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It’s Monday Grace!

I want to pause our look at each of the Ten Commandments and give a brief summary of what we have seen so far. My contention is that these commandments come out of the same heart and mind that sent Jesus to the cross for us. In other words, the ministry and message of grace from the heart of God is just as much in the Ten Commandments as in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

Recently, again, I read a meme from a grace teacher that boldly proclaimed that the Ten Commandments were written and meant for the people under the Law and not for us. Apparently, we are free to ignore them. The problem with that lies in the application of the next five commandments. Under grace, are we free to kill, to steal, to lie, to cheat on our spouses, to covet what others have? No one would suggest that. Yet, we are free to dismiss these commands, according to some. There is a disconnect in this somewhere.

The problem is not in the list, nor in the items on the list. The problem is in the interpretation and application. The Ten Commandments are Scripture, important words given by the Lord to His people. They are not ceremonial law. They are not cleanliness rules. They are not rules of property or family. They are not governmental rules. They are the desires of God for the good of His people.

So, let me ask a couple of questions. First, what will happen if a person breaks one of these commandments? We have heard the answer from the time we started going to church. “The soul that sins shall die!” Death is the result of sin, and sin is defined as disobeying the will (or the command) of God. It is true that those who sin will die, both physically and spiritually. That’s hard to avoid if you believe the Bible.

Second, who dies? To whom is this judgment applied? Well, again, this is hard to avoid. Anyone who sins will die. There is no exemption for the Jews or for the Gentiles. There is no special privilege given to the priests or the prophets or the little old grandmothers. Paul makes it clear in Romans that all have sinned and all die.

However (!), those who belong to Jesus have already died. We died with Him on the cross. He carried away our sins and the stain of our sins. The death that comes from breaking the commandments, whether one or all, has already been applied to us in the death of Christ. So, in that way, the commandment no longer has power over us. It no longer condemns us or binds us to death. We have been set free from the consequence of sin.

The power of the Law was to bring condemnation and death, never salvation and life. By doing that, the Law leads us to a Savior. So, even the Ten Commandments cannot bring death or condemnation to those who already belong to Jesus. That is the only appropriate way to say that the commandments are no longer “for” us.

Those who belong to Jesus still have only one God. We still should never worship the things of our own hands or works. We still can only be rightly called Christians because of a real relationship with Jesus. We still must remember that all we have and need comes as a gift from Him, rather than our own work. We still should thank God for those He has used in our lives. All of these things are still true for us.

If we understand the commandments, we see that they are still a part of our lives. No condemnation, no death, comes from them. Just reminders of who we are in Jesus.


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3 – Watch and Listen

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I have long advocated that counselors and teachers should read columns like “Dear Abby.” I mentioned this to a group where I was a guest teacher and the leader, who has counseled for more than fifty years, chimed in with his agreement. Everyone was surprised. They thought those columns were silly.

Our experience in life is pretty limited. We can’t expect to go through all the things others have suffered, nor do we want to. But, if we haven’t gone through it ourselves, how can we understand the struggle of others? By watching and listening.

The questions that come to Dear Abby and others reveal a variety of real-life struggles. Sometimes they are surprising. Sometimes they are very sad. Other times they almost make you laugh. But I have heard enough strange stories from real and honest people that I no longer doubt the veracity of the advice column. The things people do to others are hard to imagine.

There is a real world out there filled with people who struggle, many of them in different ways than you. It is wise to be aware of what is normal and what is not. It is wise to be aware of what could happen in a relationship.

When I started writing on this several weeks ago, I wanted to help readers consider relationships without being afraid. It doesn’t take many times of being burned or used to begin to shy away from relationships. There are certainly ways to enjoy a variety of relationships while reducing the risk.

One of those ways is to watch and listen to the people around you. What works in a relationship? What hurts? What makes a good relationship good?

I know there are classes and teachers that promise to tell us how to think about relationships, but your own observation has real value. What do you see? When you grew up, what did you observe in your parents or other adult relationships? Consider things like the effects of lying, the value of gentle touch, the power of kind or hurtful words.

In other words, live with your eyes and ears open. See the sadness and joy and fear and confusion of others. Listen when they tell their stories. Believe most of them, even when they seem extreme to your perspective. The longer you observe, the more you will understand what is true and what is not.

There are many relationships in our lives. We have considered the importance of boundaries. But what boundaries should you use to protect yourself? And how do you go about doing that? Many of these answers will come as you watch others handle their relationships.

Some of us were taught so strongly to avoid gossip that we learned not to look or listen at all. We have a hard time allowing ourselves to form opinions or draw conclusions because we don’t want to look. But I believe God has put other people in our lives to teach us, stretch us, and show us the variety of personalities and backgrounds. Then, when we meet new people, we have at least some awareness of how they can be different from us.

I know that it is easy for some of us to be drawn into the problems of others. We take sides and get angry when we listen to some of the stories. Try to avoid doing that. Again, the more you observe, the better able you will be to stay objective and see the truth. And you will be more helpful for others.

I also know it is easy for some of us to become callous about the pain others suffer. You can only hear so many stories of pain and suffering without becoming numb. Again, stay objective. You are learning. You are not carrying the weight of the pain. It is possible to listen and care without becoming embroiled in their emotions.

As you learn from observing, you will not only be able to encourage others but also encourage yourself. You will see that many relationships are good and supportive. You will realize that all relationships have weak areas or challenges, but there are ways to overcome these things.

Here’s a quick example. I have had couples tell me that they never want to let their children see them disagree. They don’t want the kids to think that mom and dad get angry with each other. I ask if they do sometimes get angry and disagree. Of course they do. Then what, I ask. Then we make up, they say. So I tell them that their kids will also have disagreements in their relationships, even becoming angry at times. They need to see mom and dad making up. They need to see that there is something good beyond the anger. They can learn that forgiveness and acceptance are normal parts of relationships, just as normal as disagreements.

Watching and listening are important ways God allows us to learn and grow. It’s okay to learn from the struggles and from the joys of others. You might be surprised at the tools you pick up along the way.

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To honor parents

It’s Monday Grace!

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12 (NKJV)

“But, but, but…”

I recently watched a video testimony of a woman who suffered terrible abuse at the hands of her father. Her mother knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it. I have read accounts of child actors whose parents wasted the money the children earned. I have counseled people whose parents were neglectful or abusive. I have had to call law enforcement on parents whose discipline went too far.

“But you don’t know my parents!”

When some people hear the command to honor their father and mother, they truly struggle. How do you honor someone who was abusive or corrupt? How can this commandment apply to their lives?

Yet, God gave this command to His people. He knew that many parents were broken and caused suffering for their children. All we have to do is read the Scriptures to see that. There are a lot of lousy parents and broken families in the Bible. Our sin hurts the people close to us.

At the same time, there is a principle in this command that flows through Scripture and connects with the message of grace. You see, it isn’t only our parents we should honor, but our ancestors and leaders and mentors and all of those who made us who we are.

There is no such thing as a “self-made man.” There are people who rose above their circumstances, who overcame great challenges, who stood against the flow of evil in their families or organizations to do right. There are people who have shown strength beyond what their stories might suggest, but we are all products of the many streams of character that have come into our lives. Some were strong and good. Others were broken, perhaps even evil. But something has come together to make us who we are.

The principle here is that we should honor these various sources and thank God for working them together for good in us. The path to strength and to the Lord was given to us in this amazing concoction of teachings, genes, and life lessons. Whatever we think we have in ourselves has come to us through others.

In fact, the message of grace says that all we need for “life and godliness” has been given to us by the love of God in Jesus. Paul states this principle when he scolds the Corinthians for being prideful.

“For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NKJV)

Obviously, Paul is telling these folks that whatever gifts and blessings they have are from the Lord. But then he asks, “What do you have that you did not receive?” The answer we are supposed to understand is that all good in our lives has been given to us.

In no way am I trying to minimize the pain and struggle some have suffered at the hands (or from the mouths) of their parents. What you went through was real and your own. I am not judging your suffering or your response. What I am trying to do is explain how this command reveals the heart of God toward you.

You see, He has been calling to you from the foundation of the world. He has loved you through all your struggle. He brought you strength and healing to get this far. He is not the cause of your suffering, nor did He send it to make you into something He wants. The world in which we live and the people with whom we live are broken, and evil runs through everything and everyone. But the Lord has loved you from the beginning.

Now that you are able to look at your parents and others who either hurt or blessed you, you understand what was wrong and what was good because the Lord has brought you to that point. Even your discernment is a gift from Him. His grace allows you to stand up today in spite of those who tried to knock you down.

So, what about those abusive parents? How can you honor them? I have written on this before because so many have asked that question. I hope my response is practical and encouraging. You can find it here:


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God and Boundaries

It’s Narcissist Friday!

A friend of ours had a one-sided falling out with a lady at the gym. The lady said our friend was self-centered and cared for no one but herself. But no one else sees our friend that way. Apparently, this lady was having some kind of issue and decided to take it out on our friend. That does happen.

Some people have suggested that God is the ultimate narcissist. He always expects His own way, always wants things centered on Him, and has little regard for the pain others suffer. Or so they say. But this is not the God of the Bible, nor the God in my life. I understand that God is often presented as angry and vengeful, but I suspect that angry preachers see Him as angry. God in their image, so to speak.

So, here’s a question: Does God respect our boundaries? Now, I know this is a strange thought for most of us. I certainly don’t want any boundaries in my life that keep God out. Because I trust in His love, I want everything open to Him. Because He is wise and good, I want to trust Him with everything.

At the same time, I see my relationship with God as real, a real relationship with a real Person. So, if I say that every relationship should have boundaries, what about our relationship with God? Let’s think that one through.

There have been times in my life when I just wanted God to take over, to make me do the right things and avoid the wrong things. Perhaps He has done this when I don’t realize it, but He doesn’t seem to do it when I am aware. Instead, I go through the struggle. He is with me, loving me, but He does not take over.

Why? Because He knows I don’t want to be a robot or a non-entity. I want my will. And He respects me enough to allow my will. He does not force me to love Him or obey Him. He works in me and through me and around me, but He does not take over. Even if I say I want Him to force me, He knows that would not be good for our relationship or my heart. So, He respects the boundaries I have, even when I say I don’t want them.

And, as long as I am being open, there are times in my life when I know God’s will and decide not to do it. The Spirit might even warn me, but I still do what I want. In a sense, I want God to back off and leave me alone. That’s just what He does. He steps back and allows me to make a fool of myself again.

Love does not force itself on others in any relationship. This is why not everyone will be saved. God will not force anyone to come for forgiveness or live forever with Him in glory. He respects the boundaries even when they break His heart.

Legalists say that we need rules and laws or else we will sin. Yet, they still sin. Some criticize the message of grace because it doesn’t try to force us away from sin. Yes, people who understand grace still sin. We all still sin because God respects our boundaries, no matter how foolish they might be. If there is an area of our lives that we don’t want God to touch, He almost certainly will not. He will help, He will call, He will convict, but He won’t stop us from doing what we want.

Now, I suspect that God is far more active in my life than I see or feel. Perhaps He does stop me from doing things or saying things more than I realize. Perhaps He does push me to do the right things. I know I have asked Him to do that many times. I also know that when I want to do it my way, He will usually let me. Yes, even though I suffer or others suffer because of my choices.

Of all the relationships in my life, my relationship with God is the one where I want no boundaries. Yet, He loves me enough to give them to me anyway. And He stays with me when I fail or fall. He wants me to choose Him, but He won’t force me to choose Him.

God is the ultimate Lover, rather than the ultimate narcissist. He desires His way because His way will protect me and bless me, but, even then, He will not force me. The legalist may see God as manipulative and controlling, but the opposite is true. Even though the Universe does center on Him, He is still focused on loving me.

Perhaps I could put it this way: the narcissist wants you to think he is god and pushes past your boundaries to force you to submit to him. God, on the other hand, is God and calls to you in patience and love while allowing you to make your own decisions.


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To keep the Sabbath

It’s Monday Grace!

Take a break!

When I go to the grocery near me I often hear a manager talking with the check-out person, telling them what time they can take their break. Usually, it means a half-hour lunch. Then, back to work.

