Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Not There Yet



Genesis 12:1
Now the LORD had said to Abram, "Get out of your country. From your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.'

Last day of the year.......December 31, 2013.
One more year in a series of years that God has allowed me to live.
Another day in a long line of days that stretch back to my birth.

I picked the song, "I am a long long way from my home" because it reminds me that my journey is closer to being over than when I first began. If anything has been made clear to me this year, it has been how deceptive and easy it is to fall in love with this old world.
To be caught up in the insignificant and the common is all part of the deception to pull us away from the journey. Does that mean that I am going to shed myself of society and go live on a hill top somewhere, wear brown robes and sandals and grow organic vegetables? No...nothing wrong with those things. But as Bonhoeffer wrote in Cost Of Discipleship, "The church found out that this pulling away from society in cloistered settings did nothing but truly show the heart of man that follows him every where he goes." No wonder that Jesus said we "were salt and light." We are the vessels used to preserve the souls of those who don't yet know this Jesus, and we are the illumination of God that opens the eyes of those blinded by sin.

Funny, but at this stage of life I carry around a mixture of great sorrow and great joy. How the two can mix is beyond me, but they seem to co-exist in my heart and in my mind. Sorrow for the darkness that is all around. Darkness that touches so many lives and keeps them from seeing the glorious light of Christ. Darkness that is manifested in sickness and disease that racks a body with pain. In such darkness, Jesus came to manifest the goodness of God in contrast with the works of the devil. And through such manifestation, Jesus exercised authority and power to destroy these hellish works. Now, here on December 31st, either that authority and power is still at work, or Jesus is a mere shell of who He use to be. As for me and my house (Not trying to go all Joshua on you) we fall on the side of believing Jesus is the Christ and that the Kingdom of God is still moving and healing. Power has not ceased. The Spirit of God is still at work in this world, in fact I believe if you listen closely you will hear and see that everything is building to a divine crescendo. A time of release when blind eyes will see, deaf ears will hear and bodies, long numb by sin and destruction, will feel the liberation of God Almighty, as chains of bondage are broken and freedom proclaimed.

Fairy tale?
I don't think so. But the world would want me to believe that this God, and everything about Him, exists only as a child's story meant to calm little fears when the storm of life is raging.

I have been touched by His fire. I have felt the breath of God  giving me new life and dragging me from a pit of despair. When I gave myself to Him, He filled me with His own personal Spirit of Holiness that is like a divine GPS. He keeps me on track. Convicts me when I move and act outside of Grace. Teaches me as I study His word. So, here in this mortal body that is breaking down, lies the treasure of treasures. As Paul put it so eloquently in II Corinthians 4:7 - But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. I have a body that longs to be a part of this world but, at the same time, A deposit of God's Spirit in me keeps me looking forward to the day I am reunited with Christ. Be it in death or at His return, no matter which, I am going home. But until that time, I will keep moving forward. I will pray until I have no more breath to do so. I will read and study, feast on and digest His word. Because I have to? No, because such things are life. Such things as prayer and study fill me with hope to stay the course and not give up. I may be getting older but the message is timeless. I may not be a "bendy" as I use to be but the message is a solid as a wall of granite, unshaken and undeterred by every assault that comes against it. It is for His Kingdom that I share what God has done in me, because I know all to well that without Him and His Spirit in me.......I would be lost beyond lost in a sea of sin.
Today I am grateful.
Today I look forward to 2014 and what it may hold for me and my family.
Today I am alive.

Revelation 22:17
And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!"

God on you....
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Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Almost New Year


Psalm 57:7
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and give praise.

Next to last day of good old 2013. December 31st will roll around tomorrow whether we are ready or not. There will be a lot of reflection on Television. Looking back at the events of the year...good and bad. For me personally, it has been a good year. Hard and filled with a lot of darkness, but good. God has revealed himself to Vicki and me this year, in ways we never have seen Him before. 2013 was the year of "coming home" for the two of us.

February 2nd, I had been stirred for sometime about leaving Rapha and returning to Vineyard Gadsden to start a recovery church.  In my journal, on February 2nd, I wrote my prayer out..."Lord, I want to come home. I want to return to the Vineyard and start a recovery church."  I think it was the very first time I had written out a prayer that was on my heart.  


One of the major things that we came to learn this year is the necessity of commitment, especially when it comes to commitment to God and His plans. Over the years I have learned that God is not going to lead you anywhere, or expect anything from you, that He is not going to give you grace to do. If God is leading you somewhere or toward a particular work, then He will finance it. (Lesson # 2 in our schooling). God is not in the business of dropping folks off in the middle of His plans without provision. But it takes a commitment on our part to not cut and run when life gets really hard.  As old Job said,"I praise Him in the good time....I'll praise Him in the bad (well, that is a paraphrase on my part). But the idea of keeping my heart focused on God and allowing that focus to come forth as praise is vital to my relationship with Him.  Not that God has an ego that needs to be stroked or coddled, He doesn't. The praise is directed to Him, but it helps me to remember His goodness, His faithfulness and His mercy and grace. When I praise God, it builds and strengthens my faith. It lifts me out of the realm of this world and transports me into His presence. 

