Reclaiming Faith: Rediscovering God
I am someone who was strong in my faith, abused in the name of God, taught many lies about the Bible, God, religion, and myself. I have returned to my faith after many difficult years of struggling to make peace with my past and with God. I now have a stronger, more realistic, more Bible-true faith, which has brought me closer to God and has helped me be less afraid and ashamed.|
I am not a pastor, I am not a Bible scholar, I am not a "Jesus Freak", I am not someone who has never had tough times. I have been angry at God. I have been angry at Christians. I have doubted. I have been imperfect. I qualify as a sinner... despite my best efforts.
I don't think that having a strong faith and a close relationship with God will make your life perfect and carefree... Jesus isn't a drug, there is no "Jesus weed" to smoke. You'll still be human. You'll still have bad days. But you'll find yourself more at peace, more centered, more secure. You'll find the challenges easier to face with the Lord in your corner. You'll also find that your life has more purpose, more meaning, and more substance when you can look at the the long-term big picture.
There is intelligent life out there, beyond this world. It's called God. He's wise, loving, sane, safe, trustworthy, and waiting for you. He knows you: your faults, your thoughts, your past, your fears, your anger, your tears... and yet He still has His arms open for you to come to Him and enjoy His House. Are you going to go?
I hope you will spend some time here, reading this page, following the links provided, and start the process of reclaiming, relearning, and returning to your faith.
I grew up in the region of America known as the Bible Belt. For me, that meant whenever I did something wrong I ran the risk of being hit by either the Bible or the belt (my father’s leather belt to be specific).|
My earliest church memories include being taught to fear God, being told that all the bad stuff that happened in my life was because God was punishing me, and that I was doomed to Hell unless I was a good-enough Christian (whatever that meant, because they didn’t take time to define it). I also heard that people were too stupid to understand the Bible on their own, and that’s what the preacher was for, and he (always a he) read the King James Bible (because "if it was good enough for Jesus" it was good enough for the preacher!) while the pews were filled with the d"umbed-down, just for you stupid folks" Bibles (usually the Good News Bible or the Living Bible). But that was in the churches were you were considered smart enough to be able to flip to the right places. Some churches only had hymnals for the church goers.
All of that might not have been so bad if it hadn’t been combined with the sexual abuse going on at home. How does a child understand and love a God when the church paints God as a male father figure, and that child’s real father is abusing them? Add to that the whole “crappy things in your life are punishments from God” sermons and you get one confused and bitter child. Then I lucked out and won the crappy lottery by being sexually abused by a non-family member male who happened to be highly respected and involved in the church. He went the extra creepy mile by telling me it was part of God’s plan, and he had the Bible passages to “prove” it.
So, it’s not a mystery why I left my faith, whatever little I had to begin with. I wanted to believe in a God or a Higher Power. I tried learning other religions, even pagan stuff, but nothing seemed to fit the hole in my heart. Nothing gave me peace or the assurance that something wiser, nicer, more intelligent, more caring, and overall just better than humans was running the show.
I had a hard time coming back to my faith. I had a very hard time giving myself permission to read the Bible. I told myself that I was never going to know what was true and what has been twisted or lied about unless I went back to the source... the Bible. I began to read and study the Bible. I began to ask questions. And I began to see the lies, the twists, the omissions. Slowly the damage began to heal, and I began to rebuild a faith and understanding of God. The rewards have far outweighed the fears and resentments I had been harboring.
Despite (maybe in spite of?) my abuse, the dirtiness, shame, and fear that I felt, and how stupid I felt about the whole Bible (it always seemed like everyone else had it memorized and understood it, when I barely knew what books were in the front or back of the Bible!), God still made the Bible accessible to me. He still found a way to open my eyes, my heart, and my mind. He is healing the wounds, and putting in peace and strength I never thought were possible. Sometimes I still get scared, and want to pull away. He is patient, and waits for me to come back. And when I do come back there is always more to learn, more to love, and more to gain from knowing and loving God.
Start with the Basics:
to Become a Christian can be read here. Even if you think you understand the Christian religion it can be helpful to brush up on what is supposed to be the most basic belief of Christians. It's easy to forget the basics and get caught up in the political arguements, or to get caught up in the rules and dogma of certain denominations.
GOING BACK TO THE TRUE SOURCE - THE BIBLE:
People often leave their faith, or find that
they have never really taken the time to study the Bible and know what being
a Christian really means. Where do you go for help? How do you go to church
or open the Bible when you feel helpless, alone, confused, unworthy, and maybe
even tell yourself that you're too stupid?
So where do you start?
Start with understanding where you are, what you are currently
thinking and feeling, what your beliefs are about God and yourself in relation
to God. Write that down. It may take a few days. It may take a few years. But
until you understand where you are, and where you've been, you're going to have
a really hard time understanding what you need to fix and change.
Ok, so you know you past, your issues, your questions... now what?
Start with something simple. I highly recommend reading the book
"Simple Faith" by Charles Swindoll. You can probably find it at your
local used book store or library. Reading books about the Christian faith can
help prepare you for the next step... reading the Bible itself.
If you're not ready to go there yet, or maybe you feel too stupid
to understand the Bible (I know I was taught that regular people were too stupid,
and that's why we had preachers/pastors!). Maybe the Bible is just too big and
scary right now. Then find a copy of "Bruce & Stan's Guide to the Bible:
Understanding God's All-Time Best Seller" by Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz.
You'll find that they not only give you a great overview of the Bible, but they
also help make sense of out the Bible, and help you see the big picture instead
of all the pages and books that make up the Bible.
Then, you guessed it, it's time to get your very own Bible. And
you might want to go Bible shopping at a few stores, even spend time at the
library. Because there are a lot of Bibles out there, and hopefully one will
say "Hey, I'm perfect for you!" But you may end up wanting to buy more
than one Bible, and that's ok. There are a lot of different versions out there
too, like NIV and KJV and NKJV... just pick a few passages and read that same
section in each version... that will help you see the language differences and
help you pick the one that's most comfortable for you.
I personally own several Bibles. I started with "The Beginner's
Bible" by Deanna Davis, which is a children's Bible. I then purchased "The
Extreme Teen Bible" but found that it didn't match me well. My next Bible
was the "NIV Student Bible" and I love the background details and
explanations given in that Bible. My other Bible is the "NIV Recovery Devotional
Bible" which I love because it addresses many issues related to dysfunctional
families and tough childhoods and poor coping skills as adults. I like the "Life Application" series of Bibles because it helps you figure out how the passages related to you today. I also recently found the "Quest Study Bible" which answers a lot of questions I was too afraid of looking stupid to ask! Zondervan makes a lot of great Bibles, and you can look at their website for more information on the versions/translations they offer as well as the different types (study, devotional, children's, etc.) they offer.
Start with a pen or pencil in hand, and write your name in the
Bible. It's yours. You own it. Open it up to the New Testament. Start reading
from there, not the first page of your Bible. Your goal is to read the Gospels
(Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). Don't make any other goal yet. Underline, highlight,
write notes to yourself, make question marks in the margins. It's yours. You
own it. You'll find the material easier to read and understand once you get
past the fear that it's a Bible and it has to stay in brand-new condition. It
doesn't. It should look just as worn and well-read as any of your favorite books,
if not more worn! Bibles don't have to stay looking pretty. A pretty Bible is
a misused Bible... because the Bible wants to be read and understood and studied.
Write in it, get fingerprints on it, fold the pages... claim it as yours.
Have questions about what you are reading? Try a Bible Commentary...
I have two that I use. One is the "Chapter-By-Chapter Bible Commentary"
by Warren Wiersbe. The other is "735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered"
by Larry Richards.
Ready for the next step? Join a church. Take the extra scary step
and join a Sunday School class at a church. You won't be the only one there
with questions. You won't be the only one who doesn't seem to have the entire
Bible memorized. And you might even make some friends to spend non-church time
with. What a cool bonus! Many churches are more aware of the need to have special classes aimed at beginners/seekers, or those who are "returning home." Many churches also offer Saturday services, Sunday evening services, and Wednesday night options to fit your schedule.
Want to read more? There are lots of authors out there, some better
than others, some more Christian than others. Authors I trust and enjoy reading
include: C.S. Lewis, Josh McDowell, Charles Swindoll, Warren Wiersbe, Max Lucado,
Charles Spurgeon, and James Dobson.
Bibles of many versions/translations and even languages
Search and read over 15 Bible versions/translations
The NET Bible: An amazing new translation that offers incredible insight into the translation process and alternative ways passages/words could have been translated. This site also offers a lot of extra study texts and a free download of the entire NET Bible.
Bible Verse, Devotional, and Prayer
Insight for Living: The Bible Teaching
Ministry of Charles Swindoll
My Utmost for His
Highest (by Oswald Chambers) Daily Devotional
Ministries Daily Devotionals for Chronic Pain Illness/Pain Survivors
Find more daily Devotionals at Gospelcom.Net's
List of Daily Devotionals
All About God.Com: Covers
all kinds of topics! Great for beginners, skeptics, and returners.
Back to the
Bible: Taking the Journey Together
Focus on the Family with Dr.
Gideons: See the Bible Helps
section for finding passages that fit your current situations/struggles.
Insight for Living: The Bible Teaching
Ministry of Charles Swindoll
Josh McDowell's Josh.Com
RBC Ministries & Bible
Spiritual Walk: Bible Study Tools
The Lord's Prayer; Blessing
for the People, The Moravian Blessing, The
By St. Francis of Assisi: Vocation Prayer;
Prayer for Peace; Paraphrase Inspired by
The Lord's Prayer; Praise of God
The Lord's Prayer:
Our Father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy
will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory
for ever. Amen. [Matt 6:9-13]
Blessing for the People:
May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make His face shine upon you
and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.
The Moravian Blessing:
Come, Lord Jesus, our Guest to be, and bless these gifts, bestowed by Thee.
Bless our loved ones everywhere, and keep them in Thy loving care. Amen.
The Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to
change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. Living one day
at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardship as the pathway
to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have
it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life, and supremely happy with Him forever
in the next. Amen
St. Francis of Assisi's Vocation Prayer:
Most High, Glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Give us a right
faith, a firm hope and a perfect charity, so that we may always and in all things
act according to Your Holy Will. Amen.
St. Francis of Assisi’s Prayer
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is
doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled
as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For
it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and
it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
St. Francis of Assisi's Paraphrase
Inspired By The Lord's Prayer:
Our Father: Our Creator, Redeemer, Comforter and Savior.
Who art in heaven: You are with the angels and the saints, bathing them in your
light that they may be enlightened by your love, and dwelling within them that
they may be filled with your joy. You are the supreme good, the eternal good,
from whom comes all goodness, and without whom there is no goodness.
Hallowed be your name: May our knowledge of you become ever clearer, that we
may know the breadth of your blessings, the length of your promises, the height
of your majesty, and the depth of your judgments.
Your kingdom come: Rule in our hearts with your grace, that we may become fit
subjects for your kingdom. We desire nothing more than to dwell in your kingdom,
where we can watch you on your throne, and enjoy your perfect love.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven: May we love you with our whole
heart by always thinking of you, with our whole soul by always desiring you,
with our whole mind by directing all our intentions to you, and with our whole
strength by spending all our energies in your service. And may we love our neighbors
as ourselves, drawing them to your love, rejoicing in their good fortunes, and
caring for them in their misfortunes.
Give us this day our daily bread: In memory and understanding and reverence
of the love which our Lord Jesus Christ has for us, revealed by his sacrifice
for us on the cross, we ask for the perfect bread of his body.
And forgive us our trespasses: We know that you forgive us, through the suffering
and death of your beloved Son.
As we forgive those who trespass against us: Enable us to forgive perfectly
and without reserve any wrong that has been committed against us. And strengthen
our hearts truly to love our enemies, praying for them and striving to serve
And lead us not into temptation: Save us not only from obvious and persistent
temptations, but also those that are hidden or come suddenly when our guard
But deliver us from evil: Protect us from past evil, protect us against present
evil, and free us from future evil. Amen
St. Francis of Assisi's Praise of God:
You are holy, Lord, the only God, and Your deeds are wonderful. You are strong.
You are great. You are the Most High. You are Almighty. You, Holy Father are
King of heaven and earth. You are Three and One, Lord God, all Good. You are
Good, all Good, supreme Good, Lord God, living and true. You are love. You are
wisdom. You are humility. You are endurance. You are rest. You are peace. You
are joy and gladness. You are justice and moderation. You are all our riches,
and You suffice for us. You are beauty. You are gentleness. You are our protector.
You are our guardian and defender. You are our courage. You are our haven and
our hope. You are our faith, our great consolation. You are our eternal life,
Great and Wonderful Lord, God Almighty, Merciful Savior. Amen.
Here is a list of Psalms I enjoy or find useful in times of need. The
descriptions, or themes, are from the NIV Life Application Study Bible by Zondervan.
- Psalm 1: Life's two roads. The life of the faithful person is contrasted
with the life of the faithless person.
Psalm 3: Confidently trusting God for protection and peace.
Psalm 4: Rejoicing in God's protection and peace. We can place our confidence
in God because He will listen when we call on Him.
Psalm 5: The lies of enemies. God is able to defend us from lies spoken against
Psalm 12: The proud and lying words of people versus the true and pure words
of God. A call for protection against those who try to manipulate us.
Psalm 15: Guidelines for living a blameless life.
Psalm 18: Gratitude for deliverance and victory. The only sure way to be delivered
from surrounding evil is to call upon God for help and strength.
Psalm 19: Both God's creation and His Word reveal His greatness.
Psalm 23: God is seen as a caring shepherd and a dependable guide. We must
follow God and obey His commands. He is our only hope for eternal life and
Psalm 25: A prayer for defense, guidance, and pardon. As we trust in God,
He grants these same requests to us.
Psalm 27: God offers help for today and hope for the future. Unwavering confidence
in God is our antidote for fear and loneliness.
Psalm 28: Prayer when surrounded by trouble or wickedness. God is our only
real source of safety. Prayer is our best help when trials come our way because
it keeps us in communion with God.
Psalm 30: A celebration of God's deliverance.
Psalm 31: In times of stress, depending upon God requires complete commitment.
Psalm 32: Forgiveness brings true joy. Only when we ask God to forgive our
sins will He give us real happiness and relief from guilt.
Psalm 34: God pays attention to those who call on Him. Whether God offers
escape from trouble or help in times of trouble, we can be certain that He
always hears and acts on behalf of those who love Him.
Psalm 37: Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act. This psalm
vividly contrasts the wicked person with the righteous.
Psalm 46: God is always there to help, providing refuge, security, and peace.
God's power is complete and His ultimate victory is certain. He will not fail
to rescue those who love Him.
Psalm 49: Trusting in worldly possessions is futile. You cannot take possessions
with you when you die, and they cannot buy forgiveness from sin.
Psalm 51: David's plea for mercy, forgiveness, and cleansing. God wants our
hearts to be right with Him.
Psalm 52: God will judge the evildoer. Our anger must not block our confidence
in God's ability to defeat evil.
Psalm 54: A call for God to overcome enemies. God is our helper, even in times
of hurt and betrayal.
Psalm 55: Expressing deep dismay over the treachery of a close friend. When
friends hurt us, the burden is too difficult to carry alone.
Psalm 56: Trusting in God's care in the midst of fear. When all seems dark,
one truth still shines bright: God is for us, those against us will never
Psalm 57: God's faithful help and love in times of trouble. When we face trials,
God will quiet our hearts and give us confidence.
Psalm 61: Prayer for security and assurance. Wherever we are, we can trust
that God will be there to answer our cries for help.
Psalm 62: Placing all hope in God. Knowing that God is in control allows us
to wait patiently for Him to rescue us. True relief does not come when the
problem is resolved because more problems are on the way! True relief comes
from an enduring hope in God's ultimate salvation. Only then will all trials
Psalm 63: A desire for God's presence, provision, and protection. No matter
where we are, our desire should be for God because only He satisfies fully.
Psalm 64: A complaint against conspiracy. When others conspire against us,
we can ask God for protection because He knows everything.
Psalm 65: God provides abundantly. We can be thankful to God for His many
Psalm 66: God answers prayer. Individually and as a body of believers, we
should praise and worship God.
Psalm 67: Joy comes from spreading the news about God around the world.
Psalm 71: God's constant help - from childhood to old age.
Psalm 72: The perfect king. In this psalm, a king asks God to help his son
rule the nation justly and wisely. It looks forward to the endless reign of
the Messiah, who alone can rule with perfect justice and whose citizens will
enjoy perfect peace.
Psalm 73: The temporary prosperity of the wicked and the lasting rewards of
the righteous. We should live holy lives and trust God for our future rewards.
Psalm 77: We are comforted through the hard times by remembering God's help
in the past. Recalling God's miracles and previous works can give us courage
Psalm 84: God's living presence is our greatest joy. His radiant presence
helps us grow in strength, grace, and glory.
Psalm 85: From reverence to restoration. Reverence leads to forgiveness, restoring
our love and joy for God.
Psalm 86: Devoted trust in times of deep trouble.
Psalm 91: God's protection in the midst of danger. God doesn't promise a world
free from danger, but He does promise His help whenever we face danger.
Psalm 92: Be thankful and faithful every day.
Psalm 94: God will keep His people from the severe punishment awaiting the
wicked. Since God is holy and just, we can be certain that the wicked will
Psalm 95: An invitation to worship God.
Psalm 100: An invitation to enter into God's presence. His faithfulness extends
to our generation and beyond.
Psalm 103: God's great love for us. What God does for us tells us what He
is really like.
Psalm 104: Appreciating God through His creation. He not only creates, but
maintains His creation. The Lord's care is the source of our joy.
Psalm 107: Thankfulness to God should constantly be on the lips of those whom
He has saved. This psalm was written to celebrate the Jews' return from their
exile in Babylon.
Psalm 111: All that God does is good. Reverence for God is the beginning of
Psalm 112: The advantages of having faith in God. God guards the minds and
actions of those who follow His commands.
Psalm 113: The scope of God's care. God's great mercy is demonstrated by His
concern for the poor and the oppressed.
Psalm 115: God is alive. He is thinking about us and caring for us, and we
should put Him first in our lives.
Psalm 116: Praise for being saved from certain death. Worship is a thankful
response and not a repayment for what God has done.
Psalm 117: Another reason for praise - God's love for the whole world. We
should praise God for His unlimited love.
Psalm 118: Confidence in God's eternal love. God's love is unchanging in the
midst of changing situations. This give us security.
Psalm 121: We can depend upon God for help. Pilgrims must travel through lonely
country to their destinations; they are protected, not by anything created,
but by the Creator of everything.
Psalm 125: God is our Protector. The mountains around Jerusalem symbolize
God's protection for His people.
Psalm 130: Assurance of the Lord's forgiveness.
Psalm 136: The never-ending story of God's love.
Psalm 139: God is all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere present.
God knows us, God is with us, and His greatest gift is to allow us to know
Psalm 141: A prayer for help when facing temptation. David asks God to protect
him and to give him wisdom in accepting criticism. Be open to honest criticism
- God may be speaking to you through others.
Psalm 142: A prayer when overwhelmed and desperate.
Psalm 143: A prayer in the midst of hopelessness and depression. Our prayers
should fit into what we know is consistent with God's character and plans.
Psalm 145: A time will come when all people will join together in recognizing
and worshipping God. Because God is full of love, He satisfies all who trust
Psalm 146: The help of man versus the help of God. Help from man is temporal
and unstable, but help from God is lasting and complete.