My first love

I was asked a very humbling question today.

This summer, I am going to camp with the high schoolers at our church. I came on as a volunteer in our youth ministry last semester, and I wanted to go to camp, and it worked out that I am able (at least I hope so with work, but that should be fine, we’re a little overstaffed anyway.) So last Sunday, Nicole gave me the form I need to fill out. I confess, I only got to it this morning. I was working my way along the application and I got to the bottom of the first page. It asked:

Describe your relationship with Christ and when you feel that relationship began.

An easy question, right?

Wrong.

I’ve never had to chew on a question so much. Here’s why…I was so tempted to, at first glance, write: “I lead worship, and I’m involved in ministry. My relationship with Jesus began in 2005 at Camp Courtney in North Carolina.”

But the Holy Spirit had to correct me: service is not the relationship itself.

I have to repent that for a long time, maybe even years, I’ve had this mentality that my service in the church qualifies me for something. For example, if someone asked me, “how do people know you’re a Christian?” for a long time I would respond with, “Oh, I’m on worship team at my church, sometimes I lead worship, and I’m really involved and serve a lot.”

But do you know what Jesus said? (I’m sure you do…)

Jesus said His disciples would be known by their love.

Often times, we think love means loving other people. In those cases, a lot of what we mean by loving other people means the way we think about them, not the way we act (but that’s a whole other blog for another time.) But I’m convinced that a lot of what Jesus meant when He said love, or for example when Paul gives the famous love passage in 1 Corinthians 13, is love for the Lord, not just other people.

Of course, Jesus says that to “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, soul, and strength” is the greatest commandment. The SECOND is to love your neighbor.

This week, I was at the Foursquare National Convention in Columbus, Ohio. On the first night, a man named Jon Tyson, a pastor out of Brooklyn, NY, spoke for us. He preached out of Revelation 2, about the church in Ephesus. Basically, the Ephesian church was busy serving and working and doing a lot of ministry. Jesus said He had one thing against them: they left their first love. (if you can’t figure it out, that’s Jesus.)

Now, I was in a pretty mad funk during convention, I’ve got to be honest. I was frustrated about a lot of stuff. But what I’ve learned over the years is that God can work in our hearts even when we don’t feel like being worked in. He can teach us even when we’re unteachable. And that message, in pastor Jon’s awesome Australian accent, has stuck with me ever since.

I went through a debriefing with my pastor the day he got back from convention. He asked me what God had been saying, and I told him that the number one thing I took away from Convention is to reprioritize. No, that’s the wrong word. To re-evaluate. To ask questions such as:

Why do I get up every Sunday and play on the worship team?

Why do I dedicate my Wednesday nights to helping with the youth?

Why did I accept a position on the church council?

Why do I want to lead a life group?

Why do I enjoy preaching?

Why do I want to plant a church?

And the answer to all of these questions is a little hard to rephrase. There’s no wrong or right, and yet there is. There’s a SHOULD be and that SHOULD be is a WILL be.

the answer SHOULD be: because I just love Jesus, and I am so thankful for everything He’s done for me.

Right now, I’ve got to admit, some of those answers are things like:

-because I want to be appreciated.

-because I’m good at it.

-because I want to travel.

-because I need to “stretch” myself and serve a little more.

-because God has called me to be a leader. (ooh, see? we even make it sound spiritual sometimes.)

So I’ve spent a lot of this time this week wrestling with this truth. And I’ve discovered that any time God brings something like this up, He intends to change it. Who am I to stand in the way? I’m excited. I’m excited that God loves me enough to remind me how much I love Him. I’m excited to take on an attitude of joy that makes serving God’s people not an obligation, but a privilege because I get a chance to share the Gospel with people, whether in words, song, or deed.

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