Man on Fire

man-on-fireOne morning in January 1984 I set myself on fire. I was in my cabin up on the ridge and I was trying to build a fire. Alaska can be a cold place. I had also started a coffee pot and because it was so cold I opened up the oven door a couple of inches to get some heat.

The oven started getting the place warm, and I gratefully backed up my butt to it. That is when it happened. My sweater ignited from the front burner. At first I didn’t realize that I was on fire, but when the flames started spreading over my head I panicked.

I couldn’t put it out! I dropped to the floor and tried to roll. All that seemed to do is embed that burning sweater into my back, and set the carpet on fire. I ran to the bathroom with the idea of getting under the shower. Somehow I knew that was my only hope.

Needless to say I ended up in the local hospital with second and third degree burns on most of my back. It took months to recover and I still have the scars. It was something that changed my life.

Ironically, I had been thinking of a verse in Hebrews just the night before. I wondered what it meant.

He makes his angels spirits, and his servants flames of fire.”

Hebrews 1:7

 As I healed I prayed for understanding. Why did the Lord allow this to me? I was in my third year at a Bible college and had given my life over for the Gospel. Why did this happen to me?

I’ve never gotten a complete answer from the Lord, but it did confirm my call into the ministry. It also made me aware of the precariousness of our lives. It taught me to appreciate life.

The doctor told me that if I had run outside instead of staying inside I could have died. God preserved me for His own purposes. We have no way of knowing “our time.”

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28


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When God Makes Toast


“The sinners in Zion are terrified;
    trembling grips the godless:
“Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?
    Who of us can dwell with everlasting burning?”

Isaiah 33:14, NIV

There is a strange lack in the Church, and quite frankly, it is disturbing. Our churches have operated on nothing for so long, what we think is normal isn’t even close. We really should compare ourselves to the young Church in the early chapters of the Book of Acts. Each believer had his own personal “flame” resting and abiding on them.

“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.”

Acts 2:2-3

Our churches should be places where we directly encounter the Lord God. I would like to suggest that our elders, and our ushers, start handing out life-preservers, and flares. (Rafts, of course, should be readily available.) For who can know what will happen when we make “first contact” with the Living God. All provision for survival should be made. Ambulances should become routine when the Church meets. Agape love can completely undo us. It seems meeting with God is a bit like dwelling in a nuclear reactor, of love and of mercy and grace.

When God’s presence rips into us full blast, we will have to decide whether to take Him in His tumultuous power, or walk away unscathed. Do we fully understand the power that we so blithely invoke? We often tolerate something less, to see that our life isn’t turned upside down. Perhaps we reason, or think, that this is the most terrible thing that could happen to us. But His special grace just can’t be filtered out, or eliminated, without changing the gospel.

We are bread in His toaster. He sears us with divine grace. (He then slathers us with ‘butter.’) Something akin to a deep agape love singes on us, and perhaps we might easily ignite. But perhaps that is what it is all about anyway, isn’t it?

A Singular Coal

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA A young man had come to a decision. “I will not be attending Church. I need to stand on my feet, and be a Christian my own way.” He was quite adamant about this, and his young wife hadn’t the slightest about what to do. It seems he had grown somewhat hard and coarse over the last few months. He had quit attending services for the last few Sundays.

She had made a discreet call to their pastor; she also prayed for her husband. “What else can I do?” she thought. “We really need to go to church.” She went about her busy morning, washing clothes, and tending the fire. “Somethings are best left in God’s hands” she said to no one in particular.

That evening was chilly and a fire was banked up quite nicely. The little house was cozy and ready to be “buttoned-up” for the night, when there was a knock on the door. It was the pastor, smiling and holding his hat. “Good evening. dear ones– someone told me you had a nice fire to sit by.”

“Come in, Reverend; please, come and sit,” the young husband said. He was not really enthused by the pastor’s sudden and unannounced visit, but he was polite. Removing his coat, the pastor sat in big wing-backed chair by the fire. He was quiet. No one said a thing. They just watched the flames.

The silence continued for some time; no one saying a word. Suddenly, the pastor popped up and grabbed the black iron poker from its spot by the fireplace. Poking at the sizable bed of coals, he managed to drag a single coal from the fire bed to the hearth. He separated it from the rest of so it burned on its own.

Still, not a word was spoken. Everyone just sat and watched this isolated coal burning on its own. In just a short time this glowing coal had become a dying ember. No one spoke. The pastor guided the once bright coal back into the hottest part of the firebox where it blazed up immediately. “Well, it’s late and I best be going,” said the quiet guest.

“Thank you, Pastor, for everything. We’ll see you Sunday morning.” said the young man.


25 “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:25, NLT

“The Greek work for church, ecclesia, is made up of a prefix and a root. The prefix is ek – out of. The root is the verb coleo, to call. The church in the New Testament is made up of those who are called out from the world, from darkness, from damnation, from paganism, to become members of the body of Christ.”

   ~R.C. Sproul


Charred Cinders

Aftermath of a forest fire in California

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”

Isaiah 43:2, NASB

This will not be a typical commentary on this verse. (But it will be brief.)

The word I emphasize is “through.” I feel it is the salient point of the whole thought. Through implies a temporary state of being. We “pass through.” In a sense it is the state of being ‘between,’ and it is rarely, or ever comfortable.

Life is all about transitions– a job, children, marriage, health. We’re fine when things are steady and sure. However we feel the strain when things suddenly change. We are compelled to go through some things. Plain and simple. There are three simple things to think about.

  1. God is very present in those moments.
  2. Seldom do they vanish.
  3. They are never welcome.

The One who made the intricacies of our hearts stands by. Floods rage, trees float by. Fires get hot, and all becomes a blackened and charred cinder. Still God holds you. You will pass through this, and come out to the other side. Wiser and more compassionate.

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