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Archive for July, 2012


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

 

Everything that is happening is ultimately for the good, if we’re willing to face it head-on and use our adversities for soul growth.

—Joan Borysenko

Shortly after being wounded by religious abuse, friends routinely say, “It will be okay. You just have to trust the Lord; that’s all.” With that, no further practical help is offered. After a while, you no longer receive words of comfort because people tend to withdraw from you. They just can’t handle someone like you who is in such obvious pain. Having no solutions to offer, they don’t want to deal with all of the negativity. Don’t blame them. It’s just the way most people operate.

To you, such advice is meaningless and rarely supportive anyway. Instead of helping, platitudes tend to make a difficult situation become far worse. As people withdraw, deserting you, you are left to deal with the problem alone.

Feeling abandoned, this is when many turn to self-defeating behavior, which provides relief from the pain—a one-day reprieve from reality. It is also how abused people become “hooked” on alcohol, prescription medications, overeating, overspending, or inappropriate relationships—none of which work long-term.

When a person reaches his or her bottom and has run out of options, that’s when they are finally willing to take the advise of their friends and “trust the Lord.” By this point, their emotional isolation has taken a substantial toll, however, and the person doubts his or her life will ever be worthwhile again.

When someone reaches this point, that’s when God’s presence and help become more real than ever. That’s when He touches the places that hurt the most, providing insight, understanding, and healing. Just one thing is necessary for all of this to happen: you must accept that the responsibility for getting back on tract is yours and no one else’s. When you reach this point and become willing to admit this, your life can regain meaning.

Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)

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Father,

Allow me to serve others with gladness—

Without keeping score,

Always giving, never expecting to receive.

Allow me to give of myself,

To give of my talents and of my goods,

To give of my time and of my energy,

To give of my heart and of my soul.

Help me understand the needs of others,

Never criticizing,

Never demeaning,

Never scolding,

Never condemning.

You have been so gracious to me,

Always Loving,

Always forgiving,

Always restoring—

Never chastising me for failing,

Even though I have been misguided

More times than I have not.

Father, keep a condemning spirit

Far from my heart and further from my lips.

Allow me to serve others with gentleness,

With compassion and tenderness,

Never diminishing the value of another.

Let me extend mercy to the brokenhearted,

Just as You have extended it to me.

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I acknowledge Your sovereignty because

I want “things” from You.

I want You to bless me—

To make my life easier,

To make my will Your own.

I know my prayers focus upon

What You can do for me,

Because I’m interested in Your blessing—

Not in getting to know You better.

 

Question: Think about your prayers. What percent of the time do you spend asking for things for yourself? When you come up with a percentage, write it down and look at it each day for the next week.

After the pain of our abuse begins to subside, after we realize our life is going to take a very different direction than we wanted or expected, we start asking ourselves what lessons we need to learn from our painful experience. Although this may sound like a healthy place to start, it’s not. There’s one step before this, which needs to be addressed. We need to ask ourselves, “What do I need to unlearn from my experience?”

Journal: Write down the things you need to “unlearn.” For example, what negative attitudes have you acquired since your abusive experience? Take as much time as you need, this is an important part of your recovery.

In spite of what anyone might tell you, God is not a blessing machine, ready to dispense material favors for all who ask without qualification. When you review the “Fruit of the Spirit,” conspicuous consumption is never mentioned. What is mentioned are estimable character qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness.

Question: In your life, what are your five most conspicuous character qualities? Name them. How many are positive, and how many are negative? Be honest.

The self-righteous lift up a version of Christ that is not in the New Testament—not even close, and yet these are the people most feared in churches. These are the people who are eager to share their exacting, unyielding opinions, which they expect everyone to accept. Their bitter sting keeps many from embracing God’s love, acceptance, and mercy.

Question: Take a moment and think of someone you know who resembles this. Is that person attractive to you or repulsive? Is that person someone you want to be like? Remember your answer.

As a child of God, He expects us to lift Him up. That’s all. That’s our entire responsibility in witnessing—nothing else. Isn’t it freeing just to read this and take it in?

Journal:  What would “lifting up” the Lord look like for you? Take a few minutes and write down your answer.

Jack Watts   Recommended Resources

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Refer to Step 11: I make 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.

 

Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words!

—Unknown

As a child of God, He expects you to lift Him up. That’s all. That’s your entire responsibility in witnessing—nothing else.

Isn’t it freeing just to read this and take it in?

I can’t save anyone any more than I can damn them. Neither can you. We don’t have anything to do with a person’s eternal destination. We don’t get a vote—never have had one, never will have one. That’s left up the Godhead—Father, Son, and Spirit—where it belongs.

Then, what is your part in the process?

It is to lift up Christ, which you do every time you act out of the nature He has imparted to you, rather than out of our own, self-serving nature. If you act out of your best interest and nothing more, you miss an opportunity to lift Him up. When you are Christ-like, you display love, joy, peace, and patience—all the fruit of the Spirit of God. When you suffer reversals with dignity, you are also lifting Him up. When you choose His way over self-seeking materialism, you are lifting Him up. When you are kind, expecting nothing in return, you are lifting Him up.

