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The Dragon

It’s Narcissist Friday!

Over the past few months, I have been connecting narcissism with a greater evil through the idea of dragons. The Scripture calls the devil the “great dragon.” Satan is the personification of evil. Doctrinally, it is important to remember that Satan is not the author of evil. Rather, he is the great narcissist, the one whose ambition and need for affirmation lead him to abuse and destroy the people of God.

There is much about the evil one that we do not understand. The source of his rage, the extent of his power, the end of his influence—these are things that are not clear to us in Scripture. Perhaps that mystery makes him even more frightening.

What we do know is that he hates the Lord and the things of the Lord. He hates us, apparently because the Lord loves us. He seeks to destroy us in some attempt to challenge and dishonor God.

And we also know that the evil that dwells in the heart of the devil looks a lot like the evil that dwells in the hearts of humans who seek only their own benefit and are willing to use others to achieve it. It is not that these people are directly connected to the devil, but that they exhibit the same characteristics. They partake of the same evil.

For example: We have talked about how narcissists are predators, seeking people they can use to build themselves up. The devil, according to the Bible, “prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” We have talked about how narcissists so joyfully become tormentors. Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked God for him “that he might sift you like wheat.” We have talked about how easily and willingly narcissists lie. Jesus called the devil “a liar and the father of lies.” We have talked about how deceptively attractive narcissists can be, especially when we first meet them. Jesus said that Satan disguises himself “as an angel of light.” I could go on with many such examples.

Evil is evil. When the heart is turned inward, it is turned against the Lord and against others. When a person (whether a regular human or some strange celestial being) begins to lift himself (or herself) up in a way that puts others down, that person is engaging in evil. The idea of evil may not be politically correct these days, and we may not like to talk about it, but we know it when it hurts us.

Of course, evil is far easier to recognize in others. But the fact that we can see it in others suggests that we have to accept its reality. There is such a thing as evil, and it hurts people. When we do evil things, we hurt others. When others do evil things, they might hurt us or people we care about. When anyone serves only themselves, evil is locked into their hearts. Genesis gives us the story of the flood, and we are told that the wickedness of humanity was great and that “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” I take that to mean that the people were blind to anything but themselves, narcissistic if you will.

In the past, I have been challenged when I refer to narcissists as evil. I understand. So, I try to limit what I say to the idea that narcissism is evil, and some people allow themselves to be defined by it. When many of us were young, we were taught to be nice and not say mean things about others. No matter what the others did to us, we were supposed to be nice. Now, after living many years, we understand that someone should have told us that evil was out there, and some people would use it to hurt us. For some, the people who taught them about life were the same people who used evil to hurt them.

Getting out of a narcissistic relationship does not mean all evil will disappear from our path. There are others who share in the same evils we have escaped. It is wise to be prepared as we walk the new path. That’s what we have been considering for the last few months.

And we must always remember that evil has limitations. It can be overcome, by good according to the Scriptures. So, do good. Love, kindness, generosity—these things overcome evil. The day will come when evil will be washed away from our hearts and from our world. The promise is that good will flow and good alone. There is hope.

That hope, as always, is in Jesus. He is the One who walks with us day by day through all our struggles. We find our peace and our hope in Him.

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

The dragon has already been defeated.

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What Does It Mean To Die To Self

It’s Monday Grace!

For years I said that the church was very good at forcing square pegs into round holes. People were asked to do jobs that they neither wanted to do nor were good at. However, church program leaders believed these jobs were important, so important that it didn’t matter who did them. Warm bodies were enough.

Now, to be honest, I do believe God calls unlikely people to certain jobs. The Scriptures are full of stories where untrained and relatively incompetent people were called to lead or serve in important positions. But that was because the One who called would enable them. His strength, wisdom, and authority would be the resources they needed for the work.

But the woman who sat in the nursery even though she was uncomfortable with children probably did little to bless the kids. Same with the man chosen to be the treasurer who couldn’t even keep his personal accounts straight. These people were expected to set aside what they knew about themselves just to make sure the church was served.

Frankly, I suspect that desire for church leadership to manipulate people is partly behind this idea of “dying to self.” I have actually heard people say that they knew they should not desire the things that make them happy, but they should seek the things that make them suffer. The more they suffered, they said, the more they knew they were in the will of God. So, doing a service they found uncomfortable or giving up an activity they enjoyed were marks of this “dying to self.”

Of course, the Bible never uses those words. There is no call in Scripture for us to “die to self.” By almost any definition of “self,” my existence would end when my self died. There would be no definition of “I” if my self were to die. While the Eastern mystical religions/philosophies might teach the absorption and loss of self into some greater consciousness, that is not the teaching of the Christian faith.

So, where did this come from? Why did people begin talking about dying to self? Well, my best guess is that it is connected to a re-definition of the “self-life” early New Covenant or grace teachers proclaimed. They contrasted the self-life with the God-life. What they meant, in words we use now, is the contrast between living by the flesh versus by the Spirit. Dying to the self-life meant to turn your back on the old way of responding to the pressures of daily life in favor of seeking the guidance and enabling of the Spirit.

But that is not dying to self as understood today by so many. The loss of the person God created as me is never expected in the Christian gospel. Instead, I am called to regain the whole person God created, to become who I truly am, in Christ. The flesh never defined me, it only became my default mode. Sin corrupted me, as it did everything else, but it never killed what God made.

Let’s be clear. We are called to die to sin. We are called to die to the Law. We are called to die to this world. And all of those happened when we came to Jesus in faith and joined Him in His death on the cross. In other words, you and I have already died. The old person we thought we were is dead. The flesh is dying. It’s influence is lessening every day. Our place in this world will die. We are new creations in Jesus. But we are still our selves.

Paul said, “I die daily,” in 1 Corinthians 15:31. That does not mean that he went through some mystical process of dying to himself. It means, if you read the context, that he faced death every day. People wanted to kill him. But he could face that because he had already died to this world, and he was ready to be with Jesus. His “dying” was not something he worked on in his life, it was a fact of his identity with Jesus.

Did you catch that? You can’t die to self. In fact, you can’t die to anything now. You have already died to sin and the law and this world. The old is gone (2 Cor 5:17) and the new has already come. You were crucified with Christ—past tense—and the life in you is His. You don’t need to go to the cross repeatedly to accomplish what He has already accomplished for you. Pick up your cross, yes, but do it to proclaim to the world that you are already dead and have new life in Jesus.

Those who are in Christ will never die again. We are alive forever because of Him. We are fully identified with Him. We can never be separated from Him.

So, be who you are! Be that person God created in Jesus. Be the way God created you to be. If God calls you to move past what you think you can do, relax and trust Him. But don’t let others manipulate you by telling you that you should die to your self and do what they want. Jesus gives the definition, the identification, to your life now.

God loves you as you are because He has made you as you are. Let sin and compromise fall away. Those things are no longer connected to you, they lie about you. The cross of Jesus took away all that was attached to sin and this world, and now you are a new person in Jesus.

Somehow, in the amazing grace of God, you and I are who we have always been, yet we are brand new creations in Jesus. I don’t fully understand how that can be, but I claim it as the gospel of Jesus Christ. More and more, we are becoming who we are.

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What’s So Good About It?

It’s Not Narcissist Friday!

Okay, let’s be honest. In the fall, as you look forward to that day when retailers drop their prices in a crazy hope that we will all flock to their stores and spend our money, do you ever slip and call that day, “Good Friday”? It’s Black Friday, of course, because retailers hope to slip out of the red and into the black (profit) column for the year. A serious percentage of income is brought to the stores that day.

Maybe it’s because I have spent so long in the church. I slip every once in a while and refer to that day as Good Friday. Maybe I think of it positively. Not as positively as I used to, I suppose. Now I try to avoid that craziness. I do still read the ads and hope for good deals.

But it’s not Good Friday.

Yet, many people seem to think of the Friday before Easter as something less than good. After all, that’s the day Jesus suffered on the cross. The pain must have been excruciating. The rejection must have broken His heart. Just seeing the pain of His mother and friends must have been terrible. And finally, after great suffering, He died. For those who watched, it was the end. The end of an amazing ministry. The end of true healing. The end of authoritative teaching. The end of wisdom and love and joy.

How could we call that day “good”?

