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Archive for April, 2013


 

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

 

Ambition fortifies the will of man to become ruler over other men: it operates with deception, cajolery, and violence; it is the action of impurity upon impurity.

—T. S. Eliot

In modern day Christendom, the idea of being called to the ministry has undergone a change—at least for many. Because of this change, which at first is subtle in a person, the seeds of religious abusiveness become fertile. In the early church and in the Scriptures, being called to the ministry meant that a person was called to serve others, regardless of how those served might respond. Because the person called was serving the Lord, while serving others, fulfillment came by being faithful to God and to no one else.

By the nature of the office, a minister is the servant of others; or, at least, that’s what the person is supposed to be. In this generation, however, this is no longer the norm. It has flip-flopped. Now, it is the minister who is served and not the other way around.

Because of the minister’s skill and calling, they have been elevated to a class above those to whom they have been called to serve. This reversal of positions has become so entrenched ministers have become celebrities, adored by their followers like rock stars or sports figures. This transformation has become so accepted that few realize how far it has drifted from the original model.

Part of the problem is that the terminology hasn’t changed. Ministers still obsequiously refer to themselves as servants but, in their hearts, many are anything but servants, especially those who become abusive. They are the lords; and when someone gets in their way, the offending person is castigated and discarded, being maligned by “God’s servant” in the process.

This kind of treatment has become so routine that millions have been abused by those who have been called to serve them. It’s one of the major reasons why there are so many have abandoned going to church.

And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” (Acts 1025-26)

Jack Watts

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Father,

There was a path that seemed so promising—

A road that looked like it was Your way, but it was not.

There were far too many compromises involved

For it to be something You would honor.

In the deepest recesses of my heart,

I knew it—in spite of all my protestations.

I was keenly aware it was my will and not Yours.

Nevertheless, I followed the wrong path,

Paying a terrible price for having done so.

Later, when I had no other recourse available,

I came to You—sorrowful, humbled, and crushed—

With hat in hand, ready and willing to be changed.

This time, instead of medicating my pain with vice,

I endured the obligatory heartache for a period,

Which I was certain was far too long,

But You knew it was exactly what I required.

You promised that if I would humble myself

You would exalt me at the proper time.

I didn’t believe this was true, not literally—

Nor that You would do it, not really.

But You have, and I can clearly see

Your hand in the restoration of my life.

Now, I stand strong, far wiser, and more resilient,

With a calm, sane, and joyful countenance.

Humbling myself because I had no alternative,

I never considered that in Your wisdom,

You had orchestrated my circumstances

In a way that I would eventually seek You out.

This wasn’t the road I would have chosen for myself,

But it’s the road You have chosen for me.

I wish I could say that I have learned all my lessons,

But I know who I am. I know that in my own heart—

I am prone to wander—prone to leave the God I love.

Father, take my heart and prevent it from

Following another fruitless path, leading nowhere.

Jack Watts   Real Prayers for Real People with Real Problems 

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Father,

In the midst of my despair,

When at night I longed for the day,

And in the daytime desired it to be evening,

When sorrows made it difficult to breathe,

You were always there beside me,

Even when I was certain that You were not.

As fear relentlessly rattled my being,

You continued transforming who I would become.

Ever mindful of my frailties and weaknesses,

You purged and pruned and cleansed.

Then, one day, as I waited for the gloom

To overwhelm me once again,

Which had become my daily routine,

It was gone, vanishing like it had never been there,

Leaving me stronger, more resilient, and far wiser.

Journal: Have you ever had an experience like this? Write about it.

If you ask the spiritual leader about his or her display of materialism, they will probably say, “It’s proof of God’s blessing.” Then, they will be quick to add, “You can also receive abundance like this, if you will give, expecting great things in return.” If you use your head and think for yourself, you’ll recognize that this is proof that the leader is adept at manipulating people to make sacrificial gifts to the ministry. Those who give, however, are not innocent in this scenario. They are giving with the expectation of abundance to follow, which means it’s not true giving at all but a quid pro quo barter with God.

Journal: Examine your own conscience about this. When you give, is it really giving, or is it giving to get something in return? Write out your answer.

To experience the highest level of recovery, not only do your actions have to display honesty but your thoughts and desires must also be based upon integrity. There’s simply no other way. Without being honest at this level—where your conscience is completely clear—you will never be the person you are capable of being. It’s just not possible.

Journal: What about your thoughts? React to the statement above, either positively or negatively, writing out your reply.

In recovery from religious abuse, helping others along the path to spiritual freedom is also an integral part of recovery, but it’s a little different than in a substance abuse program. To be the greatest help to someone who has been spiritually abused, you must learn to identify God’s interest in them rather than your own.

Journal: Do you know how to identify God’s interests in another? Write out your answer.

After living in recovery for a while, however, things may get a little stale, and you may slip back into some old patterns of behavior, which probably will not serve you well. When this happens—and it will—you need to exercise your will and get back to work on yourself. Remember this: Recovery is not a destination but a continuous work in progress. In one sense, you never arrive—you’re not supposed to.

Question: What do you think about this? Have you ever considered recovery to be a process and not a final destination? Do you realize that developing a new way of life is the answer and not the method?

Jack Watts

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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.

  

To find what you seek in the road of life, the best proverb of all is that which says: “Leave no stone unturned.”

—Edward Bulwer Lytton

When you are in the pit, feeling worthless, unloved, rejected, and discarded, working the 11 Steps to recovery from religious abuse can be one of the most worthwhile, meaningful times of your life—even though the effort will certainly be very stressful. Once you’ve worked the steps, however, and have learned to reconnect with God in a meaningful way, life can become rich and rewarding once again. In fact, it should.

