As I Ponder Lukewarmness

As I Ponder Lukewarmness

Hello everyone, I know it has been quite a while since you’ve heard from me. In the past few months I have had the opportunity to present a few messages at my local congregation and coincidentally, the topics that the Father wanted me to speak on, were topics that I had already been preparing myself to write a blog post on. Consequently, I did not feel the need to write a blog post afterward so now here we are.

The topic of lukewarmness is something I have felt weighing heavily on my heart in the recent weeks. What does it mean to be lukewarm? Obviously, it’s being neither hot nor cold, but how many of us truly fall into those categories? I’m sure we are all familiar with the passage I am referring to that speaks of lukewarmness but it is Rev. 3:15-16 which states, “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 cold nor hot – I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

I want to make a quick contextual note here. Laodicea, the city where this church was located and this prophecy was written to, was a city that was sitting in a valley. There was fresh water that flowed down from the mountain near them that started ice cold at the top but by the time it made its way down to Laodicea, it was lukewarm. There was also a hot spring not too far from them, but in the time it took to carry the water from the spring back to the city, the water was, again, lukewarm. I find it interesting that both the hot and cold water had a designated purpose and use. Typically, I hear pastors compare the hot water to true genuine Christians and the cold water to unbelievers. Personally, I believe that both the author and the audience understood it to be a good thing to be either hot or cold because they both had common uses or a specific purpose. Lukewarm water on the other hand did not, especially when it comes to human consumption. 

Given what we now know about the context surrounding this verse in Rev. 3, I want to take a look at some of the properties of lukewarm water. If I were to take hot, cold, and lukewarm water, and put samples of each of them in an environment that matched the waters’ temperature and maintained it, which sample would begin growing bacteria first? In other words, which is more prone to bacteria, cold water in the fridge, hot water being heated to 200 degrees on the stove, or lukewarm water sitting on the kitchen counter? Clearly, the lukewarm water. It is when we are not actively living out God’s will for our lives and being used for His purposes, that we find ourselves in a lukewarm state. It is also when we are in this lukewarm state that sin begins to fester and grow and we begin to leave a bitter taste in the mouth of God and the body of Messiah.

So how does one become lukewarm? Well, how does either hot or cold water become lukewarm? Remember, from the perspective of the Laodiceans, they are thinking of water that started out hot or cold and became lukewarm. Two things happened. Time passed. And as time began to pass, the water began to acclimate to the temperature of its surroundings. Many Christians, shortly after their conversion,  have a fire burning within them and feel they know the specific purpose and direction that God is calling them in. Then time passes. And as time passes, the world begins to influence them. They begin to doubt God and His calling on their lives. They begin to make compromises. They spend less time seeking God and more time seeking self pleasure and self gain. Slowly, they become the same “temperature” as the rest of the world and sin begins to take root, fester, and grow. What breaks my heart most is when I see a majority of this “acclimating” happen as a result of more experienced Christians taking the new believer under their wing to teach them that they don’t really need to be so passionate and serious about their faith in order to still be a “strong, mature Christian.” Yes, it is true that new passionate Christians have the tendency to make some foolish choices as they begin to learn what it means to hear God’s voice. Still, a believer should only continue to grow in his passion and pursuit of God as he matures. Sadly, this is rarely seen.

Now I’m sure that all sounds really great and thought provoking in principle but I want to get a little more practical and go little bit deeper. In Rev. 3, God says that He is going to spit those who are lukewarm out of His mouth. So what does it really mean to be lukewarm on a practical level? What does a lukewarm Christian look like? Thankfully, Rev 3 is not the first time that God has become so fed up with a group of people so much that He “spit them out of His mouth.”

The idea of writing this blog post actually originated as I felt led to begin reading through the book of Jeremiah. Granted, I have only made it through the first 10 chapters but I could not wait until I got to the end to write something on this matter. I believe that Jeremiah gives us a bit clearer picture of what it really looks like to be lukewarm.

The Book of Jeremiah is an account of the prophetic warnings with which Jeremiah rebuked the people of Judah during the reign of the last five kings of Judah before being taken into exile by the Babylonians. In a very real sense, God was spitting these people out of His “mouth” by sending them into exile from His land, Israel. The primary reason for their exile was due to idolatry. They had set up idols to the gods of other nations inside the temple and began to adopt the practices and customs of the surrounding nations. 

