SOAP: Day Thirteen – I Who Speak To You Am He (WOW)

Can I finally get to today’s SOAP Lord?

On a good day I’m kicking off SOAP by 7am, but it’s now 430 PM and I’ve been writing all day and just now starting today’s deep dive into God’s Word.

His ways are truly not our ways.

It would have been much easier to knock this out this morning and spend the rest of the day watching Netflix or cruising down to the beach.

But, as is always the case, I know there is a profound reason why SOAP is the anchor to close out the day and not the spark that ignited this day.

I’ve been through a lot today, and yesterday. Soul searching can be a dark and heavy journey, but oh so sweet if we take Jesus with us.

And how much more so when we let Him lead.

So Father, once again I say Amen.

Let’s do this!

Scripture

John 4:15-26 (ESV)

15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Observation

  • v15 – Sir, give me this water… so I won’t have to come here and get water
  • v16, 17, 18 – Jesus said…
  • v19 – I perceive that you are a prophet
  • v21,23 – the hour is coming when…
  • v22 – You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
  • v23 – true worshipers will worship in spirit and truth
  • v23 – the Father is seeking such people to worship him
  • v26 – I who speak to you am he {who will tell all things v25)

Application

v15 – This is just another example of how people expected Jesus to make their corporal lives easier. She is thinking she won’t have to fetch water at the well anymore because she will no longer be physically thirsty. Many of the Jews believed “the Messiah” was going to overthrow Rome in the physical sense.

How many ways do I underestimate and misinterpret the goodness God wants to do in my life?

In what ways do I fall back into wishing God was a supernatural gumball machine instead of “just” the Savior of my soul?

v16, 17, 18 – Oh man, can you imagine Jesus exposing your laundry list?

Yes Jesus, I want an easier life… OK great, first you are going to have to eat the elephant in the room, you ready?

v19 – “I perceive…” gee, ya think? You know everything about me, are you special or something?

I can’t even count the number of undeniable revelations and rescues God has done in my life. yet in how many ways do I minimize their significance?

God moves heaven and hell for us… yeah, it’s cool… COOL?!?!?! HE’S GOD!!!! Much more than just cool. 

v21,23 – The hour is coming, the hour is here.

What is coming, what is here? This sounds important. 

v23 – People will worship in truth and spirit, this is who the Father is looking for.

Do I worship in truth and spirit? Do I even know what worshipping in truth and spirit looks like? (I just had to take some time to research it)

Do you know what it means?

If we don’t know what “worship in truth and spirit” means how can we be assured we are doing it properly?

v26 – I am He. That gives me goosebumps, can you imagine?. If you saw my earlier post on Hardened Hearts, this thought of being face to face with God Himself stirs my soul.

In reality, I should feel like I’m in His presence all the time, but do I though?

Do you?

Prayer

 Lord God, you are mighty to save. You are mighty in Grace. You are mighty in Power. YOU ARE MIGHTY. In how many ways do I take You for granted, I shudder to think. I know there are confessed but not repented corners of my heart that needs exercising by Your Word and Spirit through greater obedience. I have no doubt that if I held on tightly to Your Presence and Power, I would have no ability to maintain the illusion of hidden dungeons in my heart. May Your name be Hallowed always, thank You for the continued revelations and righteous convictions through Your Love Letter to us, the Bible. Let not my self-perceived knowledge betray my lack of wisdom, give me the courage to continue to look in the mirror of Your mercy and not just weep in gratitude, but respond in kind with soul-transforming actions of the redeemed heart. 


What a day! As worn emotionally, physically and spiritually as I am from doing 3 blogs today, I’m not tired of writing or reflecting on the Goodness of God. I suspect this revival of writing and thirst for being closer to God is a direct result of my 13 days (and counting) of daily committment to this SOAP journey.

We aren’t supposed to follow God when we feel like it or when it’s convenient. We need to ensure the Armour is strong every minute of every day. That process may look different for everyone, but I suspect the heart of everyone looks the same to Jesus when we are worshipping properly.

My prayers that your day is one that brings you peace and joy and glorifies God, in any way possible.

Blessings in Christ,

George

 

Posted in bible study, God's story, S.O.A.P | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Fear The Hardened Heart

Mark 8:17 (ESV)

17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened?

It sure would be nice if I would do my SOAP for today instead of writing titles and then having to discover what God is prioritizing over my plans.

This topic is never one that I have to spend much time trying to figure out why it’s come up though. As easy as it would be to drop the title in the drafts folder, once again I will be obedient.

The truth is, when our heart hardens against the price of sin, it also hardens against the Goodness of God.

A heart that doesn’t pain for that which pains God also cannot experience the joy for those things that God provides for our Joy.

A heart that wants to be served, will never be able to serve.

