Privilege is Awesome!

Romans 5:1-2

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

Empty Tomb

So as I continue to press deeper in rekindling the fire and passion for Christ, God wanted me to remember that this all started with His passion for me.

The book study our Thursday group has been in for nearly a year is John Eldredge “Waking the Dead”. I can’t recommend it enough, a powerful journey into the condition of our hearts, the longing God has for restoring it, and the position and role we have in Christ.

WTD

The book is (my paraphrase) an attempt to awaken (or re-awaken) the warrior inside. You know, that man-on-fire who first came to life when the Gospel became real. A time when our faith was no longer our parent’s faith, or something “those people” had. It’s a place in the heart where the Risen Christ meets our broken soul and we realized freedom was not only possible but guaranteed if only I would believe.

The life Jesus purchased for us is at the core of everything. As I’ve longed for peace for this past several months it wasn’t that I felt God was not real, but I’d have to admit the magnitude of gratitude of what He has done for me was fading.

The Gospel had become routine. Yeah God died for me, blah blah resurrection blah new life yada yada.

If God is the source of all faith and love and our intimacy with Him begins to wane, how on earth or heaven can we ever have peace, be filled with passion, have mercy and unconditional love for our “neighbors”. Without a zeal for the message of hope, redemption and restoration in and through Christ how can we ever feel truly alive?

Faith makes us right with God and gives us undeserved privilege. 

In a season where privilege is considered a bad thing, I’d like to say it is a magnificent thing! I’d like to shout it from the rooftops.

But it is also a double-edged sword. We must first acknowledge we have privilege, revel in it, let it fill us with a gratitude that is not condescending to others whom might nott have it.  Instead we must recognize it with humility that we did nothing to earn it. God and/or circumstance outside our control selected us for privilege.

And with privilege comes a burden to use it for others. Whether through preaching, teaching, sacrificing, donating, coming alongside others with every means and resource we have been given.

Privilege is not meant for us, it is meant for us to use for others.

Romans 9:4 They are the people of Israel, chosen to be God’s adopted children. God revealed his glory to them. He made covenants with them and gave them his law. He gave them the privilege of worshiping him and receiving his wonderful promises.

 Romans 12:3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Ephesians 3:8 Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ.

1 Peter 4:16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name!

Huge injustices are done when yielding the power of privilege and forgetting that all privilege is undeserved. Without that indescribably critical distinction, humility becomes pride and we think we earned or deserve it and nothing could be further from the Truth of Christ and what HE did for us.

Father God I thank You and You alone for the privilege of having access and opportunity to study and reflect upon Your Word this morning. I thank You and You alone for the faith and desire to even do so. May the message of humility predicate any favor that I receive this day, that even the faith that I have is from You and You alone. None of this life is about me or even for me. May You and You alone receive glory and praise and may my life be a poured out offering testifying to the Good Works you are doing in my life. Thank you Jesus, it is in Your name I pray this morning…

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What Kind Of Soil Am I

Luke 8:11-15

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

The Seeds

picture links to image source

Gratitude is again beginning to fill my soul. It seems like it has been such a cold and dark season. Not that I haven’t still been engaged with God’s calling or attending to my responsibilities at work and home… but I haven’t been thriving; it’s been hard.

I let New Years roll right on by without even the consideration of celebration or setting resolutions which is unusual for me. I’m all about the message of renewal. In fact I recall doing a blog mid last year reflecting on how every morning should feel like New Years Day.

Lamentations 3:22-23 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

But there has been no fire for several months. Much like the Book of Revelations and the warnings to the early churches, I was going through the motions but it was seemingly more and more clear that I was losing heart for my first love.

So this past weekend I basically went off the grid and got busy in fighting to rekindle my hunger and thirst for The Lord. I forced myself into prayer when I didn’t “feel” like it. And opened God’s word when I’d rather play an IOS game or watch Netflix. I meditated and journaled instead of going out to lunch with the guys. If I had to pick a single word to describe the weekend it would be:

INTENTIONALITY

And trust me when I say my efforts were opposed. Spiritual warfare is real and I believe Satan more than anything uses distractions, busyness and wondering thoughts to keep us disengaged from Holy Spirit within us who is always longing to connect to Christ and God’s Word.

External distractions such as phone calls, nagging todo lists, commotion with the neighbors. And internal distractions such as feelings of anxiety, boredom, lust, materialism…. just a relentless pull to disengage.

