Reverse Order

Multi-ethnic group of people standing in lineI will admit that I don’t like to stand in line. I’m not super patient about lines. When I’m at the grocery store and there are long lines, I will consider coming back later, even though it’s really only a few extra minutes to wait. I don’t like to go to Six Flags on a busy day for lots of reasons, but one of the reasons is, I don’t like standing in long lines for an hour for a 2-minute ride. What if when I got in the back of the line, I was all of a sudden put in front of everyone. First of all, that would tick a lot people off.  That’s just not how it’s done. I have just learned to look for the shortest line and I do enjoy the “self-check” places because there’s hardly ever a line.

Jesus over heard His disciples talking about who was the greatest among Jesus’ followers. I’m sure they were thinking only of themselves and the accolades that they would get one day because of their celebrity status being one of Jesus disciples. He shook up their structure of what defined greatness in His view. Check this out…

33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”

36 Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.” (Mark 9:33-37 NLT)

This teaching is still a bit of a struggle even today. People who lead don’t always lead from a serving position. It’s hard to imagine a humble, servant politician. There are people who serve in their church that relish in their positions of power rather than see their position as one of great service. I’m blown away when I see a strong leader seek to serve others in the room. I love seeing a strong and powerful leader treat their team with genuine respect and honor. I believe good leaders remember where they came from and how they got their start. Good leaders remember the people who helped them along the way. Good leaders are ALWAYS standing on the shoulders of others. This teaching of Jesus reveals how the Lord’s economy operates. I shouldn’t choose the best for me, I should think of what’s best for others. I should be a door holder for others. This servant leadership starts in my home, my workplace and especially my church family. Greatness in God’s economic system is defined by humility, gratitude, meekness, serving, patience, kindness, love, grace, mercy. Greatness in not always loud, sometimes it’s really quiet and almost unnoticed, but it’s profoundly powerful. Greatness is not about a person – it’s about a position of serving in God’s economy. This is a bit of reverse order compared to what I’m used to.  I want to serve the Lord by serving others and putting them first.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Worst To First

 

set of Template  for baseball with ball and mountainsThere are some great comebacks in history. In sports there have been teams that were in last place the year before to comeback and win a championship. There are companies who were in last place among their competition and they reorganized, rebranded, intensely marketed themselves and came back from worst to first. I love a good comeback story.

Mordecai went from being a person who say nears the king’s gate (aka “gate sitter”) to second in command within a two-day period. The day that the king honored Mordecai was the same day Haman was called out for his planned destruction of the queen’s people. Haman went from first in the kings ranking to last – he was hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai. Things changed quickly. Check this out…

1 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. And Mordecai came into the presence of the king, for Esther had told how he was related to her. 2 The king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and presented it to Mordecai. And Esther appointed him over Haman’s estate.

15 When Mordecai left the king’s presence, he was wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And the city of Susa held a joyous celebration. 16 For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. 17 In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them. (Esther 8:1-2; 15-17 NIV)

Throughout biblical history, the Lord watched over His people with great care. He did allow them to be punished. He always heard their cry for mercy and grace. He rescued them again from a young orphan girl from Susa province and her uncle. They were not royal lineage, but certainly obedient to the opportunity the Lord had put before them. There was great risk, but there was also great reward in obediently walking in faith.

I believe that as I’m walking out my faith in God, I need to worry less about my rank and keep cultivating obedience inside my heart. I need to keep steady and serve Him and let Him worry about ranking. I remember Jesus saying, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16 NIV) I need to be more concerned with His Presence in me than my position of rank among my competition.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Birth Order

 

Generations concept with people from different agesI’ve often said that I felt sort of bad for my oldest son. His mother and I did the best we could as his parents. He didn’t come with an instruction manual. Godly parents had raised us both, so we had some of the basic parenting skills that we learned from our parents. Just about any way you measure it; the first child becomes a learning experience for the parents. Fast forward many years later and my oldest is one of five kids. He grew into a godly young man and is now a parent himself. I’m so thankful for the gift of parenting; I’ve learned things about God that I’m not sure I could have learned any other way. I’m really grateful for each of my children; I’m praying that they continue seeking God’s heart the rest of their days.

King David was at the end of his life. He was making preparations for his son, Solomon to build the temple in Jerusalem. David assembled a lot of the materials lists that were needed. He also organized the Levites for service in the temple. They served in the Tabernacle (the traveling tent temple) and David was organizing things for the Temple service. Check this out…

These were the Levites, according to their families. 31 They also cast lots, just as their relatives the descendants of Aaron did, in the presence of King David and of Zadok, Ahimelek, and the heads of families of the priests and of the Levites. The families of the oldest brother were treated the same as those of the youngest. (1 Chronicles 24:30b-31 NIV)

Growing up there were a few special privileges for being the oldest son. I have an older sister so she experienced a lot of “firsts” before me. As I was reading this chapter in the Word this morning, I realized that God’s economy is not really based on birth order. The Lord’s birth order and economy is certainly different than our culture sees it.

My heart condition (aka commitment) determines my status (aka birth order) in God’s economy. My experience and my age doesn’t necessarily make me first in God’s birth order discussion. I’m very confident that the Lord looks into my heart and notices the depth of my commitment or the lack of depth.

I’m learning to seek His heart daily and simply not stress about birth order. I don’t even stress about being first in His Kingdom – I just want to be in His Kingdom. I believe that eternity is a “pass or fail” exam more than ordered by the highest passing grade or by birth order. I believe the only test for receiving eternal life is going to be from God, the Father and He will ask: “Do you know my Son?” I want to be able to say a resounding “Yes” to that one question. I want to follow Him the rest of my days here on earth and the transition into eternity will be a “piece of cake”.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Birth Order

 

Family tree, relatives, people silhouettesI grew up as the eldest son of my family. There were three sons and three daughters born to my parents. The first daughter was stillborn. I have a sister older than me. There were situations that arose all the time where it was great being up at the top of the birth order because we got to go first. There were times when I really wanted to go last. My older sis and I ended up being the de-facto leaders among our siblings.

The Lord gave instructions to the leaders of Israel about how to camp around the tent of meeting (aka Tabernacle). He put the leaders of the families in four sections to surround the four sides of the tent. Check this out….

1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: 2 ‘The Israelites are to camp round the tent of meeting some distance from it, each of them under their standard and holding the banners of their family.’ (Numbers 2:1-2 NIV)

As I read through the rest of the text in chapter two I noticed that the Lord actually didn’t use birth order to line up the Israelites. I’m not sure of His criteria, but He actually chose a lead family and added two of the tribes to that so that North, South, East & West were covered. The tent of meeting was surrounded. Joseph who was sold in to slavery and later saved his family from famine actually had two sons and they were counted as two of the sons of Israel. The Levite family were not counted or treated as a regular family group as they were responsible for the spiritual leadership of the tent of meeting. They were responsible for setting it up and tearing it down when they traveled. The Levite family was also responsible for sacrifices and the day-to-day spiritual leadership serving the priests.

I know that birth order is significant in some family and less important in others. I realized that birth order in God’s family is totally different. For example, I know people who have been Christ followers for years but they look and act like spiritual babies. Quite frankly they wear the name Christian, but are not in actual daily pursuit of God’s heart. I do believe it’s a choice that they made to remain a “baby”. The Word speaks of believers starting out on the “milk of the word” and then advancing to the “meat of the word”. (Hebrews 5:11-14) I remember as a student pastor this was actually very noticeable as some of the older students in my minister were more spiritually strong than people who had been in church for years. Serving in church is not synonymous with spiritual growth. It seems like churches make leaders from the people who’ve been there the longest with little concern over spiritual depth. I believe that God looks at birth order way different. He knows the heart of a person. He knows if their heart is good or bad. Behavior usually reveals the heart, but not always. Some do the right thing for the wrong reasons.

God’s birth order is based largely on the obedience found deep in my heart. He is also not about power and authority as much as He is about serving in humility. His birth order is quite different than a regular family birth order. I’m not going to worry about who’s first in the family; I just want to be obedient when He calls me to action.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

First Time

 

Jesus man of joyThere are memories that jump out in my mind of things that I did for the first time. It’s funny how some of the “first time” memories are significant and some are seemingly insignificant. I remember learning to drive a tractor for the first time. I remember cutting grass on a riding mower for the first time. I remember my first time trying to chew tobacco (yuck – made me pretty sick). I remember the first time I met the Lord. My memories of “first times” are often out weighed by the fact that the “firsts” were only the beginning to a long and storied connection. I will drive today and probably not even think about that first time. When I cut grass I don’t necessarily recall the first time, because there have been so many times since. The first time I met the Lord, my parents introduced me to him. I learned to love the Lord as a kid because of what I witnessed in my parents. I remember meeting the Lord for the first time and I became convinced He was real. My faith became my own. I go back to that event often as I reflect on my journey with Him.

Hosea is reminding of Judah of their forefather Jacob’s encounter with God. I’m not sure if it was Jacob’s first, but I think it was his most significant encounter. Check this out….

2 The Lord has a charge to bring against Judah;

    he will punish Jacob according to his ways

    and repay him according to his deeds.

3 In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;

    as a man he struggled with God.

4 He struggled with the angel and overcame him;

    he wept and begged for his favor.

He found him at Bethel

    and talked with him there –

5 the Lord God Almighty,

    the Lord is his name of renown!

6 But you must return to your God;

    maintain love and justice,

    and wait for your God always. (Hosea 12:2-6 NIV)

 

I can recall seeing a live Passion Play at Johnson University Tennessee (formerly Johnson Bible College) when I was a freshman in college. I watched as the life of Jesus came to life in this play. These were not professional actors, they were juniors who were putting on this event for the seniors. It was a “Christian Prom” of sorts. I remember vividly, as if it were yesterday, seeing Jesus crucified in that play and I was brought to tears. My faith went to a whole new level that evening. I believed in God for myself for the very first time. I made a commitment to follow the Lord for the rest of my life. I made a commitment to ministry that night. I came to terms with just how much the Lord loved me and His Love blew me away.Jesus

I’ve returned to that night many times to reconnect and recommit to the Lord. I want to remember the first time I felt deeply connected to the Lord and His love for me. The entire trajectory of my life was changed that night. My faith in God became my own faith. It is the faith I give to my family and to others. The first time I came face to face with God is etched in my soul, but it hasn’t been my only encounter. He has underscored that experience many times over the years. There is always a “first” and my first personal experience with the Lord changed everything from that point on.

Pressing On!

Dwayne