Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Oh, The Times They are A' Changing


Judges 2:10-11
When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel.
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals.

Judges 21:25
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

The church seems to have gone into panic mode after the rulings last week by our Supreme Court. Lot's of rhetoric and "saber rattling" by those who claim to be believers. But then the church has a tendency to over react at times, don't we.

I'm not going to get into the politics of the ruling by the court. I'm not going to point fingers and quote scripture. But I do have a view that I think might be more in line with what God expects from us.

During the darkest times of World War II, England stood alone facing an enemy that was preparing for invasion. There were attacks by the enemy air force over London, devastating it with deadly accuracy as bombs rained down on the population. But in the middle of it all was a man with resolve. That man? Winston Churchill. In a speech to the country, Churchill stated that what they were facing as a country would bring out the best of the people. That when history looked back at what England had done, it would be said of the country..."This was their finest hour."
Such should be said of the church during this dark time in our nation, "This was their finest hour."

The church should rise up and become the body that Christ deserves. Loving in truth and speaking what needs to be said. The church has a history of thriving during the darkest of times. I believe such times are when the Father prunes away the dead branches from the vine. Those branches who are not committed to the kingdom of God. Those branches that are only playing at this thing we call relationship with His Son, Jesus. Yes, I truly believe that the best days for the church are ahead of us. I also believe that the hardest days for the church are out there also. But the darker it gets, spiritually, and the harder times become...the more we will see the glory of God. 

Yes, I believe that the best days for the church are ahead of us. But we need to learn how to "Walk" as Jesus did. We need to have His heart so that we can interact with the people around us. We need to be saturated with His word so that we can speak truth to those who need to hear. Now is no time to exalt denomination above Christ. Now is the time to exalt God alone and become united in bringing in His Kingdom rule and will to a world that has lost its way.

Now is the time to train and be trained in how to go about the kingdom business. The church has been slow in training and more about collecting people. We have done a disservice to those who have come through our doors, sat in our pews and chairs, only to go away with no understanding of the call that comes with our relationship to Jesus.


I think maybe that is about to change.
God on you...
mb

Monday, June 29, 2015

Truth In A Bowl Of Cereal.


I got to attend a recovery meeting last night where I didn't have to speak. It's good for me to be a part and receive rather than be up front being the one bringing the message.

During the worship time, the band had moved into a very intimate song, leading us deeper into God's presence. I felt as though I was to slip out of my chair, get on my knees and just worship. Like my wife always says, "There are times during worship when the song takes me into the presence of God. There, the room disappears and it's just God and me." It felt like one of those times.

I was praying asking for God's mercy to rest upon everyone in the room (including me) that we really needed a word from Him on this night. At the end of the prayer, I slid back up into my seat. The worship team continued with the song and the room seemed to be filled with peace. As I looked around the room, I suddenly got a mental picture. Of all things, I saw a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal. "What's up with this?" I asked. God began to speak to me in my spirit.

"This is what the heart of man craves."
Lucky Charms?
"Look closer"....
I noticed that the bowl had cereal flakes and milk, but the marshmallows were almost gone. Only one or two in the bowl. People are like children. They will pick through the very things I give them and only "eat" that which has no spiritual nourishment by itself. I was reminded of a verse from the Message Bible. II Timothy 4:3-5 - You're going to find that there will be times when people will have no stomach for solid teaching, but will fill up on spiritual junk food-----catchy opinions that tickle their fancy. They'll turn their backs on truth and chase mirages......

To me, spiritual junk food would be teaching an "easier, softer" way of recovery. Not telling the truth about the daily struggle people face. Painting some kind of pie-in-the-sky picture of a Jesus who is more like the man who puts you on the rides at Disney Land.  People need to be told of the struggle that comes with recovery but, at the same time, they also need to hear about the incredible benefits that come when you persevere, continue to follow Jesus, and not look back at the old life. Sure the spiritual marshmallows taste better than dry flakes. But it is the flakes and the milk that have the spiritual nutrition that promotes growth. The last thing I want is a room full of perpetual babies, feasting on spiritual marshmallows, and who refuse to grow up. Such will only want what their appetite demands, and not the food needed to move forward in their lives. 

Last night's meeting was the full bowl of cereal.
Greg Birdwell brought the word with passion and truth. It was the whole message and left no doubt in anyone's mind that Jesus is the only way to move forward in this life. I'm very appreciative of those who will not compromise God's word, or try and sugar coat the reality of moving from the old lifestyle into this new relationship with Christ.  

I appreciative of the "whole bowl of cereal" that God pours out in these meetings. But I need to realize that such meetings are not created for us to pick and choose what we will or will not do.
Thanks for stopping by this morning.
God on you...


mb

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Time To Soldier On


The verse above is from II Timothy 2:3.
Some don't like the military references used in this portion of scripture. We are to be an army of love....I guess they see flowers and hippies dancing in the sunshine. Truth is, we have an enemy who is at work 24/7 to do his best to stop what God is working to complete in this world. Oh, our enemy knows (at least I think he does) that he is defeated foe. He knows that he cannot defeat God. But being the stinker that he is, the devil seeks to keep as many as he can from entering into relationship with Christ. 

With that thought, he is motivated to increase societal influences that draw millions into the web of deception. "God is dead!"...."Live for today!".....and on and on the mantra of darkness goes. Coupled with this is his work to water down the church. In fact, it is my opinion (Get it? opinion..not theological fact) that the devil doesn't mind us being religious. He isn't offended at all when we go to church....sing in the choir...put $5.00 in the offering plate. Those things don't offend him at all. What offends him is when we begin to take God at His word and allow the Holy Spirit entrance into our lives to train and guide us. That not only offends him, it scares him to death.

II Timothy 2:4 reads: No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who enlisted him as a soldier.
I wrote in yesterday's posting that if we truly are part of a movement in God's Kingdom.....
And if the analogy of our place in that movement is symbolically seen as being a part of an army....
Then would it not make sense to be trained?
The church has thrown that part away many years ago.

The church seems to be focused on making life easier and better.
Now I'm not going to lump every church in that basket of shirking their duty to teach the world.
But we need to take this thing one step farther.
We need to not only teach, but model how to apply the word to daily life.

I am very fortunate to have had people pass through my life who trained me and my wife in how to follow God.

George Creel opened the Scripture for us. We spent fourteen years under his teaching, and every meeting was eye opening as he unfolded the word to our hearts. George Creel laid a solid foundation of the word of God in our heart on which a Matthew 7:24 house was built.

Brook and Jennifer Finlayson laid the next part in our lives. 
They provided us with a set of teaching tapes (remember those? Tapes?) on how to hear God.
They also gave us a set on the real meaning of grace.
These two teaching literally turned our world upside down as we saw the Kingdom of God in new light.

Debbie Handy taught us the importance of worship. How to worship. How to respond to the Holy Spirit when He comes to us. She gave us the insight to see that all life with God begins with worship. That worship was more than music, it is a lifestyle unto God. Our very lives are a worship testimony to His greatness, His faithfulness and His love.

Last, and certainly not least, Jim Bentley and the Vineyard showed us that we could "Do the Stuff". We could do the works of Christ. We could pray for people and see them healed. We could cast off demonic spirits from those who had been oppressed by them. We could receive information from God when praying for someone that would help guide us in what to pray. 


These five people gave of themselves to see that Vicki and I could grow in Christ.
That should be the heart of the church today. To make sure that each person who comes into community is taught how to move under the influence of God's Holy Spirit. 
We may not like the comparison...
We may not want to think in these terms...
But we are all called to be a part of God's army here on planet earth.

We each have a duty and a call to fulfill as part of that army.
I think maybe it was time we were trained so we can soldier on.
I think it is time for us to live dangerously in the hands of God.
To be abandoned to His faith, yet anchored in His love.
As the Moravian motto states: To win for the Lamb the rewards of His suffering. 
What do you think?

God on you...
mb




Friday, June 26, 2015

What Next?


Ezekiel 37:10
So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them and they lived and stood upon their feet, an exceeding great army.

As some of you may know, Vineyard ReCovery Church began with a mental picture that God gave me as I was praying about coming back to the Vineyard after being away for a seven years. The photo above is as close to what I saw during my prayer time as I have been able to come up with. World War II soldiers marching in the mud, headed for battle. In my mind, I saw rain falling on the soldiers and they were wearing poncho's. Each soldier had his head bowed as the rain ran off his helmet. But the road was a quagmire of mud and was filled with ruts where vehicles had traveled.

This week has been a week to revisit that picture I saw. It has been a week of puzzle pieces being given to me as I studied scripture. Pieces that came through the conversations of others with me. And last but not least was God talking to me during during my prayer time. 

The passage from Ezekiel 37 has followed me ever since I began moving in recovery circles some 17 years ago. In the passage, Ezekiel is taken to a valley, and there strewn across the land were bones of dead people. They had been there for so long that they had become dry. The marrow was gone...they were brittle and probably would snap into easily if you stepped on them. There was no pattern to the bones, they were scattered from one end of the valley to the other. It must have been a disturbing sight to be dropped into such a place. But God always has a plan and purpose for His actions.

God begins to instruct Ezekiel to do something that I probably would have considered to be dumb. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the bones. Speak over them, but speak only what God instructs Him to say. Ezekiel obeys. He speaks verbally, out loud, not just words but commands. The very God who spoke everything into existence is now speaking, through Ezekiel, life. A funny thing began to happen. The bones began to move under the power of God. Bone began to find connection with the proper bone it was to be united with. Clinking and clacking filled the air as this great migration of the dead took place before Ezekiel's eyes. Pretty soon there were bodies where only random piles of bones had been. 


God then instructs Ezekiel to prophecy breath to come to these bodies from the four winds to breath upon "these slain" and give them life. I find it interesting that instead of saying "these who have died", God tells Ezekiel that these all have been slain. In other words, this incredible sight of dead bodies is the result of someone or something inflicting death upon them. Ezekiel complies with God command. The result is that the bodies, which now have been covered with muscle and tissue, stand upon their feet. They are spoken of as an exceedingly great army.

I know that in Scripture, this story is God showing Ezekiel what is happening to Israel and what their future holds. But I can't help but believe that God has been showing me what is happening in the area of recovery. How many bodies would we have if everyone who is in addiction were touched by God, given real life by God and raised up from that place of death that comes through the affliction of an outside source? Granted the drugs and alcohol are taken into the body, but it is still an outside source that brings death to the individual. 

Ezekiel saw an army that numbered more than he could count. An exceedingly great army.  The one thing that I missed when God showed me the image of the marching soldiers, was probably the most important. A soldier has to be trained in order to fight in a battle. You don't send untrained men and women into battle. There is a teaching process that must take place. They must learn to think as one. To have the same purpose and direction. Whether you may want to believe it or not....we all, who claim to follow Jesus, have been put into the middle of a battle for the souls of those who haven't been saved. Those who are still existing in the "valley of dry bones". King David said that God lead him through this valley of the shadow of death. So it is a part of the call we receive from God when we turn will and life over to His care. We become a part of an exceedingly great army of former dead men and women.

The mandate of the army is liberation. God's call to us is no different. We have been given the mandate to free those still held under the bondage of sin/addiction.



Isaiah 61:1-2
The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me...
Because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted.
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
And the day of vengeance of our God.

You may be thinking to yourself, "That is the scripture that Jesus quoted when He began His ministry. How does this apply to me?" Well, we have been called to enter into the works of Jesus. In fact, He said that we would do greater (number wise) works than He did. So, in truth, His mandate from the Father is now our mandate to go forth as an army under His direction to take back that which was lost at the fall of man in the garden.

So where is all of this headed.
I think it begins with training.
You can expect an army to do warfare and not be trained.
Even the best equipped army with all the latest military hardware is no threat if they are not properly trained.
I will be sharing over the next few weeks about where I see how Vineyard ReCovery fits into this picture.

God on you...
mb

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heart Worship



Music is big business....
Praise and worship music is big business....
There are tunes being written and churned out daily in hopes of becoming the next big Christian hit. I never will forget when Christian Brothers ran a record and book store. This was back in the late 70's and early 80's when finding contemporary Christian music was near impossible in our town. So we were trying to make available the music that was coming out of the JESUS people movement. A man stopped by one day and during the conversation made a comment I've never forgotten. "When the world discovers it can make a buck with this music, they will latch on and sell the people a bill of goods." How true this has become.

Praise and worship is about the heart. It is my heart telling God how much I love Him. How much He deserves to be worshiped by us, His creation. Is life perfect here on planet earth? I think not. Do we all have problems? Yes we do. But none of those things should play into our worship unto God. I keep going back to the story of Job. He had probably the worst day ever recorded by the human race. Yet in the middle of everything that was going on, Scripture tells us that Job put dirt on his head, tore his clothes, sat down and worshiped God. I'm pretty sure that what transpired in Job, and what came out of his mouth wasn't a "Happy-happy-joy-joy" moment. I'm sure it was more like a "Oh God, I need you now more than ever" moment. 

Worship is (or rather should be) a part of every believer's life no matter what their state or condition is. We give God glory and honor because no one deserves it more. But what I have seen transpire over the past 35 years, is that praise and worship has turned into a spectator sport. We will shell out bucks to go sit and watch a person or group worship. That's kind of like paying to watch someone else eat a meal. At our LIVING SACRIFICES worship conference last year, during a time of teaching, John Barnett made the comment that worship isn't real worship unless it flows from the stage into the room and engages everyone present. In other words, those who are leading worship must "set a table" with the music, where everyone is invited to come, sit and dine in the presence of God. Take into your spirit His presence and free yourself to give back to God the worship that is due Him.
Worship should take us from our troubles...our problems....our condition, into the presence of God Himself. We should remember who is the giver of life and of all good things. We return back to Him the praise that is stirred within our hearts.

Too often worship is nothing more than sound that stirs the flesh. Worship...true worship always begins in the heart and not in our minds.
Matthew 15:8 reads "These people draw near to Me with their mouths, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me." In other words, these people have a "form of worship" but are denying the Power that they are giving their worship to. They are simply going through the motions. They are playing a part in a religious play that becomes nothing more than a collective activity among themselves. 

I want to create a time and place in our meeting on Saturday night where we all can be free to worship. That we can "Posture" before God as we are directed to by Him. What do I mean by "posture"? Well, suppose you are in a time of corporate worship and you are very much aware that God wants you to get down on your knees. Do you feel the freedom to do such? How about lying down on your face? How about standing and raising your hands to your heavenly Father? Do you have the freedom to do such? Or do you worry about what others may think if you do something like what I've written. Well, you don't ever have to worry about such if you come to our Saturday night meeting. In fact, when people do engage in such posturing, it is a sign that God is probably at work in the room. We are not trying to create an emotion or a behavior with our music. We simply want to sing to God and allow Him to move us. We want to collectively create a worship card and send it to God to tell Him what an awesome God He is. Not for what He has done to us and for us...but simply because He deserves our praise and worship.

Think on these things and see what God would say to you about your worship.
If you feel so inclined, come out and join us this Saturday night / Vineyard ReCovery Church @ 7 p.m.

God on you...
I want to leave you with a video from Keith Greene.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"It's A Joke, Right? You Mean He Is Coming Back?"




Revelation 22:12
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.

II Thessalonians 4:16-18
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the sound of an arcangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

You don't hear much about the "2nd Coming Of Christ" anymore. Use to.  Back in the 80's that seem to be the topic of a lot of teachers. Of course such teaching also brought out the predictor's. You know what I'm talking about. Those who want to place a date and time on when Jesus will return. I'm sure there are a lot of those books that were written during that time about His eminent return laying around collecting dust. Probably surrounded by a couple of copies of "The Prayer of Jabez". 

Seems as though our focus, as believers, has drifted from a heavenward view toward more of an earthly view. You don't hear much teaching on heaven....the book of Revelation....or anything to do with Christ coming back.

Oh, I know that the "LEFT BEHIND" series of books were flying off the shelves, but even with this, there were several among the church who kind of "poo-pooed" the whole thing about a rapture. I think I've heard every argument possible about the rapture. Everything from pre-trib (Jesus takes the believers out before the great tribulation starts)....mid-trib (Jesus take believers out at the midway point of the great tribulation...to post-trib (Believers will have to endure the entire 7 year period in which the anti-Christ will rule). The views and opinions about what may or may not happen are endless. So what do I know? I simply know that He is coming back. I also believe that when we read about a so-called rapture of the church, that isn't the second coming of Christ. Why so? Because He doesn't return to earth...we rise up to meet and be with Him.
NO, when Jesus comes back for the second time (He was hear in human form..that was His first coming), He will be coming back in a different way than when He left. He will not be the gentle, risen glorified Son of God. He will be coming back as the Captain of the host of heaven. He will be the commander in chief who will be coming back to judge the world and to return to every person the reward or wages they have earned because of their belief's and deeds. There won't be much celebration in His second return. IN fact the Scripture speaks of a time when men will cry out for the mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the presence of Christ.

The one thing that I have been thinking about this week is I have a hope. I have a promise from God himself that Christ would return for me. I don't know if I'll be alive when it happens. Kind of think it would be real neat to be alive when the whole rapture thing happens, but I'm not assured of that. But whether alive or dead, I am smack dab in the middle of a win/win situation. Either state assures me that I am going to be with Christ. It's hard to wrap my brain around the whole "Caught up with Jesus" thing, but fortunately I don't have to rely on my brain for this one. It's all about the heart and my faith that God's promises are yes and amend.

This promise of receiving the final piece of my salvation is an incredible encouragement to me. It keeps me motivated to not quit or sit down....or even worse.....GIVE UP! It tells me that I need to keep one eye on heaven, and one here on earth as I move about in my daily routine. It also reminds me that there are many more out there who haven't heard the gospel. They are mired down under the judgment of sin and the accusations of our enemy the devil. I need to keep telling the story of what Christ has done, and continues to do to me.

It would be easy for me, at this point, to list all the things I see terribly wrong with this world. Isis....the whole sexual identity thing....the whole sexual thing of redefining what marriage is....or those who would even discard marriage as being antiquated and of no use or purpose for such a modern society as we live in today. Dang..if we ain't progressive in our thinking then I don't know who is. When I look at the lack of a moral compass not only in the world, but also in the church, I ask, "How long Lord...How long is this going to continue to slide down that slippery slope of darkness?" Then I am reminded that the Lord is longsuffering, slow to anger and rich in love. His perfect will is that none should perish. As long as that is His will, then I have a call to tell those I meet about this God who truly loves them and wants to save them from themselves.


You see, as the years have piled up on me, there is a part of me that cries out for Jesus TO return. But quickly countered to that thought is the picture in my mind of all those who will enter into eternity outside the will and love of God because they rejected the message of salvation. Truth be known, I can't do anything except tell the story. I can't change anyone. I can't save anyone. I can only be faithful and share with those I meet. 

I know that today's posting wasn't about "addiction or recovery". But in one sense it was.
God's offer of real life here on earth, and of eternal life that takes us beyond death into His presence needs to be shared. IT needs to be proclaimed in our streets. It even needs to be shouted from the rooftops. That Jesus truly is LORD!

Like I said previously, I don't know the day or time of Jesus' return. But back in the 80's, George Creel use to describe the time we are living in this way. "IT's time we quit looking for signs....and started listening for sounds". 

God on you...
mb 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

It's A Simple Fact That We Do Not Need To Hide From


Matthew 5:3
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

(Message Bible)
You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule.

Moving with the understanding that mankind is in need of recovery from the fall of Adam and Eve, healing begins with the true assessment of who you are and who you need to be healed. No healing can take place until we see ourselves as God sees us.

The very first step of the Twelve Steps is a confession about our current state.
"We admitted that we were powerless".  Powerless to better our spiritual state on this side of heaven. We might be able to function and do our daily regiment, but we truly are powerless to better ourselves in the eyes of God.

To admit that you are powerless is the revelation of an inner need to fix something that is beyond your control. Every person born to this world comes in with a bent to be independent from God. Such a bent manifests itself in various ways. Not every one will be a drug addict or alcoholic. That doesn't lessen the chasm between themselves and God.
Not every person born will go to jail or be destitute and homeless, but there is nothing they can do in their own strength to bridge the gap between themselves and Jesus.

I confess to you this morning that I am poor in Spirit. I was spiritually bankrupt and in poverty. God offered to me this new way of living that would take me out of my old habits and ways. I accepted. I've been living this new life for 54 years now. I haven't always been consistent in walking with Him. There have been some pretty incredible lows in my journey when I decided that I didn't need Him as bad as I thought I did. I walked away from God for seven years. He didn't walk away from me. But during those seven years, I found out exactly how "poor in spirit" I truly was. I found out exactly how powerless I was. I kidded myself......no I actually deceived myself into believing that the world had more to offer than God did. What a chump I was. 

But then, much like the prodigal son, I came to my senses.....got up from the middle of my sin mess....and headed back to my Father. He accepted me with such love and joy that it was overwhelming to me. 

That was 35 years ago.
There was still a mess to clean up. There were falls along the way where I let myself get sidetracked from His path. I chose to leave His way to see what was out there, only to fall and come running back.


What's the truth that I have learned about myself over these years?
I am powerless...
I am poor in Spirit.
Such knowledge is the lynch pin to all relationship with God.

There will never be a day or time when you no longer need Him.
No matter how much you grow in Christ...
No matter how much He pours out on you from the riches of heaven...

I much always be aware of my need for Him.
Like Jesus said....
"I am THE way....THE truth....and THE life."
So if I remove myself from relationship with Jesus, and decide that I am no longer powerless but can handle my own affairs, what does this really mean?
It means that I have lost "THE way" or direction Jesus has plotted out for me to follow.
Losing the direction puts me in a place where I no longer am living in "THE truth". I am moving into a false reality that is easily motivated my own fleshly wants and desires. In other words, I deceive myself into believing that I am alright and have no need for God.
Lastly, I measure my own state of living as one of real life. When in fact I have removed myself from the only source of true life there is....Jesus.

The longer I remain in this state, the harder it is to find my way back to Christ. Impossible? No. But it will be a hard road to follow. Why? Because of the deception that we have surrounded ourselves with. Our only hope is that God will break off the hardness that has covered our hearts and our choices, and reveal His truth to us. A truth that begins with the fact that we are poor in spirit. A fact that tells us we are truly powerless.
From this place, real life can come forth.
Think on these things today.
Don't every forget how powerless you truly are outside of God.

God on you...
mb 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Yep, I'm back


I'm back...
It was a great week of rest, good food, family time, and laughter.
Time at the beach....
Time with the grand kids at the pool...
Trivial Pursuit...
Yahtzee....
Scrabble...

In other words, I was on vacation.
It was a time for Clan Bynum to gather under one roof for a week long get together. This year was the best one we have experienced.
Very grateful that God would allow us such a blessing.

Romans 6:14
For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

This past week, I stayed parked in the first 6 chapters of Romans. J. Vernon McGee and I went through the chapters a verse at a time and I had some thoughts come to my mind.

I love this verse in chapter 6. When it speaks of "sin", Paul isn't talking about the sin we commit daily, he is talking about the initial-in-the-garden-eat-the-fruit-fallen nature of man. In other words, we do not have to be under the rule of sin. Jesus' death and resurrection broke that power over us. 

We are not under the condemnation of the law any more. (Remember the law? The ten commandments that God gave Moses?) Now I don't know about you, but that is really good news to me. The law can not save anyone. It only points out our need to be saved. The law doesn't produce life...it judges and finds everyone of us guilty.
God gave us those ten commandments to show us our need for a savior. 

We are no longer under the curse and penalty of the law, but rather are under grace. What does this mean? Does this mean that the law no longer serves any purpose to us? Can we simply discard the law and life willy-nilly as our heart desires? No! But what the law demands from me (which is death)no longer applies. I am living under the grace of God. The blood of Christ has been applied to my sins, my life and my body so that the law is fulfilled, so that when God looks at me, He sees the blood of Jesus as payment for my life.

I am now living under the grace of God, and, as always, I turn to James Ryles for the definition of grace.
"Grace is the empowering presence of God in my life that enables me (empowers me) to be who God created me to be, and to do what He has called me to do."
That is the life I now live in Christ. Like Paul, I have been set free from sin but choose to live as a bondservant to Jesus. 

One of the wonderful thoughts that came to me this week during my study of Romans, was that the passage in Chapter 6, verse 14 is a promise. Spoken by God through Paul, God tells me that sin does not have to rule me. Sin does not have to dictate my ever move in which my sole purpose is to feed my selfish nature. I am covered and filled with the grace of God. I have been empowered to rise above the dominion and rule of sin and no longer am a slave to the kingdom of darkness and my own selfish, destructive wants and desires. Now I don't care what anybody says....that's good stuff right there.

Chew on this today and let it seep all down inside you.
let your mind roll this around while your heart is joyful.
See you tomorrow.
God on you..

mb

Friday, June 12, 2015

Yearly Hiatus




Well good morning there all you cow pokes and poke-etts.
Been out there ridin' the fences for a spell and thought I'd mosey on back to the bunk house for some of Cookie's cornbread and beans.

It is that time of year once again...
"What time is that?"You may be asking.
Why time to take a break.
I try to take one week off every year from posting to give my brain, heart, spleen and left pinkie toe a change to rest and catch up.
SO until next Sunday, June 21st, if you want to read here at the Greene Street Letters, then visit the archives and catch some of the postings from the past 8 years.The link if found on the right side of the page, down near the bottom.

Oh yeah, one last thing.
Seth Barber will be speaking at Vineyard ReCovery tomorrow night, and Todd Bagley will be leading worship. Meeting starts at 7 p.m. and we do stamp court cards if you need it.

God on you...
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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Rapha Prayer Day



Prayer....
My part of a two way conversation.
Me, talking to God.
Me, listening as God talks back.
Prayer isn't me begging God to do something.
If I am saved (some call it being "born again") then I don't have to beg or plead with God to answer my prayer.

Prayer is God's way of pulling me into this "divine" work that He is doing all around me.
When I pray and ask God to move on my request....
And then see the results of my prayer take shape around me....
My faith is increased and my belief in God and what He is capable of doing  goes up a notch.

Wednesday's are one of my most favorite days to go out to Rapha.
For those who may not be familiar with Rapha, it is an adult male treatment center for drugs and alcohol addiction, located in Attalla, Alabama.

Wednesday's gives me an opportunity to just spend some time with the men going through the program. Engaging in conversation. Listening to the their stories. Encouraging when I can, to not give up and return to the old life of using.
It's kind of funny, now that I've been doing this for a number of weeks....

The men seek me out to share their prayer request.

Please join Vicki and me in prayer as we look to God to answer these request.

Prayer request #1
A son who needs direction and purpose in his life. More than anything, the son needs God. He needs a real spiritual relationship that will open his eyes to the choices he is currently making that have the potential to destroy him.

Prayer request #2
This individual has to go to court today. Pretty serious stuff that he is willing to face and pay the consequences for. His request was that God would go with him...strengthen him...and give him favor with the court. This individual has finished the "in house" or phase 1 of the treatment program and has done quiet well in applying what he has learned during his time at Rapha.

Prayer request #3
Two men asked for prayer about the same thing. Wisdom! They want the wisdom to apply what they have learned about recovery in their daily lives. They both are a bit fearful (which is natural) about going into the work place and maintaining their sobriety in spite to the temptations they will face.

Prayer request #4
The one who brought this request has specific hopes and dreams that will affect his future. He has some skills that are very marketable and could provide him with a decent wage in which to take care of his family. He asked that we pray that God would open a door where he could find a job in which he could use the skills that he has.

Prayer request #5
Prayer for a sister and mother, both undergoing tests and treatment in local hospitals.
The sister is currently going through radiation treatment for cancer. The mother having tests run to diagnose a condition that she is struggling with.

Prayer request #6
Prayer for children. This individual is highly aware that time is moving on and their children are growing up. There is a desire to be the parent that they should be, and that they receive wisdom to "do the right thing" when it comes to raising their children.

Prayer request #7
This individual's home church is currently looking for a pastor. He asked for guidance and clarity in finding the right person for the position. There was also a request for his wife who is having some health problems. Currently going to the doctor to determine what is causing the condition.

Prayer request #8
This person asked for prayer that God would keep him in treatment. He acknowledged that he has thoughts about leaving, but knows that such a move on his part would not end well. He truly is experiencing a battle between Spirit and Flesh.

I want to thank each one of you who takes the time to stop by and read the daily posting here at the Greene Street Letters. I want to thank you for joining your prayers with ours as we keep these men's request before our heavenly Father.

God on you....
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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Radical Amputation pt. 2



Hebrews 12:1
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles , and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

This passage of Scripture from Hebrews describes a life spent in following Jesus, as being like a foot race. The main point we should see is that we are called to "run light". We are told to "Throw off everything that hinders us"....those things that distract us....take our attention away from what is important...we've got to get rid of them. Next we are instructed to rid ourselves of the "sin" which so easily entangles us. The idea here is those things ( behaviors and and attitudes) which seek to slow us in our journey, and even stop us or sidetrack us, we need to rid ourselves of such. 

Question # 1 - Think about what things have hindered you in moving forward in your relationship with Jesus.

Romans 13:14
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision (or room) for the flesh, to fulfill the lust that may rise up in you.
When the verse says "Make no provision", it means give if a place in your thoughts. Don't allow every thought that comes to your mind to just roll around in your brain. Why? Because if I allow a thought to gain access to my focus, then it becomes a larger desire. The desire then captures my attention, which, if left unchecked, has the potential for me to act on it.  Now, don't get me wrong in what I'm writing. You CANNOT STOP A THOUGHT FROM ENTERING YOUR MIND!!!! But you don't have to entertain such things.

If we allow these old thoughts access, we will inevitably find ourselves giving in during a time of weakness.Did you notice that the Romans 13 passage instructs us to "PUT ON" the Lord Jesus? Whenever I read this passage, for some reason I think of a very thick overcoat. Something that I put on to protect me against the weather. Well, when I am hidden in Christ, and I keep myself aware of being this way, hidden, then I am protected against whatever may come to me. 

As I run this life-race, and my focus remains on Christ, my heart and intent or strengthened so that when a temptation comes to me, I fully realize my own weakness and turn to Christ rather than embrace the temptation.
You see, this whole recovery thing isn't about being strong. It isn't about being able to stand and weather every wind of temptation and craving that comes my way....it's about being in touch with my weakness, and running to Christ.....turning to Christ when the temptation comes. 

II Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.

John 10:10
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have  it to the full  (or abundant).

Don't allow the "little" thoughts a place, so that they turn into big sins....
God on you..
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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Radical Amputation



II Corinthians 6:17-18
"Come out from among them and and be separate", says the Lord.
"Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters." Says the Lord Almighty.

II Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleans ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

New life conflicting with old ways.
We want the best of both worlds.
We want to embrace this new journey we are on with Jesus yet, at the same time, we want to be the one in charge. Instead of following Jesus...we want Jesus to tag along behind us in case we get into trouble. In case we need His help. He becomes nothing more than a "Get-out-of-jail" card in some cosmic game of monopoly.

We have a call to change "people / places / and things. This isn't a suggestion...it isn't a hint....it is at the core of this new life. The old ways..the old haunts..the old people have influence over us. They bring out the old desires. The warp and change our memories. The memories we have of the old times move from seeing them as they truly were, into a kind of romanticized 
lie that only feeds the old nature we have struggled so hard to get away from.

There is a phrase that I've found that kind of describes what is needed if you are beginning in this journey of recovery.
The phrase?
RADICAL AMPUTATION!

Just as an arm or leg that has been infected with gangrene is a threat to a person's life, so are the old ways and lifestyle for someone who is in recovery. The limb must be amputated in order for that person to survive. The longer the delay in performing the amputation, the closer to death the individual is faced with.

Radical amputation is needed for survival in your recover, if you are to move on with your life. Easy? No. I understand the kind of misplaced affection for old ways...old places and people. And one of the things that makes this entire amputation process so hard, is the unknown of what life will be like if we do make the decision to remove ourselves.


But did you notice the promise that God gave in the verses from II Corinthians? That He would truly become OUR God and we would truly become His Sons and Daughters. A spiritual relationship and bond is created when we are saved and separate ourselves from the old lifestyle. We don't have to know the unknown..it doesn't have to be a fearful presence in our lives, because we are connected with someone who sees all and knows all. I know...I know...it sounds like some kind of science fiction stuff, but it isn't. It's truth...and at the heart of recovery is the embracing of real truth. God's truth. Not the empty promises that our drug of choice made to us. Not the lies and arguments that came through the relationships we tried to have with others who were just as sick as we were. 

Let today be the day you "amputate" yourself from your old ways.
Step over into life...
More than simply existing, you will find that you can thrive in this new life.
Think on these things.

God on you..

mb

Monday, June 8, 2015

Turning


Lamentations 3:40-41
Let us search out and examine ways, and turn back to the LORD. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven.

Did you ever feel as though you were the only one this whole "God" thing escaped?
That somehow you were beyond saving. That your life was such a mess that even this God that every one speaks of takes a look at you and says, "No way...nothing I can do here."

You go to meetings and listen intently to what is being shared.
You read your Bible and it makes no sense whatsoever. 
Yet still, on the inside, you feel as though you are just an empty shell in need of being filled. Your very existence echoes with emptiness. Your relationships are empty. Your laughter and joy is empty. Your future is empty.
Your mind tells you, "One more drink".
"One more hit."
"One more pill. Make the emptiness go away."
But your heart is telling you..."Jesus".
Every time His name appears in you mind, the memories come. The things that you've done. People you've hurt. Even the times you were hurt by those who claim to know this Jesus. 
And the pain goes on....
Pain worse than having an arm or leg cut off....
This pain cuts to the core of who you are....
This pain cries out for relief.

But know this.
You don't have to continue in this cycle of using.
In the beginning, it was fun. It felt good...
Now, you use so you won't feel anything.
Numb yourself to the point that you feel normal.
But the normal you measure life by is far from the normal Jesus desires to lift you to.

Your addiction speaks a language that stirs your flesh.
Uses your appetite to entice you.
Jesus speaks a language of the heart.

It goes against everything your appetite wants.
Why?
Because the sin/appetite is only temporarily satisfied.

The pleasure is for a moment.
The numbness is only for a small amount of time.
But the presence of God in your life is an eternal commitment on His part to take you out of the darkness of your old ways.

John 16:13 tells us, "But when He, the Spirit of truth (the Holy Spirit of God) has come, He will guide you into all truth: for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears (from God the Father) he will speak and tell you things to come.
To put it another way....
When I listen to that heart voice that is tugging me to give up my old ways....

That heart voice that is telling me to turn to God...
Then i am given a new voice to listen to. One that will fill my mind. One that will fill my heart. A voice to guide me in this new endeavor of life.

A voice to guide me in this new way of living.

Now...the old voice will come back and try to get its way.
It will come back whispering to you that you crazy...
This God is not real...
All this recovery stuff is a bunch of mumbo jumbo...

But you don't have to listen.
More than anything...you don't have to return to the old ways.

There is life after addiction.
That life has a name.
His name is Jesus....


God on you....
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May you find Him today, because He has already found you.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

What A God!



Malachi 3:6
"For I am the LORD, I do not change........."

Among the god's of this age, there can only be
one who is true...
One who is real....
And One that we were created by.
What manner of God is He?
A God that is lofty and above the thoughts and ideas
of man...
Yet, at the same time, a God who is not beyond
bending His knee and reaching down to His creation..

A God whose attention and purpose IS the
redemption, reclamation, and salvation
of a people who turned their back on Him.

A God who has endured rejection...
Hearing His Holy name be reduced to a curse word...
Hatred for who He is and for what He stands for..
A God who has been misunderstood for centuries...
And yet...
Through all this...
His love for us has never wavered.

While the devil continues to create new ways
to reject this God...
God never wavers in His love.
He is not double minded...
nor is He stingy in His blessings.
His will is that none of His creation should perish...
Or die outside His grace and covering...
But among His creation, He gave "will".

God is not short on His on-going call for all to be saved.
The message is ever going out to those who stand
outside His offer to be saved from the penalty of sin...
To be free from the power of sin...
And to be directed away through the work of His Holy Spirit
from the presence of Sin.

What manner of God is this?
He desires to not only introduce Himself to you..
But to engage in an ongoing relationship...
All the while breaking down old thoughts and wrong concepts
of who He is.

He is worthy to be sought...
He is worthy to give ourselves completely over to His care...
He is worthy...
That's my God.


God on you...
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Friday, June 5, 2015

CABIN FEVER RECORDINGS.


One of the things that first drew me to the Vineyard was the passion that I saw in others, who attended, to worship God. It was simply more than music. It was simply more than a group sing-along. It was something that had been collectively born in the hearts of those who called Vineyard home. I didn't really understand this dynamic at first, but curiosity kept me coming back. Worship seemed to be the driving force. A love for God....A love for His Kingdom rule to come down and manifest in our meetings....A love to pour out our hearts to Him, because, to simply put it, He is God and He deserves our praise and worship. Worship was to expend ourselves singing TO God, not simply singing about Him.

More than anything, I found that worship is not the singing or the music, but rather a lifestyle. A lifestyle where everything we do....everything we say is worship unto God. My very life becomes an instrument through which God manifests His goodness and love to a world that is lost and dying without Him. So one of the hallmark's, or cornerstone of the Vineyard has been our worship. But the music used to worship.....now that's a whole other story.

Early on in the Vineyard, a vehicle was created to dispense the music that was being written, produced and recorded. Vineyard Music Group was born, and through it came hundreds, if not thousands, of songs that are sung in churches around the world today. And an entire generation of song writers and musicians were raised up to pour their hearts and talents into creating songs that honored God. Songs that were simple and could be sung by anyone, yet contained the mystery and beauty of the personality of this God we love so much. 

Over the years, the styles and sounds of worship has changed in order to reflect the new voices of the up and coming generation seeking to find their place in worship. So, in one sense, worship is always moving and changing. New sounds are being created to reflect the personality of specific regions in our country. One example is the musical offering by a group of Vineyard churches in the area around New Orleans, Louisiana. The "WE ARE ONE" album contains incredible lyrics wrapped around Zydeco, Gospel, Jazz styles of music. To boil down this whole explanation I have tried to write.....Every Vineyard Church has a sound that is reflective of the people who call it home. In our case, Vineyard ReCovery Church has a sound that is part roadhouse/blues...part rock and roll...a sound that would appeal to those who usually don't go to church. 

