Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 – A Retrospective Look at the Project

When I started this effort, my sole aim was to provide information to the reader about dysfunctional religious groups. I speak from the perspective of being in one and then out of one. My own personal tragedy is that I did not leave the group I was a part of solely on my own choosing. Frankly, I should have acted upon my own assessment of my situation much earlier but if you have taken the time to read over some of the earlier entries, you would have noticed it is uncommon for people to leave on their own power. In fact, I would say most of the people in the described situation are currently in such a state of mind: They know something is not quite right but to make the decision to leave the group is not an easy one to make. This is because for years they have been conditioned not to trust their own assessment of the situation but to look to others and their peers. Take it from me it is a miserable existence.


Okay, so I started this blog as a personal quest to crystallize my own thinking regarding some of the main subjects I had been taught and to address them with more than my own take on the Bible and my own feelings. Much of the entries cite others who have had extensive training and experience in dealing with each individual topic. So, what you are reading really is a synthesis of my own research and perspective. Really, I don’t know how one counsels those coming out of a dysfunctional group unless they have walked those dark halls themselves. What I have offered those who have read this blog is as much as I am able to write it, clear and balanced teaching. The reality is those of us who have ‘come out’ of such groups have a tilted view of God, The Bible and the World. Friend, it takes a long time and a diligent effort to rid ourselves of what we have experienced. Why? Well to be frank, it has become a part of us and we don’t even know it. Our former life returns to us at times through memories, scriptures and even pictures on our walls that whisper darkness to us. So what we need is a good ‘head-cleaning’. We all need to keep this in mind. My friends, the true and stark fact is everything you learned within the group must be questioned. You must do the research and invest time in yourself to sort and strain through all of it. If you do not, you will never be delivered from the ghosts in your mind because it is the word and balanced teaching based on the word that will give you force and power to defeat your own random thoughts. I wish there was an easy way but you must know that in a sense the strong man has entered your dwelling with seven more evil than himself and it is too much for you unless new roads and the fresh wind of the freedom of God’s word sets it all aright.


If you look at the blog it, I have attempted a systematic approach of healing and freedom. I start with defining what a dysfunctional group is, why it takes to long to leave one. Then the blog turns to my own personal thoughts and experiences and extracts from them characteristics of what a dysfunctional group can do to one’s mind and thinking. I then address the power that destructive thoughts and emotions have on one’s entire holistic being (body, mind, and soul). Having identified the forces that are at work within one extracted from such a group, I turn to the rights of the individual believer. This is the first constructive teaching in the sense of after defining the ‘world’ where you had been dwelling to the wasteland of your own mind. I describe this a wasteland because it is a grope to try to find your bearings and even your very self again. Then I take look at authentic authority because many foist themselves as God-ordained leaders when in fact more than likely they have captured you in their own delusion. This begins to strike at the very heart of the issue that who was your leader must meet the criteria for holding the authority they tout that they have but in essence – according to the word of God – they fall very short and masquerade in a role perhaps for only a very few. Once the group and the individual who you followed have been identified as a toxic influence, I open the subject of your own personal right to measure any teaching someone has taught you. As examples of this, I embark on some theological subjects that I believe for the most part are subjects in which dysfunctional groups identify themselves. I start with the subject of jargon within the group and use three words as examples. Next, I address the impact of this teaching on those who you know and love that still might be in the group. I try to provide a balanced perspective on the very scriptures that are parroted by them that allow them to disassociate themselves to expatriates from the group. This is so you might be able to present to them the mis-application they destructively practice. Next comes the re-assessment of the ‘house’ you live in – metaphorically speaking. This topic is presented so that what has been presented to you in this blog up to that point is re-affirmed as you look at yourself. Be fearless in your assessment of each ‘wall’ in your house. Then comes a three part series on water baptism. The main thrust of this three part series is to not to teach you what it is but what it is not. Many dysfunctional groups leverage water baptism into what it is not – a part of salvation – this is the heresy of the Judaizers the apostle Paul fought in another form. I then discuss the terrain of the Leviathan planet. That is the micro-world of the dysfunctional group and split that world into two main groups. It is hoped that through this topic, the underworld of the dysfunctional group can be understood and seen as a place where hell is more the model they follow than heaven. Finally, I deal with the topic of moving on taking you through the town of Miss Havisham – I cover in the last section the inflection point of our change to a new life. Simply put, we must be like Jesus and forgive those who have caused so much damage.

The reality is we have not been discarded but given a great gift: The ability to discern truth from error, light from dark, Jesus from religion -- most of all mastering the art of forgiveness

As we look ahead to the next year of 2011, I will strive to provide sound and solid subject matter that hopefully will help you.

