Sunday, August 31, 2008
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
This was Seth Barber's text for our message last night at Church@Rapha.
He freely admitted that this verse is taken out of context a lot but that we needed to see the heart of what Jesus was saying.
In relating it to recovery, Seth pointed out that whatever it is that stands between us and God and our recovery has to be removed. During a course I was taking from Pure Life Ministry, they referred to this verse as RADICAL AMPUTATION. Just as the thought of actually removing an eye or a foot or a hand is so outside the box of our thinking, it must be that same thought we take into our recovery. Better for us to remove and amputate friends, places and things from our live so we can enter into God's Kingdom, than to go into hell surrounded by the very things that aided in our downfall.
Because we have such a misguided love and affection for these things that would cause us to sin, we need the power of God in us to help us move on. I think God offers the power but not until we make the decision to cut or amputate these things from our life. We spend ourselves on prayer that follows the line of "Help me God!" When in reality we really mean, "Make me God!" It isn't until we admit our powerlessness and turn to God that the help comes. But even with that help, we have to make decisions and follow God to move forward from a past of destruction and devastation.
Make a conscious decision to turn our will and life over to God as we understood Him.
Until next time....
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Here is Big Wills creek out back of dorm #2. Usually the bank down to the creek is about 10 to 12 feet. But here you see the creek is at bank level. Water was moving rapidly and there was a ton of debris going by. Not very conducive to swimming. Beulah knows you'd end up at the South pole if you tried to swim it.
This is the one that caught me by surprise. This is where we do our baptisms. If you follow the bank to the right of the tree in the picture, we have carved out some steps down to the creek. Here again it is about 15 feet down to where we get in the creek for our baptisms. The water is at bank level. When I took these photo's, the creek had not crested yet so I think it may go even higher.
Just another day in paradise!..
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
"IT IS FINISHED!"
Monday, August 25, 2008
I confess that I have been in the word for a number of years and still am amazed the number of people who are drawn away into areas God never intended them to be. I am amazed at how easy people are led away by new "philosophy and deceptive teachings" that come along. I teach in fear for the most part. I don't consider it an unhealthy fear but one that keeps me always checking myself and my messages in Scripture. I do not want to be a vessel that draws people into places that God never intended them to be. I do not want to be a voice that is crying out and having people follow them. I want those who sit under my teaching to hear God. To be led to God and follow Him.
I have been reconciled.
I have been sanctified.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Some fell on stoney places, where they did not have much earth; and the immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth.But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word, immediately he stumbles.
This is something that has puzzled me over the years. I have watched this parable play out before me month after month. I see men who have this wonderful awakening in their spirit through the Word of God being taught. I see their eyes gleam with excitement over a Bible study or hearing a message. I hear these wonderful testimonies of how God has changed their life. I see them fall away and go back to their old lifestyle upon leaving the program. I never noticed how the verses in Matthew read.
In verse 5..we read where it mentions the stony places did not have much earth.
Would these be those who were hard hearted and had not repented?
Those who had not "Broken up the fallow ground of their hearts?"
Those who approached the understanding of God through their minds and not their hearts?
John the Baptist came preaching, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord".
Maybe we don't spend enough time talking and sharing on repentance?
On letting the Holy Spirit work in us. We are so wanting "INSTANT" salvation that we forget and neglect that it is God who dictates the times and terms of our salvation.
We believe the warm fuzzy feeling we get when we hear the Word of God is all that signifies a changed live. Not so.
Notice what else it says;
The seed immediately sprang up. Why? Because they had no depth of earth. We think the first signs of God in a life means the battle is over. Victory in Jesus. While I am not discounting the life that has been brought by God to an individual, we see what happens when that person does not cooperate.
V21 - Yet he has no root in himself.
The seed does not take root. Why? Because the hard ground, the fallow ground has not been turned through confession and repentance. The promises of God will not root in unprepared ground.
It goes on to read that when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word.
