A Lukewarm Life

We got a new coffee pot the other day. Our old one took over 45 minutes to brew a pot, moaning and groaning as it gave its last hurrah percolating that final, awful, 2/3 full pot of brown water. We knew it was time to part with the old, and embrace the new.

And what a revelation the new one is!

With our old coffee maker, we became used to coffee that was warm-ish. In fact, I would usually have to pour myself a cup, and then throw it in the microwave for 30 seconds just so it would remain warm long enough for me to drink. Now, with the new machine, the first sips of deliciousness nearly sear our lips because it is so hot! (This is a feature I love, whereas the dear husband needs to add an ice cube or two before he partakes of the dark goodness.) The new pot holds heat from the first cup to the last dregs, both equally warm. We had become so used to the old that we acclimated to it, knowing that it wasn’t exactly what it should be, but in our apathy, we accepted it anyway, unwilling to change until the machine took its final, seizing breath.

We live, we work, in a culture that hates change, that chooses comfort over all else. We have acclimated to the world around us, and, no matter how much we complain or despise it, we do nothing to change it. Because, well, change is hard. It takes work. It takes a deep conviction, and few of us have strong convictions about much of anything anymore.

With every passing day, I am realizing the apathy the North American church has acclimated to. We are no longer hot, burning with the fire of the Holy Spirit deep in our bones, passionate about spreading the Gospel message of salvation, mercy and love. No, we are lukewarm, claiming Christ, but not living in Christ. Speaking with our mouths, while our hearts grow cold, and our hands idle from refusing to minister to others.  We cast judgement upon others, while never judging ourselves for our own hypocrisy. We choose fear over faith, comfort over compassion, Facebook newsfeeds instead of the Good News of Christ. We have forgotten that we are part of the upside-down kingdom of Christ…where the least are the loved, the broken are restored, and the sacrificial Lamb is the King.

Revelations 3:15-16

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

It seems even more prudent now, in this day and age, that we live out our lives with conviction and passion and Christ-centered, holy love. Now is the time to throw out the lukewarm of our lives and be consumed by the fire of the Holy Spirit. Now is the time to engage with the culture around us….not to combat culture, but to open up our arms of compassion and exemplify the mighty power of Christ as we lift up the brokenhearted, bind the wounded, care for the widow and orphan, doing the things Christ himself taught us to do.  I believe the only way…THE ONLY WAY…the world around us will see Jesus is if we really begin to be the hands and feet of Jesus, where our words and our actions are in accord. We can’t speak about loving our neighbor while we leave them outside in the cold, hungry and hurting. We can’t speak about being Christ-followers when we follow the world. The culture around us knows Christians…but they don’t know Christ, because they can’t see Him in us.

Church, let us no longer be lukewarm, but let us burn bright, on fire for the Lord.

Let us begin to live our lives as we were created to do…in worship to the Creator, honoring Him with EVERYTHING that we are, everything that we do, and let it be every day, every hour, every minute and not just one hour set apart on Sundays. Let our Saturday nights be as holy as our Sunday mornings.

Let the world around us see Christ in us, let them know we are truly a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17), transformed by His love and grace and mercy.

Let us be a body of believers who live to serve, not to be served. Let us reach the world, not from a place of superiority, but servanthood.

Let us embrace forgiveness, let us know love as a verb, let our hearts be broken for what it is that breaks the heart of God and let it stir us to action.

Let us be careful with our words, using them to lift up another, and let our tongues be silenced when we seek to wound another. Let us speak in truth AND love, not just one or the other.

Let us love our enemy, let us know our neighbor.

Let us no longer be acclimated to the comfortable and constant, satisfying our selfish desires, but instead let us embrace change and transformation.

Let us spit out the lukewarm.

Church, it is time we rise up. Rise up and shed the coat of apathy that is weighing us down. It is time to rise up, to plant our feet firmly on the solid rock of Christ and to be bold and courageous. It is time to rise up, set down our cups of coffee and lift up our hearts to the Lord.

It is time.

Information Overload

I have spent the last few months becoming a #churchnerd. Yes, that’s right. A church nerd. How, you may ask, does one become a church nerd?

It begins with reading. Lots and lots of reading. Blog articles. Web sites. Books. Lots of books. It continues with more reading, listening to podcasts devoted to church leadership, church health, pastoral care, preaching and church renewal. It involves prayer and a good bit of talking with others in ministry, those entrenched in the muck and mire of the everyday shepherding of their flocks and battling the darkness of culture.

I have soaked myself in data and research reading. The Barna Group and Pew Research Data are like my BFFs for information.

And you know what? All of the information, all of the current studies and books and research depresses me. It frustrates me. It saddens me.

We live in a world that is increasingly more secular, and our culture is shifting dramatically towards it. The words “unchurched” and “dechurched” are become daily parts of our vocabulary. As someone in the trenches, it is easy to get sucked into a woe-is-me attitude, especially seeing it from the perspective on this side of ministry.

I was reminded recently, however, that it is not all doom and gloom. After all, as believers, we know who wins in the end. We know that Jesus will be victorious. His kingdom will reign. (Can I get an amen?)

The hubs and I went to Tennessee recently to attend a ministry conference. It was a foretaste of heaven, to be surrounded by so many believers raising up their voices in prayer and song. It felt like holy ground.

 

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                                                                                                                  photo courtesy of Seedbed

Prayer and revival were among the themes of the 3 days. We worshiped together, we prayed. We listened, we worshiped, we learned, we prayed, and we worshiped again. With every speaker, my soul was convicted of the bitterness and sadness that has taken root. In tears, as I confessed to my sins, my heart broke. The hard shell of disappointment shattered and fell to the ground as I released the burden of it to the Lord. Something happened within the conference and in the travel time with friends. Something holy. Something good.

