by David Phelps

“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” - Mother Teresa

November, 2000

When our daughter, Monica, was young enough for me to give her a bath, I was always very careful to make sure the temperature was just right. But I would always ask her, "How is the water? Is it too hot or too cold?"

Her answer was always the same: "Too medium."

"What in the world does that mean?!" I wondered. Fortunately, I learned to cope with her response, because if I hadn't, my blood pressure would have gone through the roof. Usually, she meant that the water was just a bit too cool, which was easily rectified.

Like Monica, we like things to be just right. Not too hot and not too cold. Not too sour and not too sweet. But, as Monica observed, things can also be "too medium." Monica and I both like to go to Chinese restaurants because we like the hot green tea that they serve. Many people, like my wife, Charlotte, also like iced tea. But nobody likes tea that has been sitting around until it has become lukewarm. One sip and we want to spit it out.

God has the same idea, but not with tea. God says, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!" (Rev. 3:15 NIV). God doesn't like it when we try to be "too medium." We can either be hot or cold but not "medium."

But God has even more to say. Many of us have heard evangelists quote the verse, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20 KJV). Usually, the evangelist is urging sinners to come forward and commit their lives to Christ. But the verse is actually addressed to the church (Rev. 3:14a). That's right, God is talking to the "good" people like you and me. I remember what my mother used to say to me in the winter. I would stand in the doorway talking to my friends until my mother would yell, "Either go out or come in but don't stand there with the door open!"

In the Walt Disney animated motion picture "Aladdin and The Forty Thieves," there's a musical number called "Are You In Or Out?" One of The Forty Thieves, Saluk, who wants to be their leader, has lied to them by telling them that their current leader, Kasim, the King of Thieves (Aladdin's father), has betrayed them. Saluk is trying to convince them to follow him instead. He is asking them to make up their minds: If they will join him, he says, they can be rich, but if not, they will be captured and killed.

"Lukewarm" means uncommitted, which is something God cannot stand (Rev. 3:15-16). Every moment, throughout the Bible, God has urged us to choose: "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve," (Josh. 24:15a NIV).

There are people all around us who are waiting for a sign that our faith is real. They can't afford to wait for us to decide whether we want to be hot or cold. And, in the meantime, while we are lukewarm, we cannot warm their lives. We can only do that by being on fire for God. "For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands." (1 Tim. 1:6 NIV). Like The Forty Thieves, we are in a situation that is "life or death," both our own and those of everyone with whom we come in contact.

"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. . . . 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. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (Rev. 3:14-16; 19-22 NIV).


Copyright © 2000 by David Phelps