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Archive for April, 2014


Don’t Dictate to God

 

 

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

 

 

 

Listening to God is a firsthand experience . . . God invites you to vacation in His splendor. He invites you to feel the touch of His hand. He invited you to feast at His table. He wants to spend time with you.

—Max Lucado

 

When your life unravels, as it does for most of us at one time or another, you start asking tough but important questions:

  • Why did this have to happen?
  • What does God expect from me now?
  • Is God really in charge?
  • Why hasn’t He answered my prayers?

It is when you reach the point of asking questions like these—and not before—that God can finally have His way with you.

This is because you have ceased being completely self-absorbed. Until this happens, God hasn’t been able to get your attention—not like when the bottom drops out. Until then, you have had too many goals of your own to seek, and your purpose has been self-fulfillment, regardless of what God’s purpose has been.

When we begin our walk with the Lord, we are certain He has noble, wonderful things in store for us, and failure is never a part of His plan. We’re certain of it. What we don’t count on is that He sees things differently than we do and that He knows us better than we know ourselves.

He wants a relationship with us—one where He does more than fulfill our petulant requests like an indulgent parent, spoiling us in the process. He desires strong men and women—not spoiled brats who demand their way about everything, throwing spiritual tantrums when they are refused.

If you’ve been knocked off your feet, it may have been good for you. It may have been precisely what you needed. God has a substantial investment in you, and He pays careful attention to each of His projects. Remember, you do not belong to yourself. You belong to the Lord. Start talking to God rather than dictating to Him.

 

Guard you steps as you go to the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. (Ecclesiastes 5:1)

Jack Watts

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Father,

Sometimes, I’m so afraid

My skin grows cold and I can hardly breathe.

I feel so helpless and cut off—even from You.

I’m afraid of so many things—of people,

Of places, and especially of being isolated.

Death and economic insecurity terrify me.

Lord, the list never seems to end,

And I am powerless to calm my fears,

Which rob me of sleep and of my serenity.

Without Your help—without Your assistance—

I fear that imminent destruction

Will be my destiny and my portion in life.

I am so consumed with fear that it’s hard

To hear Your voice, which would reassure me.

In my heart, I know You are my refuge.

You are my fortress, and I can trust You completely.

In You, I am safe and sheltered from the storm,

Which threatens every aspect of my being.

Help me to stand tall, without shrinking away,

Dreading the future and all that it might hold.

Calm my fears, and teach me to face life confidently.

Jack Watts

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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 from the discomfort,

But I 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 has 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 people’s prayers aren’t answered in the way they expect, which is frequent, they chafe and question whether God really cares about them at all. They wonder if He is really active in their lives, rather than reflecting about what He may really desires.

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 desires. Remember, making demands of God is not praying. 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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We’re Not as Okay as We Think.

 

 

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

 

 

As 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 Christians, 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 followers of Christ.

If this was as bad as it was, it would be one thing; but it’s actually worse than this. 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 have lost our rocks and, as women, we have 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, posts, and Tweets by the thousands, reminding us about the “good old days,” while never considering that we are more responsible for the societal decline we lament than the liberals and Progressives 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. There were also days of repentance during this period, which would never be acceptable to today’s lukewarm Christians, who are convinced that they are fine just the way they are. Although repentance might offend the politically correct crowd and some weak-willed Christians, it would never offend the Lord.

 

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

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What Should You Pray for?

 

 

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 ofyour 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 Lord. Sometimes, they even make demands of God.

Then, when their prayers aren’t answered in the way they expect, which is often the case, they chafe and question whether God really cares about them, peevishly wondering if He is really active in their lives.

Does this sound familiar? If so, it’s a problem that occurs routinely, creating significant problems for many. The problem is the mindset behind the whining and plaintive prayers isn’t consistent with the way God operates. As a general rule, He doesn’t deliver people from turbulence; He guides them through troubled waters 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 become mature. You would remain a perpetual child, lacking resiliency, weak in character. This isn’t 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 this, but you must realize that God is far more interested in your growth than He is in sparing you from life’s inevitable 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)

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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 or any other kind of abuse, your eyes become opened. You see things differently. You have 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 heading.

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, that’s when you become cynical, and 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 a rebellious spirit; or you can redouble your efforts to develop your relationship with God. 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 necessary to make it happen. Nothing good comes from blindness. In order to be of maximum use to yourself and others, having your eyes opened was necessary.

Now that this has happened, what you need to change is your perspective. When you realize that God allowed your abuse to get 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 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 in life—like abusiveness, 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 important—but it will not remain constant. You will either become more mature or remain “stuck” in some key area 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 overspending. Each provides a temporary, satisfying escape; but none of these self-medications work 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. Even worse, you’ll be destined 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 will repeat it until you do. This is why it is wiser to pay the price now rather than wait until later.

 

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)

JACK WATTS

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