...with all your heart.

Greetings friends!

Yesterday we took a look at Matthew 22:34-40 as a way to examine what the basics of youth ministry might look like. Today I want to focus in on what Jesus claims is the first part of the most important commandment:

"Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart..." (Matthew 22:37)

I spent the better part of last term in Seminary learning that American Theology in the last 100 years or so has placed a profound emphasis on logic, understanding, and knowledge when it comes to God and Spirituality. We want to think this thing through. We want to set up a 6 week series, or a collection of blog posts, or a Christian Education Seminar as our way of understanding who God is, and what God is all about. That all has its place, and we'll get to that in a few days.

But that's not where Jesus starts. He doesn't start in the nice neat lines of logic that so many of us have become accustomed to. He starts with the heart. The illogical, messy, unpredictable, wild and free piece of us that beats just beneath our chest. That piece of us, that is what we're called to love God with.

And not just some of it. All our hearts. We're called to love God with a passion and a zeal and a desire that only our hearts can provide, and beyond that we're not supposed to have the same passion or zeal or desire for anything else. That would constitute loving something else, which would mean that we're not loving God with all of our heart.

I mean, just as a for instance, do you love doing Youth Ministry more than you love God? It happens to some people, more than I think anyone would be willing to admit to publicly. But it's true. We can fall in love with that feeling you get when a student finally "gets it." We can fall in love with those late night sessions around the campfire where we're in deep conversation with a student. We can even fall in love with dodgeball. And all of that is fine, as long as we don't love it more than we love God.

You can apply that to just about any profession in the world too. Do you love being an artist more than you love God? Do you love making money more than you love God? Do you love being a stay at home mom more than you love God? Again, don't mis-read me, I'm not saying you can't love these things. But if they get in the way of your love for God, if you give your heart to those things, then according to Jesus we're into some murky waters.

Our students are extremely perceptive. They pick up on things that we assume no one in their right mind would notice. They look to us for an example, even if it seems like they'd like nothing at all to do with us. And one of the first things they notice is what has the full attention of our hearts. What do we love? What are we passionate about? What do we desire? The truth is you can have all the best programs in the world, be an extremely eloquent speaker, be able to come up with the greatest youth group games just off the top of your head. But if you don't have your heart right before God, your students will see right through that, and your ministry will be completely worthless.

So I hope you'll join me today in my prayers. My prayer is that my heart would belong only to God. My passions, my desires, those things that keep me up at night would be God's and not my own. I pray that I would desire him more than I would desire anything else in the world. Be careful though. If you're willing to pray this prayer, it's possible that God might just answer it.

Tomorrow: ...with all your soul.