Thursday, February 27, 2014

SPIRITUAL DIRECTORS

















James 5:
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.


I am often discouraged and troubled when I see people that I love distance themselves from the truth. There is a knee-knocking, stomach-knotting decision that I know I need to make. I need to have that crucial conversation and challenge them to come home.

The verb translated in 5:19 as "bring back" is epistrepho; it is the same verb in 5:20 as "turns." It can mean "convert," but there is no distinction made here between evangelizing a non-Christian and discipling one who believes. In either context, James wants his readers to see the urgency of bringing people to repentance.

This is what Douglas Webster calls "the work of spiritual direction". It is a ministry of cutting through the deceptive complexities of a relativistic culture and setting before others a clear path of obedience. It is a ministry that simplifies and clarifies life by defining godly commitments and directing people toward maturity. It is a ministry of mutual discipling in the church, and it is based on one of the most crucial principles for effective church discipline: that the whole church is called to exercise discipline, not just pastors or elders. "For while God has given different gifts, the most basic training he gives is meant to come from fellow Christians in everyday encounters. Church discipline is the training of the church by the church. Trained professionals have their place, but they cannot and never were meant to be a substitute for the whole body".[i]

Spiritual directors are not just formally trained priests or pastors that you make appointments with. This is the common work of the church. Can you imagine such a group of people where everyone walks in humility and respectfully helps each other to change?

Those of you who walk humbly with God’s Spirit, please become that church. Gently restore others. Convert one another to the grace of God and do not be afraid. Encourage each one to follow Jesus, just as you are endeavouring to do so yourself.

People will not think that your arrogant and hypocritical unless you get pushy and insensitive. Use your gentle words, but tell the truth. Who will enter into this ministry of recovery?





[i] The IVP New Testament Commentary Series


Monday, February 24, 2014

HOW DO I TELL YOU THIS?



STEP #12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


So, what about the sin struggle that you’ve experienced? What is it? Who or what warned you to change? Someone or something was a messenger to you. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are also a messenger. Go into the whole world preaching the good news to everyone… tell your story of salvation.

You have no moral authority over others, even when you are sinless, but you have every right to tell someone what has happened to you. Your experience may be the clearest message of Jesus that another will hear. Tell your story.

So whom do you need to talk to? Surely, there is someone you know that is struggling with the same things that you have. How should you approach them?



Galatians 6:
1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 


Caught in a sin… doesn’t that speak volumes? Have you ever been caught by others, or if keeping a secret, had something that was sapping the life from you?

There is so much wisdom here about making sure your own life is sensitive to God’s Spirit. That is what will cause your recovery/restoration work for others to be gentle, not forceful and legalistic.


Friday, February 21, 2014

VOICE IN THE WILDERNESS

Throughout history, prophets are ridiculed and persecuted. Is it because they speak boldly or because people are not ready to listen? In the gospels we read about a prophet who was known as John the Baptist.





Matthew 3:
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”


A voice of one crying in the wilderness… why do people go to the wilderness? Isn’t it often to get away from people? Before any prophet has a message, they have a wilderness. In the place of disconnection from community, there is a voice and it is crying.

The sinner finds themselves in a lonely wilderness and if the conditions are right, there is a cry to God. Before the prophet can be a messenger to anyone else, they find themselves  crying out to God. 

The message of needed change starts with John first preparing a way for the Lord in his own heart. From his wilderness, John has a voice that people seek out. Others come into the wilderness to get away from the community and to find answers. And in this place, the messenger is heard. From the wilderness, the messenger starts to go on a mission compelled to help others find the way.

John the Baptist belonged to a sect called the Essenes. They were deeply committed to personal and religious change. How easy it would be for people of the day to use his community label against him. That practice remains rampant in our time.

We constantly discredit people by their association. “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” We turn our ears off, because that guy is a ‘bible-thumper’.

Imagine the nerve of someone telling others to repent and change their lives for God. Though this message resonated and caused a change of heart for some, it also led to John’s beheading at the hands of Herod. John had confronted the adultery happening with Herod’s sister-in-law.

