A Cold Confession

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 10:31, Ecclesiastes 10:17, Romans 6:12-14
Date: 12/05/2015 
When there are things in your life that are out of balance, whether it's substance abuse or an unhealthy relationship, you need to tell the Lord, "I can't stop this without Your help." He loves you and will give you the victory.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

The message this morning, some of you are wondering and Karen was wondering on the way to church. She said, “What are you talking about?” A Cold Confession. And that is because today I am going to be making a cold confession. I am going to be sharing something very personal with you and making a confession. You have heard it said before that confession is good for the soul, but very bad for the reputation. And that may be the case today.

But your pastor was addicted and involved in substance abuse for over 30 years. They have the substance there on the screen right now. You think I am kidding. Some of this may be a little bit tongue-in-cheek, but there is a point. I had a very serious problem with an addiction to ice cream.

When I get done, you let me know what you think, if it fits the definition. I don’t know exactly when it began, but I know it started a long time ago. My substance abuse started innocently enough and I want to make it clear right from the beginning, I am not saying that ice cream is a sin. Is that clear? But it got to a place where it was for me.

The bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or whether you drink, do all to the Glory of God.” And I certainly was not doing it to the Glory of God.

I don’t know if any of you remember a day where years ago they had an ice cream man that would go up and down the neighborhood and a bell would ring and a song would play. I don’t remember what the song is. You remember the Good Humor Man. Do you have happy memories on those hot summer days and you would hear that music? It was like the gates of heaven had opened up and you’d hear that music playing and this little white truck would come out and all the kids would crowd into certain spots in the street and just about throw themselves in front of this vehicle. And he would step out and usually he was friendly.

There in the truck, he had his dried ice. It was always so amazing to me. He showed me a piece of the dried ice and fog billowing out and he would pull out these exotic treats. I remember some of my favorites, one called the Rainbow Rocket. It was a double popsicle. It had two sticks that went up through it and you could break it in half and share it with a friend. So I often would split a Rainbow Rocket. I’m sure it was full of colors and chemicals and things, but it was delicious. It was probably all corn syrup. They had another one that was orange with vanilla inside, an orange popsicle with vanilla. They still make those.

They still have ice cream trucks in some neighborhoods in Sacramento. Have you heard them? The thing that is so funny, I remember I was at Bonnie’s house not long ago and I heard one coming around the neighborhood and he was playing a song, the Little Brown Jug. Any of you know what I’m talking about? “Little brown jug, how I love thee,” which is about a jug of whiskey. I thought, what kind of song is that for kids? You know there is an addiction issue connected with this. So they still have dealers that go through the neighborhood.

But it goes way back and I remember that it was so important to me. I could not understand why my grandmother would not give me ten or 25 cents, that’s all it was back then, every day. She said it was a treat, you can’t have it every day. And I am ashamed to tell you that I vividly remember stealing money from my grandmother. This is one of my earliest memories. She hung her black leather purse over the doorknob of her bedroom and inside her purse she had another little purse that had one of those very difficult snaps on it that you had to twist. It was the change purse. She caught me one day. I don’t know how many times I did, more than once. That’s when my life of crime began. It was for ice cream money.

My grandmother was tough. I remember sticking out my tongue one time and she said, “You’ve got such a pretty tongue, do that again.” I stuck my tongue and she slapped me underneath my chin and made me bite down on my tongue, which really hurt. And I never forgot that and I never stuck out my tongue at my grandmother again. My grandmother was pretty tough. Anyway, she caught me stealing and that’s all I am going to say about that. But it was for ice cream money. It was a small obsession at that point.

When I got to New York City, my parents divorced and maybe I was looking for comfort. But one of the highlights of the day was when I would snuggle up with my mother and my brother and we would eat ice cream and watch the Wonderful World of Disney or the Ed Sullivan Show or some of those programs. We only had three channels back then. We had the coat hanger on top of the TV with the tinfoil to improve reception in our apartment.

