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

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

King

 

PrinceI don’t always understand royalty. I could probably get used to it, if I were made a king. In most cultures and countries, the king comes from a whole lineage of kings or royalty. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around what it might be like to be a king. I think in some ways it would be cool, but it other ways it would be annoying. I could never simply go to my favorite restaurant without an entourage. I think I would love the “high-end” living that came with it, but not the inconvenience of fame and fortune.

I was reading this morning about Jesus’ arrest and “mock trial” before the Jews. He is then taken to Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus if He’s a king. Check this out…

36 Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

37 Pilate said, “So you are a king?”

Jesus responded, “You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” (John 18:36-37 NLT)

Jesus is definitely a King. He is a different type of King. He doesn’t want the castle, the royalty, the wealth, the fame that comes from being a King. He is of the royal lineage of King David. The fact that He’s the Son of God, trumps any other characteristic of any type of king. He walked the streets teaching about God’s love and mercy. He had no house to call His castle. He didn’t wear fancy clothing. It is really obvious that He was different than what we know kings to be.

Jesus calmly explains to Pilate, the Roman governor, that His Kingdom is not in competition with the Roman government or any other government. He came to bring salvation to the world. He came to introduce access to Creator God. He came to introduce the Truth about God and His Kingdom. God’s Kingdom had been so distorted from what it looked like years before. We humans tend to amend things and “tweak” things to the way we like and it often changes something that is pivotal to the Word of God.

Jesus is King of my heart.

Jesus taught humility.

Jesus taught serving.

Jesus taught giving.

Jesus taught forgiving.

Jesus taught truth.

Jesus became King of my heart because of Who He is and the message that He brought to the world. He is the One & Only Son of God. He willingly went to the cross and became the Ultimate sacrifice for sin. He became King differently than any other king. He is the King who I’ve committed to following all the rest of my days. I want to live, serve, give and forgive like the King of all Kings.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Human Effort

 

Work Characters Shows Working Workers And Manual LaborI believe in hard work. I may not be the most “connected guy” in the room, but I will work harder and longer to get the job done. I was raised on a farm in Kentucky. Recently, I was asked what my first job was. I put down that I was a “farm hand” for my Grandpa. I remember loading hay bales onto the wagon and then taking them to barn. I remember lots of hard labor getting the crops in as well. I was taught at an early age the value of hard work.

In God’s economy, physical labor doesn’t count the same. The Lord is more concerned with my heart than my “work ethic”. He does call me to action, but the action is NOT what saves me. I wish I had learned this growing up. The only action required on my part is surrender of my heart. My will is surrendered to His Will. This felt weird the first time I really wrestled with the concept. Check this out…

63 The Spirit alone gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. And the very words I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But some of you do not believe me.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning which ones didn’t believe, and he knew who would betray him.) 66 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life. 69 We believe, and we know you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:63-64; 66-69 NLT)

These are the words of Jesus himself. Human effort accomplishes nothing. He has done the work for salvation when He surrendered to the cross for the ultimate and final sacrifice needed for sin. I do not work FOR my salvation, but I do work OUT my salvation. He doesn’t save me so that I can sit. He saved me so that I can serve. Serving is giving to others. Serving is loving God by giving to others. My human effort doesn’t save me, but it can serve Him by loving and serving others.

I serve at the pleasure of the Lord. He has called me. He has saved me. He compels me to love and served just like He loves and serves. Serving the in the Kingdom of God still starts with the Spirit of God in me before any human effort comes into play.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

What Have I Done?

 

Why MeThis insightful question is one that I often know the answer to. I sometimes do things without thinking. (That is not necessarily a good idea.) Some of my bad habits seem to run on auto pilot. I could make some life improvements when my good habits and disciplines run almost automatically. My life is made up of the sum total of thousands and thousands of simple choices made daily. I can choose to be kind. I can choose to be mean. I can choose to be generous. I can choose to be selfish. What if there was a record of every single thing I had done since I was born. That would take up a lot of storage space, if it were written down. I can’t quite put my brain around that.

As I was reading another chapter of Johns revelation, I was struck by the thought that there is a book with all the works of my life and I am judged accordingly. Check this out…

11 And I saw a great white throne and the one sitting on it. The earth and sky fled from his presence, but they found no place to hide. 12 I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. (Revelation 20:11-12 NLT)

After reading this, I began to immediately think about where does GRACE come into the picture. I just know that I know Jesus. If I reflect on just yesterday, there was sinful thoughts going through my brain and I’m sure there were sinful actions as well. My heart is still in pursuit of the Lord even when my brain goes down a side road.

I don’t know exactly what happens when a person dies. I don’t know if they are immediately in the Presence of God. I just know that the One Who created the universe and everything in it has this under control and in His Power. I’m not sure if He keeps a literal book or if He keeps the highlights of my life. It sure is a sobering thought to think of a diary of my life written by someone Who knows everything about me.

As I think about the judgement, I’m reminded that I have a personal relationship with the Judges Son. Scripture also teaches that to know the Son is to know the Father. I’m going to keep walking out my faith here on earth. I want the works of my life to reflect my hearts commitment to the Lord. I want to live a Christ-centered life NOT a “me-centered” life. I want to display my love for God, by loving and serving others. Write it down. One simple choice at a time ends up being a lifetime in no time at all.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Co-Worker With Truth

four hands isolated on whiteOver the years, I’ve been part of teams, staffs, ministries, partnerships & missions. I remember collecting old pairs of glasses for people in Africa who didn’t have access to glasses. The missionary there was trying to help them with something as simple as seeing and being able to read. I’ve partnered with mission teams to build wells so that a community could have something as basic as fresh water available. When I participate in those types of “fund raisers”, I realize just how blessed I am to have opportunity and access to so many resources that make my life easier.

John was writing to one of his good friends in the church. He was commending him for his hospitality and generosity. Check this out…

Dear friend, you are acting faithfully in whatever you do for the brothers and sisters, especially when they are strangers. They have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God, since they set out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from pagans. Therefore, we ought to support such people so that we can be coworkers with the truth. (3 John 1:5-8 CSB)

It dawned on me this morning that when I help a missionary with resources for his or her ministry, I became a co-worker with the truth. I was in fact a partner with their hands-on ministry taking place half-way around the world. This can be significant. I can be generous and affect change in people’s lives that I will never meet. I can be the hands and feet of Jesus from right here where I live.

I am thankful that my path crossed paths with Michael & Lisa Perkins over 8 years ago. They are missionaries in Nicaragua. They sold their restaurant and walked away from their “normal” American life in Oregon around 12 years ago to accept God’s call upon their live to serve Him and share the Gospel in Nicaragua. I got to know them well as they began serving us as we pursued adoption process spearheaded by our Pastor Shannon Lovelady and his wife Natasha. The journey had so many obstacles, twists and turns and Michael and Lisa prayed with us and connected us to the right people in Nicaragua. In just over 1 year from when the first conversation happened about adopting 5 kids from Nicaragua, four families from our church came home with the five kids. We are forever connected and co-workers with The Mustard Seed Mission in Managua, Nicaragua! This passage reminded me that I’m a co-worker with them in the truth!

I’m so thankful that the Lord is writing a new chapter for the restaurant that they sold in Oregon many years ago, it was called The Mustard Seed Café. That is the name of the new restaurant here in Carrollton, GA that will be at City Station. Their mission in Nicaragua will continue as we broaden our relationship with Mustard Seed Missions and Mustard Seed Café. The Lord has really expanded the whole concept of “Co-Workers with the Truth”!

I want to encourage every believer who reads these words to become a Co-Worker with Truth. Get involved with a bible teaching church. Get involved with bible teaching missionaries. It is very fulfilling to think about serving and giving to people you will possibly never meet in the name of Jesus. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet them in heaven one day – How cool would that be?

Pressing On!

Dwayne