From time to time I give myself a “manliness test”, to see if I still have what it takes! The truth be told, I always fail these tests, but because of the fact that I tried, I give myself a passing grade. Usually, these tests involve camping alone in the land of “banjo music”.
On one of these occasions, I was camping by a small creek in the North Georgia woods. I had a beautiful fire burning right next to the creek, and I enjoyed a time of communion with God. Then I spent the night full of terror as I kept hearing the screams of Ned off in the distance. I have learned that being a real man of courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to fight and not allow the fear to rule over me. So I fought through the fear, not wanting to wear the shame of driving back to our cabin and asking my wife to hold me as I sucked my thumb.
In the morning I awoke and realized that I had survived the night without being assaulted-or mauled by a bear! There is nothing sweeter than a warm fire in the morning after a sleepless night of fear, so with the cool midst coming off the creek and the birds greeting the sun with their songs of joy, I began to restart the fire. Starting a fire that still has hot coals is a very easy task-all you need to do is add some fresh sticks near the coals and blow on the embers. This, of course, requires getting very close to the coals while on your hands and knees so that your breath will reach the coals. As I blew and the coals began to glow and ignite the kindling, a bright flame appeared and with it a huge snake leaped out of the fire right at me! It was not one of my most manly moments, as I screamed like a little girl and cussed like an old sailor. I am not sure who was more scared, me or the snake.
This snake had found a safe, warm bed for the night. The fire had died off making it safe to curl up next to and enjoy the warm afterglow. After calming down with a few cups of camping coffee, I had a time of reflection about this experience. Here are some of my insights from this Ugly Fire.
1. A cool fire is a dangerous place. Sin loves to hide in the heart of a believer who has let their passion for Jesus die out. It opens the door in our lives for evil to hide in us when we are not “cold or hot, but just lukewarm”. (Rev. 3:15) Satan can do more harm with a believer who is no longer on fire for Jesus than a lost pagan. We may have been hot for Jesus years ago, but now we are just living off the afterglow. Past memories of great spiritual experiences are nice, but they give no fire to warm our hearts today.
2. There is no greater way to clean our hearts out than to reignite our passion for Jesus. To try to drive out the enemy with religious activity is a waste of time. It would have been like me screaming at the fire to drive out the snake. All it took was some fresh air, and the flames did the rest. Attempting to get believers to do the things that it requires to be spiritual is so much easier when they are motivated by their love for Jesus. Having a burning passion for the things of God gives us strength to resist the pull of the things of this world.
3. It is not as hard as it seems to restart a cool fire. It requires some new wood, close contact, and fresh air. The new wood is the ignitable material, the Word of God. The close contact is our humbling of ourselves to say, “Please Lord, send fresh fire,” and the fresh air is the wind of His Spirit moving on the coals of our hearts. There is an old tradition of an unwritten statement of Jesus, “He who is near me is near the fire”. We do not have to create a fire-only press into Jesus who is “a consuming fire”. (Heb.12:29)
4. Do not be shocked when you press into the Lord to light your fire again, and a large snake jumps out! Evil cannot stand the presence of the Lord. You cannot have a heart on fire for Jesus and a heart that is filled with sin-it will put out your passion for Him. You do not need to focus so much on the sin that needs to go, as you do on the fire that needs to grow brighter. Walking in the light will both reveal our darkness and cleanse our hearts. (1 John 1:7)
5. The Apostle Paul had some words of wisdom for a young pastor he was mentoring that it was his responsibility to keep his fire burning bright for Jesus. “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God…” (2 Tim.1:6 ) We must take personal responsibility for the fire in our hearts. We cannot live off the warmth of the fire of others, we must have our own passionate love for Jesus. The Lord can use the fire in the heart of others to help re-ignite our hearts, hanging out with people on fire for Jesus is essential to keep our hearts on fire.
6. One of my favorite books is the Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan, which is an allegory of the Christian life. I have an old picture illustrating one of the experiences the main character Pilgrim has when he visits “The Interpreters House”. He is shown a wall with a huge fire coming out of it, but the devil is standing there pouring water on the fire-yet the fire is not extinguished. The Interpreter (representing the Holy Spirit) takes Pilgrim to the other side of the wall where he sees the secret of why the fire will not go out; it is Jesus standing over the fire with a small vile of oil pouring it on the fire. God’s oil to keep our fire burning is much stronger than the evil one’s water that tries to extinguish it. We must keep our eyes on the oil of the Spirit and not be discouraged by dampening waters of the evil one. “Many waters cannot quench your love” (Song of Songs 8:7).
How is your fire burning? Beware of a cool fire, bad things hide in it. Take some time to add some fresh fuel on your fire by spending time with Jesus and His word. Invite Him to breathe on your embers and pour out the oil of His Spirit, re-igniting your fire. There is no greater defense of evil than a heart on fire for Jesus.
Come fire of God burn in me, ignite my passions for eternity.
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