I Want Peace

It’s Monday Grace!

I don’t know about you, but I thought the world was plenty crazy before the pandemic and the election. The stress level was already high just from the personal things going on. Jobs, finances, relationships, health: these seem to bring enough stress into our lives.

Maybe you, like me, would appreciate a time of peace. A time without worry or turmoil. Vacation or retirement looks better and better. Maybe a cave to crawl into. Maybe staying in bed.

Sure, there are some things that will help. Turn off the television, at least the news. Stop reading Facebook posts. Turn off the radio or set it only to music you like. Separate from people who draw you into conflict or controversy. In some ways, those are a lot like hiding, except that almost all the things we are supposed to fear aren’t real. So, we don’t lose much by turning things off.

But we know that won’t change everything. In fact, the only things that will disappear are the things that probably wouldn’t have touched us much anyway. The personal problems are still there.

It interests me that Paul began most of his letters with prayers for peace for his readers. A lack of peace opens the door to negative reactions and decisions in our lives. God wants us to be people of peace.

Okay, so I want peace! Even if the world is crashing around me, I want to have peace in my heart. I don’t want to be anxious or fearful. I don’t want to bounce around in confusion and turmoil. I want to be settled in my heart.

Now listen: There is nothing wrong with wanting what you are supposed to have. If you don’t feel that you have something God wants you to have, you should pursue it. A couple of great teachers have said, “You gotta have the want-to!” Seek the peace that Jesus has for you.

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
Psalm 34:14

Seek peace. Pursue peace. But look in the right place.

Government will not bring peace. Leaders will not bring peace. Changed circumstances don’t bring real peace. No, peace is in one Person alone. Jesus is our Peace.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27

Jesus offers us His peace, and it won’t come in the way the world offers peace. Not through treaties or compromises. Not through changes in leadership or situations. Jesus offers peace in Himself.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33

Remember this story. The disciples were headed across the Sea of Galilee without Jesus. The wind came up to toss the boat and make them afraid. Many boats had capsized in the sudden storms of Galilee. Many had drowned in the rough sea. But, in their fear, the disciples look at the waves and see Jesus walking on the water. Imagine that! They are afraid for their lives, but Jesus is calmly walking on the water that threatened them. You can read the rest of the story in Matthew 14.

Peace is in Jesus. He stills the storms. He walks through the trouble. He stands with us in the fire. He promises love and welcome in the face of rejection. We have nothing to fear if our eyes are on Jesus.

You want peace? Look to Jesus.

Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.
2 Thessalonians 3:16

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Dragon Story

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Along your new path, you meet people who seem to know you. As you visit with them, they nod and are kind, but you get the impression they don’t believe you. In fact, they don’t trust you.

Finally, someone gives it away. You tell something of what happened in your battle with the dragon, and your listener says, “That isn’t what I heard.” That’s when you realize that the dragon has already told your story, but he has told it to make himself look good.

Narcissists are almost always planners. They might be incompetent when planning business or family things, but they are very good at preparing their world to protect themselves. They think of lies and stories to get themselves out of trouble they aren’t even in yet. They involve people who aren’t involved yet. They lay the groundwork for their goals long before you even realize something is happening.

Here’s an example: Even before Bill married Julie, he told one of his close friends that he had second thoughts about the marriage. He didn’t share specifics, but hinted that there was something in Julie’s past that troubled him. That was all. Just a hint. Then, fifteen years later, when Julie couldn’t handle Bill’s infidelity any longer, this friend is firmly on Bill’s side. After all, there were things about Julie that others didn’t know. Julie eventually discovers that Bill has hinted these things all through the past fifteen years to family members and personal friends. Few are willing to stand with her because they wonder what she has been hiding for so long. When Julie confronts Bill, he claims he didn’t accuse her of anything.

The difference between you and the narcissist is that you begin your story after you understand the reality of the situation. The narcissist began his story before the beginning. Many narcissists prepare their narrative with a variety of possibilities “just in case.”

Many victims have gone to the pastor for counsel only to find that their narcissist has already been telling a convincing, but false, perspective on the marriage. Many have discovered that mutual friends are firmly on the narcissist’s side even before the problems are public, even before the victims thought there were sides.

Stories can be prepared in advance, especially by those who are willing to invest in making supporting facts come true. The whole process we call “gaslighting” consists of the abuser telling others that the victim is struggling mentally or emotionally and then setting up circumstances to make the claims look true.

This is one reason I often suggest that people keep a journal or diary to log feelings or events. I know it sounds like an untrusting thing to do in a marriage, but it may become a trail of breadcrumbs to lead you back to a place of stability. And, yes, you will have to keep it a secret. If the abuser gets it, he/she will use it against you.

Another option is to keep contact with a trusted friend or support person, maybe even someone who warned you about the narcissist in the beginning. Someone who will walk with you through the process. Someone not influenced by the narcissist.

But what do you do if you find out afterward that your story has already been told, but wrong? What if the narcissist has been successful in creating a narrative behind your back? What if you discover that he/she prepared long ago for the story that is being told today?

Well, you are at a disadvantage, but you are not defeated. You may not control what your friends and family believe, but you can control your story. After all, the story the narcissist tells is not yours. You have the right and the responsibility to have your own story.

First, as much as you can understand what happened, be consistent in the story you tell. Narcissists have such little respect for others that they often don’t remember who they told what. If you are consistent when the narcissist’s story seems to be muddied with conflicting details, your story will be strong and more convincing.

Second, not everyone needs to know everything. Develop the marketer’s “elevator speech.” Tell just enough to satisfy your audience. For example, you don’t have to tell the details you learned about his infidelity. It might be enough simply to say, “Well, I learned about his lovers and had to be checked for an STD.” You don’t have to show the bruises he gave you if you can say, “I wasn’t able to duck fast enough and had to go to the emergency room.”

Of course, these statements have to be true. (I think everyone who learns of a spouse’s infidelity should be checked for an STD. I also think that everyone who is battered should go to the emergency room to be checked. These are more than documentation, they might save your life.) But you should be able to shorten your story to a single statement with good effect. Choose carefully those to whom you tell more.

Third, be careful to whom you tell your story. Soap operas may be fading from our culture, but we have replaced them with “reality” court shows and sensationalist talk shows. In other words, people love other people’s drama. The ones you think are caring may only be listening to your story for the gossip or entertainment it provides. They may listen to the narcissist’s story in the same way. And, sadly, sometimes they betray you.

Instead, find a trusted professional or a sincere friend. Even then, you don’t have to tell everything. A good counselor may ask why you don’t want to confide something, but he/she will never try to manipulate or force you into sharing. Take your time. Establish trust. A good friend doesn’t have to know details to be a support.

Finally, you may find it helpful to write your story down. You don’t have to share it with anyone. When it’s done, you can burn it. The benefit of writing something down is that it forces you to think carefully. You might want to double-space what you write, leave room to add things as you read through it again. For many people, writing their story is good therapy.

One more thought. As you tell or write your story, remember that it is less effective to diagnose your narcissist than it is to tell what he/she did. In other words, calling someone a narcissist or an abuser or something else moves a listener to wonder how you came to that conclusion. Telling what your narcissist did to you, how you were hurt or manipulated, allows your listener to come to the conclusion herself. If she says your spouse acted like a narcissist, you have gotten your message through.

And, of course, Jesus already knows your story. He was there through all of it. He knows those things you don’t want to tell anyone, things you wish you couldn’t remember. If you need to remember something, ask Him. If you want to forget something, ask Him to take it away. You might be surprised at the peace you find. If you worry about your part in things, talk with Him about it. He has already forgiven you for what you did or didn’t do. He stands by you because He loves you.

It’s your story. Stick to it. Hold onto it. No one can take it away.

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The Answer is a Person

It’s Monday Grace!

Days of stress. Days of anxiety. Days of pain.

It’s hard, isn’t it? We didn’t need a tumultuous election. We had a pandemic. We didn’t need a pandemic. We had our personal struggles. But now we have all of them together.

Politics, Pandemic, Personal. Any one of them is enough. No wonder our feelings of stress and confusion are rising.

What are you supposed to do when life is overwhelming? Sometimes personal problems make us feel so weak and afraid. Where do we go for strength?

The answer is a Person.

David faced dark days. Enemies from inside and out. Family members turned against him. Long time friends became accusers and distant. He had to run for his life. But, through all of it, David knew that his answer was in a Person.

Read these beautiful words and understand how much David’s heart was set on the Lord. Through it all, David looked to the One who loved him. David pushed himself to keep his eyes on the right One.

We are not defined or destroyed by our personal problems. Our God is stronger, and He is with us. We do not have to fear viruses or crazy politics. Things change, sometimes they even fall apart, but our Lord never leaves us.

Our answer is in a Person.

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You might be interested in the addendum I have posted in the comments.

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Dragon Ruination

It’s Narcissist Friday!

On your journey in the new land, you meet someone you have heard about. An outcast with a ruined reputation. You want to avoid that person, but something pulls you to her. She looks to you, expecting you to push her away as so many others have done. Instead, you invite her to walk with you. She asks if you know who she is. You admit that you do. She is quiet. Finally, you say, “Tell me your story.”

I have heard so many stories. In fact, I have to be careful not to make people feel that their story is not important because it is shared by so many. Each person’s story is precious, no matter how troubling. Each person’s story is unique, no matter how many are just the same. Your story has molded you to who you are today. Evil does not define you, but your struggle and victory speaks of your strength.

She doesn’t know where to begin. No one has wanted to listen for a long time. She fought the dragon in the most personal ways, losing over and over. When she finally found the strength to stand, the attacks began with new intensity. At the end, she was alone. Friends, acquaintances, even family left her. The dragon separated her from them all. Then he started to punish her for ever trying to resist.

Narcissists (and narcissistic groups) are never content with winning. If you have ever played a game with one, you know how competitive they are. They simply must win. But it rarely stops there. They have to remind you of their victory—over and over and over. They explain why you lost and how much better they are. Then they tell others. And that’s just a game.

I have known of several victims who have had to go through a divorce from a narcissist. Very few are content with an equal distribution of assets. No, the narcissist must have it all. If possible, the narcissist will keep everything: kids, house, bank account, and more. Some victims have found that the courts are anything but merciful.

Narcissists are ruthless. They don’t care how they win. But they are also vengeful. Those who dare to stand up to them will be destroyed. Destruction is the only goal. Not defeat. Not silence. Destruction. They rip away as much personhood from their victims as they can. They leave their victims naked and alone.

I’m sure some think I have overstated this. But you haven’t heard the stories of the young mother who loses custody of her children to the narcissist who doesn’t love them or of the wife who has helped her narcissist husband build his business by working only to be cast aside when she is no longer “productive” or of the young mother left alone without finances or shelter to care for her kids while the narcissist courts his new love. These are real stories. Some have lost treasures given by parents. Some have lost life savings. Some have lost homes and property. You might expect them to keep what was theirs in the beginning, but the narcissist figures out a way to take it. And then still spreads lies and makes life miserable.

It is the narcissist who continues to kick when the victim falls. It is the narcissist who continues on a path to total destruction long after winning a battle. Some have suffered the loss of almost everything while the narcissist laughed.

The dragon ruined her life. He didn’t stop when she lost the support of friends. He made sure that her reputation was ruined. Once he convinced them that she was evil, he told them lie after lie until she walked completely alone. She bore a humiliation she did not deserve. He drove her into hiding and brought a stigma that she could not bear. Those who knew her name knew her shame.

And what could you say? Once you heard her story, you realized that you had believed the dragon. You had supported her ruination. Not by doing anything, but just by believing that it was somehow justified. Now, you understand that her situation was very much like your own. Maybe the dragon was not quite so cruel to you, or you got away before he could bring your ruin. She was not so fortunate.

So, you don’t say anything. You realize that you still don’t know the whole story, and you probably never will. But you reach out to take her hand as you walk. And tears flow down your cheeks.

The stronger you are, the harder the narcissist will work to bring you down. The more chance you have of standing up, the more he will kick you down. And, when you are down, the narcissist will heap lies and accusations on you so that you can never get up again.

If you did not experience this from your narcissist, be thankful. Just know that some have suffered in this way. Don’t be quick to believe the lies the dragon spreads. Understanding the narcissistic relationship should open your eyes to see the truth. You may be one of the few who reaches out in compassion to the one who has been ruined.

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Restoring Church

It’s Monday Grace!

Why do people go to church?

Well, let’s set aside some of the wrong reasons. Some go to make business contacts. Others go to church so people will think they are good and trustworthy. Some go to church just because they always have and their family always did. Those are wrong reasons in my mind.

So, why do faithful and sincere people go to church?

If you were to ask people to give a personal response to that, I think most would answer with some version of “to get better.” In other words, most people go to church to be stimulated and challenged to perform at a higher level. One man told me years ago that if he left a church service without feeling bad about himself he would consider that church service lacking. He expected to feel judged, condemned, and remonstrated. Many attend church to learn steps toward righteousness. Do this and that, and God will bless you. Stay away from this and that, and God will not punish you.

No wonder people sit as far toward the back as possible. No wonder they fold their arms as though daring the preacher to challenge something in their lives. No wonder their kids focus on their phones during the service. Most of us don’t enjoy being scolded, even if it is supposed to make us better.

Several years ago, my family had an opportunity to look for a church home. (That means I was out of a job.) We learned a lot about how most people think about going to church. We attended several churches. In one, we heard all about their building program. In another, we heard how progressive they were. In yet another, we were confronted with narrow doctrine designed to make us like them. And then there was the one where the preacher told stories about himself for almost an hour.

Finally, we sat down together to talk about what we really wanted in a church. A church where Jesus was real and active. That was our desire. Jesus was not just an idea to keep people in line or move them to service. He was Someone who was real in our daily lives and in the life of the church. We found that in a very large charismatic church across town. We were not charismatics and never really became tongues-speakers, but Jesus was real there. We prayed as though He listened and cared.

Why was that important? Because a church that is not centered on Jesus as a living and loving Lord has nothing to offer people. And, sadly, that describes a lot of churches. We needed that reality.

A lot of people find the church to be a source of pain. Comparisons, judgments, expectations, demands. That defines church for many. Others add things like betrayal, abuse, and rejection. None of that comes from Jesus.

I don’t believe you have to go to church to be a Christian. Nor do I believe that people will become better by attending church. But I do still believe Christians can gather in the presence of the Lord to experience and share His love.

Sometimes our ideas and traditions keep us from seeing what God offers to us. There may be a church near you where the people (and the preacher) just want to walk with Jesus and encourage each other along the way. If there is such a church, check it out. You can hold your doctrines without judging others or expecting all believers to be the same. You might find some sincere love and welcome.

Don’t give up on the people of God. Some of them will love you. Be wise and careful. Watch for signs of legalism and comparisons. Watch for self or institutional focus. Don’t hesitate to wipe the dust off your feet and leave. But, if the Lord is calling you to gather with His people, don’t be afraid. You might be surprised at where He leads you.

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Dragon Provocations

It’s Narcissist Friday!

In the new land, you are determined to be strong and to control your story. This isn’t going to be like it was, where you were confused and frightened and manipulated. Now, you are going to be in control.

But the dragon whispers lies. You hear him. He lies to you and to those around you. He does things and blames you, even now. And it gets under your skin. No matter how hard you try to let the lies and the jabs slide off, they still hurt. It seems like the dragon can whisper his lies and taunts without anyone challenging him.

Finally, you respond. You pull your sword to strike the dragon in your anger, but you have little skill. You frighten others, maybe even hurt someone. Now others think you are the dragon. And the dragon laughs.

***

I’ve watched it happen in my office. I’ve read it in your stories. I’ve felt it in my own experience. I call it “provoking.”

