Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Spiritual Abuse-Lecture One

Course: Spiritual Abuse: An Introduction

Presenter: Jeff VanVonderen

Lecture 1 of 3: Healthy and Abusive Spiritual Dynamics

These presentations are part of a 10-part course entitled "Breaking the Silence on Spiritual Abuse". The series includes presentations by Dave Johnson and Lynn Heitritter.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Defining Spiritual Abuse

Spiritual Abuse
What is it and how to recognize and escape it

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Getting Out and Getting On

If you've been victimized by an abusive pastor or church, I think you'll find this article very helpful.

When I left the abusive apostate church I was in, I was literally crushed in my spirit. I felt I had been betrayed by people I thought I could trust. No, let me rephrase that. I had been betrayed.

I was confused and hurting. At that time there was no one I could turn to that would understand. After all, all my friends were in "church", and wasn't "church" where you were supposed to meet God, and wasn't it ordained that one should not forsake the assembling together with the brethren?

I thought to myself, what brethren? They were all locked into the system, and the system I thought I could trust, the one I'd believed in was a sham, corrupt.

God had been good to me since my conversion, or I should say since my baptism in the Spirit. I had grown in the Word, and the LORD had blessed me in so many ways.

It took a lot of disappointments and more growth in the Word before I began to get my eyes opened to the things in the several churches I've been devoted to, that just plain were not of God.

It took months to even begin to recover physically and emotionally from the trauma I'd suffered from the years in church. But spiritually, I was devastated.

I've learned later that many people who leave an abusive church walk away from God altogether and just try to get on with their lives as best they can. But for me, I had some serious issues that I needed to work out spiritually and wasn't satisfied with walking away from God, because I knew he was real, and my experience was real, and like Peter, I felt, "Where would I go LORD? Only you have the words of truth".

About that time I had been wishing I had a computer. Then, by the grace of God I received one as a gift. It was then I began searching for what others had experienced and found that the doctrines I'd been taught in the churches I'd attended were wrong....what the LORD had been telling me in my spirit all along.

I also found others like myself who were leaving the apostate organized churches for the same reasons. They weren't "backslidders". In fact, they were people who were devoted to God and completely serious in their walk. But they had also eventually seen the abuses and wrong doctrines, and controlling natures of the bird cages they'd been in bondage to.

After you come out of an abusive church or spiritual situation, expect to have some emotional healing to go through. It's not pleasant to be sure, but it's normal. You may look at it as a blessing in disguise because once you're out, you're no longer being under the control and expectations of others to conform to their ways and doctrines.

In a way, it was the biggest weight off my shoulders I've ever felt, even if at the time it felt beyond strange, with Satan laying a guilt trip on me that it was somehow my fault. No, it was not and I've come to accept that. For where the Spirit is there is liberty.

To read the article, Getting Out and Getting On, just click in the title.
And God bless you as you continue your spiritual journey of healing and on to maturity in Christ.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Shunning-Hall of Shame

"When Jehovah’s Witnesses excommunicate, or ”disfellowship,” a member, even the closest human ties can be severed without question.

ST. PETERSBURG — As far as her children and 6-million people around the world are concerned, Shirley Jackson is as good as dead, has been for seven years.

In 1995, Jackson, a home health care worker and a nanny who lives in St. Petersburg, was “disfellowshipped,” or excommunicated, from Jehovah’s Witnesses. Disfellowshipping is among the Witnesses’ highest forms of discipline, reserved for those who disobey religious teachings and will not repent.

Witnesses are told to immediately shun the disfellowshipped, who are said to be certain to die at Armageddon. Witnesses must pass them on the street without so much as a hello. Sons, daughters, mothers and fathers are expected to cut off relatives, making exceptions only in cases of family business or emergency.

“No matter what they tell you, you will always be my daughter and I will always love you,” Jackson recently wrote in a letter to her daughter, to no avail. Rather than strengthen families, Jackson says, the Witnesses tear them apart.

