Saturday, May 31, 2014

What's Really Going On?


Jude:22-23
And on some have compassion, making a distinction. But others save with fear pulling them, or snatching them, out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

This has been a week of "working" via the telephone.
lot's of calls from people I haven't seen in a while. Some were good and some were not so good. Unfortunatly the "not so good" out numbered the "good".  

"I need help!"
"I'm tired of living."
"I don't know what to do."
You can say what you want to. You can quote whatever scripture you may feel is appropriate. But the truth of the matter is, people are dying daily because of the beast of addiction. It is an animal, a force, a mind destructive behavior that is an equal opportunity destroyer. I think maybe that is why back in October of 2012 God used an image in my mind as the seed to what is now Vineyard Recovery. I was writing in my journal and praying when I suddenly had a mental picture in my mind. It was of World War II soldiers marching in the rain down a road that had turned to mud. They were headed toward a battle. If you think about it, that is what soldiers do. They go to where the battle is being waged. They engage the enemy and they work as a unit. Sorry, I digress. I could use all manner of military terminology,but I won't. Bottom line is this. We are engaging in spiritual warfare for the heats and souls of people who are trapped behind the enemies lines. If you don't think that the devil and his minions won't come after you when you are a threat to him, you'd better think twice. That is why it is so important for us to protect ourselves. 

Protection comes when we are connected to a group of like minded people who are focused on following Jesus. I'm not talking about the casual church goer. I'm talking about a person who is serious about their faith. Someone who realizes that we are all called to be a force for the Kingdom rule of God here on earth. To recognize that we have need to be equipped to "Do the works of Christ". To not just pray for others, but to learn how to effectively pray. To not just memorize scripture, but let the word of God dwell richly in us. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the day's of playing church and pretending to be church are over. It's time to grow up. We've got people dying all around us. 

Todd Hunter, former National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches, put together a paper that was to define who and what Vineyard was after the death of John Wimber. This became known as the Columbus Accords. I found my copy and was reading over it  The very first paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks. It was language that defined who Vineyard Recovery has been called to be, and what we are called to do.

"We are called to be a force of spiritual revolution, not a stagnant institution."
"We are called to produce an environment where demonstrated purity and character are valued as highly as charisma and rhetorical skills."

In other words, we are called to be a people of God who really are living "salt" and "Light" to a world gone mad in sin. We are called to action and to be a force for the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, our call as a church is for the purpose of helping ourselves and others fulfill their God-given potential. I am not real interested in the idea of growing a church as much as I am in seeing people find new life and purpose in Christ.  You have heard me say this on more than one occasion. The measure of any church is not the number of people who show up for the services. It isn't the amount of money that is taken up each week, or the size of their bank account. The measure of EVERY church is the quality of people it produces. Are they people of integrity? Are they falling in love with this Jesus and, in turn, expending themselves on His Kingdom?

I Corinthians 4:20
For the kingdom of God is not in word by in power.

Matthew 6:10
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

John 14:12
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in ME, the works that I do he will also do, and greater works than these he will do because I go to My Father.

Luke 17:21
.......For the kingdom of God is within you.

There is a painting that hangs in Gadsden Vineyard Church. It contains the motto of the Moravian's. Every time I see it, I am stirred to remember what our purpose, everyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus, is. "To win for the Lamb the rewards of His suffering."
God help us to see this all the way to the end, and not give up or grow weary.

God on you....
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Friday, May 30, 2014

It's A "POWER" Thang !


Matthew 10:1
And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power.............

Power....
Exousia (Greek)- Force / ability / delegated influence / authority / the right to /  strength.
Jesus handed this to a group of individuals. Humans. Men.
Sinful men. Messed up men. Fishermen.

God in flesh, Jesus, handed over to these people, power that is divine in nature. Pure and untainted. Heaven born. Power.
He freely gave it to them. Knowing full well, who they are and what they are capable of doing. In fact, one of the twelve He handed power to was Judas. Yep! Old "turn-him-in-for-30-pieces-of-silver" Judas. Jesus gave him power.

Now the word "power" is key to recovery.
Step # 2 declares that "We came to believe in a POWER greater than ourselves that could restore us to sanity." This power would be something that would be bestowed upon us because of our belief in the ability to free us from the bondage and slavery of addiction.

If you go on down into the first verse of Matthew chapter ten, you'll see that the power given by Jesus to His disciples was for breaking the strangle hold and works of the devil in the lives of others. 
Power to:
1.) operate with effectiveness against any unclean spirits. Yes Virginia, there is a whole other world operating all around us that involves the plans, schemes and attacks from demonic spirits. Jesus gave His "peeps" the power to break this hold and cast them out of the individuals who had fallen prey to this darkness.

2.) Heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. O.k....I'm going to go out on a limb here. Seems to me that the label of "disease" has been given to addiction. I'm not here to argue semantics, but if indeed addiction is an illness, then would it not make sense to turn to God for healing from it? I would think so. But we won't, because our western mindset tells us that these verses are ancient and written long before mankind got educated and smart. I'm telling you right now that no matter what you may believe or how you may view what I'm writing...God is still (did you catch that?) God is still the ultimate healer and we allow our own thoughts, doubts, fears, and about a million other reasons, to keep us from the healing we so desperately need.

That power that was handed out in Matthew 10:1 has not waned or disappeared. It is as real, fresh and available today for those who are ready to turn the page on their old lifestyle. 
think on these things.....

