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Archive for December, 2013


God Loves You—No Matter What

 

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

 

No matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, or how you’ve blown it, God is able to get you back to a place where He can use you again.

—Nancy Leigh DeMoss

When a person has been verbally or emotionally abused, feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem are inevitable. There doesn’t seem to be any way around it—at least, for a while. It’s very sad, but it appears that character destruction is often what abusers intend. It’s hard to believe that there can be people who are so mean-spirited, but there are.

To recover from such malicious treatment, the abused person needs to make a conscious, concerted effort to reject the castigating message, which has undermined his or her self-esteem. It isn’t true—even if the person has done some less than honorable things.

If this is what has happened to you, then you need to know God continues to have a plan for your life. He still loves you, and everything can work together for good, if you will allow it. To do this, you need to renew your mind and tell yourself constantly and repeatedly that you have value to God, to yourself, and to everyone you know.

This isn’t simply the power of positive thinking or looking at the glass as half full; it’s the truth. God does still love you, and He does have plans for you. Tell yourself this, repeatedly. Realizing that God’s love is constant, more than any thing, will help you become everything you are capable of being in life.

Jack Watts

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:5-6)

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Lord,

I feel like a wounded gazelle,

Unable to fend for myself,

As hungry predators surround me.

My demise seems certain,

And there is no place to hide.

My friends—those who call upon Your name—

Are nowhere to be found,

Just when I need them the most.

My love has abandoned me for another,

Without ever looking back.

I am undone and badly crushed,

As those who seek what little is left,

Fight over scraps of my being—

Over pieces of my shattered soul.

How long will You leave me exposed

And vulnerable to ravenous miscreants—

To those who seek to destroy me?

Tell me, Lord, when will it be enough?

When will You protect Your wounded child?

When will You move Your mighty hand to help?

If You don’t rescue me soon, nothing will remain.

I feel so defeated, as my head hangs in despair,

And my countenance has become diminished.

Dread and insecurity threaten to overwhelm me.

Provide me with a way through the thorny path

And lead me to a safe place of security.

I am greatly undone and plead for Your help.

Help me, Lord; Help me now.

Jack Watts

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Father,

You’ve brought my soul out of bondage—

Out of the shackles of my

Self-defeating behavior for a purpose

That is beyond my capacity to understand.

In the blindness of my pain and distress,

Which have filled my days and my nights,

I have pleaded with You incessantly,

Demanding that You ease my pain

And grant me the desires of my heart.

Regardless of my repeated complaints,

Which I’ve had the audacity to call prayers,

You have never relented from Your purpose.

Neither have You allowed me to dictate my will,

Which I have insisted You do repeatedly.

Unmoved, You have gone about Your goal

Of transforming my heart from the inside out,

Changing me at the core of my being,

Transforming me into a far better version

Of myself than I have ever dreamed possible.

Now, as my distress has abated

And my pain has relinquished,

I look back at where I have been.

For the first time, I am thankful.

You know me better than I know myself.

What You have desired for me is far superior

To what I have wanted for myself.

As I fathom what You have done,

I marvel at Your orchestrated changes,

Which have strengthened me with power

In the inner man, making me more resilient.

Not knowing what lies ahead or is in store for me,

I willingly give You permission to finish

The work You have been determined to complete.

Let my petty, whining nature be part of the past—

A distant memory of my childishness—

As I seek Your will rather than to dictate my own.

Humbly, I ask that You reveal Your will to me,

While providing the power to carry it out.

Lord, I ask nothing more and nothing less.

Jack Watts

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Being Firm in Your Convictions Comes with a Price

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.

 

Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. It is so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.

—Martin Luther

A while ago in Cheshire, England, two twelve-year-old schoolboys were disciplined for “refusing to pray to Allah” as part of their school’s religious education program. A spokesman for the county council said, “Educating children in the beliefs of different faiths is part of Cheshire’s diversity curriculum.”

Because of separation of church and state, this scenario couldn’t be replicated in the America—not exactly. But the mindset of accepting all religious systems as equally valid is a fundamental belief of American political correctness. Although most churches would repudiate this based on their doctrine, it’s the de facto belief system for most Christians as well.

In an attempt to be acceptable to everyone, Christians have watered-down Christ’s teachings, attempting to remove exclusivity from His message. If you think this is an exaggeration, just ask any young Christian under twenty-five if Christ is the only way to God. Three-out-of-four will either hedge or deny it out-rightly. Christianity isn’t loosing the cultural war; it has already been lost.

Our churches are filled with weak, materialistic, sappy people—not robust men and women—not those who refuse to bend their knees to anyone other than the Lord. In our watered-down version of cultural Christianity, which is espoused in many denominations, God’s blessings are equated to materialism and not to the rich character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. If you are prosperous, God is blessing you. If you aren’t, your life has fallen short of the mark.

When the two English boys made a stand for what they believed, they paid a price, but their defiance also made news worldwide.

Remember, fidelity may cost you everything; but without it, you don’t have anything of value anyway. These kids made a stand for something important. Do you think you could do the same thing?

Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king’s command, and yielded up their own bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:28)

Jack Watts

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Father,

Not knowing what lies ahead or what You have in store,

I willingly give You permission to finish

The work that You have begun in me.

Let my petty, whining nature be a thing of the past—

A distant memory of my childishness—

As I seek Your will rather dictating mine to You.

I ask only that You reveal Your will to me each day,

And provide me with the power to carry it out.

 

Question: Do you know what God has in store for you? Do you give Him permission to do whatever is necessary to make you the man or woman you need to be? Be thoughtful about your response.

Being forgiven much, people in recovery develop a deeper capacity to love, which is a highly valued character quality. If you’re in recovery—any kind of recovery—you know this as well. Those who have never fallen—who have never done anything seriously wrong—don’t understand this perspective. Their comprehension about such things is limited.

Question: React to the paragraph above. Do you agree with it or disagree? Think of three reasons that support your position.

To criticize the minister—”the anointed one”— is perceived as criticizing God, making the person who disagrees have flawed, having “sinful” character qualities. Routinely, those who are in opposition are depicted as “carnal”—as purposefully going against God’s will. This makes the questioner’s walk with the Lord appear to be defective, which is exactly how it is positioned by the abusive leader. When the abuser says, “I’ll pray for you, brother,” it is usually accompanied by a syrupy smile. When this happens, you can be certain that no prayers will be forthcoming—only character assassination.

Journal: Was this your experience? If so, write about it, being as critical as you feel the need to be.

 

By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness. I worked out a new purpose—a rewarding, fulfilling one. Christ saved my soul, but I did the recovery work to forge a new life—a life of value.

 

Question: Do you still look to the past? Have you put it behind you? Are there still some things that trigger you to anger about what happened?

In our watered-down version of cultural Christianity, which is espoused in many denominations, God’s blessings are equated to materialism and not to the rich character qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness. If you are prosperous, God is blessing you. If you aren’t, your life has fallen short of the mark.

Journal: React to this paragraph, either agreeing or disagreeing with it. Write about it.

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.

 

Our energy is in proportion to the resistance it meets. We attempt nothing great but from a sense of the difficulties we have to encounter, we persevere in nothing great but from a pride in overcoming them.

—William Hazlitt

You can’t work for your salvation; it’s free. There’s nothing you can do to save yourself, but you have to “work out” your relationship with God.

When I was first victimized by religious abuse, I was hurt, angry, confused, and purposeless for a long time. When I realized I was not getting any better by wallowing in self-pity, I knew I had to make some changes. I would never become who I was supposed to be by living in bitterness, and nobody was going to help me. I had to do it myself.

That’s when I started working on myself. Realizing Christ was not the problem but the solution, I looked to Him, and the words He spoke, as my source for courage, inspiration, and purpose. I had to rethink every aspect of my life, changing nearly everything. At first, I resented it but, after a while, I chose to embrace it instead.

I had a vision for what my life would become, but God’s purpose was different. Turning out to be who He wanted me to be has taken a lot of work, and continues to require more. By looking to God for the future, rather than blaming Him for the past, I chose life over the debilitating half-life of bitterness. I worked out a new purpose—a rewarding, fulfilling one. Christ saved my soul, but I had to do the recovery work to forge a new life—a life of value.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

Jack Watts

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For Abuse to Occur

 

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

 

One’s cruelty is one’s power and, when one parts with one’s cruelty, one parts with one’s power. When one has parted with that, I fancy one’s old and ugly.

—William Congreve

For religious abuse to occur, an attitude of arrogance, entitlement, and pride is required by a religious leader. If such an attitude doesn’t exist, then most abuse is unintentional, with no maliciousness intended. To be certain what’s happening, it’s always wise to take a good, hard look at every pastor and ministry leader, looking for telltale signs of spiritual superiority. If you discern these characteristics, move on.

It doesn’t matter how profound the person’s teaching may be or how loving he or she appear to be, it’s an illusion. At the end of the day, those who embrace such leadership will pay dearly. By keeping their mouths shut, they provide tacit approval for abusive behavior, paying the price that always accompanies failure to promptly do the right thing. On the other hand, those who recognize the problem and make a stand for what is right will also be abused.

Here’s the way it works. Although people have differences of opinion, when one person’s opinion is elevated above others and positioned as “God’s will” for the rest, then abusiveness is certain to follow. The person who doesn’t buy into the program is not only rebuked; but by holding his or her ground in opposition, that person’s relationship with God is inevitably called into question. To criticize the minister—”the anointed one”— is perceived as criticizing God, making the person who disagrees fundamentally flawed, having “sinful” character qualities.

Routinely, those who are in opposition are depicted as “carnal”—as purposefully going against God’s will. This makes the questioner’s walk with the Lord appear to be defective, which is exactly how it is positioned by the abusive leader. When the abuser says, “I’ll pray for you, brother,” it is usually accompanied by a syrupy smile. When this happens, you can be certain that no prayers will be forthcoming—only character assassination.

The person asking hard questions becomes an “untouchable”—rejected by those who were co-laborers just a short time before. This type of treatment happens routinely in ministries and churches, wounding people beyond their capacity to cope with what follows. When the process is complete, there is another person added to the ranks of the religiously abused.

Your boasting is not good. Do you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (I Corinthians 5:6-8)

Jack Watts

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