In Jer. 2:20-23 it says, “‘Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, “I will not serve you!” Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock. How then did you turn against me into a corrupt, wild vine? Although you wash yourself with soap and use an abundance of cleansing powder, the stain of your guilt is still before me,’ declares the Sovereign LORD.  ‘How can you say, “I am not defiled; I have not run after the Baals?”’” At first glance this may seem far from you or I, but I want  to consider for a moment that we may not be much different. 

There was once a time when you had passion, you were in the Word of God daily, you shared your faith and testimony regularly, and you were constantly praying and hearing from God. At some point, you began to look at the world around you and remember what it was like to just relax and watch tv all day or spend hours each week binge watching your favorite shows. You remember what it was like to hang out with your friends after work, getting tipsy, and doing/saying things you probably shouldn’t have. Soon you begin to miss some of the things you used to do but you are wise enough now to know which things are okay and which things are just completely immoral. But you wish you could go back to feeling a little less serious about life and give yourself some time to be more care free. So we turn our TVs back on for an hour each night. We go out with our friends once a week and have a few drinks. These in and of themselves are not inherently wrong but this is typically what the beginning of the “acclimating” process looks like. As you begin to set your eyes on the things of this world again and not on the things above, you start skipping your devotional time. First its just because you forgot, then it’s because you stayed up too late the night before watching a movie(again, not inherently wrong). Soon you notice your prayer life decreasing, your spiritual growth slows down, and you find yourself being more reluctant to share your faith and what God is doing in your life because He’s no longer a part of your everyday life. This is when we begin to look like the one that Jeremiah is speaking about who says, “I will not serve you,” and begin setting our old fleshly wants, desires, and cravings above our pursuit of God and have entered into spiritual idolatry. This is when we go from being hot to being lukewarm and acclimating to the world around us. It is at this juncture that we begin to see sin grow and fester. Though we were planted as a “choice vine” and should be producing high quality fruit for others to benefit, we have now become corrupted and wild. Old sinful habits begin to re-enter the scene and you accept them as something God is just gonna have to be okay with every once in a while because nobody’s perfect. Then you come to church the next week after “washing yourself with soap and using an abundance of cleansing powder,” hoping that God will accept your worship. Enough weeks, months, and even years of this go by, and you will likely have convinced yourself that since God hasn’t struck you down, you must be living a life pleasing to Him. I mean, after all, most everyone else in your church lives this same lukewarmish lifestyle when the only day they think about God is the day they go to church and maybe once during the week at a bible study. At least your consistent, right? Isn’t that what a strong Christian lifestyle is all about? But then a Christian comes along who is not lukewarm and they begin to share their story of their pursuit of God with you. You begin to feel slightly convicted but you quickly justify your actions in your mind saying, “I am not defiled; I have not run after other gods.” 

How close are we to some form of this depiction? Later in Jeremiah 2 we get another glimpse into the heart and mind of what the people of Judah believed about themselves and their walk with God. Verse 35 says, “You say, ‘I am innocent; He is not angry with me.’ But I will pass judgment on you because you say, ‘I have not sinned.’” One might say, how could this be? Surely they knew they had turned to other gods. But throughout Jeremiah we see two different perspectives, God’s perspective and man’s perspective. Remember, if you bring the pot of water to a boil slow enough, the frog will never feel it, even unto the point it dies.

I will finish up by returning to where we started in Rev 3. Verses 19-20 say, “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 that person, and they with me.” He disciplines and rebukes those He loves. So if you are feeling conviction from this, I urge you to not respond by claiming your innocence but rather to be earnest and repent. He says, “I stand at the door and knock.” How many realize that He is not knocking on the door of our hearts here? It is humbling thought to consider the context that this is being written to a church at the end of days. In context, He is standing at the door outside the church of Laodicea, implying that He is no where to be found inside of the church. In the words of our Messiah, I want to pose the same question He did in Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the earth?”

In summary, to be lukewarm is to have started out hot and have made the slow and gradual descent into spiritual adultery, which is idolatry. There are innumerable things that are not inherently wrong that the enemy tries to use in our lives to draw us away from God to the point where we will put that particular thing above God and thus fall into idolatry. So what is idolatry? To quote a song by Jimmy Needham, simply put, “anything you put before your God is an idol. Anything you want with all your heart is an idol. Anything that I can’t stop thinking of is an idol. Anything that I give all my love is an idol. You can sing all you want to and still get it wrong. Worship is more than a song.”

