Wood or gas?

Summer in North Carolina is quite warm. Downright hot at times. The last few days have been pleasant, but this time of year seeing temperatures of over 100 degrees (F), with very high humidity, is not unusual. On days like that being outside just feels oppressive. Almost like you’re walking in hot soup. I’ve heard people joke that on days like that, even the fish sweat.

So it’s really an odd time to think about a fireplace.

Yet that’s one of the wonderful ways God works. He challenges you with His truth in ways you wouldn’t expect. That happened to me a few days ago. I was watching a TV show about remodeling a house, and as they discussed the fireplace, the question came up- should it be a wood burning fireplace or a gas burning fireplace?

I’ve always been blessed to live in a house with a fireplace. I remember growing up how I loved to get a roaring fire going, sitting on the hearth poking at the coals, shifting the wood around. Once the bed of coals was hot enough, you simply had to keep placing logs on, and it pretty much took care of itself. I’d lay on the couch in front of the fire, and all seemed right in the world.

Of course, fire took some work. Every day, often several times, I had to go outside and split wood, and haul it in. Sometimes I didn’t mind it. Yet sometimes, it was very cold outside. Maybe dark. Or there was a game on I’d much rather be watching. Or maybe I’d been in the middle of my nap. Every now and then the wood required a little more work, making use of a chainsaw to cut up logs, and stack them to let them dry out for later use. Yet the nature of the fire demanded diligence, whether it was convenient or not.

After I’d gotten older, I discovered there was a wonderful invention called a gas fireplace. They had faux logs, and you simply hooked up the fireplace to your gas line, and with the flip of a switch, you had a fire. Warm, cozy and instantly on- with no logs to be split. Not bad, not bad at all.

So as I watched this TV show I mentioned earlier, God challenged me- what kind of fireplace are you, Jon?

2 Timothy 1
6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we receive the Holy Spirit, living within us. And like a burning coal, it begins to heat things up in us. As we feed the fire of our faith, through prayer, study of God’s word, Christian fellowship, and serving others in Jesus’ name, the fire of our faith burns stronger, just like those fires of my youth in that fireplace. And as those fires burned, they produce more coals. Which in turn added more heat to the fire, which consumes the logs I worked to split. So it is within us- by feeding the fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire grows stronger.

And just as the fires of my youth, the hotter the fire, the further it reaches. it warms the whole room, and all who are in the room.

You’ll notice though that, just as the physical fire required some effort on my part, so does the spiritual one. The fire is in us, given through the unwarranted grace and mercy of God, by the blood Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit. We can’t start the flame on our own. We have to ask for it. Yet once it’s there, we’ve got some work to do. Some wood to split.

Now maybe you’re thinking about that gas fire….

You just flip it on with a switch.

That’s what God was asking me to examine in my own life, too. “Jon, are you flipping the switch on and off when you decide you want fire? Or are you sitting on the hearth, feeding this flame with your life?”

I think sometimes, if we’re not careful, that’s where our lives can go. We move away from a faith of continually  participating in the process, to one of just expecting it to be there when we want to flip it on.

A wood fire requires wood splitting all the time. Tending all the time. It requires attention. Not that God’s fire ever burns out. But it’s a relationship. He provides the coal, and that coal will burn. But He wants us to feed the flame. Feeding the flame heats up the fire. The fire warms everyone around it- even if they don’t acknowledge or understand that the real warming heat comes from those coals.

Are you feeling like the fire is out? You hit the switch and nothing happens? Maybe it’s because you thought you had a gas stove. You turn it on when it’s convenient, and turn it off when it’s not. So you flip the switch, and flip it, and flip it, and nothing happens.

So you blame the fire.

The problem isn’t the fire, though.

It’s you.

It’s not understanding what kind of fireplace you have. This one will need some wood to be split. The ember is there, constantly. But you’ll need to sharpen your axe, and roll up your sleeves, and get to work.

And did I mention that the wonderful thing about a well tended fire is you can share a few coals with your neighbor, so they can go start their fire too…..

If you’re a Christian, having accepted Jesus as your Savior, that coal has been placed in you. And it has been placed in you for a purpose, one that goes beyond just giving you a little warmth. God wants us to fan those flames, with His word, with prayer, with relationship, into a roaring flame, that warms all those around us. It’s not a switch you turn on. It’s a lifetime relationship.

Maybe you’re not a Christian, and God is calling you to examine your fireplace. He placed one in you. It’s the very reason why we search for fire…. what the world may call “religion” or “spirituality”. It’s not some great mystery, really. It’s the place God has already prepared in you to receive His coals. All you need do is ask. I urge you to respond to His call today. You can read what that means here, and of course I’d love to hear from you. Don’t delay- there is no decision you’ll make in this life more important. Because it’s not just about fireplaces- it’s about choosing to accept God’s gift of eternal life in Heaven with Him through Jesus Christ His Son.

Or rejecting that gift, eternally separating yourself from Him in Hell.

Friend, I urge you to turn to Jesus today. You’ll never be sorry you did.

God bless you.

Now, if you’ll pardon me, I need to split some wood. 🙂