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.

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.

How Great Is Our God and D-B-R

We acknowledge and celebrate another Easter weekend in America and around the world. This year is an unusual one under the threat and confusion from a novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. Being confined at home and from work has provided safety and health, but it has also provided much time with individuals and families to ponder and wonder.

This writer is gratefully living his sixth human decade as well as the fourth decade of marriage and Christian conversion in that order. Many questions about religion and Biblical history continue to intrigue me. My best answers still come from those sixty-six books called the Bible.

We remember Good Friday and Easter Sunday which are celebrated as holidays and holydays. Even The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2020 continues to publish national and religious holidays and observances. What makes Good Friday and Easter Sunday unique is explained in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The last three chapters of each Gospel record what has been heralded as holy week (Note: see John Chapters 13–21). What started in the Old Testament book of Exodus is fulfilled according to those New Testament Gospels. Our calendars mark this ONCE-in-history-event when the Nazarene was crucified for claiming to be God! (Religious freedom should have been practiced then).

The Old Testament Festival of Passover and Unleavened Bread were established according to Exodus Chapters 11–13. The New Testament book of Hebrews explains this very thoroughly. Passover is always celebrated in the spring months on the fourteenth day of the Moon. We know that fourteenth lunar day as Full Moon and our modern calendars show the separation between the Passover date and Good Friday. In this leap year, the Full Pink Moon occurred on Tuesday night, April 7, 2020. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are fixed days nearest the Passover Full Moon.

This Saturday before sunrise, while some of you were sleeping and others working, this writer awakened wondering, “What about Saturday?” Then D-B-R hit me: the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ Jesus!

“And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what You will.'”

Mark Chapter 14:35–36, ESV

Jesus said that in the garden of Gethsemane under the Full Moon! He never slept from sunrise Thursday through the following sunrise Friday, the day of His crucifixion. That was a horrific Friday for Him, but the Good Friday for humanity’s second chance! So what about Saturday? Christ Jesus was dead in a borrowed tomb on the Day of Rest, which was established in Genesis 2! Four thousand years of history and humanity and He gets another day off? He said He would do this since Genesis Chapter 3. His prophets said so many times in the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 18, Psalm 22, Isaiah 7 and 53, and Jonah 2 are a few examples of His way to eternal life. All four Gospels record a risen Christ Jesus. Sunday before sunrise He arose and demonstrated His control and power over life and death. Maybe Saturday is our time to rest and ponder this special weekend!

Ernie & Ruth Poani

At your service with telescopes and sky. Sign up for our mailing list, request a back issue, or send a copy to a friend. Contact us at (217) 361-6374 or email erp72creek@yahoo.com.

There’s No One Like Jesus

This praise song is sung in different languages across the entire continent of Africa. Praise You, Lord!

Akekho Ofana Nojesu (There’s no one like Jesus)
Akekho ofana naye (There’s no one like Him)
Akekho Ofana Nojesu (There’s no one like Jesus)
Akekho ofana naye (There’s no one like Him)

Ahuna ya tswanang le Jesu (There’s nobody like Jesus)
Ahuna ya tswanang naye (Theres nobody like Him)
Ahuna ya tswanang le Jesu (Theres nobody like Jesus)
Ahuna ya tswanang naye (There’s nobody like Him)

Kamatla matla, Hohle hohle (I looked around, everywhere)
Kadikulaha, Hohle hohle (I turned around, everywhere)
Kamu fumana yeso waka (I eventually found my Jesus)
Ahuna ya tswanang naye (There’s nobody like him)

Coronavirus: Unshakable Faith in a World That is Being Shaken

The following is a World Challenge podcast. It was originally published here.

We are living in shaky times. As a global pandemic of coronavirus makes its way around the globe, taking lives, crashing stock markets and threatening the livelihood of millions, people are afraid. How are you doing handling the fear. Or maybe put another way, how’s your faith holding up? In this special edition of the Gary Wilkerson podcast, Gary is joined by Keith Holloway, the Senior Director of Missions Development at World Challenge to talk about faith in a time of fear. We hope this podcast gives you hope and encouragement that even in desperate times like these, God is in control.

Notable Quotes from the Podcast

“…in the midst of all the shaking that’s going on in the world today, there is an unshakable foundation. There is an internal foundation of an unshakable faith, of an unshakable hope, of an unshakable resolve that I know my Redeemer lives and I know there’s joy unspeakable and full of glory.”

Gary Wilkerson

“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”

Martin Luther

“We are born again believers. We’re walking in the natural, but we’re also being led and guided and controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, it’s an awesome time for us to not feel diminished, but to actually feel prepared for this hour where we have an answer of the hope that lies within us…”

Keith Holloway

Bible Verses Mentioned in the Podcast

“When God spoke from Mount Sinai His voice shook the earth, but now He makes another promise: ‘Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.’ This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping Him with holy fear and awe.”

Hebrews 12:26-28, NLT

“The Lord reigns; Let the earth rejoice;”

Psalm 91:1a, NIV

Resources Mentioned in the Podcast 

About Keith Holloway

Keith Holloway is the Senior Director of Missions Development at World Challenge. Keith is a CHE trainer, facilitator, and a member of the Global CHE Network’s Representative Council. He and his wife Maureen live in Colorado Springs; they have six grown children and seven grandchildren. 

About Gary Wilkerson

Gary Wilkerson is the President of World Challenge, an international mission organization that was founded by his father, David Wilkerson. He is also the Founding Pastor of The Springs Church, which he launched in 2009 with a handful of people. He has traveled nationally and internationally at conferences and conducted mission ventures such as church planting, starting orphanages, clinics, feeding programs among the poorest of the poor and the most unreached people of the earth. Gary and his wife Kelly have four children and live in Colorado Springs, CO.

Fear Not

“‘[N]o weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and this is their vindication from me’…” — The Lord, Isaiah 54:17, NIV

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
— Jesus, John 14:27, NIV

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” — Paul, 2 Timothy 1:7, KJV

7 Ways Your Church Can Serve Your Community During the Coronavirus Crisis

The following is a statement from the Indiana Family Institute

Dear Friends,

We are praying for you, your families and your churches during this crisis!

Many churches are still navigating service cancellations due to government restrictions, discipleship efforts due to quarantine and ministry to vulnerable members in the midst of a pandemic. And, I agree that those efforts should be first priority (Matthew 28:16-20; Galatians 6:10).

However, if this crisis stretches into the next few weeks and even months (I pray that does not happen), the economic fallout could and probably will be severe. And, the church should be prepared to meet community as well as church needs (Matthew 5:16). Over the last few days, I have spoken to or heard from government officials, church leaders and other community organizations about community needs and how the church can meet them; and I have compiled a list from those interactions. Here are seven ways your church can serve your community during this time:

  1. Contact, Pray for and Assist Local Officials. Reach out to your mayor, local health officials and school officials to (1) tell them you are praying for them and (2) ask them how you can help. These officials may tell you that all needs are currently being met. But, if this crisis drags on, the need will intensify and your help will be needed.
  2. Call People and Deliver Care Kits. In a recent podcast episode, Jay Height from the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis shared with me that some elderly individuals go months without human interaction. This is a tragedy at any point, but it is especially problematic now. Why not put a team together to call shut-ins, other church members and even names in the phone book to offer prayer and help? When you identify a need (especially for an elderly individual), offer to deliver food or other essential items while observing CDC procedures.
  3. Assist Public Schools. Last week, a legislator shared with me that 30% of the students in one of the school districts in his area are on the free and reduced lunch program. In other words, these students rely on their school for daily nutrition. Public schools are scrambling to find ways to safely continue these food services, so ask if your church can assist in some way.
  4. Offer Space. Many churches lack other resources, but space is not one of them. I heard from one pastor that is assisting a local school by allowing the school to use the church parking lot to distribute food to students. And, this pastor also offered space for an emergency medical facility if the local hospital is overwhelmed.
  5. Provide Child Care. As I am sure you are well aware, schools are closed; and, that means that many parents are scrambling to figure out child care. This is, of course, especially important for workers in the health, safety, and essential service fields during this pandemic. Some churches with existing preschools are expanding their services to meet these needs and others are exploring the launch of such a ministry (you will, of course, need to work with local officials to comply with regulations). By the way, Indiana is already facing a child care shortage; so, perhaps this could be a long-term rather than a short-term strategy for meeting community needs.
  6. Donate Funds or Food to a Food Bank, The Salvation Army or a similar organization. Because kids are out of school and because many workers in the food service, travel and hospitality industries are either being laid off or having their hours cut, food and essentials such as toilet paper are in high demand. So, organize a fundraiser or food drive for a local food bank or similar organization. Make sure you communicate with the food bank or ministry beforehand to ensure compliance with CDC recommendations and to determine which items are most needed.
  7. Provide Resources to Those Experiencing Job Loss or Reduced Hours. The Indiana Department of Workforce Development has announced measures to assist individuals that have been laid off or have had their hours cut due to the pandemic. Point individuals to the designated website so they can sign up for these resources. Also, some churches are specifically raising funds for and distributing assistance to individuals in hard-hit industries.

From the early church to the Ebola outbreak, the church has responded to plague and disease with love, hope and help. Now, it’s our turn.

I hope these ideas help you and your church as you serve your community!

Also, we are in contact with government officials (including the governor’s office) and other ministries, and are working with them to coordinate response efforts. We would love to know what you and your church are doing so we can compare and contrast best practices and let government officials know about the church’s efforts to combat this pandemic and serve people in need.

Will you take a moment and fill out this brief survey so we know how you are serving your community and how we can best coordinate with government officials and equip the church in Indiana?  

I’ll close with this quote by George Whitefield, which has been on mind lately, “We are immortal until our work on earth is done.” Let’s go be the church

Sincerely,

Ryan McCann
Executive Director, IFI 


For more information about the Indiana Family Association, visit Facebook or their website