Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Little Life? Or Big LIFE?




Great story in the news today about scientist (gotta love these guys and gals) are doing a study to determine what death really is and if there is "Life after death."
I guess the question I would have to ask is......................"Is there life before death."
What I see is that a number of people run around trying to find life.
They don't find it in a job, but they put in their mandatory 40 hours and then use the remaining off time to "experience" life on some level.
To them, life is anything that happens outside the sphere of their normal everyday existence.
They take up skydiving....("It makes me feel alive!").
They take up mountain biking ("I feel alive when I'm blasting down that hill!")
They climb mountains ("I conquered a fear and I'm alive!")
But the life they claim to have found fades and becomes a memory causing them to seek out even greater thrills and experiences.

Jesus, in John 10:10, says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." The inference there is that Jesus is the source for this life, and He goes on to state that "He has come." His presence and His willingness to enter our time and space is the vehicle through which this abundant life flows. We cannot get it on our own, that is why He chose to bring it to us. We cannot seek it out and lay claim to it. He offers it as a free gift to those who would receive.

This abundant life is not for a later time. It is not found within the "sweet bye and by." It is found in the "nasty here and now." Life..............now! Life............that is above whatever the standard is that the world has offered. Life that is eternal. Life that pays dividends on this side of heaven as well as the other. Jesus said that He had come to offer to sinners this gift of life abundant.
To offer life would be to say that, "what you are currently experiencing that you would claim to be life, is less than what He has to offer."

Why not trade today?
Why not look into Jesus, as Larry Norman would sing?
He's got the answer.....
Jesus, not Larry.

God on you........
mb

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dusting Off The Shadow Man



Looking back on my past, I find  out exactly how much I have changed. All the darkness and sin that defined me seems like a bad dream . Who was I? I was a shadow man...
The reality is now I am no longer that person. The reality of today is that my life has been invaded by a Higher Power that has given me purpose.
Purpose found in today...
Not in yesterday.....

Life is still a struggle, but much more manageable following Jesus through the daily mess.
The shadow "Me" seeks to rise up from time to time,usually when I am going through some dark times...He whispers to me to consider letting him back in. But I remember all too well the misery that was heaped upon me, because I chose to follow "self" rather than Jesus.

The shadow man sounds like a friend, but he isn't. He only wants to beat me down into submitting to his every whim and desire. No thought really to me or my well being. Shadow man only seeks to use me till there is nothing left. Drain me of every emotion and feeling I have until I am but a shell of who God created me to be. I choose not to listen to that old voice that surfaces from time to time.

No sir...
I will have nothing to do with shadow man. Like the Apostle Paul, I will press forward (all the while forgetting what is behind) toward the upward call. I am able to forget what is behind me, because I have deal with it.
Confessed...
Repented...
Forgiven....
Made amends....
Moving on...
My hope is found in the One who took me out of the mess I use to call life.
My hope is a living hope that has been birthed in me by the Holy Spirit of Almighty God.
Explain it?
Can't.
I just know He's real.
I just know that I have been changed.

Maybe this resolve that has been born in me is why shadow man continues to chase after me. To draw me away from the hope I've been given.
To lure me with the baubles and beads, and the shiny things of this world. Pretty to look at...catches my attention....but has no value what so ever.
I press on!
Thank you Jesus for your saving power.
A Power that could (and has) restored me to sanity.
So if you are out there this morning, and you are lost in the shadows, unable to find your way out.
Cry out to Jesus...
No, I really mean it! Cry out.. Cry out at the top of your lungs..."Save me Jesus!"
He will hear....
He will answer your cry....
He will come to where you are.
That's a promise.

God on you...
mbb




Monday, September 18, 2017

He Is A Very Capable Shepherd


Psalm 23:2
He makes me to lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters.
The care and love that Jesus shows to his "sheep" is beyond my feeble brain's ability to comprehend such a heart.
He makes me lie down......He knows that left to my own will, I will expend myself on things that do not matter. I will fill up my life with useless activity that profits nothing. I will burn myself out worrying about things that are beyond my control. I guess this is where the serenity thing comes into play. "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." 

Jesus knows that I need rest, not just bodily but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. So from time to time, He MAKES me lie down. Even if for nothing else other than to give my brain and mind a rest. I think one of the first things I notice when Vicki and I go on vacation or just get away for a few days, is how my mind is rested and renewed. This, in turn, really brings about a change physically and emotionally. Rest is needed. Rest reconnects us to the Father when we physically and emotionally rest in Him. Psalm 46:10 - Be still, and know that I am God.....

But notice also in Ps.23:2 the shepherd picks out the best spot for this rest to take place. A place where there is plenty of food and water. To me this is a place where there are ample portions of the Word and the Spirit. This two, Word and Spirit, are food for my soul. Food that brings health to my inner parts. Lifting up the heart and restoring faith and hope in my dry places. I look to Jesus as the source of my spiritual as well as my physical well being. 

Isaiah 40:11 
He shall lead his flock like a shepherd. He shall gather the lambs with his arm and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.
I love this illustration of the heart of Jesus. The ultimate shepherd, not because he has too but because he wants to. A shepherd who laid down his life for the flock in order to protect them from the evil one who prowls looking for someone to devour. 

Part of AA is saying the Serenity prayer.
A prayer that finds stability of mind....
Stability of spirit....
Stability of purpose 
in the relationship with Jesus Christ.
Not that our situations and circumstances are stable, sometimes they are and sometimes they aren't.
The Serenity prayer speaks of the peace and stability that comes within and allows you to not be tossed about by emotion or indecision. It gives the ability to face what I cannot change. It gives me strength to confront and change that which I have ran away from in the past. It gives me wisdom to know which is which.


God....
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace.
Taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it.
Trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will,
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next....
Amen!
Written By:
Reinhold Niebuhr

Saturday, September 16, 2017

In His Hands







Everything I'm searching for
if found in His hands...
For He holds the present...
Moving toward the future....
With the power to free me from my past.
In His Hands.....

The gentle caress of those hands
upon a tired face...
Healing touch that is defined by His Grace..
To love, to care, to lift and breathe life into
my frail body...
All found In His Hands...

Hands that show the scars put there by the
worst of humanity...
How could we ever lay hold of His Hands?
But we did...
He allowed us to place a Romans spike in the palm.
He laid there on that cross when He could have called
down 10,000 legions of angles to defend Him...
But He didn't..
He received the sin nail
In His hands.

So why would I want to be anywhere else
but In His Hands?
Why would I seek to control my own life..
when the darkness of my own heart wants
to see me destroyed?
This day....
This moment...
I choose to stay
IN HIS HANDS!

God on you...
mbb

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Power Of Simple


Pondering life this morning...
I know...it's a pretty heady subject to be rolling around in my brain, especially since I haven't had my first cup of coffee.

What about life? What has me so wrapped up in my thoughts?
Well, to put it bluntly, the simple things that we sometimes lose track of.

The simple things we find in the natural surroundings, as well as the simple we find in the kingdom. We have a tendency to not recognize the value of simple. I remember that one of the things that amazed me, when I was out at Rapha, was the appreciation that came to those who found new life in recovery. I remember seeing men standing outside at night, looking up at the stars, commenting.."Do you know how long it has been since I looked up at the night sky..it's so beautiful." Or how they would go on and on about the taste of coffee, and food in general since they were clean. These simple things are powerful, and they help to keep us grounded.

Me, I love the smell of fresh cut grass.
I love my wife's egg salad, which is usually a Saturday lunch staple here at Casa Bynum. I love laughing with friends over some silly story or joke. I'm crazy about old black and white westerns, where you did know the difference between good and bad by the color of the hat that was worn. I love the sound of snow falling, and the thunder and lightning far off when a summer shower is moving in. 

I could draft a list a mile long of the natural things...the simple things that mean a lot to me.
On the Spiritual side, I love to simply hang out and be with God's people. Every stinking Saturday night my flesh gets up around 2 p.m. because I know that I'm going to be heading out to the church for VRC. "Why don't you stay home....Why don't you just call someone and get them to be in charge...You need your rest, you've been going hard all week." You see, I know this is my flesh..that sin nature that seeks to leverage some measure of control over me. But as sure as the old side begins its conversation in my head, the Spirit of God in me rises up and reminds me that God is going to do something tonight and I would not want to miss it. He was right, I don't want to miss out on what God is doing. So I go, and I have never been disappointed by doing so.


Simple things? Never doubt the power of a simple gesture toward others when it comes to the Kingdom of God.
I get a text message every Friday morning, shortly after 3 a.m.
"Just to remind you that Jesus loves you, and so do I!!"
How cool is that. This person takes time out of their early rising to text me and remind me of a great truth. I cannot explain what an encouragement this is. Simple, yet powerful.

Never underestimate the power of a smile to someone who is down.
A smile...a gentle word of encouragement. Oh not that syrupy, Hall-mark kind of sentimental encouragement...but rather the simple, powerful truth of the Kingdom.

Never downplay the power of a hug or handshake...Such translates the idea of the love of God.

I have a good friend who related an experience he had at his first A.A. meeting. He explained that he had to get drunk to attend because it was almost overwhelming for him to do so. The thing that always grabs me when I think on his story is what made the most impact on him. It wasn't the testimony of those who were in similar situations as my friend. It wasn't anything from the Big Book. The thing that impacted my friend the most was that someone met him when he walked through the door, handed him a cup of coffee and some cookies, and said, "Come sit with me".  Like I said, it is the Power found in the simple things. May you find such Power today.

God on you...

mbb

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Revival


Psalm 85:6
Will you not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?


