Thursday, October 2, 2008

Two Kinds of Fire

“ I am going to burn you up!” This was the vocabulary of my youth when I was in some form of disobedience or a general nuisance to my parents. They did the best they could trying to make sure I made it through life unscathed by its dangers. “Burning me up” meant that there was an actual or perceived threat to apply friction to my gluteus maximus (my butt) as a deterrent to bad behavior. This method has been used for many millennia, and it still works today.

However, my oldest daughter, Abbi, grew up on the mission field far, far away from the language of my southern heritage, and one day I told the tender child in the heat of frustration that, “I am going to burn you up!” Well this really caught her attention, and I knew from the look of terror on her face that she thought that I was threatening to set her on fire or something. I quickly diffused the situation, and to this day Abbi knows that nothing her dad says will set off the smoke detector.

Speaking of fire one must admit that it is a very powerful symbol. It can describe heat, a personality or a great message that you heard at church last Sunday. Fire is also a strong motivation for us to proceed quickly in the opposite direction of where the fire is located.

There are several kinds of fire referred to in the Bible, and I would like to focus on two of them. The first kind is the fire of power and zeal bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us power to be witnesses, and this was so tangible with the first church that tongues of fire were seen over them when God first filled them with the Holy Spirit. God desires that this kind of fire should describe the perpetual state of readiness of all believers to boldly and lovingly share the hope that is within them.

The second fire is judgment or discipline. It could be the hell of the ultimate judgment or the trying situations that we find ourselves in when we disobey God like Jonah did. (vid
pt 1 & pt 2) As a young boy I heard the preacher talk about both fires, and both fires are still needed in every pulpit.

The preacher should have one of two goals when he preaches.

First is to see that all have the fire of the Holy Spirit over their heads. This means we are faithful and powerful witnesses.

Second is that if the first goal fails the preacher needs to light a spiritual fire under our chairs so that we are motivated one way or another to move forward. This worked with Jonah several millennia ago, and it still works today.

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