Christmas Communion

I’m sitting at my desk early this Christmas Eve morning alone. Not that I’m really alone, my cat is sitting next to me. It’s these early mornings during Christmas time that I come to truly understand the meaning of Christmas.

Christmas this year has taken on another meaning. Though I still see it as a time to formally celebrate the Birth of Christ, it’s much more than that. It’s a Communion of sorts.

This past Sunday at Church, Communion was served – the cups of bread and juice passed around then taken at the same time by everyone. Communion, served in remembrance of Jesus who gave His body as the Bread and Blood as the wine. It’s in those moments when I partake of the Bread and chew it that I completely realize it was my sin that sent Jesus to the Cross. But then I partake of the wine (juice) and recognize it was His blood that washed my sin away as the juice cleanses my mouth of the bread particles.

It’s during those times of communion that the real reason for Christmas is given.  Christmas Communion.

Communion.  It was a reason from the beginning of time. It’s not the bread and wine communion I’m speaking of – it’s the communion between Man and God that sent Christ to the earth that day of His Birth so many years ago.

Christmas begins in Genesis when God says “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). It is then that Christmas Communion begins – that moment when God wants Man (and Woman). He wanted to talk to us, walk with us, commune with us.

But, we humans sinned and Christmas Communion needed to become flesh. Jesus, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14) was born in a stable in Bethlehem.   He again walked with people, talked with people, and communed with people. He lived life in daily communion with people. He even shared meals of bread and wine with people.

This year has brought grief and loss in a way I’ve never known it. Though I love my grandparents and grieved when they died, the loss of my Aunt Vivian brought grief to me in a way I hadn’t known before.  Her death has left an emptiness in my soul, a longing beyond words to see and talk to her again. The only thing which gets me though those moments is knowing that God grieves with me.

It is the one thing I know God fully understands – there is no reason to forgive grief. Jesus experienced grief. When Lazarus died, He wept.  He knows.  He understands.  Yet, knowing He would bring grief to His Father, He still came.  He still Chose to be born.  Let that sink in – knowing He would die, He still chose to become our Christmas Communion.

He still chose to walk among us, to talk to us, to commune with us.  Yet, even though He died, He did not leave us alone.  He still dwells with us today. Jesus told the disciples before His death that a Helper – the Holy Spirit – would come.  (John 14:15-31)

During Jesus’ Last Supper before His death, He celebrated Christmas Communion with his disciples. Not just the sharing of the bread and wine, but real Christmas Communion – the reason He was born. Jesus says, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” (Luke 22:15, NKJV, emphasis mine). Though He told those words to the disciples, they ring true for us today.  He fervently desires to commune with us.

After His Death and Resurrection, His promise was fulfilled. The Holy Spirit came (Acts 2). He still dwells among us.  He still walks with us. He still talks with us. He still communes with us.

This Christmas, as I anticipate spending the day with my family, I know I am not alone. The Holy Spirit is with me.  As I share a meal with my family, I also share a Christmas Communion with Christ.  When I wake tomorrow, I will think of His Birth and remember why He came to earth.  To Commune with His people, to save us from our sins. Then my thoughts will fast forward to the future when there will be another Christmas Communion.  That day when He comes back to again physically walk with us, talk with us, and commune with us.  It’s that day when I can share Bread and Wine with Him at the wedding feast.  It’s that day that my grief disappears.

So, this Christmas, believers, as you dine and share stories with friends and family, remember Jesus is in the midst of you – Communing with you. And for those who don’t believe, know that Jesus can dwell among you – just ask. It’s His desire – to share Christmas Communion with you.

And, if you’re missing a loved one this Christmas, know you are not alone. Jesus grieves with you (and so do I).

Merry Christmas! Love and Joy to you and yours!

~Lorna

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Marauding Bands

Marauding Bands . . . Sounds like a party right? It’s a party alright but not one I’d like to attend.

It’s been a rough week for me – one where the introvert in me is screaming for quiet.  With news of evil coming at me via my Facebook feed, news apps, local newspapers, I have wanted to run and hide.  And I have, sort of.  I took myself off Facebook for a couple of days to silent some of the noise.  Didn’t work – I found myself looking at Twitter more.  Why? Because something inside me craves connection with people (yes, for an introvert, that’s scary). However, staying away from these things hasn’t changed the way I feel – so what is it?  Why do I feel so “unjoyful”?

I’ve said this before – and I’m going to say it again –  I LOVE GOD’S WORD!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve often found that during times like this week, when I read His Word – that’s when He speaks the loudest and this morning was no different.