God on you...
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Living Sacrifices Worship Conference


I am so excited about this upcoming event at Gadsden Vineyard Church. If you remember, last year GVC hosted the first Living Sacrifices Worship Conference. We had John and Marie Barnett /  Danny Daniels /  Chris Lizotte coming to share and lead worship. The entire weekend had a major impact on my life, and it was like being restored and brought back to life as I attended each session. One of the reasons it was so special to me, was that these people are a part of our heritage as a movement. They were with John Wimber when the Vineyard first started, so they have a perspective on our association of churches that only time can provide. 

This year, Todd and LeNola Bagley, organizers of the conference, have out done themselves. Carl Tuttle and John Barnett will come and be with us June 12th through 14th. You may be thinking, "Well, I'm not a part of the Vineyard, why would I possibly want to go?" Because I promise you...you will be blessed. Every denomination or association of churches have a single focus that defines who they are as a group. The Southern Baptist is defined by their fire for the great commission. Presbyterians are defined by their love for the Word of God and seeing it taught among their communities. Vineyard has been defined by worship. We feel like worship is the very reason God created us, because worship, or love of God, is at the very center and core of salvation and relationship with Him. I was born to worship. My life is worship. Everything I say or do should come from a heart that has fallen in love with God and desires nothing more than to please Him.  

Carl and John both are responsible for writing  a number of our early Vineyard worship songs. These songs have become a part of our "hymnal" and still have God's favor on them. 

There is a charge to the event, but it has been kept as minimal as possible,so we can take care of Carl's and John's expenses for coming and spending this time with us. I heard so many stories from those who missed last years conference, about how they wished they had of come to it. Well, here's your chance. You are not going to want to miss this one.

God on you....
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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Egypt Will Beat You Down And Then Demand More


Isaiah 30:2
Who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt.

Egypt, to me, has always been a symbol of slavery and bondage. Whenever I read the name EGYPT in scripture, I equate it to the story in Exodus of how God delivered the Hebrews from the Egyptians. God did for the Hebrews what they could not do for themselves. Taking it one step further, Egypt has become a symbol of the ruling hand of addiction over a life that has succumbed to its rule. Addiction is a hard taskmaster that demands everything a life has to offer. IT will strip the individual of all rights and take away everything that person holds dear. Addiction will tell you when to get up...where you need to go...it will demand money that you do not possess and then send you into a moral spiral of deceit and manipulation so you can obtain the money. 

Living in such a way is demeaning and strips away any shred of human decency a man or woman may possess. It cares not one wit about your feelings, except that addictions only desire is to see you numb to anything or anyone. It demands total allegiance and accepts nothing less. If you find this hard to believe, then tell me......when is the last time you saw a casual addict? One who uses occasionally. One who would put off using so they could spend quality time with family and friends. One who would go to a family outing even if there wasn't anything to drink or take there at the outing. Such a concept as "casual" addict doesn't exist. Addiction is a taskmaster that demands everything. Total allegiance.....total love (as twisted as that love becomes) and, in the end, your very life.

To me, the verses from Isaiah 3 represent a warning from God about going back to the old lifestyle. I will not sit here and try to reason the "Why" of  people who turn back to addiction. I will only say that even when breaking free from addiction, sometimes facing life sober for the first time is a daunting task. Such is the reason we desperately need community. We need to attach ourselves to, and become a part of a group of people who have gone through the same experiences we have. People who have found the value of following Jesus, the real Higher Power, into this new way of living. We draw strength from being connected. We have access to hear God for ourselves, and when we do receive a word, we can look to our fellow traveler's to help us discern what we have heard. 

We now draw our strength from God and those around us. We truly are learning a new way to live.

So we learn to trust.......
Not in ourselves, but in Jesus.
We learn that He is the only source of real life and instruction.

Without Him....
Without the Holy Spirit at work in us....
Those twelve steps are merely words that we will wrangle with and try to accomplish their instruction in our own strength.

But with Jesus....
Those twelve steps become power tools to rebuild a life that has been destroyed.
Ask yourself.
"Who am I looking to in order to survive today?"
Is it Jesus?
Or is it that old lifestyle and taskmaster that I use to serve when I lived in Egypt (addiction)?

As Bob Dylan so aptly put it........
"You're Gonna Have To Serve Somebody"


God on you....
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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spiritual Progress Not Spiritual Perfection In Our Performance




Step # 1
We admitted we were powerless over alcohol– that our lives had become unmanageable.


Rarely do people caught in addictive behaviors admit to being addicted. To deny the seriousness of our condition and to avoid detection and the consequences of our choices, we tried to minimize or hide our behaviors. We did not realize that by deceiving others and ourselves, we slipped deeper into our addictions. As our powerlessness over addiction increased, many of us found fault with family, friends, Church leaders, and even God. We plunged into greater and greater isolation, separating ourselves from others, especially from God. When we, as addicts, resorted to lies and secrecy, hoping to excuse ourselves or blame others, we weakened spiritually. With each act of dishonesty, we bound ourselves with “flaxen cords” that soon became as strong as chains . Then a time came when we were brought face to face with reality. We could no longer hide our addictions by telling one more lie or by saying, “It’s not that bad!” (Taken from a Blog on Addiction).

