What does it mean to join a church?

It’s Monday Grace!

Some will chuckle at the idea that joining the church comes right after going to Hell in my list of “What does it mean?” It reminds me of the church bulletin blooper:

“At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What Is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice. “

Many who read here have had trouble with church. Some have been made to feel unwelcome. Others find little that connects with their lives. Still others have been disciplined or rejected. The rest of us have our own church stories, some good and some not so good.

So, I have to begin these thoughts with a disclaimer: the Scriptures never say that a person should go through classes or paperwork or examination to become a member of a local church. Church leaders have created this process as a way of welcoming only those who are truly part of the kingdom. That’s the nice version.

The less-nice version is that this is a way of controlling behavior among Christians. Limiting membership to those “who think like us” is a way of perpetuating the values and perspectives of leadership. Threatening to remove someone from membership is a way of enforcing certain ideas and good behavior.

Don’t get me wrong. I can justify a general sense of membership, partly because I don’t think leadership should have unlimited authority. I think God can speak through His people whether they are official leaders or not, but I also think He will use only believers and a certain sense of order. So, I am not against church membership. I just think the whole idea has been misused for the sake of control.

The other thing we must acknowledge is that the very best any local church can do is seek to reflect membership in the universal Church. In other words, unbelievers should not be members of a local church because they are not part of the body of Christ. At the same time, all those who believe are already part of the universal Church. No church leader or group of leaders can decide whether someone is in or out of the body of Christ. I realize that excommunication and all that has been a big part of church history, but it is not a good part.

So, joining a church should mean a joyous celebration of welcome for those who are already a part of the body of Christ to be known as part of our local fellowship. Do you need to sign papers and take classes and jump through hoops to be recognized as part of the local body? No, almost certainly not. That’s why I see it more as an affirmation, a celebration.

In the early days of the church, when there was only one believing fellowship in town, people of all mindsets were included as long as they looked to Jesus for salvation. Today it is not uncommon for a city to have hundreds of churches with many different perspectives and flavors. Even small towns have multiple churches. Denominations fiercely defend their identities and territories. Churches split, new churches compete, and styles of worship and government differ radically. So, church leaders feel justified in sorting through people to make sure they “fit.”

Frankly, if I were not a pastor and moved into a new place, I don’t think I would get very excited about joining the formal membership of a church. I would attend where I felt welcome and enjoyed the focus on Jesus. I would consider myself a member of the body of Christ because of His love and work for me and not worry about anything more than that. Nor would I attend a church with the agenda of trying to change it so the group fits me.

That would be enough for some churches, but not for others. If I was willing or interested in teaching or speaking up on issues, most churches would expect me to join. At that point, I would go to Jesus and ask Him what to do. I would not automatically join in order to teach, nor would I feel like an outsider because I didn’t join. But I know some churches (perhaps many) would want me to feel that way.

Bottom line: when you came to Jesus, you joined with Him. He is your life now. He is your Savior, your King. You cannot be separated from Him. This is the same for all people who have come to Him for salvation. The Church is the fellowship of all people from all time and in all places who belong to Jesus. That fellowship is eternal and good. You are and always will be part of that fellowship. Local churches would do well to remember that and to open their doors to all who belong to Him. Individuals would do well to remember that not everyone needs to think like they do. The variety in the body of Christ is part of the blessing and wonder.


**********

I am still excited!

We have a temporary fix for those who would like to receive books directly from us without going through Amazon. It’s simple. Just make a donation and let me know that you want a book. The donation button is just under my picture on the right side of the page. That will take you to Paypal, where you can make a donation of any size. Several give regularly through Paypal, and it works well. After you make your donation, send me a note at: dave(at)gracefortheheart.org. If you want an ebook, I will send you a file by email. If you want a paperback, I will send one to the address you give me.

In order for this to work, I would ask for the following donation levels:

$5.00 donation – I will send an ebook file of the Jesus Loves Me book in both pdf and epub

10.00 donation – your choice of ebook or a paperback of the Jesus Loves Me book

Of course, you are welcome to make a larger donation. These days that would be greatly appreciated. For anything larger than $10, I’d be happy to send you both the ebook and the paperback. (Those of you who already use Paypal to donate to this ministry, please drop me a note and I will send you your choice or both.) If you want multiple copies of the paperback, please send me a note, and we can work something out.

These prices will seem higher than Amazon to those who have Prime (and have already paid shipping costs), but they will be comparable for those who must pay shipping. The ebook will be less on Amazon, but they will only send a Kindle version. You should be able to read the pdf or epub on almost any tablet or phone.

Also, I have only 10 of the paperbacks available right now. More are on their way. Be patient. If I run out, it will take a bit to replenish my supply.

So, two steps:

  1. Make a donation using the button on the right side of the blog post.
  2. Send me an email telling me you did that and what you would like me to send.

I’ll do my best to keep on top of this and get your books out quickly. If this works well, I may begin to offer my other books this way as well. We are in the process of reworking the GFTH website with a simple store. I’m looking forward to that.

And, for those of you who still use Amazon, just click on the book cover to use the link.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover-5x8-1.jpg
Click on the picture to go to the Amazon page.

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Be Thankful!

It’s Narcissist Friday!

The other day I heard someone suggest that it might be hard for us to find things to be thankful about in these challenging times. While I understand that people are stressed, I cannot look at my life without being thankful. There is so much that makes me grateful.


It is important for us to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness. I know that you hear that all the time. But such an attitude, remembering to be grateful to God and to the people around you, will offer protection against the manipulations of those who would hurt you.


