Fire - Jon Fryer

So Ahab the King went to meet Elijah the prophet. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, "Is that you, you troubler of Israel?"

"I haven’t made trouble for Israel, you have" said Elijah. "You have abandoned the LORD's commands and have followed the idol called Baal. Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah."

So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. Elijah stands up and says to the people, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, then follow him."

But the people said nothing.

Then Elijah said to them, "I am the only one of the LORD's prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. Get two bulls for us. Let them choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by fire—he is God."

Then all the people said, "What you say is good."

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, "Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire yourselves." So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. "O Baal, answer us!" they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.

At noon Elijah began to taunt them. "Shout louder!" he said. "Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or travelling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened. Maybe is off taking a dump…" So they shouted louder. Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Then Elijah said to all the people, "Come here to me." They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the LORD, which was in ruins. Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob. With the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he dug a large trench around it. He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, "Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood."

"Do it again," he said, and they did it again.

"Do it a third time," he ordered, and they did it the third time. The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.

At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: "O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again."

Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, "The LORD -he is God! The LORD -he is God!"

Today is Pentecost, the day in which the Holy Spirit first came to the church in the form of tongues of fire resting on the heads of Jesus’ disciples. You’ve probably all heard the story before, so I decided not to start there. I thought I’d go back and talk about what came before. You see, in the Old Testament, the Spirit of God visiting His people in power was a rare thing. Only special people knew the Holy Spirit in the way that we here know Him. Only special people could touch the fire of God. Only special people. Throughout the Old Testament we see the Holy Spirit visiting one or two people in a generation in order to accomplish something marvellous. People like Bezalel and Ohialab, who were given the Spirit so that they might build the Tabernacle of God. People like Saul, who prophesied after he was anointed as King of Israel. People like Samson, destined from birth to defeat God’s enemies. People like Elijah the prophet, who called down the fire of God to make even the rocks burn. Only the special people.

And then, at the very end of the Old Testament a prophet named Joel had a dream. A dream that one day everyone, young and old, rich and poor, man and woman, could reach out and touch the fire of God. A dream that everyone who asked would receive the Spirit of God.

In that Day, says the Lord,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your old men will dream dreams,
your young men will see visions.
On my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Blue FlamesAnd at Pentecost, as the Disciples hid in the upper room of the house, the Holy Spirit came as wind and fire, and the dream of Joel came true. No longer was it just the special people who could touch the power of God. No longer was it the educated or the holy people who could speak the words of God. No longer was it just the prophets who could touch the sick and make them well. No longer were Gods people left orphaned and alone with no one to comfort them, because God himself had come to live with them and would never leave them again. No longer. Suddenly, in one glorious, terrifying, chaotic moment, everything changed. Suddenly, everyone was special. Suddenly it was no longer God’s a favoured few who could call on the power of God, because suddenly each and every one of us gained the precious right to call out to God, in the name of Jesus, and receive the Holy Spirit. Suddenly you didn’t have to be special, you just had to know Jesus. And suddenly, even normal klutzes like you and me could ask the Father and He would send fire from heaven so that even the rocks would burn.

(At this point in the service we adapted an idea that has been around on the Web for a while, and built a mini altar out of a dozen pumice stones that had been soaked in methylated spirits for about a week. this was set on fire, resulting in fierce and beautiful blue flames that looked great in the darkened room, and became the visual centrepiece for the rest of the evening.)

We’ve talked about the Holy Spirit enough here so that I don’t need to go over old ground. I don’t need to say or do much tonight because we want to make room for God to send His Holy Spirit to us in whatever way He chooses to come. But before we do that I want to share just a couple of thoughts with you. The first thought is more of a question. When the disciples were hiding there in the upper room after Jesus had returned to heaven, what do you think they talked about? Obviously there was excitement that Jesus had returned from the dead and had then vanished into the clouds, but I think there was probably some other stuff going on there too. I think they were scared about the mission Jesus had just given them – ‘Go into all the world and make disciples in my name from every tongue and tribe and nation and teach them all to obey the commands that I have given you…’ What us? Travel to Rome? To Spain? To Britain of all places? We can’t do that – we’re just ordinary, we’re not…special.

And they’d just been through a traumatic experience that had rocked their little group to the core. Do you think their might have been some soul searching and even some bickering going on?

>"Peter, how could you deny Jesus like that in front of everyone?"
"Hey, me and Jesus have got that sorted. Besides Thomas, at least I believed he could come back again."
"Hey, don’t look at me, I didn’t betray us all – I was just being a bit cautious. Besides I didn’t see the rest of you at the cross fighting the Romans to save him."
"Oi, that’s ‘cos you weren’t there either…."

