Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter 1980

Some things only get better with time. 2nd Chapter of Acts is one of them.

The year....1980. Day before Easter. A Saturday night.
I had finished a hard day at a pizza restaurant at the Gadsden Mall and was now home with my wife.
Sitting in our living room, we were talking about the next day being Easter and what we were going to do. The time was 11:30 p.m.
It was to be our first Easter together since we had rededicated our lives to Christ. 7 years of living outside of God's will had taken a toll on both of us, but now we had begun the journey of following Jesus.

We were in our living room, our sons down the hall asleep in their bed.
We were listening to WDJC, a local Christian Radio Station.
The DJ was sharing about his life, the struggles he had faced and how the faithfulness of God had kept him all these years. His story was intense and it was as if he'd forgotten that he was on the radio. He had become a voice that filled our living room and was sharing intimate details of his life before Christ. The misery and the heartache of all the things he tried to fill his life and heart with, seem to add up and take a toll on his life. The longer this voice kept talking, the more we were drawn into his story.

I remember that his story went on for nearly 30 minutes and the thought of running any commercials or station ID's were discarded. This voice continued to share how Christ had saved him from a life of destruction and a eternity of separation from Jesus. I remember that the voice became extremely excited as he moved into the portion of his story where God became a reality to him. The thrill of his salvation experience and the desire to share his story with anyone and everyone. He spoke of the life he now had with Jesus as his savior and the Holy Spirit living inside him. On and on....he shared. Finally the voice said..."Well, it's 12:01 a.m. .............Easter Morning. Ladies and gentlemen...........He is risen!!!! Our living room was suddenly flooded with the sounds of Easter Song by 2nd Chapter of Acts. Vicki and I sat there totally mesmerized as the presence of God became a reality while this song played. It was a celebration of the triumph of Christ over death, hell and the grave.. It was one of the most incredible times I have ever experienced. My first Easter celebration as a believer. .

The years have rolled by since that night in 1980....There have been good times and times of tears.
Both my parents have died since that Easter night.
Our sons married incredible, godly women.
Vicki and I have become grand parents.
I finally answered the call God placed on me back in the '60's.
But with all the changes....
With all the darkness that has seemed to settle over this country and this world...
One truth stands above them all...
One truth that is undeniable...
He is risen!!!

Enjoy this song! More than anything.....Worship while it's playing.
Let the truth of the resurrection become more than a mental piece of information...
Let it become life and healing and truth and love and grace and mercy and freedom in Christ.!
Because He Is Risen!!!!!

God on you....

Saturday, March 30, 2013

It Started....But He Ended It

"O My Father....if this cup cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done....."   Matthew 26:42

It started in a garden.....
And it was finished in a garden.....

It started with disobedience with a tree being the central focal point.
It ended with obedience with a tree being the central focal point.

It began with a man named Adam.
It ended with a man who was called the Second Adam.

In the first garden, relationship with the Father of heaven was broken.
In the second garden, that relationship was restored.

It started with blame shifting and finger pointing between the man and his wife.
It ended when one lone soul took it upon himself, blaming no one, to give himself as a sacrifice for all humanity.

It started as a selfish, self-centered act.
It ended with the ultimate giving. Not just for the good or those who loved God. But for the blasphemers and adulterers.
For the junkie and the drunk.
For the prostitute and the housewife.

For the college student and the church-goer.
For the religious and the atheist.
The door to salvation was opened and the invitation was extended to humanity.

Just as Jesus had to choose obedience....
The open door and the invitation mean nothing without our obedience to enter in.

It started with cursed ground which produced thorns.
It ended with the cursed thorns being worn by Jesus.

It started with the introduction of death into the garden.
It ended with the ultimate show of power by death being shattered and tossed aside as Jesus stepped from the tomb.

You see...
We cannot reach the joy of resurrection until we pass through the cross.
We cannot embrace the completeness of this relationship with God the Father...
Until we embrace the brokenness of our sin and our need for His salvation.
Jesus made all of this possible.
It was because of His sacrifice on a hill outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem that he tomb became a place of victory.
Jesus redefined what death meant by not succumbing to its power.

He shook off the power of death and the grave and stepped forth to declare a new day for all of humanity who would live on this planet.
Today is the day of salvation.
Today is the day of new beginnings.
Celebrate Jesus today....

II Corinthians 15:55
"O Death, where is your sting? O Grave, where is your victory?"

God on you...

Friday, March 29, 2013

More than Affection And Without Defintion

We live our lives like these empty pots...
Created for a purpose but never fulfilling that purpose.
We run around trying to be filled with everything but the right thing.
IT is the love of God that we unknowingly thirst for.

Love..heavenly love...divine love...

Did you know that Jesus loves you?
I mean do you really know that?
I know that we say we know.
I know that we claim to know that that truth about the love of God...

But do you really understand what this love means?
We sang about it as children...."Jesus loves me, this I know...."
But have we let that truth really work its way all down inside of us..

The fact of Jesus' love should cause our knees to buckle under the awesome awareness that in spite of my spite of my unfaithfulness at spite of my periods of trying to be all religious looking and sounding.....there rising above all my mess is the love of Jesus.

That love for us is pure and cannot be tainted or touched by this world.
This love has the power to shatter any weapon or belief that the enemy could bring to our hearts or minds.
Crystal Meth has no power in the presence of Jesus' love.
Crack crumbles and is blown away under the weight of Jesus' love.
Alcohol has no effect against the taste and sweetness of Jesus' love.
All darkness of mind and spirit flees in the presence of Jesus' love.

You can call yourself every detestable name you can think of because of your past behaviors....
You can word curse yourself into the utter regions of depression and suicide....
You can slam your fist down and accuse the heavens of every wrong you've ever done....
But in one blinding instant, the love of Jesus can undo everything the enemy has brought to your life. Shatter every word curse ever spoken and disarm every weapon of the enemy.

The love of Jesus can erase all doubt...
The love of Jesus can break through every wall of doubt you may have erected around your heart and your life....

The love of Jesus is a Power greater than yourself that can restore you to sanity.
Today is the day to receive this love....
Oh...I know what you're thinking.
"How could He love me with all I've done and said."
How could He not love you?

To not love you but would be to deny His own creation.
My rejection of Him and His love is the only power that can keep this separation in place.
Open your heart and receive the love of Jesus.
He is risen!

Enjoy the video of Ryan Delmore's Love of God
God on you...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rest Now Mr. Bentley

Psalm 116:15
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints.

Got a call yesterday morning from Jim Bentley.
He called to let me know that his father had died.
Long struggle with illness and ailments.
He was at peace now.
He was at rest now.

Sadness and many memories of Jack Bentley flooded my thoughts.
I first met him back in 1968 when I came to visit Jim on a Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Bentley was "every man's American." By that I mean he was a typical man of his generation.
He had grown up during a time when life was hard, and he knew the value of work.
He worked hard to provide for his family.
The world didn't owe him anything, but he wanted his fair share of the American Dream.
Dry humor would be the understatement for Mr. Bentley, but he loved a good laugh.
Always referring to me a "Bynum"...he would ask how everything was in my "neck of the woods."
I don't think I ever heard him call me by my first name the entire time I knew him.
"How are you doing, Bynum!"
"Fine Mr. Bentely, how are you?"

He was very proud of his sons.
As with any father, his pride lay in the fact that they had exceeded his accomplishments in life and had found and made a place for themselves.

One of my first thoughts yesterday upon hearing the news of Mr. Bentley, was what a glorious day it was to make the crossing over. What a wonderful spring day to say goodbye to all the pain and darkness that had come to Mr. Bentley's life. He was at home, not put away in some hospital room. He had family around him. When my time comes, I can't think of a better way to make the transition from this life to the next.

We will mourn for Jack's passing.
There will be tears and sadness.
But I can't, in my heart of hearts, wish him back here.
Where Mr. Bentley is today....
He now knows the truth about God that you and I only believe.

RIP Jack Bentley....
I will miss you....


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rope's End

Matthew 5:3 (Message Bible)
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."

Scary place to be...end of the rope.
The end of the rope could be accompanied by the sound of a cell door slamming shut...
The end of the rope could be the bitter cold of having to sleep outside because you have no where else to go.

The end of the rope could feel like hunger pangs in your stomach because you haven't eaten in days.
The end of the rope may be the feel of handcuffs and that sickening "clicking" sound they make when placed upon your wrists.
The end of the rope may be that incredibly dark thought that maybe death is the way out. Why not end it?
The end of the rope is that depressive desolation that has been brought forth in every area of your life....
Family doesn't want you...
Friends are nonexistent....

Police and judges are tired of fooling with you....
Even your dealer is tired of seeing you because you never have any're always trying to "mooch" off of him to get what you need.

When such a place as "the end of the rope" is reached, and there is no where else to turn...
No more scams...
No more lies...

It is there you will find Jesus.
You'll find Him waiting patiently for you.
He has been with you all along, but you weren't ready to listen to what He had to say.
You weren't ready for the offer of salvation He was wanting to extend to you.

To offer to you....

And about a trillion-billion other eternal gifts that He wishes to lavish on you.

Oh, life is still out there waiting for you to face it head on...
Living by your old ways, your first inclination would be to cut and run...go get high.
But this time it will be different.

Jesus won't be there waiting...
His Holy Spirit will be living inside of you, when you surrender will and life over to His care.

Life will still rush at you head long, but you won't have to run. You can stand and navigate your way through it.
Somehow being at the end of our ropes doesn't sound that bad does it?
May you reach yours today...Jesus is there waiting.

Luke 6
"You're blessed when you've lost it all...God's kingdom is there for the finding..
You're blessed when you're ravenously hungry...then You're ready for the Messianic meal...

You're blessed when the tears flow freely....for joy comes in the morning."

God on you...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

N2R --- Enter

While we are not a CELEBRATE RECOVERY....
In fact, let's take it up a notch and celebrate the one who "recovered" us.
Celebrate Jesus....
Not the Jesus we have created in our minds...
Not the Jesus we see on TV....
Not the Jesus we see in pictures hanging on the walls of our Sunday School Rooms..
But the real, deal Jesus who is the expressed, spittin' image of His heavenly Father.

Celebrate a Jesus who defeated the power of sin...
Defeated the presence of sin....

and defeated the penalty of sin by dying.
Doesn't make much sense does it?
Well it didn't make sense to the devil either on that day outside of the city of Jerusalem, up on a hill called Golgotha.

IF it had of made sense to the devil, he never would have killed Jesus.
But no one every said that the devil was sharp, now did they?

We will be gathering on Saturday ~ April 13 ~ 7 p.m. at Gadsden Vineyard Church for our first N2R  (No-Name-Recovery) meeting .
IT will be a celebration of Jesus!
Why another meeting?
I wish I could tell you they answer to that question.
Is N2R going to be better than all the other meetings?

To some it may be...
To others, it may not strike their fancy at all.
I'm not interested in collecting a bunch of people so we can say..."Look at the numbers who come to our meeting!"
I am interested in seeing Jesus when we come together.
Seeing Him in the music...
Seeing Him in the words that are spoken ...
Seeing Him in the prayers that will be prayed....
And especially.....
Seeing Him in the lives of the ones who leave the building at the end of the meeting.

This meeting isn't going to be about hype...
I'm not really interested in stirring up emotions or our flesh...
I'm more interested in learning how to hear God speak.
Learning how to worship...
Learning that it is through Jesus that real freedom comes from addiction.
Did you catch that?

Not church...
Not membership...

Those things are important, but they matter not if Jesus isn't first.
We've tried the bottle...
We've experimented with the needle...
We've misused prescription meds....
We've smoked a rock.....

Now listen to the words of Deuteronomy 32:31 ---- For their rock is not like our ROCK!
Get it?
It's just Jesus....

God on you...

Guard Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23
Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it.

Sobriety is much more than the absence of drugs and alcohol.
It is so much more than simply not using.
It is a lifestyle that begins and ends with a change of heart.
When I say "heart", I'm not referring to that muscle in your chest that is pumping blood.....
I'm talking about the very core of your being...the center of who you truly are.
It's like this...
On Valentines Day when you go to Wal-mart and buy that big box of chocolates for your sweetie, and drive to her house so you can tell her that you love her with all your heart....
You're not referring to that bloody muscle are you? Nope.
You're telling her that you love her from the very core of your being.
That place where the will, intellect, emotions, and yes......even that old sin-nature resides.

That place where the real you exists. Your heart.

Real sobriety is found in our Higher Power Jesus.
Real sobriety flourishes when the heart is changed by our Higher Power, Jesus.
The verse above from Proverbs 4:23 tells us to guard our hearts.
That means that we live in rigorous honesty.
We do not allow any secrets to come into our lives.
The secrets that we keep, are the seed beds for our addiction to flourish and grow.
Guard your hearts.
How do I do that?
Well, it comes as we begin to walk out this new relationship with Jesus.
Guarding our hearts begins with the awareness of our thoughts and emotions.
The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6 to "Not be anxious about anything" but to pray about everything. If we start to learn how to live in this way, notice what Paul says in verse 7 -- "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will GUARD your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Recognize that if you start to feel anxious, that is a signal that you need to turn your heart toward Jesus. For me personally, I like to put on some worship music when I feel anxious. If I'm in a place where I don't have access to any music, then I try to remember verses and repeat them over and over. That is why it is a good thing to memorize a verse each week so that you will be able to fight this fight.
Praying is a major weapon in this "heart" battle. Prayers that are really honest about what you are feeling and thinking, to me, are the best ones.

The Holy Spirit who lives in every believer, will become the sentry to our hearts and minds alerting us to the fact that we may be headed for some trouble when we allow certain thoughts to take root.
Is it a sin to have a thought about using?
But allowing that thought to roll around in our hearts will grow and turn into to sin if we don't cut it off.
Truth is, you can't stop a thought from coming to your mind....
But you don't have to allow it room to grow. Allow God's Holy Spirit to cut it off before it can produce its deadly fruit in your life.
Guard your hearts.
Good stuff to live by today....

God on you....

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's All About The Change

Don't you just love this Jesus?
How can you not love Him?
Have you read about this guy?
He is incredible.

Have you read about some of the things He did?
I mean this guy is just out there.

Funeral directors sure did hate to see Him coming, this Jesus.
He could get all up in a funeral and bring it to a screeching halt.

Families demanding their money back because their loved one was raised back to life.
That Jesus is too much.

He did a whole bunch of stuff down here on earth, but took it even farther.
He got all up in the devils business....breaking up the authority of death and hell and the grave.
Seems to me that Jesus didn't fear that unholy three too much.

He took them on and broke their power.
Not just as a show to say, "Hey, look at me! Ain't I something?"
No! This Jesus did it for you and me and everyone we know.
Clean and sober...

Or drunk and high....
He took on the Kingdom of darkness by allowing himself to be killed on a cross.

He allowed it to happen.
Oh, He could have summoned more angels to come down than the number of fleas on a Bogaloosa bloodhound, but He chose not to.

He took the best shot that the devil and his bunch could throw, then stood up and walked out of a tomb, letting them know that once and for all time, the way to God and eternal life had been reestablished. Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity. It was a battle of epic proportions that has no equal anywhere, anytime. Imagine what it was like when Jesus strolled up to the devil and took away the keys to death, hell and the grave. That is hardcore power and authority.
Now the wonderful part in all of this is that this Jesus loves His heavenly Father and the creation known as humanity. He was willing to go all the way.....ALL THE WAY to make sure that we could have relationship with God. A relationship that had been broken in the garden of Eden when the man and woman sinned by seeking their own way above what God had commanded them not to do.

Now this Jesus is the mediator and keeper of this new type of life that has been offered to anyone and everyone who believes in Him. Not just a mental nod to who Jesus is....c'mon...even the demons acknowledge and believe in Him. When we talk about "believing" we are talking about a heart-change that affects every area of our character. In other words, we not only say that we believe that Jesus is who He claims to be,  and will do what He claims He will do.....but our very every day, walking around, sleeping, working and eating life reveals evidence of this belief.

I want you to understand that Jesus has invited you on the greatest adventure you could ever hope to experience. Jesus will get up all in your life if you let Him and you get to do some pretty cool things.
You get to worship!!!!
I came to find out that worship was more than music and songs and group sing-alongs. Worship is a lifestyle that pours out from me in everything I do. I don't work for a person or company here on earth...I work for Jesus and I want to do my best for Him. I want to reflect Him in my work place. Not to stand out so my ego will be fed and people will see me as some great religious know-it-all.....NO! I want to do my best for Him so that when ever someone may speak against me, there will be no truth to their accusations. I want to reflect Jesus so that others will see Him. I don't care if they every see me or even remember me. I pray that they never forget Jesus.

One of the things I keep hearing about our upcoming meeting at the Vineyard, is that it will be a time to "learn" how to be a follower of Jesus. It isn't a school...and yet it will be a school. Didn't we expend ourselves on learning how to be an addict?
Sure we did.
We had to learn who we could trust to buy our drugs from.
We had to learn what a fair price was...this usually happens after we have been scammed a few times. But we learned didn't we.

We learned where to go and when to go...
Where not to go and when not to go.
We were in school in learning  this lifestyle. We gave ourselves to the idea of learning all we could. Did we not? Yes, we did.

Why would following Jesus be any different?
It wouldn't.
Jesus modeled for those following Him how to live as a believer.

He taught them how to pray.
He showed them what real worship was all about.
He corrected them when they messed up and then showed them the proper way to minister.

I want to learn...I don't have to.
I want to learn how to follow Jesus.
I want to learn how to hear Him when He speaks to me.

Realizing that Jesus "speaking" does not always translate into an audible, vocal voice...but comes in many forms. Impressions......dreams.....the natural world around us.....but the ultimate way in which Jesus speaks is through the Word of God....the Bible.
Guess what?
If I'm not reading it....
If I'm not studying it...
I won't be able to hear Him as well as I could be hearing him.

Ephesians 3:20
Now glory be to God! By His mighty power at work within us, He is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope for.

Looking forward to seeing you on Saturday, April 13 for our first Vineyard Recovery Meeting.

God on you....

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ram'lin's On A Rainy Sunday

What a weekend....
Friday night at Celebrate Recovery in Centre, Alabama...
God was there in a huge way....
Confirming some prayers I had offered up....
Sharing about a guy named "Blind" Bartimaeus...(Sounds like a blues guitarist, doesn't he?)
"Blind" Bart shows us what desperation will get you if you turn it toward Jesus.
Many new brothers and sisters brought into the Kingdom.....tears all around (good kind of tears).

Saturday morning, out to Rapha to load up all our gear and convey to the Vineyard to set it up. It has been a long time since I've played in that room, so we wanted to see how it sounded and what it was going to be like on the stage.
As we're bringing gear in and setting it up, I had so many memories of past Saturday's.

Pat Terry premiering his new album Film At Eleven on this stage.

Danny Daniels and Randy Rigsby's first visit to Vineyard Gadsden for House of Blue....had some folk's get up and walk out on the very first number. Somehow blues and the Gospel just wasn't every ones preference. I loved it!

Waterdeep giving a concert. One of our first endeavors into reaching out to people who seemed to be worshipping with a fresh new sound. The thing I remember most about these guys....they were so jazzed that the hotel we had booked them into had put up their name on the marquee welcoming them to Gadsden. The band pulled the van next to the sign, they all got up on the roof of the van and had their picture taken with the marquee. Gotta love it.

1000 Portraits coming on a Sunday afternoon to lead us in worship. Much percussion and acoustic guitar. This was fresh off their collaboration with Waterdeep with the recording of Enter the Worship circle.

Wayne, Barry, Deb, Vicki and Debbie and I gathered last night to pray and worship. We anointed the building and the equipment for this next season that was headed our way.
During our time there, we got a phone call about an intervention that was taking place right then. A young man was out of control, using and piling up the destruction such behavior always brings with it. The family had called to ask us to pray as they were going to go and confront him about his using. This was a confirmation of why we were coming back to Vineyard with a new meeting, and the next part of this "recovery" puzzle that God was putting together. Please pray for this family as they seek God during this time. Pray for the young man that 'hears' the truth and turns his life and will over to the care of God.

I don't understand it, but I was created to do "church" on Saturday night.
Maybe it has to do with the call to pastor in a recovery setting.
Maybe it has to do with taking back a night that is usually devoted to the things of the world. I'm not smart enough to figure it out, nor do I spend much time dwelling on it. It I just go and do it.
But last night as I looked around me and watched as those who have been on this journey with me worshipped, I could not help but think to the verses that were given to me years ago when we started our first meeting.

Psalms 134
Behold, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the LORD. The LORD who made heaven and earth bless you from Zion.

God on you......

(Thanks to Jim B. for the photo of the stage)

Special Announcement!!!
Gadsden Vineyard will be having a Bar-B-Que dinner today after the morning service to raise money to help with the cost of the upcoming worship conference. Bar-B-Que plates will be $6.00 and take out is available. It is such a sloggy, smushy day, why not stop by on the way home and pick up some dinners?


