Untended Fires

… soon die out and become a pile of ashes.

Have you ever sat by a campfire on a cold winter night?

I’ve always enjoyed a good campfire, particularly on cold nights. I love the warmth, watching the flames release smoke like plumes of silk into the air. Fires bring warmth, light and stir something deep within my soul. There is a connection to our past. Before the smartphone, electricity and stove, there was the campfire. Man has been staring into flames for thousands of years – a campfire in some ways embodies a kind of essence of primordial humanity.

Every campfire eventually dies out if left untended and without fuel. On a cold night as the flames have ceased and embers are fading, darkness and cold encroach the once warm space. The faces of those sitting around the fire grow dark as the light fades and the chill in the air creeps through your neck and back as cold advances on the area once claimed by warmth and light. At this point, you have a choice… Let the fire die out or tend it to bring it back to full flame.

It takes discipline to leave the tent in the cold of winter to stoke the fire. But, the fire is what sustains our warmth and comfort. Tend it, stir it and care for it. A fire is either growing or dying out. At no moment does it remain static.

You and I can learn a lot from a campfire.

Because of the gift nature of creation, even a campfire has meaning and significance beyond itself. In other words, fire has an essence infused into its existence that is much fuller than its utility. I think thats why most people find enjoyment, wonder and contemplation beyond the light and warmth of a fire.

My good friend Dr. Doug Cecil once said in a seminary class, “Untended fires soon die out and become a pile of ashes.” Think about that statement for a moment. If you’ve been around a fire, you know its absolutely true. Fires die out without tending and fuel. To sustain a warm fire, it takes commitment and time. The flames must be stoked and renewed with fuel.

Now let’s apply this ‘untended fires’ idea to our relationship with God and others because I believe we can learn deeper truths about reality and relationships from a simple campfire. When our relationship with God is neglected, that relationship grows cold. The same goes for our relationships with others.

I have old friends I have not spoken with in 20 years. I don’t know where they are or how their lives have turned out. Why? Because with the passage of time the relationship has grown distant and cold due to a lack of attention and tending. Are these relationships a dead pile of ashes? Perhaps. But perhaps not. The only way to find out is to reach out to that old friend and see if there is a hidden ember beneath the ashes. Then, I can fuel that ember and possibly bring the fire back. Given, there are some fires that must be allowed to die out and become a pile of ashes. Those are unhealthy relationships. However, for the most part a good stoking and tending of an old friendship can bring light and warmth into our lives.

From a Christian perspective, I believe the primary fire we must never allow to die out is our relationship with God. By stoking and fueling my communion with my God and creator, I am able to stir a kind of eternal flame in the lives of others (potentially). For my fellow Christians, it will be the flames of fellowship, encouragement, exhortation, challenge, comfort, joy, rest, peace, love and following Christ. For those who do not know the love of God in Christ Jesus, it will be the flames that shed light on sin, awareness of darkness, cold and judgement but also the inviting warmth of God’s goodness, grace, forgiveness, rest, love and peace. Notice how the fire and warmth for both end up pointing to a loving relationship with God.

What fires need to be tended in your life?

Want to know God better?
Spend time with Him in His word – the Bible. By reading and meditating on scripture, you are renewing your mind and stoking the fire of your love and knowledge of Him. The more time you commit to fueling your relationship with the God who loves you and saved you from sin the more you will experience Him as a growing reality in your daily life. The result will be the deep enjoyment of rest, joy, love and peace regardless of how cold and dark the circumstances of life become.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

“I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” (Psalm 16:8)

Want to see God transform the lives of other people and the world?
Pray and intercede for others. Reading and meditating on God’s word reside also with prayer. If reading and meditation are the fuel, prayer is the oxygen required to bring the flames alive. Like warmth radiated by a fire, the result of prayer is the transformation in the world around you – particularly those standing close to your fire. Therefore, we tend fires through prayer.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,” (1 Timothy 2:1)

Want to experience the fullness of Christ?
Serve Him by serving others and sharing your hope in Him. Nothing ignites or reignites a fire in ourselves and others like hope. One way to share the hope you have is through serving others. Meeting the needs of others and protecting the vulnerable take you further into the Kingdom of God and draw you closer to His heart. There is also a blessing in the action of ‘doing ministry’ (John 13:17). Serving others is where what we believe intersects with our will to act. The toil can be tiresome even painful at times but you will experience a fullness and deep joy through serving and sharing. So, we can tend fires through serving and sharing.

“If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17)

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

“Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.” (Proverbs 11:25)

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

My hope and prayer is that you and I will attend to our relationships with God, each other and folks around us. May we remember that untended fires soon die out and become a pile of ashes. You’ll never look at a campfire quite the same again. Perhaps, you’ll see your relationship with God and others in a different light as well.

(Comment and share your thoughts below)

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