We Are Far More Powerful Than We Realize

“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” The Apostle Paul

Mike does not remember much about his childhood.

He was raised in a small town where his mother was addicted to pain medications.

Shoving deep issues under the carpet became an art form in Mike’s family.

Mike’s dad never hugged him, told him he loved him, or showed any emotion at all toward him.

“Being in a small town, everyone knew everyone else’s business and I was embarrassed of my mom and her addictions and I was embarrassed of our home.”

In Mike’s teens he stayed away from home and went the wild route, drinking and smoking and doing drugs.

“I guess not feeling loved you’re going to find love somewhere and I found it in music, girls, drugs and alcohol.”

Mike spent 3 weeks in college and then was gone at 18.

The military lottery was happening and he was lucky number 13.

Mike was drafted quickly. He spent 6 years in the army.

After 6 years Mike came home, got married, had two sons and went to work as a machinist to pay the bills and raise his kids.

Mike didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship and his marriage ended badly.

He moved to Southern California to start all over again.

“I knew about God my whole life but I had no clue what it meant to have a relationship with God. We used to call people Jesus Freaks who would say, ‘Do you have a personal relationship with Jesus?’ I’d always say, ‘Yeah’ to shut them up. But I never knew what that meant”

Then Mike met his future wife, and when they got serious they decided they probably needed God in their relationship if it was going to last. Mike did not want to repeat his past.

“I didn’t want to screw it up and with my past you know I could have screwed it up pretty easy. And so I didn’t want to go that route again. I knew there had to be something, a much better way of doing it.”

Mike married his beautiful new bride and they started going to church and learning about God.

And then Mike and his new wife, Mavis, discovered that her son was addicted to cocaine and they began investigating recovery programs.

He went into rehab and they were told to take him to a program called “Celebrate Recovery”.

They went to “Celebrate Recovery” and that’s where Mike and Mavis truly found God’s Grace.

“I saw what God does. I saw miracles. I’ve had people say, ‘God doesn’t do miracles anymore,’ and I just don’t believe that because I see them all the time in Celebrate. I saw miracles left and right. Working the 12 steps has changed my life. They have given me the tools to not only help myself, but also my marriage, my relationships and ultimately the steps have taught me how to help others. As a follower of Jesus, I have now dedicated my life to serving and saving others. My vocation pays the bills, but my life calling is to help people heal and overcome.”

Mike and Mavis, started and our currently the directors of my churches Celebrate Recovery Group.

Mike and Mavis, as volunteers, tirelessly serve our community “comforting others with the same comfort God has given them.”

They are making a significant difference.

We are far more powerful than we realize.

During the last months of WWII, the British conducted daily bombing raids over Berlin.

One night after a successful bombing raid, as they were heading for the safety of England, the bombers were attacked by a large group of German fighter planes.

Five bullets slammed into the fuselage of the bomber near the gas tank, but there was no explosion.

Miraculously, they were able to make it back to their base and get safely off the plane.

A few hours after they had landed, one of the mechanics showed up in the crew’s barracks.

He had found five bullets inside the fuel tanks, crumpled but not exploded. He handed them to the pilot.

The pilot carefully opened the shells and to the crews amazement found each one empty with gunpowder.

Inside one of the bullets was a tiny wad of paper.

When he unfolded the paper, he found a note which read, “We are Polish POWs—forced to make bullets in factory. When guards do not look, we do not fill with powder. Is not much, but is best we can do. Please tell family we are alive.”

When every follower of Jesus lives with the philosophy of “comforting others just as God has comforted them,” no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, then we will see the miracles that we have been praying for.

It may not feel like much, but all God asks is to do the best we can do.

Mike and Mavis could be overwhelmed by the brokenness of addiction all around them, but instead they are offering comfort and hope in seemingly small ways, and yet hundreds have found sobriety and faith because they are simply comforting others with the same comfort God has given them.

5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 4)

Vanessa was born into a broken world on November 3rd, 1989.

She was loved, but she didn’t love herself.

When she was 2, her father died in a motorcycle accident in Southern California.

Her mother was 21 years old with 2 small children, no job, no education and life became chaotic.

Sadness, anger and regret filled their lives, though no one ever talked about it.

Vanessa learned at a very early age to stuff deep hurts and play the part of a happy kid.

She played a lot of make believe, numbing herself to the reality of sadness, loneliness, pain and guilt.

Her other coping skills were eating too much and hurting herself.

Vanessa and her family went to church occasionally but her perception of God was that “He had a lot of rules that, if broken, would send me straight to Hell. The whole thing just wasn’t appealing.”

Her mother met a man and the family moved to Colorado and Vanessa felt like she was starting a new life with a new dad.

Everything seemed perfect until at the age of 10, she was molested by a 40-something-year-old neighbor, but she never told anyone about it, not realizing that anything out of the ordinary happened.

Vanessa’s mom got engaged, Vanessa’s mom got cancer, Vanessa’s mom’s new fiancé could not face the storm and he left.

Once again, Vanessa faced abandonment.

While her mom was getting medical treatment, Vanessa and her sister would stay up all night and began to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.

