Friday, July 29, 2016

HELP ME!!!


I Chronicles 5:20
....They cried out to God during the battle, and he answered their prayers because they trusted in Him.

Battles....
Warfare.....

The dark place of the heart and soul....
Forces of evil come against you and batter you until you have no strength left.

Those seemingly soothing voices whisper soft and low..."Give in....you know you want to."
"Give up...you can't win, and besides, you don't really want to win, do you?"
Spiritual conflict.....

This is the truth for the life of all who are followers of Jesus.
You have an enemy (the devil.....Yes! Virginia, there is a devil) who seeks to destroy you.
To stop you from believing.
To discourage you and create such doubt and fear within that you simply give up.
Two things I truly like about the verse above.

1.) They cried out to God......
       a.) It wasn't a mental exercise. It wasn't something they simply thought about, it was a reality. It was a voice that wells up from within and explodes into the heavens. Very simple....prayers go up...answers come down. You know....what goes up must come down. 
       b.) The said "Crying out" took place during the battle. IT is at the point of realization that you, in your own strength, cunning intellect, and ability cannot win, that you cry out to God. Truth be known, the crying out part should take place before the battle actually begins, but sometimes we find ourselves caught up in a spiritual conflict before we even realize that is what is taking place. No matter.....Cry out to God!!!

2.) The Trust factor:
      a.) God answered their prayers because they trusted Him. The literally believed that God was who He claimed to be and would do what He claimed He would do. Trust........cling to..........rely on........believe in......they trusted God and He answered their prayers. We read the truth about this relationship with Jesus we have been called to in John 15:5

"Yes, I am THE vine and are the branches. Those who remain in Me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me, you can do nothing.
Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit living in me......Me allowing the Holy Spirit to not only work on my character, but actually instruct me in my daily decision making is the key. Jesus goes on to say...."Apart from me you can do nothing."
You can't get more clearer than that, can you? I think not.

    
Do my prayers echo my trust in God?
Or are they simply desperate cries to get His attention and hope that He intervenes in my "battle?" I want to trust him more with each passing day and the only way this is going to happen is to trust him with my life. My heart knows that He is trustworthy, but my head tells me different..."What if God doesn't come through this time? What if he leaves you high and dry?" 
That is why Proverbs 3:5-6 is so important to me:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your path straight.
This is life changing truth. It takes our focus off of our own ability and intellect and places it solely on Jesus. All part of learning to follow Him and not our own way, desires and talents.

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Year Without Peggy


Well, Peggy.....
It's been one year since you died...
365 days of "first's".
First Thanksgiving without you...
First Christmas without you....
Family Birthday's that you weren't there to attend....
A year without you.

I don't know who said "Time heals all wounds", but they missed it by a country mile.
Time doesn't heal anything....
It merely becomes a measurement from the event that brought the grief and pain.
Time is an opportunity to learn to cope with the pain of loss.

Time just puts distance from the event, that's all.
So as we move through the day.....
As we take care of whatever business God may lay on plate....
We have hope.....
We have a promise from the one who does not, nor cannot lie.
That where He is, we shall be also.
You know, too be honest with you, I don't see how families deal with the death of a loved one, if they don't know my Jesus.

In such a place, there exists no hope...
Just loss.

I will not choose to dwell in such a place.

If anything, Peggy, we have been made aware of the place you held in our family.
The things that we took for granted that you always did.
I could count each year on getting a birthday card from you....
Not only me, but every one of your brothers, sister and sisters in law....nieces and nephews....all got cards. Not a big thing, but it was who you are. You loved family.


Because you and Vicki worked together for 30+ years, you were around our sons the entire time they were growing up. You are more than just an aunt to them...you were like a second mother. You were able to transfer those same feelings over to Tyler and Ashley when they were born. I am so thankful that you were around to see my sons grow into the men they are today.

I guess I could go on and on, but I will stop.
So here this morning, July 28th, I will spend the day in memories.
Memories of the day you died.....
But more than that memories of the life you lived.
We are richer because of knowing you.
Know that you are loved....
Know that you are missed....
And we will see you shortly.....
we love you.....

mbb


My Thoughts On Death:
The vacuum that death brings to a family is painful..
We are overwhelmed with grief, sorrow and sadness..
The only thing that heals those raw, exposed wounds of grief is hope....
But not the kind of hope the world offers.
What brings relief in the middle of this vacuum is knowing the One who holds life in His hands....

That the life He brings to us is not measured in days, weeks or months...
His hope stands outside of time...
His hope is greater than anything this world could ever dream up.

His hope is found in His love for us.

Jesus sees death differently than you and I do...Amid all the verses and chapters in the Bible is one verse that opens the door to how He views death.
Psalm 116:15
The LORD cares deeply when His loved (saints) ones die.
Such care and love is spilled out on our side of eternity.
Yes, I hurt for my wife who gets up every morning without her sister being here.
But the hurt I feel, and the hurt she feels is tempered by the simple fact that because of our salvation we shall see Peggy again at some point in the future.

That is a promise.
God on you...
mbb

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Can't Get Away From The Blood



I Corinthians 6:20
For God bought you with a high price........

I've been writing a daily journal since July of 1991. Yesterday, while going through these journals, I came across a dream I had back in 1999. I had forgotten it, but as I read through the entry, it all came back with great clarity.

In the dream, I am in a room that is dark.....a stage is at the front of the room and it is well lit. I am standing at the back, and all I can make out are the silhouettes of those in front of me. A man steps to the stage and I am suddenly aware that this is an auction. A young girl is escorted from off stage into the bright lights. She is in shackles and chains and is crying. The more she cries, the more excited those in the room become because those in that room were demons. The master of ceremonies reads the particulars of this young girl and she is forced to move back and forth on stage so those in the room can get a good look at her.....then the bidding starts.....

The auctioneer yells at the top of his lungs...."What is your bid for this young thing?" The bidding starts, but seems to be focused between two of the demons....One called "Prostitution" and the other "Human trafficking". Each one desires the soul of this young girl and the bidding continues at a furious pace.....going higher and higher with each bid by the demons. The young girl has now collapsed to the stage, and has given up. There are taunts and accusations from the crowd directed toward this young girl. The bidding goes higher and higher. The young girl fully understands that there isn't any way she could ever buy her freedom....that her future is bound in the hands of these dark spirits.

I keep wondering why doesn't someone do something to save her.

I felt a hand on my shoulder, and a voice says, "Why don't you bid?" Before I can turn around, I answered, "I have no money!" As I turn, I see an outline but cannot make out the face of the one who spoke to me....
"Make a bid."

"I have no money."
"You have something far greater than money," the voice said to me.

"Stretch out your hand and open it."
As I did, the voice held his hand over mine. I felt something drop into my palm, and straining to see what it was, I was surprised.

It was a single drop of blood.....
His blood.....
He instructed me to go forward and place my bid.....

"A drop of blood?" I thought to myself....this is crazy. They are not going to take this as currency, and they certainly aren't going to let her go....

The voice insisted that I carry through with the bidding of the single drop of blood.
So I began to make my way through the crowd, to the front.
I cried out...."I want to make a bid?"
The attention in the room turned to me. The auctioneer sneered and said, "What is your bid, my uninformed friend?"
"This," I said, as I opened my palm.
There was a collective gasp as the room grew silent....
Cries of "No fair" and "This isn't right" began to grow, but I stood my ground.

I approached the stage to where the young girl lay sobbing.
I asked, "Do you want to be free?"
Through her tears, she whispered......"Yes."
I held out my palm over the her, and as the blood fell from my hand to the shackles and chains that held her, they fell away.

I needed to remember this dream.
I needed to remember the power that the blood of Christ has over sin, darkness, evil and the purveyor of all of this...the devil.

The blood has not lost power....
It hasn't lost purpose....
And it stands today as the only thing that has power over sin, hell, death and the grave.


Revelation 12:11
And they have defeated him (the devil) by the BLOOD OF THE LAMB, and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.
Maybe we need to remember what Jesus has entrusted us with to war against the Kingdom of darkness.
Maybe we need to remember that we have been given authority (AND POWER) to come against all sin in the name of Jesus.
Maybe we, as followers of Christ, need to remember that we are covered by this blood as we move daily through this world.

Because when you boil it all down....
It's about Jesus....
The cross.....
And the blood....

Need I say more?

God on you....

mbb

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Ramble Tamble Thoughts



Psalm 51:12-13
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels (sinners), and they will return to you.

The work of God always begins with us....
If we aren't brought into the kingdom work of change in our own personal lives...then how can we tell our story to others. In fact, we don't even have a story. Maybe that is why the very last step of the Twelve Steps is the "going out to share the message with others" step. 

Step #1-3 ---have peace with God
Step #4-11...have peace with myself
Step #12----Give it away.

I love the verses from Psalm 51...(correction) I love the entire chapter. King David has been uncovered because of his affair with Bathsheba. Not only that, but David had her husband killed so he could have Bathsheba for himself.
David turns back to God.....and there in the pain, embarrassment, the guilt, and the other emotional baggage that comes with being uncovered....David confesses, repents and turns back to God. But it is the way he phrased his return that always gets me.
Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation!

A complete understanding that God is the one, and the only one, who can make us right before His presence. God is the only one who can cancel sin and raise us back up to a place where we are filled with Joy. From this place of restoration, we can begin to share our story with others.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

yesterday was a kind of hallmark day for me. I drove out to Rapha for the Monday Bible study, and was in my office getting my things together, when a thought floated through my brain. Wasn't a big thought, only took a millisecond to make the trip. But it did catch my attention.  "Have your class in the chapel".  Huh? Have class in the chapel? But I don't like the chapel since it was gutted by the owners. It just wasn't the same as it was when we had church there on the compound on Saturday nights. "Have your class in the chapel". I walked over to the chapel, opened the door and stepped inside. It felt sterile and it echoed when you walked through the room. As I moved to the front of the room, I was flooded with memories....then God spoke. "You have memories of all the things that took place in this room....the salvation's...the teachings....the deliverance's......but did you notice you don't have any memories just about the building." He was right, I didn't. So basically what came next was a big ol'  "Get over yourself, and be about my business."  In fact, I came to realize that part of my hesitancy about being in the room had no basis for fact at all. It was a room. Granted a room where we saw God do a lot of cool stuff, but a room none the less.

So, yesterday, we had Bible study in the chapel at Rapha.
It was the first time I had taught a class in the chapel in over 17 months. Do you know what was wild? At the end of the class, when I began to pray over the ones who had attended, God came in power. We saw the beginning of a healing that came to one of the men. May not seem big to some, but it was confirmation that I was in the right place, doing what God wanted to be done at that time.

I guess from now on, I'll be having my Bible studies in the chapel.
Who knows what God is doing in this old/new room.

But I'm anxious to see and experience His goodness and grace.

God on you....

mbb

Monday, July 25, 2016

I Will Miss You, Bruce Bolds


Psalm 133:1
How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony.

During worship practice Saturday, before VRC cranked up, I received a phone call. A phone call to let me know that Bruce Bolds had died. I'm never very good at hearing such news, but this particular one really shook me. I had talked with Bruce before we went on our family vacation, and he was upbeat as usual. We shared prayer needs with each other, as well as a few memories. . You see, Bruce and I have a history that goes back to my time at Rapha. Even now, picturing Bruce in my mind, all I see is smiles.....big toothy grin.....and that accent. As Southern as I talk, Bruce never really escaped his Northern sound. We were as different as night and used tires (don't ask me where that example came from), but there was just something about this guy that you just couldn't help but love him. He was boisterous, loud, but also had a gentle side.

Bruce was on a journey to shake off his addiction and find real life. He'd done enough time in the darkness that comes with addiction. It was a hard road for him, but he kept pluggin' away. I think maybe this is what the Bible means when (in the book of Revelation) it speaks of "Overcoming".  To me overcoming means to not give up....to keep following and chasing Jesus in spite of the falls and tumbles that throw you into the ditch. You don't stay there, you pull yourself out, confess, receive God's forgiveness and get back on the road. This was Bruce.

Bruce and I stayed in touch over the years, especially after he landed in Alabaster. He would message me on Facebook, as well as call me early in the morning. Bruce knew that I was an early riser, so he would call to talk about things he was learning as he studied scripture. He was an inquisitive soul, and was like a sponge. Invariably, Bruce would call me every few months asking for a stack of the "DECLARATION" cards we used at Rapha.  

"Bro. Mike, can you send me a stack? I'm giving them out to others who seem to be struggling with their identity." That was Bruce. He seemed to be the unspoken pastor of the home he was living in. Always reaching out to others with the love of God. 

Going back to the conversation he and I had before our vacation, I told Bruce that I was going to make my way down to Alabaster for a visit, and that we would go out for lunch. Life seemed to have gotten in the way, and I kept thinking "I've got to get down there." When the phone call came about Bruce's death,  all I could think of was not having made  that visit a priority. This will stay with me.

Well, if I could say anything to Bruce it would be...."Man, you made it. You have beat the very thing that tried to kill you and steal your life. Now go rest. I'll see you soon."
Life is all about learning HOW to live.....
Life is also all about learning how to die.....

I am a richer man for having known Bruce Bolds.
He taught me more about the art of learning how to be content in Christ than anyone I know.

I never heard Bruce complain or whine about his lot in life.
He was always grateful and thankful.
This I will take for myself and move forward in my journey.
I will miss you, my brother.

God on you....

mbb

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Carnal Church Part I




Matthew 16:18
(Jesus Speaking)....."I will build my church!"

If ever there was something that I am well aware of (me being a pastor) it is the simple truth that God has entrusted to me a part of His kingdom work here on planet earth.

The church belongs to Jesus....
He is the head....not me....not a committee. Yet what we call the church has become built on the framework of a business. More energy is spent in keeping the framework intact and functioning than probably is necessary. Before we go any further, this is not going to be a rant where I lump every church in the same ecclesiastical basket. There are some really good churches out there who love the Lord and are serving and seeking those who don't know Jesus.


I remember, some years back, Vicki and I had gone to lunch at one of our local eateries. There were a group of men sitting across from us, deep in conversation and very animated about their topic. Turns out they were pastors of local assemblies in our county. What was their topic? How they could advance in their "job" and in their "career". The next step in their journey as a pastor was to get a larger church where the benefits would be better, the salary larger and the staff bigger so that they would not have to carry so much of the load. I remember how uncomfortable I was as this conversation grew louder and more animated. Not saying these men were bad men....maybe a tad misguided. To be honest with you, I don't know why anyone would even want to be a pastor, unless God had called them to this work. 

Does a pastor deserve to be paid? Sure he does. Scripture says that a "workman is worthy of his hire". But, at the same time, if a person truly has a call on their life...they will do it no matter whether they get paid or not.

I hope that you take the time to listen to John Wimber teaching on "The Carnal Church". I listen to this series of teaching from time to time, to remind me of whose church it is. I will be posting the message in its entirety over the coming weeks. Feel free to share and pass along to others.

God on you.....

mbb

Thursday, July 21, 2016

What's Behind Door # 2?



O.k......it's 3:23 in the A.M. and I am awake....
In fact I woke up with this thought running rampant in my noggin...
Most of the time when such happens, it is God's way of letting me know what I should write about in the Greene Street Letters.
What was the thought?

You know how you have verses in Scripture that seem to be your favorite?
Or maybe they are what I refer to as those standards that everyone has heard.

Well, what about the verse that follows the "BIG" one that everyone has read or heard about? Such verses might shed some light into our thinking if we were to take a look. So let's do that.

I'm pretty sure that you might be familiar with Proverbs 3:5-6.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which paths to take.
Yep, the whole "trust God first" portion of scripture. Good sound wisdom for us humans who have a tendency to go off on a journey by listening to our own council and so-called wisdom. But what about verses 7 and 8?

Don't be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.
Wowzers! Could it be that being humble before God, and not letting my ego get the best of me is the (Dare I say it?) secret to this new life we've been wanting? Now when it says that we are to fear the Lord...that's not the kind of fear where you cower in the corner, afraid of what He might Do. Rather, it is the kind of fear that comes when you are suddenly filled with the understanding of who you are in the presence of. That this is the real-deal-God-that-I've-been-reading-about kind of fear. What's even more incredible is that such an understanding, coupled with applying it to our every day life, is a avenue in which healing comes to us. How cool is that?

Next Verse that we don't ever read or remember.
Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know that plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope."
I have taught this verse countless times as an encouragement for those who are not real sure about this God, and the future that looms out there ahead of them.
But if you go on and read verses 13 and 14, you'll see something that is part of this understanding these plans God has for us.

"In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you," says the Lord. " I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land."
Two things I see in the verse. First off, in 29:11 God told us that he had plans for us..good plans. But in verse 13 and 14, we see that finding out what those plans are begins with prayer. God says, "In those days WHEN you pray".....not IF you pray He will hear us. But coupled with this praying is the idea of searching for God...expending ourselves on a quest to know Him. It's not like He is totally hidden or off somewhere in a mystic place. Finding God actually means losing yourself. Getting "ME" out of the way so that I'm not the center of my own little universe.  Notice that the verse says that we are to search for him "wholeheartedly"....not half-heartedly. What does the Big Book of A.A. tell us? Half measures avail us nothing. This truly is an all-or-nothing quest to move from our old way of living into this new realm where we are learning to pray, listen, apply what we hear.

Then there is my favorite verse written by the apostle Paul that I have been defined by....I Corinthians 2:2
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
God showed me this verse back in the beginning when I answered His call to be a pastor.
This wasn't some cute verse that  would make me look like I was spiritual or better than others. No, it was a simple verse that would define my entire scope and understanding of theology. I was to go no farther that who Jesus is, and what the cross is all about. I'm o.k. with that. Oh, there are times when I wish I could unravel the mysteries of God in my teaching, but to tell you the truth....those thoughts usually are from my flesh. Me, wanting to look like some sort of spiritual hot shot or know it all, and just ain't me.

To be honest with you, the verse that follows I Corinthians 2:2 (uh...that would be verse 3) is more in line with your's truly.
"I Came to you in weakness---timid and trembling."

I don't think I'll ever get over this one.
Every time I stand to teach, it is one of those moments where my prayer is "Oh God...Oh God....Oh God...please don't let me mess this up!"
I don't want any part of Michael to get in the way of what God is doing. It isn't about me, it's all about Him.
Somehow I hope I never get use to this or push it aside.

May I always teach from a place of desperation where I need to hear Him.
Well, it's 3:58...
Time for my first cup of coffee.
See you tomorrow.

God on you...



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Where Have You Gone Thomas Paine?



Proverbs 21:16
The person who strays from common sense will end up in the company of the dead.

Common sense is (to me) defined as the collective view and understanding  that you build over the years, that helps you to deal with everyday decisions that have to be made.
Common sense tells me to not jump into traffic....
Don't stick the fork in the electrical outlet.....

and last but not least......
Don't forsake buying groceries and paying my bills so I can spend my money on drugs and alcohol.....
Common sense....


common sense seems to decrease the longer someone stays in addiction....
It seems to fall by the wayside as a different way of living is adopted and implemented....

So, as easy as it is to read the black part of the Bible, let's take a look at what the "White" part says....
What did the verse originally say?
"Person who strays from common sense will end up in the company of the dead"...could that be the "Walking" Dead? Not the T.V. show but those who are living and breathing and moving outside the will of God.

So how would the white part read? Well, it would be the opposite of what the black part of the verse reads.
"The person who embraces common sense will end up in the company of the living."

In such company, I will be encouraged to move forward in a positive way with my life.
In such company, I will develop healthy, thriving relationships.
In such company, I can give back to others thereby strengthening my own recovery.


Common sense in the life of a believer is directed by the Holy Spirit.
Our in-house (Or in this case, in-heart) teacher who puts us in touch with God's truth on every level of our existence. Such is why we use such terms as "following" Jesus. We are always trying to hear what He is saying through the Holy Spirit, and then making application with it in our lives. This is the basis for the whole "building a house on a solid foundation" we read about in Matthew 7:24-27. We become a wise carpenter who is not only building for today, but laying the plans and groundwork for tomorrow and beyond.

Let the rain come....
Let the floodwaters rise....
Let the winds blow....
We are firmly entrenched in God's word, work and presence.
Now if that isn't common sense, then I don't know what is.


God on you...
mbb

Tuesday, July 19, 2016





This isn't going to be a posting of how I have discovered the missing piece that the church is lacking. I haven't. It isn't going to be me telling you what's wrong with church, for as much wrong that may exist...the church still does a whole lot that is good and right. Sometimes I think we forget that the church is a group of fallible humans worshiping an infallible God. Imperfect beings giving themselves to One that is perfect. On the other hand, I'm not going to make excuses for our imperfections...we are called to be a work in progress, as we allow God's Holy Spirit to transform us into the people God desires us to be.

So what is this post about?
It's about our need for a "PAUL" in our lives.

A "Paul" that would love us and speak truth to us. We all need that voice from another human being who is telling us what we need to hear. Not in a busy-body kind of telling...but one who is in touch with God and is willing to be that person who will encourage us....edify us...and yes...speak those things that we may be ignoring that we know God wants to address in our lives. A voice that will say the hard things to us that are necessary for our growth in Christ.
I'm reading the book of Philippians and it just occurred to me (I am somewhat slow) that there was a real love relationship between Paul and the church at Philippi. You can feel it as your read the opening words in Chapter one. "I thank my God in all my remembrances of you. Always offering prayers with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel form the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you are all partakers of grace with me."

Don't get me wrong about what I have insinuated here in this posting. I'm not trying to replace God speaking to us, or rejecting hearing God through the study of His word, but we need people around us who will not only encourage us, but correct us as a fellowship. I have such people around me. The one thing that has come out of working in recovery is that it has to be done with a heavy dose of truth in everything you say. I have to have a voice that will call me when they see me being to  heavy handed, or to easy, letting things slide. Attitudes and behaviors that you know are part of the trail leading back to an old lifestyle that will end badly. 

I keep going back to the original mandate God gave me when we started Vineyard Recovery Church. In no uncertain terms He said, "It is MY meeting...I will grow it...I will heal it...I will be in it." What was my part in all of this? To simply stay out of His way and cooperate with Him. This means that sometimes when I think I've got a really good message..it may not be the message He wants given. Many is the time I've stood up to speak and have a knowing inside that God wants to say something else. To tell you truth, such times are unnerving because you are moving into uncharted waters. But God has been faithful, and continues to be, as He will provide what is needed to be spoken. 

As part of our ongoing view of VRC, i always ask out core leadership to be in prayer, and to seek God for direction VRC will need to follow. One person recently called me to share what they had heard. It was a hard word, but one that needed to be shared. It gave a clear picture of what the path ahead of us will hold, and our need as a fellowship to prepare. Such is the voice of "PAUL". This individual has a track record of hearing God, so it was easy to truly believe that what they had heard was true. They loved VRC enough to share it. This person was looking out for the welfare and good of the group. That is the true heart of a "PAUL". The realization that we are all in this together, serving one God with a common purpose. As I tell folks...."this life of chasing after Jesus isn't all sunshine, puppy dogs and unicorns. It's messy....it's hard...and it's a journey more about not giving up than it is having our comfort needs met. Somehow, I believe when it's all over, it will have been worth it.

God on you..
mb 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Dysfunctional Family Becoming Functional


Acts 2:44
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.

Garrett Rule and Jeffrey Cothran rocking the house Saturday night at VRC.
Different as night and day, but sharing a common bond...
Freedom...
Life....
Moving on....

Love for each other...
Love for those still out there in the darkness....

Etc...etc...etc....
Isn't that what it's all about? Sharing? Loving each other and looking out for one another. At the same time, calling each other out when something seems amiss.
Calling out, not to embarrass but to help lead back to the right path.


Saturday night was special to me.
The room seemed to be more peaceful than it ever has been. May just have been me, but there was a sense of family in the room. New comers, I'm sure were trying to figure out what was going on. Lot's of smiles, back slaps and hand shakes. Lightness to the voices and easy movement as person after person moved around the room to touch base with someone else.
We were all there...
We were ready to see what God wanted to do.
I think maybe that is the best part about being in a leadership role with VRC. We are clueless as to what's going to happen. We approach each Saturday night with a message and some worship songs....and to be honest, all of those are on the table to be scrapped if God says so.  It is an evening of celebration. We've made it another week. We've survived and overcome that which chases us. That darkness that seeks to draw us back in.

