Tag Archives: Christian life

What about Divorce? – a resource

It’s Narcissist Friday!   

 

Every pastor has to deal with divorce and remarriage. It comes with the job. Some simply adopt the position of their church. Some try not to think about it too much. Many, like me, struggle with the issue almost every time it confronts us.

Beginning my ministry in the mainline church, where divorce was widespread and no longer a real issue, I did my share of second and third weddings. Yet, as I counseled people in the midst of their marriage struggles, I found that the ready acceptance and easy access to divorce weakened their commitment and they usually didn’t want to try to work things out in their marriages. Too often, by the time they saw me, another person was already in the picture and decisions were already made. Divorce was the way to legitimize a new and more exciting relationship.

Many of the pastors I have known truly struggled with this. I knew one man who left the ministry to become an attorney because he would be able to counsel conflicted couples earlier. We saw the pain divorce caused, but we also saw the pain people suffered within the marriage. We took marriage counseling classes, developed pre-marital counseling, and taught on the stresses and expectations of marriage—all to help people avoid the problem of divorce.

You see, one of the problems that we faced was that the Scriptures were just not as firm as some would have us believe. While we wanted to hold marriage as holy and permanent, we found “loopholes” and examples of divorce in the Scriptures. We saw, in Malachi, where God said that He hated divorce; but we also saw where He told His people to send away their foreign wives and that divorce was permitted in the case of adultery.

As I left the mainline church to enter the evangelical culture, things were not better. On one hand the answer was simpler, I suppose. Divorce was not allowed except for certain situations (ones with approved “grounds”) and sometimes not even in those situations. On the other hand, the Scripture still didn’t exactly say what the more conservative culture said. And people trapped in certain marriages because of the prohibition against divorce sometimes suffered greatly.

So, over the years, I came to the position that this was something I didn’t fully understand. My part was to teach what I could understand. I believe that marriage is a gift from the Lord and should be treated as something very special, something worth fighting for. I know many couples who have worked through very difficult circumstances and events and have restored their love and their families. In other words, I believe we are right to hold marriage in high regard and to warn people about the distractions and compromises that could destroy it.

At the same time, I could not hold people in marriages where they suffered. I would often say that I believe God wants people to stay married and I believe that marriage should be happy and good. When marriage was not good, when there was abuse or adultery, then I would tell people to seek the Lord. He would lead them if they went to Him with open hearts. I didn’t front-load their prayers with the “right answer.” I just helped them seek and follow the Lord. And several of them divorced.

I came to the place where I disconnected divorce from sin, not because I no longer thought it was sin, but because sin is also part of the struggle in marriage. Sin is the cause of our suffering. If divorce is sin, then it is only the end result of a long process of sin. And if God hates divorce, we should also be aware that God hates many things—all sin, in fact—because sin hurts the people He loves. Divorce is just one more broken thing in a broken world.

Do we uphold the sanctity of marriage when we force someone to remain in an abusive situation? Do we bless our culture and our children when we promote a façade of love and companionship in the church while hatred rules at home? I don’t think so. So I no longer counsel people to stay married; nor do I counsel anyone to get a divorce. They have to take that to the Lord and listen to His heart.

But even there we find a problem. How do they listen to Him? Most have been taught that they should go to Scripture. Then they are told what the Scripture says. So most Christians think that listening to the Lord is listening to the traditional perspective of the church, especially in the conservative church. Then they are burdened with the admonitions and guilt surrounding divorce. Have they really heard the Lord’s voice?

And what if the Scripture doesn’t say what the evangelical culture says? The mainline churches, in my experience, have simply stopped looking to the Scriptures. Yet, the evangelical culture has stopped as well, simply because the Scripture is so often viewed as a collection of proof-texts which support the ideas of the culture. We read Scripture through the grid of what we have been taught and try not to think about the nagging questions and inconsistencies when we see differences between our cultural interpretations and what the Bible actually says.

Then along comes Barbara Roberts and her book, “Not Under Bondage.” I can honestly say that I have never read a more careful or scholarly book on this subject. I have read many books written to teach the “party line,” but few actually look at each Scripture passage in the context of culture, grammar, and principles of interpretation. With pedantic logic and critical thinking, Roberts shows that the Scripture does teach a very high regard for marriage and a practical perspective on the effect of sin in the marriage relationship. This book has been needed for a long time.

