Signs… (addiction 4)

Listen, I know this is hard stuff to hear.  It’s hard for me.  This morning, there was a fog over the room.  A malaise, heaviness.  Why is that?  Why is this so hard to hear, so hard to fight through, so hard to face?  Because you live in a world a war and you have two enemies fighting you on this.  Satan doesn’t want you dealing with your addictions and your flesh is going to fight you at every step along the way.  But Jesus is triumphant.  He walked out of the tomb and, as a believer, He is restoring you.

So why fight it?  Because these things limit you.  They limit all you can accomplish and all you can enjoy as a son of God.  He has so much more He wants for you but you’re going to have to give some things up.  Abraham was asked to give up his one and only son, Isaac – to sacrifice him on an alter.  Abraham was obedient to the end and did exactly what God asked of him.  God stopped him and a ram was offered up as a substitute for Isaac … but … Abraham was willing.  He was willing to give it all up.  And because of his obedience and his faith, God said this to him, “Because you have not withheld your only son, I will multiply your descendants as the stars of Heaven.”  (Gen 22)

There is nothing wrong with the beauty of Eve.  To delight and enjoy in the beauty of your wife, that’s a good thing.  A fine meal, a great hobby, the glorious beauty of nature, a sunset, time alone in the woods … all these things are good things.  Sex within the confines of a marriage, what a wonderful gift that is!  The things themselves are fine, it’s what we do with them that can be the problem.  We can easily take a good thing, distort it and make it “the thing”.   Stay with me on this…

I read this morning from Paul David Tripp’s excellent devotional “New Morning Mercies” … he gave an example of a family trip to Disney World and he wonders what it would be like to stop at the “Disney 120 miles” sign along the Interstate.  Would that suffice for the real thing?  He says we do this all the time …

“There is one thing that you know for sure – the sign is not the thing.  The sign was created to point you to the thing.  The sign cannot give you what the thing can deliver. The sign can only point you to where the thing can be found.  So it is with the physical glories of creation.  Here’s what you need to know – only two types of glory exist – sign glory and ultimate glory.  Sign glory is all the wondrous display of sights, sounds, colors, textures, tastes, smells and experiences of the physical world that God created.  These glories were not designed to satisfy your heart.  They were not made to give you contentment, peace, meaning and purpose.  They have no capacity to give you life.  Earth will never be your savior.  Rather, all of creation was designed to be one big sign that points you to the One of ultimate glory who alone has the power to give you life and to satisfy your heart.  God alone is able to give you life.  He alone is able to give rest to your searching heart.  He designed his world to point to him, not to replace him.  (read Psalm 19)

Where will you look for life today?  Will you live like the father having his vacation next to the “Disney 120 miles” sign along the highway or will you run to where the sign points?  It really is true that your heart will only be satisfied when it finds its satisfaction in Him.”

And to the point above about all these worldly pleasures we can enjoy, too many of us have turned to them for life.  I may not officially be an addict to booze – or – to sex – or – to lust – or – to the need for approval from others – or – to money/success – or – to control.  I may not be “addicted” to these but am I relying upon them?  Depending on them?  Are they (or others) what provides me relief from a long week at work?  Do I hit one or more of them from time to time when I need to draw upon something to sustain me?

We get into trouble when we shift our focus on these things and we start needing them as our life source.  We get into trouble if we find ourselves, more and more, needing to be entertained by these things.  As the pressure mounts, as the bills come, as the demands at work grow, as my family needs more and more of me … what am I drawing upon for “life”?  

I’ve asked you to ask yourself and the Father, “Where am I weak?”  Yes, do that.  But also, how about, “On what am I dependent?” and “What do I draw upon for life?”

