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A Life Ablaze
Do you struggle to keep the fire of the Holy Spirit burning in your heart as it may have burned earlier in your life? Do you sometimes feel like all that is left are a few small glowing embers — and that perhaps even those embers are starting to die out and become cold? If this description hits close to home as you evaluate your Christian walk, I have two questions to ask you:
- How do you stoke the embers of the fire within you so that it begins burning red-hot in your heart again?
- Once you have that fire burning hot and bright, how do you sustain and grow the intensity of that inner fire for the rest of your time on this earth?
No Fuel, No Fire
In this book, I want to speak to you about the different kinds of fuel you need to stay spiritually ablaze. But to begin with, I want to tell you a story from our family’s earliest days in the former USSR that will demonstrate my point about doing whatever is necessary to keep the fire burning.
In the early years just after we moved to the former USSR, my wife Denise and I purchased an apartment in the heart of our city for our family to live in. But when we purchased it, it was abandoned and in miserable condition. Honestly, it was so ruined that it should have been condemned. It was a morass of mold, collapsed ceilings, and plaster falling off the walls. But we could see what it could be with lots of hard work, so we purchased it and went to work restoring it. After the restoration was complete, that apartment became as elegant as it had been nearly 100 years earlier.
When the work was finished, the walls were covered with fine wallpaper and magnificent chandeliers hung once again from giant, hand-carved medallions in the center of the ceilings. The giant-sized crown molding that was wrapped around the ceilings of each room had been meticulously restored. Every room had intricate, new parquet floors to match those that had existed before the Revolution. And the nine fireplaces — one for each big room and in each bedroom — were the most magnificent features of the apartment. Once restored, those fireplaces looked like they belonged in a museum.
But although our apartment had been restored, every other apartment in that big building still remained in a state of devastation and abandonment. Eventually the entire building would be beautifully restored, but when we moved into our apartment, the other apartments and the central staircase of the building looked like something that had been bombed in World War II. The stairs were navigable, but those areas had been so long abandoned that derelicts actually slept in our entryway.
City authorities told us a city-wide heating system would be connected to the building before winter, so in anticipation we installed new pipes in the walls to carry the heat to every room. But as the weather turned cold and winter approached, it became apparent that the promised heat was not coming that year and that our family would be living in freezing temperatures inside that apartment. This was a serious problem, because this was very far north and the city became very cold in winter.
I realized we’d have to use those lavish, museum-quality fireplaces to provide heat for our family, as much as I didn’t want to do it. It would be a necessity for surviving the harsh winter. But transporting wood was very difficult because the apartment was in the very center of that historic city and there was no nearby source of wood. In desperation, our two oldest sons came up with an innovative idea about where to get wood so our family would have heat for the winter. When it’s really cold, it’s a good time to get creative, and our sons thought of something Denise and I would have never thought of in a million years.
The apartment directly below us was abandoned and destroyed by years of neglect. It is impossible to exaggerate its horrible condition. No one owned it at that point, so it had continued to deteriorate. In fact, we learned that the many previous residents of the apartment we purchased had contributed to its sad demise. When we purchased the apartment, our bathroom floor had a hole next to the toilet where men had “missed” the toilet bowl for so many years that the urine had eaten a hole through the floor! For years urine had dripped into the apartment below us.
That huge empty apartment below us was so destroyed that nothing could be salvaged from it. Walls were half gone; fireplaces were destroyed and crumbling; windows were broken; and the winter wind was blowing through it. The broken window frames and shattered glass windowpanes were especially bad for us because our apartment was located directly above, and we could feel the effect of the freezing winter wind blowing through the apartment beneath our floor. Our building was constructed from brick and plaster, so our apartment held on to that “cold” almost like it was a refrigerator!
The floors of that apartment below us had once been covered with splendid, expensive parquet with all types of inlaid exotic woods and intricate designs. But now those floors were warped and ruined from water leaks and the long-term acid effects of urine. The parquet was bowed by water damage; it was half ripped up; and it was lying in heaps of irreparable, shattered pieces all over that apartment.
