One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

Can I trust God with my dreams?

I am not scared of horses. I like horses–just from a distance. I didn’t grow up around them, so I wasn’t used to them. Since I really hadn’t had any experience with them, I had no reason to trust them. So when I ended up hiking through a Guatemalan jungle some time ago and I was given the option to ride a horse or walk, of course I chose to walk.

And if any of you know the story, you’ll know I ended up riding anyway. I’ll be the first to tell you I did not want to get on that horse. I had absolutely zero faith that it could support my weight. I had absolutely zero confidence that I was strong enough to stay on it or that I had enough balance to stay upright.

But I ended up on the dang horse anyway. And you know what? It did just fine. And so did I. The horse got me to the village, and then when the time came to get on another horse (that’s a whole different story in itself), I wasn’t nearly as hesitant. Why?

Well, the other horse held me up just fine, and I didn’t have a problem riding it. The other horse had shown me it was trustworthy.

Maybe that’s a lame example, but it’s what I think about now when I think about how I trust God…. or how I don’t trust Him.

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

One of the horses that carried our team to the Kekchi village Esfuerzo Dos in Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 12:2.

See, God has come to save me.
    I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
    he has given me victory.

I was talking with my best friend the other night about trusting God and what that looks like in our lives. There are so many areas in my life where I don’t have a problem trusting Him. But then, there are a few places where I just can’t let go. I want to hold on to my own plans, my own expectations, my own dreams and not let Him take over. Probably because I’m afraid He’ll take them away and not give them back.

What’s the reason for that? Why do I trust God in so many areas but not in those few? Well, to put it simply, God has already shown me that He can be trusted in those areas. He’s shown me that He can be trusted to mend broken relationships. He’s shown me that He can be trusted to never forsake us. He’s shown me that He can be trusted with my finances. And, most recently, with the coming release of my first novel, He’s shown me that He can be trusted with my dreams.

But that’s the thing. He’s shown me. Eventually I had to come to a place where I handed those worries and fears over to Him and let Him have His way. And when I did that, He proved to me (over and over and over again) that He is faithful and trustworthy to do what is best for me.

Granted, it didn’t always look like it would be what was best. Honestly, there were times when I was absolutely sure God had completely lost His marbles. But looking back now I can see exactly what He was doing. I can see His fingerprints all over my life, leading me to where I am today.

I know why I am afraid to turn over those areas of my life to God. All that remains is convincing my stubborn heart to let go, to pry my pointed fingers off the edges of those dreams and turn them over to the Lord of my life. It isn’t easy. If it were easy, I would have done it years ago.

So if you’ve got dreams you’re holding on to, don’t beat yourself up. Believe it or not, I really think it’s normal to want to hold on to your dreams. But the truth about dreams is that they will never become reality as long as you hold on to them. The truth? You have to turn loose of your dream and hold on to God, the only one who can make dreams come true.

Ask yourself. Would you rather huddle around your small little dream and keep it safe where you can control it? Or are you willing to let it become bigger than you? It’s a scary thought because as long as our dreams are small, we can manage them. But God doesn’t give us dreams as pacifiers. They aren’t cheap plastic toys He throws at us to keep us from fussing.

God gives us dreams so that we can accomplish amazing things for Him. We were created to bring glory to His name, and we can’t do that if we’re trapped in a prison of our own fears.

God is worthy of your trust. Think about all the times He’s come through for you. Think about all the things He’s done for you, things that shouldn’t have been possible, things that defy explanation. Now think about that area of your life that you’re holding back from Him. If God can provide for all the other areas of your life, don’t you think He can handle that one too?

Don’t let your fears control you. Don’t let what you don’t understand discourage you. God has a plan, and He’s working it out. And because He is good all the time, you can trust that His plans are good. So don’t be afraid to trust your dreams to Him, especially the dreams you think have no chance of coming true.

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Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

We never outgrow God

Do you have deep friendships? Not just casual acquaintances–but real, deep, heart-felt friendships. I’m so fortunate to have so many people in my life who I can call friends–more than friends, family. And it’s been that way for decades–the same people. How many people can say that?

Last night, two of my oldest, dearest friends came out to visit me and my roomie, and as we sat on my rickety old couch and munched on tacos and watched Doctor Who, I couldn’t help but remember a time more than 20 years ago when the four of us sat around on the floor, playing games and dreaming about the future.

As I marveled, I realized we haven’t run out of things to talk about yet. If anything, we’ve got more to talk about now than we did when we were in third grade.

As we’ve grown as individuals, we’ve grown as friends. Our relationships with each other have grown wider and deeper and stronger, to the point that even years of separation or thousands of miles of distance can’t put a dent in our friendship. We just pick up where we left off. And if human beings can have relationships like that, why do we think that God is any different?

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lion at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 139:7-12.

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence!
If I go up to heaven, you are there;
    if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
    if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
    and your strength will support me.
I could ask the darkness to hide me
    and the light around me to become night—
    but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
    Darkness and light are the same to you.

I decided to believe in Jesus when I was seven years old on Palm Sunday in 1990. Granted, that’s the day I remember stepping out of my pew and walking the aisle, but Jesus was a part of my life every day before then. I’ve been following Jesus for a long time, though I’m not sure I really began to live for Him until I was older. But I never doubted Him. And I never stopped talking to Him.

We’ve always had a fairly casual talking relationship, me and Jesus. I just tell Him everything that’s on my mind. And what amazes me is that I’ve never encountered a problem in life that He wasn’t big enough to handle.

Not anything has been bigger than Him. When I was little, that was expected. Everything was bigger than me. But as a grown up, you’d think I run into trouble every day that would stump Him. But it doesn’t. And it’s not that God has gotten any bigger. Just my understanding of what He is capable of and how much He’s done for me.

Like my friendships, which have grown deeper and stronger and have matured as I have, my relationship with God has grown too. Or maybe it would be better said that He’s stayed the same and I’ve just come to realize how enormous He is.

One of my favorite parts of C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia is the brief interaction Aslan the Lion, the picture of Christ, has with Lucy Pevensie in Prince Caspian.

“Aslan” said Lucy “you’re bigger”.
“That is because you are older, little one” answered he.
“Not because you are?”
“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger”.
~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian

I could put myself in Lucy’s shoes there. Every year, I grow older, and my troubles get bigger and more complex as the digits in my age continue to tick upward. I didn’t really appreciate this little scene between Aslan and Lucy until I was old enough to understand how true it is.

I’ll never outgrow Him. I’ll never reach the point where I can do life on my own. I’ll never reach the point where I don’t need Him every second of every day. Life is too big for me, but it’s not too big for Him. And with Him, there’s nothing I can’t do.

And just like my earthly friends, I never run out of things to tell Him. I never run out of conversations to have with Him. I never exhaust myself telling Him how wonderful He is and how thankful I am for all He’s done for me.

No matter where I go, He’s there. No  matter how fast I run, He runs faster. No matter how much I think I know, He knows more. There’s no place I can go to escape Him (as if I wanted to), because He’s everywhere. And there’s no level of wisdom I can attain that He hasn’t already mastered.

Are you a grown up? Think you’ve got life all figured out? Well, join the club. And realize, like the rest of us, that life is so much bigger and stranger and wilder than you can ever imagine, and there’s no way you can be prepared for every eventuality. The only way you’ll make it is to have someone bigger than you to rely on when the time comes.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm in the snow, Haven, KS

Were you born in a barn?

A really significant wind storm blew through Kansas yesterday. Granted, we always have wind. And it’s never just a gentle breeze. Kansas’s gentle breezes can still knock you over. But yesterday and last night was ridiculous. As I was walking out of the parking garage at my office building at the end of the day, the door to the atrium didn’t shut behind me because the wind was so bad. So what did I do? I walked back up the steps and pulled the door shut. Letting the door hang open while the wind battered it to pieces would only damage the door or the building or both. But as I walked down the stairs again, someone else came in behind me. The wind caught the door, and they ignored it.

Being a good person is hard work. It’s so much easier to say or do what I feel like saying or doing instead of what the Bible tells me. If I’d been a super Christian, I would have run up again and shut the door, but I didn’t because it was obviously an exercise in futility. Wonder what that says about my character?

The barn at Safe Haven Farm in the snow, Haven, KS

The barn at Safe Haven Farm in the snow, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 2 Peter 1:3-8.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

None of us are born with perfect character. It’s something we all have to work at, day by day every day of our earthly lives. Character is built. Building character isn’t a fun process either, because the best way to build character is to struggle. You don’t build character in sunshine and daisies; you build character in brutal storms and barren deserts.

But the good news is that you have everything you need to build godly character if you know Christ. By trusting Jesus, you have everything at your fingertips to build character in your life, but it’s up to you do it. Godly character doesn’t just happen. You have to choose it.

The Bible is our road map for life. When we have questions about who God is and how He wants us to live, that’s where we should go. The Bible isn’t just full of old stories to entertain us. It’s full of true tales intended to guide us.

Living a Christian life is a process. You don’t get all the answers in one day. You don’t get godly character in one day. But you do get bits and pieces, and you can make a host of good decisions even knowing just a little about who God is.

We have a list in today’s verses (this is the Message paraphrase):  goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. Notice this is also a process. You can’t have the next one until you get the first one. So if you want to add knowledge to your faith, first you have to start with goodness. If you want self-control, you have to add knowledge. The process of achieving these character qualities has to be taken a step at a time. It’s really like building a skyscraper. You can’t move on to the next level until you establish the first one.

So if you want to build godly character, start with faith and then be good. That’s where you start. And you know how to be good by turning to Scripture. God has told us everything we need to know. It’s just up to us to act on it.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Transformation is a choice

At the beginning of a New Year, everyone wants to be a new person. People want new habits, new scales, new everything because they are trying to be new people, whether through diet and exercise or style changes or clothes changes. How many people do you know who have started resolutions to change the way they look?

But it isn’t losing weight that will make you a new person. Changing your clothing style or the church you attend (or its frequency) won’t make you a new person. Maybe your clothes or your weight can make you look like a new person, but to truly change you into a new person you need to change something deeper than your shirt.

You need to change your perspective on life. You need to change the way you think.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 12:2.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

You have two choices when it comes to determining how you’re going to think. You can either think about the world and everything in it the way that God has said, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground. And there’s no shortcut either.

There’s no magic switch that makes this easier for you to accomplish. Actually, it isn’t even something you can do. It’s a choice you make, and God is the one who does the rest. That’s what makes this so difficult.

Look at the verse. You can copy the behaviors of the world or you can let God transform you. Those are choices, and those choses are yours.

If you want to be a new person, you have to let God transform your mind from what it is to what He wants it to be. You have to let Him change the way you think. That’s the only way it works. Otherwise, you will stay the same inside, whether you change on the outside or not.

If all you do is change your outside, it’s like putting clean clothes on after you’ve rolled around in the mud. Your clothes look nice, but what’s under it is filthy.

This choice, between the world’s transforming power or God’s transforming power, is something we need to settle in our minds before we even get out of bed in the morning. We have to decide which one is going to hold sway in our lives. Are we going to listen to the world? Or are we going to listen to God?

On the surface, the answer is easy. God all the way, right? That’s the best answer. And if you’re a Christ follower, you know it. But knowing it and living it are two separate things. And usually no matter how good my intentions are to listen to God, I still get sidetracked because thinking the way the world thinks is so much easier.

Letting God transform my life is a process. He started it when I was seven years old, and He’s not even close to finishing with me. It’s a long, painful process because I hold on to the perspectives that the world has taught me, and He keeps telling me that I need to let them go.

Changing the way you think is impossible if you keep filling your head with the status quo of the world. That’s why we need to get to know God. We need to be reading our Bibles. We need to be praying and having conversations with God. However you work your relationship with God, you need to do it, you need to fill your life and your mind with Him, because the more of Him that is in your life, the less of the world can get in.

So before you walk out your door this morning, decide who you’re going to let transform you. The world will try. The world will never stop trying. But the world’s “transformation” is more of a ‘deformation.” There’s nothing the world has changed that has been better for it.

But God? God can take the broken and the hurting and put them back together again. He can heal hearts. He can change lives. He can right wrongs. But it all starts with a choice, and it’s a choice we have to make.

Windmill tower serving as a yard light at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Let the light do its job

At the moment, I have about 20+ head of cattle roaming around my property. It’s not that I have a ton of land. What I do have is water. Sort of. Watered pastureland is a luxury out here, so my neighbor asked if he could run some cattle on his property surrounding me and open up my fences to let the cows drink out of my stock tanks. This was a number of years ago, and we’ve never had any trouble with it.

But in November (the dreaded November 2012), for some reason we stopped being able to fill the stock tanks up at once. We’d have to let the water run for half an hour until the pump’s breaker gets hot and switches off, and then I have to restart the pressure tank and start the whole process again. Usually two or three times. We’re in the process of fixing it and coming up with an alternative solution right now, but until then, I have to hike out to the stock tank, turn the water on, restart the pressure tank two or three times, and then hike back out to shut the faucet off. Not a big deal…in the daylight. At night, it’s a different story.

My yard is full of opossums, skunks, and raccoons, and I didn’t realize it until I had to hike out to that barn faucet in the darkness and ran across a skunk. Yay. Believe me, I ran back to the house as quick as I could. I had no interest in getting sprayed.

Apologies for the long-winded farm story, but it’s relevant. See, my property is a scary place in the dark, but it’s not always dark. I have a yard light propped up on my windmill tower, and it make a big difference when you’re outside working after the sun goes down. Light helps you steer clear of danger. Light helps you see threats coming at you so you can be prepared (or so you can run away). If you’re working in darkness, you need to have a light.

Windmill tower serving as a yard light at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Windmill tower serving as a yard light at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 27:1.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    so why should I be afraid?
The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger,
    so why should I tremble?

This is one of those verses that struck me differently this morning. I’ve read it all my life, and I thought I’d already put it on here. But I didn’t see it. In any case, this isn’t the only verse in Scripture that compares God to a light.

The world is a dark place. There’s darkness in every corner, and everyone who follow Christ must operate in it. Maybe we try to run away from it. Maybe we try to isolate ourselves from the darkness. Maybe we close our doors to it and pretend it’s not there. But we can’t get away from it because we live in a world saturated with it.

So how can we hope to survive in the darkness? How can we hope to make it from point A to point B without being sprayed by a skunk? Well, you’ve got to have a light. And when it comes to operating in the world, that light has to be God and the Bible and Christ.

Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” That basically means that the Bible, the Word of God, is our roadmap. It’s what we’re supposed to stick to if we want to make it through the obstacles and challenges that are waiting for us in the dark. We can’t see them on our own.

So don’t assume that you can escape darkness. As long as we’re living on Earth, it will be here. You can’t outrun it. You can’t hide from it. But you can fight it–with light. And the beautiful thing about light vs. darkness is that we don’t have to do anything but let the light do its job. Just hold it up.

If you’re standing in a dark hallway, turn a flashlight on. If you’re sitting in a dark basement, light a candle. If you’re trying to water 20+ head of cattle in the darkness, get a yard light and turn it on. One little light makes a huge difference in a whole lot of darkness. We just have to let it.

And it’s the same with God. Live the way you’re supposed to. Follow Christ. Trust God. Be real. And just keep going. They’ll do the rest. So don’t be depressed by the darkness you see around you. It’s the world; it’s supposed to be that way. But you’re not. You live by the Light, and let the Light do its job.

Pelicans flying together - Galveston, TX

Follow God’s heart

How can I say that we can’t trust our hearts? The number one reason is because the Bible says so. Maybe that’s simplistic, but I have chosen to believe the Bible word for word. I believe the Bible is the literal Word of God, the absolute truth.

So what happens when the Bible contradicts “science” and “logic”? What happens when the Bible contradicts popular culture? What happens when the Bible contradicts the way I feel?

Is truth any less true because someone disagrees with it? No. Truth is bigger than any of our petty disagreements. But that’s a really deep answer to a pretty simple question. Can we trust our hearts? No. Because the Bible says so, and not just in Jeremiah 17:9-10.

Pelicans flying together - Galveston, TX

Pelicans flying together – Galveston, TX

But let me play devil’s advocate for a moment. If we can’t trust our hearts because they are wicked, does that mean that we as people are wicked? Well, yes. But what about Christ? Did Christ’s sacrifice mean anything to our hearts? The Bible is full of examples of the fact that the sphere of influence and knowledge of God comes through the heart, but if the heart is wicked how can it seek after God? If our hearts are depraved, why do they mean so much to God?

And what about 2 Corinthians 5:17? “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” Does this verse not reference our hearts too? If we’ve chosen to follow Christ, that means we have become new people. Are our hearts exempt?

Just as I believe that the Bible is word-for-word, literal absolute truth, I believe it never contradicts itself. And if you study it, you’ll realize it never does. If we ever think it does, it’s always a lack of understanding on our part.

So, are our hearts wicked? Yes. Are our hearts new if we believe in Christ? Yes. How can those two truths be true at the same time?

Before I go any further, let me say again that I am not a scholar. I don’t speak Greek. I’m not a historian or a cultural expert. I love the Bible, and God has been my best friend for longer than I can remember. And this is an issue I have struggled with, but please don’t take my word for it. This is just my opinion on what the Bible says about this topic. It’s so much better (and it means so much more) if you work out what you believe on your own rather than trusting what I say or what someone else says.

That being said, also remember that this devotional today is directed at Believers. If you haven’t made the choice to follow Christ, that’s your prerogative. But just so you are aware, Believers have a lot of choices to make even after they choose to follow Christ. It’s not just a box you check on a form. Yes, our lives and our spirits are redeemed, but we aren’t made perfect. We don’t always make the right choices by virtue of our faith in Christ. That’s why we have the Bible, to help us know what is right and true. That’s why God has given us His Holy Spirit so that we can understand God’s will for our lives. So if you haven’t accepted Christ, none of this will make any sense to you. But if you have, this is probably an issue you struggle with or at least it’s a question you ask frequently.

The first thing to remember, Christians, is that every Believer is two people. Even if you have given your heart to Christ, that doesn’t mean that you are perfect. Not yet.

The best example I know about the sin nature of a Christian comes from Romans 7:14-25, where Paul is talking about his frustrations with sin.

So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

Right now, as we are living on earth as Believers in Christ, our lives have been redeemed. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sinful pasts or our bad choices; He sees the blood of Christ, who died to forgive us and justify us.

But within every Believer is the capacity to do horrible things. Still. Even though our hearts and our spirits are redeemed, we can still choose to do what we know is wrong. Why? Because we have the choice to be led by the Spirit or led by the Flesh. Those are really theologically biblical terms, and they sound kind of freaky. So let me try to find another way to say this.

The Flesh is your human nature. It’s your pride. It’s the “if it feels good, do it” mentality. It’s the pragmatic, the-end-justifies-the-means outlook on morality and ethics. It’s the eye-for-an-eye, grudge-holding, stony-hearted perspective on life. The Flesh is relying on your own understanding. The Flesh is living life by listening only to your emotions.

The Spirit is your second nature, if you believe in Christ. The Spirit is what God has put inside you and healed inside you so that you can be connected to Him. It’s that part of you that knows what is right and what is wrong. It’s that part of you that helps you understand Scripture, the part of you that communicates with God. It’s the whisper at the back of your mind that what you’re about to do will make God sad.

There’s no in between option. And Christians can still make decisions based on the Flesh, even though we are all called to make decisions based on the Spirit.

Okay, so where does the heart come into all this? In the devotional I posted yesterday, I said it was never a good idea to follow your heart. I probably should have been more specific. What I should have said is that it’s never a good idea to follow just your heart.

There are times when God will put a desire in our hearts. In those moments, when your heart moves you to do something, you should do it. But before you do it, you need to make sure that the desire really comes from God.

Why? Because we are two people, remember? As Believers, we have two natures living in our lives, and all too often, they get jumbled up. But there’s a way to tell when a desire comes from God or from your Flesh:

A dream that comes from God will always put others first and always bring God glory.

This is an excerpt from The Love Dare written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick:

King Solomon said, “A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2). Just as your heart can direct you toward hatred, lust, and violence, it can also be driven by love, truth, and kindness. As you walk with God, He will put dreams in your heart that He wants to fulfill in your life. He will also put skills and abilities in your heart that He wants to develop for His glory (Exodus 35:30-35). He will give you the desire to give (2 Corinthians 9:7) and worship (Ephesians 5:19). As you put God first, He will step in and fulfill the good desires of your heart. The Bible says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). But the only time you can feel good about following your heart is when you know your heart is intent on serving and pleasing God.

A great friend of mine (who really is a Bible scholar) posted a response to yesterday’s blog that I thought was pretty awesome and explained the root of the issue succinctly.

Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything else flows from it.” Some versions say it’s the “wellspring of life.” This does not mean put your heart under lock and key and never share it with anyone, but actually more the opposite. It’s telling us to be careful what we let IN to our hearts because everything else/life flows FROM it! Once something gets in, it corrupts what flows out, whether for good or for bad. So the problem of letting sin into our hearts is that we can no longer trust our hearts. However:

“When you make God your primary passion, He transforms all the passions of your heart. The result of this transformation is that it will be God’s pleasure to fulfill those passions. Beyond this wonderful promise is the realization that when this transformation occurs, your passions become your best compass for your spiritual journey. When God is your desire, you can trust the passions of your heart.” – Erwin McManus (Uprising)

So in essence, it’s better to make the term “Just follow God’s heart.” Because everything else (life!) flows from it. Literally.

And I like that. Follow God’s heart. Because you know you can trust God’s heart. And if you are truly intent on doing what God wants, if you are truly seeking Him first and following the Spirit’s lead in your life, you probably can trust your heart too … but only because those qualities represent God’s heart in your life. And it’s a daily (hourly, mintely?) choice to keep following God’s heart because it’s not our default setting.

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

A Kansas driver with Florida plates

Identification is important. We carry government-issued IDs to prove who we are and that we have a license to drive a car. You carry a library card to prove that you have a right to check out books. You carry a passport that identifies you as a person who can exit and reenter countries. You drive a car with a license plate that tells what state you’re from and even what county.

Well, the latter is true if you’re driving your own car. If you rent a car? Not so much. Example? Today is our last day in Miami, and we needed a car when we arrived here on Tuesday. So we rented one (a manly Nissan Versa … hamsters included). This car has Florida plates, but the driver is from Kansas. So we’re out on the highway with all the other millions of people who live here, and because of our Florida plates they think our driver knows how to get around in this city. Well … they’re wrong. I’ll let your imaginations fill in the gaps and just say it’s been an exciting couple of days.

Everyone carries identification of one sort or another. But not all identification that we can see is real.

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

The verses for today are Matthew 7:21-23.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

This is Jesus speaking, and even as a child, this set of verses chilled me. I struggled with my salvation when I was a young teenager because I just wasn’t sure that God had saved me, and every time I would see this verse, I would get really scared. Because how did you know for real if you were saved? What did it actually mean to do God’s will? I thought I was doing it, but was I really?

If I had read this verse in the Message as a child, I might have found some comfort because the context is a little clearer.

Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message)

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Serious obedience. Not just a show but doing what God says to do in Scripture. That’s how you can identify yourself as a Christian.

It’s so easy to sit back and see preachers on television or people doing good deeds all over the world and instantly put them in the Christian category, but I don’t know their heart. Granted, because I don’t know their heart means I can’t say they’re not a Christian; but by that same token, I can’t say they are either.

What matters is that I can say I am.

I don’t want to be that person who presents an image of Christ on the outside but on the inside is only interested in what “being a Christian” can get me. I don’t want to be that person who uses religion to rope people in and manipulate them. I don’t want to be that person who puts on a show. None of that is about Christ, and none of that really makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Doing what Christ says is the only way to help others. Obeying the Bible. Listening to the Spirit and doing what He says. And being serious about it. Loving others and loving God, and then not only will you know for sure that you are a Christian, but others will know too.