Monday, February 08, 2010

Lukewarm Churches Are Those That Neither Heal Nor Refresh

I believe one of the most misunderstood passages in Revelation comes from the words of Jesus as He speaks to the church at Laodicea saying, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth" (Revelation 3:15-16). Most Christian teachers who speak on this passage compare people being "hot" to being on fire for the things of God, and those who are "cold" to being calloused and cold toward the things of God. Of course, "the things of God" are usually made to mean those matters important to the preacher or teacher. These Christian leaders then conclude with an encouragement that God hates "lukewarm Christians," and if the listeners won't get on fire about serving God and getting "sold out" to Him, then they might as well turn their backs on everything associated with God and be "cold" toward spiritual things and go to hell. God likes us either "hot" or "cold," but He can't stand lukewarm Christians. The remainder of the teaching time is usually used by the teachers of this text to get the hearers to "recommit," or "to be more active in the church," or "to repent of not doing enough for God."

That is such an unfortunate interpretation of a beautiful text. The people at Laodicea knew exactly what Jesus was saying to their church. Laodicea was a city situated at the crossroads of the aquaduct system of Rome. Aquaducts were open, above ground troughs that carried the water throughout Asia Minor. Fifteen miles north of Laodacia was the Roman city of Hierapolis where people from all over came for the healing found in the hot water springs of that city. Ten miles east of Laodacia was the Roman city of Colossae where the incredibly cold springs brought refreshment to weary travelers on their way to other regions of the world. Both Hierapolis and Colossae sent their water to Laodacia via aquaduct, but the cold water of Colassae and the hot water of Hierapolis became lukewarm water--good for nothing--upon arrival at Laodicea. With this knowledge, "cold" in the context of 1st Century Rome and Jesus' letter to Laodicea represents something "good," not "evil."

So what Jesus was saying to the people of Laodecia was simple, yet profound:

"I want you to be like the "hot" water that comes from the springs at Hierapolis. That is, I want you to be a people who bring healing to those hurting, wounded people that come your way. I also want you to be like the "cold" water that comes from Colossae. Be a people who bring refreshment to those who are tired, weary and full of despair. As it is, you are now neither "hot" nor "cold." Those who come into your midst find neither healing nor refreshment. I know your works. They are "lukewarm" and good for nothing. As it is, I spit you out of my mouth.
Might I propose that churches and church leadership that bring neither healing nor refreshment to sinners are "poor," "blind," and "naked?" Might it also be true that churches who work hard to build an empire but lose sight of helping those who are spiritually wounded, oppressed and needy are "miserable and wretched?" I personally think this is the proper intepretation of Jesus' words to the church at Laodicea.

How do we know if we are a people that bring either healing or refreshment to sinners who come in contact with us? I think Paul Burleson gives us a keystone in his post The Kind of Group To Which I Belong on how to measure our success in this matter.

In His Grace,



Garen Martens said...

Wade, I've heard you talk about this topic several times. This is one of the passages that really convinced me of the grace principles.

Before my understanding of this principle, I was always working so hard to keep from being lukewarm and found I couldn't measure up.

What a great text and a fine explanation of the text. I've looked at this passage many times in my journey into grace theology. said...


I am hopeful that others within the SBC will move toward grace theology too!


Thanks for the kind words!


Bob Cleveland said...

Your interpretation is the one I've always heard, but something about that has concerned me.

What of a church with half of the members being healed and/or refreshed .. and the other half not? Perhaps not even visible any more? It occurred to me that, what with our leanings toward priesthood of the believer, it's my responsibility to maintain my spiritual condition. I mean, I doubt that any church heals and refreshes everybody, so...

I really don't have a clue, but I know I don't want to be in a lukewarm church.

So far, so good.

Anonymous said...

"That is such an unfortunate intepretation[sic] of a beautiful text. "

I have to stop here and comment on this line. Quite frankly I could not care less about what you have to say after this sentence (and I have not read it yet but I will in a moment.) for any teaching which starts out by berating everyone else, including a centuries old plain sense reading of the text is downright pathetic.

That said, I have often thought of and actually heard other variations on the theme. So now let me go back and see if you have had an epiphany--seen new light!!!

...or should I say find out what John Gill thinks about the passage?

K said...


I wrote: "That is such an unfortunate interpretation of a beautiful text."

You responded: I could not care less about what you have to say ... because any teaching which starts out by berating everyone else ...

When you introduce me, Kevin, to Mr. and Mrs. Interpretation I will be happy to apologize to them!

Until then, I would remind you that to call an interpretation of a text "unfortunate" is about as far away from berating an individual as darkness is from light!

As a young man studying to be a pastor, you would do well to remember the difference between an individual and an interpretation. If not, you might think that anyone disagreeing with your teaching is berating you as an individual.

In His Grace,


Anonymous said...

Now, allow me to address the content instead of the character. You say that the water was good for nothing. That is simply not true. Water could be boiled, purified and stored for all sorts of purposes. To say that the aqueducts were built as live running hot and cold taps is ludicrous. Also, to say that the water was wasted after building miles of aqueducts is equally ludicrous. The city was on a river and so water was not in short supply. The perceived value of the water (minerals, taste, etc) was the real reason to pipe it in. Temperature was not an issue.

But here is the real problem. Revelation was written around AD 95. (For the sake of argument let’s say AD 90-110). In AD 60, there was an earthquake that destroyed the city, including the aqueducts which were never rebuilt. So how would the people of a generation later understand the context of which you speak???

Humbly submitted as food for thought,


Lydia said...

16 Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.

Colossians 4

I often think of the lost Laodicean Epistle when I read the passage you write about today.

I agree with your interpretation from my own studies of that region. But I would take it a bit further with the rest of the passage which is real serious:

I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’”

Some translations say vomit out of His mouth. What does that imply?

What does 'buy from ME gold refined from the fire' mean when taken from the full context?

Another misunderstood part of this passage is when He says that He stands at the door and knocks. Ever seen that painting where Jesus is standing at the door but there is no door knob outside. As if He could NOT go in if He wanted to?

I also read long ago that Laodicea was a city known for making a certain kind of eye salve. Had you read that, too?

Chris Riley said...

What a rich way of looking at an ancient text. Why people have to feel threatened when something historical is presented, I'll never understand.
As for Kevin's comment about the purification of lukewarm water, it fit Burleson's interpretation even better. Everyone has the opportunity to be redeeemed and used by Christ. BEAUTIFUL!!

Darrell said...


Would it be alright if I use this for my sermon on this valentines day? What a great insight into a well mis-used verse.(DON'T WANT TO BE ACCUSED OF PLAGERISM)

darrell said...


"To say that the aqueducts were built as live running hot and cold taps is ludicrous."

That was not said, because as you rightly point out, that would be silly. Aquaducts simply transported water. Only where there were hot or cold springs would there be people coming for healing or refreshment. Nobody came to Laodicea for their water because it was lukewarm.

In terms of Revelation written in 95 AD, many top notch scholars believe it was written in 68 AD, particularly due to references within Revelation to the Temple still standing in Jerusalem (which was destroyed in 70 AD).

Regardless, thanks for your comment, and remember that disagreeing with what you believe is not the same thing as berating you as a person. said...


Have at it!!


Make it your own!


Ramesh said...


What I take from this post is to be of healing and refreshment to people around us, wherever we are placed. Whatever our situations are it does not matter. What only matters is that we provide healing and refreshment to people around us.

I am still absorbing the implications of the prior post about being inlawed to Christ. Totally "mind blowing". Thank you Lord Jesus.

Anonymous said...


None of this is ever personal. "Know that." ;)

But, are you saying that if Revelation were written in AD 95 that the crux of my argument would stand? Also, do you have proof that the people of Laodicea did not use the mineralized water? What about the winter? (Assuming they have cold winters.) Would not then all the water be cold? Or on a 110 degree day? Would then not all the water be hot?

Sorry, I do not buy the "intepretation."

K said...


The Laodiceans, without doubt, used their water from the aquaduct. It was the ONLY water they had.

BUT NOBODY ELSE CAME TO LAODICEA FOR THEIR WATER! People went to Colossae and Hierapolis for the water in those cities!

The parallel would be that people will avoid those churches led by people who offer neither healing to those who are hurting or refreshment to those who are weary. But THEY WILL SEEK THOSE PLACES where the Living Water, the water that comes from the grace of God in the person of His Son, is faithfully proclaimed to those who are thirsty.

In other words, the legalists help nobody.



Unknown said...


You might also want to research this interpretation of the passage at the website for Ray Van der Laan. You can directly reference his outline with maps and pictures by linking here.

The DVD of this study of Laodicea in Van der Laan's series is an outstanding resource for groups that have not yet had the opportunity to travel to the region and experience the scripture in direct geographical context.


Anonymous said...

"It was the ONLY water they had."

And the Lycus River?

Funny too that the aqueducts from Hierapolis would have had to cross the Lycus tributaries. They had plenty of water. They wanted (and could afford I might add) the mineralized water from Hierapolis and Colossae.

Jack Maddox said...


What I want to know is how is this the President of SWBTS's fault and how is this indicative of the evils of the conservative resurgence in the SBC? I know it is somehow...along with the economy, the earthquake in Haiti and that pass thrown by Peyton Manning to Porter.



Anonymous said...

Jack, come know the real reason the water was lukewarm is because the good ol' boys upstream were drinkin' beers and peein' in the trough. :)

Talk about warm mineral water. lol

Unknown said...


I would reference you also to the website for Ray Van der Laan referenced above.

His study addresses your concerns about the sources of water for Laodicea. He even addresses your question about the timing of the earthquake in AD 60 and the Laodicean response.

If you will take a few moments to review the text, maps, pictures and embedded audio clips in the Faith Lesson I think you will find it enlightening. (btw- Ray's audio clips in this lesson are recorded onsite in Laodicea.)


Christiane said...

Why is it so difficult to understand the early Christian symbolism of a spring of warm water used in healing?
And were not those blessed who would give 'a cup of cold water' to those in need in the Gospel of St. Matthew?

