Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tracking VRC


6:03 a.m.
Coffee has been consumed.
Let the games begin.

I'll leave to go to the church here in a few minutes.
Set up for tonight's meeting of Vineyard ReCovery.
Prayer over the room...
I know that God will show up. I never presume this or take it for granted, but I know that He will come.
Now what it is He will do, that I do not know.
Every week is like unwrapping a Christmas present, only you don't get stuck with some sweater that doesn't fit.

Each week, the meeting takes on the personality of those who come. Some weeks we may be more of a hospital that at other times. We have people in need of healing....physically, emotionally, and spiritually. So our focus is to seek God for the healing needed. Some weeks we are more of a school. We have a simple philosophy that life with Christ is a practical endeavor, not a religious one. We believe that the Bible is a practical book that shows us how to live a practical life of following Jesus in our daily decisions.

Some weeks VRC is more like a home. A place where family gathers to swap stories of what the past week held for us. We celebrate the good times and share in the bad. We encourage one another and lovingly correct when needed. We are about growing up in Christ. We are about becoming mature and wise in our daily affairs. We are about learning to love as God loves. In other words, there is a purpose, and hopefully an end to this journey we are on. We are learning to live on the "economy" of heaven, rather than that which is found here in our society. We are casting off old ways and old thoughts to embrace this new call to life Jesus has offered to us.

Our mission statement for VRC is "Learning to follow in His steps". We have set ourselves to walk out this life with Jesus. At the same time, recognizing our need for discipline in our daily lives, we have committed ourselves to walking out the Twelve Steps. We truly believe that the Twelves Steps are found in HIS STEPS. 

Steps #1 through #3 --- Making peace with God...
Steps #4 through #11 -- Making peace with ourselves...
Step  #12 --- Giving what we have found away to others who are in need.


Life in Christ is our goal. We recognize that our old ways and habits, if continued, will result in physical and spiritual death. We have come to the ultimate truth that God can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is this truth that binds us together as a community of believers. This is the message we want to take out into our community.

If you're looking for a safe place, and you don't mind doing something weird like going to church on Saturday night...we're your place. Come join us. Meeting starts at 7 p.m.
And don't forget...tonight is "Sandwich Supper"...
See you there!

God on you...
mb

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Real Deal Jesus


Revelation 22:12
And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.

Truth time....
I have to reset my understanding of who Jesus really is.

I don't mean for it to happen, but as time goes by, it is really easy to let Jesus become a religious figure, rather than the person that He is. This morning as I was trying to figure out which direction to take with the Greene Street Letters, I felt led to turn to the last chapter of Revelation.

After all, the entire book of Revelation is about the unfolding and understanding of who Jesus is today. When John was taken by the Spirit and shown the wonders of heaven,and commanded by God to write what he had seen, John saw Jesus as the Risen, Glorified Lord. Jesus was no longer the bruised and battered carpenter of Nazareth that had hung on a cross. John saw the Lamb, who had taken away the sin of the world, as well as the Lion who would return to judge the earth.

IT is the last picture of Jesus as the Lion that I have to remind myself of. Oh, we all like the sweet Lamb Jesus. Cuddly, soft, fluffy white wool....who doesn't like little lambs. But the Warrior King coming back to once again invade our time and space...well that's a different story. I guess where you are spiritually defines how you see this Jesus. You are either excited about His return, or you are fearful.

Funny part about the verse from Revelation 12, Jesus says that He is coming back and He is bringing His Reward to hand out. The reward Jesus speaks of is evidently based on what we have "worked" at. Work denotes purpose and effort. Now let's hook this with a verse from Romans 3. "For the Wages of sin is death." What are wages? Payment for what a person has done. I think maybe there are good wages AND bad wages. Jesus says He's coming back to give to each person that which is due them. This is where the rub comes in. I talk with people who just don't seem to be able to grasp this. Their whole philosophy is centered on a "LAMB" Jesus."Oh, Jesus would never do that whole "Wages for sin/death" thing. After all "Jesus loves the little children." Well, from my perspective Jesus does love us. But to me it all goes back to the simple fact of what wages are. Something YOU and I earn. We are due wages when we either live our life for Christ...or we live our life for ourselves.

That is why I want to always keep the right perspective of who Jesus really is. I want to "BE" the man He created me to be. As I have stated in the past, if we were to focus ourselves on being who Jesus wants us to be (allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us to change our character) then the doing would come natural. It would be our second nature. We'd "Do" for Jesus simply because that's who we are. We don't "DO" so we can "BE" who Christ has called us to be. Is that clear, or did I muddy the water. I hope it's clear to you....

Hey, if you don't have anything to do tomorrow night, come out and join us at Vineyard ReCovery. Todd Bagley will be leading the worship, and we will continue in our teaching about "Using the right materials to build a Matthew 24:7 House." And.....(Drum roll please)...we'll be having one of our world famous Sandwich Suppers after the service. Meeting starts at 7 p.m and we do stamp court cards if you need one.


God on you....
mbb

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Power In The Name...Power In The Person....Power In The Blood




Acts 4:10-12
Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 
This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

We think of names as being an identification of an individual. We see the face, we link a name to it. We see a person walking toward us that we have met, and we automatically index the name as a way of referencing that individual.

But what if there was more to names than we think or give credit?
What if we have lost something, through time, that was to be connected to names.

What if it were truly about the character of the individual.
What if that were the case? The name of Jesus would reveal the One who has power and authority to speak into our very existence and, by our change of heart, change the course of our life? That when the reality of who it really is we are dealing with hits home, and we understand that He loves us with a divine love, we then have an inkling of the power of the name of Jesus.


Being changed into a new creations is why I celebrate the name of Jesus....
Being the possessor of a new mind that has been transformed by the work of God's Holy Spirit is why I celebrate the name of Jesus.

I know myself better than anyone else.
I know that without Christ in my life, I would deny Him at every turn.
I would venture into the darkness and never come back.

But He didn't let me....and it is from my heart of gratitude that I lay hold of Him, for having laid hold of me.
So today...I say "Jesus!!!"
What about you?

Why say this?
Because there is POWER in the name of Jesus....
There is LIFE in the name of Jesus....

There is FREEDOM in the name of Jesus......

God on you...
mb

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I Love Ducks....But I Also Love Jesus.



John 14:23
Jesus answered and said unto him, "If a man love me, he will keep my words; and my Father will love him. And we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

Seems to me that we are all born with a capacity to love. After all, we go about our live loving different people, places and things. I chose the "duck" picture simply because I do love me some ducks. Little ducks. Baby ducks. Don't care much for 'em when they grow up. Don't hate grown up ducks...their just cuter when they are babies. But I have the capacity to love outside myself.

Trouble is, if we grow up with this capacity to love, which is God-given by the way, then we find ourselves being drawn to love the things of the world. We wind up focusing on things that have no eternal value. They only temporarily fill a need or void inside of us. We buy stuff, and it makes us feel better....for a little while. We tell someone that we love them, in hopes that they will return the love so we can enter into a relationship with them. But bottom line is that we are looking to them to fill a need in our life. That's a pretty heady thing to do, if you want to know the truth. That is a lot of weight to carry around if someone who said they loved you is looking to you to make them happy and complete. That job is reserved for God.

Anyway, here we are....
Running around with the need to love and be loved....
As ol' Mickey Gilley use to sing..."Looking for love in all the wrong places."
That was me.
What's even more remarkable in all of this, is that the answer was right in front of me all this time....
God, the Father...
God, the Son...
God, the Holy Spirit....
God...the creator of love...
Actually I'm not sure I would call God the creator of love, simply because HE IS LOVE!!!
It's His nature to love...
He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for us....
You may be thinking...."I didn't know I needed someone to die for me? What's up with this?"
Well, we are all born with a debt we owe.
It doesn't sound to fair to come into the world this way, but it is what it is.
We are born with a nature to do the wrong thing. We are born to be rebellious and a desire to live our life in the way we see fit. We may not say it in so many words, but we have an inborn nature that telegraphs messages to our brain and heart that we don't need God. We can do quiet well without Him.

Trouble is, when we follow this old nature we are born with...
Our choices are made based on what we want, not what God wants.
So humanity falls into different categories based on the extent of our rebelliousness.
We have those who cheat others...
We have those who lie...
We have those who become addicts...
We have those who become alcoholics..
We have those who become serial killers...
There are others who are pedophiles and rapists....
Then the weird thing is that there are others who appear to be really good people, but they too possess this sin/nature. They never run afoul of the law. They pay their taxes, and even go to church.
But each one of these categories of people all have one thing in common.

Romans 3:23
For ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
Who falls under "ALL"?
Everyone of us.
We live our lives working to feed this nature. It is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week job that demands we obey. So what is the end result?

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
This is what we earn for our love that is for the things of this world.
This is the end result of loving the world, yet rejecting Christ.
We earn wages....
Sin wages....
Which leads to a death beyond our physical death.
Eternal separation from God....
A place of suffering and misery on a scale that the human mind cannot conceive of such.
A place that we choose to go to.
That's right....we choose through our actions and love for this world.
We choose because of our rejection of God's gift of eternal life.
A gift God has offered to each of us because He loves us with a love that is not of this world.

Step # 1 --- I am powerless to love as God loves. My love has drawn me into behaviors and attitudes that are totally outside the will of God. Because of this, I have sought comfort and meaning in drugs and alcohol. My life is unmanageable.

Step # 2 -- After trying to live my life in what I thought was my own control, I discovered that my life has devolved to such a degree that I can no longer decide what is best for me. I need a POWER greater than myself who could restore me to a life of making sound decisions. I have come to conclusion that such a power has a name, and that name is Jesus.

Step # 3 -- Because of me taking inventory of my life, seeing the mess and destruction I have created, I have made a decision to turn will and life over to the care of God. I will no longer follow the desires or dictates of my old nature which led me into the darkness of addiction. I will learn to follow the path Christ has laid out for me. I will rely on His Power and not my own.

I will learn to love myself, as He loves me.
I will learn to love others, as He has asked me to.
I will learn to love Him.
Why?
Simply because He is worthy to be loved..

God on you....
Mbb

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

If It's Tuesday, Then We Must Be Praying



Psalm 23:1
The Lord IS my shepherd. I shall not want.

To me, this verse is one of the greatest statements ever written in Scripture. What's even more amazing is that a king wrote it. I'm not sure but when you're king, you're pretty much at the top of the heap. Not to many others would dare tell a king what to do. But here we have King David recognizing that there was a king over him. The Lord God Almighty! David also recognized that as long as he submitted himself to God, nothing would be withheld from him that would help him face the daily trials of life. That is why David could boldly state....."The Lord IS my Shepherd." Present tense..."IS"....not "WAS"....or "WILL BE"...IS my shepherd. Shepherd right now, today, this moment, as well as every moment that followed.

In this knowledge, David understood the need to communicate with his Shepherd. To pray and petition God for the things needed in his life. Such is the power of prayer. Ongoing communication with the One True Living God who will move at the request of those who belong to Him. The ultimate Good Father, if you will.

That is why I take up prayer requests every Monday, when I teach a Bible class in the afternoon. So without further delay, here are the requests. Please consider becoming a part of our prayer group as we pray daily for these requests.

1.) Pray for a father that is going through some very difficult times due to an illness. That he would receive strength and hope, as well as healing. Also pray for his wife, as she is struggling against depression and loss of hope concerning her husband. Also pray that God might use this situation to open their hearts to return to Him.

2.) Many asked prayer for their job situation. These men are going out to find employment.Pray that God would lead them to the job that has been prepared for them. That they would have favor when they fill out their application.

3.)Prayer for one whose wife is expecting their second child the last of February. The man knows that he has no worth as a husband or father is he keeps on drinking. He truly wants to change and become the husband and father God has called him to be, so he can be there for his family.

4.) Prayer for one that is going back to jail to finish out his sentence. Of course no one wants to be in jail,but we talked together and he understands that this is all part of the process. That if he can continue to move ahead in his recovery, then this time in jail will be completed and it can be put behind him. Pray that God's Holy Spirit would continue to reveal the things this young man needs to address in his life, and that he would seek God for help in doing so.

5.)Pray for the staff at Rapha, that God would grant them wisdom and strength to face the daily task of trying to help those who truly need help.

Well, there you go...
Thanks again for taking these request to the Giver of all good gifts....

Until tomorrow...
God on you....

mb

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spiritual Adultery


Good Monday morning...
Coffee brewing in the kitchen...

"Gurgling" of the percolator is a joy to these old ears.
Percolator?
Yes....I use a percolator.

Old school coffee....
Eight O' Clock for your sipping pleasure.
It was a good weekend...busy, but good.
Many phone calls from others who were looking for help.
It's hard to distinguish what  is "help" and what is a "handout".
Not my place to figure that one out. My place is to be obedient to what God tells me to do. The usage of said help will be on the recipient, not on the giver.

For me, naps are the order of the day when Sunday rolls around.
A great lunch is always followed by a great nap.
Once stirred from the nap, this is followed by coffee to awaken me from gentle slumber.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Matthew 15:8
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

This verse has always been a mirror that I use to see myself.
A mirror in which I make sure everything is alright.

It asks the question, "Why do I honor and worship God?"
Is it for the right reason, but has such become a mundane ritual that I go through simply because I want to look good to those around me?

Sing the songs with gusto and feeling....
Lift my hands during the service, in hopes that others will view my posture and think me to be a godly man.
Underline my Bible to the degree that if others should view it, they would think me a scholar of royal dimensions.

Or do I worship and honor God because I truly am in touch that He is the lover of my soul.
He is the one I owe allegiance to, not this world. Imagine it like this, if we were God....

You go to a wonderful restaurant with the one who proclaims that they love you.
You order the best of the menu...
The atmosphere and ambiance of the room is perfect.

You sit at the table, and there across from you is the person that you love.
They take hold of your hand, look deep in your eyes and tell you the most wonderful things about why and how much they love you. The evening is perfect.
But.....
All the while this is taking place, the one proclaiming their love is thinking of another they'd rather be with.

The lips say one thing...
But the heart desires another...

Such is the same when we worship God with lip service, but our hearts have affection for sin and the things of this world. 
I call it "Spiritual Adultery".
The problem in our case is that God already knows the condition of our hearts and the motivation of our actions. In other words, we're uncovered, yet we think we've fooled Him.

And we wonder why our lives are a mess...
Why we never seem to receive blessings from God...
It is because we don't truly love Him...
We love the world...
We love the shiny baubles and beads....the cheap roadside trinkets that the world offers to us.
We desire the temporary things of this world over the eternal things of God.
Forgive me, Lord!
Forgive me for playing the religious game.
Forgive me of hiding behind a facade of falseness in order to appear that I truly do love you.


What is the answer?
Truth of who we really are...
Confession of what our hearts really want...
Forgiveness from a God who loves us and finds value in who and what we could be, under the construction and guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Receive that forgiveness....

In short...we need a divine realization of who God is..
We need to fall in love with Him.
Isn't that the greatest commandment?
Spoken from Jesus' lips?

"Love the Lord God with all you heart...as well as mind, strength etc...etc..."?
Yes it is...
Maybe instead of trying the change myself....
Instead of trying to better myself...
I should pour myself into loving God...

Finding gratitude in spite of what state our life is in...
Giving thanks for what we have received from God...
Don't dwell on what you don't have, or what others do have...
This is about God and us, as individuals.


Let your worth and your words be filled with praise to God.
Sing praises in the shower to God...
Shout to Him as you drive to work this morning....
Memorize a verse today that speaks to you, and then recite it over and over during the day.

Let His love rule in your heart....
And one last thing...
Go out and have a great Monday.


God on you...

mb

Friday, January 22, 2016

Guido


Romans 12:2
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is---His good and perfect will.

He was a musician....
Loved to play the keyboards and sing.
He'd traveled, in his younger years, with various bands and groups around the country from California to  New York.

To my surprise, his favorite group was Journey. He loved him some Steve Perry, and "When The Lights Go Down In The City" was one of his most favorite songs.

His name was Wayne, but to me he will always be Guido.
First met him at Rapha, more years ago than I care to count. He was the cook, and he did have a way with vittles. That's where the name "Gudio" first came into his life. When he walked, he reminded everyone of Father Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live. Wayne took pride in the fact that everyone liked him enough to give him a nickname. So Guido it was.

Moving through life with an easy gate, and an infectious smile, you could not help but love this guy. He did manage to beat his addiction, and to me, he was one who no longer conformed to the pattern of this world. He was transformed by the renewing of his mind and heart.

Wayne would come by the church at least 2 or 3 times a week.
He'd come in and I would stop what I was doing because we were going to have a conversation of monumental proportions. He'd ease his frame down in one of the rocking chairs, and the stories would flow. Each one usually started the same way...."I remember one night....." And then he would share with me these incredible tales of people he'd met, and other musicians he'd played with. As he moved through the details, he would go into this rapid-fire, machine gun staccato delivery as the words came in quick, short bursts.


The one thing that characterized Guido was that I never heard him complain.
He never griped about his life or situation....
He never moaned or whined about his cancer, even though I knew he was in pain.
If ever there was a gentle soul that walked this earth, it was Guido.


