YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO THE BODY!

Sometimes we feel insignificant and envious of those who seem to have it all together, who are out in front and proclaiming the Gospel message to hundreds of people.  We can’t do that.  We aren’t important enough to even be recognized.  We are too small, insignificant, unqualified, … we can’t!

Allow me to give you a modern parable for consideration.

fireplace fans at rest

In our family room, we have a wood burning stove in the fireplace.  We have central heat and air, so we don’t need the fireplace to stay warm in the winter.  It is more an ambiance setter, and I do so enjoy it. (The cow tea kettle provides steam for humidity when the fire is roaring.)

Several years ago, I saw an ad about fans that sit on the fireplace stove.  They don’t plug in, they simply sit there, as shown in this close-up.. 

fireplace fan

We purchased two of these fans and the first winter we had them, there was a power outage in our community.  We had a fire going in the fireplace and the heat chamber had built up sufficiently to power these little fans and their blades were spinning to beat the band.  They were going so fast that that they were complete blurs. 

fireplace fans generating heat

Because of their efforts, the heat from the fireplace was pushed out into the room and we were comfy notwithstanding the lack of power.

The little fans had a job to do.  They whirled their blades any time there was a fire in the wood stove, deriving their power from the heat in the stove’s chamber.  No electricity.  Most of the time, you could hardly feel the heat from the blades because the stove’s built in electric fan was running, and it was significantly stronger than those little fans.  But, when the power went out, the stove’s fan was silent, and all you could hear was the little fans spinning and doing their job.

Each of us has a job to do in the Body of Christ.  We may not be the one in the spotlight, we may not even be in the glow of the light, but we have a job to do and we will be accountable for doing that job to the best of our ability and to the Glory of God, who enables us to do the work through Christ our Lord.

The Apostle Paul said it this way to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  

Verses 4-6

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Verses 12-13

“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.”

Verses 18-20

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Verses:26-27

The Apostle Paul said it this way to the Ephesians:

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. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:4-7

We are not all the same.   We cannot do everything.  But each Christian CAN do something for the Lord, even if it is small.  (Think of the fireplace fan.)   

Or, think of your little toe. You know, the toe that you keep stubbing against the furniture at the doorway of the room.  It doesn’t seem to accomplish nearly as much as the other parts of the body, but it has a job.

The little toe has many names. It is the little piggy if you are a toddler, the pinky toe if you are a bit genteel, or the fifth digit of the foot if you are a physician.  No matter what you call the little toe, it works in concert with the other toes and rest of the foot to get us where we need to go.  Podiatrist Dr. Bruce Pinker, with Progressive Foot Care in Nanuet, New York says that “the purpose of the pinky toe is to provide balance and propulsion.”

Dr. Aditi Gupta Jha, lead physician at the online consulting platform, JustDoc.com,​ agrees with Dr. Pinker’s assessment, saying:  “If [the fifth toe is] injured or has to be amputated, it can lead to falls from imbalance.” 

So, whether you are a small non-electric fan, that is hidden when the central heat comes on but which provides warmth when the power is out, or a little toe, that does its job even if it stands precariously close to the edge of your foot and close to the edge of the door frame, you have a job to do in the Body of Christ.  You may be a teacher, a deacon, an elder, a parent, a secretary, a lawyer, a doctor, a grandparent, a preacher or evangelist.  It matters not what occupation you have or what gift you have been given through God’s grace.  What matters is that you diligently use that gift with all your might for the glory of God. 

So, take your eyes off others.  Stop comparing yourself to them.  Quit ignoring the gifts that God has given you through His grace. 

Instead, turn your eyes upon Jesus.  If you want to compare, look at Him and realize you are a sinner, saved by His grace.  When we have a rightful image of ourselves, we will do whatever job there is for us to do, not because we are special or talented but because of the love and thankfulness we have for the grace, mercy and love bestowed upon us by God through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” as presented on October 5, 2012 at The Great Hymns of our Faith Concert which took place in Cape Town. This is one of the hymns that was featured, starring Loyiso Bala, Neville D and Ivan Siegelaar.

Father, Your grace, mercy and love are too much to comprehend when we think about the marvelous work that Jesus did on the cross and through His resurrection.  May I turn my eyes upon Jesus and live in His glory and light so that I can do the job that you have assigned to me and give glory to You, Almighty Father, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.

 

THE VINEYARD AND THE CHURCH

The vineyard and the church
Jefferson’s Vineyards outside Charlottesville, Virginia

As we were going through the vineyards outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer, we stopped to take a picture of just part of the vines in the Jefferson vineyard with a red-roofed church just beyond them.

The juxtaposition of the vines and the church building prompted my mind to go to John 15.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. … Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1, 4-5

Jesus was speaking to His disciples in this discourse and He was advising them that they had no power in and of themselves to accomplish anything eternal for the Kingdom of God.  Indeed, He said “apart from me you can do nothing”! 

We think that we can do a lot of things without God’s assistance; but, without Jesus, none of them are of any merit.  But, separate us from God and all our works, even the very best ones, are essentially garbage in God’s sight.

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”

Isaiah 64:6 

Our righteous deeds, the ones that we hold up to God as evidence that we should be rewarded, all those nice things we did and said, all of them are considered to be like a polluted garment, filthy rags. 

According to Strong’s concordance information, the Hebrew word translated as “filthy rags” relates to menstruation and the soiled garments therefrom. It is profound that Isaiah used this term to describe God’s attitude toward man’s good works. 

It is easy to read “filthy rags” as being merely soiled cleaning cloths.  But for me, this Hebrew definition puts the “filthy rags” reference into a new light – our good deeds, no matter how costly or how worthy they are in man’s eyes, are worth only to be dumped into the refuse can. 

So, what do filthy rags have to do with the Vine?   

NOTHING!

When we are in Christ Jesus, when we are connected to the Vine, our acts of righteousness avail much. When we are abiding in the Vine, we have the power of the Vine flowing through us and we can accomplish that which He has ordained for us to do for the Kingdom of God.  Then, instead of “filthy rags,” God sees the righteousness of Christ that has become imputed to us through our faith in Him.  In short, we abide in the Vine and He enables us to do righteous deeds that are a fragrant aroma to God, not filthy rags.

The church, the bodily manifestation of Jesus Christ after His resurrection, is to do His work. 

“And [God] put all things under [Jesus’] feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”

Ephesians 1:22-23 

Each of His children are part of the church, the body of Christ, and we each have a role to play as we live out our lives to the glory and honor of our Savior.  Paul talks of the body of Christ like this in First Corinthians 12:

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. …  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 

In this new year, praise the Lord for the gift of eternal life through His death and resurrection and also for the gift of an abundant life in the here and now.  And thank Him that He has grafted us into the Vine so that as His Church we will have the power that comes to those who abide in Him.

The vineyard and the church.  The very symbols of the Source of our strength and of the Body which carries the message of our Lord to those with whom its members interact.

Father, Your ways are inscrutable and unknowable to us.  We praise You for giving us Your Son as our Savior and we thank You for enabling us to witness to Your incredible love and mercy through Jesus Christ.  Thank You, too, for giving us symbols that we can use to remind us of Your grace, providence and goodness.  May we glorify You in all that we do, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

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 

Oregon picture perfect mountains - cropped two

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.

ARE YOU THE STRETCH NEEDLE?

Many decades ago, when I was in college, I became engaged to be married.  About 8 months before the wedding date, we were going to Wisconsin to see his parents when he announced that he had a present for me– a new home!

old-home-place
A beautiful new home! Ours?

I was ecstatic, but rather wondered how he would have made such a big purchase at that point in our lives, and without me having any input. 

When we arrived, he ran into the house and called to me “Come on in, it’s in here!”  Again, I was a bit confused.  How could our home be under the roof of his parents’ home?  After all, his parents lived in the downstairs flat with his grandmother on the second story of the house.  It might get a bit close!

I came into the living room and he was proudly standing in front of the coffee table where he stepped aside and, voila, there before my eyes was … a brand new NEW HOME sewing machine.

new-home-sewing-machine-close
It was a NEW HOME alright!

