Jesus: Majestic, not Messy

In a few days, we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior! My heart and our home are ready. Our house looks “Christmasy.” My attention continues to be drawn to our nativity. With the little lights of the stable twinkling and the infant Jesus in the spotlight, Christ is the center of our Christmas scene. Today I see Jesus – not the messy manger. What if there were cobwebs and straw piles along with some dung around the manger that night over 2000 years ago? My focus is on Jesus. He is the light and the life. Today I want to correlate several verses of the first chapter of Ephesians in the Living Letters translation with the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke 2:7 NIV.

Now she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths,
and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7
NIV

When Jesus, Son of God and Son of man, was born, Mary used a cow’s feeding trough for a cradle. However, before she laid him on his bed, she tightly wrapped him in a clean blanket. What a discrepancy between the purity of the newborn baby and the messy manger!

Long ago before He made the world God chose us o be His very own,
through what Christ would do for us; He decided then to make us holy in His eyes,
without a single fault –
we who stand before him covered with His love.
Ephesians 1:4 LL

I focus on the highlighted portion of this verse. While thinking about Jesus wrapped in swaddling cloths, I also picture myself swaddled in God’s love. All of us are privileged to be tightly wrapped in God’s perfect love even though we live in a world that appears to be like a messy manger.

Now all praise to God for His wonderful kindness to us and His favor that
He has poured out upon us because
we belong to His dearly loved Son.
Ephesians 1:6 LL

When Jesus was born, his cradle was a cow’s feeding trough. Thirty-three years later, he died on the cross creating the way for us to belong to Him. We no longer have to be controlled by the world’s mess. Jesus cleans up the messiness of our lives when He cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (See I John 1:9) As the emphasized words proclaim, we belong to Jesus, not the world’s messy manager.

And this was His purpose: that when the time is ripe He will gather us
all together from wherever we are – in heaven or on earth-
to be with Him – in Christ – forever.
Ephesians 1:10 LL

According to Matthew 1:23, Emmanuel was the name of the baby to be born of Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Emmanuel means God with us. Emmanuel came to be with us at Christmas. Emmanuel will be with us forever! He is coming again to rescue us from the world’s messy manger. He will then take us to live with Him in the eternal city where He now resides in the throne room of God. (See Revelation 22:1-5) What a difference from the messy manger! Jesus says in Revelation 22:7, “Behold, I am coming soon!”

I pray for you constantly asking God the glorious Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ to give you wisdom to
see clearly
and really understand who Christ is and all He has done.
Ephesians 1:17 LL

While gazing at the figure of baby Jesus in our nativity scene, I no longer see a messy manger. I  envision His majesty. He did not stay in a wooden cradle. He later died upon a wooden cross and rose again as the Savior of all who live in a messy world. Philippians 2:5-11 LL says, “Try to be like Jesus Christ Who, though He was God, did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled Himself even further, going so far as to actually die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised Him up in the heights of heaven and gave Him a Name which is above every other name, That at the Name of Jesus every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, And every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

In honor of the birth of Jesus, please join me in singing the first verse of Away In A Manger and the chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful.


Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!

 

 

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Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger

Each day we are 24 hours closer to celebrating the birth of Christ. Although things are still a little messy around our house with Christmas preparations, I still need to take time to prepare my heart for the holidays. Once again, I stop to examine the figures of our nativity scene. Today my attention is drawn to the wooden shepherd. According to the scriptures, the shepherds were in a nearby field taking care of their sheep that starry night when Jesus was born. Suddenly, an angel personally delivered to them the birth announcement of the Savior of the world! They immediately decided to go see this baby. What a glorious birthing party they attended when they arrived at the stable in Bethlehem where they found Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus! (See Luke 2:8-20)

The shepherds did not bother to change clothes before they searched for this baby boy. They were dirty sheep tenders who lived in the open fields with their sheep. Currently, however, they were more concerned about finding the infant than they were about their appearance. It was probably natural for them to begin their quest for this little one in a stable since they were shepherds. Well, I guess they did have help from an angel. The messy manger was a location where the shepherds were comfortable.

