Sunday, June 29, 2014

Here...Yet Not Complete...Small Yet Growing

Acts 1:3
After His suffering, he showed Himself to these men and gave many proofs that He was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about The Kingdom of God.

Are we missing something?
Are we overlooking something?
Help me out here....

Jesus, fresh from the dead (which is not normal in most folks life) spent 40 days....that's 960 hours...teaching those He was leaving in charge, about the  Kingdom. Maybe it took His death and resurrection to get their attention about the urgency and reality of what He'd come to do. Now the mantle...the mission was being passed on to His followers. I think maybe I should spend some time delving into this whole "Kingdom of God" thing.

In order to have a Kingdom...you've got to  have a King.
Check...we've got a King...that would be God.
Unlike the modern thought of what a kingdom is, it is not a matter of geographic territory.
The Kingdom of God is defined by the extent of His rule and reign. Where ever people are given to Him....where ever hearts are tuned to listen and then do, there is the Kingdom.
But....being a good "Vineyard-ite", we realize that the we see evidence of the Kingdom in our daily life, all around us, but we do not see the complete, fully functioning Kingdom. That will take place upon Jesus' return.

We read the Kingdom parables in Matthew 13 and we have an understanding of the now and not yet of God's Kingdom.
Matthew 13:31 - Kingdom is like a Mustard seed. Smallest of the small when planted, but it grows into the largest of all garden plants. At some point in the future, God's kingdom rule will fill this earth and those who are followers of Jesus will join Him. 

Matthew 13:33 - Kingdom is like yeast that is added to flour. What is the one thing you could say about yeast that has been added to flour? It spreads and affects the entire amount of flour. Just as God working in our hearts begins with a simple confession and repentance, He soon covers and fills every part of our being. Affecting our belief system to the point  that we no longer do business as others do, but find ourselves operating from the economy of heaven.

Matthew 13:45-46 - The pearl of great price. This is the one that we really don't teach about enough. I call it the great trade off.  If I want this relationship with Christ, then it is going to cost me everything I have. I have to give it all up. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you're buying your way into salvation. But it does cost you everything. Why? Well, think of it this way. God sent Moses to deliver the children of Israel out of slavery from the Egyptians. In our day, God sent Jesus to deliver the children (us children) out of slavery to sin. God lead Israel out into the wilderness where they would have to learn to depend on Him for everything. It was a totally new way of living. We are called to leave our old ways and embrace a completely new way of functioning in our society. One way of looking at it is, God took the children of Israel out of Egypt. Then, once removed, He had to take Egypt out of them. As Paul wrote, "The world has been crucified to me, and I have been crucified to the world.  Now day's what passes for an invitation to experience this gift of salvation amounts to nothing more than, "Come on down and get fixed and then live like you always have." Doesn't sound too good, does it? Nope.

Well, enough for today. I apologize for running a little late this morning. I slept in a little later and was just tyring to get the old motor running so I could face the day. I appreciate everyone who stops by the Greene Street Letters to check out the postings, and I pray that God would give you something that might encourage you today.

God on you....
mb

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Sufficiency Of Christ


II Corinthians 12:9
And He (God) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."

What do you do when life rips the cover off of your "Christianity" and shows you the reality of pain and sorrow? What do you do when there aren't any answers to wrong that has come to you? Where do you turn when it feels like someone has punched you in the gut and you're just sick to your stomach?

Such is life.....
Life happens.....
It rains on the just and the unjust....
The sun shines down on the righteous and the unrighteous....
I'm not trying to list platitudes that we've all heard before, but the truth is as long as we live on this side of heaven, we are all going to deal with situations that seemingly have no fairness to them.
SO what do we do?
When these hard times come to us, we need to realize that the real "US" comes out. What we truly believe about God and life will come together and reveal itself to our hearts. If we have played at church and pretended to be a Christian, that will be uncovered for what it is. Not always pleasant to go through such, but necessary for us to grow. By the way, we either grow in Him, or we shrivel up and die spiritually. 


James 1:2-3 (The Message Bible)
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when test and challenges come at you from all sides You know that under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. 
I don't believe that for one instant God directs pain and suffering to us. I do believe that He understands that it is a part of life, and when it does come to us, He wants us to turn to Him. Not necessarily for answers to the "Why", but for comfort and growing in our faith to trust Him.

The one other thing I have to remind myself of, is that when I do go through these dark times, no matter how painful they are, not matter how crushing the situation, God always.......hear this.....God always covers it with His mercy to keep it from being as terrible as it could be. I know it may not seem like it, but trust me on this one. I know.

I want to close today's posting with a video from John Piper.
The subject may seem a bit odd since I wrote about suffering and the presence of God, but at the end of the video, John talks about the sufficiency of Christ. This is where I want to plant my flag. On the truth that no matte what life hands me, He is all sufficient to see me through...........even to the other side of eternity. If you remember anything today....plant your hope...plant your faith....plant your very life on the truth that no matter what you may be facing today....with Christ, He will see you through.

I love you all and I appreciate each and every one of you.

God on you...
mb


Friday, June 27, 2014

2 Day ---- Too Day --- Two Day



Hebrews 3:7
"Today.........If you hear His Voice...............

We've heard all the sayings.....
"One day at a time"....
"Just for today".......
"Live in the present"......
All these have one thing in common. Staying in the moment. Focusing on what is going on right now.
The one common trait that seems to follow us around is we are either looking to the past or avoiding our future. Why? Well, that is rather a simple question.

We have allowed our past to dictate how we view ourselves. The past (our history) becomes the measurement for our self worth. Being a people who are coming out of addiction, the past is trashed. Broken relationships.....financial ruin......legal issues. I don't have to go down the list, you've heard it all before. But we allow such to tell us that we are terrible people.No matter how hard we try, the past is always an elephant in the room. Because of our repeated failure, we have reasoned with addict-a-logic that no matter what we do, we will fail. This is a pretty hefty mindset to overcome. Some simply tell themselves that will not think about the past. Some double their efforts to move forward under their strength toward the future. So what is the solution?
Deal with our past. 


