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

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

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

Hardened Heart

Human heart anatomy from a healthy bodyWe had a neighbor in Casey Creek, Kentucky – where I grew up who had “hardening of the arteries”. It was so sad to see this sweet lady who was full of class and was so kind, become mentally and physically dysfunctional over a short period of time. I remember thinking what a debilitating disease. The official name of this disease is Atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis causes arteries to narrow, weaken and be less flexible. It’s the term for the process of fatty buildup in the inner lining of an artery. The buildup that results is called plaque and reduces the amount of blood and oxygen that is delivered to vital organs. Here is animation of Atherosclerosis from The American Heart Association.

I believe that a hardened heart is a grave spiritual condition. The Lord called this out when He walked this earth. It was a bit obvious in the Pharisees and Religious leaders. The Lord was frustrated with their hard hearts, but at the same time sad to see this. These people were the leaders of the synagogue and pursued God, but missed what He was saying to them. They were stuck in their traditions, rituals and habits and had no room in their heart for God to move them and shape them into who He wanted them to be. Check this out…

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand.Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus. (Mark 3:1-6 NLT)

I see hardening of the arteries as a physical condition that develops over time. I see a hardened heart as something that happens over time as well. I don’t imagine that the Pharisees and Religious leaders started following the law and leading the synagogues so that they could be spiritual bullies and building up the law to supersede the One Who gave them the law in the first place.  Jesus addressed this issue in the previous chapter of Mark, but it obviously fell on deaf ears. Check this out…

27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!” (Mark 2:27-28 NLT)

Likewise, I don’t believe that Christians with hard hearts set out to be this way. They started out following Jesus with passion and enthusiasm. This passion gave way to rule keeping and spiritual aloofness that not only becomes destructive on our relationship with others, it becomes self-destructive personally.

When I see a lost person, I realize that except for God’s amazing grace – that could be me. I could also make a bad decision and ruin my reputation and my witness. I don’t ever want to become so “heavenly bound” that I’m no “earthly good”. I want to live a very open, transparent life with the Lord. I do not have all the answers. I struggle with temptation and sin. I have to repent often because of sin inside my heart. With the Lords help, I want my heart to continue to be shapeable and moldable by His Spirit in me.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Changed Life – Wisdom

Life changesThis world we live in is constantly changing. People are changing. Jobs are changing. Relationships are changing. Change is an everyday event in our world. Heraclitis said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. I have learned that I must embrace change that happens. I’ve learned new and amazing technology that has made my life easier, but in some ways, the pace of life became faster. Not all change is good and healthy. There are some things that have not changed for example, the laughter of a child still melts me. The innocence of a child, the beauty of a bride on her wedding day or the beauty of a baby born. I want to be keenly aware of the things in my life that have changed for good and things that have changed oh so slowly that I hardly noticed.

I came across a verse that is a quote from Jesus this morning that I didn’t remember ever hearing because it was from the New Living Translation and it spoke right to my heart. Check this out…

35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” (Luke 7:35 NLT) –Jesus

I want to be a seeker or wisdom. I love the Word of God and I believe that my life has grown in wisdom and discernment because of the daily discipline of seeking the Lord’s heart through His Word. I’m definitely NOT the smartest guy, but I am hungry to know the Lord more today than I knew yesterday. It’s hard to argue about a changed life. I want to follow the wisdom that comes from the Lord. Check this out…

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT)

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18 NLT)

“There is a wisdom of the Head, … there is a wisdom of the Heart” – Charles Dickens

I want to continue to grow in wisdom and understanding of the Author of Wisdom. I can find hundreds of quotes on wisdom, but none more significant that what Jesus is saying. I want the choices that I make today and every day to display wisdom that comes directly from the Lord. I am forever changed because I know the Author of Wisdom and THE Creator of the World.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

 

Connected

Technology in the handsI am a huge fan of wireless technology. Whenever possible I use Wi-Fi, which is simply a name that tells me if there are wireless capabilities to a network. I think it’s pretty crazy to think of all the “wireless connections” in the air around us. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to see them all like tiny laser beams in the air. I know it would blow my mind. I have to be close to a Wi-Fi connection in order for it to work.

As I journeyed through John 15, I see that Jesus gives a connection analogy that reminded me that I need to be wired to Him. Check this out…

1 “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

“Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. (John 15:1-8 NLT)

In a crazy sort of way, I’m directly connected to the Lord. I realize that I’m not “physically connected”, but I need to be “spiritually connected” to Him. I need to be in close proximity to Him at all times. He is the ONLY Connection that promises me both abundant life here and eternal life after this life. He is the ONLY connection that brings peace, joy, comfort, direction and hope. I don’t ever want to lose my connection to Him. Without my connection to Him, I am nothing. He has built me and made me who I am. He built me for connectivity to Him. He is the reason I’m alive. He bears fruit in my life and through my life because I’m connected to Him. It’s certainly NOT because I’m great – It’s all Him!

I intend to remain “wired” to Him for the rest of my life. He is the Source of strength, direction, hope, grace, mercy, patience & love.

Pressing On!

Dwayne