You see, even in the midst of reading, and writing, and spending time becoming a church nerd, it was all in my head. I was learning, but I wasn’t growing. Knowledge is a good thing, but knowledge is best when it transforms the heart and soul, when it stirs one to action.

My heart is in revival. I have come to the realization that revival begins in each of us, when we open our heart to seek after the Lord with a hunger that we haven’t known before. This is where I am now. It is a hard, and a holy, place of transformation, of growth.  No longer am I just seeking information, but I am seeking after the heart of God, desperate to have His heart for His world.

In a journey of faith, we must seek to be revived over and over again. The world will do its best to wreck us, to make us angry and bitter. The world and its despair will harden our hearts to the cries of the needy, the hurting, the marginalized. The world will do its best to destroy our peace and shake our faith.  The world will overwhelm us and the only way to not succumb is to trust in the One who has overcome the world.

All the data, all the reading, all the information in the world will do nothing if we do not use it to stir up revival in us.

Information needs to lead to transformation.

 

 

 

 

5 Easy Ways to Stay Exactly the Same

Change is hard, amen?  No one likes change and everyone bucks against it when it comes.

And it does come, sweet friends. There is nothing so constant as change. It comes in the weather, it comes in the seasons, it comes in the day-to-day decisions of life.  Jobs change, friends change, people change. We are in a constant state of growth and death, of renewal and rejection. In every moment, there are ways to choose the path of growth, of health, of renewal….or the path that leads to stagnation, death, decay. And friends, it is a choice. It takes a conscious decision to continue to move forward, even in the hard times, even through the pain, even through the dark nights of the soul.

Our spiritual lives, just as our physical lives, have cycles of change and rebirth, inspiration and darkness. But if you don’t want to grow or change? Well, here is 5 ways in which you can choose to remain the same….

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  1. Don’t pray.   Prayer leads to a deeper relationship with God, and richer relationships lead to….work. Renewal. Walking through the valleys and the peaks. All relationships take time and effort to grow them, and it is no different with God. A rich prayer life is how we communicate with our Savior, and how He communicates with us. As you deepen your relationship with God, love will overwhelm you and you will want to act out of that love. God will stir in you a desire to reach more people for the Kingdom. Just don’t do it if you want to remain where you are at!
  2. Don’t seek. Close your eyes and turn off your mind. Don’t read spiritual books, don’t allow inspiring speech to hit your ears, don’t let music touch your heart.  And above all else, don’t pick up a Bible!  God will continue to seek you out, in order to inspire you and teach you and grow you….but ignore it the best you can. Keep your eyes downcast and focus only on yourself so that you aren’t seeing the beauty and the tragedy in the world around you. Which leads to my next item…
  3. Be self-focused. Don’t invest in others. Worry about how your needs are being met only, and not about spreading the Gospel message to those who may have not yet encountered Christ. Do not become passionate about serving the outcasts of society. Never ask a relative or friend how it is with their soul. Never invite another person to join you at your local worship service. Someone sitting in your seat? Kick ’em out. Someone else making you feel uncomfortable with their questions or comments? Ignore them. Never engage those who may challenge the way you think or the way you do things. To do so may cause you to question and wrestle with your beliefs and traditions. Gasp! Who needs that stress?
  4. Be a cultural Christian. Be nominal in your faith. Sure, if someone asks you what your faith is, answer Christian, but never live out Christian witness. To do so may deem you a “radical.”  Show up for the occasional worship service (Christmas and Easter are your best bets.) Don’t spend more than exactly 60 minutes in a worship setting, and never cultivate deep friendships with other Christians where accountability matters. Don’t invest time in learning and growing in your faith. Spend all your free hours sucked up in the latest viral videos, or social media, or binge-watching Netflix. Pay more attention to the break-ups and hook-ups in Hollywood than you do to the heartbreak God has for His people. Romans 12:2 (NLT) states: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” But what do I know? It’s only scripture….
  5. Don’t risk. You read that right. Risk can equal rewards, but it can also lead to hurt and frustration. Risk can lead us down a path filled with glory and joy, but it can also lead to some pretty dark places as we join with Jesus in setting the prisoner free. Risk can lead us down into the valley of shadow and death, and if we aren’t clinging tightly to the Shepherd, we can fall in the pit. Let fear hold you hostage. Let fear keep you from living out a life of freedom in Christ. Without taking a risk, you never need to worry about growth or change.

All 5 steps sound easy, don’t they? It would be so much easier to be stagnant, to sit and just BE. And yet, God continues to pursue the hearts of His people. God continually invites us to grow and change and be transformed, not by this world, but by His grace, mercy, and love. God doesn’t want us to stay the same. God desires our hearts. God desires our willingness to be the clay as the Master Potter molds and shapes us into the image of the Savior.

I hope you read this as being light-hearted, if a bit snarky, but it really isn’t a light-hearted subject. The sad state is that these are not crazy things you’ve read. These are all attitudes I have had at one time or another, or things I have struggled with in my own hardened heart. These are words I have heard fellow Christians say. These are the actions (or non-actions, as the case may be) of many of our churches, by many of our people. This is the state of Christianity around us. And it breaks my heart. 

Friends, Jesus came to give us life, an abundant life. It is not a life of worldly abundance of riches and ease, but it is a rich, full life.  It is a life that is better when we walk along with one another, lifting each other’s burdens, carrying one another’s loads. It is a life better lived in community, and a life best lived when we are following our Shepherd, clinging tightly to His cloak. God will never leave us, nor forsake us, but will be beside us as we live into the life He has given us.

Risk it all, pray unceasingly, love the other, seek to find God in everything, and live a life where no one doubts whom you serve.

Embrace change.