Lukewarm and Loving It! – Part One

When given a choice, the vast majority of people will take lukewarm over hot or cold every time. On cold winter days we turn the heat up so we are as “warm as toast” – lukewarm, not hot. On hot summer days we turn the air conditioner on and bring the room temperature to moderate or lukewarm – no longer hot but also not too cold. Lukewarm!

Why do we do this? Because people don’t like extremes. And why do we like things lukewarm? Because it’s comfortable. But settling for comfortable will paralyze your spiritual life every time. This is why so many believers are so anemic spiritually. They don’t take the Bible seriously, not because of any great theological conviction but simply because it makes them uncomfortable.

Working with the poor or connecting with people who are “different” takes us outside our comfort zones. Sharing our faith, tithing, giving, serving, caring, stretching, connecting, and praying are all essential for a living faith but often don’t happen, usually because they are risky, inconvenient, or difficult. We would rather put our faith in neutral, give in the compromise, and settle for a lifeless, boring faith than experience the kind of discomfort that creates growth.

The amazing thing is this: almost no one starts out this way. Few brand-new Christians are lukewarm. Most new believers have a vibrant faith. Worship is new and fresh. The Bible is becoming an open book. Stunned by God’s amazing grace, they can’t wait to help their friends experience the same. Then something happens. Their romance with God turned to routine. Delight turns to disillusionment. Enjoying God is replaced by enduring life. And another church-attending, cross-wearing, lukewarm Christian is produced.

What happened?

They have fallen prey to a number of things that destroy their passion and thus their spiritual growth and health. And, we will discuss those in this new series of daily blogs.

Jesus, Matthew 22:37

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

Lukewarm is not good enough … Following Jesus means being passionately in love with Him.

It seems that today Christians want to attend church but not necessarily follow Jesus. They want to be “good” but not too good. They want to be “right” in what they believe but not to the point of fanaticism where it changes the way they think and the way they live. Growing up we would have called this “having your cake and eating it too.” Not possible. You cannot be lukewarm and follow Jesus. He told us that…

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit (vomit) you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16)

Chad Walsh wrote:

“Millions of Christians live a sentimental haze of vague piety, with soft organ music trembling in the lovely light from stained-glass windows. Their religion is a thing of pleasant emotional quivers, divorced from the will, divorced from the intellect, and demanding little except lip service to a few harmless platitudes. I suspect that Satan has called off the attempt to convert people to agnosticism. If a man travels far enough away from Christianity he is always in danger of seeing it in perspective and deciding that it is true. It is much safer, from Satan’s point of view, to vaccinate a man with a mild case of Christianity, so as to protect him from the real thing.”

Christians seem to want to attend church but not necessarily follow Jesus. Let’s continue tomorrow and look at why this is true.

The Growth Of the Early Church

As I look at the early Church – the Church as we see it in the various books of the New Testament – I see that people came to know Christ through a variety of methods used by the first Christians. The six primary approaches were public proclamation, private conversations, power encounters, prophetic prayer, presence of God, and proliferation (planting) of new house churches.

These were not expensive and highly organized programs or projects dependent on mere human genius, but rather natural, spontaneous, passionate, prayer empowered, and Spirit-led expressions of faith.

Thus, the general principle of first-century outreach can best be described as wherever, whenever, whoever, and however.

Let’s look at these briefly… Read more

Price Tag For Being Safe and Secure – Part Four


Playing it safe and not stepping out in faith has a fourth consequence for the believer and disciple of Jesus who is trying to remain secure and comfortable. Playing it safe shrivels our hearts.

If you are a Christ-follower and are listening for His voice every day, Jesus is going to challenge your faith by asking you to do what seems impossible…

I want you to go on a mission trip.                                                                                 I want you to start tithing.                                                                                                I want you to go talk to that person about Me.                                                              I want you to ask forgiveness from that person.                                                         I want you to lead a small group Bible study.                                                              I want you to work with junior high students

Our faith gets tested and stretched only when we respond to Jesus asking us to do something that in our human logic is impossible. Taking steps of faith is the alternative to the boredom and stagnation that causes most people to wither up and die. Author Gregg Levoy called it the “common cold of the soul.”

To sinful patterns of behaviour that never get confronted and changed,      Abilities and gifts that never get cultivated and deployed – – –                         Until weeks become months,                                                                                    And months turn into years,                                                                                         And one day you’re looking back on a life of                                                      Deep, intimate, gut-wrenchingly honest conversations you never had;            Great bold prayers you never prayed,                                                          Exhilarating risks you never took,                                                                   Sacrificial gifts you never offered,                                                                           Lives you never touched,                                                                                             And you’re sitting in a recliner with a shrivelled soul,                                           And forgotten dreams, and you realize there                                                               was a world of desperate need,                                                                                   And a great God calling you to be part of                                                    something bigger than yourself – – – –                                                                       You see the person you could have become but did not;                                     You never followed your calling.                                                                                  You never got out of the boat.

It is time, Christian, to stop looking for safety, security, and comfort. It is time to take a risk of faith and step out into the calling on your life as a follower and disciple of Jesus.


Price Tag For Being Safe and Secure – Part Three


Playing to safe and being comfortable and secure in life has a third consequence … it stunts our growth. We were created by God to grow when we are challenged and stretched. The Christian life should do just that – challenge us and stretch us.

The idea that you can insulate your life to the point where you are guaranteed total safety is a sham. You can still be taken out in a freak accident. I shared these two accidents in a previous blog but they deserve to be mentioned again. These two unexpected accidents you could never have shielded yourself against even on your best days of working hard to be safe and secure…

In the early nineteenth century in London, a giant vat of beer exploded and a fifteen-foot wall of beer cascaded down the street. Seven people drowned in beer. I know some people would think, “well, if you gotta go…”

In 1919, in Boston, a giant vat of molasses exploded, and the molasses oozed into the street/ It managed to kill twenty-one people. I can hear it now: “Molasses! Walk for your lives!”

Christians stop serving and even going into all the world because it might not be safe. They stop tithing and giving because it might not be safe for their finances. They stop sharing their faith because it might be embarrassing. They stop risking, they stop asking God what He wants them to do, and they slowly develop an apathetic, boring, “safe” faith.

When you take a risk and God comes through for you, then He becomes more real to you. That fires up your heart and starts you on the path to discovering a faith that is alive.

There are no guarantees in life. And, there is always a risk in everything that we do. And, when we step out in faith to do the things God has called us to do in His Word, our Bibles, then we can know for certain that He is with us and will help us and enable and empower us.

In Mark, chapter 20, Jesus instructs His disciples to “go into all the world and make disciples.” Then He ascends into heaven leaving them to complete the task He began … seeking and saving the lost (Luke 19:10). They are “on their own” so to speak as He is no longer physically available to them to talk to and ask questions of. They don’t have a set, detailed plan to “take the world for Jesus.” Jesus did not fill them in on the details, He simply gave them the big picture. Do we really think they knew what they were doing. Not at all! But, they stepped out in faith. And, remember, the Roman Empire at this time was not exactly a risk-free environment in which to minister and establish the Church.

But, in spite of the circumstances and the risks they stepped out in faith as Jesus told them to do. And, Mark writes, “And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20)

Note the order … they stood up and stepped out (risking and not staying safe) and Jesus showed up and showed off. If they had not obeyed and stood up – stepping out in faith – then Jesus would not have showed up and showed off. “Jesus worked with them” … which means that they had to step out first before they saw any miracles, signs, and wonders.

This would not have happened if they were playing it safe and being secure and comfortable in life.

Price Tag For Being Safe and Secure – Part Two


Last time we saw that being safe and secure limits our impact on others for Jesus. The second thing playing it safe does is shrink our faith…

Try to turn to a passage, any passage, in your Bible, where God calls someone to something safe. Abraham leaves the familiar. Moses goes to the familiar – Pharaoh – where he could face certain death. Esther puts her life in danger to persuade the king. David takes on a giant. Joshua crosses a river. Peter gets out of the boat in the midst of a storm. Jesus goes to the cross.

Every call of God, when embraced, is risky. However, authentic faith is developed only when we respond to the call of God and take a risk. That’s because when we take a risk, we learn that God can come through. We learn that God can do what we can’t do on our own.

I can’t find a single verse in the Bible where Jesus says, “Come, follow Me. Play it safe.”

A preacher was speaking at a conference where he called Christians to stop living safe, comfortable lives with no real failures, risks, or struggles.

He had a balance beam put onstage. While standing on the beam, he described the desire for security and stability in all of us. To illustrate the danger of that choice, he said, “Imagine you’re at the Olympics…. Then, instead of doing a risk-filled routine, he just lay down on the beam, wrapped his arms and legs around it, and hugged it. He explained how people respond to instability by refusing to venture out. They say, “I’m just going to have my nice little family. I’m going to homeschool my kids. I’m not going to let them outside because the sun has bad rays.”

He went on, “I don’t want to do anything crazy for God. I just want to go to church on Sundays and maybe give like 2 percent, and maybe help in the nursery”… You do this your whole life then you say, “God, You know what? I would love to die in my sleep and not even feel it and then just go up to heaven.”

Then he crawled off the balance beam and threw his arms in the air as if he’d just dismounted from a spectacular Olympic performance.

He then asked, “Could you imagine watching the Olympics and watching someone do that, then expect a great score? What is the judge suppose to say?”

Lousy balance beam routine, but great point. No points.

Fighting to be safe, secure, and comfortable shrinks our faith.


Price Tag For Being Safe and Secure – Part One


A man recently received a package in the mail. Stamped on the front were bold words… YOUR INVITATION TO ADVENTURE!

He thought, Awesome! What’s in here? A trip down the Amazon? Hang gliding lessons? A real invitation to the White House? A safari in Africa? Not a chance. When he opened the envelope he discovered that his “invitation to adventure” was – wait for it – a packet of coupons for stores at the local mall.

Now, if you are looking for more out of life than a trip to Walmart…

If you refuse to believe that the ultimate goal in life is walking slowly up to your grave and falling in safely…

If you want more on your tombstone than the phrase, “What a relief – Nothing Bad Happened”…

Then this series of four blogs is for you!

Let’s look at the price tags of playing it safe…

1> Playing it safe limits our influence and impact

Most people play it safe because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear of rejection. Fear of ridicule. Fear of not knowing the right answer… And, as Christians we should be recovering fear-aholics. We need to be set free and embolden to do amazing this with and for God. However, sad to say, if given two options, most people will almost always choose the safer one.

The result of this kind of lifestyle is boredom and lack of impact. In fact, more than that… Playing it safe will not only limit your impact but it will also send you down the road to stagnation, unrealized potential, and unfulfilled dreams.

So, we need to grab hold of God-given, God-sized dreams and then take some God-honouring risks. After all, we are called, as disciples, to walk by faith and not by sight. And, we are to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. We are called, by Jesus, to set our hand to the plough and then not look back. It is called faith. It results in fun and a tremendous adventure.

Yes, it is a challenge and it will take you to the limits of your abilities and skills and even beyond. But, as soon as you take off the handcuffs of fear and decide to make your life count for Jesus and His Kingdom you release the Holy Spirit to work in and through you to change the world one person at a time.

Much better than a trip to Walmart…

More tomorrow…

No Simple Answers


While in Russia recently I was honoured to be at the graveside service of a young man I had met on a previous visit. He was 32 years old, recently married, and expecting his first child. He was well liked by everyone, always smiling, and served in his local church with a good heart. He was always there for you if you needed someone or something. He was greatly admired and liked.

He died suddenly and many were in confusion as to why God let this happen. There was even talk about raising him from the dead.

As I stood at the graveside watching the men shovel in the dirt over the coffin it was a time to reflect that there are often no easy answers. When my own father died when I was in my mid-twenties and he was only 56, I remember asking God the hard question – why? There was no answer then. There is no answer now.

Let’s face it, sometimes there are no simply answers in life. No pat religious answers. It does no good to try to live life believing that your faith will give you all the answers to events and situations in life. Not true. Does not happen. We are called to follow Jesus regardless, because…

Without Jesus’ love, we become critical and even cynical                             Without Jesus’ sacrifice, we become selfish                                                      Without Jesus’ grace, we become legalists.                                                     Without Jesus’ direction, we become driven by opinion                                 Without Jesus’ values, we care about all the wrong things                          Without Jesus’ wisdom, we become unbalanced                                          Without Jesus’ passion, we become boring.                                                   Without Jesus’ joy, we become lifeless

So, in the midst of situations and circumstances where I simply don’t understand or don’t have answers, I know only one thing to do – follow Jesus regardless. There are simply no easy answers or religious pat answers.

Last comment: I tire of Christians who feel the need to have an answer for every person who asks … life and the Christian faith are not like that. You can’t simply pass off one of your pat religious answers that are not biblical and never help anyone as godly wisdom believing that it is true and helpful. Time to grow up and realize that the Christian faith does not have all the answers and never claimed to. Life happens. But, in the midst of life, we have Jesus!

Many questions will go unanswered and that should be okay. In fact, it is okay!


Breaking Free – Part Four


We are looking at breaking free from the idol of safety … also cleverly disguised as Christians needing to feel safe, secure, and comfortable. So far we have seen a number of things we can do to destroy this idol in our lives…

1> Stop saying no to everything just because it is scary.                                         2> Start praying some dangerous prayers.                                                                 3> Get out your wallet

Today, let’s look at another step we can take to destroy this inactivity and inertia …

4> Stop watching – try living.

As believers we need to get off the couch. We watch a phenomenal number of hours of television a week and thus sit safe, secure, and comfortable. We hear or read stories about people who leave their comfort zone and do amazing things with their lives. But, we never get off the couch and join in on the adventure. We live to work and life is boring and repetitive at best.

Imagine the impact on a community and a culture if those who call themselves disciples of Jesus turned off their televisions or get off the internet for even a week and went out and got seriously involved and connected to the lives of people in their community.

Many Christians will listen to  sermon about getting out of the boat like Peter did and then go home and spend the next six hours in the top-selling chair in North America … the La-Z-Boy. We consume, on average, five hours of television every day. Instead of watching reality TV, try living some reality! I know, the idea never crossed your mind. A novel idea, nonetheless. And, a good one. May even be a God idea!

Bestselling Christian author Philip Yancey, describing an idea originated by G.K. Chesterton, wrote that we need “a new kind of prophet, not like the prophets of old who reminded people that they were going to die, but one who reminded them that they are not dead yet.”

So, get in motion and start really living. And, as much as possible, get in motion to serve others.

When first saved I made a quality decision to live life and risk it. I decided to celebrate every day as if it were a gift from the Giver of Life. It is! And, that would mean living life to its fullest and to not simply let life drift by. And, soon after that, one of my mentors wrote that there are three things you can do with your time – waste it, spend it, and invest it. I decided to do the latter. Each day I want to do something and/or say something that is an investment in another person’s life.

Stop watching – Get involved – Try living! Great advice to kill the idol of comfort and safety.


Breaking Free – Part Three


To break free and move into God’s plan for your life you need to be set free from the idol of safety… To do so there are some definite steps that you can take. In the past several days we have looked at:

1> Stop saying no to everything just because it is scary                                        2> Start praying some dangerous prayers

Today, let’s look at the third thing we can do to defeat the need to be safe, secure, and comfortable as believers.

3> Get out your wallet

Gratitude is one of the healthiest human emotions. maybe that’s why Paul the apostle said, “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). I can always add, “But He also accepts gifts from grouches.” But, f you learn to give, you will not be a grouch long. Somehow joy and giving are connected.

But, in the Christian life many are in bondage to money and will not risk anything that might cause them to have less to live on or endanger their income and retirement funds, their pleasure and their comfort.

Of course, giving sacrificially runs totally counter to the philosophy that exists in almost every nation that I work in – the opinion that having more will make us more happy or more fulfilled. If a lifestyle of acquisition and affluence led to a happy life, Howard Hughes would have had a ball. As described by pastor and author, Bill Hybels:

“All he ever wanted in life was more. he wanted more money, so he parlayed wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favours so skillfully that two U.S. presidents became his pawns.

All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise…

He concluded his life emaciated; colourless; sunken chest; fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumours; innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction.

Howard Hughes died believing the myth of more. He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards.

Giving breaks the grip of materialism in life and frees us to follow Jesus and do what He has called us to do. That may explain why sacrificial generosity was one of Jesus’ themes and became the lifestyle of the early church. The first church was barely up and running when it was described this way: “They began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45).

Generosity is risky but also far more fulfilling. And, it gets us off the couch and into the adventure called the Christian faith. It moves us out of the safe, secure, and comfortable zone and into a walk by faith that bring life, liberty, and an experience of love that can never be experienced when we are in bondage to the idol of safety.

When you start giving – sacrificially giving – you will start living God’s way. When you start giving and living and developing a heart of sacrificial generosity, you will find that you have come fully alive!

More tomorrow…