Without the Fire the Seeds Will Never Grow

Stretching south for hundreds of miles from Glacier National Park lay a majestic mixture of valleys, rushing streams, and gargantuan mountains called the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Backpackers have hiked there for decades looking for elk, grizzlies and golden eagles. Fortunately the grizzlies stay up in the high country, but a golden eagle may be spotted and the elusive wolverine may be tracked.

The Bob Marshall Wilderness hosts some 90,000 packers and hikers each year, most of them in the months of July and August. They must come in either by foot or horseback. No motorized vehicles are allowed. The forests on those rugged mountain slopes are thick with Lodgepole Pine, a tough, hardy tree with cones so thick that only extreme heat can burst forth the seeds. That’s where fire comes in. For thousands — oh, millions of years — lightning has cracked the big sky out there down to the forests below. (Often the lightning will hit the Douglas Firs, less rugged than the Lodgepole Pines, and a forest fire will begin.) For years, of course, the United States Forest Service fought furiously to put out these fires. More recently, they have adopted a policy of managed fires. They have learned these fires have a purpose. Without them the seeds of the Lodgepole Pines are never released. Without them much of the underbrush and plant life there does not regenerate. The earth needs a fire cast on it or it will die.
Jesus, speaking to Peter, that blustery, Lodgepole Pine kind of a man, said, “Peter, I have a fire to cast over the earth, and how I am constrained until it be kindled!” What did Jesus mean? He knew that Peter, like all of his disciples, was a wilderness that needed fire or he would die. Peter needed the fire of God’s Word to keep his heart from freezing over and to keep the passion of his soul from cooling down.
John G. Lynn, Trouble Journey, CSS Publishing

Like Fire Cast On the Earth

Martin Luther knew that the ice of human nature had frozen things over in his day, most especially he thought, in the heart and mind of a man named Erasmus. To that Dutch humanist Luther wrote the Word of God always puts the world in a state of tumult because it comes like fire cast on the earth. “For the Word of God comes, whenever it comes, to change and renew the world.”
Nowhere does the fire of God’s Word burn off the ice and cause tumult more than in the differences between generations, in the relationships between father and son and mother and daughter. These relationships tend to freeze over into a cool placidity where mother thinks her daughter must be just as she is, or son thinks he must be a carbon copy of dad. Not so, says the gospel.
There will not be agreement between mother and daughter or father and son so much as there will be distinction; each will have a proper share of the kingdom of God. God’s Word burns off the ice of mutual identification and kindles the fire of proper identity over and over again.
John G. Lynn, Trouble Journey, CSS Publishing.

Splintered Families

There is evidence of splintered families all around us and among us. A cartoon strip showed a young woman talking to a minister. She said, “John and I are having a terrible time, and we need your advice. We are trying to decide how to divide the furniture, who gets what of the money we’ve saved and who gets custody of the children.”
“Oh,” the minister asked, “are you contemplating divorce?”
“Oh, no,” she replied. “We are trying to work out our prenuptial agreement.”
Carveth Mitchell, The Sign in the Subway, CSS Publishing Company.

A Weird New Religious Cult

A sociology professor every year begins his course on “The Family” by reading to his class a letter, from a parent, written to a government official. In the letter the parent complains that his son, once obedient and well motivated, has become involved with some weird new religious cult. The father complains that the cult has taken over the boy’s life, has forced him to forsake all of his old friends, and has turned him against his family.
After reading the letter, the professor asks the class to speculate what the father is talking about. Almost without exception, the class immediately assumes that the subject of the letter is a child mixed up with the “Moonies,” or some other controversial group. After the class puts out all of the possible conclusions they can think of, the professor surprises them by revealing that the letter, was written by a third century father in Rome, the governor of his province, complaining about this weird religious group called “The Christians.”
William H. Beljean, Jr., An Interesting Letter

Giving Your Life to the Mission

This past week I have been thinking about people who have been obsessed with mission. Some years ago, Scott Carpenter died. Scott Carpenter was one of the great citizens of the United States of America. He was one of our seven first astronauts. He was truly a great man. Scott Carpenter was a man who had a sense of mission. Let me read what Scott Carpenter had to say, “This project of being an astronaut and going to the moon, gives me the possibility of using all of my capabilities and all of my interests and gifts at once. This is something that I would be willing to give my life for.  I think a person is fortunate to have something that you care that much about that you would give your life for. There are risks involved, that’s for sure.” Then Scott Carpenter went on to say in the following words in a letter to his wife, “My dear, if this comes to a fatal, screaming fiery end for me, I will have three main regrets. I will have lost the opportunity to prepare for my children’s life here on this planet. I will miss the pleasure of seeing you and loving you when you are a grandmother. And will have never learned to play the guitar.” Signed, Scott. He cared for his wife. He cared for his children. He wanted to play the guitar. But more than that, more than his love for his wife and children, more than his wanting to learn to play the guitar, Scott Carpenter was willing to give his life for the mission to go to the moon.
What does it mean to give your life for THE mission of Jesus Christ?
Edward F. Markquart, Christ Brings Division

Making Decisions

A teenage girl at summer camp was torn between two sets of friends. Some of them were sunbathing on the dock, saying to her “stay with us.” But her other friends were in a rowboat saying “no, come with us.” There she stood, one foot on the dock, the other foot on the edge of the boat, and the boat was moving. Trying to appease everyone, trying to not decide, she ended up falling into the water; and worse, her hair got wet!

But I think this is exactly what Jesus is addressing in the gospel lesson today. He is warning us that there will be times when following him will require us to turn away from something else. There will be times in this life when we will be required to say “yes” to one thing, and therefore “no” to the other. And of course, the action we most often take is the same one that girl did on the swimming dock. We try to go in both directions. We try to say “yes” to it all, and we end up falling in between the seams, and being miserable.

Steven Molin, Flashing Yellow Lights


Trouble Makers

Thank God for those free thinkers throughout Christendom who have brought fire upon the earth, the early Church and the Catholic Church which has prevailed for almost 2000 years holding the banner of Christ.
Martin Luther, who called the church back to a Gospel which emphasized grace rather than works. John Wyclif and William Tyndale, who against the wishes of church leadership produced the Bible in the language of the people. William Wilberforce, against the will of many within the church, fought the evil ravages of the institution of slavery. Hudson Taylor, who dared to adopt the customs and culture of the people to whom he was a missionary. He converted people to Jesus, not to Western culture. He changed the focus of foreign missions. Men like John and Charles Wesley, Charles Finney, and Spurgeon, who called upon their churches to reform. They woke the world with their fiery preaching.
These men were trouble makers. Thinkers. Applecart shakers. Men who muddied the water just like Jesus. Heroes of the faith, we now call the, because they were not afraid of division. They knew Jesus did not come to bring peace but a sword. In other words: Truth. God’s truth is like that. It is a double edged sword. What sounds like peace, the peace that Christ gives, really isn’t peace as the world would have it. It is peace as God would have it. And what kind of peace is it that God wants? He wants the peace that exist between you and Him when the weight of your sins no longer are a snare and you can run with endurance the race set before you.
Brett Blair, www.eSermons.com

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