Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lessons From The Fire Pit

Tonight was a crisp and cool night...perfect for sitting by the fire pit. I like it when it's cold enough that a blanket is needed and the only way to keep warm is to sit close to the fire. I wrap a blanket around myself and then drape it over my head. I use my hands to grab the sides of the blanket and open it just enough to form a funnel for the fire's heat to warm me. Sometimes this works so well I have to shield my face because it gets so hot.

I don't know if there is such a thing as a "fire expert", and I may not be at the expert level, but I know how to build a fire and keep it burning. I'll be honest and admit that I did use 1/3 of a "fire brick" to get my fire started this evening. I broke it into three small pieces and placed it on some scrap wood my Dad had given me surrounded by newspaper. On top of that I piled some twigs, followed by a couple branches stacked tee pee fashion and finally a good sized log. I lit the newspaper which, in turn, lit the fire brick which then lit the twigs and the branches. The flames were finally big enough to catch the log and then I had a real fire.

As I watched the fire burn, I felt the Lord making some comparisons between my fire and his Church. I looked at all of the different types of wood (twigs, branches and logs) that went into the fire and how each was vital to the making of the fire, yet they were all secondary to the fire itself. I thought about the different types of people that make up God's Church and how important each are to God's Kingdom, yet they are all secondary in importance to the work Christ is doing in and through them.

When it's time to start a fire, big logs are pretty much useless. A match or lighter is not going to catch a log on fire. A fire must be started with twigs, and generally quite a few of them. The more small, dry twigs that are put together, the easier it is to get the fire started. Twigs light quickly and burn easily, but they burn up pretty fast. The fire will quickly die without more fuel.

Branches are bigger than twigs and, like logs, are very difficult to light on fire with just a match or lighter. But once the twigs have created a good size flame, branches stacked on top of the twigs will catch on fire causing a bigger flame that will burn a bit longer. But for a real fire, something bigger is needed.

I like to watch the stages of my fire. First the twigs light, and then the branches catch on fire and finally the log that I lay on top begins to smoke and slowly catch on fire. The branches have been stacked in such a way that the twigs can burn to start the fire and there is plenty of space under the log for a flame to get all the oxygen it needs to burn bright and hot. Once the log catches, the fire begins serving it's purpose and puts out some serious heat.

It would not be possible to have a fire without all three of these. When starting a fire, the twigs are most important. When the fire is just starting and needs a bigger flame, the branches are most important. For the fire to reach it's full potential, logs are most important. Twigs are not better than logs because they light faster and logs are not better than twigs because they burn longer. What's most important is not which type of wood burns the fastest or the longest...what's most important is the fire itself and the warmth it produces.

God's Church is made up of people and personalities that might be compared to these three types of wood. You could make up your own category for each of these, but as I watched the fire burn tonight, this is what came to my mind.

There are people in the Church who are easily excitable and ready to run as soon as they even sense that God might be moving in a certain direction. Maybe it's a new ministry within a local church or an evangelism idea. Whatever it is, they sense God in it and the spark immediately catches with them.

These might be the people in the Church who have the skills that are seen more easily. They may not be as excitable or sensitive to what God is speaking as the twigs, but once they get the vision, they have the skills to move things to the next level. They use their skills, get others involved and what started as just a whisper from God begins to take shape and others can see what God is doing.

As I watched the big log burn in my fire tonight, I couldn't help but notice the long, slow burn. I thought about people in the Church who have walked with the Lord and served his Kingdom for a long time. They may not be as excitable as the twigs and their talent may not shine as brightly as the branches, but they know how to stick with it. What they bring to the work of God is stability and longevity. The twigs started the fire, the branches helped others see the fire, but logs give the fire substance.

In the Church, each of these types of have two choices: judge others for not being "useful" like them, or appreciate the function served by each. If the fire represents a work that God is doing in and through his Church, the fire is what's important, not the wood. The wood is simply what is being used to make the fire possible.

The twigs could look at the branches and judge, "Why can't they be as sensitive as me to the moving of the Holy Spirit? Isn't it obvious what God is wanting to do?" The branches could look at the logs and say, "Years ago they were like me having the skills to make this happen." And the logs could look at the twigs and judge, "Sure you're all excited about this, but you're just getting started. Do you realize how long I've been doing this?"


The logs could look at the twigs and say, "Thank you, Lord, for the excitement that comes from following you and for those who are quick to respond." The branches could look at the logs and say, "Thank you, Lord, for these logs that have been around and have what it takes to keep this going." And the twigs could look at the branches and say, "Thank you, Lord, for bringing the branches along to take this work to the next level."

In the end, if all of the wood has served it's purpose, the twigs, branches and logs are indistinguishable in the red hot embers that put out so much heat after the flames are gone. And even then, the wood is not useless. Although the embers are flameless, if fresh twigs were thrown on them, the whole process would be started again. God's purpose for his Church has always been for one generation to pass on to the next the things of God they have known and experienced.

As tinder for God's flame, we best serve our purpose when our focus is on the flame and not on ourselves. Not only will we appreciate the way God has created us with a need for each other, but we can also pass his flame along for generations to come.

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