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Families in Addiction

One of the great innovations over the past 150 years or so are addiction recovery groups.  General and then President Grant was part of one of these clubs and was literally a card carrying member of one.  These groups have become a beacon of hope to many and groups have formed around nearly every conceivable addiction.  Now understand ,not all groups are created equal.  These groups offer support and information and those that want freedom will enjoy them and will find freedom.  However, when this plague of Covid-19 hit, most people could not attend these groups.  Some struggled. Some chose suicide. Some chose to simply give in and go back to their captivity.

What if when the official groups were put on timeout the family or friends of those in addiction were able to step in and become the support that they needed?  Even if the groups are meeting in small sessions ;how much better could it be if families could support their loved ones help them to overcome the difficulties of a life of freedom.

     Trying to understand addiction can be tricky.  It is hard to understand why someone who watches their life fall apart does not simply just quit.  Many family members have given up on the one in their addiction.  They have been lied to, stolen from and manipulated long enough.  Let’s see if we can help you understand.   Imagine that you are on a diet.  This is serious now.  You have some serious health issues and the doctors have told you that if you do not lose a certain amount of weight you are going to have serious trouble.  With that motivation stick you are focused and over the past several months you have made incredible progress.  With much research you change your whole lifestyle to include healthy eating and exercise.  Great job!  Then you are walking down the street and there is a bakery that at one time you frequented often.  You smell the donuts and see the pies in the window.  Old friends are in there enjoying their treats.  They look so happy.  My friend, that is what addiction is like.  Even after many years of working to make a new lifestyle,

it will still call out to them like a fresh donuts calls out to the person on a diet.

 As you prepare to begin this mission know that there are some snares.

The first snare:

Denial.  Your son or daughter is addicted to some drug or alcohol or unhealthy relationships or whatever life controlling deal they have going on.  Once I heard a mother talk about the fact that when her son was young and really pretty early in his addiction she believed her son when he told her that he did not do drugs.  She found drugs in his room.  He told her that he was just holding it for a friend.  She believed him.  You have been lied to long enough.  If you are angry, be angry enough to push through the fear that now sits on your chest and makes this whole thing hard to breathe.  The anger must become focused though.  Do not be angry because he or she lied to you.   But you must quit denying that this person is addicted.  Denial will not help them. 

The second snare:  The blame game.   Naturally, you will look for reasons why this person is addicted.   If you had just … fill in the blank… they would not be addicted today.  If you had noticed earlier, if you had been softer or harder than maybe the addiction would not have captured them.   The truth behind the blame game is that it does not help anything.  Every parent thinks of things that if given the chance they would have done differentin the raising of their kids. This thinking helps nothing.   Unless you are the one that is lighting the joint or sticking the needle into their arms than you are not responsible for their addiction. They are making their own choices.  You must not enter into the blame game.

 It is not your fault.

 Snare number 3: Denying the work of the enemy. 

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. John 10:10a

 It is here that I want to share that even though I had been a believer, I did not fully believe in Satan.  Sure, my mind agreed that he was real because I saw references to him in the Bible. But it was not until I started hanging out with those in addiction that I saw how clearly, he works today.  The words spoken by this person that you love are very well aimed.  Often, they hit their mark and the pain is unbelievable.  Where did they get such aim?  The enemy has been watching you, he knows you.  Recognize that truth. Also know that he has no real power over you.

Just a few facts

  • Not everyone trapped in addiction looks like an addict
  • Substituting addictions is common.  (Switching to sugar/ caffeine or sex  instead of hard drugs)
  • The goal needs to be redemption and healing not just recovery
  • Tobacco is the gateway drug.  Very few men and women trapped in addiction do not smoke.
  • The media in nearly every form will glorify drug and alcohol use. 
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Living Grace

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10

How many of you would say that you are living and abundant life?   What exactly makes life abundant?  Does it have to be an entire life or is this a temporary gig?  Jesus tells us that He came that we might have this abundant life.  Does that mean that we can sit on the couch eating Twinkies and simply receive a fulfilling and abundant life?  I guess the real question is abundant life and salvation the same thing?  I look around and if most of the saved and sanctified saints are living an abundant life, I don’t really want any part of it.  They seem to have little peace in their lives, very little joy, most have little self-control or any of the other fruits of the Spirit for that matter.  As I consider, Jesus’ words I must believe that there is more which leads me to another important question.  Is abundant life possible this side of Heaven?

