Too Good to Be True?

Are you in a relationship in which you feel like you’re on a roller coaster or a merry-go-round that you can’t figure how to get off of? Is your boyfriend, fiancé, husband super sweet one moment and then moody and accusatory the next? Is there passionate lovemaking one night and explosive arguments the next day? Are there little red flags going off here and there that you’ve been choosing to ignore? Does he call his ex-girlfriends or wives crazy, manipulative lunatics? Does he play the victim in past relationships? Maybe he says he just hasn’t found the right one until he found you. Fate has brought you together. Maybe. But still, something’s off, something’s not quite right. Perhaps he’s an addict…drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex…you’re not sure if he is. Is that the problem? The underlying problem to many, if not all, addictions is a personality disorder. Maybe that’s it. There are different kinds of personality disorders and many different things to become addicted to. So, there are many combinations that can potentially become a destructive force to your relationship, your marriage, and ultimately to you, the victim. In an effort to help my fellow womankind, to warn you, to open your eyes, to validate what you might be experiencing and feeling, to let you know that YOU’RE not the one who is crazy…I write this blog…at 2:00 in the morning. This weighs heavily on my heart for you. If you’ll just consider the words that I present to you. I came across this article earlier that explains what narcissism is and what it looks like to be in a relationship with a narcissist. There were some inappropriate words in the original, so I did change a few words to make it PG. I’ve posted the link to the original if you’d like my reference to the article. If my words have rung a bell in your heart, please read this…

A relationship with a Narcissist has been compared to being on a roller coaster, with immense highs and immense lows. They have been described as the proverbial Jekyll and Hyde, one way one minute, another the next.

People usually get into relationships for love and the need to connect and bond with another. Narcissists get into relationships for entirely different reasons. They do not feel love and they lack the ability to connect and form normal attachment bonds with others.
Narcissists need people more than anyone. Because their entire sense of self-esteem and self-worth is dependent on the admiration of others, their emotions are a precarious balance of needing others and needing to be left alone.
Narcissists feel an enormous void inside of them. This void is ever present and the only thing that fills it, is the love and esteem of another. The fix is always temporary though. A Narcissist describes it this way, “It’s like my brain is constantly seeking something. It’s like I’m always chasing a carrot at the end of a stick. Nothing I do satisfies me, at least not for long. I feel like I only do things because I’m supposed to, because society does it. I don’t feel like I belong anywhere or with anyone.”
Narcissists are completely self-absorbed and are oblivious to the wants and needs of others. They enter into relationships in an attempt to fill this void and to make sure that they have someone who is always available for sex, an ego stroke or whatever need they may have. A relationship with a Narcissist always follows three phases, the over-evaluations phase, the devaluation phase and the discard phase.
The Over-evaluation Phase
A Narcissist is very careful when choosing a target. Typically, they will choose a victim based on their status. They must be attractive, popular, rich or extremely gifted in some area. The greater the status, the higher the value the Narcissist places on the Supply derived.
Once a target has been chosen, it’s almost like the Narcissist gets tunnel vision. They are hyper-vigilant in their pursuit and will project the perfect image that their victim wants them to be. They are excessively caring, loving and attentive at this stage. They shower their targets with attention, compliments and literally sweep them off their feet.
They place their target on a pedestal, idolize and worship them. Their target is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Here the Narcissist is ecstatic, full of hopes and dreams. They will talk and think about them constantly, they are euphoric. This is as close as a Narcissist will ever get to feeling love. This kind of idolization is what others would call infatuation.
The victim is likely so caught up in all the attention and is usually thinking at this point, that they have found their soul-mate. Their pursuer is exactly what they want in a partner (because the Narcissist is mirroring what they have learned appeals to their target) and they can’t believe how lucky they are and that this catch is still single.
What they don’t know, or could ever be prepared for, is what comes next.
The Devaluation Stage
The Over-Evaluation phase, if you’re dealing with a Somatic Narcissist, usually lasts anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, just long enough for the Narcissist to be confident that they have secured their target’s love and devotion. Unbeknownst to the target, what they were witnessing in the early phase was the Narcissist’s false self. In this second phase, the mask comes off and the Narcissist starts to reveal their true colours.
The shift could be gradual or almost seemingly overnight. Suddenly the attention they so lavishly gave you is gone and replace by indifference and silence. Days or weeks could go by and you won’t hear from them. They don’t return your phone calls, they don’t keep a single promise and you’re starting to suspect that they might be involved with someone else. The target is left baffled and confused and wondering what they did wrong to cause such an abrupt turnaround.
Narcissists become bored easily and what usually starts happening in their heads at this stage, is that the void begins to emerge again. The high they were feeding off of is waning and they begin to question your worthiness, that perhaps you weren’t so special after all, because if you were then the void wouldn’t still be there.
They become moody and agitated easily, blaming you for even the slightest transgression. They start to disappear more frequently and they give you the silent treatment in an attempt to create distance. As the Narcissist withdraws, the target starts to cling and your demands for his attention and your need to understand what’s happening, grate on his nerves. The harder you cling the more the Narcissist pulls away. They start to blame and criticize the target for everything, treating them like an emotional punching bag.
At this point the target is an emotional wreck. The Narcissist has left without any explanation and they can’t figure out how one minute they were put on a pedestal and now it’s like they don’t even exist. The Narcissist is a projector and they are projecting their emotional turmoil onto you. They feed off of other people’s misery (as long as it’s caused by them) just as much as they feed off of your admiration, either way it makes no difference to them.
It is this person, this cruel, indifferent, unfeeling, sadist that is the behind the mask. Most targets desperately try to find the one they fell in love with. What they don’t realize is that that person never existed. They were a facade an act put on by the Narcissist to secure their Supply.
The Narcissist will take no responsibility for their actions, because they simply don’t care how they’ve treated you or how you are feeling.