There was also a spell at military school. Even in military school I remember that once a week we did ice cream and I looked forward to that day. It came wrapped up and it was Neapolitan. It was an ice cream sandwich with chocolate, strawberry and vanilla in it and I would relish it. I would beg and bribe the other cadets. If I could their ice cream sandwich, I would give them any of the food they wanted on my plate if I could get their ice cream. And then I went to live with Dad and that’s when it really started to get serious.

In Florida -- I know you don’t think of Miami Beach of having milkmen, but we had a milkman. I looked it up online to see if they are still in business. The company was called MacArthur Dairy and they would bring the milk to the door. My step-mother would fill out a form and it wasn’t every day, but like every other day, he would bring the order. But this was really neat. In Miami Beach, the milkmen not only brought milk, they brought fresh-squeeze Tropicana orange juice in a glass jar and they would squeeze it that day and you would get fresh orange juice. And they brought ice cream. We always knew when he was coming because you can’t leave your ice cream out on the porch for very long.

I was living with my dad and my step-mother and my step-brother and my brother was sick and I was struggling during those years. One of the treats for me was I would take a half a pint of ice cream and pour in Tropicana orange juice and mix it. It reminded me of those orange things the Good Humor man had. It was really good. But it got to where my step-mother started saying, “Who ate all the ice cream,” because I was eating all of the ice cream. I started doing it every day. I really enjoyed it. It was the highlight of my day.

But then things really turned from bad to worse because summer came and I needed to find a job and guess where I got a job? I got a job working at Baskin-Robbins. Karen and I were in Miami Beach not too long ago and I took her by and tried to find where the old ice cream shop was and I guess it’s not there anymore in Lincoln Mall. But I worked at 31 Flavors and the owner was Lee Scott.

I remember when he hired me, I was only like 14, 15 years old. He really liked me because I had been to military school and I was a cleaning fanatic and I kept the store clean. He had this waxing machine and none of the kids knew how to use the waxing machine, the floor buffers. If you don’t know how to use one of those, you can really get hurt. But we used them in military school. So I would buff and wax the floor and everything was just spic and span.

When he was hiring me, I said, “I’m just wondering, are we allowed to eat the product?” He said, “No problem, you can eat as much as you want, you will get tired of it.” I never even got close to getting tired of it. You know Baskin-Robbins is called 31 Flavors, not because they have 31 flavors, they guarantee having 31 flavors in the store at any given time. They had hundreds of flavors and we had new flavors rotating in all the time. And I am not kidding you, I would eat a pralines and cream banana split for lunch and then I would have a hot fudge mocha Sunday for dinner. It is amazing when you are a teenager what you can do to yourself and you feel indestructible. It was getting bad. I ate a lot of ice cream.

The problem was I was not only now a user, I was a dealer. People were coming in and now I’m selling it. Sometimes people would come in for ice cream cakes for a birthday party and I remember Mr. Scott one day said, “Doug, why don’t you try to personalize the top of the cake and write on it?” I was no good at that. Have any of you seen my handwriting? People would come to pick up their ice cream birthday cakes and they would go, “What does that say?” “Happy Birthday, William, can’t you read it?” You have to squeeze the stuff out of the tube while you are writing. I wasn’t good at that. But I worked there until I ran away from home.

Then it was hit and miss on the road for a little while with ice cream, but even when I moved up into the mountains in a cave with no refrigeration, obviously, very long way to town, grueling hike, but it was the desert. Back then, they had Thrifty’s Drug Stores everywhere. Thrifty’s Drug Stores is evidentially out of business. I don’t know if you can still get Thrifty’s ice cream, but in all their drug stores, they had an ice cream counter. Do you remember? I am not kidding. Do you remember when it was a nickel of scoop and you could get a triple scoop for 15 cents. Go try and find that.

