Fellowship and Life

“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.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is fixed and gathered, not broken and spilled. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Kokomo’s Habitat for Humanity Build Reopens May 30th

Habitat for Humanity of the Kokomo community plans on welcoming volunteers and partner families back to their build site Saturday, May 30th.

The build site is located at 1215 N. Courtland Ave., Kokomo, IN, and will be open from 8:30AM–4PM.

In addition to the safety information given at the build site, Habitat also wants volunteers to be aware of basic protective measures to take related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak:

  • Stay home if you feel unwell
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Avoid hugs and handshakes. Use alternative ways of greeting people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Seek medical care early if you have a fever, a cough, and difficulty breathing
  • Follow advice given by your health care provider on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19

For more information or to volunteer, see habitatkokomo.com, visit Facebook, or call Katie at (765) 452-2185.

A Glimmer of Hope

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!

Fear, Credibility, and the Threat of a Police State

“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.”

Dennis’s columns mentioned:

It’s the Light, Not the Leap

“…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.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) met John (smart even back then) in Little League. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Letting Truth Out of the Bag

“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.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) watches little mainstream news but stays informed and prays big sincere prayers… regularly. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

COVID-19 Briefing

Two physicians, Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Massihi, recently gave a briefing on COVID-19.

Note: this video is also available on DTube.

4/30/20 Update: The original video from this briefing (https://youtu.be/xfLVxx_lBLU) has been disabled. This post has been updated with fresh links.

5/5/20 Update: The video from Part 2 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4zxobGPsw0 has been disabled. This post has been updated with a fresh link.

5/14/20 Update: The video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJprwe_rWeM has been disabled. This post has been updated with a fresh link where both segments of this briefing has been combined into one video.

3 Steps to Finding Hope During COVID-19

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 link 24 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.

On Facemasks … Who Are We?

By Bob Walters

Before we ask every American who goes out in public to wear a facemask “just in case”…

A treasure of the American experience is our historically unique and individually tenacious dedication to that most striking declaratory characteristic which forms our lives, our communities, and indeed our very definition of humanity. 

And that American treasure is the sanctity of our individual human identity.

That is what is different about America; it is what America introduced to the entire world when the people—not the government, not the strong-arm bullies, not kings or emperors—were bequeathed with the righteous power of self-determination and the moral imperative of government of, by, and for themselves.

It would require Americans to function cooperatively, peacefully, and honestly together as citizens. Government would exist for the common defense and the common good. It would consist of representatives of the people, and would break “ties” when competing interests required arbitration, settlement, adjudication, or restitution.

It was novel. For the first time in human history government would serve the people, not the other way around. America’s greatest strength was the freedom its citizenry enjoyed to form interest groups and both pursue individual aspiration and serve the common good. This would be our identity not just as a nation or tribe—those are common all over the world—but the identity I have, you have, each of us has as active and free agents in shaping our own lives, families, communities, and indeed, the nation.

Identity. What is that? In America I believe it is the inviolability of our belief that we—each one of us—was uniquely created by God and will be uniquely judged by God: I will, you will, we all will. America is socially weighted to that proposition that all are created equal. I believe that divine identity to be universal to global humanity, but America puts a special twist on it because of the many qualities we embrace.

The first quality is freedom. Imperfect as we may be, we are nonetheless free to be who we want to be and aspire to achieve what we want to achieve.

Then, responsibility, which freedom requires. We are responsible to and for ourselves, family, neighbors, communities, nation … and all humanity. The binding agent in responsibility, ultimately, is our responsibility to God, though some would remove God from the list. Unless we understand our Creator, we will not understand our creation or purpose. In America we truly see each other with an at least visceral and at most resolute belief that each us was uniquely created for a unique life’s purpose and will be judged for the life we lived. That informs and mandates our responsibility to each other in the here and now and to God in the hereafter. Some folks hate that truth.

Our American identity—our individual identity as Americans—I believe begins with freedom and responsibility. After that … I think we are free and perhaps even duty-bound to construct our own list; to think about what our identity means. I propose a cornucopia of virtues. Following closely after freedom and responsibility, I’d tout opportunity, aspiration, creativity, industry, motivation … and hope. Hope of the possible; hope of the good; hope of life and love and joy and accomplishment.

I believe God loves to see his kids play and loves to see us prosper. He’ll help.

And I also believe that Americans like to see each other; we live face to face. Some cultures—especially in the East but also among communists, socialists, totalitarians everywhere—attach no such significance to individual identity because their identity is either defined elsewhere (by government), culturally diminished, or non-existent. Sadly, it seems, their faces don’t matter … not even to themselves.

Most of what a common surgical facemask is going to hide is our identity. There is debatable prophylactic effectiveness for the loosely-fitted cloth masks we see on most people, and yes we might avoid some risk for some time by “locking down” our faces behind N-95 medical grade masks. But that is not who we are; nor who I want to be.

Risk is an American value, as are freedom, responsibility, opportunity and hope. We will not fully function as Americans when externally instilled fear overrides our legitimate questions about reality. 

As I believe in the critical importance of American individual identity, so I am also convinced of darker forces within our nation dedicated to diminishing that foundationally and morally proper human characteristic of self. The “you-me-us-we” Americans freely and joyously expressing our individual, responsible, proper God-given identities works against the dark forces desiring our fear, submission, and the evisceration of self-worth.

Before we don masks and berate those who would both question their efficacy and note their deleterious effect on community esprit dé corps—“What!!! You Want People To DIE!!!???—let’s instead consider who we are as a nation and assess our identities as individuals created in the image of the living God. Yes, we live in a fallen world, but with the divine promise of God’s truth and brighter hope for tomorrow. Jesus said so.

Not everyone believes that, of course. I do, and I want to be prudent towards and considerate of others because it’s my American responsibility to respect their health, well-being, hopes, and aspirations. That’s what Americans do because we know it is the right thing. But we also have to know when a right thing becomes a wrong thing; when someone declares something to be a “new normal” … and it’s not normal.

Put on a mask … ?

Let’s not make a habit of this. Soon we won’t know who we are. 

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is a writer in Fishers, Indiana USA, and publishes a weekly Christian short essay at CommonChristianity.blogspot.com. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.