In an age where the human will, intellect and spirit is lifted above God, it is no wonder that we have a hard time with admitting that we are powerless.
We live in an age where image is everything, not truth. If I can appear to be a certain way then I can operate and feel good about myself no matter how depraved I have become. We battle and fight to stay away from admitting we have a problem. Romans 3:10-11 reads As it is written, "There is none good (righteous) no, not one. There is none who understands. There is none who seeks after God." Now lets ask a very simple question. In the verse, it states that none are good and righteous. So, with that in  mind, who falls under the category of "none".....I think that would be everyone. Kind of a hard pill to swallow, yes?  I remember a man who would never sing the song "Amazing Grace" because he refused to call himself a "wretch". Yet, his very life revealed the fact that he was struggling with addiction. Now I'm not saying we need to walk around beating ourselves up because of our lack of "goodness" on any level. Or that we need to feel like we need to be punished for our bad choices and behavior that has affected everyone around us. That's not the case. But we need to see with clear eyes and understanding the extent of our self inflicted destruction, and realize that we are the problem. Our usage of drugs and alcohol are merely symptoms of a deeper problem. 

Admitting the truth is not something that is done casually. For most of us it represents a major change in business-as-usual. We have learned  evasion, and denial. Now we must learn to admit the truth. The Bible puts a high value on telling the truth: “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor” (Ephesians 4:25). The falsehood that we “put off” in Step One is the belief that we do not need any help–that we can handle it, that we are managing our lives successfully on our own. In Step One we admit that this is not true. To our surprise, when we admit this truth, new and better ways of living become possible for us. If the truth be known, Step #1 is the point at which God begins to reveal the extent of our powerlessness. It takes His light shinning in our darkness for me to see the truth about myself.
Step # 1 sends us on the start of an incredible journey that can lift us out of the muck and mire of our old lifestyle.

God on you....
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Monday, May 26, 2014

Letter To Mom



Mom.....
Well, another year has come and gone. you were right. The older you get, the faster time seems to go. Has it really been 33 years since you went home? In some ways, it seems like forever and then on when this day rolls around each year,it only seems like yesterday.

I remember when you went to the hospital for the last time. You walked out onto the porch and paused for a minute. Looking around for one last time. "I'm ready to go home", were the words you spoke. There was a determination in your voice that you were ready for the ultimate healing from your cancer. You amazed me through this whole battle with cancer. How you got "your house" in order before you died. Making appointments to have lunch with old friends so you could say your goodbye's. How you took time to write friends and loved ones who lived far away to let them know how much you loved them and what they meant to you. Mom, over the years , you taught me how to live. But in May of 1981, you taught me how to die. You walked out your faith to the very end.........and beyond.

I want to thank you, Mom, for everything you instilled in me. I want to thank you for making me go to church, especially when I didn't want to go. Thanks for not letting me get away with faking being asleep on Sunday nights. For rousing me up and telling me that staying home was not an option. We were going to church. You knew that Jesus was more important than Bonaza or The Wonderful World of Disney.

Thanks for Bible stories from our family Bible. I can still see those incredible painting of David and Goliath, Daniel in the lions den, and Jesus walking on the water during the storm. The pictures are etched in my mind even to this day. But the love you taught me to have for Jesus is forever etched in my heart. 


I know you were concerned about me as I was growing up. Lazy....irresponsible.....selfish.....all were a part of me. "What am I going to do with you?" came from your lips more than once. But somewhere along the line, I changed. I guess you could say I became a man. You and Dad both, i know, spent several conversations and worried nights with me as the center of conversation. I was so different from my brother. I think maybe at certain times, you both went back to check my birth certificate to see if someone had made a mistake at the hospital, and switched babies on you. I'm am and always will be your son.

Mom, so many questions I want to ask you.
"What's heaven like?" More importantly, what is Jesus like? How does His voice sound? You see, you taught me through the years about Him. In fact, you know the truth of all those lessons you shared with me. You know the truth that, today, I can only have faith to believe.


I know that when you were first married, that the doctor's told you that you would never be able to have children. Then came my brother Wayne, and  again the doctor's told you that you better enjoy him because his birth was nothing short of miraculous. Nine years later, you gave birth to me. Wayne shared with me about your desire for one of your children to become a preacher. Wayne knew that it wouldn't be him, but he told me that on the day I was born, when the nurse brought me to you for the first time. You held me in your arms and declared, "This is the one. He is going to be a preacher." Well, it came true. God called me, and after 33 years of running from Him, I said, "yes". These last 17 years have been the most incredible years of my life. Vicki and I have seen the hand of God at work in ways we never could have imagined. To say that it has been a wild ride would be an understatement. The funny part in all of this, Mom, is that I wonder what Grand Dad would think about all of this. Would he be proud of me for following in his footsteps as a preacher? 

Mom, thanks for never giving up on me.
Well, it's time for me to get Vicki up...daylight's burning.
I miss you so much, and a day doesn't go by that you aren't in my thoughts and in my heart.

I will see you soon....
I love you Mom...

Michael

God on you...
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Sunday, May 25, 2014

God Does For Me What I Cannot Do For Myself



Ephesians 4:1
As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Interesting choice of words. "Live a life worthy of the calling you have received."
How would you measure such a life?
What standard would you hold up to see and understand whether or not life had been lived that revealed the worth of the call?

Coming out of addiction, most seem almost paralyzed by the "newness of life".
They fill like millions upon millions of rules have been hung over their sober head, and they must now carry them all out or risk going back to the old lifestyle.
Such a weight, will in fact send some scurrying back to the darkness. As painful as thoughts of going back to the old life is, at least they know the rules there and they can play that game. 


When some read the call to live a life worthy of the call God has given to us, they automatically think of "DOING" something. Whether it be teach, preach, speak, feed others, visit people in jail, that becomes the measure of the worth of our life. How much did I do for Jesus? When in fact, what Paul is talking about in Ephesians, is the development of our character. Or to put it another way, we allow our character to be changed through the work of the Holy Spirit into the character of Jesus. It is about becoming a people of integrity. A people who do not do business with the world, the same way the world does business with us. We live on a different plane of existence.

Step # 6 of the Twelve Steps reads:

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character

Step # 6 is where we continue in the journey of change. We are entirely ready. No holding back. Realizing that this process will take time and will pay huge dividends in the end. We truly will become "new creations" (II Corinthians 5:17). 

Some who have heard me speak, have heard this statement on more than one occasion.
"God created us as Human Beings, not Human Doings. A change of heart produces a new way of thinking. A new way of thinking produces new behaviors. The new behaviors reveal the change that has taken place to us. I don't chase after God because I think it will look God. I don't study the Bible because I think it will impress those around me. I don't talk about my journey with others because I think I will garner their praise. All of those behaviors come from the simple fact that I have been change through this on going work of salvation. It is God at work in me.

Philippians 1:6 reads: Being confident of this that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
We are on a spiritual journey.
We are a work in progress.
Our job is very simple.

Turn will and life over to the care of God as we understand Him to be.
And cooperate with that work, allowing God access to our hearts.

Thanks for letting me share.
God on you.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Well into my first cup of coffee.
Sliding easy into the morning is what Saturday is all about around the Bynum household.

Lot's to do, but no rush or  pressure.
Simply take each task one at a time.

Usually my final thought on Friday night is, "We get to go meet with God tomorrow night." Of course, referring to Vineyard Recovery Church. Saturday night is a time to celebrate what has transpired in our lives since last Saturday.
The good and the bad.
We give God praise for sustaining us one more week.
We thank Him for our sobriety that He has given us.

We than Him for life...with all it's blessings and problems.
We are learning a new way to live.


I Peter 2:5 refers to us as living stones. 
As you come to Him, the Living Stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him...you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ Jesus.

Living stones...
The two words really don't go together do they?

How can something so hard and rigid, devoid of life of any kind, be classified as living?
Because this Jesus I talk about so much has offered us life beyond our comprehension.
He has offered us real life, abundant life.
Before we found this life, we were stones cast upon the ground. Millions of us just laying there. We had no purpose. We were randomly strewn across the landscape of humanity to be trodden on.
But Jesus took us. He laid claim to us and began to shape us for His purpose.
What is His purpose?
To build a house....
A Holy Habitation.
Once scattered and thrown about, we were now being shaped and fitted together. We became stronger as the walls grew higher and higher. We were connected to other stones on either side of us, and above and below us. In other words, we were placed squarely into a community of like minded people. There we found that we could be stronger than when we were isolated and alone. 


Every stone became important. There were no rejects. There were no imperfections, because the Master Builder had chipped away and made smooth what was once craggy and ragged. We go on to read in I Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Did you catch that? We were chosen. Man, I couldn't get anyone to choose me to be on their team, during recess, when I was in elementary school. But the real-deal God of the Universe, creator of everything, has chosen me. Wowzers! The verse goes on to say that we have been given the incredible honor of declaring the truth of who God is to others. It's more than handing out tracts (nothing wrong with that)....it's more than telling someone about the gospel (definitely nothing wrong with that)....it's about living it! 24/7 ---365 in front of people. It's about being connected with a community of believers where you are encouraged to participate in life. It's about learning how to carry on the mission that Jesus left to us.
To pray for the sick...
To cast off demonic spirits....
To feed the poor...
To aid the widow and the orphan...
To do the works of Christ.

To "Do the Stuff!"

If you aren't busy tonight, come out and join us at V.R.C.
Starts at 7 p.m.
419 Broad Street / Downtown Gadsden.
See you then...

God on you....

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Friday, May 23, 2014

STOP! Hey, What's That Sound?


Galatians 5:22
But The fruit of the Spirit is.....................Longsuffering.


Christian character is not mere moral or legal correctness, but the possession and manifestation of nine graces: Scofield.


Longsuffering.....strange word.
Even as I typed this in, my computer underlined it as a misspelled word.
The computer did not recognize the word "longsuffering". It wanted to break it up into two words. Long and suffering. 
I think that speaks volume about our society.
We don't recognize the attribute of this fruit of the Holy Spirit.

We cringe at the word because it contains "Suffering", and we definitely want no part of that.

The word translated (by Strong's concordance) means patience.....fortitude....to be in a state of long enduring temper. In other words, this term, longsuffering, means to have a fixed resolve to wait even when everything around you says that you should act. We should get a little riled up when influence to ditch God comes at us from every direction.

The voices begin to pile up in our minds....
"You'll be sorry you waited. You're going to miss it!"
"God will understand"
"God has left the building and He doesn't care one bit about you."
And on and on the litany of accusations go.
Bombarding us like a hailstorm.
Maybe that is where the idea of "being in a state of tempered anger" comes from.
We turn our anger toward the world that is trying to persuade us to act outside the will of God.

We have to remember that this particular attitude, Longsuffering, originates in the character of God. It is who God is. It is what God does. It is God.
In Exodus 34:6 we read about an encounter Moses had with God. Moses has broken the original tablets that God wrote the law on. Now he, Moses, has brought two more tablets up on the mountain to meet with God. As God comes down, there is a proclamation that breaks forth and is announced to Moses. 
And the LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth."
These aren't just nice platitudes spoken to fill up time and space. They are a declaration of who God is, and how He interacts with us, His creation. Take a look at the list.
1.) Merciful and gracious: right off the bat, we see that God extends to that which we do not deserve to receive. The perfect, holy, righteous God says "Here, I want you to have this. I know you've done wrong. I know that you have inherited a sin/nature from being a descendant of Adam, but I want you to receive from Me." Mercy is also God keeping from us the very thing we do deserve. God has extended eternal life to us. God has offered us an opportunity to live in relationship with Him. Then He turns around and keeps from us the very thing that we do deserve. The very thing that we have earned. That would be hell and eternal separation from Him.

