Tag Archives: Thessalonians

fire fighters

 

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This Sunday is a significant Sunday for the life of the Church…actually it is the celebration of the life of the Church, because it’s the Church’s birthday! Pentecost Sunday is the day we commemorate the reception of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the movement that came to be known as the Church. The story goes a little something like this, “When Pentecost Day arrived, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound from heaven like the howling of a fierce wind filled the entire house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be individual flames of fire alighting on each one of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” – Acts 2:1-4 And from that moment on the world would never be the same. I love the description for the presence of the Holy Spirit; wind and fire. (Add earth and you’ve got a soul-filled experience, I couldn’t help myself). But these two movements in nature are both powerful and mysterious, yet how often do we think of the action of the Church in terms of wind or fire today?

Often the Church is more of a comfortable movement in the world today. We hear passages from scripture and rather than being spurred on or challenged, we simply seek to be affirmed or comforted in the station or position in life in which we currently exist. Take for instance this passage from Paul to the church in Thessalonica, “Make sure no one repays a wrong with a wrong, but always pursue the good for each other and everyone else. Rejoice always. Pray continually. Give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Don’t suppress the Spirit.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 That sounds good. Don’t repay wrongs, rejoice and be prayerful, give thanks and don’t suppress the Spirit…wait, what!?! The Greek word is actually sbennymi, which meant to extinguish. Don’t extinguish the Spirit? But think about it for a minute. This is the presence of God that on the day of Pentecost was described as a fierce wind and fire. What is it about the movement of the Church today that resembles a fierce wind or fire?

In his book, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis is describing the four children’s preparation for their first meeting with Aslan. The children become a bit scared when they realize that Aslan is a lion. Here’s how the conversation concludes, “’Then he isn’t safe?’ said Lucy. ‘Safe?’ said Mr Beaver; ‘don’t you hear what Mrs Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’.” I think that’s where safety has taken over the flow of the Spirit in the Church today. We want the action of the Spirit to be safe, comfortable, fit our schedule, pat us on the back and tell us we’re doing okay. But what we don’t realize is that in doing so we are fighting the very fire of God that continually seeks to set the church ablaze. When we seek to control the Spirit or dictate how the Holy Spirit must work in our churches or in another’s life we are actually extinguishing that which is unpredictable. And yet God does not force us to remain in the flames of His love. In fact it’s quite easy to suppress the presence and power of God when our agendas of safety, comfort and control take over. So what will it be this Pentecost? Will we find ourselves consumed by the mystery of a God who is nowhere near safe, but good? Or will we continue to suppress the very Spirit that gave birth to Kingdom of God on earth?

Maybe it’s high time we put down the fire extinguishers.

 

 

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set apart peace

You ever find yourself clinging to one of those Bible verses and then realize it doesn’t really mean what you thought it meant? Okay, so maybe that doesn’t happen all the time, but it happened to me today. My life as of late has been rather disquieted for a variety of reasons and so I looked to one of those verses for comfort and I reached for Psalm 46:10, “Be Still and know that I am God.” (SPOILER ALERT…I MIGHT RUIN THIS VERSE FOR SOME OF YOU READING AS WELL). I have always thought of this verse as a peaceful reflection of meditation and quiet, but if you ever read the rest of the Psalm you would be left puzzling too. The Psalm is all about conquering and thundering and exaltation and big, loud images of God. And so in my mind I wasn’t sure “be still” fit. And truth be told it didn’t. The word in Hebrew is actually raphah which is best translated “fall down”….which actually fits with the rest of the Psalm. Not that this in anyway means that I don’t think we need to be still in the knowledge of God and in who He is, but the context is a bit different.

So then I found myself seeking for another word of peace that could speak into my life in a better fashion and I stumbled upon a very fitting and familiar passage, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. I love that title, “God, the God of all Peace”. And the word for sanctify is beautiful as well, hagiazō, “set apart”. The God of peace is seeking to set us apart completely from all of the other stuff that is trying to define us. From the hectic hustle and bustle, chaos, anxiety, etc., God is seeking to set us apart, define us differently, give us peace. And the best part about all of this is that it is God’s action and not our own. All to often we speak about sanctification and holiness as if it’s something we accomplish, but that’s Biblical incoherence. God sanctifies, God sets apart, God gives true peace.

It’s easy to find ourselves in the doing and going, and longing to “be still” (Still a little peeved at a Bible translator somewhere). But I take great comfort in the fact that the action being accomplished in my life is being wrought by the God of peace. And maybe sometimes I do need to be still and take joy and comfort in that. So today, may the God of all peace, God himself, continue to set you apart in the midst of all of your non-peaceful hectic existence.


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