Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Secular Church

The church is changing to meet the people. There are positive and negative ways the church is adapting. It is positive to address the modern issues people face with recovery/support groups and small groups. I love that churches are reaching out to help the community with outreaches and food banks. That is what Christians are supposed to do. I also really enjoy Christian concerts in the community, even though some are part worship/part entertainment. Those are all good things. Unfortunately, there are also negative ways the church is changing.

I am talking about church service conforming to stay relevant and cool. We have Domino Pizza church services that deliver church in 60 minutes, or your money back. On top of that we use secular music and cultural themes to pack the pews. When you have 15 minutes allotted for worship, 2 minutes for announcements, a 30 minute sermon, 5 minutes for collection and another 5 minutes for prayer then we see you out the door so we can get the next service started.............Houston, we have a problem.

What if the Holy Spirit leads you to teach, pray or worship longer? We have placed the Holy Spirit in a box, putting time constraints on worship, sermons and even prayer. Church used to be one of the most important things of the week. It is that way no longer. The entire day used to be built upon church and fellowship. Now we have to be in and out quickly so that we can get back home in time for football games, the latest box office smash or to see how our brackets are doing.

Francis Chan said the church now proclaims, "Hi, welcome to church. Here's your bulletin. We'll get you out in an hour. Come back next week." He asks, "What would the church look like today if we really stopped taking control of it and let the Holy Spirit lead? I believe this is exactly what the world needs to see."

We have reached an era where we no longer place importance on spending time with Christ. We appeal to the masses living a fast food life by giving them fast food church. Many in the church now believe that modern culture is needed to bring people in, so they are basing sermons around culturally fun, relevant things. Charles Spurgeon, who died over 120 years ago, could just as well have been speaking about the church today when he said:

"The devil has seldom done a cleverer thing than hinting to the Church that part of their mission is to provide entertainment for the people, with a view to winning them. My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the church.  If it is a Christian work, why did not Christ speak of it? The mission of amusement produces no converts. The need is biblical doctrine, so understood and felt that it sets men on fire."

Os Guiness says, "The only place the Church is strong in the West is ordinary people in America, which are largely evangelicals, and if you look at the evangelical community, it’s anti-intellectual. It’s handicapped, populist, and incredibly worldly. In many cases, the Church is shaped more by the world than by the Gospel of Christ."

The world needs a fresh drink of water, not the same Kool Aid they've been gulping down their entire lives. Why do some churches feel the need to give the unchurched what they already know? Is that what the Bible said? "Go out and make disciples of all nations, using the Word of God and providing entertainment they can relate to so they will come to church. Also, tone down the message so as not to offend. Remember, wide is the gate that leads to salvation and many will storm through it as your church grows larger and larger!" I must have missed that part of the Bible.

A.W. Tozer said, "We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum." Christ said that the world would hate us, as it hated Him yet we are trying to appease everyone.

Francis Chan calls the current American church "lukewarm." We are warned of this in Revelation 3:15,16, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth." This is what we are doing by trying to create a middle ground between Christ and the world, being lukewarm. We have forgotten there is no middle ground. This is Satan's world. You are either the problem or the solution; not of this world or in it with 2 feet firmly planted. 

The church is doing a great disservice to those searching for hope. The nonbeliever comes to church for something different and supernatural, and is instead given what is common and known. We were told to be salt and light, but we are becoming tasteless and allowing the darkness of the world to enter into our churches. How are people to find hope, salvation or a reason to change how they are living when they hear a primary message that shouts, "Watch, read, speak and live as you want to, Jesus loves you as you are! See, we are just like you."

When the church begins to resemble the world it is in, that goes completely against what Jesus taught. He said that they would hate us, as they had hated him. James 4:4 says, "anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." That means we may lose some friends and alienate some people when they step into our churches. They should hear the salvation message instead of what they are hearing.

Christianity Today said, "The current state of our preaching is driven by an admirable desire to show our age the relevance of the gospel. But our recent attempts have inadvertently turned that gospel into mere good advice-about sex, about social ethics, about how to live successfully. This either offends or bores our culture. A renewed focus on the Cross is the only way forward."