Now, with that being a defining attribute of God, we see that He is longsuffering. In other words, He is patiently waiting for us to shuck off our old nature and embrace Him and His offer for a new way to live. When we finally do accept this new life then, through the work of His Holy Spirit, our character is being transformed to be like His character. We are finding out that we are called to longsuffering. Learning to wait on God. 
Maybe that is what life is all about.
This ongoing transformation under the direction of God's Holy Spirit so that we can be more like our elder brother, Jesus.
So that we CAN be salt and light to a world that has no flavor and lives in darkness.


God on you....
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Thursday, May 22, 2014

Psalm 91





Psalm 91;1
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

There is a whole lot in Scripture about "resting".
I'm all for resting. It is good not only for the body, but the mind and the spirit.
Resting is a time of ceasing from what the Bible calls "our striving".
Seems as though in today's society, there is a whole lot of striving going on.
In fact, some view people who rest as some kind of weird.
Yet we are called to rest in the Shadow of the Almighty.
I like that picture.................being in the shadows.
To me I see that as God standing me, and me kind of hiding in Him.
Have you ever seen a little child who gets embarrassed? Or one who is shy. They'll get behind their Mother or Father and kind of hide.....peeking out at times from behind to see if you're looking at the them. That is how I picture hiding in God. I get behind Him. Getting behind God is the rule of thumb for proper behavior and attitude in His Kingdom.

In a time when self-promotion is the name of the game, God has no use for such foolishness. Imagine going to the local book store in Jerusalem back in the day. You walk through the doors and there displayed at the very front entrance is a rack of scrolls....you see the words..."NEW~ The latest insight from Jeremiah, prophet to the Almighty God."  There are endorsements from Jeremiah's contemporaries of the day...."He truly does speak the Word of God." Or how about..."He will unlock the door to your destiny!" Never mind that the destiny of Jeremiah's day was exile and captivity. I know that I've exaggerated this example, but the truth that I kind of hold on to is that when we rest in God, it really isn't about us, it's about Him.

Jesus, in Matthew 11: 28 extends the ultimate invitation to a sin sick world.
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
What does this mean? What does this really mean? It is an invitation to rest. To quit "doing" in your own strength. One of the things that someone coming out of addiction wrestles with is the idea of having to do this recovery thing on their own. Trying to accomplish it through sheer will power, when, in fact, the Twelve Steps calls for a total surrender of life and will over to the care of God. By doing this, I can rest in Christ. He takes the weariness of my struggle not only with addiction, but life itself and gives me rest. He relieves me of the burden of my addiction, taking the weight of it off my mind and my shoulders and gives me rest.
This isn't some sort of religious concept..........
It is hard-core-to-the-bone truth that you can take to the bank.

Think of it this way....
God is calling us to trade in our sin-sick, broken lives....with all our problems......with all our heartache......with all the misery and toil and trouble.........and receive from Him the gift of divine, heavenly rest. Laying down upon sheets that bring peace, I can let my mind cease from the endless chasing of the wind. I can turn my thoughts and my heart to this God who loves me more than I can comprehend or understand. That sounds like a good deal.

How tired are you this morning?
Why not work Steps # 1, 2 and 3.
Enter into your rest with Jesus.
Hide yourself and dwell in the shadow of the Almighty.

God on you today!
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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Finger of God Moving Me



Sometimes there isn't any language for what you are feeling.
Sometimes these feelings that are so human are the only thing that we possess that let's us know we are alive.
Feelings can be the wings to lift us up into the presence of God....
and, in the next instant, the very curse of our existence.
We love them...
We hate them....
But when God moves into the mix of our human emotions, only He can bring order out of all the chaos we are experiencing. God stirs us to move us. 

Divine stirrings that we "feel" lead us beyond our ability to reason. They move us into the behavior of "faith". The substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. We move like a leaf in the wind. Not in randomness, but by the unseen hand of the One who created us.
These stirrings to move out under the hand and direction of God are what brought us our Bible. Men, stirred by the Holy Spirit, penned the very words that we hold dear to today.
We may not be able to explain the stirring that first brought us into relationship with Jesus, but we definitely know that it transcended human language. We knew that something was happening. That we were being drawn to confess, repent and receive. 

Acts 7:23 gives us some insight into these stirrings that come to us from the hand of God.
Now when he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren, the children of Israel.  Of course the passage is referring to Moses. Notice that the scripture says, "It came into his heart". The desire to go and visit his kin wasn't formulated in his mind. He didn't just have a thought and act on it. It was birthed in the heart. On the surface this simple act of going to visit someone seems harmless. But it was this very act that put Moses in a situation where he had to flee for his life. Coincidence? I think not.
Moses would flee to the land of Midian where he would spend forty years in God's school, learning how to herd sheep. Isn't it funny that Moses would end up with the largest herd of sheep ever in the history of mankind. A herd of sheep that we know as the children of Israel. And it all was birthed when "It came to his heart" to visit his brethren.

So what does this have to do with us?
Be aware of the stirrings that come your way. Test them and see where they lead. It may be God directing you. Is living in such a manner scary? Of course it is. But this is all part of the process of growing up in Jesus. Becoming a follower who truly trust where we are being led.

Think on these things....

God on you...
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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

240 Months Ago....In A Galaxy Far, Far Away


Has it really been 20 years? The calendar says so,but it sure doesn't feel like it. It was 20 years ago today (at 12:21 p.m.) that God started me on a path that has lead me to where I currently am. 

