Sitting on the front porch was so relaxing as I enjoyed the beauty of the north woods. The owners of the fishing resort had placed bright red hummingbird feeders outside each cabin and it was a delight to see the little birds flitting around drinking the sweet nectar. It didn’t take long for the birds to drink the feeders dry. For two days I watched the birds keep coming back and go from slot to slot sticking their beak into the feeder only to come up dry. The feeders were empty and the birds went away hungry. The bright red feeders attracted the attention of the hummingbirds but offered nothing for them.
The Lord has given His church the responsibility to be a place where believers can be fed the Word of God. Paul challenged Timothy to: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). He also tells us that the church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). The church has the responsibility to offer a careful and thorough exposition of scripture. I am afraid that many churches today resemble those bright red hummingbird feeders that I saw. They may have brightly colored programs, attractive music, and entertaining speakers, but they have eliminated the most important thing. A healthy diet of preaching and teaching from the Word of God is absolutely essential for our spiritual growth. As we continue to witness the unraveling of society around us it is necessary for God’s people to grow stronger in the faith to weather the storms that are coming. A shallow entertainment-driven Christianity just will not do.
I really felt sorry for those hummingbirds that kept coming back to the empty feeders. It was so great when the workers finally came around and filled all of the feeders again to satisfy the hunger of those little birds. Don’t be satisfied going to a church that has an empty feeder.
They just weren’t biting. We were after walleyes but for some reason we couldn’t find them. We navigated the boat to several different locations on the northern Minnesota lake but still no luck. After several fruitless casts, I finally got a bite and reeled in a large walleye. When I got the fish into the boat it flopped around violently. When I removed the hook it cut me with its gills, shook its head vehemently and flopped around some more. The fish was not happy being out of its element. After I measured it, it happened to be too big to keep. So I released my unhappy walleye into the cold lake water and watch it as it swam away.
A fish out of water reminds me of a believer out of fellowship with God. Those who have been redeemed need to follow the example of God’s Son. They need to swim with God’s people. And they need to obey the principles of God’s Word. But sometimes a believer gets hooked by a sinful habit or a worldly philosophy and finds himself in an unnatural environment. They then struggle with guilt and the terrible consequences of being out of fellowship with the Lord. God tells us in His Word in Gal. 5:16, 17: “…Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirt and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another so that you do not do the things that you wish”. When we choose to take the bait and swim in the realm of the flesh we become like a fish out of water and we end up doing what we don’t want to do and being where we don’t want to be.
Have you been there? Perhaps you have been caught by a sinful activity, or enticed into a forbidden relationship? Those who know the Lord Jesus as Savior need to shun any lure that would take him out of fellowship with his wonderful Lord. Don’t end up becoming a fish out of water.
God taught me so many lessons during a recent trip to visit mission works in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is a tropical climate and doesn’t get very cold any time during the year. I learned that many of the churches do not even have walls, they were constructed with just a good roof and solid floor. I had the privilege of preaching in one of those churches in the capital city of Managua. As I was waiting to speak I could hear the traffic and other noises of the city outside the church. Since there were no walls I could also feel the temperature of the heat of the day. The pleasant aroma of some local family selling food on the street cooked in their own kitchen wafted into the wall-less church. Pigeons also joined the congregation that Sunday to praise the Lord. Distractions didn’t seem to bother those assembled on that morning.
A church without walls. What a concept. I believe we should think of the church of Jesus Christ as being a church without walls. Sometimes we get so focused on what is going on within the 4 walls of our own church that we have no knowledge or concern with what is going on in our community around us. Do we feel the burdens, do we hear the voices, and do we know the struggles of the people living just outside our walls? The early church in the book of Acts enjoyed wonderful fellowship within the body. But they also made a powerful impact upon those outside their walls. They shared the gospel everywhere they went: in the public squares, in the marketplaces, in homes, and even in prisons. The Bible tells us about the impact of the church in those early years. The church without walls is said to have “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
How can we be the church without walls today? We can go out of our way to make sure everyone is welcome into our assembly. We can look for ways to be a refuge for those who are struggling with the hardships of life. God help us to be the church without walls.
Pastor Stultz has been writing this weekly devotional for many years. In 2009, he published a compilation of devotionals in book form, also called Moments of Meditation