Friday, July 31, 2015

Thank You, Everyone

There will not be a "usual" posting today, here at the Greene Street Letters.
Peggy's Funeral will be this afternoon at 12th Street Baptist Church (Located on H'wy 77)
Visitation at 1 p.m. /  funeral at 2 p.m.
Thank you for your prayers and support for the family during this time.
God on you...
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Grace ---Nothing More To Say


II Corinthians 12:9
And He (God) said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast of my infirmities that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

No theology lesson here today.
No broad strokes of intellect to paint a picture of who God is, and what He is capable of doing.
Just some truth.
There is more to "Grace" than we truly understand.
Grace is a force.
Grace is a power.
Grace is God at work in me.
Working in me, not from a distance, but hands-on.

The infinite one working in the psyche, the spirit, the soul of a "mud-man" created by His loving hand.
Trace my heritage back and you'll wind up in a garden, to a pile of dirt assembled by God in what would become the first human.

I always refer back to James Ryles definition of grace that has had such an impact on my life. He defines Grace as:
"The empowering presence of God in my life, that enables me to be who God created me to be, and to do all that God has called me to do."
The one thing I am so grateful for in this definition of grace is that it has an open ended feel to it. Much like a lot Scripture we read. Open ended in that it does not actually give a list of "things" to which Grace will cover. Grace enables me to be who God created me to be. That is open ended.

Notice that the first part of the Grace definition is about me "BEING". Existing. Living. My Purpose. It all falls under the presence and power of Grace at work in my life. In God's eyes "Being" is much more important than "Doing". How can I "Do" what God has called me to do unless I am that person He created to do it? We tend to get the cart before the horse. Somehow we think if we run around "Doing" a bunch of stuff, that somehow will create in us a divine identity and a stamp of approval from God Himself. Nope, doesn't work that way. I can do all manner of stuff for the Kingdom, and yet my heart can be dark with sin. That my friend, is called being religious, and the last time I checked (and I may be wrong about this) Jesus had a real problem with the religious folk last time He walked this planet.

Grace isn't just the presence of God...
But rather the empowering presence of God. What this means is that God uses His nature, His character, His power and authority when ever He comes to us. I can't even fathom a power so great that it has the capability to change the human heart. A power so vast that it can transform the human will and character, molding it into a new creature. Removing old ways and old thoughts and making every thing new with in the person. 


This is the kind of power needed to break free from the darkness of addiction.
It is our own dark will that directed our choices.

We willingly went into that prison and shut the door on ourselves.
With each high...
With each drink...

We place brick upon brick until we were walled in.
Shut off from the light of God, we thought this to be normal. We thought that everyone lived like this.
That is the power of a lie when it becomes truth to a twisted mind.
But then Grace...
Grace came...the empowering presence of God.
It started with one drop....a thought...a single thought...

Maybe nothing more than a faint thought of the name of Jesus....
So that thought moved from our heart to our mind, and from our mind it formed in our mouth.

Air from our lungs pushed up and the name of Jesus rolled off our tongues and became sound. With our own ears, we heard ourselves say, "Jesus! Help me."
Even though our dark hearts fought against us saying that name, it came forth. Why? Because the Grace of God is greater than any dark thought our heart may conceive. 

With this cry for help came more drops of God's grace.
We continued to cry out in spite of not seeing anything change.
The drops turned into a rain of God's Spirit.
The rain became a deluge greater than our human heart could hold.

In the midst of this heavenly downpour, we realize our need of God's grace.
The reality of Step #2 and Step #3 open the door as we turn will and live over to God. Life begins to from in us. Life, real life from God, and the prison we build with all our bad choices, cannot coexist. So the prison begins to be dismantled, brick by brick, until we stand bathed in the presence of this God who has freed us.

To some, what I have written this morning sounds like a fairy tale. A feel-good cliche'. But to us who have experienced the grace of God, it is a reality that will never be defeated by those who choose not to believe.

Grace is more than a prayer over supper.

It is more than the words on some poster.
Grace is a force.
Grace is a power.
Grace is God Himself.


God on you...
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

She Won!



I Corinthians 15:54-55
So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 
"Death is swallowed up in victory."
"Oh Death, where is your sting?"
"O Hades, where is your victory?"

I hate death...
I hate everything about it.
I hate everything it stands for.
But if not for God's unending mercy and His power and authority....death would win.
But isn't that just like God?
To take the very thing that came in with the fall of man in the garden, and turn it around on the very enemy that perpetrated it?
That God would take the very vehicle the devil uses so creatively, and use it for His own eternal purposes.

Jesus rode that vehicle.
From the cross to the tomb.
For three days, Jesus rode the finality of death.
But on the third day.....
He busted it wide open.
It was more than a stone being rolled back....
It was more than the first Easter....
It was a statement for all mankind, for all time that death had been defeated.
Now those in Chris would not escape death, but would be taken from it's purpose and placed over into God's purposes. Death would become the transition from life here to life with Him.

Yesterday, my sister-in-law, Peggy Parrish, made such a transition.
Sleep was hard to come by last night. We miss her so. 
The family gathered at our house last night.
We carried on the Southern tradition of sharing a meal in the middle of sharing our grief.
But with Jesus Christ in the mix, we shared hope.
We shared a belief that God is truly who He claims to be....
And He will do what He has promised He would do.....
In other words....we shared Hope!
There was laughter around the table as we looked over photo's from years past.
Memories spilled out like fine wine, and soothed our hurt and pain.
One of the things I have come to realize, is that I have been blessed to have married into a wonderful family whose ties go deeper than blood. 

Peggy was to have a procedure yesterday that would improve her health and ability to breath. This, in turn, would hopefully strengthen her and give her an even greater chance to receive new lungs through transplant.
It wasn't to be.
But the thing I am most grateful for is that she went into the procedure full of hope and laughter. Steve, her husband, shared with us that as they were moving her to the O.R., they both were cutting up and laughing. That was Peggy...always finding the bright spot in the darkest of times.

