And we begin talking about some of the questions, questions that you've asked. But I am drawn to the particular scripture of Jesus being among the elders of the land when he was twelve years old. And verse 47, "And all who heard him were astonished at his understanding and his answers." We wanna focus on this question and answer series on the, not on Skip's opinions but his answers so that we can marvel at how pertinent the word of God is for today. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, we are in Your presence. Apart from the fact that we are in each other's presence, what You have designed in a large people with 1,500 per service, aside from that You are here; that's what's important. That we focus on that and we look to You for answers, Lord, and your word that you have revealed. Make this time profitable, Lord. In Jesus name, Amen.
I went through hundreds of questions. I felt like Solomon when the Queen of Sheba came to test him with hard questions. But I realized that my answers must be biblical answers. I don't know what your expectations are in this series of questions and answers, but I probably will not fulfill all of your expectations, but I'm not worried about it. I have taken the questions you have given me and put them into categories of issues and we're going to deal with those issues and go over those questions. All of the questions will not be answered. As I went through the questions, I could say that some of you need counseling; I say that in love. Some of you just need to get tapes, because we've covered many of the issues already. For example, the Holy Spirit. We have done about twenty-two hours worth of study on all the gifts of the spirit and their use for today; it's in the tape library. Most all of you need kinships. The issues that we will dealing with- a lot of them are controversial subjects, hot potatoes, I call them. And I'm going to give you what I feel is the biblical answer. And some of you are going to be satisfied with it and some of you won't. Some of you are going to agree and some of you are going to disagree. Now that doesn't bother me either. I can't make all of you satisfied; you can't please all the people all the time. I'm not here to please you, I'm here to please God in the answers that I give. If you disagree, fine. We will disagree agreeably. But remember, you submitted the questions to me, and as the pastor I need to give what I feel is the biblical answer.
In looking at all of the questions, most of them don't, a lot of them, the bulk of them dealt with relationships. Several questions on dating, singleness, tons of questions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The next biggest category was spiritual gifts- prophesy, tongues, gifts of the spirit, healing. Again, we have tapes on those things. We may cover some of those issues. Questions on end times, eschatology, we call it, judgement, heaven, hell. Questions on salvation, eternal security, being backslidden. Questions on demon possession, brraah (light laughter). We've also covered that before but we'll probably cover it again. Homosexuality and AIDs is a question. The death penalty- should it be reinstated? Is it biblical? See, controversial stuff, hot potatoes. Questions on dinosaurs. Now, I'm going to bring my pet dinosaur the day we cover this subject (laughter). Questions on reincarnation, preexistence. A myriad of others, I just selected a few of the main ones to let you know what they are. The biggest advantage of these questions and answers for myself, was that it enabled me to take a survey of the pulse of the church. Sort of a spiritual temperature. Some of the questions were obviously from mature, grounded in the word Christians. Many questions were from immature, growing Christians who had a lot of questions. Now, I recognize that not everyone put in a question so you can't really survey everybody, but there's a cross-section of so many different types of people that wrote these questions looking for answers. And often times people will put on paper what they would never dare verbalize. There's a confidence. Most of these questions were anonymous, not signed. Some of them were signed- names, phone numbers, addresses. Most of them were not. Most of them, there were hearts poured out, seeking for an answer quick. Almost a desperate kind of a plea. And I saw that what was committed to paper were things that most of you would not share with people publicly.
Today we're not going to deal with a specific question or a specific answer. But I've taken a survey of all these questions. I've looked at them, I've prayed over them. And I have found that beneath the surface of the words, there's suffering going on in the body of Christ. That the church of Jesus Christ is suffering for many things. One of them are unreal, unrealistic expectations, and we're going to talk about that today. But you notice on your outline that I have discovered an underlying problem in the church. And you notice there's a blank on your outline, I haven't written it down for you. That was on purpose. I didn't want you to read it in advance. I wanted you to listen to me so that you could write it down because probably most of you, many of you will not realize that this is an underlying problem in the church. The underlying problem that I have discovered as looking through the letters in the church is loneliness. Loneliness. I'm not talking about the inmate in prison this morning. I'm not talking about the divorcee who's sitting in the bar right now drinking away his or her sorrows. And I'm not just talking about the lonely hearts singles. I'm speaking about church-going Christians who are married with a couple kids, nice home, a lot of toys, and who are lonely and miserable. I brought a sampling of some of the questions and letters that I have received. I want to start with one.
"I write this to you, hurting so bad. I even cry myself to sleep, and I'm tired of doing that. I still pray everyday that I could make it through another day. It's getting ever hard for me to live. Am I doing something wrong? I don't understand. It's so hard to make friends these days, even with Christians. I've tried. Sometimes maybe I don't understand what it is to be a true Christian. I thought we were supposed to be images of Christ. You see people who attend church daily, weekly, or prayer service, born-again Christians, but you want and need to talk to somebody, to be a friend. And they do it out of sympathy or sometimes turn their cheek in a very nice manner. What happened to doing things for love? Loving you just the way you are? You need to fit into their category as a good person. Christians can be so judgmental without realizing. Christians are sad, too. And just because you are a born-again Christian doesn't mean everything is okay."
That's from a single person. It's not just in singleness that this comes. Here's a letter, a question that says, "How do I as a woman deal with a spouse who is not interested in God or Christianity, church anymore? How do I handle a home life without God and the Christian faith? How do I beat loneliness, people unwanting me? How do I show Christianity when I feel so sad and so lonely?"
Another question that describes loneliness but put in an entirely different fashion is a simple question that says, "What's wrong with premarital sex with someone you love?" Another question from a woman, "How does a wife with three preschoolers keep a smile on her face and song in her heart when her husband's always creating depressing conditions in the home? He spends more than he makes on something he wants and not for the family. He sleeps to much. He watches TV all day. The house needs repair." And and a list of things. "God is with me but I feel like such a failure. How does a woman cope with her mate who is sitting back with his feet up, relaxing and trying to pretend everything is okay, and everything around is actually falling apart. My desire for intimacy is leaving. My desire for his conversation and fellowship is also leaving. Please help us understand the nature and heart of our mates and the way the world would have us to go obtain more and more things. Please address the realities and hurts that selfishness, laziness, lack of acceptability, responsibe-bility brings. Please tell me how to keep my self-esteem, my faith of better days, my smile, my love, my gentle spirit. Women everywhere are hurting. Men are, well.." (Light laughter)
This is one from a man. "In the five years that we've been married, she and I have applied for divorce four our five times. We have never been happy. We have both heat-or hurt each other very much and seem to enjoy making each other miserable." There's a sampling.
Turn to Psalm 102 this morning, please. I watched the reactions to those questions, those hurting questions. Some of you were shocked; most of you probably were not, as you heard the pulse of the atmosphere of those questions. In Psalm 102, David said, "Hear my prayer, Oh Lord, and let my cry come to You. Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble. Incline Your ear to me in the day that I call. Answer me speedily, for my days are consumed like smoke. My bones are burned like a hearth. My heart is stricken and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread. Because of the sound of my groaning, my bones cling to my skin." Now listen to the words of a lonely man. "I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I lie awake, I am like a sparrow alone on the housetop."
I wanna define loneliness to you but I find it difficult to define loneliness. It's easier to feel loneliness than to define loneliness. Let me tell you what it's not. Loneliness is not solitude. All of us need a certain amount of getting alone and solitude. It ventilates the inner man. It helps us face ourselves and face God. Jesus often spent times in solitude with the Father. That's not loneliness. Loneliness is not being lonesome. If you've been away from your family and you haven't seen them for a few weeks or months you get lonesome. But that's a temporary condition that you know will end. Loneliness is the feeling of being alone even when you're surrounded by crowds of people. In fact, crowds often drive a person into deeper loneliness. I came from what is known as a megalopolis; that is, several metropolises that have grown together with millions of people. Often people are the most lonely in those places. Loneliness is feeling unwanted, like nobody cares, like there's nothing to live for, there's no hope. That's loneliness. David was sharing his loneliness and the letters that I read were sharing their loneliness as well. The best definition I have come across for loneliness is this: loneliness is the malnutrition of the soul that comes from living on substitutes. Again, loneliness is the malnutrition of the soul that comes from living on substitutes. Let me show you exactly what I mean as you turn to Isaiah, Chapter 55. Isaiah 55. "Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money, without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen diligently to Me and eat what is good. Let your soul delight itself in abundance." God, who is freely offering things that satisfy, a complete satisfaction, for free. With no money come, have it, you can be satisfied. Look at verse 3, "Why do you spend money for what is not bread and your wages for what does not satisfy?" Isaiah is saying, "You're spending your money, granted, but you're not buying food. You are working hard, you've got a good job, but you're not satisfied." People think, "If I have a job, I have bucks, I have food, I'm going to be satisfied." I heard of a woman that I know of recently this week who said, "We have children, we have a nice home, we have play things, and I am lonely." God is addressing the children of Israel who are living on substitutes and it caused their soul to be eaten away. Malnourishment of the soul that comes from living on substitutes. What is sad, folks, is that people that I have met sometimes are contented, so-to-speak. They will settle for living on substitutes. God wants to give them abundant life. They settle for fun. God wants to give 'em joy. They'll settle for entertainment. God wants to give them rest. They'll settle for sleeping pills. Substitutes.
I, I was at a meeting oh, a year ago or so at a local bank in town. It was open to the public. It was a lecture on transcendental meditation, which is a, basically a Hindu cult guised in uh, uh, scientific, philosophical garb. Oh, I went to the meeting; I like to crash parties like that. And I sat in the back of the room prepared. And they gave, they went through their schpeal, how that you can have inner peace if you pay 600 dollars and we'll give you the mantra and you can meditate on it and you have to pray this little introductory prayer in a Hindi language and you will find peace. Then came for the question and answer. They said, "Does anybody have questions?" That was their first mistake. Well, of course I raised up my hand and I stood up and I said, "Uh, excuse me. You have been telling everyone this evening that transcendental meditation has nothing to do with any religion at all; it's not religious in any way. No connotations at all." "Absolutely right. It's a proven, scientific method and it works and here's all this-" dadadadadadada. "Now, you sure that it has nothing to do with religion?" "Absolutely." "Well now, what about the introductory, uh, thing that everyone has to read and recite to get into this system and the little word that they don't understand. Why isn't it written in English?" "Well we figure it preserves the antiquity of the whole thing." And on, and on, and on. I said, "Well I just happen to have, here, the introductory recital translated in English. I wonder if you'd mind if I read it to people." Before they could say no, I began to read. And in English, they were reciting this: "I bow down to guru Deb. I worship this god and I bow down and worship that god." And I said, "This isn't religious?" And I said, "Listen. The only reason I'm doing this, I fell you owe these people a realistic of what they're paying 600 bucks for. You're telling them one thing, but you're not telling them the truth. They're getting into an eastern religious system; religious mysticism. It is not scientific. It's fake. You owe it to them to tell them these things." I began to say how that Jesus Christ offers peace for free. Satisfaction for nothing. Come, buy and eat. I was not rebuked by the leadership. I was rebuked by the people who were paying the money, listening. One fella turned around and said, "Would you shut up." And it, it slapped me in the face. It didn't bother me. It doesn't bother me. What bothered me is in effect, the person was saying, "Would you please let me be deceived? Would you quit telling me the truth? I wanna pay 600 dollars, I don't care what it is. I want to be deceived, I'll pay the money to have peace at any price." Living and settling for a substitute when God would give it free.
It's not just in the world, it's in the church. There are lonely people who'd live on substitutes, not the real peace and intimacy of a relationship with God, and their lives are eaten away week-by-week. There's a lot of reasons for this. The society we live in breeds loneliness. Did you know that? Our society is very mobile. Every year, twenty percent of the population relocates somewhere else in the country. Pulling up roots, putting down roots. Twenty percent moved every year. Which means we develop a lot of casual contacts and very few friendships where we have roots that go down deep in establishing long-term friendships and relationships. We have a mobile society and that's one of the causes for it. Do you know everybody on your streets pretty well? Do you know everybody on your apartment? How many people do you wanna know in your apartment very well? Maybe we should ask that. Competitive adds to that. We live in a society that engenders competitiveness. We are so busy being successful, we don't take time for people; to invest our lives in them or to let them do it to us. Fear causes loneliness. People have a bolt and a deadbolt on every door, or triple locks. Old people are afraid to go out in the streets; rightfully so. They feel they'll get beat up. The other night we heard on television of a church in the northeast heights. Thirty people were held at gunpoint. You're afraid to come to church anymore. You don't know what nut's going to be there. Fear of past experiences. "Look, I tried to get close once and I got burned. I'm not going to develop any more relationships and get burned again." Fear of guilt. All sorts of stuff. But I do believe the basic problem is not a psychological problem, it's a spiritual problem. I believe that with all my heat and there are solutions. We wanna talk about those today. Spiritual causes.
