Luke 5:16 NIV

Having boundaries for different parts of our lives can help us reduce stress and avoid burn out. Boundaries help us to say ‘no’ to things that we can’t do, to focus more on the things we’re called to do, and to develop healthy relationships with others and with God. But the type of boundary is important. Rigid boundaries can cause us to shut other people out. Permeable boundaries leave us defenceless against those who feel entitled to manipulate us and who expect to be taken care of at our expense. But flexible boundaries help us live our own life, with a balanced and healthy interest in others. We need flexible boundaries to help us determine when situations require us to get involved, and when we should stay away. Sometimes we can think that we have to be there for everyone at all times. And we can use verses like: ‘Carry each other’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2 NIV) to justify why we’re saying ‘yes’ to helping everyone. But when we look at Jesus’ life, we can see that boundaries are important. The Bible tells us that ‘Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.’ Jesus had a rhythm of life which was balanced between work and rest. He served, taught, healed, provided, socialised, but also ‘often withdrew’ so that He could spend time with His Father and rest. There were times when people were asking Him to help them, and He removed Himself from the situation to be with God. After He fed the five thousand, He sent the crowds away. ‘After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray’ (Matthew 14:23 NIV). Jesus knew when He needed to say ‘no’ and spend time resting in God’s presence instead. And that’s what we need to do too.

Job 5-7; Luke 16:19-31; Ps 26; Prov 7:26-27

Helping others (1)

Jeremiah 32:33 NIV

Most of us like to help others. We hear about their problems and then we want to do something to help them. But sometimes we’ll come across people that we can’t help – at least not right now. So let’s take a look at the sort of people who we can struggle to help: 1) People who keep making excuses. We can’t help someone until they’re willing to take responsibility for their life and want to make a change. If people won’t take the advice in the Bible, then they probably won’t take ours either. Notice what God said about the Israelites: ‘Though I taught them again and again, they would not listen or respond.’ If they won’t listen to God, our opinion won’t make much of a difference. 2) People who move in the wrong circles. The Bible says, ‘Bad company corrupts good character’ (1 Corinthians 15:33 NLT). The company we keep influences our conduct and character, and those two things can affect our future. There can be people who simply don’t belong in our lives, and we can’t move forward until we break the link that connects us and get away from their influence. 3) People who blame God for their problems. When trouble comes, they ask, ‘Why did God allow this to happen to me?’ But the truth is, we’ll never see God as our solution until we stop seeing Him as the cause of our problem. When we come across people who don’t want to be helped, it doesn’t mean we should give up on them completely. We can still be there for them, love them, and pray for them, but it’s just important to recognise when we should stop trying to offer advice and solutions, and ask God to open their hearts to receive help.

Exo 36-38; Luke 15:1-10; Ps 27; Prov 7:10-20

Be decisive

James 1:8 NKJV

If you’re afraid to make a decision in case it’s wrong, read this Scripture: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally…and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (vv. 5-8 NKJV). President Reagan enjoyed telling the story of how he learned to make firm decisions. When he was a boy, his aunt sent him to a cobbler to have a new pair of shoes made for him. When the shoemaker asked, “Do you want a square toe or a round one?” he hemmed and hawed, so the cobbler said, “Come back in a day or two and tell me what you want.” Later the cobbler saw Reagan on the street and asked what he had decided about the shoes. “I haven’t made up my mind yet,” he answered. “Very well,” the cobbler said, “your shoes will be ready tomorrow.” When Reagan got the shoes, one had a round toe and the other a square toe! Reagan said, “Looking at those shoes every day taught me a lesson. If you don’t make your own decisions, somebody else will make them for you.” Worst case: If you get it wrong, you’ll learn what not to do next time. Bottom line: To succeed in life you must pray for wisdom, and then make a decision.

Soul food: Eze 47:1-12; Rev 21:22-22:5

Be decisive

James 1:6-8 NIV

Have you ever put off making a decision because you didn’t know what to do? It may help take the pressure off for a while, but most decisions can’t be put off forever. And the longer we leave them, the more stress and pressure we can actually feel. When we avoid making decisions it’s usually because we’re afraid to make the wrong one. We don’t want to fail. But the great news is that we can go to God for wisdom. And His wisdom can help us to be decisive. The Bible says: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do’ (James 1:5-8 NIV). This tells us that we shouldn’t doubt God. We should believe He will give us wisdom. And it will be the exact wisdom we need. Also, when we doubt our own decisions, we become unstable. We wonder whether we should have made another choice. But we often won’t be able to see what it would have been like if we had chosen another path. We have to trust God to bring good out of the decision we made. That doesn’t mean we should just make decisions without thinking. We need to weigh things up, we need to ask others for advice, and we need to pray for God’s wisdom. But let’s not let fear and doubt stop us from making decisions and moving forwards.

Eze 47:1-12; Rev 21:22-22:5

Destructive criticism

2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV

There are two kinds of criticism: the true kind, and the not-true kind. Constructive criticism, and destructive criticism. Constructive criticism, when founded in truth and delivered well, can be the key to moving forwards. Unfounded criticism can do the opposite. When those around you speak critically, or gossip about you, it can feel like it might get in the way of you following the path laid ahead. However, 19th Century evangelist and writer D.L. Moody said ‘If I take care of my character, God will take care of my reputation’. It’s the nature of living in community that people will always talk, and some will spread negativity, especially if we are involved in a worthy cause. But as D.L. Moody observed, when we try our best to follow God, He will ultimately protect our reputation. If we are striving to life a godly life, then the truth of that will provide its own proof. Unfounded negativity from others cannot stand up against a holy life. The Message paraphrases Isaiah 54:17 like this: ‘Any accuser who takes you to court will be dismissed as a liar’. This leaves us with the confidence to know that God will always restore truth and protect those who live for Him. Once we know that, we can live in the instruction of Luke 6:28 to ‘bless those who curse you’ and ‘pray for those who mistreat you’ (NIV). When we allow God to reassure us that other people’s words cannot hurt us, we can find the strength and compassion to not only stand up against our critics’ words, but to bless and pray for them until they see the truth.

Isa 53-57; Luke 3:21-38; Ps 84; Prov 2:16-19