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Monday, January 14, 2008
The Seaman's Bethel Chapel in New Bedford Massachusetts
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"'Is not my word like fire?' declares the LORD" (Jeremiah 23:29).
Last night we attended a community prayer service with numerous congregations joining together. The host pastor warmly welcomed everyone who was visiting. He then gestured toward the various pastors who were sitting together in the second pew and said, "I would now like to introduce these extinguished pastors." After hearing his own misspoken words, along with a room full of polite laughter, he quickly corrected himself and then properly referred to them as "distinguished pastors."
Most pastors I know are on fire and spur others on in the faith, but sadly there are pastors who do extinguish the fire of God's Word and quench His Spirit. The unintentional faux pas brought back the memory of a visit we made many years ago when we lived in New England.
The Seaman's Bethel is in the seaport city of New Bedford, Massachusetts across from the Whaling Museum. Since the early 1800's this Christian Chapel has been active for the many fishermen and sailors who are based in New Bedford. In fact this very chapel is mentioned in Herman Melville's classic Moby Dick where it reads, "In the same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman's Chapel, and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot."
When I visited the chapel I found one interesting feature to be the huge pulpit, which is shaped like the bow of a ship. When visiting historic churches I often stand behind the pulpit to get a feel for what it would be like to preach in that setting. So I stood behind the bow-shaped pulpit and looked out over the benches, imagining what it would be like to share God's Word with the whaling men one hundred years ago. In Moby Dick there is a scene where a fire-and-brimstone sermon is preached from this very same pulpit.
But I found something else most interesting behind the pulpit, where only the minister can see it; a fire extinguisher! Now I'm quite sure it has a very utilitarian purpose and when you think about it, it's really a pretty good idea. If a fire should break out we'd certainly expect the preacher to be alert and quickly notice it. This may not always be the case with some in the congregation (depending on how wide awake, or not, they are!)
I just hope no one would ever use an extinguisher to extinguish the genuine fire of God's Word. But do we? I'm afraid it happens, but I certainly hope it wouldn't be the preacher! Paul had likely seen this happen in his evangelistic ministry so he warned his readers to "quench not the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The NIV translates this verse, "Do not put out the Spirit's fire."
Perhaps there's another reason to keep a spiritual fire extinguisher behind the pulpit. The apostle Paul wrote in regard to the armor of God: "…Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one" (Ephesians 6:16). Indeed, a spiritual fire extinguisher comes in pretty handy!
We may face some fiery arrows today but we are not powerless when we use the extinguisher that God has provided. Lift up the mighty shield of faith as a powerful defense against the attacks of the enemy from within and without! The shield of faith cannot be pierced by Satan's fiery darts no matter the venom or speed with which he hurls them. Let us be filled with the Spirit of God so that we extinguish the enemy's fire while setting ablaze the fire of God's Word.
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Today's Prayer: Father, we are grateful for the fire of Your Spirit that ignites us to be strong in our faith, wise in our understanding, and obedient in our service to You. May we be eager to listen to Your Spirit's promptings as we fulfill our duties this day. Amen.
Today's Suggested Music
"Give Me Jesus" (Audio)
"Take My Life And Let It Be" (Audio)
"Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" (Audio) This is one of the prettiest arrangements I've ever heard of this song. The first half is instrumental with outstanding violin.
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission; and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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