Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Froggie Mortuary and Cement Ponds

Frogs that followed the wrong leader.
Our neighbor has a lovely cement pond (if you are too young to remember The Beverly Hillbillies, use your imagination, you’ll figure it out).  It has a beautiful blue liner and a well used diving board, even a heater for comfortable water temperatures.  They keep the water impeccably chlorinated clean, and filtered, and have lots of toys, and floats.  The landscaping is absolutely luxurious.  We call it the neighborhood resort.
We, on the other hand, have a little goldfish pond.  It has a liner too; “pond black” in color, but the fishes, frogs and plants seem to like it.  After all, they are the attraction, not the pond itself.  The only diving is from the frogs and one little fish I call “Flipper” who does a great dolphin imitation.  (Remind me to tell you about him and the other pond residents one day – it is a true cast of characters.) 

Our little swimmers use real water, that is, non-chemically treated water, the kind God made.  The plants include water lilies-pink, mint-chocolate, pickerel reed-blue, pennywort, and water celery.  They are all quite beautiful and serve to add oxygen and shade. The residents like to nibble the roots, and hide in the leaves, and of course, the frogs use the lily pads as their own personal floats.   The dragon flies stay nearby to swoop down to lay eggs, and eat mosquitoes (don’t forget to thank your neighborhood dragonflies for their work!).  Black swallowtail butterflies come to the pickerel reed blossoms for nectar and my dill for laying eggs( but that’s OK, I can share).  There are some rocks for tunnels and hiding places.  It’s not the neighborhood resort, but it is a happy little habitat.

The prettiest and cleanest isn’t the best.  By all appearances, the neighbors’ “pond” is much bigger, deeper, and cleaner than ours.  By froggie standards it must have seemed like an easy decision.  Yet they made the wrong, and ultimately fatal decision, landed in the filters of the resort pond and lost their lives.  Poor little guys, the promises of the easy life were false hopes and consumed them.  (did you notice that there is also a lesson about following the crowd in there too?)  It sounds like a sad little story I know, but it could be that we are like those misguided frogs in our church going decisions. Do we choose based on cleanliness, size, number of toys and the comfort and beauty of the building?  

Lots of toys shouldn’t necessarily be a drawing card.  Different programs that engage and make good use of the talents and needs are quite appropriate.  However we all know programs can be for spiritual growth or merely entertainment.  I understand the desire to reach people with “fun” things, but pray that we use those fun times to meet needs, develop relationships, and teach Truth.  If not, they are just entertainment with no spiritual value. 

 Of course, we are the church, not the building but, do we sometimes make decisions based on outward appearance of the building.  “Oh, that is a beautiful church. I could really worship there. Look at those stained glass windows…”   Do the windows create an atmosphere of worship? They can, but doesn’t that really comes from the attitude of our hearts?  Is there a precise dress code we must have in order to enter or face the scorn of our pew mates?  Is there an understood civic standing and prestigious career/salary expectation that we must fulfill to be accepted?  Is it a longstanding and historic building with no ability to grow and meet new needs?  Don’t get me wrong, I think that God’s house should be beautiful, but His presence doesn’t depend on that, and His presence is a far more precious and beautiful asset than any brick and mortar or stained glass windows.

Size of the congregation can’t always be a proper indicator of good church choice.  A truly growing church has people leaving and coming all the time.  Members leave to plant more congregations, and come because of hearing and being fed by the Word that both heals and pricks our hearts. It is much easier to develop accountability partners, true brothers and sisters with small groups than hiding in the mass of people you see now and then.  Who will know if we are out sick?  Will we notice if someone is absent?  Being involved in each others lives helps us to know how to pray for each other and develop relationships of trust and accountability.  By no means is it impossible to have a good experience in a mega church, but it is less common.  Large or small, we would be wise to put up spiritual radar before committing to a congregation based on its size.

We all know that chlorine kills germs, so we allow a bit of it in our water-even though it is a poison.   How much is enough/ and how much is too much, that depends on your point of view.  These frogs definitely had too much, and it affected their ability to do what frogs are supposed to do, swim.  Thus, they died. 

How much worse is it when some churches clean and sanitize to the point they have excluded the dirty sin, the blood, the wrath of God…and preach only part of God’s Word-the parts we all like that are full of love, forgiveness, prosperity, and health, never stepping on toes, never piercing our hearts, and always mindful of politically correctness. 

The whole counsel of God includes both the love and grace along with the sin and wrath.   How can we truly be fed if we only hear part?  It’s like having only candy instead of a healthy diet, and we lose our ability to have a true fellowship with God.  If we have sermons that tickle our ears with chlorinated stories of the love of God, – we might have beautiful sanctuaries full of happy attendees, but the flock will drown in their sin, thinking they have found a paradise.  

Father, I thank You for giving Your whole counsel, full of wisdom and truth. I pray today that we, Your church, use it wisely, and share it in its entirety. 

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