"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I am the Prodigal

Faith without works is dead. So what does that mean for a church with no faith or works? Does it just become a club? Where is the spiritual growth in 4-H or the Eagles club? Those weren't the Eagles wings I had hoped to soar on. When was it that I died? How is it that a man can forget to breath? In all honesty, its been awhile since I've spent time with God. I haven't really spent much time reading my bible or praying this summer. Well, lets be a bit more honest, I haven't spent much time with God this last year. I have read my bible, and I guess I have prayed. But I haven't really prayed in so very long. Really truly prayed. Conversed with God, sat down with my creator and friend, and talked simply because that is what friends do. I want to now God's favorite color. Is that strange, does that sound ludicrous? I think of high school sweethearts and the trivial questions they ask one another, and the meaningless beautiful answers that they treasure, as they learn each other's hearts. What is God's favorite color. Is there a flower he finds most beautiful? To be in love again, to run back to the love of my youth, to be intimate with God. I miss him.

My, I have been off the mark for some time now. Yet its amazing how long God's arms are, he still reaches for me. No matter how fake, no matter how far I've wandered off the path into the wild poison ivy, he still calls me, still holds out his hand. One word has broken into my ears this summer; Love. Maybe I'm beginning to remember that word, a word I knew long ago. Maybe I'm beginning to understand it for the first time...Maybe I still have so much more to learn. Christ's greatest commandments have been on my mind a lot this summer, whether I read about them in a book or hear a pastor preach on them, it seems that God wants my attention. "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." I am a people pleaser, and no person do I strive to please more then myself. I quickly forget the order of those commandments. God rarely receives my love first and rarely do I love others as I love myself. Doug Fields applied this passage to youth ministry in how it is so easy to "love" youth first by creating extremely fun programs to attract young people, but forgetting to love God, growing in our own personal relationship with him first. Without a personal relationship with God, how can one possibly help others grow in their walk.

A pastor asked the question, how is it that we love God, and he pointed out how closely related these two commandments are, because it is through loving our neighbors that we show our love for God. How true this is. It works in a perfect circle; the more we love God, spending time in his word and talking with him, the more we desire to love those around us by serving them and teaching them of God's perfect love, and the more we show love to our neighbors, the more we are demonstrating our love for God through action.

I have become ritualistic in my ministry. Love is the ingredient I have left out, and I've wondered why its tasted so funny. I've made it about programs rather then people, and I've pulled bible studies out of the air rather then spend time with my first love, growing and learning how to teach and serve the youth at my church, my neighbors. When I was young, my greatest prayer was that God would give me wisdom, and a heart of love, but somewhere along the line I lost that, I stopped praying for these things, and I forgot to love.

But my heart is hopefull. God in his grace has put excitement back in my heart. It amazes me that he is so willing to use a flawed heart to proclaim his perfect message. I have a month left with my church. This month is a gift. Working in Warroad has been such a great blessing. It has been a time filled with many important lessons. But the greatest of these is love.


matt said...

hey ty

congrats on the car with the sweet deal. that's pretty awesome. you gotta post a pic of "ol' Blue" for us all to gander at. besides, i want to see the vehicle that you, quiring, and i are going to be rolling in this year.

steph said...

you got a car??

hmmm...ty, will you show me how to have that hope you have?

matt said...

sure its been quite a while since you wrote this. I don't even know if you'll read this because this is a response to a rather old blog and you probably won't even notice a late comment. Nonetheless I want to share with you your pain in the words you wrote. I know where you are coming from and I want to be a support for you. Knowing you now for 2 complete years I can say that I am on the same ride you are. Sure, we are getting fantastic training for ministry, but we can't be taught by other people to love God and make HIM the core of our lives, no matter how many Sunday School lessons and sermons we've received about that. It comes down to our decision to do so.
I'm glad to hear about your heartfelt plea to get back in the game for God. My plans for this year are very much like yours: to live passionately for God and live with HIS heart on MY sleave. However, like you I find it a hard thing to do. Brother, let us support each other.