Thursday, December 31, 2015

One More Time

Matthew 9:36
But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.

No wonder holiday seasons are depressing for some. No wonder more suicides take place during the holiday season than at any other time. Every where you turn, you see images and commercials that portray a "happy, happy, joy, joy" kind of celebration. Trying to live up to such an image is impossible for those in addiction. In fact, such images and thoughts only drive a person deeper into their addiction. The images that are all around only exist to remind the addict how terrible life is for them. 

There is a level of existence out there for some that never escapes the darkness. Never eludes the pain, nor breaks free from the constant cravings. In this place, some see death as the only escape. That is why the message of the cross is needed more now than ever. The Good News that you don't have to live bound up in addictive chains.

I had to go to the grocery store yesterday, and as I wandered up and down the isles, I ran into a person that I graduated high school with. We chatted for a few minutes and then they began to relate their current relationship with their daughter. Their eyes filled with tears as they shared what had transpired on Christmas day. They had to distance themselves from their own child.Had to tell their daughter that they no longer could have any contact with them until they were ready to seek help. What made things worse is that this daughter has been to several rehab's, but only to beat legal issues, not to move on with their life. Such decisions made by parents only reveal how much love they do have for their children. 

There is a saying in treatment that is usually directed toward families that will not do the tough thing in helping their children, but seek to only enable them, thinking that such actions show love. What is the saying? "You're loving your child to death!" You're not helping, you're only pushing them closer to their death.This is why they need to know that there is a solution to their addiction. The answer is found in a person,and that person is Jesus. As I learned early on when I came to Rapha, People don't have a drug or alcohol problem.......they have a living problem. That problem exists because of a broken relationship with Christ. 

In the verse from Matthew 9 we see the heart of Jesus. He sees what is going on. He truly does, and this hasn't changed. He sees our struggles...He sees us separated and wandering without any sense of direction or hope. He calls to those in the darkness and reveals himself as the Way Out...The Truth We Have Been Searching For.......and The Life. Not "a" life....Not "One" of many different types of life....But "THE" only source of true life that can lift a person out of their sin/sickness.

What does it take for such a so-called miracle to take place?
"We turn our will and life over to the care of God as we understood Him." To turn something over means that we relinquish our control....our need to be in charge over to someone who is more capable and able to guide us through the every day decisions we face. We enter into a submissive partnership with a Power greater than ourselves who could (and can) restore us to sanity (the ability to make sound decisions). 

No matter what has transpired in 2015....
2016 can be the year that a new life is found in Christ.
What do you say?

God on you...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rainy Morning / End Of The Year Thoughts

Philippians 3:20-21
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.

After my salvation, my place of residence changes.
This world is no longer my home.
Heaven is now my abode. I am separated from it by this life I continue to live out and will, at some point in time, be taken there upon my death.
I live in this world, but I don't belong here.
As long as I draw breath, I have a call, a mission to carry out while I am here.
Share my story with whomever I meet.
Tell of what Jesus has done to me and for me.
The story really isn't about's about Him. I just happen to be the recipient
of His grace, mercy, compassion, love....
And Salvation.

If I were to begin to post here on Greene Street Letters, everything that God has interjected into me and this life I am living, I could post everyday for the next year and still not be finished. I am not the exception in this, I am the norm. What He has done for me, He will do for you.
Here at the end of 2015, I think back on all the people I had a chance to share with.
Some accepted....
Some rejected.....
Some did not live to see this year complete.
That is why I burn passionately for this Jesus.
I don't know how long I will be here and I do not want to waste any time as long as I am walking around.
"You don't have to be in bondage to your sin any longer," the good news cries out.
"You don't have to have hell as your eternal destiny," the good news proclaims.
There is one, the Lord Jesus Christ, who paid the sin price for each of us and has offered us salvation and a new life with Him.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.....
Look full in His wonderful face....

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim....
In the light of His glory and grace......

Let your ears hear above the roar and din of the noise of this world.
Let you hearing be set to the voice of God that speaks within your heart.

Let your vision be lifted up above the destruction and death of this world.....
And see you salvation that is waiting.
And live.....

Happy New Years....
God on you.....

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Temptation 101

John 10:10
The thief does not come xcept to steal,and to kill,and to destroy......

I've been parked in Matthew 4 for a while. It's the address for the "Temptation of Jesus".  Pretty strange passage....almost reads like a morality play. The ultimate good vs. the ultimate evil...But the weird part in this is that it happened. It wasn't some play. It didn't hinge on who had the greatest power. It wasn't two titans locked in mortal combat. It was the Son of God allowing himself to be in the presence and influence of the very one who swept up humanity into a life of sin. The funny part in this (if there is anything funny) is that the battle or temptation was one of "Who has the greatest truth". It was a truth battle, not a war of might or strength.  That should clue us in on what really is important if we want to walk out this new life with Christ. Such battles will come to us.....believe you me, you don't have to go looking for them. Temptation will find us. 

Here is something important to remember: It's not a sin to be tempted. The human mind, along with the influence of the devil, wants us to believe that we have sinned when we are tempted. If he can put that thought into our minds, then we will allow the temptation to give way to the sin. Have enough of those kind of Temptation Thought's and you'll simply surrender because in your mind, you are a terrible person. Not so. And here is another weird thing about coming under temptation. God will use whatever the temptation is to reveal areas of our heart that we need to be aware of. Areas that are literally open doors for the enemy to invade and do his work.

