The Best Divine Appointment Ever

Challenge Accepted!

An amazingly creative and inspirational fellow blogger over at Fractured Faith posted a Flash Fiction Challenge. Fiction is not something I write so I felt this would be a fun and challenging way to stretch my imagination and writing.

fractured faith blog

I have no clue where this will go but thanks for the challenge!


Her Name is Helena

When I hike I like to be at the trailhead before sunrise, today that is 5:15am and I’m on the Cliffs of Fairhead.

belfast cliff

Cliffs of Fairhead

The cliffs have been around forever, truly one of the most iconic locations of Northern Ireland. Access to some of it hasn’t always been easy until a little more than a year ago when a new hiking trail was created near Ballycastle.  It quickly became one of my favorite walks with breathtakingly beautiful views from the top of Ballycastle, Murlough Bay, Rathlin Island and the Scottish isles

I love this time of day for many reasons and often find myself at sunrise visiting trails around my hometown of Dunmurry, just outside of Belfast.

I usually hike alone. Not because I’m a loner, but because nature is the place where I truly feel closest to God. To smell the fresh air and feel the crispness of the pre-dawn dew on my skin; to witness the magnitude of his creation and hear the sounds of the birds and the scurry of the badgers, rabbits, and hedgehogs or maybe even catch a glimpse of a small Red Fox in the brush or the wild goats on the cliffs below.

fox

Red Fox

Some of my favorites hikes have been the Mourne Mountains in early winter when the first dusting of snow sticks to the highest peaks yet the warmth of the morning sun quickly silences the bitter chill of pre-dawn.

Mourne Mountains

Mourne Mountains

Or the Tollymore Forest Walk in early summer when the temperatures rise and the river is at full flow.

Tollymore Forest

Tollymore Forest Park Walk

Or the Polygonal Basalt Columns along the Causeway Coastal Walk. Some days it’s only the 2-mile walk from Windy Gap but if you can afford the 2-days off work during mid-week you must try the longer 33-mile treck from Portrush to Carrick-a-Rede to Ballycastle.

basalt

polygonal basalt columns in Northern Irish Coast

And along the way, a highlight for me is a must-see stop at the Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

But I digress, this day was to be something special, something different. This day I believe God Himself introduced His beauty of creation to me in a very personal and extraordinary way. This day I would meet Helena.

This trek started as most others. A short uphill climb gets the heart pumping and muscles attuned to their task ahead. This is another reason why I like early morning solitude, I always find myself breathing a bit labored (ok, gasping for air) in the first mile.

As I crested the first hill I saw the silhouette of what appeared to be a woman or young man in the distance walking the same direction I was toward the cliffs. I remember thinking that was odd being that I didn’t see another car parked at the trailhead.

Due to the distance between us, I lost sight of him/her as the trail rounded a bend up ahead. And anyway, my pace slowed as I once again connected with the peacefulness and majesty of God’s handiwork.

I distinctly remember feeling expectant this day as I had earlier petitioned God for a Divine Encounter. Whether it be witnessing something spectacular or rare in nature, or working out some pressing problem that incessantly rattles around in my head. I was even open to having the opportunity of sharing Jesus Christ with someone.

Mind you I’m not an outwardly Evangelical kind of person, but my story is a very crooked path and I am truly grateful to be just a broken man plucked from the ashes by a gracious Savior, so any opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus is welcomed.

As I resumed my journey up the hill and around the corner I could now clearly make out that the person ahead was a woman. She was standing on the bluff and I recall thinking to myself how much she must be enjoying the spectacular view.

As I drew closer however something didn’t seem right. She was standing alarmingly close to the cliff’s edge. Mind you these are rocky and crumbly cliffs and not considered the most stable; enjoying the view from a safe distance is always the best plan.

And she didn’t seem to be looking out at the horizon, or up and down the coastline, but instead staring, somewhat intently, down at the crashing surf some 120 meters below.

As the trail neared her location it made a sharp right turn into the valley. She hadn’t noticed me yet and I realized I had a decision to make; go toward her or move on.

