The ground is level at the foot of the cross....recovering addict rescued by the saving grace of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Slave No More

It took me years to fully see the bondage that my addiction kept me in. I thought I was free because I could express my "inner" self through acting out sexually. After all, I believed the lie that I was just a very sexual person and that I needed this release.

Jesus taught me what true freedom looked like. Freedom from guilt and shame. Freedom to truly enjoy the gifts that God gave me. Gifts like my family, my job, and opportunities to help bring others out of the dame addiction that I was ensnared in. I am so blessed and I couldn't even see it before.

Jesus tells the Jews that he was telling the truth and they refused to believe Him. That was the case for me. It took Jesus opening my eyes to my own sin for me to see what I had become and I've never been the same since that moment.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The True Power of Grace

In John 8:1-11 we read the story of the woman caught in adultery. This is such a powerful story, especially if you're dealing with sexual sin. We don't know exactly the circumstances of the woman that was caught in adultery. How did she get to the point where she was having an affair? When this affair started, did she ever imagine that she would find herself at the point of being stoned? Did she have children? Did she love the man she was having an affair with? Did he tell her the things that she had been longing to hear? So many questions.

The Pharisees are quick to see this event as an opportunity to trap Jesus, but Jesus refuses to take the bait despite being battered with questions. Instead he issues a simple challenge, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Afterwards he went back to the ground and started writing. One by one the accusers left and finally it was just Jesus and the woman. Here is the one man that she knows can still accuse and condemn her. Here is the one man that has the authority to cast the stone. Here is the one man that knows the truth.

Eventually this is where we all will be, alone, one on one with Jesus, caught in our sin. Our defenses, excuses, reasons, will all amount to nothing. We have no defense and now must answer for what we've done. The law is clear and our sins, like the woman's, are punishable by eternal death.

Yet here's the absolutely, breath-taking, amazing portion. Jesus' response is not to condemn us but rather give us an opportunity to leave our sinful life behind and walk with Him. Despite being trapped in a lifestyle that we thought we could never get out of, Jesus offers us an escape that costs us nothing and everything all at once.

For so many of us, leaving our life of sin behind is one of the hardest things to do. Like Jacob Marley, in the Christmas Carol, Satan wants to drag us down with guilt and shame over our sins. But the thing is by accepting Jesus, we're already free. The chains of our past are just ghost images with no real hold on us, unless we allow them.

Breaking free from a life of sin is one of the most difficult things to do. I worked with one man that was struggling with sexual addiction. He joined a recovery group but refused to change his lifestyle. Over and over again he would relapse until finally the group leader had no choice but to ask him to leave the group until he was serious about his commitment to recovery. His departing statement was that now he would be free to live his life how he wanted.

We read countless times in the Gospels stories of Jesus freeing people and then instructing them to sin no more. To leave their life of sin. To not return to that which trapped them in the past. We never find out if all these people were successful or not. Chances are likely that some were and others were not. Ultimately the decision to accept freedom in Christ and to live in that freedom is ours to make.

So may the Lord open your eyes to see what true freedom is all about. May He fortify your walk with Christ as you walk out of the darkness and into the light. May He give you the strength to testify of the power of His Amazing Grace so that others may experience the same freedom that He has given you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Military Authority and God's Authority

The concept of authority is deeply embedded into the military mindset. Authorities define who can make decisions/gives orders as well as who is required to obey those orders. At higher-level organizations, authorities become a key discussion, because without granting the correct authority-levels, key leaders cannot make the decisions that result in necessary action.

Commanders that are given authority over military service members understand the responsibility that they inherit for the well-being of their subordinates and also understand the importance of military discipline and obeying orders.

In Luke 7:1-10, we read about the Roman Centurion whose servant was ill. The Centurion sent some of the elders to ask for Jesus' help but as Jesus approached the house, the Centurion sent another message saying that he wasn't worthy of Jesus' presence but that Jesus only needed to say the word and the servant would be healed.

So what does this all have to do with the Roman Centurion's faith in Jesus? The Centurion understood that Jesus' had authority over all of creation, an aspect that the religious leaders of the day refused to even consider. In fact, the religious leaders would challenge Jesus constantly on whose authority that Jesus spoke and acted on. The Centurion understood that since Jesus had authority over all of creation, Jesus orders would be carried out regardless of whether or not Jesus was physically present.

As I look at my own life, I realize that I still struggle with accepting God's authority over me. Accepting God's Authority means that you required to obey those orders. It means that you give up a certain portion of your individual freedom and submit yourself to someone over you. It is amazing that this Centurion so readily accepted Jesus' authority!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pick Up Your Mat

In John 5:1-15 we read about when Jesus healed the paralytic by the Pool of Bethesda. This man was paralyzed for the last thirty-eight years and spent much of his time at the Pool waiting for the waters to heal him.Nevertheless, each time the waters were ripe for healing, the man's paralysis prevented him from getting healed.

My paralysis was my sexual addiction. It started when I was 10-years old and held me captive for 25 years of my life. Every time that I thought I could break free, something pulled me back into my addiction. Ultimately that something was my own unwillingness to step out of the shadows of my addiction.

When Jesus asks the question "Do you want to get well?" he's asking that man if he wants to finally get off of his mat. It sounds like such a simple question. Who wants to be stuck on a mat for decades? To everyone else, it looks like a miserable existence, yet to the man, this mat was his home for as long as he can remember. He knew every inch of the mat. The mat had been there for him in good times and bad.When it rained the mat reminded him that he could always count on it to be there even when everyone else abandoned him.

This is the struggle that an addict goes through in order to break free. The addiction looks terrible to everyone on the outside but to the addict it's their comfort and medication in times of pain. In other words, it's easier to continue to stay where you are rather then get up and walk on your own. Before Jesus will heal us, we have to truly desire to be free of what restricts us.

In John 5:7 the man replies, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred." I can't count the times that I blamed my actions on others! In fact, the more that I blamed others, the easier it became to continue in my addiction.

Jesus' next action isn't to help the man into the pool. Rather he tells the man to "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." When we start to break free from our sexual bondage, our first step is to try to run from our addictive behaviors, but inevitably we return to the desire to act out in our addictions again. In fact, the first year of recovery is often fraught with relapses and moments when we feel that we will never break free.

The Jews told the paralytic that it was against the law to carry his mat on the Sabbath. Often times, a recovering addict will turn to the church for help with his addiction, only to be told that he should just stop acting out and read the Bible more.

The reality is that even though we've started to walk, our mat sticks to our feet and trips us up. The only way we truly get free is by picking up mat and facing our addiction head-on. We must discover what is at the root of our addictive behavior, whether it's past hurt and trauma or neglect. Piece by piece we turn over our brokenness to Jesus who heals us. Eventually Jesus comes back to us and reminds us of the importance to "stop sinning or something worse may happen" and we are able to share Jesus' healing effect with others.