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Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Uncontrollable Fire: "The Consumation"

The Uncontrollable Fire: "A Spreading Flame"

You know how some people will be the first to stand up in a chapel or a church service, and they'll say things and do things that they would not do in a regular everyday setting? Rob Bell once posed the a question which asked is this what God wanted. He was raised in a church, but he later started to ask the question if this is what God had in mind. Does it make sense when the worshipers of Sunday mornings do not love and serve this God outside of the building they comfortably call the church? I do not think that God had in mind that we would be safely sitting in a church praying aloud, and go out Monday hoping that no one knew that we prayed.
In 1 Corinthians 14:1-4, Paul says to pursue love but to desire spiritual gifts. Pursue here is very strong because it says that we are continually chasing without fully grasping. Desire here only says that we cannot even begin to win or earn our gifts, because gifts are to be given. It is here the we see Christ's heart for His Church. Spiritual gifts are great things but we must be willing to lift up those around us in love that we recognize as followers of Christ as well as the lost ones, whom God still loves. Paul here is saying to this group of believers that although it is great to recieve something that makes you someone who has something different and something special to display, it is far greater to be someone who will sacrifice so that a brother or a sister will see how they may be a better Christian. It is greater to seek out the lost sheep and return them to wholeness. These Corinthians were not bad people, they just had a few quirks just like every church today has. Speaking in tongues was obviously one the key ingredients for these people in feeling their own spirituality. Paul however wanted to show them what Jesus really taught. Paul pointed to something far greater than speaking in tongues; he pointed to love and compassion. Paul desired for his friends to see the will of God. Paul says in this passage that when we speak in tongues, we lift ourselves up, but when we prophecy we are mainly seeking the repentence and potential of men and women. The point here is that the Church was never meant to primarily be a service every sunday morning where we come in and sit down, stand up, sit down, and leave. Christiianity was never about having an ecstatic and wild worship, nor was it about having an orderly orthodox service. According to Jesus, true religion is not any of these things. True religion and pure spirituality is about helping the helpless and loving them; it is about blessing everyone, even our enemies, because once we were enemies to the one who blessed us with grace and salvation. Love is the foundation of everything and everyone in the Church. Paul understood what it was the Jesus said in Matthew 22:34-40.
I was driving with my good friend one day when we started talking about holy living. Our conversation went on and eventually he said he didn't give a shit as a christian. He said that that was the difference between me and him. I wanted to respond. I wanted to think of something witty to make him think, but I just couldn't. It may have been a little shock because he and I were raised almost the same by our parents. It was only recently when I read more of the Bible that I started to see what this young man was missing.
Jesus said in Matthew 22:34-40 that the greatest commandment of all time was to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is making God more than an idea and making Him very personable. The second command he mentioned was very close to the first command. It said love your neighbor as you should love yourself. Now there's something interesting. Love your neighbors. At first thought that could be anyone. In the account of Luke, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. I'm not going to take time to tell it because we've all heard it in our sunday schools. The point Jesus was making was that altlhough the two men were different and were supposed to be enemies, they connected on a level that was far deeper than any relationship this world offers. Jesus wanted so bad for the Pharisees and Sadducees to see who they should treat as their neighbors, and in doing so He forced the Pharisee to say the very people he was against were the very people God wanted him to be for.
Our neighbors are walking by us everyday. Should we not bless them? Is that not what Jesus would have us do? Is it possible that our enemies are our enemies because we choose to think of them in such a way? Are we simply choosing to love them? The truth is yes, we do it everyday with our friends. We choose to love when we choose our friends, and we choose not to love when we choose our enemies.
Jesus also was responding to the idea that the Law is something heavy and light. In those days, the teachers of the Law wanted to divide the Law into sections that were completely neccessary and the things which were not so necessary. They wanted the good, the bad, and the not so bad. But if we look at the Ten Commandments, they ask us to do something simple. Most of the Law is something simple. It's goal was to keep us separate in the babaric and animal sense. Jesus however is asking us to a higher cause. He is calling us to live a life that is above anything the law could ask us to do. Jesus is asking us to love. It is the foundation of the law. The reason God gave us the law was to point to the life of love. The Law itself turns out to be only the beginning of holiness. If we live by the Law alone, then we are settling for the smallest things that God would have us do. But grace has called us to something more. If we live in service to others and with love for God and His will, then we have soared to new heights where death cannot touch us. We need to start living by the love of God. We can start seeing new things happen if we live by this new thing that God wanted us to have from the beginning. God never wanted us to live by just the basics and by ourselves inside this thing that many want to say is the church. He wanted us to be beyond that. What he really wanted was for us to move and to be a movement. He wanted us to be contagious like a wild fire. When we burn like this, there is nothing that controls our love for God and others. We will then move like the wind and the flame and spread to the ends of the earth.
In John 13:34-35. Jesus says that his followers will be known by their love for each other. What does that mean? It means that we must love for the sake of something bigger than us. If this is bigger than us, and we want to be a part of this movement, then we need to participate in love and grace. Let's not think we are the only ones in this struggle, yet let us live as if God has given us the responsibility to carry out HIS agenda into the world. We must also never forget that God is master and that we are not. There just isn't any way we can rule along side of Him and be servants at the same time. We need to begin living in love and abandon hate for those who hate God. When we finally realize that this movement is about more than we like to believe and is actually about God's will and love for the world, then it will become easier to understand. It's so easy to forget that we are the servants and that blessings aren't guaranteed. Sometimes the only blessings we will see is salvation itself. But that is more than enough because the grace in salvation is overflowing.
So may you go out and bless your neighbor. May you realize that this life you are trying to live is worth everything. May you live a life that is of the great fire and true freedom that God wants you to have.

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Uncontrollable Fire: "A Spark"

The next four post are a sermon series I'm typing out. It's a work in progress an I am not done with all the critical work, so bear with me this time.
Theme Verse: Acts 9:1-20

I want to start by telling a story of my dad and my uncle. One day my dad and my brother were outside their house playing with a box of matches at the tree line of the woods outside their house. This happened when they were alot younger and not as smart as they are now. My uncle is the one credited with being brilliant enough to throw the lit matches onto the dry leaves at the edge of the woods and my dad was just along for the ride. My uncle proceed by throwing the matches and then stomping out the burning leaves with his foot. This plan was great for about 5-6 matches. After so many throws, I think that chance left the scene and probability took hold of its rightful position. The leaves were burning like before, but were not going out this time. In a terrible panic, the two brothers ran to the house. They hoped to escape notice, but were confronted with harsh reality when the entire local fire department showed up at their doorsteps. When door opened, two kids became frightened by a man known only as the fire marshall who lectured them about the dangers that fires have on them.
My dad and his brother almost did a terrible thing. I guarantee that they have not tried it again to this day and are very cautious around matches. The funny thing is that such a small innocent spark of energy can cause have such a drastic affect on everything around it. There have been stories on the news about forest fires and how they cost us billions of dollars every year. In 1993, Southern California experienced one of their worst forest fires in history. They area had gone an indecent amount of time without rain, making the forest ripe for the bunring. The fire was devastating. About 6500 firemen battled the blazes along with firechoppers which scooped water from the Pacific Ocean. The efforts however were futile and the fire took over 1000 homes and left close to a billion dollars in damage.
All it took was one spark. Such a small amount of energy compared to a gigantic forest fire. Such a concept seems barely at the grasp of the mind. A spark is such a small amount of energy. If you have seen a spark you know how quick and small its energy is and how short of a window of opportunity it has to make a difference. Acts 9:1-3 paints a picture of one of the infamous sparks of our religion. When Saul was running around capturing Christians for the silencing, he was stopped in his tracks to Damascus. Now, in those days, visions were becoming quite rare. No vision had occured in such a long time, but Saul saw a vision nonetheless. In this passage Saul eventually answers the call Christ had for him making on of the greatest sparks in our history.
This passage also mentions another character that is crucial to this story, God. God is trying to get our lives energized like a spark is energized from a flint peice. God has faith that we can do this and calls us to Him. We must start to see the potential inside us and have faith in ourselves as well as in God, for God believes that we are capable of being priests. In Acts 9:3-6, God has called Saul to stop doing what he is doing and follow Him. It does not seem to make sense that the man who was such a sworn enemy to the Church was even considered. But then again. Jesus chose fishermen and tax collectors. Why not someone who was working in the synagogues and Temple. God believed that Saul was capable of something great. That we be the only reason He choose 12 vagabonds to follow Him. He believed that they could be like Him. The same love and faith existed in Saul's case as well.
Acts 9:7-18 shows what it is to be a spark. One thing about the spark is that the spark cannot stay and still keep its energy. It must go and find something to pass its energy on to. Without something to pass on that energy to, the spark loses its energy. Barnabas carried on such a concept. He was just a spark. but he found someone to pass on his energy to. Now the way he would be passing on his energy was very risky in his eyes. Saul was not a man of a great reputation for men like Barnabas. He still went and helped unleash one of the greatest wild fires of history that still burns today.
Sparks are also wild and unpredictable. We must remember that when one drops his own life and begins to follow Christ, that that is one of the wildest and most unpredictable moments in a anyones life. Would it not make sense that such a start of a lifestyle is partly what makes up the lifestyle itself. The old life is very mundain. It is worth not even a penny in your pocket, because the things of this world will all fade away. Nothing of this life lasts. The funny thing is that we are born in a nature which partly desires this world, and most of the time it whens over everything that calls us to be holy and to be God chasers. Is it not wild and so unpredictable that we, fallen man would first be chosen to be in God's Kingdom and then be the ones to accept it. If that is wild, then so is the lifestyle we are to live, and by wild, I mean passionate about God and about loving others and showing grace and spreading the Gospel in whatever way God deems as possible for you. There should be no bubbles among. I know about bubbles. My younger life was a bubble. but we run a risk as Christians. We risk financial trauma, verbal abuse, discrimination, and even death in some situations. That however is the life God wants of us, for it is only out of love that some have suffered. If we claim to love, then let us live in love.
If we look at scriptures, then we see that we follows God's commands and not the Law. Now hang with me for a second; I am about to make a point. When we follow God, we will reflect the Law. If God gave the Jewish nation the Law, then it only makes sense that following God would be very similar to following the Law. But those who follow the Law have only death, for no one can please the Law. This was true in the Old Testament as well. The people who walked and talked with God were the ones known as righteous. Those who merely followed the Law were only Law abiding citizens. In that note I can say that we do not follow the Law, for we are not disciples of the Law, we are disciples of God, the maker of the Law. We have the virtue found in the law which is of God in our hearts.
All this is the way to starting a flame, but we must be sparks for the Kingdom. We are not like forestfires in a destructive sense, but we are sparks which awaken souls that have never burned or have been ashes for a long time. All it takes is to be a spark. All we have to do is be a small, responsive energy the can kindle the flame, which will be the next reality behind the Church.