Saturday, October 15, 2016

'As Real as it Gets'

Spirituality Column No. 518
October 18, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

‘As Real as it Gets’
By Bob Walters

The multiple, halting, emotional speeches hung so very, very thickly over Baby Willow’s funeral Saturday.

Born at home healthy, vibrant and hungry early October 6, Willow stopped breathing some four hours later.  No warning, no explanation … and no amount of emergency care could bring her back.  Willow’s ashes rested in a polished wooden box as parents, family and friends gathered to say we love you and good-bye.

Praise God, Willow insisted we do much more.  She insisted that we in our heartbreak encounter Jesus in all His power, promise, trust and truth.  Willow allowed no other gaze than for us to fix our eyes on the healing love of Jesus Christ.

In this season of crushing grief, Willow’s parents Michael and Maggie and all four grandparents courageously, tearfully spoke words of healing and encouragement and witnessed profoundly to the unlimited faithfulness and tender mercy of Jesus.  When so many might wonder, errantly, “How could God do such a thing?” as take young Willow, Willow’s family stood faithfully and said, “How could we survive such a thing without Jesus?”

Maggie told the funeral gathering that the day following Willow’s death she experienced a vision of Jesus.  He stepped between her and Michael, comforted them and in a voice Maggie clearly discerned said of Willow, “I have to take her now.”  Numerous other signs, works of Christian love and even rainbows appeared through the week.  When one is in the faith, such signs are unmistakable evidence of God’s nearness, relationship and compassion.  Jesus is there.

Pastor Dave Rodriguez at Grace Church (Westfield, IN) looked at the funeral gathering and noted, gently, that he understood there likely were people there who didn’t “get” the Jesus thing and more likely would be on the page of, “How could God …etc.”  Dave noted that the hurt and the love and the healing and the faith permeating that particular room, not to mention the faith witness of Maggie and Michael’s entire lives, would appear to some unbelievable; certainly not real.

Dave spoke a measured, earnest, caring truth: “This is as real as it gets.”

Willow didn’t let anyone out of the church without facing the reality that is the truth of Jesus Christ.  These are the times, the pastor noted, that God shows up and is not subtle.  Times like these are why we were created in the image of God, or else where is our comfort?  In times like these words may fail us but God doesn’t.

Like Dave, I pray someone curious about Jesus asks Michael and Maggie about this God they know.

They know Him very well.

Walters’ ( son Eric was roommates with Michael in college.  They grew up in faith together at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis.  By the way, Michael and Maggie have a son Rhett whom they adopted a few months before learning of her pregnancy. 
Monday, October 10, 2016

Fear of Commitment

Spirituality Column No. 517
October 11, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

Fear of Commitment
By Bob Walters

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” – last words of dying Jesus on the cross, Luke 23:46
All of us know, or at least we should know, that God’s forgiveness and grace are part of a package deal: the divine treasure trove known as the “free gift of salvation.”
This gift is billed, rightly for the most part, as being “ours for the asking.”  We are not commanded to accept the gift nor is the gift forced upon us.  It is clearly laid out in the Bible that faith in Christ which is from the Holy Spirit unwraps this gift of salvation, and that good works are the worldly fruit of it having been accepted and put to use.
It’s a good deal.  Peace, patience and mercy; faith, hope and love; perseverance, kindness and joy … all in the long list of humanity-deepening fruits we can enjoy in this life by accepting the loving embrace of God by trusting Jesus Christ.
And "Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so."
There.  Wasn’t that easy?  No worries!
So why cite this Bible verse from humanity’s darkest day, the day Jesus died?
Because it communicates a key truth of a key component of our salvation.  To truly own the gift it’s not enough merely to accept it; I have to do what Jesus did on the cross.  I must commit my spirit into the hands of God; but in this life, not in my death.
This is key because it is the difference between accepting Jesus as Savior and accepting Jesus as Lord.  Jesus as Savior is what He does for me; the happy face of forgiveness and eternal life.
Conversely, Jesus as Lord is what I do for Him.  And you know what?  I can’t do much for Him.  None of us can; because He can do anything.  The hard part of “Lord” isn’t shouldering a load; it is defeating our pride, accepting humility and trusting faith.
It’s a game-changing mistake to miss the “Lord” part, where we put our lives, our love and our industry into His hands.  It’s where we discern God’s calling, attend to God’s purpose, love God, love others and trust God’s Lordship even unto death.  You ask, “What would Jesus do?”  Well, that’s what He did.
To review:
“Salvation is a free gift?”  Absolutely.
“Jesus loves me?” There’s not a truer idea in the Bible.
- “All I have to do is accept it?”  That answer is “Yes, but …”
Here is the "But" - accepting the gift only starts the journey; committing to the gift and living a life of faith actually is the journey.  Savior is the start and Lord is the path.
God’s glory is the goal.
Walters ( notes that while the four Gospels report three different “last words of Jesus” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46 and John 19:30), “commitment” is the last word in most strong relationships. 
Monday, October 3, 2016

Forgiving Nature

Spirituality Column No. 516
October 4, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary
Forgiving Nature
By Bob Walters
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” – Jeremiah 31:34, quoted in Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17
God has it right.  The act of forgiving is far more freeing, beneficial, therapeutic and righteous – to all parties - than holding a grudge.
Forgiveness - not in the sense that “we are forgiven” but that “we forgive others” – would be on anyone’s biblical top ten list of evident, virtuous fruits of a human soul connected to the Holy Spirit, blessed by Jesus and dedicated to God.  Who doesn’t look at a forgiving person and think better of him or her, or even call that person Godly?
Our forgiveness of others brings peace to us and harkens mercy for others.  Forgiveness is the most effectively self-medicating of all Godly-inspired virtues: we can ordain it, control it, offer it, deliver it, live it and rest in it.
Funny thing, though: forgiveness only works if we forget it.  And sins – yours, mine, ours – are hard to forget.  I’ll remember something I’ve forgiven and mentally catalogue that sporadic virtue as a salvational hedge against what I know is my personal litany of past sins, missteps, embarrassments, offenses, annoyances and general wickedness.  Then I notice I haven’t truly forgotten and start over.
Thankfully there are many folks who, far better than I, control their pride, anger, fear and appetites. Thankfully, I happen to be married to one.
But, as much as any one of us may occasionally keep track of Kingdom-sanctifying virtues – “good works” as they say – the problem with cataloguing our forgiveness of others is that it requires remembering the sins we forgave.  Most likely and perilously, remembrance undoes the blessing of forgiveness in the first place.
God’s forgiveness is different from ours because God is perfect and sinless.  God’s character is the ultimate righteousness and glory.  His love is divine.  Good is defined in all His being.  His Kingdom has pearly gates and golden streets.  God sacrificed to the point of death and then defeated death to forgive you and me.
Mankind, on the other hand, lives in fallenness, duplicity, chaos and has intermittently good intentions and recurring devious designs.  When we do forgive we don’t typically have sacred skin in the game; we just let go of anger.  God didn’t “just let it go”; Jesus died to cover our sins and was resurrected to give us hope.
The fact is humans can’t adequately forgive; we aren’t equipped for it. Only God can forgive, and only through our faith in Jesus can we gain the peace and love true forgiveness brings.  God’s forgiveness is eternal and final; ours is temporal and fragile.
Want to truly forgive?  Remember Jesus and forget the offense.
Walters ( notes the surprising number of people who deny Christ and declare some variation of “I can’t forgive God.”  That’s really, really backwards.
Monday, September 26, 2016

Lamp of Understanding

Spirituality Column No. 515
September 27, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

Lamp of Understanding
By Bob Walters

I spent an immensely, intellectually profitable Saturday recently listening to the Crescent Project’s Fouad Masri discuss Christianity and Islam.

Indianapolis-based Crescent is a global Christian organization targeted at helping Muslims learn about Jesus and helping Christians learn to talk to Muslims about Jesus.  Some quarters of both religions would find this effort heresy, anathema, certainly dangerous and maybe even just plain pointless.  I found it fascinating.

Fouad is Lebanese and an evangelical pastor passionate about bridging the cultural and theological chasm between these two vastly different expressions of mankind’s place in this world and God’s lordship in Heaven.

Fouad founded the Crescent Project ( in the 1990s.  The organization provides a wealth of tools, information and mission work bringing the light of Christ to the faith of Muhammad. No single instrument at Crescent is more effective or engaging than Fouad’s own deep knowledge of Middle Eastern culture, Islamic theology and Qur’anic scripture combined with his love for Jesus, for humanity, his grasp of the Bible and energy for spreading God’s Word.

As Christians we are challenged to defend our faith, not attack someone else’s.  The Apostle Paul in Athens didn’t attack the gods that were worshipped there; He introduced the Greeks to the God of Jesus Christ.  Fouad mentioned that we are always better off simply sharing the truth of Jesus Christ than trying to argue theology.  Other gentle observations about religious differences and similarities included …

- The Qur’an is a very, very different book from the Bible.  Muhammad records declarations from Allah that have been passed through the angel Gabriel.  Hence, the Qur’an has little or none of the tete-a-tete “story” aspects that make the Bible, for me, so fun, satisfying, relatable, peaceful and believable to read.  It also occurs to me that Allah as a singular God does not afford personal relationship and therefore none of the humanly relational stories or divine love of the Father-Son-Spirit Trinity of Christianity.  Absent those, that’s probably why I have so much difficulty reading the Qur’an.

-There are Five Pillars of Islam (Recitation, Prayer, Alms, Fasting and Pilgrimage), but no such construct in Christianity.  That makes it semantically difficult to describe Christianity to a Muslim.  As a parallel answer to “What do Christians believe?”  Fouad suggests these five Christian “pillars”: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, the Bible and One Family.  You tell me about your five pillars, I’ll tell you about mine, especially my Jesus.

- Fouad noted that many Muslims lack knowledge of the Qur’an the same way many Christians lack knowledge of the Bible.  His advice to Christians is to know Jesus, know the Bible and build relationships based on Christ’s love, not worldly argument.

A lamp of understanding can be lit.

Walters ( learned that Jesus in the Qur’an (Sura 3:55) is perfect, sinless, alive and expected to return.  Fouad’s line: Maybe Muslims should read His book.
Monday, September 19, 2016

Masked Man

Spirituality Column No. 514
September 20, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary
Masked Man
By Bob Walters
“… Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11:14
Paul had just an awful time with the Corinthian church.
Every manner of false apostle, Judaizer, heretic, pagan, deceiver, quarreler and fool had a seat in God’s house in Corinth.  Paul’s steadfast message of Jesus Christ and righteous preaching of the Gospel attacked all false doctrine, fanned the flame of truth and shared “surpassingly great revelations” (12:7) even as he bore a personal thorn of unknown torment and courageously endured shipwrecks, beatings and prison.
Paul plainly had his story straight and his ministry blessed straight from the top.  His mission was to build people up, not tear them down (13:10), but he pulled no punches, tolerated no heresy and gave in to no falsehood.
The light Paul preached was the true light.
I don’t know of a modern day church that has a “Paul,” exactly; he was really one of a kind; a ministry archetype of faith, knowledge, anointing and action.  But there are plenty of great preachers today preaching Christ crucified to faithful congregations that are full of sinners, full of problems, full of hope, full of truth and full of repentant but stumbling believers who nonetheless pursue God’s call, love their Lord, their neighbor and help out where they can.  A smile in church is neither a mask nor hypocrisy.
Believers can be sinners in the same awkward, tangent comparison that judgment can include mercy. Knowing you have sinned and going to church doesn’t make you a hypocrite any more than knowing your car is dirty and taking it to the car wash.
Are “churches full of hypocrites?”  Sure, but the question really asks about man, not the church.  Considering fallen humanity’s proclivities and fears, hypocrisy is not our worst trait.  Ignoring God is our worst trait.  Church is a step in the right direction and hypocrisy is OK if it brings one into proximity with Christ.
From there, let the Holy Spirit – Who is not a hypocrite – do its job.
I wince when I hear preaching about the “masks” we wear in church to hide our sin, how we’re hypocrites, etc.  Baloney.  Satan masquerading as a believer is different from a believer bucking up with a smile in an effort to escape a bad week.  Church and the love of Christ are supposed to provide welcome respite from life’s sin, shame and struggles.  We share our burdens.  Jesus is our peace and our rest, after all, and God rested after a week’s work.
So relax – wear a smile and leave the mask at home. The best relationships are built from honest joy, not from behind a mask.
Going to church should make you feel better, not worse.
Walters ( realizes church always has room for more hypocrites; Paul likely would have preferred them to the crowd he had in Corinth.
Monday, September 12, 2016

Separation Anxiety

Spirituality Column No. 513
September 13, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary
Separation Anxiety
By Bob Walters
Trusting the love and grace of Jesus Christ is our only way out – out of our fears, out of our failures, out of our pride and out of this fallen world into the glorious next.
Even as worldly life may be momentarily calm, sin is never really absent.  Hence it is wise and responsible to remain prayerfully ever-vigilant knowing today’s comforts and peace are fleeting.  Family and health issues pop up out of nowhere.  Each of us at any given instant is this far from a misstep, a weak moment, a self-inflicted calamity or even an innocent mistake of potentially devastating impact.
Every day, society-wide spiritual menace is staring Christians in the face.  Consider the overwhelming obeisance to a secular palette of false, self-aggrandizing, spirit-crippling “truth” that corrupts politics, academia, entertainment culture, media of every description and saddest of all, more than a few churches.  We are coached to “believe” patently ungodly things.  Satan constantly queries of our faith, “How can you be sure?”  Popular society’s “best and brightest” regularly ridicule the notion of Godly, objective, eternal, righteous, accountable truth.
Our neighbor insists, “That’s only your opinion.”
And I don’t buy any of it.
The one thing I believe is the Bible; the one thing I know is Jesus Christ; the one influence I trust is the Holy Spirit.   And I know and trust that God is always there, or here, or nearby or somewhere in the mix.  Never, ever, do I think He is absent.
That is the strength of a Christian walk – knowing we are not walking alone. How often we hear that sin “separates us from God.” Well, I’m here to preach that sin is the very thing that must draw us to God.  And we are drawn to the Father through Jesus Christ His Son whose mercy, compassion, love, forgiveness and righteousness constitute our entire, unwavering and exclusive survival system – our only hope – to endure and overcome the inevitable sin in each of our lives.  Want biblical proof?
See Genesis 3.  What is God’s first move after Adam and Eve sin … and they know they have sinned?  God goes and finds them, and curses them, and tells them the road to come will be very difficult, and throws them out of the Garden.  But there are another 65 books in the Bible that prove God never abandons them … or us.
More proof?  Jesus arrives.  Go to Romans 8:31-38, “…nothing can separate us from the love of God.”  Do you think Paul meant that? Knew that?  I do.
I turned my back on God for much of my life but when I turned back, God was there, Jesus embraced me and the Spirit has led me.
Sin hasn’t left me, but I know God never gives up.
Neither should we.
Walters (, who figures people are far more likely to leave us than God, “woke up” to Jesus in September 2001, 15 years ago.
Monday, September 5, 2016

Selling Salvation

Spirituality Column No. 512
September 6, 2016
Common Christianity / Uncommon Commentary

Selling Salvation
By Bob Walters

“For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.– 2 Corinthian 4:18
Everyone wants to define God in understandable terms.
In plain English, please.
That today’s Bible is translated from ancient languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, various dialects, etc.) muddles the “plain English” demands of folks who “just don’t get” the Bible, Jesus, sacrifice, salvation, God’s perfect plan or the Holy Spirit’s indwelling in our lives.
For these loving matters of eternal weight, secular culture craves light explanations that remove gray areas, doubts and rebuttals.  They have to see it to believe it.  Therefore folks lament that they can’t see God, never met Jesus and assign unholy properties to the Holy Spirit.  They find the Bible confusing, divine grace untrustworthy and faith a non-provable mental exercise.
As for God’s gift of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ, there are folks who “get it” (meaning they see the unseen), folks who want to get it but don’t, folks who don’t care, and folks who care deeply to prove it all untrue.  Satan himself is in that fourth group, is demonstrably successful among the last two, impedes the last three, and messes with all four.  Popular culture, “the world,” largely looks at Jesus and receives Him not (John 1:11).  So we believers scramble to come up with explanations in worldly terms that provide “visible” – meaning “familiar” – reasons for faith.
Marketing – buying and selling – is a common cultural construct so we’ll say “Jesus died to pay for our sins.”  Sin is bad, and if we do something bad, we have to pay for it.  But in divine terms, if Jesus is part of the Trinity, never did anything bad, and is fully God as well as fully man, then on the cross who was paid, why, and with what?
God (Jesus) paid God (the Father) for our (humanity’s) sins by killing Himself?
The marketing argument fails.  People pay for stuff all the time, so do we understand salvation as a transaction; something to be bought?
Obviously, this isn’t like the world means “bought.”  Salvation – restoring our relationship with God – is given and received by the divine grace of Jesus Christ, something I can’t see, explain, or buy.  I just have to trust Jesus that it is there.
How do I know?  I just know.  That’s the truth.  Grace is the unseen answer.
Yes, the Bible uses marketing metaphors: “bought with the blood,” “purchased at a price,” etc.  But it’s not like paying the cable bill or buying groceries.  Jesus died to defeat sin’s penalty of death; He arose to open a priceless door, our door, to heaven.
Desperate as we are to glorify Jesus, plain English fails.  It is His word deep in our hearts, not on the tips of our tongues, that saves us.  And it’s not for sale.
Walters ( isn’t merely sold on Jesus; he knows Christ’s value is infinite.


Enter your email address to get updated about new content:

Follow by Email



Popular Posts