In today’s Bible reading, Jesus warns the Laodicea Church against its lukewarm walk with Jesus. Jesus tells the church that He would rather a church — or an individual, by implication — be either piping hot or stone-cold as opposed to being lukewarm.
One of my favorite scenes in the Christian Movie War Room features Miss Clara serving a cup of coffee to her new friend Elizabeth. Elizabeth has told Miss Clara that her relationship with Jesus is occasional. Comfortable. As she prepares to take a sip from her freshly-served cup, Elizabeth is shocked that the coffee isn’t hot. At all! Miss Clara connects the dots between a lukewarm faith and a lukewarm cup of coffee. God doesn’t want us to have a lukewarm faith any more than anyone wants a cup of lukewarm coffee.
So, how is your walk with Jesus? If you’re reading this devotional, I assume that your spiritual walk isn’t icy cold. But is it as hot as it used to be? Or would you say that your love has grown a little cold? Perhaps it’s neither icy hot, nor piping hot, but instead is a tepid lukewarm.
Jesus is very clear that lukewarm isn’t where He wants you to be in your relationship with Him. (Revelation 3:16)
What are some things you can do to keep your faith hot? Here are a few ideas:
- Spend some alone-time with God, asking Him to reveal those areas where you have neglected. Expect God to speak! And be ready to take notes and make adjustments to your life.
- Prayerfully consider my devotional on Revelation 2. Ask God to bring a revival to your heart, to rekindle a neglected love relationship with the lover of your soul.
- Prayerfully set some goals to read and study your Bible, to memorize Bible verses, to spend time praying, to join with other Believers in worship, to tell other people about Jesus, to give of yourself, etc. (in other words, to practice the Spiritual Disciplines), and then ask another Believer to hold you accountable. There’s no need to overplan to the point of burnout, but oftentimes, having a small plan — and sticking to it — beats having no plan at all.
Don’t put this off! Do it today!
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Psalm 139:23–24 (ESV)
Practicing what I preached on Sunday. I’m not going to say, “Happy Thanksgiving”. Instead, I’ll say, “Be thankful”. We have so many things to be thankful for: God and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone, God’s Word, the air we breathe, the food we eat, our friends and family, our church community, our health, jobs, and the greatest country on the planet.
Be thankful, everyone! Be very thankful.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen Paul and Peter warn against false teachers. In today’s Bible reading, Jude takes his turn. Who was Jude? There are a couple of possibilities. Jude could have been the Apostle Judas who was sent to Antioch with Paul, Barnabas, and Silas in Acts 15:22. Another, and more likely was the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus; he refers to himself as James’ brother in Jude 1.
Like Paul and Peter, Jude is concerned about false teachers who are leading God’s people astray. Jude says, “Dear friends … I found it necessary to write, appealing to you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” (Jude 3 CSB)
I think that most Believers in the Twenty-First Century don’t understand the struggles that First Century Christians were forced to deal with. In addition to the Romans and the Judaizers, Believers had rogue believers to deal with. These were people who may have claimed to have come to faith in Christ and departed, turning to false doctrine, or to extra-biblical myths. They were bad news to the young church. Thus, we find several New Testament writers addressing the problems of these false teachers and telling their readers to be on their guard. Jude says that Believers should fight for their faith. And that’s exactly what they had to do.
But fighting for one’s faith isn’t limited to First Century believers. Even now, we must fight for our faith which is constantly under attack from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Peter says that our faith is more precious than gold. (1 Peter 1:7) If that is so, it is worth fighting for.
If you’re going to fight for your faith, it’s not only important to know that your faith is worth fighting for, but you have to know your enemy. Again, your faith is under constant assault from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Attacks can — and will — come from all sides. And 1960s comedian Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine was wrong. The devil can’t make you do anything. You will fail the test of faith because you choose to fail the test. That’s why Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) The more you work at it, the better you get!
How trustworthy do you think the Bible is? Is it simply a collection of oral tradition myths? Or is it the recorded dictation from God?
In today’s Bible reading, Peter gives us some key information about Scripture.
“For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased!” We ourselves heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. We also have the prophetic word strongly confirmed, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 1:16–21 CSB)
Note that although the writers of the New Testament eyewitnesses of Jesus and His ministry, nowhere does Peter say that the writers of Scripture were told exactly which words to use. Instead, they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. That’s Peter’s version of Paul’s statement that all scripture is “God-breathed“.
How did this happen? I can’t tell you exactly how; God doesn’t tell us how. When Peter, Paul, James, John and others wrote their letters and Gospels, they probably didn’t know that they were writing the very words of God. They simply wrote what God breathed into them through their own words and personality. And God, the Bible’s General Editor, confirmed what they said as His Word.
The Bible (Old and New Testaments) is God’s Word. It doesn’t merely contain God’s Word. It is God’s Word. And God has preserved His Word for us. You don’t have to understand how God delivered His Word through His people in order to obey what God says in it.
Read God’s Word. Hear God’s Word. Trust God’s Word. Obey God’s Word. Love God’s Word.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul says that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t eat. In other words, Believers aren’t to be freeloaders. Now, is that a cut-and-dried statement? Or is it a principle?
I think Paul intended this to be a principle. It comes down to a person’s heart, his/her motivations. If a person is able to work, but chooses not to, that’s a problem. If a person goes around constantly mooching off others, that’s a problem.
But what about someone who is “called to do God’s work”? It’s no different! If someone is called to do God’s work he/she shouldn’t wait until a paycheck comes along before doing the work. If God has called someone to do ministry, they should do ministry! If someone is genuinely called to do God’s work of sharing the gospel, Paul says they should be paid for doing the work if they so choose. If they want to work voluntarily, that’s fine. But no one should be shamed for accepting money for doing ministry. In fact, elsewhere, Paul says that laborers are worthy of their hire. (1 Timothy 5:18)
Taking on a second job in order to put food on the table is commendable; it can open up ministry opportunities as well. And a missionary or pastor shouldn’t be shamed if he does take on a second job. Neither should he be shamed for asking for financial support as his income source. Depending on the ministry, sometimes taking on a second job is impractical or impossible. And oftentimes, the people receiving ministry are unable to cover the expenses of a pastor or missionary.
Airline tickets cost money. Visas cost money. Passport processing costs money. Insurance costs money. Gas costs money. Food costs money. Ministry costs money! Fortunately, many ministries are very lean and are very good stewards. Unfortunately, not all are. And not all of the “big name” ministries are the most efficient. Beware of wolves that fleece their flocks and siphon large salaries away from those in need.
In the past, I have mentioned uniting our church with a neighboring church. This is a good thing. This is a God thing. Combining our efforts under one roof and one fellowship body will bring down the operating costs of the two churches and will free up monies to do more of God’s work. This is good stewardship! And quite frankly, I wish more churches would prayerfully consider doing the same! With the changing face of society and the declining nickels and noses in local churches, it might be the best thing to close the doors on a few dead/plateaued churches and unite the members under a new body with a new vision and new energy.
Important note: I say this having closed the doors of the first church I pastored. God was in that and He brought new life to an old building. Now, a newer, younger church is absolutely flourishing where we once floundered. God is good!
Unfortunately, churches have turf wars and partnering with other churches is often difficult. It takes a lot of humility and repentance to set aside your own church and ministry preferences. We don’t like change. But oftentimes, God calls us to “suck it up” and follow Him, taking on His preferences in order to accomplish His work.
Doing God’s work requires God’s people to give. And those who work are worthy of the support of God’s people to accomplish the work.