After living in recovery for a while, however, things may get a little stale, and you may slip back into some old patterns of behavior, which probably will not serve you well. When this happens—and it will—you need to exercise your will and return to working on yourself. Remember this: recovery is not a destination but a continuous work in progress. In one sense, you never arrive—you’re not supposed to. Enjoying the journey becomes the destination, and it can become very fulfilling.

What you are supposed to do is to spend time in your relationship with God, always seeking His will for your life and asking Him for the power to carry it out. When you do this, it will work every time. It’s like exercising. Sometimes, you just don’t want to do it and have to force yourself to get started. Once you do, however, you’re almost always thrilled you did.

It’s also like Manna in the desert, which was there everyday—but only for that day. You can’t stock up on it; it rots. This means you have to work your program every day until it becomes as natural to you as brushing your teeth. Nothing short of this will work the way you hope it will. So, when you don’t want to make the effort, using your willpower, pull yourself up by your bootstraps and do it.

For every one who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. (Hebrews 5:13-14)

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.

There is a time to let things happen, and a time to make things happen.

—Unknown

One of the really great recovery slogans in Alcoholics Anonymous is this: It really isn’t yours until you give it away.

What this means is that—to solidify all that you have accomplished in sobriety—to own it as the essence of who you really are, you must help someone in the same way that you have been helped. This makes helping others an essential aspect of your recovery. In AA and other substance abuse programs, helping others, by becoming a sponsor, is one of the key components of the program. They say, “The time to call your sponsor is before you pick up a drink—not after.”

In recovery from religious abuse, helping others along the path to spiritual freedom is also an integral part of recovery, but it’s a little different than in a substance abuse program. To be the greatest help to someone who has been spiritually abused, you must learn to identify God’s interest in them rather than your own.

This requires you to really get to know the person, pray for them regularly, and listen for God’s leading in their lives. In AA, the most important thing a sponsor can do is to teach those they are sponsoring how to live life on life’s terms, without medicating with alcohol. It’s noble and worthy, but it’s also simple when compared to helping someone redevelop his or her relationship with God, once it has been damaged by religious abuse.

If you can learn how to serve another in this way, you will have done a service that will have eternal ramifications. There’s nothing like it in importance. If you want to invest your life in a worthy way, help someone who has been the victim of religious abuse reconnect with God in a meaningful way. It’s hard work, but if you have success with it, nothing in life will be more rewarding.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

Jack Watts

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Refer to Step 7: I commit to being as thorough and honest as I am able.

 

This above all—to thine ownself be true;

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

—William Shakespeare

Maintaining rigorous honesty is absolutely essential for your recovery to have long-term value. Without such a commitment, it will be short-lived, valueless, and none of the changes you have sought will be permanent.

Being honest, however, can occasionally be tricky. For example, you can be honest on the outside, ascribing noble reasons for your goals, while maintaining less-than-noble aspirations on the inside. Being crafty is never being honest. Any attempt at self-deception will prove to be self-destructive—no matter how hard you try to spin the truth in your mind, making deception seem okay.

To experience the highest level of recovery, not only do your actions have to display honesty but your thoughts and desires must also be based upon integrity. There’s simply no other way. Without being honest at this level—where your conscience is completely clear—you will never be the person you are capable of being. It’s just not possible.

That’s why taking personal inventory routinely is an essential component of recovery. Remember, the human heart is capable of incredible deception. To others, you may appear to be completely straightforward but on the inside—where it really counts—you may be manipulating the situation to attain self-serving goals.

When an issue comes up that causes you consternation, bring it to God immediately and ask Him what is the right thing to do. If you are being open and honest, the answer will come sooner or later. When it does, act upon it immediately. If you don’t, you will be in for a world of heartache. If you can say to yourself, “I’m doing the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time,” you will be certain you are walking in the light and that your recovery is progressing nicely.

O Lord, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart. (Psalm 15:1-2)

Jack Watts   The Search for Reality

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

 

The love for material things grows like a fungus in the soul and destroys the loveliness of the human heart utterly.

—Caryll Houselander

Ask yourself this: when you see a ministry or church that focuses on stewardship, have you ever seen the leader show any indications of impoverishment? Is there any sign of legitimate need, or does the leader look like a million dollars? Be certain to take a long, hard, and appraising look. Does the leader have a new car? A Rolex? A diamond pinky ring? A magnificent home? Custom made clothes? Does his or her life ooze with “the finer things of life?”

If the answer to any of these questions—or all of them—is yes, then those who follow leaders like these are being religiously abused, whether they recognize it or not. Does this situation seem similar? If so, you’re not alone. It’s common, especially among those who preach the Prosperity Gospel.

It’s a house of cards that’s destructive to every one who has any part of it. If you ask the spiritual leader about his or her display of materialism, they will probably say, “It’s proof of God’s blessing.” Then, they will be quick to add, “You can also receive abundance like this, if you will give, expecting great things in return.”

If you use your head and think for yourself, you’ll recognize this is proof the leader is adept at manipulating people to make sacrificial gifts to the ministry. Those who give, however, are not innocent in this scenario. They are giving with the expectation of abundance to follow, which means it’s not true giving but a quid pro quo barter with God.

Examine your own conscience about this. When you give, is it really giving, or is it giving to get something in return? If it’s the latter, it’s materialism motivated by greed, and that’s never Christ-like. It doesn’t count for anything other than your ability to be manipulated by an abusive religious leader.

And He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Jack Watts

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