Too Far Gone?

Wow! Where has a month gone? I’m surprised four weeks have passed since I’ve posted here. I’ve not been swallowed by a sink hole or anything. Promise. (Unless you count preparing a manuscript for publishing a sink hole.) I’m so excited to see the end in sight! Hopefully we will have books in hand by the end of June. Woo hoo! Until then, I’ll be inviting my husband, Pastor André Van Heerden to sit in the Author’s Chair. He’s recently written some encouraging open letters to our church members, and I’ve chosen this one to share with you today, my friend. Thank you for not giving up on me. I hope to get back into the blogging saddle in the near future. In the meantime, please be blessed by my husband’s words. Juliet

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© JVH 2015

I’ll make a full commitment to God when I’ve stopped drinking,” I’ve heard someone say, or, “When I stop cussing, I’ll come back to church again.” Why do people use their sins and addictions as an excuse not to give their lives fully to God? “God can’t be listening to me when I pray. I’m too far gone. I need to give this up first.” Oh, how those statements hurt God’s heart. Those thoughts don’t come from God, they come from the enemy of mankind, Lucifer himself. God reaches into the lives of sinners and gets His hands dirty in the process saving sinners while they are in the midst of the sin. God always makes a way of escape.

Are you trapped in an addiction? Are you facing feelings of despair? Are you believing the lie that you must first give up your sin and addiction before God will listen or reach down to help you? Stop right where you are and open your bible to Romans 5:6, 8, 10:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

According to the above passage, for whom has God already provided salvation? The answer is: (1) Those without strength, (2) the ungodly, (3) sinners and (4) the enemies of God. Does the passage say that God only provided salvation for the strong, the godly, the righteous and the friends of God? No. Read the passage again. In the midst of our sin and addiction, we can reach out by faith and claim God’s salvation. The bible tells us in Matthew 17:20, If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” If you ask a person addicted to alcohol, sex, drugs or gambling what would be easier to do—move a physical mountain or overcome their addiction, they’d probably say, ‘move the physical mountain,’ right?

In the midst of addiction, while acting out, reach out to God through the prayer of faith, saying, “Sustainer of the weak, Inviter of the ungodly, Savior to sinners and Forgiver of Your enemies,” rescue me from the choke hold that is squeezing the life out of me. God will move the mountain that is crushing you. He will position a ladder right where you are lying so that you can climb to where you can reach him. The story of Jacob’s ladder can offer hope to the chief of sinners in the lowest depths of their misery. Through faith as small as a mustard seed—hardly visible to the naked eye—every person can have the mountain of sin and addiction removed.

Jacob stole his brother’s right to carry on the lineage of their family by lies and deception (see Genesis 28). While his brother Esau was out hunting for game that would make up the meal at which his father would bestow his firstborn blessing on him, Jacob brought a meal to his father pretending to be Esau. His blind old father was deceived into believing he was blessing Esau when he was actually blessing Jacob. When Esau got back and found out that the firstborn blessing had already been given to Jacob, he threatened to kill him. Jacob was counseled by his mother to flee to a distant land to escape his brother’s wrath.

Alone and afraid, Jacob journeyed through the wilderness, threatened by starvation and the attacks of wild animals. Exhausted, he collapsed on the ground and fell asleep. Right there, God gave him a dream of a ladder reaching from where he lay to the foot of his throne. Ascending and descending on the ladder of light, were angels, bridging the gap so that he could have access to all God had to offer him. While fleeing from the consequences of his lies and deception, God pursued Jacob and gave him the reassurance that He was with him. He wasn’t alone and his sin hadn’t cut him off from God.

Are you desperate for relief from sin and addiction? Are you exhausted from fleeing from the entanglements sin has brought into your life? Have you collapsed to where you can’t go any further? Look up. There’s a ladder reaching from where you have fallen to the very foot of God’s throne. By faith, you can climb up the ladder, supported by heavenly angels, and come boldly before the throne of God. As Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” We don’t come boldly once we have given up all our sin and addictions. We come boldly in the midst of our sins and addictions that we might obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

_DSC3370André Van Heerden pastors a small church with a big heart. He also teaches CREATION Health classes at his YMCA and ministers to the entire county through a local network of volunteers who live to serve the suffering men, women and children in North Florida. He and Juliet will celebrate five happily married years on May 23, 2015.

Beginning With Amends

Step 9

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible,

except when to do so would injure them or others”

Happy New Year, dear reader! New Years Day is perfect for starting fresh, perfect for beginning to make our Step 9 amends.

Step 9 Meme

“Step 9 completes what I started in step 8. I make amends to those that I have harmed. I pay back debts I owe. I apologize. I write letters. I find time to do and say things that would help heal the damage that I have done. I try to bring goodness where previously I had brought discord and destruction. It takes insight, courage and dedication to make such amends, but now I have the help of my God to know what to do and how to do it. I learn to earnestly seek the right way to go about this process from my God. I start to live the kind of life that my God has meant for me to live all along.” 12Step.org (http://12step.org/the-12-steps/step-9.html)

As we think of the list we made in Step 8 and begin to ask God how to go about making amends with those we’ve harmed in our struggle to control our own out of control lives, we may begin to feel overwhelmed. We may have a mountain of amends looming before us. The enemy of our souls will attempt to heap fear, guilt, or shame on us as we prepare to contact those we’ve harmed. We do not need to accept his lies.

Although the New Year is a good place to begin with human beings, we never have to wait a whole year to start fresh with God. The Bible has great news for those of us struggling with addiction in our lives or the lives of our loved ones. It is found in Lamentations 3:22-24: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!” (NKJV)

With each new morning, God’s “mercy,” “loving-kindness,” and “tender compassions” (see the Amplified Bible) are fresh for each of us. We never have to wallow in yesteryear with God. He does not hold shame over our heads, waiting to douse us in a fresh dose whenever we mess up. God accepts our humble acknowledgement and confession of sin. He moves us forward each day with fresh mercy.

I wish I could say the same for the humans we deal with. Unfortunately, they are a mixed bag. Sometimes we will find mercy and compassion as we navigate Step 9. Sometimes we will run headlong into someone else’s unhealthy rage, retaliation, or indifference.

Claudette Wassil-Grimm says, “We need to be open to any response we get from the people we’ve injured, and be ready to accept their responses without becoming angry. We are not there to manipulate them into forgiving us. In order to have this come off smoothly, we should make every effort to purge our bad feelings toward the person or incident before we meet to speak. This will help us resist the temptation to point out to them what we felt they did to provoke us. We are only there to talk about our own behavior.The Twelve Step Journal, p. 224-225

When I took Step 9 again a few months ago, I experienced a not-so-great response from someone I reached out to. She wasn’t unkind, but her words stung like a slap in the face. It had been more than seven years since my actions had hurt her. She seemed shocked that I would reach so far back to make amends. Then she basically told me that she had forgiven me because that’s what God commands. She said she would say it to me if that’s what I needed to hear from her to make myself feel better. Ouch. Yeah, that’s what can happen when you reach out to make amends.

But you know what? It’s okay. I had deeply wronged her and I needed to let her know that I knew I had and that I am sorry. However she responded was her choice. I’m not sure I would be very gracious, either – to someone who had done to her what I had done. Sometimes we just have to move forward, doing our part and releasing all of the persons we’ve hurt, to our God, who IS merciful, gracious and understanding of why we acted how we acted in our wounded and/or addicted state.Colorful Couple

As we welcome 2015 today, let’s move into it with open hearts, open minds, and courage to make our amends. If you have any amends stories of your own, please feel free to share them in the comments section, or even email me with them at info@julietvanheerden.com. I would love to hear from you and share your stories with others.

Happy New Year!