The Fire of God

I recently trimmed the shrubbery around our house. The springtime growth was getting out of hand, and by evening I had a sizable pile of greenery overflowing my fire pit in the back yard. I pushed aside some of it to make room for a “real” fire. Standing a couple of big, dry logs end on end, leaning inward like a teepee, I carefully arranged a bed of small, short, and very dry sticks. I finished it off by inserting a couple of ripped up cardboard strips from Amazon boxes, and the preparation was complete. My plan worked better than I thought it would, and before I knew it I had a roaring fire. Every few minutes I would push some more shrubbery on top of the fire; the moisture inside would sizzle and pop, sending up plumes of smoke.

Maybe I had too much time on my hands as I stood gazing at the fire. But it seemed to me a perfect metaphor for the believer’s usefulness in ministry. The fire itself is the work of God in a local church. The oxygen that feeds the flames and give them life are the work of the Holy Spirit. And we are the wood God uses to keep the fire going.

Some believers have soaked up too much of the world to be very useful. When they are tossed on the fire, they create a lot of noise but their moisture actually douses the flames. Pile on enough, and they can actually threaten to kill the fire. In the end, though, if the fire prevails, it will consume those
bright green leaves
fading flowers
to curl and shrivel,
sending up plumes
of smoke
that choke every passer-by
billowing ashes
that float away,
ugly in the wind.
Every believer will be used of God, the only question is how willing we will be in that process. I do not believe in the existence of a “carnal Christian,” of a person who never bears fruit but somehow possesses faith. But I do believe in the dangers of the allure of this world, and as a pastor I am painfully aware of the impact worldliness can have on the people of God.

There are others, who, in their zeal, offer themselves up to God for service out of a willing spirit. But they have no patience. Rather than seeing the wisdom and value of studying the Scriptures, of stewarding their gift, and of learning from the leadership around them, they push ahead in zealous recklessness. I believe God loves their heart, but he groans over their foolishness. These may be, as it were, kindling sticks.
They are short,
they burn brightly,
and they cause a lot of light
but not much heat.
Kindling is useful for starting a fire, or perhaps for counteracting the dampening effects of suffocating shrubbery, but kindling can only last for so long. After all, it only has so much to give by way of zeal. So, in a moment, it comes and is gone.

There are some believers who take the long view in ministry. They see the seriousness of their mission and willingly sacrifice to make use of their gifts. They gladly give much of their time, abilities, and resources to the kingdom, and so their opportunity to contribute to the fire is equally great.
Like great, dry logs in the fire, the Maker lays them up to support one another.
They do not catch fire as quickly as the zealous kindling.
No, because these logs are so large, they take a great amount of heat to set ablaze.
They are too careful to burn up with passing fads, but when the flame burns brightly and the heat becomes overpowering with the all-important work of exalting Christ and his gospel, these logs burn for hours down to their very core.
They provide heat in the cold and light in the darkness.
They dance and flicker with joy, sending off pops and cracks that signify not a dousing of the flames but that of a healthy, roaring blaze.
They do not burn for sake of themselves, but for sake of the Maker who has placed them together into their perfect design for his own deserving glory.

Even as they burn up, sending their last flicker of light,
the hard wood falls blackened on a bed of coals beneath the fire
that make up the fire’s true center of blazing heat and energy.
Even in death and apparent weakness, this bed of dying coals can lay glowing with heat
through the coldest of nights.
And when day dawns, the Maker resurrects a new work from the ashes
by simply laying a few more well-placed logs and a little kindling.
Then, in an instant, the heat ignites a flame.
The work is alive again.

What part do you want to play in the kingdom of God? How have you made yourself useful in his service in your local church? We all have the opportunity to burn brightly for Christ, fully satisfied with where the Maker places us. May we make the most of it.


21 Days of Giving Thanks – Day 8

In an effort to emphasize the season of Thanksgiving, I’m celebrating it all through the month of November. Earlier I explained my 21 Days of Giving Thanks challenge, which you can read about here. Last week on Friday we gave thanks for the gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ. Today let’s focus on giving thanks for the mission that springs from the gospel.

Day 8 – Give Thanks for the Great Commission

We live in a very confused society. Post-modernism has questioned everything from authority, to family structures, to economics, to religion (and more). The result is many people struggle to find purpose or meaning in life. After all, if we are a cosmic accident, or there are multiple valid religions and ways to heaven, who really cares how you get there?

But Jesus lays out a very different perspective. He made the radical truth claim, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) That’s exclusive, narrow, and restrictive. But what it actually does is swing the door wide open to your true purpose and meaning in life. For those who place their faith in Jesus Christ alone as Savior, he gives them a Commission for life. 

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~Matthew 28:19-20

If you do not know Christ and his purpose for your life, I encourage you to call out to him today. Ask him to save you from your sin and transform you into a new creation made ready to serve him.

If you do know Christ, has this Great Commission become mundane to you? When a visiting missionary in church asks you to turn to Matthew 28, do you think, “Here we go again”? Or have you embraced with joy the high calling God has placed on your life? You have purpose and meaning, a mission to fulfill, a goal to aim for. Give thanks!

Challenge: Thank God for the clear direction he has given you in this life. Take time to carefully evaluate your weekly schedule, purposefully altering it to make the Great Commission your greatest priority.