Archive for June, 2010

Faith of Our Fathers: Part 1

There is a monumental war raging for the heart and soul of America. According to our President, we are no longer a Christian nation. In many ways he is right. We have abandoned our Judeo-Christian heritage, replacing it with a worldview of politically correct tolerance for just about every belief system—just as long as it isn’t Christian. In our laws we repudiate the beliefs of our ancestors; and in our school curricula, we revise history, expunging the values of our earlier generations in favor of a secular interpretation of events. Millions of school kids have no idea what Americans believed at the time of the Revolution, the Civil War, or even World War II.

Those who want to revise history have come to power and have been busy revising our laws as well as our beliefs. In many ways, what they are doing is similar to the French Revolution, where anything involving Catholicism was ruthlessly purged from society. In that revolution, many lost their lives because of their beliefs.

In the American Revolution, it was the exact opposite. The clergy, especially the Calvinist ministers from New England, provided the justification for rebelling against the legitimate King of England. Without the biblical justification for sedition, our revolution would never have gained the popular support necessary to succeed. Our forefathers, however, believing that God was on our side and that our cause was just, fought the King, winning our independence from our motherland.

As a result, the role of God in the founding of the United States was considered paramount, and our early leaders saw God’s hand in nearly everything we did. Consequently, our laws favored religious expression and were never hostile to it. As the generations passed, Americans were free to practice religious diversity, which they did. Unlike France, our beliefs and our laws favored the free expression of religious beliefs. For nearly two centuries, religious diversity thrived in America.

In the last half century, however, things have changed. In the media and in our laws, hostility toward our Juedo-Christian heritage has become so pronounced that the popular culture is now openly contemptuous of people of faith, considering them to be ignorant and intolerant. We have come to follow the French model rather than our own heritage. Our prevailing civil religion is accepting of religious beliefs—just as long as they are not Christian.

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Refer to STEP 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

When things go wrong in your life and you’re convinced God has abandoned you, it can shakes your faith, regardless of how strong it might be. At the same time, the disquietude that comes from this doesn’t  have to be destructive. In fact, it can be very 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 thirty-three when I said this prayer, and I meant every word of it. It was true.

From nearly that moment forward, however, things began to change. Nothing seemed to go right—except for one thing. My relationship with Christ grew through my adversities—not in spite of them. It wasn’t a steady line, and I frequently fought Him by indulging in anger and self pity, neither of which helped me resolve my situation in the least. As one difficulty after another threatened to overwhelm me, my faith and commitment to follow Christ increased rather than diminished—not because that was what I had planned or wanted, but because I had no alternative.

He was all I had. After years of wandering in a fruitless desert, I finally understood the line from my favorite Christian song, which 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 now. Back then, I wanted what the Lord could do for me more than for who He was. My thoughts and desires were completely self-serving.

That’s changed, and all it took was three decades of pruning. 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 4: Therefore, I commit to repairing my relationship with God and making amends with everyone I have wronged along the way.

When you’re describing Americans, there are many things you could say—some humorous, some serious, and some insightful. Perhaps the attribute that typifies us the most is that we are a nation of people burdened by broken relationships that are never resolved. In America, we move on to the next relationship—whether romantic, personal, or professional, while never making peace with the one that has been broken. As a result, Americans have an much emotional baggage as any group of people in the world, perhaps more. To say that it is a significant societal problem is a massive understatement.

That’s the value of using a “step” method for recovery, including this 11-step program. Recognizing that most of the pain received or inflicted by the initial wounding is still present—just below the surface, people live their lives with an outward appearance of serenity, but with intense internal pain and conflict. Sporting plastic smiles, the emotional health of Americans is so poor that we medicate our pain with self-defeating behavior such as alcoholism, promiscuity, antidepressants, overeating, and overspending. Because the reprieve from the pain is so short, we require ever-increasing fixes to medicate our disquietude. Eventually, our carefully constructed world comes crashing down on us, and we bottom out. That’s when we become willing to do whatever is necessary to put our lives in order.

