“Now that’s something,” he muttered, “when the twigs catch faster than the lighter.”
Not many are familiar with lighter wood any more. Also known as pitch pine, this wood contains a high concentration of resin. The smell is often overpowering, as if you had soaked it in lighter fluid. When you watch one of those old movies, the torches the mob carries are pieces of lighter wood. You can’t light a piece of wood with a match—not unless it’s lighter wood, which lights up instantly, like a kerosene-soaked corn cob.
Except the piece Keith was using that morning. We had left behind the warmth of an electric-blanket-stuffed double sleeping bag and crawled out into a crisp morning breeze on an open mountaintop, the thermometer next to the tent barely brushing the bottom of thirty degrees. We needed a fire in a hurry, but what should have been reliable wasn’t, what should have been the first to solve the problem had itself become the problem.
As I pondered that the rest of the day, my first thought was the Jews’ rejection of Christ. Sometimes we look at Pentecost and think, “Wow! Three thousand in one day! Why can’t we have that kind of success?”
Success? I’ve heard estimates of one to two million Jews in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Even if it were the lesser number, out of a specially prepared people, 3000 is only three-tenths of one percent—hardly anyone’s definition of “success.” Here are people who had heard prophecies for centuries, who then had the preaching of John, and ultimately both the teaching and miracles of Jesus, people who should have caught fire and lit the world. Instead the apostles had to eventually “turn to the Gentiles” who “received them gladly.”
And today? Does the church lead the way, or are we so afraid of doing something wrong that we do absolutely nothing? Have we consigned Christianity to a meetinghouse? Do our religious friends out-teach us, out-work us (yes, even those who don’t believe in “works-salvation”), and out-love us? Do we, who should be setting the world on fire, sit and wait for someone else to help the poor, visit the sick and convert the sinners, then pat ourselves on the back because we didn’t do things the wrong way, while ignoring the fact that we didn’t do anything at all?
And, even closer to home, do we older Christians lead the way in our zeal for knowing God’s word, standing for the truth, yielding our opinions, and serving others, or must we be shamed into it by excited young Christians who, despite our example, understand that being a Christian is more about what we do than what we say?
It’s disgraceful when the twigs catch fire before the lighter wood.
And let us consider how to stir one another up to love and good works, Heb 10:24.