Strong Faith, Big Heart, Can’t Lose

The snow fell today — like the dewfall — silently coating the world in a white soft blanket.  Like a baptismal gown or a white funeral pall covering the casket, the snow seemed to wipe away the gray and darkness of the winter skies.  Beautiful, silent, purifying and slowing down the world.

The perfect backdrop for a funeral.  God wiped the world clean with snow as he welcomed home his son today.  And while there were tears for the human loss, there was glory in the hope and love of God.  And we were reminded of our call to love.  The priest’s words still resonate in my ears and in my heart.  As he praised the love and big heart of the man we lost, he encouraged the rest of us to “pray to have a big heart.”  The priest went on to state that those who have a strong faith, can’t help but love.  You cannot have one without the other.  Something I had never thought about before, but as I thought about the people in my life who have a strong faith, their lives do brim with love.  Love for God, love for their families and love for strangers.  They have big hearts and they show it.  It is not enough to simply claim faith, to simply claim to love God.  When I opened the Bible this evening, it opened to Galatians:

For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.  For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:13-14

We are all called to love.  Faith requires love.   It is easy to love God.  He is all powerful, He has given us everything, He is our salvation.  It is harder to love our fellow man — what have they done for us?  But true faith requires true love.  God’s love.  Love even when someone might not deserve it.  Love even when someone hurts us. Love even when someone doesn’t show it back. Love in the good times and the bad.  True love.  Not just words.  But actions.  Indeed, the priest today reiterated that we must pray for that big heart — and then act upon it.  It is not enough to simply say it.  It is not enough to simply have a big heart.  It is not enough to just have faith.  We must act upon it.   We are called to make Christ visible.  To share His love.

As I read further in Galatians, it again echoed the message from today’s funeral:

Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit.  Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up.  So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.

Galatains 6:7-10

We reap what we sow.  Let us sow love.  Let us act upon that love.  While we have the opportunity (and today’s funeral is a reminder that we never know how long that opportunity will be), “let us do good to all,” especially those in our faith family.

Our friend is ready to reap his harvest.  God’s white blanket of snow, purifying the earth before his body entered it,  tells me that his harvest is good.  I hope to one day be ready to reap mine.

Dear Lord,

Thank you for all of the people that you have blessed me with.  I see your heart in so many of them.  Through them I see how powerful and pure your love is.  I am inspired and contrite.  Lord, I pray for a big heart.  Help me to love like you do.  Help me to share your love with others.  Help me to get out of my self and my own wants and needs, fears and desires, and live for others.  Help me to act in love and faith with everyone I encounter.  Help me to make your son visible to others.  Thank you for renewing my spirit today, and wiping the world pure in snow.

O Lord, Create in me a pure heart and renew within me a steadfast spirit.

Discipline and Love

We discipline our children hoping that it will lead them in the right direction, but knowing that one day they will have to make choices on their own.  I don’t enjoy the disciplinarian role of being a parent.

I have often wondered about the Old Testament.  God often feels like a disciplinarian in it.  We hear about Him destroying cities, smiting and raining fire and brimstone.  He feels much different than the loving God revealed by Jesus.  Today the Bible opened to Galatians:

Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed.  Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.  For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:23-29

When we are immature, we need discipline, rules, order to try to keep us on the proper path.  The Old Testament is filled with stories of human immaturity.  We were not ready for faith alone.  As we individually grow, we also go through phases where we need discipline, rules, and order.   Sometimes we are not ready for faith alone.  We need to be confined by rules so that we are in place for faith to be revealed.  But ultimately, like a child, we must grow up and make our own choices.  Ultimately we must choose faith.  We must choose God.   Jesus opened us to faith.  He came into the world so that we might have faith.  So that we could see and believe.  He came into the world to show us love.  The love of our Father.  Despite all of the times that we deserve discipline, God loves us.

Lord,

Help me to be a good parent.  Help me to set rules and order but also to show love.  Help me to have the faith that you have made available.  Help me to grow from my immaturity.  Thank you Father!

Do not throw this freedom away!

This is a short one — but a good one.  It strikes me right to the core:

At a time when you did not know God, you became slaves to things that by nature are not gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and destitute elemental powers? Do you want to be slaves to them all over again?

Galatians 4:8-9

There are so many weak and destitute elemental powers out there.  Drugs, sex, alcohol, money, power, TV, electronics, smartphones, social media, candy crush, greed…  The list goes on and on.  For me it is food (and maybe a little bit of candy crush).  We become slaves to so many things.  Things that do not help us, do not serve us.  God gives us freedom.  He does not require us to be slaves.  (maybe it would be easier if we were slaves to Him!)  God gives us freedom, freedom to choose, freedom to live,  freedom to truly love.  What a glorious gift!  We just need to use it!

I don’t know about you, but I am really good at saying I am going to do better, but not so good at having the strength to follow through.  As I am typing this, a young girl on The Voice (Ok, so TV is another of the weaker powers that pulls on me) is singing Martina McBride’s song “Do it Anyway” — I have never paid attention to the lyrics before, but they provide me with further inspiration tonight:

“God is great but sometimes life ain’t good
And when I pray
It doesn’t always turn out like I think it should
But I do it anyway
I do it anyway.”

No matter how many times I try and fail, I am going to keep trying anyway.

God, I do not want to be slave to the weaker elemental powers any more!  They do not serve me.

Thank you, God, for the power to choose!  I choose you.  Help me be strong enough to turn away from all of the weak powers out there.  With your help I can be stronger.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old vs. New

I struggle with the Old Testament.  It seems so different than the new.  So many rules, and anger and “fire and brimstone.”  Its different than the love that pours out of the New Testament.  I have questioned why God seems so different in the Old Testament as compared to the New.  Today I think I found an answer.

Today, the Bible opened to Galatians:

Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed.  Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.  For through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus.  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

I mean that as long as the heir is not of age, he is no different from a slave, although he is the owner of everything, but he is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were not of age, were enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.  But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption.  As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Galatians 3:23-29; 4:1-7

Initially humans were like infants.  We needed rules and discipline.  We were not able to understand or have faith — so we had to be told what to do.   We needed supervision and guidance.  We were “enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.”  God knew what we needed.  He had a plan.  And when the world was ready, He sent His Son, so that we might have faith, see faith in action, believe and know God.  He “sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts.”  That one is powerful:

“God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts”

We were ready to no longer be slaves to rules without understanding.  We were ready to live by faith, so we could know God.  God sent us Jesus so we could know Him, so we could have faith.  With faith — we are no longer enslaved to the elemental powers of the world.  The world has nothing on us, on our faith.  How blessed we are to know God.  To live in the time of faith, instead of fear and wrath.  To know God’s love through His Son, Jesus.  To know the Truth.

Thank you Lord!  Thank you for creating us to know you.  Thank you for sacrificing yourself so that we might believe.  Thank you for saving me!  Please send your spirit into our hearts!