“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5: 18
Today I celebrate thirty six years clean and sober from drugs and alcohol. My real clean date is April 1, 1979, but I won’t get my Narcotics Anonymous (NA) coin and cake until Friday night’s meeting. Many of my NA friends and family will be there to share the moment with me. Their encouragement and mutual accountability has been a major source of strength and comfort for me over all the years and especially these past four years..
Yes, April Fool’s day 1979 was the last time I was the kind of fool who used drugs and alcohol to great excess. Fool that I was, my best friend at the time and I went to the county fairgrounds so that I could launch my brand new fire engine red 1979 Pontiac Trans Am off of the earthen cattle loading ramp. We figured that if The Dukes of Hazzard could do it on TV, we could do it in real life too. BIG MISTAKE! Oh we made the jump just fine at 125 miles per hour, it was the front heavy crash landing that did us in. When I woke up I was bruised, battered and bloody, but my friend got the worst of it. His head went through the windshield and there was blood everywhere. When I next woke up I was in jail, but my friend was in a coma for 6 days and almost died. That was my rock bottom, and thanks to Jesus and NA it was also the very last time that I ever used drugs and alcohol.
I started using alcohol when I was just 11 years old. We were at my great aunt’s place for Thanksgiving dinner and for whatever reason the adults saw fit to give me a big water glassful of Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine. I did not know any better so I just chugged it, asked for more, and practically passed out in my mashed potatoes. I liked the numb feeling it gave me though, so I continued to get as much alcohol as I could. It wasn’t hard because my father was an alcoholic. Soon afterwards I started taking my parents vicodin and other pain killers whenever I could. It did not take long to find people who would sell them to me at school either. Mixing opiates and alcohol could have killed me, but back then I didn’t care.
Like I said, I used the dope to just get numb. Feeling nothing was the only feeling I could stand. My father started abusing me sexually, physically, emotionally and verbally when I was about 4 years old and it did not stop until I was 12. Even though the sexual abuse ended then I still had these totally awful memories. So I got drunk and high as often as humanly possible in order to avoid everything going on inside my head.
Jesus walked with me through my horrific childhood. I can remember Him holding me close during the times of abuse. However, I did not know or fully understand exactly who He was until 1976 when I went forward at a Larry Norman concert in Columbus Ohio. When I was finally exposed to the bible, it fully confirmed all of the things Jesus had been sharing with me since I was 4. Things about true fellowship, love, grace, truth and the church. Things I try to live out to the fullest even till this day.
Well, that’s my story. A big chunk of it anyway. Thank you Jesus, thank you relational housechurch, and thank you Narcotic’s Anonymous for all you have done for me. Let me just close with this: The fellowship of Narcotic’s Anonymous has taught me more about love, acceptance and actually BEING the church than the Traditional/Institutional “church” EVER has. NA has wide open, free flowing, sharing from the heart all the time. ” Our leaders are but trusted servants, they do NOT govern.” What I find at the tables of NA is total, brutal, gut level honesty about where we are and where we want to be. We simply love one another and carry each other until we can all walk again. “It is a Spiritual, NOT religious program.” It is real and never fake. My life really began at step 3…..”We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” In Jesus I have come to understand God. Not my will, but HIS be done!
Love and ……
Kirk Out !
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5: 16-25
This passage of the bible is packed full of excellent encouragement, but I am only going to focus on a few things here today. Right away I want to point out that it says “LIVE BY THE SPIRIT, and you will not gratify the desires on the sinful nature.” NOTICE: It does not say live by The BIBLE! People have been trying to live by the bible for many centuries and it has not produced the kind of fruit that is overcoming and beneficial. “Churches” and entire denominations have made the bible their sole foundation and rule of life, yet they still fall short of becoming what GOD has desired them to be. “Because those who are led by The Spirit of God are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14) I am not saying that the bible is not important in the life of a believer, but I am saying that we need The Holy Spirit to guide us in how we use the bible and find out what it really means. Take the bible away from someone led by The Spirit and The Spirit will still find a way to teach and lead that person just like HE led the early church into all truth many years before they even had bibles. But in turn trying to use the bible without the Spirit’s leading and all you end up with is legalism, dead letter, intellect, and Spiritual death. No wonder that there are so many dead churches out there today. The pews and seats may be full, but there is no real Spiritual life.
I say it is best to live by The Spirit and keep in step with The Spirit, using the bible as HE sees fits along the way in this life. Being Spirit filled is not something I take for granted. I try to surrender each moment to The Lord and to be in HIS flow as much as humanly possible. Having said that I also am led to read and study the bible on most days. I live in the best case scenario: led by The Spirit, but having free access to my bible at any time. Take my bible away from me and I will likely miss it, but The Spirit will compensate for my loss. However, if The Spirit is somehow taken away from me the bible could in no way compensate for that loss. But I know by His seal and promise that The Spirit will not ever leave me. I hope I have been clear in this matter. This is a difficult discussion to navigate and most people judge and react harshly even before they hear each others explanation and story. I am not anti-bible, but I am pro-Spirit.
Kirk Out !
“After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” He said. “The Kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1: 14-15
In the scriptures we find that the very first message that Jesus ever shared publically was some form of “Repent and believe!” To this He added the Kingdom of God is near. To me this means that repentance is a very important core component of our long and short term Spiritual journey. Sure some press this point until it becomes some warped form of perpetual self abasement, but to me the message of Jesus is simple….Turn around! When you are going in the wrong direction in life simply turn and face Jesus again. In my life I have had numerous times when God needed to turn me around and set me in the right direction again. Just what do we need to turn away from? The world system of doing things, which includes religion, divisions, and every form of selfishness and idolatry. We always need to move from man-centric to God-centric. When I am going the way of the world I really want and need for Jesus to just turn me around. And guess what? HE does! When I cooperate with Him in full.
Next we need to believe in Him. Not in some wishy washy way either. No, HE wants us to trust in, cling to, and rely on Him. HE wants for us to surrender our entire being to Him; No rationalization, no bargaining, and no treaties. In other words HE gets all of us with no holding back ANY portion. Without this type of complete belief in our lives we will always be tossed back and forth by the wind and waves that the enemy and life in general throws at us. I am talking totally unconditional surrender. He will take us just as we are, as long as we are willing to BE just who He wants us to BE in the moments, days and years to come.
The message Jesus brought had supreme balance. He said, “Repent and believe!” Problem is that most “churches” out there preach either REPENT, REPENT, REPENT, WORKS, WORKS, WORKS or BELIEVE, BELIEVE, BELIEVE, GRACE, GRACE, GRACE! His Truth in Love is found in the balance and that is exactly where we need to be living each and every day of our lives.
Now concerning the Kingdom of God being near… I know that there are tons of different beliefs out there that try to describe what The Kingdom of God is. The book shelves are full up where it comes to this topic. My slant on this is extremely simple… When The King is near His Kingdom is never far off. Where The King is, His Kingdom is there with Him. Follow Christ alone and you will find The Kingdom of God, both now and until the very end of all days.
Love and ……
“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” Hebrews 10: 35-39
Confidence in Jesus is a very important thing to have. If we believe in and trust Him, He will carry us through any circumstance or situation. We can and will persevere if we hold on to the truth and love that He has revealed within us. This is not at all about self confidence or self perseverance. It is all about Him and what He has promised. If we hold on to Jesus through the trials of this life, we will overcome all obstacles and be rewarded by Him now and in the next life. Jesus is returning to this earth very soon, but when He does will He find us faithful?
So please hold on to Jesus tightly, my sisters and brothers, and He will see us through all the way to the very end. Do not fear or shrink back from current circumstances or problems my friends. Because He will make right all things and keep our feet on the correct pathway even through many bumps, twists and turns. If we remain in Him and do not turn away, our confidence in Jesus will not be destroyed in any way, shape, or manner. Through our sincere belief in Christ alone; we will overcome in this life and the next.
