Easter this year will mark the third year since I joined the Catholic Church. I’ve seen my prayer life and devotion to Christ really grow. There are so many resources in the Church for growing in faith. I think I have a deeper understanding of what it means to follow Jesus. Another thing I’m doing is meeting with the Order of Secular Franciscans every month for spiritual formation. I believe God is calling me to join this group.
Joining a Christian community means committing ones self to living a way of life with a shared goal: serving Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It means taking up the call of following Jesus with a particular people, doing particular things, but always praying together, reading Scripture, and being faithful in attendance to one’s Christian church. What it doesn’t mean is being controlled by a dominant personality, always being told what to do, or making decisions solely on the basis of pressure in any direction. If living in community comes down to the food, clothing, or room and board being held over the member and threatened to be taken away, the real purpose for being together is lost. In a similar way if a member feels that they are working for the community and so the community must pay them back by paying off bills, the real purpose of being there may have been lost. Community is about consensus and a willingness to take responsibility for what is needed because of the shared commitment to Christ. There are many ways of doing a thing and so it must be decided how the group will work together. Who will do what and how. My way of doing things is not the only way, but it is a way. I can’t get bitter or look down on other members for not doing a thing as I would have.
There is a bond that community members share in Christ. Philippians 2:1-5 It involves “encouragement, solace in love, participation in the Spirit, compassion and mercy, being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.”
And what is that one thing? The same attitude that Christ had. “He emptied himself, took the form of a slave, humbling himself became obedient to death on a cross.” (vs. 8-9)
So how are we to humble ourselves “unto death”, and why? Doesn’t God want us alive? Well, yes but our attitude should be one of sacrifice, giving up our wills, our own agendas, our own way of making peace.
This film, which was a labor of love for years, is now available to watch for free for Amazon Prime users. My father, Larry Rice, is in the film. I was interviewed for it, but I don’t think my footage made it in. At one point in the film Bill Siedhof says that Rev. Larry Rice is simply using the issue in order to raise money. He argues that as long as he is in the news he can fund his mission. I’d like to reply to that charge here now. As I’ve seen my father take a stand in public over many issues, from prison reform, the death penalty, ending police brutality of African Americans, to standing up for the rights of the homeless to sleep in tents in public, (Even advocating that 1 acre of ground be made available for a place to camp and be managed as a not-for-profit. This model has worked well in other communities.) what I observe is that being in the news, whether with negative or positive attention does two things. It makes some people angry and it makes other people cheer. I would dare say that it effects the public’s desire to contribute both positively and negatively as well. The proof as to whether New Life Evangelistic Center is accomplishing its mission is in the lives that are being changed for the good. There are many homeless who do not like staying in shelters, do not like having their stories made public, and even don’t want anyone knowing they’re homeless. And all of that is okay. The ministry of NLEC sets forth to love these people and bless them without any thanks. We do not serve because of donations, we serve because of Christ’s command to see him in the least of these. We give whether or not it makes fiscal sense. God sees fit to take care of us and we are grateful.
The Five Spiritual Principles in Recovery
by Rev. Chris Rice
Galatians 6:2 tells us to “carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Many times those burdens are addictions. US News and World Report estimated in 2015 that “40 million Americans 12 and over are addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs. Another 80 million are “risky substance users” meaning they “use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs in ways that threaten public health and safety. Only 1 in 10 people with addictions to alcohol/drugs report receiving any treatment at all.” (Lloyd Sederer, “A Blind Eye to Addiction”, US News and World Report, 6/1/15)
We have to face the fact that addiction touches us all. 11% of Americans are addicted to alcohol or drugs. There are many other life altering addictions such as food, sex, codependence, workaholism, and TV and internet use. Chances are you yourself, someone you know or the person sitting next to you currently has or has had one of these. What we find in God’s Word is that loving God means loving addicts just as He does. We cannot love this way on our own. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.
Dear Heavenly Father, grant us ears to hear and a heart to receive what you would say to us by your Spirit. In this life we know first hand the pan brought on by addictions. We find in your Word that as sick as we are, you are for us, you love us. Help us O Lord to experience a spiritual renewal and to become willing to bring your message and your provision to all in need. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
I want to share a short study with you of the five principles embodied in the 12 steps of AA. They can be found in a book titled “Twenty Four Hours A Day” by Hazelden. The steps are adapted and used in all the other 12 step fellowships. And all the way through this study I want to look at how the Scriptures speak to us the truths found in the steps.