“Clearly, she wants her solitude,” I thought to myself. But something was drawing me to her. A feeling, a sense of urgency, a calling if you will. It’s that voice that tells you to do something far outside your comfort zone, the one that urges you to stick your nose in places that it many times doesn’t seem to belong. I hate that voice oftentimes, however, I recalled praying for a Divine Appointment earlier that morning and clearly, this had His earmark all over it.

As I left the trail and move towards her I remained almost shocked at just how close to the cliff’s edge she was standing. I actually felt afraid that if I startled her the slight jump and turn would be enough to send her plummeting over the edge to her untimely demise.

I was also close enough now to see that she appeared to be a beautiful woman, well, in my estimation anyway. Long flowing auburn hair wearing a sundress and cowboy boots; neither of which seemed appropriate for a sunrise trail hike.

As I neared her I made an intentional effort to drag my feet, scuff a rock, clear my throat… anything to let her know she wasn’t alone up here before I got too close to be considered a space invader.

She did eventually hear me and thankfully safely turned toward me. I could tell she had been crying and I stopped my forward progress about 10 meters from her and called out “good morning”.

She replied, “if you say so”.

It didn’t take a spiritually tuned psychologist to put the pieces together, this was a woman who was out of place and clearly hurting.

“Well” I said cautiously, “by the looks of the scenery and weather this morning it seems like a good morning”. She replied, “I hadn’t noticed”.

Without thinking (I do that allot btw) I blurted out “how could you not notice?”

She gave a half-hearted smile and paused as if to consider whether to end this conversation or sacrifice a few minutes in pleasantries.

I have become very accustomed to this situation of waiting on another person’s decision to engage in conversation or not. And as I always did at this moment I simply prayed silently to myself “God, if you have something for her then open her heart and ears and take control of my thoughts and words”.

To my somewhat surprise (I don’t know why I am often surprised by God’s intervention) her entire body seemed to soften; her shoulders dropped and she took a deep breath and let it out in an almost ghostly sigh.

“I suppose you are right” she responded, “it is a beautiful morning and I do love this place”. “That is why I came up here I suppose, I’ve come up here often in happier times and I guess I went on autopilot when I got the news”.

Cautiously I replied, not wanting to give the impression I was wanting to pry into her personal life “what news is that if I may ask”.

She again paused, clearly mulling over the reality that her decision to engage in small-talk has quickly run its course and now is her last opportunity to reply that she would rather not talk about it and go back to the solitude she came up here for.

I again silently prayed,  “Your will not mine be done Father” and I was at peace with the silence that filled the space between us.

It felt like something out of a Star Trek episode, her scanners were looking me up and down, assumably checking the expression on my face, the posture of my body, who knows maybe the clothes I was wearing and the wrinkles at the corners of my eyes and leathery brown skin; she had to quickly discern, friend or foe.

She then softly replied in a voice that was barely audible “I was given the news yesterday afternoon that I have cancer”. I remained silent, just looking at her with a pain in my heart. I understood what she was going through, I lost my mom to cancer, it is a horribly vicious disease and everything about her being here made sense at that moment.

She continued, “I left the doctors office yesterday and just began to drive, and drive and drive. No specific destination in mind, I just needed to not sit still. I ran out of gas somewhere and then just began to walk, and walk, and walk”.

She again paused, gave me another glance and then continued returning her gaze downward at the ground. “I believe God has a plan for us all, but this was not anything I was prepared for” she confided. “I didn’t set out to do anything drastic but to be perfectly honest, just before you walked up I was considering how much easier it would be to just take one small step of faith off this cliff and not have to go through whatever lies ahead”.

All I could muster through my welling up eyes and crackling voice was a mutter, hardly audible, the words: “I totally understand”.

We locked eyes at that moment, she was all-in. She wasn’t going to have to share this burden alone, at least not in this moment. She began to cry and I moved closer and she fell into my arms sobbing.

We cried together for what seemed like an eternity. I was reliving the heartache of the loss of my mother and I’m sure she was painting a picture of the worse to come in her mind.

It became clear to me at that moment why I was there; why God had me hiking that trail on that day.

I asked her if she had family in the area and she shared that she was an only child and that her dad passed away many years ago. And that her mother married a not-so-nice man several years back and they were living in Manchester England but that they don’t speak much anymore. “I couldn’t call her with this news out of the blue” she said, “it would tear her apart”.

“How about friends,” I asked. “I have a couple girlfriends but their work has them traveling all over the world at times, neither of them are home at the moment and I haven’t wanted to say anything to them yet”.

There was a breeze coming up over the cliffs as the sun got higher in the sky and the prevailing ocean winds began to pick up. I took off my windbreaker and placed it over her bare shoulders. She looked at me appreciatively and snuggled into the jacket.

By this time we moved to a log a few feet back from the cliff’s edge. There were seabirds souring along the tradewinds looking for breakfast and we just sat there watching them for a while, not saying a word.

I broke the silence by commenting that I didn’t see her car in the parking lot. She said she didn’t even recall where she had run out of gas. “It was probably 3 am and I was walking for a couple hours prior to noticing I was close to this place, so I just headed here”.

“Would you like help to find your car” I inquired and she responded, “if it is OK with you, can we just sit here a while longer”.  “Of course,” I said, and we sat.

In the silence, I had the opportunity to converse some more with God. I have been a single man for quite a while. Being in my 50’s I’ve pretty much given up on actively dating so meeting women outside of church or work isn’t a regular occurrence. At that moment I assured God that I was VERY aware of her vulnerable position, that I would be there for her for as much or as little as she (or He) needed that day but that I won’t even consider anything beyond that… even though I found her very well spoken and attractive.

I could have sworn I heard God reply, “don’t put limits on what I am doing here”.

My heart literally skipped a beat at the thought of dating her but I quickly put that thought aside believing it to be my own wishful thinking and incredibly selfish considering what she is going through and concluded it clearly couldn’t have been God’s voice.

Looking at my watch I commented that it was 6:30 and inquired if she wanted to find her car and maybe get something to eat. She looked at me with kind soft eyes and said yes, she was ready to go.

It wasn’t a long hike back to my car and being the gentleman I am I unlocked her side first and closed the door. As I walked around the car my head was spinning with what had transpired in the last hour. Life can change in the blink of an eye, we never know what God has in store for us at any given moment.

As we left the parking lot she wasn’t even sure which direction she came in from. We drove around for a few minutes but no matter which direction we went none of it seemed familiar. She then said she had a doctors appoint that morning back in Belfast and asked if I wouldn’t mind giving her a ride. I almost excitedly replied, “I live just outside of Belfast in Dunmurry”. She equally excitedly said one of her girlfriends lives in Dunmurry”. A coincidence?

So we abandoned the hunt for her car and headed southward. It was over an hour drive but conversation came easily as we spoke about jobs, places we lived, the hobbies we enjoy and the pets we have owned. We spoke of past relationships both good and bad. We then both seemingly at the exact same time realized we didn’t know each other’s name. She told me her’s was Helena, what a beautiful name I thought. I replied “my name is Roger, nice to meet you” and we shook hands with a giggle.

It was nice to see that it appeared her mind was taken off her condition for at least a brief moment anyway. Gratefully doctors had discovered her cancer early on, and the prognosis was very good that treatments and a healthy mind, body and spiritual lifestyle could have a great impact on overcoming this.

As we entered the city at rush hour around 8am she commented that her stomach was upset and that she hadn’t eaten since getting the news yesterday afternoon. I asked if she would like to stop at a restaurant but she assured me she wasn’t that hungry.

So I pulled into a local Tesco and asked if she would like to get something small like some fruit and rice. She looked at me almost apologetically and said: “I left my purse in the car” and we both laughed at the notion that it was now nearly 100km away.

I told her that was no problem at all and we went inside. She playfully said that since I’m paying for her that this was officially our “first date”. I was shocked and thrilled at the comment, not even believing I heard her correctly but when I looked at her I knew she was very intentional with her comment. I offered her my arm and she took it and moved in close, and we walked into the store.

This all took place several days ago.

I’m happy to report that she made it to her doctor’s appointment ok and the initial news is that she is a great candidate for biopsy and that chemo should not be necessary initially.

Later that day, we drove back to Ballycastle and found her car. In fact, ever since our fateful encounter, we have been nearly inseparable. I don’t recall ever feeling so comfortable or happy to be around another person. We have plans to continue hiking together, and I’ve committed to going with her to each of her doctor’s appointment to ensure that she doesn’t have to go this alone.

Who knows where it goes from here, but I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to spend a season with Helena.

Oh, and if you think this story sounds too fate-filled to actually be true, we even saved the receipt from our first date!

banana and rice

It may not seem like much but I have a feeling we will be sharing this gem with our kids someday 🙂

(Editor Note: inspiration and some pictures for locations mentioned in this creative writing exercise came from this website)

Posted in God's story | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

How Do You Run From God?

Jonah 1:2b …But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord

https://www.exquisiteartz.co.uk/lastman-pieter-jonah-and-the-whale-fine-art-canvas-sizes-a4a3a2a1-002141-16781-p.asp

Pieter Lastman – Jonah and the Whale

There is a name for the season I’m in. I’d like to think it is “dedicated”, “hard worker”, “team player”, “sacrificial”… even workaholic… call it anything but DISOBEDIENT.

I’ve been working up to 7 days and 70+ hour weeks the last year or more. Not every week but many of them, especially in the last several months.

It all began a couple of years ago when my company took me out of my 15-year salaried office  job as an IT Manager and put me in the field as an hourly technician. At the time it felt like a huge demotion. I thought “I’m an IT Manager, field technician is the grunt work that leads up to my position, I’ve got 30 years IT experience, don’t you know what I’m worth”.

I’ve always been devoted to my work. Heck, why not, a career is the easiest place to hide from real life while seemingly participating in it. It’s the perfect front for the wounded soul.

“Sorry I’ve got to work” leaves little room for others to push back. We all know how important a job or career is, it’s the centerpiece of many people’s existence. We may argue it isn’t but how many opportunities in life are missed cuz “I gotta work”.

And how many obligations are avoided cuz “I gotta work”.  It sounds altruistic on the surface, a sacrifice, a cross to bear; I’m needed for the success of the company and it puts food on the table… win-win, right?

And if the company wants to bless you with 1.5x pay for anything over 8 hours and 2x pay for anything over 12… who can resist? This is a blessing from the Lord right?


As I woke this morning and petitioned God to lead me into His word and to press on my heart His message for my soul, even before opening my bible He put Jonah’s plight front and center.

Why Jonah Lord“, I asked, “what are you implying”.

His response was immediate and so boldly hit me that it felt audible… “I DON’T IMPLY”. It felt stern and urgent, clearly a 2×4-up-the-side-of-the-head moment.

Well ok then, God says I am running. How and why are clearly the next appropriate questions. And sadly (or gratefully) both answers came very quickly.

“You are using the guise of career importance and the pursuit of money to avoid friends, family & ministry and it is costing you your self-care and distancing your heart from mine”

OUCH!!!! Way to unravel nearly my entire existence, thank you for that Lord! (yes, God understands and accepts my sarcasm)

Jonah didn’t NOT believe in God; quite the opposite. Jonah knew he was called by God to preach to a fallen land. He was called into a ministry and message that he personally didn’t “want” to do.

Jonah knew God was powerful enough to use him to bring a nation to repentance; Jonah ran from his calling and the life experiences God had for him.

Could that message apply to me?

I am over 50 yet never been married and not dating

I am a father yet only see my son once a week at best lately

I am (was?) a leader at church but rarely find (make) time for church activities outside of my men’s groups, and even those I more often lately leave to my co-leaders when I’m working 15 hour days. 

I have not served in any volunteer activities in nearly a year

I don’t pick up the phone every time someone in recovery calls me 

I rarely blog or journal anymore

Don’t get me wrong, I read my bible, pray and talk with (at?) God daily… and I rely on Him heavily to survive these physically and mentally challenging days on the job.

But emotionally and spiritually I’m disconnecting from the world and my calling to preach to and encourage the hurting and lost around me.

Case in point: I pray every morning that God open doors for me to share the Good News while on the job, to make some spiritual use out of this selfish workaholic season.

Literally, just a couple days ago a very pretty European or Middle Eastern descent young woman out of nowhere burst out “why do people keep cramming Jesus on me, I don’t even believe in him. They can’t force me to believe something that I don’t”.

I was on a ladder at the time about to squeeze into a ceiling crawlspace to run network cable and I was completely caught off guard by her comment. Nobody else was around and it was as if she was arguing with an evil spirit right in front of me.

Talk about a wide open door to engage!

But I remained silent. I immediately knew God loved this young lady and wanted her freedom and that I was Divinely placed at this exact moment to water the seeds planted by others… but I had so little in the wellspring, and she was so angry, rude to other employees, condescending to vendors and even customers.

Everything about her made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and I “chose” not to engage.

That experience has bothered me ever since it happened. I don’t think God is upset that I didn’t engage, I believe He knew I wouldn’t and orchestrated that to reveal where my heart is lately.

“George, you have been striving in the flesh for so long pursuing the lesser things”. “When are you going to stop running from the deeper ways I want to use you.”

This is not an easy lesson for me friends. As I type this I feel like this message would be better served tucked away in a private journal for reflection and not shared with my readers.

And while I’m confessing, at this point I honestly hear more arguments against change than for it.

Pressing into difficult relationships… is difficult

Sacrificing free time for volunteer work is… a sacrifice

Stepping into the messiness of other people’s brokenness… is messy

Preaching the Gospel to people who are fighting God’s pursuit of them… is a fight

Risking exposure of my mess to date again… is risky

Committing to more at church requires… more commitment

Working fewer hours means… less money

But there is hope for me

Jonah’s Prayer

Jonah 2:1-9

 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said,

“I called out of my distress to the Lord,
And He answered me.
I cried for help from the depth of Sheol;
You heard my voice.
“For You had cast me into the deep,
Into the heart of the seas,
And the current engulfed me.
All Your breakers and billows passed over me.
“So I said, ‘I have been expelled from Your sight.
Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.’
“Water encompassed me to the point of death.
The great deep engulfed me,
Weeds were wrapped around my head.
“I descended to the roots of the mountains.
The earth with its bars was around me forever,
But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.
“While I was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
And my prayer came to You,
Into Your holy temple.
“Those who regard vain idols
Forsake their faithfulness,
But I will sacrifice to You
With the voice of thanksgiving.
That which I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation is from the Lord.”

 

Have you been running from God lately? 

How do you hide in plain sight?

Addictions, avoiding meetings and gathering with other believers, excesses like food, gaming or social media binging, workaholism, something else?

Are there burdens on your heart or opportunities to make a difference in the life of another that you missed or worse, intentionally avoided?

What does repentance look like for us?

Jonah 3:3a

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the Lord…

Lord as I watched that video tears streamed down my face. I am tired of running Father. I didn’t even realize I was running but it seems so clear this morning. Work satisfies the needs of the flesh in so many ways but if it comes at the expense of pushing out deeper relationships and time spent pouring into the souls of others for Your glory then the price is too high. You did not give everything through Your life, death, and resurrection for us, for me, to spend it avoiding the deeper things of Your calling and ministry placed in our hearts. You grow us all Father in special ways through life experiences and the Holy Spirit within which uniquely equips and qualifies us to serve others right where we are. May this not be a one-time conviction that we move past easily Lord but be the foundation for true heart evolution. Let it be a call to repentance, a call to courage, a call to move toward You and stop running from You. May this come to bear under the powerful and precious name and blood of Jesus Christ…  

Revelation 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.

I encourage anyone so moved to confide and confess to the ways you have been running from God’s calling on your life in the comment section below, who knows how God may use that to reach and inspire another! 

Posted in Addiction, conviction, encouragement, God's story, Jesus, love, my story, The Cross | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

REMEMBER

Mark 8:17b-18: …Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?

rememberWhy is it faith seems so cyclic for me? Some days I wake on fire eager to meet the Divinely Appointed events that are always far outside of my control or even desire and other days I wake with a sense of dread wondering how I’m going to get through another day.

Multiply that times days, weeks, even months. Some seasons are powerfully rooted in the love of Christ being fully aware of His power and presence in my life. And others…

As our Thursday discipleship group kicks off a new book study (Beautiful Outlaw – John Eldredge) I find myself reflective of the good ole days; the early years when I first truly acknowledged Jesus as Savior on January 3, 2011. That day came after many decades of hearing about Him but never truly going all-in.

Faith seemingly came much easier in those early months. Or maybe a better way to describe it would be to say joy was more prevalent because I was much less emotionally invested in the specific outcomes of the trials and quicker to respond to Divine Opportunities.

Each day I woke with an expectation that God was fully present in EVERYTHING and that my whole purpose in life was simply to be aware of the Divine Appointments placed in my path at each moment.

For example: I recall a time when an application server crashed one morning. As the I.T. Manager I did all that I knew to do yet was forced to call the application vendor for support. The support agent I spoke with said it was a catastrophic failure and that the server needed to be reloaded and the database rebuilt. I was looking at hours if not days to bring the system back online, I was devastated and filled with anxiety.

After hanging up with that person I realized I was trying to face this situation under my own strength and stopped everything. I took several deep breaths… and prayed. I simply said “I trust you Jesus, I release my fear and anxiety and surrender this situation to you”. 

What happened next I can’t explain (well I can but not in the natural). I seem to recall having the thought “now that God is on the case let me call back support again”. I didn’t really know why I was calling them again, I already had their solution to the problem.

A new support agent answered this time and after explaining the situation he asked to remotely connect to the server. After a few minutes and a flurry of keystrokes we rebooted one last time and everything came up perfectly fine!

I have absolutely no hesitation in proclaiming it was the sovereignty of God and my properly positioned heart and attitude that resolved that situation.

Everything in life is a test – an opportunity to surrender to God and watch HIM unfold the events to His glory and purposes. 

Another example of a properly tuned heart came one day when I went to one of my favorite fast food restaurants (shameless plug – EL Pollo Loco). As I pulled into the driveway and saw the homeless man standing by the entrance my initial thought was “this is a drive thru day” and the action plan was to “not make eye contact”.

On the heels of that thought however I stopped, prayed and surrendered to whatever HE would have me do.

Again, much like the down server example above, I found myself doing the opposite of what made sense to me, I parked! “OK Lord, I guess I’m supposed to do something”,  although I had no idea what that is”.

As I approached, as if on que, the guy asked if I had any money.

Instead of throwing a couple dollars at him I asked if he wanted to come in and order lunch himself. He looked at me clearly surprised by the offer, paused for a moment as if to mull over the pros and cons of the offer, then accepted.

I could tell the patrons and employees behind the counter were immediately put off by his presence. He’s a regular that hangs around the establishment so he was not unfamiliar and didn’t seem very welcomed. We stood in line together not saying much beyond an exchange of names and me assuring him a couple times that he could order anything and as much as he wanted.

At the checkout counter he seemed to be going for the $1 items and I encouraged him to go for the meals. Once he and I both ordered, the cashier asked if this was for “here or to go”. Without hesitation (and faster than my conscious mind could respond) I replied “for here please”.

And immediately the thought came over me: What the hell was I doing, now I have to sit down across from this man with no clue of what to say or do.

