When we go to a movie it us usually because we want to be entertained. The choices are many from adventure to comedy to love stories to mystery and even horror. No matter what we choose there are two elements of the script, Drama and Hope.
The question I pose today is which one would someone else describe us as? Great to see both in the movies but in reality we would love a lot less drama and much more hope. Drama drains us, hope encourages us. Drama brings chaos if it lingers, hope brings joy when fulfilled. Both drama and hope are inevitable but how we act, how we portray ourselves is a choice.
Today I read these words in Romans 15:13...."May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit". Exactly what that translates to is so well described in my Life Recovery Bible commentary that I will reprint it word for word.
God not only wants to fill us, but he wants us to be so full of him that we overflow with his hope and joy. Then the redeeming effects of our faith and our recovery will naturally spread to our families, friends, workplaces and the community at large.
We are the script writers of our own movie, we choose to follow what we follow be it drama or hope. But, if we follow that God of hope there will be many scintillating sequels to our story and it will provide a record audience in heaven that we help send there.
Punch my ticket Lord!
Several years ago at Campus Church in Norcross we began Celebrations through our recovery ministry in partnership with the youth ministry, the Warriors For Christ and others who would sing, speak or offer testimony. We ate, we sang, we worshipped and we mixed in several things that would relate to those who joined us.
At one event almost 400 folks joined us in Celebration, it was amazing and something we carried over to the beginning stages of ATB in a classroom on the second floor of the Church building and in the youth center. I remember one night having two former ladies who were openers for the Backstreet Boys sing the song No Scrubs then offering up a message that "God Don't Want No Scrubs". The message got across.
Then in the early years of having our own building that tradition was carried on by some amazing Friday nights where Good Landing Recovery and Trey Lewis would come and preach as well as Jeff Lyle, Billy Humphrey and others. Then the Pandemic hit and as GLR moved their meeting to their own facility for their Recovery Church, we were able to resume something similar on an occasional Monday night but nothing permanent also due to some COVID concerns.
But now, we are so happy to resume with our new celebration title of Xcelerate on June 27th (details on the News page on this website). As we introduce this we know it will evolve somewhat in how we do it but we know it will be inclusive, amazing and encouraging to all who come.
As we honor God, we also give props to the courageous men and women who have decided to change their lives through addiction recovery. In so doing the way we know that works is when those changed lives include a life long walk with Jesus. As we take those Steps to recovery we also take steps closer to Him and Xcelerate is designed to do just that.
Check out the News page for details, Facebook for announcements and most of all, come join us!
I remember feeling it. It was in High School at the Father & Son banquet. One of my friends dad's had invited me to go along with he and his son. That was a blessing, but my father was absent, he and my mom had divorced when I was 6 months old, and I felt a void as a young man for the first time.
Then my first girlfriend's mom broke us up because she said I wasn't good enough for her, and I felt it again. When I came back from Viet Nam they spit on us at the LA airport calling us killers, not heroes, then I felt it again. A stinging void that something was missing. Then I found an answer, alcohol and drugs and man that filled my void for many years except for one thing. I had to have more and more as time passed by because that void kept opening up wider and wider in between my high's.
Pretty much everything that transpired in my 20's and early 30's was a void. I shut people out I escaped problems and pain and I was not present for my own family. I became the one who voided out everyone else in my destructive path. I became The Void.
Then I met a Jewish carpenter who experienced that same void in his own unique way. He was mocked by others, even spit on and in a way separated from his own Father on a cross for a time. If anyone knew how I felt it was him. He knew the pain within me, he knew the hurt that helped widen that void, he understood what it would take to fill that void with something that was unavoidable.
It was the everlasting love of God, the incredible lengths of forgiveness, the amazing grace extended that was so unmerited that began to fill my void when I met him. It is so filling that it cannot help but overflow into the lives of others and from others to others. It is the answer to every void that anyone else would have for any other reason.
Maybe you too have felt it, maybe even feeling it now. I feel your pain, I understand, but He understands even better. He is the unavoidable answer right before us all to any question of why am I feeling this way?
We just cannot fill that void without him.
What is involved in becoming a leader? There are so many great leadership training courses that it is hard to choose the right one. In my case it was a matter of "on the job" training" through my experiences as an athlete, Marine, Sales Manager, Used Car Manager, CEO and leader in most of the projects that I have been involved in during my life. And then, there was the following.
The following involves being able to come under the training of another leader and learn the obvious do's and don'ts. In Viet Nam we had multiple Lieutenants lead us and only one was a true leader, the rest were just appointed the rank. One of them almost got us all killed. In sports, I will always remember Coach Capes, a former offensive lineman and very large man who without pads on would take us on in blocking and tackling drills. He certainly led by example, and we were undefeated because of his mentality.