But I remained steadfast (mostly) and yet continued to feel anxiety all weekend, until well into Sunday evening when something clicked inside. A sense of well-being began to creep in over my soul. Not tied to anything internal or external; it felt like an awareness that God was close, that He saw my struggles and was celebrating my efforts.

And it wasn’t like I was trying to fight through a forest to find God on the other side of the trees; it was more like I was trying to break through a fog that shielded the God who was right next to me the whole time.

So what does this have to do with the parable of the sewer of seed? Thanks for asking! When I’m in “the good place” I wake at 5 am with little trouble feeling nothing more than expectation that God will lead me into His heart and Word with a message for my morning. I haven’t done that for a very long time, morning have been the hardest hitting the snooze alarm until I’m late for work.

But the last 2 days have been a renewal of that routine.

My NLT STUDY BIBLE explains this parable like this:

Footpath” people, like many of the religious leaders, refuse to believe God’s message. “Rocky soil” people, like many in the crowds who followed Jesus, believe his message but never get around to doing anything about it. “Thorn patch” people overcome by worries and the lure of materialism, leave no room in their lives for God. “Good soil” people, in contrast to all the other groups, follow Jesus no matter what the cost.

As I reflect on why I spent so much time in darkness lately God led me directly to that parable this morning and I instantly realized that in different seasons I experience all of those states. And the reason for the veil over my soul of late has been the “thorn patch” of doubt, worry, anxiety, striving, people-pleasing, wrestles with self worth and questioning if I’m living “on task” with my purpose and calling.

These voices have incredible power to dull the sense and awareness of the Holy Spirit who resides within us. He is NEVER far away, He lives IN US!

Matthew 6:33   But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

In hindsight I now recognize the slow fade I’ve been doing. More Netflix and less bible. More facebook and less journaling. More ios games and less prayer. More overtime and less time for God. My priorities got bamboozled!

It feels great to blog again this morning; it’s been months! I’m less concerned about who may connect with this entry and more overjoyed that I have the desire and intentionality to start my day connecting to The Source again. Prayfully however I do hope some of my old readers are still out there. It is rewarding to know our efforts to be transparent and share God’s faithfullness in our shared Journey of Redemption can be met with a familiarity among strangers; people who can identify.

1 Corinthians 10:13 
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

The way out of the darkness is discipline; having the fortitude and will to stay in pursuit of God at all cost. We must fight through all the schemes of the Enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

So how is it with your soul this morning? Do you feel deeply connected the Source of all creation; the One who paid everything for you?

If not do you think it is He who pulled away? Is there room for more intentionality in your walk? Lord knows there was (and is) in mine.

He is faithful

 

Father I am incredibly grateful that you didn’t leave me in the weeds. I see now that I simply let the locusts steal what you had given me. The only life worth living is one deeply rooted, connected and relying upon You for each breath and I admit Lord I am easily distracted; and the Enemy knows that. Forgive me my trespasses and sins of apathy toward our relationship Lord. To know You are there and to worship You with my life are two very different conditions of the heart. It is cold, dark and alone trying to do it alone and I don’t even know when or how I made that fork in the road. Lead me Lord, help keep me focused and intentional not on the tasks I have to do for You, but in maintaining the relationship I have with You. I praise you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ…

 

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Think About Such Things

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

thoughts1

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such thingsPhilippians 4:8

As an addict in recovery… or better termed.. as a Disciple being Sanctified, I believe our God-created brains have been hijacked through our dependencies on substances and people in such an unhealthy way that we almost can’t help but transfer those same unhealthy relational patterns onto our relationship with God.

What do I mean by that? I’m glad you asked.

Most people are very familiar with the 12-Step theology that trying harder or “white-knuckling” will never get you sober.

Pushing ourselves harder only works in physical challenges. Want to lift heavier weights, push harder in the gym. Want to finish a marathon; run harder and farther every day, want extra money; work more overtime, want to graduate college; study harder and produce better homework. That’s fine in our external world.

But if you want inner peace, deeper relational connections to God, self and others, if you want to discover your calling and strengths and live a fully connected life that integrates every part of your being, both good and bad… if you want to live empowered and fully alive then be aware that the battle is in your mind and trying harder fix our own minds only makes things worse.

In the nearly 7 years that I have been sober from drugs and alcohol (by God’s grace alone) a larger battle has ensued. My workaholic, perfectionism, striving to perform yet never “feeling” like I measure up, depression and shame are driven not by a lack of quality or quantity of good deeds or external efforts on my part. They instead are driven by the lies fed to me at an early age that I came to believe were true about me.

