Archive for the ‘Addiction Issues’ Category

Enough said.

The answer is ‘nothing‘ until you throw Jesus Christ into the mix! Let me introduce you to the four new housemates at James Ramsay House. JRH is a Victorian house owned by Niddrie Community Church and is situated about 40 minutes outside Edinburgh, on the way to Glasgow, in a place called Shotts.

We bought the house several years ago as a safe, Christian environment for young believers from the scheme. The original idea was to use it as an intensive discipleship home but it never quite worked out that way! Instead, for the last year it has been home to Charlene, a young lady from Niddrie who was wonderfully converted and who needed a safe place to live. She is getting married this week and the house has once again become vacant.

So, I’d like to introduce you to our newest additions to the home so that you can keep them in mind and pray for their ongoing growth and spiritual development. I asked each man to answer the following three questions:

  1. What were you like before you came to know Jesus?
  2. What do you hope to learn in JRH?
  3. How can people be praying for you?

(from left to right) Rick, Ralph, Gordon & Mark

Ricky

I used to drink and take drugs and kept getting in trouble with the police. In May 2012 I became homeless because of my violence. I am in JRH and would like to learn more about Jesus and to become more stable in life and to stay out of trouble. Thanks to NCC for this opportunity. Please pray for me to grow as a Christian and to help me find a skill in life.

Ralph

I used to be a Heroin user for more than 10 years and I have spent most of my life in and out of prisons and institutions. I was in a children’s home from the age of 10 years old and my life has been mostly spent behind locked doors. I was always on some sort of drug or another. I have been a Christian now for just over a year and it is the first time in my life that things have been going right for me. JRH is a great opportunity for me to finally move forward in my walk with the Lord. I can have stability, friendship and accountability. I also want to learn more about Jesus and the Bible.

Please pray for me that God will strengthen me to last the pace and that I can learn good (sic). Also, that I can just keep growing as a Christian. I have a son in Dundee who lives with my mum. I looked after him for three years until I went to prison. He is 5 and has just started school. I see him every two weeks and would love to see him more. His name is wee Ralphy.

Gordon

Before I came to know Jesus I was violent, nasty, political and sectarian. I was a drug user, a heavy drinker and in and out of prison. So, in a nutshell, a vile person. JRH is one of those things that, for me, was a bolt out of the blue. I hope to grow in my relationship with Jesus and to glorify God. I hope to grow with my brothers who are there. I hope to see great growth in my prayer life and to extend my understanding of the gospel. I hope to find solid stability and to settle where I am now.

Pray for me as I am in charge of JRH (Gordon is the house steward) that the Lord would grant me patience, wisdom and love. Pray that I would be a solid witness and example to my brothers in the house.

Mark

Before I came to Christ I was a drug addict and a dealer. A very self-centred man! In JRH I hope to grow in my knowledge of the Bible. I hope to mature spiritually. I want to look to my peers for help and advice and to keep reading and gaining knowledge and wisdom. I would like people to pray so that I can grow into a better Christian and be a good witness to those around me.

The boys have moved in for a 1 month trial period to see how they get on. Please for everybody involved in this work. We believe that God is going to continue to save many from this background and, not only that, use them for His glory both here and further afield. We are praying that JRH is merely a stepping stone on to a full and productive life for the glory of God.

The fundamental question in any discussion with those battling addictions is:

How did we end up where we are today?

Addiction always has a starting point. Everybody began somewhere and, often, for very different reasons. What probably began as a bit of fun or something ‘now and then’ gradually took over a person’s life, leaving them feeling that there is no way out. All addictions begin very simply and often are about changing the way people feel. Many people don’t even remember the reasons they got started. Also, it is not uncommon for addicts to feel scared of returning back to ‘normal’ because they don’t know what it is going to be like.

It is helpful to try to help them remember what life was like before it got so bad. Often addiction is about trying to blank out thoughts, feelings, emotions and/or bad things that have happened. Usually, the big factor is: ‘I don’t like the way I feel now’. In the beginning the addiction gave the appearance of helping deal with these issues, but after a (sustained) period of time it didn’t really help anymore. It just made people more miserable.

At heart, all addiction is idolatry and an attempt to try to change the way we feel. We want to control our emotions, so we do something about it. Rather than turn to God for help, addicts turn to other things, more dangerous things, things that seem ‘better’ to us. God is just an irrelevance for the unbeliever (believers struggling may claim to believe in God but are really just functional atheists at this point). Yet, the Bible teaches us that everything in life is connected to God. He exists and we either recognise that, and live to please Him, or we deny that and live to please ourselves. Everything we do says something about what we believe about God.

Remember, addiction is a worship issue. Therefore, we must help people to see that when their addictions started, instead of turning to God for help they turned toward that to which they are now addicted. More than that, they liked it. It was good. They started down a road with the sole intent of personal pleasure even if it was to cope with private pain. The point is that people always initiate addictions. They don’t just happen to us, contrary to the disease or genetics model we are proffered as causality reasons. True, their could now be underlying chemical issues and deep psychological side effect, but at one time in our story we have invited whatever it is into our lives and allowed it, over time, to control us. When we look back we liked what we experienced. We liked it so much we did it again and again. We toyed with it and practiced with it and then one day we woke up and found that our whole life revolved around it. It controlled us. we marched to the beat of its drum. It became our God.

It is always good at this point to ask a couple of questions:

What problems has your addiction helped you temporarily forget? What emotions did it help you cope with?

The problem with all addictions is that, ultimately, they leave us feeling empty and more depressed. They satisfy us for a time but we always end up wanting and needing more. So, instead of helping our problems and easing our pain, it has caused us more problems and left us feeling emptier. I do not know a struggling (and honest) addict who will not admit to this. If they cannot see this point then I suggest that they are not ready for meaningful change in their lives. The following is a helpful illustration:

If we were eating a particular type of food and we found that it didn’t fill us up, or we were having a bad reaction to it, what would we do? Change our diet, surely? We need to change our lifestyles. We need to start looking at what patterns and behaviours are unhealthy and what are some of the healthy ways in which we can change.

We need to help people trace back the unhelpful patterns that have developed in their lives. It is often productive to walk them through the following steps:

  1. I don’t like the way I feel
  2. I want to manage my world my own way
  3. I like this. This is good.
  4. I want to keep doing this
  5. This means the world to me. I love this.
  6. I want more. I need more.
  7. This thing is my god. It owns me
  8. This hurts. I hate it. I want it out of my life (but I also want it).

In effect addiction is voluntary slavery. We wanted something, we you chased after it and now we are trapped in it.  When we begin to understand this and understand how and why we got trapped, we can begin the process of looking at new and better ways of dealing with our pain, struggles and unhealthy emotions. The good news for people is that when we come to God we have an out. We have somebody who understands us and our problems and who will respond to us as we cry out to him.

Next time we will look at how we can help people to ask God to help them in their addictions.

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern (Prov. 29:7).

Shalom has become a popular buzzword in certain evangelical circles, particularly around the whole ‘justice for the oppressed’ debate. What do we exactly mean by the word Shalom? Tim Keller has certainly written more material on this than you can shake a stick at and there is also an interesting little book by Kevin De Young entitled, ‘What is the Mission of the Church’? Clearly, both ‘sides’, if I can call them that, have both their fans and their detractors.

More importantly, what does the Bible teach? Is it the same as the word ‘peace’ such as ‘he is our peace’ in Ephesians 2:14? What about in Numbers 6; 24-26; Isaiah 9:6? The Lord is our Shalom. Look at Isaiah 57:7 and how is it used there? The context is light. What about Ezekiel 37:26? How is it used there? The connection to a future spiritual blessing. Interestingly, Shalom appears in the Hebrews about 250 times and not once in the NT. It does have a Greek equivalent though, eirene (eye RAY nay). In fact the word irenic means peaceful. We find it in Luke 2; 14, Acts 10:36, Ro. 1:7 where it is used as a greeting. In Phil 4:7 it is used to bless the people of God. Of the 90 times it used in the NT is it almost exactly in the same way that Shalom is used in the OT.

But, Shalom is also used in unusual ways. It is mentioned in the context of war in 2 Samuel 11:7. Breaking down towers in Judges 8:9, and punishment in Isaiah 53:5. It is a hard word to get to grips with, if we are honest. Because it has such a broad meaning across the Scriptures, I am always wary when people try to push for one urgent meaning of it and seek to particularise it to apply solely to the debate around the poor and the oppressed. Let me give you an example of what I mean concerning interpretative issues with regard to the word. Often our English Bible translations don’t do their job well. Genesis 43:27 being a good case in point.

“And he (Joseph) asked of them (his brothers) concerning shalom, and he said, ‘Is your father shalom?'”

That is good idiomatic Hebrew, but it is not good English, so the New Revised Standard Version translates properly.

“And he inquired about their welfare, and said ‘Is your father well?’”

In other words, we do well to look at this issue with a King James Version of the Bible in one hand and some of the old school concordances in the other. Regardless, we must do our homework and check out whether it is shalom and/or eirene that lie behind the translations we are being pointed to. It may seem petty, but we must do it if we are going to be making big etymological claims and building whole theological foundations on these ideas.

Tim Keller has defined shalom in the following way:

The webbing together of God and man with all creation to create universal flourishing and wholeness. In Ps. 102 God has made the world like a garment with billions of entities interwoven to make up the beauty of all that is created. Sin has come in and torn a whole in the fabric.

In other words, the shalom is in need of repair. He goes further and pinpoints three types of shalom:

1. Physical Shalom

When all the parts fit together in a body then we know something of ‘Physical Shalom’.  So, for example, when you have cancer, you experience a loss of this physical shalom.

2.  Psychological Shalom

When the mind, conscience, and passions tell me to do and I do it, I experience psychological shalom. If you want to do something and the conscience says “no” and you do it, we lose psychological shalom.

3. Social Shalom

When those who have connections are threading this throughout the community then there’s an inter-wovenness. This breaks down when people feel excluded from society. they are in fact experiencing a break in social shalom.

Now, it is clear that I see the breakdown of shalom, as defined by Keller, in Niddrie. That is without any doubt whatsoever. Certainly, it doesn’t take a theological genius to trace the original fault line back to the fall and the terrible, physical, psychological, social and cosmological effects that this has had for our world. The real question comes when we ask: ‘what are we to do about the breakdown of shalom?’ Should we just ignore the issues going on all around us and just proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ? Or, should we seek the welfare of our scheme by looking at ways we can ease the pain and restore some of the shalom back to our neighbours? Should we be seeking to make Niddrie a safer place to live, a happier place to live and a more peaceful place to live? Or, should we be seeking to remain faithful to the great commission which charges us to preach Christ and make disciples?

These questions aren’t new to this site nor to the people who read this site regularly. The NT offers us no imperatives with regard to actively repairing any of the above ‘shaloms’. Timothy, for example was urged to continue preaching the Word in season and out of season. In Ephesians we read that the main gift set given to the church; preachers, teachers, apostles etc were all Word based ministries. In Jude we are challenged to contend for the gospel. Romans is clear that it is only the gospel that has the power to transform any believer and thus, by definition, society. So the answer, surely, is to preach the gospel first and foremost. Yes we care for one another, we love one another, we feed and we shelter the ‘alien’ (those outside the covenant community) but these are as a result of hearts of faith expressing themselves through love (Galatians).

For example, I preach Christ in Niddrie to Mr. X who has a history of alcoholism, burglary and abusing his partner. He comes to Christ. What happens?

1. His physical shalom begins to improve under the influence of the Holy Spirit as he stops poisoning his body.

2. His psychological shalom improves as he bows the knee to King Jesus and seeks to live under his rule.

3. Social shalom kicks in as he stops abusing his neighbours, burgling houses on the scheme, shoplifting from the local store, beating his partner and tormenting his children. Instead of contributing the to breakdown of social shalom he begins to become a force for good.

All of these things are as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a person who has heard the Word of God proclaimed first and foremost. It is gospel above all and then shalom comes not as a means of personal evangelism but as a proof of God’s Spirit at work in a person and a community. By all means let’s pray for the shalom of our schemes but let’s remember that without a return to fearless, faithful gospel proclamation these places and people are going to remain in darkness; lost and broken.

