Monday, December 30, 2013

2014: Looking to the Year Ahead (I Need Your Help)

So, in 2013 I did not get accomplished a lot of things that I wanted to. I did however get to spend time with my family and that really took priority in 2013. In 2014 my family is still a priority, but there are goals that need to be met. I am not sure if I should outline the final goals or how I plan on reaching them, so I will do a little of both. My primary goal is to continue dealing hope to the people I come in contact with better than I did this year and to continue advancing Better Life in Recovery (BLiR).

This year I made some progress and accomplished some pretty neat things in my mission to share recovery, my faith and deal hope to all I could. I wrote 77 blogs for Spiritual Spackle on various topics that were viewed over 42,000 times. I had several blogs published by The Poached Egg as well as Global University. Better Life in Recovery is now recognized in the state of Missouri as Better Life in Recovery, Inc. I was the closing speaker for the Missouri Association of Drug Court Professional's state conference. I also did two 6 hour presentations teaching co-occurring disorders to the MRSS-P (Missouri Recovery Support Specialist-Peer) program.

Better Life in Recovery partnered with Alternative Opportunities Treatment Services, the Carol Jones Alumni Organization, the Missouri Recovery Network and various other organizations to do Recovery in the Park for National Recovery Month attended by over 100 people. Better Life in Recovery also partnered with New Life Church, Incredible Pizza, Roma Foods, Coca Cola and Henry's with entertainment by Kelsey Snapp, Kayleigh Amstutz and the Legacy featuring speakers Ellie Hagen and Darrin Mendez to put on the Spring Break BLiR Bash that was attended by over 100 people. Alternative Opportunities Treatment Services also partnered with Greene County Men's Drug Court to do a river clean up on the James River for National Recovery month.

  1. Speak at least once a month with churches, groups, colleges, community events and seminars. I currently have a couple of Celebrate Recovery groups I will be sharing my testimony with as well as a Victim Impact Panel in Greene County.
  2. Get an article published in a magazine
  3. Complete writing my book, Spiritual Spackle: From Dealing Dope to Dealing Hope and get it published
  4. Sit on the board of at least two organizations
  5. Have the finished version of the Better Life in Recovery website go live
  6. Get Better Life in Recovery, Inc. non-profit status
  7. Complete interviews for the Better Life in Recovery documentary
  8. Have 4 major events for National Recovery month in September
  9. Have a BLiR event
  10. Get grief and loss certified
  11. Get EMDR certified
  12. Get below 200 pounds
  13. Set up a Kickstarter project to self-publish Spiritual Spackle
  14. Set up a Kickstarter project for the documentary Better Life in Recovery
What I Can Do
  1. Talk to people, places and organizations that might be interested in me speaking or teaching
  2. Send blogs and articles to various magazines and organizations that might be interested in publishing them
  3. Set aside 2 hours a week just to focus on writing my book
  4. Look further into the Victim Impact Panel and The Missouri Recovery Network to see the requirements of sitting on their boards and then apply
  5. Put together meetings of people and organizations that will be interested in helping with the National Recovery month and the BLiR event
  6. Reach out to find people who are willing to share their story of recovery as well as a couple of parents who have had children in addiction and possibly lost them to their addictions
  7. Already paid to go to the St Louis grief and loss training for certification
  8. Begin putting together packages and videos to promote Spiritual Spackle and Better Life in Recovery Kickstarter projects
  9. Begin following a better diet, stop stress/comfort eating and get into the gym at least 4 times a week
  10. Continue publishing at least one blog a week on Spiritual Spackle
What You Can Do
  1. If you are a professor, teacher, counselor, pastor, sit on a board or are part of a group or organization that I could speak at contact me. I speak and teach on topics ranging from addiction/recovery to mental heath to grief and loss to PTSD/Trauma to Christianity/building a better foundation for your faith.
  2. If you would be interested in helping me with the non-profit Better Life in Recovery by either sitting on the board, hosting an event, donating time/money or helping at an event contact me
  3. If you would be interested in either donating time, goods or money for our Recovery Month events that are promoted to reduce the stigma of addiction contact me
  4. If you would be interested in sharing your story of recovery or are a parent of a child who struggled with addiction, especially if you are an ethnicity other than Caucasian and/or between the ages of 18-25 (under 18 with parent's permission) or know of somebody who is please contact me
  5. If you know of any organizations or groups that I could partner with, put us into contact with each other
  6. If you are interested in helping me get Spiritual Spackle published and/or the documentary Better Life in Recovery completed, contact me and we can talk about the things that will be required for the Kickstarter projects to be successful and to further the message of recovery and hope to all that we can reach
I had high hopes for 2013 and some of them were met. The 3 biggest I did not accomplish were competing the book Spiritual Spackle, finishing filming on the documentary Better Life in Recovery and BLiR becoming a non-profit organization. These are still at the top of my list, as is spreading the message of recovery and dealing hope and faith to all I come in contact with.
I look forward to meeting my goals above, but it can only be done with your help and assistance so if you can help me with any of the above goals contact me at Thanks for reading and praying for me and my calling. I look forward to the coming year and all that we can do together.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Duck Dynasty and Hate Speech

I have been asked my opinion on the whole Duck Dynasty issue and I was not going to put anything up. The more that I have heard people talking about it, the more confused I have become and I have felt compelled to comment. I have heard it called hate speech, and I have gotten lost somewhere as to what is appropriate and what is not appropriate and who is allowed to bash on people and who is not. 

Personally I believe that a lot of the anger I have heard recently is misplaced. It would appear that if you are a minority you can say what ever you want with no repercussions. If you are not a minority than you are lambasted for your opinion. Here is the example of what I mean, using the recent comments by one of the cast members of the A&E Network's show, Duck Dynasty and another man who was recently in the media spotlight as well for comments he made, Dan Savage.

Many people’s feelings have been hurt because a magazine called Gentleman’s Quarterly did an interview with a long-haired, large bearded self-proclaimed back woods redneck. He is also a very vocal Christian. Let's get this out of the way; I find it funny that GQ is interviewing a redneck who I would guess wears camouflage more often than tuxedos t and prefers to spend time in tree stands and duck blinds as opposed to the opera and ballet. I am just guessing this is how he is, as I don’t watch Duck Dynasty.

In this interview, he was asked, “What, in your opinion, is sinful.” He replied, “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers -- they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Soon after the comments followed this statement from Phil Robertson, “I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”
I personally don’t see hate here. I see him stating his opinion, which he bases on his faith. In return he even discusses sins in his own life and what the Christian mission is. To this GLAAD has asked for his being removed from A&E. They actually said that his comments are some of “the vilest and most extreme.” In response to his comments, A&E suspended him indefinitely from their program (I just read that he was reinstated). This makes complete sense as A&E has the highest standards, with shows like Intervention, Hoarders as well as the Bonnie and Clyde series about a murderous couple that robbed banks.
Let us look at another man, Dan Savage. If you are not familiar with Dan, he is the founder of an anti-bullying project called, “It Gets Better” that was used by the Obama administration to combat bullying of LGBT children in schools. He goes into schools and speaks out against bullying. He is also a regular on Bill Mahr’s show. He is also gay. Recently he went off on an expletive laced tirade against Catholic priests and was lauded for it. It seems that the Catholics have gotten really bad press due to some of them being pedophiles. I can see his outrage and anger here and although I may not agree with how it was said can see some validity.