Definition of REVIVAL
"God's quickening visitation of his people, touching their hearts and deepening his work of grace in their lives." J. I. Packer 

I've been praying for a "recovery" revival for a number of years. I believe it is on God's heart to have a visitation among those who are trapped in the hell we call addiction. I also truly believe that such a revival will not take place until all of us who serve and answer a call to recovery submit ourselves totally to the work of God's Holy Spirit.

Allowing this move of God to start with us.
Cleaning out our own closets of the hidden, secret sin that we think we can hide from God. Oh, we may not be taking up the pipe, the pill or the bottle, but we have secrets of our own that we hide beneath our Pharisee robes. Dare we be transparent and honest? What would people think? Well, I think maybe the more important question we should be asking ourselves is "What does God think about our hidden sins?" We may not be using or slipping around in the darkness to visit old friends in old places, but are we holding onto grudges? Is there bitterness in our hearts? Do we harbor unforgiveness? And the most important thing of all....Have we ignored the things of God? Have we forgotten our first love, Jesus? Have we become so saturated with doing and going that we fail to realize the importance of simply "BEING!" Being the kind of child that pleases the Father. Being a servant to those who come through our doors to the meetings each week. More than that, are we servants in our daily lives?

Every time I begin to pray for God to come and bring revival, I have this picture of a huge fire...I mean a ginormous fire, with flames towering into the night. Flames that light up the darkness driving back the dark and shadows. All around the fire are people who have come to see what was happening. And the main question they ask is "What is on fire? What caused this fire?" The fuel for such a fire to take place is our hearts that have been touched and awakened by God.  IF we allow this revival, this move of God to begin with us, we will see people come to a saving knowledge of this Jesus we have fallen in love with.

I do not want to be the one who stands in the way of God's plans.
I do not want to have a hard heart and a stubbornness that keeps others from finding the life that God has invited all to join.
I want to be a part of the fire...
I want to be a Romans 12:1 kind of person.
A living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto God.
I want His life, not mind.
When we all can come to this point........
I think maybe we will see true revival in our meetings, in our lives, and in the lives of others.

God on you..
mbb


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Them Bones Still Have Life



Ezekiel 37:11
....."We have become old, dry bones----all hope is gone."

What an incredible visual that depicts life in addiction....Let me rephrase that....
What an incredible visual that depicts existence. There isn't any life to be found in the downward slide into the darkness of addiction.

Addiction does not take into account the reason a person starts to use.
Addiction does not differentiate between ethnic groups....educated or uneducated...college graduate or high school drop out. After all, addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.

Little by little, bit by bit, life is traded away for a feeling...
Future's are exchanged for a moment that eventually piles up to become a destructive past that will only define any future you may have.


I love the story found in Ezekiel 37. God takes Ezekiel out into a valley that is filled with dry, dead bones. No life at all...not ever marrow is found in these bones. They have laid out under the baking sun that sucked every bit of life from them. Having no life only breeds the idea of having no hope. When hope is gone there's not much more to live for.


Same with addiction. When you reach a certain point in this downward journey, hope is lost and there is a resolve that you have crossed the point of believing that you can be saved. You begin to wander day to day under the direct false belief that "I am what I am...I am hopeless...I cannot change." With that being the dominant thought, why would you ever believe that it was within your reach to be helped out of this proverbial valley of dry, dead bones. Here in lies the rub, so to speak. We truly have to seek a power greater than ourselves to lift us up and provide "breath" for us to have this new life. We are incapable of doing this ourselves. As I have written so many times before....that Power has a name..........and that name is Jesus.


If you look at verse 10 of Ezekiel 37, you'll see that this exchange of the old life for the new one has a purpose behind it. We read where Ezekiel obeyed God by speaking to this valley full of dry bones. Doing so started a reaction as the Spirit of the Living God came in contact with the Dead bones. Death never wins over the Spirit. Bone found bone....rattling across that wilderness floor. Foot bone moved and found the leg bone it was supposed to be attached to. God took a chaotic mess and brought divine order and purpose to it. Ezekiel writes..."Breath came upon them.....they stood upon their feet." Are you ready for this next part? They became an exceedingly great army.

Interesting choice of words.....great army.
Army has a purpose behind it. War....conflict.
So this valley of dry bones, when rightly touched and assembled by the hand of God had a purpose to its very existence.
Do you not see that when you step back and look at the larger picture of recovery, you'll see a vast army of dead men and women being brought back to life. An army that will go back into the darkness and snatch others from their own "dry bone" existence. We are an army that has been touched by Almighty God...filled with gratitude for what has been freely given to us by Him. Such gratitude not only fuels us to move forward in our personal life, but also reach out to others along the way. Seek God today....ask Him, "What would you have me do? He'll show you. You can bet on that.


God on you...

mbb

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Little Foxes Will Do You In


(Reprint from August 2013)
Song Of Songs Chapter 2:15
"Quick! Catch all the little foxes before they ruin the vineyard of your love, for the grapevines are all in blossom."