Easter. Resurrection Day. That’s good! That’s the day of joy. That’s the day of celebration. Jesus was alive, and everyone was happy again. That was the good day.

Well, I suppose I can tie this back to narcissism after all. I suspect that the good of the Friday before Easter is something no narcissist and few legalists could understand. You see, the joy of that day was His! Jesus looked forward to that day with joy. The good of that day was in His heart.

How could Jesus view that day with joy? How could He look to it as good? He knew what He would suffer. He struggled as He thought of the pain. But He looked past the suffering to the purpose. When He saw the goal, He rejoiced.

The purpose of the cross was you! Jesus looked past the rejection and pain to see you, and you gave Him joy. Because of you, that day would be a good day always for Him.

…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2

“For the joy that was set before Him.” That was you!

When Jesus spoke of the kingdom, He saw it in you. And it gave Him joy.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
Matthew 13:44

The narcissist could never understand how anyone could suffer with joy. The legalist would have us look at the cross with shame. But Jesus wants us to know that His day of pain was a good day because it brought us to Him.

So, yes, it is Good Friday! Not a day to focus on the suffering, but on the joy in the Savior’s heart as He spent it all for you and me.

We are invited to look past His pain to see His joy.

Amazing!

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What Does It Mean: to Repent?

It’s Monday Grace!

When Bill moved into his new home, he sat down with a map and charted the best drive to work. He reasoned that this route would be both fastest and easiest. Then he drove that route for several years. There were some lights that took too long to change and both heavy traffic and reduced speeds near the school, but this was still the best drive, according to Bill.

When someone asked Bill why he didn’t use the new road, he replied that his way was just right. He had studied it and chosen it and accepted it as best. He didn’t need the new road.

But one day, Bill tried the new road. To his surprise, it was faster and easier. No more school zone. No more slow lights. He shaved several minutes and a couple miles off his twice-daily drive. It wasn’t long before Bill started telling others about the new road.

Now, that’s an illustration of repentance. To repent means to change your mind, your thinking.

Repentance might happen in a moment. A sudden realization that your path was the wrong one and both the desire and will to use a better path. You may have had your own “Damascus Road” experience, where you were “hit upside the head” with the truth.

Repentance can happen over time. A slow dawning of the truth that you have heard over and over, accepting finally that your resistance has been a mistake. Maybe you were raised in a Christian home or environment and eventually embraced the faith others proclaimed as your own.

Repentance is personal. It involves your own thinking and choosing. It cannot be forced or demanded. It can’t come from the outside. The old saying is: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.” No one can make you repent.

But let me share what repentance is not. It is not an abrupt change from sinning to doing only right. It is not sinlessness in thought or action. It is not a simple change of behavior.

Yes, someone might experience a sudden release from a bad habit or a sinful desire. I have known people who suddenly stopped smoking or cursing. Some have given up adulteries or theft or lies. Those things might happen. But the abrupt ceasing of all sin should not be expected, even if it is desired.

Nor is repentance the sudden addition of actions or attitudes that some consider positive. Again, I have known people who started going to church when they hadn’t been in church for a long time. Some have chosen to embrace gratitude rather than complaining. Those are not bad things, but they are not the definition of repentance. Repentance is a new way of thinking, something in the heart.

In other words, repentance is so much more than just a change of lifestyle. All kinds of choices can initiate lifestyle changes. Repentance is the realization of the failure of the old way and an embrace of something new.

And repentance takes faith. Faith needs an object. When we stop what we have been doing to see that Jesus offers something better, when we push away the old way and reach out to Him for life and peace and everything we need, that’s repentance.

So, there are those who make changes in their lives without repenting. There are also those who repent and still struggle with sin. The difference is not behavior. The difference is mindset. As long as my mind is set on what I can accomplish, even if I move from bad things to good things, I have not repented. But if my mind is set on Jesus as my hope, even if my behavior still seems to need a lot of change, I have repented.

No matter what the preacher shouts from the pulpit or the gospel tract shares in the story, repentance is not about you fixing yourself. No matter how hard you try and how successful you are, it will not be the answer you need.

We are called to follow Jesus. Not to fix ourselves. Just to follow Jesus. A new path. A new way of thinking. And a new life. All from Him.

