Archive for the ‘Boundary Series’ Category

God’s a Pushover? I don’t think so!

Hubby and I were driving home from Brisbane one day when he asked if I could read out loud to him the book of Hosea in the Old Testament from the Bible.  I haven’t really spent much time in this section before and I was really blown away by something.

So many people think that God is a bit of a pushover.  They may not use those words exactly, but they sum Him up something like this:

“God would never send anyone to hell, he is not mean.”

“God only has love in Him so He wouldn’t harm.”

“God can’t be real cause there is so much hurt in the world…wouldn’t He just fix everything?”

“I can just do the wrong thing (sin) and ask for forgiveness, then do it again, then ask for forgiveness – He is a forgiving God after all! Easy.”

Hmmmm….this is not the same God of the Bible, especially the one in the book of Hosea! First of all, let us get one thing straight.  The book of Hosea says the following about God:

  • Hosea 1-3 He is a sovereign God
  • Hosea 4-7 He is a holy God
  • Hosea 8-10 He is a just God
  • Hosea 11-14 He is a loving God
He most certainly is, without a doubt, all those things and more goodness!  He is LOVE after all.
He is also a jealous God, one who likened Israel (His people) to that of a prostitute who had run away from her loving and doting husband Hosea (who represents God). God is so disappointed and angry that after all this time, after freeing Israel from the clutches of Egypt and doing many miracles for her, Israel would still turn her back on Him and look to other gods and idol worship. Forgetting Him. God had basically had enough and it was time to let Israel know the consequences of turning her back on God.
”I have been the Lord your God ever since I brought you out of Egypt. You must acknowledge no God but me, for there is no other savior. I took care of you in the wilderness, in that dry and thirsty land. But when you had eaten and were satisfied, you became proud and forgot me.  So now I will attack you like a lion, like a leopard that lurks along the road. Like a bear whose cubs have been taken away, I will tear out your heart. I will devour you like a hungry lioness and mangle you like a wild animal. You are about to be destroyed, O Israel— yes, by me, your only helper. Now where is your king? Let him save you! Where are all the leaders of the land, the king and the officials you demanded of me? In my anger I gave you kings, and in my fury I took them away.’ – Hosea 13: 4-11

Yikes, I would not want to be in the bad books with God….the word that comes to mind is fear.  He is mighty and powerful and patient….but continually turning your back on Him may cause Him to get your attention at some stage.  You can only be ignorant of Him for so long.
‘I want to heal Israel, but its sins are too great. Samaria is filled with liars. Thieves are on the inside and bandits on the outside! Its people don’t realize that I am watching them. Their sinful deeds are all around them, and I see them all.’ – Hosea 7:1-2

So why does God feel this way towards Israel?  Let’s see a part of the reason…..
‘O Israel and Judah, what should I do with you?” asks the Lord. “For your love vanishes like the morning mist and disappears like dew in the sunlight. I sent my prophets to cut you to pieces— to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light. I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.  But like Adam, you broke my covenant and betrayed my trust. “Gilead is a city of sinners, tracked with footprints of blood. Priests form bands of robbers, waiting in ambush for their victims. They murder travellers along the road to Shechem and practice every kind of sin. Yes, I have seen something horrible in Ephraim and Israel: My people are defiled by prostituting themselves with other gods!” Hosea 6:4-10

So, what of Hosea’s prostituting wife and unfaithful Israel?
Then the Lord said to me, “Go and love your wife again, even though she commits adultery with another lover. This will illustrate that the Lord still loves Israel, even though the people have turned to other gods and love to worship them. – Hosea 3:1

Shame Hitler didn’t understand God’s relationship with Israel, one of the many reasons given for the holocaust was because Hitlers twisted mind originally thought he was doing God a favour by wiping out His people, the Jews.  Very messed up.  Hitler wanted the Jews annihilated as he believed that God had finished with them (antisemitism).
‘Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy. For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return trembling from the west. Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt. Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria. And I will bring them home again,” says the Lord.’ – Hosea 11:8-11
And finally,

‘Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions, and return to the Lord. Say to him, “Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises. Assyria cannot save us, nor can our warhorses. Never again will we say to the idols we have made, ‘You are our gods.’ No, in you alone do the orphans find mercy.”

The Lord says, “Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever.  I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven. Israel will blossom like the lily; it will send roots deep into the soil like the cedars in Lebanon. Its branches will spread out like beautiful olive trees, as fragrant as the cedars of Lebanon. My people will again live under my shade. They will flourish like grain and blossom like grapevines. They will be as fragrant as the wines of Lebanon.

“O Israel, stay away from idols! I am the one who answers your prayers and cares for you. I am like a tree that is always green; all your fruit comes from me.” Let those who are wise understand these things. Let those with discernment listen carefully. The paths of the Lord are true and right, and righteous people live by walking in them. But in those paths sinners stumble and fall.’ – Hosea 14: 4-9

My goodness, there is so much to write about!  I urge you to read Hosea, the whole lot, even if you do not believe in Him.  It is not very long and you will be glad that you did.  It gives a bit more of an understanding of God’s character.

Defending The Boundary Lines: Part 2

Continuing from previous post, taken from the book Boundaries.

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What does it mean in Galatians 6:7-8 when it says, ‘A man reaps what he sows.’? Well, if you work you get paid, if you go grocery shopping you get food, if you study you do well in school. On the flip side, if you eat junk you become unhealthy, if you spend your money you have none left, if you fall over you will hurt yourself. This what happens with consequences. Everything you do will have a consequence. It is the way God intended for life to function.

We teach this principle at the school where I am fortunate enough to work at. As part of the behaviour management plan, children are explicitly taught that each decision they make in their behaviour will render a consequence.  The choice is theirs and the power is in their hands, but whatever they chose they will reap what they have sown, e.g. a student doesn’t hand in her assignment, she will not get a mark and therefore will not pass.

The problem comes when someone interrupts the law of sowing and reaping. ‘Stern discipline awaits him who leaves the path’ (Proverbs 15:10) and this is so true!  By interfering with this natural flow, you render the person powerless.

The Boundaries book states that this happens a lot with parents and children. Parents often nag, instead of allowing their children to reap the natural consequences of their behaviour. Parenting with love and limits, with warmth and consequences, produces confident children who have a sense of control over their lives.

Part of setting boundaries means that you must take responsibility for your choices as you are the only one making them.  No one can force you to do anything. In making your own choices, you are also taking responsibility for the consequences.

But if you are a Christian, is it right to still have boundaries?

You bet! Boundaries come from God and He has his own set of boundaries that He lets us know about. In the book Boundaries it says (in much better words than my own): God defines himself as a distinct, separate being, and he is responsible for himself. He defines and takes responsibility for his personality by telling us what he thinks, feels, plans, allows, will not allow, likes, and dislikes.

He also defines himself as separate from his creation and from us. He differentiates himself from others. He tells us who he is and who he is not. For example, he says that he is love and that he is not darkness (1 John 4:16; 1:6).

In addition, he has boundaries within the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are one, but at the same time they are distinct persons with their own boundaries. Each one has his own personhood and responsibilities, as well as a connection and love for one another (John 17:24).

God also limits what he will allow in his yard. He confronts sin and allows consequences for behaviour. He guards his house and will not allow evil things to go on there. He invites people in who will love him, and he lets his love flow outward to them at the same time. The ‘gates’ of his boundaries open and close appropriately (from my last post).

In the same way he gave us his “likeness” (Gen. 1:26), he gave us personal responsibility within limits. He wants us to “rule and subdue” the earth and to be responsible stewards over the life he has given us. To do that, we need to develop boundaries like God’s.

Defending the Boundary Lines: Part 1

Learning to have boundaries is a hard thing for some people…and me.  I  have always struggled in this area of my life, and have been working extra hard in the art of saying “no” and understanding where my responsibilities and commitments need to stop.

I used to feel like I needed, or more appropriately ‘should’, do things for people when they asked.  No thought, just a straight out “yes!”. I wasn’t lying as I really was determined to do as they asked….but at what price? I would say yes even if I knew I was over committing myself and biting off more than I could chew.  I would say yes even if I knew I would suffer further down the track – time poor, lack of resources, emotional limits, etc.  If I said no, I felt as though I would be letting people down and being unreliable or ‘unchristian’.  Little did I know that the world would be able to function if I said no to a few things and got my priorities in order  🙂

One of the best life-changing books I will ever read is ‘Boundaries‘ by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend.  Talk about shining a floodlight on my life!

The first thing I learnt was that everyone is responsible for themselves.  Meaning we have property lines in our lives that we should be focussing on.  Boundaries define us.  They define what is me and what is not me.

The book gives a perfect example of this when a father is struggling with his son who is lacking responsibility: “it is as if your son is your neighbour who never mows his lawn. But, whenever you turn on your sprinkler system, the water falls on his lawn. Your grass is turning brown and drying, but Bill looks down at his green grass and thinks to himself, ‘My yard is doing fine.’  That is how your son’s life is. He doesn’t study, or plan, or work, yet he has a nice place to live, plenty of money, and all the rights of a family member who is doing his part.  If you would define the property lines a bit better, if you would fix the sprinkler system so that the water would fall on your lawn, and if he doesn’t water his own lawn, he would have to live in dirt. He might not like that after a while.’

The Bible clearly shows us that we are responsible to others and for ourselves. Galatians 6:2 ‘Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ’. Verse 5 continues, ‘each one should carry his own load.’ The Greek word for ‘burden’ means excess burdens or burdens that are so heavy that they weigh us down. The Greek word for ‘load’ means cargo, or daily toil. This is basically telling us that people may have ‘burdens’ that are too big for them to carry. They are lacking in strength, resources, or knowledge to carry it alone and they need help from others. We shouldn’t be expected to carry a boulder by ourselves as it would crush us!  But we are expected to carry our own ‘load’.  These loads are like backpacks that are possible to carry as they just everyday things we need to do in our lives. Problems arise when people behave as though their boulders are daily loads and they refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry.

Boundaries are crucial to everyone whether used properly or improperly. They help us to “guard our heart with all our diligence.” We need to keep things that will nurture us inside our fences and keep things that will harm us outside; we need gates in our boundaries. Basically, boundaries help us keep in the good and keep the bad out. They guard our treasures (Matt. 7:6) so that people will not steal them.

I have learnt over the past year to identify things that are damaging to me and need to be stopped, or when I have too much on my plate and the word ‘no’ should be my answer, or when my boulders are crushing me and I need to ask for help.  It is hard, but definitely worth it!

Defending the Boundary Lines: Part 2 – ‘A man reaps what he sows.’ (Galatians 6:7-8) and why it IS Christian to have boundaries!