Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Big Question

I want to congratulate anyone who has taken the most courageous, difficult step in the battle against pornography addiction - stepping out of denial into hope, healing, and freedom in Christ – at Remedy we call it Survival! 

Michael Leahy writes in his book, “Porn Nation,” I believe every addict will come face to face with at least one defining moment in his or her life, one opportunity to choose whether get well or stay sick.  The circumstances may vary and the situations will all look different, but the question will always be the same.  Do you want to be well?

The first person to ask that question was Jesus as recorded in the gospel of John chapter five verses one to five.  The next step in your journey is to honestly answer that question.

“Do you want to be well?” 

Here's something to think about while you consider your answer:  twenty-six times the word porneia is used in the New Testament.  Porneia is translated as “fornication” or “sexual immorality.”  It is consistently used to describe sin!  It is the root word for the English word pornography.  Frankly, pornography is nothing more than hard core sin!

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Sexual Revolution

I am very disturbed.  (I know, I know.  So what's new? you're asking.)   
I've been doing a lot of reading and research on the issue of PORNOGRAPHY in the church.  It is rampant!
Please take a moment to consider the following and see if this makes any kind of sense at all.  According to the latest Pew Research, 78.4% of all Americans identify themselves as Christians.  A study conducted by Christianet found that 60% of all Christian men "struggle" with pornography;  50% of all Christian men admit to being addicted to it!  35% of all Christian women "struggle" with pornography and 20% admit to being addicted. 
It goes further than the "pews."  37% of the pastors surveyed admitted to being addicted to pornography! 
What the .............???!!!!!!!!! 
In the New Testament, the word porniea occurs twenty six times.  It is translated as "fornication" or "sexual immorality."  It's consistent use is to set it aside as a SIN!  Porniea is the root word for the English word, pornography!
Ok.  Now, let's do some simple math.  The population of the United States is 315 million.  78.4% of that is 252 million (give or take a couple hundred thousand :-)).  Men make up 48% of the total; women, 52%.  For easy math, let's just say 50/50, ok?  126 million each gender.  60% of males = 75.6 million.  35% of females = 44 million. 
So, just among those individuals who attend church on a regular basis there are 119.6 million pornography addicts!
My, oh, my. 
It's time to Stomp Out Pornography (St.O.P.)within the church and continue the battle onto the streets in a "new/different" sexual revolution -- one of SEXUAL PURITY!!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Did you hear that ....?!!?


