Where has the summer gone? The feel of fall is in the air and the leaves are starting to change colours. A change of seasons is before us. I am sure that during the summer some of you had the opportunity to enjoy holidays and time with family and friends. One of the pastimes that I love to experience is that of the campfire. For me personally sitting around the campfire is a relaxing time with family or friends we we can talk, laugh, sing songs, tell stories, roast marshmallows, and of course watch the fire burn.
One family in the United States has for 200 years has kept a fire burning that was started with the use of flint and steel by Tom Dalton in his Blue Ridge Mountain cabin. His family, from one generation to another, has passed the fire from one home to another and has never gone out. Today it is the oldest fire in the United States and even during the summer months is kept burning with a cord of wood per month. Now that’s a campfire…
Have you heard of the Cadomin fire in Alberta. The fire began in 1919 in an underground coal mine. The fire has never been extinguished and in the coldest days of winter the grass above the fire remains summer green. In fact in China and India there are hundreds of coal mines on fire that need to be put out each year.
These stories remind me about God’s command to the Levites “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it. 13 The fire must be kept burning on the altar continuously; it must not go out” (Lev 6:12-13). The desire of God is to have a perpetual reminder of his Presence in our lives. We are told that the fire of the Lord came from the Lord and consumed the burnt offering; in other words, this fire was supernatural, it was not like a coal fire out of control. This fire was from God and was meant to never be extinguished.
“Camp around the Presence of God”
In the weekly update I sent out a picture of a fire burning with this caption, “Camp around the Presence of God”, a quote by Bill Johnson. This captured my attention and my fascination with fire. There is something significant about our attention being drawn towards God in the context of the fire. There are many positive uses for fire such as cooking, providing warmth, refining metals and the removal of waste. As well, fire has been used religiously in the offering of sacrifices to God, but also used negatively in the sacrifice of children to false gods. Fire can be used for good but also for bad purposes.
We are told in the Scriptures that God is a “consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). This is a wonderful and terrifying word picture to consider. The imagery of fire burning is as old as creation itself and seen throughout the Scriptures. Here are a few examples from Scripture that highlight the topic of fire; this list however isn’t exhaustive nor in any particular order. However, I do believe these Scriptures are prophetic in the sense that God is speaking to us today. I am reminded of phrase, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
- Fire was used in the revealing of God to Moses, the burning bush (Ex 3:2). There is something enlightening about seeing a bush on fire and yet not being consumed. I often find myself inspired to think about God when sitting before a fire. The beauty of the fire causes me to meditate on creation and the Creator. Fire has a mesmerizing affect upon me as I watch the flames lick and twist around each other. God is just like that… The revelation of God is wonderfully mysterious. The illumination of the Holy Spirit so satisfying. I believe that God is desiring for us to be “apprehended” by His Presence in a fresh way. Remember the Scripture with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; it was said of them that they had “burning hearts” as Jesus revealed himself to them.
- Fire is used to guide God’s people as seen in Ex13:21-22 - “The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. He did not take away the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.” The Presence of God, in the case with the Israelites - fire by night, is essential when it comes to guidance. We can all make choices based on our wisdom and understanding but we must remember that it is God who directs the affairs of mankind. We know from Scripture that the fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom. It is this wisdom that we need when it comes to guidance. Proverbs 16:1-3 - To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue. 2All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord. 3Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. Over the years I have used the illustration of a ship coming into a harbour; the setting is before GPS, where a ship had to follow the directional buoys to dock the ship.
- God’s peace; God’s provision; God’s point in timing; God’s providence (circumstances); God’s pointers (advice from family or friends)
- Fire is symbolic of purification. The longer that I am a follower of Jesus the more amazed I am at his mercy and grace towards my life. I know that I am righteous before God and that his grace abounds in my life. And yet I am also aware that there are areas that need the fire of God to burn away all that is impure. This is where the fire of God can “burn” and be somewhat painful as we experience his conviction and correction. Sometimes our inner thoughts and emotions need to be cleansed by the fire of God. At other times our outer actions do not align with God’s purity. Lust, whether sexual or material, needs to be cleaned up in the church. As well, we know that the tongue can be like a fire that can stir up gossip and trouble for people. Let’s not shy away from his purifying Presence. Here are two verses that clarify this point.
- 1 Peter 1:7 - so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ…
- 1 Cor 3:13 - each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work.
As we leave behind the summer of 2016 and move towards the fall, I pray that we will draw near to God and have God draw near to us. I am trusting that his Presence will bring us into relationship with him and that our hearts will burn with passion for God. I am grateful that he guides and directs, personally and corporately, the affairs of life. And I am praying that we will allow the fire of God to purify our lives for the Glory of God.