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Archives for: 2015

12/31/15

Permalink 10:53:32 pm, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 183 words   English (US)

Share the Power

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith." (Romans 1:16,17 )

When we experience the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the resultant growth through recovery/sanctification, we cannot resist the conviction to share our experience and to continue to choose to practice the principles we've learned. This is not only my desire, but the desire of every Christian who enters into the process of sanctification.

The Christian 12-Step program is just one of many models used to help us understand this process and to engage with it. 12-Step is not just for addicts. It is for all sinners, who feel their need of a Savior. It is for those who are able to recognize their weaknesses and long to experience the power of God to turn their weaknesses into strengths.

There will never be a better time to experience the grace and the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ -- not only of being forgiven through grace, but also in experiencing the power to become more and more like Jesus. Our Christian 12-Step fellowship can help facilitate your transformation. We'd love to have you join us this Saturday morning.

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)

12/25/15

Permalink 10:48:56 pm, Step(s): 11 Prayer and Meditation, 745 words   English (US)

The Reason for the Season

How fitting it is that we should consider Step 11 on Christmas -- seeking to improve our conscious contact with Jesus. Jesus is my God, who left the place of infinite glory and power to become a tiny, helpless human infant in this horribly evil and primitive world.

This is my God who grew to human manhood without using His Devine power to in anyway help His own human flesh. This is my God who can help me, because He was tempted in all points like as I am, while NEVER yielding to the constant temptations of satan. This is my God, who in human flesh, admitted, that of Himself, He could do NOTHING. That’s my Jesus! Jesus gives me courage to admit to myself, and others, that I can, of myself, do no good thing.

Jesus is the God who blessed and healed every honest soul who He came in contact with. Jesus is the God who allowed Himself to be falsely accused and beaten unmercifully without one word of complaint. Jesus is the God who while being nailed to that old rugged cross, cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!” Jesus is the God who died to pay the penalty for my sins and for yours, and then was raised again to newness of life, just as we have the privilege to do when we take up our cross and follow Him. That’s my Jesus! That’s my God!

No matter what you think of my God, one thing is for sure. He loves you and me with an everlasting, infinite love that we cannot even begin to fathom! Do you know my Jesus? Do you love my Jesus? In my carnal nature, I have sunk lower than a snake’s belly and yet He has always been there for me with His unconditional love to pick me up and gently guide me from where I was to a better place. That’s my Jesus!

If you have drifted away from God, do realize how easy it is to come back? Even if you’ve never given your heart to God, His arms are open wide right now to totally accept you as one of His chosen ones. All He needs is your heart. The Bible says, if you will confess your sins to Him that He will not only freely forgive you, but He will also cleanse you from all unrighteousness! This is justification – He wipes your record clean, just as if you had never sinned! He replaces your past, sinful record with Jesus’ perfect record. He will give you a fresh, new start! Praise God!!

But that’s just the beginning! He longs to do much more than this. He wants to sanctify us – to change us from the inside out, to become more and more like Jesus. It doesn’t happen all at once, like justification. This is a continual process that we engage in for the rest of our lives and it is the MOST rewarding process I’ve ever been involved in. As long as we are involved in this process, our destiny is assured. We can be certain that our home is in heaven.

But why, you may ask, do we need to go any further than to be forgiven? If God wipes our record clean by the blood of Jesus, why would we need to be sanctified? … Well, while it is true that God gives us a new, clean slate to start over again with, He doesn’t take away our freedom to choose whom we will serve. And, he doesn’t normally change our learning history, which makes up our character. In other words, it is unlikely that He will miraculously take away our bad behaviors. He deals with our past without our participation, but He can’t deal with our future without our cooperation. If He did that, He would violate our freedom of choice, and my God would never do that to us.

Jesus says, I know the thoughts and plans I have for you, and they are NOT thoughts of evil, but rather of peace and hope for your future. So, call upon Me in prayer and I will listen and I will help you. And, when you seek for Me with ALL your heart, you will find Me and I will deliver you... -paraphrased (Jeremiah 29:11-14 ) I will never leave you, nor forsake you! (Hebrews 13:5 )

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)

12/18/15

Permalink 09:07:22 am, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 203 words   English (US)

No Drifting

As we progress through the process of sanctification, there come times when things seem to be going well. During those times, it is so easy to let life in this busy world control us, and maybe even numb us to spiritual things. When this happens, it behooves us to "... listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it" (Hebrews 2:1 ). To "drift away" could easily cause us to fall back into our sins of the past.

That's why it is important for me to take time daily for introspection -- asking God to convict me of sin in my life and then I must promptly admit it and deal with it, according to His will. This brings me peace, and peace is exactly what I need, in order to face another day in this crazy hectic world.

" For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak?" (Hebrews 2:2-3 )

"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)

12/11/15

Permalink 07:45:41 am, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 347 words   English (US)

Making Amends to the Human Race

" Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone." (Romans 12:17-18 )

There are some people from my past for which I have been unable to make amends. For various reasons, it hasn't been possible. Through my recovery process (since 1994), I've become willing to make amends to them all. And, maybe someday, I'll have the opportunity to do that for some. But for others, it wouldn't be a good idea because it could cause further injury. I pray for these people, when God brings them to my mind, but I feel bad that I can’t do more.

Maybe I can do more. Many years ago I said to God, "I've spent much of my life doing things that have hurt other people. Now I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I can to help other people". I know this doesn't make up for the pain I have caused. And I know that doing good doesn't justify me in the sight of God. I am still a wretched sinner, only saved by the blood of Jesus. But in hurting people, I know I have done harm to the human race and to God.

So now, I choose to do what I can to make amends to the human race. That is why I write. That is why I facilitate small groups. That is why I mentor men in need. That is why I speak publicly on sanctification/recovery topics. But, that’s not my only reason for doing these things. I do them because it helps me too. It keeps recovery topics fresh in my mind. It keeps me accountable, as I share my weaknesses. All these things help to accelerate my own recovery. And that’s gooood :-)

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." (James 5:16 ) "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11 )

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)

12/04/15

Permalink 08:19:25 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 430 words   English (US)

The Golden Rule of Forgiveness

Immediately following "The Lord's Prayer", Jesus said, "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14-15 ).
It is hard for many of us to become willing to make amends to at least some of the people we have harmed because of our lack of forgiveness -- due to what they have done to us. We may still think they deserved what we did to them. And really, they probably did, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23 ), right?

But wait a minute... I have a friend who I've often heard saying, "It's a 2-way street". It's easy to forget that "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23 ) & (Romans 5:12 ) and that means me to! And since the natural result of sin is death (Romans 6:23 ), I deserve to die just as much as that person whom I don't want to forgive. Now that's a sobering thought. From that perspective, I really can't put myself above that person anymore, because I'm just as much a sinner as he/she is!

I must remember that vengeance is the Lord's. He will repay, and I shouldn't (Romans 12:19 ). And even though "the wages of sin is death... the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23 ). And that doesn't just apply to me. It also applies to everyone who has wronged me. So why shouldn't I forgive them, just as God forgives me?

Forgiveness is a decision. It’s an action of the will. It’s handled just like any other temptation. Yes, just as we can be bound by sins that easily beset us, so we can also be bound by lack of forgiveness. But, forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting that wrong was done. I think it is more about allowing for other people's mistakes just as I would like others to allow for my mistakes. Hmm... that sounds a lot like the Golden Rule, from a different perspective. Maybe we should also have the Golden Rule of Forgiveness: "Forgive others, as you would have them forgive you".

"Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Colossians 3:12-13 ). "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any, that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses" (Mark 11:25 ).

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)

Permalink 08:18:00 am, Step(s): 07 Purification, 529 words   English (US)

Beating The Air, or On To Victory?

When I watched the 2004 Disney movie "Miracle", I couldn't help but think of how the apostle Paul likened Christian growth to the running of a race.

"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:" (1 Cor 9:24-26 )

The movie was about how the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team came from behind to win the gold at the winter Olympic games, after about 20 years of Soviet dominance. When the team was first formed there was discontent and fighting among the players, and the coach seemed like a cruel taskmaster. But, as time went on, the compassion, wisdom, and love of the coach became apparent. And as the team members became committed to following the instruction of the coach, they became as family, working as one for the common good of the of the team and the USA.

As we come out of denial (step 1), accept God as our "coach" (step 2-3), and start working as a team (step 3), we begin to realize that God is not the cruel taskmaster that we once thought. But rather, we discover that He is full of compassion, wisdom, and love. We begin to see that the way of the cross (denial of self), while painful, is the only way to grow and excel spiritually. It's the only way to actually "win" the "race".

Now, I can say I'm on the "team" (a Christian) and I can say all the right things to make people think I am, but am I really...? I may even try to "run the race" of life on my own, and in my own strength. But when I do, I make a lot of mistakes and hinder the overall progress of Christ's "team". As Paul put it, I run as one that beats the air. It's like Jesus said, "...without me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5 ).

But when I co-operate with God, when I listen to His "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12 ) saying "this is the way, walk ye in it" (Is 30:21 ), and turn my will over to Him (step 3) by choosing to obey, then He works in me to "will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 ) Ellen White put it this way:

" To make God's grace our own, we must act our part. His grace is given to work in us to will and to do, but never as a substitute for our effort. As the Lord co-operated with Daniel and his fellows, so He will co-operate with all who strive to do His will. And by the impartation of His Spirit He will strengthen every true purpose, every noble resolution" {PK 486-487} "The heavenly intelligences will work with the human agent who seeks with determined faith that perfection of character which will reach out to perfection in action. To everyone engaged in this work Christ says, I am at your right hand to help you. As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent. Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings." {COL 332-333}

So, when I am weak (all the time) I find my strength in the Lord, as I trust His "coaching" and obey His biddings.

"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 ) "And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Cor 12:9-10 )

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)

Permalink 08:15:22 am, Step(s): 06 Repentance, 208 words   English (US)

He will lift you up!

