Quick Inventory

How well am I surrendering to God so that I am able to:

Purpose 1. Realize the nearness of His presence and fellowship with Him?

Purpose 2. Live in authentic relationships with others and invite ‘outliers’ into the family of God (community)?

Purpose 3. Steward His rule by reflecting His character to all of creation that I encounter (people and otherwise)?

Waive the white flag to God today. Allow empowerment.


A Deep Breaking of Purpose 3: Stewarding His Rule and Reflecting His Character

God originally designed us with the three purposes in mind, the third purpose being:

To steward his rule and reign in creation by reflecting His glory and character to creation.

God placed our great-great-great parents in the Garden of Eden to have dominion over the creation.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  (Genesis 1:26-28)

Humanity was called to steward God’s rule on behalf of God to the Creation. God shared this privilege with mankind. We were to have have dominion over creation as His caretakers, not to dominate it. And we were not to confuse our role with God’s role. We are the stewards, God is the owner. We are the managers, God is the Creator, for that is God’s position alone.

And how were we to steward his rule and reign? By providing creation a glimpse of God. We were created in His image so that we might reflect His glory and character to all of the Garden–His goodness, kindness, and mercy. We possessed that ability as we lived in His presence (purpose #1) and in authentic relational community (purposer #2). So as the moon reflects the sun, we were to reflect the care and supervision of God to the creation.

    Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness . . . 
    So God created man in his own image,
        in the image of God he created him;
        male and female he created them.  (Genesis 1:26, 27 ESV)

We were to be stewards of the King and His Kingdom, to ‘image’ God to the creation. And it was good…

But Then the Fall Happened

After the Fall, humanity ceases to steward God’s Kingdom and instead we begin to attempt to build our own kingdoms. We ceased to graciously have dominion over creation and instead tried to dominate it for our own benefit. We tried to play the role of God. This is clearly seen in the Tower of Babel account (Genesis 11:1-9 mouseover verse), where man decided they would be ‘just like God.’ Of course this leads to disaster, and we, when we choose to live apart from Christ, continue to take the same tact and yield the same results on a global scale–wars, terror, genocide, abortion, etc.–and on an individual level–dominating others for the almighty dollar, sexual gain, or position. We build our own castles and bastions of power. Our ability to accurately reflect God’s glory and character to creation was distorted like a tarnished fun-house mirror.

The Fall also affected creation as it attempts to dominate us. Instead of willfully yielding as in the Garden, the post-Fall creation requires man to toil to receive its fruits. To Adam, God says:

Cursed is the ground because of you;
        in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
    thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
        and you shall eat the plants of the field.
    By the sweat of your face
        you shall eat bread, (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

And so Our Enemy used fallen creation to rail against humanity with disease, distortion, defects and yes, even  brains that are biologically susceptible to addiction, habitual sin, and hurting others. This biological crash-and-burn does not render us free of culpability, but it can compound our willful capitulation towards sin. As Christians, we don’t have to totally discount the addiction-as-disease model but we cannot completely concede our wrong behavior to it either.

So, here ends Act 1 of the Three Purposes. Humanity is left beaten and broken, exiled from Eden and aliens to the ability to fulfill God’s intended purposes. BUT GOD is infinitely good and had foreseen the Fall, and He had a rescue plan in place for us before He ever began creation. All was not lost, and all is not lost for you or me no matter how far we have drifted from God or sunken into the mire of our sin. There is Good News coming….stay tuned.




Apple Pie

Sin’s tentacles reaching from Eden’s site
Calling me to take another bite
“That’s right. You know you deserve it.”

And so I capitulate to this hate
See Adam, I can relate
I take the bait.

Oh no—the hook is set

And I thrash and fight against the line
As Satan drags me through the brine
“I’m fine,” I tell concerned onlookers.

But I’m not.

See what looked like delicious apple pie
Has left me high and dry
I don’t know why I take another bite when I’m already chokin’

Oh, I could blame it all on you, Man
You did the dirty, set up my pension plan
I am, after all, just receiving daily installments.

But then that wouldn’t be quite so fair
Cuz I have this feeling deep down that if I’d been there
I’d have done the same damned thing.

Someone peel me another apple, I’m hungry.

A reflection on Genesis 3 and the horrific nature of sin and addiction. We go back to take another bite, even though we are already gagging on our sin. Okay, maybe you don’t, but I have tended to. And  if I had been presented the forbidden fruit, let me not be so haughty as to think I would have made a better choice than Adam. I’d have probably cut down the tree as well to make furniture. (And for all you legalistic types, I meant ‘damned’ in its true sense, ‘cursed.’) But this is a reflection only on the Fall and my fallen nature, and this is not the end. There is hope and grace and rescue….for there is always more to come in Christ. Join us.

Hope On a Day I am Feeling Down

On a day like today, where I am down after speaking with my family from a distance yet another day–I hear their disappointment and sadness and am feeling my own sadness, failure, and loneliness and am tempted to give up–God drops a film into my lap about Magic Johnson. His quote is in a different context, but it holds true and encouraged me.