Interesting verse this morning, isn't it?
What does it have to do with anything? Well, if you look closely you'll see some good instruction on what to beware of.
Scripture presents us with the image of our Lord as the true Vine and Christians as the fruit bearing branches. Every believer is a branch, a little vine in the true Vine, Jesus Christ, bearing fruit for God. Unfortunately, the fruit of many branches are being destroyed and the vines devastated by little foxes. Every lesser sin is a little fox which spoils the branches by tearing them apart and devouring the grapes. Thus Solomon said: Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom. (Song of Solomon 2:15) and James warns, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (1:15).


Understand that what is symbolized here (the little foxes) are not wolves in sheep’s clothing that we read about in Scripture. The symbol of the little foxes are not the obvious evil sins that stand out for others to see.The little foxes are the sins that are all too often overlooked or ignored, but are nevertheless ruining the vineyards that are in bloom. The little foxes are sin that we excuse. "It really isn't hurting anyone." That may seem true, but it is destroying your ability to produce the fruit God wants to come from your life.

However small or young these little foxes, or sins, may be, they still carry within themselves a destructive nature. Foxes are sly creatures, mischievous and deceitful, hungry and voracious. They are cunning and will come upon us under cover to feed upon the fruit of our vines and it does not take them long to fatten into big foxes. The once little sin well fed and long nourished, outgrows any other sins in our sin nature, or flesh. These little foxes, now small and nourishing themselves on our vine, destroy any growth that has taken place in our lives.


The problem with little sins is that if they are not caught and destroyed, they grow. The so-called little “white lie” soon becomes the golly-whopper big “black lie.” As these little foxes fatten themselves , and grow more evil,  the once pure in heart becomes dark, hard, and full of secret sin. We must catch the little foxes before they ruin the vineyards.


For someone who is on the road to recovery, it is the "little foxes"...the little sins, left unchecked that will derail us and move us back toward our old lifestyle. That is why a support group and a sponsor are so important to aid us in staying clean and sober. We confess when the little foxes come to destroy the tender young things God is growing in our hearts. We do not move back into the shadows and live our lives with this secret. We drag it out into the glorious light of God's forgiveness where it can be deal with. 

Guard yourselves today....
Don't excuse the little foxes in your life that seek to destroy the vineyard God is growing in you.
Think on these things...

God on you....
mb

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Richness of Family


Psalm 150:6
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

The caravan rolled into town yesterday around 3 p.m....
Family.....Tribe....clan...call it what you will.
One from Georgia....
One from Texas....
And one from Montana....

They were joined by two of our own..
Five who came together to make One, collectively praising the Real One.


Of course whenever John Barnett and crew come through Gadsden for an evening of worship, we kill the proverbial fated calf. In other words, it's like a family reunion.
Ton's of BBQ complements of one mister Todd Bagley and Fat Bear BBQ. Mrs. Bagley, otherwise known as LeNola, provided side dishes and dessert. The core leadership of VRC added contributions that brought together a spread that would please any pallet. In other words, we put on the dog. 


Good food, great company, story after story as people caught up with all the goings-on since we last broke bread (Broke bread? man, we broke, stomped on it, threw it against the wall). When this bunch gets together there is some serious eating going on.

Time to start: 7 p.m.
The room began to fill. Some were regular Saturday night attenders..some weren't. But the usual "Howdy's and glad you could make tonight" were spread around.The band took to the stage....
There is something about the way John Barnett writes, sings and plays when it comes to worship.
Very simple lyrics that reveal the heart of a person who is in touch with this God we have come to love.
Uncomplicated music that seems to wrap itself around the words. The two, lyrics and music, become vehicles for the Holy Spirit to deliver the message of hope, love and grace to who ever is present listening.

If you are a musician/song writer, you'd stand there listening, impacted by what you hear. You'd also be thinking, "Why can't I write songs like these?"

There were songs like "Outside Looking In" that gave language to how you felt when it came to life and culture. I saw several who were weeping during this song. Mission accomplished...hearts were in tune to what was being sung. Being on the outside is not a big deal when Jesus is there with us...on the outside.

There were songs that took us into the throne room of God. The air was thick with His Presence. You wish you could just live here and never leave to go back out into the world and the darkness of this age. But then we remember the call to "GO!"...that there are others who need to know and experience this love of God, freely offered to all who would receive.


Song after song flowed from the stage...

Fast up-tempo "Yahoo!" songs such as "I Will Testify"...."I Delight In The Lord God".
Then there was my favorite a somewhat fast little ditty called "Nothing But The Blood". Oh, it's the same one that is sung in church...but the crowd screaming at the top of the lungs as John sang, "What can wash away my sin"....we met with a deafening "NOTHING BY THE BLOOD OF JESUS!!!!".

Driving home after the evening had ended, I couldn't help but think that such evenings as these are all part of the richness of God. He loves family, and He surely loves it when family comes together to worship Him...


Blessings on John, Bobby, and J.R. as they do it all over again this morning in Georgia.

A new day, and another part of the family will get to enjoy what we feasted on last night.
Ain't God good?

God on you...

mbb

Friday, September 8, 2017

John Barnett: Tomorrow Night @ Vineyard ReCovery


Yes sir...that is the man....
John Barnett....
Lot's more to this fellow than meets the eye.
Loves God...
Loves family....
Loves music....
Tie'em all together in a neat package and you've got someone who loves to worship.
Someone who expresses his love for God in a unique way that isn't easily pigeon-holed as the industry of producing music loves to exercise.



John has labeled his worship style as Congregational Americana.
You'll here multiple styles and influences in the music. While the music changes from song to song..the message never does. Jesus is worthy to be worshiped. Jesus' call to follow is an "all-in" proposition. John's music is a vessel that reaches out across generational boundaries to touch, move and awaken us all to the incredible gift that God has given the church....the call to worship Him.



I first met John and his wife, Marie, four years ago when Todd and LeNola Bagley asked them to come and take part in the Living Sacrifices Worship Conference. Found out real quick like that there was more to these folks that you might expect. Their theology was very simple, yet they embraced it as the glue that held their life and world together. Love God....Love others as you love yourself. I know that the church loves to talk about this stuff, but here were some folks that were transparent and honest about their relationship with Christ.

Tomorrow night, John will be heading up a time of worship at Vineyard ReCovery Church. Meeting starts at 7 p.m./ we'll be meeting in the large room at Gadsden Vineyard. This will not be a concert...we won't gather to watch someone play and sing. We will join in and sing TO God...not sing about God. Come on out and join us!!! Looking forward to seeing you.
God on you....
mbb



Thursday, September 7, 2017

Removing The Darkness And Filling The Emptiness



Zechariah 10:2
For the idols (drugs and alcohol) speak delusion.
The diviners (dealers) envision lies, and tell false dreams (make promises they cannot keep)
They comfort in vain (the high is temporary and truly does not bring comfort)
Therefore the people (those who use) wend their way like sheep.
They are in trouble because there is no shepherd.

Since this blog deals with addiction and addictive behavior, I point people to scripture that falls in the category of a life outside of Christ. A life not lived for the fullness and glory of God, but rather to the idol of selfishness and self centeredness. 
The entire scope of existence through drugs and alcohol is a lie perpetrated on a people who cannot discern truth. That is why the truth needs to be spoken to them. lived out in front of them, and not watered down or held back.

You and I were created to be more than a dumping ground for darkness. I know that some of you may find this hard to believe, but we were created in the image of God Himself. In fact, I like the way Pastor Rod Hembree views this idea...He says that "We are image bearers of God." The problem is that we also were born with a sin/nature. A drive that is controlled by sin in our hearts. You see, sin isn't the deed you do, it is what is deep inside that causes us to do it. You may be thinking, "But I'm really not that bad...I haven't killed anyone...I haven't stolen anything". Like I said, it isn't the deed.....it the condition of the heart. Addiction has rode the sin nature to the point that we either turn to God, or we die in darkness, separated from God, and the relationship He desires to have with each of us.

Zechariah 10:12 reads: "So I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in His name," Says the Lord.  Isn't that the heart of recovery? A Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. To a life that is truly lived and not merely an existence. The answer is YES!!! Notice where the strength to daily work and walk in this world comes from. God says, "I will strengthen them." Them who? Those who give themselves to Christ. Focusing their will to only do His will. II Chronicles 16:9 - The eyes of the Lord roam to and fro over the earth, seeking out those whose hearts are committed to Him, that He may strengthen them.

May you find that Power today!


God on you....
mb 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Rebuilding The Walls Of Our Life


Nehemiah 2:17
Then I said to them, "You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach."

Tuesday night Bible study at Rapha found is tackling the book of Nehemiah. If ever there was a book in the Bible that totally describe the journey of recovery, it is this book.
Nehemiah was given the task by God to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls which had been destroyed during a siege by a foreign Army which resulted in the captivity of its inhabitants. 


During Nehemiah's day, the wall of a city was a source of national pride, as well as providing a sense of protection from invading forces. What had once been a source of pride was now broken, full of holes where the enemy had breached the walls. The gates of the city had been burned and torn down. Such a state as this allowed the enemy to come and go at will into the city, looting and taking everything.

Now God has given the word to rebuild.

In addiction, we have allowed the walls of our life to be breached by our enemy. We have had the gates burned and given free reign to our enemy to move in and out of our lives, taking whatever they will. We no longer are able to protect or fend off any attack by the one who seeks to destroy us.

