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.

You give love a bad name

It is a cruel twist.  Love is supposed to be the core value of what Christians believe and how they act, and yet love seems to be the one thing missing from many “Christian” hearts.

Don’t believe me? Just read the comment section on any blog or article. It doesn’t even matter if the article is on faith, politics, social justice, racism, or how to make a batch of cookies…someone, somewhere, will use the name of Jesus to spout hate and venom.

Sometimes, the person making a comment will use church-y phrases or justify their cruel words with Scripture passages they don’t understand or take out of context.  But more often, they use shame, name-calling, and hate-speech, all while claiming to be Christian.

the-broken-heart

How is this speaking in love? How is this showing the world the grace and mercy found in Christ Jesus?

In the upside down nature of the kingdom of Jesus, we believers are to be humble, embodying love, forgiveness, and grace. In Christ’s kingdom, we are to lessen ourselves in order to raise up others. There is no greater place to be than in the servant role, laying aside our own selfish desires in order to serve another.  It doesn’t matter another’s religion, their race, nationality, gender, or even the state of their hearts. They do not even need to appreciate us in our servant role. Rather, we are to pour out ourselves, willingly, lovingly, for the sake of the other.

This is what it means to be a follower of Christ, what it means to be Christian. It means to stifle our (sinful) inclinations to be right, to be dominant, to be louder than other voices.  It is putting aside our wants, our desires, our selfishness and instead giving our time, our energy, our love in service for another, with no ulterior motive other than to serve out of a holy love of God and our neighbor. This is not watering down the Gospel message, but rather embracing it wholeheartedly and living it to the fullest measure.

It is being counter-cultural in a culture that worships the ascent up the success ladder, seeks fame-for-any-reason, idolizes money and “stuff”. It is being counter-cultural in that we move downward, rather than upward.  It is putting aside the Americanized version of Christianity, where prosperity equals blessings, and wealth equals worth, and instead, clinging to the truth that the meek will inherit the earth and the merciful will be shown mercy.

Have we missed the point? Are we that blind to the truth of who Christ calls us to be?

No convert has been made through insults. No honest dialogue has happened through name calling and denigration.  No transformation has happened through hate.

Christ tells us the greatest commandment is to love God and love neighbor. He doesn’t put parameters on it, telling us only to love if they are the same as us, if they look the same, think the same, if they know God, if they worship the same way, if they are in the same economic class. No, Christ just commands us to love. And that love is our witness. Love is building relationships, having conversations, being authentic, serving and caring for the physical, emotional, and yes, spiritual needs of our neighbor. And who is our neighbor?

Everyone.

There are no exclusions, no exceptions. We each are made with the fingerprints of God upon us, the imago Dei (the image of God) inside of us. Every human being has sacred worth because they are a creation of God, and His breath has breathed life into them.

Your neighbor is the Muslim family down the street, the gay couple next door, the atheist in the cubicle next to you at work. Your neighbors are those you know, and those you will never know, across the span of this beautiful green and blue sphere. Your neighbor is those who hate you, those who mock you. Your neighbor is the drug dealer in “that” part of town, your neighbor is the alcoholic sitting in a booth at the local bar, your neighbor is the meth addict locked up in the county jail. Your neighbor is the homeless woman, pushing her tattered belongings in a shopping cart across the park. Your neighbor is the person sitting across the aisle from you at church, the one that you carry bitterness towards. Your neighbor is all these, and more. And if you claim Christ, you must cling to the love He had for every one of these, for the least of these.

And we will all mess it us, at some point or another.  And we will need to forgive, and seek forgiveness. That is part of living in a world broken by sin, scarred by hatred, tainted by evil. We will never be perfect, or always get it right on this side of eternity. Even with the best of intentions, we might get it wrong, we may injure another. But when are hearts are open, when our souls are filled with the love of the Creator, when we long to love in the way we have been shown by Jesus, then we are moving forward in building His kingdom here on this earth.

That is the beauty of mercy and grace. If we embrace this, we will begin to see transformation of the world, beginning with the transformation of our hearts.  Perhaps then we will see another song ring true….

“And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.                                          Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

 

Hope floats

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
“You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’
But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”  Mark 5: 24-34 (NIV)

She was unclean. According to Jewish law, she, along with everything she touched and sat upon, was unclean.  Everyone who touched her was unclean. She tainted everything, according to the law of her people, because of her blood.

For twelve years she sought healing, sought relief. For twelve years, she sought help from the doctors, and spent all she had. She sought freedom from her symptoms, from her pain, from her shame.
She shouldn’t have been in the crowd. According to the law, she was to be separated from others. She was living a life sheltered from the world around her, ostracized from her community, her friends, even her family.  With her medical issues, she was alone and lonely.
And desperate. 
Mark tells us she had spent all she had. She had given everything in hopes of being cured. She had put all of her hopes into the ways of this world. And the world and it’s cures had failed her.
But here comes this man, this healer, this Jesus.
Even living on the fringes of society, she has heard the stories. Great stories of healing. Stories of blind seeing, mute speaking, lame walking, the dead rising.
Hope stirs once again inside of her.  If floats up through the disappointment, through the hurt, through the shame, and it makes her breath catch.  Could he help? Could he free her?
But can she risk it?  Does she dare go out? Would people recognize her, shame her?
Her desperation resonates with me. I have been wrung out, exhausted, weary. I have known desperation. I have known the longing for healing.  I have reached out to Jesus in my heartache. I have reached out, when the only thing I had left was a sliver of hope that, in His goodness, He would heal. When I have had nothing left in the world to put my hope and trust in, I put my hope and trust in Him.
This woman goes out. She blends into the throngs of people as they crush around Jesus. Perhaps she stays low, so she won’t be recognized. Perhaps it is the weight of her shame that bends her low. Perhaps it is the pain in her belly that keeps her low to the ground.  We don’t know why she reaches for the hem of his garment.  But she believes that if she only touches his cloak, she will be healed.
She reaches for him.  Brushes her fingers against the fabric.

4.2.3

And then she feels it.
Health.  Both Mark and Luke tell us that it happens immediately.  Freedom.
And she feels His eyes search the crowd.
“Who touched me?”
He knew.  Fully God, fully man, He knew who reached out to Him.  He knew her condition, her desperation, her shame, her longings.
She fell at His feet.  Can you imagine the fear, the trembling? She had broken the law. She had made him unclean. She had risked everything she had left and put her hope in this Man.  She admitted it was her.  She bared her soul.  With a trembling voice, she claimed her faith that His power would heal her. She testified to the hope that stirred in her.
Those in the crowd who knew her muttered. They cast hard stares. They judged, condemned.
But what does Jesus do?
He calls her Daughter.
He includes her into his family with a gentle word. He frees her. He gives her peace.  There is no condemnation, no shame, no judgement.  Only healing. And love.
This is one of those stories of healing that pierces my soul.  I know her desperation. I understand her misery.  I have struggled for decades with illness, though not one anyone sees.  The darkness in my mind has overcome me at points in life.  Depression has threatened to beat me down, hold me in it’s dark tentacles, drown me.
The only thing that has kept me out of the depths is the hope I find in Jesus.  The only thing that has kept me alive when the darkness overwhelms is the glimmer of light that He brings.
Even when it seems as though I was abandoned, alone, drowning in the ocean of anxiety and fear and despair,  my soul reached out.
 I have reached for the hem of His garment. 
The beautiful thing about grace and mercy is that you find it in unlikely ways.  In the times I have felt the least lovable, the most dejected, when I have heaped condemnation and shame upon myself, that is when I have been struck with the love and mercy of my Savior.
In the most broken places of my soul, that is where hope continually rises to the top, in a place where I am held and loved.
And healing begins there.
image from womeninthebible.net