For our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12, verse 29.
My son in law (one of them) is a firefighter; the other is a military police officer. Josh (the fireman) serves in College Station, Texas, and is combined firefighter, EMT, and paramedic. He has skills and passion for this kind of work that I can only imagine. A few years ago, when he was still in training, we were driving around town and saw a house under construction that had just caught on fire. He was mesmerized watching it, and I was fascinated at how he described what the fire was doing to the building. Josh predicted that the fire would spill over from room to room and engulf the whole floor; as if on cue, that’s exactly what happened. The building went from somebody’s future home to a pile of ashes in a matter of minutes.
That’s a consuming fire.
Or there are the wildfires that happen out west every year. Every year, fires consume thousands of acres of land that is both under-maintained and over-developed. When we lived in Colorado Springs, I watched one particular wildfire rise from a pillar of smoke to miles-high mushroom cloud almost instantly. I later read that the fire (the Hayman Fire of 2002) was caused by arson. I remember driving out Highway 24 west of Pikes Peak and seeing mile after mile of emergency responder vehicles, makeshift responder camps, and mobile command facilities. According to Wikipedia, that fire burned over 138000 acres and killed six people.
Intense preaching; short-term deadlines; focused workers; heated arguments; passionate evenings: these are all consuming things that regularly show up on our lives. They consume our focus and consume our attention. They’ll consume our lives in obsession if we let them. Have we ever considered how God is the consuming fire mentioned in the verse? Is he like the fire mentioned when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, a fire that burned to nothing even soaking wet logs? Is He the fire in your fireplace that warms your house while destroying old wood? Is He nuclear fire, both destructive and immensely powerful in its magnitude? Or is God a candle in the dark, giving the only light to an empty space?
You know the answer.
Our God is an awesome God; ok, over-used platitude and verse. But it’s true! God is awe-inspiring, awe-inducing, awe-producing. His overwhelming power and His understated but equally-overwhelming love are the ultimate sources of the only real awe in the universe. When we let Christ be the Lord in our lives, He consumes us from within and without. He changes our heart, He evolves our attitudes, He teaches us better ways to act. Those become self-fulfilling prophecies because when we display cleaner hearts, new attitudes, and those better ways, things around us change. People treat us differently and we act differently. That’s the crux of it (the cross, if you will): we react more as Christ would have us react. We pro-act, acting out of His love instead of just our own perspectives. The world doesn’t change immediately but it does change.
It’s all because Christ consumes us. He paid the price for our sins, and when we let Him into our lives, He scours out the shame, guilt, anger and hurt that held us hostage. He replaces those feelings with His love and makes it possible to move forward in better ways. In this way, He, our God, is like Elijah’s fire; He’s like the fire on top of Mount Sinai. He’s the fire in our fireplace that helps us survive, comforts and warms us, and provides us with what we need. And He’s the candle in the dark, replacing (and consuming) the darkness with undeniable light that provides focus, guidance and hope.
For further reading: Deuteronomy 4:24, 1 Kings 18.
Lord, consume me with Your holy love-fire.