So while we will move through the coming days preparing for a funeral, I truly know that this gathering will be for the living. IF I know anything, Peggy will be embarrassed by all the attention that is being placed on her. She never was comfortable with being in the spotlight.

I find myself with all manner of question as I sit here typing this post.
"What is the first day in heaven like?"
"IS it everything we thought it would be?"
"What does Jesus' voice sound like?"
Then it suddenly came to me. I'm asking the questions......
But Peggy knows the truth.

God on you...
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What A Day




Being a guitarist (and I use that term loosely....very loosely) I have always been drawn to others whose talent seems over top. In other words, those who know how to feel the music and let it flow through their fingers to the fret board. It isn't about how fast you are....how smooth your scales are....how impressive you can stand with your guitar, striking that guitar pose. It's about the music inside that is translated to the fret board of the instrument for everyone else to enjoy.A single note born from the heart to the instrument can have more impact that a riff that covers hundreds of notes. 

Phil Keaggy was a very, very bright light that I found when I came back to Jesus after an extended seven year stay in the wilderness. I remember the very first time I heard him. The album (remember those?) was HOW THE WEST WAS ONE....the song was WHAT A DAY. There at the end of that live recording I heard playing like I'd never heard before. Couple this with a man whose heart was for Jesus and I was hooked. I have followed Phil's music through the years. The trail led me to other musicians who also brought their heart to the music. Mark Heard, Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Second Chapter of Acts, Rany Matthews and the list goes on and on. 

The video I've posted is lengthy, and perhaps you can sit down at some point and let it minister to you.
Thanks....
God on you...

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Follow



Luke 9:23
Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."

Follow Him?
Follow Him where?
Kind of an open ended invitation don't you think?

Follow Him to church?
Follow Him to Sunday School?
No..

Follow Him into life.
A new life.
A new way of seeing, moving through and interacting with the daily grind, so to speak.
He is going to teach us how to live life on heavens economy rather than on the barter system used here in this fallen world.
Sounds scary doesn't it?
Well, it can be. It can be scary to turn loose of all that you ever known to embrace something new.

If all you've ever known is the pain and darkness of addiction, then the uncertainty of the future is a powerful force upon the human mind and will. Turning loose is a terrifying thought. We tell ourselves that we don't want to loose control of our lives (Like we were controlling anything). We had become so blind that our addiction was playing us like a one-eyed monkey with a ten-cent balloon. 

You see, this following of Jesus is stepping into a kind of Spirit-school. How would you like it if you went to a school where you were the only student? No one else, just you and the teacher. And you know what teacher's do when they teach....they ask questions. I always did my best to hide when the teacher asked questions or called some to the blackboard to work out a math problem. Imagine what it would be like if you were the only student. Now imagine that you have found another group of people who suffered from the same thing you did, who also had found this call to follow Jesus. You became a part of the group and together you all were being taught. That is the beauty of answering Jesus' call to follow Him. He will lead you to a community of like minded people where you can draw encouragement and strength. 

I know that these things I post here at the Greene Street Letters seem bizarre.
Talk about a force or Power greater than ourselves who could restore us from a life of insanity. Not insane-crazy, but insane-bad decision making. But the only thing I have to measure this Jesus by is what has happened to me since I took up the call to follow Him.
The changes that have occurred in my own life. The people He has connected me with, and the faithfulness of One who is greater than me. I read His book and I see the promises He has laid out. Promises to give me a future, even at age 63 and 3/4's years old....A FUTURE!!! He isn't finished with me, and I certainly am not finished with Him. 
Hang in there and don't listen to that old voice that whispers to you with all the old promises of making you feel better if you come back to your old ways.
Lies....
All lies....

Hear the call to follow spoken by the only one who can bring real life to you...
Then do it...
Follow!


God on you...

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Drugs, Jesus, And Two Drunks Who Found A Way


John 3:16-17 (Message Bible)
But John intervened: "I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will ignite the Kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He's going to clean house---make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place every thing true in its proper place before God. Everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."

Lot of pain out there last week. I received more calls from people who were hurting than I have in years.
"I can't seem to quit."

"My girl friend has left me because of my using."
"I need help right now,  I can't wait any longer."
And on and on and on....
One after another looking for relief from all the destruction that had brought on themselves through their using.
To say it was overwhelming is the understatement, because at my core, I'm a fixer.
Only in these cases, I couldn't fix anyone.
I can point in the direction someone needs to go.
I can walk with them through the process.

I can be there for them.
But in the end, it all boils down to how ready are you to quit?

If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, then there is ground there on which to build.

Don't confuse recovery with wanting all the problems to go away.
Some will say that they are ready to recover, to get some place where they can begin to work on themselves. But when push comes to shove, you find out that they really didn't want to quit using or drinking.......they only wanted a time out from the pressure. Now, even in this case, sometimes just being in a recovery setting gives them a clearer view of what they have done to  themselves. But not always. 

Bottom line in all of this....
I don't know of anyone or any thing who can do more for someone struggling in addiction, than Jesus.
Oh, there are programs that are good at helping people cope with addiction.
There are programs who can get people clean and able to function in society.
But there isn't a program who can produce real life that will take an individual beyond death.
That comes only through a person...
That person is Jesus. 