Not knowing what is going to happen leaves the evening open to a little mystery as to what we might see, hear, or experience. Call it an evening of anticipation.
Lot's of old faces last night from Rapha....
I guess you could call them success stories, or ongoing success stories.

Bottom line, in that room Saturday night was a lot of folks who fully knew and understood that they have not arrived as far as recovery goes. They are still working the steps, living in honesty and simply trying to hear God and follow Him for 24 hours. If they make it through that 24, then they get to do it all over again the next day. One day at a time.....that's the way this thing works.

Philippians 3:4
I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

Pretty much sums it all up.....
We are a work in progress....
Not a work in regress.....
We are moving upward and forward in spite of hurdles, traps and snares that we encounter along the way.

We've been called by Jesus, and we are moving toward that call.
We will encourage each other, and we will not grow weary or give up.
Now that is something worth living for.

God on you...

mbb

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Semi-Serious Look At The Way We Do Business



Reading this again.....
I like it when an author can put language to beliefs I have, and thoughts that are rumbling around in my brain. Language that puts into actual words the things you've been working through. Such is the way Ken Blues writes in this book.


I'd like to share some of his insight with you.

"Almost two hundred years ago, Western culture in Europe and the United States underwent its one and only radical religious change since the fourth century. That change, apparent among Europeans and Americans by the 1800's, was an utterly new thing: unbelief in God as an acceptable option."

While we live in the deep South and, as such, laying claim, or having it laid on us, that we are the Bible Belt region of our country, such thoughts as these were unacceptable. As a child it was more than frowned on for anyone to even speak badly against God, much less not believe in him. 

Ken Blue goes on to write:

"This is not to say that we did not believe in God anymore, but rather that He had become nonessential to the way we live our lives. We Western Christians may be religious in our heads, but we tend to act like secularists in our daily activities. The real authority in our world view today and the touchstone of truth for our society is science. Science is our savior, provider and fixer."

That is why I have taught all alone that there are a lot of folks out there with what I would refer to as "TWO BELIEF SYSTEMS".....
One they talk about in front of others....(Doing so gives the appearance of having life all tied up in a neat bundle with a big red religious bow)....
And another belief system they actually walk out daily. This is the one we follow and make our decisions by. We work really hard to keep the two separated. Guess what? When life comes down hard and whacks you up side the head, which one are you going to lean on?
The one you talk about? Or the one that you live daily? Well,the one we live daily by.

What if God only wants us to have one belief system? That it is both the one we share with others, as well as the one we rely on when times get hard. The belief system that point us toward God in all and every situation and circumstance that we might find ourselves facing.

Mr. Blue writes, "Virtually every policy of social life, government and education, as well as people's personal philosophies of life, are evaluated in terms of their being scientific or unscientific. It is generally believed that for a thing to be true, it must be scientifically proven. Truth has become more or less synonymous with that which can be scientifically established. Non-materialistic values----like love, justice, and religion -----which cannot be specifically proven are regarded as either irrelevant or simply a matter of preference."

This is why I believe that we (the church) need a marriage between the Word of God and the presence of His Holy Spirit.  The truth of God becomes more real when it is backed with a demonstration of power by the Holy Spirit in our communication with those outside the church. Isn't this the behavior that Jesus showed when He walked with His disciples?  Teach the truth and then validate it by healing, delivering or restoring someone? I think maybe it is.

The real tension in our world today is not between church and science but between a secular world view and a view of reality which allows for the activity of the Living God in our midst.  According to Ken Blue, "The church today functions more or less like other secular institutions---we rely on human effort. If we set goals at all, they tend to be "realistic". We do not live like we are anticipating power from on high breaking into our plans and goals significantly altering their effectiveness. Our message becomes  that we are sent to the world in the name of the omnipotent God of creation, yet we often stand helpless before situations which desperately need His power."

The thing that has always seem to be central in recovery is the lack of extra baggage that is needed in the church. We don't have to put on events or come up with some new and exciting thing to draw people. The main reason is that they are sick of the old life, and are in search of a new way of living. I was having lunch with a person who also heads up a recovery meeting when he asked me, "Do you ever feel as though we only have one message?" Giving it some thought, I replied, "Would that be the I Corinthians 2:2 message?" Old Paul hit the nail on the head when he wrote that one...For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  Such a place is where real life is found. 

When the Word of God is taught to hungry hearts...
The power of God is present to transform.

Isn't that the heart who the church is suppose to be?
I think maybe yes.


God on you...
mbb

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Anatomy Of A Worship Team


I Chronicles 25:7
They and their families were all trained in making music before the Lord and each of them was an accomplished musician.

The room is dark, save for the stage lights.
Sound system is on...

Amps are ready and instruments lay nearby.
Mikes are hot....
We gather around a table, the five of us,and we begin to go through a new song that was chosen for the worship set. Chosen for more than the words or chords, but for what it does to the human heart. Much prayer during the week, seeking guidance on which songs to play. 


We take our chord sheets and began to work through the arrangement.
Who sings what....harmonies....

What instrument carries the melody ....
what about the tempo?
We are a worship team....
To some, not familiar with such, we might be thought of as a band. While we do have the trappings of a band, our drive is not for the praise of man,but that we might praise our God.

We have no lofty dreams or visions of greatness in the music world....to record music that thousands will sing....
Our goal is simple...

Sing To God and tell Him of our love for Him.
We've got some years of playing together, and if you wanted to rank us as far as "REAL" Musicians, then you'd have to list Debbie Handy at the top. Our keyboardist and song writer has been a main stay of Recovery worship. Debbie and I have been playing together for 25 years. She gave me a place in learning to lead worship. Debbie has followed me into many a ditch during my learning phase. Debbie's songs reflect a heart that does not give up, no matter what life may hold. God is greater.

Wayne Wimpee would be next. Somehow, I think Wayne may actually be an alien from a distant world sent to earth to aid us lowly humans in our musical attempts. Wayne is our percussionist/ harmonica player / vocalist. At times it seems that Wayne has eight arms all going simultaneously on the drums, cymbals, playing harmonica and singing. I kid you not, he can do it all. I've known Wayne since 1968....lot of music between the two of us.


Barry Hooks is our rhythm guitarist. Barry has been playing with the worship team ever since I left Vineyard the first time to start a church at Rapha. That would be ten years.
Barry has an incredible knack for coming up with all these fill-in's on guitar. 

Carrie Elrod is the latest addition to the team. Carrie and I go back to the House of Blue days when we hosted our first recovery meeting at Gadsden Vineyard. She has come into her own as a vocalist and has the ability to find harmony parts to fill in gaps and empty places. More than anything, Carrie has a heart to worship God. When it comes to a worship team, that is the main element I want....hearts that desire to worship God.

Then there is your's truly....
I am a garage musician....
Lot's of bands, duo's...and other such animals in which I played.

I do not have the discipline to be a professional,but I have the drive to always looking to improve my playing.
In January of 2015, someone gave me a bass guitar, telling me that God has instructed them to do so. While I was pleased, I was also puzzled. I had been lead guitar player on the team and it had been 20 years since I'd played bass. Reluctantly, I took the bass and discovered an amazing thing. The first time I played it with the team, it was as if I'd never stopped. I began to hear bass parts whenever I listened to music.

So with this line up, and the addition of me on bass guitar, we had to take a look at the way we arranged songs. God has been gracious to allow us to craft a sound that we can bring to any song. We do a lot of "take back" songs in our worship set. Because of this, we have arrange the song in such a way that we can get that "full" sound. So far so good.
But we continue to strive to get better. 


I am not naive enough to believe that everyone likes our style of worship. At the same time I make no apologies for it. It's who we are. It's the sound we grew up with. It's the groove that God has put us in. Can't ask for better than that.

So as an added surprise, I let you in on the songs we will be doing this Saturday night.

Open The Eyes Of My Heart
I Will Take Care Of You
All The Way Home
Head To The Heart
Jesus Loves You

Come and out and join us at Vineyard ReCovery Church
Saturday night/ 7 p.m.

Down town Gadsden on Broad Street between 4th and 5th streets.

God on you...

mb

Friday, July 15, 2016

Go....

GREENE STREET LETTERS: "GO!"

Matthew 28:19
Therefore........GO!

The Gospel....
The good news....
The ongoing sharing of the story of our salvation.....
All this is attached to the act of going...
All this is attached to the idea of movement....

We do not have the luxury of remaining still....
Of being quiet....
How can we look inward to self and not be impacted by what this God has done to us.
Rescued us..
Took us off the garbage heap of humanity and cleaned us up.

Wiped us clean of all our sin.....
What falls under all?
Every one of them.


Seeing this impact of God in our lives should spur us to tell others our story.

We don't have to be theologians...
We don't have to be able to dissect Hebrew and Greek from the Old and New Testament.
We just have to burn with the story of God's love.
That burning comes from knowing Him...
Knowing through experiencing personally His presence and His love.

This knowing is ongoing and never relenting.
Each morning when I get up I am fully aware that the God I thought I knew and understood yesterday will be different today.
I will see Him in a Scripture.
I may have read a particular verse a hundred times....
But on this particular morning I see it differently.

I see Him differently.
I am changed....
I am charged with a mission to tell others....


Step #12
Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry THIS message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The message is no good if change does not come to our hearts....
The message becomes power when we are changed by God's love and plans for our lives.
There is someone out there who needs to hear what has happened to you.
Someone trapped in the darkness that you no longer live in.

They need hope....
They need to hear truth...
So.......GO!