But where I learned the true qualities of leadership were from Jesus. He said this: Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and servant of all. He said this in leadership training for his twelve Apostles to provide them a formula to lead. Servant leadership gets more out of people than any other form of it because it is not just a short term hype or intimidating folks to follow.
As we were growing the recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church many years ago, I would prepare a topic for the meeting, get the donuts (even then they were "live"), drive the van to pick up the folks and drop them off, clean up and oh I forgot - I would make the coffee too. It grew and grew and grew and during it other folks volunteered to do those other things until all I had left to do was prepare a topic.
Funny, 32 years later we are still doing the same thing and it is still working. North Atlanta's ministry is still going, we are still growing, and as long as I lead I will remember these elegant words from the Apostle Paul (who spent a quick 3 days in God's leadership training) in the Book of Galatians:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
It is never about the leader, it's always about who the leader is following. And when we follow Christ as a leadership example, that is as a servant of Him and mankind, it all keeps going, and it all keeps growing, and we ever decrease in stature as He increases in our message.
Follow The Leader? You know we will and as always the donuts remain "live"!
P.S. Just this morning one of our folks called and said he was now an assistant manager at Dunkin Donuts and will bring the donuts free on Mondays. If it's about Him it always works!
Over 2000 years ago Plato wrote these compelling words: "If the head and the body are to be well, you must begin with the soul, that is the first thing."
With news of the latest mass shootings, an ongoing ridiculous war that continues in Ukraine, along with controversy in our schools (the teacher of the year in Gwinnett just resigned in protest), and so many other issues that swirl around our world, we ask simply, what is the answer? Plato penned it, Jesus spoke of it - it's a soul issue.
It would solve gun control, abortion, hatred and the ugliness of mankind. God got so fed up with it that he destroyed most of humanity in a flood. But then, he gave us a way out, a way to change, a pathway for redemption and a gateway to grace. But to get there we have to be Fed Up with how we are living.
Jesus overturned the moneychangers tables when they disrespected his father. We can overturn anything using His power and formula for redemption if we quit talking about it and actually do something. An addict cannot quit by talking about it, it only "works if you work it" as the 12 Steps say, and as the two things our parents always told us agree, "Actions speak louder than words" and "God helps those who help themselves".
We cannot just sit around and hope God helps us we must act even if it requires painful changes. And here's where it begins as Jesus silenced one group of naysayers he spoke to another, and I am paraphrasing for modern emphasis. If you are fed up with your life and this world, here is a formula for change:
Love God with all your soul, love your neighbor likewise - everything hangs on this first thing, an issue of the soul
When we are fed up enough to let him feed us with his love, mercy and forgiveness, it changes everything else!
"Sometimes, to get from where we are to where we are going, we have to be willing to be in-between." Quote from The Life Recovery Bible Commentary
In the Korean conflict and in Viet Nam they called it the DMZ. A de-militarized zone where no combat was allowed. It stood in both cases in between the north and south that were at war with each other, and was a place where not much was happening. In our lives we call that a lull, in between little action and lots of action, in between addiction and sobriety, in between relationships or deals, etc. etc. etc.
Fact is that unless we have the understanding and patience to exist in the In-Between Zone we have the tendency to try to make things happen rather than let them happen in God's timing. Often times we need to let go of where we were to get to where we are going during which time we are like a caterpillar in a cocoon undergoing a metamorphosis. The In-Between must exist like a bridge and cannot be interrupted or the intended destination is never reached.
Think about it, in business, in relationships, in an adventure like hunting or fishing. we made a move too soon, made a noise in the tree stand, pulled a lure up too quickly, there are a thousand things we can think of to make this point. If we have done everything we could have done and it is time to wait, then it is time to master the In-Between.
We pray, we meditate, we deliberate, we suffer because we can't control anything, even our propensity to jump into something, but we wait. I love Psalm 40's beginning: I waited patiently for the Lord, he turned to me and heard my cry.
It's gut-wrenching, it can be painful for those of us who are fixers, but if God knows the right next move for us why would we ever move too quickly? Human nature for sure, but if we take upon ourselves His nature the game changes. Next part of Psalm 40: He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand.
To grow, to prosper, to make the right choices we may have to stand firmly for awhile, until He tells us to move!
I learned this as a Marine, we don't leave our fallen comrades behind. But what does that really mean? It means we will do everything to bring home our wounded or dead even if it means risking our own life. One thing to say it, another thing to do it.
Yesterday while reading John 10 in it Jesus spoke mainly about shepherd's and sheep and how he knew them and they knew him, and how he would be the good shepherd and lay down his life to protect them. He said this in verses 28-30:
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my hand. I and the Father are one!
This inflamed the Jews in the crowd enough that they picked up stones to stone him to death. He was making bold statements that they could not handle. He was God, he was the answer, he would die for those who believed him, especially the marginalized, and when they believed in who he was, they would be his forever, no one could take them away.
As a Marine we believed we were elite, the best serving in the best branch of service ever created. We would die for what we believed in freedom as well as our country, and our brothers would not be snatched away by anyone else, dead or alive. We rolled with confidence no matter what obstacle we faced.
At ATB we strive to put all of this into practice for those we serve with one exception: we are not God, so unlike him we cannot save everyone, But that doesn't stop us from trying because we want to Leave No One Behind. However, we do introduce everyone to the one who is God, even if they want to stone us after we speak of Him.
After all, he plainly said, if we become part of his flock. no one gets snatched away, no one is left behind. That part we can put into practice and assure you that no drug, no alcohol or nothing else that comes against any of us will snatch us away from him.
He said it, I believe it. Let's roll in His confidence in us. OOORAH!
I remember thinking to myself, I will be better than my father. I will become a present Dad and spend much quality time with my kids teaching them many things I did not learn as a child. I thought it, I tried it, but I fell way short due to my alcoholism and lack of understanding of how not having a Dad around affected me.
I was given The Gift of three beautiful children at a young age and though I loved them and did do some wonderful things with them until my addiction caught up with me before the oldest turned 7. I did not have the appreciation I have now as to how great a responsibility and how wonderful a joy it is to have children. Truth be told I was too self centered to understand.
Later on I was blessed with three more children, the later two after I came to the Lord. Only then did I start to get it, only then when sobriety came did I see where I had gone wrong. And then, slowly but surely God began to lead me to reconcile with the other four, and to be blessed with 13 Grandchildren.
I know this, what is impossible for man is possible with God. He can turn chicken salad into chicken soup, he is the only one who can. Not by my own futile means could I have humbled my self enough to seek this forgiveness. He gave us The Gift of his own son then takes us through a practical path to reconciliation by teaching us who have faltered how to become the fathers and mothers we should have been in the first place.
And then, when I lost my youngest son to death, I began to understand how great His gift and my gifts were and how short the time actually is that we may have the opportunity to enjoy them. I understood how he felt when he watched his son suffer, I understood the suffering I had caused my other children, and my heart was broken but my faith was reinforced.
Because I now understand The Gift and I will never give it away again!
One of my favorite songs is by The Crusaders called "Street Life". In it Randy Crawford sings of the perils of an addict with no hope. This is how the song begins: I still hang around neither lost nor found.
That my have been you, it was certainly me and I sang that song for far too many years. In the depths of addiction our only hope seems to be to do the same thing and get deeper into it. We escape into it to virtually run away from time. Later in the song are these words: I play the street life because there's no place I can go.
Hopeless, lost, no place to go that sums it up for that lifestyle. But then in 1984 it all began to change for me. In the Book of Luke Chapter 15 we read some different words from Street Life. This passage has three parables about being Lost And Found, some call it the lost and found chapter. There is the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son.
They all have basically the same conclusion, that "there is rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents" However the Life Recovery Bible commentary adds something new, that God feels his kingdom is incomplete without us. Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors, he healed the marginalized, and in the parable of the lost son, his father ran to meet him after living the wild life. Proof that the father felt incomplete without his son.
But it was also someplace the son could go, and that is the same place I went, home to the father. Hard to imagine the size of the party when I came home from squandering my life away but I am sure it was huge because my sins were many.
Maybe you echo the words of that song today, neither lost nor found, no place you can go. That's what we come to believe with that addictive lifestyle. It's a lie, it's only a song, it's only a myth, and like addiction it is make believe, it's escape.
I love the last verse of that passage in Luke, let it marinate in your spirit: But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.
Don't escape, come home to the Father, and let's have a real party!
How many times in life have we been knocked down but gotten back up? What motivates us to keep getting up, and conversely what keeps knocking us down? For some of us this happens a little too often.
In my mind, I owe much to my mom who had a wonderful fighting spirit. But that was not enough for me, though it helped navigate some very difficult times. Ultimately what lifted me up out of the slimy pit in life I had fallen into was following an undefeated champion, our Lord Jesus Christ. I wrote this in tribute to Him!
He came into this world with the greatest intentions
To heal, show forgiveness and heavens dimensions
Instead of hate, he sowed seeds of peace and love
He tried to tell them he came from his father above
But they didn't listen, except for a few
They made him feel like an outcast Jew
They mocked him, beat him, hung him on a cross
They thought they had dealt him a tortuous loss
He was dead, he was down, they thought he was out
But they forgot what he said, he had heavenly clout
Three days in a tomb was all he could bear
When they came to check on him, he wasn't there
Where was he at, where did he go
For awhile, no one seemed to know
Then he appeared just talking and walking about
They had knocked him down, but he was never out!
That's more than enough motivation for me to get back up!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.