Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Who Am I? Who Are We?



I know that several of you stop by here from time to time to read and peruse the pages of this blog. Because of an ever changing range of folks dropping by, I occasionally have the urge to update and fill you in on exactly who I am and what it is I do.
My name is Michael Bynum and I serve as Chaplain/ Staff Pastor for Rapha Ministries, a Christ Centered Drug and Alcohol Rehab. That is why a lot of the topics I blog about are concerned with recovery and sobriety and a new life through Christ.

You may be asking, "Is that my picture above?" Nope. That is my spiritual father and mentor, John Wimber. John was the one who gave the Vineyard association "Game." Another way of putting it, would be that John was used by God to bring the Vineyard to the forefront of the 80's and 90's. I was very lucky in that Gadsden Vineyard Church, where I served as Associate Pastor of eight years, had an incredible library of teachings and conferences on tape. During my eight years there, that library became my seminary as I studied from it daily. It helped to shape and cement who I am in Christ and what my beliefs are about the Kingdom of God.

Here at Rapha, I have the wonderful privilege to hold a Saturday night service for those in the program as well as any former clients that want to return. The worship is not always perfect or musically sound (wrong notes / wrong words / but a righteous heart), but it is heart felt and very passionate. Because the ones who attend are always in transition, we try to maintain the simplicity of the Gospel.
1.) I'm a sinner
2.) Jesus is the only way
3.) Cross and Tomb offer me freedom from my sin
4.) Confess/ Repent/ Believe.
Jesus is Lord and Savior.

I have been here at Rapha going on into my 14th year. I never envisioned myself being here this long. The very first time I came here back in the late 90's, I swore I'd never be back. God had other plans and since his plans are better than mine..........I accepted his offer to come back. One thing lead to another and I found myself teaching classes. I served the first 6 years as a volunteer and the rest as part of the staff.

My passion is to pass on what God has shown me to those who truly want it.
II Timothy 2:2 kinds of sums up what I am called to do.  "You have heard me teach many things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others." In other words, I want to make disciples. Men who can leave this program and return to their lives, full of the Spirit of God, able to hear God and give away what has been entrusted to them. Anytime one of these men return or call me to let me know what incredible things God is doing in their lives, that is payday for me.

I have been blessed beyond measure over these years to see God do some incredible things in the lives of men that the world has given up on and cast aside. I celebrate each victory and I weep with each one that doesn't make it. I came to the realization long ago that God has called me to be obedient and that through this, He would make the difference in the lives of the men. So I teach. I instruct. I pray over and weep over. I encourage and I correct. All the while, pointing to Jesus as not just the answer, but the only answer to every problem I suffer with on this side of eternity.

What a wonderful, merciful God!
God on you.....
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Leviticus...Hang on to you hats!!!

Leviticus 1:1-2
The LORD called to Moses from the Tabernacle and said to him...."Give the following instructions to the Israelites...."

I do love me some Leviticus.
"What?"
"Are you crazy....Leviticus is the dullest of the dull."
I use to think that until I began to see what was going on, and how it applied to my every-day-walking-around-eating-sleeping-life.
God has delivered and removed Israel from the land of Egypt.
The land of Egypt where they lived 430 years.
I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I do believe if a group of people live in the same spot....the same country for an extended period of time, they would tend to take on the customs and habits of the society.
Bingo! That is exactly what happened to Israel. They (As the Bangles so aptly put it) walked like an Egyptian.

God delivered them with power and took them away from the influence of the Egyptian culture.
But as the old saying goes...you can take the boy out of Egypt but you can't take Egypt out of the boy. Well, in this case, you can.
You see God instituted rules for living.
Rules of righteous and right living because he knew it was going to take time for the people to adapt to a new way of seeing life.
That is why Leviticus and Number as well as the book of Deuteronomy is so exciting to me. Here we have the standards for life in this new community of people.

So how does this all apply to me?
First off...I have not been called to live by the dietary or religious rules found in these books. It is helpful, however, for me to understand the extent that God does want to invade my life and change for his kingdom and his plans. I am not free to run willy-nilly through my day with an occasional passing thought on God and his purposes. He is center and at the front of every thing I say and do. I want to please him. I want to grow in him. I want to learn to "hear" him better and then follow the dictates of his will. I can't do this if I am steeped in the culture of today. I have to live in this culture, but I don't have to be a part of it. I don't have to sell myself to it and embrace its beliefs.

The Life Recovery Bible states the purpose of the book of Leviticus:
To show that God desires to have personal fellowship with those who turn to him. Only through the channels of worship and personal obedience to God can we fully experience the cleansing and freedom he offers to those who believe.

The book of Leviticus shows us a God who is beyond our imagination. A God who is holy, pure, clean, sinless and perfect. As you read the book you'll come across countless rules and regulations given to the Israelites. These only confirm to us the truth of God's nature and character. The people needed to humbly obey God if they wanted to live in close fellowship with him. But despite his holiness, God reached (and still does so) out to a broken and sinful people. He provides a way---(though the path is difficult)  for all to recover from their past failures.

The laws and sacrifices we read about in Leviticus point to or can be viewed as a type and shadow of God's later provision of the perfect sacrifice...........Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we no longer need animal sacrifices to atone for our sins. Instead, it is through believing in God's loving forgiveness and in Christ's power over sin and death that we are saved.

Is that cool or what?
God on you....
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Separation

Leviticus 20:23
Do not live by the customs of the people whom I will expel before you. It is because they do these terrible things that I detest them so much.

I really don't want to fall into a category of someone who continually is harping on what we "AREN'T" doing. You know, someone who has a list of rule and regulations and takes it upon themselves to be the "moral" police to every one else. That really isn't my call. So if I write something in a posting here at the Greene Street Letters, it is first and foremost directed to myself. Not that I'm trying to punish myself or walk around like some suffering servant with scars, no! I'm simply giving my personal take on the things that God is dealing with me in my daily life.

It is a fine line between living in a culture and society and taking on the customs and belief's of that society. We seem to be able to embrace and slide into the custom and culture a lot easier than we are to see if it indeed is pleasing to God. I am quick to excuse things in my behavior only to be quickened by God's Holy Spirit into seeing that what I am embracing is not pleasing to God.  Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we loose our moral compass and become the judge and jury of what we think we should believe and take unto ourselves as our way of life.

It really is like Judges 21:25 when it reads, "In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes. Without the word of God and His Holy Spirit to guide us, we become a people ruled by appetite. Right becomes whatever we want at the moment. That is the scary part of the human will and mind. We can justify just about what every we want to in order to get our way. People in addiction do some terrible things simply because they have reasoned within themselves that this behavior is justifiable in order to achieve an end. We will steal, lie, cheat and hurt those around us because our needs take precedent over anyone else.

I want to live my life the way the prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 50:4-5 -- The Sovereign LORD has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know what to say to all these weary ones. Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign LORD has spoken to me, and I have listened. I do not rebel or turn away.

Let me ask you something.
How has your way of living and doing business with the world worked?
Do you live in peace?
Or do you have a storm of emotional and spiritual turmoil inside yourself?
Today is the best day to start a new life with Jesus.
God on you....
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Death--where is your sting?

I find myself getting up earlier and earlier each day. This morning I got up at 4:27 a.m.
Spent time in prayer and Bible study and, after my wife woke up, went for my morning walk.
It was 38 degrees but I kind of like getting out when it cold like that. I like the wind in my face (that is if I have on my big, honkin', winter coat and gloves). I like the quietness of our neighborhood as I make my way down Case Avenue. My thoughts were directed toward all the pain and hurt that has invaded my world. Those around me that I know and love are struggling with health issues. I realize that we are all getting older. I never could even envision myself being 60 years old, but here I am. As I walked I prayed for those I knew were in the hospital or at home in hospice. I know that I know that death is the transition from this side of heaven to the other side in the presence of Jesus. I know that what I claim to be believe today will, upon my death, become truth that I know. Everything I profess to believe and be true by the word of God, I will see, touch, taste, hear and smell once I cross over in death.

Don't take me for morbid. I'm not.
Don't think I've a death wish to go ahead and be with Jesus. I don't.
But it is a part of living.
I guess what I truly want is to see death the way God sees it.
I believe  in Psalms 116:15- Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Death has value to God.
Especially when it involves someone who has given their life to Him. To take them from this side and bring them into His presence to receive their reward is something that God holds dear. He calls it precious. I don't know if I could say death was precious at this time. I know that there were instances where death was very merciful, in that it was the ultimate healing to a loved one that was suffering.
The state of the person as far as their relationship with God makes death a precious thing. For those who have lived their lives under the guidance of God's Holy Spirit find that death is merely the next step in this journey. I am excited that there is more even after this life. How cool is that?

I Corinthians 15:22 - 26
Everyone dies because all of us are related to Adam the first man. But all who are related to Christ, the other Adam, will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised first; then when Christ comes back, all his people will be raised. After that the end will come, when he will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having put down all enemies of every kind. For Christ must reign until he humbles all his enemies beneath his feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death.

God on you....
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Friday, January 27, 2012

Let The Journey Begin

Tomorrow night will be the first time I have taught since my heart attack back in December. I am grateful to Debbie, Sam and Seth for teaching and bringing a feast of the Word to us. I have been kind of chasing a thought that God gave me during the month of December. I am going to teach a message from each book of Scripture beginning this Saturday night. We will start in Genesis and hopefully take it all the way through Revelation. Along the way, I pray that  God would help me to see truth about myself. Truth about Himself (God) and truth about the Kingdom here now in this age. I know that we do not see the completeness of the Kingdom of God yet, in other words, we have a Kingdom here but not yet. What is the Kingdom of God? It is where ever His rule and reign is being carried out in the hearts and lives of the people. We pray in Matthew 6:10: Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We are asking God to bring forth the power, the practices and the plans of heaven as He is directing them, and let them take root and grow right here in our time and space.

Hopefully during this journey, we will see the incredible power of God to eliminate the death and damage that sin has caused. In seeing this, may we all become more trusting in God and allow Him to work in our own lives.

I truly am working on getting the messages back on each week and hopefully I will have the one from this coming Saturday night ready by next Tuesday. I am excited about what God is doing here at Rapha.
2012 is going to be a year of the Word. More than that, 2012 is going to be the year of the illumination of God's word in our hearts. Make plans to join us as we begin this journey, this Saturday night here at Rapha --- 7 p.m. If you can't make it, then look for the message in the podcast section of the Greene Street Letters.

Psalm 107:20
He sent His word and healed them, and delivered thim from their destruction.

God on you....
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Number # 1300

Today is my 1300 posting here at the Greene Street Letters. Wouldn't it be great to really believe that each of the 1300 entries would be jewels of wisdom. That some day in the future, a beleaguered, down trodden individual happened across this blog and from the entries was able to unlock the secrets and mysteries of the Kingdom of God? Truth is....it ain't going to happen. Over the past 1299 entries, some have been funny. There have been postings which maybe did strike something deep inside and awakened someone to God's truth. Remember...God's truth has always been there. It's me that is thick and dull and not very perceptive.

I remember our first year of posting here on this blog. We had just moved our Sunday morning service to Saturday night and I wanted to connect with the guys who had finished and left the program here at Rapha. I wanted them to be able to keep up with what was going on here at Rapha, as well as giving them a kind of daily devotional that would keep them pointed in the right direction in their recovery. Something that would encourage them and keep them focused.

From time to time, I seem to loose my focus and take the blog off into areas that may not seem recovery related. God, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, always leads me back. For that I am grateful. I know that the words you read here are very simple and, in fact, you've probably heard them before.
"One day at a time."
"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."
"It works if you work it."
"It about spiritual progress, not spiritual perfection."
"Rarely have we seen anyone fail who follows this simple path."
It isn't the words or even the thought behind the words.
It's about the heart who reads the words.
Is the heart ready to receive truth?
If so, then the words will become a match that ignites the dry, hard wilderness places where we have held on to our addictive secrets in order to control our life.
We allow God to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.

There is no doubt in my mind (or heart) that Jesus is the answer to the problem of addiction.
Addiction affects the body.
Addiction affects the mind.
And addiction affects the spirit.
Salvation introduces and awakens my spirit to the voice and life that God wants to give me.
Salvation brings healing to my body.
Salvation clears, cleans and restores my mind.
Jesus brings wholeness and completeness to hearts who are ready to change their ways and their lives.
This is more than a theory.
I have seen the healing hand...
The saving hand.....
The restoring hand of God work in the lives of those who had given up.
That is why I will never stop sharing about this God.
That is why I will never give up on anyone who is trapped by addiction.
My God is able to save and heal.

Isaiah 59:1
Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and he is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call.

Have a great day!
God on you....
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Thursday, January 26, 2012

God Is My Provision

Exodus 16:4
God said to Moses, "I'm going to rain bread down from the skies for you. The people will go out and gather each day's rations. I'm going to test them to see if they'll live according to my teaching or not."

(From today's QUICK STUDY)
What would it be like with no money, no economy, no foreign trade pacts, no stores or restaurants, no banks? Israel found out. This new nation was taken into the wilderness to learn how to build a community God's way. It was not capitalistic or socialistic or communist, not even a monarchy. This was a Heavenly economy, with bread falling from heaven and water coming from rocks! God can, and always has been able to sustain His people any time, any place, any way He desires. He (God) is the same yesterday, today and forever.....(Pastor Rod Hembree)

Why do we doubt God's ability to sustain us today, here in our world? Why is it we don't trust God?
When the economy went south back in 2008, people suffered. There was great fear and panic about what the future held. Had God changed because of this down turn in our economy? I don't think so. I think we need to become more trusting in our relationship with God. If the truth be known, we don't really want God to provide for us, we want Him to save and sustain our current standard of living. Let me keep my toys and baubles and beads and I will follow you. I don't think it works that way. Now don't get me wrong, I truly believe that God doesn't mind us having things. The problem comes in when things have us and possess us to the point that losing them becomes more important than me knowing God.

The greatest place to be is where there is a total relying on God to meet our needs and to guide us. Was taking care of Israel's daily need #1 on God's list? Probably not. Getting them to the promised land was the most important factor in this journey, but how like God to cover all the needs and things that Israel had to have in order to survive. Now if God did this for Israel as a nation, how much more, under the new covenant of Christ, will God take care of you?

I look to God in every aspect of my life. He is not my provider.....He is my provision. He is all sufficient to my life. He is the sustainer and giver of life that has, through my salvation, transported me from a life of spiritual darkness and death, into a life of spiritual light and eternal life with Christ.
It doesn't get any better than this!
Look to God today to be your provision.
He will not disappoint you or let you down.
God on you today!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bobby Sparks



I kind of like this picture of me. I'm really not very photogenic. My face is kind of hard on camera's. But this particular picture has always intrigued me in that one side is dark and deep with shadow, while the other is bathed in light. Kind of symbolizes life doesn't it? The ongoing conflict between the Kingdom of God and the forces of the devil. I am very thankful that God has placed me in a family that shares a common salvation. I am grateful for the friends that God has surrounded me with and that I can, in return, be a friend.

I got a call from a good friend yesterday. Hadn't talk to him in some while and we did a lot of catching up. That is the wonderful thing about having a good friend. It doesn't matter how long it has been since you last talked, you can pick right up with out missing a beat as though you had just seen each other yesterday. It is like that with Bobby Sparks.

Bobby is someone I admire.
Brutally honest about himself, his current walk with God and with what God is showing him, Bobby speaks truthfully and from the hip. He doesn't pull any punches and for that I am grateful. I need people like Bobby Sparks in my life. I need someone who will tell me the things I don't really want to hear.  As Proverbs 18:24 reads: Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family. Bobby is that type of man. He always seems to know when to call or when to come and see you. To be a voice of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on. At the same time, Bobby has wisdom that tells him he is blessed beyond measure to be surrounded by such friends who will be there for him.

Bobby also writes a blog The Spiritual Journey Of A Blue Collar Christian.  If you looking to add another resource to your daily readings, then I highly recommend Bobby's blog. God has connected Bobby with some of the "big boys" of the Kingdom. Men like R.T. Kendall and Dudley Hall and many others who I would classify as defenders of the faith. From Bobby's blog you will be able to read and listen to some incredible teachings.

Bobby's life is pretty much summed up in the words that the Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 2:
I identified myself completely with Him (Jesus). Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not mine, but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.

Thanks for stopping by Greene Street Letters.
God on you.....
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Turkey's or Eagles?


(Borrowed from the SACRED SANDWICH)

"This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love and self-discipline (or a sound mind)......II Timothy 1:6-7

We grow cold, hard and indifferent when we "quit" on God.
Quitting comes in many shapes, forms and fashions.
Quitting can appear when we simply grow complacent or apathetic about our relationship with Christ.
We quit walking out the disciplines He has called us to.
We quit reading our Bibles.
We quit praying.
We quit going to church or Bible study or what ever you may call the community of believers you hang out with.
We quit giving of our time, talent and MONEY for the Kingdom work.
In others words......we quit. But there is one thing we don't quit.
We don't quit expecting God to haul our bacon out of the fire when we get in trouble.
We don't quit expecting God to bless us...after all "He is God and we are only human and He understands that so He will keep on piling on the blessings even though we have quit on Him.
Sorry Charlie!
It doesn't work that way....
Does it?

Hebrews 2:1 reads:
"So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it."
Drifting away from truth means that we are moving closer to lies and falsehoods.
Drifting away from the truth means we are leaving a place of safety and headed
for a place of danger.
Another translation of scripture reads, "How can we neglect so great a salvation?"
How can we simply cast it aside like some old coat in order to go about our own business?
I don't think we can.
Sometimes we (and here I mean me) need to be reminded of our need to stay in
close proximity of Jesus.
I know the Holy Spirit resides in me.
Close proximity involves keeping my thoughts on Jesus
and my own personal will at arms length away from me.
I do so to embrace His will.

Don't be one of the frozen chosen!
God on you....
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Continuation in Isaiah 35

Looking around at this old world, one can't help but see and feel the spiritual darkness and fear that is rising up in our societies and in the people. A people who do not know God and have turned their attention and their appetites toward a quick fix. As the big book says, "we look for the easier, softer way."

Isaiah 35 deals with God's redemptive power to restore and make new. God's ability and power to resurrect life out of what we perceive to be dead. We see death, God sees opportunity and life. In this chapter from Isaiah, we see God speaking prophetically using the image of a desert that has received rain and because of this water, life begins to appear. Water has always been a symbol of the Holy Spirit in scripture, so God is saying that it is His Spirit that brings life to our wilderness places. The places of fear in our heart are filled with His peace. The places of doubt and mistrust in our hearts are filled with the assurance that He is who He claims to be and will do what He has promised.

Isaiah 35:6-7 reads: The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will shout and sing! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the desert. The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. March grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived.
God will take those dry, dead places in our hearts and fill them with life. Life that seeks the eternal things of God for nourishment and the temporary things of this world.
Eternal life.....
Eternal peace......
Eternal mercy.....
Eternal grace......
Eternal relationship with the one, true living God.....

V10 of this chapter is the culmination that God will bring about. Me? I'm so looking forward to this day it isn't even funny. V10 reads: Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return to Jerusalem, singing songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be overcome with joy and gladness.
Did you catch that? I will be overcome............I will be overtaken.....I will be overwhelmed by joy and gladness. His joy....His gladness. They will seek me and cover me and fill me like a divine flood. I'm telling you if that doesn't set you on fire, then your wood's wet.

You know, today I am going to lay down my fears.
Today, I am going to turn my heart and attention to God.
Whatever the world has for me today, I will not fear but rest in the assurance that God is in control.
Let it be Lord.
God on you.....

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Monday, January 23, 2012

It Was A Good Night

I spoke last night at North Glencoe's Celebrate Recovery. God was beyond gracious as people streamed to the front after the message to receive prayer. There were prayers for salvation. Prayers for healing. Prayers for deliverance from demonic oppression. Prayers for God to simply come and touch them and bring hope to dry place in their hearts. There were prayers asking for forgiveness. There were confessions to God about sin. It was a night where I got to stand and watch God's hand move over the people. I confess to you that I never tire of seeing God move like this. It isn't about the numbers, it is about the heart. That God would come and touch and bring healing to those who had come seeking.

Isaiah 35 talks about God's redemptive hand being laid on places of dryness and in the hard, wilderness places of our hearts.
Even the wilderness will rejoice in those days. The desert will blossom with flowers. Yes, there will be an abundance of flowers and singing and joy! The deserts will become as green as the mountains of Lebanon, as lovely as Mount Carmel's pastures and the plain of Sharon. There the LORD will display his glory, the splendor of our God.
With this news, strengthen those who have tired hands, and encourage those who have weak knees. Say to those who are afraid, "Be strong, and do not fear, for your God is coming to destroy your enemies. He is coming to save you."

In these verses, we see that God is proclaiming a message of hope to all who are discouraged, frightened, or injured. God has promised to save us and strengthen our weaknesses. That is His promise! Following God means that we can ask Him to help us recover in this lifetime and share eternal life with Him in the next. God says that through His power, His love and His authority, He will reach down into those dry, hard, wilderness places in our heart and cause real life to come forth. Life that is sustained through His Holy Spirit at work in us. How can you argue with that?
That is a promise you can bank on.
Why not receive from this promise today?
God on you.....
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Give Me An Undivided Heart

II Kings 17
They honored and worshipped God, but they also kept up their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from. And they're still doing it......
But they didn't pay any attention. They kept doing what they'd always done. As it turned out, all the time these people were putting on a front of worshipping God, they were at the same time involved with their local idols. And they're still doing it. Like father, like son.

The one thing that my mind goes to from time to time is to check my motives for what I do when it comes to worshipping God. First off I have to define what worship is. To me (and from what I read in Scripture) worship is a lifestyle. A life devoted in service and praise to the one true God. Everything I do is worship unto Him. In my job, I want to do the very best so that I honor God. So that when people see me, when they see the work I do, they will be pointed to God as the source of my strength and my ability. Worship!

SO what we have in these verses from II Kings is a people who have divided hearts. I have always said that a lot of people have what I refer to as "two belief systems." They have one that they talk about and then another that they live. The belief system that they live affects every area of their life, all the way from their thoughts to their actions and behaviors. This belief system reveals the heart. The belief system that they speak about or share with others is more of a front to give the appearance that they are religious or, as the catch word of our day says..., "Spiritual." The two belief systems are always in conflict and when a choice has to be made concerning something that has come up in their life, a person always chooses toward the belief system they live rather than the one they talk about. In this case, the flesh always wins, because they are living and being lead by their sin nature rather than the Spirit of God.

V32 of II Kings 17 reads: They honored and worshiped God, but not exclusively. They also appointed all sorts of priests, regardless of qualification, to conduct a variety of rites at the local fertility shrines. They honored and worshiped God, but they also kept their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from.   In other words...their worship to the One, True God was a sham. It was for show and had no substance. Behind the scenes, people were still living the old lifestyle, carrying out the customs of the country they were living in. Not a good idea.

Search yourself today and see if you have two belief systems. Does your life reflect a heart devoted unto God, or do you simply play at religion, trying to use God like some cosmic piggy bank to make your life better?
Think on these things....
God on you.....
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Friday, January 20, 2012

Sunday Night

Seth Barber will be speaking tomorrow night here at Rapha. As always, Seth will bring a message that is straight and to the point about recovery and this new found relationship we are called to in Christ.
Sunday Night, I'll be speaking at Celebrate Recovery North Glencoe. I always look forward to being there and sharing from what God has given to me.

I, hopefully, will be speaking about the Power of God to change. I have been lead to study several different passages and one in particular keeps coming up. Romans 6:19  (Message Bible) You can readily recall, can't you, how at one time the more you did just what you felt like doing....not caring about others, not caring about God....the worse your life became and the less freedom you had? And how much different is it now as you live in God's freedom, your lives healed and expansive in holiness?

If we are truly honest with ourselves, we are brought to a place where we way the destruction of our old life style against the promise of a new life in Christ.  We are made painfully aware of keeping on in the same old way of living that continually brings problems x problems and pain on top of more pain. Without the presence of God in our life, we sink into a pit of toxic shame and guilt that drives us to use more and more in an effort to escape the pain. Enough of this and we fall prey to the lie of lies. "I don't need any ones help. I can't quit if I want to."

Romans 8:5-8 hits on this mindset: Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God's action in them find that God's Spirit is in them.....living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn't pleased at being ignored.

The reason I write in this blog daily is that I want God's truth to be here in these postings. That someone may stop by and read what I share, and in that brief moment, truth will penetrate a heart that is surrounded by darkness. I want those who have run dry of hope to find their way here and be encouraged. I want them to understand that they do not have to continue on in a life style that ultimately ends in physical and spiritual death. I want them to understand that there is a future for them here on this side of eternity.

God on you.....
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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Leave Me Alone----I'm Lost-------In God!

Oh, to be lost in God.
Not lost from the standpoint of our salvation, but from the thought of being totally consumed with God.
As the song states, "that the things of earth would grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."
That Jesus is and always will be all sufficient for me and my life. No matter what the circumstance...no matter what the situation, I would find all my answers in Jesus. Pie in the sky? I think not.

I like what Paul writes in Romans 11:33 - Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
Just as there are depths in the ocean that man has never reached and remain unexplored, there are depths to understanding God that mankind will never reach on this side of heaven. So what are we to do? Simply recognize that fact and be satisfied with simply waiting until we do cross over? I don't think so. I want to spend my time in God's Word. I want to hear the voice of God as I read the words of Scripture. I want to let God's word soak down inside my spirit and become a very part of me, changing me and moving me toward spiritual maturity. In a few words.............I want to grow up before I grow older.

In a day and age when the things of this earth compete for the allegiance I owe only to the giver of all good things (thanks Rich Mullins for that line), I want to seek out God and not be corrupted by society. The world always portrays itself as beautiful and more fun than anything God could offer. I see so many beer and alcohol commercials that are always about parties or gatherings such as cookouts....every one is laughing and having a great time. If you look close, you'll see that there usually aren't any "ugly" folks around. Every one is thin, hair is immaculate, teeth a brilliant white. Some how I think there is a ranch somewhere in Montana where they keep these folks. When commercials are being made, a call is placed to the ranch for a number of them to appear in the shoot. The ranch folks bus 'em out to the shoot where they take care of business. When the shoot is over, it's back to the ranch. What I'm trying to say is that the worlds sells a bill of goods (and they are really not that good) to us in order to get us to buy into the what they are selling. What are you trying to say Mike? I'm saying that we need to be aware that there is a battle for your attention as well as your money and heart. The world does its best to win your heart to its ways. What is the message of this world? Your life is incomplete. Your life will never be complete unless you buy what we are selling. I don't want my life to solely be focused on the temporary things of this world. I want to chase the eternal God and follow His heart.

I Corinthians 1:31 -  That, just as it is written, "Let Him Who Boasts, Boast In The Lord."
This is a worthy way to live.

God on you.....
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I Gain Control By Giving Up Control.......Step # 1 / #2 / #3

Taken from the following Book. Gives us insight and one more way of looking at the nature of man, the nature of addiction, and the glorious nature of a God who can save!

Twelve Steps to Spiritual Wholeness
A Christian Pathway

Philip St. Romain
Powerlessness and Sin
Step One presents a paradox, saying that the way to regain control of out life is to give up trying to control it - to throw in the towel and admit defeat. This doesn't make sense at first, but later it will be seen as the beginning of wisdom.

Step One has relevance beyond the addiction and recovery movement, for the power of sin creates havoc in all our lives.

These days, sin is an unpopular word connoting unhealthy guilt and shame. But the authors of the New Testament recognized sin as a power able to move us toward non-loving selfish behavior. This power worked through culture (the world), our internalized conditioning (the flesh), and preternatural spirits (the Devil). For most of us, the concrete experience of sin is our own selfishness and reluctance to relate. Who among us can deny this experience?

Another insight to be found in Scripture says that we cannot reverse our selfish tendencies by our own will. In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul speaks of how he wants to do good but cannot find the power to do so. A point he makes again and again is that liberation from sin does not come from keeping the law. In fact, law keepers frequently become self-righteous about their goodness and judgmental of others. Such was the case with the religious authorities who condemned Jesus to death in the name of the law.

A sinner, then, might be described as one whose life is ruled by selfishness. Using the addiction model, we would say that a sinner is one who is compulsively selfish - in other words, resistant to loving relationships. This selfish direction of the will demonstrates itself in specific acts of behavior, which we call personal sins. Most personal sins are not planned or calculated but happen compulsively when we feel threatened in some manner. However, these sins bring consequences to us and to others.

All addiction (the evidence and behavior that goes with one who is addicted) finds its answer at the cross. Like every other destructive behavior or thought that can come from the mind of man, it is rooted in the heart of sin. Until the power of sin is broken in a life, selfishness will rule. In fact, selfishness will drive that individual to the grave. At the cross we find the salvation needed..........we find the heart of God who is forgiving.....and we find the Holy Spirit who takes up residence in the heart of each new believer and follower of Jesus.
Surrender.........
Confess.............

Repent.............
Receive Forgiveness.........

Be a new creation..............

God on you......
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Step By Step

Step # 3We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God through Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 7:25
Hence also, He (Jesus) is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

As you move through the Twelve Steps, you begin to see the simplicity and beauty that starts to emerge. We have lived our lives (in addiction) in self-deception. We have attempted to control our moods and emotions through our usage only to find that we sink deeper and deeper into depression and guilt.

We have attempted to control everything, and in the process our lives have become more and more chaotic and painful--------or as Step #1 says, "Unmanageable."

Step #1 teaches us to be compeletly and brutally honest with ourselves. We admit that we are powerless. We are not in control, especially when it comes to our chemical substances.

Step # 2 teaches us to believe in a God that is more than words on a page or notes in a song. That in fact God DOES exist and DOES desire to have an intimate relationship with us. We come to believe that He truly cares for us and, if we will trust Him, will bring order to our lives.

Step #3 teaches us that the only sane decision it to surrender our will and life to this God. We are to stop trying to control our lives and our circumstances or, as it is put so aptly, let God be God. We can let Him begin to give us wisdom and strength to help us deal with our circumstances.

Romans 6:16 reads: Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?

I like the way the Message Bible puts the Roman 16 passage:
Offer yourselves to sin, for instance, and it's your last free act. But offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits. All your lives you've let sin tell you what to do. But thank God you've started listening to a new master, one whose commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!

That, my friend, is good news if you are trapped in a lifestyle of addiction.
This isn't a pie-in-sky-hope-it-works offer.
It is a straight-from-God-heart- promise that He will work into your life if you lay down your wants and desires and turn to Him for help.
I have said this before on this blog but I feel the need to repeat it.
"Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself."
Why not let this be day that you take that first step?
I love you and am praying for you......

God on you.....
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Monday, January 16, 2012

To JOICE again!

I Thessalonians 5:16 --  "Always be joyful."Or "rejoice in the Lord.....Always!!! And again I say rejoice.
The word "rejoice" is defined in Strong's Concordance as being "Calmly Happy."
A sense of well being that radiates from within no matter what the situation or circumstance may be.

I see far too many people in religious circles trying to whip up happiness and rejoicing. The thought seems to be that if I act like I'm happy or if I say the right religious sounding words and phrases then somehow I will attain that level of self-perceived happiness or joy. I have been guilty of playing that game. I have found myself among a group of people that all seem to have found spiritual nirvana so to speak. I didn't. I looked around and asked God, "What is wrong with me? Am I so broken that I have excluded myself from this experience?"  At the same time, I never assume that I am right or that I have all the answers to any particular situation or experience. I am always searching my heart for the motive or reason I find myself in such places. I never want to use my own experiences as the rule of thumb for others as to how they should conduct themselves. At the same time, I do not want to give credence to something that seems to not be from God.

Paul writes that when we find our satisfaction in Christ, everything else pales in comparison. Nothing this world has to offer can ever replace the inner workings and emotion that is brought on by the Holy Spirit. I am called to look to Christ as the sole source of everything I need. He is my all sufficiency in this life and the next. He is the provider of every good thing. He is my strength and hiding place. In these thoughts I will take comfort and rejoice. When I truly realize that I am dead to the world and the world is dead to me, then I will not look to the world for answers or provision. I want to see the hand of God in everything around me. I want to be aware of His voice daily and follow only His direction.
I want Him.
I want Jesus.
If that doesn't cause rejoicing to rise up in your spirit............I just don't know what to say.
Look beyond the traps and snares the world has set against you today and see the hand of God clearing a path for you to walk.
Be encouraged.
Rejoice.
And again I say.....
Rejoice.

God on you....
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Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Pain Unlike Any Other

Jeremiah 31: 15 - 17This is what the LORD says," A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping. Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because her children are no more."

Hard verses to read this morning.
The loss of a child or a spouse creates a pain that goes beyond any other kind of pain.
It isn't like being cut or having a bone broken. The pain of death coming into our families is a pain that goes to very core of our being. It is a pain that creates grieving and tears and mourning. I do not know the answers to questions that a death creates in our minds and hearts. I do not want to give glib or cliched' answers. I guess the only thing that can be said to a believer who is experiencing the loss is that Christ is sufficient. Christ will support you and bring mercy and peace to you to take you through the grieving process. For it is in the middle of such times that we do experience the reality of Christ. His peace is real. His comfort near. His presence always there.
Take heart during such times, for God does care.
I have no clue as to why I wrote this, other than I felt that someone needed to read it today.
If that someone is you, know that I am praying for you.
Know that God is still in control and that He loves you.

God on you.....
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Friday, January 13, 2012

Cultural Conflict

John 15:4
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful apart from me.

II Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline (or of sound judgement).

Galatians 6:14
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

When we come to Christ (being saved) it is the beginning of a change in our culture and custom. In other words there is a shift in the way we interact with the world. On one hand, it is possible to go off in one direction and completely cut ourselves off from the culture of the day. We see this when people seek to pull away and create a self-contained community to live in. The reject the society at large in an effort to live under a new way of life.

As people of recovery, we too must make changes in the way we interact with the world and the people around us. We no longer have the luxury or freedom to tie ourselves again to the drug culture. We find ourselves, upon starting this new life, to want to try and marry the two together (our new life and what we perceive to be the "best" of our old life").   It does not work. Realizing that we can no longer have a place in a lifestyle of darkness, such as addiction, we seek to allow God to change our hearts and desires. This is what is meant in the New Testament by "working out your salvation with fear and trembling...........we are learning a new culture and new customs.

As a new believer, when culture and custom run contrary to God's word, God's word must come first. Even the greatest men and women of God are often caught up in this struggle. The word of God must have rule and reign in our lives as we walk out this new relationship day by day.

We see the destruction that can come when we seek to mix our culture with our beliefs in the story of King Saul. Saul was appointed King over Israel by God because the people rejected God's rule and demanded that they be given a king like all the countries around them. (Here in is a good story of "be careful what you ask for...you just might get it).  Saul started out well, but over time, he rejected God's direction and sought out counsel from the culture (or to put it bluntly.....he consulted a medium/ witch)
In I Chronicles we read:  Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord. He failed to obey the LORD's command, and he even consulted a medium instead of asking the Lord for guidance.

We have been called to live a life of holiness.
Holiness not found in the keeping of rules and regulations, but found in loving a God who is beyond our comprehension. I have found in my own life that if I concentrate of loving this God daily.....then the keeping of rules and regulations come about like second nature. I don't have to work at it because I want to be pleasing to Him.
Think on these things today....
God on you.....

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Steps, Rules and Directions....Oh My!

Leviticus 1:1......The Lord called to Moses from the Tabernacle and said to him, "Give the following instructions to the Israelites......."

Israel had been delivered out of a life style of bondage and slavery. They were now a free people, but as is the case to day, with this freedom came responsibility. God had taken them out of Egypt but now He had to take Egypt out of them.

He began to give to Moses a series of laws and regulations that covered every day life among the Israelites. How to live and how to interact among each other as well as with God came out of these laws and commandments. The book of Leviticus shows us, or gives us a glimpse of a God who is awesome and holy. He is pure, clean, sinless and perfect. The numerous regulations found in the book of Leviticus given to the Israelites confirm this truth. The people needed to humbly obey God if they wanted to live in close fellowship with Him.  The wonderful truth that we see in the Scripture, despite His holiness, God reaches out to broken, sinful people. He provided a way, even though a difficult one, for the Israelites to recover from their past failures.  

God's heart has not changed.
He seeks to deliver from addiction those whose lives have been lived in darkness and separation from God. He wants to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. God has, for us today, provided the means for our salvation and recovery thorough the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. It is through God loving forgiveness and Christs' power over our sin that we are saved through our repentance and confession that Jesus is indeed Lord and Savior.
Can't beat that with a stick......
Think on these things today and find gratitude for what God has done in your life.

God on you....
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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Recovery Principal 283

O.k....let me be honest.
There isn't a recovery principal #283. I just wrote that to get your attention.
Now that I have your attention, let me share a verse with you.

I Corinthians 15:33
"Don't be fooled by those who say such things  (let's feast and get drunk, for tomorrow we die) for bad company corrupts good character."
You are who you hang out with.
You take on the habits and behaviors of those you run with.
Your beliefs fall in line with the beliefs of those you associate with.
Get it?
Bad character breeds bad character.
Here I am trying to work a program and I am continually  associating myself with those who are still in active addiction. Not a good influence would you say? No, I  don't think so.
That is why we need to surround ourselves with people who are clean and sober and are pursuing this new life with Christ.

Proverbs 27:17 reads:  As iron sharpens iron, a friend sharpens a friend.
In other words, we influence and are influenced by those people we associate with and consider to be our circle of friends. If I want to pursue a life of purity and growing relationship with Christ, then I surround myself with men and women who have the same heart. I surround myself with those whose hearts are like minded. By doing this, I encourage them to keep on in this ongoing relationship and in return, I receive encouragement from them. I have a community of people who can help me when I am discouraged or struggling. The old adage of safety in numbers is very much at play here.

II Peter 5:8 reads : Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a  firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith. 
Just like Lions, the devil seeks to identify and cut away from others, those who are weak and struggling. If my circle of friends is made up of people who are in active addiction, then there isn't any protection for me. I am easy prey to be devoured and lead back to the my old life style. But when I am a part of group whose passion is Christ and whose goal is clean and sober living through the power of the Holy Spirit, I am in a safe place.

So who are you hanging out with today?
Food for thought.
God on you...
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Man Of God


God places special people in lives that are used to point us to Him. For Vicki and me, it was Reverend George Creel. Vicki and I had been away from God for a number of years. We had drifted from each other and the roles that husbands, fathers, wives and mothers are to occupy and what was worse, we knew of our rotten state in life.

Vicki's mother had been attending Central United Methodist and had kept insisting that we visit with her. She spoke about George and what an incredible Bible teacher he was. For me, all her words were falling on deaf ears. I knew we needed to turn back to God, I just didn't want to. To my mother-in-laws credit, she never stopped inviting us. I guess she figured she could wear us down. Finally I relented and told her that we would visit.

Come Sunday morning, I tried timing everything so we would arrive after the service started and would not have to endure the obligatory Sunday-morning-church-greeting  (You..."everyone stand up, turn around and shake hands with someone.") So we managed to sit in the balcony. Funny part was that it was just Vicki and I and the sound guy. No one else. I guess the sound guy thought we were terrorist or something along that line. Now that I look back, I think my mindset was "O.k....I'm here at church, God. But I'm going to sit as far away from this pastor as I can and still be inside the building." How sad was I.

I was not prepared for what came next. Brother George stood and began to speak and read from the Bible and for the next 30 - 45 minutes, I was totally consumed by what he said. He made the Scripture come alive for me. I had never heard such teaching in my life. After it was over, I looked at my wife and said, "We have got to come back just to see if maybe this was a quirk or blip in the way this guy teaches." I thought maybe we had just caught him on a really good day when he was on his "A" game. We went back that night and once again the same thing. BIBLE ALIVE!!!!!

We talked all week about Central Methodist and George, making plans to return the next Sunday. This time would be different. We would come down from Mount Olympus a.k.a the balcony, and sit among the folk. This time we took note pads and pencil along with our Bibles. We were hooked.

I can truthfully say that for 14 years, George Creel opened the Scripture for me in ways that no other man had. George's encouragement and support is what created a fire in me to study God's word. Vicki and I are blessed to be able to call George and Jackie our friends. George introduced us to the work of the Holy Spirit, as well as unlocking our minds to prophetic words and teachings. A gentle man, George had a side that would come out when confronted by the devil and the evil of this world. George is truly a defender of the faith. He lived a life of holiness before his congregration, but also the life of a broken vessel always ready to be used by God.

George is currently in the hospital suffering with a number of ailments and problems. If you would, say a prayer for this man and his family that God would bring healing to his body. A special man and a good friend. Thank you, Lord, for putting George in my life and for the way you speak through him.

God on you.....
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Peace of God

Debbie Handy spoke Saturday night at our meeting and shared from the place God currently has her. She spoke of Peace.........God's peace and that it comes as a result or is strengthened by 3 things in our life.
1.) Contentment -   being at peace in the situation of the day.
2.) Trust - Believing God for who He is.
3.) Gratitude --- A heart of thankfulness that looks beyond situations and circumstances and finds the goodly and the godly in life.

I am reminded of Psalm 32 and the celebration of life it portrays to those who believe and live for Christ
V.1 - Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!
Do you ever think about this? Does is ever wash over you exactly what Christ has done for us and in us? That our willful rebellious nature against God has been forgiven when we repent and give ourselves to Christ. More than that, our sin has been removed and put out of sight. I guess it truly is the old adage "Out of sight....out of mind." Joy! Unspeakable joy for the goodness of God. Man if that don't crunk your tractor then nothing will!

V.2 -  Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!
The devil has the power to try and remind us of our sin, but God has the authority and power to remove it from our lives. Notice that is declares the joy of living in complete honesty. I have nothing to hide, therefore the devil has nothing on me. Zero sin is the way to go. To live life free from the burden and weight of secret sin and dishonesty will take a toll on a person, as well as open the door for more demonic influence in their life.

V.3 -  When I refused to confess my sin, I was weak and miserable and I groaned all day long
V.4 -  Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.
Unconfessed sin has a way of physically, mentally and spiritually affecting a person. Living in a downward spiral of emotion and mental attacks will sap a persons physical strength, causing them to live in a defeated manner. It robs you of hope which puts you in a dark place that could bring on depression. It takes the hand of God to reach through all this to restore and resurrect you to new life.

Don't hold on to sin.
Turn it loose today and begin to live in the freedom God created you to live in.
Your situations may not all change....
Your circumstances may not turn for the better....
But you...
You will mount up on wings as eagles and find strength in Lord this morning.
If it were not true, I would not have written this posting today.

God on you.......
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Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Message

Just Posted a message by Seth Barber in the pod cast section of the blog. Check it out as Seth takes a long hard look at Jeremiah 29:11.
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Anatomy Of A Fall

Falling into sin and moving away from God most times is not a sudden departure. It is more of a slow, progressive behavior that comes through a series of bad choices. These choices usually are a result of listening to that old "sin" nature we possess. I am going to choose what benefits me the most ( That is code for "I want what I want and I want it now."

In Genesis 13:10 we begin to see the downfall for a man named Lot. He and his uncle were at a stalemate over the land they both were occupying. His uncle, Abram, made the first offer by letting Lot pick where he wanted to live. Where ever it was Lot picked, Abram had said that he would go in the opposite direction and live there. Verse 10 reads: "And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well-watered every where." In other words, this was prime territory and it was all for the taking.

Verse 12 reads: Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom.  Lot didn't move there at first. He just got real close and pitched his tent so he could see what was going on. Isn't it like that when we first start drifting away from working our program of sobriety? We are following Jesus in our daily lives. We are reading our Bible and spending time in prayer. But something inside keeps drawing us back (our thoughts and attention) to the old way of life (Sodom). We don't rush out and go back to the that old lifestyle, but we do pitch our tents in the thoughts of our mind. We began to fixate on how good it was to be high...that rush...that feeling. No thought about the destruction that always followed the high...No! We won't think about that. In our thoughts we convince ourselves that we aren't really hurting anyone by simply having thoughts about the old way of life. Trouble is, it doesn't stop there, it continues down a slippery slope that leads to destruction.

If you fast forward to Genesis 19, you read about the further descent Lot makes into the culture and society that is Sodom.  Verse 1 reads: Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom...... If you aren't familiar with Biblical terminology or custom you will miss something in this verse. "Sitting in the gate" is reference to the city government of Sodom. Custom of the day dictated that the city elders and rulers would convene at the gate of the city to settle disputes and make rulings for the populace of the town. Here we see that Lot has become ingrained in the culture of the society and has, in fact, become a Sodomite, or native of the town. He isn't outside the gate sitting in his tent watching, he has now moved into the city and has become one of its denizens. Isn't that the way of sin? We find ourselves sucked into the destruction and turmoil, a willing participant of wrongness and rebellion against God.

Just like the Steps tell us..."It will take a Power greater than ourselves to restore us, or bring us out of this spiritual darkness and madness." Praise God! Jesus is that Power.
So today....be careful that you don't let your thoughts turn to your old life, old friends and old places. Keep your focus on Jesus and walk out this day.
He is there to protect you...
He is there to love you....
He is there to aid you in this wonderful new life you have embraced....
God on you....

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Friday, January 6, 2012

Hard Lessons

Genesis 16:9
Then the angel of the LORD said, "Return to your mistress and submit to her authority."

This is a hard word to hear this morning.
God spoke it to me during my Bible study and it has kind of lodged in my spirit.
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that for whatever reason, we deem as being unfair or that we are being punished for something we said or did. Hard times. Times where there doesn't seem to be an easy answer to what we are facing.
Our first inclination is to run away. Get out! Leave and not look back. We don't know what the future may hold but it has to be better than what we are currently experiencing.
Maybe we even use God as an excuse to leave the situation. "God wouldn't want me to stay in this place because I won't be able to grow or learn anything." How wrong can we be!

In the Genesis passage, we read about Hagar, an Egyptian handmaid, under the authority of Abram and Sarai. Hagar was brought into a very messed up plot by Abram and Sarai to help bring about a promise God had made to them. God had promised a son to the couple and when it didn't happen in the time frame they thought it should, they plotted to bring Hagar in to help God. Sarai sent her husband, Abram, to have sex with Hagar in hopes that she would become pregnant and give them a sons. I know, by today's standards, it seems like a really bad plot to a daytime soap opera. Everything went down hill (as it usually does when we try to help God out) and Hagar found herself being abused by Sarai. Verse 6 says that Sarai treated her (Hagar) harshly, so she ran away. Isn't that like us? I mean you really won't hear many preachers or teachers talk about staying a situation for the glory of God, yet that is what we have here. God never intended Hagra to leave but to remain so He could work out the mess that Abram and Sarai had created. Hagar runs away, but God tracks here down. God tells her to go back and submit to Sarai's authority and that if she does, God would bless Hagar with more descendants than she could count.

Bottom line, when we remain obedient to God, even in bad times and bad situations, that brings the blessings of God to us. According to what God did for Hagar, it might even bring the blessings and extend them to our descendants. How cool would that be? So the next time you find yourself in a terrible situations, stop and ask God.."Do I stay or do you want me to leave?" Don't always assume that just because you are going through a bad time or a hard time that God is punishing you or has forgotten you. He may be trying to grow you and strengthen you for the next hard thing that may be headed your way.
Food for thought...
God on you.....


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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bread For Thought

Matthew 6:11
Give us our food for today  (NLT)
Some versions of this verse read "Give us this day, our daily bread."
Growing up, I use to think this verse was a pretty stingy thing to say about God and to God.
I mean...come on....bread? You got to have something a little more substantive than bread.
I don't care if it's WONDER BREAD or the best that MERITA BAKERY produces.
A person has to have some peanut butter or jelly or even a slice of bologna to go with that bread.

I see now that it was not just about a daily ration of food given by God to His children.
It was the fundamental building block.
Bread!
You have to start somewhere in a food group. Why not Bread? The possibilities of what you can do with a loaf of bread will boggle the mind. Sandwiches. Toast. Bread pudding. You can put anything between two pieces of bread and have a mobile feast at your disposal.

To me, bread (in this particular verse) is a symbol of the foundation of our relationship with God.
Bread represents Jesus Christ.
He is the bread of life.
He was born in Bethlehem  (the house of bread).
He was laid in a manger (a food trough)
So to approach God and ask for daily bread is to ask for the provision of heaven to be made evident in our lives.
He must want us to act in this manner when we pray because He included it in the model prayer we read in Matthew 6.

When Jesus was in the wilderness in Matthew 4, and the devil tempted Him with food, Christ returned fire by quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 -- "People need more than bread for their life. They must feed on every word of God." or as we like to say....."Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God." That is why I need to digest the Bread of the Word of God. It provides spiritual nourishment and strength to my spirit.  Psalm 119:130 reads: The unfolding of Your words give light so that even the simple can understand them.
Bread.
Bread of God.
Bread-Word of God.
Take some for yourself today.
Taste the Lord and see that He is good.....

God on you....
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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January.....Step # 1

January always comes in with the best of intentions from people.
Fitness Centers all over the country see an increase in membership when January rolls around because people are making resolutions to get in shape for the coming year.
February sees the biggest decline in the number of people actually going to a fitness center/gym as the "newness" wears off of their good intentions.

January always brings me back around to Step # 1 of the Twelve Steps.
We admitted that we were powerless over our dependencies----that our life had become unmanageable.
No one really likes to admit this, much less come face to face with the evidence of a life unmanageable.
January gives us an opportunity to look at someone in Scripture who seemed to have every thing going on except for one area of his life. A man named Naaman.
On the surface, Naaman was a man's man. He had the career. He had the reputation. He had the image. But something in Naaman's life came out that brought him to his knees.

Naaman was the Commander of the army for the King of Aram.
God had given Naaman great victories over the enemies of Aram. Most considered Naaman a mighty warrior......but...(there's that word..."but" that seems to undo all the good) he suffered from Leprosy.

From the Life Recovery Bible. we read --- It can be very humiliating to admit that we are powerless, especially if we are used to being in control. We may be powerful in some areas of our life, but out of control in terms of our addictive/ compulsive behaviors. If we refuse to admit our powerlessness, we may lose everything. That one unmanageable part of our life may infect and destroy everything else. Our "diseases" are as life threatening as the leprosy of Naaman's day. They slowly separate us from our family and lead toward the destruction of everything important to us. There is no instant cure or easy cure. We recognize God as the only source of deliverance and healing from our addiction, so we give ourselves over to the care of God as we understood Him.

Naaman had specific ideas of how he should be cured from his leprosy. When things didn't turn out like he thought they should, he became angry. It didn't cure his leprosy any faster or with a better way, only delayed the process. That is why, as addicts, we have searched for the easier softer way for our recovery rather than submit to God.

I pray that this year will be your year to break free of the bondage of addiction.
God on you.....
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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Run To The Rock

From QUICK STUDY DAILY DEVOTION:
Obedience to God's WORD provides the protection we need.

Obedience is not a "willy-nilly" happenstance of events that we find ourselves in.
Obedience is focus of our will toward what God's will is showing us to be the proper way to make choices.
I no longer do what I think I should...
I no longer do what I want to do...
I no longer barter with myself as to what is the best thing to do....
I look to God's directive for my life and the life of my family.
Then I do it.
Sounds simple.
Yet sometimes it is very hard to carry out.
Why?
Because I sometimes only want to follow God's will when my own will had gotten me in "the ditch" so to speak. In other words, when I have messed up my choices and the situations are closing in...then I want God to come make it all better....kiss the boo-boo on my knee and tell me everything is going to be okey dokey.

It seems as the\ough being obedient is only fashionable when it truly is something we want to do. True obedience is found when God's choice conflicts with my choice.......and God's choice wins. The more I walk (or go about my daily business) in this manner, the easier it becomes to follow God.

Psalm 91:1-2 reads: "He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, 'My refuge and my fortress, My God in whom I trust!'"
To dwell or place yourself in God's protection comes about through following God's WORD. Then and only then can I make the statement that God is my refuge and my fortress. It is not a matter of semantics or flowery words.......this becomes truth.

I received a number of phone calls this past week from people who are really struggling with their addiction.
They were dwelling the in the shelter of the Most High but chose to leave. They chose to return to their old ways and old lifestyle. Now the pain is unbearable. The shame and guilt is smothering them. They are at their wits end and have turned once again to God for help. God has reached out to them to redeem them and bring them back into a place where healing can began. I am grateful for God's redemptive hand, but also fearful for those who continue to live in darkness, pushing God's hand away each time He reaches to them. I pray that they don't die before they receive God's salvation.

Father God....
I pray that you would loose Your Holy Spirit this morning and seek out those who are living in spiritual darkness. Bound by sin and addiction. There isn't any thing the enemy (devil) can do that you cannot break and bring freedom to those entrapped by it. I pray that today would be a day of liberation for those living the lie of addiction. That You would bring Your Kingdom Will to earth and accomplish here, what is going on in heaven right now, right this minute.
In Jesus name.....
Amen.....

God on you....
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Monday, January 2, 2012

Twenty-Twelve

2012.....
Sounds like something out of the old sci-fi movies I watched as a boy.
By 2012 we would have flying cars and rocket packs.
Man's achievements would stand glistening in rising sun of a new day...a new era.
There would not be anything that mankind could not achieve.

2012.....
Reality shows us that it is a time of great spiritual darkness.
Economies around the world are at the brink of failure.
Great undercurrents of unrest and mistrust sweep the globe.
People are looking for a savior.....
Not for their lives...but for their lifestyle.
Promises never intended to be kept are given to the people in hopes that peace will reign.

Knowing and seeing this spiritual darkness, what does 2012 hold for me?
What is God saying about 2012?
Having had this time off over this past week, I have spent a good deal of it studying and praying over what God wants to do in me and through me over this coming year.
I have been reading Isaiah 61.

V1. - The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me.
This was a reminder that I belong to Him. That He has saved me and chosen me to participate in the Kingdom work here in Attalla. Everyone who has been saved is called to Kingdom work. It doesn't mean that everyone is a pastor or a preacher. It doesn't mean that everyone quits their jobs to pursue what the world refers to as "Full-time Ministry." Truth be known, everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is in full time ministry. What we do need to remember is that we have been given the most incredible gift in the world. We has been filled...possessed by the third part of the Holy Trinity....God, the Holy Spirit. Wowzers!!

 V1. - To bring good news to the afflicted.
Good news?
The Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This little bit of information is power! It is the power to save.
In order to be saved, you have to be made aware that you are in danger.
In this case, we are born with a major character defect called a "Sin Nature." or a propensity to do very selfish, destructive behaviors that take us outside the will of God. In other words, we kind of thumb our noses at God and say, "Leave me alone and let me live my life!" In my estimation, the Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 7:18-19  -  "For I know nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (sin nature), for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I wish, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not wish."  
I told you we were messed up. We are so used to living like this, we think it's normal. Boy have we fallen a long ways from the God tree!

To me, 2012 will be a year of proclamation. Wasn't 2011 a year of proclamation? Sure it was. That is why 2012 must continue on with the message. There are still those out there who haven't heard and do not know that Jesus died to free them from the bondage of sin (which includes addiction). We will continue to share this message here at Greene Street Letters. I hope that you will continue to drop by from time to time and read the postings. I hope that you will share the Greene Street Letters with your family and friends.
God on you......

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Tuesday Bible Study

Psalm 119:130 The entrance (or unfolding) of Your words gives light. it gives understanding to the simple. Pulled up at the camp last ...