TAC Blog

Consumed by the Horizontal or the Vertical?

by: Justin Usiak

The last few months of my life has been very … let’s just say confusing. If you took a sheet of paper and wrote out all the amazing things happening in my life you would run out of lines. From the outside looking in, I have been truly blessed. I mean that God has answered so many prayers in such obvious ways that there is no denying Who is in control. Now that I’m thinking about all that God has done recently—I’m literally getting overwhelmed.

What has been confusing is that the last few months have been some of the hardest months I’ve ever faced as a Christian. I’ve felt like I’ve been in a slump. In the morning it feels like I have to climb a mountain to get out of bed. I haven’t had the motivation to go to the gym before work and have struggled with getting there. I’ve found my studies have been blah. Every day I study God’s Word, counsel and disciple men, run a general contracting company, spend time with my wife and daughter, and go to the gym. These are daily things that I’ve always found so much joy in, but they have recently become empty monotonous tasks.

I’ve found that I’ve constantly had to battle offense and disunity with the closest people in my life. Even though God has been moving in so many obvious ways and confirming the place that He has me, I’ve found myself glorifying the thought of finding another job. Finding another community, just wanting something else. What in the world is going on here? My life is amazing and I am so discontent. I have never faced this in my walk with Christ. It seems as if “depression” has started to invade my life.

Last week I had enough. I prayed and prayed and pleaded with God to expose anything in my heart that offends Him. It’s been a weird spiritual and emotional rollercoaster, but God is faithful. I found a common theme in my studies and prayers this past week, in the sermon my pastor preached, in the leadership summit I attended—all within a five-day period I probably read and heard this verse ten times. Hebrews 12:1-17.

In verse one we read lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely and run with endurance the race that is set before us. The question is how? Which is answered in verse two, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, for the Joy that was set before him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. I’ve read this verse many times, but this past week the Lord has used it to answer my prayer. He has shown me that I’ve become consumed by the horizontal.

In the middle of verse two it says for the Joy set before Him, He endured the Cross. The joy set before Him was His ascension. His exaltation—seated at the right hand of the throne of God. This reminded me of Luke 9:51 that says with His eyes fixed on His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem. Jesus knew what He was going to have to endure. He knew the pain that He was going to face. He knew the betrayal and the deceit He would receive from the closest of people. He knew the temptation He would face. Most of all Jesus knew He would be dying on the cross and taking on the sin of mankind, for that moment being separated from the Father. So why did Jesus continue going to Jerusalem knowing what He was going to face? You see Jesus did not focus on everything that He was going to face (the horizontal). Jesus focused on His ascension. He focused on the joy that was set before Him. The Joy of fulfilling His fathers will. The joy of spending eternity seated at the right hand of the father. Jesus was focused on his Father’s will. He was focused on eternity (the vertical).

Sometimes in life we find ourselves getting easily distracted by the things of this world. We become consumed by relationships, ministry, work, business, family, and everything else around us. Especially in the culture we live in. It’s really easy to get distracted. It’s really easy to start doing things for the glory of man rather than the glory of God.

God has shown me through this season that when my eyes are not fixed on Jesus. but rather consumed with the world, things get confusing.

Here is the progression: I find myself discontent, questioning God rather than trusting God. I get burned out on people. I lose passion and a motivation to serve the people around me. To put it simply, nothing is enough! I’m reminded of how my life was before I knew Christ. It’s at this point that confusion sets in.

The fact of the matter is that we do not serve a God of confusion. When our eyes are fixed on Him, we endure, we fight, we strive for peace, and for holiness. We take joy in trials, we are thankful for the very breath that God has given us. We don’t question God, we trust God. We do not grow weary, but we stand firm. We run with endurance, rather than fall with exhaustion.

God is so faithful and has reminded me to examine myself every day to see with what I’m consumed. You cannot be consumed with the things of this world (horizontal) and end up with a healthy relationship with God (vertical) but instead when we are consumed by God (vertical), we understand what He has called us to do in this world.

Click to Tweet: “The Lord is my solid rock, my fortress, my rescuer.” – Justin Usiak #fixyoureyesonJesus

My name is Justin Usiak. I am a husband to Amanda Grace, a father to Everly Grace and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. This was not always the case. I lived a very extreme, rebellious and sinful lifestyle in my teenage and young adult years that led me to a place of drug addiction, homeless, and depravity. The Lord drew me out of that darkness and changed my Heart. I came to a men’s discipleship program called the Mission house in Port Orchard Washington where God showed me who I was and why I was created. Today I have the privilege of serving as the Associate Director at the Mission House. By God’s grace my beautiful family and I get to reflect the Glory of the Almighty God and point people to the only hope that I have…my Savior, Christ Jesus. Praise Him!!!

Contact Info: themissionhouse.info  or  Justinusiak.mh@gmail.com

Why I Wrote “How Not to Raise an Addict”*

by: Mark Shaw

Focus Publishing produced my booklet, How Not to Raise an Addict, to help parents to raise children that love God. Obviously, parents are not in control of their children’s hearts or their children’s decisions to follow Christ, but they can learn parenting skills that instill a humble, Christ-like mindset rather than an addicted one.

How Not to Raise an Addict was challenging to write because all parents, except for God the Father, are flawed and inadequate without the grace of God. I think this booklet helps parents in three ways:

  1. Kids are responsible for their choices but parents are responsible for their actions as parents. There are ways parents can either change or strengthen what they do in their parenting regardless of the age of the child.
  2. It is urgent that parents learn biblical principles for parenting to instill the mind of Christ in their child so that when temptation comes the child will be ready to say “no.” Based upon two passages of Scripture, I examine five mentalities of an addict which are subtle when a child is young but so pervasive in our culture today. One additional note is that each mentality often leads into the subsequent mentality, yet the goal for parents is to instill the mind of Christ in their children.
  3. There is no guarantee. This is not a book of legalistic to-do lists but rather a booklet to reflect upon mentalities that either need to be discouraged or encouraged in parenting.

Portions of this booklet were excerpted from my larger book, Addiction-Proof Parenting, released in 2010 in English and in 2013 in Korean. The larger book offers general parenting strategies and a fuller look at the mind of an addict versus the mind of Christ. God’s Word offers us incredible insights into parenting in ways that are loving, full of truth, and full of grace.

This book can be used in several ways:

  1. Counselors can assign it as homework for counselees to reflect upon their attitudes in parenting, examining where they can improve as well as what they are doing well.
  2. Pastors and church lay leaders can lead a short, six-week class on parenting using this booklet. Each of the five mentalities could be discussed weekly with either an opening week of teaching or a closing week. Six weeks is a good time frame for a parenting class.
  3. Those who counsel and work in the addiction field will gain valuable insights about the nature of addictive thinking and how it can be instilled not only by parents but by other authority figures.
  4. Anyone can read the booklet and glean parenting insights or even in general, how a Christ-follower can learn to think more like Christ. It could benefit any reader.

God’s sufficient Word has much to offer us in the realm of everyday problems. My hope is that parents will be helped and encouraged by this booklet even though it may be convicting at times. Conviction for the believer is good because it provides an opportunity to grow spiritually for the ultimate goal of glorifying God.

TAC Staff Note: This article was originally published at BiblicalCounselingCoalition.org on September 15, 2017. View the original post here.

About Mark Shaw

Mark E. Shaw (D. Min.) is President and Founder of Truth in Love Ministries and The Addiction Connection. He resides in Florence, KY, with his wife and children. The author of 20 publications including The Heart of Addiction, Addiction-Proof Parenting, and Divine Intervention: Hope and Help for Families of Addicts, Mark enjoys speaking, training, and traveling for the purpose of encouraging and edifying local churches in their outreach to hurting souls.

Follow Mark on: Facebook  and  Twitter


Desperate Parents Need Real Help! (Part 2)

by: Brenda Payne

As a parent who personally understands the heartbreak of addiction, I know the desperation of wanting to help my child while dealing with the desolation of my own heart.  With so much at stake, parents need to know where to turn for help. How does the bible address the deep grief of parents of prodigals? What is true about the nature of addiction and the addict as it relates to the body and soul? What biblical responsibility does the Scripture assign to parents and to their adult children? How does a parent face fear, worry, anger, shame and guilt in a way that produces growth and glory? How can parents deal with the ongoing manipulation and deception that marks the relationship with the addict? And, what purposes does God have for the suffering parents that will bring about the expansion of His Kingdom on earth? When answering these questions, parents must compare the world’s wisdom with the wisdom of God. And since much of the world’s wisdom has infiltrated the church, it makes discernment even more difficult.

Whether you read books, blogs, search the web, attend a support group, go to counseling, or talk to a friend, you must remember everyone has foundational beliefs that drive their advice. Addiction is complicated, and at first glance it does not seem that the bible has much to say about the problem. Therefore, Christians often seek help outside the church from “experts”. They are told they need a specialist, but could it be God is using the trial of addiction to show them their need of the Savior?

