I am still cleaning up after the huge wind storm from the summer of ’16, which took down many big trees on our property. This fall I have already burned 24 “brush piles.” So I have spent a lot of time with fire. While tending to fires, I’ve had a lot of time to think, pray, and simply watch what fire does to those big plies of wood. John of the Cross’s image of God’s fire consuming wood has continually challenged me to walk in purity before the Lord. Wood consumed by fire becomes fire. It is transformed.
I thought about God being “a consuming fire” and having that fire in my heart. Remember John, the Baptist said of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke 3: 16). Later Jesus warned, “I’ve come to start a fire on this earth” (Luke 12:49 -Message). When the Spirit was given on Pentecost, those present, “saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them” (Acts 2:4). I Cor. 3:13 indicates that our life style will be tested by fire. “It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work.” Paul warns, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire”( I Thess 5:19).
In the Old Testament fire on the altar was never to go out. “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…” (Lev. 6:12). There was to be no “strange” or “unauthorized” fire on altar, that is, fire not authorized by God. Numbers 10:1 tells of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu taking their censers, putting fire in them, adding incense, and them offering unauthorized fire before the Lord. As a result, “fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Numbers 10:2).
It is tempting for me to try and make myself alive spiritually with unauthorized fire. I call it “cranking it up.” But I can’t keep the flame burning. It is kindled by the Holy Spirit from within. My part is in yielding to the movement of the Spirit in my heart. I need to be aware when I am trying to lite my own fire. It will always be” unauthorized.” We read in Isaiah 50:19-20 ( Message), “For anyone out there who doesn’t know where you’re going, anyone groping in the dark, here’s what: Trust in God…….But if all you’re after is making trouble, playing with fire, go ahead and see where it gets you. Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames. But don’t expect me to just stand there and watch. I’ll hold your feet to those flames.” I have often blown on the flames only to get burned.
When I sit, tending the fire so all the wood will be properly burned, I still need to respect how the fire will burn. I remember God is a “consuming fire” in my life. Because of his great love, my heavenly Father desires to burn the religious junk out of my life. My perspective of the burning will be much different then that of my Father. Being aware of his love and mercy for me, should make me thankful for the burning. “An do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! (Heb 12:28-29 – Message).