Tag Archives: Celebrate Recovery

Getting Right with God

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.  “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.  “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.  “You’re blessed when you care.  At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.  “You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.  Then you can see God in the outside world.  “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:

  1. You cannot enter a space and leave it unaffected. The only question is whether your impact was positive or negative.
  2. Compassion is the understanding that things run deeper than the observer can see
  3. Anonymity and confidentiality do not create caves for secrets
  4. 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)

Across The Line

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  Heraclitus

The past few weeks have been rough.  My readjustment back into “normality” has been a difficult transition.  I have been praying, asking God to speed up the conveyor belt on this part of my walk so I can get back to being me.  Throughout the week, I have gone to the gym, drank lots of tea, sat in the garden, and so many other things to get back to “that place”.  I kept asking God to come down to where I stand so I can feel His presence the same way I used to.  Although He revealed himself and assured me that He is always by my side, things feel different.

Today was the first chance I had in several weeks to worship at my home church .  I had the incredible opportunity to watch a few people in my congregation get baptized.  I was also able to hear the testimony of my good friend and sister before her rebirth.  She explained that she was overjoyed to make a public declaration that she is a follower of Christ because He was so willing to meet her where she was as she stood at the intersection of Rock Bottom Place and Pits of Hell Court.  She told a story of addiction and destruction that led her to the rehabilitation that saved her life and a relationship with Christ that saved her soul.  The emotion and gratitude that exuded from her placed me on the horizon; that space where heaven meets earth.  Knowing that she had crossed the line of faith brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes.  Psalm 116 teaches us, 1-6 I love God because he listened to me, listened as I begged for mercy.  He listened so intently as I laid out my case before him.  Death stared me in the face, hell was hard on my heels.  Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn; then I called out to God for help: “Please, God!” I cried out.  “Save my life!” God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God.  God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.  7-8 I said to myself, “Relax and rest.  God has showered you with blessings.  Soul, you’ve been rescued from death; Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears; And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.” (MSG)  And then the band sang, I see heaven invading this place.  I see angels praising your holy name…I see Glory falling in this place.  I see hope restored; the healing of all disease.  I sing praises, I sing praises.  I give you honor, worthy Jesus.  We give you praise and all of the honor.  You are our God, the one we live for.  We give you praise and all of the Glory God.  – I See Heaven, Bryan and Katie Torwalt

As she talked about getting sober and coming to the ministry called Celebrate Recovery, I realized that those who suffer from addiction are a special breed of God’s people who serve a critical role in His kingdom.  Once they are delivered from the arms of their captor, they re-emerge with an authenticity and level of openness that inspires and enlightens those around them.  They humble themselves and willing replay the reels of their journey through darkness, in high-definition, for the expressed purpose of showing others these things:

  1. No matter where you are, just call and He will come
  2. No one owns the corner market on sin
  3. You are only as sick as your secrets
  4. We all have hurts, habits, and hang-ups, and
  5. Christ is for everyone who wants Him

As I struggle to find my way, I know He is grooming me and preparing me for what is next.  This sense of disorientation is making me lean into Him with an unprecedented level of reliance.  I will continue to look inward to figure out what changed and will cling to my sisters for support.  What I know so far is that the space I occupy is not the same as it was when I crossed over the line of faith.  As well, I am not the same person.  God has worked many miracles in my life and has led me to a different place.  However, no matter how much I grow and change, my mission and my God’s love remain the same.

I am exceedingly happy and grateful to have enjoyed such a meaningful worship experience and to be reunited with those who know and love me.  Today’s event was uplifting, inspiring, and a celebration of enormous proportion.  My sister’s baptism was a wonderful reminder of two things:

  1. Jeremiah 29:11-14, 11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.  (NIV) and
  2. Peace be still.  You are near.  There’s nowhere we can go that You won’t shine redemption’s light; our guilt withdrawn.  As You rise, we come alive.  The grave has lost; the old is gone…  Hope is found.  You are here.  Our hearts forever sealed by this love that came for us.  Now we are Yours.  And You’re making all things new.  You are making all things new.  You are making all things new and we are free.  All Things New, Elevation Worship

My prayer is that we give my sister all the love and support she needs on this journey; that she remains humble and stays in His word; and that she continues to share her story, as only she can, to touch the lives of others and lead them to the cross.  “Your successes and happiness are forgiven you only if you generously consent to share them.”  Albert Camus