A masterpiece can’t make itself

I’ve just been handed an intense copywriting project that requires me to dig into the recesses of my mind for plumbing engineering specs I haven’t thought about in two years. It’s going to take a whole day of fierce concentration to get everything done. I get started, and before long, I’m deeply submerged in the realm of copper tubing, sealing elements, and recirculation systems.

And my phone rings. Or somebody knocks on my office door. Or somebody needs to ask me a question in general.

Snap. Just like that. My train of thought derails. I lose the sentences I’m crafting. And the beautiful, concise paragraph I’d been forming in my brain disintegrates, never to be seen again.

Yes, I’m exaggerating (but only slightly).

I hate being interrupted, and I don’t always handle it with grace. I’m better about it than I used to be (experience is a hard teacher), but I still struggle.

When I’m working, I get so deep into the zone of my thoughts that when someone jerks me out of those thoughts, I feel disoriented and confused. It takes me a few moments to realign myself so I can even communicate. Then, once I’ve answered the question or provided the solution, I have to find a way to jump back into the project. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. Either way, I probably won’t find my way back to exactly where I was before.

And that’s okay. Part of adulting is learning how to pick up the pieces of your shattered concentration and keep moving forward. But when you have to change directions halfway through a project, often, your project won’t turn out like you originally intended.

Have you ever considered how God feels when we interrupt Him?

In Ephesians 2:10, God calls us His workmanship. That word means masterpiece. My life, and your life, are all part of God’s brilliant, beautiful, perfect plan. He’s designed a life and a future just for you and just for me, based on who we really are and what He created us to do.

We’re God’s masterpieces. We’re His works of art. But it will take our lifetimes on Earth to get us to the place where we’re complete. Want to know why? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can certainly speak for myself.

I get in God’s way.

I interrupt His plans with my own actions and half-brained attempts at controlling my own life. And while He can take the broken threads of my life and weave a beautiful piece of art from them, how much more beautiful would it have been if I hadn’t interfered in the first place?

Yes, God is Almighty, and there’s nothing I can do to screw up my life to the point where He can’t redeem it. But what if I hadn’t stuck my fingers into the frosting to begin with?

ephesians-2-10I often think of God as a sculptor, and I see myself as a shapeless block of marble, unyielding, stubborn, and not worth much at face value. And God, in His infinite patience and wisdom and artistry, chip-chip-chips away at my rough spots with His chisel and hammer. He looks at the ugly corners of my life and sees something majestic and beautiful, and He has the power to make something amazing from it.

But it isn’t always a fun process. Sometimes it hurts.

When I interrupt Him and try to fix myself, I only end up making more rough spots that He’ll ultimately have to chisel away. When I try to take control of my own life, I make more work for Him.

I go down roads I shouldn’t. I listen to people who are wrong. I look to idols to tell me what I should look like or how I should act. And instead of submitting to the design that He has for my life, I start trying to chisel myself into a shape that He’ll accept. But have you ever seen marble try to chisel itself? Even if it could, it wouldn’t turn out pretty.

A masterpiece can’t make itself.

God sees me. He’s the only one who really can see me. He knows my flaws and my failures. He knows my rough spots. But He can look beyond all those blemishes and see my true value. Since He’s the only one who can see it, He’s the only one who can bring it out. He knows what needs to be cut out of my life in order to let the best of me shine through.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10

God is more gracious about being interrupted than I am, and I can take a lesson from that. I can learn to be kinder when I react to interruptions. I can learn to be persistent and keep trying even when my thoughts and plans are derailed. And maybe I will learn to not interrupt God with my own feeble attempts at control.

He’s the artist. I’m the masterpiece. And I can’t wait to see what He’s creating.

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Don’t rush learning how to follow Jesus

I’m not a patient person. I’m like the least patient person you’ll ever meet. That’s why I marathon television shows. That’s why I rarely read books series until they’re complete. I don’t like waiting for stories to resolve. I want to know what happens right away.

Unfortunately that lack of patience seeps into other areas of my life. It’s one of the reasons why I didn’t do well in music lessons. My mom is a crazy accomplished classical musician, but she didn’t get there overnight. It took 45 years for her to get to that place. I wanted to pick up a musical instrument and be perfect right away. I didn’t want to work at it. I didn’t want to make mistakes and have to learn from them. I wanted the benefit of the skill without the drudgery of the discipline required to achieve it.

Sound familiar to anyone? We all have our sticking points when it comes to patience and discipline. Ironically, I had to learn that I had a lot to learn, regardless of what career path I chose. I settled on writing because I thought I was a great writer when I was little.

Yeah. Wow. Looking back, I knew nothing. And all I’ve learned in 25 years of writing (yes, I wrote my first story in kindergarten) is that I still know nothing, and that I have a lot more to learn. I’ve learned that I’ll never stop learning. But learning isn’t about filling your head with information. I mean, that’s part of it. The greater part of learning is patience. It’s hard work to learn. It’s trying and difficult, but the more you work at it, the stronger you get.

S059QDGBOG_1549x1037Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:32-36.

Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.

Following Jesus takes discipline. Sorry to burst the bubbles of anyone who signed on expecting an easy ride. Think of following Jesus like two magnets with opposite poles being pressed together. On one side, you’re drawn to Him because you belong to Him, but on the other side you’re repelled because you still have a dark nature that wants your own way. You have to fight yourself every step of the way if you want to follow Jesus.

And then add in the trouble our enemy throws at us. We have an enemy who hates us because Jesus loves us, and our enemy will do everything in his power to distract us, stop us, hurt us, discourage us, and slow us down. But instead of seeing all those obstacles as barriers to following Jesus, try to see them as opportunities to grow.

Don’t rush following Jesus. Enjoy it. It takes time. It takes years. Learn to see the trouble as opportunities for God to show His power. Learn to see people as family members who just don’t know Jesus yet. But the more you seize opportunities to follow Jesus, the stronger you’ll become.

Jesus says to love your enemies. That’s not easy, but that’s part of following Him. You won’t want to do it, and Satan won’t want you to either. But Jesus says it, so we do it. Loving an enemy is an obstacle because they don’t want your love, but if you treat it as an opportunity, your faith will grow. Every time you extend love or kindness or forgiveness to someone who wants to hurt you (and you get nothing in return), it demonstrates to everyone around you and even to yourself that what Jesus says matters more to you than what is commonly or popularly accepted. And God blesses an attitude like that.

 

The difference between being Christian and being Christ-like

Imagine, one day you meet someone who says he or she is a writer. That’s awesome, right? So you ask them what they write, and they respond: “Well, I’m not really writing anything now. But I will soon.” Are they really a writer?

Let’s try another job description. One that’s not artsy. How about an engineer? If someone tells you they are an engineer, generally you ask what they build or what they design. But what if the engineer you’re talking to has never built anything or designed anything?

There’s a big discrepancy in both of those situations. You can claim to be a writer all day long and never act like a writer. You can know everything you need to know to be an engineer but never act like an engineer. So why do we think it’s different with our faith?

roads-divergingToday’s verses are Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

My Bible study group recently finished a section on the Book of Deuteronomy, which is Moses’ instructions to the Children of Israel before they are about to go into the Land of Canaan.

God is really straightforward with them, and He repeats Himself a lot. Basically what He says is that if they obey Him, they’ll be blessed, and if they disobey Him, they’ll be cursed. Pretty simple, right? If you’ve read the book, you know how that story goes.

And, yes, God is speaking directly to the Children of Israel in this particular verse, but what He’s saying relates to our lives today as well.

We all face choices every day. We can choose to take God at His Word and obey Him, regardless of whether it’s fun or not. Or we can choose to live life on our own terms. Those are the only choices we have. You choose life or death, blessings or curses. Just like the Children of Israel did.

And just like the Children of Israel, if you want to be obedient to God, you need to love Him and commit yourself to Him. That means doing what He says is right. That means living your life in a way that would please Him. That means making choices that honor God. That means living a Christ-like life.

But how many of us know it’s true that you can call yourself a Christian all day long but not be Christ-like?

Just like a writer who doesn’t write or an engineer who doesn’t design, a Christian isn’t automatically Christ-like. That’s a choice you have to make every hour of every day.

I know a particularly troublesome Christian who is sometimes the least Christ-like person you’ll ever meet. I saw her in the mirror this morning. 😉

I’m stubborn. I want my own way. I think I know best. And I don’t want to do it God’s way because He’ll take me down a road that won’t be fun, and I just want to have fun. And believe me, I’ve lived through the consequences of those choices, and I can tell you from experience that it’s better to listen to God. But I’m a work in progress. Every Christian is.

You’re a Christian the moment you trust Christ for your salvation, but becoming Christ-like is a process.

If you want to call yourself a Christian, fine. Carry a Bible. Memorize Scripture. Go to church. Do the Christian thing. But what difference will a title make in your life if you don’t do what a Christian is supposed to do? A Christian is supposed to be Christ-like, and that doesn’t happen just because you install a Bible app on your smartphone.

Learning to follow God is more than just going to church or memorizing Bible verses or going to a Bible study. You follow God in the little things. Following God happens in the small moments–or at least, they may be small moments to you. They’re the moments when you refuse to participate in office gossip. They’re the moments when you decide to bite your tongue instead of saying something rude. They’re the moments when you do something kind instead of something mean. They’re the moments when you choose to love someone you don’t think deserves it.

In those moments, you choose to do those things for no other reason than God told you to. Those are the moments when you are Christ-like, and that’s far more important than being a Christian any day.

Don’t use a new garment to patch an old one

The Big House at Safe Haven Farm is a magnet for severe weather. I’m sure I’ve posted about this before. Some of my close storm-spotter friends have told me I live in the Bermuda Triangle of weather because weird stuff happens on my property.

This past storm season was no exception. We had a horrible storm that riddled our vinyl siding with holes, so we had the siding replaced. Not even a week after work finished, another massive storm blew through and completely wrecked the south side of the house all over again. This is par for the course out here.

The siding has just been sitting with holes in it until the weather warms up, which happened this week. It’s almost officially spring in Kansas, which means the weather will be more bipolar than normal, but our siding guy took advantage of the nice temps and came by to let us know he’d be starting work on the south side of the house. And he told us that he wasn’t going to have to replace the whole south side. He could just replace the damaged pieces of siding.

We weren’t sure how we felt about that, especially since the damage seemed extensive to us. Well, the guys doing the work showed up yesterday and told us that the whole back side did need to be replaced. They spotted some damaged areas the first guy had missed.

Personally, I was pretty happy about that. It was kind of hard to believe that they could repair the whole back side of the Big House with just patching up the bad boards. And I got to thinking that we treat our own lives that way sometimes. Our entire life can be a wreck, and we think that by spot-treating the troublesome areas that we’ll improve. But the rough spots are a symptom of a broken life, and you won’t find a cure simply by treating the symptoms. You have to find the cause.

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The south side of the Big House at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 5:36.

Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.

People live piecemeal lives. That’s just a fact. We are all a product of our own personal experiences. And this isn’t a nature vs. nurture discussion, although I think there is truth in both sides, for what it’s worth.

I react to situations and circumstances in my life based on my previous experiences. So do you. And the longer I live, the more experiences I have to pull from. But I have something in my life that is different from the normal person on the street–I have Jesus in my life. That means I’m redeemed. I’m a new creation. God’s mercies for me are fresh every morning.

So while I’ve learned valuable lessons in my life, do those lessons apply to my life as a new creation? Can I patch my piecemeal life together with old prejudices?

No. For the reasons today’s verse states. You can’t use a new garment to patch an old one without ruining both.

Jesus didn’t come to save us one piece at a time. As far as our spiritual self–our real self–is concerned, He saved us wholly, completely, entirely. As of right now we live in a broken world in failing bodies, and every day is a struggle between our human nature and the Holy Spirit inside us.

You shouldn’t hold on to your old life. You shouldn’t hold on to who you were before you met Jesus. If you’ve accepted new life through Christ, that old life is gone–or at least, Jesus has made a way for you to let it go.

Too many times I think we grow attached to the way things are. We like bits and pieces of our old life, and we don’t want to give them up when we start following Jesus. But are you really willing to tear up the new life Jesus died to give you just so you can patch the holes in your old life?

There’s a reason you wanted new life to begin with, isn’t there? Because your old life didn’t satisfy. Your old life didn’t fill the God-shaped hole in your heart.

But it’s scary. You know your old life. You’ve got the experiences to back it up. And, don’t get me wrong, you can certainly learn important (godly) lessons from an old life that will carry over into your new life. But it’s not godly wisdom that’s holding you back from embracing new life with Jesus completely.

It can be intimidating to let go of the life you’ve known, but until you release it, you’ll never fully grasp what Jesus has planned for you.

Don’t try to patch up your old life using pieces from the new one. Let go of what you used to be. Jesus made a way for you to become something new, and maybe the Old You is comfortable, but the New You is better–and it’s who God designed you to be.

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Why being perfect doesn’t matter to God

Does your brain ever grind to a screeching halt? Where it simply refuses to think one more useful thought? It’s like your mind hits a brick wall and the only thing it generates is an overwhelming desire to eat chocolate and watch Doctor Who. Maybe that’s just me. =)

I didn’t used to need to write anything down. I could keep track of everything in my head. Then I hit high school. Then I hit college. And after that? Well, everything changed. Let’s just say I realized yesterday that I’m going to have to start keeping track of everything I do in a notebook because my brain just can’t keep up.

Why? Because I missed something. I forgot something. I misplaced something important. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s going to be a huge pain in my backside.

There’s too much going on. I’m trying to simplify, and it’s helping. But kind of like cleaning your room, you’ve got to make a bigger mess before you can really start organizing, and I feel like that’s where my life is right now. And that can be really depressing if you think about it too long,

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 94:17-19.

Unless the Lord had helped me,
    I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave.
I cried out, “I am slipping!”
    but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me.
When doubts filled my mind,
    your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.

Life is busy. Everyone is busy in some way or another. If you aren’t, I’d love to know your secret.

Being busy is good as long as it doesn’t take you away from the things that really matter in your life, like your relationship with God and your family. But no matter how hard you work, no matter how much of a perfectionist you are, you’re going to screw up.

You will. Don’t argue.

That’s not an excuse to underperform. And just because you know you aren’t perfect doesn’t justify not even trying. But I know I get so wrapped up in dotting every i and crossing every t that sometimes I don’t even want to take the risk that I’ll screw up. And that’s not how we’re called to live.

We aren’t called to hide in the shadows for fear that we’ll make a wrong move. We aren’t called to hunker down in our safe little bubbles and cover our heads so we make sure we never fail.

We are called to be warriors. Conquerors. More than conquerors, actually. And with God on our side, there’s nothing we can’t do. With God on our side, there’s no fall we can’t pick ourselves up from. That doesn’t mean we should plan to faceplant, but when we do, we shouldn’t let it throw us.

Like the Psalm says, God is there to help us. If not for Him, we all would have been destroyed years ago. God’s love is unfailing, which means that even when we don’t perform at our best, God loves us anyway.

God’s love isn’t dependent on our performance. Aren’t you glad for that? Can you imagine having to do a song and dance to keep God happy? I know some people live their lives that way, and I couldn’t do it.

We don’t have to pay God off. We don’t have to get straight A’s in school or make it through a month without a speeding ticket. We don’t have to keep perfect records or walk on eggshells. God’s unfailing love supports us no matter what. And we should take comfort from that.

If you’re in the same place today that I was yesterday, that should cheer you up. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to know all the details. I don’t have to get everything right. God loves me in spite of all that, and He is going to help me get through it.

That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try my best. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t aim to do the best job I can do. But it does mean that on the days when I don’t get everything right, when I forget something, when I make a mistake–He isn’t going to drop me. He isn’t going to forget about me. He isn’t just going to walk away because I’m too much trouble.

When you have doubts, when you start making mistakes because life is too busy for your brain to keep up, remember who God is and remember what He’s promised you. His unfailing love will support you. No, it may not look like what you think it should, but since when did real love look exactly like you expected?

So stop being so hard on yourself. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself bloody for missing a step. God doesn’t hold it against you. So you shouldn’t hold it against you either.

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.

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.