Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

When does it become apathetic to let go and let God?

so I had a question posted to me the other day.  If I let go and let God...when does that start meaning I'm being apathetic...that I just don't care...that God will take care of it.

An interesting dilemma and equally as interesting a question.  So here it it goes.  I'll try to work it out on this blog.

We've all been blessed to have a God that gives us freedom of choice.  Although we are pre-destined to be children of God, we still get to make our own decisions.  How's that for a true conundrum? God already knows the choices we're going to make but we're still free to choose.  Oh my gosh...how are we even supposed to handle that?

We're not.  Plain and simple...we won't know the answer to this until that day we meet Him...and I'm sure that we'll have far better things to do then anyway...the answer to this question won't even matter.  But while we're here on earth we can do something.

Turning our life over to god's will as it says in the 8 recovery Principles of celebrate Recovery is a daily choice.  What we're choosing to do is to listen...listen to that still small voice that God uses to talk to us.  We're still responsible for for making decisions, but under the guide of God, we learn to make the better decisions.  I know that when I first got into recovery; choices arose. But at least I was consistent. You could bet your bottom dollar that I would choose unwisely.

Today, I have as many... if not more choices to make, but I'm am able and for the most part I do, follow that still small voice.  And...what happens today...if I choose not to....I know right away that I made the wrong choice and i don't have to sit in it for a long time.

But how does that transfer to real life...the job, the family, the relationships we have.  God gave us talents and gifts...organization, sales, construction, reason, etc.  If we're truly using the gifts that god gives us, for His purpose, then we're doing okay.  I can't just sit around and say...Okay I'm a good listener and then just sit and wait till God brings somebody near to listen to...I have to grow relationships and then and only then will God put the the right people in my life that He wants me to use my gift for.

Does that make sense?

Apathy is just letting things happen.  Period.  Not caring...not doing...not participating in life.  If you're feeling apathetic about life...you're not participating in it and your not doing God's will for your life.  Do you want to?  Ask Him to help...He will and He'll be glad you did.

Thanks for letting me share.

Monday, November 16, 2009

How do I become a better Christian?

I have searched for the answer to this question for years. Spiritual growth and maturity...what does that look like? Spiritual Gifts...are they a part of spiritual growth? My mind works linearly so the best way for someone to help me with this is to give me a list of what I need to do... give me an opportunity to check it off (okay, that one's done...of to the next step of growth) and a finish line where I can say...Hooray! I am spiritually mature.

On a side note, I kind of wish that were true of most things in life, but oh well.

I want to strive to a perfectly mature Christian... however, sometimes my brain confuses maturity with perfection. I used to shudder when I would hear a pastor admit to some sort of struggle...like not reading the Bible everyday, not having enough time for quiet time, struggling with some sort of temptation. Here I was putting them up on this high pedestal thinking they were my goal...but guess what? That was me putting my hope in mere man and not in Jesus Christ.

So after a few years of contemplating I've realized that God will allow us to grow in the speed he wants us to grow. Here in the 21st century...we're busy. Can I have an "amen" to that. Here in Southern California, we're even busier still. We weren't made to fit 30 hours of day in a mere 24 but our culture has dictated it so...so we try. (and try and try and try). We are multimedia, we are multi-tasking machines...we text, we twitter, we facebook, we call, we drive...and some of us do this all at once. We are so busy trying to "connect" and make connections that we tend to forget who are main connection is.

There have been a few people who helped realize that I'm where I am because that's where God wants me.

For instance: John Ortberg in his book "The life you've always wanted", states that (paraphrased) that for some of us the most spiritual thing we can do today is take a nap." We're running on empty most of the time, I believe and that tends to put us in what do I do next mode (there are only so many hours in a day) vs. I should stop and breathe mode. You see, I mentioned this one first because I suffer from this. I only have two speeds...awake and asleep. If I try to "meditate" I fall asleep. (A successful meditation for me is not following asleep and having my mind wander for the time I've allocated for meditation. By the time I realize that I haven't meditated on anything...it's time for the next task.) So I continue to try and end up getting frustrated and forgetting the whole meditation thing...let's get on to something I can call a task...ya know?

The next person who has helped me come to the above realization is Pastor Doug Fields from Saddleback Church. He wrote this little book (it really is little) called refuel. It's basically about not making your connection with God a have to, but a want to. And the little things really matter and that those little things turn into big things.

And next little thing was a small sermon from Pastor Tom Holliday at Saddleback Church. It's called the two minute rule. Talk to God the first two minutes you do anything. (i.e. First two minutes of getting up...first two minutes of breakfast...first two minutes of getting in the car...first two minutes of getting out of the car... and so on...you get the drift.)

So here's the bottom line...I'm not a great theologian or a the type of Christian I want to be...nor a pastor...yet. (And yes those are my goals) But what I am is a man who is trying to sift through all the information that I'm told I'm supposed to do to become a better Christian and really siphon it into a few guidelines that I can follow...based on my personality and such.

So here it is:

1) Try, try, try to read the Bible everyday. Let God speak to me through that. I have found an online program that is reading me through the Bible in a year. I even get to mark off that I read it with a little check. (If you want the website let me know...I'll send you the link) And if I'm in the mood or being directed elsewhere I also pick up the Book with no rhyme or reason. Another way, albeit not as thorough is a program on my phone that gives me a verse of the day or the ability to search the Scriptures.

2) Realize that it is not because I have to talk to God, it's because I want to talk to Him. I have a tendency to start kicking myself in the butt because I'm not talking to Him everyday...so guilt leads to shame which leads to an even longer stretch of not talking to Him. He doesn't care...He's there for me whenever...and the weird thing is that when I take the "have to" out of the equation, the want to fills up the gap.

3)I use the two minute rule...not as well as I could but somehow that little phrase keeps popping in to my mind and it gets better and better as time passes...unlike many other things that I do, or don't do.

So my answer on how to become a better Christian...is the following. First and foremost, be a Christian...serve, pray, give.
The second..stop kicking yourself in the butt for thinking you're not excelling at it.
and Third.... Be still for a moment "Be still and know that I am God".

If you're doing these things...guess what...You are becoming a better Christian.

Thanks for letting me share.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How do I accept grace

So for the longest time in my life, I didn't understand what grace meant. When people would talk to me about the power of God's grace...my face would go blank. What is grace and what do I need to do to get it? is all that swam through my head.

I don't remember a time in my youth or twenties where "grace" was a topic...nor do I remember anyone offering it to me. Grace, to me, was a favor. An earthly thing..maybe I'll GRACE you with my presence...stuff like that.

So the questions that I've had to ask myself are: What is grace exactly? How do I receive grace? How do I give grace? What does grace feel, look, smell like?

The definition one might hear in church is this: the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. This definition...to be honest though....in my early years of being a Christian, would still have have drawn a blank face. There's nothing concrete about this definition. It says all the right things like "unmerited favor". But what favor... A favor is something to ask for...something you need or would like...something to make your life easier for the time being. "Hey buddy, can you do me a favor and tie my shoes?"

Then comes the love of God. How do you I know I have the love of God. What does that feel like?

You see how my mind goes...One simple word...grace...and my mind starts spinning.

So this is what I've learned: Grace is this: the influence or spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them. (Thanks dictionary.com). This is grace. It's not something you can feel...and emotion...something tactical...it's the spirit of God. Okay now you may be thinking...hold on Joe...spirit of God is more real to you than those other things? The answer is yes and of course, since this is my blog...I'll tell you why.

I never was able to grasp grace because I was never around people who had the spirit of God in them. We, as believers, are to be Jesus Christ with skin on to those who are seeking this grace. We are the ones that are supposed to model this unmerited favor. Yes, even favor that described earlier...this is called service. Grace is forgiveness, service, favor, unselfishness...all the things that we as Christians are supposed to be living. Are you?

If you want to know what grace is...wait for it...ready?....Show it to someone. Once you've shown someone grace...you'll experience and be able accept God's grace more freely. Col. 1:6 All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth.

For today...show grace to someone...so that you may feel God's grace in all its truth.

Thanks for letting me share.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why is this happening to me?

We've all asked this before... an incident, a tragedy, a lie told to us, a misunderstanding that turns our lives upside down or at least a little sideways for a time.

So why?

There have been more than a few times when I've asked myself this question...perhaps not even myself but God. When life seems to be sailing along smoothly...I've got my plans, my calendar, my rut and all of a sudden...Whoosh! It all gets shaken up.

Before I get to the why let me share something with you (whoever you is). I like ruts. I like stability. I like sailing smoothly. Change is a four letter word for me and I don't like it at all. Even change that turns out to be better is frowned upon in my life for a time. Did I say I like ruts?

When life happens differently than I expect or want it to...I get uneasy. The root of this could be from my childhood...from my parents divorce or it could be from my drinking and using drugs at age 13. Perhaps that stunted my "change growth". Whatever spawned it...today I still live with it and my first instinct is to fight it. But here's the funny thing. I spend so much time fighting change and guess what?....it happens anyway. It has to. Change is what keeps this world sailing into oblivion. Imagine if I was the Thomas Jefferson or Ben Franklin or Einstein of this world. Do you think we would have advanced this far....uh, no....I like ruts.

When we start embracing change (I'm working on it, okay?) life tends to be a little bit more exciting, a little more daring and at the same time a little bit more enjoyable. Now don't get me wrong...a tragedy, a death or their equal by no means should erupt in joy but change should be looked at as a blessing.

You see, when we were first put on this earth, God had plans for us. We would spend time in communion with Him in the Garden. But due to our selfishness and our need for change as a species we find ourselves here and now. In a broken world where God wants us to grow...not stay the same. To be able to face adversity and change in order to build our character, in order to help others, in order to serve Him.

We are not promised an easy life here on Earth...but we are promised a full one if we believe. John 10:10 tells us that, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (NIV).

So back to the question...Why is this happening to me? Now please understand that this is all conjecture and I have no basis other than my own life and stories I've heard to expand upon this but here it is: Why is this happening to me? Because God has a plan and He thinks it's time to change.

Change what? I don't know...but I do know that whatever it is, God's telling you right now that it's time.

So we have two options now. Do we fight it? or do we embrace it? Well you know my answer...let's fight it...let's hold on to the old and never give in to this change thing. I don't care if the pain gets so bad it's crippling...let's never change. Change means something new...another chapter...which will lead to yet another change and another and another and so on. You get my drift. If we don't fight the change God wants to make in our life...we're just being set up for more.

Or we can embrace it and stop asking the question Why is this happening to me? and go on to say Okay God, I get it. What do you want me to learn from this? Daniel's conversation with God tells us in Dan. 10:10 "
Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined by these trials. But the wicked will continue in their wickedness, and none of them will understand. Only those who are wise will know what it means." Hmmm....purified, cleansed and refined. Sounds painful huh? Not as painful as the alternative...continue in their wickedness and none of them will understand.

Okay God I get it. Change in my life is good....fighting with You is bad. So my prayer for all of us today is that we put down the gloves...hang on to God through the trials and to be open minded and learn what He wants us to learn today in the midst of change.

Thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

When a problem becomes a problem

So over the past few months, it's been put on my heart to start sharing basic truths that I've learned or pondered over. It comes to me many times while driving where all the questions start swirling around in my head...questions that people have asked me, questions that I've asked myself and sometimes neither...just questions.
YouTube - What Gorilla?
Being a part of Celebrate Recovery, I consider myself lucky to be trained to be able to take time most days and reflect on what has happened during the day, what my fears are, why I react a certain way, etc.

So last night, after leading our first step study in San Clemente, things were no different.

There seems to be a general question out there that goes like this: When is a problem considered a problem? When does, "I don't see this as a problem" turn into active denial?

So I've been pondering it....and after letting it swim in my head for awhile, I'm going to try to work it out here.

A problem by definition is trouble. We has humans tend to have a high tolerance for trouble...we seem to get in it a lot. But a few of us will hold on to our "trouble" until confronted by someone else...until then, it is still just a problem.

I've heard people talk about that room or that dusty corner in their hearts where only they know what's going on there. If you're a FRIENDS fan, Monica had one...not in her heart but in her apartment. Everything around us is spotless, life is good, clean and orderly...except for this one area.

So the question pops up again. Why do we insist on holding onto this one little area of our lives until someone confronts us with it? Why do we insist on covering it up until the pain of doing it is less than the pain of suffering the consequences in order to fix it? People with sexual addictions tend to know that looking at porn or having affairs is wrong but continue to dabble in it until confronted. People with alcohol and drug problems try to hide it until someone confronts them. There are closet smokers, sex addicts, alcoholics, drug addicts, gamblers, liars, and codependents. Why can't we make it out of the closet by ourselves? Why did God give us the ability to unreasonably reason with ourselves?

Let's look over the acrostic for DENIAL from the Celebrate Recovery workbooks.
D- Disables our Feelings

How does denial disable our feelings? The truth is that we cannot have true feelings if some of them are cut off. When we are constantly living in the fear that we might be found out...it's hard, if not impossible to offer authentic feelings towards someone else...especially if we are afraid that that's the person that might find us out. Let's take a marriage for example. If I'm hiding something from my wife, can I actually feel that I can talk to her about anything? No, obviously I'm stuck in a catch 22 situation. Can I offer true feeling of openness and honesty even if I'm just holding one thing back. The answer again is, no. I am very blessed. God has given me a wife that I can share anything with...nobody knows me better. If you're married...can you say that? You should be able to.

E- Energy Lost

This is a "no-brainer". It's tiring trying to keep secrets and lies to together. Who did I tell what?..What did I tell who?...Does this story match the others...what small thing did I change here in order to make it sound better? Doesn't it make sense to just to be the same person to everyone? Good or bad...take me as I am...Why do some of us insist on trying to be so many different people? I am currently in a pretty good place in my life. I don't care if people don't like me. I don't care if people try to put me down. I just don't care. It is their energy that is being wasted...not mine. Everyone knows me for who I am... I do not have different persona's... it's just easier this way. The people that know me won't listen to the character assassinations that others give...and if they do...well then...they just don't know me. I'm okay with that.

N- Negates growth

I have found this to be true. If ones goal is to grow and be the person that God wants him/her to be... we have to able to confront a problem as soon as we realize it's a problem. Lamentations 3:40 tells us exactly what to do if a "problem" arises. " Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord." No where in this scripture does it tell us to wait to be found out. No where does it say it's okay until someone confronts you. We have a personal responsibility to God. Look at our lives and make sure it is aligned with His. They way He wants us to be.

I- Isolates us from God

This one is an easy conclusion to come to. If, again, we are worried about being found out...can we really be in contact with God? He already knows what the problem is and it's funny...if not hilarious...that we think that some how when we're in the midst of our "problem" that He stop's watching. That we put the proverbial tin foil cap on and He won't be able to see or hear our thoughts. This is that hilarity of unreasonably being able to reason with ourselves.

A- Alienates us from our relationships

I have already discussed the issue of "waiting to be found out". We can not have true relationships with other people until we become vulnerable enough to share what's really going on. If a "problem" comes up...it cannot be swept under the rug...it has to be dealt with swiftly less we start hiding from the ones we love.

L - Lengthens the Pain

How often does procrastination work? I'll do it tomorrow...but by then tomorrow comes with it's own to do list. I will dabble in this issue just one more time and quit...but years pass on and on. It's not hurting anyone...I can quit whenever...but whenever never comes.

The bottom line or conclusion of this rant is this - When does a problem become a problem? It's that moment when we ask ourselves...Is this a "problem". God has a fancy way of speaking to us in this age of technology...He uses our conscience. That still small voice inside of us. If anyone has actually read to this point...that one thing that popped into head...you know...the closet that only you know about. Don't wait until you're confronted with it. A problem becomes a problem as soon as God shows it to you. Do not argue with Him...He knows better...do what you need to do. Get involved in a support group with others who have taken that first step to realizing that our God loves us and wants the best for us....that the more we argue and fight with Him, the more painful it becomes...He will win eventually...why not just give into Him now and start living the life without the messy closet. Let Him in...you'll be glad you did.

Thanks for letting me share.