Twenty years ago, I was sitting in front of Mid-South Electrics on lunch break.
I was finishing up a book, The Open Church, and my heart was filled with all kinds of emotion. The gist of the book was that the church no longer functions in the way it was originally designed to. That in today's church setting, there is one voice (the pastor) who decides the function and vision for the church. The author used verses from Scripture that spoke of everyone participating by having a word to share, a song that should be sung. Some would bring an encouragement or a prayer need. It would literally be an "open church".  The author was not calling for a leaderless church, but rather one that truly valued the voice of those who were present.  I remember as I read this book, God stirred something in me and I wanted to be a  part of something like that. I wanted to be a part of a church where everyone had value and could find the vision to do what God was calling them to do. A place where they could be equipped to carry out their part of the Kingdom. I wanted to be a part of such a church. 

I remember finishing up the book, closing it, and then saying this prayer: "O God, I want to be a part of that kind of church." I haven't received very many answers from God that came as quick after I finished that prayer. "GO and start one." Foolish me shot back equally as quick. "I don't want to start one, I want to be a part of one." IT was like a divine ping pong game for the next few minutes. God would speak and I would counter with some lame excuse. Finally it dawned on me ( I never said I was fast to understand). He wanted me to start a church. Oh, horror of horror's. I can't start a church. But as quickly as that thought was filling my mind and heart, another one came.
It was to be a home church. You were to invite 15 couples (He actually gave me a list of names).  It would be a time of worship, prayer and sharing. Hopefully something would happen during that time that would encourage us all to move forward in our journey with God. 


I called my wife and shared with her what had happened. We were currently "church" nomads, as God had lead us out of the church we had been at for 14 years. We were currently going to a new church plant that was still in the birthing stage. Having an understanding of spiritual authority, I knew that if indeed God is calling us to such a work, we had to have a covering. We had to be under someones authority. So I drove over to meet with our current pastor. I shared, with great enthusiasm, what had transpired on my lunch break. My pastor was not as excited as I was. He explained that, at this time, this was not a good idea. Our current church was still trying to find itself and it's mission, and to start a church within a church would be very confusing to some. It was seen as more of a divisive work.So he turned me down to be our spiritual covering. Another problem was that I was not formally trained to be a pastor. I couldn't argue with that, but that did not lessen the call that God has given to me. I asked my pastor if he would bless us and release us. He agreed and did so. I did not want to leave on bad terms but I knew that this was something I had to do. 

There was only one man that I knew of who might provide the covering we needed.......Jim Bentley, pastor of Gadsden Vineyard Church. I called him and explained what had happened and what God had told me to do. Jim was more than happy to be the covering. In fact, at that time, Vineyard thrived on small home groups which they referred to as Kinships. So, Vicki and I had our covering to see where this dog was going to hunt or not.

Over the next 4 weeks, Jim provided us with everything we needed to get this group off the ground. He questioned us as to where we thought this work was headed. Where would it be in a year? Two years? Why do we think God picked us to do this? It was wonderful, as I needed someone to prod me and help me understand what lie ahead. 

The kinship continued for over three years. Little did I know that this was the school that God had placed me to learn how to pastor. Those who attended our group began to look to me to help them with their spiritual needs and physical problems. Debbie Handy came along and taught us how to worship. How to hear God and then act on what you heard became the norm for our group. 

So everything I currently do....
My place as pastor of Vineyard Recovery Church....
As staff pastor at Rapha.....

All came about because God spoke on May 20, 1994.
You see, all this I've written about today....
It isn't about me.
It's about a God who is faithful beyond our comprehension.
It is about a God who has a greater vision and purpose.

It is about a God who loves us more than we can fathom.
It is about God!


God on you

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Monday, May 19, 2014

He Is Right There


Matthew 28:20
.......And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.

I don't understand how Jesus can pull this off.
I've heard all the words describing Him before.
He's God!
He's omnipotent!
He's omnipresent!

He is all around us.
O.k.,  get that.
But how can he be every where, and yet, at the same time, be a presence ....a personal presence in my own life.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, "How can Jesus take a personal interest in what is going on in my corner of the world when the entire planet seems to be crumbling?"
The answer (and you may not like it) is.......
Because He is Jesus.

So much is wrapped up in His name. It defines His character. It reveals His heart. It supports His vision and plans. It has power to save. It brings healing to those who need it. It comforts those who have been abandoned and left behind. It enfolds those who stand on the outside. The simple name of Jesus.

It is a hated name by those who are in darkness. They wish not to have that name spoken to them or at them.
I have seen people who are dying of addiction rail and curse the very name that could bring them life. 

The name of Jesus has become a curse word. Funny...reckon why people don't use Buddha or Mohammad as curse words? Why Jesus? Because it is a Holy name ascribed to one who gave His very life and blood so that we all may enter into relationship with God. 

I have seen religious folk trample the holiness of His name by their inserting their own "holiness" (or at least what they perceived to be holiness) to measure others by.
Exodus 20:2 reads: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain......

We tend to the think that "taking the Lord's Name in vain" consists of saying it and then adding curse afterwards. To me the more offensive act of taking the Lord's name in vain is claiming to be something that your not. Claiming to be a follower of Jesus, but your very life does not reflect it.

You see, the character and integrity of Jesus is at stake here.
If He claims He will do something, then you can pretty much take it to the bank He will.
Just like the verse from Matthew 28....
His own words-----"I will be with you always".
He will never be absent from our lives.
Even when we sin and turn from Him. When the power of sin takes our eyes off of Him and we look to our own desires and wants, He is there.
He is there reminding us that we need only turn, confess and repent.
Step #3 reminds us that we turn will and life over to the care of God as we understand Him. He holds no grudges against those who do such. He willingly receives those who are tired of being tired. Receiving those who are sick of being sick. 

