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Archive for May, 2010


Refer to STEP 9: Humbly ask God to change anything He desires.

I’ve learned what attracts someone to Christ is kindness, mercy, love, and acceptance—not being a judgmental, self-righteous Christian. Isn’t that what drew you to Him—His love and His mercy? If He was merciful to you, shouldn’t you follow suit and be merciful to others? In a world full of condemnation, shouldn’t those who know the Lord practice love and acceptance rather than being so judgmental?

When someone told me God loved me in spite of all my difficulties, my heart melted—and so did my resistance. Wasn’t that your experience as well?

My experience was real when I first believed, but it still required decades for the fruit in my life to be fully developed. As I was developing, there were those who thought I should have matured much sooner. Because I didn’t, they heaped condemnation on me repeatedly. For a while, it seemed like I would never be free of their misanthropy. Unfortunately, Christianity is overflowing with people who are more than willing to be your Holy Spirit, routinely condemning you for behavior they don’t approve of.

That’s where patience and loving one another unconditionally comes in. The Lord has been very patient with me—unlike many Christians. He’s patient with most of His children. It’s because He wants each of us to be everything we’re capable of being and, for some of us, it requires longer than others—occasionally, much longer.

Take a look at Psalm 1. The tree planted by running water yielded its fruit “in its season” and not before. No matter how much an apple is scolded for not ripening sooner, it requires a precise amount of time to be everything it’s meant to be—time measured by God’s clock and not anyone else’s. That’s why we have to be so patient and merciful with our Christian friends. Their fruit may not be ready yet, and there’s no way to make it ready until it is. Green fruit is sour and difficult to digest. Ripened fruit, however, is sweet, nutritious, and satisfying.

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Refer to STEP 4: I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

One of the main reasons abuse goes unrecognized an unacknowledged is that Christians are more than willing to give abusers “a pass” on their behavior, especially when the abuse was a verbal attack. Well meaning people often say things like these:

  • I know you were hurt by that, but the pastor didn’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable.
  • You just misunderstood; that’s all. You’re just too sensitive.
  • It’s not nearly as big of a deal as you’re making it out to be.
  • He would never hurt you on purpose. He’s been under a lot of stress lately, but I’m sure he meant you know harm.

In Christian circles, this is not only what people say; it’s what they believe—firmly believe. For those who have experienced the abuse, they know deep inside of them that this isn’t really the case. Because they hear a steady stream of justification from others, however, they often come to believe that they must have been mistaken. They still experience the pain, but they view their situation through the rose colored glasses of Christian political correctness.

Instead, what they should do is confront the situation head-on, which rarely happens. If the abuser is confronted and no abuse was intended, the abusive person will immediately come to the light, admit their fault, and be willing to reconcile. If the person has an abusive spirit, they will never come to the light. Instead, they will deflect, rationalize, or explain their behavior in a way that justifies what they have done; but they will never come to the light. They can’t. Although they might preach powerful messages about the Lord, they live in the darkness and are never willing to be repentant. It’s simply not in their nature of an abusive person to do so.

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Refer to STEP 4: I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

In the scriptures, it’s clear that there is “no condemnation” for those who have a relationship with Christ. It’s taken away—removed as far as the east is from the west. It’s no longer an issue between God and man. It has been resolved, freeing mankind from the wages of self-defeating behavior. In fact, there is no principle in Scripture that is clearer than the fact that there is “no codemnation” for believers.

At the same time, it’s the weapon of choice for most religious abusers. They wield condemnation like a sword, constantly pointing their sword-like finger at people, scolding them for the way they behave and even for the way they think. Because the abuser is in a position of power, the condemnation they heap upon otheres resonates, finding fertile ground in the soil of the abused person’s heart.

Even though the Bible is clear that the issue of condemnation has been resolved, abusees accept it as if it were true repeatedly. As a result, the abused person recoils, accepting their castigation as true—as if it came from God Himself, which it definitely did not.

God is not the author of abuse. Those who use their authority inappropriately are the abusers. Sadly, most abused people get this simple truth confused, paying a heavy price as a result.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can either believe what your abuser says, or you can believe what the Scriptures teach. The former leads to enslavement; the latter to freedom and emotional health. If you have accepted your condemnation as true, which most abused people have, there is hope for you. Your freedom can come quickly. All you have to do is believe what God says about you and not what your abusre says. It’s as simple as that.

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A Prayer to Be a Good Witness


Father,

I’m so grateful for all that you have done for me,

So honored that you would love me,

And be mindful of my needs.

On my best days,

When I am at peace and rest,

Confident that You are in charge

And that I need not worry,

I know how blessed I am.

Help me live like this each day;

Help me show others that You are there;

That You care;

That You are always in charge.

