WIND AND FIRE 10-22-17

WIND AND FIRE

October 22nd, 2017

                 On the day that I prepared this message (October 12th), massive wildfires were sweeping through California, and had already killed at least 24 people and damaged thousands of homes, businesses and other buildings.  Firefighters were still battling 22 wildfires in multiple counties, the flames had charred more than 180,000 acres of land, damaged or destroyed at least 3,500 structures and forced nearly 20,000 residents to evacuate. (Those numbers had increased to 217,000 acres of land, and 41 people dead by October 17th).  Plus hundreds of people were being treated for injuries and smoke inhalation, many were still missing, and 7000 people were without power in Napa County alone.  To add insult to injury, several people were arrested for looting in evacuation areas.  Sonoma County Sheriff Robert Giordano said at a press conference that he thinks the wildfires will be "one of the worst natural disasters in California history."  And this after what was called the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s recent history, which followed on the heels of Hurricane Irma, whose wind speeds are the highest on record.  We have been hit with an almost unfathomable amount of death and destruction through fire, gunfire, and wind!  I really didn’t want to have to preach about anymore national catastrophes, and even my husband said it was time for me to put together a more cheerful message.  But when I heard what the winds that fanned the flames of the California fires were called, I knew God didn’t want me to ignore them. 

          The New York Post said on October 12th, “A devilish wind known as the ‘Diablo’ picked up again Thursday in California, where firefighters continued battling killer wildfires that were expected to spread — and even merge — amid dry conditions.”  As I am certain most of you know, “Diablo” is the Spanish word for “Devil”.  And I am also certain most of you are also familiar with John 10:10, in which Jesus warned his disciples, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Of course the thief Jesus is referring to is the devil himself, whose consuming desire is to kill us, destroy all that we have and are, and steal our very soul.

          But there is hope.  There is another wind and fire that gives us the life that Jesus was talking about in that verse.  The Bible often refers to the Holy Spirit as both.  The wind because while He cannot be seen, His presence can be felt, and the effects of His presence realized.  The Bible even compares Spirit-filled Christians to the wind in John 3:8, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."  But while the Diablo winds fanned destructive fires that brought only death and misery, the wind of the Holy Spirit fans the flame that is within the hearts of true believers in Christ – a flame which destroys only the sin which ultimately results in eternal death, and clears the way for a new life in Christ.  It is comparable to a controlled burn which stimulates the germination of desirable forest trees, and reveals soil mineral layers which increases seedling vitality, thus renewing the forest.  Just as the Holy Spirit came in as a rushing wind and then appeared as tongues of fire that settled on the believers gathered on the day of Pentecost following Christ’s ascension, He comes to us the moment we first put our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection for our salvation.  When John Wesley experienced this on May 21, 1738, he described it as his heart being strangely warmed!

          So while we commend the brave firefighters who battled the flames in California, heroically struggling to put them out, we should not be trying to put out the fire of the Holy Spirit.  1 Thessalonians 5:19 in most versions says, “Do not quench the Spirit.”  But I like the way the International Standard Version translates it, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”  How do we put out His fire?  When we persist in sin, we are literally stomping on the fire that is trying to remove it from our lives.  We are pouring water on the flames, smothering them with our sinful thoughts and actions that we refuse to give up.  It is like inviting an exterminator into your home, and then changing your mind and deciding you want to keep the termites that are destroying it.  Let the Holy Spirit do what you invited Him in to do!  

          The fruit of the Spirit cannot grow until the forest of sin has been cleared in your heart.  The fire of the Holy Spirit must first burn away the hate, the self-pity, the anxiety, the frustration, the cruelty, the doubt, the hostility, and the rashness that grown over the years, and whose roots are buried deep within our human hearts that have been corrupted by evil.  Then the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23) can flourish and grow. 

          And once we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, our fruit will produce seeds, and those seeds will be planted in the hearts of others.  When people see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, they will notice the difference between our hearts and theirs, and want to know how they, too, can have a beautiful orchard instead of a dark and foreboding forest.  

          Diablo winds and wildfire – or the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit?  Hate or love?  Destruction or salvation?  The choice is up to you…  Amen.