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

Wisdom

 

wisdom, stupidity road signI do want wisdom. I’ve become a veracious reader recently. I feel like I’m growing and learning. I love learning and growing. One of these days, I will become wise! I think wisdom is acquired by learning AND experience. I believe older people are often wise because of their experience. I have seen older, experienced people who make unwise decisions. I’ve also seek young people who are “wise beyond their years”. They are learning, growing and gathering data to avoid many of the pitfalls their peers are experiencing. Many wise young people have wise parents and other adults pouring into them.

I love the story of the wise men coming to seek out Jesus. They felt called or compelled to come see this baby king. They were not secretive about seeking Him. In fact, King Herod became interested too – obviously for different reasons than them. Check this out…

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!”

After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!11 They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

12 When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod. (Matthew 2:7-12 NLT)

I think it would have been so cool to witness this visit from the wise men. These wise men were worshippers. They were gift givers too. Their posture reflected their heart. I would be wise to be a worshipper of the King. I would be wise for my posture before Him to reflect my heart. I would also be wise to be a gift giver too! He wants my heart before any of my gifts. He wants my obedience before any of my gifts. He wants to change my life from deep within. Worship is personal. Worship is intimate. Worship is genuine. There is great wisdom to be found in worshippers of God. People with a long-term relationship with the Lord have profound respect for all that He has done and is doing in their lives. They can’t keep from worshipping. They have such gratitude in their heart, they are compelled to worship. I can worship through giving. I can worship through a surrendered heart. I can worship through a song. I can worship through obedience. I can worship through work. I’m wise to worship the God Who gave me life!

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Amazement!

Happy surprised manI am amazed at what great lengths people will go to for a free gift or money. In the past, I have endured a sales pitch in order to win a free TV or an overnight stay somewhere that always looks much nicer than it is. I do like to get something for nothing. I know better, but I will still try, much like the next person.

I’m also amazed at how people follow other people and give them celebrity status. If a guy or girl can play a sport really well, we give them special status. If someone is really wealthy we treat them quite differently than another person who doesn’t have as much wealth.

Jesus amazed people with His teaching – His Presence. He didn’t play a sport that I know of and He didn’t have a lot of wealth. His teaching was powerful and moved people. He did heal people from what was often a terminal disease – leprosy. He also healed other diseases and casts out evil spirits from people possessed. People were moved His teaching and His power to heal. Check this out…

27 Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” 28 The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. (Mark 1:27-28 NLT)

I sometimes take the Lord’s Presence for granted. I read His Word almost every day. I talk with Him throughout the day. I participate in corporate worship each week with the church. I realize that not everyone in the world does this each week. I’m still following Him so closely that I’m not as amazed as I should be. When I stop for a minute and look carefully at Who He is and what He has done – I’m truly amazed.

I want to continue to be amazed at Him.

I want to continue to notice what He is doing in my life.

I want to continue to express my gratitude to Him for my life and loved one.

I love this old hymn: I Stand Amazed (How Marvelous) by Chris Tomlin

I want my life to bring glory to Him because I live in amazement at all that He has done and all that He is doing in me and around me.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Hold Firmly

 

HandshakeI remember at a very young age swinging from “the monkey bars” on the playground.  Part of the key to navigating “the monkey bars” was a strong grip. It also took some upper body strength to accomplish that.

As I get older, my grip may not be as strong as it once was. My physical body has changed a good bit in the last 40 years. My spiritual grip has improved greatly over the years. I’ve learned to hold on to the Word of God. I’ve learned that His promises are true. I’ve learned that His Presence is real. I don’t want to lose my grip on my faith.

As John was experiencing some additional mind-blowing scenes happening in heaven. He was approached by an angel who spoke to him. It was an encounter of teaching. Check this out…

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.” And he added, “These are true words that come from God.”