That’s how many people view this command to keep the Sabbath. They are to take a break once a week. Of course, many don’t even do that much. And, in many jobs, the one or two days off each week are far from regular. Employees have to look at the schedule to see what days they have off. So much for making plans!

Of course, the Jews had all kinds of rules surrounding the day of rest. They could only do certain things. They had to avoid certain things. The day of rest became a day of rules. Many believers today have their own rules for the day of rest. And, of course, not all believers agree on which day they should take, Saturday or Sunday. Working people might have to call Wednesday their day of rest.

All of this misses the point of the Sabbath. The point was that there must be an end to our work. It is too easy for us to scramble around in life trying to satisfy everyone and meet every need. It is too easy to feel overwhelmed with responsibilities and service. It is too easy to see ourselves as the providers and protectors and comforters. So we work and work hard. But we usually feel frustrated and inadequate.

The Lord has always wanted His people to know that He is their provider and protector and comforter. Those who belong to the Lord will be cared for by the Lord. He wanted to bless the people of Israel, and He wants to bless you and me.

Again, this commandment fits so well with the message of God’s grace. I have known too many believers who have never entered the Sabbath rest. They work hard to try to please the Lord. They strive to make up for the things they did in their past. They worry about doing enough to deserve Heaven and eternal life. They lack assurance and hope—all because they are so busy working.

But the Lord says we are to rest. Not just one day a week! Now, because of Jesus, we are able to rest in His work, His power, His love. Everything we truly need in our relationship with Him He has provided.

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” (2 Peter 1:2–4, NKJV)

Read that again. His “divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

Now, rest.

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Boundaries against whom?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

In Colorado, we like fences. Most homes have six-foot wood privacy fences around the backyard. Maybe chain link. Coming from the midwest, this was a change for us. Fences in the midwest are usually for keeping the dogs in, rather than the neighbors out. But here, when someone opens your gate and walks into your backyard there is a clear violation. Even the service people ask before they go through your yard.

The value of clear boundaries is that it allows you to know who is willing to violate you and your desires.

If the neighbors become used to cutting through your yard on their way to school or the park or somewhere, you have the right to ask them to stop. If they don’t stop, you can put up a fence. Almost all of them will stop at the fence. They might complain and accuse and whine, but they won’t cross the fence. But some of them will climb over the fence to continue using the path they made through your property. These are the ones you need to recognize. Crossing that fence reveals the truth about them. Not only are they willing to use you and what you have, they are willing to violate you to do it.

You are in a relationship with everyone you meet. It might not be much of a relationship, but you should realize that any kind of relationship has expectations. Whether it is the clerk behind the retail counter or your parent, the relationship needs boundaries. You don’t expect the clerk to shout out your name or draw attention to your purchases. You don’t expect your parent to try to control your time and life. But to make sure these things don’t happen, you may have to set up boundaries and make an issue of their violation.

All relationships need boundaries. Your children, your teachers, your pastors, your parents, your siblings, your bosses, your co-workers, your neighbors, your dates, your spouse, and so on. Obviously some of these are harder to enforce than others, but that may make those boundaries even more important. If government people or law enforcement people come to your door, they are limited by boundaries. If they want something from you, they can force their way and limit your freedoms. They have considerable power, I suppose, but they are still supposed to operate according to legislated boundaries. Boundaries are important.

And, by the way, I did list spouse as one of those relationships that need boundaries. I know some teachers say that there should be no secrets and no restrictions between spouses. I know some teach that even intimate relations should be without boundaries. While I understand passion and desire, I do not understand controlling and using another person to fulfill those things. Nor do I believe that is what God intended.

Marriage should have boundaries. If you cannot maintain your health and identity, you can’t have a right marriage relationship. Marriage is about sharing and uniting and loving, not using and controlling. So, yes, even marriage should have boundaries.

Good fences make good neighbors. That’s an old saying. I might reword it a little: Good fences make better neighbor relationships. Respect is directly related to valuing another person. Boundaries help us respect each other.


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To take the name of the Lord in vain

It’s Monday Grace!

The message of grace proclaims a relationship. A real relationship with a real Person. It takes our faith out of the realm of ideas and doctrine and ritual and rules. Our faith is in Jesus. He is enough.