We make a Fearless and Searching moral inventory. Not to count up all the destruction, but to help us identify character defects and shortcomings in our personality. We make a list of people we have harmed, resentments and fears....sexual conduct. This is the one of the hardest steps to complete in recovery. Once our inventory has been completed, we then tell it to God, ourselves and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. Part of the beaut of recovery is the incredible healing that comes when we confess. When we unload our secrets and are free from the power they have over us. Addiction thrives on secrets.

I tell the men who are in the Rapha program, "Live in this day. Take care of this day. Do all you are suppose to do for your recovery. But stay focused simply on this day." If I don't take care of today, I won't have a tomorrow. What I do today, for my recovery, sets up my tomorrow. Don't focus on the fact that you are never, never, never, never, ever going to be able to drink of drug again in your life. Focus on the simple fact that all you have to do is maintain this incredible gift of sobriety God has given to you today. all you have to is protect it and nurture it for 24 hours. That's all. One day...One day at a time. Truth be known, we should all live this way. Protecting the things Christ has given to us......just for today, for we know not what tomorrow may hold for us.

Paul, in Philippians 3:13-14, writes: Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do....forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. When Paul stated that he has forgotten those things from his past, he is declaring that he has dealt with them. He has confessed and turned loose. They no longer have power over him. Paul is living in the moment. Yet in this moment.....in today....Paul states that he has a goal. He is reaching forward into his future from right here in today. That is a healthy way to live in Christ.  Either Christ has to power to forgive and restore no matter what our past may hold....or it's all a bunch of hokum and we should just shuck it all and have the world's largest pity party. I tend to believe there is power in Christ to deal with my past once and for all. 

As my good friend Peggy C. says to me.....
"What say ye?"

God on you....TODAY!!!!
mb

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Hearts Of Darkness



Proverbs 20:1
Wine is a mocker and beer (strong drink) is a brawler,and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

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

I've been looking at a new curriculum addressing the issue of addiction, that the state is recommending to be taught at treatment facilities. I confess to you that I do possess a bias as to the view of addiction. Some would consider me to backwards in my belief. Some would say that my belief cannot be measured. This new curriculum never once addresses the real problem of addiction. It teaches all about the mechanics of how the brain and the body processes alcohol. Factors that "may" lead to addiction, such as environment, genetics and social interaction and family dynamics. It speaks about neurotransmitters and brain activity. There is a lot of seemingly important information concerning the nature of addition. But never once does it look inside the individual and ask the question..."Why?" Why does a person use. What is the motivating factor in the behavior. 

To me, it is a simple answer to a difficult question. Sin. 
We have a broken relationship with Jesus. Not having that connection puts us in a lifestyle of being directed by and under the influence of our own dark heart.
Jeremiah 17:9 reads: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it? All addiction.......begins with a very simple thing. A choice is made. A choice made that pushes aside any inkling of what is right and what should be done, in order to "have it's way."  I want what I want, and I want it right now.  There may be a myriad of reasons why someone uses. Everything from peer pressure and the need to be accepted, to simply being curious and wanting to find out what it was like. But the fact is, our choices came from a heart that rejected the desire of Christ. And thus the journey into deeper darkness began.

Some have railed against this idea that we are born "sinners" and that our hearts are bent toward rebellion against anything to do with God. They bring up a very interesting argument. "So why isn't everyone addicted when they first drink or use? Why do some never continue down that slippery slope to self induced destruction? You know....I don't really have an answer for that. Why aren't we all psychopathic killers and homicidal maniacs? I just believe that behind every bad choice that leads us into bad situations, sin is the driving force. To me, how sin is defined is found in Genesis 3. In the conversation between the serpent and the woman, the serpent presents his case of why God is holding out on Adam and Eve. "God knows that when you eat the fruit, your eyes will be opened and you will Be like God! Be like God? If I am like God---- Then I don't need God. The subtle inference in the serpents message was that God was holding out on the couple. He wasn't telling them the whole truth and if they wanted to know and understand it...then eat the fruit. In our own dark hearts, we have carried the message that we don't need God......we are our own "god". Such is the driving influence behind all sin....behind all addiction. A choice made outside and away from God. A choice driven by fleshly appetite and not under the direction of His Holy Spirit.

Once the choice was made, then all manner of things began to happen.
That one choice began to affect our physical being, as damage was done to our body.
The psychology of addiction began to kick in and literally the addiction became almost like a living being sucking the life out of the one who is using. The addiction told the individual where to go..what to do.....demanding that money be spent for the drug of choice. If money wasn't available, then the addiction demanded that morals be cast aside and what ever needed to be done to procure the drug ....do it. Stealing from family and friends. Engaging in sex in order to fulfill the dark demands of a heart that has broken ties with Jesus. All the while streaming a steady diet of lies to our hearts and our minds. 

II Timothy 3:13 reads: But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. If anything ever defined the lifestyle of addiction, it is this verse from II Timothy 3, especially the part about "being deceived."  Such is the nature of addiction. It keeps the host completely in the dark, all the while making the individual feel like they are in control of the situation.  This is my take on what drives addition. A heart of darkness that exists apart from the love, grace,and mercy that only Jesus can provide. He is the healer.

But what do I know.....
I'm just a religious fanatic.

I'm just a backwards thinking individual.
Oh well....

God on you...
mb

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Visitor


Sleep was a rare commodity that night, and was nowhere to be found. I finally gave in and got up from my bed. Slipping on some shorts and my tennis shoes, I made my way down the hall, after quietly closing the bedroom door where my wife lay sleeping. 