There are currently more than 400 different counseling models training “experts” all intended to help people change their thinking, beliefs, feelings and behavior. However, not one of these systems will claim absolute authority to know what that change needs to look like.11  In contrast, God’s wisdom never changes and is based on the authority of God Himself! Dr. Michael J. Mahoney, who made major contributions to the field of psychotherapy, admits there is no “Secret Manual of Helping” in psychotherapy that adequately addresses the problems of man, “No one, no committee of experts, no matter how brilliant, can claim such omniscience.”12 Mahoney goes on to make a rather shocking confession that secular counselors are “flying by the seat of our being”. 13 Thankfully God is Omniscient. He is All Knowing! Christian parents can stand confident on the wisdom of God and not fly by the seat of their pants!

The humanistic thinking that applauds self-sufficiency, self-protection, and self-esteem is “worldly wisdom” that  has crept into the Christian addiction literature preaching “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-8). The world offers coping strategies and support devoid of God. Any self-salvation system that advocates trust in someone or something else more than God is hostile to God’s plan for total dependence on Him and His ways. The writer of Hebrews warned the early Christians to distinguish truth from apostasy by admonishing them to become mature in the Word (Hebrews 5:12-14). Parents need discernment to be able to judge between secular and sacred philosophies and methods and bring them in line with God’s Word. In short, they must learn to think biblically. They need an interpretative lens of truth with God as their starting point. In his book, Think Biblically, John MacArthur writes, “A truly Christian worldview, simply put, is one in which the Word of God, rightly understood, is firmly established as both the foundation and final authority for everything we hold true.”   In his book, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave, Ed Welch explains that theology (the study of God and His relation to the world) is a framework that protects us from the deception of our own hearts and competing worldviews.

“It sets the boundaries for our lives. Better yet, accurate theology is a kind of treasure map: it guides us and compels us to relentlessly search Scripture for more and more relevant, penetrating, enlightening, life-changing truth. Scripture, after all, makes bold claims. It says that it provides ‘everything we need for life and godliness’” (2 Peter 1:3).14

But biblical wisdom is more than commands and principles, it’s a person. The Scriptures tell us how the power, presence, promises, provision of God through His son Jesus Christ comfort and change us. The world offers solutions, but God sent the “soul-ution” in His Son. Jesus is the wisdom of God and parents will find all the wisdom they need to navigate the treacherous journey of addiction in Him (Colossians 1:28-29).

Parents need the dynamic counsel of the Scriptures, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the support of other believers to avoid the traps of self-help systems and faithfully navigate the issues of helping their addict in a way that brings about personal Christ-like transformation, demonstrates biblical love for their child, and ultimately glorifies God.  In Counseling the Hard Cases, the contributors make the case that there are no “hard cases” too big for God and for which the Scripture is not sufficient to address.  Pastor and biblical counselor Heath Lambert writes, “If Scripture is an overflowing source of wisdom for all counseling , the pressing task of Christians is to be busy mining the text of Scripture for understanding of the manifold problems people experience and for the wisdom to help them.15” The apostle Paul admonished the Colossians to follow Christ by faith and not be led astray by ungodly counsel. Parents of addicts need to heed these same words today (Col. 2:6-10).

8 Current Psychotherapies 8th Edition

9 Ibid

10 Ibid

11 Ibid

12 Handbook of Psychological Change

13 Ibid

14 Ed Welch, Addiction: A Banquet in the Grave

15 Counseling the Hard Cases

Read Part 1 – Desperate Parents Need Real Help!

Brenda Payne

Brenda was the first woman to be certified in the state of Alabama with the Association of Biblical Counselors where she counseled and taught women for twenty years. She is currently a “volunteer” for Jesus counseling and training in her new hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Brenda is completing her thesis project for her MABC at Faith Seminary on “A Manual for Christian Parents of Adult Addicts from a Distinctively Biblical Worldview”. Her interest in helping parents of adult addicts is the result of her own personal journey.

Brenda and her husband Paul have three grown children. She is passionate about speaking, writing, counseling and mentoring to encourage women to seek biblical counseling and discipleship training. She also enjoys hospitality and managing her “Scenic City” Airbnb, enjoying a good cup of coffee over meaningful conversation, and engaging in culture and outdoor activities.

She co-authored theTeach Them Diligentlystudy guide and wrote Motherhood: Hope for Discouraged Moms.  She is the co-founder of Known Ministries (knownministries.org) a non-profit committed to inspiring, equipping and training women in the personal ministry of the Word and problem-solving discipleship. She is the founder of the Chattanooga Biblical Counseling Coalition and the Chattanooga Biblical Counseling Women’s Network.