Saturday, September 26, 2015

BLOG IS MOVING!

Hello all:

Thank you for your constant encouragement and readership. This blog has (joyously) matured past its current state. I've been convicted about making some organizational changes to it as well.

So, beginning now, please find further writings over at: firstandsecondblog.wordpress.com


If you're interested in what the change is all about, read on here: https://firstandsecondblog.wordpress.com/about-the-author/


When it comes down to it, all of my writing can be nestled under Matthew 22:37-39:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.”
First and Second is a blog that will better unify my faith writing. It is based on unifying in words that which the Lord daily has to work to unify in me and you: the two greatest commandments He gives.
Blog posts on First and Second will be labelled according to the command they primarily focus on. The lines between the commands will likely blur though, as well they should. They’re “alike” for a reason.
It is through the first command that we are able to righteously, humbly, and effectively complete the second command. Through the second command, we get to live out and demonstrate the first.
My prayer is that through this blog, all who know or are just now encountering Christ will be blessed by the unity of His every command and His gracious enabling us to fulfill that which seems impossible, but is possible in Him: true, genuine, unconditional love. Both for the Lord and for His people.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Not Getting Ahead of God




                From where you are standing, there is much ahead. It might be a ton of busy, crazy, chaotic, and rewarding. Maybe the future is daunting. On the other hand, when you look ahead, you might see a whole bunch of nothing or vast space that could be filled with –who knows?

                God does.

                You want to be where He wants you to be. If you’re anything like me -and most everyone I know- getting where you should be is a priority.

                It’s not always about “getting ahead” or “getting more,” but simply growing or following well. You know God has plans for you and sometimes it seems like a lot to keep up with. You don’t want to avoid the step He asks for next, so you prepare yourself as best you can for it.

                The decisions you make at work are made with intentions for the future in mind. You choose to take classes, read books, and meet people now so that later you will be equipped for what you think (or dream) will happen. We want to be where God wants us to be, when He calls, without hesitation. It gets stressful, doesn’t it?

Worry is all about tomorrow.  Fear is most powerful in the future tense. God is in the present. And when the present turns into the future, He’ll be there too.

God is not 3 steps ahead of you, waiting for you to catch up. He is with you now.

Though it is wise to open your eyes to bigger picture or your life and to prepare yourself appropriately, the decisions you make now –including those about your future- should be made as He asks.

That future that you think you know too little about or too much about cannot separate you from the love of Christ. Neither can the present (Romans 8:38.) When the Psalmist said that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” He did mean that God is even present in our present life, concerns, and matters (Psalm 46:1.)

                Paul testified to this truth in Acts 26:22, saying “To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great.Imagine speaking those words when you question what your future holds –or when others ask and you don’t know.


                Speak this truth to yourself and to others as worry and planning and looking forward keep your eyes off of Him who is all the way up there –and also right here with you.  

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sday, and Thought-Provoking Thursday.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Recognizing the Voice of Truth


You wake up and hear your spouse’s voice. Then your pets. Probably your kids. As you head out the door, you hear people in the neighborhood. People on the radio talk and sing. Your co-workers and boss speak, play music, and send you signals of the verbal and nonverbal variety. Friends text you. You read announcements, billboards, and emails. The phone rings.

By the end of the day, you’ve heard the voices of a hundred or so people, programs, papers, and media outlets. That’s a lot to sift through.

Even if you try to listen to Christian music, watch decent television, and keep solid company close by, you’re bound to absorb information that distracts from the one thing you need to hear: the voice of truth.

John 10:4-5 tells us that “he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

That’s a lot of running away, isn’t it?

So much of what we hear does not possess the voice of the Lord. Unfortunately, to sort out the good from the bad, we rarely listen to the voice speaking in order to make a decision. Rather, we decide based on the content.

Often the words and messages that bombard us are full of worldly content and urge us, ultimately, to focus more on ourselves. We take to heart messages with content that is practical or that gets our emotions surging. Words that comment on the things dear to us are used to steer us.

But that’s not what Scripture says.

To discern the voice of truth, we must listen to know who is speaking.

Consider how firmly and clearly Jesus rebuked Peter when he spoke, not of the Spirit, but as one approaching from the concerns of the world (Matthew 16:23.) His words were “get behind me, Satan!” In another example, we see how Bartimaeus chose not to listen to the crowds telling him to hush because he knew that the voice he needed to hear was Christ’s, regardless of what might be said (Mark 10.)

Here’s what we know about the one who speaks:

·         His voice is one of stillness (see Job or Elijah)
·         His tone bears the fruit of the Spirit, like gentleness and kindness
·         His words are clear because He is not an author of confusion
·         All that is wrong trembles at the sound
·         He speaks through unifying voices, like loved ones who agree
·         His perspective does not change and does not conflict with the Bible
·         He calls us by name
·         His purpose is life-giving


Listen for that voice –His voice- among all the others. It’s simpler than we tend to let it be. We don’t need to weigh the words to decide which way to go.  Like sheep, we should simply listen for the one we know and follow, ever listening to the sweet sound of the one who knows THE WAY. 



Monday, September 7, 2015

Giving Thanks Instead of Getting It


The words are familiar:

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus

These awesome, inspiring words impact how we live our everyday lives. As a result of these words, as ask ourselves what Jesus would do. We stop before making decisions and consider first if it is right or wrong in the sight of God.

And we try to live in a way that pleases God.

What comes next, though?

The rest of the verse reads:

giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

That’s not what we generally expect when we’ve done something well. After living in the image of Christ, sharing the gifts He’s given us, and even in the small things always choosing righteously, we would expect to receive thanks.

However, Scriptures tells us that as we do everything (Everything!) in the name of the Lord, we’re to give Him thanks. In our upside-down world, that sounds backwards:

-Thanks, Jesus, that I’m doing all this work and denying myself sinful desires to please you?
-Thank you Jesus that I’ve made my whole life about you and serving you?
-Thanks Jesus for encouraging me to sacrifice everything and give a ton up so that you can be glorified?

Indeed, these seemingly backwards “thanks” are correct. It seems crazy to give thanks for something that you do and that is a cost to you at times. However, giving thanks to God is actually what’s best for us. Praising Him is what we are made for. 

Our joy is so closely connected to our gratitude because the two work together to bring life into perspective. Like the lens in our eyes, we use gratitude to bring all that we see into focus. For example, if we do all to the glory of God but do so with giving thanks to Him for that blessed opportunity, we see our glory-giving as way of building up our worth or of improving our own fortunes.


To do all to the glory of God and give thanks at the same time, we recognize that it is only by the grace of God that we get to do what we were designed to in the first place: glorify Him.   

Too often we twist our glorifying God into a way of receiving glory for ourselves. Remember that the words we long to hear in eternity from the Lord (with our sinful right to self cast aside) are not "thanks for that" but "In you I am well-pleased." 

Monday, August 31, 2015

Not Me!





Just a few short weeks ago, I taught my first VBS class. 18 third and fourth graders arrived for 5 full mornings or fun and learning about Christ. What surprised me most was discovering that at the tender age of 8 and 9, people can already be hostile towards the Gospel.

One little boy quickly became known for the phrase “not me!”

When we spoke about Jesus healing people and asked if anyone could think of a time they were hurt or sick and wished to feel better, he’d pipe up “not me!” He explained that he believed the concept of sin is mean. Through explanations about grace, and sin’s effect on the whole world, and even God’s love for us, he remained steadfast in his proclamations “not me. Not me, I don’t want that.

At the end of the week, my husband took a turn sharing the Gospel. He had heard how much these kids loved sports and competition, so He began to explain how, to play a sport, there had to be rules. To win the sport, you had to follow the rules well. That meant knowing the rules, which meant learning from someone who taught them and enforced them. He highlighted how God wasn’t “mean” for enforcing the rules because if he didn’t, no one could win.

The little guy was listening intently. He tried to say not me and explain all of the reasons he didn’t need rules and rules ruined everything. But when my husband said “and I know I never wanted rules. I wanted to play my own way. Lots of us just want to do we want…” Mr. Not Me shouted out “THAT’s ME!

And the lesson just went on…

If we never learn the game or the rules, we’re never really playing with anybody else…we never have a chance to do well because no one can say if we’re doing well. We also never really get to win…

That got his attention. And mine, too.

We do live in a world that is all about “me.” Every day we’ve got the option to say “not me” and live our own way. That way might require denial, rebellion, isolation, determination, and much more to make it work.

But we don’t see it that. Rarely do we realize how often we say “not me” to the Lord.

When his standards seem too hard, we say “not me, I’ve got grace” instead of trying to meet those difficult expectations. Like Mr. Not Me, we’d often rather live with all sorts of brokenness pretending it doesn’t exist than say “Lord, I’m not sufficient but you are.”

We’re especially quick to find excuses, too. “Not me, I don’t gossip. I just have to talk about this person because otherwise (insert excuse).”

Familiar?

Here’s what we miss:

  • ·         Opportunities for the Lord to heal what is broken
  • ·         Growth through challenges instead of simply surviving them
  • ·         Chances to discover that when we try –and fail- grace is sufficient after all
  • ·         Room to see how God can overcome even the “me” parts we despise
  • ·         A salvation free from guilt, fear, and an obsession over “earning our own way” because it has nothing to do with "me" and everything to do with Him. 


Our Lord isn’t a Lord who worries about “me” or “not me” –He can use us either way. His concern isn’t with our lacks or our strengths, but His glory. We don’t need to feel shame or overcompensate for it with excuses and self-enforced failures and suffering.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

Remember who came first, who created you, and who knows: God.


The one who not only set the rules and picked you to play and coach, but who set you up as you are, too. There’s no room, and no need, for “not me” with the one who made “me.”

The victory is His, and it's won already. Rejoice that you are on His team and trust in his gameplay. Because "not me, I can't, and I won't, lose this race."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Convicted…By Pride



“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
-Jeremiah 17:9

It must be right. It meets all of the usual moral obligations. It:

  • ·         Doesn’t Go Against the Bible
  • ·         Could be Considered Ministry
  • ·         Makes People Feel Good
  • ·         Is Related to God
  • ·         Is Supported by Many

We check our version of this list when we begin to feel convicted about doing something. When decisions arrive or plans must be made, we act on our convictions concerning these things.

But we often forget at the same time to ask what we are convicted by.

You and I can be convicted as much by pride as we can be by righteous obedience to our Lord.

The sense of self-preservation and self-regard is strong in our sinful nature. In fact, it’s so integral to our lives that we often act for self-gain without even realizing it. In our everyday conversations, basic choices, and even our simplest preferences we show concern for ourselves before anything else.

Even in our relationships, our decisions and feelings are often based on what we want, what we think best, and what we find most suitable for ourselves. From the way we plan our schedules to our responses to those we love, it’s more often than not that our intentions are ultimately about our own gain.

From this place of “me first” we’re easily convicted by pride instead of by the Lord. Utterly convinced that our way is the right way or that we couldn’t have been wrong, we can easily be propelled far from God’s plan without ever realizing it.

It’s a harsh reality, but no less the truth.

Don’t allow your heart to deceive you. As you make decisions, big and small, ask yourself: am I fervently obeying my desires or the Lord? (CLICK TO TWEET)


This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sday, and Thought-Provoking Thursday.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Praise for Our Idols



What do you think about during worship?

“Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down….”

The words are posted on the screen, and they’ll change just in time if you forget the rest. Fellow believers are up front, strumming and pounding out the tune. You hear their wonderful voices and yours even joins in.

Meanwhile, another song runs through your head. The words on repeat for the hundredth time this week:

“He said and then I said. And we’ve got to make this decision. And I wonder what they’ll think. Which way is right? This reminds me of the time…”

Oh. The volume has softened and your voice must, too. That’s right…

“Lord, I need you, oh I need you...”

The chords playing through your mind this morning begin again. Louder than the words on the screen, which you know anyway. You tune into the line:

“Need…need milk. Did I remember to put that on the grocery list. God, I’ve got so much to do this grocery trip needs to be fast. And then what? Right. Having them over…there they are. Two rows up. I love her sweater. I wonder how they’re doing…”

But the beat has stopped. It’s grown quiet as a voice speaks out without rhythm. Time for prayer. You close your eyes and bow your head. Agreeing as the person up front proclaims God’s goodness and worth, you slip into the usual meditation of prayer:

“Thank you Lord, for who you are. I need this. Will you help me in that? Please be with this person…”

Music is playing again. Look up. Breathe in, you’ve prayed and He has heard. This is a safe place, a good place…

“Come in this place, Oh God, we’ll meet you here…”

But you –you, fellow worshipper- are you here? Am I?

You’ve spent your time of worship focused on the week’s stuff. On your plans and your to-do lists. Your time with the Lord was used to ask and to receive, and not to give. Sure, you gave thought to that person you care for, and you prayed…but what did you worship?

Imagine if those lyrics went:

“Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down to my concerns.”

“Lord, I need groceries. I need time, I need calm. Oh Lord, your peace and presence isn’t productive enough for my plans today.”

“Come in this place, specifically her place…specifically her pain…specifically would you come, Lord, and make this better? Come in this place worry, come in this place fear and anguish, come and meet me here in this place of distraction.”

When our lips sing praise but our hearts are from the Lord, we end up worshiping our other idols: our relationships, our concerns, our time, our plans, and our dreams.

Recall Scripture’s strong words on the topic: “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 26:1.)


Beware of turning from the Lord all the time. But especially beware of turning from Him during time dedicated to worshiping him…regardless of what it is that you are turning to. He is worthy of that worship, and when we prepare our hearts to praise but get distracted, we end up lifting high plenty that isn’t the Lord. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Godly Measure of Success



Success, according to Dictionary.com:




Do you notice the connotation? Success is something that you and I attain. We shape it, find it, and seize it as our own. It’s up to us to set the goals that, once accomplished, are considered success.

Hold this definition up to the Bible’s definition of success:
…..
……… there isn’t one.

Believe it or not, whenever we find the word “success” in Scripture, it’s very translated. If you look up success in a concordance and then trace back to the Hebrew or Greek, you’ll find definitions like “out,” “advance,” “prosper,” and “wisdom.”

You’ll also find that whenever “success” is used, it is accompanied by the clarifying words “from the Lord.”

Psalm 118 and Genesis 27:20 tell us that success is the Lord’s to grant. When examined more closely, the phrase in Hebrew is indicating that prosperity, also described in modern times as a blessing, is something given by the Lord.

In Nehemiah 2:20, we read the proclamation that God will give success. The Hebrew reads more closely “He will prosper to us.” Contemporarily “He will bless us with.”
David, as you likely know, “had great success, because the LORD was with him” (1 Samuel 18:14.) But the Hebrew more directly says that David “behaved in wise ways,” which led to the blessings of prosperity.

When Job cried out, “Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?” You see, success was never Job’s power or help…the Hebrew word here is “wisdom” (Job 6:13.)

Indeed, the popular Proverb 2:7, which reads “He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless” uses the word success to describe what in Hebrew is “sound wisdom.” This sort of wisdom is called “helpful insight” and it advances a person, helping a person to abide in accomplishing that which they set out to do. Deliverance is involved.

And isn’t that right on?

Scriptural examples of success are all about receiving from the Lord and glorifying Him with that which is given.

Jesus’ success was measured by His Father being pleased. The disciples’ success was measured not by number of conversions or reach of message, but by responding to the call of the Lord accordingly.

Gain and attainment are merely the results of what Scripture calls success: wisdom and blessings. They are not the goal themselves.

Both wisdom and blessings are gifts from the Lord.

Doesn’t that change what you strive for?


If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” –James 1:5

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sdayWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, andTellHisStory.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Looking through Thorn-Covered Glasses?




Imagine trying to live with a log in your eye. Think you’d have some blind spots?

Jesus seemed to think so, saying:

                “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 
How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? 
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” 

We all have blind spots. When we try to see without removing them, we see differently, as if through a filter. Instead of having “rose-colored glasses” at times, we have “thorn-covered” vision.

Our prejudices block out some of the truth of the matter. Assumptions we’ve made, beliefs we maintain, and feelings that we haven’t handed over to God obstruct our view, distorting our perspective.

That filter can cloud everything else we see.

Imagine if Old Testament Israel had not closed their eyes to the rule of the Lord and looked instead upon the reign of earthly kings.

Imagine if the New Testament Jews had seen that their perception of the coming Messiah –a blazing, mighty warrior- had not prejudiced them against the lion coming as a lamb.

The disciples, at times, revealed their blind spots, too. Peter was notorious for making his known, even earning himself the rebuke from Jesus “get behind me, Satan.”

Trouble comes swiftly when we, like the oh-so-human characters we witness in Scripture, begin to act on those distorted views.

Making decisions, forming opinions, and taking control of things we don’t understand, we are quick to become “the blind leading the blind” and find ourselves soon in the pits of judgment, hypocrisy, and offense.

Have you ever been there?

Have you ever made your mind up about someone or something based off of a prejudice you had? Ever ended up regretting that opinion or losing out on something because of that attitude?

It’s hard for us to accept what Proverbs 20:24 has to say:
A person's steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way?”

We’re not the captains of our own ships, ultimately. Praise the Lord for that.

Knowing that we have blind spots, it is best to truly “live by faith, not by sight.”

What does that mean?
·         Keeping our hearts tender toward those who frustrate us
·         Listening for the Spirit to prompt us
·         Acting with discernment, but not judgement
·         Submitting to commands, verses, and the Lord’s work even when we don’t understand
·         Relying on Him instead of our own understanding
·         Avoiding hypocrisy by examining our hearts and asking the Lord to cleanse us
·         Seeking forgiveness for our prejudices and resulting sins
·         Emphasizing other’s blind spots only as ours are dealt with too
·         Refreshing our hearts daily with His Word and wisdom, which corrects and teaches

Let’s take off our thorn-covered glasses and expose our blind spots to the light of the Lord. His view is always better than ours. We can trust His direction and remove the filters that we’ve created to protect us –even from that which we don’t understand about Him.

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sdayWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen with Intention, andTellHisStory.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/37818606@N00/15017311821">DSC04452</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">(license)</a>

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Apple Almond Scones



Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour + flour for dusting
  •  1/2 cup white sugar
  •  5 teaspoons baking powder
  •  1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  •  3/4 cup grated, frozen butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/3 Cup Finely chopped seasoned apples OR apples stewed and slightly crushed into almost applesauce OR leftover apple pie filling



Directions

  1. Sift together dry ingredients, including cinnamon and nutmeg.
  2. Add frozen, grated butter into the mix and gently blend in with pastry cutter until the dry mix is crumbly.
  3. In a separate bowl, measure out milk, beat in an egg, and add the almond extract.
  4. Slowly add the wet mixture into the dry, folding so as not to over mix.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until the dough can be patted into a cohesive round.
  6. Divide dough into 8 slices and bake at 400 degrees or until slightly browned. 

For the Topping

Mix together powdered sugar and milk, whisking until a basic frosting forms. Bring to a boil. Remove from the heat until mixture is sticky and thin. Spread over scones and sprinkle sliced 
almonds on top. 


Enjoyable with tea or coffee : )



Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What Do You Think About?


Try this little experiment with me. Set a timer to go off in 2 minutes, and then just sit and think. After 2 minutes, think about what you thought about.

Did you think about…

·         What you have to do today
·         Worries you have
·         Your plans this week
·         How someone else is doing
·         The show you watched last night
·         How you wish your blog were doing better
·         How your house got so messy….

We think all the time. Often our thoughts are numb, though. Frequently, our thoughts are all about the practical, about our feelings, and, well….me and mine.

God’s thoughts on our thoughts?

  • ·         Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2 Cor 10:5)
  • ·         Think on: “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” (Phil 4:8)
  • ·         Meditate on His precepts and promises (Joshua 1:8, for one…)
  • ·         Bind His Words on our hearts and minds (Deut 6:8)
  • ·         Grow in knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18)


For you and I to obey these teachings, we have to start by getting our brains off of auto-pilot. Our thoughts have to become….thoughtful. Purposeful. Turned toward the Lord. Willing to learn and listen. Reflective. Focused less on earthly things and more on things above (Col 3:2.)

Unfortunately, just as our hearts don’t change because we tell them to our minds don’t either. To have thoughts that glorify, grow us, and put us in the presence of the Lord, we have to humbly ask. We have to see our error as our minds wander and switch into prayer.

That’s where praying without ceasing, setting our minds on things above, and thinking on “these things” all merge together and align.

We can begin by paying more attention to our thoughts. Pushed and pulled by the things we face and encounter moment by moment, our thoughts are often aimless and chaotic, lacking in direction and ultimate purpose.

Rather than “correcting our thinking” though, we can give the Lord our attention.

Remember in the moment that He is with you, hears you, and involved. The conversation can be constant, and as a result of being near to God, your thoughts will change. It’s inevitable.


Time your 2 minutes of thought again, but give your thoughts direction: turn them toward the Lord. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Breaking Down the Door


Photo from: workawesome.com

Above all else, guard your heart,
 for everything you do flows from it.” 

                I think most of us learn to live this way for a young age. A harsh teacher called life gives most of us lessons on disappointment, hurt, and betrayal from the time we’re little. Once adults, there are even labels for those who don’t learn to guard themselves well. We call these vulnerable people “gullible” and “na├»ve.”

                To keep our hearts safe, we put up walls. There’s a door you can enter with permission –that’s where loved ones get in to hear secrets and become knit together with us.

                Unfortunately, God often doesn’t get permission to pass through that door.

                Of all beings who can disappoint us, hurt us, and betray us, God –being all powerful as He is- is at the top of the list. Being a black and white ruler, an eternal judge, and the one who condemns, God is one to be weary of.

                From our place of fear, disappointment, resentment, bitterness, and more in the fortress of our hearts, we think it’s better to keep that kind of God distant.

                There are more reasons for guarding our hearts against God.

                On the days we feel guilty, unworthy, flawed, and insufficient, we believe it’s better for God to be on the outside. Keep that grace and love and mercy that we feel we don’t deserve far away, and guard the mess that’s in our hearts. It’s easier than the chaos and hurt that comes when our hearts get cleaned up.

                Praise the Lord that He breaks down the door.

                Praise the Lord that the prayer we’re taught in Psalm 51:10 reads:

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

                The prayer isn’t “thank you God that I’ve got a clean heart.” These aren’t words we say when all is well and our hearts are tidy and safe.

                This is an invitation for God to open the door to the heart –pushing past all that mess and all our fortifications- to get to work. And it isn’t easy work.

                To get clean, things have to get taken out of place and put back in right order. Some things have to get thrown out completely, others thoroughly scrubbed. Secret piles have to be exposed.

In all this, notice that “O God” is the one cleaning: you and I have to trust that He knows how best to arrange our hearts, can get the ugly spots refreshed without rubbing us raw, and that He won’t walk in and out disgusted with what He found inside.

Here’s the catch: He already knows what’s inside. Long before He breaks down the door. Even before we issue the invitation. While we’re still fortifying the stronghold. Before we’ve turned from sin and invited the Lord to be our Savior, He knows what’s in those guarded hearts.

Nothing is hidden from God’s sight.Hebrews 4:13

So the question –when we can’t bring ourselves to open the door, when we can’t even find it in our hearts or in the hearts of those we love- is less “God, break in” and more “when He comes, will I go before Him in confidence?”

Because He will break in. Unlikely the thief who sneaks in or tricks us into welcoming him, our Lord enters through the door, or the gate. “Anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 10:1-2.)

Like the sheep, we are to know our Shepherd. We are to know that when He enters, we follow Him and trust in Him. “We can now come boldly and confidently into God's presence,” even as He enters our hearts, “because of Christ and our faith in him” (Ephesians 3:12.)

Jesus isn’t just the one who breaks down our door and enters through the gate –He is the gate. He is the protector of our hearts, regardless of the fortifications we create. He is the way by which God’s reaches into us and the way by which we access Him.


Praise the Lord that our hearts are ultimately His.