Wholehearted #Faith


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By Patricia Knight

When Scripture refers to the heart, it does not allude to the muscular pump located in our left chest. Heart and soul were commonly interchanged in Greek literature. The soul is identified as our invisible psyche where Jesus abides. The heart/soul symbolizes our intellectual, moral, and emotional control central. It contains personality, shelters memory and love, the longing for God, and is the only part of a believer transported to heaven immediately following physical death.

In modern times our hearts are described as the epicenter of our emotions and worship. It is a wellspring of life in which wickedness must not be allowed to take root. Jesus knows the thoughts and motives of our hearts at all times, discerning whether we are wholeheartedly devoted to him alone, hard-hearted unbelievers, or indifferent to His love and sacrifice. “For the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9).

God is involved in the heart affairs of our lives. He is far more interested in our souls, the inner characteristics of a follower of Christ, than with our outward features.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Amaziah was 25 years old when he became king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly” (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2a). Amaziah typically manifested obedience toward the Lord, but after conquering a pagan country, he brought their gods home. “He set them up as his own gods, bowed down to them, and burned sacrifices to them. The anger of the Lord burned against Amaziah” (2 Chronicles 25:14-15).

Amaziah began his 29 year reign as king with zeal and determination to uphold God’s laws. What caused Amaziah’s downfall? At one time he apparently served the Lord with his whole heart. Though we have few details of King Amaziah’s  career, evidently he suffered gradual loss of commitment and devotion to his Lord and to his people. Selfishness and greed replaced wholehearted devotion. He no longer possessed intense passion for leading a nation with God as his priority and guide.

To serve God wholeheartedly is to express in thought or action, in the most exuberant but sincere way, with every part of one’s being, a dynamic commitment to walk with our Lord. Jesus commanded, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you  love your neighbor as well as you do yourself’” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

What do our individual lives disclose about our heart focus? Do we display the fervent desire to serve God? Do we possess the eagerness and energy that should flood our hearts when we pray? Exhilarating joy bursts into wholehearted service when we are committed wholly to our Lord. Jesus gave His life as the ultimate gift to redeem our sins and to secure for us eternal life. As our response, Jesus expects a wholehearted relationship of absolute devotion, intense love, and unmitigated obedience. Jesus then extends to us dynamic power to follow his commandments.

Caleb was one of twelve Israeli men sent into the Promised Land for a fact-finding mission. Upon their return, ten of the spies claimed exaggerated details, intending to evoke fear among the masses. Caleb and Joshua presented realistic, encouraging information, asking the people to depend upon God’s power to lead them into triumphant victory in the new land. “God said, ‘Because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to’” (Numbers 14:24).

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Many parents instruct their children from an early age, “Do a job well or don’t do it at all.”  If secular teaching devalues half-hearted efforts, our love and service for our Lord must attain a much higher standard. “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

The adverse of wholeheartedness toward God was best exemplified by the Pharaoh of Egypt at the time Moses was negotiating release of the nation of Israel from slavery. God created ten major, horrific plagues affecting every aspect of the Egyptian’s lives. With each increasingly ugly plague, Pharaoh weakened his resolve to let God’s people go, until he begged Moses to appeal to God to discontinue the most current plague. Exhibiting patience and mercy, God granted Pharaoh’s request. But, when Pharaoh witnessed evidence of relief from the plagues, he sunk into his old behavior with an unyielding hard heart, ultimately refusing to permit the Israelites to travel. Pharaoh’s hardened heart revealed a consistently sinful life of unbelief, dispassion, and bitterness.

Hardheartedness implies refusal to take God and His Word seriously. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened by his own deceit. Later, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart permanently to accomplish His purpose of releasing His children from slavery. If it had been available in Pharaoh’s lifetime, his heart/soul ECG would have printed a straight line of apathy and death.

Suppose your name and life accomplishments were included in Scripture, exposed for all generations to read.  Would God declare you as wholeheartedly devoted to Him? Or, would He have to clarify, as He did for King Amaziah, that you did right in God’s eyes, but not wholeheartedly? There are times in life when we display eager enthusiasm, animated dedication, or intense thirst. We love a spouse wholeheartedly; we often pursue a hobby with energy and commitment; we may thirst after knowledge. Most of us would accept a financial windfall with wholehearted ecstasy.

Why is a wholehearted lifestyle often applied to our physical endeavors, but ignored in our spiritual relationship to our Savior? Jesus desires that we open our heart/soul as His residence, to proclaim complete trust and zeal toward Him. Our relationship then becomes a wholehearted witness to the world that we are passionate and effervescent about serving our Savior. Let us perfect our wholehearted health and outreach, glorifying our Lord as we serve Him and others.

