Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Running Late


No, there's nothing wrong with the picture above. It just represents how I felt this morning. Kind of upside down in a right side up world.
Internet was on the fritz, so I wasn't able to post Greene Street Letters.
Sorry about the Techno-fritzy-thing!

I'll pick back up in the morning...
Thank you for your patience...
God on you...

mbb

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prayer Request Tuesday


Luke 22:40
There He told them, "Pray that you will not give in to temptation."

I want to pray...
I want to learn how to be a man who draws the ear of God to his prayers.

I think maybe to become such a person means that you are walking in obedience to whatever God has called you to. I want to be able to pray like the Psalms. David had a way of just putting his business out there for God to hear.

I'm not so sure that God hearing our prayers is a matter of the heart and not our eloquence in speaking. That sometimes in our deepest pain, when all we can say is "Oh God...Oh God...Oh God" He understands exactly what we are saying. 


The one thing I want to stay away from is turning my prayers into a personal shopping list of my needs and wants. I want to be able to touch the heart of God on the behalf of others. I want to be a prayer conduit through which God can speak and reveal his plans to.I guess what I'm trying to say in all of this, is that I want to get better at this prayer thing. I think maybe the only way one can get better is to keep praying....keep listening....and study the Scripture.

Had a really good day at Rapha yesterday.
We've got a good group of men in the program at this time.
They have a hunger to know God better, and that is always a good thing.
I had 10 at the Monday Bible Study, which is a good number. We covered the temptation of Jesus in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. Looking at how Jesus stood his ground against the temptation thrown at Him by the devil. Jesus stopped the devil cold with each temptation by speaking Scripture at him. Maybe there is something to this knowing and studying the Bible. 


Here is prayer list from the guys:

1.) Prayer to get this recovery thing right. To know God better and become the man he needs to be. This is the only way he is going to be able to build relationship with ex-wife and family. 

2.) Prayer request for God to cover his girlfriend with peace as she is taking care of his business while he's in treatment. Also this girl is going through grief and loss in the death of her father.

3.) Several asked for that we would pray that God would grant them wisdom. I told them we would, but that according to James 1:5, they could ask and God would give it to them.

4.) One man asked that we pray that God would help him to stop cursing. He told me that he doesn't like himself very much when he does curse, but that it has been a part of his life for so long that he sometimes doesn't even realize he's doing it.

5.) There was a prayer request asking that God would grant him confidence that he would be able to finish the program, stay as long as he needs to stay, and then carry it with him when he leaves Rapha.

I want to thank all of you who participate in  prayer request Tuesday.
My heart is that each of these request be answered so that the hearts of these men will truly know that God is real and does care for them.
Thanks again...

God on you....

mbb

Monday, April 25, 2016

We Have Hope In Jesus


I Corinthians 15:55-56
O death, where is your victory....O death, where is your sting? 

Busy weekend....
Good weekend....

But behind all the speaking and worshiping was the shadow of grief and sadness.
Death had taken one....
Sheldon and Samantha Brown's son was killed in a motorcycle accident late yesterday afternoon.
How strange it was to stand on a stage last night with Todd Bagley and be a part of his worship team. To sing songs that glorified God while friends of ours were dealing with this terrible accident and loss of a son.


But isn't that all part of the mystery? Knowing that what ever has happened, God is still good. Oh our humanity will ask the same questions that have been asked for thousands of years. "Why my child? Why did he have to die?" Or "Where was God in all of this?" I am not going to sit here and give a theological explanation on the nature of God or His view of death. I am not going there because God's view of death is not how you and I view it.
It would not lessen the pain we feel when someone close to us dies.
It would not bring peace to our minds and hearts when friends suffer...
But beyond what we feel...
Beyond what we think, there lies a truth that has been challenged time and time again, and yet still stands.
God is good...


I love what Job said at the end of a day where he lost everything.
All his material possessions...
All his children....
Everything he had worked for was taken from him by our enemy the devil.

Job 1:20 - Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship God.
It goes on to say that with everything that happened to Job, he did not sin by blaming God for what had happened.

I truly do believe that God understands the loss and pain when death takes a loved one.
I believe that His presence and love comes to cover the ones left behind.

He is patient while we muddle through all the "why's " and the questions that have no answers. At least no answer on this side of heaven.

I ask that you pray for Sheldon and Samantha, and all their family.
Let's keep them lifted up in prayer before our Father.....
I want to close with a verse that was given to me by a good friend upon the death of my mother..This verse has grown to mean more to with each passing year.

Psalm 116:15 
Precious in the sight of the LORD is death of his saints.

God on you....
mbb

Friday, April 22, 2016

Blind Bartimaeus


Mark 10:51
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked.
"My Rabbi," the blind man said, "I want to see!"

Isn't it amazing how we are tagged with a label by others as we go through life?
I look at Scripture, and the first one that jumps out of my brain is "Rahab the Harlot".
I know that some have translated that as being Rahab the Innkeeper. I'm not the theologian so I'll not make an issue of it, but still my Bible says Harlot.
God has a way of removing those tags because if you read Matthew 5:1, you'll see where she is jut Rapha. No harlot or reference to such. I think maybe that is because of the power of forgiveness. God's forgiveness uproots and destroys anything the world has tried to saddle us with.

This brings me to "Blind Bartimaeus".

What a label. Too bad old Bartimaeus wasn't a Blues musician, then he'd have the licks and sounds to give creedence to the lablel. Truth be known, Bartimaeus' condition was the reason for the label....still it is a label, and labels have a way of defining us, don't they?
Funny part in this whole story, Bartimaeus' condition was beyond his control. It was something that happened. He may have been born this way, we're not told. But Bartimaeus ran into Jesus.

Jesus and His crew as moving through the city of Jericho and just happened to intersect where Bartimaeus had his "Begging for money" shop set up. Kind of like when you come off the interstate and run into those people who stand with the hand scrawled signs telling you why they need you to give them some money. Anyway, I digress. Bartimaeus heard from the crowd that it was Jesus that was passing by. Evidently he'd heard stories about this man Jesus. Stories of people being healed....the dead being brought back to life. Now here was the real deal Jesus passing by. One of the most beautiful things in the world is when desperation is coupled with hope, which produces a "what have I got to lose" action.

Bartimaeus begins to scream out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Now that's embarrassing. In fact those around Bartimaeus begin to yell at him to shut up.
Here this important teacher was taking a walking tour through their town and we have this mangy, old blind man messing everything up.....making everyone look bad. Do you know how Bartimaeus responded? He only yelled louder. He didn't care what others thought (now here's a whole other posting about how we need to get outside ourselves and quit caring about what others think). This was his moment. This was either going to draw Jesus' attention or it wasn't. To my way of thinking, Bartimaeus was having one of those moments where it's "Either heal me or kill me, but I can't go on this way!" Such a place is where real change begins to take place. We've had it with the world. We've had it with our state of living. We've tried everything in spite of knowing that Jesus is the real deal answer to our problems. Finally, with nothing left, we cast aside our pride and began to yell like Blind Bartimaeus. "Jesus!!!! Have mercy on me.....And He will. Healed not so that we can continue in our old ways, but healed to be like Bartimaeus.
The last verse of the chapter that has this story of Bartimaeus, reads like this....

Instantly the man could see.......and he followed Jesus down the road.
Maybe that should be the same for us this morning.
We allow Him to give us new sight...
Fresh vision....
And then leave everything and follow Him down the road.


God on you...

mbb

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Day --New Possibilities


Lamentations 3:21-24
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!"

4:02 a.m.
The house is quiet except for the sound of the coffee pot rumbling and sputtering to render it's morning offering. My wife is asleep down the hall in our bed room. She will be greeting her day in an hour. I love the mornings. I love the way my mind is clear and not cluttered with yesterday's concerns. I love the thought of having a new day in front of me. A day with possibilities. To be able to once again, at the beginning of this day, place my will into God's hands. Making a conscience decision that I am not going to run my life today. Oh, there will be decisions to be made, and not everyone of them will require God's help or direction, but He is there waiting to show me what's out there today.

I know that He has deposited His Holy Spirit in me. Can't explain it...don't fully understand it....I just know it to be true. Too many things have happened in my journey that cannot be attributed to anyone or anything except the hand of God. Isn't that just like God though? Jesus was always teaching and demonstrating the truth about the Kingdom rule of God, and when He finished, He left everyone with a decision to make. Either what they had just heard and seen was from God.........or it wasn't it. It's like the entire concept of salvation and relationship with God is built on the same question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:15 --"Who Do You Say I Am?" Who IS Jesus to me? I could give the book answer..."Oh your my Savior"....or "You're the Christ, the Son of God." But I think that our answer has to come from deep inside our belief system....that Jesus is the author of life. Jesus is the Payment for my sin that enables me to have this incredible relationship with Him. Jesus is who He claims He is...And He has the power and authority to do what He has promised He would do. That is who Jesus is to me. And all along the way, He has proved Himself faithful and true to His word. 


No matter what is out there in today....whether it is a blessing or a problem...whether it is life or death...Jesus will see us through. Scripture refers to those who follow Jesus as being "Overcomers" . Someone under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit, who does not quit. Is not deterred from the path they are being led down. They meet every obstacle head on, and rely on God to take them through whatever they are facing. That part of Christianity has not changed. I like to think of it as God giving us a spiritual backbone and some sand in our craw to stand up to life and say, "I will not back down and I will not quit. I may not know what the outcome will be, but my hope in God will not allow me to cut and run." I confess to you that this is my prayer for myself. I want to see this life all the way to the end....and when it's my time...beyond.

God on you...

mbb

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Assurance

Ephesians 1:13
.....And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving (sealing) you the Holy Spirit, who He promised long ago.

Worked in the yard yesterday. Not a bad day to do such. Good breeze...low humidity...got a lot done. But...(there's that dreaded word) I am sore and a bit punchy this morning. usually as I wake up in the mornings, God begins to formulate what He wants me to put on the Greene Street Letters, to the point that when I sit down at my computer, I have a topic and a Bible Verse. I know you may think the same thing happened this morning...but it didn't.

I was blank...
There was no one home in my mind...
The lights were out...

I sat staring at the monitor as if something magical was going to pop out at me.
There wasn't any "popping" going on.
But there was one word that kept floating through my thoughts.

The word? Assurance.
Being assured of my salvation.
A spiritual "knowing", if you will, that you have indeed been brought into relationship with the living God.
Assurance!


Not a flashy term...or even a popular one.
I can't remember the last time I even heard someone teach on the assurance of God.

But it is the cornerstone of our faith.
Assurance isn't something we can work up in ourselves.

It isn't me determining whether I'm saved or not.
It is God telling me that everything is now settled and I can be about this new life of following Jesus.

I don't have to doubt.
I don't have to fear..
I don't have to second guess myself.

I can know.
Well, that sounds kind of arrogant, doesn't it?
No, because it isn't coming from me...

Assurance is given to me, by God through His Holy Spirit filling me up.