Before you can rebuild, you have to take inventory to see the extent of the damage that has occurred. The kind of damage I'm talking about is internal. Character defects that fuel our enemies passion to destroy us. Those broken down places in our decision making that is fueled by a sin/nature that drives us to continue the destruction.

In verse 13, we see Nehemiah begin the inventory:
And I went out by night through the Valley Gate to the Serpent Well and the Refuse (Dung) Gate, and viewed the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were burned with fire."

So what do we see in this verse?
#1- Nehemiah starts the inventory by moving through the Valley Gate....at night.
So Nehemiah is going to take inventory by moving through the darkness. Step #4 is about going to the dark places in our lives and in hearts. The places we don't really want to take a look at. The attitudes and behaviors that we want to ignore because to focus on them is too painful. But every inventory has to start somewhere, ours begins in the darkness and hardness of our hearts.


#2 - The first place Nehemiah goes to is the "Serpents Well"...Isn't the life and behavior of someone in addiction is to drink long and deep from the Serpents Well? The Devil's well? We drink long and hard from something that has promised to quench our thirst. Truth is, it only leaves us dry and empty begging for more.


#3- Notice also that the Serpents Well is located just outside the Dung Gate. Well,we could have a go at this part of the verse for a long time. Suffice it to say that drinking from the devil's well is a bunch of crap. Nuff said.

Next comes Verse 14:
Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King's Pool, but there was no room for the animal under me to pass.
Hmm, let's see here. We've done an inventory at the Serpent's Well, as we moved through the Valley Gate (Yea, though I walk through the VALLEY of the shadow of death), passing through the Dung gate. Now we are moving on to what I see is the answer to that first verse we read. 

Nehemiah finds himself at the Fountain Gate. A source of water that will not disappoint.
Jesus tells us in John 4:14: "But whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water I shall give him will become in him FOUNTAIN of water springing up into everlasting life." Notice what is located near this Fountain Gate....the KING'S POOL. Hmmm....king.....royalty.....Lord....Jesus...could this be a symbol of where the promise of real life that is free and clear from the bondage of addiction is found?"

Also take a look at the problem that Nehemiah encountered as he approached this location. "There was no room for the animal under me to pass." In other words, Nehemiah had to dismount and lead his ride through the passage. 
Matthew 7:13-14- Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there be few who find it.
It is true....it is a narrow path that leads from addiction to life with Christ. But once you enter in, that path opens up into a spacious glorious life that you've dreamed of. One that no longer becomes something that always seems to be out of reach. It becomes the life that is free from the destruction and damage of our selfish thinking and sinful nature. And it is available to any and all who answer Jesus' invitation to come and drink from His fountain.
Call me silly, but that is some kind of good.
God on you...

mbb


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Healing Rain



Psalm 107:35
He turns a wilderness into pools of water, and dry land into water springs.

The power to heal is always around us....
It comes from one source....
It is not easily defined by human will or intellect.
It does not operate as we would have it, thinking it to be at our disposal whenever we say some magic words...

But this healing power is ignited when hearts cry out to the One who heals.
It can come to those with physical problems....
It is poured out on those who have mental and emotional problems....
This healing power is given to those who have spiritual needs.....


The greatest evidence of this healing power comes through salvation. For such is an eternal work that frees a person from the kingdom of darkness, to translate them into the wonderful Kingdom of light. Salvation is the ultimate healing to me. It is a taking out  of the whole package, so to speak. When a person comes to Christ for salvation, they are made new at every level. They are freed from the power of sin..........they are free of the penalty of sin...and they are free to stand and resist the presence of sin.

Like the video above of Michael W. Smith singing 'Healing Rain"....you've got to step into this healing rain of God. It's not enough to stand on the sidewalk and watch others. It's not enough to simply "be near" thinking maybe that some will splash on you. It is stepping out in faith....stepping out into the rain...to be soaked in His presence allowing His healing to reach every part of you.


Such is the nature of recovery....
Recovery is simply one color of healing that comes through salvation....
When you are tired of being dry all the time...
When you are worn out watching others step into the healing rain, while you stand on the sidewalk wishing it were you....
Why not step out yourself?
Why not leave the old and embrace this new life that comes with the healing rain of salvation?

He is always there waiting on you....
To confess....
To repent...
To receive forgiveness...
To acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior...

And to open yourself up to receive His Holy Spirit....
Now that's what I'm talking bout.

God on you...

mbb

Monday, September 4, 2017

One For The Books


Psalm 148:13-14
Let them praise the name of God---It's the only Name worth praising. His radiance exceeds anything in earth and sky. He's built a monument....His very own people!

What a weekend!! Friday was our anniversary, so Vicki and I drove over to Jacksonville to Effina's for a meal. Incredible food, lots of hand-holding and whispering to each other. We took a trip down the proverbial "memory" lane, going back over our 45 years together. Finished the meal and returned home with dessert in tow. Cranked up our percolator and spent the evening just being together.

Saturday found me meeting with a group of guy's for what I refer to as the "State of Church" meeting. Every so many months I get a call from Bobby Sparks to assemble for a conclave to share what God is doing among us all. This particular time was to see what is going on, as far as spiritual warfare among the churches. To some who came, such was new and they were excited to learn about things that traditional church sometimes sidesteps or ignores. SO there was a lot of questions and hopefully some right answers.

Saturday also was VRC. 
Teaching was on connecting with the love of God. There isn't anyway a soul can truly find new life without gratitude for what Jesus has done to open the door to such a relationship. God's love is constant. Mine should be (my love for Him), and that was the point I was trying to make Saturday night. To realize how deep, wide and high God's love is for us. Returning back to Him our love, not because we have to, but because we want to. Realizing that when His Spirit connects with our spirit, there are outward behaviors that come into play.  Back in 2012, I wrote in my Bible: "Praise comes from a saved heart---one who stands outside this relationship can only mimic those he sees.True praise is tinged with gratitude...tempered with love for God, and empowered by His Holy Spirit. To stand with such fire burning inside causes a language to launched from our lips toward Heaven. Such will be received by our Heavenly Father.  In other words, we are physically demonstrating our love to God by saying or singing praise to Him."

Sunday found me at Northside Baptist, continuing this teaching about the love of God directed and demonstrated to us. I see new growth among us. I see new vision and the beginning of fresh fire from the Holy Spirit. More Lord! More!

Sunday night found me at Catalyst Recovery. Scottie Davis, who I have known for years, was saved and wanted me to baptize him. Man, that was payday. I've known Scottie for a while, and he has always teetered on the edge of salvation, but the tug of the darkness always laid claim and Scottie would never take that final step. But last night was a celebration of God's goodness and faithfulness to Scottie....Lowering him down, the old man died....raising him up...the new man came alive. I also got to see Donnie Toole get his 10 year chip. Double-pay day!!! I think I'll stick these memories back and hold on to them, so that when the day's get dark and times are hard, I can pull them out and remind myself that it's all worth it and God is still in control.


Monday's here...Labor day.
I think I will celebrate non-labor day and not hit a lick at a snake today. Maybe grill out some dog's and catch a ballgame. Like I said, "It was a wowzers weekend!"


God on you...

mbb

Friday, September 1, 2017

Vicki Bynum



Genesis 2:24- For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Man oh man...
The love of my life....
Truly my better half without a doubt....
My wife, Vicki.
Today marks 45 years of being together...
All this week we have walked around asking each other, "Does it seem like 45 to you?" Of course the answer is no. I mean, after all, 45 years of marriage is something that old folks do, isn't it?

We have weathered a lot of storms during our 45 years, but if I can say anything, I would tell you that we are here today because of the faithfulness of God's hand and the promises that we find in Scripture. Marriage truly is a daily learning process that requires both parties, husband and wife, to lay aside self.

I first met Vicki in January of 1970. She was a secretary for one of the staff members of Campus Crusade for Christ. Their offices were across the street from Gadsden High School, so every afternoon Vicki would drop by to take care of whatever clerical duties were needed. Well, it just so happened that Jim Bentley and I were in our first year at Gadsden State, and were also hooked up with Campus Crusade. In fact, they had approached Jim about turning part of the building into a coffee house that would eventually be known as THE OTHER DOOR. Catchy name, right? Well, it was named that because you had to go around to the side to enter...you couldn't use the front door, you had to use the OTHER DOOR. Anywho, Jim and I were there on this particular day, he was painting and I was waxing poetically in verse and guitar. In the middle of this incredible earth shattering of the Bee-Gee's "Massachusetts" she walked through the door and into my life....Vicki Campbell.  A vision of loveliness, eyes that sparkled and seemed to drink up every moment of life.
She proceeded to move by me, oblivious that I would be the man she married. O.k. neither of us knew where this road would take us.

She seated herself at a typewriter (remember those?) and commenced to dispatch the daily correspondence. I, being the quick wit I am, seated myself directly across from her and commenced to work on a song. "Excuse me," she said. "What are you doing?" I replied that I was writing a song, and was simply trying to gather my thoughts. Of course my thoughts were all about her. Well, one thing lead to another. There where phone calls to her, and eventually we had our first date...January 19, 1970. We painted the town on that first date. We went to the coffee house to hear a local musician, and then to Pasquale's Pizza Parlor, located at that time on Court Street.

Cheese Pizza, two Dr. Peppers, four quarters in the Juke box, and tons of conversation. I like this girl.
And of course if you follow the simple progression of dating, liking someone has the potential of turning into loving someone. Alas, we spent the better part of 1970 arguing and breaking up, only to get back together. But in 1971, I asked her to marry me, she said "yes!" and on September 1, 1972 we were married in the courtyard of Twelfth Street Baptist Church.

Funny part in this journey is the simple fact that I thought I loved her way back in 1972. I didn't really know what real love is like. Today I do. She still takes my breath away when she comes into a room. Her's is the voice that I long to hear. Her's is the last face that I see before I go to sleep each night, and the first one I see when I rise in the morning. The touch of her hand still gives me butterflies. When she isn't around, I am half a man. Together we are complete. She is my forever love.

So with this in mind, she and I will celebrate this day....
We hope we can pull off 50 and beyond. Praying that the good Lord will grant us more years, but rest in the knowledge that we will be together for eternity, worshiping in His presence. Is that cool or what?

So here on this day, September 1st, I would do it all over again Vicki. The highs and the lows, the ups and the downs, the dark days and the good....I would marry you again. You are, and always will be, my forever love.

I love you sweetheart...
Michael

p.s.
"Lets do another 45! What do you say?"

Thursday, August 31, 2017

God



Psalm 145:1 - I will extol You, my God, O King. And I will bless Your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.

The idea that the Eternal God would want to rescue me is beyond my comprehension. The thought that out of all the peoples of the world (beginning to end) He would want to save me, reveal Himself to me, love me and change me in ways that I never could imagine....is beyond me.

What's even more incredible is His desire to reach out to all people with this invitation. His love and His offer of this new life.....life abundant here, and life eternal once we die, is not based on race, color, social status, or intellectual ability. It is given freely to all His creation.
From Muslims to atheists.
From the movers and shakers of the financial world, to the lowest back alley bum.

From the richest of the rich, to the homeless of this earth.
His love and offer to a new life is without boundary.
Nothing or no one can stop this call and offer....
No government can legislate God out of existence.

That would be like trying to grab a fist full of water....
You may lay hold of it, but it will slide through your fingers no matter how tight your grip.

So, you see, it doesn't matter what your drug of choice is this day...
Meth...
Crack...

Heroin....
Alcohol....

The latest street fad concocted from the fires of hell...
God is bigger...
God is stronger...
God's love for you is fiercer....

God is God....
Why not choose this day who you will follow...
The world?
Or my Jesus!

God on you..

mbb

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Nature Of An Attack



When the enemy comes in.....
What enemy? The devil, his minions, and the kingdom of darkness.
Comes in? Where exactly does he come "in"?
Into our time and space...trying to affect me..influence me...wanting to stop me in my tracks from believing and following hard after this Jesus.

The devil is a master of human nature. After all, he's been observing us since the garden. You can say what you want to, but basic human nature has not changed at all.
Our nature is to cheat, manipulate, lie, steal, look to self rather than others. I could go on and on but you get the picture.
There are those in society who believe in the goodness of humanity. While we do possess the capability to do good deeds, we still struggle with that old nature that causes us to hold grudges, refuse to extend forgiveness to others, and to relinquish control of our lives over to the care of God.


I came under one of his attacks yesterday, and its beginning was so subtle that I did not catch it at first. For some reason, I began to doubt myself, what God has called me to, and my ability to teach the word of God. It began with a single thought..."Maybe my time is up...maybe I have outlived my usefulness....maybe I should hand over my meetings to someone younger who has more energy and a fresh vision. And then the kicker came.."Maybe I just need to quit all of this!" The list went on and on, until it almost became an avalanche that completely swallowed me in its path.

I knew that I had a Bible study to teach at Rapha later in the day, but I was feeling like "What's the use!" The devil was actually trying to keep me from going out to Rapha and teach God's word last night. I went anyway. I didn't feel as though anything had changed, I just knew that I had made a commitment to teach, and I was going to honor that commitment. Turned out it was one of the best Bible studies we had since I've gone back on Tuesday nights.

Did the devil not want me to teach? Probably.
Was this in fact his way of taking my mind off of Christ, and turning my thoughts and vision inward to what a mess I perceived myself to be? I think maybe yes.


As I walked back to my car after the Bible study, it came to me as to what actually had taken place. I am a bit slow if you want to know the truth. Where I thought all of this was just me, God revealed that it was the enemy trying to stop me. My initial reaction to seeing this clearly was "What a dunder-head I am!" I was grateful that I had not given into the string of dark thoughts that had followed me during the day. I was glad that I had stayed the course and did not allow the dark thoughts become dark deeds. So just beware when your thoughts turn South and grow dark. Realize exactly who is behind what you are experiencing. Your enemy the devil is trying to stop you from following after Jesus.

One last thing...
The verse from Isaiah 59 is a powerful declaration. At the time it was written ( I may be wrong about this) there wasn't any punctuation assigned to the writing. I can't prove this, but I think maybe they put a comma in the wrong place.


Now the verse reads as follows:
When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.

I believe it should be this way:
When the enemy comes in, like a flood the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him.
Funny how a simple comma changes everything.
Funny how Jesus in my life changes everything.

Think on these things.

God on you...
mbb

Little Life? Or Big LIFE?

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