Are You Keeping the Fire Stoked?


ARE YOU KEEPING THE FIRE STOKED?

These questions may seem overly simplistic, or even sophomoric, BUT... - Have we ever wondered why God created the element of fire? - Have we ever considered the importance of fire ... Why it's so essential to life? 1) On a cold winter night, we place logs into the fireplace to keep us warm. 2) We use fire to cook our food. 3) We use fire to burn trash and lawn debris. 4) In days gone by, sailors stoked the flames in the ship's boiler with coal so the ship could continue to move forward. Q: "Are we stoking the fire in our heart so we can keep moving forward in Christ? 5) Fire is also used to purify or to prevent impurities from forming: (ex) Iron smelting, as explained in Wikipedia, is: "A process of applying heat to ore in order to extract a base metal ... It is used to extract metals from their ores, including silver, iron, copper, ... This prevents impurities from forming in the metal ... " So, fire is used to either purify or to prevent impurities from forming. Q: Are we stoking the fire in our heart ... -so, we can be purified? -so, we can prevent sinful impurities from taking a foot hold in us? -so, the leaven the enemy throws at us can be incinerated by the fire and do us no harm? In the the Book of Leviticus, chapter six, it was stressed 3 times to Moses and to the priests that the fire on the altar must be kept burning. When God stresses something two or more times in the same chapter, He considers it important:


Lev 6:9 says: " ... The burnt offering shall be on the hearth upon the altar all night until morning, and the fire of the altar shall be kept burning on it." Lev 6:12, "And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out." And in Lev 6:13, "A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out." Each of us, as believers, has a spiritual altar within the confines of our heart. God commanded the Israelites ... and us, to keep the fire burning. The fire, as mature Christians understand ... is God's Holy Spirit abiding in us. As I was preparing this message, I came across this article from Renner Ministries: "In Second Timothy 1:6, Paul told Timothy to “stir up” the gift of God that was in him. It implies that the fire in Timothy’s heart had ebbed to embers on a low burn. Hence, Paul told the younger minister to passionately and rigorously begin again to stoke and stir up the gift of God in his life, just as one would stoke the embers of a fire in a hearth or fireplace. Paul was not just kindly suggesting that Timothy take action; the apostle was commanding Timothy to spiritually reach within and begin to rekindle the fire in his heart." "At the time Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, this young man (Timothy) was surrounded by confusion resulting from the intense persecution (of Christians) that was taking place. Is it possible that he (Timothy) was exhausted and that his own fire was beginning to wane (go out)? Most likely the answer is yes. But regardless of Timothy’s current state, Paul told him to take action before the fire went out. Timothy was to open the door to his heart, look inside to determine the condition of his inward fire, and then take action to “put more wood on the fire” and stir up the gift of God inside him (the Holy Spirit). This would not occur accidentally but would require a proactive response. If Timothy would obey Paul’s command, that inward fire would blaze again and Timothy would once again have fire burning in the center of his being. The younger minister would (then) be reconnected to the supernatural power of God and provided with a weapon that would consume his spiritual adversaries." So, the fire in Timothy's heart was beginning to die down due to fatigue, or a sense of hopelessness due to Roman persecution. If it could happen to Timothy, it

can also happen to us during these times of uncertainty. The Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to grab hold of the innermost portions of his heart and stoke the spiritual fire before it went out completely. It's the fire of the Holy Spirit within us that gives us the power to move forward in Christ with holy boldness. So, what may be some of the reasons God considers it so important for the believer to keep the fire stoked? 1. TO PURIFY. -- In Isa. 6:5-7, Isaiah saw the Lord sitting on His throne with the seraphim above it, crying 'Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts.' "The whole earth is full of His glory!' Isaiah became overwhelmed at the sight, admitting that it was over for him; that he was a man of unclean lips, living among people also having unclean lips. So, in verses 6-7, Isaiah says: "Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from 'the altar.' " "And he touched my mouth with it, and said: 'Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.' " -- In 1Kings 18:38, Elijah prayed that God would send fire from heaven to destroy the altars of Baal to purify the land, and to turn the hearts of the people back to God. And God answered Elijah's prayer! -- In Isa 48:10, God says: "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction ..." (Sometimes God uses affliction to purify) -- Psalm 12:6 tells us: "The words of the Lord are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times." The key words are 'pure' and 'refined.' -- And in Zech 13:8-9, "And it shall come to pass in all the land, says the Lord, that two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die." "But one-third shall be left in it; I will bring the one-third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested." God's Holy fire purifies and cleanses us of sin.

Q: What separates the one-third who God will refine from the two-thirds who will die? Could it be the one-third who God chooses to bring through the fire are those who already have the fire of God's Holy Spirit burning within their heart? Remember the parable of the Ten Virgins. Five were not ready for the marriage supper because they did not have enough oil (Holy Spirit), and were locked out! Q: Will we be locked out if we don't have enough oil when the time comes? But, believers who keep the fire stoked should be encouraged because in Dan. 11:32, it says: "... but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." After God refines us, we will be ready for His use! God's Holy fire purifies and cleanses us of sin. 2. TO BE A GUIDING LIGHT. We all walk on the path called 'life.' Each of us can choose to walk: -- in obedience or disobedience, -- in righteousness or unrighteousness, -- in honor or dishonor, -- or walk, taking with us either the fruits of the Spirit or the fruits of the devil. Fruits of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Fruits of the devil (just to name a few): Anger, hatred, bitterness, resentment, jealousy and unforgiveness. Keeping the fire stoked in our heart helps us to see clearly the choices that are before us, and to make the right choices. The fire of the Holy Spirit illuminates our path. David says in Ps. 119:101, "I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep your word."

