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, August 31, 2015

Weekend Recap w/ A Heavy Dose Of Monday

Lamentations 3:22-23
Though the Lord's mercies are not consumed, because His compassion's fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.

Lot of first time visitor's Saturday night at Vineyard ReCovery.
One of them came up to talk with me  after the meeting, expressing how much they had enjoyed it. How different VRC was from the other recovery meetings they had attended in the past. "I will be back." I hope so. I hope that they return and receive from God everything they need to move forward and have a life. A real life.

We talked about the first part of the Serenity prayer...."God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change".  The need to decipher what is in our control and what isn't. When we focus on those things that we have no control over, they become serenity robbers. They steal our peace and rob us of the ability to hear God. We become an emotional whirlwind that draws our attention and strength to a situation we literally cannot control or solve in our own strength and ability. 

So as one who is coming from a lifestyle where chaos rules, it is important that we learn to seek God, asking for something we cannot produce on our own......peace/serenity. Jesus told His disciples to "Let not your heart be troubled," and "Peace, my peace I leave with you." So the disciples received a gift that was not of this world. How does peace/serenity come to us? Through the work and presence of God's Holy Spirit in us. The peace that Christ gives is the kind of peace that steadies us when everything around is crumbling or in chaos. We do not get swept up in the maelstrom that draws us away from depending on God. In the opening line of the serenity prayer, we are acknowledging God's ability to enable us to live outside the pull and draw of our old way of thinking and seeing our problems and situations. Good stuff.

Yesterday morning, I spoke at New Outlook Christian Fellowship. Great bunch of folks who truly love Jesus. The music took me back to my growing up years....."The Old Rugged Cross"..."Pass Me Not O' Gentle Savior".....I do love the hymn's of the church. Spoke from Hebrews 12:26----"Whose voice then shook the earth, but now has promised saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."  This verse has followed me since October of 2003. I won't go into the particulars, but God has spoken to me on several occasions that His "shaking" serves one purpose only...to reveal His truth. Everything in our lives that we think is important will be shaken and only His truth will stand and be revealed. The very things we put our trust in, other than God, will be exposed for what it is worth....nothing! Such is why we need to let Christ be at the center of all we say and do. No time for religious posturing or pretense. Things around us....situations in this world and our nations will be exposed for they really are. False idols and gods that we have believed in and latched onto for salvation. 

Last night, it was time for Catalyst Recovery. 
Talk about "throw-backs"!
The meeting reminded me of the old "House of Blue" recovery meetings we use to do back in the day. Worship was off the scale. I know it is so easy to type that "God was in the house"...but there was no other way to describe it. He truly was there in a big way. The folks there last night were worshiping. God has created something special in this recovery meeting, and I bless Seth Barber for being crazy enough to believe God and follow Him. 
Using the book of Lamentations as my starting point, I read from Lamentations 3:19-21
Remember my affliction and roaming.
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind.
Therefore, I HAVE HOPE!

The very last word of that portion of Scripture is something that you will never find in a lifestyle of addiction.......HOPE! Only God can provide that. Only God can implant this into a heart that is tired of the darkness. Because Hope is the down payment on a life redeemed. No matter how bad things may get here on planet Earth.....in my heart I am driven by a belief that God is He who claims He is, and God will do what He promised He would do. HOPE!

It was good to see a lot of familiar faces last night, and meet some new ones. I left Catalyst Recovery last night, driving home with a sense of satisfaction. Not in anything I had done or said.......but satisfaction that God had come into our meeting and had done His work. Who could ask for anything more? 

So this morning, I sit here at my computer wondering what Monday has in store for me. Always an adventure. Always something out there waiting. But today I will focus on God.
No matter what...
It will be a good day!

God on you...
Michael b.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thanks For The Memories

Psalm 119:55
I remembered Your name in the night, O Lord, and I keep Your law.

Seems as though I have more memories than my brain can hold. Maybe it's time I had a "memory" yard sale, and clean out some of the old ones. But then again, the old ones are the best aren't they?

I remember LeVan Parker and a sermon he preached at Gallant Baptist, when I was a young boy. It had to do with an Olympic runner who finished last. He didn't just finish last...He was so far behind that the official crew as moving things on to the track for the next event. The runner finally entered the stadium and began to move toward the finish line. People were kind of amazed that he was still running. After all, there weren't any medals waiting. There were no records to be broken. Collapsing at the finish line, after he crossed, someone asked why he'd continued to run even though there wasn't any glory or reward for his efforts. The runner replied, "My country sent me here to run this race...not quit." In other words, it was about overcoming and not giving up. That message has stuck with me ever since I heard it long ago on a summer evening. "Don't Quit! Don't give up!"

