One Where I Defend Heretics


Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

You read that title right. I am defending heretics. In fact, I’ll take it a step further; I like heretics.

At least I like our modern day heretics.

See, 1,700 years ago, a heretic was a person who taught things that were contrary to Scripture. We burned them at the stake.

Today, the title of heretic is given to pretty much anyone who doesn’t agree with the person who is handing out the title. We burn them on the Internet.

Why do I like heretics?

Heretics challenge us. Spend too much time talking with people who agree with you and soon you’ll start thinking everyone agrees with you. One of the best (and worst) things about the Internet is that conversations are now open forums. You say something in an unclear way, without context or without thinking, and someone is going to call you on it. Fast.

Heretics make us continually check our thinking and, in turn, the way in which we communicate. When I have spent too much time with people I assume agree with me, I find myself saying things like, “You know what I mean,” or “Surely SHE knows I’m not talking about THAT.” Or, when people do disagree, I immediately discount their opinion, thinking, “If she knew where I was coming from, she’d understand.”

When you’ve spent so much time with the same people, it’s easy to take for granted that you know each other, and it’s really hard to recognize the expected changes and growth in one another. One thing I have learned the last few years is that even with the people who agree with you the most, there is eventually going to come a time when you will disagree.

And when you disagree with the people who have “always been around” sometimes you find out that you’ve been assuming much more than you’ve been communicating. You’ve not been sharpening one another like iron, you’ve most likely been taking one another and your assumed agreement for granted. And when assumptions and expectations are challenged, a lot of pain can occur.

This is why I like heretics.

Those who vocally disagree with you do more for your sharpening than anyone who simply exists in your sphere of influence but never actually influences you.

We have developed this image of mentoring and Christian relationships that is soft and fluffy and emotional unity, and that’s not the completely biblical picture of Christian living.

Have you ever actually seen iron sharpen iron? It’s loud and violent and hot.

We’re told in Hebrews to spur one another on to love and good deeds. Spur. Like you spur a horse. Agitate those around you to break out of their routine and assumptions and consider just how apathetic they may have become.

To edify is more than writing a pretty note to a friend telling her you’re praying for her. Edify is a construction term. Construction is dirty and sweaty. It’s hard work.

Heretics sharpen us. They sharpen our thoughts and our communication. They force us to cling tightly to Christ while we learn to hold our labels and our heroes very loosely. I’ve learned in the last few months that I’m not nearly as “conservative” as I once was. And I am ok with that. The term has changed and I have changed, but if I had not been engaged in hard conversations with people I assumed I disagreed with, both theologically and politically, I would have kept sharp lines of separation drawn, and I would have missed out learning a lot about myself, about God, and about those who see the world differently from me.

So if heretics are the people who disagree with me, then I love heretics.

I love that they challenge me to put away my stereotypes and sweeping generalizations and force me to get to know individuals, appreciating our points of agreement while respectfully examining the points at which we disagree.

I love that their sweeping generalizations, the ones that cause me to say, “I hold to that label, but I do NOT hold to that belief!” cause me to pause and consider my own heart and my own convictions.

I love that heretics allow the complex nature of Christ to shine before a watching world. When others see us engage in civil discourse concerning issues about which we passionately disagree and we walk away from the conversation edified, the world marvels, “How is that possible?” And we have an opportunity to share with a watching world the hope that is within us.

Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit that unifies. Not our political beliefs or our theological platforms. Within orthodox Christianity, there is plenty of room to disagree, and even in our disagreements we have room to display the unity of Christ.

Do I have those people in my life who encourage me and love on me and wipe my tears and cheer me on? Absolutely, as everyone should. But I have also begun to develop an equally precious group of friends with whom I agree on very little theologically or politically. But what we do agree on is the fact that we have room to learn from one another. None of us has the monopoly on all truth, but the best part is that we are all more interested in being loving and holy than in being right.

So I would encourage you: find yourself a heretic. Invite someone into your life who doesn’t agree with you on everything and enter into a sharpening relationship. Challenge one another with the intention of building and growing. You just might find out that you love heretics, too.

Relationships Required, Workshop Notes from Paige Benton Brown


This is, perhaps, the most practically instructive and theologically challenging workshop I have ever attended. It’s been over a week since I heard Paige Benton Brown speak on the relationships required for Gospel ministry, and I am still mulling over and praying through all that I heard.

