Tag Archives: overcome

The Twelve Steps

In my last article I wrote about the five keys to maturity as Christians, and in that article I mentioned the similarity between the way the church should function and the way groups like Alcoholics Anonymous DO function. The camaraderie and accountability of those groups keep people on the path to sobriety. The life of the Christian should be filled with others who are helping them along on the path to sinlessness as well, but we have become so politically correct and afraid of rejection, we refrain from speaking into the lives of even those closest to us to hold one another accountable.

If you’re like me, there are many things in your life you’d like to change, not the least of which are sins you habitually commit. We all have hurts, habits and hang-ups. So how do we overcome these problems in our lives as believers in Jesus? For those attending AA to achieve sobriety, there are twelve steps:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understoodHim.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take a personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

These steps have been proven to be effective to help people recover from alcohol addiction, and there are similar steps to groups like Narcotics Anonymous and others.

What if there were twelve steps to Christian living? What would they look like? My friend, Roy Rhodes, came up with these:

1. We came to believe that we were powerless in our sin, and that life was outside of our control.

2. We came to believe that a power greater than us was in control and could restore us.

3. We made a decision to give our will and lives over to the care of Jesus Christ, who offers sanctuary and salvation.

4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. We confessed to ourselves, to God and to another human being the nature of our sin.

6. We were entirely ready to surrender our sins to God.

7. We humbly asked God to remove our sins and shortcomings and restore us as bearers of His Image and Spirit.

8. We made a list of all persons that we have harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to examine the self, and when we are wrong, prompty confessing and setting things right.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to remain rooted in God, our strength and deliverance.

12. Having given our lives to God and experienced his healing in our lives, we try to carry the message of the Gospel to others and live these principles out in all aspect of our lives.

Steps 1-3 are similar to much of the language in churches today about how to come to know Jesus and find salvation. Step three is where we find baptism as a way to connect to the cross and resurrection of Christ (Romans 6). Step 12 is the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). But what about the other 8 steps?

Sometimes we wonder why there isn’t more growth in the church (because people aren’t living step 12), and I would suggest it may be because steps 4-11 aren’t being done daily in the lives of Christians to even get to step 12.

We may even do step 7, but often we don’t do the other steps surrounding that one to actually achieve success in quitting a particular sin. Steps like numbers 4, 5, 8, and 9 are uncomfortable and awkward. If we actually had to confess to someone else, they may betray us. If we seek amends with those we’ve hurt, they may reject our efforts. So we don’t try. We give up before we begin.

The five keys to being a mature Christian are these: Attend the meetings, get a mentor/partner/confidant, read the Book, works the steps, and tell others. The twelve steps to key number 4 are something like these above. If you want to see success in your life in Christ, you’ll work these as diligently as an alcoholic trying to overcome addiction, because you and I are addicted to sin, and we need to overcome our addiction too.

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Cake and Roses and Fluffy Puppies

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I’ve written before about my love for mountain climbing or just climbing in general. The feeling of standing on the top of a high place and seeing the world from above is breathtaking. However, the top isn’t the only part of the journey worth talking about.

When you set out to climb a mountain there are a lot of undesirable issues you must deal with to get there. There is the hassle of camping and gear if you choose to make it an overnight trip. There is the issue of sustenance, for you will surely need the energy to make it to the top. Because you must have sustenance you will have to carry that weight on your back. This creates more weight for you to have to haul up the mountain.

Then there’s the sheer feat of climbing the mountain. No mountain is “easy”. Some are less difficult than others, but your body does strange things above 10,000 feet of elevation. As you climb there are rocks that you trip on. There is often snow to be traversed. There are aching muscles from the constant upward motion. Then there’s the dreaded issue of having to go to the bathroom above tree line (embarassing).

Climbing a mountain is fun and rewarding, but it is also difficult and painful.

When you listen to many preachers talk about life in Christ you hear about love, joy, peace, kindness and other such beautiful ideas. You hear about grace and forgiveness. Who wouldn’t want those things? Christianity sounds awesome, right?!