Truth be known...
We catch a lot of flak from both sides of the fence when we introduce Jesus into the equation.
From the recovery side, we accused of being a bunch of "holy rollers" and "religious nuts". We have been told to not bring our Jesus into A.A. that God can be whatever you  want Him to be. Well, we all know where that is coming from. First off, there is more mention of God, as creator and giver of life in A.A. material than some want to admit. The other thing is that A.A. was never intended to be a religion. A.A. was founded by two drunks who had encounters with God and it changed their lives.  Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith were brought together after Bill's encounter with Jesus in a hospital. Bill lost all desire to drink again after being a hopeless drunk for years. In fact, everyone had given up on Bill and had resigned themselves to the reality that he would die a drunk. God had other plans, and through an encounter with Dr. Bob Smith, the two began a journey to put these Twelve Steps together.


On the other side of the fence is the church (not all of it, but a good portion). They speak out of ignorance about A.A. and the Twelve Steps. They paint a broad picture of what is wrong with all this Twelve Step stuff. God bless 'em. They have trouble ( I think) with the whole "God as you understood Him". In their minds, what they hear is that you can make up a god that fits your life. What really is being said, is that we come to the God we understand today. That you don't have to be a theologian, or a Bible scholar...in fact you don't even have to be saved to come to this God. You come as you are, to a God that has always been. A good friend of mine has a saying (don't you love friends who have saying's? I do)...."You can't work those Twelve Steps and not hit your head on the cross." Get it? Jesus is the answer to the addiction problem. The Twelve Steps are the disciplines to walk this new life out.

People have a tendency to confuse the issue of addiction.
It really isn't the alcohol or the drugs that we are waging war against.
It is the human heart.

The human heart that is under the influence of a sin nature that leads it into all manner of wrong.
Until that heart is dealt with and set right by the infusion of God's Holy Spirit....there will always be the propensity to do the wrong thing.
SO the real problem of someone in addiction is that they have a broken relationship.

Let's be about the business of the Kingdom introducing those still in the darkness to our Jesus.
He is the best high you could ever have.

God on you..
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Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Finest Hour


Adversity......
Trials...........
Problems......

Situations.....
Circumstances.
All a part of life. But in the life of someone coming our of addiction, such are usually self-inflicted. The dark thoughts and negative emotions cloud and color the choices that are made. What this means is that sometimes a bad choice turns into a terrible choice, as one piles up on another in an effort to deal with life.

I have been in the middle of these type situations all week.
Someone chooses to drink, knowing full well what is going to happen.
They drink anyway.

One drink leads to twelve, all the while putting the addiction stamp of approval on the decision to start. At the same time, the truth eats away at every decision. "You know better than this! Don't do this." But with every drink that voice is replaced with an accusing, sarcastic voice that demeans the individual with guilt and shame. These two wonderful emotions only fuel the cycle to drink so that you don't feel. Funny part is that the more you drink (or use drugs) so that you don't feel....the more you feel all the negative garbage that is being heaped on you.

God's plan to deal with such emotional baggage is pretty amazing.
Once a person is saved, they have deposited in them God's Holy Spirit.
I know this term doesn't fit Him well, but think of the Holy Spirit as a type of "SUPER" conscience. Yet more than simply sound the alarms and whistles when we are headed toward making a bad choice, the Holy Spirit will direct us in our choices. All the while, He begins the process of changing our character so we don't live the old life style.


I love James 1:2-4 in the Message Bible.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it (the situation/ circumstance) do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way.

Instead of cutting and running back to the darkness, we take hold of Jesus' hand a little tighter. "I will not run! I will stand!" As we declare our intention, God's Spirit will strengthen us. It will be a storm to weather, but as with any terrible weather pattern, there is always a break and the sun comes shining through. Same with this new life we are trying to lay hold of. The storms of life will come and buffet us, but the SON, Jesus, will come shining through. That is a promise.

During the darkest time of world war II, when England stood alone against the German War machine, Prime minister Winston Churchill told the people that when history looks back at their struggle, it would declare "This was their finest hour."
Such will be recorded for everyone who lays hold of Jesus, and does not let go but pushes forward to face the day.


God on you...
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Friday, July 24, 2015

Truth-----It Really Is More Powerful Than We Give It Credit



John 8:31-32
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

Lot's of people out there claiming those verses. The whole "Know the truth and be free" part. They forget that part that speaks of abiding in the Word of God. They forget that to be free means you drive your tent pegs down in the Word. Dwell there...Find a group of people who have the same address. They also have chosen to abide in the Word of God.

What I hear, more often than I care to, is "I know that the Word of God is true........BUT!!!!  Dude, there ain't no "BUT" big enough to cancel out the power of God's truth. "But you don't understand my situation...you don't know what my life is like". Well, no I don't. I can see the destruction that you have inflicted on yourself through your really bad choices. But either God's Word is true, and contains the power necessary to redeem and save, or it's all a bunch of hokum and let's just all go to Waffle House. I happen to know...(Did you catch that..pretty bold statement isn't it?) that the Word of God is the Power to save.

Save what?
Whatever needs saving...you, me, the person next to me.

Save us from what? Whatever it is we need saving from.
O.k. 
Let's get real honest here.
My idea of being saved and your idea of being saved may be two totally different things.
My idea of salvation is that God will wipe the sin/slate clean, clean you up inside...New heart...New mind..New Spirit...and empower you to begin the process of change in your own life.
Your idea of salvation is that God simply makes the pain stop and all the bad things we are facing go away so we can catch our breath. I wish it were like that, but it isn't.

O.K.
Let's look at it in a different way.
Verse from John 8 says that we will KNOW the truth and the truth will make us free. The word "KNOW" is defined as "having an experience". An encounter with truth, if you will. In this case, the encounter is with Jesus, who claimed to be THE TRUTH, the Way and the Life. So to know the truth, we have to have run into Jesus..

Now running into Jesus is more than a "Howdy-do" on the street. It can happen anywhere, and it usually involves being keenly aware of His presence, His perfection and holiness and, at the same time, very much aware of what a mess you are. In Luke 5 we see a perfect example of this from Peter, the fisherman. Peter has followed Jesus' instructions, and has wound up with nets full of fish. So full, in fact, that his boat is about to sink. At that point, Peter falls down at Jesus' feet and says, "Get away from me, I am a sinful man." Jesus never told Peter this. It was Peter having an encounter with the presence of Truth. 

Anyway, back to John 8..
The Truth will make you free. Or to be more blunt...The truth will put you in a place....a frame of mind where you can start living, not the way you want to but the way you ought to. Taking care of your daily affairs under the watchful eye of God's Holy Spirit, now living in you. I know, it sounds like something out of a sci-fi story, but I'm telling you as best I can. It's real..Jesus is bigger than the "church" Jesus we thought we knew, and His heart is for the restoration of those who turn to Him and cry out for help.


SO this is the battle that we face..
Taking the truth of who Jesus is, and the truth of what He desires to do for those who are trapped in addiction. Our job is to love them and break down every "BUT" that they throw up as an excuse or reason as to why they can't live life outside the walls of the darkness they are currently in.


You can either continue to make excuse after excuse with all your "But's" or you can let the truth into your heart and experience the life change for yourself.
Pretty simple isn't it?
Yes, it is.
May you find my Jesus today.

God on you...
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Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Messages Will Be Flowing Shortly!!!



I've been working for sometime to get a widget downloaded on this blog that would enable you to listen to, or download, the messages from our Saturday night meeting. I think maybe I found the magic cure. Now hopefully the section won't be rebellious and suddenly break free to wander about the ethernet. Any way, I've got a ton of messages to upload so over the next few weeks I'll be going back and adding ones that aren't available.

Mbb

Tearing Eph. 6:10 Apart


Ephesians 6:10
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

Finally -  The last word. The last point to be made. Giving you something that will stick with you.

My Brethren - Community. Kin connected either by blood or Spirit. More than a flowery addressing of a group, but the true understanding that we, under the blood of Jesus, are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Be - A state of existence of one who is living. We are called human "beings"....we live in a current state of being. In this manner of living, we are called to do so following the directives of Jesus.

Strong - The ability to stand....physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally against every situation and circumstance that comes our way. No need to run away and medicate ourselves into a stupor. But this call to be strong causes us to come to some simple truth. We are in need of a strength....a power greater than ourselves.

In -  To place ourselves....spirit, soul, and body...into the care of this God that we seek to know and understand through experiencing His presence daily in our lives. 

The Lord - Many claim the title, but there is only one. One who is Lord above all who lay claim to being a Lord. That would be Jesus. The title given to Him by His Father. The character and nature of Jesus is such that when we look at Him, we see the Father in heaven. Don't fully understand how all this works, but I know it to be real. Some love to proclaim Jesus as their Savior. I have no problem with that. But their lives reveal the truth that have not truly submitted to Christ as Savior. Evidence of Christ as Lord over your life is one that is in submission to Him. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Your desire becomes to simply please the Father.

And - The connection of two thoughts in this verse. 

In - Second time we've seen this word. There is the idea of being "hidden" in Christ. In John 15 we hear Jesus say, "If you abide in Me, then I will abide in you." The idea of finding everything we need in Christ. By doing so, we take on His identity. No longer identified with the things of this world (culture or society), we look to Christ and walk out His instructions to us.

The - Very definitive word. Not  "some power" ...not "A" Power...but "The" Power

Power - The infusion of a source from outside ourselves that give us the ability to do things we could never do on our own. As the Big book of A.A. says...."God does for me what I could not do for myself."  Acts 1:8 tells us that we will be "Clothed with Power when the Holy Spirit has come upon us." Clothed gives the impression of being covered....being hidden by this Power. 

His - Jesus....the anointed one sent from God to be the payment for sin...all sin. What falls under "all'? Every bit of it. Jesus became the door...then entryway ....for me to cross over into real relationship with God.

Might - The ability to bring to bear every bit of the resources at His disposal. We are brought under the care and love of Christ when we surrender will and life over to His care. Sometimes in Scripture you will see God referred to as the Almighty One. Get it...All...Mighty...No one comes close to who He is or what He is capable of doing. Scripture also shows us that God "is" love. Not that He loves, or is capable of loving. He is love.

let this verse get all down inside you today.
Chew on it and taste the goodness of God....


Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.

God on you...
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gettin' Right...Loving God


Excerpt from Keep The Pigs Out written by Don Dickerman:
If you are in the midst of a problem, bring God into the problem. Bring Him in by repentance (change of mind..change of heart...change of direction) and praise....not that lip service "Oh you are so wonderful"...but the deep down inside heart cry of O' God! You are greater than what I am going through. Bottom line.....get right with God, and praise Him in the problem. It matters not one bit as to why you are in the problem.

Churches differ for a number of reasons. Denomination models foster certain ways that are acceptable to worship. Some are what I call "high" church in that they are very liturgical in their practices. Very formal...very ritualistic. Some churches are built along the lines of hyper emotionalism. The services are extremely upbeat and high energy. Some churches are very family oriented...not blood family...but those who gather to worship are very close and in touch with who God is and what He is desiring to do in their midst.

You've got mega churches....
And You've got store front churches..
Home churches are growing in popularity. Groups of people (usually 20 less) gather in living rooms to worship, study, pray and minster to each other.
So the idea of what a church is or what it looks like has changed over the years.


The funny part in all of this church description, is that God can fit into any of them.
The type of church does not determine the amount of the presence of God that may be found there when they meet.
One group's model does not garner favor with God more than another.
The lightning rod that attracts God to any meeting is the hearts of those who gather together.
God is attracted to honesty among the people.
People that admit they are a broken mess, even though, on the outside, they seem to have life all together in a neat little bundle. People that understand that it is God, and Him alone, that hauled their butt's (can I say "butt"?) out of the ditch. Bottom line....God is attracted to hearts that are hungry for His presence.


