Monday, February 29, 2016

Some Make It....Some don't



Proverbs 18:1
A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire. He rages against all wise judgment.

Yesterday  I received a phone call from Seth Barber asking me if I could fill in and speak at last night's Catalyst recovery meeting. I made my way to the church, and went upstairs to my office to see if I could hear God on what direction He wanted the message to take.
I was leafing through some old notes seeing if any verses stuck, when a piece of paper feel out onto the floor. I picked it up, unfolded and was surprised to see what was written on it. It was a sign in sheet from a class I did at Rapha back in the early part of 2002 ( I think it was from that time). There was Seth Barber's name written on this paper, along with the names of 15 others. I started at the top and began to read the names. One by one their faces appeared in my mind.....

"He's dead....over dose"...
"He's dead....suicide".....
"He has done well, seems to have found life".

"He's in prison"......
"He's still out there in that old lifestyle".

And on...
And on..
And on...

The names rolled by, the memories came.
Then, there was Seth's name.

Why do some seem to grasp the way out of addiction prison and some don't?

Why is that some just seem to be a perpetual train wreck, going from one situation to another, each one worse than the one before?
Maybe life truly is about the one.
Maybe this whole recovery thing is all about the one.

I know that I've said it over and over, that when I go to speak anywhere I only want to focus on the one who truly is desiring a way out of their darkness. If more than one comes to the saving knowledge that Jesus is the answer, that is a bonus.

At the end of my message last night, I opened the front up to anyone who wanted to do some business with my Jesus. Several came forward and got down on their knees to pray. My prayer was that someone was serious about their prayer. That they truly were willing to turn will and life over to the care of God. Time will tell if there was "THE ONE" in that group. Time will tell if there was more than one. But for that brief moment, I knew that the soil of the hearts of those who were praying was in the hands of God. I'm not smart enough to figure out who will or who wasn't serious in their prayers. Nor is it my place to come to that conclusion. It is only call and job to deliver the message that God wants people to hear. The rest is between Him and them. What do I know? He is a good God who loves us in spite of our messes. He is a saving God willing to forgive and restore all who come to him with a broken and contrite heart. He is a God with the power and authority to break any chains that addiction has placed on anyone.
That, my friend, is a truth that I will take to my grave. 


So here's to Seth....to Barry....to Greg....to Nick....to Todd....to Hugh....to Jason...to Charlie...to Jeffrey....to all of those who have found the way out of the darkness. May God grant favor on all the others who are searching for the way out. 


God on you....
mbb

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Who Do You Look To When Hard Times Come?


Have you ever been on Stuck Avenue? You know...it's where Rock Road and Hard Place Lane meet.  Stuck.... Kind of hard to get out of there in our own strength or power isn't it. Seems to me that life is about power. Power to navigate the traps and snares. Power to simply make it through the day, and get back home before nightfall. Power to keep an even keel to our emotions and not do any more damage than we have in the past. Life is about Power.

So what Power are you relying on?
What Power is it that fuels you to move through life?
Where do you look for answers to pour over the questions that seem to flood your mind and heart?

Great analogy  in Scripture.
Saw it this morning.

Isaiah 30:1-2
"What sorrow awaits my rebellious children," says the Lord. "You make plans that are contrary to mine. You make alliances not directed by my Spirit, thus piling up your sins. For without consulting me, you have gone down to Egypt for help. You have put your trust in Pharaoh's protection. You have tried to hide in his shade."

You may be asking yourself, "Hey..what's the big deal? Israel needed help and they took the initiative and went and found someone who would help them." Problem is, Israel rejected God in favor of Egypt's help. Egypt was where they were in slavery for over 400 years. They sought to put themselves back under that authority that had wielded a whip hand to their backs. They had turned to the one place that God had delivered them from. They turned back to their old ways of thinking and doing.

Now as crazy as this may seem, sin/addiction will work the same number on you, if you don't watch yourself. When we reject God (even in the slightest way) we begin to rely on our own strength and ability. What does our strength and ability have a tendency to say...."Man, you need to get high"...."Man, you need to get drunk"....."Man, you need to get tore up from the floor up." Oh, that might not be the words that come to our mind, but believe me the translation of what we do hear is exactly that. Run back to the one thing that you know will help you." Oh, it will help you alright. Help you die. Help you go to jail. Help you lose your family. Help you lose everything God has given you. Maybe we need to start referring to addiction and the old way of living as "EGYPT" just to remember who was actually in control, and running the show.

You don't have to stay stuck.
You don't have to live between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Here is a good quote from the notes found in the Recovery Bible about this passage from Isaiah. "Egypt can symbolize for us all those things we turn to for relief from our pain: work, sex, alcohol, drugs, food, unhealthy relationships. They look good, like the mighty chariots mentioned in Isaiah 31:1, but their help is an illusion. Only God can bring us true deliverance."


I guess that is the question this morning?
Are we (me included) willing to trust God with everything?
Or are we going to pick and choose what we will turn over to His care?
Seems to me that we need to rid ourselves of the entire package, and breath in the free air that accompanies His directives and instructions.
Why not today?
It's as good a time as any.


God on you....

mbb

Friday, February 26, 2016

It's All About The Timing


Ecclesiastes 3:1
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

The race for president seems out of control, what with all the bickering and posturing. Tension in the middle East as Russia is becoming a player in the region. Clashes between blacks and police seem to be the norm on the front page of the Gadsden Times. And on and on and on the litany goes. 

Without faith....
Without belief in God....

The world seems out of control.
Now, when I say belief, I'm talking about a knowing that goes deeper than some sort of mental arrangement you have in your mind. You know, when you talk to someone and they say..."God? Oh yeah, I believe in God." Yet their very life shows no evidence of the change that only God can bring to a heart. I'm talking about a belief that reshapes the very core of who you are. God becomes as important as the air you breath in order to survive. In the amplified Bible, when the term belief/faith is mentioned, it is always followed by these words that define what belief/faith is....cling to /  rely on /  look beyond circumstances / faith.

My faith tells me that God moves in this world, and in my life, with a pace and purpose. I'm not always made privy to the why's and wherefores of this movement. It is mine to simply trust and follow. Over the years, I have discovered the simple truth that God's timing is not the same as my timing. My timing is all about now! "I need it now, Lord! I want it now, Lord! If You did what I've prayed for, and you did it right now, you'd be a day late, Lord!"

I've got to learn (as we all do) that God's timing and my timing are not the same. I've got to see the wisdom that God stands outside of time and can see "all". Therefore, His plans are yes and amen, and will take place at the appropriate time. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that we are pieces on a cosmic chessboard. I just believe that His timing is always used to grow me and change me as I trust Him. Sometimes He does act in a "faster than I thought He would" answer to my prayer. But other times, He seems to be moving slow as molasses. My job in all of this? Wait.....believe....receive when it's time.  Hard lesson, but still one that we all need to learn.  Take the verse from Luke 2:6 - And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born." O.k...what does this have to do with God's timing? I mean, on the surface, Mary has gone full term with the baby. It's been nine months and now is the time for the baby to be born. Well, that is part of it, but lets pull back and see the whole picture. What government ruled at that time? Rome. Rome, who ruled the known world. Rome who built roads that would move the legions of their army, would also be the roads that moved the Gospel all over the known world. Rome, who ruled with a common language, now would see that language spoken of to share the story of a risen Savior who came to pay the price for all our sins. Rome, who ruled with a system of law, would see that law shaken by one of it's own citizens, a man named Paul.

So you see, there was no other time in the history of the world that these things could have taken place and spread the word of God farther and faster than that night God stepped into our time and space in the form of a baby.
God's timing....


The next time you get frustrated when things don't seem to be going the way you think they should, remember God's timing.
The next time you think God has forgotten you and your prayers....remember God's timing.
Have a great weekend!

God on you....

mb

Giving up And Moving On

There is something inside each of us that really doesn't like to give up. It doesn't like the idea of admitting defeat. Saying that we are incapable of making something happen. In some situations, this can be a good thing...not liking to quit or give up. It brings about, in us, the idea that if we keep striving and fighting, we can overcome whatever problem we are facing.
Dealing with sin/addiction, such an idea of surrender or giving up is not only foreign but at the very core of our struggles. In fact, sometimes the individual wants to give up and quit using or drinking, but they can't. They simply can't stop. They try. Over and over and over, they fight this battle daily. But they fight it in the wrong way.
Some say that they have lost the will to quit. When in reality will power is not the problem.
Complicated issues that deal with, first--the spiritual side of sin/addiction, make it hard for the individual to stop. They have devolved to such a level that they truly believe the voice that constantly taunts them in their brain and in their heart..."You can't! Don't even try! You are what you are, you can never change." Such a barrage of thought will drive a person to their knees, and cause them to seek refuge in the very thing, drugs and alcohol, that is killing them.
Next, throw in the affects of the drugs and alcohol on the human body itself. The altering of brain chemistry to the point that the body actually craves alcohol. Craves it to the point, that if it doesn't receive any, the body will actually shut down on itself and death will occur.
So what is the answer? Intervention. Not intervention by family or friends, but intervention by a Power greater than the one who is suffering. The Spirit of God coming upon a person, awakens them to a simple fact. "I truly can't do this on my own....But you can do it God. You can empower me to break this cycle of using and death.
II Corinthians 12:9 reads: "And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the Power of Christ may rest upon me.
An acceptance of our situation, looking to Christ for the answer to solve this sin/addiction equation is the only way out of this mess. It isn't just the idea of not drinking anymore. It isn't just he idea of not using anymore...it is the glorious truth that not only am I delivered from the destruction of sin/addiction, but I am changed and given a new life. A new way to live...sounds to simple, doesn't it? Well it is quiet simple. We just have to surrender to the Power greater than ourselves.....that would be Jesus. It isn't a surrender and saying, "I'll never drink or use again.."....It is a surrender that states, there is a better way and it is found in Christ.
God on you.....
mbb

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

A Mystery


Psalm 90:12
Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

We humans are an inquisitive bunch, aren't we?
We want to take things apart to understand how they work.
We shoot rockets into deep space to find out what's out there.
We tinker and tamper with the human body to understand how to fix it.
And we have a tendency to want to know the "Why" of God's ways and intentions.


I found myself reading Ken Blue's book Authority to Heal yesterday, when I came across a comment that just floored me. I'd never considered it before, and when I read it, it was like the truth of the Isaiah 55:9 verse just hit me between the eyes.
Ken wrote: "The real question is not 'why does God allow suffering', it is why does God show mercy to us."  I have been asked more times than I care to count, why does God allow evil....why does God allow suffering.....why do good things happen to bad people, and bad things to good people. And you know what? I don't have the answer to those questions. In fact, I am going to go as far as putting them under the category of "Maybe we aren't suppose to know or understand." Maybe it's all a part of the Isaiah 55:9 passage. God's thoughts are nothing like ours. His reasoning comes from a place that is outside our time and space. His ways are far beyond anything we could ever imagine. Maybe the whole "Why does God do what He does" thing, should fall under the category of trust. 

We want life to be like a 30-minute sitcom.
We want lots of laughs....
A little adventure....

And everything be wrapped up on a nice neat package before the show goes off.
Unfortunately life doesn't work like that.
Maybe our call on this side of heaven is to simply truth God in everything, and have faith that He truly is who He claims to be, and will do what He has promised to do.
Oh, now don't get me wrong, I am among those who want in on the inner circle and workings of God. I am Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. I want to go behind the curtain and see how the Wizard does his tricks. I am that one person who really wants to talk with the magician, one on one, so he can tell me how he does his tricks. Well, God is neither Oz nor a magician. He is God.

Somehow we think that if we knew why God did what He did, we could live our lives in peace. Not! We'd find something else to bicker about. Some other theological point to start an argument over. After all, if King David saw himself as a sheep (Psalm 23) and God as the shepherd, I need to rest in that simple fact.

I think I love the knowledge that my God is a merciful God, no matter what I may be going through. Maybe I need to latch on to the understanding what no matter how bad life may be beating on me, God's mercy is keeping it from doing its worse. I know such statements ring hollow when a loved one has cancer, and the prognosis is not good. We feel like God's mercy has deserted us. But has it? Has God really withheld His mercy? No. Feelings are not a good gauge to measure truth. There are times during the day that I don't feel saved. There are times when I feel that God doesn't hear my prayer, or that He won't forgive me. Are those things true? Of course not. It is my feelings.

The simple definition of Mercy is "God giving me something I don't deserve.....God holding back something I do deserve." What is it I don't deserve? Oh, the list would stretch forever, but the number one thing I can think of is my salvation. He offered that to me even though I was a grade-A...number #1 Stinker who went against Him. He loved me in spite of my attitude and behavior. What is it that He hold back from me that I do deserve? Hell....need I write any more.

I may not always be aware of God's mercy, but it surrounds me twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty five days a years. God's mercy...I'll take it.
As to all those questions that we humans seem to want to know....

I will let them lie in the "Faith" bin on God's desk.
I will let my faith grow in the understanding that I don't need to know such mysteries.
Thanks for letting me ramble.


God on you....

mbb

Tuesday, February 23, 2016



Really good time at Rapha yesterday. Had two hungry individuals who wanted to delve into scripture and see what God had to say.
We took a stroll through I Samuel 17 (David and Goliath) and looked at it from the point that Goliath was a symbol for addiction, and David was the answer on how to truly live life. There is a battle that takes place between the thoughts of the mind, and the truth of the heart. If the heart isn't filled with the Spirit of God, then it is no battle for a temptation or craving. They will win. They will overcome and subdue.


David's ability to stand and confront a giant of man came from only one place. I Samuel 16:13 - .....And the Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon David from that day on...
There's the power we've been searching for to overcome whatever we face daily. It is the presence and ability of God's Spirit living in those who have turned will and life over to the care of God. Now that dog'll hunt.

------------------------------------------------------

Once again, if it's Tuesday, then it must be prayer request day.
So here they are.


1.)One man wrote: "My ears are ringing, and have been for six months. They have become super-sensitive to sound. I healing. Thank you for praying."

2.) two members of the family have cancer. The family is really struggling at this time. Prayers for healing, and peace in the family. Seems as though fear has set up shop and is doing great damage among the members.

3.)One couple is having marriage problems. Didn't go into details (and didn't need to). Pray for God's solution to be applied to the marriage. That both parties would have their eyes, and hearts, open to see the damage that is being done. Prayer for restoration.

4.) Pray for two that have left the program. That they would see the truth about where life is taking them unless they make a turn.

5.) Prayers for New Outlook Christian Fellowship, who is an integral part of the program at Rapha. Prayers for musicians and tech people who can help with their services.If ever there was a fellowship who truly loves ministering to those in addiction, this is the place. 

Well, there you go folks...
Please be diligent in praying for these requests, and thanks for being a part, and playing a part in seeing lives turned around.

God on you....
mbb 

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Voices


Revelation 12:11
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth. The one who accuses them before our God day and night.

There is an event that happens every Saturday, shortly after noon. It begins as a subtle whisper in my head. It has happened for over 18 years. You'd think I'd be use to it by now, but each time it occurs, it is like it is the very time to have happened.

Usually be noon on Saturday, the hay is in the barn when it comes to the meeting that we have that night. I usually try to be home around noon, eat some lunch, and sit down for a bit before I head out to the church. Sitting in my chair, the first assault comes. "You are not prepared for tonight." The voice is soft and low, yet very present in my mind.

Next comes, "You haven't prayed enough." 

Did I? Pray that is. Have I spent enough time in prayer about the service tonight? Or did I just schlep through the week, giving no thought to spending time in prayer?

This is usually followed up with "You didn't study enough."
Now this one usually does get me. I don't spend an inordinate amount of time on messages.
As I read my Bible, there will usually come a verse that seems to stand out from the others. I find myself returning over and over to the verse. I will jot down thoughts and point that come to me. By Saturday, I may have  a loose framework from which a message will hang. Even then, I hold such very loosely because there has been many, many times when I stood to give a message and God would tell me to junk the whole thing. Those times can be scary because you standing there with nothing to say. Suddenly a thought will enter your mind and you'll chase it like an elusive rabbit only to find a message that burns on your heart.

As the afternoon progresses, the voices of accusation get louder and louder. 

"You didn't choose the right songs for worship"....
"Look how anointed the other worship leaders are....and you...you're just pretending to be a worship leader."
See how this works?
The devil truly is our accuser.
His job is to bring doubt to our minds.
After all, his first words to Eve in the Garden were...."Did God really say...."


Then as it nears 7 p.m. the last accusation comes...
"You're not going to have many show up tonight."

That one isn't to bad, because God let me know in no uncertain terms that our meeting would always be small. Such an illumination from God has given me the mind set that we'll have our meeting even if it is just me and God. So that accusation doesn't bother me to much.

Like I said, these voices have plagued me for nigh on 18 years, and yet I finally garnered some real peace about them Saturday. I was at the church....it must have been 4:30 p.m. when I met Jim Bentley in the big room. We stopped to chat and the usual "how are you? What's God doing?" kind of encounters. I confessed to Jim about how the voices were up and running, when it suddenly dawned on me (told you I was not to sharp). The accusations had come every week without fail. Oh yeah, by the way...Jim suffers from the same thing, only his is for the Sunday morning meeting. 

The accusations come every week...
Every week, so far, God has shown up and someone has had an encounter with Him.

Someone comes up and tells me that the message really spoke to them.
Someone gets healed....
Someone gets saved...
Someone comes back to relationship with God after being away for a number of years.

Not this isn't really about me, but that's a pretty good record for someone who was accused of not preparing or doing enough.
Seems to be that being obedient is more important than listening to a bunch of accusations.

Not letting the accusing stop you, or cause you to give up and quit.

I know that I'm not the only one who hears the accusations.
"You'll never recover from your addiction!"

"You've made to big of a mess in your life to ever be free from it!"
And on and on and one the list of accusations pile up, till you feel as though you are going to be crushed under the sheer weight of them.
Don't give into this game the devil plays with all of us who are trying to follow Jesus.
Don't listen to the accusations and remember them for what they truly are.
A plot and a plan to sidetrack you from moving forward into the life Christ has for you.


Philippians 4:8-9
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts (Your mind) 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.

God on you...
mb

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are You Just Going To Stand There?


Well.....it's Friday.
Some will shout for joy that the weekend is here. Others will view it as just another day. Me? It's time to suit up, because VRC meets tomorrow night. I will spend the day fleshing out the message for tomorrow night. Actually this has been a really good week, as I have 3 potential messages. Just have to get still and ask God which one does He want me to speak.


Big shout out to Jim Bentley and Ben Catoe for assembling a computer desk for my office. I have moved to higher ground at the church by taking an office on the top floor of the building. Really biggggg room. So now I have a "work bench" on which to study and write. Thanks guys, for all the work you did. May your backs not be stiff and your gait be free from pain. As Casey Casum use to tell us each week..."Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars." I don't know what that has to do with anything, it just kind of floated through this old brain as I was typing. Disregard that part.


Found myself in a strange verse this morning.
Mark 1:33 - The whole town gathered at the door to watch.
My first impression of this verse caused me to think of the mindset that some people have about Jesus and the kingdom of God. Somehow the American mindset is that Christianity/ relationship w/ Jesus is a spectator sport. Our biggest obligation in life is to go to church. To show up and watch what happens, and be encouraged to slug through the week so we can come back next Sunday. 

In the verse from Mark 1, Jesus is doing what He was sent to do.....Destroy the works of the devil. He is healing. He is casting out demons. He is taking care of those who were sick. I understand why people were there. I understand why they were watching. They'd never seen anything like this in their neighborhood. Any religious action had to be seen at the Temple, but here the Kingdom of God had suddenly appeared on their doorstep. I get that part.  But in some ways, we are like the crowd who'd gathered to watch. Church has become a place where we go to be dazzled and entertained. No...church is the place of corporate worship and instruction so we can go back into our neighborhoods and communities and effect change through the leading of God's Holy Spirit at work in each of us. 

What I am about to say is going to sound crazy, but believe me when I say that I it is the heart of the Kingdom work of God. My own personal life has to take a back seat to what God wants to do in me and through me. Have you ever prayed the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13)? Well, do you remember the part that goes, "May Your Kingdom come soon....May Your kingdom-will be done on earth as it is being done in heaven."? How does the Kingdom-will of God get accomplished here on earth? How are the things of heaven manifested here on earth? By God working through us, that's how. My life is in His hands. He is and can never be an after thought. God's salvation is not a get-out-hell-free card that we can bandy about whenever we want. God's salvation to us gives us the justified right to chase Him and be taught how to live in this old dark world. I Peter 1:9 - ,,,,,For He has called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light." Called out for a purpose...His purpose so that what is being done in heaven, is brought down to this planet and made available to those who haven't heard about this good news of life and freedom from sin/addiction. In other words, we participate with Jesus in His ministry to heal and save those who stand outside the Kingdom relationship God desires to have with everyone.

That is what Saturday night is all about when we gather as Vineyard ReCovery Church. It is a place of introduction to Jesus. A chance to learn how to worship. A time of sharing and of getting our spiritual batteries recharged for the coming week. VRC is about "US" not "me". It's the opportunity to learn and experience what it means to be a part of a church. A time to receive prayer for whatever ails us. It is a place where confession / repentance / healing take place. To me, it's a very special time when we meet together. A bunch of broken, messed up people can all gather together to see and experience God. We leave the meeting a little more put together than we entered. Such is why we gather on Saturday night.......to be changed, and to take that change back into our homes and work place to give it away to others.  That is the Kingdom at work. Like I said, we aren't called to be spectators.......we are participants in the Kingdom of God.

God on you.....

mbb


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Divine Work Out.....Divine Work In


Philippians 2:12-13
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. 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.

In the KJV version of Scripture, Paul writes that we are to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling." Been a lot of discussion over that little term "work out our salvation".  Lot of disputes over what Paul really meant by that phrase. Some camps fall under the flag of "I'm saved by grace, I don't need to do anything." Other camps come down hard on the side of "Doing for Christ is the evidence of your salvation".  I kind of find myself in the middle of the whole shebang. I think maybe the word in question, in my mind, is the word "doing".

Doing, to me, implies effort on our part.
Doing implies carrying out a deed or command that had been given to us.

I've said this before, on several occasions......
"We are called human beings..."
"Not human doings."

There is a work that takes place in us when we come to Christ.
The verse in Philippians tells us plainly that God is "Working in each of us".
The Holy Spirit is changing not only our hearts and affections, but also our character. As these changes take place, I find myself wanting to "do"...not doing because I think I'm earning something. 

I truly am a work in progress. Evidence of such a work is seen through my actions and behaviors. I find that I have a hunger to not just read scripture, but to study it. I am aware that I want to talk to my heavenly Father. I don't go to church because I have to...or it is expected of me....
I go to church because I want to!

I love hanging out with God's people that He has placed around me, and has placed me with.

I love praying for others, watching as God comes over them and heals and restores them to a new place in their life. I do such because I want to, not because I have to, thinking I'm earning some kind of celestial points that can be redeemed at my arrival in heaven. 


The last part of the Philippians passage is the kicker for me.
"For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him."  How cool is that? God not only gives us the "Want to" but also the "Can do" when we are saved. In other words I am empowered by the Grace of God to carry out His mission here on earth.  

Grace: The empowering presence of God in my life to be who He has created me to be, and to do what He has called me to do." That pretty much sums up Philippians 2:12-13.
You don't have to be churchy...

or religious...
You don't have to be a Bible scholar/theologian.
You just have to fall in love with Jesus.

A love that grows to the point that you don't want or desire anything from your old life..your old way of thinking and doing. You only want what Jesus wants for you.

So let's not complicate this thing. It must work since this Philippians passage is applied to every culture and country. To every ethnic group on the face of this planet.....all have been called into a divine co-op with God's Holy Spirit, and our job is to "Become" the person that pleases God.
How cool is that?