Why would that happen? Because the man is still living and making decisions based from his flesh or sin nature. Tribulation or persecution because of the Word.......The word divides the heart and reveals us for who we truly are. When the Word contradicts what the flesh wants, if there isn't any root, the flesh will win.
Notice these two words:
V20- Immediately receives it with joy
V21- Immediately he stumbles.
Maybe slow and steady is the path of the Kingdom.
I think maybe I need to mentor more and not be so quick to endorse those who quickly find Jesus.
I think from now on my cry will be "Show me the quality of your dirt."
God help me that I forget.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
There weren't any programs or plans or agenda to this move of God. It was free flowing and each one who "jumped into the river of His Kingdom" sought to do what God put on their hearts. It was a generation that had said all we need was love. We soon found out that the love of the world was not what was needed. We needed the love of God.
We probably became a bit proud and arrogant of our new found love for Jesus. We threw away some great things the church had fought for over the years. Things that I now hold dear and sacred. But....we were the generation that was going to bring change.
In the summer of 1971(It may have been 1972..the date escapes me), a hundred thousand kids showed up in Dallas Texas for EXPLO. To worship and take to the streets to share Jesus. The cry of my generation was "ONE WAY!!! ONE WAY MAN!!! JUST JESUS!! Free and forgiven, children of the Lamb. We were the generation that was going to change things.
Chuck Smith was busy in California baptizing thousands in the Pacific Ocean. The country viewed them as long-haired hippies. God took these rejects in and change the face of church. We were the generation that was going to change everything.But we didn't. Some things changed. New churches who approached God in a new fresh way began to sprout around the country. For some of us here in Gadsden, we found this Jesus revolution through Campus Crusade for Christ. The local staff was from California and they shared with us what was going on. For many, this was new. We were not hearing this in our churches. We were not being told of the power and purity of God that was coming to our generation. The Jesus movement in Gadsden came through an office located across from Gadsden High School next to Graham's Drug Store. Seeds were planted in lives through Crusade's work that still are producing fruit to this day.
Time passed. Change came to all of us. It was all part of growing up.
We grew older and cynical. We married and had kids. Raised our families and tried to find our place. The generation's flame grew dim.
There are other generations coming up. I pray that I am not so cynical that when I read where this next generation has already been labeled that I discount it because of my own life. I pray that like Simeon, God would let me see this generation be completely who God has called them to be. That I pass my blessing to them along with what wisdom I have. May I impart what God has so freely given to me.
Did my generation fail?
I don't think so, but neither did we succeed.
I just think we bought into all the hoopla that said we were special. On one hand, we were. But only God gets to define a generation.
I am grateful for the years that he has allowed me to participate in His Kingdom.
I am grateful for where he has my plow today and that my wife has been joined to me to plow the same field. May we never look back.
Peace and Love Baby!
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
There were the obligatory video of student protest of the war in Viet Nam, Washington D.C. and take over of administration buildings on college campuses around the country. I caught myself wondering about how the current generation views this retrospective. To watch a show such as this gives one the impression that the entire nation was consumed with anarchy and change. Truth be known, the entire nation wasn't.
In 1968 my world consisted of a two-lane blacktopped highway that ran through the center of a rural community in the western part of Etowah County. People cut their grass, had gardens where they raised food to eat and not impress their neighbors. Men got up and went to work and the church was the central focal point of social life. Mom's stayed at home and did "momly" things (that is not a shot). Kids went to school by bus (heaven's forbid that Daddy didn't buy us a car). I guess what I'm trying to say is that my world in 1968 was vastly different from the media and powers that be painted it out to be. I think the same holds true today. I admit that we were influenced by what was happening in our country, but for the most part our lives did not reflect what this documentary showed.
Everyone (media secular and Christian) is running around trying to define the big picture of Christianity and they can't even see the little picture that is right there in front of their eyes. The Church forsakes the call in their community to embrace what they perceive as a larger call. Church thought is "We need to be moving in a larger arena of influence. We need to be reaching out farther and harder and making a difference." NEWSFLASH! God never called you to make a difference. He called you to be obedient........HE makes the difference. By having this mindset, the church misses the call and need that is right outside their doorstep.