One freezing early morning, Denise and I were pondering what to do with the cold temperatures getting worse by the day. Suddenly our three sons jumped up, put on their coats, dashed out the door, and disappeared as if they were on an urgent mission. When they reappeared some time later, they jubilantly walked through the door of the apartment with heaping armloads of 100-year-old parquet flooring that they had gathered from the floor of the devastated apartment below us.
Denise and I watched with shock as the boys piled that old historic parquet into each of our magnificently restored fireplaces and then worked on each pile until a fire was blazing strong. That wood was so old and dry that it began quickly popping and burning — and soon the brick and plaster walls of that apartment began to warm up in every room, fueled by wood flooring from the apartment below that our sons had collected and used as fuel for the fire.
When the fire started to die down and it felt like the temperatures were dropping, we’d open the metal doors to the fireplaces to see if the fire was going out. If we saw that there was nothing left but embers, the boys would quickly put on their jackets, rush down two flights of steps to the abandoned apartment below, and rip up more flooring (which any eventual buyer would have had to replace anyway).
Soon the boys would be back with armloads of ruined antique parquet flooring. They would first break the dry-rotted parquet into smaller pieces; then they would shove the pieces through the fireplace doors into the fire, and almost immediately the house would start warming up again.
That winter we kept our apartment constantly warm because of the blazing heat that was produced in our fireplaces from the antique flooring of that downstairs abandoned apartment. As long as wood was on the fire, we knew we would have heat. But if there was no wood left to burn, or if only embers remained, it was certain that the fire would go out unless we took action. Fuel was essential to keep those fires going in our fireplaces.
It’s just a fact that when fuel of any sort is depleted, fire eventually goes out.
Often there was enough wood to keep the fire burning, but the embers needed to be stoked — moved around and repositioned with a long poker. We’d insert that long iron rod into the fireplace and rigorously rake the embers back and forth and side to side to provide more oxygen and keep the fire burning longer. In fact, if we didn’t regularly stoke those embers and fan the flames, we discovered that the fire could go out even if there was enough wood to keep it burning. Those embers had to be tended to regularly to keep the fire going. We learned that it takes lots of attention and work to keep a fire burning bright.
When it was my turn to stoke the embers, at times I’d reflect on the apostle Paul’s words to Timothy in Second Timothy 1:6, where Paul wrote, “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.”
The words “stir up” are from the Greek word anadzoopureoo, a triple compound of the Greek words, ana, zoos, and pur. The word ana carries the idea of repeating an earlier action or doing something again. The word zoos is from the word zao, which means to be enthusiastic, to be fervent, to be passionate, to be vigorous, to be wholehearted, or to be zealous. The word pur is the Greek word for fire.
It must be noted that in Classical Greek, fire was a life-giving force. Fire was used on the hearths of every ancient home to keep people warm; it was used in matters related to the divine and supernatural; and it was used as a force to defeat enemies. Fire was central to life and considered essential for one’s existence. In fact, human life is unsustainable without fire — a point that I’ll address in just a moment.
But when these three Greek words are compounded, they form the Greek word anadzoopureoo — the very word Paul used in Second Timothy 1:6 when he told the younger minister to “stir up” the gift of God that was in him. It implies that the fire in Timothy’s heart had ebbed to embers or was on a low burn. That is the reason Paul told Timothy to begin to passionately and rigorously stoke and stir up the gift of God in his life. Paul was telling Timothy that just as one would stoke the embers of a fire in a hearth or fireplace, it was time for the younger minister to take action. Paul was commanding Timothy to reach within himself and to begin to rekindle, or kindle anew, the fire in his heart.
At the time Paul wrote to Timothy, this young man was surrounded by a great deal of chaos and confusion because of the intense persecution that was taking place at that time. It is probable that the younger minister was physically and emotionally exhausted from dealing with an onslaught of problems and that his own spiritual fire was beginning to wane. That is why Paul told him to take action before the fire inside him that burned for the things of God went out completely.
In other words, Timothy needed to open the door to his heart, look inside to determine the condition of his inward fire, and then take action to stir up the gift of God inside him. Like a person would stoke the coals in a fireplace, Timothy was being called to stir the embers and then “put more wood on the fire.”
This would not occur accidentally. Timothy would have to be intentional and proactive to keep that flame burning. But if he would heed Paul’s command, that inward fire — which was beginning to wane — would blaze once again in the core of Timothy’s spiritual being.
