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Archive for August, 2013


How God Answers Prayer

 

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.

 

 

You can’t think your way into a new way of living . . . you have to live your way into a new way of thinking.

—Anonymous

It’s much easier to worry a problem to death than it is to trust God with it, which is why so few operate by faith. People rack their brains about how a problem is going to be solved; and for the life of them, they can’t figure a way out of their dilemma.

It’s common for people to disbelieve God, when they can’t figure out how He is going to solve a problem, based on their common sense reasoning, isn’t it? Does this sound familiar? How often has this happened in your life?

The problem is God doesn’t work in common sense ways—never has, never will. He works in supernatural ways. Because His ways are not our ways, we rack our brains and cannot understand how He operates; but when we look back at his faithfulness over time, we realize He has done what we have asked—but in ways we never anticipated or even considered.

That’s the key. He operates supernaturally and not in “common sense” ways. We need to understand the difference and come to God based on His ways and not our own. If we do, then we will not spend so much time fretting about how God will answer our prayers.

Because we are not divine, we cannot think like God—not really. What we can do, however, is recognize our limitations and not ascribe them to God nature. He is Almighty; we are not. Knowing the difference, and knowing that God is active in our lives, can spare each of us a world of heartache and trouble.

In this sense, being childlike is an essential ingredient of faith. Children have complete confidence in their parents. Once they tell their mom or dad something, they let it go, knowing that their parents will take care of the matter. It’s the same way with God. Once you put a matter in His hands, you can release it. Worrying about it after you’ve given it to Him isn’t a sign of maturity; it’s a sign of immature faith.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. (I Peter 5:7)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Being Purified

 

Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes, and I ask Him to heal my pain.

 

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.

—Pablo Picasso

Being pruned by God is a way of life for His children—a way the Scriptures say we should embrace. In my own experience, as someone who wants to be everything God wants me to be, I have prayed, Father, do whatever you want with me. I accept all of it graciously, willingly.

Such prayers seem so noble when we say them—that is, until the Lord actually initiates real change. When that happens—when His pruning process begins, we scream Holy Murder! The pain is often so intense that we’re certain we cannot make it through. We are all for pruning—just as long as it’s not too painful.

But that’s not the way God seems to work in our lives. The Scriptures teach that He is a consuming fire, which is most often associated with judgment, but it can also refer to being purified. To get us where He wants us to be, God burns away everything that prevents us from becoming stronger, more resilient people. By the time He is finished, most feel like they’ve been whittled down to nothing, with little left.

We see this process through our eyes; He sees it through His. To make us stronger, better people, God engineers our circumstances to put us in a position where we have no alternative other than to trust Him. When this happens—and it happens to every child of God—it feels very destructive and, in many ways, it is. That is, until something new emerges, and you become a person with far more estimable character qualities than ever before.

Therefore, let the Lord do with you as He will. He’s going to anyway, regardless of whether you like it or not. When the process is complete, you’ll like what you see—so will others.

And He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. (Malachi 3:3)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Being Willing to Make Amends

 

Refer to Step 5: I recognize that the only way back to a productive life is exactly the way I came. Therefore, I commit to repairing my relationship with God and making amends with everyone I have wronged along the way.

True repentance means making amends with the person when at all possible.

Lawana Blackwell

Part of repairing your relationship with God is repairing your relationship with those you have offended along the way. This is where the rubber meets the road in recovery—where “walking the walk” really gets tough. It’s easy to repair your relationship with God. He’s always there and always forgiving. It’s His nature, whether you believe it or not.

It’s entirely different with those you have mistreated in life, many of whom are less than forgiving. Some people may not want anything to do with you and your “apology,” which they consider to be disingenuous. They may even treat your attempt at reconciliation contemptuously, which makes your efforts at contrition very difficult. Nevertheless, you have to make an attempt, regardless of the consequences.

Remember, you are only responsible for your part of the problem, not theirs. Since you can’t control the outcome, you don’t have responsibility for the results either. How someone reacts to your apology is their responsibility, not yours. Once you’ve addressed the issue, leave the outcome to God, and trust that He will work in the heart of the other person.

It takes a tremendous amount of courage to acknowledge that you regret past behavior, especially to a spouse, parent, or sibling, but it has to be done. There’s no getting around it, no matter how difficult it may be. Besides, it’s one of those things that will nag at you—never giving you rest until you’ve made the effort.

When it’s over, however, and you’ve addressed the problem, it’s an entirely different story. The relief you experience is palpable. A tremendous weight will have been lifted from your shoulders, and your relief will make you feel lighter—literally. It’s like a ball and chain has been removed from your shoulders, which it has, making the entire episode worthwhile.

If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way, first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Jack Watts   Resources

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Facing Religious Abuse

 

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

 

 

More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.

—Harold J. Smith

When you’ve been wounded by religious abuse—shamed, humiliated, intimidated, and ridiculed, the natural inclination is to retreat into a protective shell. In your heart, you just want to “go away” and never have anything to do with “those people” again. The problem is that God is often thrown in the same group as your abusers. By withdrawing, you have probably also retreated in your relationship with the Lord, which is definitely unwise and self-defeating. Let me ask you:

  • If you are really being honest with yourself, has this been your experience?
  • Not wanting to experience the pain and emotional dysfunction associated with your abuse, have you swept everything, including your relationship with God, under the rug?
  • Have you said to yourself, I don’t want to have anything to do with God ever again?

Although this is the course of action most people follow, it’s a strategy that doesn’t work well—not long-term anyway. To heal—to become the person you were meant to be, you must revisit your abuse, feel the pain once again, release it—forgiving your abusers, and move on. Nothing else will heal you effectively.

