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

Restart

Second chanceI remember vividly times of restart in my life. I remember starting my first ministry position back in the 1982. I remember clear each time I started over in a new place. There were fears and unknowns. There were bunches of new people to get to know. In 1993 when my marriage fell apart. I found myself in unknown territory as a single dad with three children. I had to restart and rebuild. I look back on that now to see how God was working in the middle of my pain and suffering. He held me close when I was so very low. He sent people my way to encourage me and inspire me with hope. That event is probably the biggest “restart” of my life. There have been many other restarts too.

As I read about the people of Israel restarting to build the temple, I realize that restarts anticipate new hope. I could feel the emotion of a new start as they began to celebrate the Lord’s Presence with offerings. They also begin a tangible restart by laying the foundation of the temple. Check this out…

10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. 11 With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord:

‘He is good;

    his love towards Israel endures for ever.’

And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy. 13 No one could distinguish the sound of the shouts of joy from the sound of weeping, because the people made so much noise. And the sound was heard far away. (Ezra 3:10-13 NIV)

I love the scene with the young people full of energy – singing and dancing. I also feel the joy expressed in weeping of the older people who remembered back 70+ years earlier when the Temple was the hub of the community. These older folks had endured the captivity and saw the restart from a totally different perspective.

I need to have a positive perspective on my restarts (aka “do over” or “second chance”). I get a second chance to build parts of my life differently than before. When the recession downsized my finances, I realized that I needed to do some things differently than before. I really did have a restart.

On a personal daily note, I have to restart my heart sometimes. It’s gets hard and cold and desensitized. I need the Lord to soften my heart and do a restart. I want the things that hurt His heart to hurt mine. I want to love like He loves. I want to live from my heart like He’s called me to live.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Comeback

Worship to GodThe main meaning of this word is a return to former position held or former glory. I sometimes wish the teams I follow would make a comeback to their World Series form of a few years ago. When it comes to a team sports and them making a comeback, there are a lot of moving parts to the team. The coaches and leaders can really want a comeback, but everyone else has to “buy in”.

Josiah was only 8 years old when he became King of Judah. He started a “comeback” of sorts. He really wanted to be a leader that followed the God of Moses & Abraham. He was aware of the way things were supposed to be. They were supposed to be a God-honoring and God-following kingdom. The kings and people before him had started to follow other gods and turning away from the One True God.

Josiah prepares to celebrate the Passover, a long-time tradition to commemorate their forefathers leaving Egypt in a hurry. It was a celebration that shown the light on God’s provision and His Presence as they endured the hardship of slavery in Egypt. Josiah becomes a spiritual leader as well as the King. He was only 28 years old when he led in the huge celebration of this spiritual feast and celebration. Check this out…

16 So at that time the entire service of the Lord was carried out for the celebration of the Passover and the offering of burnt offerings on the altar of the Lord, as King Josiah had ordered. 17 The Israelites who were present celebrated the Passover at that time and observed the Festival of Unleavened Bread for seven days. 18 The Passover had not been observed like this in Israel since the days of the prophet Samuel; and none of the kings of Israel had ever celebrated such a Passover as did Josiah, with the priests, the Levites and all Judah and Israel who were there with the people of Jerusalem. 19 This Passover was celebrated in the eighteenth year of Josiah’s reign. (2 Chronicles 35:16-19 NIV)

I love the scene here, this young man restoring spiritual order to God’s people. He seems to lead from a heart that is deeply devoted to God. Josiah was the leader of a significant “comeback” of God’s people.

As I journey through the Word of God, I find myself coming back to Him. I’m coming back to simply let Him speak into my life. I’m coming back to simple yet powerful worship of Creator God. I love the words to Matt Redman’s song: “The Heart Of Worship”.

When the music fades

All is stripped away

And I simply come

Longing just to bring

Something that’s of worth

That will bless Your heart

 

I’ll bring You more than a song

For a song in itself

Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within

Through the way things appear

You’re looking into my heart

 

I’m coming back to the heart of worship

And it’s all about You,

It’s all about You, Jesus

I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it

When it’s all about You,

It’s all about You, Jesus

 

King of endless worth

No one could express

How much You deserve

Though I’m weak and poor

All I have is Yours

Every single breath

 

I’ll bring You more than a song

For a song in itself

Is not what You have required

You search much deeper within

Through the way things appear

You’re looking into my heart (©1999 Matt Redman)

I need to daily return to The Heart Of Worship.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Return & Revisit

Country road at sunriseI remember my parents taking our family back to some of the places we lived when we were growing up. There were some incidents that happened at some of the places and these incidents didn’t necessarily define me, but they were markers along the way of life as a kid. I remember going to the home place where I broke my arm and was pushed onto a cactus. I remember another place where a cow about killed me until my Dad rescued me. (I had really made that cow mad!) Then there is the place where I lived the longest and through my teen-age years. I have so many memories of my life that are connected to places where I lived along the way. One special place in my heart is the college (now university) where I earned my under grad degree. I came face to face with God there. I remember well the night that I felt the presence of God all over me and I believed in Him for me. It was there that my faith became my own.

I’m not sure why the Lord told Jacob to go back to Bethel where they had wrestled, but He did and Jacob obeyed. Check this out…

1 Then God said to Jacob, ‘Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.’

6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. (Genesis 35:1; 6-7 NIV)

I believe that when I revisit some place and markers in my past, I get greater clarity as to where I’m going in the future. The Lord used so many places and people in my life growing up that have prepared me for who I am today. I miss my home state of Kentucky and I’m a bit envious of people like my wife who grew up in a rural area and lived there pretty much her whole life. The markers for her are close by.

One of my favorite parts of this passage is that God said “Go” and Jacob went. He was obedient. His relationship with the Lord was deep. He was faithful and obedient. I need to revisit the markers along my journey to keep me close to the Lord. There might even be another marker that takes place today that I’ll revisit years from now.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Return

 

u turn sign clip art cartoon illustrationThis word can be a noun or a verb. As a verb it means to go back to a place or turn one’s attention back to something. As a noun it means an act of going back to a place or activity or an act of going back to a previous condition. Whether the word return is used as a noun or verb, it implies coming back or going back to something or someone. The Lord has watched me return to Him many times over the years. I somehow get it in my head that I can live without Him and I try only to fail miserably. He always welcomes my return.

Zechariah was speaking on behalf of the Lord as He calls for the return of His people. Check this out…

2 ‘The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3 Therefore tell the people: this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Return to me,” declares the Lord Almighty, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord Almighty.

16 ‘Therefore this is what the Lord says: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,” declares the Lord Almighty.

17 ‘Proclaim further: this is what the Lord Almighty says: “My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.”’ (Zechariah 1:2-3; 16-17 NIV)

Sometimes when I see the word return, I see it as retreat. I might see it as failure and I’m coming back to “lick my wounds” before trying again. I think retreat is necessary in battle when I’m up against a tough opponent. I should take a step back to assess and gain perspective on the situation.

In this passage the Lord is promising to return to His people as they return to Him. He is very willing to accept me back home, I need to move in His direction. I enjoy going on short trips rather than long trips, because I love being home. When I’m walking in step with the Lord and I feel His Presence in me it is like being home multiplied many times over. Being at home with the Lord is a place of comfort, peace, steady heart, filled with love and grace. Every time I leave His Presence, I miss what I have with Him and I return again and again.

Pressing On!

Dwayne