Before we do, I noticed in the questions there was not only that underlying problem of loneliness but of unrealistic expectations and wrong-thinking. Romans Chapter 12 says, "Be not conformed to this world but transformed by," what? You got it. "The renewing of your mind. Phillips translations says it a lot better. It says, "Don't let the world press you into it's mold that you be renewed. Change, transformed by the renewing of your mind." We live in a bumper sticker world. We've got slogan mentality. We want to capture the thought in a quick slogan. "Happiness is," and you've a billion suggestions on every bumper. "I love my Cocker Spaniel." "I love New York." Uh, we possibly have fallen prey to our own bumper sticker slogan mentality that gives a quick fix and quick cliché answers, I think. "Just grin and say Praise the Lord." "Let go and let God." There's truth to all those slogans; please don't misunderstand me. I believe there's truth but the Christian life, folks, is not always that smooth. There's a lot of rough spots in it. We're called up to the battlefield. The Christian is not a Disneyland full of fireworks, full of tingles all the time, full of daily miracles, even though you don't have any money in your bank, the checkbook balances automatically, and there's no battery in the car but it works anyway (laughter). It just ain't like that. Unrealistic expectations- a lot of people have those. A lot of people sitting here have those unrealistic expectations of Christian life with a relationship with God of what it's supposed to be like. Unrealistic expectations of a marriage relationships. I don't know how many people say, "I never thought it would be like this. I always thought marriage would be like this." Unrealistic expectations of the body of Christ, the church. Listen, I know as well as you do that in, in an interdenominational church like this, there's a lot of spiritual refugees who come from a lot of places and they land here. They're lonely, they're bitter at the past experiences in other churches, they haven't found that perfect church, and they'll be content here until they found the flaw. First flaw comes up, it'll cause the cycle all over again. Loneliness, unrealistic expectation.
I've listed four of them. I came up with six, but I categorized them again and and narrowed it down. First one that I put down here in seeing the questions. "Because I'm a Christian, all my problems are solved." Heh, that's so unbiblical as well as unrealistic. We do a disservice to the unbeliever when we tell them, "Just accept Jesus, it'll be great. Everything will be fine." Yes, accept Jesus and He'll give you abundant life. But pick up the sword cause you'll go on the battlefield. "Count the cost," Jesus said. Why would He say something like that? Because He wanted realistic expectations. Do you remember the famous little plaque, it's at all the Christian bookstores, called Footprints? Have you ever seen that? Man had a dream one night, he was walking on the beach with Jesus. Jesus flashed all of the scenes of his life. And he noticed that in the real good times, there was two sets of footprints, in the difficult times, there was one set of footprints, and this disturbed the man. He thought that the Lord wasn't with him. "I thought You'd be with me at all those times. Where were you? You promised You'd never leave me or forsake me." And Jesus said, "Hold on, slow down. I love you so much, I know that you can't handle it yourself. The reason you saw one set of footprints is it was in those times I carried you. They were My footprints, not yours." This man had voiced his unrealistic expectations to Jesus in that little poem. A couple weeks ago, we read the Screwtape Letters. Do you remember that? One demon speaking to another demon, saying, "Okay, now that your patient has become a Christian, you gotta work hard on that period of disappoint that's going to come after the first few weeks of being a Christian. The anti-climax, when he settles down the earth and realizes all his problems haven't automatically been solved because he said, 'Lord, come into my heart.'" Turn with me to 2 Corinthians, Chapter 11. 2 Corinthians, Chapter 11. Now, as I read this to you, think what would happen if Paul had that expectation that once he become a Christian, all his problems were completely, automatically solved. Begin in verse 24, "From the Jews five times I received forty strikes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. A night and day I spent in the ocean, the deep. In journeys often in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils of the city, in perils the wilderness, in perils of the sea, in perils among false brethren." This guy's full of perils. "In weariness and toil and sleeplessness often. In hunger and thirst. In fastings often. In cold and in nakedness." His problems weren't solved. One of the reasons is that we have created in our evangelism those unrealistic expectations. We have created a "me" centered Gospel, right? I think we have. The Gospel of the hot deal, the irresistible deal. If you accept Jesus, this and this and this is yours. Oh, there's truth to that. But see, "me" has been placed at the center of the Gospel. What's this business about, "If you accept Jesus"? Jesus accepts you. Let's place the truth where it is. He will accept you by what He has done for you if you come to Him. But we place it in those terms. "Poor Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. Please let Him in! Don't let Him stay out there in the snow all alone. Don't you feel sorry for Him?" No wonder people feel like they're doing God a favor if they become a Christian. We create an unrealistic expectation. "Okay, I'll do it and I want the peace and the joy and everything else that comes along with it." And it will. But that's not all.
