A Consuming Fire

Lessons from the Colorado Wildfire

By Dolores Kimball

If there's one thing I know for sure, and admittedly that list is very short, it's that fire is an awesome and terrifying reality. As I sit here watching the smoke plumes from the Waldo Canyon fire drift over my house while I keep my ear tuned to the latest evacuation orders, I am faced with the nerve-wracking awareness that fire is at times relentless and devastating. And in spite of the best efforts of the firefighting community, if a fire gets it into its mind to destroy an area, that's exactly what will happen.

I remember another incredibly scary fire, the Oakland firestorm of 1991 that devoured everything in its path in a matter of hours. The combination of heat, low humidity, high winds and dry conditions made that fire one of California's worst ever with the loss of 25 lives, 3,354 single-family dwellings and 437 apartment and condominium units. The economic loss has been estimated at $1.5 billion. Even living 75 miles south of that one, we could still see the smoke from it. But now as my house sits only a few miles from the Waldo Canyon fire, my perspective is somewhat different.

What strikes me most particularly is the relentless nature of a wild fire. Pitted against a fire fueled by high winds and dry conditions, man is simply no match for its inexorable march. Even hundreds of firefighters and several helicopters and C-130 slurry bombers can only do so much against this incredibly powerful force of nature. In the final analysis, sometimes all we can do is run from it. Is it any wonder, then, that God has chosen fire to describe certain elements of His nature? The Holy Spirit's descent upon the believers in Acts 2 was in the appearance of tongues of fire. Jesus is prophesied to be "revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels" (2 Thessalonians 1:7), and John's revelation of the Son of God depicts Him with eyes "like blazing fire" (Revelation 2:18). Most poignant of all, both the Old and New Testaments declare God to be "a consuming fire" (Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29).

The writer of Hebrews touches on the relentless nature of the power of God when he says "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire'" (Hebrews 12:28-29). As terrifying as a wild fire close to home can be, it's nothing compared to the terror of the fire of God's consuming wrath that will fall on those who reject His Son. At the same time, for those who know Him, His love and mercy are every bit as relentless, powerful and all-consuming.

It's up to each of us to decide exactly how we will deal with the ultimate Consuming Fire. We can either try to run in terror and dread from His inexorable anger and wrath against our sin, or we can be gratefully consumed by the warmth and light of His relentless love, mercy and grace. Whether or not our earthly dwelling survives this fire, we know we have a home in heaven waiting for us — imperishable, eternal and filled with "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Image Credit: mark byzewski; "_MG_4073a"; Creative Commons

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Published on 6-28-12