Sunday, October 9, 2016


“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” -Prov. 16:9 Boundaries are curious things. We like them but we hate them, at the same time. We like them because they provide safety and security from outside dangers, but boundaries also attempt to instill a level of control to our desire for independence. God-given boundaries ultimately contribute freedom to our lives, our schedules, our jobs and our relationships. They make us better. We love our two-year-old Labrador retriever named Sammy. She loves us too- especially when we’re feeding her! She has a love-hate relationship with her boundaries as well. She loves to wander around the neighborhood and explore in her independence. But she also loves the fence around our yard. It makes her feel safe and confined. Boundaries work well for us as well. Those of us who work in a church setting need fences. Churches can be a strange mix of a crowded “Times Square” atmosphere and a desolate desert. Issues and people line up in an almost constant array of needs, wants and problems. Without boundaries, church workers can get caught in the middle of the chaos. They can be less than their best when care and skills are needed the most. Of course, that’s true in any work or family environment. Jesus had boundaries as well. There was a time when Jesus went to the other side of the lake with the disciples. There was a time when Jesus told the disciples to feed the five thousand. There was a time when Jesus went away to the garden to pray. Jesus’ focus was on the disciples. Remember, “He chose the twelve that He might be with them” (Mark 3:14). He knew He needed time with the twelve. He knew there would be a day when He would be gone and they would be running the show. He needed time to be an influence on them. He knew that unless He drew boundaries, the time would be taken by the needs around Him. We need boundaries as well. And boundaries are determined by our priorities. When we prayerfully set goals for our ministry and life, we insure their success by drawing boundaries around them. We simply can’t be everything for everybody. In the end, we answer to God’s priorities in our lives. We can say “no” or “not now” and be confident that we are setting healthy boundaries. Of course, our boundaries can be trumped by God’s plans. Jesus “went to the other side of the lake” only to be met by the crowd. The disciples wanted to “send them away,” but Jesus submitted to the Father’s plan and met the need. We set the boundaries but God has permission to interrupt. With the interruption, He’ll provide the strength and the plan. Our plans need to be flexible. When we’re inflexible with 0ur plans, we pay a price. Joe Brown was the fiery governor of Georgia during the Civil War. He refused to let Georgia soldiers cross the Georgia border to fight for the larger Confederacy. He honored the Georgia boundary but he was too tight. He only wanted Georgians to fight for Georgia. Several battles happened just over the state line, but the soldiers weren’t allowed to go fight. Perhaps letting those soldiers cross the border would have helped win those battles. In the end, Georgia (and the rest of the Confederacy) lost the war. When the boundaries are too tight, we become less usable by the Lord. We need to set boundaries but submit to His will. We need to be willing to lovingly say “not now.” We need to be willing to set priorities. We need to be willing to be a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser. Let the Lord set your priorities, be safe behind your boundaries… …and let the Lord have His way. By Eric Joseph Staples©