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.

Finding Strength in Weakness

David Wever

Earlier this year I was able to accomplish a feat that I had always desired to do. This was a feat that I had tried for years to begin and accomplish. It seemed to always elude me no matter how much I motivated myself and received encouragement and sometimes admonishment from others to do. I wish I could tell you it was a feat such as climbing Yosemite’s half dome (which I missed summiting last year by one-half mile) or winning a 5k run event (which I never even entered).

Although those would be awesome accomplishments to attain, the one I was able to attain and then maintain was flossing my teeth.

Yes, flossing my teeth!!!

I can only imagine what you might be thinking at this point: ‘Dave has finally lost it.’ Or ‘Dave, you have such high goals for your life.’ Or ‘We never knew and now we wished we didn’t.’ But bear with me for a moment.

This accomplishment symbolized an aspect of my life that for years I had never seen about myself and I thought I could never achieve it: Taking care of myself.

For years my shame from my sexual acting out had not only covered things around my heart but also stole away energy and awareness of the need to take care of my heart and body. For years when I would visit the dentist, my hygienist or the dentist would say, ‘Dave, if you would only take 2 minutes a day and floss, you would save your self so much grief around cavities and fillings.’ And I would leave the dentist sometimes feeling guilty and sometimes feeling empowered only to never begin the practice and finding myself feeling defeated and weak again.

When I first began recovery for Sexual Addiction in late 1995, my sexual addiction was not the only mess in my life. In actuality my whole life was a mess!

Flossing wasn’t the only thing I wasn’t doing for myself. The Lord began to reveal so many weaknesses as He and I began to address the sexual addiction. For starters, I was in financial debt up to my eyeballs, my desk in my office could never be seen for the piles and piles of papers I rarely ever filed or threw away, and I would always complain I was tired even if I had gotten 8 hours of sleep the night before.

The shame around these weaknesses was for me much like the shame I felt around my sexual acting out. I was so afraid of being seen as weak yet that is what I was. Not so much from the weaknesses themselves but rather from the denial, hiding and resentment I had around my heart. For me I lived as if taking care of my heart and my life was for someone else to do..

**********************************
I lived as if ”
taking care of my heart and my life
was for someone else to do.
**********************************

When I married my wife, Rebecca, I think she thought she was getting a full-grown responsible man who knew how to take care of himself. Instead she got a seven year old boy scared to death of responsibility. I leaned so much on Rebecca to be that strength for me. She couldn’t. And it was also not her role to do that for me. I had to begin to face these weaknesses and the condition of my heart head on. And the revealing of my sexual addiction did just that.

But I was not alone in beginning to face the weaknesses. ‘

The apostle Paul speaks of facing his weaknesses in II Corinthians. Speaking of his weakness he writes, ‘At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then He told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’ ‘so the weaker I get, the stronger I become (2 Corinthians 12:8-9,10b, MSG).’ When I first read this passage in recovery I was somewhat encouraged but at that point much more scared and doubtful at the prospect of finding strength in weakness.

Looking at my weaknesses would mean dropping my guard. But as I began to drop my guard and look at my weaknesses, a funny thing happened. I began to feel strength. The strength to sit in a financial seminar and begin to learn to budget. The strength to begin to take the time each week to file papers and organize my desk. The strength to begin to eat and sleep properly and care for my body and emotions. And the strength to floss my teeth. I believe that as God began to help me face my weaknesses and truly see my heart, His covering of grace allowed me to have strength to do even the smallest of tasks in my life. The responsibility of taking care of my heart and life began to happen out of the grace and strength He gave me in facing my weaknesses..


****************************************

His grace is our covering
as we step out
of our hiding place!

****************************************

Brothers, His grace is our covering as we step out of our hiding place and begin to look at the weaknesses He reveals in our hearts. What areas of weakness has the Lord began to reveal in your heart as your shame and guard begin to come down? Write them down and begin to talk about them with someone within a safe, healing relationship. Remember, His grace is enough. It’s all the strength you will need!

For more help see our Every Man’s Battle resources and Every Man’s Battle workshop.

Blessings for the Pure in Heart

imagesCAEEZOF9
Recently, my family and I returned from a vacation trip. After we boarded the plane to return home, we were delayed on the runway for three hours due to a line of thunderstorms moving through the Chicago area. As we waited for the plane to get clearance to take-off, the movie ‘Chicago‘ came on.

Our two oldest children Abigail, 7 and Micah, 5 had brought plenty to do on the plane and my wife and I explained to them that the movie was not appropriate for them to watch. They understood and we proceeded to read and play with them to occupy their attention away from the inappropriate movie.

On occasion, Rebecca or I would catch one of them watching the movie and we would gently remind them to refocus on their activities. Due to the long delay and the temptation right in front of them, the reminders were many. On about the third time of encouraging my daughter Abigail to refocus, she looked at me with the most troubling, anguished face and said, “But, Daddy it’s so hard.” After briefly empathizing with her and helping her to refocus, my heart broke for her. She was right – it is very hard. Hard not to look. Hard not to be enticed. Hard not to want to see more than allowed.

As I thought about my daughter’s true expression of her heart, I was reminded about the difficulty we men on the healing path of recovery face at times when temptation presents itself to us. We definitely know that God will give us a way out when tempted (I Corinthians 10:13) and we are growing daily at practicing an implementing our maintenance tools and God’s truth about us in recovery. But I want to encourage you that He knows that it is hard to choose purity in spite of our daily obedience to Him in our recovery.

Jesus said: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” – Matthew 5:8, NIV

Maintaining purity in light of the difficulty to resist temptation will be rewarded. Rewarded in a way that says we will see Him. I interpret this in two ways. First, we will see God in Heaven someday when we die. Secondly, we will know His comfort now in the midst of our trial. You might be wondering how? How do we know His comfort? He experienced the same temptation and pain that we face. In Hebrews 2:17-18, Paul writes: “For this reason, He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

He’s been there. Jesus is the ultimate in empathy and understanding. As the Message puts it, “He would have already experienced it all Himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.” (Hebrews 2:18, MSG).

Gentlemen, we have a Savior and High Priest who knows where we’ve been. He knows how hard it is too be tempted and to remain pure. It was His own purity in response to being tempted that allows us to trust and take refuge in Him without doubting His love, mercy, and faithfulness to us.

Let God know how difficult it is; then take REFUGE in His LOVE for you!

This battle with being tempted by sexual sin is hard and difficult. But remember to let Him know how difficult it is for you on days when it seems so hard to resist and then take refuge in His love for you knowing that he will give you understanding because he’s been there, too. And because He’s been there too, He is able to help when and where help is needed. This help may come through taking shelter in His word or the help may come through leaning on the understanding of another brother who can empathize with you and encourage you to keep pure in the face of temptation. Just as my daughter Abigail reached out to her Daddy, you can reach out to your heavenly Father when things get tough. He will understand. He will be faithful to hear your heart and help you refocus on the things that are pure, lovely, and right.

For more help on this subject, see Every Man’s Battle or call 800-NEW-LIFE (639-5433)