12 November 2007

In JEREMIAH 9:2 The Old Testament prophet spilled his guts and wrote down that if he could have his own way he’d head for the hills … he’d run away from his family, away from his ministry, away from his problems, and away from his life! Here’s how Jeremiah’s words read in THE MESSAGE, a modern-day paraphrase by author, professor, and pastor-teacher Eugene Peterson …

2 At times I wish I had a wilderness hut,
a backwoods cabin, where I could get away from
my people and never see them again. They're a
faithless, feckless bunch, a congregation of degenerates.

Can you relate to Jeremiah’s words? Now I wouldn’t apply Jeremiah’s descriptions of faithless, feckless degenerates … to you here at 2nd Street … but I think we hear in Jeremiah’s words some of our own longings to head for the hills … the desire to get a job in a lighthouse, or drop out of life and build a log cabin with our own hands, or become a monk or a nun and live in solitude and silence … even if it was just for a little while.

King David, the Jewish King in the middle part of The Old Testament put it this way in PSALMS 55:6-8

6 I say, ‘I wish I had wings like a dove! I would fly
away and settle in a safe place! 7 Look, I will
escape to a distant place; I will stay in the wilderness.
8 I will hurry off to a place that is safe
from the strong wind and the gale.”

But running away from home … whether we’re The Runaway Bunny, Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, or Frodo, isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be because the reality is that as author David Seamands put it, “Everywhere we go, we go too, and that ruins everything.” Or in other words, “We can run, but we can’t hide.” And eventually, when we stop running, we’ll still be right there, with all of our problems unchanged, with all of our challenges still overwhelming us, and with all of our character defects and sins still staring us in the face.

But thanks be to God that He has provided a way for us to stop running. Jesus talked about this in the story in Luke’s Gospel commonly called “The Prodigal Son” … where in LUKE 15:17, we read that the son who’d run away from home “came to his senses and returned home to his father.”

How have you been running away from home? How have you been letting your problems and sins separate you from God and the plans He has for you? I’m glad you’re here this morning – because we’re going to focus on one of the most practical, God-centered, devoted-disciple-of-Jesus-Christ-producing ministries going on at 2nd Street, in the USA and around the world … and it’s called Celebrate Recovery.

Celebrate Recovery is a 12-step recovery program that’s rooted in the person and the hope of Jesus Christ, in the grace and truth of God’s WORD, and in creating healthy God-centered partnerships of community, trust, and accountability between people who are tired of running away from home … and who are willing to surrender their hurts, habits and hang-ups to God.

The first three steps of Celebrate Recovery can be summed up like this …
  1. When it comes to the parts of my life that aren’t working, I CAN’T MANAGE THEM, FIX THEM, OR EVEN MOVE PAST THEM ON MY OWN.
  2. When it comes to repairing the parts of my life that aren’t working, GOD CAN BRING BEAUTY OUT OF ASHES, JOY FROM MOURNING, AND WHOLENESS OUT OF BROKENNESS.
  3. Seeing and accepting that I CAN’T and GOD CAN, I CHOOSE TO SURRENDER TO GOD.
Back to the prophet Jeremiah for a minute. In JEREMIAH 11:6, Jeremiah, tired of trying to deal with his own problems his own way, invites others to join him in coming to their senses … and coming home to God as the source of their redemption and healing. Here’s how the invitation sounded …

6 The Lord said to me, “Announce all the following
words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem …
‘Listen to the terms of My covenant with you
and carry them out! (NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION)

Jeremiah got excited about what God’s covenant could accomplish. A covenant is a two-way vow between God and the men and women of His creation. A covenant says that if we will bring God the pieces of our busted-up lives, that He will redeem us … that He will take the shattered pieces of our lives, put them back together again, and make us whole.

And Jeremiah got so excited about this covenant that he couldn’t stay out in the country all by himself any longer. And so he headed back into town because there were things to be done, and people who had to be told this great news. And that’s why we’re focusing on the ministry of Celebrate Recovery this morning.
  1. Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for alcoholics or drug addicts who are blacking out several times a week and robbing 7-11s to support their habits.
  2. Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for people whose relationship boundaries and work boundaries have become so distorted that they’re stalking David Letterman and “this close” to going postal.
  3. Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for compulsive gamblers who are having their mail forwarded to their room at Spirit Mountain Casino.
  4. Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for sex addicts who’ve given up all hope of change, and bought an Adult Bookstore.
  5. Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for food addicts who plan all their week’s activities around when COSTCO gives out samples.
  6. Celebrate Recovery isn’t just for people who are so co-dependent that right before they die “somebody else’s life passes before their eyes.”
  7. Celebrate Recovery is for people just like me and like you.
When I interviewed at 2nd Street 18 months ago to become your new lead pastor-teacher, I had a good interview, and I had a great time with you on the Sunday morning I taught. But it was attending Celebrate Recovery on Sunday night that God used to “seal the deal” in my heart that 2nd Street was the new home He had planned or Teresa and me.

For the first eight months I was here, I attended Celebrate Recovery and God began using it as His mouthpiece for the road to recovery He wanted me to walk down – especially understanding His unconditional love for me, in spite of my ungodly devotion to most all foods higher in carbohydrates and sugar than is healthy.

For the past eight months I’ve been part of a Celebrate Recovery weekly STEP STUDY GROUP, and as a member of that group God has been helping me deal with the issues in my life related to food that up until this 49th year of my life I’d been unwilling to be honest about. And through this process God has also preparing my heart to receive the hard word a few weeks ago now that I have diabetes.

But with what God is teaching me through Celebrate Recovery I’m learning to embrace and walk in the grace and truth of the first three steps …
  1. THAT I CAN’T.
God is using Celebrate Recovery in my life and in the lives of many others here at 2nd Street and beyond. Through Celebrate Recovery, people are coming into first-time relationships with God through Jesus Christ, people are rededicating their lives to God and to His plans … and lives are being transformed. And if the definition of discipleship that I share with you so often is true … that discipleship is taking on the character of Jesus Christ so that we can live into the will of God … then Celebrate Recovery is the best discipleship program I’ve ever been part of.

Because when you do what Celebrate Recovery does … which is to take God’s WORD, and combine it with a call to ruthless trust, a passion for whole-hearted honesty, and a willingness to assume a humble, surrendered, teachable spirit … you have a recipe for discipleship.

Celebrate Recovery is for all of us who are tired of dodging, avoiding, hiding, pretending, covering, running, protecting, eluding, escaping, averting, and evading the real us and the real God. It’s for people who are “coming to their senses and coming home” …

Celebrate Recovery has become the road home for many of us here at 2nd Street, as well as for tens of thousands of other folks in Newberg and beyond. And so this morning, I invite you to ask God if Celebrate Recovery a road He wants you to travel as you “come home” to Him in some new ways.

  1. Do I have pain or shame in my life that I’m hiding or avoiding?
  2. How does a lack of forgiveness hinder my intimacy with God and others?
  3. Bondage to hurts, habits and hang-ups can cease … So if Jesus Christ, the Son sets you free, you will be really free. (JOHN 8:36 | NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION)

I invite everyone who is able, to stand with me, and let’s close our time this morning as “the church gathered” by praying together The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr …

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.




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