Perspective is always key when looking at things. When you look at a church and what its make up should be, what would you envision? People a lot like you, people different than you, or a combination of both? That might be too easy to answer.
How about this? How much different than you could they be? Or, is it even up to you to decide who gets in and who gets left out? If we use the model of the acceptance of Christ and the early church, the perspective would be that their membership was all over the place with people of all types, including notorious sinners and tax collectors. I wonder how many people would guard their pockets during the service?
The natural inclination of most of us is to be with folks who share our perspective, our values, and our lifestyles because that makes us comfortable, and that is not a bad thing. It is just not what Jesus envisioned. The Jews were already that way. They had their own group. What Jesus did was radicalize the perspective of a church to include folks who had not been included for centuries, but would be included for eternity.
Imagine how the Jews took this after so much time having their own group? And then, one of their own, Paul, was converted and the change began to take place. In reality It Only Took A Minute to happen before the entire world was invited to become members.
Let's bring that to today and ATB. This week we are doing eight meetings, two a day Monday through Wednesday, and then the girls do two Saturday. That's eight hours plus let's generously say it takes four hours to prepare and two hours to travel. That would add up to 14 hours of service plus a couple of hours to talk to people, so we do about 16 hours of service work to groups of people battling addiction, those new kind of folks who Paul went after.
In perspective, that is only slightly over ten percent of our time to bring hundreds of people a message of hope. In other words, It Only Took A Minute of our time to serve. We deserve no credit for that time served, but it was a time well served in God's eyes.
If we only took ten percent of our time to reach out to people not like us, what would our own churches look like? In perspective, they would look a lot like a day spent at WalMart. That may be the way Jesus looks at it, but with one major change- he paid the price before we could get to the checkout counter!
Do we have ten percent of our time to pay him back?
I absolutely love the 12 Steps and the way it lays out for us a pathway to changing our behavior and attitudes. And, if worked properly, will lead to a spiritual awakening of epic proportions that will hopefully include a walk with Jesus. The Big Book of AA, the NA Basic Text and other words of wisdom should all be a significant part of a journey to sober living.
They all work together with the words of scripture to enlighten us and give us hope for change that is permanent. However, without a decision by the one who is the addict to want to change, they become just words. Words that may provide a temporary relief, but only words because the one doing those steps or reading those words is just biding time until the next opportunity to get high.
We use the words "cunning and baffling" often and that is exactly the right description of how an addict thinks while still in active addiction. No one can really understand why we do what we do, not even those of us who are on the right side of this. We only understand that there is a Recovery 101 plan that can help us heal, but it absolutely requires that decision that we want this more than anything else in life.
I have found one very important ingredient that may help and it comes from the master. "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matt 19;14
Little children are generally happy, reliant on their parents for direction and very creative in their thoughts. Somehow we lost all of this when we were using. Happiness only came in the next high which kept getting shorter and shorter. We lost the ability to laugh and just enjoy life. We became creative in how we manipulated others into our own selfish desires, but forgot how to just draw pictures of sunshine and fictional play characters.
And instead of relying on our parents, in this case our heavenly father, we became a self will machine. Now, all of this has to be unpacked and restored. Is it any wonder why it sometimes takes relapses and speed bumps before we finally start to play, pray and get out of the way, so that our joy of life is restored?
We say if you start using at 12 that when you quit at 32 you are still 12 in maturity. True, so maybe that scripture that we need to come as little children is the key because little children are teachable, little children are reachable, and little children are a delight to God.
May be time to go back to Recovery 101!
It was just a little thing, but it was a big deal. A man I had helped just a short while ago asked for a ride to the meeting, and then when we stopped to eat he actually paid for my meal. May seem so very small to you, but there are very few folks who we deal with in this recovery world that either pay you back or pay it forward. And when it happens, it reminds us of why we give of our time and effort, it is The Difference!
I can imagine how Jesus felt when Mary washed his feet. He was so used to being the giver, the one who provided miracles, inspiration and insight into a better life, and here he was being served. He let her, even though he may not have wanted or needed his feet washed. He knew how important it was for her to do this. It was part of her healing process.
Something that was in his DNA that took me many years to understand was learning the things he did that made a difference in people's lives. Yes, he was God and he taught about having faith in God, and loving God above all else, but he showed us the way we could put the nature of God into practice in our daily lives. Love others, have compassion, serve, have faith and be doers of good, not evil. But that something extra I missed was allowing others to give back to those of us who give on his behalf, and allowing it to be their special gift to us.