Let's go on. Another unrealistic expectation, it says, "I should be more spiritual." Which means, "I should not show my problems." I will bet the questions that most of you wrote down to me you probably would never voice publicly like this. That's okay. But what concerns me is the reason that people won't do that. Which is, we have this feeling that if we voice our honest feelings, we are somehow less mature as a Christian. Because a mature Christian looks like this (make an inaudible gestures) all the time. Maybe I'm a little melodramatic about it. But we're ashamed to let people know us for who we are because we're going to feel we're going to be rejected. After all, mature Christians just don't have those problems, do they? So we put on a veneer that says, "Everything's great. Everything's good!" And inside we're saying, "I'm dying. Somebody hug me and understand me and love me for who I am." We're running around like scared little kids but we're afraid to share that. The church is not for people who just have their act together. Only Jesus has His act together. That's why we come to Him with questions. If you show your true feelings, it proves one important thing: that you're human. That you're not a god or an angel; that you're flesh and blood.
The next one, isolation. "I am the only one with this problem." I have spoken to so many people who are unaware that most people have the same problems but they feel like, "You know, I know I'm the only one with this problem, what's wrong with me?" Elisha was out in the wilderness running a-away and running away from Jezebel and he cried out to God, "Oh God, kill me! I don't wanna live anymore, I want to die. I'm the only one left, I'm the only prophet. I'm the only one that's being persecuted. I wanna die." God said, "Get up. What are you doing here? You're the only one with this problem? I've got 700 prophets just like you who haven't bowed their knee to Baal who are equally as being persecuted. You're not the only one."
The next unrealistic expectation, "If I go and hear solid Bible teaching, my problems will automatically go away and I will become mature." Untrue. Unrealistic. It's wrong thinking. No matter how gifted the teacher, coming to a solid Bible-teaching church does not guarantee maturity. Case in point, Judas Iscariot. Three years of the best Bible teacher from the source, Jesus Himself. He heard it all. Didn't guarantee maturity or solving of his problem. You know why? Maturity is not a light switch, people. You don't turn it on and become mature in church; it's a process. And Hebrews Chapter 5 tells us this. That, "Strong food is for the mature who, by reason of use," or better put, "by putting those things into practice, have their senses, they can exercise, they can discern between good and evil." Their senses are keen. By putting those things into practice. If you were to look in the back of your Bible and find a Bible map, especially maybe a map of Jerusalem, with all the streets, many of the streets are still around today. If you were to study that map and look at it, by virtue of the fact that you are being exposed to the information on that map, will not automatically transport you to the city of Jerusalem. A lot of you are looking at that map, but in six weeks when we're over in Israel, you're not going to be there. Cause it takes more than looking at the map. The Bible is that kind of a map. It's accurate, you can depend on it, it doesn't fail, it's an inherent book. But just exposure to it doesn't automatically make you grow. What does? Application. Doing what it says. Not the exposure to the Bible study. It is wrong thinknig to say, "I go to church. They teach the word." Are you applying it? This book does not solve one problem in your life unless we apply it. If we apply it, it will work. If we do not, it doesn't do a thing. If you went to a doctor and found out you have cancer, they said, "You have a tumor in your right arm," wouldn't you be foolish to think that because you were in personal contact with the doctor, automatically it'll go away? Now you have to be operated on. "I got cancer and I just went to the doctor. Ha. Great. Found out the information. I was face-to-face with the MD." That doesn't cure it.
Now, in the midst of all that, I wanna give you realistic expectations. What is the Christian life? If if could give it to you in a nutshell of the balance of all those things, I would quote what Paul said. In fact, I'm gonna have you turn back a few pages to the 4th Chapter of 2 Corinthians. 2 Corinthians, Chapter 4. Perhaps we could open some of those doors in the back and let us be ventilated with coolness as I see people begging for that. 2 Corinthians 4, verse 7, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us." Verse 8, "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but we are not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed – always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." Did you get the balance of that? We're hard-pressed, we're persecuted, but it's gonna be okay. I belie in victory, I believe in abundant life, I have it, I'm an up person most of the time. But the Christian life isn't fireworks. The Christian life is perseverance. That's how you get the victory; perseverance through those things without giving up. We're hard-pressed, but we're not completely crushed.
Now, I wanna close with telling you what I believe is needed in view of these problems. I believe what is needed is, number one, a solid foundation, which is Jesus Christ, and our relationship to Him. And number two, a network of people. As you look up here on stage, you see that there's a foundation, but you also see that there's these metal studs and the walls that are attached and they're all linked together. They form the belt on the foundation; they form a network for stability and strength. In your life, you need God as a foundation and you need other people in your life because God made us interdependent. And I want you to close, turn with me to Ephesians, Chapter 2. Ephesians, Chapter 2, beginning in verse 20. In verse 19, "Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone," He's the ultimate foundation, "in whom the whole building, being joined together grows," and notice that word, "Joined together." "It grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you're also being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." I don't want to sound simplistic. The answer to loneliness is Jesus Christ. That might real cliché-ish and real, it's it's not simplistic. It's simple, but it's not simplistic. I believe that a firm, close, intimate relationship with Christ can solve loneliness and that the way to dispel those unrealistic expectation is to know God realistically through His word. Remember Isaiah 55? "I'll give you satisfaction for free. Why settle for substitutes?" The ultimate answer lies in Jesus. Jesus spoke of our relationship to God as a connection of a branch clinging to the tree trunk; the vine and the branches. Man, there's no better description than that. As that branch is connected and the sap is flowing from the root into the trunk out into the branch and fruit is being produced- that is how our life should be lived; connected closely, daily to Jesus Christ. Not a casual contact with Him. An intimate, abiding relationship. "Abide in Me," He said, "And I in you." it's the ultimate answer. Abiding in Jesus Christ. Clinging to Him, that word means. It also means a permanence of position. To abide in Christ means you're there permanently. What happens if you go and you buy a tree this spring from a nursery and you're gonna plant it in your front yard. You plant it in your front yard. You're excited; looks pretty cool. Your wife comes down and goes, "Oh honey, I don't like it there. Would you move it by our bedroom?" "Sure," pull it out, plant it. Your kid comes out, "Dad, that's ugly. Move it to the back of the yard." "Okay," (makes sounds implying he's moving the tree). You do that enough times, you're gonna have to call the plant paramedics. That thing's gonna be in shock. Up and down. Rooting it out, putting it in. When we serve God, and then we turn away from Him and move away from Him, you know, if you come back, He will accept you, He will forgive you. But you keep going back and forth and back and forth and you will have spiritual shock; your growth becomes stunted. It's a speaking about an intimate, close, constant, permanent relationship with Christ, daily nurtured. That's step one.
Step two: a solid framework. I'm talking about relationships with one another. Because we live in a society with casual contacts, we have to consciously fight against that. Please recognize that the church is a body. Paul says, "Here is a building that's living; it grows together." Paul, other times said it's a body. In your body, all the parts function together. In the body of Christ, we should all function, not separately, together. Jesus is the head, the Holy Spirit is the nervous system, that conveys the thoughts of Christ to the members, us, the body of Christ, so that there's a smooth function. Your body works that way. When you're hungry, your little stomach, sends, you know, it starts rumbling, and it sends a message up to your brain, "Hey get food down here." And your brain goes, "No problem." Sends a message to your legs, "Walk toward the fridge." (Light laughter) Start walking toward the fridge. Your legs stop and they say, "I'm here." Brain goes, "Good enough. Hand, open that baby." (Light laughter) Your eyes gaze on all the food and you, you're, the eyes send a message and say, "I want strawberry yogurt." Your brain says, "Good enough. Hand, grab it." My point is is that the body functions together. We de- the de-, the parts depend on one another. I am amazed at how aloof many Christians become. They become independent. They come and they wanna sit and be alone. They wanna st- put space between them and everybody else. "I'm here, I'm gonna listen, and I'm gonna go." There's an aloofles- aloofness, a detachment, and independence. Christ designed us to be dependent on one another. Him as a foundation and interdependent upon people. I do not buy the idea, "It's just me and God, we're going to go it alone." It is unbiblical. He created us to depend up one another. To develop close, intimate relationships, that grow and that are meaningful, where we can expose our hearts and we can be loved just the way we are. In a book I've been reading recently, Dr. Donald Joy, in the first chapter of his book, the chapters is called Who is Holding Your Trampoline? And it describes life as you bouncing up on the trampoline and you need a certain amount of people holding a four-sided trampoline for stability. And he says, "You know, you need family and relatives and friends and work associates." He said that healthy person would have twenty to thirty people is needed to hold your trampoline in life. Now, I am speaking about developing relationships outside just the church building Sunday morning. Human beings die without significant contact and relationships with people. A baby will die and an adult will die emotionally, spiritually. We were created for interdependence.
I am going to read something to you in closing that my wife found for me. Typed it up. Let me read it to you:
Dr. Harry F. Harlow loved to stand by the animal cages in his University of Wisconsin laboratory and watch the baby monkeys. Intrigued, he noticed that the monkeys seemed emotionally attached to cloth pads lying in their cages. They caressed the cloths, cuddled next to them, and treated them much as children treat a teddy bear. In fact, monkeys raised in cages with clo- with cloths on the floor grew huskier and healthier than monkeys in cages with wire-mesh floors. Was the softness and touch-ability of the cloth an important factor? Harlow constructed an ingenious surrogate mother out of terry cloth, with a light bulb behind her to radiate heat. The cloth mother featured a rubber nipple attached to a milk supply from which the babies could feed. They adopted her with great enthusiasm. Why not? She was always comfortingly available, and unlike real mothers, never roughed them up or bit them or pushed them aside. After proving that babies could be trained by an inanimate, surrogate mother, Harlow next sought to measure the importance of the mother's soft, touchable characteristics. He put eight baby monkeys in a large cage that contained the terry cloth mother plus a new mother, this one made entirely out of wire mesh. Harlow's assistants, controlling the milk flow to each mother, taught four of the babies to eat from the terry cloth mother and four from the wire-mesh mother. Each baby could milk only from the mother assigned to it. A startling trend developed almost immediately. All eight babies spent all their waking moments (sixteen to eighteen hours a day) huddled next to the terry cloth mother. They hugged her, patted her, perched on her. The monkeys assigned to the wire-mesh mother went to her only for feeding, and then hurried back to the comfort and protection of the terry cloth mother. When frightened, all eight sought comfort by climbing onto the terry cloth mother. Harlow concluded, "We were not surprised that the contact comfort was an important basic affectional or love variable, but we did not expect it to so completely overshadow the variable of nursing. Indeed the disparity is so great as to suggest that the primary function of nursing is that of ensuring frequent and intimate body contact of the infant with the mother." And he concluded, "Certainly man cannot live by milk alone." In other experiments, some baby monkeys were raised in cages with only a wire mesh mother. They, too, approached her only for feeding and many of these babies did not survive. Those who did reacted to stress by cowering in a corner, screaming or hiding their faces in their arms.
My point that I'm getting at, my concern is that the church does not become a place that produces wire-mesh Christians. If you are coming here only for the feeding, then let's not call this thing a church. Let's call it a school. Let's call it a brain. A church is where members decided to depend on one another. Am I talking about kinships. You got it. We need close contact throughout the week, throughout our lives. Are you all functioning, are we all functioning? Functioning as the body. Not just called the church, are we functioning as the church? As I read these letters, I have to say not all of us. But we need to, folks. We need to support the trampoline held up by other Christians, not only your family, not only your work associates, but other believers. A foundation in Christ and relationships with others.
People come to me a lot, "I wanna be involved. I want to work and serve Christ. I want to go out on the mission field." My first question is, "Great, what kinship do you belong to." "Oh, well I don't." "Well that's okay. See me in about four or five months after your have already been involved in this church, involved in people's lives, and being ministered to and ministering to people, then we'll talk." It's necessary. It's God's design. Let's pray.
Heavenly Father, I pray that our relationship with You would be so solid and intimate, that we can learn to trust You so that we do not live on substitutes. You see the malnourished souls, and You're saying, "Come, buy, freely eat. Don't spend your money without satisfaction. Don't spin your wheels with no results." Lord, thank you that you hold our trampoline and the people that You place in our lives or would like to place in our lives, they're there. Deliver us from being uninvolved and private and bring us to the place of involvement, functioning as Your body, developing family ties. In Jesus name, Amen.