A number of you have left comments on posts or e-mailed me asking for some pointers or steps on how to pick up the pieces and start over after IHOP. This is a huge topic but an important one so I will do my best to respond to it through illustrations and insights from things I have learned in my own journey.
I know there are others of you that read my blog who have come out of IHOP so please feel free to post your experiences in the comments as well. I certainly don’t claim to have the corner on this and everyone’s journey will be a little different. Each of you have your own story to tell and you will have your own nuggets of wisdom gained along the way.
I will relate things mostly to coming out of IHOP but if your experiences were with another organization these same ideas still apply. These concepts relate to coming out of any form of deception, spiritual abuse, cults, etc.
Please don’t read this as a “how-to” list that you simply check off. I’m not writing this as a 12-step program or self-help therapy. Rather than a spiritual to-do list I encourage you to view these points as overarching themes and priorities to keep in mind. The actual process might look a little different for different people but here are the things I believe to be the most important in coming out of spiritual deception and getting grounded in what is true.
1. Numero uno…and most importantly, remember that He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it. Thank your heavenly Father for opening your eyes and trust Him to lead and orchestrate every step in bringing you out of the deceptions, involvements, etc that you have walked in. Life is messy sometimes and solutions don’t come packaged in pretty boxes with bows on top. Since we peer dimly through the filter of our human experience and emotion we don’t fully see any situation perfectly so we must trust the One who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. Set HIS Word above the word of any man…no matter how eloquent it sounds or what venue, pulpit or position it is heralded from.
2. Do not condemn, berate or beat yourself up for not seeing it sooner. Condemnation is not part of the road toward freedom. It’s a trap door that drops you into a free-fall of judgment and self-analysis. Trust that the timing of G-d is right and He is perfect, true and just in all that He allows. He chose to open your eyes to the deception/error on His own timetable. Take your hand off the rewind button and don’t play back old experiences through the lens of “if I had only known this then, I would have done this…or I would not have done that…” You can’t judge yesterday’s actions in light of today’s wisdom. You didn’t know then what you know now so you couldn’t act out of what you did not yet know. What you know now however can equip you to make different choices going forward. So when the accuser comes knocking, remind yourself that you can’t change a month ago or 2 years ago but now you do know and you can choose to walk a different road…a road toward what is true because “you shall know the truth and the truth will set you free”. (John 8:32)
3) Pursue truth at all costs. When something doesn’t line up with the Word of G-d check it, test it, study, ask G-d for greater discernment and trust that discernment when you hear it. Don’t rationalize or excuse away what you hear. Trust that the Spirit of G-d is more than able to lead and speak to you. If you are His sheep, trust that you can know what is His voice. Still test however what you hear/discern/think He is saying but don’t discount it before you do. Don’t swallow any word, teaching, doctrine, scriptural interpretation, etc. you hear just because it sounds good. If a teaching/doctrine, etc. requires taking scripture out of context to understand it or apply its interpretation, run don’t walk the other way.
4) Give yourself time. You probably didn’t buy into IHOP’s doctrines overnight and it might take a little time to detox and sort through what is true and what is not and get your head clear but study what is true and the counterfeits become much more recognizable.
5) Don’t just get in the Word…let the Word get into you. Don’t study for studying’s sake. Absorb like a sponge the truth of scripture and let it permeate who you are. It will be the shield around your heart to protect you from the fiery arrows of deception, doubt, condemnation, unbelief, etc that are sure to fly your way. As you study, ask the Father to illuminate truth so that it comes alive to you and then the things which masquerade as truth can be more clearly recognizable. Read and study scripture in context. Studying in context means seeking to understand the audience, time it was written, who is writing, what was happening in the time and culture in which it was written and how should it be understood in light of the surrounding verses. A silly example of taking a verse out of context would be that if someone read the story of Adam & Eve in the garden of Eden and twisted its meaning and application they could say that G-d forbids eating fruit and we should eat only vegetables and meat. Context matters!
6) Don’t run away from research. Sometimes the thought of digging into something and researching it out conjures thoughts of college term papers and thesis writing. Panic attacks set in and the sound of laptops closing can be heard everywhere. Denial is not bliss but knowledge is power and if you are seeing red flags don’t ignore them. I’m not saying lock yourself away in a room for 6 months and go on a fact finding mission. I’m saying that part of seeking truth is investigating the roots of the tree from whose fruit you have been eating. If you’re wondering whether an organization you’re apart of is exhibiting cult-like behaviors and effects then perhaps research cult tactics and teachings and the side effects experienced by those who come out of them. Be willing to look at the dust that keeps getting swept under the rug. The value in researching is 2-fold: 1) you will often find evidence that backs up what you discerned. You then have that aha moment where you think “wow, I didn’t miss it.” 2) when you come across others who are waking up to deception and they are seeking answers to their questions about such-and-such you will have more than theories or hearsay to go off of…you’ll have some research: facts, dates and actual events, direct quotes and statistics, etc. in your back pocket. It’s not enough to convince someone with mere opinion.
7) Connect with other like-hearted believers who share your love for truth and are on that same journey. Being in fellowship with others who have discernment, who live lives that bear fruit and who speak the truth in love is really important. We were built for relationship and community. Seek healthy, authentic, truth-based, scripturally grounded relationships and communities to connect with. Another key to staying out of deception is being in fellowship with others who can see things that we can’t and who will lovingly illustrate truth by their words and actions.
May the Spirit of G-d continue to lead you into all truth.