Read His Words Before Ours!
“My heart is the wick, Your love is the flame. And I wanna burn for Your Name.”
Merriam-Webster defines ignite as “To set afire. To cause to burn. To subject to fire or intense heat. To heat up. To set in motion.”
Have you ever built a campfire from scratch? In order for your fire to catch and grow, you need everything set up in exactly the right order. First, you gather lots of small, dry branches and twigs, leaves, paper and anything else that will catch fire quickly. This is called kindling. You’ll have more success if you pile the dry twigs and branches on top of the kindling. Next, you position larger logs over your kindling, being sure to leave space for air to flow under the logs.
Then, you strike your match and set the kindling on fire. As the flames grow and start to spread to the smaller twigs and branches, you might blow on the flame, or poke it with a long stick, to stir it up more. The flame grows and burns hotter, and as it does, the larger branches and logs grow hotter until they begin to catch fire, too.
Love, I have to be honest with you. When I picked up the assignment to write this Journey about Polycarp and Ignatius, I had literally never heard of them in my life. In fact, as I sat in our writer’s meeting and scanned the list of upcoming Journeys, I felt…
Ouch. And to add insult to injury? The truth is that I didn’t feel any real desire or curiosity to dig deeper into the lives of any of these historical fathers of the faith.
So, I did what any self-respecting fringe millennial would do. I picked the ones with names I could not really pronounce, pseudo-affectionately dubbed them, “Iggy & Poly” in my mind, threw my inexperience to the wind and dived in deep.
And here we are. But before I can fully introduce you to Ignatius and Polycarp, we have to go back a little further. In order to do that, we’ll stick with the campfire picture we just processed together.
Stay with me, this is important.
Before Jesus arrived as the promised Emmanuel, God With Us, we need to visualize the spiritual climate in Israel. God’s people were effectively trapped in a religious box of their own making. Where He had set out His law to protect and free them, they instead chose to chain themselves to religion and more. They created their own laws and rules in addition to His, and rather than trusting God to justify them through sacrifice and the atonement of sins, they adopted a religious spirit. They thought they could justify themselves. This resulted in a prideful people group who were desperate for truth, purpose and relationship, yet still rigidly clung to the very things that held them captive.
They were empty. Dry.
When the Son of God slipped quietly onto the Bethlehem scene in the form of an infant… the Jewish people were confused.
They had asked for a king.
Someone who would fulfill the Law.
Someone who could rescue them.
And God answered, because that was His plan all along.
But He didn’t answer in the way they wanted, or the way they expected. Instead, He sent Jesus to fulfill the Law in the way that only Jesus ever could. And because the people who prayed for rescue didn’t see it coming in the way they expected, the majority missed the message the Son of Man brought to life.
However, there were those positioned closest to Jesus who recognized the Truth and began to smolder from His heat. These apostles were disciples in word and deed. They spent time with Jesus in His everyday life and ministry.
They saw Him perform miracle after miracle, healing after healing.
They witnessed Jesus in life, in death,
and then in life again.
They got it.
More importantly, they caught it. And when He told them to go, they went.
They began to walk out their faith in boldness, preaching the gospel to all who would listen. They healed the sick, and cast out demons. They taught others about the life of Jesus, what His death and resurrection meant, and why it mattered. They devoted themselves to studying the Scriptures, to praying, and fellowship.
And their numbers grew exponentially.
And Love? The ones Jesus chose to draw into His closest circle?
The ones He trusted to catch fire first – and to fan the flame?
They were unquestionably the last people anyone would expect to fulfill that weighty calling. In fact, you or I might have even called them….
But God saw them differently.
The early church began to grow against all odds in the face of extreme opposition.
In the weakness and humanity of the ordinary men and women who spread the message and ministry of Jesus, God was shown strong.
Whole families began to receive the message of Jesus,
and though persecution was commonplace, Christianity caught fire.
The church continued to grow until one day, as Saul of Tarsus walked the road to Damascus, the resurrected Christ Himself appeared to him. Prior to this face-to-face, Saul had been instrumental in persecuting countless followers of Christ, with the full support of the Jewish leaders. Saul’s resulting sudden and whole-heart, whole-life, jaw-dropping conversion fanned the flickering flame to a roar. Saul became known as Paul, and he adopted the lifestyle of the other apostles, discipling others, encouraging young leaders in the church, and delivering truth and challenge in love to all he encountered.
And the flame began to grow.
As for my friends, Poly and Iggy, I’ll introduce you on Wednesday of this week. 🙂
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!