Friday, June 30, 2017

Re-cap Of A Very Good Night


Matthew 18:20
For where two or three have gathered together in My name,  I am there in their midst.

The sky looked angry..
Clouds piling up, dark, swirling around.
The building was unfinished.
Roof and four walls, but that was pretty much it.
Holes where windows should be.
Opening where a door will sit.

Seating was a hodge-podge of various chairs and couches....mostly outdoor furniture.

Wind blew through the building providing natures own air conditioning.
Folks began to come in out of the rain.
The church had come together. On the surface, if you happen to pass by, you'd think it was a collection of misfits. But isn't that what the church is really all about? People who stand out as misfits, brought together to hear the word, to worship, to simply be together? I think maybe yes. Oh, I'm not going to kid myself into thinking that every one there was a super-saint. But they were there, and when ever people come together to hear the word of God, things happen. In this case, it was an evening when God manifested His presence.


Young couple starts us off with worship.
Two voices....
One guitar....
Hearts that love God.

This unfinished building was transformed into the finest cathedral as the Spirit of God became very evident.
Something told me this was going to be a good evening....a God evening.

Oh...one other clue that let me know we were in for a good meeting...
One of the men was saved before everything got started.


I had gotten to the building early, and was sitting, waiting for everyone to arrive. He came in, we exchanged "howdy's"...and he plopped down in the chair next to me. Small talk ensued.... Where he was from. How long had he been here...found out that out of the last 25 years, he'd been in prison. He was tired and the lines in his face bore out the truth to his statement. In this tiredness from the years piling up on him, he told me that he wanted to know this God better. He didn't say, "I need to be saved." It was more of "I've got to stop this old way, and God is the only answer for me." We prayed...God came....God saved." Like I said, whenever you can see someone come to Jesus before the meeting....no telling what's going to happen once you start.

At the end of the teaching, I asked for those who wanted prayer to come forward. four men made their way to the front. As we began to pray and invite God's Holy Spirit to make Himself known, all four men began to (what I refer to) wobble back and forth. Their eyes were closed...they were receiving and the Holy Spirit was there to touch them.In times like this, I never put my hands on anyone I'm praying for, that way if something happens (like they fall down) no one can say that I pushed or caused them to act in any manner. The longer I prayed, the thicker the presence of God was. 

To close out the meeting, Miss Andrea, from Covenant Christian, had set up a make shift communion table. This was cool...we were going to host the very first communion in this unfinished building. I'm sure there will be hundreds of other communion done in the building, but I got to be a part of the very first one. something special about that.

Prayer over the elements....
Worship music softly playing in the background...
People lined up to come forward.

Blessings on each one who came forward to eat at Jesus' table.
Once again, there was just this incredible awareness of the presence of God in that room.
If I could describe it with one word, I would say that the room became tender.
Oh, if you took the time to question everyone, you'd find some who'd been to prison.......some who'd lost everything ......some who were struggling with physical ailments.....some who were just bone tired and weary from the beating that life administered on a daily basis. But one by one, as each person came forward to eat at THE table, all the daily struggle seemed to melt away. For a brief moment, the room was filled with hope. Hope for tomorrow...and hope for today. It was there for the taking. All you had to do was surrender will and life over to the care of God.

Meeting over...
One last thing to do...

I asked everyone, that on the count of three we all scream out the name of Jesus at the top of our lungs....
One...
Two...
Three...JESUS!!!!!

Any darkness that was still hanging around, was sent scurrying into the darkness.
Hugs, handshakes and back slaps all around as we made our way outside.

As I pulled out from the driveway, I sat for just a moment looking back at that building.
God came to meet us there...
Some lives were changed....
I was changed...How can you not be when you come into HIS presence.

It was a good evening...

God on you..
mbb




Thursday, June 29, 2017

God Doing For Me What I Could Not Do For Myself



Romans Chapter 5
V.1 - Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God of because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.

The apostle Paul makes an incredible assumption here in this first verse of Romans 5. He begins by stating the fact that when someone is saved (or in the recovery vernacular - "Turns will and life over to the care of God) then they are made right. 

In other words, all the past deeds and behavior have been forgiven, eradicated, and tossed aside. When God looks at us, He sees us as perfect (according to Hebrews 10:14). As some of you read what I have just typed, I can hear the voice that is whispering to you. "I don't feel perfect!" Well, guess what? It isn't about your feelings. It is about you believing in faith. Scripture does not say "By feelings you are saved".......no! By faith. I confess this truth even when everything in me screams no. Too often we fall back into old ways because we listen to our feelings.

V.1 of Romans 5 goes on to tell me that not only have I been made right with God, I am no longer an enemy of God. I have peace. You may be thinking that you never were an enemy of God. We all were before we gave ourselves to Him. Conviction......Confession....Repentance....Receiving His Holy Spirit inside me....has taken away that vast Sin-separation, and has brought me into His presence and His family. 


All of this...
This setting me right in God's eyes...
The receiving of peace from God....

The exercise of my faith....
Comes from what Jesus accomplished when he died on the cross...AND!

Rose from the dead.
Jesus became the door through which true recovery can be entered into.
I'd hate to think my recovery was based on the belief that my higher power was coffee cup or a door knob as some in A.A. proclaim. 

Notice what happens when Verse 1 of Romans 5 becomes a reality in my life.
V.2 - Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God's glory.

The Power to change me and take me out of my addiction is, and always has been, present for me to experience. The life that has eluded me has always been available for me to lay hold of. It isn't possible to enter into it through my own exercise of strength, will and ability. The only way to appropriate it is through my faith that God can do for me what I cannot do for myself.

I like the idea of being transferred mentally, emotionally, and spiritually into a place of privilege where I can stand and not be tossed about by emotion and feeling. The Recovery Bible calls such a place "Undeserved privilege"...I call it a place of God's grace. Years ago, Vicki and I went through a teaching that explained what Grace was, and we have never forgotten the definition of grace.

"Grace is the EMPOWERING presence of God in our lives that enables us to be who God created us to be, and to do what He has called us to do."
Because of God's grace....
My turning from my sin/addiction...
My receiving the finished work of salvation that Jesus offers...
I now have hope...
Real hope...
Hope for today that God will lead me through the pitfalls and traps that lay before me....
Hope for tomorrow that I will stand in God's presence and worship the one who did for me what I could never do for myself.

Sounds like winner...winner...chicken dinner!!

God on you...

mbb

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

HTIAF --- Some People Get It Backwards



Bad math? 2 + 2 = 5?
New math?

This is actually an example of how we view God and the way He works in the lives of people.
It doesn't compute in our minds.
WE want everything about God to make sense to us.
We want to be able to "figure" it all out so as to understand Him.

Sorry...it doesn't work that way.
You see, God gave us this incredible gift that would aid us in our daily life.
What gift?
FAITH!


In other words, those who are part of His collective spiritual family, operate and conduct themselves with this faith.
We move under the assurance that God is who He says He is, and will do what He has promised He would do.


We don't try to rationalize everything that comes our way or that we experience. We take it by faith.
Now comes the part where some will say, "But what if we are thinking we are acting in faith, but we are really being deceived by the devil?" Some people are so wrapped up the devil and his cronies, and their ability to lie to us, that they loose sight of God's ability to lead them. TO be honest with you, I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about the devil. Oh, I run into him daily as he tries to draw me into thoughts and attitudes that are contrary to the word of God, but I keep my focus on what God desires for me.

Hebrews 11:1 in the Message Bible reads: 
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It is our HANDLE on what we can't see.

I like that! Faith is our handle. Faith is the very thing I lay hold of, like the handle on a suitcase, that enables me to carry every thing God has given to me. I carry my belief's....I carry my purpose.....I carry my prayers......I carry my call to the do the kingdom work of God.....by faith. Faith makes the load easier to manage because, after all, God IS who He claims He is...and will do what He claims He will do. Faith.

Since you have it...
Why not exercise it today...

Faith...
Don't leave home without it.


God on you...


Here's a little extra.
An Interview with Bryn Haworth putting to music Philippians 4:13 - 

"You Can Do All Things"...AN exercise in FAITH!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lessons Learned This Past Weekend



Matthew 16:18
......."Upon this rock I will build my church and the powers of hell will not conquer it."

Some of you may not know this, but I have been teaching at a small country church located up Highway 11 in Reece City. A good friend of mine, John Richey, was pastor there for a number of years, and last November he called me to let me know that he was stepping down because of health issues. He asked if I would consider filling in as teacher until the congregation could decide about what they wanted to do with their church. The number attending had dwindled down until they usually had between 10 and 15 on Sunday's. I agreed to step in and teach, not expecting that I would be the recipient of some incredible life lessons during my time there.

Lesson # 1- You can't always judge by what you see on the outside.
We have (maybe it's just me and not anyone else) a tendency to form opinions and judgments based on our own worldview, rather than seeing what God is doing.
It's easy to stand on the outside looking in and make assumptions.
"Bless their hearts...they are a small congregation that are not able to do what other
 churches (usually inferred as being compared to larger more affluent churches) are capable of doing."

In other words....the world bases success or failure on how big something is...number  wise. If there are a lot of folks attending a meeting, then it must be successful. If it has a large following, then it must be successful. Poor ol' Jesus...he managed to scrounge up 12 fishermen to start his movement with. His numbers changed from time to time, but at the most critical hour of his ministry, everyone ran away. Be careful in your criticism of other churches...you never know what God is truly doing until you know the hearts of the people.

Lesson # 2 -- Every church doesn't have to do the same things....in the same manner.
Yes...on Sunday mornings, we sing hymns.
Yes....these songs come from a "Bone-I-Fied" hard back hymnal complete with verses, choruses and the entire musical nomenclature that validates a song.
We have a pianist and an organist, complete with a worship leader who also does a special               number each week.
Personally I have re-discovered the beauty of hymns.... "Send A Great Revival" resonated last Sunday morning, and the words were more than just words...they were a heart cry from those of us
who'd gathered together.  We realized that any revival always begins with those who are praying and seeking God's heart for it.....in other words, if revival is to come, it has to start in our own               hearts.

Lesson #3 -- It's o.k. to be a laid-back, easy going group of folks.
There is an order to the service, but it isn't so regimented that there isn't room for some good ol' laughter and exchange of thoughts and observations.
One of my favorite part of the service each Sunday is the announcements. Really?Announcements? Yep! David Murdock is the resident announcer of coming events for the week, and without fail something that is shared is followed by a story, a joke, or a reference to something that took place in the past.

I could go on and on about the good folks at Northside Baptist but I will close with these thoughts.
Last year they set a goal to help support missions here in our nation. It was a reasonable goal that I thought might could be reached by these few who meet every Sunday morning. Would you believe that they collected three times what their goal was? They gave over and beyond and then some to send to help spread the gospel. But if you stood on the outside looking in, you'd think that this church was on its last legs. Be careful how you judge....

The last thing I'd like to share with you is how this group has a deep reverence for those who paved the way for them to be a church. They hold the founding members, and those who belonged to the church, with great respect. Each Sunday, someone will share a story about someone who was instrumental in the building of the church. Maybe a person whose faithfulness was a cornerstone to the life and health of the church. The group that meets every Sunday morning has a collective remembrance of their history and their heritage. They are proud of where they have come from, as a fellowship, and are proud of who they are today.

Small church? Yes....
But I do believe that some how, some way, God has plans for their future.
Don't know how it's going to happen, or how it will work out, but I do know that the Spirit of God shows up every Sunday morning when the doors are unlocked and the church enters that building.
I've written all this to get to this final point. I have been blessed to be accepted by the church family of Northside. As much as I'd like to think I've been a good teacher for them, truth is they have taught me far more than I anticipated. For that I will always be grateful....

God on you...
mbb

Monday, June 26, 2017

His Love Is Real




The fall of 1969....
"One way, Man!"
One Way!  
I saw him across the common at Gadsden State. I was headed to my next class and he came be-boppin' along...hair blowing in the wind....jeans and a t-shirt with a hand printed on it....the hand held aloft, with one the index finger pointed upward.
One Way, Man!
He smiled at me and said, "Heaven, dude!"
Oh...one way to heaven.
In a time where the universal was either two fingers held up like a "V" (Peace Baby) or the middle finger held up in rebellion to the status quo...here was this free spirit proclaiming ONE WAY. Just Jesus.
 That day still burns bright in my memory.
I never got the name of the T-shirted young man...but then again he never got my name either. But his message resonates inside me to this day.
You can dress up the message ever how you want to.
Mega light shows in huge concert halls,or small venues.
Big cathedrals or living rooms...
Thousands.....or just two.
Or, you can put it on a T-shirt.
The message never changes.