Another thing to consider if you read of Jesus' temptation in Matthew 4: Jesus was alone when He was tempted. He was not hit with this fierce attack while in the company of others. Scripture warns us to expect such temptation when we isolate ourselves. I Peter 5:8-9 - Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers (and sisters) throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

So why does the devil use temptation?
What is the design and makeup of temptation?

Temptation is designed to get us to sin against God. To make us think we have disqualified ourselves from all that God is making available to us. 
Here is another way of putting this....
Every temptation we encounter by the enemy of our souls happens in hopes that we will disobey God. Satan's plan for us is to cause us to give in and disobey rather than to resist and turn even more to God for help. 

In Matthew 4:3, the devil said to Jesus: IF you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Jesus responds by quoting Scripture, "It is written, 'man does not live on bread along.'" Do you see how the devil attempts to cast doubt on who Jesus is? Causing him to doubt about His own identity and relationship with His Father. The devil told Jesus to "Tell these stones to become bread." He dis not say, "Pray to Your Father in heaven and ask Him for bread." Bottom line is that the devil was suggesting to Jesus to "Take matters into your own hands and provide for your own needs." 

The devil hates anything that causes us to humble ourselves before God. He hates it when we are totally dependent on God for our provision. Satan's chief aim in bringing temptation is to overthrow our relation to God as our Father. He wants to cut off our dependence on Him.

Such is why Step # 3 of the Twelve Steps reads that "We made a decision to turn our will and life over to the care of God as we understood Him." With this decision, God becomes our sole source and provision for everything we need to survive. Is that cool or what ?

I will leave you with this final verse.
I Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful , he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

God on you....

Monday, December 28, 2015

Faith...Now...Today...At This Moment

Sometimes we take the word "Faith" and dress it up in religious tones and phrases as if to make it more palatable for human consumption. We place it among other words as if it were some sort of talisman or magical word we can say to get God to do what we want Him to do. Faith is one of those words that seem to carry with it many different definitions and color's as to what it truly is. I'm not an expert on faith, but I have learned some lessons through the exercise of my faith.

Lesson # 1-- I do have faith. Now I don't say that to prop me up as some sort of spiritual giant. You have faith. The guy next door has faith. The addict or alcoholic has faith. The last part of Romans 12:3 reads: As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. Every person born into the world enters with a measure of faith. We sometimes misplace our faith and point it in the wrong direction, or to the wrong person. Sometimes we throw our faith, and caution to the wind, and act in ways that run contrary to the ways and purposes of God. When rightly exercised, Faith is a weapon that cannot be defeated or stopped. 

I love the definition of faith as found in Hebrews 11:1 (The Message Bible)
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is
the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.
It's our handle on what we cannot see.
I like how the Message Bible describes faith........
                   A.) The fundamental fact of our existence
                   B.) The firm foundation that supports everything that makes life worth living
                   C.) Our handle attached to that which we cannot see.
So to summarize.....
Faith is more than a religious transcends denominations or churches....
Faith is the molecular bonding of our spirit to the Spirit of God  when we exercise it. 

Faith is the foundation upon which life....real life is built. Such life can only come when our faith is exercised and placed upon and in Jesus. Faith is no dependent on our current situation. Faith is not stopped by our current lot in life. It isn't stronger when times are good...and it isn't deterred when life knocks the wheels off our journey.
Faith is.....
Not faith was...
Nor faith will be...
Faith is now...
Faith is today...
You've read this before here in the Greene Street Letters....but I'm going to write it again.
My Faith is directed toward a person, and that person has a name. The Lord Jesus Christ. My faith rests in one simple fact. That Jesus is who He claims He is.....and that He will do what He has promised He would do.

Jesus is the fact for my existence....
Jesus is the foundation for life that is worth living....
And Jesus is the handle I lay hold of to walk through this day, no matter what happens.

God on you....

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Visitor

Sleep did not come easy last night.....
My wife had gone to bed, yet I was not ready. I sat in my chair bathed in the glow of the lights from the Christmas tree. Rambling thoughts caused my emotions to surface. Thinking back over the year, I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into a spiritual funk. My sister in law had died in July. Friends had also passed this year. It seemed that with each passing day, our ranks grew thinner and thinner. I hated it. The emptiness...the separation. No matter how hard you tried to convince yourself that it was "all a part of life"...that did not soften the pain that I felt. 
I was helpless. I watched day after day as my wife grieved the death of her sister.

Getting up from my chair, I made way outside to stand on our porch. Rain fell softly and only added to the gloom that seemed to engulf me. It was Christmas eve, and, as the the story goes, not a creature was stirring not even a mouse. Up and down Greene Street I could see the lights from my neighbors trees casting an eerie silhouette on the front windows. Didn't seem like joy would be a part of our celebration this year. But there in the darkness of the street I heard a very familiar voice. It was coming up from Case Avenue, softly filling the air..."This is my Father's world....and to the listening ear....all nature sings, and around me rings...the music of the spheres."  slowly, as the voice drew near, I could make out the outline of the one who was singing this soft melody. It was The Visitor.

"Hello, Michael.....can't sleep?" He asked.
It had been several years since our last encounter, but each time we had met, He brought a comfort that seem to push all the dark emotions and feelings to the back of my mind and heart.
"Where have you been?", I asked.
"Been? I've been right here all along."

"Here?", I questioned Him. "I didn't see you. You never spoke or came by, or even knocked on my door. I just don't understand."

