A PART OF THE WHOLE

 

Have you ever felt that you were getting nowhere in your service for our Lord?  I have felt that I was working hard, doing what I believed that I had been called to do, but there did not seem to be any fruit for that labor.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped one

The reality is, however, that we don’t have to comprehend the full impact of our labors.  That is not what the Lord has for us to know at this time.  Paul said it like this:

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 

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There are times when we look at others and it seems their Christian walk is easier, more fruitful, just better than our own.  Such comparison often results in discouragement; or, conversely, it may result in the sin of pride as we consider ourselves to be on the winning side of that comparison.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped three

I love it when Paul uses an understandable analogy to illustrate a spiritual lesson.  He talks about our physical bodies in 1 Corinthians 12:

“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. … But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

1 Corinthians 12:14, 18-20 ESV

This is true – we are all more than one eyelash or one toe.  We have many parts that make up our physical bodies.  And some of the parts, organs for example, don’t even get a passing thought unless disease strikes.

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped five

Then Paul gets to his point – the body of Christ. 

“Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.  And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” 

1 Corinthians 12:27-28 

Just as our bodies have different parts with different functions, so the body of Christ has different parts with different roles assigned to each Christian. 

The glorious thought, and that which thrills my soul, is what Paul expressed to the believers in the church at Ephesus:

“There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call–one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped four

No matter what role we have or how insignificant our role appears to us, God sees the whole picture and He has decreed that there is one body, the Church, which is unified in our Lord and in God the Father through the Holy Spirit. 

I have not gone crazy — the pictures inserted in the post have meaning.  They don’t look like much individually, do they?  In fact, for some of them you can’t even tell what you are looking at!  But, put them together … 

Oregon picture perfect mountains

and you will see a beautiful picture of the snow-capped mountains in Oregon.

Beloved, lift your eyes and look to the Savior.  Let the Spirit show you your role in the body of Christ.  Whatever it is, do your work to the glory of God and for the furtherance of His kingdom.  God will use you to create the glorious picture that He has decreed for you from the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:4-6, Matthew 25:34.

Father, thank You for Your Spirit who guides and instructs in the way we are to live and in the work that we are to do for the kingdom of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

A BRIEF PAUSE – UPDATED

As many of you are aware, I have not posted in several weeks because of back surgery that was conducted on September 8.  I was in the hospital for 3 days and then was transferred to a rehabilitation hospital for the next 10 days at which point, on September 21, I was discharged to come home.

I thank each and every one of you for the prayers and kind wishes extended to me during this time.  The Lord has been very real to me as He has minimized pain as He extended healing to my body, through the good work of excellent physicians and skilled rehabilitative caregivers.

I am still on a walker (which is quite cumbersome) and in physical therapy 3 days a week, so I am not yet ready to undertake scheduled posts on The Ruminant Scribe.  I did want to update you and let you know that our God is our ever present help in time of need.  Psalm 46:1  He is ready to heal and comfort His children even if it relates to the horrific actions taken by someone we cannot understand. 

I do want to encourage you to pray for those who were injured in the mass shooting in Las Vegas earlier this week, and to pray for the families of the many who lost their lives through the evil actions of a man shooting rifles at random people in a crowd. 

And, thank the Lord for the actions of the first responders who were able to get to the hotel room and subdue the shooter before he could unloose untold hundreds of rounds of ammunition onto the street below.  Praise His holy name that the carnage, as bad as it assuredly is, was limited by the intervention of the police and first responders. 

Blessings to each of you, and I again thank you for your prayers. 

Linda

A BRIEF PAUSE

I have been preparing posts for publication on The Ruminant Scribe over two years without taking a pause … but that is going to change for a short while.

Tomorrow, September 8, I will be having major back surgery.  Replacement of broken rods that are on either side of the spine and insertion of two additional shorter rods for added support of the lumbar spine. 

I will likely be out of commission for several weeks and I don’t want to just republish posts previously issued simply to fill up space.  (And, I certainly don’t want to write a post while bobble-headed on medication!) 

Instead, I would be thankful for prayers for successful surgery without any complications or infections and for patience and peace for my beloved Husband who will be my caregiver through this time.  After all, I will be asleep for hours while he is pacing the hospital floor … he has the hard part!

Seriously, I am humbled by the men and women who have followed The Ruminant Scribe these past couple of years, and I am looking forward to getting back into it ASAP, Lord willing.  If you have been blessed through this blog site, please praise the Lord, and let me know.  If you have not, please let me know how I can improve it.  And, if you know the Lord our God, please petition Him for successful resolution of the issues requiring surgical intervention.

Blessings to each and every one of you. 

Linda, aka The Ruminant Scribe

DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS, REVISITED

One of our canine daughters, Cuddles to be exact, has a problem with her feet. 

