Saturday, February 28, 2015

It Really Is About Our Character



I Kings 2:2
King David talking to his son, Solomon: "I go the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD you God to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgments, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.

Being saved....
Being born again...

Whatever you want to call it, is an event that, over time, produces change in an individual.
I have said on numerous occasions that when you are saved, you will do business with the world in a new way. You would see things differently. Some thought that there was something that was going to happen to you eyes, or your sense of how to deal with people would change. Well, the real change that takes place is a change in your character.
This is evidenced by the work of God's Holy Spirit in you, as you learn to recognize what's taking place, and cooperate with the work. All part of the journey we call the Twelve Steps. A journey that takes you through an inward change that produces an outward change in our behavior.

Step #6
We were entirely ready to have God remove ALL these defects of character.
James 4:10 - Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in due time.

Working Step #6 requires us to lay aside all our pretenses and estimations of our own self-worth, good and bad. We are entirely....completely....nothing else to gain or lose...ready for God to begin the change we need so desperately.

Philippians 3:12-14
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus has possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.
Paul the Apostle, was well aware of the needed inward change that must take place if true salvation has happened. We no longer can conduct ourselves in the way we use to. In the I Kings passage above, where David is instructing his son, Solomon, on what must take place after David's death, David commissioned Solomon to prove himself a man.

How so?
How does one go about this?
By being a person of integrity...
Someone who heeds the directives and leading of God in their life, even when it runs counter to the ways of the world.
A person who speaks truth in love...
Who helps those who truly need help...
Who never has an over inflated view of themselves, and has no need to be self-promoting. Walking in humility before everyone. Having no need for the spotlight, but moves about confident in who they are.
How can they do this?
Through the inward work of the Holy Spirit, as their character is changed.


I will be sharing more on this message tonight at Vineyard ReCovery Church.
Meeting starts at 7 p.m.
Hope to see you there...

God on you...

mb


Friday, February 27, 2015

Downloading For Jesus


TRUTH!
THE ULTIMATE WEAPON 
to defeat every lie...
to shatter every deception...
to keep us focused and alert...
Unless we know it...
We will turn to our own vain thoughts and imaginations.

I am always in a state of "Downloading" from God.....
I read...
I study....
I try to listen for what God is telling me, even though, at times, I'm not very good at it.
I apply what I have learned to my daily walk.
Why?
I know that left to my own devices and my own train of thought, I will wander off into areas that are not good for me.

I will temporarily forget God and begin to follow my old desires.
I will again operate from old patterns of sinful behavior, which come from old sinful thoughts.
Such is why I have a need to stay connected to God and to others who are in the same situation I am in.
I am in need of community.....
Not just so we can gather and chat about the ballgame, or how hard our week was....
But that we can corporately share what God has been doing in our lives. So we can be an encouragement to others....
And receive from God, as we give back to Him through our worship....our time...and yes, even our finances.

We are always in a state of flux, or change, if you will.
We are either changing for the better....
Or we are changing for the worse.....
No one ever remains the same.
If such is true...
And I believe it to be...
Then I want to grow in my understanding of who God truly is.
I want to truly work Steps #1, 2 and 3 in this journey of being "downloaded" with God's power and capability. To allow myself to have a real relationship with Him.

These three steps are the beginning where we realize we are not as smart as we thought we were. We realize exactly how incapable we were of actually having a real life. We weren't living. We were existing. Self  had become our god....but unlike the One, true God, Self  was never satisfied. No matter what we gave Self, it only demanded more and more. 

We traded our families....
We gave away our relationships....
We laid aside our hopes and dreams....
We sacrificed our health...
We lost our freedom....
We surrendered our future...
All because we listened to Self.
Only God can break this kind of power.

Luke 9:23-25 shows us the ultimate download to a new life.
Then He said to the crowd,"If any of you wants to be
My follower...
You must turn from your selfish ways,
Take up your cross daily, and follow me.
If you try to hang on to our life....
You will lose it.
But if you give up your life for my sake,
you will save it.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world
but are yourself lost or destroyed?"

Jesus declared that He was "The Truth".....
He also said, in John chapter 8 verse 31 and 32, that we were truly His followers if we remain faithful to His teachings. In other words, if we apply what we have been taught to our daily lives. If we live in this manner, Jesus said that we would know the truth. We would experience what the truth is daily, and we will be set free from the things of the world, and the old patterns of sinful behavior that sought to keep us in the bondage of addiction.
Now I don't know about you....
But I'll buy that for a dollar...
Hope to see you tomorrow night at Vineyard ReCovery Church.

God on you...
mb

Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Season...New Direction



The words of Jesus....
"Follow Me!"
Simple words...yet words, when heard by people, can contain some fear and doubt.
"Follow You where?"
"How long are we going to be gone?"
"Why?"

Yet the words keep coming.....
"Follow Me!  Follow Me! Follow Me!"


Over the past 21 years, I have tried to heed such words when the came.
I've tried to be a person who spent his energy and time listening for what God wanted to do.

I have this crazy idea that this whole "Following Jesus" thing involves seasons and times. In other words,nothing lasts forever. This has been pretty evident in my own life if you look back at the places I've been and the meetings God has called me to.
Names such as New Compassions.....House of Blue....Doing the Stuff:101...Journey Place....Vineyard After Dark....The Church@Rapah have all been stops along the way in my journey. Each one different, but all have been used by God to equip me for what was next. 

I've said all of this to simply lay out for you the next leg of this journey.
Last Monday, February 23rd, I submitted my resignation to the staff at Rapha Treatment Center. I never thought such a thing would ever take place but, like I said, nothing is forever. This was not a hasty decision, but one that had been brewing for sometime. I won't go into the particulars other than to say never have I heard God more clearer than on this decision. I will still retain my office there on the compound, and I will still minister to those who are coming through the program, but I will not be considered an employee of Rapha.

As many of you know, I spoke last Sunday night at Catalyst Recovery's meeting. Since the meeting is held at the Vineyard, I went a little early and was in my office praying and looking over the scripture I felt God wanted me to share. As I did this, I was suddenly totally overwhelmed with a deep sense of satisfaction. A knowing that I was where I was suppose to be, doing what I had been called to do. All in this feeling of satisfaction, I heard, in my spirit, God say, "This is who you really are...this is what I have really called you to be." In other words, God was releasing me from Rapha to take the next step. What is the next step? Well, it involves Vineyard ReCovery Church. To focus my attention and effort to hear God as to where He wants to take us. To be a voice to those who are seeking a way out of addiction. More than that, I want to show them that Jesus is the answer to more than just being clean and sober. He is the source of life...real life.


Rapha has been a part of my life for 17 years now. It has been the place where I was trained to hear God "on the fly" as I like o refer to it. A place where God showed me the extent of what the human heart was capable of doing and, at the same time, what the heart of God was capable of doing. I will forever be indebted to Steve and Marilyn Yarbrough, Bill Hayes, Barry Hooks for their support and for giving me a place at Rapha.

So as Vicki and I enter this next part of our journey, I would ask that you pray for us. If you feel a tug and a pull from God to "Follow Him"...then by all means....do it.
You never know where He might be taking you....

God on you....

mb


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Place Of Mercy




Isaiah 55:1-2
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, Come to the waters; And you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good and let your soul delight itself in abundance.

If ever there was a song that described what Vineyard ReCovery Church was all about, it is the one Marie Barnett sings in the video above:  Find Mercy Here.
Mercy is God giving me something I don't deserve. God giving me breath, in spite of the fact that the breath He has given me was the same breath I cursed His name with.
Mercy is God giving me life, when I took that life and rejected Him only to turn and live in darkness, for the darkness. Mercy is God giving me love, yet I took that pure love and allowed it to be twisted and turned into lust. 

But Mercy is also God keeping something from me that I do deserve. Because of the Lord's great love, He has offered to me His forgiveness. He has made plain the way of salvation that leads me to life, real life, in Him. A life of abundance that transcends material possessions. A life that is eternal. One that cannot be touched or harmed by the devil and his kingdom. God did that for me......and has done it for you.

I pray that you find the mercy of God today.
It isn't found in a program....
It wasn't born in the Steps....
It can't be bought by good deeds and religious attitudes....
Such comes only one way...
To be broken before Him.
To truly be in touch with the truth that He is God and we are not.
That everything He is...I am not.

May you find His mercy today....

God on you...
mb

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Winds Of Change


Ecclesiastes 3:1
To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven.

We humans talk about change...
We speak of growing older and how time seems to have sped up..
Life has gotten faster.....

Society and culture has moved into areas that we thought we never see in our lifetime....
Change happens...
It's like a runaway freight train, barreling down the tracks..
Not a thing we can do about it..
No way we can stop it....
Change is part of life....


Well, change is part of the Kingdom of God...

The person you are today, as a follower of Jesus, is not the same person you were when you first came to Him.
Hopefully you've changed over the course of time.
Hopefully you've matured in Him....been stretched by Him in the circumstances and situations you have faced in the past.

As I've grown older, it has been a struggle to change and adapt to the culture around me. My tendency is to look to the past and dwell in the memories that seem to bring comfort to me. The danger and trouble with this, is that we can see what God is doing around us today. We become static and use the past to measure everything. Doing this causes us to sound the alarm "We've never done it that way before"...whenever we encounter new things. I don't want to be that person. The one that stands in the way of what God is doing.

My desire is to be thankful and grateful for all that God has allowed me to see and participate in while, at the same time, continue to be energetic and ready to see what He is going to do next. I want to allow God to set the standard and direction for where He is taking the church. I don't want to put down the tent pegs in Acts Chapter Two and proclaim that to be the high water mark for the church, but I know some who have done exactly that. I want to study Acts and see where God is taking us today. 


I fully realize that we hang on to the old ways because they bring comfort to us and allow us a place where we can hunker down against those winds of change. So don't  be afraid of change. Don't be afraid of the change God has for you, as you grow in Him. Don't be afraid to stand up, and turn your face into those winds of change. As Mark Heard wrote in a song...It takes a saturated soul, and a faith that will never let go....Lay hold of God's hand and tell Him, "Let me see what is just over the hill, Father!"

God on you...
mbb

Monday, February 23, 2015

It Was A Great Weekend



I Corinthians 2:2
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Psalm 107:20
He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.

What a weekend....
Saturday night at Vineyard ReCovery was "Family Time"...
I had a feeling that the evening was going to feel like a family reunion. I even mentioned it to the worship team as we were practicing. 
The message that Vicki and I were going to share was on learning to trust God in every area of our lives. I talking really trust Him, and not just offer lip service to Him. 

Sure enough, as seven o'clock rolled around, there were some old familiar faces coming through the door, and it was good to see them. Like I said, family time. I guess you could even say it was a family reunion of sorts.
I love to be present when my wife teaches. She is passionate and to the point when God has given her something to share. In our case, the message of learning to make bricks without straw was about our finances. Learning to trust God with our money and that He is our provision. Just as the Hebrews in Exodus were put in a place where they had to make a quota of bricks without straw that was provided by the Egyptians, God was trying to teach us how the Kingdom works. 

Straw was the binding agent that held the mud together in the formation of bricks. Take away the straw and you've got a mess on your hands. If you are able to make a brick without the binding agent, all you have is a brick that has not capability of being solid and strong. Would you really like any structure built with those kind of bricks? Well, when God told Vicki and I that He was going to teach us to make bricks without straw, He wanted us to learn that we did not need the world's straw to make our bricks solid and firm. Our binding agent would be faith. The substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. That faith was to be more than a mental exercise of a bit of religious information. Faith in Christ should be the center of our lives as we move about daily. Faith that God is who He claimed to be...and faith that He will do what He has promised He would do.

Lot of ministry Saturday night. Prayers for one young lady who wanted to go to her sister, who is in the hospital, and share not only the news of what Jesus had done for her, but to take the presence and power of Christ to her sister who is in desperate need of a healing.

Sunday morning found me at New Outlook Christian Fellowship. Once again, good folks who truly love God, and burn with a fire to tell others about Jesus. Once again, familiar faces that I had not seen in a while. Spoke on Jesus' first words from the cross...."Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing." The incredible fact that Jesus simply didn't talk about forgiveness as some kind of lofty, high, spiritual idea....No! In the worse place and time a person could ever experience, He lived it out. There on the cross, racked with pain, Jesus demonstrated the act of forgiveness. More than that, His very death opened the door for all of mankind to receive this forgiveness. 

Sunday night found me at Catalyst Recovery to speak at their meeting. Of course it was like coming home since they meet at the Vineyard. I got to the church at 4 p.m. and spent the time hanging out and talking. A young lady wanted to ask some questions that she'd been wrestling with, so we sat down and talked. She is broken over the state of the church. The bickering, the infighting, the excusing of sin in the midst of the church. You could tell that God has truly put a burden on her to intercede for His body. Hopefully I was able to answer her questions, although I did tell her that any answers I may be able to supply might have a Vineyard Tint to them. In the end, I told her to pray and ask God to show her the answers to her questions.

Blake and the worship team were spot on last night. They seem to have grown stronger,and more confident in their sound each time I get to worship with them. 

I spoke from Acts 3, the story of Peter and John and the cripple man. Putting into the context of addiction being as crippling as any disease man could experience, the healing that is needed is found in Jesus. Like Peter, I told those present that "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do possess I give to you....In the name of Jesus the Nazarene, get up and walk".  The invitation was for those who truly wanted to know and experience Jesus better to come forward. I told the crowd that such an invitation was for everyone....whether you had never given yourself to Jesus ever, or if you've been a believer for 30+ years, if you wanted more of Him, then come forward.


The front filled and prayer began.
There were a lot of hungry hearts standing there asking, crying, for Jesus to come. To fill them up. There were prayers of repentance....prayers of praise.
At one point, I felt that God wanted to heal, and I got the impression that there was healing for knees that were giving someone a problem. Then I got the impression that someone was struggling with acid reflux. I didn't know who it might be, but continued to pray. 


After the meeting, a young lady came up to me and told me that she was the one who needed the prayer. She told me that as she was standing there, she knew that she had those problems, knees and acid reflux, but didn't think much about asking for healing until I spoke both of those problems out loud. 
Then came the thoughts of .."O God, could it really be me you want to heal?"
I gathered some of the people around and we anointed her with oil and prayed over her. 

It was a good evening....
It was a good weekend...

He is an awesome God....

God on you...
mb

Saturday, February 21, 2015

If You Say Go...We Will Go




The words of Jesus ring true today even more than when He spoke them.....
Simple words...
Words that we have sought to theologize...(Yeah...I know it isn't really a word)

Theorize..
Pontificate upon....
Yet one cannot escape the simplicity of His statement.
"Follow me..."

We suggest that the words, originally spoken to the disciples, were for those select individuals that receive a "real" call on their life to enter into the ministry.
In some ways, I hate that word, ministry. Oh, it's not really the word as much as it is the connotation we've attached to it.

To have a call from Christ upon your life, in many churches today,  means that you must be up front and in the lead.

Pastor's have a call....
Minister's have a call....
Even Deacons supposedly have a call...
But the average Joe that sits in the congregation?
Well, he's different.
He's suppose to support the call of others.


To believe in Jesus...
To be saved through His offer of salvation..

