April 26, 2009

Love the Lord your God with all your Heart

In the last post, we looked at our soul’s response to God’s loving call. When we listen, God reminds us day by day that we are beloved. Our response is to love God with all our soul. Today we look at “loving God with all your Heart.”

What is the difference between Heart and Soul? According to ancient traditions the heart is the seat of life. The soul, as we already learned, is the source of personality. God says “I will write my words on their heart” and “I will give them a new heart.” If our heart is where God writes his dreams for us, then it follows that our lives would be devoted to God.

This is the very opposite of what culture says. We hear messages from the world around us saying ‘put yourself first’ or ‘watch out for number one.’ Commercials promote ways to be first the first to get a new product, to be number one in your investments or in your vacation destination. Children are tested to find out which school is performing best and which child has the best grades, because that is the way to be number one! A recent Newsweek article (April 27, 2009) highlights a new book about the fact that we too often think we are the most important thing on the planet.

That isn’t to say that we should quit striving to take care of ourselves through good habits, but rather to take a second or even third look at what we are choosing to give our hearts to. In Christ, we find God’s heart offered to us, made incarnate when “the Word [was] made flesh and lived among us…We beheld his glory as of the only begotten Son.”
Children know instinctively how to put their whole heart into whatever they are doing. You can see from this picture, that my granddaughter is putting all her heart and energy into shaking glitter onto an Easter egg. That is the zeal with which we ought to respond to God who creates us instead of putting ourselves in the center of the universe.

Paul reminds us “With what love the Father lavishes on us…while we were sinners Christ died for us.” To God we are number one, always. This isn’t because we are important or top of our game. “God chose what is foolish in the eyes of the world to shame the wise…” We may not think we are important because we aren’t famous or smart or rich. Sometimes we complain that others have it better than we do. None of that lessens God’s love for us or the dreams God has for us.

It is pretty awesome that the Almighty God would stoop to live in human flesh. If you really stop to think about that, you will find your heart ‘strangely warmed’ as Charles Wesley said, and want to offer your heart and life back to God.

Miriam’s Healing tells the story of how Miriam learns to listen to her heart. Only then can she fulfill God’s call on her life. It ultimately takes being literally separated from the rest of the congregation, with leprosy, for her to understand that she is loved and that God was writing on her heart.
"[She says,] Miserable and repentant I waited for death. Instead, I felt peace envelope me as it had in my dream. It was like being enfolded in my mother’s arms long ago when I feared Pharaoh’s swordsmen. Overwhelmed, I knew I was loved and that God had forgiven me. Seamlessly I slid into a doze. When I awoke, I was not surprised to see the leprosy gone from my hands and body.
“Living and True God, forgive me. My pride has led me to doubt your power and forget your loving care. I am nothing without you, Almighty One. It was not my tears or Moses’ words that freed the children of Israel from Pharaoh. Only you, I AM that I AM from before time, could have brought us from bondage and led us to your holy mountain.””

Love God first and then all the rest falls in order. We often find ourselves offering our hearts to worldly goals. It is easy to give your heart to any number of good causes. There are needy children around the world who tug at our heartstrings. Ending war and poverty and oppression are all necessary things. Perhaps what we need to do is get our priorities in order. As God told Moses, “you will do great things.” First however, he had to be separated from all the trappings of the world. Forty years in the desert may sound a bit extreme, but many times we do need to be faced with difficulty before we can really love and trust the Lord with all our heart.
Is God seeking to warm your heart so that you can accomplish great things?

With God first in our heart, we can find out what path we are to follow. As we Love the Lord with all our heart, we do find ourselves doing what God wants us to do. And we will find the joy of a child in doing it!

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