Saturday, March 31, 2012

No Really! He Is Coming Back!

I Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.

Kind of hard to wrap your head around these verses isn't it.
Yet there it is plain as day.
IF we remain alive here on this earth, the possibility that Jesus will return for us is very much a reality.
You don't hear about this much any more.
Most preachers and teachers are more concerned with life today rather than teaching about "The Glorious Hope of His Return." It isn't as much about the "Sweet By and By" as it is the "Nasty Here And Now."
For me, these verses only strengthen my resolve to chase after Jesus. To be more than someone who is playing at this relationship. I find that God has given me a fire inside that is only satisfied when I am focused on Him.

I find great peace and comfort reading His word.
I seem to be centered and focused when I am meditating, contemplating and praying on His word.
I know that my language may seen archaic and a bit religious, but I don't know how to say it any other way. Jesus consumes my thoughts.................
And I love it.
I find that my love for this world and the things of this world has been replaced with a love for Jesus. It wasn't something I made happen or worked up. And to be honest with you, I as much puzzled by the whole thing as you might be. I just know that God has done a work in me that is unlike anything I've ever experienced before. It's all Him and none of me.

It wasn't always like this.
I was a stinker....that's a pleasant way of saying I was a sinner extraordinaire.
Oh, I hadn't killed anyone or robbed the National Trust Bank.
But my life was dedicated to the great god..."me!"
I served myself and worshipped at the shrine of "me!"
Funny part was I knew better. I had been raised better than to live like this.
My mother made sure that I was brought up in church and I had a wonderful church family who taught me and gave me values to live by.
But like the prodigal son, I wanted my inheritance so I could experience that big old world that lay beyond the horizon.
It pretty near killed me.
I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that God laid hold of me and brought me back. For that I am ever grateful.
Now, much older, I hear the words and voices of sermons from my past.
Men such as Levan Parker and D.E. Hendrix who told me of the wonders of heaven and of a Jesus who would return one day for his church.
There on my front porch in Gallant, Alabama, one June day back in 1967 Mr. Vivian Phillips told me that the Jews had retaken the city of Jerusalem and how this was part of the prophecy written in Scripture. Mr. Phillips voice was filled with Joy as he shared how we were living out the book of Revelation."We are one step closer to Jesus coming back," he told me.

Then came Bro. George Creel.....
And the prophecies of the Bible came pouring forth and my heart burned as I listened. All these things were going to happen. God was going to set up His Kingdom here on earth. Jesus was coming back. There was going to be something they referred to as "The Rapture." We were going to be swept up and changed in the twinkling of eye and meet Jesus in the air. It sounded like a cross between the Twilight Zone and Star Trek, only I knew it was the truth of God.
Accompanied with these wonderful words, was a terrible truth.
Not everyone would participate.
Not everyone would be ready to meet Jesus.
Those who didn't know Him or have relationship with Him would be left.
Salvation was the defining moment in persons life that marked them for this incredible invitation to be with Jesus.
That is why I do what I do.
That is why I teach God's word.
That is why I share with the men who come through Rapha, as well as those I meet on the street and in the market place.
I want everyone to know that Jesus is coming back, and we need to be ready.
Are you ready?
Today is a good day to answer God's call to be saved.
Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying,"Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So the, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him...therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
..........................................................................I Thessalonians 5:1-11

God on you....
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Friday, March 30, 2012

A Pain Like No Other

Pain...
Not a favorite topic among people.
"I'd rather think happy thoughts," or "Let's not go there." These are the views that fill our society and life today. We live our lives with the sole purpose of escaping any and all pain that might come our way.
But pain is a part of this life.
The pain I'm talking about is not the hurt we feel when there is a physical injury or illness.
Not the pain of a broken leg or a cut, but rather the pain I am talking about is emotional pain.
Sometimes this kind of pain is worse because there isn't any medicine we can take.
The pain of losing a child or a husband or wife.
The pain of someone you love leaving you.
The pain of life simply knocking you to your knees and then taking all you own.
That kind of pain is hard to define and harder to escape.
Yet we see men and women all throughout the Bible weighed down by emotional pain.
One such person is found in I Samuel.
Her name?
Hannah.

Hannah was the wife of a man named Elkanah, but she wasn't his only wife.
He had another named Peninnah. What a spiteful woman this one was.
Hannah had been unable to have children and according to the culture of the day, this was considered to be a curse. To not be able to have children was like the worst of the worse for a woman. Having children proved that she was fulfilling the role that God gave her. (My how times have changed, now we discard children like garbage...but that is another matter for another time). To make things worse, Peninnah fournd some demented pleasure when she would taunt Hannah and constantly remind her (Hannah) that she was not able to have kids...
"Hey Hannah did you check out the new kids clothes at Wal Mart? Oh yeah, I forgot....YOU DON'T HAVE ANY CHILDREN BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HAVE CHILDREN!!!!" That Peninnah was a real piece of work, she was. You can imagine the pain that Hannah carried around day after day. Everywhere she went, there were constant reminders of what she did not have.

Here's where the truth comes in.
When we are dealing with pain, it will either drive us to God....
Or take us away from God and keep us weighed down, unable to move on.
Pat Terry, one of my favorite song writers, wrote a song that had this line in it.
And it's funny how pain can touch you....
And it only makes you better
Or it robs you, heart and soul.
All in all, it defines the separation...

Between growing up....
And growing old.


To me, those lines speak tons of truth.
Pain should drive me towards God. There I can pour it out, talk about it and receive some comfort from it.
In Hannah's case, she got up and went to the Tabernacle to pray.
I Samuel 1:10 reads: And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD and wept sore."
In her prayer, Hannah asked God for a son (wow...Hannah was very specific in her praying. Maybe I should pray like that.). IF God would grant her this desire of her heart, when the child was old enough, Hannah would return to the Tabernacle and present him unto God to be a servant and priest. This was not a casual prayer that Hannah prayed. This was a prayer of pain and humiliation. This was a prayer born from pain and nursed in heart ache. It was more than she could bear and she knew that God was the only answer.
What if we lived our lives like that?
What if we turned to God instead of simply carrying around all the emotional baggage that we have accumulated over the years.
Hannah was labeled by those around her and it wasn't a kind or loving name she was given.....she was BARREN.
But Hannah refused to live in that place. She caught the trailing hem of the Almighty's garment and cried out to Him in her pain, then waited for God to answer. Sometimes worse than the pain is the wait. But that is all part of life here on good ol' earth.
Either God is who He claims to be and will do what He claims He will do, or it's all a sham.
I'm crazy enough to believe that God is who He claims He is.

So to help us in our emotional pain, we turn to God.
Matthew 5:4 reads: Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Concerning Hannah's story and the emotional pain she suffered through, Pastor Rod Hembree puts it this way:
Hannah's tears are some of the most sorrowful in all of history. She is a victim of man's culture. She competes with another woman for the love of her husband. She is childless; when her culture looked at her, they saw a woman with no reason or purpose for being. But, unlike many women of her day in the dark day of the judges, Hannah refuses to release her hope in God. She frequents the Tabernacle of God and desperately prays. Hannah's tears changed the course of the nation of Israel forever. Without them, we would not have Samuel, the mighty prophet of God. There is always purpose in our pain and a reason for our tears. It seems when God's people suffer the world becomes a better place, because we draw down His strength from heaven to earth.

If you are hurting today, turn that pain and those tears toward God and let Him bring healing and answers to the prayers you have cried out.
Let Him be God in your life.....

God on you......
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Short Bynum History

Thanks for stopping by the Greene Street Letters. Just to give you some background, that is me in the picture above. Kind of sad isn't it! Just kidding.
The picture was taken at our local Waffle House where I have a standing breakfast appointment with my good friend and pastor, Jim Bentley.

My name is Michael Bynum and I am the staff pastor at a local drug and alcohol rehab, Rapha Ministries.
Married for 40 years come this September 1st to Vicki Bynum.
It just washes over me sometimes when I think that this woman hitched her ride to my wagon and has stayed with me all these years. Let it be known that I have done some pretty "goober-ish" things in my lifetime, but she has never wavered in her belief or love for me, nor I in her.

