When I was five, my folks took me camping in Yosemite National Park. At that time, each evening visitors would gather at Camp Curry in Yosemite Valley and the ranger would call out, “Let the fire fall.” 3,000 feet above the valley on Glacier Point, a huge bonfire had been built and on that signal, bulldozers would begin pushing it over the cliff forming a spectacular fire fall in the darkness. Today if you visit Yosemite and ask the ranger, “When does the fire fall?” he will respond, “I’m sorry, the fire doesn’t fall here anymore.” How often is that a picture of our lives? There was a time when I said, “Lord, come into my life.”, a time when I was full of hope at what God could do in my life, but perhaps today the flame has dwindled and faded and is almost out.
When our children were small we camped frequently and I was always responsible for the campfire. I love the sound of a crackling campfire first thing in the morning, the warmth in my face and hands to chase away the morning chill. Each night we would have a big campfire with roasted marshmallows and s’mores, but in the morning the fire was only embers. I would dig down through the ashes to those embers, add some paper and wood, blow on it and soon the fire would be crackly and warm again. In 2Timothy 1:6 (NIV) Paul says, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God.” Don’t let the flame go out; keep it bright.
I can’t say I ever completely walked away from God, but there were long periods where the fire was down to embers buried under a lot of ash. My 20’s were a particularly cold period with a worldly focus, spiritual stagnation and putting God in a Sunday box. I was the proverbial submarine Christian: I surfaced on Sunday but the rest of the week I spent under the surface. Praise God the last 30 years have been a time of reigniting the fire and moving from glory to glory. Today ministry in our county jail motivates me to keep the fire hot. Charles Spurgeon, a British preacher in the 1800’s, said, “If there is no fire in the sermon, throw the sermon in the fire.”
Matthew 25 tells the story of five foolish young ladies at a wedding feast who did not bring enough oil for their lamps as they waited for the bridegroom to arrive. When he finally arrived they found that their flames were dying. That is a picture of our lives when we let the oil of the Holy Spirit run low and we can no longer burn brightly in a dark world. Stir up the flame. Let the fire fall.
One of my favorite Bible stories is recorded in 1Kings 18. The prophet Elijah confronts the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. Two sacrifices were prepared, one for the Lord and one for Baal. Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to pray to their god to send fire to consume the sacrifice, but they could not. Elijah prayed and God answered with fire. The result was revival within Israel.
The people of Israel made a choice; I must make a choice. I choose my thoughts. 2Corinthians 10:5 (NKJV) tells us to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” What is my self-talk: “I’m a failure. Nobody cares about me. Nothing will improve.” And the flame dies down. “I am the righteousness of God in Christ. I am more than a conqueror. Nothing can separate me from the love of God.” And the flame burns bright. As our late pastor put it: “I cannot consistently act in a way inconsistent with the way I see myself.” I can put up a front for a while but inevitably I will fall back in line with how I think. We need the fire of God. Let the fire fall.
Have you seen the electric fireplaces with fake logs and lights to imitate flames? That is a picture of our spiritual life when we just put on a show. As I described, I was just fake logs for many years. In 2Timothy 3:5 (NLT), Paul warns, “(There will be those in the church who) will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” Only the fire will burn out addictions. Only the fire will heal families. Only the fire will make the snake run. The devil runs from the fire. He knows he will experience the flames soon enough. We are not called to put up with the devil’s oppression, to just hang on till Jesus comes, to live in depression and hopelessness. Instead let the fire fall.
Proverbs 26:20 (NLT) observes, “Fire goes out without wood.” Pretty profound, huh? If my life is in ashes, I need to ask what fuel have I given my spirit? Have I neglected Bible reading, prayer, worship or forgiveness?
I don’t need a fire that only lasts during a Sunday service. I need a fire that comes from the depth of my soul. I can’t afford to depend on someone else to pump me up. It’s got to come from deep within. I need fire in the way I worship, fire in the way I love my wife, fire in the way I do my job, fire in the way I wash the dishes. Fire! The devil comes to steal, kill and destroy: to steal the fire, to kill the flame, to destroy the passion.
Ho hum just doesn’t cut it. Ho hum doesn’t produce victory. Revelations 3:16 (NIV) says, “So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” In Luke 24, Jesus appears to two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He opens the Scriptures about Himself to them and suddenly vanishes. In verse 32 they respond, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Ever had heartburn? We need our hearts to burn. We need the fire.
Several years ago forest rangers in Redwood National Park became concerned because a new generation of redwoods was not growing. Study showed that the cause was fire control. Redwood seeds have a hard shell that must be burned away in order for the seed to germinate. Years of tight controls on forest fires in the park had prevented the seeds from experiencing the fire they needed for life. We need the fire to burn off the hardness of our hearts.
What have I given up on? Where have I invested more than I got back? When have I been better to people than they have been to me? When have I served others but haven’t received the help I need or sacrificed for a spouse or girlfriend and they have not been faithful? I worked 22 years for the company, faithfully doing my job, making sacrifices, working extra hours when needed, rarely taking a sick day and then one day my boss called me in and told me I was being let go. Short changed. We raised our son, nurtured him, protected him, taught him. We dreamed together with him of a future full of promise until all the dreams were ended in an instant by a drunk driver. Short changed. Life is not fair and I have to deal with the hurt of being short changed. If this hadn’t happened… If that hadn’t happened… I have been short changed and the fire runs low.
