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.

A Simple Christmas Prayer from My Heart to Your Home

It is 1:30AM and I am wide awake. Later this evening hubby and I will gather with friends to sing songs, read scriptures, pray, and remember together an infant child born to save a lost and broken world. But this is not why sleep escapes me. 
 
My thoughts are of you. How will you celebrate the birth of the King this year? Will the walls of your home ring with laughter and loud chatter as the family gathers round? Will your home lay quiet and simple, holding only memories because those nearest to you will be away this year? Will you gather in a hospital waiting room due to an unforeseen illness in the family? Will you kneel silently praying for a loved one serving overseas? Will you make a visit to assisted living to look into the worn eyes of the shell of someone you once knew? Will your celebration be interrupted briefly by the tears shed for a loved one who is celebrating Christmas sitting at the feet of this Savor?
 
I think of you and I pray. The holidays serve up a good dose of celebration and hope, with a bit of grief on the side. Grief for traditions long gone and transitions that have stepped up in their place. So, I pray. 
 

I pray as one who understands letting go of expectations and plans in order to live fully in the mess of the moment. I pray as one who has had to surrender the Hallmark-happily-ever-after Christmas to embrace the messy unscripted painful one in front of me, only to discover that God had a bigger gift of grace to give me that surpasses the thrill of any wrapped package under my tree. 
 

I pray for you what God prodded me to pray for myself two years ago. This festive time of year has always been my favorite time. I can’t help myself! The sights and sounds usher in feelings of hope and peace. And for a short time, all seems well. 
 
That is until two years ago.  I was so busy with all the “doing” of Christmas, wanting everything to be perfect for those I love. It was while I stood in the kitchen, prepping food for our family celebration, that I noticed a shift in my heart. I had lost my joy. The scurry of activities that once brought delight to my heart, had been reduced to another check on my list so I could rush to the next task and check another “to-do” to reflect “to-done.” 

“God, what is wrong with me” became my whispered prayer. “I want to enjoy my family when they get here. Now even our celebration has become another check on the list.”  I sat with my silent prayer, waiting for that still small voice.  He whispered. His words of grace to me that day, are the gift I pray tonight for you and for me. 
 
God: “Why do you strive? What is it you want? What are your expectations?” 
 
Me: “God, I want my family to feel wrapped up in love when they arrive. I want them to feel like they can take a break from their busy lives and just for a moment breathe in peace. I want to soak in the moments with them.”
 
God: Then let go. Let go of expectations and embrace the plans I have. The calm, peace, and love you seek comes not from your striving but seeking. Seeking me. So, invite me to be your guest. Ask me to come and do what only I can do. Matters of the heart are my specialty, for I alone can change a life. Invite my Spirit to come and move in your home. Then trust me.”
 
Me: “Ok God, I surrender. I let go of wanting everything to be perfect. I yield to whatever You want to do with our time together. I release my temporary expectations that I may embrace your eternal plan. Be our guest. Move among us. Breathe life into our dry, weary bones. Mend the broken places. Heal the sin diseased parts of us. Not my will, but yours be done. For you are a faithful father.”
 
And that my friends, that simple prayer of surrender and invitation changed everything, not just for my family, but for me. 
 
This is why tonight I pray for you and I pray for me a simple Christmas prayer.

“Father, as we gather to celebrate You, may we not forget You.
You are invited to come, move among us, bring Heaven to our home.  
Do Your deep eternal work in us.
We surrender our temporary pleasures to Your eternal delights.
Come, thou long-expected Jesus.
Amen.

 May we find joy as He presents to us grace gift upon grace gift. And as we unwrap each gift of grace, may the peace of His presence invade our hearts and our homes.  

Merry Christmas to you and yours,
Evelyn

“Father, the landfill of my failures continues to pile up. But You, oh God, are the faithful one. Today, fix my eyes on you the one starter and finisher of my faith. Remind me of all the ways you have led me up to this point in my life. And as I remember, may hope rise out of the ashes. May I see with a fresh vision that you God, who created all things, is the very one that cradles my heart in your hands.”

Until next time, let’s find hope in the journey,
Evelyn Sherwood


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.

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.