Grace & Mercy

It all started for me on October 9, 2002. I started this road to recovery from the disease of drug addiction and entered into a 12 Step Recovery Program. This program gave me a sense of purpose and the desire to become a better person. One of the major principles of this program is Step 3: Making a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. This embarked me on a journey to understand and learn more about that God; who I choose to call Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.  I know I am only saved by His grace and mercy.

So I continued along this journey getting closer to God and understanding His will for me in my life. Life got good and I began to recover from my Hurts, Habits, and Hang-ups. I branched out into Celebrate Recovery and that's when my life in Christ took true form. At 8 years clean I finally gave my life to Christ and got baptized. I joined a church and started committing myself to Jesus. This was the greatest decision I could have ever made and it changed my life. I started to learn more about Christ and as I read the Bible, it spoke volumes to me. Ephesians 1:7 "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of Sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us".

At some point, after about 10 years of clean living, I lost all focus. I stopped praying and going to meetings. I was not living a Christian life. I entered into a relationship with a married woman.

This proved out to be the lowest point of my life. I fell in love with somebody that was not available and I hurt myself and many others. I wished I were dead.

At this lowest period in my life, I showed up at the doors Summit Church and my life has been totally reformed. I started praying again and attending church services each week. It seemed like every message was made just for me. I asked God for forgiveness and repented. I still feel guilty, but my past doesn't control my future.

Today I serve as an Usher and feel a part of a wonderful church community and my life is committed to Christ and His will for me.  "My Spiritual condition is the basis for a successful recovery that offers us unlimited growth". Jesus is the answer to all my Spiritual dilemmas. 

cheers,

Marc

DAILY BREAD

Bread.  Yum.  Just imagine the smell of it rising.  It’s the ultimate comfort food that pairs so well with anything from fruit to meats and even peanut butter.  It can calm an upset stomach.  It can turn boring chicken soup into a delicious hearty chicken and dumplings.  Bread can even turn an entire thanksgiving dinner into the most delicious late night snack sandwich.  If you can’t tell, I love bread and I do not eat gluten free. 

When I read about manna in Exodus, I can only imagine what it tasted like.  Exodus 16:31 describes the taste to be like “wafers made with honey.”  God rained it down from heaven; of course it’s going to be light and sweet!  But reading the entire passage in Exodus can become rather mundane and repetitive as God instructs His people on how they are to eat while in the wilderness.  What can God possibly teach me in this passage?

As I recently read Exodus 16, I was struck by one simple thing.  God was not just telling them how to live daily in preparing their meals; He was telling them that they had to live one day at a time.  If they gathered too much manna (in other words: trying to control the outcome of tomorrow’s provision or be greedy in wanting more), the manna would have gone bad by the next day.  And when I say “bad,” I mean bad as in it reeked and was filled with maggots.  Gross, I know.  So the people gathered only enough for themselves for the day, and the next day they went out and did it again.  Only enough for one day.  So when God instructed them to gather twice as much on the sixth day, they had to trust that it would be good by morning.  And come Sabbath morning, as they rose to start a new day, their manna was as fresh as it was the day before.  They didn’t have to gather and cook; they could enjoy the rest that God was giving them.

God provided for His people daily.  One day at a time.  For 40 years!  How incredible is that?  But there is so much more to this.  God didn’t do this because He was tired of listening to their complaining about food.  He didn’t do this just to fulfill their basic needs.  He gave them manna to teach them to trust in Him.  He also wanted His people to know Him more, to know His character, to know that He was their Provider. 

I am so thankful that God has taught me this same lesson in life.  It took me many years within my own wilderness to finally stop trying and to finally start living.  I had been a slave to my own way of thinking.  If I tried harder, if I gave more, if I only could _(fill in the blank)__; then life would be full, good, happy, peaceful.  But I was still living in the wilderness.  My best efforts got me there.  Once I decided to surrender and give control over to my Savior Jesus, I also decided that I would trust Him with the details, even the simplest detail in what will I eat today.  God is my provider.  I trust in Him.  I live one day at a time with His wisdom, His guidance, His peace, His joy, His breathe in my lungs.  What will come tomorrow?  That I do not know, but I trust that it will be in His hands.  Jesus is my manna; He is my portion. And He is sweeter than any bread I have ever known.

John 6:33; 35 “For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” … Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

- Amanda

FREEDOM IN LETTING GO

When I look back to the four nights we spent as a church during Revive Us, two of the things that stood out to me the most were not allowing an ‘emotional high’ to occur, but rather allow the Holy Spirit to instill a deeper desire to walk in intimacy with God and to keep in check whether or not I am choosing between two gods. This led me to ask myself, “Am I seeking The Lord or choosing to live in idolatry?”

The morning after Revive Us, I opened up my bible to Colossians 3 where I was wrecked, realizing that in order to be made new in Christ I first needed to put away the old.  I could see the negative life I often choose to lead and understood that if I was going to move into a life that glorifies God then there was un-repented of sin that needed to be dealt with; including judgment, selfishness, and unrighteous anger. Romans 6 tells us, “Consider yourselves to be dead, indeed, unto sin.”

It just isn’t going to work if I don’t work at it daily. Reminders from Recovery began to fill my head and my heart. I was reminded that my God pulled me out of darkness and into His light.  And that, though we all get stuck sometimes, it’s just not ok to stay there.  Living in fellowship with the women I have met on Thursday nights keeps me from hiding under a rock and living in isolation.  

It is written in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” The small groups give me comfort in knowing I am not alone.  

This is a crazy, broken, fallen world we live in and I can’t live each day without surrendering to my Savior.  There is freedom in letting go of our old ways and past experiences.  It enables us follow the teachings of Colossians 3 to “clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience and forgiveness.”

- Diana

PRIDE & HOPE(LESSNESS)

Lately, I have been seeing so much hopelessness in the lives of friends, co-workers, and family members. Some of them know it is on them; you can see it in their eyes and hear it in their conversations. For quite a few though, they don't see it. Actually, most would look at their lives and listen to their conversations and say for all appearances sake they seem pretty hopeful. However, I've noticed one major difference between them and the people I know who are truly hopeful; the source of their hope.

            On the one side, those that are truly hopeful find their hope in the unchanging, foundational source of Jesus Christ. On the other side, those that appear to have hope, find it within themselves. There's only one problem with finding it within ourselves. We are broken. Life has dealt nearly all of us some hefty blows. Some from the very people we thought would love us and protect us, while some came from our own stupid choices, and others simply came from just living life. Either way, we are all affected by this life and seek for ways to relieve ourselves of the pain, the hopelessness.

            I know that longing for relief all too well. I've had my share of pain, some caused by others, but a lot more caused by myself. See, in my pride I thought I could figure it out, laugh it off, numb it away. In essence, I thought I could perform my own surgery; because in all reality that is what all of us are in need of, heart surgery. Our whole lives flow from our hearts, both physically and spiritually. The problem is that our hearts have been pierced repeatedly throughout our entire lives by the arrows of rejection, neglect, abuse, and the like. There is one arrow though that is self inflicted, pride. 

            Pride is the one poison that whispers sweet nothings into your ear promising life and freedom from the pain and hopelessness, only to deliver internal death and separation. Separation from what you ask? From the one true source of Life and Hope, God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son. I lived in that prideful state of hopelessness for way too long, 15 years before my date of salvation and then again nearly 10 more years after my salvation.

            That's right, as a Christian, a Christ follower who loved God (to the best of my broken humanity's ability), who read God's word regularly, went to church, strived to be the best Christian he could be and who knew he was called by God. Oh, I professed with my mouth the “hope” that I knew I was suppose to have, that I cognitively knew I had, but deep in my heart had never experienced it fully. I had a taste of that hope at my conversion and that sustained me for a couple of years while God implanted some foundational Truths in me, but then He needed to start the process of sanctification to rid my heart of anything and everything that was not of Him. Funny thing, I'm pretty sure I prayed a prayer like that numerous times in my early years. I for one am grateful that God answers prayers and extremely grateful for His perfect timing.

            So what I have found, is that pride and True Hope cannot exist together, especially in the life and the heart of a Christ follower. As long as pride is sitting on the throne of our heart, there is no place for Jesus, our Hope and our Salvation. That means we will have to humble ourselves and trust that God is who He says He is, can do what He says He can do, and will be all He says He will be. That's a scary thought for most of us. After all, the last time we trusted someone that much it did not end well for us. Well I'm here to say that taking that step of faith, humbling myself, and trusting God was the best decision I have ever made. To be honest though, all I really needed to do was humble myself and receive His gift of grace. That's really the only decision any of us need to make. He is faithful to meet you where you are and walk with you through the fire. Stop stabbing yourself in the heart with your pride and receive His healing touch of eternal Hope. It will be the most freeing thing you've done. 

Of Recovery, Renewed Faith ... and Rats!

I got involved with recovery many years ago, long before there was even such a thing as Summit Church. During that time, I often noticed that within the spaces where people gathered, among the many who seemed so desperate to experience change in their lives, there were always these few who seemed to glow. They seemed to possess a different kind of attitude. They communicated in noticeable tones of greater confidence and encouraging assurance. I eventually realized that these people had experienced something far greater than mere abstinence from that which brought them there.

In other words, it wasn’t that they had simply refrained from indulging in the behavior that spurred their arrival to recovery, they had actually got a sponsor, worked the steps and acted on the good advice of others; particularly in embracing the spiritual tenets of the program.

Ultimately, it was their faith in God, their relationship with God, which had made the difference. I couldn’t help but notice, there was a distinctive difference in the lives of those who had been transformed by the relationship with God versus those who simply showed-up at meetings. I’ve heard it said that in the absence of a relationship with Christ, the Twelve Steps are nothing more than words on paper. I’ve seen the truth of that, time and time again. That’s why I especially enjoy participating in the Recovery program at Summit Church. It puts the focus on what is the most fundamental aspect of recovery. Don’t get me wrong, attending meetings, learning from the experiences of others and hearing an encouraging message of hope is a very, very good thing to do. I simply have to acknowledge that in my experience, there can be no real recovery without experiencing the renewal of life that only comes from our relationship with God.

Before recovery, my faith fell somewhere between nonexistence and the occasional inclination that I was either despised or cursed by God. I’ve come to have a different perspective.

One of my favorite recovery-themed stories involves a pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War. He spent a traumatic duration as a prisoner of war with long periods of isolation. He was also tortured and nearly starved to death, but amazingly survived. He returned home at the end of war and in the course of a press conference, reporters asked him how it was possible that he endured through such a horrific ordeal. The veteran informed this audience, “Were it not for God’s love, I would have never survived.” As you can imagine, the reporters balked at this suggestion. Pressing further, they said that given his circumstances and suffering, how could he make any kind of assertion about God’s love? As for what this veteran encountered, wouldn’t that be the very opposite of an expression of love?

The veteran proceeded to explain that during his captivity, he had been confined to a dark and damp room. His captors would give him a golf ball-sized portion of rice which might be the only thing he would have to eat that day. It just so happened, on one day, a rat had made its way into his cell. Now normally, a rat’s presence will prompt repulsion, yet in this man’s isolation, he was grateful for its company. He would feed it a few kernels of rice and eventually grew to appreciate these interactions. But a time came when the rat didn’t show up as usual. Several days passed, and he had begun to worry. He actually missed the rat, to such an extent that he was overjoyed when the rat reappeared some time later.  Unfortunately, the rat seemed very sick and the prisoner despaired over the possibility that his little friend was going to die. He was consumed by grief. But the rat wasn’t sick, it was pregnant. Of all the places where it could have given birth to its litter of little rats, it chose the cell of this prisoner. This was where it felt secure, safe and nurtured. The man shed tears of joy as he witnessed the birth of new life, a remarkable moment in an environment marked by death and tragedy. During that press conference, the veteran explained,  “You want to know how I can acknowledge how much God loves me? He allowed me to become friends with a family of rats.”

I share this story because, on one hand, it speaks of how significant it is to have a support system when we’re confronting great conflict. How necessary it is to form relationships with those who are willing to be there, right beside us, when we’re in a very bad place.

But the story imparts another message on which I prefer to focus. And that is, that even in the worst of situations, God can use the smallest and most unlikely of things to remind us that we are blessed... that we are loved.... that we are not alone.  I carry that knowledge with me everyday… and I continue to participate in the Recovery program at Summit Church because I’m so grateful for the rats God has put in my life and grateful for the opportunity to constantly bear witness to the renewal of life.

I too was once a prisoner… but God’s love set me free.

THE GREATEST GIFT

What is the greatest gift you can get someone? 

I feel this question comes up every year during Christmas. Whether it's someone you love dearly or someone you're obligated to buy a gift for. We all know we have those.  

This season, once again, I tell myself I'm going to enjoy it as much as possible without rushing through it and filling my schedule to the brim. I also started an advent that I absolutely love, but we're already in the second week of December and I'm kinda feeling overwhelmed with all that's on our calendar. Last Sunday was the start of our series at Summit called, Rise. It had lots of reminders that I needed to hear. One that stood out is, Jesus is our horn of salvation and this truth alone should be our celebration during this season.

Even though this was said in a service that is part of our Christmas series here at Summit, this truth is what we celebrate in Recovery every day and every week. Every Thursday night we come together as brothers and sisters in Christ to humble ourselves with one another, have a time of fellowship together, and worship as a family by praising God for all that he has done in our lives and how he continues to sanctify us. The greatest news is that God has completely and eternally saved us.

Because this is the greatest news in my life, why wouldn't this be the greatest gift I could give to others? Especially my family and friends whom I love so much, who don't know Jesus the way I know him. This morning I woke up burdened greatly for those friends and family. I know they don't have the hope and peace I carry every day. If they don't truly know who Jesus is, I'm pretty certain that they aren't celebrating what this season is all about.

During my time with Jesus in the mornings, I take time to thank him for his never-ending faithfulness to me and his perfect love for me. But I'm also reminded how grateful I am, not only for his love for me, but for his perfect example of how to love others.

Loving others, for a lot of us, is one of the hardest things we do daily. Sure, loving those who love us back is easy. But how about loving those who disappoint us or intentionally hurt us? Maybe total strangers or even friends and family who don't believe the same things as we do and are passionate about their own beliefs. These people aren't always the easiest to love. I have many people like that in my life and I know that I'm called to love them the way God loves me. How in the world could I ever be able to do this on my own? I know I can't.

In my own relationship with Jesus, I'm blown away by his constant grace and mercy in how he walks with me. And the way he teaches me and grows me is always done with such compassionate love. Because of my experience with my Savior, I'm able to strive to love the way he does. 1 John 4:16 says, “So we have come to know and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him.” I desire to abide in Him and love like him, but when I fail, and I do miserably, he's right there to forgive when I confess. And He reminds me that his love for me is still the same. This is the beauty of who God is. His steadfast love endures forever.

So, if I know these truths and I can account for how great God’s love is for me, why wouldn't I want to share that love with others? This is also essentially step 12 (Having had a spiritual awakening as the results of these steps, we try to carry this message to others) of the 12-step program we do in Recovery.

You don’t need to be in Recovery to share with others what God has done for you and how he’s changed your life. We as believers should want to tell everyone how God has rescued us from our junk. And we should do this with great joy. So, for those in my life who don't know Jesus the way I know him, this is the greatest gift I can give them.

I've been asking the Lord to give me the wisdom and courage I need to ask the question to these who are dear to me, “What are you really celebrating this holiday season?"  I know exactly what I'm celebrating. He's redeemed my life, given me the freedom I longed to have for so long, and he never stops loving me in spite of all my failures.  I am completely and eternally saved. If Jesus has radically changed your life, share it without fear. Give someone else the greatest gift that's been given to you.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has a light shone.

-Isaiah 9:2

Praise Jesus for the light that was shone on me. I am no longer in darkness!

 

WHAT IS RECOVERY?


Recovery is a ministry of repentance, reconciliation, and restoration that seeks to counsel those struggling with sin, bringing them into the fullness of joy that God intends for His children. We provide those who find themselves struggling with the effects of sin a safe place to walk honestly in loving community and receive God's truth in addressing life's difficulties.


 We often get the question, ‘who is Recovery for’, and ‘who should attend’?  Recovery at Summit is for anyone who finds themselves in an ongoing struggle with sin and its effects. We tend to say that Recovery is for anyone struggling with a hurt, habit or hang-up.

 When we say “hurt” we are referring to any individual that is literally hurting. A “hurt” could be classified as any life experience that may have damaged your heart and left you with a distorted view of God, yourself and/or others. It refers to an individual that is broken-hearted and wounded over the loss of a relationship, over feelings of abandonment or betrayal or abuse, or other residual effects of growing up or living in a dysfunctional family.

 When we think about those who are wrestling with a “habit”, we are referring to anyone who may be stuck in an unhealthy pattern that began as an attempt to “self-medicate“ or escape some problem in one’s life. This “habit” ends up turning into a chronic, compulsive and destructive behavior or addiction. Habits are the ongoing, broken, default scripts that individuals run to when the going gets tough. These behaviors can range from pornography, to drugs or alcohol, to an eating disorder, gambling, isolation, workaholism, affairs, etc. 

Lastly, the term “hang ups”, refer to any individual that is struggling with road blocks that keep them from moving further down God’s plan for their life. These roadblocks can be wrong thinking that may have started as a child, or it can be some unhealthy attitude that may have been adopted as a means of coping with life’s problems or trials. Hang-ups can flesh themselves out in anger, worry, depression, codependency, lack of trust in God, pride, materialism, a desperate need to control, or people-pleasing; to name a few.