So don't fall prey to the oldest lie in the world.
"Jesus doesn't care about you! He only wants to punish you."

Not so.
Jesus loves me.......this I know......for the Bible (and His Holy Spirit) tells me so.
God on you....
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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Outnumbered


II Chronicles 20:21
And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the LORD, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying, "Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever."

You call that a battle plan?
Put the choir in front of the army?
Odds are not to good if your in the tenor section. But this was the word that came down from the King.  Never mind that they were told to "Stand still because the battle isn't yours...it is the LORD's."  But to move the singers and musicians up beyond the front lines to engage the enemy......somebody has surely made a mistake here.
But they hadn't.


Like the picture above, I feel like that lonely chess pawn from time to time. Out numbered, out gunned and out manned. The problems stack up like the opposing pieces on a chess board and I haven't a clue as to a solution. All of them against me, the lonely pawn. What if our greatest weapon was worship? What if there truly was something about praising God and declaring His goodness when our troubles seem insurmountable? I think maybe this is a truth that we haven't considered.


We tend to relegate worship to a time slot on Sunday's and sometimes Wednesday's. Three songs....first, second and last verse. I think maybe it is time we unleashed worship. I think maybe it is time we open our hearts and give ourselves completely to God. That even as you are reading this post, you would consider today to look at your complete life...every thing you do....everything you say.........everything you think.........as being worship unto God. O.k.....even as  I wrote that, I'm reminded of some thoughts I had toward others that weren't very godly. I need to confess and repent of them. 

Like the story of Jehoshaphat in II Chronicles 20, we learn that there is power in music when it is directed to God. More than that, there is power in music when our hearts are turned to God.
The enemy tends to leave my mind and heart along when I worship. All my problems seem to melt away and are replaced with the tenderness and mercy of God. I may be standing in the same space and time when I entered into worship, but something happened to the room as we began. The room became peaceful. My thoughts became settled and not running around in my brain. My heart was not divided and dealing with a million issues. I only had one thing on my mind and in my heart.........the awesomeness of God. Never discount the power of worship. Never discount our need to engage in worship. We were created to live this way. To me it is one of the greatest gifts ever given to man by God; the ability to transcend time and space and lay hold of the infinite with our heart felt words of praise and adoration. Scripture says that God comes down and inhabits the praises of His people. One particular commentary translates that same verse as saying "God comes down and puts on, like a coat, the praises of His people." 
That is my desire every day....making coats for God.
So go find your favorite worship CD or song.

Put it on and lay down the things and problems that are facing you, and just bask in the presence of God.
You might be surprised what happens.

God on you....

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Dusty Thoughts And A Grateful Heart



Saturday morning....4:45 a.m.
My usual time of arising. Well into my first cup of coffee...
Garbage has been taken out in a husbandly fashion.

I have already dispatched several "dragon" that tried to rear their ugly heads in an effort to side track this day. So here I sit at my computer. Yes, I still have a desktop computer. I like having a station that I can work at. A designated "Spot" where the Greene Street Letters is formulated each morning. 

I'm going to have to retract something I wrote earlier in the week. The name of our Saturday meeting. I had written that I had heard God and that He wanted our name changed from Vineyard Recovery Church....to Vineyard After Dark. The "After Dark" part referring to the new life we receive in Christ, that this new life came after all the darkness of our addiction. Well, it turns out that I'm not suppose to. Vineyard After Dark was the name for our Wednesday night service back in 2002-2006. What God was showing me, was that there were several elements that were present in that meeting, that are beginning to show up in our current meeting. I guess since I was seeing the connections, I felt that He wanted the name change. Turns out it was just me. Sorry for the confusion. We are still Vineyard Recovery Church.

I spoke at Celebrate Recovery in Centre, Alabama last night. I've been making that journey for ten years come this fall. God has been very gracious to Vicki and me, as we have never gone there to be a part of their meeting what God has not shown up in a marvelous fashion. Last night was no different. I spoke on "Forgiving yourself" and the damage we live under when we can't forgiven ourselves. The front filled with people seeking to be free from the deadly poison of not forgiving yourself. "I know God can forgive me....but I just can't forgive myself"....this is the lie that a lot of people carry around because of all the damage and destruction that have caused.  

One young lady who came forward shared her story with me. I am not going to go into any details, but suffice it to say that she has been crushed by the events of her life. Things that she has done, and things that have been done to her by those closest to her, over the years, have combined to create a prison of unforgiveness. She was having trouble forgiving those who hurt her, as well as forgiving herself for the choices she made. As we talked, I felt that Vicki was to come over and help me minister to her. As always, my wife brings a level of understanding and love that goes right to the heart of the matter. I watched God begin in this young lady, a new work of healing. If you would, please join with Vicki and me in praying for her. Pray that she would receive what God is doing and not run back into that old way of living and thinking.

So here we are....
Saturday morning....
Meeting tonight at 7 p.m. / V.R.C.

I have felt all week that God was leading me to speak on the transformation that took place to an entire nation. A transformation that changed them forever.
Hope to see you tonight...


God on you...
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P.S.
Peggy...it was so good to see you last night.
"What say ye?"



Friday, May 16, 2014

Holy Fire



Holy Fire from heaven, descend on us today
Let us burn again.....
Holy Fire from heaven, descend on us today
Let us burn again....

