Friday, May 31, 2013

Jesus People are now Jesus' People.



The Jesus People days...
Heady stuff, even now.
News reports on the major networks about what was happening on the West coast.

A revival of sorts.
No one wanted to call it that because it was so unusual. Little did they know that it was business as usual for God.
Darn that God...doing His work outside the walls of the traditional church.
Some traditional churches were forever transformed because they embraced what God was doing.

Kids getting saved....
Coffee houses that had music spilling out into the streets.
No one told us we couldn't play in the Kingdom. 
Babes learning how to "Do the Stuff" of Jesus.
You know, the Stuff?
Praying for sick people and see them healed....
Speaking to demonic spirits and see them leave people alone...come off of, come out of...come away from, only to be replaced by God's Holy Spirit.

God's church....His real, believing, living, giving away church cannot be defined by denomination or buildings. It is not bound by any agenda, except His, and is not driven by demographics. It exists and thrives in an atmosphere of worship. A people who are beat up, scarred, emotionally down trodden, but whose hearts are just crazy in love with Jesus. 

A people who go out into the market place, the work place, the schools and see hearts who are living misdirected lives. Or as it was so aptly put..."living lives of quiet desperation." Lives with an unquenchable thirst, looking for something that would quiet the demand to be quenched. So using drugs and alcohol quieted the voice temporary, but it came back with a vengeance...."Give me more!!!" And people  answered that hellish call.
The more they fed the voice, the deeper and deeper they spiraled out of control. 

Jude: Verse 21-23
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life And on some have compassion, making a distinction, but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, having even the garment defiled by the flesh.

It is the love of God that was awakened in my own heart back in 1968, that still burns today. Oh I still mess up and say things I shouldn't have. Listening to my flesh more than the Spirit, but God is quick to forgive me, and loving tell me, "Let's try it one more time, o.k." You see, that period of time back in the 60's when the Jesus movement was rolling wasn't just a fad. It wasn't the latest "in-thing" to hook into. It changed the heart of a generation, and the change is still evident today. We have grown older and hopefully a little wiser. We still find that our voice is still relevant and that we still have a story to tell, songs to write and worship to give. 

Funny part in all of this, sitting here at my computer this morning, in my mind, I still feel 18 - 19 years old. The body says different....snap,crackle and pop (that isn't a cereal...its' my bones). I pray that God will let me keep on until it's my time to exit this old world. Isn't that what Jesus would want from us? To fight the good fight? To run the good race? I think so.

God on you...
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Audio Message From Vineyard Recovery



Here is the audio message from VRF Saturday night: May 25
"It's a one of a kind love affair."
Enjoy...
mb

Knuckle down, Buckle Down...Do it...Do it...Do it!

Genesis 6:22
So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Genesis 7:5
Noah did exactly as the LORD had commanded him.

Noah must have been some kind of guy, don't you think?
I mean....come on...he did everything God told him to do.
Noah?
A man living in the most vile, corrupt time the world has ever known, was able to stay pure and in a relationship with the one true God.

That is hard core.
Why Noah didn't even have a Bible....
He didn't have access to TBN or ever (heaven forbid) a local church.

No Christian radio...
No Destiny Press....

No Time-Life Worship CD Series.
Just himself and God.

Yet through it all, Noah survived because of his heart and love for God.
To simply do what he was told to do.
Did he question God?
I'm pretty sure that those things rolled through Noah's head from time to time.

I mean you are talking about building an ark by hand. Not a dingy or sloop but a big ol' honkin' ark.
But Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

To me, this is the heart of someone who wants real recovery.

They have the blueprints to a clean and sober life in the Steps.
They have the heart connection through their salvation given by Christ.
Now they simply walk it out.
Some would balk at this because I used the word "Simply".
They would raise their voice and declare that there isn't anything simple about being sober.

I would not disagree.
But the truth is, it is a matter of the heart.

Change the heart through this ongoing relationship with Jesus, then the mind changes. When the mind follows the heart then the body lines up also.

Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

No short cuts...
No "I think I'll add this to God's plan".

Whim!
Wham!
Bam! Just do it.


One other thing about Noah's story.
Over and over, it mentions the fact that Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Noah was filled with the empowering presence of God to be who God created Him to be, and to do what God had called him to do.
Grace----

Maybe part of the prayers we hurl skyward should include asking for a healthy dose of God's Grace.
God did not create you to be an addict.
God created you in His image and that image has been covered and warped by sin.
It is the Grace of God that will make the connection between heaven and earth so that you can walk out your days doing everything God has commanded you to do.

Who knows what your "ARK" may look like.

God on you....

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hope Floats


Storms coming...
Clouds rolling in...
Looks like rain....
Watching the skies, trying to read the weather...

Noah didn't have to watch the skies.

Noah didn't have to read the weather.
Noah knew what was out there headed his way.
God had indeed told him what was to happen.

How do you think Noah took this bit of information concerning the coming storm?
"Doesn't look like rain."
"That God....He is such an alarmist."
"An ark....you're kidding....do you know how much work that will take?"
"Rain? What's that? That has never happened before."

We not made privy to the thoughts and emotions that Noah must have thought and felt. In some ways, I'm glad that God with held such information. Truth be known, I don't have to wonder about it. I just have to place myself in that situation. I'm a firm believer that human nature hasn't changed....even since the days of Noah. I'm sure if we could have gotten inside Noah's head, we'd found doubt....fear....anger....dread....disbelief, and a myriad of other human characteristics.

Bottom line, no matter what Noah thought, the storm was coming.
No matter whether or not Noah believed God, the rain was on the way. IT was going to happen. Since this was the case, Noah could either cooperate with God and survive this global destruction, or he could go his own way and hope that he could tread water...
Tread water for a very long time....

Noah chose to follow God.

It's the same with addiction.
God has provided a way out.

This I know, if you reject God's solution to your addiction problem......well, the storm is on the way.
You can't come up with every excuse known to mankind, but that isn't going to stop the destruction that is certain to fall upon you if you stay outside the "ARK" of God's solution. God is faithful in what He says and what He does, to those who trust and obey Him.


To me, the 12 Steps are part of the blueprint that God has given to us to escape the coming destruction. Simply follow the plan...
Admit that you are powerless to change things.
The evidence there for everyone to see (including yourself) is that your life has become unmanageable.

In other words, it doesn't matter how hard you want to work this out for yourself (Addicts battle cry! "I don't need anyones help") it just isn't going to happen.
With that truth staring us right in the face, and the wind beginning to pick up from the coming storm, we look to a Power greater than ourselves who could save us and restore us to a life of being able to make sound decisions. That Power, being Jesus Christ.

Now that we have been made aware of our state of existence (Powerless) and that there is a Power (Jesus) greater than ourselves who wants to aid us in living a new way, we turn everything over to His care. Everything? yep, everything.
Will....my desire to run the show..my wants and needs and desires ...turn them over to Jesus. In other words, I see the approaching storm of what my life is going to look like if a change doesn't take place. Along with my will, I give him my life...in exchange, I get His life. I'm not the sharpest trader in the world, but I think we come out on the good end of this deal.
Now that I have addressed these problems, I am now ready to construct an ark in which I will find safety and rest from the destruction that is headed my way.

Very simple.
Rarely have we seen anyone fail who has thoroughly followed our path. In other words, if you work the steps, you are following the instruction on how to build your own ark in which you will find safety from the coming storm.

Today's a good day to start building.
What do you say?


God on you....
mb

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

It's The Time....Of The Season...


A time for everything.
An appointed measure of life in which "something" must take place.
Only God has the ability....
Only God has the the authority....
Only God has the power to allow this to happen.

Whenever I read Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, I am reminded of the old saying, "You better iron while the iron's hot."
In other words, make the most of the moment.
That is what I am feeling and have been feeling for sometime.
Feeling that I need to be about "my Father's" business. The business of the Kingdom.

I think, especially at my age, the idea begins to creep in that I deserve to slow down and take it easy.
While I do recognize that I'm older and that there are certain things I truly can no longer do, I do not find the business of slowing down and taking it easy very appealing.

God taking us back to the Vineyard to start a Recovery Fellowship is all part of this time and season that we have entered into. I have found life again. I have found a renewed spirit and direction. I could spend all my time trying to make things happen in my own strength and effort, but the one thing God made clear in my return, was that this was His meeting and He was going to build it the way He wanted it done.

Every time I do make an attempt to slow down and even think of retirement, I am awakened to the truth about those I am called to minister to. I received two phone calls this weekend. Both were to inform me of people who had died. Died in their addiction. The one common denominator in both of these deaths was the idea that "I'll think about recovery......I'll do it tomorrow." Well, guess what? There are no more tomorrow's for these two individuals. Only grieving families and a ton of questions as to the "why" of their death.Only a lot of anger for what has happened. Now there will be children growing up without parents. Spouses will have go at life alone because their mate has died.

The addictive mind keeps delaying any chance at recovery.
That is, unless that same mind has reached the point of no return and simply given up.
Given up and totally bought into the lie of what we refer to as "False Belief #4...I am what I am, I am hopeless, I cannot change.

That is why Vineyard Recovery Fellowship is a place where false belief's are addressed.
They are countered with the truth. Not truth as I see it or truth from some medical study...but truth that is as old as time itself. Truth that comes from the Scripture. Truth that has power backing it. Truth that can undo any heart....any heart so cold and in denial, that everyone else has given up on the individual.

I also want you to know that you have a standing invitation to come and be with us every Saturday night at
7 p.m. downtown Gadsden. The meetings are very loosely structured, as we simply want to do what is on God's heart. It is a time when we can be recharged and renewed, refreshed and restored, and a whole bunch of other "re's" that are too numerous to mention. We welcome everyone!

God on you....
mb

Monday, May 27, 2013

Revival

Psalm 85:6
Will You not Yourself revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?

School's out....
Summer is just around the corner....

Celebrations and parties...
Going to the lake and on vacation...
Summer time is not far off.

I spoke yesterday at the Vineyard. Saw many old friends and met some new ones.
God's presence was in that room. Several baptisms yesterday. I don't want to say they were impromptu, but when it comes to the leading of God's Holy Spirit, some of the best times are when we think them to be spontaneous. Lot of rejoicing and hugging on those who had been baptized.

I couldn't help but think about summers long ago. (no this isn't a Star Wars moment)
Summertime always meant revival. Even as a kid, I looked forward to these week long events. Visiting preacher coming to our church to stir us up. I wasn't sure what we needed stirring up for, but I just knew that things would happen during these meetings.

Church to me, back then, was family. It wasn't something that I was forced to do (even though that was the order of business when I was a little tyke). It was something that I looked forward to each week. The revival was an opportunity to hear the Word of God from a new perspective. It was a time to see people come through the church door that you might not have seen in month's. 


There were morning meetings every day. These were very informal gatherings that touched on topics such as "how to pray" or "how to win your loved ones to the Lord."
It was the night time meetings where things got serious. I remember men like Levan Parker coming and standing at the pulpit, delivering a message that burned with passion and the fire of God. I never lost interest or had my mind wander when He was the preacher. 

I think back to a warm July night....no air conditioning, but the fans provided by a local insurance company filled the church with movement.
Gallant Baptist church...

Hugh O. Chambliss was the preacher.
The place was packed as he moved through the word of God.
I was seated to his right about midway down the row of pews. 
Thirteen years old.
My whole world was that small community and this church that was so important to me.

The message was from Isaiah 6:8...God's commission of Isaiah.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?"
I knew that night that God was calling me. My heart was beating out of my chest ( l now know that this was the Holy Spirit speaking to me). Preacher? Me? No way. Yet the message burned deep inside me. Who am I? I'm thirteen years old. What would God want with me? I managed to survive that evening without going forward to answer the call God had placed on me. What I didn't understand that night was that I may have rejected God's call........but the call had not rejected me. It would follow me for the next 33 years. 
It would not be until 1997, with my ordination to pastor, that God's call would be realized. 
That which I ran from for so many years, is now a comfort and a compass that gives me direction for each day. 

Things have changed over the years when it comes to revivals.
The week long events have been replaced with 3 day revivals.
Morning sessions have been dropped in favor of night time only. 
I'm not a stickler for tradition or "That's the way we've always done it" kind of mentality.
But I do think there is validity to special times and meetings for God's people.

The Living Sacrifices Worship Conference held at Gadsden Vineyard recently was as close to a revival as I have attended in a long time. What is a revival? It is a time where the people of God are awakened. Fresh fire...fresh wind....fresh word...are all a part of being revived. This all took place on the weekend of the conference. Several who attended said the same thing..."I felt the presence of God in a new way. I feel as though I have been put back together." What I hear in such comments is "I am revived."

Now the real test of any revival or awakening is what will we do with it.
Will we allow God to have His way and simply follow His directions, or will we go back to business as usual.
I choose to feed the fire of God.
I choose to be consumed by this fire for His kingdom.

I choose to infect, effect and affect those around me that I come in contact with daily.
Not in a religious effort to "win the lost" but in a relational effort to show them the love of God. From this place, I can speak life to them and let the Holy Spirit do His work.

Revive us again..

God on you....
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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Place Of Balance

John 11:5
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

Three people that Jesus dearly loved.
Each one, a unique individual yet each one possesses something that I needed to see.
Personality and behavior.
Not to many people speak on these when it comes to religion / relationship that we are called to walk out with Jesus.

We tend to want to exclude such things a personality and character as being outside the boundaries of God's influence, but they are not.

From time to time you will hear me refer to a book written by Bill Jackson on the history of the Vineyard movement. His book is entitled Quest For the Radical Middle. John Wimber's view and thought was that we should always strive to find that place of balance as we follow Jesus. That place where we are not hyper-spiritual, neither are we spiritually dead. The middle ground in this relationship...the place of balance.The place of true worship.

We kind of have a picture of this found in the John 11:5 passage.
Three individuals who display the scale of human endeavor in following Jesus, and how some perceive it to be carried out.

Notice the word before the three are named.....loved.
The very heart of Jesus, no matter what the person has done or said. 
He operated from a heart of love.

First up: Martha.
Martha was the "I'm going to do for the Lord!"
She was all about doing.
Today there are those who equate their worth as a believer in the doing for Jesus.

They serve on every committee. They are in the choir. They work in the nursery. They volunteer for everything that comes down the pike. Do..do...do...do...do! Yet they never take time to sit at His feet. They never are truly able to enter into His rest. They have never learned how to return the love that has been poured out by Jesus on them.

On the other end of the scale we have Lazarus.
He is he dead man.
There are those who are faithful to the church. But they are spiritually dead and dry. There service to God has become rules and rituals. They read their Bible but it holds no real truth or impact what so ever in their lives. They read it, because that is what good Christians are suppose to do.No feelings what so ever in their relationship. Go through the motions and don't rock the boat.
Not very motivated for the Kingdom, they continue to plod along because....well, that's just what they do. They don't allow themselves to get emotionally high.....nor do they seem to sink into depression...they are spiritually dead. 

Last but certainly not least, there is the one in the middle.
Referred to, by Jesus, as the "sister".
No name, even though we know it to be Mary.
She is that place of balance in this dance called relationship with Jesus.
She has happily lost her identity and has found her true self through worship.
She has found that lifestyle of pouring out on others (the doing) and receiving from her heavenly Father (which keeps us from dying spiritually). 
No need to be identified because she has chosen to humble herself, Mary is content to be known as "the sister". First and foremost in her mind, is the desire to only do what pleases Jesus. How could you know what pleases Him unless you spent time at His fee? Time in His presence? Listened to what He had to say? This is the place that we are all called to live in.

The Mary place.
The place where, like Jesus' mother stated to the angel Gabriel, "Let it be done unto me according to your word." 

I think of the three.....
I'll choose the Mary place.

Oh yeah, one last thing.

Even as dead as Lazarus was...
Jesus was able to revive him and give him life again.

So there is still hope and a heart of love that wants to speak into the lives of those who are spiritually dead and bring them out of the tomb....out of the grave clothes...to live again.

God on you...

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Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Dance Of LIfe

The Dance

I wish that I could move around the room with grace,
but it seems my steps are stumble and fumble to the music.
I want to hear the music in such a way that it gives direction
to my movement and purpose to this dance.

My desire is not to simply "Go through the motions"
but to embrace the moment.
To anticipate the next turn...
or the next twirl...
I care not how I may look to others.
I care only for you.

Freedom in the dance.
In the moment, there is just me...
And there is just you...
And only the music to bind us together.
My heart for your heart...
My love for you pales in comparison of your love for me.
Teach me the dance.

The dance?
It's this thing we call relationship with Jesus.
It is the real life that comes from this daily movement of following His steps.
For me, the dance has been hard.
Trading my religion for a relationship produces an awkward dance in me.
I'm called to follow, not to lead.
But I want to lead.
I want to be in control.
But Jesus lays hold of me and takes me in his arms and simply says.."Follow me."
At times, there is a pulling..
a tugging as Jesus leads me one way but I seem to be going in the opposite direction.
It isn't always pretty when I want to take control...
The dance ceases to be a thing of beauty, instead it takes on the appearance of a little child (me) wanting to have his way.

But I am learning.
I am learning that when I follow Jesus, the movement and the music take on an expression and experience I could not find any where else. I learn that the act of surrender produces a peace I could find no other way. 
To be lead....
To be directed...
By a heart of love that desires only the best for me.
Even in the dark times when I don't feel his presence....
The dance continues and unseen hands guide me....
A whispered voice reassures me..."I will never leave you, nor forsake you."
You see the dance is not dictated to by the demands of this world.
The dance is not bound by anyone or anything.
It comes from the heart of the one who created everything.
Including .....
dance.

Why not change partners today.
Why not lay down that needle...
Put away those pills...
Break that bottle...
Flush that line.....
Those partners only make empty promises of the dance they invite you to join.
They will only rip and tear your very soul and then leave you alone with the insane craving and belief that they love you.
Trade partners.....

