FRESH FIRE: Igniting the Spirit
Ephesians 3: 16-21
August 15, 2021
I remember exactly where I was when I first heard today’s second song of worship, ‘Whatsoever You Do.’ I would think that most of us have had those moments in life when something happens and the circumstances are locked in … a memory that you can easily recall. I think and hope for most of us we can remember the moment when our walk in faith with Jesus Christ either began or received the necessary energy boost that suddenly found that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were relevant to our life … and I bet that is a happy memory.
My memory comes from a Lenten Season probably a decade ago at the Church of St. Katharine Drexel in Egg Harbor Township. It was a Wednesday because every Wednesday in Atlantic County during the Holy Season of Lent several church families used to join in a rotational series of Lenten worship services, which were followed by a fellowship lunch. We did not care if we were United Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox, or Roman Catholic … what mattered was that we were Christians in need of worshiping God. Each Wednesday we went to a different church but the church’s pastor could not preach … it had to be a pastor from a different denomination in the pulpit on those days and that always surprised people. The host pastor however did choose the music.
And, in that beautiful relatively new Roman Catholic Church our first hymn of worship that day began with the words of Jesus from Matthew 25 … “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people that you do unto me.” Each verse resonated more and more with my heart … I sensed one of those Holy Spirit sparks and knew I had to get my hands on the music. When you have sensed God’s Holy Spirit working in you it is a call for action. Are you willing to allow yourself to be open to the Spirit of God?
“Praise the Lord! I thank the Lord with all my heart in the company of those who do right, in the congregation. The works of the Lord are magnificent; they are treasured by all who desire them.”
As we consider our journey in faith it is not uncommon to go through phases in which perhaps the global appeal found on 24/7 news and talking head channels or through our social media overtakes our connection with the Creator of all things. It is not unexpected that at times we need to ignite our spirits with a fresh fire of faith so that we can refocus our priorities and once again respect God for being God …. We have certainly learned how to lift certain celebrities to places of undeserved high esteem and discovering more about God at times to some people of faith is no match for the latest gossip about the Kardashian family members or others we call celebrities. In fact, there are many people attending churches around the world this morning who can provide you and me with every minute detail about one of the many names we place in the headlines but if asked what their favorite Scripture verse or chapter in the Bible is they would hesitate and more than likely fall back on John 3:16. Do you know yours?
As I mentioned at the start of worship today … Vacation Bible School was MARVELOUS!!! The work that Elaine and Mary Ann put in for the sake of the children was awesome … to get 50 kids inside these walls during the times we live in was an incredible testament to these two women and their team of volunteers. There is a spirit that is alive when kids are allowed to show their energy in God’s house G-L-O-R-Y they shouted glory! And, the hands went up quickly when asked to tell Thursday’s gathering the verse of the week …. A verse of both affirmation and yes friends a challenge to the faithful to again ignite our spirits with a fresh fire of faith.
Here is their verse and frankly it is ours too because it comes from our Holy Book, our book of faith, our guide to living life as a believer, the Bible … “GLORY TO GOD …. Or should I say G-L-O-R-Y Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine …”
Now, friends that might be a pretty good verse of faith if it ended right there because Paul has written about God’s essential power that we frankly often diminish even though we are people of faith and obviously, those non-believers out in our world … they don’t even get it.
But, I don’t want to diminish our perspective of God’s Awesome Power … I would never attempt to lessen my celebration of God’s grace and incredible love for every human being since every one of us has been created in the Holy image but … Paul did not conclude with a celebration of God’s infinite power … Paul reminded us as people of faith about our needed involvement in God’s realm; that as the prophet Jeremiah shared, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord.” Friends, we are to be activists … we are to be involved … and the children learned this week that the complete verse from God’s Word is “G-L-O-R-Y Glory to God who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine BY HIS POWER at work WITHIN US.”
And, so there is an essential value in you and I discovering the FRESH FIRE of faith that we need to ignite our spirits so we can fulfill the plans the Lord has for us and that the God of Creation needs us to accept this call because we are the ones who are to go into the world to do “far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by HIS POWER at work within us.” We are the ones to go into the world and make disciples for Jesus Christ.