Waiting in expectancy...
Surrendered to Your Sovereignty
We waiting for Your intimacy, Lord
For the things You adore

God alone possesses the Power, Authority and Ability to touch us in such a way, that our hearts are forever changed. When His fire comes, we begin a love affair that stretches beyond time and space. A love affair that has driven kingdom's to their knees. Driven demons and darkness from people's lives and hearts. It is a pure love. One that mind or logic cannot reason or rationalize.

If ever there was a time such a fire was needed, it is this day.
If ever there was a time such a love was needed, it is this day.
If ever there was a people who needed to encounter this fire, we are those people.

Love of God has dimmed in this country.
I'm not talking about an affection for.....
I'm talking about the life changing, insane love that burns deep in the heart. I'm talking about the kind of love that waits to hear from God.
Is such a thing totally missing from our culture or nation? No. As always, God has a remnant of people who walk in such a manner. But my heart cries out for more than a remnant. 

I desire to see the graveyard of addiction emptied because of the resurrection power of Jesus. I long to see those in addiction rise from their graves, shake off those clothes of death, and walk forward into the Holiness and fire of Jesus. A person who has been resurrected to new life has no fear of the world anymore. They are filled with the fire of God. There is the deep revelation of the price that was paid so they could rise "from the dead". 
As my good friend Peggy says, "How say Ye?"
God on you this day....
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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Darkness To Light


Genesis 1:5
........So the evening and the morning were the first day.

Colossians 1:13
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of the Son of His love.

The great spiritual conflict that swirls all around us ,and in us,  is defined by the transfer of souls.
From spiritual darkness....
to spiritual light.
God's Spirit is a revealing spirit. An illuminating spirit. He uncovers, not to shame us or guilt us, but rather to heal us. It is our sin nature, the old flesh, that compels us to run to the darkness. To seek shelter in the shadows, away from the healing rays of light that God brings to us.

John 3:19 reads: And his is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.
Truth be known, we seek the darkness because we don't really want to know the truth about ourselves. We have been influenced by the directives of the power (kingdom) of darkness (Satan) for so long that we convince ourselves one of two things.
1.) I'm am beyond saving. I am a terrible person.
or
2.) Me? I don't have a problem. I don't believe in all this "Sin" and "God" and "Hell" business.
Isn't it amazing how we can deceive others....
and ourselves into running away from the only source of real life and healing that we so desperately need?

Early this week, as I was struggling with a decision that needed to be made, God spoke to me. Not an audible voice, but rather a "knowing" deep inside. It appeared suddenly and out of no where. I am suppose to change the name of our Saturday meeting.
So, no longer will we be known as Vineyard Recovery Church....
As of today May 15......5/15...
We will become  Vineyard After Dark.

The reference to "After Dark" is the gift of life that comes "after the darkness".
There is life after all the spiritual darkness we have lived in and become comfortable with.

In fact, life doesn't begin....real life....until after the dark is removed.
And our Higher Power, Jesus, has made such a life possible. 
So come and join us this Saturday night....Downtown Gadsden between 4th and 5th streets, at 7 p.m.
We look forward to seeing you at Vineyard After Dark.

God on you....
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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Simple Words.......Great Truth


Psalm 23:1
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

God gave my wife this verse in the middle of the night to remind me of a simple truth that had evaded by mind. You cannot separate the truth of God from any situation that you face. You can't compartmentalize or pigeon hole the promises of God and pull them out at your convenience. You see, I was allowing a situation and decision that I have to make to pull me away from the truth of God. Oh, it's not that the choices and opportunities facing me are bad ones. But they do have the potential to move me from what God has called me to, into other areas that I know I'm not suppose to be in. I know that what I have written is probably clear as mud, and I apologize for the vagueness of this morning's posting.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the verse from Psalm 23 is more powerful that we can think or imagine. It involves me knowing who I am in this relationship with Jesus. It involves me understanding exactly who Christ is and what His call and obligation to me is. In that verse, Christ and I have very clear defined roles to occupy. These roles are a result of the Salvation that was brought and given to me by Jesus. 

It is very simple.
He is THE shepherd.

I am one of His sheep.
There, I said it.
I've heard people refer to Jesus as "Lord of Lord's and King of King's". I'd like to add to that list that Jesus is the "Shepherd of shepherd's". 
His love and care for the flock entrusted to Him goes beyond anything we could think or imagine. Jesus is not a hireling paid to guard someone else's flock. No, He was given His sheep by His Father. He proved His faithfulness when He gave up His very own life so that His Father's flock could increase in number. 

Now with the "position" problem solved; Jesus=Shepherd.....Me=sheep. Let's move to the heart of the matter. 
"I shall not want".
How could such a statement like this be said?
Because of who my Shepherd is.
He provides for me, but the provision comes when I follow Him. He knows where the greener pastures are. He knows where the places to water are. He knows where the greatest dangers lurk and stirs clear of them. He is the great shepherd. What's my job and role as a sheep? To simply follow. Don't take any side trips away from His care. Don't wander off. Always listen for Him and His call. Heed what He says. And in the end, simply do it.

In the situation that is facing me, I got caught up in looking at a side trip away from the flock, and away from Jesus' care. That is a dangerous way to live. I would be placing myself, my family and my future at risk. The one thing I have discovered lo these past 20 years. Jesus is faithful. That no matter what our circumstances may be....no matter what things may look like, He will always provide what is needed for His sheep. I think maybe you could take that to the bank.

God on you...

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Little Life? Or Big LIFE?

Great story in the news today about scientist (gotta love these guys and gals) are doing a study to determine what death really is and ...