Humble Pie Yields Just Deserts

by Charles Slack

Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up. (James 4:10)

It’s easy to get the wrong idea about humility in the Bible. People think God wants to make us humble. Wrong! He wants to glorify us – His way, with His glory. When we elevate ourselves, we get the wrong glitz. We gum up the works – interfering with God’s glorious plans. Take the famous scripture about seats at feasts (Luke 14:8-11):

8When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for someone more distinguished than you may have been invited by him, 9 and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last place. 10But when you are invited, go and recline at the last place, so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will have honour in the sight of all who are at the table with you. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

God’s lessons on humility do not just make us humble.

They teach us 1) how to avoid humiliation and 2) how to get properly exalted. He is saying don’t do it yourself. Trust Me. Be patient. I will lift you up. I will give you the real deal!

After all, what is more humiliating than to be caught blowing your own horn, attention seeking, showing off? You’re a looser from the start. Look at me. I’m important! No you’re not, you’re an arrogant fool!

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 God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honour (Proverbs 29:23NIV).

You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty (Psalm 18:27NIV), etc.

The Bible is filled with a clear message and it is not just “be humble” but “let Me bring you honour”.

God wants to celebrate us, to let us know how important we are – to Him.

We become celebrities in His eyes…not the public’s.
(“The public” is man’s (or Satan’s) creation. Media-made celebrities need constant security. The pressure on them is relentless.They are surrounded by sycophants.

They get addicted to alcohol and drugs. Their fame is deadly: the same public that worships them also wants to see them die. And they can’t complain because they asked for it.)Magnificent splendour


text
I am Humble
and
Gentle in heart

Unlike media glamour, God’s glory is safe, secure and superlative. Public popularity is a cheap substitute for what God bestows on those who humble themselves and celebrate Him. When we celebrate God, He celebrates us! We enter His hall of fame to get His awards every day. The more glory we give Him, the more He makes us shine. Fame is fatal but grace is glorious. I belong to the King.

Am I over the top? No, I’m under His wing. Come fly with me.

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As Good as Mother Teresa?

by Charles Slack

Mother Teresa is still Number One on Gallup’s List of Most Widely Admired People of the 20th Century.  Back in the 1980s, early in my recovery from drugs and alcohol, it seemed that I and my cohorts, having renounced being rock stars, all wanted to become Mother Teresas.  However, after some more clean time, we mostly resigned ourselves, at least temporarily, to becoming shop assistants, mine employees, construction workers and drug counsellors, although our secret aspiration to spectacular, sacrificial service to humankind never totally extinguished.

These days, with decades of sober living under my belt, I still believe that what Mother Teresa did was truly great but, at the same time, I can see it that, given the circumstances, it was not quite as extraordinary as I once thought.

Her great deed
In an address to the National Prayer Breakfast sponsored by the US Senate and House of Representatives, 3 February 1993,1)   she said:
…man whom we picked up from the drain, half eaten with worms; we brought him to the home. “I have lived like an animal in the street, but I am going to die like an angel, loved and cared for.” And it was so wonderful to see the greatness of a man who could speak like that, who could die like that, without blaming anybody, without cursing anybody, without comparing anything. Like an angel – that is the greatness of our people.  And that is why we believe what Jesus has said, “I was hungry, I was naked, I was homeless, I was unwanted, unloved, uncared for, and you did it to me.

Think about it:
supposing you had such an experience.  Suppose you did something that caused such completely unexpected gratitude – that produced such surprising joy – that was so obviously staggeringly good.  What would you do?  What could you do – other than try again!  Repeat the deed.

No one can resist

Need more proof?  Suppose your dying person turned out to have been a great man, a remarkable saint of a person.  And supposing you were convinced of his importance to the world.   In that case, good or bad, righteous or unrighteous, minister or mafia, who could possibly refrain from repeating the deed?  I’d be out on the street ASAP seeking another dying pauper.

Think about it. 

Think Oskar Schindler.2)  Think Will and Jewels Taylor of Geraldton WA who had a sovereign deliverance from drugs on their lounge room carpet and spent the next year dragging drug addicts from the streets of Geraldton onto that same carpet.  (Don’t scoff.  Many a Geraldton addict got born again on that very rug!  You can hear their testimonies today at the Sun City Assembly Of God.)

What distinguishes Mother Teresa is not that she devoted her life to such good deeds. 

You would too if what happened to her happened to you.  What sets her apart is that first loving action, picking up the dying man in the first place.

Instructions for you and me

Acts of Kindness

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 So here’s how to be as good as Mother Teresa without actually trying.

Do something, anything right, even though nobody else seems to be doing it.

Do it when least expected.  Do it in love NOT in protest, NOT to try to make others be good.

 Don’t do it because everybody else ought to do but isn’t.

It need not be a “big thing”: in fact, maybe small is better.

But do it in love for someone who might be unloved or unlovable.  If possible make it unselfish BUT, in any case, don’t worry about your motives.   Do not expect gratitude.  Do not expect anything.  Just DO it.  Once!  Now!

And see what happens.  Don’t quit until you know the consequences.  Be patient.
If you make a mistake, God will let you know.

Regarding gratitude:
if you don’t get it, don’t be disappointed.  Jesus healed ten lepers and only one turned to thank Him.  How can you expect more than Jesus?  You may get something more important, such as wisdom.  It’s best not to anticipate anything.  Don’t expect: wait and see.  Watch and pray.  And, if God wills, let me know.  I don’t expect calls – but I would love to hear from you.

Mother Teresas own words summarise the sentiment:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centred;
¤ Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
¤ 
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
¤ 
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
¤ 
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
¤ 
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
¤ 
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
¤ 
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
¤ 
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
¤ 
It was never between you and them anyway.

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References   [ + ]

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Real Highs: getting there

by Charles Slack

I’m not the only one who prays constantly for knowledge of God’s will.  Most Christians are eager to know what He wants.  (As a recovered drug addict, I really need to know.)  Yet the Bible states God’s perfect will clearly and concisely in a one simple sentence, “Don’t get drunk!” (Ephesians 5:18) and Ephesians 5:19-21 says why: you can’t know God or real happiness.  To have the “joy of the Lord”, we must not be intoxicated or hung over – not in the least.

Gods Stuff

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 On the day of Pentecost, 120 people acted as if drunk. 

Thank God they were sober – or there might be no church today. 

Onlookers suspected intoxication. 

Had the 120 been smoking a bit of dope, 3000 people might have been tragically disappointed. 

Receiving the gifts of God’s Holy Spirit requires a clean brain and a clear sensorium.

It’s all about experiencing the presence of God, engrossing in His Love, appreciating His gifts, feeling sin-free and guilt-free; having no hang-ups, fears, compulsions, obsessions, addictions, neuroses, psychoses or other “issues”.  No worries!

A legal high

We switch spirits: one goes out and another comes in.  Spirits of alcohol (and drugs) go away and the Holy Spirit comes to stay. 

We seek God with a clean brain clean and a clear mind, and He gives us a big taste of His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control – as well as His surprising gifts of deep understanding, improved communication, wisdom, knowledge and prediction (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).  Giving away drugs and alcohol is a small price to pay for incredible experiences.  It’s too good to be true but it is absolutely true – a promise from God – the real high and (Galatians 5:23) it’s perfectly legal!  Drugs are a sensation but God’s high is a reality.  It doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen.  It took me many months years – I was slower than most – but the result was incredible, more than worth it.  Persist!  God will bring it to pass.  There’s spirituality and physiology involved.  I’m SO glad I didn’t pick up.

Physiological principle

Drugs of addiction are all substitutes that mimic substances naturally produced by the body.  Our glands contain natural, internal drug labs that continually supply what we need to relieve pain and react under pressure.  The body’s manufacturing plants are better than anything man has devised.  Opiate drugs like morphine, heroin, codeine, methadone and the rest, are all substitutes for internally-produced endorphins. Amphetamines are nothing but substitutes for naturally produced adrenalin, and so it goes.  Whenever a substitute drug is injected or ingested, the body slows down its own natural production. 

Result: you need more and more substitutes – you get addicted.  You can’t quit without withdrawal symptoms.  The good news: if you stay completely abstinent until your body begins normal production, and you are ready to experience God’s presence in your life.

With spiritual ramifications

The natural functions of relieving pain and triggering emergency reactions, keep us alive through stress, trauma, anguish agony etc.  But endorphins and other natural drugs also have spiritual functions and these are even more important.  The spiritual functions make life worth living.  They make our relationship to God an ecstatic affiliation – literally indescribable – words fail: you must “taste and see” (Psalm 34) for yourself.  It takes time.  It takes persistence.  It takes trust and faith but, no worries, He will definitely give you a taste.  He loves drug addicts.  I should know!

Conclusion: every drug high is a synthetic, second-rate, substitute for what God has in store.  Let’s get there together.  See you in church.

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God’s Success Rate

by Charles Slack

Evaluating drug treatments “Success rates”, what do they mean?  How should treatments be evaluated?  

Here are some stories about how God’s will plays out in drug rehabs and programs. 

The First Case is a man unable to remain clean and sober in three different treatments.  His initial try was a Christian rehab which he quit soon after entering.  Next he attended a 12-Step program for a month or so.  “Not for me,” he said.  Then he entered a secular residential program which he completed.  Then he relapsed again. 

Who is to blame for failure?

Although “blame” may be the wrong word, which program should take primary responsibility for the First Case’s relapse record?  Or should all programs share equally in his failure?  The Christian rehab claims an “80% success rate” due to “the Jesus Factor”.  Does this mean Jesus is unsuccessful 20% of the time?  Or does it mean Jesus would have a 100% success rate if well-meaning people didn’t interfere 20% of the time?  Secular rehabs might have a lower success rate because they interfere even more.  

First Case himself blamed the Christian rehab which, said he, tried to “brainwash” him.  However, stoned addicts like First Case are notorious liars and untrustworthy self-prognosticators.  Nevertheless, it stands to reason that those advertising their successes should also take blame for their failures.   

I’m glad I didn’t take First Case’s judgment seriously because later on he returned to his 12-Step meetings and remained clean and sober by “working the program”.  Next thing you know, having asked Lord Jesus into his heart, First Case began attending church regularly.  He now says he has an “open mind” about that Christian rehab: maybe his brain “needed washing” back then.  Praise God!    

Who gets the credit for success?

A secular ethics professor might say that whoever took the blame for failure should now get the credit for success.  A humanist might insist that First Case himself take the blame or credit for whatever happens. However First Case refuses to take credit.  “Jesus did it, not me,” says First Case, “My will and my life are in His hands.”

Wrong room?

Next Case is an alcoholic from the USA who finally got “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and went out one dark night to find an AA meeting.  In the USA, AA meets in church basements (back sheds in Australia).  But Next Case was too disoriented to find the basement that night and ended up in the Rectory where the Ladies’ Auxiliary(LA) had lit up the hall.  The ladies welcomed Next Case warmly and let him rest on a soft seat at the back of the room.  Next Case never took another drink.  When his brain had cleared, he finally found AA, but he definitely credits “LA” for getting him sober.

God causes recovery, not rehabs

Last Case, totally clean and sober over 32 years (maybe you can guess this one’s identity), says that given substantial recovery, a change in perspective occurs.  The glory goes to God; the credit goes to ALL who tried to help; while the healed addict just takes the privilege.  He says rehabs and programs should get credit where credit is due although they do not CAUSE recovery.  Recovery occurs IN them – an important distinction.  God causes recovery.  He heals addicts all the time in all kinds of places.  (Unfortunately, some then go straight to the pub to celebrate.) 

Rehabs and programs sometimes feel the need to make “success rate” claims but these can backfire.  An expensive, Christian rehab claiming an “80% success rate for those who complete our program” may be compared to a no-cost, self-help group that can claim 100% for those completing its program – you stay in the program as long as you live.  (The Christian rehab also requires life-long church fellowship.) 

Christian programs have a disadvantage in that they don’t attract atheist addicts.  Some unbelievers will eventually accept Jesus as Savior after their thinking gets straight in a drug-free secular program.  Last Case strongly supports Christian drug-programs but also suspects Jesus Christ may reach many in very low-cost anonymous groups just as He does in expensive, residential, faith-based rehabs.  And the waiting list in the “non-professional” programs is zero.    

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To recover from drug addiction and drug abuse, an addict must

a) develop a relationship with God and

b) become abstinent from drugs.

 Christian programs and churches tend to emphasize the relationship with Jesus, allowing addicts to experience for themselves the importance of abstinence.  This may not be a bad strategy: that which is self-discovered may be retained better than that which is preached.  

Secular programs tend to focus on abstinence leaving the “God factor” to self-discovery.  

Does this mean Jesus gets neglected?  Far from it, when the brain is drug-free, then the mind can experience the Word. Faith comes from hearing (Romans 10:17) but you can’t hear until you can hear.  God provides for those who need healing prior to hearing.        

Final Case:

A Pentecostal church keyboard player, Charles, had got clean in Narcotics Anonymous before becoming a Christian.  To promote understanding, Charles invited a church youth-leader, Dave, to an NA meeting.  An assistant pastor criticized Charles and Dave.  “Narcotics Anonymous is not Christian,” said the pastor.  “It is, when Charles is there,” said Dave.  And indeed, within the month another NA member came to church to invite Jesus into his heart. 
Advice to all addicts: wherever you are, seek Jesus until He finds you. 

Advice to the rest: never covet credit.  

God’s success rate is 100%.  

Yours is much lower, maybe zero.

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Miracle Depression Cure

by Charles Slack

Miraculous Hebrew Words: relief from even the worst depression lies in some special Hebrew words.  The Old Testament has at least seven such words describing worship.  They are:

YADAH – A verb with a root meaning “the extended hand, to throw out the hand”; therefore, “to worship with extended hand.” The antonym is to bemoan by wringing of hands.  Yadah means to willfully throw your hands up to praise with power. II Chronicles 20:19-20 is the yadah type of praise.

TOWDAH – From the same root as yadah comes the Modern Hebrew word for thanksgiving. Towdah means to extend hand in adoration, avowal, or acceptance. It means “to worship the Lord and to thank Him for things not yet received as well as for things already at hand.” See Psalm 50:23.

HALAL – Our word “Hallelujah” stems from this. Halal means “to clear, to shine, to boast, to show, to rave, to celebrate, or to clamor foolishly.” To be a fool for Christ. Psalms 113 and 114.

SHABACH – “To address with a loud tone, to command, to triumph, to glory, to shout.” Examples: Psalm 117:1, Psalm 63:1-3.

BARAK – “To kneel and to bless God as an act of adoration,” also to bless the Lord whilst anticipating something from Him. Not to beg but just to be expectant. Psalm 72:12,13.

ZAMAR – “To touch the strings,” Having to do with percussion, wind or rhythm instruments. Making a loud rhythmic sound. Psalm 57:8,9 and Psalm 150.

TEHILLAH – “To sing praises unto the Lord.” Psalm 22:3. God dwells in the praises of His people.

Downers: What used to be called the “age of anxiety” is now the Age of Depression.  Prolonged, chronic anxiety inevitably leads to depression.  Observe people in a shopping center.  Many have that look of utter dismay as though they lost their tribes.  They suffer unresolved grief.  They are afraid without knowing what they fear.  They are sad but unable to cry.  They are in grief but not really grieving.  They cannot express themselves.  Everything is inchoate!  They cannot laugh.  They need to watch a comedian in order to laugh and, even then, it’s just a snicker not a hearty laugh.  Worst of all, they cannot really live.  Life is tasteless.  It just slips through the fingers like sand.  The doctor prescribes antidepressants that provide some relief.  You don’t feel so bad, you don’t feel so much, finally you don’t feel at all.  Until the drug wears off.

Then you need another, and then another prescription.  So we stroll through the shopping mall of life, on the way to the chemist, clutching the Zoloft prescription in one hand and the cash in the other, not quite remembering where the car is parked, hoping we don’t run into anyone we know.  Not just now, Oh God, I need to be alone with my thoughts. Like a poisoned dog slinking into the corner to die.  The Age of Depression.  God, oh my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Uplift: If we are not too stoned to ask that question, we will get an answer.  God always answers.  What you really need, and what the doctor should prescribe instead of the Prozac, is intense, whole-hearted, ever-loving, hand-clapping, foot-stomping, moan and groan, soul-restoring, shake and quake, worship of our Living God.YADAH, TOWDAH, HALAL.  SHABACH, BARAK,

ZAMAR.

    • Bible-belt worship.
    • Great-Southland-of-the Holy-Spirit worship.

Like the Pentecostals do.

Like the foot-washing Baptists and the Holy Rollers.

Like the American Blacks.

You think you got problems?  What about the ghetto American Blacks?  Or even the Jews?  Yea, like the Jews!  Have you heard Messianic Jews worship, lately?

Get a tape and listen.

They make televangelists sound like a night at the opera.

You think YOU got problems?  YADAH, TOWDAH, HALAL. SHABACH, BARAK, ZAMAR! 

Go fer it.

Get stuck into it.

Praise the Lord! Give Him all you got!  Spill your guts!  (I mean lay bare your soul.)  Fall on your face!  Bang the gong!  Lift Holy hands.  Wowee.  Brothers and Sisters!  Fools for Christ!  Lift Jesus higher!

Inspirational Choir

And then, then, then…quietly, quietly, softly…be still and know that I am God, and sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to come upon you.  “Flood my soul.”  Take away my grief, give me the courage to put down the pills, Lord, and rely on You.  Precious Jesus, take away my compulsions, my obsessions, my depression, my drugs, my sin…  Take away my depressing co-dependency, my depressing videos, my depressing relationships with depressing people, my depressing lifestyle…  Make me lie down in green pastures.  Lead me beside still waters…

And then , after an hour, after real praise, worship, surrender, repentance and Holy Spirit infusion, giving it all you got, if you are still depressed and hanging out, give me a call and we’ll pray together.

I need your help.  You see, Jesus says that if I help you with your problems, I won’t get depressed.  Yes, He did.  I can’t quite find the exact Scriptures this very minute but it’s there somewhere.  Anyway, I can’t take pills because I’m a recovered drug addict.  If I take one Trycyclic, I’ll be back on the dope in no time. You think YOU got problems?

Praise the Lord, I’m clean today.  Nothing in my blood but blood.

Brothers and sisters, yeah and amen.  We were created by Our Ever-Loving God to worship Him.

If we don’t, in all the ways He wants us to, we will get severely depressed.  We will get sick.

We will go down to the pit, the valley of the shadow of death. Many will actually die.

But not you and I.  As for me and my house…  See you in church!

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How to Shine – the Most Effective Sermon Ever Heard

by Charles Slack

Christians shine

I can’t help but notice as I travel and attend church that Christians shine more than heathens do.  Compared to them, worldly folk are dullish around the eyes.  It sounds conceited but it’s true: when you know Jesus loves you, you glow a bit whether you know it or not.

Jesus’ love changed lives instantly

Matthew (Chapter 5) tells us that a “great crowd” sat in the open air to hear Jesus’ first sermon (on the mount).  This audience, coming from Galilee and Decapolis, Jerusalem and Judea were disadvantaged people.  Today, we’d call them “depressed”.  Oppressed by a ruthless political dictatorship, they also served under a repressive priesthood.  Mere survival was difficult, spiritual fulfillment nigh on impossible.  But Jesus was there to proclaim the solution.  In fact, he personified the solution.  He was the answer.

The very first words he preached were (NKJV) “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  In modern terms this means, “I’ve good news for those suffering depression; there’s a world of enjoyment in store for you.”

Upon hearing from Jesus, the multitude began to glow intensely with “supreme joy”, shining like a “city set upon a hill” (Matthew 5: 14), shining so brightly that He called them “the light of the world”.  Christians now see Jesus as the light of the world but back then in his first speech, he said it about us.

Of course you might interpret this as Jesus telling us to make ourselves shine.  But He said “Let” not “Get”, an observation as well as a directive.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may…glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”  They didn’t need to get lit up.  They were already thrilled with His presence.  He merely had to tell them what to do with their newfound, miraculous enthusiasm, how to remain aglow with love in a world gone dreary with apathy and sin.

So it was not just what Jesus said that first filled them all with holy fire.  His visible presence was the spark that fired up the multitude.  That huge crowd was shining with the same Presence that made the very skin on Moses’ face shine on his way down the mountain (Exodus 34:29), a radiance so intense that Moses had to wear a veil after encountering God.  But Paul (2 Corinthians 3:14) tells us that the veil covering the Lord’s brilliance has been removed by Jesus.

Jesus knows each individual heart and soul.  And such is the miracle of His presence that we all know that He knows what He knows.  He discerns our character, our secrets, motives and passions…our sins.  Most importantly, we are aware, somehow, that this amazing Person with the authority of God loves each one of us unfailingly, individually, despite our flaws.  This is the unique, personalised, undeserved, comprehensive love of God.  Jesus simply looks and loves from the start.  No wonder that crowd of depressed Jews began to shine.  I glow inside just thinking about it.

What could be more significant!  Shining with God’s light is more important than “personality”, more striking than “looks”, even more valuable than intellect.  Other attractions have big downsides.  Fame, success, political power, celebrity status, physical beauty, financial wealth – are not what they’re cracked up to be.  Ask the famous: fame is usually toxic and often fatal.  Prominent philosopher William James called worldly success a “bitch goddess”.1)“The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”  –William  (How the rich and mighty have fallen lately, striving for big bucks destroying their souls!)  Political power corrupts.2)“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton (1834–1902) from a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.  Celebrity requires “security”.  Mere physical beauty causes gawking and stalking.  Even too much renown can be annoying.  At their best all such worldly attributes pale compared to glowing with God.  Seek the kingdom of God and you will shine with His light.  Let God and let glow and the other blessings and benefits will be added.

The Source

Godly shining does NOT entail becoming the centre of attention.  Shining draws attention to the Source which is Jesus.  The light comes from Him.  You can’t make it happen.  The so called “beautiful people” fake it and try to make it but they don’t shine, they just glitter – not the same thing.  Politicians don’t shine either – they exert a pull, obligate, draw attention to themselves.  I’ll tell you a secret, something I’ve observed all my adult life because I’m 6’8” in height.  Politicians resent tall people.  They’re afraid of appearing short.  When you know you’re loved unconditionally by the God who created you in His image, physical stature doesn’t mean a thing.  When we meet the Lord in the air, we’ll get new bodies anyway.  Then we’ll shine all the more.  So get used to it: let your light shine now.

The golden role

Do you really know how much you are loved? (1 John 4:10)  There is only one thing more important than the fact that God loves you.  What could it be?  Well, it is the fact that He loves me.  Repeat after me and you’ll see what I mean.  First you say, “God loves you and so do I.”  Then say, “God loves me and so do you.” Get the point?  No comparison!  When I am absolutely certain that God adores me, I can’t help but shine.

See others shine

I pray for eyes to see how God shines in others.  I ask the Lord to help me stay out of the limelight so I can focus on you.  Let me see how Jesus lights up your life.

Brilliant perception

Jesus (Matthew 6:22) says “the eye is the lamp of the body”.  I believe His eyes shone with divine light.  Then Matthew 6:23 says that if my eye is unsound my whole body will be dark.  If my eye can’t shine, I am doomed to dullness.  You help me get the plank out of my eye and I’ll help you get the speck out of yours (Luke 6:41-42, Matthew 7:3-5).  We need each other.  That’s God’s great plan.  Together we can light up the world.

How to keep shining

Ephesians 5: 8-20 tells me: I was once in the dark but now I shine with the Lord’s light.  So I should live transparently like children of light, for God’s light generates goodness, righteousness and truth.  Learn to please the Lord.  Avoid trashy dark stuff.  Expose it to the Light.  Although it’s a shame even to mention that hidden junk, still when exposed to God’s light, it gets seen for the rubbish it is.

The saying goes, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”(Ephesians 5:14)  Don’t be a fool.  Be wise and make the most of opportunities.  These are evil times, so don’t remain ignorant.  Try to understand the Lord’s will.

A traditional African-American chorus says,

Walk in the light, beautiful light.
Come where the dew drops of mercy shine bright
They shine all around us by day and by night
Jesus the light of the world
Jesus the light of the world

Now you are shining.  I mean how bright can you get?

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References   [ + ]

1. “The moral flabbiness born of the exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess SUCCESS. That – with the squalid cash interpretation put on the word ‘success’ – is our national disease.”  –William
2. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” Lord Acton (1834–1902) from a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887.

The Ex Factor Treatment

In treating drug abuse and other behaviour disorders

By Charles Slack 

What stimulates people to change?

On the day of Pentecost 2000 years ago (Acts 2), why did 3000 people answer a call, repent, be baptised, receive the Holy Spirit and follow Jesus the rest of their lives?  Was it a sovereign move by almighty God?  Obviously – but the 3000 still had free will, they allowed the Spirit to move on them.  What made them admit they need salvation?  What made them eager to receive?  What prompted them to say “Yes, Lord”?  

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Was it the signs and wonders, 120 local people with tiny flames over their heads praising God in familiar languages?  Miraculous but not necessarily attractive; you couldn’t help watching but wouldn’t necessarily want to join in. 

Was it the powerful history lesson preached by Peter on the identity of Jesus?  I don’t think so.  Impressive historiography rarely inspires repentance. 

I believe they were prompted to immediate action by glimpsing miraculous transformations in people not unlike themselves.  I believe they identified with Simon Peter who was clearly a changed man.  And others, ordinary folk, were being transformed by God’s Spirit right before their eyes.  Wow!  Talk about makeovers!  Ordinary renovations are Band-Aid’s by comparison, mostly just cover-ups. 

This was the real thing, a complete change from the inside out.  And the improvement was obvious to onlookers – from inner ugliness to beauty, from dark depression to bright joy, from slavish addiction to freedom, from deadly sin to life abundant. 

So the 3000 watched the miracle of salvation in someone like themselves and immediately wanted it for themselves.  On the day of Pentecost, 3000 could hardly wait to join the in-crowd.

The Ex-Factor

God sets the stage, softens hearts and pours out his Holy Spirit but you actually begin to change when your friend suddenly exhibits an attitude of gratitude in the middle of a room of doom and gloom, when your drug dealer repents and starts supplying God’s Word instead of cocaine, when your partner gets baptised and comes up with clean hands, a pure heart and a renewed mind, when your kid brother stops swearing and quotes scripture. 

That’s when you reckon “me too” and step up the aisle for sinner’s prayer.  For lack of a better word, I call it the “Ex Factor” meaning the differential between new creation and former self, the transformation from addict to ex-addict, from dead in sin to living for Jesus, the repositioning from miry clay to firm rock.

Who has it?

The ex-factor is often strongest early on, before self-assurance sets in.  Ex-sinners have more impact than same-old saints.  Think of the myriads that have come home to Christ because of the example of the ex-reprobate prodigal son in Jesus’ parable (Luke 15:11-32) while the unchanged always-good brother (zero ex-factor) influences no one. 

A solid citizen is helpless to influence an addict because an addict who can’t see change won’t change. 
I can state it as a rule: there’s no use trying to get someone else to change unless you have obviously changed yourself.  Words beget words.  Behaviour begets behaviour. Status begets status.  Change begets change.  If you talk about change to an addict but have not changed yourself, the addict will also talk about change but will not change.  If you have clearly changed, no matter what you say, the addict will begin to change.

Resurrection power

The ultimate Ex-Factor, of course, is the change from death to life:  “The same power that raised Christ from the dead…” Jesus Christ is the ultimate change-agent, Ex-Factor personified.  Believe in Him and He will break your chains.  If, then, you want to help others recover from deadly sins, you must demonstrate how Jesus has raised you from the dead.

The problem with professional counselling is not counselling.  It’s professionalism.  The Scribes and Pharisees had degrees.  By worldly standards Jesus was an amateur.  His power came only from his relationship with His heavenly Father.  He who had been in heaven was now on earth.  He died and rose again.  The formerly-dead personify extreme Ex-Factor. 

They change when I change

For years I tried to prove I was a good parent without much success.  Then in 1980, I stopped defending myself and began to tell my children how God was changing my life.  At this point my children began to tell me I’d been a good parent.

A day or so after I got baptised in October 1980, I went to my usual alcohol-recovery session.  Young Roddy came up to me afterward and said, “Charles, you seem different.  Something has happened to you!”

I said, “Yes, Roddy, on Sunday I got baptised with full immersion and received the Holy Spirit.”
Roddy said, “That’s what I want.”

I said (!) “No, Roddy, you haven’t been sober long enough.  You should be sober for at least three years before getting baptised.”

But Roddy was determined.  He became a born-again Christian soon after.  His testimony today is that nothing I said could dissuade him!  Could I have made a worse mistake?  Was I an effective evangelist?  God is amazing.  Charles is changing.  The Ex-Factor is at work.

These days, when called to counsel others, I establish a completely non-professional relationship.  I am no longer a psychologist; I am a recovering-psychologist and an ex-addict.  I usually tell my story before I listen to your problem.  With the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the help I get from those I’m trying to help, I have remained “free indeed” for over thirty-five years. 

Should I pay you a fee?  Let’s call it even.  As we give to each other, so shall we receive?

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The Desires of Your Heart

by Charles Slack

thoughts about gift giving-and-receiving

Psalm 37 says that God “will give you the desires of your heart”. Not just at Christmas but throughout the year!  It’s a promise repeated often in the Bible and most believers attest to His faithfulness.  Yet some desires seem to remain unfulfilled despite frequent, fervent prayer.  When will God give us all our heartfelt desires?  We have faith that he will – but when will he actually do it?

I found an answer to this importunate question in the sequencing or succession of Bible concepts.  I got the first clue on hearing Richard Roberts preach.  He asked us, “When does God prepare a table for us in the presence of our enemies? (Psalms 23)”  A gathering of over a thousand were all certain God served such feasts but no one seemed able to declare exactly when he did so. 

His answer: “After we go through the valley of the shadow of death!”  (Verse 5, “…prepare a table…” comes after Verse 4, “…walk through the valley…”)

Delight in the Lord.

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 Psalm 37: 4 (NIV et al) reads “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” 

Note the sequence: first I delight myself and then he fulfills my desires – the exact opposite of the usual pattern: give me what I need and I’ll be happy.  I say, first give me the desires of my heart and then I’ll be overjoyed! So when will all needs be met?

Receiving is usually the cause of happiness.  That’s the natural sequence – but it’s not God’s way at all.

The whole thrust of Psalm 37 is:

FIRST Quit fretting, begging, pleading, complaining and start trusting, believing, resting and delighting.

FIRST stop worrying and start living (dwelling) and THEN soon enough you will be nourished physically and emotionally.

FIRST walk with joy and THEN you won’t trip and fall.

1) Don’t react; just stand and

2) God will make it all happen.

HOWEVER FIRST AND FOREMOSTforget about the bad guys.  Let the Lord take care of evildoers.  His way is not my way.  I might want evildoers zapped (like Terminator II) but the Lord is different: He works a slow fade.  The enemy may appear to succeed but eventually just withers away like dry leaves in the wind.  At the end of the day, you can’t find them: God’s fade out is better than TV’s blast up.

Be Thankful.

Philippians 4:6 puts things in the same Godly order.  (NIV) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”  This means, be thankful before receiving.  Be grateful for what you already have.  And quit worrying!  Trust and be happy when asking.

The Lord does not reward our anxiety.  

He rarely responds to importunate begging.  I’m a creature of conditioned reactions.  If God were to bless me when I’m worried, I’d worry all the more.

