Archive for August, 2008

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

Throughout Scripture we are taught to welcome strangers, clothe the naked, and to give ourselves to all those in need. Jesus teaches us that what we do for the “least of these” is what we do for Him. The church is tasked to be the voice for the voiceless and a defender of the afflicted. When it works, it’s beautiful to behold, but when it doesn’t, dysfunction ensues.

Most of the dysfunction results from fallen man behaving like fallen mankind. Sometimes it’s much worse than this, however, and that’s when abusiveness becomes a problem. Because many Christians are young and naïveté, they accept beliefs that contradict God’s Word. When they ask their trusted leaders to explain what’s happening, the explanations often contradict sound teaching. Does this sound familiar?

When this happens, you should run, but that’s not what happens, is it? Instead, you re-sell yourself about what’s happening, making the error a cherished belief instead of what it is—error. That’s where the problem begins.

Not knowing the Scriptures well makes many easy targets for abusive leaders who know the Word well enough to distort it. Because of this, it’s easy to abuse young, trusting new believers. The end result is a shipwrecked life for each person who falls victim to the abuser. Has this been your experience?

Recovering from a situation where you trusted an abusive authority figure completely is very difficult. Your soul is burned with scar tissue covering the wound, and you become skeptical and jaded for a long time. Recognizing that this is where you are , however, is the first step to recovery.

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

Long-suffering is one of the fruits of the Spirit of God—the one abusive people love the most. They don’t practice it themselves; that’s not their style. But they do require it of you. It’s one of the ways they use to control you—to manipulate you into accepting their behavior when things don’t add up. As they impose their will on you, which you know intuitively to be wrong, they tell you good Christians practice patience and long-suffering. To justify aberrant behavior, they tell you the ends justify the means. Accepting this with grace as a long-suffering Christian is your responsibility, and if you don’t, you’re chided for it. Does this sound familiar?

If it does, you’re not alone. It happens frequently, and this is not what long-suffering is—not even close. If you submit to what is wrong and call it right, your life will become shipwrecked. It’s abusiveness—plain and simple, which robs you emotionally, financially, and morally. Remember, there’s no right way to do a wrong thing, regardless of how persuasive your abuser may be.

When long-suffering comes from God, it builds your character, establishes you as a person of faith, and allows you to grow spiritually. It makes your difficulty become your delight, and it always points someone who observes your situation to Christ. It’s the best form of witnessing there is; nothing compares to it. When it’s counterfeited, however, it ends in destruction, shipwrecking your life.

How can you tell the difference between the two? By comparing the reality of what’s happening with God’s Word—that’s how. If what’s happening doesn’t make sense with what the Scriptures teach, it’s wrong and nothing can make it right other than abandoning it. Worst of all, it’s like an emotional cul-de-sac. The further you get in, the longer it will take to get back on the right road.

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The potential for tapping this resource is staggering. That’s why Pushing Jesus has been created; to help wounded Christians find their way back home—back home to Christ. Most evangelical churches are consumed with saving the lost, but when it comes to those who have been used, abused, and discarded; virtually no effort is made to bring them back to the fold. By keeping those who have been abused out of sight, the abusers hope to keep them out of mind as well. For some churches, it’s like speed dating—always looking for the next conquest, while never stopping to look at the carnage left behind. I know this is hard, but I believe it is true.

In a desperate act of denial, many church leaders refuse to admit a problem exists with abuse in the church—let alone that millions have been “milled,” ground down to nothing, and dismissed unceremoniously. The devastation on those cast aside is incalculable. Someone needs to provide a safe place for abused Christians to come and heal. Pushing Jesus is such a place—a place where their voice can be heard, their perspective validated, and their wounds healed.

Pushing Jesus is for the sheep that are lost.

The church may wish the abused would just go away and never be seen again, but that’s not what the Lord wishes. Having been abused Himself; He has a special heart for these people and eagerly seeks a restored relationship with them. Again, this is why Pushing Jesus has been written.

(Continued Tomorrow.)

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As European nations celebrate the victory of secularism at the expense of their Christian heritage, Americans—at least a substantial number of them, cling to the belief that we remain a Christian nation. To validate this assertion, they point to statistics, which show that 55 percent of Americans are church members. To them, this proves we are still a Christian nation.

There’s only one problem with this: It isn’t true—not even close. These statistics count people who should not be counted—millions of them. For example, the largest church in America isn’t Roman Catholicism; it’s lapsed Catholics—those who were born in the Church but have abandoned it as adults. The largest Protestant church isn’t Southern Baptist; it’s disenfranchised evangelicals. There may be anywhere from 20-to-30 million of them—people with a Christian heritage who no longer find the church relevant.

Within this group are those who have been abused by the church–spiritually, financially, socially, or morally. It’s a huge subset–people who know the Lord but remain at arms length, fearful of further abuse.

In my opinion, this group of disenfranchised evangelicals and lapsed Catholics has strategic importance for the Kingdom of God. Most of them know the Lord as their Savior or at least have substantial “God awareness.” Instead of being an asset, however, these multiplied millions are a liability to themselves and others, as they lead angry, bitter, lives, estranged from God and fellow believers.

(Continued tomorrow.)

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

Perhaps the most difficult thing to do in recovery from religious abuse is to separate God from the abuse. When abuse occurs, you’re shocked, wounded, disoriented, and offended. Within a short period of time, this offense is extended to God. It’s almost inevitable. In righteous indignation, you rail against Him:

  • How could You let this happen to me?
  • I didn’t deserve this?
  • I believed You, and You let me down?
  • I’ll never trust You again?

Because your pain is so acute, reality is obscured and anger toward God seems justified—even warranted. When this happens, however, you’ve “thrown the baby out with the bath water.”

By blaming God, you deprive yourself of your most valuable asset in recovery, and you will never heal emotionally without Him. At very best, you’ll be a limited, marginal person—like a car running on half its cylinders. You’ll never be everything you’re supposed to be in life without repairing this essential relationship. That’s why Step 4 is so critical.

Take a moment and think about this. Christ was abused, humiliated, tortured, and murdered, wasn’t He? More importantly, He was innocent—completely innocent when He suffered His abuse. He didn’t deserve it—not any of it. Now, let me ask you this: Who can understand abuse better than someone who has also been abused? No one, of course.

That’s what Christ did. He was abused just like you were. He suffered as an innocent man, which allows Him to understand your wounded-ness, your anger, your frustration, and your despair. He “feels your pain” and loves you exactly the way you are, regardless of the circumstances.

If you want to become whole, you need to make a conscious decision to believe what God says about Himself to be true—all of it. He loves you and wants your life to have value and purpose. He didn’t abuse you, and He isn’t pleased with those who did—that’s for sure.

As you think about Step 4 this week, make a conscious effort to divorce God from the abuse. He’s not responsible for it; He didn’t cause it. Accepting this as true is your best way to achieve full recovery, and it’s the specific purpose of Step 4.

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Refer to STEP 2: I refused to continue living my life pursuing self-defeating behavior.

In the aftermath of spiritual abuse, your eyes become opened. You see things differently. It’s like the blinders have been removed, and you see the direction you’ve been traveling is not where you thought you were going. Todo has pulled back the curtain, revealing the fraud you considered to be the great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

At this point, you become cynical and nothing spiritual seems real any longer. When this happens, you can either fritter away years, or you can redouble your effort to develop your relationship with Christ rather than with some of His misguided people.

Having your eyes opened is a good thing. Nothing good comes from blindness. In order to be of maximum use, you needed to have your eyes opened. What needs to change is your perspective. When you realize that God allowed your abuse to get you to a better place—a place where you could trust Him, you can bow your knee and be thankful. When you look at it this way, you can be thankful. Cynicism will leave you, and you will be much less likely to be fooled again.

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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.

You can’t work for your salvation; it’s free. There’s nothing you can do to save yourself, but you have to “work out” your salvation.

When I was first victimized by religious abuse, I was hurt, angry, confused, and purposeless for a long time. When I realized I was not getting any better by wallowing in self pity, I knew I had to make some changes. I would never become who I was supposed to be by living in bitterness—and nobody was going to help me. I had to do it myself.

That’s when I started working on myself. Realizing Christ was not the problem but the solution, I looked to Him, and the words He spoke, as my source of courage, of inspiration, and of purpose. I had to rethink every aspect of my life, changing nearly everything. At first, I resented it but, after a while, I chose to embrace it instead.

I had a vision for what my life would be, but God’s purpose was different. Becoming who He wanted me to be has been a lot of work, and continues to be. By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness.

I worked out a new purpose for life—a rewarding, fulfilling one. Christ saved my soul, but I did the recovery work—with His help—to make a new life—a life of value.

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