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  

Your Suffering Is Over

Child in medicine maskThere is a lot of suffering going on around me. There are those who are battling cancer or watching someone they love dearly, battle the disease. There are those whom a car accident took a loved one. There are those who are in chronic pain all day, every day. There are those who’ve been betrayed by someone they love and they are suffering from the loss of relationship. Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes and is no respecter of persons. Suffering comes to the wealthiest and to the poorest. To suffer is to feel pain or distress. That is a broad definition.

There is an event of suffering that happened in Jesus’ ministry. He was going along the road with his entourage (aka his disciple and other followers) as well as a large crowd that had gathered to hear Him teach. He learned of a synagogue leader who’s 12-year old daughter was sick. He was headed to the leader’s house to heal the little girl. Check this out…

25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. 26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. 28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition.

30 Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

31 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’”

32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” (Mark 5:25-34 NLT)

This woman’s life changed dramatically that day. She had tried everything and was desperate enough to believe that if she could just touch Jesus robe, she could be healed – and she was healed. I love this story because it again shows the heart of Jesus. He cared about the least noticed people and he cared about the leaders. He came to give a different perspective on suffering. The woman’s suffering had not been temporary. She had been suffering for years. I have been through seasons of suffering, buy nothing compared to this. After being healed by the touch of His robe, Jesus wanted to know “who touched him”. He was on His way to heal a little girl and this older woman was healed along the way. Jesus words to this lady about her faith was profound. The then left here with four words that were big: “Your suffering is over”. This is not a fluke or a temporary fix –  your suffering is over. Those four words gave her such hope and peace. When Jesus comes on the scene, He always bring hope along. This woman’s faith allowed her to realize that hope.

I want my faith to keep growing, especially in the face of suffering. I want to know the Lord is such a way, that He can be honored in the middle of my struggle. This life here is not “the endgame”, it’s a prerequisite to “the endgame” which is eternal life – the big prize! This is what He promises. He never promised that I wouldn’t suffer in this world, but He did promise His Presence in the midst of suffering. When Jesus comes on the scene, my suffering looks way different.

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

Death

 

death Grunge TextI am not a fan of death. I recently experienced the death of a dear aunt and then two weeks later, her son died. Death is so permanent relative to my life here and now. In relationship to eternity, it more like a new chapter. I see eternity as “the long game” or “the big picture”. While death is the end of this life, it moves us squarely into eternity. The way I understand scripture, this life determines the destination in eternity.

This morning I read about the death of Jesus from John’s perspective. John was probably the closest of the 12 disciples to Jesus. He was standing at the foot of the cross when Jesus breathed His last. The death of Jesus “felt like” the end, but it certainly wasn’t. Jesus came to earth to fulfill His mission to conquer sin and death. His death on the cross accomplished both. He died for the sins of the world. His death was made even more significant because of how He lived, His teaching and His ministry here on earth. He was the promised Messiah and many missed that. Check this out…

25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on, this disciple took her into his home. 28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:25-30 NLT)

I’ve read the other accounts of Jesus’ death and they are a bit more dramatic. John’s version is pretty simple. I think John’s is feeling a lot of the weight of the earthly family of Jesus. His death was very public and at this point probably pretty humiliating. It’s hard to have the perspective that He is the Savior of the World during this dark afternoon.

I honestly dread death. I’ve been trying to prepare myself for that eventual “ending” to my life here on earth. I decided years ago that my best response to death was to connect with the Creator of Life and live inside His Plan for my life. He has given me opportunity to invest in others. I am blessed with 5 amazing kids who also desire to know the Lord deeply and understand His plan for their lives. I also know that my life here can “live on” through my relationships and my “investments” into eternal things rather than just temporary things. Not one human being on the planet can escape death, so I’m taking the route of planning for it and leaning into it. I want my life and influence to count for years to come through my investment into my children; their children and anyone who will listen. The Word of God is true and He gives a clear plan for “retirement” from this life – total trust in Jesus. I’m putting my hope in Him!

All My Hope Is In Jesus – Crowder

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

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