“Moving into the Fire”

The recent Las Vegas serial shootings have forged the need of new training for first responders. Going forward, they are “to move into the line of fire” to rescue others and not wait until there’s a lull of bullets, firearms, hatred. Paramedics and firefighters – like militia and police personnel who are armed with weapons – also must begin wearing vests and helmets in order to save their own lives as they prevail to provide pre-hospital care during medical emergencies.

During Sunday service at House of God Church on the morning of the day of Stephen Paddock’s carnage at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, a spontaneous similar scene of “going into the fire” erupted. In hindsight, the occurrence was a follow-up to “Purpose” and “Expectations”, which are two of our church’s four Guiding Principles.

A very casually dressed white adult male entered the small sanctuary of black worshipers. He was greeted with kindness and love and seated near an aisle, about three rows in from the back. Instantly, he began uttering a low-pitched sob. Pastor Johnny Ford had just begun the sermon – “Kingdom Growth: ‘When Trials Turn to Joy’”. As the guest’s sobbing continued – never intensifying in volume but constant – heads began turning to the rear. In the direction of the weeping. To see who was in need. To encourage the brokenhearted to know he was not alone. In hopes that after glances and acknowledgements had been offered, perhaps undivided attention then could be returned to the day’s text: Psalms 126 and James 1:2-4. An usher showered tissues to our guest, who later was identified as Timothy. (His name has been changed to protect his privacy.) Low-pitched sobbing ensued.

The scene could have seemed sniper-like to some. It could’ve ushered in fearful recollections of Dylann Roof’s arrival and worship-like façade at Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church in 2015. It could’ve assailed some with feelings of frustration or powerlessness for an inability to hear from God. And, yet, God indeed was speaking through Timothy’s visitation, and God was opening a door of opportunity for Christian duty.

As the sermon ended and the song “This Joy That I Have” was sung, the Spirit of God encouraged church members “to move into the fire.” Encouragers began walking quickly toward Timothy to offer touch and to show and state a sincere expression of concern. Prayer warriors began to lift him and his circumstances to the throne of grace. Pastor Ford exhorted Timothy to remember that God can turn Trials to Joy. Each church member had responded because of a sense of “Purpose” about their God-given gifts. Each had had “Expectations” that their actions would bring glory to God.

Timothy was called to the front of the church and provided an opportunity to speak his Truth. His discouraging circumstances were numerous, and he confided that he years ago had been in fellowship with God but had turned away. He was informed that perhaps his current trials had brought him to House of God to remind him of his need to draw close to God.

Whenever Christians “move into the fire,” they, too, must wear vests and helmets, just as first responders will be trained to utilize. As stated in Ephesians 6:10, 14, and 17, in order to “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power,” we must “stand firm, then,… with the breastplate of righteousness in place,” and “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

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