John was noted as the forerunner of Jesus. A message of repentance and heart preparation opened a way for people to hear and understand Jesus. There are still many ways that John’s message of personal change is being communicated today. How many people enter recovery without knowing that they were preparing a way in their life for the Lord?


TWELVE: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.


The alcoholic or addict who follows the path of twelve steps may have a legitimate spiritual awakening that prepares them to meet Jesus. Twelve step groups preach a message of repentance from sin and turning to God to make life straight.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

OUR PROPENSITY FOR SHOOTING MESSENGERS


Have you noticed how reactionary people are to the gospel of Jesus Christ? They get upset if you talk about sin and God help you if you try to convert anyone. 




As usual, people have some negative experience to tell of a person who was a ‘Bible-thumper’ and/or a hypocrite. It is a grave sin in the eyes of some to ‘proselytize’.

While an inappropriate or pushy person might cause any of us to get defensive, it does not change the fact that they might have a legitimate message to be considered. We are more likely to shoot the messenger than to actually hear and consider the message.

What about the message of Jesus? Is it a good message? Is it something that has changed us and needs to be shared with other strugglers?

What are you supposed to do when someone you know is wrapped up in a destructive practice or mindset? Do you ignore it? Do you pray from a distance or do you make the attempt to approach them with loving confrontation?


Saturday, February 15, 2014

HELP FOR SIN ADDICTS


Let’s review the twelve steps. These are adapted from the original twelve steps as published by Alcoholics Anonymous:



  1. We admitted we were powerless over sin—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

In his book ‘Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous’, Ernest Kurtz wrote:

In my nearly thirty years of experience in this area, I have come to understand that when an addict does not do these 12 steps, especially 1, 5 and 8, they almost always go back to their dependency! That is why these steps are so essential and timeless and they work if you work them!

You cannot help someone who does not want to be helped. We have to realize that for us to go anywhere in our recovery as well as in our life as a Christian we have to surrender it and our will to Him. As our Lord moves among us, He will only ask this question of those who want to be healed. Do you want to be healed (John 5:6)? He may say nothing to those who do not or will not look to Him. It has been my experience and research that most Christians may not yet have reached the place this man in John 5 had reached. They are not helpless enough yet. They are not ready to give up on human efforts to solve their problems. They have not realized their need or the plan that God has for them. They are not ready to admit they cannot make it on their own. They are still determined to get into the water by themselves when it is stirred, when they determine to do so, when it is their will-regardless of God's will.[i]






[i] Ernest Kurtz, Not-God, A History of Alcoholics Anonymous © 1990, 2008, Richard .J. Krejcir Ph.D. Discipleship Tools www.discipleshiptools.org/

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

LEARNING TO BE WRONG SETS ME RIGHT

People are not disposable. If we can understand that loving is a lifelong process, we keep the door open to as many people as possible. We do everything in our strength to have peace and harmony with everyone.



Perhaps the hardest three words in the English language are ‘I was wrong’. ‘You were wrong’ rolls off the tongue with greater ease. It’s easier to own that another is wrong. It’s more troublesome to live in my own sense of being the offender.

And yet, learning to be wrong sets me right. It is in owning my failures and confessing them, that I get a sober mind and strength to change.

Step Ten: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

You may have made things right with another, but that does not give you credit to be underhanded and abusive again. To make amends means I cannot go back to the way things were when I cheated you. I must with God’s help have a healthier respect and love for you.

I do not need to let years roll by before I admit my wrong to you again. Remember the lists we keep? I do not want to keep being added to your list of hurts. I do not want to have another long list of amends to make. If I can learn to freely admit when I’m wrong, there is less likelihood of me going back to the addictive patterns of sin in my life. Sin separates us, but love keeps us humbly connected in truth.

A 10th Step prayer for Growth and Effectiveness:
"God, please help me Watch for Selfishness, Dishonesty, Resentment and Fear. When these crop up in me, help me to immediately ask you to remove them from me and help me discuss these feelings with someone. Father, help me to quickly make amends if I have harmed anyone and help me to resolutely turn my thoughts to someone I can Help. Help me to be Loving and Tolerant of everyone today. Amen"[i]


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