They moved back to California and the partying intensified.

When she entered high school her life was spinning out of control though on the surface you would not know.

She was in honor classes with high grades, involved in water polo, swimming, school plays, dance class, journalism, a statistician for wrestling and assisting with school rallies.

Yet getting wasted, smoking weed and stealing prescription drugs became an everyday occurrence.

Vanessa began to sell marijuana and was arrested and had to do community service.

Her sophomore year she got pregnant and had a miscarriage, yet, this was not her bottom.

She began to get into heavier things and then she discovered the drug of her choice, meth.

While still putting on a pretty good show on the outside, her mom caught her doing meth and she revealed that her dad had completely lost himself in the meth pipe.

The night he died, her mom caught him smoking and kicked him out of the house and that is when he crashed his motorcycle.

Vanessa felt lied to and ran away and did not finish the last 2 months of school.

Her mother reported her missing, thus violating her parole, and she was arrested and spent 2 ½ months in jail and sober.

When she got out, she got accepted to college and had great intentions of being a good student but quickly got involved with alcohol and weed.

“My disease was much stronger than my ambition.”

Vanessa jumped around from one high to another and ended up in Las Vegas where her dad’s friend Ryan lived.

She moved in with Ryan and “I found my usual low-life crowd and began selling weed, coke and x. I was then introduced to the pimp and prostitution game.”

“They appeared to have it all; little did I know they were just great actresses. I got myself a pimp, who was also a drug dealer.”

“That day, I sold my soul.”

Things went from bad to violent to worse and Vanessa eventually left her pimp but she kept selling drugs and was re-introduced to meth.

6 months later, smoking meth daily, she lost everything, cut off her long beautiful hair and went into seclusion.

He mom called the morgue often to find out if she was alive.

“The toxins of the drugs were seeping out of my pores. I would pick at my skin all over my body. My once flawless complexion was constantly covered in sores. I spent my 21st birthday getting high in a closet.”

On the night of November 17th, 2010, someone turned Vanessa in on a $10,000 bounty.

It saved her life.

She got lost in the system, a blessing in disguise, and for 21 days she reflected on her life and her choices.

“I looked into the foggy jail mirror and saw a grimy creature I didn’t recognize. God told me in a faint, gentle whisper, ‘This is not what I want for you. This is not who you are.’”

That night she wrote a poem titled, “Surrender”, begging God to deliver her from this insanity.

Under house arrest she immersed herself into recovery and followed the rules like her life depended on it. And it did.

“One day, as I was contemplating what the God of my understanding was to me, Jesus appeared. I have always been a cloud watcher. There He was wearing the crown of thorns, like an image I’d had on a postcard as a child. He was smiling at me and I could see that He was so proud. I had more hope that evening than any other moment of my entire life!”

Vanessa learned that the root of disease lies in obsession, compulsion, self-centeredness and lack of faith.

She moved to California and arrived in Placerville with a new ankle monitor.

Her mom mentioned that her church offered several recovery groups.

Vanessa thought, “Oh great! They are going to shove religion down my throat.”

A recovery meeting called “Celebrate Recovery” was meeting that night and so they came to the church and Vanessa experienced something she had not experienced before.

“That first night at Celebrate Recovery, I felt warmth and a hope I didn’t recognize. Everyone was so welcoming and loving. I began to attend church services and I started volunteering. I soon realized that Green Valley Community Church was not a religious church about judgment or being better than, but it was a Jesus church about relationships and acceptance.”

”One thing I knew, I had finally found home.”

“I learned that God is a father to the fatherless. He offers grace and forgiveness and peace. I began to like myself.”

”I got off house arrest, I got to flip a sign at Easter reading ‘Road to Hell” as my old life and “Road to Recovery” as my new life.”

Vanessa is an inspiration and a miracle and now helps young people recover from their hurts, hang-ups and habits.

Celebrate Recovery and my church’s commitment to help those dealing with hurts, hang-ups and habits has once again drawn us very close to the heart of God.

Jesus stated that he clearly came to “Heal the broken-hearted and set captives free.”

When people say that God doesn’t do miracles anymore, then they have never been a part of Celebrate Recovery.

Our Celebrate Recovery program was started by a couple who was rejected by another church when they wanted to start the program.

The church told them that they weren’t sure they wanted people with serious issues and addictions coming into their church.

Their sad loss was our gain.

Celebrate started small and as the leadership grew, so did the program.

7 years later, hundreds have overcome, healed, found God and been baptized.

When you go to a Celebrate Recovery service, ours is on Thursday nights, what you experience is what real church should be.

Each service includes true celebration, safe relationships, honest assessment, humbling confession and gut wrenching transparency and a sense of freedom and purpose that is contagious.

It is about as pure of a church as you will find!

We have now started “The Landing” which is Celebrate Recovery for teenage and college students.

It is a safe landing place for students to come and heal, build healthy relationships and start good habits.

Every church should help people overcome.

The 4th thing every church should and must do is be fully committed to “Celebrate Recovery.”

 

Vanessa’s life scripture is from the book of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah says, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great Your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”

For more information about “Celebrate Recovery” go to… http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

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