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

When I think of the Easter season and the events leading to the Lord’s death, I can definitely identify with one part of it. It’s when Christ asked if there was any way He could accomplish the Father’s will without having to go to the Cross. When I was younger, this didn’t mean a thing but, as I’ve matured, it’s something I think about quite often.

I want things to be easier for me–lots easier. Obviously, there’s no real comparison between my difficulties and dying for the sins of mankind, but being faithful to God’s will isn’t easy, no matter whom you are.

At the same time, the Scriptures teach that nothing beyond our capacity is ever put on us. I know that’s true, but it seems to me that the Lord has a much higher view of my capacity than I do. He stretches me repeatedly and, most of the time, I wish He wouldn’t. I want Him to use me, but in a nice way—not a hard way. Frankly, I’d settle for a year or two of the easy life, wouldn’t you?

But that’s not going to happen, and I know it. I’ll bet you know it, too. Am I right?

It’s because God has a huge investment in each of us, and He’s determined to use us as He sees fit. It’s why we can have joy even when there’s a lot of sadness in our lives. Our travails have value and purpose. When things look bleak, comfort yourself with the assurance that this is true.

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: He is good and can be trusted.

Do you ever feel like you’re being stretched beyond your limits? Just when you think you can’t handle one more thing; inevitably, two or three more things are piled onto you. And without thinking you’re capable of anything else, you’re amazed that your capacity is greater than you ever thought it could be. Believe it or not, the stress of the strain has incredible value to the Lord, although few can see it at the time.

Oswald Chambers puts it this way. Your life is in the “hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands if an archer. God is aiming at something” you cannot see. “He stretches and strains,” and you say, “’I cannot stand any more.’”

According to Chambers, “God does not heed. He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight. Then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands.”

I can think of several times in my life when I thought I had been stretched beyond my capacity, but I was wrong. I whined and moaned and begged God to make things easier for me, but the strain continued until the Lord’s purpose was complete. After the crisis abated, I knew I was stronger, but not during it. When I was in the middle of it, it was all I could do to make it–one day at a time.

Does this sound familiar? If it does, and this is where you are right now, take courage. The crisis will inevitably resolve, and you will become stronger from the experience.

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Refer to STEP 4: I came to believe that God understood my wounded-ness.

After reading yesterday’s entry, one woman offered the following observation:

Could we say this a little differently? Instead of trying to make someone who is very hurt right now say that God has a purpose for it, could we say that He might want to use this experience in our lives further down the road than what we can see right now. I’m not sure I could have seen or had hope that there was a purpose in it when I was in the middle of it. I’m afraid I would have been mad at God for letting it happen because of some big plan he had for my life.

She’s absolutely right. When I read the commentary, I knew I had to write a little more about the subject. When you’ve been abused, the most important thing to do is take care of yourself emotionally. This is especially true when the abuse has just occurred.

As I re-read my commentary, I realized I neglected to mention the importance of self-care in the healing process. Often, the hurt and pain are so severe and intense that just making it through the day is all you can do. If that’s all you can do, you need to be gentle with yourself and let that be enough.

In my own case, I spent nearly a year unable to do much more than take it one day at a time. So, if I haven’t been clear about this, let me be perfectly clear today: It’s OK to take care of yourself. In fact, it’s your most important responsibility. You not only owe it to yourself but it is also what the Lord wants you to 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 10: I believed that God still has a purpose for my life.

A critical part of recovery from spiritual abuse is developing a New Testament mindset. Too often, we talk about being a born-again Christian, but when adversity comes, we fall apart and complain about how hard life is on us. My question is this: Why shouldn’t it be hard?

Your Heavenly Father allowed His Son to go through extraordinary humiliation, pain, and death. Things didn’t go well for Jesus, and His All-Powerful Father just sat by and let it happen—without interference. It’s what we’re celebrating this week—Christ’s death and Resurrection. We plan activities during Easter week, but for most of us, we never really consider the value of taking up our crosses and following Him.

Instead, we whine and complain that things should be going better for us. We want all the burdens of our problems taken from us, or at least substantially alleviated. It never occurs to us that the strain of life has eternal value. What we consider to be a nuisance or distraction is of priceless value to our Father.