I remember in the choir at Central Methodist Church. First time I ever wore a choir robe. The song? "Up From The Grave He Arose".  Don't know why, but I remember the goose bumps that came as we sang this song. The funeral like dirge that accompanies the first verse, as you move to the chorus. Laying Jesus in the grave...the tears of those who loved Him....then, victory. "Up from the grave He arose With a mighty triumph ore His foes. He arose a victor of the dark domain, and He lives forever with the Saints to reign. He arose. He arose. Hallelujah, Christ arose."  The song became more than words to me. It became the anthem that I remember and sing when I feel as though darkness is winning. When the world seems to be sliding over the edge into the abyss. I sing it. I sing it in my car. I sing it while I mowing grass. I sing it at the gym. I remember!

I remember what it was like to hold my sons when they were babies. To stare down into those little faces and think to myself. "God, you have given me a life to teach, train, and love". What an incredible thing that God would bring forth life from Vicki and me, and then give us the responsibility of raising this tiny person.  Then I would wonder if God saw me in the same manner. That He had brought forth life in me, and wanted to see me grow and mature in Him. To become the man He created me to be, not the one the world wants to warp and destroy. If I love my sons as much as I do....how much more does my Father in heaven love me? Wowzers!

I am grateful for memories.
The good ones truly outweigh the bad ones.
And in the bad ones, God in His infinite mercy, has removed the shame and guilty that use to be associated with them. Now they are just a memory that has no control over my emotions.
Ain't God good?
Yes, He is.

God on you....
Michael b.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Living To Die.....Or Dying To Live?

Romans 6:16
Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.

This morning I read an interesting statement concerning  the definition of addiction, provided by Luke Gilkerson @ Covenant Eyes.
"Long before the word “addiction” was adopted by 20th century medicine, the word had a different flavor—the term was not necessarily medical. The 1884 Oxford English Dictionary said addiction was the state or condition of being dedicated or devoted to a thing, esp. an activity or occupation; adherence or attachment, esp. of an immoderate or compulsive kind.”

This is one of the controlling themes of Romans 6: sin as a slave master. In Paul’s mind, this is one of the essential ways to describe everyone’s sinful condition, as a kind of slavery. It is not merely the so-called sickos and the junkies who experience enslaving compulsions. It is everyone. There is an addict in us all.
The question is not whether you will belong to a master. The question is: who or what will be your master? As Bob Dylan said, “You’re going to have to serve somebody.”
How does sin operate as a slave master? Paul explains in Romans 6, when our master is sin, we “obey its passions” (Rom. 6:12). The word “passions” is an interesting word in the original Greek language  It means more than a desire or a drive; it means over-desire or overdrive. The word is not so much about desires for evil things as it is an inordinate desire for good things.

As Tim Keller says, this is the essence of “idolatry” in the Bible: when we turn good things into ultimate things, and in doing so they become our masters.

Everybody lives for something. Everyone has things in their lives that make them feel either significant or secure. Most of these things we desire are not evil in and of themselves, but the desires have become “ruling desires.” Needless to say that our society feeds these desires by the moral standards that are being torn down and replaced with new ones. New ones that only give approval to the desires that come from our fleshly nature (sin nature). Majority opinion does not always translate into good for the common man and woman.  

The reason our idols rule us is because of the power of sin and the lure of the idol we have given ourselves to, to serve. For Paul, the resurrection of Christ was a ultimate moment in which the power of sin was broken. To put it bluntly, we now have a Power greater than any sin...any addiction....any pill, joint, bottle, line, needle...etc...etc...etc...that can lift the user out of darkness and give new life.

The resurrection is more than just proof that Christianity is the true religion. For Paul, Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate truth of where all creation is heading. From the ashes of this world, some day God will resurrect a new creation. Christ is the first of those who will be raised from the dead on the Day of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Some day, all of creation will follow and be free from corruption, decay, and death.

Paul says when Christ died and rose from death, “he died to sin, once for all” (Rom. 6:10). This fact is at the heart of Paul’s argument in Romans 6, so we can’t miss it.er we’ve given them to define us. Our idols make us feel good about ourselves, make us feel secure, and we get hooked on the affirmation, the power, and the comfort. We can only be set free when a new master comes into our life that gives us a profound new identity. Only the Jesus can do this.

Romans 6:11- So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:14 - Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law, Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace.
Good food to chew on this morning....
God on you....
Michael b.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

DTS:101 - Authority And Power

Matthew 28:18
And Jesus came and spoke to them (His Disciples, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

We had "Doing The Stuff:101" session #2 last night at Vineyard ReCovery.
We're taking a look at how Jesus ministered to those around Him, and how he taught His followers to do likewise. You see, to me, there isn't an "A" team or a "B" team when it comes to ministry. The church has taught us that such does exist. Oh they might not have actually verbalized it, but it is an unwritten rule. If you're sick, you want the A-team. You want the pastor to come and lay hands on you, or at least a deacon or elder. Don't be sending Joe Schmoe who shows up on Sunday morning. I don't think this is what Christ had in mind when he told Peter, "Upon this rock (the simple fact that He was the Messiah) I will build My church." I think Jesus operated, and continues to do us, under the premise that every follower of His get's to play in the Kingdom.

In our teaching last night, we touched on the subject of Authority and Power.
Authority is the right to carry out a duty that God may be leading you to do.
Like seeing someone who needs prayer for healing. O.k.....God just threw us in the deep end of the pool. You see the need, and automatically your mind kicks into overdrive. "Me? Not me. I don't have anyway of healing that person. Maybe God got it wrong." But the thought won't go away. "Go over and ask that person if you can pray for them." Right thee, we need to realize that God has given us the authority to act as His emissary to carry out a kingdom work.

O.k....I've got authority. Big Whoopin' deal. No, it is a big awhoopin' deal. All sickness, all disease, all infirmities are present in our time and space because of one thing. SIN! Jesus, in his death and subsequent resurrection, broke the power of the enemy at every level. So when Jesus says that ALL authority has been given to Him, He means that He is capable of undoing whatever the enemy has brought forth. Jesus, in the great commission, transferred, or brought us under His authority, and has given it to those who have chosen to follow Him. 

O.K......Now I have authority. Now what?
Well, authority without power doesn't mean much.
Authority is the right to carry out a duty given to us by God.

Power is the ability to fulfill the authority.
In other words, Jesus isn't going to call us to work in His kingdom...to pray for people, to cast out demons, to restore sight to the blind, unless He backs us up with His power. Authority and Power, given by Jesus, is the what we are learning to rely on as we move forward in our teaching on how to do the stuff.

Funny part about playing in the kingdom, and the thought that every one who follows Jesus can is that all it requires is to listen and follow the instructions you hear from God. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that we ARE salt, and we ARE light. He didn't say if you study for a long time and get a degree you can become salt and light. He didn't say if you work in the church for at least a year, you might be able to be salt and light. No! He stated right off the bat, those whose hearts are committed to Him ARE salt and light. As such, we bring flavor and preservative (salt), and illumination (light) to a world that is bland and in darkness.

I will be posting Session #2 here at the Greene Street Letters later today.
God on you...
Michael b.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Real Deal Kind Of Love

Psalm 117:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 117:29
Give thanks to the Lord,for He is good. His faithful love endures forever.

Kind of drew a blank this morning on what to share here at the Greene Street Letters.
Nothing was coming to mind....
Sat here for a while staring at the monitor....
As if something would simply pop into my tired brain.

Opened up my Bible, in a random way...
Found myself staring at Psalm 117.
Opening verse speaks of God's love....

"Yeah...I know...God loves me."
I had just taken the love of God for granted....
I've heard that phrase more times than I could count..."God loves you."
I even get a text every Friday morning shortly after 4 a.m. from a former Rapha client that says..."God loves you."

Had I fallen into a place where I took the love God has for me for granted?
I think maybe I had.

Then as I read Psalm 117, I noticed that it ended with the same verse it had started with.
God's love.....
His faithful love...
Endures forever.

Kingdom's rise, kingdom's fall. Governments come and go. Rulers step onto the stage of history but for a moment in time. But God.....
He's different.
His manner...
His nature....
The very essence of who He is never changes. He is not driven by public opinion to change who He is. He isn't checking the newspaper to see if He made the headlines this morning so as to increase public awareness. He is who He is.

Who is God?
I John 4:7 - But anyone who does not love does not know God.....For God IS love? 

He created this wonderful thing we call love....
He took from His own nature...
His own character and gave to humanity.
Now don't confuse God's love with shallow, copied shadow that the world offers up instead.

After all, as Larry Norman sang, "Beatles said all you need is love, then they broke up." Such is the love the world offers.

But not God....
God's love is pure.

Because of this, Psalm 117 says we are to give thanks.
That His loves exists....
And that it endures forever.....
I think maybe I will just do that this morning...
Give thanks, that is.

God on you.....
Michael b.