Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Going Off The Tracks

Romans 1:21-22
Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.

The hard part of being in this recovery stuff is watching the self destruction of people.
To see them refuse to come to the knowledge and understanding of the truth about their situation. To watch them continue on that path to destruction, all the while trying to help them. A friend of mine told me one time, after dealing with an individual who was addicted, "You know, it shouldn't be this hard to help people!"  Wow, truth times shouldn't be this hard.

To me, it is the story of the rich, young ruler who came to Jesus all hyped up on religion. When confronted with the hard truth that God requires more than just going through some spiritual discipline, the young ruler walked away. The young man had checked off the list all the "to do's" that he thought was important. He neglected the "to be's". It was the change of heart and character that Jesus required. A giving of self to a new way of living, breathing, eating, sleeping and walking around. Jesus went right to the heart of this young man. "Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor, then come and follow me." The man could not. He was not willing to part with the comfort he'd found in this life. The very one he'd been looking for, the Messiah....the deliverer of Israel was standing right in front of him, telling what he needed to do and this man could not do it. He loved his comfort and position more than he desired to be saved. 

To someone in addiction, they want to call the shots when it comes to their life. They want to be the one who makes all the decisions that will affect them. Trouble is, their thinking has become muddled and their hearts darkened with the stain of sin. The twisted process of their thinking is what I refer to as "Addict-a-logic". It makes sense in the mind of the individual, but not to anyone else. Unless there is an intervention by the Spirit of God to this individual, there really isn't anything that can be done or said to them. Any attempt to reason will be met with resistance and twisted to fit the purpose of the one who needs help. All part of the train-wreck mentality that comes with the territory when your train is addiction. Example of addict-a-logic.
1.) I'm a user

2.) My using takes money
3.) I fall behind on my debt and my bills.
4.) I don't want to quit using
5.) I can't pay my bills.
6.) I decide that the easiest way for me to catch up on my bills is to gamble and win the big jackpot.
7.) I spend money I don't have to chase a pipe dream that will never come to fruition.
8.) I fall farther and farther behind.
9.) The depression and guilt and shame only fuels my addiction to use more.
10.) I jump the tracks and crash and burn.
11.) End of story - which usually includes either death, prison or some form of institutionalism. 

Sounds hopeless doesn't it?
Well, its not. And it is this daily battle that calls people to confront and pray and speak to the darkness that has become known as addiction. It is an opportunity to display the Power of God, the Higher Power the big book of A.A. speaks of, into the lives of those who are trapped.  Does everyone get it? No, they don't. But if we don't face this battle each day, then no one will. I'm telling you, there is nothing greater than when the Spirit of God awakens someone from their addiction and hope begins to grow in that individuals heart. You can watch the process move forward as time goes by. Every life does not have to be a train wreck waiting to happen. Some have found the Power and presence of Jesus, and have continued on down the tracks to their destination.

Funny to me that in the big book of A.A. there is a chapter entitled "There Is A Solution".
Do you think maybe I need to read that one?
Now that's some good stuff.

God on you....

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Precious Flow

Hebrews 9:22
.......And without the shedding of blood there is neither release from sin and its guilt nor the remission of the due and merited punishment for sins.

What can wash away my sin, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Not the blood of animals taken to a temple to pay my debt. But the pure, sinless blood of Almighty God Himself, walking on this planet as one of us. People don't want to believe this. People want the easier, softer way to live this life and the next. But the truth stands above every human wish and desire to change the power and healing capabilities of the blood of Christ.

What can make me whole again, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Complete, put together, functioning in the way I was created to. That is the power of the blood of Christ. Psychology can't bring wholeness to me. Medicine can't put me in touch with this healing flow of blood. Religion can't lift me into the presence of God. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh precious is that flow, that makes me white as snow.
We have got to return to the place where we recognize the value of the blood of Jesus. Freely poured out on a hill outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem.
A hillside that had known rivers of blood. Many man had walked through the gates of that town, cross strapped to their backs. Many a man had felt the whip of Rome and had taken that journey to Calvary. But only one man carried within Himself the healing for the whole world. What can stand to challenge the death and resurrection of this man? Nothing and no one. Jesus the Christ is the answer to all the ill's of humanity. 

No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
There isn't any other source of life. All others pale in comparison. They boast of their capabilities, but their words are empty promises. Trash and litter blown by the wind around the feet of the masses. But the blood and word of Christ delivers every time. 

It is not in vogue to speak of the blood of Christ. It offends people, so we shouldn't make them uncomfortable. Such is the mindset of some who claim to be a part of His body...His church. We need to be offended. We don't need the soft words of a bloodless Christianity. It only feeds our flesh and whisks us away on flowery ideology all the way to hell. I go back to the line from the hymn, "Oh precious is that flow".....the unsurpassed worth and value of that which was shed on my behalf so that I would not be separated from God. Such things as this are beyond my comprehension, but I find a thankfulness that cannot be put into words, for what God has done for humanity.

Thanks for letting me ramble this morning....
Been on my mind...
Been in my heart....

God on you....

Monday, May 29, 2017

John 21:17
.....He (Jesus) said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" And he (Peter) said to Him, "Lord, you know all things. You know that I love You."

Conversation between Peter and Jesus after Jesus' resurrection.
Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loved Him.
First two times, Peter replies "yes"...
Third time, Peter simply says "You know all things."

There was a connection between what Peter said, and the actions that Jesus was calling him to. "If you love me, Peter....then do this!".
Love for Jesus always translates into kingdom work for the individual.
A "going out" if you will, to influence and share with others what God has done for them.

I am terrible at communication with others.
I am terrible at communication with others when they ask certain types of questions.

The one question that I fear the most is "How's your church doing?"
Well intentions from the one asking. They are curious about what going on with Vineyard ReCovery. But to me.....I don't know what to say. How do you respond to a question like that? My first inclination, when asked that question, is to respond, "It isn't my is His."

 Usually such questions as "How is your church doing?" is looking for an answer that is based on how many people do you have coming to your meeting. But is that a real measure of how the church is doing? Do numbers truly give us a clear picture of the health and well being of any church? I don't think so.

While listening to a teaching yesterday, the moderator commented on a George Barna pole that had been taken on "how do you measure whether your church is successful or not?" Here are the five things that pastor's use to measure whether their church is a success or a failure.

1.) How many people attend the services.
2.) How much money is taken up.
3.) How many programs you have available for those who attend
4.) How many are on staff
5.) How much square footage of space do you have

Not one mention about the character and heart of the people who are attending. I take John Wimber's view when it comes to measuring your church. "What is the quality of the people who attend?" Are they growing in Christ? Are they falling in love with Jesus more than when they first started attending your meeting?

I get it...
The more people you have coming to church, the more things you can do on a larger scale. But that can't be the only criteria used when deciding the quality and success of a church.

I was in a conversation yesterday with a young man who was trying to wrap his brain around the concept of a Vineyard church. The question came up about "what was our vision for the church?" Where did we see ourselves down the road, as far as where God was taking us as a group. I told him that I didn't know how to answer that. It wasn't that I didn't have an answer, I do. But my answer would not be what he needed to hear. So what is my vision for Vineyard ReCovery? To make it to next Saturday night so we can see what God wants to do...and then we can cooperate with Him.You see, my vision only extends out for one week. 

I wish I were a long range planner. I wish I could come  up with these sweeping vista's of where I thought we were headed as a church. But I can't. I can only see from Saturday to the next Saturday. I spend my week watching and praying "What do you want to do, Lord?" I spend my week studying and going over Scripture. Sometimes in the process, God will cause certain verses to catch my attention. When that happens, I always ask, "How does this apply to us, Lord?" If there is a connection with what God is working among us as a church, then I pursue it to see what message He might want us to hear.  