I notice that when the shepherds went to Bethlehem, they left their sheep in the fields. Did they realize they were going to welcome the Lamb of God to this earth? (see John 1:29) Was this newborn babe worthy of a higher priority than taking care of their flock of sheep? Why would the Lamb of God be in a messy stable?

Although the shepherds had little knowledge about the infant who was introduced to them as the Savior Christ the Lord, I wonder if they felt a prophetic kinship with him. When they saw him, did they comprehend who he would become? Let us fast forward about 30 years when Jesus compares his life to that of a shepherd in John 10. In verses 1-6, Jesus shares about how sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd while they do not respond to the call of a hired hand. In verses 7-10, Jesus describes himself as the gate for sheep and in verses 11-18, he reveals himself as the good shepherd. Wow! When the shepherds visited Jesus, he was a baby in a manger. As a man, he became the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. What a future for the infant born in a manger!

The messy shepherds were comfortable around the Christ child because they found him in a messy manger. Today, Jesus is comfortable with our messy lives because He experienced a messy manger. According to John 1:29, He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins, the messiness of our lives. Jesus is also the Good Shepherd who wants to take care of us and guide us so we will not get into more messes. Psalm 23 portrays an excellent example of a shepherd’s job physically and spiritually.

In conclusion, messy shepherds came just as they were, and that is how Jesus wants us to come to Him. I am reminded of the hymn Just As I Am with lyrics by Charlotte Elliott. Please join me in singing or reciting the first two verses of this hymn. It is a good way for us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Everything!

“Everything” is all-inclusive! When I was a little girl, my mother helped me learn me how to pray by giving me a simple prayer outline. She suggested that I pray, “God, thank You for ______ and ______.” I was to fill in the blanks with two things for which I was thankful that day. Sometimes it would be easy for me to fill in the blanks. Other times, I might just pray, “Thank You, God for everything!” This could have been my prayer because my heart was so full of gratitude that I could not choose two specific things. Or, it might have been an easy way out because I was too tired to think. Today, when I think about thanking God for everything, it involves a greater risk than I perceived as a child. Can someone be thankful for a diagnosis of cancer? Can another person be thankful for losing their job? At this point in my life, I do not always find it easy to thank God for everything. However, I do still pray about everything. I have discovered some all-inclusive scriptures I want us to think about today.

Jesus looked at them intently and said,
“Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God.
Everything is possible with God.”
Mark 10:27 NLT

Nothing” can be replaced with “everything” when we allow God to work on our behalf! This verse from the gospel of Mark is Jesus’ response to the rich young ruler who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Humanly speaking, neither this man nor any of us can do anything to inherit the kingdom of God. Admitting that we can do nothing opens the door for Jesus to do everything for us. Jesus did it all! He died on the cross to pay the price we cannot pay.

The other factor we need to remember is that when we are filled with the Holy Spirit and His power, we become capable of doing the impossible even though we are human. I recently heard Bill Johnson  encourage us to not run from the impossible. We are told in Acts 1:8, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” The power of the Holy Spirit is the power of God for whom nothing is impossible and we can receive that same power. Bill Johnson pointed out that this power of the Holy Spirit in us is enough for us to do the impossible. We can do the impossible not because we are human, but because Christ through the Holy Spirit lives and works through us. This leads us to the next scripture.

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13 NLT

Everything” is “every thing.” From this verse, I gain the confidence that I can do everything that I encounter in life because Christ promises to give me the strength to do what I need to do through the power of the Holy Spirit. I should never say, “I can’t.” When faced with a regimen of chemo treatments for a cancer diagnosis, one may feel overwhelmed and be tempted to cry out, “I can’t do this!” However, Paul assures us that we can do the “everything” facing us because Christ will be with us and working for us during the duration of the treatment. Years ago, my uncle underwent numerous treatments for cancer and I remember my mother commenting that she did not know how he was able to keep going in spite of the side affects etc. However, less than a year later, she faced similar cancer treatments and I witnessed the grace of God sustain her during her time of trial. I need to have the mindset of “I can” rather than “I can’t.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
John 15:7

Everything: can be “whatever.” This verse can be dangerous if we do not focus upon the complete verse. We must not skip over the “if” qualification for receiving what we wish or ask for “ if you remain in Jesus and His word”. In I John 5:14-15 the “if”qualification phrase relates to God’s will, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” God is able to do everything we ask when we become so attuned to Him that whatever we ask is always in accordance with His will. Although God may not answer in the way we expect, He is able to give us everything as He promises when we surrender everything to Him allowing all our thoughts and desires to be His thoughts and desires. Psalm 37:4 NASB says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desire of your heart.” When we delight in Him, our desires are transformed into His desires.

Now there is another “if” scripture for us to consider.

“What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.
Mark 9:23 NLT

Anything” is “everything!” In this scripture, Mark tells of a man who came to Jesus asking if He was willing and capable of releasing his son from the influence of an evil spirit. Because this man was thinking of Jesus’ capability from a human perspective, he was questioning Jesus’ ability to set his son free. Jesus responded by reassuring the man that through faith and trust anything and everything is possible. Like this man, we must be careful that we do not prevent the Lord from doing what He promises to do because of our lack of faith. We also need to remember that although anything is possible, God will only answer our prayers in His way according to His time.

And we know that God causes all things to work together
for good to those who love God, to those who are called
according to
His purpose. . . . predestined to
become
conformed to the image of His Son,
Romans 8:28-29

All things” is “everything!” The point to remember from this scripture is that while God is capable of causing everything to be used for His good, He does not cause everything that happens to us. Referring back to my simple prayer outline, I can pray “Thank You, God, for how You are going to use my current experience, whether it be positive or negative, for Your glory.” That is quite different from asking a recently unemployed person to pray, “Thank You, God, for my losing my job.” I like the thought that God gives us all kinds of situations so He can give us all things.

When we encounter all kinds of situations, God has the opportunity to reveal His faithfulness to us by showing us how He actually uses all the things we experience for good. God will use everything we encounter to make us more like Him. We may not like everything we experience but we still need to embrace everything and allow God to turn negative situations into positive life lessons. 

“Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.
Jeremiah 32:17

Everything” can meannothing.” Nothing is too hard for our Lord who created everything with His hands. Today, everything we experience passes through the hands of Him who created us and our surroundings. He continues to hold everything in His hands, so we do not need to fear anything we experience. If He could create this world we live in, then He can take care of it. There is no reason for us to doubt His ability. Truly, there is nothing too hard for God to do!

In Genesis 18:114, the Lord asked Abraham, “Is anything too Hard for the Lord?” My Reader, how do you answer this question? How does your response to this question affect how you feel about everything that happens in your life and how you handle every situation you encounter? May you remember the words of Colossians 2:10 in the Living Letters, “So you have everything when you have Christ.”

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Are You Thirsty?

In a Sunday morning message, Pastor Bob Reeves made the following statement, “Jesus died thirsty so we will not go thirsty.” I have been thinking about this comment and want to share with you some of the understanding I have gained.

First of all, I validate the fact that Jesus died thirsty by noting the scripture of John 19:28, “Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, ‘I am thirsty.’” The soldiers who were near the cross offered Him wine vinegar on a soaked sponge. He took their drink but then spoke His last words, “It is finished.” This little bit of liquid could not have satisfied His thirst. He was still thirsty when He died.

The fact that Jesus died thirsty is rather ironic because He promises us living water. Listen to Jesus’ words in John 7:37-39, “‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.” Notice that Jesus does not say that He is the living water, but that He will give living water, the Holy Spirit. Such a beautiful satisfying promise for us!

There are two kinds of thirst – physical and spiritual. We all crave to have our cup filled at various times throughout our lives. At one point, we may desire a drink to satisfy our physical thirst while at another time we will experience spiritual dryness. There is reference to both thirsts in Isaiah 44:3. The Lord says, “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendants.Isaiah 12:3 refers to spiritual water, “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.

In the fourth chapter of the gospel of John, we have the story of Jesus asking the Samaritan woman for a drink of well water. John 4:9-15 says, “The Samaritan woman said to him, ‘You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?’ (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’ ‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’ Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.’” In the beginning, Jesus and the woman were talking about physical water but their conversation concluded with reference to spiritual water. While our physical thirst needs to be repeatedly satisfied, Jesus told the Samaritan that when she received the living water of the Spirit, she would not thirst again. He still offers us this same message today. The Holy Spirit will continually give us a fresh drink of living water. However, we must heed the words of Paul in I Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” We may be able to quench our physical thirst but we must never allow our thirst for the Holy Spirit to be quenched to the point of not desiring His ongoing supply. Matthew 5:6 says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” The Lord promises in Jeremiah 31:25, “For I satisfy the weary ones and refresh everyone who languishes.”

In his sermon, Pastor Bob emphasized that it does not cost us anything to satisfy our thirst but it cost Jesus everything. It cost Jesus His life. The offer of free water is noted in Isaiah 55:1, “Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat.” In Revelation 21:6, Jesus says, “to the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” John describes the source of this water in Revelation 22:1, “Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

I identify with the Psalmist in Psalm 42:1-2 who says, “As the deer pants for steams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” Jesus still hears our pleas for Living Water. While being thirsty upon the cross where He died, Jesus paid the price and provided the source for water through the Holy Spirit. I like the wording of John 7:38 NASB, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” Not only do we receive this spiritual drink from the Lord, but we also have the privilege of offering it to other parched people around us.

My Reader, are you thirsty? Drink deeply of the Living Water!

Jesus as Lord amidst the Leaves

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Autumn is a beautiful time of year in upstate New York. The trees boast of beautiful colors along the hillsides painting a gorge of grandeur. We went on an outing to Letchworth State Park, a visible sanctuary of splendor. During our hike, a scripture and a song were playing in my mind.

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like foliage.
Proverbs 11:28 NKJV

While walking along the trails of the park, we noticed that multitudes of leaves had already fallen upon the ground. We became aware of the crunching sound under our feet. There was no visible beauty in the brown leaves that covered the ground and crumbled with each step we took. The withered yet crispy leaves were like the fallen riches mentioned in Proverbs 11. When we trust in riches, we trust in things that are uncertain and undependable. Like the dried leaves, riches can be blown away by the wind. It is possible for them to be here one day and gone the next. Leaves fall, and so can those who trust in riches. Proverbs 23:4 NLT warns, “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.” Another scripture to remember is I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

What a contrast between the dry leaves beneath our feet and the leaves that still hung on the tree branches overhead! Splashes of orange, gold, red, yellow along with a few remaining green leaves remained attached to the sturdy arms of the tree. The fall foliage painted a pleasing portrait for the eye to behold. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Although Jesus uses the terms vine and branches, we can make the comparison of Jesus being the tree and we as believers are the leaves. Just as the fall foliage flourishes, so will believers flourish. Psalm 34:15 declares, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” and Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

I will look up for there is none above You
I will bow down to tell You that I need You
Jesus Lord of all 

I will look back and see that You are faithful
I look ahead believing You are able
Jesus Lord of all, Jesus Lord of all

These phrases are part of the song I Will Look Up by Elevation Worship, and these are the words I was singing while hiking through the park. As we meandered along the trails, I was beholding the glory of God in nature and discerning His greatness supernaturally. When I looked up I saw the beauty of the leaves still attached to the tree and I realized that nothing was above our God, Creator of heaven and earth. (He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– He remains faithful forever. Psalm 146:6) When I looked down, I saw dried leaves and I was reminded of my need of my Creator. (God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.Isaiah 42:5 NLT) When I looked back upon the trail we were hiking, I saw again the natural beauty behind and the faithfulness of Jesus to guide every step I have ever taken. (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6) When I looked ahead, I got another glimpse of the beauty of the park we had not yet seen and I also believed Jesus would guide each step I was yet to take throughout my life. (A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? – Proverbs 20:24)

Throughout this day, we became aware that fall was a good description of this season as we watched leaves fall from trees. Also, the fall foliage offered us a beauty not visible at any other time of year. There were lessons to be learned from the leaves we walked upon as well as the lovely leaves we stopped to gaze upon that were still attached to their branches. However, the primary lesson learned is declared in the final phrase I quoted from the song by Elevation Worship: “Jesus Lord of all!” Jesus was evident in everything we saw and experienced throughout our day at Letchworth State Park. Philippians 2:10-11 expresses it well, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (my emphasis) Other scriptures that confirm the lordship of Jesus are Romans 10:9 (If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.) and I Corinthians 12:3 (and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.) According to Wikipedia, “Jesus is Lord” is the shortest creed of faith expressed in the New Testament.

My Reader, will you declare with me, “Jesus is Lord”?


 

Be a Prays-er

Prays-er” is a word used by Cindy Jacobs in the book Possessing the Gates of the Enemy. The uniqueness of this word Cindy created has given me much to think about. Most of us will say that we are pray-ers who talk to God asking for His help in situations in our own lives and in the lives of others. However, if I say I am a “prays-er” I am describing myself as a person who praises the Lord while I am praying. As a praiser, or prays-er, I choose to praise Him because of who He is, not because of what He does for me. I praise Him because He is the Creator of all things and the One who has given me life. I praise Him because He is my Savior, Lord, Healer, Deliverer, Defender, Provider, Protector, etc. He is loving, gracious, merciful and kind. God is good! He is worthy of my praise! Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.” I want to fulfill this scripture by being a prays-er.

Psalms is probably the best book of the Bible for references to praise. (My Reader, you may want to do more research on your own regarding praise scriptures as I cannot begin to be inclusive in what I share. I just want to create within you a desire to become a prays-er.) Psalm 145:3 is a good starting point for praise. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 100:4 instructs us, “Enter gates His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 150:2 NLT says, “Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness!” David and the other writers of the Psalms were definitely prays-ers!

As a leader of the Israelites, Moses sets an example of the importance of praise when he personally declares in Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Moses refers to the Israelites as well as himself when he says in Deuteronomy 10:21, “He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.” Flipping a few more pages of our Bibles, we find other references to praise.
I
Chronicles 16:9 instructs, “Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” Reading a little further in this chapter, I Chronicles 16:25 says, “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.” None of these people limited their conversations with God to requests. They praised God for who He was. They were prays-ers!

Being a pray-er, requires more of us than asking God to help us and meet the needs of those around us. Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Petitions are a part of prayer but so is praise. When we praise the Lord for who He is, we will worry less because we will become more aware of His character and nature. When we praise the Lord for who He is, our faith is built up and we have the confidence to thank Him for what He is going to do. Praise is a powerful part of prayer! Be a pray-er and a prays-er!

Since there are scriptural references to praise in both the Old and New Testaments, praise is not restricted to a particular time period. In Isaiah 43:21, the Lord declares, “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim My praise.” This is amazing! One of the reasons God created us is so that we can become prays-ers! Moving into the New Testament. we read I Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Praise is pertinent for us today! God desires our praise – He wants us to be prays-ers!

Acts 16:25-26 tells us, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” The combined power of prayer and praise resulted in freedom from the bondage of prison. The same wonder-working power of God is available to us. Paul and Silas are an awesome example of prays-ers!

Praise is mentioned in the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation. Daniel 2:20 says, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.” John says in Revelation 5:11-12, “Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels and living creatures and elders encircling the throne, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” It is interesting that the angels also praise the Lord. One of my favorites scriptures is Philippians 2:9-11, “God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This indicates to me that I will be a prays-er not only while I am alive on earth but throughout all eternity! What a privilege!