What they don’t tell you is that Christianity is like climbing up the mountain. The summit experience is awesome, but you have to go through the climb of life to get there. It isn’t all cake and roses and fluffy puppies. Sometimes Christianity is tears and pain and division and struggle.

Jesus was very clear that the Kingdom of Heaven – the kingdom that is here and now in those allowing Christ to rule in their hearts – is much more desirable than the kingdoms of this world with their selfishness and tyranny. However he also made a couple of statements that aren’t so popular.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

He also promises this:

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Well, that’s not very happy. It doesn’t seem like Jesus is doing the best job marketing this new kingdom life.

Think about it though. Have you ever made a decision you knew was right, yet everyone around you was angry with you for the decision you made? Have you ever loved someone even though they hurt you? Have you ever risked your life for someone else? Then you know what Jesus is talking about.

We choose to live for Christ because He is teaching us the way of love, but not everyone likes this way. Some people even hate this way of life because our living this way exposes the darkness within them. They revile against it, and division is created, and relationships are damaged.

In Luke 14 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of being his disciple. It will be a struggle, and you will have to be wiling to sacrifice everything for him, but what you gain is so worth it. Forgiveness, grace, eternal life, relationship with the Creator, purpose in this life. Those things cannot be given a value.

After Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this world, he said “but take heart because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to deal with these struggles ourselves. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He has promised to take every circumstance and bring good out of it (Romans 8:28). He has promised to love you, and he showed it by dying for you. He gave his life for you. Are you willing to go through a little bit of struggle for him?

One more thing.
In Jesus there is a new perspective that I learn day by day as I follow him. The more I live like Jesus the less concerned I am with myself because I am learning to love others more. This brings pain at times when I am rejected, but this also brings hope in all things because of the resurrection. I now have a choice on how I look at the hard times. I choose to look at them as learning experiences and refining fire that makes me stronger. I choose this because I know that this life is not all there is for me. My eternal life began when I gave my life to Jesus, and it reaches its fullness once this physical life reaches its limits. Death is not the end, so I live this life with joy and hope whatever the situation.

Count the cost before you come to Christ, but know that the cost is well worth it for the joy of knowing the Creator and living in His presence. And if you’re already in Christ, live with the perspective of hope in all circumstances. Jesus is with you. His Spirit lives inside you. You are eternal – your pain doesn’t have to be.


Confessions of a Tough Mudder

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“I will not whine. Kids whine.”

This phrase kept going through my head as I endured the 12 mile, 29 obstacle course in Edna, TX last Saturday.

On Saturday, January 28. 2012, I competed in what is considered “the toughest event on the planet” – Tough Mudder. My experience actually began on Friday as my brother, my son, and I met up with a friend at Brackenridge Park outside of Edna to camp out for the night. The evening was relatively peaceful sitting around the fire mentally prepping for the next day. The challenges began for me at midnight, however, as parties around us began to be increasingly louder. I couldn’t fall back to sleep until after 1:30 am. I was frustrated and tired. “Didn’t they have to get up early and compete too?”

The next morning I woke up around 6 am. I couldn’t sleep, so I walked out to the edge of the lake and watched the sun rise in all it’s magnificence. There’s an old saying: Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor’s warning.” Saturday morning’s sunrise was red, and the wind was already starting to pick up speed to its projected 20 mph. It was going to be windy for sure!

We got over to the check-in tents at 8:30, and before I was really mentally ready we were being called to go to the starting line. We were the 10 o’clock group. To even get to the starting line we had to surmount an 8′ wall. It was time to gear up and shut up.

We recited the Tough Mudder pledge amid a barrage of “Hoo-Rah”. Then, there it was, the phrase that stuck with me the rest of the day: “I do not whine. Kids whine”. This would be my mantra for the rest of the day.

The whistle finally blew and we were off. The very first obstacle was a mere 50 yards from the starting line. We had to drop to our bellies and crawl under barbed wire through thick South Texas mud. It had begun. Within the first mile we crawled through mud, climbed over muddy eight foot high walls, jumped off a 15 foot high platform into the lake, and plunged into the frigid waters of “arctic enema” – a box car with ice water. My body was in shock, but I was determined.

We crawled through tunnels, scrambled over mud hills, and ran, a lot. I was prepared for this mentally. Then it happened – we came to an obstacle that wasn’t on our pre-race map. Apparently unbeknownst to us they had to substitute obstacles in place of the hay or fire obstacles. What we had come to was jumping over mud holes increasingly wider with the hopes that we wouldn’t slip or miss our mark. Success!

Then we ran over to a cargo net and climbed over. Then we ran some more.

There were obstacles on this course that weren’t official obstacles. We were constantly watching out for the holes in the ground created by this year’s drought. It would be very easy for someone to twist or even break an ankle by stepping into one of them. There was also a place where we had to drop down a steep embankment into water filled with reeds and grasses. When we got in there we realized that we couldn’t touch bottom. We had to swim, but we made it and scrambled up the muddy bank on the other side helping each other out.

We crawled over and under logs. One time I stumbled upon trying to stand back up after going under a log pile. When I tried to steady myself by holding onto the log I had just gone under I impaled my thumb with two barbs from the barbed wire that was there to hinder going over that log. Blood had been drawn – I was already a tough mudder.

My brother and I spent much of our childhood in the woods exploring every nook and cranny as we blazed our own trails. We climbed everything we could find. When we got to these obstacles we realized that our childhood had develop many of the skills needed to complete the course easier than many of the other people. When it came time to balance or hang upside down we were in our natural element. Navigating through fallen trees would have been a normal afternoon walk for us growing up, but here it was as an obstacle! Sure, we were exhausted, but it was fun!

Our muscles were cramping, but we endured. It was absolutely wonderful to have my brother and my wife running this course alongside me. Their encouragement made this possible. We fed off each other’s enthusiasm to complete each obstacle.

We finally got to the last mile with five obstacles to go. The first was the monkey bars. The rungs were muddy, slippery, and they spun. When I realized that they would spin I put my feet in the rungs and crawled upside down across the span. Success! I wasn’t wet! In my mind I thought I might dry out before the final obstacle, but that dream was short lived. We then had to swim out into the lake and go under a series of barrels. Then we had to swim to the other side. Once on the other side my fears were met. My daughter alerted us to the fact that we would not have to go through one electric obstacle, but two.

After swimming we came to a wooden framework with yellow wires hanging down. This was all a few inches off the ground. The ground was covered with the slush of melting ice. We had to belly-crawl under the wires on the ice. I didn’t want to do it, but this wasn’t called the tough quitter. The first wire shocked me. It felt like someone hit me in the lower back with a hammer. I don’t remember the second hit. All I remember is waking up face down in the mud after a split second. I had blacked out. When I finally realized where I was, I knew I had to get out of there fast. I got hit two more times before crawling out through the mound of ice.

I stood up and gave a primal scream.

Next up was the obstacle called Everest. We had to run up a quarter pipe that was about 15 feet tall. Those who had gone before us were on top waiting to grab the hand of those coming below. My brother had made it before me, so when I attempted it was his hand that grabbed mine. I made it up first try, but only with the help of my brother and my neighbor.

This was it. One more obstacle, and it was the one that struck the most fear in me. There was a framework with hundreds of yellow wires hanging down. Some of them had 10,000 volts flowing through them. We watched as one man went through and got hit with the juice. It dropped him to his face. He tried to get up but couldn’t move his legs. Eventually he pulled himself out with his hands. This was not a good sign.

My wife went first, and God blessed her with a good breeze that caused all the wires to float up just above her back. She didn’t get hit even once. I then ran through, and God decided I didn’t need such a breeze. About halfway through I got hit. It wouldn’t have knocked me down on normal ground, but they were hosing the ground as we were running through and I slipped onto my belly. That was actually a relief. I crawled through to the other side.

Success!

I had completed every single obstacle they threw at me. My wife and I and our four friends jogged together to the finish line, and my wife and I finished this course the same way we had finished the marathon we did together seven years before – holding hands.

We were exhausted and shivering from hypothermia; we were sunburned and sore, but we had overcome! 4 hours, 12 miles, and 29 obstacles had not been enough to take us out. We were tough mudders! Hoo -Rah!

Would I do it again? Yes. It was a feat of athleticism, but it wasn’t something that is beyond the grasp of any normal person. I saw people of all ages and genders and races competing. Two of the competitors that day had only one leg. One guy lost his shoe in the water on the third obstacle and ran the rest of the course barefoot. By doing this, however, I have gained so much in my mind. I have built friendships through this common experience that I would have never had. I got to share this with my wife and brother – both of whom I love dearly. This event was totally worth it.

I cannot describe to you the ins and outs of why it was worth it. All I can say is that I will do it again, and I think you can do it too.

If you want to see pictures of our trip through the muck and mire check me out on Facebook.com/mrjdobbs. I am a Tough Mudder!


Glory in the Face of Grief

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Through the last few years I have embraced social media. I used to have a myspace (until that became lame). I text and Twitter and Facebook and Google+. I even LinkedIn. These have been great tools not only to help me keep in touch with the people I work with as a minister, but they have also allowed me to minister to friends of times past. Nowadays I also use these means to connect with other ministers in order to continue a sharpening of my mind as we discuss the ins and outs of theology and ministry. These men and women are dear friends to me as I strive to be a better minister of the Kingdom of God.

One such ministry friend I have come in contact with is a preacher for a church of Christ in Mississippi. One of his sons is a youth minister in another state. Still living at home is his 21 year old son who is handicapped. Last Monday the wife and 21 year old son of this ministry friend of mine were murdered by a man who had attended their church.

Wow. What do you say to that?

Needless to say this has affected me deeply. I know people who have unexpectedly lost loved ones. Times get tough very quickly. I know ministers who have lost their faith through tragic events such as these. I know Christians who have lost their faith under circumstances much less grave than this!

Wow. Please pray for him, his family, and the community that loves him. There is much hurt there now.

What is our response in the face of such tragedy? Do we cry out and curse God? Do we hide in a hole of depression and let the grief eat away for the rest of our lives? It would be so easy to do either one of those things.

My heart grieves for this man and his family.

Thoughts of this event bring to mind two grand ideas, however. The first idea comes from the fact that God watched as His own son was murdered in cold blood. It was not a crime of passion. It was cold and calculated and merciless. In fact you and I murdered Him with our sins. Acts 2 says “you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to a cross”.

Can you imagine how God must have grieved for the loss of His son? But He was willing to go through that so that you and I could have life and not receive that death in ourselves. What is your response in the face of such love for you? Have you responded to that, or do you keep putting it off until tomorrow?

The second thought that comes to mind is found in Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If you read it closely, you will see that it says “in all things” (emphasis added).

Am I trying to say that God can work out the murder of this Godly woman and her son for the good of her family and community who are grieving today? Yes! It may seem difficult to grasp in the midst of the whirlwind of grief, but it is a promise from God. No matter what you may be going through or may have gone through, God can – and wants to – work that situation out for your good. Why? So that in all things He may be glorified. You see, if God can turn tragedy into triumph, then He truly is the God of love and mercy – a God worthy to be praised.

How will you respond to such love in the face of your struggles today? I hope you will hold your loved ones a little closer. Even more so, I hope that you will not put off your decision to commit your life to God through Jesus. You never know what today may bring.

Please keep praying for this family. If there is anything I can do you for, or if you have any questions or prayer requests, feel free to contact me at jddobbs@Verizon.net or at the office at 245-1611. God bless your day, and may you glorify Him even in the face of grief.


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