Accept & Reject

make a choice street sign illustration designThese two words seem to be polar opposites. Unfortunately, they go together quite often. I’m a guilty party in this too. For example, I accept the laws of the land, and I obey most of them. There are some that I accept, but then reject by how I live. I’m aware of the speed laws and speed zones, but I sometimes ignore them for the sake of my schedule. It is wrong, and I have won my fair share of “safe driving awards” because of it. One of my sons was pulled over the other evening and reminded by the nice policeman that the stop sign was not a suggestion. My son also reminded me of a speeding ticket that I received when he was with me. I saw the blue lights coming in my rearview mirror as I was turning onto a side road and I said, “Looks like he’s after someone.” About that time, he turned on the same road and I remarked, “I think he has got me!” (My son still thinks that is a funny story!)

Paul writes to the Corinth church speaking truth into them and encouraging them in their faith journey. He said something that jumped off the page and into my lap this morning. Check this out…

1As God’s partners, we beg you not to accept this marvelous gift of God’s kindness and then ignore itFor God says,

“At just the right time, I heard you.
    On the day of salvation, I helped you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:1-2 NLT)

I have been guilty of accepting God’s gift of kindness, grace and forgiveness, only to ignore it later. I often know the right thing to do, but I don’t do it. I think my willful disobedience breaks the Lord’s heart. I have so much to be thankful to Him for. I owe Him my very life. Yet I will still ignore His tug on my heart. This passage called me to repentance. I am convicted of my sin of ignoring His Spirit leading me to ALWAYS do the right thing. If I listen to His Spirit in me, I will walk every day in acceptance of His Will and obedience to His Way. I’m so grateful for His patience with me as I figure this out. I continue to receive His Grace instead of the punitive punishment that I deserve. I do think I’m closer to Him today than I was yesterday – there is progress for sure. I want to cultivate my acceptance of His direction, His plans and His call upon my life. It’s pretty simple, yet incredibly difficult.

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

The Fruit of My Heart

Apple trees orchardI am not an expert on fruit trees. When I was a kid, we had an apple orchard. There are tasks to do to fruit trees to help them produce healthy fruit and become a healthy tree. For example, fruit trees need to fertilized and watered. Fruit trees also need to be pruned and treated for disease and insect infestation.  When cared for properly, fruit trees will bear beautiful fruit. Jesus compared our heart to a fruit tree in speaking to the Pharisees and religious leaders. Check this out….

33 “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. 34 You brood of snakes! How could evil men like you speak what is good and right? For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. 35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. 36 And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. 37 The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” (Matthew 12:33-37 NLT)

I believe that my heart is the gateway to my soul. My heart is not necessarily the pump inside my chest. My heart is the emotional epicenter of me as a person. I believe that my heart needs to be involved in decision making because love comes from my heart more than my head. I think Jesus is teaching that behavior flows from the heart. I believe it’s super important to take care of my heart. My heart needs to be watered and fertilized with the Word of God. The very Spirit of God prunes my heart and treats for disease that can destroy my heart. I also realize that the Lord is the ONLY ONE Who truly knows everything about my heart and everything inside my heart. He’s also the ONLY ONE Who can heal my heart when it’s diseased, broken, or deeply damaged.  He created my physical heart and He created my spiritual heart. The fruit of my life reveals the condition & the depth of my heart. He has filled my heart with love, compassion, mercy & grace. It should overflow into every relationship I have on this planet.

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

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

Changed Life – Wisdom

Life changesThis world we live in is constantly changing. People are changing. Jobs are changing. Relationships are changing. Change is an everyday event in our world. Heraclitis said: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man”. I have learned that I must embrace change that happens. I’ve learned new and amazing technology that has made my life easier, but in some ways, the pace of life became faster. Not all change is good and healthy. There are some things that have not changed for example, the laughter of a child still melts me. The innocence of a child, the beauty of a bride on her wedding day or the beauty of a baby born. I want to be keenly aware of the things in my life that have changed for good and things that have changed oh so slowly that I hardly noticed.

I came across a verse that is a quote from Jesus this morning that I didn’t remember ever hearing because it was from the New Living Translation and it spoke right to my heart. Check this out…

35 But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it.” (Luke 7:35 NLT) –Jesus

I want to be a seeker or wisdom. I love the Word of God and I believe that my life has grown in wisdom and discernment because of the daily discipline of seeking the Lord’s heart through His Word. I’m definitely NOT the smartest guy, but I am hungry to know the Lord more today than I knew yesterday. It’s hard to argue about a changed life. I want to follow the wisdom that comes from the Lord. Check this out…

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. (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT)

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. (James 3:13-18 NLT)

“There is a wisdom of the Head, … there is a wisdom of the Heart” – Charles Dickens

I want to continue to grow in wisdom and understanding of the Author of Wisdom. I can find hundreds of quotes on wisdom, but none more significant that what Jesus is saying. I want the choices that I make today and every day to display wisdom that comes directly from the Lord. I am forever changed because I know the Author of Wisdom and THE Creator of the World.

Pressing On!

Dwayne