When you seek your will, you are not. The greatest problem comes when you deceive yourself into believing your will is God’s will, and you press for it at the expense of what He really wants. That’s a strategy that never works, and it always manifests itself as a poor witness for Christ.

Being Christ-like works; nothing else does. It draws people to the Lord much better than a three-minute testimony with inflated claims, coming from a stranger. The former is genuine, while the latter is little more than an infomercial, which is contrived, forced, and disingenuous—something that never delivers as much as it promises.

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (John 12:32; Colossians 3:17)

Jack Watts   Recommended Resources

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

 

Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.

—George Sand

Salvation is easy—it doesn’t require a thing from either you or me. That’s God’s part. He did it all, which is what love, mercy, grace, and acceptance are all about. That He loved you at your most unlovely moment is the essence of Christianity. It’s what makes Christianity truly unique and special.

That God was willing to reach down, touch you in your vulnerability, and lift you up is what makes having a relationship with Him so desirable. Once that happens, regardless of what anyone might say to interpret it differently, you are a child of God’s and always will be.

At least, that’s what it’s supposed to be about. Unfortunately, people tend to forget the tenderness of their own experience, choosing instead to regiment a dynamic relationship, which produces legalism. It should never be done and can never be accomplished successfully. By their efforts, those who do so make Christianity hard, rigid, unyielding, and unforgiving. They try and make a deeply personal experience into something cold, austere, and systematic.

If a Christian is smug and self-righteous, legalistic and condemning, haughty and judgmental, then how attractive will that be? Not at all attractive! Most people run from anything, which is that unappealing. Can you blame them?

You recognize the kind of people I’m describing—the heartlessly religious who are never wrong about anything. Sadly, Christianity has far too many people like this. They are the ones who condemn homosexuals, telling them they deserve to have AIDS. They call women, who have aborted their babies, murderers, forgetting that they, too, were once no better.

The self-righteous lift up a version of Christ that is not in the New Testament—not even close, and yet these are the people most feared in churches. These are the people who are eager to share their exacting, unyielding opinions, which they expect everyone to embrace without question. Their bitter sting keeps many from embracing God’s love, acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness.

That’s why being in recovery has such value. You’ve had to lean on God more completely than most. If you display love, joy, long suffering, and a genuine concern for those in need, then you are lifting up Christ the way you’re meant to, and that’s very attractive to hurting, desperate people, searching for answers. If you’re smug and self-righteous, you will also have a great impact for God—a negative impact.

Which one will it be? Like so many things, the choice is yours, as are the consequences.

 

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that o one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Jack Watts   Recommended Resources

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Refer to Step 4: I chose to accept as true what God has said about Himself. He is good and can be trusted.

 

Sometimes God doesn’t change your situation because He is trying to change your heart.

—Larry Rust

In spite of what anyone might tell you, God is not a blessing machine, ready to dispense material favors for all who ask without qualification. When you review the “fruits of the Spirit,” conspicuous consumption of capital is never mentioned. What is mentioned are character qualities like love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. Each of these estimable character qualities is highly valued by God, and if you want to be a person after “God’s own heart,” you will hold them in high esteem as well.

Too often, most of us complain to God because we want material blessings without the slightest consideration of whether or not receiving them is actually in our best interest or not. What we want is for God to spare us from the legitimate consequences of our actions. We have come to learn government bailouts are counter-productive, but we never seem to understand that our demands of God, which are similar to a governmental bailout, are frequently as counter-productive.

We are like a child who demands candy from a reluctant parent, never considering what harm it might do. Because we don’t fathom or understand the bigger picture, we demand that God make our will His will, and then we criticize His for His treatment of us, when He doesn’t comply. To us, it seems like our prayers have gone unanswered.

When we don’t get what we want, it’s usually because God is working on other, more important aspects of our lives.

You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:2b-3)

Jack Watts   Recommended Resources

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Refer to Step 1: I acknowledge that my life is shipwrecked and not where I want it to be.

 

 When I live in the past, I live in regret. When I live in the future, I live in fear. When I stay in the present, everything is okay.

—Anonymous

 

After the pain of your abuse begins to subside, after you realize your life is going to take a different direction than you wanted or expected, you start asking yourself what lessons you need to learn from your painful experience.

Although this may sound like a healthy place to begin, it’s not. There’s one step before this, which needs to be taken. You need to ask yourself, what lesson do you need to unlearn from your experience?

If you make the decision to begin with this question, your recovery will be deeper and more complete. Before you become fit and useful to yourself and to others, you need to unlearn the errors you have internalized as true, while you were enmeshed in your deception. Until you do this, you will flounder, making less progress than you desire.

It does no good to simply criticize your abusers, essentially throwing verbal stones at them. It may feel good for a moment, but it doesn’t help the healing process. You need to go far deeper than that.

You must recognize your deception and make a conscious decision to never be entrapped by the same falsehood again. By doing this, you will be unlearning whatever imprisoned you in the first place. Once accomplished, you will finally get back to square one.

Upon reaching this spot, you will be ready to allow God’s Truth to cleanse you, permitting you to renew your spirit. But make no mistake about it—you must unlearn your errors before your recovery will have lasting value. If you don’t, you will remain vulnerable to the next abuser who comes along.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Jack Watts   Recommended Resources

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