“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” — Acts 2:17, NIV
“Pastor Kyle Searcy continues the FAHOW [Fresh Anointing House of Worship] ‘Shine: Living A Life That Matters In Eternity’ sermon series with a powerful interview with 25-year-old Josh Miles and his father Willie Miles. On January 3rd  Josh was rushed to the hospital after his temperature spiked to 106 degrees. His father says during the car ride to the hospital Josh lost consciousness, but Josh says he left his body and encountered hell and then heaven. When he finally reached the hospital and awoke doctors informed him he experienced a heart attack, stroke, and seizures.”
“And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it …” — Jesus, Luke 19:19
“This cup is the new covenant in My blood …” — Jesus, Luke 19:20
I was on the schedule at my church this past Sunday to present the “communion meditation,” a short homily preceding our weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
That schedule—published late last fall for our Traditional services in 2020—was obviated (i.e., “blown to smithereens”) by the COVID-19 shutdown. We still partake in the Lord’s Supper in our online service (at home) but with no Traditional service homily.
Months ago, pre-shut-down, I hit on an idea for the homily and made notes. When my phone calendar chime reminded me last week to prepare the communion meditation, I dug out the notes and figured, column! Here is my communion thought:
“The broken body and the spilled blood of Christ.” That’s the phrase we hear so often as we encounter the Lord’s Supper, our commemoration of Jesus at the last supper in the upper room. Jesus there instructed His disciples, going forward, to eat the bread and drink the cup “in remembrance” of Him. In the ensuing hours, Jesus—the perfect and innocent lamb—would be arrested, tried, beaten, and crucified. Jesus’s broken and bloody body hung on the cursed cross sacrificed to defeat death, forgive humanity’s sins, and complete His mission of salvation in perfect obedience to God.
That’s a story we all know, but frankly I don’t always like the way it is told. Jesus died a violent but purposeful death and His resurrection proved His truth. But scripture tells us that Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, would have no “broken” bones (Exodus 12:46, Psalm 34:20, John 19:36). And though Jesus bled, crucifixion is not a “blood” sacrifice—death comes from multiple trauma and agonizing asphyxiation on a “cursed tree.”
Listen closely to the words of Luke 19:19: “He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it.” Jesus was breaking the bread of sustained fellowship with His disciples and instructing all believers for all time to remember and replicate the holy communion the disciples had with Jesus and each other. Fellowship, not brokenness, is the point.
And hear Luke 19:20: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood …” Blood is the locus of life, we are taught in the Old Testament, and this new cup of Christ indicates not only His bloody death but the blood—the new life of faith—in the New Covenant.
Let us always encounter the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper with joy and fellowship, in both our communion with Christ and in loving each other. Why would we celebrate a guilty remembrance of a brutal death, or a shaming reminder of our sins, failures, and fallenness? When did Jesus say to believers, “Remember your guilt!”?
No! In communion with the gracious, risen Christ we are to joyfully and properly share in His eternal gifts of hope and peace. “Go and sin no more!” Jesus said. In this supper we commemorate the glory and love of God, the perfect truth and obedience of Jesus, and the abiding comfort and peace of the Holy Spirit. The bread and the cup remind us that we are Christians commissioned to shine Jesus’s light on mankind and that Jesus commanded us, as faithful servants, to love God and to love each other.
In a world where Satan’s darkness is close, we are citizens of a Heavenly light in communion with the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and each other. Let’s remember that.
In a world beset by bad news, there is always a glimmer of hope. One such glimmer was recently published at The American Spectator: “A Report from the Front” by George Parry. A band of physicians in the “Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Consortium” has published a treatment protocol that avoids ventilation and focuses instead on reducing inflammation and coagulation in COVID-19 patients. Praise God!
“Make no doubt about it: COVID-19 is a dress rehearsal for a police state. Dennis Prager is taking a bold stance on the coronavirus because he is dedicated to truth. He also addresses the left’s contempt for working people, the growing threat of a police state, and the danger of putting our health above our rights and freedoms.”
“…that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on the power of God.”
“…faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
1 Corinthians 2:5, Hebrews 11:1
If I do say so myself, I wrote the most amazing sentence this past week in an email exchange with an extraordinarily bright, non-religious, long-time friend.
Let’s call him John, and his irenic response to that sentence inspired this column.
John had commented wryly but critically about a recent op-ed piece I had written, “On Facemasks … Who Are We?” It was an editorial about American character, COVID-19, and hiding the identity God gave to us behind a facemask.
John’s public observation contained what seemed to be ad hominem vitriol. I pushed back, but our ensuing non-public exchange was thought-provoking. He noted: “My lack of faith means I do take things more objectively, and though your words were almost poetic it might not resonate as deeply with me as it would with a Christian. …”
A nice compliment from a smart guy that revealed a common error about “faith.”
I responded, “Great note John. I deeply appreciate your sincerity. Don’t ever think lack of faith makes one more objective; it makes one (maybe not you) less able to embrace the existence of objective truth, which requires faith. …”
That was my “amazing sentence,” in case you couldn’t tell. I continued briefly about being 47 when I “got” Christ, what a deeply intellectual journey my faith-growth has been, and I noted John’s keen capacity to parse and understand virtually anything.
To that John replied, “I love how your journey has … led you into sureness that (in my wry and respectful observation) you can use a phrase like ‘embracing the existence of objective truth requires faith.’ I … understand that after you have crossed that faith bridge you are no longer tentative but living in a new certainty, such that a phrase that seems to be a contradiction in terms isn’t a contradiction at all.”
And there it is, this week’s column: objectivity vs. faith. John was gently, eruditely, and without condescension acknowledging that what is a contradiction to him, i.e., “objective truth which requires faith,” he understands is not a contradiction to me.
And that seeming contradiction, friends, is what limits the world. It also largely defines today’s truth-obviating post-modernism which positions “truth” as objectively incompatible with the inferior “faith” as objective proof of the reality of Jesus Christ.
John also cited the “metaphysics” required for me to take such a “leap of faith.”
It reminded me—and underscored—how western civilization overly-relies on the ancient Greek philosophical axiom that reality and objectivity are confined to that which can be seen (or discussed) and “proven.” I also think of Francis Bacon’s 17th century “scientific method” that adds “repeatability” to the proof of “scientific” reality. These worldly constructs exclude faith and combine to vacantly imply, “Faith isn’t objective.”
Really? Which is closer to objectivity: God the Creator of all things, His infinite love and eternal relationship, that He made humanity in His own image, and lights our lives with Christ, or the machinations, variations, limitations, and opinions of fallen men?
Life’s objective truth is not a leap of faith; it is a faithful walk in the light of Jesus.
“When the Counselor comes, who I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the Father, He will testify about me.”
Jesus, in John 15:26
A little more than a year ago I inherited the teaching duties in our church’s Thursday morning seniors “Mustard Seed” Bible study fellowship. At age 65 I am the “kid” in the group, and I can barely describe how enriching it is to share Scripture with this weekly group of seasoned, Bible-savvy saints.
Currently we have not met since Thursday, March 12, which was pretty much the last open day in Indiana before everything, including our East 91st Street Christian Church, area schools, and public meetings started shutting down Friday, March 13.
Mustard Seed–no argument there–is the kind of group that especially needs not to meet when a pandemic like COVID-19 is an evident danger to older folks.
But what I wanted to talk about this week is not the dire, dour, and depressing isolation of our nation’s and indeed the world’s present situation. Nor can I think of anything new to say about our individual and largely home-bound circumstances. To all those folks still out there working every day in hospitals, grocery stores, gas stations, and other life-saving and society-sustaining endeavors, I say “Thank You!”
What I do want to discuss is the plain-as-the-nose-on-my-face fact that perhaps the greatest joy-robbing, hope-jangling feature of this unprecedented time is the utter absence of what I would call reliable truth about virtually anything having to do with the reporting, media narrative, and politics surrounding the pandemic. Who can we trust?
From China to Washington state to New York City to Washington D.C. to Italy to my home here in Fishers, Indiana, I wonder who is pushing which social, political, or economic agenda. What is the real danger: the disease or our reaction to it? Since “tomorrow is guaranteed to no one,” let’s not panic about the presently more intense vagaries of “tomorrow.” What we all need are facts and truth, not fear and spin.
I started by talking about “Mustard Seed” because our past several months have been a study of “The Words of Jesus.” Especially illuminating to me personally, in the Last Supper and Gethsemane sections of John 14-17, is Jesus talking through these four entire chapters about God’s unwavering righteousness, eternal truth, boundless love, infinite glory, their relationship… and His disciples’ responsibilities going forward.
This truth–His truth–marches on. In His last hours it is virtually all Jesus talks about.
When we can’t see truth–in anything, whether particular or whole–our human misery most likely is in our inability to see God, relate with Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit. The world, for unrighteous reasons in times like these, prefers our focus to be on fear and anxiety. These are man’s evil shackles that choke our free breath in Christ.
I listen carefully for God’s truth. I know that’s what Jesus brought into the world–freedom not just from our own sin and the wiles of wicked men and women, but toward faith, hope, love, peace, creativity, and joy that our trust in God’s eternal truth assures.
What a better world we make, and what joy we reap, when we believe in and testify to God’s truth. The fallen world controls us in fear, but Jesus by His life, death, resurrection, and sending of the Spirit let God’s righteous, saving truth out of the bag.
Sometimes we have to fight for that truth, but our joy always is in knowing it.
There is one thing that I have learned in my years of walking with Jesus, and it is this-there is nothing wasted in this life, even our pain when we seek Christ first.
COVID-19 has brought with it a roller coaster ride of emotions, fears, doubts, anger, and depression. There have been times my knuckles turned white with anxiety as I grasped for anything to anchor the sinking feeling in my stomach. Then God in His tender grace reminded me to quit grasping for a safe place to land and start seeking Him and His ways first.
So, I did. I let go of the tight grip of false security and lifted my hands in the air in the act of surrender—the wrap-around peace of my Father met me there.
Such sweet peace. As I rest daily in Christ’s embrace, He gently whispers wisdom to my heart. This wisdom is guiding me moment by moment as I walk daily through COVD-19.
The first step is I take a deep breath, pause in His presence, and whisper a simple prayer. I start the day off with this prayer, end the day with this prayer, and whisper it several times throughout the day when I feel the knees of my faith start to buckle.
“Dear Father, take my feet and anchor them in You that I may walk the way You have for me today (Psalm 49:2). Hold my heart close to Yours that I may learn Your ways and remain true to Who you are. Only then will life-giving words flow from my lips, bringing glory to Your name in pain (Psalm 73:23-28, Proverbs 4:23). Protect my mind from the lies of the world. Let the battlefield of my mind be a place where Your Word runs freely, washing and renewing me to think from an eternal perspective (Ephesians 5:26).”
The second step is one I shared in last week’s devotional, and that is burden casting (1 Peter 5:7). Whenever my heart feels overwhelmed, I take a deep breath, pause in His presence, and ask Him to search my heart and reveal the source of my anxiety. When He shows me the cause, then I cast that care on Him and ask forgiveness for trusting in anything besides Him. Then I look for steps that move me away from the anxiety.
That is why I choose carefully the amount of media I allow to influence my heart. Too much input and the anxiety pounds in my chest, fear rises in my throat, and I quickly look for comfort in all the wrong places. When this happens I ask myself which is more important-to gain mounds of knowledge or guard my heart.
The third step is to go on a hunt for God throughout the day. Where do I see the evidence of His grace at work? When I discover these God moments, I offer up the gift of gratitude (Psalm 7:17, Colossians 2:7).
The grace gift may be as simple as laughter shared with my husband as we cook dinner together or as miraculous as the healing of a friend diagnosed with COVID-19. Regardless, gratitude shifts my focus from the crisis to Christ and in return, He lifts my heart from fear to faith.
These three simple steps have become part of my daily routine. They guide me into discovering hope for the journey.
I realize we are #Inthistogether, but we each have our unique circumstances and processes in getting through this. Maybe you have some steps in place that are anchoring you to hope in Christ. I hope so. If not, then I pray one of my action steps will provide you a reliable place to start.
Let’s keep finding hope in the journey, Evelyn
P.S. I had a “baby”! At least that is how several of my friends have described my journey to finishing my book proposal. Well, I finished it. And I can’t thank you enough for all the prayer support and words of encouragement. My next step is a final copy edit and the design. After that, I get an agent and pray for God to let my words land with the right publisher. How scary exciting is that!?
P.S.S. My friend Shakti and I finished the free printable promises, 24 Scriptures of Hope for Hardtimes. I can’t wait to share them with you. Just click on this link24 Scriptures of Hope for Hardtimes.and “ta-da,” they are yours. I want to get whatever resources into your hands that can serve as reminders that our God is faithful, we are not alone, and we will come out of this better than ever if we lean wholeheartedly into Christ. Be blessed, my friends.
Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of my blogs, visit my website Hope for the Journey.