Saturday, February 28, 2015

Triplets of Life: Live, Move, Be

Photo by Charles J Sharp 2014

In God we live and move and have our being (Acts 17: 28). I don’t believe the Scripture is being redundant here just for emphasis, but rather that each of these verbs represents a different, deeper and higher plane of existence.

LIVE means to be alive, or to exist in the physical state that distinguishes living beings from inanimate objects such as the dirt from which God created man (Genesis 2:7). That state is also different from death, or the state of a body that has ceased to live (Romans 3:23). Finally, life is distinguished from mechanical animation, because of the distinctive life force that animates it. Robots with highly developed artificial intelligence may simulate meaningful action, conversation, and even expression, but they do not live.

The life force unique to living beings allows metabolism, growth, and reaction to the internal and external environment. Pro-choice activists argue about whether an embryo or fetus is alive, but even in these early stages (Psalm 139:13-16), the baby clearly demonstrates metabolism as it receives nourishment from its mother and uses it for growth, actually at a much higher rate than occurs after birth. Transfer of energy through metabolism also allows reaction to stimuli, which doctors can monitor as changes in heart rate, sucking or other facial movements, and kicking or other limb movements.

We live to MOVE. Through movement, we can satisfy our physical needs, express our emotions, and interact with our world. Our emotions, desires and soul constitute the force that motivates us to physical action, work, and deeds (Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Samuel 18:33; Daniel 11:11; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 18:27; etc.).

Our action causes reaction from our environment, so that our deeds have clear consequences, not only for ourselves, but for others and even for subsequent generations (Genesis 20:9; Judges 19:30; 2 Samuel 12:14; Ezra 9:13; Esther 1:17-18; Psalm 28:4, Isaiah 59:18; Luke 23:41; Romans 2:6, etc.)

The sum total of our thoughts, words and deeds (Acts 7:22; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 1 John 3:18) shapes our personality, status, and who we are – our very BEING. The former US Army slogan, “Be All You Can Be!” connotes being our highest, best, optimal self.

God oversees our development while our being is still incompletely formed in the womb (Psalm 139:16), and He allots our being a life span during which we are to sing praises to God (Psalm 104:33; 146:2). After physical death, our being is transformed into a child of the resurrection (Luke 20:36), if we have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

Live, move and have our being” may be paraphrased as “exist, work, and fulfill God’s purpose for your life.” Mere physical existence, as for example someone who is considered brain dead after severe head injury, falls so short of our expectations for life that many complete living wills to avoid being artificially maintained in that state.

Work that honors God is a noble occupation for any life (Colossians 3:23), whether it is gainful employment, unpaid works of charity, or artistic endeavors that uplift others. God Himself worked to create all that there is (Genesis 2:2-3). 

Without hard work at some point by ourselves, our forefathers, or by some of our family members, we are not able to eat (Genesis 3:17-19; 2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 31:15), be clothed (Proverbs 31:13,21-22), or find shelter (Proverbs 24:27). God honors these efforts by providing for our needs when we seek Him first (Matthew 6:28-33).

Failure to work because of laziness leads to poverty, physical want, and ruin (Proverbs 6:9-11; 24:30-34). Our work should provide needed goods, services, and/or education that benefit others physically, intellectually, and/or spiritually (Isaiah 65:22; Proverbs 31:10-31).

In the animal kingdom, God created every living creature that moves (has a specific task), and He gave them the higher purpose of reproducing abundantly, after their kind, to maintain each species (Genesis 1:21; Proverbs 6:6-8). As an illustration, let us consider the life cycle of the butterfly. When the caterpillar entombs itself in the chrysalis, it is, for all, intents and purposes, dead. Its enzymes completely digest and obliterate what once was the caterpillar.

But then God gives it new life as the digested proteins reassemble into the immature butterfly. As it moves, it begins breaking free from the chrysalis and pumping fluid into its still fragile, immature, barely pulsating wings. This movement allows it to achieve the highest level of being that God intended for it – it flies away as a butterfly that pollinates flowers (work benefiting mankind), reproduces its own species.(fulfilling God’s laws of nature) and lifts our spirits with its beauty, freedom, and grace.

God created Adam and Eve as living souls (Genesis 2:21), gave them meaningful and fulfilling work, and intended their beings for fellowship with Him (Genesis 2; 3:8). The work He gave Adam and Eve was to be fruitful in the work He appointed to them (naming the animals, dressing and keeping the garden), to multiply or reproduce, and to have dominion over the fish of the sea,  over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moved upon the earth (Genesis 1:28).

Without God, we are nothing, we can do nothing, and we have nothing (John 15:5.) God and man are inseparable – everything we are, do and become is a gift from Him (James 1:17). God gives to all mankind life, and breath, and all things (Acts 17: 25).

Life refers to our physical existence; breath to the movement of air to sustain us (Job 33:4; 12:10; 27:3) and His Spirit to fill (John 20:22) and inspire us (Isaiah 42:5). God created a living soul from the inanimate body He formed from the dust by breathing life into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:21). His breath also made the heavens (Psalm 33:6) and revived the dry bones of the spiritually dead nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37:1-14). “All things” refers to the many blessings He bestows on us (Proverbs 10:22, etc.) because of His love, mercy and grace (2 John 1:3, etc.).