Yes, Roberts has a personal background of divorce and a perspective which opens her to question the conservative positions. That certainly does not disqualify her writing, no more than the perspective of others who write to support their position. She holds marriage very high and never tells people what they ought to do. Her job is simply to examine the passages that are used to teach about divorce. In fact, I would love to read a conservative rebuttal to Roberts’ book. It would be interesting to see how the “indissolublists” would counter her Scriptural arguments.

Personally, I was impressed. I agree with the way Roberts views Scripture and find it very consistent with the way Jesus viewed the writings of the Old Testament. For example, she teaches that the general rule does not negate the specific exception when the rule is stated by itself. In other words, when Jesus says in Matthew that adultery is a possible reason to divorce and then omits that exception in Luke, the exception does not disappear. This is very consistent with the way we should see Scripture. We are told not to kill in the commandments, yet the people of Israel were sent to war and used capital punishment. There are exceptions to the general rules.

She also rightly extrapolates from one teaching to another, as Jesus did. In spite of the idea that Scripture does not overtly address physical or emotional abuse in marriage, Roberts claims that the principles taught about marriage do include these things. If the Scripture says that a man must not beat his animals, can we not rightly assume that he should not beat his children or his wife? If a man is to love his wife, does that not mean he is not to torture her emotionally? And, if he does these things, has he not broken the marriage covenant? Jesus said that a man who looks on a woman with lust has committed adultery with her. When a man looks on his wife with hatred and acts on this hatred through his abuse, has he not abandoned the marriage relationship? This extrapolation is not only reasonable, but instructive.

Obviously, we have to be careful. Most of us in the evangelical tradition have been taught that you can twist Scripture to say almost anything (then we sometimes proceed to do just that!) I would submit that Roberts has not done that. There may be some jumps of logic that feel uncomfortable and you will want to look at them carefully, but I think you will be surprised at how often you agree with her assessments. I would not pretend that I agree with everything Roberts writes, but I also would not hesitate to recommend it to others.

Two things struck me as particularly powerful in this book. First, the revealing of the cultural challenges brought by the Pharisees to Jesus, and how those challenges led to what Jesus taught on divorce. Do you know the difference between the schools of Hillel and Shammai and the importance of the phrase, “for any reason”? Yes, it matters—and it explains why Jesus said what He said.

Also, the section on the statement “God hates divorce,” which people pull out of Malachi, is worth the price of the book. Roberts’ teaching on the difference between disciplinary and treacherous divorce and how it ties into this passage is important.

The bottom line is that the traditional evangelical teaching that all divorce is wrong unless there has been intimacy with someone outside the marriage simply does not stand up to careful Scriptural interpretation. There are other reasons marriages can end without damaging the status of marriage among believers. And those evangelical churches that have chosen to look the other way, to accept divorce as long as the divorced person feels appropriately guilty, have helped no one. No, the decision to divorce is intensely personal and the one who struggles should be directed to the Lord—with the understanding that there are things other than adultery that signal the death and dissolution of the marriage covenant.

This is one of my longest posts and I need to summarize. If you are struggling with the guilt of divorce—if you are wondering what you ought to do in an abusive marriage—if you are counseling or teaching on the subject of divorce among believers—you should read this book. It is not an easy read, but it will pull you forward. I have only touched on what I thought were key points for me. I think your eyes will be opened to many things; and you may see the Scripture’s perspective on divorce more consistently.

Here’s a link to Roberts’ website and a link to the book on Amazon:

http://www.notunderbondage.com/

notunderbondage

http://www.amazon.com/Not-Under-Bondage-Biblical-Desertion/dp/0980355346

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Imprecatory Prayer

It’s Narcissist Friday! 

 

Imprecatory prayers. When you read them in the Psalms they seem almost shocking. After all, aren’t believers supposed to be nice? To call down judgment and punishment on those who cause our suffering just doesn’t seem consistent with “love your enemy,” does it? Christians should just “turn the other cheek” and suffer in silence, right?

Recently a commenter asked about imprecatory prayer (thanks Kathy!) and whether it is appropriate for those who suffer at the hands of someone who is cruel. I am going to say that it is.

Interestingly, “to imprecate” simply means to pray. It seems to have a particular sense of verbalization, to say out loud or to write the things we feel. So the prayer is purposeful, intentional, and not just a thought. It gathered a negative meaning along the way and is used today in the sense of “to curse,” or to call down punishment. When we pray about the pain we suffer, we may want the cause of that pain—even if it is a person close to us—to be broken so that he/she will stop.

Three thoughts come to my mind. First, in the midst of pain and suffering imprecatory prayer is normal. That is not a moral judgment. You just want the abuse to stop and it is normal to lash out against the one who hurts you. Just as it is normal to want to hit back or want justice, it is normal to take those feelings to God. In fact, those feelings should be taken to God. That’s what David did throughout the Psalms. God was the source of David’s hope, the One who helped in times of trouble. So taking those feelings to the Lord and letting Him work in your heart is the right thing to do. If your words come out stronger and with more venom than you would normally speak, God understands.

Second, look at the things Jesus said about the Pharisees and religious leaders of His day. He wasn’t particularly nice, was He? No, He spoke truth about them and their ideas. Many of us were taught that, if we can’t say something nice, we shouldn’t say anything. That is neither taught nor modeled in the Bible. We are to speak the truth with love. When Jesus spoke the truth about the Pharisees or Paul spoke the truth about the Judaizers, the words were not very nice. How do you nicely say that someone is lying or is being abusive? There may not be a nice way to speak up against the false teaching of a leader. But it is often very important that the truth be told—nice or not.

So to go to God in prayer and speak truthfully about the abuse and the abuser might seem like you are being judgmental or condemning. To ask God to stop the abuse might mean to ask Him to stop the abuser. It might take something serious to stop the abuser. That’s up to God.

I know that people get uncomfortable when they read things like David asking the Lord to “break the arm of the wicked and evil man,” in Psalm 10:15. But understand that David doesn’t really care whether God breaks the person’s arm. The point is that God would stop the power of the evil man from doing damage, that God would take away his strength. And when you pray that God would take away the strength of the abuser, be aware that God might break his arm. It’s up to God to choose the method.

Third, remember that under grace we know that even the discipline of the Lord is for the person’s good. Yes, we are to love our enemies. Sometimes that might mean that we ask God to break them so they will call out to Him and open their hearts to Him. I would not ask God to send anyone to hell, but I would ask Him to get their attention so that they can see what they are doing. I might have suggestions as to how God could do that, but I would always yield the methods to Him. I might even be motivated by my pain, but under the pain is always love for those He loves.

Brokenness is a painful process. Some people have to lose almost everything before they will see that the Lord is the One they need. Is it cruel for me to ask Him to break them, to destroy their power, or to humble them? Not if my hope is for their salvation or for the protection of their victims.

Vengeance does belong to the Lord—and He chooses to love. Anyone who comes to Him will find forgiveness and acceptance, even your abuser. In Christ, we understand and accept this. We even rejoice in it. But there is nothing wrong with praying for the abuse to stop, even if it hurts the abuser in the process.

One more thing. When you read something from the Beatitudes, like Matthew 5:44 (“love your enemies”), remember the context. Jesus is speaking to the Jews under the law. He is saying, “The will of God for you is this. To live perfectly in His will, you should be doing this.” But Jesus is fully aware of His purpose. He knows that we cannot live perfectly in the will of God. He knows we need a Savior. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is calling the Jews away from the compromises of their lives and to Himself as their Savior. He is not leaving them with impossible commands. He’s telling them He understands.

God understands your feelings. He accepts your anger and frustration. When you cry out to Him in pain, He still hears you and loves you. If you say things that seem too strong, that accuse and condemn, you are not judged. You may have noticed that He doesn’t do the terrible things you might wish He would do. He will do what is right and in the right time.

Someday the abuser will stand before God and suffer the condemnation he has deserved and chosen . . . or he will stand forgiven in relationship with Jesus. Both justice and mercy are under grace. And you will be safe forever in the hands of the Lord who loves you.

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“A Cry for Justice” – a resource

It’s Narcissist Friday!  

 

Perhaps one of the most grievous sins committed against the people of God comes in the suggestion that God should be found in the church. What I mean is that He should be found only or primarily in the church organization. So, when a victim of abuse needs to run to the “strong tower” of protection, she is led to the pastor or the elders or the church family. It may be the one place of safety, she thinks. They will believe her story, she thinks. They will help, she thinks. But the church is not that strong tower.

