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One Word

It had been too long since my lifelong friend and I had caught up with each other, so as I planned for a visit in the city where he now lived, we arranged to meet for breakfast. We updated each other on our families and recounted childhood memories—still cherished and somehow sweeter with age—before discussing meatier matters of the present. For decades Steve had endured addiction and also the messes that flow from it only to return and feed it once again. As we met, he had been sober for a few years (and remains so still today), relying daily on the love and power of God and the selfless support of friends. Steve recounted to me that, four months into his recovery, he and two friends had a deep conversation about turning one’s life over to God, and at that moment he felt the Spirit of God come over him—“It was like a thousand-pound weight off my shoulders.” Of the change in his life, my friend told me, “When I wake, the first thing I say to God is, ‘I love you, too.’”

Did you catch that—“I love you, too”? I cannot recall what Steve said after that, for my mind was racing to process what was to me a one-word sermon: “Too.” For who says, “I love you, too,” but the one already basking in the assurance of love from another? “Too” is the return of a love first received; it is the peaceful reply of the humbled heart; it is the echo resounding from the grateful soul. “I love you, too” professes the origin of love, for “love comes from God”1; it proclaims His character and rejoices before Him. And “too” testifies to this truth—“We love because he first loved us.”2 His love is pure freedom, and in this confidence we respond with these words and with our entire being from which they flow, “I love you, too.”

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. —1 John 4:16-17.

God, I love you and your Son always and forever. Amen.

1 1 John 4:17
2 1 John 4:19

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It’s Personal

He was a sharp, young man—a “millennial,” by chronology, and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. So, I was eager to hear his thoughts on his contemporaries’ openness to the gospel. “With my generation,” he said, “you cannot begin with truth. We value beauty, love, and community, so you have to start there. Ultimately, everyone will have to deal with truth, of course, but you cannot lead into the conversation with it.” While the message was disappointing in a way, his insight provided helpful guidance for one wanting to connect with people raised in a postmodern age.

Like it or not, we live in an era that is, in part, defined by a deep mistrust of truth. We’ve been taught that truth doesn’t exist at all or that it is elusive and largely unknowable, difficult to ascertain at best. Constrained by skepticism, we find ourselves with little more than personal experience to define reality, and “truth” becomes arbitrary, ours to define by fickle feelings as unique as the shifting shadows we cast.

But even cloudy thinking cannot block out “the Father of heavenly lights,” for His truth still breaks through the fogs of uncertainty and illumines even the soul of the skeptic. And if there is a silver lining to the prevailing worldview of doubt, it might be this—people who do search today for what is real do so more cautiously, and when we discover the One who is “faithful and true,”1 we are willing to pay a greater cultural cost to accept Him.

What do we find, then, when we step into the invisible kingdom of God through the unseen doors of faith? Beauty is personal; it has an Artist. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”2 Love is personal; it has an Origin. “God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”3 Community is personal; it has a Home. “In Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”4

Greater even than the beauty we behold, the love we savor, and the community we embrace is the God in whom they exist, whose image they portray. Regardless of era, irrespective of age, we can trust him, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”5

Lord, lead us out of doubt and distrust, that we might rest in the reality of Jesus, who loves us with an everlasting love. Amen.

“Every good and perfect gift is from heaven above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all he created. (James 1:17, 18)”

1 Revelation 19:11
2 Isaiah 6:3
3 1 John 4:8b, 9
4 Romans 12:5
5 Psalm 110:5