Last Thanksgiving, my son, Josh, and I took Wayne a meal. It was all the usual fare that you would expect to find on a Thanksgiving table. We sat and talked while he ate. As always, he was very grateful that someone would remember him. I think maybe were, and are, more folks remembering him that he could ever imagine. 

Funny, but the thought just crossed my mind that the band is getting together.
We've already got a sax player in Jimmy McNabb, who passed last year.
Now we've got our keyboardist. I think maybe God is putting together a worship team that has been forged in the fires of His redemption. The world could not steal them away, because they'd already lived through the hell of addiction.  They had fought the good fight, and they had overcome by the Blood of the Lamb, and the word of their testimony.


Rest in peace, Guido.....

I will miss you.

God on you...
mbb

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Real Deal On Blessings



Psalm 1:1
Blessed is the man.........

We say "Bless you" when someone sneezes....
We say a "Blessing" when we sit down to eat.....
We use the word in various ways, and at various times.
But do we truly understand what it means to be blessed by God?


Short and sweet answer is that to be blessed by God means that we have His favor.
Now favor doesn't always translate into us receiving material things.
We don't measure the blessings of God like we're on some kind of cosmic "Price Is Right" show.

In fact, I don't think we are suppose to measure blessings when they come from the hand of God. But I do think it is important to know and understand when and why God grants us favor.
When we are under the blessings of God, it is because we are being obedient and following His instruction. More than that, it means we have a heart to love God, and to trust Him.

Here are some scriptures that will show you the many different sides of being blessed by God. He truly is looking for a people on whom He can pour out His blessings. Not so we can become fat babies in the nursery, but grow and mature, developing His character and righteousness.

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.Psalm 30:5
Wow.....His favor is for life, and might I add "And beyond".

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 2 Peter 1:2–3
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:46–47
So in Psalm 1, we read that God's blessings fall upon those who do not order their lives according to information, guidance, or counsel that has been given by others who  do not know God, or follow His ways. We receive the blessings, or favor, when we follow Him.
We receive God's blessing when we do not stand with sinners. This is not an indictment against coming in contact with people who are still living outside the will of God. What it means is that we are not to plant our lives in the social circle of such. Yes, we are to love those who have not yet met our Jesus. Yes, we are to be there for them when they have questions. But we are not to tie ourselves to them as the only means for social interaction. What's the old adage? If you lie down with dog's, you're bound to get fleas. Well, if we hang around old friends in all the old places, we are probably going to slide back into our old ways and habits.
Spend some time today thinking on how God has blessed you.  Be grateful. Find contentment....just for today.
God on you...
mb

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Seeing Jesus


John 1:1-5
In the beginning the Word (Jesus) already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through Him, and nothing was created except through Him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.
The light (the life of Christ) shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.


Sometimes a certain thought just washes over me. It's almost like a cleansing is taking place in my heart and in my mind. It purges out old thoughts and concepts that I have created as to who Jesus truly is. You see, it's really easy to construct these mental images and so-called truths as to who Jesus is and what He is capable of doing. But when this thought  that I mentioned in the first sentence comes to me, it's almost like a divine gift to reset my focus and my heart.

Jesus actually stepped out of eternity to become one of us. You can dress such a thought up in religious garb. You can place that thought in a Hallmark Christmas card. You can spin it in such away as to make it something far beyond the reality of what took place in that manger the night of His earthly coming. But the reality of what He did changed everything and everyone. The truth of His earthly life all pointed to a cross. He became a babe so that He could grow to manhood. Once there, He would go about teaching and demonstrating the truth that the Kingdom of God had come, but was not complete or finished. He backed up such proclamations with demonstrations of power. 

He healed the sick....
He gave the blind back their sight...
He made deaf ears hear again....
He fed the poor....

He made the cripple walk again....
And...
He raised the dead.
Not a bad set of credentials if you ask me....

Bottom line is that Jesus really did come to this planet with a purpose and His Father's plan that would defeat the power of the enemy.
Everyone of those conditions I listed above is a direct result of the entrance of sin into the hearts of people. God never intended for sickness, disease, and death to be a part of His creation. And He was not going to sit idly by to watch it decimate humanity. So with the ultimate authority and power, Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil ( I John 3:8).  And more than destroy those works, Jesus became the door through which we could enter into relationship with God again. No longer would we need to cart livestock down to our local Temple or synagogue for a priest to sacrifice. No longer would the blood of animals be poured out to cover our sin and atone for our wrong. Jesus became THE Lamb slain for the sin of the world.


All that was required on my behalf was to confess and acknowledge my part in all this mess. Confess my sin.... Own them....take responsibility for what I have done by rejecting God and chasing my own will and my own inner desires. Let it be made perfectly clear, those desires that I claimed were not good. I sinned against an eternal God, therefore the penalty for my sin is an eternal penalty. Jesus took my sin and personally paid my sin/debt that I owed. I acknowledge such a transaction took place on my behalf. I acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior of my life. Now this acknowledgment involves placing myself in submission to Jesus. In other words, I lay aside my will to embrace His will. I give Him my life in order to take up His life. When such takes place, He places in me His Holy Spirit. I do not know or understand how this works. I just know it does.

Of course the thought comes to me, "Why me? I'm not special. Why would Jesus do this for me?" Not sure that there is an explanation other than "God so loved the world (humanity) that He gave His one and only Son (Jesus), so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him."

All the miracles of Jesus were, and are, pretty cool.
All the walking on water, and feeding the masses with Happy Meals  get me going.
Messing up funerals and wakes by raising the dead is way beyond what I can wrap my brain around. And as incredible as those things were, the very thought that love motivated God to action on my behalf makes all those others pale in comparison. 