I have come to understand that a certain percentage of my love for books is actually a love for book titles. This one that I found a few days ago has become one of my favorites: “We’ll be the Last Ones to Let You Down: Memoir of a Gravedigger’s Daughter” by Rachel Hanel. I know little about the book, but I love the title. There is a certain perverse irony in it.

The church often proclaims the message that it is a safe place for those who are hurting. We advertise the love and community, the acceptance and support. We want people to come to the church to find freedom and peace and love. And they should. If the church cannot provide the support the victim needs, if we cannot feed the hungry or heal the wounded, then what good are we?

Listen: if the church is unable to see the hurting from the perspective of Jesus, who loves them without judgment and condemnation, then it cannot be a place of refuge. Apart from the person of Christ, the church offers only a system of rules or standards or ideas, nothing to heal the heart of the oppressed. Jesus is the strong tower to which the abused can run to find comfort and support. If the church offers anything other than the love of Jesus, it fails.

Yet, those of us who read and listen to the stories of the abused hear over and over of the failure of the church. Victims come to pastors and elders and church families and receive judgment, blame, and neglect. If the leaders listen at all, they counsel without wisdom and without love. The victim so often returns to the same abuse, only now even more alone and weighted with shame.

That’s why I would pray that every pastor and church leader read Jeff Crippen’s book, “A Cry for Justice.” When I first started reading it, I found myself thinking that this is the book I wanted to write. Anyone who reads it should come away with a greater understanding of abuse and the church’s responsibility to help the victims. At the same time, you will come away with a sadness as you realize that the one place where the hurting should find help is often a source of more abuse.

“We’ll be the last ones to let you down.” That’s what the new church member hears. The church will be there in times of need. The church cares about you and your family. The church wants to help. But Jeff Crippen has learned, like many of us, that the church often offers its help wrapped in a message of: “It’s your own fault,” or “seven easy steps to restore your marriage,” or “don’t bother us with these personal things.”

Crippen writes about abuse in general, but says much that those who deal with narcissistic relationships will appreciate. In fact, without using the word, he describes narcissistic abuse very well. He covers many of the behaviors that we have talked about in this blog.

I especially appreciated the depth and breadth of Scripture used throughout the book. Like me, Jeff does not believe that Scripture addresses every life situation directly, but that we must reason from the foundation of Scripture to deal with our daily decisions. At the same time, you will be impressed with the careful and consistent use of Scripture throughout the book and the deep regard with which the author views the Bible.

The last half of the book got me even more excited. This is where Crippen directly confronts the church and its leadership. This is where he offers concrete suggestions for churches in providing real help for the hurting. This is what pastors should not ignore.

I know pastors. I know that they are often focused on things very far from hurting people. They are worried about church systems and church conflicts. They are concerned about reaching new people and keeping the ministry growing. They are concerned about what to say about their ministry at the next denominational meeting. These are not trivial things, but they do miss the point. Behind the scenes, the pastors cringe when they see Mrs. So-and-so in the outside office because they know they have little to offer her. They don’t have the time or the wisdom to handle such difficult problems. This is why I have counseled so many not to expect much from the church.

But Jeff Crippen would try to change that. He wants to educate pastors and church leaders. He wants to challenge their trite and formulaic answers. He wants to make them look at the victims of abuse and care. His advice is practical and potent.

With the support of and connection to Barbara Roberts, author of “Not Under Bondage,” Crippen offers an excellent perspective on the subject of divorce among believers as well. (I will be reviewing that book next.)

A Cry for Justice is more than a book, it’s a ministry. And I can see so much potential for the message of this ministry. I would encourage you to buy the book, read it carefully, and then give it to a pastor who will listen. Do I agree with every statement in the book? Probably not. That isn’t important. We will always have differences in perspective and style. But this message is important. I know of too many churches where the abuser is held in higher regard than his victim. Someone, someone of the church, needs to stand up for those who are being hurt.

So, get this book! You know that I rarely say something like that. I get nothing from the sales, not even an affiliate commission. I did receive a free copy of the book from Jeff because he saw that our hearts and ministries connected. You will have to pay for yours—but it will be worth it. In fact, whatever you pay will have twice the value if you pass the book on to a church leader with your strong encouragement to read (and heed) its message. When you get it, let me know what you think.

Here’s the link to the website:

http://cryingoutforjustice.com/

Here’s the link to the book on Amazon:

cry

 

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It’s all ours!