10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said, “No, don’t worship me. I am a servant of God, just like you and your brothers and sisters who testify about their faith in Jesus. Worship only God. For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” (Revelation 19:9-10 NLT)

Don’t worship the messenger unless He’s Jesus.  I have tremendous respect for great pastors and teachers. I have read multiple books from some of my favorite, beloved pastors. It’s important for me to remember that they are not worthy of my worship. I have to be careful of the status that I give them. They are human. Yes – they are devoted followers of the Lord, but the Lord is ONLY ONE worthy of my worship. I want to hear from Him. I want to worship Him. I want to hold firmly to His hand as I navigate this life. I want to hold firmly to His hand no matter what I face in the future. He is the ONLY ONE Who can lead me from this earthly life to eternal life. He has a firm grip and I’m wise to hold on to Him and worship Him only.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Victory Song

Hands Raise in WorshipI’ve danced a victory dance and I love winning! The flip side to winning is losing. I do not like losing at all. I’ve learned to care about winning things that are important. I used to get way too “worked up” about certain sports teams. I can randomly pick a team to “pull for” and I can get really excited when they win & really frustrated when they lose.  I began to notice my blood pressure rising when I would try to watch a game. I still struggle with this when I’m watching Kentucky basketball! I began to realize that the outcome of the game really doesn’t change my life. I don’t gamble or place bets on games – I just watch.

I came across a scene from the apostle John’s “play by play” in his vision. It was cool scene of victory for the ones who were victorious over the beast. Check this out…

They sang the song of God’s servant Moses and the song of the Lamb:

Great and awe-inspiring are your works,
Lord God, the Almighty;
just and true are your ways,
King of the nations.
Lord, who will not fear
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All the nations will come
and worship before you
because your righteous acts
have been revealed. (Revelation 15:3-4 CSB)

I love songs that express my heart to the Lord here and now. I can look back on songs that really spoke to my heart and it will be a long list. The ones that are speaking to me the most at this season of my life are from the Passion “Worthy Of Your Name” Album.

Here is a song that moved my soul for many years. (This takes me back!)

Lord, I Lift Your Name on High (by Mercy Me)

About 6 years ago in December this song was blessing me in a season of struggle as my kid battled cancer.

Let Me Feel You Shine (by David Crowder)

I am singing songs of victory all day – every day! The Lord has saved my soul. He directs my path. His Presence in my life is real and He is so Powerful. He gives perspective to my struggles and stumbles. I’m so thankful that the big victory is already won when Jesus gave His life on the cross.

Pressing On!

Dwayne

Simple Instructions

 

Following the Lord is not complicated at all – it’s really simple. Please note that I didn’t say it’s easy. It really comes down to trust and simple obedience. He calls me to do things that I wouldn’t normally do if my heart is selfish and hard. He has changed my heart over the years and I think differently and act differently.

I was reading in Revelation and it sometimes feels like I’m reading a sequel of The Avengers! My brother John is seeing and hearing some crazy stuff – stuff he’s never seen or heard anything like before. If I were to see and hear what he’s experiencing, I would probably make reference to the Avengers or some other sci-fi movie. It sure sounds surreal in his descriptions. I was reading about the proclamation of the first angel of three and the instructions to the people on earth are amazingly simple. Check this out…

Then I saw another angel flying high overhead, with the eternal gospel to announce to the inhabitants of the earth—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. He spoke with a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship the one who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Revelation 14:6-7 CSB)

Fear the Lord and give Him glory. That’s simple as can be. He made everything we see. Nothing that I can put my hands on is completely man made – it all comes from some resource that the Lord made. Man can’t make something out of nothing. I believe that when John writes that we are to fear the Lord, he’s speaking of a healthy reverence & respect. After walking with the Lord over the years, I’m not afraid of Him, but I profoundly respect and revere Him – there is a difference.

As I walk through today and seek to live out my faith, I want the joy of knowing the Lord to give me strength, direction and purpose. I want to live out the gospel from the inside out. I want to give Him glory with my life – which includes my thoughts, words and actions. This is worship – the activities of my life give honor to the One Who created me. That’s about as simple as I know how to say it.

Pressing On!

Dwayne