I'm not so sure the flower children didn't have the right idea....love.
But they never connected with the creator and dispenser of the real deal.
Larry Norman sang, "I Love You."
A band from California took the name "Love Song"
We had a coffee house in Montgomery, Alabama named "Love Notes".
But it all pointed to Jesus. He was (and continues to be) the way. He is the true and only source of life. The "One way" to heaven.

For God SO loved the world....humanity and all of His creation....
That He gave His only begotten Son...Sent Him to pay my debt that sin demanded of me. How can I ever repay this debt to God? I can't. He simply calls me to love Him and follow Him (follow as in let Him give me instruction and direction in my daily journey).  I don't respond to God because I have to. I don't respond out of some false sense of loyalty. I respond because I have fallen in love with Jesus. Strange as that may sound....if we dont' start from this place, loving Him, our journey devolves into a keeping of rules and regulations. Not so sure I can make that happen.
If you haven't guessed it by now....
I am all up in this "love" thang God has flung on me.

I've known it all along that this was the Father's heart...
But I  never really knew that it was the Father's heart....In other words...I have taken it to seriously.
I've made a ton of excuses as to why I haven't loved like I should have....
But my excuses are usually tinged with a religious taint. This keeps me from looking like some pagan goober. Trouble is, God sees right through my charade and I wind up looking like.......you guessed it........a pagan goober. 


I had a conversation via the phone this past week with a person who is a highly motivated follower of Jesus.
Think of it as sitting in a concrete room with a super ball going off all around...Ping! Pang! Padong! Kapow!....He shared with me a whole new level of love I'd never seen before. Love as the Father would have it...not as the church has created. Funny part is that it was there in Scripture all along...I just had not opened my heart to see it.
Love?
Love......
God love...
God loving me...
Me loving God back....
Is it really that simple?


God's love is the real "Thang"...
Accept no imitations....

God on you...
mb

Friday, June 23, 2017

What If.....

Habakkuk 3:17
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty......

God kind of took me in a direction that I didn't see coming....
It has to do with climate change....
Now, before you get all excited, let me fill you in on some things.
I'm not smart enough to know the in's and out's of this whole ecological debate that has been raging.
I have my opinions about what I believe is going on with the weather, but here is not the place to share them. "Well, then why are you writing about it?" You may be asking. Simple...God has had me in the Scripture for the past few days and I keep seeing something I had never considered.

There are two changes going on here, especially here in the good ol' US of A.
Could it not be that the reason we see such drastic weather patterns here in our country is because of a "Moral" Climate change? I know...I know...it seems as though I've stretched a bit here with this posting. I just think that maybe there is a connection between the state of morality and the times and situations we find ourselves in. My wife, Vicki, brought up a good point. She asked me if I believe what I've posted, then why are the weather patterns all Kaflooy in every country. Point taken, but have no answer for, other than I live in these here United States of  America, so my interest lies within our borders.

All through out Scripture we see where the people turned away from God....
You may be thinking well, it's always been that way, and you would be right...
But when the people de-volved, sunk into, or ever how you want to define it, levels of sin that were dark beyond dark, God would allow things to happen. There were times when God allowed the elements to totally get out of control.  What does this have to do with our nation.

Our coins and currency may say "In God We Trust", but the moral climate of our nation has long since moved past that belief. We no longer trust in God. We trust in Government to solve our problems. We trust in technology to save us. We trust in "Self" first and foremost above anyone or anything. We have pushed God from the collective conscious of this nation. God is an offense to a lot folks. I think this may be some very dangerous territory our country has moved into.

I know that the various forms of media has transformed our country into an "information now" people. These various news stories come at us rapid-fire, in an almost overwhelming rate. What we can see and hear now took days and weeks to filter to the people in times past. We have 24 hour news..smart phones that crank out info 24/7. So we have more access than every before. We see and hear of scandal among our leaders.....the very ones we elected to our government seem to have no problem "embellishing" the truth, calling evil good and good evil. In our effort to shine up and polish America's image, we declare our nation to be a "tolerant" nation for all peoples. We are a tolerant group of folks, aren't we? Except when what you believe runs contrary to what I believe...then we are intolerant.

I do believe that there is a remnant of folks who still fear, worship and honor God.
They do so with more than just lip service. Their very lives reflect the nature and goodness of God.
They move in love among their fellow man. They are the ones who have embraced the mission of God to tell THE story to those who have yet to truly meet Jesus.  I confess to you that in this nation, being a believer / follower of Christ of not exactly the most politically correct stance a body could take. That's o.k. as if you read the Scriptures, we were warned way ahead of time that the world would hate us. But no where.....no place...no way, are we told that we are to return that hate with hate of our own.

Seems to me that the devil has stirred the pot of this here country. He has wound up the hearts of people and has brought division to our nation. Blacks hate whites...whites hate Hispanics....Women hat men...Men are a bunch of pedophiles....and on and on and on. I do remember somewhere in Scripture where Jesus told a bunch of folks that "A house divided will not stand". We, as a nation, may not have fallen, but I do (from time to time) hear the timbers in the rafters creaking under the weight of sin.

Just to make one thing clear....
Sin is not the deed or behavior....
Sin is the state and condition of the heart....
So I will close with a verse that has been used over and over and over.

II Chronicles 7:14
Then if my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land."

Food for thought?
Maybe....

God on you...
mbb

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Righteous Dude



Genesis 6:9

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.

From time to time, I find myself whining and complaining about how "dark" spiritually our nation has become. The Government is corrupt. People are self-centered. Some churches only tickle the ears with smooth words and false promises. Where is God?
Yet every time I act this way, I am reminded of Noah.
Think about this.
He was the only righteous and blameless man on the face of the planet. Everyone else was corrupt. Imagine the pressure that came from neighbors and so-called friends. I don't think Mr. Noah got invited to too many parties and get together, do you?

I love the last part of this verse. He Walked With God!
Noah wasn't guided or lead by the call and dictates of this world. His mind, heart, spirit and soul were set on following God. He did not have access to a Bible. He didn't have Christian radio and television. He simply had a relationship. In our day and time, we feel like we have to have all the trappings..........the worship Cd's, the latest DVD from the latest conference. The hottest, greatest new word from the Christian author of the month. Funny...........Noah just had God.
Maybe simpler is better.

Noah simply did everything God told him to do.
He trusted that God knew best.
God gave him a plan to survive. Build an ark,leave everything else to God.
Noah carried out the plan.
Day after day. Year after year...building that ark.
Do you think there were day's that Noah wanted to quit? I do.
It would be hot. Sun beating down. Neighbor's walking by where the ark was being built. "Hey Noah! You want to go fishing? Oh yeah, that's right....you've got to build a boat and we don't even live near any body of water large enough to float it........bwahhhhhh!"
Noah kept on.
Why?
Because God told him to....
Walking with God, such as Mr. Noah did, often involves doing some things that don't really balance the ledgers, so to speak.
We don't always understand the "whys" of God. We are called to "do".
I will go as far as even saying that it isn't we don't understand, as much as it is we don't see.
We don't see what God is accomplishing.
We don't see the greater purpose for the events and situations we are currently in...
God does.
And if He does, then it might be to my benefit to simply carry out the instructions and disciplines I am being shown today.
Noah, during the most corrupt time the world has ever known, walked with God...was blameless among his generation. God used this man to save humanity.
Not a bad way to be remembered.

God on you....
mb

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The LIne


Jeremiah 6:16-17
This is what the Lord says, "Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path and you will find rst for your souls. But you reply,"No, that's not the rod we want!" I posted watchmen over you who said, "Listen for the sound of the alarm." But you replied, "No! We won't pay attention."

The line....
Most everyone has one...

But it seems to be more defined by someone in recovery.
That line is always there, especially at the beginning of the journey into a new life and way of thinking.


The line cannot force itself on you, but the voice that cries out from the dark side of the line can be, and sometimes is, a powerful force. 
At one time those in recovery  lived on the other side of the line, and gave no thought to changing. Sin, like most other things that feed our old nature, was pleasurable at first. You didn't really notice how dark spiritually it was. You just knew that your desire had found a home where it was fed. You enjoyed the company of those who were on the same side of the line as you were.  But time has a way of changing our perspective on events and situations. What once was fun  suddenly become a prison. A place where emotional and physical pain grew at an ever increasing rate. Here is where the trap really begins to lay hold of you. You hurt so much that the only thing you can think of is finding relief from the pain. On the dark side of this line, the only thing your mind can focus on is one thought. "I must get whatever it takes to ease this pain. The dark voice has convinced you that the answer is more drugs and/or alcohol. So you use.  Occasionally you would consider crossing back over the line into a safe place and way of living. But the dark voice screamed even louder, accusing you and weighing you down with guilt and shame. You give in and face the fact that, according to the voice, you are what you are....you will never change...you are hopeless.

Those who have managed to cross back from the darkness find gratitude for being free. But this freedom is something that has to be guarded and protected. Yes, it is the saving power and blood of Christ that empowered us to move back into a right way of living.....but such a cost requires a discipline that we must engage in. To me, the Twelve Steps are such a discipline that help everyone move forward. The steps take you through a process of dealing with your past, and realizing that only God can change the character issues that drove you in the past. Those character flaws that aided in our bad decision making are removed and replaced with a character that is in line with how God desires us to approach life (see Galatians 5:22-23).

Without the presence of a Higher Power, Jesus, in your life....you have no protection against the line, or the dark voice.
You may even put together a period of sobriety, but the line and voice are always close at hand waiting......biding its time....patiently watching...softly whispering a soothing invitation to return to your old ways. 


Life gets hard....
Problems occur...
Situations that are beyond your control....
Rather than seek God at this point, your thoughts move toward the line. Oh, you may not be planning on crossing over, but you just want to see how close you can get without falling prey to the darkness. In your mind, you've convinced yourself that this is the nature of real recovery...."The ability to be near drugs and alcohol, but with no intention of using." That, my friend, is what we refer to as "Addict-a-logic".  Recovery is not measured by how close you can be to drugs and alcohol, and those who use....Recovery is measured by the simple fact that you move as far away as possible, having nothing to do with any of it.


I've kind of chased this posting today because of a friend of mine who has chosen to move back over the line. I won't go into details, but suffice it to say that he is not doing well. My greatest fear is that he has made this journey so many times, he may not come back. Not because of choice, but simply because his body is worn out and may not survive this dark journey.

Can God bring my friend out?
Yes! I believe this with every ounce of my being.

Such is why I ask you today to join my prayer for his safety and sobriety.
Pray that God would send angelic host to stand guard around my friend so that the power of the line and the dark voice will not have its way in destroying this person.
Pray for God to bring conviction to his heart, and that my friend not confuse conviction with condemnation.
Pray that God would lead my friend back into a place where they can see clearly and choose to not go back over that line.
Pray for my friend.....


God on you...

mbb

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Encounter @ VRC


Psalm 100: 4 
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name for the Lord is good.

Sometimes we forget that it is the little things that are important.
Things that we take for granted may have a greater impact on someone else.
In an age and time where image is everything, and there is much energy, money and time spent trying to be the perfect church.....have the best lighting and worship teams, the most dynamic pastor, it's the simple things that impact people the most. 

I was at Rapha yesterday, when one of the men approached me wanting to talk.
Last Saturday was his first visit to VRC and I knew that God had impacted him in a huge way during our ministry time. As our conversation began, he cut right to the chase.


"Last Saturday night was the first time I have ever felt accepted in a church meeting," he said. He went on to go down this list of things that had happened to him. He confessed that he came simply to get away from Rapha , even if only for a little while. But he never anticipated what was going to happen.

He went on to tell me how he'd been in other churches and felt shame because he was covered in tatoo's. He felt that people were staring at them and judging him because of the tat's. He said that he felt out of place and that people looked down on him. Now before I write on in today's posting, I know ( and you do too) that probably the majority of things he said he felt in other churches was his own "Junk" or personal baggage manifesting. Some might have been the Holy Spirit at work, but no matter which, it put him in a place where mentally and spiritually, he could not hear or receive from God . On the other hand, I know that some people are judgmental when it comes to those who don't fit in a church mold. 

Vicki and I belonged to an up and coming church at one time. They were a kind of experimental church for a denomination that was looking to redefine what Sunday Church was all about. We heard over and over that "This church was going to welcome everyone and that we were going to be a church for the unchurched."  Well, it didn't take to long for that vision and speech to fall by the way side. We had some folks show up one Sunday asking if they could come in and worship with us. These were hard core people with the whole biker thing going on. Longer than long hair, lots of leather, beard, denim jackets. They came in and sat down together....by themselves. No one in that church even went over to speak to them or welcome them. Vicki and I help to get them some coffee and welcomed them to the service.  needless to say we moved on from this "experimental church" shortly after this encounter. 

So the main focal point at Vineyard ReCovery Church has been and will always be that we make everyone feel welcomed. This is another reason that the model we do church by is very laid back...relaxed....and interactive. Our worship is what some might say is "Culture Current". By this, I mean that we use the styles and songs that will speak to those who attend."  Bottom line is .......If you come to the meeting, and because of the style of church we have, you might.....just might let down your guard and be open to receive what God is doing on that particular night. Such is why we don't look like a normal church....why we don't sound like a normal church....why we don't act like a normal church. This is the model that God has been growing, tweaking and changing over the last 20 years.  It fits those He has called us to reach out to.

As I write this, I do want you to know that I am not naive enough to believe that "how" we do church is liked by everyone who comes through our front door. It isn't. Some don't care for the style of church we are, and I'm o.k. with that. We have never tried to be a church that thinks it can be everything to every one. We have been called to serve and minister to a specific people. I get all kind of suggestions from well meaning people who think they are helping. One person suggested that if we wanted to draw larger crowds we should consider dropping the word "RECOVERY" from our church name.  I don't mean to be so blunt (maybe I do) but is that word is keeping you from coming to our meetings, then you probably don't need to be there anyway.

Our main goal at VRC is to love everyone. I know...I know...we hear that all the time in churches everywhere. I want the love we show to be genuine and direct to the individual. To convey the truth that "You are important to God and to us." In fact, I have told our core leadership that is someone comes to our meeting and we never see them again, if they didn't get anything during their time with us, I pray that they went away knowing that God loves them and so do we.

Going back to the conversation I had with the young man at Rapha.
His was the highest compliment a church could receive.
I will take it, that we are a place where anyone can come in and meet with the Living God in such a way that they are impacted by the encounter.
Nothing I did...
Nothing that my core leadership did....
Everything that God did!


God on you...

mbb

Monday, June 19, 2017

It Was A Good Father's Day




Yesterday was Father's day....
It was a quiet day...a good day. Reflecting on my own journey as a father, as well as remembering my own dad. I chose the picture above of my two sons, Chad and Josh, because that is how I still see them in my mind, and in my heart. Oh those two little guys have been replaced by grown men with families of their own. But still...if you get very quiet in this house here on Greene Street, I believe you can still hear the slamming of doors followed by a loud inquiry of "Hey! Do we have anything to drink or eat?" Of course such inquires were never intended just for the two Bynum boys....it had to include the whole entire neighborhood gang. 

These two boys only had one speed....that would be wide open. The only time that speed would not be applied was when there was work to be done. It took a U.N. summit meeting to come up with a plan that was fair to both parties when it came to work. Every chore was divided equally. Equality being defined in the eyes of who ever got to choose first. 

Emptying the dishwasher....racks had to be divided so that no one son had more to unload than the other. I have refereed arguments over how to divide the silver ware rack. Even today when clan Bynum gets together, and mom tells the boys to unload the dishwasher, they revert to the same behavior. "Wait a minute," Josh would say loudly..."You've got less to do than I have." To which Chad would declare, "Being the older brother has benefits". Such exchanges usually meant it was time for Vicki or I to step in.

Let's not get on what took place when it was time to mow the grass...the yard was divided and subdivided into plots, squares, territory based on topographical maps. If your part of the yard included higher incline then it was only logical you didn't have to mow as much as say someone who was on level ground. There were times when I use to wonder..."How will these two make it when they are grown." But make it they did. 

When Chad was five and Josh was two, Vicki and I were attending Central Methodist. One Sunday night during ministry time, we were both very much aware of how inadequate we were to raise children. Not that we were stupid..or ignorant...we just knew that there was a greater call to being parents other than having good children. In our hearts we wanted them to be godly children. So we decided to take our sons to the altar and present them to God. Here we went...Chad and Josh in tow, we placed them on the altar rail and prayed..."They are your sons, Lord. We don't want to mess this whole parent thing up, so give us wisdom and understanding on how to raise them the way you want us to." I'd love to say that the heaven's parted and angels walked up and down a celestial ladder, but it didn't happen. What did transpire over the years was the faithfulness of God that rested upon our sons and us. We've been through some hard times. We still made some bone headed mistakes, but God has demonstrated His faithfulness because of our giving our sons to Him. May sound a bit corny or delusional, but it has been a real and tangible work from God's hand that we've watched over the years, and now it is taking place in the lives of our grand children.