We must remember that the Lord God Almighty does not change. If you listen to some people, you will get the message that God tried to make humans shape up using the Law but failed. So, He changed His approach. He sent Jesus because His first choice, the Law, didn’t work. But I would suggest (and I believe Paul would agree) that God never intended the Law to do what we think it should have done. He didn’t change His mind at all. Jesus was the plan from the beginning.

When we read the Ten Commandments, we would do well to keep this in mind. The plan of God from the beginning, “from the foundation of the world,” was to save us through the sacrifice of Jesus. So, the Ten Commandments were never meant to save us, never meant to help us find favor with God. Instead, they were meant to guide us to Jesus.

If you ask a dozen people what it means to “take the name of the Lord in vain,” chances are that almost all of them will say it means that we shouldn’t cuss using God or Jesus. The rest probably will have no idea what it means. While it is disrespectful and unkind to use the Lord’s name as a cuss word (He is a real Person who loves you) this command must mean more than that.

I suspect that the Jews never really understood what this meant either. They decided to avoid using the name that the Lord gave to Moses, I AM. They would write it, sometimes, but never speak it. They thought that the word was the problem. That’s pretty much what most believers today think.

But the command says not to “take” the name in vain. It means to hold or carry or lift. It means to cover yourself with the name. In other words, to say that you belong to the Lord, to claim His favor or protection. Doing this “in vain” is to do it without faith.

Now, think of trying to live by the rules without faith. It isn’t hard to imagine because so many are doing it. They go to church, try to keep the commandments, try to do good things and avoid bad things, but they have no relationship with the Lord. They think they are doing something that will connect them with Him. They try to cover themselves with His name, call themselves Christians, but have no faith in Him.

If the Christian life, as I believe, is a real relationship with a real Person, then there are a lot of people in the churches today who don’t have that life. Jesus said that there would be some who would call to Him for protection and care, but that He wouldn’t know them. Someone once said that going to church does not make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a car. Calling yourself a Christian does not save you, nor does it make God happy with you.

The explanation of this commandment in Exodus 20 says that God will not hold them “guiltless” who take His name in vain. He doesn’t mean that He will take away their salvation if they cuss. He means that those who call themselves Christians (or Jews) without faith, without that real relationship with Him, do not belong to Him. They are still in their sins. If they have not come to Jesus alone for cleansing, their sins are not washed away.

Once again, this commandment is a powerful affirmation of the message of grace. Salvation and right relationship with God comes only through Jesus, only by His gift of love for us.


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A boundary around you

It’s Narcissist Friday!

I have written a lot about narcissism and narcissists over the years. There are many kinds of abusers. Most are narcissistic. They almost have to be to do the things they do. They don’t see you as a person, only as an object. And they expect to be able to drain anything they want from you.

But narcissists are insatiable. That means they cannot be satisfied no matter how much they take. They still want more. Some victims will report that they lost everything to the narcissist. You name it, they lost it. Friends, family support, money, health, reputation, kids, and so on. As I have said before, the list is long.

So, victims are tempted to ask what the abuser really wants. Since nothing seems to be enough, what is it he/she is digging for? Some have come to the conclusion that the narcissist will only stop when the victim is dead. That may not be far from right.

I have written about this before, but narcissists feed on others for life. They want the “life force” that is you. Call it your energy, your essence, your soul, your identity, whatever. As long as you still have it, they want it.

Now, it is hard to define this “life force.” Even the narcissist doesn’t know what it is. All he/she knows is what they can see or experience. Take away all the things that surround you, the things we talked about last week, and what do you have left? I would suggest that the two things that remain for the narcissist to see and take are your body and your energy.

There is a reason the narcissistic boyfriend pushes for sex early in the relationship. When the body is compromised, a very personal boundary is conquered. It’s the same reason the narcissist boss puts his hand on your shoulder (or other places) as he talks with you. It may be the same reason the husband demands submission in the bedroom.

Control of someone’s body gives the abuser control of something deeper, something much closer to that “life force.” Slaves may be marked to indicate their owner. Young girls today often have tattoos that mark them as belonging to their “boyfriend.” The victim usually believes this mark is permanent and defining. It may feel good at first to belong, but when the abuse becomes evident it feels like a trap. The “life force” is drained and owned.