I had never heard of a NEW HOME sewing machine, but I was now the proud owner of one.  I had only had 1 semester of Home Economics in high school, and that included both cooking and sewing – to sum it up, I had no clue how to sew! 

So, the machine made a good door stop.  I did make curtains that were dynamite and I did attempt sewing some clothes for my daughter [when she was too young to notice that the yellow ducks on the dress were actually upside down in the back but right side up on the front.]  But for many years, the machine languished in the extra bedroom closet, without a thought of being used in this millennia!

Although the giver of the sewing machine died twenty years ago, and the marriage died earlier than that, the NEW HOME persevered.  It is heavy as lead (probably because that’s what it is made of) but it still sews straight lines great!  No embroidery or fancy stuff built into the electronics – well, electronics as we know them today did not exist when it was made almost 50 years old.  It goes straight and, if you push the fabric gently, it will stitch on the curve that you create. 

Now, in retirement, I have been sewing more often, mostly place mats or small tablecloths or decorative towels for our RV.  Recently, I wanted something to keep us warm and toasty on cold evenings so I picked up some fleece fabric from the store.  Soft and cuddly, I was sure it would be wonderful and I was anxious to get started sewing.

new-home-sewing-machine
The NEW HOME ready to go, pin cushion and all!.

I got my pin cushion (from high school) out and a new pair of scissors — ready to do some sewing!  I put the fabric on the machine and stitched about 4 stitches when the thread broke.  So, I re-threaded the needle (at a loss of about 20 minutes because I can’t see the hole in the needle and the NEW HOME predated “self-threading” machines). This scenario repeated at least 5 times until I gave up in frustration.  I was “over it”.

Bill, upon hearing of my failed attempts at being the Domestic Diva, said “Why not take the failed stitch sample to the fabric shop and see if they could help?” 

So, I went to the fabric shop and, upon seeing my fabric swatch, the owner immediately said “Stretch Needle”, and then walked away.  I had never heard of a stretch needle – Did it stretch when you used it?  Did you have to stretch before using it?  It looked like a regular needle to me, but it was worth a try!  I bought a pack of them and went home.

I put one on the machine and, to quote a Christmas poem “What to my wondering eyes should appear” but stitches – straight, long and not broken.  That was the solution – that was the “tool” that I needed to do the job.  WOW.  In 3 hours I had my whole project done and a cuddly wrap was being enjoyed.

After this experience, I did some research on “stretch needles” and found that they have a medium ballpoint tip, with a special eye and scarf, and they are designed for extremely stretchy fabrics and elastic. 

In short, I was trying to do something with a regular needle when the better way was with a stretch needle for the stretchy fleece fabric.

That prompted me to think — how often do we, in our Christian ministry, do something one way simply because it is how we did it in the past, even though there might be a better, more effective way available now, if only we were willing to change. 

Let me be clear – I am NOT talking about changing what we say in our message.  The message is, and always should be:

Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father for salvation.

John 14:6 records Jesus’ words about other means of salvation: “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” 

Whether our culture likes it or not, my Lord said it, and He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  His words are recorded in scripture and that ends the matter for me.

But, I am saying that in the Body of Christ, we each have a job to do, and we are ordained to fulfill that specific role in spreading His message of salvation to the world around us.  Am I doing my specific role in the Body of Christ or am I doing what I want to do even if this is not the role God created for me to fulfill?  What about you?  Paul said it this way:

But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. … Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:18, 27

As a church, are we using the right tool to accomplish the job before us?  Are we using the general use needle when the stretch needle can do the job better?  Is there someone in our congregation who is active in ministry but who is having to work harder than an individual who, while gifted in that ministry, is not doing the job because no one has asked them to do so?  Are we using the right people for the right ministry, or do we simply have people do the work because they were willing to do so, without respect to whether they could be used more effectively elsewhere in the Body of Christ?

As an individual, are you satisfied with taking in the Word through the sermon and, perhaps, even a small group Bible study but not exhibiting spiritual growth through serving a need that you have been prepared to fill in the Body of Christ?  Are you the “stretch needle” that the “general use needles” are looking for? 

I pray that we each would be willing to serve as the Lord directs, not seeking the top spot or the glamour of the best position but that we would be willing servants filling the need that we were equipped to do so that the Lord’s kingdom would advance and so that our Master would be pleased.

Both the general use needle and the stretch needle are needed to accomplish what the Body of Christ is to do.  Prayerfully consider your role.  If you are a Christian, you can be sure you have one because you are part of the Body of Christ.

Blessings to you as you seek to do His will through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, enable us to do Your will so that the message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would be heard around the world.  Give us Your wisdom, strength and love for others as we seek to do Your will in the Body of Christ.

UNITY – THE CALL FOR ALL CHRISTIANS

In these post-election days, it seems to me that, especially with the polarization in our country even among those calling on the name of the Lord, we need to be reminded of the fact that, as Christians, we all have just one Lord. 

Some people may look to the law as their god.

law-courts-building-winnipeg-manitoba-canada
The Law Courts Building in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada (circa 1960)

Some people may focus on liberty, particularly their own personal liberty to do as they wish.

statue-of-liberty
The Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, USA.

For some, their god is fame and fortune, amassing financial wealth.  For others, their family is their god.  All these gods, and many more, have been around in various personas for centuries, yea millennia.

But for the Christian, there is one God, and only One.

Paul addresses this when he writes in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6:

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 

christ-of-the-ozarks-missouri-1968-3
Christ of the Ozarks, Missouri, USA (circa 1965)

 

He is one Lord who is God Almighty, the triune Godhead in three persons, the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In Ephesians 4:4-6, Paul states:

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 baptismone God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

For those who belong to Jesus Christ, He is the Lord of each one of us.  There is one Body of Christ, and each person naming the name of Christ as Savior is part of that same Body.  While we may have various forms of worship, of baptism, of missions, there is one Spirit dwells within each Christian, and each Christian has that same Spirit.

I don’t think unity in Christ means that we lose our individuality or that we must be clones of each other.  If we think of the body analogy that Paul often uses, the thumb is not the same as the knee, and the eyes are not the same as the ears, yet it all is one body. 

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.  For the body does not consist of one member but of many. …  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. … If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.  Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 20, 26-27.

 

So, the Body of Christ is composed of very different persons, of various ethnicity, and divergent life experiences but we are united into the Body of Christ. 

Now, if you know anything about me, you will know that I don’t like confrontation, violence or argument (not exactly the temperament you would expect in an attorney, but the Lord facilitated that career!).  I don’t do movies with violence to people or explosions coming out of the blue, even if they are award winning productions.  I just would rather not watch that kind of thing.

But, give me talking animals, animation, or musicals, I’m all in!  For example, the movie Babe, or The Incredibles, or Shrek, or Ice Age, or Sound of Music, those are high in my repertoire.  

When we became grandparents, we wanted to have something that taught Christian values in a unique way, and we heard about VeggieTales.  So, we looked at them and before long we were VeggieTale aficionados! 

One of the songs that the creators of VeggieTales wrote for the album entitled “Oh Veggie, Where Art Thou?” in which the characters are broadcasting Grandpa Bob’s Old Time Radio Show, is a song entitled “One Lord”.  According to the story line, a missionary comes to tell the VeggieTale characters, and their radio audience, of his life on the mission field, and in so doing he sings this song.  The studio audience participates in the song as it provides an hilarious litany of Protestant Denominations in which names are combined in a mixed up form, all in an attempt to illustrate that while we are many, we really are just One in Christ.

 

I pray that you will enjoy hearing this song and that its message will encourage all of us to come together as one in the Body of Christ.  We don’t need to lose our identity, but we need to keep our focus so that the world will see One Lord in ministry to those around us.

 

Father, help each of us to be your hands and feet as we minister to others in these days of unrest and fear.  Help us to come together in unity as we serve as the Body of Christ in this world.  Help us to honor our differences and unique perspectives even as we unite in love through the one Spirit that indwells each of your children.  Bless us as we serve in your name, through the power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

 

THE BODY OF CHRIST AT WORK JUNGLE VEGETATION!

Tribe landing strip
At the landing strip on an island in The Philippians.