I am a pray-er, a person who prays (talks to God), but I am also a prays-er, a person who praises (lifts God up and honors Him for who He is). I acknowledge with the prophet in Isaiah 25:1, “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” I personally declare Psalm 104:33, “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” and Psalm 145:1-2, I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.”

My Reader, will you be a person who praises the Lord in addition to being a person who prays to God? I encourage you with the words of Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” Be a prays-er!

Remember (re-member) with Communion (come in union)

communion-2

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In many churches, the first Sunday of October is observed as World Communion Sunday. With this emphasis in mind, let us take time to think about this sacrament today. According to a note in the Life Application Bible for Matthew 26:26, there are three names that reveal three aspects of the Lord’s Supper. First, it is referred to as the Lord’s Supper because it commemorates the Passover meal Jesus ate with His disciples. Secondly, it is called the Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving or gratitude, because we thank God for Christ’s work for us. Lastly, it is denoted as Communion because it is through participating in this sacrament that we commune with God and other believers. Each name that may be used for this sacrament brings out a different dimension of it.

No matter which term is used, I ask, “Why do we as Christians observe this sacrament?” Jesus answers this question in scripture.

Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19b

When Jesus spoke these words, He took two traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of bread and the drinking of wine, and gave them new meaning as representations of His body and blood. He used the bread and wine to explain what He was about to do on the cross. He was asking His disciples to remember Him and what He would accomplish through dying on the cross. This is what He continues to ask us to do when we observe this sacred meal with the body of believers. Jesus tells us what to do and why to do it.

Although the term Communion is not used in scripture, it is the term I am thinking about today. Join me as I develop my own interpretations of the words COMMUNION and REMEMBER as they relate to the celebration of this Christian sacrament.

So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh
of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise
him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.’”
John 6:53-56

When I look at the word COMMUNION, I dissect the word to say “Come in union.” The word invites me to come into union with Christ by partaking of the elements of bread and wine, or grape juice. The bread is a symbol of His body and the wine is a symbol of His blood. There is nothing magical that turns bread and wine or grape juice into the body of Jesus, but they are symbolic of Him. It reminds me that Christ and I are one. John 17:21 NLT records Jesus’ prayer for all believers, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” Jesus prayed for a unity in mind and spirit to exist between Himself and all those who believe in Him. Paul speaks of the reality of this in I Corinthians 6:17, “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” In the verses from John 6 that were quoted at the beginning of this paragraph, Jesus describes the partaking of the bread and wine as being an act that allows us as believers to come into union with Him.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He
took
the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in
My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the
Lord’s death until He comes.
I Corinthians 11:23-26

In these verses, Paul is remembering what Jesus did for him. He is also giving all believers the same privilege of partaking of these elements of bread and wine when they understand and remember that Jesus died for them and the forgiveness of their sins. The bread and wine are symbols to remind Christ’s followers through the ages of His redemptive sacrifice. As I correlate the word REMEMBER with the word COMMUNION, I divide the word as “re-member.” The prefix “re” means again while the word “member” denotes a person who is part of a group. With this concept in mind, I view communion as an opportunity to join with the family of God with Jesus. Romans 12:5 says, “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” I am a part of the this family because of Jesus’ body being broken and His blood poured out for me. John 1:12 NLT says, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” When I am re-membered with the family of believers, I am privileged to remember what Jesus did for me and to come in union with this body of believers when celebrating the sacrament of Communion.

Whether we use the term Lord’s Supper or Eucharist or Communion, this sacrament is observed in all Christian churches. Some bodies of believers celebrate this sacred meal every week, some once a month, while others maybe only once every quarter or every three months. However we choose to observe it, the important thing is to obey the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me” as stated in Luke 22:19b.

This Sunday we will have the privilege to come in union with other believers around the world to observe Word Communion Sunday and remember again the actions of Christ. As we partake of Communion and remember what Christ did for us, may we first and foremost come in union with Jesus and then come in union with other believers as we re-member, think again, of what Christ did to make it possible for us to re-member, be made one again, with the family of God.