I use to be consumed with doubt about my salvation.
In fact, if the truth be known, I was probably saved somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 times. I would go down to the front when the invitation was given, and it would be a sincere move on my part. Pray the prayer (and mean it), leave that place and in less than 24 hours be struggling with whether I was saved or not. At one point, I even thought that maybe I was "unsaveable".  Next Sunday...same thing over again. Hear the message...my heart would be touched...down to the front...say the words (and mean them)....leave.....doubt.


I can't pinpoint the exact time or day when I suddenly knew (with a knowing that wasn't coming from my own mind) that I had been saved. The doubt was gone. The fear had been replaced with a peace, and from that time forward I have never doubted my salvation.
Weird, ain't it.


I guess part of my dilemma was that I was looking for a feeling to accompany the whole salvation thing. As I've grown in this relationship, it has been made very clear that I don't feel things as some others do. But when God does move or is working in me, there is a knowing that happens deep inside to let me know what's going on.

Why have I written this today?
Maybe someone out there needs to  know that God will confirm your salvation.
That confirmation will come in the form of His Holy Spirit. The only one who can give us peace. The devil can't do that. Peace is the one thing the devil cannot counterfeit. Ain't that cool? 


God on you....
mbb

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Cross


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

On more than one occasion I have written, as well as spoken, that the verse from I Corinthians is my theology. I can never get away from it, even though my mind and heart desire to at times. I read Scripture with the shadow of the cross always in my mind. I am all about embracing the new life that Christ has offered me through my salvation. But new life cannot take place until there is a death to the old life. 

As much as I love Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, such would not be possible had it not been for the cross. Jesus said, "If any one desires to come after me, let him deny himself.....Take up his cross. He didn't say let each person come out of the tomb and be resurrected, did He? No. The cross is a reminder that it isn't me that lives....it is Him in me. I believe that every person who is born and takes this journey we call carries one of two things through life. We are either burdened down by the weight of sin, or we are lifted up through the cross of Christ. Both have a direction that we follow. Both lead to eternal life. But only one can bring us complete and whole into the presence of Jesus. That would be the cross.  The darkness of sin is a downward slope and, when traveled, causes a person to lose all sense of moral direction. Do you think someone simply wakes up one morning and decides "Hey, I think I'll be a pedophile today!". No! Such behavior is the result of a long journey down sin-slope. Do you think someone decides when they use for the first time, or take that first drink..."You know what? I think I'll lose everything and become an addict!" No! The darkness of sin upon the human soul destroy's and demands more and more of the individual. Demands, and keeps on demanding until nothing is left but the life of the individual. Then sin/addiction demands that!

The cross of Christ defines who I am.
It clarifies the direction I must take.
It is branded upon my heart and my soul, that I am His child.

Yet only God could take such an instrument of hate and torture and make it beautiful. How so? Because the cross became the place where my sins were paid for. The cross became the place where Jesus, my Savior, gave His all for me so that I could enter into relationship with my heavenly Father. 
The cross is the ultimate exclamation point that breaks the power of sin.
That's the cross of Christ.
It broke the power of sin....
It destroyed the penalty of sin...
And it removes the presence of sin...
Like I said, "For I determine to know nothing among you, except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Thanks for letting me share....

God on you...

mbb

Monday, April 18, 2016

It Truly Was A Great Weekend



Ephesians 4:16
He (Jesus) makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Deb Hooks snapped the photo of me at our 3rd Anniversary hoo-ha last Saturday night. Scary, ain't it?
It was a meeting for the books. Incredible worship, courtesy of one Todd Bagley. Todd has developed a style and sound that is unique when it comes to worship. Todd has begun to write songs that seem to hit the mark when it comes to a life of recovery. Of course that life is found in Christ, and Todd's lyrics and chords resonate with hearts that are present when he leads. Songs such as "Answer My Prayer" and "Farther On" all point to Jesus as the One and Only True Higher POWER.

The message came from the book of Hosea, and was about God's path that each of us are called to walk in this relationship we have given ourselves to. The Path is actually hidden from our sight until we make the commitment to leave our old life to embrace His life for us. My goal each week is that those present for the teaching receive at least one thing in their hearts that will spark a hunger to know God better. I guess you could say that VRC is all about planting "Jesus" seeds every Saturday night. 

This being our 3rd anniversary, we had our "Sandwich Supper" after the meeting. We had tables set up with all manner of sandwich fixings. There were soups, chips, and desserts that would make your tongue come out of your mouth and slap your brains. I enjoy these suppers that we have once a month. I love walking from table to table, sitting down and getting to know people who haven't come to VRC before. One person who'd never been with us, told me that God had directed them to our meeting. Their personal life has been one of turmoil, mistrust, and rejection by family. They shared with me that it was a new feeling for them to be in the middle of a crowd of people and not feel like the outcast. I got a chance to pray for her. She didn't make a commitment to God on Saturday night, as she told me that she felt unworthy to ask God to save her. But I know that God touched her and we will be praying that she make that decision to turn from her old life, and embrace this new one that Jesus has for her.  She was very grateful for the entire evening.
To me, that one event is why we do VRC every Saturday night. To reach the one with the message that you don't have to live the lies that addiction/sin tells you.


Last night, I got to attend Catalyst Recovery. I wasn't speaking, but simply wanted to go and receive for myself. It's nice to be able to attend a meeting, hang out with folks, and just be a part of the crowd.
The entire evening was one of worship and family.
Seth Barber and his core leadership have followed God in crafting a place where people feel welcomed. I saw several familiar faces, and each one came up to talk, to let me know what was going on in their lives.


The speaker last night was Jessica Haney, and what a speaker she was.
Incredible story of how God delivered her from her self-created darkness of addiction and rebellion. Sometimes it's hard to match up the story you're hearing with the person you looking at telling the story. To me that is a testimony of the restoration power of Christ. Jessica glowed with the presence of God as she shared her history of drug abuse. One more life snatched out of the darkness to shine for Jesus. 

I saw Amy Brown at the meeting. Amy heads up "THRIVING" recovery meeting that meets every Monday evening at the Vineyard. Amy is another of those incredible individuals who have a heart for recovery and those who are still trapped in the bondage of addiction. She shared with me some things she's got cooking that will be pretty incredible. God is laying on her heart some ideas that will benefit all the recovery meetings that take place at Gadsden Vineyard Church. As they say on TV, "Stay tuned for an important announcement."

So, as I sit here on Monday morning, I rest in the knowledge that we serve a good God. One whose heart is for the down and out. Those who stand on the edge of society, tossed aside on scrap heap of humanity. God sees the value of each life, as only He can, and is reaching down to take up from that garbage heap and reclaim them for His own.

Now that's what I'm talking about!
God on you...

mbb

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Art Of Separation



Tis a strange world we live in, is it not?
We celebrate the human will and spirit and the achievements it has accomplished.
Mountains that have been conquered and claimed by humans.
Feats of strength and stamina wrought by mankind.
We lift up our sports heroes....
We heap accolades on our musicians.
We give awards to our celebrities.
But all of us fall short, and pale in comparison to Jesus.
Somewhere in the midst of this false reality of the goodness of man dwells the truth of hearts that live in darkness. What's more there is a truth and power that comes from God that can separate us from the darkness that only leads to death.

I found out last night how the evil and ugly side of humanity lives in the same neighborhood as the innocent and perceived purity of all that is good with man.
The two really are next door neighbors even though one would not admit to it.
Given the right set of circumstances, all that is pure in the eyes of our own flesh, will open the door to all that is evil and invite him in.

I Corinthians 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Strange words, this verse.
What does it mean?
It means that the sum total of our knowledge of God is but a part. 
Even the greatest of theologians know only part.
It is for this reason that my theology is very shallow...........Just Jesus.
As Paul states in I Corinthians 2:2 - For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. That also is my creed.
If I dwell on the question of evil and good residing in the same neighborhood, I will come to no conclusion except for the fact that "there is none good, no not one." The very heart of humanity reveals the need of a Savior.  And the only one who can fulfill all the need is Jesus Christ. It is this partial "knowledge" of a heart that does not know Jesus that allows evil to flourish and prosper. It is the truth of God at war with the lies of Satan. This Kingdom war isn't about power or else God would have simply wiped clean all evil. It is about truth. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he simply "out-truthed" the devil. Truth uncovers evil and breaks the power of darkness. The greatest source of evil can be found in the human heart that does not know God. This is how the two inhabit this planet. This is the purpose of God to destroy the works of the devil. Jesus manifested in flesh, paid the price that sin demands so that evil would be defeated.

It would be a disparaging hope if Jesus were not who he claims to be.
That is why if you read verse 9 and 10  in I Corinthians 13, you will find the hope.

"For we know in part and we prophesy in part but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."
When the perfect comes.
When Jesus comes.
One who is perfect will destroy the veil between this world and the next and we will stand face to face.
It is then that all we lay claim to believe in will be revealed as truth.
This is the season for salvation. Now is the day of His great salvation to those who believe and receive.
Seek the Lord while He may be found.
Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.
Believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead and you will be saved.

Praise God what a Savior....
God on you....
mb

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Jesus And The Discipline To Live


I Thessalonians 5:4-8
   But you aren't in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won't be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief. For you are all children of the light and of the day. We don't belong to darkness and night. So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.
  Night is the time when people sleep and drinkers get drunk. But let us who live in the light be clearheaded (sober minded), protected by the armor of faith and love, and waearing as our helmet, the confidence of our salvation.

Lot of phone calls this week (so far) from people who are not doing well in their recovery. Some are doing nothing for their recovery. Why would we expect things to be different if I've given up on following the discipline that recovery requires. As a mentor of mine once told me...."Jesus will save your soul....but He won't keep you sober."
What does this mean? it means that we are given the power and ability to live a life of following Jesus. But the power and ability have to be played out under certain conditions that are defined by the discipline I adhere to. 

I attend church, not because I have to....but because I have a desire to.
I attend a church where I have found like-minded people who are supportive and encouraging to me to keep on, even when life gets hard.

I study the Scriptures. As John Wimber stated on many times..."The Bible has to be a practical book to instruct us in practical living." In other words, the Bible gives me understanding that the Holy Spirit living in me will use to point me in my choices, and in my daily life.

I pray. I talk to God. I learn to hear Him speak to me. That little voice in your head that sounds a lot like you....sometimes God speaks through it. He speaks in our dreams (not all dreams are God dreams....sometimes they are just Pork skins and Mt. Dew that you ate and drank right before you went to bed). God speaks through others we run into. God speaks to us in natural events that happen around us. Bottom line is that we open our hearts to receive what it is God is trying to tell us.


Part of this discipline of a recovered/saved life is to allow the Holy Spirit to change our character. Notice what the Scripture says in Galatians 5:19-23 in describing the character of a life lived outside of God's will.
"When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: Sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God."
Pretty bad list, isn't it? And this is what happens when we try and live and rule our lives outside of God's will for us. 