If you are moved by these lyrics and feel that you may have walked into idolatry without even realizing it, I encourage you to listen to the full song.

https://youtu.be/6smGew7dGto

Blessings and shalom, 

Jonathan 

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As I Ponder God’s Eternal Nature

Well it is turning out to be a bit challenging to find time to write a blog post each week, nevertheless, I will continue trying! This weeks blog post is going to be a bit lengthy so I hope you have some time to spare.

In the past few months I have been pondering what it really means for God to be eternal and incomprehensible. In fact, the reason I first thought about creating a blog was because I knew that if I wrote a lengthy Facebook status detailing my reflections on this very topic, no one would take the time to read it lol. I want to take the time to analyze God’s eternal nature and ultimately end up discussing how His eternal nature literally makes Him indescribable and incomprehensible. I will also be touching on more Scripture in comparison to my first two blogs.

First I would like to discuss some uses of the word eternal. Is there a difference between God giving us eternal life and Him being eternal? Does that make us eternal too? But unlike God, we have a starting point to our existence, so how does that work? I did some studying on this and discovered that eternal can be used both to describe something without beginning and end (i.e. God) or to describe something without end but with a beginning (I.e. His eternal/everlasting  covenant). Another way to think of it is that when we receive eternal life, it is HIS life we are receiving, which is eternal. I know this probably seems obvious to some, but I just wanted to cover my bases because as I was personally meditating on God’s eternal nature, I was reminded of the fact that we are given eternal life and knew that there had to be a distinction between the two ideas.

Now I’d like to shift gears briefly to recall some of my favorite passages of scripture in which we find details of His majesty and glory.

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” -Ex. 19:16-18

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.” -Isaiah 6:1-4

Those are just two short passages to illustrate my point but if anyone has the time I would encourage you to read Rev. 4 and my all time favorite, Ezekiel 1. It is clear from these passages, especially Ezekiel 1, that God’s glory is magnificent and personally has helped me to establish a reverent fear of God. It is usually after reading these passages that we begin to understand God’s indescribability. Yet, these verses still describe Him. So what does it mean that He is indescribable and incomprehensible? My ultimate goal in this blog post is to prove God being incomprehensible doesn’t just mean He is really hard to wrap your head around or even that there is an infinite amount of information to be known about Him but rather that He is literally unable to be fully described or comprehended even if given an eternity. I believe that the key to understanding this is directly connected to our understanding of God’s eternal nature.

Now, (that was all intro btw lol) some of you may have seen a video thats been circulating social media recently of a theologian responding to an atheists question of “Who made God?” Without getting into his full response, the part to his answer that got me thinking was when He said that when God created the universe He created time, space, and matter. His reasoning was Gen. 1:1 “In the beginning (time), God created the heavens(space) and the earth(matter).” 

So going back to God being eternal, part of what that means is that He not only has been here since the beginning and will be here till the end of time, but He also exists apart of time. So lets ask a question, did God exist before creation? It’s a trick question because the question is flawed. To say that there was anything before creation implies there being a timeline before creation, which there is not. Creation is when time began. He sees the universe and everything in it from beginning to end and yet for us who are limited by time both in this life and the one to come, the end of time will never come. And as tempting as it is to get into my thoughts on predestination vs freewill, I will save that for another blog post. 

Now going back to the passages of scripture that we say proves God is indescribable. Although we can admit that what these men of God saw was very difficult to describe and they sometimes failed to find the right words to describe what they saw, it was still describable. But the fact is that every physical manifestation of God, whether through visions or what we will experience in heaven or have experienced in the spiritual realm, is still only a portion of Himself that has transcended from His existence outside of time, space, and matter into the universe that He created. 

So what do I mean when I say He is literally incomprehensible? I mean that everything that we say, do, think about, and every idea that ever has been and ever will be, is thought of and described in terms of time, space, and matter. How do you describe or even begin to comprehend God when He exists outside of time, space, and matter? You literally can’t.

Anyone else feeling like Job at the end of the book when God rebukes him and he replies, “I am insignificant?” Perhaps this is part of why Solomon, in all his wisdom, insists that everything is meaningless all through Ecclesiastes. And yet as insignificant as we are and as incomprehensible as God is, He is still a personal God. He experiences emotion. He loves us deeply and sent His Son to be rejected and slain for us. Praise God that His love endures forever. This should compel us to fear Him all the more; to know the value He places on us despite our insignificance in comparison to who He is. Recently, a pastor friend of mine, while commenting on what it means to fear God, said, “ It isn’t an anticipatory ‘what if…?’ It isn’t a meditation over what God might do that you don’t like.  It’s just a recognition, in the moment, that He is awesome.” 

I think that is what we need in the Body of Christ today, to recognize that He is awesome and that He loves us. Then maybe we would straighten up and stop testing His patience, myself included. I want to conclude this post with one of my favorite verses that I have just recently decided to make my life verse.

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” -Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

As I Ponder What It Means To Seek His Face

Hello everyone! I apologize for taking two weeks between posts, it has been quite a busy time of year for me. In this post I would like to share my story as the Father has been teaching me what it means to seek His face and not His hand.

Several weeks ago, the song “Dance with Me” by Paul Wilbur was played during worship at my church. The song is all about how God, our Bridegroom, desires to dance with us, His bride. While I was singing, Abba brought me back to my wedding, specifically my first dance with my wife. During that dance it was as if there was no one else in that room. Our eyes were locked and we were looking straight into each other’s souls. There was no room to hide. If there was something I had kept from her, she would see it. I’m sure every married person can relate to this experience. The Lord then spoke to me saying that this was the dance He was looking for when we ask Him to dance with us and then He said I want you to seek my face and not my hand.

We all want that well paying job, that broken relationship to be restored, that sick person to be healed, that miraculous check in the mail and for all of our prayers to be answered yes, but that is not where He wants our eyes focused. He wants to dance with His bride with her eyes fixed on Him, His heart. I’ve realized that though there is nothing unscriptural with the idea of blessings and curses if you obey or disobey, He wants to take us deeper. The outward blessings we receive for living righteously are only to draw the unbeliever to jealousy. The true blessing of living righteously is being able to have unhindered intimacy with our Bridegroom. The one who seeks His hand and not His face will only have relationship with Him as deep as you would with one of your own friends that treats you the same way, only looking for favors or an ear to listen to their problems. The one who seeks His face knows His heart and never doubts His love for them and has no need to worry about the future because they know He will take care of His bride.

Personally, I have found that this is easier said than done because sometimes you want to see God’s hand move in a particular situation so badly that it is hard to know what your motives truly are in anything that you do. What was your true motive for forgiving that person? What about the homeless man that you helped the other day? What about your tithes and offerings? What about your daily prayer and devotion time? Are you simply just trying to put on a show of good works for Him waiting for His hand to move and bless you? Or are you truly seeking His face and making yourself available for Him to reveal His heart to you? The past few weeks or so I have been asking the Father what it really looks like to seek His face. This past week on Yom Kippur, as I was reading the psalms, two verses stood out as clear as day that I felt was the answer to my question.

Psalm 25:14 “The Lord confides in those who fear him;” Those who seek His face are those who fear Him, those who He can confide in and share His heart with. Take a moment and think about the times that someone has confided in you or vice versa. When something is weighing heavily on someone’s heart and they choose to trust you with it. When was the last time any of us felt like God had confided in us and shared something with us that was weighing heavily on His heart? If I’m being honest, I don’t know if He has ever confided in me which probably means He hasn’t. The verse says it is those who fear Him that He confides in. For that reason I believe that those who truly seek His face are also fearful of what they might find. Yes, God loves us and is for us, but you must understand that when you are seeking a deep level of intimacy with the infinite, incomprehensible, unseen God, there is absolutely a need to be fearful.

The 2nd verse He led me to was Psalm 27:14 “Wait for the LORD, be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” The word here for wait is qavah and it means to wait, look for, hope, expect, collect, or bind together. I believe that when we wait, look for, hope, and expect Him, in that process He collects us(if done corporately) and binds us together with Himself. Those who seek His face wait on Him to speak, guide, and direct their paths before moving. Those who do not seek His face wander aimlessly looking for His hand. The greatest men of God I know or have read about, are the ones who have spent countless hours in prayer, usually without speaking. They spend hours waiting for Him to give them His heart, to confide in them, and guide there every step. Granted, 8 hrs of prayer each day is an extreme and not what I am advocating for everyone but I know He wants to take His people deeper.

Fear Him and wait on Him in prayer. These two things are what separate those who seek His hand from those who seek His face. In closing, we serve an all powerful God and right now He is looking for a Bride who is ready to dance with Him, she just has to be willing to lock eyes with Him and lose sight of everything else. I pray this resonates with you and blesses you, shalom.

Jonathan

As I Ponder Nahum and Jonah

As I was reading through some minor prophets the other day, I spent some time thinking about the book of Nahum. I’m sure I am not the only one that if asked what the book of Nahum was about, would be unable to answer the question to any capacity up until my study the other night. Nahum is a fairly short book detailing Gods anger toward Nineveh and a prophecy given to Nahum of their coming judgment and ultimate destruction.

Most likely we all know about Nineveh from the book of Jonah, but it wasn’t until the other night that I learned something new about Nineveh that changed my entire perception of Jonah. We know from Jonah 3:3 that Nineveh was a very large city and took 3 days to walk through but I have come to learn that Nineveh was also the capital of Assyria. Now, you might be thinking, “that’s great, why do I care about Assyria?”

Assyria was responsible for the captivity and dispersion of the northern kingdom of Israel, home to 10 out of the 12 tribes of Israel. Assyria was known for taking over cities swiftly and with force, many times torturing and mutilating the leaders of the subdued city before beheading them. They were the dominant world power at the time Jonah preached to the city of Nineveh. 

As I began to process all of this, I finally started to understand the prophet Jonah. I have heard many a sermon based out of Jonah where Jonah is depicted is silly, foolish, and petty. And though there may be some truth to it, I’ve never taken the time to try to identify with how Jonah was feeling at the time that God chose to have compassion on Nineveh. 

Imagine for a moment, that China invaded America and took control of everything west of the Mississippi River and was responsible for the death and torture of millions of your fellow Americans. God then calls you out of the remaining portion of America and tells you to go to Beijing and tell the people there to repent. Begrudgingly, you go and they repent and God turns away His wrath from the nation that is responsible for the swallowing up of 60-70% of yours. Anyone else beginning to understand why Jonah felt the way he did?

Please don’t misunderstand, I am not trying to justify Jonah’s anger or his bitterness toward God. I am just trying to pull out the depth of emotion in this very short book that I think gives much more weight and clarity to what was really going on.

The first thing that struck me was the level of Gods compassion and eagerness to turn away His wrath. This was not just a small city that stood on its own. This wasn’t even a massive city that stood on its own. This was the main hub of the only world superpower of its time but because of the repentance of Nineveh, God chose to delay His judgment on the nation of Assyria. We learn in Nahum that their repentance didn’t last long and that judgment still came to Nineveh. So why bother sending Jonah in the first place and not just execute judgment? In Jonah 4:11, God says, “and should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than 120,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left-and also many animals?” Yes, He cares about the animals too but that’s not the focus. Even though Nineveh reverted back to its wickedness and idolatry after a couple generations, we don’t know how many of those 120,000 of that first generation actually kept the faith. That’s what God was after, the people who didn’t  know any better. We live in a world today full of people who don’t know any better except to live wickedly just like they have been taught to do by the generations before them and so on. Do we have the same compassion toward them as God had toward the Ninevites?

The second thing that struck me was something that I had to take some time to introspect and ponder. I believe that Jonah felt personally offended by the wickedness of Assyria and their responsibility for the captivity and dispersion of his own people and that is why he reacted so emotionally to Gods compassion toward the Ninevites. The Lord then asked me a question, “what do YOU do when someone who has hurt you, repents and finds me?” This could be anyone from an ex best friend, to someone who always rubbed you the wrong way, or even more fitting, someone who hurt someone you love? Do we meet their repentance with the same anger and skepticism Jonah did the Ninevites? Do we get frustrated when we start to see God blessing their life? Do we question the authenticity of their salvation because we don’t think they will keep the faith for long? Are we actually angry with God for accepting them? Shame on us for not rejoicing with them and offering prayer or encouragement if/when appropriate.

As we’ve seen, through a little bit of digging, there is much more to the story of Jonah than what is written. I find cultural context to be one of the best tools we can use to help us properly understand and interpret scripture. In closing, I want to ask the question, does your heart look more like Jonah’s or more like God’s? As you reflect, you may be shocked to realize just how much you can identify with Jonah. I know I did. 

Please feel free to comment any thoughts, questions, disagreements, or concerns. I love to dialogue. I pray you are blessed and brought into a deeper relationship with our Heavenly Father through this study. Shalom.

-Jonathan