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An igniter, a broken oven, and a sermon illustration

Last week, I was at the North American Mission Board’s Timothy-Barnabas Institute, which is worth its own discussion for a later time. However, as typically happens when one or the other parent is out of our house, something went wrong. In our case, it was the oven.

Not the range, just the oven. It would not light, would not fire up. The electronics were working fine, but no heat in the hot box. Ann and Steven poked and prodded with it a little bit and they suspected the igniter.

What is the igniter? Well, in our not-2-year-old gas oven, it’s an electric glow element that is attached to the gas jet pipe in the oven. You turn on the oven, the igniter starts glowing and then the gas starts flowing in, which is then lit by the igniter. The igniter shuts off and the flames from the gas pipe heat the oven.

So, once I got home, I pulled the igniter out and tested it with a continuity tester—it’s an electrical part, so you can determine if it’s working by checking the power—and they were right: the igniter was bad. Fortunately, a modern oven has a safety switch which prevents the natural gas from filling the oven when it won’t light. Otherwise, we might have had a bigger problem.

We picked up a new igniter, replaced it, and the oven is back in action. But, I am a preacher, so what do I think we should learn from this? Other than oven repair, which is a valid and necessary skill.

Well, here we’re going into an analogy, so it’s not going to be theologically perfect. Alright? Alright.

In your life, and in the life of your church (yes, it’s Jesus’ church, but it’s also one which you are part of, in the same way that the Atlanta Braves are MY baseball team despite me not playing baseball or owning the Braves), you need some points of ignition.

The specific one that comes to mind, since I’ve been preaching in Acts 1 and Acts 2 anyway, is that while we have the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we sometimes live as if there is nothing further to do. We live like the indwelling of the Spirit is all there is, as if there is no Biblical reason to see the manifest work of the Spirit in our lives.

Many times, though, we live our lives like my broken oven: the power, the Spirit of God, is present and willing, but we leave out the ignition. And then God uses others, works in other places and other ways. Why? Because if we don’t behave like we want God to work, why would He continue to bother us? We overload our belief in the sovereignty of God to think that we can sit on the couch and He’ll just zap us into service; zap us into unity; zap us into proclaiming His name among the nations.

What is that igniter?

I think in many of our churches, it’s prayer. It’s a willingness to spend more than a scintilla of time in prayer and seeking God’s direction, God’s power, and trusting Him to do what He has promised. We program, we plot, we develop…we need to be more about praying.

We need to pray like an oven needs an igniter: we need to recognize that until we have prayed through the work and seen God spark something from it, we have not finished praying.

That’s one of my personal development goals for 2020: do more praying and less of…everything else. Less complaining. Less striving with others. Less scheming, planning, strategizing…and more praying.


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