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.

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.

Hope That Assures

“We have this hope [Jesus] as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” – Hebrews 6:19

Coulda, shoulda, woulda, maybe, might, perhaps, someday, if only … sigh …

Alas… whither hope? And oh, by the way… prove it.

Is hope a wish or a fact? Is it faith to come, or faith in action? And how in the world do we prove it? Is hope something we already have or something we “hope” to attain? Or is hope, in fact, the living presence of Jesus? I’d say, let’s go with that.

I can’t think of a less appealing and less useful way to describe one’s trust in God–“the hope we have,” etc. (1 Peter 3:15)–than to think the fruits of our relationship with the eternal God through Christ are something indeterminate and far off in the future: a big, subjunctive “maybe” of expectation someday later rather than the active, inspiring, and assuring truth of God’s presence, grace, and relationship today. In Christ.
Jesus can’t be much of an anchor if His truth is still bouncing along the ocean bottom, dragged uncertainly by its tether to the boat above being tossed by the winds, currents, and vagaries of life’s–and the fallen world’s–temptations, untruths, dangers, and deceptions.  A “set” anchor is a sure and present truth to a voyager in a storm:

We are the voyagers, the world is the storm, and Jesus is the set anchor we trust.

Hope is neither subjective nor subjunctive nor far off; it is the truth we know now. It is the Jesus truth of mankind. It is Christ resurrected and the Holy Spirit in our hearts, today. Hope that hasn’t happened yet is the longing of unmet truth; the patient waiting we see throughout the Old Testament. The arrival of Jesus brings human life’s greatest gift: humanity’s restoration of relationship to God and participation in His glory.

For Abraham, hope meant patiently waiting.

For us, hope–the baptism by the Holy Spirit–arrived in the person of Jesus. Our joy is not in the faith and patience of something still to come; we have it right now in our love for Christ and love for each other. It occurs to me that to love God and to love others are the two great commandments because love is the gearbox of putting our hope in motion in our lives. We miss out horribly if we think the Kingdom is relegated to some unknown time years hence and defined by that which we cannot know.

“Hope” infused with “maybe” inspires no one; unanchored expectations are the bane of good will. “I hope so!” is unpersuasive, like when one “hopes” all that stuff in the Bible about salvation and heaven and forgiveness is true.  Instead of being anchored assuredly–now–to the greatest truth of existence, Jesus, one’s modern tires are spinning in the muck of the current, ill-defined culture of self-interest, satisfaction of personal appetites, and transmission of Satan’s soul-killing sacrilege. Our redemption in Christ is now… and forever. Be thankful. Use the hope of Jesus–the anchor of our soul–to live in His kingdom, in His hope, in the here and now. “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done…” is Jesus teaching us to pray for, attain, and internalize the assurance of who He really is. He, Jesus, is our rest and our peace.

Our joy in knowing through Jesus that God is real, God is truth, God is eternal, and God wants us with Him, is the Kingdom that has come in Christ’s holy relationship.

Hope is assured today; firm and secure. No waiting required.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) hopes you’ll believe him that he just noticed, halfway through writing this, that his coffee cup has an anchor and Hebrews 6:19 on the side. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Bad Judgment

“When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” – Matthew 7:28-29

These two verses are how Matthew in his Gospel concludes Jesus’s famed “Sermon on the Mount” in chapters 5-6-7.  And if you know how to read this line, and somehow were able to think like an ancient Jew on the side of that mountain where Jesus taught, you’d know this whole sermon is God taking a great big giant condemning swipe at the Jewish leaders of that day. “[N]ot as their teachers…” is a total “diss.”

The crowds could discern the Godly authority of Jesus… an authority long since passed from the Jewish “teachers of the law,” i.e. the rabbis, Pharisees, Sadducees, Sanhedrin, and scribes. Jesus was openly attacking the Jewish leadership’s hypocrisy and arrogance, while describing God’s true groundwork for the Kingdom of Heaven. It was nothing like what the Jewish leaders were teaching, the way they were living, or the truth they were espousing. Power, pride, status, and control were what they craved.