I have become my own worst enemy 

mind_battle

3 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5

This is not a flesh/body or strive/struggle thing; this is a surrender to conformity to the thoughts and righteousness of Christ.

To live under the subconsious oppression of trying to measure up and having that relentless inner voice prophesying defeat (“don’t blow it”) or declaring defeat (“you blew it again”) is to live under the Enemy’s Law of Condemnation.

Any strongholds that continue to plague us as we press into our shared journey of redemption as disciples of Jesus Christ is not anything that surprises or offends God. Yes He hates sin, but He loves us! It isn’t 3 strikes your out or even 300 strikes your out.

17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. John 21:17

Peter became self-condemned by his own denial of Christ and sentenced himself into isolation and removed himself from the leadership role Jesus proclaimed to Peter.

How much does our own shame and self-loathing thoughts (again often operating outside of our own conscious awareness) become the very things that drive us to sin for medication, escape or the even more insidious self-punishment.

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:31-32

Notice that Jesus already knows Satan will test Peter and He knows Peter will succumb to the test (…when you return)

And what weapon did Satan use to sift Peter? Shame and condemnation.

Peter believed himself to be horrible and beyond reproach, he self-condemned and took himself out. He believed the Enemy’s lie about him (you blew it Peter, how could you abandon Jesus, he needed you and you ran, who do you think you are, Jesus must have been wrong in thinking you are worthy of leading, you should slink away in shame)

But was any of that true?

Jesus didn’t condemn Peter for his denial.  In fact Jesus predicted it! And when first he met Peter after the resurrection Jesus did not even mention it. He cooked Peter breakfast and ministered to Peters shame.

Jesus new Peter loved Him.  He also knew Peter’s biggest problem at that moment was that Peter didn’t know that Peter loved Him. The sifting lies of our Enemy is always about condemnation and shame.

If we spend even a moment in the battle of “sin management” or “self-condemnation” we have lost sight of The Cross of Christ

Yes it is critical that we develop a healthy fine tuned self-awareness and responses to our own sin nature…

 42  …how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. Luke 6:42

… but awareness and response to our own sin is far different than condemnation. Isolating in self-pity is not the answer – acknowledging the atoning work of the cross and making amends is the key to keeping short ledgers with ourselves and others.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 5:23-24

So you might asking, how do we engage in the battle for control of our minds? The answer is always much more simple than we make it.

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

THE ANSWER IS LOVE

We have to fight the prideful temptation to think we should do any better than Peter, David, Paul, Jonah or virtually every “future-changing” Saint and Prophet who came before us. They all had flaws; sin and relational devastation in their story often caused by their own human weaknesses, fears, lusts and frailties… but they were also ordained, blessed by and used by God in a mighty way.

God is Forgiveness & Love, Satan is Condemnation & Shame. The battle is inward not external; our new life comes with the renewal of our mind.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 

I know these are some of the most well known and for some maybe even seemingly over-used verses in the bible however it is for good reason. We are knuckleheads and the very truth and life and freedom that is ours in and through the redemption of Christ Jesus is not a complex hidden puzzle that we are meant to struggle to find or understand.

We are not in a life long battle to “be better” or “do more”, we are to discover how to love better and love more.

Hopefully for some, as it is for me, it is becoming more clear that the performance or sin-management trap is purely selfish; it is an internal desire to improve my external behavior for my own self-image.

Love however is internally pure and externally sacrificial. We do for others what they are incapable of doing on their own.

Peace Prayer of Saint Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen.

Nowhere in this prayer does it say make me a better person, it simply cries out to become an instrument of God in the midst of suffering, hardship and sadness.

As we move towards becoming a soul fully alive in Christ through deeper levels of love for God, others and just as important, love ourselves through proper self-care and boundaries, we then become greater Light Bearers, the byproduct of which is our sanctification.

Father God I thank You for the relentless pressing on my own heart that I am still too often externally focused on the “right or wrongs” of my behaviors which then places the burden of justification back on me. You paid the price Lord so that I am fully free to love and worship and sing and praise You with my life. Help me to remember that each day is a blessing and each moment is a Divine Encounter to love You by loving myself and others in a manner that brings You glory. I long to reflect Your goodness, let me not miss any opportunity to live a love-filled life as defined by Saint Francis’ prayer Father. It is in the mighty and precious name of Jesus I pray…

Supplemental: To dive even deeper into what love looks like from a biblical perspective check out my previous study on 1 Corinthians 13. 

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The Cost of Discipleship

Luke 14:28  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?

Counting the Cost

I’ve shared my testimony before –  sexually and physically abused in childhood, a rebellious drug addicted teenager, sober and successful but oh so worldly through 20’s and 30’s, and a decade long relapse with alcohol that ended with a spectacular Saul to Paul conversion at the age of 45.

Nearly 5 decades of living apart from God where Jesus was completely unknown to me. For much of that I called myself “spiritual” and depending upon the social circle at the time would even call myself a Christian, but I never knew Christ.

The excitement and pure joy to discover first-hand that Jesus is real at the age of 45 created in me a nearly unquenchable and limitless thirst and zeal for Jesus and the Gospel… in the beginning.

That was January 2011 and there is no doubt that He instantly went to work on the decades of lies and false narratives that I’ve been living in. From Celebrate Recovery to bible studies and Every Man’s Battle workshops, John Eldredge’s ministries and Ted Robert’s Pure Desire… all resources speaking into the brokenness and revealing Christ’s way as the way to the New Life that is so longed for.

That began nearly 7 years ago and as I contemplate my role today as a “discipleship/recovery leader” and yet still see a broken image looking back at me in the mirror I can’t help but feel like a Pharisee/hypocrite.

Isn’t it supposed to get easier with time? As God ministers to my brokenness aren’t I supposed to be maturing? Sure I lead multiple men’s groups and pray, journal & devote daily yet it seems the childhood traumas and strongholds continue to have a voice; continue to jack up my emotions and make me feel neglected, rejected, unworthy, weak and shameful.

There is something so incredibly appealing about the fire in a new believers soul. They shine a light and seemingly effortlessly shout the Good News from the rooftops. And how easy it is to make promises in that early Zeal.

“I’m all in God, use me”

And we are not alone in that zeal

Matthew 26:35  But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”

Matthew 26:70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

 

Matthew 26:72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

 

Matthew 26:74 Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”  Immediately a rooster crowed.

I get so disappointed at times with just how short of the cross I come up in my own life. I get road rage, there are still battles with lust at times, I avoid situations out of fear, I hold resentments when things don’t go my way, I unwittingly resort to control and manipulation to try and make situations more favorable to me and my comfort levels instead of allowing God to work through situations and people the way He chooses. There are seasons of isolation and pushing others away who I value and trust to speak into my life.

broken mirror

In all those circumstances God is faithful in his mercy and won’t let those actions go unnoticed and I’m given the opportunity to confess, repent and if truly blessed I can make direct amends to those I have hurt with my actions.

The reality is we will never be anything more than broken mirrors… 

light bearer

 …but even a broken mirror reflects light. 

We are called to simply reflect the image and light of the God who created us. And honestly I think the more broken we are the more glorious the refraction of light become off the many jagged angles of our sin and despair.

For those of us who profess Jesus Christ as Savior we are saved. And for those of us who profess Jesus Christ as Lord we are given power to overcome.

We will never be or do either of those things perfectly… never. But gratefully it is not our light we are called to shine, or our image we are called to reflect.

Luke 17:3-4 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, 4 and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

The Good News is we cannot out-sin the Cross of Christ. But the reality is with that the Good News of salvation comes with a calling on our lives to die to self and live sacrificially for the Glory of God in sharing the Good News of Christ and making disciples.

Luke 14:26-27  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

The cost comes at us never being complacent with our own sin.

The cost comes in being poured out as a drink offering to those who are still suffering.

The cost comes at being willing the share the Gospel with unbelievers, to offer them the hope, mercy, grace and love of a Gracious Savior who loved us first.

The cost comes at giving up our plans for our Saturday and instead responding to the call of someone asking for help.

The cost comes at staying in that difficult marriage because it’s the vow you made before God to love that person through their difficult times as they are to love you through yours.

The cost comes when you leave that high-paying job because management is unethical.

The cost comes when you actually stop and pray with someone in the moment instead of just saying “I will pray for you”.

The cost comes in tithing when you don’t have the money, or donating to a needy family or cause just because God put the situation in front of you and gave you the means to help.

The cost comes in giving up your retirement plans to care for that sick child or parent even if they don’t “deserve it”.

