Acts 4:7-12 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
For me, the journey to surrender, the giving up of my ways and embracing the true healer in Jesus Christ was a long and stubborn struggle.
I recall thinking, does it have to be religion? Do I have to become a Jesus freak?
There were two types of religious people that I saw growing up, the plastic people I saw from a distance who feigned perfection and mushy gushy fake hugs or the ones that I knew closer such as family and friends who might go to church on Sunday but then drank, faught, lied, cussed, cheated, stole and otherwise lived a life that Christ had no affect on.
Neither modeled a life that I wanted, and in that Jesus was not real.
Through the pains of my alcoholic household complete with multiple childhood molestations, beatings by my father, and otherwise uber-dysfunctional upbringing I became a seeker of relief at a very early age.
Some of my earliest memories were in 6th grade timing out hall passes with a friend so we could go into the restroom and play the hyperventilation game where you would kneel down, breath rapidly for 1 full minute, stand quickly and strangle yourself while someone else did a pounding compression on your chest then made sure you didn’t hit your head when you passed out and crashed to the floor.
That game then graduated in 7th grade to the woodshop shellac room where we would put towels under the doors, open all the cans and inhale until near blackout – which led to the most agonizing headache the next period but it was worth the pain to experience the high.
By 8th grade it was my parents alcohol and before the year was up we found kids who smoked and sold pot, and it was off to the races.
In my brokenness I spent my entire life seeking relief, an answer, a purpose. Who can save me? Who will help me? Being an only child and having parents that were unavailable it had to come from the world. Partying with friends was the easiest trap to fall in to, and fall I did.
By the time I was 21 I was so strung out on cocaine, meth, pot, pills and alcohol that I had been to the hospital for overdose and made 2 trips to rehab in the same year.
What rehab gave me was my first look at the 12 steps and a “higher power”. The program worked, to a point. I was given a structure to live by and a concept of God that worked for me. I was told a higher power could be a rock if I believed it will get me sober, so I made nature my higher power. That was the same one my father had, he would tell me how God was in the trees and the plants and the mountains, and that’s all there was.
I learned how not to drink and for 14 years I stayed sober, but I never went to church, never opened a bible, never prayed. I stayed involved in secular 12-step recovery for about 7 years until they started looking at me to “give to others what I had found” (step 12). I had nothing to talk about, I just didn’t drink anymore, but God was no more personal to me than a rock was.
Besides, my career had taken off, had close personal friendships, cars, money, vacations, respect from my peers, got laid occasionally… who needed 12-step recovery anymore, so I stopped going and embraced what life could offer.
I had arrived… or so I thought.
Fast forward over 25 years later, after a 10 yr relapse that nearly killed me (again) I was again lost, alone and empty. I was having suicidal thoughts and saw no hope, not even a little bit.
It was a cool morning, I was in the woods on the coast of Big Sur, California in a campground on January 3, 2011. After a 3 day New Years drinking binge I awoke early and wandered off by myself, bible in hand and dropped to my knees and cried out to Jesus, claimed Him personally as my Lord and Savior, told Him I believed He died and rose for my sins, and that I was ready to surrender my life to Him.
I had no proof He was really real, but I swallowed my pride, intellect and ego and surrendered just the same, because what I did know is that I wanted Him to be real.
I had no idea at the time, but that was truly the Saul to Paul moment in my life that changed everything.
Soon after I walked through the doors of Celebrate Recovery. It was the 12-steps that I remembered from my youth but with a twist; they define the higher power, that power is Jesus Christ.
I was truly home.
After a lifetime of financial, career and relational successes and still feeling completely dead inside I had nowhere else to turn, and surrendering to Christ was the greatest choice I ever made. And everything that led to that moment in my life, all the pain and struggle was all worth it.
I know this is turning into a long blog this morning, but for me it is the perfect illustration of this verse and really the whole New Testament; there is NO OTHER HEALER.
A concept of God, a different god, no God, it will all give you something that may seem real, and there will plenty of people around you who will tell you it is real, but it will not set you free from what pains you.