At the end of the day the motives for people entering into Recovery at Summit vary greatly. There could be a myriad of reasons why someone would enter the doors of Recovery, but regardless of the reason or motivation, our need is all the same. We are a broken people living in a broken world in need of God’s redeeming love and grace. 

The ministry of Recovery is centered on the gospel and offers biblical counsel alone. We use the 12 Steps as a tool to help people identify where they are in this journey, to help them communicate their feelings openly and see God clearly. We make sure to anchor the 12 Steps in the Word of God and never seek to elevate them above God’s Truth. We see the 12 Steps as an effective discipleship tool that brings our desperate need for God and His grace close.

In the end, we know the hope that the world offers falls short of God’s plan for redemption and for recovering what has been marred because of sin. Our aim is to offer the hope, healing and restoration that can only be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Our prayer for the unbeliever attending Recovery is that they will come into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ and through Him discover the rest and healing they need for their souls. For the one who is already a believer in Christ and attending Recovery, we pray that God would use this program to enrich their relationship with Him, to help them grow in their understanding of the rhythm and order that God has ordained them to function in and continue to grow in their love for Him and others. 

We are grateful for the Gospel and grateful for a ministry at Summit that stretches beyond our walls, bringing hope and healing to those in need, in a safe, accountable and loving environment.  We’re believing God to do immeasurably more in and through the ministry of Recovery and in the lives of those He has called us to minister to.

- Orlando Cabrera

 

 

GOD IS GREATER THAN MY FEARS

I was born in a Christian home. I lived with my family, including my mom, cousins, and grandparents. My dad, however, abandoned my mom and I, and sparked my fear of abandonment, that has followed me through the years. My grandpa was a missionary and constantly encouraged me by explaining that God was my Father, and by reading Psalm 23 with me every night. I had the knowledge that God was my Father, but deep down, I struggled with believing that God actually loved me and cared about me.

One day God brought me into Summit Church, and that’s where He showed me that He has been my Father my entire life. Over time, God started to show me more about Himself and who I was made to be as his servant. Thats when God softened my heart and made me realize that I needed to forgive my father. When I turned 18, I arranged a meeting with him. It was a conversation that I had fantasized about a hundred times in my childhood, but when the conversation actually happened, it was different. I no longer felt the need to hurt him or tell him how terrible he is. Though there was and still is a lot of hurt toward him, I found that I could truly forgive him for leaving me; not because of my own strength, but because of God’s strength in me. Even then any form of relationship with him still felt impossible. A few months later I was brought into Recovery at Summit and was able to go much deeper into the hurts and fears in my life, including the feelings surrounding my father. As I learned new things, and grew more and more, I was finally able to have a speaking relationship with my dad. I still struggle with a lot of the same fears, but thanks to God, and thanks to the people and teaching he has provided me through Summit, I can take the next steps forward knowing that God is greater than my fears.

- J.

UNCONDITIONAL GRACE

Summit Church on it’s own, is simply just another building; what makes this place the living Church are the people: the Holy Spirit-filled sinners who have been redeemed by the unconditional grace of Jesus Christ!

There is a refreshing transparency within Summit’s Recovery Ministry that I've never experienced anywhere else. Jesus said, “when two or three gather in my name, there I am among them”. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to come together in the middle of the week at Recovery and experience the presence of God. Not just through worship and a message, but also through genuine heart-felt conversation with others where I can safely come without feeling the need to act like I have it all together.

We each have our individual struggles, but the one thing that we have in common is the deep longing inside us all that can only be quenched by the love of the One who created us.

Summit is a place that consistently cultivates the opportunity to safely let down my guard and shift my focus away from unnecessarily carrying the heavy burden of all my hurts and imperfections and instead, fully embrace the gift of a perfect Savior and his extravagant love for me; right where I am.

Through the gospel-centered resources Recovery offers like STEPS, sponsorship, and small groups, God has begun to chisel away in my heart all the preconceived stereotypes of who I thought He was and the toxic misconceptions of how I needed to act in order to be "good enough" to receive His love. Once I realized there was absolutely nothing that could separate me from the love of Christ, a giant wave of peaceful liberation swept over me, giving me a new sense of freedom and confidence that I didn't know existed. I have a Father who will never leave me nor forsake me! I can stop trying to be perfect because Christ was perfect for me!

- Recovering Daughter of the King