Here is the most challenging point from the workshop:

Everything about God’s relationship with us is His initiative. He is the initiator. As His ambassadors, we move towards people. Jesus never told His disciples to “be available.” He told them to “Go.” Initiate people as people and not as players in your church or ministry. Get to know them for them and not for what they can do for you.
a. Obvious: Who is immediately around you? Don’t look for new people, look at the same people with new eyes.
Jesus sent Legion and the Woman at the Well back to their people. New testimony with the same people.
Look at your relationships you would have anyway. Are they radically different relationships different because of Christ? Not just interaction, but involvement.
b. Unobvious: Not just available to them, but actively pursuing them. Leaving the 99 for the one who will never come on their own. The ones who are gonna need it most are the ones who will never approach you.
Who needs to be approached who will never approach anyone else?

We are in the service of a Seeking Savior. He does not hang a shingle, but is the Hound of Heaven.

For the rest of my notes from Paige’s workshop, click here.

If you are a believer in relationship with other people, then this is a post for you. Paige’s first point? There should be no relationships that are not ministry.

Poetic Application of Romans 12:1-2


I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

For the last several weeks, my 9th graders have been discussing the transforming power of transformed thoughts. This idea applies to relationships; with guys, with other girls, with friends, with family… How we think should transform how we live. But how do we do that? How do we actively change our thoughts and, in turn, use our changed thoughts to change our hearts and our actions?

We watched this video in class today, and it spurred some great conversation about how the world influences our passive thoughts and attitudes and how those thoughts and attitudes influence our choices. It reminded me of The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis’ classic work which imagines an exchange of letters between an experienced demon and a less mature demon-in-training. The methods of the evil one are not obvious, but are subtle, passive, sneaky. In this poem, the author writes A Letter to Satan, telling him just what she thinks about his schemes and control in her life.

Watch the video, check out the lyrics below, and think about this: If you looked at the influence of media in your life and compared your thoughts and attitudes to the Word, what sort of letter would you write to Satan about how evil has influenced your life?

Dear Satan,

I’m writing you this letter to inform you that our relationship is officially done.

You just lost one!

Cause for too long I’ve battled in my mind

Your voice v. God’s v. mine

For too long I’ve entertained the same thoughts as Cain

Like how truthfully my flesh loves to be first

How my pride tries to cover and hide so I can’t see the extent of this curse

So I’m returning all your gifts

Rejecting all your myths

See all this time I thought that I had control, but you were controlling this

Despite me doing good works in the church

Thinking I was a Christian

All the while allowed your spirit to lurk

What a deception

You went to church with me

A thwarted perception

Saying that I love God louder and louder

But had a spiritual infection

I see you’re a deceiver; you take advantage of every weak part

I could come to church every week

As long as I don’t apply the word to my heart

We were friends because I did what you wanted me to

I thought a little sin wouldn’t hurt

I mean I didn’t want to sleep with you

I just thought it would be cool to flirt

But I see you play for keeps

Now I know that the Word is true

What you sow is what you reap

I keep saying I’m so blessed, I’m so blessed

All the while secretly giving you a kiss

I remember all the places we used to go

Now inwardly it makes me sick

Like how you talked me into going to the club

At first I really didn’t want to go

I thought it wouldn’t affect me

But while I was there my lust began to flare and I got hot and heavy

Started thinking about the dudes in the room

Wanting to ride off in their Chevy

Or the comedy spots where we sat and laughed enjoying ourselves all night

When they were joking and mocking the church like that situation is light

And explicit sexual content echoed through that mic

And I laughed like it was alright

Now I know God wasn’t laughing

Even though you and I was on a roll

I see it was because my heart was so numb and cold

In the back of my mind

I thought I’d really give God 100% when I’m old

Once I’m done having my fun

Then I thought what if I don’t make it past 25, then what?

What did I live for?

