Clean Cup

Coffee cup and beans on a white background.Every morning I have a routine of rolling out of bed, grateful to the Lord for a new day. I have become a bit of a coffee snob, because I grind fresh beans to make the coffee. While the coffee is brewing, I’m grabbing a quick shave & shower. My coffee cups are on a “cup tree” on the counter as well as in the cabinet above. If they are in there, I know they are clean. If they are in the sink, I realize that they need to be washed. A clean cup with a fresh cup of coffee is a great part of my morning routine of waking up to take on the day ahead.

Jesus really calls out the Pharisees and teachers of the law in Matthew 23. He calls them hypocrites because they teach the law, but don’t live it out. He uses cups to make His point. Check this out….

25 “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! 26 You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too.

 28 Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:25-26,28 NLT)

I want to be a “clean cup” inside and out before the Lord. He knows my inward most thoughts. He knows I’m human, and He is there with me when temptations come my way. His Presence in me (His Spirit), prompts me and leads me. Today, we have dishwashers that wash the cup for us. If I’m washing the cup by hand, I usually wash the inside of the cup first, then the outside. Jesus was reminding us that if we only clean up our behavior, but not our heart, we really haven’t done anything. Our behavior follows our heart. I want to spend way more time seeking forgiveness for my sin that no one else sees rather than to keep polishing my image as a Christian in the community. I can fake others out, but I can’t fake the Lord out. I’ve been faked out by others too. I’m not responsible for other hearts, but it’s CRITICALLY IMPORTANT for me to keep check on my heart. I believe my heart is where the Lord really changes everything about me. My actions and activities of my life come from my heart; if it’s clean, my actions will reflect that.

My time in the Word points out any dirt or filth on the inside of my cup (aka my heart) and then I must take action to allow my heart to be cleaned by the Lord so that I can honor Him with my words and actions.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Talk Is Cheap – Actions Speak!

megaphoneI know people who can talk a good game. They know something about everything. They are very important people – if you don’t believe me, ask them. I have been around people who are “know it all’s” and I’ve been around people who are brilliant and scholarly. The later don’t usually talk as much. I’m learning to listen more and talk less because I can learn a lot during my time of silence. I do believe that talk without action to back it up is simply hot air and wasted words. Jesus dealt with this with the religious leaders and Pharisees. They talked a good game with their faith, but when you “peeled back” the layers of their lives, they were rotten inside. I want my faith to be real from the depths of my heart to the smallest detail of my life. I want my trust in the Lord to be obvious and noticeable without ever having to say a word.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. (Matthew 7:15-20 NLT) (These are the teachings of Jesus Himself.)

“Actions are louder than words could ever be.”

“What I do speaks so loudly, you can’t hear what I’m saying.”

I came away from this passage realizing the need for humility. I am nothing without the Lord in my life. Just because I know Him and spend time with Him does not make me better than anyone else. I still have sin in my life that must be dealt with. I am simply another human being, created by God who is trying to life a good life because that is who God called me to be. I’ve given my life to Him because I believe He first gave me life. He gave me a future, so I’m trusting Him with mine.

I want my life to drip with humility and gratitude for the blessings that flow from the Lord to me. I am a nobody, who is somebody, because the Lord loved me first. I’m not sure that a day goes by that I don’t get to talk about my faith. I want people to see my faith before I ever speak a word about it. I want my actions to speak loudly about the One I trust in and live for.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Top Two Commands

love heart riffle targetI grew up learning all the rules of the Christian faith. There we lots of them. The church I grew up in was small and everyone knew everyone else’s business and short comings. I couldn’t “get away” with much. I remember the preacher once telling me that my Dad knew what I had done the weekend before. (I won’t confess it here.) I realized that my parents were a bit smarter than I realized. I learned to live within those rules that were taught as scripture. I learned later that some of those rules were “man-made” based on someone’s interpretation of scripture. As I grew older, I learned to search the scripture for myself. I learned that a lot of the man-made rules were more opinion and cultural than truth.  I learned that the Lord wants my devoted heart, because my behavior will follow. Jesus was teaching (mostly debating) the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and Saducee’s, when one of them made an observation. Check this out…

28 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

29 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

32 The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. 33 And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

34 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34 NLT)

I had been trying to keep a ton of rules, where there are really two more important than all the others:  1. Love God. 2 Love Others.  These two “rules” are NOT optional. In fact, these are more important than attending church each time the doors are open. These are more important that “not cursing”. These are more important than giving. I believe that if I get the number 1 right, all others will fall in line, because of my heart change. External obedience can lead to heart change, but it’s the “long way around”. If I work on my heart first, then my obedience is with the right motive and insight. If I simply “go through the motions” of loving God, it will show in my actions and activities of my life. I am grateful that the Lord was patient with me when I went through the transition from being a “rule follower” to becoming a changed man from the inside out. I do love the Lord with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength. I love others too, because He showed me how.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Strategic

 

Time to PlanI admire others who analyze and plan strategically. I am learning more and more about how important planning is in every area of my life. Planning is important to my family as I put together a blueprint for my “empty nest years” and sunset years. I applaud young people who start planning their retirement during their first year or so of working. It’s great that there are many businesses who can contribute to employee retirement & profit sharing. I’ve been self-employed my whole career and it takes a bit more discipline and management to put together a wise retirement. I am so grateful for the investment that so many others have made in my life over the years to get me to this point. I’m learning that I must listen, learn and take action.

Jesus is teaching the crowds and His recently chosen disciple at what is known as “The Sermon On The Mount”.  He introduces some teaching that is still today “counter cultural” and “bizarre concepts” to the world. Check this out…

37 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” (Luke 6:37-38 NLT)

Don’t criticize others.

Don’t condemn others.

Forgive others and receive forgiveness.

Give and you will receive.

Jesus is alluding to the “Law Of The Harvest” – we reap what we sow. He is saying that when we are patient, we receive patience. When we are generous, we are recipients of generosity. When we forgive, we receive forgiveness. I have lived long enough to know that these concepts are actually true when tested in real life. I have learned to sow seeds of kindness and then watch as kindness to me is multiplied. I have sown seeds of forgiveness and it come to me many times over. Jesus’ teaching is weird to those hearing it for the first time, but my life is a real-life testimony that these concepts are true.

Jesus is teaching strategies that will not only serve me in this life but also make it more abundant for sure. These strategies also serve to show others the genuine love that the Lord has for them. By living these concepts out, my actions are speaking louder than my words. I have a lot of growing to do in these areas, but my life as profoundly been changed by The Lord. I want to live this out in my every day, “regular routine” sort of life.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Prove It

Mature Judge Pounding In The CourtroomIt is not always the easiest thing to do to prove something you say is true. I do believe that there are facts that reveal lots of truth or expose lies. For example, I can’t say I was one place and the GPS on my phone reveals that I was somewhere else. There are video cameras everywhere it seems and the time stamp shows that I was downtown on the square, then it would be foolish to claim that I was at home. I’ve never had to prove my whereabouts, but there are ways to make that happen through investigation.

I came across this word from the teaching of John the Baptist. It got me thinking, was there enough evidence that I’m a committed follower of Jesus. Check this out…

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.  (Luke 3:8 NLT)

I talk lots about my faith. I write about my faith. Living out my faith in my everyday life is the real test of my faith. Talk is cheap and I can fill a room with cheap talk. The truth of my life is revealed by my behavior, which comes from my heart. I grew up learning to behave. I’ve recently been learning just how critical my heart is to my behavior. I can fake my faith with my behavior – going to church, singing songs, giving gifts. The Lord knows the desires of my heart. He knows the truth about me. He’s the One, I need to prove my repentance too.

The truth always seems to work its way out. I really do want to be a devoted follower of Jesus, but I have my moments of failure. I do want my heart to be pure and committed to Him, no matter what my circumstances. I admit that I fail miserably at times. I’m so grateful for His Grace and Mercy during my times of absolute failure. I’m determined to repent and run after Him no matter how many times I fail. I want the desires of my heart to be for His honor and His glory and not my own. I want my actions that come from my heart to prove that I love the Lord.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Be Humble & Kind

Morning Pray At Beautiful LandscapeTim McGraw released a song by this title in late 2015 and the video in January 2016 that carries a simple but profound words. The song was written by Lori McKenna and carries a powerful chorus:

Hold the door say please say thank you
Don’t steal, don’t cheat, and don’t lie
I know you got mountains to climb but
Always stay humble and kind
When the dreams you’re dreamin’ come to you
When the work you put in is realized
Let yourself feel the pride but
Always stay humble and kind

Official Video “Humble & Kind” on Vimeo

This song jumped in my brain this morning as I read through Titus chapter 3. Paul instructs Titus to teach the leaders to be kind, respectful and humble. Check this out…

1Remind them to submit to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 

to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people. For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another.

But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared,he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:1-7 CSB)

The old me was full of myself, prideful and arrogant.

The new me must be humble, kind, gentle to everyone.

I don’t need to compromise my convictions to be humble, kind and gentle to others. I think Jesus modeled this behavior. He had all power and authority, but didn’t use it to force things. He taught a lot with His life as well as His words. I must never forget what it was like being lost. I must be patient, humble and kind – character traits of a Christ-follower.

What a simple challenge, but I must admit that it’s difficult when I’ve had a tough day or the people I’m working with are acting like jerks. I can’t let their behavior dictate mine. I need to let the actions of my life come from a heart that is molded and shaped by the Lord.

Pressing On!

Dwayne