Gayle Erwin's Newsletter

August, September 1996 Newsletter

Strange Fire

Torch runs exploded into our consciousness with the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. With the torch runners passed through many United States towns and cities. Everyone wants to carry the torch for at least a few yards.

I served a church on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. The torch run was scheduled to come right by our church Sunday night, so we encouraged folks to bring snacks and hang around after service. Our location, perfect for viewing the run when it came by, created its own excitement.

However, before we found our positions for observation, I reminded the congregation that what we would be looking at was what the Bible would call "Strange Fire." This torch had been lit on Mount Olympus, the temple of the mythical Greek gods, not from the fire of the Tabernacle or Temple of the True God. The Games were dedicated to Zeus.

Now, I know that we do not in our minds honor the Greek gods. This is merely keeping a tradition since the Olympics began in Greece. But, with all the excitement, we can see just how easy it would be to introduce strange fire into the worship of Israel.

As I write this, we are in another Olympic year for the United States. The torch is coming by and all of America is bowing before strange fire. When the games begin, the opening ceremony builds to the exciting moment of lighting the Olympic torch that steadily burns to oversee the games. Strange fire! And we don't even give it a second thought.

However, the fire of God was never designed to oversee mere games. Perhaps that is the contrast. The best false gods can do is have an athletic event. When the Olympics end, much money will have been spent and made, many well-trained genetically-fortunate bodies will sport gold, silver and bronze medals, and, hopefully, the press will give us rest from the blare and glare of those five trademarked "rings."

But the fire of God, that John the Baptist predicted Jesus would baptize with, accomplishes much more--it changes lives. God's fire oversees reality, not games. Come to think of it, I believe I do want to carry the torch- -the real one lit by God. Now that is a torch run to see! Line up!


By Pat Black,
Worship pastor for Broadway Christian Church in Ft. Wayne, IN.

Guilt is an effective motivator. If you make me feel bad enough, I'm liable to do almost anything. The only problem is I'll probably resent it later. I'll operate out of compulsion, not willingness. My resulting actions may be noble, but I'll operate on my own guilty initiative. Don't be surprised if the results of my labors are lacking in spiritual power.

How many of the "calls for action" Christians hear are guilt-inspiring or obligation-ridden? How much of our volunteerism and "ministry" both demonstrate and propagate a miserable, joyless lifestyle? How many Christians have such a satisfying relationship with God that they actually want to share Him with others? Even better, what can make the Christian lifestyle of sacrifice and service satisfying and contagious over the long haul?

The answers are simple, but not simplistic. The place to begin is to look deeply at our lives. What is our motivation? The Lord longs that we would love and serve Him from a sense of gratitude, not guilt. But what can inspire the kind of gratitude that transforms our motivation?

Consider the following: If you have received Jesus Christ by faith, then your guilt was nailed to the cross with Jesus Christ. The power and penalty of that legitimate guilt was shattered when He rose from the grave. There is now no condemnation--or "guilt"--for those who are in Christ Jesus. Nothing you can do, could do, will do, or won't do has any power whatsoever over your standing with God. He loves you unconditionally and accepts you utterly in Christ. At your worst, God loves you most. Does this sound too good to be true? That's why they call it good news!

You are now justified by faith in Jesus Christ. You no longer have to justify yourself. God has pronounced you forgiven and fundamentally OK in Christ. You have nothing to run from, hide from, or protect yourself from. There is no punishment you have to inflict upon yourself, no quota you have to meet.

Your heavenly Father is not someone you can never please, or someone you have to work for, or distinguish yourself in front of to merit His attention or affection.

Do you remember the prodigal son? He reasoned that since he was not worthy to be his father's son anymore, he would ask to be hired as his servant. Do you remember what happened? The prodigal didn't get the job. Instead he was irrationally welcomed back as a treasured son in good standing with nothing to prove or repay. You are that son or daughter and God is that Father. Don't ask God to hire you. Don't perform for Him. Receive His love and respond in gratitude.

If you think long and hard about this new relationship with God and allow it to grip your soul, the whole basis of your motivation will change. But, really, isn't that the point? When our Father's true character and intentions are uppermost in our minds, everything is different! When He's filling us with His living water and satisfying the deepest longings of our heart for love and relationship, we are free to love and serve others out of gratitude, not guilt.

Guilt motivation means that I'm serving out of my emptiness. My job, ministry, or area of service becomes my means of finding "life" instead of my means of sharing the source of life that I've found in Christ. It's wrong for me to work for God in dependence upon myself to relieve a burden I feel about me. Our loving Lord desires that we would serve only in dependence upon Him because we share a burden that He feels about others. Until we allow God to meet us at the point of our longings, we are prisoners of our passions. We even do "Christian" things with a desperation to meet our own needs, instead of doing the will of God from overflowing hearts. We serve to fill our empty hearts, instead of from the overflow of our satisfied hearts.

Do you serve to fill your emptiness or serve to share your fullness? There is a world of difference.

A Journal of Grief

Two good friends of Servant Quarters. Henry Unrau and Howard Blake went to their reward. I know of no one who used The Jesus Style more fervently than Henry. He had given away hundreds of copies. He attributed the restoration of a large church he attended to the reading of the book by the church leadership.

We became great friends, and any time I was in the northwest part of Washington state, Henry and his wife (who also died this year) would show up. They were so faithful as witnesses of our Lord. I met many whom they had led to the Lord. He is a great loss to us.

Howard Blake, a retired Presbyterian minister, called me many years ago and asked if I had written "The Jesus Style." We got together for lunch to share hearts and goals. I became part of his effort called The Servant Society. He wanted desperately to turn the institutions of the world into servant organizations.

Howard's greatness included working to resist Nazi's in Denmark and to provide a freedom pipeline for Jews from Nazi Germany. He was a lover of people. Someone needs to take his place.


I am so happy to see that you have an internet site. You have been a continued blessing in my life (Praise The Lord)...especially when you fell through the flooring of the stage at Calvary Moreno Valley. Lord Bless You... .I will visit often.

Jerry Lloyd
Moreno Valley, CA

Some stories never seem to die. The Moreno Valley incident happened in the morning. That evening I totally destroyed the pulpit at Calvary in Phelan, CA. Ah, least it takes my mind off chocolate covered raisins.
— Gayle.

I listen to your talks (on WZXV radio in Rochester, NY) and I like what my heart feels. Do you have these talks on line, a location where I might read these inspiring words?

Thank You,

Stephen Appleton
Hilton, NY

Folks, in case you haven't noticed from prior newsletters, we do have a home page.
In other words, Servant Quarters is Online!

If you access our page at you will find the following:

  1. At least six issues of the newsletter. It goes online weeks before you receive it in the mail.

  2. Copies of our most requested article reprints of Servant Quarters.

  3. Copies of many of the parables I read. Not all are there because I am still trying to get permission, but most are.

  4. My speaking schedule months beyond what is in the newsletter.

  5. Humor. Stories I find funny.

  6. A complete list of our teaching materials with an order form.

  7. Announcements of interest.

So, it is a rich site. Everything can be copied.

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