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05/13/16

Permalink 09:25:45 am, Step(s): 05 Confession, 187 words   English (US)

What Went Wrong?

One of the facets of fifth-step confession is the acknowledgment of what went wrong in our family of origin, as well as in our parent's families of origin. There is something about family dysfunction that tends to repeat itself, when we don't acknowledge those problems. Stuffing the garbage of our past by trying to forget it does not bring us healing. It only sets us up to repeat the sins of our ancestors.

"...visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation..." (Exodus 20:5 ).

But when we admit our family sins to ourselves, to God, and to another human being, those sins lose a lot of the power that they once held over us. This must be why James said, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16 )

This facet of confession has helped me to recognize the unfulfilled love-hungers of my childhood as part of the reason why I sought love in all the wrong ways for many wasted years of my life. Today, I realize that confession is a God-given tool to help me release my past sins and move on to a better, more fulfilling future.

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)

02/05/16

Permalink 08:03:05 am, Step(s): 05 Confession, 353 words   English (US)

Recovery Through Honesty

A common recovery phrase is, "We're only as sick as our secrets". But like most catch phrases, you can only carry that so far...

I once knew a man who, because of inappropriate behavior with a minor, was fearful of being incarcerated. Because of his fear alone, he revealed to me much of what he had been involved in. He wanted recovery, so he could tell the judge how well he was doing -- hoping for mercy. I shared with him my own recovery story and invited him to get involved with the 12-Step program. He did actually go to group -- once. But, when he found out that the minor (now an adult) was not going to press charges, he lost interest in recovery. He never again went to a meeting, and he never spoke with me after that.

This man did what seemed to me to be an honest confession, and he did a decent moral inventory, so what went wrong? Well, he pretty much ignored the first 3 steps. He didn't understand his own powerlessness and, because of so-called Christians who were abusive to him, he wasn't too sure if he wanted God to rule over him. So, there was no way he was ready to surrender his life to God. Fear of negative consequences can be a good motivator, but if that is the only motivation, failure is the likely result.

Early in my recovery process, I was filled with fear that I might face some very negative consequences for my past actions. But because I was already committed to recovery through surrender to my Loving Heavenly Father, that fear served to move me into a deeper, more complete recovery process. Even though it was very painful then, now I am thankful for that experience.

I have found that when we are honest with ourselves, with God, and at least one other person, our recovery process is greatly accelerated. I think this is what James was talking about, when he said, "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16 ). And I am so thankful that, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9 ).

IT WORKS IF YOU WORK IT, AND YOU ARE WORTH IT!

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)

11/13/15

Permalink 07:07:25 am, Step(s): 05 Confession, 442 words   English (US)

Fear to be Honest

Once we've begun to come out of denial about our true moral condition, and are learning to put our full trust in God, it is likely that we will experience a conviction to be fully honest with ourselves, God, and trusted friends about those sins that so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ).

The thought of confession may bring us a great deal of fear. Are we now willing to take ownership of our weaknesses, or is fear of the unknown persuading us to stuff all this mess back into those dirty closets of our lives that we just pulled them out of during our introspective processing?

We may be fearful to admit these things even to ourselves because we're not sure that we can forgive ourselves. But, as we choose to accept our past and current issues as our own, we take yet another step toward freedom. Our load of shame is reduced. (Romans 12:3 )

We may be fearful to admit our ungodliness to the Holy God of the universe. But we must remember that He already knows anyway. And even so, He loves us so much that He came into this sinful world as a man and died to pay the penalty for our sins. Our God loves us so much that He accepts us just the way we are, no matter how low we've sunk into our foolishness. But, we need not fear to confess to God the exact nature of our wrongs, for... "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1John 1:9 )

We may be exceedingly fearful to confess the results of our introspection to another human being because of what they may think of us or what they may say to us or to others as a result of our sharing. Because of this, we do need to be very careful to choose a listener (or listeners) wisely. It needs to be someone experienced in the recovery/sanctification process that we can trust. But, when we find the right person, and push through our fear, confessing the exact nature of our issues, there comes a feeling of relief that these things are no longer our dark secret. Someone else now knows about it. This angers the forces of evil, who had a great advantage over us while we were in isolation. (James 5:16 )

It feels (and is) good to come out of our isolation and into the freedom of being able to at least begin to talk about our dysfunction. Confession has greatly accelerated the healing process for myself and many others who I know. It can do the same for you, my friend, because YOU ARE WORTH IT!

Listen to what Jesus said about your worth: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:" (Luke 12:6-8 )

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)

08/21/15

Permalink 09:19:24 am, Step(s): 05 Confession, 293 words   English (US)

Extreme Makeover Through Confession

I remember well how hard it was to admit my issues when my recovery process began back in 1994. It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. After my first real victories in the Lord, I began to get a clue as to how bad my behaviors had become.

As I confessed these things to God, I believe it was Him who convicted me that I must also confess my problems to another human being (James 5:16 ). You see, at that time, I knew nothing of the 12-Steps and I had a negative opinion of the program. Yet, there was this incredibly strong force within convicting me of my need to talk about my issues with another person. But, the fear of doing that was nearly overwhelming. Much of my dysfunction was hidden to most everyone. So the idea of coming out of that isolation was very frightening.

When finally I became willing to talk, it took hours to make my confession, but it wasn't because my list was long. It was because every word that came out of my mouth was strained with fear and enveloped with sobs of sorrow.

One might wonder, "Is it really worth all the pain?" Looking back on that experience now, I have to say that I don't believe that my recovery process could have continued without it. So yes, it is worth any cost.

This is just one way in which I have co-operated with God in His extreme makeover of me. All the credit and glory go to Him. He's not finished with me yet. This extreme makeover is the "progressive work of a lifetime"(3SM 202)-- sanctification(1 Thes 4:3 ). I can't do it without God and He won't do it without my co-operation.

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)

Permalink 09:17:58 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 05 Confession, 06 Repentance, 949 words   English (US)

The Root Canal

Over a period of several weeks, I began to feel more and more pain in one my teeth. Eventually, the pain spread to one whole side of my head. All of this pain, I found out later, was caused by some damaged tissue in one of the three roots of one of my molars. It was such a small part of my body, but it caused me a great deal of pain.

Now, what do you think would have happened if I had chosen to only medicate the pain, using stronger and stronger pain reliever so I wouldn't feel the pain, but never getting the cause of the problem fixed? I suspect that infection would spread and I would lose that tooth. Eventually it may even become systemic, leading to my death.

For many years, I medicated my emotional pain with addictions, stuffing my feelings deeper and deeper, never fixing the cause of the problem. It was a dreadful downward spiral with the addictive acting-out, due to the pain, leading to temporary relief, leading to even greater pain because I acted out. The infection was becoming systemic and I was dying.

But shortly after I began to learn to cooperate with God, surrendering to His will, He brought me to a place of looking inward, beyond the pain to the root causes of my pain. With my permission, it was like He opened a peep hole in the top of my "tooth" so that I could begin to see the damage inside. As I recognized my issues, I confessed my sins (1 John 1:9 ), became willing to have God dig that mess out of my "tooth", and asked Him to perform a root canal on my life. What a relief it was to get that damaged "tissue" out of that "tooth".

The Heavenly surgeon gives us this promise: "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:26 )

The surgery brought its own pain. It was hard to let go of a piece of my body, in the case of the physical root canal. And, it was hard to let go of a piece of who I am, in the case of the spiritual root canal. But I can tell you, without hesitation, that in both cases, the pain was definitely worth the gain!

Now, let's look a little deeper into that feeling of pain. Was the pain of my toothache bad, or evil? No. Without that pain, I would have never known I had a problem, until it led to even more serious problems, right? That pain was really a blessing to me, in that it told me that there was a problem that I needed to deal with -- kind of like a fire alarm.

What about emotional pain? Is it really any different? Can there be something evil about the way I feel? Or, are my feelings also like a fire alarm, signaling me that there are some deeper issues that I need Divine help in rooting out. I've heard that when we "stuff" our feelings over a long period of time, we are likely to contract one or more of quite a long list of physical ailments, including Alzheimer's disease (of course there are other causes too). I wouldn't be surprised if it were true.

I've been thinking a lot about the connection between feelings and temptation. I once had a pastor friend who told me that, when I am tempted, it's because I have already sinned. Of course, the Bible is pretty clear that this is not true: "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15 ). But, I'm wondering if we might be saying the same thing as this pastor when we think that of our feelings are sometimes evil.

Let me try to explain what I'm thinking, by example. Let's say that I'm feeling attracted to someone other than my wife. Is that feeling evil? Would it be a sin for me to be attracted to another woman? Or, does it just lead to temptation? It seems to me, that when temptation comes, I have a choice to make as to what I am going to do with that feeling/temptation. If I choose to lust after her, certainly it is a sin, because Jesus said, "... anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28 ). Another choice I could make is to deny that feeling -- pretend it doesn't exist -- stuff it. But wait... that would be like ignoring the pain in my tooth. That can't be good! A third choice I could make would be to admit to myself, to God, and possibly to a trusted friend (James 5:16 ) that I'm having this feeling. Then, as I surrender my will to God's, asking Him, "... Lord, what would you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6 ), He gives me the victory over my temptation -- without sin.

Keeping in mind that anger is a feeling, I wonder if the apostle Paul had this principle in mind when he said, "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:" (Ephesians 4:26 )? Maybe...

I believe that my feelings are the result of my past experiences and choices (both good and bad). I can't change my current feelings, because I can't change my past. However, as I deal appropriately with those feelings, surrendering my thoughts, feelings, and actions to God, I can change (by the grace and power of God) my future feelings. I praise God for that! He is Awesome!

Some may ask, "Why is this important?" It is my belief that the forces of evil will use everything they can to shame us for what we've been tempted by, even though it was them who tempted us! Understanding the difference between feelings, temptation, and sin will give satan one less foot-hold into our lives.

"Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves." (Step 4)

"Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs." (Step 5)

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