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Archive for March, 2013


Father,

I refuse to learn the lesson I’m being taught.

It’s who I am, or—at least—the way I’ve become.

Undaunted, You turn the pressure up further,

And I wince at the discomfort

But still will not yield—not yet.

I still have so much fight left in me.

I cannot submit; I will not submit.

 

Journal: Write about your stubbornness and what it required to get you to yield your will to God.

 

If you choose to follow your own path, you will have to deal with the painful consequences of your actions in your own way. To help cope with the results of a poor decision, you may choose to medicate your pain with alcohol, inappropriate sexual relationships, prescription medications, pornography, or overeating. Each provides a temporary, satisfying escape; but none of it works well—or for long. In the end, all you will have accomplished is the acquisition of an additional problem with no solution to the original one.

Question: In your life, what were the self-defeating behaviors you used to medicate your pain? Being perfectly honest, do you still resort to them? If not, on a scale of 1-to-10, how tempted are you to return to them?

 

In the aftermath of spiritual abuse, your eyes become opened. You see things differently—with much more clarity and far less naïveté. It’s like the blinders have been removed, and you realize the direction you’ve been traveling will not take you to the place you believed you were going.

Journal: Write about what it was like when you had the blinders removed from you.

 

Then, when their prayer isn’t answered in the way they expect, which it usually isn’t, they chafe and question whether God really cares about them at all, wondering if He is really active in their lives.

Question: Does this sound familiar? If so, it’s a problem that occurs routinely, creating significant faith problems for many. The problem is that the mindset behind whining, plaintive prayers isn’t consistent with God’s methods. On a scale of 1-to-10, how plaintive are your prayers. If you answered 5 or above, you have some work to do.

 

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 appear enlightened by accepting the beliefs of others—regardless of what they might be—we have allowed our convictions to be trumped by the political correctness of our culture.

Journal: React to the paragraph above, either positively or negatively, listing at least three points to support your position.

Jack Watts

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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.

 

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.

—C. S. Lewis

Many Christians have the mistaken notion that we are okay the way we are, regardless of how we act, how we treat others, or what the state of our mind may be. We want to believe that being wishy-washy is acceptable to God and to everybody else. We want to be strong believers, while at the same time making certain we don’t offend anyone with our beliefs. In this way, we are more culturally Christian than committed believers.

If this was as bad as it was, it would be one thing; but it’s actually 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 appear enlightened by accepting the beliefs of others—regardless of what they might be—we have allowed our convictions to be trumped by the political correctness of our culture.

As men, we’ve lost our gumption and, as women, we’ve lost our focus. We blame the liberals for the decline in our society, while never taking a good, hard, penetrating look at ourselves. We share emails, Tweets, and Facebook posts by the thousands, reminding us about the “good old days,” while never considering that we are more responsible for the societal decline we lament rather than the liberals we repeatedly castigate.

Perhaps we should look back to the behavior of our Founding Fathers. During the Colonial and Revolutionary era, they routinely held days of fasting and prayer to try and determine the leading of Almighty God. That really happened, and there were also days of repentance, which would never be acceptable to today’s lukewarm Christians, who have convinced themselves they are fine just the way they are. Although repentance might offend the politically correct crowd and some weak-willed Christians, it never offends the Lord, and it is definitely what He desires from us.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the Last Days that you have stored up your treasure! (James 5:1-3)

Jack Watts   We Believe: 30 Days to Understanding Our Heritage

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Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He desires.

 

Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.

—Phillips Brooks

When a seemingly insurmountable difficulty comes into your life, what do you do? If you’re like most people, especially Christians, you pray about it. That’s a given but, what exactly do you pray for?

Most pray for God to spare them from what’s about to happen—either from the consequences of their actions or those of others. That’s the natural human response. People want the Lord to rescue them from whatever unpleasantness is about to occur. When they pray, they ask, whine, and even beg, as they plead their case in deprecatory tones before the Almighty God.