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The Lone Warrior

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You have knowledge. You have weapons. You certainly have experience. Now you can fight the dragon. The weak spot in your life, at least since you met the dragon, has been trusting other people. Just when you think they will fight for you, they run off to hide or betray you to the dragon. So, you don’t need them. You will stand alone.

As I have said before, one of the primary losses to come out of narcissistic relationships is trust. When you have been betrayed and used, trusting people is hard. This is especially true when you didn’t see it coming. When the narcissist was your friend, or family member, or lover.

King David felt this betrayal and put it in words we all understand:

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.
Psalm 41:9

The pain is deep because it contains a certain self-incrimination. You feel like you should have known the truth. You should have been smarter. You should have read the clues.

Combining the anger, the insecurity, and the inability to trust yourself can lead to an isolation that pushes everyone else away. We tell ourselves that we don’t need others. We can’t trust them anyway. Friends and family have hurt us, so we have to go forward alone.

You come home at night to an empty house. You don’t answer the phone or your emails. Your living room and bed are enough. Even the television is filled with deceit. A good book is your best friend. You convince yourself that being alone is safe.

So, you become the Lone Warrior. You speak up against evil, stand against abuse, but never allow yourself to connect with the people you try to support. You never let them see the real you, the one that hurts and struggles. And, as you ride away after helping, they look at each other and ask, “Who was that masked person?”

This also is normal. You might not crawl into a cave, but you built a cave around yourself. You have been beat up, betrayed, and manipulated. Not again. It hurts too much. Your feelings and your response are normal.

But there are dangers here. The Lone Warrior is vulnerable. Partly because you are not as strong as you think. Partly because you are not as wise as you think. The dragon’s whispers still bounce around inside your head. The fear is still there.

Anger gives us strength. I have written about that before. It is designed to enable us to push beyond our limitations. But the strength that anger provides comes from within us. In other words, the energy is taken from other places in our lives. The extra power or strength we get from anger is stolen from our compassion, our wisdom, and our morality. The thing that enables us to move past our boundaries also enables us to ignore the pain we cause others and the cost to our own integrity and future.

You know what I mean. How many times have you said something or done something in anger that hurt someone more than you intended or burned a bridge you didn’t want to burn. You punched the wall in your anger, doing more damage to it than you thought possible, but you hurt your hand and now you have a hole in your wall. Anger steals energy from a better you.

This may be hard to read: In the process of avoiding the dragon by pushing everyone else away, don’t become the dragon for someone else. The narcissist hurts others because he/she will not accept the responsibilities that come with real relationships. Better to think of other people as objects, not persons with feelings and value. If your isolation comes at that price, it isn’t worth it.

We were not made to live in isolation. Yes, it may be necessary for a time of healing. But it can never be a goal. We are healthiest when we live in healthy relationships. And, of course, that’s the rub. How can you have healthy relationships where people never hurt you? After a few betrayals, it becomes easy to believe that there are no reliably healthy relationships.

I wish I had some easy formula to offer that would protect you from other people and let you find good and supportive friends. The answer, I think, is first to look to the Lord who loves you. Trust Him first. Then ask Him to bring the right people into your life.

We are not talking about intimate relationships. Just a kind person who cares. It may be someone you already know, someone you have pushed away. It is probably someone of your gender. It might be someone whose story is similar to yours. Or it might be someone who has a very different story filled with very different pain. You might discover that you can help each other out of what you each have left.

The point is that you should resist the Lone Warrior role. Yes, you can do it, at least for a while. No one doubts your strength, no one who matters. You are capable. You can take care of yourself. But, as soon as you are able, open your heart just a little to someone who is kind.

Now, I have to say this: be careful. You already know there are users and abusers out there. You are free to step back when you start to see the red flags. You are free to disagree, to say no, to set boundaries. In fact, you should do that with everyone. Just don’t let your caution be the only influence.

Try some new things. Go to new places. Push yourself to stretch your comfort zones. Still be careful. If you have someone to talk things over with, someone truly supportive, listen to their wisdom. Pray, then step out in your faith.

