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Principle Four

Moving Passed our Difficult Past

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principlefour

Yoga Pants

A friend recently was confronted by the leadership at a local Recovery group. It seems that there were complaints from some (or one) of the attendees relating to his use of his phone and IPad during the recovery meetings and share time groups. The accusation was that they believe that this friend is spying on them, taking photos and reporting on them. Perhaps even keeping files on them. The leadership confronted my friend to ask him to not bring his phone or IPad with him to these meetings. Under the premise that this was in some way was an obstruction to the complaining persons Recovery.

My friend was shocked as he had previously been asked to sit in the back as someone had complained claiming that his screen was a distraction to them. He politely moved to the rear so as not to hinder this persons ability to experience the teaching session of the recovery program. Now this was happening. He chose to move away from attending that recovery group rather than defend himself to the leadership of this group.

I really was angry when I heard this because I too have used my phone during these meetings. The Celebrate Recovery Study Bible is included all the lessons as well as the Bible so it’s a great tool. Not to mention using your phone or tablet for note taking. But the bigger issue here is a reflection of something that has been happening in our society in general.

A participant complains and as leaders we all feel like we need to respond in some way that will appease the complainant’s requirements. But at what cost, the other person’s rights to participate in the way they prefer to participate? Does one person’s feelings matter more than another’s? I don’t believe that is what these leaders thought when they asked my friend to no longer use his phone or tablet. But that is exactly what they were reflecting by doing so.

I submit to you the following to prove my point.

Let’s say I struggle with a sexual addiction, porn addiction or any other form of lust. Today’s culture feels it is acceptable for women to wear these very tight form fitting yoga pants as pants, which frankly highlight either someone’s positive body shape or negative body shape. In either case these pants are very form fitting and I personally do not believe they are appropriate to wear to church or other public places, particularly if you are a Christian which should be a reflection of your character. To me it is no different that wearing a very low cut blouse, or other revealing inappropriate clothing.

In this example, when women wear these yoga pants to recovery meetings it is directly impacting those struggling with lust issues so let’s say I complain to the leadership, asking these women to not be permitted to attend the meetings if they choose to wear clothing such as yoga pants. Does leadership respond by telling these women to no longer wear these yoga pants? Or do they suggest that I seek additional help addressing the lust issue, as it will always be my responsibility for my recovery. It is unreasonable to think that everyone I come in contact with would change their ways to accommodate my struggles with lust.

Likewise, is it not the responsibility of those struggling with paranoia, guilt and shame, to work on their issues should they feel others are spying or reporting on them, verse expecting others to adjust their methods to accommodate their struggles?

The new normal seems to be to believe that we as a nation, a business, a recovery group, a Church or any organization for that matter are responsible to provide an environment that is free from offense. Or that we are somehow able to respond to every individual persons desire for their personal needs. More and more often the majority is being asked to alter their life, views, words or beliefs to accommodate the minority. The never ending quest to please people is a quest that simple cannot be fulfilled. We all have different views and perspectives, that will never change. The organization that seeks to accommodate everyone will never have consistency and never please everyone.

The harsh reality is that TMZ is probably not looking for footage of you in your recovery meeting in rural Pennsylvania. While it may feel like someone is spying on you, they probably are not. On the other hand, perhaps they are, but are we entitled to a world where we control others? While we, as Christians are called to Love one another, and not behave in a manner that would hurt someone else knowingly, we all must take responsibility for our own actions. When leadership seeks to do that for an individual, we rob them of the role they must play in overcoming the struggles they face.

submitThe struggle between the flesh and the Spirit is a daily battle for supremacy. My sinful nature will win out every time if I do not make intentional efforts to lay down my life to the Lord. Some time ago I came across and pray of submittal and tape it up on the mirror so that I would be reminded daily of my need to submit. When I choose to submit myself daily to God’s will for my life, my life will have order and peace. But when I forget or allow myself to drift away from His path for my life, chaos is the result. I added my own personal touch and try to pray this prayer daily to start my day off in submission to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Here is my prayer;

God, today I submit my mind that I might focus my thoughts on you. My eyes that I might see the world as you would have me see it. My mouth that I might speak words of life. My ears that I might hear your gentle voice guiding and leading me through this day. My hands that I might reach out to help others. My feet that I might walk in a direction that pleases you. My heart that I might love others as you love me. My whole life to you Lord, use me for your purposes today! Amen

I pray that this pray might encourage someone and help others to seek to submit to the risen King, our Lord Jesus.