Probably the most common question I have heard from individuals serious about their recovery and honestly seeking change in their lives is: “How do I know what God’s will is for my life?” 
Unfortunately, there are very few references to “God’s will” in the Bible.  I did a search on of the New Living Translation and the New International Version of the Bible and found only 5 scripture verses stating God’s will for an individual. (Romans 12, 1 Thessalonians 4 & 5, Hebrews 10, and 1 Peter 2.)
Even though there isn’t a recipe for knowing and doing the will of God, there are several Scripture passages that give us guidance. 
Let’s look at one in Luke 17.11 – 14. 
To discover God’s will for your life, you need to: 1. Surrender, 2. Learn to hear His voice, and 3. Obey what He says to you.  In the simplest of terms, “Hear and Obey.” 
Verses 12 and 13 – The lepers cried out to Jesus saying, “Jesus, Master …” They recognized Jesus as their Master.
To assist you to know God’s will for your life, the first step is to surrender your life to Christ.  Give up control to Him.  It is impossible to do the will of God if you don’t know Him!   Be reconciled to God through Christ! 
However, believing in God and being able to discern His voice in a plethora of divine manifestations are two entirely different things. 
Verse 14 – Jesus spoke to them and they obviously heard his voice even though they “stood at a distance.”   
The second step is to learn to discern God’s voice.  In the Old Testament, He spoke directly to people, like Moses, and other times He sent His angels.  How does God speak to us in today’s world?   Do we have to have an encounter with a burning bush like Moses? 
I believe that God speaks to us in several ways. 
God speaks to us through:
Prayer.  If we’re going to hear God’s voice, we need to listen!  That’s one of the challenges of hearing God’s voice as there are so many competing voices in our world it is often times hard to discern God’s voice.  How do we discern God’s voice in the midst of the din and clamor of so many competing voices? 
Let me be clear on one point before we move on.  God’s voice sounds a lot like your own.  It is that voice from within that speaks to you with words and thoughts that are not your own. 
Bible.  Most people in today’s world hear God’s voice through the Spirit-inspired word of God.  The key here is to open your heart to hear God’s voice through the reading of Scripture. 
I encourage you to read on a regular basis and begin with a simple prayer: “God speak to me through Your word.” 
God will never tell you to do anything or say anything that is contrary to Scripture!  NEVER.  If there is a voice in your head telling you to harm yourself or others or to seek revenge – that voice is not of God! 
The Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit speaks it isn’t some creepy sound coming from a closet or underneath our bed.  The Holy Spirit’s role is to convict, correct, and challenge.  He will nudge you toward places you had no intention of traveling.  He will guide you on paths you have never been before.  He will convict you of sin.  He will empower you to do what you think is impossible.  Once again, the Holy Spirit will not speak to you in any way that is contrary to Scripture. 
Others.  God speaks to you through other people in your life.  God spoke through Mike Wheeler at Remedy-CAC to encourage and challenge Pete to move closer to God. 
Circumstances.  Dawn and I encountered a man on the bike path in Sioux Falls; we both sensed we were in very dangerous circumstances and in the presence of evil.  God spoke to us and told us to “flee from evil.”  The day after our encounter, we learned the man had murdered a homeless individual just a few blocks from where we had encountered him!   
Psalm 19.1-3 - The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word;
their voice is never heard.
A few years back I was camping at the base of “my mountain.”  During the night I was awakened by coyotes communicating almost non-stop for over an hour.  Unable to sleep, I crawled out of my tent and encountered the most magnificent display of God’s craftsmanship I have ever seen.  The “heavens proclaimed the glory of God.”  I was awe struck as I gazed at the heavens!  God spoke to my heart and said, “I made the heavens and earth in all its vastness.  Even in the midst of all the enormity of what I have created, I chose to know you, Ron.”
I felt so connected to and part of something far bigger than myself that I was overwhelmed with praises to HIM!  He created all that vastness and yet still cares about each individual.
Ever been captivated by a sunset?  Have you been awe struck at a sunrise and had an overwhelming feeling that God was saying, “Today is a new day.  I made it just for you.”?
Again, believing in God and discerning His voice in the plethora of divine manifestations are two entirely different things.  Whichever divine manifestation God choses to speak to you, He will NEVER contradict Scripture!    
Every time you hear God speak, it creates a “crisis of belief.”  And what you do next, says more about what you believe about God than what you say you believe. 
This “crisis of belief” creates the opportunity for choice.  You’ve heard His voice and now you must decide whether you will OBEY or DISOBEY! 
Verse 14b – “[Jesus] said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.”  The lepers were healed “as they went.”  Not as they stood there or debated among themselves what to do next!  They were obedient to Jesus.  
I’m convinced that knowing God’s will for your life is a series of “next steps.”  When you “hear and obey,” you are one step closer to doing God’s will for your life.  When you “hear and disobey,” you are on step further away from doing God’s will for your life. 
Do we ever do God’s will for our life perfectly?  No.  But that doesn’t stop us from seeking it out by “listening and doing.”  We do what God tells us to do and then we start the process over again and again. 
So, what do we do when God seems silent?  Keep doing the last thing He told you! 
Want to know and do the will of God in your life? 
Learn to hear His voice and take the next step by obeying what He tells you. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I Have "Issues"

My wife, Dawn, leaves the house at 7 o’clock every morning and goes to get her mom, Aunt Joyce and her sister Becky for their morning walk.  Being who she is, she has to have her morning shower, and all that entails, completed before she leaves the house – which means she has to be out of bed by 5.45am! 

Yesterday morning, in the usually quiet time of her routine, she surprised me by coming out of the bathroom and asked, “Do all addicts have control issues?”  (Why would she ask me?!?) 

“Yup.” I said, “I would estimate that 99.9% of us do.”   

“Why?” she asked. 

Great question!! 

A strong need to be in control has two root causes:  Fear and trust.

Three common causes include: One, living in an environment characterized by chaos – being part of a highly dysfunctional family.  Two, experiencing circumstances beyond our control in the past or present.   Traumatic experiences like abuse, abandonment, or feelings of being rejected by peers.  Peer rejection includes being picked last for games or being excluded from social circles. 

And, three, growing up with or presently living with a controlling authority figures in our lives.  Typically these controlling authority figures have rigid rules and, therefore, we have learned that behavior to be “normal” and, therefore, we become a person who has a strong need to be in control.  Along with the strong need to control is the behavior characteristic of yelling.  Yelling is a weapon used to control others and it is a “cry to be heard.”  (As an aside, parents who tell me their kids only listen when they are yelled at must realize that their kids have learned that “dad/mom are only serious when they yell therefore, I can ignore them the rest of the time!)

How do we modify this seemingly innate behavior? 

Ephesians 1. 2 - May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.

The Greek word, eirenne, is best defined as the confident understanding that God is in control, no matter what the circumstances of my life.  Notice that the definition states nothing about tranquility or lack of conflict in one’s life! 

We do not have to be in control of others or our circumstances to experience peace! 

There are two paradoxes to living a life of peace.  The first paradox is to experience peace we have to let go of our strong need to control people and circumstances.   

A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued:
"Is anyone up there?"
"I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?"
"Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer."
"That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch."
A moment of pause, then: "Is anyone else up there?"

Whatever the cause, no matter what it is we’re holding on to, if are going to experience peace in our lives, we have to “let go and let God.”

The second paradox to living a life of “peace” is to live a life that, paradoxically, seems out of control.

What comes to mind when you hear sayings like, “put a lid on it” or “flip your lid” … why do we put lids on coffee?

Check out this video: 

Our strong need to be in control compels us to try to “put our lives – people and circumstances –  in a cup and put a lid on it!” 

To live lidless is to takes risks; to recognize that we might get burned; to live courageously. 

To live a life of peace knowing God is in control takes tremendous courage.  To live a life of peace is to take risks; to allow individuals to choose their own path; to empower individuals to make their own choices; to allow those around you to do it “their way.” 

 Letting go and letting God” may make us feel like we are losing our identity.  We may think we are going to lose everything.  Not knowing what is going to happen is frightening.  Most of us have tried desperately to control other people and circumstances with our efforts producing only frustration and bitterness.  It takes courage to let go of our tendency to control and manipulate others; to use others to satisfy our “strong need to be in control.”

Honestly, the “strong need to control” has kept us isolated, but as we trust and surrender, we will begin to relate better with others.  As we live “lid-less” lives, our capacity to receive and give love will increase.

Can you control others or your circumstances? NO! 

To experience peace in our lives, we must release ourselves from:

1.  The idea we are God!    

2.  The idea we can control of others.  Richard Rohr, well known in AA, writes that spirituality involves “letting go” of “the need to be in control.”  One of the burdens most of us mistakenly carry is the thought that we can make others happy.  YOU CAN’T MAKE ANOTHER PERSON HAPPY.  In your effort to “make them happy,” you are subtly trying to control them; to manipulate them with the end result being anger, bitterness, and resentment on the part of both parties involved!!

3.  The idea we can control of our circumstances.

"Victor Frankl, the Jewish psychologist who spent time in a Nazi concentration camp in Germany wrote:
“They stripped me naked. They took everything -- my wedding ring, watch. I stood there naked and all of a sudden realized at that moment that although they could take everything away from me -- my wife, my family, my possessions -- they could not take away my freedom to choose how I was going to respond."

You cannot control others or your circumstances.  You can only control the way you respond!

"Do not allow others to upset you; their only power comes from your reaction." - AA

The peace process:

1.     Prayer. Philippians 4.6&7
2.     Surrenderour will/agenda. Matthew 26.39

3.     Courage to live life lidless! 1 Cor. 16.12-14

In one statement:  To live a life of peace, live each day, one day at a time, one moment at a time, knowing that God knows what He’s doing and He’s “getting’ ‘er dun.”     

Remember:  God is in control – and you’re not God!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Useless to Useful

Let my life be the proof of your love...

There are three truths I’d like to share with you. 

1.       God loves you.   Romans 5.8-11. 

2.       God has a plan for your life.  Jeremiah 29.10-14. 

3.       God will use you to change the world.  

Early in recovery, the reaction to this third truth is either one of: “YES!!!  Look out world!  Here I come!”  They get the t-shirts and put the bumper stickers on their cars and are “serving the Lord” every waking moment of their lives. 

I can’t count the number of individuals who completed 30 days of rehab and “just knew God was calling them to become a substance abuse counselor” to help others.  We’ve probably all experienced them.   They make comments like, “I’m just on fire for the Lord.” and “If I can just help one person not make the mistakes I made.”  They serve with such zeal it makes those around them think they’ve lost any sense of reality.  Then, less than a year later, they are back using again or are on a different path in life. 

The second typical response is the exact opposite.  Many in the early stages of recovery make comments like:  “Well, I don’t see how God can use me.  I’m a nothing.  I don’t have any particular talents or abilities that God could use.”

Biblical counsel for both responses is given in Scripture. 

Ephesians 4.7 &16.  God has given each one of us a “special gift” (v.7) to be used to build up the body of Christ “as each part does its own special work” (v.16).      

The reason the “overzealous” become complacent is that they are not using the special gift the Spirit has given them.  I’m not saying you should “sit and wait” because you’re not sure what your giftedness is.   Part of the discovery process of determining your giftedness is experiential.  I am saying that individuals should not try to do everything because of some emotional high they’re on! 

And, too, God can and will empower you to do things on a short term basis that lie beyond your giftedness. 

I am not designed in any way to have a relationship with anyone of junior high age.  I had a hard time being around my own daughter when she was in junior high!  Regardless of my “lack of ability,” God empowered and used me to create a junior high ministry in South Dakota.  We all grew close together and to this day, we still call ourselves “The Dirty Dozen.” 

Romans 12.3-8 verse 6 - “God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”  Everyone seems to want the “high profile” gifts.  The gift of “kindness” is usually a behind-the-scenes-out-of-the-spotlight gift.  Yet, Scripture states it is God-given gift.  (v. 8c)

Look closely at verse 8.  “If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.”  Who could better encourage a person in the bondage of addiction than someone who has been there and has experienced the freedom found in Christ?  A couple words of encouragement could make the difference between life and death for someone. 

If you know of someone in bondage, invite them to Remedy where they will be offered hope, healing and freedom in Christ. 

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul resolves the argument the Corinthians were having about which gift was the “more spiritual.”  I would summarize chapter 12 by stating:  All gifts are significant and useful to advance the Kingdom of God.  And, as Paul states in verse 22, the “parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.”  If your gift is a behind-the-scenes-out-of-the-spotlight gift, use it to the glory of God knowing all gifts are significant – even if you don’t appear on the “highlight video” in church! 

Some individuals have had their hearts so battered by their addiction they still have a badly distorted self-image and really can’t see any way that God could use them to change the world.  They have such a low self-esteem that when God summons them to do their “special work” to build up the body, they immediately start to rationalize why God can’t use them.   

 Here’s the way some of the great “world changers” of the Bible responded to God’s calling on their lives:  God summons Moses and Moses responded: “Who am I …?  No way, Yahweh.”   God summoned Jeremiah and his response: “You can’t be serious.  I’m just a kid.”  God summoned David.  His answer:  “What?  You want a songwriter and shepherd to be king?  God summoned Deborah and her response: “You’ve got to be joking!  You want to send a woman to lead a war?” 

Despite their initial reluctance and rationalization, when these “world changers” became obedient to God, they did their “special work” and their world – history – changed. 

One of the most frightening moments of my life was when God called me into full-time ministry.  There were lots of reasons I could think of that I should say “NO!” to God.  I had just gotten married.  I owned a townhouse.  I owned my own business.  I loved the community I was living in.  I was NOT qualified.  I had not read the Bible from cover to cover yet.  I didn’t know how to properly interpret or apply the teachings of Scripture.  When I surrendered to Jesus and became obedient to His calling on my life, He blessed me beyond measure.  Not with “things of this world,” but with the blessing of seeing HIM change lives, restore families, and heal addicts. 

However God has gifted you; whatever God has called you to, it’s going to be bigger than you are.  If you could do it on your own, then you wouldn’t need God. 

What will God summon you to?  I don’t know. 

How has God gifted you?  I don’t know. 

This I do know:  God can and will use each and every one of us to “change our world.”

 How do you go from feeling useless to be truly useful?

Determine which gift [gifts] you have been given. 

Respond when summoned. 

Use your giftedness to change your world
                                – one heart, one hug, one day at a time.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Promises, Promises

We are not who we used to be.  We’ve been redeemed.  We have been set free by Christ.  The Scriptures tell us that anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old life is gone and a new life has begun [2Cor5.17]. 
Tom Petty sang about this truth with these lyrics: Square one, my slate is clear; Rest your head and meet my dear; It took a world of trouble, it took a world of tears; It took a long time to get back here
The road we traveled was full of trouble and tears but we have a clean slate.  We get to start anew.  Having a clean slate is not only about being redeemed by Christ is also means a significant change in our character.  My brother-in-law Marlin talks about God’s building permit that is on an automatic renewal for the remodel and renovation of his [Marlin’s] heart and mind.  God is never through changing us.  He is always in the business of “changing the way we think” which changes our behavior patterns. 
Even though we have a clean slate, we have not been set free from the consequences of the choices we made in our previous lives.  I believe I can say with a great degree of certainty that we have all left behind a trail of broken promises.  It is probably safe to say that anyone who is close to an addict knows the sorrow, pain, frustration, disappointment, and discouragement that accompany a broken promise. 
We’ve all made and broken promises – to others and to ourselves.  “I promise I’ll never do that again.”  “I was high.  I promise I’ll never yell at you again.”  “I was drunk.  I didn’t know what I was doing.  I promise, that will never happen again.”  “I was at happy hour and got distracted.  I promise, I’ll be more responsible with the kids.”  “I promise I won’t view pornography again.”  After a blackout, we promise ourselves we’ll never use to that degree again… ever! 
There is no question that we all make them.  The question is: How do we keep them?   The lingering learned behavior we need to modify is that of learning how to be a promise keeper instead of a promise breaker. 
Webster defines a promise as: "a declaration that one will do or refrain from doing something specified; or a legally binding declaration that gives the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act."  The Hebrew word, beriyth, often translated as promise or covenant, means “a solemn agreement with binding force”
According to Scripture, breaking a promise is equivalent to lying; to deceiving someone [Eph. 4.17-25]. 
A broken promise tells others that you don’t value them; that you have placed something else ahead of your commitment. 
A broken promise weakens or destroys any trust others have given you.
A broken promise has the potential to harm your already fragile self-worth and confidence.  
A broken promise tells others and yourself that your words have no value; that you lack integrity; that you lack any sense of commitment. 
So, how do we become a promise keeper? 
Say what you mean
It’s very important that you realize you have limited time, energy, skills and resources, and as much as you would like to, you can’t do everything – nor should you try.  Every time you’re getting ready to promise something, ask yourself: “Can I really keep this promise?” If the answer is not a definite “yes”, then don’t make that promise.  There is a very important mental leap you must take: to realize that you can’t and you don’t have to please everybody.  It’s ok to say “No.”  Even Jesus said “no.” [Mark 1.35-38]
When Jesus was teaching on keeping one’s vows, or promises, He concluded His teaching by saying, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.” [Matthew 5.37/NLT].   Another translations records Jesus’ words as “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ [NKJV].  In the Rimby translation it reads, “say what you mean.” 
State it in writing
For the first six months to two years, depending on the drug of choice, our memories are faulty and perception is skewed.  Until your brain heals, I suggest you state any and all difficult promises in writing, ie. what you will do to remain clean and sober or away from the porn sites.    When both parties are very clear on what is expected and the consequences of breaking that promise; it is more likely that the promise will be kept.
Start Small
People often dismiss small promises as unimportant, but that is just not true.   Little things like promising to take the garbage out may seem insignificant to you.  But if you don’t follow through on the “small stuff,” you demonstrate you can’t be trusted with the “big stuff.”   Conversely, you can build trust by demonstrating that you keep your word even on seemingly inconsequential things.  As you follow through on the small stuff, people will begin to see you as a promise keeper not a promise breaker.
Stay the course
Don’t rationalize or make excuses for yourself. Push, persist, and persevere despite what it costs you.  Following through on a difficult promise not only gives you satisfaction, but also raises the level of respect you receive from others.
For a great example of “staying the course,” read about David, the “man after God’s own heart,” and how he fulfilled a promise he had made a long time before the promise became a reality.  [2 Samuel  9.1-9.] 
Start over.
It’s easy to keep saying one thing and doing another, when your mind thinks it is no “big deal.”  Broken promises are the same as lying and deception   and they are a “big deal.”   You need to view broken promises or promises made to appease others as a character flaw that must be corrected to experience life to its full.  And the only way to correct this flaw is to allow God to “change the way you think” about the power of a promise – kept or broken.    
In a recent article I read on keeping promise, I noted the following: “Keeping promises and having integrity sound like things which are easy to master. But they are actually some of the hardest people skills to master. As you consciously and systemically work at improving your promise keeping skills, you will see some impressive changes in the quality of your relationships.”
A broken promise is equivalent to a lie; to deception.  Scripture calls those two sin!  You can never fully embrace and experience the Kingdom of God with sin in your life!
The process of becoming a promise keeper begins with repentance – literally, “having a change of heart.”  Then, make a promise to yourself to start over, to give yourself a clean slate; to view a promise as a binding statement and not a statement of appeasement. 
I made my Mom a promise that I would get and stay sober.  It took several tries but with the power of Christ working within me, I was able to fulfill that promise.  I was clean and sober for 18 years when she passed from this life to the next.  I know for a fact that in those first few years, she kept expecting me to break my promise --- again.  And I know for a fact, the joy it brought her heart when her son celebrated multiple years of sobriety.
Through the empowerment of Christ in you, it is never too late to keep a promise. 
Check out this video by Big Daddy Weave .. "Redeemed"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Taker to Giver

Remember the old days when life was all about feeding our addiction(s)?  How many of us would lie to loved ones; manipulate; invent ‘crisis’ to get money to feed our habit; steal.  And the absurd reality was that the more we lied, manipulated, cheated, stole, the more and more we became convinced we were the ‘center of the universe’ and nothing mattered more than what our minds craved.  Lying, cheating, stealing, manipulating, controlling, yelling became our normal behavior.  And while we fed our addiction, our family and friends considered us “takers” because we were running rough shod over them to satisfy our own needs. 

Evidently, there were some “Christian addicts/takers” in the church at Ephesus because Paul writes in Ephesians 4.28, “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” 

As our brain heals from the damage we have caused through our addiction – whether that is from drugs, alcohol, food or pornography—we will have lingering learned behavioral patterns that need to be corrected.   In the process of long term recovery, we need to learn how to move from being a “taker” to a “giver.”  How to “quit stealing,” be self-sufficient, and how to “give generously to others in need.”   

We are instructed by Scripture to:

Quit stealing.  In the Encarta Dictionary to steal means to get or take something secretly or through trickery; to take something from someone illegally or without the owner’s permission. 

Material things are not the only things that can be stolen.  Some of us may have stolen something and visited the pawn shop to get some cash.  But all of us have stolen things more precious than any material item you can imagine.  Broken promises; using others; lying; all are forms of “taking something from someone.”  We steal trust; respect; the other person’s sense of self-worth – things that you cannot place a monetary value on.  

Become self-sufficient.  Use our hands for good hard work.”  A troublesome lingering behavior pattern among those in the early stages of recovery is a strong sense of entitlement.  There are a plethora of reasons for this but I notice it especially among younger people.  Not judging just saying.

The visual about the “towel” was posted on Facebook by Cara Waddell.  I thought it summarized this part of the lesson quite well.  So, thanks, Cara. 

Give generously to others in need.  Material things are not the only things that can be given to others.

A great illustration of an individual being transformed from a “taker” to a “giver” is found in Luke19.1-10.    

What is the process of being transformed from a “taker” to a “giver”? 

v.1&2 - Zacchaeus was a man of some prominence. His name in Hebrew means, “righteous,” but he was not thought of as being anywhere close to righteous because he was a tax collector.  If you became a Roman tax collector as a Jew it meant three things. One, your family would disown you. Two, you would never be allowed to worship in the synagogue, and three, you’d be looked at as bad as a murderer.

To become a tax collector you had to bribe an official. Then, Roman officials would tell you how much you needed to collect, and if you were able to collect more through whatever means you deemed acceptable, you could keep the extra.  So his only real achievement he ever had was overcharging people and cheating them for his own financial gain. He was wealthy; he was a “taker.” 

v.3&4 - Zacchaeus shocked the crowds.  How?  He ran through the crowds and climbed a tree.  Not what a person of wealth would do in that culture at that time! 

What was more shocking to the crowds is what Jesus did!

v.5-6 – Jesus reached out to this “taker” by “calling him by name.”   To the Hebrews a name was not a label, or a tool to distinguish one person from another.   A person's name was viewed as equivalent to the person himself. A person's name signified their person, worth, character, reputation.  Jesus was able to see beyond the behavior and saw in him the potential to live up to his name – “righteous.” 

v, 7 – The truth is we are a lot like Zacchaeus in the eyes of those we have taken from – a notorious sinner. We have all done things that have hurt others. We’ve lived a life of taking with little or no thought of being a “giver.”   But Jesus is far more interested in changing us than He is in condemning us. So He looks at you and He says, “I know you, I love you.   And, in spite of all that you’ve done, I want you to have a relationship with Me.”

v. 8&9 - Something had happened in his heart because the most selfish man in the city all of a sudden became the most generous man in the city.  Jewish law called for restitution to be the original amount plus 20%.  Zach was giving back FOUR times the amount! 

What happened? Jesus Christ and the love of God changed him - that’s what happened.  Jesus had changed his heart.  What Zacchaeus gave others flowed out of a heart of gratitude for what Christ had done for him.  He didn’t do it for recognition, self-gratification, to draw attention to himself, or for the “t-shirt.”  What he did was from his changed heart! 

When you have a relationship with Jesus, your attitudes change. You become a more generous person. All of a sudden you start thinking about other people. You realize how much you’ve been given and you want to give back.  Your mindset changes from one of “what can I take to meet my own needs?”  to one of “what can I give to those in need?”
I believe Zacchaeus was miserable little man on the inside.  You can’t have a guilty conscious and feel good about yourself at the same time. He knew that he was ripping people off, and that would have caused him to lose most of his self-respect over a period of time. What we have here is a guy who was a “taker,” who had had a lot of money but had been separated from everything important in life. But one day, a brief encounter with Jesus, changed his life.

What does it take to move from being a “taker” to a “giver”?  An encounter with Jesus! 

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, understood the importance of asking God to change him. This prayer was in his journal: “Lord, I give you everything there is in this man, William Booth. Do with me what you will.” God loves to hear prayers like this because they represent a surrendered life and a willingness to change.

Have you surrendered “all to Jesus”?