Is there pain that just won’t go away, ever wonder why? I have been lately.

Jeremiah 29:11 ESV For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 

Matthew 13:15 For the hearts of these people are hardened, and their ears cannot hear, and they have closed their eyes— so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to me and let me heal them.’

Why does my experience seem to be the opposite of God’s desires?

Believe me, I may be writing to you, but I’m looking in the mirror. There are things in my life that still don’t belong.

I don’t believe they got there by choice, but I suspect they remain there through complacency or comfort in their proximity.

And there is no escaping God’s Word in these matters.

Jeremiah 13:27 I have seen your adultery and lust, and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills. What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem! How long before you are pure?”

Living by the Spirit’s Power – Galatians 5:16-25

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 

18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 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.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 

Do you have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in your life?

Pride, Fear, and denial are the brick and mortar of the hardness surrounding a heart, the justification for all of our sins, and the foundations for all our strongholds and addictions.

If we don’t first acknowledge, confess and repent of our own condition, then we will never have the proper hunger and thirst for the righteousness that becomes the very conduit through which we are able to drink from the Wellspring of life.

Matthew 5:4 God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Matthew 5:6“ Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

righteousness

There are nearly 300 verses with the word righteousness in it. You think it is a topic that matters to God?

Should there be any doubt or confusion that if we are preserving a small locked closet in our hearts that is reserved for the things not of God that it won’t infect everything we do and feel?

If you put one bad apple in with a hundred good apples, the one will infect the many and not the other way around.

Death begets death 

As I heard a pastor say at a men’s conference recently, “partial obedience is 100% disobedience.”

Don’t mistake this call to holiness as false condemnation.

Jesus came to set the captives free, not to condemn.

He came to fulfill the law, not disavow it.

The Law convicts, but the price was paid by One much greater than us.

But just because our past, present and future debts or covered, that does not make the law less relevant.

Psalm 112:1 [The Righteous Will Never Be Moved] Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!

Paul’s Final Instructions
1 Timothy 11-12  But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

Father God, I confess that I see myself in these exhortations. To be mostly of You is to not know You at all. I have felt so incredibly blessed to be in the presence of your mercy, but as I question what a hardened heart would feel like, I realize that it could easily be mistaken for grace. You know the pain I suffer, you know the fears and insecurities I battle, you know the weaknesses of the flesh of which I bring to you constantly. I trust Lord in Your promises that You intend to prosper and not destroy, to bring to completion and not forsake. I trust that I am where I am supposed to be Father, even if I am not where I want to be, or think I should be. I decree that as long as there is breath, the fight is not over. Thank You for Your mercy, please continue to strengthen in me that which glorifies You, and cast out that which still remains from my former days of allegiance and reliance on darkness. 

Posted in Addiction, alcohol, bible study, conviction, drugs, encouragement, God's story, Jesus, my story, pornagraphy, Recovery, sex, The Cross | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Open Letter To My Readers

Good Morning!

Honestly, I’m not sure why I am here right now. My fingers just typed the title, and here I sit looking at a blinking cursor.

And something tells me I’m supposed to write this to you.

I didn’t craft the title, I’m simply being obedient to it.

If I had to guess, I just feel like writing, no specific agenda, no targetted audience or message, I just need to write.  

Some of us have been doing this a long time, I’m coming up on 9 years of blogging. And at least a few of those whom I follow have been blogging longer than that, some much longer.

Maybe I’m needing to reflect on why I do this, why do I write.

100 followers in 9 years, clearly I’m not doing this for the notoriety, fame, and fortune.

I guess on some level I don’t even really consider myself a valid writer, at least not a talented one, not a validated one, or what.. I’m not even sure where this line of thinking leads.

I suppose I haven’t actually thought of what I consider the important criteria is to be a “real” writer.

When I’m actively writing, spitting out over 135,000 words in a week is not hard. 

grammarly

And Grammarly only captures what I type through a program it interfaces with. It doesn’t capture the 10+ different hand-written journals that I rotate through on a regular basis.

journals

Or the multitude of writing projects I worked on prior to purchasing a Grammarly Premium membership, such as books, work projects, and church materials.

unique

And unless Grammarly doesn’t have very many users, I was shocked to discover that I apparently have a unique vocabulary as well.

I know my vocabulary is not sophisticated, so maybe being unique when compared to “real writers” isn’t revealing an accolade I should broadcast?

But none of that means I write well, or engagingly, or motivationally, or biblically accurately, or in a life transformative way.

It just means I write.

But why, why do I write?

I believe I understand why Stephen writes over at Fractured Faith Blog, he loves it. And I’d risk assessing that he needs it. And in this last year, he has gone from “being a blogger” to “being a published author“.

How amazingly wonderfully inspirationally awesome is that?!?