"Did you notice that new limb on the tree nearest the street?", He asked.
Limb? Tree? What does that have to do with anything, I thought to myself.
"No...I didn't notice it.", I shot back.
"Well, it was here all along, wasn't it?", He responded.

"Just like me....the limb was always just never took the time to see it."
Point taken,and I felt a bit ashamed of the way I had spoken to Him.

Moving to the porch, The Visitor stood next to me. Putting His arm around my shoulder He softly spoke...."I know what you are going through. I understand the pain you feel because of death. I fully understand the helplessness you feel because you can't soften the pain and emptiness your wife is feeling"
Those words brought comfort and yet, at the same time, made the pain worse.
"Why is it suppose to be this way...why do we have to go through this whole twisted dance we call "Life and death"?"

"You know the reason," The Visitor responded to my question.
"You know that every death only reminds us that sin is in our midst. Father never intended for death to be a part of life. The two in the garden brought that in with their disobedience."
"Yeah, well I'd like to have a few words with those two.", I shot back.
"Michael, if you'd been there in the garden you would have chosen just like they did."
We don't like to think of ourselves in such a manner.....but what The Visitor said was true. As Charlie Daniels said in his song..."When I had a choice between good and bad, I'd pick bad two out of three."

"It still hurts", I spoke softly....with those words, my mind was flooded with the faces of those who had gone on. Tears began to form and roll down my cheeks.
"I know it does, but the pain is from your perspective, not from the Father's, or even those you miss. Here you are....standing on your front's Christmas eve.....and what is suppose to be a celebration of My birth is mired down and stuck in the pain of your own heart. What do you suppose Peggy is doing right now?" The Visitor asked. I knew what He wanted me to say, but the pain and selfishness of my own heart would not let me.Eventually I gave in and responded to His question....."She is celebrating her first Christmas with You, The Father and The Holy Spirit."  "Right she is....DO you think maybe you do miss her?", The Visitor asked.
"Do I think I miss her? What a dumb question...of course I miss her," I thought to myself.
"Or do you think maybe there is a part of you that is selfish and wished you could celebrate the way she is doing?"

That did it....the tears came heavy and fast....
"I'm just tired, and I don't like this whole bit of getting older, and I hate it that my friends and family are dying all around me." I sounded like a spoiled child who was lamenting the fact they didn't get their way." I was suddenly embarrassed by my tears and my words.

"It's o.k.," The Visitor said. "I totally understand what you are going through. But I want you to focus on something." "What?", I asked.

"The Promise." He replied. "The Promise that fills every verse in My Book. The Promise that binds and threatens all darkness brought about by the devil and his minions. The Promise that is greater than death...greater than any separation death creates. The Promise that I am who I claim to be....and that I will do what I have said I would do. Did I not say that I had gone to prepare a place for you?" "Yes," I said. "Did I not say that if that were true that I would return and take you there to be with Me forever?" Again, I replied, "Yes". "Then believe it," The Visitor spoke. "Believe it beyond what you feel. Believe it beyond what your mind tells you. Believe it to the point that this Promise becomes a very part of your being, for you see.....this Promise is the Hope of Glory."  I was suddenly filled with a new perspective. "How can this be?", I thought to myself. "How can I suddenly feel so alive, so filled with hope, and yet, at the same time, still experience the pain of separation." I looked into the eyes of The Visitor to ask how this was possible, but before I could speak, He said, "The Father loves you more that you could ever comprehend. His Promise triumphs over any and everything that is found in this world. Always remember that."

"By the way," The Visitor said, "It's officially Christmas." Suddenly the air was filled with the sound of praise and worship. The veil between heaven and earth had been pulled aside and I heard what the Shepherds heard that night when The Visitor had arrived on planet earth.
"Glory to God in the Highest....
And on earth peace, goodwill
toward men upon whom
His favor rests."
I found myself transfixed with this heavenly display of truth. I could not move, nor did I wish to as the words washed over me. There was power in the words that were spoken. Power that seem to declare a truth that was older than creation itself. The words were not spoke to convince anyone of the truth. They were declared because they were the truth . In an age where truth comes at a premium...this was a proclamation. All my thoughts and self pity about death and my own humanity seem to crumble and fall away. I stood on that porch renewed and restored.

I turned to speak to the Visitor....
To thank Him for the gift He'd brought to me....
But He was gone.
I turned my gaze toward Greene Street, and there in the darkness I could make out the form of one  slowly walking toward Case Avenue. Once again I heard the voice softly declaring...
"This is my Father's world....and to the listening ear.....all nature sings....and around me rings....the music of the spheres."

Merry Christmas, Peggy.
We miss you.

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
God on you...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Innkeeper By John Piper

John Piper's "The Innkeeper"....
I have posted this video each Christmas season for the last 8 years. It is so "not" a traditional way of viewing the season, and is a reminder that the night of His birth, and life of our Savior was not a Hallmark Card kind of existence. It wasn't a neat, choreographed play that was all about image and getting it right. The Divine invaded our time and space, came to a stable and lived the first 30 or so years in relative obscurity.

Jesus took on the flesh, blood, and bone of humanity to identify with us. He was baptized, not because He had need of it, but to let us know the reality and gift that was being readied to save us all. That He was indeed the Messiah sent to ransom mankind.

Jesus walked among the very creation that had been spoken into existence back in Genesis 1. His very life brought hope to those who lived in His time, yet He knew better than anyone that there would also be suffering, and such suffering was temporary compared to the glory that was to come. In the midst of those whose children fell under the sword of a corrupt government because of His birth, walked the promise of God that would pay the ultimate price for our sin-debt. 

So while I do acknowledge the somber tone to this video, I am strengthened and encouraged to not let the dark times of this world keep me grounded and depressed. I choose this day to lift my vision higher...To let my thoughts be upon the "what-so-ever's" of Philippians 4:8. I choose to see Jesus in everything and everyone.

To the lost...He is the answer.
To those who have relationship with Him, He is the Hope of Glory.

So here on the eve of Christmas, I want to acknowledge Him as my Savior, and as Marie Barnett so aptly put it....
"He is the air I breathe."

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla!
God on you...

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


Not a word used much in Christendom anymore.
Broken refers to pottery, our good china and those "other" people who truly need God. You know the ones. They dress funny and they smell bad. Oh, we'd never tell them that to their face, but we think it.

Tis the season to be bright and shiny. To make up for our lack of giving through the year by giving away fruit and nuts and inexpensive toys.
To sing loudly and proclaim Kingdom things with much gusto.
Seems to me it should be the season to be broken before God.
He has let us live another year (almost).
What have I done with this year?
Did I spend for Him or did I live selfishly without thought of anyone else? At this time every year, I am drawn to the passage in Luke where Mary is told of what God's plans are for her and Joseph. These plans did not take into account what Mary and Joseph wanted. In fact God's plans always takes precedent over our own. But it is Mary's response to the Angel's message that always pricks my heart.

Luke 1:38 - Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
With those powerful, wonderful words, Mary stood broken before the angel. Her plans for the future lay shattered on the ground. Her wants and needs were now second to what God had spoken. The only thing Mary could lay claim to was her position, a maidservant of the Lord. She was broken and was now ready for God's hand to rest upon her to be put back together.
How many of us celebrate our relationship with God? Most of us I would think.
We celebrate the blessing of God.
We celebrate the presence of God.
But very few of us celebrate the awesome power of God to break us. For only in the breaking can the restoration be made complete.
After all, we are a work in progress, are we not?
I think maybe yes....we are.
Merry Christmas from the Bynum's

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Jesus Among Us

Luke 2:3
So all went to be registered,everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David.

Government decree....
Everyone must register....
Roads are filled with travelers going in all directions.

People are talking...
Babies are crying...

Children are running here and there....
A wave of humanity all uprooted and scattered.
Some seem to be trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

Others wear their discontentment like a dark mask as if to warn those around "stay away..I've no wish to talk."
In the midst of all the hubbub and movement, there journeyed a young couple. They did their best to stay away from the large groups that had seem to be drawn together. Staying to the fringe of the caravan, the two were simply trying to make it to Bethlehem.

Little did anyone know or fully realize who it was that journeyed among them. They could easily tell the young woman was pregnant, but in no way could they discern that the God of the universe...the One True Living God was even now among them in the form of an unborn baby. I'm sure the young girl was asked about her pregnancy..."When is your baby due?" and "Is this your first child?" Soft with words and gentle in heart, the young girl tried to respond as best she could, but the future was as uncertain as it ever had been. Only the words spoken some nine months ago by an angel that announced to her that she would become the vessel, chosen by God to bring forth the Christ child brought comfort when the uncertainty reared its ugly head.. She had played that scene and those words over and over in her mind and heart,and still could not grasp the reality of what had happened, and what was to come.

How many people did Mary and Joseph pass along the way on this journey?
How many who were suffering with the struggles and hardship of life were aware that the answer to all mankind had been searching for had just them passed by. A woman pregnant with child would bring forth the answer.

life is like that isn't it?

As I have gone about this Christmas season, I look into the eyes and faces of those at the the department stores and grocery stores....I see the hopelessness that seems to cover every thing and most everyone. In fact, in society isn't the Christmas message translated that if we buy enough stuff then we will be happy and all our cares will disappear? Trouble is when the trouble disappears, the bills come due and we fall back into that dark pit of hopelessness. Like those on that journey to Bethlehem, totally oblivious to WHO was among them, or had just passed them by, we too do not see Jesus as we should. If we had the ability to peel back the curtain, we would see that the Hope of Glory is all around us. That the Spirit of Almighty God fills this earth and burns with a desire that all would come to know Jesus. 

What does it take to have eyes that truly see?
Become like a little child. Not childish...but child like.
The belief that Jesus is the true Lord, and that He died to provide a way for us to have eternal life with God. 

In other believe beyond believing.
To believe not as the world has trained us to, but to open up our hearts and minds to receive the ultimate Christmas present...
Jesus, Himself. 

Unlike the crowds that traveled around Mary and Joseph to be registered in a census, we have a greater reality than the birth of the Christ Child. We are totally immersed in the presence of God's Holy Spirit. If what is written in Joel 2 about God pouring out His Spirit on all flesh is true, then we are swimming in the Spirit of God. He fills every nook and cranny of human existence. The power and presence of God Himself is every where on Planet earth. And yet the human heart can become so cold and indifferent and casual about its own spiritual state that it doesn't recognize what is all around.

Please don't allow the season.....
The rushing around and spending of money to rob you of the joy and Presence of His Spirit that God gives freely. 
The world proclaims that there be "Peace on Earth and Goodwill To All Men." But the Word Of God says, "Peace on Earth and Goodwill to men(and women) upon who the Favor of God rests."  
May this become a reality to us all during this time.

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

Vicki and Michael
God on you...

Monday, December 21, 2015

VRC Christmas Style

Psalm 106:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever. Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord? Who can ever praise Him enough?