After getting our food and loading up on the salsa bar we found a table and sat down. I asked him if I could say a prayer for the food and he agreed. I remember thanking God for the opportunity to eat with Russell and that God had permission to move freely throughout our time together as we enjoyed the meal HE provided us both.

We ate for a few minutes in silence. I could tell he was legitimately hungry which sent pangs of guilt through me. Most often I look at homeless in front of fast-food restaurants as scam artists wanting money only for drugs or alcohol. That may be true in some cases, but not in Russell’s case, at least not on this day.

I found myself asking God “now what”. I knew it wasn’t about me being some hero rescuing a homeless person for one meal… it had to be about something God wanted to say to this man. I knew that would be a conversation that had to be Divinely Inspired so I silently continued to surrender myself to God in the moment.

Soon after that I found myself breaking the silence with a question: So Russell, have you been on the streets long? He didn’t seem to hesitate at all in sharing his story. His family, the life he used to have, the life he has now. I saw waves of emotion wash over him as he shared great memories and sad ones. I didn’t have to say much, just the occasional acknowledgement that I heard him.

I then asked if he knew Jesus. He perked up and eagerly shared of times much worse than the times he was in now and how he truly believe God had rescued him. He spoke of the shelters he was able to stay at and how he even had an opportunity to serve for a while and he REMEMBERED how much better he felt about himself and life in those days. He also confessed how he has fallen far from those days using drugs and stealing.

I shame was calling the shots in his life now and asked if he knew that God still loved him as much today as He did back then. I could see the conversation was reminding him of how faithful God had been in the past and that it was him who stopped talking to God, not the other way around.

As we finished up lunch he seemed like a different person. He seemed greatly encouraged and motived to get back to God and the only way he knew to do that was to go back to the shelter and people that helped him before.

I asked him if I could pray for him and he again said yes. I remember asking God to simply fan the flames, reignite the passion in Russell that he may remember the joy in those days of restoration and growth in Christ. He said he was going to go there directly from lunch and I gave him $5 for the bus to get there.

If he used the $5 for the bus that day I will never know. Did our lunch have any impact beyond just the 1/2hr we spent together, I’ll never know.

But I do believe I was faithful to the calling God pressed upon me in both of those situations. Neither of those would have turned out anything like they had if I had not stopped to remember that God is faithful, God is my power-plant, God is my motivation, my hope and my strength.

And I believe He wants to use every one of us every day in every situation, but only if our hearts are tuned to His frequency. And most importantly  fueled by remembering that Christ alone is our Redeemer.

There are no situations in our life that cannot be overcome if we will only REMEMBER…

… to surrender

… what God has done for us

… His promises

… His covenant and commands

… His faithfullness

… His anointing and calling on our lives

… this world is not our Home

… (add your own here!)

After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
You have forgotten God your Savior; you have not remembered the Rock, your fortress…
I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

 

Father God I thank You for bringing my heart back to you this morning. I thank you for reminding me that with free will comes the sole obligation to pursue You above all else, that You are present in all situations and that I have the option of leaning into You for Your glory and strength or relying on my own understandings and self-will. I recognize there can be no true peace when I am the designer responsible for the outcomes of daily events. In each moment, if only I will surrender, I am then free to be a witness to Your power and glory working through me which transcends anything I could ever bring to the table on my own. May You continue to glorify yourself through your faithful servants near and far, today and forevermore. In Jesus precious name I pray…

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Self-Preservation Often Isnt…

Matthew 25:25

So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

gold

How many of our life decisions do we make based out of fear? For me, it’s been a lot.

The parable of the talents is not just about money… in fact far from it. The call of God, the Redemption of Christ, and the Power of the Holy Spirit is not bestowed upon people just so they can get a comfortable, easy life. Again, quite the opposite.

In God’s economy, everyone must pull their own weight. We are given the power and authority to do the things He has called us to do.

Hebrews 13:20-21 Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Does that mean we are to quit our jobs and move overseas?

For some maybe, but for most, it just means do everything you do for the Glory of God.

