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All or Nothing

All or Nothing

I am preparing for an upcoming trip where I will have the opportunity to recite the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) from memory.  I did this at our church several years ago and have been working on refreshing it for the trip.  While doing so, I remembered one (among many) striking and powerful lessons to be drawn from the greatest sermon ever preached.

There is a fascinating grammatical anomaly in 5:6— “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied”— that has to be mentioned if we are to truly interpret Jesus’ words in this verse with accuracy.  In Greek, it is a rule of good grammar that verbs of hungering and thirsting are followed by nouns in the genitive case.  The genitive is often expressed in English with the word “of.”  Examples of the genitive in English would be “peace of mind,” “love of God,” “object of faith.”  Why does the genitive follow nouns of hungering and thirsting in Greek?  Because only the genitive case can give the partitive sense.  That means the object is desired only in part and this is why it used with hunger and thirst.  For example, when you say, “I’m hungry,” you are saying you are hungry for only part of the food on the table and not all of it.  In English, it is understood that when you come to the table and say, “I’m hungry.  That looks good.  I can’t wait to eat it,” it is understood that you have no intention of eating every bit of food on the table but will only eat your share.  In Greek this can be delineated in the partitive genitive.

The striking thing in this verse is that when Jesus says blessed is the man who is hungry for righteousness, “righteousness” is not in the genitive, but in the accusative.  In the accusative, this means you do want the entire thing.  In the genitive, “pass the bread” would mean “pass the bread so that I may have a piece of it.”  In the accusative, “pass the bread” would mean “pass every piece of bread on the table to me because I am going to eat it all.”

This is so important that Matthew wrote it in this way because it is how we ought to be toward righteousness— doing God’s will.  We treat God’s will too many times like the genitive- we only want to do parts of it.  We say, “God I want to love you and follow you, but…”  and what comes next is something to satisfy our selfish/sinful desires.  To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to follow God on his terms, not ours.  We’re not truly hungering and thirsting for God if we want to mix sinfulness in with it.  Jesus affirms in this verse in the Sermon on the Mount what the Scripture says so often about following God— it is not an and/or proposition (having God and the world), but rather an either/or construct.  Jesus said in Matthew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

In our daily lives, let’s strive to hunger and thirst for all of God’s will and Word, not just the parts that suit us, or those accepted by the world, or are easy, but all of it.

Al Trautwig, Simone Biles, and the Complexities of Adoption

Al Trautwig, Simone Biles, and the Complexities of Adoption

164887As adoptive parents, my wife and I have many times been the recipients of insensitive comments regarding the nature of our parental status.  Most of these comments, generally involving someone wanting to know about our daughter’s “real” parents, are offered in a completely benign manner not wishing to cause any offense.  We have taken the approach to simply let such comments slide and give people the benefit of the doubt.  I have found that most people who are not themselves adopted or who have never adopted a child find adoption to be a wonderful thing, but struggle with how to talk about it in ways they know will be affirming.

The situation surrounding NBC’s Olympics coverage of women’s gymnastics is a reminder that understanding and talking about adoption can be a complicated thing. My family oooed and awwwed at the thrilling feats of Simone Biles- a young woman who must certainly be the archenemy of gravity!  We were even more enthralled with her when we learned of her story- that she had been adopted by her maternal grandfather and his wife.  Our adopted daughter especially loves that Simone, like her, is adopted.  NBC commentator Al Trautwig referred to Ron and Nellie Biles in the broadcast as Simone’s grandparents rather than her parents. This quickly drew rage from many on social media.  I personally did not think this was a significant issue, although if Simone refers to Ron and Nellie as her parents, then others should, too.

The rub came when Trautwig responded to one of his critics on Twitter by stating, “They may be mom and dad but they are NOT her parents.”  Admittedly, that was a dumb thing to say and Trautwig has since apologized.  Yes, we may be playing a semantics game here and trying to grapple with the implied or otherwise use of the term “biological” and “adoptive.”  But what I would like for Mr. Trautwig and others to realize before making comments about adoption is to first and foremost see it through the eyes of the adopted child.  One thing every adopted child has in common is some sense of loss and/or grief.  Those who have been adopted have to work through questions like, “I wonder what life would have been like if I were raised by my biological parents?  What are my biological parents like?  What were the circumstances that caused them to be unable to raise me?”  Some adopted children know these answers in part and some know nothing.  Incidentally, there are those in an adopted child’s life who know these answers but should be sensitive about divulging such information as the adopted child needs to grow into their understanding of their own unique situation.  Questions of “what might have been” and “why did it happen this way,” even in very positive family environments, usually leave an adopted person feeling sad to some degree.