Know that you are not alone. There are others all around you. Hurting people, survivors, are everywhere. And they are waking up. They are shining the light on abuse and manipulation. The narcissistic vermin are being exposed. The truth is increasingly revealed.

There are those who walk the path you are on. They may not have experienced your pain, but they do understand pain. And they need a friend. Just like you need a friend.

Look to Jesus, who loves you consistently and fully, and begin to open your heart to others. You are not alone.

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What Does It Mean: That I Have Sinned?

It’s Monday Grace!

Someone pointed out years ago that the word “sin” means to “miss the mark.” I have heard teachers use that concept and use archery as the illustration. They said that sinning is like missing the bullseye on the target.

Well, there are several things wrong with that, such as equating mistakes with sin, but the primary failure of the illustration is the idea that sin happens at the completion of an action. In other words, it is only sin when you actually do the thing. Jesus challenged that in Matthew 5, using the illustration of lust. He said that it isn’t just lust when a man commits an act of abuse or infidelity, but it is lust when the idea is conceived in his heart.

When does the archer miss the mark or bullseye? At what point does the miss occur? The arrow flies according to the course set for it in the beginning. The error happens when the archer releases the arrow. If he is lined up correctly, taking into consideration the various conditions, the arrow will hit the mark. If that is not the case—before the arrow is released—the arrow will miss the mark.

In the same way, sin was a part of our lives before we did anything. The error came from who and what we were. A wise teacher asked me several years ago if I sinned because I was a sinner or if I was a sinner because I sinned. It’s a good question! The answer is that I sinned because I was a sinner. I was a sinner before I sinned. The brokenness was in me before I ever gave evidence to its reality.

When I say that I have sinned, I mean that I lived according to my nature, my identity. I lived out of my flesh, the way I learned to cope apart from Jesus. Now, because of Jesus, my identity is new and His life is in me. My old nature is gone, but my memory remains. My flesh continues as long as I am in this world, and too often I draw from that memory or pattern of living as I make decisions today. I sin, but I am no longer identified as a sinner. Jesus has recreated me!

Saying that I have sinned is a confession that I have lived apart from the Lord, and I have acted out of my identity apart from Him. Before I knew Jesus, my sin was my way of trying to satisfy the desires of a broken person. I hurt others and disobeyed God because I was more concerned about myself. Every sin in my life was a testimony that I needed Jesus.

Now that I know Jesus, and He has saved me, my sin is still a reminder. It reminds me that I have been recreated and am no longer what I was. It is evidence that the old way still influences me through my memory and life patterns. But it is not evidence of my identity. In fact, sin today is contrary to my identity. That’s why I feel my sin so much more, why it grieves me.

So, yes, we still sin insofar as we still do the things that the Lord warned us about. Our flesh still looks to the old ways as we make decisions. It is important for each of us to look to the Spirit for guidance, rather than to our flesh. It is possible for us to choose a different course, a different action.

And the trajectory of my life and yours is no longer what it was apart from Jesus. The newness of life in us, our identification with Him, means that we will hit exactly the mark He has set for us. Sin no longer defines us, no longer determines our future. Things have changed because of Jesus.

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Dragon Obsession

It’s Narcissist Friday!

After your battle with the dragon, you still feel the pain. The tiny tips of the dragon’s claws are like the sharpest needles, and some of them broke off under your skin. Now their poison continues to bring pain and weakness. But it also draws you to the dragon. It’s like there is a link between you that you cannot sever.

It still hurts. It still hurts a lot. What the narcissist did was so wrong. None of it makes sense. So, you have studied narcissism, and you have watched. You want to know everything about your abuser. Some of it is so that you can avoid him in the future. Some of it is a desire for revenge. Some is the strange fascination that comes with an incomplete story.

When the narcissist hurts people, it so often doesn’t make any sense. There are feelings of confusion and loss tied up with the anger and pain. You have so many unanswered questions, questions that threaten your identity and peace. Was there something wrong with you? What really happened? Was it never real? The friendship, the love, the fun—was it all a lie? If so, why? What was the purpose, and why would someone do that? Betrayal does more than cause pain. It undermines our confidence.

And there’s something else we need to admit. The things that tied you to the narcissist in the first place, the charm and attraction, are hard to replace. Narcissists often radiate an exotic presence that makes others seem tame, almost boring, in comparison. Most narcissists are charismatic and desirable. They have a certain magnetism that others lack. The feelings you had with the narcissist, when things were “good,” are hard to imagine with anyone else.

So, you may be drawn back to the abuser. You want to know what he’s doing. You might say that you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, but that doesn’t really explain why you visit his Facebook page or talk with his friends. Nor does it explain why you are so angry that he/she has moved on.

I have heard stories of victims who stalk their narcissists. A grim obsession holds them so they scour social media for mentions of the one who hurt them. They want to know who he is with, what job she has, and where he lives. Some have found themselves driving by her house or his job, perhaps hoping to catch a glimpse. They might try to move on, but end up comparing other potential friends or heart connections against the narcissist.

It’s anger and fascination and pain wrapped into one. The relationship, the drama, is unresolved. No justice has wrapped things up. No last word or final act has brought closure. The raw wound still hurts.

And some of the memories are so good. Victims hate to admit it even to themselves, but the narcissist was exciting and stimulating. Maybe that was thirty years ago, but nothing has come along to replace those feelings.

It is not unusual to find yourself almost obsessed with your narcissist. The hooks narcissists use to insert themselves into our lives connect with sensitive areas. The sensations of pain and pleasure are not often far apart. The narcissist made it seem like he/she wanted to and was able to meet the needs of your heart.

So, here’s my advice:

Throw some cold water on your face and understand what is happening.

This is part of the narcissistic relationship, this connection that makes your heart feel like a yo-yo. No one should be surprised by this when they have learned about narcissism. Nor should it continue. It is not good for you.

Listen: the narcissist knows those hooks are still there. He would love to know that you visit his Facebook page to check on his relationships. He probably already does know that you have asked his friends about him. She may well have seen your car drive by her house. And she/he loves the idea that you are still connected.

When the narcissist makes arrangements to see you again, he expects that something in you will welcome him. She believes that you need her. The plan was to tie your identity, your sense of self, into the narcissist so that you will never challenge, never abandon, never fight back. You are supposed to want the narcissist for the rest of your life.

So, volunteer to be your friend’s “ice bucket” victim. Shock yourself back to reality. If you want to leave the narcissist behind, do it. Don’t stalk him. Don’t visit her Facebook or Instagram or whatever. Walk away and stay away.

Fill your life with something else. Just like any addiction, the thrills provided will be hard to find anywhere else. But life is more than thrills and excitement and stimulation. There is also happiness and love, which will bring fulfillment never found in the addiction. There is a good life after the addiction.

Talk with Jesus. Ask Him to fill the emptiness that pulls you back to the one who hurt you. Ask Him to fill you with His love. Ask Him to remove the hooks, the needles that got under your skin. Ask Him to help you move on.

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What Does It Mean: to Need a Savior?

It’s Monday Grace!

I used to take a blank white piece of paper and write a small black dot in the middle. Nothing else was on the page but the black dot. Then I would hold it up and ask people what they saw. Invariably, people would say they saw a black dot. Over 99.9 percent of the paper was clean and white, but everyone identified the dot as what they were looking at. We were taught to focus on the thing that seems out of place.

When the teacher handed back your homework, you looked immediately to see what you got wrong. You might have been pleased with your grade, but you saw the mistakes. Usually, they were marked with bold red pen. A large check mark showed you which line or problem you got wrong. Almost all the attention was given to what was wrong.

Now, I may not like that inordinate focus on things that are wrong or out of place, but I suspect this is far more than just a style of teaching. I think it is something deep within us. We are aware of our inadequacies. We know that things are not right in the world. We also know that these things are a threat to us.

Years ago, I had a discussion with an older pastor from a nearby church. I commented on some folks who had left my church after doing serious damage to the body. I suggested that they were like a cancer. Their brokenness seemed to cause brokenness in others. Then I said that they were now attending a large church where they might not be able to cause so much damage. He responded, “So, you think a little cancer is okay in a man as long as he is a big man?”

He certainly had a point. A few cancer cells are a threat to the body. Normal cells take care of themselves, but cancer cells affect healthy cells and create more cancer cells. Once they are present, life in the body changes.

