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Archive for February, 2014


Love One Another—No Matter What

 

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

Loving-kindness is greater than laws; and the charities of life are more than all ceremonies.

—Talmud

In our society, there’s no way to tell a Christian from a non-Christian, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The Scriptures say that you can “tell them by their love for one another,” meaning that love for one another should be clearly evident. But it isn’t, is it? And there’s no use pretending that it’s true, when it’s not. In fact, the opposite is frequently the case.

Loving one another is not only important; it’s the key to attracting others—not doctrine, not church membership, and not any outward dogmatic manifestation of your faith. Loving one another is how you should differentiate between believers and non-believers. The Scriptures say that it’s by your behavior—the condition of your heart—that reveals who you really are. It’s as clear as the Ten Commandments.

That this characteristic is missing is undeniable, and it’s a far more powerful witness to the world than any promotion a church can muster to generate enthusiasm. If you are demonstrating love, you are projecting a good witness. If you say that you have a loving spirit, but it isn’t true, this will also leave a lasting impact—one your carefully prepared testimonials cannot counteract.

This means that you are making an impression no matter what you are doing. If demonstrable love isn’t present, your witness is actually counterproductive. It’s why millions call Christians hypocrites, which is an accurate assessment more often than not.

Because God has shown His love and mercy toward you, it’s natural that you would want to tell others about it. At the same time, if love is not the primary characteristic in your heart, don’t be surprised if your attempts to witness ring hollow or actually turn others off.

Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart. (I Peter 1:22)

Jack Watts

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Intercessory Prayer

Refer to Step 6: I chose to relinquish my right to be self-absorbed.

 

The biggest single non-biblical aspect of American people today is lack of intercession or praying for others.

—T. W. Hunt

When your prayer life becomes stale, which is common for most people, it’s best to take a step back and ask yourself what’s really happening. For more people than not, the reason is simple: They are consumed with their own wants and needs, usually based on three areas:

  • How they feel,
  • What their creature comforts should be, and
  • How difficult their lives have become since their abuse.

When someone has been spiritually abused, the wounds they receive make them extraordinarily self-protective, which is normal and appropriate for a period of time. Immediately afterward, they retreat emotionally to protect themselves from further wounding. While in this state, most of the victim’s prayers are about themselves, which is perfectly natural.

Unfortunately, praying for themselves tends to become a habit, as their “self-centered thoughts” relentlessly consume them. The way out of this confine is to make a purposeful, concerted effort to stop praying for themselves, and start praying for others instead.

At first, this may be difficult. It’s like learning to row a boat or ride a bicycle. Over time, however, the exercise becomes effortless, as people learn to become less self-focused and more aware of the emotional state of those around them.

When a recovering person learns to intercede, their times of prayer become rich and rewarding, especially after their ordeal. Once a person has experienced abuse, they develop a far-richer understanding of the needs of others, making their prayers more empathetic, compassionate, and insightful.

Here’s an idea: after having spent as much time as needed praying about your own abusive situation, try expending your energy on someone else. If you do, you will not be disappointed. It’s a positive step in your growth and an exercise where there is no downside.

Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 1:16)

Jack Watts

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The Spiritually Superior

Refer to Step 4: I chose to accept as true what God says about Himself. He is good and can be trusted. I recognize that God is not the abuser; people who misuse their authority are the abusers.

The self-appointed spokesmen for God incline to shout; He, Himself, speaks only in whispers.

—Martin H. Fischer

Often believing in the de facto infallibility of their opinions, many religious leaders become accountable to God only, which—in their minds—makes it acceptable to treat others any way they choose. More than any other factor, this is where religious abuse originates. Nothing compares to it.

To leaders like these, lesser human beings become expendable. Using their positions of superiority, such men and women “strut their stuff” arrogantly, expecting their followers to be obsequious when they do. They expect others to recognize their exalted role, accept it, and pay appropriate homage. This prideful belief, which each would deny having and denounce if challenged, is easily identifiable to those who are close to them.

Being a spiritual leader, however, does not equate to being spiritually superior—quite the contrary. In recovery, because we have felt the sting of religious arrogance so acutely, we know how abusive it can be. This is why so many react negatively to it while, at the same time, blaming God for their abuse.

Recognizing this distinction is the key to recovery. God is good and can be trusted. An abusive spiritual leader is just a human who arrogates God’s authority to himself or herself inappropriately—nothing more, nothing less.

Recognizing the error is appropriate, but blaming God for it isn’t. He is never abusive. When you begin to recognize the difference, you will have made a significant step in your recovery.

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15, 20)

—Jack Watts

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Renewed Hope

 

Father,

I can sense my dark season is passing,

And my soul-weary depression is lifting.

Despair will no longer be my portion in life.

My time of sorrow is not yet finished—not quite,

But like the tide that inevitably recedes,

Leaving a great wide expanse of clean, white sand,

The same is true for my soul.

My days were filled with gloom for so long

That I never thought joy would return to me,

But it has—with the best years yet to come.

Like the relentless surge of the waves,

New life and new hope are returning to my soul.

You assured me that it would;

Comforting me with Your Word.

But my pain clouded my vision, depriving me of hope.

In the depth of my despair—

No matter how deep my despair became—

You were there, walking beside me,

Providing bits of nourishment and guidance

To replenish my starved spirit.

