Monday, November 30, 2015

Light Overcomes Darkness

I guess it is official....
Christmas is here, whether I'm read for it or not. Houses up and down Case Avenue have put up their trees and decorated the outside. I do enjoy seeing the lights and the different display's that stand out in the darkness.

Isn't that what it's all about? Jesus being born....
A light that enters the darkness of this sinful world?
An answer to our sin problem. One who was born to die like no other.
I think maybe yes.

Spent some time in the book of John yesterday. Good stuff that I need to remember more than I do.
John 3:19-21 (The Message Bible)
This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God -works it is.

God sent Jesus to us so that we might understand our state of being, and the danger that we were headed toward. That danger being a death outside the will and love of God. Isn't it funny that when Jesus came as the light, men and women ran for the darkness? The fear of being uncovered is a powerful weapon in the hands of our enemy. So what we don't really grasp is the incredible fact that Jesus uncovering us is the ultimate act of love. Uncovering means we have the opportunity to see the real "US". We get to see the sin and destruction that we have brought on ourselves and those around us. Now it would be terrible if Jesus simply uncovered and then walked away, but He doesn't. He always uncovers and then shows us the way out of our mess. With a love that I don't think I'll fully understand on this side of heaven, He offers to us His salvation and new way to live. A new way to face each and every day, and the problems, temptations and situations that we will have to face. 

So keep in mind, as you drive around this Christmas season, that the lights serve as a reminder that we no longer have to live in spiritual darkness, separated from the love and presence and God. Light always trumps darkness.

December 12th /  we will be having our annual Candlelight service at Vineyard ReCovery.
December 19th / will be an evening of sharing a meal and worship.

God on you.....
Merry Christmas from the "B's" in Attalla.
Michael and Vicki

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Bestest Christmas Gift Ever

II Corinthians 4:4-5
If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don't understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Luke 24:5
......."Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?

It sounds like science fiction....
Like something out of the Twilight Zone....

All of humanity is born with a spiritual genetic defect.
To us, it seems normal.
We are influenced by it.
We have our choices formed and fashioned by it...
But it is a defect none the less.

Since it is universal among us, we have a tendency to excuse the actions of others who take the defect to extremes in their behavior.
We label ourselves as having a "good heart", even though our behavior says differently.
What is this spiritual defect?
It goes by many names...

The flesh...
The old man....
The sinful nature.

No matter what the name, the end results is set in concrete.
We will die and be forever eternally separated from God.

Sounds pretty serious.
Well, it is especially when there is a solution to this defect.

Someone has given their very life to come up with an answer to what has, and continues to plague humanity.
You see, a spiritual defect requires a spiritual solution to the problem.

The defect came into existence when long ago in a galaxy far, me for that. My mind drifted to the new Star Wars movie for a few seconds.
Long ago in what some refer to as the Garden of Eden, mankind made a choice that would forever change us.

The first man, named Adam, and the first woman, named Eve, made the decision to reject God to embrace their own self will. I know, I know..they were tricked but the bottom line was that they were enticed by the idea of being like God. The ability to change and be like God was simple. Eat a piece of fruit from a tree that God had warned them not to eat from. Game over..things would never be the same.

So you see, the spiritual problem that was loosed on mankind in that garden, is still running rampant today. "If I am like God, then I DON"T NEED GOD!!!"
We are spiritually blind. We reject the fullness of God that has been offered to us, to chase after things that only have the illusion of filling us. We seek spiritual contentment and satisfaction through using drugs and/or alcohol. We enter into unhealthy relationships,using sex as means to satisfy an itch that can't be scratched. And because of all the emptiness we are feeling inside, we run and run and run, until we can't run no more. But that doesn't stop us. We get up and run some more. All along the way we create destruction and damage to ourselves and to those near us. 

The end will be death....
Now we all are headed to a physical death where the body gives up life and spirit and becomes an empty shell.
But we also are headed to a transition point where the choices we made while we were alive, will determine where our spirit will spend eternity.
If we carried our spiritual blindness all the way to our death...

Then our choice of rejecting anything to do with God has defined our destiny.
We will be separated from God forever.
Now there is the matter of hell. I'm not the brightest bulb in the pack but hell doesn't really sound like a place I'd want to visit, much less spend eternity in.

What I'm trying to write this morning is this.
1.) God is real
2.) Jesus is the real answer to that sin problem we all suffer from.
3.) The devil is real.
4.) He only does three things really well....
              A.) Steal from us
              B.) Kill us
              C.) And destroy everything around us.
5.) The answer to our sin problem has been offered to us to receive for our own.
6.) To turn will and life over to the care of Jesus.
7.) Such an act on our part will not solve our problems, but acceptance of God's gift of salvation will empower us (God sends us a helper to fill us up and guide us...this helper is called the Holy Spirit) to face every problem we encounter.

IF you are struggling with life and your ability to make sound decisions, you might want to consider what I have written this morning.
Believe you me, it works...
Believe you me, HE works for the betterment of who I am as a human.

God on you....

michael b.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Psalm 105:1-4
Give thanks to the LORD and proclaim His greatness. Let the whole world know what He has done. Sing to Him....yes, sing His praises. Tell everyone about His wonderful deeds. Exult in His holy name; rejoice, you who worship the LORD. Search for the LORD and for His strength; continually seek Him.

On this Thanksgiving day of 2015, that is exactly what I want to do here at the Greene Street Letters. Tell of the Lord's excellent greatness.
I never wish to convey the false idea that my life with Christ has been all "Puppy dog's and lollipop's....Rainbow's and kitty cats". Life is, and has been, a struggle. But through it all, the faithfulness of the Lord to His word has been the one true constant.  That He is indeed who He claims He is....and He will indeed do what He has promised He would do.

All my children were gathered at my table last night. 
Sharing of what has been going on in each others lives.
Catching up on the latest....
Through it all, across from me sat my wife.
From time to time, our eyes would meet and there would be a knowing between us. An unspoken understanding that this is truly what life is about.

Being together....
loving on each other...
Seeing the men that our sons had become.
To watch our daughters in law and be filled with gratitude at how rich they had made our family.
I'm not even going to get into grandchildren. That is a whole other level of thankfulness.

So today, we will gather once more.
We'll fill our plates and lift our glasses in gratitude and thankfulness that God has seen fit to give us one more year.
We will watch football and doze off.

We'll go outside and throw "tight spiral's" to each other, lumbering up and down the yard with visions of youth playing out in our heads. We'll huff and puff, making our way back inside for one more slice of pumpkin pie.
It will truly be a day of thanksgiving for who God has been to each of us.
And at the end of the day, as darkness covers the camp, we will rest in the knowledge and understanding that God is good.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, from the "B's" in Attalla!!

God on you...
michael b.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rest Easy James Ryle...You Will Be Missed For Now

There have been many heroes in my life....
Growing up, my heroes were cowboy's and soldier's I saw on TV and at the movies.

Some were found in the pages of books that i read....Robinson Crusoe....Jim Hawkins from Treasure Island.....Robin Hood. Some were found in comic books.
Dreamed of being Robin following after Batman.
I wanted to be cub reporter Jimmy Olsen trekking after Superman.

I just knew that when I grew up, I'd be flying with the BLACKHAWK squadron.

It wasn't until I had grown up that I realized that heroes were all around me. Heroes that God had placed in my life. Real people who gave me guidance as I followed after Jesus.
One of the them came to me in a series of teaching tapes given to me by Brook Finlayson.
The series was "How To Hear The Voice Of God"....
The man teaching the series......James Ryle.

As Vicki and I made our way through the teaching, we were amazed because no one had ever taught us the simple idea of hearing God. Oh there were several along the way who mentioned the "still, small voice", but no one had ever laid it out like James did.

The "Hearing God" series was followed up by a teaching on Grace. James led us down a path that forever changed how we saw and felt about God's grace. Like many, I had been taught that Grace was God's unmerited favor given to us. James showed us the fallacy of such belief. Grace was more. Grace was a power. Grace was a force. Grace was the 
"Enabling Power of God in my life, that enables me to 
be who God created me to be....
And to do what God has called me to do."

James had a wonderful sense of humor and it made his teaching that much more enjoyable. In fact, I'll go one step further with this thought. When you listened to James, you never felt like you were being taught. It was more like an intimate conversation with someone who possessed a lot of wisdom, and simply wanted to share it.

Saturday, James died of congestive heart failure.
His race has been run.
Funny how God puts people (even if they are on a cassette tape) into your life to teach you. This was how I related to James Ryle. I never met him personally, but one day I will.
I never had a one on one conversation with James, but one day I will. And when that day comes, I hope to hug his neck and thank him for his faithfulness to the kingdom and to his Savior.

Though the body is still...
Thought the voice is silent..
It is but for a moment.
Truth be known...such stillness and silence only exists on this side of heaven.
James is celebrating and worshiping with the One he lived his life for.
Thank you Father, for the incredible gift of James Ryle that you gave to us.

I Corinthians 15:54-55
Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is you sting?"

God on you....
michael b.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gratitude And Thankfulness

Psalm 92:1
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to the Most High.

I know that it is Thanksgiving week...
Families will be gathering around a table filled with more food than you can shake the proverbial stick at.

But it truly should be a time to stop and give thanks, not just for the material things we have collected, but for the spiritual bounty God has blessed us with.

The people, past and present, that helped us....
Shaped us and taught us the reality of who God is.

They could be former Sunday School teachers....
They could be our parents...

Maybe a pastor or two could be thrown in here....
Never forget that we stand today on the shoulders of those who were there for us.
I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I believe if we truly are a follower of Jesus, then there will be those who will stand on our shoulders because of our love for God. The Kingdom is built on proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God.

The blessings of the Lord run deeper than our material possessions.
The Lord has been gracious to give Vicki and I peace in our home.
What a wonderful thing to be able to come home at the end of the day, walk into my home and leave the world outside. To have a place where the peace of God prevails and is very much real and present is a wonderful thing.

The blessings of the Lord can be found in the people He has surrounded you with.

Catch word in that last sentence is "PEOPLE".
You remember those don't you?
The imperfect, flawed creation that traded away the eternal things of God for a piece of fruit? Yep, the very ones that God continues to redeem and work through. Oh yeah, by the way,  I am one of those flawed creatures.  To help this messed up creation, God blessed us with forgiveness. The ability to receive it, as well as offer it to those around us. Somehow, I think maybe forgiveness should also be a part of our Thanksgiving. To be given to those around us that we might have grudges, or harbor hard feelings toward. Heaven forbid that we should be transparent and honest in our dealing with others. 

Truth be known, I am at a point in my life where the people around me are the most important part of my existence. I am grateful for those who are a part of our core group of Vineyard ReCovery Church. They have blessed me with the stories and struggles. They have encouraged me to not give up. To get back up when you find yourself knocked down to your knees. I truly see the word "OVERCOMER" when I look at each of them. Here's to the core group....You guy's rock it!!

I guess what I'm trying to say in this mornings posting, is that we should find gratitude no matter what state our life is in. Don't allow the enemy...a.k.a. the devil, to rob you of it.
Gratitude and thankfulness...
Don't leave home without them.

God on you..


Monday, November 23, 2015

I Saw Jesus

Matthew 25:34-36
Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."

Special night at VRC last Saturday.
Didn't plan for it to be special, It just kind of happened.
Didn't have anything to do with me, it was in the heart of those who have become the core leaders of our meeting.
What was special about it?
I saw Jesus Saturday night.

Oh, not the Jesus you see pictures of in books and on the Internet. Not the Jesus you see portrayed on television.
I saw Jesus.

He came in the form of a person who was moved to give blankets and jackets to a couple of men who came to the meeting.
They were sleeping out under a bridge nearby downtown. This person saw a need and just happened to have the means to take care of it. Jesus gave out those blankets and jackets.

I saw Jesus in another person who gave money to help prepare food bags that we keep at the church. Being a downtown church, we get a lot of people come by looking for help with food.Now there can be a new supply of food made available for those in need.

I heard the voice of Jesus as a couple asked me about what was available where someone who was homeless could sleep for the night. There was genuine concern that Gadsden didn't really have much available as a resource to help those in need. I saw Jesus.

I saw Jesus as a man was prayed for during ministry time. He has severe arthritis in his hands. Prayed was given....the man began to move his fingers and hands and proclaimed that the pain was gone. I saw Jesus.

I saw Jesus in that room last Saturday as He embraced those no one else would. There were hugs and handshakes all around. There were smiles and coffee given out. And for a brief moment, I heard laughter from those who had not laughed in a long time. I saw Jesus.

And the thing I am most proud of was the way the people of VRC acted on their own without me having to direct or instruct in any shape, form or fashion. They saw a need, listened to the Holy Spirit, and then did what they heard. That was the incredible part in all of this. I didn't have to tell anyone to do anything. They truly were the body of Christ last Saturday evening.

Week before last, during our worship time, God spoke to me and said that, "Change was coming..embrace it!". I saw that change on Saturday night. I saw it in the worship...I saw it in the interaction of all those present...and I saw it in the fellowship afterwards. I know that these actions of those who attend VRC on a regular basis are not something that is done once a week when we all show up for the meeting. I know that they will continue this week, as other needs are seen. What I witnessed in that room on Saturday night was exactly what John Wimber meant when he said, "Everyone Gets To Play!".

God on you...


Friday, November 20, 2015

"Now Where Did I Put My Buck Rogers Decoder Ring?"

"The following program is brought to you in Living Color."

If you remember the saying have just dated yourself.
It is almost like a secret password to our generation that will get you into the club house.
We started out life while the Korean action was going on.
We remember Sputnik and Echo...
Space dogs and chimps.
We had our eyes on the stars and the future seemed endless.

We were a blessed generation.
Our parents had lived through the Great Depression...had fought a world war.
The were the "Greatest Generation". 

Father's went to work in the mills, plants and factories earning good wages.

Mothers stayed home and took care of the family. There was no disgrace in being a housewife. We went to school and had daily prayer as well as Bible readings. No one was offended. No one threatened to sue the school board for such a blatant display of religion.

We loaded up our bikes with stacks of comic books every Saturday morning and made our way to friends houses to swap books. You swapped even...$.10 comic for another $.10 comic. If you happened to own an Annual (which was usually twice as thick as a $.10'er) then you could either take one of their annual's or you could get two $.10'er's for your annual. There were rules and regulations that govern such kid's transactions. Saturday night would find you piled up in your bed with a fresh stack of books to read. If you were lucky, you had your 8-transistor AM radio dialed into WLS out of Chicago.

We survived and saw Alan Shepherd become the first American in space.
John Glenn became the first American to circle the earth three times.

All the men who made up the Mercury Space Program became more than celebrities...
They were real American Heroes.

Mercury gave way to Gemini Space Launches, and Gemini gave way to the Apollo Program who took man to the moon. 

