Friday, January 31, 2014

Christian Brothers.

The following is a re-telling of the story of Christian Brothers, and how it came into existence.

Brooky's Account

By David B. Finlayson on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 4:17pm
In the summer of 1973, I was one of a group of college-age Christians meeting weekly for prayer, Bible study, and fellowship. We were the product of the Jesus Movement phenomenon of the Seventies. We weren't all a bunch of hippies who found Jesus in the same way as those on the West Coast, but we were all swept up in a revival which was occurring at that time and we felt a need to express and share our faith in a contemporary fashion. One night a newcomer to the group got the notion to start a coffee house. He had been to one and thought it would be a great idea if we could start one in this area. After all, several of us were musicians and we were all interested in some kind of "street" ministry. Well, within a week we were painting the inside of a building on Fifth Street. We were in the coffee house ministry. We have met virtually every week since.

In all those weeks a great deal has happened. What started as almost a whim, albeit an inspired whim, grew into an ever-changing ministry. We still had at the core of all this a group who met privately to "bear one another's burdens." I need to note here that the members of this group were of a variety of denominations. It has always been that way with us. We continued on Fifth Street for a couple of years under the name of Free House. We then moved to a small building across from the library. It was a small house, actually. The house was so small, we had to have our concerts in front of the building. Later, when we began to meet at Central United Methodist's Youth Hut, that little building served as our first book and record store.

In 1977 we incorporated as Christian Brothers Association. We moved from the Youth Hut to Seventh Street (where SouthTrust bank is now) in early 1978. By that time the ministry was in full swing. The coffee house was booming. Our first annual music festival at the falls had been such a success that we decided we weren't going to have to charge admission to future festivals. The book and record store was making virtually any sort of Christian music available. The sound company was traveling all over the country. It was a very busy time. But, the Seventies were drawing to a close and a new focus was required. The Jesus Movement, which had produced so many new Christians among the young, was giving way to an era wherein these young converts would mature. For that reason, the Eighties were not as dramatic, but just as necessary.

The Eighties seemed to be more centered on relationship than on outreach. The groups were smaller. Where music was a draw to the young people of the Seventies, the kids of the Eighties were not very responsive to the real thing. It was hard to compete with MTV and the like, where substance so often was sacrificed to seductive image. In time, thought, some people began to sense the isolation inherent in our modern popular culture and found that real friends could be found at a place recently opened on Broad Street, Skylight.

Skylight was opened as the Eighties began. This was a big step because we actually bought a building on Broad Street and completely renovated it. It proved to be a place where Christians could gather and find the friendship and support they needed. The Eighties proved to be the decade of “self help" for the Church. This was good for the Church, but it made things difficult for a ministry with a large outreach component. A faithful few retained the vision and kept the ministry afloat. I must confess that I was not one of them. Like so many others, I was working on establishing my own home. I met my wife-to-be at the coffee house in the late 1978 and married her in 1979. My emphasis changed and I became less and less involved. Fortunately, there were those who stuck it out and kept alive something to which I would return in the late Eighties.

We come now to the Nineties. While the organization has grown, contracted, and grown again, and has moved from one emphasis to another over the years, a few things have never changed. One has been the effort to provide a place where Christians of different varieties could gather and form a bond of unity sadly lacking in the Church in this city. We have always considered love for one another more than a nice idea; It was an emphatic command of our Lord. Another has been the desire to communicate the Gospel in a current format. We have not sought to supplant the traditional church, but to supplement it. We have consistently believed that we can reach those that churches cannot. And vice versa.

Also, we have felt that it was part of our ministry to be facilitators of the Body of Christ. We have provided a venue where fledgling musical groups could "cut their teeth" (Many of whom have developed some formidable teeth) When contemporary Christian music wasn't available in Gadsden, we opened a store to make it available. We have provided concert sound systems for Christian musical events. We have opened our doors to groups like Young Life offering them a place to meet. So, whether we were strumming guitars on a flatbed trailer or staging one of our Falls Festivals, whether we were providing microphones for a contata or touring with a nationally known Christian band, we have tried to meet needs as they arose.

What about the Nineties? So far they have been exhilarating. We have more musical talent available than ever before. We see more avenues of ministry than ever before. We have more resources available than ever before. Like everyone else, what we lack most is time, but God has never failed us before, so we must press on and trust Him for that, too. I wish I could say what all we have planned, but this isn't the time. Suffice it to say that the best is yet to be.

Twenty years. To us it is a pretty big deal. In comparison to eternity, of course, it is nothing. What does stack up to eternity is the fruit of twenty years of ministry. Not just souls, but the unity brought to the Body of Christ as well. And all of the little incidental ways we have been able to help churches and other ministries be about their work. I think we have reason to celebrate.

-Brook Finlayson

mbb: I came along into the Christian Brothers family in 1979 when Vicki and I started to attend Central United Methodist Church. Many of the young adults who attended Central were involved heavily with Christian Brothers. David Asbury, Sharon Creel Asbury, Phil Byrum, Don and Jennie Rakestraw, Chris and Janna McDonald, Angelo Gonfintini (Spell?), Richard Moon, Dr. David Burton, David Creel.
To anyone I may have forgotten to mention in the Central Group please forgive me. Sometimes the old brain cells aren't able to recall like they once did.

Was there ever a place like Christian Brothers that produced more music? I don't think so.
I'm talking about original stuff, not cover songs. Christian Brothers was the launch pad for so many people who honed their craft and played their songs early on in the journey with Christ. It was a safe place where you could try new things musically. It was a unique collection of people that God placed together to share love and Kingdom with everyone we came in contact with. 

God on you...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

No Compromise

I Samuel 15:22
.........Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.

The enemy of anyone in recovery is compromise.
The great trade off, if you will, is the weight that tips the scales in the favor of the addiction.
Such is the reason we need people around us that we can talk with and share with when the struggles come our way. Some call it a support group, but I like to think of it as family. People that understand what we are going through and what the battle is really like. We don't need a bunch of "yes" people around us who will coddle us and give into us when we try to manipulate them. 

