Archives for: 2016

07/09/16

Permalink 08:57:48 pm, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 151 words   English (US)

Reconciliation

"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer each one." (Colossians 4:5,6 )

It seems to me that there are at least three ways in which I need to be reconciled in the process making amends.

First, I need to be reconciled to God. Without this, I have little reason to pursue recovery. Without Him, I am powerless to do any good thing (John 5:30 ) (John 15:4,5 ). And because "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 )

Second, part of what being reconciled to God means, is to actually do what He says (John 14:15 ). And one thing that He says is "If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught 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 ). So, whenever possible and appropriate, I need to make amends to those whom I have offended -- with the hope of reconciling that broken relationship, where appropriate and when the other person is willing.

"If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men." (Romans 12:18 )

Third, knowing that I have done all that I can do to reconcile myself to God and with others, I can then have the peace that comes from reconciling myself with my own conscience. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7 )

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

06/24/16

Permalink 08:06:41 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 306 words   English (US)

Amends and Forgiveness

Early in my recovery process, God laid on my heart many situations for which I needed to make amends. Even though it was a very painful process to go through, I felt much better about myself for making the list and following through with the amends. Since that time I have continued to take personal inventory, and when I was wrong, promptly (well, usually I've been prompt :-) admitted it -- once I recognized my mistake.

But when it's me that has been wronged, am I able to see whether or not I have anything to make amends for in that situation? I think that sometimes I may be unable to see my own mistakes through the pain that I suffer as a result of other people's words and/or actions. This may be where forgiveness comes into play. I doubt whether I can truly make amends in the case where I have not forgiven that person for what they have done to wound me.

"forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye:" (Colossians 3:13 )

There could be other times when I am over-sensitive to my actions and may choose to make amends when no amends are needed. This is less-likely, but I need to be careful to seek, and to stay in, God's will.

I'm coming to believe that forgiving doesn't mean excusing or forgetting the wrong. And it doesn't mean a removal of consequences. But it does mean a change of attitude on my part. It means that I begin to wish the offender well. It means that I pray that my offender may find healing through recovery, so that they may find the peace and joy that I am finding in the Lord. It means that I want to see my offender as an erring child of God, such as I. It means... that I am becoming willing to make amends.

"For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matthew 6:14 )

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

06/17/16

Permalink 09:13:26 am, Step(s): 07 Purification, 276 words   English (US)

Humble Submission to God

"Now, no discipline is pleasant, but God's discipline is for my own good, so that I may be a partaker of His holiness, thereby bearing the peaceful fruit of righteousness." (Hebrews 12:1-11 -- paraphrased by Sid).

"Since so many have gone before me, participating in the life-changing experience of recovery in the Lord, it behooves me to learn how to lay my issues at the foot of the cross, and look to Jesus for my deliverance.

When I think of Jesus, I see a man who endured much harder trials and temptations than I ever have. He endured all this hardship for the joy of knowing that as a result of His sacrifice, I would have the opportunity for an eternal life of peace and happiness with Him. When tempted to think that I have it bad, I remind myself that I have never resisted temptation to the degree of sweating great drops of blood, as did Jesus.

Neither should I despise the discipline of God, because He does it out of His infinitely pure love for me. As I am teachable in this discipline, God deals with me as His child. But if I refuse His discipline, I become more like a bastard than a child of God.

My earthly parents disciplined me according to their limited understanding, and out of their dysfunctional past, and maybe even for their own pleasure, yet I gave them respect and learned from them. How much more then should I respect and honor the infinitely wise Creator God who loves me so much that He gave His only Son to die for me that I may have life eternal?

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

05/20/16

Permalink 08:29:55 am, Step(s): 06 Repentance, 157 words   English (US)

Yielded to His Power

"What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein? Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him by the likeness of his death, we shall be also by the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin; for he that hath died is justified from sin." (Romans 6:1-7 )

So, I have to ask myself, "Is my 'old man' crucified with Christ?" Repentance calls us to full consecration to God and His leading because "half measures availed us nothing" (Alcoholics Anonymous p. 59). Andrew Murray described this commitment as the key to a Spirit-filled life, when he said, "Being filled with the Holy Spirit is simply this -- having my whole nature yielded to His power. When the whole soul is yielded to the Holy Spirit, God Himself will fill it." (Absolute Surrender p. 12)

Isn't it time "that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, which waxeth corrupt after the lusts of deceit; and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth." (Ephesians 4:22-24 ). Of course, to let go of those old dependencies is easier said than done. But, as I consider the way God has stepped in to help me whenever I surrender to Him in the moment of temptation, I continue to move forward in faith, trusting that He will never ask me to do anything that He will not provide a way for me to accomplish. (1 Cor 10:13 )

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

05/13/16

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

What Went Wrong?

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

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

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

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

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

05/06/16

Permalink 08:34:10 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 353 words   English (US)

The Illumination of Introspection

A friend of mine tells the story of a farmer who has just spent the entire day working his fields on his tractor. It was a long, hot, day for the farmer, and since his tractor had no cab, he was covered with dirt. He had worked well past dusk, and parked his tractor out in the barn. So now, he has only the faint light from the farmhouse windows to lead him home. He begins to notice that he is dirty and so dusts himself off. But, as he gets closer and closer to the light, he sees more and more just how dirty he has become, all along, continuing to dust himself off, as best he can.

So it is with life. For years and years, as many of us have acted in foolishness, we have accumulated more and more "dirt". As we moved deeper and deeper into our destructive behaviors, darkness came in to hide from us the reality of just how "dirty" we really were. Then, as we engage in the process of sanctification by admitting powerlessness (John 5:19,30 ) and His all-powerfulness (John 15:5 ) and start to surrender our will and our life to Him (Acts 9:1-6 ), we begin to walk toward the light of Heaven. In so doing, we now begin to see more and more just how "dirty" we have become (the illumination of introspection). More and more, we come out of denial about our true condition. More and more, God gives us the grace and strength (1 Corinthians 10:13 ) to, not only understand, but to also deal with (dust off), the deep, dark, issues in our lives.

Even though it has been painful for me to go through this process (since I've been very 'dirty'), I praise God for introspection because the grace of God is much more abundant than ALL of our sins (Romans 5:20 ). As I have been learning to cooperate with Him, He continues to "dust me off" and to bring me closer and closer to the light of Heaven, through Jesus Christ my Savior. My prayer is that it may be so for you too.

"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes: but the LORD weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established." (Proverbs 16:2-3 )

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

04/29/16

Permalink 08:15:44 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 342 words   English (US)

The "If Only's"

"If only my children would do what I tell them, I wouldn't yell at them." "If only my wife would be reasonable, I wouldn't be so grumpy." "If only women would dress modestly, I wouldn't have these impure thoughts." "If only I was stronger, I could deal with all these temptations." "If only God would take these temptations away, I could be good."

Does this sound familiar? Is it true that what we really need is deliverance from the problems of this life? If so, then why did James say, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when ye fall into manifold temptations; Knowing that the proof of your faith worketh patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 ). Listen to what Paul says about the "if onlys": "There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13 ). If these words of Scripture are true, then maybe we need to look for a different cause of our behaviors that bring us (and others) pain...

Could it be that it is more important how we handle temptation, than what we are being tempted by? Could it also be true that temptations could actually be a tool to strengthen our moral character, if they are handled appropriately? And, is it true that God really does prevent us from being tempted beyond what we are able to deal with, when we surrender our will to Him? Based on Scripture, and my own personal experience, I believe the answers to all these questions to be true.

Without a Higher Power to help us, we have no chance of fully dealing with our issues. But, as we learn to cooperate with the loving God of creation, we can become the kind of persons that He created us to be. I totally agree with Paul, when he said, "I can do all things in him that strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13 ). In the moment of temptation, when I realize my powerlessness, accept His all-powerfulness, and surrender to Him, asking, Lord what would you have me to do (Acts 9:6 ), He really does deliver me from evil, in the presence of my "enemies" (Psalms 23:1-6 ). And, I believe, He strengthens my character, in that process.

So, what about counting it all joy when we're tempted (James 1:2-4 )? I'm not quite there but, I'm getting closer... How about you?

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

04/22/16

Permalink 08:24:36 am, Step(s): 02 "God can...", 105 words   English (US)

Can I believe?

For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:13 )

For many this is a very difficult step. Often, this is because of the way we were treated as a child. But, Jesus said that "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes" (Mark 9:23 ). But, I must ask myself, "Can I believe?". Many times, I must pray, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 ). I believe that Jesus will never leave us, nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5 ) and that He will continue to be with us till "the end of the world" (Mt. 28:20 ).

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

04/15/16

Permalink 08:52:33 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 191 words   English (US)

Dependent

Jesus was a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3 ). Jesus said, "I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." (John 5:30 ). He also said, "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5 )

It is good for me to remember that I don't have all the answers and that I am powerless over many things in my life. And, it is comforting to realize that Jesus too was totally dependent on His Father, just as I am.

My carnal nature wants to take control of my life and live it MY WAY. But experience has taught me that this attitude only brings me, and others, more pain. Peace comes in recognizing my dependency, choosing to continually ask God for guidance, then choosing to follow as He leads (Steps 1-3). When I do this, life is always worth living :-)

Often, it helps to talk these things through in a safe environment with others, who also are able and willing to be honest about themselves and their faults. We confess our sins to God (1John 1:9 ) but we also confess our faults to each other (James 5:16 ).

Small, 12-Step group meetings are safe places to be honest. Come to see what I mean. Come for healing...

Local Meeting Information

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

04/08/16

Permalink 08:07:04 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 210 words   English (US)

I Am Powerless

In my carnal nature, I was powerless over those behaviors that brought myself and others great pain. But during many of my 25 years of destructive behaviors, I didn't think I was powerless. I figured I could stop whenever I wanted to. I guess I did have a sense that I would need some help from God, but I thought I could control His power in using it to do whatever I wanted in MY time and in MY way. I believed in Jesus as my Savior and friend, and I said that He was my Lord. But, I was Lord of my life. I was in control (at least I tried to be), not God.

"Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing: for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner. I can of myself do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." (John 5:19,30 ). "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5 )

My recovery process did not start until I began to admit that, of mine own self, I could do nothing to stop those destructive behaviors that were in control of my life. Without this admission, I see now that I would never have been able to believe that God could restore me to sanity (Step 2), or enter into the progressive ("work of a lifetime") process of becoming a man of God (Steps 3-12). I praise God for getting through to this stubborn, willful man that I am, that I am powerless without Him.

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

04/01/16

Permalink 08:47:27 am, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 165 words   English (US)

The Best Part

Because of the pain we face, many of us enter into the process of recovery to find victory over those sins that most easily beset us, and this is good. But what we discover, as we get deeper into the recovery (sanctification) process, is that we are having a profound spiritual awakening, and this is the best part.

After the difficult work of becoming more honest, learning to trust more, and consecrating ourselves to God, we can now begin to rejoice with the Psalmist, for "A Psalm, a Song for the sabbath day. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High:" (Psalm 92:1 ). Our joy becomes unrestrained, for we desire "To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night, For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands." (Psalm 92:2,4 ). "Sing unto the LORD, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day." (Psalm 96:2 ).

More and more, as I practice these principles of sanctification in all areas of my life, I find not only healing for myself but healing in those around me as well. My relationships with God and with people continue to improve. No, these relationships are not perfect, but as I grow, by the grace and power of God, I rejoice in the increasing peace and happiness I find.

"Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ shew forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them which should hereafter believe on him unto eternal life. Now unto the King eternal, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:15-17 )

"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)

03/25/16

Permalink 08:48:47 am, Step(s): 12 Ministry and Practice, 269 words   English (US)

Progressive Perceptions of God

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

When we begin on our road to recovery, 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. And so it becomes easy 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 Him as 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 a 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 Him as the one who will ultimately take us out of this world of sin and death, and give us eternal life with him.

"The LORD appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jeremiah 31:3 ). "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall my covenant of peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee." (Isaiah 54:10 ). "In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: O Zion, let not thine hands be slack. The LORD thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save: he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing." (Zephaniah 3:16-17 )

With a God like this, why wouldn't we want to pursue recovery? 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)

03/18/16

Permalink 08:34:33 am, Step(s): 11 Prayer and Meditation, 216 words   English (US)

Going Deeper With God

"Lord, what would you have me to do?" (Acts 9:6 )

Early in our recovery process, we tend to rely heavily on our group, our sponsor and/or trusted friends. But as we progress, be begin to become more comfortable with God, understanding that He truly is the loving Heavenly Father that we long to be with.

More and more, we choose special time with God, getting to know and love Him more deeply. We progressively learn that He can be trusted to be the ruler of our lives. As He gives us direction, we realize that He has our best interest in mind. As we trust Him more fully, we pray more for wisdom and understanding (James 1:5,6 ) of His will for us (Acts 9:6 ), realizing that He will provide a way for us to do what He asks (1 Cor 10:13 ).

Often, through prayer and meditation, I ask for God's will concerning decisions I need to make, problems I need to solve, or directions for my life. Often, it takes some time to understand His leading, but He always comes through. Sometimes, I don't know how I will be able to do it, but I trust that "Whatever is to be done at His command may be accomplished in His strength. All His biddings are enablings. {Christ's Object Lessons 333.1}

"And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me." (2 Cor 12:9 )

"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)

03/11/16

Permalink 08:11:13 am, Step(s): 10 Maintaining progress, 173 words   English (US)

Peace or Folly?

"I will listen to what God the Lord says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land."
(Psalms 85:8-9 )

With God's promise of peace, comes a condition. As I progress through these healing steps, I must not become complacent with my progress, but continue to evaluate my direction in life. I must remember that I am but dust (Ps 103:14 ), and continually ask myself, "Am I still following, still surrendering to God? Or, am I beginning to return to my folly?".

Without a continuing self-evaluation it is easy to fall into the lie that we can manage our own lives, now God has worked to bring us to a better place. It would be easy to slip back into denial of our true human condition. And, in so doing, lose sight of God as being our only source of power to continue in our progressive healing process.

"God is my strong fortress: and he guideth the perfect in his way." (2 Samuel 22:33 ). "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, in the power of the Holy Ghost." (Romans 15:13 ).

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

03/04/16

Permalink 08:31:35 am, Step(s): 09 Making Amends, 265 words   English (US)

What's in it for me?

Choosing to make amends, assumes that we have already confessed these things to God, who has consequently forgiven us. That forgiveness, as well as loving acceptance is assured (1 John 1:9 ). So, when we confess/apologize those whom we've wronged, we tend to expect that same acceptance and forgiveness that we have received of God. But these expectations are sometimes frustrated because these are sinful humans, just like us.

I have come to have low expectations of the response that my amends will generate in others. I realize that they may not be ready to make amends or even to forgive me. After all, at one time, I wasn't ready either. So, why should I expect them to be?

Since God has already forgiven me, and the person (whom I need to make amends to) may not forgive me or even acknowledge that they too need to make amends, then what could it possibly benefit me (or them) to follow through with this amends?! Maybe there is a clue here: "And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. And judge not, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released:" (Luke 6:31,37 ). "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 ).

Forgiveness... It looks like I need to forgive before I can really make amends. But once I have forgiven, then my amends becomes a gift to that person. The acceptance of that gift is not my goal nor expectation. The benefit to me is mostly in my giving. "give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they give into your bosom. For with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again." (Lk 6:38 )

So, what's in it for me? Peace, the peace of God, and the good gifts of God. It's another step in my recovery process. It's about furthering my personal character development. That's what's in it for me. And, personally, I think it's worth whatever it takes!

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

02/26/16

Permalink 09:17:58 am, Step(s): 08 Make a list..., 319 words   English (US)

Willing Amends

I mark the beginning of my recovery process at a camp meeting in June of 1994. It was there that I began to understand and practice the third step in conjunction with the first two. The very day after my first real victory, as a result of third-step surrender, an incredible burden of my past mistakes came flooding in on me (Step 4). A few days later (after confessing to God), I confessed my faults to another person (a very difficult Step 5). It wasn't long after that (a week, maybe) when I began to think of all the persons I had wronged, but never made amends to (Step 8).

What continues to be amazing to me is the fact that, at that time, I had absolutely no knowledge of what the steps of the 12-Step program were. And frankly, I had a negative opinion of the program because it didn't seem to help a person, whom I knew very well, who used to attend. But, in spite of that, God was leading and convicting me in those very same steps in my own life.

As I made this list of all the persons I had harmed, it was difficult to become willing to actually make amends. In my mind (intellectually), I knew that it was the right thing to do (Matthew 5:23,24 ), but emotionally it was very scary. I didn't want to become vulnerable. All my life prior to this I always shunned any situation that would require my vulnerability. But now this unhealthy reserve was beginning to break down, largely because of my fifth-step sharing that I had already done. Even though this was all very hard, it helped me to become more honest, vulnerable, and more accountable for my past mistakes. All these things helped to reduce my feelings of shame and have been an integral part of my recovery process. For this I am very grateful and praise God :-)

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

02/19/16

Permalink 07:57:28 am, Step(s): 07 Purification, 237 words   English (US)

Humbly Trust and Ask...

"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 18:4 ).

As a young child, I was trusting and willing to be led, with little questioning. But as I became older and more experienced, I became less and less trusting of others -- at least partially because people showed themselves to be less than trustworthy.

However, in a spiritual sense, Jesus calls on me to reverse this process, becoming more and more trusting in Him, not only as my Savior and substitute, but also as my ever-present help in trouble (Ps 46:1 ), and my trusted Guide (Ps 32:7,8 ). I claim God's promise to give "grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5 ). "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your anxiety upon him, because he careth for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7 ). Since I believe that that He cares for me, I know that I can trust Him, and so I humbly ask Him to work in my heart to change my character to be more and more like Jesus.

"And this is the boldness which we have toward him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of him." (1 John 5:14,15 ).

So... just what is "according to His will"? Instead of conforming to my culture, He wants to transform me to be more and more like Him (Romans 12:2 ). He wants to deliver us from this evil world (Gal 1:4 ). He wants to sanctify me (1 Thes 4:3 ). He desires me to be full of thanksgiving (1 Thes 5:18 ). With well-doing, He wishes me to silence the ignorance of the foolish (1 Peter 2:15 ). It is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil doing (1 Peter 3:17 ). He wants to deliver me from human lusts that I may do His perfect will, trusting that He is my faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:2,19 ).

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

02/12/16

Permalink 08:45:32 am, Step(s): 06 Repentance, 285 words   English (US)

Entirely Ready

In this passage, it appears to me that David is entirely ready for God to remove his character defects:

I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word.
Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
I have chosen to be faithful; I have determined to live by your regulations.
I cling to your laws. Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
I will pursue your commands, for you expand my understanding.
Teach me your decrees, O Lord; I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things, and give me life through your word.
Reassure me of your promise, made to those who fear you.
Help me abandon my shameful ways; for your regulations are good.
I long to obey your commandments! Renew my life with your goodness.
(Ps 119:28-40 )

Now, I must ask myself, "Am I as entirely ready for God's intervention in my life, as David seems to be?" Or, am I still clinging to some of my old ways? Am I ready for ABSOLUTE SURRENDER to God, so that I may live in ABSOLUTE PEACE and in the confidence of believing that He would never lead me in a way that I would not choose, if I knew what He knows? "...Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." (Mark 9:24 ) How about you? Can you identify with David? Are you entirely ready...?

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

02/05/16

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

Recovery Through Honesty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

01/29/16

Permalink 08:45:21 am, Step(s): 04 Introspection, 275 words   English (US)

Am I On Trial?

As I seek to take a moral inventory of my life, one of the things I must deal with is guilt. Knowing that I am a sinner (1 John 1:8-10 ), I need to ask myself some questions:

  • Is my guilt authentic? Do I have this guilt because I have sinned against God and/or another person? Or, have I taken on a false guilt over people or situations over which I have no control? This is a good time to pray the prayer of serenity: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference..." (Reinhold Niebuhr)
  • Are there unconfessed sins in my life right now? If so, I need to remember that God has promised to forgive me if I will just confess (1 John 1:9 ). If I have sinned against another person, am I willing to make reconciliation? (Matthew 5:24 ) If someone has sinned against me, am I willing to forgive them? (Luke 6:37 )
  • What is my character really like? Wherein do my thoughts and/or actions not agree with my belief system? If I want my character to grow positively, I must be honest with myself and earnestly pray that God would show me (as much as I'm able to bear) just where I am failing.

I fearlessly make this inventory of my life because I know that His "grace is sufficient" and His "strength is made perfect" (2 Cor 12:9 ) in my weakness. He is able to turn my weaknesses into strengths. "I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13 ). And, He "will never leave" me, "nor forsake" me (Heb 13:5 ).

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

01/22/16

Permalink 08:37:26 am, Step(s): 03 "I will co-operate...", 306 words   English (US)

The Paradox of Control

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6,7 ).

It's relatively easy to say that I choose to turn my will and life over to the care of God. But, in a practical sense, what does that really mean? My tendency is to want to control people, situations, things, and myself. The paradox is that, the more I try to be in control, the more out-of-control I feel. I become anxious and irritable. I lose the peace of God and I lose control over more and more of my life.

Conversely, when I let go of the control that I desire, turning it over to God, trusting that He really does have my best interest at heart, things begin to change -- for the better. I become less anxious for the future, less worried, and less irritable (Philippians 4:6 ). I feel less inclined to try to control people and situations. Through all of this, I actually gain more control over my own life, by cooperating with God -- choosing to be led by Him. Then, the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7 ) returns.

I wonder if maybe this is the experience that the apostle Paul was referring to when he said, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless 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 ).

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:6,7 )

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

01/15/16

Permalink 07:40:18 am, Step(s): 02 "God can...", 391 words   English (US)

Who is my Higher Power?

Since I realize my own powerlessness to deal with those sins which so easily beset me (Hebrews 12:1 ), it is imperative for me to find a power greater than myself that can (and is willing to) deliver me from these things. Without that Higher Power, I would have no hope -- no reason for living -- because my sins bring me so much pain.

Being raised in a Christian home, I've always given the God of the Bible credit for being the Creator and sovereign Lord of the universe. I knew too that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins. But it's been a gradual process for me to come to understand His unlimited love for me, and just how to co-operate with His loving power as He works to "restore me to sanity".

For many it is difficult to trust the God of our understanding because our understanding of God came from our experience with the "higher powers" that ruled over us during our childhood. Even though I had relatively good parents, it has been helpful for me to make a "disconnect" between God, as I now understand Him, and the "higher powers" of my childhood. Today, because of my growing relationship with the God of the Bible, I realize that He really is the Higher Power that loves me without measure and would never do anything to me that is not in my best interest.

Today I believe that, if I could see the end from the beginning, I would not choose to be lead (or ruled over) by any other god or by any other means. And, I believe that nothing can happen to me without His permission.

" And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:28,38,39 )

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

01/08/16

Permalink 07:37:23 am, Step(s): 01 "I can't...", 210 words   English (US)

Lest I Forget...

At the beginning of my recovery process, I was painfully aware of my powerlessness, knowing that victory over the behaviors of my primary addiction was impossible if I failed to realize that I was out-of-control of my life. I knew that I couldn't possibly cooperate with my Higher Power to get the victory that I so desperately needed if I thought for one minute that I could resist my temptations by myself! But, what about now...?

During my many years in this recovery process, my Higher Power has enabled me to have a multitude of victories over those sins that have so easily beset me (Hebrews 12:1 ). The temptation now is to let pride come in and to think more highly of myself than I ought to (Romans 12:3 ). So, I must remind myself of the words of Jesus (my Higher Power) ..., "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself..." (John 5:19 ). "I can of mine own self do nothing..." (John 5:30 ). He also said "I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing." (John 15:5 ).

Lord, remind me, when I think too highly of myself, that I am powerless without You. And when I am tempted to behaviors that will bring me pain, remind me that You are the Vine (Highest Power), from which all my strength comes.

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

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