So while I am grateful to receive all the accolades that come with Father's day, I know who the real Father is in this celebration. I have no problem bowing my knee in gratitude for the family he has allowed me to lead. So to my wife and my sons, may God continue to bless you all. As a Father, there is a great sense of humility in that at some point, when I stand before the Father, I will be able to present my entire family to Him. Wowzers!!

God on you....
mbb


Sunday, June 18, 2017

Mr. Average ----You Get A C+

Take a hard look at myself....
Yep...
That's me...
Mr. "C"..

Mr. Average.
Now don't be offended by this.....and don't say.."You should not talk about yourself in such a manner." Well, the truth is...I am average.
I have the life...
And the grades to back it up...


I remember my first day in the 7th grade. We use to call it Junior High School back in the good old days....
Going up to that window to take a gander at whose homeroom I was in with the rest of my fellow herd-mates.
Hmmm....7th grade....Bonner....Bowman...Bentley...Boo-yah...BYNUM. Mrs. Lawerence / Home Room.....And then, after her name was something that would define me for the rest of my school years...."C-section". And it wasn't talking about the type of birth I had. It was the group I had been assigned to.
I was in C-Section...
You know...3rd from the top...
A-section

B-section
C-section....middle of the pack... The place of average-ness.
Wasn't sure how I felt about it....But it was what it was.
For the next 6 years...I labored in C-section.
Truth be known, I was an average student. 
I didn't make failing grades....but I wasn't beta club material either.
The powers that be and the testing we had taken had deemed me as average.
Some days it seemed to fit me really well...

Other times, I wanted to defy their definition of my educational state.
But in the end...it was what it was.

Even today, if I get really honest with myself, I am average.
That means....the middle place...
I don't excel at somethings....
But I also don't fail in others.

Above all this self-defining stands the presence and plans of God.
I hold fast to the words of Psalm 139..."C - me....Feel me....Touch me...heal me.." (sorry for the WHO reference..couldn't help it.)
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Your book, they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

God knew what He was doing when it came to my life.
He created me for His purposes and His plans...
So if living out my life in the radical place of being average is part of His doing, then I am content to do so.
In fact, what things I have accomplished in my life is solely because God has empowered me to do them.
I can truthfully say that in my weakness (and not knowing) His strength is perfected and brought forth.

I guess what this all boils down to is that no matter who you are....
No matter what place you may have found yourself in high school...
all that matters is that you come to the realization that God has been, and continues to be, at work in you.

The world will label you...
The powers that be will try to pigeon hole you...

But only God Almighty has the right and honor to define you and your life.
Let Him.

Think on this...

God on you....

mb

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Cross



(Posting from August 26, 2008

Jesus, keep me near the cross
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary's mountain
In the cross, in the cross
Be my glory ever
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river
Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me
There the bright and morning star
sheds it's beams around me
Near the cross! O Lamb of God
Bring its scenes before me
Help me walk from day to day,
with its shadows o'er me.
Near the cross I'll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.
In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.
Not the wood or nail. Not the crown or hammer but the life that was given on that cross. The shadow of it covers humanity and either brings life or judgement. Free to all who would surrender and answer His invitation.
It is not pretty to look at. I wonder why it was taken into the hands of man and made of gold to be worn around the necks of those who do not understand what it means? Even in my own heart, I do not know if I fully understand the totality of the cross.
The cross has a message that stills rings as clear today as it did 2000+ years ago.
"IT IS FINISHED!"
The debt is paid in full.
I have been set free from the power of sin to walk in newness of life with Christ Jesus.
If you come to the cross and accept the salvation offered to you by Jesus....
You'll truly be able to say, "Because of Christ's redemption, I am a new creation of infinite worth."
Amen and amen....
God on you....
mb

Kingdom Work Doesn't Always Look Like What We Think It Does

Parking lot was crowded yesterday. It was near noon and people were taking care of their business, hurrying in and out of the building. I...