When I was in my elementary days as a kid growing up, my family and I went to an Episcopalian church in Owosso. And I remember that even though my family believed that going to church was a good thing, God didn’t really seem to make all that much of a difference in our daily lives. In fact, truth be told, the way my family and I lived back then probably gave people excuses for not believing in God. We didn’t really talk about God at home. We didn’t pray before meals and thank God for his provision. There was a lot of cursing and a lot of drinking. There was a lot of anger.
On rare occasions we would get into a run of going to church every Sunday, but it didn’t last past a month or two. Our practice was to attend church at Christmastime and Easter. We’d get dressed up and hop into the family station wagon, and we’d file into the church and find a pew where we were expected to sit silently for an hour. Back then, as a kid, it seemed like an eternity…and you definitely didn’t want to get caught goofing around by my step-dad. When I sat down, my goal was to be out of his arm’s reach.
But my church experience as a kid wasn’t all negative. I can remember that at one time the church brought in somebody to work with the kids, and we went on a youth outing. I can remember sitting in Sunday School singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” I remember, when I was around 10 or 12, going through a series of classes called, “Confirmation classes.” These were a time of learning the confessions of faith, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments among other doctrines. For a while my brother and I sang in the church choir. Even though we weren’t very committed or deep Christians, I’m grateful for the experiences I had with that church growing up, and I really do believe that God used those scarce moments of going to church to get ahold of a little boy’s heart. I can honestly say that was the beginnings of a more serious faith for me.
My growing-up family never really “got it” when it came to understanding God’s love for them and what it means for us to love Him back…to live for him in a way that seems crazy to an unbelieving world because it means totally surrendering yourself to God’s purposes. Loving God means that you see and understand everything in life from the perspective of the God who loved you so much that he came into this world, showed us what God is like, and died for you. Back then we never really understood that Jesus brings you the most purpose and pleasure in this life and in the next. And I know that my family and I aren’t the only ones who lived with God in a half-hearted-yes-I-believe-in-him-but-you’d-never-know-it kind of way.
When it comes to living life with Jesus, are you committed or are you half-hearted? As we enter into February, the month of celebrating love, I want to challenge you to look at the Bible’s message and understand that God loves you immensely. Once you encounter His love, you will never be the same.
Happy Valentine’s Day!