Give Yourself Permission to Fail … and Learn

If there was anyone in Biblical history who learned from his failures, it was Peter. Consider this man who failed in his effort to walk on water (see Matthew 14:28 – 30), denied Jesus (see Luke 22:54–62) and suffered a rebuke from Paul regarding his treatment of Gentile Christians (see Galatians 2:11 – 13). Peter was outspoken, hotheaded and sometimes cowardly, but he became a founder of the church and an influential figure in church history. Like leaders of yesterday and today, we make mistakes. Whatever skills and talents we possess need to be refined. We can’t learn to be an authority and have expertise in an area if we don’t have the freedom to practice and learn. We need to give ourselves permission to fail. And that comes in part from doing what 2 Peter 3:18 says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever!” Jesus will shepherd us through all of our failures. No one ever became an expert in any area without trial and error. Whether it’s cooking, basketball, business, personal finance, teaching, Bible exegesis or child rearing, developing a skill requires practice. Practicing... Continue Reading »

Boundaries and the Need for a Network of Friends

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Having a friend is a good thing — two can defend themselves. Having a group — “three strands” — of safe and supportive relationships is even better. The reason is simple: Having more than one friend in our lives allows us to experience different people’s gifts, abilities, and uniqueness. Gaining support and sustenance from more than one person is much more powerful than receiving from just one. It also allows our friends to be unavailable at times, to hurt and have problems of their own, to have time alone. Having a network of friends gives us a strong support base. It allows us to be psychologically mature. Only infants, dependent on one caregiver, need just one other person. As people grow up, they begin... Continue Reading »

The Truth About Premarital Sex

The Split

The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 – 8 that God’s rule against sexual immorality is meant to preserve our lives, rather than take away our fun. Adhering to the rule keeps us pure and holy as we follow His will. Sex outside of marriage affects us in destructive ways. We lose control of our own bodies and take advantage of each other. We become more interested in running after things that satisfy our own desires than in pursuing our relationship with God. That always hurts us. When we give 100 percent of our bodies to someone to whom we have not given 100 percent of our hearts, minds, and souls (as in marriage), then we are splitting our body and the rest of us. Sex outside of a commitment creates splits inside of people. The body is doing something that the rest of the person has not fully bought into. A lack of obedience is inevitably self-destructive in some way. The Bible always teaches morality in the bigger context of hurting and rejecting God, hurting oneself, and hurting others. All three are named specifically in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 – 8. Obedience serves to protect our lives and ensure a... Continue Reading »

The Benefit of Suffering and Setting Boundaries

1 Peter 4:1-2 – “Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” Sometimes, growth means that we have to take some hard, painful steps. For example, the apostle Peter changed from a man who avoided suffering to one who valued it. In the beginning he did not value the idea of suffering. When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to suffer and die, Peter rebuked Jesus and said there was no need for that (see Mat­thew 16:21–23). Jesus promptly replied, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus taught a profound lesson on the value of suffering: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (see Matthew 16:24–25). Jesus calls his followers to... Continue Reading »

God Models Boundaries

Isaiah 61:8 says, “For I, the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and wrongdoing. In my faithfulness I will reward my people and make an everlasting covenant with them.” This bible verse illustrates that God himself models boundaries and limits in his own character. He tells us clearly what he likes (justice) and what he hates (robbery and wrongdoing). God makes it clear where he stands on these issues. In a similar way, our words to others define our boundaries as we communicate our feelings, intentions or dislikes. This too is a form of justice. It is difficult for people to know where we stand when we do not use words. For example, telling someone “I don’t like it when you raise your voice at me” gives the person we are speaking to a clear message about how we feel the relationship should be conducted. The most basic boundary-setting word is “no.” It lets others know that we exist apart from them and that we are in control of ourselves. Being clear about our no — and our yes — is a theme that God models and a principle that is taught throughout the Bible (see Matthew 5:37; James 5:12).... Continue Reading »

Boundaries, Self-Control, and the Desire for Revenge

Matthew 5:38 – 42: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Many of us have known people who, after years of being passive and compliant, suddenly stop acting like a victim. This reactive phase of boundary creation is a first step to get a person out of the powerless, victimized place in which they may have been forced by physical or sexual abuse, or by emotional blackmail or manipulation. We are happy that they are no longer victims. But when is enough reacting enough? Reaction phases are not the same as maturity; they are necessary but not sufficient for the establishment of boundaries. Even though in finding our boundaries, we might find ourselves reacting. Eventually, we establish connections as respectful... Continue Reading »

The Purpose of Confronting Controllers

Consider the following situation in the Bible where Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, acts in a controlling manner: Mark 8: 31-33 – “Jesus then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” One of the most important benefits of having boundaries is that we have the ability to stand up to others when they try to control our lives. Peter wanted to impose his own design for Jesus’ life onto Jesus, but Jesus had good boundaries; he stood up to Peter and rebuked him. Jesus showed that he was in control of himself and would not be defined and controlled by Peter, no matter how good Peter’s intentions might have been. The truth is that Peter was thinking, not of God’s purposes,... Continue Reading »

The Secret Power of Suffering

The apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:1 – 2, “Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” These words show how the apostle Peter changed from a man who avoided suffering to one who valued it. In the beginning he did not value the idea of suffering. When Jesus told his disciples that he was going to suffer and die, Peter rebuked Jesus and said there was no need for that (see Mat­thew 16:21 – 23). Jesus promptly replied, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Jesus taught a profound lesson on the value of suffering: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24 – 25). Jesus... Continue Reading »

Setting Boundaries When You Feel Helpless

Do you ever feel like you’re powerless to set boundaries in critical situations? What if someone else seems to hold all of the power in a relationship? Consider the biblical story of Daniel for answers: Daniel 1:1-20 – “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God…Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission... Continue Reading »

Why Set Boundaries with Bad People?

Is it really necessary to set boundaries with “bad” people? Why draw the line if we’re their only hope to help them repent or change their ways? In 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, the Apostle Paul answers this perplexing question: I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or a sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you. The Bible contains admonitions for us to separate ourselves from fellow Christians who act in destructive ways (see Matthew 18:15 – 17; 1 Corinthians 5:9 – 13). If we do this, we are not being unloving. Separating ourselves protects love because we are... Continue Reading »