Monday, August 31, 2015

Weekend Recap w/ A Heavy Dose Of Monday

Lamentations 3:22-23
Though the Lord's mercies are not consumed, because His compassion's fail not. They are new every morning. Great is Your faithfulness.

Lot of first time visitor's Saturday night at Vineyard ReCovery.
One of them came up to talk with me  after the meeting, expressing how much they had enjoyed it. How different VRC was from the other recovery meetings they had attended in the past. "I will be back." I hope so. I hope that they return and receive from God everything they need to move forward and have a life. A real life.

We talked about the first part of the Serenity prayer...."God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change".  The need to decipher what is in our control and what isn't. When we focus on those things that we have no control over, they become serenity robbers. They steal our peace and rob us of the ability to hear God. We become an emotional whirlwind that draws our attention and strength to a situation we literally cannot control or solve in our own strength and ability. 

So as one who is coming from a lifestyle where chaos rules, it is important that we learn to seek God, asking for something we cannot produce on our own......peace/serenity. Jesus told His disciples to "Let not your heart be troubled," and "Peace, my peace I leave with you." So the disciples received a gift that was not of this world. How does peace/serenity come to us? Through the work and presence of God's Holy Spirit in us. The peace that Christ gives is the kind of peace that steadies us when everything around is crumbling or in chaos. We do not get swept up in the maelstrom that draws us away from depending on God. In the opening line of the serenity prayer, we are acknowledging God's ability to enable us to live outside the pull and draw of our old way of thinking and seeing our problems and situations. Good stuff.

Yesterday morning, I spoke at New Outlook Christian Fellowship. Great bunch of folks who truly love Jesus. The music took me back to my growing up years....."The Old Rugged Cross"..."Pass Me Not O' Gentle Savior".....I do love the hymn's of the church. Spoke from Hebrews 12:26----"Whose voice then shook the earth, but now has promised saying, "Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven."  This verse has followed me since October of 2003. I won't go into the particulars, but God has spoken to me on several occasions that His "shaking" serves one purpose reveal His truth. Everything in our lives that we think is important will be shaken and only His truth will stand and be revealed. The very things we put our trust in, other than God, will be exposed for what it is worth....nothing! Such is why we need to let Christ be at the center of all we say and do. No time for religious posturing or pretense. Things around us....situations in this world and our nations will be exposed for they really are. False idols and gods that we have believed in and latched onto for salvation. 

Last night, it was time for Catalyst Recovery. 
Talk about "throw-backs"!
The meeting reminded me of the old "House of Blue" recovery meetings we use to do back in the day. Worship was off the scale. I know it is so easy to type that "God was in the house"...but there was no other way to describe it. He truly was there in a big way. The folks there last night were worshiping. God has created something special in this recovery meeting, and I bless Seth Barber for being crazy enough to believe God and follow Him. 
Using the book of Lamentations as my starting point, I read from Lamentations 3:19-21
Remember my affliction and roaming.
The wormwood and the gall.
My soul still remembers and sinks within me.
This I recall to my mind.
Therefore, I HAVE HOPE!

The very last word of that portion of Scripture is something that you will never find in a lifestyle of addiction.......HOPE! Only God can provide that. Only God can implant this into a heart that is tired of the darkness. Because Hope is the down payment on a life redeemed. No matter how bad things may get here on planet my heart I am driven by a belief that God is He who claims He is, and God will do what He promised He would do. HOPE!

It was good to see a lot of familiar faces last night, and meet some new ones. I left Catalyst Recovery last night, driving home with a sense of satisfaction. Not in anything I had done or said.......but satisfaction that God had come into our meeting and had done His work. Who could ask for anything more? 

So this morning, I sit here at my computer wondering what Monday has in store for me. Always an adventure. Always something out there waiting. But today I will focus on God.
No matter what...
It will be a good day!

God on you...
Michael b.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Thanks For The Memories

Psalm 119:55
I remembered Your name in the night, O Lord, and I keep Your law.

Seems as though I have more memories than my brain can hold. Maybe it's time I had a "memory" yard sale, and clean out some of the old ones. But then again, the old ones are the best aren't they?

I remember LeVan Parker and a sermon he preached at Gallant Baptist, when I was a young boy. It had to do with an Olympic runner who finished last. He didn't just finish last...He was so far behind that the official crew as moving things on to the track for the next event. The runner finally entered the stadium and began to move toward the finish line. People were kind of amazed that he was still running. After all, there weren't any medals waiting. There were no records to be broken. Collapsing at the finish line, after he crossed, someone asked why he'd continued to run even though there wasn't any glory or reward for his efforts. The runner replied, "My country sent me here to run this race...not quit." In other words, it was about overcoming and not giving up. That message has stuck with me ever since I heard it long ago on a summer evening. "Don't Quit! Don't give up!"

I remember in the choir at Central Methodist Church. First time I ever wore a choir robe. The song? "Up From The Grave He Arose".  Don't know why, but I remember the goose bumps that came as we sang this song. The funeral like dirge that accompanies the first verse, as you move to the chorus. Laying Jesus in the grave...the tears of those who loved Him....then, victory. "Up from the grave He arose With a mighty triumph ore His foes. He arose a victor of the dark domain, and He lives forever with the Saints to reign. He arose. He arose. Hallelujah, Christ arose."  The song became more than words to me. It became the anthem that I remember and sing when I feel as though darkness is winning. When the world seems to be sliding over the edge into the abyss. I sing it. I sing it in my car. I sing it while I mowing grass. I sing it at the gym. I remember!

I remember what it was like to hold my sons when they were babies. To stare down into those little faces and think to myself. "God, you have given me a life to teach, train, and love". What an incredible thing that God would bring forth life from Vicki and me, and then give us the responsibility of raising this tiny person.  Then I would wonder if God saw me in the same manner. That He had brought forth life in me, and wanted to see me grow and mature in Him. To become the man He created me to be, not the one the world wants to warp and destroy. If I love my sons as much as I much more does my Father in heaven love me? Wowzers!

I am grateful for memories.
The good ones truly outweigh the bad ones.
And in the bad ones, God in His infinite mercy, has removed the shame and guilty that use to be associated with them. Now they are just a memory that has no control over my emotions.
Ain't God good?
Yes, He is.

God on you....
Michael b.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Living To Die.....Or Dying To Live?

Romans 6:16
Don't you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.

This morning I read an interesting statement concerning  the definition of addiction, provided by Luke Gilkerson @ Covenant Eyes.
"Long before the word “addiction” was adopted by 20th century medicine, the word had a different flavor—the term was not necessarily medical. The 1884 Oxford English Dictionary said addiction was the state or condition of being dedicated or devoted to a thing, esp. an activity or occupation; adherence or attachment, esp. of an immoderate or compulsive kind.”

This is one of the controlling themes of Romans 6: sin as a slave master. In Paul’s mind, this is one of the essential ways to describe everyone’s sinful condition, as a kind of slavery. It is not merely the so-called sickos and the junkies who experience enslaving compulsions. It is everyone. There is an addict in us all.
The question is not whether you will belong to a master. The question is: who or what will be your master? As Bob Dylan said, “You’re going to have to serve somebody.”
How does sin operate as a slave master? Paul explains in Romans 6, when our master is sin, we “obey its passions” (Rom. 6:12). The word “passions” is an interesting word in the original Greek language  It means more than a desire or a drive; it means over-desire or overdrive. The word is not so much about desires for evil things as it is an inordinate desire for good things.

As Tim Keller says, this is the essence of “idolatry” in the Bible: when we turn good things into ultimate things, and in doing so they become our masters.

Everybody lives for something. Everyone has things in their lives that make them feel either significant or secure. Most of these things we desire are not evil in and of themselves, but the desires have become “ruling desires.” Needless to say that our society feeds these desires by the moral standards that are being torn down and replaced with new ones. New ones that only give approval to the desires that come from our fleshly nature (sin nature). Majority opinion does not always translate into good for the common man and woman.  

The reason our idols rule us is because of the power of sin and the lure of the idol we have given ourselves to, to serve. For Paul, the resurrection of Christ was a ultimate moment in which the power of sin was broken. To put it bluntly, we now have a Power greater than any sin...any addiction....any pill, joint, bottle, line, needle...etc...etc...etc...that can lift the user out of darkness and give new life.

The resurrection is more than just proof that Christianity is the true religion. For Paul, Jesus’ resurrection is the ultimate truth of where all creation is heading. From the ashes of this world, some day God will resurrect a new creation. Christ is the first of those who will be raised from the dead on the Day of the Lord (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Some day, all of creation will follow and be free from corruption, decay, and death.

Paul says when Christ died and rose from death, “he died to sin, once for all” (Rom. 6:10). This fact is at the heart of Paul’s argument in Romans 6, so we can’t miss we’ve given them to define us. Our idols make us feel good about ourselves, make us feel secure, and we get hooked on the affirmation, the power, and the comfort. We can only be set free when a new master comes into our life that gives us a profound new identity. Only the Jesus can do this.

Romans 6:11- So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ.

Romans 6:14 - Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law, Instead, you live under the freedom of God's grace.
Good food to chew on this morning....
God on you....
Michael b.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

DTS:101 - Authority And Power

Matthew 28:18
And Jesus came and spoke to them (His Disciples, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth."

We had "Doing The Stuff:101" session #2 last night at Vineyard ReCovery.
We're taking a look at how Jesus ministered to those around Him, and how he taught His followers to do likewise. You see, to me, there isn't an "A" team or a "B" team when it comes to ministry. The church has taught us that such does exist. Oh they might not have actually verbalized it, but it is an unwritten rule. If you're sick, you want the A-team. You want the pastor to come and lay hands on you, or at least a deacon or elder. Don't be sending Joe Schmoe who shows up on Sunday morning. I don't think this is what Christ had in mind when he told Peter, "Upon this rock (the simple fact that He was the Messiah) I will build My church." I think Jesus operated, and continues to do us, under the premise that every follower of His get's to play in the Kingdom.

In our teaching last night, we touched on the subject of Authority and Power.
Authority is the right to carry out a duty that God may be leading you to do.
Like seeing someone who needs prayer for healing. O.k.....God just threw us in the deep end of the pool. You see the need, and automatically your mind kicks into overdrive. "Me? Not me. I don't have anyway of healing that person. Maybe God got it wrong." But the thought won't go away. "Go over and ask that person if you can pray for them." Right thee, we need to realize that God has given us the authority to act as His emissary to carry out a kingdom work.

O.k....I've got authority. Big Whoopin' deal. No, it is a big awhoopin' deal. All sickness, all disease, all infirmities are present in our time and space because of one thing. SIN! Jesus, in his death and subsequent resurrection, broke the power of the enemy at every level. So when Jesus says that ALL authority has been given to Him, He means that He is capable of undoing whatever the enemy has brought forth. Jesus, in the great commission, transferred, or brought us under His authority, and has given it to those who have chosen to follow Him. 

O.K......Now I have authority. Now what?
Well, authority without power doesn't mean much.
Authority is the right to carry out a duty given to us by God.

Power is the ability to fulfill the authority.
In other words, Jesus isn't going to call us to work in His pray for people, to cast out demons, to restore sight to the blind, unless He backs us up with His power. Authority and Power, given by Jesus, is the what we are learning to rely on as we move forward in our teaching on how to do the stuff.

Funny part about playing in the kingdom, and the thought that every one who follows Jesus can is that all it requires is to listen and follow the instructions you hear from God. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that we ARE salt, and we ARE light. He didn't say if you study for a long time and get a degree you can become salt and light. He didn't say if you work in the church for at least a year, you might be able to be salt and light. No! He stated right off the bat, those whose hearts are committed to Him ARE salt and light. As such, we bring flavor and preservative (salt), and illumination (light) to a world that is bland and in darkness.

I will be posting Session #2 here at the Greene Street Letters later today.
God on you...
Michael b.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Real Deal Kind Of Love

Psalm 117:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His faithful love endures forever.

Psalm 117:29
Give thanks to the Lord,for He is good. His faithful love endures forever.

Kind of drew a blank this morning on what to share here at the Greene Street Letters.
Nothing was coming to mind....
Sat here for a while staring at the monitor....
As if something would simply pop into my tired brain.

Opened up my Bible, in a random way...
Found myself staring at Psalm 117.
Opening verse speaks of God's love....

"Yeah...I know...God loves me."
I had just taken the love of God for granted....
I've heard that phrase more times than I could count..."God loves you."
I even get a text every Friday morning shortly after 4 a.m. from a former Rapha client that says..."God loves you."

Had I fallen into a place where I took the love God has for me for granted?
I think maybe I had.

Then as I read Psalm 117, I noticed that it ended with the same verse it had started with.
God's love.....
His faithful love...
Endures forever.

Kingdom's rise, kingdom's fall. Governments come and go. Rulers step onto the stage of history but for a moment in time. But God.....
He's different.
His manner...
His nature....
The very essence of who He is never changes. He is not driven by public opinion to change who He is. He isn't checking the newspaper to see if He made the headlines this morning so as to increase public awareness. He is who He is.

Who is God?
I John 4:7 - But anyone who does not love does not know God.....For God IS love? 

He created this wonderful thing we call love....
He took from His own nature...
His own character and gave to humanity.
Now don't confuse God's love with shallow, copied shadow that the world offers up instead.

After all, as Larry Norman sang, "Beatles said all you need is love, then they broke up." Such is the love the world offers.

But not God....
God's love is pure.

Because of this, Psalm 117 says we are to give thanks.
That His loves exists....
And that it endures forever.....
I think maybe I will just do that this morning...
Give thanks, that is.

God on you.....
Michael b.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Self Deception

I Corinthians 3:18
Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by the world's standards, you need to become a fool to truly be wise.

"Me? I don't have a problem. You have a problem."
"Don't worry about me. I can handle this."
"My friend may have O.D'ed but not me, I know what I'm doing."
And on, and on, and on, the lies keep pouring out.
Trouble is, the ones who are saying these things really believe that they can handle their addiction.

Part of the nature of the beast of addiction is the ability to deceive others.
But the deadly part that no one wants to talk about is the ability to deceive yourself.

Living in a house without running water....
No electricity.....

No gas....
No cable...
No furniture.....

And yet tell others that it isn't so bad and that "I'm o.k.. As long as I've got a little money for smokes and incidentals, I'm o.k.".
Of course when they say "incidentals" they usually mean their drug of choice.
But such is the life of one in addiction.
Who do they surround themselves with?
Others who are equally as deceived as themselves.

Do you see how this feeds the darkness that has overpowered them?
Do you see how it takes the presence of God coming straight down into their hearts to open their eyes to the truth?

Oh..and let's not stop with addiction, let's go straight to Sunday morning.
There are those who warm a pew every week who are equally as deceived as the addict.
"It's just porn. I'm not hurting anyone."
"God will forgive me for what I've done."

God will forgive?
I'm not sure how it works if you use the forgiveness of God like some get-out-of-jail-free card. Not sure how premeditated sin works. I guess we'll find out in the end. 

To me the greatest reality in the Bible is found in John 14:17- He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into ALL truth.

What is the greatest truth that I could ever be lead into?
Truth about myself.

The real me that hides  behind the deception I created in my own mind and heart.
The real me that is in need of a Savior.
Truth is painful, but necessary if we want to grow in Christ.

Truth forces me to make a choice.
Or stay the same.

I choose to change.

God on you....
Michael b.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Family Night

Luke 8:21
Jesus replied,"My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God's word and obey it."

I love what is happening at our meetings on Saturday night. I love it when the script goes off the page...the order goes out the window, and God's Holy Spirit comes into our midst and takes over. Such was the way Vineyard ReCovery went last Saturday.

I knew something was up when we didn't have any visitors show up. It was just family.
Sometimes when it's just family, God has a way of getting our attention to show us how He wants us to understand what it truly means to be a follower of Jesus.

My wife had asked me if she could have a few minutes to thank everyone for their show of love after the death of her sister. So before we started, I gave her the floor. She began to talk, and as she did, you could tell that God was speaking through her. Vicki was opening up and sharing straight from her heart. To me, she became very transparent and honest about her emotions, her thoughts and the way she was dealing with the loss of her sister. 

I knew, as she was speaking, that the message I had prepared was not what God wanted. My wife, her story,and our reaction was what God was working through. We ministered to her, as I opened the floor for others to share what was on their hearts. Many came forward to speak over my wife. Some came to pray for her. Others came to just hug her and let her know that they were right there with her sharing her grief. It was the body of Christ at work.

When we got home, my wife apologized for taking the floor. For being the center of attention, so to speak. I told her that there wasn't any need for an apology, that she'd become the real message we needed to here. Her actions had opened the door for a model of  for how church is suppose to be. That we should be a place and a community of believers where it is o.k. to stand and share openly and honestly about what is going on in our lives. 

If there is someone who is hurting, and they come to the meeting, then that person becomes the most important part of the evening. I want everyone to feel that they can be honest and transparent, and can share their hearts and the pain they are feeling. What does it profit us to all put on a false front so we can all look like we are doing fine. No problems here....praise Jesus! I'm walking in victory every step of the way, every day, praise God! Well, I'd love to say that is the way my life goes...but it isn't.

There are days when I simply struggle to stay on the path, so to speak. But I don't quit. I keep plugging away. Sometimes I need to go to my "family" in Christ and tell them..."Hey guys, I not doing so well. I need some prayer!". Heaven forbid a pastor every gets honest before his congregation. That he also has doubts and fears..that he is (dare we say it) human. We are all simply moving forward in life, under the direction of the Holy Spirit. We will have good days and we will have bad times. But our honesty and transparency will keep the enemy from building in our hearts those strongholds and dark thoughts that can potentially derail anything God is trying to do.

I'm not advocating that we all gather on Saturday night and have a pot-luck-pity-party. That everything is gloom, despair and agony on me kind of meeting. But there has to be room for healing of every type, and healing at every level so that we can be THE body of Christ.

I have been blessed to be surrounded by a group of folks who have been to the depths of darkness, and survived. So as a church, we want to be aware of keeping our meetings open and honest.To do that, we have to honest and transparent about our own lives. VRC isn't the perfect place, but we're working at allowing God to have total control of our meetings. Seems to me that it works out better when this is our aim.

God on you...
Michael b.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Mardi Gras Jesus

I Corinthians 2:2 
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus and Him crucified.

I am still stuck in A.W. Tozer's book The Radical Cross. Mr. Tozer does not seek to soothe your feelings and emotions when it comes to facing truth. He does not mince words in an effort make you feel good about yourself. No. He takes you straight to the cross of Christ and  makes you see the bloody savior hanging there because of sin. All sin. My sin.

He pushes your face close so that you can smell the blood that was shed to pay the price of sin. He makes you rub your hand over that rough, hewn wood on which the perfect sacrifice was hung. It's almost more than a body can stand, but there you are. You see, society wants a neat Jesus. Those in addiction want a neat Jesus. A Jesus that pours out forgiveness and grace like someone riding on a Mardi Gras float throws out baubles and beads to the crowd. "Clean the slate of our sin, but please don't ask us to change!" is the cry of the world. How deluded are we, when we look at Jesus in this way. 

The "Mardi Gras" Jesus saves our filthy souls, but turns a blind eye to our sexual indiscretions. He cuts us slack when we choose to take all the benefits of a marriage relationship without the commitment of a life together under His watchful eye. Then when the relationship goes South, we cry out that we are being punished, or that God doesn't love us. No, we have chosen to reject the real cross, the real Jesus to feed our own selfish lust. Then we raise the banner of "That's Not Fair!" when we are confronted with the truth of what a real life in Christ looks like. I don't think I would go there with that one. If we want fair in this life, then we must remember who it is we are talking to when we stated that life hasn't been fair to us. If we want fair, then God should never have had to send Jesus to die for me. If we want fair, then we deserve to be in hell for eternity. Now that's fair!

Truth be known, when we come to the cross the greatest thing that is crushed is our will. The part of me that wants what I want, when I want it. Hanging on to self will is not optional when one comes to Christ for salvation and a new life. Step # 3 of the Twelve Steps states plainly that we "Make a decision to turn Will and life over the care of God as we understood Him." Such is the only way one escapes sin/addiction. The laying down of my will to embrace His will. This is where we find life. The old will...the old sinful nature that we drag around will (HEAR ME ON THIS) always look for the easier, softer way. Such is not the way of Christ. Such will not be a part of the cross. I'm not advocating a Jesus who lives to beat us up at ever turn. I'm not pushing a life that is always fraught with trouble and strife. What I am saying is that life happens to everyone who draws breath. There will be situations and circumstances that we will face that will bring up the thought of running back to our old ways. Back to using to cope with everything. But in Christ, we don't have to. From the cross we can draw strength to push on. From the Spirit of God who lives in each believer, we don't have to cower and fear. We can move forward every day. Now that's a promise you can bank on.

God on you....

Michael b.

Friday, August 21, 2015

New Audio Message From VRC

Last Saturday night, at Vineyard ReCovery, Debbie Handy shared a message on the importance of names. Especially when it is God who doing the naming.
The audio message is available in our audio section for you to listen to now, or to download for later.

Michael b.

Thankful For Chris Lizotte and Everyone Else Who Still Picks Up An Instrument To Worship God

Psalm 32 - (A Psalm of David)  A skillful song, or a didactic or reflective poem.
Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you (uncompromisingly) righteous (you who are upright and in right standing with Him).Shout for Joy, all you upright in heart.

One of the great blessings that God has given to me is to be able to meet and hang out with some of the worship leader / singer/ songwriters of the Vineyard. Chris Lizotte is one in particular who is, what I would refer to as, the real deal.......the genuine article.

Chris came to our Living Sacrifices Worship Conference back in 2013. He definitely is a blue jean/ flannel shirt over a t-shirt / kind of guy. Laid back wouldn't even begin to identify him. He rolls through life like a stream of water, taking every turn and hill as it comes. He is just a humble fellow who enjoys music...enjoy's worship...loves Jesus.
Don't be fooled by his laid back manner. Chris' view of life and what worship should be runs deep and is the passion that moves him in his relationship with Christ. 

Chris readily admits that he is getting older and that his music may not be what someone younger may want to hear. But, to me, he has moved into the category of someone who has weathered a lot of storms. Someone who doesn't claim to have all the answers, but through his music shares his wisdom about life and relationship with Jesus to anyone who would listen. These are the kind of people I want in my life. People who have weathered storms...have gone through hard times and can share the beauty of what it means to hang onto to God when you don't have anything else to hang on to.

Maybe it's simply a matter of relating to others who are in close proximity to my own age, but I have been blessed to meet a number of the older Vineyard Worship leaders who are still out there writing songs, going to other churches and venues to share the music. There is still a fire that burns in their hearts to worship God wherever the journey may take them. Thank you, Father, for these who have not quit. For these who still pack up and go when you say go. Thank you for letting me be made aware of this incredible worship that is out there. Worship that speaks to the heart you have given me. I have also been blessed to be a part of a group of people who have taken this same "worship" journey in our local fellowship. People I have shared time and music with over the past 26 years. People like Debbie Handy who gave me a place to lead worship. Brook Finlayson, who encouraged me to step out a little farther on my instrument. To reach for that riff, note, or chord that I thought I couldn't play. Nori Kelley who asked me to play bass early on in my time at the Vineyard. Nori modeled before me the drive and desire to be better at his craft. David Finalyson and Bruce Cornutt who shared the stage at House of Blue. They showed me that worship could be fun. Wayne Wimpee the percussionist with 8 arms. How he does what he does when he stands behind his drums is beyond me, but I am surely grateful to have him laying down the rhythm. And the newest member of my journey (coming in at 9 years playing together) Mr. Barry Hooks. Barry brought to the mix the true definition of gratefulness. Lifted from the despair of alcoholism, Barry used his guitar and his talent to tell God of his thankfulness for all that has been afforded to him in this new life he has been given. Pretty impressive bunch of folks. And I love each and every one of them.
You're a pretty neat God...
And I sure do love you....

Michael b

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The First One Is In The Books

Matthew 6:10
Your kingdom come...Your (Kingdom) will be done...on earth as it is in heaven.

Well, we've got the first meeting of Doing The Stuff:101 in the books.
Good turn out, as there were many familiar faces from different services and groups.
Asking "Why did you come to this meeting?" The response was unanimous. There is a hunger to know God better, and to learn how to move in the kingdom will of God.

People are tired of sitting on the sidelines watching. They want to participate, to pray and move outside the walls of the church and become actively engaged in their communities, their places of work and their homes. People with this kind of hunger will surely catch God's attention.

This first meeting was simply a time of laying down the foundation for the meetings to come.
Showing in scripture how Jesus modeled before His disciples the way to pray and minister to others. I shared that for far to long, the church has relied on methodology. A type of "program" if you will. If you run into someone and you want to pray for them, then you do A, B, C, and D. Well, the problem with operating from this view is that you've removed God from the equation, as well as not taking into account what the person you are praying for is going through. You may be praying for physical healing and there may be demonic spirits at work causing the physical dilemma. 

Jesus modeled before His disciples the way to interact and carry out the kingdom work. He said that He never does anything without first hearing what the Father wanted to do, then He simply obeyed. I look at it like this. Some parts of the church likes to use minnows to fish with. They've always used minnows and from time to time they catch a fish. But what if the fish aren't biting on minnows? Our first concern is to ask "What bait do I use to catch the fish?" It's not about me and what bait (or program) I like to use...It is all about what are the fish biting on.

At the end of the evening, as we were leaving, one of the people present came to me and told me about a terrible pain they had been suffering with. A pain that usually grew intense in the early morning hours, had come to them as they sat during the meeting. I asked if we could pray for them, they agreed. So here in our first meeting, we got a chance to do the stuff. People gathered round, and I invited them to join together to pray for this person. I was able to point out different things we needed to be aware of as we asked question to the one hurting. There seemed to be some relief as we finished up. Everyone went away encouraged by what they had seen and participated in. 

I am going to download last night's teaching in the audio section of this blog, so feel free to check it out.
God on you.....

Michael b.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Times They Are A Changin'

II Timothy 2:2
You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

Life is ever changing...
Or should I say the culture and society around us is ever changing.
We are growing older, and as we do so we will hang onto what defined us when we were young.
Classic Rock....
Oldies Stations...

We hang on to our music because that which we hear today sounds foreign and nothing more than noise.
We find ourselves not being able to adapt or embrace the current culture.
This attitude isn't a recent phenomena. Every generation has had to face this problem.
How do we fit into the current culture? Should we even try?

My life has changed drastically over the past 2 years. It all began when I left Rapha, a local drug and alcohol treatment center, to begin Vineyard ReCovery Church. I knew there would be changes, but I wasn't prepared for how life would look when they hit. I had been the staff pastor at Rapha for 15 years, when God led me out to this new work. My whole existence had been directed to serving and ministering to those men who came through the program. In my mind, such would be my duties at VRC, and to some degree I am still called to minister and serve those who are struggling in addiction. But God has added a new twist to the mix.

For some time, I have been watching other meetings and seeing the way they approach ministry. The number one thing that has impressed me is the zeal and heart those who have answered a call to be a part of the ministry teams at these recovery meetings. But as I watched them function, I kept having the thought, "What if they could minister at a higher level? What if they were shown that God wants them to learn how to hear Him, and then engage in what He is instructing them to do as they minister." In other words...what if they were shown a better way to "Do the Stuff"?

This began the return to something I taught back in 2000. I had an eager group who were excited at the possibility of learning how to hear God and act on His instruction. They wanted to reach out and minister to those around them in their daily walk. It was the idea of making themselves available to God's kingdom work every day of every week, and not just on Sunday's from 11:00 till noon. The initial class lasted over 40 weeks, and I watched as this group grew and matured in Christ. Sunday, as I spoke at Gadsden Vineyard Church, I was ministering to a woman who'd come up for prayer. I noticed one of the people who'd attended this first class standing nearby, I motioned for her to come over and help me. She did. As she began to pray, I heard everything she'd learned back in 2000. She listened for God to speak, she waited, and when she received something, she spoke it. This was kind of confirmation about coming back to the teachings.

So I think that a page has turned in my own personal book, and I am now going to enter into a time of teaching others what I have learned on my journey. Am I through with recovery? NO! I still have a passion to work with those who are trying to break free. But my heart is now to pass on so others can move forward in what God is calling them to.

Tonight will be our first meeting of "Doing The Stuff: 101". It will be an orientation of what we will be looking at over the next few weeks. The meeting will be interactive and participatory. It won't be me doing all the talking while everyone else sits and watches. We will be demonstrating (the show and tell method) how to hear God, how to pray, how to minister to others, and I'm excited about tonight.

Should you not be able to attend, yet you want to be a part, we will be recording the meetings on CD. Just send me your mailing address and I will do my best to see that you get copies of every meeting. Don't forget...tonight / 6:30 p.m.- the first meeting of "Doing The Stuff:101". Hope to see you there.

God on you....
Michael b.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tomorrow Night --"DOING THE STUFF:101"

John 14:12
"I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in Me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father."

Mighty bold statement from the Son of God...
We have no problem seeing Him do some pretty incredible things.
But when it comes to us....
Well, that's a horse of a different color.
We are fallen humanity...
We mess up a lot...
We get things wrong...
We miss what God is trying to tell us....
What's your point?

Bottom line is this...
Jesus has called us into relationship so that we can be the arms, legs, eyes, ears, voice and heart of the kingdom work here on planet earth.

There, I said it!
We have been called to "Do the works of Christ"...or, as John Wimber said, "To do the stuff"....

Here is the bottom line in this whole idea of doing the works of Christ...
The church has spent time and effort in coming up with methodology (how to)

When Christ has actually called us to a model that He himself left us to see and follow.
The model doesn't really involve steps..."If you do this, then be sure to follow it with this step" much as it relies on the relationship between us and God.

So what is "doing the Stuff"?

IT is best defined by Jesus in Matthew 11:4-5
Jesus told them,"Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen---the blind see, the lame walk, and the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life and the Good news is being preached to the poor."
Don't you find it strange that the very last thing mentioned on the list is preaching? Not to belittle it, or to push it aside, but all the other acts....healing and deliverance only validated what was being taught.

We have been called to enter into this type of relationship with Christ. To go and "Do the the stuff" in a world that is slowly sliding over the edge. It isn't enough to quote a verse to someone who is trapped in the bondage of addiction. To tell them that they should "be warm and filled in Jesus name". We have got to learn to exercise the authority and power that Christ has given to us. To stand against the spirit of darkness that is having his way in the life of those who come to us looking for help.

Such is why I am starting a new meeting, tomorrow night (August 19) We will be taking a look at how we can enter into this arena of "Doing the Stuff". The meeting will start at 6:30 p.m. at Gadsden Vineyard Church. Sorry, but we will not be able to offer childcare at this time. Make plans to join us.

God on you...
Michael B.

Monday, August 17, 2015

It Was A Good Weekend

Psalm 118:29
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! His faithful love endures forever.

What a great weekend....
Saturday night Debbie Handy spoke at Vineyard ReCovery, sharing about how names are important. How we have a tendency to label our self based on what we have done. God, on the other hand, names us based on who we are in Him. Much healing in the room as we had a time of prayer and reflection on how we see ourselves as opposed to how God sees us.  

As part of our worship, I drug out an old song that was written when I played with the band "HIS BAND" back in the 80's (that's 1980...not 1880). "Them Walls" written by Bill Anderson, our lead singer and keyboardist) was a 12 bar blues arrangement about the different kind of walls we read about in the Bible. The incredible truth that there aren't any walls you and I can erect that can keep God out. There aren't any walls that the enemy can erect in our lives that keep stop God from tearing them down. It was fun to revisit that song. Hadn't played it in 30 years.

