Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Drifting


Hebrews 3:15
....."Today when you hear His voice, don't harden your hearts."

What does it mean to have a hard heart, when it comes to hearing God?
Well, it means that you have had contact with Him.
It means that He has communicated with you.
It means that you have rejected His directives for whatever reason you can come up with.
You have decided to follow your will instead of His will.

Such a decision that is carried out over time creates a hard heart within us.
We no longer are able to "hear" God.
We no longer are under His grace.
We no longer are walking according to His will, but have removed ourselves from it to follow our own sinful passions and desires.


Here in the book of Hebrews, the author is warning believers.
Warning them about not allowing their hearts to become cold and numb to the leading of God's Holy Spirit.
Notice when the author says to be aware of such a thing....
TODAY!!
Right now...
This minute....

It can and will happen if we are not keeping aware of our own hearts.
I don't really believe anyone gets up in the morning and willfully says, "You know what? I think I'll just quit following Jesus today. I think I'll just go sin till I can't sin anymore."
I believe that hard hearts happen over time. The passage from Hebrews is a warning to always be mindful of our decisions and where we are getting them from.

Hebrews 2:1
So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift from it.
Listen?
With our ears...
And with our heart....

When you're walking daily with Jesus, the truth will ring out in your heart when you hear it. You'll have a knowing deep inside that what you have heard is true and will keep you on the right path. As the passage above states, we must listen carefully, and then apply what we hear to our daily life. If we don't...if we simply hear the truth and file it away somewhere....we will begin to drift away.

Best example I can think of when it comes to "drifting away", happens every year when we go to Florida. There is always someone in the ocean floating on an air mattress. They fall asleep and are paying no attention to where they are. Suddenly they wake up, look around and they are a thousand yards from the shore. Lifeguards are blowing whistles to bring them back in....they panic because they suddenly remember the young girl at the beginning of JAWS!!! They didn't set out to drift that far...it just happened because they weren't paying attention. And the same thing applies to us spiritually when it comes to our daily life. If we are paying attention to God's truth...if we are simply out there winging it....we are drifting. Drift far enough away and you might not be able to make it back. I don't have to tell you that it probably will not end good with that kind of behavior.
Stay alert....
Stay focused....
Stay hungry for God....


God on you...
mbb

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

It's The Teeny Tiny That Is Our Undoing



Luke 16:10
If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won't be honest with greater responsibilities.

It really is the little things that we need to be aware of.
The small, insignificant things that we take for granted sometimes.
The things that cause us to think "This really isn't a big deal...why even do it."
But I really do believe that a dynamic takes place when we are faithful with the little things.
I think it is God's way of seeing how we will respond when our old  thoughts come back to us.
You know what I mean?
Those dark thoughts that seem to creep back in when we have had some time on recovery road.

Those thoughts that subtly tell you that you are the captain of your life-ship. You should decide what you are and are not going to do.

Saturday night we had a celebration of the little things.
Sarah has been coming to VRC for months. Faithful as a person could be, she would show up with her court card to get a stamp.
After coming for a number of weeks, I asked if Saturday night was helping her any. She replied that it was one of her most favorite meetings. Sarah kept coming. In the mean time, you could see her growing as a believer. We would talk each week and she would give me some insight into her life and how God was in the process of changing her.


This past Saturday night, she came through the door and we exchanged the usual "howdy's". I asked her if she had her court card. She replied, "No....I don't". Thinking maybe she'd forgot to bring it, I asked if she needed me to get her something she could take to the courts to show them she had attended a meeting. She told me..."No.....I don't have a court card any more....I finished my obligation to the courts." That means that she has attended the required number of meetings set down by the court. But here she was anyway because she wanted to be here at VRC. Now that is what I call a BIG/little thing.


I think God will honor Sarah's efforts to accomplish her obligation. What's more, I really believe God will honor Sarah because she showed up Saturday even though she wasn't required to do so any more. She could have come week after week just to get her paper stamped. She could have left week after week and never really tuned into what was going on. But she didn't. She told me early on that she HAD to change or she was going to die.
With that thought came the strength to do whatever it took to move beyond her old lifestyle, making sure that she crossed every "T" and dotted every "I". In other words, taking care of the little things, so that the big things would not be her undoing.
So this morning, I'd like to give a big ol' shout out to SARAH!!!!
Job will done.

You can check that off your list and move on to the next little thing.

God on you....
mbb

Monday, August 29, 2016

Truth From Frog Eye



II Timothy 2:1-2
.....my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.

The following was posted by my brother-in-Christ, one Mr. Mark Cotney from Frog Eye, Alabama:

Some know and there are those who don't , how much I watch Fox News. This year how ever in the political world I watch in amazement. While hearing all the name calling, it doesn't get America on the path of restoration. In 2008 I went to a small place in Attalla Alabama, there is where I was taught to get honest with myself and with others. Basically that means quit with the lies. The problem with the untruth is one will always have to come up with one bigger, better than the first. Think They may need some of what I had shared with me. 
You see at RAPHA I learned to take responsibility for my actions, past, present future,. It was tough to admit on many things I had lied, then had to come up with another, & another till I couldn't even see over them. The Truth is one step to getting America to a point of restoration. The other step can only come through relying on the Saving Grace of Christ Jesus. 
Steve & Brother Mike y'all think we could find a bed for our Candidates?
RESTORATION starts in the kneeling position, for me anyway.