 We rely on being culturally relevant and preaching a "feel good" message as opposed to focusing on discipline and discipleship. It is no wonder we are losing our youth to the secular world. They do not have the Biblical knowledge to defend their faith, let alone live it while teaching and discipling others. Since this is the culture of the church, we are setting our youth up for failure. The Berean Call recognized this, and said:

 “During the last three decades, many have experienced Christianity in church settings that major in entertainment rather than in teaching the Scriptures and disciplining those who attend. Thus, they are the products of years of church-growth marketing schemes that have attempted to fill pews with the "unchurched" and keep them coming back by using consumer-oriented tactics. It's a "keep the customer happy," seeker-friendly approach that has critically diluted biblical content as churches compete with the world in order to interest their youth. The outcome has resulted in a shallow Christianity for millions of young professing Christians.”
G. Campbell Morgan, who died almost 70 years ago saw this and said, "When amusement is necessary to get people to listen to the gospel there will be failure.  This is not the method of Christ. To form an organization and provide all kinds of entertainment for young people, in order that they may come to the Bible classes, is to be foredoomed to failure."

We don't need entertainment and a "feel good" gospel; we need the message of salvation through Christ. There is no need to water down the gospel, for ALL scripture is inspired by God and beneficial! Instead of telling sinners how to be saved and live differently, we are teaching them they can continue in their sinful ways. I share recovery, not sobriety with people. It is not enough for someone to simply be sober, for there is so much more to it than not that. Same with being saved, there is so much more to it than simply accepting Christ.

In recovery we have dry drunks, in the church we have plastic Christians. Their foundation is unstable and likely to fall at any moment because they have only started the change and never moved forward with it. They are coming to church not because they want to make a sacrifice and put Christ first and foremost. They come because of what they feel Christ can do for them, or because they are afraid of what may happen if they don't accept Christ and go to church. This is merely accepting.

Ask anyone who works the 12 steps; acceptance is only step 1! There are still 11 steps remaining. Acceptance of Christ with no changes in character or behavior is a scary way to live. We are encouraging the dead faith James talked. He said that you can't have faith without works. Once you have truly accepted Christ, your life will begin to change. You will begin to live differently for all the right reasons. I did not start believing in God and stop drinking, drugging, cussing, smoking cigarettes, having premarital sex and fighting out of fear or because I was entertained.

My life didn't change because the worship team played Mustang Sally or Dave Matthews. It happened because I heard Christian music address my issues in the Third Day song, "Cry Out to Jesus" Brandon Heath's song, "I'm Not Who I Was" and "Forgiven" by Sanctus Real. It didn't change because someone told me how to relate a Harry Potter book to a lesson in the Bible. Instead the associate pastor met with me and introduced me to Lee Strobel's book, The Case for Christ, which examined the historical evidence for Christ.

My life didn't change because the church directed me to a Narcotic's Anonymous group like the one I was used to going to. Instead I was introduced to a faith-based recovery/support group called Celebrate Recovery. It helped me see some things differently. First, it let me see that a lot of people have struggles they cope with in unhealthy ways besides drugs and alcohol. I also realized I am no better or worse than everyone else, because everyone struggles. Finally, it showed me Christians aren't the judgemental hypocrites I had always known them to be.

My life didn't change because the first sermon I heard talked about a movie I had just seen and how it related to the Bible in one way or another. My life changed because I heard  a message of forgiveness and salvation. I was told that "all have sinned." I heard that Paul struggled with doing the right thing, because it was his nature to sin. In fact, Paul said he was the worst of sinners yet was still saved by grace. Then I was told to make my body a living sacrifice and not  to conform to the world. That changed me, not on the surface but at my very core. It gave me hope!

After over 2 decades of debauchery and Agnosticism I was changed because the Holy Spirit gave me hope in the knowledge of Christ's unconditional love and redeeming grace. I did not want to let Him down. The Holy Spirit led me to begin changing my life. I wanted to be like Christ and make him as proud of me as I possibly could. I still do. I know I will never be perfect, but my program has taught me it is progress not perfection. If there is no progress there is something wrong! I don't make progress because I get anything for it, but because I love God and have put Him first.