Then, when their prayer isn’t answered in the way they expect, which it usually isn’t, they chafe and question whether God really cares about them, questioning whether He is really active in their lives.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it’s a problem that occurs routinely, creating significant problems of faith for many. The issue is that the mindset behind whining, plaintive prayers isn’t consistent with the way God works. As a general rule, He doesn’t deliver people from trouble; He guides them through turbulence instead. There’s a big difference between the two.

If He delivered you from difficult situations, as you wish He would, then you would never grow up and reach maturity. You would remain a perpetual child—without resiliency, weak in character. That’s not what God wants for your life. He wants you to have childlike faith, but He doesn’t want you to be a perpetual child. Almighty God answers prayers, but He is not a co-dependent rescuer. It’s okay to pray like that, but you must realize God is far more interested in your growth than He is in sparing you from life’s heartaches.

My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8)

Jack Watts

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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.

There are two kinds of people:

Those seeking the truth 

And those afraid of it.

—AA slogan

In the aftermath of spiritual abuse, your eyes become opened. You see things differently—with much more clarity and far less naïveté. It’s like the blinders have been removed, and you have an epiphany, realizing the direction you’ve been traveling will not take you to the place you thought you were going.

It’s like Todo has pulled back the curtain and revealed the fraud you thought was the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Realizing that your religious leader is narcissistically self-interested, you feel like a fool to have been so gullible. Once you realize this, at that exact moment you become cynical and jaded, which is embittering. Nothing spiritual seems real or legitimate any longer.

When this happens, you can either fritter away many years of your life, nurturing anger, bitterness, and rebelliousness; or you can redouble your efforts to develop your relationship with God, knowing He is real and can be trusted. He is not abusive like some of His misguided people.

Having your eyes opened is a good thing—despite the disillusionment that accompanies it. Nothing good comes from blindness. In order to be of maximum use to yourself and others, having your eyes opened was necessary.

Now, what you need to change is your perspective. When you realize God allowed your abuse to take you to a better place—a place where you could trust Him and not your self-serving narcissistic leader, you can bow your knee and be thankful. When you look at it from this perspective, you can learn to think positively about your experience. By changing your perspective, cynicism will leave you, and you will be far less likely to ever be fooled again.

And Jesus said, for judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see; and that those who see may become blind. (John 9:39)

Jack Watts

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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.

I was taught that the way to progress was neither swift nor easy.

—Marie Curie

When you experience something very difficult—like religious abuse, divorce, or an unexpected death—you come to an important crossroads. It’s where your relationship with God will either become more important to you or less. It will not remain static. You will either become more mature or remain “stuck” in some key areas of your life.

When this happens, you know you’ve come to a place where God is seeking your attention. Using pressure from your circumstances, God prunes you, which is never pleasant when it’s occurring. When your situation becomes too intense to handle, you’ll either pay attention to the lesson you are being taught, or you will not. The choice is yours; it’s always yours.

If you choose to follow your own path, you will have to deal with the painful consequences of your actions in your own way. To help cope with the results of a poor decision, you may choose to medicate your pain with alcohol, inappropriate sexual relationships, prescription medications, pornography, overeating, or another addiction. Each provides a temporary, satisfying escape; but none of it works well—nor does it work for long.

In the end, all you will have accomplished is the acquisition of an additional problem with no solution to the original one. Furthermore, you’ll destine yourself to repeat the problem in one way or another until you finally learn your lesson. No matter how hard you try, there’s no getting around it. That’s why I believe Groundhog Day is so philosophical. Its message is simple: If you don’t learn your lesson the first time, you’ll repeat it until you do. That’s why it’s smarter to pay the price now rather than wait to pay it later.

Jack Watts   My Story

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Father,

I’m praying because I know I should,

Not because I really want to.

I can do things for myself.

I always have—always will.

I don’t need Your help—not really.

“Bring it on,” is my motto.

In my heart, this is how I feel

Nearly all of the time.

I’m not trying to hurt anybody,

But I don’t really trust many either—

Not even You, Lord, not even You.

Gritting my teeth obstinately,

I boast that I can handle anything.

Worst of all, in my heart, I believe it.

Then, You allow adversity to reign over me.

Fighting You every step of the way,

I refuse to learn the lessons I’m being taught.

This is the person I am.

At least, it’s the person I’ve become.

Undaunted by my willful obstinacy,

You turn up the pressure substantially,

And I wince at the discomfort.

But I still will not yield—not yet.

I still have too much fight left in me.

I cannot submit. It’s not even a consideration.

Then, You double the pressure, redoubling it once again.

Finally, when I can stand no more,

I break—just a little, and in bewildered distress,

Cry out, “Lord? What have I done?”

As if completely innocent, I ask, “Why is this happening?”

Revealing Your purpose, You allow me to know

Just how much my world needed shaking.

Finally, coming to the end of my stubbornness,

In submission, I acknowledge what I should have earlier;

Do as You please with me. Your will is my will.

Jack Watts

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Father,

As I recoil from my wounds,

I call on Your name, but You are not close;

At least, I don’t feel Your presence.

I didn’t want to fail, Father.

You know that I didn’t—but I have,

And I can’t change the outcome.

Many doors are now closed,

But my life is not yet finished,

And other opportunities will eventuate.

When they do, help me learn

All the lessons I need to know.

Question: Have you ever felt like this? Do you feel like this now? What lessons have you learned so far from your abusive experience?

The person who doesn’t buy into the abuser’s program is not only rebuked, but his or her relationship with God is also called into criticized. To question the leader is perceived as questioning God, making the person who disagrees have flawed character qualities. Routinely, those who are in opposition are depicted as “carnal”—as purposefully going against God’s will.

Question: Was this your experience? What was said about your relationship with God that isn’t true?

The sooner you stop defending your right to be offended, the sooner your healing process can begin. If you insist on maintaining that you were right and they were wrong, you will remain stuck. You can’t move forward to a peaceful life while you throwing stones at your tormenters. There’s no way to become stronger while you languish in the rut of self-pity.

 

Question: Are you still stuck? If so, admit your situation to God and yourself, asking Him to help you break the binding chains in your heart.

As anti-Christian political correctness batters the foundation of our belief system from within, and radical Islam attacks it from without, the fabric of our core values are being severely stretched, and few Christians are prepared to stand firmly in the breaches against the assault that is certain to increase.

Unless something changes to reverse this situation, this generation of poorly grounded Christians—who spew a materialistic worldview that repudiates the self-abnegation of the New Testament work ethic—will be the death of what our forefathers fought so diligently to establish.

 

Journal: React to this paragraph, either positively or negatively.

The pendulum that has swung toward evangelism and away from discipleship for decades has produced an abundance of low-lying, marginal fruit. Now, there are more Christians, but with fewer of them knowing much about what they believe, which means the pendulum needs to swing in the other direction toward discipleship.

 

Journal: React to this paragraph as well, giving at least three reasons for either agreeing or disagreeing.

Jack Watts

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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.

 

Every day, people are straying away from the church and going back to God.

—Lenny Bruce

As I see it, the pendulum that has swung toward evangelism and away from discipleship for decades, producing an abundance of low-lying, marginal fruit. Now, there are more Christians, but with fewer of them knowing much about what they believe. We need more men and women who have substantive convictions, rather than marginal, self-serving ones. This means the pendulum needs to swing in the other direction toward discipleship.

The largest church in America is not Roman Catholicism. Lapsed Catholics—those who have left the church because they see no value in attending—may be as many as 30 million. The largest Protestant church isn’t the Southern Baptist denomination, it’s lapsed “born-again” believers—those who have abandoned their churches in favor of secular activities. There may be as many as 20 million of them.

These two groups, lapsed Catholics and lapsed evangelicals, could be as large as large a group as 50 million; and there is virtually nothing being done to reach out to these people—nothing substantial, at least.

