Tuesday, December 27, 2016

GETTING INTIMATE WITH GOD

We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.

As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?" Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother." He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!" Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me." The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
Mark 10:17-22 The Message

“A saint is not someone who is good but someone who experiences the goodness of God.” -Thomas Merton

Getting Intimate with God

Scripture is full of people who can help us become more intimate with God. But it’s not always because they had such a good relationship with God themselves. One such person is the man we read about in Mark 10. Let’s call him Don. From what the Bible says, we know that Don rushes around in a big hurry, with all kinds of drama, all in an effort to do what he thinks he needs to do so that he can live forever. Sounds like some of us, doesn’t it?

From what we read we know that Don was intensely committed to his religious practice, rituals he had kept since childhood. Speculating a little, Don was probably the kind of guy who attended church without fail. We can almost see him, tall and well put together. We can bet that Don took really good care of his appearance, presenting himself to the world with great care and consideration. He knew he was doing good and it was important to him to impress others with just how good he was. He probably drove a nice car and, secretly of course, he was proud that he kept his car looking and running better than anyone else in his neighborhood. For sure, Don was well respected at church and at home. This made him feel important. Being the man that he was, Don was obsessed with learning all that he needed to know in order to get rid of anything that limited the life that he loved so much. It seems like Don thought of Jesus as little more than a means to an end. Because Don was committed to getting everything that he thought was important, he inadvertently treated Jesus as if Jesus was just an object that was there to give Don what he thought he needed. Don was in control, or so he thought. In the most subtle of ways, Don was playing God. This is what we do when try to use God to get our way. It happens even with our best intentions. None of us means to objectify God but we do, at least to some degree. It’s really not a question of if we have, but how often have we.

Jesus gives Don an amazing comeback. He didn’t directly confront Don’s religiosity and pride. He just suggested that Don should keep doing more of what he was already doing. Then, being such a hard worker and all, Don was apparently overcome with a deep, deep sadness. After all, since childhood he had been working harder and harder to get a better life and it obviously hadn’t been working for him. If it had, he wouldn’t have been so desperate for something more. So, deep in his gut, he knew it wasn’t going to work now. Do you know this feeling?

Here the story could have taken a great turn, but it didn’t. Jesus continued to respond to Don by challenging his attachments. (Don probably had some addictions mixed in there, too.) While challenging Don to detach and free himself from the things that he held so dear, Jesus extended an invitation to enter into the intimacy of living with Jesus on a day-to-day basis just like the rest of Jesus’ followers did. Sadly, Don could not make this decision. He could not find it within himself to let go of the old life of religion and take hold of this new life of relationship.
We need to be careful not to speculate too much because we can’t read Don’s mind. We can only know for sure what Scripture tells us. Perhaps Don just didn’t believe what Jesus was saying. Perhaps he couldn’t fathom the idea that gaining eternal life did not depend on him alone. Or, perhaps Don just didn’t really want what Jesus had to offer. Don seemed determined to think that his religious discipline and control would be enough to get himself right with God forever. He chose pride over life.

Don’s story will only benefit us if we are willing to learn from it. Sometimes we learn the most in observing the failures of others. It is important for us to relate ourselves to Don and his encounter with Christ, failures and all. For you see, Jesus is about more than just overcoming an addiction. He is about more than just going to heaven when we die. Any reason and all reasons are good reasons to come to Christ, but the only way we will continuously bring life to our sinful existence is to seek intimacy with Christ for the sake of God himself. Any other reason becomes sin sooner or later. Jesus is more than a religious icon. Jesus is how God identifies himself to us in a personal way. In Jesus, God shows himself as the perfect human so that all of us imperfect humans can enjoy a perfected relationship with God. It’s simple really. As we make the decision to surrender our will and our life to Jesus we get close, we get real and we get intimate with God. It’s a love story, not a religious story. God looks deep into us and no matter of what he sees, He loves us just like Jesus loved Don. What Jesus did for Don, God is doing for us. He challenges us. He calls us. He invites us to let go of the things which have been holding us back, most notably our religious attempts to prove ourselves worthy. God frees us from the demand that we get our act together. He knows that even if we did ever get our act together, all that we would ever have would be an act.

Christ, is here to give us His life if we are willing to let go of the lifelessness that we have known up to now.

He has done his part now. Let us do ours.






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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

JOURNEY FROM SHAME TO GRACE

We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death. 2 Corinthians 7:10, NLT

“We can accept God’s good gifts too easily. Grace can be accepted only when we face our own inabilities. Forgiveness can be embraced only when we lay bare our wrongdoing, and hope can be imparted only when we face the reality of our own despair.” - Charles Ringma

Journey From Shame to Grace

Humility is an awareness that we are both imperfect and worthwhile at the same time. Humility is a high ground that traverses the bogs and swamps of grandiosity and self-hatred. Humility chooses to follow God’s plan over our own. When we live humbly, which we can be defined as consistently choosing God’s way of doing things over our own way of doing things, impossibly good things begin to happen to otherwise impossible people like us. We get turned inside out. Our attitude begins to change. Our outlook on life becomes healthier and more balanced. The destructive feelings we have had for ourselves will diminish. We will begin to see things differently. As we change on the inside, things around us begin to change as well. Life and the way we live it begin to make sense.

Humility is an acceptance of ourselves, sin and all. Humility helps us to see ourselves with one eye to evaluate and the other eye to appreciate. Humility admits to shortcoming and wrongdoing, then it reaches out and accepts the help that is needed to make serious changes. Humility helps us to understand the problems that we cannot solve on our own. This is why Jesus becomes increasingly important to us in our recovery. For you see, God never expects us to solve all of our problems on our own. He understands that our character defects and our addictions are beyond our ability to change. So, God offers to do for us what we can never do for ourselves. He offers to transform us by taking our character defects and, in exchange, replacing them with the character of Jesus. All we have to do to is to give up our character defects to Him and humbly receive Jesus’ character as God, according to His plan, builds it in us.


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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ADMITTED TO GOD

Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.


He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Blessed is the man who always fears the LORD, but he who hardens his heart falls into trouble.
Proverbs 28:13-14 NLT


"My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion."
-Thomas Merton

Admitting to God

Getting honest about the details of our lives is the most powerful thing we can do to strengthen our intimate connection with God. Honesty puts us on the same page with Him. Knowing that He knows everything about us, there is no reason to hide what is inside of us anymore. When we get honest with God, we “cash the check” so to speak; we open ourselves up and receive the grace that He has already provided for us, through Christ.

Step Five is not a religious exercise so it’s important that we don’t over -spiritualize this aspect of our recovery. We are just admitting, with as much detail as we can, what God already knows. We acknowledge that we have never benefited from minimizing our weaknesses and shortcomings. We admit our pride and our stubbornness, with as much clarity as possible, most notably all of our silly attempts to solve our spiritual and emotional problems. We confess that we have been self righteousness in covert and creative ways. We admit that we have never fooled God and that we rarely fooled anyone else, only ourselves. We tell the details about how we have judged other people and, with as much humility as possible, we admit how our religiosity has kept God, and the goodness that He intends for us, at arm’s length.

God has known us in a deep way. Now we will begin to know ourselves in a deep way, too. As we are willing to admit the exact nature of our wrongs to God, we will be able to accept the acceptance that He gives. As we accept the acceptance that He gives, we will begin to accept ourselves in the same way; even the worst about us. The more we admit our shortcomings to God, the more we slice away at the fears that have ruled us from the inside. We will learn to be at peace with the mysterious ways of God. Accepting His deep acceptance, we will no longer be obsessed with trying to figure out the hidden streams and currents of God. We will lose our inhibitions. We will want to strip down, reveal ourselves completely and swim in the power of goodness that God offers to us. We will never sink or get lost when we are honest with God. He’ll do the navigating for us. Knowing that we are known by God in this intimate way, we can live at rest. We will be buoyed in His grace forever, floating and moving with the currents of His guidance and care. There is no need to fear the oceanic mystery of God anymore. No matter where His currents lead our lives, the ultimate destination for us is more than very, very good.


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Operation Integrity 2016 Year-End Update

 Operation Integrity 2016 Year-End Update                                
 
With deep appreciation for your prayers and support in 2016, I present our year-end update.
 
·        Operation Integrity continues to serve 3 churches in CA while supporting Christ-centered recovery efforts in 8 States with new starts in Austin TX & Albuquerque NM.
·        OI continues to mentor private recovery meetings across the U.S. and beyond – with groups at a seminary in the UK and two home fellowships in Australia, and our books OUR JOURNEY HOME & WHEN LOST MEN COME HOME, NOT FOR MEN ONLY are now being used in Johannesburg South Africa.
·        We continue providing affordable recovery programs through our 45 Day Intensive & 90 Day Transformation.
·        I continue to work personally with Pastors and Clergy in Ohio, North Carolina, Oklahoma, California, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas and Canada, The United Kingdom, Greece and Australia.
·        3700+ people read Operation Integrity Weekly.
·        Operation Integrity wrote a book used in-house by a southern California mental health organization.
·        Operation Integrity wrote content for an 8-part video series produced by a national addiction treatment program.
 
2017 brings a new emphasis to our work — blending a Christ-centered message with proven clinical tools and the proven effectiveness of 12–Step communities. It looks like this:
 
Operation Integrity collects essential information from Christ-teaching, well-proven clinical & professional understanding and the essential wisdom of 12 Step teaching and community.
 
Operation Integrity formats this blended information to offering it to help guide and inspire Christian communities better understand addicted people within their community, assist clinical professionals do what they cannot otherwise do (community and spiritual development) and helping 12 Step participants better integrate their 12 Step addiction recovery effort with a Christ-centered perspective.                                            
              
The result is an integrated process-driven program that provides Education, Community, Combined 12-Step and counseling/therapy (The Inner Journey) — all leading to Christ-centered emotional and spiritual health. This work will be presented through speaking and writing, and woven into our fellowship group program, and encouraged as an essential recovery experience for individuals.
The result will look like this.
                       
Three primary applications of education, community, the inner journey, all leading to sustainable spiritual formation.
 
1.     Communications, Writing and Public presentation information/inspiration relevant to addiction recovery
2.     Coaching/mentoring recovery fellowships (recovery groups and fellowships) using OI literature
3.     Promote OI process for individuals - 12 Step and discipleship based
 
What Operation Integrity Needs - a short list of current challenges and opportunities for 2017.
·       Refunding The Roger M Fund (provides funding for 45 & 90 Day Programs)
·       Meet current support needs – my personal financial support for doing this work.
·       Fund additional printing of literature for Prison Chaplain support efforts (supplying OI literature to inmates through chaplains)
·       General overhead including shipping and postage costs, vehicle and travel expenses, communications, social networking and online costs, and non-reimbursable travel.
·       Client services which includes short-term care of individuals such as temporary housing (sober-living), and even sometimes help with food and clothing, as well as employer relations and family support and counseling. 
·       Print and ship literature in support of developing recovery groups in U.S and overseas.
 
 
How You Can Be Part of Operation Integrity in 2017
 
Operation Integrity must raise $34,700.00 to finish 2016 on target, giving us a strong start for 2017. I ask that you financially support our efforts. (All donations to Operation Integrity are tax deductible.)
 
I thank you personally in advance for your contributions. Most of all I thank you for your ongoing support through prayer.
 
There are two ways you can financially support Operation Integrity.
1. Visit us at www.operationintegrity.org to make a donation.
2. Mail your check to Operation Integrity
24040 Camino del Avion #A115
Monarch Beach CA 92629
 
Yours in Christ and recovery,
 
David Zailer
Executive Director
 
1-949-842-1012
 
Follow Operation Integrity on Facebook, & Twitter @opintegrity