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

Strong Temptations

quarreled couple in their living roomI believe everyone who ever lived on the earth was tempted. I’m thankful that temptation is not sin or I would be more of a mess than I already am. Temptations come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. My wife & I are trying to eat healthy and trim up a bit. There are always beautiful cupcakes, cheesecake, cookies, candy bars and a myriad of other options around. It takes great inner resolve to refuse to eat them. The argument that I have with myself is that one bite won’t kill me, but then again, it will set me back. I remember hearing a guy tell me once that if I even lick the dust off of a Dorito then I’m going backward. I think he was exaggerating a bit, but he did make a point. There are lots of other temptations like cheating on my taxes, cheating on an exam or cheating on my wife. I believe the way to defeat temptation is to make my mind up ahead of time. Since I know the temptations will be there, I can decide how I’m going to handle it. If I’m going to a nice dinner, I can safely assume that there will be some sort of amazing dessert. I wish dealing with temptation were as simple as I’m making it sound. I came across these few verses from the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth and it made me stop and think. Check this out…

12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 NLT)

I think the key to temptation is to recognize it and call it what it is. The enemy likes to pose as something good, safe and healthy. But I must know that he sugar-coats destructive behavior and sin. He never comes directly at me, he’s way to slick for that. I have asked the Lord many times to reveal the motives and the tricks of the enemy to me. I’ve asked the Lord to give me inner strength when I know I’m going to be tempted. I’m not going to say I’m strong every time, but the Spirit of God in me gives me grit and great strength.

There are times when I fail the test or I yield to temptation. It is there I find grace and mercy to heal my wounded soul and hurting heart. I hate letting the Lord down. I don’t sin so that I can find grace. I’m sickened by the thought of my failures and shortcomings. But I’m so profoundly grateful that His Grace found me. I will never be good enough to earn forgiveness. My thoughts, my actions and my failure to act often break His heart, but He really is transforming my mind one thought at a time. I am vulnerable before Him. I’m humble before Him. I realize that without Him, I’m a washed-up mess. With Him in charge of my heart, I can lead, love and serve even in the face of temptation. I wish someone had told me about His Amazing Grace many years ago. I once was lost but now I’m found.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

United

Aerial View of Multiethnic People Forming Circle and GlobeThis word is the first part of the name of our country – United States. “United” means to have a common interest and agreement. Our country is made up of 50 states that are one country united together by our love for freedoms and self-government. There is much strength when we unite together. It often seems like we are a polarized nation these days instead of a united nation. I believe that we must lay down our hate and celebrate our differences. I’m not going to get all political, but it seems that we’ve lost a lot of respect for one another. If I disagree with someone or they disagree with me, I shouldn’t hate them.

In our churches, there is strife and disagreement. The different denominations of the evangelical church agree on 97% of teaching from scripture, but we tend to focus on our disagreements rather than celebrate together the part of our teaching that is the same. I believe that the church is stronger when we stand together in the name of our founder – Jesus Christ. We must seek to make Him famous in our world. We do that best in unity. Check this out…

10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.

30 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. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:10,30-31 NLT)

I am who I am because of Who He is and what He has done in me. He changed my heart many years ago. He’s still changing my heart and growing me to look and act more like Him. I have my moments when I get off tract and off purpose, but He welcomes me back. I am a recipient of large doses of grace over the years and I’m learning to be a dispenser of grace. The fact that we ALL need grace should definitely unite us. I don’t know a single follower of Jesus who doesn’t need grace. In fact, if there is one who thinks they don’t need grace, the very arrogance screams out their need for it. If we keep our pride in check, we can certainly be unified. It’s when we think we know more than others (pride) that we tend to pounce on our differences. We need to unify to lift up Jesus and make Him known instead of making ourselves known. Where there is humility in each of us, there is unity with all of us. When we realize our need for Him, we can come together in fellowship with one another in His Name.

Humility unites us.

Grace unites us.

Gratitude unites us.

Forgiveness unites us.

Serving unites us.

Loving unites us

Jesus unites us.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Authority – Influence

Authority Team Indicates Manager Unity And ControlI have become a bit of a “podcast nerd”. I have loved learning for a long time. It is so easy to go to the podcast app and find some amazing podcasts. I have three different podcasts that I follow regularly – Entreleadership, In the Loop with Andy Andrews & The Brian Buffini Show. These podcasts speak into my life to encourage, inspire & motivate me. Yesterday, I was listening to the Entreleadership podcast with Clay Scroggins, lead pastor of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA.  His topic was “How to Build Your Influence”. He spoke about the contrast of a leader who leads with influence and a leader who leads with power. I loved the content and even listened to it twice. I spend a good bit of time traveling, so I listen to these podcasts almost exclusively in my vehicle. Zig Ziglar used to refer to it as “automobile university”.  This morning I read in Matthew 8 of two instances where Jesus’ authority is noted. He healed people without them being present and He calmed a storm with His spoken words. He definitely had authority. He taught with authority. He healed with authority. He ministered on earth for three years with authority. The story that jumped out to me today was when He calmed the storm. Check this out…

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples.24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.

27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27 NLT)

I want to live my life with influence.

If given authority, I want to lead with influence.

If given power, I want to lead with influence.

People with power, often abuse their position. They can make others who work around them or under them miserable. I believe that what Jesus’ authority obviously came from God. He could have done ministry way different than He did. He chose to use His authority wisely. He could have called 10,000 angels to rescue Him from the mockery of a trial and ultimate crucifixion – but He didn’t exercise His Power. He followed the plan of His Father and the crucifixion, while painful and deadly, was necessary.

Jesus talk with authority and lived to influence His disciples and the people who were around Him and came to Him for whatever reason.

I want my life to influence others so that they can notice Jesus, Who is the Ultimate Influence upon me.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Talk Is Cheap – Actions Speak!

megaphoneI know people who can talk a good game. They know something about everything. They are very important people – if you don’t believe me, ask them. I have been around people who are “know it all’s” and I’ve been around people who are brilliant and scholarly. The later don’t usually talk as much. I’m learning to listen more and talk less because I can learn a lot during my time of silence. I do believe that talk without action to back it up is simply hot air and wasted words. Jesus dealt with this with the religious leaders and Pharisees. They talked a good game with their faith, but when you “peeled back” the layers of their lives, they were rotten inside. I want my faith to be real from the depths of my heart to the smallest detail of my life. I want my trust in the Lord to be obvious and noticeable without ever having to say a word.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. (Matthew 7:15-20 NLT) (These are the teachings of Jesus Himself.)

“Actions are louder than words could ever be.”

“What I do speaks so loudly, you can’t hear what I’m saying.”

I came away from this passage realizing the need for humility. I am nothing without the Lord in my life. Just because I know Him and spend time with Him does not make me better than anyone else. I still have sin in my life that must be dealt with. I am simply another human being, created by God who is trying to life a good life because that is who God called me to be. I’ve given my life to Him because I believe He first gave me life. He gave me a future, so I’m trusting Him with mine.

I want my life to drip with humility and gratitude for the blessings that flow from the Lord to me. I am a nobody, who is somebody, because the Lord loved me first. I’m not sure that a day goes by that I don’t get to talk about my faith. I want people to see my faith before I ever speak a word about it. I want my actions to speak loudly about the One I trust in and live for.

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