James’s Blog: Two Types of Fire.

James’s Blog:  Two Types of Fire.

God has given me two types of inner fire.

A few months after I became a Christian I was attending a men’s prayer breakfast at my church. During prayer, I experienced what I can only describe as a warm, tingling sensation in my chest. The best effort to put it into words can be found in the Bible, on the lips of one of my older brothers as he and a friend talked about their encounter with the risen Jesus: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he explained the Scriptures to us?” It’s happened to me frequently over the years, mostly during prayer. It’s comforting rather than anything else, and I’ve come to associate it with an awareness of the Holy Spirit. It’s just one of those practical, concrete hooks on which I can hang my faith.

The other fire, however, is different. It’s what I might call ‘the squirming inferno’. Again, the best way to describe it can be found in the Bible, this time as the prophet Jeremiah complains. Frustrated by how much trouble God had caused him, he handed in his notice. “Find yourself another prophet,” he says to the divine. But it’s not that simple, and Jeremiah discovers that the message of God will not be smothered. It was, he said, like a fire in his bones. Sometimes (more often than I would like) I find myself restless, and tortured by the feeling that there is some important truth I should be getting out there. The problem is that it’s a time-consuming, difficult and painful process to set it free. Often it’s like realising that its your job to slay a giant dragon, and not even knowing how to begin. Those are the worst times. The only way to keep it quiet is to actually try and do something with it, however feeble my efforts, but it’s never satisfied. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely pay off its debt – the squirming inferno is probably here to stay.

They’re both from God. One is His way of saying, “I love you, and I am always with you”; the other is His way of saying, “But I’m not going to let you get away with being lazy.” I am loved, but I am lazy. I am genuinely thankful for both of these flames, because I need the warmth and the refining.

James’s Blog: What if it’s Already Happened?

James’s Blog:  What if it’s Already Happened?

Easter is a topsy-turvey time.  Everything is back-to-front.  Suffering brings salvation, death brings life; the established order of things is turned on its head.  Yet we spend so much of our time and energy trying to make things work in a world where we believe that death is stronger than life and that despair is greater than hope.

How much of our well-being do we invest in worry?  How often does the thing that we fear never actually happen?  What about the times when we worry about something we think has happened, only to find out that it didn’t happen after all.  How tiring it is to live in a world where God is a footnote rather than the title.

In the last chapter of Luke we read about two of Jesus’ followers.  They’re taking a long stroll, discussing the events of the past few days and the rumours of resurrection.  Suddenly, they’re joined by a stranger.  He’s not really a stranger, but they don’t recognise him because they hadn’t quite joined the topsy-turvey revolution yet.  They tell this stranger their story of disappointment.  “Jesus has been crucified,” they say, “but we had hoped that he would be one to redeem Israel.”

The two travellers were living under the burden of false disappointment.  They thought that their hope was an illusion, when it turned out that it was reality – a reality that was  standing right in front of them.

This is the way to live back-to-front in our world, the way to get some of the Easter thinking into our heads.  Instead of worrying about things that might never happen, start thinking about all the things that you hope for, and ask yourself if maybe some of them have already happened.