Sunday, May 31, 2015


Matthew 28:18-19 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples…

             “I try to be sensitive to the Lord about each person who comes through our program while still holding fast to our guidelines. It would be easier to follow the law to the letter, but I don’t think that would be the best for each client. Mercifully, we serve a living God who is able to lead, guide, and direct us. We are not following the last will and testament of a deceased wise man. He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today.

            Many of our residents get upset when a client receives different disciplinary actions for the apparently same infractions. We all seem to have an innate sense of right and wrong, and when it is not followed it is very distressing. This is especially true when we feel another person has been in the wrong. How is it that we always seem to see all the extenuating circumstances when we are the offender?

            God makes it clear in His Word that He looks upon the heart. That is what I try to do when I counsel and discipline the residents. I endeavor to see the reasons behind their behavior and help them to grow through their trials. In the parable of the workers, the master did not reward each according to the hours they worked, but paid them all the same wages at the end of the day. The workers were very upset about the injustice of that, but Jesus pointed out that each had received what they had agreed upon. It was actually a metaphor showing that everyone who calls upon the  name of the Lord shall be saved…It also illustrates how different God’s thoughts are from our thoughts…It also boils down to one thing. Either you believe that God is in control of your life or you don’t. If He is in control, then He is in control of your authority and how their actions will affect you. If He is not in control, then you must continue to try to be god yourself by controlling and manipulating every situation in your life. How tiresome…

Excerpt from The Lighthouse News by Jeff Retsyn, August 2008   

Saturday, May 30, 2015


1 John 3:16-18      This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 

          In the real world of relationships it is impossible to love people with a problem or a need without in some sense sharing or even changing places with them. All real life-changing love involves some form of this kind of exchange.
          It requires very little of you to love a person who is pulled together and happy. Think, however, of emotionally wounded people. There is no way to listen and love people like that and stay completely emotionally intact yourself. It may be that they may feel stronger and more affirmed as you talk, but that won’t happen without you being quite emotionally drained yourself. It’s them or you. To bring them up emotionally you must be willing to be drained emotionally.
          All life-changing love toward people with serious needs is a substitutional sacrifice. If you become personally involved with them, in some way, their weaknesses flow toward you as your strengths flow toward them. In The Cross of Christ, John Stott writes that substitution is at the heart of the Christian message: “The essence of sin is we human beings substituting ourselves for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for us. We…put ourselves where only God deserves to be; God…puts himself where we deserve to be.”

          If that is true, how can God be a God of love if he does not become personally involved in suffering the same violence, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain that we experience? The answer to that question is twofold. First, God can’t. Second, only one major world religion even claims that God does.

The Reason For God by Tim Keller, pg.193-5   

Friday, May 29, 2015


Mark 1:32-37 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!"

          Death to self is necessary in order to live for God. A crucifixion of the ego is required. That is why mature Christian prayer inevitably leads to the purification of what St. John of the Cross called the dark night of the senses and the spirit which, through loneliness and aridity, buries egoism and leads us out of ourselves to experience God.

          The “dark night” is a very real place, as anyone who has been there will tell you. Alan Jones call it “the second conversion.” While the first conversion was characterized by joy and enthusiasm and filled with felt consolation and a profound sense of God’s presence, the second is marked by dryness, barrenness, desolation, and a profound sense of God’s absence. The dark night is an indispensable stage of spiritual growth both for the individual Christian and the church.

          Merton writes: There is an absolute need for the solitary, bare, dark, beyond-thought, beyond-feeling type of prayer.… Unless that dimension is there in the church somewhere, the whole caboodle lacks life and light and intelligence. It is a kind of hidden, secret, unknown stabilizer and compass too. About this I have no hesitation or doubts.

          Though painful, the purification of the ego in the dark night is the high road to Christian freedom and maturity. In fact, it is often an answer to prayer.

 The Signature of Jesus, by Brennan Manning, pg. 132.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Genesis 3:6-7
 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

            Since on his own man cannot live in God’s truth, he provisionally remains caught in the conflict between openness to the world and selfhood. Man remains imprisoned in his selfhood. He secures himself through what has been attained, or he insists on his plans. In any case, to the extent that he is able, he fits what is new into what was already in his mind. In this way not only does he readily damage his destiny to be open to the world; he also closes himself off from the God who summons him to his destiny. The selfhood that is closed up within itself is sin.

            Since Augustine’s profound insights, in Christian theology the selfhood that is closed up within itself and in its worldly possessions has been understood as the real core of sin. If the most widespread manifestation of sin is greed, in greed man’s love for himself is still at work as its innermost motivation. Self-love prevents us from turning to other men for their own sake, and, not least, it hinders us in loving God for his own sake. Thus, as the Augsburg Confession summarizes it, sin asserts itself on the one hand in unbelief by denying God the reverence and grateful trust due him, and on the other hand in the greed by which man makes himself a slave of the things for which he strives.

            Later Soren Kierkegaard saw that sin took effect in still a third direction: not only in man’s relation to God on the one hand and in his relation to the world and to his fellowmen on the other; but also in man’s relation to himself. Where man does not live by trust in God, anxiety appears, namely, anxiety about himself...It is through anxiety that the sinner remains related to his infinite destiny. In despair, however, man separates himself from his destiny, whether it be that he gives up hope for it or, on the contrary, that he wants to achieve it on his own and only wants to be indebted to himself. Both anxiety and despair reveal the emptiness of the ego that revolves about itself.

What Is Man? By Wolfhart Pannenberg, pg. 63.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. 'Master,' he said, 'you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.' His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" Matthew 25:19-21

          Our tendency as a culture is to want more in our lives. We want more possessions. We want more compliments from others. We want to be noticed for our new car, boat or home. Advertising continues to stir our passion for more. Advertising demands that you see the value of new possessions as greater than those that are just a year of two old. We are always being pushed to acquire more and newer things to improve our lives. Yet satisfaction continues to allude us. Like the proverbial rat on the treadmill, we continue to run in circles. The drive for more and newer leaves us in a hurry as we run through life. Never are we satisfied. Adding unhealthy addictions and passions, our lives begin to spiral into behavior that demands we have what the advertisers tell us.

          What happened to us all that we are not satisfied with the little things in life? What is it about us as humans that seems to drive us to achieve what no possession can ever deliver: peace and contentment? Why are so few people that we know, not satisfied with themselves and their lives? We pray and worship God but find him not delivering on the "blessings" we have read in his book, the Bible? Life is no longer about growing and investing our time and talents, thereby building and receiving the fruit of our labors. Life becomes the never-ending advertisement that sells us on "demanding" for our lives what we see in the lives of others.

          These are only a few of the questions heard from clients here at the Mission. They are struggling to have what other people have in terms of jobs, possessions and relationships. Yet they continue to fail in reaching their goals. Why, they ask me, am I not able to have what I want?

          The answer to all this is complex. There is not enough room to give a full and complete answer, But an answer I can give. I share it with our people here at the Mission almost weekly, if not daily. It goes like this: "If you are not faithful with the things in life that God has given you, then you cannot expect Him to give you more of the same and allow you to squander or waste the increase."

          The reason our clients are with us is that they have abused the privileges and possessions God has given them in their life. They abused the people in their lives spiritually, emotionally and physically. They squandered their incomes on themselves and the possessions they desired more than people. They have rejected the responsibilities God gave them in marriage, in child rearing and in their employment. The "little" things in their lives were no big deal to them. In time they ignored, wasted and squandered what God had provided them. Today they have none of the hope and potential their lives once held.

          The good news for many of our clients is that they have "heard" our message. In Christ Jesus they can find forgiveness for their past. In Christ Jesus, today, they will find the trust and hope that builds within them the faith to accept full responsibility for their God given lives. Through Him they can manage the "little" things in life and move forward receiving more as God determines. In this way they are rebuilding their lives and creating a future of thankfulness for what God wants for them. In time, we pray, they will hear Christ say to them, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!"

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian 'conception' of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins.

Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything they say, and so everything can remain as it was before. 'All for sin could not atone.' Well, then, let the Christian live like the rest of the world, let him model himself on the world’s standards in every sphere of life, and not presumptuously aspire to live a different life under grace from his old life under sin....Let the Christian beware of rebelling against the free and boundless grace of God and desecrating it. Let him not attempt to erect a new religion of the letter by endeavoring to live a life of obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ! The world has been justified by grace. The Christian knows... he must not strive against this indispensable grace. Therefore- let him live like the rest of the world! Of course he would like to go and do  something extraordinary, and it does demand a good deal of self- restraint to refrain from the attempt and content himself with living as the world lives... He must let grace be grace indeed, otherwise he will destroy the world's faith in the free gift of grace... Let him be comforted and rest assured in his possession of this grace- for grace alone does everything. Instead of following Christ, let the Christian enjoy the consolations of his grace... Cheap grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, page 46

Monday, May 25, 2015


          There are a lot of Christians who just get out of the habit of praying regularly as they grow up. They're not against prayer. It's just not something they do on their own, unless there's a crisis or perhaps a really glorious sunset, or a piece of music that moves them to address their comments to God. Often what has happened is that they outgrew the prayers they used to say as children, but never found an adult replacement for those devotions.

          That's a pity, because daily prayer serves several important functions in the life of a Christian. Most obviously, it is a way of our staying in touch with God. God is always with us. For prayer to have meaning in our lives, we need to recognize God's presence, praise Him and bring our concerns to the One who most cares for us. Prayer does that. Daily prayer is also a sign that we are serious in our commitment to our faith. This isn't to say that Christians who don't engage in daily prayer don't believe in God, or that they don't love God. But our practice of prayer is one way that other people, whether followers of other faiths, or people of no faith at all, can recognize that we do something with our Christian faith. Regular prayer is a part of living out our response to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

         People who would like to regain their enriching element of the Christian life need to give it a bit of thought and planning, and then just jump in and do it. That's not too demanding as summer projects go. It doesn't take nearly as much planning as building a deck. And when you move, you can take it with you. Good deal.

