A Cup of Encouragement

Stepping Over the Line

When we moved into our new house, Ranger was our only dog and he was happy to have a big yard to run around in. There are no leash laws since we live out in the county but Ranger likes to wander and I knew that Jerry wanted a puppy so we decided to invest in an electric fence. It wasn’t that Ranger wouldn’t come home, but he kept crossing a street that is sometimes fairly busy and we also didn’t want him to annoy our new neighbors. We decided that we would need to put restrictions on Ranger, not for ourselves, but for his safety and for the benefit of others around us.

As I thought about the boundaries that we set for our dog, it made me think about God’s boundaries for us. He wants us to be able to enjoy the freedom that we have in Him, so He restricts us in order that we may be protected from the danger that we put ourselves in. He also gives us those guidelines to help us build good relationships with those around us.

Jerry and I purchased an electric fence for our yard. The kit came with wire to put around the perimeter of the yard, a receiver to plug in the house that would send out signals, a collar to put on Ranger’s neck, and a bunch of white flags to mark the boundary line. The instructions told us to “train” our dog on the fence over a period of time so that he could learn where his boundaries were. We would walk him on a leash around the yard, and as we approached the line he would hear a beep from the collar and we would show him the white flag. When Ranger had become used to the warning, we would step closer to the line and after hearing the beep and seeing the flag, he would get a shock from the collar that would tell him that he had crossed the line! Ranger did not like that shock, so he learned quickly that he did not ever want to cross the line!

It may appear to us that we have all the world open to us, but God has established boundaries for us (we call it being in His will) and it is something like an electric fence. Ephesians 5:15-17 says, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” When we are young, or young in our faith, God uses clear markers, like those white flags we used, to mark the line. When we begin to approach that boundary, He signals us with a quiet voice to let us know that we are getting close. He may also use other people, Scriptures we are reading, or even our circumstances to say, “Hey, you are getting close to edge.” If we ignore those convictions and continue to move outside of His will, He will often use something more painful to shock us into returning to the safety of the place He has set for us.

Hopefully, we are like Ranger, and learn quickly to stay within His will. But some of us are more like our puppy, Rover. Ranger was already trained on the fence when Rover came along, and we hoped that watching Ranger would help to train Rover, but our puppy had a mind of his own. Once he was old enough to wear the collar, we began to train Rover, but every time we would go out of the fence he would try to follow and consequently would get shocked. Since Ranger had been so obedient, we had the shock on a low setting, but we had purchased the “stubborn dog” fence and there were several levels that we could move up.

We are also a stubborn people. We want what we want so badly that we are often willing to endure a little bit of pain to get it. God is not afraid to turn up the shock. We were willing to do what we needed to do to keep Rover safe and God is also willing to do whatever he needs to do to protect us.

As we were dealing with Rover and his tendency to run outside of his fence, I observed something interesting. When he ran across the line, the shock continued for a little while. But the further he got from the line, the shock decreased, and eventually it would stop. Rover could be comfortable outside of his boundary without any pain. Though Rover was in a position where he was not feeling pain, he would eventually recognize that he needed to go back. His family was in that yard. Even though there were people on the outside, they were not his people. His yard was also where he was fed and where there was a warm dry place to sleep. At some point, though he was not getting shocked, his stomach would begin to grumble and he would get tired, cold, and maybe even wet. He could stay outside of his yard where he had become miserable, or he could step back over the line to go home. There was one problem though; the wire for the electric fence is not one-sided. When you come to the line, no matter which side you are on, there is a beep and then a shock. Rover would have to decide whether or not it was worth the pain to come back into his yard.

I would like to invite you to survey where you stand today. Take a look around your life. Are you within the boundaries that God has set for you, or have you chased after something and crossed the line? Are you within God’s will in your relationships, in your finances, in your job, in your lifestyle, in your attitude? Are you testing the boundaries, are you feeling convicted, or are you outside the line and feeling no pain? Maybe you are out there like Rover and beginning to feel that pang for home. Will you take the painful steps to get back into God’s will where He is waiting for you?

Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.

Proverbs 27:8

If you return to the Lord, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him.

2 Chronicles 30:9


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