A few days ago, I was coming home carrying a bag of groceries, and walked past the postal clerk processing the mail in several mailboxes. Heading back for the second bag I heard her coughing without a filter, then heard a friend of hers say hello and asked why she wasn't wearing a mask and gloves. So I used a different route for sure.
Yesterday while waiting for a prescription at Walgreen's I put my hands not only on the counter but also putting in my codes for my bank card on the pad., and it struck me that there is only one way to prevent this virus from growing - stay home and lock the doors.
Despite any other precautions we might take there is no way we can think of every answer to the constant threat of an unseen enemy. Does this sound familiar?
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
We can't see it except in the results of it, but we can prevent it from taking over our mind by going to the one who has every answer to an unseen situation, and though that may not prevent difficult things from happening, it provides faith and security through the trial.
We may have to hunker down, but doing so is the only way we will survive the bombardment of situations we in our finite minds have no answer for. And when we survive we will understand how to face the next ongoing battle.
God is the answer when we have none of our own, he is the answer when we are lost and alone, and he is the ultimate answer when we lock the doors and stay home!
There are times when opportunities present themselves that tell us what we are made of. Our faith and perseverance are tested beyond anything we faced before, and we wonder how strong we are.
What we are facing right now in the COVID-19 crisis is a big challenge, but it is no greater than any one we have overcome before. For some of us, it is just another mountain to climb, for others it is an immense struggle. What makes this one different is the media hype and social media frenzy that has stirred up fears rather than calm them.
In Viet Nam, most thought we had a walk over, an easy battle to win over a nation far inferior in weapons and technology. It was the first war the media could report back to the US with uncensored coverage. We spent a few years fighting with one hand tied behind our back (a politicians war), then we got hit hard all across the country by the enemy in what was known as the Tet Offensive.
This surge, which was later pushed back, inflicted major casualties on the enemy, but it gave them confidence they could win. Simultaneously the media sent back photos of broken and torn up bodies, dead American soldiers and made commentaries about the severe brutality of it all. It was certainly bad, as all war is, but the hype made it worse.
Much of it was true, as are the mounting number of cases and deaths of COVID-19, but any attempt to think positively and have optimism about the outcome, the supplies coming, the many who are sacrificing to help others, is met with way more amounts of gloom and doom. The Tet Offensive turned the Viet Nam war in the enemy's direction, and today, an attitude of negativity and dire consequences can turn our faith into many fears. With that attitude, the enemy wins.
David, who faced battles and controversies seemingly daily, said it like this in Psalm 144: Praise be to the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold, and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues people under me.
We may not be ready for all the consequences of COVID-19 and all the medical emergencies that come with it, but we have already been given, through our faith in the Lord, all that we need to overcome what's coming in this battle.
Don't let anyone tell you anything different!
In conjunction with our recovery partners and in the best interest of the people we serve, we are shutting down all meetings at the ATB Building and the two churches we partner with, Campus Church & Life Church International until April 1, at which time we will re-visit potential meetings. This includes the Saturday Night Community Worship, ATB 12 Step, CA, CMA, & SAA. We will continue to be available for on-site meetings and any individual groups who wish to conduct self contained type small meetings at ATB.
We are also working on video meetings as we type this and will provide info on that soon. Additionally, I will be available to speak with anyone who needs to talk at 404-915-7376.
We are family always and will do what is right to preserve and save lives, as well as to continue to trust in the God we serve to bring us through this crisis. Always Faith over Fear!
This country has been through so many crisis, and yet still stands strong. You, me, many of us have been through hell and back and are still standing. Now is a time to remember what brought us through - faith, not sight.
Everybody has their predictions, protocols and precautions for the Coronavirus, but it is a great time to remember the one who knows the outcome asks us to stand on his rock of faith and hold on. ATB remains open for those at risk subject to evolving circumstances.
We are Standing On The Rock! But we are taking a few added steps for the safety of our folks:
1. Asking people to stay home from our gatherings if they are sick and asking that they cover their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing. If anyone has a persistent cough or sneeze we will kindly ask them to leave.
2. Continuing all events as normal unless mandated by government or state requirements, but changing the circle of hands & hugs at the end of our meetings to praying in place.
3. Ensuring our ATB Building is cleaned and disinfected per CDC guidelines after every meeting.
It is important that people like us who deal with at risk people by the nature of what we do, continue to be there for them to show strength, courage and determination to win this current battle. It is all important to remember that whether we get sick (stats show only 1 in about 20-25 who contract the virus are dying) and if we should die from it, we will be in the right place anyway. We are just trying not to take anyone else with us too soon.
So let's have faith, strength and an attitude that this too will end, and let's continue the battle as soldiers in an ongoing battle to lead our folks to the right place in life!
We live in the greatest country in the world, free to express our rights, religion and reasonable opinions, which include love, sometimes hatred, and often contempt. We even fought against ourselves over freedom to have slavery. But yet, many of us are still slaves. Slaves to money, prejudice and addiction to so many other things.
Additionally, God gave us free will, so in America, we should be totally and unconditionally free. And yet, just one look around our community will show us that our freedom and free will has led us into the edge of darkness, a place where we have blocked the sunlight of God's Spirit and replaced it with the images of gods similar to what our Hebrew brethren did wandering in the desert.
God has given us the promised land, yet we remain unfulfilled in our promises. We only have to look at two of the most quoted scriptures to see that God knew, despite all he did for us, we would still be discontent.
Pick one: Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. John 8:32
So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
The first one offers a qualifier most people do not quote: If you hold to my teachings. Simply, we will be free if we are in covenant with Him. In the next one it adds a disclaimer afterward: I know you are Abraham's descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me.
Bottom line, we have been truly blessed, but we continue to throw those blessings away by exercising what we have defined as freedom, we kill the messenger of faith, and we turn our back on the real God for all the fake gods of what we call pleasure. Then, the pleasure requires more pleasure, because the pleasure becomes less.
But to be truly freed, to walk away from the internal incarceration of slavery, to bask in the glow of perpetual freedom, we must walk and stay in the Son-light!
We had spoken about it before, and now seems like exactly the right time. A week ago we lost 3 people, two to overdose, and God spoke to my heart that it's time to ramp it up!
There's a song I love called Light The Fire written by Bill Maxwell. In the refrain it says this: Light the fire in my soul, fan the flame make me whole. So ATB will make every attempt to fan the flame in our meetings, activities and services in March that leads to a greater relationship with the Lord. In God's timing and Spirit we will be "lit" in such a way that folks we serve get the message:
We are here for you, we will connect with you, we will teach you, and we will help you find God!
Are we and all our wonderful partners doing this already - absolutely, but not to the extent we will in March. The song goes on to say I feel your arms around me, as the power of your healing begins. You breathe new life right through me, like a mighty rushing wind.
The healing begins when one makes the decision to start, but in so many cases the fire flames out almost immediately because folks start to feel, they no longer have an escape route of their drug of choice and they quit. Or, they get to 90 days, 6 months clean and have nothing to do, the rush of adrenaline has not been replaced by that mighty rushing wind.
He has answers, we have a message, we have the arms, hands and feet to be those who speak revival to those He will revive. We are coming against everything that is coming against the 600 plus people we see a week with the power that can heal and breathe new life into a previously lifeless spirit.
Yes we will be "lit on fire" by Him, pray for us and all those we speak with that the fire spreads into many new hearts and souls and causes more revivals than a Narcan could ever do.
Look for details every week by every avenue of social media!
Been fortunate enough this week to spin off the AT & T commercial into several meetings. If you have never seen this series, they advocate that an okay situation (a doctor, a tax preparer, a babysitter, a tattoo artist and a mechanic) is not something you want done "just okay".
A.A.accurately says in the Big Book in How It Works, page 59, "Half measures avail us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon." Recovery is not okay if it is just okay. We cannot do a little beer sometimes, smoke a joint now and then instead of meth or heroin, it is like the domino effect, it all falls down eventually. There may be an exception to the rule, but not many.
It also says in that prior section, that we have to be willing to go to any length, let go absolutely and be completely honest. For people who have been dishonest most of their lives and ever trying to escape, these are hard things to do, that is why we must have His protection to get through it all.
In 1 Kings 18 we read the story of Elijah confronting Ahab and 450 false prophets who believed that Baal was God. He said to them, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him." In other words, just okay is not okay when it comes to the God you believe in. And, if we bring that up to today, we better believe in the right God if we want to get clean and sober.
Elijah challenged them (450 to 1), he even taunted them - and guess who won the challenge? When you know what you believe is truth, you get confident in your faith and even greater confident in your God that he will come through when he needs to. Eventually the journey of faith that begins with a doorknob finds real power, and that power that comes from a relationship with Jesus Christ is way better than just okay.
Or, we can take our chances and live a just okay life that may or may not turn out just okay!
** View this blog within a day or two, and other ATB info at acrossthebridgeinc.com or on the ATB Facebook page!
"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me"
Somehow the King James Version of that phrase from the 23rd Psalm resonates louder than any other reading. Especially starting with that first word "Yea".
Normally when we are in a mess, when nothing seems to be happening the way we want, when real danger looms on the horizon, our very first words are not "Yea, for the valley of death spiral I seem to be in." In fact, in the last week there have been several people who have expressed being in this valley with me. Absolutely a brick wall seems to be in front of you at every turn and you become more despondent by the moment.
Unless, of course, you believe the rest of the words of that phrase. In Viet Nam I had these words inscribed on my Zippo lighter (not quite the same exact words if you understand what I mean), but they were an encouragement nonetheless. But now, I get it. There is no valley we can experience where the Lord is not with us, standing virtually in the midst of the battle fending off evil that is trying to shed doubt and discouragement, holding up the shield of faith that we will make it through and become stronger when we do.
There are so many reasons that this valley happens to us, some not by our own design, but there are some that God sends our way to ensure that we are battle tested and ready for that fight and suffering that comes from it, so that we are capable of carrying on his message with real power.
Real power that others can see in the way we handle that valley, in the way we deliver his good news, and in the way we comfort others who struggle through this. The apostles had it, those that died in the Lions Den had it, missionaries who die in the Lord's service had it, the Christians the Muslims beheaded had it and those of us who are fortunate enough to live through these battles have it.
Yea the present circumstances that we face will not defeat us because our God is much greater than any evil coming against us. If you are presently in this valley, look to the one who knows where the mountaintop is that will help us climb out of that valley. All the medication and mind altering substances in this world cannot compare to his glory that shines through us when we become like his stars of faith.
Remember those other words, for thou art with me, for he will never leave us or forsake us, he is our shield and protector in the midst of our strongest trials. Regardless of the outcome, he will be with us, and we will be with Him!
Yea that's what I am talking about!
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!
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.