Superorganism

“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” (Romans 9:3)

Colony Collapse

What does it take to attain to a level of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ that we’re willing to give up even our own salvation so that others may themselves come to the Christ that we know? One of the things I think we struggle with—subconsciously or otherwise—is this attitude that we must merely put up with certain individuals until we can either not have to speak to them again or at least excuse ourselves from the room. This coolness is the exact opposite of the fervent love that Paul expressed in the verse up top.

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

“And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost.” (Luke 15:9)

So, we (the Body of Christ) are not technically a superorganism. The Western honeybee colony is a little more heartless and mechanical than the Church. There are, however, some things to be learned from the inclusiveness to be found in the lowly beehive. Things like teamwork and selflessness and things done according to an order and a pattern (see 1 Corinthians 14:40). Above, when Paul says “all the members suffer with it”, he’s describing a closeness that Christ envisioned, desired (desires) and indeed died to provide for His Body. And when it’s all we can do to darken the door of a building on a Sunday morning, maybe join a Bible study group mid-week and then do the bulk of our interaction and fellowship through social media, I think we’re missing the point of what Christ came to give us. The Body of Christ is supposed to be the most tightly-knit, welcoming, and loving group of people the world has ever seen. In contrast to that, the superorganism certainly helps itself but individuality is nowhere to be found.

“And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate;” (Nehemiah 8:1a)

Cross pollination

The thing about individuality is that God gives it. And He gives it more the closer you endeavor to get to Him (see Psalm 134; James 4:8, Luke 21:19, et al.). But watch out. If you’re for whatever reason looking to exclude yourself to the neglect of whatever and whomever the Lord is calling to influence, pray for, and in a word, love, watch out. One’s individuality should never come at the expense of the love and attention we’re meant to bestow on those, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who maybe aren’t where you’re at. After a while, the metaphor of a superorganism breaks down with reference to the Body of Christ. We’re One (see John 17:21), but that doesn’t mean we’re hiding in and among every one else, essentially doing our own thing. There’s a balance.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons (and daughters) of God.” (Romans 8:14)

In closing, all I can say is pray for balance. Some people need more love and attention and help than others. And it’s hard to know when to turn off the tap and let them rely on God. It’s certainly not a smart idea to block the Lord from dealing with someone directly—even if it means letting them suffer. God will give you the wisdom to discern when and where and how long and all that (see James 1:5). All you have to do is ask. Like honey, God is always sweet. Unlike sterile worker bees, however, He has no sting. The church shouldn’t either.

“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16-17)

The Full Complement

“For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” (Hebrews 10:34, emphasis mine)

Not required to sell

There’s this attitude that creeps up on me every once in a while. While I didn’t have everything I wanted growing up, my needs were met and I was consistently surprised with the big Christmas and birthday presents I received. The major things that inspired a slack-jawed and drooling fervor did I find wrapped under the tree or hidden at the end of a brief scavenger hunt or beneath the small hill of lesser presents that shared the space on the dining room table with my birthday cake. My parents did well in keying what I wanted to what I actually received. But I still want stuff even today—fifteen, twenty, twenty-five years removed from my childish materialism.

“A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.” (Proverbs 17:8)

The one thing, however, that I’ve found growing up and growing older is that I have the authority and the ability to surprise myself (not really, it’s God who surprises us) with things I didn’t know I needed or wanted. This being said, as I continually look for that better thing I think complements my person, the paradigm of atrophy and apathy and complacency (in a word: depredation) continues to gnaw at me. This is why God continues to show mercy and love and grow in me His contentment. It’s in Him that we are able to stop reaching out for more to the neglect of what we already possess. And we possess Him in full if you didn’t already know that (See 1 Corinthians 3:21).

Required to tell

Keep your eye on your stuff, but not in that way; and not in that way either. What I should have said was “keep your eyes on God”. Because if you get your eyes off Him and begin to show too much interest in what He’s given you without seeing that He is the greatest gift, the natural course of the aforementioned cycle of the wearing-down of things will show with more poignancy. The writer of Hebrews says “knowing in yourselves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring substance.” Our treasure truly is in Heaven (See Luke 12:33-34). But God is so generous! What do we do when once we cross that threshold of having enough and then enter into having “more than enough”? Here’s a good watchword (Psalm 116:12-14):

“What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people.”

