Are you recovering from a narcissist?

Ending a narcissistic relationship is very hard as anyone who has ever done so will tell you. However, in some ways, recovering from the abuse caused by the narcissist is just as hard, if not harder. I recently ended what I can only describe as the most important friendship of my entire life, lasting over 25 years. She was my best friend, the bff that I truly thought would be my friend forever, and yet, I walked away. I won’t go into the details. If you have dealt with a narcissist, you will know their behaviors are like a broken record. They all do the same things.  The pain, the broken heart and the struggle to overcome and allow my heart to be healed is what I want to deal with here today. 

We all grieve in different ways, but the stages are similar to all of us; Shock, denial, anger, depression and finally, acceptance. However, I find that when dealing with the left overs of a narcissistic relationship, even acceptance can be painful. How do you trust your gut again? How do you trust people again? I trusted her with my whole heart for many years. I believed she had my back. How do I go on and not allow it to happen again? As a Christian, I find this particularly hard. I have chosen to forgive. Forgiveness is a huge part of the process when it comes to healing. I chose to accept my part in this toxic relationship. I knew she was unhealthy from the beginning. I made the fatal mistake of believing that my love could heal her. I believed, as so many of us do, that if she could encounter unconditional love from just one person, me, she could find the healing she needed and become whole. Again, if you’ve tried this, you probably know it doesn’t work. 

I thought I had put the relationship behind me, I thought I had found acceptance. It’s been over 2 months now since I walked away and in my foolishness, I thought I was ok. But I could tell that things were not right in my heart. I find myself close to tears a lot these days, often for no reason. So I asked the Lord this morning during my prayer time, what I need, since apparently I don’t know. He told me what I guess was obvious, I need healing for my broken heart. He also told me that I have worked too hard over the course of my life for a heart that is whole. I’ve come too far, and honestly, that’s no doubt the reason why I was able to finally see this relationship for what it really was, and walk away. He then told me that I should not allow the enemy to steal from me what I have worked so hard for over these many years. Let me explain.

There is a passage in Matthew 10:16 where Jesus warns His disciples: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” I want to show you what the Lord showed me in this verse, that helped me to understand both the trap that the enemy lays for us, and how the Holy Spirit helps us to overcome. Being wise as a serpent is not hard these days. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:1 “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come”. He goes on to tell us in verses 2-7 the terrible attributes that people will have during these last days. 

“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

I think his description could easily be summed up as “in the last days, there will be many narcissists”. 

When I look at these characteristics, I have to realize that evil people are everywhere and it will not get better. Scripture warns us that in the latter days, things will get worse. Now here’s where understanding comes in. I have to be wise enough to see how the enemy will bring these kinds of people into my life, over and over. Why does he do that? To make me angry, bitter and offended. If you think about it, that’s the trap he lays for us. It would be easy for me to fall into that trap, I’ve done it before, I can do it again. But if I realize that it is a trap, I can ask the Lord for help to avoid falling into it. How do I do that? Look at the second part of the verse: “innocent as doves”. Who is the Dove? The Holy Spirit! It is the Holy Spirit who is innocent and loves unconditionally. Here’s what I mean. The enemy will bring these types of people into our lives to make us angry, bitter and offended with both people and God. We need to have wisdom to recognize that the enemy’s entire goal is to trip us up and make us walk away from the Lord. However, if we allow the Holy Spirit to heal our hearts, if we put our hearts into His hands He will help us to walk in healing and consequently in love. Again, how do I do that?

It’s always been my understanding that unconditional love is not unconditional if you don’t see the other person in all of their flaws and shortcomings. If I look at someone and all I see is perfection, then I love them conditionally. I will love them only as long as they are perfect, because as soon as they sin, as soon as they fail to be perfect, my love will wane. It is only when I know who they are, when I see their sin, that I can choose to love them unconditionally. Perhaps this is the reason why James 5:16 tells us to “confess our sins, one to another”. If I know your sins and you know mine, and we still choose to love each other, then it becomes unconditional love. That’s the kind of love God has for us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) That is unconditional love! 

