Posts Tagged ‘fire’

Chicken or the egg: I come near to God first or God comes near to me? It’s a circle for a reason, there is no beginning or end to God-nearness.

James 4:8
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Brian McLaren, in his latest book, Naked Spirituality: a life with God in 12 simple words, uses the word “here” to begin his journey with God: “I am here, God is here, I am here with God.” This is how I imagine mutual nearness, like a dance or a mirror exercise in which no one can tell who is leading, who is following. It’s a unity.

And when I have awareness of God-nearness, I am also quickened. I see myself more clearly, I see places within me that are not connecting, like sunspots, they are of a different heat but the wrong kind of intense activity. They are my inner Adam and Eve hiding in the garden [Genesis 3:8-10].

It is only when I am near that I can understand and see what needs to be purified, what needs to be cleansed. There is cleansing by water, this removes the surface problems, the obvious issues, this is relatively easy and although it may take time, it is not particularly painful.

But the second, the purification of the heart, this is the inner cleansing and there is no quick fix to sins of the heart. The deeper they are stored, the more intense the process.

As I prayed over this passage, the old song came immediately to mind, Refiner’s Fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy. Like purifying gold, there must be fire. This is not some fiery hell at all, it’s white fire, it’s holy, it’s laser specific, it’s the power of God released into the heart of the matter.

They say mothers no longer remember the pain of childbirth once the child is born: the wonder of the living outshines the suffering. So it is with the cleansing fire of God.

If I want to be close, then I have to be willing to be transparent and clear.

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Photo by J P Shuler

First, Paul chastised Timothy for “neglecting the gift” he was given through the laying on of hands and now, with the second letter, he goes one step further and charges him to be more active, to “fan the flame.”

II Timothy 1:6
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

Apparently, it’s possible to kindle and even ignite the gift that is within us. Paul adds three words that must be part of this combustible process: power (that would be the Holy Spirit), love (that would be the Holy Spirit), and self-discipline (uh, in my case, the only way that would happen would be through the Holy Spirit as well).

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a wind [John 3:8, Acts 2:2], and sometimes fire [Luke 3:16, Acts 2:3], and anyone who has a fireplace or is building a campfire knows that you need air and an initial spark to get a fire going.

I am convinced, once again, that it’s the Holy Spirit who is critical to an authentic, passionate, and propagating faith in God and commitment to the Christ, that great mystery of all mysteries.

Come, Spirit, breathe on me. Light the fire again.

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If we are told to NOT quench the Spirit, then it must be possible. We must lean toward quenching on occasion or maybe more often than that. Apparently, it’s a concern. It requires adjustment. It’s a call for change. Or simply: stop doing it!

I Thessalonians 5:19
Do not quench the Spirit.
Do not quench (suppress or subdue) the [Holy] Spirit; [Amplified]

When I finished my most recent fast in November, I became aware of my ongoing struggle with “grieving the Holy Spirit” and how my behaviors and my choices were interfering with the free flow of that Spirit within.

Quenching that same Spirit, is just another way of saying the same thing. It’s putting out the fire. It’s extinguishing, choking off, and dampening the passion. It’s pulling back.

Here’s one problem I can see happening with this directive. Some people don’t recognize the Holy Spirit in their lives and therefore, don’t even realize they’re in the quenching business. It’s hard to “stop” doing something if one doesn’t realize what that might look like. Have I? Have I, in my haste to move on to the next thing, to go for the feeling, or whatever, have I actually drowned the still small voice?

A friend told me of a small group of women who meet regularly for “the wait.” They don’t plan what happens, they wait. They don’t necessarily sing or shout or pray out loud, they don’t seek a miracle or a sign, they respond. They listen first. They wait and then they share what they have heard with one another. They are putting a firebrand to the embers. They are kindling the fire.

“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of us your faithful and kindle in us the fire of Your love. . . ”

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God's Light by Max Ash

God is light [I John 1:5]; God is love [I John 4:8]. And I am offered a chance to live my life in the circle of both: light and love. I ask for God’s indwelling and both are available to me. So, why do I continue to shutter the light and edit the love? Why do I “kick against the goads?”

Ephesians 5:8-10
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

This is the prayer that Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity would recite each day (by John Henry Cardinal Newman)

Dear Jesus,
Help me to spread Your fragrance everywhere I go.
Flood my soul with Your spirit and life.
Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly,
that my life may only be a radiance of Yours.
Shine through me, and be so in me
that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your presence in my soul.