But look what happens to us as we turn will and life over to the care of God. Look what happens when we allow God's Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.
"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is not law against these things!"
What a drastic change....
A transformation that happens as we turn loose of our own ways, wants and desires to control everything, and simply allow God to work in us.
This is the heart of recovery.
A change of heart and will brought on by God's Holy Spirit....

Is evidenced by the change in our behavior toward others and ourselves.
Maybe this is food for thought today...
Does your life resemble the first list (sinful nature)

Or do you find yourself in the second list (Fruit of the Holy Spirit)?

God on you...
mbb

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Happy 3rd Anniversary To VRC



Ephesians 4:15
Instead, we will speak the truth in love...growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of His body, the church.

Today, April 13th, is the official 3 year anniversary of Vineyard ReCovery.
In some ways, it seems like we started last month, and in other ways it seems like we've been doing this for a gazillion years.

Back in 2013, things were coming to a head in my life.
I was at Rapha, but I wasn't filling the role that God had called me to.

Instead, I had made choices that moved me out of being the pastor there, and into the classroom as a teacher/counselor. Not where God wanted me.
On February 8th of that year, what is now the VRC Worship team was asked to lead worship for the Gathering recovery meeting. Something unusual happened that night as we played. The music, the room, the people all had a familiar feeling to it. It reminded me of how our previous recovery meeting at the Vineyard felt. There was power and a presence of the Holy Spirit that filled the room that night. The next night was our regular service at the Church@Rapha. On this particular night, the message carried a lot of power as God used it to touch the hearts of those present. Then on Sunday Night, I spoke at Seth Barber's meeting and ministry seemed to be the focal point. Three nights in a row, three different things in each meeting was emphasized. Friday=worship...Saturday=the Word....
Sunday=ministry. On Monday morning as I was revisiting the weekend, it suddenly dawned on me that I had never done three services back to back to back in the entire time I had been a pastor. With that realization, I was filled with a desire to come back to the Vineyard. It was almost a feeling of homesickness. I still turn in my journal to the entry of that day, reading the prayer that I had written. "Oh God...I want to go home. I want to return to the Vineyard. I want to do what you created me to do." 

Long story short, that set everything in motion.
I resigned from the teaching slot...
Got permission from the powers that be at the Vineyard to use the room on Saturday nights. Gathered up the core leadership from the Church@Rapha and explained what God was leading us to do. They were all on board with this move.

It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't been or isn't a part of what we're doing exactly what VRC is all about. First off, in all my prayer before we had our first meeting, God began to direct me in how this was going to work.


#1 -- In no uncertain terms, God told me that this was His meeting. I was to stay out of the way trying to run it. I was simply called to filled the role as pastor and facilitator. Got it! Stay out of the way.

#2 -- It was going to be a small meeting as far as numbers go. What we found out over the course of meeting is that we were to focus on "THE ONE". The one person who shows up and needs God. It may be for healing...it might be for salvation...it may be just a reassurance that God is real and  cares for them. No matter what, we were to be about the one.

#3 -- Even though we were to be a recovery meeting....And even though we believed in the 12 steps....Our message was to be about the "POWER" behind those steps.In other words, we are all about Jesus.

#4 -- We were to be a people who loved as Jesus did (er...does).We're not to excuse sin or condone it...but we are called to love and point the way to Jesus.

#5 -- VRC is about growing and becoming spiritually mature in Jesus.All of us! Not just the people who are still in addiction. We allHave this call on our lives. If we are not growing then how can we lead anyone to Christ? 

Every week we gather, we are expecting God to come and meet with us.
We come expecting...
We worship with expectation....

And each week, He does not disappoint.
If you're free this weekend, drop by and join us as we celebrate this 3rd year anniversary.
love to see you...


God on you...

mbb

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Prayer Request Tuesday



James 5:16
.....The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

I had a really good day at Rapha yesterday. I have found that if I simply walk around the camp, someone will come up and want to talk. It may be a simple conversation with not much depth to the subject. Or it is a time of confession and honesty about where they are in their recovery. No matter which one it is, trust is being built and the Spirit of God is drawing things out that have been hidden for years. It's amazing how powerful confession and honesty is when it comes to recovery. One of the saying that was a part of the program was "You're only as sick as your secrets."
In other words, as you confess and break free from the things you've hidden over the years, you become healthy and able to break the hold addiction has over your life.

As always, I take prayer request when I'm out at Rapha, so here are the ones from yesterday.

1.) Prayer for clarity and purpose: This man is struggling with being able to focus and understand what it is he is to do,as far as his recovery goes. He does not have that much clean time, so he's still kind of foggy in his thinking. I assured him that we would pray for the Holy Spirit to come and aid him as his mind clears. At this point, the man seemed to be honest about his desire to move beyond his addiction.

2.) Prayer for health concerns: circulatory problems / back problems / This man confessed that he'd not taken care of himself like he should have. He was hesitant to ask prayer for healing, but I assured him that God was still in the healing business. In spite of his health issues, this man still has a good attitude and outlook on life.

3.) Prayer for acceptance: This was a request for God to grant him a heart and mind to accept whatever the future held. There are legal issues that are in this mans future, and he has come to the place where he is willing to say "Whatever you want for me, God, I'll be o.k. with." He confessed that there is still a part of him that simply wants to run away and not have to deal with all of this. Pray that God would grant him the power to do the right thing.

4.) Prayer for a daughter to find God in her life: Like some who are going through addiction, it has taken a toll or family. A divorce has caused great pain and separation between this man and his daughter. He asked that God would bring salvation to his daughter, and healing in their relationship.

5.) Prayer for comfort and strength: This man's girlfriend's Grandfather is dying of cancer. He asked for prayer that the family would find strength and comfort during this time.