I guess we all want to be remembered for something we did or said after we die.
For me, I want to be remembered as someone who loved Jesus and was just crazy enough to "get out of the boat and try that walking on the water thing."
I want to spend ever how much time I have left, introducing others to my Jesus. I want them to know the truth about who He is and what He has promised He would do for those who came after Him. That's all....that's how I want Vineyard ReCovery to be remembered. "They loved Jesus....They loved those who didn't love Jesus...and they loved each other." If we can be remembered for that, I think maybe we turned out o.k.

God on you...

Sunday, May 28, 2017

One For The Books

John 8:12
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, "I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won't have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life."

Last night's VRC was another good 'un! Now we never know how these meetings will turn out. We never really know whose going to show up and who isn't. Our job is to prepare the room, prepare our own hearts, pray and invite God to show up, then wait. 

The one thing I've noticed about Saturday night is that 10 minutes before the meeting is suppose to start, there aren't very many present. You begin to get this idea that maybe the night is going to be what we refer to as "Family" night. By that I mean the only ones who will be there are those folks that are  a part of the core leadership. Not that those night's are bad, they aren't. Sometimes when it is a family night, things get real intimate with God, the Spirit moves in our hearts and we are able to receive some healing and forgiveness that is much needed.

By 7 p.m., the crowd has come through the door and we are ready to start. Much coffee has flowed and cookies have been stacked on napkins as folks take their seats. "Welcome to my living room" is usually my opening remark, due to the size of our room, and the intimacy that is found as we gather for another opportunity to meet with God.

Todd Bagley was our worship leader last night.
Todd has a gift of selecting songs that touch all the right places in our heart. Places that open us up to join in and move into God's presence as we worship.

Voices in the room join in as Todd sings "Pour it out".....Asking God to shower us with His mercy. The room becomes very soft as the Holy Spirit changes the very atmosphere around us. Shortly before the room was filled with talk and conversation about events of the past week...people catching up on each others exploits. All that has been replaced with a single focus of collective hearts now turned to God.

Last night was week #2 of our new direction in helping to show what it really means to follow Jesus. I guess you could say that we are looking to make disciples. Truth is, I want to help equip an army that can go back out into the world and hear God for themselves, follow His instructions, and give away to others who are still in spiritual darkness and separation from God. So last night we talked about "They said, He said".  Passages from Matthew 5 where Jesus was telling the crowd..."You have heard it said, but I say".  In other words, before any of us can start this journey with Jesus, we have to unlearn some things that we lived by for a long time. Attitudes and ideas, concepts and world views that are totally outside the will of God. Such "unlearning" will require effort on our part to study the word of God, to surround ourselves with good people who are like minded and in pursuit of Jesus, and last, but not least, application of what we are being taught.

Our real job in this new journey is to simply cooperate with the Holy Spirit as he works in each of us. A work that will continue till we draw our last breath. He strips away every dark thing inside of us that covers up the image of God we were created to carry.  We touched on Romans 12:1 where Paul says that we are living sacrifices....Two words that don't really go together. Living----sacrifice? But in the Kingdom such makes perfect sense. Our very lives are placed on God's altar for Him to receive. We don't just surrender will and life over to His care. We surrender the whole kit and kaboodle. The will, the intellect, the soul, the body, the heart, the spirit, all laid before God for Him to "kill" the sin nature. 

To be a follower of Christ requires a total commitment to on our part. To become a vessel of faith, allowing God to fill us with His Holy Spirit. Then we move forward daily under His direction. We no longer have the right to follow our feelings. I've heard it put this way....we are called to live by faith no matter what our feelings say. The argument (inside our hearts and minds) between faith and feelings will always cause us to be a divided person if we allow feelings to win out over faith. As my wife likes to say..."Feelings aren't right...feelings aren't wrong...they just are". In other words, you can't deny you don't have feelings, but even when such are up and raging, faith is always the door we should choose to walk through.

So once again, as I walked out into the night my thoughts did a replay of the nights meeting we had just finished. A deep sense of satisfaction came over me...not satisfaction of anything I had done, but for the simple fact that we had met God and He had been active in our midst. I knew that good seed had been planted. As I made my way to my car, once again the thought came, "Boy God, how are you going to top this night." I rest in the assurance, and have faith that next Saturday night.............He will!!

