Fanning the Flame

“It was not long before we heard sirens coming from what seemed every direction, . . . we were now the idiots who tried to blow up Billings. “

Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? Mark 8

Can you imagine standing toe to toe with Jesus and having him ask you this? The indignation of this question is quite obvious in the context. So this was no rhetorical or contrived discussion question.

Welcome to the Capernaum chapter of the Clueless Fishermen for Jesus support group. Let’s break the ice by going around the circle and explaining in two or three sentences why you are still confused about this carpenter/teacher/prophet from Nazareth. Who wants to go first?”

No, This is a question from Jesus that no doubt made his followers a little uncomfortable. It’s like—‘Do I need to call Captain Obvious to explain things to you? Can you not hear? Can you not see? Have you forgotten everything?’

Do we understand? Because it’s easy to miss the obvious truth that Jesus is the Christ and that in him we have nothing to fear and nothing to loose, if we are totally surrendered to and trusting of him.

We have to keep fanning the flames of truth and understanding to really bring the knowledge of who Christ is, and what that means for us, from the head into the heart, into our very spirits. We have to let the Holy Spirit move freely through us and in us and that is a huge challenge because the enemy will do everything he can to block that wind of the Spirit so that those flames will die out leaving us with nothing but head knowledge and a weakness that leaves us susceptible to the yeast of the Pharisees—a yeast of selfish ambition and religious attitudes of judgment and haughtiness.

Look at me. I’m somebody and you are nobody, and I am worthy of more.‘  That attitude, along with the weaknesses of the flesh that we may give in to, can block the Spirit and leave us smoldering.

Why do we not understand? Because we are not putting it all together. This is what the Lord told me, because I asked, and the Lord gives wisdom to those who ask:

“The understanding is in the heart, the wisdom is in the word, and the conjunction is in the Spirit.”

Worldly wisdom comes from the head and what we can put in it. Godly wisdom is seated in the heart, it is a wisdom that comes from God’s word and is brought to life by his Holy Spirit.  

The word is the fire that is in the heart and the wind that fans the flames is the Holy Spirit fanning it all to life for wisdom, power and understanding. All of that leads to the faith we need to get us through this life with and for Jesus, blessed, fruitful and advancing the Kingdom of our God.

Fire!

Back in the 80’s when I worked for an outfit that did pipeline and refinery work we got contracted to do the demolition of one of those big oil storage tanks at the Conoco refinery in Billings. The tank was located in a lot just behind the refinery actually, just off the Interstate in what they called the “tank farm.” If you are going through Billings you have surely seen those tanks right near the river just before you get to the Lockwood exit.

Our job was to go in there with cutting torches and cut this huge tank into sheets of metal small enough to fit on a flatbed truck to haul away for scrap metal.

So where do you start demoing a giant steel tank? On the roof of course. So, using a crane with a “man cage” swinging from it they hoisted me up to the top and deposited me with my cutting torch in hand. The Oxy/Acetylene bottles were still on the ground and I had many feet of hose run out to it. I started cutting away, the plan being to cut pie shaped pieces of the lid loose and let them fall down inside. That’s another story all in itself, it’s a wonder I survived my earlier construction years looking back at some of the things we used to do. But anyway, so far, so good.

Now, this tank had been sitting empty for many years and there was a large hole cut in the side big enough to drive a small skid steer through and to let things air out real well. But there was this weird thick black dry residue of something all over the floor. It looked to me like ground up tires, three inches thick or so. It was actually some kind of residue from the crude oil that had been stored in the tank at one time.

We soon discovered that it was somewhat flammable, no problem. As I was cutting on top, occasionally a small fire would flare up on the floor and someone would just go in and pat it out with a shovel.

Then the boss, the owner of the outfit, ol’ Wayne, at least he seemed old to me at the time, decided that it would be much more efficient to put the oxy/acetylene bottles up on the lid, and then we would have enough hose to get two guys cutting.

So they loaded up the bottles into the man cage and hoisted them up to the lid. Everyone’s attention was on the bottles and the people going up to the top—and no one was watching the inside of the tank where a little bit of smoldering residue had got enough wind to burst into flames.

We now had a big enough hole in the roof that the wind blowing through the opening in the side could really get to fanning the flames and soon there was quite a plume of smoke billowing out of the top. I shouted “Hey, there’s a fire down below!”

The flames were now way too big to pat out with a shovel. The boss quickly swung us and the bottles down off the top and soon everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I was standing there with Wayne waiting for him to tell me what to do and he looked at me and said; “I don’t know what to do!”

By this time there was a line of cars stopped on the highway watching this huge column of thick black smoke billowing out of the top of a tank; at the refinery!—this does not look good. We were a long ways from the nearest phone but the smoke signals we were sending up could be seen for miles. Just imagine a giant burn barrel full of tires; that’s what we had going there.

(A more recent fire) A STORAGE TANK at the ConocoPhillips refinery, above, lies crumpled Friday morning after a fire on Thursday in Billings.

I looked at Wayne and said “We have to stop that wind from blowing in that hole in the side—it’s just fanning the flames and making it look really bad.We grabbed a large tarp from one of our trucks and Wayne and I stood there and held it up against the hole as best we could to block the wind.

It helped but it did not stop the flames, the smoke was still horrendous. It was not long before we heard sirens coming from what seemed every direction. Soon a big yellow fire truck came rolling up and fireman all decked out in their coats and respirators came running at us shouting “What’s going on?”

We were standing the with our arms up over our heads holding the tarp against the tank, futilely trying to cut off the air, our faces black with soot—and Wayne didn’t say a word. I don’t know what he was thinking but he looked like a deer in the headlights. So I quickly explained the situation. About this time hoses were being strung out so we dropped our tarp and got out of the way as they ran headlong into the tank and started spraying foam everywhere.