There are times when things come into greater focus for us as we walk along our pilgrim way with Christ.  One of those times occurred when our daughter was on a mission trip to Manila and spent one month with a missionary doctor.  One week per month, he took a flight into a remote island area and treated the tribe located in the bush.  Another missionary family lived there full-time, their house being a hut with a wood fire for the stove.  So, she had the opportunity to live for one week with the tribe, assisting the doctor and learning of life and the people of God as well.

Tribal village
The village waiting for the doctor to come and minister to their needs.

The Body of Christ became very real for her as she worked with the doctor and served the people both in Manila and in the island tribe.  The following is an excerpt of one of her emails to us:

I had some good conversations with Dr. N. on the plane.  We talked about mission life and the differences in the various roles of missionaries.  I think that one of the things that I saw most was the image of the body of Christ.   It takes more than the people in the tribes. It takes all those that are behind them – the missionaries like V. who are in supportive roles.  Most of them go unthanked, but their part is vital.  They take care of the missionary’s orders for food, their errands.  In fact, Mr. B. sent a flat tire to the hanger on one trip and the people in Malaybalay had it fixed and sent back.  Without the supportive roles, so much would not be possible.  None of this would be possible either if it weren’t for the support of those at home with “secular” jobs.  They provide financial, administrative and prayer support. I guess what I learned is the importance of listening to the call of God.  Where is he leading you?  Wherever it is, follow it with all of your heart and let nothing get in the way of that calling.  We all have a part to play.  I also realized the process that God takes us through.  I don’t think that I’ll ever be done learning how to rely on God and not my own strength, but I also know that He’ll never be done trying to teach me.

 

Scripture teaches the same thing that our daughter described.  In 3 John 1, the Apostle says:

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.  Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth.

3 John 1:4-8.

 

Supporting the efforts of the pastors, teachers, missionaries and other ministries of the church is part of the calling of each and every Christian.  Once a year attendance or an annual financial gift is not sufficient.  We need to participate in the life of the church and to interact with others who are part of the body of Christ, as we need the encouragement, accountability and support that frequent interaction entails.  When it comes to missionaries and pastors, we are to go the extra mile with our support, encouragement and prayer.

 

Paul talks of the various churches supporting outreach to others in Romans:

I hope to see you in passing as I go to Spain, and to be helped on my journey there by you, once I have enjoyed your company for a while.   At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem bringing aid to the saints.  For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.  For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.  When therefore I have completed this and have delivered to them what has been collected, I will leave for Spain by way of you.

Romans 15:24-28.

 

And, of course, in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about the physical body and how each individual member of it has a specific role to play in keeping the person healthy and able to accomplish that which has been appointed for her to do. He then equates the physical body of the Christian to 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.

 

So, quoting our daughter: “Where is he leading you?  Wherever it is, follow it with all of your heart and let nothing get in the way of that calling.  We all have a part to play.”

 

Do you know the part you are to play in the Body of Christ?  Ask Him … the Spirit will lead you into it.  Once you know what you are to do, do it … don’t let the body suffer because you are unwilling to do either your job or your share of the work.

Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength.”

Philip Romolo Neri, (21 July 1515 – 25 May 1595)

 

In short, if you are a Christian, you have a part to play in the body of Christ.  So, do it!

 

 

Father, I pray that we each would follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and embrace the part that You have given us in the Body of Christ.  Forgive us when we have ignored the Spirit’s nudging or when we have shirked our duty after we have been made aware of it.  Help us to run toward the work You have set before us and, in the power of your Spirit, enable us to serve your Kingdom all for your glory and honor, through Christ our Lord, we pray.

 

THANKSGIVING DAY IS FOR MORE THAN TURKEY!

In his Thanksgiving Day address to the country in 1963, President John F. Kennedy said:

Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings–let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals–and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world.”

Indeed, Thanksgiving Day is a time for us to remember the many ways that we have been blessed during the past year.

In years gone by, the traditional day was celebrated with the best china, glassware, linens and, of course, the best food that the family could afford.

Family holiday table from years past.
Family holiday table from years past.

It was also a time for the family to gather, from various parts of the city, state, or country, to celebrate together.

When I was a child, we went to my Great Aunt and Uncle’s home for the dinner.  It was a special time when relatives from another state would come and the cousins would sit at the “children’s table” in another room.  Now that I am a parent and grandparent, I realize this is what you did so the adults could have a grand conversation which was uninterrupted and without hassle, usually about those who sat at the “children’s table”.  The children liked it because we did not have to sit and be quiet!

Even in our home today, the Thanksgiving Day meal is more formal and “dressy” than the normal fare that we consume the other 364 days of the year.

The Thanksgiving Day meal table set for celebration.
The Thanksgiving Day meal table set for celebration.

Of course, in school we learned that the Thanksgiving meal was in celebration of the harvest and of the bounty that the country afforded the Pilgrims.  So, in keeping with the “bounty” part of the holiday, we have food that is a traditional part of the celebration as well as a few new things to try.  One year I tried a recipe of acorn squash with raisins, brown sugar and a number of spices cooked in the slow cooker.  To quote my Beloved, “This is a keeper!”

New recipe for Thanksgiving Day meal.
New recipe for Thanksgiving Day meal.

In our home, although there are other foods prepared, the centerpiece of the meal is the turkey, all bronzed and tender.  I recognize that it is not too good from the turkey’s point of view, but I know that it is exceptional for the family’s enjoyment.

The holiday turkey ready to go on the table!
The holiday turkey ready to go on the table!

Before eating, we “say grace”, a time when we thank the Lord for the manifold blessings that he has provided for us, focusing primarily on the food we are about to eat!

Then, after gorging ourselves with the meal, we visit and talk about what we are thankful for.  Often the list includes friends, family, health and frequently the children will add thanks for their toys, pets, good grades at school, etc.

Often, while the ladies are cleaning up the kitchen, the children and gentlemen will go in the backyard for the holiday football game.  For the grandparent, there is no tackle, but for the elementary school child the adult will not be penalized when he is picked up off the field, as long as a hug follows and the descent to the ground is not a drop.

Family playing football after holiday meal.
Family playing football after holiday meal.

Holiday traditions and stories are important to keep us together and to define who we are.  Traditions and stories play a critical role in our life before God as He states in His Word.

For example, the Passover Meal is a time when the story of the Exodus is retold each year, even today, thousands of years after the event.  Scripture admonishes us to teach our children about God’s acts in our life.

The act of thanksgiving is described and discussed often in the Scriptures.  The Old Testament described the peace offering that was made to God in thanksgiving in Leviticus 7.

In 1 Chronicles 16:7 we read that David appointed that songs be sung in thanksgiving to God.

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” – [Psalm 69:30]

Psalm 50:4 tells us to:

“Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,” [ESV]

Scripture tells us that “grace” is more than just saying a quick prayer before the meal, although grace and thanksgiving are frequently paired.  In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul states:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you.”

Paul is giving thanks to God for the grace given to the Church in Corinth, a church that he established, counseled, and nurtured.

I remember learning the term G-R-A-C-E by the phrase “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”   But, grace is so very much more than this trite phrase defines.

  • Grace provides us with God’s love.  Paul says: “and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 1:14
  • Grace enables us to do the will of God.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 tells us: “”Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”
  • Grace provides forgiveness of sin.  “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,…”  Romans 5:20
  • Grace enables Christians to love others.  “We love because he first loved us.”  I John 4:19.
  • Grace provides us with the opportunity to fellowship with God.  “”Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power…. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.”  Ephesians 3:7, 10-12.

I pray that we are thankful daily not just for the material blessings we have from our Father but also for the grace given to us by the Lord. We should think about this marvelous gift of grace from God and include it with humble gratitude in our prayers of thanks to God our Father.

Father, we thank you for your love that you extended to us while we were yet sinners, before we could even think of loving you. Thank you for Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on our behalf, and thank you for the Holy Spirit who indwells us and is transforming us into the image of your Son. Thank you for our country and the freedom to worship that is provided. We pray that our leaders and those in authority over us would look to you, Father, for wisdom, guidance and discernment as they lead us in these difficult times. Thank you, Father, for your presence and for your mighty hand.