I’ll just pause here and leave you with this one thought…

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“It” has to go. (addiction must fall 3)

How are you doing with this?  Did you read the last post?  At Manschool when it started getting ramped up a bit, what did you do?  Zone out?  Dismiss it as “I don’t have a problem with this…”

Yes you do.  Sorry for the smack in the face, but … you do.  I do.  We all do.  We love self WAY too much.  Life is all about us.  We picked that up from Adam & Eve.  Thanks for that.

You have an addiction problem in your life.  At a minimum, as men, we’re all addicts to some degree to beauty, sex and the lure of Eve.  God gives us desires, yes, that’s true but we’ve twisted those desires to where they’re distorted and instead of being about her and her beauty, it’s all about us.  My needs.  My desires.  My lusts.  My satisfaction.  But for most of us, it goes way beyond that.  There are pockets of weakness in our lives of addiction that are taking a toll on us and all those we love around us.  It can be anger, control, success, money, sex, acceptance, approval of others, physical appearance, toys, pornography, alcohol, drugs … you name it.  Whatever the case may be, you’ve got some form of this rolling around in your life and it’s become a Goliath that taunts you and lies to you, telling you that “you’ll never be anything more than this addiction.”

Pay attention to this.  Read it several times …

“Most have no idea the warfare and seduction Satan wages against leaders and potential leaders.  He is relentless, he is patient.  He studies our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  He stalks our families.  He’s methodical.  Masterful at timing.  And if you’re laughing at this, he is laughing at you.

Leaders that are too sophisticated to reckon with the biblical realities of spiritual warfare will be eaten alive.  No leader gets away with secret sin and duplicity.  It’s always a matter of time.  God doesn’t play favorites.  Christ is serious about His church.  Repent.  Seek help.  Be restored.”

Beth Moore hits the nail on the head.  Maybe she’s talking about our President.  Maybe its a pastor.  Or a Senator.  Perhaps… it is about you and I.  You, my brother, are a leader.  You lead your home.  YOU are responsible for the spiritual leadership of the home.  Not your wife.  Don’t default it to her.  No, it’s on you.

It is time for “it” to stop.  Whatever “it” you have that is weighing you down and tormenting you and lying to you, it’s time for “it” to go.  Time for “it” to go into the fire. God wants to restore you.  He has so, so, so much “MORE” for you.  But you’ve got to be willing to give some things up.  The limiters in your life have to go.  Will it be easy?  No but what did you expect following Jesus?  It will take courage but there is great freedom on the other side.  So, I ask you…

What are you willing to throw in the fire and bury to never go back to again?

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What are you willing to give up? (Addiction must fall 2)

The core of all this goes to that question, “Where am I weak?”  Keep pushing into this one question with the Father.  Ask Him repeatedly to show you.

Jesus is in the process of sanctifying us as believers – freeing us from sinful habits and forming us in Christlike affections and virtues.  To sanctify something is to “set it apart for the use intended by its designer”.

How beautiful is that?  Perhaps a better word than “Sanctify” is “Restore”.  Jesus is in the process of restoring you, resurrecting you.

But to be resurrected, some things have to go die and go into the tomb.  The “new you” that walks out, free of those addictions will be able to enjoy new freedoms, take new territories and experience the “MORE” God has to offer.

Presently, there are some “limiters” in your life.  Those habits that keep tripping you up.  You make progress, vow to “never again” and you stumble.  It feels like one step forward, three steps back.  The enemy mocks you in this – Goliath taunts you that “you’ll never be anything more than this addiction”.  Those things limit your growth.  They limit your testimony.

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God has “MORE” for us.  These habits, addictions, lusts, the entertainment we watch … He wants “MORE”.  I must remind myself over and over … the things I tolerate, He won’t tolerateThe things I watch in entertainment, He doesn’t watchThe things I let creep into my life, He won’t let creep into His life.

