“O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Be merciful to me, LORD, for I am faint; O LORD, heal me, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. No one remembers you when he is dead. Who praises you from the grave? I am worn out from groaning; all night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the LORD has heard my weeping. The LORD has heard my cry for mercy; the LORD accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be ashamed and dismayed; they will turn back in sudden disgrace.” Psalm 6
Read Psalm 6 again, slowly. Look at the words, think about them: rebuke, anger, wrath, faint, agony, anguish, dead, worn out, weeping, tears, weak, foes. These are words, thoughts and feelings that have applied to all of us. They still apply to all of us today. They will continue to apply to us tomorrow and forever until the Lord returns or we Cross the River of Life and pass to the ultimate safety and security of Heaven, the Kingdom of God (which we will be experiencing on an increasing basis if we are practicing the Twelve Steps). This Psalm speaks to the powerlessness we experience on a daily basis. We think we are in control of everything, then something goes wrong and we realize that our sense of control is sometimes an illusion, more illusionary and with more frequently than we know. People, places and things get in the way of our plans for the day and we discover just how unmanageable our lives can be. That’s a good look at the First of the Twelve Steps in Psalm 6. But this Psalm also points us toward the Hope in the Lord that we have at ready access. The Psalmist was down and depressed, but he was not without hope, and neither are we.
They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. 2 Peter 2:19 (New International Version)
“They are…Slaves of depravity:” immorality, corruption, wickedness, evil, decadence. We all know what slavery is all about. It is the natural result of the powerlessness (without God’s help) that Paul described in Romans 7:18ff. No matter what phrases or words we use to describe slavery, the helplessness and powerlessness we live with is overwhelming. There is a sense of never ending dread and dismay that we will never escape the grips of its power. But upon reading the whole context of 2nd Peter, we discover that the “they” in the text are false teachers and false prophets. We have been led astray by the very ones that claim they can lead us into freedom from bondage. But, isn’t that our own fault for not looking into “the perfect law of liberty” ourselves? Isn’t that our own fault for not double checking, on our own time and through our efforts, the messages we are listening to? Again, faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. We are ultimately responsible for searching out The Truth and living by the teachings of The Truth. And also, The Truth says, “you shall know them by their fruits.” We need to play close attention to our teachers and prophets to make sure they are experiencing freedom from bondage and slavery themselves, otherwise we become the “blind being led by the blind.”
But then again, Scripture and Twelve Step philosophy teach us that recognition and admission of our own powerlessness and unmanageability become the foundation for our eventual liberation from the very slavery our former teachers are still in bondage to. Spend some time reading the context of 2nd Peter 2 and see if this is not the case. Don’t take my word for it; take His Word for it. You may even have a different opinion that me, and I can live with that.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. Ephesians 2:1,2
This verse penned by the Apostle Paul is written in the past tense. The First Step is also written in the past tense. As a matter of fact, all twelve steps are written in the past tense. O.K., so what? What’s the big deal with that? The big deal is that it shows a path to freedom that others have followed. We were dead in our hearts and our minds, our spirits were dead when we woke up every morning and continued on the same destructive path we had been following for so many years. When our first response to a life challenge was to reach for and addictive agent, then we were dead. We were trapped in a useless way of life handed down to us by our forefathers. We did indeed “follow the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the power of the air.” There’s an interesting phrase, ‘power of the air.” Light and sound travel through the air. What do we look at? What do we see? What do we listen to? What do we hear? Scripture says faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. Our death and powerlessness was kept alive by what we fed it. When we quit feasting on the ‘stuff of this world,’ we began to see the light and the light lit up the path of freedom even more brightly so we could see and hear to follow the way out of our destructive life styles. Oh, thank you Jesus for giving us eyes to see, ears to hear, minds to understand and a heart to follow hard after God. Thank you Lord, for showing us how to put addiction behind us and to move on to the freedom we have in Christ, Thank you, thank you, thank you!
In Service to God and Country,
And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. Romans 7:18,19 (NLT)
This is the ‘Flagship’ verse of the First Step: we admitted we were powerless over our dependencies and that our lives had become unmanageable. Can you relate? There seems to be some kind of engine or motor dwelling inside us that drives us in just the manner that the Apostle Paul describes. It seems to be in our very nature to do things that are contrary to our own best interest and the interests of those we interact with in our daily lives. And conversely, there seems to be a ‘laziness machine’ that drives us to withhold the good we know we should do. “I know I should do…but I don’t want to…I should do…but not right now, maybe later.” As a result of all this doing and not doing, our lives and the lives of those we care about experience some level of unmanageability. We are poor life managers. We make a mess of our lives and the lives of those around us, or at least we contribute to the mess somehow or another. Paul goes on to write in verse 20 “But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.” Paul agrees with us that there is some kind of something inside us that drives us to do wrong and withhold doing the good. He calls it the ‘sin machine.’ But Paul also goes on to explain the tune up methods that begin to reverse the effects of sin in our lives. More on that later.
In Service to God and Country,
While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?” Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue ruler, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” ). Mark 5:35-41 (NIV)
WOW!!! There’s a few lines packed with stuff!!! “Don’t be afraid; just believe…Why all this commotion and wailing? The child in not bead but asleep…Talitha koum!” For us, believing Christ is a challenge; for Him, raising the dead is a matter of words simply spoken. WOW!! What a contrast!!
I don’t know about you, but believing and trusting Christ is still a daily struggle for me. I get out of bed every morning and take a handful of pills just to keep the ticker going. I ride my bike, swim and walk the dog just to keep the cardio vascular health in as good a shape as possible. Yet I know, this side of Heaven, it is a loosing battle. Someday my family and friends will be saying their farewells to my body as I will have have finally given up riding, swimming and biking, at least on this side of Heaven. I’m just lying there, dead as a door nail. Or am I? Jesus will whisper my name and I will respond just like the little girl. As a matter of fact, those of us who have professed Christ as Lord and Savior have that Life living in us even as we read these words. We have been given a “lively hope” as the Apostle Paul calls it. No indeed, this life is never over. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”
In Service to God and Country,
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matt 9:36
“…they were harassed and helpless…” We have all been there; many of us are there today. Really, it only takes a cursory look at today’s headlines and we know the whole world is harassed and helpless. Even those of us who have Christ struggle with a certain level of helplessness and powerlessness. How many times during the course of the day do we get frustrated (a mild form of anger) because our plans are ‘not unfolding as they should?’ Many of us suffer from what Serenity Seekers’ refer to as the ‘broken brain syndrome.’ Our brains don’t seem to function as normal person’s do and thus we find ourselves more easily frustrated than others. That frustration spills into the lives of the people around us and the harassment and helplessness spreads.
The Good News of Matthew 9:36 informs us the Jesus knows all about that and cares about our situation as the Good Shepherd He surely is. We simply need to be faithful sheep and stay in the safety of the sheep pen with the rest of the faithful sheep. When we look around at the other sheep and see them living in safety and serenity, it helps to ease our distress and we find ourselves being comforted by their presence in the company of Jesus.
In Service to God and Country,
In the last few days we’ve looked at Nineveh’s kingly edict and Job’s impetuousness. We’ve also asked ourselves how we would respond to an authoritative edict to fast and pray as well as considered an example of how impetuousness might effect us. What would life look like if we prayed and fasted more often? What would life look like if we put sentries at the corners of our mouths and were less impetuous with our tongues? I know the answer for myself because I have done this very thing. The outcome is more Peace with God, Self and Others. We at Serenity Seekers would really like to hear back from you, our readers on this matter. Serenity Seekers offers you a challenge. Post a guard over your lips, spend more time reading the Word, praying and fasting, and let us know the outcome. We are waiting to be amazed.
In Service to God and Country,
If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales, it would surely outweigh the sand of the seas- no wonder my words have been impetuous. Job 6:1-3
Impetuous: acting impulsively, on the spur of the moment without considering the consequences. How many times a day do we do that? We leap before looking. Joni Erickson Tada has lived almost 40 years as a quadriplegic for that very reason. She is paralyzed for a rash decision. And do we not handicap our own relationships with impetuous words? Do we not famously ‘put our feet in our mouths’ for speaking without thinking? How many times have we asked ourselves “why did I say that…I wish I could take that one back.”?
I remember years ago, as a younger man, I had a severe anger management issue. Anger played a part in a divorce and a lost career. I spent a lot of energy screaming, yelling and throwing stuff. It was years before I was able to do anything about it. Of course anger is a great tool for getting your own way, for sure, but sooner or later you wake up all alone wondering, “Where did everybody go?” I learned the hard lesson that nobody is willing to hang around an angry person of their own free will. They’d rather exit stage left, right or the first stage out of town.
Slowly I began to get control of my anger, at least the throwing stuff around part, but the yelling and screaming was another thing. One day I got a bright idea based on a statement my oldest brother used to yell at me when we were kids, “Why don’t you put a sock in it?” So, I tried it out. I went around for a few months with a sock in my pocket and every time I felt the anger creeping up, I pulled out the sock and stuck it in my mouth. A round of laughter was the immediate response by all parties involved, anger was diffused and then rational, reasonable discussion followed. Give it a whirl, it’s good for a few laughs anyway.
“Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: …Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish’” (Jonah 3:7-9).
“Then he issued a proclamation.” He is the big guy in his known world. He is taking names and kicking fanny. He rules his corner of the world with vicious cruelty. You bow and scrape before him. You shudder with fear to be summoned into his presence. He is the king for crying out loud!! You don’t dare look cross eyed at him. But “Then he issued a proclamation.” Why on earth would the Big Kahoona do such a thing? His decree seems to be riddled with great amounts of fear and worry. Yes, he is afraid of “God’s fierce anger.” I wonder, had he ever heard about the God of Jonah before? Had the stories of some crazy guy being swallowed by a giant fish got to him before Jonah arrived? Did he have his historians do some research and discover the facts surrounding the destruction of Pharaoh of Egypt? What other scary stories had he heard about kingdoms whose king ignored edicts from the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Maybe he had time to think about it before Jonah showed up.
Anyway, the point is, he must have been a thinking man. He thought it through, examined the evidence and decided to follow Jonah’s advice. We should do likewise. After all, faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God.
“Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: ‘By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish’” (Jonah 3:7-9).
When was the last time I did a complete fast? It’s been a while. But some will ask, Is that the most important question here? So I live in a state of Godly repentance? Now there’s a question to consider!! Do I get all broken up when I call God a liar? We all do you know. WE call it by it’s more mild form, ‘disbelief.’ It seems so much easier and gentler on us to say, “I struggle with faith…I don’t trust God as I should…I don’t believe God loves me very much.” The bottom line: we call God a liar. It really is that simple. If God speaks and I/we don’t believe it, what is that? When you speak and somebody doesn’t believe you, what’s up with that? Are they not in fact accusing you of speaking a falsehood? Are you not being called a liar? How many times have you ask that very question> You tell your child something and they don’t believe you. Do you get angry and ask, “are you calling me a liar?” Isn’t God entitled to the same response? I can just hear the Lord now when we doubt his Word, “Are you calling Me a liar?” Isn’t that the essence of the Event in the Garden of Eden? God spoke, the Serpent deceived, Adam and Eve believed the Serpent instead of God. Did they not call the Lord a liar? Are we not guilty of the same thing every day? Perhaps it is time for a global sackcloth and ashes event with the attendant fasting and prayer? How about you, is it your time?