Unfortunately, he has a history of hate that should be pointed out. He also has said on the same show a couple of years previously about Republicans, “I wish they were all (f-bomb deleted) dead.” (FYI - I am not a Republican) On this same show he also said that he wanted to have hate sex with Rick Santorum and finished with, “let’s bone that Santorum boy.” I realize that this is a hack comedy show, but wrong is wrong and hate is hate I thought. (Did I mention that this non-bullying author called high school Christians that walked out of his presentation pansies from his microphone after he bashed Christians.) 

In his defense, he did ask to retract his statement. Dan said that he wanted to “apologize for wishing all Republicans dead. I don’t feel that way. I had a drink before the show.” No apologies for wanting to rape a man, which it would be given Rick’s feelings about homosexual relations. In his defense, someone earlier had said they would want to have rage and anger induced sex with Michelle Bachmann on the same show and he felt the need to join in the fray.

For some reason this was not splashed all over the media. No one rushed to have Dan taken off of the air. It was not the talk of Facebook and trending in the Twittersphere. We still have this guy on the air on Bill Mahr’s often hate induced show Real Time as well as still speaking in schools. Yet this show, Bill Mahr the  host and his frequent guest Dan Savage are on the air regularly. I guess that it is okay to talk about having sex with people against their will and wishing them dead but saying you believe something someone does is wrong disparages people. 

This is the problem we have currently in our country. We need to be concerned about the right thing. If stating disagreement with someone’s opinion makes you wish they were dead, that is hate speech. If you’re disagreeing with someone makes you say that what they are doing is not right, that is an opinion. Personally I am more offended by hate speech wishing people dead than I am stating an opinion that did not come with a "wish they were all dead." Where is the outrage?

If you were offended by Phil you should be fuming over Dan and that did not appear to be the reality of the situations. Instead, we have very little to no issue with Dan and are enraged over Phil. Why is this a big deal for one and not the other? Because one is considered a minority and the other is not. The majority cannot be vocal without getting called out for it as being hate speech and when a minority does it is fine and dandy. 

I really hope this trend changes, as it is making my head hurt. I believe that wrong is wrong no matter who does it. Why would you be outraged of one person saying something then tolerant of someone else saying something that is several degrees more hate-filled is beyond me. At least stay consistent, people.    

In closing, we as Christians are called to love our brother. I can love someone and still disagree with how they are living their lives. I love various family members even if I cannot stand some of their behaviors. I can separate between a person and their actions and behaviors. All I can do is make my life a living example: being in a committed relationship, not abusing drugs/alcohol, not cussing, being positive and helping those around me who are in need. Be salt and light for the world around you and deal hope and love to all you come in contact with. 

Thanks for listening to my little rant, and have a safe New Years!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

You Never Have to Use Again

I was new to the program, or newish. I had one stint of being sober. I had stayed clean for a couple of months after a residential treatment I did, but it had not taken. Looking back, I was not ready at the time. I did not have the commitment, mostly due to a confusion where I thought that my wants were actually needs. That in turn led me to craving money, which led me back to manufacturing and distributing methamphetamine. That was the only way I knew to make the money I felt I needed at the time.
Once I started selling again, I felt the need to use again. Once I used again, it was all over. I found out that my addiction did not take a couple of months off when I did. I realized quickly that although I had not been feeding my addiction, it had still grown. My addiction no longer needed my help. It was in the back of my head doing its’ thing: lifting weights, running on a treadmill and on a computer doing research.
My addiction got stronger and smarter during my time away. When I came back, the lie told me I could sell it and not use it. That quickly morphed into being able to try it just to see if it was good quality. A bump led to a bubble led to using intravenously all in the same day. It had told me lies that were almost believable. I wanted them to be true, so I ran with them.
That 13 month relapse was above and beyond the previous 16 years. In the first 16 years, I had to get my stomach pumped due to alcohol poisoning. In the next 13 months I overdosed 3 separate times. I was left for dead in a motel room, found not breathing at my house and flopped at a friend’s house and used enough that I went blind and went into seizures. Before that I had never done more than overamped. To top it all off in the week before I went to a meetingI had been at a drug deal gone bad where I had shot someone (I found out later he lived) after one of my partner’s buddies had gotten shot in the leg.
That period, a year and a month of my life, was above and beyond anything I had previously experienced. How quickly it devolved is what led me to leaving everything behind I owned and knew. I left the town I was living in and showed up at my mom’s house with nothing but a duffel bag full of clothes. I was done, and material things had lost all interest. After all, it was only stuff and none of that could replace my life if I lost it in my addiction. I figured that was next. Even if I were a cat, I was about out of lives. That is what brought me to my first meeting in Springfield.
I walked into that meeting with my friend Jay the day I moved to Springfield. I had one of Jay’s friends tell me something I had never heard before. He asked how much time I had clean, and I told him that I had less than 24 hours. He then said, “At an NA meeting with less than a day clean. That is a great start. You are at a meeting where other people who are fighting the same fight can share their strength, experience and hope with you. If you listen to them and apply what you hear here to your life, YOU NEVER HAVE TO USE AGAIN. This is an easy program that we make more difficult than it is, but the truth is YOU NEVER HAVE TO USE AGAIN.”
This is one of the most encouraging pairing of words I had ever heard, “You never have to use again.” I heard it twice in one breath at my first meeting in Springfield. I would like to tell you that the previous 13 month relapse had been my rock bottom. I would love to share with you that I had an epiphany and never used again after being told that I didn’t have to. Unfortunately, if I told you that I would be lying.
I was off of drugs for quite some time after that, but I began drinking. That drinking intensified over the next couple of years to the point that I was having an after party at my house most every night. It slowed down after I had my son, but quickly escalated after my father committed suicide.
I am a knuckle head. I seem to always have to learn things for myself. I guess I still needed to learn one more thing the hard way. I did 150 meetings in the first 90 days and then 2-5 meetings a week for the following six months and this was read from the readingHow It Works at every meeting I attended during that time:
 “Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused a great many addicts to relapse.                    Before we came to NA, many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be
confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addiction who must        abstain from all drugs in order to recover.”

