This message is a re-print in honor of the one-year anniversary (September 19) of the kick-off of the Celebrate Recovery ministry at my church. The ministry is made up of regular folks like you and me who are on a journey toward wholeness.
Celebrate Recovery is a bible-based 12-step program designed to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives through eight recovery principles found in the beatitudes in Matthew 5:3-12. The scripture states: 3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. 5 “You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. 6 “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. 7 “You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. 8 “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. 9 “You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. (MSG)
I was one of the 151 people who attended my church’s launch of Celebrate Recovery – a clear admission that I have unaddressed hurts, unresolved hang-ups, and habits that no longer serve me well. I came with an open mind and heart to see what God was leading me to do. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people and realized that the need for the ministry is great. Although I spent a lot of time in my own thoughts, I quickly realized that I am not alone in this broken world and that hope is alive. 1 Peter 4:12-13 was the scripture that first came to mind – “12-13 Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” (MSG)
I was so excited to see a few familiar faces but must admit that I thought to myself, “Wow! I have to make it a point to diversify the services I attend because there are a lot of people here I don’t recognize.” The Holy Spirit sternly told me not to judge others in the room as I was in the same space with them for a reason. He told me, “The label or stigma of the specific addiction, habit, hurt or hang-up is not important. The fact that their owners want to resolve them is!” He then led me to meet and greet both the familiar faces as well as the friends to be.
As I was mingling at the pre-service gathering, I noticed a gentleman standing in the atrium, alone and seemingly unattended. He appeared to be deep into his own thoughts and perhaps unaware of the positive energy building around him. He was holding a drink cup in one hand and was continuously wiping his eyes with the other. I walked up to him, exchanged introductions and asked him which service he attends? He told me that he was a first-timer. As he continued to wipe the tears from his eyes, he said he was struggling to cope with his wife’s death. He said he works with another church member who encouraged him to come to Celebrate Recovery. I hugged him, told him I was happy he came and offered to introduce him to a few folks. He declined the offer. I hugged him again and told him I was so glad he took the time to come. I then used a lot of energy to hold back the tears of pain transferred from him to me. I thought “My God! His pain is incredibly deep.” I prayed, “Please Lord, help him through this tough time. Please help him to endure these difficulties. If he has not dedicated his life to you, please move him do so to give him the hope of seeing his wife in heaven.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 reminds us “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.” (MSG)
I went into the auditorium, enjoyed the musical worship, and the explanation of what Celebrate Recovery is. The leaders explained the 12 steps, the 8 principles and the rules of confidentiality. There is a part of the service where people are invited to make a change in their lives. For those who are interested, they can come to the stage and get a chip to celebrate anywhere from the first day of change to multiple years of recovery. It was then that I noticed the miracle of the God of Hope beginning – I was allowed to witness the gentleman from the lobby get a chip to begin making Godly changes in his life. Isaiah 56:1-3 tells us, “Guard my common good: Do what’s right and do it in the right way, for salvation is just around the corner, my setting-things-right is about to go into action. How blessed are you who enter into these things, you men and women who embrace them, Who keep Sabbath and don’t defile it, who watch your step and don’t do anything evil! Make sure no outsider who now follows God ever has occasion to say, ‘God put me in second-class. I don’t really belong.’ And make sure no physically mutilated person is ever made to think, ‘I’m damaged goods. I don’t really belong.” (MSG)
I left the auditorium and went to the issue-specific breakout sessions with the following on my mind:
- Rid myself of arrogance
- Totally submit my life to His ways and teachings
- Get real, get honest, get on my knees, and get in his word
- Make peace where peace can be made
- Be willing to be used for His will
The breakout sessions involved introductions, issue identification and opportunities for individual uninterrupted expression in a safe and confidential environment. The expressions required introspection and an acknowledgment from the speaker that “you are only as sick as your secrets, but the Lord heals as he reveals.” The experience left me with this:
- You cannot enter a space and leave it unaffected. The only question is whether your impact was positive or negative.
- Compassion is the understanding that things run deeper than the observer can see
- Anonymity and confidentiality do not create caves for secrets
- There is certainly an inner joy and peace that comes from being right with God.
It has been almost a year since the Celebrate Recovery kick-off. There are still people checking it out. If you are interested, the meetings are held at the church on Friday nights from 7-9. If Celebrate Recovery is not for you, please pray for the many who will benefit from it. Each day, as I interact with others professionally and socially, I remember my experience at the kick-off that people who go to Celebrate Recovery or similar meetings run in many of the same circles I do. There is no room for judgment by age, occupation, class, issue or anything else, because we all live in the same broken world. Some are simply courageous enough to seek help and receive hope. As Casting Crowns says in their song The Voice of Truth:
Oh what I would do to have the kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I’m in, onto the crashing waves; to step out of my comfort zone to the realm of the unknown where Jesus is. And He’s holding out his hand, but the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me; reminding me of all the times I’ve tried before and failed. The waves they keep on telling me time and time again, ‘Boy, you’ll never win! You’ll never win!” But the voice of truth tells me a different story and the voice of truth says “Do not be afraid!” And the voice of truth says “This is for My glory.” Out of all the voices calling out to me. I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.
1 Thessalonians 1:2-5 tells us, “Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers as we call to mind your work of faith, your labor of love, and your patience of hope in following our Master, Jesus Christ, before God our Father. It is clear to us friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn’t just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions. (MSG)