Food? Ton's of it....
Laughter?  There indeed was much laughter.
Family? We were there.
Saturday night's meeting of Vineyard ReCovery was all of that and more. Of course I am a little biased when I write about VRC. 
It was our Christmas Hoo-ha, and we celebrated the birth of Jesus, and the simple fact that everyone present was sober. God has given us another year of life. One of the simple facts of recovery is that "our tomorrow is founded on what decisions we make today."

We had a number of first timer's there Saturday night. After the service, those who were there for the first time always make their way to me to let me know how much they enjoyed the service. The common thread that runs through their compliment is "I've never been to a church like this." Now you need to keep in mind that what we do isn't a lot different from what takes place in most churches. We just kind of rearrange a few things. The music is more geared toward a road house band. In other words, it's kind of gritty and raw. Take for instance our first song Saturday night...."Joy To The World". Everyone has sung it probably a few hundred times. But when you add a "Bluesy" kind of bass to it...throw in some harmonica.....4 part harmony, and a killer rhythm guitar, not to mention a keyboard that will make you weep....well, you've got a totally different feel to a traditional Christmas carol. The music catches people attention. Once we have their attention, they are more open and receptive to the word and works of Jesus. I mean think about it....We meet on Saturday night....not your typical church time. Saturday was usually that "Special" night when you went out and got tore up from the floor up. Church was the last thing you thought about on Saturday night. But here they were, coming through the door, with a kind of reservation about this whole Saturday night church thing. Thirty minutes into the meeting, the reservations were gone and they were actively participating in worship. 

For me, the highlight of the meeting was when Todd Bagley led the song "Good Shepherd". As we sang it, the presence of God became very thick and evident in the room. There was just this incredible sense that He was there and He was pleased. These are the moments that tear down religious walls and concepts that we have built over the years. During that song, those in the room knew, maybe for the first time, that God was real. Isn't that the reason we gather on Saturday night? To understand who God is in relation to our own need for Him? To see ourselves as He sees become aware of our need to move from the darkness of sin into the light of His grace? I think maybe the answer is yes.

Thanks to all the core leadership for all you did Saturday night.
The food was tremendous....
The fellowship was priceless....
And the night was filled with hope and truth.

Hey! Let's do it again next Saturday.

Oh yeah...before I forget...
Thanks to Deb Hooks for the photo's...
And LeNola Bagley for the video found on the church Facebook page.

Merry Christmas From The "B's" In Attalla.
God on you...

Friday, December 18, 2015

I Choose

O.k.....It's confession time.
It has been a hard season so far, and I find myself wavering between wanting shout out about how grateful I am for God's love and mercy, not to mention His salvation, and simply going to bed, pulling the covers over my head and not coming up for air until we are well into 2016.

Vicki and I have been living among the rubble of renovation in our home for a while now. I know that we are not the only ones who have ever gone through this. But being a "rutter" (someone who has a routine and sticks to it) having all the upheaval is not conducive to my mental health. You see....truth be known, it's me whining about life. I am not going to do that. I am not going to bemoan what is going on. There are a lot more serious things happening out there in the world than me not being comfortable. Sometimes I wonder why God doesn't just come down and pull my "Christian" card, and kick me out of the club. I wonder why He doesn't just thump me on the noggin' and say, "Grow up IS hard, but look at how I have blessed you,even in the mess. 

So this morning I will be thankful and grateful.
I will start with something that happens every Friday morning between 3:00 a.m and 4:00 a.m.

I get a text message. There in the darkness of early morning, a message ga-ding-a-ding's my phone. I know who it is without looking at it. The message is the same each week, but is a wonderful reminder to me of what is truly important. "God loves you and so do I...Have a good day, and a great weekend." Is that awesome or what? Someone who is starting their day has taken the time to send this to me. Not that I am special or deserving of such a thing, but that God's love is so great that you just can't hold back on sharing it. 

During the morning, I will receive another text message from another friend. They are a high-energy friend who was delivered from addiction. They are so on fire for God, and filled with a love for Jesus that they refer to themselves as a true JESUS FREAK.   Nothing religious about they way they roll. And do they ever roll. From here to Africa on several occasions and are planning another trip in February. Their text message is one of encouragement for who we have become, a realization that we are not a finished work, and excitement over the journey. 

It's being surrounded by people such as these that make me want to get up and move on in my own journey. To not allow myself to be tied down by my own emotional/mental baggage that serves no purpose what so ever except to impede my walk with Jesus.

Even though these two text messages come from two who are younger than me, I want to be like them when I grow up. As John Wimber use to say, "I want to grow up before I grow older." That is exactly what I want for this day, so I choose not to grumble today. I choose not to complain today. I choose not to feel sorry for myself today. I choose Jesus!

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
Vicki and Michael

God on you....

Thursday, December 17, 2015

I have the most wonderful memories of Christmas.
God has been good in this area to me and my family.
I am grateful for the good people of Gallant First Baptist for it was they who shaped and loved me and showed me the heart of God, as a young boy growing up in that community.
People like:
W.A. and Geneva Lutes (along with Ronald and Nancy). They had a huge impact on me as a boy.I saw in them what a family should look like. They truly enjoyed each others company and yet at the same time, there was great respect for each other and the role they played in the family.

Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Whisenant. Mr. Whisenant was probably the most humble man I know. When he would lead a prayer at church, it was if heaven stopped to listen to this man pray. It was eloquent or flowery. When Mr. Whisenant spoke to God, it was one friend to another. Mrs. Whisenant was the epitome of the word "gentle". 

Kenneth and Linda Chandler- They were my training union teachers all through my teenage years. I saw what a marriage was suppose to be like. I saw a man who loved his wife and worked hard for his family. I saw God bring two together and make one.

Charles Bryson - He encouraged me to sing. Charles was an incredible talent and was gracious enough to sing at my mothers funeral. Charles was the choir director and really fueled my love of music.

Reverend Lewis Woods - He was our pastor and the one who lead me to Jesus. Back when it wasn't against the law, Bro. Woods came to our school and spoke. At the end of the talk he told of what Jesus had done because of my sin. I sat there heart beating out of my chest, and I knew that I was lost and was very much in need of a Savior. May of 1961, I gave myself to Jesus and I haven't regretted it ever.

Mr. Vivian Phillips - Mr. Phillips was instrumental in creating a love for the Bible in me. He did odd jobs around the house my parents rented (we rented from Mr. Phillips) so I had a lot of contact with him. I remember him sharing stories from Scripture and questioning me as to what I believed. Mr. Phillips did not treat me like a "little boy" but rather as a pupil.

Reverend Don Gentry - Brother Gentry showed me that the body of Christ was larger than Gallant First Baptist. When I was in the 7th grade, Bro. Gentry would show up at Alma Hinson Jr. High every Monday and load all us "Gallant Boy's and Girls" up in his car. We would then drive to a local church and visit. Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Church of God, Episcopalian. We visited them all, one a week. The pastor, priest, Rector would share with us the beliefs and traditions of that particular faith. We even visited St. James Catholic Church as well as Temple Beth Israel. Pretty heady stuff for a young boy from the country, but it made a huge impact on me and how I viewed the Body of Christ. It was much more than our simple church in Gallant. 

I guess the one man who had the greatest impact on Vicki and I would be Rev. George Creel. Vicki and I were coming out of a long 7 year journey of being away from God. We knew we needed to go to church for the sake of our children (or at least that is what we were telling ourselves) but we didn't know which one.
Vicki's mom kept after us to visit Central United Methodist and hear Bro. George. Well we did and the rest is history. Never, never, never had we ever heard anyone teach the Bible like this man. I remember the first message I ever heard him preach, I sat there dumbfounded as the Word of God poured over me. From then on it standard practice to take Bible, Notebook, Pen with us to each service. 

I am a blessed man and during this Christmas season I think back to all these people and so many more I did not have the time to mention. I truly am a composite of each of these folks as they gave of themselves to me.
I carry around a little piece of their spiritual DNA that has helped me to see God in a way that I probably would have missed. During this time, I am very grateful for the spiritual heritage that God has given to  me throughout my life. Now, I pray that I give away pieces of my Spiritual DNA to others that God would work in the them the same as He has worked in me. 
I am blessed.

Merry Christmas...
God on you.....

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Early Morning Thoughts

Acts 1:14
They all met together and were constantly united in prayer.....

Maybe it's because it's the Christmas season....
Maybe it's because the year is almost over....
But whatever the reason, I find myself thinking back over this year. Over the past few days, I have taken out my journals and read back through the events that have taken place in 2015.

The death of loved ones, and friends....
Some of the death's were tragic and should never have happened...
A life gone to soon. A family left to grieve.

There were many who came to know Jesus this past year. I celebrate those and pray daily that they may continue to walk out this new life that has been given to them.

But I guess the one thing I find myself thinking about this morning are the people who make up the core leadership of Vineyard ReCovery Church. There seems to be a genuine love among us, for each other and for Jesus. That is something we could never manufacture on our own. It is a gift from God to a people who truly realize how broken we in need of a Savior we are.

It has been a blessing to me to watch this group grow over the past 2 3/4 years. To see them reach out each week to the hurting and marginalized that come through the doors. To watch them pray and minister to those in need. Not because they have to, or feel some sense of religious obligation....but because the love of the Father burns within their own hearts. Such love can never be contained or held back. It must be demonstrated and loosed to be effective. What better way to demonstrate than by helping others. 

VRC isn't my meeting.....I don't own it....I have no rights to it. Oh, God called me to start it, but that is the extent of my call. The meeting truly does belong to God. We simply gather each week to see what He wants to do on that particular night. We come each week expecting to meet with Him and experience His touch and goodness. The funny part in all of this, we, the core leadership, come each week expecting to receive from him ourselves. We don't come and stand back as spectator's to a God movement. No! We come with our own baggage to be be be restored. To lay down our own grudges that may have popped up. To rid ourselves of our own unforgiveness that may have formed in our hearts. To cast aside anger, bitterness and any jealousy we may have allowed to take root in our hearts. In other words, we are all in this together, and there isn't any religious pretense on our part. If anything, we are working toward being as transparent and open as we can be.

Oh, we are not the perfect fellowship by no means. We truly are a work in progress, and that's o.k..
Phil Strout, National Director of the Vineyard Churches, made this comment at a Regional meeting in Guntersville back in 2013. Phil said, "We should never ask each other 'How's your church?' Instead, we should ask, 'How's your soul?'" I think that is such a powerful statement. It's not about counting nickles and noses in our meetings, but rather the condition of the hearts of those who attend. The real measurement of any church is not the number who attend, the size of the budget or the number of programs that are, the measure of any church is the quality of people that are produced. 

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas.

From the "B's" in Attalla!
Vicki and Michael

God on you...

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Rapha Part 2

Psalm 119:130
The unfolding of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.

