Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Hell Fire or Healing Fire?
There are so many spiritual implications that are shouldered on the word "fire" and the idea of burning, melting, destroying, etc. I think most often, in religious circles, fire is spoken of in context of hell and eternal damnation. The fire is where a sinner will burn forever. The mental picture is torturous and terrifying! Some fundamental evangelists will use the "fear-factor" of the lake of fire to frighten people into a "saving relationship" with Jesus Christ. I have to admit that this tactic is like tiny needles digging under my fingernails. (If I'm being very honest!) I simply do not agree with frightening people into a love relationship with their Savior. Now, don't misunderstand me. I absolutely believe that Hell is a real place, and it will be horrific for those who are not covered in the blood of Christ. However, I believe that evangelism should not stem solely from a fear of burning for eternity! (I digress) My initial point is not to discuss methods of evangelism, but instead to focus on the first view of spiritual fire: destruction.
Let's consider the source of destructive fire. It is directly coupled with the stealer of life and bringer of death: Satan. It dwells in his living space and is the main decor for his home. He uses it to swallow whole those who are not a part of the family of God. It is a fire that is never-ending. It sucks the life out of all who come in contact with it. The place with the vastest amount of this fire is of course in Hell. However, I do believe that we can experience tastes of these flames here on Earth as well. The only way that you can possibly survive is to have a shield of protection around you! (aka Christ's blood) This fire can completely destroy someone if they are not nestled tightly in the wing of the Almighty. It does not produce beneficial results. It only brings destruction.
The second type of spiritually implicated fire is Healing fire. Again, I love a good oxymoron. Fire is probably the furthest thing from a healing source than you could ever imagine. However, that is what makes my mind and heart so sure that it is another beautiful tool that the Lord uses for our purification and redemption! Scripture uses many references to this type of fire, in several different methods. It speaks of the "refining fire", which is the same process that fine metals, such as gold, go through to separate the pure from the impure. Basically, the metal is melted, and the impurities rise to the top to be scraped off and removed from the remaining metal. The process is tedious, and much must be removed in order for a pure result to be established. When this analogy is applied to our human hearts, we can see how this would be difficult to be completely broken down in order for the impurities to be removed, but oh, it is worth it for the end result!
The scriptures also speak of the fiery trials that we, at times, walk through. These can be any sort of things: illness, death, family hurt, grievances, destitution, poverty, etc. This is the reason I was stimulated to post something about fire in the first place. I see, daily, people walking through various fires, and it is painfully evident when people are not protected through the flames or when they do not understand that they are not alone as they trudge through. It is also abundantly clear when others are so fervently focused on their Savior that they feel no mal-effects of the fire, even as they are in the midst. They, of course, still feel the pain of the moment, but they are far more sure of the redemption that is about to follow! A dear friend of mine has been faithful to remind me at least once or twice a week that "God redeems whatever He allows". Through the fire that I have been allowed to walk through over the last several months, I have been entirely unable to deny the fact that the Lord is walking with me through it. He is not simply ahead of me or behind me, unattached and separate... He is directly beside me. Completely, wholly, with me. And I know that on the other side, He will redeem all that He has allowed in this fire. I do not begin to pretend that it has been easy or that I have not doubted and had many experiences of falling on my face, feeling utterly hopeless. I am simply grateful that my Father has been faithful to send messengers of hope and reminders of His presence when I am too weak and too angry to see it. You see, believing and trusting that the Lord is sovereign does not mean that it is easy or fun! It simply means that you have a rock to grasp onto tightly when there is nothing else solid in your sights! I know that although I have experienced suffering and have not always handled it well, the Lord does not love me based on performance or my response! He loves me based on His Love! That's it! ahh.. so amazing!
I love the fact that Scripture does not tell us that we will not walk through these fires; it does tell us, though, that we will not walk through them alone! In Isaiah, God comforts us and tells us that when we walk through the fire, we will not be burned, and the flames will not consume us. He tells us not to fear. He says He will walk with us and hold us by His righteous right hand. How beautiful! What a process of furthering faith and establishing strength it is to be so dependent on holding tightly to the hand of our Father as we walk through these fires. He will NEVER leave or forsake His children. He does not promise a perfect existance and abscence of trouble, but He does promise that we will never walk alone! Ahhhh... what comfort! The beauty of the fire lies in the moment, on the other side of the fire, when we can turn around and see all that is left in the ashes behind us. Our protector does not allow the impurities to follow us out of the flames. The sin and filth of this earth remain behind in the ashes. What is left is strength, surety, faith, hope, and an everlasting handprint on our palm where the God of the universe held on so tightly and brought us through.
So, consider this: destructive fire contains the same properties as healing fire, but the purpose and result could not be more opposite. How is it then that we fear one and welcome the other? I think upon further speculation, we see that they both initially present the same: traumatic event, pain, suffering. But praise God that the result is so different. One results in death, and the other results in life! Let us not fear the flame or the pain. Let us welcome them! Turn around and see the ashes that are left behind. They do not define you; they are a symbol that God refines you! Because regardless what fire it is that we find ourselves in the midst of, we can know that we are protected and that it will leave us refined, strengthened, and beautiful!
Let this be the year of the Lord's favor! Let beauty be your defining characteristic! Allow the Lord to rebuild all that has been destroyed in the years past. Bring on the Fire, Lord! Let me have it!
"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
and restore the places long devastated;they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations."