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.

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.

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.

Love in a Time of War

Your wedding date’s set, but an enemy virus begins sweeping through your country, forcing you into lockdown. What can you do?

Well, you could do what one bride and groom did and tie the knot online!

From the ceremony’s YouTube description: “Due to the coronavirus, the wedding of USAF Captains Zach Turek and Liliana Ramirez scheduled for March 21 had to be postponed.  Not to be denied by a virus, they were married on Zoom on March 24 by Zach’s dad Frank Turek and witnessed by Zach’s mom Stephanie Turek.  Zach is serving in Texas and Lili in Georgia. They do not know when they will see one another in person.  But nothing could separate their love from one another just as nothing can separate Christ’s love from us (Romans 8:35-39)”

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 8:35–39

Disease: Happenstance or Planned Event?

“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.”

3 John 1:2, KJV

Be in Health is a unique ministry that focuses on spiritual roots to health and disease. They recently hosted a five-night event called “Disease: Happenstance or Planned Event?” Each session is available on YouTube!

Session 2

Session 3

Session 3.5

Session 4

Session 5

Dr. Henry Cloud Has a Talk Show!

The doctor is in! Psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud is ready to answer your life questions on his brand new talk show. Tune in on YouTube at 4PM EST (1PM PST), or call (844) 940-2774 with your question. Catch all the episodes on Dr. Cloud’s YouTube Channel.

Among other books, Dr. Cloud is the co-author of Boundaries and author of Necessary Endings and Changes that Heal. He recently launched a new church-based initiative at churchesthatheal.com.

The Blessing of Burden Casting

“Pour out all your worries and stress upon Him and leave them there
for He always tenderly cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7, TPT

It was late in the evening. Steve had already collapsed into bed. I tried to join him, but my mind and heart kept racing. I didn’t feel like I was struggling with anxiety or necessarily worried about anything. So, I asked, “God, what is going on?”

I grabbed a glass of milk and made my way to the living room. The fireplace filled the living room with a warm glow and an invitation to sit in the stillness. So, I grabbed a blanket and cocooned myself on the couch. As the flames danced I asked again, “God, what is going on?”

Then God reminded me of a story called The Trouble Tree. 

The carpenter who was hired to help a man restore an old farmhouse had just finished his first day on the job and everything that could go wrong went wrong. First of all, on his way to work he had a flat tire that cost him an hour’s worth of pay, then his electric saw broke, and after work, his old pickup truck refused to start.

His new boss volunteered to give him a lift home and the whole way to his house the carpenter sat in stone silence as he stared out his window. Yet on arriving, he invited his boss in for a few minutes to meet his family. As they walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands. When he opened the door, he underwent an amazing transformation. His tanned face was one big smile as he hugged his two small children and kissed his wife.

Afterward, the man walked his boss to his car to say thank you. Now on their way out of the house, the boss’s curiosity got the best of him so he had to ask the man about the tree on the front porch. He said, I noticed when you came upon the porch before going into your house you stopped and touched the tree, why?

“Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t stop from having troubles out on the job, but one thing’s for sure–my troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and children. So, I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home. Then in the morning, I pick them up again.”

“Funny thing is,” he smiled, “when I come out in the morning to pick ‘em up, they aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before.”

As my mind replayed the story, I felt like God was sifting my heart. And in the sifting, He unearthed that I had not been casting my burdens on Him. Instead, I was burying them. This act of burying my concerns was causing feelings of anxiety to force their way up through the surface of my soul. 

Ever been there? You think you are handling life fairly well, but in reality, you are shoving down the doubts and fears.

I am grateful that God accepts us where we are but loves us too much to leave us there. He knows the damage worry and anxiety can have on our body, soul, and spirit. That is why He tells us to cast our cares on Him because He cares.  

I love the visual of a trouble tree. But what I love even more is when I cast my burdens on Christ, He has the power to miraculous transform my anxious heart into a heart at rest. And that is precisely what happened. “God, show me what the burdens are that I have buried?”

One by one He revealed hidden worries. And one by one I cast my burdens, not on a tree, but on the One who hung on a tree for me.