It was all I had and it wasn’t much,

But it was enough to sustain me.

Without Your gentle hand upon my life,

I’m certain there would be nothing left.

But because You were there,

I am a better person than ever before—

Far more resilient, purposeful, and caring.

I’ve learned to be more compassionate,

Which has made me fully alive, attuned

To the needs of others and not just myself.

As joy returns to my life,

Help me be ever mindful

That You are always by my side,

In times of bounty and times of lean,

In times of joy and in times of dread—

Always reminding me that

You have numbered my days,

And my delight is to spend them with You.

—Jack Watts

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Father,

I wanted my life to be so different,

To be easier and more carefree,

But that was not the path You chose.

As I see the smiling faces of others—

Those who talk about You as if they

Know You intimately, but do not,

I wonder why their lives appear to be

Free from disappointment and conflict,

While mine has been stressful and difficult.

Question: When you look at the lives of others, do you tend to judge their outsides by your insides? If you do, bring this before the Lord, and tell Him how you feel.

Instead of seeking and choosing to follow God’s leading, many people, including those who have been used, abused, and discarded by their church or Christian organization; chase after the desires of their own heart, believing that they are making a free choice to do so. It’s easy to see why they believe this, but it’s not the road to freedom. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.

Journal: Is this what you have done? Is your experience similar? If so, write about how you thought you were free but were not.

In your heart, you start to realize that the relationship is not really what you need for your recovery—not what you need to be the person you are capable of being. You know it, and your conscience regularly reminds you that it’s not helping you be the person you were created to be. In reestablishing your connection with God, you know that this relationship has become a hindrance, and you can only deny this for so long. In the end, you realize that it has to be terminated. This means that, sooner or later, it has to end, which is often very sad.

Journal: If you have had a relationship like this, write about it, being completely honest and transparent.

My experiences in recovery, however, are far different—far more complex. They are more like the troubles David had with his family after he was king. In these stories, even when he was triumphant, it often brought him as much grief as it did joy.

Journal: Write about a situation in your family where doing the right thing cost you dearly, remembering that nearly everybody has an experience like this.

Doing the right thing in recovery is often very difficult—just ask someone. Regardless of what type of recovery it might be, walking in integrity is frequently challenging. Everybody likes the idea of doing the right thing but, when there is great pressure exerted against you, it’s not easy at all. That’s especially true when the pressure is initiated by a loved one. To take a leap of faith in a circumstance like this can be very intimidating.

Journal: Continuing with this same theme, write about a family situation where doing the right thing was very intimidating.

 —Jack Watts

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In the Heat of the Battle

 

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

 

 

Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.

—J. C. Watts

Doing the right thing in recovery is often very difficult—just ask someone. Regardless of what type of recovery it might be, walking in integrity is frequently challenging. Everybody likes the idea of doing the right thing but, when there is great pressure exerted against you, it’s not easy at all.

This is especially true when the pressure is initiated by a loved one. To take a leap of faith in a circumstance like this can be very intimidating. Nevertheless, it’s important to do the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time—not just occasionally, but routinely. It doesn’t seem like it would be so difficult but, when you are in the heat of the battle, it certainly is.

People, who are forced to make unpopular decisions and stick to them, realize this. To make matters worse, there is nobody around to validate your decision to do the right thing. If there were, it would be much easier.

Therefore, when conflicts arise, especially when you are forced to go against opposition within your family, just hold your breath, take a leap of faith, and stand firm. At first, it may seem scary. You may think that you have done the wrong thing but, over time, the correctness of following the Lord will become increasingly evident. So, learn to step out in faith, regardless of what negative consequences you think might eventuate.

For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond slaves of God. (I Peter 15-16)

Jack Watts

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Family Dysfunction

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.

 

 

No matter how eloquently spoken, or sincerely intended, words tend to trivialize the pain that we cause one another.

—Chaplain John C. Fitts

I have always liked the story of David and Goliath—everybody does. What’s not to like about it? An underdog puts his complete confidence in God, faces a giant and prevails, practically effortlessly. It’s a great story of right triumphing over wrong—of good conquering over evil. It’s a story that puts a smile on my face every time I read it.

My experiences in recovery, however, are far different and far more complex. They are more like the troubles David had with his family after he was king. In these stories, even when he was triumphant, it often brought him as much grief as it did joy.

There are two reasons for this. First, when intra-family disputes arise, right and wrong are never as clear as it was with David and Goliath. Second, there are no winners when the conflict is within the family. It isn’t just that nobody is a clear winner—nearly everybody is a clear loser, making such conflicts a war of attrition.

Unfortunately, most of the conflict experienced by people in recovery is with family members and close friends—not with evil villains like Goliath. This makes resolution very difficult. When family conflicts occur, recognizing God’s Will may be very difficult. Not only are there conflicting emotions involved but also the desired outcome is rarely as clear and easy as one would like.

When you find yourself in a situation like this, which is almost inevitable in recovery, try to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason—no matter what that is or how difficult it might be. During the conflict, make certain you are never malicious and you never deliberately harm another family member, including an ex-spouse. If you can do this, it’s probably the best that you will be able to do, but if you are successful at it, God will honor your fidelity.

 

To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kind-hearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil, or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (I Peter 3:8-9)

—Jack Watts

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