Love Changes Everything!

Colorful typographic motivational poster to raise faith in yourself and your strength. The series of business concepts on a textured background of an old love. VectorI recently connected with a young couple whom I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony. They have been married about 4 years and have their first child. I hadn’t connected with them since the birth of their little one. They asked about my family and how everyone was doing. As the conversation moved back to their little child, the young mom said that being a parent changed everything in their lives. She quickly added “for the better”! I often ask young parents, “Did you know you could love like that?” The answer is almost always “no”. Becoming a parent changes how we love. I profoundly love being Dad & Pop. The love that overflows from my heart to my children and grandchildren is an unstoppable force. I love my sweet wife and it’s a love that keeps expanding as we grow old together. Love is an amazing, powerful concept. Love is way more than words. Love is shown in actions and activities.

On the 14th of February every year, we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day (aka Valentine’s Day). This event started as a celebration of saints but evolved into a celebration of love. I was reminded of this a I came across the “Love Chapter” in my daily journey. Check this out…

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13: 1-7 NLT)

If I were the most popular man on earth but didn’t have love – worthless.

If I were the founder/owner of Amazon, Microsoft – (you name it) and didn’t have love – empty.

If I were the most amazing REALTOR, helping buyers and sellers but didn’t love people – I would be a failure.

If I were the greatest husband and Dad on the planet but didn’t have love – I would be lost. I really don’t think I can be successful at ANYTHING without love.  God changed the entire world when He displayed His love via His Son. His love is ridiculous and knows no limits. He is the One Who taught me how to love. He loved me first and He loves me best. His love is really impossible to get my head around. His love is unfathomable & indescribable! I’m so thankful that He loved me and still loves me. If you’re reading this – I love you too – even if I don’t know you well. It’s because He taught me to love.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Body Parts

Vocabulary worksheet - parts of the body
Vocabulary worksheet – parts of the body

I’ll never forget a time when I was about to have “minor surgery”. I remember the nurse coming to make sure I that cute little gown on and nothing else. She was trying to help me relax and she said: “Honey, it’s ok – we all have the same parts in our body, some come in different shapes and sizes”!  She made me laugh, but there was significant truth to it as well. She somehow helped me keep my dignity while giving up my modesty. That was almost 30 years ago, and I still remember it well. Our bodies are very special to us. Some of us do a better job than others taking care of our bodies. I remember an old man saying, “If I had known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of my body”. If you know me, you can tell right off that I’m not great at taking care of me. I am a work in progress on this subject.

I came across a passage of scripture where Paul is writing to a church about the church being like a body. It is a really strong analogy and I think it’s one that can apply to all sorts of organizations. Check this out….

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:18-27 NLT)

I don’t want to get graphic by any means, but I have experienced broken or damaged body parts. I had shoulder surgery all the way down to a splinter in my finger. If I have a splinter in my finger, it’s a nuisance. If I have a broken bone, it’s a bit more inhibitive. At the moment, my muscles are a bit sore, but that may simply be that I’m getting old! There are lots of things that are mildly uncomfortable the older I get, and my body can’t do everything the way it once did when I was younger. (Duh!)

I was struck this morning as I compare the functioning of the church to the functioning of the physical body. There are heads, hearts, fingers, toes and dozens of other parts that make up a body. The church has all these people with different gifts and different levels of commitment to the body. Christ is the head of His body, the church, so we all should be where He puts us, NOT where we simply want to be. He knows our giftedness and our passions. If we are all surrendered to His leadership, there should not be squabbles about where we serve or jealousy about one another’s giftedness.  This can sometimes be a tough one in lots of churches, because everyone wants to be in charge. This can happen in lots of other organizations as well. If a few are seeking to bark orders and be in charge, it gives the other parts of the body reasons to push back. I don’t enjoy being part of organizations whose primary mission is to serve, but instead the leadership wants to be served. This becomes a problem and is not the way it was designed. When I start using my body in ways it wasn’t designed to work, it will fail.  I will keep seeking the Lord for direction in how I can best serve to each place He has called me to serve. I serve at the pleasure of the King of Kings; the Son of God – the Leader of my life!

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Soul Exam

love heart riffle targetI’ve been to the doctor many times over the years. I now go twice a year for well-checks so that he can monitor my bloodwork, heart rate and my overall health. He advises healthy eating and exercise as a part of my daily life and routine. I hear him, but I don’t always take his advice. I really get frustrated with myself when I over-eat or sit still when I should exercise. I recently read a book called Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and he made some points that have stirred me up a bit about a healthy start to each day. I decided several years ago to become a morning person and to start my day with reading and meditating upon God’s Word. I added gratitude to the Lord this past year and I’m trying to figure out some morning time for exercise.  In the Miracle Morning book, I was introduced to a new exercise app called Seven – 7 Minute Workout it helps get the blood pumping and the lungs working in 7:53 seconds because there is some 10 second rests between exercises.

The harder exercise is to examine my soul. The Word of God speaks into my soul each day. I like to use heart interchangeably with soul. His Word reminded me again this morning how important it is to examine my heart. He’s speaking about checking my heart before taking the Lord’s supper. He is reminding me that checking my heart regularly can avert being disciplined by the Lord. Check this out….

27 So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29 For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.32 Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NLT)

A heart exam is a bit more private & personal.

A heart exam is a bit more intrusive.

A heart exam is a bit more difficult.

My wife, kids and personal friends know me pretty well. I try to be very open and approachable most anytime. The Lord is the One Who really knows my heart, my thoughts and my motives. I need to do my heart exam in His Presence. I need feedback from Him on my heart. I don’t want to gloss over my self-centeredness or my sinful desires. He knows me and He has freed me from the power of sin over me. Check this out…

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 NLT)

Bam!!

His death was a game changer to my life & I want to live in gratitude every day of my life for His obedience to death on the cross. I don’t ever want to forget that.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Strong Temptations

quarreled couple in their living roomI believe everyone who ever lived on the earth was tempted. I’m thankful that temptation is not sin or I would be more of a mess than I already am. Temptations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My wife & I are trying to eat healthy and trim up a bit. There are always beautiful cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies, candy bars and a myriad of other options around. It takes great inner resolve to refuse to eat them. The argument that I have with myself is that one bite won’t kill me, but then again, it will set me back. I remember hearing a guy tell me once that if I even lick the dust off of a Dorito then I’m going backward. I think he was exaggerating a bit, but he did make a point. There are lots of other temptations like cheating on my taxes, cheating on an exam or cheating on my wife. I believe the way to defeat temptation is to make my mind up ahead of time. Since I know the temptations will be there, I can decide how I’m going to handle it. If I’m going to a nice dinner, I can safely assume that there will be some sort of amazing dessert. I wish dealing with temptation were as simple as I’m making it sound. I came across these few verses from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth and it made me stop and think. Check this out…

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT)

I think the key to temptation is to recognize it and call it what it is. The enemy likes to pose as something good, safe and healthy. But I must know that he sugar-coats destructive behavior and sin. He never comes directly at me, he’s way to slick for that. I have asked the Lord many times to reveal the motives and the tricks of the enemy to me. I’ve asked the Lord to give me inner strength when I know I’m going to be tempted. I’m not going to say I’m strong every time, but the Spirit of God in me gives me grit and great strength.

There are times when I fail the test or I yield to temptation. It is there I find grace and mercy to heal my wounded soul and hurting heart. I hate letting the Lord down. I don’t sin so that I can find grace. I’m sickened by the thought of my failures and shortcomings. But I’m so profoundly grateful that His Grace found me. I will never be good enough to earn forgiveness. My thoughts, my actions and my failure to act often break His heart, but He really is transforming my mind one thought at a time. I am vulnerable before Him. I’m humble before Him. I realize that without Him, I’m a washed-up mess. With Him in charge of my heart, I can lead, love and serve even in the face of temptation. I wish someone had told me about His Amazing Grace many years ago. I once was lost but now I’m found.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

“I Am Yours” Song Story (“The Barn” Album)

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Blog by Kristen Hicks

I have struggled with this. I have been all about sharing the stories behind these songs until now when it’s actually time to sit down and start writing them. Mostly, because they are tender. They require me to be vulnerable— to take off any mask that I might be wearing to protect my heart or my reputation. At first, I thought I might tell the stories at arm’s length. Telling only the logistics of the moment the song was actually written, no background, no reasoning, no emotion, no heart; but tonight, I am realizing that that isn’t what the Lord is asking of me. Let me be clear, He isn’t making me do this. He isn’t twisting my arm, holding a gun to my head— He is simply asking, “Kristen, will you tell them our story? Tell them about Me, and who I have shown you I Am.”

That is where this song story begins. This is the newest written song on the album. Some of you might be wondering, why I decided to start the album and my story from the end rather than the beginning. Well, as the Lord reminds me often, I tend to do things backwards. And when He first revealed this to me, I was smack dab in the middle of the story behind this song. A crossroads. On the verge of the Lord about to do the craziest, most random, out there thing He has ever done in my life. Pursue me.

Wait, what? Yea, you read that right. And yes, I also believe that He has always been in pursuit of me—of all of us, in fact. But this pursuit has been different. Actually, some of the romantic dreamers out there would probably even use the word “woo” instead of pursuit. It hasn’t been a pursuit of my soul, He’s already got me there, but rather it’s a wooing of my heart. He’s been after my love. I never knew even until now, that He wanted it so desperately. I knew I wanted Him to have it, but I just didn’t know He desired it the way He does. I didn’t know, He valued it— that my love for Him was so incredibly precious to Him.

I had heard it my whole life, “Jesus loves you” but it had become silent, lost its wonder, sounding more and more like a copout rather than something that was supposed to actually change me—something that was supposed to define me.

There is this verse in Zephaniah 3 that says “For the Lord, your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (v.17) This was the verse He used to begin His quest for my heart. As if giving His life wasn’t enough. This was when I began to realize He wasn’t just looking to save me. He was looking to be with me— to be present, to be one with me, complete me, fight for me,  comfort me, heal me, protect me, to make me smile and laugh… to love me—like really, really love me. This was when I realized He created me to be loved.

I was in my room one day, sitting with Him. Bringing Him all my stuff— my insecurities, yes, all those thoughts, all the imperfections, all my shame, my fears. I began to think about Zephaniah 3:17 and wondered what it would be like to hear Him singing over me, and what His lyrics would be. I then began to hear this sweet melody in my head. It was a love letter but in song form. It was an invitation. What came out of that moment was this song.

“Dear one, I’m longing for you to come and rest here in My arms, so I can breathe new life into your lungs. My love can never be won, so let go of all the things you’ve done, and let Me show you how to be one. 

Lay down all your insecurities, because the possibilities are endless. And let Me love you out of where you’re at, no I really won’t hold back if you’ll yield to Me. 

Cause you are Mine and I Am yours, forevermore, forevermore. You are Mine and I Am yours, forevermore, forevermore.

Sometimes, it’s hard to see outside the lines of your humanity, so sometimes you’ll just have to trust me. And when it seems like nothing makes sense, and the enemy is lurking in your midst, oh let Me be your greatest defense. 

I won’t stop singing, I won’t sing over you I won’t stop chasing, I won’t stop chasing after you. I’m in deep pursuit of you. I won’t stop calling, I won’t stop calling out to you. I won’t stop singing, I won’t stop singing over you.”

I’m realizing that part of the beauty behind the songs He sings over us, is that they aren’t just meant to be received. He wants us to join in—belting out the sacred declaration of what He is singing, rather than the lies we are believing. I have found myself, with this particular song, realizing that while I sing the chorus, proclaiming on behalf of Jesus as Husband “you are MINE and I AM yours, forevermore!” that I can sing it back to Him as His Bride, “YOU are mine and I am YOURS, forevermore!” in unison, at the same time, as One, the way He always intended for it to be. And suddenly, all of those insecurities become possibilities to be loved by Him and to love Him in return.

If you would like to purchase an album click the link to order through PayPal (https://www.paypal.me/kmhicks88) $10 each (+2 shipping fee) or comment below and let us know how you would like to receive your album. 

I Give Up My Rights

Terms And Conditions-stampThere are many rights afforded me as an American citizen. The United States Bill of Rights guarantees all its citizens certain rights under that constitution. I am still amazed at this document that became the foundation and the very spirit of our democracy. We have lots of freedom under that law, but with that freedom comes great responsibility. There are still boundaries even in the “land of the free and home of the brave”. Our freedom also came with great sacrifice. I’m living in this free country today, because of many brave men and women who’ve gone before me and fought back against threats to our freedoms. I am given “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” under our constitution. This well-known phrase gives three examples of my unalienable rights given to me by God, which the Declaration of Independence declares that governments are there to protect.

Paul talks about his rights as an Apostle. He also gives up his rights for the sake of the gospel. He really sets a high bar when it comes to spreading the gospel. Check this out….

19 Even though I am a free man with no master, I have become a slave to all people to bring many to Christ. 20 When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law. 21 When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. But I do not ignore the law of God; I obey the law of Christ.

22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NLT)

I believe it’s important in sharing the gospel to explain its simplicity. It is certain simple to trust in Jesus, but it’s certainly not easy to live it out. I heard a great quote once by Les Brown that said: “If you do what is easy, your life will be hard, but if you do what is hard, your life will be easy”.  Becoming a disciple of Jesus is definitely harder to live out day to day than it sounds. He calls me to surrender who I am to who He is calling me to be. I can fight that call, but He won’t stop calling me. I have found that surrendering to that call puts me in a place of great blessing – in the center of His Will for my life. Just because I’m a follower of Jesus doesn’t make me “better” than anyone else. I am still broken and flawed. I still sin and make colossal mistakes in my journey of following Him. I’ve given up my rights to follow Him. I’ve surrendered all that I have and all that I’ve done to follow Him. Everything I have is His. Everything I am is His. I have no rights to speak of except what He’s given me. I surrender all that I am and ever hope to be just to know Him and make Him known here on the earth.

Pressing On!

Dwayne