Each week, my prayer is very simple.
"Come meet with us this weekend, Lord".

Within that cry is the reality that it is God who has sustained us this past week.
It is God who has brought us through all the destruction and mess we created in our sin-choice lifestyle. 
Each week, as we move toward Saturday night, I am always clueless as to what God is going to do. Oh, He will direct me to certain verses and application of those verses, but that doesn't tell me how people will react. That is why I keep coming back....What is God going to do, and how will I, and others present, react. Case in point. Last weekend we were in the middle of worship....the song had kind of gone off the rails, in that the worship team had begun to sing what was in their hearts rather than the words on the screen.  The air grew thick with God's presence. You just knew that you knew that God was there in that room in a real, tangible way. There was such a presence during this song that a woman slipped out of her chair, laid face down on the floor and worshiped.  That is real! To this woman, everyone else in the room disappeared and it was just her and God. That is why I love Saturday night. We aren't trying to hype anything, or stir up any emotional frenzy among those present. At the same time we aren't trying to stop anything that God is doing in our midst either. 

I opened last Saturday's meeting by welcoming everyone into "my living room". I told them to feel free to kick off their shoes and put their feet up. In other words, when we gather on Saturday, I want people to be free to experience God in ways they never have before. To kick off the shoes of religion and walk freely and unbound into worship of a God they may never have truly met before. Oh, they may have read about Him....may have even sang a song about Him. But it is a whole other ballgame when you actually are under His presence. 

We make no bones about our meeting being geared to people with a sin-specific problem. Which is kind of ironic if you think about it....all our problems are sin-specific. We want to be a place where you can come and be shown how to be free from the destruction of your past. Where you can find a group of folks who will love you for who you are...and love God for who He is. Debbie Handy, one of our worship leaders, made a statement many years ago that I have never forgotten. "God loves you just the way you are today....But He loves you so much, He doesn't want to leave you this way (or in your current condition).

So at Vineyard ReCovery Church, we are learning how to praise God in the middle of the mess. We are learning that He alone can undo our messes, and at the same time grow us in our character and love for Him. 

This weekend, Seth Barber will be speaking at VRC.
The one thing I have come to love about Seth, is that his messages are timely and straight from the hip. He doesn't sugar coat anything God gives him to share.
Seth always brings an encouraging message that points us to hope.
He can do that because his own life-journey has been one from the darkness 
into the light of God's mercy, love and grace.
Come on out and join us at VRC.
Service starts at 7 p.m.
and we do stamp court cards if you need it.

God on you...
mb

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dealing With Life



She is always upbeat and bubbly....
Loves life and the second chance God gave her....
But today, she is leaning on God in a way that shows her strength and belief.
She has lost her son....
We've all heard it before....
"No parent should have to bury a child"...

I agree.
It should be the child that stands over their parents grave.
But sometimes life doesn't fit our cleaver sayings and cliche's.


Sometimes life slaps up hard in the face with situations and circumstances that suck hope right out of us. We find ourselves having thoughts and feelings that we've never had before. Doubt and anger, along with a does of bitterness, seem to rise up inside of us. To me, that is simply a part of being a human. It's not the presence of such emotions or feelings that is wrong....it is what we do with those emotions and feelings. Do we hang on to them, or do we let them go? Do we feed off these negative emotions or do we turn to God asking help in processing them? If I choose to keep these emotions, they will make me hard and cold spiritually and emotionally. I will turn away from others.I will put on a false front in order to protect myself from further hurt and harm.

Even in the death of a loved one, God is there to take us through this incredibly hard time. He is there to bring peace to our raw emotions. Call me crazy, but I believe this. I've seen it happen. It has happened in my own life. 
Grief is not something that the church really likes to talk about, yet it is such a part of our lives. God gave us the ability to grieve to help us channel our emotions so that they do not become a permanent part of us. No one should live in bitterness forever. No one should carry around anger forever.

We will always carry around the memories of our loved ones. But grief allows us to drain the hurt away from such memories. Oh, we will still feel sadness whenever a holiday rolls around, or we hear a song that was a favorite of the one we lost to death. But the grace of God will allow us to move forward in life. The sweetness of the memory will be with us, but the raw emotion of hurt will be healed. 

Please remember Karen Cox and her family as they mourn the loss of a son.

God on you....

mb

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday Musings..



“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.” – Job

Each breath I take is a gift.....
Each breath I take is a reminder that my heart beats because God Himself has granted me life.
I find gratitude in such.
That even with this incredible gift of life that I possess, God desires to see me grow and mature.
To move beyond the dark wants and desires that come from the human heart, and rise above to a new way of living...
A new way of seeing the world...
And a new way of interacting with this world.

Life is fragile, and to be honest with you, life is short.
I want to drink up every minute by being who God wants me to be.
To love as He loves (that's a hard one that I still haven't gotten completely right).
To not be locked in or locked down by religion, but be free to spontaneously burst into a praise song that comes from the heart. Maybe even do a "happy" dance in front of God. Such sounds silly to some, but I tell you that sometimes the understanding of who God truly is breaks through my heart and fills my mind and I just have to praise Him.

He didn't have to create me...
He didn't have to provide a plan back in the garden when humanity traded it all away from a piece of fruit and a false promise that they could be "Like" God. 

He didn't have to send His Son, Jesus, to pay the ultimate price for my eternal life.
He didn't have to do any of these things....
But He did.

There is coming a day and time where words like "addiction" will no longer exist....
Hatred will be a thing of the past....
Death and sickness will be relegated to a museum.

Pain will be a faint memory....
Tears of sadness and grief will no longer flow down the faces of His own...

I live for that day..
And I will join others and we will sing the song of Moses...
"Great and marvelous are Your works,
Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of the saints.
Who shall not fear You, O Lord,
And glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all the nations shall come and worship before You.
For you judgments have been manifested."

For me....Every day is an opportunity to practice for what eventually is going to happen to me.
I will either die and stand before Jesus.....
Or I will be alive and be caught up to Him when He returns...
Don't know which one it will be, but it sounds like a win/win situation to me.
So, I'm going to live those around me today as I learn to love myself.
I'm going to love God with every bit of me, all the way down to the molecular level.
And I'm going to walk the path that is in front of me...
It may be fearful at times, but He is there with me...
I may seem to lose my way, but He won't forsake me or leave my on my own...
I think maybe those are promises, and from what I've learned so far in my 63 and 3/4 years here on planet earth is that God keeps His promises.
Just in case something happens to me today and I should go home....
Know that I love you and it has been a pleasure to type out my thoughts each day here at the Greene Street Letters.

In case today isn't my time to go...
I'll be here tomorrow.
God on you...
mb

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Time To Sing The Doxology



Luke 1:37
For with God nothing will be impossible....

This mornings post will be a short one.
Last night God answered a prayer that has been going on for some time.
My sister in law, Peggy Parrish, has been suffering from Cystic Fibrosis for a number of years. It had progressed to the point that the doctors told her that her only chance for survival was a lung transplant. We've been praying for this to become a reality.

Last night we received the call that lungs had been found and would be matched to her. Surgery is scheduled for some time this morning. Now in our jubilation for this news, we are truly saddened and aware that there is another family mourning the death of their loved one. Our prayers are truly that God would comfort them during this time, and that the knowledge of their loved one dying be filled with the gift of life that has been given to my sister in law.


Please pray for her and her husband, Steve, as they continue on in this journey that God has had them on for a number of years.

God bless each of you...
mbb

Friday, July 17, 2015

Been A Good Week



Slept in this morning...
Well, for me it was sleeping in. Alarm went off at 5 a.m. which is late for me.

I guess I was more tired than I thought. Well into my first cup of coffee this morning....hey! It's Friday. Where did the week go?

It's been a good week. Spent most of it at the church. It has been a week of taking stock of the journey up to this point. Looking back at where God has brought us from....taking inventory of where we are today....and kind of glimpsing over the hill to see where we might be headed tomorrow. I was reminded of some prophetic pictures that God gave me years ago during prayer times. I knew this was God reminding me because I haven't thought about the "mental images" for years. Couple this remembrance with a prayer that Jeremiah Smith prayed over me yesterday, and I think maybe God is showing me that my role is changing. I believe that God is moving me into more of a teacher/equipping role. Recovery will still be the area that I am centered in (I don't believe that will ever change) but I will be more in tune to helping equip others to move and serve in this field. The need is tremendous, as I don't think addiction is going to go away any time soon. I've even had some who said that we were facing an impossible task, that we were only dreaming of a "pie-in-the-sky" solution. Well, I don't believe that I've ever had a "pie-in-the-sky" view of recovery, as much as I've had a "God-in-the-sky" view. Call me silly....call me a dreamer...but for whatever reason I truly believe what is written in Luke 1:37 ---For with God nothing will be impossible. And what falls under "NOTHING"? Everything!

If you are where you can get to a TV this morning, then check out TBN (Local) at 10:30 a.m..  Seth Barber has been asked to come and join a discussion about the efforts of local ministries who focus on Recovery. Should be good. I talked with Seth yesterday and I told him that if I saw him on TV wearing a coat and tie, I was going to come down to the studio and beat him senseless. "Be yourself, boy...be yourself."

Don't forget that Gadsden Vineyard Church hosts three recovery meetings each week....
Sunday night: Seth Barber and Catalyst Recovery. Supper is served at 5:30 p.m. (Free) /  Big meeting at 6:30 w/ worship and speaker /  Small groups afterwards which provide a safe place for interaction and ministry.

Monday night: Amy Brown and Thriving. Meetings starts at 6:30 p.m. / Amy looks at addiction and our inability to form healthy relationships. She takes you through the brain functions and how they affect your view of yourself, as well as the way you should process information in a positive manner. 


Saturday night: Vineyard ReCovery Church. Think of us as a rest stop during the week. A place where you can come and catch your breath. Drink some coffee and be encouraged to not give up. We keep the message simple, the worship honest, and the company low key. We are all about praying for each other and staying connected through the week. 

All three meetings stamp court card if you need it.

Only Catalyst offers childcare at this time.
So if you need a place to catch your breath from the pressures of life..you've got three excellent choices at your fingertips. I guess you could say that Gadsden Vineyard church has become your one stop center for all things recovery.

I will be speaking this Sunday night at Catalyst Recovery, so come on out and join us. Hope to see you there.

God on you...

mb


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Be SALT...Be LIGHT...It's The Kingdom Mandate



(Don't know who produced this cartoon, but it rocks in explaining "Doing The Stuff" by John Wimber, founder of Anaheim Vineyard). It was John and his teaching that lead us to buying into the doing the works of Christ.


Doing the stuff...
Participating in the Kingdom work and commission Jesus left for us to do.
Pray for the sick...
Feed the poor....
Visit those in prison and jail with the news that life doesn't have to be lived out in a 9 x 5 cell.

Raise the dead....
What?

Yep....
Raise the dead...
All part of the kingdom here, right now...
But the Kingdom not complete or fulfilled.


Let me ask you a question.
Do you know how to pray?
"Well, sure..it's simple. You just talk to God."
Partly right.
Let me ask you another question.

Which had you rather have....
A larger quantity of prayer....

Or a larger quality of prayer?
"I think I would want a better quality of prayer."
Good choice.

So how do you arrive at this place of seeing the quality of your prayer increase?
I'm not sure...
Well, that is why God has laid it on my heart to teach such things.....


The church has taken for granted that such attitudes and behavior's such as "how to pray" is something that we just instinctively know.
Do you realize that I was 35 years old before I learned how to hear or discern the voice of God. Thirty-five years old! Been in church more years that you could count and never once had anyone ever told me how to hear God. Oh, I asked and when I did it seemed to be an uncomfortable question to those I had turned to. I received such answers as "Well, you'll just know it was God." I also got the "Still-small voice" answer. What...does that mean that God sounded like Mickey Mouse? No.


This is the one aspect of Christianity that I am indebted to the Vineyard and to John Wimber for. The focus of the Association of Vineyard Churches was built on the "Equipping of the Saint's" for the work of the ministry. To serve outside the church. To interact with those we come in contact with to introduce them to the Jesus we have come to know. Here is the kicker for me. To introduce them to Christ in a non-religious way. To use language that can be understood by those who have never darkened the door of a church. To often out language is peppered with words and phrases that most people do not use in a day to day conversation. If you read the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), you'll see that Jesus spoke in such a way that the common person of His day would understand. He used stories and examples that were common to the day. This is the behavior that the church should adopt. Somehow we (church) has taken the mandate of separation from the world to a whole new level. Let's get back to the world, but do so filled with God's Holy Spirit. 

If you want to get down to it...
Jesus was God in a form that we could understand. 

The whole "Coming down on the mountain with thunder, lightning, and explosions" was a bit much for those who came out of Egypt, under Moses' leadership, to comprehend. So If I have been called to do the works of Christ, would it not stand to reason that I should do so in a way that others could comprehend God? I think maybe yes.

So...
I've written all of the above to get to this point.
On Wednesday, August 19th, I will begin a new meeting connected with Vineyard ReCovery Church and Gadsden Vineyard Church.

It will be a "Doing the Stuff: 101" class.
Meetings will start at 6:30 p.m. and will run for one hour.
It will not a be a hurried class where we rush through the teaching, but will be a building of one precept upon another, as we learn that the basis for all ministry is the ability to hear what God is saying and then cooperate with His Holy Spirit.
If what I have written about today stirs your heart, then consider that an invitation to come out and join us. Everyone is welcomed.
Since we (VRC) are a small group, we do not have the means, at this time, to offer child care.
One last thing...
This is not an effort to get anyone to change churches or to join up with us. While we ain't against such change, we are not in the business of trying to wrangle people away from their current church. 


If you have any questions, feel free to call  me (Michael Bynum) @ 256 490 1868.
God on you....

mb  

p.s.
We hope to burn cd's of the meetings for those who can't attend and would love to provide such to anyone who wants them.  Contact me with your address and I'll make sure you get them.
I'm also going to attempt to put the audio portion up here on the blogsite. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Who Is This King of Glory?




Matthew 16:15
And He (Jesus) said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

The question of questions...
"Who is Jesus to me?"

I mean, who is He...really to me...?
What does my heart say...not my words...
When I am alone and my thoughts turn to God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus...Who is He?

It's easy to give book answers.
I've asked this question during a teaching, and I've received word for word as an answer, exactly what Peter said.


"You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."
Now is that statement true?
Of course it is.
But the answer was divinely introduced into Peter's mind by the Living God.

Jesus told Peter..."Hey Pete...You didn't come up with this answer on your own. My Father who is in heaven gave it to you."

I think we have to answer this age old question every day.
I think our answer to it comes not only from the words that we speak, but also the life we live daily.
Such reflects who Jesus truly is to us.
Do people look at me, as I move through my day, and see Jesus?
Or do they see someone who is simply religious?

I pray that they see Jesus.
The sad fact is that sometimes the religious does come out.

Oh come on! Don't tell me you haven't done the same.
Quoted scripture to someone, using it like a weapon to drive them away...
You got caught in a mistake and you whipped out the old "Judge not lest you be judged" verse.


Not excusing what I've done. In fact, I do a lot of repenting and asking for forgiveness for my stupid behavior. So who is Jesus to me?

First off, He is my Lord and Savior.
Lord = The one I submit to. He truly is the divine Shepherd and I truly am the fleshly sheep. I follow, He leads. I listen, He speaks. 

Savior = The Power greater than myself...my ability...my talents who has restored me to sanity. He has provided me with a clear mind and conscious that enables me to make sound decisions. 

Jesus is my friend...
Oh, I know He is the second part of the God-head. Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But He is a friend who sticks closer than any other. He is the one who stands next to the Father on my behalf. He is always praying for me...interceding for me. The Bible calls Him my advocate. The one who fights for me. 


With such a Savior as this, I want to delve into the Bible and read all the promises that He has spoken concerning those whose hearts are totally committed to Him.
Promises such as "Why do you worry about tomorrow? Does your heavenly Father not care for the birds of the air or the flowers of the field." He knows our needs and He will supply them from the riches of He possesses.


Jesus?
Why He is everything to me.
I pray that if you don't know Him...
He will become everything to you...


God on you...

mb

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Building Community



Acts 2:46-47
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

What do I want for Vineyard ReCovery Church?
To see people get physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy in their relationship with God.
To see all of us develop a deeper love and appreciation for who God is.
I want to see us grow to the point that we truly can love ourselves despite our past destruction.
I want us to learn to love others..........
Those who are a part of VRC.....
And those who may come through our doors for the first time. Simply love them with the Love God has shown to us.

We should be the most loving people on the face of the earth...

John 13:34-35
 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
I truly believe that "church" as we know it, is going to have to change if it's going to survive. We've played at church long enough. It is truly going to have to become a sanctuary for those who are looking for God and family. 

I've nothing against programs in church....
Such are designed to meet certain needs that people have....
But if we don't get the "love" part down, all the programs in the world aren't going to make a dent in the number of people who are falling through the cracks....
Jesus never said, "By their programs you will know that they are My disciples."
He said that His love in us being poured out on others is the defining mark of a true church. It has to be more than lip service and a hand shake. It has to be an investment of those who make up the community of believers in the church into the lives of each other and those who may be there for the first time.


