Tag Archives: addictions

Extreme Encounters

By Eugene C. Scott

Sitting on a rooftop, years ago, a fellow carpenter and I marveled at the wild Colorado sky. Gray, purple, white, and silver clouds mingled on the blue horizon. Distant bolts of lightning spiked out of the clouds grabbing the plains and pulling the storm down out of the Rockies. Pikes Peak shouldered gray storm clouds bravely. The summer storm rolled unchecked out of the mountains quickly swallowing the miles of empty plains separating the housing subdivision we worked in and the coming storm. We sat dumbstruck, our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches half eaten in our laps. Closer and closer the storm crawled on its legs of lightning. Thunder clapped; the mountains disappeared. Black shadows of rain streaked the sky below the clouds. It was an extreme encounter with God’s creation while sitting in the teeth of a lightning storm.

I looked over at my friend to say something profound. My words never found voice. In the still air his red hair stood, dancing like snakes to the rhythm of the thunder. He looked at me and pointed. My hair too stood straight out from my head. The storm had drawn so close the very air surrounding us was charged with electricity and about to turn us into human lightning rods. We wisely waited out the storm and finished lunch in the safety of the basement.

History records a host of people, a cloud of witnesses, scripture calls them, who have encountered Christ. Rich, poor, men, women, children, those seeking, those not. Jesus always knew their need, even when they themselves did not. Peter needed purpose, a blind man sight, Mary Magdalene forgiveness, children compassion, and Martha a spiritual perspective. He never left them unchallenged, though they sometimes left the challenge unanswered.

Having encountered Christ are we also not answering? Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses do we sit dumbstruck staring at God’s power? Do we run and hide in the basement? Encountering God is risky. Everyone who encountered Christ took a chance. Yet, in a culture dominated by extreme experiences and risky behavior, we insulate ourselves from God. In acts of pseudo risk-taking we bungy jump, watch scary movies, drive fast, or wear edgy clothes. But, for us, taking real risks like trusting God, or reaching out to the homeless, or teaching Sunday school, or sharing Christ at work, or forgiving a friend or family member are far too real an adventure.

Though naive and dangerous, I encountered something in that electrical storm no television weather report could match–extreme reality. I’ll never forget the smell of the air, the pull of the electricity on my skin and hair, the eerie light, the quiet. So too we can read about how others encountered God or we can experience Him.

God fills the very air that surrounds us. Take a risk; stand up, face the storm, and allow God’s grace to strike your soul. Become a lightning rod. The beauty, the clarity of that moment with God will be stunning for now and forever more.


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Why Technology and Science Can’t Save Us

By Eugene C. Scott

The only time I’ve ever given something (my computer) up for Lent, it wasn’t even Lent. And I didn’t choose–of my own free will–to give up my computer.

A few years ago, despite the fact that I own one of the best and most reliable computers going (yes, you poor PC plugs it is a world-famous Mac), my 256 megabyte hard drive crashed and burned. After trying several home remedies such as opening and closing the laptop lid, pushing various mysterious buttons (I wonder what the “F” stands for on those buttons), and muttering to myself, I finally scheduled an appointment with the “Mac Genius” in the closest Apple Store, which happened to be a mere 150 miles away. At the time I lived in the mountains near Vail, which was great except when . . . . Anyway the 2.5 hour drive to Boulder, CO did give me time to reflect—to take stock of my life as it relates to computers and electronic stuff.

The way I remember that fateful drive is like this:

That drive turned out to be a sobering and painful several hour odyssey, during which my hands trembled on the steering wheel and thoughts of living computerless distracted me. The usually spectacular Rocky Mountain scenery passed in a blur. My skin became clammy to the touch, as I fought back fear and worry each time I thought of how long it had already been since I had last checked my e-mail—ten hours and counting.

What if someone sends me an extremely important e-mail chain letter and I break the chain? I worried. I sobbed when I realized my communication ties to my world had been sadistically and heartlessly severed. I had unwillingly joined the ranks of the out-of-touch and uninformed. I feared I might become e-illiterate.

Less important but equally traumatic it dawned on me that I had lost parts of my seventy-five page (so far) doctoral dissertation, and my most recent sermon (I convulsed at the idea that I now faced researching sermons using books rather than the internet and writing them on those hideous yellow legal pads).

And how could I live in a world where my entire iTunes library had vanished?

Then panic hit! With my Treo palmOne phone calendar lost in cyberspace, how could I possibly know when to be where and with whom I was supposed to be? I nearly ran off the road. I saw my life pass before my eyes. To my horror my life was configured in indecipherable ones and zeros. Tears blurred my vision. I pulled over and turned on my emergency flashers.

I was a mess. Right then and there I knew what I must do. Admit my dependency.

So looking up to the blue sky through my pitted windshield I mumbled, “Hi, my name is Eugene.” I paused; I breathed; I listened. Then white-knuckling the steering wheel, I continued, “And I am addicted to my Mac! Computers, and other electronic devices rule my life.” I listened again. Sadly there was no encouraging “Hi, Eugene” response because there is no support group for this. I sighed. More tears flowed. At least I had said it. It was out.

