I must warn you now: Many of the titles and topics on this blog site will have something to do with fire. I am a pyromaniac. By that, I do not mean that I am a verbal arsonist like my good friends (actually they have no idea who I am) over at Team Pyro. I just like burning things. In fact, I have been in mourning for three weeks now due to the summer-long burn ban that went into effect on April 30, 2006. The matches must now stay locked up until October 1–wife’s rule. That’s 154 days without smoke and flames (aka fun)–at least legally.
In God’s mercy, he providentially saw fit to ignite a series of fires in my soul on Friday. Here are the fuel sources:
(1) Patrick Work, a good friend of mine and summer intern at our church, loned me one of John Piper’s sermon cds. “Doing World Missions When Dying Is Gain” was the title, and it was preached on the campus of Wheaton College during a missions conference. It was vintage Piper, but for some reason even the “same old” messages he preaches have a fresh force each time I hear them. The crux of the message: Love Christ more than comfort and therefore be willing to take risks and and even be a martyr for Him. Light and fluffy preaching, right? At one time, he addressed the older folks in the assembly (I guess professors, alumni, parents, etc.) and told them not to waste their retirement. You waste your retirement when you move to Florida and collect sea shells and play golf. Rather, he challenged them to live more risky in their final years than ever. You are going to die anyway, why not die preaching Christ in Indonesia or some place?
Then he made pointed application to those living in my sitz im leben. Do we value personal safety more than Christ and the gospel? Why have we all moved to the suburbs and out of downtown areas? Is the first question we ask when seeking God’s guidance in a possible move (to the mission field or otherwise), “Will my children be safe?” When did Jesus ever promise safety? But, If God is for us, what can man do to us? Man can kill us. And he will. “We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Rom. 8:36b). Lots of bad stuff can and will happen to us as we take risks for the propogation of the gospel. But the promise of Romans 8 gives us confidence that no matter what happens, “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus.”
(2) Our church had a men’s night out on Friday evening. I thought about live-blogging the event. Thank you Pastor Dial for instigating the event and the Hatton’s for pulling it off–the food was outstanding. After a meal consisting of pork loin, tortellini alfredo, green beans, bread, and dessert (did I mention the food was excellent), we watched the classic film, “Chariots of Fire.” I know that many of you have seen the film or know the story, so I am not going to bore you with a recap. Although the “gospel” of the movie is often fuzzy at best and somewhat individualistic (“the truth is in each of us”), the punch of the movie still hit me. Eric Liddell had a willingness to give up gold for his convictions. Then he gave up his athletic career to return to the Chinese mission field. He gave up his personal interests for the spread of the gospel.
(3) I have been studying this week to preach on Philippians 2:17-30–“Three Portraits of Humble Service.” Of those examples of self-sacrificing service (Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus), the description of Timothy particularly resonated with me. As Paul is imprisoned in Rome and concerned for the welfare of this beloved Philippian church, he decides to send a personal messenger to the church for their encouragement. He checks his PDA and starts calling his contact list (or the something like that). As he goes down the list person by person he has to keep scratching names off. He could not find any one willing to leave Rome for little Rome–Philippi. Sure, they had their “reasons” for not agreeing to go–family issues, financial concerns, prior commitments, physical ailments, etc. What was Paul’s evaluation of their “reasons?” “They all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” What a sad statement for the church in Rome. This is the same church that, five years earlier, Paul wrote so many glowing commendations of (Romans 16). Where had all these loyal saints gone? What were they doing? Were they “too good” for the Philippians? Did they think, “I’ve done my duty and served my time, let someone else take care of it?” But not Timothy. There was “no one like him, who was genuinely concerned for your (the Philippians) welfare.” He cared more for the interests of Christ and the well-being of others than his own personal interests. He was a man seized by the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5-8).
The combined effect of each of these Spirit-initiated match strikes in me this week has yet to be fully realized. I am still attempting to process how I can weave their applications into my life. One thing is certain, my zeal for evangelism and missions has been bolstered. Fires have been re-kindled in my soul. Not necessarily to go to the African bush, but to live less for personal safety and more for the spread of Christ’s gospel and God’s glory. It has certainly caused me to examine myself and see if the idol factory of my heart has produced any gods of personal ambition, safety, comfort, or security. I pray that I will be like Epaphroditus and willingly risk my life for the sake of the gospel (Phil. 2:30). Have I really risked anything for Christ lately? How about you?