Is to be called into a life that transcends the standards and morals of our society.
Now before you think I am going to get all "lofty" and "High minded" about this whole "Call" business. I'm not.
Because of one simple fact.
Those that are called are saved, and should be equipped to go out into the market place, the school, the neighborhood, to continue the ministry (or service) of Christ.
We become His arms, His legs, and His voice to those around us who do not know our Jesus.


Forget the religious junk....
We spend more time trying to get people to believe that we are Christians than we do going about the Kingdom business of reaching out to them.

Somehow we bought into the idea that if I wear enough Christian T-shirts (and there's nothing wrong with wearing a T-shirt)...that if I put that fish on my car (and if you really bold, you'll put the Greek letters inside it) then they will know that I'm a pseudo-follower of Jesus. Well, try something new. How about loving them as Christ loves them? I'm not talking about loving them from a distance. It's not enough to sit in church and proclaim that Jesus loves the unloved and so do we. Such statements have to be backed by action.

I remember all to well this song that I have chosen for today's posting.
It was 2006 and I had a serious call to leave Vineyard.

I knew God was calling me to leave...
My wife knew God was calling me to leave...
But it was soooo comfortable just being a part of what was happening at the Vineyard.
The call was real, and so was my rejection of it.
I used every excuse in the book to counter what I knew to be true.
It was on a Wednesday night, and I was on the worship team for the service that night.
"If You Say Go" was one of the songs I had picked to do. Why? Well, in my mind it was to encourage others to be open to God's call on their life to do the Kingdom work of Christ.

Right in the middle of the song, my wife came up on the stage, which she had done many times before. Usually when she does this, it is because she has received a word for God and wants to share it. Tonight would be different. Instead of walking up to a microphone, she came and stood directly behind me. She leaned in and whispered into me ear..."If you don't go...He is going to kill us all!!!"  Now she didn't really mean that God would actually kill us, but what she did mean was that God was very serious about where He wanted to lead us and I had kept coming up with excuses as to why I wouldn't go. You have to love her for being so bold and forthright. I knew the intent of her message was true in that God was reaching a point to where my hesitation would turn into full blown rebellion against Him. I did not want that to happen.
I announced my departure from Vineyard and the rest is history.


John Wimber use to say that he was a coin in God's pocket,and that God could spend him anyway He chose to.
What about you?
Are you willing to be spent by God, the way He chooses to?


God on you...
mb

Friday, February 20, 2015

Classic Vineyard Recovery Church




Classic.....
Classic cars....
Classic Architecture...
Classic Coke....
Classic Vineyard Recovery Church?

What's up with this?
Seems as though we've been labeled by the up and coming generation, not that I mind such happening.
Because of our connection to John Wimber, and our view of the Kingdom, we are now known as "Classic Vineyard". 
I receive that moniker with great pride.

Looking up the word "Classic" in the Free Dictionary, I found the following definition.
a. Belonging to the highest rank or class.
b. Serving as the established model or standard.
c. Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.

If you look at the Vineyard Movement as a whole, you'll see the original group of pastors who were the initial church planters in the movement are now reaching retirement age. Some have died. Some, because of various reasons, shut down their church plants. But there is no denying that we've aged as a movement.
The beauty of the Vineyard is that there is an up and coming group of young men and women who are carrying on what John Wimber initially started. The words of John still echo through the movement. Shortly before his death, John said that his greatest wish for the Vineyard would be that we take the best of what we were taught and go out.

John was not foolish enough to believe that every Vineyard Church should look the same, sound the same, or even be the same. His desire was that our spiritual DNA, the core values, priorities, and our view of the Kingdom, would not be lost in the transition from one generation to the next. 

Marty Boller is one of those pastors who was influenced by the teaching of John Wimber. He, and his wife, Sandy, served thirty years in a church plant in Iowa. Marty has recently released a book he wrote entitled The Wisdom of Wimber As I See It.  The following description of the book is found on the back cover.

At a church leadership conference in July 1991, VIneyard Christian Fellowship founder John Wimber taught on ten concepts he called the "genetic code" for churches looking to become God-worshiping, Jesus-centered, and Spirit-directed communities set apart for kingdom purposes. In this book Marty Boller takes these ten concepts and discusses, in his own commentary, the implications of them for the twenty-first century.


Like Marty Boller, I too have been influenced by the teachings of John Wimber. Also, like Marty Boller, I have been warned by other well meaning people, to be careful and not to idolize a man. To always remember that Jesus is first, not John Wimber. I like how Marty responded when given such advice. "I followed John and his teachings for one reason. Because, as I see it, John Wimber was a man who had been around Jesus. And quite honestly, I can't say that about many pastors I've met over the years."

Marty goes on to say, "Oh sure, there are well meaning leaders who refer to Jesus in their teachings and point to Christ with their ministries, but in John's case, I always sensed that he was one who wasn't at all that interested in building himself a ministry, or gathering people into his crowd. In many ways, John always seemed to be kind of like those disciples in the New Testament who were never really interested in themselves, but primarily interested in Jesus."

So if you come to visit with us on Saturday nights at Vineyard ReCovery Church, a lot of who we are as a community of believers is a direct result of the foundation that was given to us by John Wimber. After all, he told us that "Everyone gets to play in the kingdom".  There aren't any spectators.

God on you....
mb

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It Truly Is About The One Part 2


Psalm 96:1
Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, Bless His name. Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.

You could not make this stuff up. It almost sounds like a script from a play or a movie. I have been writing about how I felt that we are in a season where the focus and intent of God is about the one person who doesn't know Him on a personal basis. The one person who has never really encountered God or, if they did, did not know that they were having an encounter. I've written in this blog about how we, Vineyard ReCovery, has been experiencing this in our meetings over the last 10 weeks. Well, it happened again last night at our Bible study.

If you check last Thursday's posting, you'll see that I wrote where I only had one person show up for Bible study. That I basically had a sit down "Study/ask questions" kind of meeting.In the end, the one who had come was saved. Well, last night I had two show up for the study. That's pretty cool...a 100% increase over the week before. We took a look at the salvation message that is hidden in the genealogy of Adam. This lead to a discussion about the Kingdom of God, as I explained the idea behind the "Kingdom here / The Kingdom not yet" theology that the Vineyard holds to. We talked about how everyone who knows Christ has been given permission and power to play in the Kingdom. That we all get to "Do the stuff" as Wimber taught us. We all get to pray healing on those who need it. We all get to cast out and off demons from those who are in bondage. We all get to do the works of Christ. 

The two became animated at the idea that they could actually participate in Kingdom work. I told them that the reason most people don't is because no one has told them they could, no one has given them permission to actually do it. Well, one thing lead to another and one of the men, who is working a recovery program, asked if he could pray the 3rd step prayer. This is the step where, in our case, we have come to the place where we recognize Jesus as the one and only Higher POWER and as such, are ready to turn will and life over to His care and follow Him.

He prayed....
God heard....
He was saved....

He began to tremble as He prayed...
The Spirit of God settled in him and over him...
What made this particular salvation so special is that this individual was a follower of another religion.

I've watched him since day one, have his barriers broken down because I determined that I would love him no matter what. I was not going to argue theology....I was not going to cast dispersion's on what he believed. I would speak the truth about the gospel of Christ and simply love him. As I prayed for this individual, I asked God to break down any barrier that stood between Him and this man. Then I watched it happen.

Conviction...
Confession...
Brokenness....

Salvation....

Is God good or what?
God on you...

mb

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Thoughts From The Heart



Ephesians 4:1-2
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,

Ephesians 5:1
Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.

Charles Finney on the impact of Christ in our daily lives:
"Every step you take vibrates to all eternity. Every move echoes over the hills and valleys of heaven, and through the caverns of hell. Every movement of your life exerts an influence that will reflect in the eternal destiny of people around you."

Finney goes on to say:
"The world reads this witness as you walk the streets. You are a living letter known and read to all. If you show pride, lightness, a short temper and the like, it tears open the Savior's wounds."

I know that Finney lived in a different time and age. That the world saw Jesus different than we do today. If you read Finney for any length of time, you might come away saying that he was all about the Law and not much grace. You would consider him to be the "hell-fire / damnation" type of preacher. Finney would seem out place in our time and day if he showed up to preach at our churches. But within this man burned something that never goes out of style. He longed to see a church, or community of believers, rise above the sin and apathy that seemed to grip religion in America. 

Whether we want to agree with Finney, or disagree with him, one thing has not changed when it comes to following Jesus. We are called to a character standard that is different than the world. We do not operate or do business as the world does. There is a Holy Spirit moral fiber than is grown into the every follower of Jesus. It affect the way you interact with others. It takes you from a self-centered form of worship, and gives you vision to see God and this world as they really are. I tell you if you ever get a glimpse of the real God, you will not remain in the same mind set you currently possess.

We think that running into a church building on Sunday morning, singing a few songs to get a warm fuzzy feeling, and then running back out into the world has satisfied our commitment to God. What would happen if this next Sunday during worship God truly showed up in the gathering? What would happen? Would you fall to your face, totally uncovered for all the things you've harbored in your heart? Would you turn self totally over to His will and receive the grace and mercy that He longs to pour out on you? I do know this. If God truly did show up in our meetings, we would not leave that building in the same spiritual state we came in with.


Such a heart that had been in the presence of the Living God would forever be changed. The things of this world would loose their appeal and God would be seen at ever turn during the daily life. I know that even as I write this, some will think that I may have slid off of my cracker. If so, then pray for me, because I am being awakened to some truth in my own life. I don't want to play church....I don't want to be a pseudo-follower of Christ that only does so as a mental exercise. I want to love those no one else does. I want to feed the hungry, and give a coat to the one who has none. To pray healing upon the broken, the ill and the cripple. Not to exalt my name or my church but, as the Moravian's proclaimed, 
"To win for the lamb the reward of His sufferings."

Dare we do any less that this? 
Do you realize that we all have been invited to play in the Kingdom of God?
To do the works of Jesus.
To tell the news that can change everything.
To live out daily in front of others who may not know Jesus, a truth that has not, nor does not change.
A truth that has the power to change everything.
In your prayers today, ask God to show you your heart.
Then allow His Spirit room to come and change you.
You might be surprised at what happens over the coming weeks and months.
Please receive this writing this morning in the Spirit it was intended to be shared with. Not as a condemnation on the state of the church, but in the hope and glory of God who desires a community of believers to rise up and be who they were created to be.