You see, narcissists and other abusers are not known for their sense of gratitude. Instead, they think they deserve whatever they get. They also think they should get more. They become angry when they see what others have. They believe they should be privileged and entitled.


And this is what they want to cultivate in others. If they can make you feel like you are being neglected, you might find refuge in sharing your feelings with them. The more they can get you to focus on the things that are lacking in your life, the more they can use those feelings to manipulate you.


For example, the narcissist boyfriend may encourage a young lady to complain about her parents. He will want her to focus on the restrictions, the unreasonable expectations, the abusive words and actions, and whatever he can discover or create for her to think about. Then he will offer attention and affection and everything she says she isn’t getting at home. He works to develop an ungrateful heart so that he can convince her to be grateful to him. Thus, she is bound to him and separated from her family.


These tactics are so common among abusers that we hardly think about countering them. The way to protect yourself is to be thankful. The old song tells us to “count” our blessings, to remember what the Lord has done for us.


The abuser will not help his/her victim to be thankful. He will not remind the young lady of how God has blessed her in her home. He will not help her to see the goodness and protection of God in her life. The abuser will do just the opposite.


And, when the narcissist has succeeded in separating her from her parents and support people, he will demand gratitude for every little thing he does for her. In fact, he will demand credit and gratitude for any good in her life. He wants to be her god to whom she should give both thankfulness and service.


So, be thankful. Stop often to say thanks to the Lord for His kindness. Even when life is hard, make yourself look for the good things. Thank others freely. Be generous with your gratitude.


Your thankfulness will help to protect you from the bitterness of the narcissist. It will also reduce the effectiveness of the evil one’s whispers in your heart. And, it will help your days to go well.

**********

I am still excited!

We have a temporary fix for those who would like to receive books directly from us without going through Amazon. It’s simple. Just make a donation and let me know that you want a book. The donation button is just under my picture on the right side of the page. That will take you to Paypal, where you can make a donation of any size. Several give regularly through Paypal, and it works well. After you make your donation, send me a note at: dave(at)gracefortheheart.org. If you want an ebook, I will send you a file by email. If you want a paperback, I will send one to the address you give me.

In order for this to work, I would ask for the following donation levels:

$5.00 donation – I will send an ebook file of the Jesus Loves Me book in both pdf and epub

10.00 donation – your choice of ebook or a paperback of the Jesus Loves Me book

Of course, you are welcome to make a larger donation. These days that would be greatly appreciated. For anything larger than $10, I’d be happy to send you both the ebook and the paperback. (Those of you who already use Paypal to donate to this ministry, please drop me a note and I will send you your choice or both.) If you want multiple copies of the paperback, please send me a note, and we can work something out.

These prices will seem higher than Amazon to those who have Prime (and have already paid shipping costs), but they will be comparable for those who must pay shipping. The ebook will be less on Amazon, but they will only send a Kindle version. You should be able to read the pdf or epub on almost any tablet or phone.

Also, I have only 10 of the paperbacks available right now. More are on their way. Be patient. If I run out, it will take a bit to replenish my supply.

So, two steps:

  1. Make a donation using the button on the right side of the blog post.
  2. Send me an email telling me you did that and what you would like me to send.

I’ll do my best to keep on top of this and get your books out quickly. If this works well, I may begin to offer my other books this way as well. We are in the process of reworking the GFTH website with a simple store. I’m looking forward to that.

And, for those of you who still use Amazon, just click on the book cover to use the link.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover-5x8-1.jpg
Click on the picture to go to the Amazon page.



Special note for those who have read all this way: I just published a book on the Revelation! It is on Amazon. If you are interested in a grace-filled perspective on the last book of the Bible, one without charts and timelines, you should check this out. I will just give a clue here: the title of John’s work is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

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What does it mean to go to Hell?

It’s Monday Grace!

I wish I could say that no one likes to talk about Hell. The truth is that some preachers like to talk about it way too much. They think the way to keep their members in line is to threaten them with Hell. The problem, of course, is that no Christian will be going there. Unless these churches are filled with unbelievers, messages about Hell are meaningless.

In our day it is becoming popular for people to say that there is no such thing as Hell, that all people are or will be saved and Hell is just the way the Catholic Church frightened the people into submission. They ignore a good amount of Scripture to say this, of course.

Frankly, if I thought the Bible taught that all were saved and there is no danger of Hell for anyone, I would be happy to proclaim that. But the Bible does not teach that. At minimum, the Bible makes it clear that some are in and some are out at the end. Whatever we think happens to these people, they are not in Heaven.

And that’s the point. You see, the presence of the Lord is the key to understanding both Heaven and Hell. In Heaven, we will be fully and freely with the Lord forever. There will be nothing between us. Our past, our desires, our weaknesses – nothing. In His presence we will find the welcome and acceptance we have never fully felt here. Even as believers we can only begin to feel that connection, that love, in this life.

But unbelievers can never feel it. How can a person feel a connection and welcome from someone they reject? How do you receive love from someone you don’t want as part of your life? How do you benefit from a gift you refuse?

Let’s get a couple of things straight. Hell is not a punishment for sin. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. Those who teach these things miss the point. We have been taught to equate bad actions with harsh punishment, and Hell is the harshest we know. So, those who do bad things are in danger of Hell, we are told.

No. That’s not right. Hell is the natural state of those who are separated from God. All of us were separated from God in the beginning. Our birthright was that separation. Call it “born in sin,” or “depravity,” or “brokenness,” it means the same thing. Apart from God we are in big trouble.

