29 July 2012

I Have a Secret (I'm an Addict)

In the mid 1960's the Surgeon General's first product warning appeared on the side of a pack of cigarettes: Caution: Cigarette Smoking May be Hazardous to Your Health.  I have no idea how successful the warning has been considering it was in the same font and color as all the other packaging.  But it is there to help deter us from ourselves. Shortly after the Surgeon General added that warning label on tobacco products, United States Senator Strom Thurmond determined that warning labels should also be required for all forms of alcohol.  As the story goes, the biggest question that came up regarding this label was, "What exactly should the warning label say?"
After conducting hearings on Capitol Hill, the Senator contacted Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  Surely, he assumed, they would know the danger of alcohol and be able to suggest just what the wording should be.

The Senator was quickly informed that Alcoholics Anonymous had no opinions on outside issues, and that it does not endorse or oppose any cause. And, furthermore, does not wish to be drawn into any controversy in accordance with AA’s Traditions.  The senator persisted but was again reminded that AA’s Traditions did not allow for any member to have an opinion.  However, as an individual- not as a member of AA, but as someone with a long history as a problem drinker-  the person was willing to offer a little advice to the frustrated Senator:

His personal suggestion for a warning label was:  "CAUTION:  THIS BOTTLE MAY RUN OUT."
If you're an addict now or have been you will get the humor. Others probably won't. 

Romans 6:12-14 "Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God…For sin shall not be your master."

As you're reading this you may be thinking "I've dodged a bullet, There is no sin reigning in my life, and I have no addiction issues of any kind."

I have six questions to ask you:

1. Do your family and friends say that you have a problem? 
2. Do you continue even though you are hurting people?
3. Do you arrange your schedule around “it”?
4. Can you go a week without it?
5. Is it leading you to isolation, hurting your relationships?
6. Are you trying to keep it a secret?

If you answered yes to 3 or more of those questions, you may be battling with an addiction. When you're addicted, Satan loves to watch the spiral of destruction played out in your life.  Satan enjoys nothing more than seeing you identify yourself by your addiction: I'm a smoker, I'm a drinker, etc. The reason he takes so much pleasure in you identifying yourself with your sin is that it becomes personal.  When someone says, "You have a problem,"  you immediately become defensive making that person the enemy.

What are you addicted to? No pretending, no hiding, no secrets.  We really need to be honest in coming clean, confessing to God, and getting free. Your addiction could  be something as simple as caffeine. It could be smoking, even smoking weed.  It could be dipping. It could be illegal drugs.  It could be legal prescription drugs, or steroids.  You could be addicted to alcohol, gambling, the internet, television.  You could be overeating, over spending, over indulging.  The list could go on.

Addiction is a powerful cycle.  Here are two ways to break it:

1. "Can" the excuses.

No more excuses.  This is an excuse-free zone.  Understand that God is inviting you to experience REAL freedom, and if you make an excuse, you are excusing yourself from God’s best.

2. Cut the ties.

1 Cor 15:33 "Do not be misled: "Bad company corrupts good character. Come back to your senses as you ought, and stop sinning."

If there is something or someone that leads you to the addiction, to the false lord, cut the ties.  If you have a friend who is your source or your tempter, that person can no longer be your friend until months or years down the road when you are strong enough to pull them out.  Today you can’t. They are not your friend.

The Bible says in James 4:7, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
What do you do?  You fight him off.  You fight.  You are swinging hard. You take your gloves off and you resist him.  You fight, and you continue to fight, and you cut the ties, and eventually he is going to say, “You know what?  I’ve tried about a hundred times, and I can no longer get to this person this way, so guess what?  He will flee from you.

17 July 2012

I Have a Secret (I'm a Liar)

One of the first lies I remember telling as a kid, in vivid detail had to do with my best friend Scott.  Scott was always showered with the cool toys before everyone else, so needless to say, he was popular.  He had this great new toy called “Atari” –a game system he cherished. He would carefully unhook it from the TV after each gaming session and meticulously place it back into its original box.  Each game cartridge was restored to its own package and slid underneath his bed.

Conveniently, Scott lived next door and, in the 70’s, it was common to leave doors unlocked when you went out. On this particular day, I watched Scott and his family leave for the evening. I remember thinking about the Atari…sitting there alone, abandoned, and unplayed.  Exercising the wisdom of an 11 year old, I rationalized:  since the house was unlocked and no one would know, I would ‘borrow’ his game system. So I made my way over to his house, helped myself to the Atari and my favorite game ‘Space Invaders’ and brought it back to my house, anxious, about the hours of uninterrupted gaming fun I was about to enjoy.

I was lost in computerized battle, but suddenly jolted back to reality by the sound of a car pulling into Scott’s driveway.  They were home ahead of schedule.  Crap! What was I going to do? I hastily unhooked everything, repackaged it, and ran next door to intercept Scott before he could discover the atrocity.

As fate would have it, Scott discovered his missing Atari immediately.  When asked about knowledge of this tragedy, I mustered the courage of an eleven year old, looked him, his parents, and my parents right in the eye and said sincerely, “I have no idea what could have happened to it.”

I was not aware that my mom had already discovered and retrieved it from my bedroom and returned it. But, to double down on shaming me, they presented the Atari in front of everyone I had just looked ‘in the eye.’ Ugh, I was so sick at that moment: caught telling a lie.

Proverbs 12:22 says “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.”