Imagine inheriting a beautiful estate, fully furnished, in the location of your dreams. The house is massive, full of rooms and treasures. There are outbuildings and what seems to be unending land with fields, trees, water, and paths. It’s all yours.

The caretaker welcomes you to your new home and offers to show you around. He wisely shows you just the places you will need and then leaves you to discover the wonders of the rest on your own. At any time, you can call on him for help or information; but he understands the special pleasure you will have in discovering these things on your own.

Something like that happens when we first enter into the knowledge of grace. We are told the basics, but there will be a lifetime of discovering the wonders and privileges of our relationship with Jesus.

This is the kind of experience I have had as I have learned about grace. I read the Scriptures and pray and more is opened almost every day. I read and listen to people who understand and am in awe of the new treasures I find. Some of the things I could see faintly, but when I looked closely I found them even more wonderful than I had thought. Some of the things I could almost expect as I reasoned through what I already knew, but some were amazing surprises.

You and I are loved by the Lord God Almighty. He has done all that is necessary for us to be with Him forever. He has provided, through our relationship with Him, everything we need for life and godliness. Jesus is our Friend. He is with us and He will never let us go. The rest of our lives will be spent learning more and more about what all of that means. As we learn, we will see more truth and feel more freedom and peace with every new day.

Perhaps it is true that we will never fully understand the grace of God in this world, but we are on our way. We listen and watch and more is revealed all the time. And we don’t have to distort the Scriptures or make up new doctrines or ideas. Instead, we will discover the beauty of the things that were plain all the time, except that we were not able to see them. We didn’t realize they were ours.

The old song says, “Every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before!” I am beginning to understand.

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Are you open to Manipulation?

(I will be traveling and internet will be less available for the next couple of weeks. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. It’s Narcissist Friday posts will continue with new posts during this time. Thanks for being here!)

 

 

From time to time I read Seth Godin’s blog.  He has some great insights about marketing and people.  The most recent blog entry is an interesting item on what makes some people more open to being manipulated.  Read the blog for yourself, but here are some of the things I found interesting in his list.  His blog is not intended to be Christian in any way, but these things are more than worth our consideration.   I will insert my comments, particularly in relation to the religious/performance manipulation I have seen.

  •  Believing something because you heard someone say it on a news show on cable TV.   (Or an unreasoning acceptance of the authority of the guy up front.)
  • Repeating a mantra heard from a figurehead or leader of a tribe without considering whether it’s true.   (Again, an unquestioning attitude toward perceived authority.  So many of these teachers have no evidence for the assertions they make, but their followers accept every word as truth.)
  • Trying to find a short cut to lose weight, make money or achieve some other long-term goal.  (“Seven easy steps to being more spiritual than others.”  “Five ways to make God love you.”  “How to raise your kids the right way.”)
  • Ignoring the scientific method and embracing unexamined traditional methods instead.  (The key word here is “unexamined.”  There is an obsession among many homeschoolers or conservatives for the “old ways.”  Some of the old ways are gone for a reason!)
  • Focusing on (and believing) easily gamed bestseller lists or crowds.  (If the teacher can fill the bleachers, he must be true, right?”)
  • Inability to tolerate fear and uncertainty.  (This is the big one.  The desire to control the fears and uncertainties of life opens many people to the manipulation of leaders.)
  • Allowing the clothes of the messenger (a uniform, a suit and tie, a hat) to influence your perception of the information he delivers (add gender, fame, age and race to this too).  (What, judge someone by what he wears?  You’re kidding!)
  • Reliance on repetition and frequency to decide what’s true.  (If you hear it often enough—say, that Cabbage Patch dolls have demons—it must be true, right?)

There are other characteristics that open people to manipulation at Seth’s Blog.  What do you think?

 

Thanks to:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/

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Performance Spirituality

(I will be traveling and internet will be less available for the next couple of weeks. Please enjoy these posts from the archives. It’s Narcissist Friday posts will continue with new posts during this time. Thanks for being here!)

 

 

“Performance Spirituality” is the idea that spirituality is obtained and maintained by the performance of good works and the avoidance of sin. From time to time you will hear people refer to the kind of activity a “real Christian” will avoid. No real Christian, for example, could get a divorce. No real Christian could look at porn. No real Christian could steal, or skip church to go to a football game, or smoke. A real Christian will love going to church. A real Christian will tithe and be kind and memorize Bible verses.

You get the idea. There’s a book out there with the title, Lists to Live By. I don’t know that the book is about this, and I don’t mean to bad-mouth the book, but the title certainly serves the idea of performance spirituality. All you have to do to be spiritual is to do the right things and avoid the wrong things. Live by the lists.  Just like the Pharisees.

But we teach that spirituality is found only in a relationship with Jesus, not in a certain kind or amount of performance. Believers are made spiritual, reborn to new and spiritual life, when Jesus enters into them and gives them His life. We are spiritual because He is spiritual – and for no other reason. Those who were dead in their sins are made alive as Jesus is alive in them.

In that way, we understand that no person is more spiritual than another. All are spiritual only because of Jesus. The ramifications of this are important. If you are going through life comparing yourself with others and finding them to be more or less spiritual than you, perhaps you are operating under a wrong assumption. Instead, look to Jesus alone. He leads the others and He leads you. Trust Him.

 

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Filed under Freedom, grace, Grace definition, Legalism, Relationship, Uncategorized

I am confident

Words of Grace  

 

For many believers, perhaps most, there is a disconnect between the way they feel and the truth. In other words, we often don’t feel strong, even if Jesus is our Strength and in Him we are strong. We often don’t feel free, even if Jesus has set us free. And we certainly find it hard to feel righteous or good or even forgiven most of the time.

That disconnect is normal. For so long the flesh has told us what we are supposed to feel and then has shown us that our feelings reveal the reality of our lives. If we find ourselves in trouble, for example, the flesh tells us to be afraid. Then our flesh tells us that the fear proves our weakness. In fact, a great deal of evidence could be shown that in these circumstances we find ourselves to be strong, and we would still think of ourselves as weak because we felt fear.

The message of the flesh is a lie. Yes, it feels right. Yes, it feels normal and familiar. Yes, it is what we have always felt. But it is still a lie. The message of the flesh is designed to keep us walking according to the flesh. But you and I, and all those who belong to Jesus, live according to the Spirit and must learn to walk according to the Spirit. The flesh is no longer our master and no longer our “normal.”

I suspect that many of us have shared an experience like the following. You are called to talk with someone about something that is uncomfortable. Perhaps you want to share the good news. Perhaps you are supposed to challenge a decision or an opinion. Perhaps you need to ask the person to do something. Whatever it is, you lack confidence and you are afraid. At least that’s what the flesh is telling you.

One time I was moved by God to confront a man in my church about his relationship with another man’s wife. It was one of those times when I couldn’t take someone with me and I had to do it right away. There was little choice. But I was afraid. I actually drove to his house and then drove away again. Finally, I stopped and talked it over with the Lord.

Now, you have probably done that. You have examined why you are feeling afraid. You have asked yourself or the Lord if this is the right thing to do. You stopped in the midst of your fear and confronted it. And, when you did, the fear was put into perspective. It maybe didn’t go away, but you knew that you had to do the uncomfortable thing and you knew it would somehow be okay.

Well, I decided that the man could try to punch me, but I would still talk with him. I knew my heart was right. I had respect for him and spoke to him in love and the visit went very well.

You see, my flesh lied to me. First it told me that I had something to fear. The man might get angry (even though I had never known him to be an angry man), or he might get violent (even though I could hardly imagine him doing anything), or he could leave the church or organize his supporters against me or whatever. My flesh played through all those scenarios and more until I was afraid. Then my flesh showed me my fear and told me I was too weak to do this thing.

But it was a lie. Once I understood that none of the things I feared could really hurt me and I was doing the right thing, the thing God wanted me to do, then I found the confidence that was there all the time.

You see, the Spirit is confident. The Spirit knows that you and I can do whatever the Lord calls us to do. The Spirit knows that there is no reason for fear and no reality of weakness. Jesus is my Strength and my Confidence.

Don’t let the flesh pull you back into bondage by pushing away your confidence. If the Lord is calling you to do something, do it in strength and know that He is with you. The results are His.

 

I am confident!

I can do what I am called to do.

My fear and anxiety may try to pull me down,

But I will not listen to the lies.

I am confident.