Now, I have a real problem with this whole working out your salvation thing....
Either it's true...
or it is isn't.

Either it's real...
or we've been lied to.

I just happen to fall on the side that we can take the truth to the bank. God spoke it...Paul wrote it....I read it. End of story.
Now  I must be about the business of letting God work in me.
What about you?


God on you....
mbb

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hesitation

Mark 1:18
And they left their nets at once and followed Him.

Mark 1:20
He called to them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

No hesitation here....
Kind of a mystery if you try and see this with a logical mind.
Maybe I'm reading into these verses more than was intended, but still it speaks to something deep inside.


These men, who would become disciples of Jesus, left everything to follow him. When I say they left everything, I mean everything.
They didn't decide to go this, and then get their affairs in order.
They didn't tell Jesus to come back next Tuesday because they had to make sure everything in their life had been taken care of.

They dropped everything (including family) to go with Jesus.

On the other hand, we don't really know what they were thinking.
Maybe they thought they'd only be gone for the day...

A week.....
Or a month.
But that isn't the point, is it?
The point is that whatever troubles or circumstances they were in, paled in comparison to the mystery of the adventure that Jesus had called them to.
They could not have envisioned that in three years, give or take some months, they would be enemies of the religious ruling government of their country.
They could not have even known of the miracles they would see.

The lame and cripple would walk.
Blind eyes would be given back their sight...
Demonized sons and daughters would be restored to their right mind.

And......wait for it.......
The dead would be brought back to life.

They didn't know this would be a part of their life.

But what they did know is that something deep inside was stirred by this call to follow. A call that burned with such heat that it made everything else pale in comparison. Businesses were laid down, and families left taking care of all the details of life. These men were off to follow Jesus.

Maybe this whole passage of scripture still applies to us today.

Maybe it is the whole idea of how hesitation destroys opportunity when God calls to us.
Maybe there are windows that God opens when he is calling us into a new season or time in our lives. Those windows begin to slide shut when we hesitate. The timing gets shorter and shorter, and if we don't act on it, we loose.

Don't get me wrong...
I understand this whole "hesitation" thing, and I have fallen prey to it time and time again myself. But the one thing I've tried to learn from is that when I believe God is calling me to do something, I need to do it. 

One last thing....
Hesitation is not the immediate "doing" of the act....
Hesitation is the delaying of making a choice to obey.
God determines the timing and place where our "yes" to him becomes action.

All I have to do is to be wiling to do whatever it is he desires of me.

What would cause me to hesitate?
Doubt?
Wondering if what I heard was truly from God.
We all play the "Is it me,or is it you, God?" game. Don't we?

Maybe it's fear that causes me to hesitate.
I measure my own abilities against what God is calling me to do, and I don't see any way I could ever accomplish anything.
Or I look at the future with eyes that are defined by my past failure.

What does my past say? It screams at me to let me know that I've failed at everything, and that just because this may or may not be God speaking, I'll fail at this also.

Remember the part of the Serenity prayer where we are asking God to give us courage to change the things I can? Maybe this is one of those things. Not letting me allow myself to be defined by my past. I need to always remember that if God is calling me, then he will equip and empower me to carry it out.

Think on these things...
And don't hesitate.

God on you....
mbb

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Prayer Tuesday



Good morning....
Hope you survived the deluge that came down last night. Me? I was out in it around 7 p.m.
My wife had stepped out onto the porch, when she called to me and said, "You better get out here...our ditch is flooded." Well, not only was our ditch flooded, but it was beginning to cover the road, and over into our neighbor's ditch. It was time for some manly work to be done, so armed with my trusty hoe and rake, I waded into the rushing torrent. Well, maybe it wasn't so much a torrent as it was a ditch full of water. Several swipes with my trusty hoe removed the debris that was blocking the culvert, and the water begin to flow. Flow would be to simple a word. Think Hoover Dam. Think gushing water rapidly moving down our street. Neighbors all around begin to cheer my efforts, as I saved our community from sure destruction. Maybe I exaggerated that part. In fact I'm pretty sure if my neighbors saw me out in the rain, flaying a hoe like a mad man, they probably considered calling the local authorities. Oh, well...another evening on Greene Street.

Great Bible study at Rapha yesterday. Started in the book of Mark. Touched on several points in Chapter 1. Mark is a book of action as evidenced (how's that Barry) by the use of the word immediately. Mark is focused on Jesus as a servant. One who is capable of carrying out the duties that had been assigned to Him by His heavenly Father. Those present for the Bible study had several good questions, and there was a lot of interaction. Like I said it was a good day. So, if it's Tuesday, and I had Bible study yesterday, that must mean I asked for prayer requests. Here's the list.

1.) One of the men present asked prayer for his father who is currently locked up because of his own addiction. He is at that stage where the reality of his life has come crashing down on him. Prayer to break depression, and that he might come to the realization of his need for Jesus.

2.) Prayer for a grandfather who has had a stroke.

3.) One shared of his need to have wisdom in how to work the steps for his recovery. 

4.) Prayer for a daughter. She doesn't understand why daddy can't come home and be with her.

5.) One man asked prayer for himself and his wife and five children, that he would get this recovery right this time. Prayer for provision for the wife and children while he is in treatment.

6.) One asked that we pray for his Dad and his grandmother. Both have cancer.

7.) Prayer for wife and son who are struggling with him being in treatment. Struggling financially and just the sheer fact of separation.

Thanks to all who participate in this prayer effort.
Let's keep them lifted to the Father, and then share in the joy when these prayers are answered.


God on you....

mbb

Monday, February 15, 2016

Desperation


Big shout out to Carrie Elrod for the cookies she bakes and brings to the Saturday night meeting. Carrie truly believes that life is worship. How we live is truly what we believe, and should be evidenced by our actions and our words. Carrie prays over each batch of cookies she bakes, asking God to use them in some way to open the hearts of the ones who eat them. I know...this may sound foreign to some, but it sounds pretty natural to me. I mean if God can take deliver His message through a talking donkey...surely he can do the same through chocolate chip/peanut butter cookies. Call me crazy....but I am just crazy enough to believe that my God has that kind of power.

Saturday night was another good one. Funny, but when I journal about Saturday night service, that is usually the way I open the entry. We had much ministry after a message on finding desperation. One of the definitions of desperation was "a loss of hope that cause illogical decisions."  I like this. Illogical decisions. What better way to describe the Leper that came to Jesus in Matthew 8. What better way to describe anyone who would come to Jesus for anything.....illogical. That's the way the world views Jesus. An illogical answer to a question that cannot be solved. 


The world if all up into intellect and education.
If we can just teach everyone about the danger of drugs and alcohol, then the problem will be solved. So we come up with catchy sayings, and commercials to educate the public. 

Catchy? Yes. Cleaver? Yes. But I don't know many who quit using because of the Madison Avenue Message to stop. SO the world views this as "the answer" to our problem. If you bring up Jesus as being the answer, you'll catch all manner of scorn and ridicule. You'll be labeled as backwards, and not very educated. Well, I never claim to be educated, and if you listen to some of my messages, you'll agree with me. I have a habit of shredding the King's English.  

To the world, viewing Jesus as the answer to anything is preposterous. Yet over the past 18+ years I have been in ministry, I have seen countless lives set free by the Power and the Presence of Christ brought to bear against the addiction that has kept them in bondage. I think I'll fall on the side of the Kingdom and keep sharing the message of hope, and the reality of what is possible when you become desperate for change. 

The leper in Matthew 8 was desperate. He risked everything just by being in public, not to mention making his way through a crowd of people to reach Jesus. To me, he fell prey to the desperate notion of coming to Jesus saying, "Either heal me, or kill me...but do one cause I can't stand this anymore."  In other words, the leper was going to walk away from this encounter either healed, or in a body bag. Now that is desperation. Yeah, I know. They didn't have body bags back in Jesus' day. But do you get the point? We do not have the liberty to live in apathy and acceptance of our condition in life. There is a call to every human being to come to Christ. It fills the air. The message never stops. It is always around us. over us, and sometimes in us. The message of the Cross and the Power of Christ to save, heal, and restore.
John 12:32 - "And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself."
And who falls under "everyone"?  Everyone! The answer to our problems is here, now, in our time and space. Now what are we going to do? Find that desperation to get up and go after Him? Or stay where we are and waste away until we find out that we're to late. We've waited to long and rejected the One who can truly save us.

Think on these things...
God on you..

mbb

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Living In The Eye Of The Storm



"Out in the eye of the storm, the friends of God suffer no permanent harm.."     Mark Heard.

Seems to be a belief among people that God is a kind of "good fairy" that will not let harm come to HIS people. While I do believe that God is a protecting God, and one who cares and loves deeply for those who live for Him, I believe that for us who walk this planet, life happens.

Cancer comes knocking and claims lives....
Divorce rears a division between a married couple....
Addiction takes people away before it's their time....
But when you proclaim your allegiance to the One True Living God..You can lose your head. You can have your business closed and be run out of town. You can be hauled into court and even jailed. 

IF you want Scripture to see that pain and suffering is a part of life especially when you are a follower of Jesus, all you have to do is turn to Hebrews 11:35-38 - "But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground."

I realize that what was written in the Hebrews passage is kind of extreme,but when you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, the ante goes up. We become enemies of this world. But such does not give us liberty to cover our heads and disappear from society. The one part of the Mark Heard song, "Eye of the Storm", that I dearly love is where he sings..."The friends of God suffer no permanent harm." Emphasis on the word "Permanent".  There is nothing in this world that can separate me from the love of God. Everything that can happen to me, no matter how bad, is only temporary. I will die eventually. I will find out the truth of what I have staked my very life on. I will stand before the one who died for me, and I will worship Him like it's nobodies business. The things and events of this world will fade away in His presence, and I will live in the Glory of God for ever. Why, I can't even wrap my brain around that one. But I know that I know, way down deep inside me that it is a truth born from the heart of God who sent His Son to die in my place. A Son who paid a price for my sin that I could never repay.

I don't want this mornings posting to depressing or gloomy. The truth is, I want us all to dig our heels in a little deeper and say, "We're not turning back, no matter what happens." So here is what I rest in this morning. That no matter how dark and spiritually oppressive our society becomes...God is in control. No matter what I may face as a believer and follower of Jesus..God has me in the palm of His hand. No matter what happens to me, it is but a momentary light affliction that will pass away. 

So today, I will focus on Jesus, not on this world.
I will listen for His voice, and not the world's message.
I will seek His face, and not the world's agenda.

I will rejoice in my salvation, and not the destruction that is ongoing in this world.
I will tell my story..a story of hope, and not be a spreader of fear and depression.
Today, I will follow in His Steps, and not walk the broad way to destruction that the world is following.

He is a good God!

God on you...
mbb 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Finished


John 19:30
When Jesus had tasted it (sour wine), he said, "It is finished!" Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

Found myself kind of hanging around "the cross" this week. Not that I can ever truly escape it. The cross of Christ defines my life. What took place on that cruel instrument of death, opened the door for you and me to have life and relationship with God. Funny thing about the cross......all of humanity stands before it, not by choice but by truth. We all stand on equal footing at the cross. It doesn't matter what your social standing is..rich or poor. Education has no bearing on the message of the cross. The cross either draws you in, or it causes you to want to turn away. Such is power of truth, and the greatest truth one can know is the truth of who they really are. We are a race of beings in need of being saved. We are a humanity in dire need of having the power and penalty of sin ripped out of our very being, and in its place, a filling and overflowing of God's Holy Spirit. We have feasted on the dregs and filth of a sin table, thinking that we are living in fine dining. It's not until you embrace this cross that you realize the bounty and love God has for you.

As a kid, I use to wonder how God could love those who were a part of the crucifixion of Jesus. How could Jesus look down on the Roman soldiers gathered at the foot of where he hung, and say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!"?  How could Jesus not call down ten thousand legions of angels to dispense real justice on the crowd of religious onlookers? 

As an adult, I have a better understanding. Love! The pure diving love not born of this world, and not affected by sin. A love that held Jesus to that cross. It wasn't three nails and ropes that held him.....He could have come down off that cross and walked away. But the mission that he had come to complete called for him to die. Go all the way....see it through no matter what the cost. Anything less would have been failure, and you and I would have been doomed with a debt of sin that we could never repay. 

So when Jesus cried out, "IT IS FINISHED!"...
IT wasn't his life he was speaking of, although his life ended shortly thereafter.
It was an exclamation point placed on the mission he'd been given by his heavenly Father.

John 3:16
"For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, 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."

That message still remains...
The words of Jesus....."It is finished"...is why I burn with a fire to let others know that they no longer have to live under the curse of sin/addiction. Why? Because whatever power that holds you in the darkness has been broken. It is finished.

You no longer have to bow you knee to the bottle, needle or pill. Why? Because there is no longer a force stronger than what took place on the cross with Jesus' death. When those old voices come to your thoughts, and seek to pull you back into the death-darkness...remind them that whatever power they may think they have has been defeated once and for all time..."IT IS FINISHED!"


So maybe......
Just maybe, when Jesus cried out those three words from the cross..."it is finished".. It was a declaration of more than the end of his life and the work he had been given to see through to the end. Maybe it was more than the declaration about sin and it's power. Maybe....just maybe it was the eternal exclamation point, driven down into a world that rejected him and his message. A message that sin no longer ruled this planet and this humanity. A message that declared that the Kingdom of God was now firmly entrenched and there would be no longer "Business as usual" under the dictates of the devil and his minions. Now is the day of our salvation. Now is the time of our own "death and resurrection" from the power of sin.......the penalty of sin.....and the presence of sin.
Now is that don't set you on fire....
Your wood is wet.

God on you...

mbb

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Grace!


II Corinthians 12:9
Each time He said, "My grace is all you need. My POWER works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the POWER of Christ can work through me.

GRACE: The empowering presence 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.

I know that the focus of this blog is to write about addiction and recovery, but lets get honest. Addiction and recovery is just another flavor of sin. All sin is nothing more than rebellion against God. Rebellion can take all manner of forms. It can be full blow dog cussing God, telling Him He has no business trying to run your life.....
Or it can be as subtle as a silent unbelief that keeps you from accepting anything God offers. In other words, sin is sin. Last time I checked, we all are suffering from this condition. Left unchecked, the sin nature will follow you to the grave and beyond. It will continue to lie to you about your own spiritual ability. It will twist and warp the truth of God into a mental solution that only sounds right to you. It will use words like "Fairy tale"...."God would not do this"...etc....etc..In other words, it will create, in your mind, false answers to every bit of truth that God brings to you. Only the grace of God can break through this fortress of mental deception. Only the grace of God can empower you to move beyond this dangerous game that we play with our souls.


Recognizing our weaknesses puts us in a place where we can receive this empowering Grace from God. In another verse, Paul states that God's Power if manifested when he (Paul) is at his weakest point. We're not talking about a physical weakness. It's all about a heart or spiritual weakness that realizes only God has the power to impart to us the ability to go through whatever we are facing.

Paul writes in Philippians 4:12- "I have learned the secret of living in every situation (that I fact)". Notice what Paul said..."I have learned." That means that this incredible man who may be the most learned individual ever to receive this grace...had to learn about it. God taught...Paul learned. God gave...Paul accepted. I guess that means the key to following Jesus is to be teachable. Paul goes on to write, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." What falls under "All"....everything. Good situations...bad situation. Good circumstances...bad circumstances. No matter what Paul was facing, he could meet it head on and move through it because Paul realized that it was Jesus who was imputing power and ability to Him. Well, guess what? Nothing has changed. Certainly not Jesus. He will do today for you, what He did years ago for Paul. 


So, like Paul, I will close today's posting with the last verse of Philippians 4.
"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit."

God on you...
mbb

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Friend


Well, well....
What you have here is a slice of 1970. Three young guys, working out the harmonies to the Beatles "Hey Bulldog".  The guy on the far right is one Mr. Nelson Brown, bass player extraordinaire. That's me in the middle, and yes...I did have hair at the time. The one playing the Gibson is Mr. Gary Burttram. My friend. I don't use the word "friend" lightly. I don't much care for the "friend" tag that Facebook uses. I understand why they do it. Sort of a pseudo social term to indicate that just because someone wants to read what you have posted, they have be your "friend". Not the way real friendship works.


Went back to some old stompin' grounds yesterday. 
Very familiar, yet, at the same time, very surreal.
I got a text message yesterday morning that Teddy Burttram  had passed away.
Visitation was at 11 a.m. / Funeral at 1 p.m.


The Burttram boy's....Teddy and Gary. Now you talk about two eclectic individuals, those two fit the bill. I met Garry in the fall of 1969. My first quarter at Gadsden State. My good friend, Jim Bentley was taking art, and told me that he wanted me to meet this fellow that seemed like a kindred spirit to me. So I left my world of accounting and Western Civ., to journey down the hill to a magical place where strange characters lived....the art department at Gadsden State. There Burttram was.....sleeves rolled up....jeans, sneakers ....working on a water color painting of a woodland scene. This proved to be the beginning a long friendship that stretched out over more years than I care to count.


Gary was all up into music. Played guitar and piano. Wrote songs...sang songs and played in a number of bands. At this particular juncture in time, Gary and his brother, Teddy, were forming a new band....Caldwell Crossing. Teddy played sax and sang, they had enlisted the help of a two good friends..Danny Standford (lead guitar player) and Nelson Brown (bass player and singer). Now the drummer was another matter. If you're from this area and were alive back in the 60's, then you probably saw some car dealership commercials on T.V....O.Z. Hall Ford in Birmingham. The drummer was O.Z. Hall Jr., and an incredible drummer he was. We called him "Z"...why? Because he answered to it.