God, and this relationship I have with Him, is not a part time job. It isn't an after thought or something that you take and compartmentalize into your life. In fact, you don't fit God into your life....You give your life to Him. Seems to work out better that way. So, it's 42 hours and some change until 2014 kicks in. Why not spend a few moments before the calendar changes and look back over this year. Where are you spiritually today as opposed to last year? Have you grown in Christ? Or are you simply treading water? 

Hopefully, God will give me another year. I want to keep writing here at the Greene Street Letters. I just want this to be a place where you and i both can come and receive some encouragement to keep on in this journey with Jesus. To not get side tracked or derailed as we move through our daily life. I want this to be a place that you find encouragement to know God even better than you do. 

I pray that this coming year be a time where God's truth becomes a major reality in your life and that your faith be increased as you stretch out toward God in every area of your life.

Don't let the darkness of 2013 dictate your view to 2014. The coming year is going to be a year of possibilities from God our Father.

Ephesians 3:20
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen

Thanks for stopping by today.
God on you...
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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Nondescript Thoughts And Witty Banter



II Corinthians 6:16
........"I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

The verse above is the very reason that we gather together on Saturday night at Vineyard Recovery Church. To understand what it means to a "people of God." To understand the call and empowerment that is given to each believer. This thing we refer to as "relationship with Christ", is not a mental exercise that we simply think about and talk about. We gather together to celebrate another week of life since we last met on the Saturday before. We gather to learn how to hear God when He speaks. More than that, when we do hear God, we learn to act on what He has shown us. We gather to simply say, "God, we are here waiting on you....come and do to us what you do so well." If there is a need for healing, then we ask God to come and heal. If there is a need for salvation, then we ask God to come and save. We set aside this time to simply be with God. After all...it is His meeting and His church. Shouldn't we let Him have access to it?

As a community of people who are learning what it means to carry the name of Christ in our personal lives, we understand that when we meet corporately, God manifests Himself in our presence. During our worship time, we become very aware of God, as we sing to Him declaring our love for Him. Think of it as the worlds largest Valentine's Day card....all put together by a bunch of folk's who, for intent and purposes, should have been dead. Addiction does that you know.....kills people. But there we are, standing together lifting voice and heart in praise to God. 

On Friday, I wrote a open invitation to anyone who wanted to come and join us in a service. Jim Bentley sent me a Facebook message that kind of spoke to what I was really trying to say in my posting.  "Maybe a subtitle.The subtitle would communicate that VRC is for everyone. An example might be
"Sinful human welcomed." Or how about "Free Coffee for people who know they can sin." Or my personal favorite..."Welcome, those in a constant state of recovery----everyone else use the ally entrance."  


Like I wrote back in April, We are a people whose theology isn't well-formed at this point. We are in transition into a new way of living, thinking and interacting with the world around us. It is a journey, and Saturday nights are a time when we can come together with like minded others, and get our batteries recharged for the coming week. 


Over on the right hand side of this blog, you'll find our podcast/Mp3 download available for your conveinence. You can listen to each message dating back to April 13 of this year when we met for the first time.

This coming Saturday, January 4, Seth Barber will be speaking. If you haven't heard him before, then please come and join us. Seth, a recovering addict, drives home the point that Jesus is the answer to addiction, but that there is a discipline that goes with the new life we have been given. 


We start at 7 p.m. and if you can't join us, then be sure to check out the download. Messages are usually posted by Friday.


God on you.....
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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Ultimate Hiding Place


The words above are from Psalm 46:1
It describes the actions of God, whose love for us is demonstrated by being a refuge for us.
Refuge is defined as being "a place or shelter from danger or distress." 
This is not so much a physical place where nothing bad happens or we are out of harms way, as it is a place where the evil that seeks to destroy my soul and body is kept at bay by God.

Bad things happen to people in this old world. You  know that, and I know that.  Good people are in car wrecks and are killed. Godly people get cancer and die. But the soul and spirit are kept by God and are not allowed to be touched by the enemy.

In the book of Jude we read the following: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy....
In other words when I placed my trust in Jesus to save me from an eternity of damnation and separation from God, He keeps me. He guards that which I have entrusted to Him..my very soul. 

Now before I give you the impression that God keeps the eternal parts of us and throws the physical, tangible stuff to the side of the road, look at the second part of Psalm 46:1.
"A very present help in trouble."  
A present help...
A "today" help...
A "right now" help.

