VIDEO Saved or Self-Deceived – The Gift Of Good Fences

 

THE GIFT OF GOOD FENCES

Just beyond a bend in the road, a small brick church sits in a mountain hollow, between a cemetery and an open field. The church property was once a part of this field, but when the members organized nearly a century ago, the farmer offered them a piece of it for the official asking price of one dollar. Today a wooden fence forms the boundary between the field and the church’s parking lot.

For the most part, this boundary stands, but sometimes it’s hopped by children in their Sunday best, searching for minnows and wildflowers. Other times, it’s crossed by the combined cast and choir of the church’s seasonal passion play. The ground just beyond the fence rises to create a natural amphitheater, where the field below becomes the landscape of ancient Israel, and the stream that runs through it becomes the Sea of Galilee.

We know the boundaries and are at peace. Until an outsider shows up. And then we instinctively bolt for safety.

Shortly after my husband became the pastor of this community, I found myself in the middle of this field one early spring Saturday morning, shivering with the rest of the choir as we sat on metal bleachers there. We had been practicing indoors for several weeks, but it was now time for the dress rehearsal. We dragged out the costumes, erected the walls of Jerusalem, adjusted the sound, and got to work. But we didn’t account for one factor—the cows.

The field next to the church is a pasture where cows freely roam. And for us, the fence is simply a property line, one we can cross with the farmer’s permission. But for the animals, it represents more. Behind this fence, they are safe. Safe from passing vehicles that whip around the mountain curves. Safe from wandering off into neighboring fields. Safe from the harassment of pastors’ wives.

Halfway through rehearsal, a pretty young heifer wandered near the hillock that represented Golgotha. At first she was cautious, but then she became emboldened, strode over to the cross, and proceeded to nibble the fabric that draped it. Instantly, I turned from polite pastor’s wife to rodeo clown. Jumping off the top row of bleachers, I ran toward her, my arms waving. “Hey, get on, girl!” I yelled. “Get moving!” The heifer swung her head in my direction, fear and shock in her eyes. She stood frozen for a split second, but then she jerked her body, clicked up her hooves, and bolted for a corner of the field far from this raving mad woman.

Like the heifer, many of us have safe spaces in our lives—fields that are carefully bounded by good God-given fences. Within them, we are free to graze among the wildflowers, to care for our young, to wander down to the creek when the heat of summer comes. Our field may be a church community, a family, a lifestyle, or daily routine, but within these limits, we know what to expect. We know the boundaries and are at peace.

Ultimately, we are kept safe not by our fences, but by the One who established them.

Until an outsider shows up. And then, like that young heifer, we instinctively bolt for safety.

The thing about good fences is that they also have gates, and sometimes the Farmer grants permission for outsiders to come into our field. Sometimes He will even call us out from behind them. But we know that the world is a wild, dangerous place full of predators. If the Farmer creates fences for our own safety, how can we be secure when He invites a stranger to cross them or when He calls us out?

Ultimately, we are kept safe not by our fences, but by the One who established them. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us that true rest and safety comes from surrendering to Him. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden,” He invites, “and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me … and you will find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28-29).

In the ancient world, cattle did more than graze; they also were beasts of burden. Farmers regularly took them from the security of sheds and hedged fields to yoke them to plows and carts and threshing wheels. But despite the wild world around them, these cattle would remain safe as long as they stayed yoked. As long as they were connected to their master, they’d be at peace.

In the end, safety does not come from fencing ourselves off from the world. It comes from submitting to the One who owns the world. It comes from “taking His yoke,” from surrendering ourselves to Him. Sometimes that means embracing the limits He has placed around us; sometimes it means following Him out into the harvest field. And sometimes it might even mean letting a stranger come into our safe spaces.

BY HANNAH ANDERSON


Saved or Self-Deceived, Part 1 (Selected Scriptures)


Saved or Self-Deceived, Part 2 (Matthew 7:21-27)

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Hard Conversations

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

I once drove fifty miles to have a hard conversation with a remote staff person. I had received a report from another employee that suggested he was misrepresenting our company, and I was concerned for our reputation. I felt nudged to offer an opinion that might change his choices.

In 1 Samuel 25, an unlikely person took great personal risk to confront a future king of Israel who was about to make a disastrous choice. Abigail was married to Nabal, whose character matched the meaning of his name (“fool”) (vv. 3, 25). Nabal had refused to pay David and his troops the customary wage for protecting his livestock (vv. 10–11). Hearing that David planned a murderous revenge on her household, and knowing her foolish husband wouldn’t listen to reason, Abigail prepared a peace offering, rode to meet David, and persuaded him to reconsider (vv. 18–31).

How did Abigail accomplish this? After sending ahead donkeys loaded with food to satisfy David and his men and settle the debt, she spoke truth to David. She wisely reminded David of God’s call on his life. If he resisted his desire for revenge, when God made him king, he wouldn’t “have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed” (v. 31).

You might also know someone dangerously close to a mistake that could harm others and compromise their own future effectiveness for God. Like Abigail, might God be calling you to a hard conversation?

Dear God, please help me know when to lovingly confront others.

 

Sometimes following God means difficult conversations.

By Elisa Morgan

Contentment in All Circumstances

Philippians 4:10-13

Think about the times when you have felt truly satisfied. What caused you to feel that way? For most people, a sense of well-being comes when their environment is just the way they want it, but that wasn’t the case with Paul. He learned to be content in every circumstance, good or bad.

We’d do well to learn a few lessons from him. After all, we can’t avoid all difficult situations, so we might as well discover how to face them with a tranquil, settled spirit rather than with frustration and anxiety.