Keeping the issue buried deep within you may feel comfortable—like it’s the right thing to do—but it isn’t. What works is reopening the old wound, which will drain the malice. Then, allow the anger, bitterness, and resentment to heal. Repressing painful events doesn’t work in any other area of life, nor it will not work with religious abuse either. To heal, you must face your situation once again. It’s the only way. At first, it will definitely feel uncomfortable; but over time, you’ll realize how necessary this course of action has been.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves. (II Corinthians 4:7)

Jack Watts   Recovery Resources

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Father,

I have wandered so far from You—

From Your ways, from Your leading,

From Your purpose, and from Your love.

At first, it didn’t seem like such a distance,

But, now it does, as I see what has resulted

From the fruitlessness of my wandering.

My departure has brought me to the wilderness

And has wounded my soul more than I imagined.

I know I need to return to You, but now that I see

How great the breach has become between us,

The way back seems long and difficult.

In my reaction to having been wounded,

I have behaved in ways that have not only

Hurt me but also have hurt others as well.

I acknowledge this to You right now.

I’m so sorry for having wronged them,

Which I had no right to do, nor was it my place.

I can see how wayward I have become.

As I begin my long journey back to wholeness,

I know that I need to make amends to those

I have heartlessly wounded along the way.

It never occurred to me that I have

Treated others contemptuously, as I was treated.

Just thinking about this makes me feel ashamed.

Father, I am so, so sorry for my behavior.

Forgive me, and restore me to those I have hurt.

Most of all, restore my relationship with You.

Help me learn from my egregious errors,

So that I never feel the compulsion

To drift so far away from You again.

Real Prayers for Real People with Real Problems

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Father,

I’m not where I want to be—not even close.

I’m not what I want to be,

And I’m not the person I’m capable of being.

Even worse, the gap is widening, not narrowing.

If I’m being honest with myself,

Which I repeatedly try to avoid,

I’m constantly excusing my poor

Behavior and my rebellious attitude.

I don’t like myself—not even a little.

Journal: React to this prayer by writing your own statement. Are your thoughts similar or not? Be specific and candid.

I had a vision for what my life would be—a vision that was quite pretentious, but God’s purpose was different. Becoming who He intended me to be has taken substantial work, and it continues to take work, each and every day of my life. By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness.

Question: Can you say that about yourself? Have you traveled a similar journey, or has your journey been different?

When you take a look at the lives of religious leaders, especially from large churches and ministries, frequently the leaders consider themselves to be the superiors of others. Even if they give lip service to saying they are servants, they don’t really believe it. In their minds and hearts, their thoughts and pronouncements are more important than what others think and have to say.

Journal: The statement above is filled with emotions for those who have suffered religious abuse. Write about what the abuser in your life was like.

To heal, you must abandon your insistence upon retribution. Step 7 is about you and your healing—not about “them.” If you insist on making it about how badly you were wronged, you will make little progress. It’s as simple as that. You must abandon your anger and your need to be right.

Journal: Where are you with self-vindication? Write about it, being as honest and candid as you can possibly be.

I chose to respond in the way that has always worked for me, by bowing my knee and seeking the will of God. I don’t know any other way to live life, and even if I did, I wouldn’t choose an alternative path. For better or worse, it’s who I have become. By abasing myself before the Lord, however, I knew what I was doing. God promises to exalt those who are genuinely humble “at the proper time”—using His timetable for exaltation and not mine.

Question: In your own life, where are you in the restoration process? On a scale of 1-to-10, where would that be?

Recovery Resources

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Fulfillment Will Come—in Its Season

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

 

We bow to the man who kneels.

—Victor Hugo

In recovery, there are frequently long periods of emotional drought—times when you think the sun will never shine on you again and your life will never have value. Having recently gone through such a period, I chose to respond in the way that has always worked for me, by bowing my knee and seeking the will of God.

I don’t know any other way to live life, and even if I did, I wouldn’t choose it to be my alternative path. For better or worse, it’s who I have become. By bowing myself before the Lord, however, I knew what I was doing. God promises to exalt those who are genuinely humble “at the proper time”—using His timetable for exaltation and not mine.

Such a time came, when I was asked to be the Master of Ceremonies at The YMCA to honor the life of a man who was dying of cancer. It was a difficult assignment because of all of the emotion, which filled the room, along with the 120 people—all of whom were paying their tribute and their respect to the man.

Obviously, the event was about him and not about me. When it was over, however, I received the following email from the director of the YMCA, which said:

So often I wait to make sure when I send an email of gratitude, making sure it says just the ”right thing,” but then that just means I don’t send it soon enough. So, this email is coming to you rough and filled with emotion. You were AMAZING today! I can’t thank you enough for being my partner in crime and also my support during this wonderful event to honor our friend! I know in my heart that he was touched—as was everyone else in the room. When I walked past him in to the Y this morning, he was barely shuffling along, but when he left he was a man who was 10 feet tall—WOW! He told me he’d see me tomorrow for work!

We don’t tell folks enough what they mean to us, but know that I value and treasure the years we have known each other; and I LOVE that you come in my office to say hello or just show off in your “wife beater” shirt. You’re a special man and, thankfully, I get to call you my friend! I appreciate you!

Receiving this was the “first fruit” of coming out of the wilderness for me, and I was humbled and grateful. I have not become who I am by leading a soft, conflict-free life—not by a long shot. It’s because of how I’ve reacted to my problems—most of which I have brought on myself by through poor choices. Bowing my knee is what has made me who I am. It has also made me a man of substance—not a man who has compromised or settled for a mediocre life. I couldn’t do that, and neither should you.

Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ (James 45:6b)

Jack Watts   My Story

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