I’ve been reading, during my coffee with Jesus time, from the Every Day with Jesus Bible (A One-Year Reading Bible). It’s the Holman Christian Standard Bible with Devotions by Selwyn Hughes written in a way that you can read a section from the Old Testament, Psalms, Proverbs, and the New Testament.  Today’s reading was July 2’s reading (yes, I know today is July 21 – but we all know God works in mysterious ways) with the sections being 2 Kings 13:10-15:15, Psalm 78:17-22, Proverbs 16:31-33, and Acts 7:23-43.  Some days it feels like a lot of reading, others – just the right amount.  So as I was reading 2 Kings 13:10-15:15, my eyes stop at 2 Kings 13:20-21.

“Then Elisha died and was buried.  Now marauding bands of Moabites used to come into the land in the spring of the year. Once, as the Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a marauding band, so they threw the man into Elisha’s tomb.  When he touched Elisha’s bones, the man revived and stood up!” 2 Kings 13:20-21 HCSB

My heart stops (not literally) and the voice I hear is myself praying . . . Lord, I want to be so full of you that when I die, people are revived – Even more so as I live.

Having never seen the phase ‘Marauding Bands’ before, I quickly went to another version and found out it meant raiding parties (or troops).  To maraud means “to roam about and raid in search of plunder “ (Merriam-Webster).  Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of what Jesus said about the thief:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”  John 10:10

That’s when it occurred to me why I was feeling blah . . . so “unjoyful”.

You see, the devil (Marauding Bands) roams the Earth in search of plunder to raid [one’s joy].  He can come in the form of “drama” on Facebook, news of wars and fighting, etc.  The thief (the Marauding Bands) had stolen my joy – my perspective of how I view the world, allowing me to become frustrated with things at home and things I couldn’t control.  But that’s not what Jesus wants for us – He wants us to have life [joy] – and have it more abundantly.

In looking back at the verse in 2 Kings, the Israelites knew the evil that the Marauding Bands could do.  We don’t know much about the man they were burying, but my gut tells me he was royalty or someone powerful – why else would they be afraid to come in contact with the “raiders”.  They had stuff that could be stolen.  I’m not sure if they knew the tomb was Elisha’s or not, but it serves as a reminder to us – Go to God.  Elisha was a man of God and even in his death, God used him.  That’s my heart’s cry – to be used by God – to be so full of Jesus that I want to impact those seeking refuge from the evils of the world.  I often fail – I have my bad days/weeks – those weeks when I’ve failed to hide from the Marauding Bands.  But, God always seems to show up – especially while reading His Word.

So, as I move on, may I remember that even though I may or may not see the Marauding Bands coming – but when they do – seek refuge in the cave of God.  Keep reading His Word, pray.  Seek guidance from more mature Christians.  Allow the Holy Spirit to guide me.  Reach out to others.  Stay connected with my friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram but pick and choose who I want to follow and interact with.  Set limits for the time spent on social media and when “drama” occurs – walk away – take a time out.  There’s nothing wrong with spending some alone time – unplugged time – it does a heart good. {It truly does!}

And if necessary, hide in a cave (just kidding – not really, the introvert in me is really good at that). No, seriously, sometimes walking away from something can be a good thing – Just don’t do what I want to do – hide forever {that’s why I have friends who won’t let me – they kind of know where I live}.   JESUS Loves YOU!! So go live life abundantly!

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Nor Did It

Evil.

It exists. And since the day God put humans on the Earth, He has tried to protect us from it.

He even warned Adam.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 2:17

But Adam and Eve ate and awareness of Evil and its consequences entered our lives.

I’ve had my share of evil in my life.  From childhood through my adult years it seems as though it was [is] everywhere.  But recently, I’ve become aware that evil is something that was not in His Heart.

For the past few weeks I’ve been studying the Book of Jeremiah using a Biblical Study written by Melissa Spoelstra (click here for more info).  Last week’s lessons were on the heart and it was then as I was reading my assigned chapters, God showed me (kind of warned me) that evil wasn’t and isn’t in His heart or mind.

God’s Word says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9a).  No one really knows it but God and He searches hearts and examines their secret motives.

It’s no surprise that in today’s world, that statement is true (for the most part); especially these past few weeks.  From escaped convicts to shootings to Supreme Court rulings, things seem to be getting worse in the world so I asked God the same question everyone seems to ask when things go wrong.

Why?

Why are these things happening?  Why don’t You step in and do something?  Why do good people keep getting hurt?

Why?

His answer.  We find it in these words.  Nor did it.

Three times in the Book of Jeremiah we find these words.  Each time it is in reference to evil deeds that humans were doing.

“And they have built the high places of Trophet, which is in the Valley of the Song of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.” Jeremiah 7:31 NKJV – emphasis mine.

“(they have also built the high places of Baal, to burn their sons with fire for burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or speak, nor did it come into My mind).” Jeremiah 19:5 NKJV – emphasis mine

“And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.” Jeremiah 32:35 NKJV – emphasis mine

Nor did it.

Those evil things were not commanded nor did they enter the Heart or Mind of God for His people to do (I remind you that God was speaking to His people – Israel and Judah) and that evil doings of humans was the reason God flooded the Earth (Genesis 7-8).

So church, I’m here to encourage you.  Evil is not God’s intention nor does it enter His heart or mind.  It has been here since the beginning of time and God’s plan has always been to protect us from it.  So much He didn’t even want us to have knowledge of it.  But, since that is not the case, “the anger of the Lord will not turn back until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart.” (Jeremiah 23:20a). He spoke these words through the prophet Judah but also added, “In the latter days you will understand it perfectly.” (Jeremiah 23:20b)

Now, Israel and Judah understood that to mean they would be taken home after being in captivity for 70 years; however, Jeremiah tells us the intentions of God’s heart which we have the assurance of today.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,  that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:  ‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgement and righteousness in the earth.’” Jeremiah 33:15

It’s this reminder that we, the church, need to remember today. Jesus fulfilled those words.  He came to earth to live and die for our sins.  His resurrection assures us that evil will be taken care of. So remember these things:  Jesus is King.  His Word Stands.  His Truth Stands.  He shall execute judgment and righteousness.

So, what do we – the Church/Christian – do in the mean time?

We pray.  We love.  We show the world who Jesus is.  We tell of His wondrous works.  We speak His Truth with Love and Grace.  We extend mercy to those who need it and we forgive ourselves at times.  We allow Him to Judge – not only us but the evil in this world.  Because that is the Intentions of His Heart and Mind.

And the evil?

We should be able to say at the end . . . Nor did it (enter our hearts and mind).

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The Altar Wall

Sitting at the top of the sanctuary during a church service gives one a unique perspective.  At times it feels as though one is disconnected from the service – watching what goes on but yet not able to participate.  It was this feeling I had as I sat through service yesterday.

The service began as usual with a song and announcements.  It was a typical Summer Sunday with many members on vacation or traveling home from vacation.  As I stood there watching the members listen to the worship team sing (not all – some were singing along) the thought entered my mind “Have our altars become a wall?”

Strange thought I know but it’s one that took the rest of the service to figure out.  Throughout the service my mind would wander (just being honest here) from worshiping to watching.  If you know me, you know that I tend to have “issues” with church – and one of those issues is “worship.” I love music and it has brought healing and comfort throughout different stages of my life. But yesterday I just couldn’t seem to connect with the words.

I wonder if it’s just me.  There are times when I’m singing that I just say the words. Other times I let the worship team sing them for me.  It is because I don’t believe what I’m singing or do I feel guilty about my lack of faith? Do I really mean in my heart those words? Can I sing them and mean them or do I just sing along so no one thinks I’m not a “good Christian”?

It was during one of those times of my not singing that I heard “Have our altars become a wall?” I pushed the though aside and started singing.

The pastor would never get to preach the sermon.  It was to be a day of healing and restoration. With the thought about altar walls pushed to the back of my mind the service went from singing to a prophecy of healing.  The pastor gave the “altar call” that if you needed healing in your body to come forth.  Though I was in pain, I stood there – not moving toward the altar for healing.  Why?

God told me not to.

Ouch.

I knew immediately why.  The pain I was experiencing from standing wasn’t something He gave me but something I had done.  I had become lazy in my exercise and eating and had gained back the 10 pounds I lost before going to Disney in March.  I wouldn’t experience His healing that day because of something I had done. But I was okay with that.  I knew what I had to do (starting today).

Which brings me back to the thought of – “Have our altars become walls?”

Toward the end of the service one of the more mature Christian ladies of the church spoke and said something like “If you’ve been to the altar before and it hasn’t worked, come again.  God is the only one who can help you.” {Not an exact quote.}

It was then I knew what was meant by “Altars becoming Walls”.

The word Altar (mizbeach; Strong’s Number 4196) is used more than 300 times in the New King James Version alone.  Its Hebrew definition means a place of sacrifice.  It’s taken from the Hebrew word zabach (Strong’s Number 2076) which means — to slaughter for sacrifice, to slaughter for eating, or to slaughter in divine judgment.