Let me smack you in the face a bit (because it smacked me hard in my face!) …

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What are you living for?  That’s well defined by what it is you’re unwilling to give up.  The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked,“What must I  do?” and Jesus went right at him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  Jesus knew that one thing this man was holding onto for dear life.  In essence Jesus is asking him and us – “What are you living for, Me or the money?”  He wants to kill some of these weaknesses us and purify them with fire.  Think of dead limbs down in your backyard.  Jesus wants to clean up the dead material and toss it in the fire.

It’s the same with these addictions.  He is in the process of restoration in us, but we’ve got to be willing participants.

So, what is it men?  What is it in your life that needs to go?  Is it the porn?  Do you need to cut the cable on TV?  Is it booze?  You may not be addicted but what is it bringing you?  Does it bring life?  Is Jesus in that?  Does He want “MORE” from you than a nightly glass of booze? 

Is it your incessant need for approval from others?  Is it an obsession with lust/sex?  Success/money?  The need to be in control or the one always talking or the one who is always right?  What is it that needs to be tossed in the fire?  Is anything fair game?  He gave it ALL for you.  What are you willing to give up for Him?

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So much more to come…

Addiction must fall (1)

Whatever you past may have been, God has a better future in mind for you.  But before you can reach for it, you must forgive the people who’ve hurt you, forgive yourself and let it go.  You may feel ashamed of your past mistakes, unsure if you can really take personal responsibility and move forward.  You can.  You are able, through Christ.

The first step is raising your hand and admitting you’ve got a problem.  There is such power in dropping the pose of “I’ve got it all under control” and admitting you need some help.  In your weakness, you will find strength.  It is time to “Forget those things which are behind … to reach forward to those things that are ahead.” (Phil 3:13)

I don’t have to beat this.  Jesus can.

Perhaps the greatest giant of all we face is addiction.  It doesn’t just steal away my life but the lives of those closest to me.  Everyone of us has an addiction story where it eventually snuffed the life out of people, relationships, families, businesses and dreams.

If we’re all honest, we’re all addicted to something – alcohol, success, adrenaline, pain, porn – that thing we can’t live without or the thing we fear we can’t manage life without.  It could be a person.  It could be money/possessions or control.  Porn is a giant of addiction pouring its way into so many lives right now.

What is it that causes me to want the bottle?  The pills?  The success or adrenaline?  What is it that causes me to run to the porn for relief?  What is it that drives me to think, “I need to go there”?

Underneath all of it – is this fear of being exposed.  When we are exposed, we tend to want to cover up our weaknesses.  Oftentimes, it leads into an addiction that can be a short-term cover for the exposed heart that we don’t want the world to see.

Adam & Eve sinned, ran from God and hid.  It’s the natural human default to our sin and weakness.  When I feel weak, I don’t want to step into the light.  When I fail, I don’t want to step into the light nor do I want to do that when I feel the most vulnerable.  None of us want to say, “I need help” – or – “I am feeling very vulnerable right now” – or – “I feel rejected” – or – “I feel emptiness” – or – “I feel a great level of boredom”.

None of us naturally want to say, “help me through this”.  No, typically, we retreat from the light and drift into the shadows to find something to cover up our vulnerable heart to bring us comfort.

Vulnerablenone of us wants to feel it.  Whenever it comes, I quickly look for some way to cope.  Many of us choose a short-term fix which ultimately leads to more vulnerability because I am dependent on the comfort.

Addiction makes you even more vulnerable.  It is a cycle that drives you further into dependency, further into isolation and further into addiction.  Freedom comes when you do the opposite of what your flesh desires.  Freedom comes when you admit you’re weak and you raise your hand to ask for help.

more to come…

The cure for the giant of anger? Forgiveness…

Dealing with this giant of anger comes back to forgiveness.  Forgiveness is an act of surrendering.  An act of letting go of control, letting go of “I must fix this”.  It is surrendering them and the pain they caused you to God, so He can deal with it.  Yes, they wronged me.  Yes, I was betrayed.  Yes, it was wrong … but … it’s on me to forgive. Long before anyone betrayed or belittled me, I betrayed and belittled God.  And I’m forgiven!  So, the person who has been forgiven much has much room to forgive others.

Ephesians 4:25-26 – “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’; do not let the sun go down while you’re still angry.”

You’ve got to let the anger go.  You’ve got to let God shift the tide of your heart.  The choice is yours.  You can continue to carry the anger and let it eat you up – or – today, right now, you can begin the process of releasing that other person.  Release the resentment.  Release the burden from your back, and the way it is released is through forgiveness.

Turn to the Lord and say, “God, by the grace of Jesus, I want you to know I forgive this person. You forgave me. I forgive them. I can’t hold against this person more than what you chose not to hold against me.”

Even if they don’t want to hear it, forgive them.  When you forgive, you’re releasing yourself.  When you do, the giants stop taunting.

Forgiveness is a process – not a “one and done”.  That relationship may never be restored.  It may require boundaries.  That’s OK.  But still forgive them.

When you lie down tonight, you want to sleep in peace in the shadow of the Cross.  You don’t want to carry anger one more day.  Lie down tonight and say, “Lord, I hold no grudges against anyone, because You hold no grudges against me.”  In that moment you forgive, the devil has no foothold.

It all this starts and ends with surrendering.  The anger that rages in you, the anger at your Dad, all the things he said to you or never said to you, the anger at your brother, the anger at your business partner or your ex-wife.  The anger at your child who turned from you and blamed you for all their problems.  This giant of anger MUST fall.  It’s eating you alive.

You need to forgive but first, you must surrender.

Believing is one thing.  Surrendering is harder.  If you believe God loves you and He longs for you to know His love, what would ever hold you back from surrendering? Usually it is because, “I want to keep my freedom”.

God – “Really?”

Me – “Yes, my life is shipwreck, but I want to keep my life, keep my control.”

God – “You want to keep the life you have instead of receiving the life I have for you?  So, your life is a wreck.  Look inside your soul.  Look at the emptiness.  Look at the brokenness.  Look at the loneliness and despair.  Look at the pain and the hurt.  Look at the wounds inside.  You want to keep that?  If you will give me that, I will give you hope and faith.  I’ll give you strength and courage.  I’ll pour love and life inside you.”

It’s still not easy.  Dead men are afraid of death. Surrendering looks like death but it is life.  Jesus came to end the pain of death and to begin the reign of life.  Anger eats you alive.  Freedom comes by forgiving them, letting them go to God and releasing your hold of trying to fix the past pain.  LET IT GO.  Let God do what only God can do.

Anger eats you alive.  Freedom comes by forgiving them, letting them go to God and releasing your hold of trying to fix the past pain.  LET IT GO.  Let God do what only God can do.
Anger eats you alive.  Freedom comes by forgiving them, letting them go to God and releasing your hold of trying to fix the past pain.  LET IT GO.  Let God do what only God can do.

 

Where I’m weak – how anger grows into a Goliath

Here is the video of Erwin McManus talking about fractals and anger.  Fast forward to 1:01:00 and run it through 1:11:50…

Some of these weaknesses we have, the Goliaths in our life … they are keeping us from the life that is truly life.  It is time for these giants to go down … for good.

We all want to be united with Christ in a resurrection but none of us wants to be united with Him in a crucifixion.  We spend our lives trying to avoid death not realizing we’re swimming in death.

A fractal is a replicating pattern that changes its scale as it replicates.  Sin is that replicating pattern that destroys your future, destroys your hope, destroys your relationships and destroys your soul.  You have self-replicating patterns in your lifethese giants we’ve been talking about.

Maybe there is a point where you stop picking sin and it just picks you.  It becomes a self-replicating pattern that you don’t own but rather, it owns you.  Oftentimes, everyone around us sees it – “why do you keep going back to the same self-destructive pattern?”  It’s no longer a choice.  You’ve lost the power to choose.  The pattern has become you – it eats away at your soul.

Anger is like this.  It starts small.  Left unchecked, it takes on a life of its own.  You rage at your wife.  The little things with your kids, ignites a storm of anger in you.  You’re that dad at the little league baseball game getting escorted out of the park.  Sooner or later, you wake up and notice your kid punching the wall in his rage and you’re left wondering, “Where did that come from?”

Sometimes it’s not even fractals we choose.  It’s a sin passed onto you by someone that came before you.  It’s a pattern given to you by your father or grandfather or your culture.  You didn’t even choose it rather it was placed in your soul.  You’ve become a racist or you’re hostile, unforgiving and bitter.  You became negative or cynical and it was passed onto you.  Some of you are the sons of alcoholics who were sons of alcoholics and that fractal was passed onto you.  Some of you, your brokenness was passed onto you and you’re a slave.  Jesus came to break the patterns of these self-destructive patterns that keep replicating in our lives.

Maybe it starts with an offense.  Someone offended you, wronged you.  Then you chose not to forgive.  You allowed it to simmer and it became bitterness that began to eat away at your soul.  Then the bitterness became anger and you wanted to harm someone.  Anger became true hatred and you wished death for them.  Anger becomes hostility, which becomes violence, which becomes murder which then becomes war and then, genocide.  We all pay attention at the genocide and war and murder levels.  But none of us want to discuss the lower levels … the anger, the bitterness, the unforgiveness and the original offense … because … those are us.  They are me.  They are personal.  The big headline grabbing war/genocide, yes, those are problems we can agree must be dealt with but …

What if we stepped back for a moment and realized that the entire human dilemma – the murder, war, genocide – is just a fractal of my soul replicated to a grand scale?

more to come…

Where are you weak?

We’ll summarize today’s session in a few posts.  It’s too much material to cover in one and if you’re like me, long posts tend not to get read all the way through.

As a set up for the next post, let me ask the question of you … Where are you weak?  Where’s the weakness in your life?  Ask yourself that.  Every now and then, it’s wise to do an inventory of your life.  Ask Father, “Lord, show me where I am weak”.

We’ve all got our pockets of weakness.  Areas that are vulnerable.  Things that tend to trip us up.  Areas where we’ve let something creep in and take root.  Anger can be one of those.  It may be that I procrastinate.  Or that I don’t exercise and am out of shape.  Maybe its alcohol.  For many men, it is lust and pornography.  Maybe it is fear that has me to the point where I won’t take any risks.  Maybe it’s a love of money and toys and worldly comforts.

If alcohol is something you cannot go without, if pornography is something you just keep drifting back to for relief, if anger always seems just beneath the surface of your life waiting to leap out … these are areas of weakness in your life the Father wants to deal with.

If we ignore these areas, they take root and can eventually “take over”.  Don’t be overwhelmed by this.  Ask the Father to show you one area He’d like you do deal with.  Maybe it’s exercise or losing weight.  Maybe its that you’ve procrastinated cleaning out the garage.  Maybe it is something far deeper.  It probably is.  But tackle the first thing God gives you.  These small things have a way of nagging us and telling us we are failures or it’ll always be this way.  Cut these off before they have time to grow.  Conquer the weak on the smaller things to grow stronger for the deeper issues Father will bring to you.

We are fallen, broken men in the process, as believers, of being sanctified.  God is always working in our lives.  Chipping away, bulking us up.  He always wants more for us.  There are new frontiers all the time available to us – but – we all have these areas of weakness that block us from being all God intends for us.  And … we must be willing for God to work.  It starts with the asking.

So, it’s a good question… “Where am I weak?”.  It’s not fun to think of weaknesses but even acknowledging that it is no fun, that is a powerful first step.  The enemy wants to capitalize on your weaknesses.  He does not want you asking this question.  By asking it, you’re surrendering to the Father, you’re acknowledging your need and that’s the first step.

more to come…