On the drive back to Edwards, CO, determined but frightened, I swore I would use the three to ten days it would take to repair my PowerBook G4, to overcome my addiction and start a new life. I told myself I would read more books, talk to people face to face, and occasionally— shudder—use a pen or pencil to write. I even thought I would break out the old turntable and listen to a record or two. I pulled into our driveway ready for anything. I was fearful but resolute.

Fortunately my PowerBook was ready in three days and I never had to follow through on those rash resolutions. Though on day two of web-sobriety I did pick up my old, loose-leaf Bible. I stumbled on this passage, “You shall have no other gods before me.” Then I googled the passage to find out what it could mean.

Some wise saint (possibly John Calvin) once said, the human heart is an idol factory. The ancients carved wood and stone into what they hoped would be gods of their salvation. We fashion chips and technology into the same hope.

If you listen to the chatter of our world, how many times a day will you hear that a certain scientific discovery, or hypothesis, or technical advancement will bring us the healing or answers we are looking for? Hundreds? All the while God stands at the side of the internet-super highway with his thumb out, hitching a ride. As wonderful as science and technology are, they are finite–limited–and can’t save us.

This is because they are creations of our own limited minds. Technology is created not in God’s image but ours. We are broken beings capable of taking anything good and using it for evil. And we do. Also, if our struggles were material/physical only, maybe physical/material solutions could help. But our problems run deep into our souls. And not even a super computer can go there. Only God can.

I may have exaggerated my struggle with my forced fasting from electronics of several years ago. But I did recognize then, and still do now, how easy it is for me to try to slip something else into that God shaped void in my life.

Maybe that’s what seasons like Lent are really about. Not just giving stuff up. But taking stock of where in our life God stands or who/what we have standing in God’s place.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

Beginning on March 13–the Sunday following Ash Wednesday–we will begin a Lenten series titled “Embrace: Discover, Desire . . . Jesus” at The Neighborhood Church.  During worship we will explore those things of God we can embrace and add to our lives as a response of love to Jesus.  These worship gatherings will also include hands-on opportunities to practice these things God asks us to add to our lives.  Join us.  See tnc3.org for worship times.


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Better Than Cheetos, Chimichangas, and Chili Cheese Dogs

When you’re starving or stressed, what comfort food do you tend to reach for?

True confession: Back in the day, I suffered from an undying weakness for chili cheese dogs. Although I still like them, my resistance is much stronger now. But earlier in my life, if I was running errands around lunchtime, I usually found myself at the local 7-11 convenience store holding a hot dog (of questionable ingredients), squirting a mysterious chili sauce out of a dispenser before slathering it with an equally mysterious cheese-y, plastic-y substance. Needless to say, I could have just as easily rubbed it directly on my waistline, because that’s where it was going anyway.

Despite my wife’s protestations and threats, I continued to pony up to the trough at least once a week. Even the slightest hunger pang (real or imagined) or stressor was enough to justify my questionable eating habits.

My point is this: all of us ultimately fill ourselves with whatever we’re hungry for.

What are you hungry for? Think beyond comfort food like cheetos, chimichangas, and chili cheese dogs. Deep down, what is your deepest desire?

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 6:5).

Reading my Bible earlier this week, I couldn’t move beyond these words from Jesus.

What am I hungry for? I asked myself.

Often we can only answer this question when we’re stressed out or no one is around. This question really drives us toward our inmost motivations.

Earlier this week when asking some friends what people hunger for, they quickly identified the more obvious answers:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • Addictions

Those are easy answers, but they still skirt the issue. What are we really hungry for?

  • Significance
  • Intimacy
  • Security

Understand that Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for significance, for they will be filled.” He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (italics added).

What kind of righteousness was Jesus talking about? Doing good things? Living a holy life? Engaging in social action? Receiving the righteous perfection of Jesus?

Later, in the same discourse, which we call the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus exhorted his listeners, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Let me add one more passage that might help us clarify things. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

So what should we seek?

Years ago when I was in college, I had a roommate for a short time who had a pretty dramatic story. His freshman year, he attended a large public university. And, like many college students, he indulged in the excesses common to a college campus. But midway through his first year, he was stricken with a mysterious infection in his blood . Doctors could do nothing to stem the bug that was slowly killing him. “I knew I was dying,” he confessed to me.

Then one day, a nurse walked into his hospital room. He had never seen her before, but that significant tidbit meant nothing to him at the moment.

As the nurse cleaned his room, she began looking at different get well-cards that lined the window sill. One card contained a bumper sticker that said something about Jesus.

“You don’t want this bumper sticker, do you?” she asked mockingly.

Then my roommate uttered something totally unexpected.

“If it has anything to do with Jesus, I want it!”

Immediately, the nurse walked up to his bed and announced to him that he would get well and would one day become a pastor. When she finished, she walked out of his room—never to be seen again. In fact, the hospital couldn’t identify any employees matching the description.

My roommate quickly recovered and was released from the hospital within weeks. He experienced not only a dramatic physical healing, but a spiritual one as well.

But my roommate’s comment tells us what I think Jesus was saying. When we hunger and thirst for anything that has to do with Jesus, we will be filled: his ways, his character…him! “If it has anything to do with Jesus, I want it!”

All my life, I’ve felt this inward compulsion to make a difference for God. As far back as I can remember. I’ve hungered for it.

This week I realized that while trying to make a difference is a noble pursuit, it still falls short of the noblest pursuit, the pursuit that will ultimately fill me. The desire to make a difference ultimately places me at the center of my world.

This has begun a reordering of my private world.

Hunger and thirst are essential needs. Without having them filled, we die. Jesus is calling us to himself. He is the giver of life, the only one who can satisfy.

Everything else is just a chili cheese dog.


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If Practice Makes Perfect, How Much Practice Do You Need?

I’m an incomplete archer. Every time I practice shooting my bow, I unearth a long list of information and skills I don’t yet possess. There’s so much to learn. The first time I practiced, I uncovered the concept of bowstring velocity. In order for the arrow to penetrate the target, the bow-string must be released unimpeded. I learned this basic lesson by turning my left forearm into hamburger by holding it too near the string while I released the arrow. Arrow velocity is a painful and ugly lesson. Therefore, I learned it twice.

Then I discovered the intricacies of aiming. Mainly you must have at least one eye open to hit the target, at least to hit it on purpose.

Later I decided to read up on archery. To my delight I discovered there were only a few (1,000, or so) essential movements needed to fire an arrow accurately. On my next outing, before I mastered even one of them, my arm wore out and started dancing like a drunken Chihuahua. Fortunately, no innocent bystanders were hit by my stray arrows. I did hit the bullseye once, however, by accident.

In the process of struggling to master archery, something else dawned on me. This is why the Bible uses an archery metaphor –missing the mark– to describe our human inability to reach perfection. Not only am I an incomplete archer, I’m an incomplete human, constantly missing the mark.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Hosea 10:1-14:9

Jude 1:1-25

Psalm 127:1-5

Proverbs 29:15-17


Jude 1:1-25: When was the last time you heard a lesson or sermon on Jude? I don’t remember ever hearing one. And I’ve never preached one. This book cannot compete with the theology and complexity of Romans, 1 Peter or even 1 John. But this book is worth digging into deeper than many of us have. Eugene H. Peterson, in his introduction to Jude in “The Message,” writes, “As much as we need physicians for our bodies, we have even greater need for diagnosticians and healers of the spirit.” Jude diagnoses an unhealthy acceptance of half-truths and false teachers and offers as a prescription focusing on God’s true and great love and the mercy of Jesus. 

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Hosea also learned about human imperfection fist-hand. His wife never even came near the target of loving him. So too we miss the target in loving God. “They [we] make many promises,” God tells Hosea. Jude describes the same problem saying, “They [we] have taken the way of Cain.”

What are they alluding to? Sin. Not only the bad actions we each partake in but rather the reality that even our best efforts only hit the outer rim of the target and our outright bad choices maim and wound those anywhere near us.

This means not that we don’t hit the bullseye, we can’t.

For me, it looks like this. I sit down to pray and suddenly my mind has–well–danced off like a drunken Chihuahua. I find my is spirit somewhat willing to obey God but my flesh is in flat-out rebellion. I let fly my arrow of faith and inevitably miss the mark. No matter how hard I try, that bullseye of Christian perfection eludes me.

In this case practice does not make perfect. And, at least for me, practicing, especially my faith, only shows me how much I have yet to learn. You too? The time it would take for our life practices to reach perfection does not exist.

But the good news is that as followers of Christ, we aren’t aiming at once and for all perfection–a life of bull’s-eyes–this side of heaven anyway. Though, don’t read me wrong. I am not saying life is merely simmering in sin we can do nothing about. God wants us to be victorious over our hate and lust and fear.

The way to victory, however, is not what Dallas Willard, in his book “The Divine Conspiracy,” calls “sin management.” Trying to master what we cannot master, or even manage, is futile and draws our focus away from God. Instead Jude reminds us to keep ourselves “in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.”

In archery you can mentally check off the myriad of things you should or should not do in order to hit the target. Doing so, however, hinders rather than helps. Instead all other actions follow two: anchor your shooting hand and focus on the target. So too in life: anchor ourselves in God’s love and focus on the mercy of Jesus Christ. Only then will the arrows of righteousness, powered by the Holy Spirit, fly and hit the mark.

The spiritual practices of prayer, Bible study, giving, Sabbath, etc. do not make us perfect. That’s not grace. (Besides how much of the Bible do you have to memorize and master before you are perfect?) Rather, the spiritual practices draw us nearer to the heart of God. And that is the goal. Studying God’s word facilitates our knowing God. Prayer permits us to speak and listen to God. Giving allows us to act like God. Sabbath lets us to rest near God. They are not ends in themselves. They are means to anchoring ourselves in God and focusing on the mercy of Jesus Christ. The bullseye is the heart of God.

Archery is one vehicle I use to drive myself into the woods I love. It is my excuse to sit deep in the fall forest, with aspen leaves falling like otherworldly golden coins and silence singing God’s name. The end result, nearness to God, is what makes the practice perfect. Therefore, my incomplete friends, pull back your bow-string and shoot. To paraphrase Nike. Read. Pray. Worship. Give. But do so knowing these practices are not one-time tasks to master but incomplete movements in a life-time quest for God.

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com


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I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore

Hockey may be hazardous to your health. Just ask Bryan Allison, who was hospitalized a few years ago after a hockey game in Buffalo, NY. What’s the big deal? Hockey players get hurt, you say. Except Allison isn’t a hockey player; he’s a fan, who hurt himself after viewing a thirteen year-old video tape of his favorite NHL team playing a 1989 playoff game.

Like a personal version of Groundhog Day, his team lost again–just like the first time he watched the game live. And just like the first time he watched, Bryan Allison became furious. Suddenly Allison hefted the TV and threw it off his second floor balcony. The only problem was Allison forgot to let go and plunged with the TV to the ground. In my book, the TV was not all Bryan Allison couldn’t let go of. Anger, literally and figuratively, drug Allison down.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Ezekiel 37:1-38:23

James 1:19-2:17

Psalm 117:1-2

Proverbs 28:1

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.


Psalm 117:1-2: Twenty-nine words. That’s all the psalmist needs to tell us much of what we need to know for life: All nations, all people gratefully recognize God as the source of life.  Know that his love and care will last longer than anything we can imagine, even our lives. “Praise the Lord.” Oh my, it took me thirty-two words.


Allison isn’t the only one, however, who has trouble letting go of his anger. Here in the United States anger is becoming epidemic. Reports of revenge, road rage, and retribution are as common as dirt. Revenge is an entire Hollywood movie genre unto itself. Anger lives and thrives in our world globally and personally. Witness the centuries old rage of the Middle East or a modern-day tantrum in a traffic jam. The only difference in the anger is scale. There isn’t much you and I can do about anger on the global scale but there is on the personal.

When I was in seventh grade, I had a friend whose parents were both professional counselors. Among the many strange things that went on in that house, they always had stacks of boxes filled with empty wine bottles sitting by their back door. One night I finally mustered the courage to ask about them.

“Some of our clients struggle with pent-up anger,” John’s mother told me. “So we have a special room we take them to. And under heavy supervision, we allow them to release their anger by throwing these bottles against the wall.”

Sounded fun to me. Little did I know that John’s parents were practicing therapy based on the idea that anger must be released–vented–like steam in a pressure cooker. Unfortunately this popular, misguided, supposed cure for our anger epidemic is actually part of the problem.

Research shows anger cannot be stored because its source is our famous fight or flight response: a chemical/electrical response to real or perceived danger. Once activated, those chemicals eventually cease firing and anger, or whatever emotion we have tied to the chemical reaction, dissipates.

How is it, then, that many of us wake in the middle of the night and feel that rush of rage all over again even years later? Psychologist Dr. Archibald Hart says we have stored not anger but rather nurtured the hurt or fear or frustration that our bodies, in an endless loop, interpret as danger. Worse yet, anger becomes an ingrained pattern so that our fuses become shorter and shorter. Venting anger as pure powerful emotion actually fuels it. Thus Bryan Allison reigniteed a thirteen year old rage that lands him two stories down and in the hospital. Hockey may be hazardous; anger definitely is.

What’s the answer? Repression? Denial? No! Hart argues that a healthy release of anger flows through forgiveness. Not a mealy-mouthed forgiveness that excuses wrong, whining, “It’s okay, really.”

Rather Hart advocates a forgiveness forged by truth and reality that says, “Yes, you wronged me and I could do the same to you. But I choose not to. I choose not to hold this against you. I choose forgiveness and freedom.”

James, the brother of Jesus, said the same thing long ago: “be slow to become angry.” Later James quotes his brother Jesus saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Forgiveness is not protecting the offender. It is love, not anger in action. Forgiveness never erases consequences. It simply loves in the turbulent wake of the betrayal. Forgiveness also does not equal trust. Forgiveness is a gift; trust is earned one kept promise at a time. But most of all, as I wrote yesterday, forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness shudders at the pain, weeps at the loss, but then stands tall. Forgiveness remembers and places grace on painful memories. Finally, forgiveness is reciprocal. Extending forgiveness to others frees them from your hate and revenge. But like a boomerang, it flies back granting you freedom from your hate and revenge as well. Forgiveness is freedom! Forgiveness is the remedy to anger not unrestrained expression.

From the cross Jesus said, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” With those words Jesus neither excuses nor forgets. With the pain of betrayal racking his body and soul, he chooses to love. We need not start with such a grand display as that. Instead when you are cut off in traffic today, choose to lay it aside–forgive (because they probably don’t know what they are doing!). Then when something more serious, a memory of a past wrong, scorches you, take the first step toward freedom from anger and pray, “Father forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing. But You do!”

  1. How has anger possessed you?
  2. Which passage spoke most to you?
  3. What did the four have in common?

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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The Secret To Overcoming Our Addictions

All Bill Wilson needed was one drink for him to be hooked. “I had found the elixir of life,” he wrote. But soon his elixir escorted him down a very dark path as alcohol became the driving influence in his life.

He failed to graduate from law school because he was too drunk to pick up his diploma. So instead, he became a stock speculator and enjoyed success traveling the country with his wife, Lois, evaluating companies for potential investors. Lois, however, had a hidden agenda: she hoped the travel would keep Bill from drinking. However, his constant drinking made business impossible and ruined his reputation.

Four times he was committed to a hospital in hopes that he could find deliverance from his addiction, which he was told would lead to an early death.

Eighteen years after his first drink, he met an old drinking buddy who had been sober for several weeks—something Wilson was unable to do. The influence of his friend led to his sobriety, and their friendship resulted in the formation of Alcoholics Anonymous.

While regularly criticized by the medical community, Alcoholics Anonymous has achieved success far beyond their critics. What is the secret to their success?

Please join us as we explore this topic in our daily Bible conversation.


Jeremiah 16:16-18:23
1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3
Psalm 81:1-16
Proverbs 25:6-8


Jeremiah 16:16-18:23. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) As western culture moves from modernism to post-modernism, the heart becomes an ever-increasing influence in our beliefs and the decisions we make. We’re told to “follow our heart.” While ignoring our hearts is foolish, we need to remember that our hearts can also lead us astray. In fact, according to this verse, our hearts can deceive us, too.

At the end of our reading (Jeremiah 18:18-23), we see a veiled reference of retaliation toward Jeremiah. He’s been thrown into a pit because he called out the sin of Judah’s leaders. Jeremiah paid a price for obeying God.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-5:3. Paul’s words in 4:1 echo Jeremiah’s choice to obey God: “live in order to please God.” I wrestle with this because my deceptive heart wants to please people or live for myself. In this particular context, Paul is referring to sexual purity. “Avoid sexual immorality” he writes. The Greek word for “sexual immortality”—porneia—applies to sexual acts outside the boundaries of marriage. Our society and deceptive hearts try to convince us that our sexual practices don’t matter. But they do. Paul addresses a root problem underlying our sexual habits. All too often we don’t want to live with self-control. Again, we want to follow our deceptive hearts, which only lead us to destruction—both spiritually but also relationally.

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In his final hospital stay, Bill Wilson reached the end of himself. While lying in his hospital bed depressed and despairing, he cried out, “I’ll do anything! Anything at all! If there be a God, let him show himself!”

Suddenly, Wilson was engulfed in a sensation of bright light, a feeling of ecstasy, and peace. Not only did he experience an encounter with God Almighty, but he later considered this an important step in following Jesus. He never drank again for the remainder of his life.

This experience provided the foundation to recovery for every alcoholic:

  1. We are powerless over our addiction.
  2. Only a Power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.
  3. In order to recover from our addiction, we must turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.

Originally, Alcoholics Anonymous was a Christian organization, heavily influenced by an intriguing Christian movement called the Oxford Group.

The secret to recovery from addictions should really come as no surprise. God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength” (Jeremiah 17:5–6).

We want to save ourselves. Heal ourselves. Relying on outside help is an admittance of weakness. We’d like to overcome our sins and demons on our own. Yet the truth is, we can’t save ourselves. Nor can we heal ourselves and make ourselves better. Friends are important, but they can’t cure us. Our help only comes from above:

But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit. Jeremiah 17:7–8

When we battle addictions or demons like depression or discouragement, we must recognize that the solution to our problems never come from within: “Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise” (Jeremiah 17:14).

Sometimes working harder at our problems only makes them worse. Surrendering, working less, yielding to God, helps us realize that true change can only come from God.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In what areas of your life are you trying to hold together on your own?
  3. What prevents you from surrendering them to God?
  4. What lies do you choose to believe?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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What Our Respectable (And Not-So-Respectable) Addictions Say About Us

The Japanese call it karoshi–“death by overwork”– and it’s estimated to cause 1,000 deaths in Japan per year, nearly 5% of that country’s stroke and heart attack deaths in employees under age 60 according to WebMD. Other “respectable” addictions include the dependence on pain killers, television, food, computers, technology, video games, FaceBook, Twitter, spending, even exercise.

But whether respectable or not, our addictions point to a deeper issue that has plagued humanity for thousands of years.

Please join us as we discuss what our respectable additions say about us in our daily Bible conversation.


Jeremiah 10:1-11:23
Colossians 3:18-4:18
Psalm 78:56-72
Proverbs 24:28-29


Jeremiah 10:1-11:23. Over and over we read in the prophetic books about the futility of worshipping idols. “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:5). Our modern-day idols fare little better (more on that just below).

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


An overarching theme in the Old Testament prophetic books is God’s criticism of Israel’s idolatry. In fact, in Rule #1 of the 10 Commandments God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). God wasn’t content with any competitors for the affection of his people. Most amazing to me is that the Israelites in Moses’ day witnessed some pretty awesome acts of God:

  • They watched Egypt suffer through nine plagues while none of them affected the Israelites.
  • Through Moses, God parted the Red Sea and the people crossed on dry land.
  • God provided manna and quail for the Israelites to eat and water to drink in the middle of the desert.
  • A cloud by day and a fire by night led them across the wilderness.

Yet while Moses received the Law from God on Mt. Sinai, the people were throwing a raucous party replete with orgies and idol worship. So, God waited for an entire generation to die in the wilderness before starting over with his people as they entered the Promised Land.

Nevertheless, the people struggled with idols. Over and over again.

Fast forward 800 years to Jeremiah’s day and the same problem persisted. Israel continued to place their trust in idols carved from wood and stone.

So what ever happened to idolatry?

It exchanged objects of worship but the practices remain the same even to this day. It seems to me that the core of idol worship consists of anything that prevents us from completely relying on God.

It’s no mistake that Paul reminded his Colossian readers that their true employer was Jesus (Colossians 3:23–24). Our paycheck may come through our employer, but God is our ultimate provider.

But when I think about it, isn’t that what an addiction is?

Years ago, the Israelites offered child sacrifices to brutal gods like Molech in order to manipulate their god into granting their request. Today, we sacrifice our families for our jobs and a bigger income (the idol that tempts me most). Instead of engaging in a quick fling with a temple prostitute, we try to stuff the God-shaped hole in our hearts with addictive behavior. Or, we throw an extra dollar or two (or Rand, for our South African friends) into the offering in hopes that God will multiply it and make us rich.

Yet all of these practices betray the central problem: we don’t trust that God is enough. Our addictions try to convince us that God isn’t enough, that other alternatives exist.

The New Testament word for relying on God is faith—and without faith it’s impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6).

Do you want to be a man or woman of faith? Do you want to eliminate the idols from your life? Then take inventory of anything that prevents you from completely relying on God.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In your opinion, what modern-day idols vie for people’s allegiance?
  3. What modern-day idols vie for YOUR allegiance?
  4. To what extent is God more than enough for you?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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When You Crave What Kills You

Our house serves as the domain of two shih tzu dogs named Zeus and Zoe. I love our dogs, but they have this one irritating problem: they have an insatiable appetite for chocolate.

Years ago, my wife and daughters went out of town the weekend before Christmas. For a pastor, holiday weekends are extremely busy. So after our Saturday night worship service at church, I dragged through the front door to discover Zeus and Zoe listless on the floor.

Apparently, they found a package under the Christmas tree that contained a box of chocolates, and they ate all of them. Every last one.

Scattered throughout the house were small piles of, well…you know…chocolate dog throw-up. On our white carpet.

I didn’t know if I should feel sorry for the dogs or be angry at them.

Not to worry, after a weekend of involuntary fasting, the dogs were back to their normal selves. The carpet didn’t fare so well.

Strangest of all, the dogs haven’t learned their lesson. This same escapade has repeated itself over and over again. Chocolate Easter bunnies. M&Ms. Reeses Peanut Butter Cups (they really like them!). And I’m forced to clean up the mess. On the white carpet.

What do you do when you crave what kills you. How do you change?

Please join me as we explore this in our daily Bible conversation.


Isaiah 43:14-45:10
Ephesians 3:1-21
Psalm 68:1-18
Proverbs 24:1-2


Psalm 68:1-18. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling” (verse 5). These words speak hope to people who have lived without a father or spouse. Although I’ve been blessed with both, dear friends of mine have not—including my co-blogger Eugene, who has spent most of his life without his father. Yet God willingly, lovingly steps into that void.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


Eugene and I recently realized that the most popular blog post this year was the August 2 post entitled “The Only Way People Change.” Every day, a handful of people read it.

All of us want to change, but quite often we don’t know how.

“See, I am doing a new thing,” God spoke through the prophet Isaiah. “I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).

God was likely referring to the new covenant he was making with his people through Jesus.

The old way of doing things was no longer working for Israel. Actually, it had never worked quite right. Despite their best intentions, God’s chosen people continually gravitated toward worshipping idols.

In the next chapter, God exposes the folly of idolatry. Out of the same block of wood, a craftsman can fashion a god while throwing the leftover pieces in the fire. A blacksmith can take the same piece of metal to create either an idol or a farm implement.

It’s just wood or metal, God says. But like the old song reminds us, “Breaking up is hard to do.” Change doesn’t come easily.

Lest we look down our noses at the peculiar worship practices of people from long ago, we continue to gravitate toward the same idols. The gods of old promised prosperity, pleasure, and security—gods that many of us worship today.

If you’re wondering what gods you gravitate toward worshipping, just take a closer look at how you spend your time or money. Ask yourself, What secrets do I guard most closely?

So how do we overcome our death-giving habits? What do we do when we crave what kills us?

1. Understand the depths of God’s love for you. “Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen,” God reassures his people in Isaiah 44:2. Jeshurun was a term of endearment that means “upright.” Regardless of how deep our compulsions suck us in, God still loves us and looks at us with affection. Even when we sin.

Also notice that God tells his beloved but flawed not to be afraid. Fear always accompanies change.

Paul reiterates the depths of God’s love in our reading from Ephesians 3:17-19:

And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Knowing in our inmost being the depths of Christ’s love changes us.

2. Acknowledge the foolishness of your sin. Your death-giving habits are no different than idols of wood or metal. They will never satisfy. Never. Remind yourself of this.

3. Repent. This word has fallen out of favor in our society, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less important. “Return to me, for I have redeemed you” God beckons his wayward people in Isaiah 44:21-22. And that’s the definition of repentance: turning our back on our idols. That’s the only way we can break free from them. Repentance and change go hand in hand. It means creating new habits, changing old ones, and exchanging death-giving habits for life-giving habits.

4. Draw strength from the Holy Spirit. In Isaiah 44:3, God promises, “I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.” We have an advantage over the people of Isaiah’s day because they didn’t have the Holy Spirit living inside them. If you’ve given your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit lives in you. Believe and live it.

Like my dogs Zeus and Zoe, the craving for what kills you will probably remain the rest of your life. My favorite line in the hymn Come Thou Fount says, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”Throughout out lives we will fight the tendency to abandon the God who remains faithful to us.

But when you understand the depths of God’s love and that the Holy Spirit lives in you, you also realize that you no longer need to follow your compulsions. The deepest part of you isn’t even you, it’s Christ.

Endless books have been written on addictions and idolatry, so I won’t try to exhaust the subject here. But be encouraged in this: although God is changeless, he’s always doing a new thing in our lives, which often requires change. A change in lifestyle. A change in perspective. A change in character.

Following God into the new thing might be scary, but it brings us new life.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How can a person invite God into the void of a father or husband?
  3. What idols do you gravitate toward? What changes is God calling you to?
  4. How can you rely on the Holy Spirit to make the change?
  5. What has helped you overcome the craving that kills you?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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You’re Not The Messiah!

In the irreverent Monty Python satire Life of Brian, a man named Brian Cohen in 1st century Judea is mistaken for the promised Messiah. Throughout the movie, his ardent followers look to him to save them from Romans oppression.

All the while, he tries to convince the people, “I’m not the Messiah!”

Unfortunately, many of us believe that we are, indeed, the Messiah—or we look to other people to be our Messiah when they’re not.

Join us today in our daily Bible conversation as we explore why we’re not the Messiah.


Isaiah 12:1-14:32
2 Corinthians 13:1-14
Psalm 57:1-11
Proverbs 23:9-11


Isaiah 12:1-14:32. In the second half of chapter 13, Isaiah prophesies that the Medes will invade Babylon—which they did in 539 B.C. He also prophesies that Babylon will eventually be uninhabited. Since the second century A.D., Babylon (located in Iraq) has indeed been a desolate city.

In the book of Daniel, we can see a marked difference between the Babylonian kings and the Persian/Median kings (this was a combined kingdom of sorts—Persia and the Medes). The Babylonian kings were not nearly as compassionate as the Persian/Median kings. For example, in Ezra and Nehemiah, we read that in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia’s reign—right after he invaded Babylon—he ordered the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem.

Some preachers hearken to Isaiah 14 as a reference to Satan’s fall from heaven, citing Luke 10:18 and 1 Timothy 3:6, but this is only conjecture—and it makes for a rousing sermon. It may be true or it may not. Prophecy is typically highly symbolic, making it difficult to interpret. Such is the case here.

2 Corinthians 13:1-14. Paul intends to return to Corinth to face his accusers but insists that every matter “must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses” (13:1). This practice—which continues to this day in western society—was first established in Deuteronomy 19:15 and affirmed by Jesus in Matthew 18:16.

Also, notice the words of verse 14 in Paul’s farewell: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Although the word “Trinity” is never mentioned in the New Testament, this is the clearest reference to the three.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


David was on the run. Saul was the hunter and David was the hunted. People had betrayed him and let him down nearly every step of the way. While hiding in a cave to avoid being seen, David wrote Psalm 57.

He writes, “I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (verse 1). Like a hen who protects her chicks, David relied on God to grant him protection. Furthermore, he writes that “[God] saves me” (verse 2).

In the same way, we read in Isaiah 12:2 that one day Israel will say, “Surely God is my salvation.”

This may seem blatantly obvious, but God is our salvation.

While I know this truth in my head, I don’t know it so well in my heart. Too often I look to people or myself for salvation.

I have a friend who is looking for work, and potential employers and contacts continually let them down. Yet those people aren’t his salvation.

Another friend is living as a single dad while his wife is receiving treatment for a mental illness. But the therapists, as effective as they may be, aren’t his salvation.

But looking to God to be our salvation is hard. We want immediate solutions and tangible answers. We want a God with skin.

Placing our trust in a God we cannot see requires faith. And it means the solution may not be readily visible.

If you’re in a difficult place in your life, remember this truth: God is your salvation.

You can’t save your wayward child.

You can’t overcome that addiction on your own.

You can’t convince that potential employer to hire you.

But God can. He’s your salvation.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. To what extent do you find it difficult trusting God to be your salvation?
  3. How have you experienced God as your salvation?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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The Antidote To The Flesh-Eating Virus

Twelve years ago, my oldest daughter Anna was diagnosed with strep throat. Nothing out of the ordinary. But before it was treated, she coughed into her hand and scratched a mosquito bite on the lower part of her leg.

The next day, her bite looked a little swollen. My wife Kelley expressed concern about it, but we decided to give it one more day before doing anything about it.

The next morning, Anna’s leg was swollen from her ankle to her knee. It was obvious that something was wrong, so we rushed to the hospital. I won’t go into detail, but that was probably the worst day of our lives—that same day our baby Allie came down with an ear infection that burst her eardrum and Kelley miscarried our third child.

When we brought Anna into the children’s ward, the doctors looked extremely concerned. They began pumping her body with antibiotics, but none of them were working.

“We have one more antibiotic we want to try,” the doctor reluctantly confessed. “It’s extremely strong, but nothing else has been effective. If this doesn’t work and the infection reaches her hip, we’ll be forced to amputate her leg.”

By that point, the infection was a mere two inches away.

The doctors went to work on her, and miraculously, the antibiotic worked. One hundred years ago, she would have died.

In the midst of the crisis, the doctors told us that Anna was fighting a derivative of the flesh-eating virus. When she coughed into her hand, some of the strep infection entered her leg.

Like that flesh-eating virus, all of us fight our sinful nature—which, coincidentally, Scripture calls our “flesh.”

If you struggle with habitual sins, or if you can readily see evidence of your sinful nature at work in your life and you want the antidote, then you’ll want to join us in today’s daily Bible conversation.


2 Chronicles 8:11-10:19
Romans 8:9-25
Psalm 18:16-36
Proverbs 19:26


2 Chronicles 8:11-10:19. In today’s reading, Solomon’s life comes to an end. Again, the Chronicler’s intent was to portray Solomon as the second part of a double dynasty that demonstrated God’s blessing to nations who served Yahweh.

After Solomon’s son Rehoboam comes to power, it becomes obvious that Israel’s extravagant wealth was earned on the shoulders of the common people. “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you,” the people told him (2 Chronicles 10:4). Rather than lighten up on his subjects, Rehoboam follows the foolish advice of his friends and threatens to cast an even heavier hand than his father. Because of his arrogance, Rehoboam lost most of the kingdom.

While it’s easy criticize “foolish” Rehoboam, I must admit that I share a lot in common with him. In my twenties I was pretty cocky. All too often our arrogance clouds our judgment.

Besides, what can you expect from a man who grew up with ridiculous wealth? He was likely out of touch with the people…unlike Jeroboam (for more on his background, read 1 Kings 11:26-40).

Romans 8:9-25. This is one of those passages that is best read slowly so you can glean everything you can out of it.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.


All too often I forget who I am. When I mess things up, I too easily look at myself in the mirror and say, Mike, you’re such a screw-up. You’ll never get it together.

At one point in my life, I thought I was a pretty good person, but then the pendulum swung and I readily identified with Romans 1-3. While the first three chapters of Romans are true, they aren’t the last word on who we are.

In Romans 8, Paul makes a pretty bold statement: If the Spirit of God lives in you, then you aren’t controlled by your sinful nature (verse 9).

Don’t feel like it? It doesn’t matter. Regardless of how you feel, it doesn’t change this fact. The deepest part of you isn’t even you—the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ now live in you.

Paul didn’t write these words to a group of pastors—as if they were immune to the clutches of sin. He wrote it to everyone who follows Jesus.

The antidote to breaking the death-giving virus that ravages our souls is to believe that the deepest part of us isn’t our sin. The deepest part of us is Jesus, who, by the power of the Holy Spirit (who also lives in us), breaks our bondage to sin.

But God also wants us to cooperate with him. Paul tells us that we have an “obligation” to live according to the Spirit (verse 12).

So how do we deal with our sinful tendencies? Paul tells us to put them to death (verse 13). We must treat sin like a flesh-eating virus. We must be violent in dealing with it. Remove its influences. Choke it until it suffocates. Sounds violent, doesn’t it? Absolutely.

Nothing good results from our cooperation with sin. But the good news is, God has given us the antidote: his son Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.

I encourage you to meditate on the fact that if you have chosen to follow Jesus, you now have the antidote to your fight against the ravages of sin.


What spoke to you in today’s reading?

If you belong to Jesus, then sin no longer has power over you. Is that hard to believe? Why?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.


Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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