Let people see by my faith

That I have confidence in You;

That Your ways are always the best;

Always the wisest.

Help me to not be boastful or arrogant;

And let pride be far from me,

Knowing that this too would be my witness;

Pushing those You love away,

Rather than drawing them nearer to You.

Help me be mindful that whatever I do,

Good or bad,

It is a reflection on You.

—Amen—

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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.

Christian doctrine states that man’s nature is sinful and separated from God, but we always seem to be surprised when someone acts sinfully. We’ve sanitized our churches so thoroughly that sinners don’t feel comfortable coming to church. They don’t believe they are good enough to come, and they are right. Church has become the home for self-righteous people—not sinners.

With nowhere else to turnout of pain and despair, people by the millions turn to alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity to relieve their pain. For a while, it seems to work, but then the negative consequences of such behavior sets in, destroying the life and the self-worth of the person.

When this happens, they should be welcomed with open arms by churches but, more often than not, self-righteous Christians make it too uncomfortable for them to come. So where do these people go? They go to AA, NA, ALANON, and dozens of other 12 Step groups where they are accepted just as they are by the “God of their understanding,” which more often than not isn’t Christ—not a scripturally accurate Christ.

If you think I’m overstating this, imagine bringing fifty recovering alcoholics to your church next Sunday–not two or three, fifty. What would the reception be like? Would they be accepted with open arms? It’s highly unlikely, but they would be accepted with open arms at AA.

You can also see it in Christian bookstores, which increasingly are monuments to irrelevancy. They are filled with these types of books:

1. Sappy books about Christian platitudes.

2. Positive thinking books with a Christian slant.

3. Prosperity books—name it and claim it.

4. Non-sexual romantic novels.

5. Thousands of Bibles translated hundreds of ways.

Christian publishers stay away from anything controversial—anything edgy. They are afraid of offending the self-righteous. Instead, they publish more and more about less and less, as they tout one poofy-haired, obese evangelist after the other in an endless quest to increase the bottom line.

There’s nothing published like My Utmost for His Highest any more—nothing challenging or edgy. Nothing of real substantive value. It just doesn’t happen. A culture of fear exists in Christian publishing companies just as it does in Christian churches. Both increase their cultural irrelevance every year, while Islam marches forward throughout Europe with its tentacles reaching into the heart of America itself, perhaps even into the White House.

We’re in trouble—deep trouble, and most Christian leaders lack the courage to withstand the wind let alone march into it.

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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.

I remember when I was much younger. As a new Christian, we would scour the beaches of Southern California witnessing for Christ, sharing the 4 Spiritual Laws with all who would listen. Later, when we returned to Campus Crusade headquarters in Arrowhead Springs, kids would share their experiences publicly and privately. Routinely, kids would say, “I led three people to Christ,” or “I introduced a guy who was really searching to Christ today.”

The perception was that the person who was doing the witnessing was responsible for the person being saved, and many were very boastful about it. For me, the whole process was difficult because I didn’t like to intrude on people sunbathing, promoting Christ to them during their recreational time, especially when I was uninvited. But what has stuck with me the most from that time is this: all I could do was tell the story.

I had nothing to do with “saving” the person—not a thing. To believe otherwise is ludicrous, nonsensical, and unscriptural. I don’t have the power to “save” anyone; nobody does. Furthermore, my attempts at promoting Christ seem to have been counterproductive.

As an alternative approach, over the years I’ve thought about Christ drawing people to Himself, if He is lifted up. Lifting Him up is my responsibility—not badgering people. There’s a big difference. It’s the same with heping people recover from religious abuse.

I have a responsibility to help others, if that’s what they want. If they don’t, all of my efforts to help them will be futile, falling on deaf ears. When it’s their time—and not before—I need to be available for them. That’s the way it is for all of us, regardless of the type of recovery program we’re working. Promotion doesn’t work; attraction does. So if you want to help someone—really help them—work at your own recovery. If your life manifests love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness, then there will always be an abundance of people in need of your help.

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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.

We, as Christians, have the mistaken notion that we are okay the way we are, regardless of how we act, how we treat others, or how we think. We want to be milquetoastish and believe that being wishy-washy is acceptable to God and everybody else. We want to be strong believers, while at the same time making certain we don’t offend anyone else. In this way, we are more culturally Christian than heart-felt believers. If this was as bad as it was, it would be one thing; but it’s actually worse than this—much worse.

Over the years, in a very subtle, insidious way, we have become unwilling to stand firmly in the face of a culture that has grown increasingly hostile toward Christianity, choosing instead to wring our hands in despair. Wanting to be appear enlightened and accepting of other paths, we have allowed our beliefs to be trumped by the political correctness of the culture. As men, we’ve lost our rocks and, as women, we’ve lost our focus.

