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?

What God Wants From Us

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus.

To be joyful always, to pray constantly, to be thankful throughout our lives – This almost sounds like an impossible task.

We can always find a reason to be unhappy, a reason to stop praying and a reason to be ungrateful. We can find many reasons to think, “Prayer doesn’t work,” or “What’s there to be happy about? I can barely pay my bills!” or “Who should I thank for hitting my car and not even bothering to leave a note?!”

It’s difficult to turn those unfortunate circumstances around and think, what’s so good about this situation I’m in?

This passage from St. Paul reminds us, no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for. We kind of have to search for it sometimes. It’s not always so obvious.

For instance, to be joyful always, even when it’s not exactly a joyous occasion can be really challenging. It’s not in our nature. But let’s some circumstances and try and reverse them:


 

Loss of a loved one after a long battle with a debilitating disease. How can we find joy in such a sad circumstance as this?

The joy can be found in the friends and people who come to support you during the wake or viewing. The joy can be found in the stories and memories that are always with you and never leave. The joy can be found in the photographs when your loved one was healthy and vibrant. The joy is found in the life that person lived while they were here. And there’s joy knowing your loved one is no longer sick. The pain and suffering is now over.

Praying at all times in our lives can also be challenging. People may think that prayer couldn’t possibly work because they don’t see the results instantaneously. But the way prayer works is not always instant, it works on God’s time. Also, there’s always something  and someone to pray for. You can pray for the blessings in your life, you can pray for someone else who needs help, you can pray to God for the ability to find the JOY in all circumstances.

Being grateful is also a challenge when times are tough. It’s easy to be grateful when everything is going right for us. But to be grateful when things seem like they’re going downhill can be especially difficult. Perhaps you have lost your job or having a hard time getting over a breakup or divorce. What’s there to be grateful for in these situations?

One saying I like to share is: “No matter what is going on with you, there’s always someone somewhere who has it much worse.”

So although you might not have a job, be grateful for your former boss who wrote that letter of reference for you so you can find a better job. Or be grateful for your previous job that gave you experience that you can put on a resume. If your relationship has just ended, you may feel lost or incomplete.

What’s there to be grateful for here? You can be thankful for a new beginning. You can be grateful that you are now in a position to be solitary and spend time alone, but not lonely! You can be grateful that someone you may have thought was the person for you, is not and that means perhaps the one you ARE meant to be with can now find you.

Fit In You Faith Today: What do you struggle with currently – Lack of joy? Showing ungratefulness? Never praying? Focus on one of these actions this week to grow in your relationship with Christ. As St. Paul has said, “This is what God want’s from you.”

 

 

Helping our Unbelief

Mark 9:20-24 Jesus Heals a Boy Possessed by an Impure Spirit

When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered.  “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”


This passage from the gospel of Mark can easily be applied to us today. Why, although we believe in God, do we struggle to have faith when faced with the daily difficulties of life?

It seems easy and natural to have faith when things are going great in our lives.

Got a promotion at work – “Thank you God!”

Kids came home with a stellar report card – “Our prayers were answered!”

Avoided an accident on the roads – “God must have been watching over me!”

But it’s when things don’t go so well that we start to lose faith in God, right?

Can’t find a job after months of searching and praying about it – “I can’t believe God is letting this happen!”

Another school shooting in the news –  “Why doesn’t God stop this?”

Sudden death of a friend or family member – “Where are you God?”

But it’s at these crucial times of our lives that we need our belief to be restored and delve even deeper into our faith. It’s so much more than just believing in God. It’s believing in what the Bible says, as His inspired Word. It’s also learning from the people in the Bible. Many of us focus on just the Gospels but we can learn alot from the other books, especially the Old Testament.

Think of people like Abraham and Moses and David and Job. They had their own trust issues with God, too. Just because they lived in a completely different age as us, they weren’t that much different than we are. They prayed to God. They argued with him. They went against his wishes sometimes. They weren’t sure of His plan for them.

What can you do to help your unbelief during tough times?

  • Strength in numbers: Ever notice that when society tells us to just “give up” and “There is no God,” and call us names for believing in an all-powerful God, there’s a huge surge in Christians right there proclaiming the Good News? It’s almost like they wait for a disaster to make their faces known. 🙂 Draw yourself near to them. Hang out with them. Talk to them. You will find there are more people who feel the same way you do (and struggle with their faith just like you too).
  • What’s the Lesson? As much as it may seem that problems keep piling up, search for the silver lining.  What can you learn from all this negativity? What can be done right now to help get things right again? You’ll find the answer is usually something in line with “Keep the Faith.” There’s always a reason that something didn’t work out the way you thought it would. You have to believe, as difficult as it may be, that there was a reason.
  • Listen to Him, not him: In other words, listen to God’s voice, not the voice of society that says to do something different. The other voice might be louder.  Listen to His voice. In order to hear it, you have to be quiet. And you have to be patient. Two characteristics that are very challenging, but necessary to keep the faith.
  • Look for the Good: Even in a sea of evil, there is always good. They say, whoever THEY are, that Good Triumphs Evil. And it’s true! Except Good doesn’t make the headlines. It’s usually the bad stuff. But do you ever notice, for instance, when a natural disaster occurs, people from all over get together to help? Items get donated, experts fly in to help with search and rescue, money is sent to help rebuild destroyed cities. And when something terrible happens in a town (small or large) complete strangers start asking “How can I help?” That’s faith. Some might say that’s just faith in humanity, and not necessarily God. But who created those people? Who created those helpers?

Fit in Your Faith Today: When challenged with difficult circumstances, do you find yourself struggling to believe? Take some of the steps listed above to restore it. Reignite the fire in your heart when it’s struggling to stay lit.  Open your Bible and picture the words being said directly to you. Because He is speaking directly to you. The question is, are you listening?

Doing His Will

Today’s Gospel Reading is from the Book of Matthew 21: 28-32

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
The son said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards he changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the Kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”

I think it’s interesting that God might tell us to do something, yet we fight back and say “No, I don’t want to do this. No, I won’t do this.”  And we later find out that God was right. God knew best, just like a good Father.

The first son in Jesus’ parable says that he will not do as the father says. But he ends up changing his mind and doing it anyway. The second son does the complete opposite by lying and saying he will do his father’s bidding, yet doesn’t.

It’s this example that Jesus gives to show the people at the time that the sinners were following Christ, yet the chief priests and elders wouldn’t listen. They might have known in their hearts that Jesus came to show them love and share the good news, but they didn’t believe in him. They wanted to do things their own way.

The lesson is that we might think or be used to doing things a certain way. Is it the best way? Ask yourself if it’s Christ-like? Take the example of drinking alcohol on the weekends. Not a big deal, right? If it’s something you’ve done for a very long time then you probably don’t want to stop. But what if you notice you behave differently when you drink and you don’t like the person you become when you drink too much? Do your friends tell you that they don’t like the way you act? Or maybe they don’t care to notice? Are you proud of your behavior after a night at the bar?

Could your friends, or even God, be trying to tell you to stop? Listen to the voice that might be asking you to change your ways. You might be reluctant to change. But what God is offering is always the better option. It’s always the best choice.

It might not even be something as serious as drinking. Maybe it’s the way you treat others at your job. Are you judgmental and criticizing of others? Or maybe you just have a bad attitude because you’re not a morning person. Is there something you can do to change that label? It could be the way you always speed in traffic because you’re always running late. Do you think you should slow down so you don’t harm others with your careless driving? These are just small ways you can obey God and show Him that you are open to changing your usual ways.

Fit in your Faith Today: Think of one of your worst habits and take steps to stop it and do what is Godly.