Among the reasons that we fail to experience abundant life on this side of Heaven is that too often we are holding on too firmly to this world.  The saints have become so busy fighting for their own little kingdoms that they have failed to notice that they have been invited into something much larger.  Jealousy and a desire for fame, fortune and man made security have drawn in many church leaders to the enemies trap.  No they are not flagrantly sinning.  They have just taken their eyes off of their dearest friend who is walking on the water and beaconing you to join Him.  When the storm comes and all of that fame, fortune and man-made security structures are shown to have built on the sand, fear is the only logical result.  We can not stand the storm apart from Jesus.

What kind of foundation have you built your life on? In the book of Genesis, we are given an incredible story of Joseph. When we meet Joseph, he is a bit of a spoiled brat.  He brags to his ten older brothers about being the favored one.  At one point he goes so far as to essentially say that ultimately even his mom and dad would honor him. As might be expected ultimately this snotty young man is beat up by his brothers.  Now Joseph did not choose that result. He did not pray to be beat up and left for dead in a well.  Nor did he pray for what happened next.  As his brothers were recovering from the brutality of the fight (Beating up your brother takes a lot out of you.  I know that from experience. Sorry about that Stephen.) they stopped for lunch and discussed what to do next. They actually had many options.  One thought leave him in the well and ultimately he will die.  Problem solved and technically they did not kill him. But this plan had a fatal flaw.  What if some do gooder came along and rescued him? He would come home and tell dad and they would be in trouble.  The second option presented itself as if it was a divine intervention. (It was by the way.) They could sell him to their cousins who were slave traders.  Joseph would be enslaved in Egypt.  Problem solved.  They would be free of any charge of murder and better yet,  Joseph would suffer for the rest of his life.  He could not escape Egypt to tell dad the truth. Best of all, the brothers would make a little bit of money in the effort.  That is what the brothers went with and to make their story better they stole Joseph’s coat and put a little goat’s blood on it and presented it to dad as proof that Joseph was dead.  Notice they never actually said that he as dead but spun the story so that Jacob came to his own conclusion.  Again, Joseph did not pray for or desire to be sold a slave.  But, Joseph chose not to suffer.  While being a slave for Potiphar, Joseph outworked the other slaves.  He learned skills and prepared for his future.  He did not know what that future might look like, but he learned and worked to be better.  He may not have noticed it but he was growing in maturity. His character was growing.  Just as he reaches the best he can do as a slave he is falsely accused of trying to sleep with the boss’s wife.  This is a punishable offense and Joseph is put in prison. Again, Joseph chooses not to suffer but to grow.  In prison, Joseph learns and rises to the top.  Ultimately, Joseph is second in command of the prison and is respected by officials and prisoners alike.  There is at least one incident that is recorded that lets us know that God is using him in the prison but he is forgotten.  What does it feel like to be dismissed and forgotten?  That is how Joseph likely felt, yet he did not give up. Ultimately Joseph is released from prison and made second in command of Egypt which was the world’s superpower of the time.  That is quite the promotion!  While in that position his brothers (who you will remember beat him up, sold him into slavery) show up and needed a handout.  Now if Joseph was still the spoiled brat that he was at the beginning of the story than things will not go well for his brothers.  However, God has used all of these circumstances to mature and grow and develop Joseph to be a man of character and more importantly, to save the nation of Egypt along with others. Reflect on the Joseph story for a bit.  Who is it who put Joseph in the pit, sold him into slavery, let him live and be forgotten in prison?