Somewhere along the way, society came to the conclusion that God's truth was not ultimate and the standard by which all truth is measured. I saw it coming. I just didn't believe it would happen in my lifetime. But here we are. We have turned out exactly as Israel did when you read the last verse of the book of Judges. 
Judges 21:25 - In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

We see the results of this rejection of God, in order to self-rule, in those who are in addiction. In this state of living, the moral compass isn't just broken.....it has been cast aside so the individual can live directed by their own lust, want's, desires and passions, all under the control of our sin/nature. Put this behavior on a national scale and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that the country is slipping over the edge into an abyss of self destruction.

I can't save everyone....
But I can be where God has called me to be, doing what He's called me to do.
As I tell others...."I just need to take care of my corner of the Kingdom." If God chooses to enlarge my corner, so be it. But I have to be faithful and teach the truth of who God is...The truth of who we are.....and the the truth of what His desire is for us. I think maybe I can do that.


God on you...

mbb

Friday, August 26, 2016

Passing Through The Cross



Matthew 7:13-14
You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell (destruction) is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.

Luke 9:24-25
If you are trying to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?

I Corinthians 2:2
For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Narrow paths that lead to life?
Narrow ways that few find?
A man says that all he is going to focus on is Jesus Christ and Him crucified?
What's up with all this?
Sounds like a very narrow view if you ask me. But then again, I don't get to call the shots on this one.
It is a narrow way to Jesus. Its entry point is the cross.
We can't move forward in life, or recovery without dying to our old selfish sin nature.
I can't tote that baggage through the cross. there isn't room for me and my past stuff. something has to be laid down, and Jesus says the best way to enter through Him is to die to self. In other words, we acknowledge our sin, confess it, hand it over to Him. We cannot pass through the cross without laying down our baggage of sin and defects of character. The way is just too narrow to take them with us. 

"But you don't understand! I've had that sin for a long time. Yes, it's heavy. Yes, it's cumbersome, but it has become that which defines who I am." 
No you don't understand, When you move toward Jesus, your sin defined who you WERE....not who you are. The you who lived in that state of sin is killed. That's what the cross does. It kills us. As Paul so aptly wrote, "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me". 

Amazing to me is the idea that some carry around that they have no need for Jesus, and especially no need for the cross. Crosses and our society don't really mix in the minds of some. But if ever there was a time when society needed to be hauled up from the muck,mire, and spiritual darkness it is now. 

I spent the better part of my day and night texting with a person who is at the end of their rope. They have made such a mess out of their life, that they can't see any need to go on. Their desire is to end it all. The strange part in all of this is that they have been in recovery. They have been in church. They have been where the truth of God has been shared. But they never have fully given themselves to Jesus or to a program of recovery. What do you tell someone like that who continues to reject the truth in order to play a "Look at me, I'm religious game"? They need the finished work of Jesus that took place on the cross. I hurt for this individual, but I know that simply trying to rush in and rescue them is not the answer. I've done that before and the results have always been the same. They need more than shelter (which they currently have, but don't know for how much longer). They need more than a job (which they have never been able to hold down). They need an encounter with the Spirit of the Living God who will offer the ultimate gift. Peace....freedom from their past....and life here and now. The ability to navigate through whatever the day throws at them. Pray with me that such an encounter take place with this person, and that the enemy will not destroy them. They need the cross of Christ. I need the cross of Christ.

God on you...

mbb

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Are You Growing?



Hebrews 5:13-14
For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn't know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.

One of the great truths when it comes to recovery is that time is an ally not an enemy.
Anxiousness causes a person to short cut the process. Usually anxiousness causes a person to make bad decisions. Decisions that are based on emotion rather than intellect.
So the longer you can stay engaged in a treatment program the better odds you'll have that you will be clean and sober.

But time means nothing without growth. This is why I love the passage from Hebrews 5. The early days of recovery can be exciting as your mind begins to clear and real life begins to come back. But unless a person begins going deep inside themselves through the fourth and fifth step, they are setting themselves up for a fall. Clarity of thought does not always prove to be the "big moment" when recovery kicks in. Sometimes clarity of thought opens the door to that notorious thought of "I Can Handle This From Here...I've Got This!"


Did you notice in the Hebrew passage where it states that "An infant doesn't know how to do what is right"? Catch word is infant. New born. The world is a new place, and help is needed to navigate life. Parents are there to instruct and train the infant so growth can take place. What are infants good for? I mean what is it they really do to contribute to a family? Well...they cry.....they eat.....they gurgle and coo....and oh yeah. They mess themselves. Funny part in all of this is that the parents don't mind changing a diaper. It is expected. But you know what? If that same infant grows up and is 26 years old, still messing in their diaper....that ain't funny any more. Houston, we have a problem.

Life in recovery....
Life in this new found relationship with Jesus is all about discovering the truth of ourselves.

It's about cooperating with God's Holy Spirit to bring about a change in our hearts. To allow the Holy Spirit to remove our character defects,and replace the old one with His character.
Such does take time....It isn't an overnight thing. This is growth. Real growth. The Holy Spirit brings out in us attitudes and behaviors that we could never produce on our own, no matter how hard we try. Let's take a look at the things that are available to us if we simply be about the business of growing up.


Love: Wow! There's a biggie. Not the syrupy, gooey kind of love the world has taught us to exercise. Not the manipulative kind of love that we use on others to get our way, but the real-deal-heavenly-pure kind of love Jesus has for us.

Joy: Here again, not the earth-kind of joy. But a joy that shows up especially when things are hard. A joy that lets you know that you have been brought into a new life that doesn't make sense to others who are walking around outside the will of God.

Peace: Inner peace that takes place even when situations and circumstances around you are crumbling and everything seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. Peace that allows you move through you day aware of everything but not being owned by any of it.

Patience: This is love that waits. Love that isn't in a hurry. Love that is all about following Jesus instead of trying to run ahead of Him.

Kindness: Love that seeks out others. love that isn't selfish.

Goodness: Love that isn't critical or judgmental. Love that sees life through the eyes of Jesus.

Faithfulness: Here we have love that never quits. A love that rejects the world to embrace Jesus and His cross. A love that doesn't question,but simply follows Him.

Gentleness: Love that comes with a soft, soothing touch. Such love will never rise up in anger to another. Love that speaks truth. Even the hard truth that some don't want to hear, but does so in a way that doesn't corrupt of damage the one hearing it.

Self-control: The ultimate power of love in our life. The ability to control one's self. To say no to our own selfishness and desire to run the show. We do so because we recognize that such an action is given to a POWER greater than ourselves. That POWER has a name, and that name is Jesus.

Think on this today.
I know I am. And I have to ask myself a hard question.

"Am I growing in Christ? Am I becoming mature in my daily walk?

God on you...
mbb

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Never Quit...Never Give up


I Peter 2:9-10 (The Message Bible)
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God's instruments to do His work, and speak out for Him to tell others of the night-and-day difference He made for you----From nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.

1969....
We were the generation that was going to change the world.
A revival was sweeping the country and it was unlike any revival that we'd ever seen.
From California came a wave of God's Spirit calling out those from the counter culture to be changed. Salvation was everywhere, touching and changing lives that had been counted out by society.

Those who were changed by the Holy Spirit began to tell others...
The ones who heard this message  were changed through God's Salvation....
They, in turn, told others, and it became a wave of God's love and freedom that took off across our country. Funny part in all of this..........it began out side the walls of the traditional church. In fact, the very fabric of church began to change to accommodate new music....new language for theology. As I've said over and over...."The message never changes...God's truth does not change. The vehicle the message is delivered in may change, but not the message."
And empowered by this message, we knew that we were going to be the generation that changed everything with the Kingdom message of Jesus.

We thought this movement would last forever.....

It has.
It has not lessened or lost power.
It has not become static or institutionalized by ritual or rote services.

We've grown older....
But as for me, I still burn with the fire of God to see people meet my Jesus.




You see, movement in the kingdom......this dynamic of bringing change to society through the message of Jesus Christ is not confined  to only those who are young.
No doubt about it....those who are young have passion and fire. When they are touched by the Holy Spirit, something wonderful happens in the midst of all their "young-ness".
It's like being in love for the first time in your life. You want to tell everyone how great it is, and how they are missing out if they don't have that special someone in their own life. So you run around telling your story.

But I've found out something about having a few years under my belt that I could never have known when I was younger.  There is this thing called wisdom. Not as the world defines or gives to us, but that which comes from walking with Jesus for a number of years. Wisdom that comes from life experiences. I do not want my wisdom or view of life to distort the beauty and splendor that is Jesus. I don't want to be cynical of new ways or models that come along. I want to see Jesus in every aspect of His church. I don't want to be the old geezer who is always complaining and punctuates his sentences with "Back in my day....."

I want to be a torch passer. One who comes along side of this generation and encourages them to strike out and follow Jesus. I want to be like Billy Crystal in the movie "The Princess Bride" telling the hero and his followers...."Have fun storming the castle". I may not physically be able to do as much as when I was in my twenties....but my love for Jesus and the Kingdom message is still as fresh as the day I heard it for the first time.

I want to worship Him and see Him in new ways.
I want His word to unfold and reveal to me things I've never seen before.
I want the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to move and heal people.
I want to be the conduit through which the Holy Spirit flows and brings new babes into the Kingdom family.
I want Jesus.
Lastly, I do  not want to define this upcoming generation. I want them to let Jesus define them and what they are called to do.
Think on these things today...

God on you...
mbb

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Building Life The Right Way



Matthew 7:24-25  (The Message Bible)
Jesus talking: "These words that I speak to you are not incidental additions too your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work (apply/practice them) these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit----but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock."

It's all about being in this for the long haul.
It's about a process that we move through.