Disfellowshipping is little known to outsiders, who recognize Witnesses only as the people who pass out magazines on Saturday mornings. But scandal in the denomination has opened a door to its core beliefs and operations.

In recent months, at least three Witnesses were disfellowshipped after talking to Dateline NBC about church leaders’ handling of child molestation allegations. The action made national headlines and spurred former Witnesses worldwide to step forward with their stories.

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe disfellowshipping is an act of love, intended to inspire sinners to change their ways so they eventually can apply to be readmitted to the faith.

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Theologically, Jehovah’s Witnesses are a cult of Christianity. The oppressive organization does not represent historical, Biblical Christianity in any way. Sociologically, it is a destructive cult whose false teachings frequently result in spiritual and psychological abuse, as well as needless deaths.

Research resources on Jehovah’s Witnesses
The sanction is based on I Corinthians 5, which directs Witnesses to “remove the wicked from among yourselves” and is necessary, said Witnesses national spokesman J.R. Brown, to preserve the religion’s “moral integrity and cleanliness” in a corrupt world soon to be destroyed by God Jehovah.

* * *

Jehovah’s Witness elders — all are men — are the equivalent of ministers in other religions. Though unpaid, they take on responsibilities such as teaching Bible lessons and passing on denomination policy. They also investigate Witnesses accused of committing crimes against other Witnesses. In some of these cases, the police are never called.

Among the elders’ primary tasks is serving on small judicial committees that hear confessions and decide whether an offense is worthy of excommunication.

Excommunications are announced to the congregation, but elders never say why a person was expelled. Witnesses can only guess from a long list of offenses that range from smoking cigarettes to manslaughter. Homosexuality, fornication, drunkenness, slander, fraud, gambling, apostasy, fits of anger and violence, and adultery are others.

The excommunication announcement tells members to begin shunning that person. If they don’t, they, too, risk being disfellowshipped. Fear of being disfellowshipped is gripping for many Witnesses. Because they believe that only Witnesses will be saved from death, many don’t associate with non-Witnesses.

Being disfellowshipped, then, means losing your circle of friends, not to mention family members who remain in the faith.

Elders disfellowship 50,000 to 60,000 Witnesses around the world each year, Brown said.

“It’s not an unusual occurence, as far as we’re concerned,” he said.

* * *

Jackson, 54, had been a Witness for nearly 20 years when she began having doubts.

In 1993, she said, her husband gathered his belongings in the middle of the night and abandoned her as she and her children slept. She said he had been violent, and she decided to divorce him. But Witnesses told her the only biblical justification for divorce is adultery, which she could not prove he had committed.

Jackson was also on shaky ground with the Witnesses because she had close friends who were not in the faith, she said. In interviews, Jackson and several others said Witnesses are not allowed to socialize with non-Witnesses unless they are proselytizing.

Brown, the Witnesses’ spokesman, said this is not true, although differing interests sometimes make such relationships difficult.

After her husband left her, Jackson continued going to the Kingdom Hall five times a week and performing 10 hours of door-to-door service each month, but she didn’t feel very spiritual. One day while going door to door, Jackson mentioned to another Witness, “When I go into a Kingdom Hall, I don’t feel God’s presence is there.”

She became even more disillusioned in the mid 1990s when, she said, elders dismissed her suspicions that a fellow Witness was sexually abusing his 8-year-old daughter. No one called the police.

But law enforcement authorities eventually got involved, and the girl was found in a trashed home, having eaten ketchup sandwiches to quell hunger, Jackson said. Some months later, Kenneth Donald Weaver was arrested and placed on community control in 1995 for sexual activity with a child. Weaver, who has a lengthy criminal history, is now in prison.

Wavering in her beliefs, Jackson decided not to attend an annual assembly for Witnesses.

Her daughter was upset and told elders. They went to her home for a visit. They had charges against her, Jackson said:

One charge was “speaking out against a brother” with regard to the child molestation, she said. She said they told her to stop cavorting with her non-Witness friends. And someone had told them what she had said about not feeling God’s presence in the Kingdom Hall.