You have to accept that you are going to live with this virus forever, and you have to have a positive attitude about it. If you feel defeated, then you are going to lose this fight.

Magic Johnson, in the ESPN film The Announcement.

Replace the word ‘virus’ with ‘addiction’ or ‘the flesh.’ (And yes, addiction does feel like a virus at times.) On my blah days, I must cling to God and claim this verse:

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:37 ESV)

And the reason I can stand firm and not shrink in shame or defeat:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

(Romans 8:31-33 ESV)

And I must do what Jesus, Paul (and Magic) did and not merely look inward but reach to to help others. Even in the smallest of things. ‘Love is the overflow of joy in God that meets the needs of others.’ John Piper.

There is hope. Keep fighting. Only surrender to God, not to the flesh or the enemy. Take it minute by minute, day by day, and realize the availability and nearness and power of God. Be about what you need to be about in this moment. A message to myself. Amen.

Thank God I Am Not Like Them

Many times we are tempted to think we need less grace than someone else, after all my sin is so much more respectable. Even addicts often look at others with addictions and have the internal dialogue, “Wow, I’m glad my problem isn’t as bad as theirs.” How foolish and ignorant we are. But this is nothing new.

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
 (Luke 18:10-14 ESV)

Before we look down in condescension on other wretched saints engaged in the beautiful fight, we should heed Richard Baxter who wrote:

He that hides one rebel in his house is a traitor to the Crown, and he that indulges one sin is a traitorous hypocrite.

One traitor in the house calls for as much need of grace from the King as does housing 100. Both acts carry the same title– traitor.

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
(James 2:10 ESV)

It is as if the Law, a reflection of God’s holiness, is set before us as a large pane of glass that is the shatter resistant safety type. If I were to take the smallest of hammers and attempt to break out the tiniest of pieces the whole pane would spider web shatter just as if I hit it with to the same degree as if I hit it with a sledge.

But grace is available, which God desires to pour out upon us in bucket fulls.

. . . but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,
(Romans 5:20 ESV)

Hallelujah and Amen! Keep fighting.


Circles: Who is in the Ring With You?

As I fight the brutal yet beautiful fight to live in grace and allow God to bring me to Christlikeness and to resist sin and addiction, I have noticed that there are three concentric circles of people with whom I must relate. I start with the outer circle and move inward.

The Circle of Concern

Those that hear of your struggles, addiction, battles and are truly concerned. They will call or text, and if they cannot reach you, they’ll begin pinging others who know you to see if they know anything about your condition. Often they feel they need to fix the situation. Many times they are attempting this fix to fix how they feel–ex. so they can feel better they did “something,” at least. Oftentimes, I am tempted to meet with them when their voice their concern, even if I know this isn’t healthy for me to spread my battle this thin. These people were frequently not deeply involved in my life before and perhaps something within me knows they shouldn’t be  in a more inward circle–geography, loose lips, lack of wisdom, or simply because my inner circles are already full of good folks , etc. I need briefly thank them for their concern via text or email and let them know you people supporting you. I feel I don’t owe them long explanations, if any.

The Circle of Care

These are the people who I do talk to much more often. They are typically those who were already deeply involved in my life, maybe before they knew all that was going on or maybe not. I need to let them remain in my life and interact with them, not push them away in shame or embarrassment. Some don’t know how to relate to what I an going through and some do. I need to simply receive their love.

The Circle of Accountability- 1/2 the Bullseye

This, for me, needs to be a much tighter sub-group of one or two people in my circle of care.  In the past I would do my spread my accountability across too broad a group of people. In this way, different guys no different slices of what I was struggling with, but no one really had the “whole pie.” I am know realizing the importance of having a single point of accountability or what some call a sponsor. I need this to be only one or two men. I don’t want them to do it if they are merely doing me a favor or if they feel they don’t have the margins of time to function as in the role well. I am also very selective and have some key criteria for who this needs to be. I feel like God has provided 2-3 people who fit and desire to ask two of them to serve in this role. Spill your guts to these people, the good, the bad and the ugly. Deal with both inner-emotions and outer behaviors.

The Circle of Family- The other 1/2 of the Bullseye

The brutal, bloody fight against sin most definitely impacts and involves my family to a larger degree than anyone else. These are the most important people in my life. While they cannot be my primary accountability, as that is not healthy for me or them, I need to be open with them to foster intimacy, by letting them “in-to-me-see.” I want for them to feel and understand, and me to feel and understand the deep sense of attachment and love I have for them. Be open about what I am learning and listen to them. Love them and receive their love.

I don’t need to confuse these circles or spend the wrong amount of time and energy with the wrong circle. Understanding my circles will be valuable to my journey and fight. This will provide me a clear community map.

Alertness in the Battle

Very often, soldiers get killed in battle solely because they forget they are engaged in an act of war.

–A former Marine officer

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I Peter 5:8

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I Peter 1:13

A Deep Breaking of Purpose 2: Relationships and Community

Sin breaks down our ability to live out purpose #2: To live in authentic community (relationships), and to multiply that community by including others.

Perhaps one of the most damning things about sin is the fact that no matter how much we feel it to be a private event and struggle, it never is. Sin–even when committed in the most secretive manner–always effects others, particularly those that love us most. The damage done to the relationship might be because they become aware of a sin that deeply wounds them.  But even if loved ones don’t have an awareness of our sin, our sin causes such an inner decay that we cannot relate to them as we should. My sin causes great damage by eroding intimacy in all my relationships, especially the most key–my wife and kids. My sin has deeply altered those relationships. It has always been this way. Sin is never truly private. An individual’s sin always goes communal in its damaging of relationships.

The First Sin

The first sin affected intimacy and affection. Listen to Adam’s tone in terms of his wife. It shifts dramatically post-Fall as he blames God and passes the hot potato of responsibility straightway to Eve.

He [GOD] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”
(Genesis 3:11-12)

But that is not the end of the descriptive breaking that sin brings with it.

To the woman he [GOD] said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
    Your desire shall be for your husband,
        and he shall rule over you.”  (Genesis 3:16-24 mouseover)

And so we see the damning relational aspect of sin. Some commentators state this is a sexual/love desire for her husband. But that explanation does not make sense in our given context. Instead, I take “desire”– hqvwt in Hebrew— to mean that sin brought with it a contest of wills, of power, as Eve now tries to ursurp Adam’s leadership to gain his position. And Adam, instead of kind servant leadership, now leads with a degree of tyranny and despotism.

The Second Sin

Sin’s relational breaking effect continues, as Adam and Eve’s eldest child Cain, becomes enraged that his younger brother’s offering is accepted and his is not. The effects of sin, in this case, lead to the ultimate in relational breakdown–murder.

    The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:6-9 ESV)

My Sin

When I examine my sin, particularly as related to addiction, I clearly see the damage it causes my loved ones. I see it in their pain and sadness. I see it in my physical absence. I hear it in their voicing loneliness while in the midst of my “presence.” I see it in their eyes. This now haunts me (yet I do possess hope in Christ!). In the midst of living in an addictive state, I  discounted this fact, self-rationalizing that my sin was contained in some kind of deep, inner compartment that didn’t have to affect my family and friends. This is one of the great myths of sin. Part of the engaging in the beautiful fight is looking clearly in the face the fact that my sin does cause relational damage. It cannot be contained. The antidote is to repent, turning again from our sin to the Gospel that in Christ, living in real, authentic relationship is possible, though no guarantee that this will come without struggle. In the classic twelve step world, this is the 8th step and 9th step. In my personal recovery, I have participated in counseling but never a Christ-centered twelve step program. I now am. I know it will be a painful yet joyful journey for my loved ones and me. Yet I am looking forward to God using it to keep me engaged and victorious in the beautiful fight and to undo the damage I have done to my most important relationships.

Lord, thank you for the hope you offer to undo this breaking and establish your purpose for me to live in healthy, transparent relationships. My flesh resists this, seeking the myth of protecting myself from emotional vulnerability and the urge to believe my sin only affects me. Shine your light clearly on this untruth and its ugliness as the enemy’s weapon. Let Truth prevail. Bring healing and empower me to daily surrender to You and to have this surrendering empower within me the passion and ability to be the husband, father and friend that I should have been. I trust this possible in Christ. Amen.


A Deep Breaking of Purpose 1: Broken Fellowship

In the Fall seen in Genesis 3, there was a deep breaking. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they passed on an ugly gift to each of us–a sin nature. For a long time, I viewed sin as something that made God angry–a wrong thought, attitude or behavior. I also clearly understood I had a sin nature as it raised up its head so often in my life. But there was a deeper breaking than this. What I have to consider fully is the degree that sin had broken or distorted God’s three purposes if we are going see victory and freedom.

P1: To fellowship with God in the nearness of His presence.

After Adam and Eve sinned, God appeared in the garden for another walk in the cool of the evening as He had time and time before. However, this time Adam and Eve, in shame, had hidden themselves realizing that they were naked. God asked them  the question that we, too, must answer, “Where are you?” An Adam did what we all tend to do. He pitched the blame like a hot potato elsewhere (Genesis 3:12 mouseover verse). And in doing so

The Fall continues to affect us in the same way. I, like others, tend to hide in shame in when I sin. I tend to make excuses and pitch blame. These actions only serve to make me less aware that fellowship with God that is available to me through Christ. At these times, I find myself being more of a deist, thinking that God is out there watching, rather than a theist, knowing that He is intervening and available. I tend to try to take control of things–attempting to covering myself like Adam in order to please God. I do what I heard a member of my recovery group recently say. I attempt to have a good day and then ask, “God, what do you think of me today?” as  if I were participating in some kind of giant make-it-up-to-you-God exercise. This is of course, ultimately ridiculous and futile.

God’s availability to me and my awareness of the nearness of His presence is only because of Christ and what He has accomplished that I cannot. He has restored the potential of Eden to me and to you as we live in union with Him. More to come on that hope in future posts. For now you and I must continue to dissect what is broken in us if we are able to have victory over our sin, our habits, our hurts, and our addictions.