Keep the Fire Burning

June 9, 2019


I’m sure you all remember the wildfires in California last year.  According to Wikipedia, the 2018 wildfire season was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire season on record in California, with a total of 8,527 fires burning an area of 1,893,913 acres.  California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center together spent $1.792 billion to stop the spread of, and finally extinguish, all of the fires in that state after 9 months of effort.  But they finally did. 

A spiritual wildfire was started back on the first day of Pentecost 10 days after Christ ascended back into heaven.  It started in a room with the 11 disciples (remember, Judas was no longer among them) and a small group of believers, as you heard in our second Scripture reading from Acts 2.  Just as Jesus had promised them, the Holy Spirit came and filled the entire house they had gathered together in, and each of them was set on fire.   And while it took the winds that fanned the flames in California two months to cause them to start spreading rapidly, the wind of the Holy Spirit spread the flames of the newly indwellt believers so rapidly that in just one day, the fire had spread to 3000 more (Acts 2:41).

And the fire has been burning every since.  In almost 2000 years, the ‘spirit who lives in the world’ as Satan is called in our third Scripture reading (1 John 4:1-4), has tried every possible means to extinguish the fire of the Holy Spirit to no avail.  He tried to in me, and was successful for many years in making it appear that there was nothing left but ashes, the charred remains of what once was a brightly burning fire.  But once you have the Holy Spirit within you, no matter how much you quench the flame, there will be always be at least a tiny ember deep within the ashes, just waiting to be fanned back into fire.

One of the reasons I went for so many years before the fire in me was re-ignited was that I had stopped going to church.  The enemy knows, just as every predator knows, that the easiest way to capture their prey is to first separate it from the herd.  Satan ensured I stayed out of church by giving me a job that made it necessary for me to work on Sunday mornings - a job too lucrative to give up.  Money has always been one of his greatest tools.   But he has many others, and if one doesn’t work, he will move on to the next.  The list of excuses goes on and on. “I can just watch church on television or the internet.  That’s just as good, right?”  “I read my Bible and pray, so why do I need church, too?”  And Satan will gladly reassure you that ‘yes indeed, that is just fine’!  But God’s Word says otherwise in Hebrews 10:25: “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”   And that day is indeed drawing near.  Think about it this way - if one stick had been separated from the California wildfires, how easily do you think the firefighters could have put out its singular flame? 

Unfortunately too many Christians today have become disillusioned with the church.  They say there’s too much conflict within it, too many hypocrites, too many rules, too much formality and not enough love.  And there is some truth to these.  But the Body of Christ is made up of people like you and me who are not yet completely sanctified, not yet made perfect in Christ.  However, we should be working towards that goal.  Jesus told us in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."  When people see us, in the church building, and out of the church building, do they see our love for one another?  Do they see our love for THEM? 

So let’s not give up on each other.  We are all members of the Body of Christ, and a body needs all of its members.  A hand can’t reach out to someone else if it isn’t connected to an arm.   A mouth can’t speak words of hope and comfort without a tongue.  Feet can’t walk to a neighbor’s house to bring supplies to someone who has just lost everything without being connected to legs.  God has called us to work together to share the Good News of salvation, to love and serve one another in His name, and to support and encourage one another in the faith.  Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:3-8: “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.  We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your a faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Television and the internet are useful tools, but they don’t replace personal contact and connection.  Relationships struggle and fall apart because of today’s obsession with technology.  And that is what church is – a relationship with God and with each other.  We need each other.  And the world needs us - not as a broken, disjointed shell of what we used to be, but as a vital life-giving force that transmits the love, peace, and joy that only comes through Jesus Christ.  Amen.


"Soul on Fire"  (Third Day)

“Pentecost Song – We Didn’t Start the Fire”  (adapted by Pastor Pete Warmanen from the Billy Joel original)