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Archive for March, 2008


Refer to STEP 6: I made a commitment to turn away from my pride and refused to become just like those who abused me.

Much of the spiritual abuse–which debilitates thousands–comes from leaders of 501c (3) Christian ministries. Part of the problem stems from a mind-set that validates the belief that the ends justify the means. Because the ministry is doing God’s work, many leaders have myopic vision and a cavalier attitude about financial compensation for work done for them. In an effort to be wise and frugal with “God’s money,” they contract work they never completely pay for.

Reasoning that the ministry goals supersede the need to be fundamentally fair with those who labor for them, they cheat people out of what they are owed and think they are being obedient to the Lord when they do it. They seem to applaud their decision, counting the money saved by their penurious behavior as a sign of godly stewardship.

Forgetting that a workman is worthy of his or her wages, they may smile with self-satisfaction and actually believe their actions are praiseworthy.

This attitude, which is deeply resented by those who have done work in good faith, is sinful and never God’s will. In my twenty-five years of working with ministries, however, I have seen numerous people abused this way. It’s wrong and there’s no way to make cheating people out of what they are owed the will of God. Nevertheless, ministries all over America do it everyday, creating emotional carnage in their wake.

More than any other thing, this produces people jaded by serving Christian ministries. It’s wrong at so many levels; it’s difficult to list them all.

I know many of you have had experience with this. Please let me hear from you. I’ll post your experiences for others to read.

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

 

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Refer to STEP 2: I recognized that where I am in life is not where I want to be.

I have a question. Do you ever think God holds you to a higher standard than He does for others? I certainly do.

Many people I know seem to have such a comfortable, easy life, while mine—by way of contrast—seems much more difficult than necessary. At the same time, I remember when I was thirty-three and prayed, “Thank you, Father. Everything has always gone so well for me. Nothing bad has ever happened, and I’m so grateful to You for that—so grateful.”

Within a month of the time I uttered that prayer, things changed for me, and the subsequent thirty years have been filled with difficulties. Have I chafed under the strain of my circumstances? You bet—big time! But I’ve also grown.

When I was thirty-three, I was a little boy who looked like a man. Now, I am a man in every sense of the word, having my character forged in God’s winepress of adversity. It was a painful experience, but from the Divine standpoint, absolutely necessary. Without it, I would still have my gray hair, but all I would be is a little boy who looked like a mature man.

The world is full of men who have never grown up, and at long last, I can say that I’m not one of them. I owe that to the Lord, and I’m grateful.

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Refer to STEP 4: I chose to accept as true what God has said about Himself. He is good and can be trusted.

In spite of what anyone might tell you, God is not a blessing machine, ready to dispense material favors for all who ask without qualification. When you look at the “Fruits of the Spirit,” materialism is never mentioned. What are mentioned are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and several similar attributes. Each of these character qualities is of high value to God, and if you want to be a person after “God’s own heart,” this is what you will value also.

Too often, most of us whine and moan because we want material blessings without even the slightest consideration of whether or not receiving them is actually good for us or not. What we’re after is a celestial bailout, which will help us avoid the natural consequences of our actions. We can see that government bailouts are counter-productive, but we never seem to understand that our prayers are frequently just as counter-productive.

We’re like a three-year-old who cries for candy that will destroy the nutritional value of dinner. Because we don’t understand the bigger picture, we demand our own way and blame God for not answering our prayers.

He does answer them, but rarely in exactly the way we want or expect. When prayer seems unanswered and we don’t get “the stuff” we want from God, it’s usually because He’s working on the things He wants for us—love, joy, peace, and all the rest.

Now, what do you really want?

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Refer to STEP 4: I recognized that God is not the abuser—people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

Much of the conflict and abuse in our churches and ministries comes from the mistaken belief that worthwhile goals justify the means necessary to achieve them. This simply isn’t true, and nothing like this is taught in the New Testament. This, however, doesn’t seem to matter to many ministry leaders who erroneously believe that as long as their goals are good and achievable, their methods are justifiable.

