Archive for January, 2010
The ancient city of Laodicea had a water problem. The problem was there was no water. At least not in the city itself. There were hot springs 6 miles away near the town of Hierapolis. That water wasn’t drinkable and would lose its soothing warmth by the time it was taken to Laodicea. At about the same distance in the opposite direction, there were deliciously cool sources of water around Denizli. These waters would also lose their cool temperature when transported to Laodicea, resulting in an unpleasantly warm drink. The only water available to the Laodiceans was lukewarm at best.
When Jesus addressed the Christians of this city in the book of Revelation, he used an illustration they would understand: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). The Greek word translated “spit” is more accurately translated “vomit.” It’s an unpleasant image for an unpleasant condition: Christians who have lost their passion, who have compromised their loyalty to Christ.
Unfortunately, the world has seen too many Christians just like this. Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” The agnostic Sheldon Vanuaken wrote,
The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians–when they are sombre and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths.
If you’re not a Christian and that’s the only Christianity you’ve seen, then I’d urge you to look again. There are Christians who have overcome this perpetual state of apathy. They know that Christianity isn’t just about showing up at church at certain times. It’s a way of life. As Vanuaken said, such Christians are the best argument for Christianity that exists.
If you are a Christian, but find that lukewarm describes your faith, let me encourage you to go back to the basics. Focus on Bible study and prayer. Find a church and make yourself an active part of it. Reconnect with God each week by participating in the Lord’s Supper.
Nobody likes lukewarm. Nobody wants to be lukewarm. And nobody wants Jesus to “spit them out.” If you need help rekindling your faith or don’t know where to find a church to be a part of, just leave a comment or contact us through this site.
I like the idea of being healthy. I know if I practice a healthy lifestyle I will feel better and live longer. I know that to be healthy I need to eat right and exercise. I have friends who belong to health clubs and who enroll in weight loss programs to accomplish their healthy goals. That’s fine for them, but I do not need them to be healthy. I do not like them.
Weight loss programs are consumed with rules — always telling you what you can and cannot eat. They are so caught up in numbers that they want you to keep a record of how much you weigh. Gyms are no better. Someone is always yelling at you, telling you what to do. All they do is ask for my money, and they are pretty unrealistic about how often a busy person can attend. So I want to be healthy, but I do not need memberships and programs.
Sure there is some benefit to being with other people with the same goals and focus. I guess the accountability factor could help. Their programs evidently work. I know healthy people belong to health clubs and weight management programs. But not me. I do not need them and I do not want them. But I am really serious about being healthy! I will lose weight my way and I will feel better one of these days.
You have figured out by now that if I really had an attitude like that I would not be real serious about being healthy. Nor would I want to be around people who were. You would conclude that I was fooling myself.
In the same way, how can someone say they want to be a follower of Jesus but not have any connection with a church? Maybe being part of a community of believers is not for you. If you do not enjoy being around people passionate for Jesus, if you do not want to be part of programs that help you grow spiritually, and if you get offended by anyone who expects you to live up to the commitment you made … then church is not for you.
But if you are serious about living a life for Jesus, connect with others who can walk with you on that journey.
I find the story of the ancient city of Sardis to be a fascinating one. At one time, it was one of the wealthiest cities in the world, ruled by a king named Croesus. There’s even an old proverb that talks about being as rich as Croesus.
The city was protected by a mountain fortress. When enemies attacked, the people of Sardis would flee to the fortress, with the steep rock face of the mountainside protecting them from all foes. With vigilant sentries guarding the walls, the fortress was impenetrable.
It was a different story, however, when those guards were asleep. After Croesus had unsuccessfully attacked the Persian army of Cyrus, he fled to his citadel to wait out the siege. Cyrus offered a reward to any of his men who could find a way to penetrate the fortress walls. One of the Persian soldiers saw a guard drop his helmet, climb down to retrieve it and climb back up. That night, the Persians used the same route to scale the mountain and attack the fortress. To their surprise, when they arrived at the top, all of the people of Sardis were asleep, including the soldiers. The conquest was swift and almost effortless.
In the New Testament, the people of Sardis were sent a message by Jesus: Wake up! “Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you” (Revelation 3:3). The Christians there had become complacent and needed to be awakened.
I need that sometimes as well. My daily routine and the rhythm of the world around me lull me into a spiritual slumber. I begin to “go with the flow,” letting my circumstances dictate how I will feel and what I will do.
I need that spiritual alarm clock that cries “Wake up!”, reminding me that drifting my way through life can only lead to disaster. I have to consciously think about priorities, consciously plan to resist pressures to conform and actively choose to be a person of faith. If I don’t wake up, complacency will creep upon me by night, overwhelming my defenses and destroying all that I hold dear.
As the news of the day grows worse and worse, we need to shake ourselves from our siestas, remember the things that we have heard and obey them. It’s not just about knowing, it’s about doing.
It is a good thing that I like changing weather. I enjoy knowing that one night it can be 25 degrees with snow but in a short time could be 61 degrees. However, I live in West Texas and that weather change recently occurred within a twelve hour time span. On some days, I go to work in a sweater and coat and by lunch have the air conditioning on. And in West Texas, the change sometimes catches even our meteorologists by surprise. How can you prepare for change like that?
It’s like life, isn’t it? Sometimes something happens that we had no idea was coming: sickness, job loss, accidents, or natural disasters. Our emotional life fluctuates from one extreme to the other. We can go from joy to heartache in just a few moments. Relationships falter, marriages struggle, friends hurt us. It works the other way also. Good news on test results, a hug from a child, a job promotion, a birthday or anniversary, a heartfelt apology, and time spent with people who love us can lift us to emotional highs.
We all want the wonderful experiences of life, yet we know the hard times come… sometimes quickly, and sometimes unexpectedly. Surviving the “climate changes” of life is not as easy as putting on – or taking off – a sweater. We all need something solid, stable, and permanent in our life… something we can count on no matter what happens or how we are feeling.
There is something – someone in fact – you can count on to be unfailingly consistent. Jesus was the same yesterday as he is today. And he will be the same tomorrow. He is always there, always loves you, and will not be affected by the circumstances of your life. In a world where things can change dramatically in just a heartbeat, he is the one certainty you can count on… no matter what happens tomorrow.
That is how I have survived the radical changes in my life.
So what do you think?