Customs & Traditions

Chapel In New EnglandI grew up in a small church in South Central Kentucky. I remember that we had about 75 people each Sunday when things were going well. We had our way of doing things for sure. I remember that we sang three songs from the Hymnal then a prayer song, communion, offering, sermon, invitation song, closing prayer, closing song. You could count on this same schedule of events each week. We also had about five men in the church who would publicly pray. One guy, Mr. Webb, would recite the same prayer each time he was asked to pray. I can almost recite that prayer some 40 years later. We always wore our “Sunday best”. We never “dressed down” to go to church. Looking back, we had traditions that seemed more important than where my heart was. I served in one church where one of the leaders got so frustrated that a young man wore a hat in the church on a Wednesday evening that the young man was actually asked to leave.  We created customs and traditions that are far from being scriptural, but because “we’ve always done it that way” it becomes “code” in our place of worship.

I believe that some traditions and customs frustrate the Lord. He cares way more about people’s heart than the clothes on their back or a hat on their head. He cares deeply that our seeking Him is genuine. He wants our worship to be way more than words that we sing beautifully. He wants our heart totally devoted to Him.

What if the church just gathered for a time of intense prayer – no music or sermon?

What if the church gathered for simple Bible Study and prayer in a bar rather than a fancy building?

We have made our faith in God much to do with tradition that we drowned out the call of God upon our hearts. We are so busy doing things for God that we can’t hear Him gently call upon our heart.

Jesus called out the Pharisees and really ticked them off with His comments. Check this out….

And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matthew 15:6b-9; 19-20 NLT)

I’m not trying to say that all traditions and customs are bad. I am saying that if they draw more attention themselves rather than to the Lord, they should be removed immediately. I have asked the Lord to forgive me many times when I faked my worship because of tradition and customs of the church, rather than repentance of my sin.

The Lord cares way more about my heart than anything else I could possibly do or say. He want my heart to be open, shapeable, moldable and pure before Him. The words I speak and the actions I choose reveal exactly what is going on in my heart. He helps me daily with cleaning up my heart and pushing back on man-made traditions & customs that have become meaningless to my heart.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Solitude

Man praying with the BibleI love people. I love some people a bit more than others. I love my big family profoundly. In fact, I love my family at the expense of any other relationship. I grew up in a family with two brothers & two sisters – considered a big family. I also have five children of my own and now three grandchildren. I am so grateful to the Lord for my beautiful big family. I know that the Lord has big plans for them.

I love my work. I became a REALTOR 15 years ago. I had been a student pastor for 20 years prior to that. I loved being with students, teaching them during the most formative time of their lives. In the past 15 years, I’ve learned to build on the principles I learned in ministry. Jesus came to serve not to be served. I have used that as a theme in my real estate business. I get to honor the Lord by serving others. I will say that there have been times in my life where the noise level of my work reached fever pitch.  Several years ago, I started getting up 30 minutes early to have some morning solitude. It really changed how I managed my day. I used to try to sneak some solitude in the middle of my day and I still do on occasion, but my morning solitude is the best. I get to hear from the Lord each day in His Word. Recently, I started my morning with gratitude. I’ve started hitting the snooze button on purpose to lie in bed and give the Lord thanks for my wife, my family, my friends, my work, my country and everything I can think of. My time of solitude features gratitude, reading, journaling, prayer and then some work.

Jesus needed solitude too. The day He got the news of His cousin John the Baptist death, He sought solitude. Check this out.

13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Jesus then teaches & feeds 5,000 men plus the women and children)

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. (Matthew 14:13-14; 22-23 NLT)

Solitude gives me perspective.

Solitude can renew my spirit.

Solitude can renew my strength.

Solitude can settle my anxious heart.

Solitude can enhance my listening to God.

Solitude can influence every hour of my life.

Solitude gives me clarity of life purpose.

Solitude deepens my faith in God.

___________

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Young & Old

handThere are things I learned a long time ago and things I learned just yesterday. I really enjoy learning new ideas and concepts. I’m still growing and learning as a believer and a student of God’s Word. I’m also still growing as a husband and Dad. I’m growing as a REALTOR as well. I really want to be a life-long learner. My recent certification as a Biblical Counselor requires continuing education to keep my certification. My profession as a REALTOR requires continuing education to keep my license active. I do wish I had enjoyed learning when I was a young man as much as I do now.

Jesus added a statement to one of His parable explanation. I have somehow missed this in my study over the years. It really intrigued me. He compares heaven to a homeowner – whom I work with every day. Check this out….

52 Then he added, “Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.” (Matthew 13:52 NLT)

This was a new category of disciple. A religious teacher who became a disciple of Jesus. Most of the religious teachers where combative of Jesus’ teaching. There were a few and they were special. I consider myself somewhat old and I still want to discover new truth from the Word of God. I don’t want to rest on what I’ve learned at this point. I view home as my hideaway. I love going home and relaxing with my family. I love hanging out with my wife. I don’t have to be busy at home, even though sometimes I am. Tina & I cleaned out our pantry, which is a good-sized room with tons of shelving and where we keep our food. We did find a few things we didn’t’ remember having because they were hidden behind the pasta or one of our cooking vessels. I bring stuff home all the time and promptly misplace it. Home is where I spend time with the Lord each morning. Home would not be home without my family. A house is a structure that can be made into a home.

I loved this statement of Jesus about a homeowner bringing from his storehouse new gems of truth as well as old. I want to keep learning new gems of truth from His Word as well as solidifying the old gems learned years ago.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

The Fruit of My Heart

Apple trees orchardI am not an expert on fruit trees. When I was a kid, we had an apple orchard. There are tasks to do to fruit trees to help them produce healthy fruit and become a healthy tree. For example, fruit trees need to fertilized and watered. Fruit trees also need to be pruned and treated for disease and insect infestation.  When cared for properly, fruit trees will bear beautiful fruit. Jesus compared our heart to a fruit tree in speaking to the Pharisees and religious leaders. Check this out….

33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. 34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NLT)

I believe that my heart is the gateway to my soul. My heart is not necessarily the pump inside my chest. My heart is the emotional epicenter of me as a person. I believe that my heart needs to be involved in decision making because love comes from my heart more than my head. I think Jesus is teaching that behavior flows from the heart. I believe it’s super important to take care of my heart. My heart needs to be watered and fertilized with the Word of God. The very Spirit of God prunes my heart and treats for disease that can destroy my heart. I also realize that the Lord is the ONLY ONE Who truly knows everything about my heart and everything inside my heart. He’s also the ONLY ONE Who can heal my heart when it’s diseased, broken, or deeply damaged.  He created my physical heart and He created my spiritual heart. The fruit of my life reveals the condition & the depth of my heart. He has filled my heart with love, compassion, mercy & grace. It should overflow into every relationship I have on this planet.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Soul Rest

Man Sitting On Bench During A Beautiful SunsetI try to get to bed at a certain time range each evening. I believe that my morning begins the night before. I learned a long time ago that these two were intricately connected. There are some nights that rest comes so peacefully. There are other nights when for whatever reason, I don’t rest well. Sleep usually means rest, but rest doesn’t always mean sleep. I like my life to have a bit of rhythm. I don’t mean musically, although I love music. I like to have some routines and systems in place for my life. When I change up my routine, it takes a minute for the rhythm to return.

Jesus is teaching the people and He has just complimented John The Baptist for his work in preparing the way for Him. He also complimented people who simply follow Him completely. He then makes a statement that really settles my heart. He speaks of soul rest. Check this out….

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)

I love the fact that Jesus has strong shoulders. He gives an open invitation for me to come.

He can carry any of my burdens.

He gives me strength when I’m weary.

He gives me calm in the midst of chaos.

He gives physical rest.

He teaches me from His humble & gentle heart.

He gives soul rest.

He replaces my struggles and burdens with a different calling. Instead of seeking success, He invites me to serve. Success comes after serving. Success comes after sitting at the feet of Jesus. Success comes after rest. I understand that is sounds backward, but the Lord want me to trust and lean on Him. This does not mean I’m lazy and sitting around “resting” all the time. If I never work, rest becomes boring.  I intend to keep trusting the Lord to lead and direct the activities of my life. I trust Him to help bring balance and rhythm to my journey. He gives me soul rest which also connects with physical rest. I’m thankful for His gift of soul rest.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Sent

send buttonThere are times when I hit send on an email or text without really checking it out to make sure the auto-correct feature didn’t goof up something I meant to say. There are other times when I delete the email or text before sending because I’m a bit “fired up” and my words will cause harm instead of being productive. I often wish that I had the same editing privileges on my mouth. I have to watch my words carefully, especially when I’m upset about something.

I came across this passage where Jesus is sending out His disciples to warn the Jewish people that the Kingdom is near. He didn’t “sugar coat” His instructions. Check this out….

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:16-20 NLT)

 

This had to be a bit scary for Jesus’ disciples. The analogy of being sheep among wolves – they had seen firsthand what wolves do to defenseless sheep.  They were probably going to offend some very important people with their message. They were going to face arrest and prison time. This was not the type of “mission trip” that I have been on before for sure. The last part of these instructions really jumped out at me because I’ve experienced this personally…. “Don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.”  There have been times when I say something in response to someone else that after I speak, I realize that I’m not that smart or that spiritually astute. The Lord speaks through me when I slow down and press pause on my big mouth long enough to hear from Him.

He has sent me out to live out my faith.

He has sent me out to speak up about my faith.

He has sent me with His Word to deliver.

He is in charge of my life….my words and actions.

I’m praying that the words I speak and all that I do bring honor to Him. I feel responsible to Him because He sent me to be His hands and feet to everyone I meet.

Pressing On!

Dwayne