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Archives for: December 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)

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