Saturday, July 13, 2024

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 actionconversation, and even expression, but they do not live.

The life force unique to living beings allows metabolismgrowth, 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. Any woman who has carried a child knows the excitement of feeling her infant kick within the womb, and those who have sonograms will appreciate her baby sucking its thumb or even seeming to wave hello! 

We live to MOVE. Through movement, we can satisfy our physical needsexpress our emotions, and interact with our world. Our emotionsdesires and soul constitute the force that motivates us to physical actionwork, and deeds (Deuteronomy 32:21; 2 Samuel 18:33; Daniel 11:11; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; 18:27; etc.). Movement in dance, song or playing an instrument can be used to worship God.

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 thoughtswords and deeds (Acts 7:22; 2 Corinthians 10:11; 1 John 3:18) shapes our personalitystatus, and who we are – our very BEING. The former US Army slogan, “Be All You Can Be!” connotes being our highestbestoptimal self.

God oversees our development while our being is still incompletely formed in the womb (Psalm 139:16), and He allots our being 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).

Livemove and have our being” may be paraphrased as “existwork, 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 employmentunpaid 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 goodsservices, and/or education that benefit others physicallyintellectually, 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 beautyfreedom, 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 aredo 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 lovemercy 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 knowingworshiping, and serving Him determines our eternal destiny!

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
Edited, expanded and reposted from the archives

Saturday, July 6, 2024

The Most Important Thing

Photo by Olybrius 2008

I had a dream in which I was kidnapped and taken to a hotel room filled with boxes and boxes of what appeared to be old junk. My captor told me that in this room were the contents of his relative’s estate. He had brought me here to find the single most important thing, and to tell him what it is was when he returned. If I had the wrong answer, I would die.

Without another word, he enigmatically disappeared. My heart pounded like a caged bird as I frantically scratched through the cartons.

The gleam of an antique bracelet first caught my eye – well made, and no doubt of historic value, but what was it worth? Perhaps the deceased had herself inherited it from her mother or grandmother, to be treasured as a legacy and now passed on to my captor.

Next I spotted a paper so fragile that it nearly crumbled in my hand. The ink writing was long since faded and worn away at the folds, but it appeared to be a love letter penned by a Civil War soldier to his fiancée awaiting him at home. Did he return from battle alive, I wondered, and if so, was she still faithful? The story that letter could tell might speak volumes to my captor’s heritage.

I recoiled as my grasping hand encountered sharp, pointed teeth, rooted in a tiger’s jaw – possibly a safari trophy? I shuddered as I put this aside, knowing I would not want this reminder of man’s needless cruelty to animals. Yet, given my kidnapper’s criminal tendencies, this might be exactly what he sought.

Eureka – a map! An island, near the equator, showing coordinates and a pathway leading to an X near the center. A treasure map leading to gold doubloons, or just a hoax?

Even in my panicked state, a faint smile curled my lips as I noticed a plaster-of-paris mold of a tiny handprint, embellished with “I Love U” in a child’s scrawl. Could it be that the little hand commemorated the bond between my captor and his mother, reminding him of a gentler time, her nurturing love and the promises of youth?

Another memento of childhood – a painstakingly embroidered, now yellowing, christening dress. Perhaps the kidnapper counted on his infant sprinkling to get him to heaven?

Then a nicely framed diploma, summa cum laude Masters’ degree from Harvard. No doubt that had opened many doors for this family. Or was it the reverse – the heir spurning the advantages of an expensive college education, and instead squandering his inheritance?

Hiding in the corner of one of the last cartons was an inobtrusive plastic bottle containing heart medication. If only the deceased had taken this in time, she might still be here, and I would not be in this awful predicament!

Aha! I exclaimed aloud in my half delirious state -- surely this was it – a safe deposit box key!  Everything else here was just debris accumulating on the journey of life, with merely sentimental value or clues to the path taken. But the real reward was surely the cash, securities, title deeds, and other valuables locked away for the rightful heir.

Confident that I had found the most important thing, I suddenly realized that days had gone by, and I was ravenously hungry. There was no food in the room, but to my surprise, the door to the hallway was unlocked. I ran out, elated to be “free” but then spotted the armed guards at the hotel entrances and exits. Apparently I could roam about inside but not leave the hotel.

With an ominous thud, the door to my room locked shut behind me. If I were not inside the room, how could I save my life when my captor returned by telling him the most important thing?

But if I fainted from hunger, there was no hope at all. First find food, then somehow get back in the room. There were stores and restaurants, but I had no money, and I could tell from the faces of the staff that they were hardly sympathetic to my plight. I was thrilled to find a nearly empty box of crackers on a room service tray, with a few crumbs still inside. I snatched it up and scurried into a corridor leading to the pool room, thinking I could eat there in peace.

Instead I found a little girl in a soaking wet bathing suit, shivering and sobbing, and all alone. She threw her arms around me, crying “I’m cold! I’m hungry! I want my mommy!”

There were no towels or bathrobes anywhere, so I wrapped her in my sweater, hugged her, and gave her what was left of the crackers. I knew I had to stay with her to comfort her, even if I would be killed once apprehended. As starved, wretched and terrified as I felt, helping her gave me a strange sense of joy and peace, and I remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:

35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat… I was a stranger, and ye took me in…36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.…40 Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Jesus! My Savior! How had I forgotten Him as the only One Who could rescue me? (Romans 10:9,13; Acts 2:21; 4:12 ) Only He would never leave me, nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

As if the sun rose in my darkened mind, I suddenly knew that the most important thing in that hotel room was not the safe deposit box key, the jewelry, the diploma, the treasure map, the medicine, the childhood souvenirs, or the historic document. It was not part of the estate at all, but tucked invisibly in the nightstand drawer would surely be a Bible, left there by the Gideons in their mission to provide God’s Word to weary travelers on their journey through this planet that is not our true home (Psalm 119:19, Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11).

I awoke feeling so thankful for God’s promises recorded in His Word (2 Samuel 7:28; Acts 2:33,39; 13:23). Without them, life would have no meaning. Why had I plunged into the futile exercise of combing through boxes full of trash without considering the treasure of Bible wisdom – the secret to abundant, eternal life (John 3:16; 10:10) for all who place their faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)?

How often are we distracted by piles of junk accumulating in our life, while neglecting the riches found without fail in our Bible? Why do we worry about our “stuff” instead of storing treasures in Heaven, where we can enjoy them forever? (Luke 12:16-34; Matthew 6:19-21)

I felt blessed that my husband Richard recently became a Gideon, and that we had the privilege of handing Scriptures to students. I remembered a testimony shared at a Gideons’ meeting of a maid who was cleaning a hotel room and found a handwritten note carefully placed in the Gideons’ Bible to mark Psalm 23. The writer explained that he had checked in, feeling that his life was over and that to spare his family additional grief, he planned to kill himself. Then he started thumbing through that very Bible and read the verse that brought him newly found peace and hope:

Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

God alone can deliver us from all our fears and save us from all enemies, even sin, death and hell (Psalm 34:4-7; 2 Kings 17:39; Romans 8:2; 1 Corinthians 15:56-57). Truly the most important “thing” in this life is our Bible – God’s love letter to us that guides, comforts, corrects, and inspires us (Psalm 119:11,14.16, 105, etc.). But it is not a “thing” – just like Jesus, His Word is eternal and unchanging (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33; Hebrews 13:8).

Without understanding its promise of eternal life through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Who reconciled sinful man to Holy God through His shed blood (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 9:22), we cannot know the all-important One. Christ alone is the Way (John 14:6) to abundant, eternal life. Trust and follow Him today!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives