Associations

members only blue stampThere are lots of associations in the business worlds. There also associations in the academic world as well as church world. Associations are made up of individuals with a like purpose from different places or companies with structure to organize, improve and consult with others in the same field of work. A couple of examples are American Medical Association or Auto Care Association – there are thousands of associations in our country. I belong to the Georgia Association of REALTORS as well as the National Association of REALTORS and there are other associations inside those associations. The largest “association” that I belong too is the church.

The church is a group of people who believe in God and they are organized to study and grow in their knowledge of God which builds greater faith. Some churches teach and believe things that are not in the Word of God. There are churches who have their Bible or something similar. I have accepted the Bible as the Word of God and the words of God. Just being part of the church and associating with the church doesn’t define my faith. My faith is God is deeply personal but it is shown and displayed by my commitment to other believers.

The Apostle Paul “gets in the weeds” a bit with the church at Corinth about associating. I remember teaching my kids about choosing their friends wisely in school and that instruction still applies today. It applies to me as an adult. I still have to choose who I associate with wisely. I can become known by the people I hang out with. Paul makes it clear that the association of the church has a very specific purpose and it’s not just another club or association that you belong to. Check this out….

When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. 10 But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. 11 I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NLT)

In the associations or organizations that I belong to, there are rules or codes of conduct that are vital to the function of the organization. Paul is spelling out that that there are also code of conduct inside the church.

I believe that as we walk out our faith, our church can help us grow and mature quicker than simply trying to do our faith on our own. Jesus is the head of the church and He calls it His body of sorts. We all have are different, but members of the same body. I want to be a contributor to the growth of Christ’s church here on earth. I believe the church is in a unique position to help each other through suffering and struggles that come with being a human being living on earth. We celebrate the Creator and seek to walk in His Way and live out the purpose for which we were created in the first place.  I’m thankful for the church and specifically the church that I’m part of.

Pressing On!

Dwayne  

Suffering Struggles

quarreled couple in their living roomWhen I think back through my life at the struggles, I get a bit tired, yet inspired. I can now see the hand of God through the struggle. At the time of struggle, I couldn’t think straight and couldn’t see His perspective. I could only muddle through the suffering. I think suffering is one of the hardest realities that everyone battles – both the Christian follower and non-believer. Suffering is not a respecter of my faith. I believe that suffering is a result of a fallen world. I do not subscribe to the angle that God causes my suffering – for me that just doesn’t fit with what I know about Him. I do believe that could prevent or stop my suffering, but He doesn’t always choose to do that. This is a hard topic because when I revisit my struggles – even though they are in the rear-view mirror – it brings up a lot of painful memories.

Paul speaks about suffering in the opening chapter of his second letter to the church at Corinth. His writing has helped shape my view of suffering. Check this out…

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that as you share in the sufferings, so you will also share in the comfort. (2 Corinthians 1:3-7 CSB)

I know people who have suffered more than I have. I know people who are in the middle of suffering right now. I don’t have all the answers for people in the middle of suffering, but I do know that the Lord never wastes times of suffering. I’ve learned more about His heart in the middle of my past experiences with suffering. When I’m on this side of suffering, it looks so different.

I know that one of the big wins in my personal sufferings is my ability to help others who are suffering. I have learned some life lessons in my suffering that I’m not sure I would have learned any other way. I started spending time in the Word of God many years ago and the Lord built into me some perspective and inner strength that I didn’t even know I had. My beliefs in Him are more solid today because of my sufferings in the past. I choose to trust Him with today and every day. During suffering and struggle, I choose to trust him. When I can’t see a good outcome, or ending to my suffering – I will still choose to trust Him.

This is not all that easy because suffering and struggle take its toll, but I will still trust Him with whatever comes my way. My faith is stronger because of struggle and suffering in my life. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. He never leaves me or forsakes me in the middle of struggle and suffering.

Pressing On

Dwayne

Commitment

Scheduling A Meeting In A DiaryI make lots of commitments each day. I put appointments down on my calendar several days or weeks in advance. I need to write my commitments down to keep track of them. If I put a meeting with someone on my schedule, then I have a commitment with them at that time. I have made many commitments over the years, but none more significant as the time when I committed my life to the Lord. I have renewed that commitment to Him many times over the years because quite frankly, I’ve broken that commitment a few times as well. As I read Psalm 37 this morning, I was reminded of how important my commitment to the Lord is. Check this out….

Do not fret because of those who are evil
    or be envious of those who do wrong;
for like the grass they will soon wither,
    like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him and he will do this:
he will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
    your vindication like the noonday sun. (Psalm 37:1-6 NIV)

I also made a commitment to my wife and family. They are a close second to God in the priority scale of my life. I love my family dearly and I’m so thankful that they know the Lord too. My commitment to my family comes before any other human beings on the planet. I love and respect the people I work with profoundly, but they know of my commitment to family and I totally respect their commitment to family. I’ve learned that everything I have and everything I am is committed to the Lord. Everything I know comes from Him. Everything I’ve learned, and everything I’ve earned is because of my commitment to the Lord. He motivates me and inspires me in so many ways through so many people.  My understanding of commitment grows in breadth and depth each day. I’m thankful for all that the Lord is teaching me and has taught me about commitment.

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

Transplant

Transplanting a seedlingI know that the best time to plant a garden is in the springtime. I grew up with parents who raised a big garden every year. I really like the fresh vegetables from the garden and I know first hand that it takes some labor to provide the right situation for the garden to thrive. The Lord is the One Who makes it grow. He brings the rain and provides the sunshine the seeds germinate and grow. I don’t know all the scientific facts behind the growth but I’ve seen it happen many times over the year.

A part of the growth process that blows my mind is how you can take part of one plant and break it off and plant it separately and it will grow independently of the plant it was taken from. The transplant part of gardening blows my mind a bit too. In Ezekiel, the Lord was handing out discipline to His people for their rebellion and He tells a story about transplanting that sounds a lot like the story of Jesus coming to earth. Check this out….

22 ‘“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. 24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.

‘“I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.”’ (Ezekiel 17:22-24 NIV)

 

This sounds like Jesus being transplanting among us and making a way for us to be forgiven and welcomed into God’s family. He came through the linage of the people of Israel, but made a way to transplant others into the family. I’m reminded every day that the Lord did something for me that I couldn’t do for myself. He made a way for me to have abundant life here on earth as I prepare for eternal life!

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Teachable Moment

Young pretty woman with question marksThere is a moment when we learn faster than at any other time. I believe that when I ask a question and receive an answer – that was a teachable moment. I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a “dumb question”. When a student asked the teacher a true question, then a teachable moment has arrived.  I’ve been a student and I had been known to ask a question just to get the teacher off subject and distracted. That was misbehavior on my part. It’s important for the teacher figure the difference between a teachable moment and a “distraction question”.

One of men appointed by the apostles named Phillip brought the gospel to Samaria first. He was a man of deep faith and Holy Spirit led.  He was directed to a specific road south from Jerusalem to Gaza – so Phillip went. One his way he meets an important government official from Ethiopia.  The official was reading in the book of Isaiah. The Spirit of God told Phillip to go near the official. Check this out….

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.
32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading:
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,

    and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,

    so he did not open his mouth.
33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.

    Who can speak of his descendants?

    For his life was taken from the earth.”
34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. (Acts 8:30-38 NIV)

I love the details of this event for several reasons. First, Phillip listened and obeyed the Spirit of the Lord when directed to go to a specific road and then to a specific person.  (I believe the Holy Spirit still gives specific instructions like to believers today.) Second, I love the fact that Phillip started where the Ethiopian was reading and taught him about Jesus. (I believe the Lord starts where are, but is not content to leave us there – He draws us to Himself. Phillip used the mans questions as a HUGE TEACHABLE MOMENT to take the conversation from Isaiah to what just happened a few months back with Jesus.) Third, I love the obedience of the Ethiopian official. He heard the message of Jesus and He believed and wanted to be obedient in baptism. (I believe that God honors obedience over big ideas and big dreams. Obedience is me surrendering to God’s big ideas and big dreams.)

This teachable moment probably changed the direction of a country. This man was strategically placed in a position of influence. Teachable moments should not be missed. When a child asked questions of their parents – a teachable moment has arrived. I get excited about teachable moments even with the agents in our company. I think teachable moments can be big for both the instructor and the student – a growing moment too!

 

Pressing On!

Dwayne