God on you....
mb







Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Could He?


Luke 23:34
Then Jesus said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do."

Such a statement would have been looked at as being lofty and above the filth and rabble of daily life. To be able to stand and say, "I forgive you" is looked upon as being something that does not fit into the fabric of our world.
Jesus preached forgiveness....
Jesus taught forgiveness....
Jesus pointed out that we have to forgive our enemies...

Pray for those who persecute us....
He said it at the Temple...
He spoke it from the hills surrounding Jerusalem...

They were words that conveyed high and lofty attitudes for the masses....

But unlike others who spoke similar, lofty, ideological concepts about the human condition...
Jesus lived his own teachings out in the most horrifying event a man could go through.

The cross.....

Jesus didn't throw out platitudes of how life should be...
He spoke the truth about how God expects us to live.
He said the hard things that caused people to stop and think about their current way of living.

This whole deal about forgiving others was not a suggestion...
It wasn't a divine hint about how to get into heaven...
It was the root and base foundation for everything God stands for.

Forgiveness!!!

Hanging on the cross....
Experiencing pain that I will never be able to comprehend..
Jesus' first words were...."Father, forgive them."

When those words were spoken, they weren't directed just to the crowd surrounding his cross....the religious rulers, the Roman guards....
No, those incredible words were spoken to impact time and eternity from that point on. He spoke them about me and you. They were the mortar and cement that built a bridge so that God could receive me into His kingdom.
Those words became the banner that flies over every heart that confesses that Jesus is Lord and Savior of our lives....and that God, the Father, raised Him from the dead.
How could God do such a thing as forgive me?
Because Jesus paid my sin debt.


Oh, if we could ever lay hold of the truth about how much God loves us, it truly would change everything. It would take us into a new way of seeing the world and those around us, and cause us to act in ways we thought we never could. The sheer act of forgiving those who have hurt us liberates us, and frees us from the muck and mire of this world that seeks to keep us in darkness. 

Freedom in forgiveness...
Freedom in Christ...
He showed us the way to carry out such an idea as forgiving.

Think on these things today...

God on you...

mb


Monday, February 16, 2015

Ten Weeks Of The One



Hebrews 4:16
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.

Fighting through the "crud" this morning, as evidenced by the fact that it's 2:36 a.m. and here I sit at this computer. But that is another story for a different time.
We continue to watch as God moves and changes Vineyard Recovery Church.

What we do know at this time, is that we are a place of healing and restoration.
An entry point, if you will, for those who have never had an encounter with God.
We unlock the doors every Saturday night, and prepare to meet with God, through the worship, the teaching, the coffee and just hanging out catching up.
Does that make us unique or exceptional? I think not.
We're simply trying to be the community of believers He wants us to be.


With this in mind, we come each week to watch God at work, and cooperate with what He would have us do.
Last Saturday night was no different.

For the past 9 weeks, we have watched as God has brought someone in who needed ministry (to be prayed over). Maybe they had a need for physical healing...maybe it was for inner healing....it could be for salvation. Whatever the need, the one who came encountered God and went away with the knowledge and experience that (1) God is indeed real, and (2) that God does love them.  The funny part in this whole "Minister to the One" thing that is going on, is that each week it has been someone different who has never attended VRC before. 

This past weekend, it was an individual who was downtown and stopped out front to see what was going on. A member of our core group struck up a conversation and extended an invitation to stay and hang out. Invitation was accepted and they came in. During the teaching time, I could tell that what was being taught was hitting home with the person. We were taking a look at the power and love that stands behind the Twelve Steps, and the extent of how much God does love us.

Ministry time began, and our visitor was the first one to stand and move to be prayed for. Once again, God validated that He was definitely interested in the one. The one who is hurting...the one who is convinced that they are damaged goods and are beyond God's ability to restore them. After the ministry time, I struck up a conversation with our visitor and found that they felt as though the message was entirely for them and no one else. They thanked me for us being there, downtown on Saturday night. They assured me they would be back.

As we wrapped up the meeting, I thought to myself, "What if we had not been here tonight? Would that person have fallen through crack and never had an encounter with God?" I don't know the answer to that thought. I just know that I had a lot of gratitude for God giving us a meeting and a place where we can make a difference in the life of One.

God on you...

mb


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love



I Corinthians 13:13
........But the greatest of these is love...

It's Valentines day....
People all over this country will go about declaring their love for another.

They will scour businesses looking for the perfect gift to shower on their significant other.
They will make plans for tonight, whether it's a night out on the town, or a stay-at-home meal they prepare themselves.

Why?
Because it's Valentines day!

A day to celebrate love.

I looked up several definitions of the word "love":

(1) :  strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal tieslove
 for a child> (2) :  attraction based on sexual desire :  affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) :  affection based on admiration,benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates
(2) warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>

(3) unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) :  the fatherly concern of God for humankind 

Unselfish loyal and benevolent concern.....
That is how God feels about you and me...
I know we say that we know God loves us...
We have sang "Jesus Love's Me" since the cradle....

But do we fully understand the driving heart and emotion that fuels God intentions to us?
Our sin causes us to see God as some spiteful, vindictive deity who has it out for us.
Scripture says that He is love.
Our sin causes us to run from Him. God pursues us no matter what we've done..no matter what we've said...no matter how we feel about Him...His love is the motivating factor that causes Him to reach out to us.


You see, today men will buy chocolates to declare their love....
God gave up His own Son to die in a place that rightfully should have been mine.
Today, men will give flowers to their sweethearts to declare their love....
Jesus gave His live...spilled every last drop of blood to declare His love for the Father and for humanity.

Today, men will give gifts of jewelry to the one that they love.
Through Jesus' death, God offered the free gift of eternal life so that none might perish and be forever separated from Him.

Today, men will take pen to paper (I know..it's an antiquated statement) and in prose and print declare their love to their wife or girlfriend.
God breathed His love out through the pens of others. It spilled out onto parchment and paper. Sixty-six books of God declared love. We call it the Bible.


Such a love that burns in the heart of God is beyond my comprehension.
But that is the kind of love I desire to know.
My heart is to learn how to love God....and others as I love myself.

Not with the syrupy, ooey-gooey kind of love the world has created..
but with the pure, undefiled, divine love that God possesses.
Think on these things...

God on you....
mb

Friday, February 13, 2015

2500 And Beyond!



Psalm 119:105
Thy word in a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

The Greene Street Letters....
My way of simply trying to keep it real.
A little something each morning to encourage, uplift, and maybe keep you and me focused on what is important in this old life.
You won't find the mysteries of the Bible unraveled and revealed here.
You won't be dazzled by my knowledge of Hebrew and Greek...

But if you're simply trying to make it through life, then maybe something that I've written may help you to take that next step.

The "Letters" have gone through several transitions over the years. As I've shared in the past, Greene Street Letters was originally a reminder that I mailed out to those folks who were attending our home group. We were meeting every other Saturday night, so long-time friend and pastor, Jim Bentley, suggested that I might send out a note letting folks know that we were meeting. The note worked and everyone seemed grateful that I would do such. On one particular occasion, I felt that God wanted me to share a verse that had been important to me at that time. So with the reminder, I shared what God had been doing. Lot's of return calls and emails in response to what I shared.

It all kind of escalated from there. A few months later, we began to put together a full fledged newsletter. Our mailing list began to grow and before long, we were mailing out 250 every other week. They were being sent all over the U.S. and Canada. Greene Street Letters were being sent to Europe and Russia, as well as Saipan. 

Greene Street Letters has gone through many name changes, but ultimately we wound back up with the original title. For a brief time, it was known as "Notes From The Outer Banks". Don't ask me why, because I'm not ever sure where that name came from. It was also known as "Blues Notes". This came about from our days of having a Saturday night meeting we called Vineyard Gadsden's House of Blue.

This particular format of the Greene Street Letters, the daily blog, took shape back in May of 2008. I began to receive letters and other forms of communication from former clients saying they missed my Bible studies, and the way I always seemed to have something they needed to hear. One thing lead to another and I got into the blog business. It has gone farther than being a touch stone for the men who have come through the Rapha program. It has become a place for anyone who needs a daily reminder of how incredible God is. A place where we all can be reminded that no matter what we may be facing in our daily lives, God has not forgotten us or cast us aside. 

I was checking the statistics for the blog and counted 150+ countries where the Letter has been read. Of course the highest count of readers comes from the United States. But the next three highest readings come from Russia, China and the Ukraine. To be honest with you, I wonder what they are finding in these postings. I'll have to trust God on that one. Too big for my brain to figure out. Just a lot of gratitude for allowing me to do this. 

So where do we go from here? Well, I can't see beyond tomorrow. All I know is if God gives me breath for another day, and I can make to this computer, I'll churn out another one. I do want to thank everyone who stops by here and reads the posting. So hopefully, I'll see you tomorrow.

God on you...

mb

Thursday, February 12, 2015

An Audience Of One


Romans 6:23
......But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This week has been a week of change here at Rapha....
New directions for the program....
New schedule for me....So I have spent these first days getting adjusted.

Wednesday rolled around and I was to teach a Bible study that night....6 p.m till 8 p.m.
According to state mandates, we cannot require anyone to attend my Bible study, it has to be on a voluntary basis. This means that you never know who or how many will show up. 

I was in the classroom praying over the room and asking God to be a real presence in the teaching. I'd be less than honest if I said that I wasn't battling some old voices that seem to rise up from time to time. Voices that whisper...."You're not relevant anymore. Why do you even bother coming out here, no one is going to come to your stupid Bible study." Of course, realizing whose voice it was, and where it was coming from, I kicked up my prayers a notch.

Six o'clock came...
No one was there...
I determined to teach anyway, even if it was just to myself. Maybe I missed something in the preparation that God intended me to hear and understand.

The door opened and a voice said, "Y'all still having that Bible thing?" I assured him that we were and that he was more than welcome to join me.
He found a place at a table and sat down.

I asked him to relax and just close his eyes, as I started the worship music. I began to pray over him. Prayers for healing....prayers for peace.....prayers that God would become real to him tonight. As I was praying, I knew that what I had prepared was not what God wanted to teach. Tonight was God speaking to an audience of one.  As the prayers ended, I grabbed my Bible and sat down across from him. We talked...."how's your day?"......"How long will you be here at Rapha?"....


I asked him about his history...

Where he was born.....
Any brothers or sisters.....
Found out that he is divorced and has two sons....ages 13 and 8.
He got to see them last Saturday during visitation, and as he talked, you could see how proud he was of his boys. 

Life had taken a wrong turn in 2008 and because of a divorce, it sent him down the path that ultimately got him here.
Bad choices were quickly followed by bad consequences...

Typical story you hear in recovery.

I asked him about his belief's...
He firmly stated that he believed in God...
But not much more.

He was fully aware that events in his life had transpired in which he should have died...
Car wrecks....
Fights....

But he chalked it up to fate, luck and karma.
I put the notion out to him that maybe it had been God who had saved.
"You mean God would do that for me? Why?"
That brought in the whole "love of God" thing that really shook him up.


Romans 3:23....
Was followed by Romans 6:23.....
He acknowledged that he was a mess....he was a sinner who had lived his life outside the love and will of God.
Romans 10:9-10 laid out the answer that could open a door to a new way of living....
I asked him...."Do you want to make things right tonight between you and God? You know...a fresh start on life?"

Eyes filled with tears....
Head hung down to his chest....
"Yes...I'm tired of living like this."

Prayers....
Really good prayers....
The kind that rise up from the heart and by pass the mind....

"Save me Lord."

I asked him how he felt after we finished praying...
"Lighter...I feel like a weight has been taken off me."

I hugged him and gave him a Bible...
"Start reading in the book of John", turning to the book, marking it for him to find.

He thanked me and made his way back out to the compound.

I sat for a moment taking in what had just happened.
"It really is about the one, isn't it Lord?"

In the quirky way my mind works, I thought to myself, "You know I just had a Bible study where 100% of those who attended got saved."
Be in prayer for this man.......
It was a good evening.

God on you...

mb

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Keeping It Real


II Corinthians 11:3
But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

O.k...here is dumb statement # 1 for the day...
"Life is a journey"...there I said it.

Of course life is a journey and the last stop along the way is death. At least here on this side of eternity. We all are pointed in that direction. From the moment you come out of your mother's womb and the doctor slaps your behind, the clock starts ticking.
But shouldn't it be more than a journey....
Shouldn't there be a purpose to our existence?

Oh, I'm not talking about greatness or destiny....being a financial guru or a mover and shaker in the political world.

Scripture points us to the simple fact that we were created for God's good pleasure. He loves us in spite of our mess ups and failures. He loves us in spite of our running away from Him. Now don't get me wrong, when we reject God, it does not please Him, but the love is still there. Kind of like what a parent feels when their own kid rebels and rejects anything to do with parental authority.


So why all this "Purpose in life's journey"?
Because yesterday, as I was teaching a class at Rapha, I caught myself really looking into the faces of those who were present.

If you didn't know what Rapha was (a drug and alcohol treatment center) you might never know that everyone in that classroom had an addiction problem. As I was looking at them, a thought crossed my mind..."This is so not normal for these men to be here". In other words, God did not create anyone to become an addict. They shouldn't be in a treatment center. They should be at work earning a living so they can take care of their families. They should be in college working on the degree they abandoned. They should be somewhere other than a place where you are told when to go to be and when to get up. Such a life isn't really normal, is it? Don't get me wrong...to me, these guys get all the points, plus $10.00 out of petty cash for coming to treatment. They truly are trying to do something about their condition. And right now, at this point in time, their primary concern is sobriety. The thought that God might somehow play into this whole "living sober" idea is foreign to them. 

Sometimes the hardest part of life is embracing the simple things. The idea that there is a POWER greater than ourselves that could restore us to sanity is almost like science fiction to these men when they first enter the program. Why? Because anything to do with God, Jesus, salvation,and the Bible is filtered through a "religious/church" lens, and the picture isn't always right or even close. My thing is to separate Jesus from their old concepts of who God is and the way they believe He acts. To them, God is angry all the time and is sitting up in heaven with a handful of lightning bolts ready to hurl them to earth and fry those who disobey. They can't see a God who loves them beyond anything they can comprehend. Such a thought is the same reason we started Vineyard ReCovery. We wanted a place where the focus was on the POWER that was available to move us out of addiction, into a life that had meaning and purpose. We want to focus on Jesus, showing Him as the only way to walk out the steps to sobriety. Not only walk out those steps, but to thrive and prosper in process. 

Romans 8:12-14 (The Message Bible)
SO don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God's Spirit beckons you. There are things to do and places to go.
It all begins, this new life, with a decision that is made by the heart and not the mind/brain. It is a knowing deep inside you that there is a better way. Such decisions are made when you are simply sick and tired of being sick and tired. That is the beauty and simplicity of the life that has always been there waiting for you to embrace. 

One final word to you this morning from Romans 12:1-2
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday, ordinary life----your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking around life---and place it before God as an offering> Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God.You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from and you and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
In other words....
Keep this whole journey simple...
Don't complicate the obvious....

or trivialize the momentous...
Keep it simple...

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 ...