Customs & Traditions

Chapel In New EnglandI grew up in a small church in South Central Kentucky. I remember that we had about 75 people each Sunday when things were going well. We had our way of doing things for sure. I remember that we sang three songs from the Hymnal then a prayer song, communion, offering, sermon, invitation song, closing prayer, closing song. You could count on this same schedule of events each week. We also had about five men in the church who would publicly pray. One guy, Mr. Webb, would recite the same prayer each time he was asked to pray. I can almost recite that prayer some 40 years later. We always wore our “Sunday best”. We never “dressed down” to go to church. Looking back, we had traditions that seemed more important than where my heart was. I served in one church where one of the leaders got so frustrated that a young man wore a hat in the church on a Wednesday evening that the young man was actually asked to leave.  We created customs and traditions that are far from being scriptural, but because “we’ve always done it that way” it becomes “code” in our place of worship.

I believe that some traditions and customs frustrate the Lord. He cares way more about people’s heart than the clothes on their back or a hat on their head. He cares deeply that our seeking Him is genuine. He wants our worship to be way more than words that we sing beautifully. He wants our heart totally devoted to Him.

What if the church just gathered for a time of intense prayer – no music or sermon?

What if the church gathered for simple Bible Study and prayer in a bar rather than a fancy building?

We have made our faith in God much to do with tradition that we drowned out the call of God upon our hearts. We are so busy doing things for God that we can’t hear Him gently call upon our heart.

Jesus called out the Pharisees and really ticked them off with His comments. Check this out….

And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship is a farce,
    for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. 20 These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you.” (Matthew 15:6b-9; 19-20 NLT)

I’m not trying to say that all traditions and customs are bad. I am saying that if they draw more attention themselves rather than to the Lord, they should be removed immediately. I have asked the Lord to forgive me many times when I faked my worship because of tradition and customs of the church, rather than repentance of my sin.

The Lord cares way more about my heart than anything else I could possibly do or say. He want my heart to be open, shapeable, moldable and pure before Him. The words I speak and the actions I choose reveal exactly what is going on in my heart. He helps me daily with cleaning up my heart and pushing back on man-made traditions & customs that have become meaningless to my heart.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Disreputable

Reputation Words on Box Credible Reliable ProductI began my career as a REALTOR in February 2003. I remember hearing a slogan that my brother used in his real estate advertisement. His slogan went like this: “I’m building a reputation, not resting on one”.  I’m pretty sure that the phrase was offensive to some and challenging to others. I knew what he meant, because he had just started his own firm. I remember deciding that I will always be building my reputation every day of my life. I’ve seen people who destroy their entire reputation with one bad decision. Except for the grace of God, that could have been me. I think about dumb decisions all the time and I think about the destruction that would left behind if I were to make a really dumb decision. I decided that I can’t spend a lot of time in that place though. I must keep my focus on growing and learning and as I do this, the thoughts of dumb decisions fade away. I want to grow and improve who I am becoming in the Lord’s eyes. I believe any success that I have as a REALTOR comes because the Lord is leading and directing my life. He is the reason, I’m careful to be honest, live and serve with integrity and have a strong work ethic.

Jesus calls Matthew (aka Levi) from his tax collection booth and asked him to be his disciple. Jesus obviously saw something in Levi that would benefit the kingdom. Levi followed Jesus. Check this out…

15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (Mark 2:15-17 NLT)

I am blown away by the arrogance of the Pharisees and the religious leaders. They really didn’t seem to care about anyone but themselves. They were concerned about their reputation more than they were concerned for lost people. When I put myself in this passage, I would have been considered one of these “disreputable sinners” or “scum”, according their definition.

When I gave my life to the Lord, He changed me.

He changed how I see others.

He changed how I see my work.

He changed my view of marriage.

He changed my view of being a Dad.

He changed my view of being a friend to others.

If I’m following the Lord fully, you can call me what you will. He is the reason I seek to serve others with honesty, integrity & hard work. These are my values, because they are His values too. I’d rather keep my reputation in tact with Him than to worry too much about what others are saying about me.

I need the Lord every day of my life. I haven’t walked with Him enough to “take a break”. He is woven into the fabric of who I am. I need His healing upon my heart daily. I need His wisdom daily. I need His Presence constantly.  I am definitely one of the “sick people who need a doctor”. I guess I’m saying that I’m a disreputable person who needs the Lord each day.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Ultimate Invitation

 

InvitationI enjoy a good invite. A few weeks ago, I received a formal invitation to my oldest grandson’s birthday party. The theme was Mickey Mouse! Of course, I made plans to be there. The party was yesterday and we most definitely had fun with him, family and friends. Invitations are most always optional. If it was mandatory the language would be different. There are some invitations that I’ve received that I “felt” were mandatory or I “needed” to be there. The Lord has given the ULTIMATE INVITATION – He invites me to eternal life. He also invites me to enjoy the abundant life while I’m here on earth.

John is wrapping up his revelation and he hears from Jesus, himself. The Lord gives a profound declaration and invitation. Check this out…

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this message for the churches. I am both the source of David and the heir to his throne. I am the bright morning star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” Let anyone who hears this say, “Come.” Let anyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who desires drink freely from the water of life. (Revelation 22:16-17 NLT)

I am responding to the invitation of the Lord each day. I have surrendered my life to Him. I have been baptized and I’m walking out my faith in Him daily. I stumble often, but through confession and repentance, He restores my soul. His forgiveness is complete. When He introduced me to His grace, I was blown away. I look for Him to invite me into closer fellowship with Him as I daily seek His face. I seek His heart through His Word and my heart is molded and changed.

The invitation from the Lord has changed everything about my life. I’ve RSVP’d to Him and I’m committed to His call upon my life. He offers life-giving water. He offers the life-sustaining Presence of God. He Lights my path because He’s the Light of The World! I’m blown away that He welcomes me into His family. This is one invitation that doesn’t just stay on the refrigerator but I carry it with me everywhere.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Judgement

JusticeI used to be pretty freaked out by court rooms. I enjoyed television shows that involved the court system. I watched Perry Mason when I was young and again when I was older. I moved to Matlock and then finally to Law & Order. Our justice system has its problems for sure, but for the most part, it takes care of the offender and brings justice to the victims. The checks and balances in our justice system are designed to make sure the right person pays for the crime they committed.

As I was reading in Revelation this morning, the whole chapter I was in was the personification of Babylon as a woman who was destructive. John was excellent in his writing because after a few verses I was visualizing a vile woman versus the city of Babylon. Her judgement is complete and she will be completely destroyed. Check this out…

21 Then a mighty angel picked up a stone like a large millstone and threw it into the sea, saying,

In this way, Babylon the great city
will be thrown down violently
and never be found again.
22 The sound of harpists, musicians,
flutists, and trumpeters
will never be heard in you again;
no craftsman of any trade
will ever be found in you again;
the sound of a mill
will never be heard in you again;
23 the light of a lamp
will never shine in you again;
and the voice of a groom and bride
will never be heard in you again.
All this will happen
because your merchants
were the nobility of the earth,
because all the nations were deceived
by your sorcery.
24 In her was found the blood of prophets and saints,
and of all those slaughtered on the earth. (Revelation 18:21-24 CSB)

It appears that Babylon was given many chances to change and “she” refused. The city was destructive and decadent. There was no respect for the Lord or the rule of law.

I believe that the Lord is a God of Grace, but also a God of Justice. We can’t continue to live sinful and destructive lives and expect eternal life. When the Lord won my heart, I became committed to obedience and honoring His call upon my life. I want my life to bring honor and glory to Him. If I’m serving myself, I’m not serving Him. I must repent often of seeking my own way and ignoring His gentle instruction, counsel and directives. I have no worries about judgement if I seek that course of action daily.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Repent & Be Alert

 

Prepared Not UnpreparedThis book of Revelation is a challenge to understand. It is choked full of symbolism, tied together with truth. John didn’t have the luxury of having seen things like he’s seeing in these visons and in the revelation. I suspect that he had trouble sleeping at night after seeing these beasts and wild creatures.  I read to day about the 7 bowls of wrath – I’m wondering if these are huge mixing bowls. I’m wondering what they looked like. The Lord’s judgment is a part of Who He is. I’m thankful that His Grace comes before judgement. It’s hard to believe, but there are people who are stubborn and will not repent before the Lord. He is a God of Grace, but He is also a God of Justice. Check this out…

15 “Look, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who is alert and remains clothed so that he may not go around naked and people see his shame.” (Revelation 16:15 CSB)

I talk to the Lord throughout the day every day. I want to make a routine out of repentance. In repentance, I’m humble and grateful for Who He is and the fact that He doesn’t punish me as my sins deserve. I have been forgiven much and He wants me to be alert to what He’s doing in my world as well as the fact that He is coming again. I won’t get off this earth alive unless He returns. My soul lives on either way. I want to lay down my pride and live in repentance and humility before Him. I want to notice what He’s doing and be ready when He returns.

I’m going to clothe my spiritual body with the Presence of God – His Spirit.

I’m going to prepare my physical body and be ready – Serving Him by serving others.

I’m going to live like I’ll die tomorrow;

Die knowing I’ll live forever. (Rich Mullins)

I want to be alert and filled with repentance before Him.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Convinced

Discussing the truthThere are times when I simply don’t believe what I just saw. When I see a magic trick and I don’t know how the person pulled it off – I’m still convinced that he/she simply tricked me. I think this word convinced is a “1st cousin” to the word conviction. When I’m convinced about a truth it is usually related to a conviction.

Paul writes a second letter to the church at Corinth and he realized that he probably ticked some of them off or hurt their feelings with his first letter. His second letter, he doesn’t really “sugar coat” things but he does own the fact that he might have hurt them with his previous letter. Check this out…

For even if I grieved you with my letter, I don’t regret it. And if I regretted it—since I saw that the letter grieved you, yet only for a while— I now rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because your grief led to repentance. For you were grieved as God willed, so that you didn’t experience any loss from us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:8-10 CSB)

I’m not really “preachy” with my conversations. I have found that discussion and dialogue produce more long-term results than one-sided rants from the Word. That is just not my style. I am convinced that the Lord will do what He needs to do to get my attention. He will allow some crazy stuff to come my way. He will allow suffering in my life because it drives me to my knees before Him.  I don’t believe that the Lord causes the suffering but I do believe He could protect me from it (and often does), but He never wastes a moment of my suffering. He uses that to build and develop my God-honoring character that produces a repentant and moldable heart for Him.

I’m convinced that the Lord loves me more than I know how to love my kids. He showers me with grace and mercy that I don’t deserve. He is so patient with me as I keep working on my walk with Him. He is relentless in His pursuit of my heart. I have suffered and grieved in this life, and I always ended up crying out before Him seeking His help and His direction through the suffering and struggle.

I’m convinced that suffering, grief and struggle are tools meant to destroy me but end of building me and making me stronger.

Pressing On!

Dwayne