When God created humanity, He created them to be perfect. No sickness or disease. No brokenness or sin. But when sin entered humanity, everything changed. That sin infected healthy hearts and minds and souls. In fact, the Bible suggests that all of creation was affected by sin. Not just humans, but everything. The compromise, the impurity, the stain affected everything.

And we know that something is wrong. Things are not as they should be. Not in the world and not in humanity. Not in everyone and not in me. There is a flaw, a cancer, that threatens and ruins us. The brokenness is not just in us, but in the things we do and think. We are drawn to sin, and all that comes out of us is tainted by sin.

A little leaven leavens the whole lump. (Galatians 5:9) A little cancer threatens the whole body. A little sin grows to infect everything in our world.

And there is nothing we can do about it. Since we are infected, everything we do is infected. No matter how kind or how sacrificial or how obedient we try to be, it will never be enough because of the impurity in us. We need change from the outside, from Someone not infected.

The “fix” is not in us. We are aware of the problem, but the solution is not in us. We can try all kinds of things, but nothing will be enough. Not when we bring the problem into every solution.

So, we need a Savior. We need help. This world needs help. Everyone around us needs help. And the Bible makes it very clear that all of this is true and the answer is found in Jesus.

Yes, we can live in denial. We can pretend that we have it all together. We can present to the world a happy and successful face. But we still know that something is wrong. And, interestingly, those who can’t admit that something is wrong, who believe themselves to be just right, are usually thought of as arrogant or deceived. Not only do we know something is wrong with us, we know something is wrong with them.

When Jesus offers to be our Savior, He doesn’t just offer to fix things. He offers to “make all things new.” To recreate us, give us new life and new identity. Then He promises that He will one day recreate our whole world. He will make everything new. A new world and a new life. No more pain, no more sin, no more cancer.

When we admit that we need a Savior, we open ourselves to the change Jesus offers. When we look to Him and ask Him, He will make things new in our lives. The old, as the Scriptures say, will pass away. Things will be right again.

We need a Savior.

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Listening to Dragons

It’s Narcissist Friday!

In the middle of the night, you hear the dragon’s voice. Taunting, tempting, scolding, he speaks into your head. You are nothing without him, he says. If you return to him, you will be happy, he says. It was all your fault, he says. It’s easier in the daytime, but the voice is still there, still trying to guide you and manipulate you.

The old joke asks, “How do you know when a politician is lying?” Answer: “His mouth is moving.”

How do you know when a narcissist is lying? Well, the answer isn’t as easy. You want some of the things your narcissist said to be true. In the beginning, at least, the narcissist said kind things, affirming things. You believed him then, and it hurts too much to think it was all a lie.

Yes, narcissists lie. A lot. It comes easy for them. But not everything they say is a lie.

But how do you know the difference? That’s the rub. You can’t just reject something because you don’t like it. Especially if it is about you. You were taught to accept criticism. You grew up knowing that you weren’t perfect. You learned to apologize because you did wrong things. So, you just can’t reject the narcissist’s words without thinking them through. A lot.

In fact, you are more likely to believe the criticism than to accept the compliment. When the narcissist said nice things, it felt good, but you had to let yourself accept them. Again, you were taught to think less of yourself. If someone said you looked nice, you were supposed to find a way to push the compliment away.

So, the things you wanted to be true were hard to accept. The things you didn’t want to be true were easy to accept. And the narcissist used both against you.

And you still hear the words. You hear whispers from the past, from your parents and your narcissist. You hear them from others in your life. But all of them are from the dragon.

You see, the narcissist tapped into the insecurities and needs you already had. He/she knew what to say and how to say it to manipulate you. It wasn’t so much about lying as about control.

Two things. First, you may not always be able to discern the narcissist’s lies, but you can know that everything the narcissist says is for his or her own purpose. In other words, you know the narcissist is serving himself when his mouth is moving. Since narcissists have no inclination toward the truth and no hesitation to use a lie, you never know which they are using. But you always know it is about them.

Second, since you cannot trust the words that were spoken into your heart through the years, you have to grasp the truth that comes from the One who loves you. Sadly, one of the things most victims of narcissism experience is a loss of trust. It’s hard to trust people when you have been abused. So, trust the Lord. His love has never wavered.

In the sight of Jesus, you are special. You are beautiful and desired. The love He has for you has been from the beginning. No matter what you have done—mistakes, sins, stupid decisions—He has loved you. Fully knowing all the truth about you, He loves you.

So, when the dragon’s lies whisper in your ear, remember that you can’t trust his words. He serves only himself. He loves only himself. Whether his words came through your parents, your spouse, your friends, your boss, or whoever, they are still the dragon’s words. But shrug them off. Tell yourself that you will only listen to the One who loves you, the One who went to the cross for you. The One who accepts you.

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What does it mean?

It’s Monday Grace!

Years ago our church brought in a consultant to help us evaluate our traditions and practices so we could grow. In general, it was a time-consuming, but worthless, exercise. We learned a few things, but not much to help.

One thing I remember was a private talk I had with the consultant. He said that I was a good preacher, but I would never be a great preacher because I spoke too plainly. In other words, my words were too simple and the concepts too easily understood. Apparently, to be a great preacher, one has to speak far enough above the crowd that the people explain their confusion by assuming that the preacher has a higher intellect.

I know preachers like that. I have read books and articles by so-called theologians and teachers that require a person to keep a dictionary open. Instead of using simple words and concepts, these teachers bring in the jargon and details so that their readers will be impressed by their superiority.

One man I will not name has a reputation for being very smart and using big words to prove it. Yet, when I have asked his admirers to explain what he was saying, they can’t. They have no idea what he is trying to communicate, but they explain that it’s because he is so much smarter than they are.

No. If you can’t communicate in a way that allows your reader or listener to understand, you are not a good communicator. If people walk away impressed by what you said but unable to explain it to others, you have not done your job. Yes, there is a risk of appearing simple when you take big concepts and share them in a way others can easily grasp, but the job of the communicator is not to impress. The job of the communicator is to communicate.

I have to be aware of how easy it is to slip into Christian jargon even when trying to share the good news of God’s grace. It might sound spiritual to use certain words or phrases. It might even be so normal that you don’t realize what you are doing. But it doesn’t necessarily communicate.

For example, if you ask the person on the street if he/she is “saved,” you may not be connecting with anything in their hearts or minds. Saved from what? As Christianity increasingly is pushed further back in our culture, our words will have to come from outside the limited Christian community. If we want to communicate, that is. If we just want to sound spiritual or elite, then jargon is a good way to do it.

With that in mind, I want to address certain phrases and concepts I use. I know that most of those who read this blog are believers with church backgrounds. I also know that those backgrounds differ. Even within the church community, we might not mean the same thing when we use certain words and phrases.

I am also aware that some concepts are hard to understand. So, as I go through these, I may or may not accomplish my purpose of communicating what I believe to be truth. I invite readers to ask questions along the way. Don’t try to fix what I say, but you are welcome to disagree and tell me why. My purpose is to reduce confusion, not increase it.

And, if you have a concept commonly taught in your church or community that has puzzled you, please feel free to send it along to me. I’ll try to answer it with a post. Be patient, because I can’t answer them all at once. Some I might not be able to answer at all, but I will either try or just tell you that I don’t know the answer. You can contact me through email at: dave@gracefortheheart.org or leave a comment. I might answer your comment in the comment section. Please be patient.

I have a list of concepts that need some explanation, in my opinion. I am quite willing to interrupt my schedule for your question. One a week will be enough to give us a basic understanding and words of encouragement. And, encouragement is the most important part of this. I believe that the truth of the gospel is a wonderful blessing for all of us.

I would appreciate your prayers as I do this. I am not thinking of it as a theology class or as a presentation of my doctrine. Instead, I just want to take familiar statements and make them plain. Since these will all be concepts that pertain to grace, Monday Grace will be the perfect place to work through them.

Walk with me as we consider the things of life under grace.

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Many of the concepts we will be considering are covered indirectly in this devotional book. 30 days of encouraging articles to present and support the message of God’s grace to you and me. A link should be tied to the picture, otherwise you can find it under my name on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Walk-Me-Devotional-David-Orrison/dp/1973500639/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1613758195&sr=8-1

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