In 2Samuel 9, Mephibosheth, grandson of King Saul, son of David’s best friend Jonathan, is living in Lotibar. Wikipedia translates Lotibar as “the place of no pastures.” There is nothing green, nothing growing. It is a place of silent frustration, because I have given up and tried to make the best of a bad situation. The Lord has not forgotten. He has you on His mind. Don’t stay in Lotibar. I don’t care if you have to crawl out. You have been down long enough. You have cried long enough. It is time for the fire to fall again.
A windstorm will blow down trees with weak roots. There will be storms in life that will shake us. Whether we stand depends on our roots. Ephesians 3:16-19 (NKJV) says, “That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Am I going through things I would rather not go through? Am I stuck in a place I would rather not be? Our suffering doesn’t glorify God but our attitude in suffering does. A tree with deep roots looks the same to our eyes whether rain storm or drought. It is not defined by circumstances.
Trying times are not the times to stop trying. Read that again: Trying times are not the times to stop trying. In Isaiah 48:10 (NIV), God says, “See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.” Silver is put into the furnace and melted so the impurities will float to the top and be scraped off. The only way I will know how deeply rooted I am in God is to go through the trials. I want to pass the test so I don’t have to take it over. I can hear the Word, I can jump up and down and shout amen but if I don’t take it in deep, meditate and let it roll around on the inside, squeeze it for all its worth, I won’t have the roots needed to stand.
If my faith level is low it means my Word level is low. If I ate breakfast this morning and fasted until breakfast next week I would drag myself through the day with hallow cheeks and dark circles under my eyes. I do the same for another week and I will be needing a wheel chair because I will be too weak to stand. Another week the same and you won’t see me at all because I’ll be dead. I whine because my faith is weak but I don’t pick up my Bible but once a week? Duh!!
There is lust and there is passion. I might go to a classic car show: “Look at that old caddy! Wow, the ’53 Buick is somethin’ else! Look over here!” That is lust. But say I have a passion for Mustangs I will walk into that show and beeline for the Mustang. I get a new car; I’m out there every weekend washing it. A bird flies over it: “Don’t you dare.” A dog walks by: “Don’t even think about it.” Then pretty soon there are candy wrappers on the floor, the weekly washings become less frequent to the point kids are writing “Wash me” across the trunk. The fire has gone out.
It was Dec. 31, 1964. I was at a New Year’s Eve party not expecting a life changing night when this girl walked in. Ooh eeh! Now if I had just stayed across the room and just looked I would have stayed at the level of lust. But instead I met her, focused on her that night, got her phone number and over the years developed passion. I may have started with lust but it is passion that sustains. We celebrated 46 years of marriage this month.
What puts fire in your belly? What is your passion? Women/men, drugs, money, popularity? Where your passion is, there will be your focus and your direction. How do I become passionate for God? How do I get on fire for Him? Unless my passion is all consuming, it will not sustain me through difficult times.
Passion for God takes more than a feeling. “I don’t feel like going to church. I don’t feel like reading my Bible.” That is called lazy and Joyce Meyer says, “Lazy Christians are not victorious Christians.” What will it take to move beyond feelings?
- Get to know God: When I first met that young lady in 1964, I wanted to get to know her: what movies she liked, where she went to school, did she have a boyfriend. Our Father is the God of salvation, healing, wisdom, strength, abundant life. Get to know Him.
- Communicate: We spent hours talking and talking about family history and future dreams. I speak to God in prayer. I listen to His word in the Bible. If I have passion for God I will spend time with Him. The tragedy of the premarital sex culture is the loss of communication. When the focus is how fast we can get into bed the time for true intimacy (into-me-see) is lost.
- Walk in unity: A common vision is needed to move forward. If my future wife had wanted 6 kids and I didn’t want any, our future together was in trouble. If a campfire pops an ember out onto the ground, it soon cools, but return it to the fire and it retains its strength. Acts 1:14 (NLT) describes how 120 believers were “united in prayer” for 10 days prior to Pentecost. The birth of the church came from that unity. What does unity look like?
- Forgiveness. Nothing divides friends faster than unforgiveness.
- Servant spirit. As long as I look for what’s in it for me, I will bring division but if I live the life of servanthood, placing others before myself, unity will grow.
- Eliminate the competition: I wear a simple gold band on my left hand. As far as jewelry is concerned, it’s value is pretty low but it represents a marriage covenant. In my relationship with God, there can be no off ramps. If the flame starts to get low I don’t start looking for another campfire to go to; I look for the fuel to build this one back up. I return to the roots of repentance, forgiveness, service and worship.
I don’t want anyone to look at my life and say, “He was on fire once, but the fire doesn’t fall here anymore.” Maintaining the passion, keeping the fire takes a daily decision. I want the fire of the Holy Spirit to be the hallmark of my life. Let the fire fall.