          The first step is to set aside time. The time can be like "between my shower and breakfast," if your shower and breakfast are regular items in your routine. Next is frequency and I'd suggest twice a day, morning and evening. Turning to the Lord at these times has a spiritual healthiness to it. It gives balance to the other rhythms of our daily life. How you pray is a matter of personal preference. Most folks who have drifted away from daily prayer and are trying tot get back and want something simple, more personal and brief. Find a quiet place, step back from worldly concerns and recall that you are addressing yourself to the Lord. Morning prayer is good for prayers of praise, thanks and dedication. You have passed through the night and are beginning a new day. Ask God's blessing, guidance and protection through the day ahead. Evening is a traditional time for self-examination and confession, since we hope we're through with most of our sinning fro the day. And we thank God for particular favors during the day just past.

          Of course, you don't have to stick with those little baby-step bits of time for your morning and evening prayer. As you settle into the habit of daily prayer, you'll probably find that the time available for you conversations with the Lord becomes more ample. Maybe you'll decide to use the extra time to see what God has to say to you. Or maybe you'll find you're the chatty type, who simply has more to say than you did at the beginning. In any case, don't be afraid to grow in your adventure of daily prayer.

Excerpted from: The Abbey Letter, Summer 2009, No. 238 by Fr. William

Sunday, May 24, 2015


Romans 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

          There is a moral law in life that says that men and women are left to the consequences of their own freely chosen course of action, and unless this tendency is reversed by divine grace, their situation will go from bad to worse. The cause of mankind's moral bankruptcy arises from wrong ideas about God. Wrong ideas about God did not arise innocently. The knowledge of the true God was accessible, but men and women closed their minds to it. Contemplating God's work in creation, man can grasp enough of His nature to prevent him from the error of identifying any of the created things with the Creator, enabling him to keep his conception of God free from idolatry. Men refuse to believe or acknowledge Him. Deliberate ignorance is mankind's choice. It is a choice to not believe.

          Therefore God gave them up to the consequences of their choice. God's wrath is the principle of retribution, which must operate in a moral universe. To a man so convinced as Paul was that the world was created and controlled by a personal God of righteousness and mercy, this retribution could not be an impersonal principle; it was God's own wrath. He gave them what they wanted. C.S. Lewis wrote that the lost, "enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved." In death they are free to themselves and apart from God, this is torment, to be separated from the love of God.

          The truth is that sinful man cannot solve the problem he finds himself in. Although he desperately needs a solution to it: it is his problem; it is he who needs to be forgiven. And what Paul tells us here is that the problem has been worthily solved by the grace of God. He has presented Christ as the solution, the means of forgiveness, the guarantor of our acceptance by God. All that is required is that we should embrace by faith what God's grace has provided. By the principle of faith the law is upheld, sin is condemned, righteousness is vindicated and the Old Testament scriptures are fulfilled.

Sounds like Good News to me...

Romans, A Commentary by F.F. Bruce, pgs. 70-86

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Luke 15:20 While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him.

          Jesus' parable of the lost son in Luke chapter 15 can be read in a larger context than the redemption of the individual. In this parable Jesus has retold the story of the whole human race, and promised nothing less than hope for the world. In the parable, the younger brother goes off into a distant country expecting a better life but is disappointed. He begins to long for home, remembering the food in his father's house. So do we all.

          "Home" exercises a powerful influence over human life. Many people have fond memories of times, people and places we called home. However, if we ever have an opportunity to get back to those places, we are usually disappointed. Home is a powerful and elusive concept.

          "Home," Robert Frost famously said, "is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." The younger brother, however, knows that a successful return is not inevitable. Why? His sins have created a barrier and he does not know how that wall can be breached. He knows he might be rejected and stay in exile.

          Jesus had not come to simply deliver one nation from political oppression, but to save all of us from sin, evil and death itself. He came to bring the human race "Home." He came and experienced the exile that we deserved. Unlike the founder of any other major faith, Jesus holds out hope for ordinary human life. There will be a homecoming. Our future is not an ethereal, impersonal form of consciousness. We will not float through the air, but rather will eat, embrace, sing, laugh and dance in the kingdom of God, in degrees of power, glory and joy that we can't at present imagine.

          Jesus will make the world our perfect home again. We will no longer be living "east of Eden," always wandering and never arriving. We will come, and the Father will meet us and embrace us, and we will be brought into the feast.

The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, pgs. 90-104

Friday, May 22, 2015


"If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector." - Matthew 18:15-17

          Conflict is natural to everyday life at home, work or play. It is a human condition because we are people of different tastes, abilities, passions and minds. If we ignore this reality then we become vulnerable to frequent moments of conflict. Ignoring or unresolved conflict compounds the effects of earlier problems and makes future conflict more severe. Ignoring conflict reveals our thoughtlessness towards others and toward ourselves.

          You may feel inadequate about how to go about resolving problems that come up but we are not without help. People experienced in the Christian approach to conflict can assist you. The Bible is the best resource to resolve problems and conflicts between people. It takes work, but it is work that will reap dividends.

          First thing to do is to accept the conflict. Do not deny it, hide it or ignore it. Conflict is a truly necessary ingredient in any human relationship. People will be people and conflict will sometimes arise. If we knew more about one another and what lies beneath the surface of one another, less conflict would arise. But because we all struggle with pride and other sins, accept that conflict can happen even among the best of friends.

          Next we should keep in mind that each of us brings a sack full of "stuff" into our relationships. Habits cause us to respond to conflict in unhelpful ways. Fears, insecurities, hurts and humiliations are the "stuff" we carry and will influence our response to the problem and others. Look for the remnants of your past that are confusing their view.

          Thirdly, conflict should never be about winning or losing. As Christians it should be about improving everyone involved. What is a better way to understand the problem? What personal insight can we gain together? Can we both achieve our goals with a different approach? See the other person as having an equally important desire for a good outcome as do you. Remember, both sides have a kernel of truth in their views of things.

          Next, disagreements should never digress. That is to say that you must stay focused on the issue and allow other matters to cloud the central point of disagreement. It is easy to attack the person or their behaviors that have no bearing on the matter at the center of the conflict. When you find yourself sliding away from the issue, stop and refocus. Stay as focused as you can to limit the spread of a greater conflict.

          Finally, conflict needs to reach an end that includes both parties voicing their "sorrys" and a mutually agreed solution. Compromise and bending may be required. But that is the life of the Christian, seeking the best for others and living as servants to all.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

          This is a wonderful promise that God gives to His people. Forgiveness and healing is at the core of His words. They reflect His loving nature and His desire to be in relationship with us, His creatures. This promise extends to nations and individuals alike. We must also note that the promise here is conditional. When we meet the conditions set forth by God, then He will honor His promise to us and to the nations.

          We have for a long time sought solutions to our problems, both individual and corporate, within the created world around us. Nationally we have relied upon politicians, pollsters and pundits to guard our decisions and practices as a nation. Parents have looked to educators, principals, psychologists and unions for guidance in how best to educate our children. When our economy has been less than productive and growing, we have turned to lawmakers, businessmen, stockbrokers, insurance agents and others to guide us in finding financial security. Most all of those people mentioned above are not even Christian in their beliefs or, worse yet, believe there is no God at all.

          God's people are those who worship Him according to the Bible and in spirit and in truth. They are people who walk by faith and think by faith. The promise God made to the Israelites of old remains in force for Christians today. Since the promise has not expired we may trust that if we apply this passage to our lives both individually and as a nation, we can be sure that God will hear and that He will respond. This is the only way the waywardness we see in our lives and in our nation can be stopped. It is the only way we might return to a nation of Christian values if God Himself will relent and restore us.

          For years we have believed the lie of Satan that we would be like God. Look at us now. Morality is relevant to everyone's choices. Addiction to everything under the sun has left our people enslaved to their passions. Wealth is the motivating factor in our decisions on how to raise our children, where to go to college and what job we will agree to take. The world revolves around us and we are leading the way forward into deeper and deeper sin. We are not subject to God nor to anyone else. These words do not describe humility but the human condition of selfishness and pride. To humble ourselves before God is to look to him and acknowledge that we are mere creatures sustained every moment of our lives by Him. Humility is acknowledging our sin nature and our addiction to self and the offense this creates for relationship to God. God opposes the proud, the ones filled with their own agendas and the pride of this world. Unless we confess this sin, admit that Christ Jesus is the answer to our life situation and ask God to forgive us, we are doomed to more and greater of the same conditions we see today in the world.

          Prayer is the answer as we confess our need for Him and the free gift in Christ that the Father has offered to us. Prayer is the means God has ordained for us to speak to and hear from our Creator. Prayer prepares us for God's answer and positions us to receive His response. Prayer has been our first option when trouble comes. Today, it is our last resort.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


          Once upon a time there was a powerful king who owned all the land in the world. In the beginning, the king had given his servants everything they needed to tend the land so that it would bear fruit. But the servants failed to produce as much as they should have, so that even from the beginning, all of them were in debt to the king. These debts could not possibly have been paid even if all of the servants put their hearts and souls into farming the land. The servants became discouraged and farmed less and less while their debts grew and grew. The king was dismayed over this growing debt and the growing failure of all his servants to give him the produce and the honor that was his due. Since it was clear that the servants would never be able to pay what they owed the king, the king decided that the only way to restore justice was to do away with all his servants. When the king told his son what he had resolved to do, the king's son, who loved the servants, suggested that since he owed no debt, he could give his life for all of the servants and the debt would be paid. The king didn't want to lose his son, but he didn't want to lose all of his servants either, so finally he agreed to his son's suggestion and ordered his servants to put his son to death. Thus the debt was paid and all the servants lived happily ever after.

          Does this story disturb you? It disturbs me because it paints a troubling portrait of God. The king cannot or will not forgive the debt and will only be satisfied if somebody pays the debt, even his son.

          The story of Jesus Christ, God's Son, found in the Bible provides the true story of Resurrection Life. Jesus said that He came to give life and to give it abundantly. This means that He did not come to die; He came to give life, and that His death could not stop Him from doing that  God did not kill Jesus, humans did. God, in fact, raised Him back to life from death so that His giving of life would continue.

          The story of Jesus' resurrection has not come to an end. The story spills out of the Bible into our lives with its challenge to let God gather us into the abundant life of the living Christ. Through faith in Christ's resurrection and continuing power to impart life, people all over the world, of any socio-economic status can receive a debt free life. You might think that God is being soft by making this offer even to the worst of people, murderers, drug addicts and the like. But God's unimaginable offer of renewed life directly challenges us because it exposes the element of death in many of the things we do and think. We find out quickly that we will have to die to all of that before we can receive the joy filled life of Christ.

          I pray we decide to accept this offer of life as it flows out of the pages of the Bible and into our lives, leaving it to us to decide if we will accept the invitation to receive the free gift of Christ, a Resurrection Life.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

          They have done this all before. They did not want to be in another drug rehab program. But the only logical place for someone with an emotional or physically dependent need was a rehab program. So they went.

          In rehab people are reminded of their condition daily. They sit in group meetings and discuss their past; who they used with, why they used, what they felt like, how they feel now...the meaningless questions continued. What conclusions do these clients draw from such meetings? It becomes apparent that they see themselves more clearly as addicts, failures or people chained to problems that follow them everywhere.

          Next, in meetings with counselors they review the same answers to the same questions. Some clients convince themselves that their old identity and behavior can never be changed. As their program end date nears they are pushed to give up their old habits and ways. New decisions and new lives await them after their time in rehab  Pushing the client for change leaves the addict without a a decision of his own. Again he learns to do what others tell him to do, those who push him to quit. The addict has made no changes or choices since entering the rehab. His life has not been significantly altered by his learned, actions or choices.

          The needy person and the addict do not understand their basic needs. How can he quit his addiction or raise himself from such desperate circumstances when the cause of his problems remain unclear and reinforced by his environment? A new approach is needed to address his problems. His problem is not merely bad choices - the addict makes choices well - he chooses to use. The problem is not accessibility or isolation - he can get others to bring him what he wants. The problem lies deeper, within the heart of the addict.

          The problem is his thinking that the material world can overcome the problems within. Drugs, sex, alcohol will never fill spiritual voids. He chooses to use in order that a spiritual need is met. People do not recognize, know, believe or understand the truly spiritual component to their lives. The cracks in our human armor are permanent until fixed by God alone. We cannot fill the cracks with more of the same destructive actions.

          The client's need is for the spiritual filling only God can provide. The cracks in his human framework must be cemented over with the love and forgiveness of God. God alone will not fade. God will not begin the filling process and then suddenly stop. He will not cloud our minds or judgment in order to confuse or trick us. He does not distract us so that we do not fulfill our responsibilities and commitments to family or friends. God effectively empowers people for lives of service to others once their own lives are recreated. God is permanent, strong, effective and compatible with our body, mind and spirit.

          Drugs, materialism wealth or physical attractions are not permanent, they lack lasting strength. They do not fill the void that lies deep within every individual's being. Love in action at the Rescue Mission is providing the only effective tool in recreating lives and bringing permanent recovery to our people.

Monday, May 18, 2015


          What role has low self-esteem and self-rejection played in your relationship to others and to God? This question forms the thesis of Brennan Manning's book titled "Abba's Child." In this book Manning explains faith as the courage to accept acceptance. It is the courage to come our of hiding, to share with raw honesty where you are and trust God in Christ Jesus accepts you in your brokenness.

          Pascal wrote, "God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment."

          If we feel hateful towards ourselves, we assume that God feels hateful toward us. But we cannot assume that He feels about us the way we feel about ourselves. After all, He is God. It takes a conversion of enormous proportions to accept that God is unrelenting in His love, tenderness and compassion towards us just as we are. God weeps over us when shame and self-hatred immobilize us.

          The sorrow of God lies in our fear of Him, our fear of life and our fear of self. He anguishes over our self-absorption and self-sufficiency. Our skepticism and timidity keep us from belief and acceptance, however, we don't hate God, but we hate ourselves. Yet the spiritual life begins with the acceptance of our wounded self.

          "Like runaway slaves, we either flee our own reality or manufacture a false self which is mostly admirable, mildly prepossessing, and superficially happy. We hide what we know or feel ourselves to be (assuming such thoughts and feelings are unacceptable and unlovable) behind some kind of appearance which we hope will be more pleasing."

          Many people are defeated by the most psychological weapon that Satan uses against them. This weapon has the effectiveness of a deadly missile. The weapon is low self-esteem. It is a gut level feeling of inferiority, inadequacy and low self-worth. It shackles people in spite of a wonderful walk with Christ and experiences and knowledge that speak to them the truth which should be accepted but isn't.

          "The greatest trap is not success, popularity or power but self-rejection. They are seductive but are the after effects of a self-rejection that is larger and greater. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity and power are easily perceived as attractive alternatives to the problem of self-hatred. As soon as I am rejected, left alone or abandoned, I find myself thinking, 'Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody. I am no good and deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the true and sacred voice of God calling to us in love" (Henri Nouwen).

          Whether in a small group or alone in your reading chair, you will find Manning's book a refreshing approach to self-discovery, and hopefully, a discovery of God's love for you.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

Why do we never seem to measure up? Even Christians suffer from many of the same feelings and practices that torture unbelievers. Guilt, shame, anxiety, unworthiness, tiredness and spiritual malaise seem to be the symptoms of many followers of Christ. Jesus responds to this problem by calling us to himself.

