Welcome to the Greene Street Letters. It has become my venue for sharing what is going on at Vineyard Recovery Church. Don't let the word Church scare you. The Greene Street Letters is a daily posting to simply say that there is more to life than what you see. More to life than "stuff". My simple take of 60+ years of following Jesus. Some days were good days...some days I managed to get off in the ditch. He is worthy of the pursuit, so that is what I do........I pursue Jesus in everything I do. Not the Jesus of the church. Not the Jesus of the denomination. Nothing wrong with those things, but Jesus is so much more. Thanks for dropping by and I hope you return from time to time to stop and ponder your own relationship with Jesus. God on you....mb

Monday, October 12, 2015

Up And At 'Em

Once again the Sunday-night "blahs" reared its ugly head and I couldn't sleep. Well, let me rephrase that. I did sleep, just not for an extended period of time. There is a vast difference to me between Saturday night sleep and Sunday night sleep. Doesn't matter....
2:28 a.m. and I am up and running. Well, actually I'm up and sitting.

Saturday night at Vineyard ReCovery was once again all about the "one". It was mostly family except for one visitor. A first-timer who had heard about VRC and had been wanting to come to a meeting for a while. Here again, we know that Saturday night is not the most opportune time for others to go to church. But this visitor had made it a priority.

So what did they receive? Peace.
The worship was kind of old school recovery songs....
"12 Steps To Heaven"....."I Can Do All Things"......and "God Willing".

The thing I love about Saturday night is the openness and freedom God has given to us to worship Him. Needless to say that our flavor of worship is a bit different. Different doesn't mean better.......just different. 

Message was from Luke 2 and Hebrews 12.

Mary preparing a place for Jesus' birth.
The baby was coming....
She prepared a place to receive His birth.
She took cloths and made clothes for him to be wrapped in.

She cleaned out a manger and made it into a bed to lay Him in...
She prepared a place.

Recovery is all about preparing a place daily to receive from Jesus.
It's about removing all the junk from our lives and our hearts in order to give God space to grow and birth His plans for us.  I also touched on Hosea 10 where we are commanded to "Break Up Our Fallow Ground". In this case, fallow ground would be our heart. Remove all the rocks, sticks, weeds, and prepare it to receive the seed that God wants to plant.

During ministry time, our prayer was for God to take our hearts and plant His seed. We trust that He will water, and tend to what He has planted, and that in due time we will see evidence of what God had planted in each of  us.  As I prayed over the room, there was a deep peace that came in. People received it and you could actually watch and see the effects of God's peace. People began to relax and almost sink into their chairs. 

The visitor came up afterwards and shared their story with me. At the end, shaking my hand, they said, "This was just what I needed and  I didn't even know it." That is what Saturday night is all about. Coming in, worship, teaching, and receiving from God the very thing you might not even be aware of.

God on you....

michael b.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Taking Back What Has Been Stolen

Seems like one of the chief weapons our enemy (the devil) uses against is to get us to focus on what we don't have. To focus on what we have lost. Such a view will always affect how we view the future. When I speak of the things we have lost, I am speaking of material things...relationships.....health...money....and freedom. To an addict, this is the list that always haunts them. Why? Because they know that they have been responsible, through their bad choices, for all the destruction that surrounds them. Knowing this, causes them to view themselves as having no self worth at all. It also has a way of defining whatever they may attempt in the future. In the addicts mind, the thought is, "Why attempt anything....all I do is fail." 

In the first three steps of the Twelve Steps, you come to terms with yourself..."I am powerless." You stop looking within for a solution. This is also huge for someone in recovery. Using their addicta-logic, an addict will admit they are powerless, but then turn around and try to attain sobriety in their own strength. In my classes at Rapha, I always hit home the point that "You can't be the problem and the solution." 

With no answer found within, it only makes sense to look for a Power outside of our own being who could bring healing and restoration to us. This search leads us to Jesus. He is the Power. The one thing that most people never mention about this journey, is that when you have found the Power, when you have turned over will and life to His care...then comes the part where you commit. Where you dig your heels in and say, "I am not going back".  The future looms ahead and it is uncertain and scary, but we know what the past holds. So we commit. We fix our eyes, our heart and our mind, to move forward. In doing so, we are actually beginning the process of taking back those things which the enemy stole from us. 

We begin to regain, or make new relationships.
We begin to work and receive a payday.
We begin to attempt to make amends and repair old relationships.
We find gratitude for the day.
We begin to live life, one day at a time.

All the while, we are changing as God's Holy Spirit works inside of us.
Changing the way we think through changing our character. Pushing out the old defects of character and replacing them with the fruit of His Spirit  (Galatians 5:22-24).

But all the while, it is that commitment to not turn back that will aid us the most.
I call it the development of a spiritual backbone.
No matter how bad the day might become, I will not turn and run to that old life.
I have heard several say that the worst day of sobriety is better than the best day of addiction.

