Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

One of my absolute favorite habits that Hunter and I have gotten in to is reading every night before we go to sleep.  We don't read the same book (right now anyway), but it's a nice, peaceful way to wind down, but yet it still feels like we're spending time together.  Now those of you who know Hunter may be surprised to find out this little tid bit.  It took me years to get him to read a book; and now he's unstoppable!  But like any "librarian" knows, you just have to find what interests someone.  I started him on The Shack and then Fireproof.  Since then, he goes through books left and right!  He discovered that he really enjoys reading historical and political non-fiction (gag me, but to each his own!).

Anyway, that long and crazy introduction was to introduce the book that I am currently reading.  I had started Irresistible Revolution, but gave it to Hunter's brother B.A. to read and I wasn't quite finished with it.  It is absolutely phenomenal and will deserve it's own post when I get a copy of it and can finish and quote it.  Absolutely a must read.  So anyway, this sudden lending of my book left me searching my shelves for my next target.  Books are one of my worst weaknesses.  I love them.  I have shelves of books (I just purged them with the help of my loving sister, Michelle) that I haven't even read yet!  So as I perused my collection of colorful spines, my eyes fell on Crazy Love.  That was the one I wanted.  I had picked it up at Lifeway a long time ago because it sounded like a promising read.  Now over the course of time since I bought it, I've heard of so many small groups using it in their studies, friends who really received a lot from it, and our latest youth camp at Lubbock was focused on it.  So it seemed to be time for me to start it.

As I flipped through the pages of chapters 2-4 last night, a specific section spoke to me and I felt the need to share it.  I think it was even more powerful as I read this following Irresistible Revolution (if it gives you any hint at how powerful these words are:  I HATE "dog earring" pages in books.  I cringe when I see others--including my husband--do such to those beautiful pages!  But both of these books have caused me to dog-ear several pages in them!).

Crazy Love as the title of a book...hmmm.  What's that number one and two commandment of the New Testament again?  Oh yes,  "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"  Matthew 22: 37-39 (NIV)   It sounds like such a simple task, but it is one that so many, labeled Christians in particular, struggle with.  There's a popular country song out right now, "Love Like Crazy".  People understand that--when it's people that love us back, people who are like us.  But what about a complete and absolute surrender to love for God as we're commanded?  And who exactly is my neighbor?

The section that caught my heart last night was on being lukewarm in love.  Now those of us who grew up in the church have surely heard the lesson written to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3: 15-16:  "I kow 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."  But what does it mean to be lukewarm?  Going to church when you should?  Tithing to the church?  Reading your Bible and praying a certain amount every week?  I speak from experience and the only person I'm judging on this matter is myself.  As I read the notes last night, which I'm about to type below, my heart was pricked.  I am often guilty of being a lukewarm person...

Chan, Francis.  Crazy Love.  David Cook, Colorado Springs: 2008.  (pages 68-80)

"...the American church is a difficult place to fit in if you want to live out New Testament Christianity.  The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don't swear, and good church attendance.  Taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered.  That's for the 'radicals' who are 'unbalanced' and who go 'overboard.'  Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.  Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ?  Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?"

See if you can relate to any of the following examples he gives of being lukewarm.  I know it was a wake-up call for me...

--"Lukewarm people attend church fairly regularly.  It is what is expected of them, what they believe 'good Christians' do, so they go."  --Isa. 29: 13

--"Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the long as it doesn't impinge on their standard of living.  If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so.  After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right?"  --1 Chron. 21: 24, Luke 21:1-4,

--"Lukewarm people tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict.  They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church;  they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives." --Luke 6:26, Rev. 3:1, Matt. 23:5-7

--"Lukewarm people don't really want to be saved from their sin; they only want to be saved from the penalty of their sin.  They don't genuinely hate sin and aren't truly sorry for it; they're merely sorry because God is going to punish them.  Lukewarm people don't really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one."  --Rom. 6:1-2

--"Lukewarm people are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.  They assume such action is for 'extreme' Christians, no average ones.  Lukewarm people call 'radical' what Jesus expected of all of his followers."  --James 1:22, James 4:17, Matt. 21:28-31

--"Lukewarm people rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion."  --Matt. 10:32-33

--"Lukewarm people gauge their morality or 'goodness' by comparing themselves to the secular world.  They feel satisfied that while they aren't as hard-core for Jesus as so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street."  --Luke 18:11-12

--"Lukewarm people say the love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives.  But only a part.  They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn't allowed to control their lives." --Luke 9:57-62

--"Lukewarm people love God, but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength.  They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn't really possible for the average person; it's only for pastors and missionaries and radicals."  --Matt. 22:37-38

--"Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.  Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people the know and connect with.  There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable.  Their love is highly conditional and very selective, and generally comes with strings attached."  --Matt. 5:43-47, Luke 14:12-14

--"Lukewarm people will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give."  --Luke 18:21-25

--"Lukewarm people think about life on earth much more often that eternity in Heaven.  Daily life is mostly focused on today's to-do list, this week's schedule, and next month's vacation.  Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come.  Regarding this, C.S. Lewis writes, 'If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.  It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.'" --Phil. 3:18-20, Col. 3:2

--"Lukewarm people are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor.  They are quick to point out, 'Jesus never said that money is the root of all evil, only that the love of money is.'  Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel 'called' to minister to the rich; very few feel 'called' to minister to the poor." --Matt. 25:34, 40, Isa. 58:6-7

--"Lukewarm people do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty.  They want to do the bare minimum, to be 'good enough' without it requiring too much of them.  They ask, 'How far can I go before it's considered a sin?' instead of 'How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?'  They ask 'How much do I have to give?' instead of 'How much can I give?'  They ask, 'How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible?' instead of 'I wish I didn't have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer!'"  --1 Chron. 29:14, Matt. 13:44-46

--"Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control. This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God."  --1 Tim. 6:17-18, Matt. 10:28

--"Lukewarm people feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America.  Just as the prophets in the Old Testament warned Israel that they were not safe just because they lived in the land of Israel, so we are not safe just because we wear the label Christian or because some people persist in calling us a 'Christian nation.'"  --Matt. 7:21, Amos 6:1

--"Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.  They don't have to trust God if something unexpected happens--they have their savings account.  They don't need God to help them--they have their retirement plan in place.  They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live--they have life figured and mapped out.  They don't depend on God on a daily basis--their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health.  The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God." --Luke 12:16-21, Hebrews 11

--"Lukewarm people probably drink and swear less that average, but besides that, they really aren't very different from your typical unbeliever.  They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn't be more wrong."  --Matt. 23:25-28

Makes you think doesn't it?  "We are all messed-up human beings, and no one is totally immune to the behaviors described in the previous examples.  However, there is a difference between a life that is characterized by these sorts of mentalities and habits and a life that is in the process of being radically transformed."

love, angie

you should read it

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