“So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective” (Colossians 3:1-2,The Msg.).

Faith is a wholehearted affair!

#Faith the Size of a Mustard Seed

Holding a small mustard seed in the palm of a hand.

As long as we have unsolved problems,
unfilled desires, and a mustard seed of faith,
we have all we need for a vibrant prayer life. 

—John Ortberg

Mustard seed faith is sometimes a difficult concept but one that is very important to understand. The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds found in the Middle East, but that smallest of seeds grows into one of the largest plants. Jesus therefore used this illustration several times to show us that even the tiniest grain of true faith can do very great things.

14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus,
falling on his knees before Him and saying,

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“Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill;
for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

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I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”

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And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation,
how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?
Bring him here to Me.”

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And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him,
and the boy was cured at once.

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Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”

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And He said to them,
“Because of the littleness of your faith;
for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible to you.

—Matthew 17:14-20

We see here the central need of faith, without which nothing can happen. When Jesus spoke about removing mountains he was using a phrase which the Jews knew well. A great teacher, who could really expound and interpret scripture and who could explain and resolve difficulties, was regularly known as an uprooter, or even a pulverizer, of mountains. To tear up, to uproot, to pulverize mountains were all regular phrases for removing difficulties. Jesus never meant this to be taken physically and literally. After all, the ordinary man seldom finds any necessity to remove a physical mountain. What he meant was: “If you have faith enough, all difficulties can be solved, and even the hardest task can be accomplished.” Faith in God is the instrument which enables men to remove the hills of difficulty which block their path. —William Barclay

Beloved, having and holding onto true faith is difficult in hard circumstances, but it is possible. In our own physical strength we cannot move mountains. We can’t make something from nothing. We cannot by ourselves change someone’s heart and mind about something. These are under God’s care and control.

What it does mean is that if we rely on the fact that God knows what is best for us, we can rest on the assurance that His ways and means are perfect. And if we believe—have true faith—in that fact, we will be able to pray with a faith that will steadily grow.

Just like that tiny mustard seed.

We will then understand that what we may regard as unanswered prayers are actually part of God’s grand design to mold us into becoming who He wants us to be—completely and absolutely trusting that His ways are best.

Know Jesus and #Believe

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Faith

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.

For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?

And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

–Romans 10:9-17

It may be that the reader feels a difficulty in believing. Consider that we cannot believe by an immediate act. We come to faith by degrees. There may be such a thing as faith at first sight, but usually we reach faith by stages: we become interested, we consider, we hear evidence, we are convinced, and so led to believe. Evidence weighed and knowledge obtained lead up to faith.

It is true that faith in Jesus is the gift of God, but he usually bestows it in agreement with the laws of mind. Therefore we are told that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). If you want to believe in Jesus, hear about him, read about him, think about him, know about him, and so you will find faith springing up in your heart.

Hear much concerning Jesus. Souls come by the hundreds to faith in Jesus through a ministry that presents him clearly and constantly. Few remain unbelieving under a preacher whose greatest subject is the crucified Christ. Go to the place of worship to see Jesus, and if you do not even hear the mention of his name, take yourself to another place where he is more thought of and is therefore more likely to be present.

Read much about the Lord Jesus. The Bible is the window through which we can look and see our Lord. Read with devout attention over the story of his sufferings and death, and before long the Lord will make faith secretly enter your soul. The cross of Christ not only rewards faith, but causes faith.

If hearing and reading are not sufficient, then deliberately set your mind to end the matter. Either believe or know the reason why you do not believe. See the matter through to the utmost of your ability. Pray that God will help you to make a thorough investigation and to come to an honest decision one way or the other. Consider who Jesus was, and whether the foundation of his person does not entitle him to confidence. Consider what he did, and whether this also must not be good ground for trust. Consider his death, resurrection, ascension, and eternal life that interceded for sinners, and decide whether this does not entitle him to be trusted. Then cry to him, and see if he does not hear you. If you want to know Jesus, get as near to him as you can by studying his character and appealing to his love.

At one time, I might have needed evidence to make me believe in the Lord Jesus, but now I know him so well, by proving him, that I should need a very great deal of evidence to make me doubt him. It is now more natural for me to trust than to disbelieve. Act after act of trusting turns faith into a habit. Experience then brings to faith strong confirmation.

–Adapted from Around the Wicket Gate by C. H. Spurgeon

#Faith For Things Not Seen

I was privileged to serve as a counselor for Royal Family Kids Camp in the summers of 1996 and 1997. RFKC’s mission statement: “Create life-changing moments for children of abuse.”

Let me just say that I did not go into this venture lightly, but turning everything over to God during my first week at camp resulted in even more faith in Him to walk with me through everything in my life. I wrote this piece after my first year at camp because I wanted to make sure I never forget the many ways God worked in my life and in the life of one particular little girl in my charge.

Beloved, if you ever have the chance to work at camps such as these, don’t hesitate! The rewards will be so much more than you can imagine. And as always, I give glory to God who never, ever lets me down.

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Faith for Things Not Seen

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
—Hebrews 11:1

Lord, how can You possibly ask me to do this? I’m not trained to be a counselor! The words welled up in me as I struggled to understand God’s persistent nudging. Suddenly I could feel His loving arms wrapped around my shoulders like a warm shawl. And then I distinctly heard the words: “My child, I want you to do this for Me.”

Well, how could I ignore that? I bowed to God’s greatness and silently whispered my thanks to Him for being so patient with me. And then I prayed one last thing: God, if You really want me to do this, please enable me for the task.

When God called me to be a counselor at a Christian camp for abused and abandoned children, I thought that this wonderful endeavor would be a blessing to some very needy children. Week after week, the Lord pointed my eyes to the announcement in the church bulletin, yet I kept ignoring the urgings I felt that God wanted me to participate in some way. The word “counselor” stood out more than anything else in that announcement, but I felt completely unequipped for this position.

Four short months later I was at camp. One of the little girls I had in my charge was a particularly tough case. Eight-year-old Debbie* had been shuffled from one foster home to another. She was certain of only one thing: that she could expect abuse or negative treatment on a regular basis. Like so many of these abused children, she learned to bury her true emotions and instead developed a defensive posture, along with the frequent tendency to declare “No!” in response to any suggestions, fun or not.

Debbie’s stubbornness was not easy for any of us to deal with. Whenever we were to start anything new, whether it was crafts, chapel, or even games, Debbie’s standard response was “No!” She would literally crouch down and keep shouting this over and over again. I found myself praying almost constantly that entire week. My prayers would start, “Please God…” and as the Lord helped me deal with each difficulty, they then became, “Thank you, God…”

Our goal was to give these children a week of carefree fun, but Debbie’s tantrums kept testing my patience and that of the camp directors too. After a couple of days of this negative behavior, we had a discussion about sending Debbie home early which greatly upset me. How could we take away this one week of fun from someone who rarely had the chance to do anything enjoyable? I pleaded with the directors to give her another chance and they agreed.

That same night, I found myself unable to sleep because of Debbie’s exceedingly vocal night terrors. She tossed and turned as she relived some terrifying experiences, and mumbled words such as “Don’t!” and “Stop!”

I got up to make sure she was all right and found her sleeping on her stomach facing me. I ran my hand lightly over her forehead, then up and down her back in a soothing manner. She didn’t seem to be sound asleep yet she was not fully awake either. As I kept rubbing her back, she continued to moan in a sing-song way. Even when I talked to her in an attempt to wake her out of her bad dream, she just moaned as if in pain. After about twenty minutes of this, I lay back down and tried to get to sleep, but it was impossible with all her moaning.

I lay wide awake. What to do now? I got up again and tried to quiet Debbie by rubbing her back. Once again, that didn’t work. Tears coursed down my face as I prayed for guidance…for Debbie to stop…to be able to fall asleep again. I was so tired. How was I going to handle the rest of the week?

Once more I tried to sleep. When that didn’t work, I went back to Debbie and tried to wake her up. “Debbie, are you all right? Are you having a bad dream?”

This time she seemed to hear me. The answering groan was different from the others, almost like a real answer.

“Do you want to get up and talk for a while?” I asked.

Debbie’s eyelids flickered and then opened briefly. “Yeah,” her sleep voice croaked as she sat up in her top bunk.

“Come on, I’ll help you climb down.” I assisted a very groggy Debbie by placing one of her feet at a time on each of the bunk bed steps. When she was standing on the floor, I led her to the designated play area next to her bed and sat down, pulling her to a sitting position next to me.

The night air was cold and crisp up here in the mountains, so I put my arm around her and covered us both with a blanket. I looked down at her in anticipation of our little talk. Instead, she leaned her head against my arm and fell asleep again.

I shook my head in disbelief, thinking that maybe all she had needed was a change of position. I decided to sit with her this way for a while and leaned my head back against the wall. In a few minutes, I started praying for her again.

I asked God what I could say or do to help Debbie adjust better because I wanted her to enjoy her camping experience. He showed me that Debbie’s life was full of commands. She was never asked about anything. He then gave me one word: choices.

Even here at camp, she was expected to adhere to rules and a schedule, which in itself is not a bad thing, but difficult for her to deal with. As I prayed about all of this, God showed me that if Debbie was given some limited choices, her responses might be different.

I sat with Debbie like this and prayed for about two hours. I realized then that I had better get some sleep before this day officially started. I eased Debbie away from me. “Do you want to sleep down here the rest of the night?” I whispered to her.

She seemed to understand and gave a sleep nod, so I slipped her down onto the bed and fetched her pillow from her bunk. Lifting her head gently, I placed the pillow beneath it and then tucked the blanket around her better. I stood next to her for a few minutes to make sure she was all right. Now it was time to get back to my own bed.

It was already 4:30 as I fell into a light, fitful sleep. I had to be up again in about an hour. This time Debbie slept peacefully.

Several hours later, Debbie started her usual tantrum when informed it was time for chapel. Before she could get carried away, I told her she had the choice of going to chapel with me or to the nurse’s office. Of course, she chose to stay with the nurse. But not more than fifteen minutes later, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and there stood Debbie. “I want to be here with you,” she whispered.

I smiled at her and nodded to the nurse, who had escorted Debbie to chapel. As we stood to sing, I felt Debbie’s small hand slip into mine. Thank you, God… Before that week was over, little Debbie asked Jesus Christ into her heart.

When we returned home, all who had served at camp were treated to a special dinner at church. The counselors each received a certificate inscribed with a Scripture passage our leaders thought best described us. Much to my surprise, I saw that my certificate contained Hebrews 11:1, the verse which begins a chapter all about faith.

Faith. I had started out on this journey with a great deal of skepticism. I didn’t understand why God would call someone like me to serve Him in this way, but He kept me going by faith throughout the entire week and left me with a new understanding of His enabling power. Whenever God resolves to use us in His work, He will enable us to do it!

And by the way, Debbie was in my charge again the following year —but what a changed Debbie! This time she helped me take care of my other little charge, a girl who had been brain-damaged from so much physical abuse that she sometimes had behavioral problems. After that week together, Debbie told me she couldn’t wait for her turn to be a counselor at that camp. And ten years later, Debbie did go through training to be a counselor at that same camp.

The lesson I learned through all of this comes back to me as I continue to learn what true faith is. Each of us can“count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience”  (James 1:2-3).

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As for me, I continually pray that I will always be willing to answer God’s call in my life to walk by faith. To do otherwise is to miss a huge blessing!

*Not her real name for her privacy and protection.

The #Faith to Walk on Water

Another great Bible study from GraceThruFaith.

 The Faith to Walk on Water

Impossible goals can be brought into perspective through faith.

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Most people don’t know that when they use the word stress they really mean distress. Distress is the feeling caused when there’s a need to perform accompanied by a perceived lack of ability.

They also don’t know the other stress word, eustress. It’s the opposite of distress, a combination of euphoria and stress. Eustress is the feeling that comes when there’s a desire to perform accompanied by confidence in one’s ability.

With distress the perception is of impending failure; with eustress it’s of certain success.

Distress causes a depletion of energy, compulsive behavior (which actually increases the probability of failure), a general sense of discouragement, and eventually, depression. To sum up, distress makes me feel like I have to perform, but I’m afraid I can’t.

Symptoms accompanying eustress are a wellspring of energy, propulsive behavior, a sense of well being and confidence, (which improves the probability of success) and an intense desire to succeed. In other words, I want to perform, and believe I can. See the difference? 

Read the rest here.

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Where Feet May Fail

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28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You,
command me to come to You on the water.”

29 
And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat,
and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

30 
But seeing the wind, he became frightened,
and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

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Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand
and took hold of him, and said to him,
“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

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When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.

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And those who were in the boat worshiped Him,
saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”
—Matthew 14:28-33

It was a long and pain-filled summer that doesn’t seem to be ending because our monsoon-like weather is continuing. I am trying to rest as much as possible, and that means purposely spending less time on my computer and online. This is why I’ve been sharing posts from other blogs and keeping my writing to a minimum.

I am more than grateful for my sweet husband, Rick, who is always praying for me and is so protective of me and constantly keeps track of my activity level so I do not overdo. God has provided several people who have been praying for me, and He has also been using two special ladies in my life (you know who you are!) who help me keep my blog going by contributing their writing and giving me ideas/links for posts.

After much prayer, I believe I need to continue this pattern of blogging until at least the end of the year. Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me through this time. You are all a huge blessing to me!

I love the song “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” by Hillsong United, and listen to it whenever I can. Portions of the lyrics echo my constant need to keep my eyes on the One whose Name I love above all: Jesus Christ. Here is my favorite part of this song:

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine


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If for whatever reason you are unable to view this video, you can read the lyrics here.


New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

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