I could not turn my mind off as thought after thought chased each other.
Have you ever had one of those moments in time where you felt your age? Let me clarify that last statement. Have you ever had a moment in time where you felt your age + ten more years. I was having such a  moment. Body ached. Mind was racing. Didn't seem to have any answers to all the darkness around me, and for the first time........I felt old. Not just a measure of years, but the weight of time and distance covered since my birth seem to overwhelm me. Such thoughts are not the ones a young man has. I felt a laugh rising up in me as a thought crossed my mind. "Do you think Moses or Methuselah ever felt like this?"

I stepped out onto my porch to the sound of a gentle rain and the coolness that had wrapped the night. Greene Street. Same old street. How many times had I driven up and down this bit of our life? More than I could count. After all, we'd lived here for 31 years. Saw my sons ride their bikes with the neighborhood gang, up and down ol' Greene Street. Fourth of July would find us shooting bottle rockets out in front of the house. Greene Street itself had now become the street where grandparents lived. A Street where grandchildren come to see Poppa and Ammie. Once again each fleeting memory of life here on Greene Street seem to weigh me down with the hard truth of my age. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not over the hill yet, nor am I ready to turn in my card that states I'm a member of the human race. But on this night, maybe I saw life a little clearer. Maybe I saw death in a different light. And between the two, life and death, I had a couple of million questions that had no answers. 

It was then that I heard that familiar song. It seemed to be all around me, without any definite direction that you could point to. How many years had it been? 20...30....I couldn't remember. The words were soft and low and seem to fill the night with hope. A smile slowly formed on my face. "This is my Father's world....and to the listening ear....all nature sings...and around me rings....the music of the spheres."  Then I saw Him.  Stepping out of the shadows, he slowly made his way up my driveway. He had not changed one bit since the last time we met. "Hello Michael," He said. "I thought maybe we needed to talk. Seems you're having a crisis of faith, aren't you." I really didn't want to admit that I was, but how can you deny something that is the truth. "I guess I'm just feeling my years tonight." 

As we stood there, a great peace came over me. I still had the questions that seem to have no answers, but all of that seem to slide into another slot. What really mattered at that particular moment was just being with Him. 
"I feel like someone lied to me," I said, sounding like some little child that had found out Santa was not who he thought he was. "How so?" asked the Visitor. "Well, I thought that after a certain age, you got to slow down. Life became simpler and you had time to do some things that you wanted to do."
"Oh, you mean retirement?" the visitor chuckled as a laugh half fell from His lips. "Well, yes...I guess I did mean retirement."  Tilting His head, the Visitor asked, "Who are you listening to, Michael? My Father........or the voice of the world?" I knew the answer all to well. I wanted to say that life isn't fair, but I knew better that to pull that card. After all, during a whining session of feeling sorry for myself, God had reminded that life wasn't fair. That if life WAS fair, then He would have never had to sent His Son to die as payment for my sins. 

The Visitor made His way up to the porch, stood beside me and slowly draped his arm around me. "You know, Michael, one of the greatest gifts my Father gives is wisdom. Funny part in all of this thing called life is that wisdom usually doesn't come into play until the later part of your years. When you're young, your all vim and vigor. You've got energy and you seemingly accomplish the impossible. But youth does not appreciate the lessons learned. I don't think anyone does. But as the years roll by and the wisdom comes, you see life in a different way." Sounding like a smart mouth (and forgetting who I was talking to) I shot back....."Yeah, bout the time I get all this wisdom, I'm too tired to use it. Sorry...I didn't mean it like that." "No problem...you were speaking from your flesh and not your heart." That one stung and I knew it to be truth. Lesson learned. Think before you speak. 

The Visitor turned and looked me squarely in the eyes. "I want you to understand this one thing......age is merely a measurement of the body. You possess an eternal spirit, and it needs to be exercised. Let the Spirit of my Father work in you so that you can finish what He has given to you. You've got a wife that needs you. You've got sons and daughters in law to be an adviser too. Your grandchildren need your memories and guidance. You do realize that the world they are inheriting is a far cry from the one your father left you, don't you?" 

The Visitor went on to tell me that far too many of those who are "seasoned" are not actively making their wisdom available. "Yeah, but sometimes young people don't want to hear what I might have to share." "I know that," the Visitor replied. "Did you when you were their age?" Suddenly my mind was flooded with images of my growing up years and all the people who tried to speak life to me. Funny part is, the older I got the more I appreciated those folks. Suddenly I understood. The lessons were like seeds. Hard to appreciate seeds. Much easier to appreciate the fruit that comes later. "I get it."

I don't know how long we stood there on that front porch. Time seemed to not matter. "Well, I guess I better be moseying along." I laughed as I thought to myself...imagine...Him using the word "Mosey"...He caught my thought in mid flight and laughed..."I will always be there, no matter how old you feel," he said, with a voice that was filled with resolve and truth. "Thanks. I am grateful for all that you have given to me and my family." The Visitor looked at me with eyes that radiated love. "Know that I will never leave you or forsake you. You can count on that." I knew this to be true.

Slowly He turned and strolled out to the end of the my drive way. Standing there for a moment, as if to be listening for directions, he turned and started off into the darkness. Once again the night was filled with the sound and the words...."This is My Father's world......"


I stood there listening until I could no longer hear the audible voice and song. Yet, in my heart, the song continued and there was great comfort that had replaced the pity I was feeling for myself. Turning my eyes to heaven, I softly said, "Thank you, Father."

God on you...
mb


The visitor was something I started in the Greene Street Letters back in the 90's, and from time to time have felt the need to revisit Him.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Transformed


Romans 12:2
.....Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.....

Transformation....
A process that can only be done by the Holy Spirit at work in us.
A process that alters the heart through salvation, and affects the mind because of the freedom that comes to us when we turn will and life over to the care of God.
Old strongholds of thought and belief are crushed and crumbled by the truth that comes to us.
The old way of thinking is demolished...the old way that lead us deeper and deeper into the darkness of our addiction.