Narcissists are not capable of forming normal healthy attachments to people. Those that aren’t familiar with the disorder are completely at a loss to understand how unnecessarily cruel their behavior can be. The target was never more than an object to the Narcissist, whose usefulness is on the decline.
The Narcissist isn’t one to throw away a potential piece of supply though. He will keep up this I love you, I love you not charade going for as long as it suits them or as long as you allow it. He will breeze in and out of your life as if nothing ever happened, completely oblivious and indifferent to your suffering.
This mind trick is deliberate and he will keep feeding you crumbs of attention, just enough to keep you emotionally invested and available to cater to his every need.
At some point one of two things will happen: either he will find a new target and begin phase one with them, thus ignoring you completely, or you will have had enough of his psychotic abuse and you will take control and put an end to it, thus ushering In phase three.
The Discard Phase
It is almost baffling to watch the ease at which a Narcissist can pull away from his partners. Many targets are left asking themselves, “Did he ever love me? Did I mean anything to him?” The simple answer is no. No one means anything to him. Women are only a means to an end – to obtain the much needed Narcissistic Supply. Once your usefulness has run its course, you will be discarded abruptly and cruelly, without warning.
Trying to get over a relationship with a Narcissist is extremely difficult. Once it is over the target is usually an emotional wreck, whose self-esteem has been annihilated by the persistent demeaning behavior, insults and cruelty of the Narcissist. Depending on when they were able to break free, the target maybe a shadow of their former self, with a lot of work ahead of them to rebuild their shattered self-image.
As a victim tries to pick up the pieces, What must be remembered is that you were deliberately targeted, lied to and manipulated by a skilled con-artist, for their own gain. There was nothing you could have done differently and none of this was your fault. The Narcissist will repeat this pattern with every person, every time, bar none.
All former targets must be vigilantly on guard, because a Narcissist always reserves the right to revisit a former source of supply, no matter how much time has passed or how badly they’ve behaved.
Once you have broken free you must close the door on any and all contact, because if you don’t you’re headed back to a watered down version of Phase One – over and over and over again.

Remember, friend, you were created for more than this. You are the apple of God’s eye. You are worth more to your Creator than all the gold and riches in the world. You cannot fix a man or make him better. Only God can. Look to Him for help and guidance and never forget who YOU are and what YOU were made for. He has great plans for your life.
If you are dating or engaged to someone like this…run! Run as fast as you can! Get off the crazy train while you can! If you’re married, get help, now. Find a professional counselor to help you. If you need assistance finding someone, I can point you in the right direction.

I pray blessing, strength, boldness and emotional healing over every woman who reads these words. May God’s love fill your heart and help you to see yourself as He sees you.

Jeremiah 29:11
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

http://esteemology.com/the-three-phases-of-a-narcissistic-relationship-cycle-over-evaluation-devaluation-discard/

 

Chelsea’s Story Part 4: A Time for Everything

If you’ve missed Parts 1-3 of Chelsea’s story, click here before reading Part 4. I hope you are blessed by reading her story.

Chelsea met her first love when she was fourteen years old. As a freshman in high school, she rebelled against her parents. Trevor consumed her life. She gave up everything for him, spent all her time with him and fell in love, even though her parents didn’t like him. Chelsea did what she had to do to be with Trevor, sneaking out and lying to her parents regularly. She stopped hanging out with her friends and sacrificed all other extracurricular activities for her love.teenagers His interests became her interests. Chelsea’s identity became completely entangled with Trevor’s. They dated all through high school, she knew he was the one she would marry. Her parents warmed up to him. Finally, Chelsea felt happy for once in her life.

When Chelsea’s nephew was born, her life became even more joyful. She loved her sweet nephew like he was her own. There was nothing she wouldn’t do for him! As her grew, the family started taking vacations together. Chelsea longed to go, but many times she would stay home with Trevor. He was a homebody and didn’t like to do anything Chelsea wanted to do. And, he didn’t like her family. Chelsea missed out on many good family memories, something she regrets today. She began to think being with Trevor was a bad idea, but then she would talk herself down.

“I thought he was the only one who could ever love me and I felt stuck.”financial-planner-red-flag

This is what you’d call a Red Flag. Red Flags are often underrated and ignored. How many of you can look back on a previous relationship and see clearly that there were indeed, Red Flags, everywhere? I know I certainly can. Ladies, don’t ignore the Red Flags! It will save you a lot of heartache in the long run if you give the Red Flags the consideration they deserve!

Once Chelsea graduated high school, she enrolled in nursing school. Her mom really pushed her to do it. Unfortunately, Chelsea’s heart was not in it and she failed the first year. With her mother urging her, she re-enrolled. Then, mid-semester, Trevor proposed. She immediately said yes and school dropped off her radar as a priority. She had a wedding to plan! She barely squeaked by her first two semesters of nursing school, but she did pass. That summer, she and Trevor were married.

“It was a fun wedding. We didn’t have our own place yet, so we still lived with my parents.”

Chelsea went back to school and started making decent grades. I’m starting to feel happy for Chelsea now, aren’t you? Finally, she is in a place where life seems to be going good for her. She seems to have some happiness and peace, right? Wait for it…

On a Friday in September, she received a call that her dad had a heart attack and was being life flighted to Pittsburgh. Chelsea’s world came to an abrupt halt. All her plans, school, married life, everything, went out the door. Her only concern was her dad. A triple bypass was performed and he came home three weeks later.

“By then, my grades had slipped so low that I couldn’t come back out of the hole. I quit school and stayed home to help take care of my dad.”

Once again, Chelsea assumed the role of caretaker. The theme of her life.

Chelsea’s father gradually got better. He quit smoking and began eating healthier. Finally, Chelsea could breathe! She and Trevor started to look for their own home. By the time they found a house, Chelsea was five months pregnant with her first baby. They were all elated, especially Chelsea’s dad. A baby! What a blessing after all that had been happening! Her dad helped her work on their new house every day. They spent hours upon hours together working on that house. Everything was so great! Chelsea’s dad was finally healthy and working, Trevor and Chelsea finally had their own house, a baby was coming…such happiness! Are you sighing with relief? Is this where the happy ending comes in? Not quite yet…On a chilly November morning…

“He had just got home from working a night shift. He grabbed a cup of coffee, then went over to my house. He completely finished the kitchen cabinets that day. He came home to lie down. He had to work that night. While he was sleeping, my mom and I went to a Home Interiors party. Funny how you remember all that stuff. We wanted to leave early so we could see dad before he went to work, but we didn’t make it home in time. We watched “ER” and went up to bed. My brother-in-law was a fireman and had a radio. Right around 11:13pm, we heard the call for an ambulance to the gas station where my dad was working. We knew it was him. We ran to the car and drove there as fast as we could. They had my dad in the back of the ambulance and were working on him. They wouldn’t allow us in to see him so we went to the hospital to wait. He was pronounced dead upon arrival.”

I’m not even going to pretend to be able to imagine what this was like. My mind cannot even fathom losing my father. I know many of you have, though and understand exactly what Chelsea was feeling.

“Automatically, I thought it was my fault. If he wouldn’t have been at my house that morning, he would still be here. Once again, my world was shaken.”

Why does Chelsea blame herself for every bad thing that happens in her family? Her father’s heart was bad from years of not taking care of himself, for years of smoking and drinking, for years of unhealthy eating and no physical exercise. Chelsea: if you’re reading this, please know that your father’s death was NOT your fault! Would anyone else be willing to comment below and echo my sentiments? Let’s verbally wrap our arms around Chelsea today. I’m sure after all these years, there is still pain in her heart because of her father’s death.

If you’ve lost a loved one, find comfort and understanding in God’s Word. He says there is a time and season for everything. Ecclesiastes chapter 3 says,

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:  A time to be born,  And a time to die; A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;  A time to kill, And a time to heal; A time to break down, And a time to build up; A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones, A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing; A time to gain, And a time to lose; A time to keep, And a time to throw away; A time to tear, And a time to sew; A time to keep silence, And a time to speak; A time to love, And a time to hate; A time of war, And a time of peace.”ecl3.1

We can find peace in knowing that everything we go through, everything that we endure is only for a season. All things come to an end in time. But there is one thing that never ends and is always present with us…God’s love. We can be sure that through every season we go through, the love of God is there to comfort us, guide us and reassure us that we are going to be okay. Look for His love in every situation you find yourself. You can feel His presence with you, even in the darkest of trials. Deuteronomy 4:29 says,

“But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

What are you facing today? You do not have to face it alone.

If you’ve been touched by this story, please tell me. It matters to the women who are being so brave in sharing their precious lives with you. YOU matter to Chelsea. She wants you to find hope and healing through her story. So please, contact me at the email address below. All correspondences are confidential.

themystoryseries@gmail.com

Chelsea’s Story Part 2: Abandoned

Yesterday, we heard about Chelsea’s early years. Suffering at the hand of a sexually abusive friend of the family was only the beginning of her bad experiences with men in her life. Man after man in her life abused her, abandoned her and used her. Tragedy and loss have been a common thread in Chelsea’s life. Her story continues today…

Right around the time legal proceedings ended surrounding the sexual abuse, Chelsea’s parents began having major problems in their marriage. They fought all the time and fought loudly.

“We had those old lawn chairs outside and when they fought, my sister and I would cuddle together in one and make it like a teepee so we could escape. I remember one night, all four of us kids just hugged each other in my bed while they were screaming at each other for hours.”

sad-children-listening-to-their-parents-fighting-home-kitchen-43913612

That very night, her father left them. Her mother became barely functional. Guess who the burden fell upon to manage the household? Yep, Chelsea.

Now the age of 12, Chelsea became the woman of the house. Every morning, she would make breakfast and get her sister ready for school. She made sure her mother was awake in time to go to her classes that she was attending to further her education. She even went to class with her mom and helped her study. She made dinner daily…all the while keeping up with her own schoolwork. On weekends, her mom had a side job cleaning construction trailers and of course, Chelsea helped her mom with that. Are you seeing the pattern? The daughter became the mother. The friends that she had, she never spent time with. How could she when she was being an adult and a child at the same time? Chelsea still struggles with feelings of responsibility for her mother to this day. She also has a hard time accepting friendship and love from those who call her friend. I can understand why, can’t you?