Now don’t get me wrong, the Altar is one of the places to go for help.  It is a place to sacrifice our thoughts and desires, a place to sacrifice our words and deeds. But yesterday it felt like a wall to me.

Several times in the Old Testament an altar would be constructed to say Thank You to God.  To offer animal sacrifices; to bring grain offerings. It is the place where Abraham would lay his son Isaac to offer him back to God. Yesterday, having been told by God not to go down would I truly understand the place of the Altar.

As I’ve thought about the Altar being a Wall these thoughts come to mind:

  • Have I turned the Altar into a Wall as I allow the worship team to sing songs for me to God because I don’t feel I am good enough to sing or have the right to sing with them?
  • Have I turned the Altar into a Wall as I allow the preacher to tell me what I need to hear because I’m afraid to read the Bible for myself?
  • Have I turned the Altar into a Wall as I allow the prayer team to intercede for me because I don’t understand that I can boldly approach the throne of grace myself?
  • Have I turned the Altar into a Wall as I deny the power of the Holy Spirit to bring healing and restoration to my life because I’m afraid it won’t work?
  • Have I turned the Altar into a Wall as I fail to realize that to approach the Altar means I must offer a sacrifice?

It is these thoughts that I have wrestled with since yesterday – maybe you have too? {Note: those things are not wrong in themselves – but consider the motive of why.}

To truly not turn the Altar into a Wall there’s only one thing to do.

Let Go. Surrender. Sacrifice. Worship.

Let go of our insecurities. Surrender our thoughts and desires. Sacrifice our words and deeds. It is then – when we [I] do my part that the wall falls and healing and restoration can come forth. It’s a place to worship God.  To lift ones hands and say – Here you go God.

Just like my No to going down to the Altar yesterday for healing was because of something I had done, there’s always a Yes when I’m going to the Altar to Surrender and Sacrifice for something I have done. It is the place of healing and restoration. It’s a place to say “I’m Sorry – Forgive me.” It’s a place to say “Thank You”.

So, whether the Altar is at the foot of a cross, or the space between the seating and stage, the foot of one’s bed, or standing at the top of the Sanctuary –  the only Wall at the Altar should be the Hands of God wrapping around you and me. And it’s there He will “Create in me a new heart and put a new Spirit within me” {Ezekiel 36:26}.

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Feeling Invisible?

A couple of Wednesdays ago I was having a rough day – emotionally drained after realizing that I could not see or talk to my Aunt again.  It didn’t help that what seemed like things that were important to me were not important to other people.  Then there’s the whole “Am I the only one who does things around the house?” feeling.  I took to Facebook to express my frustration and just posted as my status “Feeling Invisible”.

Didn’t take long for several friends to respond – making sure I was okay.  Their words of encouragement and care helped but I couldn’t shake the feeling of being invisible. So I do what I always do when I’m stressed – I take a walk in my local botanical garden.

It was there that God spoke.

As I was walking through the rose garden, He pointed out a rose bud and a rose – both on the same stem.  Of course, it was a red one – my Aunt’s favorite color.  As I stopped to “smell the roses”, He directed my eye to the rose bud.

“See that bud there.”

Yes Lord.Rose Bud and Rose

“Its insides are invisible.  No one knows what color or what the flower will look like after it blooms but Me.  No one knows if it will be a perfect rose or one with defects but Me.  No one knows if it will smell or be fragrant free but Me.”

I’m listening Lord.

“You see, You are like the rose bud.  You may feel invisible but you’re not.  I see you! And one day after your growing process is finished I will expose you to the world.  No one knows what your life will be like but Me.  No one knows the struggles you’ve gone through but me. No one knows My plans for you but Me.”

Yes Lord.

Now I am fully aware of who I am in Christ but to hear God speak those words to me that day made me realize that I am not invisible.  God does see me.  He knows my heart and my prayers.  He has me in His Hands. Then I thought  . . . If I feel like this at times, others may too.

So, Today I am here to tell you – YOU ARE NOT INVISIBLE!!!  God sees you!!  He Loves You!!! He hears your prayers and thoughts – He will answer you – He will speak.

Not long after my encounter with God with the Rose, I came across an article by Priscilla Shirer titled “Who You are in Christ.”  Her words confirmed to me that no matter how I may feel, God has chosen me and I am His.  He will always see me.

Though you are the bud . . . one day you will be a rose.  Bloom where you are planted.

Love, Lorna

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