Monday, April 13, 2009

Lukewarm Easter Leftovers


Easter Sunday is finally over. The lamb or ham has been removed from the board, and sits in a plastic bag or container in the fridge. The kids are back to school. We're back at work. And Christ, that welcomed guest on Sunday morning, has been turned out again, to stand on the doorstep while we go about our lives inside.

Revelation 3:20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

We don't always let Him back in. Is it more convenient to leave Him standing on the step? The neighbors will drive by and say 'oh, hey, they've got God!' and we won't actually have to take Him in to our home... or heart. It's a beautiful pretense.

So God stands outside the door. Inside, there is turmoil. Where is Christ? Every fiber of your being is seeking him. You drag behind, overwhelmed by the world, never once looking outside to admire your lawn art. And Christ still stands right outside the door. Waiting.

In time, we forget about Christ's Gift completely. We might have to take extra steps to mow around him to keep our walkway clean. He's just an object, a symbol. We're no longer on fire for the Lord. The neighbors don't admire it anymore. They now whisper 'we thought they had God, but look how everything's crumbling along the walk.' Worse would be 'oh, so this is what it's like to have that ugly eyesore, God, in our life. Well, that's not for me. It's a sick pretense, to be sure.'

I've never been comfortable with verse plucking, and I do think the passage verse 20 comes from is integral to everything.

To the Church in Laodicea
Revelation 3:14-22
"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God's creation. 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.

You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.'
But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

The passage is one of my favorites... aren't they all?... because it lets us know that we, sinners and fools, have a chance with God. Some of us grow complacent in our walks, neither on fire for God nor turning from him. Lazy Christians. We think we can glide by just because we have a large Jesus in our front yards. Look how rich we are by having that! We need nothing but Jesus out there!

This passage is sometimes confused with the concept that we have to tell all the sinners off, to tell the world how wrong it is, because not doing so makes us lukewarm. Pardon me, but it's not a matter of telling the world how it's going to hell. We must embrace Christ, invite Him inside, allow Him to stay there, and allow Him to reshape us during our spiritual rebirth. If we do not, and if we simply sit there and 'be Christian with yard art', we're lukewarm and lacking the Fire of the Spirit in our lives. Better to have the Fire or to turn away from the Glory than to go around trying to impress the neighbors with our poorly kept walk(way).

It's not easy finding a balance between warm and cold, and most Christians try to stay as Fired up as possible. God cuts us a bit of slack in Revelation chapter 3. Above the letter to the Church in Laodicea, we find a letter to the Church in Philadelphia... and I don't mean the city up the way from me here in PA.

To the Church in Philadelphia
Revelation 3:7-13
(NIV) "To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no
one can open.

I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.

I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars—I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you.

Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole
world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming soon.

Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."

God is very clear on this: I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have no denied my name. Wouldn't the lack of strength indicate a lukewarm walk? I don't believe so.

The Church in Philadelphia endured things patiently, in great spirit. Jesus is not yard art. They invited Him in, and rejoiced for it. They were not mighty... the Philadelphia city was in the interior, southeast of Sardis, and had never attained the eminence of most of the other seats of the Seven Churches. That the church itself was poor and wanting in worldly endowments seems to be indicated by Revelation 3:8. Yet this church and that of Smyrna alone escape censure.
By modern standards, many 'fundies' would judge this church as lacking conviction, and accuse it of being lukewarm. Christ chose what He chose, despite the Church in Philadelphia not having the strength to stand up and tell the rest of the world what to do with itself. Surely, even with the praise and reproof, it couldn't have been lukewarm!

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
3:7-13 The same Lord Jesus has the key of government and authority in and over the church. He opens a door of opportunity to his churches; he opens a door of utterance to his ministers; he opens a door of entrance, opens the heart. He shuts the door of heaven against the foolish, who sleep away their day of grace; and against the workers of iniquity, how vain and confident soever they may be. The church in Philadelphia is commended; yet with a gentle reproof. Although Christ accepts a little strength, yet believers must not rest satisfied in a little, but strive to grow in grace, to be strong in faith, giving glory to God. Christ can discover this his favour to his people, so that their enemies shall be forced to acknowledge it. This, by the grace of Christ, will soften their enemies, and make them desire to be admitted into communion with his people. Christ promises preserving grace in the most trying times, as the reward of past faithfulness; To him that hath shall be given. Those who keep the gospel in a time of peace, shall be kept by Christ in an hour of temptation; and the same Divine grace that has made them fruitful in times of peace, will make them faithful in times of persecution. Christ promises a glorious reward to the victorious believer. He shall be a monumental pillar in the temple of God; a monument of the free and powerful grace of God; a monument that shall never be defaced or removed. On this pillar shall be written the new name of Christ; by this will appear, under whom the believer fought the good fight, and came off victorious.

Where is your Christ today? Is He beside you, a part of you? Will you grant Him access year round, or is He nothing more than a decoration one or two days a year?

Listen... He is knocking!

Sunday, April 12, 2009



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It was Mary Magdalene who walked down to the tomb in the early morning hours, without the escort of the Apostles or other men, to set the embalming things up so the other women could help her prepare the body. She picked her way through the deserted trails that lead to the tombs, with a low fog blanketing the land during that quiet spring morning. This was a woman whom Jesus had healed of 'the demons' of epilepsy, and the love she held for him was more pure than any physical love. As she walked, she remembered her life before he healed her, and all the pain that went with daily living. She reflected upon the last moments he spent with her, reassuring everyone that his Father's will would be done, and that the promise of his resurrection would be kept. It didn't sooth her much...

She was weeping when she arrived at the tomb. Through her tears, she saw the heavy stone rolled back, and looking around, she saw no Roman guards, and the body was gone. In terror, she ran back to the Apostles, and told Peter what she saw. The men ran with her back to the tomb, and looked around, and finding nothing, returned to their place of hiding, leaving her standing there alone. Had they doubted her words when she first told them? Or did they feel this was the final hammer fall... the body was gone and the hope of Jesus' return seemed impossible.

Mary continued to weep, drawing closer to the empty tomb. Suddenly, she realized that there were two strangers standing there, bathed in brilliant white. The spoke to her, asking, "Woman, why are you weeping?"

Mary, in her grief, cried out, "They have taken away the body of my Lord, and I do not know where to find him!" How could she possibly convey the terror she felt in her heart? Didn't they understand? Was this a way of Rome mocking him one last time? Was this a cruel trick?

A second voice called out, and she turned to see the gardener standing quietly beside the opening. "Woman," he asked her, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Mary was a bit shocked. How can anyone living here not know about Jesus? She would not play that game. She pleaded to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

The man replied, "Mary." And she knew... she knew that voice. It was impossible that she was hearing it again, yet had he not promised he would return to them? Was he not broken, and yet there he stood before her? He was alive! Jesus was alive!

She cried out, "Rabboni!!", which is Aramaic for 'teacher', meaning to throw her arms around him in joy, but he told her, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' "

Mary ran back to the others, her tears now ones of joy, and proclaimed, "I have seen the Lord!" She told them all that had happened.

Hallelujah! Christ is risen, and Christ will come again!

(Based on John 20)
Happy Easter to my friends!
May the Lord bless you this day, and every day.

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(Orig Published 4/15/06)