Set my Soul on Fire, Lord

It may interest you to know that I gave much more prayerful consideration before I made a couple of very personal remarks in the “9/11 Sermon” than anything I have ever shared from this pulpit. I was quoting John MacDuff and came to the part where he wrote: “This present world is a ‘valley of tears’ and a ‘wilderness of woe.’ While passing through it, we’re exposed to sorrows and sufferings of various kinds. Pain and disease surround us and many Christians in their awful anguish would rather die than continue living.” Then I interjected my thoughts and said: “In my own case it isn’t only because of the physical and emotional pain I’m suffering. For instance, as I was putting together this message and thought about the time when each of you entered into my life and I recalled fond memories I have of you; I thought about your eventual death, and there were several times when I broke down and cried. I assure you I’m not depressed or being morbid. It’s just that I love you very, very much and I would rather die than see you on your death-bed!”

I want you folks to know that I meant every word of what I said from the bottom of my heart. However on Tuesday a couple of questions suddenly popped into my head. “If the Lord took you home before any of them died how would you be able to fight the Devil from this pulpit or minister to the folks God has brought into your life for Him to love, comfort and encourage through you?” The more I thought about it the more I realized that I couldn’t. As painful as it would be for me to witness any of those folks suffering perhaps an agonizing death for only God knows how long, especially those who haven’t yet turned to Jesus and accepted His gift of forgiveness, I would want to be at their side.

Before going to bed that night I checked my inbox and saw that there was an email from Guy. I quickly realized the Devil was trying to give me a double whammy thorough something Guy had written. He said that due to financial reasons he will be looking for full time employment and hopefully, the new job will start in January. The bottom line is that the Devil wants to take both of us out of this pulpit and also destroy our church. He doesn’t want us to continue ministering to you folks. If that were to happen the Devil would have won this particular battle in the spiritual war we’re all engaged in. Well the truth is neither Guy nor I have any intention of leaving this pulpit or ministry, and I know you folks don’t want us to either. I hate my pain tremendously and never would want to see any of you in my shoes. But the fact is that some of you may have to endure much worse before He brings you home. Although it would break my heart I would want to be at your side to be used by the Lord to comfort and encourage you and remind you of reasons to have hope.

My current experience with all the physical and emotional pain has intensified my hatred of the Devil for having brought pain, suffering and death into our world. I want to do as much as I possibly can to expose his tactics to you folks and to those who read these sermons on my web page or folks who somehow learn about what’s going on at our church. An example is a man named Mark whom I didn’t know existed until Guy told me about him. He wrote in the following email.

“Mike, Carroll and I will continue to pray for you. Praying that the Lord will give you clarity of mind as He uses you to craft a message to His children! Also praying for healing upon your body and pain relief!

Mark is a man who suffers with severe back pain due to degenerative disc disease in his lower spine. Mark has recently been put on morphine to help with the pain. When he heard the account of you preaching in pain, having to sit in a chair with pillows, with your granddaughter Cheyenne by your side, he became all choked up. He expressed how grateful and encouraged he was by your example. The point of all this is that, we never know how God is going to use us, but if we remain faithful to Him, we can be sure that He will indeed use us in a mighty way. Whether in the pulpit, or at home, or at work, or at the store, or at the post office, or caring for our grand kids, or children, as long as we remain faithful servants, He will continue to use us for His Glory. Prayerfully, Guy.”

Allow me to digress for a moment so we can consider the following. It’s quite obvious that we live in a world full of messed up people. For instance, in the 9/11 sermon I mentioned the fact that in the political arena many folks are often sacrificed for the few such as the genocide our country allowed to take place in Rwanda because the principles of righteousness were replaced by pragmatism. For those who aren’t familiar with that awful horror I’ll explain. Samantha Power will enlighten you concerning what I was alluding to in my sermon. She wrote. “Tens of thousands of Tutsi fled their homes in panic and were snared and butchered at checkpoints.” Little care was given to their disposal. Some were shoveled into landfills. Human flesh rotted in the sunshine. In churches bodies mingled with scattered hosts. If the killers had taken the time to tend to sanitation, it would have slowed their efforts to “sanitize” their country.”

“Because the Hutu and Tutsi had lived intermingled and, in many instances, intermarried, the outbreak of killing forced Hutu and Tutsi friends and relatives into life-altering decisions about whether or not to desert their loved ones in order to save their own lives. At Mugonero Church in the town of Kibuye, two Hutu sisters, each married to a Tutsi husband, faced such a choice. One of the women decided to die with her husband. The other, who hoped to save the lives of her eleven children, chose to leave. Because her husband was Tutsi, her children had been categorized as Tutsi and thus were technically forbidden to live. But the machete-wielding Hutu attackers had assured the woman that her children would be permitted to depart safely if she agreed to accompany them. When the woman stepped out of the church, however, she saw the assailants butcher eight of her eleven children. The youngest, a child of three years old pleaded for his life after seeing his brothers and sisters slain. “Please don’t kill me,” he said. “I’ll never be Tutsi again.” But the killers, unblinking, struck him down.”