We saw a President assassinated.
We saw his alleged killer gunned down on live TV during a jail transfer.

Things would never be the same.
Viet Nam...
Mistrust in our government....

The Counter Culture..and the list goes on and on.

Why am I writing all of this?
Because my world view was affected by all of these events.

Part of who I am today was shaped by what has happened in my life.
In fact, I am, in reality, no longer a native to the culture of today. I am an immigrant living among the natives to the culture. I try to understand what I see and what I hear, but it just doesn't add up to what I believe. I try to give leeway to those who are younger and listen to their concerns and voice, but I find it hard to reason what they say with what I believe.

I wonder if my parents and grandparents had the same problem?
Truth is, I know they did.
"You call that music!" my dad would loudly proclaim to me. This was always followed by "Now back in my day"....

I find myself repeating those same words, not necessarily out loud, but definitely in my mind.
It's official...
I have turned into my dad. SO why take this trip down memory lane. Because a verse jumped out at me this morning.

Joel 2:28
"Then after doing all those things, I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy". 
Here it comes...
Are you ready?

"Your old men will dream dreams, and your young men will see visions".

We could probably debate the finer points of this passage, but to me it clearly speaks of life change as the Holy Spirit works in each of us as we age.
My place in the grand scheme of things has changed. I was 46 when I started hanging out at Rapha ( a drug and alcohol treatment center). I was a volunteer for 6 years before coming on staff as the pastor/counselor. 

Eighteen years later, I have changed in more ways than simply growing older.
I have seen things...
I have learned things...
I have experienced things...
And all the while, the Holy Spirit was working to change me.

My role, as one of those old men we read about in Joel, is to help equip and train others to work in recovery. My call now is to be an encourager to those who are just taking their first steps into this new found relationship with Jesus.  To speak truth and show love to those who haven't gotten enough of the old life. They aren't ready to change, but God is there when they do respond to His offer of new life.

Am I sad because things have changed in my life?
Not really.
In fact, one of the things I repeated over and over is that "change is the fuel of the Kingdom of God." 

In fact,  like who I am today.
I am grateful that God still allows me to play in His kingdom. I get to "Do the stuff". It never grows old when I see someone turn will and life over to the care of God. I still consider that pay day. In fact, I would go as far to say that "life is good", not to mention that God is good.....
Every day.....
All day long....

God on you....

michael b.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Putting DTS:101 To Bed

It was a fitting conclusion to the "Doing the Stuff:101" class that I've been teaching at the Vineyard. The class has gone for fourteen weeks and the participation has been exceptional. As I told the group, I pray that what we have experienced during these fourteen weeks would be more than simply some notebook full of information that was placed on a shelf and forgotten. That the idea of us being called to do the works of Christ would become a normal part of our daily walk with Him. 

Too often we boil relationship with Jesus down to the notion that it's all about keeping rules and regulations. That the ultimate call on our lives is to be good men and women for the Kingdom. While we have been called to a standard, and empowered through the Holy Spirit, holiness is something that is given to us. We are called to walk and be filled with His holiness, not perfect our own.

To me real relationship with Christ is about living with a continual desire to please Him. To do what He wants done. To carry out the Kingdom mandate to do the works that Jesus embraced when He walked here on this earth. To live in a state of constant contact and communion with God the Father. To be every listening for His instruction on how to pray for someone. Is their problem a physical condition? Or are they suffering from demonic oppression? Such requires us to "hear" from God on how to pray, rather than filing the air with words that offer no relief. That is the heart of Doing The Stuff.

I found it somewhat ironic that our last class was the day after the anniversary of John Wimber's homecoming. John died on November 17, 1997. I didn't plan the meeting to end on the 18th. This was just the date God told me shut it down on. Wimber was the driving force behind the idea that everyone who is saved gets to "play" in the kingdom. Everyone has the capability to hear and operate under the Holy Spirit's direction to pray and see God move and work in the life of the one receiving prayer.

So this morning, I am confident that there is a group of people who will wake up and move out into the world looking for opportunities to Do The Stuff.
A very heartfelt thanks to everyone who attended over the last 14 weeks.
Let's go be the body of Christ that He deserves.
To win for the Lamb the rewards of His suffering!

Isaiah 55:11
It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper every where I send it.

God on you...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Follow Him

Matthew 9:9
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector's booth. "Follow me" Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed.

Do you think Matthew's life changed in the moment of obedience to the call of Jesus to follow?
Do you think maybe Matthew himself was changed?
This story has always intrigued me.
I'm sure that Matthew had no clue that morning when he got up that his life would be changed.
By sundown of that day, Matthew would no longer be the tax collector for his region. A man hated by neighbor and relative for the pact he had made with the Romans government. A pact that afforded Matthew a life of ease and wealth, built off the backs of his fellow countrymen.

Yet without those two simple words that Jesus spoke to Matthew, life would never be the same.
To follow Jesus is to enter into a life of change.