In these days of uncertainty, I applaud you for being brave and faithful to hold tight to the Father and His faithfulness. But just in case you are feeling a little restless in your soul, maybe it is God inviting you to do some burden casting. You can trust Him, for He cares for you.

Until next time let’s find hope in the journey.

Evelyn


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.

When Empty is Good

“ … and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.”

Colossians 2:10, NIV

What an irony that an empty grave was humanity’s first sign of salvation when what salvation means is humanity’s fullness in Christ.

In the Jesus-generated hubbub of Holy Week–the triumphant entry, trashing the temple, His teaching, the last supper, the new commandments, Jesus’s arrest, trials, horrible death on the cross, entombment, arisen and bodily seen on the third day, humanity’s forgiveness and salvation at last!–easily overlooked is the sure reality that Jesus was the human, divine, tactile proof of God’s existence and truth.

The disciples were frightened, disillusioned, and dispersed during the crucifixion.  The empty grave confounded everybody. The believers were then stunned Jesus was no longer dead; many saw Him, talked to Him, touched Him, ate with Him. He was real. 

And as for what it all meant, initially, to the believers, it meant joy mixed with confusion. Over the years we have come to talk about Easter and perhaps over-focus our faith on the gracious forgiveness of our sins by the cross and, by the empty grave, the gift of eternal life with God through faith in Christ. Sins forgiven; death defeated.

But we mustn’t stop there. It took even the disciples a while to figure it all out.

Everything the disciples needed to know about Jesus’s resurrection, who He was–God in the flesh–and what their task would be going forward, Jesus had already told them the past three years and especially in that eventful final week. Little of His infinite significance–what “Son of God” actually meant–truly sank in, at least not right away.

Even we today are often distracted by the Good Friday misery of death and the joyous Easter-morning relief of life revived. “He is Risen!” For the most part we have figured out, believe, and cherish the gifts of divine grace, the big “whew!” of our sins covered and behavioral debts canceled, and the secure knowledge that heaven, eternal life, and our adoption into God’s family and Kingdom are the sure goals of our hope.

That’s all great, but really it is only fullness for us. What about fullness for God?

That fullness is the life we are to give to others going forward. That is the glory of God Jesus brought to mankind. Jesus had fully briefed the disciples how His presence, life, death, and resurrection would define their mission ahead. And for a couple of obvious reasons, it was not the disciples’ mission to accompany Jesus into death. They were dispersed after Jesus’s arrest because 1) they had to be around later to tell about Jesus, and 2) death was something Jesus had to go through… rejected and alone. 

Jesus finished His mission on the cross; their mission was then to tell the world.

Think of the whiplash juxtaposition: on Friday the disciples thought they had seen their hope turn into a cruel lie and their mission into an empty hoax. On Sunday, hope became proof of God’s surest truth, and their mission would come to change the world.

Much, much more happened, of course. It took many years and many people to put those amazing events into the fulfilling context of truth and salvation for all mankind. 

But that empty grave?

It will remain empty forever, and thankfully, it is one we will never occupy.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com), who won’t be surprised if his own grave is a tad itchy, notes that the stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out, but to let us see in. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Eric Metaxas Visits the Samaritan’s Purse Field Hospital in Central Park

Using the expertise they’ve developed fighting diseases like ebola overseas, Samaritan’s Purse has opened a field hospital in Central Park! Eric Metaxas recently got a firsthand look…

Virtual Passover with Marty Goetz

Marty Goetz is a talented Messianic Jewish musician and composer who opened his home virtually to share a Passover Seder with friends and family. Take a look!

“Growing up in a Jewish family in Cleveland, Ohio, I always celebrated two nights of Passover. We joined others throughout the world in recounting the ancient story of our deliverance from slavery in Egypt. That miraculous event happened to a people instructed to stay in their dwellings until the ‘angel of death’ had passed over their homes, marked with the blood of the Passover lamb. As we all find ourselves in a similar situation, shut in, due to our ‘current crisis,’ we hope for our own miracle as we celebrate this second night of Pesach (Passover). From our family to yours, we invite you to join us for a mini-Seder and our observance of this timeless festival of freedom. Chag Sameach!”