God does bring His kingdom to bear in the lives of those who are a part of His family.
God does cover us with mercy and not allow the full weight and force of the enemy to be brought to bear on us. If there wasn't any mercy, the enemy would overwhelm us with all the wrath of hell because he hates God that much. He knows that he can't defeat God...so he sets out to do the next best thing.......destroy the creation that God loves so much.....us.
It is the mercy of God that keeps this old world from tipping over completely into spiritual darkness. It is the mercy of God that keeps extending the salvation message to those who don't know Him yet. It is the mercy of God and the compassion of God that is made new every morning, according to Lamentations 3:21

Even though we say that we know God acts in this fashion toward us, we have got to move this information from our brains to our hearts. We need to hold on to these verses, especially when times get tough or we find ourselves going through some hard lessons. God has not forgotten us or deserted us. He is a present help in trouble. Truth be known, God is the ultimate hiding place for us, His children. Psalm 91:1-2 tells us, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ' He is my refuge and my fortress. My God, in Him I will trust."  

Maybe your year hasn't turned out like you thought it would. Maybe you have been buffeted and tossed about by the situations and circumstances that have come your way. Now....today...is the time to lash yourself to this truth about God. Today is the day you dig your heels in and say, "I will trust God no matter what happens." It is my firm belief that God desires to reveal Himself to you as you do trust Him. May you find the reality of these words in your own life.

God on you.....

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Audio Message: If It Wasn't For Darkness, There'd Be No Christmas.



Here is the audio message from last weeks (Dec. 21) candle light service at Vineyard Recovery Church.
Enjoy.
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An Open Invitation From Vineyard Recovery Church


Ephesians 4:1-6
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with long suffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit , just as you were called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in you all.

Sometimes what isn't said carries more weight that what is spoken. I feel like such a thing may have taken place when it comes to Vineyard Recovery Church. Last Saturday evening, at our candle light service, I had several people ask me if our meeting was open to anyone. I think maybe the name "recovery" is a put off to some. Please, let me assure you that everyone is welcomed on Saturday night. I am personally extending to anyone who wishes to come and be a part of a service, an invitation to do so.

While we do focus mainly on those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, the root cause of all wrong behavior is what we really want to address. The simple fact that we are all born with a nature, a bent, if you will, to do the wrong thing. Doing the wrong thing comes from this nature that impresses upon us, guides us or however you want to define it, toward moving away from God and any influence He may bring to bear in our lives. All sin is bound in the notion that we do not want any Godly interference in our decisions or actions. "Leave me alone and let me do what I want to do. I don't need you telling me how I should act."

The other part to our meeting is that we want to reveal the true, Higher Power that the Twelve Steps speaks of. That would be Jesus Christ. The only source of life and sobriety. Notice I coupled the two together...life and sobriety. It is possible to be sober through sheer will power, but life, real life filled with peace, lies beyond the reach of all of us without Jesus.Our heart beats, and we draw breath...we move through our daily activity, but without Christ, there is no real purpose or direction.

Some have come to visit with us on Saturday's thinking that it the meeting will be like the old "House of Blue" we use to host back in 1999 / 2004. Sometimes they go away disappointed that it's not the same. Well, we've gotten older and hopefully wiser as the years have rolled by. I always tell those who visit, come several times before you make a decision on whether or not you feel lead to be a part of what we are doing at VRC. Some have stayed, others have moved on. I'm o.k. with that because my prayer has always been, "Lord put us all where you desire us to be so we may grow in You."

We always go into the Saturday night gathering with a structure of what we think God wants to do. By that, I mean a song list of the worship songs.....a message that has been studied and prayed over...and a sense that God is going to come and be with us. But even in all this structure of what the evening may be like, we always leave room for God to change whatever He wants to. We have been worshiping before and in the middle of the song, the worship leader would take it off in a new direction, even to the point of switching songs. Why? Because they felt the Holy Spirit wanted to head off on this new path. I have stood to give the message and felt God say, "Not tonight...I want you to look at a particular verse." We've been at this for such a long time that we have no problem going with the flow of God's Spirit. We just want to worship God..hear His word and have a time of healing and Grace where people can be healed, saved, restored or whatever it is they need.

I am eternally grateful to Jim Bentley and Gadsden Vineyard Church for allowing us the time and space to host our meetings on Saturday. I know that for some, Saturday is a strange time to think about going to church, but if you are ever free, then know that you are welcomed to be with us.

For those who can't come, we do offer our audio messages in the podcast section on the right hand side of this blog. All our messages are downloaded and are there for your convenience.

God on you....
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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Surrender


There is something inside each of us that really doesn't like to give up. It doesn't like the idea of admitting defeat. Saying that we are incapable of making something happen. In some situations, this can be a good thing...not liking to quit or give up. It brings about, in us, the idea that if we keep striving and  fighting, we can overcome whatever problem we are facing.

Dealing with sin/addiction, such an idea of surrender or giving up is not only foreign but at the very core of our struggles. In fact, sometimes the individual wants to give up and quit using or drinking, but they can't. They simply can't stop. They try. Over and over and over, they fight this battle daily. But they fight it in the wrong way. 

Some say that they have lost the will to quit. When in reality will power is not the problem.
Complicated issues that deal with, first--the spiritual side of sin/addiction, make it hard for the individual to stop. They have devolved to such a level that they truly believe the voice that constantly taunts them in their brain and in their heart..."You can't! Don't even try! You are what you are, you can never change." Such a barrage of thought will drive a person to their knees, and cause them to seek refuge in the very thing, drugs and alcohol, that is killing them.


Next, throw in the affects of the drugs and alcohol on the human body itself. The altering of brain chemistry to the point that the body actually craves alcohol. Craves it to the point, that if it doesn't receive any, the body will actually shut down on itself and death will occur. 

So what is the answer? Intervention. Not intervention by family or friends, but intervention by a Power greater than the one who is suffering. The Spirit of God coming upon a person, awakens them to a simple fact. "I truly can't do this on my own....But you can do it God. You can empower me to break this cycle of using and death.

II Corinthians 12:9 reads: "And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the Power of Christ may rest upon me.
An acceptance of our situation, looking to Christ for the answer to  solve this sin/addiction equation is the only way out of this mess. It isn't just the idea of not drinking anymore. It isn't just he idea of not using anymore...it is the glorious truth that not only am I delivered from the destruction of sin/addiction, but I am changed and given a new life. A new way to live...sounds to simple, doesn't it? Well it is quiet simple. We just have to surrender to the Power greater than ourselves.....that would be Jesus. It isn't a surrender and saying, "I'll never drink or use again.."....It is a surrender that states, there is a better way and it is found in Christ.

I trust that you had a quiet Christmas, and that you're ready to start thinking about next year. Over the next few days, take stock of this past year in your own life. How have you changed? Have you changed for the better, or have you gotten worse in the things you struggle with? Or you connected to others who can aid and help you, encourage you to not quit the fight?

2014 could be the best year you've ever had.
Why not let God lead the way  this time?


God on you....
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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas 2013



Well, it's finally here....
Christmas 2013....
One more added to a long line of other Christmases....each one unique with memories to define them.

Christmas 1958...
My brothers new RCA Hi-fidelity Stereo as the main present. Bobby Darrin's album that had the song "Mack The Knife", as well as Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Star Carol".   Early, early Christmas morning, and there in our front yard stood my dad. He had placed the speakers in the window and turned the record player on. Sounds of "Joy to the World" Spilled out of those speakers and proceeded up and down the valley. There he stood waving his arms as if conducting an invisible orchestra, telling my mother, "You need to come out here and listen to this." As the impromptu concert took place at the Bynum household, lights began to come on in our neighbor's houses. I'm sure they thought that Jesus had come back.

Christmas 1970
The very first one I spent with Vicki's family. Coming from a small family, being thrust into the melee of the Campbell clam was almost sensory overload. People everywhere.....food, laughter, music, and Vicki's mom right in the center. Handing out presents was almost like being in the middle of a war. Instead of shells flying everywhere and bursting overhead, it was presents. Names were called out and presents were tossed across the room. It truly was, and continues to be, a family that loves being together.

Christmas 1974
Our son, Chad, had his first Christmas. Poor little guy was sick that day and didn't really feel very well. But it was our first time as a family to celebrate the Christmas season. We lived in Town's Apartment in Oneonta, Alabama. Chad wore a little one piece P.J. outfit that made him look like peppermint stick.

Christmas 1977
Our son, Josh, had his first Christmas. We lived up in North Gadsden in one of my most favorite houses. It had this huge den that was gi-normous and just perfect for hosting a family hoo-haa. Mom and Dad came over as well as my brother Wayne and Sue, his wife. Josh was only 6 months old but was right in the middle of all the festivities. (O.k. here is where things get muddled and the years run together) Vicki reminded me that on Josh's first Christmas, we went to my brother's house. Dang, if she ain't right! Sorry bout that...
The other thing that she reminded me of was that my brother and my cousin, Gary, covered Josh with bows (the kind that stick on packages). He had them all over his head and arms....good stuff, and great pictures.

Christmas 1981
The first Christmas after my mom's death. She loved Christmas like it was no body's business. I remember that every one had gone to bed and I was finishing up putting out presents. As i walked through the house turning off the lights, I stopped by the tree for one last look. I suddenly found myself weeping because this was the first Christmas without Mom. She was not going to be there in the morning when the kids unwrapped their presents. In the middle of all the grief I was experiencing, a voice filled my mind. "It's o.k....she is with me. She is celebrating Christmas everyday in the presence of Christ." Such peace flooded over me. It was going to be alright. My mom was home.

Christmas 2002
Grandson  Tyler's first Christmas. Did we go over board? Probably...but that is what Grandparent's do, isn't it? He loved the packages and I think, had more fun with the ribbon and boxes than he did with the presents.

Christmas 2006
Granddaughter Ashley's first Christmas. Laughter and joy in that she was the first girl we had in our family. Vicki particularly loved shopping of her that year...picking out outfits and other such for Ashley's first Christmas.

Christmas 2013
Yet to be written, but anxious about the memories that will be created on this day.

So here is wishing you and your family a most joyous Christmas time.
Celebrate the birth of the Christ child.
Go out of your way to do an act of kindness to someone today.

Merry Christmas from all the "B's" ....
Chad, Robin, Tyler and Ashley
Josh and Heather
G.G.
Michael and Vicki...

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Dark Christmas

Notes concerning the killing of Christians in Syria:

One of the worst Christian massacres—complete with mass graves, tortured-to-death women and children, and destroyed churches—recently took place in Syria, at the hands of the U.S.-supported jihadi “rebels”; and the U.S. government and its “mainstream media” mouthpiece are, as usual, silent.
The massacre took place in Sadad, an ancient Syriac Orthodox Christian habitation, so old as to be mentioned in the Old Testament. Most of the region’s inhabitants are poor, as Sadad is situated in the remote desert between Homs and Damascus (desert regions, till now, apparently the only places Syria’s Christians could feel secure; 600 Christian families had earlier fled there for sanctuary from the jihad, only to be followed by it).
In late October, the U.S-supported “opposition” invaded and occupied Sadad for over a week, till ousted by the nation’s military. Among other atrocities, 45 Christians—including women and children—were killed, several tortured to death; Sadat’s 14 churches, some ancient, were ransacked and destroyed; the bodies of six people from one family, ranging from ages 16 to 90, were found at the bottom of a well (an increasingly common fate for “subhuman” Christians).
The jihadis even made a graphic video (with English subtitles) of those whom they massacred, while shouting Islam’s victory-cry, “Allahu Akbar” (which John McCain equates to a Christian saying “thank God”). Another video, made after Sadad was liberated shows more graphic atrocities.

Kind of strange to be posting such during a time of "Joy to the world" and "Silent Night". But the truth is, even upon the birth of Christ, Herod's death squads went forth to kill the Christ child. Since His identity could not be established, all children under the age of two suffered. Thus the weeping in Ramah was heard through out the land. That night, women had their children ripped from their arms and run through with spear and sword. 
Today the world seeks to shun the truth and clothe it's view of Christmas in a shiny, happy, package. While I do celebrate the joy of who Christ is, and the gift of what He has given to me, I also recognize the plight of the Church around the world. To bear the name is a death sentence to some. To identify yourself as a believer in Christ is to bring persecution and rejection to you and your family. But Western society, social media, government and, to some degree, the church looks the other way when it comes to the extermination of believers. One thing I do know...God the Father does not look the other way. He takes it very serious when His children are persecuted. There will be a balancing of the scales, if not here then on the other side of eternity. Those responsible will have to answer for the actions.....others will have to answer for their inaction.

As I shared during our candle light service this past Saturday evening..."The only reason that Christmas exists is because of darkness." The evil intent and rule of sin in this world. Jesus came to destroy the works created by the devil through the dark hearts of men and women trapped in the bondage of sin.  So as much as life and light are a part of Christmas....so is death and darkness. But we don't loose heart, or succumb to the darkness. We stand and proclaim the truth of Who God is and the truth of what He came to do and continues to do.

I fear that our own nation has crossed a line that it may never be able to reverse. Does that mean I've given up hope...never! But the task ahead can only be won by being the church of Christ. It won't be done through cleaver messages, or shiny services that tickle our ears and placate our hearts. It will be won as we change one heart at a time. It will be won through our love and sharing the age old message of hope..real hope. It will be won when Jesus becomes greater, in our lives, than our denominations. When He is given rightful rule and reign in HIS church. (After all, He did die for it, didn't He?) 

MB.

Andy Griffin



When looking back, years past are often referred to as a "Simpler Time".
But were they?
Were they really more simple and innocent that what we are living today?

I don't see kids wearing leg braces anymore. You don't see children, as well as adults, having to live out their lives in an iron lung.
We don't have polio like we did back in the simpler times.
Men worked hard for a living and to provide for their families.
Going out to eat at a restaurant was reserved for the specialist of occasions such as a graduation or wedding.
Long distant phone calls at night usually meant a death in the family.

Traveling to Birmingham was like going to New York City...such trips were just not taken as an after thought like they are today.
But the one thing I remember most about those so called simpler times....is that the church was my extended family. During the Christmas season, Church was the center of our community. Socials, dinners, a Christmas play...the carols...all made life a little more bearable.

So whenever this Christmas episode of Andy Griffin comes on, it truly does become a time machine of sorts for me. I am reminded of a time long ago when I was growing up, being shaped and influenced by the people God had surrounded me with. Maybe we call such times simpler because we still believed in God. We still prayed in school and read the Bible every for morning devotion. Maybe that is what we truly need in this nation. A simpler time.

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.

The Forgotten Man



In all the rush and haste of the Christmas season, one name and one name alone stands over in the corner aside from everything else. A forgotten man.....A man of great character.....
Joseph.....
Earthly father of Jesus.
We focus on Mary and the wonderful gift that she gave God. A body in which to come and live among his creation. A body that would become the payment for the sin of the world.
She gave her reputation, her future, her very self to God in order for the Holy Spirit to conceive a baby within her womb.
But always near by was Joseph.
He wanted to put her away upon learning of the pregnancy. Put her away is a polite term for ending the marriage arrangement. He would do so according to the law because.....that was just who Joseph was. A man of integrity and of his word.
God considered such a move on Joseph's part and sent an angel to warn him in a dream that everything that was happening was because God had deemed it to.
Don't you think that Joseph may have wished that the real events he found himself caught up in were a dream?
Joseph took Mary with him to Bethlehem.
Searching for a place for them to stay, finding none, he settled for a stall. Not really the kind of place you'd want for your wife who was expecting. But then again, beauty and splendor are sometimes seen in the unseen.
Joseph delivered the baby into Mary's arms.
He took care of the needs of his wife and his adopted son.
I think, as Jesus grew, he developed a love for Joseph. Here was a man who was unselfish and went about the business of husband and father with much love and integrity.
Joseph....he is a forgotten man.
But doesn't the Bible say something about the last shall be first?
Joseph took the lower place in this great plan that was played out in the midst of harshest times.
Joseph sought no honor for himself.
We don't read much of Joseph after Jesus' twelfth birthday.
As unannounced as his entry into Scripture, so was his departure.
He took on the task given to him and he saw it to completion.
I think we need more men like Joseph.
Men and women of great character. Such as these provide the human foundation upon which Christ builds His church.

Merry Christmas
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Monday, December 23, 2013

"No Room"


Luke 2:6
So it was, that while they were there the days were completed for her to be delivered.. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Messiah...
God coming down to fill a body of flesh with His presence.

The Christ...the very one the Jews had been looking for. 
No room in the inn.
No room anywhere in Bethlehem.
Left on the outside, Joseph made do as best he could.
But the cold hard truth was...
There was no room in the inn.

No room for Joseph...
No room for Mary...
No room for Jesus.


As Jesus grew, He experienced this feeling of being on the outside over and over. I'm sure because of the whispered tales concerning His mother's pre-wedding pregnancy was something Jesus heard often. "That's the bastard son of Joseph and Mary." How many other times was Jesus left out of gatherings and functions because there was no room?

Years later this idea of "No room" would magnify itself on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. There on a cross, hanging between heaven and earth, Jesus felt the ultimate rejection. Heaven could not embrace Him because the sins of the world had been placed on Him. Earth didn't want Him because He had invaded the sacredness of their religion and upset the tables and emotions of those who sought to live in darkness. So there on that cross, once again there was "no room".

But it wasn't that way forever....
Three days after His death, Jesus walked forth not as the bruised and battered carpenter of Nazareth, but as the glorified, risen Son of God. Through His death and resurrection, He ripped off the "No Room" Sign that hung on heaven because of the sin of man. He became the bridge and way to reconciliation between God and man. Jesus made room for all who would receive Him. 

This Christmas, make sure that you don't have a "No Rooms Available" sign hung around your heart. It will be the best decision that you ever made. I guarantee it.

Merry Christmas From The "B's" In Attalla.
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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Candle Light 2013


Acts 2:1
.........they were all with one accord in one place.

For one moment last night, the world outside seemed to disappear and we, who had gathered, were truly in one accord.
Each person there had more than their fair share of troubles and problems..
but for that one evening, we laid them down to turn our attention to Christ.
Whatever hope we may have brought into that room was magnified and revealed as a true gift from God. 

It is the Christmas season...
It was time to worship the One who came to change everything in the lives of those who had been touched by His message.

At the same time, a strange thought came to my mind. In fact, I woke up yesterday morning with this thought rolling around in my brain.
"The only reason that Christmas exists is because of the great darkness...that spiritual darkness of the heart we call sin." There could be no other reason for us to celebrate such a thing as Christmas. As beautiful as we try to make it....as innocent and cuddly as we try to put a spin on the story....Christ came to die. His manger lay in the shadow of a cross that was to be his destiny. Now praise God that such doesn't end there. There was also a tomb.......soldiers guarding the tomb.........and stones that rolled away under angelic hands. The story ends in Victory. The page turns in the brightness of an the first Easter morning. Darkness was officially defeated and salvation was given for any to receive.

Lot's of family and friends there last night.
Hugs all around....
Laughter....
Kid's running here and there...

And over it all was the divine thought that God has sustained us another year.
So a collective "thank you" rose up from that room last night as we celebrated our 18th candle light service.

From the Bynum's, Vicki, Michael, Chad and Robin, Josh and Heather, Tyler and Ashley...
We wish you and your family the merriest of Christmases. And may your home and life be filled with His presence.

Merry Christmas
And God on you....
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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Audio Message: Teach Us To Pray



Here is the audio message from December 14th.
"Teach Us To Pray."
Enjoy now, or download for later.

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.

John Piper's THE INNKEEPER



This is my third year to post this video on the Greene Street Letters.
I never tire of revisiting it during the Christmas season and it brings a sense of humanity I need to the people we read about, but know very little.
An innkeeper....
He had a history that was not recorded for us to delve into.