Why do you think that is? It’s because it’s easier to pursue fresh, new faces than to try and reconnect with those who have been wounded and driven away. The Scriptures say it’s easier to overtake a walled city than a person offended. Because there are millions of people like these, something needs to be done to restore them to Christ.

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 door. It looks good from the street but, upon careful inspection, much of it is uncared for and rotting away from neglect.

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

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back; let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

Jack Watts

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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.

 

Salvation and sanctification are the work of God’s sovereign grace; our work as His disciples is to disciple lives until they are wholly yielded to God. One life wholly devoted to God is of more value to God than one hundred lives simply awakened by His Spirit.

—Oswald Chambers

We live in a generation where Christianity has become very simplistic and superficial. Our nation is filled with millions of born-again, lightweight believers who feel good about what they know but, unfortunately, they don’t know much. That’s because the emphasis in church is primarily upon evangelism rather than discipleship.

The belief is that if you can get a person to say a prayer, inviting Christ to come into that person’s life, it’s enough. Whether or not they understand the implications is somehow irrelevant. The Holy Spirit will do the rest, which He certainly does, but not without help. This has resulted in America having more born-again Christians than ever before, but the influence of Christianity upon society has never been less.

In the twenty-first century, there are more vapid, shallow, mindless Christians than ever before. Choosing militancy over wisdom and knowledge, believers like these adamantly hold to their convictions, without having much comprehension about what they really are.

Obviously, it shouldn’t be this way. In fact, it should be the exact opposite. As anti-Christian political correctness batters the foundation of our belief system from within, and radical Islam attacks it from without, the fabric of our core values is being severely stretched, and few Christians are prepared to stand firmly in the breaches against the assault that is certain to increase.

Unless something changes to reverse this situation, this generation of poorly grounded Christians—who spew a materialistic worldview that repudiates the self-abnegation of the New Testament work ethic—will be the death of what our forefathers fought so diligently to establish.

And we proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, that we may present every man complete in Christ. And for this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

Jack Watts

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Refer to Step 6: I refuse to become like those who have abused me and abandon my desire to spread malice because of my pain and my anger.

 

This program changes the way I relate to myself. That’s what I’m trying to do—change the way I relate to me.

—AA Slogan

Without working the steps to recovery, it’s easy to get stuck. When you’ve been abused, being angry is understandable; it’s even appropriate for a short while.

Unfortunately, many become stuck in their anger, nurturing bitterness, resentfulness, and irreconcilability. That’s not healthy. It leads to a wasted life—a life God never intended for the person to live.

It’s certainly not a life you want for yourself either. Making the effort to turn away from your pride and desire “get even,” can be extremely difficult. By doing so, however, you can be assured you are accomplishing something worthwhile—something that will make you more fit for the challenges of life.

It takes real work to abandon your pride, but your recovery requires it. You have to stop your self-pity and begin the process of thinking about someone other than yourself. This requires substantial effort, but it becomes easier the more you do it. After a while, it becomes part of who you are.

The sooner you stop defending your right to be offended, the sooner your healing process can begin. If you insist on maintaining that you were right and they were wrong, you will remain stuck. You can’t move forward to a peaceful life while throwing stones at your tormenters. There’s no way to become stronger while you are languishing in the rut of self-pity. You have to let it go—all of it. Nursing your anger and resentment is like nursing an infection what you refuse to treat. That doesn’t work, and neither will nursing your bitterness.

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word that you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. (I Peter 2:1-3)

Jack Watts   My Story

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

 

Pride erects a little kingdom of its own, and acts as sovereign in it.

—William Hazlitt

Nearly every minister can point to a time when they first realized God wanted them to serve in the ministry. Even those who become abusive can point to their calling with certainty. That’s what makes their dysfunction so difficult for them to realize. They believe they are being faithful to their calling. Consequently, they never question their motives or their goals.

Because they have been “called” to do what they do, when a conflict arises, it’s never their problem. It’s always the other person who is wrong—not them. The problem is with those who criticize their leading, whether blatantly or subtly. Because the other person doesn’t follow their lead—blindly, without question—that person is the one who must be wrong, making the criticism these people receive deserved. Consequently, such leaders believe their abusiveness is sanctioned—even justified. That is why they never feel guilty about how they treat others. This is how narcissists think, exactly how they think.

For an abuser, there is rarely much grey area. You are either with them or against them. If you are in opposition, you might as well be questioning God Himself. Because God has “told them” what to do, any criticism of their agenda is met with harsh rebuke; but that’s not all. That’s just the beginning of their abusive treatment.

The person who doesn’t buy into the program is not only rebuked, but his or her relationship with God is also called into question and is criticized either overtly or subtly. To question the leader is perceived as questioning God, making the person who disagrees have flawed character qualities. Routinely, those who are in opposition are depicted as “carnal”—as purposefully being antagonistic toward God’s will.

This makes the questioning person’s walk with the Lord appear defective. As such, the person’s character is castigated, and they are eventually discarded and shunned—just as a leper would be in India. The person asking hard questions becomes an “untouchable”—rejected by those who were co-laborers just a short time earlier.

This kind of treatment happens routinely in ministries and churches, wounding people beyond their ability to cope with the condemnation they receive.

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. (James 3:13-14)

Jack Watts   My Story

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Father,

Nothing is as I had wanted it,

As I thought it would be,

As I believed I had been promised.

Perhaps my aspirations were nothing more

Than my own wishful thinking,

But the despair from my failure is real.

Nothing could be more real

Than how heartbroken I am,

Knowing my life shouldn’t have been this way.

As a youth, when I turned my life,

Along with my will and my purpose,

Over to You for safekeeping,

I believed I would experience abundance,

But that has not been my lot—not even close.

It seems like I have failed

At everything I’ve been called to do,

And when I’ve needed You the most,

It feels like You have been very distant.

My enemies delight at my misfortune.

The pain from their sharp, cutting looks

Is ever before me, stinging me deeply,

While also crushing my soul and my spirit,

Derailing my efforts to get back on my feet.

Those I’ve trusted have used me

Until there was nothing left, mocking and

Rejecting me without a backward glance.

Like a fool, I never saw it coming.

As I recoiled from my wounds,

I called on Your name, but You haven’t been close;

At least, I cannot sense Your presence.

I didn’t want to fail, Father.

You know that I didn’t—but I have,

And I can’t change the outcome.

Many doors have now been closed,

But my life is not yet finished,

And other opportunities will eventuate.

When they do, help me learn

All the lessons I need to know.

I don’t want to ever be in this

Hopeless, tortured place again—

Where my life has no future and no promise.

Jack Watts

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Father,

I feel like I need to cringe

And not hold my head up high.

I feel like I need to lurk in the darkness

Rather than boldly embrace the light.

I feel like You don’t love me,

And I wonder, How could You?

I know I don’t love myself

And I probably never will.

Question: Have you ever felt like this? Do you feel this way now? After being abused, many do.

Today’s Christians seek an advantage in everything they do, precisely like non-Christians. When Christians give, they expect something in return. In their minds, they say; “If I give this, what will You give me in return?” Or, “If I do what you ask, how will it enhance my position in the church and the community?”

Question: Is this statement true? Do you agree with the assessment or disagree with it?

If you want to have a solid relationship with God, you have to become an obedient child—not a spoiled brat. To do this, you must leave your complexities at the door, humble yourself, and believe God is everything He says that He is. It’s not easy. It’s much more natural to try and figure everything out for yourself, make your own decisions, and assume that God will “rubber stamp” your efforts.

Journal: Write about yourself. Have you been a good child or a spoiled one? Be honest and tell God where you are in your walk with Him.

Being short on strong, heartfelt faith, many either become legalists or sentimentalists. The former doggedly pursue Christianity, trying to enforce harsh rules upon themselves and others, which is decidedly unappealing to most. The latter relegate Christianity to a small area of their life, choosing to believe but not allowing their beliefs to impact their lives appreciably.

