In all Things, God Works…

Discussing major milestones in my journey out of a cult and to Christ can be difficult at times. Truth, while liberating, is always harder to write than fiction. When I left the cult I did so quietly, behind closed door meetings with the leadership, and not screaming out at my fellow church goers. I came to myself and realized how far their teachings had been from the Bible. How the entire church I belonged to was more focused on the words of a man long since dead, and the rules made by a man hell bent on controlling his flock. Out of a congregation of nearly 200 I received only two phone calls from people concerned about my devotion to the cult. Bitterness over that lack of reaction caused me to just stop attending church at all. I searched through every religion I could get my hands on. From the Catholics I was taught to hate, to the Jews I was taught to pity, to the Satanists I was told to fear. I read book after book on, and by, them all. I went in, and verbally sparred with anyone in authority I could find. I was trying to find the errors in their beliefs now that mine had failed me so suddenly. Lashing out trying to make sense of years of indoctrination.
There were days I laid in bed with the weight of my thoughts holding me down more effectively than any physical bond could have. Leaving the cult had cost me my family, my church, my friends, and any support I could have hoped for. Marital advice? Get back into the cult and God would fix everything. Family struggles? Obviously I was backslidden and needed to get back into the church and listen to the prophet some more. I was more alone than I had ever thought possible. My phone was full of numbers that either would push me back into the cult, or refuse to hear me out and tell me to just get over it.
The local Hindu Brahmin (priest) graciously tolerated my intrusions on his temple and rituals, explaining things to me as he went along. During a time of feeling alone, lost, and purposeless, I was given my next message from God in the most unexpected place. “The meaning of life is multifaceted. There are parts for taking care of yourself and parts about helping others. You’ve been here seeking enlightenment and we’ve allowed you to go through blessings, yet when you speak of others it is about what they have done to you, not what you’re doing for them. You did not arrive to this moment in your life alone. You owe something to each and every person who helped you become who you are. Your parents, your teachers, and most importantly you owe something to those who will come after you. You seek a lot but you are full and not giving into others. You must seek a balanced spirit.” This man’s words reminded me of my Sunday School Teacher from my youth, who I had succeeded in heading that youth ministry. I thought about the kids I had once taught. I thought about everyone still stuck where I had once been and how I had helped keep them there. I needed to balance that.
From the two phone calls when I left, to a barrage of messages when I became vocal, I realized one thing: groups like what I came out of will never change for those sitting comfortably on the pews paying their money. It will never change for those that never pick up the Bible and learn it for themselves. It will be business as usual until you are actively searching out your own personal salvation. Many of us have had those times when we wanted to change, we wanted out of a toxic situation, we wanted to say something to make it all better. Yet due to peer pressure or circumstances beyond our control we were stuck. Sometimes physically stuck in institutes, or in back offices of churches, or in a pew, or in our beds or within our own minds. At those times when our own words fail, when someone is making sure we aren’t heard or feel worthless for not going with the status quo, we look to others for inspiration.
Last week I mentioned some of the odd places God has spoken to me. He is not limited by our circumstances, by our peers, by anything. God will find you where you are and his gospel will set you free. We here at The Incomplete Message are simply trying to be a voice for those who feel controlled with no way out. Christ brings a freedom like no other. So for you who are feeling alone, for those stuck, for those afraid. Christ is right there. If we can help even one person become free from man’s religions, we have accomplished everything.
1 Peter 5:8-9 (KJV)
8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.
There are times I wish I’d never been in the cult, it damaged my family in immeasurable ways that I’ve only just begun to understand. I fought with God for years thinking he had simply stood by while we suffered at the hands of greedy men. Only recently have I looked back and seen that this was all needed for someone to react and speak against them, for those who had already suffered before me, and those still suffering right this very day. The amount of control they hold can keep even the most determined and vocal of us from ever saying a word. The more timid and gentler have little hope of getting out of these toxic situations. So after running away from Church, God, and everything else, I found something to work towards. That my freedom from the cult was not something to take for granted, but that I needed to be just as active out of it as I had been in it. That my ministry didn’t end when I left one single church, but that I had finally found the focus and motivation to point people to God and his Word. To put up with the hate mail, the calls, the lies, being physically thrown out of churches for not agreeing with off-Bible teachings, and be a light for those in need. A voice for the silent.
I have lost much, but I gained so much more in finding my purpose. I cannot stand here and tell you I’ll understand where every one of you is coming from, but I want to stand beside you, to help you in anyway I can, and to encourage those afraid that there is always hope as long as we hold to God’s unfailing word and love one another. Whoever abides in Love, abides in God.

I once was lost…

When anyone of any amount of faith goes looking for God, they are usually seeking the personal relationship that so many of you described to us on the last post. I wonder if we ever start our “faith marketing” with the individual or if we make it about a multitude of other focuses like rules and dress and tithes and perfect attendance.

From my brother hearing something random at a gas station that sparked memories of church sermons he needed right then to the sermon my boss dragged me to, swearing it was going to click perfectly and it started this. We all have moments when God reached us when we were the farthest we could be from a church pew. I’ve been both the one herding people back, and the one scolded for leaving it empty for too long. Only one of us here at the Incomplete Message has ever been to a church where the focus when they missed seeing you was a genuine concern for your personal walk with Jesus, asking if they could help. I think it says something that it’s that rare for us as Christians to reach out with more concern for an individual’s faith and individuality than the seat they held in their pew.

Some of my best conversations with God have been when I was yelling and screaming at the sky, being the most honest I’ve ever been with myself and Him. They really frown on you doing that in the church sanctuary, yet the church I attended made me very conscious about my spiritual state if I didn’t have perfect attendance. I’ve been the prodigal son dozens of times, people had theories about my sincerity, my purpose. I was lost. Sometimes, I would get overwhelmed and I’d start to question not only my ability to balance everything in life, between money, school, work, family, etc, but also my alignment with God’s plan for me. I would forget that His plan and His work in me isn’t a destination or something I can achieve, but a path and a purpose that I fight for every day. I was lost, not because I had never found Him, but because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be or where to meet with Him again and again.
There have been times when time alone spent in prayer and Bible reading is what did the trick to realign me. There have been times when I’ve laid there looking at the Bible thinking its a waste of my time and no one is hearing my prayer. I’ve sat in the church pew thinking I was so close to God and His love that I could reach out and touch him physically. Other times I sat there hardly able to stay awake because there was nothing there that helped me and I was just punching my time card. The difference wasn’t church, and had nothing to do with the Bible. Those things are sources for His word, but never the deciding factor. What I found that changed was my attitude, my purpose, and my sincerity; it had everything to do with my heart. I have been moved by the wisdom of a priest, scolded by the laughter of a Rabbi, and angered by my own reaction to the ignorance of some preaching. I’m not good at taking advice or directions, so I had to work for it, but He would come and drag me back, no matter how shaken, angry, or scared I was.

I know God spoke to me once in a booth at Cheddar’s, when a man, who I later found out was a local Rabbi, told me that throughout everything I must remember that G-d has never lifted a finger in vain. That by the very act of existing, G-d has invested in me. The least I could be doing is making the most of that. If someone thought me worth creating, I should be able to share some of that with others. I realized if God invested in me, what was I investing in His children, in all of us? How has God spoken to you away from a pew, outside of the four walls we try to stuff him into once or twice a week. Where is some of the most random places he has given you purpose in your everyday life?


It makes a difference to get more feedback from you all, so I want to keep it rolling with the issue of church denomination. Just this week, someone pointed out that we termed ourselves “Christians.” Which is true as mentioned in Acts that this was a man-made term. Since then, we have added Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Baptists, and so many others. Rather than trying to take away from their doctrines, beliefs, and faiths, I want to build a discussion space for all Christians. Each branch can choose their own path to a closer relationship with Him, that is every Christian’s right. I would like to compare some of those, not to condemn them, but to distinguish what is Biblically supported between the denominations and what is not.

As His children, we can have a common ground, one that I think we use all too rarely. What have you learned from discussion with Christians of other denominations? When have you made time to sit down and understand their faith as much as you would like them to understand yours?

For me, one of the most helpful things I was given during my journey through every religion I could get my hands on was the local Catholic priest. I found a parish that was open as long as he was up to greet visitors and he allowed me to use the sanctuary for prayer night after night. I was there often enough to learn which nights I’d have the place nearly to myself and which nights the confessional and prayer room would be emanating noise my direction. One of the many nights I intended to have the quiet time to myself, he nearly gave me a heart attack from having moved to the pew behind me as I sat in near silence. He had asked me only one thing when I first came and requested time there and it was if what I sought was something he could assist with or something I needed to work out on my own. That night as I was suddenly aware of him, he asked his second question, “Why do you continue to fill yourself with the anger you come here to lose? You release it, you leave, you return full. Coming here empty and leaving full might just get you an answer for once.”

I learned from a man I was taught to mistrust due to his organization, that coming in full of my own answers and anger at the circumstances left me empty at all the wrong parts of the process.

Discussion and Debate

This week I witnessed two sincere Christians arguing over whether “The Message” followed scripture or not. Especially in religious discussion, distancing someone with scripture or sources without some kind of explanation, analysis, or communication can raise defenses before anyone takes the time to listen. Standing on the other side simply saying that something will be understood by faith alone or ‘only believing’ carries little to no weight to those who do not understand your faith. I can remember so many conversations that I was a part of on both of those sides, where we each knew what we believed. Clearly, the other side just wasn’t understanding that I had the right answer, because my God was infallible and since I was defending him (in my head) surely my argument was invincible too. God’s truth and His works have never been the cause of misunderstanding, only our inability to communicate and understand within the limitations of our language. The church should always come together as His children, learning to love him better. I never want to miss that opportunity because I was so certain of my beliefs and ideas that I was closed off from anything that He may have sent for me to learn and grow from.

I’ve been posting “lessons” or something of the sort in the hopes that there would be questions, comments, debate, anyone to ‘challenge’ my personal beliefs, so that the discussion could begin. Clearly, the sheer volume of citations can be overwhelming and may be deterring you from commenting. So I want to ask, instead, what would you like to see taken to true debate? I’m not saying I am right or have the answers, far from it. I want us to take the time to explain what we believe and the why. If you do believe you are right, then explaining why will only help others to understand. We are not perfect. Only through communication and understanding of our different perspectives can we come to His truth. God is not deterred by questions, rather is encouraged in their desire to learn. He wants us to understand and to learn, not only from Him but from each other.

One of the most strenuous fights for me as a young man was learning to live the life He wanted for me. I was spending hours praying and begging for the things I needed in my life. My pastor told me that I must be insincere, that the more time I spent on my knees would prove my sincerity, that I would ‘break through’ to Him, earning His mercy and gifts. That’s why I wanted to go through prayer with you all, to see what each of you thought and went through. What is prayer to you? What are your questions? What can we teach each other?