The elders told her she had 24 hours to change her ways, Jackson said. She refused to comply and was disfellowshipped, her name announced in front of the congregation. She was not present.

Her daughter was 17 at the time. She moved out to live with other Witnesses, has not held a conversation with Jackson since and is now married and living in Alabama.

Two of Jackson’s three sons are also Witnesses and don’t speak to her, she said.

* * *

As with the Catholic Church, child molestation cases have brought the inner workings of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the forefront. One case in Kentucky prompted former elder William Bowen to start asking questions.

At the center of the cases is the two-witness rule. The Witnesses abide strictly by their Bible, the New World Translation. The translation is published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization in Brooklyn, N.Y., that acts as the Witnesses’ headquarters and overseer.

Deuteronomy 19:15: No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good.

As far as the Watch Tower is concerned, that means Witnesses can’t take action against someone unless at least two people can verify an offense happened.

That standard is difficult to meet in cases of child molestation, where often only the victim and perpetrator are present.

About two years ago, Bowen began to suspect that a fellow elder in his congregation near Paducah was abusing the elder’s daughter. In a review of Witness files, Bowen found that the elder had previously been accused of molesting someone else. Bowen says he got further proof that the daughter might also have been molested.

In keeping with Witness policy, he called the Watch Tower’s legal department in Brooklyn for guidance. The department is staffed with lawyers who are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

When Bowen described the situation, he says, he was told there was nothing to be done — the man had denied it, so there weren’t enough witnesses. He would have to “leave it in Jehovah’s hands.”

Other former Witnesses who served as elders around the nation have since reported similar experiences.

Disgusted, Bowen resigned as an elder and started a nonprofit organization and a Web site for Witnesses who were victims of molestation.

Thousands logged onto his “silent lambs” site, he says. Many told stories of abuse that elders did not believe.

Bowen, 45, went public with his story. He and several other Witnesses were featured on Dateline NBC. One woman, Barbara Anderson, had worked in the Watch Tower’s research department and was concerned that the organization wasn’t following up on abuse cases.

Bowen contends that tipsters told him the organization keeps a database with the names of 23,000 accused molesters.

Brown, the Witnesses’ spokesman, would not discuss specific cases, but he scoffed at allegations that Witnesses protect child molesters. Yes, Witnesses believe in the two-witness rule, he said, but that’s not the only way wrongdoers can be caught.

“It cannot be said that we will do nothing unless there are two witnesses,” Brown said. He said Witnesses are not required to report crimes to elders before calling civil authorities. Victims and their families are free to call police at will, he said, although some don’t choose to.

Elders’ investigations work hand-in-hand with what Witnesses sometimes call “Caesar’s law,” Brown said. “We’re not handling the criminality of this,” he said. “We’re handling the sin.”

The Watch Tower does keep records of people accused of molestation, but the number in the database is far fewer than 23,000, he said, declining to give a specific figure.

Watch Tower officials use the database to ensure that a person against whom a credible allegation of molestation is made won’t be elevated to positions of authority. Also, Brown said, if a person is accused in separate incidents, Witness officials have a record of that history and will look into the matter seriously.

After the Dateline program aired in May, Bowen, Anderson and Anderson’s husband were disfellowshipped. A couple who said their daughter had been abused by a Witness were also threatened with excommunication.

* * *

The modern Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society began with a small group of Bible students near Pittsburgh and was incorporated in 1884. Back then, about 50 believers traveled door-to-door full time, spreading their beliefs.

They were largely successful in the next few years in convincing people that the end of the world, or Armageddon, was imminent and that only Jehovah’s Witnesses would survive.

Witnesses don’t believe in a burning hell. Non-Witnesses will simply be killed in the end. The vast majority of Witnesses will live forever on Earth, which will become a paradise once rid of the evil perpetuated by a society of nonbelievers. A select group of Witnesses — 144,000, to be exact — will live in heaven with Jesus Christ. This, based on a passage in the Book of Revelation, is referred to as “the heavenly hope.”