Question: Which have you been? Do you have legalistic tendencies or sentimental ones? Be honest and admit where you are.

In the aftermath of religious abuse—or any kind of abuse, an interesting phenomenon occurs, which might be described best as “Piling On.” It’s where others within a religious organization, perhaps all, join in with the abuser, pouring out rejection, castigation, and false witness—all of which are perceived as justified by the group dynamic.

Question: In your situation, was the piling on effect in operation? When it happened, were you surprised by it? Have you ever piled on yourself?

Jack Watts   Recommended Resources

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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 to give me the power to carry it out.

 

Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliancy than justice.

—Miguel De Cervantes

In the aftermath of religious abuse—or any kind of abuse, an interesting phenomenon occurs, which might be described best as “Piling On.” It’s where others within an organization join in with the abuser, pouring out rejection, castigation, and false witness—all of which are perceived as justified by the group dynamic.

This kind of “group abuse” sends the victim into a tailspin from which few return to a healthy walk with God. Most of those doing the piling on don’t think about their actions seriously enough to realize the full impact of their negative behavior, but the person to whom its directed feels it acutely. It wounds them at the core of their being, producing feelings of shame, rejection, and worthlessness.

Tragically, church people do this so frequently that it’s one of the characteristics non-believers recognize the most about Christians. Referring to believers as hypocrites, they point a condemning finger back at the abusers. Church people, never recognizing how un-Christ like their condemnation is, circle the wagons, mutually reinforcing each other as being “right.” In their minds, they have made a stand for Jesus. Having done the right thing, their attitude is, “Let the chips fall where they may.”

When this happens, and it happens routinely, an opportunity for kindness, compassion, and reconciliation has been lost, reinforcing another legalistic outcome, which hurts all parties.

In recovery, one of the first lessons to learn is this: if you’re going to err, err on the side of being merciful rather than on the side of being correct. God’s kingdom is full of Pharisee’s. What are needed are people who can recognize the problem but refuse to point a condemning finger. If this were to happen, real caring and healing would occur.

Because recovering people have had similar experiences, it’s up to people like us, the walking wounded, to set the standard high—never lowering it.

So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)

Jack Watts   My Story

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Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes.

 

The brightest crowns that are worn in heaven have been tried, and smelted, polished, and glorified through the furnace of tribulation.

—E. H. Chapin

For faith to have any lasting impact upon you or others, it must be robust—filled with confidence that God is in charge and knows what He is doing. Does that sound like a tall order? If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll probably admit that it does. Like most, you wish you were a stronger person; but in your heart, you probably know that you are not.

If this is an accurate depiction of you, you’re not alone. America is full of Christians who lack the strength of their convictions. Being short of heartfelt faith, they either become legalists or sentimentalists.

The former doggedly pursue Christianity, trying to enforce exacting rules upon themselves and others, which is decidedly unappealing. The latter relegate Christianity to a small portion of life, choosing to believe but not to allow their beliefs to become convictions, which would impact their lives appreciably.

In America, there are more Christians who are sentimentalists than any other kind. They are more fun to be around than legalists but, being shallow, they lack the resilience to have much value when the chips are down.

That’s the problem; the chips are definitely down.

This is where the value of being in recovery comes in. By having to dig within deeply, recovering people develop a toughness that eventually has significant for others. Because their faith has been tested by fire, their resilience becomes established, allowing them to develop strong, positive internal character qualities. Sentimentalists, by way of contrast, do little more than hope for a “divine bailout” in the form of the Rapture, which justifies their weakness with a “Last-Days” mentality that venerates apathetic “lukewarm-ness.”

If you have experienced religious abuse, regardless of the reasons behind it, at least you can know the pain you have suffered need not be in vain. If you are still suffering from your abuse, rest assured your future will have value—perhaps great value. By fighting back, you are creating strong, resilient character qualities that will be vitally important in the years ahead.

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

Jack Watts

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