I think Jesus left a gap between his departure and the coming of the Spirit so that they would have time to prepare themselves, to put themselves right with each other, with God, and with their own hearts. We’ve said before that the Holy Spirit is simply that, holy, and will not dwell with wickedness. Therefore, if we want the Holy Spirit to visit us in power tonight, we need to first put ourselves right with each other and with God. We all fall short in many ways. We have all done stuff this week that we need forgiven. Spend a couple of moments to take a look at your life and scribble down on your scrap of paper the things that you want God to put right – don’t worry, no one else will see.

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Lets pray:
Forgive us Father, for we have sinned,
Against you and against our fellow men,
In thought and word and deed,
In the evil we have done and the good that we have left undone,
Through ignorance, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.
We are truly sorry and repent of all our sins.
For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, forgive us all that is past,
And grant that we may serve You in newness of life
To the glory of your name.
Amen.

God forgives all who truly repent, and they are purified like gold in the fire. All of their sins are burnt up, but they remain purified and unharmed through the flames.

As the music plays come up to the front and very carefully set fire to your strip of paper and drop it into the bowl, as a symbol that your sins have been burnt up and blown away…

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Until He breathes in living matter the spirit of God is silent
yet there is no life that is unsupported by the breath of the Creator
The death of Jesus re-formed the commitment of God to the creation
Tonight we celebrate PENTECOST
It is the day on which the Holy Spirit of God was released to us
The Holy Spirit is the invisible spirit of Jesus
The Holy Spirit brings to us the secrets and intentions of the Realm of God
The Holy Spirit meets us at the source of our being
The Holy Spirit invites us into a relationship
of the most profound experience of love and passion
The relationship is with God - the giver of life,
and with Jesus the restorer of life to its intended way.
The Holy Spirit takes our hearts to the Heart of God
From our source we are invited to be renewed: to re-see the world through the eyes of the loving God.
We are invited into a realm of new possibilities

Don’t be fooled into thinking that God is safe however. The Holy Spirit is not given so that you might feel warm and fuzzy inside, have a ‘spiritual’ experience and then go home like nothing has changed. The church has often used a candle to symbolise the Holy Spirit, but that’s not really close to the mark at all.

Come to think of it Lord,
Actually, your spirit is not really like a flickering candle sitting on the altar, which we’ve protected from scorching with a heat proof mat
You burn with irrepressible, ferocious passion.
In truth, your spirit has little in common with the gentle breeze from the air conditioning
We can barely stand upright in the face of your love.
We think we have you nailed
in our fire resistant,
cyclone-proof metaphors
Thank god our inadequacy defining you has never stopped you yet.

We’re going to pray that God would visit us tonight and that He would simply do whatever it is that He wants to do. Don’t try to limit God… but it is ok to ask. So tonight I want to challenge you not just to ask for a blessing, but to actually ask for God to speak. The first thing that Pentecost did was equip the disciples to go out there and speak all of the different languages of the world – suddenly, it was not just the special people who could speak the words of God. Ask God to speak to our community tonight through you – ask for words of knowledge, words of prophecy, words of praise – ask God to be the ordinary special person who can lead the people of God tonight.

Jesus the Man
What was Jesus like?

The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?

The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?

The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?

Obedience
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?

Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?

Aslan
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?

When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?

Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?

Stewardship
Why should we look after the world God has given us?

Stability
How do we know who we are in God?

Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?

Doorkeepers
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...

Close Encounters
How do get to have intimacy with God?

Air
Can we feel the breath of God?

Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?

The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?

Passover
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?

Life
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?

Fruit
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?

Wait
Teaching for Christmas Eve...

Authority
What does it mean to have authority?

Tired
What can we do when it all seems like too much?

I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?

Angels
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?

Fire
A contemplative service for Pentecost

Water
A creative/contemplative baptism service

Guidance
How do we know what we should do?

Stones
A creative prayer/worship service

The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?

The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!

Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?

Warrior's Confession
A liturgy for masculine prayer

Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?

Abraham
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?

The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?

How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?

Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?

To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?

Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?

Obedience
Will you let Jesus be in charge?

Recognising Jesus
Would you know him if he met you on the road?

The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?

The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?

Joy
How can we really 'count it all joy'?

More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?

The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?

The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...

Following Jesus
Do you really want to follow him?

Preaching Skills
How should I prepare to give a sermon?

Healing
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?

Church
The People of God

The Bible
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?

Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?

Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?

Temptation
How do we resist?

Holiness
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?

The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?

Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?

Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?

Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer

Prophecy
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?

Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?

Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed