I recently moved and my new apartment has a big, beautiful fireplace. There is only one problem: it is a gas fireplace and they can be quite expensive to run. The complex I live in does not allow you to burn wood in the fireplace, so you either use the expensive gas or you don’t have a fire.
We had a cold spell a week or two ago and I got to try the fireplace out sooner than I expected. Southern California in May does not usually afford great opportunity to gather around a nice cozy fire, so it was a wonderful surprise. I turned the gas on, threw a match into the mix and voila—instant fire! I was very careful, though, to keep the gas at a moderate level. I also found myself watching the clock—I didn’t want to leave it burning any longer than necessary. I wanted the fire, I just didn’t want it to cost too much.
I ended up having a lovely evening, but it was dampened significantly by my concern for the potential expense. I couldn’t fully lose myself in the moment and I ended up ultimately shutting it down completely—probably far sooner than was really necessary.
You may know where I’m going with this, but I needed a little help. A night or two later, as I was in that twilight stage between sleeping and waking, I had a dream. I was lying on the floor enjoying a nice little fire in my beautiful new fireplace. A man came into the room and walked over to the valve that controls the gas and promptly turned it all the way up. Immediately the fireplace burst into an all-consuming display of color, warmth and radiance. I was stunned to realize that until that moment I hadn’t even been aware that it could burn so much brighter. I was captivated by the fire and not at all afraid that the flames could not be contained within the safety of the fireplace. But then I had a thought—what was it going to cost? Surely turning the gas up that high would be expensive. I became so alarmed about the cost, that before I even knew what I was doing, I reached over and turned the gas back down. Immediately, the flames died down and it reverted back to my nice, safe, less costly, little fire. I thought to myself, This isn’t so bad, and it’s so much more affordable. I was quite satisfied with my nice little fire.
How badly do you want the fire of God? How much of the fire do you want? We are so satisfied with so little—so much so that I am convinced that most of the time we’re not even aware of how little we really have. The greatest travesty, though, is when we do get a glimpse of the “more” and revert back to our nice, safe, less costly ways.
The children of Israel were invited into a face to face encounter with God, but the fire was too much for them so they sent Moses up the mountain alone. I don’t ever want to do that, but in truth I’ve probably turned down the fire more times and in more ways than I’ve ever realized. Sometimes, in his mercy, he’s even turned it down for me. In my well intended but occasionally misguided zeal, I’ve often asked for a revelation of his glory and holiness beyond my current ability to bear. Fire either destroys or it purifies—it all depends on what goes into the fire.
We are entering a season of divine invitation into a place of no return. To be clear, when I speak of “the fire” I am not talking about the fiery darts of hell and the trials of life. We need to get way beyond those traps in our thinking and stop allowing our faith to be overwhelmed by the cares of life (which will always be with us). I’m talking about the fire of God. I’m talking about being so consumed with who he is and what he desires, that we would do anything and go anywhere to satisfy the longing of his heart. I’m talking about moving far beyond our little ministries and our little dreams and moving into the dreams of God. I’m talking about places of encounter that change everything. I’m talking about a lot more of God than will fit into any religious box we’ve ever tried to confine him to. I’m talking about being so deeply consumed with passion for Jesus, the glorious burning Man, that our only remaining desire is to be where he is and do what he does.
I’m not there yet—it’s much easier to write the words than it is to live them—but I want to be. I want him to be all that’s on my mind, all the time. I want to be consumed by the flames. I want to be so captivated by the fire in his eyes, that though I’ve counted the cost, I look at him and say, “Cost? What cost?” I want to live my life from the center of the flames and I don’t ever want to reach out to turn down that fire again.
“For our God is an all-consuming fire.”