Sometime back, Todd and LeNola Bagley ran into some people who are part of the history of Vineyard. John and Marie Barnett have written and recorded some of the most incredible music ever when it comes to worship. The list of their offerings would take up more room than one could ever imagine. Through the friendship between the Bagley's and the Barnett's, there was an invitation to come and be a part of a worship conference that was held at Gadsden Vineyard. The friendship blossomed....the Barnett's were adopted by our fellowship and the rest is history. They have visited with us on several occasions, and John is bringing his "CABIN FEVER" tour to us in September of this year. (Go ahead and block out September so you can come and join us). 

CABIN FEVER RECORDINGS is John's latest worship Cd. John and Marie have been honing a sound over the years that has come to be known as Americana. A blend of the styles and sounds that flowed from many streams, into one that been birthed to reflect the Barnett's heart for God and Kingdom. I picked up my copy of CABIN FEVER RECORDINGS yesterday and have been totally captured by the simplicity of the lyrics and dynamics of the music. 



The style and heart of the music found in this Cd have captured my attention and my heart. It speaks to me on so many levels that I want to recommend it to you, that you might pick up a copy for yourself. Not trying to be a snake-oil salesman, or a huckster, I just want to get the word out that there is some music being recorded that you won't hear on the local station that carries worship and praise music. We currently are stocking CABIN FEVER RECORDINGS in the bookstore at Gadsden Vineyard. 

Thanks for letting me share this....
God on you...

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Here are some photo's of John and Marie's visit with us at the Living Sacrifices Worship Conference.



Thursday, June 4, 2015

Prayer Request Thursday



Psalm 119:15-16
I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statues. I will not forget Your word.

Today marks the 2600th posting to the Greene Street Letters. I kind of like to celebrate a little with every 100th posting. Never really started out to keep blog going this long. It has kind of changed and evolved over the years as people have contacted me to tell me that they enjoy the encouragement from what I write. That's really funny to me, because I am so terrible at spelling, sentence arrangement, and putting my thoughts down for others to read. I'm sure my 11th grade English Teacher, Mrs Steffe, is turning in her grave thinking about me writing on a daily basis. God has given me a measure of grace to keep this blog running to be an encouragement for someone out there. I guess I would fall under the classification of one of the "Foolish" things God has chosen that we read about in I Corinthians Chapter one. Anyway, to all of you who stop by here daily to catch a posting, thank you very much. Feel free to share the Greene Street Letters with others. Copy it....repost it....if you feel like there is something in one of the postings...then give it away.


Prayer Request From Rapha:
Very unusual requests today from the men in treatment at Rapha. Everyone had the same request. "Help me to move forward with my recovery".  What's behind the request? Fear of the future. The unknown of what may be out there waiting on them. I think sometimes we use the word "fear" to much when talking about recovery. I think maybe "apprehension" would be a better word. Don't get me wrong...I've seen some who truly were fearful about what was out there in this new life of recovery. 

I find it strange that "not knowing" is a part of life.
You did "not know" when out there running crazy on the streets. It was the same future coming at you every day, but the choice was made to not face it. To turn and medicate yourself into a stupor so you wouldn't have to deal with it. Now that sobriety has become something you want, the same future is headed toward you. But because you are trying to live differently, you no longer run to drugs or alcohol to soften the blow. You have made a choice to stand and face what ever problems you may encounter.

The requests by the men all carried the same message, and in that message was the subtle point that they need to find a group of like minded people they can connect with. Such would give them the support and encouragement to not give up....to not quit...to not run away. So if you will, please keep these men in your prayers this week. Ask God to cover them with His protection. Ask God to grant them wisdom and understanding about how to deal with the daily problems that tend to crop up without warning. Ask God to be a real, present help in their time of need.

God on you...

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Great Gratitude



Psalm 100:4
Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the LORD is good. His mercy is everlasting,and His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 103:1-2
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me. Bless His Holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.

Psalm 119:133
Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.

Good place to put your tent pegs down....
A place where gratefulness and thankfulness are the focal points for our day.
To let our minds be directed toward God and not on our own "stuff".
Do you remember how miserable you were, or maybe still are, when you allowed your thoughts to focus on what you did not have?
When every thought, when faced with the idea of recovery, was on what you had to give up?


"I have to give this up."
"I can't go to this place anymore."
"I won't be able to hang out with these people anymore."
And on and on and on....the thoughts just piled up in your head.
You became bitter..
You became angry...

And when the first hard thing came along...
Or a possibility that you could use reared its ugly head...
You jumped on it and took the A train straight out of Dodge.



This is the reason we need to be aware of where we allow our thoughts to drift off to. I need to stay anchored in the reality of everything I have to be grateful for. I need to even draw up on paper a "grateful" list. Remembering such things as what I'm grateful for helps to keep me focused on the positive aspect of my recovery.
It's o.k.!
Be grateful for the silliest of things....

1.) That first cup of coffee in the morning...
2.) The cool side of the pillow...
3.) The way the clothes smell after they come out of the dryer.

4.) The taste of a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
5.) Waking up every morning, and being able to roll out of bed.
6.) Friends...I mean real friends. Not my using buddies.
7.) The fact that I still have most of my mental capabilities and can think and reason. That drugs and alcohol didn't destroy all my brain.
8.) The ability to still move around and exercise.
And the biggest one of all to be thankful for....

9.) That God did not, nor will He ever, give up on me.
I could write a list from now till Christmas and still not scratch the surface of all the things I have to be grateful for.
I guess the bottom line for today is not to let the pressures and problems of THIS day, destroy your hope and gratitude. If I can hang on to them, just for this day, I am setting up my tomorrow.
I am learning to live my life one day at a time.


So don't let those people who are all mully-grubby bring you down by their ungratefulness.
Don't let their self-pity party affect you.
Just because they are having the party...
Just because they invited you....
Doesn't mean you have to attend.


See you tomorrow!
God on you...
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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 ...