Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Playing the Fireman?

Last night I got a chance to play a fireman in a VBS Bible-lesson skit. The lesson was from First Kings 18 -- where the prophet Elijah triumphs over the "priests of Ba'al" by praying to the One True God, asking God to send fire from heaven to an altar that was made for the occasion.  God answered powerfully:  "Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt-offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench" (First Kings 18:38).  Elijah had soaked it all with water so that everyone would know that it was truly God who had answered his prayer.

In the skit, I came in just at the point when Elijah (played by another pastor) and the kids had the altar built and were about ready to pray... I barged in and stopped the skit, warning them all about how dangerous it would be to have fire in the building with all those kids around.  I enjoyed being in the skit, but, as is so often the case, the whole thing made me think.

When it comes to the Holy Spirit, do we worry about the effects He might have in our lives?  Do we try to keep Him under control?  It's no mistake that God's personal presence (The Holy Spirit) is symbolized by fire!  God is not safe*!  He is good, but he's not tame.  When he takes control, we're not (in control)!  And sometimes we'd rather play the fireman and make sure things don't get out of (our) hand(s) than allow God to do what he wants.  When we do that, we not only play the fireman, we play God.

This coming Sunday is Pentecost--seven weeks after the Resurrection of our Lord.  Will we welcome the Holy Spirit?  Or will we try to keep Him under control?  God is so good!  Let's let Him do what he wants!
* God is not safe.  This reminds me of "Aslan."  Read the item below from and get a copy of the Chronicles of Narnia if you can.  It's great stuff!

Is A Lion Safe?
by Pat Cook, Pastor at Doaktown and Blissfield Wesleyan Churches, New Brunswick

I’ve been a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia for several years now. What’s funny about it is that it was recommended to me by a friend of mine who is decidedly not a believer. That’s funny because Narnia was written by a man who worked hard to make his Christian faith known through his writings, Clive Staples Lewis. His family and friends called him Jack, but he is commonly known as CS Lewis.

The Chronicles of Narnia is a seven-book series written between 1950 and 1956. The first one written and published is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (even though all box sets published nowadays has Lion listed as #2). This book is getting a lot of attention this season, because it has become a major motion picture released this month.

The book/movie is not strictly an allegory, as in, each person or event representing something else in real life. But there are many parallels between the book and the Bible. The most notable connection is Aslan, the lion in the title of the story. I’ll let some quotes from the book describe who Aslan is, but let me first give you some background to the story.

Narnia is another world. Four British schoolchildren, fleeing the air raids of London in World War II, stumble upon a wardrobe (read: walk-in closet for us on this side of the pond) in an old mysterious house in the countryside. This wardrobe, they find, leads them into Narnia, a land covered in snow.

In fact, Narnia always has snow, because there it is always winter. What’s more, in Narnia it is always winter, and never Christmas. It is at the same time wonderful and bleak. You see, Narnia is under a curse. The White Witch Jadis has been ruling the land for 100 years now, keeping Narnians under her thumb with her curse of winter. Oh, that and the fact that she turns her enemies into stone statues.

But the children, the Pevensie siblings, stumble into Narnia at just the right time. They sit down to supper at Mr. and Mrs. Beaver’s house for fresh fish and potatoes. After supper, Mr. Beaver reveals an interesting tibdit of information. The Pevensies find out that they are part of an old prophecy which states that four human children – Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve – would sit on four thrones at the beautiful castle of Cair Paravel, and would rule Narnia. But the key is this: they would not do it on their own, because "Aslan is on the move."

At the mention of Aslan, the children each feel a wave of emotion wash over them. Peter, the oldest, suddenly feels very brave and adventurous. Susan and Lucy feel that they are in a wonderful dream. But Edmund, soon to be a traitor, feels guilty and unworthy.

So the children ask: who is Aslan? Well, Aslan is the King and the Lord of the whole wood, Narnia, but he isn’t always there. But the word is, Aslan is back, or at least on his way back.

And he would fix the situation in Narnia. The Witch, whose favorite tactic is turning people and creatures to stone, can’t do that to Aslan. There’s an old saying,

"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again."

You see, Aslan is not just a lion, but he’s a great Lion. He’s the King of the Beasts, and the real ruler of Narnia. Now, Susan asks the beavers, "Is he safe?"

Mrs. Beaver says, "If there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly."

Lucy asks, "Then he isn’t safe?"

And Mr. Beaver says this famous line about Aslan: "’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you."

This is the King. Certainly not safe, but most certainly good. And when he arrives, he will dispel the winter and bring in the spring and break the Witch’s curse and bring new life.

This reminds me of Jesus, the Lion of Judah, especially at this time of the year. Jesus broke the curse of fallen humanity, in a world of always winter and never Christmas. Christmas – Jesus – changed all that.

But is Jesus safe? Was Jesus’ first arrival on earth safe?

Of course not. It cost Bethlehem mothers their babies by the order of the insecure King Herod. It cost Mary her own plans for her family and her life. It cost Joseph the stigma of being the husband to an unfaithful wife.

It cost the wise men a long journey and expensive gifts. It cost the shepherds their jobs, eventually anyway, because the baby born in Bethlehem would end the sacrifice of the shepherds’ flocks.

God’s plans are not always safe, or pleasant, or pain-free. They will sometimes lead us into dangerous places. Missionaries go to unsafe places.

Many believers over the years have lost their lives because they were willing to follow their faith in unsafe places, like Communist regimes, radical Muslim countries, or extreme Hindu nations. If you think that following God’s plans will always lead you to green pastures and beside still waters, you’re in for a shock.

In the words of Simeon, God’s plans for Mary’s life would be like a sword piercing her heart. Were those plans safe? No. But were they good? Oh yes.

The arrival of Jesus brought with it the hope of freedom from our perpetual coldness. It brought forgiveness and warmth and hope. So even when God’s plans are not safe, they are still good.

No one knows the plans God has for each of us. But I have to believe they are good. I have to believe that what God leads us to, He’ll lead us through. Things may not turn out the way we expected or wanted, but if we let God do His thing, our situations will turn out good. Maybe not safe, maybe not easy, but good. His plans for our lives may be painful along the way, but they will still be prosperous.

Jesus Christ: "’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you." Now and forevermore.

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