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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The Firefighter Parables #4 - Fighting Fires

If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

- The Epistle of St. James, Chapter Two, Verses 15-17

In brief, firefighters fight fires and help fire victims. That seems to be ridiculously obvious – but bear with me as I’ll go into some detail.

Firefighters don’t just magically appear at a fire and fight it. There is a kind of process involved. First, they aren’t just walking around the streets themselves, hoping to wander into a block of homes that happens to have a fire in it. No, instead they wait for notification from the source – whether it is the fire house alarm or a remote notification. Both are valid methods of discerning where the fire is that needs fighting. Other methods (such as randomly wandering, listening to the scanner or watching the news) will be ineffective at best, because they might just happen to be in the right place one time out of 100, and counterproductive at worst, as someone who is using such methods may go to the wrong place when they are needed for firefighting elsewhere.

As an aside, a firefighter who finds a fire in need of fighting by chance, when they are not seeking it, will fight the fire there with the tools they have available. Why? Because firefighters fight fires.

Not only do firefighters get notified from the right sources, but they also aren’t notified to fight fires that are not worth their effort. When a six alarm fire is in progress, no firefighters are dispatched to put out a charcoal grill in the yard. Also, because tough fires are present at any time, firefighters are seldom, if ever, dispatched to fight charcoal grills. (Again, a firefighter who happens past an out-of-control charcoal grill will probably grab a garden hose , dirt and a blanket and put it out – that’s just not what their job as a firefighter is).

Lastly, when a fire is burning that needs firefighters, available firefighters from that precinct are present, fighting the fire. They aren’t at Wendy’s or Waffle House, or picking out clothes at JC Penny. When the firefighting unit is in action, those on duty are there.

Christians are active in ministry. Ministry has a wide range of options, and the ministry the Christian is in should be the one their gifts best enable them to minister.

Like the firefighter, the Christian has two correct sources of ministry guidance – the collective ministry they participate in as a church is the first. Assuming that the ministry is one that is dedicated to edifying believers, glorifying God, works of compassion or reaching the lost, the activities of that ministry are bound to be solid sources of direction for ministry work, especially with that ministry group. All Christians need to be involved with some kind of ministry – not because I say so or TD Jakes says so or even because St. James says so – but because the love of Christ constrains us to (2 Corinthians 5:9-14). We do it because we burn to minister, we yearn to edify, glorify, help and lead to salvation. Collective ministry is a hallmark of the Christian life, but it is not the only way we find our correct ‘fires’.

The second source is the Holy Spirit himself, who lets us know, in no uncertain terms, when we are to act and help an individual or witness to them. Like that remote radio, the Holy Spirit never forces us into action – but he is clear in his guidance for us at that moment.

Unfortunately, much more than firefighters, Christians attempt to fight fires without notification from either source. Again, this ranges from ineffective to counterproductive. Not seeking the Spirit’s leading and not being in a collective ministry won’t keep you from stumbling upon those in need – but, by and large, it will not happen at the right place and time. Worse, it can be a waste of time. Think of all the ‘good ideas’ we have that don’t work out! Also, it can be downright dangerous. We have all heard of the preachers who are vacationing, and a firewalker does his trick, and gets the vacationers to do theirs. The preacher declares that he doesn’t need the firewalker’s false gods to walk, because he has Christ…and promptly receives 3rd degree burns on his feet. If the Holy Spirit does not clearly tell us that we are to fight this particular battle, we should expect to lose.

The conclusion is this: Christians are active in collective and individual ministry. The nuance may vary, but ministry is a requirement of the Christian through the driving force of Christ in our lives and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Of course, being involved in a ministry doesn’t make one a Christian, either, so everyone in a ministry of helps or service isn’t a Christian. Just like anyone can put out the charcoal grill, anyone can participate in helping others. Really, people that are not firefighters can help out with much larger fires. However, the firefighters are the ones in the midst of the hottest fires - the ones that are too hot for the majority of non-believers to handle, because souls are in the balance. It is here that the Christian is found, full of the Holy Spirit, leading the lost to Christ.

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

- The Gospel of St. Matthew, Chapter Twenty-Three, Verses 27-28

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

- The Fifty-First Psalm, Verses 16-17


  • AMEN, my brother! Hey go to my site and check out the 2nd Reformation post--make sure you read it all. I'm a little behind in catching up on your Fire-fighter posts, but I'm working through them and I am SO liking them!!!

    By Blogger Teresa, at 5/31/2005 06:59:00 PM  

  • PS: I noticed that you used Mat 23 in there. Did you read my Mat 23 post before you wrote that or was that God working?

    By Blogger Teresa, at 5/31/2005 07:00:00 PM  

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