Addictions, broken relationships, emptiness, depression, suicidal thoughts or even attempts. No amount of money, or people treating you differently, or circumstances changes heals anything, it only numbs the pain for brief periods.
It is the power of Christ alone who heals.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
God is not a concept, a fairy tale spoken in olden days, or the same God and just defined many different ways by any religion on the planet.
God is the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Three as One, whole and complete and very real.
I was 80 lbs overweight, my relationships were a mess, I had pre-diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, was on medicines… today that is all gone. No medicines, no illnesses, I have lost all the weight, my phone is filled with Christians brothers and sisters who love me as I am and am supporting me as I grow. And above all, my life is filled with purpose and hope.
I didn’t change any of it. I tried for 45 years to change my life through self-help books, counseling, over-achieving, materialism, but none of it had any lasting affect.
But one 5 minute moment in time, broken and surrendered changed everything. God is real, alive and available to everyone who sincerely calls on Him.
And I promise, anyone who is seeking, being in love with Christ does not make you a Jesus freak, a religious zealot, leave you as a carnal christian of being all talk and no change. It is not the stuff you see on TV, He does not create wars, cause hate, make biggots.
He fills a heart with love for all mankind and a desire for everyone to experience the love of Christ that set us free. He fills a heart with compassion for those that don’t know Him personally yet, and a desire to show them how wonderful the real God is and how different life can be.
People will always define God wrong and in that hurt his name by doing evil stuff in His name, but the true and living Christ living inside a person will change a heart to one of love, grace, compassion and hope. There is no agendas or dark hidden side, it is freedom to live and love as God intended, in the midst of a broken world.
A true walk with Christ leads one to deeper levels of love, and connections and a desire to be someone of value and used for good in world. It is a gradual destruction of all things selfish and a powerful calling to find ways to love everyone around you.
I used to the think the last few steps of the 12-steps were an incredible burdon as a youth learning how to not drink or drug. It was something you had to do. But what I found is that when true recovery begins through a focus on Christ and studying God’s word, the steps become a natural progression, an out-flowing of the heart that can’t be stopped even if we wanted to.
Marks of the True Christian
Romans 12:9-21 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit,[g] serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
God continues to reveal the darkness in my own heart which the more I become willing to let him uncover the truth behind my old self, the more that old man dies and the new can rise up.
If you have been trying to get off the addiction train, or filled with hurts, habits and hangups, life just isn’t going as you thought is would when you were filled with dreams as a child, check your relationship with Christ.
My whole life I called myself a Christian, but I felt uncomfortable deep down when people asked me if I was saved. I would boldly say yes, but inside I knew I had doubts, that my life was no different.
A person knows when he has truly surrendered his will to the will of God. Nothing stays the same. We stop trying to fill our emptiness with people, places and things.
When we find living water we instantly recognize that we have taken our first drink of our entire life. And the thirst for Him is nearly insatiable from that point forward.
I desire for everyone to experience this feeling. Of knowing that Jesus is real, he is pure and perfect love, and He died not just for mankind, but much more personal than that, He died for YOU and He died for me. We are alive because God chose each of us before time began.
Without God, concepts like that are far off and meaningless. With a personal relationship with Christ there is an understanding in the promises of eternity, the restoration of a soul, of living for kingdom purposes and that this incarnation is temporary, promises that now bring great peace to a mind, healing to a broken heart, and purpose to a lost and wondering soul.
My prayers today brothers and sisters is you have come to know this same peace and hope, that you share it with everyone God places in your path today. Whether it be a kind word or smile to the checkout lady, a prayer for the person that cut you off on the freeway instead of a finger and a curse, help out that coworker that you battle with instead of talking behind their back.
Let’s all today shine a light today that blinds those around us.
And if you don’t know Him yet, ask yourself “could I be missing something”. Investigate for yourself. You have nothing to lose. If you are like me you’ve tried everything else and it was all OK, but it wasn’t GREAT.
There is great hope, joy, peace and purpose waiting for anyone who is willing to ask questions for themselves and not take the word of those around them who doubt and speak against God out of ignorance and fear.
Find out for yourself.
My prayers for a blessed day my friends.