Trial and Error (and Maybe Some Fire?)

I’m personally convinced that living life is all about “trial and error.” We seem to be working out some holy experiment. More orthodox people call it discipleship, but that really isn’t the whole truth. It seems we are working it out in a spiritual lab keeping the good (like humility) and tossing the bad (like selfishness.)

We also experience blisters from “near-brushes” with God’s flames. About 30 years ago, I set myself on fire. I was in my little cabin in Alaska, and woke up on a January morning. It was cold, beyond cold. I set up the coffee pot and opened the oven door to get warm.

I turned my backside to get warm from the oven heat. It was then the fire set my sweater on fire. I went up like a candle. I couldn’t get the flames off my back. I tried to drop and roll, and all that happened was that I pressed the burning sweater into my back. (I also caught the carpet on fire.)

The pain was intense. I was panicking. We had an inside bathroom, and the shower was one of those massage kind with a long hose. By this time the flames were shooting up my back, over my shoulder and into my hair. I couldn’t pull of the tight sweater (which was acrylic and was melting on my skin.)

It took a little bit of time to get the water to flow through the hose– and I was burning to death! The water finally made its inexorable way to the shower head, and at last I found relief.

“He makes his angels winds,
    and his ministers a flame of fire.”

Hebrews 1:7, ESV

The night before I read that particular verse, and spent some time thinking about it. I’m certain I read if before, but somehow it seemed I was reading it for the very first time. “A flame of fire, how very odd,” I thought.

This was of those strategic points for me as I was wondering about any kind of “full-time” ministry. The irony certainly wasn’t lost on me that next morning when I flared up like a torch.

I ended up in the hospital with a lot of 2nd and 3rd degree burns down most of my back. It took a long time to heal, and I have some serious scars. It took many years before I could expose these burned areas to the sun.

Most of what I learned, was that I was a “marked man.” That our Heavenly Father was not adverse to using anything in my life, as long as it didn’t kill me. (I’m thinking of the Book of Job here.) There was such a slow healing, and it hurt so bad, that I must believe it was quite significant. So its trial and error–and sometimes fire.

“The agony of man’s affliction is often necessary to put him into the right mood to face the fundamental things of life. The Psalmist says, ‘Before I was afflicted I went astray; but now I have kept Thy Word.'”   Oswald Chambers

“The Lord afflicts us at times; but it is always a thousand times less than we deserve, and much less than many of our fellow-creatures are suffering around us. Let us therefore pray for grace to be humble, thankful, and patient.”   John Newton


ybic, Bryan

People of the Fire

“Whatever we build on that foundation will be tested by fire on the day of judgment. Then everyone will find out if we have used gold, silver, and precious stones, or wood, hay, and straw. We will be rewarded if our building is left standing. But if it is destroyed by the fire, we will lose everything. Yet we ourselves will be saved, like someone escaping from flames.” 

1Cor. 3:12-15, CEV

“The fire doesn’t make you what you are; it reveals what you were.”  

Jack Hyles

Christianity at the end will basically an incendiary endeavor.  We understand this and know the need for quality, which we should be building into our lives.  What makes us think this is that fire is the metaphor that describes what the Holy Spirit is doing. A torch will be set to ones construction.  This sounds all wrong and yet it does explain our built-in need of proving what is authentic.  Our building supplies may vary, and the quality will need to be continuously monitored.  Things that are real, will last.

When we see the torch thrown on the pile, we must get ready for it to burn all that can be burned.  This is undoubtedly an unpleasant and anxious process, but it happens no matter what we think.  Only fire will determine our authenticity.  As it burns, only precious jewels, gold and silver show a magnificent durability.  The rest is reduced to ashes. Things of permanence are left when everything is burned away.  We rake through the ash piles looking for the things that have endured. Gold and silver, red rubies and glittering diamonds are that which will survive.  The fire could not destroy these precious things.

For years this passage has frightened me.  My anxiety over this has grown when I actively consider the negligence and foolishness of my life.  When I think about what could be, I’m intimidated by this principle of testing, and the ‘Day of Judgement’.  It is hard for me to rest in grace on these days.

I guess I feel responsibility, accountability and my awareness of shame.  I have lived my life somewhat ‘frantically’, which has disturbing  consequences for me.  I don’t want them.  I do not want to be evaluated with the torch.  The day of judgement frightens me.  I do not want to be brought to terms with my mammoth sized foolishness.  It makes me very nervous.

But my reading of the Word makes judgement inevitable.  But we have been given time and space to change our lives.  There is no way we can skirt this reality, the man who was building could choose any foundation he wished– would it be the rock, or the sand?  It’s all on you.  It’s your call.

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