For me, it's relatively easy to ask God to remove my defects of character. But to actually let go of these things so He CAN take them, now that's a whole different matter.

"Repentance includes sorrow for sin and a turning away from it.
We shall not renounce sin unless we see its sinfulness;
until we turn away from it in heart,
there will be no real change in the life." (Steps to Christ, 23)

I do sorrow for my sins and I want to change, but it is hard to let go of the old, established ways. In my experience and observation, God seldom removes these difficulties without human co-operation. More on the "the divine principle of co-operation". "As the will of man co-operates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent." (Christ's Object Lessons, 333). This is the only lasting way that I have found to successfully let go of my weaknesses so that God can take them.

"It is the virtue that goes forth from Christ,
that leads to genuine repentance.". (Steps to Christ, 26)

"Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up" (James 4:10 ). "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:11 ).

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)

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)

11/06/15

Permalink 08:20:26 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 362 words   English (US)

Cutting The Onion

When cutting an onion, certain enzymes are released which tend to bring tears to our eyes. Generally speaking, people look for all kinds of ways to avoid this pain. I've heard of people wearing goggles or cutting the onions under water, as well as many other ways to avoid the unpleasant effects of onion cutting. Some claim that cutting onions may actually have medicinal benefits. Proponents of natural healing have long taken advantage of these benefits.

Quoting Eva Wilson, "When looking at the symptoms of [a] cold, it is ironic that we would treat this ailment with an almost like-with-like therapy." In a similar way, it may seem ironic that we would treat our sin-sick condition by making "a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves". Generally speaking, we'd rather ignore our problems so we don't feel the pain. This therapy (moral inventory) has been likened to the pealing of an onion, in that as we peal back each layer (issue) of our lives, we discover another "layer" that we need to deal with. And, I've found that to be true in my own recovery process. But today, I'm thinking of another way to look at this process.

As we become more and more surrendered to God, resulting from the recognition of our need and our trust in a loving God, it seems like He "cuts" through those "layers" of our "onion" of dysfunction . This process is painful. It exposes hidden layers of stuff we have been in denial (or forgotten) about and it stings the eyes of our understanding, bringing many tears. But ironically, through all of this cutting pain, we find restoration of our souls to God through the release of the healing "enzymes" of acknowledgment of our sins which so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ).

When we embrace this healing process, rather than putting on the "goggles" of denial, we are divinely propelled into the more advanced steps of healing and recovery, such as confession, amends and witnessing, which all lead to a more fulfilling life, with greater peace, joy and love. IMHO, I think that the pain of introspection (or cutting onions) is well worth the gain. Praise God!

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

10/30/15

Permalink 09:20:38 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 02 "God can...", 03 "I will co-operate...", 345 words   English (US)

The Secret of Death

The apostle Paul said, "... I die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31 ) and, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20 ).

Death to self is counter-intuitive in the me-centered world we live in today. Death to self is counter-intuitive to me because I want to be the center of my world. However, I am finding that I am unable to see into the future in order to make the best decisions for today. In fact, I can do nothing without God. Why would I think that? Look at the words of Jesus: "The Son can do nothing of Himself... I can of mine own self do nothing" (John 5:19,30 ) and "... without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5 ). So, who am I to think I can do what Jesus said He can't do?

Look at what Isaiah said, "The Lord will always lead you. He will meet the needs of your soul in the dry times and give strength to your body. You will be like a garden that has enough water, like a well of water that never dries up" (Isaiah 58:11 ).

A wise person once said, "God never leads His children otherwise than they would choose to be led, if they could see the end from the beginning and discern the glory of the purpose which they are fulfilling as co-workers with Him." (Ministry of Healing 479). and, "... this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory." (Colossians 1:37 )

As I consider this evidence and my own anecdotal experiences of God's leading in the past, I can't help but choose to continually invite God/Christ/the Holy Spirit to live in me. I choose death to self that I may experience the secret of death: Christ in me, the hope of glory for the future, peace in the present, with acceptance and forgiveness for my past failure.

What about you?

"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)

10/23/15

Permalink 08:02:15 am, Step(s): 02 "God can...", 508 words   English (US)

Bit or Yoke?

"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." (Isaiah 1:18 ).

This is the power greater than myself that I choose to believe is restoring me to sanity. This is the God who gives me hope of a better future. This is the God who invites us to come and be with Him. But for some, because of their history, this god is seen as a controlling god. The god of many people's understanding might be symbolized by a cowboy who rides us and controls us with the bit he puts in our mouth. But that's a tactic of the enemy. My God is different than that. "The Lord says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control." (Psalms 32:8,9 ). My God is not a god of force. He honors our freedom of choice even more than His own life.

Jesus says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 ).

I have a friend who lives near a wilderness area. He and his wife obtained a permit to harvest some trees in an area where vehicles were not allowed off-road. Somehow they found a human yoke, which is very different from those used for oxen. There was no strapping into this yoke. It was designed for two people who would push against it with their chest. In the middle was a rope that connected to a metal clamp used to drag a log. This required a lot of communication, cooperation and trust between my friend and his wife. If one chose to turn right while the other chose to turn left, they would simply fall out of the yoke. So, one of them had to lead and the other had the choice to either follow intently, or lose their connection, through the yoke, to their spouse. I think it works much the same way with the yoke that Christ asks us to wear. He is always available to us, waiting to yoke us with Him. He longs to help us carry our load of responsibilities. All we need to do is to cooperate, listening intently to His "still small voice" (1 Kings 19:12 ). Then, as we choose to follow Him in His yoke, He makes the impossible possible. His yoke truly is easy.

Since I believe that Christ would never lead me in any way I would not choose to be led, if I could see the future as He can, I want to yoke up with Him. Then, as we share the load in that yoke, I know that He is well able to take us through any trouble that might get in our way. And, since He never makes mistakes, I trust Him to take the lead in His yoke. As He promised, I find rest for my soul in His yoke.

Jesus says, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5 ) "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:20 ) What is your response today?

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)

Permalink 08:01:07 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 240 words   English (US)

Better Than Jesus?

"... The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do... I can of mine own self do nothing... I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:19,30 )

It's amazing to me that my Lord and Savior -- who healed the sick, raised the dead, and sacrificed His life for me -- would say that He can do nothing without His father. As I ponder the implications of that statement, I am humbled. How could I possibly be so proud as to think I can somehow do more than Jesus? For, without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5 ).

The Psalmist said it well: "I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart." (Ps 38:6,8 )

I'm a "Can-Do" kind of guy. I love my family. I love my work. And I can enjoyably do many things. But, in all my doings, I am painfully aware that I have limitations. My sinful nature is not gone and I can't fix it. Many years of cultivating my sinful nature have strengthened it far beyond what I was born with, and it is still present within me (Romans 7:17-21 ).

The more I understand my limitations, the more I am willing to surrender those things as unmanageable, and lean on Jesus to give me the strength that I need for today. As I practice this, God works in me to change me to become more and more like Jesus. That's just what I need!

"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)

Permalink 08:00:10 am, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 948 words   English (US)

Character Development

"And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be mighty upon the earth. And Ram begat Amminadab; and Amminadab begat Nahshon, prince of the children of Judah; And Solomon's son was Rehoboam, Abia his son, Asa his son, Jehoshaphat his son, And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested. And in the days of Saul they made war with the Hagarites, who fell by their hand: and they dwelt in their tents throughout all the east land of Gilead. And Johanan begat Azariah, (he it is that executed the priest's office in the temple that Solomon built in Jerusalem:) The sons also of Jediael; Bilhan: and the sons of Bilhan; Jeush, and Benjamin, and Ehud, and Chenaanah, and Zethan, and Tharshish, and Ahishahar. And Jeuz, and Shachia, and Mirma. These were his sons, heads of the fathers. And of the priests; Jedaiah, and Jehoiarib, and Jachin, And they put his armour in the house of their gods, and fastened his head in the temple of Dagon. These also are the chief of the mighty men whom David had, who strengthened themselves with him in his kingdom, and with all Israel, to make him king, according to the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. And David enquired of God, saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? And wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the LORD said unto him, Go up; for I will deliver them into thine hand. Of the sons of Uzziel; Amminadab the chief, and his brethren an hundred and twelve. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the LORD. And since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel. Moreover I will subdue all thine enemies. Furthermore I tell thee that the LORD will build thee an house. He sent Hadoram his son to king David, to enquire of his welfare, and to congratulate him, because he had fought against Hadarezer, and smitten him; (for Hadarezer had war with Tou;) and with him all manner of vessels of gold and silver and brass. Now when Joab saw that the battle was set against him before and behind, he chose out of all the choice of Israel, and put them in array against the Syrians. Go and tell David, saying, Thus saith the LORD, I offer thee three things: choose thee one of them, that I may do it unto thee. He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever. And the sons of Shimei were, Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. The seventh to Hakkoz, the eighth to Abijah, The third to Zaccur, he, his sons, and his brethren, were twelve: Also Hosah, of the children of Merari, had sons; Simri the chief, (for though he was not the firstborn, yet his father made him the chief;) The seventh captain for the seventh month was Helez the Pelonite, of the children of Ephraim: and in his course were twenty and four thousand. Take heed now; for the LORD hath chosen thee to build an house for the sanctuary: be strong, and do it. Wherefore David blessed the LORD before all the congregation: and David said, Blessed be thou, LORD God of Israel our father, for ever and ever." (Ps. 111:10 )

I am quoting heavily today from an address delivered to the teachers and students of Battle Creek College on November 15, 1883 by Mrs. E. G. White. It was published in the Review and Herald in 2 parts on August 19 & 26, 1884. You may read it in it's entirety here. All of today's quotes can be found there.

Probably the most significant result of practicing the principles learned in the Christian 12-Step process, is the development of a Christ-like character. And, for me, that is of the utmost priority because it is my understanding that my character is the only thing I can take to heaven. Steps 10, 11, and 12 summarize what it takes to continue that character development process.