We are entirely dependent on God, for our physical life from the moment sperm fertilizes egg to create a unique human being (body; Psalm 139:13-15); for our active life to interact with the world and with others as motivated by our emotions and desires (soul), and for our spiritual life (spirit; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 4:12).

Our body (“soma” in Greek) allows us to be aware of and interact with our world; our soul (“psyche”) gives us awareness of our desires and affects our relationships with others, and our spirit (“pneuma”) is that part of us unique to mankind that God designed to interact with Him. Whether or not we yield our spirit to knowing, worshiping, and serving Him determines our eternal destiny, as we shall see next week!

Thankfully, God is near us, and He designed us in His image (Genesis 1:26) to want to know Him, to look for Him, and to find Him (Acts 17: 27). In this life, we can have no higher purpose than that!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Three Dolphins

Photo by Nevil Dimins 2005

In this dream I am at a dance audition held in a studio at the beach. As I watch the choreographed combination each of us will have to perform for the judges, I feel confident that I will be able to dance the steps with ease and grace. But when it is my turn to take the floor, I can barely move and I almost fall over because I am wearing a bulky winter jacket and coat and heavy street shoes.

I ask the director if I can remove these, and she says yes, but that I’ll have to leave them outside on the beach because there is no room in the studio.

When I reach the sand dunes and hear the pounding surf, I am reluctant to set my extra clothes and shoes down on the beach, wondering if they’ll be safe. Will they wash away, or will someone take them? But finally I remove my winter gear, and I feel a great sense of freedom as the waves lap at my feet and the ocean breeze ruffles my hair.

As I look out at the waves, I am thrilled to see three dolphins swim by, parallel to the shore. I glimpse the first leaping from the water then diving back in, just long enough for me to appreciate his beauty and vitality. The second is invisible, not emerging from the sea, but I can tell from currents on the water’s surface that he is there.

The third dolphin is a fantastical creature, much larger and more powerful than the first. As he flies out of the ocean and hovers over the waves, I can see his elaborately developed and ornate fins gleaming on his silvery body. One brilliant gold, fan-shaped fin on his back is like that of a sailfish; several fins crown his head; and a long sword-like bill protruding from his mouth resembles that of a swordfish.

This vision of the dolphins fills me to overflowing with unspeakable joy. With no fear I leave my excess garments on the beach and run off to tell the others what I have seen. But back in the studio, everyone is preoccupied with the audition and no one listens to me. Some clearly just don’t care; some politely brush me off; and a few are rude and even hostile as they order me out. So I leave, with great sadness that no one would be able to see the majestic dolphins or to experience the joy they brought me.

As I awaken, I think of the burdens, sins and weights that encumber me as I try in my own strength to run the race He has set before me (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24). Why do I so foolishly cling to these, instead of laying them down at the foot of His cross (1 Peter 5:7; Matthew 11:28) where I can exchange my burdens for His blessings? The dance of life is effortless in His grace when I follow His lead, but when I rely on my own flesh, I can barely move.

Jesus Christ is the Living Water, our endless Source of energy, freedom, and cleansing (Song of Solomon 4:15; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13; John 4:10; Revelation 7:17). His shed blood washes away our sins and carries away our excess baggage, just as the tides faithfully empower the waves to clear out debris left on the shore (Revelation 1:5).

The first dolphin represents Jesus the Son, come to earth in the flesh (John 1:14) to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). The second, unseen dolphin symbolizes the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus Christ to live within the heart of every believer (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30), invisible like the wind except in the effects He has through His great power (John 3:8).

And the third glorious creature reminds me of Christ Who will come again, wearing His crowns (Revelation 19:12) as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16) and carrying His fan of judgment (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17). His victorious Word will proceed from His mouth (Revelation 19:15,21), sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), to defeat the enemies of Israel, Satan, sin and death (Revelation 19:15-21).

Once we believe that Jesus died to pay our sin debt, was buried, and rose again on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and recognize Him as our personal Lord and Savior, His Holy Spirit enters our hearts and lives there (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) until we go home to be with Him. In the meantime, we have the glorious, blessed hope of His second coming (Titus 2:13), when we will accompany Him as armies led by our King of Kings (Revelation 19:14).

What an amazing message that anyone who is born again (John 3:3-8) should want to shout from the rooftops to all who will listen! The Bible shows us many examples of those who were saved and immediately left what they were doing to proclaim the Good News to everyone, including the shepherds (Luke 2:17-18), the woman at the well (John 4:28-29), and the apostle Andrew (John 1:40-42). Many of us, in the excitement of being newly saved, did the same.

But sadly, many to whom we witness are apathetic, polite but unconvinced, or even aggressive in response to our testimony. Sadder still, that response may quench our fire to tell others the life-saving, destiny-changing Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, our mission is not to save or even to convert anyone, for only the Holy Spirit can do that. Our mission is to sow the seed of God’s Word and our story of how He changed us forever (2 Corinthians 5:17). We may think our sowing is bearing no fruit, but there may be many whose heart is softened by our words and deeds, later becoming receptive to accepting Christ (Matthew 13:3-23).

For the most part, we won’t know of these until we reach glory, but what a joy it will be to meet them and realize we played a part in their being in Heaven! And I believe Jesus Christ will reward us for all good words spoken on His behalf, whether or not they reach fertile soil (Matthew 25:21, 23).

May we not grow weary in spreading the Good News, regardless of what reaction we encounter! In the right season we will reap our harvest (Galatians 6:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:13), for God notices and will reward our labor!  

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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