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Archive for June, 2014


 

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing—C. S. Lewis

 

Father,

My gloominess has lifted—a darkness in my soul

Permitted by You to refine my character.

My time of despair has purged me from my foolish ways,

Making me more like the person I’m supposed to be—

The person I’ve always wanted to be, but have never become—

Not on the inside where it counts.

 

In the midst of my despair,

When at night I longed for the day,

And in the daytime desired for it to be evening,

When sorrows made it difficult to breathe,

You were always there beside me,

Even when I was certain You were not.

With fear relentlessly enervating my resolve,

You continued to transform me

Into the person You desired me to be.

Ever mindful of my frailties and weaknesses,

You relentlessly purged, pruned and cleansed.

 

Then, one day, as I waited for my gloom to return,

Which had become my daily portion of life,

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

Leaving me stronger, more resilient, and far wiser.

My purposefulness returned to me, along with my smile.

Now, free from the debilitating emotions

That have tormented me for so long,

I’m free to embrace what life offers

With renewed enthusiasm, as I smile at the future.

—Amen.

 

 

For faith to have any lasting impact upon you or others, it must be robust—filled with confidence that God is in charge and knows what He is doing. Your prayer life is essential to renewing your mind.

Everyone wants his or her prayers to be answered. That’s no surprise, but many people—perhaps most—really don’t want what God wants. He wants to develop a deep relationship with each of His children, which most rarely even consider. They just want what they want and for God to grant their wishes. It’s as simple as that,

When their demands are not met, they become angry with God for not coming through for them, never understanding His purpose, which is fundamental change and not a Divine bailout. You have to do the work necessary for anything worthwhile before you achieve the success you desire. For example:

  • If you want to be a scholar, you have to read vociferously.
  • If you want to be an athlete, you have to exercise constantly.
  • If you want to have a solid relationship with God, you have to become an obedient child—not a demanding, obtuse one.

 

You must leave your complexities at the door, humble yourself, and believe God is everything He says that He is, which isn’t easy for most people. It’s much more natural to try and figure things out for yourself, make your own decisions, and assume that God will “rubber stamp” your efforts.

This is what most believers do, and they are surprised when they have no peace, no joy, and no fulfillment in life. They just don’t get it. Instead, they try to make God conform to their image of what they want Him to be, which will never happen.

We are the ones who have to change—not Him. All you have to do is become like a little child—one who has complete reliance upon a loving, benevolent Father. It doesn’t get any simpler or more complex than this. If your prayers aren’t being answered, don’t become verbose. Become simple instead, but remember, God is almighty and you are not. What He wants from you more than anything else is for you to get to know Him as He is—not as you wish Him to be.

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.

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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 may 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 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.

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 glad that 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 that you have to work your program every day until it becomes as natural 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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Learning to Serve Others

 

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 are, you must help someone in the same way that you have been helped. This makes helping others become an essential part of your recovery.

In AA, or any other substance abuse program, 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 develop 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 consequences. 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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Refraining from Craftiness

 

Refer to Step 7: I commit to being as thorough and honest as I’m 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 goals on the inside. Being crafty is never being honest, and any attempts at self-deception will prove to be self-destructive—no matter how hard you try to spin the truth in your mind.

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.

This is why taking personal inventory routinely is an essential component of recovery. Always 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 with Him, the answer will come sooner or later. When it does, act upon it immediately. If you don’t, you’ll 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 can be certain that 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

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Recognizing Financial Abusiveness

 

 

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 question? 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.

It’s a house of cards that is 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 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 an elaborate 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 is never Christ-like. It doesn’t count for anything other than your ability to be manipulated by a self-serving 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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Achieving Renewed Purpose

 

Father,

My gloominess has lifted—a darkness in my soul

Permitted by You to refine my character.

My time of despair has purged each of my foolish ways,

Making me more like the man I’m supposed to be—

The man I’ve always wanted to be, but have never become—

Not on the inside where it counts.

 

In the midst of my despair,

When at night I longed for the day,

And in the daytime desired for 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.

With fear relentlessly rattling my being,

You continued to transform me

Into the man You desired me to be.

Ever mindful of my frailties and weaknesses,

You relentlessly purged, pruned and cleansed.

 

Then, one day, as I awaited my gloom overwhelming,

Which had become my daily routine and portion of life,

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

Leaving me stronger, more resilient, and far wiser.

My purposefulness returned to me, along with my smile.

Now, free from the debilitating emotions that

Tormented me for so long, I’m free

To embrace life with renewed enthusiasm.

I am no longer chained to my heartache,

As I smile at what the future will bring.

—Jack Watts

If you would like a free e-leaders guide for any of our recovery programs, just click here and follow the instructions. Readers worldwide may do this, but the books are only available in English.

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Father:

I feel like I need to cringe

And not hold my head up high.

I feel like I need to lurk in the darkness

Rather than boldly embrace the light.

I feel like You don’t love me,

And I wonder, How could You?

I know I don’t love myself

And I probably never will.

 Question: Have you ever felt like this? Do you feel this way now? After being abused, many do.

 

Today’s Christians seek an advantage in everything they do, precisely like non-Christians. When Christians give, they expect something in return. In their minds, they say; “If I give this, what will You give me in return?” Or, “If I do what you ask, how will it enhance my position in the church and the community?”

Question: Is this statement true? Do you agree with the assessment or disagree with it?

 (If you would like a FREE e-book to one or more of our Leaders Guides, just click here, and follow the directions. This offer will be available until 8/15/2014. Those outside the USA can also receive them, but only in English.)

If you want to have a solid relationship with God, you have to become an obedient child—not a spoiled brat. To do this, you must leave your complexities at the door, humble yourself, and believe God is everything He says that He is. It’s not easy. It’s much more natural to try and figure everything out for yourself, make your own decisions, and assume that God will “rubber stamp” your efforts.

Journal: Write about yourself. Have you been a good child or a spoiled one? Be honest and tell God where you are in your walk with Him.

 

Being short on strong, heartfelt faith, many either become legalists or sentimentalists. The former doggedly pursue Christianity, trying to enforce harsh rules upon themselves and others, which is decidedly unappealing to most. The latter relegate Christianity to a small area of their life, choosing to believe but not allowing their beliefs to impact their lives appreciably.

Question: Which have you been? Do you have legalistic tendencies or sentimental ones? Be honest and admit where you are.

 

In the aftermath of abuse, an interesting phenomenon occurs, which might be described best as “Piling On.” It’s where others within a organization, perhaps all, join in with the abuser, pouring out rejection, castigation, and false witness—all of which are perceived as justified by the group dynamic.

Question: In your situation, was the piling on effect in operation? When it happened, were you surprised by it? Have you ever piled on yourself?

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Refer to Step 11: I make a commitment to nurture my relationship with God, asking Him to reveal His will to me and to give me the power to carry it out.

 

Among the attributes of God, although they are all equal, mercy shines with even more brilliancy than justice.

—Miguel De Cervantes

 

 

In the aftermath of religious abuse—or any kind of abuse, an interesting phenomenon occurs, which might be described best as “Piling On.” It’s where others within a religious organization, perhaps all, join in with the abuser, pouring out rejection, castigation, and false witness—all of which are perceived as justified by the group dynamic.

This kind of corporate abuse sends the abused person into a tailspin from which few return to a healthy walk with God. Most of those doing the piling on don’t think about their actions seriously enough to realize the full impact of their rejecting castigation, but the person to whom its directed feels it acutely. It wounds them at the core of their being, producing feelings of shame and worthlessness.

Tragically, church people do this so frequently that it’s one of the characteristics non-believers recognize the most about them. Referring to Christians as hypocrites as a result, they point the same condemning finger that Christians point. Church people—never recognizing how un-Christ like their condemnation is—circle their wagons, mutually reinforcing each other as being “right.” In their minds, they have made a stand for Jesus. Having done the right thing, their attitude is, let the chips fall where they may.

When this happens, and it happens routinely, an opportunity for kindness, help, and reconciliation has been lost, reinforcing another legalistic outcome, which hurts all parties.

In recovery, one of the first lessons to learn is this: if you’re going to err, err on the side of being merciful rather than on the side of being correct. God’s kingdom is full of Pharisee’s. What are needed are people who can recognize the problem and yet not point a condemning finger. If this happens, real caring and healing can occur. Because recovering people have had similar experiences, it’s up to people like us—the walking wounded—to set the standard higher.

So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12-13)

Jack Watts

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Legalism, Sentimentality, and Recovery

 

 

Refer to Step 9: I humbly ask God to change anything He wishes.

 

The brightest crowns that are worn in heaven have been tried, and smelted, polished, and glorified through the furnace of tribulation.

—E. H. Chapin

 

For faith to have any lasting impact upon you or others, it must be robust—filled with confidence that God is in charge and knows what He is doing. Does that sound like a tall order? If you’re being honest with yourself, you’ll probably admit that it does. Like most, you wish that you were a stronger person; but in your heart, you probably know that you are not.

If this is an accurate depiction of you, you’re not alone. America is full of Christians who lack the strength of their convictions. Being short of strong, heartfelt faith, they either become legalists or sentimentalists.

The former doggedly pursue Christianity, trying to enforce harsh rules upon themselves and others, which is decidedly unappealing. The latter relegate Christianity to a small area of their life, choosing to believe but not allowing their beliefs to impact their lives appreciably.

