Over the past month or two I have been thinking a lot about fire. You see although I currently live in New England I grew up in the deserts of Eastern Washington. I always find it interesting to try to explain what dry heat feels like and I often forget that where I live the scare of raging fires doesn’t exist. You see I grew up with fire season. I grew up with summers ending with fires raging across the country side and families loosing their homes. And this summer as I prepared to come home to visit I was again reminded of the reality of these fires in our lives.
Scripture has a few things to say about fire as well…
“Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.”
“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.”
“For the LORD will execute judgment by fire And by His sword on all flesh, And those slain by the LORD will be many.”
And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
“And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.”
“So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:7
What I see here are two types of fire.
The first type of fire is an all consuming fire of God’s vengence and wrath. It is a fire that utterly consumes and destroys. It is a fire that snuffs out hope and consumes life.
The second type of fire is a refining type of fire that is birthed in God’s love and care for His people. It is a fire that consumes the unnecessary and dangerous to create a space of renewed life and dedication. It is a fire that encourages true growth and protects life.
The same is true in life. The fires that I grew up witnessing were much like the first type of fire. Each fire consumes all in it’s path without care of who are what was involved. Once a wild fire starts it is hard to control due to uncontrollable wind, dry underbrush and hot air. A wild fire doesn’t care what or who is in it’s way but will rage until subdued and then conquered.
Thankfully there are precautions that can be made. Often unnecessary fires are kept to a miniumum and people watch both their land and those around them for signs of fire. There is also something more proactive that people can do and that is something called “controlled burning.”
Prescribed or controlled burning is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, or prairie restoration. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters.
Fire is a natural AND necessary part of life, both physical and spiritual. Controlled burning clears away what a wildfire would consume and encourages the true vegetation to take root.
In our lives we must allow the Holy Spirit to control burn the things that are not of Him so that the truth life in our lives can take root. We must allow God to burn away our hurts and our pains, to burn away our sinful nature so that the true life can take place in our lives. If we don’t allow God to control burn in our lives then we will experience devastating wildfires that will rage and consume all in their path.
In our lives fire will come. The question is will our land be ready for it?
Will we allow God to do the hard work of burning away the unnecessary so that the fires of life will not consume and so we can experience truth life?