"Character cannot be bought; it must be formed by stern efforts to resist temptation. The formation of a right character is the work of a lifetime, and is the outgrowth of prayerful meditation united with a grand purpose. The excellence of character that you possess must be the result of your own effort. Friends may encourage you, but they cannot do the work for you. Wishing, sighing, dreaming, will never make you great or good. You must climb. Gird up the loins of your mind, and go to work with all the strong powers of your will. It is the wise improvement of your opportunities, the cultivation of your God-given talents, that will make you men and women that can be approved of God, and a blessing to society. Let your standard be high, and with indomitable energy, make the most of your talents and opportunities, and press to the mark."

"True liberty and independence are found in the service of God. His service will place upon you no restriction that will not increase your happiness. In complying with his requirements, you will find a peace, contentment, and enjoyment that you can never have in the path of wild license and sin. Then study well the nature of the liberty you desire. Is it the liberty of the sons of God, to be free in Christ Jesus? or do you call the selfish indulgence of base passions freedom? Such liberty carries with it the heaviest remorse; it is the cruelest bondage."

Having been on both sides of this 'fence', I can testify that this is true. Before recovery, I was indeed subject to the cruelest bondage of satan. But in recovery, I have begun to enjoy the freedom that only can be found in Christ.

"Stand up for Jesus, young friends, and in your time of need Jesus will stand up for you. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Either God or Satan controls the mind; and the life shows so clearly that none need mistake to which power you yield allegiance. Every one has an influence either for good or for evil. Is your influence on the side of Christ or on that of Satan? Those who turn away from iniquity enlist the power of Omnipotence in their favor. The atmosphere that surrounds them is not of earth. By the silent power of a well ordered life and a godly conversation, they may present Jesus to the world. They may reflect Heaven's light, and win souls to Christ."

The 12-Step process is a tool that is successfully used by many, including myself, to turn our hearts from the service of self and satan to the service of God and a life of useful fulfillment.

"There can be no more important work than the proper education of our youth. We must guard them, fighting back Satan, that he shall not take them out of our arms. When the youth come to our colleges, they should not be made to feel that they have come among strangers, who do not care for their souls. There should be fathers and mothers in Israel who will watch for their souls, as they that must give account. Brethren and sisters, do not hold yourselves aloof from the dear youth, as though you have no particular concern or responsibility for them. You who have long professed to be Christians have a work to do to patiently and kindly lead them in the right way. You should show them that you love them because they are younger members of the Lord's family, the purchase of his blood."

"Teachers, what opportunities are yours! What a privilege is within your reach of molding the minds and characters of the youth under your charge! What a joy it will be to you to meet them around the great white throne, and know that you have done what you could to fit them for immortality! If your work stands the test of the great day, how like sweetest music will fall upon your ear the benediction of the Master, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'"

"We are living in the perils of the last days. All heaven is interested in the characters you are forming. Every provision has been made for you, that you should be a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Man is not left alone to conquer the powers of evil by his own feeble efforts. Help is at hand, and will be given every soul who really desires it. Angels of God, that ascend and descend the ladder that Jacob saw in vision, will help every soul who will to climb even to the highest heaven. They are guarding the people of God, and watching how every step is taken. Those who climb the shining way will be rewarded; they will enter into the joy of their Lord."

AMEN.

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)

10/02/15

Permalink 08:28:08 am, Step(s): 11 Prayer and Meditation, 189 words   English (US)

To become like Jesus

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly" (Colossians 3:16 ).
"... Lord, what would you have me to do? ..." (Acts 9:6 ).

As we meditate upon the perfections of the Saviour,
we shall desire to be wholly transformed
and renewed in the image of His purity.
There will be a hungering and thirsting of soul
to become like Him whom we adore.
(Steps to Christ, 89)

The times of prayer and meditation in my own experience have been (and continue to be) a blessing to me throughout my recovery process. It's a time when I process my thoughts and feelings with God and seek to understand what His will is for me in my life today. It's a time for me to study and seek to understand the writings of inspired writers. It's a time for me to ask God if there are any sins that I have neglected to confess. And, it's a time for me to dwell on the incredible work that Jesus has done and is doing on my behalf.

I invite you to join me in a commitment to more deeply enter into the process of prayer and meditation.

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)

09/25/15

Permalink 07:51:32 am, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 374 words   English (US)

Mistakes Happen...

There's no better way to participate in the process of sanctification than to follow Jesus. The apostle Peter walked with Jesus for years. He saw first-hand the love of God through His only begotten Son. Jesus helped Peter walk through the healing process of honesty, trust in God, consecration, surrender, introspection, confession, repentance, and amends. Peter understood and recognized sanctification as the "progressive work of a lifetime".

The question is, just how much faith did he have? How far did he trust God to work in him to will and to do of His good pleasure? When life got really hard for Peter, this is what happened: "And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly." (Matthew 26:71-75 )

I'm glad that Peter promptly admitted his mistake, when he was convicted... But wait, Judas also admitted his mistake in denying Christ and then went out and killed himself. What's with that?

Unlike Peter, Judas had not been participating in the process of sanctification during his years of walking with Jesus. Rather than confessing his issues and letting Jesus help him deal with it, he stuffed that mess deep within himself. Then, when he made a really big mistake and realized it, all that garbage that he had been stuffing came out all at once and it was too much. He wasn't willing to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow (really follow) Jesus (Matthew 16:24 ).

I find it really interesting that the word translated "deny" which Jesus used in (Matthew 16:24 ) is the same Greek word that Matthew used to describe Peter's denial in Mt 26:71-75. I need to more consistently deny my "self" in the same way that Peter denied Christ. When I fail to do that, I fall -- no question about it. But when I fall, I get up again, admit my mistakes, as did Peter, and continue to cooperate with God in this lifetime-process of sanctification. It's a choice that I must make to survive.

How about you? Jesus is knocking right now at your heart's door too (Revelation 3:20 ). Will you answer? Do you trust Him enough to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow Him? Keep coming back to Jesus. No matter how low you sink, Jesus, with open arms, is longing for you to come home (Luke 15:11-32 ).

"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)

Permalink 07:45:15 am, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 388 words   English (US)

The Rude Email

One day, as I read an email, I felt my anger rise, as I perceived that the writer was trying to shame me. What made it worse was that another person was CC'd in that message. Being put down like that is hard to take, especially when I don't believe the accusation is justified. My immediate reaction was to pound out a reply on the keyboard. But when I read what I wrote, I decided I'd better not send that, so I erased it and pounded out another reply. Over and over again, I continued to type and erase, -- all the while asking God for wisdom as to what I should say -- until finally I sent something. As my anger subsided I got back to what I was doing before that rude interruption.

It wasn't too long after that when I began to be convicted that I had made a mistake in getting angry over this situation. As a result, I confessed to God that, yes, rather than allowing that anger to control me, I should have surrendered it to Him. Then I accepted the forgiveness that He offered (1 John 1:9 ).

Later on, it occurred to me that I may also need to apologize to the person I sent the email to, as well as the other person I had CC'd. But, after all the revisions I had made to that message, I forgot what it was that I finally sent. Eventually, I looked in my sent items and found it. I was quite relieved to find that I had not said anything inappropriate and therefore didn't need to write an apology. Remember that I had prayed for wisdom during that whole process. It was gratifying to realize that, in spite of my anger, God answered my prayer and saved me from what could have been a very embarrassing apology.

I'm sorry to say that there have been previous times when I didn't pray over a hasty email reply and had to go back and apologize later. But God is good. He is always faithful to provide a way of escape when we are tempted (1 Cor 10:13 ). The question is, will we surrender to Him in the moment of temptation? This time, it was a partial surrender. Next time, I want to go all the way with God.

"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)

Permalink 07:43:15 am, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 237 words   English (US)

"I restore him fourfold"

"And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold." (Luke 19:2,5,6,8 )

When Jesus abides in our hearts, our attitudes change. Our selfishness and greed turn to love and generosity. Instead of defending our sins against others, we confess our mistakes and make amends to those whom we have harmed. Just as Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "make haste... for today I must abide at thy house", He says to us today, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3:20 )

Some questions now come to my mind.

  1. Do I hear Jesus "knocking at my door", or am I so busy with the cares of this world that I'm not even listening.
  2. If I do hear Him knocking, will I open the door of my heart and let Him in, or will I send Him away to do my bidding?
  3. If I let Him in, will I fully surrender to His will and choose to do as He leads no matter the consequences, or will I push Him out the back door when my faith gets weak.
  4. Finally, will I choose to make amends when He convicts me, as did Zacchaeus, trusting that He will make all things right in the end. Or, will I continue to live with shame and guilt because of the bad things I have done, or said, to others?

It is always my choice as to who I will listen to and how I will live my life. It is your choice too. How will you choose to live your life today?

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)

09/11/15

Permalink 07:41:12 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 249 words   English (US)

Willingness

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16 ) Scripture is full of texts like this that show God's willingness to save us from those sins that "so easily beset us" (Heb 12:1 ). There is no question, in my mind, as to the willingness of God.

Because of this, it seems to me that, my recovery process is largely dependent upon my willingness.

  • Willingness to admit that I can't do it myself.
  • Willingness to accept God as my Friend, Savior, and King.
  • Willingness to search deep within myself to find my hidden issues.
  • Willingness to confess what I'm really like.
  • Willingness to let God work in my life to mend my brokenness.
  • And now, Step 8 calls for my willingness to make amends to those whom I've wronged.

The question is, "Will I continue to willingly follow God's leading through this process of Sanctification?" Yes, making amends is uncomfortable. It's even scary. But, looking back now on the many times that I have willingly made amends, I can honestly say that the pain is well worth the gain. Peace always comes to me out of the turmoil of those painful experiences.

No matter how steep the path of recovery becomes, He is willing and able (Eph 3:20 ) to keep me climbing. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )

Jesus said, "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 ). "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.' Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good." (Romans 12:20-21 )

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)

Permalink 07:38:13 am, Step(s): 07 Purification, 109 words   English (US)

"Be Clean"

When I humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings, it's gratifying to read God's response to my request in His Holy Word...

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 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. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ). "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 ).

But I must also remember that God will not do these things without my cooperation. I must remember that, in Philippians 2, verse 12 precedes verse 13: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12 ). I must remember that the first part of James 4:7 precedes the second part: "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7 ). So, I no longer question God's willingness and power to save me from those sins that so easily beset me. I only question my willingness to cooperate with Him so that I can become the man that He would have me to be.

"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21 )

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)

08/28/15

Permalink 08:44:23 am, Step(s): 06 Repentance, 355 words   English (US)

Pure Gold

Jesus says, "I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see." (Revelation 3:18 )

When I ask myself, "Do I want God to remove my defects of character?", my first thought is, "Of course I do! Just take them away, Lord!" But, as I continue to ponder Rev 3:18, I realize that there will be pain involved in this transformation of my character. Just as gold is purified with fire, so my character is tried and purified with the fire of trials and affliction. Is that really what I want?!

This makes character transformation harder than it first appears. But wait... is it really...? In holding on to my defects, I sacrifice "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7 ), for temporary pleasure. But, in choosing to let God work in whatever way is best for me (Philippians 2:13 ), I "buy" my eternal happiness by being "tried in the fire" of trials now.

Since the beginning of my recovery (1994), I have many times been through the "fire", and I can testify to you today that the pain is truly worth the gain :-) God is good! "The Lord... is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent." (2 Peter 3:9 ).

The apostle Paul reminds us too, that when the going gets real hard, God carries us: "The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ).

I don't know about you, but I want a character of pure gold, and if that means sacrificing current pleasure for an infinitely bright future, then so be it. Lord, I come to the foot of the cross, asking that your will may be done in my life today...

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13 )

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)

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)

08/07/15

Permalink 07:44:39 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 194 words   English (US)

Abiding with the Good Shepherd

Jesus, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls." (1 Peter 2:24-25 )

As a sinner, I stray away from the Good Shepherd, seeking to do my own thing in my own way. But because He is the Good Shepherd He never stops pursuing me, continually seeking to lead me back to His fold of safety.

Without Him I am powerless and can never find my way back (John 15:5 ). But, because He pursues me, I am able to choose to follow Him. It's that "choosing" that's the hardest part because when temptation comes, it tries to lure me away from the safety of the fold. That "fold" is the place where I trust and obey. It's the place where I choose to follow Him, not knowing what the outcome will be. It's the place where I "die" to my own ideas of how to deal with problems and live with my life hid in Christ -- the Shepherd and Overseer (Bishop) of my life.

The beauty of the "fold" is in its safety and power, because as I choose to do the good that I am unable to do, the Good Shepherd wraps His loving arms around me and gives me strength (Philippians 4:13 ). "For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." (Colossians 3:3 ).

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

Permalink 07:43:16 am, Step(s): 02 "God can...", 423 words   English (US)

Disconnect

In our early years, the only God we knew was our parents. Ideally, parents are servants of God and are godly role models for their children. But, all too often, this is not the case. Many children are seriously abused, even by parents who are professed Christians. As children, we could not readily discern whether our parents were following God, or not, in the way they treated us. In fact, our parents were as gods to us, when we were very young.

As a result, many have grown up with a skewed view of God. But it didn't end there. As we became older, we've seen other professed Christians acting in ways that that just didn't seem right. They may have even been abusive toward us. With all this evil coming at us from role-models that have largely formed our view of God, is it any wonder that so many have turned to gods other than the God of the Bible?

Many spend a lifetime searching for peace and joy in all the wrong places, because of a skewed view of the one and only God who can give them peace, joy, and a life of fulfillment -- the God of the Bible -- the God of true Christianity.

"But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19 ). He says, "... I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Hebrews 13:5 ). "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:11-13 ). "... and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20 ).

With a God like that, maybe it is time to make a disconnect between the behavior of our former (maybe even present) "role-models" and the character of the God of the Bible -- the God of the Universe. The character of this God is what defines the word 'Love'. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:10-24 ), maybe it is time for us to come home to our loving Father who is waiting patiently to see us turn toward Him, so that He can run to us with arms open wide. He longs to envelop us in His love and to cover us with the robe of Christ's righteousness (1 John 1:9 ).

"I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels.
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring,
with plants springing up everywhere."
(Isaiah 61:10-11 )

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)

07/24/15

Permalink 07:44:10 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 182 words   English (US)

"Nothing good lives in me..."

As long as we think we can deal with our behaviors that bring us pain, such as food issues, drugs, alcohol, porn, sick relationships, etc., we just stay on the roller coaster of denial. Like the "prodigal son", who "hit bottom" when he ended up at the hog farm, starving nearly to death (luke 15:11-32 ), many of us have let our issues get so out-of-control that we feel like there is just no way out. But, the irony of recovery is that when our resources run out, when we finally give up on doing things our own way, that's when God is able to step in and do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves.

Like the apostle Paul, it is good for me to admit that "I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t" (Romans 7:18 ). But, when we honestly admit our weakness, Jesus says to us, "Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God" (Mark 10:27 ).

"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)

07/17/15

Permalink 07:58:54 am, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 420 words   English (US)

Show Off or Witness?

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works..." (Matthew 5:16 ).

Now, I don't know about you, but that text scares me. It sounds like Jesus is saying that I should show off to people because my works are really great. But, all my righteousness is as "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6 ). And even if God has blessed me enough to have a light worth shining, I still have a problem with showing off. You see, in my lifetime, I've been exposed to a lot of people who seldom talk about anything other than their "great" accomplishments. And, in my carnal nature, I've done some of that too. Maybe that's why it makes me sick when I hear it now. I guess that's why I consciously resist any urge to talk about any "good" thing I might have done, or said.

But hold on... Is that really what Jesus meant? What about the rest of that text -- "...and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 ). Wow, that changes things... That takes the focus off me and gives glory to God. I'm more comfortable with that. But still, it makes me nervous, because my works really aren't that great. So let's look at another saying of Jesus to see if it helps.

In Mark, chapter 5, the story is told of how Jesus cast a bunch of demons out of this wretched man and into a nearby heard of pigs. Love for Jesus immediately sprung up in this man's heart. He pleaded with Jesus to become one of his disciples. But Jesus said, "No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns[a] of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them." (Mark 5:18-20 ).

That really makes me re-think my position on this. When I consider all that God has done for me during my years of following Him, I have to admit that I really do have some experiences that are worth sharing. My love for Jesus is great, because I have been forgiven much (Luke 7:47 ). The truth is that I am driven to share with others the great things that God has done (and is doing) for me. What about you? Do you also have stories of God's grace and mercy in your life that may inspire others?

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)

Permalink 07:54:46 am, Step(s): 11 Prayer and Meditation, 202 words   English (US)

Never Thirst Again

Like most people, I have thirsted for love, security, self-worth, success, and peace. But, I sought to quench that thirst by looking for these things in all the wrong places.

I drank of self-gratification, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I deny myself, I find self-worth.
I drank of worldly success, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I give for the benefit of others I find true success.
I drank of inappropriate relationships, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I build healthy relationships, I find love.
I drank of the control of myself and others, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I relinquish my "throne" to the Creator, I find peace.
I drank of the accumulation of stuff, but only thirsted for more...
Now as I -- through prayer and meditation -- seek God, I find security.

The deepest thirsting of my soul is quenched by my gracious, loving Lord and Savior, who said: "Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life" (John 4:13-14 ). Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow!

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)

07/03/15

Permalink 07:48:11 am, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 282 words   English (US)

Keep Coming Back!

"The Lord... is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance... Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Beware lest ye..., fall from your own steadfastness." (2 Peter 3:9,14,17 ). "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:8 ).

As a Christian, I have learned many good things about confession, repentance, amends, and perhaps the most important: surrender. But, knowledge isn't enough. God provides the opportunities. He prompts me to action. Then, I must choose to align my will with His and continually seek Him. As a result, He then works in me "to will and to do according to His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12,13 ).

In spite of all of this, when I fail to choose His way, He never leaves me nor forsakes me (Hebrews 13:5 ). All I need to do is admit my mistake to God, and to anyone else (James 5:16 ) I may have wronged. When I do that, God "is faithful and just to forgive [my] sins, and to cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness"! (1 John 1:9 ). Others may, or may not, forgive me. That's between them and God.

After I confess and make amends, I am assured that I have done my part. Since Jesus paid the price (death) for my sin (Romans 6:23 ), God releases me from guilt. Therefore, I choose to reject the temptation to beat myself up for my sins of the past (shame). Instead, I continue to diligently seek God's will, trusting that He still loves me, and is still showing me a better way to live :-)

"And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Romans 12:2 ). "Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18 )

"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)

Permalink 07:38:01 am, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 393 words   English (US)

Amends and Forgiveness

"Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up." (James 4:10 )

Once we've become willing to make amends, it is time to follow through with the next shame-reducing act of actually making amends with those who won't be further damaged by our doing so. I think it important to consider our motives for this communication with those whom we have harmed. Are we truly sorry for what we have done? Or, are we just doing it because we feel pressured to do so? Can we honestly say with the apostle Paul, "I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:20 )? Are we really ready to humbly admit our mistakes to those we have harmed and do what we can to make amends?

Maybe they have also hurt us. Are we ready to forgive our enemy and to extend the first bits of agape love to them, by making amends? (Matthew 5:42-48 ). Note that loving (agape) our enemy does not necessarily mean that we will ever become close (emotional) friends (philia). What it does mean is that we will have unconditional respect, courtesy, and well-wishing for everyone, including those who have harmed us. This is not an emotional response. This is a decision to do, not only what is best for the other person, but what is in our best interest as well. You see, it is never in our best interest to hold grudges and to be unforgiving, because these things destroy the peace is our privilege to enjoy otherwise.

Is it within our power to make the decision to love/forgive our enemies? I would say "Yes". However, I must quickly add that it is NOT likely within our power to carry out that decision. This is where the proper use of our will comes into play, for "with God, all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26 ) (Mark 9:23 ). And, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )

When we make amends, we will likely have fear about the outcome. Will the recipient of our amends lash out at us? Will our reputation suffer? In my personal experience and in the experience of others whom I've discussed this with, there is very seldom a negative outcome. Most people I have written to have not responded at all. But, those who have responded have had a favorable response. To my knowledge, my reputation has not suffered. To the contrary, people seem to appreciate the fact that I take ownership of my mistakes and do what I can to make amends.

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38 )

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)

06/19/15

Permalink 07:57:44 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 460 words   English (US)

Baking Soda & Acidic Shame

It seems to me that there are at least two ways to deal with guilt and shame. The most common method seems to be to just stuff it -- pretend that it never happened. This doesn't seem to work to well, because in our heart of hearts, we know that it did happen, and it never really goes away. There seems to be some evidence that a result of stuffing it is lot like acid, eroding us from the inside out -- emotionally and sometimes even physically. Some claim that there are a number of debilitating diseases largely caused by trying to forget and to conceal the garbage in our lives.

Fortunately, there is a better way. We know that if we confess our sins to God, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness (1 John 1:9 ). But, we also have another shame-reducing tool, called "amends". As we become willing to make amends to those whom we have harmed, we begin to expel more of that acidic shame from our emotional and physical being.

Have you ever used baking soda and water to clean up battery acid? If so, you've seen the rather violent reaction between those two chemicals. And, you've seen the results -- cleaned battery terminals. It is much the same as we become willing to make amends. It can be a violently painful experience, but the result is the neutralization of the acidic shame that we had been harboring. Of course this does not change our history. The deed was still done, but now it becomes easier to forgive ourselves and not let the past control our present and future.

Once I have confessed my sin to God and have done what I can to make amends with those I've harmed, I have no reason to carry guilt and shame any longer. By Jesus' death on that old rugged cross, the penalty was paid for my sin. By that amazing gift He cleanses me of guilt. Then by following Christ's direction in Matthew 5:23,24, I am also cleansed of shame.

If, after that, I still feel shamed, I know that an enemy is tempting me to hold that shame and I must surrender that feeling to God. He is faithful and just to deliver me from even that :-).

"So, if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God" (Matthew 5:23,24 ). There are some, however, that will not reconcile with you. In that case, "do all that you can to live in peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18 ).

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)

06/12/15

Permalink 07:45:13 am, Step(s): 07 Purification, 442 words   English (US)

Create in me a clean heart

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin... Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:1-10 ).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 )

"Christ is the source of every right impulse.
He is the only one that can implant in the heart
enmity against sin. Every desire for truth and purity,
every conviction of our own sinfulness,
is an evidence that His Spirit is moving upon our hearts."
(Steps to Christ, 26)

When I'm entirely ready to have God remove my character defects, it's a natural next-step to ask Him to do it. However, the way He does that is sometimes unexpected and often painful. My tendency is to want God to sprinkle some "pixy dust" on me and POOF, I'm all better! But it hasn't happened to me yet :-) What has happened is according to Hebrews 12:5-11. God has given (and still gives) me consequences for my bad choices. Forgiveness (in my case) seldom removes all the consequences. And I have some doubt that my character would actually be changed much if all consequences were removed. In my estimation, some of the ingredients of character transformation are: consequences, accountability, right choices (strong hard battles with self), and complete reliance upon God for my strength.

... My child,[b] don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes each one he accepts as his child. As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:5-11 )

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)

06/05/15

Permalink 07:50:23 am, Step(s): 06 Repentance, 215 words   English (US)

Repentance

Merriam-Webster defines repentance:
1: to turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one's life.
2 a: to feel regret or contrition. b: to change one's mind.

Repentance can be hard because change is hard. We get comfortable with the way we do things -- the way we live. But, after discovering that some of the ways we've been living are not as it should be, God calls us to repentance -- a willingness to let go of those destructive behaviors, so that God can remove them from our lives.

The apostle Paul said, "... Pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have... For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death." (2 Corinthians 7:9,10 )

Jesus says,"... Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners" (Mark 2:17 ). "... There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!" (Luke 15:7 )

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)

05/29/15

Permalink 08:51:01 am, Step(s): 05 Confession, 307 words   English (US)

Benefits of Confession

After taking an honest inventory of my life, the conviction to accept the truth and honestly confess these things was huge!

  • I must be honest with myself. How can I participate in God's healing process for me if I don't admit my sick condition to myself.
  • I must be honest with God because "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 ).
  • I need to confess to at least one trusted person, so that I can continue in this healing process (Matthew 3:6 )(Acts 19:18 )(James 5:16 ).

The forces of evil desire to hold us in isolation, with the deep, dark secrets of our lives hidden. Why?

  • No accountability.
  • To cause us to think we are the only one with these problems, leading to a greater load of shame.
  • To cause us to think there is no help for us, even that God has abandoned us.
  • To cause us to think that we may as well continue in our dysfunction.

The ancient Christian tradition of confession encourages us to come out of isolation and into the light of God's immeasurable grace by being honest about our true condition.

Being honest is often hard. I don't want to look like I'm a bad person. I want to have a good reputation. But, I've found that the benefits of practicing confession far outweigh the risk of looking bad. Why?

  • My shame is reduced. I experience a tremendous relief once it's over. It's a peace that I cannot experience without confession.
  • There is something about confession that reduces my tendency to make the same mistakes again. I think it has something to do with accountability...
  • I feel like I'm closer to God. I am able to communicate with Him more freely and it seems like His answers are more understandable.

"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 )

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

05/22/15

Permalink 07:50:39 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 200 words   English (US)

Search me...

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24 )

Even though the results are often painful, I need to search my own heart regularly, asking my Creator to show me where I am failing. Without His assistance, It would be easy for me to say, "I'm OK. It's everyone else that's the problem." But, I have to keep reminding myself that it's not my job to take other people's inventory. I need God to search my heart -- to take MY inventory. I need to listen to His evaluation of my life and I need to honestly own my weaknesses and my mistakes.

Yeah, it can be hard, but the alternative is a lot harder. It may seem easier to just stuff my garbage -- pretend it doesn't exist. But, when I do, sooner or later it comes out in destructive ways that damages myself and others. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to take responsibility for my mistakes, deal with them, and move on to a better life.

"Humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (1 Peter 5:6-7 )

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

05/15/15

Permalink 08:23:39 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 597 words   English (US)

Why Surrender to a God Who Lets Bad Things Happen?

The Bible teaches that all things work together for good for those who follow God (Romans 8:28 ). It also says that we should glory in tribulations (Romans 5:3 ). So, how does that work when a loved one is murdered? How does a person, who was molested daily as a child for years, glory in that kind of tribulation? When a person is raped, how does that work together for good? Is God sadistic, or what?

It appears to me that there is a lot of anger towards God in a lot of people, for seemingly good reasons. In Christians, this anger is often hidden -- stuffed down deep inside. It's just not cool to be angry with God, when you're a Christian. But whenever we stuff things that are troubling us, rather than dealing with them, it's like cancer. Those hidden malignant cells grow and grow until we are no longer able to function normally. Eventually, it becomes excruciatingly painful.

We don't want to deal with it, because it's painful to talk about it. But the pain of not dealing with it will eventually overwhelm us. So, why not talk about it? Why not be honest about our relationship with God? My God is big enough to handle being yelled at. When we talk things out with each other, and pray for one another, we come out of isolation. The enemy hates it when that happens because that's when he begins to lose his fiendish grip on us (James 5:16 ).

So, what about a God who lets bad things happen? Why is that? Why doesn't He just zap those murderers, rapists, and pedophiles? Those people are soooo sinful!! What about a God who lets sin happen? Why doesn't He just zap all those sinners? Why doesn't He give them all (Romans 3:23 ) (including you and me) what they deserve -- death -- right now?! (Romans 6:23 ). Why did Jesus humble Himself to become flesh and bones in this sinful world -- forever giving up some of His Divine attributes? Why did He risk His eternal life and die the second death to pay the penalty for my sins, instead of giving me the eternal death that I deserve? Why did He allow sin to raise its ugly head in the first place? And, why, when the great controversy is ended, will sin NEVER EVER raise its ugly head again?

May I suggest that the answer to all of these questions can be summed up in one word? IMHO, the reason is "LOVE". God loves us so much that He values our freedom of choice more than He values His own life.

It is freedom of choice that that allows the rapist, murder, and pedophile to do all their dastardly deeds. It is freedom of choice that has brought all pain and suffering into this world. But, when tribulations come, and God's will is restricted by the evil will of humans and fallen angels, we can be assured that God is suffering right along with us (Matthew 25:40 ). We can be assured that God will do everything He can to bring us out of that tribulation. We can be assured that, if we allow Him, He will deliver us from those sins that so easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1 ). Let us never forget that it is freedom of choice that can bring us out of this world and into Heavenly places. That, my friend, is why I choose to surrender my will to a God who lets bad things happen. My God not only loves, but His character is what defines love. That's my God!!

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

05/08/15

Permalink 08:01:17 am, Step(s): 02 "God can...", 355 words   English (US)

Sanity

Having been in recovery since 1994, I have to wonder if God has restored me to sanity yet. What exactly does it mean to be sane? Albert Einstein once defined insanity as, "Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results." I sure did a lot of that while practicing my addictions, but am I still living my life like that? By God's grace and power, I no longer practice my addictions, but does that make me sane?

Is there anyone that is sane that I can compare my life to? Well, there may be others, but the only person I know for sure that is sane is Jesus. And, when I compare my life with His, I come up wanting... So, does this mean that God hasn't restored me to sanity, as I hoped for?

I don't think sanity is like a light switch that's either on or off, but more like a light control that God turns (with our cooperation) from darkness to more and more light. When I look at it that way, I can honestly say that God is restoring me to sanity, and this is greatly encouraging :-) But, unlike the light control on my wall, God's "light control" has no limit as to the brightness of light (sanity) that can be dialed up.

So, am I sane or not? Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe a better question would be, "Am I continually allowing God to turn up the "light" of my sanity?" When I look at it that way, I see that it's really about my own choices. God isn't the limiting factor. He's cranking that "light control" up, giving me as much "light" as I will accept. It's me that that limits the "light" of God's sanity in my life, by my poor choices. And it's me that allows God to improve my saneness, as I choose to trust and obey Him.

Even when I don't have the power to trust and obey, somehow God makes it all possible, as I choose to trust and obey Him. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

"For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2Corinthians 4:6 ). "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7 )

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)

Permalink 07:59:32 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 482 words   English (US)

Powerless Honesty

I'm a pretty healthy guy. I eat well, like to hike the mountains, and often do tasks around the our one-acre home that require a good deal of muscle power. But, a few years ago, due to over-confidence in my power, I pulled a muscle in my lower-back. All of a sudden, I realized just how fragile my "power" is. Even the simplest of tasks became difficult. Working out at the gym became impossible. Walking was slow and arduous. Even the simple task of tying my shoes was barely possible. I had to admit my powerlessness and ask my family and my chiropractor for help. This sudden change from power to powerlessness resulted from overconfidence in my ability. I'm thankful that my body healed, but it took at least a month.

Have you ever been over confident in your power to do the right thing, or to not do the wrong thing then, all of a sudden, find yourself failing and falling? I have. Have you ever been over confident in your ability to control people or things and then all of a sudden find those people rebel against your control and/or find things falling apart. I have. I think it's human nature (especially for men) to want to be in control of people around us, of things, and of our behaviors. But, in our over confidence, we often find our "kingdom" slipping out of our control.

Jesus said, "... without Me, you can do nothing" (John 15:5 ).

The irony is that as long as we hold on to that allusion of power our lives tend to become more and more out of control. And, at some point, we sink so low that we begin to admit just how fragile and powerless we really are. We begin to realize that our lives have become unmanageable. Just as my pulled muscle disabled my whole body, the realization of my true condition of powerlessness can disable my whole emotional being.

"Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results" (James 5:16 ). "if we confess our sins to [God], he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness" (1 John 1:9 ). "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13 ).

For some, who haven't found this hope, the realization of powerlessness can lead to physical self-destruction. But there IS hope. When we learn to be honest about our problems and we admit our powerlessness over them, we are then able to reach out to God and trusted friends for help. That's how our healing begins. It takes time. Be patient with yourself. I've been in recovery since 1994 and I wouldn't trade my recovery experience for anything. "It works if you work it, and YOU ARE WORTH IT!"

"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)

04/24/15

Permalink 07:41:21 am, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 543 words   English (US)

Why Choose God?

"For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10 )

When we begin on our road to recovery/sanctification, we may have some serious reservations about God, often because of people in authority who have let us down, or even abused us. They may have even been people who should have been Godly examples to us. As a result, we tend to see God in the same light. But as we progress through the recovery process and begin to experience positive results, the God of our understanding gradually changes. We come to know and love the God of infinite love and compassion.

Instead of dwelling on questions like, "Why did God allow these bad things to happen to me?" we become thankful that He is always present with us, especially when bad things happen, protecting us from even worse things, and holding us in His arms of loving kindness. We begin to dwell more on questions like, "How could God love me so much that He would risk His eternal life by dying on the cruel cross to save a wretch like me?" Instead of seeing God as a tyrant, through those who have abused us, we begin to see Him more as the God who loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 ), who will never leave us, nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5 ). We begin to see God as the one who will ultimately take us out of this world of sin and death, and give us eternal life with him.

Instead of seeing God as vindictive, wanting to punish us for our sins, we begin to see Him as the one who died a cruel death on the Roman cross to pay the penalty for our sins. And, just as He had victory over the grave and lives again, so does He now live to give us victory over our behaviors that bring us so much pain. Of course, we do have a part to play, not in paying the price of our sins, but in cooperating with God as He offers deliverance from our sins. As we choose to serve God; as we choose to give Him our will, in times of trial and temptation, we thereby die to our own selfish desires. As a result, He can then raise us to newness of life by giving us the victory over those sins that have so easily beset us in the past.

And, not only in times of trial and temptation is He there for us, but throughout each and every day He is ever sending us messages through our thoughts to help us with even the smallest of challenges and choices that come our way. He doesn't do this to control us. No, He only wants to help make life better for us. Whether we choose to die to our preferences and live to His infinite wisdom is totally up to us. No matter what we choose to do or say, He is always there to lead us and guide us in the best possible direction, which we would choose anyway, if we knew the beginning from the end, as He does.

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3 )

With a God like this, why wouldn't we want to pursue this process of sanctification? Why wouldn't we want to share this Good News with others?

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)

04/17/15

Permalink 09:21:03 am, Step(s): 11 Prayer and Meditation, 272 words   English (US)

"What would you have me to do?"

I have discovered that prayer, meditation, and a conscious contact with God need not end with my morning devotions. More and more in my work and relationships I realize the value of continuing to seek the will of God, as I make the many choices that each day requires. So today I'd like to share some practical ways in which I maintain contact with God and seek His will in my daily life.

In my work, I often find myself stuck trying to resolve a seemingly insurmountable problem. In times like this, I claim the promise, "If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking" (James 1:5 ). Then, like Saul in his hour of calamity, I pray, "... Lord, what would you have me to do? ..." (Acts 9:6 ). Then, as I think through that problem again, the solutions eventually begin to come. I don't always realize it at first, but later, it occurs to me that my prayers were answered. That's when I praise God and give Him thanks and honor.

In my relationships, things always go better when, rather than venting my frustrations (or stuffing them), I surrender myself to God and ask for wisdom and strength to make better choices in dealing with difficult situations. A good example of this is that day when I received a "Rude Email"...

I invite you today, to claim the promises of God, as you surrender your heart to Him and see for yourself just how much better your day will go. May God richly bless you, is my prayer, in Jesus name, amen.

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)

04/10/15

Permalink 09:44:13 am, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 498 words   English (US)

Jesus Was Tempted -- Just Like Me

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." (1 John 1:10 ). "My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous." (1 John 2:1 ). "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 )

This is why I need to continue to take personal inventory, promptly admitting my mistakes. Even though I've been in recovery for many years, and I don't do the things I once did, I still make mistakes. I'm still a sinner. Inappropriate thoughts may come to me at anytime, tempting me to all sorts of actions and/or thoughts. But is that sin, temptation, or both?

"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 ). This is good news. Apparently it's OK, even to be expected, that temptation will come regularly. But what should I do when it is pressing down on me? "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16 ). When I do this, I can claim the promise, "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). Just as my Example and Savior had the victory over every temptation by surrendering His will to his Father's, so do I have the victory when I surrender my will to God's, and trust in His promises of deliverance.

But when does it become sin? When does it become a mistake that I need to promptly admit? For me, it becomes sin if I entertain the temptation, rather than surrendering it to God. Oftentimes, it becomes sin even before I even realize that I was being tempted. One way this happens is when someone (usually one of my kids) says or does something that ticks me off. My tendency is to react without thinking things through and realizing that I'm being tempted to an inappropriate response.

When this happens, not only should I promptly admit it, but I also need to consider why this caught me by surprise. I can think of two possibilities.

1) If this type of reaction (behavior) is so ingrained in me that I habitually do it, I need to go back to Step 1 -- admit my powerlessness -- and continue on through the following steps of recovery to deal with this.

2) It may be that I'm not as in tune with the voice of God, through my conscience, as I thought I was. If this is the case, it would be a strong symptom of my lack of commitment to quality one-on-one time with God. The solution really isn't that complicated. I just need to spend more time in prayer and Bible study.

By beholding God, we become more like Him. As a result, we are much less likely to "go off half-cocked". "For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image." (2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ). May it so be in my life, and in yours, today.

"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)

04/03/15

Permalink 10:19:28 am, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 545 words   English (US)

Never Make Amends Again

In considering the making of amends, I think it prudent to also consider what core attitudes and beliefs led me to do what I now need to make amends for. In other words, I want to know what attitude and beliefs I should have in order to prevent myself from doing (or saying) stuff that I will be sorry for later.

One time, for family worship, we read a story about a couple teenagers -- Howie and Joe. Howie had a summer job, but Joe convinced Howie to take the bus with him (using Howie's money) to another town where he promised that a job would be waiting for them, with his uncle. Howie reluctantly agreed, only to find out that Joe's uncle had no work for them and didn't want them hanging around. Then Joe convinced Howie to pay his bus fare to go home (there wasn't enough money for 2 tickets), promising to mail money back to Howie when he got home. Of course, the money never came. Worse yet, Howie couldn't find work, and nearly starved before money arrived from his dad.

My first thought was that Howie was very gullible and shouldn't have let Joe take advantage of him like that. But the rest of the story was that God miraculously provided for Howie's basic needs throughout this ordeal. So, why did God do that, considering Howie's foolishness, in letting Joe take advantage of him? I suppose there could several answers to that question. After all, God is all-loving and not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9 ).

In considering what we (or Howie) should do when people mistreat us, who better to ask than Jesus? Here are some interesting comments of His (Luke 6:27-38 ):

  • Love your enemies
  • Do good to those who hate you
  • Bless them that curse you
  • Unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other
  • If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt too
  • Give to everyone that asks, expecting nothing in return
  • Treat others as you would have them treat you
  • Judge not; condemn not; forgive; give; be merciful
  • Be kind to the unthankful and to the evil

This is so contrary to our culture. But, as a result of all this selflessness, Jesus makes some really great promises to us (Luke 6:35-38 ):

  • Your reward will be great
  • You will be children of the Most High
  • When you give, it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
  • with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

I'm pretty sure that, if I were to follow this advice, I would never have need to make amends again. But if I fail to do that, this same counsel that Jesus gave us, will lead me to make amends as needed.

But, you may say, "it's just not in me to be so utterly selfless. How can I possibly become as Jesus directs?" I would say, "We don't get there all at once." "Sanctification is the progressive work of a lifetime" (Ellen White -- Selected Messages, Vol 3, 202.3). And these 12 Steps are a working framework for that process, and so is the little book "Steps to Christ".

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)

03/27/15

Permalink 09:36:27 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 359 words   English (US)

Sawdust, Wood, & Forgiveness

" 1 "Do not judge others. Then you will not be judged. 2 You will be judged in the same way you judge others. You will be measured in the same way you measure others.

3 "You look at the bit of sawdust in your friend's eye. But you pay no attention to the piece of wood in your own eye. 4 How can you say to your friend, 'Let me take the bit of sawdust out of your eye'? How can you say this while there is a piece of wood in your own eye?

5 "You pretender! First take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you will be able to see clearly to take the bit of sawdust out of your friend's eye." (Matthew 7:1-5 )

This is a hard lesson to learn. I've spent most of my life trying to extract the sawdust in your eye -- telling you what's wrong with you -- while ignoring the chunk of wood in my own eye -- my own issues. I'm beginning to learn to deal with my own stuff. And, one of the ways I do that is to consider all those whom I have harmed and become willing to make amends to them.

Rather than judging their misbehavior and their motives, I must choose to forgive them for what they have done to me, while relying on God to give me an heart of forgiveness. This is important because there is no way that I can make effective amends with someone that I won't forgive.

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14,15 )

Looking at this from the positive side, it becomes a win-win-win situation:

  • Win 1: When I forgive you, it frees God to forgive me.
  • Win 2: When I am forgiven, it gives me the freedom and peace I need to become willing to make amends with you.
  • Win 3: When I make amends with you, then you are more likely to forgive me, and thereby be forgiven by God as well.

As this healthy cycle of forgiveness and amends continues, love grows where hatred once flourished and we become more and more able to help each other, in healthy and loving ways, with those remaining splinters...

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)

03/20/15

Permalink 08:36:29 am, Step(s): 07 Purification, 381 words   English (US)

The Laws of Love in Your Heart

"I will sprinkle clean water on you... Your filth will be washed away... I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart... I will put My Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and... obey my regulations... I will cleanse you of your filthy behavior..." (Ezekiel 36:25-29 ) NLT. "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;" (Hebrews 10:16 )(Hebrews 8:10 ).

Intellectually, I know God's law is the law of love, and I assent to it. but my heart has been stony cold. Like the man of Romans 7 (Rom 7:14-23 ), my character is defective. I need the love of God written on my heart -- in my character. And so, I ask myself, "How can I cooperate with God's love? How can I give Him permission to remove my defects of character? How does He do that? What will it cost me? And, am I entirely ready to let God do this work of transformation in my heart. How do I become that intimate with God?"

I believe that it "boils down" to how honest I am, about my weaknesses, with myself, God and others. And, do I really trust God enough to fully surrender to Him and to His will when He calls to my heart? Recognizing my powerlessness, Am I willing to be "crucified" to self and alive to Christ (Galatians 2:20 )? Will I say, "Lord what would you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6 ) And then, will I choose to obey, knowing that: "The temptations in [my] life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than [I] can stand. When [I am] tempted, he will show [me] a way out so that [I] can endure." (1 Cor 10:13 )

Each time I practice these principles, not only does He give me the victory (Praise God!), but I also believe that He writes more of His laws of love in my heart, in my character. Those new behaviors of love become part of who I am (an heart of flesh) and those old behaviors of selfishness (stony heart) become less of who I am. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17 ) May it be so in my life and in yours...

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 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. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you." (Ezekiel 36:25-27,29 )

"Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings." (Step 7)

03/13/15

Permalink 08:19:11 am, Step(s): 06 Repentance, 419 words   English (US)

Letting Go of the Old Man

I need often to consider if I really am ready for God to remove ALL my defects of character.

"With the Lord’s authority I [Paul] say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes" (Ephesians 4:17-23 ).

"But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him" (Colossians 3:8-10 ).

"We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires" (Romans 6:6-12 ).

The question remaining is, am I willing to cooperate with God in this process of dying to my old ways that bring only pain and learning (by God's grace and power) to live as a new creature in Christ. "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2 Cor 5:17 )

I want less and less of the old man holding me back and bringing me pain and grief, and more and more of the new man, allowing God to bring me peace and joy. How about you?

"Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character." (Step 6)

03/06/15

Permalink 08:19:58 am, Step(s): 05 Confession, 409 words   English (US)

We Are As Sick As Our Secrets

"We are as sick as our secrets. Our ego takes over control of our lives and when that happens our minds get very sick. Then we hurt people and our minds will always justify our actions. Our minds will give us rationalization and excuses that we are justified in doing what we are doing." (Audrey Shenandoah, a member of the Native American tribe: Onondaga)

"People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy." (Proverbs 28:13 )

I was a master at keeping the real me concealed from most everyone who knew me. But those deep, dark secret areas of my life were eroding my mind, my soul, and likely my body as well. As long as I was unwilling to be honest about what I was really like, what I was really feeling, my life only got worse.

But as a result of a deep moral inventory, I began to admit to myself just how much garbage had collected in my soul. And, not only did I cry out to God in contrition and confession (1 John 1:9 ), but I also became more and more convicted that I must confess my faults to another human being (James 5:16 ).

This was probably the most painful time of my life. I don't know who coined the phrase "No Pain, No Gain", but I've found it true in so many areas of my life -- especially when it comes to recovery. I testify to you today that "gain" in cooperating with God has been much more than, worth the pain of surrender.

It wasn't until I began to be honest with myself, with God, and with at least one other human being that my healing began. We are promised that we will be healed as we confess our faults to one another and pray for one another (James 5:16 ), and I've found this to be true.

But at that time, I did not know that relief would come as a result of my confession. I only knew that I had a deep conviction that I must do it. Satan wants to hold us in bondage through our isolation. He knows that if we let our secrets out, he will begin to lose his hold on us. Friend, I invite you now to break satan's hold on you by entering into this ancient Christian tradition of confession. "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)

02/27/15

Permalink 08:18:14 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 285 words   English (US)

Healthy Moral Inventory

"There's nothing wrong with me. It's everyone else that's messed up!" Have you ever seen that kind of attitude in others? Have you ever felt that way yourself? I sure have -- on both accounts.

It's easy to compare ourselves with what we see in other people. When we do that, it may temporarily make us feel better about ourselves. So, we rationalize more and more of our bad behaviors. Since "Joe Blow is a lot worse than me", I must be OK. But this arrogant way of thinking is not helpful to our relationships or to our sense of well-being.

When I consider the pure life of Christ and His great moral standard written in His Holy Law, my life doesn't look so good. It is only with this perspective that I can begin to judge my true moral condition.

Of course, there is danger in this approach too. When I realize just how far I am from being like Jesus, it can be a real downer. The powers of evil would love to take this opportunity to sink me into depression and to trigger even worse behavior, pulling me even further from Jesus. But that is not what we need.

There's a ditch on both sides of the road. We need to stay out of both the ditch of complacency and the ditch of depression. So, what would be the middle-of-the-road approach? I need to be aware of my strengths and my weaknesses and deal with them in healthy ways. By God's grace and power, He can turn my weaknesses into strengths. That's why He said, "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9 ).

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?" (Hebrews 12:1-7 )

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

02/19/15

Permalink 06:50:28 pm, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 177 words   English (US)

"The Divine Principle of Cooperation"

Step 3 is all about what one author calls, "the divine principle of co-operation, without which no true success can be attained" (PK 486-487). I mark the start of my recovery at the time that I began to understand and practice this principle.

The great deceiver would have us either do it our way, relying on our own strength. Or, he would have us think that God will do all for us, without our cooperation. I see these as the deceiver's two deep ditches on either side of the straight and narrow road of sanctification ("the progressive work of a lifetime"), leading to a life of peace, joy, fulfillment, and love -- but not without trials and temptations :-)

Here are some supporting Bible texts:

  • "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me." (John 5:30 )
  • "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5 )
  • "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )
  • "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:" (1 Thes 4:3 )

Maybe another way to phrase this would be, "Divine behavior modification therapy". Whatever we call it, I can't live a worthwhile life without it!

Here is a detailed study about will power with my personal testimony of how this divine principle of cooperation works, along with a printable study-guide.

"Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him." (Step 3)

02/13/15

Permalink 08:10:52 am, Step(s): 02 "God can...", 160 words   English (US)

Lord Have Mercy

"And, behold, two blind men sitting by the way side, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David. And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him." (Matthew 20:30-34 )

Just as our gentle, loving Savior opened the eyes of these blind men, so does His amazing grace work in our hearts to restore us to sanity as we recognize our powerlessness and persistently pursue His healing touch. But, it is so often the case that we have not because we ask not (James 4:2 ). Jesus says, "ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24 ). "For with God nothing shall be impossible." (Luke 1:37 )

It is hard to admit my powerlessness and then humble myself further to ask for help from my Higher Power. My human tendency is to want to be the master of my own destiny. But, I've come to realize that this pompous attitude got me into my helpless state in the first place. So, it certainly is not going to save me now. It is only as I humbly submit myself to God -- seeking His will -- that I have any hope at all of restoration.

"Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father: To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Galatians 1:3-5 )

"Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." (Step 2)

02/06/15

Permalink 08:59:50 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 269 words   English (US)

I Can Do Nothing of Myself

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalms 51:5 ). "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24 ). Though sinless, Jesus said that even He "can do nothing of himself" (John 5:19 ), so why do I pretend that I'm OK? Why do I think that, after being saved by Grace, I can now live my life on my own? Why do I think that I can be the master of my own destiny?

For 25 years, I insanely fought my sinful nature in the same way -- expecting different results every time temptation came. But, just has 2+2=4 -- every time I figure it -- so did I continue to get the same results -- failure, guilt, and shame -- every time I tried to solve my problems MY way. I thought I could fight it myself. I thought God would give me more strength of will so that I could have the victory in MY strength. But, I continued to get the same results -- wretched failure.

It was only when I began to accept the impossibility of having enough strength to fight this on my own, honestly admitting my need, that I was ready to accept the power of God in my life to give me victory over those sins that so easily beset me. It was only when I began to accept that I am a wretched creature that a path to healing began to open up to me. I began to find a new way to use my will power -- not so much in fighting, but more in trusting the Highest Power to lead me in the paths of righteousness. To Him, I give all the honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

"We admitted we were powerless over our problems, that our lives had become unmanageable." (Step 1)

01/30/15

Permalink 08:25:35 am, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 115 words   English (US)

Why Practice These Principles?

In my humble opinion, the Biblical principles of sanctification/recovery provide a road map to spiritual and emotional wellness. In my own experience, these principles have been, and continue to be, my most valuable resource in building a saving relationship with God, and in building closer personal relationships with my family and others.

Because of this, I cannot help but witness to others of my wonderful Savior, who not only continues to save a wretch like me, but who also gives power to overcome as I surrender to His will and His Lordship in my life. My desire is to choose surrender more and follow my own foolish pathways less. How about you?

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:" (John 1:12 )

"And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death." (Revelation 12:11 )

"Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others, and to practice these principles in all our affairs." (Step 12)

01/23/15

Permalink 08:38:25 am, Step(s): 11 Prayer and Meditation, 616 words   English (US)

My Father's Love Letter

My Child…

You may not know me, but I know everything about you (Psalm 139:1 ). I know when you sit down and when you rise up (Psalm 139:2 ). I am familiar with all your ways (Psalm 139:3 ). I even number the very hairs on your head (Matthew 10:29-31 ), for you were made in my image (Genesis 1:27 ).

In me you live and move and have your being, for you are my offspring (Acts 17:28 ). I knew you even before you were conceived (Jeremiah 1:4-5 ). I chose you when I planned creation (Ephesians 1:11-12 ). I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live (Acts 17:26 ). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14 ). I knit you together in your mother's womb. (Psalm 139:13 ) and brought you forth on the day you were born (Psalm 71:6 ).

I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me (John 8:41-44 ), but I am not distant and angry. I am the complete expression of love (1 John 4:16 ) and it is my desire to lavish my love on you simply because you are my child and I am your father (1 John 3:1 ).

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could (Matthew 7:11 ) for I am the perfect father (Matthew 5:48 ). Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand (James 1:17 ), for I am your provider and I meet all your needs (Matthew 6:31-33 ).

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11 ), because I love you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3 ). My thoughts toward you are as countless as the sand on the seashore (Psalm 139:17-18 ) and I rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17 ).

I will never stop doing good things for you (Jeremiah 32:40 ), for you are my treasured possession (Exodus 19:5 ). I desire to establish you with all my heart and all my soul (Jeremiah 32:41 ) and I want to show you great and marvelous things (Jeremiah 33:3 ).

If you seek for me with all your heart, you will find me (Deuteronomy 4:29 ). Delight in me and I will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4 ), for it is I who gave you those desires (Philippians 2:13 ).

I am able to do more for you than you could possibly imagine (Ephesians 3:20 ) for I am your greatest encourager (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 ). I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 ). When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you (Psalm 34:18 ). As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart (Isaiah 40:11 ).

One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes and I'll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth (Revelation 21:3-4 ).

I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son Jesus (John 17:23 ), for in Jesus, my love for you is revealed (John 17:26 ). He is the exact representation of my being (Hebrews 1:3 ). He came to demonstrate that I am for you, not against you (Romans 8:31 ) and to tell you that I am not counting your sins (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ).

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 ). His death was the ultimate expression of my love for you (1 John 4:10 ). I gave up everything I loved that I might gain your love (Romans 8:31-32 ). If you receive the gift of my son Jesus, you receive me (1 John 2:23 ) and nothing will ever separate you from my love again (Romans 8:38-39 ).

Come home and I'll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen (Luke 15:7 ). I have always been Father, and will always be Father (Ephesians 3:14-15 ). My question is this: “Will you be my child?” (John 1:12-13 ). I am waiting for you (Luke 15:11-32 ).

Love, Dad - the Everlasting Father - the Prince of Peace - the Almighty God.

-Anonymously compiled

"Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out." (Step 11)

01/15/15

Permalink 09:14:54 pm, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 448 words   English (US)

Reassessment

A wise person once said that it is not the occasional deed, or misdeed, that determines our destiny. Rather, it is the general direction of our life.

When I make a mistake -- when I stumble and fall -- the temptation is to think that I've lost my salvation and that I may as well just continue down that evil path. But that really is just a temptation, from a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8 ) that has no teeth! The truth is that "The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy... The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him... He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust." (Psalm 103:8-14 ).

I need not buy into the enemy's lie, because "the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him" (Psalm 103:17 ). And I do fear and honor God. I do love Him and want to serve Him with all my heart. So, when I sometimes mess up, it's not because I want to turn away from Him. It's because I failed to surrender to Him in the moment of temptation. There really is a difference.

So, what do I do when I fail? I promptly admit my mistake, apologize where needed, and move on with life. But, some may ask, is it really that simple? My answer is, It's only that simple if don't want to call God a lier, when he said, "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 ) Rather than believing the father of lies, I choose to believe my loving Heavenly Father of mercy and love.

8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
10 He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
12 He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
13 The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
14 For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.
15 Our days on earth are like grass;
like wildflowers, we bloom and die.
16 The wind blows, and we are gone—
as though we had never been here.
17 But the love of the Lord remains forever
with those who fear him.
His salvation extends to the children’s children
18 of those who are faithful to his covenant,
of those who obey his commandments!
(Psalm 103:8-18 ) NLT

"Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it." (Step 10)

01/09/15

Permalink 10:27:55 am, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 518 words   English (US)

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

My carnal nature drives me to be a troublemaker. I have strong opinions. I want others to agree with me, but this attitude is rebuked by Jesus, when He said, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:9,23,24 )

When I make appropriate amends, it brings peace between me and God as well as the satisfaction of knowing that I've finally done the right thing. It is a tremendous relief from guilt, shame, and remorse. This peace sometimes includes a restoration of a favorable relationship between me and another person. But it never includes an erasing from my memory, or the memory of others, of past mistakes. Those serve (among other things) to remind us that without God, we can do nothing (John 15:4,5 ). And, in my opinion, that's good.

David said, "... I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me" (Ps. 51:3 ). Humility, in my opinion, was one of David's greatest traits of character. Even though he sinned greatly, he was willing to humble himself and to admit his mistakes. Humility is something that I was only starting to learn as I began to make amends in earnest. But, I've been grateful to discover that, as I choose to be lead of God, He works in me to do what I can not do without Him (Philippians 2:13 ).

Making amends is hard. I really don't like to do it. So, when I am tempted to arrogantly insist upon my own way, I choose instead to acknowledge and surrender those feelings and ask God to help me to be a peacemaker instead. When I do that, I find that God honors my decision, softens my heart, and assists me in changing my attitude.

When we make a mistake and amends are needed, There are at least four categories (identified in the book "Steps to Serenity") of people that we should consider: 1) People who are close to us (family, close friends, etc.) to whom we can go to immediately. 2) Those to whom, for many possible reasons, only partial disclosure should be made. 3) For some, we may need to wait awhile before attempting amends. Maybe I need to give them and/or myself some time to "cool off". 4) Those whom we should never contact. This could be the case for certain types of relationships that should not be restored.

I remember a letter that I wrote to an individual that I just couldn't bring myself to deliver. So, I asked a pastor friend to help me. Looking back I see this as one of the smartest things I've ever done. I felt a great need to make amends. But, what I didn't understand, was that amends should NOT be made when to do so would injure others. I am grateful to this trusted friend for pointing out to me that this particular amends would not be beneficial to anyone, but would instead be harmful to several. I do think that it was important for me to write the letter. I also think that it was good for me to share that letter confidentially with a trusted friend. But, to go any further than that would have been a mistake.

"Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others." (Step 9)

01/02/15

Permalink 09:11:41 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 477 words   English (US)

Making Amends -- A good decision?

When conviction comes that I have wronged someone, the temptation is to argue with that conviction. Maybe (I think to myself) what I did/said was justified by the circumstances. Maybe that other person deserved what I did/said to them. Maybe that person also wronged me, and my lack of forgiveness toward that person is blinding me to the fact that I too was wrong and need to make amends.

The real question is, am I willing to do what Jesus said? "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift." (Matthew 5:23-24 ). Zacchaeus must have recognized the importance of this step when he said, "... Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold" (Luke 19:8 ).

Do I trust God enough to let Him "both to will and to do of his good pleasure" in my life? (Philippians 2:13 ). Will the pain of obedience result in something good for me? Will making amends make me a better person? Am I so committed to recovery that I will do whatever it takes to become a person of integrity -- a person that others can trust?

When I first practiced this step, I was scared, very scared, because I had to face up to some really bad things that I had done. I spent many tear-filled hours agonizing with God to help me to come to the place of being willing to make amends. I had no idea how these people would react to my acknowledgment of wrong doing, and to my apologies. I was about to put myself into a place of vulnerability, and it was very uncomfortable. But I knew, that in order to continue in my recovery process, I must become willing to do what ever it takes to cooperate with God as He worked to repair my broken life. Would these people whom I have wronged accept my amends, or would they reject me and crush me even further. Would it even be appropriate to contact all of these people? For now, I just needed to decide whether I am willing - no matter what the consequences would be. Do I really believe that God will only lead me in ways that I would choose to be led, if I could see the end from the beginning, as He can?

I praise God that I did decide to make amends, no matter what the cost. Even now, looking back at that decision, I have no regrets. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Only one question remains: If God is convicting you to make amends, do you trust Him enough to see you through this challenging time, and to do what He is asking of you? Will you surrender your will to His, trusting that it is for your ultimate good?

"Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all." (Step 8)

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