Category Archives: Boundaries

Resting from work or working from rest?

lion-restingHow would you describe your time off from work (and by work, I don’t just mean your job, but also all of your personal/family projects and demands)? Do you typically rest from your work or do you work from a place of rest?

There is a gigantic difference between the two. It seems to me that most people use their time off to rest from their work, whereas few people actually begin their work from a place of well-rested renewal.

In his book, The Communicator’s Commentary, David L. McKenna described our situation this way: “Modern society has upset the rhythm of life. Work has been devalued and play has been invaded by the purpose of work. With so much leisure and so many options, play has been subjected to a time-clock schedule with its demand for successful production. In many instances, worship has been eliminated from the rhythm of life and rest has become a dreaded experience on a ‘crash pad.’ The result is that work is a necessary evil, play is work, worship is idolatry, and rest is a short course in death.”[1]

Strong words, no doubt, but they certainly ring true. The Bible urges another way. The biblical idea of Sabbath was not so we could mildly recover from our workweek before starting it all over again—it was so we could retreat to our ultimate source of life.

In the creation account in Genesis the Sabbath day—day seven—comes last. However, for Adam (who was created on the sixth day), it came first. God’s seventh-day Sabbath was Adam’s first day. He was created to begin his work from a place of God’s rest.

Don’t get uptight about the Sabbath and legalistically attempt to carve out an entire day of rest. Just understand and embrace the principle: we find ourselves in God’s presence where our souls get renewed, and then from that place of strength and rest we face whatever comes our way.

[1] David L. McKenna, The Communicator’s Commentary: Mark (Waco: Word Books, 1982), p.77.

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I want a rule; God wants obedience

breaking rulesHow many drinks can I have? One? Two? More? Or none at all?

Can I watch certain kinds of R-rated movies? Like the ones that are only rated R for violence? Or maybe just language? Or other stuff too as long as it isn’t too bad?

What are my rules for what is and is not acceptable?

Some people don’t care about these kinds of questions—they aren’t “rule people” and they are happy to make these decisions on the fly. Others, however, feel more comfortable with clearly defined boundaries, and they appreciate the comfort and security of always knowing exactly what they should and shouldn’t do.

Personally, I am a rule person and I prefer to know exactly what my boundaries are. I like the security of knowing precisely when I am and am not on the right path, and sometimes the Bible caters to personalities like mine. Sometimes the Scriptures clearly highlight the paths that God wants us to walk, and there’s nothing left for us to do but start walking. There are other times though when the Bible isn’t quite as clear. It doesn’t give us rules to follow; it gives us principles to apply.

Sometimes I want a law to govern me, but God wants something very different. He wants my mature obedience. Sometimes simple rule keeping can be a lesser path than actually following the Holy Spirit’s leading.

Remember, being led by the Spirit is a key mark of mature sonship and daughterhood (Romans 8:14), and often that leading occurs in settings where the rules aren’t perfectly clear. Paul devoted entire chapters of his writings to matters of conscience, coaching us for those times when singular rules can’t fully dictate correct behavior.

We live in a time in history when we must know God’s laws, understand the principles that drive them, and be sensitized to the Holy Spirit’s leading. When Scripture is clear we follow it clearly. When it is unclear–or open to multiple interpretations–we follow its principles. And when multiple paths are legitimate options, we trust the Spirit’s leading in our conscience.

When to binge when to fast

bingeingBinge

Noun: A short period of time devoted to indulging in an activity to excess, especially drinking alcohol or eating.

Fasting

Noun: A movement of willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or other activities, for a set period of time.

You and I are living in a “bingeing” culture wherein excessive indulgence is the norm. We’ve even coined a new social term called “binge-watching” to describe how we devour new TV programs as they become available on Netflix or other outlets. We binge-watch TV programs, we binge-eat sugar, we binge-drink alcohol, and we pursue our entertainment and leisure times with a bingeing level of fervor.

It’s not how we were designed to live. Although I too love binge-watching a really great show, and having days where I eat McDonald’s for breakfast, nachos for lunch, and pizza for dinner, the level of bingeing in our society is both out-of-bounds and unhealthy.

From a Scriptural, God-ordained perspective, we humans were designed to live lives of moderation marked by times and seasons of both feasting and fasting. Moderation calls us to discipline and restraint—two virtues that are essential for long-term health and excellence; fasting allows us to re-boot both our physical and spiritual lives; and feasting allows us to celebrate God’s goodness and supply.

Unfortunately in a bingeing culture like ours all three of those elements get lost. Moderation gives way to the pendulum swings of excessive bingeing and crash dieting; fasting gives way to instant gratification; and the joy of feasting gets lost because we are already fully satiated.

There really is a better way to live and I think we need to rediscover it. I think we should engage in a binge fast, wherein we willingly reduce or abstain from some or all of our bingeing activities for a set period of time. Remember the Apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 6:12 “I have the right to do anything…but not everything is beneficial. I have the right to do anything, but I will not be mastered by anything.”

Eating pizza and binge-watching a really great show can be a perfectly valid form of occasional reprieve; however, to the degree that any form of bingeing has gained any level of mastery in our lives we need to fast. We need to renounce its control over us, retrieve command of our lives, and enjoy the beauty and cleanness of a life of moderation.

The Gift Nobody Wants

painSeveral years ago a doctor wrote a small book entitled Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants. Understandably, the publishing company balked at the title, asserting that no one would purchase a book that hailed pain as a gift. Consequently, after a brief run, the word “pain” was dropped and the book was simply published as The Gift Nobody Wants.

The doctor, Paul Brand, had worked extensively with leprosy patients and was among the first to realize that leprosy did not specifically cause the sufferer’s extremities to rot away, but rather the disease caused the sufferer to lose the ability to sense pain.

This inability to discern pain caused men and women with leprosy to live boundary-less lives, wherein they routinely hurt themselves and didn’t even realize it. The essence of Dr. Brand’s message (along with his co-author Philip Yancey) was that pain is actually a gift that protects us.

Rather than an unpleasant sensation to despise at all costs, pain is a gift that lets us know when we’ve crossed certain boundaries. It allows us to discern when we’re at the end of our limits, and when we need to retract or regroup.

I hate pain. I wish that I and my loved ones would never have to touch another moment of it as long as we live, but I also know that it is indeed a gift. It’s a boundary former and a protector that forces us to live within healthier limits than we might otherwise choose.

If you’re hurting I pray that you would heal. But I also pray that the pain would draw you ever closer to God’s ultimate good will for your life, and reposition you for a lifetime of greater fruitfulness.