Saturday, February 9, 2008

Life a flame

Fire: a mystery, in many ways. I understand the physics of it, but it nonetheless fascinates me, compels me: when you watch it, it matters little how much you comprehend - it is still a mystery.

So is this incredible flame that God has set in my heart. I do not understand it, more: do not understand how it is that one can live like this, most: do not understand how one could possibly live without it. It is a passion for the glory of God, for His ways, for His Kingdom come on this earth in our lives surrendered. It is an unquenchable desire to be broken wholly and completely for Him, and to see all His people the same. It is a fury and a sorrow at the tragedy of sin, at the way it rules our lives: at the subtle debilitating influence it has in many believers. It is a heart-rending grief that so many are lost, hopeless, dying in the world around us. It is frustration with so many who do not live for Christ alone - first and foremost, myself. It is bewilderment at those who can profess a heart for Asia, or Africa, or Europe, or anywhere in the world, yet seem incapable of sharing the gospel with their neighbor. It is incomparable joy at seeing God move in people's lives. It is excitement at seeing new believers. It is exulting in repentance, rejoicing in renewal of cold hearts. It is tears and laughter and anger and peace and -

Fire. He consumes me. Not completely, yet - though I look forward to that day - but ever more each day.

Mystery. And so completely explained: the Holy Spirit fell as fire, and not without reason. It was not needlessly that John the Baptist described the baptism to come - the baptism of the Spirit - as a baptism of fire.

What the fire looks like in others is not the same as in me. But there must be fire. What is a life without it? No heat to warm those God has put near us; no light to shine in the dark world in which we live. And yet, the vast majority of the time, that's how Christianity in America looks. It's lukewarm. No bright shining light, no heat to warm the hearts of those close to us... just a tepid gladness of our own salvation, with no burning desire to see it extended to others.

I have to question whether we actually understand the gospel, the magnitude of all we have been given, the greatness of God's glory, when we live like that. I'm as guilty of it as any other, but I cannot sit comfortably in my mediocrity.

The Holy Spirit is a river of living water, flowing into us, but He does not delight in making stagnant pools. We are to be conduits of His life, not mere receptacles for it, greedily holding to it for ourselves. He wants to flow through us into the lives of others, and when we are not channels, but ponds, we stifle His work. We should be deep-flowing rivers, to be sure: but rivers, or even incredibly active lakes - not salty lakes, with no outflow.

God could do so much through us, if we would simply avail ourselves to Him, choose to make our lives about His purposes instead of our own. My heart breaks to see the state of America, to see the state of her churches - to see her ever more tattered and broken under the constant onslaught of all that is evil. Sexual immorality is rampant; homes are broken, drunkenness is everywhere, drugs and their culture of crime are tearing her apart from the underside, and corruption and power-hungriness bloating her from above. And her one hope - the church of Christ actually functioning as His body: His hands and feet moving and embracing and healing and bringing light and truth, showing what lives lived with purpose in true community can be - is asleep, caught in mediocrity, comfortable with little more than a vague spirituality, yearning perhaps for something more but not enough as to get up off the sofa and pursue it. All too soon the church will die as it has in Europe if we do not beseech the mercy of God Almighty and sacrifice greatly for her continue life here. God will not stop moving - but He may bring judgment rather than mercy.

I don't care who you are, where you're from, what your job is. God wants to use you. He wants to pour out His mercy on the people of the world - and that includes right here in America. He wants to pour out His strength on your life, His grace and favor (not necessarily in a material sense), not so that you keep it for yourself, but so that you liberally pour it into the lives of the hopeless, dying, lost, confused, broken people who surround you every day. You don't have to change the whole world. You do have to change your world. So get up, go: invite your neighbor over for hamburgers, just because they are your neighbor - not as a project, but because you love them as Christ loves them. Explain the gospel to your coworkers, and pray for them - labor in prayer for them. Talk to your classmates about why you believe what you believe, and when a professor says something wrong - say so!

Our brothers and sisters in persecuted nations are willing to die for the gospel. Why? Because they know what they have been given, how precious a gift it is. Most of the time, we're unwilling to sacrifice even the comfort of security of others' opinions of us for His name.

But there is fire waiting to pour down, if we will ask for it... fire from Heaven, kindling hearts that are cold, making what is stone into flesh anew, pouring hope where their is only despair. He will come if we ask Him.

So, please - I beseech you - ask. Ask without ceasing. Ask for revival, renewal: starting in the body of Christ, and then - as we are emboldened, impassioned, and strengthened - moving out into a dark and thirsty land with light and the very waters of life. It is not too great a thing: for we have this same Spirit in us who raised Christ from the dead, the same power and authority on us that called down fire from heaven to consume an altar whole and destroy the idolatry of Baal, the same power and boldness that shook the world in the first century, that has shaken the world in every century since. No, no indeed: Christ shall overcome the world, and we may be His hands as he does so. But it requires faith: actually believing, really, truly believing, that what we believe is really real, is true, is reality deeper than what our eyes can see.

I believe. I pray. I dare to hope. Believe, pray, hope with me - in Christ.

God is moving.

- Chris

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