To start off the five principles we’ll look at include: Membership, Spirituality, Personal Inventory, Restitution, and Helping Others.
Proverbs says, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly. Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (26:11-12, NIV) The first step is “we admitted that we were powerless over alcohol (drugs, sex, binge eating, rage)—that our lives had become unmanageable.” It’s not always easy to say when or how it happened, but for the addict something changed in that drink. It was no longer just a source of pleasure, it became the reason to live. Slowly but surely everything else lost focus and alcohol alone remained. He couldn’t drink like other friends ever again. Slowly but surely he realized he could never drink the same way again. He was licked. On the plus side, he realizes that in his powerlessness and unmanageability he belongs with other who have the same problem. It doesn’t seem like this principle could offer hope. So many people stumble over this principle and never return to meetings. But the second principle brings us from devastation to gratitude.
The second step says, “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV) Steps two three and eleven involve the venture of belief, of surrender, and prayer. We come together burdened by our shared problems. And eventually we come to believe in a higher power who places us in a right mind. The third step says, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” Alone each of us knew the addictions to be a cruel task master, a god that kept us isolated and bound in sin. In making a decision that God cared and would receive our will and lives and do better with them than we ever could, we understood that this higher power was the center of the universe instead of us. Step eleven says, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.” Each day we learn to ask for His will to be done, not our own. We also understand humility for the first time. God is in control, he knows, and we ask for his will instead of our own. This release of control is the basis of our spirituality.
The third principle, personal inventory, is found in steps four, five, six, seven and ten. Step four says, “Made a searching fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” The Bible says, “Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Put away perversity from your mouth. Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:33-37, NIV) In taking a self inventory we are willing to face the facts as they really are. We face reality instead of running away. We admit our faults openly and become willing to correct them. Where have we been dishonest, impure, unloving and selfish? This is not a one time thing but we learn to do it everyday of our lives for as long as we live. Many people find this to be the hardest of the steps and so they stay on step four for years. The purpose of a sponsor is to help us get to the point and look without looking away. It is doable and must be done with resolve. To stand still is to risk losing sobriety.
Step five is “admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. The apostle James wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” This reflects this principle beautifully. We cannot bear our wrongs only to ourselves. Why? Because we are not the center of the universe. We learn the truth fully when we reach out and admit it to someone else who can bear it with us. Of course we have to be careful about who that person is. It’s best to have a sponsor or spiritual adviser to help us. Step six, “were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character” and step seven is “humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.” Finally, step ten is “continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.”
The fourth principle is restitution. Steps eight and nine are “made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all” and “made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.” This can be a very difficult proposition, but it is necessary to finally be done with our pride. We have lived too long with self-will run riot and taking responsibility for our wrongs in order to then right what we’ve wronged will make all the difference. These steps have to be practiced with care and with a sponsor’s help. They are not made quickly or early on in our recovery. And of course if there’s a chance we can further harm the individuals involved than we do not try to contact them. There are other ways to make restitution and a sponsor can be creative with ideas. Proverbs 14:9 says, “Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright.” (NIV)
The final principle is helping others. It is the principle that includes all of the steps for it says, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” It’s not a one time thing, but a lifestyle. Galatians 6:1-2 says, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.(NIV)” When someone is completely overtaken by an addiction they feel as though there is no possible way they could be of use to someone else. There is nothing left for them to give because they’ve been robbed by the addiction. They’ve lost the trust of family and friends, and they feel as though they have no self-worth left. By working the steps and coming to a spiritual renewal there is a realization that a better way of life is actually possible, that what God did for them he can do for others.
All of this takes time. Let me speak now to some who think they may be addicts but don’t know where to begin. Maybe a long time ago you went to a few meetings where you heard sloppy drunk-a-logs. You didn’t find what you were looking for so you gave up. But you still know you’re an addict and while you might stop using for a little while the alcohol or drugs or something else catches up with you eventually. I want to encourage you to keep coming back to a meeting.
God has a future for you. He cares about you and wants you set free. More than that you have something to give! The apostle Paul wrote, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16, NIV)” The spirit of the steps are honesty, unselfishness, purity, and love. God is our source for all of these things.
So long as we keep our minds centered on ourselves, whether it be our failures or those things we expect to accomplish, eventually failed expectations will leave us defeated. But when we come to God in surrender and seek out His will, “Not my will but yours be done”, we find that all along God had everything we need.