In those early days of living in the former Soviet Union, our family learned the lesson that if we wanted to have heat, we would have to become proactive in making it happen. We had to find fuel; we had to carry it upstairs; we had to open the fireplace door; we had to put the fuel on the fire; and we had to stoke the fuel regularly throughout the day to keep it burning. We knew we’d reap a lot of cold, unnecessary discomfort — and even serious trouble — should we decide to neglect what was happening deep in those fireplaces.
If we discovered that the fire had ebbed too low and the coals of wood were turning cold and hard — that we had “hit a low burn” — we would have to begin the process all over. So the choice to be proactive was wiser than reaping the consequences produced by negligence. The truth is, we made the choice to do whatever was required to stay warm — because otherwise, we knew we’d freeze!
It is the same for you. If your spiritual fire is at a low burn or close to going out, it’s time for you “to stir up” the gift of God that is inside you. You cannot depend on someone else to do the stoking and stirring for you. It is so vital that you take responsibility to look inside yourself, to determine your fuel supply, and to do whatever you must to stir your spiritual embers and keep your fire burning.
If you’ll ask the Holy Spirit, He’ll show you how to open the door to your heart and take an honest look on the inside to assess your condition and need. Then you must let Him show you the steps to take and the kinds of fuel you need to activate and fully utilize in your life. You are called to consistently stir up those embers and fuel that fire so you will remain a blazing inferno for Jesus!
What Would the World Be Like Without Fire?
What would the world be like without fire? Have you ever thought about it? The short answer is that life would be very primitive. Without fire, humankind would only have the moon and stars as a light source at night. For early humans, fire was essential to extend the day, provide heat, ward off predators and insects, illuminate dark places, and facilitate cooking. Long before gas and electricity were invented, people totally depended on fire for light, for heat, and for survival.
Without fire, there is no light in the dark, no heat in winter, no cooking of meat or baking of bread, no burning bricks, no smelting ore — basically, no civilization. The discovery of fire was one of the greatest discoveries ever made in humanity, and we can’t imagine life without fire. Fire was needed to create tools and make weapons, and the energy produced by fire was essential for constructing buildings and making machines fueled by the engines of the Industrial Revolution. Finally, fire determined the outcome of two world wars and the ultimate emergence of superpowers in the geopolitical realm.
Today we still use fire to create technology and to make the world a more comfortable place to live. Fire still burns coal and oil to make electricity. In fact, if we were to remove fire from the world, life would be similar to living on the moon! There would be no electricity, no warmth, and no cooked food. Shelter, agriculture, and technology in general would not be able to progress without fire. Without fire, technology would be impossible to create. Metal is shaped to make wires and phones by the use of heat derived from fire. Without metal, no electricity could be transported to facilitate a host of functions needed to keep civilization running.
Fire! We must have it for survival, for development, and for progress! Likewise, we must have spiritual fire if we are to move forward in the advancement of God’s purposes and in the fulfillment of His great plan!
Wesleyan minister Samuel Chadwick eloquently stated the importance of staying ablaze with spiritual fire. He wrote, “Spiritfilled souls are ablaze for God. They love with a love that glows. They serve with a faith that kindles. They serve with a devotion that consumes. They hate sin with fierceness that burns. They rejoice with a joy that radiates. Love is perfected in the fire of God.”
So in light of this, I want to ask you...
How Is Your Spiritual Fire Burning?
For you to be effective spiritually and truly fulfilled in life, it is absolutely essential that you remain ablaze with spiritual fire! Perhaps you can remember a time when your heart was literally ablaze with a passion for the things of God — but if you were honest with yourself, you’d admit that since that time, the fire has diminished. If that describes your walk with God, have you taken the time to consider:
- What happened along the way to diminish or quench that fire that once burned so brightly?
- What should you have done differently to keep it burning — and what can you do right now to stoke those glowing embers and get your inner fire blazing again?
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, wrote about his own personal concerns regarding the fire of God eventually waning. He noted, “My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great.” Considering the state of the modern Church, Wesley’s concerns seem to have been well-founded.
Oh, it’s so very vital that we determine to stay ablaze with the Spirit and power of God! And that is what I want to help you with in this book. The chapters that follow in this book are intended to help you identify and embrace the different types of key spiritual fuels you need to remain burning strong for God every day of your life.
In First Thessalonians 5:19, the apostle Paul admonished us, “Quench not the Spirit.” Since Paul told us not to quench the Spirit, it means the Holy Spirit can be quenched — which we do not want to do!
But what does the word “quench” mean in this verse? This word comes from the Greek word sbennumi, which means to extinguish, smother, suppress, douse, put out, snuff out, or quell. It is most often used in the context of extinguishing a fire by dousing it with water. In some places, it means to evaporate or to dry up.
There’s no doubt about what Paul is trying to tell us — that if we ignore the Holy Spirit’s voice long enough and often enough, eventually we will become spiritually hardened and will no longer be able to hear Him when He does try to speak to us. It will be like His voice evaporates or dries up, and we will hear it no more.
What a terrible tragedy that is when it happens — but it happens all the time within the Church. Whether Christians realize it or not, if they make a practice of hardening themselves to the Holy Spirit’s voice, they separate themselves from the life-giving power of the Gospel that He was sent to unveil and reveal to their hearts — and to perform as a manifested reality in their lives.
If you’ve ever seen a campfire, you know that its flames can burn very bright and hot. But what happens if someone keeps throwing water on the coals? Initially it will only dampen the heat of the flames. But if the person continues to throw water on the flames, eventually that water will quench, smother, or put out the fire altogether.
Let me encourage you to never allow cold water to be thrown on the flames of your heart. Do not quench the Spirit! Instead, do everything you can to throw more fuel onto the fire of your heart! When you adopt the attitude that you’re going to start fueling your fire, consistently utilizing to the fullest all the fuels God provides, I guarantee you that your inner man will burst into spiritual flames! But you are the only one who can choose to “add the fuel” and “stoke the coals” to keep the Holy Spirit’s fire burning brightly in your life.
Before you continue in this book, I encourage you to make a serious commitment before the Lord that you will stay ablaze with God’s holy fire for the rest of your days on this earth. Then open your heart to learn more about what is required to do just that. As you learn about the ten types of fuels that will help you stay on fire, set aside time with the Lord to ask Him for His help and His strategies as you purpose to add more of each type of fuel to your fire. Then determine to do whatever the Spirit of God tells you to do to keep your inner man burning like a spiritual inferno!
Think About It
- It takes a steady supply of fuel to sustain a blazing fire. If your
spiritual fire is close to flickering out, it’s time to consider how
and even why you have neglected “to stir up” the gift of God
Can you detect where you have given inadequate attention to your own fuel supply? Have you allowed the Word of God and prayer to dwindle in your life because of preoccupation with worldly activity? Have you shifted your attention and become nonchalant in your regard of the Holy Spirit and His voice? What are some practices you need to reinforce in your life to maintain a strong, fiery life in God? The choice to be proactive is wiser than remaining inactive and reaping the consequences of negligence.
- Inconsistency in spiritual practices and disciplines produces a
dullness that may go unnoticed — until you need the power
of God to manifest through you. Then, sadly, when you reach
for the fire you once knew, you find that the bright flame you
vividly recall but left unattended has long since gone out.
Are you trying to live today based on the memories of your spiritual state yesterday? Memories of the former fire in your life carry no heat forward. The past is over. Each day you must advance in God, or you will actually slip backward into old weaknesses. It’s time to bring your spiritual account current. Repent and do your first works again. Rekindle fresh fire on the altar of your heart.
- Passion and patience go hand in hand to maintain a fiery
pursuit of God’s plan for your life. The assignment God needs
you to accomplish will require you to retain focus and fervency,
regardless of circumstances. This means you will need
to cultivate habits that will help you not only start strong but
also finish strong. Wisdom and a steady fuel supply will prevent
you from starting with a bang, only to end with a fizzle.
Consider your ways. Do you really know yourself? People are quick to speak of their strengths — which at times are actually idealized or even imaginary! But do you know your own weaknesses? It’s important for you to identify and then to eradicate your weak spots through a systematic application of discipline — especially when you don’t feel like it.
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