God on you....
mbb

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Good Day At Rapha



Psalm 5:2
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

God is moving....
(Isn't God always moving?).....
Of course He is. But sometimes His movement is manifested before our very eyes that reveals a truth we may not have been aware of.

I drove out to Rapha yesterday to hold a Bible Study. I usually do one on Monday afternoon, but because of our family vacation and a few other issues that had cropped up, I haven't been out there in three weeks. So I was determined that we were having one yesterday. In the course of three weeks, you have turn over in a treatment program as people leave and new ones come in for treatment. 

It was a whole new crop of men that greeted me yesterday. Couple of familiar ones, but for the most part brand new faces. We spent some time getting to know each other, sharing our stories and history, then it was down to business.

Psalm 23 --- "The Lord Is My Shepherd, I shall Not Want." Spent the entire hour on this one particular chapter, and we didn't get past the second verse. These men were hungry. Question after question came my way, and we took time to interact and lay out opinions as to how the verse was viewed. In the end, God's truth stood as opinion after opinion fell by the wayside. 


Even after the Bible study, there were several who stayed behind wanting to talk some more. Stories of the old life, hunger for a new and better life. All the stories were basically the same...."this is how I got here!". Here, being the treatment program. It's like God has marked a big ol' "X" in their life and has declared it to be a place of decision. What takes place at Rapha defines the rest of their life. DO they find the truth and began the process of changing? Or do they find the truth and simply wander back into the darkness of addiction again?

Bottom line in our meeting is that these men need God's intervention into their lives.
So as I asked for prayer requests, I sensed that God truly wanted to intervene in their life situations. 


The prayer requests yesterday seem to focus on physical healing.
1.) Damage done to liver and kidney's due to alcoholism.
2.) Blood disorder that could be life threatening
3.) Multiple health problems, as well as severe arthritis. Hard to get up and down the steps to the dormitory. 
4.) Short term memory loss.

Along with the physical healing, there seem to be a consensus of a need to become more focused on their personal recovery, and not to get caught up in the camp drama. Take these request seriously if you would. My thought is that God really does want to reveal himself to these men, so let's be in prayer for each man.

The men continued to follow me  as I made my way to the car. We were talking and laughing (not something that most in addiction do....laugh that is) when one of them asked, "Can you come back more than just Wednesdays?"  I knew right then, God was speaking through this man. "Sure, how about we have Bible study on Monday AND Wednesday?" So God is stirring the pot, so to speak. There is divine preparation going on for something bigger that God has in store. My part? To simply obey and teach. I believe I can do this.

God on you...

mbb

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Why?



Why?
Why write something every day and post it on a blog?
Ego?
Nope, I don't really have one...well, maybe a little one but I have to kind of turn it over to God everyday...you know the whole "humble" yourself deal. I really do have to humble myself because left unchecked, I'll run around looking for others to affirm me and make me feel good about myself. How sick is that?

It's not that I consider myself to even be some kind of spiritual goo-roo! I'm not (don't laugh..I misspelled guru on purpose).
Do I think my writing and insight and spiritual wisdom to be superior to others who blog?
Nope sure don't. In fact I wonder at times why I do keep writing.
Well, here is the deal.
I do it because God said to.
He told me to be consistent with my writing.
Don't get caught up in controversy or debate.
Proclaim the simple message of the Cross!
Jesus Saves!
Someone will need to read what I have written.
Someone will receive encouragement from it.
Someone may even have their heart and mind opened and take another look at Jesus.
Someone somewhere will need what is written in this blog.

That's the neat part.
God is in control.
I'm simply obedient to what He has called me to do.
I have no aspirations as to laying claim to being some kind of author or writer.
My terrible English is only preceded by my slaughter of the use of punctuation.
As long as the message is conveyed and causes some to think about God...then I've done my job.


This place of obedience in writing the Greene Street Letters has been my school, my seminary, my college, my testing place....in other words, God has grown me and stretched me over these past years. Sometimes I have learned really quick....other times, not so much. But my wife says that I am very teachable. 
My concept of what love and grace is has changed.
Love is harder than what some in the church thinks it is.
Sometimes love says "NO".
Through it all, I have come to have a deeper appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit.
I have seen some incredible things happen when a person totally corrupted by sin is brought into conviction by God's Holy Spirit. I will never tire of seeing a person saved and brought into a new life and relationship with Jesus.

I have no plan or vision for the GREENE STREET LETTERS other than to keep on writing until God says quit or He takes me home.
I hope that you find encouragement here and a new drive to not give up or go back to an old lifestyle.
I pray that God would touch you and remove any thoughts of suicide or using again that you may have entertained during the past few days or weeks. You are truly precious to God.

"For God so loved the world (that would be you included in the whole "world" thing)
That he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
JOHN 3:16

God on you.....
mb

Tuesday Bible Study

Psalm 119:130 The entrance (or unfolding) of Your words gives light. it gives understanding to the simple. Pulled up at the camp last ...