If you aren’t familiar with this parable – in short, a man entrusts 3 servants with different sums of money. To each, he only gives what they are capable of handling (God will not call us to do what He hasn’t equipped us for). One he gives 5, another 3, and the last only one.

The man with 5 doubled his money through investments, the man with 3 doubled his money through hard work, but the man with one buried the bag in the dirt until the master’s return.

Why? Because he was afraid

A Warning: Taking the path of least resistance is the quickest way to pop up on The Enemy’s radar. Satan loves to pile on when he see’s us letting fear, laziness or selfishness choose our path.

An example in my own life that just happened recently: a group of employees (men in 30’s and 40’s) was engaged in (sadly typical) water cooler talk. How hot this girl was, making crude jokes. It was not ok but these are not self-professed Christians and Jesus doesn’t tell us to admonish the world, only other Christians.

Matthew 7:6

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

I noticed however that I (a Christian man in my 50’s) and a young college student were the only two that weren’t jumping on the bandwagon, but I also noticed the young man was actively listening.

I was OK with just ignoring the conversation but I felt a pang of responsibility to model what a real man looks like to the college kid and speak up. It didn’t have to be a preachy “your going to hell” fire and brimstone stuff, just a simple “guys, tone it down or take the conversation elsewhere, this isn’t appropriate for inside the office”.

But I didn’t say anything. Instead, I just prayed that God would run the conversation dry quickly so the ears of those being held hostage by the crude conversation would be set free.

Why didn’t I speak up? Fear of ridicule? Fear of being judged as a prude, for of not looking like a “real” man, being seen as a Bible-thumping Jesus freak?

In light of this passage, if we are burdened in a social situation is that not because the Holy Spirit has placed us in that situation then given us the discernment, authority, and strength to overcome fear and uncomfortableness and step in to offer alternative ways of relating to and loving others?

Romans 12:2 

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.

And how many times in a day does stuff like this happen?

You get too much change back at the fast-food drive-through and keep it

You see a rude customer harassing an employee and just wait your turn

You let anger (fear and pride combined) get the best of you and say hurtful things to your spouse or other family members in the heat of the moment

You engage in water cooler gossip or immature banter or as I did choose to stay silent

You see bullies at school picking on weaker kids and turn the other way or worse grab your cell-phone to record it to paste on your facebook page in hopes of going viral (whole different sermon on that topic!)

God has blessed you with an income but you don’t tithe or support some kind of charity or community outreach

You love God’s word and the people at your church but leading a life-group or volunteering at church seems like “too much hassle” or “way out of the comfort zone”.

I would challenge anyone reading this to make that list personal. Spend a few minutes and think about the times when the decision to “not get involved” is justified by (typically weak) excuses fueled by fear, laziness or selfishness.

Matthew 25:26-30

26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. 28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’  [empashis added]

Clearly, there is a warning here: We are to step in, step up, get involved, use the talents and treasures our Lord has given us for the Glory of God. We are called to make our bodies a living sacrifice, Holy and Pleasing to God.

WE ARE CALLED TO LOVE SACRIFICIALLY.

Fear is nothing more than an overly active sense of self-preservation. To avoid conflict is to condone the status-quo. Being a peace-keeper does not mean avoid righteous conflict.

Mark 8:36

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Am I truly making a difference in the life of those God divinely appoints me too; whether it be my family, workplace, community, or the whole world?

Father God – as much as the double-edged sword stings, my prayer is that you let it cut deeply. Sanctification is Yours to purvey on our fearful and selfish souls and I want to be counted as a good and faithful servant. I thank You for the conviction that no matter how much I think I may be righteous there is always the flesh, fear and an Enemy whispering lies in an attempt to silence and sideline those whom You’ve called and equipped for the battles of the heart. Let not Your word fall on deaf ears, mine above all Father. Give me the courage to press boldly into a broken world not out of conviction or in condemnation but out of Love. Show us how to courageously shower the world with the love, mercy, kindness, and Grace that You heap on us Lord. May You be glorified here on earth as You are in heaven. In Jesus’ precious name I pray…

Bonus Video 

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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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