An example is the pool at Siloam which is a real geographical place. It's waters were used by Lord Christ to heal a blind man.
In St. John's Gospel is written this:
"The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash.
So I went and washed, and then I could see."
-- John 9:11

I don't think we can overlook the geographical information AND the biblical symbolism traditionally handed down about those locations near Laodocia, any more than we can overlook the healing use of the waters of Siloam by Lord Christ;
or the promise of blessing to those who would give of a 'cup of cold water' to refresh those dear to Christ.
This information has come down to us over the millenia. We should treasure those connections, because for the early Christians, they were so rich in meaning.

Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight) said...

You are neither hot nor cold.

Hot like a hot cup of tea or coffee.

Cold like a cold glass of water.

Both are positives.

Being lukewarm means that you do not do either.

Drinking lukewarm water or coffee? Blech.

Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight) said...


The expression "I could care less" means that there are plenty of things less important than what you are talking about.

In other words, the phrase is actually opposite to how people are using it. You are saying that you do care a lot.

The expression itself is only recent and derives from a much older expression:

"I couldn't care Less"

Which means that you DON'T care about the thing you are talking about. said...

One Salient,

I think Mr. Crowder did say "I could not care less." At least that is what I read in his first comment.

Anonymous said...

Blind Eyeball,

Re-read what I wrote.


Thank you for the link. I read and listened intently. And I must admit that am wrong. I still need to work out the timing with reference to the earthquake, but that seems to be insignificant to the overall analogy that is being made. Wade was correct in an email to me that my "judgment on this matter is clouded by a bias."

Changing traditional teachings of Scripture can be dangerous when we try and analogize. But this time, after reading and watching and after re-reading Wade's post, the application is unmistakable.

I would say however that this interpretation would be better received by some if other "interpretations" were in no way downgraded. After all, new light is not just a Jehovah's Witness thing. It is biblical.

I shut down after reading what I understood to be Wade berating many great pastors of old. I should not have and so I am sorry.

K said...


Once again, if you don't come to the place where you differentiate between someone questioning "interpretations" and someone "denigrating individuals" you will be a most beaten down man. It must be a miserable existence when you always think people are denigrating your person when they are only questioning your exegesis.

I'll keep trying till you get it!



Anonymous said...

...and I’ll keep pointing out when I think you are wrong, unlike the dronus populus. Btw, some of your facts are still wrong. Or at the very least they do not line up with "other" scholarship on the subject.

You may continue to hide behind the way you communicate as if no one is ever hurt or offended by what you say--whether you mean it or not. You could not offend me--I have been around too long. But you have a lot of "silent readers" here who have a variety of unexpressed ideas and feelings.

I'm just sayin'...

K said...


One final thought. You write: "I shut down after reading what I understood to be Wade berating many great pastors of old." I went back and read this post a couple of times, and cannot see even one instance of me "berating many great pastors of old."

I confess to personal blindness in how anyone is offended by my post, but I can assure you I do not write to intentionally offend.

In His Grace,


Anonymous said...

Its ok Wade, simple misunderstanding. Remember, you and I speak different languages. Sometimes I need an intepreter as much as you. ;)

John A. Jenkins said...

It has been a while since I have posted here although I read your blog every day. I appreciate your writings and the clear, communicatable way your express truths and Scripture. You remind me of my favorite author/ppreacher, R.T. Kendall. It seems that some will question anything you say. Me thinks, some love to hear themseles blog! I for one have been greatly impacted in my life and minsistry by this blog.

Anonymous said...

Jesus spoke to the issue of vines that don't produce fruit all the time. He told parables that sometimes make you wonder if He was talking about a lost person or a wayward Christian.

I like Wade's pointing out that churches that get all turned "inward" instead of opening their eyes to the lost world around them. What could be more lukewarm than that?

Kevin said...


This post is refreshing (pardon the pun).

I'm also amazed at your grace and patience. I usually go into "delete comment" mode much more quickly than you.

Gene S said...


I thank you for the insightful way you bring meaning to this passage / illustration by Paul.

It makes sense to me!

I think, in our day, it would be well to talk about the green algae which could build up and block the aquaduct! Too much of it could cause the water to spill out on the heads of those walking underneath rather than go to the destination which needed it.

In our case the question is algae the color of money. When Conservative Resurgence started, the funds supporting the Mission Enterprise was sufficient, yet not plentiful. Executives and Convention leadership were paid a reasonable salary and were certainly not greedy for money.

The worse change is how much it costs these days to run our institutions and agencies in the administrative part of the budget. Much is spent on a fancy campus like the NAMB now has in affluent Alpharetta compared to their Spring Street location conceived as basic office space for workers who focused mainly on coordinating mission efforts out in the field.

Proximity to the Atlanta Airport was critical since the going and coming of administrators or field staff did not need to consume a massive taxi fare or a full hour of travel time between the 2 points. Actually, the mass transportation system of Atlanta allows quick travel for about a dollar within a short walk from the baggage area!

In addition the staff went past real people on the streets of Atlanta with real needs rather than the $1 million dollar plus homes of the present location.

Are we avoiding even passing by street people these days? Are we insulating ourselves with fancy looking and expensive magazines when a simple newsprint or electronic format gets information out without undue expense? The old alumni news on newsprint paper told me all I needed to know! At least, our printed version of the Biblical Recorder in NC is still using inexpensive newsprint paper.