Join the real dance.
God on you....
mb

Friday, May 24, 2013

"C'mon-----Not Another Wimber Story!"




Oh no.....
Another John Wimber story....
Isn't there anyone else besides John who can speak for the Vineyard.
Sure there is....
Come on Saturday night to Vineyard Recovery and you'll hear me speak...but if you listen really close...you'll hear John in the mix.

If you come to the Vineyard on Sunday morning, you'll get a chance to hear Jim Bentley speak....guess what? That's right...if you listen close, you'll hear John in the mix.

John never envisioned himself as being the leader of any kind of movement. It wasn't something that he craved or wanted to create. What he did want to do, was to simply follow Jesus where ever Jesus said to go.


You see....
I'm not really interested in doing church or having church as much as I am in "Being" the church. 

It really is about the ones who have just kind of fallen in love with Jesus and are crazy enough to go out and do the kind of things that Jesus did. You know...pray for the sick and see them get healed. Pray for God's Spirit to break off demonic oppression on those who are demonized. Feed the hungry....visit those in jail....and even give away cups of cold water. After all this thing call Christianity is not a spectator sport. It's a get-in-there-make-mistakes-in-Jesus-name-sometimes- but-never-quit-trying-kind-of-LIFE

I think the coolest thing in the world would be to go to a church one Sunday morning...all spiffed up and ready to worship, but when you got there, there was sign on the door that said..."Closed-gone fishing." That the people of that church had taken the word of God literally and had left to go be with others who needed a demonstration of the Kingdom of God. Radical? Perhaps. But none the less it is the heart of God to reach out to everyone.  That is what John Wimber planted in my heart.

The funny part in all of this whole Wimber-thing, is that I never met the man. I came on board the Vineyard in 1994....was ordained as a pastor in 1997 and moved into a full time work in 1998. John died in November of 97. So how did I get Wimber-ized? There is a wonderful room at the Vineyard that has hundreds and hundreds...yea...thousands of tapes. Yep! Tapes...old school. During the eight years I spent as Associate Pastor, I listened to every one of them. They became my seminary. John was my instructor. And the Bible was my text book. God, through John, defined my belief in who He was and what the Kingdom of God was all about. 

Through John's teachings, I became a "fool for Christ".  
And I have been foolish ever since.
So if you keep coming back to the Greene Street Letters, you'll probably see or hear more Wimber stories. Because he was the compass that God used to set us on the course we are on.


Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." Mark 1:1-15.

God on you...
mb

Thursday, May 23, 2013

God Loves Him Some Creek Time



These are the times that make everything worth while.
Phone call....
She is having surgery today...
Heart surgery.
She's been pondering baptism for some time.

Saved and living in a relationship with Jesus, the baptism thing has been heavy on her heart.
Now, with the surgery staring her in the face, she decided it was time.
"Can you baptize me?"
Can I baptize you? You bet I can.
Back and forth conversation to get a feel of where she was emotionally and spiritually.
She is ready.

Friends and family gathered at Rapha yesterday afternoon.
Storm clouds rolling in, looks like rain at the edge.
We make our way out to the creek. 
Read from Romans 6...Wind begins to pick up as I talk about the presence of God in our lives.
Prayer for her....
Going before the throne of mercy to find healing for her heart. Peace to her mind and comfort for the family.

Wayne Wimpee is my cohort in baptism.
We have done hundreds of them in this creek.
I never tire of making my way down the bank to the water.

Make shift steps keep us from falling, but it is still a precarious descent.

Taking my time, I inch out into the water because I know that since last year, the topography of the bottom has changed. There! The drop off. We are now waist deep. Even in late May, the water is ice cold. She asks for a moment to catch her breath and get acclimated to the temperature.

Prayer over her again...
Releasing her into the hands of her Savior, we lower her under the water, then bring her back up.
Grateful....

Joy.....
Complete....

Her husband is next. I have spent a lot of time with him.
Seen him at his worst....now here at his best.
Coming up out of the water, he latches onto me. Sobbing..."Thank you, Jesus...Thank you."

Young man from Kentucky.
Met God this past weekend.
Now his whole world has been turned inside out in a good kind of way.
God is good.


I feel the presence of my Grand father, Lewis Perry. 
How many baptisms did he perform?
How many creek banks did he climb down to find the water and the Lord?

Pastor for many years, He and I share a common heritage.
Every time I am standing there in that creek, I hear his voice and I feel his presence.

"You did good, boy...you did good."

After the baptism is over and everyone has made their way back up the bank, Wayne and I remain in the water.
We share prayers of gratitude that God would let us be a part of such a thing as baptism.
To me, such events are an incredible payday that God gives to us.
Never fails that friends and family thank us for performing the baptism.
"No...you don't understand. We thank you for letting us be a part," is our usual response.

Now, this morning as she prepares for her surgery, she rests in the knowledge that all the bases are covered and she stands fulfilled in the eyes of her Savior.

God on you...

mb

Be praying for this young lady.
Her name is Nicki.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Follow The Call



"I will lay down my life and my all....to follow the call."

It's a voice that comes to every person.....
We may not recognize the voice at first...but it is there...
The voice breaks through every language barrier and strikes the heart of every man and woman.
The voice brings with it's message......a call.
A longing....
An invitation, if you will.....

A call to follow the source of REAL life.
A call to follow Jesus.

I'm big on remembering events and moments that happen to me.
Such was the case on May 20th. It is a red letter day in my own story.
May 20, 1994.
Vicki and I had been on a spiritual journey for over a year. In fact we had been doing kind of a spiritual tug-o-war since 1991. I was feeling drawn to the Vineyard and she wanted no part of it. She was happy and content at Central Methodist, which had been our home church since 1980. I "Gee-ed" and she "Haw-ed" (If you've never plowed with a mule, then these terms have no meaning to you). 

On the last Sunday of September, I as with her as we attended the evening service at Central. We had greeted friends and had the usual small talk before the service, and had taken up the usual pew that we deemed "Our place to sit." As we were waiting for the service to start, I noticed Vicki sitting there with an unusual look on her face. I asked her, "What's the matter, are you alright?" She just stared at me...tears begin to form in the corner of her eyes...She said, "I don't belong here anymore."  God has spoken to her and confirmed that she was to join me on this spiritual quest. I had no idea where we were to go (at the point Vineyard was still out of the picture), but I knew our days were finished at Central. The people at Central were our friends. They had taken us in at a very dark time in our lives, and had loved us and cared for us. Taught us and nurtured us as God grew us up. Now it was time to "leave the nest", so to speak. 

There were several missteps on this journey. Several times where we thought we had arrived and found the place where God wanted us. But the call didn't let up and we moved on. 

On May 20th, I was sitting outside of Mid-South Electrics, eating my lunch and finishing up a book I was reading titled The Open Church. I won't go into specifics but the book was about returning the church to the people. Little did I know that it was just another version of John Wimber's concept that "everyone gets to play"...or everyone is called to engage in Kingdom work of Jesus.


I remember finishing the book, closing it and throwing up a prayer of "Oh God! I want to be a part of something like this." Immediately I heard God say, "You do it." It scared me to death. "Me? No, Lord you got it wrong.I want to be a part of something like an open church." One more time the voice came..."You do it."  I knew that I was to start a home group, or as the Vineyard calls them..A kinship meeting.

After work, I drove to the church we were currently attending to meet with the pastor and tell him about what had happened. He didn't receive it too well, when i asked for him to bless this home group. It didn't fall within the parameters of the way he felt church was to be conducted. After all, I had no training...I had not been to seminary....I was..(here it comes...) A lay person.
I knew that I had to do this. If ever anything burned inside me, it was this call to start this home group. I shared with him the call and my need to pursue it. I acknowledged his authority over the church but asked if he would bless me and release me to follow what  was hearing. He was very gracious, as he blessed Vicki and me to go where we felt God was calling us.

I immediately called Jim Bentley, pastor of Gadsden Vineyard Church, and told him what was going on. "Jim, can I come and start this group under your covering as a pastor?" Jim gave a resounding "yes" and that was the beginning that has lead me to where I am today. Full circle back at the Vineyard.

If I ever find myself driving down Sutton Bridge Road and I happen to pass by where Mid-South use to be, I am reminded of that warm day in May when God said, "You do it."

Understand that The Call will take you in the direction God desires you to go in. It is always tied to Christ, but the way it is played out in every one's life is different. The main thing is that you hear.....you go.
I will lay down my life and my all just to follow The Call.


God on you....
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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Getting Down "GOD" Style !



You know...Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and say, "Don't you get it?"
But then I look around at the state of church and think, "Why would I want to join that?" People look like they've been baptized in lemon juice...measuring their righteousness by the droop on their faces. 
The one thing I hear from people who are pre-believers (the church likes to refer to them as "lost") is "dude, if I try and do it your way, I'll never have any fun at all."

For the pre-believer, all semblance of fun or laughter or pleasure has been dumped in order to live out a life of suit's and ties, dresses and high heels, hymns and pews. Now before you jump me, let's set one thing straight.

I have no problem with suit's and ties, dresses and high heels (as long as they are worn by the female gender), hymns and pews. What I do have is a problem with hearts that use these things to beat the pre-believer into thinking that he can't approach God unless they look and act a certain way. I'm not advocating a spiritual free-for-all. I am saying don't take YOUR preference and make it a spiritual law. 

I never will forget speaking to a men's group about being the pastor at a treatment center. A well meaning man came up to me and made the following comment. "Bless you, brother (should have caused my guard crossing to come down)...You're doing such wonderful work for the Lord. Once we get 'em saved, we can clean 'em up, get 'em some haircuts and nice clothes and bring them into church."  I know the man meant well, but what I heard was..."Let's take 'em all and make them look like us so we can accept them." I don't think Jesus would have been too pleased with this.


I posted a video of Danny Daniels doing a song "I Know It's Real" which is one of my favorites. He always winds up the evening doing this one when he comes to Rapha, and the guys just go bonkers. What's the number one comment I hear after Danny finishes? "I had a blast. I never knew you could have that much fun." Hey! Lighten up every one and have some fun. Who invented fun? God. Who created laughter? God. Who has an incredible sense of humor? God. Once again, balance is the key. We're not called to an eternal frat party, but we also are not called to a funeral dirge relationship either. 

Maybe what we need one Sunday, at the First Church of the Frozen is a good pie fight, Three Stooges style. 

God on you.....
From a "Brother" who is living the life following Jesus.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

The Real Me




Psalm 71 (Message Bible)
Just as each day brims with Your beauty, my mouth brims with praise,
but don't turn me out to pasture when I'm old or put me on the shelf
when I can't pull my weight....

61 1/2 years old, and I feel like a kid again.
The love that I have tapped into is as old as creation but is as new to me today as this dawn that is breaking outside my window.
With this love comes a deep appreciation for who You are, Lord.
I'm not going to lie (You already know anyway)....I fell prey to loving what you did more than loving You for who you are. 
Kind of sick, isn't it Father?
But You.....
Unfailing in your character and nature....
You....

The Author and Finisher of this salvation You have so wonderfully poured out on me (and anyone else who would receive it)...
Never change...
Culture changes...
People change....
Governments change....

Celebrities come and go...
But You are a constant presence and stability in a world gone mad.
People curse You .....yet You keep on loving.
People want to remove every semblance of You from society....
But you keep on being faithful.
You keep loving...
You keep calling us, daily to Your side.


I drifted out the edge, but you kept Your hand upon me.
I lost sight of You and tried to find you through the words of Your Bible.
You were there all the time, but I couldn't see you.
I had lost sight of Your love...
What I thought was You, turned out to be the hardness of my own heart.

Slowly (and deliberately might I add) I covered up tenderness with the flowing robes of a pharisee. All flash and sparkle on the outside....but empty and hollow on the inside.
I discarded the real love from the heart (that you require) and replaced it with a verbal acknowledgement that was as cold and hard as a granite tombstone. In fact that was where my love for You and others had been taken. The grave. 

I plodded along daily...
Praying daily....yet filled with doubt and fear.

Those Pharisee robes come in pretty handy when you're living like this..you can fool anyone into thinking you're really spiritual. But I never could fool You, could I Lord?

You kept Your hand upon me....
You moved events around me....
You lovingly called me back to your side and Your heart.
And I came.

Restored...
Renewed...
Refreshed....
And about a million other "Re's" that I can't even think of at this moment.

So thank You for the gift of life today....
More than that, thank You that I am learning to love all over again.

Thank You for who You are....
Amen.


God on you....
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

I Am Vineyard


Day two -- Living Sacrifice Worship Conference.
That's a mouthful, isn't it.
I returned to the Vineyard yesterday morning, eager for another day.
The entire conference reminded me of a huge family reunion....
All it needed was deviled eggs to be official.

Danny Daniels takes the stage first to teach on Worship leading dynamics.
"Worship greases and lubes everything else that takes place during the gathering."

"Be prepared to do the 'slobberazation' of the heart when you lead worship. By that, I mean sing those songs that come from deep within."

"The best songs are written out and played on guitar's with rusty strings. Rusty because of the tears that come."

In referring to the worship series of Cd's put out by Vineyard Music, Danny said...
"We put out so many of those Touching The Father's Heart (to which John Barnett chimed in..."Yeah, Touching the Father's Heart Vol. 400)....that we eventually felt like we were "Trying The Father's Patience."

"As a Worship leader or part of a worship team, what ever you play, learn to play it better. We tend to justify laziness as being hyper-spiritual. We should learn to strike the ground with our arrows until we get effect."

"The church likes to stay away from the word "entertain" especially when it comes to worship. Have you ever looked up the definition of "entertain?" It means " To capture the innermost thought." So worship does need to have an element of entertainment to it."

Chris Lizotte sings a song that contains the phrase Searching for the perfect peace.
If I can't find it for myself, how can I impart it during worship?

I am taken by these people who have gathered here in Gadsden to lead us in worship. Chris, Danny, John and Marie....I would dare say that they do  not possess material wealth at all. But they move about with a peace, a drive, a love for God and the Kingdom. Probably the most unassuming collection of musicians I've ever met. What I'm about to say is something that I  know they would be uncomfortable with, but they are Vineyard royalty (So to speak). It is a royalty given by the King of Kings to those who have laid down their lives for His.

What is the common denominator I see in this group of musicians? Humility. They love God...They love people...but they possess a Holy Truth that they are not willing to compromise.


I go up for prayer and ministry. Christy Lizotte comes and prays over me. She tells me that "God is purposely rearranging me." She nails two things that God has been showing me over the past 7 months. Yep! There is a God and He knows me better than I know myself. I am slowly being put back together.

John and Marie take the stage to share about what some folks refer to as "singing in the Spirit" or the "Song of the Lord."

"Putting a title to something can turn it into a dead religious practice. Do it long enough and we wind up wrongly worshiping."

"We need those times of "Free" worship to simply go and follow where the Spirit of God is taking us."

"Part of our DNA as Vineyard folks is "Come and do what you want to, Lord!"

"We are learning to hear God. But more than that, learn to reach out and try. Reach out and try to lay hold of what God is telling you. Take a risk, take a chance because there is a lot of grace to fail if you're trying to reach God."

"Worship is a train that has no tracks, because it is capable of (at any moment) going in any direction."

"God loves His church  more than we do. When we come together and worship, we should expect and anticipate God coming to meet His bride."
When Marie shared this, I suddenly saw our Saturday night gathering as being almost like a blind date. We have several who come that have no religious background or understanding of what church truly is about. So for them, it's like a blind date with God. Not sure how the date is going to turn out, but the possibility of love taking places is great.

John Barnett shares "God is giving the Vineyard back its voice."
"Worship is and the words that come forth will be like honey comb dripping honey down on the lives of the people. .....smell the honey. For the glory of Your body, Your bride...Your church."

"Aslan is on the move!"

Danny speaks of Lonnie Frisbee---very tender moment.

"The Presence and the Power of God is where we plant our flag, because we are incapable of doing anything ourselves."

"The cure for backsliding is front sliding."

Chris Lizotte and the band sing To Him Who Sits On The Throne.
Wisdom from the stage. I keep hearing in my mind "The world is not going to accept you...But I will send you anyway to the very place that rejects you."

Danny and Chris are seated on the stage playing, moving into a prophetic song with the words, "He is the Lord of the dance". Is it possible for a man to dance while sitting down? Yes...Danny is moving all over, completely giving himself spirit, body, soul to this song. Feet shifting, shuffling while the song of the Lord pours out.


John shares...
"John Wimber taught me a lot of things, but he never taught me how to grow old. That is kind of on the job training."

"Wimber told us to just keep doing it!"

Band starts playing Isn't He /  Holy And Anointed One.
I began to weep.
His presence is sweet....
His presence is full--right here--right now.
Waves of His love wash over me.
I am painfully aware that time moves on, but the Kingdom stands forever. I will eventually move from this present age and cross over to the eternal at some point, if Jesus tarries.
So while I draw breath, May I ever be focused on loving you, Lord.
May I be focused on loving those who come by me daily.

Marie sings You Are Here
I am witnessing the marriage of age, love for God, and a generational voice.
These aren't just words rolling off her tongue. They are a cry from her heart.
The realization that God is here. Feel the pleasure of the Father as He comes to meet with His children.

"Original name of Vineyard Music Group ------Mercy Music".

John shares:
"I want to be spent. I want to have expended myself for Jesus. I want to expend myself on Jesus."

So, what do I come away with after all this has ended.
Well, it is Sunday morning by the time you read this.
I have had a night to sleep on it all.
I remember who I am.
I reaffirm that my highest call in this life is to worship God.
I am a part of a pretty incredible family.
I am Vineyard.

God on you...
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Saturday, May 18, 2013

Living Sacrifice Worship Conference - Day 1








And God came....
You never know what to expect at a conference. Some I've attended were really good, and really God. Others.....you think to yourself, "Why did I come to this?"
Last night was the "really good-really God" kind of conference.
Not to sound like I'm trying to wax poetically, but we got a chance to be with part of our history as a church movement. John, Marie, Danny were all there with John and Carol Wimber during the early days of the Vineyard, and now,  here they were, on stage at Gadsden Vineyard.

Lot's of miles between them thar' folks. Yet there is a peace and gentleness surrounding each of them.
Met Chris Lizotte....Gentle voice and gentle spirit. Enjoyed talking and listening to his stories.
Time to start....
Danny sings  There Is No One like You . A million thoughts flood through my brain and every one of them is covered in God. "There is no one like you Jesus!"  John sings I Was Born A Slave To Sin-- glad the song didn't end there, because it goes on to say "Now I've been born again".  Chris takes his turn with a new song You Know My Name. Praise to God that this whole "born again" relationship is personal and individualized. We are not cogs in a great religious machine...but are son's and daughter's of the most High God. Cool beans...

Lat night was a family reunion of family I'd never even met before. People from Anniston, Franklin Tennessee, and other parts unknown. Lot's of laughter, hugs and stories.


Danny taught on Worship to God vs. Worship to man .
He is probably as good a teacher as I have ever sat under. As a friend of mine likes to say, "He kept the cookies on the bottom shelf where the kiddies could get to them." In other words, there was this profound wisdom wrapped in a simple package that everyone could understand.

I was suppose to be there for this conference. God has been stirring me for sometime about worship. He has been tolerable of some things I've done in the past when it came to worship. But now I think He is telling me, "It's time to grow up and reach a little higher".


And you want to know what the best part is....
I'm going back today for more.....
More of you, Lord!

As I drove home last night, Chris' CD playing at full volume, I was whole again. I had been a puzzle laid out of a table, pieces scattered everywhere. Now the puzzle felt complete and put together. I will enjoy this for the time being because I know at some point in the near future, God will dump another puzzle out on the table that needs to be put together.

God on you....
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Friday, May 17, 2013

Long Night

A Declaration 

Psalm 27
The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?

In a time and age of great spiritual darkness, we all are in need of receiving help and light from a source that is greater than us.
The Bible refers to a light that some possess as actually being darkness. In other words, we have allowed ourselves to become deceived so that we think what we see as great truth and wisdom, is nothing more than the ploy and wiles of our enemy, the devil.

The devil may actually try and copy light, but he can never copy the act of salvation. 

The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

My lack and inability to live life is taken up in Christ. I am empowered by the Holy Spirit to accomplish things that are beyond my own will or strength. 
God is the source of any life that I may possess. Not the heart-beat-keep-breathing-kind of life, but the fullness of God that enables us to walk through this present age, unscathed by the corruption and evilness of this age.

And now my head shall be lifted up, above my enemies all around me.

God raises up in His time. He exalts those who humble themselves.
Just as Noah and family rose above the destruction and death brought about by the flood, God raises up those who place their life and trust in Christ.

Therefore, I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle;
I will sing; yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

I am learning how to worship. I am falling in love with Jesus. Not just in words or saying it trying to convince myself...
But truly through the study of His word and seeing His hand at work in me and around me, I am learning how to love Him.
This love cannot be contained to mere words.
I have to express it.
To shout and scream...
To clap my hands, stomp my feet and jump around.
To get down on my knees in reverence to Him...
To lay down on my face telling Him....."Jesus! What a wonder you are!"
"Jesus, Jesus, Jesus...there's just something about that name."

This has been a long, long night.
Phone calls from people who are hurting and struggling.
People who have lost their way and they are angry at God because they find themselves in such pain of their own doing.
People who know what to do....
But have become so blind to the truth, that they have rejected it.
My heart goes out to them.
And my prayers have covered them, as well as my tears.
How much longer do they have to suffer because of their own choices?
Oh God...
Be God in their lives.
Have mercy on them...
Break through all the deception and allow your love and your truth to break down every barrier that is separating them from real love and real relationship with you.
Keep them from the enemy until salvation is theirs.
Grant them a measure of peace.

In Jesus name...
amen

God on you...
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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Believe? Or Know? Your Choice!






Matthew 9:12
When Jesus heard this, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick."

Matthew 8:3
Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying,"I am willing....be cleansed." Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Been a good week.
God has been speaking through Scripture to me.

He even sent someone to me, and during a conversation they spoke something that confirmed what I was hearing or perceiving God to be doing.
I made the comment concerning our Vineyard Recovery meeting that I was not going to get in the way of what God was doing, that He had made it very clear to me that this was HIS meeting and I was to simply follow instructions. I have made every effort to operate from this place.

He made it clear that we were not going to be focusing on the Steps of Recovery as much as we were the One who makes it all possible. That being our Higher Power, Jesus. We know that the majority of people who come to Saturday night have a specific problem that they are struggling with....addiction. I told someone early on that we were a community of people with a sin/specific illness in need of healing. An illness that has eaten away any relationship with may have had with Jesus......A sin/addiction that has separated us from society so that, like the leper, we are need of being restored. 

To put it bluntly...we are a community of people in search of life. We have some knowledge about God, but little understanding of God. We bring this entire package of our experiences and knowledge of God and recovery with us in hopes of making some practical sense of it all.
So Saturday night, we gather to encounter......to experience.....to run into the real God. Not the God we have concocted in our own minds. Saturday  night is as much about unlearning as it is learning. It is about trading wrong ideas and thoughts about God for the truth of who He really is. 
More than that...Saturday night is about being touched and changed by God. It is about having an encounter with this God we claim to believe in. 

You can go your entire life believing that if you stick you finger over a  candle flame, you'll get burned. Or you can actually let the fire touch you and move you from believing to a place of knowing that if you put your finger in the flame you'll get burned. We want to be a people who move from believing to knowing. More than this, we want to be a people who leave the Saturday night meeting and go back out into our communities, our schools and marketplace and simply BE who God has called us to be. A people who love God and those around us. A people who believe in prayer and that we can interact with others who are hurting and see the Kingdom of God come forth in their lives. 


