Spiritual Abuse?

Spiritual abuse is not a widely discussed topic. It occurs when a leader manipulates people to achieve selfish goals. Most abusers are unaware of the harm they inflict.

Internal factors contributing to an abusive environment are: Christians wanting to trust their leaders; not wanting to be disloyal; not wanting to be “a problem”; and accommodating abuse because they become invested. A likely external factor in the rise of spiritual abuse is our culture’s obsession with results and an insatiable “thirst for more.”

There are two types of spiritually abusive leaders: insecure leaders use power to protect themselves; narcissistic leaders seek to accomplish some great cause for validation and self-worth. Narcissistic leaders are fueled by narcissistic followers who also find value from belonging to a great cause.

Signs of an abusive system are: power-posturing; distorted loyalty; people are being used; unhealthy centrality of the pastor; an elitist attitude; inability to discuss concerns; and people being labeled as divisive for raising valid issues.

Those trapped in abusive systems can either flee or fight.

If this sounds like your journey, you are not crazy…

Read the full article… Spiritual Abuse: The Unspoken Crisis

Other resources:

Emotional Abuse: The Crushing of the Human Spirit

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church

“Doing” Church in North America – YouTube – Graham Cooke – “We make victims of our heroes.”

Graham Cooke brilliantly describes how “doing” church today must start with leaders who can model freedom.

Graham goes onto say that church revolves around 3 types of people:

  • Initiators,
  • Enablers and
  • Resisters.

He skillfully describes if churches want to succeed, they must learn about each group and explains that if we have any hopes of accomplishing anything in church, we must understand each people group and learn how to lead them.

Graham warns that if we’re not careful, we will unconsciously make victims out the people we value most.

Visit: www.GrahamCooke.com for more.

9 Changes to Make Before a Church Dies

My heart ached when I read this post from Thom Rainer… It triggered pain that I have known… I pray for churches across North America (my heart lies there)…

urgent-church-nine-changes-we-must-make-or-die

“..Many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make?”

Read: URGENT CHURCH: 9 Changes We Must Make or Die

From Word Curses to Blessing – Uncanny Story

Is life a bit nuts for you? …with people’s word curses rather than words of blessing?

Do you live in a series of uncanny events?

Free video and free pdf summary below…

{This book recently has taken me back to my Old Testament prophets class in Bible school and my professor weeping over the disobedience of Israel and the curses and the blessings…

(He was a parent. Can you blame him?)

Rest assured the book took me through the New Testament, showing where curses and blessings were recorded even spoken by Jesus Himself.}

For a period of my ministry life, there had been a series of uncanny events around me that blew my mind… especially people’s growing word curses and a lack of words of blessing…

People who once were encouragers became accusers,

People who stood for truth, began to spread lies,

People who stood for something, bowed at the slightest persecution,

People I respected, became disrespectful.

I thought I was going nuts. I began to ask myself,…

“Why the madness and crazy making?

What happened to integrity, and risk-taking obedience because of our Holy Spirit conviction?

What happened to building God’s Kingdom and not our own?

Why are we bowing down to others rather than God?”

My body crashed into exhaustion and slow motion. My speech delayed and stuttering, and my mobility diminished. My heart broken and mind confused. My doctor ordered me to stay away from my environment immediately…

In my path toward healing, along with much time resting and seeking the Lord, a mentor …who with a team of prayer warriors who prayed for 3 hours over me because they could feel the spiritual attack over me, (Hallelujah – someone else could feel it!) …then for further repair, he directed me to this reminder on curses and blessings…

I began to apply what I re-learned and began to experience a tremendous freedom.

I have prayed numerous freedom in Christ prayers and prayers of spiritual protection over 10 years of pastoral ministry and the spiritual warfare that comes with being a shepherd of the people, but this seemed to cut things off at the root; at word curses spoken over me and perhaps also over those leaders who had gone before me who were attacked and who also had crashed.

We shall see…

Time will tell.

My body slowly repairs… with a circle of specialists telling me to rest, and delight in truth, and have fun with tank-filling family and friends.

I think it is no coincidence that at the same time I began to pray these prayers, a group of people and leaders began repenting on behalf of a larger community breaking generational sins. I am told it was a beautiful, long overdue process of confession and surrender to the Lord for a community in long-time brokenness!

(I remember doing prayer walks every week around the main building with my 80 year old prayer partner for 5 years (once a missionary in a part of the world that experienced spiritual warfare and deliverance on a regular basis), praying for such a day of repentance and renewal! Eight years later, it finally happened! I visited with her to celebrate the good news and we wept and gave thanks together. Though we had experienced individuals and families in repentance within our community over the years, this appeared to be the mother load.)

A new chapter in freedom?
It takes a long time for a ship to be turned around and so we continue to pray…!

Watch the video below and read through the pdf summary of the talk yourself…

If you are in a series of uncanny events, what have you got to lose? The teaching all stems from the Word of God and the importance of what comes out of our mouths… that we can speak death or life over others.

How to Pass From Curse to Blessing by Derek Prince


1) Video teaching:

2) PDF talk summary with prayer:

http://www.dieakker.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/explaining-blessings-and-curses-derek-prince.pdf

My prayer is that YOU will be free from curses spoken over you. And that YOU will use your mouth to bless others, and not destroy!

(And if you were one of those who spoke curses over me, I am learning to walk in forgiveness and praying blessing over you… I’m deeply and prayerfully all about long-term generational freedom.)

You reap what you sow. Let us plant seeds of blessing for the next generation.

P.S. You can read the full book here if you need more info…

Blessing or Curse: You Can Choose: Freedom from Pressures You Thought You Had to Live with

And here is the 2nd part of my healing journey… Prayers that Heal the Heart

Comparison Steals our Joy

 

comparison_free_print-1
Image source: http://margaretfeinberg.com

I was asked to prepare a talk on comparison for teens and twenties. Here’s what I learned. (Sources at the bottom.)

Comparison washes away God’s plan for us and sidetracks us with someone else’s journey.

 

Questions to ponder:

  1. When you play games, are you a good loser? How do you handle winning?
  2. Have you ever had to work hard to meet someone else’s expectations? How did it affect your relationship with that person?
  3. Are you exhausted or broke from trying to keep up with friends or neighbors?
  4. Is there anyone you secretly enjoy seeing fail?

Comparison kills our joy and instead fuels anxiety, shame, embarrassment, loneliness, guilt….  It destroys our identity. It keeps us from meeting our full potential. It keeps others around us from meeting their full potential. It keeps our world from experiencing fullness. It saps our energy and empties our tanks.

Comparison… stirs up envy and jealousy…Think about it within your world.

How do you see comparison taking over your joy?

“I realized that we work and do wonderful things just because we are jealous of others. This makes no more sense than chasing the wind. …Very little food eaten in peace is better than twice as much earned from overwork and chasing the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 4:4,6

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Jesus said… “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I have come to give life to the full.” – John 10:10

When we compare ourselves to others, we are allowing the enemy to destroy – us and others around us. We are not allowing Jesus to give us full life.

If comparison is the thief of joy, and the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy… And Jesus is the Life and came to give us life, let us look at how comparison kills and then how Jesus wants to rather give us life…

First off this is what comparison does…

Comparison… 

  1. Feeds our pride (pride leads to destruction).
    Proverbs 18:12 (CEV)Pride leads to destruction; humility leads to honor.
  2. Makes us forget who we are – our identity (we use others as a measuring stick, rather than Jesus.)
  3. Keeps us from fully experiencing joy…
    • We experience depression and lower self-esteem when we compare ourselves to others,
    • We resent people we love when we compare ourselves to them,
    • We fail to celebrate our own wins when we compare ourselves. “When we measure our worth with someone else’s yardstick, we always come up short.”
    • We fall in love with perception and hate reality when we compare ourselves with others. Comparing your reality to the *perception* of someone else’s reality is like comparing your real life to someone’s Instagram. Don’t fall for an ‘instasham’ version of other’s lives. Their life appears perfect, but no one’s life is perfect – there’s just no public record of the ‘yuck and muck’ behind the scenes.

Instead, fullness of joy is found in His presence…

Psalm 16:11 English Standard Version (ESV)

You make known to me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy;

at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

 Or another way…

Psalm 16:11 Contemporary English Version (CEV)

You have shown me

the path to life,

and you make me glad

by being near to me.

Sitting at your right side,

I will always be joyful.

 

Practically, what can we do instead of comparison that will bring life- both to ourselves and to others?

What can you do as an athlete, artist,… or a sibling, or friend in order to keep from letting the thief of life use you to do his dirty work?

 

Instead of Comparison:

  • Celebrate instead! Build others up instead of tearing down – celebrate other people’s success. “There is a great amount of power that comes with not ruining your own happiness and by celebrating the win of someone else.” Compliment, don’t compare. “Whenever you find you are comparing yourself to someone else, you should go right up to that person and compliment them on the very thing you’re jealous of or comparing yourself to.” Look at the people you are envious of, ask yourself why, then celebrate that thing in them, and celebrate that desire in yourself!
  • Recognize that competition is good – it drives you to be the best you, but comparison makes you feel bad about yourself from the start. Accept the competition, but reject the comparison trap.
  • Shut off the negative talk in your head and instead choose positive self-talk. When you start hearing the voice of comparison in your head say, “You’ll never be as good as her”, shut it down with positive self-talk… “I am loved, I am enjoying giving it my all, I can bless others where I am…” (Take notice of your negative self-talk, notice what the trigger is, be gentle with yourself, remind yourself that you’re done with the comparison trap, flip it around with positive talk. (Retrain your brain to stop comparing and start celebrating.)
  • Remember who you are and whose you are (your true identity). Your identity is found in your Creator and Saviour Jesus, not in how many friends you have, how talented you are, how many ‘wins’, etc…
  • Linger in God’s presence daily. (Remember Psalm 16:11) Drink in His wisdom through the Word. Sit and listen for His voice like you’re chilling with Him on His right side. Ask Him questions…. ask Him why you’re envious. Ask Him to help you replace the envy with honour and joy.
  • Focus on the path He has for you. God has given you a special set of gifts, personality traits, talents, etc… (Strengths-finder, spiritual gifts inventory…)

 

Further Thoughts:

Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. 

Use the success of others as a mirror.

“There’s gold to be found in your comparison habit, if you’re willing to look for it.”

Think of someone who you compare yourself to…

  • What do they have that you wish you had?
  • What do you admire about them?
  • What have they done to get where they are today?
  • How does this relate to your own values?
  • Where do you currently embody these qualities?
  • How might your expression of these qualities differ from theirs?
  • What can you learn from your desire to have these qualities more fully?

Further Questions to Ponder:

– Is there anyone you secretly enjoy seeing fail? What can you do to extend that person grace?

– What is one thing you can do this week to allow the thought of peacefulness and contentment to help you pause in the midst of the comparison trap?

MOVING FORWARD 

Maybe you’ve racked up debt trying to keep up with your friends or neighbors. Maybe your high expectations drive others crazy, or yourself crazy. Maybe you have relatives you don’t get along with because you envy what they have and rejoice in their failures.

You can’t genuinely love someone whom you secretly hope will fail. You can’t genuinely love someone whom you’re pushing to meet a standard so you can feel better about yourself. There’s no win in comparison. There’s never a finish line or sense of satisfaction.

(Retrain Your Brain):
Verses to Look up and Memorize: (summaries listed below…)

  • Matthew 6:25-33 – (Do not worry. Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.Seek Him first. He will give you everything you need.)
  • Phil 4:12-13 – (Learn to live in contentment.)
  • Heb 13:5-6 – (God is your helper. He will never fail or abandon you.)
  • Rom 8:28 – (God has a good plan and calling for those who love Him.)
  • Galatians 5:16-26 – (Envy is not living by the Holy Spirit’s power.)
  • 1 Peter 5:6-7 – (Humble yourselves. God will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.)
  • Ecc 4:4,6 – (Most people are motivated to success because they envy their neighbors. …Better to be happy with little than to overwork yourself for personal gain.)

Look up the full passages listed above and post them up where you can see them. Choose joy and celebration over comparison. 🙂

Article Sources:

http://alliworthington.com/blog//how-to-escape-the-comparison-trap

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/how-avoid-comparison-trap

http://www.livescience.com/18324-facebook-depression-social-comparison.html

http://99u.com/articles/33341/comparison-trap-envy-jealous-success-coworkers-friends

http://biblereasons.com/comparing-yourself-to-others/

http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/spiritualformation/findingcomparisons.html

Andy Stanley, Comparison Trap, search on Youtube.com

 

 

 

Sabbatical Learnings: Solitude and Community

Over sabbatical, I pondered the fact that if we spent our lives in absolute solitude listening to Jesus, we could never take in all the richness of His wisdom and presence. Just as it has been penned that all that which Jesus did on earth has not all been written down, we could not comprehend all that could be heard, while quietly listening to His voice. On the other hand, I have been reminded that the dessert fathers who spent time in solitude, listening to God, began to lose their senses and had difficulty in discerning the voices they heard. The healthy balance is to live our lives carefully taking time both for solitude with Him, and living in community, constantly aware of His presence, and in prayer with Him and for each other as we serve together to build His kingdom and not our own. We are loved individually and we are blessed with belonging in His precious family of freedom because of His love. THAT is better than any kingdom we could fabricate ourselves!

The Disease Called “Perfection”

Be bold about your weaknesses and you will change people’s lives. Be honest about who you actually are, and others will begin to be their actual selves around you. Once you cure yourself of the disease, others will come to you, asking if they can just “talk”. People are desperate to talk. Some of the most “perfect” people around you will tell you of some of the greatest struggles going on. Some of the most “perfect” people around you will break down in tears as they tell you how difficult life is for them. Turns out some of the most “perfect” people around us are human beings after all, and are dying to talk to another human being about it.

You’ll love them for it. And you’ll love yourself even more.

Let’s not forget this quote: “I went out to find a friend and could not find one there. I went out to be a friend, and friends were everywhere.” Somebody who is being a friend doesn’t spread “Perfection”. Somebody who is being a friend spreads “Real”. Then, and only then, can we all grow together.

Read the full article… The disease called “Perfection”.

via The Disease Called “Perfection”.

What Is Perfect Love?

If we are more self-conscious than ever, with the ones we “love”, that is not love… but fear. Our ‘love’ is unmasked as a battle in manipulation and power – one person using another to make them feel good, even in a pecking order, or to simply chase away loneliness. True love is… safe,… forgiving… and unrestricted. (And I’m not jumping all the way to romantic love. Apply this to friendship too.) Perfect love is fearless. If you are afraid of someone, you don’t truly love them. And perhaps not yet anyway. It may be because of a wall you have put up, or it may be they are not truly safe to give your love to. It may be you have some questions not yet answered. So ask yourself why you fear them. The answer will help you determine the next step you will need to take. Step forward in trust or step back in self-preservation and boundaries. But, always… pray through it. Putting up walls doesn’t bring peace. Putting up walls brings about war and hostility. Jesus challenges us to break through and face our fellow person without fear and to enter with Him in the fellowship of the weak, knowing that it will not bring destruction but new life and a new world.

(My thoughts after reading Henri Nouwen.)

Matthew 22:36-40 (NIRV)

36 “Teacher,” he asked, “which is the most important commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Love him with all your mind.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) 38 This is the first and most important commandment. 39 And the second is like it. ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ (Leviticus 19:18)

Our Response

“Worship is the believer’s response of all that he is – mind, emotions, will, and body – to all that God is and says and does. This response has its mystical side in subjective experience, and its practical side in objective obedience to God’s revealed truth. It is a loving response that is balanced by the fear of the Lord, and it is a deepening response as the believer comes to know God better.” – Warren W. Wiersbe