You’ll reach a point where the harvest in your life is more than you can handle (See Luke 6:38). Don’t let that dissuade from giving thanks and enjoying what the Lord gives. Give out what you feel led to give out to whom you feel led. But don’t let it eclipse His face. Continue to “take the cup of salvation” and talk to the Lord. Maintain that childlike relationship that got you where you are today. And when it says “I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all His people”, understand that there are things you agreed to do for the Lord when once He brought you out “into a wealthy place.” (Psalm 66:12) Do those things for Him and don’t be afraid of what other people think. That second part of the passage reminds me of the injunctions of the Lord against being ashamed of Him before those who don’t know Him (See Matthew 10:32-33). This is serious stuff.

 

The Third Wheel part two

“Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

I left the counseling session feeling stripped. Not in a bad way, mind you; just disabused from any ways of thinking that were dragging me down, relationally. Isn’t it remarkable how you walk around feeling normal and then you undergo a change in your thought pattern or process and while your personhood comes out intact, you end in seeing your former mindset as thoroughly ineffective? Amazing. Because you don’t see bad thinking, while you’re in it, for what it is. I certainly didn’t know I was harboring some strain of thought (like an evil gear) that would’ve prevented me from meeting the person to whom the Lord would have wanted to introduce me. I brought the handwritten notes the pastor’s wife had taken down during our time together and folded it in quarters and retained them. She illustrated her idea of “clashing” for me and I wanted to really meditate on what she was saying—what I felt God was saying to me, through her. As I absorbed this newfound idea of “clashing”, it came to be symbolized by two gears. But that’s not clashing, is it? If two cars collide, that’s “clashing”. But if two gears (remember, one by itself is not a machine) rotate towards one another, they will continue to rotate and rotate by virtue of their cogs, or “teeth”. And yet I couldn’t see this. The symbolism doesn’t fit as solidly as it should to facilitate smooth cognition. I left the counseling session and shortly thereafter, the church (my friend and I elected start our own small-group thing) but that piece was temporarily broken for me. 

“There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

Going forward, I suppose the lesson learnt here would be that God doesn’t intend for us to run in place. In the case of my parents’ marriage (both of whom are divorced from one another), they did not mesh (symbolically speaking) and as such, things broke. But going forward requires that Third Wheel. And it goes without saying that God’s Spirit would need to be that Spirit within. My cognition has smoothed remarkably in the wake of the experiences at my old church, and I am more than grateful to have encountered the people there and still count them my friends.

“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage.” (John 2:1-2)

In case you haven’t noticed, the whole point of this little story of mine is Marriage. If we as couples and as Christian individuals (the latter always precedes the former) do not have the Lord Jesus Christ as both the center and also (symbolically speaking) the third wheel to our transmission, we won’t go anywhere and eventually, we will break down.

The Spectrum of Idolatry part 7 An Idol Is Nothing

“Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god. I am the Lord thy God which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” (Psalm 81:8-10)

What is it that gets your attention and keeps it? Anything from fear to, not hope but anxiety, to obsession. All along the spectrum that God freely provides do things of tangibility or intangibility seek to wrest and arrest our attention from Our Father Who Art In Heaven. Keep this in mind as all of the positives of the aforementioned spectrum are resident in God the Father. They both originate from His heart and emanate from there into the world, as well. But where then, for the believer in Jesus Christ do any of the negative perceptions of God come? We know that God is our Heavenly Father but do we really know Him? How can there be, alongside this newfound Father-child relationship anything that would keep us from looking Him full in the face and throwing our arms around His neck in embrace?

Idols of the King

Idolatry takes many forms. If you’ve read up till here from part one of this series, you’ve seen ancient idolatry in the form of Pagan gods, simple objects and even our brothers and sisters in Christ. But what about an idol in the form of a wrong perception of the Father? That’s a new one. One of the most important life lessons to learn, in my opinion, is that of seeing the Father as Jesus saw Him. As the most loving and kind and awesome person you’d ever want to meet but that is actually closer to you than you ever dreamed possible.