That’s where the value of the 11 steps comes in. It requires a person to go back and resolve the conflicts that created the pain. Although initially painful and difficult, conflicts can finally be resolved and peace restored. All of the broken relationships can finally be put to rest, which rarely happens for most people. There’s no getting around the reconciliatory process, which is good. It’s much better to experience the pain of humbling yourself rather than carrying the burden of your broken relationships for decades—like the ghost of Jacob Marley carried his chains of greed and avarice in A Christmas Story.

If you want peace in your life, you’ll have to work for it; but once you’ve made the effort, you’ll never regret it.

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I love the ATT commercial, which begins with the swearing in of our 57th President of the United States. It then flashes back to a number of events, which needed to occur to create that reality, beginning with a young man smitten by the gaze of a beautiful young lady about to leave the train station. Using his phone, the young man hurriedly changes his ticket, boards the train, and sits adjacent to the woman who smiles warmly at him. The message of the commercial is that the ATT phone was essential in creating this future scenario.

In many ways, this is how I view what’s happening in America today. The Tea party activists and others are busy recruiting candidates committed to returning America to her former greatness. The trouble with this approach is that it only goes so far—like the “Contract with America” initiated by the Republicans to counter balance the liberal excesses of the Clinton administration in his first term. That worked, but not for long.

To create change—change that works and will last—we need to do more than win back Congress and the White House. For the restoration of America to have long-lasting impact, the minds of millions of Americans must learn to embrace our heritage. Without such a step, our newfound patriotic fervor will be ephemeral.

That’s why I have written We Believe: 30 Days to Understanding Our Heritage with my good friend, David Dunham. In this short, insightful book, readers will learn what our Founding Fathers believed—what their vision for our nation was. Letting them speak for themselves by using their words, without commentary, we believe their impact will resonate with this generation of Americans—just as it did when first written.

Thomas Jefferson thought that when democracy veered off course, the electorate—if properly informed—could be trusted to set things straight. It’s our hope that We Believe will be part of that process.

It’s a good step, but it doesn’t go far enough—not nearly far enough. At best, it will be like the Contract with America—a small bandage on a gaping wound. Like the last time, Americans will once again become complacent and allow the cultural relativism of the politically correct to regain power and make further assaults upon our heritage. It’s the way the pendulum has been swinging, back and forth, since the 1960s.

To restore America completely, more is needed. People on the sidelines need to be roused to rekindle their faith, stand for what they believe to be true, and do whatever they can to turn things around. Generations ago, Lord Acton said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” When he uttered these words, he unknowingly depicted America in the twenty-first century. Rousing good men and women, who are doing nothing tangible or significant, is the final dot that needs to be connected to facilitate the goal of America’s restoration.

I don’t claim to have the entire answer, but I know I what my role is. Disenfranchised evangelicals and lapsed Catholics need to be roused from their lethargy. My part in bringing this effort to fruition has been to write Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom, which is a Simon & Schuster/Howard Books publication that will be available in February. By using the 11-step approach, those who have put their faith on the back burner can reestablish their relationship with God and become stronger than they have ever been before.

To bring about a good, long-term solution for our nation, re-energizing disillusioned and abused Christians is the final dot that needs to be connected. If that happens—and it can—we will be able to say with confidence, “If God is with us, who can be against us?” If anything can rouse the wounded, it’s a godly crusade to return to the faith of our fathers.

In the commercial, each event was necessary to bring about the desired outcome. The same is true in real life. To recapture our nation and set our course straight, we need to connect all of the dots. Anything less will only create a temporary solution, and we will be back to square one in ten years or less.

After the defeat of NAZI Germany, the British were fond of asking one another, “What was your bit in the war?” In the war against politically correct, cultural relativism, this is my bit. Like every other bit, it is essential. I know my role, and I would encourage you to discover your role as well.

—Jack Watts—

To learn more about about the subject, go to: Recovering from Religious Abuse: 11 Steps to Spiritual Freedom.

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Refer to Step 3: I accept that the responsibility for getting back on track is mine and no one else’s.

There are a number of reasons why trusting, naive Christians put themselves in harm’s way with religious abusers. Perhaps the greatest is that the motives of those who become abused are flawed.

Many religious leaders, especially those with “electric ministries,” appear to have it all together. They are sharp, smart, and very successful. Plus, they are believers, which makes their purpose and lifestyle very attractive. Wanting to be part of that life, many follow after leaders like these—just like the kids that followed the Pied Pier. Wanting to have it all—the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the boastful pride of life—Christians follow after superstars expecting God to bless them in the same way. They elevate worldly values in their hearts and come to believe that material rewards are the fruit of God’s Spirit.

Because their thinking and values are fundamentally flawed; at some point, they are destined to crash. When that happens, their confidence in God becomes shaken, and they blame Him, along with the Pied Piper who was responsible for leading them astray.

The time following their disillusionment is like wandering lost in the desert—without direction, purpose or understanding. After spending a substantial amount of time in this situation; if the person begins to ask hard questions about their true purpose in life, they will begin to experience God again—in a much simpler, more authentic way. Once they are over their grandiosity and have bottomed out, God can speak to them in a way they are willing to hear. Until then, their situation will remain dismal and bleak.

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Refer to STEP 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; rather, people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

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 more than 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 the theological understanding of it doesn’t mean a thing.

When I began to grasp that God would not shield me from pain, difficulty, and harm; that’s when I began to grow up. That’s when I began to understand God’s love from His perspective—not mine. 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, making me vulnerable to all of the false prophets with their promises of financial prosperity. God was interested in building my character—not my portfolio.

Once I realized this, my value to the Lord increased as well as my understanding of life.

Now, when I ask, “Where is the love?” I have a different answer. It was 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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Refer to STEP 4: I choose to believe what God says about Himself: that He is good and can be trusted.

Training camp in the NFL for prospects can be very stressful. Coaches “get after” each player repeatedly, frequently chewing them out no more than two inches from their face. It can be quite intimidating, but most players are grateful for it—that’s right, grateful.  Because when the yelling stops, they know the decision to cut them from the squad has been made. They realize that 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 He has something important for you to do 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 would become stagnant and stop growing.

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

One of the foundational beliefs of Christianity is that the nature on Mankind is sinful and separated from God. Without Christ dying for Man’s sins, we couldn’t be reconciled to God—period. Without Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection, we would be lost forever—hopelessly lost. This is a fundamental belief of Christianity.

At the same time, Christians seem to have a profound naïveté about life. They are routinely surprised when sinful people act sinfully. Liberals, by way of comparison, believe Man’s nature is good, but they are rarely surprised when people pursue self destructive behavior.  They seem to accept people the way they are—warts and all. Christians, by way of contrast, are far more condemning.

As a believer, I know there is nothing good in me—in my fallen nature. But I also know that when the Lord came into my life, He imparted His nature to me—full of love, mercy, kindness, and compassion. That means I can rise above my base state and be more than I could ever have been without Him. This is true for everybody else as well but, if I don’t make a conscious effort to be mindful of this, I can become harsh and judgmental rather than merciful and kind.

This is where Christians stumble all the time. They drive desperate people—caught up in sinful lifestyles—away, refusing to accord them the same mercy they once needed themselves. They embrace pride rather than humility, judgment rather than mercy, and rejection rather than acceptance. They cease to be like the Lord, who loved sinful people. It’s why they responded to Him.

If you are ever to be all that we are capable of being, you must renew your mind and act like the Lord where sinful people are concerned. Witnessing to people you don’t love doesn’t work. It’s counter- productive and comes off with a holier-than-thou attitude sinners recognize and reject contemptuously. It’s why they say the church is full of hypocrites.

If we’re ever to be who Christ intended us to be, this has to change, starting with you and me.

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