The denomination’s governing body and a workforce of other Witnesses operate a massive and well-organized religious base with a legal department, publishing house and printing facilities that ship Witness literature and Bibles all over the globe.

The Watch Tower keeps detailed accounts of the number of hours each Witness goes door-to-door, the number of home Bible studies completed and records of those who have been disfellowshipped.

The governing body also establishes policy for Witnesses to live by that it says is based on the Bible. Witnesses cannot vote, receive blood transfusions or salute the flag, among other restrictions.

Not even the marriage bed is beyond the Watch Tower’s purview.

Brown said Witnesses believe that sexual activity between men and women should “follow the normal course” of things. “We feel that oral or anal intercourse would go beyond that.”

Couples are often counseled accordingly before marriage, Brown said. Guilt-ridden Witnesses have gone before judicial committees to confess wayward sex acts with their spouses.

* * *

The Watch Tower predicted several times in the 1900s that Armageddon would occur. The organization grew as people were baptized Witnesses, hoping to join the only “true” religion before it was too late.

Joseph F. Rutherford, once the Watch Tower’s president, was convinced that 1925 would mark the year that forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would return to earth. Rutherford had a large mansion built in California so they would have a place to live. The mansion was later sold.

Decades passed. Then Witnesses declared that the end would arrive in 1975. Some sold their homes, packed up and hit the road, going door-to-door to recruit as many people as they could. Young adults refused to go to college. Couples put off having children.

Diane Gholson of Spring Hill was among those anticipating Armageddon. In 1974, she feverishly wrote letters to her husband’s Baptist relatives, begging them to become Witnesses before it was too late.

“When it didn’t come, my husband said, ‘Maybe they’re off by a year,’ ” she said.

They waited. And waited.

By 1980, Gholson said, they’d had enough. In 1982, they were part of a group of Witnesses who participated in a march at Watch Tower headquarters. Watch Tower leaders, they charged, were nothing more than “false prophets.”

Gholson was disfellowshipped.

Shirley Jackson, who had been baptized in 1974 in case the end did come, was unswayed, however. She accepted the Watch Tower’s explanation that the “light” of God’s word was getting brighter.

* * *

Brown says disfellowshipping inspires wrongdoers to come back to the religion. Those who want to reapply can do so, but they must adhere to Witnesses’ policies. They are allowed inside the Kingdom Halls but are ignored by the other congregants until readmitted to the faith.

Each year, Brown said, 30,000 to 40,000 are reinstated, having “come back to their spiritual senses.”

Jackson now goes to Glad Tidings Assembly of God church in St. Petersburg. She is happy there and says she can sense God’s presence in the sanctuary. She regrets ever believing what the Witnesses taught her.

Only her youngest child, a 17-year-old son, was not baptized a Witness. He lives with Jackson and her new husband.

“It hurts,” Jackson said of her broken family. “But I’m not bitter. I want to help people who are going through this.”

– Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report

Monday, February 8, 2010

Affairs with controlling pastors

Emotional Affairs with Pastors: Forgiveness is Not a Neat Little Package
My friend Gail at Cogitations recently shared about her emotional affair with a former pastor.
She shares bravely concerning the stomping on and healing of her heart. There is always an element of spiritual abuse when a pastor is involved and on behalf of any kind of pastor I apologize. If you have been in any type of affair this will be a good read but especially good for those of you involved with clergy.

Below is Gail's heartfelt post, Forgiveness is Not a Neat Little Package.

For those of you who may not know this about me, I want to reveal that I was involved in an emotional affair with the pastor of our former church. Until now, I have only hinted at what had happened at our former church. Today, I have chosen to share all of this in much more detail than I ever have before with the desire that the Lord use it to help any woman who may have found herself in a similar situation.

There may be a woman reading this who is out of such a situation and yet still struggles with the guilt associated with such a traumatic event.

I pray that even now, the Lord will supply me with the right words to share.