God bless you and thanks for embarking on this journey of healing with me.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Christmas Card - blogstyle

While I cannot send out a Christmas Card to anyone who reads ProjectEzraRising, what I can do is send my best wishes and prayers to you in this Holiday Season. I know that some of you are missing loved ones that you might not be able to see because of imbalanced and distorted views of what being an authentic follower of Jesus really is. I say that we cannot not ‘make’ a Christmas miracle happen nor can we make a hardened and now cold heart towards us thaw but what we can do is remember the love of God for us through what we have been through. Each step He has been our buttress from total collapse and it is because of His care for us some of us even still breathe. I wrote a poem a few months ago and I guess it is my ‘Christmas Card’ to you. In growing up, I remember that on every bottle of soda pop (they were glass back then) there was a phrase No Deposit-No Return. This meant that you did not have to pay a deposit on the bottles you purchased because they did not have to be returned. They were in essence valueless when the pop(or as we say in the South ‘Coke’) was gone – you just threw it away. This was the mindset of the times I grew up in; the throw-away society. We must be reminded that in the Kingdom of God, no one is a ‘throw away’. Perhaps you were taught that God allows us to teeter on the edge of a precipice while we perform acts of obedience to keep us from being nudged over the edge. Or perhaps you were taught of the stratas of heaven that it is only the ones who measure up to some manufactured and artificial standard that masquerades as God’s – of which you always would fall short. My friends, I bring you great tidings of great Joy for in the city of David was born the one who would take away the sins of the world. He is the one who has the final answer though there are those who would dare speak for Him – I remind you of the parables and their consistent message of finding that which was lost, forgiveness and forbearance and over all an open window in which a light will always burn.

We light our light and put in the window for those we cannot see, for those who will not hear for the day and time will come when they will. This is for us and the ones who spurn us because of our difference in faith and our courage to follow our own conscience -to which God speaks directly- even in the midst of so much pain. We say to them and to the infernal enemy of our souls we are not:

No Deposit – No Return

Along the great Highway, the Kings Highway
To the great and glorious city
Strewn aside and along the berm
No Deposit No Return
Once filled with value and sweetness
Effervescent life and sparkle
Now laid aside drained dry
Baked and crusted with the dust of passers by
At the Speed of Light in the Kingdom of Light
No Deposit No Return
Value Dried and Value drained
Only a glint to those who whiz past
A memory a shimmer in the corner of the eye
Soon forgotten on the Silver Wind
Once consumed once spurned
Drained Dry
No Deposit No Return
From the city a Figure seeks to learn
Of the No Deposits No Returns
In His heart He makes a turn
In His eyes compassion burns
For the No Deposit No Returns
Lifts to the Light Lifts to the sight
The drained and dry
Not seeking but knowing why
There is no life for the drained and dry
He takes He saves He does not put aside
But holds close to the heart that burns
For the No Deposit No Returns
While no use by the passers by
There is value for the drained and dry
In the city the glorious city He returns
His arms full of the cast aside
He made the Deposit and He has Returned
With the No Deposit No Returns

Merry Christmas and Hope to You in the New Year


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Inflection Point of Spiritual Warfare

What is a point of inflection? Mathematically, it is the point where the direction of change from up to down or vice versa is present. It is the tipping point of change from one type of momentum to another. When it comes to spiritual warfare, there are tipping points that mark the point when our prayers and intercession become more impactful. In 2 Peter chapter one, there is a stunning passage that can be applied to the art of spiritual warfare for the believer who has exited a dysfunctional religious group but has family that has chosen to remain with the group. In most cases, it takes a long time, if ever, for these to be free from the sense of spiritual failure they possess. In essence, it has been engrained in them that they never measure up to the ‘full stature’ that is in Christ. This is what they have been programmed to tell themselves by the religious experience they have lived under in such a group. Yet the inflection point, the change from ‘down to up’ is not so very far, in fact, it is always within range. The apostles have left us a very important legacy. If you have ever scanned the first chapters of any epistle, you will find the words grace or peace and in many cases, you will see both and them used together. Why is this? It is usually in a greeting and so we usually brush right past it without thinking but these words are the inflection point for the followers of Jesus and they mean just about everything. Listen to the words of Peter and Paul below and let them sink in and resonate within you.

2 Peter 1:2-3 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

Part of anyone’s issues that have survived a dysfunctional religious group is that what they have been conditioned to believe and say to themselves in some form or fashion is: ‘I must try harder in order to obtain Christ.’ Yet what the apostle Peter says above is that ‘everything pertaining to life and godliness’ has been granted to us by Jesus. We keep wanting to make the evaluation of ourselves to God when God has chosen us not based on our merits but His mercy. We do not and never will stand anymore in a point of condemnation by God…my friends, it is simply over and any hangover of that is merely a figment of our imagination. In essence because of this, we are robbed of many things; most importantly, the privilege of real communion with God. As I go through the scriptures below, let the reality of God’s love and care for you be assured. This is the best medicine and the real stuff of spiritual warfare. We who come to God must believe that He is and He is a ‘rewarder’ of those who seek Him. Productive spiritual warfare starts and ends with the following premise: God loves you.

The scripture above has a corollary in Peter’s first epistle in about the same place:

1 Peter 1:2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

In this holiday season, it is perhaps the darkest of times for us who are in such a situation. Spiritual warfare at this time is gnawed to the bone of spiritual survival. We, most likely, long to see family that is now estranged from us because of a difference in how we choose to serve the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the tragedy of it. Yet the Lord speaks the same grace and peace to all of us through his delegate Peter. There are a few important aspects for us to remember. May they rebuild the fortress of love God desires to stand and to endure in your heart:

1> Grace and peace is not sourced in our own ability. In essence it is a gift of God given to us freely. How do we acquire such precious commodities? It is in the text (the first verse above): “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness”. How is this gained? Again, the text: “through the true knowledge of Him who called us…” What is this knowledge? In the greek it is interpreted as perception. That is, one who handles an object so as to familiarize themselves with it…in essence to ‘know it’. What this means is Jesus puts us in the place where we can know Him in such a manner. The Scriptures in the old testament confirms the desire of God to be known; as David said it in the Psalms “taste and see that the Lord is good.” . Our grace and peace is sourced and wholly represented in the blood atonement of Christ

2> Knowledge as it is used in the first passage is not really the definition we would ascribe to in our language and culture. I want to reiterate here so the point is not missed. The idea here is familiarity through experience in using something. It is more like practicing with some instrument, object or weapon to understand how it works. A good example here is your own bible. How many times have you taken a bible that is not your own and tried to find something. Yet in your personal bible, you can put your hand on it immediately. This is the type of knowledge being referred to yet God Himself is the counterpart. We cannot say that we can become familiar with God but what we can say it that He can become familiar to us. He must always be the initiator. In the passages above, what we see is the desire of God to be known and also His countenance towards us is best described as grace and peace. Why? Because of Christ’s shed blood. We cannot engage in intercession and prayer without the way being made by the blood of Jesus. It is the way that we are allowed to approach the presence of God. Grace is best described as ‘favor’ and peace is best described not as a feeling but a fact this is evidenced by the linking of peace of Christ with the work on Calvary by Him:

Col 1:20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

The point that Paul the Apostle is making here is to emphasize the universal nature of this peace, the scope of it is anything in heaven and on earth.

So what does this all have to do with Spiritual Warfare as it comes to interceding for family members or loved ones still within the functional group? Well, if all the above is true then the global and common state of us all in on the grounds of blood and nothing else.. It is one unifying substance that causes us all to be in one state – redemption. Dear reader, it is the omnipotent and undeniable force that bonds EVERY believer together. In Jesus, we are not separated from anyone He has chosen and called to Himself. He is our link to those we have lost. Through Him and only Him, they we have lost can be touched and handled and may I say it loved. We might not be able to be in their presence, but Our Lord can and is there. He is our link to them and He is enough. My friends, He is the inflection point. He is the center that will always hold within the widening gyre of our estrangement. The reality is the closer we get to Him, the closer we get to them. Let’s face it, in His presence there is no conflict only unity. There is on condemnation just reconciliation. There is no estrangement only fellowship. The very fact that there are polemics in the body of Christ is because of the void of His presence in the situation. We must realize that Jesus can be on both sides because in Him there is no side at all. It is only our blindness, stubbornness, lack of vision and understanding that separates us because we have forgotten the irresistible power of His blood.

As we pray in this season, let its message be to us. Grace and peace. As the angels sang on the night of His birth into this world, the one who is eternal and has always been:

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Our hands must be open in love and our hearts willing to believe in the power of love expressed through Christ to the entire world. Our prayers are heard so pray them, pray them with this in mind: Jesus stands between us and those we have lost. As we hold His hand, we can know He holds theirs. He is enough, he has always been enough. We cannot be sufficient be He always is. All voices that speak the negative against us are silenced in His presence. In His presence, there is fullness of joy.