Are You Stuck in a Particular Sin?

See Your Sin, Break the Cycle

There are certain people who are just stuck in this seemingly endless cycle of sin. Oh, I feel conviction. Oh, I confess and repent and I receive forgiveness. And then the next day it happens all over again, and they are in this seemingly endless cycle. There are two truths that we have to embrace here. They are not mutually exclusive; they are perfectly compatible.

It is a good thing for you to see your sin.

You need to feel the conviction of the Spirit on the one hand, but God doesn’t want you to stay in that mindset. He says “When I awaken your heart to the reality of how you’ve fallen short, come quickly to the throne of grace and look at the many ways in which I have dealt with that sin. I have put it behind my back. I’ve buried it in the depths of the sea. I’ve blotted it out. I’ve trampled it underfoot. I turned my face away from it. I won’t gaze upon it.”

And it’s the power of that truth that will enable us to break out of this cycle in which so many people find themselves. It’s a cycle in which they just live in constant fear and trepidation. Oh, maybe I’ve done it one too many times, and God’s just so fed up with me that I’m going to be cast aside forever.

Live now in the freedom and the joy of knowing that you are forgiven fully and finally.

Sam Storms

I’ve actually heard people say, I envisioned myself coming to the Lord once again and him saying, ‘Oh no, not you again. The umpteenth time and are you just expecting me to forgive you over and over and over again?’ And they live in fear that God’s just going to run dry and not have mercy, that he’s going to run out of grace.

And God has said, “Look, it’s good that you recognize the ways you have failed. I don’t want you to live oblivious to the fact that you have disobeyed in an unrepentant and high-handed way. But know this: I have dealt with that sin. The punishment that deserves has been exhausted in Jesus. Live now in the freedom and the joy of knowing that you are forgiven fully and finally, and let that be the power to break the cycle of the constant repetitive falling back into these old ways and these old patterns of the past.”

Live in the fullness of your freedom in Jesus.”

Sam Storms (PhD, University of Texas at Dallas) has spent more than four decades in ministry as a pastor, professor, and author. He is currently the senior pastor at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and was previously a visiting associate professor of theology at Wheaton College from 2000 to 2004. He is the founder of Enjoying God Ministries and blogs regularly at SamStorms.org.

Sam Storms is the author of A Dozen Things God Did with Your Sin (And Three Things He’ll Never Do).

Melancholy Me and My God

In early November, I went to California for a writers retreat. There were only four students and the woman leading the retreat. I learned so much and hung out with a few other wonderful writers. And yet, the poem below is what I wrote the first night after our opening session.

The next day I read it to one of my new writer friends, a woman who has been on this writing journey for a lot less time than I have. She was touched because she had been feeling inadequate and that the rest of us were so much more accomplished than she was.

I do love when God allows me to remember the dark night of the soul in a way that brings cheer and blessing to others.

Why so downcast, Oh my soul?
I understand the psalmist's plea.
Here I am with new friends of gold
But feelings of sadness needle me.
Am I just a fraud pretending to be
One who has something worthwhile to say?
When truth be told, or a lie of old,
Never will I point to God's way.
How I feel runs hot and cold;
Now I am weak when once I was bold.
Powerless and useless are words I hear
Echoing deep in my mind as fear.
Wounds that run deep still bleed
I know they're not true, never were.
But still, still these words Oh Lord.
You are the truth, the life, the way.

Standing With Her in the Rain

standingaloneintherain1

“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.”

Galatians 6:2, NLT

By Lisa Schubert, Guest Author

Samantha issued commands to the person on the other end of the line. When she hung up, the rant continued against our church, our staff, the weather, and this meal that would serve as her Thanksgiving dinner. I had to let her go mid-rant, but not before reminding her that I would keep her in my prayers.

Samantha approached me outside the church on Thanksgiving morning with her hair disheveled and her coat covered with dirt smudges and raindrops. She demanded to borrow my cell phone to find if the Thanksgiving dinner she had requested from a charitable organization would be ready for pick-up in an hour. I was in a hurry. I needed to be inside preparing to lead worship. I begrudgingly let her borrow my phone, but I insisted on dialing the number myself and standing with her in the gentle rain.

Cross-in-the-Rain-

My encounters with Samantha have continued over the past few months. She’s almost always confused, angry, and paranoid. She tells stories about growing up with another member of our staff, who never met her until recently. It’s hard to know how to respond to Samantha.

A friend called me recently to ask if our church had any resources for helping congregations to welcome those who struggle with mental illness. I pointed her in a few directions, including the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at www.nami.org. Even as I offered her the information, I felt uneasy. Connecting with those who have mental illnesses is a complex, difficult journey.

It was raining again on Monday when I saw Samantha. She was sitting in the front lobby of the church. She shouted at me as I walked out the door, “Be careful out there! Two guys tried to kidnap me, and I wouldn’t want that to happen to you.” Unwilling to believe her, I replied, “Samantha, I’m sorry you had a rough morning. I’ll be thinking of you. Hope your day gets better.” I continued out the church doors and opened my umbrella.

I later discovered that Samantha was mugged that morning. Thankfully, the police believed her while I had blown her off. They arrested the alleged perpetrators that afternoon.

I’m embarrassed by my lack of gentleness and compassion toward Samantha, and I know I’m not alone. I wonder what it means for the Church to embrace, accept and listen to those who have mental illnesses. I wonder how church leaders like myself can grow and help others to deepen their care for people like Samantha.

There are no simple answers, but I think the answer starts in a simple place:

We stand with them in the rain.

Lisa Schubert is Associate Pastor of Discipleship and Formation of North United Methodist Church, Indianapolis.

‘A Drowning Kind of Despair’

painting of a person swimming underwater

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.

   2 Corinthians 1:8

“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism.”

“But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”

John Piper

It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not the impulsiveness that scares me.   I know ‘despair’.  I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost.  But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted kind of weird honor when it comes to despair.

Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost. 

Now, this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress.  But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time.  Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.

Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a rather simplistic form.  I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC  song, ‘Highway to Hell‘.  The lyrics are pretty basic and very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost. 

The songwriter formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned.  This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll.”)

There is a sick arrogance here that needs to be understood.

To escape this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty.  And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love.  (It is completely undeserved).  We must believe that somehow, someway, God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest that has ever existed.  And somehow, He delights in doing this, and after all, He is the Lord.

We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope. 

Because of our problems, and our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil folly of despair.  These are the issues that make us vulnerable.  There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair.  There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’. 

When we decide to live this kind of living death, we’re pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic in some perverse way.

But honestly, is it not even more heroic to live in hope?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”

Psalm 42:5-6

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