Consequently, if you—or anyone else—get in their way, you’re “out of God’s will” and impeding His work. They really believe this, and it’s where so much trouble comes from. Because of this belief, many church leaders don’t scrutinize their methods adequately and emotional carnage ensues—sometimes massive carnage.

In nearly every recovery program, there’s an expression like this: There’s no right way to do a wrong thing. In other words, if you’re pursuing your goals with flawed motives or methods, the results will be equally flawed, regardless of how noble they appear. The ends do not justify the means and never will—not in God’s Kingdom anyway. When a church leader recognizes this, he always takes care of his flock along the way. When he doesn’t, the sheep suffer the consequences.

If this is what’s happening in your church or ministry, speak up! Nothing will be right until you do.

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Refer to STEP 8: I shared my experience with a trusted friend and confessed to God the exact state of my heart.

I had an interesting and instructive experience the last time I went to my small group Bible study. A young couple in the group has spent the last year in Boston where she has been working on a master’s degree at Harvard. Before they went, we prayed as a group about whether or not it was God’s will for them to go.

As our group sat and shared during their spring break visit, she said she didn’t think it was God’s will for her to go through this program because it had been so difficult for them in nearly every area of their lives, especially being without the nurture of those who know and love them so well in our small group—their primary spiritual contact.

Several minutes after she spoke, I said, “I think you’re mistaken. I believe it was God’s will for you to go.”

Looking at one and then the other, I continued, “You’re stronger—both of you. I can see it and so can everyone else. Your heart for the Lord has been strengthened by this experience as well as your heart for one another. That’s what God wants, and He will allow you to go through as much sorrow and pain as it takes to produce it. It’s that valuable to Him.”

As I reflected after I said this, I remembered two years earlier when I went to their wedding. She radiated as a young bride and was very beautiful. Two years later—to the day—she also radiated, as tears streamed down her cheeks. But this time the beauty was stronger and more pronounced because it came from the inside out. The strain of the experience has produced a Christ likeness that’s undeniable.

They are exactly where they are supposed to be, but it will take a while for them to realize it. How about you — are you exactly where you’re supposed to be? Let me know in the comment section below.

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Refer to STEP 10: I believed that God still has a purpose for my life—a purpose for good and not evil.

When things are particularly difficult for you, how many times have you heard someone say? “It will be OK. You just need to have a little faith.”

People mean well when they say this, but it really doesn’t help, does it? In fact, if you’re like me, it makes you want to scream—or worse.

I think it’s because faith really doesn’t have much meaning when said like this. It’s more of a pathetic sentiment than anything else, and pathetic sentiments can’t help when you need real answers to real problems.

At the same time, having faith is exactly what you need when everything looks bleak and you have no answers. But real faith is not in the least the sentimental drivel most consider it to be—not even close. It’s robust confidence and total assurance God is active and in charge of the future. He knows your situation, and He already has everything worked out. There is nothing you can tell Him that He doesn’t already know, and He’s got your back.

If you believe this and can base your confidence upon it, then you can say, “I know who I believe in, and I’m convinced that He is able to take care of me in whatever situation I’m in. Nothing can pry me from His grasp—nothing.”

That’s real faith, and its value is priceless to the Lord. It’s what He’s after in you and in me.

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Refer to STEP 3: I accepted that the responsibility for getting back on track was mine and no one else’s.

When you’ve experienced abuse of any kind, you inevitably lose your ability to trust. It just goes with the turf. Some people never get it back and lead half-lives ruled by suspicion and distrust.

If your abuse has come from a trusted spiritual leader, most people lose their ability to trust in God as well. Although the abuser will have to answer to God for creating the problem in you, it’s still your responsibility to get back to the place where you began—trusting God with every fiber of your being. It’s easy to blame someone for your situation, but that doesn’t solve the problem.

Being in this situation is obviously very difficult, but the alternative is even worse. Once you’ve experienced the love of God, it’s hard to settle for anything less. And chafing at the bit does nothing but waste precious years—your years not your abusers.

It’s the Easter season—a season for new life and a perfect time to make a new beginning. Why not make the commitment to return to your first love—a commitment to return to the Lord?

We can do it together right here at Pushing Jesus. You’ll never regret your decision to say yes. What do you say? Let’s start right away.

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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