Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Seth Barber's Message From VRC Sept. 26, 2015

Now available for your listening pleasure....
Seth Barber's message from last Saturday night's VRC meeting.
Seth takes a look at the life of Samson and how we can find recovery principals in this story.

You can find the message on the right hand side of the blog in our AUDIO section.
Listen now, or download for later.

Enjoy...
michael b

Dark Times Will Reveal Truth



Chapter 16 of A.W. Tozer's book The Radical Cross.
Can I say "ouch"?
I think maybe yes...
I need the Bible to question me and my decisions.
I need the Bible to lay bare not just my heart, but the motives of that heart.

It is in this place that the real me comes out.
Not the "church-going, praising God" me.
But the "I'm a stinker in need of constantly being de-stinkified" me.
Making me look at not only what is in my heart, but what that heart is capable of doing. Such is a sobering thing. Such is what I found as I read Tozer's book. he kept sending me to the Scripture over and over, putting me in a place where new decisions and new commitments had to be made.
So what's the title of this infamous Chapter 16?
Are you ready?
"Coddled Or Crucified?"

Tozer writes the following:
The Spiritual giants of old would not take their religion the 
easy way nor offer unto God that which cost them
nothing.
They sought not comfort but holiness, and the pages of
human history are still wet with their blood and their tears.

We not live in softer times. Woe unto us, for we have 
become adept in the art of comforting ourselves
without Power.

We're not real comfortable looking at those who Tozer refers to as Spiritual giants. We place them on unreachable pedestals, never realizing that we have been called to the same place. Not a pedestal of recognition or fame, but a place where the name of Christ is glorified. A place that has no need for "self" to be recognized or applauded. We've been called into communion and relationship with the real-deal God of the universe. Such a connection is not driven or dictated too by anything taking place in this world. It does not rise or fall on any prophetic word. If we receive any prophetic word, we should weigh it, discern it and then press tighter into God. We lean into Him whether the winds of change are raging around us, or the gentle breeze of peace flows over us. In other words, we have been called to walk out a life that is not the norm for this world.

When will we awaken to the fact that we have been called to a life that is based on the economy of heaven, not earth? We are called to operate and move in ways this world will never understand, yet we seem to reject this new way of life. We seem to be tied to and held captive by the economy of this world. We grow fearful in the least movement of the Stock market. We watch the evening news and sit in fear that ISIS is out there wreaking havoc on the world. Our own government seems to have lost their collective minds. All this continuous influx of fear only drives us to find comfort. To be coddled so we will not have to face what is happening around us. We hang on to God, but look to the world for comfort. Can the two coexist? This acknowledgment of God, and the embracing of the things of this world to comfort our fear and anxiety?

What was the cross really for?
Kill people.
I've written this before, but if you were standing at the gates of Jerusalem, and you saw a man walk through those gates carrying a cross......you could just about bet he was going to return. Death awaited him.
Well, in this relationship we have been called to, we had to die. Our old sin nature, the old man, was crucified and we were granted a new life. A new way of living. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 2:20 - "I have been crucified with Christ; It is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Paul goes on to write in Galatians 6:14 - "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."

What does all this mean? Well for starters, it means that even though I am a citizen of this planet, it isn't my home. And as long as I take up space here, I do not operate or live out my days under the influence and pressure that society applies to peoples lives. So it really doesn't matter how spiritually dark it may become...according to Jesus, I am light. It doesn't matter how spiritually tasteless society may become....according to Jesus, I am salt. I am called to apply myself, under the direction of God's Holy Spirit, to whatever situation or circumstance I may find myself facing. And this application of self is for one reason only....to glorify the name of Jesus. I can't save the world, but I can make a difference in my corner of the Kingdom.

Don't know if this posting really came out the way it was when it rolled around in my brain. I do hope it makes sense and that you may see the folly in operating from a place of fear. I'm not smart enough to figure all this out. I am smart enough to latch on to someone who can. That would be Jesus.

God on you....
michael b.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

All Down In Me




Psalm 57:7
My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing and give praise.

Real....
Uncovered....
Laid bare.....
This is the power and reality when you encounter the real-deal God.
This is the place I want to live....
This is where I want my mail delivered.


There is a reality that takes place whenever we gather together on Saturday night. This reality is the very understanding of who is at the center of our meeting. Jesus. It doesn't matter who comes through the door to be there on Saturday night....this reality affects everyone. Me, the worship leader, the core leadership of VRC, or first-timers who have never attended.

First off...
It's no secret why we meet....
Recovery.
There is kind of a blank space at the end of the word recovery. In fact there are two blank spaces. It should actually be Recovery from _____. Insert whatever it is that has taken on your life, and is actually dictating your movement, invading your thoughts, and has you under its thumb. It could be drugs.......it might be alcohol......it could be sex or gambling....it could be religion (you know..the kind that acknowledges God, but denies the power that could free them). The list is endless, but the promise of freedom from Christ can break whatever chains are holding you in place.


The word "recovery" seems to have gotten a bad rap, especially from the church. There has been a tendency to look down on people who are in recovery. The "Poor Unfortunates". Truth be known, traditional church really doesn't know what to do with them. The church wants to help, but for the most part doesn't know how to address the problem. SO they create a church for those in recovery. Trouble it, it looks like most Sunday morning services. This is where I differ.

As John Wimber use to say..."Just because you like fishing with minnows doesn't mean that the fish will bite. Sometimes you've got to change bait in order to catch fish." Translated: Just because you do church (Or have a model that speaks to you) doesn't mean others will come to it. This was one of the bit things that I first realized when I started putting together a service for those in addiction. It had to be different in that it had to appeal and speak to the hearts of those who attended. So I set out to create a place that had all the dynamics of church, but not the appearance or the language that one might encounter in other churches. Now before I go any farther, let me say that this is not a shot at mainline Sunday morning church. They occupy a much needed place in our community. It's just that you can't take that model and expect to reach some of those in addiction or who have started their journey in recovery.


Being a by-product of the 50's and 60's, I have a love of the music of that era...especially the blues. This particular style of music has an appeal that crosses every ethnic group. It has a universal draw or appeal that especially touches the hearts of those who are in pain. In the natural, when someone sings the blues, it is merely a heart cry of pain or loss. When we play such music on Saturday night, it is a heart cry directed to God that He would come and save us and heal us. The true heart of addiction is the realization that we are the architect of the destruction we live in. No matter how hard we try, we cannot overcome the power of the craving or the desire. Having this knowledge, we encounter a power greater than ourselves who could restore us to sanity. We were incapable of making sound decisions (that's insanity), but Christ in our lives gives us the ability to choose wisely.

God has called me to be His voice of reason.
To take His word and share the hope found within.
Hopelessness is another by-product of addiction.

To boil the message down to the simplest of forms and speak the promises that God will provide to those who turn will and life over to His care.
What's the message?
Simple...
"You no longer have to live the way you have been living."

There is a POWER greater than any of us who not only has the ability to give us a new way to live, but longs to do so.
So we gather every Saturday night to see what God will do next.
He does not disappoint.
Thanks for letting me share this morning...

God on you...

michael b.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Two gates....Two different Entrances



Matthew 7:13-14
Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few that find it.

Big wide entrance....neon flashing light to point the way. Just follow the crowd and you can't miss it. Search lights sweep the skies announcing the entrance to destruction. The ease at which one can enter in seems so natural and right. The way to destruction is defined by a feeding of the flesh. The motto of the broad, wide entrance is very simple. "Do what you want to do, no matter what! And do it whenever you feel like it!". No thought of God. No thought of the consequences of our sin as we jet down the super highway to destruction. 

There is much laughter and false joy on the broad spacious freeway of destruction. So many people all going in the same direction. How could such a vast crowd be wrong. After all, there is the whole "majority opinion" working here, isn't it? You've heard all the religious, recovery mumbo-jumbo. "Jesus is our Higher Power". ...."It works it you work it"...."Keep coming back".
"God can do for you what you cannot do for yourself." Cleaver sayings that seem so antiquated  here on this highway.....After all, we aren't hurting anyone else, are we?

Then there is the narrow gate....
The narrow way....
Scripture in Matthew 7 says that the narrow way is difficult.
Why?
Why would such a path that leads to real life....abundant life....eternal life be so difficult?
Because it is impossible to find or enter into in our own strength or ability.
One cannot move through the gates of life simply because you might have a list of degrees and education longer than your arm. Good people cannot enter in. Religious people are barred from entering in. So why are there "few that find it" as stated in Matthew 7?

Because the narrow gate requires you to lay down your will and life and accept Jesus as your Savior....recognize Him as Lord.
You see, Jesus is the key to entering in....

We have be empty of self before we can be filled with Him.....
We have to turn over will and life to His care before we can move through the gates of God's life.


It's not a popular view...
But it is a necessary view...

This weekend was a time of seeing people find that narrow way....
Flying full tilt down the super highway to destruction, suddenly the off ramp to the narrow way came into view and 10 people decided to get off. They'd had enough traveling on destruction highway.
They heard the message from God....
Their hearts were tender to the move of God's Holy Spirit upon His word.

They received Jesus as their Savior...
They placed their very lives under the submission of Jesus, recognizing Him as their Lord.


Funny part in all of this....
I guarantee that as they move forward in this new relationship, that narrow way won't seem so narrow any more. It will open up as their eyes and hearts become to this new way of living and see endless possibilities in front of them as God leads them.
Such is the way of the Lord....

Needless to say, it was a good weekend.
Thanks to the core leadership of Vineyard ReCovery church....
And thanks to all the folks at Catalyst Recovery....
God is good, is He not?


God on you...
michael b.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What's Our Business.....How Are We Doing?


Matthew 11:28
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Been thinking a lot (that could be dangerous in my case) about our Saturday night meeting at Vineyard ReCovery Church. Some folks don't see to be able to grasp the concept of church on Saturday night. They don't seem to have a problem with the idea of a recovery meeting taking place on Saturday night.....but church, real church, is reserved for Sunday morning. If the meeting in question isn't taking place in the daylight, on the Sabbath, then God won't recognize it as legit. 

Vicki was talking with a person last Saturday evening before the Cabin Fever Band took the stage. This person was asking about what we did, who we were, why we met on Saturday night. In the end, the person said, "I guess once people come to your meeting, you funnel them to a Sunday morning church don't you?" No. We don't. If they want to find a Sunday meeting, then that is way cool. But we are "church". I guess since we live here in the South, what with the whole Bible-belt thing, if you don't meet on Sunday, then you're not official. 

Except for 2 years when we held church on Sunday morning at Rapha, I've always lead a Saturday night meeting. I know it's a hard night for most to come to a church, after all....it's Saturday night. That is time to enjoy and rest from the affairs of the week. Well, to me, Saturday night was a time for some to go to the devil's church. They sang in his choir (usually drinking or using songs), they worshiped at his altar (the altar of "ME") and they gave freely in offerings to advance his kingdom work. It just wasn't seen as church. Believe me it was, and it was the spiritually darkest of dark worship services.

Why not take back Saturday night?
Why not come together and spend time with each other, and with God.

That is what VRC is all about.
We want to be a community that embraces everyone who comes through our door.
I want those who come to be with us to go away with the knowledge and understanding that they have been loved. That love was offered freely. They were not judged. They were not looked down upon as being some kind of 2nd class human. I want them to experience God's love, and know that their addiction does not have to hold them in a death grip that keeps them from ever experiencing God.

I want the word of God to be spoken and taught in plain, simple terms. No religious hype or emotional manipulation to get them to "make a decision" to accept Christ. If I can't trust the Holy Spirit to take the word of God and bring conviction where it's needed, then I need to shut the door and go find something else to do. I want the word to come alive and break through any and all hardness that is a part of an addictive lifestyle. I want the individual who comes through our door on Saturday night to know that they are the most important person in the room.

In this day and age, there are a lot of churches trying to figure out how they can become relevant to their community. They want to attract a certain age group. They want to reach out to a particular demographic of their community, so they have to decide how to approach this group to offer them something that would entice them to attend church.
That is one thing we don't worry about. Why? Because the need to break free from addiction is a universal condition that stretches across all age barriers, and all socio-economic groups. Recovery speaks to the heart that is young, as well as the heart that has more miles on it than you care to talk about. That is the beauty of VRC. We offer a place where a person can come, no matter what age, and acknowledge that they have a problem. From this realization, they can know that there truly is a solution to their life of misery they have been experiencing. The solution is found in an individual, and that individual has a name. That name would be Jesus.

I  know it sounds weird, but you really can't state it in any other fashion.
There IS as solution!
Last but not least, we get a lot of people asking if you have to be an addict to attend VRC. The answer is no, you don't. IN fact, the heart of addiction is very simple. Drugs and alcohol are not your problem. Using and drinking are not your problem. You have a living problem. You have a broken relationship with Christ. As such you have discarded Him in order to live life on your own terms. Well,how's that working out? We want to be a place where the solution is talked about every week. A place where people live out the solution every week. A place where we can gather an celebrate every victory we encounter, every week.

God on you....

michael b.



Friday, September 25, 2015

Dry Bones Dance




Ezekiel 37:1-6
The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great man bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. he asked me, " son of man, cant these bones live?" I said, "O Sovereign Lord, you alone know."

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

Years ago, I wrote a song that was centered around the reality of who we are as human beings. The line that stuck with me during the writing of the song was "Without You Lord, we're just some breath around some bones."  How true is that? The realization that without the Spirit of God living in me, I really have no purpose for being here on this planet. Oh I may have lofty goals. I may be living to leave a legacy behind when it's my time to be buried. But each of us, without Christ in our life, is just marking time. From the richest to the poorest...we all need relationship with our Creator to complete and define who we truly are.

Our identity is found in HIM.
So many today are out there wandering around, not knowing who they are. They seek to define themselves by feeding that eternal appetite for sin. We bind ourselves in relationship with others, totally outside the will of God, thinking that this is the answer to all our problems. But it doesn't. It only deepens the appetite for more. When we don't find fulfillment in the relationship, we discard each other and move on to the next person that catches our fancy. We gravitate to those who are equally as lost as we are, to find some semblance of peace and comfort. But it's not there. 
So we use.....
So we drink....
So we lie....
So we cheat on each other....

So we continue to slide down that slippery slope of destruction.
All the while, the answer to our dilemma and questions for self-fulfillment has been there all along. The answer has a name, and that name is Jesus.

When I turn to Him...
He speaks new life into me....
These once dry bones are restored and rejuvenated.
I am put back together in the fashion I was suppose to before sin warped everything.
I find life.

How bout you?
You still doing that dry bone shuffle...trying to find real life in a bottle, or a pill?
Is the needle your closest friend? Does it really bring the comfort you desire? Or does it lie to you with every using, giving you only empty promises and death?
Let Jesus turn you today....

Think on this.

God on you...

michael b.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Not Me.....Him


Galatians 2:20
My old self (sin nature) has been crucified with Christ. It is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Confession: "I am powerless. My life has become unmanageable. I have lived my life independent from You, Lord. Living this way defines me as a sinner. My heart, my mind, and my will have all been under the direction and influence of Satan and his demonic kingdom."

Realization: I have heard of your name. I have read of the deeds You have done. I have gone to meeting after meeting only to be confronted with Your presence. I didn't realize it was You. I thought it was something inside me that stirred my heart and my emotions. I did not realize that You were actually communicating with me. I have heard others say this...I have even quoted it myself....Step # 2- Come to believe in a POWER greater than myself who could restore me to sanity. But is what I am feeling...experiencing at this moment ...the POWER that this step speaks of. It is almost like a battle is raging inside of me. One part of my mind says, "Surrender"...the other side says, "No! Don't". Back and forth..back and forth. What do I do?

Decision: I am so tired. This life of so-called freedom to do what I please is killing me.
Sounded good the first time I used. I remember the feeling of euphoria that flooded my very soul. Then came the thought, "How could something this good be bad for me." Maybe that was you, Lord, trying to draw me back before I went down the rabbit hole. The good feeling disappeared long ago, and in it's place was an itch I could never quiet scratch. An itch that destroyed me bit and bit. An itch that took away everything that was important to me. This itch robbed me of my family.....my friends.....my job....my finances...my health....and lastly, this itch took away every dream I ever had about my future. What did it give me in return? Nothing. This feeling that is seeping into my very being...this feeling of surrender is what is known as conviction. It feels different from condemnation. Lord knows I lived in that "Nation" long enough. Condemnation only points a finger and reminds you over and over, 24/7 all the things you have done. This in turn, causes you to define your self, or your self-worth, based on what you've done. We tell ourselves that we are terrible people because of what we've done. 

Conviction tells us that we have tried to live our life outside the will and wishes of God. As such, conviction is a map that leads us back home. Leads us out of the darkness back into the marvelous light of God's presence. Conviction is the fuel that points us to Jesus and His offer of life abundant here, right now. So we ask for forgiveness to Him. We ask that He take away the evidence of our sinful heart. We ask that He become our Lord and Savior. We turn will and life over to His care. We open our heart...our mind...our spirit to receive the Holy Spirit, who will become a guide that will help us navigate in this new life we have now received.


The Holy Spirit begins to change me from the inside. I realize the truth of that statement as I find myself thinking differently. My choices have become more in line with what I am reading in my Bible. The funny part in all of this, is that I haven't become religious, I simply have found a better way to deal with whatever life sends my way daily.
Thank You, Father God, for sending Your Son to pave the way for me to have this new life.
Thank You, Jesus, for taking my place as payment for my sin. For loving me enough to not hold it against me, but to offer to me new life.

Thank You, Holy Spirit, that you live in me today. I no longer have to live that old life. I have been shown, and continue to be, a better way.
Now, I can go out today and face whatever is waiting out there, without fear of running back to my old life.
What a present.


God on you....

michael b.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Body Of Death


Genesis 4:7
"If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if yo do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door. It desires to have you, but you must master it".

Romans 7:18-19
I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good that I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do----this I keep doing.

If ever there was a description of what addiction is like, it is found in these two verses. Funny to me that as smart as we claim we are in this country, we reject the idea of having a sin nature, or an internal bent to choose and do wrong. Everyone has it. Everyone is born with it. Too some degree, the human race has a desire to do that which is contrary to God's will for us.

Not everyone is an addict...
Not everyone is a serial killer..
Not everyone is a professional burglar...

Why this sin nature leads some down the path of addiction, I do not know. 
I do know that all sin begins with a choice that we make.
We willingly choose to reject God and embrace the inner desire that is manifested by that "old" nature.

When you automatically reject the idea of us being driven by this nature, then no wonder all this "looking to Jesus" stuff sounds like hokum. 

To me, the Romans 7:18-19 passage sounds exactly like Step #1 of the Twelve Steps.
"We admitted that our we are powerless over our addiction - That
Our lives have become unmanageable." 
What the apostle Paul wrote in the Romans passage is exactly the definition of powerless. I want to do good...in fact my intention IS to do good, but I don't. The every thing I determine not to do is the very thing I do.

How many have I talked to that declare to me that they are finished with addiction. "I'm never going to use ever again." But because they are choosing to approach this beast in their own strength and own understanding, they fail. They go right back out and do the very thing they proclaimed they wouldn't.

In the Genesis passage, we have God warning Able about his thoughts and motives being driven by this old sin nature that has been passed down to all of us. "Yo,dude (o.k. I know God didn't really say it this way) pay attention. Sin is right outside your door (that should tell us that sin is always "right outside our the door of our choices) and its desire to have you ( that is Biblical talk for "Eat you alive") but you must master it."

How do we master such a beast? By realizing two things.
1.) We are powerless to attempt such a feat as mastering or ruling over the very thing inside of us that seeks to destroy and devour us.
And
2.) Come to believe in a POWER that is greater than us who could restore us to sanity. (Or the ability to make sound decisions)

There is only one who fits the bill of being an actual POWER greater than ourselves. There is only one who possesses the POWER to alter our minds and hearts to such a degree that we can make sound, just decisions. Such a one has a name, and that name would be Jesus.

Romans 7:24-25
What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God---through Jesus Christ our Lord!
When Paul declares Jesus as being his Lord, he is not attaching a religious tittle to Him. Paul is declaring that he is placing himself under this person of Jesus. He is stating that he, Paul, is incapable of breaking free from this sin nature that drives him to do the wrong thing. Paul states that Jesus alone possesses the power to take Paul out of this "body of death". See that is funny part (not ha-ha funny, but weird funny) of this addiction thing. Those in bondage to it really are the walking dead. No wonder Jesus declares in John 3 that we must be born again. We must be brought to a new life...a new way...a new direction, and only Jesus can do this for us. What does the big book of A.A. say? "God does for me what I cannot do for myself." End of statement..end of discussion. Either such a declaration is true or it isn't. No other way to look at it.

So if you struggling today...
If you're entertaining thoughts of using again...
Cry out to God with an admission of your own powerlessness. 
You don't have to use...
You don't have to embrace that "body of death" any longer.
Jesus will free you.
That's a promise.

God on you....
Michael b.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Early Morning Insomnia



Yep....
That's me. I got up at 1:15 a.m. / It's not insomnia. It's a cold /sinus stuff/ scratchy throat kind of deal.
Thought I'd whipped it over the weekend, but it reared it's ugly head again yesterday (Monday).

So here we are.

Wished I had something witty to say, but early morning kind of rips the "witty" right out of you, doesn't it?  Sitting here at the computer, staring at the screen waiting for something to pop up.

Sorry, I'm not popping this morning.

Wait....
Here it comes....

Aha!
John 14:15- "If you love me (Jesus), you will obey what I command."
Never saw this before (not that it is earth shattering / stop the presses).
If you have these affections...If you have made the decision to love Jesus...
Then that mindset, as well as heart-set, will move you to obey Jesus rather than your old way of thinking.

Seems to be a lot of fear over all the prophetic stuff flying around out there.
The blood moons....
The Shemitah....

A government that we don't trust...
A shift in the wind that may signal persecution against believers...
And directing and driving it all....fear.

Fear, in some ways, is the evidence that we don't really trust Jesus.
Now I realize that fear is an immediate response to things that have the potential to harm us, or rob us of our lifestyle. Words have been spoken over the imminent collapse of our financial market and our nation.  O.k....let us take this as a true prophetic word (not saying it isn't)...what should our response be? Listen to the t.v.? Make a mad dash to Wal-mart to stock up on groceries and ammo? Scan the internet for other words to confirm what others are saying? How about we acknowledge our fear. Turn to God. Seek His face and His word on what He would have us do. Once we receive His word...then act on it. 

What if instead of hoarding and saving God instructed you to give away.....
Help others....
You know there is one thing that Vicki and I have come to learn in our journey with Jesus....
You can't receive from Him if your hands are closed and wrapped around what you have.
You have to turn loose and open your hands if you want to receive.
Truth be known...He knows the future....

Here again, I'm not espousing a gospel where everything is lollipops and unicorns...sunshine and puppy dogs.
What I am proposing that God is in control, no matter what it might look like to me.
God has promised that if I would surrender will and life over to His care, He would take me all the way home no matter what.

You know what?
I think maybe I'll go lay back down, with the assurance that living for and following this Jesus is a win/win situation. 

Should I die today....I win...
Should Jesus come back to day....I win.

I like those odds.

Good night...and God on you...
Michael b.

Monday, September 21, 2015

We All Came Down With Cabin Fever Saturday Night




Psalm 149:1
Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing His praises in the assembly of the faithful.

There were a lot of "new" songs sang this past Saturday night.
There definitely was an assembly of the family, as we gathered to worship with the Cabin Fever Band. 

We even met some of our extended family for the first time...
They came from Ft.Payne and Ashville, and went away covered with our blessings and prayers.

I've written this before, but events such as what took place on Saturday always remind me of why I became a Vineyard-ite (or maybe it's Vineyardian).  The high call of every believer to worship God first. Out of our worship comes the understanding of our place in the Kingdom. Knowing who we are in Christ, and knowing our place and call in the Kingdom work gives us the understanding to go out into the work place, school, our community and "Do the Stuff".


We had more food than you could shake the proverbial stick at. Not only did we feed the band (multiple times) but mostly everyone who showed up was able to get something. Many thanks to Todd and LeNola Bagley for putting on this family Hoo-Ha.



Got the opportunity to spend some time with Ryan Delmore, swapping songs we'd written. Had to pinch myself at one point. I've been listening to his music for 7 years, and here I was srubbing off songs with him. 



At one point, Ryan was asking about our Saturday night service and the type of music we played. The man behind Ryan is Wayne Wimpee, our percussionist and Ace Harmonica player. You can't see her, but Debbie Handy was sitting on the row behind me. So I told Ryan that we had a benediction song we did most weeks at the end of our service, "Jesus Loves You".  We commenced to churn out the chords and sang it. Ryan joined in and added lead parts. This was some kind of good stuff.



The worship set consisted of songs from previous worship CD's,as well as the new "Cabin Fever" recordins. At one point Marie Barnett told the story of how her song, "BREATHE" came about. During a hard time in her life, she was with her church worship team practicing, when she just began to sing out to the Lord. "This is the air I breathe....This is the air I breathe....Your Holy presence...Living in me....And I...I'm desperate for you....And I.....I'm lost with out You." 



John Barnett was fighting cold/sinus stuff, but still managed to scrub off my favorite song "I will Testify". After Supper, and before it was time to start, John disappeared. We couldn't find him. Turns out he'd gone upstairs and found a recliner. Curled up and slept for a bit. "Just needed to recharge the batteries", was his answer for his vanishing. The band's nickname for John is "Pappy". It was at his and Marie's ranch in Montana that this band came together to record the CABIN FEVER SESSIONS.

I guess I'll close of now, I've rambled on enough. But I do want to leave you with a short video of Marie explaining what the Cabin Fever Sessions were really all about.
God on you...
Michael b.

(Many thanks to Duke McKay for the artist rendering of the band at the top of this posting).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

That's My Family



Revelation 5:11-12
Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders. And they sang in a mighty chorus: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered--- to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength, and honor and glory and blessings".
And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and in the sea. They sang: "Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the thrones and to the Lamb forever and ever."


I don't know about you, but those verses from Revelation paint a picture of a pretty bodacious worship service.
Can't imagine how it will sound for all of creation and those things which are no longer a part of creation come together and, in one voice, begin to praise Jesus.

I may be a little off center here, but some how I really believe every time we gather together for worship.....whether it is 1000 or 10.....we are practicing what is going to take place at a future time. We are learning how to hear God as we sing...we are learning to experience His presence when we join our voices together and give them To Him as an offering. Truth be known, when I am part of a worship team, or part of the congregation, I loose myself in the songs. It becomes all about Jesus. It isn't about what He has done for me...it isn't about what He might be going to do for me...it is totally about Him.

Tonight I will have the privilege of coming together with Vineyard family and friends to worship. It will be a family reunion of sorts. The band will be comprised of family from all over the U.S. . From California, Montana, Kentucky....they will bring their instruments and hearts to make music for Jesus.

We will prepare a meal for them. Always a pleasure to put on a spread. Hospitality seems to be a strong part of our group. I guess you could say that we will gather tonight and break bread together. In our case, we will break Bar-b-que. We will break Chicken and Dumplings. And we will break all the side dishes and desserts. There will be ice tea and coffee by the gallons. There will be laughter, hugs and hand shakes, and stories shared about the things that have transpired since last we were together. That is my family.


We will move into the big room...the stage will be filled with instruments and the air will be full of voices talking and laughing. But once the band takes the stage, it will all be about Jesus. That's my family. You see, part of our values in the Vineyard is that worship is highest calling. TO worship the One the who has given us life. TO worship the one who has paid the price so that we can no longer be under the debt of sin. To worship the one who has filled us with the Holy Spirit. Our worship is not contingent on our current situation. In other words, we don't worship God simply because things are going good in our life. We worship Him no matter what our current state may be. I'm not going to lie to you...and this may sound a bit strange....but my worship tends to be more real when I am in a hard place. There seems to be an intensity to worship when I'm hurting or there are situations and circumstances looming out there in the future that are beyond my control. I lean into Jesus during these times. Not so I can manipulate Him (Like I ever could) to do what I want Him to do...no! But to recognize him as the only source of life there is.

So tonight we will gather together to have a sort of "Pre-heaven" worship event. It isn't a concert. It is a time where we can come together corporately and pour our love back to God. I am jazzed. 15 hours until we get it on.
Maranatha, Lord Jesus...


God on you...
michael b.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Great Way To End The Day

Day was over...
I was home....

In my chair....
Ballgame was about to start...Colts and Chiefs.

Phone rings...
"Hello.."
"Bro. Mike!"
I knew exactly who it was. Had not heard from him in month's...
Sometimes when you get these kind of calls you hold your breath, because you don't know whether it's going to be good news or bad.
You don't know if the person on the other end is going to be truthful or lie to you.
"It's Jeremy, Bro. Mike...I just wanted to call and catch you up on what's been going down."

Jeremy had a history of addiction that stretched back years.
The last time he had entered treatment, he'd been living in a corn field.
All the bridges had been burned...
He'd scammed every one he knew to get what he needed, leaving behind himself a trail of broken relationships. No wonder no one wanted anything to do with him. Such is the nature of the beast we call addiction.


"Guess what I'm doing Bro. Mike?" I had not clue.
"I driving my truck. My truck Bro. Mike. Can you believe that I have a truck?"
Seems as though Jeremy had finally made the turn to sobriety.
He was working for a good company who sent him out on jobs.
They were so impressed with his work and his character, they began to invest in Jeremy.
The truck was one of the perks that came with the job. Jeremy had learned to take care of all the little things that had tripped him up in the past. Bad places, bad people and bad things were in his past. 

Now, in order to understand this good fortune, you have to go back to last year.
Jeremy had an encounter that changed his life.
He met the real-deal God.

And that meeting changed him. He began to see things differently. He began to think and make choices that were not the norm for him. He began to listen to God and simply do what he heard. If that wasn't strange enough, last year Jeremy told the staff at the rehab that he had some old charges that he wanted to take care of. Knowing that this would mean jail time, Jeremy went and turned himself in. Sure enough Jeremy went to jail. But this time it was different, he told me. This time he knew that he was moving forward in his life and putting all these bad things behind him. He wasn't running any more but was willing to face the music, so to speak. 

Finishing his time in jail, Jeremy came out stronger and ready to move on. He was able to secure his current job. But all during our conversation, Jeremy kept saying, "It was God who did this, not me." Over and over Jeremy kept giving God the glory for what he was experiencing. Jeremy knew that his new found life was simply because he quit running and began to take care of the destruction he had created. "Bro. Mike, if I'd known that life could be this way, I'd gone to jail years ago."

While enjoying his new life, Jeremy knew that there were several hard month's, maybe even years, out there ahead of him. But he also knew that he was moving forward under the watchful eye and care of a POWER greater than himself. That POWER has a name, and that name is JESUS.


The Jeremy I was having a conversation with was not the same Jeremy I knew last year.
He was a new creation...
The old things had passed...
The new things had come...
Such is the nature and heart of a God who looks for those whose hearts are committed to Him, that He may strengthen them (II Chron. 16:9).


As we finished our conversation, I was filled with gratefulness that Jeremy had found the truth. Truth that declared he didn't have to live a life addiction any more...today.

God on you...
michael b.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Ability of Jesus As Our Shepherd



Psalm 23:2
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters.
The care and love that Jesus shows to his "sheep" is beyond my feeble brain's ability to comprehend such a heart.
He makes me lie down......He knows that left to my own will, I will expend myself on things that do not matter. I will fill up my life with useless activity that profits nothing. I will burn myself out worrying about things that are beyond my control. I guess this is where the serenity thing comes into play. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." Jesus knows that I need rest, not just bodily but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. So from time to time, He MAKES me lie down. Even if for nothing else other than to give my brain and mind a rest. I think one of the first things I notice when Vicki and I go on vacation or just get away for a few days, is how my mind is rested and renewed. This, in turn, really brings about a change physically and emotionally. Rest is needed. Rest reconnects us to the Father when we physically and emotionally rest in Him. Psalm 46:10 - Be still, and know that I am God.....

But notice also in Ps.23:2 the shepherd picks out the best spot for this rest too take place. A place where there is plenty of food and water. To me this is a place where there are ample portions of the Word and the Spirit. They are food for my soul. Food that brings health to my inner parts. Lifting up the heart and restoring faith and hope in my dry places. I look to Jesus as the source of my spiritual as well as my physical well being. 

Isaiah 40:11 
He shall lead his flock like a shepherd. He shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
I love this illustration of the heart of Jesus. The ultimate shepherd, not because he has too but because he wants to. A shepherd who laid down his life for the flock in order to protect them from the evil one who prowls looking for someone to devour. 

Part of AA is saying the Serenity prayer.
A prayer that finds stability of mind....
Stability of spirit....
Stability of purpose 
in the relationship with Jesus Christ.
Not that our situations and circumstances are stable, sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't.
The Serenity prayer speaks of the peace and stability that comes within and allows you to not be tossed about by emotion or indecision. It gives the ability to face what I cannot change. It gives me strength to confront and change that which I have ran away from in the past. It gives me wisdom to know which is which.


God....
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.
Taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will,
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next....
Amen!
Written By:
Reinhold Niebuhr

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Coming This Saturday To VRC: The Cabin Fever Recordings



Zephaniah 3:17
For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with JOYFUL SONGS."

I love this verse...
Some versions of scripture say that God will "SING OVER YOU."
Is that awesome or what? But it left out something....
What kind of music does God like?
He is the creator of all good things, so I suppose His music would not be bound or limited by a type or style.


Generations have a way of finding a music that speaks to them and they have a way of holding on to it.As one generation gives way to another, the old voice finds it hard to move over and allow a new voice to rise up and speak to the current generation.

I was taking a trip this past Sunday and I had my radio on. A.M...not F.M. A preacher was giving his pitch about his church and how it was the best church in town, when he made a comment I have not heard in years. He addressed those who were listening as being "out there in radio land". He must have been in his late 70's, and his heart burned for Jesus. He was passionate in his word but his delivery and choice of songs that he played on his radio program defined his generation perfectly. I don't doubt that there was a group of people who tuned in to listen to this man every Sunday morning. His style and delivery was very much for an older crowd. 


Getting back to music,I fully realize that I too have become generation-ally defined by my music. I try to listen to current bands but it is hard. Oh, there are some really good musicians out there and I acknowledge that, but it's like trying to find a new sweater to wear, you can't, so you go back to the old one that is comfortable and warm.

Over the past 3 years, I have had the pleasure of finding some new/old music. A friend of mine gave me a copy of John Barnett's "Never Look Back". With the first cut, I was hooked. The music was simple...the lyrics went straight to my heart. This CD was followed up by others he had recorded in the past. Marie, John's wife, also had CD's that purchased. Song after song dealt with our relationship with God. I don't know that I would classify it as praise and worship. Some of the songs truly are in that vein, but John and Marie take it to another level.

John likes to refer to his style of music as "Americana". Something that is new, but has roots to a time past that still has value and purpose.John refers to the Americana Congregation in this way:"The idea for the Americana Congregation came about as a group of friends were discussing the idea for a collective place to share and experience our unique musical styles, influence, thoughts, ideas and collective mischief.A place for those outside the norm of the "industrial church music machine" where style, lyrics and content can be explored and enjoyed as we journey of the paved road to follow the path of most resistance."


It is my pleasure to announce that this Saturday night, at Vineyard ReCovery church, the Cabin Fever Band will be bringing this music to our town.
Meetings starts at 7 p.m. /  Everyone is welcome.
Don't come unless your willing to tap your toe and maybe even move around. In fact, movement is encouraged in our church. As Crispin Schroeder so aptly put it..."Feel free to get up and move around the cabin."
Here is a sample of the music John and the Band will be bringing.
Enjoy.



God on you...
michael b.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Learning To Pray


James 5:16
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

Tomorrow night will be our 5th session of "Doing the Stuff:101".
We've laid a foundation for the simple truth that we all have been commissioned to be the arms, legs, voice and heart of Christ here on earth.
We have been given the authority and power to do His works.
This comes through the inner working of God's Holy Spirit in each believer.

I find it strange that society, and even the church, places great emphasis on intellect when it comes to the kingdom of God. Now, I'm not against seminaries or colleges. I'm not against someone trying to better themselves for kingdom work. What I am against is the very thought that a person is a second class (sometimes even third class) believer because they don't have a degree. Such thought and behavior creates a division in the body of Christ. We wind up with the "have's" and the "have not's". To be honest with you, I hate the term "Lay" people. Most churches use it to describe those who are not ordained or licensed to pastor. I don't see it that way....We are the body of Christ. We all have a roll to play in this kingdom work that has been given to us. 

Seems to me that Jesus kind of laid down the principals for who can work in His kingdom.
Matthew 5:13 - "You are THE salt of the the earth."
Matthew 5:14 - 'You are THE light of the world."
Kind of funny that Jesus didn't say that we were these two elements if we have a college degree. He stated the kingdom principal that all who come to Him has the authority and power to influence and bring change to their corner. As Wimber so aptly stated..."Everyone Gets To Play".  

Tomorrow night, at DTS:101, we will begin to look at prayer.
What is it? Why should we utilize this idea of communication with God?
Why does God answer some prayers, while others seem to float around in the atmosphere unanswered? Of course, in our case, when we talk about prayer, we are referring to the communication between us and God as we are serving others. Praying for the sick. Praying for those who are oppressed and under bondage. What we aren't doing is learning a new way to make our shopping list of needs to God work more effectively so we can get everything we think we need. 


Always keep in mind that when I refer to "Doing The Stuff", I am referring to our role in the kingdom work of Christ. It is all about us serving the people we come in contact with everyday. We are learning to get outside of our own self so we can reach out, in the name of Jesus, and bring healing to a hurting world. Sounds lofty doesn't it? Well, to be truthful, it is. I'm telling you that if you pray for one person and see them healed, or come to know Jesus, you're hooked. It is a Holy Spirit high unlike anything you've ever experienced.

DTS:101 -- tomorrow night.

7 p.m.
Downtown Gadsden on Broad Street - Between 4th and 5th streets.
See you there.

God on you...
michael b.

Monday, September 14, 2015

New Week...New Opportunity...



Monday morning...
Another week...
Another opportunity to get right all the things I missed last week.
That's my take on life.
You mess up...

You realize you missed something that God wanted you to do...
You back up and make yourself available for the coming week.

Thank goodness that God's gives grace for our mess ups..
Don't get me wrong....grace is not a divine excuse for my failure...
Grace is what draws me back onto the path to chase this Jesus.
Grace is a force...
Grace is a power...
Grace is THE presence of God in my life.

For what purpose?
That I can be who God created me to be.
Anything else?
Oh yeah...to do what God has called me to do.
Gotta love me some Grace this morning.


Saturday night was special for me.
Seth Barber was suppose to speak, but called to let me know that he'd come down with the "creepin' crud" and would not be able to make it.
"I'm up!"
Headed to the church to find out what God wanted me to teach on.
I'm always very aware that a message is not required for every meeting. Sometimes it's more about a time of ministry.....or an extended time of worship where we can just be with God. If I've learned anything over the past 18 years, it is that what God has to say is far more important than me coming up with a message just because we think that is the way church should operate. In fact some of my best messages (at least in my mind) have come when I stood up with nothing to say. Scary? You bet. There is that subtle pressure that comes that tells us we should say something. But you don't...you wait.
Out of nowhere, a verse comes to your mind and you turn to it. You still don't know where you're going with it, but you somehow know it is what God is wanting to say. So off you go....
Such was Saturday  night.

Ephesians 6...armor of God.

Whose armor? God's
Whose strength? God's
What's my part in all of this?
Stand. 

Stand?
Yep. Stand. Don't give ground. Don't back up. Don't cut and run. We are in Christ, and He is in us (John 15:5)-- "Yes, I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do  nothing."

When I am in Christ....turning will and life over to His care...I am able to face what ever comes my way. But when I allow my thoughts....past behavior to take back over, I move outside the will of God and I can do nothing on my own.
Well, I don't know it is entirely true...I actually can do a lot of things outside of Christ.
I can lie...
I can cheat...
I can manipulate people...
I can create destruction on an epic level...
I can destroy relationships...
And on, and on, and on.....

But in Christ, I have peace. Peace that enables me to face the day.
Such a thing should be worth fighting for, shouldn't it?

IF such a peace and relationship were offered to us, would we not do anything to keep it?
I would.


We had a good group Saturday night. Todd Bagley lead worship. Different feel to the music...different flavor...same God. As the music filled the room, there were several who began to cry. All were first-timers to VRC. I don't know what they expected when they came in, but I don know that they left having been touched by God. My prayer is that they continue to chase Him.


This is why we gather every Saturday.
TO meet with God...
And to introduce others to Him that may never have truly encountered His presence.

VRC has been meeting for 29 months, this past Saturday.
We have yet to have a service where someone didn't run into God for the first time. We have yet to have a service where His presence didn't manifest and touch us all.
Nothing we did...
Nothing we can do...

He shows up, and does what He does so well....change lives.
Truth be known, all i do is unlock the door, set up the chairs, and make sure there is toilet paper on the little "rolly" things. 


I am grateful that God has given us a place to meet with Him.
I am grateful to everyone who makes up the core leadership of VRC.
I know that this meeting is not going to last forever. There will come a day when God says it's time to close it down and move on to something else. But until that day comes...until I hear those words from God...we will always gather at 7 p.m. every Saturday for Vineyard ReCovery church.


God on you....
Michael b.

Kingdom Work Doesn't Always Look Like What We Think It Does

Parking lot was crowded yesterday. It was near noon and people were taking care of their business, hurrying in and out of the building. I...