Feel the heat

flameWe’re in a dog days of summer heat wave here in the Midwest. Some people like the hot days. Not me. I’m partial to the cool, cloudy days of autumn.

But I find the concept of heat intriguing; it has so many contrasting applications. Heat supports life, but it also kills it. It transforms simple ingredients into delicious desserts, and delicious desserts into melted messes. Heat purifies and heat corrupts. And a hot day is heaven to some, and hell to others.

Some ancients worshipped the sun…the life-giving, life-destroying ball of heat and flames. And though misguided, perhaps they inherently associated it with God because of its unmatched power and impact on their lives. Perhaps they knew that God is like the sun in its awe-inspiring, fearful majesty, and its ability to bless and destroy.

The true God, who alone is to be worshipped, is actually described in flaming terms and manifested himself as fire in various forms. He spoke to Moses out of a burning bush. He guided the Israelites to the promised land as a towering cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He is said to have “descended…in fire” on Mount Sinai to speak with Moses and the people. And when God the Holy Spirit descended on the Christ-followers at Pentecost, he appeared as “tongues” of fire.

So what? you might be asking. Here’s what. We would do well to ponder the analogy. We are wise to recognize and respect the power of God, to fear him, as we do fire. He can make us sweat, burn our affections, or destroy us completely. He can also make something new and wonderful out of our lives, purify our hearts, and warm our relationships. He can light our way, and he can burn a bridge. Give us energy, or sap our strength.

Of course, the analogy breaks down at some point. We can extinguish fire with water or chemicals. God cannot be put out. We can dampen his activity in our lives, however, by ignoring or rebelling against him. But his is an eternal flame. A burning coal remains to reignite should we will to fan it.

But if we do not will it, it will reignite of itself, and we will not be able to stand before the Holy Inferno it becomes when we are called to account for how we responded to the flame of the Lord.

Turn off the A/C and feel the heat. Embrace it, be grateful for it, and respectfully fear it. And worship the Son.