Now here’s the tricky part. It’s easy to have the serpent’s wisdom. Sin abounds in our world. There are many, many people who are all too aware of evil people because they have been hurt by them, and they have chosen to be angry and bitter their whole lives. It’s also easy, believe it or not, to have the innocence of doves. There were many years, when I could not, would not, believe that people choose to be evil. I gave people the benefit of the doubt over and over and over. I could not believe that they would deliberately hurt me. That is the innocence of a dove. But, what it really is, is naivety! I was naive. It is only when we have the knowledge or wisdom of who people really are, what people can be, and then pair it with the Holy Spirit’s innocence, that we can love people as Jesus did. He knew people’s hearts. He knew who would betray Him and who would deny Him. (John 2:24-25) Yet, He loved them. 

The Lord showed me that I must do what Peter tells us to in 1 Peter 5:7. I must cast (Greek word to throw) my cares upon Jesus, because I know that He cares about me. Make no mistake, broken hearts, anger, bitterness and offenses are cares of this world. The word cares, used in this passage is the exact same Greek word that Jesus used in the Parable of the Sower. (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:9, Luke 8:14) It is the “cares” of this world that cause us to walk away from Jesus. 

Finally, knowing people’s hearts and realizing that people will hurt us even deliberately, but at the same time, choosing to love unconditionally is like walking a tightrope. It is only through the work of the Holy Spirit that we are able to walk it. I am not suggesting that we stay in toxic relationships. As a matter of fact, when I struggled with whether or not to walk away from mine, it really helped me that Paul told Timothy (and us), while describing people in these last days, “And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:5) I have turned away from her, but I must choose to allow the Holy Spirit to heal my heart and love others through me, again. 

Why did Jesus command us to wash other people’s feet?

When Jesus died on the cross, one of the last things He said was “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”. I always took what He said for granted, somehow thinking that it was all part of His dying for our sins, and indeed, it was. However, in Acts 7:56-60 we are told the story of Stephen being martyred by the Jewish leaders, and interestingly enough, Stephen uttered almost the same words.  “And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep”. 

As I pondered on these two scenarios, I began to wonder if perhaps they had a deeper significance than just words spoken at the end of a life. I would like to suggest that Jesus gives us a strong clue of their importance in John 13, when He washes the disciples feet at the last supper. 

As I meditated on what took place during that last evening before the crucifixion and the things that both Jesus and Peter said, it became clear to me that what Jesus was doing was not just a physical act of washing their feet. If it had been, then Peter’s refusing to have his feet washed by Jesus would have made more sense, since only slaves washed the feet of others, and Jesus was clearly not a slave. However, Jesus actually tells them that what he was doing was not about the physical: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter then responds to this statement in verse 9 with: “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter is still not sure what is going on, but Jesus quickly corrects him in verse 10 with this: “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you. He is of course referring to Judas in this statement.

It is here, with this last phrase that I began to gain a better understanding of what Jesus was doing. In Numbers 19, the Lord gave the priests a ritual of cleansing commonly called ablution. The word “wash” that both Peter and Jesus use in the above scene is the word ablution in the original Greek language. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “Ablution must not be confused with washing for the sake of cleanliness. This is evident from the requirement that the body be entirely clean before ablution.” In other words, you have to take a bath first to wash off the dirt and dust. They go on to tell us that “In the Jewish tradition there are three types of ablution according to the type of impurity involved: complete immersion, immersion of hands and feet, and immersion of hands only.” 

John the Baptist taught complete immersion when he called Israel to repent and be baptized in the Jordan River. The religious leaders of Jesus’ time taught that you cannot eat without ceremonial washing of the hands. Yet here was Jesus, washing only the feet of the disciples. No wonder they were confused. And on top of that, Jesus told them that they were ceremonially clean because they had already bathed. He tells them in John chapter 15:3 that the reason why they were clean was because of the word that He had spoken to them. In other words, the reason they were clean is because they believed Jesus! Their faith in Him had cleansed their “whole body” spiritually. 

However, even with their faith in Him, even while they were “spiritually clean” they needed to have their feet washed. The feet represented the “dirt and dust” of each day. Every day we encounter situations or attitudes that might cause us to sin. Hence, we must keep what is commonly called a “short account” with God. We must come to Him on a regular basis, whenever we feel convicted of sin, and allow Him to wash our feet, or cleanse us from our sin. 

Repentance is not a one time activity that occurs when we first came to faith in Jesus by saying a prayer of salvation. Repentance is an ongoing lifestyle that we must practice regularly.

Jesus makes that very clear both to the disciples and to us during this scene. 

But what about washing the feet of other people? What does it represent when we wash the feet of others? How do we even do such a thing, if it is not about the physical? And how does this whole foot washing scene at the last supper have anything to do with what both Jesus said on the cross and Stephen cried out, right before they died? Remember what Jesus told the disciples after He had washed their feet? He told them to go do it to others. “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:14) 

It is my opinion that both Jesus and Stephen were giving us an example of what to do when people sin against us: we must “wash their feet” by forgiving them.  In John 20:33, Jesus told the disciples “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” This verse just seems so powerful to me because it suggests that I have the power to forgive sin and I have the power to hold onto other people’s sins. Not only does it appear powerful to me, but even more, it seems to come with a lot of responsibility.  1 Peter 2:5,9 tells us that we are a royal priesthood, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. If I am considered a priest, then my number one job it would seem to me, is to intercede for others. The priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. They interceded on their behalf. I am not suggesting that I have the power to save people. I don’t! Only Jesus saves. But I do believe that when I intercede on behalf of others and forgive them their sins, I can release something in the supernatural that will allow them to come to faith in Jesus. 

Although I cannot prove my theory, I do believe there are examples of this in Scripture. I think that perhaps one of the reasons why Paul the apostle repented and came to a knowledge of the truth is directly related to Stephen’s last words. Why? Because Paul was there watching him die. “Then they cast him (Stephen) out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.” (Acts 7:58)

I believe that we have the power to release people from sin, not for salvation, but for them to come to Jesus for salvation. In other words, I think that because Stephen forgave his killers and asked the Lord to as well, that that sin was not held against Saul and somehow allowed him to eventually be apprehended on the road to Damascus.  

Do I understand all of this? Absolutely not. I think there is a mystery here! But I do believe that we are called to do what Jesus did and sometimes that involves washing the dirty feet of others by forgiving them. If you think about it, is that not the ultimate example of loving others? Forgiveness is never easy. Especially not when the person has sinned against us personally.  But that’s also the beauty and the power of forgiveness. It involves sacrifice, which is exactly what Peter told us to do in 1 Peter 2:5: we are to “offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 

I would add just one thing more here. We all fall short, we all have sinned. We all have dirty feet.  If we want to be forgiven for our sin, we must forgive others their sin. Jesus made that very clear in Matthew 6:14-15, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

If you are struggling to forgive others, ask the Lord to help you. Forgiveness is not a feeling, it is a choice. It also does not mean that you have to allow that person back into your life so they can hurt you again. But commands it.  If you need to understand how forgiveness benefits you personally, read my blog post called “The hidden benefits of forgiveness” from October 2018. May you find peace for your soul as you forgive others. 

You Don’t Have To Be Nice

Such wisdom is sadly lacking in our society.

Grace for my Heart

It’s Narcissist Friday!

You don’t have to be nice. To be nice means to be agreeable. The nice person doesn’t cause grief for others. The nice person doesn’t make others feel bad. The nice person doesn’t say mean things. The nice person lets others get by with things. The nice person lets herself be used. The nice person watches others get promoted. The nice person doesn’t speak up.

No, you don’t have to be nice. In earlier days, being nice meant being simple, even stupid. The nice person just nodded in polite agreement, no matter what was being said. The nice person didn’t have an opinion of value and wouldn’t take a stand. The nice person just wanted to get along.

You don’t have to be nice.

You should be kind, that’s different. You should be honest and generous and respectful. These are all good things. The Bible never calls…

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Why does Elijah have to come first?

Have you ever wondered why Elijah has to come before the great and terrible day of the Lord? 

The prophet Malachi tells us in Malachi 4:5-6, ‘Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn The hearts of the fathers to the children, And the hearts of the children to their fathers, Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.”

In order to really understand why Elijah must come first, we have to understand what Elijah did both in person and through the ministry of John the Baptist. Jesus spoke of John’s ministry when He quoted Malachi 3:1 and told His disciples in Matthew 11:10, “Behold I send My messenger before Your face, Who will prepare Your way before You.” He told them again in Matthew 17:11-12, that “Elijah is coming first and will restore all things, But I say to you that Elijah has come already.” He was again referring to the ministry of John the Baptist. So let me ask you another question. What exactly did John do? Did John perform any miracles? No, as far as Scripture is concerned, not a one (John 10:41). John preached repentance! He told people to repent and be baptized so that they would be ready to receive their Messiah. 

If you look at the prophet Elijah, it’s easy to forget what he really did because all we ever think about with Elijah are the miracles that he did while on earth. Or, perhaps you might think about the fact that Elijah got raptured (check out 2 Kings 2:11 “Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven”). But Elijah’s main ministry was a message of repentance to the king of Israel, King Ahab. You can read all about Elijah in 1 and 2 Kings and how Ahab calls him “a troubler of Israel” because God had used Elijah to bring judgment on Israel because of all the idolatry.

I think it is hard to understand what exactly is meant in Malachi when we are told that Elijah has to come first. It is easy to get confused. Obviously Elijah did not come back to earth and pretend he was John. But we are told in 2 Kings 2:15 what’s really going on. “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” Remember Elisha? He was Elijah’s disciple. In other words there is a certain “spirit” that clearly rested on Elijah and then on Elisha and then on John the Baptist. This spirit of Elijah will return to the earth before the great and terrible day of the Lord. Remember, Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 17:11 that Elijah is coming and will restore all things. 

And that brings me to a word that is not well received or preached about these days: sin. In Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus tells His disciples a parable that they don’t fully understand. It is commonly called the parable of the wheat and the tares. In order to even begin to understand this parable, we have to know what tares are. The Bible dictionary tells us that tares are an injurious weed resembling wheat when young. It is a type of rye grass, the seeds of which are poisonous. It is very difficult to tell them apart from wheat until both are fully mature. When I read this definition, the phrase wolves in sheep’s clothing, immediately comes to mind. Now I want you to notice something about these tares, they are poisonous! It’s not, as I and perhaps you, have thought, just another weed, taking up space in the garden. No, this weed will poison you. So what is Jesus saying in this parable about wheat and tares? He’s telling us that there are people right smack dab in the middle of the church, people who look exactly like real Christians, who know the talk and know the walk. People who often put themselves into positions of leadership, authority, or influence, but deep in their hearts, they are hypocrites. They are wolves, intent on poisoning the sheep.

I know this is hard to believe or accept. The first time I ran into one of these wolves, it really did a number on me. I thought my pastor was a wonderful, godly man. My kids loved him. I loved him. I would not have guessed in a million years that this man was not who he claimed to be: a mature Christian pastor who cared about his sheep. And then one day, the Lord told me to tell him to repent and allow His spirit to be in control, or his church would split and fall apart. I asked for confirmation and got it from the other pastors and elders on staff. They told me they had tried to talk to him numerous times and he would not listen. He didn’t listen to my words either. As a matter of fact, he called me a false prophet and some other choice words. I was horrified to see a side of this man that I did not know existed. This happened almost 20 years ago and it changed me forever. Needless to say, that ministry no longer exists today. The building that this church met in has since been sold and become a place where people go to die. Was this pastor a tare? Absolutely. A wolf masquerading as a shepherd. 

So why am I telling this story now? Because for the past 2 or 3 decades the Lord has been telling pastors like the one I mentioned, to repent. He has been telling them to turn from their wicked ways, and feed His sheep. But like ancient Israel, they would not. The prophet Jeremiah tells us of such people:  An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes? (Jeremiah 5:30-31) 

Jesus warned us about such false prophets. In Matthew 7:15, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves”. Jeremiah asks the question “what will you do when the end comes”? Jesus gives us the answer in the parable of the wheat and tares. When He explains to them what this parable means, this is what He said:

“The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13:36-43)

It seems that almost every day now we hear of another “godly” man or women who dies prematurely. Many of these are pastors, prophets or teachers. Others were just sitting in pews. Am I suggesting that every single person who dies right now is a hypocrite? No. But it does make me pause and consider. It puts the fear of the Lord on me. And it should on you as well. Maybe you have some tares in your life and you are in denial. It’s hard to accept that someone would deliberately deceive others for their own gain. But it happens all the time. It’s painful when it happens to us. Our eyes must be on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Don’t allow one of these tares to poison your heart and mind and make you lose your faith. Don’t let them win.

Or perhaps you are one of those hypocrites, one of those tares who goes around poisoning other people? Are you someone who has pretended to be something you’re not? If you are, and I’m sure you know it, then I suggest you repent! This is the end of the age. The angels are going around gathering up the tares into bundles, ready to be burned in the fire. Don’t be one of them! 

Why are we told to Keep Watch?

Our property backs onto a wilderness area that gradually turns into a marsh. The first time I saw the house I fell in love with the wildness of it. It was like living in a forest. Although I’m not an outdoor person and do not enjoy camping, I do enjoy looking at the trees and the wildlife. Sometimes my husband was able to persuade me to take a walk with him in this forest and we would explore the area. The one thing I noticed immediately, and anyone who has ever walked in this type of terrain will also know, is that I had to be careful to watch where I was going. There were holes in the ground where I’m sure some little critter lived; there were tree limbs and branches littering the ground, and there were even little areas of standing water that I had to find a way to cross, without slipping. I had to be on alert the entire time for these natural traps and snares, so I would not be injured or worse, even bitten by a snake. As I ponder on this, I can’t help but think of the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:42 when He warned His disciples to “stay awake”. The word used here is a Greek word that means to stay awake or be vigilant or keep watch. In other words, don’t fall asleep. As I walked through that untamed wilderness area behind my house, I had to be vigilant to not sprain my ankle, or trip and fall. As much as I love watching the birds, looking up at that time would not have been good. I had to keep watch over my feet. 

I’ve always wondered what Jesus meant when He told us to “keep watch”. However, as I think of this story in the natural, I begin to understand what it could possibly mean in the spiritual. In Ephesians 5:15 Paul admonishes us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise, but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”. So the first thing that I have to understand as I learn to keep watch in the spirit realm, is that I need to be wise, and I need to make the best use of my time. 

In other words, I have to have the wisdom to understand that the enemy is laying traps, snares, tree limbs, branches, little holes in the ground, and even using snakes, to trip us and make us fall and get hurt or bit. Denial doesn’t change anything. He’s out there looking for you and me. He’s looking for weak spots in our lives so that we might become offended with the Lord and walk away from Him. Jesus warned His disciples in John 16:1 by telling them: “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.” The word falling away means to offend, to trip up or cause to stumble. What did Jesus just warn them about before He said that? He told them that persecutions would come and they would be hated by the world. I think we can all agree that this has been happening all over the world, and is most recently getting even worse. We must guard our hearts that we not become offended with the Lord but instead choose to trust Him in everything that happens, even and perhaps especially when we don’t understand. 

Jesus also warned His disciples in Mark 14:38 to “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Jesus told His disciples this right before He was arrested and crucified. What temptation could He have been referring to? I believe He was warning them about fear and offense. They were all scattered and afraid when He was arrested. They were afraid that it could happen to them as well and offended because He was not doing what they had hoped. He did not declare Himself as King of the Jews and deliver them from Roman occupation, which is what they were looking for in a Messiah. They were not looking for a lamb that was crucified. 

Temptation is not always about sinful actions such as immorality. We can also be tempted to become angry, bitter and offended with our Lord when life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it should. When our prayers haven’t been answered or they were answered in a way we didn’t like, or anytime stuff happens that is painful and difficult, it is easy to become offended with Him. When life doesn’t turn out the way we expected it to, the temptation is great to become like John the Baptist and doubt that Jesus really is God and that He is in control. “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3) I will point out what Jesus said to John’s disciples after telling them to report back about the things He was doing, “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:6) Why would Jesus say that? I would venture to say that John was offended because he was in prison, and this was not the way he expected his ministry to end up. He fell into the trap of offense. If it can happen to John the Baptist, it can happen to anyone. We must be vigilant and keep watch. 

The enemy is also looking for ways to distract us with the cares of this world. When I look at the world right now, I can truly agree with Paul when he says “the days are evil”. There are so many things happening to us in this world right now that are distracting, to say the least. Fear is everywhere. Anger is readily on the surface. Confusion reigns. If we struggle with who is in control, then these emotions double in their intensity. I’m sure that I am not alone in trying to escape from the fears of this world. It is easy to do that with the internet and other entertainments so readily available in our society. I have to so often reign my heart and mind back in and stop finding comfort in these distraction and instead find my peace and comfort in Jesus. As He faced arrest, knowing the darkness coming at both Him and them, Jesus told them “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Our eyes must be on Jesus in these perilous days. I will leave you with this final word of encouragement that Jesus tells us in Luke 21:28: “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Look up. He’s coming in the clouds!

Awaiting the return of Jesus

I became aware of a rather startling statistic the other day. I’m not a math person, so perhaps that is why I never noticed it before, but when I did see it, it left me shocked. Have you ever looked at the math in the parable of the sower? Jesus shared this parable in three of the gospels. Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 all share this story in great detail and each one of them share the interpretation that Jesus told the disciples in private. A sower went out to sow. He tells them that the seed is the word of God and that there are 4 kinds of people whose lives the seed is sown into. The first is the one who hears it, but doesn’t understand the message, and the enemy comes and takes the word away. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path”. (Matthew 13:19) The second is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy, but because the word is planted among the rocks, what I will call a hard heart, the roots do not grow deep, “And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away”. (Luke 8:13) Matthew and Mark also call it persecution and tribulation. Trouble! The third kind is the one whose heart is full of thorns, and although they too receive the word for a season, “they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature”. (Luke 8:14) Finally, the fourth kind is the only one that receives the message and actually grows deep roots and eventually produces a harvest of good fruit.  “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience”. If you know anything about plants and trees, you will know that shallow roots and poor soil do not create a good harvest. 

So how are statistics and math involved in this equation? There are four kinds of people in this parable, yet 3/4 of them will eventually walk away from Jesus. Three out of four! Not my words, not my understanding, not my interpretation, only Jesus. He said it. Truth be told, it puts the fear of God in me. I know that this generation has been told repeatedly from the pulpit that we cannot lose our salvation. I don’t know if that’s true. Perhaps it is, and there is more going on than I understand. But I do know what the word tells me, and according to Jesus, 3/4 of the people who hear His gospel, will eventually walk away from Him. I will repeat, they walk away. I also know that we have an adversary who is constantly trying to tempt us, and perhaps even more importantly, try to get us to become offended with God. In my feeble attempt to understand what Jesus is trying to warn us about, and I do believe it is a warning, I’m going to try to paraphrase what Jesus said even further. Sometimes just hearing it in a slightly different way helps us to see it with fresh eyes.

One quarter will hear the message and will never be interested in the good news. They are content with their lives, they love this world and they cannot imagine bowing down to God and obeying Him. Another quarter will hear the message and get excited, but as soon as trouble comes, and it will, and their prayers are not answered the way they would like them to be, as soon as things happen around them that they don’t understand or like, they will become angry and offended with God. I see a lot of that happening right now. Another quarter will also receive the word with some excitement, perhaps they were told that if they said a simple prayer of salvation, they would get a free ticket to heaven. Unfortunately, all those shiny things, all those temptations such as money and all that money can buy, and all the pleasures that can be found in this world, are very distracting. Pretty soon, obeying Jesus, doing His will, saying no to sin, living for Him, becomes a bore and maybe even a chore. Slowly but surely, they choose the things of this world, over Jesus. Perhaps they continue to attend church, talking themselves into believing that nothing has changed, but their heart is no longer seeking Him. They honor Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. (Isaiah 29:13)

Since we are talking about statistics, I want to share another one with you. This one might actually be worse than the first one. Did you know that 50% of the church will be left behind in the rapture? How on earth did I get that one, you might ask? Sadly, out of the mouth of Jesus, as well. In Matthew 24 and 25 Jesus is talking to the disciples about the end of the age. Along with telling us the signs that will tell us the end is near, He also mentions the rapture. I’m going to let Jesus tell us Himself in Matthew 24:36-42:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

This passage is interesting because every time I’ve ever seen it quoted, the emphasis is always on the day and hour. Sadly, no one mentions that one man will be taken, and one left, or that one woman will be taken and one left behind. Luke 17:34 repeats this idea of being taken and left behind when he says that Jesus also said, “I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left.” 

There is another story in Matthew 25 where Jesus shares the parable of the ten virgins. Five were wise and five were foolish. Five were taken to the wedding feast. Five were left behind.

“And while they were going to buy (oil), the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

Why am I sharing these frightening statistics? I really had to think this one through and make sure I was hearing the Lord correctly. I’m sharing them because I believe He is warning us to wake up. I believe He is warning us to not be the church of Laodicea. I don’t want to be left behind. I don’t want to think I’m safe, and have my heart drifting off with temptations and offenses. I don’t want to have Him look at me one day, and say:

“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.” I’m listening to His advice to that church and I’m asking Him to show me how I can buy gold refined in the fire, and white garments to clothe myself so I’m no longer naked, and I’m buying eye salve so I can see and am no longer blind. (Revelation 3:14-22)

If ever there is a fire on this earth it is now. I’m choosing to buy gold, by trusting Him, by not allowing fear to overwhelm me. I’m choosing to not become offended by the things going on around me that I don’t like or understand. I’m choosing to trust Him with my salvation and spending time in His word, and time listening to His voice. I counsel you to do the same, to search your own heart and keep watch. Be ready, for we do not know the day or the hour.

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