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.

 

A DROP FOR THE LORD ACCOMPLISHES MUCH!

We went camping at Spring Lake RV Resort in Crossville, Tennessee for a weekend away from the frenetic activities that seem to have overtaken us lately.  The campground has a lovely lake with a beautiful fountain and swan, quite the picture.  The Lord brought numerous thoughts to my mind while I was staring, almost hypnotized by the falling water from the fountain. 

spring-lake-island-swan-and-fountain
Spring Lake RV Campground, Crossville, Tennessee. Picturesque and a quiet respite from a frenzied world.

For some reason I thought of the difference between a drip and a drop.  “Not much” you say?  Perhaps not, but there is a nuance that favors one over the other, at least as far as personal characterization is concerned. 

As a noun, the definition of the word “drip” does include the word “drop” but it also includes the words “trickle”, “dribble” and “leak”.  These words reflect, to me at least, some lack of intent … in other words an almost accidental event. 

As a noun, the word “drop” has the definition of “the quantity of fluid that falls in one spherical mass”.  As far as synonyms, the words include “bead”,”globule”, and “dewdrop”.  (I don’t want to be considered a “globule”, but …)

Returning to the fountain, it seems to me that the water sprayed from the fountain and formed drops of water, not drips of water, and those drops rose and then formed an arc when they fell back into the lake.

I further noticed that when the water drops hit the face of the lake, they didn’t just go down into oblivion … rather, they hit the surface and had an effect on the lake, they sent ripples out into the lake.

spring-lake-fountain
Close up of Spring Lake campground fountain and ripples.

 

In other words, the lake was not the same after the water droplets hit the surface.  Each drop had an impact on the lake itself, even though it was small and not all that “important” in the overall scheme of things.  While the ripple from an individual drop may not have been huge, the combination of them reached far out into the lake.

So too, we each can make an impact on our world to the glory of God the Father through the power of the Holy Spirit as we reach out and share the gospel story of Jesus Christ and His atoning work on the cross for His people. 

We may not be a great preacher, or an important teacher, or one who has a voice which is heard by millions.  We may be simple folks who love their family, who work in an inconspicuous role at their church, who sing as a choir member but not even as a soloist. 

We may be in the background and think that we are just a small drop, not much to look at and without much effect.  We may even think that we are not important enough or smart enough or loving enough … but if you are a Christian, you are part of the fountain that is the Body of our Lord, and each part is important because Jesus Christ died for each one of His people

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Hebrews 12:2. 

Each of us can reflect His love, compassion, and zeal for spreading His gospel to others who need to hear the “Good News”.  That is the race that which is before us and we cannot run it if we are weighed down by sin.

Praise God that when we ask the Holy Spirit to bless our work and then we do what we do to our best abilities, through His power, God will use our efforts and our impact will change our world.  And, I believe, that the “great cloud of witnesses” will rejoice as we fulfill the work that we were ordained to do.

Today, pray that you will reflect Jesus to your world.  Even if you feel as miniscule as a droplet from the fountain, remember that each drop impacts the lake in its own way.  Remember too that you have been chosen by Jesus Christ to spread His gospel to the “world” into which He in His providence has placed you, and He will empower you to do so.

Don’t be a drip — don’t trickle or drizzle around without power or strength.  

Be a drop for our Lord — have an impact for Christ on the people you come in contact with as you live your Christian life through His word His power.  Your effect will be multiplied when you join the rest of the drops as together we ripple through society, spreading the message one drop at a time!

 

Father, thank You for sending your Son to die for my sins so that, through faith in Christ alone, I can join the millions of other saints who will glorify your name throughout all the ages.  I pray that You will guide me as I live my life so that through your power, I will give witness to your Kingdom on this earth.  And, at the end of my days, may I join the “cloud of witnesses” who will rejoice at the coming of your Kingdom on the earth.

 

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.

 

WE ARE THE BODY!

One thing is for sure – every person alive has a body. Our body may be tall or short; stocky or slim; male or female; or a host of other possibilities, but we have a body and that body is what other people see. Therefore, it becomes how people identify with us.

 

Another thing is absolutely true — our bodies are not indestructible. One grandson broke his arm when he jumped off a slide in an attempt to avoid a puddle at the bottom!

Jonathan David with cast

 

Another grandson broke his leg while at the hospital when he found out that he was going to be a big brother to a little sister.

Child's cast
Child’s cast for broken leg.

 

When I fell in Alaska, I severely broke my left ankle.

Ankle xray
X-ray

 

This resulted in surgery and over 9 weeks of non-weight bearing and significant use of a wheelchair, with later graduation to a walking boot, and then physical therapy. Subsequent to this injury and repair, I needed to have left knee surgery to strengthen and repair a torn meniscus. And then, I had to have right knee replacement because of, in part, the damage caused by twisting my leg when I turned my body to get into the wheelchair.

 

Praise the Lord that there is healing for our bodies. Both the grandsons have completely healed and they act as if the broken limbs never happened. The Lord has healed my body from its various surgeries and there is physical therapy ongoing.

 

The past two years have impressed upon me the interaction and interconnection of the various parts of our bodies. When one part of our body is injured, the rest of the body comes to its aid. For example, when you get a splinter in your finger, white blood cells congregate at that site to get the invader out!  Or, consider people who cannot hear but who have extraordinary eyesight; or those who have been rendered blind and they recount how their hearing has improved.

 

In the New Testament of Scripture, we often read about the Body of Christ. This phrase is used in three senses. First, the phrase refers to the physical body of Jesus which according to Philippians 3:21 is the model for the resurrection bodies of Christians. Second, the phrase refers to the bread of the Lord’s Supper, or communion, a sacrament of the Church. 1 Corinthians 10:16. Third, the phrase Body of Christ is used by Paul as a symbol of the church. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.

 

In Romans 12:5, Paul describes the church as being one body in Christ, each member belonging to all the others. In other words, the church encompasses in a single community all those who are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit through faith.

 

It is the community of believers who are responding to Jesus’ call to “Follow me.” Christ commissioned His followers to carry on His work and that is the Church’s reason for existence. In short, the Body of Christ gives to the world the hands, feet and voice of our Lord. The Body of Christ is the church in action.

 

Just as our physical bodies have different parts with different functions, so the Body of Christ is made up of believers who have different spiritual gifts, abilities and interests.

  • Not everyone is a preacher – but we all must be able to tell others of our Lord Jesus by giving our own personal testimony.
  • Not everyone is a singer for the choir – but we all are to praise God and make a joyful noise!
  • Not everyone has the gift of hospitality – but we all must extend love and assistance to those in need when we are able to do so.

 

In other words, we as believers in Jesus Christ are not clones of each other. In His providence and sovereignty, God has equipped His church, the Body of Christ, with those people who can fulfil specific needs. Each of us need to do the task which is intended for them to fill.

 

We each have the responsibility to fulfil the role assigned to us in the Body of Christ because it belongs to you, not to anyone else. Sure, others could do it if you don’t, but you will miss out on the blessing of obedience to God if you fail to be obedient and you will be putting stress on other parts of the Body who are trying to take care of your job as well as their own.

 

My right leg helped get me down the stairs when I could not put weight on my left leg; however it was at the expense of my right knee which had to be replaced because of the exacerbated damage caused during those 9 weeks of twisting into the wheelchair. In other words, the Body accomplished what needed to be done, but it was more costly than it would have been if my left leg had been operational.

 

“If We Are the Body” is a song recorded by Christian rock band Casting Crowns. Written by Mark Hall and produced by Mark A. Miller and Steven Curtis Chapman, it was released as the lead single from the band’s 2003 self-titled debut album through Beach Street Records on July 26, 2003. Mark Hall, lead singer and a youth minister, said that “If We Are the Body” was originally written for use in teaching his youth group what the Christian church was for. Each person in the Body of Christ is given gifts to use in ministry; and when Christians refuse to use the gifts given to them, the Body suffers.

 

We don’t know those who are to be recipients of the salvation provided by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. What we do know is that the Body of Christ, the Church, is to witness to the world — that is to each one who the Lord brings into our path.

“If We Are the Body” closes with the haunting words:

Jesus paid much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ
Jesus is the way

 

I pray, as members of the Body of Christ, that we would accomplish our tasks and then assist other parts of the Body as well, rather than being those who sit back and let the Body go on without their input.

 

Don’t miss out on the blessing of service to our Lord. If you are a believer in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are part of the Body of Christ and you have a role to play in the church for which you have been equipped, and that role is singularly yours.

 

Praise the Lord that He has enabled us to become part of the Body of Christ, the church, to His glory and to the honor and glory of God the Father.

GIANT SEQUOIA TREES ILLUSTRATE PERSEVERANCE.

After going to the Maricopa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park, I have a tremendous amount of respect for these gentle giants of the forest.  Their size can only be described as gargantuan and their age makes Methuselah sound like a teenager!

But one of the characteristics I note with particular interest is what I would call “perseverance”.  Now, I know that the trees have no awareness or sense that they have persevered through difficult times.  But, the fact remains, that there is evidence on many of these old creatures of significant trial, especially by fire.

Giant Sequoia fire scar with seedlings nearby.
Giant Sequoia fire scar with seedlings nearby.