We are tired from the relationships that we have been in over the years that had conditions attached to them. Relationships are not to be conditional in some situations. A parents love for their children is to be unconditional. A wife’s love for the husband, and visa versa, is to be like Christ’s love for the Church, unconditional. Other relationships are conditional, like work. You perform the task you are hired for and you will be paid.

Unhealthy relationships attach expectations that should not exist or that are inappropriate for the relationship. These expectations are “carrots” or conditions that earn you things that in a normal, healthy relationship you are given freely. Unhealthy relationships teach you to see all relationships as conditional. As a result, life becomes a contest where you perform to a specified level in order to receive someone’s affection, love or interest.  

The result of these unhealthy relationships is that you are left with “a sense of shame that you as a person are unacceptable...  draining away emotional and spiritual strength as you try constantly to measure up to standards that are higher than you can reach…. [and that] have become so deeply ingrained that you are not even aware of them, let alone conscious of how to get free from their tyranny.”    (Tired of Trying to Measure Up, pg.12)

Unhealthy relationships can be overcome. Work to understand the untruthful messages you operate with, see the behavior they cause you to perform and learn to apply God’s Word to these challenges. Jesus loves us for free. He promises to set us free. The tiredness can go away, for free!

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Romans 12:6-8 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. 

Every Christian who follows the Savior is called to minister according to his or her gifts. The ministries available to every Christian include prayer, mercy, music, administration, teaching, counseling, preaching and giving.

Those called to ministry must have hearts that are overwhelmed by the vision of God’s glory and must be dedicated to extol His worthiness, not their own. It is God’s ministry that he invites us to participate in.  

The prophet Isaiah’s call, Isaiah 6:1-13, helps us to see the essential elements of a true calling from God. The called will have experienced the conviction, confession, cleansing, consecration and commission of the Holy Spirit. Let’s see how.

Seeing the glory of God brings to us conviction of sin. In comparison to Him, we see the utter despair and need within us. In response to his own sin, Isaiah confessed his own inadequacy and sinfulness. The called see the Lord with eyes of faith in His Word. The vision of God moves from the head to the heart. He understands in mind and heart that the work set before him/her can only be accomplished by God working through them.

Isaiah’s lips were cleansed. The Spirit cleans the soul of the stain sin creates. Conscious of his unclean nature Isaiah is cleansed by God. Without confession and cleansing the work of ministry is just work. Being cleansed, Isaiah was now ready for consecration. This entails his acceptance of the Lord’s call to serve. God never forces us but he does prepare us for ministry. Finally there is the commission. As ambassadors for Christ we have the ministry of reconciliation for which our gifts have been given us. 

Friday, May 15, 2015


Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Many people fall into the trap of believing that God speaks to them through subjective means. That is, that God speaks to us through our emotions, impressions, signs, feeling of peace or our sense of unease. The danger is that many people elevate this above God’s primary means of communication found in the Bible. When these feelings become our authority for making decisions we have turned away from the objective truths of Scripture.

Scripture does not teach us to “tune in to our inner voice”. In fact, Scripture commands us to study and meditate on God’s Word. It tells us to cultivate wisdom and discernment (Prov. 4:5-8). We are told to walk wisely and make the most of our time (Eph. 5:15-16). God orders us to be obedient to His commands (Deut. 28:1-2; John 15:14).

Never are we told to listen to our inner promptings or trust our feelings. God actually warns us that our hearts are so deceitful and wicked that we cannot understand them (Jer. 17:9). We should be very careful not to make our decisions based on our feelings, impressions or inner voices.

Feelings and emotions are not good indicators of a right or wrong decision. You could be at peace with a decision that was in conflict with God’s Word. Jonah of Old Testament fame is a great example. God told him to go to Nineveh but Jonah got on a boat and sailed away. Remember that while on the boat a great storm arose while Jonah was sound asleep in the boat. The storm terrified the other sailors. Jonah had perfect peace about his decision but was completely out of God’s will.

Take care to not give too much authority to your feelings in your decision making or other areas of life. Rather, you should hold to God’s Word as the objective and final authority for your decisions. With Scripture you will not be tossed around by the storms of life. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Psalm 1:1-2 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
A daily routine for time with God is something we all should seek. Some people have a time that varies from day to day and even from week to week. Prayer is practiced daily but not necessarily at the same time. The amount of time in prayer is more or less, depending on the occasion or activities. Many people are not that disciplined to have a set time each day that can be effective and uninterrupted.

Some people spend a lot of time in the Scripture each week in study. Classes or personal study could occupy several hours each day or week. These times are not “devotional” time but they are time with God. Time learning about him, feeling awed by his glory and wondering about his influence on our life. Some people would not distinguish between devotion time in Scripture from studying Scripture. A serious student is equally focused on God as is the devotional person.

People suffer a lot of guilt because of the expectations of other Christians who make the amount of time in devotions a measure of someone’s spirituality. If you are not scheduling time with God you don’t measure up. If you are not in your closet with the door closed you couldn't be serious about prayer. We should be careful to not impose our practice or pattern for personal devotions and study on others.

The more we can spend in prayer and Bible study the more we will find it a meaningful and rewarding practice. In fact, God will enter into that time with us, refreshing our will and lighting a greater fire in us to know Him more intimately than we had before. 

Monday, May 11, 2015


Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Mike came into our program with severe depression problems for which he was on medication. Six months into his program he gave up his medications believing he did not need them anymore. He graduated five months later and became an assistant manager in our Thrift Store. After a year he was doing well without his medication and had excelled in his job to become Store Manager. Then I got a phone call from Mike’s co-worker saying that Mike was not doing well, seemed depressed and was thinking of quitting his job.

I called Mike in to talk. He explained to me how he was now feeling and that he didn’t think he wanted to keep working with us. Finally I asked him if he was still going to church. He said sometimes. I asked if he prayed or read his Bible. He said a couple of days a week. I inquired of his friends and fellowship at church, had he anyone to talk to. Mike said he did not have the time for others because he was tired after work. The problem with Mike was clear.

Our top priority is to seek God in our daily life. The means of grace, the tools that God gives us to stay in contact with him are four-fold. First, we are to read the Bible. It is God’s word to us. The pages of Scripture speak to our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. It educates us and guides us in our daily choices and activities. Second to this is prayer. Daily, if not hourly, we are to remain in contact with our Dad, God the Father.  He wants to hear from us as if we were calling home on a Sunday afternoon. He listens, he responds.

Worship is the third spoke in the wheel of life. Giving him praise and glory helps us keep our proper perspective as His sons and daughters in loving relationship daily. Finally, we need to maintain Christian fellowship. The people who are on the same narrow road as us contribute meaning, comfort, wisdom and fulfillment to our life journey home. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015


Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. He has made everything beautiful in its time.

            Thinking is an important part of decision making. Some people, even Christians, depend on their feelings when they choose a career, a spouse or a new car. The sad thing today is that the whole idea of “thinking” is being questioned. The problem for some is that to think is showing a lack of faith. These people believe that they are to entrust the whole process of decision making to God. They sit back and wait for Him to shape the circumstances of life in a way that brings that new car or new boss to their front door.

            The most important thing we can do when we are seeking God’s will for our decision is to think. The Bible teaches us to get sound counsel from others, take a sober look at ourselves and our talents and recognize the foolish and sinful things around us. God has provided each of us with a mind to think, the gift of specific abilities and the presence of family and friends. Recognizing that God has equipped us in this way we should use what He has made available in us to make our decisions.

            We must begin by thinking deeply, truthfully and accurately. Help is available for us from the wise counsel of friends, the Bible, pastors, teachers, counselors, etc. People we know in these various circles each know us in different ways. They have seen us act, speak and contemplate life in different ways. Teachers will tell you things about yourself that are different than you parents or spouse. Our gifts, abilities and talents are discerned not just by us but by those who see us from the outside.

            God is the best judge of our character and abilities. In fact He knows your desires and motivations for using the gifts he has given you. Prayer and Bible study are critical to the thinking and discerning process of decision making. One lie of Satan is that we are to be unhappy with our work. In fact Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden to work. It was God’s plan for them. Work is a source of nourishment for the one who seeks God and his glory in their life. God has called you to be fulfilled in your life and in your work. Think about how God has equipped you and where you can find fulfillment in your choices and your work.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Mark 14:7 For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. 

A simple word study of “poor” in the Scriptures will bring us a large number of uses. If you study them you will find four groupings in God’s Word. Our responsibility to each will be determined by God’s response to each group.

The first group consists of people who are lazy, irresponsible. They refuse to work or look to others to provide for them rather than work for themselves. God’s response to this group of people is one of harshness, judgment and rebuke. These people need to repent of their sinful choice to be irresponsible. Our response is to be one of admonition or warning. The Apostle Paul took a strong approach to them saying: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  

People tend to get in their minds that people are poor because they are lazy. This oversimplifies the problem and leaves those who say this “off the hook” for their own responsibility to the poor. Yet, people are poor because of calamity, disease, accidents or other uncontrollable life circumstances. As Christians, it is our responsibility to respond to this category of the poor. Our compassion is to motivate us to give assistance to those who suffer through no fault of their own.

Another group is comprised of those who are exploited or tyrannized by those in power. The victims of corrupt governments and the effects of warring nations fall into this group. Justice is due these people and God pours out his indignation upon such leaders and powers in the world that use their own subjects for their personal gain. For this group of the poor we should be advocates and defenders as Job said he was: “I searched out the cause of him whom I did not know. I broke the fangs of the unrighteous.” (Job 29:16, 17)

The final group of the poor we find in Scripture are those who voluntarily choose to be poor. They are poor for “righteousness sake”, willingly sacrificing their worldly possessions in order to give to those less fortunate due to natural disaster or injustice. It is this group that we should support as well.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Tower Syndrome

Genesis 11:4               Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth.

Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that there was nothing in it. The publisher said of somebody, “That man will get by; he believes in himself.”

I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in themselves? I know of men who believe in themselves more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know what flames the fixed star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the Supermen. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums. “Yes, there are,” I retorted, “and you of all men ought to know them. That drunken poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in himself. That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in a back room, he believed in himself. If you consulted your business experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a scoundrel. Actors who can’t act believe in themselves and debtors who won’t pay.”

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Romans 8:30  Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 

            Justifying faith provides us forgiveness of our sins, acceptance by the Father and brings spiritual growth and healing in the life of the believer.

            Justification is similar to the case of a sick man who believes the doctor who promises him a sure recovery and in the meantime obeys the doctor’s order in the hope of the promised recovery (from his sinful tendencies). He abstains from those things which have been forbidden him by the doctor, so that he may in no way hinder the promised return to health or increase his sickness until the doctor can fulfill his promise to him.

Now, is this sick man well? The fact is that he is both sick and well. He is sick in fact but he is well (regarded as righteous) because of the sure promise of the doctor, whom he trusts and who has reckoned him as already cured, because he is sure that he will cure him.

In the same way Christ, our Samaritan, has brought his half-dead man into the inn to be cared for, and He has begun to heal him, having promised him the most complete cure unto eternal life, and He does not impute his sins, that is, his wicked desires, unto death, but in the meantime in the hope of the promised recovery He prohibits him from doing or omitting things by which his cure might be impeded.

Now is he perfectly righteous? No, for he is at the same time both a sinner and a righteous man; a sinner in fact, but a righteous man by the sure imputation and promise of God that He will continue to deliver him from sin until he has completely cured him. And he is entirely healthy in hope, but in fact still a sinner.

But now if this sick man should like his sickness and refuses every cure for his disease, will he not die? Certainly, for thus it is with those who follow their lusts in this world.   (Luther’s Works)

            It is faith in the doctor’s promise of a full cure which motivates the patient to obey the health regimen. The obedience of faith brings us forgiveness and healing. Such is the nature of saving faith in our Lord Jesus. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Proverbs 23:28-30 She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. 

            It is not often that we think about formerly homeless clients as people suffering from grief. When they enter our shelter programs most of our focus is on their having been living in the woods and not being well provided for. Personal hygiene, regular meals, safe sleeping arrangements and other material things are the first. Next we begin to focus on behavioral issues and addiction symptoms. Most often, the question of grief and its symptoms are never addressed.

This is problematic because many clients are leaving a lifestyle and group of people for the last time. They have given up their first love defined in many ways as: alcohol, drugs, promiscuity, independence, self-centeredness, solitude, a marriage, lost job, all their material possessions, and the list can go on. If we ignore the grief issues, then we fail to truly meet them where they are. The result is talking and assuming things about the client that are not true or of immediate concern.

From this list we can see that much has been lost in the days, weeks, months or years prior to their arrival. Grief is a real and major component in them at this time. Emotions will be running much of their behavior, thinking and speaking. Being a good communicator, listening well and displaying patience, mercy and grace will go far in helping the client make the transition into the safe place of shelter life.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


James 4:5-7 The Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Desires are deceptive because they seem to be so right and so normal. But when natural affections become warped and monstrous, they will blind us to the truth.

Who would not want good health, financial comfort, a loving spouse, close friends, good kids, success on the job, good tasting food, a life without accidents, or control over life’s circumstances? I would want all of these, wouldn’t you? But the danger is having an improper level of desire and craving for them. Things people desire are a delight and a blessing when received from God’s hand.

But without God, they become a curse. When the level of desire gets too high, they become a terrible, evil master in our lives. They make good goods, but bad gods. They blind us, making us think they are the source of contentment but deliver greater anxiety, lust, sin and death.

While some sins are done by choice, with full awareness, other sins reflect the individual’s blindness. Because of the sinful nature, sin reflects the dark, habitual, compulsive, hardened, ignorant, confused, instinctive insanity of sin. The light of Scripture is the only source able to penetrate such blindness. 

Souls are awakened when the light of God’s Word disturbs our ignorance and self-deceit. Then, souls are comforted and cured by the love that shed substitutionary blood to purchase the inexpressible gift.

Friday, May 1, 2015


James 3:13-15  Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 

          What is it that makes desires wrong? This question is unsettling to people whose object of desire is a good thing. Sometimes our desires are themselves evil; like wanting to steal, or kill someone. But even a good desire can become evil. This occurs when we become obsessed with achieving or gaining the good. We replace God’s will with our own in order to receive the good.

          The evil we find in our desires often lies not in what we want but in the fact that we want it too much. Our natural desires for good things are meant to exist in subordination to our desire to please God, the Giver of gifts. Evil exists in the ruling status of the desire, not in the object.

          This fact is an important one to grasp for our own self-understanding. Our need for Christ and his mercies become evident. Only when we look to him to receive the good, can we find change occurring in us. We need to learn to wait for Him to bring about the good.

          Jesus was no idolater. His desires were strong, but mastered by his love for the Father.

           “If natural affections remain submitted to God, such faith will produce visible love. For example, if you wish your child to grow up to be a Christian, and your child strays, it may break your heart, but it will not make you sin against either God or your child. Anger, obsessive anxiety, suspiciousness, or manipulation gives evidence that desire for a good thing has grown monstrous. Wise parenting demonstrates that the desire, a passionate and broken-hearted love, is aligned rightly.”   (pgs. 5-6, The Sufficiency of Scripture to Diagnose and Cure Souls)

Ministry Scenes

Have The Homeless Become Invisible?