I suspect that this is a great part of the working environment today, especially in retail and service jobs. Young people are hired with the assurance that they will have time for study and school activities, but then soon learn that they will have to fight to maintain any kind of reasonable schedule. I have learned about something called a “clopen”, which is working the closing shift, often until eleven or midnight, and then being required to open early the next morning. Lower level managers often find that they are expected to see the job as their life. They were told that fifty hours would be expected, but they end up working seventy. Even then, they don’t satisfy their bosses. These are abusive environments.

The employee that drags in exhausted because of overwork is a good employee, according to many bosses. They are not encouraged or rewarded, but greater expectations are placed on them. Like slaves or trafficking victims, they are expected to give it all for their owners.

And if they break down, become unable to work because of poor health, or simply die, the narcissist just moves to another victim. The argument that you will not be a good employee if you can’t keep going means nothing when the system just hires someone else to replace you.

You see, draining your energy and taking your health is another way of conquering your body. It’s as close to you as the abuser can get. It allows him/her to suck away your “life force” and feel powerful.

Touch is a powerful manipulation tool. If the boss or someone else touches you and makes you uncomfortable, you have a right to step back, even to tell them to stop. If it continues, you have a case of harassment. Pushing you to overwork with abusive expectations and evaluations is just another way of reaching deep into you and controlling you. Physical touch and draining your energy are tied together. They are ways to break down any defense you are giving to your soul.

So, you have to set boundaries. Whatever price you pay will be worth it. If the abuser is offended, if he marks you down as less than a team player, if she cries or whines or curses, you still have to stand up and say no. Will the abuser respect you more? Don’t count on it. You may lose that job or that relationship. Believe me, you can do better.

When it is over and the abuser is gone, you want something of yourself to be left. Start protecting your heart now. Start by saying no more often. Look to the Master for strength and guidance. He will care for you.


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To make no graven image

It’s Monday Grace!

Many years ago I was talking with a church member when she told me about her “kitchen witch.” She was nonchalant as she said that she had it hanging above her sink and asked it to help her when she had problems. There was no problem in her mind to be a Christian and to pray to her “kitchen witch.” I was a young pastor, and I was shocked.

Since that time, I have become less shocked when I see compromises like these. Whether it is a kitchen witch or a pendant of an ancient god or a lucky charm carried in a pocket, many believers seem to want something to touch and hold. Carrying our gods on our journeys is an ancient tradition.

Gods that can’t see what we are doing when we put them into our pockets. Gods that can’t hear us when we whisper. Gods we can ignore or mold to our liking. Gods who demand rules we make up. Those are gods that are much easier for us to work with.

Isaiah 44 talks about the people who make idols for themselves. One man gets a piece of wood and cuts it into two pieces. One piece he uses for the fire. The other he makes into an idol to worship. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be funny! And Isaiah and David agree that “those who make them are like them.”

So, in the Ten Commandments, the Lord says not to do this. After all, there is only one true God. All the rest are phony. All the rest are lies. Those who craft their own gods dishonor the Lord and teach their children a compromised faith.

We should understand that the people of Israel who received these commandments did not reject the Lord in favor of their idols. They were quite willing to worship both. The Lord was the One who delivered them from Egypt, so they worshiped Him. Their idols did other things for them, they thought. Good hunting, good marriages, healthy children, success in battle—these were the things they could take to their special gods.

This commandment is so obviously related to the message of grace! The legalists would have us believe that their rules and systems are the way for us to receive the things we need in life. Do you need more money? Just give more to the church, at least a tithe. Are you sick, be sure you follow the dietary rules of the Law. Is your marriage struggling? Spend a certain amount of time in prayer and reading your Bible and telling others about Jesus. If you do these things, the things the teachers tell you, then the blessings will come. The idols may not be made of wood or stone, but are still made by the reason and power of human flesh.

And the flesh will never be the source of the blessings of the Lord. No matter how Biblical we make our creations sound, they are not of the Lord but of the flesh. They are, in fact, graven images.