Our former church and its people had good intentions that went horribly awry as the narcissistic man who called himself pastor wanted to control rather than lead those people under his care. What began as a dream to equip the saints as per Ephesians 4:12 became a place where legalism ruled the day.

At the time Andy and I began attending, our only desire was to serve the Lord and to grow in knowledge and wisdom. We threw ourselves into every aspect of service. We cleaned the church, we helped other members when the opportunity arose, and we prayed for the pastor and his family often and sought to bless them in both physical and financial ways. The more we served the more we were called upon to serve. It was that service to others that became the measuring stick for how well you were “walking the walk".

I was so excited about a study I was planning for myself that I brought the books with me to a fellowship dinner and showed them to my friend who had initially invited us to the church. When the pastor saw the books at the fellowship he said, “This is just what the women need” and asked me to lead a bible study for the women. While I had no experience leading a study group, and I was anxious at the prospect of leading anything, I was excited that the Lord would use me in such a way, and began to plan my lessons. Each week as I prepared to teach the Lord spoke to me through the material we studied. The first study we embarked on, written by a woman named Virginia Fugate was “The Other Side of the Garden.” Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing, but felt I was doing the Lord’s work and so I plowed on.

We (the women) later completed some very meaty (and some not so meaty) bible studies. The knowledge the Lord granted to me during that time has become priceless to me. I now believe He had a much bigger lesson for me to learn, and perhaps for some of the women who were in that group as well.

There came a time when I felt the study questions we were answering did not ask some of those hard questions that tap into the depth of the study. I did not feel the questions were challenging enough, and did not want the women simply “plugging in” an answer. I mentioned it. The pastor asked if I could develop some additional questions for the women to answer. My being uncomfortable with teaching any way, my pastor soothed my troubled heart by assuring me he would guide me every step of the way. I found comfort in the knowledge that the pastor would guide my unsteady steps.

I should preface this by saying I had an erroneous view of biblical submission.

Submission was esteemed at the church as one of the marks of a godly woman.

The type of submission esteemed was and is unbiblical. It is a submission that requires the one submitting do so without the question does this line up with scripture and with no thought about the consequences of submitting to requests that could be contrary to the scriptures. It was a mindless submission.

So began the process of writing additional study questions that would be reviewed by the pastor, which threw us into a closer relationship than I bargained for. As he got to know me better, he decided that I needed to become a certified N.A.N.C. counselor. Not long after that proclamation I began to attend the N.A.N.C. conferences. I only attended two N.A.N.C conferences. It was at the second of these conferences, while I was far from home that his intentions toward me and our relationship became painfully clear in a hotel room far away from my husband and family.

We were invited out to dinner with a couple from the church and he accepted the invitation on our behalf. When the dinner hour approached though, I could not get him to answer his cell phone nor his room phone. I patiently waited in my room. I had no way to contact this couple, no way to drive to the church. I was stranded and all I could do was wait until I heard from him. Finally, when the hour approached for the evening meetings I tried again and that is when he came to my room. It is a night I will not soon forget. The blinders I wore for years were removed finally during the course of that evening.

As the relationship developed, I became trapped in a web spun by a master manipulator. He recognized my felt needs and sought to meet them. He gathered information about my past, my present and my childhood and used that information to his advantage while he lured me deeper and deeper into a relationship that was unbiblical and ungodly. The main players in this relationship were the pastor, his wife, and I. The relationship on both sides became hyper-dependent on each other rather than God who is the All-Sufficient One.

Both the pastor and his wife constantly undermined my husband to me and it was then that I began to look at my husband through their eyes. I was taught that I was to submit to my husband, and if he was found to be in sin, then the elders (in this case that one man) was to act as my authority and protection until my husband was no longer in sin. My husband’s sin was his failure to lead his family in the elder prescribed manner, thus rendering him ineffective as my leader and protector, leaving me without biblical cover at which point the pastor stepped in to act on my husband’s behalf until my husband saw the light.

Scriptures were taken out of context and twisted in order to meet the desires of a narcissistic man. Looking back, I can see how my mind became poisoned against my husband, and how I eagerly submitted to anyone and anything in my quest to please God. I now know that nothing I can do will please God. His grace alone sustains me.

However, I know I am not without fault. I have since admitted my guilt, and my sin to all those involved. I allowed myself to be duped because wrapped around the duping was a hard, shiny candy shell that was food for my flesh. The heart, which is deceitfully wicked, fooled me into believing I was doing good when in fact I was doing evil.

Over time and with prompting from his wife and myself the pastor appointed men to co-lead with him. It was through these appointments that the emotional infidelity came out of the darkness and into the light. I was terrified the revelation would destroy my family as well as the church body. This man warned me many times that if our special relationship were exposed it would destroy my family as well as destroy the ministry he had so carefully constructed. By now, the relationship had become so suffocating and so controlling that I dared not make a move without his approval, all the while desprately longing to be free of his control and yet I still refused to expose the relationship until, quite by accident, the cat escaped from its bag. Fear and shame controlled me.

During this time, the pastor would call me repeatedly and if I did not answer my phone, he would call until I finally answered. Upon answering my phone, I would be bombarded with questions such as, “Who are you with?” “Where are you?” “Why aren’t you answering your phone?” It was an emotionally draining time.

When folks became aware that there was something amiss, it was quite by accident. I had been slowly backing out of the relationship with the pastor and his wife and seeking other acquaintances within the church, when it became obvious that mine was not a normal pastor/ congregant relationship. I was helping to plan a surprise birthday party for another elder’s wife. He and I were shopping for party hats and favors when my phone began to ring repeatedly. The elder looked at me, clearly confused as to why I was refusing to answer my phone. I fumbled about trying to switch my loud ring tone for a silent one; all the while, this elder wore a puzzled expression. After multiple calls, and an unsuccessful attempt to silence my phone the elder asked me who it was who had called so many times. I, with downcast eyes, spoke the caller’s name. The elder gently requested that I answer the phone if it should ring again. It did, and I answered to a barrage of questions. As I answered each question, trying to remain calm as panic welled up inside of me, the other elder looked at me intently as the thirty-second call seemed to last an eternity. Finally, the pastor grew angry as he suspected someone was there with me and he hung up loudly. I recoiled as if I had been shot. Seeing that I was visibly shaken, the elder began to ask me very pointed questions. Within minutes, the truth was out.

About this same time, I had been reading a book written by a woman who had suffered what she called clergy abuse. In her book, the scenario was very similar to what was happening to me with this pastor; in fact there were times as I read it I often had a sense of deja vu. However, she lay all of the blame squarely upon her pastor. The elders in her church supported the pastor and he remained in office while she and her family left the church in shame.

I did not agree with her assessment of blame. I felt and still feel that my former pastor, bears the crux of the blame, given the position of authority he held. However, I, too, had my own sins to acknowledge. Among those sins were my wrong view of God and my people pleasing ways that led to a huge fear of man. There were times I felt very close to the Lord, during all of this but there were many times I felt like I was not the Christian I claimed to be. I am grateful for the support those other elders showed our family during that dark time. To this day, they valiantly protect my identity from those who would be overly critical of my involvement.

There have been more than a few Christians who have offered their opinion on what I could have or should have done differently. It is easy for someone who has the benefit of hindsight to offer solutions in a neat little package as to how I should have behaved, or how they would have behaved in a similar situation. Such answers belie the truths God intended me to glean from this dark time in my life. A darkness that I felt may overtake me. That darkness still tries to wrap its tentacles around my spirit and drag me to the slough of despond. There was something beyond the darkness though, something God had just for me. Something God wanted me to fully grasp and understand.

He wanted me to understand His grace.

I now understand it in a way I could never have known had I not gone through this experience. It has proven to me repeatedly that the “all things” in Romans 8:28 truly encompasses all things. It has taken many years and sadly more heartache for me to understand the depth of His grace for me.

It is an unfathomable grace that has no end.

