All You Need Is Love

When Jesus speaks of the perfect life, He is very clear: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” -Luke 10:27. In perfect love, God desires our wellbeing, our fellowship and obedience.

Obedience is a hard word for me to hear, let alone to say or do! But obedience to God’s precepts ultimately make us better, stronger, healthier and happier. God’s law is no longer imposed, but encouraged in love. It’s not offered in oppression, but in freedom from sin through a life of tangible fellowship with the Creator of the Universe. Obedience to a perfect God is to seek the love Jesus speaks of.

Love gets more complicated when we are concerned for our well being, when others threaten our way of life, our freedom or interests. This is when we must chose between our own understanding or trusting God.

I am fascinated by the intensity of the discourse after this very unusual and surprising election. I have had to remind myself that God is eternally sovereign and we are not.

Living out our faith is about love in action, showing love without favoritism, loving the unlovable, practicing grace and gratitude. It is helpful to recognize our hypocrisy and self-righteousness, avoiding demagoguery, so easily embraced.

Personal spiritual transformation is the true source of social change. It is born in Love. God’s Spirit guides us. There is no other way.

God is sovereign and everything, even political power, comes from Him or is allowed by Him.

We have a lifetime of opportunity to live out values like kindness, humility, forgiveness, bravery, sacrifice, integrity, generosity, and compassion. We might easily claim these as our own, and overlook them in others, but love is the champion of justice and truth.

More than anything Jesus is saying to me, “trust God, surrender all to Him and love each other like there is no tomorrow.”

Perhaps John Lennon had it right; “all you need is love!”

1 Chronicles 15; James 2. Secret: Amos 9; Luke 4

Be Still

I was honored to have my talented sister-in-law, Lisa Pruitt offer to write this week’s Journal Post. She loves caving more than anyone I’ve ever met. She is the adored older sister of my wife Heather and the adoring mother to my wonderful nieces, Chloe and Camile. Thank you Lisa!

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10.

Today’s reading: Judges 21; Acts 25; Jeremiah 35; Psalms 7–8

Imagine with me we are in a cave. It is a landscape beneath the landscape. Some enter caves with trepidation and fear. But a cave – to me – is the very essence of God’s work right before our eyes. Caves are a fragile ecosystem, dark, damp, flowing water, the pungent smell of earth. Caves are our final frontier and they contain indescribable beauty.

I am drawn to caves, not because they are dark and scary but because it is a place where I can experience God in a new way. I can be still there in the dark and quiet, my senses are tamped down. When I turn off my headlamp, sight is absent, taste is minimal, I can touch the cool damp rock and smell minerals and soil. I can hear the delicate musical and echoing sounds of water dripping somewhere. It is a perfect environment for meditation, for prayer.

The Celtic Christians appreciated a concept known as “thin places”. A thin place is where the divide between our earthly world and God’s kingdom are narrowed, where we can experience a glimpse of God’s majesty, feel his love in surround sound. Sometimes I experience a cave as a thin place. It is not a place of fear but a place of beauty, a place where I know that God is at work, molding and sculpting hard limestone into natural art. As written by T. Augustus Forbes Leith, “from the star-spangled canopy of heaven to the far bottom of the majestic ocean, created earth is teeming with wondrous beauty”.

I went with a group of people to a cave in Mexico a few years ago. We went in single file, walking and talking quietly in the dark, our voices echoing. We walked about 15 minutes before encountering water. We slowly and gently entered the water and got acclimated to our surroundings and the unfamiliar feeling of swimming and floating in a very dark cavernous space. The water was warm and so clear that it appeared to be only 6 or 7 feet deep but it was actually 60 feet deep. There were extravagant formations everywhere I looked, hanging from the ceiling, along the walls, some emerging from the edges of the clear deep water – as if an artist had placed them there. I felt so peaceful, so blissfully happy, so overwhelmed with all my senses – that I began to weep. I experienced a thin place that day.

When I read the scriptures for today, what I continued to ruminate over was Psalm 8. “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” God has set his glory in the heavens and the earth. When I consider the tangible and visible things that God has created, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars, the innumerable bugs – so colorful and specialized, high mountains, deep oceans, the rebirth of spring, the delicate soft features of a baby, the miracle of unfolding life, flowers, fungus, and the amazing array of colors our eyes can perceive, I am humbled. Our God is majestic.

Appreciating the beauty of our natural world around me reminds me of the Lord’s majestic name! Anytime I can stop and notice, anytime I can be still and think of God’s love, I am reminded of God’s majesty and I experience a thin place. Sometimes the cave’s environment facilitates my experience of a thin place, sometimes it’s a mountain top, other times it is when I lie in the grass at night and allow the grandeur of the night sky to flow into me.