6.) There were several request for focus and strength to stay on this journey of recovery.A desire to not go back to old ways of thinking and old ways of living.

Thanks for being a part of this prayer effort.
This Saturday night, we will be celebrating our 3rd anniversary of Vineyard ReCovery. Come out and join us as we share in worship, teaching and a "Sandwich Supper". Meeting starts at 7 p.m. /  Hope to see you there!

God on you....
mbb

Monday, April 11, 2016

It Was A Great Weekend.


Psalm 118:1
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

First off, thanks to all the core leadership of Vineyard ReCovery for taking up the slack so Vicki and I could celebrate our grandchildren's birthdays.
Ashley was born on April 3rd, and Tyler was born on April 6th, so each year we do a combined birthday party for them. We, the grandparents, take turns hosting the event, and this year it was our turn. So Saturday night we gathered around the Bynum table for laughter, food, desert and the making of a whole gaggle of new memories.

The one thing I'm most grateful for is that VRC isn't about me. It's about a group of people who collectively make up the leadership. It is a real blessing to me when I can take off a Saturday night and know that the meeting is in good hands. Seth Barber spoke Saturday night, and after talking with him yesterday, it seemed that the message was spot on. Debbie Handy took over leading worship, and this was her first time back to lead since her hospital stay last year. If I can truly say anything, it is the simple fact that when Debbie leads, we are taken into the presence of God in the songs she chooses.

After almost eight months....
In fact, one day short of 8 months...

The renovation work being done on our home is over.
Michael Heath, painter extraordinaire, finish putting down the shoe molding in the kitchen. Finished touch up painting, and was out the door.
It's been a long haul, but one that we were confident God was leading us in.

The house is almost 70 years old and was in need of a major overhaul if we wanted to continue to live here (which we did). 
We had been praying about having the work done, as well as provision for the job, for some time. Well, to put it bluntly, we'd been praying and seeking a plan from God for the past 10 years. 
His plans began to fall in place last April. I was at the church working when I felt led to do a word search to see if anything came up under foundation repair. We'd sought help from five different companies in repairing our foundation, but each time one would come out to survey the damage, we never heard back from them, and they never returned our phone calls. Needless to say this left us a bit fearful and paranoid. But a name came up on the word search and I placed a call to them. Long story short, they came out, surveyed under our home and told us that the repair was doable and would solve our current problems. This began our journey in rebuilding our home.

On some level, I also felt that what we were going through was a symbol or example of what God is desiring to do in our life.
Inspect our spiritual foundation: Are we solid in what we believe, or have we allowed cracks and settling to take place. If the foundation in our beliefs isn't solid then things from the outside will creep in and began to rot away the structure.


We had new windows installed: This gave us a new way of seeing things. It also brought more stability and an efficiency to our vision. Our old way of seeing live was now replaced by a new way. More clear and efficient. 

New siding installed:  The house was now wrapped in insulation before the siding was put on. Once again the old had been removed and the new applied. I think life with Christ is exactly like this. As we progress in our relationship, we are called to replace old behaviors (outward evidence of inward change) with new ones.  

New roof put on:  Here again, more efficient. Maybe that is the entire message behind our renovation. Becoming more efficient. Hebrews 12:1 tells us that "We are to strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up."
In other words, we become more spiritually efficient in our following of Jesus.

The attic was insulated: Keeping the outside on the outside. Cold or heat not allowed to penetrate out living space. This allows the inside to be a constant temperature. Isn't that the one characteristic we all strive for in following Jesus? Stability? That when the world seems to be crumbling around us at ever turn, Jesus is the one true constant that we can rely on every time. 

All in all, these last 8 months have been a learning process for Vicki and me.
Learning to trust God at every turn.
Learning that whatever He has planned for us will also include provision to see it through.
Learning that we have to remain patient even when it seems as though nothing is happening.
Learning that our Father in heaven even cares about new kitchens and new bathrooms.

I know this may sound silly, but my wife has the kitchen shes always dreamed about courtesy of her Father.
For that I am grateful.
I know that at some point in the future, this old house may not be here.
But the lessons that we learned from it have been true and foundational to our growth in Christ.


Come join us this coming Saturday night as Vineyard ReCovery Church celebrates its 3rd anniversary......Going to be a hoo-ha!

God on you....
mbb

Friday, April 8, 2016

Learning A New Way



Matthew 6:34
So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries (troubles / problems). Today's trouble is enough for today.

Matthew 6:25
That is why I tell you not to worry about every day life----whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn't life more than food, and your body more than clothing?

Tomorrow can either be a magical place where anything is possible, or it can be the death trap waiting to swallow us. We can't control tomorrow. It doesn't bend to our will, no matter how hard we try to make it. It doesn't ask our opinion about how it should all fall out. It merely comes at us like a runaway train. None of us can escape tomorrow, not unless we die. 

Sometimes the power of "Tomorrow" is so overwhelming to a person that they decide to go ahead and check out from this life. If you re drowning in the darkness of despair and hopelessness, tomorrow can be a monster, especially when you realize that tomorrow is forever. It isn't just about the day..it is the conclusion that there are "day's" out there...stretching to the edge of our comprehension and beyond. Here, in today, we are moving forward with no answers as to our problems or situations. We seek to hide from tomorrow. We don't want to face it. We are hobbled by the all to familiar "fear of the unknown".....which it tied hand and foot to "Fear of the future".

So what's up with Jesus?
Telling us not to worry about tomorrow...what's up with that?
The message that Jesus gives is very simple. Trust him with all our tomorrow's.
Trust him  with tomorrow...
Follow him today.

That's the plan.
Of course this plan goes off the rails if you haven't answered his call to new life.
Some refer to this process as being "born again". You may have heard it called "being saved". I'm not real interested in the moniker you attach to it, as much as the end results. 


If you drop down in Matthew 6 a few verses, you'll read this tidbit of wisdom that Jesus shared.
"So don't worry about these things, saying 'what will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?' These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live rightly (by following the leading and direction of God's Holy Spirit living in every believer) and he will give you everything you need."

In other words, if I fill up my today with "JESUS"...then I am setting in place the direction and instruction that will take me into my tomorrow. Whatever is out there in tomorrow waiting on me can be dealt with when tomorrow arrives.
Now I don't mean for this to sound like some sort of pie-in-sky-puppy dogs- unicorns-and rainbows kind of existence. Life fills up our every waking moment and as we wall know..."life is messy". What I can rely on and trust in is the simple fact that God is with me to help me navigate every twist and turn that I face. He is faithful even when I'm not. He is there for me, and in me even when my old thoughts come back and tell me to run away. That is truth that can free you from old thoughts which lead to old habits.
Chew on this a while and see what you think?
Could this be the life you've been searching for?

God on you...

mbb

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Where's The Measuring Tape?


Matthew 16:18
........."I will build my church".

Psalm 127:1
Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.

Somehow, I really believe that God is the one who builds the church. Not me.
Oh, I can implement programs and set an agenda, and even do it His name.
But such a church would be built on human effort and concepts rather than the leading of the Holy Spirit.


There is one question that comes up from time to time that I am asked, and I hate it. Don't get me wrong, the question usually comes from well meaning people who are interested in what's going on at VRC. What is the dreaded question? "How's your church doing?" How do you answer such a question? I know what the answer is that the person who asked the question is looking for. I know that the American measurement for churches is "How many people come to your meetings?" And "How big is your budget?"
Or as a fellow pastor used to put it...."It's all about the Nickles and the Noses". What should be the measurement for a churches success? Or should we even go about measuring our churches? 

Number #1 is the simple fact that church = people. If someone mentions the word church, and the first thing that comes up in your mind is a building, you've missed the point.
Church is flesh and bone gathered to worship God.

Church is fluid and comes together at different times during the week, only to move out like the evening tide to their respective homes and communities.
Church is people.
That being the case, maybe the only measurement (if we won't to do such) is to be the quality of people that is produced through the gatherings.


Do the people who gather at church love Jesus?
Are they falling more and more in love with Him?
Are they really following Him in their daily lives?
Are they feeding the hungry?
Are they helping the poor?
Are they telling their story to others?
Are they hungry to read and study His Word?

Do they walk in this manner during the week when they are away from the meetings?
That is the measurement of a church.
Do we live the way Jesus has commanded us to?
Do others see Jesus in us?

I have no desire for them to see a Vineyard Jesus.
I won't the real-deal Jesus we read about in Scripture to the one they see in me.

To be a part of a group of folks who live like this would be the goal or way of life I would want to be a part of.

Now don't get me wrong.....
With any building process, there will be messes. There will be problems. There will be hurt feeling and a desire to pull away from such. But there is also great forgiveness that is given and should be returned by those who are a part of such a project. You see, to me a church is never finished when God is building it. There are always old things, old habits, old behaviors, and old thoughts that have to be replaced with new ones. The one thing I am most grateful for in my own life, is that even though I've grown older I still have a passion to chase after Jesus. This chasing involves seeing myself as I really am. But more than this, I see myself as Jesus sees me which isn't always very pretty. In other words, I am a work in progress.  


So I thing the next time someone asks me, "How your church doing?" I'll simply say, "We're a work in progress". 
Thanks for letting me share.

God on you...

mbb

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Love Is --


I Corinthians 12:31
So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.

Ol' Paul is getting down to the meat on the bone as he wraps up chapter 12 of I Corinthians.
That pretty heady stuff....
"Let me show you a way of life.....a way of doing business with each other and the world...."

Then he goes on to label this way of life as being "The Best Of All".
Seems to me that if Paul was hammering on this particular nail, we ought to maybe pay attention.

If you follow Paul's thinking over into chapter 13 you come to the realization that he's talking about America's favorite subject.....Love. Of course, a lot of people here in the good ol' US of A, have no clue as to what love really is. I would go as far as to say that there are a good number of folks out there who think LOVE=SEX. And these poor souls are walking around with a driver's license and can vote. 

You see, the devil hates the truth about what real love is. Anything that God has going on, the devil wants to lay hold of it and twist it and corrupt it. Change the definition of it so as to make us all feel that we are a progressive society. We're progressing all right. But did anyone stop to ask which direction we're progressing in? 

I sure that most of you, if not all of you, who are reading this posting have read I Corinthians 13, often referred to as the LOVE chapter. Paul goes down a list as to what real love is.
First on the list of love is Patient. I like this.

Paul writes that "Love is patient".
Love waits....
Love is a today presence. Love is....not love was.....or love shall be.

The one thing I have come to know is that love....real love...God-kind-of-love is a choice not an emotion. See here's where ol' slew foot (the devil--if you've never heard this term) wants to take the things of God and bring them down to humanity level of thinking. We took the word love and have attached all manner of syrupy, gooey, sugary, meaning to it. Now, don't get me wrong, love does stir our emotions, but our emotions do not define when we are in love, or when we aren't in love. As far as I read this thing, love is a constant for anyone who is chasing after Jesus.

My Bible says that God IS love.

You can't separate God from who He is. It defines everything He does. It colors every word He speaks. It is the power and fuel that causes Him to interact with us, His creation. Oh, but some will say, "Take a look at the Old Testament...you won't see God loving much there!" I beg to differ with you. Love is everywhere in the Old Testament. Do you think God just got up one morning and decided to kill everyone on the planet except for a man named Noah, and his family? No! God's heart of love defined a period of time where Noah preached to everyone who would listen about the coming destruction. Now who is really responsible if a warning was given (which was done out of God's love for the people) and no one heeds it. If you're walking toward a dangerous situation that could cost you your life, and I'm trying to turn you but you reject my efforts and wind up getting killed, then who is responsible? Me? Or You? I think that would be a big ol' capital U.

God is patient. His perfect will is that no one should perish. The way out of our darkness and sin has been given to us. We must choose His way of love. We must embrace His way of life.
I confess to you that I'm still working on learning how to love as God does.
It doesn't come natural to me, which only confirms how much more work God has to do in me. He's teaching....and I'm learning. I hope what my wife says about me is true. She has always said that I was very teachable. Maybe we all need to be about the kingdom business of learning how to love each other as God does, as well as those out there in the world.

God on you...
mbb

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Alabama Power Got Nothing On God




Isaiah 60:2
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.

I love this verse....I love the power that God displays and the reality of His love for us. Darkness....spiritual blindness has come down and covered the hearts of men. It almost reminds me of the passage from Genesis where it describes the condition of peoples hearts during the time of Noah.

Genesis 6:5
The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
Did you catch that?
Everything they thought or imagined?
What falls under "everything?" Dude! Everything.

Now when I read those verses, I see hopelessness.
I see a complete saturation of evil and spiritual blindness.

In my mind, I see no answer or way out.
But when God looks down into the heart of darkness, He sees opportunity.

He sees lives redeemed and returned.
From this point, He offers life.
Even during the time of Noah, God was offering a way out of the condition that covered mankind. No one need have perished. But they did because they chose.....get it? Chose? They chose to reject God as being foolish and fairy tale. In fact if you truly look at the story of Noah, God kept reaching out to mankind until it got to the point to where there was only "ONE" righteous man left. God was, and is, patient and longsuffering toward us. We just don't always see it that way.

What I take away from the Isaiah and Genesis passage, is that God is greater than any darkness that would seek to cover my mind and heart to keep me away from Him. God is not intimidated by the devil or his doings here on planet earth. SO if you are reading this and you feel your heart strangely warmed, it might be God speaking to you this day. God desires to remove all sin and darkness from anyone who turns will and life over to His care. Now I don't know about you, but it sounds like a good deal to me.

The video I am attaching to this post is from some friends of ours who came up last April and spent an evening worshiping and sharing. I will warn you that you need to be careful when the video plays...it possesses a strange ability that will cause you toes to tap and a smile come to your face.
Sorry about the ad that has to play before the music starts....just look over it.

God on you...

mbb

Monday, April 4, 2016

Addiction: An Equal Opportunity Destroyer


"Addiction is cunning....baffling.....powerful...........and patient."
                                                                   
The statement above comes from a section of the "Conquering Chemical Dependency" course I use to teach at Rapha. It seems as if this thing that drives people to make bad choices even when they know the outcome, is living thing. Well, you and I both know that the power that overtakes someone in addiction is found in our "old nature'...the nature that was born out of sin. 

We delude ourselves into thinking that we are the captains of our life. We run the show. We don't need anyone else telling us what to do.....even God. When we reject the truth that God shows us about ourselves, we are smack dab in the middle of sin. You see, to me, sin is not the deed or action that we take...it is the heart motive that tells us we don't need God. That thing that controls our thoughts and desires. I have read it a gazillion times, but I have never found anything better than how the Apostle Paul says it in Romans 7.

Romans 7:15-20
I don't understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do the very thing I hate. I  know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience shows that I agree that the law is good. But I can't help myself, because it is sin inside me that makes me do these evil things.

 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. 
I want to, but I can't.

When I want to do good, I don't.
And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it. The sin within me is doing it.


This sin nature is real....
It is the culprit at work in us that drives us toward bad decisions.
Every person born comes into this world with this nature at work in our lives.
If you don't believe me....

Get yourself a room full of 4 year old kids.
Put one toy in the middle of the room and watch what happens.

It will eventually become a battle to possess the one toy, and when it's over and one kid has the toy, what are they saying to the others?  "Mine...Mine...It's my toy."
Now did we have to teach the kids to be greedy? No, we didn't.
It came natural through that old nature.


Truth is...all addiction begins with a choice.
We choose to do the wrong thing.
We may not consider the consequences of our actions, or we may even deceive ourselves into thinking that we will not become addicted, but we choose anyway.
There are several out there in the world peddling their remedies for those in addiction.
Take this and you'll be cured.

Try this and you'll never use again...
Come to our program and we'll set you on the right course....
Ah...but Jesus.
He promises something greater that sobriety.
Jesus promises that if you come to him, he will give you life....

Life abundant. Now in this abundance, you'll have sobriety, but there is so much more when you come to Jesus.

In the Romans passage, Paul was laying out his case in recognizing the power and effect that sin had on his life. Verse 24 and 25 is the solution to Paul's sin problem ( And ours)


"Oh what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is found in Jesus Christ our Lord.
So you see how it is. In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Sounds simple doesn't it? A turning of will and life over to Jesus.
It is simple.... sin complicates the obvious. Skews our perception and tells us what to believe. It makes a lie seem like truth and makes the truth seem like a fairy tale.
Don't fall for the lie.....

God on you..........
mbb 

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...