God on you...

Friday, May 26, 2017

Another Year Has Passed

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
A time to be born.....

And a time to die.....

Today is the 36th anniversary of my Mother's death.
Every year, on May 26, I'm taken back, in my memory, to that hospital room at Gadsden Regional Medical Center.
I don't want you to think I'm being morbid. I'm not, because my Mother's death was a glorious occasion.
If ever a person was ready to "go home", as she put it, it was my Mom.
Christmas of 1980, my Mom and Dad came over to our house to eat and be with the kids. Mom was not feeling well and had been that way for a number of weeks. Hoping it was only something insignificant, she pushed on, as she always had. Christmas gave way to January of 1981 and the "feeling" did not go away. Eventually giving in and going to the doctor, Mom was given a series of tests and was given the news that she had pancreatic cancer. The prognosis was not good. Her chance of survival was "0". The doctors gave her 3 to 6 months to live. What came next was so typical of my Mother. Once she wrapped her mind around what was going to happen, she set about putting every thing in order. That's my mother.

She made lunch dates with old friends and acquaintances she hadn't seen in years. Over lunch, my Mother would share her story and ask if she had harmed or offended them in any way. Mom wanted to make sure that she took care of business before it was her time. She put her house in order and took care of all of her financial obligations. That was my Mom.

On May 14th, we took Mom to the hospital for the last time. I'll never forget as we walked out of the house, my brother on one side and me on the other, Mom turned around and looked at the house. Turning back to us, she took our arms and said, "Boys....I'm ready to go home."  On May 26th, at 8:05 a.m., my Mother took her last breath and left this world. As I sat by her bed, I could only think of the homecoming she received in heaven. Both her parents, her brother, and other loved ones to greet her. And of course...her Savior...Jesus. My Mother loved Jesus like it was nobody's business. It was her faith and her love for God and church that is probably the greatest legacy she left me. As I grew up, my Mother read me Bible stories from this gigantic family Bible. I remember so well her voice as she told me of David and Goliath. You know giants and such things fascinated little boys. Daniel and the lions den....."You mean those lions didn't eat him?" I would exclaim. Noah and the ark...."How did Mr. Noah keep all those animals from fighting/" Mom raised me, I believe, as God directed her. With that in mind, I didn't always heed her teaching. I guess the end result is what matters, as I sit here today. 

I want to be like my Mom when it's my turn.
I want my faith to be unwavering and my resolve to be as one who is ready.
I don't want my heart to be divided and find that I still have a love for the things of this world.
I want my heart to have only love for the Savior who died for me to give me an eternal life with Him.
Like the verses in Ecclesiastes read....To every thing there is a season. 

My life is a season. During my time here, God has orchestrated and placed around me his plans and purposes. I'd like to think I recognized what He was doing, but I didn't. I am quite sure that I missed what God was doing or was wanting to accomplish in my life. That has always been my greatest fear. Not that I would turn and do something contrary to God's will, but that I would simply miss what He wanted me to do. As the days roll past, I am painfully aware that I do not need to squander any of them on my flesh. I want to love harder than I ever have. I want to burn with a passion to worship my God. I want to give away anything God deems as not necessary for this life. I want to dive into His Word and come up screaming...."YES! It is all true!" I want my heart to be in tune with God's heart. Does this sound fanatical? If it be so...then I will be fanatical.

What is it God is trying to bring forth from your life today?
Don't miss it.
Don't be so caught up in the activity of life that you miss the voice of God.......the hand of God.
Turn your heart and your mind to heaven and make your days here on earth count.
Love the Lord God with all your heart, all you mind and all your strength, then as you move through your prepared to tell someone your story. It might be that you are the season and purpose God has set aside for others.

I miss you Mom,and I love you.
Can't wait till I see you and Dad again.
Thanks for all you did for me and the things you instilled  in me.

God on you.....

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I Want...I Want....I Want!

Luke 12:15
And He said to them,"Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."

Covetousness - The strong desire to acquire more and more possessions, power, experiences.
I want more.
How much is enough?
How much money is enough.
How many homes and cars are enough?
II Timothy 3 lays down the attitude and heart focus of humanity in the last days. 
This word "covetousness" will be the primary drive that defines mankind.
I think I don't really have to prove this point, as all you have to do is look around, read the headlines in our daily paper and watch the newscast on television.

The need for greed is running rampant and seems to be the character du'jour for people.
You know the funny part about this mindset is that you don't actually have to be rich or even own a bunch of stuff to fall prey to this desire. Just like the Scripture reads that the "love of money is the root of all evil," no where does it say you have to have money. You can love money and be as poor as Job's turkey. It is that inner drive, the central focus of heart removed from Christ that seeks to feed a passion that is born in hell.
A selfish, self-centered, me-me-me, mentality.
If you look at heart that is filled with covetousness has no room for God.
Just as there was no room at the inn on the night of Jesus' birth, in the heart of a man who is consumed with the unholy want for material possessions, there is no room for a Savior.
Does that mean that someone who is consumed with covetousness is beyond salvation?
Not at all.
All it takes is the Holy Spirit breaking through the darkness and hardness of soul and mind to illuminate and bring conviction to the individual.

The Apostle Paul writes of learning the secret of being content. 
You know, I think maybe we need a heavenly dose of contentment in our time and day.
Contentment is being at peace no matter what your current state of living.
Paul said that he had learned this secret of contentment and that he could be at peace whether he was hungry or prison or a free man......whether he had a lot or nothing at all. I not really sure, but I believe that to operate and live from a position such as Paul wrote about would be one of the greatest gifts God could give us.  To be at peace inside ourselves and not tossed about by the lust and desire that seeks to have its own way would be a marked change in our growth as believers.

I do not want to be in bondage to the things of  this world.
I do not want to be a slave to the mindset of this world.
I want to be content and at peace as I follow Jesus daily.
In other words....
I want to be free from myself.

God on you...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

It's Time We Get Off Of The Roller Coaster

We walk.....we move....we live.....we make our decisions...we function every day in one of two ways....
By sight....
Or by faith....

Scripture confirms which approach to life we should take.

II Corinthians 5:7
We walk by faith and not by sight.
The Message Bible puts it like this: It's what we trust in but don't yet see that keeps us going.
Simple truth....if we claim to be a follower of Jesus, we live by faith.
We no longer can claim to operate by our senses alone. In fact, living by my senses got me into the mess that brought me to Jesus for salvation. Me trying to be the captain of my ship. Never mind that I had dashed the ship to pieces on the rocks of life. I was at the helm following what I thought to be the right path.

Lot of talk about faith. Lot's of people all up into faith. Great word "faith". It brings peace to some. But there is another word that creeps into this equation of living by faith that destroy's all peace and seeks to rule our hearts. What word would that be? Feelings.

You don't measure faith by how it 'feels'. You don't say that you're living by faith, when in fact you are on the roller coaster of feelings. The two do not, nor will they ever harmonize. It just isn't going to happen, yet this whole "feelings" thing has derailed many a follower of Jesus. We so desperately want feelings and faith to work hand in hand. To bring some assurance to us (through out feelings) when we are moving in faith. Well I can only speak for myself, but feelings are not a measure for how much faith you have. Faith that God is who He claims to be...Faith that He will do what He has promised to do is not bound or defined by my feelings.

My feelings can be sky high or down in the deepest pits and neither place is a measure of how great my God is. Feelings only serve to let me see and understand exactly how much more I need to have faith in God than to rely on my own senses (or feelings).

According to Hannah Whitall Smith's writing in the book I am currently going through (and quiet slowly might I add) is that, as human's, we have a hard time in relation to God because we want to "feel "that everything is right and amen. We cannot believe we are saved until we "feel" like we are. We cannot accept the fact that we are forgiven of sin until we "feel" like we've been forgiven. And because we do not "feel" these things, we cannot believe that God has taken us in hand and is leading us forward. Even though the truth of Scripture contradicts what we are feeling, we have a tendency to reject the truth and fall upon the sword of our feelings. Now I love it when my feelings line up with what Scripture says....and I experience this wonderful bliss of being in tune with what God is doing. But following by faith has to be the first and only measure of my choices, not my feelings.

The one thing that caught my eye in all of this is how she frames the way we approach life.

Hanna Whitall Smith wrote, "As usual, we put feelings first, and faith second, and the fact (or truth) last of all." We fail to grasp the simple understanding that God's unchanging rule in everything is Fact First.....Faith Second....and Feelings last of all. 

She goes on to write "We must believe before we feel, and often against our feelings,if we would honor God by our faith." Such is the life that you and I have been called to.
A life of faith....
Not one ruled by our feelings.

God on you...


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

What? Me Deceived? No Way!

It's hard to see the "real you" when your head is buried in the sand. It's hard to be honest with yourself if you won't acknowledge your character defects. Sometimes we lash out when someone "Catches" us or uncovers us.  "What do you know!"  "You don't know me!"
I have heard this tired old line over and over, in fact more times than I care to count. It usually involves an individual that I'm trying to help and in the process of talking with them, I say something about their character. Now what I say is usually based on the behavior I see in them. 

You see, the one thing about addiction is that it comes with its own unique set of behaviors and beliefs. It doesn't matter who the individual is. It doesn't matter what the situation or drug of choice. It doesn't even matter which side of the tracks they were born on...............every addict has common views and beliefs that are evident. I said all of that to say this. With all the years of ministering to people in addiction that I have spent,  I've seen the same behavior repeated over and should tend to be a bit wiser (hopefully)

I have been stuck in II Timothy for a while and as I read it, I see addictive behavior there in black and white. Now let's really be clear about something before I go on. All addictive behavior stems from sin. Sin being the by product of a broken relationship with Jesus. The outward behavior of sin comes from an inward belief or bent that tells us we should exert our own self will and that we do not need God on any level in our life. In other words, it's that good ol' sin nature that has raised its ugly head and is ruling our decisions and circumventing our will (See Romans 7 and read Paul's view of the flesh / a.k.a. the old man.  

The one thing that continues to fascinate me about the human will and perception of ones self is how deceived  a person can be by their own actions. We read in II Timothy 3:13 --While evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 

The Bible also refers to this in Romans 1:21-22 in that although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.

I don't want to live under delusion as to my spiritual state in this life. To me, eternity is not something to be tinkered with or taken lightly. I guess I kind of look at this whole "God" understanding with the mind that what I read in Scripture is true. IF it is true, then why would I want to play around with my soul?

I see a lot of self deception in men who enter our program. They don't really have a problem and they don't really need to be here. Okey-dokey. "I'm here because I'm trying to appease my wife." Or "I'm here to get people off my back, but I don't really have a problem.  It's amazing how many guys we get coming to our program that really don't have drug and alcohol problems. (If you didn't notice, I just typed that last sentence with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek).

It takes the light of God's Holy Spirit shining into the heart of sinful man before understanding can take place. We have got to be uncovered and when it happens it isn't a very pleasant or peaceful thing. Our first reaction is to run from God. If we don't run...........if we allow God to work in us, then we can begin the process of healing. The greatest healing that can take place is SALVATION. Being born matter what you call it...salvation breaks off the blindness and hardness  from our spiritual eyes and ears, not to mention the heart, so we can see ourselves as God truly sees us. Any deception or deceit we may uncover in our hearts can be dealt with through confession and repentance. Good stuff that repentance.

John 3:19-21 - This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved the darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."

Step # 1 - recognition of my powerlessness.
Step # 2 - Belief in a Power greater than ourselves that can restore us to sanity.
Step # 3 - Made a decision to turn my will and life over to the care of God as I understood Him.
Step # 4 - Made a searching and fearless moral inventory.
Step # 5 - Admit to God, myself, and another human being the exact nature of my wrongs.
Step # 6 -  Entirely ready to have God remove my defects of character.