Contentment isn’t governed by external circumstances. Changing the situation may bring temporary relief, but satisfaction based on circumstances will always be sporadic and fleeting. It’s a matter of how you think, not what you have.

Contentment flows from an inward attitude. The apostle’s inner calm came from a mind set on Christ. Choosing to trust the Savior no matter what, Paul allowed the Holy Spirit within him to rule his emotions and shape his responses.

Contentment is learned experientially. This isn’t something you can acquire from a book or sermon, because it’s a process that must be lived out. Paul learned contentment—in persecution, suffering, and prison. The Lord used every difficulty to transform him.

Situations that cause frustration, anxiety, and displeasure are also the ones God uses to produce contentment in us. When you are fed up with your own grumbling, disappointment, and dissatisfaction, then you are ready to let the Lord teach you His new way of living—in joyous trust.

There Are Certain Men

“For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation.” (Jude 1:4) 

Jude speaks severely of these “certain men” who were “before ordained” (literally “written about beforehand”) for a very specific judgment. The context relates back to the period of the Old Testament, although Jude later identifies others who are apparently active in the early churches.

A purification of 30 days was required of “certain men” who were (apparently) undertakers during the time of Moses. They were “defiled” by their contact with dead bodies according to the law but must still keep the Passover—albeit a month after the other Israelites (Numbers 9:4-11). God does not allow excuses.

Later, “certain men” among the Israelites who had apostatized and become “children of Belial” were to be destroyed, along with their city and all of their possessions, after it had been definitely determined that they had left Israel and become part of a cult community (Deuteronomy 13:13-16). God does not take prisoners!

During the time of Jeremiah’s ministry, God allowed the evil king Jehoiakim to send “certain men” down into Egypt to capture the prophet Urijah so the king could kill him (Jeremiah 26:22-23). God does allow evil men to gain the upper hand temporarily as He brings about the fulfillment of His prophetic warnings—in this case, the captivity of Judah by Babylon.

Jude speaks of “certain men” who had been “written before” (prographo) as historical examples of those among the New Testament saints who were “denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 4b). Peter puts it this way: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). HMM III

Brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord

Philemon

This has been called “the polite epistle,” for Paul used great courtesy and tact in writing it. Onesimus, a slave, had robbed his master Philemon, and had then run away from him. Hoping to conceal himself best in the metropolis, Onesimus had fled to Rome, where he heard Paul preach and became converted. The apostle sent him back to his Christian master with the following letter of apology. Although its first object was only to restore a runaway slave to his master, it is a weighty letter, and every syllable has substance in it.

Philemon 4-6

Paul knew Philemon was a true believer, and therefore prayed that others might feel the power of his piety, by seeing how he acted in the present case.

Philemon 9

This is the best of pleading. Philemon’s heart would be sure to yield to it.

Philemon 12

who is so dear to me that he carries my heart with him wherever he goes.

Philemon 13, 14

Though he felt sure that Philemon would have been glad to spare his servant to care for his aged friend, yet Paul would not take the liberty of using his services, but gave Philemon the opportunity to do it of his own accord if he thought fit.

Philemon 16

Providence suffered him to run away that he might come under Paul’s influence and become a Christian: the gracious purpose of God overrules evil for good.

Philemon 17-19

partner or true comrade in Christ

Philemon 21

Is not this a graceful way of putting it? Who could have the heart to resist such pleading? Yet every word is gentle and quiet. Mild language is mighty.

 

Our Father in heaven, we hallow thy name,

O’er earth may thy kingdom establish its claim!

Oh, give to us daily our portion of bread;

It is from thy bounty that all must be fed.

 

Forgive our transgressions, and teach us to know

The humble compassion that pardons each foe;

Keep us from temptation, from weakness, and sin,

And thine be the glory for ever. Amen.

 

God concerned for you, the Individual

Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:8)

When the eternal Son of God became the Son of Man and walked on this earth, He always called individuals to His side. Jesus did not come into the world to deal with statistics!

He deals with individuals and that is why the Christian message is and always has been: “God loves the world! He loves the masses and throngs only because they are made up of individuals. He loves every individual person in the world!”

In the great humanistic tide of our day, the individual is no longer the concern. We are pressed to think of the human race in a lump. We are schooled to think of the human race in terms of statistics. In many nations, the state is made to be everything and the individual means nothing at all.

Into the very face and strength of this kind of humanism comes the Christian evangel, the good news of salvation, wondrously alight with the assurance for all who will listen:

“You are an individual and you matter to God! His concern is not for genes and species but for the individuals He has created!

From Obedience to Blessing

From this day will I bless you. Haggai 2:19

Future things are hidden from us. Yet here is a glass in which we may see the unborn years. The Lord says, “From this day will I bless you.

It is worth while to note the day which is referred to in this promise. There had been failure of crops, blasting, and mildew, and all because of the people’s sin. Now, the Lord saw these chastened ones commencing to obey His word, and build His temple, and therefore He says, “From the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider. From this day will I bless you.” If we have lived in any sin, and the Spirit leads us to purge ourselves of it, we may reckon upon the blessing of the Lord. His smile, His Spirit, His grace, His fuller revelation of His truth will all prove to us an enlarged blessing. We may fall into greater Opposition from man because of our faithfulness, but we shall rise to closer dealings with the Lord our God, and a clearer sight of our acceptance in Him.

Lord, I am resolved to be more true to thee, and more exact in my following of thy doctrine and thy precept; and I pray thee, therefore, by Christ Jesus, to increase the blessedness of my daily life henceforth and for ever.

 

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