And in verse 105, David declares: "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path." --If we are at a crossroad and don't know which way to turn, we need the Holy Spirit's guidance to help us choose on which road we should walk. A third reason we need to keep our fire stoked: 3. SO IT CAN BE A FLAME OF PROTECTION AND HOLY BOLDNESS. - There was a prophecy from Romania our pastor read to us about a year ago that said God would place a 'ring of fire for protection' around the homes in which people pray together in unity. - In Dan. chapter 3, we read about the three young Jewish boys who refused to bow down to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar or to his gods. The boys loved God and refused to disobey His commandment. In Ex 20:3-5, we read God's commandment to, not just the three Jewish boys, but to all believers: "You shall have no other gods before me." "You shall not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;" "you shall not bow down to them nor serve them ..." Q: "Wasn't it the fire of the Holy Spirit in the boys' heart ... that gave them the boldness not to bow down, even though disobedience to the king mean't certain death?" -So, in his anger, the king ordered the fiery furnace stoked 7 times hotter than it was usually heated. The three boys were then thrown into the fire. But, the Lord was with them in the fire to protect them. And in Dan 3:27-28, we read: "And the satraps, administrators, governor's and the king's counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power, the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them." Then "Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, 'Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego Who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!'" -So, the fire of God's Holy Spirit protected Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But, what happened to the unbelieving soldiers who threw the boys into the fiery furnace ... who did NOT have the fire of God within them? -The fire from the furnace incinerated them! They did not have God's fire within them for protection! Brothers and sisters: We must keep our fire stoked so we, too, have the holy boldness and courage not to bow down to the leaders of this world --- if they make laws which would compel us to disobey God's laws! 4. TO BE ABLE TO HEAR GOD'S STILL SMALL VOICE. 1Kings 19:12 describes to us that when Elijah ran into the cave in fear of Jezebel, Elijah heard God speak to him in 'a still small voice.' - I truly think every believer, at one time or another, has heard from God through His 'still small voice ...,' maybe during prayer, or during times of contemplation, or during a time of need. But, we may not have recognized His voice thinking ... 'Oh, it was just my own thought.' - In fact, it just happened to me! The Holy Spirit spoke to my heart on a Wednesday, telling me to get ready to share a message on Sunday. But, I thought it was just my voice speaking. 'Why should I get ready to share when the pastor is in town?' I usually fill in for the pastor when he is away. But, given that I was uncertain, I began to prepare the following day. On Friday, I received a call from our pastor informing me he would be unable to preach on Sunday due to an illness. It was the Holy Spirit speaking so I might prepare to share a message! -We need to keep our fire stoked to 'RECOGNIZE' when God is speaking: He speaks 'to us' through His Holy Spirit 'within us'. 5. TO BE ABLE TO RESIST TEMPTATION. -When the fire of God within us is stoked, 'who or what' is able to stand against it? -When the enemy throws his evil leaven at us, be it wicked thoughts, or sinful desires or other temptations ... IF Our fire is stoked, it will burn Satan's leaven to nothing! -If Our fire is stoked, evil thoughts and desires will melt away. They will neither affect us nor compel us to sin ... as long as we don't allow our will to override the Holy Spirit's will for us. Don't we pray: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil?" -If, when we say this prayer and it is sincere and truly heartfelt, won't God give us the victory? SOME FINAL THOUGHTS -God's Holy Spirit within us is a refining fire, ... a consuming fire that the enemy cannot withstand ... IF we keep the fire stoked! -Only the things of God will be able to withstand the Holy fire within us ... righteousness, goodness, kindness, and the other fruits of the Spirit ... IF we keep the fire stoked!

Here is some 'spiritual wood' we can throw into the fire to stoke it. (Taken from umich.edu) Hunger and thirst for the word of God. Become a prayer addict. (The bible tells us to 'Pray without ceasing') Live a life of holiness. Complete obedience to God. (There is no room in our life for compromise) Have a great desire for the return of the Lord. Have violent faith in God. (Refer to Matt 11:12) Love sacrificially. And I would add the following to this list: 8. Be desperate for God - yearn to pray, to read His word, to seek His counsel on a daily basis. 9. Have an unquenching, fervent desire for the Lord to live within us, so we can be His hands and feet on earth. 10. Be diligent to surrender to God's will above our will. - The Lord's prayer declares, Lord, 'Thy will be done.' It does not say, Lord, 'Thy will be done 'unless' it conflicts with my will.' Finally, in Lk 12:34-36, Jesus tells us: "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning (keep the fire stoked). Then you will be like servants waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks, they can open the door for him at once.…" Remember: "No power of darkness can stand against the people who possess God's Holy Spirit fire."


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