They were hard lessons that I do not wish to repeat, harder than Katrina was, which He used to strip away what remained of my dependence on myself.

I share this in its entirety because my husband and I have received a letter from this man, and in it, he claims that he would like to reconcile the situation. I am thankful that the Lord has worked so in his heart. We have no objection to his wanting to make things right with us and the many other members of the church he led that were hurt and confused by his behavior. We rejoice that the Lord opened his heart to the grievousness of his sin and that in the years that have passed (four and a half) he has finally come to an understanding of the damage he caused by his own sins.

The problem we do have is that he requested a face-to-face meeting.

Initially, I felt guilty, because my gut response was, “No”.

I have no desire ever to lay eyes on either one of them again. I understand I must forgive them, and I am ready to do so, in fact, I have already forgiven his wife. (Her letter came in July of this year) I just do not understand their need to do this in person. We have sought counsel on this matter and everyone we have spoken to says there is no reason for a face-to-face meeting.

A friend of ours said to us, “Sometimes, Christians think everything has to be wrapped up with a bow on top and it just isn't so.”

Forgiveness is not about the bow on the top of the package, or the neat little check list whose items are carefully marked off with perfect little checks. Forgiveness is a matter of the heart, for the glory of the One who opened that heart to its own wickedness and His amazing grace. It is my acknowledgment that I am a sinner too, and as such, I understand grace. A grace that has been so richly poured out in my own life that I know and understand the need for forgiveness and would never refuse another heart’s cry who seeks it from me.

It is the story of the unforgiving servant in Matthew 18 that opened my heart to true forgiveness. How could I, whose great debt has been paid, refuse to do the same for one whose debt to me pales in comparison?

The questions remains though, what debts do I then owe to the one who seeks forgiveness? Do I owe them a face-to face meeting?

I do not believe that I do.

The hurt that was caused to my family as well as many others is reason enough to remain cautious. Therefore, we approach this time carefully, prayerfully and with many counselors as we seek to please Him who loved us first in all things, even this thing, especially this thing.

We also realize that these things happened for the single purpose of making us more like Him Who called us and made us His own. If perchance there is a woman reading this that has been through a similar situation and is burdened with guilt, who is confused and grieving, please know there are many other women (and men) who have been in a similar situation. For the Scriptures say that no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. As you seek to find answers to your deepest hurts you will discover that His grace is indeed sufficient for the pain you suffer, and indeed your sin is more common than you think.

We have all turned away, we have all sought our own way, but the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. There is healing in the balm of Gilead. Allow the Father of light to apply that balm to your hurting spirit and experience a grace you never knew.

Finally, I want to encourage you, if you are that woman, to pray for those who have hurt you, pray for those who have despitefully used you, for those who have caused you to sin, because it is in prayer you will realize you are no different. You will discover that you are a sinner too, and suddenly you will recognize the Pharisee in you and you will fall before your Maker prostrate and cry out “Lord! Have mercy on ME the sinner!”

Monday, February 1, 2010

Spiritual Abuse Has Many Forms

If you feel in your heart, a nagging feeling that you may be a victim of spiritual abuse, please remind yourself that spiritual abuse isn't limited to verbal suggestions. It may even include physical abuse in it's worse forms.

However, a spiritually abused person doesn't always recognize on the surface they are being spiritually abused.

Be aware that using scripture to control or dominate you is a tell tale sign of spiritual abuse. No one has the God given right to lord it over another person, controlling them and dominating them through the use of scripture.

In fact, no one has the right, whether in marriage, the pulpit, or group-think to control and dominate you.

If you believe, that indeed, you are being subjected to any form of spiritual abuse, for your own mental, emotional, and spiritual welfare, it is wise to being planning a way of escape, not worrying about what your pastor, mentor, group or even your spouse thinks.

In a way, spiritual abuse can be worse than physical violence because it damages the very inner part of your being, your soul. It should never be a matter of "putting up with it" for the sake of appeasing others. Never! Plan and find your way out of it. There will always be a way of escape, one way or another. Not always easy, but possible.