Don't you find it strange that everyone is all caught up in loving the addict and those in recovery, but prior to 2002, the church didn't show signs of this love. It wasn't until someone on the left coast of America started a "program" that the church went, "Hey....let's help the addict." You may think I'm criticising Rick Warren and Saddleback church. I'm not. It just drives me crazy that leaders and pastors and churches can't hear God for themselves. The only thing they can do is copy what is the hottest and latest fad.
My desire to help those in recovery started back in 1998 and I will let you know that helping addicts was the last thing on my mind. God had different plans. What I do today is because of what was on God's heart that He spoke to me back '98. The call was simple.
"Michael.......do what I say."
I knew the first time I went to Rapha that I had to go back. I never in my wildest dreams ever saw myself in the position I'm in today.
I think God wants us to each take care of our little corner of the Kingdom. Quit getting caught up in the "Stuff" that's out there. Unless God leads you to participate in something, or go somewhere different, you walk in the last thing He told you to do.
I wanted to go to Toronto when the renewal broke out, but He wouldn't release me to. Not until October of 1998. Why? Why did He keep me from going for 4 years? Because it wasn't time yet.
His plans included a Saturday night service for those in Recovery (HOUSE OF BLUE) and teaching in a rehab about God.
I had a well-intentioned woman approach me some years back about going with her group to Russia to minister. They wanted me to speak on drug and alcohol recovery to a village somewhere in rural Russia. She told me that everything would be paid for and all I had to do was go. It was a tempting offer, but the temptation was more for my ego that what God wanted. After much prayer, I informed the woman that I would have to decline her offer. She was kind of miffed by my refusal. She asked me, "Don't you care for the addicts and alcoholics in Russia?" I stood there for a moment and then asked her, "Don't you care for the addicts and alcoholics in Attalla?" The point being, I was called to Attalla to work. Not Russia. For me to have taken that trip would be my flesh and not God directing me.
Focus on your part of the Kingdom unless God says it's o.k. to look elsewhere.
God on you.......
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
They cried out to the Lord in their trouble and he delivered them from their distress.
They cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.
I listed 2 verses from Psalm 107 where people cried out to the Lord, in the middle of their troubles......................and he delivered them.
From their distress.
If you read the entire chapter you will find four such references to crying out to God in trouble and being delivered from distress.
My first thought is, "It doesn't say that the Lord delivered them from their trouble. It says He delivered them from their distress."
Isn't that the same thing? No. Trouble would be the situation or circumstance these people were in. The situation or circumstance created hardship whether real or psychological causing the people to turn to the Lord.
The Lord heard, but took them from the emotional turmoil and pressures the event or situation was causing. Delivering them from their distress. How does He do that? By bringing peace.
Peace to their hearts.
Peace to their minds.
Peach to their spirits.
and most importantly the ability to walk in the middle of the situation without caving in and being crushed by emotional strain that comes.
Most people today seek relief from the event rather than grab hold of the hand of God. I don't say this lightly as my own heart seeks relief from the things I face. I want God to come swooping in and rescue me. After all, I am a child of His. I fail to see the real purpose that God has for allowing me to go through certain events. He wants me to grow up in Christ.
Maybe today I'll ask for relief from my distress rather than run away from everything.
God on you....
Friday, August 15, 2008
Sometime I grow weary of the struggle.
Weighed down by those things God never intended me to carry.
I have to realize that it is His Kingdom and I am but a servant in it. The Kingdom does not rise or fall on my wishes or efforts, but on my obedience to Christ my King.
He called me.
He invited me into His Kingdom.
He put me in place to carry out my portion of this massive work.
All He did was say, "Come!"
His Holy Spirit teaches, leads and provides that which is needed for each day.
His plan is not deterred by King or ruler.
President or dictator.
Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing?
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together agains the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, "let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us."
He who sits in the heavens shall laugh;
Thank you that you are THE mighty fortress.
The world has lauched it weapons and ideaologies against you and they crash and crumble against the truth of who you are.
Today, I look to you.
You alone are the source of strenght and direction I need to simply walk out this day.
Grant my peace.
Grant me vision and hearing to hear you and obey.
Cover my family and friends with your grace and mercy.
In Jesus name....
We say they are stoic and non-moving. We picture such "nonsense" as being written on stone. Hard.
That there isn't life in a dry, dead, written belief declaration.
We say that life is flowing and always changing. Moving with or without purpose depending on the theology of the moment.
IF a man is drowning, then he needs a stable place, a firm place on which to crawl and be taken out of the rushing waters. A place that puts stability under his feet and gives him that firm place from which he can continue on with journey.
I come in contact with a number of people who have cast aside the past in order to build what they think a future should look like. This is especially true when it comes to church.
They lay aside all the foundational truths and lay hold of only one.
Jesus loves you.
While this is true, this is not a stopping off place where you can plant your flag and live.
If indeed Jesus does love us. That love comes with expectations on His part.
Expectations for me, that I should heed His leading and follow Him.
Expectations for Himself as the Kingdom of God is advanced.
Jesus loves me, but Jesus also disciplines me when I disobey.
Jesus loves me but He wants me to grow and mature in Him.
I don't think Jesus wants to oversee an adult Christian Day care where everyone is still a babe.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Can you truly point in the Word of God to back up what you claim to believe, or is your truth simply what you have picked up over the years?
We do not have the luxury of falling on bad theology or discount truth.
I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried:
He descended into hell; The third day he rose again from the dead
He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead
I believe in the Holy Ghost
I believe in the holy catholic church; the communion of saints
The forgiveness of sins
The resurrection of the body
and the life everlasting
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
There are three massive armies approaching.
II Chronicles 20:5-6
Then Jehoshophat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, "O LORD God of our fathers, are you God in heaven, and do You not rule over all the kingdoms of the nations, and in Your hand is there not power and might, so that no one is able to withstand You?
Jehoshophat is not questioning God.
He is reminding God of who He is.
It's not that God doesn't remember, but in the very act of Jehoshophat reciting the nature and deeds of God, Jehoshophat is remembering who God is.
That the situation he and his kingdom is facing is bleak and there aren't any answers.
God alone is the hope and salvation of the nation.
What do you think would happen if our president called for a moratorium that all the nation should gather?
In this gathering, the president would lead us in prayer. Not a prayer scripted by writers or other clergy. But a prayer of the heart for God to intervene in our country.
We are being attacked on all sides by our enemy.
We have opened our doors and welcomed him in.
We have entertained his teachings and messages and have taken them to heart.
We have sacrificed our sons and daughters, our future and their future for a lifestyle of comfort.
Now the barbarian's are at the gates.
You who are LORD over all. Whose authority and power knows no boundaries. Does not recognize any government, save the Kingdom of Heaven.
You who established this nation 200+ years ago and have brought from us a light to the world.
Forgive us for letting that light grow dim.
Forgive our arrogance that came from possessing the light.
We humble ourselves before you and repent of our sins.
For our lack of love for each other, ourselves and especially You.
We recognize and do bow humbly before you knowing that our nation is in dire peril without intervention by You.
Rain Your Spirit on us and our dry and thirsty land, O' LORD.
Not that we may have an emotional restoration of our flesh.
But that once and for all time, our streets and roads would be awash in tears as we confess the truth that You alone are worthy to be worshipped.
We repent for man-centered theology and a church that seeks to usurp Your power. We gladly use Your name but not Your Word.
We ask for a restoration of families.
For an awakening of all believer's to the truth of Isaiah 61...
This is year of the favor of the Lord.
May we be lost in you.
Save us O' God.
In Jesus Name...
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
.......go and sin no more.
Woman caught in adultery.
Dragged before Jesus to be used as an object lesson to trap Him.
Religious rulers standing firm on the law could not see that God's Grace was standing right in front of them.
I believe she was cast down at Jesus' feet.
Thrown down into the dust, representing her flesh.
Reminding us all of the frailty of humanity.
She was guilty.
There was no denying it.
Here she would have to answer for her sin.
Two sides in a showdown, facing each other.
Jesus speaks truth and the crowd slowly dwindles away until it is just He and the woman.
She has not spoken.
The very last thing Jesus said to her was, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."
Jesus was not excusing her sin.
He addressed the issue.
GO and live your life, but don't sin.
Does this mean that He expected her to do this in her own strength? I don't think so.
Anyone who has tried not to sin finds it very obvious that we lack strength and will power to walk in such a manner.
Why "Don't sin?"
She had to see the truth.
The truth that was standing right in front of her.
We are not told of what happened to this lady after this meeting with Jesus.
We don't know what her life turned out to be.
But for one brief moment in time, God, in the form of man, stood before this woman and forgave her and told her to go and sin no more.
Sexual sin has become an accepted norm in our society.
Outside of the church as well as inside.
It is accepted.
No one dare talk about it.
No one dare expose sin.
We make ourselves feel really good by focusing on homosexuals.
I'm not excusing any sin. Sin is sin.
But do you ever think that the reason we are so angry at homosexuals is because of the rampant sexual sin that lies unexposed in our churches and pulpits?
What do you think would happen if Jesus showed up Sunday in our churches and simply said, "Go and sin no more!"
Would we gasp in surprise? "Sin?......here?........I know we have attitudes that need to change...but sin?"
Somehow I think we have become like the King's New Clothes.
No one dares to say that the King is naked. We pretend that his clothes are beautiful.
Jesus sees us naked and bare before him. We cannot hide our sin.
I put myself in that boat, lest you think I sit here as one who looks down.
God help us all.....
Monday, August 11, 2008
And Jesus answered said unto him, "Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becomes us to fulfill all righteousness."
Jesus walked out all that the Father commanded Him to.
Here we see his encounter with John the Baptist and John's hesistation to baptize Him.
Jesus lets John know that this is part of God's bigger purpose and plan. That what is happening goes farther and deeper than a simple baptism.
Jesus, through the baptism identifies himself with sinful men and women.
"I am one of you."
"But I am not like you."
Jesus' life will be the ransom to free you from the power of death and sin.
The comfort I take in the verse from Matthew is that Jesus was making sure that he did not let anything be undone that the Father wanted accomplished. He was in compliance and surrender to the Father's will.
That is where I want to be.
That is the place where we all are called to walk.
No excuses about sin or our human condition.
We are to walk it out.
I'll let Him define that.
He knows about the human condition. The thoughts and attitudes and behaviors that we hide behind. He is willing to break through all of that and still fill us with His Holy Spirit for His Kingdom work.
Thank you Lord.....
Sunday, August 10, 2008
We didn't understand everything that went on.
God on you.......
Friday, August 8, 2008
One group holds fast to the text of Scripture. The live under the mandate that God does not change (Malachi 3:6). They believe that the Word of God is the means to hear God, and that all we need is found in the Word. They believe that God sent the promised Holy Spirit to be our guide that would lead us into all truth. I think we miss that word sometimes. We glide over it. We move past it quickly since it is such a small word. "ALL" truth.
They love to worship and join together as a community of believers and sing to the heavens with one voice. No one would doubt their passion and commitment to worship. But what I have seen is that they have no sound theology. Everything is open for discussion and acceptance. They speak of levels of anointing that God wants to send. They speak of "destiny" and "inheritance." They paint a picture of a better life just out of reach of the "everyday" believer.