Push, poke, prod. Antagonize, lie, cheat, steal, twist words, and more. The death of a thousand cuts. You feel it coming. Each time you seem to grow smaller. Each time the narcissist seems to gain a little ground.

Friends tell you what they heard, and they wonder if it’s true. You wonder how many others don’t come to you because they believe the lie. The people around you watch as the narcissist “teases” and jabs with little criticisms and cuts, but you say nothing. They wonder if the narcissist is right simply because you didn’t defend yourself.

The purpose of provocation is to move someone to a regretful action. The provoker (or provocateur) does not want to be the one who is seen in a negative light. He/she knows just what to say or do, and just how often or how much, to get you to do something negative. And it usually works.

You finally crack, or break, or blow up. You deny the truth, and the narcissist points out your lie. You cuss, and others hear you demean yourself. You threaten, and the narcissist has the recording. Whatever it is, the narcissist is ready.

It might be in public. You say or do something others see. It might confirm what the narcissist has been saying about you. It might be something even worse. But the provoker will jump on your words or actions to point the finger at you. He/she will tell everyone that the case against you was right after all. Or maybe he/she will just step back and let everyone else judge you as angry, or mean-spirited, or crazy.

It’s a disgusting tactic, but one that is very effective. That’s why narcissists use it so often. If you are the crazy one or the evil one, then anything the narcissist has done will either be ignored or justified. No one will remember what the narcissist has done because the light is shining on you. And the narcissist laughs. That was the plan all along.

After the narcissistic relationship is over, the narcissist will want to look good. The primary way to do that is to make you look bad. If the game is going to end, the narcissist will want to be able to start a new game with someone else. Besides, if you are strong enough to stand up for yourself, the narcissist will want to hurt you. Bringing you down makes him feel better about himself.

It is important for us to understand how well this provocation works. Few of us are able to handle the poking and lies forever. Because the narcissist is ruthless, playing by no rules but his own, and persistent, he/she will usually get satisfaction. We will break, and we will do or say something we regret.

And we do regret those things. We wish we had been able to stop ourselves. We held back for so long; why not just a little longer? Why did we make that post, say those words, do that thing? We blame ourselves, and there is no way to excuse or explain or take back what we did. The narcissist won. Again.

So, what do we do now? Listen: you move on. You stop beating yourself up. It is not unusual for evil to win, not in your life or in history. Those who are willing to manipulate others to make themselves look and feel good often get what they want. It was not your weakness or brokenness that let them win; it was their cruelty and cold-bloodedness. They worked hard to break you, and they are strong.

But that thing you said or did does not define you! You are not crazy. You are not mean. You are not what the narcissist says you are. Fixing this might be hard, and some people may turn their backs, but you must refuse to let it stop you. Pick yourself up; dust yourself off. Keep going.

And when you are in the position to watch someone else finally crack, give them grace. Understand what has happened. Ask yourself if this is consistent with who you know this person to be. Then don’t turn away. Even if you are the one hurt by the explosion, be strong enough to continue to give support.

I think this “dragon provocation” is one of the most despicable tools in the narcissist’s arsenal, but we see it almost everywhere. Learn to recognize it when it happens to you or to others, and be quick to give grace.

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Restoring Self-Respect

It’s Monday Grace!

Were you taught that self-esteem was a bad thing? I was. Self-esteem was just another word for pride in the legalist system. Self-esteem was me thinking I was something special.

The teachers talked about children raised to be selfish and how they would turn against their parents and the Lord. They said that we were never to be self-focused, but always submissive and giving. Anything that hinted at self-respect led to evil.

Why? Why would self-respect be evil? Well, the teachers said, because we are sinful and unclean. We are prone to evil. The thoughts of our minds, the feelings of our hearts, are compromised by sin. At least that’s what we were told. So, of course, we were supposed to listen to the teachers. They would have the answers. (Their hearts and minds were apparently not compromised like ours.)

But, we have a problem when we push away self-respect and self-esteem. No matter how hard I try, I still see only through my eyes and hear through my ears. I think only my thoughts. In other words, I am stuck with myself. The Eastern religions might suggest that we can lose ourselves in some vast spiritual organism, but Christianity knows nothing of that. “I am what I am,” Popeye said, “and that’s all that I am.”

But when we come to Jesus we die to self. Right? Where does the Bible say that? It doesn’t. It says I died with Christ on the cross. It says Jesus is my Life. It says I am a new creation. It says my life belongs to Him. It says all of that, but I am still who I am. There is a continuation of person from my beginning in this world that will last through eternity.

And that means I have to deal with my self. I know that I was broken by sin. We all were. That’s why we needed a Savior. I am thankful for a new birth, thankful to be separated from the old ways. Everything in my life has changed. But I am still my self. Jesus will not destroy me, nor simply absorb me into Him. The Bible does say that I am in Him, but it also says He is in me. If my self is lost or taken away, how can He be in me?

These are pretty deep concepts, and I don’t intend to try to explain all the theology behind them. The bottom line is that I still have to understand my self.

Let’s say it this way. You are not who you were. If you are in Christ, you are a new person with a new heart and a new spirit. You are still the same person, yet a different creation. That only makes sense if you are a unique person created by a powerful God. You have been re-created as the same person with a new life and a new spirit. You died with Christ on the cross, so the old is dying and has died, and you will never die again.

Do a study sometime of all that is new in you. New heart, new spirit, new mind, new future, new home, and more. The only thing that is the same is your person. That may be hard to define, but it’s you. And everything about you is new.

Except the flesh. The way you learned to live apart from the Lord. It has no power over you except to lie, to offer a familiar alternative to the Spirit in you. The flesh will not continue after life in this world. The flesh is a dying, but very powerful and intimate, influence. And it feels and sounds like you. It isn’t you, but you thought for so long that it was that it is hard to let it go. The old arguments and rationalizing, the old reactions and habits, they are all dying. They are all temporary and stuck in this world.

But you are eternal, washed clean and kept clean by the blood and life of Jesus. Your flesh is not you.

So, respect yourself. Why? Because everything that is you is respectable. Think of yourself as good, because everything about you is good. Esteem yourself, because you are wonderfully made and precious in the sight of the Lord. To do otherwise is to deny what He has done.

Sure, you still struggle to act and think like the person you are. But that’s the struggle. You are not a wretch trying to become better. You are a saint, a treasure of the Lord, seeking to be all that you are. The day will come when that struggle will end, but when that day comes God will not add anything to what you already are. The only thing that will happen is that the things of this world will pass away.

You are worthy of respect and honor, because the One who is your life is worthy.

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It’s ready!  Listed on Amazon!

Those who read here know that I believe the greatest expression of God’s grace is found in Jesus.  So, when Jesus taught the people, what do you suppose He wanted them to understand?  He wanted them to know the power and the desire of the love of God for them.  His message was not about what they should do for God, but what God had done and was willing to do for them.  His offer of salvation and Heaven could be summarized in two words: “Follow Me!”

The Sermon on the Mount is an amazing message of God’s practical grace for the lives of His people.  It presents an offer, a free gift, of everything God wants His people to have.  It all is found in Jesus.

This is a big book, over 450 pages, all for the purpose of showing that the Sermon on the Mount was a message of love.  Rather than a list of new rules given by Jesus, the Sermon reveals the heart of God. 

This is not a Bible commentary.  It is written in the same conversational style you know from this blog.  The theology may be deep, but the reading is straightforward and simple.  I believe you will enjoy this book!

Listen: get the ebook if you have a Kindle.  It’s only $10.  My guess is that this is the best $10 book you will get for your Kindle.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you should be able to read it on any computer or tablet or even phone with the Kindle app.  And, if it doesn’t work for you, just send it back!

The book is a chunk, but the print is clear and large enough to enjoy.  The cover photo is one I took from a boat on the Sea of Galilee to show the approximate place the Sermon was delivered. 

And let me know what you think!  Leave a review for others.  Reviews are important for Amazon sales.  Send me a note with your thoughts or questions.  You know how to reach me. 

While you are on Amazon, type in my name to see the other books I have listed.  You might be surprised!

Here’s the backpage blurb:

Twelve minutes. That’s how long it takes a good reader to deliver the most significant sermon in human history. The Sermon on the Mount not only changed lives, but changed the course of morality for the next 2000 years. Beautiful in its simplicity, unfathomable in its depth, the message Jesus brought to the people gathered on that mountainside near Capernaum early in His ministry has been a touchstone for people of all Christian denominations and nearly all religious faiths. Those who have been guided by these wise words are scattered throughout the world and throughout history.

All such discourses must be interpreted in the context of their audience. While it is clear that Jesus spoke to the people before Him that day, perhaps a large company of mixed races and backgrounds, it is not as clear whether that message was meant for anyone beyond that gathering. Some today suggest that the Sermon was meant only for them and not for us.

It seems strange to ask if such significant moral teaching still packs the punch it did that day. The question focuses on the fundamental difference between Jewish and Christian teaching. While the people gathered on the hillside with Jesus were still under the Law, Paul told his readers they were no longer under the Law but under grace. While all people appreciate the encouragement of the Beatitudes (or blessings), the rest of the Sermon interprets the Law for the people. And honest readers acknowledge that Jesus’ interpretation of the Law was even more challenging than that of the teachers of His day.

So, is it appropriate for Christians under grace to read and learn from the Sermon on the Mount? Does its teaching still have value in our daily walk with the Lord? Or have we misused this Sermon by continuing to share it among Christians?

Peter wrote that the divine power of Jesus “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” and that we are “partakers of the divine nature.” This is the core of our understanding of grace. All that God asks of us is provided for us in Jesus, and His grace is sufficient for us. Reading the Sermon on the Mount without understanding this message of grace creates confusion and frustration for believers. When we use the light of grace to illumine our understanding of the Sermon, the simple call Jesus offers to all people becomes clear. From the beginning of His ministry to His saving work today, Jesus has one message for all people: “Follow Me!” Those who come to Jesus find the fulfillment of the Law and the joy of daily life in Him.

This book will guide believers and others to see the grace offered in this amazing Sermon.

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It’s a New Year!

It’s Survivors Friday!

Okay, I know it’s supposed to be Narcissist Friday. But maybe we can make this day something different. After all, this is the day we mark a change.

Today is a new day, a new month, a new year. Today, as they say, is the first day of the rest of your life. But I am going to take that saying and twist it a little.

The first day of the REST of your life. The rest. What would it feel like to rest? How would this year be different if you knew that you were deeply loved by the only One who truly knows you, the only One who matters?

I just read someone who said that all of our internal stress comes from fear, frustration, or resentment. And, he said, it’s our internal stress that makes us less able to handle our external stress. In other words, when trouble comes in our lives, it’s what’s inside our hearts that will make the difference.

What if you could go to bed knowing that the Lord who loves you is working on all your problems? Your finances, your health, your responsibilities, your performance, your relationships, all of it. What if you could wake up in the morning having trusted Him through the night? What if you could give Him your fear, your frustration, and your resentment? Then you would find peace and strength.

This is a new year. The calendar date really means little. We look back on a crazy year, but we look forward to many of the same struggles and stresses. Yet, maybe this new year we can trust Jesus just a little more.

Take a moment today to give thanks for what the Lord has done in your life. You have survived. In some ways, you have prospered. Thank Him.

Then take another moment to ask Him to help you trust Him more. Nothing earth-shaking, but maybe something life-changing. I believe that we can ask Him for anything we need. If we need to trust Him more, let’s ask.

Nothing fancy. Just a simple prayer:

Lord, I know you love me. Help me to trust you more.

That’s it. You can add anything you want, of course. But that little prayer might change your whole year.

2020 hindsight. What a mess! But maybe if I trust Jesus more today and in the coming days, I will see even the past crazy year differently. Maybe I will find the blessings and remember the good that came out.

I doubt that many of us would look at 2020 as a year of rest. But let’s begin in some small ways to look at 2021 that way. As long as I know Jesus has me safely in the palm of His hand, where nothing can snatch me up and hurt me, then I can rest.

