The Gift of Others: We Call It Church

I went whale-watching today. It’s our last day of vacation here in the Canary Islands, a little archipelago of islands clustered off of the coast of North Africa, and apparently this is whale-watching paradise.

I have to admit, we did see a lot of whales! And it was intriguing to notice that they — at least the “pilot whales” we were most watching — were social animals. They were usually seen in groups of two or three. Not only that, but those groups of two or three were hanging out with other groups of two or three.

Science tells us that pilot whales often gather in numbers of 30 or so, but that their groups can number as high as 100. These whales also stay together in smaller, family groups called “pods”. The pods are apparently quite stable and feature close family ties, where the whales care for each other. They also hunt and feed together.

The pilot whales even seemed to want to be social with us on the catamaran. Once we spotted them (were we spotting them, or were they spotting us?), they followed our catamaran for quite some distance. They also seemed playful when they encountered a much larger killer whale that we encountered. Apparently, they didn’t know — or didn’t care — who they were messing with!

The reason I bring this up is that God himself is a social being. Think of the Trinity, for instance. Or consider how many times in the past few days of reading Jesus has emphasized that he loves to please his Father — actually lives to please his Father. Talk about a family bond!

God has clearly designed us to be the same. We are social beings. We’re just plain healthier when we are together with others. Professor Lisa Berkman of Harvard University has investigated social connectedness and longevity, for instance. She looked at the impact of marital status, ties with friends and relatives, club membership, and levels of volunteerism on how well older people aged. Over a nine-year period of study, she found that those with the most social connectedness lived longer.

Which is why one of the greatest gifts of the gospel of Jesus Christ is community. When Jesus died and rose again for us, he won forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. He also won us a new family of brothers and sister who look after us. And we look after them. Christianity creates a family. We call it “church” or “fellowship”. Maybe we could call it “pods” as well!

“Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:49-52, NIV).

So, maybe it’s time to ask the question: Who from your church family are you going to connect with this week? Remember, Jesus has already given you many connections with brothers and sisters in Christ! Now, you have the opportunity to enjoy it!

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, May 20, is 1 Samuel 5:1 – 7:17, John 11:45 – 12:11 and Proverbs 12:18-27.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving me a family I can rely on. Thank you for all the love, the support, and the teamwork that we are able to enjoy because we have our own little “pod” called the church.

Header image based on "Photo of the Week - Long-finned Pilot Whales (RI)" by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CC By 2.0

Rock Solid

I don’t know about you, but I wish I could stop being so shaky. I don’t always make good decisions. I sometimes choose my next steps based on fear and avoidance of pain, rather than faith and fulfillment of my life’s purpose. And when it comes to my faith, I find it far more convenient to rely on myself than depend on Jesus. It’s just easier that way. Or so my sinful mind tells me. I wish I could be rock solid. I want to feel confident in my mind, my heart and my actions. I want to be a man of faith and courage. I want to be fully dependent on my all-powerful and always-loving God for every good thing. And Jesus shows me the way to grow and mature into that man. It starts with listening to his word. Reading and meditating on my Bible. Attending church. Participating in a growth group. Subscribing to my church’s podcast. But it certainly doesn’t end there. Did you realize that there is only one difference between the wise and foolish builders in Jesus’ parable at the conclusion of his Sermon on the Mount? Both builders listened to the words of Jesus, but only the wise builder actually put Jesus’ words into practice. Maturity as a man or woman of God comes when we listen to Jesus’ words and then actually live the way he instructs us to. But to build our house on the rock, we must begin by building our house on the Rock. We will build, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, when we eat and drink from the spiritual rock that accompanies us, and that Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4, NIV). When we build our faith on this Rock, we discover that there is massive good news for us. Through his life, death and resurrection, Jesus has given us a new identity, a new destiny, a new purpose, a new community, and new possibilities. And therein lies the motivation to change our lives. In this good news is the “Why?” for listening to Jesus, and for putting his words into practice in our lives, so that we too become rock solid. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24, NIV). Lord Jesus, my Savior, thank you for living and dying for me to give me so many rich spiritual blessings. Help me by your Spirit’s power to become rock solid, by depending fully on you, listening to your words, and putting them into practice in my life. Our reading for Friday, January 9, is Genesis 19:1 – 20:18, Matthew 7:24 – 8:22 and Psalm 7:1-9.

Header image based on "The Rock Harbor Light House" by Ross, CC by 2.0