Here in 6 steps, we have moved from denial and delusion into a place where our hearts are uncovered and entirely ready to have God work in us. That, my friend, is where real life begins.

Until tomorrow....
God on you....

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Lesser Known Truth

 "When doubts come, meet them not with arguments, but with assertions of faith. All doubts are an attack of the enemy; the Holy spirit never suggests them--never. He is the Comforter, not the Accuser; and He never shows us our need without at the same time revealing the Divine supply." - Hannah Whitall Smith

"No soul can be really at rest until it has given up all dependence on everything else and has been forced to depend on the Lord alone. As long as our expectation is from other things, nothing but disappointment awaits us."- Hannah Whitall Smith

Just lying there among the books....
Home improvement....
Book upon book just lying there.
Not a book store, it is a thrift store.
The last stop for a lot of items before they are cast upon the garbage heap.
For whatever reason, their owners have given them up. Maybe no longer useful, or have no need for them, these items are given to a thrift store in hopes that others may find value and use.

I confess that I bought the book because of the title.
I also bought it with the wrong intent.
The book itself is old looking...pages yellowed. The font used on the cover was ancient and out of style. I even smiled when I read the title....."The Christian's Secret Of A Happy Life". Happy? Why everyone knows that God never promised us happiness. I have spoken this on several occasions. Joy? Yes, the joy of the Lord, but never happiness. 

I confessed that I bought the book to read what someone wrote years ago. First surprise....the book was printed in 1952......but the book was written in 1870. what would cause someone from 1870 to write such a book? And would what the author wrote be relevant and still speak to my time and society? 
As I began to read the foreword I got a glimpse into the life and purpose of the book written by Hannah Whitall Smith.

The following is taken from the intro to the book:
"She writes here, not for spiritual genius, not for the world-forsaking saint, but for those who are in the world and of it, for the great little ones who long for God as they struggle for bread. She writes in their language---plainly; the confusing theological speech of the scholar is not here; the secret is revealed in countless illustrations from the common walk of life. It is as simple and understandable as the language of Jesus Christ."

One of my favorite passages is found on the first page:
A keen observer once said to me, "You Christians seem to have a religion that makes you miserable. You are like a man with a headache. he does not want to get rid of his head, but it hurts him to keep it. You cannot expect outsiders to seek very earnestly for anything so uncomfortable." 

What I share this morning, I do so from my own personal perspective.
There is a message that runs in my mind, my heart and my spirit continually. I know that this message is not unique to me. I am but one who hears it. What message? That what passes for the Gospel today might just not be the real deal. It has  been slicked up and made shiny and appealing to those who stand outside the will and relationship with Christ. We dare not teach the cross and the blood of Christ for fear of offending others. We cannot teach that there is suffering in the denial of self in order to take up this cross. At the same time, we are afraid to say anything about the unspeakable joy that comes in the darkest of times. Joy that is born in this relationship between us and a God who has reached out to offer us the ultimate gift. The church is delivering "Carnival food" which has no nutritional value, to a starving people who need real nourishment. 

This message that I hear has many different voices.....Ravenhill, Tozer, Havner, Evans, Moody, Etter, Pickett, Bonhoeffer, Campbell. Each one carrying a passion for the truth of Jesus to be shared. So for me to purchase this book written by Hannah Whitall Smith only added one more to the chorus that burns in me. 

In the book, she writes...The greatest burden we have to carry in this life is "Self". The most difficult thing we have to manage is "Self". Only the saving power of God and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit can lift us out of this age old struggle with self. And example of this struggle to surrender self is found on page 39 of her book...It is much less difficult for us to commit the keeping of our future to the Lord, that it is to commit our "present". We know that we are helpless when it comes to our future, but we feel as though the present is in our own hands and must be carried on our own shoulders. To commit this surrender of self to God means that we learn to rest in Him. Let your soul lie down upon the couch of His sweet will---relax every strain, and lay off every burden. Let yourself go in a perfect abandonment of ease and comfort of being assured of the simple fact that He holds you up, and your are perfectly safe---your part is simply to rest. His part is to sustain you. He cannot fail.

I want to learn to simply follow...
I want to abandon myself to complete surrender of my will so I can embrace His will.
I want to share with others the real, life changing news that sin has been defeated.
The power of sin has been broken...
The penalty of sin has been paid for....
The presence of sin is daily being kept at bay by the Holy Spirit that lives within me.

This is the life that is lived in Him.
Maybe........just maybe there is a happiness in coming to an understanding that such a life is possible on this side of heaven.

Thanks for letting me share....
God on you...


Friday, May 19, 2017

Thoughts....Circles...And Detours

3:14 a.m.
Sitting here at my computer with thoughts running through my brain.
Oh, they aren't the kind of thoughts that you might go "Eureka!" with, but I'll own them just the same. "Thoughts?" you may say. Yep, thoughts. Let me give you some for-instances about the train that goes through my head.

#1 -  Reading from Exodus yesterday...this morning I keep thinking "Don't make the trip to the wilderness last nay longer than it should." Because of Israel's stubbornness, what should have been an 11 day journey turned into a 40 year wandering. How much of my own life has been a wandering because of my refusal to follow God? How much of the things my family has had to go through has been because of my own personal stubbornness? 

#2 - This call that we have received to follow Jesus is more than my life being divinely arranged by Him so that I spend my days in comfort. In other words, if comfort is my goal, I've missed the point. The call to follow Jesus into learning a new way to live is also a call to warfare. We have an enemy. We have an enemy whose soul purpose is to either stop us from following, or slow us down in our following of Jesus. He uses deception, and the idea that he can frustrate us through throwing up roadblocks in our daily walk that we have to deal with. Those roadblocks sometimes involves others who have become tools to be used by the devil to keep us from moving forward. 

#3 - Just because we refuse to engage in this warfare....or, even worse, believe that it doesn't exist, does not make it any less real.

#4 - I read in Ezra 9:2 where many of the people of Israel, and even some of the priests and Levites did not keep themselves separate from the other people living nearby. In other words...we had some folks who had a position and call upon their lives from God, but chose, because of their relationship with these other folks, to take up what Ezra refers to as "the detestable practices" of their worship. In other words, you can't lay claim to being a follower of Jesus, and live like the world. Or as Romans 12:2 reads..."You can't be conformed to the patterns of the world." Look like...smell like...walk like what the world defines as being okey-dokey and all-righty. 

#5 - Being Holy is something you are because of the Holy Spirit at work in you. Holiness is not a set of rules. Holiness is not a list of don't's. If I boil the Holiness of God into a list of rules, I've missed the point. I'm trying to conform my outward behavior without changing my inward beliefs. I may be totally off base here, but I truly believe that all outward behavior is governed by a person's world view. In other words, our behavior is evidence of what we truly believe. 

#6 - I do not see myself as others do. Some will come forward and tell what a great teacher I am. Some will tell me that I am a godly man. While I appreciate such, I know the real Michael Bynum better than anyone except for my wife and God. I know that the real Michael Bynum is one step away from, given the right situation and/or circumstance, like Peter would deny Christ. I know that such still dwells inside me. And it is for this reason that I chase Jesus even harder. It is for that very reason that I keep my focus and purpose fixed on Him. I know this may sound crazy but secretly one of my most favorite verses is Romans 7:24. I love it because of the honesty that Paul reveals in his own heart. Paul, the Christian of Christians....says, "O wretched man that I am!" Isn't that amazing that this man we hold in such high regard...this man who penned the most of the books of the New Testament...this man who was knocked from his horse during his first encounter with Jesus, calls himself "Wretched". Now there is a man I want to hang out with. Someone who is honest and transparent in his own view of himself. 

Well, I think maybe that is enough of my thoughts for today. The coffee has finished and I believe there is a cup with my name on it.
If your free tomorrow night, come and join us @ Vineyard ReCovery. meeting starts at 7 p.m.

Until next time...
God on you...


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