[forthright] The Bonfire/A Word Fitly Spoken

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From: Forthright Magazine <ba@...>
Date: Wed, 16 Jun 2004 11:40:46 -0500
Forthright Magazine
Straight to the Cross

The Bonfire by Barry Newton
A Word Fitly Spoken by Stan Mitchell

COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

The Bonfire
by Barry Newton

Had the ancient city of Ephesus ever seen a fire
quite like this one? The year was probably about
52 A.D. Neither the intense heat nor the rising
column of smoke would have been unusual.

What may have been a novelty was the Ephesian
desire for this fire to burn at great personal
loss. The calculated value of what that fire
consumed exceeded what a common laborer could earn
if he worked 365 days for 136 years! Why had one
fellow and then another willingly carried to this
great fire their personal items which had been so
dear to their hearts? What could have caused such
a reversal of their values?

Perhaps we will be surprised to realize that a
handful of Jewish exorcists achieved in a single
hour what neither years of Paul's preaching nor
the extraordinary miracles God had worked through
Paul had done. These exorcists had made the
mistake of simply invoking the authority of Jesus'
name like another lucky charm in their bag of
spiritual tools. What happened next was both
unexpected and revealed the greatness of Christ.

The evil spirit had acknowledged knowing Jesus and
Paul but then a question of disdain emerged, "who
are you?" The authority of Jesus was not a power
they could subdue and wield for their own bidding;
Jesus was far greater and more powerful than them
or any of the tricks they had been using. The
exorcists were standing before raw evil alone and
unprepared for this encounter. The result was not
pretty. Wounded, bleeding, and naked men had fled
from that evil presence out into the streets.

Because both Jews and Gentiles clearly understood
what this meant about Jesus, they became afraid.
What followed next represents what happens
whenever people come to fully realize the
greatness of God and His Son. They confessed their
evil deeds and burned what they understood to
stand contrary to Christ.

When Paul later wrote the letter of Ephesians, in
essence he insisted that Christians visit the
bonfire. They are to cast off everything which is
incompatible with serving Christ. What are some of
those items which belong on the bonfire?

Using unwholesome locker room talk

Sticky fingers that shoplift

Being bitter and set against certain people

Putting down others

Sexual immorality

Being driven to simply acquire more and more

Jokes at another’s expense

Have you been to the bonfire? Are you in need of
visiting it?

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COLUMN: Reality Check

A Word Fitly Spoken
by Stan Mitchell

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in
settings of silver" (Proverbs 25:11).

The tall man stepped to the platform of the train,
and looked at the crowd arrayed before him. His
angular features reflected the gravity of the
moment. He understood the importance of what he
was about to say. The site was the place where
thousands of men had fallen in battle, the
critical moment in a bitter, heart-breaking civil
war. The time had come to speak the words that
would begin the healing. Conversely, the wrong
words might tear the nation apart again. He had to
find the right words.

He began slowly, haltingly, then began to pick up
steam. The crowd listened -- it was hard to tell
how they were taking it. These were relatives of
the men who were killed, colleagues, the wounds
still fresh and painful.

The speech ended, and the crowd sat in silence.
The speaker sat down heavily, convinced he had
failed. But he was wrong. The crowd had been
stunned by the breadth of the dream, silenced by
the eloquence of its simplicity. They were so
moved they could not respond.

You know the speech. It began, oddly, with an
account of how many years had passed: "Four score
and seven years" earlier, their leaders had given
birth to a dream. Abraham Lincoln wanted that
dream to be revived. And his Gettysburg Address
went a long way in accomplishing that aim.

The nation survived, and grew, and prospered. You
never know the good you will do if you say the
thing you need to say. "I’m sorry." "I believe in
you." "Thank you." "I forgive you." You may not
see immediate results, but they may occur anyway.

Think it through. Be brave. Then say what needs to
be said.

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