Large or small, when someone says "let me do this for you", let them do it, don't say I've got this. (I am speaking to me as much as I am to you). Why has already been stated, but think of how much we may rob them of the moment that may hurt their wallet but cleanse their soul. It is their moment to shine light on someone who has been a light to them.
You know it may not happen very often because we don't let it happen very often. Others may perceive us as not needing anything, but I can tell you for sure, that in my case, when someone does give back to me, it makes serving that much more exciting. Jesus seemed to get excited about the little things, like little children, little gifts, little people of life like Zacchaeus, the sinners and tax collectors. He saw so much good in others when everyone else saw so little.
The Difference, everyone was important to him from the first to the last, and he treated then all the same. And he allowed them to be human even in the face of perfection, and he loved them just the same. As a matter of fact he may have actually needed something...
For us to be alot like him!
As fate would have it I am writing this blog from Hoover, Alabama late at night and after a day of being reminded often of Monday night's game. It seems this state has played a significant role in my life the last few years and may continue to be a part of my future from a distance. But that game, man it still hurts if you are a Dawg fan. It continues to alternate between so much joy for a great season of many memories to a moment of fleeting thoughts of one that got away.
So too life is a carbon copy of that game- many moments of joy and things that seem to slip through our fingers just when we think we have caught the brass ring. And as life is, we have second and third chances to catch them again, but not often when we expect them. The question I must answer and may be on your mind as well is, when that moment comes, will we be ready to succeed the next time?
Failure does not meant we have lost, it may only be a temporary setback from a permanent victory. The true biblical example is the apostle Peter who had many setbacks before he achieved God's purpose for his life. The key for us is not to beat ourselves up so badly when we don't respond to every challenge with a spiritual victory, and remember that Christ died for us when we were at our worst.
What does that mean? One day we will not only beat Alabama, but our lives will go way beyond that to have learned from every lesson, to have seen the message in every trial, and will dominate the evil forces against us with the full power of God. Well, maybe I got carried away a little but Peter's Alabama was courage, and for sure he was filled by God's spirit for battle, which he eventually won.
We can never give up our dreams of being a champion at life, and for sure if we walk with the Lord, we will win. But when we lose, we need a take away that includes learning why we failed and asking the Holy Spirit to correct our shortcomings. Nothing complicated here. We just follow God's game plan instead of ours.
Just wait until next time, Alabama!
There are many sayings we have that sound the same. It is what it is, What you see is what you get, Motor oil is motor oil. These all relate to looking directly and honestly at something and saying that is what it is. And then comes along another one that challenges those: You can't judge a book by its cover.
So, what is truth? Jesus thought the Pharisees looked like "whitewashed tombs", a reference to how their outside looked great but inside they were dead spiritually. When we look at something we have been doing for maybe our whole life, and we have been constantly running after whatever it is we are chasing, and think that should be reality of life, maybe it is our time to say, What you see is not always what you get.
In other words, maybe what we think to be the way it should be is absolutely for sure, not what it is. Prince Charming, Cinderella, chasing rainbows, achieving wealth, they all sound good, but are we spending too much time going after what isn't, rather than what is? There is a fine line between being the best, going after the best, and yet facing reality that going after that may not be in our best interests.
So these words which I have heard constantly hit me even more directly this week, "seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you". I think the words that give us problems are "these things".
In previous verses he is speaking of clothing and food primarily but we as we are prone to do, extend it to everything else we need. Let me have this kind of person, that kind of love, that kind of job, and on and on, but it occurred to me that seeking his kingdom first might mean we have to make some sacrifices in our seeing and our wanting.
Maybe God doesn't mean for us to have all of that which which we seek because it may get in the way of seeking first his kingdom. Maybe we look for distractions just to stay interested in this worldly kind of way instead of staying focused on what he has in store for us to do. It's easy to lose focus with so many things around us that look great but on the inside are filled with distraction for us.
A little deep this week, but just a reflection. Which brings up another thought, if you look in clear water and see a reflection of yourself are you seeing your reflection or just clear water? Or maybe both, or maybe what is below the water? That might be a great way to close this blog because What you see is not always what you get!
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.