Hope of Kindness: The Jesus Place

We are so  honored to be with you each day sharing hope. Our outreach has grown at a tremendous pace. We are averaging over 100 new subscribers a day. We just past 103,200 in followers. That’s because people are searching for hope and we provide it.

We are in a new promotion. The person who is our 105,000 will wins some nice prizes. That is only 1,800 away It goes very fast so don’t miss out. 

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Doug Bolton, the founder of Signs of Hope, is writing  a new book, “Signs of Hope for the Military: In and Out of the Trenches of Life.” It reaches out the military and veterans who may be battling anxiety, fear, depression, addictions, rejections, PTSD, and many other usual suspects. There are 22 military connected suicides every day. That is almost one every hour. We need to help stop those statistics. Be looking for more updates about the new book. 

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+ Update! The book has been sent to my editor recently. Now I wait and see how many red marks she will have in it. 🙂

There will be some incredible interviews with veterans in this book. Up to twenty different veterans agreed to let me ask them some very personal questions. Some answers will have you in tears.  

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I am very happy to see Linda Claire back as our guest blogger. Her posts are dynamic, gut wrenching, and full of true. Thank you so much Linda for opening up your heart to us. 

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The Jesus Place

By Linda S. Clare

I’ve always thought of myself as a reasonably kind person. I’ll hold open doors for wheelchair users. I smile at an elderly man on a park bench. I brought home every stray cat I ever saw. But put the same old man in front of me at the grocery store, counting out his bill in pennies, and my saintly kindness melts into impatience and even indignation.

When I was around twelve, Mom worked so I had to babysit my younger sister all summer. Sis was pretty typical for a second grader—she loved to play with her Barbies, her friends and since we grew up in Phoenix, she loved to swim. I was not especially kind to her and more than once lost my temper, swatted at her and then for several hours had to plead with her not to tell our parents.

One day, when I just didn’t feel like watching her and her gabby second-grade friends, I was extra mean. I locked her in the bathroom and then went to my air-conditioned room to read. Not exactly the picture of virtue. Big Sister Fail.

For that and many other sins, I doubt I’m winning the Good Girl Award any time soon. Then and now, it’s too easy to stay safe, to be cocooned in the familiar, to resist any push to step out into nothing. Supposedly, this desire for control over our lives goes way back—to that Tree with the fruit and Eve, who didn’t know a serpent from a stick. Any way you slice it, we’re stuck with sinful natures that get us into trouble and lock true kindness in the bathroom.

As my own family has struggled with addiction and mental health issues, I’ve been told to get some Tough Love so many times. My friends don’t like to watch me suffer and others just wish I’d shut up. Tough Love seems like the perfect answer to a really terrible problem.  Most people who see our circumstances from the outside think my addicted/alcoholic sons are simply playing me. Why, they’re having the time of their lives, sponging off mom and dad, getting drunk or high without consequences. I should tell my sons to get out, grow up and by the way, get a job. Right?

Well, hallelujah, you nailed it. Except that life is never so simple.

Fear of threats to our beings and our cultures is a natural human response. When we face a dangerous animal, natural disaster or in times of war, our fight or flight response kicks in to help us survive.

But at times, we trick ourselves into self-serving misperceptions of danger, and it is then that we cling to baseless fears that only hurt us. The early Christians had every right to fear the Romans and others who were trying to kill off the early Church. Over the millennia, we’ve made laws and statutes to keep our ways of life intact. Yet again and again in the New Testament, we are reminded to be kind to one another.

As in the early Church, today it’s easy to slip back into the clutches of the Old Covenant—the Law. The only way to grow in faith is to “long for the pure milk of the word,” which tells us to be humble, not thinking ourselves more than we are. The first step in growing a Just Love is to stop finger pointing and confess our own shortcomings. We can love the Law but we don’t always have to enforce the Law—especially when it comes to those we look down upon. This is grace.

So with my sons and their addictions, I’m compelled to extend to them the grace God freely offers to me. Every day I see my grown children’s brokenness adding up. The scars of addiction, as well as poverty, under-employment, mental health issues are etched deep into their expressions, like crevasses carved by glaciers.

I know this sounds odd, but I genuinely believe my sons hate what they’re doing. Life has become a vicious cycle of mental illness compounded by drug and alcohol use that only temporarily eases the pain.

Every day, the only truly kind act—that mercy thing God is so famous for—stares into my soul. Mercy, compassion, lovingkindness—call it what you wish. It dares me to love my boys again, by yes, first offering a way out. I say, “You’ve been trying things your way for a while now. How’s it working out for you?”

Some days they answer. Other times, they duck their chins and slip out of sight. On days they stay, I can say, “If you want to try treatment, I’m here for you.” On the days they run, I pray for them to run—straight into God’s arms.

Either way, I cannot change their minds. But what I can do no matter what, is treat them with respect. Look them in the eyes. Remind them how very much they are loved. This is the kindness I am learning from Jesus. Trees and serpents aside, I am so much less apt to sin again when I stay in the Jesus Place.

For me, the Jesus Place is about the Sermon on the Mount. There, Jesus reached out to the poor, the disabled, the ones more successful people looked down upon. When He modeled for them the Lord’s Prayer, he was showing everyone, at any time, that we are so much more than our latest screw-up.

When He said, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” He was tapping into much more than the problems we have if we max out the credit card. In biblical times, if you were a subsistence farmer, one bad harvest might not only result in you losing your land. You could wind up an indentured servant (slave) until you repaid your debt. The ones Jesus spoke to were the most vulnerable in that society. The ones living on the edge. Those with little or no hope.

The Jesus Place promotes mercy because it hands out mercy. Mercy is getting a break when you don’t deserve it. In turn, compassion upends cynical stereotyping and replaces it with hope. Hope we desperately need.

I know. It isn’t easy. Giving undeserved passes to rule breakers is really really hard. I’m not good at it either. But love is dangerous, people. It asks you to put your very tender heart out there on the altar when you know full well some bully is going to stomp on it.

But because Jesus was tempted in all things and yet did not sin, He could take all my stinky socks and my catalog of dumb, dumb moves and hang it all with Him on the Cross.

I used to think that made Him seem like some awful Poindexter—teacher’s pet who always knew the answer. My reaction was a little bitter, like Dana Carvey’s Church Lady from old SNL. Isn’t that special?

Trouble is, I wanted to sit in judgment of everyone else (because I’m almost always right) but run crying to God when someone dished garbage back to me. I didn’t see the connection between blue-eyed movie Jesus being annoyingly preachy and the actual Son of God, who is very serious about bringing Light into the world.

For me, His light used to be made of being nice to kitties and old grandpas and kid sisters—but only if they didn’t interfere with my day. It was like earning a Gold Star from the Big Guy if I held open the door for some poor wheelchair user, which by the way, is required by Jesus and not optional at all. Real compassion asks for real love and real hope that love wins.

You don’t have to listen or do what Jesus says. That’s not how He rolls. But He reaches out to those of us who aren’t so tough anymore, those for whom life and awful things like addiction have locked us in the bathroom. He promises that if we are merciful, we shall receive mercy. That if we show mercy to others, we are actually blessed. Blessed! Just for being truly kind, for merciful acts big and small. We don’t even always have to be in control, which is OK although some days, I’d still rather drive than ride. And even then, Jesus is really patient with me. Mostly.

I have to believe He is patient with my sons, too, and doesn’t wish for them to suffer. Tough Love says they deserve to suffer, and maybe that’s right in some cases. But Just Love keeps pointing me back to the Jesus Place, a place where the downtrodden, the forgotten, all of us debtors can find comfort under the Yoke of Love.

And in modern times, if we run up a big bill, we aren’t thrown into debtor’s prison or enslaved, at least not yet. We can, however still be financially ruined for a few bad spending decisions or an unexpected health crisis. The serpent is alive, I’m afraid.

Yet Jesus calls across millennia, looking us in the eyes and saying, “You’ve been trying life your way for a while now. How’s that working out for you?” Hang out at the Jesus Place for a while, friend. You’ll find it full of mercy, love and hope.

 

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If Not You, who? If Not Now, When?

We are very happy to announce the Dennis Booth is with us again tonight.

You have friends and family that you know are hurting. Who is suppose to reach out to them?

I heard a couple sentences today in church:

  1. If not you…who?
  2. If not now…when?

We need to be reaching out now to those in our families who are needed assistance. Dennis shows us how.

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The Best Gift…Being a Disciple

 by Dennis Booth on Sunday, January 9, 2011

For many, the pursuit of their Christian walk is an exercise in determining what they are meant to be in Him.

For some it becomes an exercise in determining what their Spiritual Gifts are because it seems to be of utmost importance.

There are even tests, questions and answers, true and false scenarios that lead to the evaluation of what you might be…pastor, prophet, evangelist etc.

But yesterday before I went to church the Lord dropped into my Spirit just one word “disciple”.

And even the simplest words become the most important, even the smallest of conversations become the most important.

Most of us are aware of what a disciple in Biblical terms means but in layman’s terminology it is characterised as “enthusiast, supporter, adherent, devotee, convert, partisan”

I am the first to admit openly that from the time I became a born again Christian that I wanted to be this, that and everything rolled into one.

I did the tests, the evaluations and I was proud to tell others of my results yet as time has gone on I have realised the futility of trying to be something on paper that God has not implanted within you in the flesh.

And yesterday I believe I got that one word because He is trying to tell us that the most important gift of all is being His disciple.

You see a disciple is as was said..an enthusiast…if you really love the Lord you will be so enthusiastic about Him and what it means to follow him.

You will be a supporter of him…anyone who attacks Christ you do not attack back but do as Christ says…pray for him/her…that is supporting Him.

You become an adherent which means you join the fellowship of Christ which in effect is the church.

You become a devotee…devoted to Him to follow Him wherever He wants you to go and to understand His teachings and do what is required of you.

You become a convert and that in itself is the new birth, you become a new creation, off with the old, on with the new and if you have never worn armour before now you do.

You become a partisan!

In the second world war the partisans were those who fought the enemy to protect what was so dear to them, they were not fanatics in that sense but they were devoted to their country as it was, they would defend that country to death because what they believed in was right.

It is the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit whom will implant what many deem a “calling” on someone’s life to be this, that or something else.

BUT…we are all called to be disciples…we are bonded in that with Christ! That puts us all on a level playing field where there is no position to be sought but just to be one with Him.

And let the words ring true as the final answer that Jesus gave in Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

And this is the reward …”And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Treasure the gifts but you already if you accepted Christ and love Him you have been given the greatest of them all…discipleship!

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Biblical Approach To Addiction

Until about 20 years ago, psychologists searched for the “addictive personality”.  What type of person became an addict?  Was it the dependent, or the impulsive, or the weak-willed, or the depressed or anxious, or the “type A” person who was predisposed to develop an addiction?  To their surprise, they didn’t find a definitive profile of an “addictive personality”.

Addictions, possibly more than any other human malady, portray in loud and living color the battle with sin that takes place in every human heart.  Current estimates are that 27% of Americans will at some point in their lifetime abuse or become dependent on some substance.  These estimates do not even include two other behavioral addictions: pornography and gambling.

Who are the Addicts?

Addicts come in all shapes and sizes and smells.  Some are CEO’s, white collar professionals, deacons and Sunday school teachers.  Others are homeless street people and bag ladies whose aroma lingers in your office long after they’ve left.  But, if you peer into the soul of any of these addicts, or your soul or mine, you smell the same thing: desire, thirst, hunger, longing, craving and lust.  Addiction and the human condition live in the same family.  The difference between you, me and the addict is wafer-thin.

Currently, the medical disease model and 12-step recovery programs dominate both the discussion and the response to addictions.  There is one problem with the medical disease model, however.  The cause of the “disease” has never been identified.  There is no gene or virus or bacteria or metabolic deficiency or neuropathology that has been conclusively proven to be the cause of any addiction.  Do addicts have a disease like cancer or diabetes?  Or, is disease only a metaphor for sin-sickness and the devastation that follows? 

According to clinical psychologist, Ed Welch, “The disease theory persists because there are no other readily available explanations…If Scripture doesn’t guide us, something else will… An addiction is a worship disorder.  Instead of worshiping the divine King, addicts worship idols that temporarily satisfy physical desire.”[1]

From a biblical perspective, something has gone wrong with the desires of an addict; they’ve been hijacked and taken hostage.  What began as a friendship becomes infatuation, then a love affair and eventually the addict is captive to a fatal attraction.

An idol that was originally intended to serve him and do his bidding, turns the table until one day the addict wakes up and recognizes, “I’m hooked.”  Choice by choice the addict forges the links in his own chain.

The Wonderful Counselor knew this, “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8.34 HCSB).   

Saint Paul put it this way, “Do you not know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6.16 HCSB)

Worship and its perversion, idolatry, are biblical categories that capture both the life dominating and the against God nature of addiction.  The Bible’s concept of sin matches up perfectly with both the voluntary/purposeful/rebellious and the enslaved/deceived/out-of-control aspects of addiction.  Addiction is a form of bondage that you voluntarily sign up for, and then realize you got something you didn’t want.