If I told you from that instance forward I never lied to anyone again, that would be a lie, too.  As I look back at my own life, I’m able to see how much of it has been lived as a lie.  Even after I became a Christian, I still lived a lie.

If left unchecked it is very easy to continue to live this lie as a man. If you are a Christian man still living a lie there are many telling signs.  If you handle your finances in the same way as a non-Christian, you are living a lie.  If your marriage resembles that of a non-Christian, you are living a lie.  If your morals line up with the world’s, you are living a lie.  If you’re single and love Jesus but hop from bed to bed: LIE.  If you find yourself being ashamed and covering up your actions, you’re living a lie.

How do we move past this? How do we become honest and real? First, understand why you lie. For some, you may lie to make others feel better. For me, I lie to make myself look better. But, the real reason I lie is -because at its root, I don’t really trust God.

When I lie, what I am saying is I believe that my lie will work better and be more effective than the truth.  I am elevating myself above God by failing to trust Him over my solution to lie.

You may be covering up something you did years ago and weren’t honest with your spouse about it.  You might be covering sin resulting from time alone on the computer.  Are you addicted to anything that ‘requires’ lying about:  an emotional affair?

Men, stop living a lie.  There is a solution.  There are two things you can do right now for relief from the weight of the mess you’ve lied your way into:  Jesus, aka The Truth.  He’s asking you to confess; lay it on the line, all the ugliness of it.  He’s there to extend forgiveness to you, faithfully, as you reach up and receive it.  (1 John 1:9)

Secondly, do what James 5:16 teaches us, “Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”  If you’re asking yourself “who do I confess to?” My answer to you is “it depends.” It depends on who you’ve not been real with and who you have lied to. Is it your spouse? Your family? A co-worker? Go to THEM and be real because everyone does not need to know everything.

09 July 2012

Give Thanks

I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. P s a l m 7 : 1 7

From the very beginning of the book of Psalms, David gives thanks. Of all people in the Bible, David knew what it meant to experience trials of every kind. Remember he will be tempted with and fall victim to adultery, lying, and eventually murder. But he knew that one day he would be king of Israel. But while he was waiting to take the throne, he was a walking dead man.

King Saul, the current king of Israel, had a hit out on David. Even though Saul had watched David defeat Goliath and save the Israelites from the Philistines and was soothed by David’s skills on the harp, Saul knew that the Lord had rejected him as king and that David was to be next in line (see 1 Samuel 16:1).

So David hid. In mountains, caves, enemy towns, and any place that Saul’s men wouldn’t find him. For me, this means no BlackBerry service, no laptop, no cushy job, food to eat, Starbucks, or warm place to live. Can you imagine? And yet David still praised Jesus and still became the next king of Israel.

Today and every day start by giving thanks. The same God who spared David’s life can and will spare yours too.

08 July 2012

Two Dudes and a Urinal

I know the title of this blog is enough to make anyone stop and go "uhh." But let me explain...

Every year our family makes a trek to Pensacola, FL for spring break.  This year was no different, except when returning to Oklahoma we were greeted with snow. It never fails it seems no one ever tells Oklahoma its officially Spring. In Pensacola the temps will be 75 with white beaches and when we return home its 30 with snow, wow is all I can say.

So on with the two dudes and the urinal...

If you have ever been on a long road trip, then you can understand the term "pack light". This is a term, I have recently learned, that teenage girls are not able to understand. I said "pack light" and they heard "mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa", you know the sound that Charlie Brown's teacher made every time she talked. So before we can even get on the road I spend the first "official" two hours of our vacation playing a game of tetris with our luggage on top of our car.

So with luggage packed, a stack of DVD's for the passengers, my trusty itouch, and a full tank of gas we start our journey almost mid morning. The trip, in-spite of the rough start, was uneventful and everything was going great. We stopped every couple of hours so we could stretch and walk around have a few laughs and keep moving towards Pensacola Beach, a vacation at last, no phones, no worries just a stress free drive to the coast...

The scenery was great, the conversation was good, and the weather was warming a little at each stop the further south we went. We said to ourselves, "this is amazing, this is great what could go wrong..." Have you ever asked a question, that after looking back at it you wish you could take it back? Yeah, me too and that one was it.

So we make a stop in Bunkie, LA for drinks, restroom, snacks, the usual stuff. We all head in to the store and go our separate ways at the door, each of us on a mission. My mission was the bathroom because of a 6 shot Americano from Starbucks. There were a lot of people at this place and like the women, the men were taking turns in the bathroom too. What seemed like forever I finally get my turn. When all of a sudden there are two guys to my right yelling at each other over who's turn it is to use the urinal. It would seem one came in with what was an "emergency" for him cutting in front of another guy. I'm thinking that this can't really be happening, can it?

So everything escalates, from a few harsh words to a full yelling match and then it happens... "THWACK!" The older guy hits the younger guy and I'm thinking to myself, "this really isn't happening is it?" But it is. I try to get out of the way, thankful for once that I'm not a part of or the the cause of this melee.

What I didn't know was my whole family who were in the store heard all of the ruckus and they came running towards the bathroom to try and get a glimpse of the guys who were yelling at each other thinking the whole time is was me at the center of it.... again...wow...

So this one little event would mark a week full of other little events that I would sit back and look at with one simple thought.."wow, really?...."

But God used all of this during the week in my bible study and He kept bringing me back to this same verse in Habakkuk 2:20 "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

No matter what was going on around me, God is in control.

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