Many years ago when training for sales with a Fortune 500 company, we were challenged to put our skills learned into practice through a rigorous and often embarrassing exercise called Bull In The Ring.
You were placed in a chair in the middle of the room surrounded by your peers who tossed one objection at you after another for any and all situations they chose to select. It was in this arena that I began to learn I had a skill-set inside of me that could handle adverse situations just like my time in Viet Nam as a Marine. Little did I know at the time that God was preparing me for hearing objections about him and how to handle the fears and objections that those to follow would have.
Yesterday we had two fantastic addiction recovery meetings, the first being me and just 3 men. One was of Hindu faith, one was openly gay, and the third was a Latin-american who followed Jesus. The words spoken during that meeting are private but as a summary they were heartfelt stories of faith or lack of it and the reasons why we had gotten in trouble in the first place. I listened as they spoke, and I heard the pain, and I understood.
Often our judgement goes before our listening (quick to listen, slow to speak/James 1:19), our solutions before their stories, our answers before their questions. The key to understanding others is to understand why they have objections or pain, or sorrow, and to listen with compassion and an open mind, not with answers before they finish.
Our objective should not to be smart or right, but to be the hands and feet of a God who does have answers to every question or objection, and to provide a pathway for conversation that leads to possibilities of developing a faith that works. Loving people who are not the same as us, or who have the same beliefs (Matt 5:43-46), are the meaning of the words of the man who became the proverbial bull in the ring for all of us, not just some of us.
He overcame the objections of the world by who he was, by his words of wisdom and by his actions, all of which were designed to reconcile us to God. He pointed the way, to some they understood the point, others did not, but he in his loving, compassionate way made the point, letting the point sink in, and allowing us to choose.
I just love being in that chair, especially the ones that swivel around to understand others!
The box. The one we all get too comfortable in. The one that we stay in too long instead of coming out and opening our hearts and our lives to others. We may sit in it a season, that's okay, but eventually we have to come out and expand.
But it is never comfortable to change, and if it is, it is not worth it.
We must admit that as an addict of any kind, we have placed ourselves in a very bad box, one that could be marked "Damaged Goods", and most people don't want to have a box like that, so they return it. That's called denial for the doer that created the box, and for the one who may receive it, because the contents of that box are still one of God's creations - it just got damaged in shipping.
Not comfortable to open it and see the damage, but most things can be repaired (Anything is possible with God) but it often takes some time. It takes honesty to recognize as human beings that we have all been in that proverbial box at one time for one reason or another, so when we encounter others that are currently in there, we do so with compassion and love. And, we must remember there are all sizes of boxes that contain many different things.
Yesterday morning I got a text from Pastor Darryll at Life Church International that 40 people from our recovery group at LCI were at church. He was excited for the other 500 people who came, but he was really excited about those 40 who had been damaged in shipping. Another indication they are coming out of that box is that they came, and another great sign is that most of the other 500 loved to see them and embraced the opportunity to help with the repairs.
Both sides coming out of a box to share in the mutually healing love of a God who understands every box there is. We just never know quite what is inside of that box until we open it and set it free from the confinement it is packed in.
Just open the box -it may truly change our lives - it's worth it!
Life is always about taking the next step because it always remains in a moving condition. Whatever step we have taken or are standing in at the moment will change quickly. From birth to death we are on the move and forever doing something else to fill in that dash that represents our life.
Business is the same way; what you have done today is only as good as tomorrow's results. We have to keep improving sometimes horizontally after we have grown vertically so that in the future will head vertically again. Here's my translation relevant to ATB: We have increased our number of folks we influence through meetings, etc. by 227% in 2019. Now the challenge is ongoing to train these folks to become leaders so that we can continue to grow and help people change their lives. Our example - Jesus and his apostles.
The best testimonial comes from the ones who have just changed, who have gotten sober for a year because they are current and can relate to the newcomers. I remember coming to the Lord in 1984, then surrendering my life and my alcohol to him and being used by my mentors to teach Bible studies, leading people left and right to him because I was on fire and full of a beautiful dysfunctional story.
Then I was cultivated, loved and trained (even with all my mistakes) to lead a recovery ministry. Three decades later what we started is still in existence both through North Atlanta & Campus Church as well as the new Human services Organization of ATB. You grow, you train, but you always remember the One who is in charge, and that it is He who leads us to take the next important step.
In 2020 we will certainly continue to grow, but the only way it will be an effective growth is to train others to spread the news, and to develop an ongoing legacy that will last for decades to come. Our next step is horizontal improvement to propel us to verticality.
Amazingly, that points up to heaven!
I like New! New adventures, new changes, new car smells (30 years of the car business), new babies (my favorite), just anything new - especially being made new in a decision of faith!
So we embark in the new year of 2020 with a new Sunday series, Jesus & The Addict, and the launch of Across The Bridge Academy, a new way to teach about addiction recovery and leadership for those who wish to serve in that arena. Today (Saturday the 4th) we meet to develop the curriculum for the first class of ATBA, Leadership 101 and to schedule a launch date. We will keep you advised.
This Sunday the 5th, we kick off the Jesus & The Addict series, based on a book written by Dr. Pam Morrison, who herself was never addicted, but writes of the struggle of her church and the AA Group that met there, plus her extensive experience in dealing with addicts, as well as the perspective of one who sees addiction recovery support as a critical role to the church.
More compelling, is her concept of how to teach those in recovery about Jesus and his amazing love for the lost. She reaches into things such as:
The Love of The Father
Thinking In A Brand New Way
Your Identity In Jesus
No More Triggers: "I've Got The Devil's Number"
From Resentment To Contentment
Stomping On Fear
This new series will be taught for 12 weeks at Campus Church in Norcross in our normal classroom, room 211, on Sunday mornings from 10:15-11 AM. We welcome anyone wanting to learn about how the church, families, and addiction recovery groups and ministry's can work closer together to resolve addiction issues.
Come join us in both new venues, both smelling and looking like a brand new baby!
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.