Summer Fires. Burning Bright. Enduring Witness.

by Dan Behrens on February 2, 2021 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

[The following post is a follow-up excerpt to a video included in our Sunday morning service 01/31/21. Click here to view video.]

Summer Fires. Burning Bright. Enduring Witness.

Summer Fires. Burning Bright. Enduring Witness.

The picture below was taken by my father from the front yard of the house I grew up in. The blowup you see is approximately 30 miles away, up the Chewuch River valley that flows down into the town of Winthrop WA. In the days to follow, in what would come to be named “Thirty-Mile Fire”, 21 forest service fire personnel and 2 civilians were entrapped by the blaze—4 of them lost their lives.

On July 10 2001, the day of this photo, I myself was part of a 12 person extended attack firecrew stationed at a make-shift heliport about 8 miles south of this blowup. Our crew had been re-routed off a 12 hour shift on the “South Libby Fire” some 20 miles away, and were stationed as possible reinforcements. The simultaneous incidents of South Libby and Thirty-Mile completely took over our community. The local high school was turned into a state-wide incident command hub in a manner hours—everything happened so fast.

Earlier this year I talked with a good friend and fellow pastor (Lutheran Pastor, Shawn Neider) who also worked the South Libby fire with me all those years ago. We talked about wildfires in general as part of our own experience, both of us from small eastern Washington communities. Numerous friends of mine and even my own family have all worked for the forest fire service at one time.

Shawn and I talked about how fire burns in the two most common fuel types: “light, flashy fuels” like grasslands (vs) what are called “1000-hour fuels” or heavy timber. The comparison I make here is aimed at how one lives out the Christian life with enduring hope, joy, beauty, and unmistakable passion so as to ignite others to the same intense light Jesus himself evokes.

In a typical wind-driven burn, grasslands or light-flashy fuels explosively ignite, burn hot and fast, then quickly die. Their speed is incredible but their danger is relatively minimal. Conversely, a typical wind-driven event in dense, oily brush or heavy timber requires an enormous amount heat-energy to ignite and sustain. Statistically, its quite rare. But once this is reached the duration of the burn is, as they say “1000-hours”. Under the right conditions, unmanned fires of this type can retain there heat energy well into December. Their speed is slower, more subtle, more clever in a way. But their relative danger is incredibly high. In fact, the last hundred years records most wildland fire fatalities have occurred in this fuel-type: “Mann Gulch” “Storm King Mountain” “Thirty Mile” and “Yarnell” four of the most deadly.

When speaking of enduring witness, the analogy I present is very near to Jesus’ parable of the sower’s seed landing in different soils. Which soil type will not only receive the word, but take it into themselves and hold on to it as if holding the one seed to all of life itself? Many will receive. Yet few will bare fruit. That is, few will endure the extinguishing efforts of the enemy. And herein lies a great tension in watching someone burn bright for Jesus. Of course, we want to see people burn bright with passion for the living God. But even more, we want people to burn long long into the late season. To endure with joy and glory.

The questions I ask of myself of my own life (and of others too if I might speak into theirs), are we people of passion and patience alike? Are we willing to let God work in the present? And to do so at his pace in his time?

Again, this tension is quite real. Today is the day the Lord has made. Will we arise with such incredibly intensity that the gates of hell seemingly burn before our eyes only to be snuffed out moments later by a couple gallons of water? Or will we collect our heat, kindle it, make use of temperature, humidity, wind, topography, and adjacent fuels so as to burn bright for the duration, so as to consume everything on the mountain?

The Bible tells us that the glory or “joy” of the Lord is our strength (Neh 8). The Bible also tells us that the glory or “joy” of the Lord is his church (1Thess 2). Indeed we are if we remain in HIM. In Him, we are far more than mere summer fires—an all-consuming column rising mightily into eternity.

Twitter @danieljbehrens

Twitter @danieljbehrens


Simple Prayers. Simple Words.


Simple Prayers. Simple Words.

by Dan Behrens on October 30, 2020 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

Therefore, in this manner you should pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.  Matthew 6:9-13

Most of us recognize these very familiar scriptures as the Lord’s Prayer. I bet some of us can even recite these words from memory. No doubt, nearly all of us have even leaned on them in times of needed comfort and solace. We might regard this particular prayer or even Jesus’ model of prayer as simple. These simple words. This simple prayer.

And yes, in a way they are simple words. Simple and singular in focus. A foundation of sorts that anchors us to our Christian ancestors who, like us, have daily prayed for divine authority to be expressed on earth, divine provision to ease our daily need, divine forgiveness to absolve our tremendous guilt, and divine protection to overshadow our obedient faith.

But simple does not necessarily mean powerless, less effective or less important. No one believes that. In fact, we simplify all sorts of things in order to draw out what’s most important, powerful and effective. We simplify equations in order to grapple with manageable figures. We simplify scriptures in order to propose life principles. We simplify instructions in order to expedite workflow. We rightly simplify all of life’s enormities in order to take on more, make room for other, or to simply move on.

And here is the point (the point of contrast, that is). We simplify things in order to take on more and more. But that is not what Jesus does here in teaching us how to pray. His words are simple, but his focus is central; his manner of prayer an everlasting process of abiding in God. Jesus does not teach us to ask for more, believe for more, hope for more. Rather he teaches us to pursue what is already ours in the Father and to enduringly abide in that reality.

As familiar as these scriptures are (and ritualistic in their recitation), we are no less indebted to their efficiency in bringing us back to the foundation of our faith—willful, obedient, surrender. From here onward, we need not be frightened or discouraged in approaching our heavenly Father. Doesn’t “he know already know what we need”(Mt6)? Indeed, he does. It’s that simple.

@danieljbehrens on twitter

@danieljbehrens on twitter


 

Make Peace When Others Won’t


Make Peace When Others Won’t

by Dan Behrens on October 10, 2020 | Evergreen Foursquare Church

“It is one thing to view the land of peace from a wooded ridge; quite another to tread the road that leads there.” -St. Augustine [excerpt from Surprised By Joy by C.S. Lewis]

The bible gives us many examples of either a command, a charge, even a plea for the people of God to pursue peace. Or, if peace is not readily found, to make peace. In fact, we are to make peace when others won’t. Jesus calls this endeavor blessed—”blessed are the peacemakers,” he says (Mt 5).

Having said this, there are also a great many examples in the bible of persons who made peace their genuine goal and suffered mightily for it. A sobering contrast—the one who makes for peace typically receives very little of it, typically receives the constant nag of scrutiny, cynicism, mischaracterization, insult, and even certain abuses. Yet again, Jesus calls you blessed. That is way of the Christ, what some might describe as foolishness. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows,” he says. “But take heart, for I have overcome the world” (Jn 16).

There is nothing foolish about the miracles of God experienced through those who make peace their true goal. The world may not receive it. The world may outright reject it. May even seek your harm in response. But they will not deceived. Peace is not that kind of offering that goes unnoticed. Much more shrewd are the preparations made by peace when all our faith and hope have soured—hints of forgiveness, acceptance, trust, compassion, and pure affection begin to turn up. As for when these turn up, time will tell. But first comes peace, either readily present or something born out of your own tremendous effort. “For the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make for peace” (Jm 3).

@danieljbehrens on twitter

@danieljbehrens on twitter