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.

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!”

An Invitation to Intimacy

This unprecedented time in our history continues to shape and form us in ways that are hard to sift through, including Easter weekend. We will not be gathering in houses of worship to share communion, lift our voices collectively in adoration, or lean in as the story of old is shared from the Bible. 

While I miss the traditional observations of this sacred week, there is a holy churning in my heart that I cannot ignore. When the traditions of man have been stripped away, I am forced to dig deeper into the meaning behind the traditions. 

Like why is Good Friday called good? It seems to me that it was the darkest hour for Jesus and anything but good. He was beaten beyond facial recognition, whipped so brutally that His rib cage was exposed, a mocking crown of thorns pounded into His skull, stripped of His clothing and forced to carry a rugged cross until He collapsed beneath the weight. 

He was ridiculed, spat upon, nailed to a torturous cross, forced to pull himself up by the nails that held him, hostage, just to take in a small labored breath. All is quiet as His sacred head now wounded, drops with His final heartbeat.

His darkest hour became mankind’s finest hour. He poured out His life so that we could be redeemed, restored, and renewed. 

This is why Friday is good. 

I sit here alone, reflecting, no distractions, no productions, just me and Jesus. Due to the “stay at home” order, there is no need to rush. 

And in this unhurried space, I hear His invitation. An invitation to look at His gift of love one more time with fresh eyes. To come out from behind the familiar and find comfort in His embrace alone.

His invitation is one of intimacy. 

The way of life we have known has been forced out of its normal rhythms. But times of great stress are opportunities to reboot our faith. All that is non-essential is divested, and we see what we can live with and what we cannot live without. 

During these past few weeks, God has done a lot of sifting in this heart of mine. I am learning what I need and what I want are two different things. But there is one essential thing, and this I must have… Jesus. 

Here’s the one thing I crave from God,
the one thing I seek above all else:
 I want the privilege of living with Him every moment in His house,
finding the sweet loveliness of His face,
filled with awe, delighting in His glory and grace.
 I want to live my life so close to Him
that He takes pleasure in my every prayer.

Psalm 27:4, TPT

His invitation stands. How will you RSVP?

Finding Hope in the Journey,
Evelyn

P.S. Stay tuned in the coming weeks. I have a new set of printable Scripture cards coming to you: Post-it promises for times of crisis. Also, I am excited to announce I will be sharing words of wisdom from a surprise guest author. So hang in there, friends; we will get through this. And in the words of my sweet momma, “The sun will come up tomorrow.”


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.