My friend and blogger extraordinaire Brent Riggs says it this way: “They (the Jewish leaders) were a part of the system; the World. Christ said we are to be salt and light to the system, not be a part of it… They had denied the Word of God and established their own traditions, rules, and regulations. Christ reestablished the affirmation of His Word—God’s Word—alone.”

It is so easy to read the Sermon on the Mount in modern error, thinking it only a list of somewhat mysterious but otherwise rational directions for leading a “good life” before the world and in the company of other Christians. Do good, feed the hungry, help the poor, etc., is how we read it. To the Jews, Jesus’s words were shocking.

Where Jesus says something akin to, “You say this …; but I say this…,” He was severely criticizing what the Jews had done to “religion.” Jesus was presenting the new covenant of faith and strongly condemning their failure with the old covenant of the law. The Jews had missed God’s point of humility and instead built a nation of pride.

“Blessed are the meek… the poor in spirit …they will inherit the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3-10) is not just a Jesus shout-out to the oppressed; it is the harshest of  rebukes toward the Jewish leaders’ priorities and values mirroring the world, not God.

Today’s favorite Bible verse for all who do not actually understand the Bible is a similarly condemning assertion that the modern world loves to self-righteously and incorrectly quote as a declaration of freedom.  It’s right there in this sermon, Matthew 7:1.  We all know it well: “Do not judge,” contemporary code for, “Get out of my face!”

Emphatically, it is not that.  It was Jesus telling the Jewish leaders they had lost their authority to judge Godly things because they had assumed worldly values.  The dumbest taunt you can level at any human is “Don’t judge!” and think it means, “Let me do whatever I want.” Bald permissiveness is the opposite of what Jesus was saying.

What I’m saying is, my New Year’s goal is to improve my judgment, not ignore it.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that better judgment always starts with love. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

What’s He Doing Here?

“Therefore … the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and call him Immanuel.” – Isaiah 7:14
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: [Isaiah 7:14]
“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). – Matthew 1:22-23

It takes more of a Bible geek than me to know, just off the top of one’s head, who King Ahaz was and what he did. Want to take a shot? Do you know?  We’ll wait.

Time’s up.  King Ahaz of Jerusalem appears in the book of Isaiah and is key to the explanation of the “Therefore” that precedes the prophetic Isaiah 7:14 passage foretelling God’s sign of Immanuel (Emmanuel, if you prefer) noted above. 

The word “Therefore” always makes us ask, “What’s it there for?”

Without replaying the whole passage, Ahaz feared an attack on Jerusalem – in part by other Jews in the tribe of Ephraim – and God told Ahaz not to worry: “It will not take place” (Isaiah 7:7), and “Stand firm in your faith” (Isaiah 7:9).  Ahaz was unconvinced Jerusalem could be saved.  In verse 10, God commands Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”  Ahaz refused, saying, “I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). 

Oy.  God graciously invited / commanded Ahaz to ask for proof.  Ahaz – evidently figuring he already knew everything he needed to know about God – said, “No.”

In verse 13, Isaiah notes that it was a terrible idea to refuse God’s grace and sign, disobedience which also cost Ahaz the peace God was offering.  Then comes verse 14 and the prophecy of the sign above all Godly signs to come: Immanuel – God with us – being conceived of a virgin.  God Himself would appear among man.

Now let’s fast forward 700 years or so to the quiet Bethlehem manager where Joseph and Mary would bring into the world the baby Jesus.  Jerusalem again was being wildly disobedient to God.  Israel’s attention was entirely taken up with legalistic reconfiguration of God’s commands and fear of the conquering Romans.  God’s sign, Jesus, is revealed in the humble environment of a baby in a manger while Israel would ignore all prophecy of His coming, hoping instead for a power to conquer the world.

Jesus came to conquer our sin, to reveal the true God, to restore humanity to its original relationship with God and His Kingdom, to share the truth of God’s love, to prove the worth of our faith in God, to offer hope of God’s ever-abiding presence and power, to invite humanity into eternal life, and to allow us in this life to know God is real. His truth, the real truth, would come to life.  Talk about tidings of comfort and joy …

Isaiah is a complex book, but Ahaz’s disobedience is a message that survives simplification. Notice that Joseph did not argue with God, he obeyed.  Mary obeyed.  Jesus obeyed.  And in obedience they, like us, found and find the gift of God’s glory.

Christmas is about God Almighty come to save us – in love, not in punishment.Isaiah and Jesus – the names – both mean, “The Lord saves.” Isaiah foretold God’s coming sign of salvation, Jesus, who saves God’s own glory and saves our lives.

That’s what He’s doing here; Jesus is the proof, the sign, of God’s saving grace.

All I can say to that is Merry Christmas!

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) asserts that “Peace on Earth” is an affirmation of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts. Graciously, let’s keep it there always.  For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

What It Is… and Is Not

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalm 41:10

Peace is not absence of war, of strife, or of anger; it is calm trust in God and knowing Jesus, our peace.

Obedience is not the absence of sin; it is working for the Glory of God.

Patience is not the absence of hurry; it is the acceptance of God’s timing.

Joy is not absence of concern; it is assuredness in God’s truth.

Righteousness is not me being better than you; it is God being best all the time.

Love is not the absence of hate; it is the art and insistence of putting others first.

Salvation is not the absence of Hell; it is the excitement of Heaven.

Forgiveness is not the absence of blame; it is freedom from the past.

Divine rewards are not a pending “let’s see” transaction; they are God’s promise.

Grace is not the absence of judgment; it is the action of sacrificial love.
Judgment is not the opposite of mercy; it is the proper complement of mercy.

Mercy is not turning a blind eye; it is seeing things God’s way.

Thankfulness is not a debt; it is the joy of recognizing God’s gifts.

Freedom is not the selfish exercise of my rights; it is my recognition of God’s will and my responsibilities—to Him and to humanity.

Rebellion is not only Satan’s example; it is our failure to accept God’s love and assert God’s freedom.

Truth is not just the absence of a lie; it is the presence of the person Jesus.

Eternity is not just the absence of time; it is the quality and substance of the life of God.

Science does not replace God; it reveals God.

Doubt does not have to be the absence of faith; it may be the discipline of curiosity.

Hope is not a gamble on the future; it is our awareness of the reality of God.

Faith is not a blind idea; it is our living experience with God.

Church is not for being fed; it is for feeding each other.

The Gospel is not just the Good News of Jesus Christ; it reveals the perpetual light of the Spirit, truth of Christ, and love of God.

The Incarnation is not just the birth of a Savior and Emanuel-God-now-with-us; it celebrates humanity’s reunion with the Kingdom of God.

The Crucifixion is not just a horrible settlement for sin; it is the glorious, gracious, selfless, and complete obedience of Jesus Christ; it is Jesus’s human nature surrendering to God’s divine nature.

The Resurrection is not just the defining evidence of the love and power of God; it is our release from sin, the end of death, and the promise of life everlasting.

God’s glory is not merely God’s pride; it is His love He shares with us and the freedom He affords for our own response to the gift of His son Jesus, our savior.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) first dashed off this column as punctuated verse, but alas—as his wife Pam, the retired English teacher, pointed out—Walters is not a poet.  Walters is however sensitive to and observant of positive vs. incomplete, simplistic, secular, and/or negative doctrinal proclamations (and somewhat panicked by the latter). Humans tend to rebel against God rather than seeking to replace our nature with His.

