Coffee Stains: Missing Fingers!Author: David Porter
Birds punctuated the beautiful Spring morning with their songs as I meandered through the park.
Then I saw him. He walked up a trail towards me, gazing intently to the right and to the left, scouring the grass attentively.
When he came abreast of me he asked, ‘You haven’t seen anything strange around here, have you?’
‘Strange? Like what?’
‘Oh, ummm. Kind of like a lost finger,’ he mumbled.
‘A lost finger!’
‘Yeah, it’s my left index finger,’ he said holding his hand up to show me the missing digit.
‘He keeps detaching himself and crawling off in the night.‘
I tried to hide my surprise, while mentally wondering where the nearest psychiatric hospital was to be found.
Suddenly, the stranger stiffened. ‘There he is,‘ he whispered. I turned and looked and to my surprise there was an index finger crawling down the sidewalk about 30 yards further on, moving forward like an inchworm. The man began to creep up on the offending digit. Suddenly things went crazy. A mangy dog streaked toward the finger, seemly appearing out of nowhere. The finger sensed the danger approaching and tried to crawl faster.
My nine-fingered friend cried, ‘No!‘ and ran to recoup his missing member. The dog was faster though and with one fell swoop he licked him up and ‘crunch, crunch, crunch.’ I’ll spare you the details because it wasn’t pretty. The fellow fell to the grass and started to weep.
I moved to comfort him. ‘I never could get that finger to stay home,’ he whimpered. ‘He always wanted to be on his own. Said he didn’t need the rest of me. He didn’t feel appreciated.‘
‘I’m very sorry sir,‘ I said.
‘Well, I’ve got to be going.‘
‘Sure,‘ he said looking up.
‘By the way. If you see three toes running around, they are from my right foot. Let me know would you?‘
Are you a missing finger?
Lots of Christians are like that missing finger! They like their independence. They don’t like to be tied down by regular times of worship and responsibilities to others so they show up when it suits them. But is that the Church? ‘I’m part of the universal invisible Church,’ they say. That’s great. Invisible Christians in an invisible Church. ‘I don’t need the visible Church to get to heaven,’ they argue. ‘I can worship the Lord on my own. God is everywhere.’ That’s true but God isn’t everywhere in the same way. He’s in the bar. He’s in the disco. He’s at your work and at your school. But He isn’t everywhere in the same way.
“Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matt. 18:18-20, The Message)
The Lord Jesus manifests Himself in a special way in the Assembly of His people. ‘Invisible Christians’ who are only a part of the invisible Church miss out on that. God imparts something of Himself in the Assembly that you can’t get by yourself. Invisible Christians are a much easier mark for the devil, just like our maverick finger opened himself to attacks from wild dogs. You need the discipline of submitting yourself to the Body of believers, else you risk to become a law unto yourself, taking your thoughts as God’s thoughts. That’s dangerous. We need others to help us grow; God made it that way. ‘But I don’t get anything out of my church. It’s dead.’ Do you just go for selfish reasons? Can’t you give words of encouragement to others who are discouraged? Can’t you prepare yourself and exercise prophetic gifts to build up others? Can’t you be available to those in need? Just because the church is dead doesn’t mean that you have to be. When God established the Church, He established believers together. Without this ‘together aspect, our Christian life flickers, like the flame of a candle in a wind. The first believers learned from God’s Word together, encouraged each other in fellowship, ate together and prayer together. They were generous and responded to needs within the Assembly. God never intended us to live the Christian life alone.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-26 (New International Version)
When you see those ‘fingers and toes’ running around by themselves, bring them back to the Body, please. They need the Body and the Body needs them. And if you’re a solitary finger, get home quick!
‘Is there anything under the sun that can satisfy a spirit made for God?’ John Wesley