You  never bring your baggage of your old life with you into this new life.
With that first step to follow, everything changes. Not only around you, but in you as well.
Some of us don't do change very well.
I've found that the older I've gotten the more I dislike change. It upsets my routine. But then again, in the choice to follow Jesus, I don't have a routine. Oh there are certain things that I do daily, but the truth be known, I live to follow the direction the spiritual wind is blowing toward.

In other words, life has become like water.
It is fluid and always moving. Even at my age.
In a time when the world tells me that I should be slowing down and thinking of retirement, such is not a part of who I am. I want to see what is around the bend out there in my future. I want to peek over the hill and see what lies ahead. Oh sure, there are days when I want to sit down, take my shoes off and dip my feet into a cool stream. But the fire to follow still burns.

Life is about change.
Baby to toddler...
Toddler to young child...
Young child to teenager...
Teenager to young adult...
Young adult to old geezer...
We change.
Throw the call to follow Jesus into the mix and life truly becomes about change as the Holy Spirit works inside of us.
Change of heart..
Change of character...
Change of purpose...

We should never be content to sit down and think that God has done in us all that He desires to do.
We should be eager and ready to allow Him to change us, all the way down to the molecular level.

Jesus call to Matthew of "Follow Me"...reveals great truth I need to always remember.
With the call to "Follow"....I no longer get to call the shots. I no longer have a say in the direction my life is taking. My part is to simply follow.

When Jesus said to "Follow Me"...He was giving us a clear picture of the model of the life He wants for us. If you truly want to see how to live life, then get into the first four books of the New Testament....Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Read them and watch how Jesus lived life when He walked this earth. Read how he interacted with people. The deeds and miracles He did.
If we enter into a life of following Him, then we have been called to enter into the works that He did. Or, as John Wimber was so fond of saying, "We get to Do The Stuff!".

I just felt the Spirit leading me to write on this today.
Don't know who it's for (I do know it was for me).
Don't know what life may hold today, but whatever comes our way, we can change as we continue on this journey of following Jesus.

God on you...


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Who Is This King Of Glory?

I Timothy 2:5-6
For there is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity--the man Christ Jesus. He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone.

I hope you are able to follow what I am going to write this morning.
At times it seems as though we laud Jesus to such a degree that we create a Jesus that others see as being unapproachable. We pile title after title upon Him, and with each one those who don't know our Jesus see Him as being one who wants nothing to do with them.

A Jesus who stands above and beyond their own sin. The notion is that they are not worthy to come in contact with Jesus. That His heart is to only punish them with great pain and misery. But that isn't my Jesus.

Is He the King of glory?
Of course He is....
Is He the Lord strong and mighty?
Every day......

Is He the Lord mighty in battle?

But we must always remember that He is the good shepherd leaving the 99 to go after the one.
The one who has wandered far from His protection and covering.
The one who does not fully understand the danger they have chosen for themselves.
Jesus risked it all to retrieve us.

Jesus gave everything He possessed to pay the price to redeem us from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and the presence of sin.
This is the Jesus I want those who are still in spiritual darkness to know and come to love.
In fact if you read Scripture, you'll see that there is a duel nature to Jesus.
He is referred to as "The Lamb"....of course such a title comes from Him being lead to the cross like a lamb to the slaughter. He spoke not one word to defend Himself, but accepted what lay ahead on that hill outside of Jerusalem.
The other part of Jesus we see is "The Lion of the tribe of Judah".  The awesome picture of power and strength. Complete opposites,but all part of who Jesus is.

I want those who do not have relationship with Christ to fully experience the fullness of Jesus.
The fullness of His forgiveness....
The fullness of His love...
The fullness of His mercy....
I could keep listing all the "Fullness" attributes that are afforded to us by Jesus, but I won't. You get the gist of it.

What manner of heart does Jesus possess that would enable Him to carry all these Kingly titles yet, at the same time, stoop to save the lowest of the low? Not just save them, but to love them with a love that is beyond anything found in this world. That is who my Jesus is.
This is the Jesus I have given myself to .
This is the Jesus I have decided I will chase till I draw my last breath.

Because He is worthy.

He looked at me and found worth and value to my existence that I could not see for myself.
He reached down and took me from the garbage heap of life, cleaned me up, and filled me with His Spirit.

He saved me.
Today I am grateful for life and for who Jesus is to me.
It is my wish that you find the same for yourself.

You will not be disappointed.

God on you...
michael b.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Renovations Of The Heart And Mind

Philippians 4:8-9
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me----everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

I think that it wasn't a coincidence that Jesus was crucified on a hill called Golgotha.....translated "The Place Of The Skull".
I say that because I think it was a symbolic reminder of where humanities battle is waged. In the heart and in the mind.
Verse in Proverbs states a truth that we all must face...."As a man thinks IN HIS is he."  In other words, the real us is defined by our inner belief's. These dictate to us how we will react to the situations we face daily. They are such a part of us that we have trouble seeing or believing that such really do exist. I am what I think. What I think has been tainted and darkened by the sin/flesh nature that I carry around. 

Part of the recovery discipline is too acknowledge that we have character defects. We realize that these defects are proof of the sin nature we all are born with. At the same time, we approach these defects through working Step #6- We were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. So, does God just show up in the middle of the night and sprinkle "whiffle" dust on you and "poof" the defects are gone? No. But there is a work that takes place inside when we allow His Holy Spirit to remove these defects. Scripture calls it "the fruit of the Spirit", or evidence of real change.

Galatians 5:22-23 reads:"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is not law against these things.
O.k., we now know what the evidence will be...but exactly how am I changed? What method or thing will the Holy Spirit use to bring this new character into play in my life?

Romans 5:3-5
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trails, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope does not disappointment. For we know ho dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

Bingo! We learn to not endure and press on. How can we do this? By the assurance that God is who He claims to be, and that He will do what He has promised us He would do. We hold on and allow Him to direct us through whatever comes our way.What we think or perceive to be bad, God takes and uses it for His good. What was intended to kill us or drive us back into our old lifestyle, God strengthens us to stand against, and not give in.

As we approach life in this manner of learning endurance, we suddenly realize that God is doing for us, what we never could do for ourselves. And that, my friend, is not a bad thing to think on.

God on you...

michael b.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Unbelief....Doubt....Fear....The Unholy Trinity of Humanity

John 12:37
But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe Him.

John 11:53
So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus' death.

Step # 2
We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.


All born in the darkness of a heart that truly does not know its creator.
When we reject the one who created us, we turn to our own understanding to show us the way through this life.
Such foolish wisdom can only end badly.

For those who have an addictive personality, it is a sure thing that such a life will surely not end well.

The first two verses listed above tell a sad truth about living outside of a relationship with Jesus.
In the first verse, the unbelief, doubt and fear kept people from receiving what God wanted to give them. Jesus came to heal and destroy the effects of the works of the devil in this world (See I John 3:8). But when we refuse to turn loose of the unholy three (unbelief, doubt and fear) we have chose against God's will to see us healed and made whole.

The second verse shows us the darkness that can descend and smother a person who lives in unbelief. IF we keep rejecting Christ, our hearts grow colder and colder to His offer for a new way of living (not only in this world, but in eternity to come). Our thoughts will grow darker and more evil will invade our heart. The men mentioned in the second verse were the religious rulers of the day. The ones who kept the law of Moses. Seems they dropped one of the Ten know the one about "Thou Shall Not Kill". Opps...

Then we find ourselves in Step # 2, with the truth of "COMING TO BELIEVE" in a power grater than  ourselves. Coming to believe, to me, indicates a process that we are taken through where faith is applied. Step # 2 doesn't mean we have all the answers or that we are totally sold on this whole recover thing. What it does mean is that we are at a point in our addiction where we are ready to embrace a different way of living. Our heart and mind are looking outside of our own ability for the answer to our problem. 

So why is it some believe in this Jesus...
And some don't?

If I could answer that, I'd be a rich man. Well, maybe not rich but certainly famous.
The whole concept of what some refer to as "Free Will" or "having a choice" is a true mystery. There are some who have said that we don't really have free will. That when we stand outside of a relationship with Jesus, the only thing we can choose to do is sin. It may take the form of various levels of sin....from telling a "little white lie", to being a serial killer. We all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. Some believe that we can't receive anything from God until He initiates it in our heart. In other words, part of the Holy Spirit's work is to convict us (show us our sin and the answer to our dilemma) and to point us to the answer to all our sin problems. That answer is found in a person, and that person is Jesus. 

We find the answer to this eternal question about free will and choices in Step # 2.
A POWER that is greater than us. A POWER who is capable of addressing every state of our human condition. Someone who can undo the dark damage that sin / addiction has wrought in our lives. We have reached that rock wall of truth and we can't seem to get around it or over it. IT looms before us like an ancient fortress. But this POWER , whose name is Jesus, lays hold of us when we arrive at the place where we believe in Him. When We believe that He is capable of doing for me what I cannot do for myself. At this place...the wall still standing and us with no answers, is where this POWER breaks through my unbelief and the process of climbing over the wall begins. What was impossible before, is now not only possible, but is taking place. WE are being shown and empowered to scale the wall and move on in our new life.

All are a part of the human condition. IT is not a question of having unbelief, doubt or is a matter of who are you going to turn to when they rear their collective ugly heads in our life. 
Who will I turn to?

God on you....
michael b.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hope Does Not Disappoint

When we choose to "Step #3" our recovery.....
Turning will and life over to the care of God as we understand Him....
We begin to experience some gifts that are give to us.
Sounds strange, I know it..but it is a simple truth from God.
He begins to change us  and equip us at the same time so that we can face what ever comes our way in this new direction we have chosen to take.

These gifts show us that recovery doesn't merely provide escape from our destructive ways, but they point us toward the possibility of a new and exceptional life.
So what are these incredible gifts that God give us?
The first one is HOPE.

Romans 5:3-5
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.

We are given a hope that is divine in origin.
A hope that has purpose.
A hope that fills us with the resolve to understand and know that God is who He claims to be, and will keep the things He has promised He would do.
All of this applied to a life that previously had been out of control, with no hope at all of ever changing.
Not a small fire begins to burn inside that lets us know that truly with God, "All things are possible". Even recovery.

Maybe your reading this posting and you want to believe that what I've written is true. Maybe that thought is running through your brain and your heart right now..."I want to believe it!". Well my friend, that is the beginning of hope. God has laid hold of you, right where you are, and is drawing you into this new life I've written about. All you have to do is accept Him. Talk to Him...I know it sounds crazy, but it isn't as crazy as it seems. He's real...He's listening...and He will answer you. Tell Him what you truly want...that you've tried everything else and nothing has worked. Tell Him that you want Him and this new life He has promised.

Hope has begun and good work in you, in the form of God's Holy Spirit.
My Bible tells me that once God has started this new work, He won't stop until it's finished. How cool is that?
Way cool.

God on you...
michael b

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Steps.....Make 'em Up....Or Follow Them

Philippians 2:12-13
......Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.

If our recovery doesn't work out....
If we turn to our old lifestyle...
It usually is because of one simple thought. "I am in control of this recovery. I will decide what I will or will not do. No one is going to run my life for me." Dangerous thoughts that ease themselves into our consciousness. It is really amazing at how we don't weigh our thoughts to see if they are live giving or life stealing. We simply let those boogers roll around in our mind, until we act on them.

Here is a thought that is #6 on the list of The Twelve Missteps of Recovery.
"If I follow the Bible, I don't really need to work any steps at all!"

Contrary to what a lot of people think, working the twelve steps is following the directives laid out in scripture. The message of the Bible is one that clearly defines a path that is designed specifically for those who are trying to move away from addiction. The path that is revealed in Scripture is a path of hope. It is a path of healing, as well as a path to restoration, all based on God's truth. A truth that will totally change the way you think. 

In Romans 12:2, the apostle Paul gave us a warning and the solution to our problem.
"Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world,but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
First the warning: "Don't act like those around you who are still in their addiction." Here is a simple fact that seems to be impossible to grasp for some. Are you ready? Well, here goes.
"You are who you run with. You are who you hang out with."

Paul tells us that God is at work inside us when we "Step #3" it. Turning will and life over to His care. Well, His care includes taking out the garbage, so to speak. He does a work in us that changes the way we view life and the way we interact with it. I know it all sounds like some sort of sci-fi/twilight zone kind of deal. Believe me, it's not. It is an incredible work that our Father in Heaven does for those who embrace this new life.

The process of working the twelve steps is a blueprint to help bring order to our chaotic life. It is a set of boundaries, that if worked properly, will help to define us as we reject our old ways, to embrace this new life given to us by God. The steps bring a discipline to our lives that we are incapable of producing on our own. Seems like this would be a good thing, would it not? I think maybe yes.

Think on these things.....
God on you....
Michael b. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Divine Accounting

Philippians 3:7-8
But what things were GAIN to me, these I have counted LOSS for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things LOSS for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for who I have suffered the LOSS of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Powerful statement, in view of today's notion of what a follower of Jesus is.
Today we measure it by church attendance, giving, and how many things participate in at church..
Paul, in Philippians, measured it by what he once thought was important, but found it to be pure garbage. That Paul........he's something else isn't he? Just messed it up for everybody.

I guess you could say that he was good at divine accounting...
You know...

Balancing out the debits and credits of life...
Taking a spiritual "Step #4" inventory to see what was truly important.
Much to his surprise, Paul discovered that Jesus was all that mattered.
Not how much money he did or did not have...
Not how other people viewed him....
Not whether or not he had the latest fashions, newest sneakers, or the latest phone.

Paul said that everything he once thought was valuable and of great importance has now been surpassed by something even greater.

Something that took place inside his heart and mind...
The Holy Spirit showing him that real life is found in knowing Jesus.
Not knowing Him through intellectual understanding...
But through the daily interaction that comes from this relationship that has been afforded to each of us.

Paul said that everything else in life could not measure up to Jesus.
THAT is what I want!

THAT is the type of relationship I want!
To weigh my past against the promises of God and truly see and understand that it is no contest. The past looses.
I want to be like Paul, when he wrote..."I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Such is not something a person can work up in themselves by their own strength and understanding. It comes only as the Holy Spirit works in the human heart and mind. 

Paul also wrote...."Not that I have already attained, or am perfect, but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Right there in that statement, we see the truth of real life. Jesus has to lay hold of me first. There is a sudden awareness of my destruction....and a clear view of life after death if I were to continue on this dark path. In other words, it doesn't matter how I live my life now...if I do so without ever coming to Christ to be saved....If I do so by rejecting Jesus' offer of real life, then my life after I die will be one of misery that is beyond comprehension.

I like the quote in the photo above....
Don't stay stuck on the same page....
Don't keep riding the insanity train that only goes in circles...
Answer Jesus' call to new life and leave the darkness of your past.

Let Jesus write the next chapter in your life and see what is truly possible.
It may take a turn that you didn't see coming....
One that awakens you to the incredible love your heavenly Father has for you.

God on you....
michael b.

