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

Humble vs. Prideful

Business Leadership Attributes and Features in LiteratureThese two descriptive words are on opposite ends of the spectrum. They are often obvious, but sometimes hidden just beneath the surface. I was raised by parents of humble means and I was taught humility at an early age. I think that pride is the root of all sin. I believe that it raises its head when I least expect it. In fact, if I’m not careful, I can be “prideful” of my humility. How wacked out is that?

I have heard this story that Jesus told while teaching His disciples about humility. The story was very possibly one that was similar to a real-life situation. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were very proud of their education, their heritage and their position. They were devout followers of the law, at lease the part people could see. Jesus called them “white-washed tombs” at one point – “pretty on the outside, but full of dead men’s bones on the inside.” Check this out…

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:8-14 NLT)

The Lord cares way more about what is happening inside my heart rather than the “show” that everyone else sees. I do try my best to navigate each day without becoming “full of myself” when I accomplish something good. I must give the credit where it’s due – the Lord can do amazing things through me. The minute that think “it’s about me”, then I’ve become prideful and useless in God’s economy. I am thankful that the Lord uses regular people like me to serve in His Kingdom. It’s not about a title or position. He cares more about my “serving heart” than He cares about my accomplishments, accolades or my bank account balance. I’m convinced that if He can use me, He can, and will use anyone.

When I reflect on the giants in the faith, whose shoulders I’m standing upon, a theme runs through it – they were all humble and gentle in spirit. They were simply followers of the Lord who wanted to know Him more. They were disciplined in their study of His Word and disciplined to pray about everything.  I want to pray more and worry less. I want to know Him more and worry less. I want to trust Him more and live less stressed. I want to be humble and kind – serving others because He calls me to do just that.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Sowing Seeds

planting gardenI grew up working in the garden with my parents. We planted corn, tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, onions, cabbage among other vegetables. I still love fresh veggies from the garden. My father-in-law has a great garden every year as well. I certainly feel blessed to have an abundance of food grown right near where we live.

I am still fascinated at how this works – If I plant two seeds of corn, it will produce a stalk of corn that has many ears of corn. Each ear of corn has hundreds of corn kernels that could be used for seed for more corn. The “law of the harvest” is just like the law of gravity, we reap what we sow. It would be crazy if we planted corn and tomatoes grew there instead.

Jesus told a parable about different kinds of soil. It confused His disciples for a minute, so He gave them the meaning behind the parable. Check this out…

11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word. 12 The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved. 13 The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation. 14 The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity. 15 And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest. (Luke 8:11-15 NLT)

I want the seed from the Word of God to produce a harvest of love that overflows from my life. I want my life to produce to reflect the Word of God that is planted deep inside my heart. In order for my heart to become “good soil”, I have to continue to cultivate it and prepare it for the Word to be planted there. His Word has helped set my convictions in concrete. I am a changed man because of my journey in the Word. I’m not resting on that, I want to know Him more and more. I want to sow seeds of love for the Lord into the lives of others.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Prove It

Mature Judge Pounding In The CourtroomIt is not always the easiest thing to do to prove something you say is true. I do believe that there are facts that reveal lots of truth or expose lies. For example, I can’t say I was one place and the GPS on my phone reveals that I was somewhere else. There are video cameras everywhere it seems and the time stamp shows that I was downtown on the square, then it would be foolish to claim that I was at home. I’ve never had to prove my whereabouts, but there are ways to make that happen through investigation.

I came across this word from the teaching of John the Baptist. It got me thinking, was there enough evidence that I’m a committed follower of Jesus. Check this out…

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.  (Luke 3:8 NLT)

I talk lots about my faith. I write about my faith. Living out my faith in my everyday life is the real test of my faith. Talk is cheap and I can fill a room with cheap talk. The truth of my life is revealed by my behavior, which comes from my heart. I grew up learning to behave. I’ve recently been learning just how critical my heart is to my behavior. I can fake my faith with my behavior – going to church, singing songs, giving gifts. The Lord knows the desires of my heart. He knows the truth about me. He’s the One, I need to prove my repentance too.

The truth always seems to work its way out. I really do want to be a devoted follower of Jesus, but I have my moments of failure. I do want my heart to be pure and committed to Him, no matter what my circumstances. I admit that I fail miserably at times. I’m so grateful for His Grace and Mercy during my times of absolute failure. I’m determined to repent and run after Him no matter how many times I fail. I want the desires of my heart to be for His honor and His glory and not my own. I want my actions that come from my heart to prove that I love the Lord.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Impress

 

Wow Surprised Word Astonished SurprisingJust about everyone I meet makes some sort of impression upon me. Some impressions are positive and some are negative. I must also realize that I’m actually making some sort of impression upon them – either positive or negative. Some folks are always trying to impress others by how much they know or how important they are. Others seek to impress by what they wear or how they carry themselves.

A friend of mine used to describe some of the prideful, arrogant as “impressed by themselves”. He also said, “if you could buy them for what they are worth and sell them for what they “think” their worth, you could retire tomorrow.”

I know that I should be trying to impress the Lord with a heart that seeks His heart. I believe if my heart is right, my actions follow from there.

Jesus was speaking to many people about Who He was and what He was trying to do while He was here on earth. And there was a sad statement in the narrative that I think is still happening today. Check this out….

42 Many people did believe in him, however, including some of the Jewish leaders. But they wouldn’t admit it for fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. 43 For they loved human praise more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43 NLT)

I must admit that I do like human praise. I like it when people compliment me on something I’ve accomplished. It is very dangerous to lean into those accolades and compliments. I must stay grounded in Who I belong to. I must remember that without the Lord, I’m nothing. I can’t get pride-filled and arrogant. I must remember where my hope is.

Some people even today desire human status rather than eternal hope. I’ve seen young people “chunk their faith” to be liked and accepted by college friends or co-workers. I think that I’m often so “short sighted” when I try to make an impression on one person at the expense of another. I should be simply trying to impress the Lord with a humble and hope-filled heart. I should seek to love like He loves. I should care way more about what He thinks of me, how I look and how I carry myself, rather than what others think.

I heard a great line yesterday that said: “I’m not trying to impress you with my story, I’m trying to impress upon you the joy in the journey”.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Home

 

protected homeI am sort of a “home body”. I don’t mind short trips for vacation or brief business trips, but I really love coming home. Home represents my family and the main location of my life. I eat at home. I play at home. I hang out at home. I sleep at home. I learned a long time that home is wherever my family resides. I grew up in Kentucky and in some ways, that will always be home. I’ve been in Georgia for 31 years now and it is home.  I love it when my kids come home for a visit. So much of my life was built at home in Kentucky. I am still building my life at home in Georgia.

I started reading the Gospel of John this morning in the New Living Translation (NLT) and I loved how this translation stated that Jesus (The Word of God) came to earth and made His home here. Check this out…

14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14 NLT)

Jesus called this earth home for a season. It wasn’t His permanent home, but He was born of a virgin and reared in a carpenter shop. He really understands the stories and the struggles of our lives. He became a human – one of us.

As I go through my day today, I want to remember that He came here and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. Having Him in my heart has changed everything about my life. I want to love like He loves. I want to live like He lives. I want to give like He gives. I want to serve like He serves. He now lives in me by way of His Spirit. I want the Lord to make His home inside my heart. I want people who know me or meet me for the first time to see The Lord at home inside my heart.

Pressing On!

Dwayne