“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.
“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.
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.
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.”
“…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”
Jesus very famously wept quietly at the tomb of Lazarus–“Jesus wept”–but He absolutely howled as He entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
Jesus weeps twice in the Bible–tenderly (Greek edakrysen, John 11:35) for Lazarus’s sisters’ sadness, and a second time loudly (Greek eklausen, Luke 19:41): “As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it.”
While we could spend this entire column discussing how deeply Jesus was moved–and somewhat miffed–at the reactions of Lazarus’ family and friends before Jesus brought Lazarus out of the tomb, that’s a common story we’ve all studied before. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25). And He meant it.
Bible scholars mostly agree that “Palm Sunday” was a few days later on the first day of the following week when Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem to the palm-waving Hosannas of all the believers who knew of Lazarus and had heard of Jesus’s many miracles. They welcomed Him to Jerusalem as their holy and promised Messiah.
The Pharisees were not so thrilled. As Jesus approached (Luke 37-44) the crowd joyously praised but the Pharisees viciously harangued: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” (v. 39). Jesus noted that if His disciples were quiet, then the “stones would cry out.” (v. 40). Seeing the unbelief of the Pharisees and their blindness toward God, Jesus knew it meant Jerusalem’s eventual destruction. He wept bitterly because of it.
Clearly nobody except Jesus had any idea what the rest of that week held, or how history after that would be forever changed. The reality was, Jesus on that donkey was God returning to Jerusalem–as God told Abraham, Moses, and the prophets He would–to initiate His Kingdom on Earth. It’s what Jesus had been saying all along.
What the Pharisees saw–in their blindness and anger–was a troublemaking blasphemer who would pull down their temple, negate their authority, threaten their social positions, and not least of all threaten Jerusalem’s tenuous peace with the Romans. The Pharisees “did not recognize the time of God’s coming.” (v. 41)
Something else they didn’t perceive, and I’d never thought of either, was looking at what we call Holy Week as a perfect, poetic replay of the Creation story in Genesis.
It was just a brief note in N.T. Wright’s The New Testament in Its World I’m reading, but, Lord of lords, how poignant. In Genesis 1, God labored for six days, rested a day, and His perfect Creation was in motion. Jesus here spent six days in Jerusalem (Sunday to Friday), finishing His work of salvation, service, obedience, and love on the cross on Friday–the sixth day–and in His death rested on the seventh day–Saturday.
Right here, let’s not worry too much whether on that “Holy Saturday” Jesus descended into Hades, battled Satan, freed the saints, or whatever else He might have done; there is only thin and much debated scriptural evidence for that. What we know is that on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” On the seventh day, why not let Him rest?
Jesus’s resurrection on the first day of a new week was breathtaking and glorious for those who believed. It signaled the new beginning of humanity’s eternal life in God’s Kingdom through the humility of the cross of Christ. Creation, humbly, was renewed.
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.