2021 will be the 30th Anniversary of the CELEBRATE RECOVERY program
Posted first on April 23, 2012 (A letter to those who study the Bible with prisoners)
I thought I had seen him before….. It happened at a Prison Bible study session and when I asked the young man, he said, yes, he had been here a couple of years ago. So what has happened? I said. The answer was somewhat evasive and I realized that it is hard to break out of a life style, especially when you are young, impressionable and are moving around in a community of like minded people. As one fellow told me: ‘Why work when I can stand on the corner of the street for a couple of hours and can get what will take another two months of hard work to earn? You shake your head and say, don’t they ever learn?
Have you ever wondered about that as you mark your Bible Study correspondence papers and write all those encouragement letters? Am I really making any sense? Will he or she make a new start in their life? How can I influence this young man or woman with the Gospel’s renewing Good News to break out of this cycle? Jesus also knew how hard it was for someone to change. He said “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to seek those that are sick.” He knew that he had to deliberately seek them out to get through to them to deliver his message of salvation. And as we know, it not only had to do with believing what Jesus said, but then also to change your life (life-styles) and to start following him.
Take Zaccheus. What pent up thoughts and motivations were stirred in Zaccheus’ heart that he wanted to see Jesus? (Even if he looked ridiculous in climbing that tree!) My guess is that he had been gripped by the words of Jesus. They had given him a ‘key’ that cleared a way for him to break free from his involvement in shady tax dealings. This was his escape from his addiction and bondage of the power of misguided economic wealth. Did Jesus not say to Zaccheus after listening to his confession of restoring wrongs, “Surely salvation has come to this house today”. ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound of Jesus voice.’
Only those who know that they are lacking in themselves see this renewal as the key to a new beginning. What a powerful ministry Jesus had and continues to have in the lives of people. The 12 step ‘Celebrate Recovery’ program also acknowledges this in Step 1 and 2 where it states:
• We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviours and that our lives had become unmanageable. ‘I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out’. (Letter to the Romans Chapter 7 verse 18 )
• We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. ‘For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose’. (Letter to the Philippians Chapter 2 verse 13)
Past studies have shown that up to 65% of the inmates in Canada’s prisons are 34 years and younger. Young men and women who will be the next influencers in the future lives of other young men and women. They will be setting the tone for our future communities and they are the ones that you are talking to in your Bible Studies and letters. Help them to see that in the un-manageableness of their lives, God’s power can forgive and heal. Be assured, you are making a difference for there are many who will never have to face a return visit to the time of their loneliness and unworthiness. Because you cared! Thank you Jesus.
The people criticized and grumbled that Jesus would dine with notorious sinners. So on another occasion not unlike this one, he told the crowd, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Gospel of Matthew Chapter 9 verses 12 & 13) NLT
Based on the successful AAA 12 Step recovery program initiated in the 1930s, the ‘Celebrate Recovery’ is a Christian ministry started in 1991 at Saddleback Church under the leadership of John Baker, a former alcoholic.