A wise parent doesn’t recompense fussing.  A wise parent withholds rewards until vexation ceases: mum waits for junior to quit being upset before delivering the cookie.  The Lord’s aim is to draw us close to him, to reinforce our relationship.  That’s the main reason for gifts.  When a reward is unexpected, we appreciate it even more than if we’d requested it.  We are told to give to beggars immediately, even before they ask.  That way we fill their need without reinforcing mendicant action.  The worst tactic: waiting and delaying through emotionally loaded misbehaviour until finally delivering the lolly at the peak of pique.  Tantrums then increase.  A monster can be created by rewarding untoward emotions.

Joy First, Blessings Follow.

The Lord’s blessings are the strongest rein forcers, the most powerful incentives, the most surprising gifts; the literal fulfillment of heartfelt desires.  No wonder he chooses perfect times and places.  Bestowed judiciously, conferred his way, his rewards draw us near and deepen our relationship with him and our fellow believers.  Dispensed indiscriminately they could actually destroy us.

Hence the biblical sequence: joy first, blessings later.

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The Shining Secret

by Charles Slack

Matthew (Chapter 5) tells us that a “great crowd” sat in the open air to hear Jesus’ first sermon (the one on the mount).  This audience, coming from Galilee and Decapolis, Jerusalem and Judea were disadvantaged people.  Oppressed by a ruthless political dictatorship, they also served under a repressive, pious priesthood.  These were dark days: mere survival was difficult, spiritual fulfillment nigh on impossible.   

And yet, no sooner had they all sat down, before Jesus had spoke more than few words, the whole multitude began to glow intensely with “supreme joy”, shining like a “city set upon a hill” (Matthew 5: 14).  In fact they all “shone” so brightly that Jesus called them “the light of the world”.  We Christians now regularly call Jesus the light of the world but back then in his first speech, he said the same thing about his audience.  He first called us “shining” before we called Him anything memorable.   

Of course you can interpret His remark as a commandment: Jesus telling people to make themselves shine.  But He said “Let” not “Get”, an observation not a directive.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may… glorify your Father Who is in heaven.”  He didn’t need to get them excited.  They were already thrilled with His presence.  He merely had to tell them what to do with their newfound, miraculous enthusiasm, how to remain aglow with fervour in a world gone dreary with apathy and sin.

So it was not just what Jesus said that first filled them all with holy fire.  Throng was probably totally lit up before He spoke.  His visible presence was the spark that fired up the multitude.  That huge crowd was shining with the same Presence that made the very skin on Moses’ face shine on his way down the mountain (Exodus 34:29).  Moses’ radiance was so intense he had to wear a veil after encountering God.  But Paul (2 Corinthians 3:14) tells us that, in Jesus, the veil covering the Lord’s brilliance is removed.

Even before He speaks, Jesus knows each individual heart and soul.  And such is the miracle of His presence that we all know that He knows what He knows.  He discerns our character, our secrets, motives and passions…our sins.  Most importantly, we are aware, somehow, that this amazing Person with the authority of God, loves each one of us unfailingly, individually, despite our flaws.  This is the unique, personalised, undeserved, comprehensive love of God.  Jesus simply looks and loves from the start.  No wonder that old crowd of depressed Jews shone then.  I start to glow inside just thinking about it.

The secret of shining

If and when you are absolutely certain that you are ever unconditionally loved by someone, you will shine.  Genuine love – as opposed to lust, hero worship, pity, duty, etc. – always causes shining.  But it has to be unrestricted, not dependent on looks or personality.  And it must be a gift.  You don’t work for it; you live for it.  The love that makes you shine comes to you not because of what you do but because of who you are.  It’s the kind described in 1 Corinthians 13: unselfish, enduring, unfailing, patient, gentle – the kind that bears up under all circumstances, never tries to “get even” but is always ready to believe the best.  Moses, you and I, everyone in Jesus’ congregation, indeed any human being on earth, will shine and keep shining upon experiencing such love.

Winners and losers

Being loved is not the only cause of shining.  An Olympic medal, an Academy Award or a Pulitzer Prize can make the winner shine.  But that glow doesn’t last like the love-shine does.  It starts to fade when they play your National Anthem.  By the time you’re stalked by paparazzi at the airport, the glow is half-watt.  Furthermore, sports, science and show business have thousands of losers for every winner.  We losers don’t shine – unless we know Jesus.  Then we shine win or lose.

Shining is not conventional attractiveness

Sometimes shining comes across in photographs but mostly not.  In no case does skin-deep beauty compare with shining.  We can all think of “ugly” looking people who shine beautifully with God’s light.  By comparison, glamour is superficial and selfish.  “Sex appeal” lacks love appeal.  We shine brightest when we pay little thought to our appearance.  “Beautiful people”, celebrities, stars, icons and “idols” don’t shine; they glitter.  Shining is to glitter as a halo is to a spotlight.  When the show is over or technicians goof, spotlights go OFF.

Many young people are beautiful-looking but don’t shine.  They have “issues” that need to be exposed to light.  Many fear looking stupid and put fool-blockers over their lights.  A fool-blocker is a mental mesh (veil) that automatically inhibits uncool actions.  Teenagers download these filters from MySpace and YouTube.  They come in different strengths: fine, super-fine, Gothic and catatonic.  Shining Christians are not afraid to be “fools for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10).  Let glow and let God.

Shining draws attention not to the self but to the One who loves us.  The glittering celebrity tries to act humble but can’t do so while drawing attention to himself.  The camera may be steady but the celebrity’s inner power flickers on-again off-again.  Likewise, the flashbulb and spotlight shine onto the gorgeous supermodel who then must mitigate her “look” in order to focus our attention on what she wears instead who she is.  Only when shining with God’s radiance does our real self truly glow steadily from within.   Our beam then points out toward the viewer and up toward One who made us what we are and who lights us up.

Lovers

Loving, as well as being loved, can make shine.  However – and this is big however – we can only give away what we’ve got.  We need charged batteries.  For an everlasting shine, we must be certain of our own permanent lovableness.  That’s why God first loves us before we love Him.  The only permanent, substantial, reliable source of shining is the absolute certainty of being loved and therefore lovable.  We must focus on the Super-modeller, the Creator God, the Designer of our whole person, not the clothes designer or the hair stylist.  The most expensive “makeover” will not make us shine.  In fact plastic surgery can imply that God made a mistake!  Best to let Him refashion us into the image of Christ.

Loveable

How does one become loved?  If you ever got it, or any approximation of it, from your mother, father, sibling, partner, or anyone else, consider yourself extremely blessed.  People who know how to love are rare these days.  In any case, God’s love is always available to anyone willing to receive it.  If you are the least bit open minded, the gift could be there waiting.

I recently preached about shining at Cornerstone Assembly of God in Joondalup and the whole congregation lit up.  Worried brows smoothed.  Young attitudes lost their cool; old visages beamed knowingly; toddlers with eyes like liquid gems ran the isles and radiated.  Inapt grinning, rowdy laughter, even uninhibited remarks, went off like fireworks.  I lost control, my cheeks ached from smiling, yet the atmosphere was pleasantly peaceful.

Lovers  get the credit

Shining is not centred on the self.  Ultimately shining glorifies the lover rather than the beloved.  If you are fortunate enough to be certain you are unconditionally loved by your spouse, then your shining will glorify your spouse.  Likewise when and if you begin to realise how much God loves you, the result will draw eyes toward God more than toward you.  Writer Philip Yancey introduces himself to an audience saying, “I’m Philip Yancey, the one Jesus loves.”   Joyce Meyer says, “I must give the glory to God and the credit to my husband while I just take the privilege.”

Greek names for love

The Greeks have four different words to describe the one English word “love”.  In English language the one word is used interchangeably for almost everything.  Only by context can we tell the difference between loving my wife and loving chocolate. 

Greek is much more specific:

» Eros is erotic love, sexual attraction;

» Philia is brotherly love, also “good mates” and dear friends;

» Storge is the love between family members; but only

» Agape is truly unconditional love involving compassion, empathy and lasting affection.  The recipient of Agape shines every time.   

Where do you find such love?  If you didn’t get it from your mother, father, partner, or anyone else – or even if you did – I suggest you look into God’s love which is available to anyone, including the atheist, willing to knock off the former self and receive it.  Problem is, you are unlikely to take delivery if you hate God, think God hates you, or think you are God.   However, if you are the least bit open minded, the gift could be there waiting.  Go downstairs.  Look under the tree.  Don’t be afraid of being foolish.

Glowing is knowing

It is one thing to be loved but another to know for sure that you are loveable.  One huge cause of dimness is uncertainty.  And the major cause of uncertainty is the former self. 

So many people believe that it is love that grows, but it is knowing that grows and love expands to contain it.  Love is just the skin of knowing.  William P. Young

Should-a, would-a, could-a

You needn’t be religious to shine but you can’t live in the past.  Waddif is an intelligent, amiable, self-taught person with an adoring wife.  Old Waddy is trustworthy – always comes through – and as a result has good friends.  Like many autodidacts, Waddy fears he might have made a number of life choices that weren’t so bright.  And he did.  He could have gone to uni on a scholarship but opted out for a high-pay job in the mining industry.  As a result, Waddy has constant second thoughts.  He should have gone surfing yesterday, waves were bigger.  His shares went up in value but not as much as they should have: if only he’d made a better choice.  Petrol would have been ten cents cheaper on the weekend. 

Waddy rarely uses the simple past tense of verbs.  Instead he employs what grammarians call “pluperfect-subjunctive tense”.  He does this for emphasis.  Rather than just say “It was a bonzer barbie” or “I went to the footy” or “she looked gorgeous”, Waddy goes all serious and important-sounding with “That would have been a bonzer barbie”, “I would have gone to the footy” and “she would have had to have looked gorgeous”. 

The pluperfect subjunctive is rightly described as “past conditional”.  It is a verb mood for expressing wishes and possibilities that are contrary to fact at present.  It’s a manner of speaking that when used dozens of times every day has a regressive influence.  Not only does Waddy live in the past, he lives in the past imperfect.  Poor Waddy would have known he could have been lovable if he wouldn’t have been talking all the time about how he could have been. 

Waddy can’t shine like he ought.  “So what!” says Waddy, who would have said he wouldn’t have cared whether he would have shined or not: “who needs it?” 

I do.  Particularly in my old age.  

Shining is more important than “personality”, healthier than fame, more attractive than looks, even more valuable than intellect.

Greek words for love

The Greeks have four different words to describe the one English word “love”.  In English language the one word is used interchangeably for almost everything.  Only by context can we tell the difference between loving my wife and loving chocolate. 

Greek is much more specific:

  • Eros is erotic love, sexual attraction;
  • Philia is brotherly love, also “good mates” and dear friends;
  • Storge is the love between family member; but only
  • Agape is truly unconditional love involving compassion, empathy and lasting affection. 

The recipient of Agape shines every time.   

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Drug Truth: Murder Will Out

by Charles Slack

My grandmother, the one we called “Mither” who baked the best cinnamon buns and who prayed fervently for our salvation, believed that “murder will out”.  Often preceded by “the Lord knows” and followed by “in His time”, Mither’s maxim was meant to apply across the board to all transgressions great and small. 

The technical term is metonym where a word like “murder” is intended to stand for “offenses in general”, including theft from cookie jars, smoking cigarettes, lying to parents about smoking cigarettes and wagging school – as well as, of course, to homicide. 

The idea was, whatever our trespasses might be, we were not going to get away with them forever:
eventually, in the fullness of time, sooner or later, “at the end of the day”, in the last analysis, when push comes to shove, etc., light will shine, truth will tell, facts will front, all will be revealed,
 murder will out.

Drug abuse is sin

Lately I’ve been thinking of Mither’s adage in connection with some truths now coming to light about drug abuse.  Jesus says, “He that commits (practises) sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34)  This is a perfect description of addiction.  When you take a mind/mood-altering drug, you begin to become a slave to drugs.  You lose control of your life.  First you take a drug; next the drug takes a drug; then the drug takes you – wherever it wants you to go.  This is how sin operates.

Hidden by ignorance and denial for years if not decades, such vital verities as this are emerging at last.  Romans 5:20-21 (NIV), But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  As the problem worsens, the truth becomes more apparent.

The drug problem is now so devastating, ubiquitous, momentous, and so recalcitrant to standard (weak) solutions, that obfuscation can’t help but fade.  Drug truth is coming to light.

Progressive symptomatology 

Since the nineteen sixties, a significant number of influential “experts” on drug abuse including police, psychologists, professors, pundits, politicians and philanthropists have themselves used drugs without having really tried to quit altogether.  These people see no reason for tough laws or compulsory treatment for addicts.  “Social” drug-users nearly always favor decriminalization and legalization.  They espouse “harm-reduction” and think “controlled-use” can be a solution.  However, the bad-or-maybe-good news is that drug addiction is relentlessly progressive in high-brow professionals as well as in lowly crack-heads.  In time the symptomatology of all drug-users becomes obvious.  The time comes when high-and-mighty addicts cease to be effective opinion-molders as their lives become unmanageable.  The good-or-maybe-bad news is that when sports heroes go to rehab, when psychiatrists become mental patients, when judges become junkies, then murder will out.

