If I have learned anything from all these years of working on and teaching about the 12 Steps, it is that a wide variety of people, no matter what their background, have found comfort and healing while exploring the nature of this program. We call it a program because you don’t have to be in a lock-up facility, a halfway house or outpatient treatment to follow it, just dialed in to it as a method of life situational healing.
These Steps were taken out of the Bible and placed in a context that would allow even the simplest belief toward life recovery an opportunity to become part of a program that provided a pathway back to God. Here are 3 important quotes from the introduction to our new series on Sunday’s, “The 12 Steps For Christians”, followed by my corresponding comments:
“The 12 Steps offer a way to grow beyond the harmful effects of a troubled home environment.”
I am amazed at the amount of people who have convinced themselves their childhood was perfect and their parents were angels, when in fact there was quiet chaos in the family. Then there are others who if a family reunion were scheduled would remain as far away as possible. The fact is that we can find a new highly functional and supportive family if we let the power of healing work within us. Ignoring the obvious emotional facts of a disrupted, broken or divorced family only keeps us in denial.
“It is however, a program that helps us to rediscover and deepen the spiritual part of ourselves.”
We all have methods, books, times we schedule of prayer and meditation, things we do to deepen our relationship with the Lord. What works for one, may not be good for the other. So, for you to consider being a part of this class or working these Steps, there has to be a payoff greater than what you have now. For me, it is always a new adventure every day because the Steps cause you to rediscover who you are. And when you do, you also discover who God intended you to be. Not the one your parents, friends or spouses saw you as, but the real you. What if you lived your whole life as an actor and never realized who was playing the real you?
“We realize that the void or despair we feel is the result of our ignoring or rejecting our relationship with our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
We talk about the hole in our soul developed from years of addiction and evil situations, and how we have to fill it with something better than what we have been chasing after for all these years. Quite simply, many of us chased after everything but God. He was not appealing to us because we had our mind bent on the riches of this world and the proverbial “apple” we were not supposed to eat. But in the end, everything we tried came up empty……relationships, money, drugs, alcohol, sex, it was never enough, but always a temporary fix.
The truth is there is only one permanent fix, and what we need is a really experienced carpenter to repair our house. And, if it is like most houses it has Steps that lead into a happy home if you take them one at a time. So, how about if we take these next three months to do a little home improvement? We will look at it as a New Series – New Adventure! No telling what termites we might find………
How many of us labor in relative obscurity or exist the same way we always have, and never see a way out? Our faith is there but it never reaches a level of expansion or we think getting away from our box of living is for someone else, not us. We fall into a trap of mediocrity and settle for far less than God wants us to have, not only in faith, or our health, or talent’s used, but also in income to name a few.
When was the last time you prayed the Prayer of Jabez …….”Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and expand my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” 1 Chronicles 4:10
I remember praying this years ago when the book by the same name became popular, and soon after, ATB came to life. I was thinking more of money and opportunities, God was thinking more of souls and creating a new family. Funny how God delays some things until we are ready, but gives us blessings enough to keep us interested and hopeful. He definitely expanded my spiritual territory, blessed me in the process with a worthwhile endeavor for Him, and kept me from harm, although there were many moments of doubt that my business life would ever improve, especially at my age (somewhat over 40 and less than 95).
Just a few weeks ago, after watching a teaching on financial bondage, I finally just looked up to heaven and asked the Lord for a financial breakthrough figuring he had enough of my doubts in this area. Well, it didn’t take long for him to respond. First, we had waited almost 6 months to get a new oven because we just couldn’t afford one, there were other priorities. One day I began looking again after my request, and I found one I liked for about $499 after discount, so I prayed for that oven specifically. My daughter and Logan had had about it with microwaving and cooking on the top of the stove (although we got pretty creative).
Next day I showed up for some early drawings at the auction figuring God had heard my plea. There were to be 2 early bird drawings for $500 apiece (that was to get people there early because they moved up the starting times). Didn’t get the first one, so I moved to the second area, and got shut out there too. But then they said, let’s try again (not planned), and you guessed it, they drew my number Oh, that you would bless me. That’s the reason so many of you have seen the enormous excitement by Briana who posted a picture of it on Facebook. $499/$500 coincidence or prayer answered?
One after the other things began happening with money and opportunities. Then, this past Monday in the midst of one of my stores that I bought for being sold, the owner showed up while I was getting the inventory in line to thank me for helping them triple used car sales in the past 90 days. No more, than 10 minutes later and expand my territory, he impulsively comes back to me and offers me the chance to be his corporate used car manager (4 stores, with 500 used cars in inventory). I was floored!
Then, he began giving me details of what he wanted over a two day period, how he believed it could work, how I would report only to him and then laid out a financial compensation plan that more than doubled the most money I have ever made (6 years ago). He asked two specific things from me, one was trust, Let your hand be with me, and the second was at least part-time relocation to Florida near his 3 main dealerships. (Wait a minute Lord, I didn’t ask for that one yet)……….and expand my territory kept coming back to mind.
All these years of labor without anyone really appreciating what I have done and now the offer that a person may get once in a lifetime lays before me. And it hit me that if that offer had come a few years ago, there may not be an ATB because that was my assignment then to expand spiritually and struggle financially. Now, God is giving me a gift because I didn’t miss that assignment though I wavered on many occasions.
“Knock and the door will be opened to you, seek and you will find.” I knocked, the door opened in God’s timing, and the deal is still a work in progress as we negotiate the ability to continue to lead ATB. I have not forgotten where I came from, who led me there, and that he has kept me from harm even when harm was knocking at my door.
The point………don’t settle for mediocrity in our lives, live large in whatever capacity you can at the present moment, remembering that we are living first for Him, and second for everybody else. And, when opportunity knocks, don’t miss it!
Oh by the way, did I mention that the Florida area is at the beach!
The one word many people hate to hear is Change. It often means that the security we have built up in whatever our life’s routine is, has been challenged, and it forces us to step out of our comfort zone. And, unless we are adaptable, a change of plans may cause us to tailspin out of control.
Case in point, the rich young ruler, who thought he was doing everything right, was given an opportunity to change. His response, to walk away, declining the invitation of his creator to make a real difference. We don’t know how he handled the rest of his life, but I am betting that he didn’t feel so good about himself anymore. In this case, what would we do? And, have we been guilty of walking away from God’s opportunity to help us make a change of plans in the past?
The problem is that we place our plans way ahead of his. We make a list of things to do (I do every day), but do we allow for God to interrupt our agenda and have us ad lib? For practical example, would we talk to someone who needed an ear if our man made list took priority over the present need?
Lots of questions that lead me to believe that a change of plans is a normal agenda for the God who sees and knows us. He constantly challenges me to be fast on my feet, ever able to adapt to the moment and hear the opportunity to be “uncomfortable” for Him. The real truth though, is that change for the better usually results in a better and more secure relationship with Him. In cliché terms, letting go means letting God in.
Change of plans……….”If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,
then I will let you live in this place, in the land I give your forefathers for ever and ever.
But look, you are trusting in deceptive words that are worthless.” Jeremiah 7:5-8
The truth is, real security comes from following the “to do” list of our Lord, not from the things we have acquired or put back for our retirement. It does not come from our accomplishments of getting things done if they are not things He wants done.
If we trust in the deception that what we created is better than what he can give us, we will never make a change of plans! Last question, what are your plans?
It has been a struggle to wake up my grandson Logan (5 years old) for pre-school these past few weeks and it seems like every morning he wakes up grumpy. So to counteract his grumpiness I have been singing him the song in this week’s title.
He usually shrugs or asks me politely not to sing it when he is not feeling “happy”, or just says “go away papa” not so politely. This morning I laid in his bed next to him after his Mom woke him up and sang it again. This time he used his legs to try and push me off the bed, so I thought maybe it’s time to come up with a new song.
I left his room to work on the computer when much to my surprise I hear him sing “blue skies are gonna come out, put on a happy face” standing right behind me with a very large smile on his face.
As we finish off our series “Contagious Community” it is important to remember that a positive attitude and faith is contagious no matter how often we exercise it to the sometimes chagrin of others. Sooner or later the sun will shine in others we interact with no matter how dark and overcast it looks today.
Same is true for us, even in the worst of trials, as echoed throughout scripture, we must look to that day when light overcomes darkness. Divorce, addiction, loss of loved ones, or a job or home, or constant financial troubles may be only a stepping stone to a much brighter day.
There’s a great comment in my Life Recovery Bible that encourages the contagious nature of joy:
“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.”
In Ecclesiastes 7 it says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” so, my thinking is let’s make the best out of both times since it is inevitable we will experience them both. And if others see that a little bump in the road doesn’t change who we are, our effect of the human race will be enormous.
Please give it a try, sing that song for a few consecutive days, see if it doesn’t make you want to put on a happy face! Ask Logan………..
At these auto auctions I go to, every vehicle that runs has a lane assignment and a run number. Prior to running they are listed on a run list where you can look up on a computer to check it out and usually I make a list and a plan to be there to try and buy when they are expected to run. But, every now and then because of a starting problem, no gas or some other miscellaneous situation, one will inevitably run "out of sequence".
When I saw one Tuesday, it rang a bell with me. That's where my life used to be 24/7, running in directions contrary to the flow of life. Some who read this can identify with that. Or maybe, just the occassional times when our schedules are interrupted, an unexpected emergency occurs, or we are just plain and simple unable to answer the bell for today, we are left feeling 'out of sequence". Most can definitely understand that.
What is even more serious is when our spiritual life becomes out of order. We stop praying, stop reading, do very little taking to God, and generally try to coast on our previous experiences to make it by. We find ourselves acting differently, reacting out of character, and thinking thoughts we never thought we would think. In the program we call that "stinking thinking".
In Psalm 42, twice this is mentioned word for word, maybe because it is how we feel when we get "out of sequence" in our relationship with the Lord:
"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my savior and my God."
Simply put, when we get "out of sequence", hope in the Lord, praise him for helping us get back in line, and let Him direct our path so that we stay there. Then that downcast feeling of being out of sorts, that despair we felt when lost, will be replaced by verse 8 of that same Psalm:
"By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me - a prayer to the God of my life."
Remember that even the very best souls we read about in the Bible got 'out of sequence" from time to time, so feeling temporarily that way is pretty normal. But when we come to Him, when we get that way, we are never out of sequence from His grace and love.
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 email@example.com.