I think of the love my son  has for me. He does everything he can to emulate what I do and to make me proud of him. He knows what pleases me and he tries to do it. When he can't do what I do or he fails in impressing me, he continues practicing and tries again. He does this simply because he loves me. He loves to see me smile at him and know that I am proud of him. Same reason I strive to do better in my life. I want to know that how I live is pleasing to God.

My life is a gift from God, and how I live my life shows God my gratitude. The problem today is that some churches are not preaching that message. They are using seeker-friendly, "feel good" sermons filled with fluff and acceptance of sins. In using almost doctrine, the unchurched are almost introduced to Christ and are taught how to almost live Christ-like. Because of that many find themselves almost putting Christ first and are almost not of this world. The problem I see today is many will almost get to heaven because they almost got saved.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Better Life in Recovery and Spiritual Spackle Saturday

This blog is to do two things. It is to take a look at where Better Life in Recovery is currently and where it is headed in the future. We will also look at Spiritual Spackle and the direction it is headed in. I need to be consistent in my life and so far that consistency has been missing the past month. Okay, maybe it has been missing this year.

Better Life in Recovery had a great event. I will have a promotional clip of it in April to share. We are looking at having another event late summer in Springfield (location TBD) and during the Fall in Branson (location TBD). My main focus for April is to write the bylaws and file for non-profit status to open us up to more funding opportunities. I will have a blog next month that will truly address what we have, what we are working on and what we need in April.

Now on to the Spiritual Spackle blog itself. I guess  that I do not have the time to write the amount of blogs that I once felt I would be able to. As my life gets busier and busier, some things take a hit. I have a very busy life and my blog has suffered. I was wanting to write 2-3 a week and that is just not possible with the other demands in my life. Because of that, I am going to be writing one blog weekly and several specific blogs once a month. That is what I know I can do.

Every Saturday I will have a blog that will look at either recovery, faith or both. Hence the moniker Spiritual Spackle Saturday, since it will be weekly on Saturdays. There will be a monthly apologetics blog that will be written for The Poached Egg ( ). There will also be a monthly blog that will look at my progress, or lack of progress at getting into a shape that is not round and attaining a BMI that does not tell me I am morbidly obese.

Those monthly blogs will come out the first week of every month. The apologetics blog on the first Monday of the month and the weight loss blog will be on the first Wednesday of the month, starting in April. There will be other blogs that will be posted if time presents itself and if there are buring, pressing desires to write them.

My focus is on becoming more of a spiritual leader for my family, writing the bylaws so we can file for 501(c)3, advancing Better Life in Recovery, Inc., having more BLiR events and completing the book entitled, Spiritual Spackle. My desire is to have the book completed and either be with a publisher or have a Kickstarter project started to help me get it published by the end of the year.

I look forward to having my first Spritual Spackle Saturday blog to you this Saturday (03/30) and the apologetics blog next Monday (04/01) and the next Weight Loss Wednesday blog on (04/03). Thank you for your continued follows and reading. I am still averaging 2000 hits a month, give or take a couple of hundred. I hope that having a consistent weekly, well written blog will allow me to continue giving you the reader adequate material to build hope, faith and recovery upon.

So, as always, feel free to follow this site, like it on Facebook and share it with anyone you like. I look forward to hearing any feedback you might have about the changes that are happening. Also, my goal is to be a dealer of hope so if you have any questions about faith, recovery, addiction, depression, struggles, etc please ask them and I will address them in upcoming blogs.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Spring Bash 2013

The Spring BLiR Bash is over, we had it on Friday and as was had. At least, that is what everyone has told me so far. We will get to that more later. The car brought in for the car bash was a Cadillac El Dorado that was in good condition bodywise. I got to take a sledge hammer to the windows then turned the sledgehammer over to everyone else, as well as some spray paint.

We started the day by setting up. Thanks to Connor from New Life Church for all of his help in setting up. The entertainers began showing up and doing sound checks. A thank you to Scott from New Life Church for doing sound and media for the event. The car was delivered. We iced the soda and water we were provided and set the sweet stuff out. We went and picked up the pizzas at 5. They had 80 pizzas ready to go when we got there. It was way smoother than I anticipated for that.

As people began to arrive, we had them begin eating. The first thing we did from there was have a martial arts demonstration. That was pretty cool to watch. Seeing some of the board breaks made my body hurt, I know that much. Then came the car bash, which was a huge hit. After the car bash came more games, which was fun. Here is a list of the games we played: Cheeto Head, The Racing Egg Head, Drunk Goggle Course Race, Minute to Win It Kleenex Pull and the Minute to Win It Kleenex/Ping Pong contests. All of the games went well, and there was a lot of group participation.

Then we went inside for the music and testimonies. It was an amazing night. I cannot believe the talent that we had volunteer to play for free. There was Kelsey Snapp with her original songs, which are amazing. Kayleigh Amstutz was uber talented. I heard an adult say she sounded like Norah Jones. Then The Legacy rocked the stage. It was a great night to hear wildly talented people playing awesome music!

Ellie Hagen was the first speaker, between Kelsey and Kayleigh. She is such an inspiration. She has already impacted so many people and is only 12. Darin Mendez spoke between Kayleigh and The Legacy, sharing his story of addiction and abuse to where he is now, living a life of recovery after serving 10 1/2 years in prison. I was the last speaker, coming out after The Legacy. It was weird for me to speak without sharing my testimony. I was there to talk about the evening and to point people in general and youth in particular to a life that is worth living. We talked about how to live a life filled with hope and the ability to work through stressors positively.

We were hoping for 200 plus people, and we did not have that. We did break 100, which wasn't bad for only our second event and the first one we have had in Springfield. I talked to several organizations that didn't make it and I was saddened by that. I also spoke to about 20 youth pastors and only of them showed up. Not sure what that is all about, either. Maybe it was bad timing due to Spring Break or  maybe they already had something scheduled. Not sure, but I do know they missed out.

There was games, music, food, positive messages, prizes and just good old fashioned fellowship. I have heard a lot of good things about the event from everybody so far. I am hoping to get some more feedback for the next one, so that we can see if everything was a hit, if we need to take something out or add something, or if we should use more or less of some of the things we had. The trailer video of the night will be put together in April and as soon as it is completed I will have it posted!! If you have any videos or pictures that you took please share them!

Thank you to everyone who came out and shared their evening with us. Remember, please give us feedback whether it is positive or negative. I want this to reach the most people it can and have the biggest impact it can. We are hoping to have one either the end of summer or beginning of Fall this year. IF YOU WOULD BE INTERESTED IN HELPING OUT, PLEASE CONTACT ME. WE WILL NEED DONATIONS/CASH FOR PRIZES, FOOD, DRINKS, GAME SUPPLIES, PRINTING OF PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS, LOCATION (would like to use a neutral location like Remington's), T-SHIRTS, HATS, BANDS and SPEAKERS as well as VOLUNTEERS!!

Thanks again to:
Kelsey Snapp
Kayleigh Amstutz
The Legacy
Ellie Hagen
Darin Mendez
Henry's in Nixa
Incredible Pizza Company
Martial Arts, USA
Coca-Cola of the Ozarks
Rural Compassion
Alternative Opportunities, Inc.
Ryan Garrett
Taco Bell
New Life Church
Michael Dube
Susan Highley
OTC Printing

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BLiR Spring Bash in T-Minus 56 Hours

BLiR Spring Bash is this Friday, the 15th starting at 6 and ending at 10. It will be a very fun, free night. Only cost is if you want to buy an event T-Shirt for $10 to help  us offset the cost of the event. Here is the link for the event page on Facebook. Letting us know you are coming registers you to win a free T-Shirt!/events/477488612314182/

So, I am getting ready to put together the final message I will be sharing at the end of the event. I am pretty excited about everything that we have gotten for the event. My hope is that we have the  people there to take advantage of all we have to offer. Here is a list of what we have to offer. We are still awaiting two acts that I will be calling soon to see if they are going to come. In fact, I think I will call them now! Be right back..............

So, I texted one and called the other. We shall see what happens. Personally, I don't think that we need  much more. Here is what we have going on so far. We have multiple games planned that we are going to play. Some of them will be for fun and some for free stuff. Really, most winners will get stuff. We have lots of stuff to give away: tacos, t-shirts, student Bibles, devotionals, study Bibles, CD's, bumpercar tickets at Incredible Pizza and a Nintendo Wii-U! I have not even gotten to play with the new Nintendo and I am giving 2 of them away on Friday.

Now on to the really fun stuff. We have Jeff Cvitak, who is a 6th Degree Black Belt doing a demonstration. I imagine he will make breaking things look really easy and I will try it and break my hand. We will have the DWI googles, so that people can get an idea of why they should never drink and drive! Then there is music by Kelsey Snapp, Kayleigh Amstutz and the Legacy. Amazing teenagers with tons of talent and you get to hear them free!!! Then we have the speakers: Ellie Hagen, Darin Mendez and David Stoecker. Should be an amazing night!

So, what can you do besides hear FREE music, eat FREE food, play FREE games, win FREE prizes and hear a positive message? Help us spread the word. Tell your parents, your kids, your friends, your youth group,  your pastor, your youth pastor, your best friend, your worst get the point. Invite everybody you know. We don't want to have fun by ourselves, we want to share the fun and get a message of hope and confidence to all who attend.

What better way to have fun and spread the power of recovery and Christ than through this event. Hearing these stories will make your faith stronger or maybe move you towards finding Christ. If not, than you will hear the 5 Pillars that everyone, from Christian to Atheist, can use to improve their lives and step away from depression, anxiety, anger and other emotions that lead us to picking up negative habits.

Here is our gratitude list:
Incredible Pizza Company: pizza and some free ride tickets 
Coca-Cola of the Ozarks: soda and energy drinks 
Rural Compassion: bottled water and Little Debbies The Nintendo Wii-U's have been provided by
Alternative Opportunities, Inc.: Nintendo Wii-U
New Life Church: location, clean-up and a Nintendo Wii-U
Henry's Towing in Nixa: Car for the Car Bash
Josh and Sabrina Hernandez: Donation for T-Shirt give away
Mardels: Bible's, Student Books and CDs to Give Away
Ryan Garrett: Study Bibles and Devotionals for give aways
Taco Bell: Free Taco coupons
OTC Print Shop: Best prices in town
Kelsey Snapp: Musical Talent
Kayleigh Amstutz:  Musical Talent
The Legacy: Musical Talent
Ellie Hagen: Speaker
Darin Mendez: Speaker
Jeff Cvitak: Ninja
Jessie Schlemper: MC for the Event
Michael Dube: Video Camera Wizard
Susan Highley: Guidance

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Eternally Optimistic

My name is David and I am eternally optimistic. That is how I used to introduce myself in process groups, and often how I would reply when people asked how I was doing. Why? I have found that repeating something over and over again has an ability to make it seem a little more tangible. Optimism seemed like something that I wanted in my life, so I try my best to act and speak as if it were true. Over time it has become true. Why am I optimistic?

Hi, my name is David and I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ who has been blessed with lots of difficulties in my life that I have learned from and that have made me stronger! That is how I introduce myself at the Celebrate Recovery groups that I go to. In that sentence are the reasons that I am optimistic. I will share each one of them with you.

I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. Why am I grateful? I was raised a Christian, but from 5th grade to the age of 35 I was Agnostic. I became Agnostic because of the hypocrisy and judgemental attitudes that I saw displayed by the Christians that I knew. I struggled with depression and substance abuse. I tried everything I could to get through my depression and be drug/alcohol free and nothing worked. I tried rehab, medication, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, jail, prison and even suicide. Nothing set me free until I got saved. I have not used once since that day. I  know what it is to be hopeless, to feel that waking up without a hangover is the best my life would ever get. Now I know what it is to have hope, and I am grateful for that!

My life has been blessed with lots of difficulties that I have learned from and that have made me stronger. Wow, that is a mouthful. It took me years to be able to see my life that way. I was sexually abused for the first time when I was pre-Kindergarten by a baby sitter. My parents divorced when I was in 5th grade. I went to live with my grandparents. I was physically abused by my grandfather starting in 5th grade. I was suspended from school for the first time in 5th grade. I started doing drugs in 7th grade. I dropped out of high school. I went to jail for the first time at 17 and prison at 20. I attempted suicide at 25. My dad committed suicide when I was 35.

I got my GED in prison and started college at 29. I have gotten an Associates, a double Bachelors and my Master's in Social Work. I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I have been working in the recovery field for 5 years and have been a counselor for various drug courts the past 4 years. I have a 5 year old son who is amazing. I have an awesome wife that I am in love with. We have a 6 1/2 month old daughter who is the happiest baby I have ever seen. I am active in the recovery community, both at work and in my free time. I write a blog about my faith and recovery and am in the middle of starting my own non-profit, Better Life in Recovery, Inc.

As you can see,  I have had some issues. I have also had some positive things. I realize that if not for the negative things that have happened to me, I would not have a lot of the positive things. In my life I have had both positive and negative things happen to me. Part of optimism, which imparts happiness, is focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. Another huge part is finding the bless in the mess. That is the part that comes with time. Here are a couple of examples.

There have been issues with both of my children at birth. My son spent time in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), as did my daughter. I did not get to hold my son until he was a week old. My daughter had to go to St Louis to have surgeries twice before she was 2 months old and will have to have at least one more. Now I could focus on the negatives, or I can be happy that they were born. I have gotten to spend time with them. I might not have gotten to hold my son at first, but at least he was alive. My daughter still has at least one surgery, but she is always happy. If she can be, so should I. Be grateful for what you have.

I was abused, addicted to drugs, went to prison, can't count on one hand the number of times I have died and been brought back and all kinds of other stuff people feel are horrific to go through. Some of these I did to myself, and some of them were done to me. I cannot change them, no matter how much I want to. They are not the problem, thank God. If they were the problem, I would be in trouble. Why? Because they all happened in the past. You cannot change the past. You can change how you view the past. That is what I have done.

I have realized that I am good at what I do. I help people who are struggling. I help people who are empty inside, who hate themselves and who feel hopeless. I am good at it, too. I am good at it because I have been there too. I went from hopeless dope fiend to dopeless hope fiend. Going from where I have been and where I am now plus the college education I have received has given me wisdom, book knowledge and insight that many do not have. I use that to help people.

There are those who would argue against that. There statement is usually either "You don't have to have cancer to cure cancer" or "Would you want your psychiatrist to be Bi-Polar and Schizophrenic like you?" Those are good questions that are usually asked by people in the field who have not had the struggles. If what they say is true, then no one should ever do grief and loss counseling as everyone has lost someone. But I will take it a step further. Here is my scenario.

Imagine you are getting your butt kicked. You want to learn how to defend yourself, and there are two different people in your town that teach self-defense. The first guy has on his resume watching fights, reading books on fights and several friends who are fighters. The second on his resume has watching fights, reading about fights, growing up in gangs in south Chicago, being an Army Ranger with 2 tours in Vietnam and having multiple fights in the ring that he was won. Who would you want to teach you how to defend yourself, the first or second one?

I am not saying that someone who has never struggled with addiction cannot be an effective counselor. After all, there is an NFL coach that never played football himself. What I am saying is that it cannot  hurt. I had several counselors in my past, and the person that helped me the most was a counselor who was in recovery himself. I knew that he knew what I was experiencing and that developed a bond that the others had not been able to develop. When you combine overcoming struggles yourself in the past with an education in the field, I think that is a pretty potent combination.

So, that is why I am grateful for my past. It not only made me who I am, which is a father of two amazing children with an incredible wife, but it also gave me the desire to go into the field I am in and be pretty good at it (if I do say so myself). I realize that I have learned from everything I have gone through and in the end it either made me wiser, stronger, or gave me another tool. Generally it did all three of those things.

So in closing, I am eternally optimistic because I realize bad things may happen to me and I might make foolish choices on occasion. Those things may make me sad and they may impact me for quite sometime, maybe forever, but they will never lead me back to where I used to be. I will work through them clean and sober, and will come out of them both wiser and stronger for the journey.