We press on.

By Andy Constable

We live in a community that has been heavily damaged by drugs. Most of the people that we work with have a steady diet of prescribed as well as street (unprescribed) drugs running through their system everyday. We have seen a handful of addicts over the last few years saved by the gospel and wonderfully changed by God. Is there anything that we need to watch out for as we disciple them? Is there anything that is particularly important? I want to spend the next few weeks blogging about the things that I’ve learned about discipling drug addicts who have come to Christ.

One of the first things that we have to watch out for in discipling addicts is that we don’t come in with a ‘saviour complex’. We need to watch our attitude and know that we are not going to sort people’s problems out with some sort of magic wand. A saviour complex is dangerous for both the wannabe savior and those they impact. The wannabe savior will collapse under the weight of the world’s problems because there are so many. And their ‘disciples’ will end up followers of the wannabe savior instead of the actual savior – Jesus Christ.

It is of utmost importance in any discipleship of fellow Christians that we continually point people to the gospel. The gospel alone has the power to transform people’s lives and is the only way that people will produce long-term fruit. This doesn’t feel as good because people won’t depend on you as much but it, ultimately, brings glory to God. When people walk with the Lord Jesus we don’t end up burned out thinking that we have to solve everybody’s problems. The people that we are discipling will tend to want cling to us but its important to keep pointing them to Christ! It’s like raising a child. We don’t want them clinging us for the rest of their lives. We raise a child so that they will be independent and make good choices because we have given them a good foundation. This is what we must give people when they come to Christ from an addictive background. If we have a saviour mentality then we must repent and teach people the Bible properly!

Secondly,  know in discipleship that its one step forward and then three back! This is something that you will have to learn quickly. New Christians will slip up. They will seem like they are doing really well and then out of nowhere (or so it appears) they royally screw things up! This is part of discipleship. The key is to show people how to get back on to the horse after they have messed up. We teach our new believers that they will mess up (we all do) and when they do they need to run immediately to the grace found in Jesus Christ. We teach them not to hide their sin under religious works and language, but to admit sin regularly and appreciate God’s grace all the more. Our job is to pick them up, dust them off and then point them towards Christ again. We have to do this again and again and again. This can be discouraging at times but the key to remember is that we are not the one who is changing them but Jesus through His Spirit as we minister to them through His Word. We can easily slip into the mindset that we are sorting them out and get downhearted when they do. Remember its one step forward and three back (sometimes)!

Thirdly, we have to watch closely for lies. Those who have been addicted to drugs for a long time will be in a pattern of lying, deceiving and manipulating. They will look you straight in the face and tell you something and yet it will be a complete and utter lie. They are masters at it. One of the most painful forms of deceit is emotional manipulation. Most particularly, we need to watch out for false waterworks and the, “I haven’t got any money line.” We must, of course, help where help is needed but a lot of the time they have wasted their money on drugs and just not bothered to save enough for their food!

When we are disciplining a constant liar we need to be constantly on our guard. We need to be watching and challenging where we see lies. We also need to be teaching them that lies (even small ones) are from the devil because he is the father of lies. This is difficult sometimes because the person who is lying to you seems charming but, still, we need to see through the charm and challenge them when they are being deceitful. They will blag you over anything and we need to be firm, gracious and honest with new believers. We need to point them towards Christ and pray that God would root out their lies.

Its amazing seeing someone from a drug addicted background saved by the grace of God. But someone who has abused drugs for a long time will have a lot of baggage. We need to make sure that we point people to the amazing saving grace of Jesus at all times. We need to be patient with those we are discipling and remember that it is a long-term process. Finally, we need to watch closely for deceit and challenge our new converts to love the truth in Jesus Christ! Pray for us as we continue to disciple our newer converts that they would be transformed inside out by the grace of God!

Is the idea of treating addiction as a disease preventing addicts from overcoming their problems? Daily Telegraph writer and recovering alcoholic Damian Thompson, who has written a new book on the subject, explains that what worries him is the way addicted behaviour is “spreading around society”.

