Maintaining Our Spiritual Fire

This past week I saw a video on the news of a man stepping outside with a boiling pot of water, tossing the water into the air and its instantaneously changing into snow. He was near the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire and it was thirty-five degrees below zero. My first reaction was, “Hey, that’s kind of cool.” Then I thought, “Wow, that’s really cold.” And finally, “That guy’s crazy going outside in that kind of weather.” Consider that water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit; water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s so cold that the water cooled down 180+ degrees in less than a second. The water froze because of a failure to maintain the fire. What can we do to maintain our spiritual fire?

Lesson #1: Much energy was needed to warm the water; but very little was needed to cool it. In order to boil water one must have a significant energy source. It takes 398 BTUs to change frozen water to boiling water. Energy is required! To the contrary, however, to cool water down takes practically no energy at all. A flick of the wrist and the boiling water was frozen. This reminds me of Paul’s words to the church in Ephesus to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Paul also said to the Galatians (5:6) that what avails is faith working (the Greek word ENERGEO � energy!) through love. Even spiritually speaking, energy/effort/work is required in order to stay warm; but what is required to freeze? Just do nothing. Work, that is, the input of energy, is important to maintaining our spiritual fire.

Lesson #2: Together the water was warm; separated, it became cold. Those trillions of water molecules in that boiling pot stayed warm so long as they were in close proximity to each other; they kept warm off each other’s heat. However, once they dispersed they quickly cooled not having the company of their “brethren” to keep them warm. Ecclesiastes 4:11 says, “Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” The story is told of the preacher who visits the un-attending member and, without a word, while sitting in front of the fireplace, merely pulls a coal out of the fire to watch it slowly die. Yet, putting it back in, the coal warms to a soft red glow again. We need to exhort one another daily and not forsake our assembling together! (Hebrews 3:13, 10:25) Togetherness is important to maintaining our spiritual fire.

Lesson #3: Someone “stirred” the pot. That water didn’t become snow without someone agitating the pot! If the pot had been left on the fire it would have stayed warm, but it was moved, stirred, agitated. This resulted in the decrease of heat and the increase of cold. Agitation in the church often has the same results. Paul told the church at Philippi, “Do all things without murmurings and disputings” (Philippians 2:14). He said in Colossians 3:13 “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Instead of murmuring and quarrelling we need to practice forgiveness to keep ourselves warm and lively. Forgiveness is important to maintaining our spiritual fire.

We all know what it means when a body has “assumed room temperature.” Warmth equals life. Cold equals death. Let us do all to avoid assuming room temperature and do everything in our power to maintain our spiritual fire!

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The Good Fight

Some battles in life are fought and instantly won; passing tests, playing games, solving a puzzle in the newspaper, or winning at a sporting event. We preoccupy ourselves with these “battles” because they give us instantaneous gratification and bring us a measure of pleasure and self assurance.

Some battles are fought for a while and won; graduating from high school or college, getting a promotion at work, achieving “retirement.” We can see the need for fighting these kinds of battles because there is a significant achievement to be won at the end and once we have achieved that level, we can move on to other things, having won the battle.

There are other battles, however, that are ongoing and we will never, in this life, completely win until we conquer them in death. These battles are constant and daily efforts with which we must struggle on a regular basis. This is a hard thing for our society to accept who are accustomed to complex crimes being solved in a one hour TV program, sporting events ending in less than two hours, and conquering the sudoku in 30 minutes. This kind of battle is only won in the continued fighting of it; it isn’t a battle that is won, never to be fought again.

It is becoming quite evident to me, that my success in weight loss is only as good as my desire to maintain that success. Months ago, I spoke with another gentleman about this and he related to me how it was a regular struggle to eat right, exercise and keep the weight off. He then said, “But it’s a good fight, so I guess I’ll keep on doing it.” Losing weight and keeping the weight off isn’t one of those battles that are won, never to be fought again. It is a constant and daily effort.

Similarly, in my police training this past fall one thing that I learned is that the law will eventually catch up to the criminal. Police activity is a constant and ongoing battle, one that never stops. It also isn’t one of those battles won, never to be fought again. It is a constant and daily effort.

We need to realize that living the Christian life is the same kind of battle. If we realize and accept this, I believe we will have a great weight lifted from our shoulders. The person who is constantly telling himself, “I’ve got to win today!” will soon find himself hopelessly burned out with trying to achieve this task. Why? Because living the Christian life is only something that is won while we continue the struggle. Paul told Timothy, “Fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) and wage the good battle (1 Timothy 1:18). It was a battle that Paul was only expecting Timothy to win by continuing to fight it.

Let us recognize that today we fight the battle and that our victory is in our faith on a daily basis (1 John 5:4) and through this, we will overcome, not in this life, but, in the next. For today, however, if I have struggled, then I have won.

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Mi Corazon

On just about any mission trip, one thing can be assured, there are going to be some interesting stories. Recently, while in Panama, I had the opportunity to participate in a youth camp for a few days. Around 4:00 AM, Thursday, February 1st, 2007, I awoke to embark upon such a camp. We did so via the pick-up truck of one of the good brothers from David, Panama. During the ride, I met one of the more colorful persons that I have ever come in contact with on a mission trip, Edelma. Edelma was seated on the opposite side of the back seat with Rolando Rovira, my Panamanian contact, between. The first thing that Edelma did was offer me something to eat. As it was 4:30 in the morning, I was hungry and so I took the potato like substance that she offered and ate it. She then gave me some chicken and that too I ate. This had this surprising (to me) effect of amazing my hosts. They were not used to a foreign missionary eating the local food. Most all others who have visited have refused to do so claiming that they would become ill. (I’ve never become ill due to eating food in Central or South America, though I’ve gotten ill after returning to the states and recommencing eating our food!) I soon became their fast friends all because I ate what was put before me.

A few years ago Randal Matheny was recalling a lecture he had given mission students at one of our colleges. He told them that they wouldn’t be good missionaries unless they ate the local cuisine. There is just something about doing this that bonds the missionary to the locals. In their country, the missionary is the foreigner, but he becomes one of them when he eats what they eat and drinks what they drink. This is sound Biblical doctrine! Long before we were studying missions in our country, Jesus, the Master Missionary, said, “And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you” (Luke 10:8). Jesus knew what He was talking about!

As a result of my eating Edelma’s food, she became my fast friend. On the journey, when we were visiting the local markets for food for the camp, she would talk about this food and that. She asked me, “What kind of foods do you like?” As we drove through the countryside, she would point at all the flowers and say, “Look at this flower, Kebin!” “Look at that one!” And when we arrived at the camp, she treated me as a special guest seemingly catering to my every culinary need.

I learned later that this lady was a very special lady indeed. One of the members where she attends told me that when she comes to the services she always blows kisses to everyone whether she is early or late. Even when the men are preparing for the worship hour, she will go out of her way to make sure that they have been greeted by her holy kiss. Her behavior has garnered for her the nickname, “Corazon” or “heart.” Upon returning to the camp with this knowledge, I soon put it to use and after she had offered me a taste of what the cooks were preparing for supper, I said, “Gracias, Corazon!” The effervescence from my comment almost lifted the ceiling as all who knew her bubbled with glee at my discovery of her special name and from that time on, she was no longer known in the camp as Edelma, but simply “Corazon!”

Who would have thought that such a relationship would have developed simply because I ate a bit of “potato” and some chicken? It just goes to show that a little love and care can go a long way, can bridge the barriers of culture, and can pave the way for a great relationship. “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed.” “eat such things as are set before you.”

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