Yours in Christ,
Rev. Chris Rice
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Twenty Four Hours A Day: A Meditation Book and Journal for Daily Reflection”, beginning on September 16, Hazelden.
“The Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous”
Scriptures related to each of the steps:
Step 1: Psalm 38:3-14; Prov. 26:11-12; Mk. 5:2-15; Rm. 7:18-23
Step 2: Psalm 18:2-6; Mat. 11:28-30; Mat. 12: 18-21; Heb. 2:14-18
Step 3: Psalm 3:1-6; Ps. 142:1-7; Mat. 4:18-23; Mat. 6:24-34; Lk. 9:59-62; Jn. 1:12-13
Step 4: Prov. 4:23-27; Lam. 3:39-45; Mat. 5:4;Lk. 12:1-7; 2 Cor. 10:12-13; Gal. 6:3-8; Rev. 2:4-5
Step 5: Psalm 32:3-7; Prov. 28:13; Mat. 3:5-6; Acts 19:18-20; James 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9
Step 6: Mat. 3:1-3; Rom. 6:8-14; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 4:17-24; Col. 3:5-13
Step 7: Mat. 18:4; Lk. 18:9-14; 1 Pet. 5:6-10; 1 Jn. 5:14-15;
Step 8: Lev. 6:1-7; 2 Sam. 12:1-14; Prov. 16:6-7; Ezek. 33:14-16; Lk. 19:8-10; Rom. 12:18
Step 9: Prov. 14:9; Mat. 5:9, 23-24, 25-26; Acts 9:10-31; 20:18-21, 26-27, 33-35
Step 10: Rom. 12:2-3; Phil. 2:12-13; 2 Jn. 1:8;
Step 11: Mat. 4:1-11; Jn. 15:4-11; Phil. 4:5-9; 1 Pet. 4:1-8
Step 12: Mat. 3:1-3; Gal. 6:1-2; 1 Tim. 1:12-16; James 5:19-20
Observations on Missouri homeless “services”. Nothing to be proud of:1. community support means every dollar raised is matched by gov’t money
2. MO recognizes no need for homeless persons to unite and advocate for themselves because community agencies meet all their needs
3. homeless definition is what the government says it is
4. Deserving needy are those the gov’t cover with programs
5. MO is releasing more prisoners than ever before to the street to vie for services with others.
6. MO makes deep cuts in social services: TANF, SNAP, food stamps
7. MO refuses to expand Medicaid
8. The insurance gap for the working poor is so huge you can drive a truck through it.
9. MO criminalizes the unsheltered by eradicating tent or shack living wherever found
10. Next to nothing exists for travel aid for stranded persons. Greyhound has reduces its discount from 25% to 10% for stranded persons.
11. But if you listen to federally funded agencies homelessness will be ended by 2017.
12. MO continues to use Point In Time counts as representative of actual number of homeless persons, even though the federal gov’t admits “on one night in January” is not an indicator of the state of homelessness.
13. The cost of living in MO and low wages make housing beyond the reach of thousands of Missourians whether they are counted as homeless or not.
What We Are Waiting For
by Rev. Chris Rice
Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. James 5:7-8 (NRSV)
A young man approached me on Monday morning in the lobby here on Locust Street. He said that he was confused and wanted to go home. I asked him where he lived and I learned that he was from a small town in southern Illinois. He had come to the big city looking for work but now that he’d arrived he realized it was not what he’d thought. He’d met people who were beat up for their money in the area. He felt threatened just from walking the streets. He didn’t want to stay any longer. He was asking if our ministry could please give him a bus ticket home.
Now don’t misunderstand, he came here to the city with clear intentions. He couldn’t find work anywhere in the area close to his home. He was used to doing work on an oil rig, but this time of year there was no work to be found. This was the biggest city in the region. After coming here and feeling out of his comfort zone he said he’d be heading to some other city next— maybe in Indiana. Too many murders here, too many muggings. He didn’t want to die.
His story is similar to many others, men, women, and families, looking to make a living with very little. They’re searching for a place where they can work, live safely, and live peacefully. When I stop and consider it someone is always being born, someone is dying, someone is self-medicating, someone is doing all they can to stay sober, someone is making lots of money, and someone is going broke. Most people feel like victims to life’s circumstances, and they feel like their hope lies somewhere out there in the next town, with the next job, maybe with new people.
It occurs to me, “Is this what life is really all about? Why is life such a struggle, and for what?”
The Apostle James gave us a clear word on who we are and what we are to be doing. He says that we are to be “long-tempered” or “suffering-long”. This is what the Greek word, “makrothumeo” which we translate “Patience” says. We are not to get frustrated, angry, fearful, and weighed down by life, but instead we’re to look to the coming of Christ.
What are we waiting for? Life is in constant flux and we are always at the center of change. If we’re waiting for things to settle down and become “normal” we’re missing the point. I’ve been waiting my whole life for people to be less difficult to deal with. How’s that workin’ for me? Not too well. And you know, I’m sure people have been waiting on me to be less difficult to them too. Stop and listen to the kinds of things people want to talk about.
I was standing at the auto repair shop this morning and the TV was on with the weather report. People around me began discussing whether or not they liked the snow we’re supposed to be getting. Now, as I’m writing this it’s only the second week of January here in Missouri. But the consensus this morning is that everyone prefers the rain and forty degree temps to snow. I’m wanting to say, “Come on people! It’s winter time. Deal with it.”
I got a ride back to work from one of the shop repairmen and I wanted to talk about history and the Scott Joplin house and the new Blues Museum in downtown, but he wanted to talk about how the weather changing was effecting his bones. You just can’t steer conversations past this moment in our world today. I’m here to tell you I know Jesus is returning soon, the Bible says it is “nigh”, meaning it is “at hand”.
My driver asked me, “Isn’t that Larry Rice at 1411 Locust?” I told him my name and he got excited because he said we are doing good work. He asked about how things are going with the city and I told him, “I’m not waiting on the city. I’m waiting on the Lord.” And he said, “I know that’s right.” In this world we all have big and small things that can easily seem more important than the return of Christ. This is why it’s important for us to remember WHO we belong to, WHERE we belong, and WHAT we’re called to do.
James tells us we’re called to patience.
Matthew Henry said, “This Christian patience is not a mere yielding to necessity, as the moral patience taught by some philosophers was, but it is a humble acquiescence in the wisdom and will of God, with an eye to a future glorious recompense.”
You don’t have to be patient just to get along. You’re not being patient so that people will like you. You’re certainly not called to patience so that good things will come eventually. God is patient and the fruit of his spirit is patience. We are what he has made us. We are called to remain in Him and wait for His appearing.
Next we’re given a word picture to remember. “The farmer waits….” This should set our minds on the way of life we’re to follow. We’re called to lives of simplicity that involve planting seed, and trust that the “early and late rains” will bring the crop. Now I’ve done some gardening and I’ve lived on a farm with animals. I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing romantic about
this life. It’s a hard life. There’s a reason America has a history of migration from farms to the city and suburbs. People wanted an easier life.
But we’re called to patience that involves attention and trust. No farmer just plants the seed and then lays around. If you want a good crop you have to know all about your land, weather patterns, tools, neighbor relations, etc. Our patience is not a lazy patience, it’s a hard work and trusting patience. Vines Expository Dictionary says that,
“Patience is the quality that does not surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial; it is the opposite of despondency and is associated with hope (1 Thess. 1:3)”.
James then tells us (vs. 8) that we need to “strengthen our hearts”. The Greek word here is “starizo”, meaning “to set fast, to turn resolutely in a certain direction, to confirm”. We can’t forget WHO we belong to and that the WHEN of his appearing is certainly at hand. So what this means is that we have to stay focused on the most important matter in a world that is more focused on sports and weather.
Most people don’t realize it, but things broadcast on TV and in social media actually are carefully created in order to form our opinions and tastes. If you aren’t careful about your use of them the messages you receive will leave you only concerned with momentary problems, and you’ll be left with big worries about things out of your control. This morning I made a conscious effort to leave the radio off on my drive into work. I found I had much more time to pray and focus on doing the will of God.
Maybe you’ve become distracted and fretful about things that are far less important than Christ’s Returning. I want to encourage you to return now to your calling. Be patient and strengthen your heart for His appearing. We are now in the third act of divine history. The Holy Spirit is here among us making us ready for what Christ will do next. “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.”
Heavenly Father, you have demonstrated your divine love in sending Jesus Christ to die for our sins. You have been long-suffering toward us desiring that none of us would perish, but all come to knowledge of the truth. We are so grateful and right now we commit ourselves fully toward being what you desire. Have your way in us, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.