Monday, November 9, 2015

VRC Recap

I Corinthians 1:2
I am writing to God's church (in corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus.

Every Saturday night at VRC is an adventure.
We never know who is going to show up...
What needs they may have....
Or how the evening will turn out.
So we open the door, after much prayer, and say, "Come Lord and do your work in us, and among us."

Saturday night did not disappoint.

We had five who had never visited with us before, so the model we use for church was new to them.
After the service, one of our visitors, a young girl, came forward to talk to me. You could tell that she was excited about the meeting. But the most telling thing that she said, is what I strive for each week. "I understood what you were teaching." That was, and is, payday for me. To keep the Gospel message of Christ simple and not complicate it with big words, or concepts. 

I really don't have to work too hard at it. Kind of comes natural. Why? Because I view the Gospel as something simple to grasp. Jesus is the answer to every problem we have as humans. 

I spoke Saturday night from Exodus 16, the scripture where God provides manna (bread) for the former slaves who have been delivered from Egypt. The message, boiled down, was simple. "Do what God instructs us to do." 

Isn't that the heart of following Jesus?
We get up every morning, and we should have one simple thought that sets the tone for our day. "I am powerless, and I need to follow this POWER greater than myself." From this truth, I move through my day, always on the look out for "ME" trying to take back control to run my life.

All of this resonated in the heart of this young girl, who had come to talk with me after the service.

She loved the worship.
She loved the interaction that took place as I taught.

She loved the meeting.
Will she be back next Saturday?
I don't know.
But I do know this. She took away a "Jesus" seed with her when she left Saturday night. And if I know anything, those "Jesus" seeds are good seed, and they will produce fruit at the given time.

Every Saturday night, we set a table, of sorts, for people to eat from. They come through the door with a preconceived notion of what church is and how it operates. Because of this notion, sometimes they come in with their guards up, not willing to receive. But because we, VRC, doesn't fit that bill, the guards come down and they are open to hearing and receiving what God is saying. 

Is VRC the better way of doing church?

We're just a different flavor that God uses.
Always remember...
Different doesn't mean better....

It just means different.

God on you..

michael b

Friday, November 6, 2015

Just Jesus....No Other Hoops To Jump Through

"It's just a name", some would say.
"What's the big deal? It isn't like He can do anything about my life today."
"I've tried that church thing before....they're just a bunch of hypocrite's."
"How can some guy, who lived 2000+ years ago, have an impact on my life today?"
Just Jesus....

For every argument that can be thrown up against the name and person of Jesus..The truth of who He is stands. Unflinching....undaunted....unaffected.
He is Lord over all who claim to be Lord.
He is King over all who claim to be King.

Yet He left heaven and took on the flesh of humanity for one soul reason.
To undo....
To destroy....

And to remover the iron clinched fist of sin that Satan had perpetrated on a world that was separated from having relationship with God.

That's one of the reasons for our bad choices we make.
We listen to the inner voice and desire that our sin nature speaks to us.

That old voice is so subtle and soothing....after all, what could be wrong with wanting something. Well, the wanting of something may not be a big deal. But it becomes a big deal when the wanting supersedes doing the right thing. When our desire to satisfy that inner craving becomes so strong that you are willing to lie and cheat those closest to you who love and care for you....then you've crossed the line. Jesus came to break this dark cycle of deceit, guilt and shame that is driving you to these decisions.

Our minds have become so clouded that we hear what people are saying, but we don't see the validity or truth of it. The beauty of how Jesus draws us into relationship with Him, is that He speaks to our hearts and not always our minds. The Holy Spirit of God comes to us and convicts us of our sin. He shows us the folly of our wanting to live a life independent from God. He shows us the terrible things we've done and the hurtful things we have said to others...He reveals the motive and intent of our hearts to show us how far we have fallen by listening to that inner voice that influenced us to turn our attention to our own selfish needs. The beauty of this interaction with Jesus, is that He doesn't leave us in the place of guilt and shame. He points to the work He accomplished by hanging on a Roman cross, shedding every drop of His blood as a payment for OUR sins. Because of this act, He can come to us and offer us a new way of living. A new way of doing business with this sinful world. All we have to do is accept it. We confess our sins to Him, acknowledging that we alone were responsible for them. WE chose to act on our sinful nature that was guiding us. We ask Him to forgive us and remove the penalty for our sin. We acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Savior....and to be filled with His Holy Spirit. Weird part in all of this confession and turning away from our old life.....Jesus will receive us. Simple as that. He will take us and begin a new work inside.

It would be nice if that work that He's doing inside of us was instant, wouldn't it? Sure it would.
But this rebuilding of our character, along with the removal of our character defects is a time process. We encounter problems, situations and circumstances that show us the improvement that has taken place. We also see old defects that may still remain to show us that we still have a way to go. Jesus truly is the Power that we've been searching for who could restore us to sanity. As singer songwriter Larry Norman once stated in one of his songs....."Why not check into Jesus....He's got the answers."

Romans 10:9-10
If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead,
you will be saved.
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God,
and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

God on you...

michael b.

The Good (And Wonderful) 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 ...