It's about not quitting or giving up.
It's about the application of truth into our lives that brings change to our hearts, our nature and our character.
In other words, it is about cooperating with the Holy Spirit of God as He works in each of us.

Jesus' instruction is for real.
We may receive it from reading the Bible.
We may have it spoken to us by another individual.
We may have an intuitive knowing inside that leads us to carry out a certain behavior.

We many even have the word delivered to us by an angel.
We may hear His instruction in our hearts.
Doesn't matter how the word and instruction comes to us, what matters is that we apply it.
You know the funny part in all of this? I give up my own personal right to decide what I will or will not do. I no longer make the call when I know what it is I am to do in order to move on with my life and not hang around old places, old friends.
I am not the judge and jury of my choices.
Jesus is my directive...
Holy Spirit is my God....
God is my enabler through the grace that He gives to me.


Building a house takes time.
Especially when you think of how different this task was when Jesus spoke these words from Matthew 7. It was all manual labor. Hands on....back breaking.....sweating like a piece of bacon...kind of work. But in the end, you were provided with a place that would keep you safe from the weather.
Maybe we've become soft when it comes to following Jesus today, and this life of recovery that we say we all want.
Maybe we're not willing to expend the energy doing what we know to do that will propel us out of the old life into the stratosphere of the new life. As a friend of mine has told me over and over....."Everyone wants to be sober.....no one wants to do the work." 


Now keep in mind the work my friend is talking about is the application of Twelve simple things. Taking them one at a time, like laying brick for this new house. Place a brick, put mortar on it, lay another brick. There is a pace to this work that comes when we choose to follow Jesus. There isn't any room for any shortcuts to completion. If we try to short cut the work, then the storms, floods, tornadoes and wind will reveal the flaws and weaknesses in our work. God gives us the plans (which are perfect)....God provides us with the materials we need to construct our new life/house (the materials are A #1 grade)....God gives us the strength and power to carry out this endeavor.....but we provide the sweat.
Sweatin' for Jesus.....
That's where real life is found.
Doing what He tells us to do is building something that will last while we're here on this ol' planet.

Think on this today....
God on you....

mbb


Monday, August 22, 2016

Love Me Some Vineyard



Matthew 6:9
....Our Father......

Our? If we pray this prayer, we are placing ourselves inside an incredible family.
A family united by the blood of Christ.
A family reconciled to God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
A family that is not bound by color, economics, or location.
Family.


Within this world wide  family, we find that we tend to gravitate toward groups and communities of believers that we connect with. Like minded people that seem to share heart values.
In my case, the Vineyard is the flag I have chosen to move under.

This weekends "Living Sacrifices Worship Conference" only reinforced my love for this family.

The one thing the Vineyard has allowed me to see is the diversity of the different churches within the movement. That what binds us together is a set of values and priorities given to us years ago. Now these values and priorities give language to what we know and are drawn too instinctively. How these values and priorities are played out is left up to the personality of the community that is Vineyard. In other words, each Vineyard appears to be different from other Vineyards, but if you peel away the model, you'll find those values and priorities that I've written about. The best definition for being part of the Vineyard is found in the book "Quest For The Radical Middle". Bill Jackson, the author, stated...."You don't join a Vineyard church....you just discover that is who you are."


I sat through sessions this weekend at the conference, and I would be less than honest if I didn't say that God was reading my mail and sending me answers to my hurts. It was a time of healing for me. A time to release some grudges and anger. It's hard to admit that you carry these things around. I mean for heaven's sake I'm suppose to be a pastor. But here I was, sitting and hearing a truth that undid me. Oh, I could push it away and act like it wasn't affecting me. I didn't. I knew all too well that God was at work. One more reason I love the Vineyard. I have found a place where anyone, including yours truly, can receive prayer and healing. I like being with a group of people where honesty and transparency are the key to healing and moving forward in this journey with Jesus.

Saturday night as the last chord, note and drum roll ended, and the room erupted with applause and shouts....there was such a sense of satisfaction in me. I looked around that room and I saw people who never have darkened a door of a church smiling and laughing.
Handshakes and hugs all around. I saw the Spirit of God at work as darkness and sin had been silenced by a worship team led by a tall lanky drink of water that goes by the moniker "Sleepy Ray". I saw the power of worship and the power of God come down and inhabit the praises of His people. I saw John Wimber's vision of what a Vineyard should be.

Are we perfect? Nope.
Are we better than say the church down the street? Nope.
Are we special and have more favor than other churches? Once again, nope.

We just love God, that's all.We want to set a table where anyone can come and dine.
My goal every time we meet, is that everyone who left that meeting last Saturday  night knew two things....
That God loves them....
And so do I.
Glad to be a "Vineyard-ite" this morning.


God on you...

mbb

Saturday, August 20, 2016

It's Prayer....Not A Shopping List



Jeremiah 29:12
In those days when you pray, I will listen.......

Never doubt that God doesn't hear your prayers.
Never doubt that God doesn't have your best interest at heart.

Never doubt that God doesn't answer your prayers.
He does.
He is God.

But.......(here it comes...)
He also answers your prayers when what you are praying about may not be in your best interest.
Sometimes we pray for good things....
God wants us to have "GOD" things....

In other words, sometimes my prayer may sound like the desire of a little kid...
"Hey God! I sure would like for you to give me a gazillion gallons of ice cream!!"

God knows full well that I don't need a gazillion gallons of ice cream so, even thought that is what I prayed for, he isn't going to fulfill that prayer.
Bottom line, God decides what is and what isn't best for me.

This line of thought may wrankle a few folks, but somehow I think it is truly God's nature to act this way.
I have known several who were facing possible jail and/or prison time.
They would come to me all full of confidence that God was not going to let them go to jail or prison.
"Bro. Mike...I've been praying real hard and I think God is going to answer my prayer."

Some have even tried to strike a bargain with God.
"Hey God! If you keep me out of jail, I promise that I really will turn my life around."
Sorry Charlie...God isn't in the bargaining business. Why should He? He is God.


What I have seen happen is that when we are truthful in our prayers to God and place ourselves at His mercy, He acts on our behalf.

One man in particular had to go to a sentencing for his guilty verdict the courts had laid upon him.
Now he was one of those who came to me telling me that God would never let him go to prison. But as his sentencing date drew near, he changed his tune.
"I prepared to face whatever God has for me....I don't want to go to prison, but I want to simply be obedient to God. If it is prison, then He will be with me."


The man, who was facing three 20 years sentences, went before the judge.
His sentence? 36 months.
In fact, before the judge gave his sentence, he made the statement that he didn't know why he was doing this. Oh, I think I know. I think maybe there was some divine influence covering the whole matter.


What I'm about to write may sound strange to some, but my take on the whole prayer thing is that I am simply breathing (praying) back to God what He wants to do. I am joining in a prayer circle that goes on 24/7 in heaven. Son intercedes on our behalf to the Father. Father dispatches Holy Spirit to stir us. We pray and the Holy Spirit takes our request back to Jesus who, in turn, prays it to the Father. The Father acts. I am merely joined into this on going prayer meeting that never ends. 

Well the old clock in the lower right hand corner of my computer says....nothing.
It does show me that it's 7:25 a.m. and I need to get up and moving toward this mornings sessions of the LIVING SACRIFICES WORSHIP CONFERENCE.

Hope to see you tonight for Vineyard ReCovery.

God on you....
mbb

Friday, August 19, 2016

Better Late Than Never



Sorry about no posting this morning....
It's kind of like getting your morning paper and then it doesn't show up at the usual time.
I know that I dated myself what with the reference to newspapers....
who reads them these days....


Any who, the internet was down on Greene Street this morning.
I looked outside my window and thousands of little internet gnomes and elves were busy trying to get it back up and running. Have you ever tried to navigate a maze of gnome ladders and elves bucket trucks? Such is not an easy task or for the faint of heart.

I am posting this from up in my office high atop Gadsden Vineyard Church, overlooking downtown Gadsden and the beautiful Coosa River. Even as I am typing this, the sounds of the worship team below are filling my office. Should be a good conference.

Don't forget we are still having Vineyard ReCovery church tomorrow  night @ 7 p.m.
Come out and join us. All in all it's been a pretty good week. Some dark times yet the light outweighed them. Isn't that what's it's about? Finding the light and giving it away. Taking it with you every where you go, so that whoever steps out the shadows is engulfed with the light God that comes from within you. Such always changes the person you come in contact with. They are either changed for the better, or they harden their heart a little more in resisting the light, and become colder toward God. No matter which, we are light-bringers, and image-bearers of the One True Living God.

I always love reading Genesis chapter one where God said, "Let there be light".
In my messed up way of thinking, when ever I read this verse, I see it as God giving light permission to exist. Kind of the similar thing we read in Matthew 5:14 where Jesus says, "You are the light of the world"......Not only is that a defining statement (this is who you are)...it is a directive statement also....(of the world)..He tells us who we are and where we function best. Any kind of light reveals its true power and worth when it is revealed in darkness.  Flashlight's are no good if used in the day time, but take them into the woods away from civilization, then become a powerful tool to find your way around.

Well, I guess I better head downstairs and join the others....
If no one has told you lately, I will
God loves you....
And so do I.


God on you.....
mbb

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Living Sacrifices Worship Conference 2016



Romans 12:1
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them (your bodies) be a living and holy sacrifice---the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him.

(Taken from the Official Facebook page )
Please join us for our 4th annual Living Sacrifices worship conference. This is open to worship leaders and band members, but also to anyone and everyone who has a heart for worshiping God and wants to go deeper -- and broader -- into living a life of worship.

We believe that worship is a life lived in obedience and adoration. The primary focus of this conference is to equip and encourage each other to grow, lead, serve, and thrive in the local fellowship and in the world outside as we ourselves become living sacrifices of worship.

This year we're joined by Adam Russell, pastor of the Campbellsville Vineyard in Campbellsville, Kentucky, and Raymond McDonald, pastor of the Conroe Vineyard in Conroe, Texas.

Admission is only $10 per person. We've made every effort to keep costs as low as possible to make sure that everyone can come who wants to.
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Now that the official invitation is out of the way, let's get down to business.
This conference will be unlike any other you may have atteneded.

#1 - It isn't a mega-event. You won't get lost among the crowd. It will be an opportunity to meet with Adam and Raymond. You'll have the opportunity to sit in on Q and A sessions. Remember.....this conference is for anyone who has a heart for worship......you don't have to be a musician. In fact, let's just get to the bottom line... It's for any who qualifies under the Psalm 150:6 directive..."Let everything that breathers sing praises to the Lord!" So if you're breathing, you qualify and are pre-approved to come to the LIVING SACRIFICES WORSHIP CONFERENCE 2016.

Now on Saturday night, we'll still be having VINEYARD ReCovery, but it will be a part of the conference.
There is no charge for Saturday evening, and we'll still be giving out court card stamps. Come on out and join us.


I'm posting a video of Raymond McDonald to give you a taste of his brand of worship.
To be honest with you, if this video don't crank your tractor, then your Bat'ry is dead.


God on you...

mbb

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mr. Pete


Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.........


Most unusual day yesterday....
Received a call from a friend, asking if I could come and talk with their father.
I agreed, not knowing what a present or gift this meeting would be for me.

I arrived at 11 a.m and after cordial introductions and hand shakes, we made our way to the front porch. 

Rocking chairs awaited us.....
We settled in and began to talk.

Small talk at first....
We each shared our life story, his being 19 years longer than my own.
He is 84 and I am 64 and 3/4's.

Summer day in Alabama,but there on that porch, a breeze blew in that made it all bearable.
Humming birds came and went to the feeders hung from the porch.
And there sitting next to me was Mr. Pete.

Even though he was 84, you could tell that his frame was sturdy and that he'd never been afraid of hard work. His generation lived by that code. You don't work.....You don't eat. 
Construction foreman.....
Pipe shop worker......
Pulp wooder.......

Worked in the Piggly Wiggley that use to be downtown Attalla.
Various other jobs that help to feed a family and keep a roof over their heads.
But that wasn't why I was there.
Here on this sunny summer day, Mr. Pete was nearing the end of his life journey.
He has multiple health problems, and not a lot of answers or solutions to them.

I was there to talk with Mr. Pete about his salvation.
Where do you even start with such a topic?
Do you just throw it out there cold and go from there?
I had prayed that God would open a door where we could approach the subject.
He did...
That God.....Is He good or what.


Turns out that Mr. Pete had been saved a number years back.
Highlight of our conversation:
"I ask forgiveness from God every day....I don't intentionally go about doing wrong, but I mess up. I don't want to leave this world having hurt someone else. I want to set things right before it's my time."

He talked of how an event years ago opened his eyes to his need for God.
Seems Mr. Pete was working on a high rise building, when he and another man were knocked off the 13th floor by some equipment. Mr. Pete managed to grab hold of an I-beam that was waiting to be placed. Looking at me, Mr. Pete said, "Son if you don't think something like this won't get your attention...well, you just might be dead already."

This man sitting across from me may not have been a theological giant, but I know this without any doubt. He may not have had much Spiritual Light (or insight) but what he did have, he walked out here and now to the fullness. Somehow I think maybe (my opinion) that God looks with great favor on those who do walk out what light they have.

We prayed together....
God's Spirit was there...

It was good.
We shook hands and I told Mr. Pete that I definitely was coming back to see him.
One last question from Mr. Pete.
"Son, don't that there beard itch you to death?"


As I walked back to my car, I thought to myself..."I want to be like Mr. Pete 19 years from now."
Like I said, this meeting was a present for me.

God on you....

mbb



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Read It, Live It....Read It....Live It


II Corinthians 3:16
But whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

II Corinthians 4:3-4
And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Veil?
We have a veil over our face?
I guess we do have such covering our ability to see and grasp the meaning of Scripture before we come to Jesus.
Before we are saved....

We cannot see or truly understand what the Bible is about.
Oh, we have opinions and ideas...
We may even be able to quote it or even pontificate on it.
But the Bible is not given to us for such reasons.
As John Wimber used to say...."The Bible is a practical book given to show us how to live practically." In other words, it is God's voice in written form for us to study and apply.


Seems to be that the idea of studying the Bible seems to  have fallen out of favor these days. We live in a world that spins at an alarming rate, as society is always rushing toward the next appointment on it's list.
Intellectuals point to the Bible and claim it to be an intolerant book. One that should be done away with.....outdated.....backwards.
Well, backwards folk, like yours truly, know it is a lifeline that enables me to navigate the day.  The Bible keeps me grounded in God. 

The Bible tells me "HOW"......
The Holy Spirit tells me "WHEN". In other words, my studying the Scripture becomes like spiritual ammunition for situations and circumstance that I may face at some point during my day.


All you have to do is read Matthew 4, Jesus' temptation in the wilderness, to see what I have written about. Jesus, after His baptism, goes into the wilderness. While He is fasting and praying, the devil shows up to tempt Him. There's a whole lesson found in the very first verse. You don't have to go looking for the devil, he'll find you. Anyway, I digress. The devil tempts Jesus to take matters into His own hands by turning some stones to bread in order to satisfy His hunger. What does Jesus do? He quotes Scripture. Scripture that He studied during His growing up years. Jesus knew that to turn those stones to bread would be moving outside the will of His Father, and He wasn't about to do that.


Having Scripture stored in my mind provides me with ammunition in which to fight back with when the devil comes calling. Don't go into your day with an empty gun. Ain't gonna work.

Here's some other Scripture to take a look at.
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path
The Bible helps us to stay on the right path and not wander off into trouble.

Psalm 119:130
The unfolding of Your words gives light. It gives understanding to the simple.
As I study God's word, it begins to become real to me. More than words, it becomes life as I apply it daily. You know what I love best about this verse? It gives understanding to the simple. Gives!!! Freely!! Not Held Back!! Now that is something we should get excited about.

You may be thinking that you don't really have a hunger or appetite to study Scripture. I totally understand this. Why start anyway, and as you do pray and ask God to increase your appetite for His word. May be surprised by what happens. Well, until tomorrow....

God on you....

mbb

Monday, August 15, 2016

Two Steppin' On Monday Morning


Monday.....
Second day of the week....
Feels like the slate got wiped clean over the weekend, and we get a fresh start at this thing we call life.
I can choose to run it myself...
You know, the whole "I'm the captain of my ship".....
Or I can put up another week of following Jesus.


You may be wondering what all this "following Jesus" is about when it comes to recovery.
Well, you only have to look to step #2 to find your answer.


We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Now, the very first thing we see in Step #2 is that the first word in the step is "WE".
That's right....
You're not alone in this journey, nor are you the first who has ever attempted to walk it out.


Next part...."Came to believe"....

Here, in this case, the word believe is more than a mental nod to some truth that has been put before you.
To believe has substance to it. It is a complete trust....a relying on....a clinging to the fact that this Power we call Jesus, even though we might not fully understand, has the capability of righting my destructive life.

Some might call this "believing" faith.
Faith is given to us by God to aid us in moving beyond what our head says, into following what our heart says....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 path to take.

Coming to believe is the point at which you shed your old thoughts and ideas in order to follow this new direction. You aren't the judge and jury anymore of what you will or won't do. You are willing to embrace this Power (or truth be known, we allow the Power to embrace us).

Notice that the Power we are choosing to follow is greater than us.
Doesn't give specifics on how He is greater....
Or even what He is greater about than we are....
Doesn't limit His greatness to any one area or specific task.
Think of it this way....
Whatever we lay our hands to...whatever decision we may make....His way is better.

Oh yeah, don't forget that our greater Power has a name, and that name is Jesus.

So the idea behind Step #2 is that we have come in contact with a Power greater than ourselves who COULD restore us to sanity. Does this mean I am insane? Well, not by the normal definition. The insanity that we're talking about is not having the ability to make sound decisions. This Power that is greater than us, retools our way of thinking so that we don't live by addicta-logic. Romans 12:2 says that we are not to live according to the patterns of this world, or by the way the world does business, but rather we have been called to be transformed....changed....by the renewing of our minds. Such a task can only be accomplished by a greater Power at work in me. Such is the directive that the Holy Spirit brings to my life when I turn my will and life over to His care.

Step # 1 brings us face to face with the unpleasant truth about ourselves....
Step #2 points us in the direction we need to go in order to leave this path of destruction we have been headed down.
Step # 3 is the answer to our life problems. We embrace this Higher Power by turning our will over to His care daily. We turn our life over one time, and walk away into the greatest adventure a body could ever want to participate in........


God on you...
mbb

Friday, August 12, 2016

First Step Of The Day Reveals A Great Truth


Ephesians 1:3
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with EVERY spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.

Every day begins with a first step.
Getting out of bed.....

Or getting up off the couch....
Out of the recliner....
No matter where you might be when you wake up....
You take that first step into a journey that hopefully will take you through the next twenty four hours.

With that first step, we very seldom automatically begin to organize or orchestrate what the day may hold. We move our way into the day. Each day begins with a first step, but each day also begins with the promise we read in Ephesians 1:3. As I've written in the past, "either this God-stuff, and the promises we read are true.....or it's all a lie and we might as well go to Shoney's for Strawberry pie".  In my case, I fall on the side that God's promises are true. As we woke up this morning and got out of bed, we were already in possession of whatever we need to face this day. What part of "EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING" do we not get? Well, for the most part, those blessings may be intangible...we don't feel them, see them, or can touch them. But those blessings are there none the less. And when we walk by faith in Jesus, they are more than real. As I move through my day, I am trusting that Jesus will guide me and keep me......no matter what my brain may tell me, or no matter what I see with my own eyes....I know that God has granted to me everything I need to navigate this present 24 hours in front of me.

Maybe this FIRST STEP I'm writing about this morning is tied to the first step of A.A.
"We admitted that we were powerless over alcohol/drugs---that our lives have become unmanageable."
Maybe these two "first steps" or connected.
We are powerless...
God has granted to us every spiritual blessing....

