Danger in the Duck Pond

duck pond“It doesn’t matter where they go to church just so they are involved in one.”   I have heard this idea expressed many times over the years and usually with good intentions.  It is usually made out of an awareness that Christians need to be connected to the House of God.  There is something about God’s design of church that is critical to one’s spiritual health as well as involvement in His purposes on earth but will just any church do?  Is there something more critical than simply being involved in any church?  I think these questions are important and reveal vital issues about church involvement that can often make or break the spiritual life and testimony of Christians.

The famous deaf and blind lecturer and author, Hellen Keller,  was once asked if there would be anything worse than not having your sight.  She replied in a very profound way, “to have sight but not vision.” I think this is true in a variety of arenas, especially when it comes to following Jesus as He builds His church to impact the earth.

When it comes to vision we all live under the same sky but we do not all see the same horizon.  Two people can stand next to each other and look up at the same clouds, one sees a man while the other sees a horse.  This can also be true when Christians consider the whole idea of God’s design for His house.

Vision can be defined as a a compelling picture of a preferable future that we labor to see become a reality.  Vision affects how we labor.  Paul said that he was not “disobedient to the heavenly vision” Acts 26:19.  He labored in spreading the gospel and building local churches that would continue God’s work in the earth. His labor was based on the vision Jesus showed Him.

Culture church versus God’s Design

Much of what has come to be known as “church” in our culture has not been totally influenced by God’s vision.  Our understanding and expression of church is often based more on religious customs handed down to us than what Jesus intends.  It can also be more influenced by our self serving desires than God’s design.

Many times as I have attempted to explain to Christians the glorious design Christ has for His church and they look at me bewildered.  It is often a look of “why are you so passionate about these things, you are being a little obsessive about church aren’t you?  What’s wrong with how were doing it now.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of church we are involved in, just so we are involved somewhere.”  This can sound like wisdom but can be spiritually dangerous.

 Danger in the Duck Pond

Much of the “actual church life” lived in most of our churches bears very littledead duck resemblance to the Spirit-filled, relational life Jesus prayed for in John 17 (in spite of their good teaching, good worship, and good programs).  A bigger problem is that there is often little desire in Christians for anything more.   We can be seduced by wrong mentalities or comforted in wrong patterns that are easier and require less commitment.  This can be deadly.

One of my friends did a lot of duck hunting growing up.   Some church environments we settle for are much like the environments my friend used to create while duck hunting.  Duck hunters hide by a pond in which they put out decoys in the water.  Decoys in the water have enough resemblance of real duck life that they attract real ducks that are migrating to come and settle among them.

To even make it more effective someone invented motorized duck decoys.  My friend once heard from another hunter that he needed to get a “mojo.”  “What’s a mojo?”  Its a decoy on a stick with motorized wings that turn.  It gives the appearance of ducks flying off the water which is even more attractive to the real ducks.

The first time he used them the mojo was an amazing success.  A whole flock of ducks were coming out of formation towards to the pond right next to my friend.  He was standing next to the mojo and the ducks were so caught up with the appearance of life  that they didn’t even notice him standing there, with a gun! They were so close to him that he killed two ducks with one shot and one of them was so blown to pieces that it couldn’t be eaten.

The real ducks often don’t even realize that there is a great danger of death in that sort of environment.  It has the resemblance of real duck life and ducks that settle are not really getting real duck life, and they face a great potential of dying.

I think the same is true in local churches.  There is an enemy that is always trying to destroy us 1 Peter 5:8.  He loves seeing God’s people in environments that are not living so he can destroy or neutralize them.  It can look like a church but dead is dead.  We can have the best technology, nicest buildings, well dressed people, and even have “contemporary music and messages” (like the mojo that has motorized arms), but if the life of God isn’t there and people aren’t alive in Jesus, it is dead and dangerous.  “Good enough” church will never do.

Because we serve Jesus, who is constantly building His church, He never leaves “good enough” alone.  Just like we see in the first three chapters of Revelation.  Jesus speaks to seven local churches in Asia Minor.  He expresses anything but “it’s good enough.”  He speaks to each local church, commending the good, but also correcting the bad.  To some He even threatens to remove their candlestick (the essence of what makes a church a church).  This doesn’t sound like a “good enough” attitude.

Vital Marks of a Living Church

There is one vital mark that delineates a dead “duck pond” and a church that is connected to Jesus.  Is there evidence that Jesus is at work among them and they are responding to Him?  Are they seeking to conform more and more to His life and pattern?  Are they responding to what the writer of Hebrews says He is doing?  Heb 13:20-21 NASB  Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord,  21  equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.  While there are no perfect churches these are marks of authenticity that constitutes the real.  If the desire to please Jesus, follow Him, respond to Him, passion for Him, and His living presence is in the atmosphere it is probably a good place to grow as God’s family and participate together in His mission on earth.

