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

Soul Food

Food for body and soulI live in the south and soul food is a menu of good tasting food that is really not very healthy. For example, I would call Bacon, Biscuits, Gravy & Grits breakfast soul food. Other “soul food” selections might be mashed potatoes, gravy, collard greens, pork chops and fried squash. I believe that lots of “soul food” is fried or cooked with lots of butter! I’m not an expert by any means, but I do enjoy good food. I admit that I have a tough time with boundaries on portions of good soul food.

The Jews had a strict diet. They couldn’t eat just any food. They also couldn’t eat certain foods in combination with other foods. Jesus was asked by the Pharisees and teachers of the law why His disciples didn’t follow their Jewish traditions when it came to ceremonial washing and eating. Jesus called out their hypocrisy with a passage from Isaiah. Check this out…

‘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.’ (Mark 7:6-7 Isaiah 29:13 NLT)

He then went further in explanation to His disciples. He talked about purity of our heart. The law implied that behavior modification was all that was necessary to follow the Lord. Jesus makes it clear that your behavior simply reveals what is going on inside the heart. Check this out…

14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”

19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

20 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” (Mark 7:14, 19-23 NLT)

I believe that Jesus was teaching something profound that we still struggle with today. We make a judgement upon people by their behavior. I do believe that behavior often reveals what’s going on inside the heart. Jesus was teaching that we need to feed our soul from the Word of God. I believe that if we spend our time working on our heart, our habits and activities will follow the heart.  Our behavior is a symptom of a diseased heart. The Lord wants to change us from the inside out and it begins in my heart. The Word of God is food for my soul – “soul food”, if you will. I want to make sure that I’m digesting the Word of God every day before I eat any physical food. This “soul food” does have eternal implications.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Pursuit

follow your heart words holding by businessman's handI sometimes think of this word in negative terms. For example, when a car with blue lights is in pursuit of my car, I know I’m about to get a “safe driving award” for exceeding the speed limit. I’ve not been pursued like this in a good while and I’m thankful. I also try to think of this word in a positive way – pursuing hopes and dreams. I still have those for my life. I want to be in daily pursuit of my goals and ambitions.

I came across a story in the book of John that reminded me of the word “pursuit” even though it’s not in the scripture. Check this out…

At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?”

“No,” they replied.

Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.

Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore. When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread. (John 21:4-9 NLT)

I was immediately reminded of the event found in Matthew 14 when the disciples were in the boat in the middle of the night and a storm came up and they were struggling to keep moving. Jesus came up walking on the water and it freaked them out. When Peter realized it was Jesus, he said, “Lord if its really you, tell me to come walking on the water.” Jesus said, “Come”. Peter did just that, he got out of the safety of the boat and headed toward Jesus. In this story, Peter gets out of the boat and leaves his responsibility with the net and the huge catch of fish behind in pursuit of Jesus.

Peter is portrayed as a passionate follower of Jesus. He was used by the Lord to be a great leader in the early church. He seems impulsive and unpredictable. He was predictable when it came to Jesus – He wanted to be with Jesus wherever He was.

This simple passage stirred my heart to stay in a passionate pursuit of God with my life. I must make my pursuit the highest priority of my life. My pursuit of God begins in my heart and then is shown in my behavior. If I reverse this, it doesn’t work well. I grew up trying to “show” my faith with my behavior, while my heart wasn’t in it. I’m still learning that behavior follows the heart. The heart doesn’t follow behavior – it simply tolerates it. If I want to be in genuine pursuit of God, it begins with heart change.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Behavior

 

john-3-16I learned many years ago the difference between good behavior and bad behavior. I was taught as a child the difference between right & wrong. I’m sure I “pushed the envelope” many times with my parents and others in authority over me. I know I that my behavior was bad at times because I was there. I’m thankful that for a gentle loss of memory in this case so that all of those times I behaved badly don’t’ come rushing back in to haunt me. There are people I know who have big time regrets with their behavior. I believe what Paul says in Romans that “all have sinned and fallen short of glory of God”. Everyone I know (including me) has misbehaved. I’m profoundly grateful for grace. My behavior should reflect what I believe in my heart, but that is certainly not always the case.

Paul takes behavior a step farther – He says you should remove the people who are boasting and flaunting their evil while calling themselves Christ followers. His analogy makes perfect sense. Check this out….

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new unleavened batch, as indeed you are. For Christ our Passover lamb has been sacrificed.Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old leaven or with the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Corinthians 5:6-8 CSB)

I was taught years ago that I could be “guilty by association” if I hang out with friends who are misbehaving. My reputation could be tarnished. Paul is speaking of “hanging out” with bad people who are calling themselves Christians, but they are known for all sorts of sin and unrepentant behavior. The Lord forgives sin. His Grace covers sin. If I repent of a sin and continue in that sin – I’m not repentant at all. Paul is calling out people who are openly sinful and still being part of the church. He is instructing the church to remove such a person from the fellowship. If every person who sins is removed from the church, there would be no church. Paul is targeting the people who are arrogant and boastful about their sin and not repentant at all. The church is a hospital of broken and sinful people who are seeking restoration and forgiveness from the Savior of our souls. It is about accountability and grace. The church is to be protected of malice and evil. We are to cultivate relationships of honesty & truth seasoned with a lot of grace!

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Standard or Upgrade

 

Web IconWhen buying a car, you can get the standard features or you can get the upgrade. The upgrade always cost more. When building a house or simple remodeling a kitchen, there are standard features you can buy, then there are upgrades. I guess standard is the starting point or the average. In our country, we don’t buy a TV when it wears out, we upgrade to the latest flat panel LCD. The other TV was working perfectly fine, but it was standard. There’s another category that I’ve seen since becoming a REALTOR; it’s called “sub-standard” which is below average or below the starting point.

In Romans 12 (possibly my favorite chapter of scripture), the Apostle Paul really lays out some standard Christian behaviors. These are meant to be the starting point, but they are often not even practiced by Christ-followers. Check this out…

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 

16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. (Romans 12:9-10; 16-18 CSB)

As a Christ follower, I should not do the minimum standards or starting points. I should grow from there. Sometimes Christians look the same as others who don’t follow the Lord. My behavior should be different. My language should be kinder. My compassion should be deeper. I should keep the spotlight on the Lord and not on me. My life needs to be governed by the Spirit of God living in me. He longs to be seen in me. I can’t “out give” or “out love” the Lord. I should keep growing in these areas and not settle for the starting point.

Today as I begin my day, I’m so thankful for the Lord’s patience with me as I seek to build on the standards set forth and keep upgrading my faith by surrendering to His will and His way.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Rescued & Blessed

Man praying with the BibleThere are times that I’ve felt trapped in conversation (almost all “one-way conversation”) with a person who “knows it all” and a friend will come up and interrupt and engage – I’m rescued. I have learned over the years how to disengage a person like that because the conversation isn’t meaningful for them or me – they know it all and insist on telling me they know it all, so my input and opinion don’t matter. I must admit that this type of person does get on my nerves a bit. Believe it or not, I do love people in general.

The Lord sees my every move. He knows where I am and where I’m headed. I believe it would blow my mind to know how many times over the course of my life that the Lord has rescued me from danger. I know some of those times because I’ve felt trapped and scared. He never just leaves me stuck or stranded – He rescues. King David was feeling blessed and grateful for the rescue of The Lord. Check this out….

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
    on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
    who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword 11 deliver me;
    rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
    whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth
    will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
    carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled
    with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields;
14     our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
    no going into captivity,
    no cry of distress in our streets.
15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
    blessed is the people whose God is the Lord. (Psalm 144:9-15 NIV)

I reflect often on where I might be if I didn’t know the Lord. I think I’d be a miserable mess. I’d be self-centered and prideful. The Lord has rescued me from other people and other situations AND He’s rescued me from me. He has changed me from the inside out. He loves changing hearts because it leads to a changed life. He rescued my heart (I see my heart as my intellect & emotion so I guess it’s more like my soul.) from my control and He is still shaping and molding my life. My heart is the control center for my behavior.  Everything I do and say comes from my heart – and I’m continually surrendering that to Him. I am so blessed to know the Lord. I want others to know the peace that is hard to explain – that He has brought to my life.

Pressing On!

Dwayne