II Corinthians 10:4-5
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in  God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the Knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
We no longer listen to that old voice that condemns and taunts us at every turn. We listen (with our heart) to the truth. That is why it is so important for us to surround ourselves with people who are on the same journey we are. That is why it is important to feast, study and simply read the word of God daily.  For me, I like to keep worship music playing as much as I can. As I learn a song, basically what is happening, scripture is being placed inside my spirit. It becomes another source of truth that I can feast on.

My favorite song right now is For the Joy, which is taken from Hebrews 12:2 - For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. IT speaks of Calvary being the place where God's wrath was poured out on innocence, Jesus, and all my sins were paid for. Every time that song comes to my mind, I am filled with gratitude and thankfulness for this life that has been given to me. I am grateful the transformation that has happened, and continues to happen. Like those Twelve Steps I am always talking about, life with Christ is also a process. I was saved yesterday...........I am being saved today...........I will be saved tomorrow.
We forget that Paul wrote that we were to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Not that those emotions stop us or slow us down, but that we realize exactly what is at stake here. That we have been given a "Pearl of Great Price" and we should not squander it or play loosely with it.

We have traded the needle....
For the Holy Spirit.....
We have traded the pipe....
For eternity with Him....
We have traded the pill.....
For life, abundant life, here and now...
We have traded the bottle.....
For His kingdom rule in our hearts....
We have traded ultimate darkness....
For ultimate light....
Now I'm not the best business man in the world....
But this sounds pretty good to me....
I give God all my stuff....including my sin and the propensity to sin.....
and I get all His stuff in return.
Wowzers!

God on you....
mb

Monday, June 23, 2014

Friends


Psalm 133:1-2
Behold, how good and how pleasant is it for brethren to dwell together in unity. It is like the precious oil upon the head. Running down on the beard, the beard of Aaron. Running down to the edge of his garments.

The Lord has blessed me beyond measure, and if I were to try and put them all down on paper, I fear that it would take longer than I have strength to do it.
Godly wife....
Godly family....

Being able to do what He has called me to do.
But in that list, I would have to put the blessing of being surrounded by some great friends. Friends? There's a word that we bandy about with much carelessness. In my own opinion, I have several acquaintances, but a small group of friends. 

Saturday night, I got to hang out with my friends.

We gathered for a meal before the service and as we sat there, I tried to take in the whole room. Much laughter and stories of what God had doing. Stories of what God was doing now and where we thought it might be headed.  You see, to me, friends that are united by the Spirit of God carry a bond that is not easily broken. They can be separated by months and miles, yet when they come together, they pick up as though they had never been apart. Those are the kind of people God has placed in my life. And I pray that I can be that kind of friend to them. 

Funny part about friends, I don't think you can ever have enough of them. So I'm always on the look out to find new ones and develop relationship with them. 


James 2:23
And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called "The Friend Of God".  What an incredible picture of God's love. To be called friend and also be the receiver of God's righteousness. God is the one who gives the word friend real meaning. God is the one who attaches great significance to building relationships that are grounded and founded upon that spiritual connection of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. The Holy Spirit is Power we need to live out this new life we have encountered and been blessed to receive.


The one thing that being a part of the Vineyard has taught me, is that friends love to hang out and worship God. They will do it at the drop of a hat. They will look for reasons to worship. We just love to gather and participate in a huge "I LOVE YOU, LORD!" time of singing and praying for one another. Such times as these are the fuel that sends us out to our respective corners of God's Kingdom to carry on His mission. To pray for each other daily. To pray for the sick, deliver the demonized, see those who don't know Jesus, freed from the bondage of sin and brought into salvation. That is what friends do, when the Spirit of God lives in them. We carry on the mission of Jesus. We "Do the Stuff". 

It was a great weekend of seeing Nori, Barbie, Doug and Joe. To catch up with all their stories and share our own. Somehow, I felt God's pleasure as we talked. I'm not sure, but I think I heard Him say, "Now those are my friends....those are my children."

God on you...
mb

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wind Video From VRC Last night





Little sample of what you missed if you weren't able to be with us last night at Vineyard Recovery Church.
God on you..
mb

Ed Stetzer Interviews Phil Strout National Director Of The Vineyard On The Future Of The VIneyard

Ed: What's your vision for the future of The Vineyard?
Phil: We want to continue with the mission God has given us from the very beginning and that is to honor Him, and in the words and works of Jesus, be participants in the mission of God.
While we want to see our existing churches thriving, we also want to plant new congregations. So, we have just embarked on a vision over the next 10 years to plant 750 new churches. And I'm one that believes if you're going to do something, do that thing and do it very well. So we're going to focus in on that as our next big focus.
Ed: That's a return to a focus, of sorts. Among other things, Wimber was known for a church planting focus. And while you are still doing well in church planting even now, how do you cast a vision to say we've got to get back to a deeper and even more aggressive church planting focus?
Phil: It's just like anything else. I often say that an eagle that chases two rabbits go hungry. If you're going to cast vision, you cannot dilute that with multiple layers of vision. You are not going to get anything that we're trying to do.
If you're going to cast vision, you cannot dilute that with multiple layers of vision.
Ed: The Kingdom of God was one of the things that you guys talked about early on. That became an emphasis for your movement, and it seems like more evangelicals are catching up. My own book, Subversive Kingdom, is catching up to stuff that Vineyard leaders were talking about a long time ago.
How do you see the idea of the Kingdom of God—the already, but not yet—being important to Vineyard and its churches?
Phil: Theologically, that's our mooring. That's our calling card. That's what we believe. It's not simply one of our distinctives. It's our motif. Everything is interpreted through that.
We have an expectation that the Lord is always at work. So that influences what we do all the time. We live, we train, we teach, we model the expectancy of God at work all the time, in the shopping center, at the mall, at the factory, in the hospital, in the school. It's not just the eschatological issue of the Kingdom of God and that which is going to be, but that which is right now.
There's always a tension when you talk about the already and the not yet. You can live on either side of those. You can look at everything theologically, with a realized eschatology, and say we have everything now. But we believe that tension is we have it now and yet not yet. It's not fully now.
Ed: It seems that connects to your beliefs on spiritual gifts and miracles. In Matthew 4:17, Jesus declares that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. And then a few verses later in verses 23 and 24 it describes His ministry as going about preaching and teaching, but also delivering people from demon possession and healing sicknesses and diseases.
When the Kingdom broke in the person of Christ, the miraculous came. Tell me about the emphasis of the miraculous in The Vineyard.
Phil: It is always with the expectancy. That's the big part – we expect the Lord to do it. We ask Him to do it. We watch for Him to do it. We teach, train, model people to see the in-breakings of the Kingdom on a regular basis.
We have an expectation that the Lord is always at work.
For example, I heard a story of a church member seeing a lady getting out of her car in a parking lot with an air cast on her foot. He feels the Lord nudges him to go pray for her. He debates it for a while until he finally goes up to her and asks her if he can pray for her. She said yes.
At first, she said her pain was at a seven, on a scale from one to ten. Then he prayed for her and it dropped to a three. Then he prayed for her again – dropped to zero. She ended up coming to his church and giving a testimony of what happened in that store.
So we want that to be the every day experience of people in the Kingdom. That guy was not on an assignment of grocery store evangelism. He was living his life with the expectancy that God breaks in. You simply have to be aware of those nudges and obey them.
We want people to do that all the time. Not just in services. Not just when they're in Bible study or cell group, but all the time, everywhere they are.

Person = Performance

II Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is IN Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away. Behold all things have become new.

Low self esteem.........
Low self worth..........
"I'm a terrible person."
All part of the voices and the view that runs through the mind of someone who is trapped in addiction.
A whole belief system forms in the mind of an addict. The foundation for this view of self began when we were little children.
As you were growing up, if you did something that was wonderful. Maybe you set the table for your mother, or you cleaned up your room without asking. You were deemed a "Good little boy or girl" by your parents.
But let you do something wrong, like breaking one of your mother's good china plates. Or maybe you broke a window with a baseball, then you were labeled a "Bad boy or girl". Over the years, without really thinking about it, we develop this mindset that we ARE what we have done.

Now fast forward through the years and you are now an addict. Given enough time, the addiction slowly starts to eat away at your behavior. You lie..........to the people who love you. You steal.....from the people that love you.  You manipulate........the people that love you. Why? Because you're chasing that feeling you think you so desperately need. The feeling takes precedent over everything and everyone. So as the behavior goes from bad to worse, you're carrying around this view that "Who you are as a person is defined by what you've done plus other peoples opinion about you. That is a burden no person was ever created to carry.

Under these false belief's, we operate and live out our lives.
False Belief # 1
I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.
Trapped in addiction, the individual can never meet any standards, no matter how hard they try. This leaves you with a view that you are not worth much to anyone.

False Belief #2
I must have the approval of certain other's in order to feel good about myself.
Since we see no good in ourselves, we look to others to affirm or approve us. That is why most addicts quickly get themselves into a relationship. The other person becomes their 2nd drug of choice. They look to that person to fulfill their emotional needs. Trouble is that the addict does not know how to have a healthy relationship, so they usually end up attracting someone who is actually sicker than them.

False Belief #3
Those who fail are unworthy of love and must be punished.
Here again, we enter into a cycle. Basing our self worth on our performance (or behavior) we view ourselves as having no worth to ourselves or anyone else. Why would anyone want to love us....we fail continually. Such a view of self fills the individual with a deep, deep sense of guilt and shame. These emotions are too hard to face, so the answer is to run to the drug of choice and eliminate the pain.

False Belief # 4
I am what I am. I am hopeless. I cannot change.
Here is the most dangerous of the Four False Belief's. A place of hopelessness where all attempts to change are given up. An acceptance that this is just the way it is. This is who I am. I cannot change.

The wonderful part in all of this despair and hopelessness, is that There is a POWER greater than ourselves.......greater than the sum of these false beliefs, who can, and will, restore us to sanity. The restoration begins when we make a conscious decision to turn will and life over to His care.
The POWER has a name....
Jesus....
Think on these things.....

God on you....
mb

Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's "WHOM"---not "WHAT"


II Timothy 1:12
For this reason I also suffer these things never the less I am not ashamed for I know WHOM I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.

Boy if I could ever lay hold of something, it would be this truth that Paul has written.
This connection between God and himself was more than a religious idea.
More than a concept and dynamic. It was life. And it wasn't life that was determined by any situation or circumstance. IT was life that flew and flourished in the face of adversity.

I fear that sometimes I may be a "fair weather" believer. That I am all up in God when the sun is shinning and the birds are chirping. When everything is going right and good, it's all about how great God is. I want what Paul has. The belief and trust that no matter what happens around me, or what happens to me, God is still God. All powerful.........all knowing..........omnipresent. That He is not just a participant in this word, but rather is the force of love and right that is at work in the hearts of all people. 

I see so much disillusionment in people who come out of addiction and wonder why they still have so much pain and trouble in their life. Sometimes they will come to me and have this look on their face that seems to say, "Hey--I gave myself to this program and this God you said would help me. Why is my life still so hard?" Why? Because life is hard. Life is problems. Life is successes and failures....you win, you loose, you wish you had not scheduled some of them games. Life is life. And yet................wait for it......and yet, in the middle of all the mess. There in the center of the storm stand the only one who loves us with a love that is immeasurable wanting to guide us through whatever it is we are facing. That would be God.

I like how Paul stated his beliefs in the II Timothy 1:12 passage. Paul said the he knew WHOM he believed. Not WHAT. Sometimes I think we get his backwards. We study the Scripture, searching and looking for something to build our life on, the whole time ignoring the one who authored that Scripture. 

It the same behavior I see in some who are working the Twelve Steps. They focus solely on the dynamics of what the steps are calling them to do, and they loose sight of the One who wants to provide the POWER for them to be successful. As a good friend once told me...."Mike, you can't work those steps properly and not bump your head on the cross." In other words, you are going to run into Jesus. May we all run into Him today. May we never quit running into Him.

Stay strong...
God on you....

mb

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hunger Is No Game


Matthew 5:6
Blessed are those who hunger...............

For what ever reason, my thoughts have been on the state of being hungry for God. A hunger for Him....not necessarily His Word....or His blessings......but for God Himself.
When you think about it...it really makes sense. To follow Jesus takes, on our part, having a hunger or drive to do so. It isn't something that we can manufacture within ourselves. Oh, we can look and act religious and probably even put on a good show of being hungry. But I'm talking about something that goes beyond the emptiness of religion. I'm talking about something that, if you are in addiction, will transport you to a new level of life. A real hunger for God.
And I'm not so sure that only God can produce such a hunger inside of each of us. 

A hunger that looks at what the world has to offer and then cries out to God--"Save Me! I must have you lest I die!"  The prophet  Jeremiah wrote, "You will seek me (God) and find me when you seek me with all your heart." What falls under "ALL"? Every bit of us...every ounce of our energy and every fiber with in me.  Is this going a bit too far? I don't think so.  Where is the fire of God that is suppose to burn in our hearts? Where is the passion for Jesus?  

Song of Songs 3:1 paints an incredible picture of this fire.....this hunger that God desires us to have. 
All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves. I looked for Him but did not find Him. I will get up now and go about the city, through the streets and squares. I will search for the one my heart loves.
A hunger to be with Him.....
A desire to give up sleep to find His presence.

A drive....unction.....to be with the one who has given us life.
Jesus.

Hunger for Him is not built on emotion.
Hunger for Him is not founded on feelings....
It is given by God to those who have cried out for Him. I do believe that being desperate has something to do with this hunger. I also believe that God is tired of a passionless people. A people who wish to extend His kingdom by remaining in the status quo. Don't rock the boat. 


II Chronicles 16:9 reads: For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him. Not those who wish to carry on a half-hearted love affair with God, but those whose hearts are "FULLY" committed. 
"O.K....now you're journeying into the land of fanaticism."
Am I?
Am I truly telling you this so that you'll become a religious zealot?
No! I am going through this whole hunger thing because God is stirring me. Because my own hunger for God has been measured and found to be small. Has that ever happened to you? You think you're doing alright with this relationship you have with Him. You cruising along and all of a sudden, a thought is dropped into your heart. Where did it come from? Duh! God. If you check out Acts 7, you'll see where "It came into Moses' heart to visit his brethren one day." This visit turned out to be the event that caused Moses to flee for his life. From that one event, God took Moses into the wilderness for forty years. Trained him. Sent him back to Egypt to deliver the Hebrews from slavery. So God will drop His purposes for you into your heart. If that be the case, then God will drop the "hunger" factor into our hearts to see what we will do with it. Will we allow it grow and become a full blown unction that moves us toward Him? Or will we choke it out with the things of this world, as we seek to build a comfortable life? 


I do believe that God is looking for a hungry people.
A people who are fully committed to Him and His kingdom.

Are you hungry?

God on you...

mb

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Winds Of Change



John 3:8
The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

wind1
noun
wind/
  1. 1.
    the perceptible natural movement of the air, especially in the form of a current of air blowing from a particular direction.

This Friday and Saturday night, the band WIND will be leading worship at Gadsden Vineyard Church and Vineyard Recovery. Nori and Barbie Kelly, along with Doug Sturgill and Joe Pfau  make up the sum and structure of this incredible band. 

I could write volumes about their talent...their unique sound...but the one thing that stands out about these folks are their hearts. Hearts that live to worship. Hearts that have given themselves away to the Kingdom work of God. Russia, Japan, Mexico, Ireland and all over the United States has been the road map God has lead this group as they grew in His grace. 

I could wear your ear out with stories of divine encounters. Of having passports stolen in Russia and watching God unleash a storm that took place as they worshiped through an open window of the hotel room which was facing the Kremlin. 

Wind is the fulfillment of a dream that Nori has carried around for years. His one desire was to put together a band whose members were more than musicians. The talent and the craft were necessary and vital to the sound that Nori desired to have, but more than that, he wanted people of integrity. People whose love for God shaped and formed the sound. So in one sense, WIND is a gift given by God, not just to Nori, but to the body of Christ at large.

So please....
Come and join in a worship celebration this Friday night / 7 p.m. at Gadsden Vineyard...
Saturday night / 7 p.m. at Vineyard Recovery....



God on you....
mb

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spiritual DNA Part II


Psalm 42:8
Through each day the LORD pours His unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing His songs, praying to the God who gives me life.

I wanted to continue on taking a look at the core values of what it means to be a part of the Vineyard Association of churches. A common belief and heart understanding that unites us. To be honest with you, our core values aren't really much different than those of other churches. What you will read is a collective effort to give language to what we feel inside and the belief's that we have come to understand as identifying us a church movement. 

We humans like catchy phrases that boil our theology down to a simple statement. The trouble comes when the statement does not reflect the heart and effort of a community of believers. That somehow it is merely intended to make us look good in the eyes of others. The mission statement for Vineyard Recovery Church is Following In His Steps. Four simple words that seem to reflect the words of Jesus to follow Him, found in Luke 9:23. Yet we have also incorporated the heart of the Twelve Step program. That the discipline and direction needed to actually live out this thing call recovery is found in Jesus. That if we truly are relying on Jesus, the ultimate Higher Power, to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, then it would have to involve following in His steps.

Let's move onward and upward!
We value being Spirit-led:
We honor Jesus as our Head and the Holy Spirit as our Counselor and the Administrator of our churches. We seek to be actively responsive to the Holy Spirit's daily leading of our personal lives and ministries and of the local church.
Romans 8:14 -  Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.