 

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Living for Zion’s Sake

what is For Zion's sake

Isa 62:1-12  For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep quiet, Until her righteousness goes forth like brightness, And her salvation like a torch that is burning. (2)  The nations will see your righteousness, And all kings your glory; And you will be called by a new name Which the mouth of the LORD will designate…(4)  It will no longer be said to you, “Forsaken,” Nor to your land will it any longer be said, “Desolate”; But you will be called, “My delight is in her,” And your land, “Married”; For the LORD delights in you, And to Him your land will be married.  (5)… And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So your God will rejoice over you.

The prophecies Isaiah received had major implications for God’s people, both then and now.  Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in the NT with over 250 references.   In his early days he witnessed the northern ten tribes of Israel taken captive by Assyria because of their unfaithfulness.  Now in his latter days he was seeing the southern tribes of Judah heading the same direction.  He received both words of warnings (first 27 chapters) and glimpses of what God wanted to do in the future with His people.

The Biblical Idea of Zion

“For Zion’s sake” is announced as a motivating factor for God’s people.   What does that have to do with God’s people today?  Plenty!    The name of Zion runs throughout the Bible, like a thread binding together the purposes of God for His people. In both the OT and NT the name “Zion” is used to represent God’s dwelling Place  Psa 132:13-14  For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation.  (14)  “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.

Zion was first mention in story of Melchizedek (a foreshadow of Christ Hebrews 7:1-17).  Melchizedek was “king of Salem” which was the old name for Jerusalem and is used interchangeably with Zion in the OT (Psa 76:2).   Zion was the place where Abraham offered Isaac  (Genesis 22:1-2 Mt. Moriah was the mountain which Zion extended off of).  It would later become the location of the Temple.

When the Israelites conquered Canaan they took Jerusalem, but failed to take Zion (Judges 1:8).   David later saw the importance of both and the first thing he did upon becoming king was to capture Zion (1 Chronicles 11:3-9).   From then on Zion became known as “the City of David”  (2Sa 5:7-9).

Scripture indicates that Zion, like many places and things in the Bible, existed in the realm of God before the places on earth came into existence.  As a matter of fact the places on earth are often “copies” or “shadows” of what always existed in heaven (Col 2:17, Heb 8:5, 10:1).  The heavenly Zion seemed to be the place Satan desired when he led his rebellion in heaven (Isa 14:13, Ps 48:1-2).

Zion stands for the place and assembly where God dwells and expresses ZionHis Kingdom rule.  The New Testament clearly shows us that in our time the church has become connected to the heavenly Zion and is a manifestation of her in the earth.   Heb 12:18-24  (22)  But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, (23)  to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,  (24)  and to Jesus…

Living to see God’s Kingdom rule expressed through Zion is at the heart of what Isaiah prophesied.  It is to be a  motivating factor for how God’s people live their life on earth.  Paul, as well as many other NT saints lived their lives to see God’s glory revealed “through the church/zion” (Eph 3:10-11, Col 1:24,  2Cor 11:23-28).  Their first concern was not for their income’s sake, their career’s sake, or  their preferred geographic location’s sake (oh to get a good job and live in the mountains).  Their first concern was “for Zion’s sake.”

Examples of living “For Zion’s Sake”

This seems so foreign to much of the materialistic consumer driven Christianity and church life we see in the Unites States.  When we do come across examples of saints living their lives “for Zion’s sake” it seems a little weird or odd.   Yet in God’s design it is admirable.  I have recently came across a couple of testimonies about people  living their lives for Zion’s sake.  They may seem strange to some but they are music in the ears of those who long to see God’s Zion become what He intends her to be. The first is from Hunter that you can read at http://huntersmumblings.blogspot.com/2013/12/when-are-you-going-to-move-back-to.html.  The second is below.

The silence was deafening.  Mark had just been pitched a compelling vision of his future by the next president of his Fortune 500 company.  The “vision” involved a lucrative salary, some serious perks, and a position as his personal assistant.  Yes sir, opportunity was certainly knocking…more power, more challenge, and plenty of income were only a handshake away.

Many men wait their whole lives for this.  At that moment, though, Mark was just searching for a diplomatic way to say, “No thanks.”  Mark enjoyed his work and did it with excellence.  But he knew the unspoken cost and compromises would accompany this new position.  Evenings at the office, weekends away from home, a life preoccupied with business – he mentally reviewed the checklist as his boss waited for his response.

The issue was not just “family values” or time away form his wife.  This “opportunity” posed a threat to something which had become part of the fabric of Mark’s Christianity and the reason for much of his spiritual growth.  In a flash Mark realized this new position might compromise a higher vision God had given for his life…a vision to be committed to the local church and live “For Zion’s sake.” Mark said no.  Four years later, he has no regret.  As Mark said, “God convinced me there was a higher priority in life and that’s where I wanted to be.” That higher priority was Zion.  

He made a decent living and he didn’t want anything to jeopardize his calling of service in his local church.  He knew the new position and extra responsibilities would have made it difficult for his continued involvement.

Some may feel Hunter and Mark are too fanatical in their convictions about Zion.  Some may even think that God is most glorified by their career advancement and a more moderate approach towards the church.  Other’s may realize that both are captured by what Isaiah saw in living “For Zion’s sake.”  After all when you check the end of the Bible only two things will go on into eternity with God, Jesus and His church!    

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