But when you are living in a cave in a desert and you have no refrigeration, the highlight for me was to go panhandle and see if I could get 15 cents. I would beg on the street and say, “Could I please have 15 cents for something to eat?” I didn’t tell them what I was going to eat. But it is true, I would spend my last 15 cents on ice cream. I remember I wasn’t the only one. To a lot of the street people, it was a big deal. There were others that lived in the desert. Most of them lived in the first valley. I lived way back in the canyon.

I remember I was hanging out on the street on day with my friends and some kid had walked out of Thrifty’s with a triple scoop of ice cream and he wasn’t paying attention. And at Thrifty’s when you got your ice cream, the same guy that worked the cash register worked the counter and he didn’t always know what to do with ice cream. So he didn’t know that you had to press that first scoop down into the cone or it could become detached. This kid had a triple scoop and he walked out on the street and he turned and the thing fell of the cone, but it landed still in tact with three scoops, that’s kind of Photoshop’ed, but it looked like that. It landed three scoops, like the Tower of Pisa, sticking straight up. And the kid began to cry and the parents said, “Oh, come on in, we’ll get you another one.”

They walked in the store and I’m standing there with my friends and we’re looking at that. I said, “You know, only part of that hit the ground and the kid didn’t even lick it yet. If he did lick it, the part he licked is the part on the ground. The other stuff is still good.” And while we were processing that, before I could act on my thought, my friend, Richie, got down on all fours and he began to eat the ice cream off the street like that. Really, I didn’t do it, but I thought about it, because I thought that was some perfectly good ice cream that’s going to waste right now. I was mad that Richie did it first because I really had it pretty bad. I wouldn’t just eat one triple thing of ice cream, I would eat one when I arrived to town and then later in the day I would get another one before I went up the hill and that would have to last me.

I used to wonder why it was so important to me. I later found that there was a study, believe it or not, there is medical research, Journal of Clinical Investigation, a study done in 2011. A team of researchers led by Lukas Van Oudenhove, University of Belgium, publishing images of brain activity during times of sadness. And they had 12 volunteers that had their brains scanned with an MRI and also agreed to have a feeding tube put into their stomach. Then they were shown images and played some neutral or sad music and shown neutral or sad images and then they would rate how they felt on a scale of one to nine. When they were feeling sad, they would then inject in their stomachs a solution. Some of them got a salt solution. They didn’t know what was going in their stomach. Some of them would get a fat solution to what would be similar to what you would find in ice cream. And then they would evaluate them afterward.

They found out in almost every case those who were sad, after being given the fatty solution, the effect was significant in a pharmacological sense, the fatty solution reduced the intensity of sad emotion by almost half, which about as much as any prescription antidepressant can achieve. So you wondering why you thought ice cream was comfort food. They finally did research to say it actually does work as an antidepressant. So I guess you could say I was addicted to antidepressants. But it came in the form of Haagen-Dazs and it was pretty serious.

The bible says that a little bit of certain things is okay, but something can be taken to an extreme and it becomes sin. Ecclesiastic 10:17, “Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles and your princes feast at the proper time for strength and not for drunkenness.” It was to excess with me.

And even when I moved out of the cave, I had a meat business and lived in Palm Springs, I am not kidding you, I would eat ice cream every night and more than once I would eat a half a quart. Once I ate a whole quart. I stayed up late and I listened to Cal Worthington commercials on a little black-and-white TV. That is depressing, isn’t it? But when you’re 19, 20 years old, it’s amazing how much you can eat.

Karen and I can’t believe that now that both the boys are gone to college, we open the refrigerator and there’s food. It’s amazing. But I really had a problem.

And even after I moved into the hills in Covelo and I got baptized, this is when it got really serious. When you get up your addictions and you only have a few left, you overcompensate. And as I gave up drugs and smoking and drinking, all I had left was the ice cream. Then you really go overboard.

I remember living up in Covelo. I would quote the bible and I would say God is taking us to a land flowing with milk and honey. God believes in ice cream. This is heavenly food. Why would He say that He is going to take them to a land of milk and honey? And then I went to the store and I found Haagen-Dazs honey vanilla. I said Praise the Lord, this is biblical. I had scripture for it.

Proverbs 25:16, “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.” Some things that are good that are meant to be a treat that God would bless, you can do to excess.

This is a very important principle of what I am sharing with you today. I know you’re laughing and I am meaning for you to. Some of what I am saying is tongue-in-cheek, but I am sharing this odyssey with you because it relates to real life. What I am sharing with you is true. I am not making this up. I was addicted for years. I look back and my life was defined. I had my tonsils taken when I was eight years old. My mother thought I had bad tonsils. I had just eaten so much dairy I couldn’t breathe and didn’t realize I was allergic to it.

So I moved up into the hills and even in Covelo, I would drive a half an hour round trip to town -- no, one hour round trip. One hour, a half an hour each way. Thank you, Dear. I have a witness here. To get my ice cream. I’m ashamed to say that I also was influencing others. Even when Karen and I began to date, I would say, you want to split some ice cream? I would get Swiss vanilla almond. I would eat the ice cream and she would eat the chocolate-covered almonds.

I remember John Lomond (phonetic) would come and we would be on the road doing evangelistic meetings, how about some ice cream, John? I was a bad influence. So we would go get a pint of Haagen-Dazs and we would sit down in a hotel and I would say don’t you want some? No, just not yet, but save me some. Well, how much do you want? Well, just about half, just save me some. I would set it down and he would wait until it melted. He liked it melted, then he would eat it. I had another friend, when we would be on the road, we would take the Haagen-Dazs thing and we would take a knife and we would just cut it in half and someone would eat out of one half and someone would eat out of the other. Any of my friends that were close to me know at the end of the day, I went on a hunt, a safari, looking for ice cream. I would go a long way. To me, it represented comfort or something, I don’t know. I couldn’t stop.

By the way, in spite of that verse that says He is bringing us to a land flowing with milk and honey, that doesn’t mean God wanted us to mix it all together and eat it at once. The book counsels on diets and food. It says, “Some use milk and a large amount of sugar on their mush,” their cereal or their oatmeal, “thinking that they are carrying out health reform, but the sugar and the milk combined are libel to cause fermentation in the stomach and thus harmful.” Which means I probably went to be drunk a lot from ice cream.

And then I realized finally it had gone too far. I am embarrassed to tell you this, but when I travel and I stay at a hotel, one of the first things I do is I find out where is a 7-Eleven, because 7-Eleven carries Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s. Ben and Jerry’s is not as good, but I almost felt like I was supporting a couple of druggies with Ben and Jerry’s. They had ice cream called Cherry Garcia named after -- any way. So I would go to a 7-Eleven.

One time when I was going to a hotel to do a meeting and Bonnie said, well, they have a shuttle that goes to the airport. I said, well, I’m going to need a rental car. You know, I might need to get something to eat. But you know what was thinking? The hotel was too far away from ice cream. I was at this conference center and I needed a car so I could get ice cream. And then when I realized that here I had rented a car and Amazing Facts supporters for paying for me to have a rental car so I could get ice cream, I felt guilty and so I refunded the money. It occurred to me that ice cream cost me $35 a pint. I am not kidding. It was that bad. Only once or twice that I ordered room service, $8 for ice cream and then you want to tip the person who brings it, because I would tell them to please hurry because they would bring it to you all melted and then it’s no good.

And I realized this is just going too far. I thought, I’ve got a problem. And so I started praying about it. I said, Lord, I have to stop eating ice cream. Certainly anything that is preoccupying my day. My father was an alcoholic and I think I have that nature. My father would plan his day around alcohol. When he made lunch appointments, he wouldn’t just take a person to a restaurant because he liked the food. The restaurant had to first and foremost have alcohol. Then he would figure out what else they had. And then after work, he would stop at the bar. And if he went on vacation, it had to be somewhere where there was a bar. And if he went on a fishing trip or if he went racing or whatever he did, there was always the ice chest with alcohol. His whole life, that had to be there in the picture.