Yesterday was a day of firsts.......
Seventeen years ago, I went to Rapha as a volunteer.
I taught Bible studies in the afternoon....
Then I taught Bible studies at night.....
After a while, I was moved to morning devotionals....

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I was there to teach the word.

Since I left Rapah back in February of this year, I have remained connected to the program and the men. I would drop by every week to see who was new to the program and to introduce myself to them.  About a month ago, the men started to ask me why I am not teaching a Bible study now. Part of my answer was that God had not released me to. Not sure they understood what that meant, but it was the truth.

Last Friday, I was at Rapha taking with one of the staff members when they told me, "We sure do need you here teaching a Bible study." The moment they said this, God told me, "Now is the time". So without hesitation I responded, "Do you have an opening in the afternoon?" "Yes we do...Monday, Wednesday, and Friday." I chose Monday.

So yesterday, I returned to Rapha the same way I first arrived....
As a volunteer.

We had eleven in our first Bible study and they were eager to listen.
Some took notes....
Some asked questions...

It was good to be back.
Where is this all going?
I have no clue, nor do I wish to look ahead.

I am very content to simply be afforded a place to teach the word of God.

The Rapha guys have come to the last two Saturday nights at Vineyard ReCovery....
Maybe God used those visits to open a door for me at Rapha. Whatever is going on behind the scenes, I am grateful for the opportunity to plant some "Jesus" seeds in their lives.

If anyone ever understood the workings of God's grace, It is me.
I fully understand how I am not qualified to do what God has given me to do.
I understand how limited my understanding of His Word is.
But I also know that He has given me the ability to simplify the Word.

To not complicate it,but to keep it simple for all to understand.
That has been the greatest asset I possess that has served me well over the years.
Here again...I fully understand that it is nothing that I possess on my my own strength or ability, but fully comes as a gift from God. 

Payday for me is when someone comes up after a teaching, who may not have a church background, and says, "You know...I understood what you said." 
That is what I want to bring to everyone who is present when I am teaching.
To simply point the way to Jesus, and say, "Here is the source of life...real life...that you have been searching for!"

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
God on you.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rolling Through The Weekend

Busy weekend....
Great weekend....
One that you could drink from for a while, but realize that it's Monday and you need to keep moving forward.

Friday Night:
Vicki and I made our way to Centre for Celebrate Recovery. I had received a call from Donnie George asking me if I could come and speak. I've been going up to CR Centre for 11 years, speaking and teaching, but Friday night was a first. They have been going through the leadership material for CR and Donnie asked me if I could teach a lesson from the book. I told him that whatever he needed I was willing to take a shot at it. The material was emailed to me and it was off to the races. I was to teach on "Seven Reasons We Get Stuck In Our Recovery." The reasons ranged from "Not working the principals properly" to "No support group". At the end when ministry time arrived, people flooded the front receiving prayer. A sight such as this is payday for me. I will never tire of seeing folks come to Jesus for healing.

Oh yeah, one last thing....
Randy and the Worship band knocked it out of the park. The music was high energy, yet was sprinkled with songs that were intimate and lead us into God's presence. 

It was a great start to the weekend.

Saturday Night:
We held our annual Candle light service on Saturday night. Always a special time for me, as we the VRC family gathers to celebrate the true light that has come into our time and space. The evening was made even more special by the return of Debbie Handy. Debbie has been battling some health issues and has not been able to be with us. But there she was, with her husband, Lanny, coming up to the stage to take her place at the piano. During our worship set she sang "Light Of The World" which only made the evening even more special. 

The message was on the truth that even though Jesus came to this world.....

Even though He is called THE light of the world....He came to us individually to reveal himself. In Matthew 5, He refers to those who follow Him as being "LIGHT". We are called to reflect Jesus back to a world that doesn't see or know Him.

As we sang "Silent Night", the room as darkened and the candles were lit. That darkened room soon was bathed in candle light. "Silent night.....Holy night....All is calm.....All is bright." For a brief moment, the things of the world fell away and the presence of God manifested in our midst.

Afterwards, there were many hugs, handshakes and Merry Christmas' all around. It was a good night.

Sunday Morning:
Saturday afternoon I received a call from John Richey, pastor of Northside Baptist Church. John had come down with the crud and wanted to know if I could fill in for him. I told him that I would be honored to do so. Part of my call is to do such as this...fill in. Since our church meets on Saturday night, I am always available on Sunday if the need arises. I always look forward to speaking at John's church.

The people are.........

Well, they just make you feel at home when you're with them.
Small country church....
Feels like family....
Not stuck on proper order or pomp and fal-der-ral. But truly do love Jesus, and each other. 

There is a freshness to the honest and simplicity that is found in this church.
No false pretense to who they are or how they worship.

Sitting in my chair last night, I found myself feeling grateful that God would allow me to be a part of three totally different fellowships over the last three days. To see Him reflected in each of those meetings. To see people respond in each of them to His word and His promises. Things may be messed up in our country and in our world, but I found that God still has a people that He is working through. Thank you, Lord.

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla!
God on you....

Friday, December 11, 2015

Christmas To Me

Christmas to me?
The beginning....
A child is born....
A child like no other....
Watching the child grow to manhood...
The promise of hope wrapped up in this child....
The reminder that hope is not an anxiousness, but the slow steady movement of God at work.

Hope is the foundation that lays hold of His promises and does not waver even when it appears that nothing is happening.

I guess you could say that hope and faith are brother and sister.
Cut from the same cloth, these two are the glue that holds us to God. Hope is the ability to see beyond reality and understand that things are not out of control but rest securely in the hands of God.

Christmas to me?

It's family....
Both blood and spirit kin...

These have become my Christmas
The ones that I love and that I feel the love returned.
I have two blood sons...Chad and Joshua.
In them I see the faithfulness of God. I see God being true to His word. I see these two men, and I think back to a night long ago at Central United Methodist. The boy's were five and three, and Vicki and I knew that we were ill equipped to raise them. Oh we could parent and keep them healthy...but I'm talking about bringing them up as God would have us do. We took them both down to the front and sat them on the altar and prayed, "Lord, we need your help. We are giving our sons to you if you will show us how to bring them up under your word. Sounds drastic, but God has honored that prayer that was prayed that night.

Christmas to me?
Orange slices and cashews....
Mom always splurged and bought these wonderful delights whenever we went to town during Christmas....

Christmas is also the memories of a meal we use to have at Gallant First Baptist the Saturday before Christmas. We would gather in the fellowship hall, it would be all decorated. People would be gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols...It was a spiritual family foundation that God gave to me when I was a boy.

Christmas to me?
During our time at Central Methodist, the young! I guess I'm no longer a young adult. I would fall under the category of Gezzer Adults. Anywho...we would meet up and go around to all the members of Central who were not able to physically attend church. We would sing Christmas Carols and visit with them. It was a special time that I will never forget.

Christmas to me?
Come and go communion on Christmas eve. We started this many years ago when we first came to the Vineyard. Todd Bagley has taken up the mantle now. There was something extra special about the room when everything was set up for the communion. I have never felt such peace before. Families would come to receive communion and a prayer of blessing before they left to celebrate their own family Christmas.

Christmas to me?
Listening to Tennessee Ernie Ford's THE STAR CAROL album. It was my Mom and Dad's favorite album. Found it on CD some years ago, so I won't even go into all the memories it brings up. Suffice it to say that with the opening strains of Joy To The World, I am transported to a time long, long ago.

I guess I will stop here....
I could go on and on but here is a good ending point.

If you're free this Saturday night, we will be hosting our annual Candle light service at Vineyard ReCovery. Meeting starts at 7 p.m.. Why not join us and create some new Christmas memories?

God on you....
Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
Michael and Vicki

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Some Can See Him....Some Can't

Micah 5:2
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.

He wasn't born in a palace, surrounded by servants to meet his every need.
His birth wasn't proclaimed throughout the land by royal heralds.

His parents didn't occupy any ruling position in the government.
Yet He grew to be the only one who could defeat sin, death, hell and the grave.

He came for every man and woman. King or pauper....Queen or whore...because He knew that "All had sinned and fallen short of His Father's glory."
But the way He came to this world is still a mystery.
Plainly spoken of and written about in the ancient Scriptures....the religious rulers of the day could not see the truth. In the passage above from Micah, not only is the town given where Jesus would be born, but the location within the town.....Ephrathah. That's like saying that Jesus will be born in Gadsden, Alabama over in mill village in Alabama city. But they couldn't see it.

Who saw such prophecy?
The Magi......the wisemen...those who studied the heaven's and saw THE star that would lead them to the place where Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child lived.

A group of shepherd's huddled together on a hillside in the dark of night. They never expected to be the one's who would be the first carriers of the "Savior" message. 

So there in a stable in the town of Bethlehem....
Amidst the smell of urine and dung.....

Was born the one we call Jesus...
Immanuel.....God is with us.

Stepped out of heaven's realm to become one of us.
Leaving behind the glory and splendor of His father, Jesus took on the mortal flesh that you and I carry around daily.
He grew to walk among humanity...
He saw death up close and personal...
He experienced the twisted logic and dark hearts of those who practiced religion instead of relationship.

He saw the gratitude and tears of those who received back their love ones from the dead when He spoke life.
He watched the silly, wobbly dance of healing as those whose legs and ankles no longer worked. When Jesus spoke healing to those twisted limbs, the dance began. But it was a dance of gratitude and amazement that such could take place.

With all of these things rolling around in my brain, how could Jesus have had such a birth as He did? Because He came to those who were sin/sick. He came to heal. He came as one of us. He came for the common man and woman. Those who had been marginalized by society and by their own lot in life. 

The leper...
The whore...
The tax collector...
The oppressed....
And the list goes on and on...

Like Jesus said, "The healthy don't need a doctor...I came for the sick."
Funny part about the statement "the healthy don't need a doctor." He wasn't actually talking about spiritually healthy. He was talking about those who were deceived and thought themselves to have no need for this Jesus.
Don't ever doubt that we can deceive ourselves.

Revelation 3:17 speaks of such self deception that can even be found in the church.
Speaking to a church in Laodicea, Jesus says, You say, 'I am rich. I have everything I want. I don't need a thing!' And you don't realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked." It kind of hard to realize your need when you have surrounded yourself with the things of the world that feed the old sin nature. Jesus came to rip the veal and cover off the human heart so we could clearly see our need for Him and salvation from the destruction that comes when we reject Him.

Maybe we all need to take a spiritual Step #4 during this Christmas season.
Maybe we need to make a fearless and searching inventory of our hearts to see if we have allowed the world to creep in and blind us to the truth. In fact, maybe the greatest gift we could receive this Christmas season would be the healing that only Christ can bring to blind hearts...deaf ears...and muddled brains.

What do you think?

Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
God on you...
Michael and Vicki Bynum


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