We want to walk with the Lord, just as long as it’s easy, conflict free, and politically correct. When it isn’t, we either buckle under to the prevailing culture or complain so much we miss the value of the lesson.

We look at the idea of suffering, which is integral to Christianity, as abnormal and a sign that our walk must be flawed. This simply isn’t true, and it’s not taught in the New Testament. To learn the lesson from your abuse, you must recognize that God has a purpose for it.

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Refer to STEP 11: I made a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord, asking Him to reveal His will to me and provide me with the power to carry it out.

Part of spiritual abuse is being falsely accused. As you can imagine, it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Everything in you screams out for justification–for vindication. You want to let the entire world know that you have done nothing wrong.

At the same time, there are those who have either intentionally or unintentionally made false statements about you. The normal, healthy, appropriate thing to do is to fight back.

But that’s not what the Lord did. He was so focused upon doing the will of the Father, He never defended Himself when falsely accused. Could you do that? Would it even occur to you this might be what the Lord wants from you?

Probably not. As a believer, this is about as difficult as it gets. Reflect back and think about what would have happened in your own situation if you had not been so focused upon self-vindication. I know this is hard, but just imagine—what if! It may help you in the future.

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Refer to STEP 1: I recognized that where I am in life is not where I want to be.

When I first invited Christ into my life in 1964, I had visions about the plans God had for me. Because I was young, my visions were grandiose and very self-centered. But I didn’t realize it. I thought they were from the Lord.

I also remember when I was thirty-three and prayed, “Thank you, Lord. You’ve spared me from so much. Nothing difficult has ever happened to me, and I owe it all to you.” Although my prayer was heartfelt, it was also very arrogant.

From that moment forward, things began to change for me, and I experienced heartbreak at a level I believed would destroy me. But it didn’t. I made me stronger—in spite of myself. At the time, I thought my difficulties were punishment, but I was wrong. It was simply God’s pruning to make me fruitful. As you know, pruning increases fruitfulness, but when every area of your life is clipped, it hurts. It hurts a lot.

The bottom line is this: I was not where I thought I was in my walk with the Lord. I was a little boy dressed up in a man’s clothes, but nothing about me resembled a mature man in Christ. God wanted me to be an adult, and it required a great deal of pruning to make that happen. The same may be true for you. If it is, let the Lord have His way and know it will make you a better person–much better.

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Refer to STEP 6: I abandoned my desire to spread hatred because of my pain and anger, and chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

Have you ever asked yourself why there are so many abusive people in Christianity? According to the Zogby poll, there are as many as 30 million people who have left the churches of their youth. Many see them as irrelevant—others as an unsafe place for them emotionally. But the question remains: How can there be so much abuse in God’s church?

I think I have the answer—at least part of it anyway. It’s because church leaders stop walking in the light. They think they do, but they don’t. Having once had a transformational experience with the Lord, they enshrine it, looking back to it as their validating experience. Because of this experience, anything they do is “OK” in their eyes. They forget that their walk is moment-by-moment, with the Lord providing illumination for the next step forward in grace and mercy and nothing else.

Because they’ve institutionalized their experience, it becomes metallic and hollow rather than alive and vibrant. They lose their compassion, and when someone gets in their way, they have no problem stepping on them. In fact, they believe it’s their right and duty to do so–self-absorbed as they are. Sadly, they forget there is no right way to do a wrong thing.

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 1: I recognized that where I am in life is not where I want to be.

When I first accepted Christ as Lord and Savior as a nineteen-year-old young man, I was told “God had a wonderful plan for my life.” In my mind, this equated to power, success, prestige, and wealth. Because I was eager for this, I readily accepted the invitation.

Looking back forty years later, my initial experience seems more like a Hertz commercial than anything else. You know the one—Not Exactly. What I thought God had in store for me wasn’t even close to what has happened. I wanted to be rich in the world’s eyes; He wanted me rich in character. Guess who won this battle of the wills?

What I have learned along the way, however, has made me a much better man than I ever dreamed of being. So here’s my encouragement to you: Let the Lord have His way, and He will make you into a person worth knowing. He’s going to get His way regardless, so learn to enjoy the process rather than fight it. It will make your life much more rewarding.

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

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