I want us (VRC) to understand that the we are to burn with a divine love that cannot be kept or hidden. It is a love that has to be expressed. Such love is the real life found in the kingdom of God. 

I love the verses from Acts that I posted in the opening comments.
There was an investment into the lives of each other in the first church.
A daily breaking of bread and sharing of food.
Why can't this be the norm for today?

I am not one who is anti-technology. I actually see it as a means to further be connected with others. But we cannot rely solely on social media. We need that face to face investment in each others lives. Time spent over a cup of coffee sharing what's going on in our lives. Developing the intimacy that comes from friendship where one can say to another..."I need prayer. I am really struggling with giving up today." Such actions and behavior is the fertile ground from which God will grow His church.

Community is built from the heart. It is a discovery of a need to be connected with others who also burn with a passion to know Christ better. We find the greatest value by being connected with God through Christ. From that place of relationship, we find the value of being connected with each other.

Life isn't found in the church...
By that, I mean the structure with it's programs and model that we present as the way we think church should be done.

Life is birthed in the structure...
Life is conceived in the hearts of those who are connected with God.

In many ways, the structure is the incubator that protects the life that is being born. I know many who spend their entire time and energy, not to mention their money, on keeping the structure going. Thinking that if the structure is built a certain way, then life will come. I don't think it really works that way. 

Our goal at Vineyard ReCovery is to simply let God have His way in each of us.
We are a people who have been called to minister to a "Sin/specific" problem that has manifested in the lives of people who are trapped in addiction. A problem that they see themselves as being defined by what they have done in their past. The see themselves as having no value whatsoever.

We, as a fellowship, have been called and given the purpose of loving these people so that the Kingdom rule of God will be manifested in their lives. Such an act on God's part will move them into a new journey of following Him.

In some regards, Vineyard ReCovery Church is still a babe.
We've only been meeting 27 months. We're still learning how to be a community. We're still learning about each others.
If you're looking for a safe place to check out this whole "God" thing...then come and join us on Saturday nights /  7 p.m.

We are located downtown Gadsden on Broad Street / between 4th and 5th streets.
Hope to see you!
God on you..
mb

Monday, July 13, 2015

Living Sacrifices Worship Conference / Looking Back


What a great weekend...
I've been to a number of conferences, but I really like the ones that have been held at our Vineyard. Chance to meet some really neat folks that we've listened to on Cd's. Chance to hear the stories behind the songs they've written, that have now become part of our "hymn" book. 

This past weekend was an opportunity to spend time hearing some great teaching on what worship really is all about. It's good to be reminded of what is really important in life and in the Kingdom of God.


Saturday 
 9:10 a.m. / Band is going over the songs for worship. They do have the funk going on. Music defined by the region, filled with the wonder of who God is and what His desire is for us, as His children. Crispin Schroeder is the pastor of North Shore Vineyard located near New Orleans. His singing and playing reflect the musical dialect of that region. 
Unlike most music of that city, God has taken it back and claimed it for His own. It's all about our worship!!! Maybe A.W. Tozer was right when he wrote that worship was the missing jewel of the church. Sometimes I think worship has been relegated to a place where we consider it to be nothing more than something we do to fill up time until the message. Well, I have been in meetings when the worship was so think with the presence of God, that the message was laid aside.

"Am I really hearing this?" Crispin begins to play an old '60's tune by the Buckingham's...MERCY. Kinds of strips away all the religious junk. "Come, Lord! Come and let us leave the stuff of the world behind. Let us come into your presence and worship You."
......"That there is no one....in the whole world...that can Love....me....Like....You do!"
Don't you know it..Thank you, Jesus.

First Song contains the phrase "There is no one like You". No matter what means we may try to use to measure God with,  there is no one or no thing that can compare with His nature, His character, or His words. No matter what......we ALL fall short of the glory of God. And it is in the recognition of our falling that we can truly embrace the salvation and love God extends to each of us.

Song: It Will Be Alright
Learning to live in the moment. Milking the moment for everything if has for me. Removing my attention from the bad, and feasting on all that is good. How many times did I not enjoy the moment because I was looking back...or I was looking out into the unknown of the future? How many things (given to me by God) passed me by because of my lack of focus? Can't live like this anymore. I spent way to much time "looking toward tomorrow".."Running from yesterday"...May I find You, Jesus, right now.

Worship ends. 

A peace fills the room.
I could get lost in this.

That you for this wonderful moment, Lord, and for your presence.
Philippians 4:6 floats through my mind..."Worry about nothing, instead pray about everything".
Thank You, Lord...
I will do this.


I think I need to revisit the discipline of spending time with God.
Not reading...
Not taking...
But simply sitting and listening.

To develop a Step #11 attitude: We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God. Praying only for knowledge of His will and the power to carry it out.

As the evening session wound down and we began the process of cleaning up, I was again filled with gratitude that God would let me be a part of such an incredible fellowship. The building was filled with laughter and voices. Goodbye hugs and handshakes all around. The family was going their separate ways, but the realization was that we were connected by something stronger than our name, Vineyard. We were family under the blood of Jesus.

I want to send a shout out to Todd and LeNola Bagley for heading up the Living Sacrifices Worship Conference.

Also to the core group from Vineyard ReCovery for taking care of supper, feeding over 45 folks.
Thanks to Deb and Barry Hooks, Jason and Angela Knight, Wayne Wimpee, Debbie Handy, Jeremiah Smith, and to my wonderful wife, Vicki, for demonstrating a servants heart.

It was a good weekend.
What's next, God?

Hopefully Living Sacrifices Worship Conference 2016.

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 ...