Archive for February, 2009

Words are more powerful than most people can comprehend. No matter how hard you try, you can never retract hurtful words spoken in the heat of the moment. Once they leave your mouth, those words can never be retrieved. As an adult, most people can remember hurtful words that were maliciously spoken to them when they were children decades earlier. They make indelible imprints on our minds–on our hearts. The wounds they cause can last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, apologies can’t erase them from our memories. The Scriptures tell us that no man can “tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”

Several years ago, a survey asked mothers to keep a daily record of how many times they made negative and positive comments to their children. The results were startling. The mothers documented that they made critical remarks ten times more often than encouraging words.

Statistics reveal that in an average household, children hear “no” or are told they “can’t do” something more than 148,000 times by the time they are eighteen years old. One particular school did its own three-year survey and discovered that the teachers were negative with their students 75 percent of the time. The study determined that it took four positive statements from a teacher to offset the effects of one negative statement.

The power of words is incredible. If you want to make a positive impact, use your words to encourage someone today. Use them to help heal a broken relationship or to be merciful to a wounded person–a person in need.

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Here is a questionnaire to determine the level of spiritual abuse you have experienced. How many “Yes” answers do you have? Let me know. I’ll post the results.

1. If you have stopped going to church, did you do so because you were offended?
2. If you still go to church, do you simply go through the motions?
3. Do you believe God condemned you for leaving church?
4. Do you believe most Christians are hypocrites?
5. Has a church leader ever offended you personally?
6. Do you feel unworthy to pray?
7. Have you ever been verbally abused by a leader in the church?
Have you ever been sexually abused by someone in the church?
Have you ever been financially abused by someone who used religion to gain your trust?
Have you ever been emotionally abused by a religious experience?
8. Do religious people make you feel ashamed of who you are?
9. Have you felt used by a religious leader?
10. Do you believe religious people are condemning?
11. When you think of God, do you feel angry?
12. If you wanted to reach out to God, would you feel unworthy to do so?
13. Do you feel like there is more to life than you’re experiencing?
14. If it were possible, would you like to feel closer to God?
15. Do you feel like life has no meaning?
16. Do you ever wonder if you have a drinking problem?
17. Do you use prescription drugs to calm your nerves?
18. Do you have a problem with pornography?
19. Do you have trouble believing God loves you?
20. Do you have trouble loving yourself?

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Guest Editorial

I totally agree with this comment. My reflection today has been on how God weighs our heart. I feel the weight He uses measures how much we love our enemies and how much we forgive those who are in sore need of this grace.

I do not feel part of my church because no one is at all interested in who I am – I am just someone to nod too so who really cares. In the same way, when I reach out and try to operate at a deeper level, I feel shunned and the rules that we don’t talk about that kind of thing here act like a gag.

By the way – I suffer from obesity and am well aware of this disgrace in the eyes of others. It is how much we truely love each other that counts with God and to deeply love means to deeply forgive each other our shortcomings as prisoners of our flesh and this world. When we do the light of heaven shines and reflects something of God’s own countenace on those we can freely give this love to. How I long to bring this light to others and how hard it is to shine when there are so many throwing stones at the glass in an affort to extinguish this light I have in my heart and soul. Like Jesus I am happy to despise the shame – I so wish more of my brothers and sisters in Christ were willing to do the same.

It’s hard to be a light in a dark place. The surrounding darkness can be scary. Imagine if others around me shed this same light – it would be marvelous and so like Christmas I would find it hard to contain my joy.

Blessings from Dianne Porter

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Like the politically correct crowd, church people have their own set of sub-culture terms and rules. Throwing styro-foam away may be a faux pas in political correctness, but the rules for religious people are numerous and often unforgiving.

Take Julie Smith for example. She was married for twenty years to a physician who became involved in abusing prescription drugs. He became so strung out that he had to be institutionalized for several years, which led to a divorce. The couple had one son.

While in treatment, Julie became a Christian, as did the son. When the doctor came out of the treatment center, he rejoined Julie and their child. Julie tried to join the church she was attending, which was in a wealthy suburb of Nashville, but was refused because she was living with a man to whom she was not married. Julie was offended and now wants nothing to do with that church.

The church leaders maintained the purity of the congregation, but they estranged a hurting young Christian to do so. Instead of reaching out as Christ would have done, the religious leaders chose to shun a baby Christian in need, justifying it with “Religious Speak,” which exonerated them of any wrongdoing.

What do you think? Did they do the right thing or not?

As I see it, the church lost a perfect opportunity to help a struggling family stabalize. Because the incident was public, many others knew of it, which made the church look like a bunch of self-righteous hypocrites. This was a lose-lose-lose situation, if I’ve ever seen one. Julie and her family lost. The church lost, and those who knew about it lost. Because of “Religious Speak,” however, those from the church felt justified and can’t see all the harm they’ve done. This is how religious abuse occurs, and it’s why millions have left the church.

The problem isn’t whether the church leadership was correct in refusing to grant membership before the woman remarried her former-husband, which she intended to do when she was certain he could maintain his sobriety. It’s much more significant than that.

Here it is: The leaders of the church believe they are “OK with God” based on faith at salvation, and then living obediently day to day, year after year. In their minds, they come to believe that God would have nothing to reproach them for as they live their lives. Julie, on the other hand, has fallen badly. Although the church leadership acknowledged she was a Christian, they believed she was living in a pattern of unrepentant sinfulness that justified excluding her from membership. This means that her lifestyle is more sinful than others. If you are going to point a condemning finger, you have to be prepared to have it pointed back at you. Self-righteous people never see this. It’s why they are self-righteous.

If that were true, the senior pastor should be excluded from membership because he is obese—an obvious glutton. In Christianity, however, gluttony gets a pass, perhaps because there are so many pastors who are grossly overweight.

Here’s the point. We are not only saved by grace but we also walk by grace each day of our lives. Not one thing any of us ever does is completely pure. All of our righteousness is nothing but filthy rags to God, but He loves each of us in spite of it. For any of us to think we are better than another is an error—the same error Satan believed which resulted in him being condemned.

Julie should have been allowed membership and all the help she needed to restore her broken family to health. That’s what the church is for, isn’t it? Instead, she has been forced to do it on her own—just like the rest of us. Is it any wonder why 100 million people believe the church is irrelevant?

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Christians are quick to condemn the intolerance of political correctness. The politically correct crowd, who currently enjoy an unprecedented power position in America, condemn biblical Christianity for being intolerant without recognizing the intolerance of their position. Unfortunately, being in the power position does not make humility and acceptance easier. It makes it harder–much harder.

Christians see the difference and routinely castigate the political correctness crowd for it. Within the church community, however, Christians are highly intolerant of those who do not measure up–to those who are still caught in destructive lifestyles by self-defeating behavior. Christian leaders, who were saved by grace, routinely brow-beat the rank and file with legalism. Although they readily admit that they could do nothing to earn their salvation, they disregard it routinely and march to a legalistic tune that leads to destruction as surely as the lemming jumping off a ledge to swim the pacific Ocean.

It doesn’t work. In fact, it’s so destructive that millions need to recover from the religious abuse it causes. To Christian leaders, however, the maintain their legalistic positions, justifying it by “Religious Speak,” which will be defined tomorrow.

(More Tomorrow)

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STEP 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires, and I ask Him to heal my pain. Because God forgives us as we forgive others, I forgive my abusers.

Environmentalists inform us that everything we do leaves an imprint on the earth, either positively or negatively—either friendly or unfriendly. It’s the same with our relationships. We are either friendly or unfriendly to the people we love and to ourselves. The Scriptures teach that the “sins of the fathers” are passed down through the generations adversely impacting children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

The tentacles of self-defeating behavior sink deep into the fabric of those we love, and our offspring become just like us in ways we wish they wouldn’t. Liars beget deceitful children; those who have problems with substance abuse are much more likely to have children with the same issues; and people with low self-esteem produce like-minded children who become equally defeated in thought and deed.

This is where the value of STEP 9 really becomes apparent. Because you’ve been honest about who you are—warts and all, you are now prepared to break the cycle of self-defeating behavior for yourself and for those who follow after you. God wants to heal your pain and transform it into something positive for every person in your sphere of influence.

Through your honest inventory, you have broken the cords of your emotional chains and are now ready to have God make some core changes in your character—changes that will leave a positive imprint on your offspring. You can begin to lay claim to a brighter future for yourself, for your children, and for your children’s children.

Those who are in your genetic pool will either be blessed or cursed by your life just as surely as they will be by your carbon imprint. Your impact upon others is also substantial and equally important. It’s why healing the pain from your abuse is so critical.

God has the power to make permanent changes in who you are, and He’s anxious to do so. By being honest and admitting your culpability rather than continuing to live in denial, you can wipe the slate clean and create a new beginning. You can clean your emotional pool of all pollutants and become a blessing to yourself and to everyone you touch for several generations to come. This is where the fruit of your recovery bears substantive results—where God turns your painful experience into something of value. It’s why STEP 9 is so important.

The second part of STEP 9 is the most difficult piece of your recovery process—no doubt about it; but it must be done. For you to become everything you are capable of being—everything God ever intended you to be, you must forgive those who have abused you. There’s no getting around it. When you do, you’ll release yourself to experience the full life your Heavenly Father desires for you. That’s a promise—a Divine promise.

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In our society, political correctness has become the religion of the people, and the unforgivable sin is intolerance. You can believe whatever you want, just as long as you accept the validity of whatever others choose to believe as well. God accepts all avenues to Him as equally valid, whether it’s wishy-washy Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or Post-modern political correctness. Scriptural Christianity, however, is unacceptable because it’s ignorant, backward, and intolerant of the validity of other legitimate ways to God. The disdain for a biblical worldview is so profound that those who are politically correct ridicule it and hold it in open, hostile contempt.

To say that you believe the Scriptures are inerrant is to say you are an obscurantic fool. Not wanting to invite unwanted criticism into their lives, most Christian people simply keep their beliefs to themselves, speaking in code to one another. In essence, Christians, who once were in the majority in America, are now a sub-culture.

For the most part, Christians have come to accept this role as their lot in life, justifying it by saying to one another that we are in the End Times. It makes it easier to endure the relentless emotional and intellectual pogrom inflicted by the American Civil Religion, which is political correctness.

(More Tomorrow)

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