If addiction is expected then these basic steps should be followed

  1. Detection and Confirmation.  Whenever an addiction is suspected, wise and loving friends or family look into it rather than avert their eyes because of fear or busyness.
  2. Loving confrontation. The 12-step world calls this “intervention”.  We must directly and gently address those who are overtaken by life-dominating sin.  It’s simply a matter of convening a few relatives, friends, and church leaders who love the addict, calling them to repent, and presenting a plan for change.   See Galatians 6.1-2.
  3. Triage. In cases of severe and long-standing addictions, radical intervention may be necessary.  This may take the form of a Christian residential program which provides intensive around the clock supervision and counsel for 30-90 days.  Know beforehand what your local resources are and how financial arrangements can be made.
  4. Counseling. Following are critical issues that must be addressed when counseling an addict.
  • Assess the lifestyle. It’s important to know the details of their addiction and their daily life.
  • Obtain a commitment to change.
  • Engage accountability and prayer partners (usually several times per week).
  • Help prevent relapses. Develop “ways of escape”; construct “walls and fences” to minimize opportunities to backslide. 
  • Teach spiritual truth and disciplines. Instruction and life-on-life discipleship about how to do spiritual battle and fight the good fight for faith and obedience.  This should include practical biblical teaching on sanctification and important concepts like putting off/putting on and renewing the mind.  The addict must understand the wrongs and sanctification.
  • Replace idolatry with worship of the true God.  Addicts must learn how to worship.  Augustine said that the root of all evil is wrongly directed desire.  Desires and affections must be redirected.
  • Encourage love for others.  This would include confessing sin to others and seeking forgiveness, reconciliation and restitution whenever possible.
  • Deal with deception.  Addictions and lies are bedfellows.  Teach the importance of honesty
  • Get others involved in the plan for change.  This is a job for the church,  or faith based recovery program, not one person.

Lastly, do not get discouraged with relapses.  They are all too common.  Those who have successfully conquered addiction usually fail several times before they achieve victory.

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Jesus Healed Ten Lepers at Once. Talk About Shock and Awe!

Lepers Were Outcasts in Biblical Times, but Not to Jesus

 Jesus healed ten lepers at one time. Can you imagine even being close to a leper? In those days they were considered the most unclean people on the planet. Boils on their faces; fingers missing, because they couldn’t feel the rats chewing in their fingers while they slept; noses missing because of rotting. Their body was slowly decaying away. Yet Jesus felt pity for them. He touched each of them to heal them.

It wasn’t like they had to go through therapy. They didn’t need to see the doctor several times for surgery to mend each ugly hole, or wound. It was instant! Fingers straightened out in front of many people watching. Noses grew back. The boils faded away. Can you see the looks on the people’s faces as they saw this unfold? Talk about shock and awe! The neighbors that they once despised, and felt sick being around, were now people that looked just like them and were probably doing some line dancing together in the streets out of the joy they now had.  

Why would Jesus heal these horrible, sickly looking people?  Yes, He showed pity for them, but what He did all this for was to glorify God. To show the miracles that God has in store for those who believe.

The people made a wide path around these kinds of people. They didn’t want to have anything to do with them. Jesus hand picked the least of the people to show the others that everyone is important. Everyone needs God’s love.

 Our past often makes us lepers. It transforms us into spiritual corpses. We are reeling in pain of our past. The killing wounds of divorce; lost jobs; lost loved ones; lost sanity, and lost hope.

 We feel that we are outcasts like a leper. No one seems to care. No one seems to come to help. We are slowing drowning in our own pool of self pity.

 Even Paul tells us, “You were dead in your transgression and sin.” (Ephesians 2:1 NIV).

 Let Jesus touch you like He did the lepers! Go to Him and show Him your deep wounds, of broken opportunities, broken dreams, or broken hearts.

 He will close the open sores of the heart, and the sorrowful looks on our faces to smiles.

Leave behind a life that smelled like a barnyard fragrance, and put on the odor of a sweet rose into your life.

 Jesus is always right there next to you waiting for you to ask Him into that broken heart of yours. All you have to do is realize that you don’t need to let the sins of the past cause havoc in your life anymore. It will be instant. You won’t need to write, “I will never sin again,” one hundred times on the chalkboard. You will not need to earn your mercy by doing community service for the rest of your life. Ephesians 2:8 says, “By grace you are saved, not by works…” It is that simple. You confess your sins to God, and Boom! You can kiss all the rotting pain and anguish good-bye. Your life, like the fingers of a leper will slowly straighten out. The past boils of self-doubt, anxiety, depression, or hopelessness will fade away. Let Jesus touch your life, and become you will become clean again.

 

 

 

 

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