“There is an acceleration of addictiveness”, he told the Today programme. Impulsivity, he said, “is becoming the default style of the cognitive elite”.

Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University, said there is a “biological basis” for addiction, although there are problems with providing a definition.

“Look at the word – dis-ease – not at ease with one’s life… that characterises the problems of alcohol,” he said.

This short, but fascinating, interview can be found here.

In Niddrie we teach our people that ALL addiction has its roots in choice. Somewhere, back in time, if we trace each person’s life story back far enough, a choice was made to indulge in a certain type of behaviour. It is a fact, admitted by Professor Blakemore in this conversation, that the medical world cannot prove that addiction to drugs/alcohol/porn etc is a disease with any degree of accuracy. The Bible, on the other hand, is clear on what causes these problems in the lives of so many people. Consider Galatians 5:17,

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other….

Many of our people say they do what they do because of boredom, avoidance, blocking out pain and fun (in the beginning at least). But, the reality is, that they do it because it feeds their selfish, slavish, lustful desires to please themselves. Yes, many of them are now hopelessly, chemically controlled by their behaviour and there are no easy solutions to their complete, physical and psychological dependence. But, bottom line, all of their behaviour can be traced back to a root choice and decision.They sought out and found their addiction. IT did not choose them. They are not the ‘innocent‘ party carried along by forces outside of their control.

So, what does the Bible have to say on these matter? Quite a lot, actuallyConsider the following:

  • 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 – Being sober is the opposite of being drunk and is associated with being alert and watchful.
  • 1 Peter 1:13-17 – Be sober, gird up the loins of your mind so you can avoid lusts and be obedient and holy. This requires being alert.
  • 1 Peter 5:8,9 – Be sober so we can be on guard for the devil, resist him, and not be devoured by him. Realising how dangerous Satan is, we should keep our minds clear so we can recognise his deceit and resist his temptations.
  • 1 Corinthians 9:25-27 – Bring our bodies into subjection to our minds, exercising temperance (self-control) like athletes in training, so our bodies will be properly guided by our minds.
  • Proverbs 4:23 – Keep your heart (mind) with all diligence because it must decide the issues of life.

Struggling against evil is difficult and dangerous at best, even with the clearest of faculties. That is why God has forbidden intoxication. Of course, there are other ways to violate these principles, but drug abuse is surely one way.

Interestingly, in biblical times drug taking was very closely associated with sorcery and witchcraft, which is why I think the Bible is so clear on being stable minded in everything we do (2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 4:1-7; Tit. 2:2,4,6,12; Acts 24:25; Gal. 5:23; 2 Pet. 1:6) W.E. Vine in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says,

In sorcery, the use of drugs whether simple or potent, was generally accompanied by incantations and appeals to occult powers, with the provision of various charms, amulets, etc., professedly designed to keep the applicant or patient from the attention and power of demons, but actually to impress the applicant with the mysterious resources and powers of the sorcerer.”

This was certainly my experience in Brasil when we worked with young addicts there. Brasilian spiritism (Macumba and Candomble) mixed drug taking with ‘inviting spirits’ into your life. The result? mental health issues, abuse, suicide and murder on an epidemic scale in that part of the world.

Addiction in all its forms is destructive. It is greedy and feeds the selfish desire for constantly wanting more. It is never satisfied and kills people without mercy. Consider the following poem, based on Psalm 23, written by a young girl who died of an overdose.

“King Heroin is my shepherd. I shall always want. He maketh me to lie down in the gutters.
He leadeth me beside the troubled waters. He destroyeth my soul.
He leadeth me in the paths of wickedness.
Yea, I shall walk through the valley of poverty and will fear no evil, for thou, Heroin, are with me.
Thy Needle and Capsule comfort me. Thou strippest the table of groceries in the presence of my family. Thou robbest my head of reason.
My cup of sorrow runneth over. Surely heroin addiction shall stalk me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the House of the Damned forever.”

Part of the Christian Response to Drugs should be to resist any & all calls for legalisation. Many Christians are horribly naive on this issue. There is an interesting article entitled, “Legalized Drugs: Dumber Than You May Think,” (written from a secular viewpoint) that is worth reading, here.

More to follow.