Are we focusing on green with preacher's salaries in mega churches? Are we modeling our local church work more on expensive buildings looking good with high priced organs / PA systems / and now, video screens?

Where is our water going, and is it solely focused on cool drinking water or the healing waters of the hot spring?

The current re-evaluation merits a look at green algae blocking the Cooperative Program aquaduct! I have read NOTHING of this in any article describing the deliberations.

Anonymous said...

"I think, in our day, it would be well to talk about the green algae which could build up and block the aquaduct! [sic] Too much of it could cause the water to spill out on the heads of those walking underneath rather than go to the destination which needed it."

Gene, this is exactly the problem with over analogizing Scripture. It is simply NOT in the text nor should it be read into it.

Kevin the Vanilla wants to be a smart aleck by suggesting Wade should delete all my posts. Why? Because Wade is always right? Hardly! Some preachers come up with this crap simply to fill an hour long sermon and WOW their people with NEW INSIGHT when the purpose and point of the passage is much simpler. Algae, aqueduct construction, mineral deposit holes, etc are NOT in the text. I am not suggesting historical analysis is wrong, I am suggesting that we keep the information relevant to the text and not stray too far.

I get the better understanding of "hot" and "cold" and "lukewarm" and accept that as valid, but the rest is extant and ought not to find its way into the sermon. If Jesus had wanted to talk about how slimy people can get he would have left that up to John in a more prophetic passage. :)


Jack Maddox said...

ahhhh Gene, Gene, gene

I knew I could count on you!

Jack said...

John A. Jenkins,

Thanks my friend. Your words are an encouragement to me to keep writing. said...

Kevin in Manila!,

I read your mission updates faithfully and pray for you every time I receive one. Keep up the good work! said...


Thanks for the analogy!


greg.w.h said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
greg.w.h said...

Oops..forgot the attribution

A later earthquake destroyed the city c.60AD but it was rebuilt with finance from the wealth of the Laodicean inhabitants during the reign of Emperor Nero. Tacitus (14:27) simply notes that

‘One of the famous cities of Asia, Laodicea, was that same year overthrown by an earthquake, and, without any relief from us, recovered itself by its own resources’

Tacitus quote also found here:

extended Tacitus passages found here:


Greg Harvey

Decadent Housewife said...

Thank you for this healing and refreshing post (and blog). I have never heard this explanation - only the former.

Anonymous said...

I little gem for you all, my lawless friends, who love me or hate me enough to put up with me. From an unlikley preacher, John Piper, in this circle. It is only 5 minutes, 42 seconds.


Tim Marsh said...

Pastor Wade,

Thank you for a wonderful post today about the purpose and function of a church on a day when I have been forced to view many administrative tasks. This is why I do it. Thank you.

Kevin Crowder,

What gives with the tone of your comments? Though I don't always agree with you, your comments used to be more cordial, clever and refreshing to read.

Now they are filled with sarcasm, personal attacks and frankly (thinking of your posts defending those who claim we can speak with authority on specific tragedies that they are the judgment of God for a specific sin) positions that I feel are out of character.

Just concerned...

Anonymous said...

Helpful sermon on the proper use of the law.

Anonymous said...


I guess you simply run through the comment stream making judgments about my tone without reading the attacks on my views?

I, unlike Wade, do not detach so widely the mind and heart which I have been given from me, my person…my character.

Wade believes to attack a view is to in no way attack the person. That is foolishness.

Some days I can ignore it, and post in grace. Other times I cannot and the sarcasm will fly. There are ways to disagree without being condescending. Wade has much to learn in this area. Of course I do too, but I think in most cases on G&T2U I am simply playing defense--which is of course much more fun. :)

Thanks for the concern.


(Btw, the end of Piper's sermon, which was my second link above was indeed very convicting to me. A great snow day lesson for me.)

Lydia said...

Piper, Mohler, et. al., are not great sources for some of us. Unfortuantly, they seem to think that Christianity began in the 1500's. :o)

Piper is the one that said that women should be careful giving driving directions to men so it will not look like they are 'leading' men. He also said that women who work and have male direct reports should never give directives. They can suggest but not give directives.

Me thinks he has a Napoleon complex.

These things make it hard for me to take his emotional shock jock (Scream of the Damned) teaching seriuously.

Plus, I have family that worked for him about 6 years ago and they were like legalistic zombies when they came back.

linda said...

Lydia, thanks for saying what needed to be said!

Pastor Wade, thanks for today's post. I must admit I heard the "do more try harder" take on this passage in Baptist churches. I heard the take you gave in a Nazarene church.

And frankly, it makes more sense. Why would Jesus EVER wish us to have a "cold" faith?

Pastor Wade, you challenge me to move beyond theology I am familiar with into that I am not.....even make me rebellious enough to sometimes perhaps consider the historical and yes, geographic, context of a passage.

You are gonna get me in trouble. Sunday I was called a "moderate" said like an epithet for saying that it doesn't matter if creation was 6/24, eons, gap theory, or whatever. The point is God did it.

Of course, it didn't help when I giggled at the discussion about 2012 and how if we could get our heads around light from non existant never did exist stars is how we can have light years then we could see how the Mayans are right about 2012.

Whatever happened to Baptists being so the people of the book that we had the best scholarship? said...


I'm not sure what happened to Baptists and scholarship.

I read the 18th Century English Baptists and they were brilliant men, who were recognized for their linguistic and historical scholarship.

Something happened in the south in America that caused Southern Baptists to devalue our scholarly heritage.

Wade said...

Wade has much to learn

For once, Kevin, you and I are in agreement.

Aussie John said...


Thank you again for a most worthy article.

I would like to see one of those spiritual sliding scales which some Christians use to decide the demarcation between hot, lukewarm. I would also like to see the biblical evidence for teaching which requires believers to exercise every effort get to this arbitrary point on the scale which is the legal “hot” mark.

The lukewarm congregation, or Christian, is the believer who fails to minister the refreshing grace of Christ to those who are thirsty. More often than not this failure is due to the arrogance shown in the use of the sliding scale. The operator of the scale needs to carefully hear Jesus, as He says, “You say, “I am rich. I have become wealthy. I don't need anything.” Yet you don't realize that you are miserable, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” ( Rev. 3:17).

I’m just very thankful that by the great love and grace of God, He showed me that I needed to give that legalistic sliding scale instrument back to the Pharisees, who invented it.

linda said...

Amen, Aussie John, Amen!!

The thing I am struggling with most these days is this:

We claim to be Christians--people who believe in Jesus as God and Savior and claim to follow Him.

But our actions just simply do not match up with what He tells us to do.

And our response to that is to endlessly debate those old "how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" type theology questions rather than dig down really deep into NOTHING but the grace and blood of Jesus.

I wonder how the world would change or fast people would beat feet to the church if the folks proclaiming salvation stopped trying to toe the party line (of whatever denomination) and started just learning about, studying, spending time with, learning from, and finally following Jesus?

I wonder if we still really believe in salvation by grace through faith, or if we have not gone back to salvation by works.

ml said...

Wade, I have stood in the hot springs of Hieropolis [modern day Pammukale] and people still come there for healing [much like the Hot Springs of Arkansas]. I have also been to Colossae [modern day Denizli]. I have to say that the most recent excavations of Laodicea to which I observed did include an aqueduct system. The city is known for its poor water supply due to the source of the auqeduct. Six miles of aqueduct were used to bring insipid water to the city [from a source south of Laodicea]. Some believe that the same heating element may have caused the water to begin as hot and then become lukewarm by the time it reached the city. IF this were the case and it also contained the mineral deposits, then it would hardly have been a potable water. As a city, they were also known as a wealthy city from eye salve medicine, but, who relied on their wealth and who essentially stood for nothing [William Ramsey]. There are observable aqueducts descending the mountain from Hieropolis. However, for the exact same reasons as Kevin has suggested, I have to agree with your translation Wade more than the "traditional." 1. Why would God ask people to be/become [more] indifferent to Him? That works completely against what he desires as stated in scripture. 2. Hot and Cold as a designation of feeling toward someone or something is a modern conceptualization or nuance of the words and would have been completely foreign to the ancients. From Laodicea look left and you can see the residual effects of hot water considered useful for healing; turn around to the right and you can see the mountains that fed the water to Colossae and know they had refreshing and cold potable water. In Laodicea they had lukewarm water which was neither refreshing nor medicinal. It was nauseating. BTW the picture of Hieropolis cannot be missed from Laodicea ruins or from Denizli for that matter. The mineral deposits are spectacular.

Gene S said...


Any analogy or parable is like an ink blot test by a Psychologist--it means different things to different people. There is no right or wrong answer--just an opportunity to think and dream!

We don't mean to pick on you, my brother, but (at age almost 64) my judgment is you need to do some growing--and you have the potential!

We have a lot of "90 day wonders" in the pulpit these days. In case you don't know, that's army lingo for a guy who has enough education in ROTC, but not a dab of sense enough to keep his men safe.

In such a case, he would wisely go to the old "Sarge" who has his education in the school of hard knocks. His shirt is dirty from being with his men. Any shiny rank bars mean nothing to the Sarge. He is smart enough to know if the little young upstart doesn't wise up soon, an enemy bullet will blow his brains out as he stands up to be noticed!

We "old timers" would all like to see you make the grade. If we jump on you, it's not because we don't like you. It's just that we think you have the capacity to wise up before someone in a church lops your head off!

We like you, man!!! Listen a little more than you pontificate!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Gene. I appreciate the tone and candor with which you speak. Today I spent a lot of time on the passage in Revelation 3 that Wade has interpreted for us. I have ripped apart the English and the Greek. And I gotta tell you while this all seems to fit, while this all seems nice and sweet, it just ain't there. I know ,I know, waffle, waffle, gimmi a tall stack. But analogies my dear friend are not like ink blots. Jesus did not speak in parables to allow for multiple meanings. He had one very clear message to Laodicea and it is found in verses 17 and 18. Jesus finds them saying they need nothing (sounds like after the AD60 earthquake). Then Jesus counsels them to buy gold from Him, refined by fire, and they refused. We do not know that the Laodicean Church did not give to the poor or provide a healing and refreshing ministry to the poor. They probably did. They were earthly rich, but they had not the sold out riches of God. "Those whom I love" Jesus says. Almost as if they had a heart like His. A heart like His father David, a heart like His Father God. Jesus wanted them to burn with a passion for Him. They loved Him, but their passion was their wealth. I think the Hot/Cold/Lukewarm analogy Jesus is making here is not so much about the hot or the cold, but about the Lukewarmness. It is not that they were doing it all wrong, it is that they were doing it themselves and not giving Jesus all the glory He was due. HE wanted to be their passion. HE wanted them to rebuild with gold refined from HIS fire, not their own bankrolled vault-temperature wealth.

If that is pontificating then give me a staff and mitre. But I simply cannot sit back while a 1900 year old understanding is reinterpreted with modern day love theology.

If that means I cannot sit down to lunch with ya'all then so be it. But maybe we can do dessert. Blackberry cobbler is my choice. And I like HOT, though I would never spew it out be it cold or lukewarm. :)

Christiane said...

Perhaps Wade's post really is meant to focus on the great need for Christian communities to be responsive to those who are "tired, weary, and full of despair".

Wade's father, Paul Burleson's post, is filled with a wonderful description of a kind of passionately Christ-centered community with its arms reaching out to those who are 'spiritually wounded, oppressed, and needy.'

Certainly, a community where the weakened ones are kept at the heart and surrounded with Christian compassion, is a healing Christian community.
And there, those in need will easily come to know Christ the Lord. They will see Him reflected in the spirits of those who care for them, as they are, in the Way of Christ Himself. In this way, the Church will help them and turn their faces towards the Lord Christ, Who sends to them the 'living water' of the Holy Spirit:
"refreshment" eternal,
healing, and the peace beyond all understanding.

This is what Wade's post means to me.

Peace in Christ,

Anonymous said...


I ran across this blog today in a google search for something and thought you and others might like it/keep up with it...


"Our creator would never have made such lovely days, and given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought, unless we were meant to be immortal." -N. Hawthorne

Gene S said...


We have a similar love for blackberry cobler. Have you ever gotten chiggers picking them at your grandaddy's house? It is a high price to pay when they invade your private parts and around you waistline and socks. Paying that price makes it even better--I HAVE!

For me a big glob of vanilla ice cream makes the treat complete.

My other love is pecan pie--a Southern delicacy. My mother made the best with dark Karo syrup as the core of her recipe. It was bad for you in sugar, but a little corruption once in a while never killed anybody!

Maybe you just take life a little to seriously. Actually, I think it was Paul giving it to the church at Laodicea, as I recall.

Sorry I don't have time to sit in my office researching scripture. As I work for a living in Tree Surgery, we were taking down 4 large trees for one of the most historic houses in NC at Bath. When you are doing tree work, period, you better be in a right relationship with God. When it is at an irreplaceable historical site, you better have your skills and expensive equipment in place as well.

We got 3 of 4 where we wanted them----on the ground!!!! Actually I will bet you if you sit a drink can where I am throwing that 120' tree I will hit it 9 of 10 times and the one I miss will be within 1' on either side!

That's why you should listen to some of us old codgers who parse the Scripture with equal accuracy!

tnchurch said...

W.M. Ramsay book "The Letters to the Seven Churches" was very helpful in understanding the context of these seven cities.

Byroniac said...

Wade, or anyone else who can answer and wants to,

I have an off-topic question, related to certain comments made in this thread. Doesn't the idea of Revelation being written in the 90s fit better with the historical fact of Domitian demanding emperor worship? I ask this as one who believes most likely that Revelation was written in the 60s, but I am curious as to a possible defense against this criticism.

All you "90s" people, just be quiet. ;)

Christiane said...


Thank you for the website with the beautiful photographs.
The blog-owner seems like such a joyful person. She looks a bit like my niece Linds.

I guess you know that people here have been a little concerned for you lately.
I think you will be fine after a time of re-thinking your goals and priorities and making some plans for your future. I will always hope and pray that you return to the Seminary. But God puts us where we need to be sometimes. BTW, if you need to vent, go ahead and get it out. We have noticed 'just a little' that you have seemed stressed. It will pass, Kevin, and in time, the way will become more clear for you. You will see. It will be all right.

Be Peaceful,
Love, L's said...


Sure, I think the emperor worship under Domitian fits better. There are good arguments for both the early dating and the later dating of Revelation.

Byroniac said...

Wade, thanks!

Rex Ray said...

Your statement: “I have family that worked for him [Piper] about 6 years ago and they were like legalistic zombies when they came back” reminded me of my sister, Ann, who was four years younger than me.

I told her, “You’re being BRAINWASHED!”

Ann, her younger sister, Raynell, and two other girlfriends had gone to Bob Jones University in my extra car.

Bob Jones had told Ann she could work on the school annual for money needed to go to school. She ended up working in a cafĂ© because the annual job was reserved for upper classmen and she was a freshman. (Just a little technicality on Jones’ words.)

Ann was thrilled with Jones’ speeches at school assemblies, and kept a notebook on what he said. On school vacation was when I told her she was being brainwashed.

Ann kept her admiration of Jones until he told the school dean, “I want this girl off campus tonight!”