We can choose to live in victory in the here and now. We do not have to wait for His return to be overcomers. Although some have already given up in this life and now look only to the future. 2 Peter 1: 3-4 tells us that, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may PARTICIPATE in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
So the question is…. are you going to be a Participant or just a mere Spectator? We can all walk and flow in The Spirit now and participate in Him together or we can sit on the sidelines as a mere spectator and wait for the end of this age to come. Problem is that much of the modern “church” has programmed its members to be spectators only and to just sit and watch a Sunday morning show. When it is totally clear that Jesus wants us all to participate and share His truth in love with one another and others along the way in this life now. Being IN Christ means we will be like Him, and Jesus was very vocal and open in sharing the truth in love with all those He encountered. Please don’t shrink back from your calling to BE someone who shares their portion of Christ with others in His Body and those yet to know and experience Jesus in His fullness. In the end we will be with Him, but you do not have to wait until then to experience His precious presence and share it with others each and every day until He does return.
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10: 19-25
Yes my friends it is true that we can now enter into His presence with confidence because of His blood sacrifice for our complete redemption and restoration. We can enter in because Jesus has cleared our path and fully opened the way. We need not hide in shame because of our sins and shortcomings any longer. No, we can run into His widespread arms and draw near to Him because of His great unfailing love for us all.
We can hold “unswervingly” (I love that word) to our hope because Jesus is ALWAYS completely faithful. Yes, it is definitely more about Him than it is about us! How do we spur each other on towards love and good deeds? By simply abiding in Him and bearing good fruit as we share our victories and challenges with one another. Let us continue gathering together to break bread with glad and sincere hearts and to share deep fellowship with one another under our one and only Head Christ Jesus.
Let us encourage one another by speaking and living the truth in love. Seek Him as you gather together and He will reveal even more of Himself to each one of you. Lift Him up as you love one another and He will encourage and lift you up also. The Day of Jesus returning is near. So hold fast to Him and one another and He will see you through to the very end.
I have seen this passage of scripture used on many occasions to try and control and MANipulate people into going to “church” as often as the doors of the building are open. I refuse to use or twist it in that manner and will allow it to speak for itself instead. I choose to fellowship with other Christ followers because it is a great joy that benefits all who gather together under Christ alone. When we fellowship in a manner that encourages everyone to share their portion and without the Clergy/Laity division, amazing things happen and EVERYONE gets blessed. Especially Jesus! I fellowship with others because I love it and I hope and pray that you can find fellowship that is as open, free and satisfying as the gatherings in which I participate. In the true Body of Christ we have face to face and heart to heart, simple fellowship. In traditional religion instead of relational fellowship they have set in stone services that stifle any healthy Spiritual interaction and growth. It is WAY past time to choose true fellowship over rigid services and shows.
Love and …..
Kirk Out !
“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have HEARD, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? The salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who HEARD Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of The Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.” Hebrews 2: 1-4 (Emphasis mine)
My dear friend Robert Smith shared this passage in home fellowship here one Saturday and I would like to share it again with you here today. It is a very powerful warning to not just pay attention, but to pay MORE CAREFUL ATTENTION to THE message of Christ, so that we do not drift away from Him and the Truth in Love. Some sects preach and teach that we cannot drift away from Him, but this passage makes it quite abundantly clear that we can in this life, if we do not totally focus upon Jesus and His life giving Gospel of Truth and Love.
