Redeeming the Thorns; Staying Close to Gods Heart

Victor Tarassov

Have you ever wondered why we sometimes just can’t seem to overcome our battles by shear will power? We do the same things over and over even though we don’t want to. I know I have been wrestling with that question. It is hard if not impossible to overcome or deal with a thorn by yourself. And I think I am finally coming to grips with the fact that the Christian’s life is totally impossible to live unless’ Keep reading.

Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians in chapter 12:7-10, (NIV) describes the thorn that he has, asks the Lord to remove it three times, (how many times have we asked) and yet the answer Paul is given is, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” v.9 Hmm. That goes against every addict’s or persons thinking in recovery that wants to be self-sufficient or do it in their own way. Actually there is an implication here that says we may have thorns in our life, but the Lord may chose not to remove them but give us the grace to deal with them.

I have struggled with loneliness, depression and other difficulties. I have asked the Lord to remove them but what I am finding is that these thorns can be an invitation and gift from the Lord for intimacy and deep fellowship. I believe that this is true and when I don’t go to Him I lose life. Maybe some of us need to reconsider the thorns in our life and see them not as a curse but a gift to make us dependent on the Lord and a call to intimacy with Him. I know that I have had to come to this place even with all I know, my education, experience, etc. I still cannot overcome my pride and other issues by myself. My pride can kill my spiritual walk. Ask yourself how are you doing in this garden of thorns

We do the same things over and over
even though we don’t want to.

In John 15:5 Jesus says apart from Him we can do nothing. I think it is impossible to live the Christian life with out our complete radical dependence on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So this passage points out again that it can’t be done alone. We will have to choose whether we will move to numbing or escaping pain i.e. addictions and acting out which leads to death or dependence on the Lord, which leads to life. In the book of James chapter 1:2-4 we are told that we will not escape trials/temptation. But if we do stand up to them and make healthy choices that depend on the Lord for help we will receive a crown of life v.15. We need the Lord but we also need community/people to help us handle our thorns. We may have put the thorns in our life, but to be in recovery means I can’t do it alone I need the Lords and the Lords people to help me. I just want to make sure that no one thinks it’s just the Lord and me. God created community and gave us the church so we can heal and recover from the consequences of sin. This is done in fellowship with the body of Christ the church.

God created community
and gave us the church
so we can heal!

May we see our thorns, whatever they may be as a gift to grow closer to the risen Lord and experience His grace?
Some action steps:

1. Admit we have them and identify them.

2. Talk with the Lord about them; we can ask Him to remove them but if they are there let’s see them as opportunity to deepen our dependence on Christ.

3. Share with others in a small group or support group setting as well as a close friend or pastor.

4. Allow for time with Gods grace to begin to strengthen and change your character you so you can respond in new healthy way that leads to life and not death.

5. Prayer as a constant chat with the Lord and a constant connection to Him in your mind.

6. Clean out our garden where there are thorns. What do we watch on TV? Where do we go with our free time? Clean house.

I wish you all a blessed Christmas and pray that the thorns in your life will drive you to the passion that brought Christ (Emanuel) on earth for us.

Get Busy Living

From what movie is this quote?
If you’re not busy living, you’re busy dying.’

Answer: Shawshank Redemption.

Spiritually, we are busy dying when we continue to feed our sexual addiction. You know that. And we can easily testify up close and personally, it is the nature of the flesh to war against the things of the Spirit. We know that God intended us for relationships. God has ordained us for love and passion. Lust is the perversion of that God intended desire. Lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh, lust of the world. Lust becomes the substitute for not having that legitimate God-given desire fulfilled. It is the counterfeit for what God intended and becomes overpowering when we haven’t found a way for God to meet us at our deepest needs.

Sexual lust is one of the most destructive forms of the garden varieties of lust. For sure, it has been the week of weeds in my garden! It is destructive and can end up controlling our lives. The personal pain, shame and humiliation, and the devastation it causes ourselves and our loved ones is a tragic reality.

The more we succumb to this activity, the weaker and more defeated we feel. The sense of hopelessness and despair from this sin can be crushing. That has led to more than one brother, myself included, to such a sense of despair that it seemed easier to give up and quit than to keep going. I even had thoughts of walking away from the Lord altogether. To chuck this Christian gig and concede defeat, to quit and accept spiritual death. Enough said. That was then, this is now.

O.K., so now you have read the book Every Man’s Battle, you’ve been working the program, and you are beginning to experience some periods of sobriety. There are days and maybe even breakthroughs and you are gaining victory over this area of your life. There are some breakthroughs and you are feeling that maybe overcoming this activity that was ruining life is a possibility. Sexual purity becomes a happening thing. The tools from the book and if you went to the workshop the action plan developed are beginning to translate into a lifestyle that is leading to sexual purity and a sense of self-respect that is gaining momentum. So now what? How to go to the next level.


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There is more
to sexual sobriety
than not acting out.
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As you are beginning to move through the stages of recovery, it becomes more evident that there is more to sexual purity than just turning away from the old sin; you need to replace it with something more fulfilling and truer to God’s original design. There is more to sexual sobriety than not acting out.

