When I Realized I Was Lukewarm

In 2012, I was in a near-fatal car accident and suffered extensive brain injury as a result. Up till then, I had been working as a family doctor in northwest Indiana, USA, for six years.

From my earliest recollections following my accident, I remember hearing over and over again that people who suffer a brain injury have to find a “new normal.” They said my brain injury was so severe that there was no chance of me going back to who I was before my accident.

However, for the first several months, I shocked nearly everyone with my unexpected, unexplainable, and rather quick recovery. This led me to believe that my brain injury wasn’t nearly as bad as my doctors had suggested and that I’d be back to my old self—my old normal—in no time at all.

But it wouldn’t be long before my recovery slowed down to a crawl and it became clear that I simply wasn’t going to return to my old self again. The long-standing effects of my brain injury had become undeniable.

I no longer had the mental capacity and the ability to easily remember any and all sorts of information. No matter how much effort I put into it or how hard I tried, the focus and concentration I once had was no longer there. This, as well as many other signs, pointed me to the realization that my doctors had been right from the start. I now had a new and very different kind of normal.

This led to a season where I felt overwhelmed by my new reality and I started angrily asking God a lot of questions about what He was doing. I still consider the day of my accident “the day my life changed forever.”

However, a second life-changing day took place about the same time I was starting to question God’s plan for my life.

I was at a Christian media conference in Dallas, an event I had begrudgingly agreed to go to with my wife. Even though I went to the conference with low expectations, to my surprise, I heard a Bible verse while I was there that would change the trajectory of my life once again!

The verse was from Revelation 3:15-16:

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.

Now, this wasn’t an unfamiliar verse to me. It was one I’d heard plenty of times before . . . but this time something was very different. It affected me in a way it never had previously. Every time I heard this verse in the past, I’d thought, “Man, I’d hate to be one of those lukewarm guys spit out by God!” But when I heard those words that day, I suddenly became aware and convicted of my lukewarmness, and thought to myself, “I think I’m actually one of them.”

You see, I had always tried my very best to make my faith an important part of who I was. I never strayed too far from the church or God, and most people thought of me as being a “good Christian.” But I had an awakening that day and realized how “lukewarm” I truly was.

Part of that awakening involved starting to understand that I’d been following an “inverted gospel.” I claimed to be following Jesus, but in reality, I’d just invited him to follow me. I had never fully given everything to God and was still trying to handle most things myself. I thought that Jesus was a way for me to get what I wanted and to help me stay comfortable, but never considered how much He deserved from me. I don’t think I ever fully trusted that God knew what was best for me so I made sure to always take the lead.

This realization lit a fire inside of me that I’d never experienced before. I wanted to learn more about who Jesus truly was and what a life completely surrendered to Him was supposed to look like. I felt like I’d been given a second chance to leave behind my lukewarm ways and to live a life completely for God, the only kind He deserves and the kind I should have been living all along.

My whole escape from “lukewarmness” was not a single, instantaneous event. It has been a journey—one where I am learning more and more every day about what it means to surrender my life to God. So far, I’ve discovered that surrender includes letting God lead me, and trusting His ways over my own. Unlike my approach to life in the past, I’m learning that I don’t need to know exactly how things are going to play out before taking the first step, before moving forward, or before making a decision—but can trust Him to lead me each step of the way.

One thing that stood out to me about my escape from lukewarmness is that I had nothing to do with it. I didn’t see it coming. But what I did have control over was how I was going to respond to what God was teaching me about being lukewarm. Was I going to fight with God on how He was trying to change me or was I going to accept it? I thank God that I had the courage to accept it.

I used to wish my brain injury had never happened, but over time, I have learned to focus on how God used it to bring about really positive things . . . like saving me from my lukewarmness. I wish there could have been another way, but I’m learning to not question God’s perfect plan, and instead thank Him for the good He brings out of negative situations (Romans 8:28).

I’m not sure where you are right now or if any of what I said about being “lukewarm” resonated with you. But if you were able to relate to my story, I hope you know that God loves you, and desires for you to live a life surrendered to Him too.

5 Ways to Prepare for Easter

“Will you Easter with me?”

My daughter had been at my mom’s that day, and I’d heard they had gotten out the Easter decorations. When I arrived to pick her up, she sweetly and eagerly looked up at me, holding her basket full of eggs, and asked, “Will you Easter with me, mom?”

At first, my kiddo’s syntactical error made me giggle. But after a moment, I realized that she’d said something very profound.

Easter is a verb. Or at least it should be. Easter, our annual celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, is a time for intentional and purposeful celebration. But what would it look like “to Easter” in our everyday lives?

 

Welcome Him

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem the Sunday before His death, the crowd spread their coats and branches on the ground, giving Him quite the welcome. They knew that this was no ordinary man entering their town, and so they cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:8-9).

We call this day Palm Sunday, and often commemorate it in church with praise and exultation. This is not only a time to remember Jesus being welcomed into Jerusalem, but it is also a time to ask for His direction and leadership in our own lives as well. It is a day of welcoming, a day of aligning ourselves with Him.

I recently did this by writing out a list of the roles I play, the key relationships in my life, and the various places I often find myself in. One by one, I went down the list and welcomed Jesus into these roles, relationships, and places. Sure, He was technically already present in these places; He is God, after all. But this was about my willingness to welcome Him in and intentionally acknowledging once again that He’s the one in charge. It is a way of saying, “Not my will, but yours.”

This wasn’t easy. As I welcomed Jesus into my home, my marriage, my role as mother, my classroom, my friendships, my idols and strongholds, I realized that His presence would demand some changes in these areas. Lies, anxiety, and strongholds can no longer rule where He is welcomed. Part of the welcoming is believing in and affirming His worthiness above all. Let’s welcome Christ in this Easter season, no matter the cost.

 

Remember Him

The evening before He died, Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples—a festival remembering how God had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. At this meal, Jesus instituted what we know as the Lord’s Supper, or Communion. As He sat around the table with His followers, He broke a loaf of bread, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” He then took the cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:19-20).

Jesus’ words “do this in remembrance of me” are big and bold to my eyes. He has asked us to remember His sacrifice by eating the bread and drinking the cup. This needs to be a part of our “Eastering” this year. When we accept the bread and the cup, we are putting our lot in with His. We are saying, “We want in. We want to be a part of this.” This means we will suffer with Him, but it also means that as His children, our future is secure; we will resurrect with Him.

Remember Christ’s sacrifice in this way as you partake of the Lord’s Supper this Easter Week.

 

Grieve Him

On Friday during that Passover week, Jesus was nailed to the cross. After suffering for several hours, He called out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46), and then took His last breath. Matthew tells us that there was an earthquake when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51), and we read that there was darkness from noon until three that day (Luke 23:44-45).

Can you imagine how oppressive it would have felt to stand there at the foot of the cross? To experience that earthquake, in the darkness? To see with your own eyes the havoc that sin and shame had wreaked on the world? All of this speaks to the somber weight of that day’s events. The Son of God crucified. God the Father turning His back on His Son. This seems like the worst day in all of history.

How do we enter into this grief? How do we experience the heaviness of what went down that day? I think the obvious answer is one we don’t necessarily like—that we need to sit with this; we need to not rush past it, to not skip ahead to Sunday. We need to sit in Friday for a while, and we need to grieve not only Jesus’ death, but our sin that put Him there.

We need to ask God to help us understand, the best we can, the weight of His sacrifice, the weight of the loss and the shame that the world experienced that Friday. And so we grieve. We grieve the sin and shame that has infected and infiltrated our world. We grieve our part in it, and thus our separation from God. Rest assured, though, that the story doesn’t end here. . .

 

Wait for Him

Can you imagine what that Saturday was like, when Jesus lay lifeless in the tomb? The disciples—did they feel hopeless, thinking they had it all wrong? Or did a few, through understanding from the Spirit, begin to put all of Jesus’ teachings together and wait hopefully for His return?

This tension of Saturday—between Jesus’ death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday—is not to be skipped over. Jesus was dead, and some of His followers felt hopeless. Yet we know that Sunday was coming and Jesus would rise again. The interim is a hard place to be. A willingness to wait, to sit in the tension, demonstrates an understanding that we’re not in charge. Just like the grieving, let’s not rush past this. The joy of Sunday won’t make sense without the restlessness of Saturday.

What does it look like to wait for Christ today? Yes, in the Easter season, but also in the seasons of our lives. Maybe we’re “in-between” in our circumstances right now. Where and in what way are we being asked to wait, to live in the not-quite-yet? How do we cling to Christ in this time of waiting? And what exactly are we waiting for?

As Christians, ultimately we wait for the fullness of God’s Kingdom. We wait for when Jesus will return and set all things right, when sin will no longer have dominion over the world. And so, in our waiting, we set our eyes on Sunday. . .

 

Rejoice in Him

On Sunday morning, the Resurrected Jesus appears before His friends, family, and disciples. The grave could not hold Him. He stared death in the face and overcame it. He took on the wrath against our sin and shame, and atoned for us completely.

Can you imagine this day? All the sadness and hopelessness being undone? Our worst nightmare proving not true? The disciples missed and longed for Jesus, and now He stood in front of them, in the flesh again. He is indeed who He said He was. He is the long-promised Rescuer, come to save His people from their sin and for His glory! A debt we could not pay, paid in full! He has made a way for you and me to know Him and to live with Him forever! Sin no longer separates us from our King, and so Sunday is the best day in all of history!

This year on Easter, let us drink deeply the joy that abounds because of the risen Christ. Let’s sing our praise to Him loud and proud. Let’s open our arms wide and receive His forgiveness, grace, and goodness. Let’s hug our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and announce with the worldwide Church that He has risen! He has risen, indeed! Augustine said it best in his discourse on the Psalms: “We are an Easter people, and Allelujah is our song!”

My friend, will you Easter with me this year?

Are We Missing the Point of Lent?

Written By Ben Kampmeier, USA 

Ben has been in vocational ministry since 2008, and desires to see God use his pastoral ministry to help people follow Jesus with their whole hearts (Psalm 86:11). He serves now as the Lead Pastor of the 125-year-old Corinth Reformed Church in Byron Center, MI. Ben’s married to his wonderful wife, Ann, and they have two young children, Reuben & Abigail (along with their Chihuahua, Boston). Ben enjoys trying new restaurants, taking in great art and music and exploring Grand Rapids, MI.

I didn’t think a lot about the liturgical calendar until a few years ago. In fact, I’m not sure I would have known to even call it that. Other than noticing special occasions like Christmas or Easter, this idea of moving through the year and attaching different elements of the Christian faith to specific units of time seemed foreign and rigid to me.

Take the season of Lent, for example. From a distance, Lent appeared to be a time of forced obedience when people tried to “clean themselves up” by fasting or going for extra church services. It felt less like a special season of the Christian life and more like an attempt to “schedule time with God.” But would it be such a bad thing if the season of Lent prompted us to be more intentional in our relationship with God?

 

Can Calendars Serve Our Most Important Relationships?

Calendars are subversive. If someone got a hold of my iCal password and put an event in the middle of my day on the other side of town just to be funny, and I went to it, it would probably ruin my week. Think about it, we can be controlled by ever-growing demands of school schedules, work events, and if we have kids—travel sports. Calendars will either control us, or we will control them. There’s no third option.

But calendars can help, too. As I’ve grown older, gotten married, had children, and taken on new responsibilities, a personal calendar has become absolutely necessary. Every time my phone buzzes, I know it’s time to move on to what’s next—another meeting or a family event. Despite my own illusions, I do “schedule relationship”, like special times that get blocked out so I can spend time with friends or my family. I have found that it keeps the demands of life from edging out the things that truly matter—relationships with my loved ones.

If it’s true that calendars can serve our closest human relationships, what about our relationship with God? That’s what caused me to reconsider the liturgical calendar. Maybe you could, too. For hundreds of years, the Church everywhere, across every major stream of Christianity has embraced it. Why is that? Part of the answer lies in understanding its intent.

 

The Message of Lent Isn’t “Clean Yourself Up”

Right now, the liturgical calendar points us to the season of Lent—a time of preparation to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus at Easter.

As I mentioned, I used to think the purpose of Lent was to signal that it was time to “get right with God.” A time to enter into a season of renewed self-discipline, not totally unlike the smartwatch that buzzes when you’ve been sitting too long, reminding you if you don’t get moving, you might get unhealthy.

I’ve seen friends use Lent as motivation to focus on self-improvement, start new exercise routines, or practice some new form of self-care. None of these things are necessarily bad on their own. In fact, a lot of them are good! Part of Lent can mean taking stock of our own lives and adjusting them appropriately.

But we need to see the temptation that can hide in the tendency to make Lent about self-improvement. Our culture prizes achievement. It doesn’t matter what it is—grades, awards, work opportunities, the people around us, or the nice things they say to us—we can easily believe that our value is directly connected to our success in these things. There’s an inner drive that says that if we achieve enough, someone might applaud our success, preferably with “likes,” “loves,” or “shares.” Personally, this is what drives me to fill my calendars way too full and sleep too little, even in trying to accomplish good things. It’s dangerous.

Naturally, the problem in approaching Lent this way is that deep down, it resonates with our sinful desire to have a hand in our own self-improvement. It’s a seductive idea: that we might be able to play a role in our own spiritual success.

 

The True Heart of Lent

Thankfully, the true heartbeat of Lent isn’t about any of that. It’s not about “cleaning yourself up,” or presenting yourself as some self-willed success to God so that He can approve of you while others watch on. In fact, it’s the opposite.

The message of Lent is to bring your imperfect self to God for the kind of work that only He can do. Lent is about grace. We experience that grace when we are reminded to reflect, to drop down into our own souls for a long look at the real status of our own lives.

Like most people, if we do this honestly, we might start feeling disappointed or discouraged. When I do that, I find that I’m not the kind of Christian, husband, father, or friend that I know I want to be. It’s just the truth. That doesn’t sound like grace, but that’s the irony of what Lent is all about: When we take time to see ourselves truly, we also see the truth God already knows. And Lent invites us to bring that honest perspective of ourselves to God, to acknowledge that there’s a lot that needs changing, and to ask Him to do the very thing that we cannot on our own: to help us to change, because what Jesus has done for us makes that possible in us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

 

So, What Next?

Let’s make it practical. How do we “do Lent” with this new perspective in mind? Well, let’s consider fasting, a practice central to the season (remember people giving up chocolates and meat?). Biblically, at its heart, fasting is not about appearing to be holy to others (see Matthew 6:16-18). Even more importantly, fasting is not about appearing holy to God (see Isaiah 58). Rather, it’s about acknowledging the only real source of fulfillment in this life: God Himself.

Fasting during Lent reminds us of the season’s purpose . . . that we’re not meant to try to make ourselves holy by our own ability, but rather acknowledging something else—that God has designed us to be spiritually hungry for Him.

This season of Lent concludes at Easter, which means it’s almost over. Maybe you feel like you missed out, but don’t worry! It’ll come again next year, giving us the gift of a reminder to reflect, fast, and experience his renewing grace.

More importantly, the liturgical calendar provides many other opportunities to intentionally be reminded of our relationship with God throughout the year. After Easter comes what’s known as the season of Eastertide—50 days to celebrate the promise of the Resurrection. Why not devote that time to living in light of the New Life granted to us by Jesus? What would that look like for you?

I Thought I Would Never Forgive

Written By Deborah Lee, Singapore

When I got married and moved in with my husband’s family, there were many conflicts. I was immature and hot-tempered, and exchanged many harsh words with my in-laws. I continued to anger my in-laws for days after heated quarrels, and eventually my mother-in-law called me a “nobody’s child,” emphasizing how unwanted, unloved, and unwelcome I was.

After a year of this—my husband often siding with his parents—I left the house on a bad note. My departure supposedly marked an end to the verbal abuse I had suffered. However, I carried with me a lot of anger and hurt. These had been accumulating since the day I got married and left my parents’ home to stay with my in-laws, all the way to the day I was called a “nobody’s child.” The insults left a deep wound in my heart. In my darkest moments, I even wished misfortune upon my husband’s family.