I want to point out and highlight that HEARING is extremely important for those who follow Jesus. It is all about hearing from Him the message of Truth in Love. PLEASE NOTE: That no where in this passage does it talk about what we READ in the bible, no it talks about what we HEAR from Him, angels and other followers of Christ. Reading and hearing are NOT at all the same thing. In the Gospel of John Jesus says that, “My sheep hear my voice and obey”. Even if you read the bible a thousand times over, it is not equal to or the same as hearing directly from Christ Himself. I say yes we can hear Him quite often while reading the scriptures, but we can also read without EVER hearing from Him. Romans 10:17 says “Faith comes from HEARING the message…” And Hebrews 11: 6 says that, “without faith it is impossible to please God.” We ALL need to hear directly FROM Jesus and not just read things ABOUT Him. I hope my heart is being heard clearly here, because I am not at all anti-bible. I am just saying that Jesus is much more important than the book about Him. In order to truly hear and comprehend His message in full, we must hear the Voice of Christ in our heart, mind and Spirit.
I do not ever want to ignore His great salvation and all that it means to us both individually and corporately. He redeemed ALL THINGS and I want to use and enjoy the entirety of His great and awesome salvation in the here and now as well as for all eternity. The gifts of The Holy Spirit have been distributed widely to MANY according to His will. In fact I have never met a true follower of Jesus who did not have gifts they could use to bless Christ and His Body. I fully and completely support every member ministry, because just having a gifted few people lead many spectators is NOT His will for us in Christ at all. In fact when we gather in His Name everyone should get to contribute and share. (1 Corinthians 14: 26) We all need to live out His salvation to the fullest in this life because when we do that, He is lifted up and then He draws all others to Himself. If you want to talk about true Church growth? Then start there! Programs don’t work, but living abundant lives while hearing Christ sure does.
Kirk Out !
Jesus said, ”I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the Shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” John 10:11-13
This is going to be short and sweet today. This is the only passage that Jesus directly addresses the matter of paying people to look after and shepherd His sheep and it is totally obvious that Jesus does not like the idea of hired hands or paid Pastors. I know others will chime in here and say that Paul or Peter or someone else in church history supported the idea of paying ministers a salary, but I totally believe that the words of Jesus carry more weight than ANY other argument. I also feel that one has to twist scriptures to support paid Clergy in the New Testament.
Jesus said “I am the Good Shepherd”, to me that totally implies that any and all of the other shepherds are really bad and deficient at what they do. Jesus is not A good shepherd, He is THE Good Shepherd. The ONLY Good Shepherd if you will.
The hired hand does not care for the sheep as the Good Shepherd does. Taking pay creates a conflict of interest and interferes with proper care and equipping for the sheep. I know many good men and women who work as Pastors in the “church”, but as good as they are I believe that they are in a position that should not exist in the church today. I understand and accept that love gifts were given in the early church, but I believe that taking a set salary from the church is very wrong. I believe that 100% of the churches money should be used to take care of widows and orphans and spent on actual ministry to the lost, hungry and the homeless. We should not be using the church’s money on Clergy salaries, buildings or institutional maintenance.
Those that serve the church should do so with no strings attached whatsoever. This is the only way to help insure that our methods and message remain pure and untainted from human will and desires. Turning the Pastorate into a paid position hinders the Gospel and inhibits the ability of the whole church to minister effectively as a unit. Special people with special positions are wrong and help to destroy true unity in the church. Every member ministry is crucial to the overall effectiveness of the church and lifting up so called Special people to a Special platform over and above the rest of the Body is just wrong on oh so many levels.
The concept of a solo Pastor leading and doing almost all the sharing in the church is just crazy. Such a position does not exist in the New Testament, but in the modern traditional “church” it is commonplace. According to the New Testament leadership is to be shared by multiple people and the entire body gets to contribute and share during times of open and free fellowship, To expect a solo Pastor to do 95% or more of the sharing and work in a local congregation is unfair to both the Pastor and the Body of Christ.
WE are called to be FREE, so we should minister and share our gifts with others for free also! That is what I say and live each day. I know I am in the minority, but I know I am not the only one out there that feels and lives this way. I am not trying to establish a Law or rule to be followed. All I want to do is share my portion of the truth in love as I have lived and experienced it. And even if you disagree I am glad that you stopped by this blog today. Please feel free to share your experience, strength and hope in the comments section. I do not expect or require that anyone else agree with me.
Kirk Out !