Monday, November 30, 2009

Pigs in the Pulpit

Written by J. Michael Wittman, "Pigs in the Pulpit" is the story of his family's journey to freedom after years in what he describes as a cult-like group. As I've said in previous posts, spiritual abuse is a subject that has been swept under the rug by the institutional church. No one wants to talk about it. Well, J. Michael Wittman is talking about it and I admire his candor.

As long as it remains a hidden topic, multitudes of sincere believers will be hurt and victimized. Anyone who has read my blog knows that I'm passionate about seeing the captives set free so I'm thankful for books like this one that are exposing the truth about spiritual abuse.
This is a captivating story of how the author and his family were ensnared in abusive systems for over 17 years. He describes his initial experience of "love bombing" and how that led to allegiance to two different groups and leaders that were controlling and abusive. In the early stages, there was "a systematic tearing down of my will, my conscience and my character, so that I would be more susceptible to being controlled."
Those who haven't been involved in these types of groups wonder why anyone would stay. However, one of the characteristics of mind control is that people find it difficult to leave even after they begin to see what's happening. The tentacles of mind control are strong and not easily broken. The author clearly describes the struggle he and his family went through before they finally were able to break free.
Even after leaving, however, the road to healing and normalcy is often long and difficult. In my opinion, the last chapter of the book is one of the best. In it, the author gives ten suggestions that will aid in the transition to normalcy. Even though I've been outside of an abusive group for many years, I found his suggestions helpful.
Reading this book was painful at times since I could relate to the author's pain and humiliation. However, in my opinion, he's done a wonderful job of describing the horrors of what he endured. Until people are willing to speak out, others will continue to be victimized. and I'm glad he's chosen to tell his story.
Although the story was riveting, it was sometimes difficult to wade through the many unimportant descriptive details. However, I still believe it's an excellent resource for anyone struggling to break free from an oppressive religious system.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sin and shame part 2: The solution

In an earlier post, I discussed the fact that it’s our shame and not sin that causes a separation between us and God. To get the background, you might want to read that post before reading this one. The comments were really good so I think it would be helpful to read them as well.

Although there had been a barrier, God in his love and mercy, has provided a solution and that solution is the cross. Jesus bore our sins on the cross but more importantly . . . he bore our shame. Shame and sin were nailed to the cross so there’s no longer any separation between God and us. Now, we can enjoy unbroken fellowship with him.

Since I’ve grown in the security of God’s love, I no longer spend a lot of time worrying about sin. To be honest, I rarely think about it. This actually concerned me more than the actual sin itself. However, I’ve since come to understand that an over concern with sin is a shame based behavior that Jesus dealt with on the cross. Because shame has been removed, sin should no longer be the focus of our attention. Now that I’m free, my attention can be focused on God and his love.

When I blow it, I don’t have to run from him in shame. Instead, I can go to him confident that I’m loved and accepted. Love (God) is patient. He understands our humanness and that at times, we may even be stubborn and want our own way. Yet, he still loves us.

As I’m learning to live more deeply in his love, God’s healing those broken places in my life that have caused me to sin. Now, I can stop beating myself over the head when I miss it. Instead . . . I can accept my humanness and live free from shame knowing that I’m fully loved and accepted by God.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Good and Noble Heart podcast

Recently, I was a guest on Jim Robbins' The Good and Noble Heart podcast. Jim is a good friend and we had a blast as we discussed a number of different topics including my journey from the bondage of religious thinking to freedom in Christ.

Part of my journey included being involved in an abusive religious system. Since I've experienced the pain of spiritual abuse, my heart is to see others set free from this oppressive bondage. Jim has also had some experience with spiritual abuse so we were both able to share what we've learned from our different but still very similar experiences.

To hear this podcast, follow this link. I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sin and shame part 1: Why are you hiding?