Now, is there more to this commandment? Of course. Will you be saved by keeping this commandment? No. Will you be rejected by the Lord if you break this commandment? No. The legalist will not be saved by keeping the rules, but he will not be rejected by the Lord if he thinks that the rules will add blessings to his life. He will just be disappointed.

We learn from the “rich young ruler” that keeping the commandments, even all Ten, is not enough. Salvation does not come through the law or even through the current rule list of of the current popular teacher. Salvation comes only and completely and permanently from Jesus. So, Jesus told the rich young ruler what He tells us, “Follow Me.”

But what a shame to miss the joy of walking in every aspect of life with Jesus! If the rules or the kitchen witches cause you to take your eyes off Him, to depend on your own efforts again, you will miss both the power and the love that Jesus wants you to see. By focusing on that which is not real, you will miss the One who is real.

Jesus is real. Jesus is active. Jesus cares about you. Look to Him for every concern. Give Him thanks for every joy.


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Boundaries around what?

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Narcissists and other abusers take. They take whatever they think they can get from you. I have often referred to them as predators. They drain you of any resource you may have. Some have told me how the abuser took their money, their strength, their reputation, their health, their friends, their family, their home, and even more. This is not an exaggeration. Ask people who have been in narcissistic relationships what was taken from them. The list is long.

So, what should you be protecting with your boundaries? Everything you have. Everything the Master has placed in your care.

But the preacher says that a certain amount of money, a percentage, belongs to the church. Does the Master tell you that? I have heard teachers suggest that there are three tithes, that the Lord expects His people to give at least 30%. Believe me, the asking and expectation will not stop at that point.

It is important to remember that your Master is Jesus, not the Old Testament law, nor the interpretation of whatever teacher is in vogue. Jesus is real and active. If you ask Him and listen, He will lead you. Should Christians give of their money? Of course. Should they tithe? Only if the Master tells them to. There is no tithing requirement on believers today, but there is a call to be generous and kind.

So, put a boundary around your money. The narcissist should not be able to tell you what to do with it. The abuser should not be able to take it away. I realize this is a big discussion, but it is important for you to see that money is something the Lord has placed into your care and expects you to protect.

What else? What about your space? Something I have noticed about narcissists in particular is that they will work themselves into every personal space you have. Abusive spouses often leave no private or healing space for their wives/husbands. Narcissistic bosses or co-workers will sit at your desk, call at your house, even take your lunch. Abusive neighbors will walk across your lawn, help themselves to your parking, and on and on. You get the point. Even your space is something you can and probably should protect.

How? Well, good fences make good neighbors, the old saying goes. You may need to physically limit a neighbor’s access with fences, locks, etc. If the offender at work is not your boss, you might take the issue to the boss with the suggestion that the action is a type of harassment (use that word, that’s what it is). I realize that this is much more difficult if the controller is your spouse or parent, but you may be able to find a place where he/she does not go or create a space in your mind and heart that he cannot access.

What about your time? When you start a job, ask how many hours a week they will expect of you. They will almost certainly give you a number. If you accept that and take the job, then your 100% stops at that number. When the boss says you all must give a hundred percent effort, that means forty or fifty hours according to your employment contract. You can give more than that, but it is a gift from you. Not only will you not get paid for it, you probably will not find much other benefit from it. And it will cost you.

Time is a valuable commodity today. Bosses want to control employees’ time. That’s why they have such disruptive and abusive schedules in so many retail and other jobs. That’s why anyone in management feels under constant pressure to be available and active at work. I am amazed at how many women are expected to come home from work to be a full-time mom and wife and housekeeper. Yes, that still happens.

These are just a few examples. I have a couple more for next week. The point is that you will have to actively stand against the abuse. The narcissists and abusers will take whatever they can. And they won’t care what it costs you. They may not even be actively pushing you. They have created systems at work and in the church and at home where the expectations are almost unspoken. You have to perform at higher and higher levels just to feel good about yourself. But it doesn’t work.

You have permission, even a call, to take care of yourself. That means limiting what others can take. Yes, they will whine, and argue, and fight, and complain, and manipulate. That’s what they do. You have to stand up and stand strong. Set a boundary and keep it in place. Be prepared for their challenges, but know that you are right.


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