We have two sons, Chad and Josh.
Chad is a history teacher and basketball coach at Lincoln High School. He is married to Robin and they have two children that are the sun in my soul. Tyler, almost 10, and Ashley, almost 6. Robin teaches math at Lincoln High.
We had a family hoo-ha last night to celebrate Chad's 38th birthday (told you I was old). Vicki cooked up ribs, chicken for the adults and hot dogs for the kids. Much laughter and memories during the evening as Chad brought over some video's of Tyler on the day he was born. I cried. I'm an old softie and I make no excuses about it. The one in particular that started the tears was of me holding Tyler for the first time on the day he was born. The thought that this was the son of my son was beyond  my understanding. God has graced this family from his riches through out the years and I, above anyone else, know that we have not done anything to deserve it. It was the mercy and grace of God.

Josh is a professor at the University of Georgia. Josh received  his Doctorate from the University of Iowa, as did his wife, Heather. They have pinged and ponged all over these here Newnited States of Merica and have finally landed in Athens, Georgia. Recently they became the proud owners (And in debt) of a new house. They have scrimped and saved and worked over the years and now have seen their hopes and dreams come true.

Both of my sons have incredible work ethics. It was touch and go when they were growing up. It was like pulling teeth to get them to clean their rooms and empty the dishwasher. There was always a fight that went along the lines of "Mom! I emptied the silverware last time...it's (Insert name) time to do it." Same with cutting the grass...."Dad! I cut the back yard last time...it's (Insert name) time to do it."

Both of my sons are followers of Jesus.
My wife said something that caught me totally off guard the other night.
We had settled in for the night and I had just turned the lights off. She said," Michael Bynum, you do realize that you will be able to stand before Jesus and give an accounting for your family and be able to present to Him, your entire family." As she said these things, all I could think of was the countless times I had not been a good father or husband. I think maybe it happened (those thoughts) to remind me that God's grace has been over us all these years.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good. For his mercy endureth forever.
O give thanks unto the God of gods, for his mercy endureth forever.
O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his mercy endureth forever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders, for his mercy endureth forever.
To him that by wisdom mad the heavens, for his mercy endureth forever.
To him that stretched out the earth above the waters, for his mercy endureth forever.

Psalm 136:1-6

Riches? Not according to the world....
I don't have any.

But in the economy of heaven, I am beyond wealthy.
Knowledge? Not according to the world....
I don't have any.
But in the understanding and wisdom given to me through God's Holy Spirit at work within me....
I am wise.
Love? Not according to the world....
I don't know how to love.
But God has given to me a heart of love that sole desire is to see others come to know this Jesus that I have given my life to.
Why? Why know him?
Because HE is worth it.
Know him today!

God on you....
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Real Deal Jesus

Malachi 3:1
......And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His Temple......

I have probably broken every rule concerning hermeneutics by taking only a portion of a verse and writing about it.
It is not my intention to try and wrangle this verse or make it say something to fit my view. I simply want to convey a truth that I believe is found in this verse, yet is relevant to us today.
When Malachi was written, the Jews were looking for the coming of Messiah. They viewed the Messiah as the one who would restore their kingdom. In many ways, they got wrapped around the axle and turned the Scriptures into a political answer to their problems. They had been years of turmoil and upheaval in their land and the idea of a Messiah coming to restore the glory of King David's rule was very much popular with the people.
The Messiah would be the deliverer.....
The Anointed one sent by God to be King......
The Christ who would sit on the throne and make their enemies his footstool.
But to have a belief and the reality of that belief are two different things.
Jesus showed up.....
But he didn't fit their idea of what Messiah would look like.
Jesus showed up.....
And he didn't sound like what they thought Messiah would sound like.
Jesus showed up......
But he was not cultured or did not fit the description of what Messiah would be like.
Now who was at fault?
Jesus?
or the people?

Malachi wrote that when they least expected it, that the one the people were looking for would show up.
Where would he show up?
At the Temple.
The Jews had the Old Testament which they studied like no body's business.
They knew it backwards and forwards.....
They were not ignorant of the Scripture.
But they missed it.
Jesus shows up...just like Malachi said.
He's at the Temple. He's teaching. He's healing and doing miracles right there in the midst of the people.
And everyone who encounters this Jesus must make a decision.
Is he the Messiah?
Or is he a fake....some kind of Messiah-want-to-be?
So what is all of this about and how does it apply to me today?

I need to be aware that Jesus is more than my concept or theory or belief.
Mixed into my understanding is probably a lot of stuff that I have used to fill in the blanks of who I think Jesus is. If you are sincere in your desire to see Jesus, then he will come to you. Suddenly and in ways that you never considered.
It may happen at a Celebrate Recovery meeting....
It might happen at an A.A. meeting..
It might happen at a Sunday morning service....
But suddenly He will be in your midst.
It's funny when Jesus shows up. All our arguments seem to disappear.
All our nailed-down-beliefs seem to melt in his presence.
Sin becomes a reality and like Peter in Luke Chapter 5....we fall at Jesus knees and cry out..."Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O' only Lord.'

Truth is, we tend to create a Safe-Jesus. One that we can accept that will not expect much from us.
In reality, we simply want just enough Jesus to get us out of hell.
Jesus becomes our get-out-hell-free-card that we can use when our time is up here on good ol' planet earth.
But that isn't the real Jesus.

 My Jesus desires to have relationship with you and break the spiritual chains that sin has used to hold you in this life of death and addiction. The change from one life (Addiction) to another (Being saved and set free for His rule and reign in your life) Is suddenly and completely.
There among all your excuses....and destruction that sin has brought to you....my Jesus will offer an invitation.  "Come to Me all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." He is saying make a decision right now. Are you tired? Are you weary from the weight of life crushing you down? Then come to Him. Jesus has the ability to transfer the weight of this world off of you and replace it with the weight of His glory. You'll find that the glory of God is light and easy to carry. Why? Because He gives strength to the weary. strength to walk out the day to day struggles of life here on this fallen world.

Why not let this day be the day that Jesus shows up "suddenly"?
Why not let this be the day that your search ends and you find the life you have been yearning for.
God on you.......

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I don't know if I truly wrote what I wanted to say or if I only muddled the entire thought.
My intention was to convey the idea that Jesus is more than our own concepts. The Jews took the Scripture of the Old Testament and wove it into the fabric of the politics of the day. This was never the intention of God. The truth is that when hearts are changed, then because of the truth of God, the politics change. A person's character is changed through this surrender of will and life to Jesus.

Even in our time, when we have the complete word of God, we still inject human views and understanding, trying to make it fit what we want. Well, just like in Malachi's day, we need to understand that the Spirit of God will manifest in our midst and all we claim to know will pale in the presence of the truth.  It is then and only then that our understanding of God can be corrected and brought in line with his Kingdom will.
thanks....
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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Big Is Your God?

Reading this morning from Oswald Chambers "My Utmost For His Highest," and came away with a thought.
I need a bigger God.
What I mean by this, is that my understanding and I guess you would call it my "concept" or perception of God is very limited.
Limited in a bad way.
I love the story of Jesus interacting with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus has been traveling with his disciples, it's been a long trip. It's noontime and hot so Jesus has stopped by the well while the boys go on into town to round up some grub. Stories like this seem so coincidental but if not for the two main characters we would miss the point. Jesus never had any encounter that was coincidental. He followed his Father's directives and ministered everywhere he went.

The conversation between the two goes back and forth and Jesus says something that sparks the interest of the woman. He mentions "Living Water." Now this woman has not been made aware that Jesus is speaking in spiritual terms about a life that would change her forever. She is thinking about good ol' H2O, the wet stuff we need to sustain life. In fact, she begins to tear into Jesus' reference to this living water. In verse 11 of John chapter 4 we read, "But sir, you don't have a rope or a bucket," she said, "and this is a very deep well. Where would you get this living water?" She doesn't truly understand who she is speaking with. If she did, she would know that inside the human heart, where sin lies deep and undisturbed, Jesus would not bring it up, He would bring down the power of the Almighty to take it away.

Oswald Chambers puts it this way:
Think of the depths of human nature, of human life, think of the depths of the "wells" in you. Have you been impoverishing the ministry of Jesus so that He cannot do anything? Suppose there is a well of fathomless trouble inside your heart,and Jesus comes and says, "Let not your heart be troubled." and you shrug your shoulders and say, "But, Lord, the well is deep. You cannot draw up quietness and comfort out of it." No! He will bring them down from above. Jesus does not bring anything up from the wells of human nature. We limit the Holy One by remembering what we have allowed Him to do for us in the past.

I allow my unbelief, the size of the trouble or situation I am facing and my past history to limit what Jesus desires to accomplish in me. In other words, I have a small Jesus. Jesus' desire for me is to allow Him to fill me beyond my capacity. To unlock the doubt and fear and be ready to receive at any moment the tremendous outpouring of his spirit, his grace, his mercy, his love.............And his capability. Capability? Yes! His ability to deal with anything I take to him. His power and authority that created the heavens, the earth and the universe is waiting to move on my behalf when I surrender and tear down the strongholds of doubt. I need a God who is Almighty God. I need a God who is the God of this Bible. I need a Jesus who shrugged off the chains of death and the grave and stepped from that tomb victorious. I need a great big God!

Do you understand what my rambling thoughts are trying to say?
God isn't limited.
It's me that limits him when I won't let him work in me.
It's my own fears and doubt that are the real enemy here.
I choose today to not let them stop what God wants to accomplish in me.
Bring on that Living Water!!!!

God on you...
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Downloaded new message to the podcast section: Healing in the light of God.
Enjoy....

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Love Is A Sin Defeater

I have been thinking about the heart of God.
The heart of God being that part of him that is intellect and will and emotion and intent and behavior and so on and so on....The very thing that makes God.....God.
I don't want to attribute to God in any shape form or fashion the idea that he is on a human level. In truth, we are created in the image of him, not him in the image of us.
That image being, we are 3 fold........body, soul, and spirit.
We house a sin nature, whereas God does not. He is free from sin.
Did you ever truly think about that?
God has no sin.
Oh, as Jesus walked this earth, he experienced the force and tug of sin through temptation, but never gave in.
But where God is, sin is not a problem.
Imagine what it is going to be like to live everyday free from the influence of sin.
Free from the emotional strain of the battle of dealing with sin.
To be able to think, act and feel free from the presence of sin, the power of sin. That is cool times 10.
It is going to happen. Scripture says that Jesus has prepared a place for me to dwell with him.
Can't wait to see it.

I guess the big thing I think of when I think about God's heart, is his capacity to love.
Why love?
Because it absolves me of the wrong I've done.
It is this part of God that kept the judgement side from coming down on me by providing a way for him to have relationship with me, a sinner.
God solved his own problem of dealing with the payment for sin.
He made the payment himself.

I think the greatest example of God's love for us is found in Genesis 3.
Now I've never really read this chapter and saw it as God's love. I tended to lean toward "They-messed-up-boy-is-God-mad-or-what" kind of deal. But if you read the chapter you will not see any anger at all.
You see a God who comes down and deals with the problem that is beyond dealing with if you were the man or the woman in the garden.
Even though Adam and Eve and have sinned and have fallen prey to the serpent's schemes, God shows up in the garden just like he did every afternoon (are at least that is what I am reading into it). God must have come down as day was changing over to night and would walk with the couple. Well, God shows up just like he did time after time, knowing full well what has taken place yet he gives the couple an opportunity to repent. You know, If it had of been me...........I'd probably stormed into the garden yelling and screaming, "O.k.! O.k.! Every body out of the pool! That's it...you blew it."  Aren't you glad that I didn't get the job of being God? Me too.

But God shows up....speaks to each of the guilty parties...
Man.....You're going to work and sweat and it is not going to be fun.
Woman....You're going to have a lot of pain when you give birth.
Serpent......It's on now. There is going to be someone on down the line that is going to crush your head.
Then with every one standing there God did something that they (the man and woman) had not been able to do do. God killed animals.........shed their blood (Hebrews 9:22 --without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness for sin) and made clothing and coverings for the man and the woman. God instituted an act that brought forgiveness to them.
No where in this entire chapter do we see God hating on the couple.
Berating them or casting them aside. You know it would have been easy to just take them out and create two more, but that isn't God's way. He met the problem head on and instituted the answer to the sin question. God's love complimented the judgement side. For that, I am grateful!

It is this part of God, his heart and capacity to love his creation, that stirs me to follow him...to live for him.
I see John 3:16 in new light this morning....
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
God is in the business of working and carrying out his plan to rescue and restore his creation.
That is why we turn to Jesus as our higher Power.

He alone is the answer to every addiction battle we face.
He alone is the love we so desperately need to be overwhelmed by.
He is the completeness for every thing we lack to face this day.
Why?
Because he loves.....
That is why.

God on you......
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Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Man In The Mirror

One of the hardest truths to come to terms with is when we are forced to look at our own hearts.
When the events or circumstances of our life have spiraled out of control and we sit among the destruction it has brought about.
Our first inclination is to think of ourselves as a victim. To blame someone else for the wrongs we have committed.
Truth is very sobering, especially to a person who doesn't really want to see themselves as God sees them.
In Jeremiah 17:9  we read:
The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?
These words are coming from God, our creator. He knows the full extent of sin and where it comes from. It was for this reason that Jesus died to break the power of sin and bring healing to all mankind.

He goes on to say in verse 10: But I know! I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.
God is saying....
"You know what? You think it's about what you've done.........when in reality, it's about who you are?"
God is the answer to every problem I have.
I know that sounds like some cutesy religious jargon or platitude, but it isn't.
God is the answer to every problem I have.
It is truth.
Truth will break down every argument the human heart can come up with.

You see God doesn't operate the way the world does when it comes to truth.
The world, our flesh, and the devil simply want to uncover us and leave there bleeding to death from the truth.
God would heal us.
God would love us back to health if we would let him.
In Isaiah 41:10 we read: Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Did you catch the truth that God spoke? Look at the promises that he poured out in this short, simple verse.
1.) I am with you...
2.) I am your God
3.) I will strengthen you
4.) I will help you
5.)I will uphold you...
Five simple things that the Lord God, creator of everything we see, touch, taste, smell and hear, has declared to do for you, if you will simply give up and fall on him.

If you are reading this post this morning and these words seem to burn within your very being, that is God talking to you right now. Today.......right now is the time to change in your life. To surrender and allow God to save you and bring you into a new way of doing business in this old world.

I love what Isaiah 40:27-31 says.
O Israel, how can you say the LORD does  not see your troubles? How can you say God refuses to hear your case? Have you never hard or understood? Don't you know that the LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth? He never grows faint or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; He offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up. But those who wait on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Let God be whatever it is you lack.
Let him fill the empty places of your life.
It's time to quit playing the religious game and start with living a relationship.
It's time to quit acting holy and spiritual and be holy and spiritual.
It's time to simply give up and let God into your life and heart.
Thanks for letting me share with you this morning.
I do so, because God stirred me to take a look at my own life and see all the places that still need work.
I am a work in progress.

God on you......
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Down loaded one of songs from last Saturday nights worship....."People Get Ready".
You can hear it over in the podcast section of the blog.
Enjoy...
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Amazing Grace For Real

He looked really just like he did the last time I saw him.
The sound that came out of his saxophone was as smooth as ever and filled the room as he played.
You could tell he was in his element and was as comfortable as an old house shoe.
Jimmy McNabb had come home.

Jimmy is an over comer.
He made some bad choices that seem to spiral and multiply.
Fear caused them to only get worse, until he cried out for help.
Jimmy did everything that was asked of him, and then some.

Jimmy's sobriety birthday coincides with the very first recovery service we did at Gadsden Vineyard.
August of 1999.
He was at the very first House of Blue. So Jimmy understands how far God has brought us on this "road to recovery".
Jimmy played often at House of Blue and whenever he did, the place would go crazy.
It wasn't that he was flamboyant or outrageous.
It was the Spirit of God on his music.
Jimmy didn't just play the notes, he played with his heart.
A very unassuming, low key individual, Jimmy just loved playing and being a part of a band.

I received a call from him yesterday.
He was back in Alabama to bury his mother.
She passed away last week and was laid to rest in Troy, Alabama, her hometown.
Jimmy had been asked by Cross Point Celebrate Recovery to come and sit in with their worship team, so he called me to see if I could come last night.
Of course I could. I wouldn't miss it.
As I walked into the room where the meeting was going on, the band had just kicked off the first song.
There on that stage stood Jimmy.
Always dressed to the nines, Jimmy played with his heart which just happens to come out of that saxophone.
It was as smooth as silk.
Memories rushed by as I worshipped.
"Had it really been 13 years?"
"He looks so good and healthy."
"God, you're giving me a "pay day!"
You see, from time to time, God will bring someone through  my  day who came through Rapha.
it is His way of letting me know that what we are doing matters and works in the lives of those who are ready to change. Pay Day!

As Jimmy moved into "Amazing Grace," I began to cry.
Tears streaming down my face and a joy in my heart that was indescribable.
"Yes God! Your grace is amazing, and Jimmy is living proof of that grace."
Thank you, Lord, for that gift of reconnection last night.
God bless Jimmy and his family. I would that you be a real presence in his life as he grieves in the death of his mother. You are a good God!
In Jesus name...
Amen....

God on you...
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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Church@Rapha

Next month, we will be celebrating our 6th anniversary of holding a service on the Rapha Compound.
6 years?
Yep, although it doesn't seem like it has been that long.
I knew that God would lead me to Rapha eventually when I first started going as a volunteer teacher.
Even as we were doing House of Blue at the Gadsden Vineyard, I knew that at some point we would hold a service there on the property at Rapha. It was just a matter of God's timing.
Then on a Sunday morning in April back in 2006, we met for the first time.
Once again, God had us in a learning stage.
We took what we had learned from our time at the Vineyard and God added to it as we were doing church a new way.

I messed up a lot. Messages were good but never seemed to be what I felt they should be. The worship was a work in progress and I am so grateful to Debbie Handy, Wayne Wimpee and Barry Hooks for their patience with me. In all the hub-bub and mess, God was still showing up and lives were being changed.
The Church@Rapha was off and running.

God has been very gracious to us, in that we still are seeing the evidence of His hand and presence in our meetings. I can't tell you how many men have been saved and baptized since we started in 2006...hundreds.
But I can tell you this. The reason this service works isn't because of me........it's because those who come through that door on Saturday night, do so with hungry hearts. They are ready to meet with God.

Over the years, we have gone through seasons where God called us to specific teachings and areas of teachings. Back in December of 2009, Seth Barber spoke a message that opened the door for God to lead us through the 12 Steps in a year. All of 2010 was spent teaching the steps according to scripture. Each month we took a step and taught on it for the entire month. You can find these messages over in our podcast section of this blog.

Even in all the change, there has been one under lying thought that God has kept alive. We are a church. We are a different church with a focus that is uniquely ours, but a church none the less. Why are we different? Because our congregation is always in transition. There is a turn over every seven weeks. This presents us with some unique problems in the way we approach what we do. We have to clearly define what our intention is and what we feel like God is wanting to accomplish during that persons time at Rapha.

Our number one goal is:
To present a God that is approachable and desires to have relationship with us.
We do so by emphasizing worship. Worship is our highest priority in that we believe that we were created to worship the Lord. We do so in our music, in our messages, in our giving and in our lives. Saturday night is a time of celebration for what God has done to us and through us by bringing us out of addiction into a living, breathing, changing relationship with Him.
We want to emphasize that God is not some entity sitting off in a distant galaxy but rather a loving creator that desires to come and interact with his creation. We do this through our ministry, or clinic time as John Wimber called it.

Secondly, we want to instill an understanding that God has called all believers to participate in the Kingdom of God. That is a fancy way of saying "God wants us to do the stuff that Jesus did."
Matthew 10:1 reads: Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness.
Again, at the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus commissions his disciples to take the message and demonstrate what they had been taught to others. In the process of doing this, they were to make other disciples who, in turn, would take the message also. It was reproduction by divine design.
So our call is to begin to plant the seed in those who come to our meetings at Rapha, that they have a call and greater purpose than simply being clean and sober.  They have been extended an invitation to participate in the kingdom rule of God here in our town, our county and state. To do the works of Christ.
To pray for the sick and see them healed.
To proclaim liberty to the captives and see them set free from whatever bondage sin has them in.
To break off demonic spirits and influence.
To feed the hungry and clothe the naked.
To be a voice crying out in the wilderness of sin and addiction....."Prepare yourselves because Jesus is here to set you free."
Pipe dream? I don't think so.
I could tell you thousands of stories about this Jesus and the things I have seen him do, not only in my own life, but in the lives of the people who had come through our meetings. Here again....it isn't about me.....It's just Jesus.

I realize that everyone will not like our model of church (the way our services are conducted).
Most of the time, it is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of service. By that I mean that we are trying to hear what God wants to do rather than what I want to do. I always go with a message, but I am prepared to throw it away at any moment when God shows up. I rather listen to Him than myself anyway.

I want to provide a place where someone can meet this Jesus that I am so much in love with.
I want to be a non-hyped environment, free from religious jargon and language (after all, Jesus didn't sound religious did he?) A place where we can all gather and be changed into the men and women who are hungry to tell others and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom of God.

I would that you pray for us at the Church@Rapha as we go through these changes over the coming weeks and months. You have a standing invitation to join us on Saturday nights at 7 p.m. for our meeting.
Thanks for stopping by Greene Street Letters.
Please tell your family and friends about is if you feel like it might be something they would read.

God on you.......
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Divinely Heaven Power Company

We've got steps to follow.
We've got principals to live by.
We got the 12 and 12 (Traditions and steps).
There is a lot of effort that goes into this new life we are laying hold of.
But in the effort, we find God's strength enables us to do what we've never been able to do.
Live clean and sober.
This new found relationship with Jesus was the missing part of our new life.
We tried church...
We tried being religious...
We tried being good....
But it wasn't until we were saved that our efforts became empowered by Christ.
Our efforts included the turning or our will and our life over to his care.

God alone is the Power we had been sorely lacking in pursuing this new life. A new way of living that always seemed to lie beyond our grasp. We chased it for so long that we began to believe the lie that we were destined to live and die trapped by addiction. We became hopeless. We embraced the lifestyle that was nothing more than a prison of spiritual darkness. We gave up. Every time we heard the words "clean and sober" they were like knives in our heart, cutting us deep with the shame and guilt of our inability to be free from drugs and alcohol.

IT was the light and voice of God that stirred us and gave us the smallest glimmer of hope that just maybe...
He was the Power we had been looking for. He was the answer to every dark day we had lived in addiction. So we surrendered. We gave up. We were sick and tired of being sick and tired.
In this surrender it was like the sun came up in our soul. Things would never be the same. This was the beginning of new life and a new way of life.

I have watched this transformation from darkness to light over and over in the lives of the men who come through Rapha. It is something that I never tire of and yet, I still don't understand how it works.
It is the mystery of God, this salvation experience. Yet I have seen men who I was close to giving up on, be laid hold of by God's Holy Spirit and receive this glorious transformation into a new life. It defies explanation. Men who had spent years and years and thousands of dollars trying to get sober, have this encounter with God and are changed. It really isn't about Rapha or our treatment program. These are merely tools that God uses in this transformed life. It is about the power and presence of Almighty God in the life and body of one who has given up.


To see a man flourish and change into this new creation is the most wonderful thing in the world to watch. To see them become hungry for God's word, studying it and trying to grasp every word. Full of questions about what has happened, what is going to happen, they get up each day with a new sense and purpose for living. They truly are "babes" learning a new way to walk, talk, live and breath. All we did was to point them to the one who truly has the power to change.

Jude : 24
And now (right here at this very moment) All glory to God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) who is able (possesses the power, authority and ability to carry out and see to completion) to keep ( Own or possess because of a legal right) you ( all inclusive as the possession or ownership is based on the surrendered lives to Him) from stumbling (to stumble denotes movement. People who are standing still do not stumble, only those who are moving forward) , and who will (Future tense which means these verses are a promise. Due to his nature, His promises are yes and amen without fail) Bring you into his glorious presence innocent of sin and with great joy (there will be a celebration not only of our lives and existence with have been transformed, but because of who God is! His wonderful and glorious character that has brought defeat to the devil and his kingdom of darkness)

God on you today.....
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away

At some point, in this relationship we have embraced with Jesus, there has to be a turn.
Our thoughts and actions, our motives and our intents change from being self-focused, and move toward becoming "others" focused. The first eleven steps of the twelve steps are devoted to establishing a relationship with the Higher Power (in this case, we believe that Higher Power to be Jesus Christ).

Steps # 1 - 3 - we are learning to trust God.
Steps # 4 - 11 - we are cleaning our own house. That is a nice way of saying we are letting God work in us to change our character. To take out the part that validates our lying, cheating, stealing, etc......
and replace it with the Holy Spirit, who will guide us into all truth. The words, "All Truth," meaning truth about ourselves in relation to the absolute truth that God has given as a standard.
Step # 12 - Now we become outward focused. What makes this possible? "Having had a spiritual awakening..."
Kind of paints a picture of us being in a spiritual coma.
Oh, we are walking around...
Making decisions (even if they are really bad decisions)...
We are existing outside the rule and reign of God's kingdom.
For ourselves, we are the slave to our own desires and emotions.
We are a slave to sin.
But now, here on Step # 12, we have been awakened by God's touch upon our life. It was God who reached down and brought us out of the muddled darkness of sin.
It was God who opened the door to this new way of living, thinking and doing business with the world.
It was God who brought me up and out of the pit of hell, to establish me and set me upon a firm foundation of Jesus Christ.
It was God who broke the power of the pipe, the pill, the bottle and the needle.
It was the cross of Christ that was brought to bear on my behalf.

Now alive, I find that my heart is for those still out there trapped in the darkness of addiction.
I find that I run into them every day.
I see them at every turn.
I want to tell them about this God, who did for me what I could not do for myself.
So I give myself away.
I share my story.
I buy cups of coffee.
I get them food to eat.
Clothes to wear.
Sometimes, I'm simply there for them. I sit with them in their pain and distress. I am a presence just as Christ in me is a presence. There aren't may words spoken during times like this, but there is comfort found in Jesus.
We read the words of Matthew 25:40, in the parable of the sheep and the goats. Jesus is proclaiming his approval and love for those who have taken care of those who are hungry, in prison, sick, alone etc.....In fact if you read the list, it reads like the results of someone who is an addict. In the parable, there are others who are believers, who have simply done what we all should be doing. They have poured themselves out by feeding, clothing, visiting and praying for others. Jesus, at the conclusion of the parable, gives this proclamation to the group.  ....And the King shall answer and say unto them, "Verily I say unto you ,in as much as you have done these things unto one of the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me." Did you catch that?

Every 12 step call you make....You are taking Jesus to give away to this life that is bound up by addiction.
Every time you greet someone at a meeting or at church and offer them a cup of coffee and some cookies, you are giving away Jesus to them.
Jesus said at one point in Scripture that the purest religion in the world was the giving of a cup of cold water in his name. A simple act of love that is not kept or hoarded, but given away at no cost to another human being. Why? Because we love Jesus, and we love people who haven't met him and so not have what we have been given.

Paraphrase of Step # 12 ---
Having had a spiritual awakening, we seek to take THE MESSAGE to others.......
I think this is the heart of Kingdom of God.
Thanks for stopping by today and reading the Greene Street Letters....

God on you...
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Monday, March 19, 2012

The Starting Point




I have kind of been looking back at how we got to where we are today at Rapha. How God led us around and trained us for this time in our lives. I ran across this picture you see above, and realized that this was where it all started.
That's right....this is where it all started for me. What you see in the picture what use to be the main room for Gadsden Vineyard Church. All our services were held here in this room which measured about 25' by 45'. I had been associate pastor for almost a year, and I had been dividing my time between the Vineyard and Rapha. Teaching as a volunteer at Rapha, my heart was drawn to people in recovery. The more I hung around them, the more I saw that what some would classify  as "normal" church, didn't really speak to the vast majority of men and women I came in contact with. (Those in recovery or still trapped in addiction)

The more I prayed about this, the more of a burden I carried.
I wanted them to be able to experience and learn about God in a setting that was not threatening to them. I felt like if we could do church in a manner that didn't sound like most churches or look like most churches, then maybe............just maybe for a brief moment, who ever was present, would let down their guard, open their heart up to receive the truth. Now let me straight up with you at this point. I knew we would be different from other churches. I also knew that different didn't mean better, it just meant different.....that's all.


Problem was, we didn't have a model to follow on how to do this. SO we did the next best thing.
We made it up as we went along...
Well, we didn't really make it up..........
We actually spent a great deal of time trying to hear God on what He wanted to do.
There wasn't any blueprint on Recovery church back in 1998. At least not here in this town.
I asked our Senior pastor to release me to start this new work under the knowledge that if this was truly from God, then it would work. If God wasn't in it, it would shrivel up and die and we'd move on to something else. The week before we held our first Saturday night meeting, we were at the church praying one night and we had an angelic visitation. I won't go into the entire story but suffice it to say that God, through this angel, declared war on sin/addiction/ and stated that the room would be a place for healing.


Psalm 134 became our watchword as we declared the truth of it over the room where we were going to host the meeting.
"Come bless God, all you servants of God! You priests of God, posted to the nightwatch in God's Temple. Lift your praising hands to the Holy Place and bless God. In turn, may God of Zion bless you. God who made heaven and earth!"

The name of our meeting was "HOUSE OF BLUE".
Blue being the color of an open heaven or communication between God and his creation. We strongly felt that God was going to begin a conversation with those in addiction and bring healing and salvation to those trapped. We also referred to it as "House of Blue" in reference to "Blues" music. This particular genre of music seems to cross the lines of every known division to man. It doesn't matter what you race is.........what you social standing is.............what your education is.....the blues speaks to our hearts. The main problem with the blues that the world or society sings, has no solution and is merely an acknowledgement of the pain that life brings. Our "blues" or worship declares that same pain but then looks to heaven to the giver of all good things...God and acknowledges him as the answer to every problem.

Over time, our blues sound has morphed more into a roadhouse kind of mish mash. God has used it greatly in our meetings to draw attention to our need for him to heal us. And use us, He has!
We held our last meeting at Gadsden Vineyard, the last Sunday of April 2006. Ironically, we did our first meeting at Rapha on the same day. Truth be known, we were kind of relegated to holding the meeting at Rapha on Sunday mornings for the first two years. After much prayer and God's hand, we were given the Saturday night spot and we've been there ever since.

I have CD's of every service we've done:  House of Blue and Rapha. Kind of a reminder of the goodness of God. From time to time I will go back and pull one out to listen to it. You can hear the sounds of the room as people worship, and are ministered to by the hand of God. Just like Jimmy Stewart in the movie It's A Wonderful Life, I feel like his character, George Bailey, who was referred to as the richest man in Bedford Falls. He wasn't rich materially, but in the eternal things that cannot be measured by the hand of man. God has allowed me to see, hear and participate in more of His kingdom over the past 15 years, than some folks see in a life time. For that I am truly grateful.
And it all started in a little room at 419 Broad Street in downtown Gadsden.

God on you.......
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Signs, Signs Every Where Are Signs

Job 33:13
But God speaks first one way, then another yet man does not perceive it.

God is a communicating God.
He is constantly revealing himself and his kingdom plans to his children.
Scripture says that the "heavens declare the glory of God."
So God communicates to us (believers) even in the natural world around us.
Yet...........
We may miss it from time to time.
Yesterday was one of those days when God was communicating.

I had gone from my walk and was almost through.
I had made my circle through the neighborhood and had turned to come up Greene Street to the house.
I had my mp3 player going, listening to a message, when suddenly off to my left, something caught my eye.
It was a single die.
The kind like you would use in a kids game.
The side facing up was the number "5".
the die was sitting at the very edge of a driveway but not quiet in the street.
I glanced up at the mailbox and saw that the address was 319.
Number 5...
At 319 Greene Street.
5 and 319.
Through study, I knew that the number "5" was the number for grace.
Grace being a power, a force given by God.
In fact my life had been changed by a series of messages Vicki and I listened to years ago by James Ryles on Grace.

I won't go into the teaching, but James' definition of grace has always stuck with me.
"Grace is the empowering presence of God in my life that enables me to be who God created me to be and to do what God has called me to do.".........GRACE!
Then it suddenly dawned on me (actually I think the Holy Spirit revealed the truth)
Today is March 19....
3 - 19!
And the number 5 is the number for grace.
Is God trying to say that there would be grace for this day? March 19?
That I would need to remind myself of God's grace because something might be happening today.
Could there be an attack from the enemy today that would require a greater grace from God.
I don't necessarily mean that God carries around different degrees of Grace, just that my awareness of his grace might be more evident than usual.

I know that last night was a terrible night for me physically.
I was up most of the night with stomach trouble and couldn't sleep.
Finally got to bed between 2 and 2:30 a.m.
Even though I have had little sleep, I am not groggy or even tired.
Is the grace for me today as I go to Rapha to teach?
One thing I do know.
I was to share this message with all who stop by Greene Street Letter to read today's posting.
For that very reason, I think maybe this is a message for all believers.
We have a greater need for God's grace today than ever before.
It is there for all who call out for God to pour over them.
"Give me your grace, Lord!"
Just receive the goodness of God this morning and then go walk in grace.

God on you......
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Remember

Titus 2:14
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing what is right.

Sometimes you just have to revisit things that we think we know.
We've heard them so much that they don't really register with our heart.

"Jesus loves you!"
We think to ourselves, "I know...I know....Jesus love me....Jesus died for me.....blah, blah, blah..."
We hear it....
but it doesn't register down inside of us..
It has become words that sound good, but may not be having an effect on us.
Take for instance Jesus telling his disciples that he was going to die and then be raised from the dead.
He told them a number of times that this was going to happen.
Even after the resurrection, they still doubted as to whether it had actually happened or not.
Ol' doubting Thomas said that he had to see the scars of the nails before he'd believe.
But when Jesus showed up in the middle of one of their gatherings, Thomas quickly changed his claim....
"It's IS you!"
I don't want my relationship with Jesus to devolve into mere words and mental concepts and exercises.
I don't want it to become ritual and rote.
I want to remain open and in love with this Jesus.

In Matthew 15:8-9 Jesus warns about allowing our relationship with him to grow cold.
"These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce, for they have replaced God's commands with their own man-made teachings."
How sad and scary....
Even though the people have allowed the things of the world to replace their love for Jesus, they continue to go to church.
They continue to sing the praise and worship songs.
They, in their own minds, think that they are bringing honor and glory to Jesus.....
But....
Their hearts are far away.
God forbid that I allow myself to fall into this way of life.
That is why I must let the Holy Spirit (inside me) keep me close.
Keep me close to Jesus through prayer...
Through Bible study (not just Bible reading)
Through an active life of service....helping others.
Through sharing my life story with someone else.
We take the message of Salvation Recovery in Jesus to others. As we share our message, we must never forget the following truths.
1.) We were once a slave to the world and to addiction.
2.) Our hearts were filled with confusion and painful emotions just like those we are sharing with.
3.) We were saved because of the love and kindness of God, not because we were good enough to earn it.
4.) We can stay free of addiction because God is with us, holding us up and protecting us every step of the way.

Have a wonderful Sunday.....
God on you...
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Saturday, March 17, 2012

No Room For Wishy Washy

Daniel 1:8
.......But Daniel made up his mind.......

Daniel made up his mind.
That verse speaks volumes about a person.
There was a decision to be made.
Two choices.
In this case, one of the choices could have cost him (Daniel) his life.
But Daniel made up his mind.
He resolved the dilemma and then followed through with it.

Daniel's situation was not exactly listed in the "good" category.
Daniel's life wasn't exactly peaches and cream.
He was a slave.
His country had fallen in defeat to Babylon, one of the great military powers of the day.
As was the custom, the people were taken away by the victorious country, to serve and fill the positions of servants and workers. Daniels very being was under the authority and whims of governement that was not very tolerant or forgiving.
But Daniel made up his mind.

I like the way the Recovery Bible writes about Daniel.
Daniel experienced the turmoil of transition from one culture to another, yet he recognized that God was in control. He knew that no matter what happened around him, God and his will would remain the same. Daniel knew what God expected of him and remained faithful to the God's program, despite the opposition and temptations he faced. So God blessed him, and Daniel became a great success in the courts of Babylon and Persia.
In other words...."But Daniel made up his mind."

Recovery is no different, as there is great turmoil (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) in the transition from your old lifestyle to this new life of sobriety. The key focus for us should be the recognition that God is in control. If we want to truly live a new way, then through step #3, we keep before us always the thought that we turn our life over to God once (Salvation) and our will daily. We must rely on the fact that no matter what happens today, God's will and purpose for us remains the same. It isn't changed or thwarted by anyone or any situation. God's will is the one true unshakable fact we can stand on. So if God's will in my life is the great stabilizer against any storm that comes my way, then I should stand on this knowledge. I should commit myself whole heartedly to this great truth.
I do not need to return to my old ways and habits of trying to control things through my own will or strength. Remember that "God does for me, what I could not do for myself."
I need to make up my mind, or as the Bible puts it, I need to set my face like flint to follow this Jesus.

But Daniel made up his mind.....
And when he did, God blessed Daniel.
God blessed Daniel even though his circumstances were less than wonderful (I mean...C'mon...he is a slave)
God broke through all the baggage that comes with being a slave and lifted Daniel up to a life that he never could have attained on his on.
How?
But Daniel made up his mind.......that's how!

When God begins this work in you, as you make up your mind to follow, then you will be given the gift that will sustain you through every trial and temptation.
As the Big Book puts it........"You will know peace!"
Go out and enjoy this day.....

God on you....
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Friday, March 16, 2012

Just Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Matthew 11:28 -- "Come unto me.........."

Isaiah 50:7 -  For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded. Therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

Jeremiah 17:5 -  Thus says the Lord, "Cursed is the man who trusteth in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord."

Jeremiah 17:7 -  Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.

Sometimes you have to clear the air. I am not a professional "anything".....doctor / lawyer / and especially theologian. I am a theologian (the study of God) but I lay no claim to incredible insight or ability. I believe that man has a need to think that the mysteries of God are deep and beyond our comprehension. Part of this I do believe. God with holds certain things because we have no need of knowing. The rest, I believe is there for us to find and have the Holy Spirit illuminate our understanding.

I read on the Internet all these different view and opinions about the 12 steps. Some believe that these steps are the salvation for mankind and those in addiction......
Others believe that A.A. is a cult and is deceitfully wicked.
If you do word searches, you'll find that opinions about the 12 steps run the entire spectrum.
What do I believe?
I believe that there is no magic in the steps.
I believe that the steps never stopped anyone from using or drinking.
Some put their trust and their focus on the steps.
When in fact, the trust and focus should be on Jesus Christ.
The steps are a discipline spelled out to aid in this new found relationship with Jesus.

Drinking and drugging are evidence or symptom of a deeper struggle within the person who is using.
Trying to treat the use is like giving someone an aspirin for headaches that are caused by a brain tumor. It may relive the pain but only momentarily. There won't be any real relief until the tumor is removed.
The heart of all addiction is "the heart". Not the organ that pumps our blood, but the part of us that contains our will, intellect, our character.....some call it the soul, some refer to it as our spirit. I'll just call it the heart.
Found within each of us is a condition called "SIN".
It is a state that affects the way we think and act. Some refer to this condition as "The flesh" or our "Sin Nature." In other words, I am born with a bent to do the  wrong thing. If you don't believe this, then get you a room full of three year-olds and put a single toy in the middle of the floor. You'll have a fight on your hands as each of the tykes try to take possession of the toy. The one who finally does retrieve it proudly screams, "Mine! Mine!" Now tell me. Who taught this child to be greedy? No one. The sin nature exercised its will and the behavior that came out was one of greed.

Paul in Romans 7 writes: For I know that in me (that is my flesh) dwells no good thing. For to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not. (Or I can't do it).
Paul goes on to write, "For the good that I want to do, I don't do. But the evil which I don't want to do, well that is the very thing that I do."
Later in the chapter, Paul says, "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Do you see where addiction comes from? Do you understand that it is the matter of the heart?
Yes! If you keep using, you'll affect the brain and there will be some physical damage done to you.
Yes! If you keep using, you'll affect your mental state that will rob you of your ability to stop or choose to stop. But at the heart of all addiction is a deceitful heart that needs to be changed. And only the blood of Jesus can break the power of this sin nature. Paul ends Romans 7 with these words: I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God but the flesh, the law of sin.

I can only speak from the truth that God has given to me and shown me.
I know in my own struggles there were times where I had lost the ability to stop. I hated myself each time declaring that this would be the last, only to return to my sin over and over and over. It took the blood of Jesus (the work of the cross...His death and resurrection to pay the price for my sin) to break my sin.
It abolished the penalty of sin in my life.
It cleared the presence of sin from my life.
It broke the power of sin in my life, and placed a comforter inside of me, the Holy Spirit of God.
Now I have an advocate or someone who will defend me if I do sin. Through my repentance and confession, Jesus brings forgiveness to me and removes my sin.
So while the 12 steps are very important and a vital piece of what we teach at Rapha, it is the "Higher Power" we call Jesus Christ that is the real determining factor in our sobriety.
The steps are merely a path that we follow under the direction and guidance of Jesus.
May you find Him today....

God on you....
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Name That Tune

Psalm 32:7
You are my hiding place. You shall preserve me from trouble. You shall surround me with songs of deliverance....Selah.

Do you hear it?
It is continuous. Never Stops.
Haven't you heard it?
It rises and falls daily as we walk, work, live and breath.
Do you know the words?
"What?"you may be asking.
The Songs of deliverance that God the Father sings over you.
Why would God be singing over us?
Well, why do we sing to babies at night?
To soothe them and comfort them as they are drifting off to sleep.

God sings Songs of deliverance over us to comfort us and let us know that he is ever watchful at every point of our day.
God also sings Songs of deliverance  over us to bolster our faith.
Life has a way of knocking the blocks out from under us from time to time, and God's desire is that we learn when we are "in him" we can rest and not be caught off guard. Did you notice that it does not say what we are being delivered from? It's kind of an open ended statement. Songs of deliverance means whatever we need to be delivered from, God has a song. There is power in the proclamation and words of the song that God sings over us.
Songs strengthen our faith in God.
Songs reaffirm truth that we know with our minds, and transfers it to our hearts.
Songs have a way of sticking with us. Don't tell me you haven't ever gotten a tune in your mind that you really didn't like, only to have it stay there all day ( ...."Here's the story....of a lovely lady.....the Brady bunch....)
Even though we might not be able to hear God's Songs of deliverance with our ears, we do pick up on them with our spirit. They add to our faith which causes me to rise up and not quit. These songs also provide a hedge of protection around me. I think that God sings these Songs of deliverance as a reminder to the devil and his bunch of cronies that we belong to him. Kind of a proclamation that we have been sealed with God's Holy Spirit and therefore have a purpose and a hope. 

We had a time when God's Songs of deliverance became a reality.
It was the early 80's and Vicki and I were trying to get our lives back together. We had been away from God and the seven years we had spent in spiritual darkness had taken a toll on our relationship and our finances and our family life. This particular night was a very dark night. Financially we were drowning in debt from all the bad choices we had made. Creditors were calling and bills were stacking up. If you have ever had financial problems, you know that it brings stress and worry to a marriage. Here we were trying to live for God, trying to do the right thing, and for every positive step we took, it seemed like we were getting knocked back 3. It was so hard this particular night, that I had just given up and went to bed. My wife sat in the living room, weighed down under the pressure of life. She began to cry. "I can't do this, Lord....I just can't go on like this!"

I remember her coming down the hall, weeping uncontrollably. "He's here! He's here! Jesus is here," she said as she opened the door to the bedroom. "What? Whose here?" I replied. "It's Jesus..He came into our living room!"
She began to recount how as she was sitting there, in our living room, weeping and praying, the front door blew open. Vicki said that a presence came into the room and sat down on the couch next to her. She told me that there wasn't anyone or anything visible, but that she felt the weight of someone sitting down next to her, and that what happened next was incredible. Jesus read to her the words of Psalm 91. He sang a Song of deliverance over her.

Psalm 91
He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in him will I trust.
Surely he shall deliver me from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover me with his feathers, and under his wings shall I trust. His truth shall be my shield and buckler.
I shall not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flies by day.
Nor the pestilence that walks in darkness. Nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.


That Song of deliverance that Jesus sang over my wife that night changed her forever. To her, it became an inner strength and assurance that life and this world had nothing that could stop the plans of her Father. There in the darkest of moments, Jesus lifted Vicki out of a place of despair and raised her up. Our circumstances had not changed, but she had. Deliverance had come to her!
What is it you are struggling with this morning?
Stop...
Get really still....
and begin to listen with your heart as your heavenly Father sings Songs of deliverance over you.....

God on you......
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Never A Love Like This

It has been a good week.
It has been a hard week.
For me, I have struggled with a crisis of conscience and confidence.
"Am I doing what I am suppose to be doing?"
or....
"Have I drifted away from the original call I first heard?"
After spending too much time with these thoughts, I did some serious praying.
I'm kind of crazy like this, but I believe that everything we do is not meant to be forever.
I have always felt that we should live our lives to be ready to change under God's direction and the leading of His Holy Spirit.
I use to tell others that "We should live with a suitcase packed, sitting by the front door so that when God tells us to go, we are ready."
I think far too many people who are followers of Jesus, get saved and then spend the vast amount of their energy trying to make a comfortable life for themselves. Jesus becomes kind of a safety net for when things get hard or we run into a crisis.

Jesus is a gift.
He gave of himself for me.
He took my sin....
All my sin....
Took it upon himself and walked to a cross willingly, knowing full well the implications of that cross.
The cross meant death.
You didn't compromise with the cross, you only submitted.
Jesus did just that.
On the surface, it looked like Jesus was guilty and deserving of the cross.
He wasn't.
I was.
I was born under the penalty and presence of sin.
But the love that rules from heaven looked down on His creation and could not bear the thought of them dying without an answer to the sin question.

He looked down and saw every vile deed I ever committed.
He looked down and heard every blasphemous word I ever spoke.
He looked down and felt the anger I had for Him.
Even in all of this, He still loved me.
He saw every drink taken....
Every pill swallowed....
Every bed that was defiled outside of marriage....
He still loved us.
It was this love that was stretched out on the wood of Calvary's cross.
It was this love that reached out to me with the gift of salvation and eternal life.
It was this love that broke the power and penalty of sin so that we could be restored to right standing with God....
And in this right standing, have an eternal relationship with Him and He with us.

Never ever since the beginning of time has there been a love like this.
A love that encompasses the entire world, and is not bound by prejudice or hatred.
The love of God.
............For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.......
That is a promise that has stretched down through the years.
It has not lost its purpose or its power to save.
The devil can't stop it.
Men cannot move it.
Time won't diminish it.
It is the love of God.
Why not receive it today.

It will cancel hatred that burns in your heart.
It will remove guilt and shame.
It will bring healing to you....physically, emotionally and most of all......spiritually.
It is the love of God.
......God showed how much he loved us by sending his only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love. It is not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.....

God on you.....
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=======================================================
Last nights Bible study at Rapha saw 9 men saved.
Please pray for these men as they begin this new life and journey with Christ.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

No Fear! No Fear! No Fear!

Joshua 1:6 -
Be strong and of good courage....

Joshua 1:7-
Only be strong and very courageous....

Joshua 1:9 -
Have I not commanded you? Be Strong and of good courage....

Joshua 1:18 -
.......Only be strong and of good courage....

I don't know for sure......
but I believe that there is a pattern to all these verses above.
I believe that God may be trying to communicate a thought to us.....
Could it be that he wants us to be strong and not fear......
Be courageous?
In this particular instance, we read where Joshua has replaced Moses as the leader of Israel.
The company is camped across the Jordan river and is preparing to cross over into what we know as the Promised Land.
For 40 years this is the land they have been hearing about.
An entire generation has died during their wanderings in the wilderness.
Died because of their unbelief that God would bring them into this new land and new way of living.
Now, before them lay this land that was to be theirs.
Israel would have to cross over the river and occupy....live....dwell....make it their home.
God had promised many promises if the people would be faithful, now they were going to find out if these promises were true or just empty words. But it would take an act of faith on their part.
Four times God commanded them to "Be strong and have courage" in this new endeavour.

Recovery from addiction requires the same fortitude that God commanded the Israelites to have.
There are those who have wandered in their addiction for years, just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.
Such people have gone in and out of treatment. Rehab after rehab...they have heard about this "Promised Life". A life that had been promised by God if they would follow some simple steps.
But woven within this message were the words.......Be Strong and Courageous!
In Verse 5, God encourages Joshua in his role as the new leader of the Hebrews..."As I was with Moses, I will be with you. I will not fail you, nor forsake you."
In recovery, the crazy part is...
If Jesus is this higher Power we claim, then would it not make sense that he is going to be with us all the way as we turn the corner on our addiction?
Jesus is not going to cut and run once you make the decision to turn your will and life over to His care.
In fact, when you do make the decision, He is there to take you into this promised life you have wanted.

Once Israel crossed over into the promised land, they encountered enemies and fortified cities. God was there every step of the way to guide them, and more importantly, empower them to do what ever it took to be overcome every obstacle they faced. Just as He will be there for each of us who have made that decision to follow Him in this new life of recovery and sobriety.
He is worthy to be trusted....
God on you....
Be strong....
And courageous...today!

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Monday, March 12, 2012

The POWER Connection

I Corinthians 4:20
For the Kingdom of God is not just fancy talk; it is living by God's Power.

I Peter 1:5
And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see.

Revelation 4:11
You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.
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Power...
It all comes down to who is able to carry through with their word.
God.....
or the devil....
Found within the power is truth.
In fact truth is what separates the real power of God from the false, deceptive power of Satan.
Power to enact change in a life that has been dulled and blinded by sin.
Power to resurrect from the tombs of addiction.
Power to roll away stones that separate us from family and friends.
Power to break any and all lies that run in our minds, playing the same message over and over until we believe it......that lying voice that keeps telling us......."You're hopeless, you'll never change."
Power that proclaims Jesus to be the answer to every lie we have lived in.
Not church.
Not singing in the choir...
Not any man standing in a pulpit...
But the risen, glorified Christ.
Clothed in power and authority.

Step # 2 proclaims: We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
This belief is more than the kind we had as a kid when we believed in the tooth fairy.
It is more than a mental agreement.
This kind of believing screams out when the pain of living is greater than the fear of death.
This kind of believing comes forth when every thing else has failed you in this life.
When you are at the end of your rope....
You have tried every thing you know and you are left broken and bleeding spiritually.
It is at that moment that our hearts cause us to cry out, "Oh God, if you are real................."
Power comes in the form of Jesus Christ.
Power is available in our cry of confession and repentance, as God's Holy Spirit fill us beyond measure.

The world is still the same.
Drugs and alcohol are still around us.
People still use.
People still die.
But we've changed.
How so?
Power.
Sounds too simple.
Truth usually is like that. Very Simple!
We tend to complicate it.
Twist it.
But Power is the missing piece we've been searching for in our quest to be clean and sober.
Power found in a person, not a program.
Power found in Jesus.

Let the Power move you and change you as you let go of your old ways.
Embrace this new day....
This 24 hours with the thought that "God truly does love me and wants to fill me with His Power."
What do you have to loose?
Misery....
Loneliness....
Self-inflicted pain.....

Choose life today....
God on you....
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Taking A Short Break!

I am taking off Saturday and Sunday from posting here. I will return on Monday, so please excuse me while I take a short break. There are plenty of posts in the archieves. Scroll down and on the right side of the page you'll see the blogroll. Pull up postings from 2008, 09, 10, 11 and now 12.
See you on Monday
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"Smile!" For The Family Portrait

Matthew 1:3-4
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram. And Aram begat Aminadab; and Aminadab begat Naassom: and Naasson begat Salmon....

Boring......
If you have ever read through a complete list of the "begats" in the Bible, consider yourself to be unique.
A list of names that we can't even pronounce.
I mean......C'mon! Who names their kid Phares? I know....different time, different culture. But still.
These lists must be there for a reason.
Even though we don't read much about these people, they must be there for a reason.
Well, they are there for a reason.

Some of these "begat" lists' are there to show us the line and genealogy that Jesus came through.
Even though these people may not have done anything great or noteworthy (every body isn't a David, or Moses) they were a part of the lineage that produced Joseph (Jesus' step dad) and Mary (Jesus' mom).
I imagine if you talked to these folks today and asked them, "Did you have any idea that the Son of God would come through your blood line?" They would answer, "No!". For the most part these men and women simply lived their lives in a struggle to survive. Raising a family was all a part of life. I think the most important thing in life, is to be faithful in everything that we face. Whether it is holding a public office or simply raising a family. Be faithful. That is what I see in thought behind the begat's. Faithful.

It is no different in the history of the 12 steps.
It began with a lineage that has brought us to here today.
Everyone credits Bill W. and Dr. Bob as the two men who kind of fleshed out what a group men named the Oxford Group were already doing. No matter the semantics, most people in A.A. used Bill W. and Dr. Bob as the root of the tree of A.A. Through the years, men and women around the world have taken their place in family of A.A. Men and women whose names we will never know but, none the less, have contributed to the growth and family history of the 12 steps.

Sometimes our view of recovery is kind of narrow. Of course it begins with "us" as our problem is the biggest problem we face. Over time our focus turns outward (Step #12) and we begin to take the message to others. We become a part of something larger than ourselves. An incredible family of brothers and sisters who have stepped from the dark shadows of addiction, into the brilliant light and life of sobriety. It was our Higher Power, Jesus, who made all of this possible.

One of the high points of my day is when I'm out somewhere and I hear my name called. "Bro. Mike! Bro. Mike!"  A man will come running up and begin to share how their life has been turned around. How the steps have worked for him. Let me rephrase that.....how the steps have worked as Jesus changed him.
I'm all up in me some Jesus.
We stand there (usually in Wal Mart) talking and sharing, encouraging one another. You think back on how you first met this individual, all the pain they were carrying around. All the bitterness and anger that burned inside of them, and now looking into their eyes, you see peace. A life changed. For me, personally, that is pay day.

Rarely have we seen anyone fail who has thoroughly followed our path.

What is a path? A way or direction that has been walked by many others. It has been travelled on so many times that the earth is worn down and it is very evident the direction they headed in . So as we add our names to the 12 Step genealogy, let us do so with pride and in the knowledge that others will follow the path we have followed. I am grateful for every life changed. For every man and woman out there whose hearts beat for Jesus. Whose very lives reflect the goodness of God.

Because of Christ's Redemption.....
I am a new creation of infinite worth....
I am deeply loved....
I am fully pleasing....
I am completely forgiven....
I am totally accepted.....
I am absolutely complete in Christ.....

When my performance reflects my new identity in Christ....
That reflection is dynamically unique...
There has never been another person like me in the history of mankind...
Nor will there ever be....
God has made me an original....
one of a kind, special person.....
And so are you......

God on you....
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

God! --Don't Leave Home Without Him....


Job 38:5-7
"Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

The verses above are from a conversation that God had with Job during Job's really dark times. God is pretty much laying out his credentials for who He is. Found in these credentials is the idea that God truly does operate above and beyond anything our little finite minds could ever muster up.

You know, I think part of the enemies plan in our world today is to make every thought we have about God disappear. To vanish and leave the collective minds of men and women every where. The devil works hard to discount what God does and discredit who He is and His plans for mankind. IF the devil can push any thought of God to the back burner of men's minds, then our thoughts would not cause us to look to God for help, but to ourselves. We become little "g" gods. We take on the attributes of Genesis 3:4---- "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it (the fruit that changed every thing) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
I've said it before and I cannot say it enough. If I buy into that bunch of devilish malarky, then I don't need God if I am like God.
When God is pushed out of the collective mind of humanity, then we truly are doomed.
I don't want this to sound like the devil is all powerful and full of mojo. Ain't no mojo like God's mojo. He invented mojo and can dish it out like nobodys business.

II Corinthians 4:3-4 reads: But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe , less the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
The devil does not mind us believing in God.
As long as that belief remains an abstract thought in our brains.
The danger comes when God becomes a reality to our hearts and then becomes tangible and physcial through the actions that follow the heart change. That is a fancy way of saying....we start living like we really are followers of Jesus. We start actually doing what the Bible points us toward in our daily lives. That's why the devil doesn't even mind us going to church, singing in the choir or on the praise team. He doesn't mind us putting a couple of dollars in the offering plate. He just doesn't want us living out the Kingdom principals, because when we do, it affects those around us as we share what God has done for us.

As far as recovery and rehab, twelve steps and big books....
The devil doesn't even mind us working the Twelve steps as long as we keep God out of it.
Keep the terminology vauge and somewhat mystical, that way you can define it any way your little ol' human mind wants to. You see when God gets all down in my recovery.....when the reality of God becomes a part of my daily journey then my Higher Power has a real name..........that would be Jesus Christ. Jesus has a way of messing up the devil's plans an purposes. The most amazing thing (you could call it a miracle) is watching this Jesus lay hold of the life of a person who is so far gone in sin and destruction, that every one (and I mean every one) has given up on them. Nothing this world has to offer has worked to better this person. Not medicine, not jail, not rehabs, not interventins....nothing has worked. But you watch the Spirit of God come and touch an individual and you see a person brought back from darkness and death. Now...that life, full of the God's Holy Spirit, lays hold of the discipline of the Twelve Steps and begins to walk it out.
A good friend of mine has always told me...."Mikey.....You can't follow the twelve steps and not bump your head on the cross."

No matter where you go today....
No matter what might come your way today....
Don't leave home without God in your life......
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 ...