During this time, I stayed with a church friend. My pastor and mentor continued to follow up with me concerning my family struggles, and they constantly urged me to bring them before God. In the quiet home where I now was, I began searching through God’s Word. The more I searched, the more I was captivated by God’s promises for us during bad times, He was constantly reminding me of how He keeps track of my tears (Psalm 56:8) and how His plans for me are good. In those times of desperation where I felt extremely vulnerable, God’s assurance of my future held me close to Him. Through His Word, God continually led me to a place of repentance and surrender.

But I still struggled internally. Even though I was no longer staying with my husband’s family, phone calls with my husband triggered memories and anger again. My husband continued to side with his parents and insisted that I owed them an apology. It felt like everyone accused me of being the problem.

 

God Is My Defender

Through all this, I wrestled with God. I kept telling Him, “It’s not fair that I have to go through all this. I did not marry to be bullied. Everyone has a defender except for me. Who will hear me? Why can’t I just escape it all?” I wished that I had a different battle, something I could either manage or escape. But so often in life, we cannot choose our battles.

As I wrestled with God, I was reminded of Romans 8:31-32. If God is for me, who can be against me? He did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for me—how will He not also graciously give me all things? As I read those words in the Bible, I felt as if it were God speaking to me, assuring me that He is with me, and would give me the strength I needed to overcome this situation. As I continued reading in verses 34-35, I was reminded that there is no condemnation in Christ, and nothing can separate us from God’s love.

I began to see that God was not being unfair. I began to sense that He was indeed with me. Even if everyone in the world were to condemn me, because of Christ’s sacrifice, God does not condemn me. Nothing can separate me from God’s love. As I leaned into the words in Romans 8, I began to see my situation in a different light. I began to see the purpose in my hurt. Through my hurt, I experienced God’s assurance and comfort. Even if I was condemned by people around me, I found hope in God.

God had allowed these events for me to see His love for me. If I had not been failed by men, I would not have turned to God. God in His faithfulness had used events in my life to draw me back to Him and show me His blessings. I could not deny God’s sovereignty throughout these events.

 

My Struggle to Forgive

While Romans 8 comforted me, Matthew 7:3-5 convicted me. In this passage, Jesus reminds us to get rid of the plank in our own eye before accusing others of the speck in their eyes. These verses spoke to the heart of my situation. If I were to say that I was not at fault, I would obviously be lying to myself. I shouted at my in-laws instead of showing them respect. I was rude to them, and that was not pleasing to God either. These verses reminded me that, all along, I had been pointing fingers at others without paying attention to the plank in my own eye. I owed my husband’s family an apology.

I knew I needed to repent. But truth be told, it was hard for me to do so when neither my husband nor his family showed any remorse for their actions against me. They continued to insist that they were not at fault. Surely, it wouldn’t be fair if I pretended like nothing had happened and allowed them to continue to bully me.

 

Enabled by God’s Love to Forgive

Over time, God encouraged me and renewed my mind. As I continued reading the Bible, I increasingly realized that I was God’s precious child, not a defenceless “nobody’s child.” In my broken moments, I learned to anchor myself in God. I no longer needed to walk in the brokenness of unfairness, anger, and despair. Instead, I could see my situation through God’s eyes—filled with hope and purpose. I was determined not to fall back into my old self, enslaved to self-pity and hopelessness.

When I first tried apologizing to my in-laws, they remained aloof and continued to hurl words of insult and condemnation. But I held on to the promises that God had given me and persevered. And through a long period of endurance and patience, my husband and family eventually softened their hearts and accepted me as family once again.

This process involved a lot of self-denial, heartache, and pain, but God showed me that we should overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). The famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr. resonate with me. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The only way to experience forgiveness and be able to forgive is to first experience the love of God for ourselves and show others His love.

Our reconciliation eventually moved my husband to purchase a new home with me, and we had the blessing of my in-laws to live as a married couple. But more important to me than even this reconciliation, is realizing that having God in my life is the greatest good, especially in the face of conflicts or trials. None of this would have been possible if not for God’s love for me, compelling me to live a life worthy of Him and radiate His love to others. Nothing surpasses the worth of knowing God. As I see the goodness of God working in my life to redeem me from the darkness, forgiveness is made easier.