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Archive for April, 2010


Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

Have you ever had someone say to you, “Just be patient? God will work it out.” I certainly have; and whenever I hear it, it makes me want to scream. Because it doesn’t mean anything—not really; it’s seems like one of those sappy Christian platitudes that appears to address a person’s needs but doesn’t. It’s like telling a blind man he’ll be able to see in heaven. It just doesn’t work.

At the same time, patience is one Fruit of the Spirit of God. You know the list: Love, joy, peace, patience, etc. The kind of patience that comes from God, however, is not the sappy, sentimental “best wishes” of those who try to help but have no clue about how to do so. Instead, it’s robust confidence that God is in charge and will work everything out eventually. It’s the kind of confidence in God’s sovereignty that would say, “Yea though He slay me; yet will I trust Him.”

That is what real patience looks like. It is the absolute assurance that God has you in the palm of His hand, and nothing—neither life nor death, nor any created thing—has ultimate power or authority over you. You are a beloved child of God and nothing can change that—not now, not ever.

If you know this is true, then whatever befalls you, you can say with confidence, “I know that God is in charge and will take care of me in His good time.” That’s patience; and it’s not a wimpy sentiment. It’s absolutely the most difficult character quality to obtain; but if you can obtain even a small measure of it, your world will never be rocked—not by anything.

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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 to provide me with the power to carry it out.

As I see it, the pendulum toward evangelism versus discipleship has produced an abundance of low-lying, marginal fruit for several decades. There are more Christians, but few of them know much about what they believe. The pendulum needs to swing in the other direction toward discipleship.

The largest church in America is not Roman Catholicism; it’s lapsed Catholics—those who have left because they see no value in attending. There may be as many as 30 million lapsed Catholics.

The largest Protestant church isn’t Southern Baptist, it’s lapsed born-again believers—those who have abandoned their churches in favor of secular activities. There are at least 20 million of them.

These two groups, lapsed Catholics and lapsed evangelicals, could be as large as 50 million people; and there is nothing being done to reach out to these people—nothing, nada, zip.

Why do you think that is?

It’s because it’s easier to go after fresh, new faces than try and reconnect with those who have been abused and offended. The Scriptures say it’s easier to overtake a walled city than a person offended. When there are millions of them—and there are, something needs to be done to restore them.

The Great Commission is not being fulfilled in our generation—not even close. It’s like we paint the front of the house every month but never paint the back. It looks good from the street but, upon careful inspection, much of it is uncared for and rotting.

If you want to help your church, your community, and America get stronger, reach out to an offended Christian. It’s thankless work for a while; but over time, it will strengthen the core of who you are. Plus, there is nothing that will help your recovery more.

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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 to provide me with the power to carry it out.

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end if the age (Matthew 28:18b-20).

At the time of the American Revolution in 1776, how many people do you think were church member—members not attendees?

  • 5 percent
  • 25 percent
  • 35 percent
  • 55 percent
  • 75 percent

Before you answer, think about that generation of Christians for a moment. This group of early Christians influenced the founding of this nation and the Constitution that established the laws of the land. In many ways, we still live in the wake of their blessing twelve generations later. Their influence has been that powerful.

Currently, more than 50 percent of Americans are church members, and our influence is pitifully weak—not just in politics but in service to our nation and to the world. If 50 percent can’t get the job done today, it must have taken 75 percent in the late-18th century, right?

Well, not exactly.

Only 5 percent were church members—5 percent. That’s right, just one out of twenty, but being a church member in that era was far different than it is today. Those Christians were strong, resilient men and women, whose faith was the most important aspect of their life; and they had the proven character qualities to prove it. In their day, making disciples was the emphasis—not evangelism. It’s not that way today?

In our generation, the emphasis is getting myriads of marginal believers to say they are members, and there is practically no emphasis on making them strong men and women, filled with God’s love and purpose. This shift in balance has weakened our impact upon society dramatically, and not for the good.

Christians in the 21st century like to blame sinners and liberals for the state of affairs in our nation, but these people never change. They are the constant variable. What has changed is the quality of Christians? We have dumbed down, while telling ourselves we are Okay. The worst of it is that we believe it.

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

If a man is going to do anything worth while, there are times when he has to risk everything on his leap, and in the spiritual domain, Jesus Christ demands that you risk everything you hold by common sense and leap into what He says, and immediately you do, you find that what He says fits on as solidly as common sense.

–Oswald Chambers—

Going through an abusive situation is never something a person plans for his or her life. It’s an unwanted experience—obviously. When it occurs, it’s generally considered a detour, an unwanted bump in the road—unexpected and  undesired.

At the same time, there are no accidents with God. Everything has a purpose, including many unpleasant things—including abuse. If we learn to go with the flow—to believe God still loves us and has a positive plan for our lives—we are definitely on the right track.

It’s normal to go through a myriad of emotions after being abused, including all the stages of grief; but on the other end, we have to come to the point where we are willing to risk it all again. We have to believe God still has us in the palm of His Hand and nothing can separate us from His love and purpose. It doesn’t mean we have to put ourselves back in an abusive situation, but it does mean we have to be willing to take another risk.

God is committed to the idea of us being everything He wants us to be, and developing rich character qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness is always His goal for us. Knowing God is with you, regardless of the situation, makes trusting Him your wisest option, even after a trusted religious leader has abused you.

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Father,

You have been faithful and generous,

Restoring my soul,

Restoring my confidence,

Restoring my desire to live.

Thank You for reaching down and picking me up.

Thank You for always being there,

For being so gentle—yet so firm;

So clear—yet so patient,

For loving me—in my anger and in my rage.

Help me in my recovery.

Help me be everything You ever wanted me to be.

Give me a heart to help others,

As You have helped me.

Let Your love and kindness flow through me,

As I reach out to those who have been abused.

Let the years that follow,

Be filled with love, with kindness, and with fun.

—Amen—

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Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

Christianity is filled with people who want to do great and noble things for God. If you ask them, they’ll tell you how much they are capable of doing. Each thought is noble, altruistic, and grand.

The problem is that God really wants people to do simple, mundane things for others, which are not often noticed or nearly as glamorous. Someone might say, “I’m ready to speak about God’s love to the multitudes,” while the same person would not be willing to run an errand for an indigent person.

That’s the problem. God has far too many men and women who are willing to be exalted, but few who are willing to be menial servants. Many are willing to do grand things, but few are willing to be simple.

In our modern-day Christian Culture, we have a worldly attitude toward service, routinely asking ourselves the question.

  • What’s in it for me?
  • How will this further my ambitions?
  • Will my efforts be noticed by others?

Having been abused, which knocked the spiritual wind out of us, those of us in recovery have begun to learn the simple truth that an act of kindness performed at the right time, for the right reason, may be more meaningful in God’s Eyes than something calculated to bring us notoriety, fame, and fortune. We’ve begun to learn that God  values small things, where nothing is expected in return, more than grand things well publicized.

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Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

For your recovery to have a real, substantial, and positive impact upon another, it has to come from attraction rather than promotion. This simple truth runs contrary to nearly everything Christians in America believe. In churches and ministries, the message is promoted far and wide. It’s a methodology that often works, but certainly not for everybody.

For those of us in recovery, including recovery from religious abuse, however, we don’t promote anything. It’s never an option or even a consideration, which is very freeing.

Instead, we live our life simply and unaffectedly, helping all who ask—never asking for anything in return. As we progress in our recovery and our relationship with God deepens, each day we become a little more like the person God created us to be. This means that we are patient rather than petulant, seek to be kind rather than self-serving, and enjoy others—never looking for ways to use or manipulate them.

As our lives demonstrate proven character qualities, the more attractive we become to others—not physically attractive but emotionally attractive. Because others recognize that we are “safe people,” our opportunities to help them are endless.

We know that attraction works—long-term and consistently. Promotion rarely does. It’s like a fast food commercial for a hamburger. What you get never meets the standard of what you’ve been promised.

Once someone works the 11 Steps and begins to live in the freedom of recovery, there will always be people who want and need your help. That’s how the principle of attraction works; and you don’t need to learn any pious platitudes. All you have to do is be real and genuine—never sanctimonious.

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Father,

I have spent so much time fretting over my abuse,

Seething at the injustice,

Bitter at my accusers.

I pray saying, ‘I have forgiven,’

Promising to ‘Put it away,’

Promising to finally ‘Let it go.’

But I haven’t let it go.

Daily my insides churn with indignation,

Making my life devoid of joy and serenity.

Help me with my wounded-ness;

Help me purge the venom from my soul.

Help me know peace and contentment once again.

Give me hope;

Give me joy;

Give me confidence.

Let me be everything You want me to be.

—Amen—

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Refer to STEP 7: I write down my experience completely and honestly, spelling out my abusive experiences in detail as well as my subsequent behavior.

Abusiveness is devastating—no doubt about it. For a while, many find it difficult to breathe, let alone function normally. When the initial trauma has subsided, however, if a person can find the courage to stop, take a thorough inventory of their lives—which may be very painful—they can learn to pursue a far more rewarding purpose.

They need not continue to wallow in the defeat of self-pity, which never produces anything positive. Instead, they can become everything they ever wanted to be in life—and more. It will not be the original vision; but it will be more fruitful.

This is not a “pipe dream.” It happens to people all the time. The way to achieve this is simple; but that doesn’t make it easy. It’s what the “11 STEPS” are all about—achieving freedom from abuse so that you can achieve a lifetime of fulfillment.

You’re not content with the way things are right now, are you? When you reach the end, don’t you want your life to have counted for something? Can you honestly say that watching life from the sidelines—rather than being an active participant in the game—is fulfilling?

Of course not.

That’s why your recovery is so important for you and for everybody within your sphere of influence. Remember, God is like the Marines, looking for a “Few Good Men”—a few good women too. It’s time to get back in the game—back to who you know you should be. Nothing is more important—not even close.

Will you be that kind of person? Will you abandon your anger, your bitterness, and your resentment?  Will you be who God has always intended for you to be? Will you stop feeding your self-pity and do the work necessary to be more fruitful than you ever dreamed possible? Will you get back in the game? Will you?

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Refer to STEP 5: I recognize the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came. I have to repair my relationship with God and make amends with everyone I have wronged along the way.

Quite often, when a person invites Christ into his or her life, developing a relationship with God is perceived as having God as an ally—having Him in your corner so to speak. In the person’s simplicity and naiveté, their perception is that Almighty God is there to help them further their ends—to help them achieve their goals in life. They operate under this illusion for a while—sometimes a long while, until their carefully constructed world begins to crumble.

Many things can shatter a person’s world, including religious abuse. More than anything, religious abuse can knock the legs right out from under a person. When this happens, all of their grandiose aspirations seem to go with it. It’s like blunt force trauma to a person, stopping them dead in their tracks, changing everything. It also knocks the grandiosity out of a person.

When it happens, the abusee no longer has ends of their own to achieve. Their illusions about themselves have been dashed on the rocks, especially after having been subjected to  shame, ridicule, and caustic criticism.

Such a crushing experience impacts a person’s core emotions, producing bitterness, resentment, and a hard heart. Just when the person believes that nothing else good will ever come into their lives, Almighty God comes calling again. Beginning with a gentle whisper, He lets the person know that they were traveling along their own road with their own goals, which were not His.

When that happens, at first the person is shocked, never having considered that he or she had been pursuing goals that were not aligned with God’s. As time goes on, however, and the relentless heartbreak of abusiveness takes its full toll upon the person’s soul; they become much more willing to listen to the voice of God.

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Refer to STEP 6: I chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

When your prayer life becomes stale, which it common for most people, it’s best to take a step back and ask yourself what’s really happening. For more people than not, the reason is simple: Their prayer life has been consumed with themselves, usually based on three areas of petition:

  1. How they feel
  2. What they need, and
  3. How difficult their lives have become since their abuse.

When someone has been spiritually abused, the wounds they receive make them extraordinarily self-protective, which is normal and appropriate for a period of time. They retreat emotionally to keep away from further wounding. While in this state, most of the person’s prayers are naturally about themselves, which is perfectly natural.

Unfortunately, praying for themselves tends to become a habit, as their “self-centered thoughts” relentlessly consume them. The way out of this confine is to make a purposeful, concerted effort to stop praying for themselves, and start praying for others instead.

At first, this may be difficult. It’s like learning to row a boat or ride a bicycle. Over time, however, the exercise becomes effortless as you learn to become less self-focused and more aware of the emotional state of those around you.

When a recovering person learns to intercede for others, their times of prayer become rich and rewarding, especially because of what they have been through. After experiencing abuse, a person has a far-richer understanding of the needs of others, making their prayers more empathetic, compassionate, and loving.

So, when you have spent as much time as you need praying about your own situation and your own abuse, try expending your energy for someone else. When you do, you will not be disappointed. It’s a positive step in your growth and an exercise where there is no downside.

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Refer to STEP 4: I believe that God understands my wounded-ness and He alone can heal me. I chose to accept as true what God says about Himself. He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

For most people, after being subjected to a pattern of verbal and emotional abuse; and occasionally physical, sexual or financial abuse, life never really returns to health and normalcy. Deep emotional scars cripple the abusee to the point that his or her life never regains the richness, fulfillment, or joy it once had.

It doesn’t have to be this way; and this outcome is most definitely not God’s will.

God loves you just the way you are—in your brokenness, your despair, and your uncertainty. He has not given you a spirit of fear. That comes from being abused and not from Him.

He has given you a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind. It’s there just below the surface of your troubled heart, waiting for you to do the work necessary to appropriate the inner power that rightfully belongs to you—just as it does to all of God’s children.

It’s not easy regaining your composure after experiencing the deep wounds from abuse; but if you do the work necessary to heal, you will not be as good as you once were. You’ll be better.

Love and joy will return to you but in a different way. It will be spiced with humility, discernment, and wisdom. This happens, if you allow God’s healing touch to restore you. You’ll be more valuable than you ever imagined. I’m not guessing about this. I’ve seen it repeatedly. The choice is yours. You can go through life crippled by your debilitating experience, or you can use it to become everything God ever intended you to be.

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Refer to STEP 1My life is not where I want it to be. It is shipwrecked.

Do you remember the movie, As Good as It Gets, with Jack Nicholson? It was powerful and poignant, as it showed life can be tolerable, rewarding, and even pleasant in spite of substantial shortcomings. The main character was so flawed he had to take medication just to be normal; but he was charming nonetheless.

That’s how most people view themselves when it comes to recovery from religious abuse. They see their lives as fundamentally flawed—broken beyond repair at the core of their existence. Their spirit is like a dog that has been beaten—easily cowed and intimidated. Uncertainty has replaced confidence, with an underlying defeatist mentality. In the aftermath of abuse, many suffer from perpetual low self-esteem, which diminishes their value to themselves and to others. In their hearts, they are convinced they are broken beyond repair; and they are certain they will never be emotionally healthy, happy, or normal again.

For most, this is what life is really like after physical and emotional abuse. If it’s accompanied by religious abuse, where the person’s relationship with God is also undermined; it’s even worse. For them, they come to believe God doesn’t care about them either—not really.

My questions are these:

* Does it really have to be this way?

* Is partial healing as good as it gets?

* Can an abused person ever be a whole again?

* Does that person’s life have to be irreparably altered?

* Does timidity and fear have to rule an abused person’s life?

Is God really capable of raising a person up and planting his or her feet firmly on the ground again? Can He renew ones spirit so a person can be a confident, healthy person again—a person who can smile at the future rather than cringe at it? Is there really hope, or is it all just sweet, syrupy platitudes that have little relevance to reality? Is making it through the day as good as it gets, or can there be more to life?

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Refer to STEP 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me as well as the power to carry it out.

After you pray to God about a difficult situation, what is your next step? If you’re like most people, you worry about it. If you’re still not content, which most aren’t, you pray some more and worry still more. For many people, they believe that by being relentless; they are displaying significant spiritual discipline. Often, this spiritual angst becomes an obsessive routine, leaving the petitioner emotionally exhausted in the process.

Does this sound familiar? Have you ever operated like this? Is this your standard operating procedure?

If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re not alone. It’s routine for most believers in our generation. In fact, most of us pride ourselves for being so diligent. To us, it’s a sign of maturity, depth, and wisdom. Perhaps it is for some, but it’s probably a sign of something far different.

When you worry about a situation after you’ve given it to God, it isn’t a sign of maturity or of profound spirituality. Instead it’s a sign of immaturity and weak faith. When you give something to God, leave it. When it’s in His Hands, He’s perfectly capably of handling the situation; and all of the fretting which follows does nothing but keep you—the petitioner—from enjoying your life. If God is in charge—really in charge, leave it with Him and move on; confident that God is “working things out.”

If this seems too easy, then you are beginning to understand why establishing a relationship with God is often referred to as “the good news.”

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Father,

I’ve come to You so often,

With my troubles,

With my needs,

With my pain and my apprehension.

I know You are there;

I know that You care,

That you have a plan for me;

That everything will eventually work out.

At the same time,

I whine; I moan; and I fret,

Often acting as if You do not exist,

As if You are impotent.

My prayers are lamentations

Because my sight is limited,

Because my faith is inadequate.

Your power is boundless.

Your love beyond my capacity to understand.

Help me to learn Your ways.

Help me become everything You have ever wanted me to be.

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