We blame the liberals and non-believers for the decline in our society, while never taking a good, hard, penetrating look at ourselves. We pass emails by the thousands that remind us about the “good old days,” while never considering that we are more responsible for societal decline than the liberals we repeatedly castigate.

Instead of hand-wringing and endless emails about how the liberals are destroying our country, maybe we should look back to the behavior of our Founding Fathers. Routinely, during the Colonial and Revolutionary era, there were days of fasting and prayer. There were also days of repentance back then, which would never be acceptable with the lukewarm crowd in churches these days. Remember, repentance might offend the politically correct crowd, but it would never offend the Lord.

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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.

Christians in the 21st century have an apathy so profound it defies historical comparison. There seems to be no fear of God—and no fear of the consequences of sin. If it feels good, do it. If you’re saved, it doesn’t make any difference anyway. You’re covered. You can sin all you want; Jesus has your back.

The predominant view of future events teaches that apostasy and lukewarm-ness are signs of the End Times. So, in a strange way, by behaving badly, we are actually doing God’s will by hastening His return. The worse we become, the quicker the Lord will return, so being bad is actually being good.

Although most do not have the courage to admit this is true, licentiousness has become the de facto worldview for millions of Christians. It’s how they feel, and it definitely governs their behavior as well as their misbehavior. It comes from their beliefs about future events. Without discussing the scriptural merits of Dispensational, Pre-Tribulational Premillennialism, let me make a few observations:

  • Historically, God always chastises apostasy. He punished Israel, and He will punish us, which we richly deserve. To think otherwise is to live in a fool’s paradise.
  • Pre-Tribulational Premillenialism was not never popular until the mid-nineteenth century.
  • God spews lukewarm people out of His mouth; He doesn’t reward or Rapture them. Tell me one time in the Scriptures or in history when He has done otherwise. Can you think of one?
  • No major theologian throughout the history of the church believed in or taught Dispensationalism—not Augustine,Aquinas, Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin.
  • Pursuing licentiousness is never God’s will. Any believer who does so is in peril.

Accentuating this End Times perspective has not strengthened the church–quite the opposite. It has helped produce weak, ignorant, morally corrupt “born-again believers” by the millions. I like to call them the “Bailout Christians” because they don’t want to put forth any effort, choosing to wait for a bailout from God.

Things are going to change for Christians in America very soon, and not for the better. When this happens, and it will, you will need to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. If you are living a worldly life—while calling yourself a follower of Christ, you’re in deep Bandini, and you will be unable to stand firm.

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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.

It’s time that we, as believers, step out of the gray drab existence of multi-culturalism and political correctness—for fear of offending anyone, or for our own desire to be liked. We must stand for the One who declares Himself to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We must never forget where we’ve come from—out of the darkness into the light.

“Witnessing” to people with a watered-down version of who Christ is seems to be of little value, yielding poor fruit. Neither does filling churches with large numbers of people who have marginal beliefs—other than their desire to instill “good values” into their children or to increase their business networking efforts. It doesn’t work—never has and never will.

The problem is much deeper than this. In America, the fire is nearly out—the fire for being Christlike—the fire for being loving, giving, and generous, for bearing one another’s burdens, expecting nothing in return . It’s been replaced by fire in the loins—from pastors addicted to pornography to adulterous church members by the millions. We act like the world and expect God to bless us because we’re His Bride—allegedly, without spot or wrinkle.

For many, God has become a blessing machine, a higher power who dispenses material rewards for marginal behavior—just because He’s a nice guy. We’re lukewarm at best and expect God to reward mediocrity with prosperity. We pursue the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life and expect God to be okay with it. Collectively, we’ve lost our fear of Him, especially our leaders who are more interested in notoriety than service.

Being of service has lost its appeal, which is never God’s will, as anyone practicing recovery will attest.

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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.

A while ago in Cheshire, England, two twelve-year-old schoolboys were disciplined for “refusing to pray to Allah” as part of their school’s religious education program. A spokesman for the Cheshire County Council said, “Educating children in the beliefs of different faiths is part of Cheshire’s diversity curriculum.”

Because of separation of church and state, this scenario couldn’t be replicated in the America—not exactly. But the mindset of accepting all religious systems as valid and equal is a fundamental belief of American political correctness. Although most churches would repudiate this based on their doctrine, it’s the de facto belief system in most Christian churches as well.

In an attempt to be acceptable to everyone, Christians have watered-down Christ’s teachings to be the “the best” among equals—not the only way. In America, God’s blessings are equated to materialism and not the rich character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. If you are prosperous, God is blessing you. If you aren’t, your life has fallen short of the mark.

If you think this is an exaggeration, just ask any young Christian under twenty-five, if Christ is the only way to God. Three-out-of-four will either hedge or deny it outrightly. Christianity isn’t loosing the cultural war; it has already been lost. Our churches are filled with weak, materialistic, sappy people—not robust men and women, not those who refuse to  bend their knees to anyone other than the Lord.

The two English boys made a stand for what they believed; and they paid a price for it. Their defiance made news worldwide. When the incident occurred, they were probably unpopular with their classmates. Remember, fidelity may cost you everything; but without it, you don’t  have anything of value anyway.

These kids made a stand for something important. Could you do the same thing? Would you?

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Writing 11 Steps to Recovery from Religious Abuse required a little more than a year; but developing the 11 Steps has necessitated a lifetime. Based on my own agonizing personal experience and that of others, each step has been carefully constructed to maximize the healing process for those who choose to do the work.

America is full of people who have experienced abuse of one kind or another. Because religious abuse also calls into question a person’s relationship with God, it is particularly devastating. It’s also the least discussed. That’s why I’ve written 11 Steps. I want to help those who have been wounded by the church—by those who have chosen to use their positions of authority to use, abuse, and discard their fellow believers.

Most discarded Christian’s lead half-lives, consumed with pain, anger, and bitterness. They question whether the best years of their lives have already passed, hoping they haven’t but suspecting they have. They are prone to depression and to acting-out behavior, including over eating, over spending, alcoholism, promiscuity, and many other problems.

The message I’ve tried to convey in 11 Steps is that the negative assessment given by an abuser, which becomes accepted and internalized as true, is a lie. God still loves abused people as much as ever—perhaps more. They can once again experience love, joy, kindness, and serenity—not just occasionally but routinely. The way is easy, but the work is challenging. Just like anything of value in life, the abused person has to work for it.

If this has been your experience and you want to regain the joy of your salvation, you can. 11 Steps to Recovery from Religious Abuse can help you achieve your goal. In a very short time—91 days—you can become stronger than you ever thought possible, devoid of the chains which have imprisoned you since your abusive experience. I’m not guessing about this. I know it’s true.

My hope is that you work the steps and become everything God ever intended you to be. You can do it. God is on your side; and with Him as your ally, what’s to stop you.

In writing 11 Steps, I want to thank Louisa McCullough Tremann, who has assisted me from day one. Without her help and her keen eye, I would still be writing the manuscript. I would also like to thank my friend of twenty-five years, Jonathan Merkh, who believed in me and chose to give me a chance. Gary McCauley, has been my friend since the early 80s, encouraged me each step of the way, providing encouragement. A special thanks goes to Robert McGee, who has been my active champion.

My editorial team at Howard Books has been great, including Philis Boultinghouse, Jessica Wong, and Becky Nesbitt. I would also like to say thanks to Cindy Lambert, Greg Petree, and Denny Boultinghouse—each of whom has assisted me along the way. Finally, I would like to thank my literary agent, who is also my friend, Wes Yoder.

John T. (Jack) Watts & Associates

May 2010

Atlanta, Georgia

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While making speeches to constituents and to legislative bodies, politicians—from both the left and the right—routinely make vague references to what “our founding fathers believed.” More often than not, that’s all that’s ever said. The politician continues, making promises and pronouncements with the tacit understanding that what they are saying falls in line with core American values.

By and large, the audience accepts what is being stated at face value—whether it’s constituents or the speaker’s peer group of political cronies. Each audience accepts it for one simple reason: Neither the American public nor the officials they have elected are knowledgeable about what our founding fathers really said.

We live in an era where most of our fellow citizens have little understanding of their rich American heritage. In fact, most are clueless, which makes them susceptible to the charismatic persuasiveness of the politician’s perspective—whether far left or ultra conservative.

In a healthy democracy, an uninformed electorate can be very dangerous, producing leadership which sharply contrasts with the values set forth by those who committed their lives, their wealth, and their sacred honor to create a new nation—”a city on a hill.”

This is why A Better-Informed Electorate: 30 Days to Understanding Your Heritage is so valuable, especially with the upcoming elections being so close and so important. Taking key documents, including the Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and several Federalist Papers; we have made understanding our heritage easy. Like eating the proverbial elephant, we have created an easy-to-read book that provides valuable insight “one bite at a time.” To supplement the richness of these documents, we have provided the texture of our culture by adding speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Truman, Roosevelt, Lincoln, Reagan, and others.

A Better-Informed Electorate favors no party nor any political cause. It simply allows the documents to speak for themselves—just as they have to those who have read them for hundreds of years.

Our only goal is to help uninformed people make informed choices. Being true to our highest principles, A Better-Informed Electorate does not try to influence that choice in any way. Like the founding fathers, however, we believe that a better informed electorate will ensure the political health of our nation for generations to come.

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