The monster of "Instant Gratification" will rear its ugly head from time to time. It will try and convince you that nothing is happening. You are going no where. You are simply fooling yourself. Don't listen. This journey in sobriety is a marathon, not a sprint. It is a day to day slugging it out. But the desire to let God empower you so you can take back that which has been lost will pay off. 

Be sure to listen to the video I chose for this mornings posting.
Don Potter sings of "Taking back".

Let it feel you with determination that in choosing God, you don't have to turn back. No matter what may come your way today, you can and will see it through. I think maybe that is a promise from God. Last time I checked, He doesn't break His promises.

We'll be meeting tonight at Vineyard ReCovery Church.
Meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Hope to see you there.

God on you....
michael b.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Songs Of Lament

Musician and teacher, Michael Card, explaining the need for us to sing songs of lament in our worship.
For a long time, I have thought that our worship (corporate church) has become very formulaic. We open our services with an uptempo song to get everyone jump started into the presence of God. Worship leaders tell the folks when to clap their hands or stomp their feet. The crowd is directed from the stage. My take on this (my opinion that is) is that worship should flow from whatever is happening on the stage. It should flow into the congregation. From this place, each person has a responsibility to approach God. No matter how big the group is.....10 or 10,000....worship is about the individual pouring themselves out to God. 

Sometimes this "pouring out" isn't always filled with the "warm-fuzzies". Sometimes that person is simply trying to survive....trying to hang on and make it one more day. In such times, there is that moment when gratitude and thankfulness become evident and the heart is directed to the Giver of all good things.

To make my point concerning worship and singing songs of lament, I always refer to Job chapter 1. On the worse day a human could ever possibly have, Scripture says that Job tore his clothes, sat down in the dirt and worshiped God. Do you think Job's songs were filled with "Happy, happy, joy, joy" lyrics? No, I think Job worshiped in his pain, yet cried out that God was the only stable thing he could fall upon to survive. 

Sometimes we have to acknowledge and lament the past in order to understand the reality of God. Because when He invades our past to forgive us, He does bring His joy to our pain. But we cannot experience that joy until we have been broken and put back together by His unseen hand. 

Please don't misunderstand what I have written today. I am not saying we need every service..every meeting to start off with a dirge...
We don't need every meeting to be a time of self infliction of pain and suffering. But we do need to be honest in our corporate times of worship. Sometimes we do hurt. Sometimes we do cry. Sometimes we do feel a million miles away from God, that He is no where to be found. But in those times is when He is nearest to us. 

I want to finish up today's posting by leaving you with a video of  Michael Card singing "God's own fool". We unknowingly have a tendency to try and rationalize the things of heave with a mind from earth. There is a point in giving ourselves to God that we no longer can live by the economy of this world. We must cast it aside, as it says in Hebrews 12, like a coat so we can run the race set before us. In fact Hebrews states that we must cast aside those things which so easily hinder us. What could be more of a hindrance than to try and grasp God with a mind and heart that is still tied to the things of this world?

I apologize for the ad's at the first of the video, but the song is incredible.

God on you...
michael b.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

"She'll Be Coming Round The Mountain When She Comes"

Deuteronomy 2:2
And the Lord spoke to me, saying,"You have skirted this mountain long enough, turn northward."

There is an old riddle that I have heard many times that applies to recovery, and it goes like this.
"You have ten birds sitting on a telephone wire....
One decides to leave...
How many birds do you have left?"

Most would answer this riddle by saying,"You'd have nine birds left!" If you answered this way, you are wrong. You'd have ten. The bird only decided...he never actually moved on that decision.

You see, it's easy to decide that you want to recover from your addiction.
It's easy to talk about it with your family and friends. You may even receive some "Atta boy!" from those you let in on your intentions. But the hard core truth is simply deciding to enter recovery really isn't worth anything until you get up and began to the process.

I love the verse from Deuteronomy 2:2. I guess if I were going to translate this verse into redneck, it would say, "And the good Lord spoke to me and said, 'Boy..you've gone around this mountain long enough. You purt near wore out a trail going in circles. It's time to try a different direction."
Isn't that the definition of insanity, when it comes to addiction? Doing the same thing over and over, hoping for a different result?" I think so.

Sometimes I believe we really think we're doing something wonderful when we concoct these hair brain schemes that we really believe are going to help us be sober. Example: We've been on pain meds and weed. They have become our crutch to get us through the day. Suddenly we decide that if we start drinking (just a little) to take the edge off, we can do this recovery thing. Needless to say, I don't have to tell you how this wonderful experiment will turn out. Not good!

As long as we continue to base our actions using addicta-logic, we are simply delaying the inevitable. Truly we do look for the easier, softer way to recovery. Such a path does not exist. There is simply us.....our addiction...and a POWER greater than ourselves who is willing to move us out of the darkness and destruction we have created. If you've been reading the Greene Street Letters for anytime, you know that our POWER has a name, and that name would be Jesus. Simple as that.