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Amazing Times Ten

Ephesians 2:5
Even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (By grace you have been saved)

Ephesians 2:8
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.

Years ago, Vicki and I were given a set of teaching tapes that changed our lives.
A young pastor named James Ryles taught on "Grace."
As we listened to each one, our hearts were quickened and we looked at each other wondering, "Why haven't we heard this before?"
All my life, I heard the definition of grace as "The unmerited favor of God given to me."
In other words, God giving to me something that I didn't deserve.

James Ryles taught that this could not possibly be the definition of Grace.
He used Galatians 5:4 as his text to show us what he meant.
You have become estranged from Christ. You who attempt to be justified by law: you have fallen from GRACE.
James' point was that if Grace was God giving me something I didn't deserve, then how could I fall from it?
He then took us to Luke 2:40: "And the Child (Jesus) grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the GRACE of God was upon Him"
If anyone deserved Grace, would it not have been Jesus?
So Grace was more than the unmerited favor of God.

Grace is much more.
It is not only the prayer we say over our meals....
It is not a sweet, flowery word used to close our prayers...
It is not a religious symbol of what we believer....
Grace is a force...
Grace is a power....

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 was God in me, working His will and His good pleasure to conform me to the image of Christ.
Not just my outward behavior, but my very nature and character.
Just as God had to take Israel out of Egypt into the wilderness, so He could take Egypt out of them...
God takes me out of my sin so He can take the sin out of me.

It is the Grace of God at work in me.

"Amazing Grace....How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."
"I once was lost, but now am found...Was blind, but now I see."

God on you....

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Ultimate Stealth Lifestyle

Ta Da!
Finally got the cable/Internet back last night. I missed not being able to post here, but the time off was good also.
We are on track to start up our meeting at the Vineyard.
Saturday Night:  April 13 /  7 p.m.
Gadsden Vineyard Church is located on Broad Street, Downtown Gadsden, between 4th and 5th streets.
We will not have a nursery but bring the kids anyway.

More news on the home front.
I will be scaling back my duties at Rapha, and concentrating on counseling and being the Staff Pastor for the men who are in the program. I will be at the Vineyard on Monday's, Wednesday's and Friday's, beginning April 8. So if you are any where near and want to stop by on those days, feel free. I'd love to see you.


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

What an incredible verse to someone who is trapped in the bondage of addiction.
Living under the influence of drugs/alcohol guarantees two things...
You life is filled with Guilt and Shame.

Guilt is directed toward what you have done. The lying, cheating, manipulation. The stealing, selfishness all serve as fuel for the guilt to weigh you down like a 2-ton piece of steel.

Shame is directed toward who you are as an individual. Your Mother didn't take you, as a little child, and tell you, "Honey...I want you to grow up and lie and steal from everyone you know. I won't you to grow up and be the best addict you can possibly be."

Put these two emotions together, and they become the deadly duo that drives a person to use. Someone in addiction does not know how to cope with these feelings. Since they can't, they escape from them through using. Of course, this only compounds the problem, because when the high wears off, guilt and shame are back even stronger than before.

It takes the Power of God, through the work of Christ to break this deadly cycle.
It takes a healing to the spirit, the soul and the body to bring clarity of thought and relief from this onslaught of emotional garbage.

So God, through His Holy Spirit living inside me, becomes my hiding place. A place of safety where we can rest and get ourselves healthy. More than a specific location or geographical place, this "hiding" place that God offers to us, is Himself. We, through this salvation given to us by Him, brings a connection and the start of a new way to live. It isn't a life of rules and regulations...and it isn't a life of a spiritual free-for-all. It is a life of purpose and direction that we find as we follow God in our daily lives. I don't do the things I do because I have to....I do them because I want to.

Psalm 91:1 reads:
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
When I surrender will and life over to the care of God, He covers me with His presence. He fills me with His Holy Spirit. I can't explain how it works or the dynamics of what He does. I just know that it's true and I have evidence of it in my own life. So this dwelling is me being aware of God in me and on me. Walking daily with the assurance that He has my back and will keep me and aid me in not returning back to that old lifestyle. That is what it's all about!

Good to be back...
See you tomorrow...
God on you....

Just a note to let you know that Patrick and Amy Brown hold a recovery meeting at Gadsden Vineyard Church every Monday night at 6:30 p.m.
Check it out !

Monday, March 18, 2013

Prone To Wander, Lord, I Feel It

This video resembles the story behind this song. 
If you watch the video it follows Robert Robinson's life story to an extant. His father died when he was eight and his mother sent him to London at age 14. When he was 17 he and his drinking buddies went and attended a evangelistic meeting where he became close to the Lord and wrote this song not Long after.

This is the heart of the Gospel of Christ.....
It isn't about great orators who can stir the emotions with flowery words that paint pictures in our minds.

It isn't about music that stirs our hearts when we hear it.
It isn't about nature or the cosmos....Standing out looking up in the night sky and suddenly are aware that you are small and there must be something greater somewhere out there.

It is about the Holy Spirit of Almighty God meeting us right here, right now.
With all our mess....
With all our sin....
With all out doubts and fears...
And yet in spite of all of this, we cry out, "O God, save me!"

He comes and the divine connection is made...He, with saving grace, and us with darkness and sin...The great trade off through confession and repentance. He takes my sin and I receive His life.

This song, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, has followed all this day. It was in my CD player on the way to Hokes Bluff this morning.
It boomed and shook the cab of my truck as I sang and worshipped at the top of my lungs....Down Meighan Boulevard. The guitars and drums pounding out the truth of this day....God is the source of every blessing. I wish that I could dive into the deepest depths of this fount and come up screaming, "Yes! God, You are everything You claim to be!"

"Prone to wander, Lord I feel it....Prone to leave the God I love....Here's my heart o' take and seal it....seal it for Your courts above."
Lot of people don't like it when I say that this is my most favorite verse.
The idea that there is an urge or voice that whispers to me, seeking to draw me away from God. Knowing this keeps me in touch with the the simple fact that inside me is something tha,if I let loose, will entice me to leave this relationship I have with Christ. There is a voice that whispers to me sometimes. It is especially loud when I am most tired.

It soothing words come like the night breeze and are filled with sweet promises if I would only leave this Jesus. As quickly as though words fill my mind, my heart responds with the truth. Here is my heart...You bought it and paid the price for it. You take my heart Lord, and seal it in your safe keeping.

Come and meet us when we gather in Your name, Lord.
Come and reign over us and rain down on us Your grace, mercy and Love.
Come and change us for Your Kingdom.

Come thou fount of every blessing....

God on you.....

Sunday, March 17, 2013

After Thoughts

Thanks to all of you who responded about our return to Gadsden Vineyard. I do need to make a disclaimer. I messed up. It's my fault...I did it.
Yesterday's posting said that the name of our meeting would be The Vineyard Recovery Church. Well, over the past few months, as God has put this thing together, the one thing He told me was that I was not to use the word "church".

That people would know what we were having.
He took me back to the definition or translation of the word church..."Called out".
I don't know why He wanted it this way (after all, He is in charge).
It was my job to simply follow instructions.
So, with my best Jedi Mind trick, I will now erase that from your memories.
Voila'....Now where were we?
Oh yeah...
Come and join us for Vineyard Recovery!

I drove to the church last night to spend some time in prayer. This use to be the norm for us on Friday nights when we were doing House of Blue. Those who were part of the ministry team would gather on Friday's to worship, pray and just soak in God's presence. Kind of a pre-worship before the Saturday night worship.
It was slightly after sun down when I arrived at the church and it felt like putting on a pair of old house slippers.
Turning on the lights, standing there looking into the small room (as opposed to the mega room where Sunday services are held) I was flooded with memories of things that had happened.  I could see faces of people who had made Saturday night a  part of their week.

Up near the front was where my wife had been overcome by God during worship and had laid down in the floor on her face. She wept...she worshipped...she sang....and when she got up, there on the floor was oil in the outline of her body. It was sweet smelling and the aroma filled  the room. There was no oil on her...her clothes were dry...her hair was dry...her skin was dry...but the floor was covered in oil where she had been laying.

How many times on Saturday night had people chased us down after the meeting asking, "What do I have to do to be saved?" Salvation was a major part of what God was doing there on Saturday night.

As good as House of Blue was (this was our previous Saturday meeting at Gadsden Vineyard) what we are entering into will not be House of Blue part II.
Like I said before, I don't really know what is going to happen. God simply told me to start it, open the doors and He would build it. After all, it is His church. I've gotten in the way too many times and tried to run things for Him. How did that work out? NOT TOO GOOD!!! So this time, I think I will just cooperate with God and see where this thing goes.

As I sat there in the room last night, I began to cry. They were tears of joy and of gratitude. You see, I knew that I was suppose to pastor/teach from the age of 13. But the call scared me to such an extent, I ran from God. I ran and I ran and I ran. I got married but I was running. We had two sons, but the running didn't stop. I ran from job to job, carrying around inside an emptiness because of my refusal to simply do what God had called me to do. God has a funny way of bringing it all together. He lead me to the Vineyard in 1994 and three years later I was ordained as a pastor. So for me to be able to "Be" who God has called me to be, at times, is a bit overwhelming. Sitting there in that room I could truly say..."It is well with my soul."

As of right now...
We are planning on holding our first meeting on the 2nd Saturday in April.
Time: 7:00 p.m.
Location: 419 Broad Street - Gadsden Vineyard Church, located across the street from Gadsden Variety Store between 4th and 5th Street.
Pray and see if God would have you join us.

God on you....

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coming Back To The Vineyard

I'm coming home. Gadsden Vineyard Church will be the location of our new meeting on Saturday Nights at 7 p.m.
I don't have a name at this moment for the meeting, not that having one is important. So I guess for now we will simply refer to the meeting as
The Vineyard Recovery Church. We could get cool and call it Verk (VRC), but then someone would get mad at us and say, "That bunch of "Verks" down there at the Vineyard....."
We will be posting the date of our first meeting in the near future. I promise I won't leave you hanging.

Right now I will still be connected to Rapha Ministries as staff pastor, but we will no longer hold our meeting there on the compound. God was gracious to give us 7 years of Sunday/Saturday meetings there at Rapha. We have seen some pretty incredible things happen in the lives of the men who have come through the program. Now, I firmly believe that He wants to create not just a meeting, but a church whose main focus is the healing (spiritually, physically and emotionally) of those who are struggling in addiction. I told someone the other day that what we do I guess could be referred to as "Sin-specific" ministry. I know that sin is sin and that all sin is the root problem for the ills of humanity. I know that. But addiction seems to be one of those sins where the outward destruction as well as the inward darkness seems to be magnified and out there for all the world to see. I mean you can be trapped in pornography and still be able to go to church every Sunday. Sit in the pew...shake peoples hands...put some money in the plate...hear a good sermon and maybe even be touched by it...then go back home right back into that darkness and no one even be aware of your dark secret. No so with has to come out. It is defined by the destruction and damage done as it progresses in the life of the user.

Our main focus will be Jesus.
Just Jesus.
I have always fell heavy on I Corinthians 2:2 --"For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified."
He is the Higher Power.
He is the missing piece of the Twelve Steps...

He puts direction and purpose in those steps...
Without Him, the steps are just a person wandering, hoping they can stay clean and sober.

Jesus is the door to a life above and beyond addiction. A life that, up to this point, has been beyond the reach or comprehension of addicts.

I don't really know what the meeting will look like or how it will change over the course of time. The only thing I know with certainty is that God told me it was His meeting. That He would grow it. He would direct it. I was merely to come along for the ride and try not to get in the way. Each week will probably be different as we gather.
I'm not asking you or anyone else to come and join anything. We don't have membership in the Vineyard...if you come more than 5 times, then God must be stirring you for some reason. So I didn't want anyone to think that I am out to recruit new church members. I'm not. I am out to open the door to anyone who is tired of living life the old way. To those who have fallen time and time again. Let's take a fresh look at Jesus. See Him possibly for the first time like we've never seen Him before. What do we have to loose? Maybe our addiction.

God on you.....
If you have any questions, call me at 256-490-1868.
If I don't answer, leave your name and number and I will get back to you as soon as I can.


Friday, March 15, 2013

A New Season

Over the past few weeks, my postings here on the blog have taken a definite turn, so to speak.
I have talked about "the church I would want to belong to."
I have written about "Doing the stuff".
And I have referenced the teachings of John Wimber on numerous occasions.

I have written about the Kingdom of God and the "now" and "not yet" of that Kingdom. How we see evidence of the dynamic rule and reign of God in our time and space, but do not see the Kingdom complete ( see Revelation 21:3-5 For what the Kingdom of God will look like when we see it in its fullness).

I wrote about the call on every believer to participate in the Kingdom. Even though some have been called to serve in offices such as Apostle, prophet, Pastor/teacher, and evangelist, every believer gets to play in the Kingdom. There aren't any A-teams, B-teams or C-teams in the Kingdom of God. Just believer's filled with the Holy Spirit of God interacting with others. Praying for healing, feeding the poor, visiting the ones in jail and know..."doing the stuff!"

I don't believe that we need waste time or effort to pray against the darkness in our towns and communities. I don't see in Scripture any reference to praying or railing against the darkness of our enemy. We push against the darkness with the light of God. What does that mean? Jesus said, in Matthew 5:14, "You are the light of the world." So, as God's light to a society that is spiritually blind because of sin, we overcome the darkness through the telling of the Gospel and then allowing God to back up His Word with demonstrations of Power.

What is the end result of these power encounters? Well, we should see healings...We should see people freed from demonic bondage. We should see people falling love with Jesus more and more. In a nutshell, we should see the darkness driven back because of the infusion of the light of God's word.....God's power....and God's presence. People coming to the saving knowledge of who Christ is and what He has done to liberate us from the rule and dominion of the devil and his kingdom.

God has been dealing with me over the past 5 months about starting a meeting where the dynamics of the Kingdom of God could be seen, taught and modeled.
It's is not enough that we talk about a Power greater than ourselves who could restore us to sanity. We have got to introduce those in addiction to that Power.
We have talked about it long enough.
We have sang about it long enough.
To be honest with you, I have spent much prayer in seeking how God would want to do this meeting.
I don't have any answers other than one that completely caught me off guard.
God told me, "It will be my meeting. I will build it one week at a time."
I wanted to put together a frame work of how I thought the meeting should go. God said, "No."
I wanted to plan out what direction this meeting should be headed in.
God said, "No."
I understand that this is not the norm. But from my perspective, the norm hasn't been working to well.
This meeting is going to be about putting the emphasis back on Jesus and not on me or anyone else.
I told you it was going to be strange.
In other words, all I know at this point, is that we are to show up.....worship together....then simply see what God is going to do.

The call to recovery  has not changed for me.
The call to teach has not changed for me.
God has shown me that I am to shut down the meeting at Rapha, that I am to move it to another location.
The one thing I do know is that we will continue to meet on Saturday night at 7 p.m., so I will keep you informed.
For those of you who have visited with us at Rapha on Saturday nights, I hope that you will consider coming and being a part of what God is leading me to do.
There will be plenty of room and everyone is invited.
I will be giving out more details in the near future.

Please know that I am not starting something to be in competition with any other meeting or church in town. I am simply following what God has told me to do. We are simply going to be a different flavor of church/ meeting. Different doesn't mean just means different.

If you could sum up what God is calling us to...
And the direction we are taking....
It would be in these words that my wife gave to me....
"Following in the STEPS of the carpenter"

God on you....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Stuff Needs Doing? You Bet'cha!

"Doing the Stuff"....
That is what hooked me.
I had spent the better part of my life watching.
Doing was for those special people who had received a divine embossed invitation to be on the A-team. To be up front teaching...leading...praying for folks. They were the A-team.

I was C-team material.
My job was to watch and cheer on the A-team people.
That all changed when I came home to the Vineyard.
Jim Bentley called me one afternoon, I had just gotten home from work.
"What'cha doing?"
"Nothing, what's up?"
Jim: "Can you go with me? I suppose to take some groceries to some folks who don't have anything to eat."

Me: "Sure."

Sounds innocent doesn't it?
Jim came and picked me up and we made our way to where the couple was staying. Oh yeah, he forgot to tell me that not only did they not have anything to eat....they were living in a tool shed behind a man's house because they had no where to go.
Tool shed?
Yep! The real deal, pre-fab tool shed.
Jim already had the groceries loaded up on the back seat of his car.
We pulled up and began to unload the groceries, all the while Jim talking to the couple in a very casual way. Me....I was the C-team remember. I was cheering him on.
One thing lead to another and after a while the woman told Jim that she was suffering from a physical ailment. I don't remember much other than it wasn't something terminal or life threatening. But it was causing the woman a whole lot of pain.

Jim asked if we ( I looked at him as if to say..."Don't forget...I'm C-team) could pray for her.
He asked me to join him, telling me to place my hand on her shoulder. I couldn't figure out why, but I complied. After all, I was the C-team and he was the A-team.
He began to pray...
I backed him up with a few "Yes, Lord's".
He stopped and asked the woman if anything was going on inside. The woman shook her head and said, "No."
Jim reassured her that was o.k. and asked if we could pray some more.
She agreed.
I don't remember how long we prayed...
But after a while the woman said that the pain had stopped.
Now I had to make a decision.
Had God actually done something in response to us praying for her.....
Or was it just a coincidence.
I think maybe it was God.

I was hooked.
I wanted to learn how to do this "praying thing".
Turns out it was part of what God intended for every believer to participate in.
God wanted His children to "Do The Stuff" a.k.a. the works that Jesus did.
Jim told me that we are all called to share our story...share the Gospel..and then ask God to back it up with what Jim referred to as "Power encounter".
Tell the story...
Ask God to validate what was shared by coming and interacting with the people that are prayed for.
Then see what happens.
Over the past 20 years, I have seen God do some pretty incredible stuff.
Now don't get me wrong...
I don't run around searching out Power encounters.....
I merely let God do what He does so well and then watch what happens.
I learned to listen as I prayed and then simply said or did what I heard God say.
I know what you're thinking....
How did you know whether it was God or not?
Most of the time I didn't know...
But I was crazy enough to reach out and try...
I learned over time how to tell the difference.
I learned to "Do The Stuff".
I think maybe the church would be better off if we did away with the A-teams and just taught everyone how to "Do the Stuff".
What do you think?

God on you...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Be Church....Or Play Church....

Judges 2:10
When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.

This is the heart of the problem in my part of the world today.
A generation that has grown up and does not know God.
Oh, they know about God.
They have gone to church.
They sat in Sunday School.

They even went to Awana's and R.A.'s
But they do not know God.
There is a difference between knowledge about God...
and knowledge OF God.

The one thing that our neck of the wood's has always prided itself on is "We are the Bible belt".
That meant that every person from Skint Shin Flat's, Arkansas to Puddin'ville, Alabama knew who Jesus was.
If that was true....
If that is true...
Then where is the Power?
In this regard, I am under the assumption that the real church (not the professing church) should be operating under the influence of God's Holy Spirit.

There should be a distinct call on everyone who claims to be a believer that defines who they are and what they do.
You may be thinking that I'm getting out there into the dark realm of fanaticism....
I don't think I am.
I just know that there are some things that Jesus commanded the disciples to do that over the years may have gotten watered down in the re-telling.
Things like....
Go where?
"Into all the nations".
Does that mean that we all pack up and vacate the good ol' US of A?
No...but it does mean that some will pack up and vacate the good ol' US of A.
Go could mean your street.
Your county or city.
But the main emphasis is to "GET OUT!" I'm what?
"Make disciples!"
Let's see...where is my "Instant disciple making kit? What did I do with it?"
How did Jesus make disciples?
He surrounded himself with some men and then modeled before them the behaviors and attitude of someone who is living under the Kingdom of God. Someone who is going, doing and saying only what He hears the Father instructions say to do.
"This is too much work. Don't you know that is why we hire Pastor's. They can devote themselves full time to such stuff."
Do you not know that being a follower of Jesus is not a part time job.

It is a lifestyle...
The lifestyle of being a believer should not be crowded out by job's or hobbies or vacation or even weekends off. No...I'm not talking about discarding everything, putting on a brown robe and sandals and walking around trying to measure your love for God by the droop of the religious frown on your face.

I'm talking about falling in love with this Jesus to the point that He consumes you.
You tell your story to others because you just can't help it.
You give your money not because someone manipulated you by guilting you into turning loose.
You do it because you love Jesus. That plus you truly understand the truth that nothing really belongs to you anyway. God is just letting you use the money. It's His to start with so when He asks us to give, to help, to support...we do so, like Scripture says...."Cheerfully!"

"teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you."
Ah Ha! Found the loop hole.
"Observe"....that means to sit back and see what happens. Right? No!
I could ask you, "Do you observe the holiday we call Christmas?" You'd probably say, "Your Ding-Dong Skippy I do...we got the tree, the presents...the jack frost nipping at our noses".
To observe doesn't mean watch...
It means "DO!"

In other words, Jesus told the disciples to go out and replicate in others, the things I showed you how to do.
What things?

Oh, things like praying for people to be healed.
O.k. Michael, you're getting off into places you shouldn't go.

I'm just crazy enough to think that God still heals. And If I don't pray for folks then no one is going to get healed. Get real....I don't have any power to heal. I'm just a conduit, an empty pipe through which God can heal. I'm just being obedient and doing what He commanded me to do.

How about casting out and breaking off of demonic spirit's?
Yep, that's part of the whole "observing" package.
You won't hear this one talked about or taught on much.
Truth is.....

The devil has done a pretty good job convincing the church he doesn't really exist, therefore there is no need for believers to engage in such antiquated thinking.
Reckon how many people walk into the church on Sunday with "Boogers" hanging all around them?
I think maybe we should get some wisdom in how to do Spiritual Warfare.

I could go on and on...
But the bottom line is that if we claim to be followers of Jesus...
If we claim to be THE church...
Then we should be "Doing The Stuff" that Jesus did.
After all He commanded us to.
What if a place truly existed that taught how to be a follower of Jesus?
I mean really taught it....

More than that...what if they modeled it. Demonstrated it. Showed you how.
Would that be cool or what?
What if there was a place where there wasn't an A-team and a B-team, but just a bunch of folks who were crazy enough to believe Jesus actually called them to do the Kingdom work of heaven right here on good ol' planet earth.
What if such a place existed?

I will tell you more later......

God on you....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

D2L - Darkness To Light

I Peter 2:9
.......that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

That's kind of weird isn't it?
According to the verse above, there are only two places for a person to exist in.

Or light.
These aren't physical places but rather "states of being."
Forces inside of us....influenced by forces outside of us.
The place of darkness is birthed in each of us when we enter this old world. As we grow and we learn the differences between what is right and what is wrong, this old nature begins to flex its muscle. This nature has gone by many names, but I refer to it as The Sin Nature.
We all walk around with a longing.....a need to find fulfillment in our soul.
Because we are under the influence of the devil and his kingdom of darkness (Yes, Virginia, there is a devil) we leaned toward following the urges and cravings we were receiving from him.
Little by little we sank deeper and deeper into sin and even more darkness.

We had this need to be accepted and loved....
But because we were being influenced by the darkness, we could not see or hear God.
We gave ourselves to the darkness and the influence in our lives grew stronger and stronger.
We cast aside what morals we had and began that slow descent into spiritual death.
The lies grew larger and larger....
We began to steal from family and friends....
We looked for love from anyone who would sleep with us....
We left everything that was familiar to join a community of misery and pain.
All the while, hating ourselves with a hate that just beat us down and created a thirst that could never be satisfied.
Bottle and pill....
Needle and rock....
Prescription meds....
Synthetic weed.....
Crystal meth...
You name it...
We took it..
Because the darkness demanded our allegiance and we were hurting so bad that we gave it freely.

In desperation of the worst kind, we cried out to God..."Oh God, if you will just save me and make the pain stop....."
We weren't even really sure that God existed. At least that is what the darkness told us..."There is no God!" But we cried out any how in hopes that someone or something was truly out there who could hear us.
But the darkness kept beating us down and down and down....
We felt isolated.
The problems piled up and up...
Court troubles....
Legal troubles...
Financial troubles....
Relationship troubles....
Health troubles.....
Mental troubles....
I could go on and on but you get the picture.

All the while we were feeling isolated and beyond the reach or help of anyone...
God was there.
He had never left us...
We were that one sheep who had gone astray. Wandered away from the safety of the flock and now found ourselves lost and at the mercy of every beast roaming the hills.
Jesus left the 99 other sheep to find us and bring us into His fold for safe keeping.
Only Jesus can break that power of our old nature and give us a new one.
He alone possesses the authority and the power to free us from addiction.
I would not say it if it were not true.
I have seen men and women who had given up hope, transformed and changed by the saving grace and power of Jesus. Men and women who are living free from the tug of that old life style of pain and darkness.
That is why I do what I do.
God as called us to minister to a "Sin-specific" problem. Addiction.
A problem that manifests in the lives of men and women to the point that they become defined by the darkness.
This "defining" causes them to see themselves as having no value what so ever to themselves, their family or society at large.

My call is to invite the Kingdom rule and power of God to be manifested in the lives of those trapped in addiction. To lead them to the place where they can have an encounter with this God I am writing about.
I'm not talking about making a decision for Christ. I don't believe such a thing is possible.
You don't decide one way or the other to accept or reject Christ....
You Surrender!!
It is about giving up...
And it takes a power encounter with God's Holy Spirit to awaken us out of this darkness.
So for what ever reason you may be reading this posting...
If you are living in that darkness...
If you are in pain and misery...and hate yourself times ten..
Just know that there is a Power greater than you and all your ability that can bring healing and restoration to your life.
Power is as close as a cry from your heart..."Save me!"
That Power has a name....

God on you....

Monday, March 11, 2013

Broken Relationship

Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, that through sin, and thus death was spread to all men because all sinned.

Romans 5;17
For if by the one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

I have been called crazy by some.
I have been referred to as "out of touch".

But I hold fast to the one thing I teach over and over and over.
You don't have an addiction problem....
You have a living problem.
The drugs and alcohol are symptoms of a wrong inside.
You have a broken relationship with Jesus.
It was broken in the garden by the first man and woman.
And the resulting presence of sin has multiplied and compounded over the years, to the extent that today it all seems pretty normal. In other words, we are use to sin and the destruction it brings. We have accepted it as being part of our "normal" world.
God never intended it to be this way. He never put in His plans that drug and alcohol treatment centers were to be a part of normal every day life. But they are.
We can thank sin for this.

Addiction is complex and there aren't any easy answers.
Pastor's and religious people want to get the addict saved, put a Bible in their hands and get them joined up with a local church.
The Doctor wants to treat the addiction as a disease. Now a day's there are even medications to help the one who is addicted.
The Psychiatrist wants to treat the addiction as part of a mental problem. Like the doctor, there are labels attached to the one who is addicted. Throw in some medication to help the mental struggle the addict goes through as a bonus.
To me, addiction is a combination of all three of the views I have shared.

There is the "Sin" side of addiction.
We are born with a sin nature, a bent to do the wrong thing...choose the wrong thing....and desire the wrong thing. It manifest in different ways in different people. Some never succumb to the level or degree of "bad" choices as others may do. But none the less, sin reigns in the heart of every person born.

Paul writes in Romans 7 (Message Bible)- "I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it. I decide not to bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the best of me every time." How many times have I heard these words..."I would tell myself that this was the last time I was going to use...but then within hours, I was back on the street looking for my next fix.

To me, all addiction begins with a choice. Why we choose has many sides and many different levels, but it begins with a choice driven by that old nature, that sin nature. So we use.
Over time, we alter the brain chemistry of our body. We alter the cellular make up of our body so that signals are sent out that demand we use again. We try....we want to stop..but we can't. So there is a physical side to addiction that goes beyond willpower and want to.
Eventually the brain and mental process gives up the struggle of will and we resolve ourselves with what we refer to as False Belief #4. I am what I am, I cannot change, I am hopeless.

Such as these three different views are all a part of the addiction problem, it takes a POWER greater than out thoughts...our will...and our willpower to break us free from the cycle of using. Such POWER is found in only one place....Jesus Christ.
With the salvation that Jesus brings to the life of an addict, There is a need to become a part of a community of like minded believers. To be surrounded by others who are on the same path. To become a lover of the Word of God, to study and digest it. In other words, there is a need for healing in the life of the user. Physically, mentally and spiritually, we are in need of the kind of healing that only Jesus can bring.

"I thought you wrote earlier in this posting that pastor's said all that was needed was to get the addict saved, put a Bible in their hands and get them to join a church." You said that was a wrong view.
It's not that it's a wrong view. It is an incomplete view.
We need to add a plan of discipline and instruction to the new life of the former user. That discipline is made evident in working the twelve steps. The Power that is brought into the new life of a believer through God's Holy Spirit, is then directed to begin a path that deals with changing character and patterns of sin.
Believe me when I say, "Rarely have we seen anyone fail who has thoroughly followed our path."
There is hope and a new way of living found only in Christ.
God on you.....

Saturday, March 9, 2013

They Were Just Words.

Acts 2:37
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart........

Words spoken by men and women.
Words that come from the heart, not the mind, spoken concerning the things of God.

These very words are covered and empowered to be like arrows shot from a bow.
They leave the lips of people and somewhere between the speaking and the hearing, God's Holy Spirit prepares hearts to receive. Each heart is different and has different needs.

One heart may need encouragement.
Hope may be running low and dry.
The words that fall on the ears of the listener quicken the spirit inside bringing a fresh rain of hope to that person.
They were just words.

One heart may need to be awakened.
Rude awakening.
Shook to the very core with the reality of the spiritual state of the person.
To be brought to the place where decisions have to be made.
"Yes" to this Jesus.
"No" to validate and retain an old lifestyle.
They were just words.

One heart may need to remember.
The day to day grind had worn down that person.
The message got lost in the shuffle and bustle of living.
Now the words bring a renewal to this heart.
Like dew in the early morning, the words stir life in the heart of the person.
They were just words.

One may need to know that they simply are alive and someone cares.
Needle and rock have robbed them of the ability to believe.
The words sound good, but there are other words trying to crowd them out.
"I am what I am, I cannot change," plays over and over against the words of hope.
It is a battle.
But the words of hope are guided and directed like a laser guided smart bomb, and they find the target. The heart. Even as the head and mind remain full of unanswered questions, the words of hope break through and the person is drawn to surrender will and live over to the care of God.
They were just words.

These words I speak of are not influenced by the oratory skills of the one speaking.
Great, swelling words of wisdom cannot stand against the simple proclamation that Jesus is Lord.
It is the heart that sends these words.
A heart that believes God is who He says He is and will do what He claims He will do.
They were just words.

As much as I love to see God's hand move....
I love to hear His words even more.
My Bible says that "Faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God."
So the next time you think they are just words....
Think again.

God on you....

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chasing The Wind ---House of Blue Part II

John 3:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you can not tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

I will continue on from yesterday's posting.
Armed with the idea that blues music was to be the agent through which worship would be taught and then participated in, I began to share with others what I thought God might be calling us to. A type of recovery meeting that would allow the Word of God to be taught in a manner that was easily understood. We would be a place where people could encounter the real-deal-God-of-the-universe.
These thoughts I was having kind of rang true in my heart, since I am a simple man. My view has always been that this whole "God/relationship" thing was easier than what I had been taught.

Always seem to me that when ever someone talked about being saved and/or living for Jesus...there was a whole bunch of "don't s" involved. A bunch of rules on what not to do. I didn't see too many rules about what I should do. Maybe the reason for that was some people think following Jesus is based on what you don't do, rather than what you're suppose to do.
If I spent all my time doing the do's, I wouldn't have time for all the do not's, and even if I did, I wouldn' there.

What I saw in Scripture was that people who kind of fall in love with Jesus seem to not break as many of the "do not's". Why? Because when you really have a saving/life changing encounter, you find yourself wanting to do only what pleases Jesus. I read and study my Bible because I want to, not because I have to. I want to share my story with other people, not because I have to, but because I want to. I want to pray with people...praying for healing or to be released from the influence and control of demonic spirits. Once again, I do these things because I want to not because I have to.

We held our first House of Blue on August 21, 1999, not knowing what to expect. Not knowing how many (if any) would show up. There were 66 people there that night, and the one thing that I can still see today was what happened at the end. We said if anyone wanted prayer, to stand up right where they were. It could be prayer for anything...healing, be restored...or simply to experience a fresh touch from God.  It seemed as though the entire room stood.

As we moved around the room praying, it just got crazy. Some people had to sit down because the Spirit of God was on them in such a heavy way. Others were crying...some were laughing...the team of people who were praying for people, were crawling over chairs to get to others who were saying..."Me! Me! I need prayer!". I stood up front taking it all in, thinking to myself, "God, please let this not be the only meeting where you come like this." 

It wasn't until months after House of Blue had finished, that during my prayer time, God showed me the reason He had called us to start a recovery meeting. We were all green and wet behind the ears about recovery. All the years we did House of Blue was simply God training us for the next step. Yes! People were saved. Yes! People were healed. Yes! We learned how to worship and hear God on the fly as we moved around the room praying each week. But the entire run of House of Blue was God raising up and training a people to carry the call and work out into the market place, and home, and school, and factory. We just didn't know that was what was going on. Sometimes that God is sneaky. You've got to watch Him.

As wonderful as that first House of Blue was, I distinctly remember being the last one out of the building. I turned off the lights, walked to the front door, and turned around for one last look at the room before I left. Letting my mind think back on what had taken place just hours before. Then suddenly a wave of fear came over me, followed by the thought..."I've got to do this again next week."

I'd like to say that the second meeting was more powerful than the first. It wasn't. In was terrible. I came into it trying to recreate what had happened in the first one. Talk about a dumb move. The worship was terrible. The teaching was dry and dead. There wasn't any ministry when we finished. I was sure that the House of Blue was probably going to be the shortest run meeting in the history of the church. But I learned. I quickly saw that each week had to be spent in prayer and study, asking God, "What do you want to do?" Then leave room each week for God to show up and change the direction of the meeting if He so desires. There were many times I stood up to teach, notes in hand...verses underlined, only to hear God say,"You know what? I want to teach something different." I would close my notes, lay them aside and then announce to the crowd...."Let's wait on God a moment and see what He wants to do."

It was a wonderful time that taught me the value of doing what God wants to do over the plans of what I think He wants to do.

More to come....
God on you....


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