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

So, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They returned the dog to us, with one or two nails a bit shorter, but clearly not clipped as we expected, and the groomers appeared to have fought in some battle, rather than attending to her paws!  Again, she was clearly terrified.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” stance.

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  We told him that no one had been able to clip her nails and he gave us the “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it!” look as he carried her into the treatment area.

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returned carrying Cuddles.  Her nails are no shorter, and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job”, this being a complete understatement if I had ever heard one.   He then said we had two options: 1) to bring her back on another day and have him clip and cauterise her nails under anesthesia (the expensive option) or 2) to have our limbs shredded when our skin came in contact with her paws (the cheap option).

We chose the costly option rather than experiencing Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap. She has been with us for 4 years and her fear remains as a visceral barrier to a normal pedicure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit. 

Like Cuddles, I am facing a fearful situation – another spinal surgery where 2 broken rods will be replaced and 2 more will be added in an attempt to stabilize my spine so as to alleviate additional curvature and pain.

I have had this type surgery twice and doing it again is fearful.  But, I am sure I am not alone in this.  Whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional, whether it is from the past or something you are facing in your immediate future, fear is visceral.  .

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different, however. I understand that perfect love casts out fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18

While my fear from past events knocked me down, it could not overpower my Lord and Savior. Fear of the upcoming surgery will not overwhelm me now. My Lord is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands. 

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise You for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise You, also, that You have never forsaken me even when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank You for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.

 

HOW BRIGHT IS THE LIGHT?

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. … He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Matthew 17:1-2, 5.

In the book of Revelation, the Apostle John records his vision of the Lord Jesus Christ and says, in part:

In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

Revelation 1:16.

When the solar eclipse was occurring on August 21, 2017, we stood transfixed while watching the moon march through the afternoon sky, with the sun high in the heavens.  When the moon completely covered the sun, the corona was still visible as a flaming band surrounding the image of the dark moon. 

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But, when the moon continued its preordained trek across the sky and began to uncover the sun, the sun’s radiant light was not restrained any longer.  The power of that first glimpse of the sun’s light was so strong that the corona which had transfixed our gaze seemed to disappear in the brilliance of the sun’s pure light.  And, the moon’s participation in this planetary spectacle was almost obliterated by the re-emergence of the sun’s light.

How bright is the light? 

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12

Scripture writers recorded the light emanating from the Lord at his transfiguration by referencing the sun and its bright light.  Paul records his confrontation with a bright light when the Lord called him to do His work:

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.”

Acts 22:6

How bright is the light?  The light from the Lord blinded Paul as he was on the road to Damascus.  Similarly, we were told that it was dangerous for us to gaze at the sun with our naked eyes, even when the moon was covering part of it.  In our sinful nature, we cannot look at the holiness and magnificence of God — He is surrounded in blinding light. 

We used eclipse glasses to watch the heavenly event without danger.  The Light of our Lord is strong enough to find us when we stray, to guide our path and to extinguish the darkness of sin.  When we look at God through the righteousness of His Son, we see His power and His glory, and we have comfort in His omnipotence because we are in His arms.  

For a couple of minutes during the totality of the eclipse, the sun’s light was stopped by the moon.  The Son’s Light, however, does not stop — it will last forever!  

Father, I thank You for the privilege of watching Your creation operate in such wondrous ways.  I praise Your name for the gift of seeing Your power and majesty as they are exhibited in Your creation.  You are God, and there is none like You.  Praise and honor are due to You, and You alone.

 

GOD’S GLORY MADE MANIFEST IN THE SKY

The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

On August 21, 2017, many of us in the continental United States had the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse.  While I am told that eclipses occur frequently, there has not been a coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in the United States since 1918.

Solar Eclipse in totality with large corona
The corona visible during the Solar Eclipse in Totality on August 21, 2017, as seen in Maryville, Tennessee

The moon cast a 70-mile wide shadow over the earth as it traversed between ourselves and the sun.  How could the moon block out the sun?  The numbers are easy to understand but incredible to comprehend.  The sun is 400 times greater than the moon, but the moon is 400 times closer to the earth than the sun.

Even though you no longer can see the sun itself in the total solar eclipse, its power is impossible to contain as the corona emanates from the sun while the moon appears to linger on its journey. The corona is a superheated region of plasma located above the sun’s photosphere, and scientists assert that it extends for over five million kilometers.  Staggering figures that give further evidence of the magnificence of our Creator God.   

There are many who will write tomes about this eclipse, and my offering here will surely be rudimentary and simplistic, but, after seeing this heavenly event, I can only be in awe of God’s majesty and glory, repeating what the Psalmist said:

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  

Psalm 145:5

God has chosen to communicate Himself to us through the glory and majesty of His created order, nature.  The theologians call this General Revelation or Natural Revelation – that is to say, these are the works or acts by which God reveals himself through nature. 

The purpose of General Revelation is to make God’s eternal power and deity manifest to all mankind. 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20.

The solar eclipse caused me to sing praises to my God and the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ.  Truly His eternal power and divine nature were on clear display during the eclipse, confirming the truth that His majesty is above earth and heaven.  His glorious splendor is apparent in His creation, and His works are, indeed, wondrous.  Praise God that He has provided evidence of Himself in nature and in His created order.

Father, I thank You for the privilege of watching Your creation operate in such wondrous ways.  I praise Your name for the gift of seeing Your power and majesty as they are exhibited in Your creation.  You are God, and there is none like You.  Praise and honor are due to You, and You alone.

 

UNPLUGGED – GOOD OR BAD?

We were camping in Charlottesville, Virginia.  It was a beautiful location, with wooded camp sites and quiet surroundings.  It is quite a distance from the city, but we were camping so that was perfectly alright.

What we did not realize is that our cellular provider offered no coverage in the area of the campground.  The city had good cell coverage, but where we were camping there was virtually none.  We were forced to be “unplugged”. 

Now that is likely a good thing.  We are entirely too used to looking at the cell phone or tablet while spending a nice evening next to each other, but focusing on various news stories, books, card games instead of actually spending time communicating with each other.  Perhaps the unplugged status is good after all.

While being unplugged from electronics is an inconvenience, it is not earth-shattering or of eternal significance.  However, there is nothing inconsequential about being unplugged from God.  The stakes for being unplugged from Him are both horrific and eternal!

The ultimate unplugged condition is that of unrepentant sin.  God is a holy God and He cannot and will not tolerate or look upon sin.  As R. C. Sproul says, sin is cosmic treason against God.  It is against His holy nature and, His justice demands that it be punished, eternally.

As Christians, however, we understand that God’s justice has been satisfied for His children through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross of Calvary.  Jesus, our Good Shepherd, paid the price for the sin of His sheep by giving up His life.

He offers us life abundant through His grace and mercy if we are plugged into Him. 

Wisteria blooming vine close up
Wisteria vine stem at ground level, providing nourishment for the plant.

The analogy Jesus uses is that He is the vine and we are the branches.  If we abide in the vine, we will bear much fruit, but if we are not in the vine, we will be cast out and burned. See the Gospel of John, Chapter 15.  We need to be plugged in to the vine for the power to produce fruit for Him. Only through Him can we experience a life that is abundant and fruitful.

Wisteria blooms
Wisteria vine along the front yard fence.

Christianity is a relationship between you and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Neither your parents, your pastor, your spouse, indeed no one, can enter a relationship with Christ for you.  You must receive Christ through the call that God makes on your heart.  It is a gift from God, not of works.  Ephesians 2:9.

While each of us has our own unique call into Christianity, once you are a child of God, the life in Christ is not a solitary experience. Our meeting, worship and fellowship together with other believers provides power and strength, accountability and support, so that you can grow in your Christian life and witness. 

Just as our cell phone needs charging from a source outside itself, our Christian life needs power that we do not have on our own.  Our life charger is not a plug or cable, rather our power comes from abiding in the Vine of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Are you unplugged?  Need power?  Go to the Cross and repent.  Receive your nourishment from the Vine and you then will be able to be used for the Glory of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Father, thank You for providing power through Your Word, Your Spirit, Your Son.  Forgive me when I fail to appropriate that power for my life and when I try to life a life in Christ through my own efforts or good works.  Give me the power to yield to You solely so that Your Spirit will shine through me.

I JUST WANT TO BE A SHEEP

Sheep.  They are the animals which our Lord used as the primary illustration of our relationship with Him.  

Sheep in English Countryside
Sheep blocking the road in the English countryside.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36 ESV

Shepherding sheep is something that was understood and seen throughout Israel and the Middle East countries: indeed, it still is.  Thousands of years ago, when King David wrote Psalm 23, he presented a beautiful picture of the Good Shepherd.

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

The shepherd provides all that the sheep need.  The shepherd leads the flock to green pastures, to fresh grass, to comfortable resting places, things that are sometimes difficult to find along the barren hillside.  The shepherd takes the flock to still waters.  Why still water? Because the shepherd knows that if the water is rushing past, it could kill the sheep if the animal slips and its fleece becomes soaked with water, thereby drowning the poor animal .  Calm water, though, provides welcome refreshment to the flock without danger.

Flocks can be very large as the shepherds combine flocks and they then all take care of the sheep combined together.  But, the shepherd can call his sheep and they will come to him, even if they are part of a large combined flock.  Jesus references this in John chapter 10: 

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. …

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. … 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:3-4, 14-16,27 ESV 

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He knows His sheep and when He calls them by name, they come to Him and He leads them out of the fold.  He is the Good Shepherd and His flock is one united flock, even though it is comprised of sheep from various sheepfolds.  The sheep Jesus saw before Him were the Israelites in the area; but His sheep come, not only from Israel, but from the Gentile nations of the world.  That is what Jesus is talking about when He said “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.”

Girl with sheep
Young girl with grazing sheep.

So, are you one of the sheep in Jesus’ flock?  There is a song that is sometimes sung around the campfire by children and youth, but it expresses the desire to know Jesus and to be one of His sheep.

I just want to be a sheep, I just want to be a sheep. 

I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I just want to be a sheep.

Are you a sheep in His fold?

Lord, thank You for being the Good Shepherd, and I praise Your Name for lovingly bringing me into the fold. I thank You that You know my name, and I pray that I would respond and come to You when You call.

IN CELEBRATION OF THE REFORMATION – part two

In the prior post, we noted that this is the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, an event that began when Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  The debate that arose out of this action culminated in what is now called the Protestant Reformation.

One of the primary teachings of the Reformation is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Good works do not constitute any basis for our right standing before God; rather, our good works are the result of and the witness to our faith in Christ.  Ephesians 2:8-10.

Justification is a legal term referencing God’s declaration that we are not guilty, that we are forgiven of our sin, and that we have righteousness  provided through Christ’s sacrifice for our sin.  2 Corinthians 5:21.

In other words, the Reformation’s clarion call is that the just shall live by faith alone, and that faith must be in Christ alone.

Once we are justified, through faith in Christ, we are to live a Christ-centered life in thankfulness for all that He has done for us and for the Holy Spirit’s presence within us.  Paul says we are new creatures when we have yielded our lives to Christ.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

2 Corinthians 5:17.

Elaborating on this statement, Paul says in Ephesians 4:22-24 that we are to:

“put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

What would this look like?   Remember the butterfly? 

USED Butterfly close up (C)
At the Butterfly Farm, Cayman Islands

After the butterfly emerges from the cocoon, it not only can fly into the heavens, it must fly to live a healthy, fulfilled life. They must migrate to other locations, ultimately returning to their place of origin.  But we are not talking going around the block; oh no, we are talking long distances!

The flight of the butterflies is the longest known distance insect migration on Earth – and it’s been occurring for thousands of years. Monarchs sense certain topographical features, avoiding both large bodies of water and tall mountains. Instead, they choose cool valley passes between mountains. 

Several migration routes in central southern Canada lead down through the central U.S. Several others start in western North America and merge with central ones. The majority of Monarchs who survive obstacles and predators manage to thread a geographical needle, hitting a 50-mile wide gap of cool river valleys between Eagle Pass, Texas, and Del Rio, Texas, and then wind their way to a dozen specific high mountain peaks in central Mexico where they roost. After resting there for several months, the same generation returns north to Texas and other parts of the southern United States, where the females lay hundreds of eggs.  …  

Of course the question automatically pops into your head – How does the butterfly know where to go when they migrate such a long distance and end the trip on a mountain top to which they have never been.  Scientists believe that they now have an answer:

[Scientists] felt confident that they could prove that it was a combination of brain signals sent from the Monarch’s complex compound eyes and antennae that allowed them to track the position of the sun and the time of day (“like an internal GPS”) to navigate during their migration.

Monarchs have specialized body parts to help it navigate and migrate long distances. They orient themselves both in longitude and latitude, a unique ability, and can travel up to a mile high.

To conserve energy, Monarchs ride along prevailing winds and catch rising thermal waves, helping them travel great distances in a single day. They hide from the rain and will die if exposed to freezing temperatures and ice storms

[Information from http://www.flightofthebutterflies.com/epic-migrations]

Notice that? The butterfly has been given specialized body part to enable it to migrate such long distances.  And, the butterfly is so strong that it can travel hundreds of miles, even going a mile high, but rain or ice will kill it.

Likewise, once we emerge from the stranglehold of sin through faith in Christ, we too have been given equipment to enable us to walk the pilgrim passageway in strength and confidence.  Read Ephesians 6 to identify all the armor available to us.  We are strong in the Lord, but we are not impervious to peril.  Sin can attack and derail our efforts.  We must persevere and keep looking to our Lord as we live in this world. 

Putting off the old sinful self is hard – it takes struggle and dedication to Christ to accomplish it, even for a moment.  But God’s grace and mercy is always sufficient for our struggle because it is His plan to renew us in the likeness of His Son, our Lord.

Praise God that 500 years ago men were ready to stand up for the Gospel so we would learn that salvation comes through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Thank you, Father, for the provision and protection of your Word and for the work of Martin Luther and other saints of the church who suffered greatly for their proclamation that justification is a matter of faith in Christ alone.  And beautiful butterfly, a daily illustration that difficulties are for a time, and that the end result is worth the struggle as we are growing in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ.