The Holy Spirit Can Break the Cycle of Addiction

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I caught up with an old friend of mine last night after about 18 years, and he told me his conversion story.

He was born and raised in church, but he did not receive the new birth until he was well into his 30’s.  He never prayed in his life.  He never read God’s Word except when his father forced him to do it.  He became a rebel from all points of view, and got to the point of hating the thought of God.

His conversion came after a series of miracles took place in his life through which the Holy Spirit pointed him to Christ.

One of these miracles was the fact that he stopped smoking cold-turkey.

After a series of devastating events in his life, he fell on his knees and said the first prayer ever.  He asked God for a sign. He even asked for it in a belligerent way.  He said Jesus, if you really exist, prove it and make me quit smoking.  He had been smoking for about 12 years, and he was up to 3 packs-a-day.  He had tried to quit on his own initiative many times but was unsuccessful.

The next morning he lit a cigarette but a physical miracle took place.

He was unable to inhale the smoke as his pharynx went into spasm, and he became nauseated.  The same episode repeated later.  And again for a third time.

That is when he remember he had asked for this sign.  He came to the realization that God just proved to him that He exists.  He never put a cigarette in his mouth again, and more importantly he never desired to smoke again.  It has been 6 years since that event.

For those who have never struggled with nicotine addiction this may not sound like a big deal.  Those who have been through it know that a three pack-a-day smoker who failed miserably multiple times when attempting to quit does not just quit all-of-a-sudden…

Unless the Holy Spirit makes that change in him.

This was the initial step in his coming to Christ, and it was a powerful one.  He is still amazed that God listened to a sarcastic and rude prayer.  God’s ways are not our ways, and sometimes He goes out of His way to listen to a belligerent prayer out of the mouth of a sinner.

He proved once again that His grace is beyond our understanding, and His goodness beyond compare.

If God listens to an unconverted sinner, how much more will He listen to His Children who have put their trust in Him?

Psalm 130:1-2 “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!  O Lord, hear my voice!…”

Face to Face With the Reality of Abortion

 

I had passed many times by this door.

My naive mind always wondered why a door in the middle section of a hospital ward would have a “NOT AN EXIT” sign on it.

“It should be obvious this is not an exit… it is right in the middle of a large a building… “ I thought.

It was next to one of the elevators of a large level-1 trauma county hospital and very close to the obstetrics ward.  Dozens of happy new mothers would pass by this door every week on the way home with a beautiful newborn baby in their arms.

It was the summer of 2000, and I was a 24-year-old newbie medical student on the surgical clerkship when the issue of abortion finally became as real as it gets.  It was time to rotate through the anesthesiology service as part of the surgical experience, and I was spending some time with a 2nd year anesthesia resident.  We were on our way to prepare the obstetrics operating rooms for scheduled C-sections that day.

“Hey, I’ll show you a neat short cut to the operating room…” he says.

He headed straight for the mysterious door with the puzzling sign on it, and we entered.

To my amazement it felt like I stepped into another world.  I just went from a noisy environment of sick patients, infections, trauma, alcoholism and other plagues associated with county hospitals, into a large pre-operative waiting room filled with a dozen young and healthy looking women dressed in hospital gowns.

The room was filled with a silence as thick as death itself.

“They are waiting to get their abortions done” he whispered to me as we hurried on our way.

My heart sank as I saw the nervous, worried and guilty looks on their faces.

A horrific big picture fell into place for me that morning.  A picture that is replicated thousands of times across America in slaughter houses called “family planning clinics.”

A few months later I returned to the “county” for my 2 month OB-Gyn clerkship, and during orientation the coordinator of the slaughter-house showed up.  To this day I remember her first and last name, her face, and the air of feminist liberation in her voice.

“We are excited you will spend a week with us in the abortion clinic where you will participate in these procedures which stand for freedom of choice for women” she said.

“God, how am I going to make it through a week of this…? God, help me exercise the faith You put in me… I don’t care if I fail this clerkship, but I know You will not let me participate in shedding innocent blood”

I raised my hand and I said:

“My faith in God precludes me from participating in abortion. I hope this will not interfere with my OB-Gyn clinicals…”

There were 5 med students on that rotation, and to my surprise a female student echoed my sentiment.  If I remember correctly she was a Catholic.

Imagine the shock on the abortion coordinator’s face when light (the mention of faith in God) penetrated the darkness in her heart.  She was hardened to the point where she could not understand why we did not accept the “greatest” achievement that has ever occurred in the feminist movement, the holy grail of their agenda- a woman’s right to terminate her baby.

“Why are you even here? Why are you wasting your talents and your education? Why can’t you have an open mind and accept what we deem right as a society?”

Thank God for another reasonable clerkship director who honored our request.  Not all Christians are quite so fortunate.  There are reports in the media of nurses who lost their job because they refused to participate in termination of pregnancy.  They underwent legal recourse and lost that too.

By the grace of God I spend one week there without participating in the murder of the unborn.  I spoke to many teen girls who were about to undergo abortion.  I even tried secretly, yet unsuccessfully, to show them other options.

Ultimately, God taught me a lesson as He turned an anxiety provoking situation into a blessing.  In the end I earned an “honors” grade in Ob-Gyn.

It was a lesson that God wanted to teach me.  To put my trust in Him, and He would deliver me against evil.

Psalm 84:12 “O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you.”

Face to Face with the Reality of the Holocaust

It can be difficult to grasp the reality of the Holocaust from books and history until one comes face to face with a survivor who has a real and palpable story to tell.  Only then one experiences shock, anger, grief, and compassion, all conglomerated in a mixture that is difficult to bear.

My patient was an 86-year-old Jewish woman from Poland who shared her story with me.  In 1941, around age 15 she was arrested along with her parents and five siblings, and taken to Auschwitz under the pretext that they would be given work and made productive members of society.  The pain, hunger, torture and tremendous loss this woman suffered cannot be put into words.

By early 1945 when Auschwitz was liberated, the Nazis had murdered her parents, two sisters and two teenage brothers.  She along with one brother were the only ones out of a family of eight to survive this unspeakable ordeal.  It was heartbreaking to hear the grief and pain she continues to bear after so many years, especially when talking about her teenage brothers whom she described as “the most beautiful boys you’ve ever seen.”

The Holocaust was nothing short of an example of depraved human nature at its worst.  If it wasn’t for God’s grace which put an end to the Nazi regime, many more Jews and other races would have been slaughtered.  And some have the audacity today to say that another Holocaust cannot happen because we live in a modern society who learns from past mistakes.  I say no, we are capable of another Holocaust and even worse!  And this is simply because of our fallen human nature and our depraved spiritual state without the salvation given through Jesus.

The Bible is clear about the state of humanity as David laments over our depravity in Psalm 14:

1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good, not even one.

Remembering the reality and evil of the Holocaust leads us to understand the deep corruption of the human soul and the need for a Savior, which are the first steps in our restoration to where God wants us to be.  May God give each of us this great salvation available only through faith in Christ.