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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Word For The Week

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.


Revelation 3:14-21
Whatever.

Within American culture the ultimate expression of indifference is the utterance of the exclamation, "Whatever." Whenever something is brought to our attention that essentially means nothing to us we often exclaim, "Whatever." It is an expression of indifference but it is also laced with a tinge of contempt for the one who brings the supposedly irrelevant information to our attention. George Bush is giving a speech on his plan for Iraq? Whatever. Dennis Kucinich is running for president? Whatever. The Detroit Lions are playing a football game? Whatever. It is an expression of our utter indifference about the information that is presented to us and it demonstrates our contempt for the one who brings us the information, and it probably got a lot of use among the Christians in Laodicea.

The Church in Laodicea was an active church in Asia Minor, busy with rituals and weekly routines but they were not engaged in the advancement of the Kingdom. The Laodiceans would go through the motions of religiosity, showing up most Sundays, but while their body was in church their heart and mind was elsewhere, anywhere but in church. Their name was on the membership role but they had no personal commitment to Jesus Christ. They would send their children to Sunday School but they had no passion for the Word of God themselves. Whenever anyone would mention "tithes and offerings" they'd have but one word to say: "Whatever."

As I've traveled across this country I've seen Laodicean churches everywhere: Laodicean Missionary Baptist Church, 1st Baptist of Laodicea, Laodicean African Methodist Episcopal Church, Laodicean Church Of God In Christ, Laodicean Christian Fellowship. The name on the marquee might have said Palestine Presbyterian but if you'd have walked inside the edifice you would have found it filled with lots of lackluster Laodiceans. The biggest problem facing churches today is the fact that they are overrun with lukewarm Laodiceans - the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. Pastor calls for the people to fast? Whatever. Youth ministry needs workers to help minister to the children and youth? Whatever. Music ministry needs people to sing the praises of our God and our Christ? Whatever. The Bible says that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, but in too many instances we act just like those low-living Laodiceans. We go through the motions, showing up when we're supposed to be there, but we are not actively engaged in ministry, we are not committed to our Christ and we are not loyal to our Lord.

It is, after all, the American way.

In the United States of America the worst thing that you can be called is an extremist - America's motto is, "In all things moderation." Americans naturally gravitate to the middle of the road, choosing the Medium option. Political Moderates are exalted and praised while true liberals and true conservatives are disparaged as being fringe elements. In America everyone gets in where they fit in, never making waves but finding their rightful place within the mainstream, but we who are called by the name of Christ are not to go with the flow of the mainstream - we, as Christ's Ambassadors, are called to transform the mainstream into the straight and narrow way, but the lethargic Laodicean says, "Whatever."

This is why we have so many people who used to come to church, people who used to be Christians, people who used to believe in God - they don't see God in the Church, they don't see God in the pews and all too often they don't even see God in the pulpit. All that they see is judgmental hypocrisy 24/7 - folks say one thing but live something completely different. They see a sister having a hallelujah time in worship service that they just saw at the club the night before grinding every Tom, Dick, and Harry that she could find. They see a brother in leadership who they know to be beating and cheating on his wife. They get greeted with "I'm blessed and highly favored of the Lord!" by church-folks who are truly wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. They see people in church who claim to be Christians but who live just as raggedy as the average American, people who then want to tell them that they have to get themselves right before God.

Whatever.

This Laodicean living loses people for the cause of Christ. How many times have you heard folks talk about "those hypocrites in the church"? Those hypocrites in the church are these lackadaisical Laodiceans, Christians in name only, and Jesus says that He is about tired of these lecherous Laodiceans, that He is about to spit them out of His mouth. America believes in hedging its bets, taking a little of this and a little of that in case one or the other turns out to be wrong. It is a mentality that is predicated upon uncertainty, tying to make sure that all of their bases are covered, but the cause of Christ requires Christians to take a firm stand on faith - either you're with Jesus Christ or you're not. I love lemonade and I also love hot chocolate, but if you try to put them both in the same glass I would spit it out of my mouth. You can't have it both ways, you have to choose between hot chocolate and lemonade, between Jesus Christ and this world.

We have too many people in the church who want to have it both ways.
We have too many people in the church who want to be saved and shake a tail feather.
We have too many people in the church who want to be declared righteous but contribute nothing to the advancement of God's Kingdom.

We have too many lackluster, lazy, lackadaisical, lethargic, lecherous, low-living Laodiceans in the Church, and it's time to make a change. In 2007 I resolve that I will not be found living in Laodicea. I will not be found lacking in my love for the Lord. I will not be found in the counsel of the wicked or in the way of sinners or in the seat of mockers. Jesus knows our deeds - we might be able to hide the things that we do in secret from folks in the church but Jesus knows our deeds, and those whom He loves He rebukes and disciplines. So be honest and repent with me - I know that I have fallen short in 2006, and if you're honest with yourself and with God then you can admit that you have fallen short as well, but we have a God who is so good that if we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Look, He stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. If we hear His voice and open the door then He will come in and eat with us, and we with Him.

Covenant with me that in 2007 we will no longer live in Laodicea, that we will no longer be lukewarm in our love for the Lord Jesus Christ and the advancement of His Kingdom. Covenant with me that whatever it takes, whatever the cost, whatever the cause of Christ requires we will be absolutely committed to Jesus Christ, no matter what. People will call us extremists. They'll call us Jesus Freaks, Holy Rollers and Bible Thumpers acting all holier-than-thou, but whatever people say we need to make a life-long commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and covenant one with another that we shall love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind, and we must covenant one with another that we shall love our neighbor as ourself. Folk will talk about us, but if we persevere and overcome the insults and accusations of the world - whatever they may be - then we will be given the right to sit with Jesus on His throne, just as Jesus overcame and sat down with the Father on His throne.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants you to leave your Laodicean living behind you,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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