And I was realizing that ice cream was doing that to me. I would get on TV in front of everybody and preach about the health message, do a back handspring and then go home and eat the pint of Haagen-Dazs. Yes, sometimes I would eat a whole pint. The average American eats 42 pints of ice cream a year. I was eating about 120. I am not exaggerating. And then I would go to the doctor and he would say, Doug, cholesterol looks good, blood pressure okay. So it’s not bothering me.

And I had all these rationalizations, but I knew I was addicted. How do you know? Because I could not stop. I would spend my last 15 cents on ice cream. I could tell you more stories, but I think you get the picture.

Finally I became convinced, I have to do something about this. Then I went through a couple of years of a real struggle. I think I went through all the throws and the twists and the turns of all kinds of addictions. I would stop, go a day or two, and I would feel really good about it. And then I would say I’m under control now, I think I can just have a little bit. And I got to the point where instead of eating a pint a day, I got to where it was a half a pint a day. And then I got down to a third. One little pint of Haagen-Dazs would last me three days and I felt like I was doing pretty good. That went on for a couple of years. Karen is here and she is not disagreeing with me. Bonnie would invite me over and offer dessert. She would say, we have some ice cream, and I would say no thanks because I had good stuff at home. So I could turn it down as long as I knew I could have it before I went to bed.

And for some reason, if I ate late and I ate way too much, it always seemed I had room for ice cream. If I didn’t have it, I was like incomplete. Really. I don’t know why. And then I got where I would go a day or two without eating ice cream. I would go to the market and it would be a struggle. I would say, Karen, I have to go get some chips, corn chips and salsa. I eat a lot of chips and salsa. So I would go get the chips and then I would go up and down the aisle by the frozen section and look at it. I would see it on sale. Normally it was almost $3 or more and it would two for $5. I would go, Lord, it must be your will today because it’s on sale. And then I figured I am not going to buy it anymore unless it’s on sale. That’s how I grappled with my guilt. But when I bought it on sale, I bought enough to last until the next sale.

What made things difficult is one of the members of our church, who might be here today, I don’t want to point her out, worked at the supermarket where I shopped. Don’t you love it when the person who is checking you at the market looks at what’s in your shopping cart and says stuff like, oh, somebody has a sweet tooth. They comment on what you are buying. She noticed several times, I would be showing up at 10 o’clock at night just for ice cream. And then I would go to the store and I would look for her and I would see she was down there and I would sneak around the aisles and I would throw it in and look back and she would be helping somebody, go to self-checkout, quick.

I was living a secret life. It was pretty bad. So I was a hypocrite. I’m preaching about the health message and I was addicted to junk food. I know it wasn’t good for me, even though the Lord blessed me with a relatively good constitution. Jesus talks about this where he said, “Whoa to you scribes and pharoses, hypocrites. You devour widows’ houses and for a pretense, you make long prayers.”

Luke 11, “Whoa to you lawyers for you load men with burdens hard to bear and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” So I preached a sermon on gaining the victory over sin when I was a slave. The reason I picked this subject, and I prayed about this and I think the Lord wanted me to talk to you about this, because this is at least something I can confess to you and you’re probably not going to get me fired. But it was very real. I was addicted and I hiding it and I was wasting money. It was and expensive addiction.

Have any of you heard that song called “Junk Food Junkie?” This is going to date you if you know the words to this song. Years ago, a guy named Larry Groce wrote a song back when the hippies began to get into the hell food movement. Any of you remember Euell Gibbons and the Nature Cereal? This guy wrote this song called “Mr. Natural” and it actually kind of relays the hypocrisy that some people struggle with where you have your public life and then you have what’s real.

He said, “You know that I love organic cooking. I always ask for more. And they call me Mr. Natural on down at the health food store. I only eat good sea salt. White sugar don’t touch my lips. And my friends are always begging me to take them on macrobiotic trips. But at night I take out my strongbox I keep under lock and key and I take it off to my closet where no one else can see. I open the door so slowly, take a peek up north and south and then I pull out a Hostess Twinkie and I stuff it in my mouth. In the daytime, I’m Mr. Natural, just as healthy as I can be. But at night, I’m a junk food junkie. Dear Lord have pity on me.”

He has several versus tell a similar story about how all of his friends think he’s so natural, but the last one is actually pretty good. He said, “Oh, folks, but lately, I’ve been spotted with a Big Mac on my breath, stumbling into a Colonel Sanders with a face as white as death. I’m afraid some day they’ll find me just stretched out on my bed with a handful of Pringles potato chips and a Ding Dong by my head. In the daytime, I’m Mr. Natural, just as healthy as I can be, but at night I’m a junk food junkie.”

It’s talking about living a double life. This plays itself out. I’m talking about a problem with ice cream. This plays itself out in a lot of different ways. Some of you are going to be really self-conscious if you invite Pastor Doug over and you have ice cream for dessert. Don’t worry, I have the victory, Praise God. It’s taken years, but I have the victory. I’m okay. I’m not saying ice cream is a sin.

Shopping online is not a sin for everybody. But I know a pastor that would get online and start buying stuff and he couldn’t stop. His house and his garage was filled with products that were not even opened, that he bought impulsively, either from the shopping channel or some sale online. He had spent all of his money, all of his retirement and was deeply in debt. Is there any sin in shopping online? I’ve done it. You can save money. But some people can’t.

And you may have weaknesses and you think it’s not so bad, but has it gotten too big for you? Is is taking over in your life? Is it something that is out of balance in your life? Something that you are covering up?

I got so bad that I was on my knees. You would probably never think that someone would have to get on their knees and plead for the victory over ice cream. But I did. I finally said, Lord, I’d quit for a while and then I’d start again. I’d say I have it under control. Nothing is wrong with a little bit, but I couldn’t handle a little bit. I finally had to say, Lord, help me. It required human effort, but I believe God intervened. As I made my efforts humanly, the Lord then takes it away and gives you a supernatural power.

There’s a statement to that effect, “The divine, combined with a human effort, will give to all perfect and entire victory. Every believing mind will be filled with conscious power. The language of the soul will be, I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me.”

I just want to tell you in following up with my personal struggle, I know you think this is kind of strange, but there is a point to it. I praise God that you might think it is odd that I praise God, because I was a slave. It controlled my time. I took my money. At the end of the day, it had to be part of my day. It was like I associated it with comfort. It was almost emotional. But I was addicted. But the Lord took it away from me. It’s been years now and now I’m a vegan. Can you imagine that? For years, I was using Rice Dream and almond milk and soy milk in my cereal and told everyone I was a vegetarian and I was. But at night, I was a glutton with ice cream. In daytime, I’m Mr. Natural.

But you know what happened and one reason I’m so excited about this, when I finally went two weeks without eating ice cream, no dairy, I started realizing for the first time in my life I was breathing. I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t know I had an allergy to milk. This is not religious. I’m just tell you. Karen still eats dairy and the kids. I’m not talking about it being something religious. All my life I was allergic to milk and I didn’t know it. I could not breathe the way normal people breathe and I didn’t know it. I didn’t even know what it felt like because even in the cave I’d go down and I would get my ice cream. It takes a couple of weeks before all of a sudden it hit me and I started being able to breathe. My head cleared up, my sinuses cleared up. And then I realized this is what it felt like to breathe without snorting and coughing all the time. I am so excited that if you offer me ice cream, oh, man, I like breathing. No way. There are benefits, so Praise God, I am just so thankful that I got the victory in this department.

But the same dynamics that I struggle with are real in our lives on something that is a lot more serious. For some people maybe it’s not ice cream. Maybe it’s alcohol. There are people that go to church and they go through the motions of being a Christian and they have an addiction to shopping. They can’t control it. They do it for comfort. It could be some drug. Some people sit at the computer and they’re addicted to other things. It might be pornography. It’s like you live a secret life. There’s a lot of different ways that it plays out. Jesus doesn’t just come to save us in our sin. He comes to save us from our sin. And He can. And you’ll have a peace and a joy when He does that is unlike anything you can imagine.

Romans 6:12, “Therefore, do not let sin reign.” God didn’t say that we are never going to stumble and fall. He says if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father. What He does say is sin should not reign over you, in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lust and do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourself to God as being one alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness, for sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”

Romans 6:17, “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness and lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.”

And it goes to say in Verse 23, “For the wages of sin in death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

If you look up higher in the same chapter, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient.” You might even find something that inherently may not be bad, but it is out of balance in your life and it is taking up your time.

Some people, they are addicted to a TV program. I know it is hard for us to understand it, but sometimes the things that tempt you, may not tempt me. You might laugh at what was a problem for me. You have a problem and I don’t understand it, it’s not your problem, it was my problem. And who knows why.

But those same people, I know people that are Christians and at a certain time every day, they have to be where a TV is or they tape it and they have to watch a soap opera because they’ve gotten sucked into this artificial -- I don’t laugh at that. I cannot understand how people will look at these actors going through these bizarre things on TV saying, saying, oh, no, was it with her? Yes, it’s with her. But did you kill him? No, I killed -- they’re crying and they’re watching all this. I’ve tried to give bible studies to people who have these soap operas on and they say, oh, just a minute. I can’t understand it, but it gets a hold of them and their lives revolve around that program, As My Stomach Turns, or whatever it’s called. And it takes over their life. For most people, it is not an issue.

I don’t know what your pet temptation is. We are all different. Some of you are Peters, some are James, some are John, some are Mary, some are Martha. The devil knows what it is and he wants to get a hold of you so that it controls you, so it becomes the defining influence in your life, instead of Jesus being the one who is in control of your life. At some point, the first step, like I did, you have to say this is out of control. I have a problem and, Lord, I need your help. And it’s not a good witness.

Up in the hills near our cabin, we have a few trees that are nice-looking trees. I was out walking one day and I remember seeing that this poison oak vine was beginning to go up a rather picturesque oak tree up there in the hills. I didn’t think much of it. Usually poison oak just kind of crawls along the ground and it isn’t very big or it might get up in the manzanita bushes a little bit, but they are vines and, unencumbered, they will continue to grow and they get pretty massive.

A few years later, I went walking by that same tree and I noticed that the poison oak vine had wrapped around and was going up into the tree and it was creating a lot of weight on the branches, taking over the lower half of this very big, majestic oak tree, which normally would be very strong and independent. I realized that something had to be done or when the snow came, the weight was going to take that tree down. All it took was a chain saw and one cut and I knew it would die. Even though I made the cut, the vine was still hanging there, but I wasn’t worried anymore. Once I knew I made the cut, it was going to die. And sure enough as time went by, the vine rotted and it blew out of the tree and the tree continued to flourish and stand strong.

Some of us know we have tendrils that start small in our lives, but they will continue to grow and wrap themselves around your life and start sapping the strength and distracting your energy and your time from what God wants you to do.

I will interpret your silence to mean that maybe the Holy Spirit is speaking to you and you know that there are things in your life that are out of balance. It may be something as outwardly harmless as ice cream. It may be something more serious. It might be a serious substance abuse or practice or relationship that is unhealthy. You need to say, Lord, I cannot do this without your help. You come to Jesus and you confess that you need supernatural intervention and the Lord can give you the victory and you will rejoice.

It is so nice when you can look back and say, free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I am free at last. It is so nice to know that thing does not have dominion over you anymore and it is not controlling and defining your life. He wants you to have that freedom and that experience.

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