But little did he know that through his simple gesture of good will, which may have even been an after thought, he gave a gift that would be remembered through the ages.
When there was no room anywhere....
Even though it was a stable....this innkeeper allowed Joseph and Mary to settle there.
Little did this innkeeper know that he had opened his property to God Himself. 
God, who could have laid claim to any building or house...any palace or temple, chose to come to this innkeepers property.

Enjoy this reading of "THE INNKEEPER".

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla

Friday, December 20, 2013

If You Want To Be Free




Luke 2:7
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because........
There was no room for them in the inn....

No room for Him....
No time for Him.....
He is an obtrusion to the so called "Fun" people want to have during their lifetime.

You'd think someone who got their start in a stable, would want to better themselves.
As they got older, you'd think they'd want to hobnob with the elite.
Hang out with the social set. The mover and shakers of real life in the city.
While He was not adverse to such things, He never made it His single target as He lived here in this old, dark, sinful world.

He was with, what the upwardly mobile folks called, the masses.
The down and out...
The oppressed and spiritually hopeless.

He came for the sick and the poor.
But not sickness or poverty measured by a wallet or purse...

But in the heart.

He came to touch.
Up close and personal.
He was not afraid to reach out to anyone.
Whether it was Jairus, the religious ruler, coming because religion had failed him and now his daughter lay sick and dying....
Or 10 lepers bound together by their collective misery. 
Raising people from the dead.....healing the sick.....casting out and off demons that had tormented people for years....blind given sight....deaf the ability to hear....
But even with all this action going on..
The greatest gift was yet to be given.
On a hill outside the gates of Jerusalem, Jesus chose to die. He allowed Himself to go through the humiliating process of Crucifixion. He allowed Himself to be nailed to a rough, hand hewn apparatus we call a cross. Nailed...through His very flesh. There in that abject place of misery and pain and agony, He poured out his very blood as payment for the rebellion and sin of His very own creation. You and me and every other person who has lived and died on planet earth. He paid a price that was so high, in order for me to absolve it and satisfy it, I would have to give my own life, thereby cutting me off from real relationship with Him.
Jesus came to touch them. To touch you. To touch me.


So in this Christmas season, if you find yourself filled with turmoil and doubt...
IF you find that you are miserable, emotionally and spiritually...
You may need to come to Christ and ask for that touch.
If you want to be free...I mean really free....
You got to let that fire burn you.....

The fire of God that will burn away the misery...the emptiness and the loneliness....
You got to let that cross touch you....
The blood will get on you...hands, feet, all over....
But His blood is the very ticket that opens the door to a new way to life.
Why not this Christmas receive the greatest gift a person could ever hope to get.
God himself.
The real deal, honest-to-gosh, red-alert, God of the Bible, creator of the universe wants to have a relationship with you.
Think on these things....

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Thoughts From Lamentations


It's the time of year when we all want that perfect Christmas. After all, every advertisement on television screams that this is how it's suppose to be when you celebrate Christmas.

Perfect outfit...
Perfect haircut or "do"...

Perfectly decorated rooms and tables, not to mention the tree.
Perfect children dressed perfectly.

And happy perfect couples....
Too bad that life doesn't mimic the ads.


I have found myself in Lamentations off an on this year.
Great hope in the middle of great darkness.
And might I add that the darkness that is being experienced was brought on by the beliefs and actions of the ones who were going through this hard time.
They had brought it on themselves.
But even in the midst of all of this, there was hope.

So, on this 19th day of December, in the year of our Lord 2013, here are some words from the book of Lamentations, Chapter 3.

I'll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I've swallowed.
I remember it all----oh, how well I remember the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there's on other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope.

God's loyal love couldn't have run out.
His merciful love couldn't have dried up.
They're created new every morning.

How great your faithfulness!
I'm sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He's all I've got left.

God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.

It's a good thing to quietly hope, quietly hope for help from God.
It's a good thing when you're young to stick it out through the hard times.


When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence.

Bow in prayer. Don't ask questions; wait for hope to appear.
Don't run from trouble. Take it full-face.

The "worst" is never the worst!"
Why? Because the Master won't ever walk out and fail to return.

If you are struggling today, know that there isn't a magic formula to make it all disappear. There aren't any magical wizard words that can spouted to make the elements do what you want them to do.
But there is a God who hears the cries of His people, His creation, who is ready and able to work in them, from them, and to them.

Why not let down your guard and let Him.

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

We Don't Even Know Their Names



We don't know their names....
Just a collective group of men doing a job....
A group of men outside the city on a hillside....
A group whose very lives reflected this truth of being "outside"...
They did not fit into the mold of being great men....
We don't even know their names.
Some may have had families......wives and children...
Others may have been single....
Being a shepherd was a lonely, hard job...
that usually gave birth to lonely, hard men...
We don't know their names....
Looking forward to the night....
they settled down for a meal and to share the warmth of
each others company and the fire in their midst.
Conversation of what might have been instead of what was....
We don't even know their names....
We do not know their names....
but God did!
He specifically sent angelic messenger to them to announce
the birth of His Son, Jesus.
TO reinforce this announcement, the host of heaven (other angels)
joined in a collective praise to God
We don't even know their names.
The very first persons who knew of the culmination that would be the birth
of Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one...
Outside of Mary, Elizabeth and Zacharias and Joseph.....
were shepherds.
The very ones that were "outside" the city.
There was life in the city.
There was religion in the city.
There was culture in the city.
There was commerce in the city.
But God was outside with the Shepherds.
We don't even know their names.
I guess if I could take anything away from this story,
it would be that being on the inside does not always tie
you to God.
Sometimes, it is being on the outside...
the fringe....
that is where you find God.....
We don't even know their names.....
But God knew them...
He knew that He could trust the message of the birth of Messiah
to these men.
Today, God knows you better than you know yourself
And He is willing to trust you with His Kingdom.
To and search for yourself the truth that was born into
that stable so many years ago.
That a Savior....
One who would break the power of sin over humanity...
One who would destroy the penalty of sin..

One who would overpower the presence of sin...
Had come into a world that was dark and hopeless.

That is the Christmas Message that we are to carry....
Merry Christmas!
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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Light = Life



John 3:19-21
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to  the  light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.

Every year, during the Christmas season, we have held a candle light service.
But the focus of our service is a bit different than most you might find at this time of year. The candles that are lit symbolizes two different views. We must see the light in order to be the light. In other words, we must recognize the darkness that is in us....the heart that seeks to sin....then nature that keeps us pointed in that direction....such can only be seen when "light" is introduced into our darkness. So we are celebrating the fact that we have been redeemed from the pit of emptiness.

The lit candle also serves as a reminder of our call to carry "our light" to those who are still out there living in the darkness. Such is why we have Vineyard Recovery Church. To help train and equip so we can go back out into the world and reach out to those who haven't seen the light of God yet or, for what ever reason, have rejected it in the past. 


Candle light is amazing. It isn't so obtrusive that it blinds you but, rather draws you into the warmth and glow of its presence. Candle light comes with a beckoning to come to the light. That is how we are suppose to live our lives. Always walking around with a spiritual invitation to everyone we meet. Such an invitation doesn't always come with words that we speak. Sometimes it is more powerful by the actions and deeds we do. 

Jesus proclaimed himself to the be the light of the world.
From his own life, he has lit millions upon millions of other lights in the lives of people all around this world. Each one burning with the presence and call of the kingdom of God to love as Christ loves.

Most candle light services end with the Christmas carol, Silent Night.
We end our service with the song "You Have Redeemed My Soul."
A reminder of the great price and the wonderful gift paid for by Christ, and given to all who would accept.
As you listen to this song, let it wash over you and remember what Christ has done for you.
Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attlla.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Be Strong In The Grace That Is In Christ Jes


II Timothy 2:1
You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

There is power in weakness.
There is the ability to overcome when we surrender.
God promises us:
"If we have died with Him, we shall live with Him. If we endure, we shall reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful. He cannot deny Himself."

All because of the grace given to us through Jesus.
Once again, my definition of graces is "The empowering presence of God in my life, that enables me to be who God has called me to be, and do what God has called me to do." There is the place I find strength to move forward daily....In the grace of Jesus Christ.

When the wheels come off of life, as they frequently do, I am strong, not of my own doing, but in Christ. When I feel like I can't go on...I lean wholly on that grace. When life seems to pile up around me, until I feel as though I will suffocate, I look to the grace of Christ in me to move forward. 


When I don't have answers to any of the problems that are surrounding me, I look to the grace of God to give me strength to not give up or turn away from God.


When my old ways return to my thoughts and knock at the door trying to get in, I look to the grace of Christ to help keep that door locked. To not give an invitation to entertain such thoughts, but lean on the grace of Christ.

Grace is more than a meal time blessing....
Grace is more than an excuse to sin......

Grace is a force...
Grace is a power...
Grace alone is found in Christ.

Maybe that is why John Newton called it "Amazing Grace".

Grace is the destroyer of sin.
Grace will not co-habitate with sin.


Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom (rule and reign of God in our hearts) which cannot be shaken, let us have grace by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.

II Corinthians 12:9-10 (Message Bible)
"My grace is enough. It's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness." Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in on my weakness. Not I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer. These limitations that cut me down to size---abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks, I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become."

Have you been trying to live life in your own strength?
Have you been trying to do this recovery thing by your own ability or wits?
It's time to turn loose and rest.
To simply "go with the flow" of following Christ.
Begin by reading the book of John.
Read it like it is a story...don't over read it or try to analyse every verse as if there is a hidden meaning. Let the verse speak to you, not you to the verse. Allow God room to tell you what you should know. Such will happen as you have thoughts and leading's as you read the verses. He may direct you to reference scriptures in other books. Learning to follow in the simplest of ways is where the Grace of God begins to grow in you.

It is, and will be, the greatest adventure you will ever take.

Merry Christmas From the "B's" In Attalla.

Tuesday Bible Study

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