These profound thin places are not experienced by me every day for they require 1) the right environment, 2) the proper state of observation by me and 3) most importantly – my willingness to be still. What I know is that without Jesus at my side, even at times when these three ingredients converge, they would be meaningless and would not coalesce into a thin place without Jesus, because I would not be worthy of the familiarity of a thin place. I would be there but could not reach out to God, could not feel Him.

The indescribable beauty of all that God has given us on this earth is majestic but it is nothing compared with the gift of Jesus.

Contrast and Choice

Life leads to death, but from death comes life.

Contrast is how we evaluate things. Usually this is on a relative basis. We compare one thing to another and it is easy to tell the difference. If we try to compare too many things we are easily confused. The bigger the contrast between things the easier it is to choose one thing over another — but not always.

Everyday we make choices. By comparison deciding between one thing or another and by contrast we are able to make our clearest choices. Sometimes the contrast between two things is so stark that it seems impossible to miss the importance of the distinction.

Comparison and contrast is usually easier if we consider things in pairs. Sort of like having our eyes examined. Discerning something clearly from a large group can be very difficult, but when we can get two things side by side it is much easier to select our preferences, even between things with subtle variation. By comparison, starker contrast make our choices even more certain, harder to miss.

Having recently been away from home for a couple of weeks, living in a big city for most of that time, I was amazed at the sharp contrast as I drove back to Bloomington from O’Hare Airport. imageWe had been living in a rooftop apartment in Paris, undoubtably one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Still, it was good to be heading home. Past the Chicago Metro fringe, at that perfect time in the early evening when the stark contrast of the green fields under the big blue sky seemed unreal.image

We had been living in grey’s and brown’s of limestone and marble. Now I was bathed in the beams of new light that opened my tired eyes. As we drove southbound Interstate-55, I looked toward the expanse of the heavens, to clouds painted by the fluttering of the wings of angels. Majestic thunderheads building before patterns of scattered cirrus, shaded with the pastels of the setting sun and twilight shadows. I’m not sure I have ever seen more beauty in that prarie I’ve called home for the last twenty one years.    image

In today’s reading, what stood out for me was Sampson’s riddle.“Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Eating honey from a lion’s rotting carcass certainly represents an extreme contrast. It made me think of how Jesus was born from a rebellious nation, one that rejected God’s prophets and incredible blessings, often turning towards their own understanding. The savior of the world reflected the contrast of God among us, in the midst of people so confused and broken that they rejected and crucified the very source of love and creation. But this didn’t stop Jesus from transforming the lives of believers and He is still doing it today.

The contrast of a changed life is extraordinary. A life filled with love, patience and peace, once filled with strife, anxiety and self seeking is hard to ignore. The contrast of sin and its destructive emptiness when considered against the healing power of God’s grace shows us who we are, with and without God. It shows us who God is. It opens our hearts making us long for perfection.

For me it wasn’t until the latter stages of my life that the light of truth began to shine and despite my imperfection and brokenness it continues to get brighter.

I thank God for His truth everyday. In His grace I am bathed in forgiveness and the power to continue to change. Jesus I praise your holy name. You are the way, the truth and the life.

Judges 14; Acts 18; Jeremiah 27; Mark 13

Everlasting Light

Today’s Reading Link: Exodus 33; John 12; Proverbs 9; Ephesians 2

Weekly one of the great opportunities I cherish is meditating and praying for some additional meaning about our daily scripture readings. One dedicated time comes while I wait in the car to enter church with our son naps in the back seat. Today I landed on John 12:36 where Jesus let’s us know we can be “children of light”.  Where I previously just underlined this verse. It has taken new meaning.

While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of the light. John 12:36

I’m mesmerized by the physical light of the sun when I run in the morning and get to watch the sunrise. I praise God for this beauty and adore this majestic sight as a reminder of the importance of His spiritual light. I have previously shared the essential light of the Lord in our lives. Knowing who the light is and allowing him to take control of your life in order to spend eternal life with God is necessary. Jesus told us while we have this light available we need to believe. As our daylight hours get longer starting Spring our physical days are growing shorter. There are many who don’t believe who’s spiritual days grow shorter or can be non-existent based on those willing to share the “good news” or “light” of Jesus with them.  As Christians we are to be Christ’s light bearers, letting his light shine through us.  I have plenty of weak excuses as to the “almost” syndrome that can plague us. I almost said something to him. I almost turned around to give some money to that homeless person. I almost signed up for that mission trip.  I almost shared my love for our Lord, but I ran out of time.  It’s hard for selfish reasons in our daily lives to remember God’s  purpose for us when we don’t know when He is coming back or when God has determined our physical life to end. What if next week I’m not sitting here in the parking lot looking at Eastview? Did I truly believe the light? Am I a son of the Light? My prayer is yes, but I know its all by his will. God wants us to share his light to those whose days are growing darker. Am I sharing? Am I serving? Am I loving?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Matthew 28:19

Mary is wiping Jesus’s feet with expensive ointment with her hair.  Serving and loving Jesus, preparing him for what is to come. Judas questions this act and mentions how much money they could get for the sale of this ointment.  Jesus reminds him in (v.8) that the poor we will always have, but we won’t have him. Our seconds turn to minutes, hours to days, how do we spend our time? I’m convicted on the use of my time and sharing God’s light with others.  Whatever I do is Jesus my focus? Through whatever our calling do we glorify Him? During our fleeting life Jesus shows us the ways to count our days. James 4:14-15 says Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” (v. 46) That no matter the hour of day, year of age, or season of life Jesus says I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. My life was dark for many days with moments of light I couldn’t sustain.  Days I can never get back that were a negative influence myself and on others.  I was a stranger to the truth of God and his light.   I pray for the influential people who shared his word, placed biblical truths in my hands, and spiritual truths on my heart revealing the truth and pointing us to GOD.  Jesus will give you an everlasting light that will never go away. Now that we have seen this light its important for us to share this light with others so no one remains in darkness. So all can be saved from just wandering.  Seize the moment today, serve the Lord and glorify His name. You got this! Don’t worry about how or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you n that very hour what you ought to say (Luke 12:11-13)

In Ephesians Paul says we were all dead in trespasses and sin, but God being rich in mercy and the great love he has for us. has saved us. Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 5:8 for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light

John 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

We don’t know the day or time the Lord has determined to return or take us to be with him. Are we sharing his love with others like it had been shared with you? This Word of Light that redeems us through his blood and forgives our trespasses according to the riches of his grace. This grace was given and proves to others the riches of Christ, bringing the light that shines form the inside out.But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all childrenof light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. How brightly is our light shining? 

Dear Lord,

We stumble in the darkness, you provide us with the light necessary to conquer the darkness.  Your spiritual light has allowed us to repent for our sins and shines a light on our daily paths.  God I pray this light continues to shine bright and I stay focused on your light.  Thank you God


Light in the Darkness


Links to today’s reading: Exodus 31; John 10; Proverbs 7; Galatians 6

What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? -Job 38:19

Early one morning I was trying to understand the multitude of world religions; many of which were compelling in some way. Could different belief systems be pointing to the same God like some people said? Was it possible to reconcile these without taking glory away from God, not ignoring the urgency and importance of sharing God’s story? I believed truth was found everywhere; but that didn’t mean everything was true. If there was a specific, profound, absolute truth that all people could discover, I wanted to know it; if it was applicable for everyone, I wanted to share it.

As I contemplated the idea of truth, the image of a large stone temple atop a great pyramid popped into my head. There were hundreds of meticulously cut stone steps, leading past sprawling terraces, to the massive doors of a mighty fortress on high.

Along the steps, and throughout the terraces, were statues of great men and women that had lived extraordinary lives, and of the world’s great beasts, elephants, lions and bears, all carved from the finest marble.  On each terrace were courtyards where splendid gardens grew; these were also decorated with statues of animals, and jeweled models of planets, solar systems and galaxies. Attached to well shaped trees were reptiles, mollusks and insects, formed from precious metals.

The air was heavy with moisture and the smell of spring and nectar. As inviting as this place was, something very important was missing — there was no light. None. The world that surround the Temple Mount was enveloped in total darkness, leaving the sojourners to wander these grounds, and climb the great steps; forever groping in the dark. They spoke to each other, describing the statues and models, which they often felt with their hands. Each believed they described a greater truth about this world they were blind to; some in wonder, some in humility, and some with arrogance. Each in their own way believed that something pointed the way (perhaps even offering a key) to the entrance of the temple, a thing, somehow, they knew in their hearts. Inside the temple, they believed, resided every good thing which was missing from their present lives. And each was certain that the entrance was at hand, calling out to the others, “come hither.”

One day the door of the temple opened, and out shone the most brilliant light, blinding the sojourners at first. Then, at the door of the temple, a lamb appeared, wearing a crown of light and calling out, “follow me.”

Now as the sojourners’ eyes adjusted to the light, they saw the things they had been describing to each other for the first time. Some were embarrassed that they had been so sure about the location of the door, or the ridiculous descriptions of things they could only feel. Others, when they saw the lamb at the door, immediately bowed down, knowing it was he who had opened the door to the fortress they had been searching for. Those who knew the truth then arose, and climbed the stairs to the entrance, there they were embraced by the king, who welcomed them. Surprisingly, many of the others remained behind, in disbelief. They were certain that which they had described in the darkness was still true; clues that would someday reveal the key and the door. Then the lamb called out, “come to me,”over and over to those who remained, but they could not hear. Eventually the door closed, and the darkness returned forever.

When Jesus spoke to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. -John 8:12