I will talk more about the damaging effects of alcohol in a future blog entitled “Alcohol is a Drug, Period.”  Today, if you are struggling with addiction I just want you to know one thing, YOU NEVER HAVE TO USE AGAIN!That said, you will want to make this much harder than it really is. Here are the five pillars you must have to stay clean and sober as well as the two things you must change:

1.       Higher Power/Jesus – I know that the politically correct thing to say here is the non-specific higher power. That said, I tried the non-specific HP as an agnostic and I was back to using again.  It did not work for me. I prayed to Christ once, and since that day I have not: used drugs, drank alcohol, smoked a cigarette, had premarital sex or gotten into a fight outside of a ring in almost 5 years. I was hopeless and a higher power did nothing to instill hope in me. I found hope in Christ that not only could this life be better but there is so much more than just this life. I have something to look forward to in Christ that I did not have in my agnosticism.
2.       The Bible/12 Steps– Some may substitute the 12 steps here, and I have seen them be very effective when working with hurts, habits and hang-ups. For me, the book of James has been amazing. It is short and filled with all of the wisdom one needs to live a great life. I combine the Bible with the 12 steps through both my personal life as well as Celebrate Recovery (which I will cover in #5). Don’t just know it, but actually apply it to your life.
3.       Sponsor/Mentor – Find someone living the life you want who has overcame the struggles you are having. Have them show you how to accomplish your goals and attain your dreams. If you are going through the 12 steps, you want them to have worked the 12 steps. If you are using the Bible find someone well versed in it.
4.       Accountability Partner – I have a couple of friends that I have given permission to call me out if they see me having problems. It might be my attitude, depression, not going to groups or missing church. I also have a friend that has also struggled with addictions and found victory through Christ that I meet weekly for coffee. We share struggles, successes and give each other support and feedback. 
5.       Meetings - Narcotic’s Anonymous, Alcoholic’s Anonymous, Celebrate Recovery, Living Free, etc. This is a place where I hear people who are currently struggling and others who have found recovery. I am reminded of how strong addictions are, how much they can impact your life and that recovery is possible by both the newcomer and the old timer. Here is one of the best places to obtain hope that recovery is possible. Without hope recovery is impossible. I find more positivity and hope in one night of Celebrate Recovery than I did in 7 nights of the other recovery programs. That said, I still attend other recovery meetings because sometimes I feel the need for one when there is no CR available.
6.       Change your playmates– When I was an addict and a criminal, I hung out with addicts and criminals. When I was an alcoholic I hung out with binge drinkers and alcoholics. Like minded people hang out with like minded people. If you want to have a career and be financially stable hang out with people who have careers and financial stability. If you want to be in recovery hang out with people who are in recovery. Birds of a feather flock together and your friends will get you jacked up before you get them on the straight and narrow.
7.       Change your playgrounds – I went from hanging out in bars and clubs to working out and going to coffee houses and meetings. I found that being in bars, clubs and at the homes of people who partied was not conducive to my staying clean and sober. Adding new uncomfortable things to your life will help you make positive changes. Comfortable is what got many of us here. We need to switch it up and the best way is by filling our lives with new positive hobbies: working out, meetings, small groups, hiking, sports, community service, etc.
8.        Community Service - There is nothing that gives people hope and purpose more than rejoining with their communities and actively becoming part of them again. Working side by side with people who have not lived their lives the same way I lived mine yet they work next to me as together we make our communities stronger.

This is the short list of things to do. I will include this as well as many others in the book I am writing that I hope will be published by the end of next year entitled Spiritual Spackle: From Dealing Dope to Dealing Hope. It is a look at my addiction, from early childhood abuse to adult criminality and the things I learned from it all that have led me to a life filled with hope in recovery. For now, apply what is lined out above and I can promise that you will never have to use again! After all, there is a Better Life in Recovery!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas: It's Not Your Birthday

This is the title of an upcoming sermon at a local church called Church at the Center. I have not heard the sermon, but when I heard the title it started my gears clicking. I immediately wrote it down and said, “There is the title of my next blog.” It tied in with the recent theme of my 2 most recent blogs so I will continue on with a series that has addressed greed and hedonism and end it today with coming to Christ as the perfect way to start the new year.
The last couple of weeks I have written about many being unsatisfied with what we have and how we feel God owes us more because of our faith in Christ. We no longer are asking ourselves how can I be the hands and feet of Christ but instead what can God do for me. In this same vein, Christmas has lost its’ meaning.
Now is where everyone will jump in and remind me that Christ was not born in December and that Christmas has many pagan traditions and is therefore premised on a lie. I know all of this. I also know that the wedding ring does not stop people from cheating or intensify the feelings you have for someone and the declaration of independence was not signed until almost a month after July 4th. They are representations and reminders of momentous occasions.  
Christmas is the same story. It is a reminder of the greatest gift we have been given, the birth of Christ. Christ was born so that we would have a mediator between us and God. He was born so that we might receive grace and a promise of salvation. If not for Christ, we are lost. Our sins are not taken away; we have no bridge to God and no promise of eternal life.
That makes Christ’s birth a pretty big deal. In fact, that means the birth of Christ is THE big deal. Some where in our celebrating of Christmas this meaning has become secondary to what can I get for me. The main concern is about getting and receiving material things.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy both giving and receiving gifts. It is a blessing to have the finances and loved ones to generously give and receive gifts on the day we celebrate the greatest gift of all being given to us. I just wanted to remind you that without Christ there is no Christmas. It is not about season’s greetings, but merry CHRIST-MASS! Christ truly is the reason we celebrate this season, whether it is the correct day or not.
In 1 Timothy 1:15 Paul says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That means that Jesus came to save all of us, for Romans 3:23 tells us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So what do we have to do in order to be saved and reap the gift of Christ's sacrifice?
1.       You must have faith that Jesus died to forgive your sins. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”
2.       Ask God into your heart in the form of the Holy Spirit to guide you. Ephesians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
3.       Confess your sins to God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
This year, let it be the year that you decided to try a new way of living. To steal an expression from the 12 step groups: Give us 90 days of your life, and if at the end of that 90 days you are not fully satisfied, we will gladly refund your misery. This year as you are giving and receiving gifts, with every gift you buy and every gift you get, remember the greatest gift of all that you were given over 2000 years ago.
HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS, enjoy food, fellowship and gifts with loved ones and use the holidays as a time to commit or recommit your life to Christ and being a fount of Christian love and warmth for all to experience in the coming year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Kingdom of More

Welcome to the land of milk and honey, where a 40 inch television screen is not enough. We must have a 100 inch screen in order to enjoy our mind numbing entertainment. We have 100 channels at our disposal backed by 100 DVDs sitting around yet we complain we have nothing to watch. A home with a refrigerator and freezer half filled with food next to two cupboards completely stocked with sustenance yet we have nothing to eat. Water available from the tap 24/7 and we complain there is nothing to drink. A 3 bedroom, 2,000 square foot home and we whine that there is no room. This is the Kingdom of More!
We have all bought into the hedonism, or what Freud called the “pleasure principle.” Basically, we find happiness in things that cause pleasure and tend to avoid things that are not pleasurable. The problem is that the grass is always greener on the other side. We chase happiness through material possessions and things yet they continually make newer and better possessions and things we must chase.
The hedonistic fallacy then occurs. It sees us not finding the happiness we are seeking but instead on a treadmill continually chasing but never attaining. We are held hostage by being kept out. We discover that we can never keep up nor can we ever have enough. Instead, we are constantly struggling to find the happiness we were promised. We are constantly seeking and it eludes us. We never catch it yet it causes some major problems.
Look at the epidemics we have currently with drug, porn and food addictions. We have bought in to the myth of hedonism that says we are to chase instant gratification because it gives us pleasure and helps us avoid pain (fear, depression, self-loathing, etc). Instant gratification (pleasure) bringing us happiness is a myth that has caused some of the biggest issues in our society today yet we enable and encourage it because of the lust for more our society constantly reinforces through the movies/television we watch, books/magazines we read and the music we listen to.  Never forget, great men plant seeds for trees they will never enjoy the shade of. The same is true in our lives, yet we remain focused mostly on ourselves and our wants.
The paradox of hedonism happens because we falsely associate happiness with self-pleasure. I have found that me chasing things to pleasure myself generally ends up in me being disappointed. Maybe not disappointed at first, but over time the pleasure stops. My addiction was great at first but over time due to my depleted neurotransmitters. I was not using to feel good, I was just using more and more so that I did not feel as bad.
True happiness is not found in material things. If I am unhappy with myself no amount of things will bring me extended pleasure. As soon as the pleasure has stopped, and it always does, I will have to chase it again. I find that my pursuit of pleasure is not done to bring happiness, but instead to numb my emotions or escape my feelings. Once it goes away, the problem is still there. The lie is that we can take something outside of ourselves (drugs, sex, food, power, money) to fix what is wrong inside of us. What we need is already inside of us.
The Holy Spirit can and will help guide us to properly fix that which is wrong with us. We may need counseling, support groups and accountability partners in order to do that. We will also need a game plan, be it 12 step or Biblical, to establish the direction we lean towards as we live our lives. Using those 5 Pillars of Recovery we will not only fix what may be broken or find what is missing, but we can begin to be happy with what we have instead of miserable about the things we don’t!
I don’t deal with lives problems to make myself happy, but instead because that is what responsible people do. Happiness is a result of my being content and satisfied with who I am. It comes from being comfortable being me. It comes from having a purpose and hope. Happiness comes from having a good support group of people that care about you for you. Happiness is not about having the most things but about making the most with what we have. Happiness comes from using what God has given  us to the best of our abilities and putting Him first!
What I have found to be true is that if I stay focused on God, everything else goes better. I am a better husband, father, employee and friend. I know the right thing to do, and I know the wrong thing to do. With the power that dwells inside of us we find ourselves doing more of the right thing and less of the wrong thing, which brings satisfaction and by proxy happiness. Even during the worst times and in the worst circumstances, I am confident in my salvation and I know the riches in store for me when I die.
Who could ask for anything more?

Monday, December 2, 2013

God Owes You Nothing

As I was sitting in church yesterday, I had an epiphany. Maybe it was in conjunction with always hearing people talk about how unfair life is when they are actually blessed beyond belief. We feel that we are to have these great things and that life is supposed to be a bowl of cherries. When things don’t go as we want them to, people lose faith in God or are reaffirmed in their reasons to doubt His existence.
The truth of it is that God owes us nothing. I know, you are thinking this is unbiblical but you are quite wrong. Isaiah 43 has some things to say about this. In verse 7 it states that we were created for His glory. In verse 22 and 23 God says that the Israelites had not wearied themselves for Him nor had they honored Him. Instead, verse 24 says, “you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.”
The Lord’s Prayer has been changed over time. “Our Father, who is in heaven…….gimme, gimme, gimme!! We have gone from living our entire lives for God to only doing what we feel we have to and then maybe a little more so that we can get more. Some preachers encourage us to sow financial seeds in the lives of others so we may reap financial blessings and to help others get well so we may gain healing and restoration.
The prosperity gospel misleads many just like faith healing can. I believe that there are people healed, just as I know that there are rich Christians. There is nothing wrong with that. But what if you are poor and destitute? Think of Christians who have nothing in 3rdworld countries that could be killed for believing in Christ. I guess that they are not obedient enough. How about the person who is not healed? I guess they don’t have enough faith, like Paul from the New Testament.
Do you see how this way of thinking can be detrimental? Maybe we are exactly where God needs us to be.  There are going to be poor and sick Christians that have just as much faith as those who are rich and have been healed.  What, were you expecting to be repaid for the money you tithe? I know that some pastors may tell you that, but it is untrue. Job 41:11 says that God owes no one because all that is under heaven belongs to Him.
“But the Bible says that faith without works is dead. Works count for something, right?” Works are the evidence of salvation, not the cause of salvation. We do good works because they are the right thing to do, not because of what we can gain from them. That is the wrong spirit of giving and doing anything.
 “But what has God done for me lately?” Everything!! Christ died on the cross. Jesus paid it all. He was the blood sacrifice for our sins and now we have the hope of everlasting life. God has given us 2 major life changing gifts: Christ dying to forgive our sins and the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us. What more could we ask for? Why should you feel a sense of entitlement?
“The Bible promises us riches,” you say. Yes it does. But why do you instantly think money, houses, cars, vacations, yachts, etc. The riches we are promised are not financial ones. The riches I have found in Christ are emotional and spiritual ones. I am optimistic and I have hope. I can smile through almost anything, and when bad things happen I have learned not to dwell on them. This world and my life in it are but temporary, not eternal. I keep my eye on the prize of eternal life and that allows me to cope with anything that is thrown at me.
So, the next time you begin feeling like God owes you something remember that he does and you may not like it if He were to pay you what you have earned.  Romans 3:23reminds us that we all sin. Romans 6:23a informs us that the wage of sin is death. Based on our deeds we are owed death.
When I talk to my clients in drug court and they tell me they don’t get what they deserve, I always tell them they are right. If we had been caught every time we had done something illegal, we would not have the ability to walk in freedom. Instead we would be in prison the rest of our lives. Drug court and probation is more than we deserve based on our conduct but we still have been given a shot at redemption. The same is true with our sinful lives.  
Romans 3:24 says that “all are justified freely by His GRACE through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 6:23b says, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Eternal life is a GIFT from God that we are given, and that is all we have the right to. Stop asking God what He can do for you and instead constantly ask yourself what you can do to live your life as you were created to.
So what can we do to live our lives the way we were created to live them?
1.       Trust in God. Proverbs 3:5-6 states that we are to trust in God instead of ourselves and submit to His will. Let his will be done, not our own. We do not know what plans He has for us and realize the biggest tests make the best testimonies.
2.       Learn what it means to be content. Philippians 4:11-13 shows that the secret to being content is not having a lot or a little but instead putting faith in God. Remember, our needs may or may not be met. We are to give of ourselves any way.
3.       Make your life a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1-7 tells that we all have gifts, and we are to use those gifts to honor God. If we have the ability to teach, we are to teach. If we are well off financially then we are to give to those less fortunate. Once again, it reminds us that the gifts we have are through grace. Our lives are miracles. If not for God than we are not here to begin with.
4.       Love God and love your neighbor. Matthew 22:36-39 tell us that the greatest commandments are to love God and others. We do this by living our lives by God and treating those around us as Christ would.
5.       Deny sinful desires. Luke 9:23says we are to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily to follow God. Everyday we choose whether we are guided by our flesh and greed or by the Holy Spirit.
Looking back, I realize I have felt this way for some time. I have taken to praying to be the hands and feet of God for the people I come in contact with, that God help me be more like Jesus today and that I do his will. When I pray for others who are having struggles, I ask that they have the strength they require and are given the wisdom to do what is needed so that God’s will is done.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What I am Thankful For 2013 Edition

