Soul Exam

love heart riffle targetI’ve been to the doctor many times over the years. I now go twice a year for well-checks so that he can monitor my bloodwork, heart rate and my overall health. He advises healthy eating and exercise as a part of my daily life and routine. I hear him, but I don’t always take his advice. I really get frustrated with myself when I over-eat or sit still when I should exercise. I recently read a book called Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and he made some points that have stirred me up a bit about a healthy start to each day. I decided several years ago to become a morning person and to start my day with reading and meditating upon God’s Word. I added gratitude to the Lord this past year and I’m trying to figure out some morning time for exercise.  In the Miracle Morning book, I was introduced to a new exercise app called Seven – 7 Minute Workout it helps get the blood pumping and the lungs working in 7:53 seconds because there is some 10 second rests between exercises.

The harder exercise is to examine my soul. The Word of God speaks into my soul each day. I like to use heart interchangeably with soul. His Word reminded me again this morning how important it is to examine my heart. He’s speaking about checking my heart before taking the Lord’s supper. He is reminding me that checking my heart regularly can avert being disciplined by the Lord. Check this out….

27 So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 That is why you should examine yourself before eating the bread and drinking the cup. 29 For if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and sick and some have even died.

31 But if we would examine ourselves, we would not be judged by God in this way.32 Yet when we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:27-32 NLT)

A heart exam is a bit more private & personal.

A heart exam is a bit more intrusive.

A heart exam is a bit more difficult.

My wife, kids and personal friends know me pretty well. I try to be very open and approachable most anytime. The Lord is the One Who really knows my heart, my thoughts and my motives. I need to do my heart exam in His Presence. I need feedback from Him on my heart. I don’t want to gloss over my self-centeredness or my sinful desires. He knows me and He has freed me from the power of sin over me. Check this out…

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. 10 When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. 11 So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:5-11 NLT)

Bam!!

His death was a game changer to my life & I want to live in gratitude every day of my life for His obedience to death on the cross. I don’t ever want to forget that.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Understand

Discussing the truthI know a person who has hearing aids in both ears, but he doesn’t hear well. Let me rephrase that, he doesn’t understand very well. I’ve had people with hearing aids tell me that the volume of the room in amplified, but it can make it harder to understand a single conversation. They may be hearing a conversation across the room. There are other times when I’m in a conversation and there is much more than words being said. The body language is saying something much different than the words coming from a person’s mouth. To understand another person is a bit tricky.  To understand another person means that I totally grasp and perceive what they trying to communicate with me.  I’m learning to ask clarifying questions to make absolutely sure I understand what is going on.

Paul writes letter to the churches that he helped start and get going. After some of these churches got going, they had some problems creep in and disrupt the fellowship. He lays some groundwork to explain his position of leadership. Paul is a humble leader. He is not a “pushover”. He is confident in his calling from the Lord. He is also confident that the Lord is speaking in him and through him. He explains God’s wisdom to the church in the early chapter and it’s important to understand his position throughout the entire letter to the church at Corinth. Check this out…

10 But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. 12 And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

13 When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13 NLT)

I’m thankful that all my thoughts are not public knowledge. I don’t always manage my thought life as well as I want. In fact, I don’t always manage my words like I should either and they are both well connected. This passage reminded me that the words I speak the understanding of my heart come from God’s Spirit inside of me. I need to continually welcome Him to take over my heart and my being so that I can have His discernment skills, His wisdom and His words. The Holy Spirit has given me wisdom many times as I say things out loud and then realize that I’m simply not that smart. I want to understand God’s Word and hear His voice so clearly that my thoughts and words are clearly from Him. I want to speak words from Him. I want to love like He loves. I want to live for Him. This is only possible when I let His Spirit take charge of my heart and my soul. I must empty me of me and let Him take over. My thoughts and my words will change when He’s in charge. My understanding of others will expand and my understanding of the things of God will expand as well.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

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

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

Unselfish

 

Unselfish rubber stampIt is not always easy to be unselfish. I’ve chosen the biggest piece of cake first. I’ve taken the cookie with the most icing. I think I learned to be selfish at a very early age. I’ve been fighting this urge to be selfish ever since I accepted Jesus into my heart. He is the most unselfish person to walk the earth. His agenda was not self-serving. By His own declaration, He came to this earth to seek and save those who were lost.

I’ve been reading in Luke and his account of the story of Jesus. He gives great detail to Jesus life and His crucifixion. I found it interesting how the people made fun of Jesus when they were carrying out the crucifixion. Check this out…

32 Two others, both criminals, were led out to be executed with him. 33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.

35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”  (Luke 23:32-35 NLT)

While they were carrying out the execution of Jesus, they noted that He saved others.  He didn’t come to save Himself. His very birth, life, miracles, healings and His death was to save others. Jesus came from the Father to accomplish the heart of the Father for His Creation – us. His life, His ministry, His death – it was all for us. Jesus didn’t come to serve Himself. He came to serve us and to call us to a new life. He invites us into His Kingdom work which is very unselfish. He wants our heart to reflect His heart – unselfish.  He is still in the process of changing and shaping my heart to be like His. I really try to be unselfish and I feel like most of the time, I’m winning – but when I screw up, I screw it up quite well. I am so thankful for His patience with me as I work toward being unselfish at all times. Being unselfish shows great restraint and self-control, just like Jesus.

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