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.

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

Humble New Beginnings

“…because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Luke 19:41

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.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) looked up the Greek for “wept” at Biblehub.com. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

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.

Support David Benham

Entrepreneur and pro-life advocate David Benham was recently arrested outside a Charlotte, NC abortion clinic—even though he and the organization he co-founded and was serving with (Cities4Life) were providing essential social services to abortion-vulnerable women while following CDC guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Arrest

Mr. Benham’s arrest was recorded; even while being handcuffed, he remained calm and reminded officers of his Constitutional rights:

“This is wrong and you know it. You cannot tell us to leave… You know I am well within my Constitutional authority to be here.”

David Benham

The Response

“We see on the one hand a true threat to our Constitutional liberties as Americans. It’s real. This thing is happening. As well as, on the other side, it’s an awakening for Christians to really consider the unborn and what we see right now is that Christ tells us to love our neighbors, born and unborn, right?

“…We have, with this COVID-19 crisis, drastically altered our behavior to preserve ourselves. But as Christians, we should drastically alter our behavior to be a voice for the unborn as well. Now what does that look like in the middle of the COVID laws? We’re not asking people to all go and protest at a clinic… We weren’t doing that and that’s not what we’re encouraging people to do.”

David Benham

This is what Mr. Benham is encouraging people to do:

Pray

Go to LoveLife.org

Sign the Petition

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…

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.