The cost comes in giving up on the overtime so you can come home and spend time with your family.

The cost comes at never giving up on breaking the strongholds of addictions.

The cost comes at getting help dealing with the childhood trauma’s and not just trying to “buck up” and pretend they aren’t causing landmines in your life even many decades later.

The cost even comes with giving up your right to play victim over the bad things that happened to you in your past used to justify your bad behaviors today.

Being a believer in Jesus is a beautifully freeing thing, but it frees us to dive into the hard things of life and fight for eternal causes… not just go back to our old shallow insignificant lives seeking self pleasure, wealth, power and prestige.

Luke 9: 23-29  And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 

Sadly we can become very misled that being a disciple will make all the bad stuff go away. On my heart this morning is for us to take this opportunity to count the cost… it isn’t easy but we are given the strength to press in and press on, thank you Jesus!!

Father God your word is clear: Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We are called to touch the lives of others, in spite of our own brokenness. We will never be whole but that only magnifies the ways in which Your light can shine through us. Help us this day Father see ourselves as You see us. Help us this day Lord respond to live in love the way You intend. Help us this day believe in what we can do because of the price You paid to purchase our freedom. We thank you Lord Jesus for the opportunities (not burdens) we have today to shine Your light into a broken world. Help us Father consider the cost you paid so we may willingly and joyfully seek all this for Your glory by Your strength and in Your precious name… 

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What is That To You

Repost from Band of Brothers Devotional

John 21:21-22  When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” 22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

john21-22

Peter, Peter, Peter… boy he sure modeled what it is to be scolded by the Lord often ha ha. How grateful I am that we get to know him so well, for I too suffer from foot-in-mouth disease and misdirected heart syndrome on a regular basis.

So as I was reading this passage (vs 15-25) I was more focused on how Jesus was restoring Peter’s heart. Peter had taken himself out of the bigger narrative due to shame and feeling unworthy.

It’s a good message for those who know they have been called but yet so often feel like they come up short time and time again (like me). When Jesus named Peter “The Rock” He did it full well of knowing where he would glorify God and where he would serve himself through fear, pride, ignorance, anger or apathy. Peter’s behavior never put Peter’s calling in jeopardy, he simply needed to be redirected and restored by a loving and grace-filled Savior.

So funny how quickly we can fall back into our old patterns so soon after being restored!

Just a few verses earlier “Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” and immediately after that he’s now questioning Jesus John’s fate.

How easy is it to get so wrapped up in our ministry, family or workplace that we find ourselves preoccupied with how to help “them” get better” or “do” better. But how much did I need to hit my own proverbial wall at 1000 mph before I surrendered and cried to to Jesus?

Sometimes our best intentions can be the very thing delaying someone else’s relationship with Christ. It usually takes the hidden agenda of co-dependency. Sure we mean well, but…

I have been struggling lately with CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) which is basically unexplained daytime tiredness, weakness and a general nagging exhaustion. During a week’s vacation that I’m taking to recenter and refocus on the only One that matters it doesn’t surprise me that He used His word to expose my heart.

And I’ve felt Him asking…

“You have given me your son a hundred times George, when will you believe I’ve got him” 

“You pray for men and women in Recovery Groups, when are you going to trust that I’m guiding them just as I am you”

“You pray for the homeless, the sick, the lost, the broken, the leaders… when are you going to actually believe that the great I AM is on the throne”

I don’t think He is suggesting I stop praying for people and their situations however I do believe He is revealing the way I pray without belief.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see

Gee, if I ever wondered why I run around stressed out all the time I’d say this is a good starting point.

My takeaway is to become more intentional in recognizing that when I’m ruminating on a problem or situation that I need to question my perspectives and motivations.

Am I focusing on how best to offload the stuff I can’t do onto Him?

Am I looking for the things that I can do under His power?

Or am I trying to change someone else’s experiences and behaviors so I don’t have to worry about them. Or is there something else that I desire out of changing THEIR situation?

But if we’ve prayed for them, or even better WITH them, then what business is it of ours to continue worrying about the manner in which God is guiding them.

We simply participate, Jesus is the one who rescues.

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.

Living one day at a time; 
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next. 
Amen.