“And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of Him. As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:2-4, emphasis mine)

A wrong perception as to God’s true character could come from anywhere. From peers to parents and anyone in between. Pastors and mentors and any number of figures who mean well but don’t know the Father as do you. You may be childlike in your faith and understanding. But this doesn’t mean that your heart isn’t in sync with the Father’s. As Paul writes in the above passage, it’s the jumping-the-gun that we as humans tend to do that prevent, not just us from truly understanding any topic, but that also prevent God from knowing us. God the Father knows the hairs on your head and every last minute detail (how do you think He’s able to do for you the little things He does?) about your person. But does He really know you? Do you know Him? Keep pressing in.

King of the monsters

“For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it: neither was it he that hated me that did magnify himself against me; then I would have hid myself from him:” (Psalm 55:12)

When I was a kid, I fell in love with the old image of Godzilla from the fifties. This giant monster leveling buildings and breathing fire and destroying the destroyer. I even had a dream about him. While he didn’t show in the dream, he made his presence known. I’ll explain. It’s the middle of the night and I find myself, wheelchair bound, on one of my neighborhood streets. My friends are standing by, I presume having rolled me up to where I was. The feeling of helplessness and paralysis was not pleasant, rendering this dream more of a nightmare, really. But we’re all there and the wind is blowing. At about this time, my four or five friends and I hear something akin to the Tyrannosaur from Jurassic Park (though this dream would have happened in the late eighties–predating that movie) slowly stomping towards us. It dawns on me that it’s Godzilla though I can’t see him. At this point, my friends up and abandon me, leaving me at the mercy of the approaching monster. My physical paralysis turns to a fear-based one and it’s then that the dream ends. This dream haunted me for years. It wasn’t until recently–coinciding with the release in May of the remake–that I really saw what the dream meant. If you’ve ever seen either the original or the remake from 2014 (forget the 1999 version), you know that Godzilla isn’t the bad guy. And neither is God.

“Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.” (1 Corinthians 12:1-2)

“So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.” (Deuteronomy 32:12)

The Third Degree

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” (1 Timothy 1:15)

No kidding. A consolation I have (in my hip pocket, as it were) is that any person you see in the world is the one person for whom Jesus would have died were they the only person God ever chose to make. Rewind this understanding back to “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). This simply means that Jesus needed to die if God started something along the lines of the world in which we live. What with free will and sin and whatnot. Humanity being made in His “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26), God takes it personally were there not a means of redeeming something that from one slight slip up would have been lost to eternity, consigned to the bottomless pit. Okay. This is why it’s so important we don’t call people names.

Opening a burn ward

“but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:22c)

Amazing. The words we speak have the same creative power as “Our Father who art in Heaven”. If it follows that we’re His children, then the least we could do is keep our mouth shut until we have something nice to say. Better yet, as Peter expresses “blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called that ye should inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) I rode through downtown tonight and came upon a skateboarder. He pushed off a few times on his longboard and then lost his balance (or rhythm, whatever) and had to jump off. I cycled past him and he said, kind of sheepishly “one too many pushes”.

“I hear ya” I told him.

He waited a moment and then answered with “Oh I know you hear me” and by this time (interesting, because I had my ear buds in and I was also listening to music) I had long passed him and was at the next intersection. I thought what I’d said was merely a figure of speech, one of understanding. Another of the phrases from my hip pocket–one I use regularly when I don’t really know what to say. I should add that I sensed he was embarrassed. I thought about rebutting what seemed to me to be a sting in his response but I chose not to. Nor did I answer with a blessing as Peter wrote. At least I didn’t call him a fool.

And this is where it gets serious. I find that some of Jesus’ statements read like metal on metal. Intended to cut and break and otherwise immediately tear down generations upon generations of wrong thinking about a subject. We certainly don’t like to be called names. Jesus says the unwise and unadvised spouting off of epithets that have no bearing on who God sees the person as, can land us in some pretty hot water. Check this out:

“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:6)

Much better.

That God Would Interact With Us

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (Proverbs 19:21)

Think about the ways God has revealed Himself to you. Not just “revealed” but as the title suggests “interacted”. To where you came to a present realization that the Lord of Creation was both making Himself known and also inviting you to respond. Amazing. But no, think about it. Because it’s likely a lot more intricate and layered and deep than ever you knew.