Let them look up and see no longer me,
but only Jesus!
Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine,
so to shine as to be a light to others;
the light, O Jesus will be all from You;

none of it will be mine;
it will be you, shining on others through me.
Let me thus praise You the way You love best,
by shining on those around me.
Let me preach You without preaching,
not by words but by my example,
by the catching force of the sympathetic influence of what I do,
the evident fullness of the love my heart bears to You.

It’s a process, that’s why. It’s a daily prayer, a daily unveiling, an awareness, a practice.

I’m thinking this is more difficult alone than in a group. The whole point of fellowship with other light-minded people is to help keep the light shining, to fan the flame, to encourage the embers, to light the darkness.

“Kindle in me the fire of your love . . . ”


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when I set up one of those new Paypal accounts, before I could use it, I had to allow them to make a very small deposit into my bank account. Then, I had to keep checking my account and once I recognized it, let them know. This verified the connection. That’s how the Holy Spirit starts too.

II Corinthians 5:5
Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

I think people expect the Holy Spirit to drop into their lives like a flood or a whirlwind. But truly, I think it’s just a mini-deposit. That is, until we get better at letting the Spirit have access and place in our hearts.

A true taste of the Holy Spirit is like a single bite of the most extraordinary dessert in the world. It’s sweet and multi-faceted. It’s has a taste that lasts. And most of all, it gives us a desire for more.

The mini-deposit of the Holy Spirit is a promise of what is possible, what is available, what is real.

Like the story of the mustard seed [Matthew 17:20], the things of God are so powerful that it only takes a little bit to have to great effect.

This is why one person can indeed make a difference in the world. One person among billions is no bigger than a mustard seed or a grain of sand.

I think I’ve been looking for the mega deposit, the swoosh of wind and the tongues of fire, when all along, the little mini-deposit has been sitting there, inside my heart, waiting to be acknowledged for all that it can do.

Burn brightly, sweet ember of the Lord.

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Luke 12:49
“I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!…”

It takes energy to start a fire. That is, unless you have another fire to pass along.

But if you’re starting from scratch: you have to have a few essentials like kindling or some other fire-friendly fuel, a spark (from expended energy), and oxygen to keep it going. Those who saw the movie, Castaway, will remember how important and difficult it was for the hero to start a fire. He knew the basics in how to do it, but implementing his knowledge was harder than he had imagined.

The easiest method, of course, is to have a small fire already going and you simply touch that fire to the new “environment” until it catches. Jesus tells us that He is this starter fire. We just need to prepare the kindling and provide the oxygen. Unfortunately, most of us want to control the flame. Burn here, Lord, but not there. And please, don’t burn up all my “stuff.” And, oh, please don’t let the fire hurt me. In fact, why don’t we just set aside a special area for your fire, Jesus? In that way, you can just burn and burn and it won’t hurt anything or anybody. It will be orderly and controlled. It will be on my terms.

One of my favorite worship songs is “Refiner’s Fire,” because I know the fire is essential to my faith and growth, like a forest that must occasionally experience a burn for new life to spring up. But I fear the fire at the same time. I fear that all my personal wants and desires being consumed by His Fire. I fear the loss of control. I fear that His refining fire will not leave all that is pure and holy and strong, but instead, only ashes will remain.

O Lord, have mercy on me. Forgive my fears. Start the real fire… not the fireplace version.

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John 24:35
John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.

A lamp gives light, but in those days, all lamps were fire that was fueled by something else. The fire was dependent on the fuel… usually oil. All of these words are used symbolically throughout the scriptures: lamp, fire, light, oil. They all go together and are combined to give a strong picture of what must happen within.

One of my favorite songs is “Refiner’s Fire” (based on Malachi 3:2). The message is simple: my prayer is to be holy … and the only way to be holy is to be refined by the fire of God…. purified.

John the baptizer had this fire within, gifted directly by God. It was this fire that drew others to him. The people recognized that fire. But John said that one was coming who would not just baptize with water, but with fire… one Christ Jesus. He would give pour out this fire directly from the “one who sent him,” [God]. This fire, then, is given when we invite Jesus to dwell within. He comes as a fire with the oil of the Holy Spirit that continually fuels the fire, continually refines our souls. [2 Chronicles 7:1] Sometimes, that fire can cause pain.

So often, I see myself trying to hang onto the ashes that have been burned away by the fire. But they are worthless, really. Sometimes the pain is by my feeble efforts to protect or “save” the parts He is trying to burn away. But it is then I realize that the best part remains. That part cannot be burned. Gold must be purified to be gold. The soul must be purified to be holy. Amen.

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