Enter the adoptive parents.  To an adopted child, these people are Mom and Dad.  Period.  Any sense of loss or sadness is relieved to a great degree in the love, provision, and comfort these parents provide.  As such, to the child the adoptive parents are Mom and Dad and equivocations about “real” parents are trifling.  Thus, to Simone Biles, Ron and Nellie are Mom and Dad.  And we should leave it at that.  Was Trautwig’s comment on Twitter some kind of statement that we should not ignore the deficiencies of Biles’ biological mother- especially with the word “not” in capital letters?  I don’t know, but I do know that when a person addresses adoptive families in an attempt to be arbiter or judge of the families’ situation it will have an outcome that is off-putting at best and painful at worst.  And we adoptive parents need to do our best to show grace to those who might misspeak regarding our families knowing that most are simply trying to show they care.

In the end, if an adopted child sees their adoptive parents as Mom and Dad then that’s exactly what they are.  Rest assured the adoptive parents see themselves that way as well.  Adoption is a beautiful, powerful thing.  Let’s do our best to not muddle it with presumptions or ill-thought out comments.  Adoptive parents are very much Mom and Dad.

Whatever Happened to the “John 3:16 Guy?”

Whatever Happened to the “John 3:16 Guy?”

john_316_031One of the most amazing things to me about God’s love is that the cause of his love for us is found solely in him, not us.  There is nothing about us and nothing we have done to make God love us.  He loves us because he has chosen to love us (Deut. 7:7-8; Eph. 1:4-5).  What an amazing thought that if we have done nothing to cause God to love us, then we can do nothing to cause God to stop loving us!

When we are confronted with such amazing love, how can we remain the same?  The fact that God loves us so much that he sacrificed his only Son for us is strong motivation for life-change.  As followers of Christ we bear the message of God’s love and must live it out in our lives.

A tragic example of someone who carried the message of God’s love, but failed to reflect it in his life was Rollen Stewart.  Most people don’t know his name, but they would recognize a photo of him.  Stewart was known as the “John 3:16 guy” who wore a rainbow wig and was seen in the background at sporting events during the late 70s and 80s with a sign that read John 3:16.  For a while he was almost a fixture on the screen during field goal attempts and behind home plate.  Sadly, Stewart believed God was telling him to spread the truth of John 3:16 in ways incompatible with the message.  He ignited some stink bombs at professional golf tournaments and blew an air horn in the middle of Jack Nicklaus’ backswing.

By 1992, Stewart believed the rapture was imminent. Despondent that no one would believe him, he took a maid hostage in a hotel at LAX and began shooting at airplanes taking off and landing from the airport.  He is currently in prison serving three consecutive life terms for his crimes.  Sadly, Stewart is an illustration of someone who held a powerful message of life-change, but failed to properly apply it to his own life.  He carried a sign, but didn’t live by what it said.

John 3:16 is the message of God’s love that seeks to transform who we are to be holy and loving like him.  We cannot inoculate ourselves with messages like John 3:16 if it becomes so familiar to us we forget the change it is meant to have on our lives.

Why Does God Love Me?

Why Does God Love Me?

I was reading recently where an author posed a thought-provoking concept—what if every thought you’ve ever had could be written down in a transcript.  For all of us, that would be an embarrassing document.  Thoughts of violence, lust, pride, greed, and unabashed selfishness have all passed through the corridors of our minds.  Undoubtedly, most of us have had evil thoughts of which even those closest to us are unaware.  And while our every thought may remain hidden from others, they are no secret to God.  David declared in Psalm 139:1-3- “O Lord, you have searched me and known me!… You discern my thoughts from afar… and are acquainted with all my ways.”

As I pondered this idea of God knowing every thought I’ve ever had, of him reading through this transcript of my thoughts, I was completely overwhelmed with the fact that he loves me anyway.  If we think about it, there is a great deal that is unlovable and ugly about us—especially to a perfectly holy God.  I do not deserve God’s love, and yet I read about his love for me time and again in the Scripture.  How can this be?

An illustration has helped me understand God’s love.  In Western Colorado there is a section of US Route 550 from Silverton to Ouray called the Million Dollar Highway. Looking at the road, built in altitude and through mountains, one might think the nickname “Million Dollar Highway” came from its expense to build.  However, the name comes from the fact that waste material from the ore in old gold mines was used as the bed for the highway.  The mining processes at the time the ore was discarded did not allow for all of the gold nuggets and dust to be extracted.  As a result, there is a partial roadbed of gold lying underneath that section of the highway that probably is worth much more than a million dollars.  Here is a picture of the Million Dollar Highway:


Looking at the road, winding through mountains, it appears to have been expensive to construct.  But what gave the road its name was that which was inside it—what is unseen with the eye.  And so it is with us.  On the outside, there is nothing that would merit God loving me.  My words, actions, and thoughts in a transcript would deem me of little to no value to God.  But God does not love me because of what I have done, or haven’t done, or for what I look like, or my level of education, or where I live, or my family lineage.  He loves me because of what cannot be seen, namely that I am created in the image of God.  God loves me simply because he chooses to love me.  No action on my part warrants his love for me in the first place and no action of mine will cause his love for me to stop.  He loves me because he is love. 1 John 4:16- “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love...”

I cannot allow the fact of God’s unending and unchanging love for me regardless of who I am or what I do to be a license for living however I want.  Rather, such amazing love compels me to live for my heavenly Father with discipline and passion.  And on those days when I make a mistake and grieve the heart of God (which is more often than not), how comforted I am by the fact that God’s love for me never changes and encourages me to continue to walk in faith and his love.

Surrendering Everything But Myself

Surrendering Everything But Myself

iStock_000017794376XSmall-editedWhen the first disciples of Jesus started to follow him, Jesus asked them “What are you seeking?” (John 1:35-42).  He wanted to know if they would follow him on his terms, or if they merely wanted to follow on their own terms to seek some selfish benefit.  This same question is one we must ask ourselves.  In seeking to follow Christ, are you doing so to benefit yourself in some way, or are you willing to come to him in complete surrender?  We often try to bargain with God at this point.  We want to give God anything but ourselves. We will give him our money, even when it pains us to do so.  We might give him some of our time.  Some parents have even given him their children who are called to the mission field.  But we will not give ourselves!

We are like Jacob at the brook Jabbok in Gen. 32.  Jacob had been gone from his homeland for many years because he feared his brother Esau whom he had cheated out of his birthright.  However, while gone Jacob had become wealthy with large herds of livestock, servants, and family.  He sought to return home and started out boldly, but the closer he came to Esau’s territory, the more frightened he became.  He wondered whether Esau would still carry out his threat to kill him.  Jacob became terrified when he reached the brook Jabbok (the boundary of Esau’s territory) and sent over a servant to see if Esau knew he was coming.  The servant reported that Esau did in fact know of Jacob’s pending arrival and was on his way to greet him with 400 armed men!

Jacob pondered his predicament and decided on a strategy.  He called a servant and placed 200 ewes in his charge.  He said, “Pass over before me.  And when you come to Esau and he shall ask, ‘Who are you?  And to whom do these ewes belong?’ then you shall say, ‘They belong to your brother Jacob, and they are a present for you.’” Jacob thought that he might win Esau’s favor by this plan.  After the 200 sheep he sent 20 rams, and he gave the same charge to the servant who was sent with them.  After the 20 rams he sent 30 camels, then 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 donkeys, and 10 horses, each in a group by itself.  Then Jacob sent over all the servants and the handmaids and then he sent over Leah (the unfavored wife) with her children.  Finally, he sent over Rachel (the favored wife) and her children.  Jacob sent across the brook everything he had save one— himself.

We can be like Jacob. We give money, time, etc. but never really surrender ourselves.  That night after Jacob had sent over all he had an angel came and wrestled with him and brought him to the point of surrender.  It was only after Jacob surrendered himself to God that the Lord used him in a mighty way for his fellow people.  What side of the Jabbok are you on?  Have you given just about everything you can think of to God except yourself?  Is there still that one thing you cling to that you refuse to surrender to his lordship?  To truly follow Christ, we must die to ourselves and become his.  1 Cor. 6:19-20- “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.”

Back to Jesus’ question- What are you seeking?  He invites those to follow him who will die to themselves and surrender all.

The Lamb Over Me

The Lamb Over Me

agnus deiJohn the Baptist declared that Jesus was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  He clearly used the title and imagery of a sacrificial lamb based on its frequent use in the Old Testament.  Most prominently, in Exodus 12, the Israelites were instructed that in order for the angel of death to pass over their homes and spare the first born, they had to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood over the doorpost.  The first mention of a lamb as a sacrifice is found in the account of Abraham walking up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac.  Gen. 22:7-8- “[Isaac] said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  The question Isaac asked is in the background of the entire Old Testament- “Where is the Lamb?”  The people in Old Testament times knew that the sacrifice of animals would never suffice as an atonement for human sin.  The people were looking for an ultimate sacrifice that would once for all redeem mankind.  The Old Testament ends with no better answer than the one Abraham gave to Isaac- “God will provide the lamb.”  But as the New Testament begins, John the Baptist declared an answer that had been centuries in the making- “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, sacrificed his life on the cross as the final and sufficient sacrifice for the sin of mankind.  1 Pet. 3:18- “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”  We are made right with God on the basis of Christ’s work as the sacrificial Lamb of God.

Recently someone showed me that the symbol for the word “righteousness” in the Chinese language is the symbol for the word “lamb” placed over the symbol for the word “me.”  What an amazing thought- being right with God is the Lamb over me!


At the cross, Jesus Christ died in our place shedding his blood as a payment for sin and covering us in his righteousness.  This results in salvation and eternal life for all who believe and follow Christ as Lord.  How grateful I am for the wonderful testimony of John the Baptist regarding Jesus- “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Learning About Law and Grace from the Chicago Cubs

Learning About Law and Grace from the Chicago Cubs

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.27.49 PMI am often asked by people about the relationship of law to grace in the Bible.  What is confusing is how Scripture seems to contradict itself on the value of the law.  In one verse we may read that the law is bad (Rom. 8:3), but in another that it is good (Rom. 7:7).  The answer is that the law is both of these.  The law is good in that it reveals our sin to us.  None of us can live up to the demands of the law on our own and achieve God’s perfect standard.  However, the law is weak in that it is unable to save us.  The law can only point to something greater than itself, grace, for our salvation.

A helpful way to view the relationship between law and grace is to look at the Chicago Cubs in 1988.  In that year, the Cubs traded for third baseman Vance Law and brought up a new first baseman from the minor leagues named Mark Grace.  For two straight years, the Cubs infield was anchored by Law and Grace.  When a batter hit a ground ball to Law at third, he would scoop it up and throw it to Grace at first (I chuckle at imagining Harry Caray make the call!)

In the same way, the law scoops us up and tells us we have failed to perfectly meet God’s righteous standard as written in the law.  So, it throws us over to grace whereby we can be saved, not by our own sin-tainted deeds, but by the perfect work of Christ at the cross and resurrection.  The apostle Paul explains this in Eph. 2:8-9- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

It’s good to be informed we are lost in our sin and even better to know that in his grace, Jesus provided for us the salvation that we could not provide for ourselves.  Take a moment today and thank God for his amazing grace!

The Rich (Poor) Family in Church

The Rich (Poor) Family in Church

welfarepovertyI have had so many people ask me for a copy of the story I read at the end of the message last weekend from Gal. 2:1-10 I decided to put it on my blog. The story is by a woman named Eddie Ogan who tells of her family growing up in the 1940’s who was materially very poor, but spiritually very rich. This is her story:

I’ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12 and my older sister Darlene was 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving Mom with seven school kids to raise and no money. By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.

When we got home we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our grocery money for the offering. When we thought that if we kept our electric lights turned out as much as possible and didn’t listen to the radio, we’d save money on that month’s electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on pot holders.

That month was one of the best of our lives. Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we’d sit in the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so we figured that whatever amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much. After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the sacrificial offering.

The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn’t care that we wouldn’t have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering. We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We didn’t own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn’t seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly. I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses. I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.

When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20 bill. As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch Mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn’t say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills. Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn’t talk, just sat and stared at the floor.

We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn’t have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night. We had two knifes that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn’t have a lot of things that other people had, but I’d never thought we were poor. That Easter day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor.

I didn’t like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed, I didn’t even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor! I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed.

All that week we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday Mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with money? We didn’t know. We’d never known we were poor. We didn’t want to go to church on Sunday but Mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day we didn’t talk on the way. Mom started to sing but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, “Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?” We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week. Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope.

She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering. When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn’t expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, “You must have some rich people in this church.” Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that “little over $100.” We were the rich family in the church! Hadn’t the missionary said so? From that day on I’ve never been poor again.

I’ve always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!

What a Marathon and Donald Sterling Taught Me About Loving People

What a Marathon and Donald Sterling Taught Me About Loving People

runnersmarathonEarlier this week I ran the OKC marathon. It was my third full marathon to run, but my first time to run the OKC Memorial. The race started two hours late due to storms, pushing the event deeper into the humidity, heat, and wind of the day. This made for brutal conditions. My time was really bad and it was by far the worst I had done at a marathon. However, I wanted to run the marathon closest to where I live and experience the significance of what this race means since it is connected to the memory of the bombing of the Murrah Building.

In every marathon I have run one of the things that strikes me most is the incredibly wide variety of people who are running. If you like to people watch, you should definitely run a marathon! There are big and small people, old and young people, mean and kind people, loud and quiet people, and slow and fast runners. I saw shirts with profanity and profane statements and I saw shirts with Bible verses. One gentleman in his sixties was singing out loud the soundtrack to the movie Frozen. I saw a guy running in flip flops and another guy barefoot. Some were running to honor the memory of a loved one. One husband and wife ran the whole 26.2 miles pushing their child in a stroller. A firefighter ran the entire marathon in his fire fighting gear including oxygen tank. In those conditions on that day, I can’t imagine how difficult that was.

All this to say, when it comes to a marathon “it takes all types.” In observing these people, some inspired me. Some made me laugh. Some made me want to be angry. Others disappointed me. Some made me ask, “What are they thinking?” and “Why would they do that?” or “Why would they wear that?” And as I was observing this variety of people, the Lord reminded me these are the ones He came to save. Jesus did not die just for the people that I “like,” that encourage me, and are similar to me, but also for the ones who offend me, are nothing like me, and make me want to shake my head. The marathon is a fitting microcosm of when the Bible says, “For God so loved the world…”

How important it is to remember this truth in a world that still contains those with the mindset of a Donald Sterling, the LA Clippers owner who recently made egregious racist remarks. As NBA on TNT analyst Kenny Smith noted, “Racism is a refuge for ignorance.” How very true. The thought that I might be better than someone because they physically look different from me is repugnant- and stupid. The thought that God would withhold His love and salvation for the same reason is just as indescribably abhorrent.

I hope you will pause today and remember that God loves everyone. Everyone. Regardless of what they look like, what they say, what they wear, or how they conduct themselves. He created them, cares for them, and calls them to follow Him. In light of this fact, we need to be careful of how we perceive others and how we treat them. Let’s be conduits of God’s grace and Gospel to all the people we encounter.

When Your Heart Needs Renewal

When Your Heart Needs Renewal

sad-girl-sitting-aloneThomas Gouge was a 17th century Puritan pastor known for his charitable work in England as well as the author of numerous books .  Below is an excerpt from his book A Word to Sinners and a Word to Saints where he reminds his readers of the simple, yet powerful, solution for hearts that need to be renewed or refreshed.  I think you will find his description of the heart in need one to which we all can relate.

Are you bound under any spiritual infirmities?  Do what those sick and diseased persons did when Christ was upon the earth.  They came to Him in faith; believing He was both able and willing to cure them; whereby they drew virtue from Him for their healing.

Are you troubled for the weakness of your faith, complaining that you have no assurance of your interest in Christ; no assurance of the pardon of your sins?  Go to Christ by prayer for the increase of faith, believing that He is able and willing to strengthen your weak faith.

Are you assaulted by the temptations of Satan, and do you fear that he may get the victory over you?  Go to Christ by prayer for strength and support against the enemy, believing there is power in Christ to strengthen you.  Lust, as strong as it is, will not be able to stand before the prayer of faith.

Are you troubled with a hard and obdurate [stubborn] heart?  With a filthy and unclean heart?  With a worldly and covetous heart?  With a proud and barren heart?  Go to Christ by prayer, believing there is a power and a willingness in Him to modify your hard and obdurate heart; to purify your filthy and unclean heart; to spiritualize your worldly and covetous heart; to humble your proud heart; and to make fruitful your barren heart.

Certainly one special reason why so many go drooping and groaning so long under the weight and burden of their spiritual maladies and diseases, is because they do not go to Christ by prayer for freedom from the same, or through the weakness of their faith, they do not believe Christ is able or willing to help and deliver them.  For what Christ said to the poor man who came to Him in behalf of his possessed child, the same He says to you: “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mark 9:23).

If your heart is hard, struggling with sin, doubt, pride/selfishness, grief, etc. have you actually talked to Jesus about it?  Have you described in detail to God the condition of your heart and your struggles with it?  It’s surprising how many of us who are struggling have abandoned praying specifically to God.  Talk to God and ask God for what you need and believe that He is not only able, but also willing, to change your heart.  Don’t give up on praying.  Don’t give up on the discipline, work, and effort that is your part in changing your heart.  But don’t forget the most important thing- praying consistently to God to change you and relying on His transforming power.