“The Rwandan genocide would prove to be the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century. In 100 days, some 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were murdered.” “When the massacres started, not only did the Clinton administration not send troops to Rwanda to contest the slaughter, but it refused countless other options. President Clinton did not convene a single meeting of his senior foreign policy advisors to discuss U. S. options for Rwanda. His top aides rarely condemned the slaughter. The United States did not deploy its technical assets to jam Rwandan hate radio, and it did not lobby to have the genocidal Rwandan governments ambassador expelled from the United Nations. These steps that the United States did not take had deadly repercussions. Washington demanded the withdrawal of U. N. peacekeepers from Rwanda and then refused to authorize the deployment of U. N. reinforcements.”

“During the Presidential campaign the previous year, [2000] Bush had said stopping genocide was not America’s business. “I don’t like genocide and I don’t like ethnic cleansing,” Bush had told Sam Donaldson of ABC, “but I would not send our troops. After being elected and being presented with an account of the Clinton administration’s failure, however, Bush wrote in firm letters in the margin of the memo: “NOT ON MY WATCH.” While he was commander in chief, he was saying, genocide would not recur.” “The September 11 attack on the United States will of course alter U. S. foreign policy. The attack might enhance the empathy of Americans inside and outside government toward peoples victimized by genocide. The fanatics who target the United States represent the perpetrators of genocide in their exposal of collective responsibility of the most savage kind. They target civilians not because of anything they do personally but, because of who they are. To earn a death sentence, it was enough in the twentieth century to be an Armenian, a Jew, or a Tutsi. On September 11, it was enough to be an American. In 1994 Rwanda, a country of just 8 million people experienced the numerical equivalent of more than two World Trade Center attacks every single day for 100 days. On an American scale this would mean 23 million people murdered in three months. When, on September 12, 2010, the United States turned for help to its friends throughout the world, Americans were gratified by the overwhelming response. When the Tutsi cried out, by contrast, every country in the world turned away.” (A)

Needless to say an atrocity of that magnitude was orchestrated by what the Bible refers to as being the world rulers of this present darkness.


“For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere,” Ephesians 6:12 (AMP)

“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. 2 He was present originally with God. 3 All things were made and came into existence through Him; and without Him was not even one thing made that has come into being. 4 In Him was Life, and the Life was the Light of men. 5 And the Light shines on in the darkness, for the darkness has never overpowered it [put it out or absorbed it or appropriated it, and is unreceptive to it],” John 1:1-5 (AMP)

“God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him. 18 He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation—he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.] 19 The [basis of the] judgment (indictment, the test by which men are judged, the ground for the sentence) lies in this: the Light has come into the world, and people have loved the darkness rather than and more than the Light, for their works (deeds) were evil. 20 For every wrongdoer hates (loathes, detests) the Light, and will not come out into the Light but shrinks from it, lest his works (his deeds, his activities, his conduct) be exposed and reproved. 21 But he who practices truth [who does what is right] comes out into the Light; so that his works may be plainly shown to be what they are—wrought with God [divinely prompted, done with God’s help, in dependence upon Him]. John 3:16-21 (AMP)

“Take no part in and have no fellowship with the fruitless deeds and enterprises of darkness, but instead [let your lives be so in contrast as to] expose and reprove and convict them.” Ephesians 5:11 (AMP)

Although Jesus spoke the following to His Apostles, that command is certainly applicable to every Christian after them including you and me.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

I’m ashamed to admit that until I went into “The Furnace of Affliction” I didn’t take that command very seriously. However, ever since I’ve been enduring this emotional and physical pain and having gotten an almost three hour second hand taste of Hell and how awful it must be to be separated from God forever; I want to stay in this world and continue fighting the Devil. Today I’m passionately on fire for the salvation of those folks who are still lost in sin. The people in our world are all messed up, some much more than others. The pitiful condition of Evangelical churches in America is certainly a factor. The only hope is for Christians to diligently lead the lost to Christ and teaching them to obey everything He commanded. I’m convinced that slowly but surely those churches that aren’t led by self-centered and/or gutless pastors can accomplish much. However, as Chuck Colson reminds us: “We don’t shape an entire culture in one full swoop; we influence one life at a time, and through the cumulative impact of that influence, we begin to alter society,” (B) It’s going to take time and God expects each of us to do our part. That’s one of the reasons why I preach these sermons about the Devil to a hand-full of people and then post them on my web site where they are read by thousands. President’s Clinton and Bush and many members of Congress are professed Christians and yet none of them spoke out about the part the Devil played in the Rwanda genocide. Do any of today’s Christian lawmakers have press conferences to speak about the Devil, the greatest perpetrator of evil in our world? In one way or another God expects every Christian to lovingly try to persuade them to speak up for Him. O how I wish an American president would deliver a prime time speech from the Oval Office and begin it by saying: “My fellow Americans; It’s my duty to inform you about the greatest threat our nation is facing.” And then go on to explain about Eternity Past, Creation, Satan, Adam and Eve “The Fall” and the Virgin Birth, Death and Resurrection of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The bottom line is that the Devil murdered the entire human race and he is doing everything he can to persuade people not to go to Jesus Christ and accepting the gift of life in Him. The Devil doesn’t want them to come back to life the moment they die.