Most would point out the brothers, Potiphar’s wife, the cupbearer or just bad luck.  But the Bible tells us this realization,

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” 

It was God set all of this up.  Our Creator accomplished many things in this case.  He rescued countless people from starvation.  He healed the heart of Joseph.  He demonstrated the power of forgiveness.  You get the point.  God is in control.

Our first step in living out God’s Grace is to accept that God is sovereign.  No good or bad thing that we experience has escaped His notice.  He is wise and He knows what He is doing.

A second foundation is that we must create a safe and healing environment around us. This will not come into being accidentally just because we go to church.  Our homes, our churches, our businesses and community require us to create a place where people can be safe.  This seems pretty basic.  How often are you going to go to a business where you simply do not feel safe?  This is critical for the stability of living out a life filled with God’s grace.

When I was pastoring there was a widow in my church.  She was a bundle of energy and very flamboyant.  She loved the Lord and she was not afraid to tell everyone she met how much Jesus meant to her.  One Saturday night at about 9:00 pm I received a call from her.  She asked me to come over and help her.  It seems that a wayward grandson was at her house and was refusing to leave.  Multiple times he had stolen from her and she really just did not feel safe inviting him into her home.  But here he was in the living room and she wanted to go to bed but wanted him to leave first.  He refused.  It was not only him but a small group of friends that were planning on occupying her home.  When I arrived she was a bit frantic. She communicated her love for her grandson and told me of his past misdeeds.  Her heart was obviously breaking.  Lounging all around the living room was a motley troupe of folks.  Maybe I was already getting old, but they all seemed very young.  Some were obviously high and drunk.  As I entered the living room the grandson began to plead his case.  He was a musician, and this was his band.  They were traveling across the state and their gig that night had been canceled.  They just wanted to crash at his grandmother’s house for one night and move along.  After a lengthy conversation filled with tears and some actually calm arguing the band finally left about 1:00 am.  I stood in her doorway and watched their van pull away then looked back at the typically merry widow.  She fell apart sobbing uncontrollably for about 30 minutes and I just held her there in the doorway.  She pulled it together and went inside.  I made sure the door was locked before going home. The next morning as the pastor I had to be at church even though needless to say I was more than tired.  Deep down I did not expect her to be at church that morning.  My eyes might have bugged out when she walked through the door.  She was in the loudest most flowery dress I had ever seen anyone wearing.  Her smile radiated the sanctuary.  When I asked her how she was doing she replied that she was “blessed and highly favored.”  The truth was that she was putting on a mask.  When I looked in her eyes, I could see the pain.  She was embarrassed by her grandson.  She was hurt by his accusations that he had made the night before.  Finally, she was tired.  Why did she not feel safe in this building that should have been a Spiritual hospital?  The confession would not have been too long.  All she had to say is, “I am hurting.”  The church could have wrapped around her and loved on her and comforted her broken heart.  Instead she put on a show. This happens nearly every week at a church near you.  We in the church are afraid to confess that just maybe our lives are not what we would want.  There is this fear that we will speak our failures and pains into existence.  God created the church to be an emergency room for the broken hearted.  We must admit that we do not have the spiritual power to muscle through every circumstance and trial. 

When we are living Grace, we become a picture of Jesus walking the earth.  We offer love, healing and correction.  Our sovereign God will give us the Holy Spirit to guide our thoughts, words and emotions to demonstrate to this broken world His Forgiveness, His Majesty, His Power, His Wisdom, His Knowledge and His Revelation.

For too long the church has been operating in their own power and interpretations.  They love God’s Word (Like the Scribes and Pharisees) but don’t know Him.  They love to be seen attending church, but rarely live out His Word.  Rarely do they live out His Grace.  It is time to make a change.  Let that change begin with me.

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Living Your Story

When I was born there were some complications with my birth and the doctor told my parents that they should not expect too much from me.  My parents were very young and simply believed the doctor. My story started out with little expectation and a life in front of a television to pass the time and waste the air.

My story took an abrupt shift when I was introduced to Sister Mary Gabrielle.  She was to be my first-grade teacher.  My mom told her about the doctor’s report so that she would know what she was getting herself into with me.  This old school nun, in the black and white robes and habit, looked directly at my mom and said, “That is the stupidest thing I ever heard.  He is just lazy.  I can fix that.” 

Before the day was out, I had gotten paddled.  My parents had been called but Sister Mary Gabrielle had begun the process of changing my story.  Toward the end of the year she told me how proud she was of my progress.  It was a rare compliment from her, and I drank deeply from those few words.  My story was now different

Over the years many have helped to redirect and shape my story.  Some of these co-authors were needed because I was writing my story with some very negative scenes coming up.  Others were there to help keep my story moving when I was stalling out.  But they all contributed to the story.

Because of all these people who have been so diligent in helping me to write my story I feel compelled to help others do the same. 

Up to this point, what is your story?  Are you fully happy with it?  Would you like a different script all together? 

How would you describe yourself as the main character in your story?  Do you describe yourself as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess or a criminal?  Is your description of yourself helpful in your day to day life?

At any moment those descriptions might be accurate for any of us, but is that who we really are?   

1 Samuel 22:2

All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.

These men who joined David in the wilderness did not come with much to offer.  Later many of these men would threaten to kill him.  These were not the cream of the crop.  Today we might say those that they were high school dropouts, the unemployed, criminals, addicts, losers, etc. 

Hopefully your description of your leading person is better than that.  But even if it is that negative, consider this.  David obviously saw something different.  We see these men from time to time in the Scriptures and we see a summary of their lives in 2 Samuel 23.  These men killed giants.  They accomplished great feats of daring.  These are David’s Mighty Men.  Look at yourself and create a description of the potential you.  That is your lead character. 

Now that you have your star.  Create a story that considers the journey to become that person externally as well as internally.

Sister Mary Gabrielle gave me an accurate beginning point.  She did not sugar coat who I was.  We must take time to figure out who we are really.  That is a deep process that takes time and courage.  But is a critical component of your ultimate story.  Describe who you are currently.

Every good story includes a desire.  For you that desire includes becoming your real self.  To live out of your inner hero.  God has planted something inside of you that must come out.  What is that desire?  Now don’t think short term here.  You are living an epic tale, not a short story.  You might desire a cookie.  But that is for a moment.  What will be satisfying long term?  That is the desire you should be expressing.  This is the theme of your story.  It is what creates the energy and passion of life.

A second element that every great story has is that there is a problem.  How long would you watch a movie that never had a problem presented.  The main problem is that you are not who you were designed to be.  But there is more.  There are likely a whole host of problems for our hero to solve on their way to the promised land.  List out the problems that you can see.  We need these problems to give us purpose.  To forge us and sharpen us.  Embrace the problems.

While we are embracing the problems, a solution will present itself.  That solution might be a job, relationship, an education or some other direction.  Here we seek God to help us create the solution.

No matter how good the solution is we will interact with the next element of a great story and that is an adversary.  Now most of us don’t like our adversaries.  We would rather not have them.  But you know they are there.  There are three types of adversaries.

There is the external adversary.  These are those who will lose power if you succeed in living your desire.  They will stop at nothing to prevent you from living that abundant life.  This is the devil trying to talk Jesus out of obeying the Father in the wilderness.   

You also have an intimate adversary.  Often these adversaries are not attacking you out of hate.  But they fear losing you.  They love you as you are and fear you changing.  This is the mother trying to talk you out of joining the military or the grandmother giving you a cake when you are on a diet.

But our biggest adversary is the internal adversary.  The voices in our heads can be deafening.  “Doctors said you were going to be a loser.  The kids in school called you names.  Remember that time you failed?”  That voice stops some people.

Ultimately, we need to be thankful for our adversaries, because as we overcome them, we become stronger.  They force us to work harder, to think clearer, to love better and to live healthier.  They push us to become all that God designed us to be.

The resolution of your story is you living in your whole self, in God’s whole world living in the desire that He gave you. 

Write out your story.  Share your story.  Live your story.