Archive for April, 2008

Refer To STEP 9: I humbly asked God to change anything He wished and asked Him to heal my pain. Because God forgives us as we forgive others, I forgave my abusers.

NOTE: We’re going to spend some time discussing prayer because so many people have confusion about it. I hope this will help. Feel free to send me your comments. I’ll post what you have to say.


The Scriptures tell us to not be conformed to this world but to be transformed. The way to do this is by renewing our minds. If our minds are renewed, we can pray with the correct perspective. But what exactly is involved in renewing your mind?

When you’ve experienced abuse—any abuse—it impacts how you perceive reality. You see things differently—more apprehensively and with less confidence. And to be honest, most who have been abused wonder if God is really in charge or not. They believe it intellectually and doctrinely, but not from their own experience. They just don’t see it. “If He was in charge in an active way, He wouldn’t have let . . . (fill in the blanks).”

That’s where we have to begin our recovery process. We need to renew our minds about this. Until we do, we’ll never get far in our recovery.

Here’s the place we need to get to: God is in charge of everything.

“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”

This is either true, or it isn’t. If you want to have a full and productive life, you need to start by renewing your mind to accept that God is alive and powerful and active in the affairs of mankind. That includes your life, even when you were certain He had abandoned you.

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This is interesting—still a hot topic in my mind.

Remember the war-time position—”Never negotiate with terrorists?’ Is it denouncing faith or using the brain God gave us to realize we are dealing with an idiot of the devil and “nothing good can come from this.” God knows our true heart, and he equipped us with a brain. When we are saved, it is when we accept Jesus into our hearts—not by uttering words. Of course faith without works is dead. But is our witness and conviction honoring God here—does evil have the right to coerce us?

I am sure I would try to explain/challenge the terrorist—”What would it matter to you, Mr. Terrorist, what I say? It is what is in my heart that matters, and words are nothing without action (change of heart). How is it that your actions here are pleasing to your God?”

You are right, I would end up dead either way—and hope that God was glorified in my life in many ways before then.

This is still an interesting topic. I would gladly die for Christ or allow my children to die for Christ. But not sure this is what God would want or it would really be for Christ. I am not really convinced anything terrorists say or ask for matter.

It’s kind of like “What-ever.” That is where I struggle. Who put them in a position of divine rule or judgment? Are we empowering evil at that point by succumbing to their pressure and duress?


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Hey, Jack,
I loved reading your “Pushing Jesus” article on witnessing. I love reading anything you write, Brother!

However, don’t sell your efforts short on the beach invasion training. You are a much better man, in my humble opinion, for having been through the experience of the training and the “hitting the beaches” experience.

It was not natural for me either, and I never would have been involved in that training had I not been “filled with the Spirit” and with great Christian leaders who were leading the charge. My motivation “leaked out” pretty quickly because that is not my natural personality, but the training and the work of obediently speaking to others and asking them to pray has been a life-changing experience for me my entire life. I wish I were more faithful in taking the opportunities to share with others the amazing information God has blessed me with over the years.

Hopefully, I’ll have the discipline to write a book like you have done, and share more widely what God is doing in my life.

I believe we need to be more aggressive in our witness for Jesus, and we need to be more graceful of course than our first attempts at witnessing, but we can all be more aware that the Lord’s Great Commission is truly a fantastic motivation that should fill our hearts and minds and activities much more that it does in my life. I always love to remember how Bill Bright would close his letters, “Yours for fulfilling the Great Commission in this generation.”

I hope I never lose that passion for sharing Jesus’ love as best I can–whenever I can, and I pray the same for you, Brother.

Look forward to seeing you and hearing from you as the Spirit leads!

Keep on Keeping on for Jesus!


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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.

If you want to be of use to God, get rightly related to Jesus Christ, and He will make use of you unconsciously every minute you live.
–Oswald Chambers–

I remember when I first invited Christ into my life as a sophomore in college through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. Witnessing was the most important component of this ministry, and I dutifully walked up and down the beaches of Southern California proselytizing. It’s what we did—for fun.

I never really liked intruding on people who were there to enjoy the afternoon, but I was determined to be a great Campus Crusader. I got dozens of people to pray with me to invite Christ into their lives. I suspect that I was better at imposing my will upon them than they were at surrendering their wills to God. I never saw any of them again and now consider my efforts to have been futile.

Yesterday, forty years later, I was working out at the YMCA, in a desperately futile attempt to maintain a semblance of fitness. As I was walking to the water fountain, an older woman, who I did not know, stopped me. She asked if I would donate a copy of my book Hi, My Name Is Jack to the library of the Jewish retirement library she ran. The book is my story–my testimony.

I told her I would, of course, and I did. As I drove home, I thought that my witness to her, which was completely non-verbal, might have been more effective than anything I ever did on the beaches in my evangelistic fervor as a youth. I was gratified she saw something in me worth sharing with hundreds of retired Jewish people. My witness in this case may actually help someone.

The people who influence us most are not those who buttonhole us and talk to us, but those who live their lives like the stars in the heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simple and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold us. –Oswald Chambers–

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I thought the tone throughout the New Testament was one that gave the idea that people will know you are a Christian by how you love, not by how you die. I thought II Corinthians 13 pretty much made it clear that giving your life to be burned didn’t mean near as much as to love.

You’ve touched a sensitive cord with me, and I sort of know what I’m talking about. The spiritual abuse issue? Yep… been there–16 years in a Christian cult. Alcoholic? Yep… almost 4 years sober (keep coming back, it works if you work it). I felt your dying for Jesus article had the same tone that you accused the preachers in having in your financial giving to Jesus article.

It’s taken me years and years and years just to come into the truth that JESUS LIKES ME… a greater miracle is I actually like Him now.

Figuratively speaking, my former church leaders did hold a gun to my children’s head, and I let them pull the trigger. I didn’t protect them from the spiritual abuse, the fear tactics, the manipulation – which were all bullets from the enemy. At the time, I thought it was God.

Did the fellow in your home group know you wrote about his “weak faith”? I wonder how condemned he feels at the moment. I wonder if he’s feeling like a loser now… not just in your very spiritual home group but to all the 100’s (?) of folks who get your emails. It’s bad enough that a good many of us “soldiers of the cross” get up in the morning and wonder stuff like: I hope I can stay sober today for Jesus, or be at work today on time for Jesus, or …. fill in the blank…. for Jesus, let alone wondering if I’m strong enough to let my kids take a bullet from a Muslim for Jesus.

I’m right about this; you know I am (to quote you).

So, that’s my 2 cents worth. I’ve wanted to write to you for a while now to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed your site and how helpful it’s been. I’m sorry that in the end this is the email that I’ve felt compelled to write. Chances are I’m totally off base – after all, I did spend 16 years in a totally off base church.

Let me try again. I think that maybe I might be right about this… maybe not, who knows.


Samantha’s comments stung. Whenever that happens, I know there must be some truth to it. At bare minimum, I want to be like FOX NEWS–fair and balanced.

More on Monday,


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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.

The other night in my small group Bible study, we were talking about the passage in Timothy where it says if we are faithless, He remains faithful. After that, it says that if we deny Him, He will deny us.

In the ensuing conversation, someone said, if a Muslim terrorist held a gun to his kids head and threatened to kill them unless he renounced Christ, he would say it outwardly but not inwardly. He reasoned, “I would just mouthe it—nothing else.”

To nearly everyone, this was OK–but not with me.
Without being too legalistic, let me say this: The Lord is looking for men and women who have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for Him regardless of the circumstances. In earlier times, there were many who would, but that doesn’t seem true today. Sadly, we live in an era where there are few who will do so.

Is it any wonder why we have such little impact upon society? I would love to hear what you have to say about this.



Islam is getting such a hold on people, simply because they are willing to die for what they believe ~ and they have no hope such as we have.

We “Christian,” however, are so afraid of death, of pain, of suffering, of anything that distresses or impacts our comfort or comfort zones, that we make a mock of the very faith that we were given to espouse.

Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; THAT THROUGH DEATH HE MIGHT DESTROY HIM THAT HAD THE POWER OF DEATH, THAT IS, THE DEVIL; AND DELIVER THEM WHO THROUGH FEAR OF DEATH were all their lifetime subject to bondage [Heb. 2:14-15].

You will never know what it is to live, if you will not overcome your fear of death. If we believe that we have an eternity, and that our God is, and that heaven is, and if we love Him and His life in us, more than our own, we will not fear to die. If we believe in His promises, we will not fear to take a stand for His glory and His name’s sake.

This is how the first church made such an impact ~ they were not afraid to die; they were not afraid to risk; they were not afraid to live for their Lord their God, because they were not afraid to die for Him either.

The Church has to move beyond it’s touchy-feely, “I understand your pain,” cautious self-preservationism, and get willing to lay it on the line for what they believe, for that is the only evidence of what it is that they do believe.

God will take care of everything else.

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Refer to STEP 4: People who misuse their authority are the abusers.

OK, let’s stir it up a little bit and talk about how to recognize spiritual abusiveness. There are many ways it can manifest itself, but the most common way—by far—is financially. In this area, let the buyer beware is a perfect saying. It’s not a Scriptural verse, but it’s a truism nonetheless.

There are some things I always look for. When a church or ministry is obsessed with money, it’s because they are obsessed with money and not with doing God’s will. In essence, they tell you, “Give your money to God, but be sure to use my address.” To accomplish their goal, they either make you feel guilty about not giving, or they appeal to your own sense of greed.

The former is self-explanatory, but the latter needs some elucidation. When you are told to give so you can receive more, there’s nothing Christ-centered about this. It’s crass materialism—plain and simple. To believe anything else is deceiving your own heart and playing right into the hands of those who want to abuse you by taking your money under false spiritual pretenses.

And guess what? There are thousands of ministries out there eager to exploit you in this way. Don’t let them do it. And don’t feel guilty about not giving to them.

Let me ask you a question? Have you ever seen a ministry or church like this where the leader is impoverished? Take a good look at the leader. Does he have a big, new car? A Rolex? A big house? Fine clothes?

Of course, he does–or something similar. It’s proof of God’s blessing, if you ask him. If you use your head and think for yourself, however, it’s proof that’s he’s quite adept at getting people to give to God by using the leader’s address.

Examine your own heart about this. When you give, is it really giving, or is it giving to get something for yourself? If it’s the latter, it’s materialism motivated by greed, and that’s never Christ-like—never. It doesn’t count for anything other than your ability to be manipulated by an abusive religious leader.

I’m right about this; you know I am.

I told you I was going to stir it up.

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Refer to STEP 4: I came to believe that God understood my wounded-ness, and He alone could heal me.

Do you remember the old Roberta Flack song, “Where Is the Love?” I certainly do and, after going through many difficult experiences in life, I have frequently felt that way about God’s love for me. Where is it?

From the time I first invited Christ to come into my life forty years ago as a young man, I knew and understood the theology of agape love–God’s love. It made sense; I got it.

But that’s not what I’m talking about. I knew God loved me from a theological perspective, but it has taken all of the traumatic episodes in my life to know how much God loves me at a deep, experiential level—at that level where systematic theology doesn’t mean a thing.

When I began to understand that God would not shield me from pain, difficulty, and harm; that’s when I began to grow up–when I began to understand love from His perspective. If He would send His own Son to the Cross, why would He spare me or any child of His?

The answer is—He wouldn’t. When I “got this,” I started thinking like a man—like an adult. Before I understood it, I was just a little boy dressed up in a man’s clothes—tossed about by the vicissitudes of life. When I did get it, however, my value to the Lord increased as well as my understanding of life.

“Where is the love?”

It’s there all the time; it never changes. But you have to see it from God’s perspective to really understand it.


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Shaken Not Stirred

Refer to STEP 4: He is good and can be trusted.

When things go wrong in your life and you think God has abandoned you, it can shakes your faith, regardless of who you are. At the same time, being shaken doesn’t necessarily have to be a destructive thing. It can be constructive, depending on what you do with it.

I remember when I was a young man, I prayed this prayer: “Thank you, Lord, for always being there for me and for not letting anything difficult happen in my life. I have You to thank for that, and I do thank You.” I was 33 when I said this prayer, and it was true.

From that moment forward, however, things changed for me. Nothing seemed to go right—except for one thing. My relationship with Christ grew through my adversities—not in spite of them. As one difficulty after another threatened to overwhelm me, my faith and commitment to follow Christ increased rather than diminished.

It had to; He was all I had. But I did have Him, and that assurance sustained me. It still does. Like that song says, “Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise.”

When I was young, that’s all I wanted—riches and praise. All that seems so shallow thirty years later. Back then, I wanted what the Lord could do for me more than for who He was. My thoughts were shallow as was everything else in my life.

That’s changed, and all it took was three decades of pruning. I know that I know the Lord better than ever before. My adversity may have shaken me, but it has also made me stronger—much stronger. I may not be rich, but I definitely am more valuable than I’ve ever been.


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Refer to STEP 10: I believed that God still has a purpose for my life.

As I walked through the magnificent city of Florence—Firenza in Italiano—evidence of Western civilization was everywhere. I went into a church built in the 5th century and saw artifacts of Medieval and Renaissance art everywhere. It was truly magnificent.

The entire city was like a museum—an appropriate metaphor for the reality of Florentine life. The glory of Christianity was ubiquitous, but it was entirely from the past. This gave me pause to think about my own walk with the Lord. God has had His hand on my life for decades, but is there any current evidence of it. I wondered if all that was left was similar to Florence—a museum of what God had done in the past.

As I thought about this, I meditated on Hebrews 4:12-13:

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.

Although I’m grateful for what God has done in the past, neither my life nor yours is to be a museum. Because God is alive and active, our lives must bear the fruit of His nature and not be a museum of what we once were but are no longer.

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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. I recognized that God is not the abuser—people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

One of the lead news stories this week is about the “sect” in Texas where middle-aged men are polygamists who marry under-age girls. When most people hear about this story, they shake their heads and say, How could these people allow this to happen to themselves?

For those of us who have experienced spiritual abuse, we wonder, Why doesn’t this happen more often?

The reason is simple: The people in this sect, which is really a cult, believe they are living at a higher level of truth than the rest of society. They receive direct communication from God through their leadership, and they are actually being obedient to the will of God by living this lifestyle. In a bizarre way, they are quite arrogant because they look down upon the rest of us as less enlightened than they are. They are the “faithful remnant,” and we are the apostates.

This is how they perceive reality, and it’s exactly the way they think. In addition, the intervention of the state and the F.B.I. is proof of their worthiness to suffer for Christ.

Their thinking is that twisted. This is how they view reality, and each time someone from within tries to free himself or herself from this lifestyle, the rest have to “save the misguided one from themselves.”

Here’s the lesson to learn in this:
In any group you associate with, always check out their beliefs. If someone’s authority supercedes the Scriptures, run! No matter how much you like whatever they are doing, run for the exit—don’t walk!

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Refer to STEP 11: I made a commitment to nurture my relationship with the Lord.

I’m writing today’s entry from Verona, Italy, where I’m visiting my youngest daughter, who is an exchange student from the University of Georgia. The city is enchanting—magnificent in its rich history and medieval beauty. Everywhere I’ve ventured, marvelous examples of Christian symbolism graced the city, showing the importance of religion to Italian culture.

As I reflected upon it, however, it reminded me of “form without substance” more than anything else. The evidence of Christ’s love and compassion were not in evidence—only cold stone edifices of what earlier generations experienced. While I enjoyed it all—who wouldn’t—I was saddened nonetheless. For Italians, Christianity is cultural rather than experiential, depriving them of the rich, abundant life God offers to those who love Him.

In the Catholic Catechism, the second question is this: Why did God make us? The answer is, to know, love, and serve Him. In Italy, they have the serve part down pat. Everything has the form of Christianity. Its evidence is ubiquitous. What’s lacking is the knowing and the loving part, which is the substance. Without it, all that is left is dead works—beautiful, but dead.

Perhaps it’s different in Florence or Venice. If it is, I’ll let you know.

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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.

Whenever I ask someone to tell me what their goal for recovery is, I’m always amazed by how little they expect. Some will say, “I just wish it had never happened. All I want is to get through it the best way that I can.” Others will say, “If I could just get back to where I was before all this happened, I’d be satisfied.”

I suppose this is one way to look at it, and if this is the best you can do, that’s OK. But I am firmly convinced that each of us can do much, much better than this. If we will allow it, we can set our goals for recovery much higher than just making it through by the skin of our teeth. We can be better people because of our experiences—much better. It doesn’t have to diminish who we are. In fact, it can make us stronger—much stronger.

Try thinking of it this way: Because you have gone through a profound, life-altering experience, you are uniquely qualified to help someone else who is going through the same thing right now. You understand things from a perspective few can. That makes you valuable from the Lord’s perspective. Your life can become more useful than you ever imagined, and that’s exactly what He wants.

Have you ever thought of your life and what you’ve experienced from this perspective?

There is so much pain, so much suffering and so much abuse in nearly every Christian church. You have it within your power to be part of the solution—not part of the problem. All you have to do is renew your mind and start thinking of how you can be a blessing to someone else who has not come as far on the journey of recovery as you have.

And guess what? There are millions who need you—millions. I want to encourage you to renew your mind today. Your experience in the wilderness can have tremendous value, if you will let it. Will you renew your mind in this way? Will you do it today?

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Refer to STEP 4: He is good and can be trusted.

During training camp in the NFL, coaches “get after” each player repeatedly, often no more than two inches from their face. It can be quite intimidating, but most players are grateful because when it stops, they know a decision to cut them from the squad has already been made. As long as they are being yelled at, they are still on the team. When it stops, they will not be part of the team much longer.

In a way, it’s the same with your relationship with the Lord. As long as He is “making things warm for you,” as Mark Twain used to say, you can be assured the Lord has something important for you in life. It’s His way of coaching, and it’s quite effective.

If everything is going well and there is no conflict or stress in your life, there’s no way for you to grow. Stress produces an opportunity for growth. Without it, you become stagnant quickly. You’ve heard the expression, “No pain . . . no gain.” It’s not in the Scriptures, but it’s certainly in most of our experiences, isn’t it?

If you can keep this in mind, it will make it easier to accept unique and difficult situations–the tough stuff of life.

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It’s never too late to be what you could have been.
– George Eliot

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