In my own life, I have people who will tell me what I really don't want to hear. Why don't I want to hear what they have to say to me? Because they are speaking truth and there is a part inside me that doesn't want to be confronted with it when I know I am in the wrong. But this is the place of real life and growth when you have folks around you that will not let you get away with anything.

When we were out there running wild, we didn't compromise anything did we?
We traded off whatever needed to be traded off to get what we wanted. We rejected friends and family in order to chase the next high. The tug and pull of the old life does not give up easily, and such is the ground that compromise comes from. I do not want to give the impression that addiction is such a monster that it cannot be defeated. But the defeat begins with a heart that is ready to surrender. As a wise man once told me, "When you're sick and tired of being sick and tired, then you're ready to start this journey to a new life."

So why the thought of obeying better than a sacrifice. Well, the act of obedience comes from the heart. It starts in the heart as God speaks of what we are to do. We apply it to our daily life and we walk it out, no questions asked. The act of sacrifice comes from the brain and seeks to give the appearance of obedience. Going to a meeting with no intention of doing anything needed for your recovery is a prime example. In other words, I'm going to a meeting to fulfill an obligation I have to the legal system. I'm doing the right thing, but I have no intention of changing. A sacrifice that has no substance or weight behind it to add to the obedience that should have been there to start with.  Get it?

I see people all the time who are going through the motions of recovery without any intent to change at all. I also see people going through the motions of church without any intent to change at all. Compromising the truth of God, in both instances, to perpetuate a false front and reality to those around us. How sad is this? It will end in failure and destruction. 

Luke 9:23 is the passage where Jesus tells the people (My paraphrase), "If you want to follow me...if you want to go where I am going...If you want what I have to offer....then deny yourself (Or deny your "self") don't listen to that old voice when it comes to you trying to cut a deal so it can gain control again....take up your cross (remember that the only way for you to have new life is for the old one to die) and then follow me.

Sometimes we want to skip all the "denying of self" and that "Cross" thing and just get to the following part. Impossible when we carry around the old nature that hasn't been brought under the gift of salvation and the blood of Christ. "There you go with that 'blood' thing!" Can't help it. The blood of Jesus that was shed some 2000 + years ago is the cornerstone of all recovery. It incorporates more than just the absence of drugs and shatters the old way of living and rockets you into a new dimension of life that you never thought you could ever experience. That's my Jesus!
Think on these things.

God on you...

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow Ramblings

Well, well, well! The old weather prognosticators missed it, didn't they?
My yard and street is covered with "light dusting's" of the white stuff.
We slept in a little later this morning.
First cup of coffee has been polished off. Vicki and I had our quiet time together. Every time I look at that woman, I know that there is a God. Why? Because for the majority of our marriage, she was not a morning person. She had to be out the door headed to work by 7:15 a.m.. She would sleep till 7 a.m. /  be up / hair washed, dried, make up on and out the door right at 7:15 a.m.  But then a little over three years ago, she told me that she felt like God was telling her to get up early and be with Him. So we started to get up at 5:30 a.m. and give that time to God. Now it is the highlight of our day.

What do I know this morning? Well, I know that Jeremiah and Carrie are probably a lot warmer than most folks are this morning. They flew out early Tuesday morning on a mission trip to Haiti. God's protection and mercy be over them as they make their way around that country, loving and caring for the kids.

Seth Barber will be coming this weekend to speak to Vineyard Recovery. I have watched God stretch Seth and grow him over the past 11 years. When it all started, I don't think Seth would have believed how far God has taken him and what He has accomplished through him. Has it been an easy journey? No. But Seth has remained faithful every step of the way and, most importantly, he has been very teachable. To me that is the hallmark trait that every believer needs. The ability to be teachable. To learn from our mistakes and then never repeat them again. If you're free this Saturday night, join us to hear Seth. Meeting starts at 7 p.m. I'm anxious to see what God is going to do. That anxiousness if not about seeing others touched by God, but about my own heart. What will you reveal to me about myself this week, Lord?

I guessed we will hunker down today and stay home. Roads are pretty much impassable. There will naps-in-Jesus-name today. I'll spend some time writing in my journal. Might even squeeze in a movie this afternoon. All in all, I'm grateful for a warm food...and the company of my wife. Did I mention that I love her? Well, I do.

I know that today's posting hasn't been very "spiritual", but I figure if you have to force it into the spiritual mold, then it really wasn't that spiritual to start with, was it? I guess the main thing is that today's posting is about gratitude for the life that God has allowed me to live. That here at this point in my life, I truly realize how blessed I am. 

You know, I think I'll fix me some Cream of Wheat for breakfast....
I know that Quaker oats are a "love pat for your tummy".....
But Cream of Wheat is "Goes down warm and makes you want to melt" kind of food.

Until tomorrow...
Stay warm...
Stay close....

God on you...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The True One Gives One + One To Make Us One

Matthew 10:1
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them POWER over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease.

This is one of those scriptures, that when we read it we almost hear it like it is part of a fairy tale. Oh, we do believe in Jesus. We believe that the word of God is true, but somehow these so called "super-natural" occurrences just don't compute as real in our world.  Well, let me ask you something. Just because we can't wrap our minds and brains around the fact that Jesus deals in and operates out of a place of power, doesn't negate the simple fact that such is true.

What's even more whacky is that He wants to fill us with His power and give us authority to live and operate in this world. We read the steps of A.A. and we acknowledge them, but when it comes to Step # 2 and the whole "POWER" concept, we seem to get lost. Maybe it's because we watched to much POWER RANGERS....or we think of Alabama POWER, when we try to understand. Maybe we think God acts like a POWER Drink, or a POWER bar. 

Actually, according to Acts 1:8, Jesus told us that we would be "Clothed with power". Draped in.....covered with.....filled up.....with the Holy Spirit of God. This is the Power we have searched for in our quest to be free from sin/addiction. And all we have to do is receive Him.
In our journey to real freedom, we come to believe (rely on, trust it, cling to) that a Power greater than ourselves and our own ability can restore us to sanity, or right thinking in our decisions making.

The natural progression after coming to this place of believing in this Power, is to make the decision, based on God speaking to our hearts telling us that this is the better way, to turn our will and live over to His care. Turn them both over to the God of our understanding. I have always loved this part......God of my own understanding. That doesn't mean I get to construct my own version of God, or create a God that I want to........what it does mean is that I don't have to have a college degree or be able to dissect the Greek and Hebrew of Scripture, to come to Him for salvation and freedom from my sin/addiction. I just have to turn my will and life over to Him. When I finally reach this place of decision, the Power comes.....The Power is given......I am filled with the Holy Spirit of God. Now, school is in session. My days are filled with learning a new way to walk through this life. A new way of doing business in the world, so to speak. Believe you me, it is a learning process, but our teacher, the Holy Spirit, is patient and kind and all those other "fruits" of His that we read about in Galatians 5:22-25. At first, as we become acquainted with this new Power that lives in us, this new day doesn't seem natural. We feel uncomfortable with it and there is a strong desire to cut and run back to the old ways. Don't give into that thought or feeling. It will only kill you..........both spiritually and physically. Every time the anxiousness or the "not knowing" what is next leads you to want to cut and run....sit down and relax. Take out your Bible and turn to Matthew 11:28-30 and read this promise that Jesus has made to you.

A promise of rest...
A promise that what He is teaching you is easy to learn and is not a burden.
A promise that you can participate in real living, and not have to mask yourself with a false reality of using.

You can do this....
This is your time, and your day!

God on you....


Monday, January 27, 2014

Prayer Target Country For Today: Vietnam

Through The Bible Ministries is asking for prayers each day for a different country. Prayers that whatever governmental and spiritual roadblocks there may be to keep the gospel out, would be removed. That the story of who Jesus is and what He has done can be heard over their radio's.

World Prayer Today
Monday, January 27, 2014
Vietnam is one the last remaining Communist countries in the world. But despite government opposition, many Vietnamese love Jesus and hunger for Bible teaching. As you’d expect, Christian radio is forbidden in Vietnam, so we broadcast via shortwave radio from outside the country. But we’ve recently found another way in! People listen to Thru the Bible on speaker boxes. This new technology allows listeners to hear up to 30 hours of radio programming from a single digital chip.  Keep praying for new technologies to bring the light of Christ into spiritually dark places. Intercede right now for believers gathering in dangerous places to hear the life-changing Word of God.  


Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet...
and a light to my path.....

How quick we forget......
How blase' we become about things other people live and die for.
Oh God, forgive me for taking for granted what you have blessed me with, that others around the world hunger for, pray for, cry out for. May I never take you for granted.
Charlotte Beaube posted this video yesterday on Facebook, and Vicki told me that I should watch it. I did.
The response of these young people in China, receiving their first Bible overwhelmed me. I sat at my computer, crying over what I was seeing.
Taking a Bible and clutching it to their shamed me and the way I act sometimes toward the things of God.
I have at least 10 different versions of the Scripture, and I think nothing about going into my office to get one to use in preparation of a message. Yet on this video, these young people are weeping over this one copy of the Scriptures that is now their own. 

I never want to take God, or the things of God for granted.
I want to appreciate the freedom I have to go on Saturday nights and oversee a gathering of people to worship and praise God.
To do so without fear or persecution.


I thank you for the lesson that was brought home to me through the video of these young believers. I thank you that you reached out and broke through my complacency and apathy to awaken an appreciation for what I have been blessed with.

I ask that you grant my brothers and sisters in China great grace today. To live for you in a land where it could cost them their freedom and their very lives. I thank you for the body of Christ in China, that you would teach us a lesson through their boldness for your Kingdom.
In Jesus name....

God on you...

Sunday, January 26, 2014

What It Really Means

I promised that I would share what I thought God was saying in the collapse of the awning on the front of the church. Here goes........

Ecclesiastes 3:1
There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.
We are entering a new season in which God is going to reveal himself through a "revealing" of our own hearts.

In the natural, the collapse of the awning exposed the weak places that couldn't be seen or detected with the natural eye. No one was injured or killed when the awning swung free from the building, which speaks to me of God's mercy and grace.

When we first looked at the job of removing the awning, it looked (with the natural eye) like a job that was too large for us to handle. Jokingly, the comment was made, "Maybe we need to hire a demolition crew!"
The one thing that was for certain, it was going to take time and effort to see the job through to completion. And in the end, we had everything we needed to address the problem. God gave strength and wisdom to do what as needed so that the task was taken care off without any further injuries. So what does all this mean?

We are entering a season where what we have relied on in the past will not be sufficient for what we are going to encounter and go through. God in his mercy is going to reveal those places in our heart that we either don't think about or refuse to take a look at, that stand in the way of our relationship with Him. Attitudes and behaviors that we sometimes cloak in a religious covering. We've carried them so long that we perceive them to be from God when, in fact, they are from our own flesh. Like I wrote earlier, what was sufficient, or what we were able to get by with, in the past, will not be allowed in the coming days.

Think of it like this...
Baby aspirin is really good........
If you are a baby or a toddler. But baby aspirin will not address an adult need. This is tied to the need for us to mature as part of the body of Christ. Never forget that the circumstances and situations you face are used by God to show you your character defects. He does such to help us grow to a place of spiritual maturity where we are not easily shaken or swayed by life when it comes at us full tilt.

James 1:2 (Message)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open ans shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed not deficient in any way.

As I wrote earlier, I truly believe that we are entering a time and a season where what was sufficient, what we relied on to get by in the past, will not be sufficient for what is to come. Now more than ever, we need to be open to allowing God to show us who we really are inside. Our true motives and intentions will be revealed through the coming problems and situations we will encounter.As we allow God's Holy Spirit to work in we surrender our will over to His care, we will receive instruction on what needs to change in us, and how we can apply what we are being taught. It truly will be a time of us cooperating with God, allowing Him the freedom to "build" in us His nature and His character.
Thanks for letting me share.......