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of Him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest Him?” (Psalm 8:4-5)

As I move forward with my life, invariably cresting seasons and mindsets that weren’t “all that”, I find opportunities to look back and reflect. Like those little dirt side areas on the shoulder of the road as you round a bend. You pull your car off to the side and step out to overlook the ocean. I look back at the ways I perceived the future (the future in which I now walk and live) and realize the content of what I saw may not have been totally God–I don’t really know what the future holds. But the capacity to see and hope and imagine and dream is totally Him. What I mean is, God has made me for this time, and you. And when you choose to remain in His hand while He prunes off what you might think is an asset but that is really holding you back, the horizon expands out before you. Look at Jeremiah’s Lamentation (3:36-37):

“To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?”

I take this to mean that the writer encountered a wide-scale reorientation of his plans and hopes and dreams. The context before and after includes some even harsher proclamations. But here’s the thing: God is interacting with you. God is ensuring you remain on the right road. Do you ever wish you could “shuffle off this mortal coil” and enjoy the pleasures of Heaven in your daily life? This is about as close as it comes. As a Christian, the primary source of enjoyment comes from walking and communing and fellowshipping in love with our Heavenly Father. Read all about it. Line up your circumstances and instances with what those who came before left for us to study and see if maybe, just maybe, the Lord might be giving you some extra-special personal attention. You’ll get through this season with everything good you possess (but may not be presently aware of) intact. All the recrement will while away and you’ll emerge a new and more distilled individual–full of power and purpose and the hard-won kernels of wisdom. They’re yours for the taking. God bless you.

“And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

The Spectrum of Idolatry part 5 Image and Likeness

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3)

We get God. What an amazing trade-off. If I, through the abdication of my self–the giving up of everything I’d worked so hard to attain and maintain–get something higher, I’m all for it. But it’s an act of the will you understand.

“He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Wean

It can be hard looking beyond both ourselves and also other people in order to receive what we think they’ll give us. I may be prescribing something that isn’t there but follow me here. At least let me describe it. If you only look outward to other people for things, intangibles that only God can give you, then you have a long way to go in life. God supplies us with those things of hope and encouragement and peace and purpose that we may incorrectly think others have and can give (or from whom we can take). Besides, no one wants to appear existentially needy in the face of everyone else. To so wear one’s heart on his sleeve that anyone observing turns away for fear is not how anyone wants to live, I think. I can attest to feeling tinges of this mania.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:26a-27)

Ween

Following the point made here by the Lord, it would seem that when we look at people, we’re actually looking at God. Is that too simple a one-to-One supposition? Think about it. At this point in my life, I most certainly haven’t wrapped my mind around the near-dichotomous simplicity of His statement. But growing up, all I saw was that God looked like a humanoid, if that makes sense. Two arms, two legs, His head in the same place as ours. This would be the default way of thinking “up” from my station as a human. And because I’ve always believed in God, I didn’t have any trouble positing Him in my mind. I couldn’t make out features, mind you. But the whole “image and likeness” thing was understood along these lines. Then as I grew up and grew older, the Holy Spirit began to intimate to me that I was indeed looking at Him through my own eyes. I needed a higher vantage point from which to see Him. I needed to see Him through the, how can I say this, “mind of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:16). God must reveal Himself to you, in other words. The word “image” in the above passage from Genesis has the connotation of “idol” in the Hebrew.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man… Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 1:13a-14)

And this is where idolatry comes in–on a human level. It’s one thing to love people. To unspool your heart out to others and give toward meeting their need. It’s all done towards the Lord. “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40b) Says Jesus. Idolatry may be divorced from physical objects. But looking at people with the same vision God has given us to see–and that is supposed to be directed towards Him–is idolatry. Just because people are amazing and beautiful and intriguing and most certainly worth loving–inside and out–doesn’t mean it’s a substitute for knowing the Lord.

“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our heart with our hands unto God in the heavens.” (Lamentations 3:40-41)

“Wean” and “ween” come from the same root. While the former is more common and means to slowly disabuse (right word?) oneself from what might be a perfectly healthy-yet-now-outmoded thing, the latter word is almost the inverse. That they come from the same Indo-European root is intriguing in that the both deal with desire. The former meaning the end of one and the latter meaning to hope toward something.

“Whom have I in Heaven but Thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” (Psalm 73:25)