If you want to be free, then you've got to let this fire of God's presence come and burn you.
I chose the song "If You Want To Be Free" by the group WATERDEEP for reason. I love the honesty of the words. Don Chaffer paints a picture of the Kingdom that is rarely talked about. That God does in fact show up on gas station bathrooms. That the real Kingdom of God is not made up of pews and choirs and lecterns and carpet. Nothing wrong with those things, but that is not the tools or evidence of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God, coming to this earth, is played out in the broken hearts and lives of those who are hungry for Him. The Kingdom will of God is found in the cries of those who are on the verge of losing hope and life, with no where else to turn, turn their voice and heart to God.  

Saturday nights are messy sometimes. 
There are (and will be) times that we aren't real sure about what we're doing and how to do it, but are simply trying to follow God's directives.
But the one thing you can count on is that when we come together for Vineyard Recovery, we are trying to hear God. We are going to teach what is on His heart. We are going to worship with the songs that He wants to hear. And we are going to learn how to love each other in the way that God loves us. 

Don't forget that our next meeting will be May 25th /  7 p.m.
Look forward to seeing you!


God on you....
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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Truth Will Set You Free.....And A Lie Will Drop You Like A Bad Habit



The truth will set you free.
"The" truth...not some truth....or a truth...but the truth....
Truth seems to be in short supply in our time and space.
Seems to me that some people suffer from what I refer to as "Situational ethics".
In other words, I will do what I need to do to survive, no matter what situation I may find myself in.
Some like to refer to this as being flexible....
Or possessing the ability to adapt to the moment....
I call it what it is....No backbone.
Moses' brother, Aaron, was like that.
He suffered from situational ethics.
Aaron's truth was forged in his flesh and not his heart.
It cost him.

Check it out in Exodus 32.
Ol 'Mo has gone up on the mountain to be with God.
He left Aaron kind of in charge.
"Aaron...watch over these folks and don't let them get off into any mischief. Do you hear me?"
I'm sure Aaron was kind of hacked because this was his younger brother giving him orders.
But Aaron didn't heed the truth.
Moses stayed gone for a number of days...
People grew restless...they didn't want to hear the truth...
They were too busy listening to their flesh (desires and wants).
So they approach old Aaron and ask him to make them a god.
Aaron suddenly turned into a gold broker and smelter...."Bring me everything you have that is gold."
Built a fire...
Put the gold in a pot...
Heated it...
Made a mold...
Poured the gold...
Shaped and fashioned it...
Voila...
Calf god.....moo
Not once did Aaron remember any of the truth that the real deal God had spoken.
Forgot it all.
The truth that was given to the people, truth from God, was now cast aside.
So if the truth will set you (or make you free), then when you discard it for a lie...that must mean you are brought under bondage and slavery to the kingdom of darkness and the devil. Bummer.
Let me see if I can get this straight...
God's truth makes me free...
God's truth sets me free from the lies and bondage of sin....
The world's truth is a mere copy and empty shell of God's truth.
THE truth will set you free...
Jesus said that He IS the truth.

One last thing...
The truth of God will set you free from yourself.
From all those old choices that YOU use to make.
From all those bad decisions that seemed so right at the time.
Real truth....God's truth, will bring you into a new way of living.
Not a bad deal....

God on you....
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Brain Washed By God



Romans 12:1-2 (Message Bible)
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life----your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life-- and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Good words to live by....
"Don't fit into the culture around you without even thinking."

Don't allow the culture to influence you and form the basis for your beliefs and moral standards.
We are a nation of culture...
Actually we are a nation of many cultures. I think you would call them "Sub-cultures". Each one has a language of its own. Takes on collective habits and rituals....looks at other cultures with a jaded eye. Funny part in all of this, we find ourselves fitting in without giving one thought to what is happening to us spiritually, mentally and morally.

Take the drug culture.
If you are in addiction or coming out of it through recovery, did you not adjust your beliefs to fit the culture you were trying to be a part of? Of course you did.  You hung around others who were cut from the same pattern. You viewed life and those outside your culture with skeptical eyes...with judgmental opinions and with disdain. You may have hated what you were doing, but you allowed yourself to be shaped and formed by the culture you had chose to be a part of. 


Did this drug culture you chose to embrace...did it not affect you and change your moral belief's? Of course it did. You began to take part in activities that were foreign to you before you gave yourself to the addiction. And the longer you stayed in that culture, the more you spiraled downward in what you were willing to do. The battle cry of most addicts exist in a line that they swore they would never cross. No matter how hard life became, this was a point that  was drawn in the sand...a line that was not going to be crossed...."I'll never use a needle." Somehow in the mind, we had determined that those who used needles in their addiction were somehow the most terrible of the terrible. You even tried to justify your own using by saying..."Yeah, I know I have problems, but at least I'm not a junkie shooting up with needles." How many have I seen cross that line because of the influence of the drug and the voices of the people caught in that culture. We allowed ourselves to be conformed and shaped by the cultural voice that told us..."Go ahead...it's not that bad."

The Romans 12:2 passage states that we are to be transformed. Transformed means to be changed from the inside out. To have an experience with a Power greater than ourselves that changes our heart. Change of heart produces a change of mind. Change the mind and the will becomes affected. Change the will and the behavior changes. All of this because we come to believe in a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity, or the ability to make sound decisions. So, we are to be transformed, not conformed. Conform means obedience through simply behaving to what ever the standard or rule is. That means we allow outside influence to press us into acting a certain way. No change on the inside. Just a decision to go with the flow, even if the flow is taking us down the toilet, so to speak. Transformed by God, not conformed by the culture and people around us.
Transformed in every way to become the person God intends us to be.
Not a cookie-cutter, religious shaped individual...
But the one-of-a-kind-special person of infinite worth, because of Christ's redemption.

Think on these things...

God on you...

Don't forget...we will not be meeting this week for Vineyard Recovery due to the worship conference at Gadsden Vineyard. We will be back next week, May 25th.

if you would like to attend the conference, you can register when you arrive. Cost is $55.00. It is a three day event featuring worship leaders/teachers Danny Daniels, John and Marie Barnett and Chris Lizotte. 

Kingdom Work Doesn't Always Look Like What We Think It Does

Parking lot was crowded yesterday. It was near noon and people were taking care of their business, hurrying in and out of the building. I...