God on you.....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Day The Awning Came Down

Sometime during the night on Thursday, the awning that covers the entrance to the main room at Gadsden Vineyard Church collapsed. Very grateful and very thankful that no one got injured or hurt. I was on Facebook yesterday morning when I saw a picture of the damage. Immediately, I got up and got dressed and drove to the church to see if I could help in any way. Being carpenter-lly challenged, I am a whiz-bang go-fer, holder, hand-me-that-7-langley-head-sprocket-kind of a guy. So I went to offer my presence.

When I arrived it looked like a job that was beyond our capabilities. I kept thinking, what is holding that thing up? But thanks to 1960's engineering, not to mention 1960's steel and aluminum, it stayed in place. Here's a side view of the damage.

Jim Bentley was already there, along with Jeremiah Smith. To me, Jeremiah is the McGyver of all who lay claim to the title. He might not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or out race a speeding train, but give him a project and he'll figure out how to do it with what you have on hand.

So with trusty sawsall in hand, and an aluminum ladder, Jeremiah and company set about to dismantle the awning. About this time, a young man who attends the morning service at Gadsden Vineyard, Robert, showed up to lend a hand. He set about sweeping up the debris and helping out where ever he could.

Piece by piece, bit by bit, as we flew through the blades for the sawsall, the awning came down in sections.
It was a masterpiece to rival the building of the pyramids. Of course we didn't have any Hebrew slaves, but the work continued at a slow and steady pace.  My wife just happened to be off yesterday, so low and behold she made an appearance bearing a pot of homemade potato soup, hot corn bread and tea. We broke long enough to consume said vittles. It was eaten with a great relish and fanfare of appreciation for her contribution.  Then back to work.
Eventually we got down to the last section. During the last few sections that needed to come down, Wayne Wimpee came by and gave us a hand. Jeremiah had brought his dump truck to load up all the metal on, so we muscled it up and onto the bed of the truck. Job over...mission accomplished.

I don't know if everyone does this or not. But whenever we encounter an event or situation that is outside the norm of daily life, I have a tendency to ask, "Are you trying to tell me something through what has happened, God?" I believe He was. For that reason, I am going to post it tomorrow here at the Greene Street Letters.

God on you....

Friday, January 24, 2014

It Is A Real Battle

Isaiah 5:11-12
Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink. Who continue until night, till wine inflames them! The harp and the strings, the tambourine and flute, and wine are in their feasts. But they do not regard the work of the LORD. Nor consider the operation of His hands.

Hard to convince someone they are in bondage and a slave to something, if they don't perceive it themselves.
Hard to get someone to understand that destruction is a part of their life and their choices, if they are dull and unaware of the prison that have given themselves to.
Hard to get someone to see the value in a new way of living, if they are under such an influence of darkness that they willingly choose to remain there.
But such is the war that takes place with sin/addiction.

Such a battle requires weapons that are not of this earth.
Weapons used for the pulling down of strongholds of thought and belief that have been built and reinforced by the kingdom of darkness.
Weapons such as the group Daniel Amos sang, "Love is the master's plow, crash down those walls of doubt."

But the ultimate weapon to use on such deception is God's Holy Spirit.
Only He can totally annihilate any and every argument that rises up to counter what God is doing in the life of this individual who is in darkness. 
II Corinthians 4:3-4 reads: But even if our gospel is veiled (hidden), it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God should shine on them.

To me what that says is the only hope that we have is when God's Holy Spirit breaks the blindness of heart and the deafness of spiritual ears so that the message of hope can be heard by the one trapped in addiction. 

I watched a news show yesterday where the topic was a new series of drugs that have been released to combat addiction/alcoholism. It was, according to the reporter, a new day in the treatment field and that millions could be set free from drugs and alcohol. While that is an encouraging statement, I wanted to ask the reporter one question. "Who is going to set these people, who are in addiction, free from themselves?" The using of drugs and alcohol is not the problem. The problem is inside. The problem is a heart problem. The problem is this broken relationship that exists between the individual who is using and Jesus Christ, the only one who can save them.

Not really a message that some like to hear.
That Jesus is the answer to the problem of addiction.
But I know that He is....
I've seen what He can do to a life that is, to some, beyond saving.
I've seen the restorative power that only He can bring to a life that has been checked off as not worth saving. 
I've seen the power of the cross and the healing that only Christ can bring.
It's real.

God on you....


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Target Prayer Today 1/23/14

Time to stretch out our prayers and remember family that live in other countries.
This is from the THROUGH THE BIBLE ministry: 
All part of the Kingdom Now, the Kingdom not yet...movement of Christ in this world.

World Prayer Today
Thursday, January 23, 2014
For many, Italy’s picturesque countryside reflects heaven on earth.  But for Christians living here, the spiritual landscape can be lonely and disillusioning. Today we stop to encourage a Thru the Bible listener named Aryana: “Where I work no one has faith, no one believes, no one talks about eternal life. I’m starting to feel out of place. I wonder if I’m starting to lose my faith.” Christians in Italy need our prayer support. Evangelical Christians make up only one percent of the population.  In fact, there are more Muslims in Italy than followers of Jesus. Let’s pray today for the millions of Italians locked in dead or dark traditions or disillusioned by organized religion. May many discover the living Christ.

Real Deal Love

I John 4:16
And so we know and rely on this love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God is in him.

Running late this morning. Sorry about that. Still trying to wrap my head, as well as my heart, around this whole "God is love" thing. 
It doesn't say that God loves.....we know that.
It doesn't say that God has love....we know that He does.
It doesn't even say that God might love....we know that He does that unconditionally.
It says that God is love. He is the ultimate display...the incredible model....the tangible, physical evidence that such an animal (as love) exists and is available to all who would receive it.

God didn't create love. He is love.
Everything He does.......
Everything He says........

All points to the fact that He loves us.
I know, I know...I can hear it now, even as I type this.
"Well, if God is love then why is the world so screwed up? Why do I not feel His love? Why do bad things happen? If He loved us, He wouldn't let anything bad happen."
Do you really think that's the way it should be? I confess that I have even said those things within my own heart. Asked those same questions. And the answer I keep getting is that I am asking such questions from a very, very selfish heart. I want what I want. I don't want to hurt. I don't want bad things to happen to me. I want God to stop everything that would harm me or hurt me or cause me pain. You see, all my questions about "why" are based in my own selfishness. 

God does love me even when things go South in my life.
The circumstances and situations I face do not remove God's love for me.

And, by the way, this love that God possesses isn't a passive, sit by and do nothing kind of love. It is an active, living, engaging in my life - kind of love. 

It is a love that loves me so much, God will tell me the unfiltered truth about my own heart, especially when I don't want to hear it.
It is a love that will uncover the deeds and darkness that I try to get away with. God loves me so much that He isn't going to let me get away with anything.

That, my friend, is real love.

God on you.....


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Show Me Your Face, Lord

I say the words....
I hear them myself as they roll off my tongue.
Exiting my mouth, they fill the room with sound.

Bold words....
Bold words spoken from a heart that is unsure of its own capability....
I say the words...
I sing the words.....

"Show me Your face, Lord....Show me Your face."

Do I really mean that?
Do I want the real God to come and pull back that thin veil between my life and His existence?

Do I want to stand in the presence of a Holy God?
Could I stand in the presence of a Holy God, or would I simply fall to my knees in worship?

I prefer to think the later.
What would it be like to stand bathed in the power of holiness that burns white hot with His love?

Why would I not want to see the face of God? 
Would it be that my "humanness" be undone in the presence of the Eternal?
No where to hide...
No where to run....
Anything I could offer up would seem pointless and futile.
The only thing I could give.....myself and my worship to Him.

A broken heart and a contrite spirit.

Then the thought fills my mind and my heart, "I do want to see the face of God! I do want to stand in His presence and hold nothing back as I worship Him. To expend myself completely on Him.
There is nothing finer in this world or the next that can compare with such a thing. Expenditure of self to the one who gave you life. To the one who saved you from a debt you could never pay.

So like Moses, on the mountainside, I will lift my spirit, and with great humility ask...."Show me your face, me Your face."

God on you...


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Living In The Kingdom--Living In The Presence Of The Lord

I John 3:8
......For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

The Kingdom of God isn't heaven....
The Kingdom of God isn't the church....

The kingdom of God is the dynamic rule and reign of God that is manifested in the lives of those people who are submitting themselves to Him.
Every time the Kingdom is seen or felt or realized, it is because God is coming against evidence that the devil has been, or continues to be, at work in the lives of people.

The kingdom of God is God Himself stepping into our time and space to exercise His will and power over the fruit of darkness that is brought forth when someone is a slave to sin.
Addiction is a fruit that is evidence of a life that is in darkness.
Jesus came...
Jesus lived among us...
Jesus gave himself as payment for the sin of addiction....
Jesus hung on that cross, blood dripping from every inch of his body....That blood being the payment for a debt I owed.

Jesus chose the appointed time of His death, and then willingly gave himself up to the Father.
"It is finished!"....Paid in full......the debt has been cancelled....Sin has been defeated....
That is why we don't have to live in the darkness of addiction/sin anymore.
We no longer have to listen to that voice that constantly plays in our mind, that tells us "You'll never break free from this addiction. It's to powerful and you are so weak."

That is why we pray, "Your Kingdom come...Your will be done....on earth as it is in heaven."
We are asking God to break through the darkness and bondage of the devil and take that individual out into the light of a new way to live. Learning to live in God's presence. Learning to live under His guidance and direction. Life with God isn't a bunch of rules, and a list of do's and do not's. With a changed heart, I find that I want to please Him by the way I live. I don't really think about doing or not doing. I find myself focused on Him. Reading His word...studying His word....talking with Him and listening for Him. So that the doing just kind of becomes second nature. I do it because that is just what I do. Learning to live in the Kingdom presence of God.
To simply allow myself to let God destroy every work that the devil has built inside me. To allow God the time to change my heart........change my mind.......change my will. And most importantly.......change my future.

God on you...

Monday, January 20, 2014

I May Not Know Job's Turkey, But Ol' Job Was Pretty Teachable

There is knowing.....
And then there is knowing.
One is found in the head.....we refer to as intellect.
The other if found in the heart, and I'm not sure there is a word for that kind of knowing. I guess maybe you could refer to it as intuition, but that sounds so limited.

I have been taking a drive through the book of Job over the past few weeks and have reached the last chapter. Poor ol' Job has been bounced around like a cosmic kick-me toy. He'd lost his possessions, as well as family. He was afflicted with skin disease. His best bud's had shown up to comfort him. Such comfort soon turned into a "let's bash Job" party. They began to speak into his life with such theological garbage, that it was a miracle Job didn't just go ahead and check out. But Job persevered. 

The thing I do like about the book is the interaction between Job and God. Job got real honest about his thoughts and beliefs about God.  You might even say that Job went off on God. While I wouldn't recommend this, it did afford God the opportunity to set some things straight.  I like the way Pastor Rod Hembree describes God's answer to Job's outburst of anger and accusation.
God begins to ask Job questions.

"Eighty-three questions explode from the storm surrounding Job's hellish existence as God finally intervenes. The presence of God changes everything for Job---his life, his existence and his mind, soul and spirit. At first, this explanation given by God ...this power sermon from the Almighty, might seem uncaring and harsh. Bu the condition afflicting Job is an infection coming from man's words (Job's three friends). The judgments and words of his so-called friends are parasitic and will eat his spirit alive. The only solution is a diving power-wash from the breath of God to move the lungs of Job's spirit back to God's life.

After God finished, and the dust had cleared, Job sat there with a new revelation concerning who God is and his own place in this relationship.
"I know that You (God) can do everything......"
Oh, if I could only wrap my mind and my heart around that truth, I would trust God in ways I could never ever imagine. I do know God can do anything. I do understand who God is....but even when I am faced with an insurmountable problem, I still battle doubt and fear. "I know God has come through in the past, but will He this time?" "What if He doesn't answer my prayer?" Which usually is translated, "What if it doesn't turn out the way i want it to or think it should?" Do you see what I mean? I trust God, but I am learning to REALLY trust Him.

Job began the process of healing and restoration after this encounter with God. He had to forgive his friends and pray for them. It took time I imagine for life to return to a semblance of normal. But it did happen. Would it turn out like that if it happened to me today? Would my life return to normal after such a time of upheaval, pain and misery? I don't know. I just know that God is worthy to be trusted with every area of my life (after all, I have been bought with a great price). What ever comes my way today, tomorrow, next year.....God's love for me will never change. I can rest in that.

God on you.....

Sunday, January 19, 2014

We Are That Goofy Bunch On Saturday Night!

Psalm 126:2
Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongues with singing. Then they said among the nations, "The LORD has done great things for them."

Goofy for Jesus.
Crazy for the Lord.

And the beat goes on and on and on.
One of the neat things that is taking place at Vineyard Recovery Church, is that a sense of community....a sense of family is being created.

I was asked to describe VRC by an individual, and the best I could come up with was that it felt like going into someones living room. A feeling of comfort and ease. To me that is the greatest thing God has done for our Saturday night meeting.To let a spirit of peace reside over our meetings, so that everyone who comes through the door is put at ease.

No.#1- VRC is church on Saturday night. Here in the South, we have been ingrained with the idea that only "REAL" church takes place on Sunday mornings between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and noon. But what takes place on Saturday nights is becoming vital to those who are making VRC their home.The are being shown a model of the Kingdom of God and the important fact that it follows them home when the meeting is over. This kingdom model goes with them to work or school, and becomes a vital part of their life. 

No.#2 - People coming out of addiction are skeptical and uncomfortable with traditional church settings. You have to remember, they are newbie's and really don't know how to play or do the church thing. So we try to de-religisize their experience. Everything we do is translated into language they can understand. We take Scripture and teach it as it applies to our lives using everyday examples. 

No.#3 - Our worship has an edge to it. Not the kind of edge where you are pushing that imaginary envelope of what is acceptable in church circles, but our sound and selection of songs. If someone in recovery, or still still struggling with their addiction came into a meeting and we singing such songs as "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" or "Rock of Ages" would not catch their attention. But if that song has a roadhouse or blues feel to it. Now you've got them hooked. If that same song is pointing them to Christ and what He could do through them and to them..then you've got them open to the possibility of relationship with this God we love so much.

No.#4 - Don't hype it! We keep everything low key. Our presentation of the word, and our ministry time is very laid back. We simply want God to come and do what He does so well. So if someone is getting a prophetic word or maybe even a word of knowledge, we try and keep it free of hype and religious terminology. Let's say we were praying for someone and they came under the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and fell out.  We would not refer to that as the "indwelling of the Holy Spirit" or "The baptism of the Holy Spirit"....we might simply say, "you know we were praying for them and they suddenly wanted to do some tile-time (since our floor is tile)...they just wanted to lay down." Instead of saying,"God has given me a vision," we would say, "You know, I was praying and I just got this mental picture." Keep it simple. Keep it low key and let God do the work. 

No.#5 - Worship...worship....worship! It's all about worship. Did I mention that we like to worship. But our worship is never the same. One week, the songs may reflect a "let's Party With God" attitude. The next week the songs may be very intimate in nature...very quiet and every reflective. We are very fortunate at VRC to have worship leaders and musicians who spend time seeking God during the week before the songs are selected for Saturday night. After all, we are singing TO God and not ABOUT Him. Boil the whole Christian experience down to the basest ingredients and you come up guessed it! Worship.

Hopefully this may give you some insight into what we do on Saturday's.
VRC is open to anyone who would like to come and visit.
Our meetings start at 7 p.m.

Love to see you....

God on you...

Saturday, January 18, 2014

New Worship Song From Vineyard Recovery

Here is one of our latest worship songs that we wrote for our Saturday night service.
God has been very gracious to let us construct a kind of  "Hymn" Book for recovery.
Songs that speak to the hearts of those in recovery.

Good Times And Dark Days

Jeremiah 1:12
Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well for I a ready to perform (Watch over) My word."

We'll be taking a look in the book of Jeremiah tonight at Vineyard Recovery.
Not a popular book. One that we kind of like to hold at arms length when we read it. We applaud Jeremiah's faithfulness to God and the call God placed on his life, but we really don't want anything to do with Jeremiah. We're afraid that life may really be like what we read in this particular book. That this call to follow Jesus may actually involve pain and suffering, along with major doses of being uncomfortable.

Comfort is the unspoken brass ring that our society chases today. We live for comfort. We buy comfort. We medicate ourselves so we can be comfortable. Am I against comfort? No! But in some respects, it has become our god. It takes center stage over everyone and everything else. 

In the life of an addict, comfort IS the god of choice. Not knowing how to deal with life...not wanting to deal with any situation or problem that come along, the addict will seek the comfort of whatever their drug of choice is. Empty promises and a vain repetition only create a false comfort for the addict to live in. 

As best as I can understand, life happens to us. Life with all its messes and ditches. Life with all the detours and roadblocks. Life happens to everyone who draws breath on this planet. There are no happy ever after fairy tale ending to this journey. But there is God. There is a promised life after this one. There is an abundant life, as promised by Jesus, on this side of heaven. Abundant does not always translate into material wealth. At this point in my journey, Vicki and I have been, and continue, to be blessed beyond our wildest dreams. Daily, we see the hand of God on our family. Does that mean that we are pain free? No. We have a healthy view of what it means to follow Jesus.....all the way to the end.

In the book 66 Love Letters the author writes the following concerning the book of Jeremiah.
God is speaking, answering a question that the author has posed to Him. 
"I make no promise to protect you from suffering in this world. I do promise the power to believe in My goodness when bad things happen. The power to hope with confidence that a good plan is unfolding when nothing visible supports that hope. And the power to reveal the goodness of My love no matter how distraught or empty you feel, even to those who contribute to your distress and emptiness. That is the abundance I promise until you arrive at My party."

In Jeremiah 1:12, God speaks and tells Jeremiah that He is ready to watch over and perform His word. In other words, God's plans and desires are carried out through those He has called into relationship. So what does all this mean?  Celebrate the good days. Those days when everything goes right. When the presence of God is so close you feel like He truly is living inside you. Drink it up! Put some in your pocket and save it, because there will be those other days when pain comes and life seems unfair. During those times, what changed about God. Did He suddenly become vindictive and distant? No, He's as close as ever. He hasn't moved or forsaken you. It is during the dark times that we lean into God. We lean into His promises, and we don't turn back no matter what. I read in the book of Revelation 7 times where promises are made to those who "OVERCOME". It didn't read "to those who win the race, or are successful.", but to those who simply overcome. You go on to Revelation 12:11 and it expounds on overcoming. It speaks of those who followed Jesus all the way and the battle they fought here on earth against the devil and his kingdom of darkness. It reads, "They overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death." Did you catch that? They overcame! How? By their salvation and relationship with Christ that was established through His shed blood....and they told their story. Their very life was the message. 

I wanted today's posting to be one of encouragement and reality. I do believe that if you search your heart and listen closely, you'll hear the promises of Jesus to see you all the way. So do enjoy the good times, but don't let the dark days draw you away from Christ. 
Hope to see you tonight at Vineyard Recovery.

God on you....

Friday, January 17, 2014

Audio Message VIneyard Recovery 1/11/14

Audio Message From January 11, 2014.
"That You May Be Filled"....
Colossians 1:9-10

We Are A Called People

Psalm 111:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.

Hopefully, I am finding out some truth, and I say this in all humility.
As one grows older, the events and the history that is collected should sharpen and hone a persons view as to the time and season they are living in.
In my case, I'm not sure. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between wisdom and just plain old becoming ornery. Walking around like a sourpuss with a scowl on your face, mad at the world. I wish to not be known as the latter.

In the past, I have railed against the goings on of our nation and the government that resided in Washington, D.C. How the lack of common sense has been replaced with a selfish, self centered view to every law that comes out of Congress and is signed by the White House. Year after year, it seems as though the Government has set its collective mind to move God out of the national conscience of this nation. Bit by bit, God is pushed farther and farther from view....Oh, we will acknowledge Him and give a nod of approval that He is real...but don't be dragging any of His theology into the nations conversation. Here is where it gets dicey.

At one point, I had such a mad-on toward this whole "Get rid of God" mindset, this separation of church and state, that I declared, "Let's do it! Let's separate the church from the state. Let's move the church out and tell the government to keep its paws off of the church. Leave it alone. Don't tell us what to do. Don't be meddling in our affairs. You can't run around crying about the separation of church and state, then try to rule over and run the affairs of the church. Let's do it. Right now.

Then God spoke.
(Sometimes I hate it when He does that..speak, you know).
I hate it when God speaks, because I have usually spouted off some stupid statements that found their origin in my flesh and not my spirit.
God told me that the whole church and state issue was one that had its beginning in the kingdom of darkness and had been a part of humanities history ever since the woman bit the fruit in the garden.

The church, or the body of Christ, is the moral compass for a nation. It it is removed, then the nation hasn't any guidance. Therefore,it becomes a people who rule by their passions and desires rather than the word of God. In my thoughts, it seemed as though that this is the way it operates today. A government moved by their flesh rather than the absolute truth of Almighty God. But what God showed me next removed all the doubt as to the roll of the church. We are the voice of God in a society that has embraced darkness. We are the owners and purveyors of the truth of God. Ours is to simply cry out into this societal darkness and reveal the cross of Christ. Ours is to love even though we are not loved in return. Ours is the make sure that our society has no excuse as to not knowing the truth of who God is.

We cannot separate ourselves from the state, even though the state may come after us and declare us to be intolerant and a threat. We cannot silence our voice as to the gospel. Neither can we allow our voice to be tainted by our own anger or flesh. We must not waver in calling out our government when the law and the ambition of those who rule, go against the very fabric of God's word. Now, we cannot do such things, or act in such ways that stem from pride or arrogance. In everything we do, we must humble ourselves before God. Scripture says if we live in such a manner, that God would raise us up (exalt us) in due time. Ours is to simply love and proclaim the truth. 

I don't know if living in such a manner will have a happy, fairy-tale ending or not. But I do know that we are to be stewards of the Kingdom while we draw breath here on this in this in this time.
I want to be faithful with all that God has given me. I want to be salt and light to a world that has lost its flavor and its illumination. 

Please God....bless America one more time.
God on you....


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Stop Now, What's That Sound, Everyone Look What's Going Down!

II Timothy 2:2
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.

The 60's were drawing to a close. It had been a time of social upheaval and change in our little part of the world. The war in Viet Nam was in full swing and young men were either joining the service or were being drafted. In fact, going through some old belongings the other day, I found my draft card along with my student deferment card. 

Along with the changes going on in society, the church was also being taken in a new direction. A revival of sorts had broken out on the West Coast and had caught the attention of the rest of the country. The Jesus People movement was spreading like an uncontrolled fire, and it was about to burn the city of Gadsden, Alabama.

It came in the form of a group of young people, some married, who came to our town under the call and authority of Campus Crusade For Christ. They brought a vision and a love for Christ that would forever impact me and others who joined with them. Originally, I think Crusade was primarily a College movement, but the leadership had decided to move into high schools to see if they could build a base that would identify and grow leaders to join their ranks as the movement grew.  It didn't matter, all we knew was that there were some really cool people who loved Jesus and wanted to share it with us. Kind of strange when you think back on the 60's and the fact that we were in the heart of the Bible belt. Churches couldn't swing a dead cat and not hit a church. But the vision these young people brought was unlike anything we'd ever heard before. 

They spoke of God's love. They told us that we could participate in the Kingdom of God and the work of spreading His word. You'd think we'd knew this, but unfortunately, the model that we had grown up under was one of taking our place in church. Be a good member.....go to Sunday school and training union.....give every your Bible and pray. Once a year, go to revival and be revived. These are all part of being a member and are very important, but Campus Crusade was planting a thought in our hearts and minds.......there is more than simply belonging to a church. After all, you only went to church 3 hours a week, at most. What about the rest of the time?

We began to see that community was vital to growth as a follower of Christ. To be surrounded by like-minded people who were hungry for Jesus as much as you were. Saturday nights became a focal point of our week, as Campus Crusade gave Jim Bentley, Jim Morgan, and yours truly the keys to the building and said, "Why don't y'all start a coffee house." You have to remember this was before there was such a thing as Contemporary Christian Music (I've always hated that term).  But we knew that music would be a vital part of what we were doing. 

Jim Bentley, the artist, was given free reign to design and come up with a plan for what the coffee house would look like. And did he come up with a plan. Everything was painted in Day-glo paint. Bright green, orange, yellow and black. It was the Age of Asparagus  as the Fifth Dimension sang and Gadsden had just moved into the psychedelic age. Jim Morgan was the resident electrician, as he worked to install the lighting. Vast amounts of black light was used that only made the day-glo paint jump out at you with a nuclear explosion. Me? I was the comical side kick who did whatever was needed to be done. Go-fer and getter...that was me. During this time, I was also finding myself musically. I was never comfortable playing and singing because I never viewed myself as having any worth in this area. Not that I was the 2nd coming of Paul McCartney but as the days rolled by, I was asked by several to join them as they were scheduled to play after the coffee house opened. 

The name THE OTHER DOOR was given to the coffee house because you couldn't get in the front had to go around to the side and come through.....wait for it.....the other door. Cleaver, don't you think?  Anyway, the Other Door became the meeting place for young people . It wasn't just a social gathering either. It was a place where problems could be shared and talked about. Prayer could be received. Friends, that didn't know who this Jesus was, could come and see the love of God in action. Campus Crusade had basically come into our town and told us, "You can be a force for the Kingdom of God, if you'll just let God work in you."  It didn't look like our parents church, but it was very much in line with the dictates of our heavenly Father. 

Staff members such as John and Marilyn Bruce, Ruth Ann Tibby, Dwilene Niswander (Spell?), Paul Fleishman, Lanier and Karen Ellis, And Winston Kenndy all played major roles in my own life and growth as a follower of Jesus. These wonderful people took us under their collective wings and nurtured us and told us that we didn't have to wait until we were old to impact our town for was the time....this was the day. Go out and grab it for Christ. 

It was also during this time, that I met my wife, Vicki. She worked after school as a secretary for the staff. So I guess I have this also to thank Crusade for. In our personal life, the road has been long, and I'd be less than honest if I said that we had stayed the course. There were side trips out into the darkness, but we always managed to find our way back to God. Not a day goes by that I don't think about those days with Campus Crusade. The Bible studies....4 Spiritual Laws......The laughter and love that we felt from those young people who'd left home and family to come to Gadsden, Alabama to share the love of God with kids they didn't know. I wonder where they are today. I'm sure than some may have gone on to be with God. But I pray that today, Lord, you'd let them know somehow, someway, that their work was not in vain. They carried good seed and it did produce a harvest. My wife and I are proof of it.

God on you...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Better Living Through Chemicals? I Don't Think So!

II Timothy 3:1
But know this, that in the last days perilous (stressful) times will come.

Perilous = stress.
Stress = pressure

Pressure = the need for coping 
Coping = the need to handle whatever situation we may find ourselves facing.
Whatever situation we may find ourselves facing = Jesus.

Why can't this simple equation be grasped? Well it is simple and yet, at the same time, becomes very complicated when you and I get involved. It is simple because Jesus is at the center of the solution to whatever we face. The solution is not found in chemicals or alcohol.
I think too often that when people here the word "Jesus" they automatically think church. They think this, because this is the only frame of reference they have to understand who Jesus is. Occasionally they may think "Televangelist" which only complicated the picture (if you know what I mean).  Very seldom do they see the Jesus of the Bible. The loving, caring, giving, Savior of all mankind. Those who know Him and those yet to know Him all fall under His care and focus.

The darkness of a sin/addiction only drives the individual farther and farther away from the truth.  What comes as conviction from the Holy Spirit is often lost in translation to a heart that is far removed from Christ. By that I mean, at the first signs of conviction, the pain and remorse for things done, people hurt and words spoken, rather than surrender and accept the loving salvation Jesus offers, the individual runs to the comfort and numbness of their drug of choice. 
Does that mean that such a person if beyond the reach of God? No! What we must do is allow God to work in each of us, to be a voice of love and reason to draw that person into the light of Christ so they can see themselves as Jesus sees them. Not as something or someone that is worthless and has no value. 

If the scripture from II Timothy 3 is true, then we should not be surprised at the condition of the world we see all around us today. Self indulgent..........Self centered......all about image and how we appear to others....lovers of pleasure....haters of what is good...We should take all of this in and see it for what it truly is. The harvest is white. The harvest is now. Lives are at a stage where they are ripe to receive the gospel of Jesus. I know this because whenever I go somewhere to speak, when ministry time is opened, the front is flooded with people who want to know this Jesus. This has nothing to do with me, but everything to do with the work of God's Holy Spirit in the meeting. People are ready to come into the Kingdom of God, they are just waiting on someone to tell them that this God is real and He really does love them. 

A person does not have to medicate themselves into oblivion to feel alive. A person does not have to drink themselves into a coma in order to escape the darkness. All that has to be done is surrender. Give up. Turn to this Jesus and cry out to Him...."Lord, help me..I'm so tired of living like this. Save me please!" Don't be surprised if He doesn't take you up on it.

God on you...



Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing. Not it shall spring forth. Shall you not know it?  I will even make a road (path) in the wil...