In America, there are more Christians who are sentimentalists than any other kind. They are certainly more fun to be around than legalists but, being shallow, they lack the resilience to have much value when the chips are down, and the chips are definitely down.

This is where the value of being in recovery comes in. By having to dig deeply within, recovering people develop a toughness that eventually becomes significant for others. Because their faith has been tested by fire, their resilience becomes established, allowing them to develop strong, positive internal character qualities. Sentimentalists, by way of contrast, do little more than hope for a “divine bailout” in the form of the Rapture, which justifies their weakness with a “Last-Days” mentality that venerates apathetic “lukewarm-ness.”

If you have experienced religious abuse, regardless of the reason why, at least you can know that the pain you have suffered need not be in vain. If you are still suffering from your abuse, rest assured that your future will have value—perhaps great value. By fighting back, you are creating strong, resilient character qualities that will be vitally important in the years ahead.

 

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

Jack Watts

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Want Your Prayers Answered?

 

 

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.

 

 

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.

—C. S. Lewis

 

Everyone wants his or her prayers to be answered. That’s no surprise, but many people—perhaps most—really don’t want what God wants.

He wants to develop a deep relationship with each of His children, which most people rarely even consider. They just want what they want and for God to grant their wishes. It’s as simple as that, and when their demands are not met, they become angry with God for not coming through for them, never understanding it’s like everything else in life.

You have to do the work necessary for anything worthwhile before you achieve the success you desire.

  • If you want to be a scholar, you have to read.
  • If you want to be an athlete, you have to exercise constantly.
  • If you want to have a solid relationship with God, you have to become an obedient child—not a spoiled brat.

To do this, you must leave your complexities at the door, humble yourself, and believe God is everything He says that He is, which isn’t easy for most people. It’s much more natural to try and figure everything out for yourself, make your own decisions, and assume that God will “rubber stamp” your efforts.

This is what most people do, and they’re surprised when they have no peace, no joy, and no fulfillment in life. They just don’t get it. Instead, they try to make God conform to their image of what they want Him to be, which will never happen.

Instead, all they have to do is become like a little child—one who has complete reliance upon a loving, benevolent Father. It doesn’t get any simpler or more complex than this. If your prayers aren’t being answered, don’t become verbose. Become simple instead, but remember, God is almighty and you are not. He wants from you more than anything is for you to get to know Him as He is—not as you wish Him to be.

 

 

And He called a child to Himself and stood him in their midst, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:2-4)

Jack Watts

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Calculating an Advantage

 

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

 

It is one of the worst effects of prosperity to make a man a vortex instead of a fountain; so that, instead of throwing out, he learns only to draw in.

—Henry Ward Beecher

Unfortunately, this generation of Christians has proven to be one of the weakest of all time. While there are millions who call themselves God’s children, most lead lives similar to people who have no interest in God or Christianity. Most Americans are hardened materialists, and so are most Christians.

Today’s Christians seek an advantage in everything they do, precisely like non-Christians. When Christians give, they expect something in return. In their minds, they say; “If I give this, what will You give me in return?” Or, “If I do what you ask, how will it enhance my position in the church and the community?”

People might couch their calculations in noble, selfless terms, precisely like a Pharisee would have in Christ’s day, but at the core of their being, they are calculating a profit or something that will elevate their status. This is the generation of “What’s in it for me?”

If this is true for rank and file believers, it’s even truer for religious leaders. In nearly everything they do, there is a self-seeking component to it. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, and none of it furthers God’s work on earth. Plus, it’s why there is so much religious abuse. When Christians—leaders and followers—are self-seeking, nobody wins, especially the Lord. If Christianity is anything, it’s about serving others, expecting nothing in return for it.

Christian leaders talk about being the servants of all but, by their actions, they are anything but servants, as they enhance their status by using, abusing, and discarding those who get in their way to stardom.

 

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:18-20)

Jack Watts

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Father,

My heart aches,

And I feel so unworthy

To come before You.

I feel useless and by the

Contemptuous smirk of others,

I’m certain that I am.

I feel so ashamed of myself,

And there is nobody to say,

“It’s okay. God is there for you—

No matter what.”

I feel like I should cringe

And not hold my head high again.

I feel like I need to skulk in the darkness,

Rather than boldly embrace the light.

I feel like You don’t love me,

And I wonder, How could You?

I know I don’t love myself

And I probably never will.

 

And yet, in the depth of my shame,

You are there, always vigilant,

Always available, always telling me,

“My child, I know what you’ve done.

I know how badly you feel.

I know you think your life has no value,

But that’s not how I see you—not at all.

In spite of everything, I love you

Just the way you are.

That’s why I sent My Son.

He took care of your shame

And washed it whiter than snow.

Now, leave the past behind.

Hold your head up high

And walk with Me into the future.

I still have a plan for your life—

A plan filled with hope and promise.”

Jack Watts

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