For years, I believed that sin caused a separation between God and me. I was taught that God is righteous and holy and can’t bear to look on sin so when I sin, he turns away from me. In order to be restored to a right relationship with him, I had to repent and ask for his forgiveness. Then, I could live in his forgiveness until the next time I sinned and then the process began again.

Recently, my understanding of this has changed. In the garden, after Adam and Eve had sinned by eating the fruit God had told them not to eat, he didn’t turn away from them. Instead, he came looking for them as he had always done. However, now instead of greeting him, they hid from him. When they didn’t immediately come to him, he called out to them and they finally responded. They told him that they had hidden because they were naked. Shame because of their naked condition had caused them to hide from God.

This story and many others show us that God never turns away from us even when we sin. However, because of shame, we turn away from him. So, it’s obvious that shame, not sin is what causes this separation.

In the story of the loving father and his prodigal son, the father saw his son coming home when he was a long way off. He didn’t wait for his son to come to him and ask his forgiveness. Instead, before the boy could say a word, he ran to him, hugged him and kissed him. He immediately restored him fully as a son with all of the rights and privileges of a son because, in his eyes, there had never been a separation. The separation only existed in his son’s heart.

Jesus also told a story about a shepherd who left his 99 sheep to look for one lost sheep. He didn't wait for the sheep to come to him with its head hanging down in shame. Instead, he went looking for it until he found it. Then, he joyfully put it on his shoulders and carried it home.

Religion has taught us that because of his holiness, fellowship with God is broken until we've repented. This tradition has caused a lot of insecurity and fear because we're never quite sure if we've offended him. We've been told that we're out from under his umbrella of protection until we repent. So, if we don't quickly repent, all sorts of terrible things can happen to us and our family.

This picture of an easily offended God is in my opinion despicable. The description of love given by the apostle Paul says that love is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love is not easily offended. Since God is love, then it stands to reason that he's not easily offended either.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I've been crowned!

My good friend, Leonard, has been sending caps to some of his friends who he feels have encouraged him in his grace walk and I've been privileged to have received one of his Reese's caps.

Leonard, who loves to study the meaning of words, told me that Reese's means zealous. He also asked me to take a picture wearing the cap and to send it to him. Since he promised not to draw a mustache on it, I agreed. (Those of you who know Leonard, know that it's best to confirm these things before agreeing.)

My other good friend, Ron, was also crowned and has posted his picture on his blog. Following his courageous example, I'm also posting my picture crowned with a Reese's cap. So, here it is . . . !

Monday, November 9, 2009

A life changing truth!

I posted on the following review of "Recover Your Good Heart" by Jim Robbins. Jim is a good friend who is gifted in many ways. As you may recall, he designed the beautiful header on my blog.

I've talked a lot about Jim's book but I've never done an actual review. I hope you enjoy my review and will decide to order a copy and read it for yourselves.

"God is more interested in teaching you to live from your new (and good) heart than he is in pressuring you to be a good Christian."

This compelling statement from the back cover of “Recover Your Good Heart” beautifully describes the essence of what Jesus meant when he said that he came to give us abundant life.

We’ve been told that our hearts are wicked. As a result, we spend our lives striving to please a god who is always watching, ready to mete out punishment whenever we fail. This is a scary god who can’t be trusted so we end up hiding, afraid of his wrath. What a sad picture of Christianity today!

Jim Robbins totally dispels this lie. We’re not just worms in the dust waiting for God to pour out his wrath on us. NO! The truth is that we’ve been given a new heart which is filled with God’s life so now we’re his children and he’s eager to pour out a continuous flow of love and grace on us.

Jim, in a style that’s clear and simple to understand, describes the truth about our good and noble heart. Included in the book are stories of people who have been bound by shame and guilt because they’ve believed that no matter what they did, it was never good enough. As they learned the truth about their good hearts and began to live in that reality, their lives were dramatically changed.

I highly recommend this book . As Jim said, "It’s time to set your good heart free . . . " and that’s exactly what I believe will happen for those who read this book and accept the truth that they now have a good heart.