We have two wood stoves in our house that help heat the basement and our bedroom. There is something about the smell of the burning wood as it swirls in the air outside that whispers, Welcome home. Come and find comfort and rest within these walls. It’s one of the sweetest parts of living in our home. We have two gas-fed stoves which help heat the rest of the house. while their warmth is crucial and appreciated, it isn’t the same as putting logs in the stove and watching them catch the flames and ignite.
When we come home from work, I immediately check the stoves and stoke the coals and embers to be ready to catch the new logs I add. I could wait until the animals are fed or I have eaten dinner, but it can be difficult trying to relight a fire that has gone out allowing the embers to become cold gray ash.
I check the fires during the night, sometimes just watching the flames take hold of each log and claim it as its own. The flames dance and sway to silent music, the colors turn from yellow, to orange, to red, to violet, and finally white. Even after the log has succumbed to the flame, reduced to fiery coals, the heat still dances within.
Building these fires each evening and morning, I have been thinking about the Scripture references to God, as the all consuming fire and the Pillar of Fire that led the Israelites through the wilderness. It s very difficult to interact with fire and not be changed. Logs become embers and eventually ash, forests become spent matchsticks, metals release the dross within to become pure. Food unsafe for eating becomes a savory meal to sustain the family.
It is the human heart that seems to only respond in a few ways when it comes in contact with the Holy Spirit. Our hearts can become hardened, even brittle as it tries to withstand the power of God. Or our hearts can release the dross, like the precious metals, and become purified.
We can turn away from the warmth and comfort of God’s presence, curling up tighter and tighter inside until our heart is diminished. Then there is the choice of turning to the flames, allowing the heat to penetrate and expand inside us. It is up to me, how I will respond to God’s offer.
Best Beloved, the imagery of a fire’s devastation is all over our screens , as millions of acres burn in Australia. I have been praying for rain daily, for healing and comfort, and a sense of hope for those impacted by the fires there. It is something still that brings wonder to my mind, how out of such devastation can come new life. Images of the new growth just weeks after the fires came through some of the forests in Australia reminds me that there is always fresh hope. If only we might withstand the flames.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo in Daniel 3, can testify to this truth. Verses 14 through 28 tell that these three young men would not bow to the idols, they would only worship the One, True God. When threatened with being thrown into the fiery furnace, they didn’t back down.
“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up,” (verses 17-18).
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t say, “Well gee golly fellas, if you feel that way about it. . . ” He threw them into the furnace. In fact he had the furnace heated up to such temperatures that the men who threw Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the furnace died from exposure to the heat (verse 22).
Through the flames, King Nebuchadnezzar realized that not only did these men not die, God sent another “man” into the fire (verses 25, 26). Out of the flames came men who were changed for their faith in God and the King grew in faith because of their faithfulness.
Best Beloved, we may never be thrown into a furnace, but our faith cannot grow deeper and stronger if we do not experience trials. I pray we will embrace the fires as an opportunity to get rid of the dross and shine brighter in Christ.