Progress verse Progression

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” Psalms 90:12 NLT

I’m reading this verse along with an accompanying devotion that provides insightful examples of people who missed opportunities in life that resulted in regret. Sad reminders that we only get one chance to live this life and how frequently we make choices without regard for the brevity of life. I’ve got my share of regrets gained only by the insight that comes with age and reflection. Some would say there is no value in wasting time looking back at mistakes, we should always keep our focus looking forward, but I believe we should learn from our mistakes and without some emotional connection to those memories how powerful can those lessons be?

For me, I need that pain to impress upon me the significance to take heed that lesson and hopefully transform my thinking enough to cause me to make the better choice when presented with the next moment of importance in life. Perhaps we all have different ways we develop and grow, but apparently I often need some pain to keep my fingers from reaching back out towards that hot stove in life.

This is one of the reasons I am so thankful for God choosing to give us the Bible as his primary instructions for living, his love story for us, his guide to living fulfilled lives based upon the understanding of his love for his creation. I think another title could have been, “How to Live”, from the best-selling author, “God”

It’s so cool that God gave us this powerful tool to turn to, which not only comes to life for us through the power of the Holy Spirit, but also speaks to us as we grow deeper in our study, meditation and wisdom, as it draws us always closer to our creator. It’s taken me nearly 52 years to learn this and I wish there were some way for non-believers to see the truth of God’s word, as well as other believers as so many simply see it as a rule book.

I’m so thankful that I am finally starting to see the power of each simple verse and how deep and rich one single sentence can be as it opens a world of thought and understanding through reflection and meditation guided by the Holy Spirit. This verse, it’s meaning seems so obvious and yet so often it is the opposite of how we behave as humans. We so often drive forward focused on our goals and objectives without giving thought to such large and significant realizations that impact our lives so deeply. I’m not even sure how I would make it through a day if every action was preceded by careful thought rather than thoughtless motor skills moving us about like robots.

Am I the only one who functions this way? So much of my day to day life is a result of auto-pilot verse choices made. I recognize that I personally am drawn to developing daily routines that allow me to accomplish specific daily goals without forgetting to do them by way of my systematic life.

Wow, is that sad or a positive character trait? I’m not sure it isn’t both. By way of routine I teach myself good habits like spending time reading God’s word every day, like brushing my teeth, praying for others, and providing my boss with daily information needed to run the business. All of these are good things and may require thought to accomplish them, however the act of making sure I accomplish them is a result of self-taught routine rather than intentional moment by moment choices. Living this way has helped me to function. I’m just not sure if that is my way of coping with some mental deficiency or some positive character trait that helps make me successful. Someone else will have to answer that someday because for me it’s just how I’ve always functioned.

Let’s not misunderstand though that my life is not simply a series of routines. I still make daily changes, alterations and choices to test myself, or try new experiences. My routine today is far different from what it was 5 years ago, or perhaps even 1 year ago, while some elements have remained the same my entire adult life.

 

The greatest enemy of good

We must never forget that evil’s greatest enemy is good, and that justice must be tempered by mercy.

The above line is front the Hope for Today reading plan. When I read it and the referencing scripture, I could not help but reflect on the my recent challenges at work. My co-worker, gets so angry and frustrated, as do I when our installers fail to comply with our rules, or meet basic requirements for quality and professionalism. He on the one hand wants to sentence them to death (professionally of course) while I prefer to show mercy. It frustrates him because he sees my actions as weak, but I am only seeking to “tempter” justice with mercy. Preferring to recognize my own need for mercy and reflect the love that comes from appreciating the price Christ paid to show me that mercy.

It’s so easy for us to be legalistic, like the Pharisees for those self righteous like me and my co-worker. We both try hard to follow the rules and be people of integrity. The difference is that he fails to recognize his own weaknesses and the hopeless life of thinking you can earn your way, verses needing grace and mercy for our own sins. It’s hard to recognize our own sins when we are so self righteous because we so easily see the hard fact type laws, but become blind to the laws of love and mercy.

It’s my job to try to teach my subordinate to apply justice through the lens of mercy but I too struggle with the frustration of their failures or disregard for the basic rules and policies. Thankfully the Holy Spirit reminds me of my own sin, provoking me to consider the mercy and grace God has for me, before I act to dispense justice myself. Helping others to see the value in seeing things this way is a challenge I cannot say I myself have overcome, but I must continue to reflect the love of Christ in hopes that he too will have that revelation of mercy.

I pray that God will continue to teach me and guide me when faced with the choice of mercy verse legalism and that I will always choose mercy, as Christ choose mercy for me when he gave his life on the cross for my sins. I thank God for opening my eyes to his grace and pray that I will pour out endless grace to those who offend me or come before my judgement in the course of my assignments at work. May His love and mercy be reflected by my actions as I live out my life on this earth and strive to be his faithful servant.

“So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”  James‬ ‭2:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/jas.2.12-13.nlt

Rear View Mirror

“No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians‬ ‭3:13-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬

http://bible.com/116/php.3.13-14.nlt

This verse is such an important message for us to get. So many of us struggle with the pain or consequences of our past mistakes that it makes it difficult to move past our past. We get hung up on self condemnation thus robbing ourselves and others of what God has called us to become.

It takes an intensional purposeful action to not allow one selves to focus on our past, but rather to keep our eyes focuses on what God has in front us. Its the only way we can we move forward into what God has called us info.

If you spend too much time looking into your rear view mirror eventually you’re going to run the car off the road and end up in a ditch verse where you were headed. God wants us to learn from our pasts and move forward. He doesn’t want us living there because we can only find freedom when we move beyond our past into the future God is calling us into.

This doesn’t mean you’re never going to reflect upon your past but it does mean that your never going to allow the emotional baggage of the past to pull you back into its pain. Just like driving, take a quick glance at what is behind you and then quickly refocus on what lies before you and then you will reach your intended destination.

This requires hard effort for some of us to develop this in to a habit, while others are more naturally incline to do it, but do not give up hope, as you too can overcome your past and move forward into all that God is calling you into that lies ahead of you today. Just keep looking and moving forward, one step at a time and into the destination to which God has called you.

Forgiveness

Read a devotion recently that told a story of a man, taking his offender by the collar dragging him to see the king so he could be judged for his offense, only when he got there, he found the king hanging on a cross and the offender was no longer there.

The illustration represents God’s grace for us and how when we refuse to forgive those that sin against us, we are in turn then just as guilty in the sense that we are committing the sin of unforgiveness.

The point being that holding others in judgement for their sins ultimately only hurts us. God’s grace is for all and he forgives us but holds us accountable to forgive others. And this applies no matter the magnitude of the offense. When someone cuts you off on the highway, or someone committed acts of violence against you. I’ve certainly struggled with this as my natural reaction is to be offended. Most days I have to remind myself that I cannot hold others accountable for their offence and expect God to forgive me of mine.

“If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.”    Matthew‬ ‭6:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I pray your hearts will be flooded

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”Ephesians 1:18 NLT

Oh how I long for my heart to be flooded by His light so that I can understand the “confident hope” that he has given us. I so often can’t see through the fog of circumstances to be flooded by the light. Praise God that glimmers break through during my struggles and reveal hope. It’s only confident hope during those times when it is flooding my heart.

It seems like so long since that had been my experience as I am walking through a season of difficulty and my feelings lie to me as the enemy attempts to seal away my joy. I will not be robbed of his light, not today.

Praises to the king who rescued me from the depths of disparity and brought me into his glorious light. Thank you Lord for your grace that exceeds my understanding and circumstances. Glory to you oh Lord my redeemer, having paid such a heavy price for my salvation, I am humbled by this miraculous gift of your love.

I pray that today, not only would my heart be flooded with His glorious light but that all my friends and family would also have their hearts flooded with your light and the warmth of your kindhearted love and grace. May we all rejoice and bring glory to him regardless of our circumstances today. Amen.

A Quick Testimony

A quick testimony about my recent battle with cancer. I’ve lived my whole life knowing cancer would be a factor, under the cloud of a family cancer history worthy of scientific study, as nearly every family member before me had some form of cancer. Some lived long lives while others were cut down short. Some with these circumstances might live lives of fear, doubt and worry but I was blessed to have had a mother who passed down a heritage of faith in Christ that has given me the strength to endure and thrive through these circumstances.

In 2002 I had my first case of colon cancer. God gave me great peace and by the power of the Holy Spirit, I walked through that experience trusting that “by His stripes, we are healed.” During my 6 months of chemo, I was filled with a peace and confidence that can only come from my relationship with my Heavenly Father. He blessed me with 13 years clear and free of any signs of cancer.In August of 2015, a routine test found what was diagnosed as a non-cancerous mass that would require removal as a recommended treatment. Given the history, my doctors recommended I consider having the entire colon removed to eliminate any future threats of cancer in that area. With careful thought but no fear, I made the decision to go through with those recommendations.

In November of 2015, the surgery was performed and it was discovered that what was previously deemed non-cancerous was in fact cancer and had I not chosen to have it removed, I’d likely be facing a far different situation today. After 6 months of chemo, in June of 2016, I faced a final CT Scan to determine if the cancer had spread or been removed.

On June 4th we were invited by some friends to attend a healing service at a home in West Chester. We were greeted by many believers from many different walks of life, all of whom were there to experience the presence of God and whatever supernatural healing might take place. Each person expressed a desire to be used by God through the power of Prayer manifested by the Holy Spirit and God’s healing power.

Hands were laid upon me during the course of the night and God’s powerful presence was experienced by all who attended. I had great peace and confidence going into the CT Scan, trusting that God’s promises are “Yes and Amen” and that a good report was God’s will for my life. I expected to know the results after about 5 days when I next saw my doctor but he was excited to call me only a few hours after the test to tell me the great news. My scans came back clear with no signs of cancer or other concerns. God’s peace once again filled my spirit and I knew God’s promise of healing was confirmed.

Once again God has blessed my life and I am excited to see what God has in store for my life during this next season. While God’s will does not always bring healing to us on this side of heaven, He has chosen to give me this gift and it is my desire that my story can encourage others to seek God’s healing and recognize that God wishes to use each of his children to serve the body of Christ while on this earth.

Battle Cry

I’ve heard the expression “battle with cancer” before but until recently I really didn’t appreciate it fully. Did the cancer thing in 2002 and after surgery and 6 months of chemo it was gone. Never really felt like a battle to me that I recall so I always likened the term more to those that have it much worse than I did. Those with terminal or much more serious cases than mine. My brother’s battle which began in 2011 and continues to this day, now they seems like a battle. Even if I do believe he is already healed and am standing on God’s promises and his outlook looks better every day.

After only a few weeks into my 6 months of chemo this time it’s different. A different chemical and maybe I’m just a little older but it sure seems like a battle this time. I wake up thankful every day but I’ve still got a long way to go and it feels so different this time. I feel drained already and my patience has never been my best characteristic. The end of these treatments can’t come soon enough for me. Am I that weak that I can’t endure this for another 5 months? Don’t want to but I know that God will give me the strength, His strength to endure this.

And right there to cheer me on is my brother, who could easily be calling me a light weight, given his chemo/treatment is far more serious than mine. But he encourages me, inspires me and reminds me to stay positive as the battle continues. Ah the battle, now it feels like a battle with wounds and all. And just like any battle it makes a difference who you have on your team.

And my wife, who had been through this before with me is right there beside me helping me to press on while having to take up the slack while I’m operating at lower capacity than normal. She’s been my rock and I thank God every day because he put us together for such a time as this and without her I’d have given up long ago.

Then there are many others, friends and family that have encouraged me and stand ready when reinforcements are needed. I’m thankful to know there are those behind us waiting to step in and hold me up if needed too.

So you see I finally get the battle part. It’s never just a quick fight and it’s over with cancer. Even if you’ve been clear for 13 years, the battle continues. Thankfully regardless of the battle I already know who wins the war. It’s written in red ink on the pages of God’s holy word.

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