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Relationship pt 4

But what about sin? Does sin separate us from Jesus? No! Jesus conquered sin in our lives and destroyed the effects of sin. Sin makes us feel separated from Him, but once we realize that we have wandered it is easy to come back. Remember that not one of your sins has ever surprised Him. If He was not surprised, then He was not disappointed. He knew what you would do from the moment He conceived you in His heart. He loves you and He accepts you. Isn’t that amazing? It isn’t about sin, it’s about the love of God!

So, in a relationship with Jesus you live with the full awareness that He is real, He is present, and He loves you. You know in the core of your heart that He has taken into account all your inadequacies, all your wandering, and all your fears. He still loves you. He has still chosen to be your Life. He is still your strength, hope, righteousness and more. Whatever you need, He is.

You can get up in the morning with the fullness of joy in your heart. You are just as acceptable to God as you will be 10,000 years from now in Heaven. He is with you and He smiles at you. He wants to walk with you through your day. You talk with Him along the way and you listen for His voice. Whether you go to work or stay home with children or whatever, He is there. His gentleness and kindness is part of your life, easy to access because there is so much of it. When you don’t know what to do, you ask and you trust that He will lead. You don’t need to be afraid of what lies ahead because He is just as much with you in the future as He is today… no matter what.

And when you go to bed at night, you sleep with the rest of someone who is loved beyond any earthly love by a real Person who is strong and trustworthy; Someone who accepts you without reservation and loves to be with you; Someone who has promised that He will never leave you and who has prepared a wonder-filled future for you. It is all good!

Finally, if I were you, reading this, I would ask, “So, Dave, is this what your life is like?” I wish! But it is moving in that direction. The old ways are hard to overcome. The fears and challenges still seem real. But, honestly, more and more I am learning to trust Him, learning that He loves me, learning to live in relationship with Him. I share my heart with Him and He not only listens, but He speaks. Many times He has led me to say the right thing, to be there for a friend, or to know the peace of His acceptance by speaking to my heart. I know without doubt that the day will come when all hindrances will be gone forever and the relationship I have with Him will be complete and perfect. What a day of rejoicing that will be!

One more thing: Relationships are personal. One person’s relationship, even with the Lord, might not look like another’s. Samson’s relationship with God was different than David’s, whose was quite different from that of Moses. It would not be appropriate to prescribe a certain look or style. My concern is simply that God wants to have a personal relationship with each of His people.

Comments?  Questions?

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I am okay

Words of Grace 

 

What do you say when you have had a hard week? When things have piled up against you and any one of them seems like too much? Sometimes the most you can say is, “I am okay.”

One of my favorite passages from Paul is in 2 Corinthians 4:

We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—

In other words, it’s been a tough week, but we are okay.

Not destroyed. We may not be able to see hope right now, but we trust it is there. We may not feel great about ourselves or the life around us, but we not in despair. We may not know how all of this will turn out, but we are still looking up.

Most of us don’t need to feel great all the time. We understand that we are in a battle against an enemy. We understand that there is competition for our place in life. We understand that the others around us have crummy days. We understand that society is broken.

I think regular people can take a lot. I know that those of us who have the presence of the Lord and the promise of His everlasting love can take even more. To be okay simply means that we are not destroyed by whatever we are going through. We will not be destroyed because the Lord is with us and will never leave us.

I might not have a smile sometimes, but I am okay. I might not have the time or the strength to lift my hand in sacrificial service, but I am okay. I might not be able to see a way out of my trouble, but I am okay. I am not destroyed and I will not be destroyed.

I am okay because Jesus loves me. I am okay because this world is not my final home. I am okay because I am fully forgiven and accepted. I am okay because I am never alone.

No, I refuse to say that everything is wonderful when I don’t feel that way. I have to be honest and admit to my pain or my struggle. But I also know that I am okay . . . and I want you to know that as well.

In 1870, Horatio and Anna Spafford lost their only son to scarlet fever. The next year, Spafford lost almost all his financial assets in the Chicago fire. Then, in 1873, Mrs. Spafford and their four daughters left for Europe while Horatio stayed back to try to recover some of his business. The ship had an accident and the four Spafford girls drowned. Only Mrs. Spafford survived.

Out of that series of tragedies, came the words to a wonderful song, “It Is Well with My Soul.” It was Horatio Spafford’s way of telling people, including himself, that he was okay.

 

I am okay

Jesus loves me

He will never leave me nor let me go

I am safe in Him

I am okay

 

 

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Leaving the Narcissistic Organization

It’s Narcissist Friday!