Here again, we look for balance in our daily lives as we seek to follow Jesus. . We want to be grounded and founded in the Word of God, but open to the leading of the Holy Spirit to move and act under His direction. I remember years ago a pastor making the statement that "the Bible tells us how...The Holy Spirit tells us when and where." 

We value prayer:
We believe that prayer is essential, because it is our primary means of communion with God, and because of our personal lives and ministries and of the local church.
I Thessalonians 5:15-18 - Be joyful always, pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.


We value discipleship:
Our intent is to teach all believers to believe Jesus' words, obey His commands and do His works. We aim first to grow as disciples of Christ ourselves and then to make disciples of others.
We find this in the Great Commission given by Christ in Matthew 28:18-20. As I wrote in a previous posting, Jesus did not command us to go and make converts or church members.......He commanded us to replicate His ministry by making disciples of ourselves and then others.

That is what truly burns within me.
The desire to be a disciple of Christ and teach others.

II Timothy 2:2 is the mandate for us as believers.
"Teach these great truths to trustworthy people who are able to pass them on to others."

I appreciate your stopping by the Greene Street Letters, and it is my goal to post something each day that might be an encouragement to you.
God on you...

mb

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Why We Are The Way We Are--Doo Dah!!!


Psalm 78:7
So each generation can set its hope anew on God, remembering His glorious miracles, and obeying His commands.

In relation to other church denominations and movements, the Vineyard is a relatively new kid on the block. Started in the 70's in California,as a single church, I do not think those in leadership at the time ever saw themselves as becoming what the Vineyard is today.

As with every church movement, there is a spiritual DNA, hopefully planted in them by God, that defines who they are as a community of believers. It is this DNA that draws a particular type of believer to join and become a part.

The Vineyard Mission:
Is to participate in the advancement of the Kingdom of God through the work of our local community of believers that make up a Vineyard church. We want to communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in word and deed.

We believe such communication to a people yet to know Jesus, should be free from religious language. Such, especially in the South, usually causes a negative response. Jesus, in his teachings and interaction with others, spoke like the common man. Using examples that they could understand, to explain the dynamics of the Kingdom here, the Kingdom not yet. We desire to do the same.

What We Value:
We value THE PURSUIT OF GOD. We are hungry to know God's presence, hear His voice and follow hard after Him.
Psalm 63:1-3
O God, you are my God. I earnestly search for You. My whole body longs for You in this parched and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in Your sanctuary and gazed upon Your power and glory. Your unfailing love is better to me than life itself. How I praise You!

Our pursuit of God could best be described as our worship unto Him. Worship incorporates every aspect of our lives, as we become a reflection of God's work in us to world and people yet to know Him.

We are intent on becoming a "People" for God, rather than simply "Doing" for Him. While sharing our story with others is important, I see far too many who never become the people God desires all of us to be. You see, to me, if we become a people called by God, living for God...then the doing will come natural. It will not require a program or agenda. It will be simply what we do because of who we are. That is why worship is so important to me. It happens all around me and in me every day as I look to follow Jesus. But there are those incredible times when I get together with other followers and collectively offer our worship and praises to the one who makes all things possible.


We value Christlikness. We desire that through the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus' love, mercy, grace, truth, purity, power, and integrity would shine through all that we are and all that we do.
Ephesians 5:1-2
Follow God's example in everything you do, because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love for others, following the example of Christ, who loved you and gave himself as a sacrifice to take away your sins.

This means that we have been given an example to live by in this world. This would also infer that to find and follow that example would necessitate the need to study scripture. Not for an intellectual pursuit of learning, but for a practical guide and example of how to live in this world as a follower of Jesus. 

Thanks for letting me share this morning...
More to follow.....


God on you...
mb

Bill Jackson, in his book QUEST FOR THE RADICAL MIDDLE: A History of the Vineyard, made the comment that you don't join the Vineyard, you just discover that what you have been all along.
So I'm just trying to give some language to what we found to be true for us.


Monday, June 16, 2014

He Came


Mark 1:9
One day Jesus came..........

Matthew 8:1
Jesus came down from the mountain......

Matthew 8:5
When Jesus arrived........

Mark 6:6
Then Jesus went out from village to village.....

Good news....
Jesus is a God  of movement. He is not static, sitting still watching and waiting for everyone to come to Him. "You want to be healed? Then come to Me!" Jesus comes to the sick, the lame, the blind, the deaf, and yes........Jesus even comes to the dead.

Addiction is a combination of all of those states of being. Sick, lame, blind, deaf and dead. It is a combination of these ailments except that the one who is trapped by addiction, doesn't truly perceive themselves as being any of them. Their minds are clouded and their hearts are dead. It takes a supernatural touch by the Holy Spirit to awaken them to the current state of life or, rather lack of real life.

Jesus is a coming down savior. He comes to where we are to meet us when we are ready to turn will and life over to His care. How cool is that? He comes to us. His criteria for healing is a broken spirit and a contrite heart. As Scripture says, "These He will not refuse."  

We see the nature of God in the creation account. His desire to come and interact with us. His desire to heal us and fill us. Give us life beyond our own comprehension. Genesis 1:1 reads: 
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He did what? Heaven's first....that would be up from where we are, right? And then He created the earth. That would be down, would it not? So God is coming down in a methodical way to complete the creation with mankind as the crowning part to everything. God is a coming down God who desires to take back everything that was lost in demonic transaction when we, humanity, traded the eternal for a piece of fruit. God has come to us to redeem us. God has come to us to save us. Don't buy into the lie that God is distant and uncaring. Nothing could be farther from the truth. God is motivated and driven by His heart of love. Isaiah 59:1 reads: Listen! The LORD is not too weak to save you, and He is not becoming deaf. He can hear you when you call. In other words, if you think otherwise, that God cannot save you because you are such a terrible person and have done some destructive things in your life.....you are believing a lie that is meant to keep you separated from Him.

Isaiah 58:8-9 reads: If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. "Yes, I am here," He will quickly reply.

Remember that there is healing....
Healing from your addiction....
Healing that will provide you with a new set of friends....
Healing that will give you a community of like minded folks who are getting healthy and well again. 

Why?
Because Jesus came......


God on you...

mb

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Kingdom Grew By One


Romans 11:33-36
Oh what a wonderful God we have!
How great are his riches and wisdom and knowledge!
How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His methods!
For who can know what the Lord is thinking?
Who knows enough to be His counselor?
And who could ever give Him so much that He would have to pay it back?
For everything comes from Him....
Everything exists by His power.....
And is intended for His glory.
To Him be glory evermore...
Amen!

God.....
Just the very mention of His name produces opinions, good and bad, by people. Every one knows God. Everyone one has an idea, or thought, or a way they view Him.

Some grow angry at the mention of His name. Why? Maybe they lost a love one and some other person carelessly mentioned, "Well, it must be God's will." What? God's will. God never intended us to die. We brought that bad puppy in when a fruit party took place in the garden years ago. 

Some have a religious view of God as some sort of cosmic grand father or Santa who sole purpose of existing is to hand out celestial goodies to all us good little boys and girls. Pain isn't a part of the salvation deal. It would be nice is this were true, unfortunately pain is a part of life. Once again throw the blame back to the two who had it all and gave it away for.....wait for it.....some fruit. Must have been some kind of good fruit, right?

You see all these things I've mentioned this morning....pain, suffering....death....misery....are all a by product, and the result of sin being introduced into our world. What we fail to realize that every hour of every day....every minute....every second....God is at work cleaning up the mess and righting that which has gone wrong. In other words, the kingdom (His dynamic rule and reign) has invaded our time and space. We saw evidence of that at last nights VRC meeting.

He came in right before we started worship. Sat in the back of the room....
He waved to me and I smiled and waved back. We chatted briefly and I knew that tonight could be his night. Just the very fact that he came to the meeting let me know that God was at work.

The meeting progressed as worship was very tender and powerful. You knew that God was in the room and was moving on the hearts of all of us. Seth Barber spoke and once again hammered home the truth in simple terms. When God restores us, it is a complete work that begins inside. It is more that the settling of outward circumstances and situations. It is a complete change and healing that is driven to the very core of who we are. 

When ministry started, he was one of the first ones up. I went to the back to meet him. He was so broken that he could barely speak, but his body language and the tears that were falling spoke volumes. We got to see the kingdom of God extended last night, in the life of this man. He renounced the darkness that had consumed him and controlled him. He told me that he wanted to be free and that he wanted this Jesus that he only thought he knew about. We prayed. He was changed. Such is the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes we see great numbers of people who desire to be free and come to Christ.
Sometimes it is just one....
The numbers are not important...
That one life is .......
It was a good night.

God on you..
mb

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Living Sacrifices Worship Conference - Day 2


Romans 12:1
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a LIVING SACRIFICE, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable (rational) service.

Day 2 of the conference.
Usually, my experience has been that the second day is always somewhat of a let down. You've gone through all the opening hoopla and activity. Everyone has had a chance to acclimate themselves to what the coming days will hold. So Day 2 is usually not as high energy and, excuse the term, spiritual as the opening session and the closing session. Such was not the case for this conference. If anything, Day 2 was a time where we were able to reaffirm ourselves and our commitment to the Kingdom.

I think the one thing that I appreciate about Carl and John is the fact that they do carry around a lot of our history as a church movement. I mean, these two guys were there at the beginning of the Vineyard. And they do share their stories freely. But that is not their focus. They aren't on some kind of nostalgia tour to "Remember The Good Old Days Of Vineyard." They are about continuing our call to the Kingdom work God has placed in us and at our doorsteps.


John spoke Friday morning on the industrialization of worship. How it has become big business and a money maker. John's heart is to see worship stripped of the mindset that it is entertainment, or people gathering to watch some band on stage worship. Worship, according to John, is to be sent from the stage to the people. The goal of worship is not to write a hit worship song, get it recorded and make a boat load of money. The goal of worship is to express to God our love for Him. John went on to say that he travels a good deal to other Vineyards and conferences, and that the current state of Vineyard worship is as healthy as he has ever seen it. That the younger worship leaders are seeking council and mentoring from the older leaders on how to be true to what worship really is. 


Friday afternoon found us gathered together with John and Carl kind of doing an impromptu, off the cuff question and answer session. What was suppose to last about 50 minutes, turned into two hours of interaction. It was incredible to sit and listen to these two in a give and take time of sharing. They would never openly say it, so I'm going to say it for them. There is a lot of wisdom sitting in those two chairs. Vineyard Value personified. Low key stories of the power of God at work. No hype in their language or voice. Lot's of humility and a kind of "God would use me?" attitude.


For the Friday night session, Carl taught from Romans 12. What a sacrificed life truly looks like. Very personal stories of God working in his life over his life journey to where Carl is today. Carl is going to have to leave today (Saturday) his father in law died Friday night, so Carl is flying back to California to be with his family. We got a chance to bless he and John for the incredible gifts they brought to us in this conference. 


The past two days have been a reconnecting to the call that Vineyard has been given. To recognize that we, as a church movement, cannot be everything to everyone, but we can occupy our little corner of the Kingdom. We can "DO THE STUFF" and see people healed. People delivered. People saved. As far as I am concerned, why would I want to do anything short of that.

Don't forget....
Vineyard Recovery Church will be on the road tonight. We will be meeting at Rapha Treatment Center /  677 West Covington Avenue / Attalla. We will be cranking up at 7 p.m / Seth Barber will be speaking.

Thanks to Richard Moon for all the photo's, and once again earning the award as Sound man of the Year.

God on you...
mb

Tuesday Bible Study

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