 

These are two of the Giant Sequoia Trees which show the fire scars as evidence of the trees’ perseverance through ferocious wildfires through the centuries they have lived.

Fire scar completely through the base of Giant Sequoia Tree
Fire scar completely through the base of Giant Sequoia Tree

God, in His ultimate wisdom, created these trees knowing that they would be around for a long time and that, in the natural order of things, fire would destroy some of the forest ground cover as is necessary for a healthy forest environment.  So, God gave the Giant Sequoias the ability to survive severe fire damage, this being, according to the National Park Service, “a remarkable characteristic of the Sequoia.” I spoke of this characteristic in a prior post, “Difficulties Can Produce Beautiful Fruit” posted August 19, 2015.

The focus here, is not so much the physical fact of their survival, but the concept of perseverance … or, as is applicable to Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, perseverance of the saints.

I realize that the trees can’t just pick up and move when the going gets hot.  They are “stuck” there, so to speak.  Notwithstanding this truth, consider what is visible from the trees pictured below — above the top of the fire scar there is green growth and abundant branches.  The trees are not just alive; they are healthy, surviving and flourishing.  They endure the flames and then survive and keep on prospering, right where they are.

Yosemite Sequoia Tree tops showing growth despite the fire scar.
Yosemite Sequoia Tree tops showing growth despite the fire scar.

God knows me, too.  He knows that trials will come and the heat may be intense.  He also knows that I cannot face it alone.  In His grace He has not left me alone – He has provided a way for me to survive, not through a layer of cambium but through Jesus Christ as my Savior, the Holy Spirit as my Companion, and the Body of Christ, the Church.

Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!
Canterbury Cathedral where there have been worship services for over 1400 years!

Whether grandiose and ancient as seen in the 1,400 year old Canterbury Cathedral, or small and rustic such as the historic Cades Cove Church in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the church building is the meeting place for the Body of Christ.

Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee
Church in Cades Cove, Smoky Mountain National Park, Tennessee

Believers, themselves, are the Body of Christ when they work together for the spreading of the Gospel of Christ and in support of each other as the family of Christ and children of the Living God.

When Daniel’s three friends, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, stood up to King Nebuchadnezzar and refused to bow down to him, they told the king that they would only worship their God.  In rage, the king threw the three men into the fiery furnace, but when king looked into the furnace, he saw four men in the fire.  Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego were retrieved from the furnace and they were not burned or singed and they did not even smell of fire.  See Daniel 6:23-27.  God walked with them in the fire, and they were unharmed because they persevered in their faith and in reliance upon God.

I have the same God who went into the fire with His children as recounted in Daniel chapter 6.  He is the Great Healer, my Companion and my Guide. He has given me His Word (the Holy Bible) and He has ordained that the Body of Christ, the visible church on earth, be available to me as a believer in Christ for support, prayer, strength, encouragement, and help in time of need.  This does not mean that struggles will not come, or even that I am guaranteed that the struggle will not be stronger than I am — but it does mean that nothing, absolutely nothing, can separate me from the love of God that I have through Christ Jesus.  Read Romans 8:35-39.

God's roadmap for our lives, steering us directly to Him -- the Holy Bible.
God’s roadmap for our lives, steering us directly to Him — the Holy Bible.

In short, He has provided the way and the strength to persevere through the trial so that, at the last day, I will be able to stand before Him, clothed in the righteousness of His Son and be accepted by Him as His child.  My obligation is to joyfully take advantage of the strength He has provided when difficult times come.

James writes in his letter that we should “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  James 1:2-4.

I don’t know about you, but I normally do not consider it “pure joy” when a trial comes my way.  No one wants hard times – but hard times do not play favorites. Jesus promised that there would be hard times for the Christian … it is not a matter of IF there is a trial; it is simply a matter of WHEN the trial will arrive.  Perseverance in our Christian walk comes as a result of enduring the testing of our faith, and the result of perseverance is maturity in Christ.

The Giant Sequoia tree reminds me that perseverance is possible.  The Lord has provided these trees with protection and healing after a fire.  He has provided me with the Comforter who is with me not only for healing after the fire has passed but the Comforter is with me even during the trial, giving strength, encouragement and, yes, comfort.   And He has provided the Body of Christ, the Church, for my support, encouragement and aid.

Thank you, Father, for sending Jesus Christ into this world as the atonement for my sin.  Thank you also for providing means of grace so that I can persevere when difficult times assail, thank you for the Holy Spirit present within and the Church present without for strength and encouragement, prayer and praise, help and aid during times of testing. Help me to be of encouragement to your children through your Spirit and the Word.  Rather than fighting the test, Father, help me to embrace it and persevere through it so that I will be mature in my faith.  Thank you for being with me, even in the furnace of testing.  I praise your name and glorify you in all things.