6 Steps to Changing Your Heart

What I’ve said the last three days sounds nice and easy, doesn’t it? Just change how you look at things and watch your confidence skyrocket. It’d be great if it worked that way. Here’s the bad news: your heart is going to fight you every step of the way on this because it is selfish to the point of self-destruction. It is incorrigibly deceitful and vain. Your heart demands that you worship yourself.

Sound a bit melodramatic? Consider why Adam and Eve fell. They were told they could be like God. They wanted that power and, once the thought was implanted in their mind, they started feeling inadequate. If they could be like God and weren’t, then something was wrong, something they had to fix so they could have what they should have. Their hearts were more concerned about their value than God’s glory.

Ever get angry with God over a traffic light or not finding a parking spot? Have you ever gotten mad at Him at all? If so, then you’ve done the same thing. In fact, if you’ve ever sinned (and you know you have), then you’ve chosen your will over His and so worshiped yourself. All of the things you’ve made gods in your life – money, a job, sex, a relationship, looks, an achievement – are really just means to make you happy. More self worship.

If knowing God and putting aside our pride require changes in our hearts, yet our hearts are so wicked and stubborn, how can we change our hearts? 

Of ourselves, we can’t. We need His help. There are six steps to changing our hearts:

1. Since we can’t do it ourselves, we need to pray for His help. Be open and honest in this prayer. Lay your struggles at His feet. There’s no shame for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1) and besides, He knows everything you’re going through anyway. I’ve never had any prayer answered faster than prayers for God to help me grow.

2. Praise and worship God. This can be through songs that glorify Him or just telling Him how much you love Him and how great He is. It’s not that He needs this; it’s that you need to do this. You were created to give Him glory. When you do, you remember how small you are compared to Him, which magnifies the greatness of His love. To have a true image of God, you must start with an attitude of praise and worship.

3. Focus on all the times He has been there for you. For me, I didn’t know why my life seemed so random. I couldn’t go to the college of my choice, so I went to a different one, where I was put on a floor with a guy who later got me a job in Virginia. When I moved out there, one of my roommates went to a certain church, where another one of the guys threw a Christmas party where I met a girl who…ummm…inspired me to start going to church, where I met friends that help me fall in love with God again. Also, the money I saved enabled me to write for a while and God provided just enough to get me through. You see, God was looking out for me the entire time, even when I was running from Him and angry at Him.

You may be able to look back at your life and have a similar realization or you might be in the midst of something. Either way, God has you, even if you don’t understand why life’s so hard right now, even if you don’t feel He’s anywhere near, and even if you’ve been running. He has you.

4. Develop a fear of God. Proverbs 1:7 says the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. We need to have more fear of God, not that He’ll smite us (even though He has the right to), but in a sense of reverent awe. We don’t compare to Him, not even all of us combined. This rock we live on is a tiny speck compared to the solar system, which is a tiny speck compared to the galaxy, which is a tiny speck compared to the Universe, which is infinitely tiny compared to God, Who created it all with His words. Knowing that God is love without knowing that He is omnipotent leads us to be condescending and flippant. “Yeah, I sinned, but He’ll just forgive me,” or, “Hey, God, do You not care about this light?! I’M LATE FOR WORK and it’s all Your fault!” He is love, but He is also so holy that He sent His own Son to die rather than impugn His righteousness. If He’d forgiven our sins without sacrifice, He could not be holy anymore because He would have gone back on His word. His love without considering His unbending holiness means nothing. He deserves an eternity of praise just for being God, even more so for being a loving, compassionate, and merciful Father.

5. Pray and fellowship with God often. Imagine that two people wanted to get to know you over the next year. One read everything you’d written and everything written about you. The other had meals with you, talked with you daily, and was a good, close friend. Which one do you think knows you, the real you, better at the end of that time? The friend, right?

I don’t discount at all the works of people who make Bible commentaries or who study Scripture and the root words of verses. Those things are instructive and very valuable. But there is no better way to know God than to spend time with Him.

6. See the similarities between a relationship with God and a relationship with other people. If you’re married, was your wedding the day after you met your spouse? Probably not. It takes time to grow a relationship. It won’t be all sunshine and rainbows, especially after the initial week or two of excitement. Sometimes, you may not want to worship God or pray. Do it anyway. Keep working on that relationship. Just as two married people have to keep working on making their marriage strong, so you have to always work on your relationship with God. If you’re not growing closer to Him, you’re drifting away. There is no neutral.

And, as a bonus, 7. Just accept the gifts and relax already. :) 

Before It’s Over

Ten years left before it’s over,
Ten years left ‘til I die;
But for now, I’ll watch TV
And laugh until I cry.
Five years left before it’s over,
Five years left ‘til the end;
But for now, I will waste time
Wishing I had more friends.
One year left before it’s over,
One year left ‘til I leave;
Now I ponder my funeral
Wondering who there will grieve.
One month left before it’s over,
One month left ‘til I’m gone;
Now I look back and I question
Is it enough what I’ve done?
One week left before it’s over,
One week left ‘til I pass;
I smile now at simple things
Like dogs and clouds and grass.
One day left before it’s over,
One day left ‘til I go,
I pray now I’ve taught my children
All they will need to know.
One hour left before it’s over,
One hour left ‘til we part;
Now I’ll say goodbye to my wife,
You are the love of my heart.
One minute left before it’s over,
One minute left ‘til I die;
Now I’ll prove I’m not immortal,
Somehow time has passed me by.
No time left before it’s over,
No time left and I know
My lone regret is I didn’t start
Living like this ten years ago.

Why True Confidence Can’t Be Earned

Each of the last two days, I’ve mentioned that your identity in Christ is a gift and that you can’t earn it. It’s all well and good to say that, but it’s time to examine that idea in detail.

Let’s start with this: you’re nothing. I’m nothing. We’re all a whole bunch of dirt that He breathed life into and then decided for some reason to love.

Not only are you insignificant in value compared to the Creator of the entire (and unfathomably large) Universe, but you have sinned against Him as well.

Imagine a cockroach giving you attitude. Just by virtue of being a cockroach, he’s lucky if you let him live; when he starts yelling at you, it’s laughably pathetic. If it actually tried to do something you didn’t like, you might well smash him. And not many people would say you’re wrong. He was a roach, you’re a human; the difference in value is massive.

And the difference between you and God is infinitely greater.

We often forget that. We forget how easily we’re getting off because we forget how powerful and holy He is. We forget our place and, in doing so, fail to glorify Him properly in His. Even if He were spiteful or arbitrary or just distant, He would be worthy of praise because He is God. How much more so because He loves us enough to die for us?

Something else happens when we forget our proper place: we try to earn it. We try to be good enough, usually for other people or our own standards, sometimes to live up to His, but always trying to earn our place. Always trying and failing to be worthy, getting frustrated that we somehow fell short again or that our mild success didn’t last and wasn’t enough.

And it’s always one step forward, two steps back, isn’t it? Why? Because you’re not enough. You were never meant to be enough. Because He is more than enough.

It is His grace that allows you to be saved, His love that keeps you, His sacrifice that paid for your sins, and His covenant that gave you a new identity. You did nothing! You couldn’t do anything because He did it all.

I don’t mean this to tear you down and leave you a self-deprecating, sobbing mass. I mean this to be the second-best news you can ever hear: your inability to earn it means that you can stop trying. It’s a gift, willingly offered by Someone who loves you more than your spouse, children, family, or friends ever could.

If you found the perfect Christmas present for someone and were excited for the next three months (or three hours, for those last-minute shoppers; you know who you are! :) ), just waiting eagerly for Christmas so you could see the look on their face, would you want them to react with surprise and joy and enjoy the present immediately or would you want them to whip out a wallet and try to pay you for the present? That latter one’s a slap in the face, isn’t it? Yet it’s exactly what we try to do when we attempt to earn our salvation, our identity, or anything else from God. We can’t. It’s all a bunch of gifts, given to us by a doting Father. All He wants is for us to love and obey Him, love others, and enjoy what He’s given us.

One of my readers left feedback last week attesting to this very problem. She said she was trying to be good enough and kept feeling she was failing, saying, “I never seem to arrive at my original destination.” I know the feeling. Life is full of twists and turns, but every one of them has been known by God since before time began. If you keep trying and failing, I see three possibilities:

1. You’re doing something God doesn’t want you to do. He may be calling you into something else or wanting you to just stop and seek Him. He may want you to do this, but not quite yet. He may even be calling you to use a different approach to doing it. This is a wonderful time to pray and wait on God to teach you what He wants you to do.

2. You’re doing something for yourself instead of for Him. The heart is crafty. It will tell you you’re serving God and in the same breath tell you that you deserve something for your service. God will never bless your efforts to glorify yourself. You may succeed and be glorified, but it won’t be because He blessed you. And if it’s not His blessing, it’s not what’s best for you, no matter how good it seems.

3. God is working, either in you or in others, in ways you don’t see. When I started promoting my book on confidence, sales were dismal. I was a bit down about it (showing that I hadn’t yet mastered confidence myself), but my wife reminded me that God could have had me write it to reach just one person. And if that’s the only person who reads and is touched by the book, then it is worth it. We cannot measure success in God’s work by human standards. You can only measure by your obedience to, faith in, and love for Him. Serve Him with your whole heart and let Him take care of the results.

In the end, we can’t do anything for God. Our righteous works are as filthy rags. And He doesn’t want us to try to earn them. He wants our obedience and love, but He gives us these presents just because He loves us. No earning necessary. No earning possible.

Why Knowing the Father Is Essential to Being His Child

There are three fundamentals to having Christian confidence. Without any of them, you don’t have it, merely a shell or a caricature of it.

1. You, of yourself, have no real value. You are dirt that God breathed into and decided to love. Your accomplishments, good deeds, sacrifices, possessions, abilities, and even works for God don’t make you any more valuable to Him. Likewise, your failures, sins, fears, and struggles don’t make you less valuable. He doesn’t look at whether you’re attractive or ugly, rich or poor, important in the world’s eyes or not. He sees your heart and, if you’re a Christian, He sees His incredibly beloved son or daughter, made righteous through Jesus’ sacrifice.

You cannot, in any way, earn even a shred of value from Him, neither can you lose any. You are worth His Son’s death to Him, simply because He loves you. The cross is a big enough place for all of us to come and kneel, but there is no room for pride or ego there.

2. There is no position higher than what He is offering you for free. Anything you gain on earth is like Bill Gates finding a dirty penny on the street: so completely not worth his time or effort because of how little it increases his wealth. Likewise, because it is free and  not dependent on anything you do, you can’t sink so low that He won’t offer you this new identity or that you can lose it. It’s yours for the taking and there is nothing better on this earth.

3. To fully grasp it, you must know the Father. This is the crux of this post. Imagine for a moment that a stranger tells you you’re special. You may say thank you, but it’s kind of a weird compliment because he doesn’t know you. If he were to insult you instead, you might be offended, but you’d probably brush it off because he’s just a stranger. For his opinion to matter, he’d have to know you and you’d have to know him.

Many Christians don’t really know God on a deep, personal level. They have misconceptions about His character, His heart, and His love for them. A lot of us forget how powerful He is and so we don’t have a healthy fear of Him. We don’t read Psalm 56:8, which tells us that He doesn’t just love humanity in general, but each of us individually more passionately than the most ardent spouse ever could. We see Him as a willing Executioner, Peace-loving Hippie, Cosmic Vending Machine, Spare Tire, or something else. Even when we see part of Him correctly, such as Judge, High Priest, or King, we caricaturize Him as that rather than seeing the complete picture: that He’s these three things and so much more because He is our Father.

I don’t know the relationship you had with your father. It might be really close. Maybe it’s distant or rocky. Maybe you never even met him. What I do know is that nobody wants to be closer to you than God. Nobody loves you more or thinks better things about you. Nobody wants your best more than He does or is willing to sacrifice more for you.

And nobody else’s opinion of you is nearly as permanent and unwavering as His is.

Getting your identity from who you are to God requires that you know God, as He truly is, on a deep, personal level. Once you do, though, you’ll be able to accept that you are His son or daughter, simply because He loves you, and you’ll rush into His arms like a five-year old child when their daddy comes home.

What True Confidence Is and Why You Need It

What if I told you that most Christians were wasting the second biggest benefit of being a Christian? The biggest is naturally that we go to Heaven for eternity rather than Hell, but that does us little good until we die, meaning that the biggest benefit to us on earth is largely wasted. This is the life-changing part of the Gospel, the part that non-Christians will look at that makes them want to know Christ, and the part that can give you a greater victory than any victory you’ve been seeking. So, what is it?

You have a new identity in Christ once you become saved that makes you more valuable than building any empire, having any job, acquiring any amount of wealth or power, or being the most attractive person ever could make you. Once you are saved, you cease becoming who you were and you become Jesus’ friend, a child of God, and His heir. You become part of the church, the Bride of Christ. There is no position higher outside of being God Himself.

Read that again. Slowly. Even the angels don’t have that promise. They don’t have grace and 1 Peter 1:12 says they long to look into God’s salvation in our lives.

What does that mean for us? It means that we no longer have to fight for positioning on earth. No more slavery to things which give us our value. Think about what this is for you for a moment. Do you give your all to your job, so that one comment from your boss can ruin your day? Do you feel an almost compulsive need to have dinner ready on time for your husband and the house clean? Do you constantly try to get more money, even when you have enough? Everyone (at least, everyone I’ve ever known) has something that can make them feel worthless if it’s taken away or attacked. And nearly everyone will try to keep that from happening, meaning they can be manipulated or, more often, manipulate themselves, into doing what is necessary to protect their self-worth. Stay in a bad relationship so they won’t be alone? Yep. Work 55 hours a week? If that’s what it takes.

People enslave themselves to whatever gives them value. 

Jesus died not just to save you, but also that you could get your value from being God’s son or daughter. He died to set you free from your self-imposed slavery.

That’s what having true confidence is: knowing Whose child you are once you become saved. It’s not because you’re special and did something amazing because you can’t possibly earn this position. Ever. And this position is so much higher than anything on earth that fighting for position on earth is like two blue whales arguing over which of them is a millimeter longer.

This is not just God fulfilling our earthly desires so that we have enough. This is God giving us so much more than enough that what we’re seeking now doesn’t matter.

He does this for three reasons:

1. Because He knows that nothing you get when you’re getting your self-worth outside of Him will ever be enough because it won’t be permanent. There will always be another promotion, another relationship (or the fear that the one you’re in will fade or end), another possession to own, another achievement to earn. Always someone else to compete with. Always something new to win. There is never a point at which it is enough, at which you’ll truly be satisfied with yourself on a deep, permanent level.

2. Because He knows that you will cling to Him all the more tightly if you’re getting your sense of self-worth from Him. God doesn’t want our need for value to change; He simply wants to be where we get our value. We need to know Him as He truly is if we are to get our value from Him, and there is no way to do that save by seeking Him and spending time with Him.

3. Because it is when we stop competing with others that we are able to love them as He loves them. You cannot love someone while looking out for your needs and wants above theirs. You cannot truly love another person enough if you’re depending on them to tell you your value. It is only when you get your value from God alone that you are free of letting others’ opinions enslave you. It is this freedom, this peace that your God, your Father, loves you passionately that will make non-Christians notice the change in your life and want it for themselves.

True confidence, in short, is the freedom that comes with knowing you are a child of God, His heir, His friend, and the Bride of Christ. Nobody can take that away from you, and neither any failure nor any success can change that value. Once you become a Christian, you have this new identity available to you. All you have to do is embrace it.

The Larva Lesson: My Story of Transformation

I was suicidal, contemplating it almost daily. I had a fairly high-paying job, good health, a group of close friends, and respect at work. Yet I hated myself because I was and had always been single. Not having what I wanted most made all of what I had irrelevant. Worse, it made me desperate.

The InfoVisual.info site uses images to explain objects.I had tried asking women out in college, only to hear terrible excuses. I tried online dating, only to be told that I couldn’t be matched up with anyone within a 50-mile radius of a city of 400,000 people. I tried again after moving to the DC area (with well over 1 million people in the area) with the same result. I buried myself in my work, putting in 60, 70, and sometimes 80 or more hours a week, just so I didn’t have to think about my life. Those rare times when my workload was lighter, I’d slack off during the workweek, just so I could stay late and come in on the weekend. Often, I’d volunteer for projects or make up things to do.

And when the thing from which I took what shred of value I found in myself, my intellect, let me down, I’d beat myself up mentally, verbally, and even physically.

I was miserable and a hard person to be friends with. I was manipulative, often pouting at parties in part to get attention, and controlling. I could be generous and funny and a good listener, but these traits served to make me more frustrated when I’d be friends with a woman for six months, finally ask her out, and get rejected for all the other reasons listed.

Even finding God didn’t make me like myself. I was learning to love Him, but still hated everything about who I was.

What finally got me to change was realizing that I had a different identity if I was a Christian: I was no longer bound to the rules of how the world determines value, but a son of God, a far more important position than any I could ever attain. A position I couldn’t earn, and one I couldn’t lose. God led me to write a book on it and it was during the writing of the book that I learned many more of the principles of Christian self-confidence.

I’m not living the message perfectly yet, but even that is its own blessing. Because Christian self-confidence is based on what God thinks of you, there is no task to perform to get it. You can have it whenever you want.

Over the rest of this week, I’m going back to the basics of what Christian confidence means. I’ll be answering questions about confidence from some readers and others online, as well as just setting the foundation of why we need this confidence, how it differs from the world’s definition of confidence, and where to start getting it.

If there are any topics you’d specifically like me to address, feel free to comment below. Thanks!

Friday Poem: The Author

Quill Pen

As the author picked up his pen,
A thought ran through his head:
“How will they remember me when
My life’s spent and I’m dead?
Will they read the books I’ve written
And mourn the loss to art?
Will they say, ‘With work was he smitten;
Too bad he had no heart.’?
When they reflect back, will they smile
At each witty anecdote?
Or will they put my works on trial
And condemn all I wrote?
I trust the small things I do will tell
My love for people then,
And hope to be remembered well
When I set down this pen.