I just can’t ignore anymore this proposal from the Lord

So I changed my number so you would no longer call

And I would no longer fall

But even though I did all that you still controlled me from afar

Because I was just trying to be a better person

Stopped clubbing, stopped sex, stopped cursing

Dropped friends, cause of greed stopped working

But stopping things don’t rid the seed of the serpent

It was all self-righteousness

A righteousness I created

It’s like using filthy rags to take a bath

When the truth is my entire sin nature is bad

And me stopping those things never dealt with the wickedness of my heart

If I thought someone did me wrong

I was so quick to lash back, all the while singing a praise song

Even though the Bible says repay not evil for evil, I refused to believe

And your strings got me doing things that I can’t even help

Trying to love my brother but always thinking about myself

What a curse

Like I could run up and hug someone at church

But because inwardly I wanted to be first

Didn’t realize it but I was wishing them the worst

Although the outside was clean

The inside of the cup was filthy and mean

So I wrestled with the conclusion

Maybe I’ve been excluded from being able to live this Christian life

But then that sounds like your voice

You’ve influenced so much of my life

Those events help me see how powerless I am

And the reality is there is only one way

And before I was set free, I had to realize I was a slave

I have no merit, virtue or favor with God

It’s Christ’ poured out lifeblood that saves

And I’m sick of it, my sin

I’ve defended it, time and time again

Dead in my transgression but now I’ve come on out of the grave

Because this new relationship is based solely by grace through faith

And my life is a result of what I believe

Since you shall know a tree by the root and the fruit

So rather than just dress modestly, I’m checking my heart too

Making sure there is no vanity

Or that I’m dressing to grab the attention of humanity

Because I know what I can do, if I remain in a relationship with you

My potential outside of Christ is extremely detrimental

So I’m clinging on with all I’ve got

So now when I think of all the movies we went to

Man I get so hot

Cause Christ has won my heart

I can’t sit there and glory in the violence on that screen

And even though I used to justify by saying I never hurt anyone

I was being entertained by the very thing

God choose to destroy the world for in Genesis 6

He said the earth was corrupt and filled with violence

So the only reason I wasn’t destroyed

Was God’s kindness

You see you helped me build a tower like you did with Nimrod

But I’m tearing it down for my God

By the way I’m clearing out my ipod

I’m giving you back all your music

Couldn’t see it before

This tool you were using

Different song

Different score

Brought the same conclusion

All about lust, money, self and sex

Yet those things are the reason Christ was out to death

Who you using next

Chris Brown, T-pain, souljah boy, ne-yo, Beyonce or Game?

Every artist motivation is the same

To take my heart away from the reason Christ came

I could say I’m saved all the while exalting men

Not a fanatic for Christ cause I’m a TI fan

No-one no-one, not even Alicia keys supersedes the reason Christ bleeds

No-one no-one has even ever heard Alicia sing about why Christ is grieved

And I thought her music was positive

But when I look into the word, Christ and Alicia are opposites

Christ is on my mind

So you won’t see me bobbing it

Because He’s all I need

He is all I need

Cause all that music was to glorify me

Yet the reason Christ came was to mortify me

To crucify my flesh

Not to be the Christian in Christian-Dior up in the video with Kanye West

Now I see

How he’s saying he’s Christian yet he’s exalting women, sex, and greed

And I said I was just listening to the beats

You had me so blind to the content

I was so deceived

Didn’t realized Satan disguised as I was hitting repeat

At the same time they were pushing repeat when my savior was beat

Pierced in His wrist and feet

To take away these worldly lusts these songs stir within me

So I confess

I’m no longer impressed with you whack lines

You’ll give me all your kingdoms if I bow and worship at your shrine

And I used to

But now I’m adopted into the vine

So every lie you told me

Like you being my homie

That I could rep Christ as long as we kicked it on the low key

I’m done with you and all the excuses you gave

Like living holy is a long process

But the truth is, you didn’t want me to change

I used to be a daughter of lies

You used to be my master

But now I’m at the feet of Christ with me box of alabaster

Because He redeemed me, set me free

And I will spend my time, all of eternity

Learning Him

Wiping His feet with my tears

Oh well, there will be no tears in heaven

But I will sit and give Him reverence

Because I know I’m undeserving of His love

See I’m now covered in the blood of the Son

So in case you forgot

I’m writing this letter to inform you that our relationship is officially done,

You just lost one!

Myth of the Mean Girl: Living without Masks


I recently had a couple of conversations with a man about relationships between women. In one conversation he talked about his young daughter and her best friend and their love/hate relationship with one another, and in the other he mentioned the ever complex friendships between his wife and her friends. In both conversations he eventually ended his observations with a hopeless sounding statement of, “But you know, girls will be girls.”

He was talking about women hurting one another other with words and actions, about spending unhealthy amounts of time together until we blow up at one another, about betrayal and competition and unforgiveness. He’s bought into the myth of the Mean Girl. Our culture is built upon the idea that women are “Bridezillas” and “Real Housewives”, that we are “Gossip Girls” and “16 and Pregnant”, or that we are participants on “The Bachelor”, competing with one another for the attention and affection of a man. Young girls today watch tv and are taught to treat one another as competition at best and mortal enemies at worst. Girls believe this is how women are to behave, and so that is how they behave.

I used to believe the myth, too. Even in the church, all I had really seen was gossipy competition and hurt feelings, with excuses ranging from hormones to home life, but never hearing that there was another option for how women could behave.

But then I spent some time in a little town called Wake Forest (my parents kindly refer to it as the “seminary bubble”), surrounded by people who, for the most part, were genuinely pursuing Christ and desperately seeking to serve Him and be conformed to His image. There, I found a group of women who were more interested in pleasing God than pleasing one another, who were seeking Christ more than a husband, and who desired to learn from one another more than they desired to prove they were better than everyone else.

Does that mean we were without drama? Of course not! I distinctly remember one tear-filled confrontation between myself and two friends that ended in my throwing a pencil at one of them. I cried on a professor when she compared me to another student and I defiantly declared that I was NOT that person and then intentionally completed a project the way I wanted to, just to drive the point home. We had hopeless crushes on indecisive men and sometimes responded to the corresponding broken hearts with a frustrated “I told you so”. I was jealous when I friend was chosen for a position over me, and had many snarky conversations about “those girls”; the cute, and therefore shallow, ones that we were convinced were not “serious students” like us because they only came to seminary to land a husband. Sometimes, girls will be girls.

But there was a distinct difference in that time of life compared to previous times, and I have tried to carry it with me since I left that precious circle of friends. The difference is that, when we walked in the flesh and hurt one another’s feelings, we didn’t just move on with life, piling offense upon offense. We faced the moment and faced it together. We sought the wisdom of Scripture, we confessed our sins and shortcomings, we asked for forgiveness, we prayed together. Then we worked to walk together in the Spirit. We studied the Word together. We confronted weaknesses in our friends’ lives before they became strongholds of sin. We opened ourselves up to humble and transparent examination and offered the same to one another.We lived for a season without masks, and it was life changing. No one had it all together, and no one expected anyone else to have it all together. In fact, we called you out on it if you started acting like you did!

In short, we lived lives of discipleship together. We desired to be more like Christ and we expected our friends to help us along in that journey, not hold us back from our goal. The Christian walk is the only race in which every person who crosses the finish line is a “winner” and in turn, makes every other finisher that much more victorious. We are “more than conquerors” because we are not competing against our fellow runners; we’re all on the same team!

So will girls be girls? Yes, as long as we believe the lie of the world that we are competition for one another and as long as we hold one another back, pursuing goals of our flesh and our pride, devouring one another with our words and deeds. But if we will commit to humble discipleship, to encouraging one another, if we will transparently walk alongside one another and bear one another’s burdens as teammates and not enemies, then the type of girls we become will be more like Christ and not like the world.

Women don’t have to “be girls”. We can be like Jesus.

How have you fought to overcome the “myth of the mean girls”? How does your circle of friends lift one another up instead of tearing one another down? Can women walk in the Spirit together, in grace and Truth, or will girls be girls?

No Love Without Obedience


In my many conversations and lectures concerning relationships and sexuality, those who oppose my stance on these issues repeatedly bring up passages in which Jesus stresses love. God loves us the way we are, they say. We should be able to express our love for one another any way we please. God loves me even if I am involved in supposed “sin”.

Love one another. Love. Love. Love.

Problem here is that these people are speaking of Disney, fairy tale, happily ever after love. News flash: Love does not equal happiness. While Jesus did say the world would know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35), he also very specifically said that if we loved him, we would keep his commandments (John 14:15). So love isn’t a feeling. It’s an action. A cognitive decision to behave according to a certain standard in the best interest of another. Hmmm…

This post from Dan Phillips today on Pyromaniacs.com addresses this issue with a thorough and biblical treatment of love and obedience. It’s a lengthy argument, but well worth the time to chew through if you are one that really struggles with the concept of God “limiting” how humanity chooses to express love to one another to Him.