Now that you are gaining some momentum, you may be ready to start looking towards the hills and mountains of God’s kingdom again and need to redirect.

Let me ask you a question. Do you know what God’s purpose and calling is in your life? What is God’s path for you now, at this time? What adventure has God set before you?

This is a common theme of many of the men that I have worked with and been a part of my break-out groups at EMB. Once the sexual sin has taken hold and the destruction takes place, if you have a sense of calling, of dreams that God has placed in your heart they’re can be shattered, becoming a casualty from the lost battle.

Even though the destruction has occurred, the war has already been won by our Lord so do not despair. There will come a time, maybe now, when it is indeed time to renew this important piece of our lives again. It may be that this brokenness and reconciliation is all a part of God’s larger plan and a major piece in your calling from here forward.

It certainly has been true for me.

After my fall, I was certain that God would not use me again. I thought I would have to resign myself, that I had blown it sufficiently enough that I would have to be content with the back of the line, in the basement of the Kingdom. No more Christian goodies for me, only menial tasks like taking out the garbage or changing toilet paper rolls for the body of Christ. I had blown it. I had ruined God’s perfect plan for my life. God would never trust me again with anything important ‘ so I thought. I had lost sight that God uses everything, nothing gets lost, nothing is wasted. So do not give up hope. God can use this weakness to make you strong. What we view as failure can be used mightily by Him. That is His job you know!

So pick up your cross, get back into the mix. Talk to the Man, check it out. God, where do you want to take me with this from here? Which way to the mountains. You might be surprised. Get busy living!

If you haven’t already attended Every Man’s Battle, what’s keeping you? See Every Man’s Battle and register for the next weekend!

Sam Fraser

Bogged Down in the Red Zone?

Excerpted from Every Man Ministries by Kenny Luck

Every fall, like the swallows that return to the San Juan Capistrano Mission not far from our Southern California home, our family makes its annual return to the Rose Bowl, where the UCLA Bruins play their home football games. From the opening kickoff, I always edge up in my bleacher seat when the Bruins reach the red zone, that patch of grass between the twenty-yard line and the goal line. Everyone knows UCLA has a great chance to score when they reach that zone. The offense is in full attack mode while the defense stiffens in a do-or-die effort to hold the Bruins to a field-goal attempt. As my father-in-law likes to say, ‘It’s mano a mano in the RZ’, and he’s right. The red zone is all about the heart and desire to drive the ball all the way in.

I’ve long felt that the red zone is an apt metaphor for our spiritual journeys. Early on, we think we’re moving the ball for God, but it’s really more like losing a few yards here and gaining a few there. As we spiritually mature and reach the red zone ‘ where we can score against Satan and for the kingdom ‘ all too often we fail to get the ball all the way in. For one reason or another, we never completely reach full attack mode. We lose focus, Satan gets us too busy, we fall into sin, or we lack the experience to make the right call in a hotly contested domain of our lives.

You don’t want to be in a hurry-up offense when you’re in the red zone. But all too often we live in a rush, rush, rush, shoving aside the time to read God’s Word or invest in relationships with other Christian men or volunteer for God’s work. For many men, this lack of time is a major source of disconnection. One guy in the church where I teach a men’s bible study spoke for thousands of others when he told me, ‘I’m always running late! I wake up late, I leave the house late, and I arrive at work a little late ‘ really late if the traffic is bad. I must not be prioritizing my time well.’

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Far too many men do not give themselves
fully to being God’s man.
It’s like going three-and-out in a football game.

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In football, a blitz is intended to distract and disrupt the opposing offense. In life, Satan has been calling in spiritual blitzes on each of us. ‘Hurry the man’ is one of his most effective drive-stuffers for men in the red zone. Or he may blitz our thought life, leaving our offense spinning its wheels in muddy sensuality. Whatever it takes, he’ll blitz us with any behavior or distraction that limits us to no gain or the equivalent of spiritual field goals instead of touch downs.

So what can be done about it?

Like a good football team, we must read the blitz and adjust. Look, I’ve been sacked more than once in the red zone. More important, I’ve fumbled away my intimacy with God by choosing my own way rather than adjusting according to the gifts and the training He’s given me.

I started Every Man Ministries in 1999 to help other men in their spiritual walks and in building better marriages and strong families. That quest has taken me to every part of the country, where I’ve spoken before thousands of men at various men’s conferences. When I’m home in Southern California, I sit down each week with one hundred men to study God’s Word, which often leads to numerous counseling sessions. The chance to be a listening ear, offer advice, and pray with these men has been an awesome privilege. As a pastor friend once said: ‘If you reach a man, then you reach every relationship he has.’

All of this man-to-man experience has convinced me that far too many men do not give themselves fully to being God’s man. It’s like going three-and-out in a football game; they make three lackluster attempts to run or pass the ball, then they punt away their opportunity. Next month we’ll talk about getting back in the ‘zone mode.’

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle.