Have You Received Your New Heart?

Ezekiel 11:19

Good News Translation

I will give them a new heart and a new mind. I will take away their stubborn heart of stone and will give them an obedient heart.

New Living Translation

And I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart.

I included the New Living Translation in this scripture passage so we can see how the New Life Bible Study defines singleness of heart:” a unanimous singleness of purpose.”  The commentary goes on to say: “No longer will God’s people seek many gods; they will be content with God. Their stony, stubborn hearts of stone will be radically transplanted with tender, responsive hearts. This new life can only be the work of the Holy Spirit. It is God’s work, but we must recognize and turn from our sin. When we do, God will give us new motives, new guidelines, and new purpose.”

After reading this passage I immediately thought of the church hymn, “Here I Am Lord” by Dan Schutte that we often sung as children during mass growing up. I always get a little smile on my face when I see it listed as one of the hymns during mass these days because it brings back such great memories as a kid.

Here are the verses that came to my mind:

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them, They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
Give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak My word to them
Whom shall I send?

It’s a wonderful song but I would get so sad when I would sing it sometimes because it’s almost like a love letter from God to the His people that won’t listen to Him! The people are turning away and worshiping false idols and pagan gods and they won’t listen to the prophets. But finally, God is telling them that indeed, He will take all of this away and they will be content to worshiping just Him. He’s going to give them new motivation. A new heart.

Have you ever hit rock bottom? What does everyone say when you’re at the end of your rope, at the bottom of the pit? “Well, there’s no where else to go but up!” Right? I almost feel like this is similar – We hit the bottom, we have reached our limit and there’s nowhere else to go. We can’t get any more low than we are at this moment. And then…God turns our stubborn hearts into loving ones. We get out of this rut. We turn the page. A new heart, a new life, a new purpose!

The time between hitting that bottom and getting a new heart is probably a lot longer than we care to admit. But it can happen. The Holy Spirit is working inside us constantly to change and form us into the people that God wants us to be. And our hearts are being transformed too!

Fit In You Faith Today: What comes to mind when you hear that God will take your stubborn heart and turn it into a tender and loving one? Do you feel renewed with a greater purpose? Spend some time with this passage and perhaps with the hymn I referenced (or another one!) and study the lyrics and words. Is God trying to get you to turn away from a sin that’s hardening your heart?

We Believe

Acts 1:8

“But when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witnesses for me in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This verse reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend of mine. He is not a believer in God and asked me why “religious people” like myself were always trying to get people to believe what I believe in. He put me in the category of a disciple I suppose and assumed since I go to church regularly I must be one of “those” people who evangelizes often.

I was slightly embarrassed to admit that I actually wasn’t the type to try to get people to convert. I left that to the people who knew more about Christ than me. This friend of mine was actually irritated that “people like me” were always preaching their beliefs to non-believers and it was irritating and annoying to him.

I recall not knowing what to say to my friend after that in regards to the conversation. I do remember telling him that as a Catholic, I knew it part of my faith spread the Good News but that I wasn’t very good at it (This was back in the summer of last year, before starting this blog).

This verse is a reminder that I don’t have to be a preacher, a priest, a minister, a nun or anyone considered to be an expert in my faith to still be a good witness to others. I hope to have this conversation with my friend again and it would go a lot differently. My response this time around would look something like this:

Friend: Why are you always trying to convert people to your religion? Why can’t we all just believe whatever we want?

Me: You can believe in whatever or whoever you want. You have free-will. But as a Christian, I have this gift that I would be selfish to keep all to myself. I would never force someone to convert or force anyone to listen to me. But if they want to know WHY I believe in God and WHY I’m so confident in my faith, I would point out resources to them to read and I would invite them to my church for a mass so they can see why I love it so much. I need to be a witness to others because my life changed shortly after my Mom died. I saw how strong she was in her faith and I wanted to live my life like that. I also saw someone I love die right before my eyes and of course that makes you take stock in your own life. I want to live my life filled with faith, not hate or neutrality or “I know I’m a good person so I don’t need to worry about life after death” type of mentality. I want to spread the word of how I TRY to live a good life filled with faith because of course, I’m not perfect nor expected to be. Others who don’t know about God SHOULD at least get to hear from me so they can make the decision on their own on whether or not they want to live their life the way they have been doing it, or if they want to live their life with a purpose for God.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Do you selfishly keep God all to yourself? Have you ever “witnessed” or discussed why you believe what you believe with someone who asked you? Try not to brush these questions off. Remember, we don’t all have to be wordsmiths or preachers or pastors in order to give advice or discuss our faith with non-believers. Just tell someone your story. You might be surprised at how they respond. You could change their life!

Perseverance in times of Struggle

James 1:2-4

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Do you know those people who always seem to have a smile on their face? They seem to have a cheerful outlook on life, even as things around them might be falling apart. I often wonder how those people live their life like that! I admire them in one way. But on another hand I think, “Are they in denial about what’s going on?”

Then I read this verse from James and think, No, these people just have a great amount of faith. They know that life isn’t supposed to be easy. It can be unfair. You can be dealt a “bad hand.” But guess what? You get through it. With faith, with a good attitude, with support from others to keep you going, you get through your trials.

Testing our faith develops perseverance, according to James. I hear the word perseverance and I always picture a soldier going through bootcamp. Or a runner racing to the end of the finish line. I suppose I picture something physical like this instead of mental. But we know most of our “trials” in life are mentally and spiritually demanding, too. Like when we lose a loved one. Or lose a job. Or having difficulty in a relationship.

All these trials will test our faith. How will we approach this test? With a joyful attitude like our friends in Christ? Or with a poor and “life is unfair!” attitude?

When I hear the word perseverance, I also think of another scripture verse that I love.

Romans 5:3-5 (New International Version Translation)

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;  perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

So we exult or rejoice in our sufferings! Those are our smiley joyful cheerful friends. And that has to be us too. Why? Because when we get through this trial, this challenge, this difficulty that we are facing, we produce perseverance, and character and from all of that comes what? Hope. Love that little 4 letter word, don’t you?

Fit in your Faith Today: What’s the latest trial you are facing and how is it testing your faith? What are you doing to persevere through? Does it help to know that after all is said and done, you will develop your faith even deeper? Put on a cheerful face as you tackle your latest challenge, knowing the finish line is someone who is, as James says, “complete and not lacking anything.”