Photo by Tobias Rehbein on Pexels.com
Here I am– to save the day!

Before it was over we had five different fire crews show up. The City of Billings, Lockwood, the refinery fire crews from Conoco and the nearby Exxon crew and a truck from the now defunct O’Donnell’s Fire service clear out in Shepherd.

I was just shaking my head. I kept thinking, “It’s just a little fire inside of a tank all by itself over here, it’s mostly just smoke!” But apparently everyone thought that the whole city was in danger. The fire was out long before all the trucks stopped rolling in.

Of course we made the evening news and we were now the idiots who tried to blow up Billings. But we went back to work the next day and made sure we kept someone on fire watch. Life goes on.

Thots

Do you understand?

Understanding is the small flicker of flame that starts as a little smolder in a rich and abundant bed of fuel planted in our hearts by God’s word, that has to have the wind of the Spirit to really get it roaring. The Devil will try everything he can to put out that fire. But all he has is a tarp made of lies to try and block the wind. Don’t let him do it.

To understand you have to put it all together, if you understand that Jesus is the Christ, that he is with you, that you have nothing to fear, that he can use what you have to do incredible things from a heart of compassion for people, and do not let the greed of the heart, the lies of the world and the pride that is always prodded by the enemy choke you off, then the Holy Spirit will fan the embers of faith in your heart into a roaring fire that God can use to overcome any obstacle to his purposes that he puts on your heart to achieve.

Not for greed, not for glory, not for fame or self-satisfaction, but for Jesus.

The understanding is in the heart, the wisdom is in the word, and the conjunction is in the Spirit.

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Seek Wisdom

 

“…personal Charisma replaced the charismata.”heart-fire

We’ve been talking lately here, and in our church, about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, believing and praying that there will be a new and powerful outpouring that will embolden and equip the church in a very real and tangible way. We have that Spirit available to us already, and the Spirit of the Lord has— as Paul worded it to Titus—been poured out on us generously.  

He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. Titus 3

But I am contending and believing that there will be a fresh anointing in the church; that there will be new life breathed into weary hearts, and that people from all walks of life will be drawn to the church, drawn to Jesus, as they see and feel the Spirit of God reaching out to them in an irresistible way so that they surrender to his love and compassion. I am praying for and preparing for a revival within and without the church.

To facilitate this, to be in a place where we can be used by the Lord —to witness that Love and compassion to people— we must not be simply charismatic, loud and proud, which is where some of the church who has embraced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit—found in the baptism of the Spirit—ended up. If you were moving in Pentecostal circles or watching some of the TV Evangelists back in the 80’s and 90’s, you know what I’m talking about.

Speaking in tongues became an end in itself instead of a means to facilitate the will of God. And the gifts of the Spirit— prophesying, healing, words of knowledge— became something to flaunt and make a spectacle of, as it seemed Spirit filled Christians were just trying to outdo one another or to prove their Holiness by virtue of how they could be used by God to perform signs and wonders. Experience took precedence over the wisdom found in the word of God.

Honestly, from what I have witnessed, even in Pentecostal circles, the scriptural understanding of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the gifts, the process— the hows, the whys and the what-fors—  are still being debated, as the theological explanation for what the Lord has done and what we have been experiencing is still playing catch up. Everyone assumes that it has all been explained or figured out by someone else smarter than they are and, to me, some very obvious misunderstandings have been perpetuated.

I think it may be because people looked to other people for wisdom instead of going to the source. God has a way of quickly outgrowing all the neat little boxes we try to put him in to match our own limited experience and understandings. Anyway, I digress.

The 80’s and 90’s were kind of the wild west as far as the Spirit filled parts of the body of Christ went. I know, I was there, and I kind of got caught up in it also. We began to lose sight of what the gifts were for, and that they were not a stand-alone thing. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit, that facilitates the release of his power to allow the Kingdom of God to move in this realm of the natural, must be accompanied by a strong sense of the desire of God’s heart to love, bless, heal and serve others.

Everything God does is motivated by his love, even his rebuke and correction is motivated by that love just as a parent’s discipline of a child is. We have to be smarter about the coming glory, we have to seek the wisdom of God that is available in greater and greater measure as his power in our lives increases, as we learn to move in him.

So how do we know? How do we know what we are to do with the things the Lord gives us, how and when to use the gifts, to not just be a receiver but a giver as well. God doesn’t bless us, fill us and heal us just so that we can sit back and be fat and sassy—God fills us so that we can give to others. His gift are tools to build his Kingdom and the more we give, the more we pour out what he has so generously given—the more we will receive.

This works for everything, blessings are blessings whether it’s our money, our time, our talents, or our spiritual blessings—your healing and wholeness can be shared, your joy can be shared, your life—the life that you have received from Jesus—can be shared. That’s what the supernatural gifts are for. Everything God gives us is motivated by love but it is also to equip us to share that love, to give love.

So how do we know? How do we know how to do any of this. How can we share these things? What do I do with the outpouring of the Spirit? You might think: I’m not sure I want it because I won’t know how to handle it. That’s what happened to the last revival, the Azusa street revival, people lost track— not all people, much of the church is still alive and well and moving powerfully in the power of the Holy Spirit—but many stopped seeking the wisdom of the Lord, they just wanted the glory.

Large churches that initially drew people by the droves because they were moving in the power of the Holy Spirit became seeker sensitive and pushed all vestiges of the Holy Spirit’s power aside, depending on the show and the charisma of the pastor to keep people coming. Personal Charisma replaced the Charismata —the Greek word for the secondary pouring out of the Spirit that brought with it the gifts that equip the church to be Jesus to a dying world.

So how do we know? —Ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. James 1