May 18, 2018
I love making fires and burning wood. When my family lived in Northern Michigan, we heated our home by tending a giant cast-iron wood stove in our basement multiple times a day. I took great pleasure in learning the art of chopping, drying, and burning hardwoods at just the right time for maximum efficiency.
A few times things got scary. Once the blaze was so hot that I scorched my hand on a stove handle that was supposed to be thoroughly insulated. Other times large glowing embers were carried out into our basement by potent backdrafts. Ah, rural living!
These days I have to content myself with a few summertime campfires and the occasional brush-pile burn at my brother-in-law’s landscaping business. When a 100x50 foot brush pile gets going, the destructive power is awesome. (One year there was an old piano on the burn pile, that hurt a bit.) But along with the destruction, the flames also give a beautiful, positive power to cleanse and restore. The junk and debris from an entire year of landscaping are consumed in just a few hours A clean start for the coming season.
God loves making fires, too. And, he loves making himself known through fire. God appeared by a “pillar of fire by night” in the Old Testament to guide the way. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit was revealed on Pentecost via the “tongues of fire” that alighted on the heads of Jesus’ early disciples.
Fire warms, undoes, and cleanses.
The Fire of God warms, undoes, and cleanses.
The Fire of God in the person of the Holy Spirit kindles holy desires within us so we long for the things of God. Have you felt a warm longing to hear God’s Word? That’s the spark of the Fire of God. Have you been drawn toward deeper prayer? That’s the Holy Spirit sparking in you. Have you found yourself warming to the notion of giving yourself and your stuff away for a cause bigger than you? God’s fire all the way! Have you been attracted to the countercultural whisper recommending silence and solitude as a way to experience more of God? These desires are the signs of a growing relational warmth between Almighty God and us.
The Fire of God is also tasked with destroying and undoing the power of sin. This work of the Spirit is more frightening than simple embers carried by a backdraft. The Holy Spirit is tasked with burning away not only are misdeeds, but the deeper character flaws that allowed us to commit those misdeeds to begin with. I’ve got the scorch marks to prove it. Because the Holy Spirit is gentle and gracious, scorching is never the end goal. Instead, a fresh, clean start is what it’s all about. The Fire of God burns away the unholy so that something truly holy, healthy, and of God can take its place.
I am drawn to this spiritual Fire. It’s awesome when it breaks out. It’s awesome when the “unseen” things of the Spirit are demonstrated to be mightier than the things that are “seen.” After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the white hot power of Holy Spirit fire was unleashed for the good of planet earth. The same power that brought the Son of God back to life and out of the tomb was kindled to burn away the old religious systems and create a fresh space for the building the next incarnation of Christ’s body, the Church.
Where is the power today? It is still burning bright. If I had to rank the firepower of the church in North America, however, I’d describe it as a modest summer campfire. I’m longing to see a day when an entire brush pile is set ablaze: a day full of creative warmth, sin melting flames, and fresh starts for holy growth. I’m praying for it. I hope you’ll join me and send out your own prayer for God to kindle some fresh fire in our midst.
Pentecost Peace to you,