(At home today, caring for a family member just out of the hospital.  This re-post seemed timely.)

Sometimes narcissists like to be with other narcissists.  Of course, when that happens, there is usually a hierarchy of a sort, a way to know who is above whom.  That takes a system—or an organization.  Sadly, volunteer organizations often fall prey to the narcissistic takeover.

Think of the narcissistic organization as a multi-level marketing system.  The currency, of course, is narcissistic supply.  The leaders share percentages of the admiration and attention that comes from those on the bottom.  Years ago, someone tried to get me to peddle a certain soap company’s products and marketing strategy.  He told me how I would get a piece of the work of everyone I sold the system to and of everyone they sold it to.  In other words, I could live on the support of those under me.  He only stuttered when I asked a simple question:  “Doesn’t someone have to sell soap?”

Every narcissistic organization must have followers, people who exude appreciation and awe for the leaders.  They must be obedient and helpful and enthralled.  They must be impressed most of all with the one at the top, but also suitably servile and attentive to those under the leader.  The leader, of course, has little time for those on the bottom.  They are to send their admiration (and usually money) without expectation.  They must be satisfied with small connections and with representatives.

So the people at the bottom, the ones who actually do the work (sell soap), become something like groupies.  They may not be able to connect with the lead singer, but they can connect with the stage crew or the bus driver.  Then they just might work their way up to the drummer and get to see the lead singer once in a while.

Now, when you are in this system, all of this just seems sort of normal.  You don’t expect to get to visit with the CEO or the Teacher or the evangelist.  But you certainly appreciate their skill and wisdom.  You listen to the sermon or go to the seminar and you tell others how great it was.  Your small group leader is as close as you will ever get to leadership, but you recognize that he has been under the teaching of the leader.

But when you finally begin to realize that the system exists almost entirely for the sake of feeding the leader with narcissistic supply, you begin to see the ugliness.  Maybe you disagreed with the leader or one of his representatives about something and found that you were being shut out, even shunned.  Maybe rumors were started about your character to discredit any concern you might have about the organization.  Suddenly the ones who were so gracious and welcoming turn into something unexpected and frightening.

Almost like turning off a faucet, your connections seem to disappear.  The phone stops ringing.  The emails stop.  The opportunities for fellowship and service dry up.  You begin to feel like an outcast.  You might be able to be restored, with a certain amount of apology and penance.  But probably not.  Once the narcissistic organization recognizes a person as a threat, that person must go.  Those who stay will be carefully marginalized.

So now you are out.  Either you saw the truth and got out or they turned against you and kicked you out.  Neither one feels very good.  Just like those with narcissistic lovers, you feel empty and afraid when the relationship is over.  No matter how often people tell you that you are better off apart, you can’t feel that way consistently.

You see, narcissistic organizations are simply collections of narcissists.  All the manipulations and addictive drugs narcissists give their victims are in these organizations.  Very often the narcissistic organization takes over the lives of the people.  There are activities and groups and expectations and jobs and all kinds of connections to keep you both close and under control.  They welcome you with attention and love and excitement and tie your heart to the system.  When you leave, it hurts.  Even if it was your choice.

And, yes, there is often fear.  Narcissistic organizations often fill their people with stories of abuse outside the organization.  Wickedness, prejudice, and all kinds of evil lie in wait outside the organization.  What would happen to you if you left?  Where would you ever find a place you could trust?

This is why people who leave narcissistic churches often stop going to church altogether.  They are either convinced that no other church could measure up to the level of authority or activity of what they are leaving or they are afraid of being hurt again by another group of users and abusers.

And there is anger.  The narcissistic organization uses and discards just like the narcissistic person.  Those who leave these organizations have often given great amounts of time and money and loyalty—only to have nothing but negative in the end.  Sadness and loss turn to anger easily when we realize that we were used.

But there is another feeling, something better, something good.  There is a sense of victory.  Like a person who escapes danger learns that she is stronger than she thought, the person who leaves this kind of organization feels like they have done something right.  It might take time to heal, but it is good to be out.

Eventually, the poison that held you in bondage will leave your system.  Just be sure that you don’t get sucked in again.  Be gracious and kind, but withhold your trust for a while.  And believe that there are good churches and good organizations that are worth searching for.  Think through what you learned.  Watch the leaders.  Listen to people who warn you.

There are real people who care.  Find them.  And be prepared to give again.

 

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