“Grace Guy”

“My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Jesus, Matthew 11:30

My friend Glen approached me before church last Sunday–as always with a smile–and mentioned he’d been reading my weekly columns for “a while now.”

Glen is a trained chaplain (hospitals, etc.), is an astute Bible guy, helps out in seemingly every ministry in our church, and it’s encouraging to know he takes the time to read my weekly heartfelt but un-trained offerings.

Still smiling, he added, “…I think I’ve figured out that you’re a grace guy.”

A “grace guy.” I liked that. But then looking at the expression on his face more closely, I felt compelled to inquire, lightheartedly, “Is that OK?” 

“Um, yeah!” he responded, still smiling but with a moment’s hesitation.

Noticing the pause and myself not being one to miss a sardonic opportunity, I asked, “Do you prefer punishment?” He laughed and said, “No!… Well… maybe.” 

I responded, with a wink. “Well, it does help to control the flock.” Then it was time to go into the service and that conversation was over. But it got me to thinking…

The Apostle Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament and in every one he offers the greeting, “Grace and Peace.” Jesus, in the Gospels, is constantly telling us He is the truth, the way to God, the life of God, and in so many words, the face of God. Jesus came to help, not to harm; yes, to set us free from our sin but mysteriously to “enslave” us in His own goodness, protection, and love. Punishment?  No.

It is beyond weird that a “slave” in this life who finds Jesus is set free (think of worldly sinners), and a free person who finds Jesus becomes a slave (think of Paul). And I’m not talking about the slave trade; I’m talking about humanity’s spiritual tendency to bind itself to evil because of fear, guilt, greed, pride, and self-righteousness, with a perpetual sense of inadequacy or debt when it comes to an encounter with goodness.

Jesus, you see, is goodness. Jesus knows what is best for us. Jesus, Son of God who is also God–another mystery–models God’s plan of self-sacrificial love that defeats evil. Jesus is our only “way” out. He is the “truth” we can trust. He is the “life” we can live in freedom now and in God’s eternity forever. Jesus didn’t “trade” His life for ours; He showed us perfect love and obedience. His lesson isn’t what we “owe” for our sins; His lesson is what we must do, how we must love, and how we must obey.

My life goes sour when debts overwhelm me. I know what it is to be bankrupt. The parables of Jesus not only teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven but they also instruct us in the impossibility of repaying divine gifts. Think of the overwhelming amounts in the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). The lesson is not the enormous amount; the lesson is the enormous mercy–and justice–of the master.

Praise God for the enormous mercy of our master, Jesus. Praise God that what Jesus desires is not repayment or guilt, but that He blesses our faith in Him and our love, mercy, and compassion for others. Guilt never builds a loving relationship.

In Matthew 11, quoted above, Jesus invites the weary to rest in Him. His well-fitting yoke helps us work together easily and productively. His demands are worthy and uncomplicated: “Follow me.” The greater we trust, the greater we love. Grace abounds.

I would not trade that love–or grace–for anything.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is thankful, not burdened, by Jesus.  It is the world that is a burden, and the world that demands repayment. Grace is divine. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

For My Sake

Jesus Christ on the excruciating cross of human salvation is a frightening image, one upon which only the very crassest among humanity would gaze and ask: “What’s in it for me?”

Fact is, none of us wants exactly that – the cross of Christ – as Christian life’s promise.  Believe in Jesus, be Christ-like, do Godly things with a Godly attitude, love God, love others, read the Bible, go to church, be selfless, kind, obedient … and what do we get?  A horrendous and humiliating public death?  No thanks.

That’s not the deal anyone is looking for.

We must be especially wary, then, in our Christian witness and preaching, to be very clear what it is exactly that Jesus did on the cross.  The world sees punishment, shame, payment, retribution, and maybe feels a little (or a lot of) personal sin and guilt.  The neurotic Christian may wilt with remorse: “That agonizing passion on the cross is my fault!  That bloody end is what I deserve!”  The arrogant libertine may be repulsed and dismissive: “How can a good God allow that to happen to His son?  I don’t believe any of it!” A devious theologian may see a means to control people with fear and guilt.