Sunday morning found me speaking at Gadsden Vineyard. Saw a lot of new faces and got the opportunity to pray and minister after the service. I told the group when it was time for me to speak that I was a "one trick pony". In other words, the only thing I am good at is speaking on recovery, so that was what they were going to get. 

I opened up by playing a worship song that was written by Suzie Wells for MorningStar Ministry. It is the most honest, transparent, in-your-face worship song I've ever heard. The opening lines are 
I killed my children...
You forgot that...
My fornication's..
You forgot that...
My prostitution...
You forgot that...
These aren't words put into this song to get your attention. They are all part of Suzie Wells' past life. Addiction....sexual immorality....abortion...yet she is able to share this part of her life because of the healing power of Jesus Christ.
She is able to be blatantly honest because she has been forgiven. Suzie Wells has been forgiven. Only Jesus can do such a miracle work in a life.

I went on to share the history of VRC. 
I wanted those present to understand who we are and what we do on Saturday nights. 
God was very gracious to touch the hearts of those present. Afterwards, several came up for prayer and to ask questions about love ones who are living in addiction.

As a bonus, I got to play on Debbie Handy's worship team. Always a treat, always a pleasure. She brought her "A" game yesterday and God showed up in a big way. Thanks for the invite Debbie!

Well, here we are...
Monday morning..
New opportunities waiting out there for us.
A chance to be salt and light to a world that doesn't know our Jesus.
Let's do it....

One last thing..
Don't forget that this coming Wednesday night (August 19th) we will be kicking off our "DOING THE STUFF:101" class for Vineyard ReCovery.
Meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
Hope to see you there!

God on you...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Two Paths...Your Choice

Proverbs 16:25
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.

That is a mighty bodacious verse.
The reality that there exist a way....a lifestyle....a choice that lies before each person.
The path hasn't changed and turned evil. The path is a constant.

It is the perception of the individual that is warped.
Warped by a sin nature that has the ability to rationalize anything.
Rationalize even when our conscience tells us that the choice we are about to make is wrong.

The path to addiction never changes.
I don't care what vehicle your ride down it..
Synthetic weed...

The path always ends in death, incarceration, or institutionalize.

But such seems right to us when we stand there at the beginning of the path.
Our ability to reason and to see beyond the moment is clouded and dulled.

"I'm not going to let this get out of hand."
"I'll only use on weekends."

"I won't become an addict."
And on and on and on goes the litany of deceptive reasoning that leads to death.

The path to addiction is one that is lonely and separated from others. We bolster our self confidence by thinking that we know what's best for us. We understand ourselves better than anyone else. For that very thought, we move away from others, seeking their company only when we need to use them. 
"There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is death."

To contrast this dark path that ends in death, lets look to what the Big book of A.A. says...
"Rarely have we seen anyone fail who has thoroughly followed our path."
This statement was made by other people who have succeeded in finding a life beyond using and drinking. Real open life. A different path.

The statement makes a pretty incredible promise.
That the majority of people who choose to follow the way...the path...the direction that has been taken by countless others..and do so thoroughly. No short altering the discipline of recovery....will not fail at this effort to break free of the darkness of addiction. 

Seems to me if I were in addiction and I knew that I was moving down a wrong path, I'd at least take a look at this promise of a new life. Funny thing happens when you start down this new way..this new direction. As a friend of mine likes to say, "You can't do the 12 Steps and not hit your head on the cross."
Sounds like wisdom to me.

God on you..

Friday, August 14, 2015

Mission Accomplished: Foundation is Repaired

Luke 6:48
It is like a person building a house who digs DEEP and lays the foundation on solid rock.

This morning as I sit here typing this posting, I am in a house whose foundation has been repaired. Our house was built in 1948, and being here in Camp Sibert (or Swamp Sibert as I've heard some refer to it) the area is not well known for drainage. Over the years, as with any house, repairs are required for the upkeep and well being of the structure. Such was the condition of our foundation. Cracks begin to appear, door jams begin to sag, and the floor had a musical sound to it as you walked across it....creak, crack....snap...crackle. It was a major task for us to find someone who would be willing to tackle the job. Turns out it was all a matter of God's timing and God's provision for the job, but that is another story for another time.

I found a company who was more than willing to take care of our foundation problems. Four days....many hours...and much material, I am now sitting in a home whose foundation has been repaired. I think maybe God was teaching me something in the natural to reveal great spiritual truth. That is why I really like these verses this morning from Luke 6.

If you've read any in the New Testament, then you probably familiar with Jesus' teaching on the wise builder and the foolish builder. Both erected homes. Both homes were probably of the same material. Both contractors had good intentions of building something that was going to last. Both had good blueprints. But only one was a wise builder. Only one dug down until they had hit bedrock. Solid foundation is the starting point for any building. Same applies in our relationship with Christ. 

A lot of people want the whole salvation experience without the need for going deep into the their lives and allow God to work there. We want the fancy mansion built but are not willing to take the time to dig down until we hit rock. We want Jesus but we're not willing to dig down, uncover and face our character defects. We embrace forgiveness....

We are swept up in the emotion of the thought of a new life...starting over...having the slate wiped clean, so to speak. But we not enthralled at the possibility of having to empty out all the old drawers where we stashed the nastiness of our life. 

Never forget that when Christ comes to us to work in our lives....change our heart, change our character...He does so out of love for us. So this whole digging down so we can build up is all part of the process of healing He wants to take us through. I heard it put this way. Dr. Darrel W. Pitts, who taught a video series on recovery that we used at Rapha, use to explain the work Jesus does in our hearts. Dr. Pitts tore the muscle in his leg...painful...could not walk and had to have friends take him to the emergency room. As they entered into the E.R., Dr. Pitts said he only had one thing on his mind....MORPHINE! Make it quit hurting. But to his surprise, the doctor in the E.R. only had one thing on his mind...X-RAY! Dr. Pitts said that he realized that he'd only been thinking of his comfort while the E.R. doctor was only thinking about his healing. I think maybe this is what is on Jesus' heart. He's more interested in my healing so I can move on in life, rather than me being comfortable. 

So don't settle for a shallow foundation in your relationship with Christ.
Listen to His teachings and allow them to dig deep into your very being where His foundation can be laid for everything He wants to build in your life.

God on you...


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Audio Message From August 8th

New Audio message from August 8th Vineyard ReCovery now available in the audio section of the blog (Look to the right side of the blog).
Click on microphone to play message.
Click on "I" to download for later consumption.
Either way, it's a love pat for your tummy....

God on you...


"E" Harmony

Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

God's word is a point of focus and attention made available to me if I will use it.
It will be the fuel for the voice of God that will speak to me and show me the way to go in my daily life. It will help me to make decisions that are not destructive to my personal recovery.

I love an E chord.
Been playing guitar for more years than I care to remember and during all this time, E is my favorite chord. Funny thing about playing an E chord is that you have so many different choices as to which chord you play next. You might slide up to an A or maybe B. There's the chance that you might get bold and go from E to G then to A. How about F#m or F#?

Life is like that when we are trying to operate with God in our life. When we are trying to be the captain of our own ship without realizing that they only thing we've ever been good at is running aground and destroying the ship. For a lot of people life is so scary...the future so uncertain that they refuse to change chords. They live their entire life stuck on an E chord. Strumming over and over and over. Doing the same thing over and over and over expecting it to be different each time.

God didn't create us to be a "one note" creation.
He created us with songs that haven't been played yet. He created us to embrace Him and allow His music to come from within so we could reflect His image. He created us to reach out and try another chord. Move from that "E" place and see the beauty of trying to follow Him in the next move.

Funny part in this journey of life and music is the simple fact of the more we try to move off our "E" chord to others, the better we get at changing chords. Our moves become smoother and the chords resonate a little clearer as we play Them. As we allow God to guide us, we become more sure of our decisions and choices, and we see that God is worthy to be trusted. 

If you look at the neck of a guitar, you'll see strings and frets. But what you don't see is the possibility of unlimited music. Every song that has ever been written can be played on the neck of that guitar. When we look at our life, we see the "strings and frets"...the pitfalls and the snares out there waiting to trap us and kill us. What we fail to see is the unlimited potential of life, when we turn will and life over to God's care.

As much as I love an "E" chord....
I'm very curious about where it can take me...
The next chord progression...
The next song that is birthed in my own journey.

Don't stay stuck in life...
Reach out for the next chord.

God on you...


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Simple In Our Theology....Simple in our focus

II Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness thorough our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

The one thing I want everyone to come away with from the Saturday night meeting is that believer's have been given the ability and authority to face what ever life may send their way.
Saturday night is to be a time of celebration and sharing. Of mutual encouragement and praying for one another. A time to embrace the high points of life, as well as a time to come together for those who are struggling. Saturday night is to be a time of honesty and transparency as we gather to worship.

Saturday night is a time of coming together for the Holy Spirit to come and bring out the gifts that he has given to us. It isn't always about me standing to tell everyone  how great God is. Sometimes the message comes from the group. Instead of a message from one person, we have a message from a dozen people. I will open up the room for sharing Scripture that had impacted and changed the lives of those in the room. We will see a good cross section of the Word of God as hands are raised and verses read. I will usually question each one who read asking, "What does that verse mean to you? Why did you choose that one?" They would proceed to explain, through examples from their own life how that particular verse had opened their eyes and heart to what God was trying to show them. We get real life examples of people who are simply trying to find their way out of addiction and into a new life.

Some churches personality swings heavily toward the "WORD" side. By that, I mean that these fellowship's teach the word like no other. They are keepers of Scripture and exhort their members to be students of God's word. In all of this though, they do not give place for the Holy Spirit to work. They do not encourage the people to allow the Spirit to operate in their lives, as a result the meetings lean heavy toward "the Law" and are very dry and legalistic.

Some churches personality swings heavily toward the "SPIRIT" side. Here it it almost like a spiritual free for all. Meetings are full of emotion and there are visible signs of people being touched in a might way by God's spirit. Because there is not an emphasis on teaching the word, these tend to seek after the feeling. They are almost like kites without strings that are blown about with no anchor.

I believe that God wants the marriage of these two....WORD and SPIRIT. A meeting where the Word of God is taught and is done so in a practical, applicable way. At the same time, allowing the Spirit of God freedom to move in the meeting. That is the healthy middle ground I strive for in our Saturday night meeting. A good foundation from where we can launch out and be with the Holy Spirit.
A place where our worship is heart felt and honest....
A place where we can receive from God that which we need to survive...

A place where we feel loved and can love in return....
A place where we can leave and go back out into the world strengthened and empowered to make it one more week.
That is what Vineyard ReCovery is all about.

God on you...


Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing. Not it shall spring forth. Shall you not know it?  I will even make a road (path) in the wil...