Father God, we need your help this day and every day. I say I believe then act as if I don’t. I say I trust then go back to manipulating people or circumstances way outside of my control based on my own understandings of what I think is best. Forgive me Lord, and remind me what true humility, faith, wisdom, courage and surrender are supposed to look like. I can’t know if my life pleases You but I pray that my desire to please You, pleases You. May we all live simply for Your glory, in Jesus precious name we pray… 

[In chapter 7 of John Eldredge’s book Waking the Dead he poses the question “Does trust come easily for you? Are you at peace, full of a deep confidence in God? This blog entry is where I was led after pondering those questions.]

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God, Are We Ok?

Psalm 19:12-13  How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin.

sin

So there I was in the restaurant with one of my closest brothers and accountability partners. He’s been struggling because his fiancee’ called off the wedding the day before they were to get married and going round-and-round in his head because he feels like he hasn’t been released from the relationship by God but she is clearly making release from her his seemingly only option.

As he was digging under the surface telling me how he has been praying for “God to protect her heart” and nearly in the same breath saying he hasn’t broken off all connections with past girlfriends (not the reason she left him btw) the possibility hit me that God may be doing just that, protecting her heart from his unrepentant flirtations/connections with other married and single women.

Not that he was doing anything outwardly wrong with those other women, but could it not be seen as a betrayal of trust to his near-miss bride if she found out?

Then it hit me like a flood, my own hypocrisy. I say I love God, that I’m all in, yet I have conscious sin that I still fall back on in my deepest moments of anxiety, loneliness or depression. I pictured Jesus as my bride and me “saying” I love Him with my words, prayers and externally visible behaviors, but in those dark and lonely places how easily do I toss Him aside for my own antidotes to what ails me.

And as I sat there listening to my beloved brother, a question hit me like thunder;  “God, are we OK?” I literally let out an audible sound that I couldn’t explain and started bawling right there in the restaurant. The emotion of recognition of how I’ve truly been treating Him hit me hard.

Denial to our own sin is a terrible thing which comes with great penalty.

Even if there aren’t obvious external consequences the price of shame and separation from our Heavenly Father is nearly immeasurable. I had no idea that I felt as shameful as I did until, like David being presented with his conscious & deliberate sins by Nathan, I too was overwhelmed with just how blatant my sin nature has manifested itself into everyday living without even recognizing it for what it is.

And the answer God gave me to the question; NO… I LOVE YOU BUT WE ARE NOT OK.

I know many will jump on the self-condemnation, cross-covers-all train and to some extent that is absolutely true. But willful, deliberate, conscious sin is of the most grievous and heart breaking to God.

As I pressed into the verse above one’s ego could let oneself off the hook for the subconscious sins to some extent, but there are NO EXCUSES for deliberate sin.

I realized in that moment I wanted to start giving God my resume, how often I read the bible, pray, lead men’s recovery groups, seek to be a light bearer in all my affairs in and out of church settings. But as Oswald Chambers puts it: “there are no hidden pieces of hell in heaven”. No stone can be left un-turned.

Galatians 5:19-21 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

If we wrestle with any of those (and others like them!) and are not calling it out for what it is, then as Christians serving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and body (so we think) are potentially standing in a very long line of believers who will hear:

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

I know this is a heavy message and some may not agree with the content. But this blog is about my own personal journey of redemption and I seek to freely engage not solely in the joy and freedom in Christ but also the struggles against our sin nature and the effects of The Fall in a broken world.

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.

And after all of this, God leads me to….

John 12:46-48 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark. 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it. 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.

So, is it Grace + Obedience, or Grace Alone?

Each of us must decide and live accordingly. This is where intimacy with our Savior becomes VERY PERSONAL. Theologians will argue both sides vehemently and make their point/counterpoints quite well.

Which do you choose to believe? 

Father God only you see our true hearts. Reveal to us this day the answer to the piercing question, are we OK? As I take time to quiet my own heart and soul and stop to listen for a reply I lean on the cross and mercy O’ Lord. Show me what true repentance looks like and how much in this sanctification process is mine to do and what is Your load that I could never carry. Thank you Father, I praise Your name Jesus; let it not just be by profession of mouth but of whole body, mind, heart and soul as well. 

Posted in Addiction, alcohol, bible study, conviction, depression, drugs, God's story, Jesus, my story, pornagraphy, Recovery, sex, The Cross | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Palm Sunday Christian

John 12:12-13

12 On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 

palm sunday

Imagine the scene.

Large crowds were there for the festival. Most already knew the buzz around Jesus and many had actually seen Him and His Miracles in person. Whether being fed on the hillside miraculously with thousands of others or seeing hundreds of pigs filled with demons run off a cliff, or the healing of sight, the lame walking and even the dead being raised.

And Jesus was now here, and each person thought to himself  “He is going to save me from my hardships”

How many of you recall your first encounter with Christ. Whether (like me) it was a Saul to Paul conversion of great magnitude that saw immediate freedom from drugs and alcohol so that emotional and relational healing could begin. Or like many there was a moment of clarity sitting in church listening to the same verses and sermons you had heard a hundreds times before when something clicked and Jesus and the Gospels came alive like never before.

For many a feeling of incredible exhilaration followed by extreme devotion. The deeply heart-felt conviction that “I’m all in Lord – Your will not mine be done”. And we pressed into the sacrificial verses with determination that they would become our deepest chore character traits.

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.

 

 

 

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.

 

 

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

 

 

 

And we replied YES LORD, I’M ALL IN

but then….

As the years roll on and we “work hard” for the Lord, volunteering, leading, maybe even going to seminary and preaching; the years roll on…

And the hardships keep coming, and the emotional struggles continue, and the difficult relationships or health problems persist. There seems to be little rest, and even less reward.

And you begin to wonder; what did I sign up for? I thought….

And there it is, the Palm Sunday Christian.

As the throngs of people worshiped and treated Jesus as a King and gave Him a triumphant entrance into Jerusalem just a week before they were under the impression that Jesus would… would… would what?

Would overthrow Rome?

Would raise up a great army?

Would reduce taxes, increase freedoms, produce food, shelter and work on a scale they hadn’t seen before?

What did you think Jesus was going to do for you? Did he meet those expectations?

I know for me I didn’t think it was going to be so hard. The joy I felt in my heart was because I was sure that all the trauma of my childhood abuse which I was medicating away with drugs, alcohol and pornography was behind me… I was set free.

I thought “now I will become a greater success in my career and get paid what I’m worth” and “now my health will turn the corner and I will be able to do the things of my youth”.

I thought…

6 years down the road of being a Christian and I’m wondering why life is still so hard and instead of finding revival I find the message over and over and over that we are a world at war; not just physically as is so evident in watching the news but more importantly a spiritual battle rages and we are called to stand and fight.

The crowds of thousands who were so happy to see Jesus come through the gates of Jerusalem and downright excited and worshiped and honored his presence just one week earlier were now turning on him chanting crucify… CRUCIFY!!!

They had each drawn up in their own minds what they thought Jesus was going to do for them and it created great joy within them.

They were expecting a free ride that would make their life easier. Let HIM do all the work and we will reap the rewards.

If you find yourself today thinking “this is a lot harder than I expected” or “this is not at all what I thought it would be” it’s time for a heart check.

Was the “pink cloud” experience of those early days, months, years when you first came to Christ based truly on going all in and His will not yours?

Or was it with the hope and expectation that all of life’s hardships were going to go away?

And as we grow beyond the naïve notion that our troubles are going to go away; we are then faced with the reality that being a lukewarm Christian playing church once-in-a-while is nowhere near what He expected when He said Follow Me.

War is hell, and we all, every one of us are called to be soldiers on the front lines. We every one of us has special gifts of the Spirit and abilities we were born with and they are supposed to be used for the Kingdom; we are to be fishers of men, every one of us.

Every day we are to be aware that there is an Enemy who wants to destroy every person on the planet and we are to engage in that spiritual battle. We are to discover our specific Spiritual Gifting and use it for the glory of God.

We are warriors called to battle and the battle is real. It’s time to bust any illusion that following Jesus was going to be a gentle stroll down a well lit path and armor up and get in the game.

Father God, forgive me! As I become more aware that much of my joy in the early years of knowing you was based on my expectation that someday it was going to get easier. That was never your promise Lord. Yes my soul can have rest but the Enemy will never stop coming at me and the ones I love… and more importantly the ones YOU love (which is everyone) and I must always be ready to engage the enemy when I see him trying to kill, steal and destroy. You have blessed me Father with a life free from drugs and alcohol and a heart that longs to worship you. I know that I have been set free but my emotional struggles indicate that I’m still not living free. Help me to accept the reality that my life is not my own and that fighting for and with you is a far more glorious destiny than my little mind would ever dream up. I here and now reclaim the joy I knew when we first met and renounce any place in my heart that reduces you to a gumball machine. You are my Savior and my Lord and my life story will sing Your praises. In the mighty name of Jesus I pray…

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