A Lesson from Fire Building


We’ve all had one of those moments when a circumstance or conversation illustrates a spiritual principle so clearly that it makes a permanent impression on our minds. It happened to me a couple of months ago.

I was staying in a small cabin in Wyoming, heated only by a wood stove. It was late spring, and snow still covered the ground—and the woodpile. Using firewood that had been stored inside, a friend started a fire the first night, and I enjoyed the radiant heat from the stove as it warmed the entire cabin. My friend was a good teacher, so I felt as competent and confident as any pioneer or trapper living without a central heating system.

By morning the fire had died out and it was cold in the cabin. There was no worry as I was well taught in fire building by my friend. I began the process of restarting a fire in the wood stove. I brought in wood from outside, prepared kindling (sawdust soaked in kerosene) and anticipated that in moments the stove would be generating thousands of BTUs, and my temporary home would be cozy once again. As I struck the first match, the “starter” came to life. I waited for a roaring blaze.

To my surprise and disappointment, the starter fire didn’t readily transfer to the logs. In fact, the logs smoldered, hissed and refused to combust. An hour later, after repeating the process several times (along with blowing air on a few sparks), when my fire was finally spreading within the stove, I realized what I had done. I had tried to build a fire with wet wood! So much for my competence and confidence.

That is when it hit me that God may have something to teach me through this humbling experience. He brought to mind the story of a church recorded in Revelation 3:14–21. Our risen Savior spoke to a church that looked pretty good on the outside: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing’” (v. 17). But His evaluation was different from theirs: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (15–16).

The church in Laodicea was a lot like my fire logs. Everything I needed was there, but my wood was wet! It didn’t get cold or hot; it was just lukewarm. Then I looked at my life and asked, Is there anything that cools my affection for Christ? If lighting a fire with wet wood was difficult for me, is Jesus waiting for me to become combustible in order to build a roaring blaze in and around me?

I regret to say I’ve seen it in my own life and others—and in churches. All of the resources are in place, but the fire just isn’t there! Jesus addressed His church in Laodicea: “The people I love, I call to account—prod and correct and guide so that they’ll live at their best. Up on your feet, then! About face! Run after God! Look at me. I stand at the door. I knock. If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you. Conquerors will sit alongside me at the head table, just as I, having conquered, took the place of honor at the side of my Father. That’s my gift to the conquerors! Are your ears awake? Listen. Listen to the Wind Words, the Spirit blowing through the churches” (Rev. 3:19–21, The Message).

Trying to build a fire with wet wood was a reminder about spiritual health. Jesus continues to call us to a fresh, combustible relationship, removing the things that make the wood “wet.” Will you join me in cultivating that passionate relationship with our Savior and walking in obedience to His Word?

  • Lost people matter to God. He wants them found. Luke 19:10
  • Prayer is the primary work of God’s people. Philippians 4:6–7
  • Everything we have belongs to God. We are His stewards. 1 Chronicles 29:14
  • Knowing and obeying God’s Word is fundamental to all true success. Joshua 1:8
  • Completing the Great Commission will require the mobilization of every fully devoted disciple. Matthew 28:19
  • Without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, we can accomplish nothing. 1 Corinthians 2:4–5
  • Achieving God’s purposes means taking faith-filled risks. This always involves change. Hebrews 11:6

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