Watching him grow as a writer, risk as a writer, reveal his struggles and victories through writing, witnessing more followers engaging with his writing, reading the comments from his readers… he is without a doubt, an impactful and gifted writer.

And Caralyn describes why she writes over at Beauty Beyond Bones:  “Whatever has brought you here, I hope that through the story of my brokenness, and redemption through the Lord, you are able to find hope, encouragement, advice, healing, support, and comfort.”

Her story touches lives, it touches my life. She provides hope where, for some, hope may no longer exist. She accomplishes all of the things that she hopes to accomplish through her writing.

And it’s starting to pay off. I don’t mean monetarily (although maybe that too, I don’t know). But her likes and comments are starting to grow exponentially, and the speaking and vlog engagements and peer accolades are coming in, her message is getting out there, more people are getting to see and hear her heart and her light-bearing message of hope and overcoming through Christ is impacting… How beautiful is that!!

And my brother Stu at Something to Stu Over is one of the most consistent bloggers I know, cranking out heartfelt struggles and wisdom daily, oftentimes more than once daily.

To read his blogs is to know his life, and it isn’t easy by any means. Recovery, finances, health, relationships. Life is hard, and reading his blog you want to truly come alongside, roll up your sleeves and get on your knees and pray with him. And if that is you, he facilitates an email prayer group fostered from his blog. Real-life is lived out, real struggles, real victories. How inspirational is that!

And I don’t think anybody walks that fine line between grace, righteous conviction and the call to obedience better than T.R. Noble over at Inside Cup. For those who have been introduced to Jesus, one of the hardest things (that I’ve discovered) is finding the truth hidden in the gap between the old dispensation and the new, the Law and Grace. Grace abounds, but life on earth as it is in heaven is found in our response to the Gospel, to the Promises, to the call of the Healer.

She speaks biblical truth with compassion and authority, bread from her own personal life struggles and victories. Her writing makes me want to be a better person, makes me believe I can be a better person. Truly a voice in the darkness!

Or V over at Millenial Life Crisis who just keeps it real. Unfiltered, raw, expository, explorational. And filled with great information to help others navigate the shark-infested inner and outer worlds of everyday life.

What a totally worthwhile endeavor to invest time, treasures and talent into!

Keeping it real seems to be the core message here.

And there are so many more! I actually feel bad not taking the time to mention the dozens of other amazing writers I follow, for each brings something unique and necessary into my life.

You are my mentors, my hope givers, my validators.

And not to say that I need validation directly, it is that I find validation in my life’s journey through being blessed enough to get a peek into yours.

I guess what is stirring in my soul from this reflection is, there is no “right way to write”.

Writing rightly isn’t even a real thing. 

A writer, every writer, is only challenged with one criterion, bring the best (and worst) of yourself to the table.

Whether it is through fictional representations of the imaginations found somewhere deep inside, or a transparent ministry of hope and healing found in the deepest recesses of the heart which sheds light in dark places with the intent of guiding others to their own victories, or the instructional wisdom found only in a life that has been there done that, it all matters.

In the end, I suppose it comes down to one thing… a writer writes because he or she has to.

It gives life meaning and purpose. It is our song, it is our painting, it is our manuscript, it is our invention.

It is how we give ourselves away to a {hopefully} receptive world.

I guess that makes me a writer.

Who knew

 

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SOAP: Day Twelve – Which Well Are You Drinking From?

The show must go on.

If you read my earlier post you’d know that I am still sitting in the fallout of an emotional bomb going off that I didn’t see coming. It’s true that I was describing an event earlier this week but I didn’t expect to still be triggered by it when recounting it this morning.

I have every reason to believe that God intends to meet me in this place with today’s SOAP. I pray that he meets some of you there too.

Again, I don’t even know what the scriptures are yet, I like to draft this opening paragraph letting the reader know where I’m at before I start, then watch the process unfold organically, and wrap it up with my takeaway on this day’s SOAP endeavor to find applicable resources for today’s challenges.

I usually start out the day with SOAP first and I’m sure there is a good reason why I started with the other post first today. I come here now with my heart raw and exposed, and I trust you, Abba Father, have your way in this place.

woman at the well

Image: Paolo Veronese

Scripture

John 4:1-14 (ESV)

Jesus and the Woman of Samaria

1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Observation

  • v2 – Jesus himself did not baptize
  • v6 – Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey
  • v7 – Jesus said to her, “Give me…”
  • v9 – The.. woman said to him… [why would you even ask]
  • v10 – If you knew…
  • v10 – you would have asked… and he would have given
  • v11, 12 – Sir, you have nothing… and the… where do you… are you…
  • v13 – Everyone who drinks of this [well] water will be thirsty again
  • v14 – Whoever drinks of the water I will give him will never be thirsty again.
  • v14 – The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life

Application

v2 – Jesus did not baptize. This is interesting as I recall yesterday wondering what Jesus would have said as “he” baptized. “I baptize you in My Name”. Now we learn that it was his disciples that baptized. I love how this reveals that Jesus puts us in charge of carrying out His desires.

  • How am I participating in the Works of God?

v6 – Jesus was weary. I am weary. I can see, at least in this place, how this ties into my other blog today. It’s not only OK to be weary, but it is also expected. And we must rest. But we can not truly rest until we admit we are weary.

  • Can I admit it when I am weary?
  • Do I believe it I am not condemned for needing a season of rest?

v7 – Jesus asks (tells?) us to do stuff.

  • Do I even notice or acknowledge when God burdens my heart with the needs of others? 

v9 – The woman responds not with obedience but with questions, confusion, calling his motives into question.

  • How often do I hesitate, resist or question when I sense God telling me to do something that seems crazy?

v10 – “If you knew.” This is actually very subtly quite beautiful. Jesus did not condemn her for not complying with his request or questioning his motives. He instead acknowledged her ignorance.

  • How often do I feel like my ignorance condemns me?
  • How often do I pridefully pretend to know when I don’t know?
  • How often do I actually believe I know when I really don’t know?

v10 – And then he went on to explain just what an incredible opportunity she had in front of her, that eternal life was on the line if only she would ask him for it.

  • How many years did I go it alone before answering the call of Jesus to profess Him as my Lord and Savior? 
  • How long am I willing to continue drinking well water over Living Water in those areas of my thoughts and actions that I’m not surrendering to Him?

v11,12 – And after he tells her what she is missing out on, she responds by telling him how she sees the situation, and what’s wrong with his interpretation.

  • Even after being presented with scripture or sound doctrinal teachings do I not still continue to question or look for other solutions or easier ways to move forward? 
  • What would it look like to surrender instead of arguing?

v13 – EVERYONE who drinks of earthly water. Nobody escapes this truth, the earth offers only temporary respite to our thirst.

  • In what ways am I still gulping from the dried-up hoses of this life? 
  • In what ways am I using distraction, pleasure or numbing agents to ease my pain, calm my fears, breathe life into the dead places?

v14 – Whoever drinks… there is my favorite new word, WHOEVER. We have a choice, drink from the Well of Life or the well of death.

  • Do I believe Jesus is the answer to all that ails me, truly believe?
  • In what ways do I come to the Well of Life for Living Water?
  • Are there more ways in which I can drink more deeply from His Well?

Prayer

Father God, I am beginning to see how I profess knowledge when I should be admitting ignorance. Where I portray strength when there is great weakness. Where I proclaim You satisfy my thirsts while I’m actually dying of dehydration. I don’t believe it is pride Lord, but instead some measure of self-protection. The enemy of our soul wants us all to believe that we are strong, that we know what is best for ourselves, that we don’t need anyone. But in reality, at least for me Lord, I see how I erected steel bars around my heart, that being needy is to give the enemy inroads to our destruction. But the reality truly is that I can never shield my heart better than You can Father. So I confess and repent Lord of my deeply seeded attempts at self-preservation, the water I drink from all too often does not satisfy. I do believe it is You who is leading me to greater levels of acceptance and surrender but I also see that my resistance is strong. I give you free access to the areas I knowingly or unknowingly continue to try and shield from You. Have Your way Abba Father, that You may be glorified in new and magnificent ways with my broken and battered bones.


Well, this has been a heavy morning, to say the least. I feel exposed, raw, challenged… but also hopeful. If this post resonated at all then I recommend my earlier post Can Christians Be Depressed. It is a transparent look under the hood and into the realities of mental illness and emotional illness. If for nothing else, that to find grace in the struggle, and hope for the journey.

As always, I’d love to have you join the conversation, feel free to engage in the comments section below

Blessings in Christ,

George

Posted in Addiction, bible study, conviction, encouragement, faith, hope, Jesus, my story, S.O.A.P | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Can Christians Be Depressed?

Psalm 143:7-8 (ESV)

Answer me quickly, O LordMy spirit fails! Hide not your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit. Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.

The Lord is CloseSo there I am sitting in my therapist’s office and we are chatting. It is how every session starts.

I’ve told her many times before, “don’t let me just ramble on for an hour”.

Why would I tell her that?! That’s like giving the enemy your best battle strategy and then being surprised when they cut you off at the pass.

The reality is, being in my head is my defense mechanism, it is what helps me avoid the bad feelings, sadly, most all feelings really.

When I’m playing the intellectual, I get to look smart, maybe even impress occasionally by how cognitively aware I am of how the shadows from my childhood abuse manifest in semi-translucent beings and beckon to go a few rounds with my amygdala.

So imagine my distress and annoyance when she pulls her proverbial handbrake from the passenger seat of my story as I’m skimming the surface while describing “how my week was going so far.”

What I saw at that moment was my brambling through the baren and featureless landscape of Highway 15 east of the Mojave Desert, but somehow she just caught a glimpse of the Grand Canyon.

Crap, here we go, “uhh, what… uhhh… where did you say you wanted to stop at and explore more closely?” I ask.

It, of course, was something I said, a self-betrayal to the “it’s a good week so far” that I opened with.

“You mentioned something about how you are becoming more aware of your negative self-talk, that even when you try and do fun stuff it doesn’t seem like much fun. Can you give me an example?”

“Well”, I reply, “it’s just that it seems like I’m doing all the right stuff, that I’m doing what I should be doing in trying to be good to myself and find relief from the chronic fatigue symptoms by doing fun stuff, but somehow I feel like I’m supposed to be doing something else all the time”.

“That’s interesting” she replies.

Of course she said that; that’s what they all say, isn’t it?

“So, can you tell me what it feels like when you are doing something fun or relaxing?”

“As I said, I just feel distracted, like I’m supposed to be doing something else.”

“What else are you supposed to be doing,” she asks.

“That’s the thing, I don’t know. I’m unemployed because I’m sick and although I’m living off my 401K 20 years too early in life, I’ve got a few years of sustainability in the worst-case scenario.”

“I’ve started writing more which is rewarding and productive toward my new coaching/mentorship business that I’m trying to start up”.

“I’m eating healthier, exercise when my symptoms allow it, connect with friends from the church and recovery ministries daily”.

“I’m doing all the right stuff, so when I decide to take a break and just do something recreational I figure it’s fine, but it’s not for some reason”.

As I finish up my response, I realize I’m starting to feel something, something I didn’t give permission to come up. It’s just a mumble in a giant warehouse with the sound faintly echoing off the metal walls of my soul, but it’s there.

She pauses… dammit… that means it’s still my turn to talk.

But I don’t give in, I make her work for it.

I rarely volunteer to “go there” on my own, she’s gonna have to earn the privilege of having me put her kid through college on my 401K one week at a time.

She finally breaks the silence with the other weapon we are all defenseless against, “why do you think that is?”

Hmphhhh….

“Well, I’m not sure.” I reply.

And then it hits me. This isn’t just another casual conversation where we are going to squish a cockroach that just ran across the kitchen counter after turning the light on before the first cup of coffee.

I’ve already come to know that if I don’t cognitively recognize the link to my past traumas right away, then this is a different kind of animal.

This is a damn elephant in the room.

Shit, I wasn’t ready for this. This is why I don’t like coming here.

Not that this isn’t good and necessary. It’s just that I can never properly prepare for Pandoras Box, nor can I control when “it” decides to give me (us!) a peek inside.

The reality is, I’m beginning to reluctantly accept that these elephants are the things driving my chronic fatigue syndrome and keeping me unable to live life abundantly anymore.

Of course, doesn’t that beg the question, have I ever really lived life abundantly? Or is it more likely that it has all just been a survival act?

When I was a young warrior crushing my IT Career of 30 years, I was strong enough to live WITH the elephants on my chest.

I became a master at keeping a 1/2 dozen beach balls under the surface at the same time.

I look really good on the outside, but inside I’ve always known there is a bubbling cauldron with a constant flame keeping the ugly mass above room temperature.

And apparently, now, at the age of 54, when I should be at my “no, thanks, I got this” stage of life because I’m now wise, I instead find myself losing grip on the damn beach balls.

Why now?

This feels like Jonah being asked to go to Ninevah. It’s not that I think I will fail, it’s that I know God will succeed.

This therapy stuff and peeking inside the cesspool will bear fruit, but it isn’t going to be easy. In fact, it likely will be the hardest thing I’ve ever taken on.

And it’s apparently something I have been avoiding my whole life.

And I hear God’s reply to my silent plea, “why now?… because it’s time”. “Because I love you.” “Because you are ready.”


I must pause here a moment. As I just typed the words “because you are ready”, I literally got a rush of emotion and started to cry.

The reality is, I don’t feel ready, I’ve never felt ready. I’ve got over 40 years of not being ready… but I will trust you, Lord.


I had planned to go on further from this place, to share the insights I gained from that session. But honestly, with that wave of emotion that just washed over me, I’m not ready.

This is what my ministry, blog, and coaching endeavors are all about.

Helping others clear away the wreckage of their own past. And I’m sure that the insights from that therapy session will surface somewhere in the days to come.

But right now… I guess, I still just need time to sit in this.

The fear, the sadness, the loneliness, the darkness.

I think the bigger picture right now, is for me to acknowledge my lack of acceptance.

You’d think after 8 years of sobriety and being a self-professed all-in Christian and even leading Men’s Recovery Groups for many years, it shouldn’t still be this hard.

In many ways, I’m just now realizing, I’ve still been in denial.

I thought when I became a Christian that I instinctively put down all the masks and this was the real me.

But in reality, in many ways, I have just supplemented my workaholism and addictive behaviors with a religious mask.

Playing church makes me look good, makes me feel good.

But how much of it is really just more mental masturbation to help me avoid the pain that Jesus wants so desperately to heal.

I swear I’m not the one hanging on to the childhood hurts, fears, and negative beliefs. But they are there, and they are real.

These aren’t simply ghosts of a time long past that I can just quote scripture at and make disappear… “the old is gone the new has come”.

No, these are demons, and they are present and thriving in the darkness and stealing the life that God set me apart for.

I need help, I need love, I need compassion. I need acceptance. I need Jesus.

And I need others.

Those aren’t things I ever admit.

And maybe, just maybe, this is where my deeper healing will begin.


Father God, you know my heart better than me. So when I tell you I don’t feel ready, you know my honesty in that place. I sense you did it again, that even with today’s blog my desire was to teach some profound truth that I discovered which might help set other captives free, but instead, you lead me to FEEL my own prison walls, and not just describe them to others. They are cold, rough, forboding. And the bars are thick, and black and made of the same steal that surrounds my heart. I now realize it was I that erected those bars many decades ago as a little boy. They are not something that keeps me locked in as I always believed, but I’m now seeing they are in place to keep others out. I’m afraid Father of what will happen if I let people know I’m not the strong Christian guy who has it all figured out. I may say I’m the “here to help” guy, but instead, I’m the sad, fearful lonely guy whose still trying to hold up the walls of Jerico all by myself. I know the walls are meant to crumble Lord, that they must come down, and I want to trust you, so please, please God, help me trust you first, then show what it means to trust others with my heart. 


Mental illness is real, Christian or not.

It doesn’t discriminate, and it’s not shameful to have it

But it can be deadly to not admit it 

The first step is acceptance. And the second is honesty. 

If you’ve been trying to “hold it all together” on your own, and pretending everything is better than it really is, know that you’re not alone 

And if you have the courage, I’d love to know that I’m not alone either

I’m a Christian, and I battle depression, anxiety, self-acceptance and I live with a lot of fear, sadness, loneliness, and shame 

And that’s OK


Philippians 1:6

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 

Posted in Addiction, CFS, depression, hope, Jesus, love, my story | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

SOAP: Day Eleven – Free Indeed

Being a born again recovering addict creates all kinds of conflict.

When you think about it though, it really shouldn’t. God’s description of “old things passing away” you’d think would mean that our old natures (addictions, fears, self-worth issues, etc…) would be on the list of old things that died.

But I don’t think I’m alone in saying that once the newness of relationship with Christ wears down (and ideally that should never happen!) then the old emotional baggage of traumas, negative thinking patterns, fears, and resentments seem to bubble back up from someplace long dead and buried.

What I think is happening is that once Jesus’ Spirit joins with our spirit at that beautiful moment of conversion and Justification is 100% complete, then the rest of ourselves (mind, body, and soul) begins the process of believing and obeying in varying degrees.

The process of Sanctification is a different beast than Salvation. It is made up of our intentional acts of the will, acts of faith, acts of mercy, acts of patience, acts of grace and it simply takes time.

Jesus wants to heal every aspect of our body, mind, and soul to match that of our fully redeemed Spirit within us. The question I believe is what parts of me am I willing to give to Him.

I have no idea if any of that will have anything to do with today’s SOAP journey, but it’s where my heart and mind are this morning and I just wanted to share.

Embrace

Scripture

John 3:22-36 (ESV)

John the Baptist Exalts Christ

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Observation

  • v22 – He was baptizing
  • v23 – People were coming
  • v26 – all are going to him
  • v27 – cannot receive one thing unless it is given from heaven
  • v29 – rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice.
  • v29 – This joy of mine is now complete
  • v30 – He must increase, I must decrease
  • v31 – He who is of the earth.. speaks in an earthly way
  • v32 – He [from heaven] bears witness to what he has seen and heard
  • v32 – no one receives his testimony
  • v33 – Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal that God is true
  • v34 – whom God has sent utters the words of God, gives Spirit without measure
  • v35 – The Father loves the Son
  • v36 – Whoever believes has eternal life
  • v36 – -Whoever does not obey shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him

Application

v22 – The works of baptism are important to Jesus. God, Himself is doing hands-on ministry work, not just preaching, teaching and healing. I can’t help but wonder what Jesus said as he baptized people. Do I value the works of ministry and celebrate the baptism ceremonies at church just as Jesus did?

v23 – The imagery of the first revival, the initial gathering of people coming to see Christ, to be baptized, to follow and learn from Abba Father directly. What a time this must have been. Is my life an attraction that draws others around me to want to come to Him? 

v26 – All are going to him? My psychology red flags are going off here. John was baptizing also, so clearly not ALL are going to him. And what’s your point, other’s can’t get baptized by someone else, especially Jesus himself? This is clearly an example of extreme thinking and jealousy and it is toxic. Are there any areas in my life where jealousy creeps in and bitters my heart toward the good works of others?

v27 – Cannot receive one thing! I think of Psalm 112 “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord…” God is at the center of everything and so far beyond my understanding. Do I place all my thoughts and actions at the foot of the Cross for His approval and blessing? How often am I serving me and expecting Him to supplement my plans?

v29 – Rejoices greatly at His voice. I feel every ounce of complacency being called out in me. Is not the Bible the Word of God, is it not His Voice? Is not the times when I pray expecting to “hear from God” me waiting on HIS VOICE? Is not the times when I’m in the company of other believers who are praying for me or speaking life into me the very voice of God? Do I rejoice when engaging with God in all forms? And not just rejoice, but rejoice GREATLY? God is not just some dude who helps us out and my pastors and Christians peers are not just “good people”. These are the ministers of God Himself in my life. 

v29 – This joy of mine is now complete. Is my joy complete? What is the status of my joy, am I filled with praise and worship more than I am fear and doubt? Am I complete or am I still waiting for something more?

v30 – He must increase, I must decrease. It’s not about me, it’s not about me, it’s not about me, none of it is about me, when will I truly understand that my life, my testimony, my ministry, my dreams, my salvation, … none of it is about me.

v31 –  Humans can only speak of earthly things. We will get glimpses of God’s goodness but we can only speak of God in terms that our finite minds can understand. The ways of God are so far beyond my comprehension. How often do I run the risk of believing my thinking and writing adds wisdom to the Gospel instead of always recognizing humbly that I will at best only poorly be describing the Indescribable greatness of God?

v32 – He bears witness to what He has seen. How much more has God seen and heard than we will ever see this side of heaven? How could I come to God’s Word and not be filled with a desperate need to absorb everything He says? This SOAP process is a good step. EVERY WORD MATTERS! Do I believe that with such desperation that it’s like a longing for air when being held underwater? 

v33 – WHOEVER. Again, it’s a choice. God’s knowledge, power, mercy, and love is available to EVERYONE, but only those who chose to believe and proclaim receive the promises. Do I count myself among those who have set my seal on the Truth of God? 

v34 – Jesus was sent by God and He was given unlimited access to The Spirit. Again, does this message strike deep to my core that there is no one more beautiful, more wonderful, that there is no one like Him? Am I overwhelmed by God?

v35 – The Father loves the Son. I can’t tell you the hundreds of hours I have in counseling in dealing with my earthly father wounds. Have I gotten past my own father’s limitations to come to trust and love my true Father’s heart and love for me? Are we not adopted son’s and daughters and in that not loved by the same measure that God loves His own Son?

v36 – Again! Whoever believes. Depending upon the translation there are more than a dozen passages stating “whoever believes”. The Kingdom of Heaven opens to those who believe. Am I truly among the believers?

v36 – those who don’t obey (by believing) shall not see life but receive wrath. Uh, no thank you! 

Prayer

Wow, Lord, I’m not sure what is stirring in my heart but I feel a big shift this morning. So much of my recovery journey has been about believing that Sanctification is the difficult process of moving from unholiness to holiness and that belief has actually perpetuated my self-condemnation in the areas of my heart and mind that are not fully of You. The beautiful message blossiming within me is the reminder that this is about You and not me. And that the battle is not with my flesh and bones but with believing that everything You say about You and me is true. I have been set free, I am a child of God, I already have everything in me that is needed to live a holy life, I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The old is gone, the new has come. My battle is to believe there is no battle. There will be hardships, but You are bigger than anything this world can throw at me, even unto death. Any old thoughts, feelings or lies about myself or my future or even about You that I may have believed for decades is just that, ghosts of an ignorant past that no longer exist. You are mighty to save, and I have been saved. It is my faith that sets me free, thank You Jesus!


Wow, it may not show up on the pages, but that turned into a couple hours of intense revival in me. During this time I received a phone call from another brother in recovery who was battling temptation and the gospel message that came out of my mouth and heart for him mirrors much of what is shared here today. I saw him as shadow boxing with his old man who is dead. My belief that sanctification is supposed to be really hard was challenged head-on and I saw for the first time that claiming “it is hard” is where the problem begins. If I think this walk with God is hard then it will be hard. But if I believe He has set me free then my battle is with believing “it is done” and not focusing on “what still needs to be done”.