Nailed to a Roman cross.......because of love...
Beaten and flogged, being reduced to human rubble......because of love....
Watching all His followers run away, save for a few women who followed all the way to Calvary......because of love....
And the ultimate....
Having the complete weight of sin placed upon Him, so that He became the target for God's wrath to be poured out....because of love....is more than I can bear.

He did all of that for me.
He went through all of that for you.....

Now the question is....
"What am I going to do?"


God on you....
mb

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Prayer Requests


Prayer changes things.....
When I pray, God hears....God moves on my petition.

Prayer changes me...
When I pray, I am learning that God is worthy to be trusted with my request.
Prayer changes me....
When someone prays for me, I am the recipient of God's goodness and favor, whether it is a prayer to uncover me so I can see my sin, or a prayer to help me with a problem.
Prayer changes me...


Prayer changes the way I see the world....
Hebrews 12:1-2 reads: ....."let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus....."
Why this focus on Jesus during the course of this life race?
Because He is the mediator, or go between, me and God. He is the focal point of my prayers.

The Holy Spirit tells me what to pray (at least that is the way it's suppose to work). As I pray, the Holy Spirit takes my prayer and relays it to Jesus who, in turn, gives to the Father. The Father then acts upon my request. The main thing in this entire cycle of communication is the prayer that I pray. Why? Because if what I am asking God for has not been stirred in me by the Holy Spirit, I am praying wrongly. I am asking things that may have been formed in my flesh, or that old Nature I possess that leads me to do things contrary to God's will. So I want to always be aware of "what" I am praying. More importantly, I want to be aware of "WHY" I am praying it. Was this from God? Or was it just me?

Here are the prayer request from Rapha. If you would, please join me and let's keep these request before God.

1.) Prayer for a brother who also suffers from addiction. It seems that the brother has a good amount of time in recovery and has been doing quiet well, but over the past few months seems to be slipping back into old ways and old habits. Much concern for him.

2.) Most common prayer request this week....."I want to be sober. Pray for my sobriety."
I asked all who wanted this request, "What are you willing to do for your sobriety? How far are you willing to go?" So the prayer I would suggest would be to ask God to bring all who asked for sobriety under conviction that decisions would be made.

3.) Prayer for a father who is confined to a wheel chair. That is some concern that his mental state is deteriorating because of this lack of mobility. Pray that depression and despair would be kept at bay. Pray also that this father would find gratefulness in his life.

4.) Prayer for parents: Dad is dealing with severe health issues. Mom is struggling with watching her husband go through this particular condition. Pray that God would grant them the grace and strength to see this all the way through. Also Prayer for complete healing to both of them.

5.) Wife if pregnant with second child. Father is in treatment, away from family. He is torn between being with wife, and being at Rapha. He knows that he needs to stay and get himself better, but the heart wants to direct him back home. Prayer that God would do, in both of these people, the things necessary to give them a future that has hope in it.

6.) Pray that God would pour out His Spirit that would provoke a hunger to study the Word. To renew the minds (and hearts) of those who are going through the program. Pray that God would reveal Himself in ways that would open the eyes of every man.

There you go....
Please be diligent in praying for these requests...

Thank you for joining me in keeping these men, in our prayers, before God that He might break the bondage of addiction in their lives.

God on you....
mb

Monday, January 18, 2016

Integrity--I Guess That's Better Than Outegrity


When we think of the word "Integrity", we usually apply it to the moral character of a person. A person who always seeks to do the right thing. A person who does not live by a two sided standard of what is right and what is wrong. A person who does not use others to gain their own way. But there was a definition of integrity, when looking it up this morning, that I had not ever seen before.
                             "The state of being whole and undivided".

To me, that is a person who walks out what they truly believe. A person who is comfortable in their own skin. A person who is not driven by the opinion of others. This is something that I think we all need to strive for. That what we do is a reflection of what we believe.

There are a lot of hurting people out there. People who have messed up their lives to a degree that it's hard to have hope for them. It's hard for them to have hope for themselves. I think the church has done a disservice by putting forth a message that if you will come to Jesus, it's going to be alright. Jesus will save you! Jesus will turn all your troubles into gold! It's going to be unicorn's, lollipop's, and puppy dog's from now own. I know that isn't an intentional message of false hope. I also realize that the message falls on ears and hearts that are desperate to get out of the mess they are in. In fact a lot of times the message that is heard is more about someone who can change my situation rather than someone who can change me. I want to always be careful about what I teach or say at Vineyard ReCovery church. I do not want to lead anyone into false hope or pipe dreams that have no end or conclusion.

King David wrote something in Psalm 24 that has stuck with me through the years.

"Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His Holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him. Who seek Your face".
 This description of clean hands and pure hearts....
Someone who hasn't bent his knee to worship anything or anyone outside of the One True Living God.....
Someone who hasn't sworn in deceit...
That person will receive blessing from God.


All change takes place in the heart.
Change the heart...
Change the mind...
Change the mind...
Change the behavior....
Change the behavior, and there will be strength to carry out the Serenity prayer.

An acceptance from God in my life to recognize those areas that I cannot change or affect. A heavenly courage to lay hold of and change the things that need changing, and divine wisdom to know the difference.
From this point, having been given the ability to see my current lot in life, I set about seeking God through prayer and His word on how to address my issues. But whatever happens, I do not throw away my integrity. I do not push God to the side and work out my own issues in the way I want to . Easy to say...hard to do. But like I've written in the past, if we don't attempt to live in this new life, then we are destined to repeat the past over and over and over.

I don't know that I can prove this.....
But I believe that as our world has changed, and continues to slide down a slippery slope of moral laxness, those who are men and women of integrity are going to stand out a bit. It may truly become hard to live in such a world. It may be that persecution will be the norm for such who choose to follow Jesus. I don't know what form this persecution will take, but it will be obvious to others if we choose to follow Jesus. We need to pray for those who don't know relationship with Jesus. We need to pray that God would grant us wisdom in teaching and training them how to live. We need to pray for each other that none of us may return to our old ways.

God on you...
mbb

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Joe And The Bovines


Continuing on with our saga of "Joseph in Egypt"....or "What a good Jewish Boy doing in the place like this?"

Genesis Chapter 39 opens with Pharaoh getting a mad on at some of the help. Seems as though his main cook burned the corn bread, and the head butler was involved with the cover up. They tried to pass off loaf bread with the meal. Guess what? They ended up in the same prison as Joseph.

Verse 7 & 8 -  The two goof ups have had dreams and Joseph comes to their aid, interpreting what the night messages were all about. Seems as though there is one good dream and one not so good.

Verse 13 & 14 - Joe tells the butler that Ol' Pharaoh is going to restore him to his job.  That's a pretty encouraging message when you stuck in Geza lock up. But then Joe kind of messes up. He takes things into his own hands and tells the butler..."Yo! When you get out of here, put in a good word for me with the head honcho. GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!"

Verse 19 - Now the culprit that burned the corn bread didn't fare so well. Joe gave him the interpretation of his dream. "Got an plans to buy a new hat? I believe I'd put them on hold." In other words, a separation is going to take place between head and body.

Chapter 41:1 
We flash forward to the next part of our saga. Two years have passed and Joe is still stuck in the Egyptian version of Folsom Prison. But Pharaoh has had some dreams. In fact he has had a "Bovine encounter" of the closest kind. 

Verse 12 -  The butler who did time with Joseph suddenly recalls the ability Joe possessed to interpret dreams.

There are 14 Holsteins in the dream. Seven that look like they have been pampered and fed the finest grain and hay....and seven that look like they would not be worth the powder it would take to blow them up.

Verse 29-30 - Joseph gets the skinny on the dreams. Seven sleek cows mean that there is going to be a time of great prosperity in the land. Food supply is going to go through the roof. But these good times are going to be followed up by seven years of famine. Food will be hard to come by.

Joe gets on Pharaohs good side and the ol' ruler sees a benefit to keeping this Hebrew around. So, with the blessing of Pharaoh, Joe sets out to implement the first government program that was sanctioned by God. Now it seems to me that those knuckle heads that live and work across the Potomac would understand that seeking God directions and then implementing them would be the best way to run a country. Cause things turned out really well for Joe, Pharaoh, the nation, and the countries beyond Egypt's borders when the seven lean years rolled into town. Hmm.....food for thought.

Well, I've gone this far to let you know that God is going to use this famine to bring reconciliation to Joe, his brothers and his father. We'll see that next time in the continuing saga of Joe: Walks like an Egyptian.

God on you...
mb

Friday, January 15, 2016

God's Soap Opera


Genesis 50:20
But as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring it about as it is this day, it save many people alive.

To me the story of Joseph, which begins in Genesis 37, is a perfect example of God's heart and plans.
He will take a person, with all their flaws and character defects, and through circumstances that follow, mold them and prepare them for His work. If you read the Bible long enough, you'll find that everyone (outside of Jesus) is a foul up of royal proportions. So lets take a look at Joseph.

Genesis 37:2 - Joseph is a snitch. He runs to his father to tell on his brothers. How do you think the bro's felt about their kid brother? Well, you know how they felt.....they wanted to pound this kid to wennie meat!

Genesis 37:3 - Dad loved Joseph more than the other sons. This also magnified the hatred the big boys had against their little snot-nosed brother. And to make matters worse Dad dressed Joseph up a coat that made him look like a peacock. What was dad thinking? Now not only do the big boys despise Joseph...they can spot him a mile off wearing his rainbow hoodie. Bad move on dad's part.

Genesis 37:6-11 - Joseph has no idea how to keep his mouth shut. Somehow I believe that if it was in Joseph's head....it was going to come out of his mouth. Joseph has a series of dreams that he just has to share with the family. I can picture them sitting around the dinner table and old Joe says, "Hey let me share some dreams I had...they are really a hoot." Family listens. Joe shares how all the family is going to bound down to him. That breaks it as far as the older boys are concerned. Their thought is to take this young pup out behind the tent for an attitude adjustment. Poor Joe needs to learn the value of timing...when to speak up...when to be quiet.

Genesis 37:18 - Brothers have had enough. They hold a sibling conclave to decide what to do with Joe. It has reached critical mass now...they plot to kill him. They cook up a plan to knock Joe off and create a false story for Dad that the youngun' was killed by a wild animal. Hatred will move you into some areas where the hold gets deeper.

Genesis 37:26-27 - Judah, one of the brothers, has a moment of remorse. But rather than say, "hey, let's not do this", ol Judah turns capitalist. They won't kill Joe, but there is no reason they can't get rid of him AND make a buck. SO they sell Joe into slavery. Joe gets an all expenses paid vacation down in Egypt. Land of enchantment...beauty.....and more trouble than you could shake a stick at.

Genesis 37:36 -  Joe winds up in the house of a guy named Potiphar. Now ol' Pot was an officer of Pharaoh. As you know, Pharaoh was the head honcho when it came to movers and shakers down in Egypt. The buck stopped with Pharaoh.

Genesis 39:2-3 - Here is where things began to get dicey. In verse 2 we are told that the LORD was with Joseph, and that Joe was a whiz bang at whatever ol' Pot wanted done. Joe is a slave, but God is with him. Joe's circumstances are not the best in the world, but God is with Him. If God was with Joe, why didn't God take Joe out of this slave-dom he was stuck in? Because God's plans superseded Joe's.

Genesis 39:7 - Things go all "Soap opera" for Joe. Ol Pot has a wife that has roaming eyes and she sets her sight on this young Hebrew boy. She put's the move on Joe, but he resist. She turn the heat up to the point that ol Joe splits. Runs away...got out of Dodge. But in the process, she grabs him by the coat and he runs slap dab out of it. What does the old girl do? Why cry "Rape" of course.

Genesis 39:20-21 -  Pot captures our runaway and throws him into prison. I'm not sure what the sentence was for rape,but I do know that Joe did not get out on good behavior. Verse 21 tells us that the LORD was with Joe, showing him mercy and favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. In other words, Joe may be locked up, but the jailer made sure that Aunt Bee came every day and feed Joe well.

This is a good time to stick a book mark in this story. So if you're interested, check back here tomorrow and we'll see how this whole mess turns out. 

God on you...
mb


Thursday, January 14, 2016

What's Our Business And What's Next?


Matthew 25:40
"and the King will answer and say to them, "Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the the least of My brethren, you did it to Me."

Seems to be a change taking shape when it comes to recovery meetings as a whole.
Some are shutting down....
Some are seeing their numbers fall....

And a lot of people are asking "what is going on?"
Now let me clarify my statement..
When I say "recovery" meetings, I am speaking specifically of those who are sponsored or conducted by churches. One of my viewpoints that I have held to for a number of years is that everything is not forever. By that, I mean that meetings (including churches) are formed and started to meet a need for a season, or period of time.

Does this mean that we are seeing the end of a season where God was pouring out great favor on those in addiction? No. But I do believe that we may be at a point where God is saying, "Take stock of your ways, count the cost of what you've done". In other words, if we want to continue to hold our meetings, we need to consider the total picture of what we're trying to accomplish.

In talking with a friend who heads up a recovery meeting, he shared with me his greatest concern. He told me that the initial impact of recovery meetings...the latest "NEW" thing that attracted people is over. Most meetings have been going for a number of years, and what we are seeing is that we're losing people. We don't really see the numbers of people who are truly changed and find the path to this new life and relationship with Jesus.
My friend went on to say, "We're getting the people into the meetings, but we're losing them on the back end." By that, he meant that people were excited when they encounter their first meeting. The fellowship....the music...the sharing....but if they are not pointed and encouraged to take that next step, they tend to fall away. The new wears of the meeting they attend. I use to put it like this....There is a song that most CR's play to open their meeting with..THE ROAD TO RECOVERY! Now, it is a kicking song and will get your blood jumping when you hear it. But it looses its impact after you've heard it 1500 times. Get my drift? 

We, as a recovery community, have got to help those who attend our meetings get to the next part in this thing we call recovery. We've got to give them the message that they have got to get plugged in so they can grow spiritually and emotionally. We've got to do a better job of conveying the need to own their recovery, and to be willing to do the work necessary for their survival. We've buried far to many who have filled up our meetings. People who came, sang the songs....ate the food that was provided in the meal before the meeting......got their court card stamped......and after a few months, went right back out into the darkness....back to the old life...and wound up dead. 

So instead of patting ourselves on the back because of the good job we've done, maybe we need to be on our faces asking God, "What would you have me do now?" 
We do  not have the luxury of doing business the same way week in and week out. We have got to listen every week for direction that God wants our meetings to move toward.
We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over if people are still falling through the crack.

This is not an indictment against anyone or any meeting. I have been in prayer about the direction God wants for Vineyard ReCovery Church. I am all too well aware that from the very beginning, God told me that this was HIS meeting and I was to simply follow instructions. That is what I desire to do more than anything.....get out of His way.


We've relied far too long on the programs and agendas of man. It's time that we truly humble ourselves and ask God for fresh vision and fresh fire of His Spirit to go into the darkness and shine the light of salvation on those who are dying of addiction.

Jude 23
But others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

God on you....
mb


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

His Love


I Corinthians 13:13
Three things will last forever-----faith, hope and love----and the greatest of these is love.


The word love conjures up all kinds of syrupy images, doesn't it?
A young boy and girl walking down the beach at sunset, holding hands, listening to their song. Staring intently into each others eyes, carrying on a heart conversation. Or maybe it's an elderly couple sitting on a park bench. The man reaches over to take her hand and hold it. There in that touch...that brief moment of contact...a lifetime of emotion and dedication to each other is reaffirmed and made more sure. 

Love is the expression found on a mother's face as she holds her newborn. Nothing else matters at that moment. It is as if the entire world has simply stopped while these two commune in a language as old as creation itself.
Funny thing is that the world has laid hold of the word "love" and boiled it down to define a sexual act that takes place between two people.

A word that was formed and shaped in the heart of God, because that it is what God truly is....love...has been attacked and attempted to be waylaid by society in order to reshape, reform and define it as something other than how God defines it. Well.....we don't get to play that game. We don't get to take the things of God and redefine them in order to suit our own personal lusts and desires.

The love of God reaches out to those who don't want to be reached. It reaches out to those who live their lives in the shadows and back alley's of this world. This love that comes from God is an ever reaching, every calling force that seeks to draw people out of the bondage of sin, into the freedom and life that comes from accepting the work and the person of Jesus Christ. It doesn't matter how many "question marks" fill you life or your mind....the Master's love is a wrecking ball that will break through them all.

I John 4:9
In this the LOVE of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
God has seen us...
He has rightfully determined that left to our own ability and intellect (all wrapped up under the influence and power of sin) we were hopeless and incapable of saving ourselves from our sin debt that each of us owe.


God knew that the only way for us to retain relationship with Him was for our sin debt to be paid in full. A sacrifice was to be made on our behalf.
Jesus became that sacrifice. His death on the cross paid our sin debt (as well was the sin debt for every human ever born) and opened a way for us to move back into relationship with God.  Jesus came to die for me...for you...for all of humanity.


How could such a thing take place?
How could a deity that stands outside of time and space have such concern for His creation?
Simple....
God is love.

I John 4:16
And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God IS Love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

Here again, the love that motivates  God to reach out to us is not of this world. It is a pure, holy love that has not been tainted by sin. It is a love that is so powerful nothing in this world can stop it. Such power and love has targeted the hearts of all mankind, and yet we still run from Him. We cower in the darkness bound up by our own sin/addiction that lies to us. Does this mean that our sin/addiction is able to stop this pure, holy love God sends? No, and again I say, "No!". 

Romans 8:35
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 8:37-39
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels not principalities nor power, nor things present nor thing to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Today realize that God's love is all around you...
You walk in it every day.
You go about your business every day while it surrounds you.

Take a moment...still yourself and ask God to let you experience this love.
Ask Him to wrap you in it and let it soak down to your innermost being.

Then accept Him and His love.
Now that's some kind of good....

God on you...
mb

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Prayer Requests



Psalm 5:3
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Today marked my 5th Bible study at Rapha. Good group that seems eager to move on with their life. Time will tell, won't it? But for now, they are at least checked in and asking some really good questions about life, recovery, and relationship with Jesus.

One of the things that I wanted to start back up was taking prayer requests from the guys and staff there at Rapha. To let them know that there are people who will prayer for them. So I guess what I'm asking you is to become someone who will truly lift up prayers on their behalf. So let's get the business of prayer!


1.) This person desires to become more discerning when it comes to following God. They ask for continued guidance in their daily life....Opportunity to live it out....and the realization to make the most of this opportunity. In the past they have started recovery and relationship with a lot of passion and fire, but soon found themselves fizzling out and drifting back into old ways and old thoughts.

2.) This individual struggles in knowing the difference  between God's voice and the devil's influence. We talked about the verses from John 10 about the sheep recognizing the Shepherds voice and will only follow His call. The more this person digested the word...the more he might pray....the more he will hear God and in turn, recognize Him, not falling prey to the false voice of the enemy.

3.) We had two individuals who simply wanted to keep their sobriety today. That they might have wisdom and strength to do the things that are required of them. Both of these men have a long history of addiction and are at the point now they are willing to do whatever it takes to move forward.

4.) Two others are starting their fourth steps which is taking a fearless and searching moral inventory of themselves. Very hard and very painful to do sometimes, but very necessary to move forward in this new life they desire.

5.) Prayer for a mother who is currently cancer free, but facing having some reconstructive surgery done. Strength for her and for her family, that God would keep her cancer free.

6.) Prayer for healing for sickness that is going around. Feeling used up and only wants to go to bed, but realizes that there are certain things that need to be completed first.

7.) Prayers for the formation of a worship team at New Outlook Christian Fellowship. They have the people, and some of the instruments...Prayers for direction of the music which would be a wonderful addition to their services.

8.) Two men, who'd finished the In house part of the program, were going to look for jobs today. Pray that they might have favor in their search.

Well, there you are. If you are led to join me in praying for these and others, feel free to do so. If God happens to give you anything please let me know and I will pass it along to the appropriate person.

Hopefully I'll see you here again tomorrow.
God on you....

mb

Monday, January 11, 2016

Cleaning Out The Junk


Psalm 25:4-5
Show me Your ways, O Lord. Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation. On you I will wait all the day.

Vicki and I spent the better part of the weekend emptying out drawers and cabinets in our kitchen. We having some renovation done on our house so it was time to prepare for the make over. You know when you start emptying out thirty three years of "Stuff"....you learn a lot about yourself. It was almost like taking a trip back in time. Old pictures.....Coffee cups and glasses that hadn't been used in a while. Receipts and letters. Pictures of family and friends. Drawer after drawer was opened and emptied. We kept some things, others were thrown away or placed in a pile to be taken to the thrift store.

If your trying to move ahead in your own recovery, you've got to do a similar work. It's called a "Moral inventory". It's writing down the good and the bad of your personal  history. Step #4 says that we are to "Make a searching and fearless moral inventory." Truth be known, you can't move forward in life until you've dealt with past. Sometimes we refuse to deal with our past and our life becomes like the junk drawers we had to empty out yesterday. Life becomes full and the bad we've done begins to define how we see ourselves. Our self worth is wrapped up in the bad we've had done. Not a good way to follow if we truly want to be free.

The verse from Psalm 25 opens with a request..."Show me Your ways, O Lord."
How can we see the way's of God? How will He show us? Such will take place as you become a part of a community of like minded people. People who love Jesus and are about the business of moving forward in life. You'll see the hand of God in the individual lives as they demonstrate what this new life looks like. You'll discover God's ways when you begin to read His book. If you start in the Gospels, Matthew - Mark - Luke - John, you'll see Jesus interacting with a group of men who left everything to follow Him. In some ways, we become like those twelve disciples who left family, friends, and businesses to go off on an adventure. They would never be the same. To be shown the ways of the Lord means that we are given a glimpse of His character...His nature. The patience and gentleness of God. 

Next part of Psalm 25 ask that God teach us His paths. 
A path is a direction that has been marked out by repeated traveling over and over and over.
A certain direction is taken by numerous people over and over till the ground has been hardened by their steps. The grass is beat down, and weeds are pushed to the side by the repeated footsteps. We are following a direction that God set the boundaries for. Jesus' call to His disciples was to "Follow Me".  Life...real life....recovery life is all about learning to follow and not giving into to our old nature of wanting to control everything. It's about doing the work, or things necessary to give us a good foundation. Like those junk drawers Vicki and I tackled this weekend, life is about discarding the worthless, keeping the good, and remembering what has taken place over the years. Being thankful for where you are today....thankful that you not where you could be...and thankful for the opportunity to change.

It's a new day.....
It's Monday....
You've been given a gift.
What are you going to do with it?
Spend it wisely?
Or waste it on the past?
It's time to be about the business of living.


God on you...

mb

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...