What we see on the cross is less a picture of God than of what a perfect human will do to glorify God. In that sense a little neurosis about our fate is quite apt.  The wrathful God of the Law is the same loving and sacrificial God of the New Testament.  God never changes, but the enormous gift we are given through Christ is to see the true nature of a Godly human: Jesus is our example of what a perfect human in God’s eyes actually is.  Our fallenness makes it hard to see that.

We are – each of us individually – a great mess of conflicts, fear, aspirations, hope, and pain-avoidance.  The sneaky truth of Christ that takes a while to truly see is that our greatest human joy – and our highest, most God-like humanity – is the picture of Christ humbly sacrificing himself for others.  Seeing the cross as God’s love and mercy for us, rather than seeing it as God’s anger and wrath for our sin, changes everything about what kind of Christian we can be: loving? … or judgmental?

Our greatest joy, then, is in serving others in freedom, freedom not just from sin but freedom to be all that God created me to be… what He created each of us in His own image to be.  I get that the cross is a picture of humanity’s gross failings and sinfulness, but more importantly it is the picture of God’s love, Christ’s humility, and the Spirit’s illumination of truth.  In this picture are glory, love, self-sacrifice, humility, restoration, forgiveness, repaired relationship, covered sins, eternal life, the conquering of both sin and death… and overwhelming peace that exceeds all understanding.

As much as we fallen humans focus on “being forgiven,” in Jesus’s entire last prayer – indeed His final teaching we see in John 13-17 including foot-washing, the last supper, the vine, His relationship with God, the Kingdom as life, God as Father, Jesus as Son, the Spirit as comfort, plus persecution, glory, faith, and perseverance – there is not one word about forgiveness of sin.  Instead, there is assurance of God’s truth.

When the chips were down and His own end was near, Jesus prayed humbly for God’s glory, His own restoration, and for our faith.  So should we.  It’s part of the deal.

That’s the best thing I can do for my sake; that’s what’s in it for me.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that humility frees us from pride. Duh. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

For God’s Sake

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Paul, Philippians 4:13

The upcoming quote – a verbatim Instagram from 2015 by someone you never heard of – showed up in select media last week.  As an all-purpose, plenary statement of Christian love, doctrine, trust, and obedience, I couldn’t have put it much better.

Read it slowly, let it soak in, and then we’ll talk.

“Jesus didn’t come to save those who already believed in Him. He came so that the lost, rejected, and abandoned men and women would find Him and believe.  I believe with every fiber in my body that what was written 2,000 years ago in the Bible is undoubtedly true.  It’s not a fictional book.  It’s not a pick and choose what you want to believe.  You either believe it, or you don’t.  This world may change, but Christ and His Word NEVER will.

“My heart is that as Christians we don’t begin to throw a tantrum over what has been brought into law today, but we become that much more loving. That through our love, the lost, rejected, and abandoned find Christ. The rainbow was a [covenant] made between God and all his creation that never again would the world be flooded as it was when He destroyed the world during Noah’s time. It’s a constant reminder that no matter how corrupt this world becomes, He will never leave us or forsake us. Thank you Lord for your amazing grace, even during times of trial and confusion.

“Love won over 2,000 years ago when the greatest sacrifice of all time was made for ALL mankind.”

Jaelene Hinkle

Wow. Jaelene Hinkle, 22 years old at the time, penned that remarkable witness of Jesus’s love and sacrifice in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergfell ruling affirming same-sex marriage.  Note that it is a statement of belief and trust, not of anger or derision.  Note the rainbow reference.  Note the very inclusive “ALL mankind.”

Jesus came for all: in grace, with courage, and even unto death … trusting God.

With grace and courage, Jaelene also experienced a death due to her faith in God: the death of her dream to play soccer for the U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT).  After much prayer, she declined a 2017 invitation onto the team for June exhibition matches during which the team would wear rainbow jerseys celebrating Gay Pride month.  “I felt convicted that it was not my job to wear that jersey,” she said.

Without bitterness.

Playing for the pro Carolina Courage, Jaelene is called by some “the finest left-back in the NWSL” and now at age 26 was not invited back onto the 2019 U.S. women’s world cup championship team.   A newspaper noted, “Hinkle likely would have been a fish out of water on the uber-woke women’s national team.”  It’s hard to disagree.

We saw the team’s activist and desolately profane character in many cantos during and after its championship run.  They won the Cup.  Yet to me it is Jaelene’s faith that reveals a true champion’s strength not for what she did, but for what she did not do. 

For God’s sake.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that athletes everywhere love Philippians 4:13, often skipping over the notion that God loves us all equally, including the other team.  And oh, did I mention?  Jaelene is African-American; that would have made two on the ideologically sovereign but not especially racially diverse team.  FYI.  See links about Jaelene at: USWNT Snubs Star | Daily Wire and Snub sparks debate – Wash. Times. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Who Asked You? Part 2

“We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” – The Apostle Paul, Romans 8:26

“Be still, and know that I am God.” – Psalms 46:10

Probably too often, we think of prayer as an opportunity to talk to God.

Not nearly often enough do we use it as a profound opportunity to listen to God.  When we do – listen, that is – it is quite possible to be stunned by the deep knowledge, creativity, compassion, wisdom, and forethought God can offer each one of us in every prayerful moment.  God is always aware of the big plan – His Big Plan – while rarely do we look beyond our present circumstances, and then only dimly. God is big, we are small.

When Jesus is minutes away from His arrest by Jewish guards, hours away from his trials before Jewish leaders and Roman prelate Pontius Pilate, shortly after which He would be crucified by the Romans, His startling last words to His disciples spoke of nothing they could have imagined, asked for, or, until later, understood.

At that juncture, which we see in John 15-16-17, did any single one of the disciples have it in his mind to pray for all the things Jesus was about to bring into their lives, or the work of salvation He was going to complete for all humanity? 

Who among the disciples would have prayed that Jesus fulfill His mission by giving Himself up to His own humiliating death?  Who would have prayed for their joy to be complete?  Who would have thought to ask for eternal life – for themselves?  Or to learn the true and immutable name of God in loving relationship as only Jesus truly knew each of them?  Who would have prayed for Jesus to send the Holy Spirit by which they later could understand many things, find peace in the Lord, and be comforted? 

Who would have prayed for Jesus to be relieved of His loneliness as He was deserted by men?  Who would have thought to ask Jesus to forgive them for deserting Him?  Who would have known and prayed for the looming sacrifice of Jesus that would cover all their sins and restore humanity’s relationship with God Almighty forever?

Likely someone would have prayed for courage, but would they have included the prayer for the gift of conquest over sin?  There’s no record that any prayer was offered by the disciples during this time: Jesus the son of God was doing all the talking.

Simply enough, any Jew you asked at that point in their history about what they expected of the promised “Messiah,” would have responded, “To kill the Romans.”  The astute likely would also pray for the return of Israel with a King and a Kingdom.

Absolutely no praying person looked at Jesus and asked him to provide all of humanity with forgiveness, eternal love, eternal life, and intimate knowledge of the good, loving, and righteous God.  No one prayed for their own pathway of faith and hope into the Kingdom of Heaven.  Neither the disciples, family, nor friends who loved Jesus, nor the greatest minds of Israel trying to kill Him, saw any of that coming.

This is all to say, then, that when you’re not sure what to pray for, invite God to go ahead and do His thing.  Then … be still and listen.  You may be very surprised.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that God and Jesus never asked a question to which they did not already know the answer. That makes it hard to argue with them. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.