Furthermore, when sin increases and headlines get bad enough, naive citizens who never used drugs finally become aware of the intractable horror of drug use. Perceiving at last the failure of half-measures, “square” people now call for tougher love, tougher laws and more compulsory treatment.  When Oscar-winners overdose, murder will out.

Prominent among solid but naive non-addict citizens are what Dr. George O’Neil calls “the parents of lost children”. 

Distraught and devastated, the families of addicts eventually learn through bitter experience that tough love, abstinence-based compulsory treatment and tough laws are the only option: everything else is false hope.
 When the problem hits home, murder will out.

So much for the news about sin increasing.  Now for news about grace increasing even more…

Grace abounds

On the entirely positive side, day by day the population of completely abstinent ex-addicts keeps growing.  I know because I’m one of them.  We are those whom God has healed.  We know it was God.  We know human “will-power” and “discipline” failed us.  “Non-directive” counseling, “wet” rehabs, any treatment that allows controlled use was worthless.  In the finish it was abstinence or death.  We know the truth about drugs.

Abstinence, a gift from God, can be maintained only by complete surrender.  Spiritual growth is required.  Jesus Christ is very popular among abstinent ex-addicts, all of whom attest to the need for God to remove obsessions and compulsions (read “sins”) and restore sanity.  Most recovering addicts also favor tougher laws and tougher love for those still using.

Immature

“Reformed” addicts (like me) can be a pain in the neck in early days of recovery.  Eventually we do come good.   However, immaturity is common because emotional growth stops when drugs take over.  When I got clean at age 47 I was an emotional adolescent in a middle-aged body.  I needed to grow up and learn interpersonal skills.

I was often “over the top” in human relations.  Being honest myself for the first time in ages, I saw hypocrisy in everyone else.  I sounded self-righteous when actually I was really scared to death of relapsing.  I also became fanatically over committed through trying to redeem myself instead of letting Jesus do the job.  However, the entirely good news is that, in time, because I kept away from the drug scene and remained abstinent (2 Corinthians 6:17 “come out from among them, be separate and touch not the unclean thing”), I eventually joined the human race and became a reasonably mature Christian.  Meanwhile, I and other recovering addicts were especially equipped to help using addicts achieve abstinence.  God gives us a special gift.  We alone are able to prove through experience that we know what we are talking about.  Many using addicts won’t listen to anyone who “hasn’t been there”.

The best news

Ex-addicts are constantly on the increase!  By now enough of us have achieved enough maturity to constitute a political force and a professional reality.  Because we’re getting the numbers, politicians are beginning to listen to us.  Bureaucrats aren’t taking much heed yet but they soon will.  For one thing, ex-addicts are becoming bureaucrats themselves.  This means that laws and love will finally get tough.  Even though government officials are always the last to catch on, one or two now show signs of perceiving the horrendous harm in harm-minimization and the need for compulsory treatment.  As time goes on, more will come on board.  Slowly but surely, murder will out.

Tobacco example

It happened in the case of cigarettes and lung cancer.  As early as the 1930’s, scientific data were available to show a link between lung cancer and smoking.  By the 1950’s cigarettes were well known to be a cause.  Yet governments paid no attention until the population of ex-smokers and non-smokers became a political force and professional reality in the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Now that ex-smokers and non-smokers have the numbers, laws are getting tougher and abstinence is recognized as the only sane option.

Tough laws and tough love

So, thank God, “harm minimization”, “controlled use”, “decriminalization” and “non-directive counseling” are on the way out; abstinence, compulsory treatment, tough laws and tough love are on the way in.  Churches are learning there’s more to recovery than answering an altar call, saying the sinner’s prayer and donating to Teen Challenge.  The op-ed columnists are catching on as the headlines get worse.  Prominent psychologists (Dr. Phil), a few social workers and the occasional bureaucrat are beginning to face facts.  After decades of denial, murder will out after all.  (In case you think the murder metonym is far-fetched, be reminded that a soft option can actually kill an addict.)  Whether or not we want to hear it, the tough truth about addiction is the only thing that sets us free.  Anything less leads to jail, institutions and death.

Tough truth

Drug-addiction is caused by taking drugs.  The only remedy is complete abstinence. 

The Bible puts it better than any text-book or rehab manifesto in the “slave of sin” maxim of John 8:34.  If you play the game, you will get the name.  If you do the deed, you will die the death. (Genesis 2:17)  The rest is sanctimonious hand-waving.

So let’s all face facts: drug addiction is not caused by low self-esteem, child abuse, familial dysfunction, spiritual maltreatment, bullying, post-traumatic stress, clinical depression, cognitive dissonance, inadequate resilience, poverty, excessive wealth, manic euphoria, over-confidence, nurturing deficiency, stupidity, ignorance, moral turpitude, leniency, lassitude, lack of will power, or any other antecedents, correlates, proposed causes, predispositions, predilections or inclinations espoused in journals, advocated on websites, or broadcast on the evening news – unless accompanied by the ingestion or injection of a mind/mood-altering substance.  Drug addiction is caused by taking a drug.  The fall of man was caused by taking a bite.  Everything else is ancillary.  That’s the truth.

So!, why don’t all drug users become addicts?  Answer, they all can and do – if they keep on taking drugs!  Some take longer than others.  Some are more sensitive.  But nobody avoids addiction forever who continues to use drugs.  Likewise, nobody ever fails to recover who quits and remains completely abstinent.

Here’s an important fact: sensitivity cuts both ways.  Some people become quickly addicted because they are sensitive.  However other sensitive people realize their vulnerability and quit early on.  Unfortunately many highly resilient people, trusting in their strength, continue to use past the point of no return.  So resistant people get addicted too.  In the drug world, trusting your own strength can kill you whereas acknowledging weakness can save your life.

Advice from someone who has been there 

Whatever else you do, avoid the next mind/mood-altering drug.  Always remember, the first drug does the damage.  Seek help.  Ask God for help.  Pray to stay clean.  Honesty is the best policy: murder will out.  Complete abstinence from drugs is the only thing that works.  Anything less than tough love will kill you.  Surrender to compulsory treatment.  Surrender to God and He will bless your whole life!

Charles Slack, Ph.D. Psychology (Princeton), clean-and-sober since 3 March 1976.

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