Sometimes we cry out to God for things that sound good on the surface, yet we are totally ignorant of what we are asking for. I remember talking with a young man who said, "You know, I want to die for Jesus. Go to another country spreading the gospel and give my life for my savior." The more he spoke, the more you could tell that it was all about him and whatever glory might come of this death he was eager to embrace. I told him, "you know...dying for Jesus is easy. It's living for him that is hard."
Fulfilling our call where we have been planted.
Following by the Spirit of God.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
One of the strongest statements I ever heard someone say was on a teaching tape from a series by John Wimber. He stated, "The flesh or sin nature is not permitted in prayer. No mixing of man's will in God's work is possible."
What does this mean?
God does not will himself to follow what man initiates. He is not bound by some mystical, eternal code of ethics that forces Him to follow man's petty petitions.
As His creation, it is our duty to seek out the heart of God and then breathe back to Him in our prayers what His will is.
Why would we think that Jesus' command to FOLLOW HIM would end with our prayers and that our prayers could become a vehicle for our own human desires and will? We have somehow not grasped the idea that we truly were bought with a price and we truly do belong to Jesus.
Every day I am made painfully aware that my life is no longer mine to do with as I please. The pain comes from my old nature wanting to have it's way. Screaming at me, "Go ahead and follow this Jesus but don't surrender everything!"
I have given my life once to Jesus.
I give my will every day.
Some days are easy.
Some days are a struggle.
Many believer's don't want to hear this. They want a pseudo-feel-good-theology.
My prayers are covered in tears a lot of the time.
My prayers are sometimes without words. Just groaning and weeping.
This is the school we are called to.
Each day is a teaching lesson.
I learn the shallowness of my own life in relation to the fullness of God.
That is what brings Joy to my heart.
That is the hope that causes me to rise up every morning.
That in communion with Christ, As I find His heart and will, I can truly breathe back to Him, in prayer, his plans for me. Then, as it says in Psalm 5....I wait expecting!
God on you......
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
It will be an evening of community coming together with one simple goal.
To give praise and honor to the one true living God.
The God who sustains us.
The God who has saved us.
Service starts at 7 p.m.
Very casual dress.
See you there
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
We have a band-aid mentality when it comes to dealing with the issues and situations life throws at us every day.
Even in our relationship with Jesus, we want him to come and take the pain, remove the hurt and make everything better. What does it profit us to gain relief from pain if we don't see or understand the eternal things of God.'
Sunday, August 3, 2008
It has not been an easy time, but I guess the most important thing to come out of this is to realize that we are all growing, trying to hear God.
As worship leader, I missed it last night.
The songs that I picked were not what was needed.
Here again is the learning process. Of course you'd think after 15 years I'd be better at it.
When worship is going on, the one thing you don't want to do is watch the room and respond to how they are responding. If the crowd is flat and doesn't seem to be entering into worship, you have a tendency to want to do something to pump them up. Unfortunately, that is manipulation and I think God doesn't look to favorably on this.
The message was on "leaving the past".
Saul/Paul was the main focus of the teaching.
Paul's life prior to his Damascus road encounter with Jesus as compared to Paul's life after the encounter.
It was the encounter with Jesus that became the defining moment in Paul's life.
What occurred after this encounter was the "leaving of the past" for Paul.
no longer was he the enemy of the church.
He became the voice of the church.
Paul never forgot the terrible things that he brought against the Church of Jesus.
He never allowed it to define him. Paul took the past and used it as fuel to move forward with Jesus.
In Philippians we read where Paul lists all his accomplishments before he met Jesus as compared with his current life. Paul said that they count for nothing. In fact Paul says that they pale in comparison of the knowledge of knowing Jesus. He counts them all in the negative column when weighed against his relationship with Jesus.
Seems to me that today people simply want to forget what they have done.
Remembrance of your past does not mean you have to heap guilt, shame and condemnation on yourself. It is a reminder that fosters gratitude for what Christ has done in us and for us.
"Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do; forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Joshua 1:2 ....Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them....the childr...