Chelsea’s father was gone for a year, his family not hearing even a single word from him in nearly as long. Chelsea couldn’t understand how her daddy could just leave her and not even miss her. She was so angry with him and thought of ways to seek revenge on her father. During visits to his apartment, she would steal his cigarettes, pee on his toothbrush and shred his girlfriend’s daughter’s coloring books.

“Whatever I could think of to do, I did it.  I was hurt by yet again another man who was supposed to love me.”

She associated her dad’s actions with the actions of her abuser. She viewed both men with the same hate and disdain. Older now, she understood a little more about life and decided to completely cut herself off from her father.

“I was bitter and angry and wanted no parts of him.”

Chelsea was blessed with a wonderful grandfather. He held the family together. He was their rock. He took his grandchildren to church every Sunday and made sure everyone had anything they needed. Chelsea adored him. But he had a bad heart and he died during this very hard year.

“I was crushed. Why were all the men in my life hurting me? Why did they have to leave me? What did I do wrong? Why was I even still alive?”

These were questions Chelsea wrestled with daily as a preteen girl.

She continued to cope with her feelings by overeating. It was the only thing that made her feel better, in control. Kids at school called her fat constantly and told her she was ugly.

“They said I was a loser and asked why I wasn’t cool like my brothers.”

Kids can be so cruel. Did an adult ever ask Chelsea if she was okay? No. But, she was making sure the adults in her life were okay. Is your heart breaking for Chelsea the way mine is?

Chelsea became even more withdrawn and depressed, only mustering a little happiness here and there with her family. Even that became a struggle. And once again, her mother became dependent upon Chelsea to keep her motivated and going. She was reeling from her father’s death. She wanted to give up, but Chelsea wouldn’t let her. Always taking care of her mother…she was 12 years old!

Chelsea felt rejected and abandoned by the father figures in her life. When her father left them, he left a permanent wound in Chelsea’s heart and emotions. I’m not sure all fathers realize the impact they have on their daughters. I read one time that the way a woman views God is directly related to her relationship with her father and how she sees him. So, if your father abandoned you, abused you, ignored you, etc., you may end up thinking that is how God is. I have seen it happen many times.  It’s only by the grace of God that Chelsea understands and accepts her heavenly Father’s love now as an adult.

If you could sum up your relationship with your earthly father, what would it be? Distant? Abandoned? Hated? Absent? Disinterested? Though your father on earth may have let you down, treated you poorly, rejected you or worse, you can rest assured that your heavenly Father will never let you down. He will never reject you. He loves you so much. I have taught my own children that no matter how their father or even I let them down in life, always look to God. Know that He is with them, no matter what. Will you hear that today, too? God your Father loves you and is there for you always. God’s Word says…

Psalm 68:5 says that God is a father to the fatherless.father-to-the-fatherless

Psalm 89:25 says, “You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.”

Isaiah 9:6, in reference to Jesus…”And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  EVERLASTING FATHER!!!  I love that! That means He is there all the time, through any situation, no matter what!

Galatians 4:6 says we are sons (daughters) of God and we can call Him, “Abba, Father.” That’s the same as calling Him “Daddy.”

iStock_000002218181SmallAnd your Daddy wants to shower His love on you today. I John 3:1 says, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God!” You are a child of God! How more awesome can that be?jesus-hugging-girl

Chelsea has experienced the love of her heavenly Father. She knows that He is with her always and loves her so much more than her father or grandfather ever could. She now looks to her God her Father for validation, adoration and love.

 

If you’ve been touched by this story, please tell me. It matters to the women who are being so brave in sharing their precious lives with you. YOU matter to Chelsea. She wants you to find hope and healing through her story. So please, contact me at the email address below. All correspondences are confidential.

themystoryseries@gmail.com

Ouch, That Hurt

Annoyance. Anger. Resentment. Indignation. Irritation. Exasperation. Wrath. Displeasure. Hurt feelings.

When you read the words above, did certain people or situations pop into your mind? Did you experience these feelings today?  Are you struggling right now over something that happened that you can’t quite seem to get past?download

Let it go. What is “it?” No, I’m not referring to “Frozen.” It boils down to one word…OFFENSE.  As John Bevere rightly named it, “The Bait of Satan.”  (I highly recommend that book, FYI.)

Let me be transparent, as usual.  I have maybe once in a while, from time to time, battled with feeling offended.  Offended for something someone said to me or didn’t say to me.  Offended for being ignored, overlooked, not appreciated, underestimated, and so on.  There are million and one reasons that can be found to become offended.  I mean, geez, I’ve been offended by the way someone looked at me before. I’ve even been offended by a compliment given to me by my husband! For instance, he says, “Wow, honey, I really like when you wear your hair like that.”  Then I say, “So does that mean you don’t like it how I usually wear it? You never say anything about the way I wear it every other day!”  Then of course, there’s the, “Are you calling me fat?  Are you saying my butt is big?”  I’m just going to admit right now, I’m one of those wives.  tumblr_ly4bftcwwv1qbh4goo1_500

For me, the offense that I experience has mostly to do with hurt feelings and anger. It’s usually because someone does not realize what I’m about or understand how I am. They don’t know what’s going on in my life, what I’m thinking, my insecurities, my expectations, etc.  It pretty much boils down to pride.  Ew.  Pride is just gross. Becoming offended is really about thinking too much of yourself.  OUCH.  Man, I’m really stepping on my own toes here…

I have been known to say that I’m not easily offended and I can usually pass it off that I am not. But inside, I get that little twinge of uneasy, angry, irritated offense.  I stuff it down in there and log it away to be added to a list in my subconscious. I am literally holding it against the person who offended me…my self preservation mode kicks in and I subconsciously swear that they will never hurt me again.  Walls are put up.  Relationships are damaged.  Instead of dealing directly with the problem, I stuff it and resentment builds.  Hurt me once, shame on you.  Hurt me twice, shame on me.

Now, I know many of you are thinking, “Wow, Susie is one screwed up chick.”  But, that’s okay because I know that you do the same thing, even if you don’t realize it or admit it.  I have been working on myself a lot in the past few years regarding offense and I have made progress.  You can too.

It starts with not taking yourself so seriously, cut yourself some slack, don’t be so hard on yourself! Know who you are in Christ, then you won’t care so much what people say about you or do to you. Then, give other people a break.  Give them the benefit of the doubt.  When others lash out at you or say something hurtful to you, it normally has little to do with you.  Many times, it’s because they are having a bad day or are upset or insecure about something else. And most of the time, it’s because they are dealing with offense themselves. How do I know this?  Because I’ve had plenty of opportunities to deal with and examine these kind of situations.  

Overcoming the problem with offense is hard work.  It takes prayer, studying the Word of God and dealing with people and issues in a healthy manner, consistently.  Satan knows that if he can keep all of us mad at each other and keep us from having true relationships with one another, then he wins.  Let’s fight back and not let him win, okay?

There are many scriptures that address the issue of offense, but this one is my favorite.  It’s short and sweet and easy to remember.

“Good sense makes a man restrain his anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression or an offense.” Proverbs 19:11, Amplified Bible

I want to be known as a person who has good sense, don’t you?

And just one more, because I do love the Word of God so…

“He who covers and forgives an offense seeks love, but he who repeats or harps on a matter separates even close friends.” Proverbs 17:9, Amplified Bible

It all comes down to love.  How do I know what love is?  Because I have a heavenly Father who has shown me.  He sent His Son to die on a cross for me and my wretched sin, my offense.  All He asks is that I love Him back and love others as He has loved me. Truthfully, we have NO business being offended, ever.godsloveloveothers

And just a little side note…when God forgives us of our “offenses,” He literally forgets about them. Hint, hint.  If you say you forgive someone, then mean it.  Don’t hold it against them!

Let go and love.  Enjoy this beautiful song about God’s love.

 

I Admit, I Was Wrong

I write this because I MUST.  I have received so much revelation of God’s love and grace that I MUST share it.  Be blessed and may you experience divine revelation, as well.

Miriam Webster defines legalism as:  “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code <the institutionalized legalism that restricts free choice>”

From the age of 6 until the age of 26, I lived an extremely legalistic life.  For 20 years, I depended on my efforts to maintain and reach a level of perfection or holiness to keep me “saved.”  If I could just be good enough, perfect enough, follow all the rules, I would be God’s favorite, I would earn His favor.  I thought that if I followed the “Steps to Salvation” (Acts 2:38) and then followed the list of do’s and don’ts outlined by the religious organization I was part of, then I would be saved. That all changed though and I thank God for His mercy in my life.

Throughout my life, the “Steps to Salvation” were taught to me as such:  First, you must repent of your sins, as in, get down on your knees and beg for forgiveness for all the wrong things you have ever done.  Second, be baptized to wash away those sins.  And thirdly, receive the Holy Ghost by speaking in tongues, which proves that you are saved.  Once these three things have been completed, your salvation has become complete.  Side note:  Repentance is not begging God to forgive you.  He already has.  Repentance is changing your mind and accepting that your sins have been forgiven.  Baptism DOES NOT wash away your sins.  We are baptized because of the forgiveness of our sins.  Baptism is an act of obedience when we become members of the body of Christ.  The infilling of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by speaking in tongues, is not the proof that you are now saved.  We receive “dunamis” power when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, which is the dynamic power given to us to be the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth. The act of speaking in tongues is not salvation.  The “proof” of salvation is in a person’s heart and only God can see that.

Once the steps to salvation are completed, then come the “standards” of living that you must adhere to if you wish to remain saved and if you wish to participate in any kind of leadership within the church.  Things like this:  women cannot cut their hair or dye their hair; women cannot wear makeup; women cannot wear pants or shorts or sleeveless shirts or anything deemed immodest by the leaders of the organization, all skirts and dresses must cover the knees; women cannot wear jewelry.  Men are not permitted to have facial hair; men are not permitted to wear shorts; men are not permitted to have hair longer than their shirt collar.  Public swimming or coed swimming is a big no-no.  School dances such as proms are off limits. No TVs are allowed and going to the movies is prohibited.  And the list goes on…You must understand the context and audience of each book of the Bible.  Books like I and II Corinthians were written to new Christians who were used to participating in pagan customs and goddess worship.  Go ahead, read it again.  Pray for understanding.  Try to read it in a different version or translation.  Research the culture of Corinth in those days.  You’ll see.   

I tried my best to live up to ALL the requirements for living a perfect and holy life, to become righteous and sanctified and justified and all that stuff while trying to keep myself from going to hell.  Now listen very carefully to my next words.   I had it all wrong.

I can see some of you shaking your heads in disbelief.  I can see some of you nodding your heads because you’ve been there.  And I can see some of you frowning and becoming offended at what I’m saying because you are still there.  I’m not backslidden, quite the opposite. I haven’t fallen away from the truth, I have found the truth!  The truth has set me free and can do the same for you!

It’s not about me, it’s not about you.  It’s about Jesus.  It’s not about what I can do or what you can do, it’s about what Jesus has ALREADY done.

THIS is the truth.  Salvation occurs the moment you realize, understand, believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth, shed His blood and died on the cross for YOU.  When you repent (change your mind) for the life you’ve been living and decide to hand over the controls of your life to God, you become saved.  There is a transformation that happens between you and God in your spirit/heart at that very moment.  You become a child of God and you find all the favor you’re ever going to get from God right then and there.  He becomes completely pleased with you.  You become the righteousness of God through Christ Jesus.  There is nothing more that you could do that will earn more favor, make you more righteous or save you more than believing in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross for you.  By grace you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ.  PERIOD.

We are not saved by our works.  As Christians, we SHOULD do good deeds so that others will see Jesus in us.  Our works are not to gain favor with God or salvation, but for others’ benefit.  Since Jesus is no longer walking this earth with us, we must be His hands and feet.  That is the purpose for DOING things.  WORKS DO NOT SAVE YOU OR KEEP YOU SAVED.

