Trusting God With Our Whole Heart

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6

What a crazy time we’re living in. We collectively struggle with trust.

You hear one thing on the news and change the channel and hear something completely different. So, what are we to do? Where can we turn?

Our verses in Proverbs today clearly tell us that we can trust the Lord. And we can trust him with our whole heart. God tells us not to lean on our own understanding, but rather to acknowledge God in all our ways. But, I have to confess, I lean heavily at times on my own understanding. And when I do, I’m soon frustrated, wondering why things don’t seem to work out.

We are all works in progress. I have not arrived. I will still make mistakes and I’ll even blow it royally at times. But I’m so thankful that when I mess up, God invites me to come to him. And I can put my mistakes in his large, capable hands.

Growing up, I struggled with perfectionism. There are times I still wrestle with it. As a child, I wanted EVERYTHING to be perfect. I would write and re-write words because it had to be perfect. I picked up the hobby of drawing and would spend numerous hours on horse drawing because it just had to be perfect. Little did I know that when I went out on my own, that I’d be bringing my baggage with me. Perfectionism was neatly packed in one of my suitcases.

And years later, when I found myself overwhelmed and with health trouble because I was pushing myself too hard, I could finally fess up to this struggle. Do you want to know what helped me the most? While God always wants my best He doesn’t expect me to be perfect.

I still blow it sometimes, but God sees me through His blood that covers me, and I am forgiven. There is nothing I can do which will lessen God’s love for me and there’s nothing I can do that will make God love me more. Those words bring freedom. Does that mean He is always happy with me? No. But it means that He always has His arms open for me to come to Him.

As new believers we knew God would answer our prayers. God could do anything. But somewhere along the way, we began believing lies from the enemy. Lies like:

God is tired of answering your prayers.

God doesn’t care about you.

God is disappointed in you.

I’m so glad we can drench ourselves in the Word of God and the lies become obvious.

– God doesn’t grow weary (Isaiah 40:28).

– God encourages us to cast our cares on him because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7).

– God does not write us off when we do blow it, but when we ask for forgiveness, He removes our transgressions from us (Psalm 102:12).

I’m so glad God gave us his Word so we can meditate on what’s true and denounce the lies. When we are immersed in God’s Word we can love God wholeheartedly. Is there something stopping you from trusting God with your whole heart?

God loves you totally. And you can trust him with your whole heart. Listen to this song, “Half of my Heart”, by Nathan Peterson. May it bless you as it blesses me.

Let God Carry You

When you can’t take another step,
then let God carry you.
Not only can he lift you up,
He carries burdens, too.

Jeremiah 29:11 (IN CONTEXT)

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” – Jeremiah 29:11 

I am going to destroy what this verse means to you, but then I’m going to reframe it so you understand it better within it’s original context, and then you will love it even more when we’re done.

We often approach Jeremiah 29:11as a security blanket: God has a plan for me that is good, so clearly this suffering I’m going through will end soon and then my flourishing will begin! But that is not at all what God was promising to the Israelites, and it’s not what he’s promising us, either.

Author and blogger Mary DeMuth addresses our misunderstanding of this verse in her article, Jeremiah 29:11 Doesn’t Mean What You ThinkAs she explains, the heart of the verse is “not that we would escape our lot, but that we would learn to thrive” in the midst of it.

Here’s the context for Jeremiah 29: the Israelites were in exile, a punishment from God as a result of their disobedience. The prophet Jeremiah confronts the false prophet, Hananiah, who had boldly proclaimed that God was going to free Israel from Babylon in two years (spoiler alert: God doesn’t do this).

Jeremiah calls out Hananiah’s lie, and then states the promise we read in 29:11. God does indeed have a good plan for the Israelites, and it is a plan that will give them hope and a prospering future. Sounds good, right?

The thing is, before he shares this promise, just a few verses earlier, he gives them this directive from God: “seek the peace and the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (29:7)

This is not at all what the Israelites wanted to hear! They wanted to be told that they were going to go home. They wanted to be told that their suffering was going to end. Instead, God’s plan was for them to stay right where they were, and to help prosper the nation that enslaved them!

And then came the biggest blow of all. In verse 10, God says that he would fulfill this “after seventy years are completed in Babylon.” This meant that none in the current generation of Israelites would ever return to their home.

What a crushing thing to be told!

Mary DeMuth writes: Yes, of course God knows the plans He has for us. And ultimately He will give us a glorious future. But as we walk out our lives on this crazy earth, let’s remember that the best growth comes through persevering through trials, not escaping them entirely. And when we learn perseverance, we find surprising joy.

What hard thing are you currently going through? In the midst of your suffering, cling to Jeremiah 29:11, but cling to it for the right reason: not in the false hope that God will take away your suffering, but in the true, gospel confidence that he will give you hope in the midst of it.

Not Ashamed

James 5:10-11 says, “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured.

When James is writing this letter, Jews have been exiled from their homes and lost everything during widespread persecution. James offers them encouragement they can relate to: “Remember the prophets . . . they suffered, too.”

These early Jewish readers would immediately remember Hosea who suffered humiliation from his unfaithful wife, yet faithfully loved her and brought her back home as a sign of God’s faithfulness to His unfaithful people.

They would remember Jeremiah who fearlessly preached God’s Word to Israel even though God told him that not a single person would heed his message.

They would recall Micah who was also ridiculed for his message, and Zechariah who was murdered for his testimony.

They would remember Amos and Haggai who were persecuted for the sake of God’s Word; Isaiah who was placed in the hollow of a tree and sawn in half by his own people.

Who among them would forget the more recent prophet John the Baptist who was beheaded in a Roman prison because of his faithful ministry?

James is reminding his readers that if anyone had it tough, it was the prophets. They were mistreated, misunderstood, maligned and, many of them, murdered. Almost all of them lived difficult lives and died tragic deaths.

But James goes on to say that we count those blessed who have endured. Why? Because they are receiving the eternal reward for their ministry! James is reminding us that our present suffering is nothing compared to the glory that will be revealed to us one day in Christ Jesus.

The writer of Hebrews commends faithful men and women throughout the ages for their endurance. He writes: “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).

That last verse begins with a statement that is incredible: God is not ashamed to be called their God. That’s the blessing that awaits us one day as believers in Christ. Far more precious than a new heaven and a new earth, far greater than the glorified bodies we will receive as we step into immortality, vastly superior to the fact that we will be finally perfected and safely home is the fact that God will not be embarrassed by calling us His own . . . He will, in fact, be proud of us. What amazing grace is that?!

So don’t back down or walk away from a tough assignment today. Persevere in the life Christ has planned for you. And keep in mind it is no more difficult for us to live for Christ today than it was for the prophets of old.

One day, as the Father beams with pride over us (His frail and often-faltering children), every insult we bore and every injury we suffered, will no longer matter as they are exchanged for the rewards of His good pleasure.

Let’s follow in the footsteps of the prophets . . . today.

Marriage Running on Empty?

If the Devil can undermine the family, he can undermine the nation. I could point to almost every societal problem today, from addiction to abortion to incarceration, and in almost every case, I could trace it directly to the breakdown of the family.

We need to understand that our culture isn’t supportive of marriage. In fact, the culture we’re in today is, in many ways, hostile toward it. The family is under attack, and for good reason: the family is the foundation of our country.

That’s why it’s so important for families to draw the line and say, “No matter what this culture does, we’re going to do what God tells us to do.”

Yet sadly, I think many Christian marriages today are running on empty. Couples aren’t taking advantage of all the resources and power God makes available to them for a blessed, happy, successful, and lasting marriage.

Sometimes we think that marriage has a life all its own. We see a couple and think, “Oh, they have a marriage made in Heaven, don’t they? Look at them.”

However, a successful marriage doesn’t happen by accident. Rather, it’s because two people have put a lot of effort into it and are applying biblical principles.

You determine whether your marriage is strong or weak. You determine whether your marriage is successful or failing.

If you want your marriage to stand the test of time, then you need to do what God says. That’s because a strong and happy marriage is a result of obedience to God and His Word.

I believe that every Christian couple can have a blessed marriage. God has told us how to do this. It’s all there in the Bible for us to apply. 

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right” (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT).

If you stop waiting for your emotions and start doing what God tells you to do, you will see a difference in your marriage.

Quick to Forgive

“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT).

When I meet young couples who want to get married, I’ll ask them a few questions, including how long they’ve known each other. Then I’ll ask them whether they’ve ever had an argument.

Some of them say they’ve never disagreed about anything.

When that happens, I tell them to get out of my office and go have a good fight. I’m not referring to anything physical, of course. But what I am saying is they need to learn how to disagree, because you have to learn how to resolve conflict when you’re married.

You’ll have points of view that are different from those of your spouse, so it’s very important to listen to what he or she is saying. Hear the other person out and then respond with your point of view. Have a good exchange. But when the voices start rising and the tempers start flaring, it will be completely unproductive.

Cliff Barrows once said there are eight words you should be willing to say every day to your spouse: “I’m sorry,” “Please forgive me,” and “I love you.”

I would add these words as well: “It was my fault.”

Sometimes even the way we apologize isn’t really an apology at all. For instance, we might say, “I’m sorry if you thought I was saying that, because that was not my intention. So if what I said hurt your feelings, it’s because you misunderstood me.”

Here’s an actual apology: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

When you and your spouse have a conflict, who will be the first to resolve it? Whatever tension the two of you are experiencing, if you would simply say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I love you,” you would be amazed at how much good that will do.

Today is more practical but it is spiritual as well. The Lord says that if we come to the altar and have a problem with ANYONE we are to go and make that right then return to the altar. Yes…our relationships with each other can hinder our walk with God.

So today’s encouragement? Be quick to forgive.

A Prayer for our Children’s Hearts

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word. – Psalm119:36-37 

I write this to you as a daddy who is in the trenches of raising two kids. And by trenches, I don’t mean the literal dirt tunnels in the ground. But I do mean that place of being low at times, weary, on the edge, preparing to fight the enemy and defend those I love. Trenches are mainly used in times of war, and while there are no earthly battles raging in my home, there is no question in my mind that we (Kels and myself) are in a spiritual battle for our children. The sights, sounds, and voices that they are bombarded with every day lead them to question so much. To wonder how what we, as Godly parents, are teaching them fits in with the rest of the world.

And y’all, there are days my tears flow, as I allow fear and worry and feelings of failure to wash over me. As I recall conversations and questions my children (Especially Elyse) asked and wonder if I missed valuable opportunities to point to Him. As I recall times I did point to Him, but wonder if I did Him justice. It’s hard. It’s just hard.

But there is one thing I know. In those times, I so often hear the Lord say, “Give them to me, Seth. Give them to me.” And I try. I lay them down… for a while. But next thing you know, I’ve picked them back up again. And I can feel it. I can feel the weight and the pressure I put on myself to carry them, to try and keep them turned toward Him. It happens most often as the “what-ifs” enter my mind. But the truth is, the turning isn’t mine to do.

Numerous times in the Bible, the Lord’s people turned away from Him or turned their backs on Him (Jeremiah 32:22, Psalm 95:10, Hosea 11:7). And if I really get down to it, that’s my worst fear. That my children would turn away from the Lord… and toward the things and people of this world. Exchanging a hope in the One who will never leave them for hope in a world that will always disappoint.

So today, I simply come as a daddy sharing his heart with you. Asking you to stand with me, prepared for battle, refusing to give in to fear and the “what-ifs.” Together, let’s pray without ceasing for our kids, pointing them to scripture, loving them well, and striving daily to lay them back at His feet. Because the truth is, they were His first. And He loves them even more than we do.

In our own pride and strength, we are powerless to turn their hearts to Him. But in our humility and weakness, as we model how much we need Him, the Lord can and will do more than we ever ask or imagine.

The Bible & Stealing

A 2018 survey by the National Retail Federation found that theft is costing American retailers an average of 1.33 percent of sales annually. That translates to a loss of $46.8 billion annually across the retail industry.

The eighth of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15 NKJV), yet theft has become so common that we don’t even notice things like gas station clerks working behind bulletproof glass or security cameras monitoring our every move both indoors and out on the streets.

That’s how pervasive theft is in our culture today. And to all of this, God says, “You shall not steal.” Not only is stealing a crime, but it’s a sin.

Here’s what the Bible says about stealing: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28 NKJV).

This verse tells us three very practical things about stealing. First, those who’ve been stealing should no longer do it. And if they’ve taken something from someone, they should give it back because it doesn’t belong to them.

Second, we should do something useful. Like it or not, the Bible teaches that we’re to earn a living by working (read 2 Thessalonians 3:10). The world doesn’t owe us a living, and neither does the government.

Third, we should share what we have with others. This is the opposite of stealing. Socialism has become very popular in our culture today especially among younger Americans who think it’s a new way of life that we should adopt for our nation.

But the Bible doesn’t advocate socialism. Instead, the sharing that the Bible advocates for is voluntary. Therefore, we should share with others instead of take from them because everything we have comes from God.

What Will You Do With Jesus This Easter?

Recently, I saw a social media poll: “Who was the greatest human who ever lived?”

The top 10 responses varied from the physicist Albert Einstein to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln to English playwright William Shakespeare. But one of the responses was Jesus Christ … coming in at second place.

As a Christian, I was a little aggravated. Not because Jesus was awarded the runner-up trophy but because many people view Jesus as JUST a human! Yes, he was

People often think of Jesus as ONLY a great human being or a superior moral teacher, ranking Him alongside founders of other prominent world religions. Still others label Him a lunatic for asserting to be God. And yet another segment of society dubs Him the greatest conman who ever lived, as though He amassed a following by false declarations of divinity.

Our thoughts about Jesus and His claims spill over into our actions because what we think ABOUT Jesus determines what we do WITH Him. And what we do with Him here on earth affects our eternal destiny.

Pilate, the governor of Judea, addressed a gathering crowd. He posed an important question that explores not only what the crowd thought about Jesus but what they wanted done with Him: “Pilate asked them, ‘What should I do then with Jesus, who is called Christ?’” (Matthew 27:22a).

The crowd cried out for Jesus to be crucified. To them, He was an offender of the Law who must be done away with immediately. Others were also present as Jesus was betrayed, arrested, crucified and then resurrected three days later. What did they, in essence, “do” with Jesus?

The leading religious leaders had Him captured and killed. Judas Iscariot betrayed Him. The soldiers in attendance mocked Him. Bystanders misunderstood Him when He tried to speak from the cross.

However, not all reacted to Him adversely. Some women brought spices and perfume to the grave and were the first to announce the news that Christ had risen from the dead! And the centurion who witnessed the death of Jesus — which included the curtain of the sanctuary tearing in two from top to bottom, the earth quaking, rocks splitting and the tombs of many saints opening, bringing them back to life — had perhaps the most accurate view of Jesus. This centurion cried out, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

Isn’t it amazing that people can come to such different conclusions in their thinking about one single soul? But as interesting as it is to ponder their varied responses, the most important question this Easter season is: “What will WE do with Jesus?”

Will we be content to keep Him nonchalantly grouped with other “good teachers” who urge love, good deeds and peace on earth? Might we possibly misunderstand Christ, never having taken the time to study who He really is? Or do we ignore Him altogether, leaving Him tucked away inside the pages of the Bible but sadly absent from our day-to-day lives?

Here is what we CAN do with Jesus: Believe who He says He is. Trust Him and allow Him to change our hearts. Continually seek to discover more about Him through studying the Bible, talking to Him in prayer and connecting with other believers. Follow the plan of salvation. Live a life that is pleasing to Him by putting into practice principles from His Word. Proclaim Him to everyone. Never back down when following Him becomes difficult and costly.

Just what will YOU do with Jesus this Easter? Your answer is perhaps the most important one you will ever give.

A Lovely Idea

C. S. Lewis said, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive.”

A study on forgiveness found that 75 percent of those polled believed that God forgave them for past sins. But only 52 percent said they had forgiven others.

However, in what we call the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us, “Pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. . . Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us’” (Matthew 6:9, 12 NLT).

If you’re a born again believer in Jesus Christ, then you’re a forgiven person. And forgiven people should be forgiving people.

Of course, life is filled with hurt and disappointments. We’ve all been hurt in life. And sometimes we don’t mean to do it, but we hurt others in life as well. That is why we must forgive.

You may remember someone who has hurt you as an enemy. You even have feelings to this day when you think about them. And maybe you’re saying, “You don’t understand what this person has done to me. I can never, ever forgive them.”

Yet Scripture doesn’t simply suggest forgiveness; it commands it. Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (NLT). And Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT).

I like this advice from popular author, Max Lucado: “Before you get caught in the crazy cycle of hurt and forgiveness, try shifting your glance away from the one who hurt you and setting your eyes on the One who has saved you.”

If you want to live a happy, healthy, and blessed life, then you must learn how to forgive.

Starting Again

From the belly of the fish, Jonah probably thought that God would never use him again—and God certainly was under no obligation to do so.

But then we read this: “Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach. Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you’” (Jonah 2:10; Jonah 3:1-2 NLT).

All of this happened because God loved Jonah. And this should give hope to anyone who feels the need for a second chance in life.

God gave a second chance to Adam and Eve, our first parents. He strictly warned them not to eat the forbidden fruit, but they did it anyway. And sin entered into the world.

God could have said, “That’s it! I’m starting over again.”

Yet we read that Adam and Eve “heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. Then the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (Genesis 3:8-9 NLT). God still was longing for fellowship with his wayward son.

God gave King David a second chance after David committed adultery and then murder, which he did to cover up his adultery. When the prophet Nathan confronted David, he repented. And God gave him a second chance.

Finally, Simon Peter failed miserably, denying the Lord three times. Yet after Christ rose from the dead, this message was sent out: “Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died” (Mark 16:7 NLT).

Even when we fail miserably, God gives second chances. Your situation isn’t hopeless. God can change your whole story.