Caldwell Crossing was the first serious band I had ever played with. Up until that time, I had been with groups that were cover bands, playing whatever was hot on the charts at the time. Caldwell Crossing played a few cover songs, but they were writing original stuff which was pretty good, if you ask me. I kid you not, when Gary sat down at the piano and played, he sounded exactly like Paul McCartney. Spooky, it was. I knew that this was a special band.

I payed with Caldwell Crossing for about a year and a half. There was a parting of the ways, as is with any band. I moved on as did Teddy and Gary. Years went by and I saw Gary on different occasions. He was the type of friend that no matter how long it had been since we last saw each other, we could pick up as if no time had passed at all.

Fast forward to yesterday. Gary and I stood in the church, Teddy nearby as people passed by to pay their respects. There on a table next to Teddy's casket were pictures of Tedd through the years. memories...what a gift. There is a comfort in knowing someone well. A comfort that allowed a conversation that was years old, to be picked up and continued as if no interruption had taken place. This kind of friendship was like putting on a pair of old shoes that fit just right. They may be old and scuffed up, but they just feel right.

I've taken this jaunt down memory lane to say this.
Don't take for granted the people that pass through your life.
Don't leave things unsaid between yourself and them.

Tell them how much you love them.
Tell them how much you appreciate them.

Stay in touch, and don't let life dig a chasm between you and them.
Bottom line in this old world....
It's the friends you have.

The real friends, not the wanna be's.
Cherish the friendships, and let the memories of them warm your bones when the weather turns.

Rest now Teddy....
Be at peace.....

God on you...
mbb

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Rapha Prayer List


Psalm 78:7
So each generation should set its hope anew on God......

Every time I drive out to Rapha, the same thing happens.
I turn off of Hwy 77 and head down toward the camp...
As I make the turn, and the pond, and the cross come into view, I feel like I'm coming home. Around the curve and into the compound, I usually park under the tree that has stood guard over the camp for as long as I can remember. The day room....chapel....R.A. office..I see the cafeteria and the dorms. Memories come like rapid fire snap shots. I remember the night I had to come back to the camp to let a man know that his brother had died. I remember the time when the entire camp flooded and was under two feet of water. Then there was the pond that overflowed. It could no longer stay within its banks so it flooded across the road, over into the drainage ditch. Funny thing about this incident, was the fact that fish were crossing the road during this flooding. You could actually wade out and catch them with your hands as they went by. Memories.....I guess that is the best part of getting older...to be loaded to the gills with some good memories.

Some of the best memories I have are stories where prayers were answered. I believe in prayer...I know, I know..others do too. But I believe that there are more things not given over to God than we care to admit. Things that we think we can handle, or things that aren't big enough for us to take to God. That's a dumb way of looking at it. If your child came to you with a splinter in their hand, you wouldn't tell them "Come back when you've cut an artery or have a compound fracture". No! You'd take them, love them, and get that darn splinter out. Why don't we believe that God is concerned with every area of our lives? He is. This is why I take up prayer request on Monday, when I'm at Rapha. I don't cull any of the request as not being important. They all are. SO here's the list for this week.

1.) Man is getting custody of his eight year old son, once the man leaves the program. He is not real sure of his ability to be the father he needs to be. He told me that he needs God to do for him what he is incapable of doing for himself.

2.) The camp crud. Upper respiratory congestion...coughing...runny noses....and on and on. Pray for healing to those who are suffering from it.

3.) A wife continues to struggle with her husband being in treatment. But the struggle manifests itself in the form of trying to get him to leave. The man knows he needs to stay and get the help he needs. 

4.) Prayers for a healing. Man shared with me that his dad and his grandmother both have cancer. We need God to bring healing to these two, and that they may come to know Him better.

5.) Prayers for a father that has been diagnosed with a muscular degenerative disease.

6.) Prayers that the Spirit of God would cover the camp and that everyone would be uncovered when they seek to do wrong.

There you go...
Thanks for being a part of this prayer list.
I hope to update you on the prayers that we pray.
God on you...

mb

Monday, February 8, 2016

Your Mission, Should You Decide To Accept It


Great television show from the 60's.  A band of spies, who were given a mission that was seemingly impossible to carry out. Each mission was different and required some creative planning on their part to see it through to completion. Each week this IMF team (Impossible Mission Force) pulled off the impossible and accomplished their mission.

On the surface, what Christ has called us to is a seemingly impossible mission.
To live life under His guidance through the Holy Spirit at work in us.
To live life as ambassadors for His Kingdom.

Funny part about being an ambassador....you do not have the privilege or freedom to do or speak on your own. An ambassador can only say or do as they are directed by their government. We are called to operate and approach life in the same manner.
The government we are ambassadors for is the Kingdom of God.
The mission we have been called to is found in our everyday walking around, job site, marketplace life.
We represent the Kingdom rule of God to those around us who do not know Jesus.


Jesus had the same orders when He walked this earth in the form of a man.
John 4:34
Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work."
We see this call to "Finish the work" in step#12 of the twelve steps. "Taking the message to others."   Telling those around us what we have found and how we have been able to move forward out of the darkness of sin, into the new life and light following Jesus. Isn't that weird how Jesus referred to His mission? He called it "my food". He found spiritual nourishment and was sustained by the simple fact that He was going to do whatever His heavenly Father told Him to do. Jesus was the original NIKE Spokesman. "Just Do It!" Don't analyze what you think you should do. Don't roll around the pro's and con's of whether you should or shouldn't do what you have heard God instruct you in. Just do it!

I do know this from personal experience.
If I am truly trying to follow God....
And not my own desires and wants....
Then if I do choose wrong, or miss it somewhere along the way....

He will not let me fall into destruction, or a ditch I cannot get out of.
I'd buy that for a dollar...wouldn't you?

Like I said at the beginning of this post, life seems like a mission that is impossible to carry out. And there will be the temptation and thought to cut and run back to your old ways.
Don't.

All you have to do is today. All you have to take care of is today. All you have to focus on is getting through this day. Do that, and you may find that Mission Impossible turns into:
God on you....
mb

Little Life? Or Big LIFE?

Great story in the news today about scientist (gotta love these guys and gals) are doing a study to determine what death really is and ...