Saturday, August 31, 2013

What A Wife!

Y'all are going to have to bear with me over the next few days....
You see, there is this woman that I am head-over-heels-in love with.
Come this Sunday, it will be 41 years of us being hitched together.
That's a lot of time that she had to put up with me.

Putting up with me quitting my job to go make music because "God told me to"....
we pert near died that year. Turned out it wasn't God.
But you know what, she never wavered at all. She stood by and supported me through it all.
Not once did she say, "Told  you so!"
She was there to encourage and love me.
She is everything and more you could ask for in a wife.
Strong-willed, yet at the same time as fragile as a china cup.
Giving love and desiring to be loved.

Funny how God frames marriages with memories.
The older I've gotten, the more memories become precious to me.
The things we have faced over the years have created catch words and phrases, that when spoken trigger that memory to come up. To me, that is a gift from God.
I can look at my wife and say, "Flash Spider".
To you, it probably makes no sense, but to her it brings up a memory and with it laughter.
"Our Hovel."
and on and on and on.
These are the things that 41 years of marriage are built on.
Oh, we've had our share of tears over the past 41 years. We've had our share of hard times.
But I don't think we have ever had many days when there wasn't laughter in the Bynum household.

I haven't been very successful at many things in my life. At least successful as the world measures it.
But I have had the greatest honor a man could ever receive. To be a husband and father.
So as we approach our anniversary tomorrow, Vicki, know that I love you more today, than when we first met on January 19, 1970.
Let's do another 41, what do you say?


Friday, August 30, 2013

I Believe

Isaiah 59:1
Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save. Nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.

Incredible words...."I believe!"
Separates us from all others, no matter what they believe.
"I"...the first word... an individual.
A breathing, living entity who was born with an image of the true creator.

God the Father...
God the Son, Jesus....
And God the Holy Spirit....

Long ago in (not in a galaxy far, far away)...a conclave was held between this Holy Three.
Consensus was reached and the decision to create a being in their image was carried out.
Since that time, millions times millions have been born, lived and died upon this earth. But each one of these beings carried the image of this Holy Three.

The moment we are born, we begin to formulate a world view. We learn certain behaviors and we pick up information from others. We slowly are taught, sometimes by trial and error, how to deal with others as well as how to simply make it through life.
Some of the things we are taught are not good.
Then stem from a mindset that does recognize the image that we carry.
Instead it seeks out dark things that stand in contrast to our image. By embracing these dark beliefs and dark behaviors, our image becomes tarnished and begins to get lost among all the confusion and darkness. After a while, we forget who we truly are. We forget what our real purpose is here on planet earth. Because we have forgotten the truth, we seek out even more darkness to feed upon. Yet the appetite that darkness creates in our souls is an appetite that is never satisfied. It demands more and more. We willingly oblige this hunger even to the point that we begin to self destruct.

The only thing that can save us and stop this descent down the slippery slope of destruction is the intervention of the Holy Three into our life. 

Once we turn our will and life over to their care, we are made new. We become a new creation, once again standing, living, breathing in the image of our creator. It is from this place of "being" that one can truthfully cry out "I Believe!" What had only been conjecture was now reality. What had been cast aside was now embraced and valued. None of us are beyond the reach of God.
To me that is a comforting thought. That no matter how bad our lot in life is this matter how big of a mess I may have created in my life....God is lovingly calling to me to receive Him and His plans for my life, so I can truly experience what life is all about. A relationship with Him!
Guess what?
I believe.

How about you?

God on you...

Don't forget.....Vineyard Recovery Tomorrow night...7 p.m....Gadsden Vineyard Church.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Family Time @ Vineyard Recovery Audio Message

Really good service from August 24th. An opportunity for the family to share what has happened over the past 21 weeks Vineyard Recovery has been meeting.
Hope you enjoy it!

God on you...

Everyone Has A Story

Psalm 107:2
Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy.

I am so appreciative of what God has done to us and among us at Vineyard Recovery.
Whether you feel like it or not, you've got a story to tell. A message to share. Every person has struggles that they are facing, along with mountains that they have already climbed. Such needs to be shared with others. When we tell our story of God's work in our lives, we are encouraging each other and building up our hope and faith in Christ.

That is why from time to time at Vineyard Recovery, we are going to have someone from among our regular attender's come and share their story. How did they get to where they are today? What has been the over riding theme to their life in the battles they have faced.

I have used Psalm 107:2 in a lot of meetings because of the wording. Truth be known, most people feel like they really don't have anything to share. No dramatic stories of them being rescued by God. No miracles (at least on a Hollywood movie scale) where they were snatched from destruction. Well,  usually tell folks that verse 2 of Psalm 107 merely states that if you have been saved, your response is a simple...."SO!"  Isn't that what the verse says...?  Let the redeemed of the Lord say "SO!".  

This Saturday night, Debbie Handy will share her story with us. I've known Debbie for 23 years and she has been an incredible encouragement to Vicki and me. In fact, she and her husband Lanny, helped us get our home group started back in 1994. 

I'm looking forward to the coming weeks as others will share their stories with us.
Don't forget that we will not be having Vineyard Recovery on SEPT. 7 but will return the next week.

August 31st -  Debbie Handy will speak
Sept. 7th -  We will be closed
Sept. 14th - Seth Barber will speak
Sept. 21st - Michael Bynum will speak.

Looking forward to seeing you!
God on you....

