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Love and Giving

god growth progress Apr 18, 2021

One of the most popular verses of the Bible is John 3:16. Some of us remember the guy with the rainbow wig holding a John 3:16 sign in the end zone at professional football games. Until I became a believer and read the Bible, I didn’t know what the sign meant but then found out that it is this somewhat famous verse:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, emphasis added).

I am emphasizing the connection between love and giving that is evident in this verse and many others, including this: “And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2).

True love will involve giving, which seems plain enough. The problem comes from my tendency to pair giving with another word: receiving. Giving and receiving. When I give, what will I receive? This...

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Strength Through Resistance

Resistance is part of life

Whether it’s the force of gravity, entropy, or the curse, there is always resistance in life. We talk about taking the path of least resistance or taking the easy way out. Most advertising is geared toward comfort and entertainment, things that avoid resistance. The flesh certainly doesn’t like resistance.

People don’t naturally like resistance. It’s easier to “go with the flow” but that usually means going backwards. Of course a life with no resistance equates to becoming fat, lazy, passive, and unfulfilled. To have a meaningful, purposeful life will require facing and overcoming resistance.

Addictions are the result of avoiding resistance. That is why I don’t promise an easy path to sobriety and recovery. There is a lot of help available and sobriety and recovery are certainly God’s will, but you will surely experience a lot of resistance in the process. You might as well face it and use it to your benefit....

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Recovery Hack - Change the Subject

It is not unusual to get stuck in the recovery process. This can take the form of stronger-than-usual temptations and cravings, boredom, loneliness, and sometimes slips and relapses. The best solution can be to double down on good recovery activities: call your sponsor, attend extra meetings, and spend more time with addiction recovery resources like books, counselors, etc.

But what if you are doing the right things, but still feel like you aren’t making the progress that you should be? It could be that you are spending too much time on recovery topics. It may be time to explore some growth topics and activities that aren’t directly related to addiction recovery. It may be time to expand your focus to include other things.

The first few times that I drove a car, my eyes would look at the hood, trying to keep the car lined up with my lane. The instructor said, No, look farther out to where you want the car to go. That will keep you in your lane.

For much of my driving...

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Recovery Hack - Write About the Future

When working the steps in 12-Step programs, we do a lot of writing. The first step requires us to write about our sordid past (and often current) behaviors in order to drive home the concept of powerlessness. Step 4 requires a written inventory of our past and current resentments and character defects so we can surrender them to God. In step 8, we make a list of all of the people we have harmed—and that can require a lot of writing—to prepare to make amends to them.

These are very valuable exercises with great outcomes, but it occurred to me that not much writing is done about the future. What are my desired outcomes and what kind of a person do I want to be? I know where I have been, where I am now, but where am I going? Where do I want to go? Who do I want to become?

I am particularly concerned about this because I am aware of the stalled progress I sometimes see in my 12-Step program. There are people with decades of recovery that still seem to be stuck and give the...

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Don’t Judge Too Soon

growth progress Mar 22, 2021

My friend Tim recently posted on Facebook and concluded with this: “The final chapter of your life has not yet been written.” I like this very much and believe it is a good thing to live by. It helps me to understand that the race is not finished and there is much more to be done in us and by us.

It is easy to lose sight of the bias we have for positive change. Many of us know the verse that says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). But it is directly connected to the following verse:

“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

I think we can agree that we each have a ways to go before we are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. But that is exactly what God has in mind for us that are His children. These two verses together...

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Letting Go

Lasting growth and change requires letting go, surrendering, giving up control. The very first reading at each of my 12-step meetings is a reminder of this: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” If this prayer is going to be answered—and if growth and change are my true desires—then I have to let some things go.

Surrender can have the image of me standing with a weapon over my head, ready to yield to an enemy. It implies defeat, capture, and a loss of freedom. But there is a positive side to this: the enemy that I am surrendering to may be better than the current ally that I am serving. It is said that in some wars, enemy combatants were surrendering in droves because they were fighting for oppressive regimes and knew that they were better off in the hands of their captors.

This picture is quite accurate in my relationship to God. It’s hard to...

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Why Things Don’t Work

12 steps practical progress Mar 17, 2021

Oftentimes people dismiss something, saying that it didn’t work. “Yes, I have a drinking problem, but I tried AA and it didn’t work.” “I tried Christianity but it didn’t work for me.” “I have had this destructive habit most of my life. I have tried everything, but nothing seems to work.” I have felt this way before and I am sure many of you have had similar experiences. Here are some things that explain why we are often disappointed by programs and organizations that are supposed to help us.

We look for perfection

It’s easy to become excited and hopeful about something new—a church, a book, a program, or an organization, etc.—that we think will help us. We want to change something in our lives and we cling to the hope that we have finally found the elusive answer, the key that will unlock the solution.

We soon spot the flaws—in the program, the people, or both—and become disillusioned and...

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The Heart Follows the Treasure

12 steps progress recovery Mar 12, 2021

I love porn.

What a crazy statement. I loved the very thing that was destroying my marriage, my ministry, and my purpose and happiness in life. And yet,  I can remember thinking this and even saying it out loud over the years. How could my heart be attached to something so evil and destructive?

The answer is based on a simple statement made by our Lord Jesus Christ:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34).

Intuitively, it seems like the statement should be reversed. If my heart desires and loves something, then I will pursue it and invest in it. But our Lord’s way is true: my heart will be drawn to the things that I invest my treasure in, treasure being represented by my time, money, and effort.

I invested a lot of treasure in porn and sexual sin. It took a lot of time and effort to live a secret life and try to hide it. I was clever and creative in my deception—and that was my treasure. It’s...

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Measuring Progress

12 steps healing progress Mar 03, 2021

Dan Sullivan, a renowned business coach, teaches a concept he calls the gap and the gain. The gap is the distance between where we are and where we want to be. No matter how successful we are, there is always going to be a gap between where we are and where we want to be, especially if we compare ourselves with others. This can lead to discouragement and a never-ending chase for something more. It is a future-focus that can rob us of seeing the important things in our lives right now. On the other hand, the gain is measuring and celebrating the progress we have made (and are making) along the way.

This is especially pertinent for those of us in recovery. If we measure the gap between where we are and where we want to be, we can easily become disheartened and get a “what’s the use” attitude. Recovery can be slow and painful, especially when we are dealing with the consequences of our behavior and the fallout of disclosure. We can feel like we are at the foothills,...

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How to Eat Chicken Wings

12 steps progress Feb 13, 2021

How do you eat chicken wings? Not the boneless kind, but just normal, everyday chicken wings. You eat the meat and leave the bones. You consume the good parts and leave behind the bad parts. Obvious and simple when it comes to food, but what about in the world of ideas?

A good chicken wing is a “package”; the meat and bones travel together. I am going to sift through it with my fingers and mouth to get the good stuff. I may find that some unwanted stuff gets through that I have to spit out. The stuff I don’t want will be left behind and discarded.

I don't like seafood too much but I was eating with one of my buddies and he was pulling small pieces of meat from some kind of crustacean. I swear that there was more debris on his plate after he finished eating than before, but he seemed quite full and satisfied when he was done. He certainly knew what the good parts were and how to get them. And he knew what parts to leave behind.

The problem for me has been an...

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