Now, God is not going to expect any of us to take on challenges that our personal talents and abilities are incapable of but God will guide us to use what God has given us to make a difference in the world. I only have to look at those great volunteers this week who guided the children …. Young Olivia who only a few years ago was one of the kids in VBS this year led the music program.
God’s deeds are majestic … God’s deeds are glorious … God’s righteousness stands forever; words from today’s PSALM but the focus we need to discover comes from the second verse. “The works of the Lord are magnificent; they are treasured by all who desire them.”
I am using Jim Cymbala’s book, ‘Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire,’ as my key reference for this sermon series and Cymbala writes about his own personal experience stating “I despaired at the thought that my life might slip by without seeing God show Himself mightily on our behalf.” He was a pastor of an urban church where drug use and prostitution were realities within the blocks surrounding the church he served but he was watching and hoping for some huge God moment. He calls the chapter in his book where he shares that story The Amateurs. He admits that at times he did not even want to show up to preach on Sunday’s because he felt that God had not showed up to take care of the problems.
As we consider our lives and our faith journey are we anxiously awaiting the moment when the GOD and JESUS CHRIST channel show up on cable TV or our Roku’s? When the voice of God can be heard just as Moses heard God in the burning bush … when our Savior can show us the marks on his Bible over our 65 inch tv screens? When the HOLY SPIRIT blog or podcast is produced by heavenly angels and available on iTunes, Spotify and all your other streaming sources as well as online?
Are we awaiting God’s placing a great freeze on the Arctic Circle reversing decades of human consumption of the ozone layer and once again bringing things back to where they used to be? Do we expect God or perhaps Jesus to miraculously stop all guns from firing … all violence from occurring … and that God will immediately put out every wild fire started by human beings?
And, so it is easy to wait for God to do this or to do that … it is easy to pack our faith away because we don’t have to live our faith …. We don’t have to be the agents of change … we don’t have to embarrass ourselves by telling our friends, family members, and co-workers that we love all of our neighbors equally and that you have taken on the tasks we sung about in the song we sang this morning not worrying what others would think or say, “When I was hungry you gave me to eat; when I was naked you gave me your coat, when I was in prison you came to my cell, and when I was laughed at you stood by my side.” “G-L-O-R-Y to God who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by His power at work within us.”
And, so today’s take home lesson needs to be focused on each of us. Cymbala had a moment of clarity amidst his challenge and that came in a strange vision that Cymbala said reaffirmed his need to pray, to get his church praying, to talk with God … in those moments he writes that “God was drawing him out toward an actual experience of Himself and His power.”
It only takes a spark the song says, to get a fire going. If you like me sense feel challenged in your faith walk but want more today’s take home lesson that closely aligns with last week’s is to pray more … to pray intentionally but to declare to God in every single prayer that we pray over the coming weeks that we desire to experience Your works O God. Friends, we need to desire God’s love … God’s power … God’s righteousness. As the psalmist writes, we need to honor God in order to be rewarded by God and we need to keep God’s laws, which are to love God and love all of our neighbors but it begins with you and me ….
Do we have the desire … do you have the interest … today are you willing to pray with me Our Father who art in heaven they kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And, if you are willing to pray those words to God with me today are you ready to accept Paul’s lesson that God is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by God’s power at work within us?
Cymbala writes, “If we call upon the Lord, He has promised in His Word to answer, to bring the unsaved to Himself, to pour out His Spirit among us. If we don’t call upon the Lord, He has promised nothing – nothing at all. It’s as simple as that.”
So, hopefully beginning today I urge you to join me to pray with intention as we call on God for the igniting of our spirits into a fresh fire of faith. To, as Paul wrote, “to ask God to strengthen us in our inner selves. To ask Christ to live in our hearts through our faith.” I pray that you have strong roots in loving your neighbors but also loving God and if God’s been an afterthought today is the day to refresh that relationship.
And, friends with joy and love I would hope you could energetically join me in declaring the words of Paul from verse 21 of the third chapter of Ephesians, “G-L-O-R-Y to God in the church and in Christ Jesus for ALL generations, forever and always! AMEN”
 FRESH WIND, FRESH FIRE Jim Cymbala Zondervan Publishing