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Pass It Over And Pass It On

II Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

It is amazing to watch the enthusiasm someone who has been freed from addiction, brings to their new found life with Christ.
They devour the word, reading hours upon hours. 
They ask a gazillion questions, most of which I have no answer for.
Really....I do not know where the Ark of the Covenant is located.
But I will take those questions any day of the week, considering where this person has come from.

What I see in the long term, is that those who continue to have a hunger for God and his word, seem to be able to remain sober.
Those who have a hunger to connect with a community of believers seem to be able to remain sober.

Those who take part in "Giving away" what they have freely received in this new way of living seem to be able to remain sober.

Sobriety is a byproduct of turning will and life over to the care of God.
Did you catch that? I said that sobriety is a byproduct. A very important byproduct, but none the less one part of a larger picture. 
For with this new life comes all manner of possibilities.
Things that seemed impossible and out of reach are now brought close because of this salvation we have embraced and given ourselves to.

Following Jesus is not a hobby or a part time job.
Funny part in all of this is that when you are saved, you want to chase Him. You want to study His word. You want to hang out with others who are like minded. You do these things because you want to. You have a hunger to be a part.

This is why part of my call to pastor involves what I call the II Timothy 2:2 principal.
"and the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."
I am called to pour out myself on "faithful" men. Men who are serious about their relationship with Christ. 
Men like Barry Hooks...Seth Barber.....Shane Elmore......Wayne McCurry.....Charlie Copeland....Jonathan Bright.....Mark Cotney.....Red Tucker....Brandon Morgan....Sam Colegrove....Bobby Carson....and many others, that if I took the time to list all the names....we'd be here for a while. 
I do not care if anyone remembers my name or what God has done through me. But I pray that no one ever forgets when they first met God and how it changed their life for the better.

That is why this next season in my life at Vineyard Recovery, has me excited.
God is slowly and deliberately building this meeting. Week after week, we are learning more about ourselves and about Him. We are seeing who we are, as His people, slowly being defined by His hand. We are seeing our purpose as a community of believers and how it fits into our city and our communities. For this I am grateful.
Pray for us that we remain faithful and true to what God has called us to.

God on you.....


Don't forget: We will not be having VINEYARD RECOVERY on Sept. 7. We will be taking that night off.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Pretty Good Crutch, That Jesus Is!

To me, the picture above is a great illustration of what it's like living under the bondage of addiction. It's like trying to walk a tightrope with your feet tied together. The two just don't go together. Neither does real life and the infusion of a substance into our bodies and brains. The two cannot co-exist together. 

Such a thought as the inability of life and addiction not being able to co-exist is found in the simple words of Step #1- I am powerless (translated: I keep falling off the tightrope) and my life has become unmanageable (translated: I know that all I have to do is reach down and untie the rope, but I'm afraid that I will fall off).

Been cruising through the Message Bible over the past few days, and found myself at Matthew 9:12-13:  This is Jesus speaking---"Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what the Scripture means: ' I'm after mercy, not religion.' I'm here to invite the outsiders, not coddle the insiders."

Addiction, by the sheer nature of it's destruction, puts us on the outside of God's will and Jesus' desire to heal us. Funny thing about can't really get help until you admit that you are sick and need help. Same with addiction. You can be free until you admit that there isn't any way out that you can see. When we can't find a way out through our own efforts to quit or even change, then we begin to look outside our own efforts for an answer to our problem. That is the beginning of healing. Father Martin, long time recovering alcoholic and Catholic Priest use to put it this way. Addiction is like getting up every morning and climbing into a boxing ring to fight. Only problem is, we get our brains beat out. So we go home that night and try to figure out how we can climb back in that ring and achieve a different result. Trouble is, we can't. We continue to climb into the ring day after day, and, day after day, we get our brains beat out. Suddenly one day, it dawns on us...."Why don't I just not get in the ring?" Such is the mindset of one who is addicted. They will spend vast amounts of energy and thought on how they can find a better way to deal with their problem, only to discover that their using has slowed down one bit. In fact, they have deceived themselves into believing that they are actually getting better because they have devoted time and thought to change. Trouble is, they devoted "O" effort into actually doing anything about it. They just feel better because they thought about changing. Change is more than thought or is action.

I know you've read it here before, but I don't know any other way of saying it.
We don't have an alcohol or drug problem. Alcohol and drugs aren't your problem. They are merely symptoms of a deeper problem inside you. Our problem is that we have a living problem. We have a broken relationship with Christ as evidenced by the sin/ destruction we have created through our own bad choices. The only answer is found in a person. A person that some refer to as the "Great Physician". I guess that's a pretty good deal if you know that you are sick and in need of being healed.

Consider the possibility that Jesus truly is who He claims He is.
Consider the possibility that Jesus will do what He has promised He would.

You know that you don't have to climb into that ring today, don't you?

God on you....

Monday, August 26, 2013

Letting Christ Live In Me

I Corinthians 10 (Message Bible)
Christ doesn't become fragmented in us. Rather, we become unified in him. We don't reduce Christ to what we are; he raises us to what he is.

If you are the problem.....
You can't be the solution.....
You don't take Christ and try to fit him into your life so you can break free from your addiction....
Christ is not some sort of add on for better living....
Christ is not the latest app for our smart phone life....

Christ is the answer to every question you asked when you were out there running in the darkness.

Jesus isn't there to solely get you out of your legal troubles. He is there to change your heart and your life so that you can navigate all the legal hoops you have created for yourself, and never have to live this way again.
Why is it we want to take Christ and create him in our image?
Treat him like some sort of Holy-salve! Rub a little bit of Jesus on this spot and he'll take away the troubles and the pain.

No way! Open the heart up and let him empty it of everything bad. Let him turn you upside down and shake out all the darkness and emptiness of thought. Let him scrub the inside till it shines and is ready to be occupied by the Holy Spirit. Then he will give you a life worth living.

James 4:4-6 (Message)
You're cheating on God, if all you want is your own way, flirting with the world every chance you get, you end up enemies of God and his way. And do you suppose God doesn't care? The proverb has it that "He's a fiercely jealous lover." And what he gives in love is far better than anything else you'll find. It's common knowledge that "God goes against the willful proud, but gives grace to the willing humble."

He raises us up. He lifts our vision of how life can be for us. 
I Peter 4:1-2 (Message)
Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

It is the power of God at work in a heart and life surrendered. Simple as that.
I don't want to trivialize the momentous, nor do I want to complicate the obvious, but only to speak the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.
He will do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

How can you argue against that? What logic can you bring to bear to dispute such claims by Jesus? None.
If Jesus truly possesses the power and authority to change me, and the evidence of my life is defined by the destruction I've created------would it not make sense to turn my will and my life over to his care rather than continue in my own way of thinking? I think it would.

God on you....


We will not be having Vineyard Recovery on September 7th, but will return the following week, with Seth Barber as our speaker.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

When I Had A Choice Between Good And Bad, I Picked Bad Two Out Of Three

I've always loved Charlie Daniels.....
His fiddle stirs up the country and redneck that flows through these old veins.
Imagine how I felt when I learned that he'd been saved.
Charlie waited for five years after his conversion before he released his album, THE DOOR, because he didn't want folks to say, "Well, he's just trying to make a buck off this religious stuff."

Heart of the song is the beauty of God's grace:
"Jesus, how could you love me? Jesus, how could you love me? Cause when I had a choice between good and bad, I picked bad two out of three."
Nothing better than falling on the mercy of God and being drowned in His grace.
Thanks Charlie for this song....


Moving From The Nursery To Big Church

Ephesians 4:13
Till we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Growing in Christ....
Growing as an individual...
Growing as part of a community of others who are believers.

Growing doesn't isn't always translated as numbers or size....
In this case, growing is best seen in the change of character a person has as God 's Holy Spirit is at work in their life.

Do others we come in contact with see Jesus in us.
Do we talk like Him?
Do we conduct our business like Him?

Last night at Vineyard Recovery, we had our 21st meeting.
I felt like we were to kind of take stock on how far we had come as a group.
Kind of a spiritual inventory.
I asked, "How have you changed over these 21 weeks we have been meeting?"
The answers that came back were really good.
"I'm more aware of who I am and all the things that God is wanting to change in me."
"I'm learning patience...not something I've been good at."
"I'm painfully aware that God is calling me to love those I don't really want to love."
All the answers that came back were about character flaws and how God was working on changing them.

The need for character to be changed is the heart of recovery.
So Step Six - "Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character" - is stating the best possible attitude one can take in order to make a beginning on this lifetime job. This does not mean that we expect all our character defects to be lifted out of us as the drive to drink was. A few of them may be, but with most of them we shall have to be content with patient improvement. The words "entirely ready" underline the fact that we want to aim at the very best we know or can learn.
- Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, p. 65
In other words, I want to put myself, along with all my character mess, at the disposal of God so He can work in me. To bring about the needed change for life to continue without the drugs or alcohol.
The church loves to talk about salvation. Loves to talk about the mercy of God. Loves to expound on God's grace. But when it comes to our lives and our nature, or character, you will hear very little mentioned about God desiring us to go through a change needed to move forward in our recovery. Yet, I think this is the heart of the gospel of Christ.
The book of Hebrews speaks of spiritual immaturity:Chapter 5:12-14
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principals of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food (spiritually speaking). For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use (or practice) have their senses exercised to discern both good and bad.
This is the heart of why we gather on Saturday nights. The very idea that God is calling us to grow up before we grow older. To exercise that which has been given freely to us by God in the understanding that we are to take our message to others who are suffering. To bring in the Kingdom of God.
God on you....

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Emory Boggs Has Been On My Mind

I never had the opportunity to meet Emory Boggs, but my life was touched by those who knew him. I saw in them a hunger to know more of God. To not be satisfied with what they were hearing in church but to ask "How can I know God better?"
You have to remember, at that particular time, the Jesus people movement sweeping across our nation and, yes even here in Etowah county we felt the impact. We were a generation looking to express God in a way that was uniquely us. We had been labeled a generation of rebellion...a generation that wanted to bring down the status quo..but now, we wanted to be known as a generation whose voice and purpose belonged to God.

What you are going to read was written by my good friend, David Finlayson.
If the truth be known........
we all need an "Emory Boggs" in our life. That one individual who seems to walk a different path...walks at a different rhythm.
Even though I never met you, Emory....thanks for all the lives you touched and how they touched me.
See you soon, my friend.

Late Eulogy
Emory Boggs death was a blow to us all. I still to this day have a difficult time sorting through the debris of memories. I remember walking down the school halls in a daze after mother phoned with the news that Emory was dead. I remember passing the classroom doors, hearing the dull drone of teacher's voices, rustling paper and the sounds only a school desk could make on a dirty tile floor. Each room was like a capsule filled with life,unaware of my sur-reality caused by a terrible grief. I paced down those long halls, and leaned into drab green walls that kept me from crumbling to the floor. Emory was dead. Emory was dead.

It's a shame that he suffered such a violent end. A life so good, so sweet does not need be remembered with such bitterness. Emory got the Zippy Mart job so he could work his way toward seminary, become a preacher and marry my sister Irene. The sixteen year old black kid didn't know that.Who knows why he threw gas on Emory and lit a match. This was long before Rodney King, the L.A. Riot, and so called Black Rage. It was during a time when an incident of this nature still shocked people. The boy said he was just trying to scare the clerk. He said that he didn't think the fumes would ignite. He said he didn't mean to.

It still grieves me to think what Emory must have gone through during those hours left alone and in pain on the cement floor of that back room. Two young children heading for school early the next morning heard Emory's cries. They found his charred body and called for help. Mom woke me up with the news that Emory was badly burned and had been sent to the Birmingham Burn Center. It sounded bad but I was an optimistic kid. I wasn't expecting to be called out of class. I wasn't expecting the telephone call waiting for me in the school office later that school day.

My brother Brooky rode down with Emory in the ambulance. He could tell the story better and with greater accuracy. Emory lay talking and praying. Brook said that Emory was very calm and talked to Jesus as if he were sitting beside him . . . I believe He was. He said. "Lord, please don't hold that boy accountable for doing this. Please don't hold this against him." It was a sad yet beautiful thing. That black, charred, unrecognizable twenty two year old man who could love as Christ in his final day. It was Jesus saying "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." You had to know Emory. For Emory, that was not a hard story to believe. His prayer kept me from hating the kid with the match. It kept me from years of hard feelings. If Emory could love and forgive his murderer, I could too. Here, the very essence and compassion of Christ bled through as Emory's final witness.

I remember my dad not liking Emory around the house at first. He didn't like the idea of that long hair rock and roll hippie hanging around his precious virgin daughter. Personally I thought Emory looked more like a bubble gum Bobby Sherman type but to my dad's generation they were all pretty wild looking. Things changed dramatically one week when Emory tagged along on a family trip to camp meeting. He went along to spend time with my sister Irene. He thought he would spend days romantically romping along the shores of Florida with her. I think everyone misperceives their first experience with camp meeting. Emory had never been to a holiness camp before,the sinners spiritual death-camp. Two hours into the first day and you're dreading the next nine. Call it love or call it stranded,but Emory stayed and was eventually and dramatically saved. Emory testified later that God literally pushed him out from among the pews and into the aisle during the alter call. I can attest to his testimony because I was sitting in the pew behind him.

The neat thing about his salvation experience is that he gave everything to the Lord. He really did. Most of us (myself included) hold onto crap that we think we can't live without. Emory did what few people do. He took God's Word literally. He was truly born again. He got rid of the old wine skins. He took up his cross and followed. It made perfect sense to him, that if he was to be saved, he had to empty his cup completely in order for it to be filled by the Holy Spirit completely. God didn't straighten Emory out,He bent him forward. When Emory's life changed,so did the world around him.

Emory had a desire to know everything he could about his Savior. He wanted everyone around him to experience the forgiveness and compassion from God that he had experienced. It wasn't long before Emory was called to preach. His sermons were as sincere and simple as his daily walk. I am sure that he would be the same fellow if he were alive today. Emory would've kept his faith real and warm. I never knew anybody that could love folks into the kingdom like Emory could. He loved people everywhere he went. People seemed to gravitate toward him.

My father quickly grew close to Emory. He was eventually loved as a son, and in death he was mourned as a son. The whole family loved him for that matter. He was my other brother and it took years to deal with his loss. So many lives touched in that short time. His coffin was surrounded by so many strange faces. It amazed me that this young man could touch so many lives within such a short span of time. If it were not for immediate family, I would have thought I was at the wrong service. The numbers bore witness to the fact that it was not just I who thought this life precious.

The last fragment I'll write is this. Emory was part of a fellowship. We had a coffeehouse that he named F.R.E.E House. I remembered some of his friends sitting around consoling each other. There were less than a dozen that day. We were talking about him and I remember a friend saying something to the effect that "God knew Emory would die young and that's why God gave the life such an unusual faith." I disagreed. I told her that I thought Emory had such a simple theology of letting go completely . . . so God could do His work completely. Do we not all have that very potential when we are surrendered as instruments?" To say that it was impossible for me to live and die the same way was something that I would not accept. I won't let anyone take that hope from me.

His death was over twenty five years ago and he still steps into conversations from time to time. A few weeks ago I was treating my nieces to pizza when they asked me about him. I was around their age when he was killed and thought it neat that he was being remembered by those who had never met him. I was surprised that they knew just as much as I did. There wasn't much that I could tell them that they didn't already know. They, I think, remember Emory mostly because of the tragic story of his death. I think those who knew him could agree to the following thought. Here is a great example of what God can do to a surrendered heart. If we could let go, our lives would be as fragrant too.

-David B. Finlayson

Friday, August 23, 2013

Bad Lifestyle And Bad Choices Make For Bad Consequences

Has a way of rolling on by doesn't it? Taking with it every good intention...every "Should have"...every thing we meant to do.
Once time rolls on by, there is no going back. There is only today, and if you're fortunate, a tomorrow. No guarantee about that, but at least there is today. What I do with today sets the stage for my tomorrow, should I make it.

"I'll quit tomorrow".
"This will be the last time I use, I really mean it this time."
We bolster our own pride with these empty promises, but we know the truth that we can't quit."
We know the harsh reality that if something doesn't change, we are going to travel the same path millions have and destroy everything and everyone around us for the sake of our addiction.

Harsh truth, but truth none the less.

Funny how the only requirement to be a part of A.A. is a desire to stop drinking or using.
Funny how this journey toward a new life begins with a desire.
But desire alone isn't worth much.
That is why I want to build a community or people who are on the same journey to find life. Recovery is much more than sobriety. If sobriety was the chief goal to recovery, I'd take you and stick you in a room, lock the door, and shove food and water under the door to you. I guarantee you that you would be sober by the time you came out. But the real reason for your using would not have been addressed.

Let's take a look at some verses from Jeremiah 5.
V.23 -Your iniquities have turned these things away.
In this case, God is speaking of His ability to bring prosperity and abundance to a life. When it speaks of iniquities as being the source of God with holding good things from you, it is referring to your lifestyle. Iniquities = lifestyle. We have laid hold of a lifestyle that runs against God's call to salvation and change. When we turn our backs on God to live life on our terms, God allows us to do so. But then as sure as the sun comes up, we find that turmoil and guilt and shame become our closest friends. God, who is ever loving, waits for us to return. He loves us beyond our capability to love and truly desires to give us life, real life.

V.23 - And you sins have withheld good from you.
kind of a no brainer here, isn't it. If good has been deducted from your life, that only leaves THE BAD. And what do we do? we press in more and more into that old lifestyle of using. Which only separates us more from all the good God is wanting to pour out on us. It's kind of like me having a terminal disease, yet I know someone who has the medicine I need to cure me. But because I don't really like the that individual, I refuse to take the medicine. 

So according to Jeremiah (and I think I can honestly put these two things together)...our lifestyle of addiction and the intent of our hearts, our motives, have separated us from a life that is given freely by God to those who truly want it. Sounds right to me.

That is why we do Vineyard Recovery.
We are a people who have either found this new life, or are in search of it.
We are a community of people who have found the value of allowing Jesus Christ to operate in our lives as our Higher Power.
We value the simple act of following Him, laying aside our will to embrace His.
As I wrote in yesterday's posting, our mission statement is Following In His Steps. You do not have to take this journey alone. We are a place where you can receive encouragement. You can receive prayer (don't ever discount the power of prayer). And you can be loved for who you are, not what you've done.
We are all on this path to recovery.

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

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

Hopefully we'll see you Saturday night/ 7 p.m. / Vineyard Recovery

God on you...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Seth Barber Audio Message From Vineyard Recovery

John 8:31
Jesus said to the people who believed in Him, "You are truly my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings."
Seth Barber takes us through the notion that obedience and surrender are the heart of recovery. Not obedience for the sake of simply doing the right things, but the kind of obedience that brings the favor of God into our life and changes us from the inside out.

Enjoy this message!
Download it for listening later or feast on it now.
God on you...

What Is Vineyard Recovery?

What is Vineyard Recovery?
A gathering....a meeting....a community of people who are either struggling with addiction....know someone who is in addiction.........or is being lead to become a part of a meeting where Christ is first and foremost the center of our recovery.

We welcome anyone who may want to come and see what's going on. Our mission statement is a very simple statement: "Following in HIS steps". This statement reveals the fact that Jesus is the ultimate higher power one seeks when working the twelve steps. It also reveals the wisdom found in Jesus words in Luke 9:23 -  "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." The road to real recovery happens as we relinquish control over our so called "right" to make our own decisions, and turn our will and life over to His care. Do you see that? We are to follow His steps. Go where He goes...follow. If the truth be known, that takes a lot of pressure off of us when we simply have to follow. I know...I know...some may be saying, "It's not that simple!" I understand the nature of cravings and desires as the body screams for alcohol. I understand the psychology of the power of the mind when deprived of the substance it craves. But I also understand the power of a sin nature that has not been turned over to Christ. That sin nature, with its subtle, soothing voice, whispering in your ear to give it what is wants the most. Such battles are never won when we isolate ourselves. Solitude is the way of the devil...if he can cut us away from family, friends or anyone else who might influence us, we will listen to those ancient voices that come to us, whispering promises that will never be filled. Promises that only lead to destruction and death.

Two things I want you to understand about Vineyard Recovery:
1.) It is a safe place. By that, I mean that we want to provide an atmosphere and community where you can come with all your "Stuff"...your emotional baggage, you addiction problems....your can bring them and not feel like you are a second or third class citizen. We want to offer you a place where you can meet God and be healed. Meet God and be put back together. We are not here to put your laundry in the street. We are not going to go around talking about who showed up and the things that they shared. We are not an A.A. meeting, but we do want to respect and honor each person who comes to be with us.After all, we are all recovering from the fall into sin, are we not?

2.) It's just Jesus: I have had this as the center of my theology ever since I was ordained. God made it very clear that my entire theology rests on the simple fact that Jesus is who He claims to be, and He will do what He has claimed He would do. Like Paul wrote in I Corinthians 2:2 - "For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Why such a theology? Because when we stand before the cross of Christ, we are all on equal footing. We all stand convicted of our sins, in need of a Savior who can free us from the penalty of sin...from the power of sin ...and from the presence of sin. Who would that be? Just Jesus.

So Vineyard Recovery is a place where we learn about ourselves and about the Kingdom of God. What is the Kingdom of God? It is the dynamic rule and reign of God in our lives that will enable us to move beyond our addiction into the life God is providing. We don't teach that life is all apple pie, puppy dogs and rainbows once you come to Jesus for healing. We teach that no matter what life hands matter what circumstance you may be faced with, Jesus is there to take you through it. There will be good days that you wish would never end...and there will be dark days that you think will never end. But there through it all will be the Jesus you have run into, that you can lean of for support and guidance.

Consider coming and being a part of our meeting. We'd love to see you.
We meet on Saturday night at 7 p.m. / downtown Gadsden on Broad Street- between 4th and 5th streets.
God on you...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Church Plus All The Amenities Does Not Always Translate Into Jesus

Revelation 5:12
Saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!"

Pretty good message isn't it?
That would get up all in our praise and worship services, would it not?
God has had me pondering something this morning.
What if Saturday night, when we were ready to start the meeting at Vineyard Recovery, we suddenly lost our lighting on the stage. I'm not talking about the power going out. I'm talking about it suddenly vanished.

Then the coffee bar disappeared. Cups, creamer, sugar, stir sticks, coffee pot, all just vanished. This was followed by all our instruments and sound equipment. a black hole had suddenly appeared and just sucked everything up. What would we do?

What if one by the one the things we had become accustomed to and comfortable with in our service, were removed from our very presence, until all that was left was an empty room, and the word of God, His Bible.

Would we carry on?
Or would we feel like something was amiss. That there was an emptiness to all that we had put in place to enhance the Saturday meeting. God is asking a very important question. Does your service feed the flesh, or awaken the spirit? This is something that I am constantly weighing out when it comes to Vineyard Recovery. I get several invitations each week from people who want to come and speak, or want to come and lead worship. Usually the conversation is filled with a lot "Me" and "I" and not a lot of God. Such invitations are usually turned down by me. If Jesus isn't the center and focal point of what you want to bring to the service, then don't bother. It really isn't about me or whoever may has to be about Jesus and the message of the good news only He can offer.

Never, never, never forget the message of who Jesus is.
Never, never, never forget the message of what Jesus can do.

Now I'm  not against stages and lights and equipment and coffee bars. I just don't want those things to get in the way of the message. If all people remember when they leave our service is that the music was good and the coffee was great.......then I have failed miserably to do what God has called me to do. But if they go away changed by the word and presence of God, then we have something we can build on.

Everything we do, as believers, has to come from a heart which has been touched and changed by God. Everything else is gravy. Jesus is the main course. 
I guess the main reason I wrote this posting is to remind me to be thankful for the place that God has provided at Vineyard Gadsden. I love the building and the room that we hold our services in. But if Jesus isn't the focal point, then we are no better than a social club with no purpose other than to stroke each others ego. God help us should we ever fall into that place.

God on you...


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Audio Message: How To Hear God

Very Simple teaching on how to "hear" God speak.
Feel free to download it for later, or enjoy it now.
You'll also be able to find it over in the pod cast section of this blog, in the archives.


Lamentations 4:6
The punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment with no hand to help her!

Food for thought this morning.
Transgression: is willful action that violates a law or code, unexpectedly.
Iniquity: is a lifestyle of repeated patterns of sin.

Addiction has a nasty way of planting people into the iniquity category.
They slowly move down a slippery slope of bad decisions until, like Pavlov's Dog, they do what they do out of repetition. I'm not trying to simplify this, because due to the complexity of addiction, it alters our ability to choose. Use enough and you no longer have the ability to stop. 

Chasing the feeling of addiction becomes the god that is worshiped. Why? Because it is a means to escape the demands of life. No longer able to cope or function, checking out through using becomes the path of least resistance. Our lives become nothing more than repeated patterns of sin. Along the way, we pick up new behaviors such as stealing.....cheating.....lying....manipulation.....violence....all the while destroying ourselves bit by bit.

But there is One!
One who can put a stop to the madness.
One who has the ability and power to restore you back to sanity, or the ability to make sound decisions.

"Michael, you must think that this Jesus is answer to every problem, don't you?"
Yes, I do.
You see, sometimes we create a Jesus that is no where close to the real one.
We create a "church" Jesus, based on the behavior we have seen from those who go to church. I mean, let's get honest here. Even Jesus is embarrassed by what is done in his name. Just because it has the word "CHURCH" plastered over the front door, doesn't mean it's from God or endorsed by God.

Or we create a "Santa Clause" Jesus. One whose job in life is to lavish on us all the material stuff we could ever want. No discipline to help us grow...heaven's no! Jesus would never act this way. By the way, could I get that new smart phone, my old dumb phone died on me?
Sorry, Jesus is more than "stuff". He is THE way...THE truth....and THE life. You want some of that? Then he's more than willing to pour out buckets of that on you.

My Jesus is a healer.
He can heal those wounds and scars that show on the outside.
The places you have cut yourself, just to feel alive.
The places where others have abused you, he can heal.
More importantly, my Jesus can heal those places, those wounds and scars that cannot be seen.
The wounds of abuse and neglect that sometimes are more painful than physical hurts.
Depression and gloom? My Jesus can replace it with his incredible peace and joy. 
Guilt and shame? My Jesus will take that away and give you a new identity so you see yourself in a new way. Why? Because you become a new "you".

He is as near as a cry from your heart. He has been there all along waiting for you to turn to him. If the truth be known, He has probably worked in such a way that has kept other bad things from happening to you. He has had His hands on you, calling you...loving you...drawing your heart-attention toward Him so He can heal you.

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

Isn't this funny?
Either this Jesus and this verse from Psalm 107 is real....
Or it's a lie.

Can't be anything other way....truth or lie.
I'm just crazy enough to believe it's the truth.
And if God spoke it, then would it not stand to reason that He is going to accomplish His word?
Why not be healed today?

It's a's one step at a time.
Spiritual progress.....not spiritual perfection.

God on you...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gratitude....Not Greedy-tude!

Psalm 100:4
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

Funny how far a little gratitude will go in a person's life.
I'm talking about the good kind of gratitude, not the bad.
Bad gratitude comes when you are able to score.
Bad gratitude comes when the policeman driving behind you pulls around and passes, and you have stuff in the car that you know will get you time in jail.
Bad gratitude.

Good gratitude....or what I refer to as "GOD" gratitude comes from a heart that realizes they have escaped from all the darkness that came with their addiction. Good gratitude is something to be cherished and held on to.

Gratitude is defined as: thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation is a feeling or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive. In this case, I'm referring to gratitude toward God for giving me a new actual relationship with Him.

I saw gratitude in action Saturday night at Vineyard Recovery. There was a person who had come to the meeting, but didn't really want to be there. God was all over them, bringing conviction. They cried during worship, and several times got up to go outside. They would compose themselves and come back into the room, only to be met by God again, once more coming under conviction and, once more the tears would start.

Finally during ministry time, they stood to acknowledge their need for this new life we'd been talking about. They stood to receive the salvation that only Jesus can offer. After the service, when talking with them, you could see that they still had a ton of questions about what had happened, but there was a peace and calmness on them that they had never experienced before. There was gratitude in their voice as they shared what had happened. They didn't know what the future held, but gratitude was going to be a part of their life from now on. Gratitude toward God and this wonderful present he'd given to them.

Is my life perfect? No.
Do I have troubles and problems that seem to not have an answer or solution to them? Yes.
But I don't allow such things to be a stumbling block to the gratitude I have for God and Him allowing me to be a part of His family and Kingdom.
To be thankful for the portion He has given me this day.
To be grateful for the very breath He has given me this day.
To find peace in the understanding that everything is temporary except for Him and His Kingdom.
Such are the things of heaven.
Such are the workings of my God.

God on you....

Go find yourself some gratitude this morning. It'll do you good.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lessons From The Road

Luke 24:28-29
Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He (Jesus) indicated that He would have gone farther. But they constrained Him, saying, "Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent" And He went in to stay with them.

What an odd verse.
But in the oddness is a great truth and a great comfort. 
This takes place after Jesus' resurrection. We find him catching up with two people who are traveling from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus. Conversation broke out among the three and, like today, it turned toward the events of the time.  Jesus saw the sadness on their faces and inquired of them as to reason for their sadness.  They related to Jesus the details of His death, they not knowing it was Jesus they were talking to.

Jesus then began to show them the truth behind His death. Don't you know it caused hope to burn again. It brought back to life the promises God had spoken. As they were coming close to the village, Jesus was going to continue on the road, but the two begged Him to come and stay with them. "It's getting dark, and you really don't need to travel anymore today." 

Jesus consented and went with them to their home to share a meal.

The thing I love about this story is the the idea that Jesus was going to continue on, but the invitation from the His fellow travelers caused Him to change plans. Scripture says that Jesus indicated He would have kept traveling, but that they constrained Him to stay.

Do you ever invite Jesus to simply stay at your home? Do you ever ask Him to stay with you, or stay by you? I know that scripture says He will never leave us or forsake us. But do you take that for granted or does your heart burn sometimes for the sheer presence of Jesus. Just the comfort of being with Him and knowing that everything you've read in scripture is true. 

We see it in the Old Testament in a conversation between Moses and God. God has told Moses that everything is set for them to enter the land of promise, but that He is not going with them. Moses is quick to inform God...."If you're not going, we're not going." Moses knew the incredible value of living in the presence of God.

I think God wants to be more than a presence. He wants relationship with us, His creation. If I'm not careful and watch myself, I would reduce God to the role of a cosmic butler or servant. "Just stand there until I need you, o.k. God?" I don't want that.

Part of our prayers daily (Vicki and me) is that God's presence would just permeate our house. That we acknowledge our need for Him and that our home would be Holy unto Him. He would be welcomed in our home as a guest, not a servant. Because of these prayers, our home is a place of peace. When we finish with the day and finally make it home, closing that door behind us, we are able to soak in that peace. We are able to be refreshed and renewed.
I don't believe I could make it if there wasn't peace in my home. The day and the world is crazy enough that I need that place of peace to escape to so I can be renewed for the coming day. If you don't have peace at home, then you don't have peace anywhere.

We pray over our house and anoint it on a regular basis. Not that there is anything magical about doing this, it is just something that we have found to be a benefit to us. I don't want to give the enemy any breach in our wall or opening through which he may come into us and disrupt what God is doing. 

So, like the two companions traveling with Jesus, think about asking Him to come and stay with you.
God on you.....

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Off The Page --- Off The Cuff

Revelation 12:11
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony and they did not love tier lives to the death.

This is the audio message from last Saturday night.
During worship, you could tell God was up to something. His presence (or at least our perception of it) was thick in the room. As we were moving from worship to teaching, it was clear in my mind that the message I had prepared was not what God wanted to say to us.

As I was getting my Bible, the scripture from Revelation chapter 12 came to my mind, so I went with it.

I need never forget the power of the blood of Christ. Not a very popular topic in some churches today, but none the less the very thing that opened the door for me to have relationship with God the Father. Yes...we do have a bloody gospel. It covers every page of our Bible and it drips from us as we walk the streets of our towns and cities. It identifies us as enemies of this world and the system created by sin. It keeps demons at bay and draws the host of heaven to walk with us. That is why I need to remain humble. It's all God's work and provision...nothing on my part except a heart and life that has been surrendered to Him. 

As Keith Greene sang, "I Pledge Myself To Heaven For The Gospel". It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. 

God on you.....

Friday, August 16, 2013

Working All Down In Me

Philippians 2:13
For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

God working in me.
What does that mean? It means, as I start this journey in recovery, through my surrender of will  and live over to God, He moves in and begins to change my character and my nature. Also involved is a renewed mind, or to put it bluntly, a new way of seeing life and interacting with it.
So if this God is so powerful, then why do some people never seem to change?
I'd love to just give you a pat answer to that question, but I won't.

Some people don't change simply because they don't want to.
They don't change because it seems like to much work involved.
They don't change because they have a lie from the devil ingrained in their minds and hearts that they can't change.

I could go on and on but I won't.

In this process of recovery, it begins with a having a face to face with yourself. I mean you have got to strip away all the walls and images you have tried to create as to who you are. You have got to see the real you. The real you who lies, cheats, steals, manipulates, hates, and on and on and on. O.k. now before you get bummed out and feel like what's the use, let me remind you of something. We are all broken. I mean everyone who draws breath comes into this world broken. We are born with a sin nature....a bent in our will to do the wrong thing. If you don't believe me, then get you a room full of 3-year old kids and put one toy in the middle of the floor. You got yourself a battle royal in the making. There will be screams and yells of "Mine...Mine...Mine!," as the fight to own the toy breaks out. Now who taught those children to be greedy? No one. It came naturally.  Like I said, we are born with a bent to do the wrong thing. A bent that tells us we don't need God, we can captain our own life. Sure we can...we can captain that boat all the way to the rocky shore where we crash and burn on the beach.

Once I'm face to face with me...and I truly see that I cannot overcome my addiction, then I need to look for someone or some thing who can. In other words, I can't be the problem and the solution at the same time. SO I look for a Higher Power who can start the restoration process back to where I can make sound decisions. For me, that Higher Power is none other than Jesus Christ. It isn't your coffee cup or the door isn't found in other religions. In fact, it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with relationship. Jesus! He is the one I've been searching for.

Now that I've identified who my Higher Power is, I make the decision to turn over the complete package of who I am.....spirit, soul and Christ. In other words, I have been brought to the point where I am fully aware of all the sin/destruction I have cause in me, around me, and to those I love, and I now have to own up to it. This is the beauty of Christ working in me....He forgives me of everything when I confess it. No questions asked. Not only does He forgive me, but when I acknowledge Him as my Lord and Savior, He places His Holy Spirit in me. O.K.----I'm not sure how this works or what the process is of it happening, I just know He does. The Holy Spirit becomes the connection in my life back to God the Father and Jesus the Son. To put it bluntly, I am now plugged into heaven. How cool is that?

Why would God do all of this for such a mess as me? Read the verse from Philippians again. He does it for His good pleasure. He gets blessed every time someone gets saved. He totally enjoys it when one of his creation comes back home, into the family again. Now I could get all up on a God like that? 

So that is why we do a meeting on Saturday night.
That is why we gather and worship, sing and hang out with each other.
Because we are grateful to God for He has done in us and to us.
Come be with us this Saturday.....7 p.m.

God on you....

Thursday, August 15, 2013

One Generation To The Next

II Kings 23:37
And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his fathers had done.

"I'm not hurting anyone!"
"I won't bother you and you don't bother me!"
"It's a free country, I can do what I want to!"
How many times have I heard this from someone who was in flown blow addiction?
That is the nature of addiction. That is the nature of the beast.
Being self-centered.

Usually there are children involved with the one who is addicted.
Usually there is a wife or girlfriend involved in this nightmare.
But the person who is trapped can't see beyond their own nose.
They don't understand that they are affecting their children in such a way, that they too may wind up in similar circumstances.
It isn't something that a man sets out to do....teach his children how to to get drunk or high.
But it is happens. 

Parents don't think or realize the damage that is done to the kids.
Many times the person who is an addict had parents that had the same problem.
The very ones we thought we there to take care of us and love us....didn't.
As a baby, they would spike a bottle of formula with whiskey so the baby would sleep and not cry.

They would give a toddler a beer to drink. Or even they were smoking weed, they would take the cardboard tube paper towels come on and blow the smoke into the face and mouth of their baby. To them it was funny to see a little kid drunk.

There was the man, in his 50's, whose mother had left him with his father because she didn't really want to be a parent. What did his father do? Took him down to a local service station where he knew men hung out, and placed him on a table. This man who was the father of this little boy, sold him for $25.00 to a stranger. He didn't want to be a father anymore, but he needed the money to get drunk. Is it any wonder that kids turn out like they do? 

I'm not saying every person in addiction has such a story, but they are few and far between.
Some are just rich kids that their parents have lavished on them everything but what they need.

Love and discipline. 

That is the beautiful part of seeing God work in the lives of these men and women. 
He possesses the ability and power to take any life and change it for the better.
To lay hold of all the pain and hurt. The bitterness and unforgiveness and change it to joy and peace. You see, I have a terrible problem with what I read about God in the Scriptures. What is my problem? Well, what I read is either completely true, or it's a lie. As far as I'm concerned, I'm just crazy enough to believe it's true.

Luke 1:37 - For with God nothing will be impossible.
There is no pit that addiction has knocked you into that God is not deeper still.
No darkness so deep that He cannot find you.
No doubt so strong that He cannot break through.

Now is the time to draw a line in the sand and say, "It stop here with me. This addiction will not be a part of my children's life."

God on you...

Fired Up

Luke 24:45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. I don't think I've heard very many m...