News Flash!  You won’t go to hell if you don’t do works or follow the law or the rules.  And your outward appearance has NOTHING to do with it.  God looks at the heart.  The Bible says our righteousness is as filthy rags.  Basically, it’s gross and disgusting to God when we try to appear holier or more righteous or get more saved or whatever other impure motive we have for doing things.  What do you think He thinks about all these man-made rules religion is forcing upon people?  He is disgusted by them.  Gross misinterpretation of Scripture and manipulation of the Word of God has wreaked havoc in the lives of well-meaning Christians for ages.  STUDY THE BIBLE FOR YOURSELF!  Don’t just take the word of a person just because he’s a preacher or a leader in your religious organization.  YOU have access to the presence and voice of God.  He can and will speak to you if you ask Him!

Reading your Bible, praying and fasting do not change God’s opinion of you.  It changes YOU.  These disciplines are solely for your growth and development as a Christian.  Do you get that?

Here’s an example from the Bible.  The Galatians, who were Jews, were trying to force the Gentiles who were newly converted Christians into becoming circumcised like them.  That is what the law had required before.  But we know that the law was no longer the judge once Jesus died and rose from the grave.  Jesus changed it all.  Grace now rules.  The apostle Paul shows up and is like, “What the what?’’  He asks them that if they were going to start following the law again, then why in the world did Jesus have to die on the cross?  Mixing the law (rules and regulations) with the grace of Jesus is like slapping God in the face.  All your sins, all my sins were taken care of, wiped out, cast away on the day that Jesus died.  He bore ALL the sins of the world that day.  There is nothing more that needs to be done by you or me but to accept this FREE gift of love, grace, mercy, righteousness, holiness, healing and salvation from our Creator.  Read Galatians chapter 5 if you don’t believe me.  And also the entire book of Romans and Hebrews.  And how about all the words of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not based on one scripture in Acts, it’s based on the life and death of Jesus Christ, the grace of God.

Once you experience this awesome conversion in your heart, your life will change.  You won’t need a list of do’s and don’ts.  As my pastor recently said, “Your want-to will change.”  You will become a new creation in Christ.  Everything will be different.  You won’t want to be like you were before because of God’s tremendous and everlasting love for you.

The Ten Commandments is our moral code, true.  But Jesus came and said there are only two commandments which the rest of the commandments hang on.  First, love God with all your heart.  Second, love your neighbor as yourself.  If we can just get those two “rules” down, then we’re good.  Think about that.  If you love others, you’re going to treat them like you would yourself.  If you love God, that’s going to change what you do in your life.  When you understand the terrible things that Jesus went through for YOU, it becomes very personal.  Have you ever seen the movie, “The Passion of Christ?”  For me, it was so painful to see what Jesus endured because of MY sins.  Seeing a depiction of what Jesus went through makes me not want to sin every again.  I take it very personally.  That’s how it should be.  Understanding the sacrifice and love of God will change you.

God loves you so much.  He sent His son to die for YOU.  If you were the only one on earth, He still would have done it.  You are the apple of His eye, His most cherished creation.  All He wants is relationship with you.  He has made a way.  Believe it.

Once you become a new creation in Christ, the doors will be wide open for you.  Salvation is just the first of many precious gifts He has for you.  A Christ-filled life is an abundant life, bursting with blessings and favor.  Joy and peace are yours for the taking.  And so much more.

During Vacation Bible School this past summer, we taught the kids a song about God’s love.  The words to this song perfectly sum up what I’m trying to say today.

You cannot stop God from loving you.

His love is not based on what you do.

Today God wants to help you understand.

That nothing can snatch you from His hand. 

Paul’s prayer and desire for the church in Ephesus is my prayer and desire for each of you,

“For this reason I kneel before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV 

If you would like to know more about what the Bible says about salvation, grace or legalism, feel free to contact me.  Be Blessed!

“How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”   Proverbs 16:16

Click on this link and listen to this song “Scandal of Grace”      http://youtu.be/cka7fYhWj2E