I cannot take hold of these blessings from God until I come to the realization that I am powerless. As long as I think I possess power, I have no need for God or His blessings.
What is the measure of someone who is powerless?
A life that has become unmanageable due to our being powerless.

Maybe the presence of God in my life, along with His blessings, give me the power to get my life back together. 

Ephesians 2:9
Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
Salvation....me confessing my wrong, and a heart that is broken because of that wrong, is the starting point for my new life. I confess to God and then (by faith) receive His forgiveness. A funny thing happens when we do this....He, God, places His Holy Spirit in us to guide us through this new life journey. WE continue to be powerless, but now we have a Power greater than ourselves who is calling the shots, so to speak. Salvation is a gift....
With this gift comes the call to obedience....
And it is our obedience that opens the door to these spiritual blessings that will be part of the equation that we need to walk through this day.


Today, I don't have to be Powerless any more....
Today, my life doesn't have to be unmanageable....
Today, I have been blessed.

God on you...

mbb

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Living Behind A Facade


Matthew 15:8
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

II Timothy 3:5
Having a form of godliness but rejecting the power......

We use to have a saying at Rapha...
"You don't think your way into a new way of acting....you act your way into a new way of thinking."
In other words, do the right thing whether your mind tells you to or not.
The one flaw in this is that the heart should follow your actions...In other words, your beliefs should change and match your behavior. Well, it doesn't always do that, especially if you have no intention of changing, and your just acting in order to appease someone..


Bottom line in all of this....
Change comes from a POWER greater than myself. That Power has a name, and that name is Jesus. When we come to the sobering thought that we all are powerless to save ourselves, that should give us pause to think on this.


This week, as I watched Olympic coverage from Rio, the one message in every commercial is that "You are powerful...you can rise above your situation or circumstance"...of course this thought is also tied to "If you buy our product". I've been eating at McDonald's for years, yet I still can't master the parallel bars. Bummer. We, as a society, celebrate the human spirit and will, but we've taken it to the point that has exalted it above our creator. That's not such a good thing.And yet isn't this the original problem that started when Eve ate the fruit and then, like a good Olympic relay runner, passed it to Adam? The idea of self-exultation. Here was the first trap set by the devil that humanity stepped into. Genesis 3:5- "God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it (the fruit), and you WILL BE LIKE GOD!!!" Now in my mind.....if I am like God.......I have no need for God. I will run the show. And even If I do become religious, go to church, or even attempt to work a program of recovery....I'm still going to run the show. I will take on the trapping and outward appearance of someone who is doing well...making progress...but deep inside "SELF" is the ruler.


Such a thought can only be put down when we humble ourselves to God.
Our actions are pulled in line with the character God wants to develop in us.
I don't go to Vineyard ReCovery because I have to.
I go because I want to....
I don't read my Bible because I have to, thinking that it looks good to others to see me doing such....
I do it because I want to.
I don't pray because I have to keep up an appearance.
I do because I love God and I want to.


I don't want a form of godliness....
I want God.

I don't want form of recovery...
I want the life that only God can give me.

I don't want to just say the right things in worshiping God...
I want Him to live in me, changing me everyday.
How about you?

What do you want?

God on you....
mbb



Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Following A Path From The Darkness



Romans 12:2
Don't copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way that you think. Then you will know God's will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

If I Follow The Bible, I Don't Really Need To Work The  Twelve Steps

News flash!!!! Working the steps IS following the Bible. Did you not know that the steps were a combination of the book of James.....The 13th Chapter of I Corinthians.....and Jesus' teaching from the Mount (Also known as The Beatitudes)? Can't get much more Scriptural than these three parts.

The steps are a guide....a path to help navigate a new way of living.
In the old life, a person lives by chaos, in chaos, all the while creating more and more chaos.
So to be suddenly called to move into a daily routine of order is a hard task. The steps provide a discipline and direction. Why do you think the battle cry of recovery is ONE DAY AT A TIME? Because that is all we have to live....one day.

The Steps are a path of hope, and hope is a powerful tool when it is pointed toward Jesus, because he is the creator and finisher of all hope. I guess you could say that hope and faith go hand in hand. You can have both of them, pointed in the wrong direction, and still be disillusioned and helpless. But when my hope rests in the simple fact that, in this new relationship I have with Jesus, He truly is who He claims to be, and will do what He has promised to do. 

Such faith....
Such hope...
Fuels me to cling to....rely on......trust in....and look to in every situation, Jesus.
You see where I keep referring to the steps as a path.
Well, what is a path?
It is a worn down direction that has been created by others who walked it over and over, until it can be clearly seen by someone who has never walked it before.
In other words, the Twelve Steps are a path that others have followed....
Not just one or two people....
Not just hundreds or thousands....
But this Path to God, and life with Him has been trod by millions.
I guess that is why we can say with all confidence that "Rarely have we seen anyone fail who has thoroughly followed our path.
The only ones who truly fail or those who will not give themselves to this relationship Jesus is calling all of us to, or those who simply do not want to follow.

I know this...
The Twelve Steps are a path to healing and restoration based on God's truth that will change the way you think, act and live.
God on you....
mbb

Who Are We?

Joshua 1:2 ....Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them....the childr...