So, last week the Spirit lead me and my sermon down a different path than I had planned. We were looking at Lukewarm Faith. Jesus doesn’t mention lukewarm faith anywhere in the Gospels. Instead, He teaches by example what a vibrant, “enflamed” life of faith looks like. It’s after Jesus’ death and resurrection and the spread of the early Christian movement across the continent that we hear on lukewarm faith. In his revelation, John scathingly accused the church in Laodicea of being lukewarm – not confident and passionate enough in Jesus’ teachings to stand for justice in the face of the Roman Empire. John said being cold (a non-believer) would be better than being lukewarm.
Being lukewarm in faith is stating we believe something but not actually living it – or living in such a way that makes a difference in our neighborhood and in the world. If being lukewarm is so detestable then how do we get “Fired-Up”? By building a fire, of course!
- Clear the area where you want to build your fire: remove all the old clutter and ash from past burnings. You can’t rekindle ash and previously burned wood just doesn’t catch. Clear your thoughts and preconceived ideas and allow the SPIRIT to blow afresh in you. Where you choose to build and what type of Fire is up to you. Be open to where the SPIRIT is blowing.
- Good Healthy layer of Tinder: You know the stuff. The faith-filled things that “spark” your interest and get you excited. Tinder tends to be very light and Airy. It catches easily and burns fast with lots of heat. Is it Bible Study or spending a few minutes a day with the Scriptures? Or maybe it’s volunteering at AIO or Hospice? Perhaps a guest speaker – or even a sermon – “sparked” something you never realized was there waiting to be kindled.
- Good Seasoned Kindling: Kindling on top of the tinder is what builds your Fire and keeps it growing. Kindling burns a little slower, hotter and longer than tinder. But you can’t just throw the kindling on there, you’ll choke the fire. It’s by carefully and thoughtfully placing your faith-kindling to allow for plenty of Air Flow (SPIRIT) that will keep your Fire going. Finding time to talk with people who share a similar concern or passion will build your Fire. Perhaps attending a seminar or workshop, take a class – dig deeper. Leave yourself plenty of Air Space (SPIRIT) to process, prayer time to listen.
- Good Seasoned Logs/ Fuel Wood to Feed the Fire: these burn long and produce the heat. Fuel logs are denser and heavier than kindling. Being supported by the good base you cleared and the tinder and kindling you laid for good ‘Air Flow”, these logs will catch fast. Of course, the type and quality of Fuel Wood you feed your Fire will determine the amount of heat and length of burn time of your Fire.
- The Damper regulates the Air Flow/Allows the SPIRIT in: The key is letting in enough Air Flow to produce the right balance of Heat and Burn Time. Too little Air and the flames are choked by the smoke and your Fire cools off to –lukewarm. The sap/pitch can’t boil off and evaporate up the chimney when the internal temperature is lukewarm. Lukewarmness creates creosote – the yucky, sticky, smelly stuff that clings to your insides and clogs up the Air Flow. Too much creosote is dangerous – erupting in very destructive and uncontrollable ways.
Too much Air (SPIRIT), and the Fuel Wood burns too hot and too fast. Not only does the Fuel Wood burn but the Embers and the Coals of your original Fire are consumed by such heat leaving you nothing to keep re-kindling. You’re left with nothing but ashes to sweep up.
There’s no leaving your Fire unattended. You’ll either burn to ashes or your Flame will die down, your Fuel will be half-burned and your Fire will be lukewarm turning your faith into creosote.
Jesus lived a healthy balance between Fuel and Air / Experience and SPIRIT. He always engaged the world and the people around Him. But He also knew when He needed to be alone with the SPIRIT. A healthy faith-full life seeks to find that balance – a balance that is always changing – that warms the soul and sustains us for the long journey ahead.