With All My Heart

One of my favorite moments in a wedding happens during the ring vows. As the rings are nervously being slipped onto fingers for the first time, the couple says to each other, “With all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.” There is something quite profound in that statement.

“With all that I have” is a promise that you will share every single resource you possess with the other, including everything that the future promises. Going beyond the material and financial support that is pledged, this statement is a way of saying that there is not one part of my life that I will not share from this point on.

But when you say to someone, “with all that I AM,” the commitment goes even deeper. It promises that you will not hold anything back. It says I will honor you with my inner self. I will honor you with my secrets. I will honor you with my hopes and dreams. I will honor you with sharing my failures and fears. Pledging such deep loyalty to another person with all of your heart is an audacious act of optimism and hope.

Whom do you love with all your heart?

In our Psalm today, David puts God in that place of honor and love:

Psalm 138 (Common English Bible)

 I give thanks to you with all my heart, Lord.
    I sing your praise before all other gods.
I bow toward your holy temple
    and thank your name
    for your loyal love and faithfulness
        because you have made your name and word
        greater than everything else.

David’s feelings of gratitude, love, and loyalty came from a place of reciprocity. God extended these blessings to him first, and his response to God’s faithfulness was to pledge himself by thanking God’s name. God answered David in times of trouble.


On the day I cried out, you answered me.
    You encouraged me with inner strength.

Let all the earth’s rulers give thanks to you, Lord,
    when they hear what you say.
Let them sing about the Lord’s ways
    because the Lord’s glory is so great!
Even though the Lord is high,
    he can still see the lowly,
    but God keeps his distance from the arrogant.

When we feel lowly, it is good to know that God sees us and answers us, no matter what it is we are experiencing. But beware of being arrogant…God has no tolerance for that.

Whenever I am in deep trouble,
    you make me live again;
    you send your power against my enemies’ wrath;
    you save me with your strong hand.
The Lord will do all this for my sake.

Your faithful love lasts forever, Lord!
    Don’t let go of what your hands
    have made.

Have you ever been let down by someone who supposedly loves you? I have.

I don’t know what you are going through today, but hear this; God’s faithful love for you lasts forever. In those moments of deep hurt, betrayal, disappointment, and estrangement from the people you love and count on, remember that God is incapable of letting you go. His hands have made you, and you are HIS.

With all that God is, and all that God has, God honors you.

Two Loves.

Reality Test

I remember a time before reality TV. A time when stories were told, news was reported, documentaries were produced to take viewers deep into places unknown, and cooking shows were of the Julia Child variety where the most unexpected thing might be seeing her drop an entire cooked turkey onto the floor. Bon Appetite!

Now we are inundated with “reality” shows that aim to titillate, shock, and disturb, in an effort to sell more products. With a plethora of bachelors, back-biters, unreal and highly nipped and tucked “housewives,” big brothers watching from cameras in every room, and well-scripted scenarios of misbehavior below decks, we have lost the distinction between fiction and reality. These guilty pleasures are harmless as long as you understand that distinction. Trust me, what you are seeing is all fiction. Reality is found elsewhere.

Our lectionary passages from John’s writings this week keep pulling us back into God’s reality of the connection between love and obedience. Keeping God’s commandments is the way we demonstrate our love for God, and a way that we experience his love for us. By giving us order, God keeps us safe and protected inside his loving arms. And when he sent Jesus, we were commanded to love one another as a proof of our love for God:

1 John 5 (The Message)

 1-3 Every person who believes that Jesus is, in fact, the Messiah, is God-born. If we love the One who conceives the child, we’ll surely love the child who was conceived. The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome.

A key component to the gift of the commandments is that they are not meant to be troublesome, but to bring life to our lives. Staying within those safety rails is a way to experience wholeness and freedom. When we follow God’s law, we separate ourselves from the chaos of the world. Jesus conquered the world with his death-killing death:

The Power That Brings the World to Its Knees

4-5 Every God-born person conquers the world’s ways. The conquering power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who wins out over the world’s ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is the Son of God.

6-8 Jesus—the Divine Christ! He experienced a life-giving birth and a death-killing death. Not only birth from the womb, but baptismal birth of his ministry and sacrificial death. And all the while the Spirit is confirming the truth, the reality of God’s presence at Jesus’ baptism and crucifixion, bringing those occasions alive for us. A triple testimony: the Spirit, the Baptism, the Crucifixion. And the three in perfect agreement.

Just think of it! We are invited to partake in the reality of his spirit, his baptism, and his crucifixion.
There is nothing that television can script that could even come close to the disruptive and shocking reality of what Christ did on the cross for the benefit for all of humanity…and we get to participate in it with him. His baptism becomes our baptisms, his resurrection gives us eternal life, and his Spirit helps us defeat the world as we make better choices and live within his commandments.

All of this is a gift, given to us without price. So next time you indulge in a moment of “reality TV,” consider the truth and reality of God’s presence in your life. It is far better than anything you will see.

Truth by Michelle Robertson

Perfect Love

Think for a moment about someone that you can’t stand. Dare I say, someone you actually hate. It might be a family member, politician, celebrity, boss, neighbor…people do things that make you want as much distance from them as possible. Being in their presence makes your stomach churn. Hearing their voice makes you cringe. You get the idea. When your enemies and adversaries are loud and present, your feelings of revulsion and fear are often well-earned.

Now consider this. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

So what do we do with our hate?

1 John 4 (New Revised Standard Version)

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Can hate live in the same space as love? Does our enemy deserve our love, or is hate just a way of protecting ourselves against further harm?

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. 15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. 16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. 

Here we have a clue about what to do when we truly hate someone. John makes the case that God is love, and love has been perfected among us so that we may have boldness on the day of judgement. And who is the judge? God. That assures us that our adversaries and enemies will answer for their actions against us before God’s judgement seat. Our boldness in love is a reprieve for us…we don’t have to judge, just love. And then let it go.

When we unpack our feelings about our enemies, we may discover that fear informs our reaction to them. We fear the power they have over our peace and our happiness. But perfect love casts out fear, which frees us up to allow God to be God. HE will hold your adversary accountable.

19 We love because he first loved us. 20 Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. 21 The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

This is a hard teaching, friends. But scripture is clear. Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. So let God do the work of redemption, and in all things, just love…even your enemies.

Just Love by Abby Johnson

God’s Children

A mother listens to the baby monitor in her three-year-old’s room during “nap” time. Her daughter is engaged in an elaborate tea party. The special guest at the table is her one-year-old cousin who lives and is currently located in another state. The mother smiles as she hears the conversation between “Baby Layne” and “Nor-Nor.” In the little girl’s mind, this is real. The imagination is strong with this one!

It is delightful to enter the mind of a child. There is so much hope, innocence, wonder, and magic there. The purity of a child’s heart is something to behold.

In 1st John, we see the idea of the purity of children used as a metaphor for how we change when we become followers of the Father. We become God’s children. This means that when he appears, we shall see him as his is. Our hope purifies us, as Christ is pure. With the confident innocence of a child, we can approach the throne of God.

1 John 3 (Common English Bible)

 See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us.

Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves even as he is pure.

That purity is in jeopardy when it comes to sin. Sin will be received by the Father as an act of rebellion. Sin separates us from his presence and stains our souls. Thankfully, we know that he appeared to take away our sins.

Every person who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Every person who remains in relationship to him does not sin. Any person who sins has not seen him or known him.

Little children, make sure no one deceives you. The person who practices righteousness is righteous, in the same way that Jesus is righteous.

John reminds us not to fall into deception. Righteousness is the way of the children of God. It is the life Jesus calls us to live. We are called God’s children, and that is what we are!

See What Kind of Love by Michelle Robertson

Weapons of Light

In Star Wars mythology, the light saber is a weapon against both good and evil. It just depends on whose hand it is in. The preferred weapon of the Jedi, a light saber is a small pipe-shaped mechanism that extends a powerful beam of lethal energy when engaged. The color of light is different for each Jedi. Luke Skywalker’s light is blue. Kylo Ren’s is deep red. In Luke or Rey’s hand, the light saber fights evil. In Darth Vadar’s hand, it fights good.

Any weapon can be used by either side.

So in this season of anger, animosity, national outrage, and widespread unrest, what would happen if we weaponized love?

Romans 13 (Contemporary English Version)

Don’t be in debt to anyone, except for the obligation to love each other. Whoever loves another person has fulfilled the Law. The commandments, Don’t commit adultery, don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t desire what others have, and any other commandments, are all summed up in one word: You must love your neighbor as yourself. 10 

Love doesn’t do anything wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is what fulfills the Law.

Paul succinctly boils the Ten Commandments down to one word: love. If we follow the law of love we wouldn’t need the other individual laws because they would already be incorporated into the overriding rule of love. If love were the law of the land, hatred, violence, anger, and civil disobedience would subside.

11 As you do all this, you know what time it is. The hour has already come for you to wake up from your sleep.

This ancient writing applies to this present day. We need to wake up and see what our words and actions are reaping. The hate speech, violent protests, and the vitriol that permeates our news programs, our social media, our sidewalk conversations, and our attitudes are killing us. People are hurting. People are dying. People are experiencing depression in record numbers. It’s time to wake up.

Now our salvation is nearer than when we first had faith. 12 The night is almost over, and the day is near. So let’s get rid of the actions that belong to the darkness and put on the weapons of light.

My friends, you have a weapon of light in your hand. It is the love of Jesus for the world. It is a love that bled and died on a cross for your salvation. It is a love that is unconditional for ALL people. And when used properly, it is a force of power that can conquer any force of evil that comes along.

YOU are a weapon of light. Use your power for good and fight back with love. Dress yourself in the armor of the Lord Jesus Christ and go out and love like your life depends on it. Because frankly, it does. 

13 Let’s behave appropriately as people who live in the day, not in partying and getting drunk, not in sleeping around and obscene behavior, not in fighting and obsession. 

14 Instead, dress yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t plan to indulge your selfish desires.

What’s in YOUR hand? Let it be love.

Let Love Light Your Way by Michelle Robertson

Arise, and Come Away

“Love you!”

When did “Love you!” at the end of a phone call become a thing? I remember a time when you didn’t end each conversation that way. Of course, I also remember rotary phones. Now it is such a standard signing-off phrase, we say it without thinking…like my friend did recently as she was getting off a call with her dentist’s office. Boy, was that receptionist surprised! So let’s talk about the simple act of saying, “Love you.”

We’ll start with a little romance from the most romantic book in the Old Testament.

The Song of Solomon is a set of lyrical poems that describes the feelings between a young maiden and her beloved. The beauty of the language alone is worth the read, and you occasionally hear a selection from Song of Solomon (also known as Song of Songs) in a wedding ceremony. The intensity of the maiden’s feelings for her partner are clear and tangible.

I think that weddings should include the level of passion for two becoming one that is reflected in these poems. At every wedding I conduct, I pray that the newlyweds maintain the same strength of feeling they have on their wedding day for the entirety of their marriage. Of course the reality is that life gets in the way, and courtship eventually turns into dishwasher and laundry duty.

But how lovely it is to remember those first intense feelings of any love relationship:

Song of Solomon 2 (New Revised Standard Version)

The voice of my beloved!
    Look, he comes,
leaping upon the mountains,
    bounding over the hills.
My beloved is like a gazelle
    or a young stag.
Look, there he stands
    behind our wall,
gazing in at the windows,
    looking through the lattice.

The game is afoot. He approaches her gently, and looks are exchanged. Can you believe this stuff is in the scriptures? It reads like a saucy beach novel!

10 My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;
11 for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
12 The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree puts forth its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.

You know what this tells us? That God loves love. That God blesses love when it is mutual and shared. Spouse to spouse, parent to child, sibling to sibling, neighbor to neighbor, and friend to friend, love is a fragrant offering that connects us to each other and to God’s creation. As winter turns to spring, the call to love one another is always in season.

Where is God calling you to show love to someone today? Where can you be the voice of hope to someone who needs to hear that they are loved? Chances are, someone you know feels wholly unloved right now. You can change that.

Remember that love has the power to take us away to a better place. It invites us to leave the ordinary and come away to something extraordinary.

Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away.

Love never fails. Faith, hope and love, these three: but the greatest of these is love.

Love you!

What the World Needs Now is Love by Wende Pritchard

Driving out Fear

Are you a person with a great capacity to love? Do you believe that we are called to love one another? What does the Bible say about love?

1 John 4 may be the most love-saturated passage in the entire Bible. Take a look at this and see how many times the word “love” appears:

1 John 4 (Common English Bible)

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. 11 Dear friends, if God loved us this way, we also ought to love each other. 

Love is from God. If you don’t love, you don’t know God. The charge is so simple: if God loves us so much that he sacrificed his son for us, we ought to love each other in the same way.

12 No one has ever seen God. If we love each other, God remains in us and his love is made perfect in us. 13 This is how we know we remain in him and he remains in us, because he has given us a measure of his Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the savior of the world. 15 If any of us confess that Jesus is God’s Son, God remains in us and we remain in God. 16 We have known and have believed the love that God has for us.

So what do we make of “love” that abuses, shuns, or condemns? What evidence of love can be found in the person who refuses to accept the “other?” Where is love when judgment is being spewed?

God is love, and those who remain in love remain in God and God remains in them. 17 This is how love has been perfected in us, so that we can have confidence on the Judgment Day, because we are exactly the same as God is in this world. 

We will be judged by how we followed the commandment to love as God loves in this world. And God is the only one qualified to judge. He calls us to offer love to one another, not judgment. Perfect love is designed to drive out fear, even fear of people who are drastically different from us. If you claim to love God but hate a certain section of God’s people, you are a liar.

18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, because fear expects punishment. The person who is afraid has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because God first loved us. 

20 Those who say, “I love God” and hate their brothers or sisters are liars.

After all, those who don’t love their brothers or sisters whom they have seen can hardly love God whom they have not seen!21 This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.

Those who claim to love God have to love their brother and sister WITHOUT JUDGMENT. This is the Word of God for the people of God. If your response to this is “Yeah, but what about the people who….” then you have totally missed the point.

Hearts Over Atlanta by Kathy Schumacher