My bulletin article that week said, "There is a warmth that comes even during the most bitter cold, but only Jesus Christ can provide that fire. Look inside yourself and see if that fire is burning - if not, you too may be in danger of succumbing to the cold within. There is a way to rekindle that fire and Sunday I want to talk to you about it." I asked our Shepherds a few days before that Sunday morning if they would pray that this sermon would touch people in such a way that the "demons of the past" could finally be exorcised, or at least take a step in that direction.
During the invitation, eighteen people responded! You could almost feel the presence of God as we hugged and loved on each other. During a baptism that morning, I knew God had done something remarkable, but I had no idea what He was about to do! The last words that were spoken that morning before we went to our homes were, "Today will be a day the 4th and Elm Church of Christ will never forget!"
Two hours later, that grand old building of fifty years caught fire and burned to the ground — right in front of our eyes! I saw people, who just a few hours before the fire were at odds with each other, hug and cry and talk about their children who were baptized there, or their mother whose funeral was there, or their daughter who was married there. God was using a fire, actively or passively, to change us — and change us He did.
It's been almost seven years since the fire. I'm still amazed at what has happened here. You can't walk into this building without feeling the presence of God radiating in the lives of the people of 4th and Elm. Those old "demons of the past" have been exorcised and the peace of God rules. Now if God is able to do that for 300 people, don't you think He is able to do that in your life? Ephesians 3:20 says God is able to do just that! But you must believe and pray for the fire — and be ready, for it will come you know!