If you are struggling with addiction today, I want to encourage you to get up and go to a meeting. If you don't know where any are, they do a word search, if you have a smart phone or computer, and type in "recovery meetings."
These are the beginning steps to a new life. I will not sit here and pretend to tell you that it will all be a bed of roses, but I will tell you that as you put together one sober day after another, you may be surprised at how life really looks. `If I can ever be of assistance, feel free to contact me here in the comment section of this blog. Or you can reach me through my Facebook page. Search for "Michael Bynum" or "Vineyard ReCovery Church". You may also reach me through my email: greenestreet72@comcast.net .

God on you this morning....
michael b.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Catch The Fire 1998

Hebrews 12:29
For our God is a devouring (or consuming) fire.

Is it possible that it really has been 17 years?
Lot has happened since then. 
For one thing, I'm seventeen years older. Not complaining, simply stating a fact.
October 6, 1998, I made a journey to Toronto to attend the "Catch The Fire" conference.
Toronto plays an important part in the history of our church. In fact, I would say that what took place during that conference laid the foundation for everything I do today. Had no clue that such would happen....just a knowing that I needed to go there and experience this move of God for myself.

A good friend of ours, Randy Horvath, had called us in 1994 to alert us to the fact that something was going on at the Toronto Vineyard, and that we'd better get up there to check it out for ourselves. Several from Gadsden Vineyard made the trek to see what all the hubbub was about. Turned out that God had begun a move of His Spirit and it was growing with each passing day. The ones from our church who attended came back changed. They would never be the same. There was a new hunger for God, for His word, and to participate in His Kingdom work. In other words, they were not content to simply sit in church any more. God had let them have the keys to the car (so to speak) and once they had tasted driving they didn't want to go back to the old way of doing things.

I was not able to be a part of these early journey's to Toronto.
It wasn't until the fall of 1998 that I was approached about going.....by myself.....alone....no one else. I said o.k.
Wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I was open to whatever God wanted to do.

I flew out of Birmingham on Monday Oct. 6th. - 7:45 a.m. headed North.
The one thing I felt for certain about was that God had told me I was to go and observe. He would show me what I was to bring back. 

Prior to my trip, I'd been having dreams. May not sound like much, but I really don't dream. Let me rephrase that. I don't remember dreams. If I do, then I take them to be from God. I'd had several dreams in the days before leaving, and they all centered around one thing.....Blue's music. In one, I was in a library looking for a book. Jim Bentley was with me, and we were moving up and down the isles in search of a book that I didn't even know the title. At one point Jim turned to me and said, "Here, you're going to need this."
He handed me a book that had a cloth cover. The cover was a faded blue, almost like jeans that had been washed a gazillion times. The title of the book was embossed on the front..."THE BLUES WAY". I took the book, asking Jim, "Why this one?" He replied, "I don't know. I just know that you're to need it." As I type this, it suddenly dawned on me that Jim didn't say that I needed to read this book....Just that I was going to need it. 

My initial impression of the conference on the opening session, was that I felt like an intruder. Like I had wandered into a private party and was going to be asked to leave at any moment. Of course I tend to feel this way at anything or place that is new to me. As I moved into the main auditorium, my ears were filled with the most wonderful, and beautiful sound I'd ever heard. There was worship going on, but it was a different kind of worship. It was "Blues" worship. Turned out that the worship leaders for the week were Bryn Haworth and Dave Markee, both incredible musicians from England. Both had toured and recorded with the heavy weights of the music world. Here they were together leading the worship for the conference. Blues? The book Jim gave me in the dream was "The Blues Way"....hmmmmm. Are you trying to tell me something? Yes He was. And yes He did. This style of music would become the basis for everything I have done in recovery. Why this style? Because it truly speaks to the heart of those who are struggling with addiction. In the natural, blues music is nothing more than an outlet for the pain and misery one is going through. Take that same music and turn it into worship, and you take the pain and misery and give to the Healer, Jesus. Big difference.

This week I spent there (Oct. 6 through 11) was incredible. The reason it was so wasn't fully realized until later. I'm a person who likes to record his thoughts and experiences on paper. So I kept a running journal during my time at the Catch The Fire conference. This has allowed me to revisit my journey from time to time and see how God's hand was upon the entire event. Like I said earlier, this conference was the foundation for what I am doing today.

I've been in a lot of meetings, but the one I attended in Toronto will always hold a special place in my heart. This was where God gave me direction that is still in play today. He started me on a journey that I could never have chosen for myself. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go to Toronto and to be changed by a God who is still in love with those outside His will. Those who are living under a cloud of depression and misery that we call addiction. 

Here is the song that started it all for me. This is the song that grabbed me and pointed me to the path I've been walking on for the past 17 years.
Bry Haworth's "I Can Do All Things".

God on you..........
michael b.