"They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." Jeremiah 17
How deep would you say your spiritual roots are? As the story of the 3 Little Pigs portrays, as does the house built on a solid ground story in the Bible, we know that short roots, and failure to water are a deadly combination when not cultivated. The pigs had their bricks and the house had its solid rock but roots are grow-able and can be extended way beyond friends and family in our spiritual walk. If they are not watered they can wither away!
I have experienced this first hand this past year, being mostly away from my church home and immediate family and it can be a very challenging time of faith. There are times when I have felt lost in a maze of work and no play, no support, and yet there have been times of faith validation and bonding with the Lord. Until you move away from your comfort zone you may never realize how deep your spiritual roots really are.
When the Bible speaks of spiritual warfare I listen, I feel it going on. But yet, when I pick up the 3 comfort givers I read every day, my Chuck Swindoll book on Abraham's walk of faith, my men's devotional and then the recovery Bible, there is at least a truce in my mind. I feel connected and years of working on those roots start to come forth in my soul and I feel the presence of God.
They were watered by great heroes of faith like Don & Susie Schultz, my mentor Wayne Collins and Bill Long who gave me such acceptance.
They were seasoned by countless Don McLaughlin, Jody Vickery and Dusty Rush sermons. They were extended by so many supporters in 12 Step meetings (they must remain anonymous), and helped to grow by people I so admired like the Combee's, the Dowdy's, the Thames, Raye and Lynda Morris and so many others.
The Benedictine nuns at Linton Hall, the Christian Brothers at St. John's, even Bruce the greeter at North Atlanta, all of the prior mentioned come to mind when I ever think of feeling low in my faith. These are my roots that I cling to because they are life lines from the Lord that provide energy in every season whether stormy or calm.
You who remain anonymous, you are the ones who I am accountable to, the ones whom I must also help to water. And my blood family that has grown so large in the past few years, you provide the roots that propel me to be a better man, a better father and whether I am with you or not, you are always and forever in my heart.
Because of you all, and because of that flowing amazing grace from God, my leaves are always green!
Recently I spent some time talking to someone who had just gotten out of jail for a parole violation. The words of honesty came out that one of their problems was that they always had to shine, to be a little better than everyone else, never could settle for being ordinary. As a child they were always told they were not good enough, needed to be more, do more. Sound familiar?
Tonight in our Toyota dealership we are set up with Channel 15 News from Mobile, with two competing bands and supporters from rival schools holding a pep rally for their new generation of High School football superstars! Lots of pressure for those young men to perform and make everyone happy. How many of them will also have unreasonable expectations? How many will fail and live on a slippery slope?
Today I got one of those Diet Coke cans which in the past week or two had been labeled "Soulmate", "Best Friends" and a myriad of other titles that I paid no attention to, then today my can said Superstar! Now we are talking I thought, it was right I have been shining a lot lately, but the real truth is that I shine because I know where the light is coming from and it is not my performance, except how I perform through Him. I finally understand that principle.
But I was alot like that person released from jail, I was told I wasn't good enough by several people with great influence on my life.
So, we always have to take a step back and make sure we are not trying to win at all costs, that our motives to succeed are not driven by the noise in our heads from the past, but are from a genuine desire to do our best in all things because our boss (the Lord) is so supportive and loving. He is the superstar, we are the fortunate ones who bask in his glory of forgiveness and second chances.
Just think how many of us who thought we were superstars flamed out when left to our own devices. That's the problem, for whatever reasons we were driven to think that way, we were never grounded in reality, always thinking in terms of fantasy living. I know, I was there, and the Lord in all his goodness knocked me severely off my high horse.
Truth is, we can never achieve what God has already done for us, we are always good enough for Him, even when we are not at our best. That should comfort us, not lead us on a path of self destruction.
It is much better for my life to let Him have all the glory, to shine because of Him, and just soak in those rays of grace that flow from Him!
The Epic Struggle
If we take a look back at history, all of our heroes had struggles. Whether it be Abraham Lincoln having to get beat over and over before he finally won, or it be Noah who followed his God inspired Ark journey by getting drunk and having sex with his daughter, or Paul who always seemed to have a thorn in his side. Good guy or bad guy, they all had their epic battles to face, so we take heart that we too may have a page in history.
What would yours be written like? Major drug addict becomes missionary doctor as he helps heal the sick in Zimbabwe. Former alcoholic becomes Governor of Georgia. Six time felon teaches middle school kids how to avoid bad decisions. Modern day woman at the well leads healthy relationship classes. These are epic struggles that became healing situations at the foot of the cross, and some are really true, but you will have to guess which ones!
So as you read this blog let you and I join together to say as one, we have epic struggles with _____, _____ and _____. No one is immune to it and no one has a right to point a finger at someone else and think they are better because theirs isn't as big.
As I watched the Wyatt Earp movie the other night, I learned about how he lost the love of his life as a young man, went into a time of being homeless, drunk and became a lawless wanderer as he processed his grief. A very imperfect man became one of the true heroes of the west
but he had his moments of those epic struggles that tend to solidify or destroy our faith. Just like you and I.
In my own, I can find no other solution than God, God and more God. There is no drink or drug, no food, no woman and no thing that can forge the courage in my soul greater than those moments of crisis spent with the Lord. Yes, I have had epic fails, but I believe what is the most important thing is what I do after that failure.
Currently there are less epic struggles and more enjoying the challenges of everyday life. But as this roller coaster ride of life goes up and down I know that he is with me as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and he is with me when the light is shining brightest and the joy is the greatest.
How about you? Got a suggestion that is very simple. We have all seen the TV commercials on milk that say "Got Milk". When your struggles become the most epic, speak these words to your soul.............
These words are from an old song, but it is a song we often have a hard time singing. We don't want to let go of things, we can't get over situations which have baffled us. We also have a very hard time moving away from who we used to be if who we used to be was a not so good person.
But that was yesterday, and yesterday's gone
I can remember the time the apostle Paul told his story as one who used to be a persecutor, a wrong thinking person who did not know the truth. As he spoke, he spoke of who he used to be and who he had now become. It was a point of reference to highlight his change of faith, his change of lifestyle and belief. He was coming clean.
For the addict, it is essential to come clean, to live in honesty. It is also harmful to live in the past, either glorifying our past behavior or keep beating ourselves up for what we did. Not much we can do about it now except make amends, or so we think. But what if we had an encounter with a miracle worker, a lover of mankind who absolutely sold out for us, and wanted all the people with ugly pasts to thrive?
What if he wanted the down and dirty to become shining examples who would not just become followers, but become great leaders? What a great concept! Except for one major thing, we keep thinking we were yesterday's person, not today's.
But that was yesterday and yesterday's gone
If Paul had thought the same way many of us do, he would never have become such a great man of God and example of what a u-turn Christ can help us make. His being blinded was like our bottom, it had to happen to make such a radical change. So we were wrong, so was he. Let's just get over it and move on to a greater vision of how God sees us not how we see ourselves.
I remember being asked to preach a sermon while being separated which ultimately led to a divorce. I remember thinking how could a loser like me have anything to say that would have an impact on someone else. Well I gave the best sermon of my life, on forgiveness, and folks were crying and they even wanted to write me a check for coming. Then they invited me back.
We think so poorly of ourselves when God sees us as his masterpieces because we have come from one foot in hell to the doorstep of heaven. And you know something - we don't have to pay a fine or a toll to get in, it's already been paid!
I can imagine getting there and the Lord saying to me, "You used to be a pretty bad dude", but that was yesterday and yesterday's gone!
PS I didn't take the check because I have already been paid in full!
An Angel on My Shoulder
Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:14
There are so many mysteries of life that we cannot count them all, and we may never fully understand life itself. Some things are a given and what we can see and touch we can judge for ourselves what they are all about. But about faith and what we cannot see, we are often baffled.
All my life, through the roller coaster ride of ups and downs, I have felt a presence even before I gave my life to Christ. There always seemed to be an angel of some sort protecting me from total disaster, even when imminent danger was present. There was that time in Viet Nam when my replacement for our recon patrol stepped on a land mine and lost his leg. Would have been me except he volunteered knowing I had been out in the jungle too long.
Then there was that DUI when I passed out at the wheel miraculously avoiding killing someone and myself as I flew over an embankment and crashed my head against the steering wheel (pre-airbags) and received a mild concussion. Or hundreds of other situations where there is no explanation for why I didn't totally crash and burn. And, I believe many of you have had that same feeling, those same unbelievable escapes from near disaster.
In that scripture we receive hope that no matter what situation we are in, an angel has been assigned to us to watch over us. Sound crazy? Evidently not to those who speak of a guardian angel or those who have experienced this form of strange presence. God himself asks us to believe that all things are possible for Him, and my hope is that after I die my next assignment might be as an angel to minister to some poor soul like me that needed a major direction change.
None of us, most assuredly me, know for sure what the spiritual realm looks like from the inside. But my guess is that knowing the Lord and watching all the incredible life changing situations I have seen in other people, he has an army of angels at work all around us, led by the Holy Spirit.
Or think of it this way from those constant cartoons that remind us of the devil's representative on one shoulder urging us to do wrong, and the angel on the other shoulder urging us to do the right thing. Or better yet, pick up a copy of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and read another person's thoughts on the spiritual battle for our souls.
Let us know your thoughts, and in the meanwhile give that good angel on your shoulder a nod of thanks!
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.