The Way I Used To Be

 

Life changesThere are lots of things about my life that are way different than they used to be. When I think back to the courtship of my wife 23 years ago things are different now. Our love for one another is much deeper and mature. It is fun to think back to how we once were early on in our dating relationship and early marriage. Relationships grow deeper and expand at a deeper level.

If I think back to my early relationship with the Lord, it was very vibrant and full of energy. I was young and excited to follow the Lord. When the “new” wore off, I found myself doing stupid things that hurt His heart. I wandered away from Him and went my own way for a season. He never left me. He showed great patience with me as I tried to figure some things out. I guess I had to learn on my own that when the sign says, “dead end” – it really is. I was warned about many dead-end decisions, but I tried them out anyway. He still was waiting patiently.

In the letter to church at Ephesus, He calls them out for forgetting their first love. Check this out…

I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people. You have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and you have found them to be liars. I know that you have persevered and endured hardships for the sake of my name, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you: You have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember then how far you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5 CSB)

I have returned to my journey with Him over the past several years. He has spoken volumes into my life through the steady study of His Word. I’m still steady and growing in my love for Him. I’m still trying to walk in obedience of Him daily. I want to live like He lived. I want to love like He loves. I want to push through the times of hardship and suffering. I want my life to reflect a faithful, consistent follower of Jesus.  I want to love Him more today than yesterday. I want to love Him deeper that yesterday. I want my relationship with the Lord to grow and grow with the roots of my relationship planted deeply in His Word.

I want to keep returning to the love I had for Him early on before being “tainted” by what the world offers. I want to be faithful to Him, He has been so faithful to me.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Victory

Happy young latin womanI am reading a biography of Winston Churchill called, “The Last Lion – Keeper of The Realm” and Prime Minister Churchill is known for flashing the “V” with his hand for victory! He was a leader of leaders and he possessed a “never give up, never give in” spirit. He believed in his soul that the Allies must conquer the Nazi’s of Germany to have freedom and life.

I’m not a huge football fan, but I love it when the team I’m pulling for wins. I enjoy seeing them celebrate. If my team loses, then I change the channel to avoid watching the victory celebration. (I guess I’m a sore loser.)

As I finished John’s first epistle this am, he reminded me that victory comes through obedience. It’s very simple – follow the Lord’s commands. Check this out…

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves the one born of him. This is how we know that we love God’s children: when we love God and obey his commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep his commands. And his commands are not a burden, because everyone who has been born of God conquers the world. This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith. (1 John 5:1-4 CSB)

Obedience is not flashy but important. Obedience reveals trust. Obedience reveals faith. I don’t always understand what the Lord is speaking into my heart, but I’ve learned to trust Him. I’m learning that I reveal my faith through my obedience to His call upon my life. He calls me to love others. He calls me to serve others. He calls me to forgive. He calls me to be humble. Jesus’ life serves as an example of humble obedience to the Father. He doesn’t call me to go to the cross, but He does call me to follow Him with my whole heart. My life follows my heart. I must lay down some of the things I want, because they are not what is best. He provides for my needs. He instills deep hope in Him.

I can live a victorious life here on earth as a prelude to the big prize – eternal life.  My victorious life begins with simple obedience to His commands – the first is to love.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Actions Speak

 

Core ValuesI remember as a young boy I was told that “actions speak louder than words”. I have learned that axiom to be true over the years. There are some folks who “talk a good game”, but their actions don’t back up their talk. Others don’t talk much, but they give and serve “behind the scenes”.  That is precisely where I want to be. I’m not shy when it comes to speaking about my faith, but I want my words to always be back-up by action.

Paul is writing a short letter to another of his young protégé’s in the faith. He is giving him some encouragement and back story about leading the church in Crete. Check this out…

 15 To the pure, everything is pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; in fact, both their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They claim to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, and unfit for any good work. (Titus 1:15-16 CSB)

Our church is moving through a series of messages called: “Intentional Acts of Kindness”. I believe it’s very biblical to intentionally be kind to others. My faith directs me to love like the Lord loves. My faith directs me to serve others. My faith directs me to show my faith by the activities of my life. I want my life to display my faith before I ever say anything about my faith. My actions should be directed by my faith and should never contradict my faith. My actions are making my faith real – it’s not philosophical or theoretical – my faith is practical and lived out. If I say that I have faith, but my actions don’t support that, then I’m a liar or a hypocrite and I’m fooling myself. The life God calls His kids to lead is not complex, but simple. It’s not always easy, but it is simple obedience and trust.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Prosperity

Hand giving moneyWhen I think of this word, I often think of wealth along with it. I imagine financial success for sure. I enjoy learning from people who are prosperous and successful. I think I learned a lot of lessons about prosperity during the “great recession”. It’s a bit comical when I hear economist say the time frame of 2007-2009 and for me it felt like 2007-2011! :-) In my line of work and in my local economic area, it took a while to pull out of that tailspin that we were in.

I came across this word prosperity in the book of Job this morning. One of his “friends”, Eliphaz is chastising him and has some advice to give Job in the midst of his suffering. Eliphaz is a speaking directly into Job and calling him out on some situations of his past. I don’t know if he is embellishing them, or if they are factual. He gets to this one spot in his lecture and it made me think a bit more. Check this out…

21 ‘Submit to God and be at peace with him;

    in this way prosperity will come to you.

22 Accept instruction from his mouth

    and lay up his words in your heart. (Job 22:21-22 NIV)

I’ve heard pastors teach a “prosperity gospel” and I have strong convictions about that. I don’t believe if I follow the Lord fully, I’ll become wealthy in financial terms. I do believe that the Lord has blessed my business because I’ve asked Him to. I also want to honor Him and His call upon my business. I also think prosperity can be more than financial. I think prosperity can mean blessing and contentment. I’ve seen people who are prosperous who are completely miserable. I’ve seen prosperous people try to buy their health. I’ve seen prosperous people whose family is estranged because their values were more about prosperity than peace. Prosperity is not a bad word, but I think it’s a misunderstood word. I believe prosperity means balance in blessing as well as giving. I feel prosperous when I give. I also think giving can bring much peace.

This passage in Job is really wise counsel for me today.

I want to be at peace with God – personal terms with Him.

I want to accept instruction from Him – simple obedience.

I want to lay up His words inside my heart – build my convictions.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Celebrate!

I love celebrations for the most part. I don’t really like when my opponent gets to celebrate a victory over me. I do like to celebrate wins and victories. I don’t like to celebrate in such a way that it rubs someone else’s face in it. I really like celebration where there’s lots of “winners” and we celebrate together. Celebrations are much more fun when there is lots of others to share it with.

The people of Judah who had returned after 70 years of exile were about to celebrate. They had repaired and rebuilt the broken down wall of Jerusalem. They had repaired and restored the temple. They did all of this in record time and with opposition on all sides. The time had finally come to celebrate and dedicate the wall. Check this out…

27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. 28 The musicians also were brought together from the region around Jerusalem – from the villages of the Netophathites, 29 from Beth Gilgal, and from the area of Geba and Azmaveth, for the musicians had built villages for themselves around Jerusalem. 30 When the priests and Levites had purified themselves ceremonially, they purified the people, the gates and the wall. (Nehemiah 12:27-30 NIV)

I love the atmosphere of celebration. The people recognized God’s role in their life and the life of their city. They made the celebration meaningful by inviting others to participate from the region. They had music and singing which are two important elements for celebration. When I think of celebration music, I can’t help but think of Kool & The Gang and their song: “Celebration”.

The Lord loves celebrations. I think He relishes my wins over the enemy. I believe there’s a serious celebration in heaven when someone surrenders his or her heart to the Lord for the first time. I also believe there’s a celebration when a person who once believed repents & returns home to the Lord.

I think celebration is a chocked full of encouragement and fun. I think when we celebrate the little moments it brings even greater joy to the big moments.

I’ve celebrated friendship.

I’ve celebrated marriages.

I’ve celebrated first homes.

I’ve celebrated the arrival of babies.

I’ve celebrated baptisms.

I’ve celebrated the sale of a house.
I’ve celebrated the recovery of something lost.

I want to celebrate today the blessing of God all over me. He is so patient with me and all my foolishness and disobedience. He restores my soul and washes me clean. I believe the hope I have in Him is worth celebrating!

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Moved

FSU vs Duke FootballWhen I go to a football game, I can’t help being moved by the excitement of the game. I’ve never been a person who goes to a game and remains calm and stoic not really caring which teams wins. I usually choose a team and root for them. I have been to concerts to hear good music and had my heart moved deeply by the story behind the song. I’ve experienced real life suffering and cried out to God in deep pain and had my heart moved. I believe that God can use any circumstance He wants to move my heart and He often does.

I began my journey through the book of Ezra this morning. I read where the King of Persia, Cyrus offers to help the exiled people of Judah return. He even returned the articles that had been taken from Temple by Nebuchadnezzar. Check this out…

5 Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites – everyone whose heart God had moved – prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem. 6 All their neighbors assisted them with articles of silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with valuable gifts, in addition to all the freewill offerings. (Ezra 1:5-6 NIV)

I was struck by the one phrase…”everyone whose heart God had moved”. I believe that the Lord longs to move my heart every day. He wants me to notice what He notices. He wants me to see the pain and suffering that He sees. He wants me to become involved in the lives of others to help them see Him. I also believe that there’s a principle here: If God moves my heart then my hands and my feet need to start moving wherever He called me to go. If God tells me to stop whatever I’m doing, I need to stop. If God tells me to speak, I will speak. If God tells me to rest I will rest.

I wish I could explain how and when the Lord speaks. I most definitely hear Him through His Word. I also hear Him through prayer. I also hear Him through the prompting of His Holy Spirit. I have found myself talking to the Lord about a situation or circumstance and the action I need to take becomes really clear. I believe He prompts me like that. It’s not always easy to explain to others why I moved when I did, but if the Lord prompts me to move – I’m moving. I love the song by Toby Mac called “Move”.

If the Lord tells me to move today then I’m on it.

#obedience

Pressing On!

Dwayne