Saturday, September 28, 2019

Not my will, but yours.

     Probably one of the most important things that every Christian needs to be aware of, is whether or not they are living in Christ's will, or their own. Jeremiah 29:11 promises all of us a hope and future, but it never says that future will be exactly as we wanted or planned it.

     Living in God's will is still a relatively young concept to me, because frankly, until about 7 months ago, I never even considered God's will in my daily life. I was too focused on what I could do to reach my personal goals in life, which, to be honest, was just drinking myself to an early grave.

    The tricky part of living in God's will is knowing what that will is. How do you distinguish between your will, and God's will. The first step in staying in God's will, is listening for him to speak to you. That's not to say that you will hear a physical voice from God. The voice of God can manifest in so many ways.

A still, small voice - Some people have compared this to their "conscience" This can be a tricky one, because my own flesh can also speak to me in this way. That's why it's important to look for confirmation in other things.

His Word - God can also speak to us through his word. I have a good example of this. I have always been at odds with Gracie's stepdad, mostly because of my own doings, and I was in my head about it one evening after Gracie told me something he had said about me and decided to look up some scriptures about anger. My concordance took me Ephesians. I read 4:26 (Be angry, and do not sin. Do not let the sun go down on your wrath), and closed my bible to go to sleep, and something pulled at me to keep reading (this is a great example of that still small voice). I opened to Ephesians and continued reading, and I came across Ephesians 6:4, and I knew this was the verse that God wanted me to see immediately. Ephesians 6:4 - And you, Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. This was a good example of the still small voice (asking me to keep reading) followed by confirmation by his word.

Dreams - God uses dreams all through the bible. Joel 2:28 says And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions.

Through Others - This is one of the most important ways that God speaks to you. This is also why it's important to listen with all your attention. He doesn't just speak through people that you like either. He can speak through the most unlikely of people. That's why if someone I don't like, or don't know walks up to speak to me, I am attentive and listen for messages from God.

Circumstances - Most often, for me, God speaks to me through circumstances in my life. This is because I'm very hard headed, and sometimes I need things drawn out in crayon before I understand them. I often pray for clarity, or some type of confirmation. I love it when God speaks through circumstances because it's a tangible answer to a prayer, and it often makes my decisions much easier.

     When in doubt, simply ask Him in prayer, as I do, to make his will clear. Some of us need an extra push. It's so important for us to understand that just because we go to church each Sunday, and tithe, and give to the needy, does not mean we are in God's will. I feel like a lot of Christians in this world live in a false sense of security about those things. God will is not going to be easy all the time. In fact the Bible promises us that we are going to go through some things. This is because He wants us to come to Him in these times.

     So how can we determine if we are in God's will?

We obey His Word - John 14:23-24 says "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me."

We Bear Fruit - "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:4-5

Things will just work out - Have you ever met one of those Christians that seem to have everything fall in place for them? It's like they can do no wrong. That's most likely because they are in the word of God. It promises us that we will be protected and provided for when we live for God. Psalm 91 speaks on this.

"Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, the young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot."

     I knew I was in God's will when I was living at John 3:16 Ministries, simple because while I was there, he continued to work things in my life to help me prosper. Once I moved out of there into transition house, I knew I was in His will, because things just fell right into place for me. In fact it was overwhelming just how obvious it was that God was moving in my life.

     So, if the world seems to be against you, and it's getting you down, I would strongly suggest prayer, and evaluation of your life, and make adjustments if you need to. God uses closed doors and missed opportunities to guide our steps.

     Also don't forget that God has created you for singular purpose for this world. He wants you to fulfill that purpose. 1 Peter 4:10 says "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." His plan for you will always be directly related to the gifts that He has given you. The great news is that you will automatically be good at whatever it is that He has called you to do.

     I really hope these help you to determine when you are living God's will. These certainly aren't the only ways to know what God's will is for your life. God speaks to us all differently, so if you are in doubt, seek his will earnestly through prayer, and seek wise counsel. He will make his will clear.


As always, thanks for reading! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Don't Worry, Be Happy.

     I don't think Bobby McFerrin had scripture in mind when he wrote that song, or maybe he did. Regardless, the message is the same. God doesn't want us to worry about our tomorrows. In fact 1 Peter 5:7 says "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares for you." (NLT).

     I was speaking to a dear friend of mine on this very thing earlier today. When I was just learning to pray, I remember hating to hear people to tell me to give it God. I was so used to "handling" things myself that I didn't understand that I wasn't supposed to handle anything. You would think after years of failure I would have realized that I am not controlling anything. Faith was a foreign concept to me, so accepting that fact was quite a stumbling block for me early in my walk with Christ.

     I think as humans, it's a natural instinct to want to hold on to some things. I know for me as well as my friend, it's easy enough to pray and hand it over to God in the short term. Then at night when things are quiet, the things that are worrying me tend to creep their way back into my mind, and before I know it, the fleeting worry has grown into a sleepless night. Matthew 6:27 says "Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life." (NIV) No telling how hours I have shaved off my life due to sleepless nights.

     One thing I had to learn while I lived at John 3:16 was how to let go. Not so much because I wanted to, or was even capable of doing. More so, because I had no choice. In that, however, I learned that even when things are absolutely out of my control, God is still working in my best interest. For we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good. (Romans 8:28 ESV)

     The thing we have to remember (and by we, I mean me) is that if I did try to control these things that worry me, I would make a complete train wreck of life. My past is proof positive of that fact.

     The thing about handing your worries over to God that makes it difficult is that he fixes things in His timing, and frankly, sometimes He is so slow compared to our worldly standards of timing. It's so important to remain patient and continue to pray. One of the most difficult aspects of prayer is persevering even when it seems that God is not answering. I used to think that praying for something every night meant not having faith that God would answer my prayers. However, Jesus knows the weakness in our flesh, and He knows that we are prone to losing heart. In Luke 18, Jesus told his disciples a parable to remind them to continue to pray, and not give up. (Parable of the Unjust Judge)

     The important thing is to continue to pray, and continue to keep faith. When you pick up a worry, rebuke it, and lay it back at His feet. Continuously remind yourself that whatever it is that you are going through will pass. Everyone has seasons of turbulence in their lives. Whether it's health, financial, or marriage problems. These things don't discriminate, and neither does God.  The bible promises us that after we have gone through these tough times in our lives, God himself will restore and perfect us (1 Peter 5:10)

     I will end this post with Romans 8:18 - I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (NIV)

Until next time, Thanks for reading, and don't forget to subscribe to and follow the blog (on the right hand side of the page) to stay up to date!

-RJ

John 3:16 Ministry offers The Cure.

     I remember seeing that around for years. John 3:16 has been a household name in Northeast AR for many years. I had heard about them through their serving in our local community, selling tickets to various events, and catering. However, I never really took the time to get to know much about the ministry. Their name became increasingly prevalent to me as my alcohol addiction continued to snuff out my productive life. My mother had been asking me to go for years. What little bit of research I did, I just knew that I would have to move there for an extended period of time, and that, frankly, wasn't an option I was even willing to consider. That's a really hypocritical way of thinking because my alcohol addiction took far more of my life than I would have ever been willing to give voluntarily. Even when I was present in my life, I wasn't really there like I should have been. I spent so many years living in a haze, that I was further away from my family than if I had been living in Fiji.
     I'm going to take a few moments to explain about the ministry, and what they are all about. Because, if I had a post explaining to me exactly how much there was to be gained by following Christ and living there, I would have gone years ago.
    First of all, let me explain what John 3:16 is. At it's very base level it is a spiritual refuge (or bootcamp) for men with addictions. They will tell you from jump that it is not a rehab. That couldn't be more true. First and foremost, it is completely free. "Jesus Paid the Price" as it says in their pamphlet. They take men in when nobody else will. The further down in the pit of addiction that a man is, the more they want them. They take men from prisons, dumpsters, and overpasses! When they interview you for residency, they ask for 3 things. You must be broken, willing, and thankful. If you are those three things, then Christ can start to work on you through the ministry.
     Bryan Tuggle is the Director there, but unlike directors at secular rehabs, he knows what it means to be ravaged by addiction. He, himself got his start at a faith based rehab, and over the years has developed a very special gift of discernment with men like us. He can sniff out lies and excuses from a mile away, and it will become evident quickly when you speak with him. It's not just Bryan either. He has a handful of "instructors" there which are all also residents, and graduates of the ministry. The staff there all have gifts of discernment because they are just like us. That is why it's so important to be honest when interviewing with them.
     Any man who is broken and in need of help can find it by simply showing up to the Sunday service at 9:45 AM on Sunday. You will sit through our worship service, then begin your interview process. You are not likely to get in on your first interview. This isn't because they don't want you there. It's quite the opposite. The man who shows a willingness to continue to come interview shows the drive to really want help. There are a few things you will be expected to have taken care of before you move in. Legal issues will need to be, at the very least, suspended or postponed. You can't live there and continue to take anti-depressants or benzos. You will need to have a few months worth of any other prescriptions you need as well. You will need to show up to your interviews each week ready to move in.
     Once you are taken in as a resident, it will become immediately evident that you are not in a rehab, because you get to keep your shoelaces, carry a pocket knife, and nobody rummages through all your stuff. They begin their relationship with you by giving you trust. They drop you off at one of the resident houses and that's when you realize that you won't be sharing a room. You have your own room with a bed, chair, refrigerator, and television. You will be introduced to your housemates on that first night during a house meeting, and they will make sure you have everything you need if you forgot something.
     The next day, your regular schedule starts. A typical day at the ministry looks like this.
6:00 AM - Breakfast. Usually Biscuits, gravy, eggs, and sausage. Followed by a morning bible study.
Then we get work assignments, and spend a day working. You eat a good lunch, followed by another noon bible study. Then we get dinner, and later in the evening, we have resident bible studies at a prayer house.
     When you aren't working or doing bible studies you can be taking advantage of a pond with great fishing. A recreation center with gym, pool tables, etc. You can even sit the sauna. Yep, a sauna.
     Now you are expected to work while you are a resident there. That's how the ministry is able house 170 men. However, the work they have us doing is nothing out of the ordinary. They have a mechanic shop, body shop, print shop, maintenance crew, landscaping, mowing, carpentry (they build their own housing), and various other crews that work off camp. None of the jobs are back breaking, and the hours aren't crazy.
     After your first week, you will start class. You will have class 2 days a week for the first 3 months, and they really dig into the bible. Even if you don't know the bible, they will move at a pace that is good for everyone.
     Every resident there is on blackout for the first 30 days, but after that, the family can come visit every Sunday. They sit through service, potluck, and a 2 hour visit at the house. This is really where the magic happens. The healing that happens at the ministry can be seen on a weekly basis. Jesus restores families every day. When I graduated I had 2 ex wives in attendance with my children, and they all went with me to eat afterwards. If you would have told me I would have two ex wives eating dinner together with me, I would have laughed at you. The healing takes place not only with the family, but with your entire life. God moves in men's life the moment they surrender and begin living in his will. I have seen pardons, life sentences in prison changed to probation, marriages restored, health restored, and many other things
     Every instructor there only wants one thing for the residents. Do good. That's it. Jesus really moves in that place, and if you spend just one day there visiting, he will move in you. You can't miss it.
   
     I spent 7 months there, and my family was so happy that I was there. I grew closer to my family living there than I was when I wasn't there. So using that as an excuse not to go there for help simply won't fly. You owe it to yourself and your family.
     Any man who would like to know more about the ministry can comment here or email me and I will be happy to answer any questions you might have. If you are reading this and considering going there, then I can tell you already that you need to go. At the very least, go visit.
Here is their website.
Their phone number is 870-799-2525
The address of the Ministry is: 75 Holmes Rd, Charlotte, AR 72522
     In closing I just want to say this. There is a better life out there. Jesus wants you. He loves you, and he just wants you to surrender to his will, and let him take control. I owe a great debt to this ministry. I have life again. My children have a father, my parents have a son. I have real friends, and an extended family. More than that I have a home away from home. John 3:16 Ministries is where I found Jesus and a new life. A life that I owe to them and to Jesus.
Jesus loves you!
   
   

Monday, September 23, 2019

RJ's Testimony

   This is my first post on what is now my 3rd blog. I have blogged about depression, weight loss, technology, and life in general. Throughout the 10 years that I have blogged, I have only eluded to the fact that I enjoyed drinking. I spent many years trying to sugar coat a deadly addiction to alcohol. I'm going to take the time to tell my readers my long story, and the place that literally gave me my life back.

   The first few years of my life was spent in Pocahontas, AR. My earliest memory is of my 3rd birthday party, when my mother and father were still married. Not much longer after that, their marriage ended in a rather nasty way. The details of the divorce aren't as important as what came after. Immediately after the divorce was final my mother married a man named David. David was a real monster. He was responsible for a lot of physical and verbal abuse. My mother and I lived with that abuse for years as we bounced from shelter to shelter, always to be found. I eventually wound up living with my father, and my mother eventually was able to leave his grasp as well. 
   
   As the years went on, I would say the rest of my childhood was rather normal. My dad worked a lot, and went to school, and my Memaw took up the slack when he worked. She taught me how to be Christian, which is something I carried with me until my late teenage years. I can't tell an event that took place that caused me to turn from the Lord. I think it was just me getting more and more caught up with the world. The more caught up in the world you are, the easier it is move away from God. My drinking problem really took hold in my mid twenties. My addiction wasn't something that developed overnight. It was a very gradual thing. Taking the place over the course of years. When my 2nd marriage ended in a divorce, I found myself living alone for the 1st time in my adult life. Boredom and loneliness led to me drinking just to pass the time. In addition to drinking, I also began to seek company in the form of a woman in my bed. With more sex, came more shame. With more shame, came more drinking. It was a vicious cycle and it was only beginning. 

   In 2015 an accident (not related to drinking) would change my life. I also lost my life, and ended up bedbound for months. I had the accident on the way home the morning after a date. The lady I was seeing the night before arrived at the hospital and offered to care for me while I was recovered. A romance blossomed from that, and as I got better, her Mother became ill. When her Mother was in Hospice she mentioned wanting to see her daughter get married. We loved each other, we couldn't see any reason not to, but it was a relationship born out of trauma. After her mother passed, we both spiraled out of control with drinking. We ended up going our separate ways, and she was able to put it down, and I spiraled even further down. I ended up going to a secular rehab, and I learned so much about the "disease". I learned I would always be an addict. I needed to attend meetings, and introduce myself as an addict for the rest of life. I was still living without God. I was doomed from the moment I walked out of the hospital. I lost my career upon leaving, but with a newfound sobriety, I managed to land the best career of my life only to lose it 1 month later after getting a DWI.
   
   At that point, I lost my will to live completely. I burned through jobs every few months. I was a complete dog to women. I would talk women into sleeping with me only to hurt them. I was so filled with guilt and shame, that I just wanted to die. I went to work to draw a paycheck so I could afford liquor, and a place to drink it in. I was drinking in excess of a half-gallon of vodka per day. Still taking 6 mg of prescribed klonopin per night, as well as anti-depressants. I tried killing myself at least 3 times that I remember through those 2 years. 

   During this time in my life, I completely disregarded my two beautiful and perfect children. I tried to tear their mothers homes apart from the inside by sowing discord and lies. They had every reason to remove my kids from my life, but as you will see, the Lord had other plans.

   The whole time my Mom begged me to get help at a faith based rehab. At this point in my life, I was openly speaking out against God. I was a professed Agnostic. I wanted no part of God or Religion. After my last suicide attempt, I woke up in the hospital to my mother crying for the last time. I couldn't fight it anymore, and I agreed to go to John 3:16. 

   I'm going to save the details about John 3:16 until tomorrow (my next blog post). Suffice it to say, I may have given up on God, but he didn't give up on me. HE delivered me from my alcohol addiction, and now I am a professed Child of God.  My family is restored. My children are very happy to have their Father back. Both of their Moms were at my graduation, and still support me after all I put them through. It is all so much more than I deserve, and I am truly blessed to have these ladies, and my kids in my life.

   I am so happy to say now that I am REDEEMED INDEED.

   Pop back in tomorrow for a full write up on my residency at John 3:16 Ministry. The place (NOT REHAB!) that saved my life.

Thanks for reading!