If we’re going to fight the Devil we must do everything we possibly can to shine the spotlight on that slime-ball and expose him for who and what he is, the most evil being in all of God’s creation. It won’t be easy and we’re going to be considered religious fanatics.  For instance, George Barna writes: “…a majority of Americans do not believe that a living entity known as Satan exists. Nearly six out of ten adults (59) percent suggest that Satan is just a symbol of evil. The types of people most likely to write off Satan’s existence are adults who attend Protestant churches and African Americans.” “Only one-third of adults (36) percent are firmly convinced that a person can be under the influence of spiritual forces such as evil spirits or demons.” “…we consider demons and evil spirits to be akin to comic book villains: powerful and wicked, but not real.” (C) “…for those who believe that Satan exists and is committed to attacking God through humanity, it is important to recognize that theirs is a minority view in the United States; the notion of spiritual warfare between God and Satan, involving people on earth is not a wildly held perspective. “Undoubtedly, for some adults, their spiritual quest is fueled by the same hyper-individualism that drives pop culture.”

“…one of the most eye-opening realizations is that two thirds of Catholics (67) percent deny the existence of the Spirit. At the same time, half the public (51) percent claims to consistently allow the Holy Spirit to guide their lives. How can we reconcile this with their overall dismissal of the Spirit? It may well be that they do not accept the idea of an actual godly being as much as they embrace the notion that God’s Spirit can affect our thinking and feelings. Given their perplexity over the Trinity, many adults seem to accept that God has three unique functions, one of which is to influence people through His presence and nudging.”

Chuck Colson mentions some other hindrances to evangelism in America. He writes: “Surveying the press coverage over the last couple of years makes it clear that Christianity is reeling from a bruising and perhaps unprecedented attack by aggressive atheism-or what one critic ominously calls “anti-theism.” In 2006, Richard Dawkins, a clever and articulate Oxford biologist, published the God Delusion, which took up near-permanent residence on the New York Times bestseller list. Dawkins considers religious instruction a form of child abuse and suggests governments should put a stop to it. Tufts professor Daniel Dennett argues that religion is a dangerous toxin that may be poisoning believers.” “The title of Chris Hedges’ American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America could hardly be more direct. Regularly, critics liken politically active Christians to the Taliban.” “These critics say we are trying to “impose” our views on American life-that we want to create a “theocracy,” or a government run by the Church. But this is absurd; theocracy is contrary to the most basic Christian teaching about free will and human freedom. Christianity gave the very idea of separation of Church and state to the West. And Christianity advances not by power or by conquest, but by love.” Citing Barna whom I quoted a moment ago, Colson writes: “The majority of evangelicals-whom Barna calls “born-again” Christians”-do not believe in absolute truth and that “…49 percent of Protestant pastors reject core biblical beliefs.” (C).

Since the 911 sermon I found myself humming the words of a well known hymn. We have sung it many times at our services. I’ll conclude by reading the lyrics. “Set my soul afire Lord, for Thy Holy Word, Burn it deep within me, let Thy voice be heard. Millions grope in darkness in this day and hour, I will be a witness, fill me with Thy pow’r. Refrain: Set my soul afire Lord, set my soul afire. Make my life a witness of Thy saving pow’r. Millions grope in darkness, waiting for Thy Word. Set my soul afire, Lord, set my soul afire! Set my soul afire, Lord, for the lost in sin, Give to me a passion as I seek to win; Help me not to falter never let me fail, Fill me with Thy Spirit, let Thy will prevail. Set my soul afire, Lord, in my daily life. Far too long I’ve wandered in this day of strife; nothing else will matter but to live for Thee, I will be a witness for Christ lives in me.”

Little did I realize all those times I half heartedly sang those words with you folks that the Lord would set my soul on fire for the lost by putting me in the dreaded “Furnace of Affliction” where I would endure the most frightening experience of my life.

God has used my pain to teach me what it must feel like to be separated from Him forever. That’s the reason my soul in now passionately on fire for those folks who are still lost in sin.

Lord willing, November 6th….

(A) “A PROBLEM FROM HELL” America and the Age of Genocide, © 2002 by Samantha Power. Harper Collins, Pgs. 334,335; 511, 512.

(B)  FUTURECAST © 2011 by George Barna, Tyndale House Publishers. Pg. 174.

(C)  THE FAITH © 2008 by Chuck Colson, Zondervan, Pgs.25, 26; 28.

(D) FUTURECAST 140-141.

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October 8, 2011 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized 4 comments

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