  1. God - The Alpha and the Omega, our Creator. I am thankful that God not only created all that we see in the sky, but took the time to make the Sun the exact temperature it needs to be while placing Earth the perfect distance from it while placing the moon in a perfect orbit around Earth while giving Earth the exact atmosphere that it needs to support life. Then He created life, and out of the billions of males and females my parents and my wife's parents met and gave birth to us.  
  2. Jesus - For without Jesus perfect sacrifice we would not have our sins forgiven and the promise of everlasting life. To think of the lashes and crucifixion endured all for us is beyond comprehension. 
  3. Holy Spirit - I am thankful that I have not a man who walks beside me to coach me but instead a force that lives in me and nudges me to do the right thing when the right thing is often the last thing I want to do
  4. Grace - Grace is unmerited favor, a gift that I did not earn. It is also the reason that I have a promise that can get me through the worst today has to offer. To think that after all I have done I will one day stand in front of God and because of grace will hear, "Son, well done!"
  5. Hope - My life as a Christian and the promises that come with it have taken me from hopeless and depressed to hopeful and optimistic. What an amazing transformation.
  6. The Bible - To think that I have a playbook that will get me through this life and into the next all while making me a happier and better person. 
  7. Julie - My wife is so much more than I deserve. I am so thankful that she can see me for who I am today and not the person I once was. 
  8. DJ - My first born has taught me the meaning of unconditional love. I was finally able to see how my dad felt about me. 
  9. Addison - My daughter has been a fighter since the day she was born and her constant happiness through her operations and struggles is what has allowed me to stay sane through it all. 
  10. Michal - My sister, because if she would not have been there for me when I was in the depths of my addiction I would be dead today. In fact, if she would not have come by my place after my suicide attempt and found me I would be dead for sure. 
  11. My Dad - The greatest man I ever knew. He personified several things but the most important was how to love unconditionally and for that I am forever thankful. I am the dad I am today because of him not in spite of him. 
  12. My Mom - She gave birth to me and always worked hard so that my siblings and I never went without. 
  13. Heidi and James - I am thankful that I have them as the other set of parents for my son. I could not imagine not getting along with DJ's other parents. 
  14. My In-Laws and DJs Grandparents - For giving me a chance to prove that I am not the man I once was and showing me love once you saw the love I had for Julie/DJ (depending on which person you are related to)
  15. The Wessleys and Kearbeys - Without your love, guidance and support I would never have made it through the rough patch after my dad's suicide and certainly would not have stepped foot into a church. 
  16. The Apostle Paul - I am thankful that I could read about a man who sinned in abundance like I did who was not afraid to talk about it. That he played such a huge part in the writing of the New Testament allowed me to see that if God's grace covered him it could cover me. 
  17. The Book of James - It is nice to have a short and concise book that outlines the way we as Christians are to live our lives. 
  18. Pastor James - Thanks for answering the hard questions that I had when I first started visiting a church and introducing me to the historicity of Jesus and the Bible.
  19. Apologetics - There is a certain feeling that you get when you actually begin to understand how scientifically, historically and philosophically that God exists and can explain that to others who have questions about Christianity 
  20. Lee Strobel - If not for The Case for Christ I do not know that I would have prayed that night and turned my life over to God
  21. Celebrate Recovery - Thank you Celebrate Recovery for teaching me multiple things. First, that there is a huge difference between abstinence and recovery. Secondly, that many people who do not use drugs/alcohol still have the same struggles as I do and I am not less than or worse than. I am also thankful that we will be starting The Landing next month at Glendale Christian Church and my wife and I will have the privilege of being part of it. The Landing is Celebrate Recovery for 13-18 year olds, and it will be the first one in Springfield.
  22. Narcotics Anonymous - For letting me know that it was possible to be an addict and quit using drugs. 
  23. Prayer - I love knowing that when life begins to overwhelm me I can always call a timeout and regroup
  24. Worship -  Not only does great worship prime me on Sundays and Fridays for the message that follows but worship music has greatly improved my mood and my attitude. 
  25. Glendale Christian Church - So thankful to have a church that is ministry minded and feels like home!
  26. Alternative Opportunities, Inc. - I love that I have a job I know makes a difference. I work at a place where I am surrounded by compassionate people who truly care about the populations they work with. 
  27. BLiR AKA Better Life in Recovery, Inc - I cannot wait to see what 2014 has in store for BLiR and how many people it can have a positive impact on. 
  28. Books - I believe one of the biggest sins we can commit against ourselves is to die ignorant and books have helped me insure this will not happen
  29. Sports - I love that I have an amazing past time both to watch and participate in. Whether it is weightlifting, MMA, basketball, football, baseball, boxing, tennis, softball, handball etc 
  30. Recovery - One of the greatest gifts I have ever been given was learning the difference between sobriety and recovery. Sobriety is simply abstinence while recovery is changing everything about yourself. I am so glad that I am not the man I once was and that thanks to the guidance of the Holy Spirit I have changed so much more than just my substance use: attitude, language, goals, outlook, etc.
  31. My Past - If not for my past I would not be who I am today. God has taken my tests and transformed them into my testimony and my stumbling blocks into stepping stones so that I can share that there is a Better Life in Recovery that has taken me from dealing dope to dealing hope.
This is a short list and I did not get very deep into the reasons why I love these. I missed many things, such as coffee and motivational interviewing, unconditional positive regard and eternal optimism but I hit on the highlights. Mostly, I am thankful that I have a God that is good all of the time, a wife that I can tell loves me just in by the way she looks at me, children that I dote on that dote on me and all of my needs met! Hope that you have an amazing Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

I am a Soft, Weak-minded Delusional Christian

Recently I was reading some articles on the problems with Christianity and reasons to abandon the Christian faith and I realized something. I am viewed by many atheists, agnostics and secularists to be soft, weak-minded and delusional. I have faith in a religion that I believe in for many reasons that I did not know. I act and think in ways that I did not realize until several authors were kind enough to inform me of them. Below are several of the reasons that they listed:

Christians believe in God out of Fear
 I had no idea that is why I had become a Christian. In fact, I can honestly say that Hell and fear had nothing to do with it. I became a Christian because I was hopeless and found hope. I had lived a life that was filled with anger and violence. I associated with psychopaths and was actually diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder as well as a masochist and sadomasochist.

Trust me, fear and cowardice are the very last reasons that I would have become a Christian. I would argue that I was agnostic out of fear and cowardice. The thought that I might have to pay for my transgressions or be held accountable for the lives I destroyed and the carnage I left behind kept me mired in addiction. As a Christian I live my life knowing one day I will stand before God and be held accountable for everything. Accountability is a huge part of a Christian's life.

Christianity Prays on Innocent People
I had no idea that I was innocent and prayed upon. Instead, I was a violent criminal addicted to drugs and alcohol that manipulated and used everybody that I came into contact with. I have done things in my life that make me the dregs of society and I did it all knowingly. I used to jokingly say, "If only the good die young, I will probably live forever."

Christianity, instead of praying on the innocent, gives hope to the hopeless and feeds and clothes the needy. They do attempt to give hope and faith to those who have been abused and taken advantage of, by funding homeless shelters and homes for abused women. How dare them!!

Christians Witness Too Much
This one cracks me up. Everybody witnesses too much. Pro-Choice people wax on about it being a women's body, and Pro-Life people say it's a life.. Those for guns constantly preach about their need while those for gun control witness about the damage they do in society. Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Anarchists, etc all witness on and on about their form of government/non-government being the best and why. 

Secularists, humanists, agnostics and atheists recently had a Reason Rally where the leaders in their fields witnessed about their beliefs and were encouraged those in attendance to destroy Christianity by mocking and ridiculing Christians. That sounds a lot like witnessing to me. It actually sounds more like hate mongering. The difference is that when I witness about my faith, I do so to give people hope not to destroy what hope they have. 

Christians are Arrogant
Christians believe that they and only they have the right answer. I really cannot argue there. Life is kind of that way as well, but we have become very politically correct and moved away from it. There is some gray in our world, but it is mostly a black and white world. We are fooling ourselves and due to that we have grown soft as a society.

Some schools are no longer giving failing grades, and the students can answer as many times as they need to in order to finally obtain the correct answer. Wait until they hit real life, and they see that in most situations there is a right and a wrong thing to do. If I play a round of golf and I say I shot a 82 and my partner says I shot an 86, one of us is right and the other is wrong. We cannot both be right. The same is true of our beliefs. 

Christians Believe Out of Ignorance/Blind Faith in a Delusional God
Actually, most Christians I know who were saved later in life believe in God due to a personal experience they have had. That is why I have faith there is a God, because of the changes in my life since my transformation from dealing dope to dealing hope.

I am also an analytical person. I need proof of things before I can say I believe in them. Apologetics has done that for me. I now can argue Christianty using history, science and philosophy among other things. Look up fine tuning and cosmological theory to find out more.

Christianity is Cruel and Violent
There have been many killed under the guise of Christianity. There have been many times over that number killed by atheists under the guise of communism. From Pol Pot to Mao to Stalin atheists have slaughtered millions. Nobel Prize winner Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said, "the main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our (Russian) people, Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."

I would ignore all of that and recommend that you go to any natural disaster the world over and see the outpouring from the Christian community. Go to many food pantries and see where the bulk of their contributions come from. In fact, most of them were started by Christians as individuals, their organizations or their churches. What a bunch of bullies! 

Christianity is anti-scientific and anti-intellectual
I will only defend this one with a small list of names: Allesandro Volta, Georg Ohm, James Prescott Joule, Lord Kelvin (Volt, Ohm, Joule and Kelvin units named after them), Louis Pasteur (Invented Pasteurization ), Gregor Mendel (father of modern genetics), Francis Collins (director of the National Human Genome Research Institute), Gerhard Ertl (Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry) and William Daniel Phillips (Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics).

Most of the books that I read once I got saved (and trust me going from where I was a decade ago to where I am now I was SAVED!) looked at science, history and philosophy to prove Christianity and they made valid points. I have listed several of them at the bottom. 

Christianity Causes Sexual Frustration
As an agnostic I slept with hundreds of women, literally. I am not bragging, simply being honest. I was in one short term relationship after another, frequently having multiple girlfriends at the same time. I tried to define myself by conquests, as I had no identity otherwise that I was fulfilled through.

I met a women a few months after I got saved, and we dated for over a year before we were married. We did not have sex until our wedding night, and it was amazing. I have been faithful to her and we have an amazing relationship based on more than our carnal desires because we instead focused on our friendship and developed respect for each other. I see her as my mate and not as an object. I am so much more fulfilled sexually now than when I was when I was agnostic. 

Christianity has a Narrow, Legalistic View of Morality
I agree, such a narrow view of morality. We are commanded to do two things above all other, love God and love our neighbors and treat them as we would wish to be treated. That is pretty narrow. Can you believe the concept of people treating everyone with the love and respect they themselves would like to be treated with. If people were to actually live their lives based on what is commonly known as "The Golden Rule" the world would be a much better place. 

In Closing
I am a reasonably intelligent person. I got clean after 20 years of substance abuse and more concussions than I can count on one hand. Before I started college I went to see a neuropsychologist and was told that I had an IQ of 129. I have since gotten an Associates, a double Bachelors in Psychology and Sociology and a Masters in Social Work all while maintaining a 3.79 GPA.

I had a thirst for knowledge most of my life, even in my addictions. I read voraciously because I wanted the religion that my parents believed in to be wrong due to the judgmental and hypocritical attitudes that I had seen from Christians. I was searching for something, though. I reached a point where I was completely drained of hope and knew that I would never stop abusing drugs and living my life the way I did. There was no point in living life by rules if I didn't have to, and as an agnostic I didn't have to. What was the worst thing that would happen? 

So I continue to live my life as an agnostic who was clinically depressed, overcome with the urge to fight while stealing and sleeping from and with anyone and everyone. I was hopeless and hurting and the best that I could hope for was to be numb and not feel and I found that I could do that through my various addictions. 

I tried everything at one point or another to overcome my addictions and my past: residential/outpatient treatment, psychotropic medication, counseling (LPC, psychiatrist, psychologist), jail, prison, house arrest, 12 Step meetings and eventually suicide all to no avail. The day I turned to prayer was the last day I: drank, took drugs other than those prescribed as prescribed, smoked a cigarette, had premarital sex and got into a fight outside of a ring. It was life changing. 

Yet I still had questions. I still had questions and doubts so I have continued to read and study. Here are some of the books I would recommend to you if you have doubts about what to believe:
  1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
  2. The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
  3. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  4. What's So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey
  5. Where is God When it Hurts by Philip Yancey 
  6. Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell

All I know is that I used to destroy families and lives through the distribution and manufacturing of methamphetamine while reveling in breaking the law and using as many people as I came into contact with. Today I have found happiness in the form of hope. If that makes me a soft, delusional person than I am fine with that. This soft, delusional person has helped countless people get off of drugs, encouraged those who were living criminal lifestyles to get their GEDs and go to college by sharing what I have now with them.

Hi my name is David and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who has struggled in the past from the effects of being sexually, emotionally and physically abused as a youth, depression, anxiety, isolation, low self-esteem as well as addictions to drugs, alcohol, sex, violence, criminality, power and food. I have found a Better Life in Recovery and a better life through Christ and so can you.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Knock Out Game or How Lame Can You Get

What is the world coming to? Recently the media has been talking about a thing called the Knockout Game or Knockout King. It is about time that they caught on to something that has been going on for the past decade plus but is just now getting coverage. Let us not call it a game but instead what it is, which is an assault. More than that, it is the lamest type of assault you could possibly think of so we will call it  the I Am a Punk Assault Game, or PAG for short. So what is PAG? Why is it lame?
For starters, PAG has been going on in several major metro areas across the nation and appears to be spreading. In PAG, some “tough” guy (punk teenager) attempts to knock someone out by sucker punching them as the either walk by them or by running up behind them. I know what you are thinking, what a ignorant sissy thing to do.
That is what I thought too, but it actually gets worse. This is being done by teenaged males (and females) to teenage and 20-something 110 pound females. It is being done to disabled 50 plus year old males. How big of a pansy do you have to be to sucker punch a girl or a disabled guy? Is this what being “gangster” has been reduced to by our newest generation?
Come on kids! Join a boxing or MMA gym and actually make some money from the violence if you are all that you think you. Based on the attacks, I imagine you are not all that you are trying to convince people you are. If you have to prove that you can knock someone out with a single punch by sucker punching them you might as well hit them with your purse, you Nancy.
The saddest part of this is that some of the people that have been sucker punched have died either from hitting the concrete or breaking their neck from the fall. All of this to see if they can either knock someone out with one punch or to prove that they are tough. What an ignorant and weak thing to do. How is targeting primarily females, the elderly and the disabled who are almost always all by themselves prove anything? How pathetic do you have to be to sucker punch someone that has done nothing to you or anyone that you know? How are you proud enough about it to paste it on YouTube? These are some sad, weak and tiny people.
So what can we do?
Come on parents and community! Be more aware of the company your children keep. Spend quality time with your children. Teach them to respect others as well as themselves by setting an example for them that they can model. Find them hobbies and activities that are positive they enjoy. Set up activities for youth in your community. Have your children in church at least twice a week, once on Sunday and again for the Youth Night as well as in a small group. Studies have shown that kids who attend church twice a week graduate at a higher rate, commit less crime and have less status offenses. Seriously, though, SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH YOUR KIDS!!
Rant over...................................................................................

Monday, November 18, 2013

3 Things About God that Changed Me Forever

When I first came to church I had very low self-esteem and self-confidence. I hated myself and could never forgive myself for the things I had done and the things that had been done to me in my past. I was hopeless, depressed and angry. I had quit illegal drugs but I was still an alcoholic that constantly got into fights and wallowed in self-pity and apathy. I was an Agnostic and then I had a life changing, Pauline conversion that you can read about here After my conversion, I had so many questions, but several stuck out:
1.       Why would God forgive me when I could not forgive myself?
2.       How could God love me when I could not love myself?
3.       How could God have confidence in me when I had none in myself?
I was lost and angry. I had a new life but I could not see how God could possibly forgive me for everything I had done after I had spent my whole life disappointing Him. Then I ran into three Biblical truths and God opened my eyes to what they meant for me:
1.       God forgives all things. This is stated by Paul, when he said, “Christ Jesus died to save sinners-of whom I am the worst.” Paul at one time had killed Christians simply for believing in God and not renouncing their faith. If God forgave Paul for that, surely He will forgive us of our sins as well.
2.       God is love. He loves us so much that He sent His son to die for our sins. That love is unconditional, as expressed in the story of the prodigal son. The son was ready to work as the lowest of the low after betraying his father and yet his father still had a place for him at the head of the table, just like our Heavenly Father has for us.  After all that we have done, He is still there to love us and expects more from us than we expect for ourselves because of the following truth.                                                           
3.       God has confidence in us because he is the Alpha and the Omega. This is the one that blew my mind and helped me the most. He has confidence in us because He knows what we are going to do before we do it. Following is why this was such a boon to my self-esteem.
God is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Therefore, God is omnipotent, which means that he is all-powerful. He is omnipresent, which means that he is in all places at all times. He is omniscient which means that he is all-knowing. What does this mean for us? I am going to give a very short answer for this one, and I hope that it helps you as much as it helped me at one time.
He always was and always will be. He lives above and beyond time. That is how anything that is eternal has to be. Because He has always lived and is in the past, present and future He knows the mistakes we make before we make them. That is not the awesome part. The awesome part is that he knows how many mistakes we will make before we get it right. Let that sink in for a moment; He knows how many mistakes we will make before we get it right! What does this mean for us?
God is never disappointed in us. I relapsed many times in the past yet God was there cheering me on every time. I denied God multiple times, yet every time that I did God was there cheering me on. He was cheering me on because He knew how many times I would fail before I succeeded.
How awesome would that be? Knowing how many times your child would lie to you until the last time after which they would never lie to you again. Would that lead you not to disappointment when it happened but instead joy because they are one closer to it never happening again!
What I began to see was that every time I denied Christ, God was cheering for me. Every time that I relapsed, God was rejoicing! I could hear Him saying the next to last time I relapsed, “One more and you are mine for good!”  
Never forget, God is your biggest cheerleader. He already knows the successes you will experience and the glory your life will end with!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Reaching the Lost: Apologetics and More

Hi, my name is David and I am a Christian. It was a hard process for me to become a Christian, because of various factors. I would like to talk about the things that kept me away from God for so many years, discuss what we can do to help people come to Christ. Some things are beyond our control because of the world we live in. Those should not be your focus. Instead, look at the things under your control. I know you can impact lives positively, because there were people who impacted mine.
I lost my faith at a very young age. My parents were hypocrites and although they were respected in the church, it was because nobody saw who they really were. Then I went through sexual, physical and emotional abuse from the age of 4 through the 6th grade and I became Agnostic. I did not know whether or not there was a God. I only knew that if there was one, He obviously did not care about me. If He cared none of the abuse would have happened.
I met kids at school that went to church, or at least I thought they did. I would hear them talk about seeing each other in church, or hear them talk about God. Then I would hear them cussing, picking on a less popular kid or see them fighting. As I grew up these are the kids I would go out drinking and chasing women with. In dealing with the Christians around me I only knew one thing; they were just like me. 
As I continued drinking and then moved into drugs, the people that I would hear talk about God became fewer and fewer. They were still in my life, though. I remember one of my friends would get high on meth and then spend hours telling me how worried he was for me, because I was going to go to hell because I was not saved like him. I continued to see the hypocrisy that I associated with Christians.
Over the course of my life, I would try to belittle Christians by asking those questions they never had answers to. I used my Agnosticism to feel intellectually and emotionally superior to them. I would ask them why they believed in God and the answer was usually because that was how they grew up, because they were afraid of going to hell or it was what the Bible said.
I would argue scientifically or historically and they never had any answers, instead leaning on faith and dogma. In my depression I would ask them even harder questions, like why would a God who loved me allow me to be brutalized as a youth and they never could answer with anything other than, “God has a plan.”
His plan sucked, in my opinion. I knew several things about Christians in my youth:
1.       Christians were hypocrites
2.       Christians were judgmental
3.       Christians believed in God out of blind faith
4.       Christians believed in God out of fear of going to hell
5.       The only difference between me and a Christian was they had been dunked in some water and believed in a God. They lived their lives no differently than I did: drinking, drugs, lying, fighting and sleeping around.   
I think if you were to talk to most non-Christians about their feelings on Christians, you would get most if not all of what I just listed above. Christians are called by God to do many things. Because we are not doing them, this is the opinion that many secularists/Atheists/Agnostics/Seekers have of us. There is no difference between Christians and the people outside of the church, so why believe in God? He obviously makes no difference in people’s lives.
My life was changed because of several things. I encountered people who represented Christianity well. They lived their lives morally and were incessantly hopeful and optimistic. They were the polar opposite of the people we both worked with. They loved me even though I was a wreck. They cared even though I was an Agnostic, criminal and addict. They lived their lives well and wanted to see the people around them living better lives, too.
When I had questions they could not answer, they admitted they didn’t know. Then they introduced me to someone that did. He could answer the hard questions I asked. He was able to tell me scientific, historical and philosophical reasons for his faith. For example, I was introduced to Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ and Doug Powell,s book Holman QuickSource Guide to Christian Apologetics.
Finally, I was introduced to Paul and heard about his struggles and how he overcame them. I heard Christian songs in church talking about the same struggles I had and how Christ was the answer. I heard testimonies through Celebrate Recovery that started with the hopeless and ended with hopeful thanks to the Holy Spirit.
What does this mean for you personally? What can we do to change how the world sees us?
1.       Let people see Christ by representing Him. Live your life as an agent of change by being different than the people around you. Don’t cuss, lie, gossip, have premarital sex, overeat, be lazy at work and quit doing drugs and smoking cigarettes. Your body is the temple of God and you are turning it into an amusement park.
2.       Instead of seeing the worst in people, talk to them and show concern and compassion for them. Care about people, even those who don’t care about themselves. You may be the first person to show interest in them or to have faith that their lives can get better. That is a powerful thing, it gives hope!!
3.       Be able to explain why you believe in God from several different angles. Make sure that one of them is personal experience and then have a couple of others after you study a couple of books on apologetics. Discuss those books with an accountability partner and be prepared to defend your reasons.  Better yet, start an apologetics small group at your church.
4.       Realize that fear of hell is not a reason to believe in God. I know the difference that my heavenly father made in my life. Because of that, I want Him to be proud of me. I don’t live my life the way I do out of fear of hell. I have lived through hell. I do it out of respect and because I want God to one day tell me, “Well done!”
5.       If we are saved, we are different. We should be proud of that difference. We have a message of hope that can save lives. Shout it from the roof tops. I know that you don’t want to offend people, but it will happen. You have no problem offending people that feel differently about politics or the economy. Why are you scared now?
In closing, remember that you may be the only Christian someone comes in contact with. What impression are they left with after they spend time with you? Your attitude, actions and language may be all that stand between someone being a victim or a victory!

Monday, November 4, 2013

We Finally Found Our New Home

If you have read or heard anything that I have written or my wife has had to say, we have gotten to a point where we do not feel comfortable in church. Because of that it had become a struggle every week to even make it to church. In fact, we would find excuses to not attend church. I would bet that over the past 6 months we have not attended more than we have attended church. I had forgotten just how much break ups can hurt, and was quickly reminded of it this year.
Since March we have tried various churches. We have visited some really good churches. Some of them were more appealing than others, but something was always missing. None of them felt like home. Maybe there was too much pop psychology for us and not enough Jesus.  Maybe the worship music was not what we needed: either too traditional or they played secular music. Maybe they did not have a recovery program or their children’s program was not what we needed. Something was missing, so my wife and I compiled a list of what we wanted in a home church.
It turns out there are a lot of things that my wife and I wanted to find in our church:
1.       A sermon that was Biblically sound with a lot of meat and little fluff
2.       A great kids program
3.       A worship team that played worship music
4.       A recovery program
5.       Sunday school
6.       An accessible pastor that tended his flock
My wife and I started exploring various churches, looking for ones that met our criteria. She sent me a link for Glendale Christian Church (GCC). I went to their site and read about it. Everything looked good. I then listened to a couple of the sermons they had posted, and the message sounded great. They even had their worship songs listed on the site, and the sets were amazing. So, we decided to give it a shot.
Two Sundays ago we went there for the first time. At most of the churches we had tried something had gone wrong or sounded wrong or simply did not fit our needs. Glendale hit on everything on our list, going above and beyond our expectations on almost all of them. It all began in the daycare when we first came inside.
We walked in and went to the daycare to drop off our daughter, Addison. She normally cries when we hand her over to the daycare workers. I sat her on the floor so I could fill out her sticker, and the door to the daycare opened up as someone else put their kids in and she just walked inside and started playing. We then asked a guy about classes for my son. He said that DJ would go up after worship to his class. He then found us 10 minutes later inside of the congregation and said that he was wrong, and DJ could go to his class now.
I took DJ up to his class and dropped him off. My son knew the song they were worshipping to and took off inside. I went back down and listened to the sermon. I enjoyed the sermon, and the worship music they played really primed me to receive the message it contained. Then we went to get DJ from class. Normally, when I pick DJ up from class and ask him what he learned he tells me he doesn’t remember. This time he was able to list several people from the Bible they had talked about as well as two of the songs they had sang in worship.
We did not stay for Sunday school the first week, as we already had other plans. So we picked up DJ and left. I figured that they would send us a form letter or give us a call during the week. I was wrong. Instead, the senior pastor showed up at the house with fresh baked bread and talked to Julie for a while. He left there headed to several other people’s houses. Not going to lie, that really impressed me a lot.  It might have made a bigger impression on me than anything.
Friday we attended the Celebrate Recovery (CR) group at Glendale. It was everything that a CR should be. Friendly, happy, safe and you feel that you can talk about the things that you need to share and no one will judge you or look at you differently. The Celebrate Recovery Missouri State representative goes to GCC. I was glad they  had a CR over any of the other recovery groups I have ever attended. I love CR in particular because of the change it has made in my life, so I was very happy to go to another one and can envision myself becoming a productive part of it in the future.
We came back and attended GCC again this past Sunday. I heard one of  the best worship services I have sat through (ever) and the sermon focused on fulfilling our Christian commission by going into jails and/or prisons if we felt called to do so as part of their prison ministry. This time we went to Sunday school and it was also really good. After Julie and I left we talked about our experience there. We had each encountered so many positives that we both had reached the same conclusion ……….we had found our new home!