We can do all things through Christ who sets us free. Glory to God!

Blessings in Christ,

George

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Posted in Addiction, bible study, encouragement, faith, God's story, gratitude, hope, Jesus, love, my story, Recovery, S.O.A.P, Salvation, The Cross | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SOAP: Day Ten – For Whoever Believes

It’s probably not an invalid assumption to say that John 3:16 is one of the most widely known Bible verses by everyone, believer and non-believer alike.

The temptation, of course, is always to focus only on this verse which reveals His incredible love and sacrifice for us. Truly there is no greater love, nor will there ever be. One Death, One Atonement. Millions upon millions saved.

I, however, before I even press into these passages today want to open my heart, mind, and spirit to the accompanying verses around John 3:16 to see if there is a lesser-known story that holds equal significance and relevance.

So Father, come. May you be the inspiration that peels away the veil over our eyes. Draw us into Your Word as only You can. 

Scripture

John 3:16-21 (ESV)

For God So Loved the World

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. 21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Observation

  • For God
  • So loved
  • the world
  • he gave
  • his only
  • whoever
  • believes
  • in him
  • God did not send his son… to condemn
  • whoever believes
  • light has come… people loved darkness rather than light. Everyone who does wicked hates the light, lest he is exposed
  • whoever comes to the light reveals his works have been carried out in God

Application

  • For God – This is His doing and His Story. It’s not about us (yet). How easily do I get stuck thinking our relationship is about what I want or bring to the table?
  • So Loved – This is still solely His Heart and His posture towards us. And He didn’t just love, He SO LOVED. When I love, do I love with that kind of intensity? 
  • the world – There we are, His love reaches out to all of creation; everyone throughout all time and space. He chose whom He loves, and He chose the world. If God is our model for our own behavior, do I love everyone? Or am I more selective who I call “my neighbor”.  Mark 12:31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself)
  • He gave – Again, this is His choosing His actions for His desires and pleasure. He didn’t take, He gave. How do I give of myself; my time, my treasures, my talent? How often do I give?
  • His only – the supreme sacrifice is to give away all that you have. To give even one is to leave yourself with none. Do I come even close to giving my last, my only? Or am I more likely to give from my excess and convenience?
  • Whoever – this is an open invitation. He so loved the world that He gave His only to… Am I a “whoever” who has chosen to receive this gift? Or am I still questioning, holding back, trying to decide if God is real or trustworthy?
  • Believes – once I consider myself to be a part of the “whoever club”, my call is to believe. Beliefs are ground zero for every thought, emotion and behavior we have in life. Do I truly believe?
  • Believe what? Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, God Himself, and the Second Person of the Trinity. Do I believe Jesus died and rose for my salvation?
  • God did not – this is important. We mostly hear what God did do, but this was so important that He wanted to make sure we didn’t misinterpret his intent. Jesus did not come to judge but to save. When I think about my standing with God, do I feel condemned for my sin-nature, failures, and weaknesses… or do I feel saved through the atoning work of His Son on the cross?
  • Again, whoever believes – this is the second time God has made it very clear that it doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, or what we have done… the offer is extended to WHOEVER BELIEVES. Am I a true believer? Or maybe just a critic, fan, or curiosity seeker?
  • People loved darkness rather than light. Where do I fall in this category? Do I have people in my life who know all of my darkest hearted thoughts and/or behaviors? Can I look at God in the face when being exposed to my own sin? Does shame keep me hiding, or does the Goodness of God draw me into the light of honesty and confession no matter what I say or do that I’m not proud of?
  • Again, whoever does… who? Whoever… does what… comes to the light… Have I and do I regularly make the commitment to live in the light? Am I honest with myself and others? 

Prayer

Lord, there is no greater sacrifice than to give up “our only”. I can’t even imagine in the light of day what would drive a parent to let his son be mocked, tortured and savagely murdered for the comparatively few people who truly are receptive and grateful for the price Jesus paid. The gospel creates so much tension in the heart, to confess not hide, to surrender not fight, to love not hate, to give not take, to sacrifice not horde. Our one choice to receive salvation then frees us to then give up everything else. It seems like such a high price for us to pay when in fact it still pales in comparison to all that You have given. I’m so grateful for the places I have said yes and am equally aware of the things, the pleasures, the safety, the idols that I still cling too. Father God, thank You for Your Mercy that each day offers me the opportunity to surrender more of me to glorify more of You. May we all be continually willing to reach deeper into our own wellspring for others in response to the bottomless Wellspring You have given us. 


Well, so much for not overly focusing on 3:16. Each word carries so much relevance. There is likely no greater love story than the one God has written to us. May we all be filled with gratitude and inspiration in our shared journey of redemption.

Blessings in Christ,

George

Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

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