So God calls to us. He reaches out to us. He has initiated our reconciliation, our salvation. He has done the work, paid the price, and offered it as a gift. He has done everything short of forcing us, because forcing us to love Him and live with Him would not be right.

No one is sent to Hell at the end of their lives. Instead, they are allowed to go their own way and the natural progression of their own way is separation from God. Heaven is for those who will come to God in Jesus. That’s how the work was done. But Hell is for those who want nothing to do with that gift.

I realize this brings up all kinds of questions about those who seem to have had little chance to hear or understand the offer of salvation in Jesus. There are many such questions. I leave that in the hands and heart of a loving God. He understands, and He is good.

We are also moved to wonder about what Hell will be like for those who remain apart from God. We simply don’t have those answers. God has promised that Heaven will be very good. He has warned us about Hell because Hell will be very bad. That’s about as much as we know.

There probably are not going to be demons with pitchforks, but there will also probably not be an eternal beer party with a great band. If Heaven is beyond the imaginable extension of the good of this world, then Hell may be beyond the imaginable extension of the evil of this world. There are some very dark places in the human heart. I don’t want to think about that much.

Yes, Hell is real. By their own choice and according to their own plan, some will spend eternity apart from the Lord. God did not design Hell to punish them. He offered Heaven to rescue them.

**********

I am still excited!

We have a temporary fix for those who would like to receive books directly from us without going through Amazon. It’s simple. Just make a donation and let me know that you want a book. The donation button is just under my picture on the right side of the page. That will take you to Paypal, where you can make a donation of any size. Several give regularly through Paypal, and it works well. After you make your donation, send me a note at: dave(at)gracefortheheart.org. If you want an ebook, I will send you a file by email. If you want a paperback, I will send one to the address you give me.

In order for this to work, I would ask for the following donation levels:

$5.00 donation – I will send an ebook file of the Jesus Loves Me book in both pdf and epub

10.00 donation – your choice of ebook or a paperback of the Jesus Loves Me book

Of course, you are welcome to make a larger donation. These days that would be greatly appreciated. For anything larger than $10, I’d be happy to send you both the ebook and the paperback. (Those of you who already use Paypal to donate to this ministry, please drop me a note and I will send you your choice or both.) If you want multiple copies of the paperback, please send me a note, and we can work something out.

These prices will seem higher than Amazon to those who have Prime (and have already paid shipping costs), but they will be comparable for those who must pay shipping. The ebook will be less on Amazon, but they will only send a Kindle version. You should be able to read the pdf or epub on almost any tablet or phone.

Also, I have only 10 of the paperbacks available right now. More are on their way. Be patient. If I run out, it will take a bit to replenish my supply.

So, two steps:

  1. Make a donation using the button on the right side of the blog post.
  2. Send me an email telling me you did that and what you would like me to send.

I’ll do my best to keep on top of this and get your books out quickly. If this works well, I may begin to offer my other books this way as well. We are in the process of reworking the GFTH website with a simple store. I’m looking forward to that.

And, for those of you who still use Amazon, just click on the book cover to use the link.

Click on the picture to go to the Amazon page.

Special note for those who have read all this way: I just published a book on the Revelation! It is on Amazon. If you are interested in a grace-filled perspective on the last book of the Bible, one without charts and timelines, you should check this out. I will just give a clue here: the title of John’s work is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t depend on your armor

It’s Narcissist Friday!

One of the most popular misspellings for Americans involves the words “callus” and “callous.” A callus is the hard layer of skin you might have on your foot. A person is said to have a callous attitude or heart. The fact that they both come from the same Latin word and that they both refer to being hardened only adds to the spelling confusion. One way to remember the difference is to say:

Oh, the callous way the doctor removed my callus.

That might remind you to tie the “o” to the adjective or descriptive word, rather than the noun.

I know you don’t come here for spelling lessons. But I also know that most of us have developed many calluses as we have walked through our lives. Those calluses may cause us to be callous toward others.

A callus is a type of armor. The thickened skin protects a place that was injured or has been subjected to repeated abuse. That’s why you get them on the bottom of your feet. It’s also why you probably have developed armor around your heart. A calloused heart is one that has a thick barrier against pain caused by others.

Even good relationships have rough spots. We don’t want to fight all the battles or argue all the points, so we cover our hurts and try to protect ourselves from being hurt again. We develop, as they say, a “thick skin.”

Sometimes we think our armor will be enough to protect us through the future. We build boundaries in our lives, avoid certain people and topics, and learn not to react in ways we don’t want. We become tough, and we think that becoming tougher is the answer to handling the struggles of life.

This isn’t bad unless it separates us from good people and good support. At the same time, it may not be enough. We were not made to protect ourselves. From the time we were born, we have been getting tougher, but we have also encountered new ways of being hurt. But we have always needed help. We need more than we can provide for ourselves.

The sad truth is that narcissists and other abusers know how to get under our thick skin. I wish I could emphasize this point. These people often seem to be expert at slipping past our defenses, breaking down our boundaries, and penetrating our armor. Their charm and ruthless aggression somehow allow them to violate us no matter how well we prepare ourselves. So, our armor often serves only to keep good people away.

Instead, we should use that armor to protect us as we open ourselves to support from other people, understanding that some will hurt us whether intentionally or not. We should also use it to avoid the obvious abusers and manipulators. The armor has a good purpose.

We should also pray. Ask the Lord to reveal the hearts and intentions of those around us. He knows who will hurt us. He knows who we should avoid. Then, as He leads us, we should listen.

You see, you are never alone. There is One who knows. He knows your weaknesses, the chinks in your armor. He knows how others think about you. If you listen to Him, He will lead you in relationships from business to love. Ask Him to be a part of all your relationships to protect you. Then listen.

No matter how well you build your armor, you simply don’t have the experience or knowledge to protect yourself in every situation. The abusers know this. But God is your help, your strong fortress, your Protector. Look to Him.

********

I’m excited! 

Those who read here know that I am “absolutely, completely, permanently, eternally dependent on Jesus!”  My only hope in life and for the future is the love of Jesus for me. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover-5x8-1.jpg

So, I wrote a little book called, “Jesus Loves Me – This I Know.”  Obviously, it centers on the widely known first verse of the song most of us knew as children.  Those words, which still touch the hearts of so many in and out of the church, remind us of the simple truth of God’s love in Jesus. 

Written as a poem by Anna Warner to be included in a book written by her sister, Jesus Loves Me was quickly brought into homes and churches and even the camps of the Civil War.    It has remained one of the most beloved songs of our faith.

What excites me today is that I can offer this book at a low price so you can send it to family and friends over the holidays.  At just 80 pages, it is a quick read that may break through to hardened hearts and warm the hearts of those who walk with the Lord. 

The Amazon price for this book is just $5.99.  At that price, you can buy several to give as gifts.  But listen: buy the ebook first.  Read through it to decide if you would like to use it to touch the hearts of your loved ones and neighbors.  The ebook is only $3.99, and you will have plenty of time to read it and make your order before the holidays. 

I hope to have a couple more books out before the end of the year, but this little book has such potential that I wanted to get it ready first.  Of course, if you read it and like it, I’d be blessed by a positive review on Amazon. 

Frankly, if I cut the price any lower, the only ones making anything on the book will be Amazon.  As it is, I will get only a little over a dollar from each book sold.  That’s okay, because I want this to get out.  I believe it will be a blessing for anyone who reads it.  It might even be the thing God uses to get word of His love to someone who has forgotten. 

So, please consider downloading the ebook.  Check it out.  Then, if the Lord leads, buy several to give to others.  Just click on the photo of the book cover to get to the Amazon page.

Thanks!

NOTE: I should be able to fill orders for those who do not wish to use Amazon very soon. Check Monday’s post for more information.

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What does it mean to go to Heaven?

It’s Monday Grace!

“Heaven is where you can have all the ice cream you want!”

“The streets are lined with gold, and everyone is rich beyond imagination!”

“You will be able to do anything you want in Heaven!”

I have wondered how many people are disappointed to learn what Heaven is really like. Probably none, but the promises we learned as children and had reinforced as adults surely missed the point. I suspect that these fleshly desires simply slip away when we see the reality of Heaven.

If we extrapolate our ideas of Heaven from our knowledge of here and now, especially if we use Heaven as a fantasy world to escape hardships here, we do miss the point. Heaven is not an escape, nor is it a reward for good service. Heaven is home.

Is everyone rich in Heaven? Sure, but rich in their hearts and minds. The idea that the streets are lined with gold serves to tell us that the people in Heaven no longer care about gold or anything else this world values. Even family and spousal relationships, certainly among the most precious things we have here, pale in value to what we will all share in Heaven. We simply don’t yet know the incredible joy and peace of being home.

The primary aspect of Heaven, which we often forget, is that we will be fully and freely in the presence of the Lord who loves us. Today, we belong to Him, and nothing can separate us from Him, but we neither feel that nor fully understand it. We live as though we are separate. Our sin continues to distract us from Him. The world continues to claim us as its own. The devil continues to accuse us of being phony and compromised. But, in Heaven, all of that will be gone. Anything that makes us feel separate will vanish, and we will know the true heart of God for us.

Remember that anything we learn about Heaven from the Bible is in the form of types and symbols. We can only imagine or feel what Heaven will be like, because nothing here compares with it. Let me give one example.

Imagine what it would be like to be in a world without sin. Frankly, you can’t. You can imagine a world where no one hurts you, but not one where there is no reason to be afraid. You can imagine a world where everyone shares what they have, but probably not one without feelings of ownership or greed. Of course, I don’t know what you can imagine, but my point is that we have no idea what life without sin would be like. We were born into a sinful world, raised by sinful parents, educated by a sinful community, and our flesh moves us to sin every day. No matter how hard we try, we can’t stop the wrong desires or perspectives that enter our hearts.

In Heaven, sin will be gone! Even if we don’t know what that means, we know it will be wonderful. To finally breathe freely, without worry, will be amazing.

C. S. Lewis often spoke of Heaven as home. That resonates with me. Not because my earthly home was so wonderful, but because a part of me longs for a welcome and freedom I have never felt in this world. The longing, Lewis suggested, is evidence of the reality of Heaven. We were made for more than this. This world is not our home, but there is a home for us.

And Heaven is ours because of Jesus. When you and I came to Jesus, accepted His offer of new life, an unbreakable life connection was established in the Holy Spirit. Far more changed in us than we know. We really did die and rise again, even though our minds could not comprehend that truth. So, where Jesus is, we are – and will be.

Because of that, there are glimpses of Heaven today. Not often, not strong, not lasting, but glimpses. Truth that warms our hearts in strange ways. Kindness that connects us to others. That odd disconnect we sometimes feel when we look around in this world. These and more may be glimpses of the reality of Heaven.