So, I will begin this year with a prayer for all of you:

Lord Jesus I know you love each person who reads this.

Help each one to trust you more.

Amen. Happy New Year!

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Why are You Reading this Blog on Christmas?

(I wrote this nine years ago.  I offer it today as a word of encouragement for those who know the Lord and a word of invitation and love for those who would like to know Him.)

I can’t imagine that anyone would be reading my blog on this day, but maybe something has drawn you here.  Maybe you need to hear that you are loved.

This blog is about the love of God and the activity of God on our behalf.  If you have read anything of mine over the past couple of years, you must have read about the love of God in Jesus for you.  But maybe it has been just too hard to believe.

Please let me share something I rarely talk about here.  The love of God will never be forced on you.  You are free to continue your life just the way it is.  But the love of God for you is real.  There is great mystery in the Christian faith, deep things that are hard to explain and hard to understand, but the simple truth is that God loved you and came to show you that love in the person of Jesus.  I believe with all my heart that the love of God for all of us is in Jesus.

Will you accept the love of God for you?  He calls you to let go of your fears and disappointments, your attempts to compensate for the pain you feel, and your desire to justify yourself before Him and others.  Let it all go and just come to Him.  Tell Him that you need Him and you want Him.  Tell Him that you want Him in your life.  You don’t have to promise Him anything because He is the one who has already done all the promising.  And, if you come to Him, He will fulfill all those promises for you.

You don’t have to become like other Christians.  You don’t have to start going to church.  You don’t have to do anything.  Just receive what He offers.  I believe that He will lead you to others who have come to Him in the same way, but let Him do that.  You can rest in Him.  Don’t try to be perfect.  You can trust the One who is perfect.

Today can be a day of great change.  Today can be the day when you receive the greatest love there is.  Imagine, on Christmas Day, you could begin a walk with Jesus that will last forever.  Just ask Him.

I would be so happy if you would write to me and tell me that you have done this—but you don’t have to.  Nothing is in your way, barring you from Him.  And, yes, I am praying for you.

Oh, and, Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Prayers

(This post ran a couple of years ago and many were encouraged to know that others would be praying.  Let’s keep a good thing going!

Monday Grace will be back on schedule next week, but I want to offer a special grace to those who suffer during these holidays. The holidays seem to bring reminders of our loss, even as they focus on our blessings. For those who miss loved ones who have passed, for those who cannot travel to be with family, for those who are worried about finances, for those who wish their family could be filled with love and joy–we will pray. )

I have written a couple of Christmas posts on dealing with your narcissists on holidays. They usually meet with mixed reviews because some who have reached the point of anger (a very natural point!) don’t like my suggestions on trying to get along. I understand and value the objections just as much as the words of appreciation. I will provide links to those posts at the end of this post.

This year I would simply like to assure each of you who must deal with uncomfortable situations with your narcissist that there are people praying for you.

If we have learned anything here, it’s that many people are struggling in narcissistic relationships. That means you are not alone. I know you may have to physically be alone in your situation, but there are people here who believe you and care. We will be praying for you.

To make that a little more personal, I invite those who desire prayer to write a note in the comments. You don’t have to write a lot, just “Pray for me!” If you use a pseudonym, that’s okay. The Lord knows who you are and what you are going through. And if you are able to pray, maybe just once or twice over the weekend, write a comment that says, “I will be praying for you!” Just a general comment, not in answer to a particular request. It will be a wonderful word of encouragement. And, if no one writes anything, we will still know that there are people praying. Because we do that here.

So, again, here’s the plan:

If you need prayer, write – Pray for me!

If you can pray, write – I will be praying!

If you are uncomfortable asking for prayer, please know that we will still be praying for you.  Even if no one asks, we know that many will need help.  So we will pray anyway.  For you.

Know that you are loved!

I will be praying for you!

https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2014/12/19/what-will-he-or-she-do-this-christmas/

https://graceformyheart.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/the-narcissist-at-christmas/

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