What happened was Ann had sent the dean a letter suggesting the school have a student counsel to handle discipline problems. (Raynell, a freshman in high school had been severely disciplined.)

Their rules were so picky even Billy Graham was expelled.

After the letter, Ann was given a new roommate which she liked. After a while Ann was called for a meeting (trial) with the dean.

Ann couldn’t figure out how the dean knew everything about her. Ann had even dared to listen to other radio stations other than the universities!

Not until her roommate spoke against her did Ann know she was a spy. About that time Bob Jones entered the room saying, “I smell EVIL”, and wanted her off campus.

The dean reasoned with him that there were three other girls and they were leaving at the end of the semester in two weeks.

Rex Ray said...

I really like this explanation of Revelations that I’ve never heard before.

We heard the old version about a month ago which implied our church was lukewarm and dying.

In fact, every sermon since then has bordered around the same topic. The last one being: no one was being saved except the ones that came to the pastor.

The question arises as in sports, does the church need to start over with a new team or a new coach?

Gene S said...

Rex Ray--

My grandaddy had a farm within 5 miles of the Bob Jones campus in Greenville, SC. Their Youth for Christ program tried to get all us Atlanta area youth saved. They are ruled with an iron hand. One of my classmates went there because of the Youth for Christ influence. She now prides herself and her classmate husband, a highly paid Dantist, with all the things and money they have these days. Her hair has been prematurely grey for years--probably from worry she might not be good enough or rich enough.

Upon graduation from Seminary (SEBTS) I served the FBC of Easley, SC. There I heard their fundamentalist diatribe on their radio station. It was the first Creationist stuff I heard that amazed me. Their presenter was trying to debunk the Carbon-14 dating method by claiming jet airplane exhaust fumes would alter it---he didn't explain or mention there were no jets in prehistoric days!

What was most amazing was their petition to the City of Greenville to allow their gate guards to carry machine guns! Greenville didn't have any hippies, but I suppose they thought some from Atlanta might sneak over00or students sneak out into the evil world!

Fear / indoctrination / iron-clad rules / intimidation / spying have been the rule there even under the son who now runs it. The above list sounds like the tactics of Pressler-Patterson.

Why is it that some preachers, like yours, think they were born to tell people what to do rather than inspire them to do better by showing and encouraging faithfulness--rather than commanding it.

The proper translation of Matthew 28:19-20 is not a command--rather a statement beginning with "Since you are going, go witnessing."

The Pharisees commanded / intimidated / etc. by having laws around the laws of the 10 Commandments. That is even sounding like the society in the US these days! I think it was why our ancestors left England and Europe in the search for a free society where people could live as God led--and not some preacher or religious denomination along with the IRS.

Have we lost our way or what?????

Anonymous said...

"a highly paid Dantist"

You mean Bob Jones?

Oh no wait, he's a pedantist.


I would like to make a point though, and that is to say that we find these similar type stories with nearly every ministry. I have heard stories of whole families being asked to leave Saddleback/PDM for disagreeing with their desire NOT to use the word "sin." Ministries like PDM, DG, Ligonier, SGM, A29, even seminaries, and denominational entities are effectually governed by the vision of the leader. You like the leader so you sign up and follow. But then comes the day when you disagree. What do you do? Well, you can cause a stink or you can be silent and enjoy the part of the ministry which attracted you to begin with.

The old saying is valid: "A squeaky wheel gets oil or replaced."

Better to get the oil.

Rex Ray said...

You said, “…students sneak out into the evil world!”

Going into the evil world was closely guarded. If they needed to buy something in town, they could go with no lest than three, and one had to be an upper classman.

They had to stay together as a group, even though one needed one store and the others didn’t - and no talking on the bus.

One of the ‘four girls’ got the third degree: “Why were you talking to that boy?”

“I was witnessing to him.” (Afterwards, she told Ann, “Good one. Huh?”)

Hypocritically, Ann was allowed to go to work off campus late at night unescorted, but during the day it was a different story.

I believe my sister was better off being replaced even though it broke her heart.

She was so upset, she never told our parents about the ‘trial’.

Then again, she might have feared our father ‘wiping the floor’ with Bob Jones.

DL said...


It appears you've been reading the daily meditations from Revelation of a fellow Sooner. :)

ezekiel said...

How did we get from sheep to wheels?

linda said...

It was my misfortune in the mid 90's to encounter an empire building pastor. We went from a loving congregation reaching out to all to one that shut down our Spanish language mission (coveted the space for office space to store books) and holding our VBS signup purposely out of sight of the nearby trailer park so "those kids" would not attend VBS.

Spew. Vomit.

I've been part of a church seeking to be "new puritans". Folks would move heaven and earth to gain more expertise in Greek and Hebrew. Prided themselves on hair length (male=very short, female=very long) and judged everyone around them as to whether their clothing was "Christian" enough.

Spew. Vomit.

And now I live near an alcoholic believer who long ago gave up on church, tired of being judged. And yet she repeatedly takes in families that would otherwise be homeless. Shelters them. Feeds them. Teaches them about the love Jesus has for them. Prays for them. Teaches their kids the Bible.

And I can just see it someday when we all stand before Jesus. He announces special honors for those faithful pastors.

And the names of the first two I mentioned are never called.

And this unordained woman receives the honor she deserves.

Truly, the first are gonna be last and the last first.

Pastor Wade has this passage right: are we going to rely on our smarts and our money and our social status, or are we going to follow Jesus and rely on Him?

Christiane said...


How beautifully the Holy Spirit can use imperfect people when they have abandoned completely the terrible sin of pride that whispers to them of their superiority over others.

Sometimes it is the people in pain who can better understand the pain of others, and who, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, are able to mercifully care for others without judgment or condemnation.

I loved your comment.
Thank you so very much for the sharing this witness of your faith in Our Lord.

Caritas Christi,

Debbie Kaufman said...

Linda: What a great comment you wrote. And I think your last sentence says it all. This is where we as a denomination have lost our sight. We long ago quit getting our hands dirty, although there are so many who are not in the spotlight who have done the very thing you are talking about.

We have a lady in our church who I love dearly. She has reached out to unwed mothers and teens in a way no one else could. She has a wonderful ministry and has changed many, many lives.

Alyce Lee Faulkner gave up blogging and with her husband began a beautiful ministry to women just out of prison, even having them live in her home for awhile. The lives she has changed is amazing.

Many ministers have traveled to Haiti and written about it. Incredible ministry there.

This is where our focus should be. Not on Calvinist vs. non-Calvinist or women in ministry or any other silly debate, but in rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty. said...


I agree with Debbie- great comment and great last question!


Lydia said...

"I would like to make a point though, and that is to say that we find these similar type stories with nearly every ministry. I have heard stories of whole families being asked to leave Saddleback/PDM for disagreeing with their desire NOT to use the word "sin." Ministries like PDM, DG, Ligonier, SGM, A29, even seminaries, and denominational entities are effectually governed by the vision of the leader. You like the leader so you sign up and follow. But then comes the day when you disagree. What do you do? Well, you can cause a stink or you can be silent and enjoy the part of the ministry which attracted you to begin with."

The answer is in your comment above. Folks should stop following men and start following Christ. Anyone who signs on to a ministry or movement because they 'like the leader' has a deeper spiritual problem.

Gene S said...

It was my policy when I was a pastor to visit those inactive members on the roll and try to bring them back.

What was interesting was that some of the most genuine and wise people on the church roll chose NOT to attend. Usually it had to do with the hypocracy of those calling the shots while I was there.

One was so bold to name our Deacon Chairman as the sleeziest businessman in town. He had cheated him so badly, he didn't ever want to be the the same room with him, much less at church.

All I could say was, "I understand where you are coming from and God doesn't like hypocrits in the least. According to the Bible, they will suffer the harshest judgement in the life to come."

"My only problem is that if I pastored a church full of honest people like you, it would make life far more exciting and God would be pleased to have himself represented by people like you. Think about it and come to worship and help God rather than man. Satan is never happier than when evil people calling themselves Christians drive good people away from his church."

Think of this often, and encourage participation from people who are the real deal in their living of their faith.

Gene S said...

Well, well, well--the drama finally has a solid source. My conclusions:

(1) The higher the monkeys climb the tree, the more you see their tails!

(2) The dirty tricks played in the ouster of Randall Lolley and other professors--instigated by Paige Patterson--continue with their own kind now totally present at SEBTS.

(3) Only the fundies eat their young to avoid competition--as do lions & tigers!

(4) A monotone Bible with all parts equal has, long ago, proven to be a stupid man's Bible.

(5) Any ideology has a common source: man trying to figure out God with a good fist fight thrown in---so those watching these present day disciples are asking, "If this is Christianity, do I want any part in it?"

(6) That was when Jesus picked up a child and placed him on his knee and spoke of anyone hurting a child (new follower / small one) he would be better off having a millstone tied around his neck and cast into the middle of the sea. That was equal to the electric chair in our day.

I think we need to listen again to Jesus on these matters--and start acting a little more like him, if we want anyone following us!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, I learned something.

Don Johnson

bc said...


Thanks for the honest exchange. I think there's some friction involved anytime and I appreciate both of you letting things fly and resolve without being to anxious to end it early , otherwise it wouldn't have been instructive.

Could someone explain a little bit about "grace theology" and how that differs from the SBC?

I just met a friend who's "free grace" and came from a very small KJV bible college in Florida and it seems they have a lot of compelling logic and arguments for their positions on being anti-calvinism and pro-KJV.

I got saved in an evangelical but also slightly charismatic-ish Chinese evangelical church in the Bay Area, California but went to a church in college that had pastors from John MacArthur's Seminary as well as Biola's Talbot School of Theology so I made the swing over to the new calvinism espoused by the Young, Restless, Reformed crowd.

Now I'm understanding some of the critiques and flaws of said preachers, Keller, Piper, MacArthur and my views are becoming less rosy and more nuanced. Thankfully not disillusioned though. So now it seems the next iteration is coming around since I accept their "ANTI-legalism" critique of Calvinisitic camps... Many within would agree...

But I'm still parsing information from the "(FREE?) Grace (Theology?)" camp and whether or not I accept their "PRO" positions. Seems like Istoria and other people here feel different and more full of grace? Not sure hrm. Input appreciated! :)