Heaven is ours now. We are no longer citizens of this world. We belong to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. But we are not yet home. On our way there, but not yet.

What a day of rejoicing it will be when we finally arrive!

********

I’m excited! 

Those who read here know that I am “absolutely, completely, permanently, eternally dependent on Jesus!”  My only hope in life and for the future is the love of Jesus for me. 

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover-5x8-1.jpg

So, I wrote a little book called, “Jesus Loves Me – This I Know.”  Obviously, it centers on the widely known first verse of the song most of us knew as children.  Those words, which still touch the hearts of so many in and out of the church, remind us of the simple truth of God’s love in Jesus. 

Written as a poem by Anna Warner to be included in a book written by her sister, Jesus Loves Me was quickly brought into homes and churches and even the camps of the Civil War.    It has remained one of the most beloved songs of our faith.

What excites me today is that I can offer this book at a low price so you can send it to family and friends over the holidays.  At just 80 pages, it is a quick read that may break through to hardened hearts and warm the hearts of those who walk with the Lord. 

The Amazon price for this book is just $5.99.  At that price, you can buy several to give as gifts.  But listen: buy the ebook first.  Read through it to decide if you would like to use it to touch the hearts of your loved ones and neighbors.  The ebook is only $3.99, and you will have plenty of time to read it and make your order before the holidays. 

I hope to have a couple more books out before the end of the year, but this little book has such potential that I wanted to get it ready first.  Of course, if you read it and like it, I’d be blessed by a positive review on Amazon. 

Frankly, if I cut the price any lower, the only ones making anything on the book will be Amazon.  As it is, I will get only a little over a dollar from each book sold.  That’s okay, because I want this to get out.  I believe it will be a blessing for anyone who reads it.  It might even be the thing God uses to get word of His love to someone who has forgotten. 

So, please consider downloading the ebook.  Check it out.  Then, if the Lord leads, buy several to give to others.  

Thanks!

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Don’t be Afraid

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Don’t be afraid. The Bible says that over and over. Someone once said that there are 365 calls to us to not be afraid, one for each day of the year. I have never counted, but I have been afraid. Fear is normal.

But our fears make us vulnerable to abusers and manipulators. It would certainly be better if we could walk through life without fear. Yet, fear is important at certain times of our lives, right?

Someone else once said that the opposite of fear is not bravery, but stupidity. There are dangers out there. Fear makes us more careful; it helps us avoid trouble. If we were afraid of nothing, we would do even more stupid things.

So, how do we reconcile this? If narcissists and other abusers use our fears against us, and fear is an important part of life in this broken world, then how are we supposed to move forward? There is an answer.

When the Bible tells us not to fear, it also calls us to trust the Lord. The goal is not the absence of fear, but the assurance of the Lord’s protection and love. We are to look to Him when we are afraid. That’s what David did.

Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.
Psalm 56:3

David does not disrespect his fear or try to push it away. Instead, he looks to the Lord as his provider and deliverer. If he looked to himself or to others for support or protection, he would be disappointed. As he looked to the Lord, he found strength.

I am convinced that the primary reason narcissists and other abusers use fear to control is because they are afraid. To cover the fact of their fear, they cultivate fear in others. Preachers and government leaders tell us to be afraid so they can get us to depend on them. The narcissist will feel strong when we look to him for strength. These manipulators are afraid of being seen as weak or without value. To increase their value, they increase our fears.

But, if we look to the Lord when we are afraid, the abuser has nothing to gain from us. If every time the fearful topic came up we went off by ourselves to pray and be reminded of the Lord’s faithfulness, we would not be easily manipulated. Even if we couldn’t step away from the conversation or situation, we could pray in our hearts and in the moment. Looking to the Lord disarms the abuser.

Don’t get me wrong. Trouble doesn’t always just go away. Sometimes the path to good is through the trouble. But the narcissist is never the answer, no matter how much he wants to be. The Lord promises to walk with you through the struggle. He is your strength and hope.

Fear is a big deal. In some ways, it is supposed to be. But we have an answer for our fear. If we are afraid, we are called to trust in the Lord who is with us and loves us.

********

I’m excited! 

Those who read here know that I am “absolutely, completely, permanently, eternally dependent on Jesus!”  My only hope in life and for the future is the love of Jesus for me. 

So, I wrote a little book called, “Jesus Loves Me – This I Know.”  Obviously, it centers on the widely known first verse of the song most of us knew as children.  Those words, which still touch the hearts of so many in and out of the church, remind us of the simple truth of God’s love in Jesus. 

Written as a poem by Anna Warner to be included in a book written by her sister, Jesus Loves Me was quickly brought into homes and churches and even the camps of the Civil War.    It has remained one of the most beloved songs of our faith.

What excites me today is that I can offer this book at a low price so you can send it to family and friends over the holidays.  At just 80 pages, it is a quick read that may break through to hardened hearts and warm the hearts of those who walk with the Lord. 

The Amazon price for this book is just $5.99.  At that price, you can buy several to give as gifts.  But listen: buy the ebook first.  Read through it to decide if you would like to use it to touch the hearts of your loved ones and neighbors.  The ebook is only $3.99, and you will have plenty of time to read it and make your order before the holidays. 

I hope to have a couple more books out before the end of the year, but this little book has such potential that I wanted to get it ready first.  Of course, if you read it and like it, I’d be blessed by a positive review on Amazon. 

Frankly, if I cut the price any lower, the only ones making anything on the book will be Amazon.  As it is, I will get only a little over a dollar from each book sold.  That’s okay, because I want this to get out.  I believe it will be a blessing for anyone who reads it.  It might even be the thing God uses to get word of His love to someone who has forgotten. 

So, please consider downloading the ebook.  Check it out.  Then, if the Lord leads, buy several to give to others.  

Thanks!

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What does it mean to be a legalist?

 

It’s Monday Grace!

(This post is old, but still fits here.)

Occasionally I get a challenge on my use of the word “legalism.” Some say that I don’t use it right, that I am just using it to categorize people in a negative way. They think it is unfair for me to use the word to describe those who hold to higher standards or certain kinds of behavior.

What these challengers don’t understand is that I have been where they are. In fact, years ago, I wrote a little pamphlet entitled, “The L Word,” in which I debunked the challenges of those who pointed at my church and called us legalists. I said that legalism was only properly used in reference to a system teaching that people can be saved by keeping the Law. Since I always believed that salvation came through Jesus alone, by grace through faith, I could not have been called a legalist.

Have you ever been right and wrong at the same time and about the same thing? Well, I have been. The above assessment is technically correct. Legalism teaches salvation by law. What I didn’t understand then is that all forms of performance spirituality stem from and return to legalism.

Now, let me give you a little of the theology I believe. There is one requirement for salvation and it isn’t something we do. It is receiving, by faith, the gift God has given to us in Jesus. That’s it. Just saying yes.

And that’s where some people disagree. Yes, it’s faith, they say, but it is also obedience. It is also doing the things God says. If you don’t do what God says, then you aren’t really saved, they say. And I reply: that’s legalism.

If my behavior is a requirement for my salvation, then I am under the law and saved by works. If it is 90% Jesus and only 10% me, then I cannot be saved because I can never measure up even to that. It doesn’t matter what ratio you bring out, if it isn’t 100% the love of God through Jesus, given freely as a gift to those who will receive, then it’s legalism.

Still, most performance-based people would agree with this. And that’s where I was. But then I began to hear people say things like, “Well, real Christians don’t… Or even, “I have to wonder if so-and-so is still saved.” And sometimes, “We have no fellowship with people who don’t…” I began to understand that we still had some requirements in addition to Jesus.

If the teaching produces feelings that some are “real” Christians while others are not; or that a person could lose his salvation on the basis of some evil act or the lack of some good act—how is that not legalism? It is still under the law and not dependent on the grace of God in Jesus. It’s grace plus whatever rule or standard the teaching promotes. If you have to speak in tongues or be baptized a certain way or wear certain clothes in order to be a real Christian, then Jesus doesn’t make real Christians. He only makes potential Christians. We have to do the rest. And if you have to avoid smoking or divorce or television or alcohol in order to be a real Christian, then Jesus can’t keep what He has made. It’s up to us to keep ourselves in the kingdom and keep ourselves saved.

 

And—listen—if it’s up to us to keep ourselves saved, then we are under law and not under grace. And those who are under law are legalists.

So what does your church or organization teach? What do the people around you say, particularly about others who are not like you? Are some people “real” Christians while others who profess Christ in some other category? Are some people you talk about in danger of losing their salvation or of never having been saved because of something they do or don’t do?

Legalism is the antithesis of grace. It pushes the love of God into a side category considering it something like an influence, rather than the answer and hope of the believer. The cross of Christ is not enough for the legalist, we must do our part. And the legalist will tell us what our part ought to be.

The truth is that the cross is enough. The work of our salvation was accomplished by the love of God in Jesus. That’s the past work, the present work, and the future work. All that is necessary, He has done. Our part is to believe and receive.

And about now the objections are being shouted. “But what about sin?” “We have to do our part!” “What about the commands?” “What about those people?” Go my blog page and type the word “sin” into the search box. You can read my many answers to these objections.

My mom and I used to play cribbage and she often said, “No matter how many times you count it, that’s all you get.” Count it any way you want. The truth is still the same. All the challenges and objections and qualifications boil down to a simple fact:

If Jesus is enough, that’s grace.
If Jesus is not enough, that’s legalism.

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I’m excited! 

Those who read here know that I am “absolutely, completely, permanently, eternally dependent on Jesus!”  My only hope in life and for the future is the love of Jesus for me.
So, I wrote a little book called, “Jesus Loves Me – This I Know.”  Obviously, it centers on the widely known first verse of the song most of us knew as children.  Those words, which still touch the hearts of so many in and out of the church, remind us of the simple truth of God’s love in Jesus.
Written as a poem by Anna Warner to be included in a book written by her sister, Jesus Loves Me was quickly brought into homes and churches and even the camps of the Civil War.    It has remained one of the most beloved songs of our faith.
What excites me today is that I can offer this book at a low price so you can send it to family and friends over the holidays.  At just 80 pages, it is a quick read that may break through to hardened hearts and warm the hearts of those who walk with the Lord. 
The Amazon price for this book is just $5.99.  At that price, you can buy several to give as gifts.  But listen: buy the ebook first.  Read through it to decide if you would like to use it to touch the hearts of your loved ones and neighbors.  The ebook is only $3.99, and you will have plenty of time to read it and make your order before the holidays. 
I hope to have a couple more books out before the end of the year, but this little book has such potential that I wanted to get it ready first.  Of course, if you read it and like it, I’d be blessed by a positive review on Amazon. 
Frankly, if I cut the price any lower, the only ones making anything on the book will be Amazon.  As it is, I will get only a little over a dollar from each book sold.  That’s okay, because I want this to get out.  I believe it will be a blessing for anyone who reads it.  It might even be the thing God uses to get word of His love to someone who has forgotten. 
So, please consider downloading the ebook.  Check it out.  Then, if the Lord leads, buy several paperbacks to give to others. 
Thanks!

Buy the Paperback  

Buy the Ebook

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Take off the glasses!

 

It’s Narcissist Friday!

 

I remember an old Moody Science film where a man wore special glasses that turned everything upside-down. His point was to show how the brain is capable of adapting input to make sense. In this case, the man wore the glasses for several weeks. At first, everything was upside-down, and it was difficult for him to do anything. But, by the end of the test, he was able to ride a motorcycle and perform delicate tasks. His brain inverted the images back so that he saw normally—through glasses that turned everything upside-down. (If you are interested in watching this, go to: https://archive.org/details/SensePerception )

Many people have told me how their world was turned upside-down when they discovered the truth about the narcissists or hypocrites in their lives. When they finally saw that their abuser was cruel and unloving, their reality changed. When they realized that someone they respected was phony and manipulative, everything went topsy-turvy.

Yet, nothing happened to change reality for these people. Their world was already upside-down. Now the light of truth showed reality, and it just seemed like things were wrong. But things were finally right.

It is true. Our minds have the ability to make things seem okay even when they are not. We ignore what we don’t like. We look past cruelty and manipulation because we don’t want them to be real. When there is something we like about a person, we don’t want to see something we don’t like. We redecorate the truth to make it acceptable to our hearts.

That’s why so many have told me that they blamed themselves. They had ignored so much, explained away so much, justified so much. They saw the truth, but rejected it. Over and over. If the narcissist or abuser had not become more cruel, their victims might never have realized what was happening.

So, take off the glasses. Learn to see and accept the truth, even the truth you don’t like. Your mind and heart have glasses that distort truth to make you feel better, but you will feel worse when you finally see.

You are so happy to feel loved that you ignore the red flags you see in your lover. You are so excited to be welcomed into the group that you fail to understand the cruel comparisons and elitism that exist. You want so badly to be seen as good by the leaders that you overlook their cynicism and compromises. You explain away as much bad as you can so that you can feel good.

Take off the glasses. I understand that you don’t want to be hurt, but it will hurt more later. After you have compromised yourself, sacrificed yourself for the lie. Too many have told me of their feelings of shame and self-disgust. It isn’t worth it.

You don’t have to fix reality to live in it. You don’t have to redecorate truth to survive. But you do have to see it. If you want to thrive in the real world, you have to take off the glasses.

The truth is that some people will use others, use you, to get what they want. They won’t care about the pain they cause. These people will use whatever you need to get what they want from you. If you need to feel good about yourself, they will say whatever you need to hear—without meaning any of it. If you want love or patience or a listening ear, they will provide it as an investment toward getting what they want.

Not everyone is like this, but some are. Too many. You have to see truth in order to be safe. You have to pay attention to red flags and cautions from others. You have to take off the glasses.

Ask the Lord to reveal reality to you. Hold on, because the ride might be bumpy. You might not like what you see. But ask Him to help you deal with the truth and to guide you with His light.

I think lies are a big deal to God and the worst ones are those we tell ourselves. We will be safe and healthy in the real world when we see it as it is and trust Him on the journey.

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**********

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I’m excited! 

Those who read here know that I am “absolutely, completely, permanently, eternally dependent on Jesus!”  My only hope in life and for the future is the love of Jesus for me.

So, I wrote a little book called, “Jesus Loves Me – This I Know.”  Obviously, it centers on the widely known first verse of the song most of us knew as children.  Those words, which still touch the hearts of so many in and out of the church, remind us of the simple truth of God’s love in Jesus.

Written as a poem by Anna Warner to be included in a book written by her sister, Jesus Loves Me was quickly brought into homes and churches and even the camps of the Civil War.    It has remained one of the most beloved songs of our faith.

What excites me today is that I can offer this book at a low price so you can send it to family and friends over the holidays.  At just 80 pages, it is a quick read that may break through to hardened hearts and warm the hearts of those who walk with the Lord. 

The Amazon price for this book is just $5.99.  At that price, you can buy several to give as gifts.  But listen: buy the ebook first.  Read through it to decide if you would like to use it to touch the hearts of your loved ones and neighbors.  The ebook is only $3.99, and you will have plenty of time to read it and make your order before the holidays. 

I hope to have a couple more books out before the end of the year, but this little book has such potential that I wanted to get it ready first.  Of course, if you read it and like it, I’d be blessed by a positive review on Amazon. 

Frankly, if I cut the price any lower, the only ones making anything on the book will be Amazon.  As it is, I will get only a little over a dollar from each book sold.  That’s okay, because I want this to get out.  I believe it will be a blessing for anyone who reads it.  It might even be the thing God uses to get word of His love to someone who has forgotten. 

So, please consider downloading the ebook.  Check it out.  Then, if the Lord leads, buy several paperbacks to give to others. 

Thanks!

Buy the Paperback  

Buy the Ebook

2 Comments

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What does it mean to be lost?

It’s Monday Grace!

The Bible has a story every parent will understand. In fact, for most of us, it would be a familiar nightmare. For some, it will be a nightmare they lived.

The world in Jesus’ day was wild and rough, but much more family and community-oriented. When the Jews made their yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover or other major feasts, they traveled in groups. Of course, everyone walked. Children who went along would run among the families and have great fun together.

Today, we see parents using leashes with their children because of their fears. (I don’t mock that, we did it when we went to Yellowstone and walked the paths between the hot spots.) In many ways, the dangers are more serious and more present in our day. Kids are so often victims today.

Well, after traveling to the feast and heading home, Mary and Joseph looked around for their twelve-year-old. Jesus was missing. They checked with other families and friends from their town, but no one knew where He was. A full day passed, and the nightmare grew. Finally, Mary and Joseph went back to Jerusalem to find Jesus in the Temple. You can read the account for yourself in Luke 2. Notice what seems like normal parental frustration as Mary speaks to Jesus.

You see, to Mary and Joseph, Jesus was lost. He was not with them, and they wanted Him with them. Jesus didn’t think of Himself as lost, though.

Now, I know that illustration could be distracting, but it seemed less distracting than a story about a lost child. We can understand this from the perspective of Mary and Joseph, even without the rest of the story.

The idea of being lost is important in Scripture and in the gospel message. People who are not part of the kingdom of God, who have not come to God through Jesus, are considered lost. They are apart from God. Separated from the truth and the Way.

And that bothers God. He wants them to be with Him. He calls to them and looks for them. From the beginning, God has called to His people. “Adam, where are you?” It isn’t that God doesn’t know where they are but that they are not where He wants them to be. He wants them with Him.

God loves all people, even the most wicked. He longs for them to come to Him. He is ready and willing to forgive their sins and welcome them into the kingdom. He has never forgotten them. His heart aches for them. He has done all the work, crossed all the bridges, suffered all the sacrifices, for them to come home. Even if they don’t know they are lost, even if they don’t feel lost, they are lost in God’s mind because they are not with Him.

This is not a popular topic these days. People don’t like the idea that some are lost. But understand: this is not a judgment that some are worse than others. This is a perspective from the heart of God. He has no personal relationship with them, and He wants that.

This is the feeling behind the parables of Jesus in Luke 15. The lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. The heart of God longs to bring the lost home. The message of the gospel is that the love of God has made certain that the door is wide open to any who will come.

The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Luke 19:10

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You Don’t Have To Be Nice

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You don’t have to be nice. To be nice means to be agreeable. The nice person doesn’t cause grief for others. The nice person doesn’t make others feel bad. The nice person doesn’t say mean things. The nice person lets others get by with things. The nice person lets herself be used. The nice person watches others get promoted. The nice person doesn’t speak up.

No, you don’t have to be nice. In earlier days, being nice meant being simple, even stupid. The nice person just nodded in polite agreement, no matter what was being said. The nice person didn’t have an opinion of value and wouldn’t take a stand. The nice person just wanted to get along.

You don’t have to be nice.

You should be kind, that’s different. You should be honest and generous and respectful. These are all good things. The Bible never calls us to be nice, but it does call us to be all of these things and more.

My email and Facebook pages are full of stories of abusers and narcissists who hurt people then hide behind niceness. They act innocent and agreeable and friendly. Then, when their victims cry out in pain and grief, the victims are accused of not being nice. Nice people don’t say anything when others hurt them, I guess.

You don’t have to be nice.

Taking a stand on an issue will be seen as not nice. Calling out abuse or injustice will be seen as not nice. Speaking up with a contrary opinion you believe is right will be seen as not nice. Believe me. I have experienced all of these. You probably have as well.

So, if the Latin word “necius” meant “ignorant,” and that’s where our word “nice” comes from, then maybe we could substitute “stupid” for “nice.” Think about that. When we say someone is nice, we mean that person is stupid (or at least simple). When we say someone is not nice, we mean they are not stupid.

Okay, I know, that’s taking things too far. Most people who are nice are not stupid. Some of those who are truly not nice are also not stupid. We usually don’t mean the same thing as the Latin word. But…

But would it help you to stand up a little straighter if you heard the accusation that you are not nice as “not stupid”? Would you feel better about yourself if you realized that not being nice is just a way for others to say that you are not falling into line, not being agreeable, not conforming to their desires? What if “not nice” meant that the person could see through the masks and the camouflage to the truth? Because it really does mean that much of the time.

When you disagree and say so, you cause the other person to feel bad about herself. When you speak up against abuse, you cause the abuser to look bad. When you challenge leadership decisions, stand with oppressed people, or expose sin, you are not being nice. Nor are you being stupid.

The church and American culture have developed something that could be called “mandatory niceness.” We keep people in line with the demand that they be nice. Don’t make waves. Don’t draw attention to yourself or unwanted attention to others. Don’t make the organization look bad. Be nice.

Maxwell Smart, the comedy secret agent of Get Smart, saw two forces at work in the world: evil and niceness. To be not nice was to be evil. That was true for most of us as we grew up. A great deal of integrity and dignity was sacrificed for the sake of niceness.

But that has created a situation where victims of manipulation and abuse fear coming forward because they will be accused of causing trouble (not being nice). There are people in social media pointing out sexual abuse in the church and how the church systems work to cover up the abuse. And some in the church wish these advocates would use their gifts for “niceness rather than evil.” “Nice” pastors and teachers are being held accountable by these “not nice” accusers. Nice politicians and “nice” business leaders are being called out for their hypocrisy and abuse by “not nice” whistle-blowers.

Listen: if you have to make a choice between telling the truth and being nice, choose truth. If you are expected to water down your opinions, compromise your stand, betray victims, or ignore injustice—then it is time to be not nice. If others want you to betray yourself, don’t be nice.

The desire to be seen as nice has allowed so much evil in our world and hurt so many people. It isn’t worth it. It’s just stupid.

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