This week I have experienced my first 46 degree (Celsius) day. (I am in no hurry to experience another.)
On Thursday I was in Adelaide, and on Thursday Adelaide was officially the hottest city on earth. It was so hot that as soon as I stepped outside my skin felt like it was burning, even in the shade. The hotel we stayed in became uncomfortable as the air conditioning struggled to cope with four consecutive days of over 40 degrees.
Extreme heat and a thirsty land are, of course, a recipe for bush fire in Australia, and, as of this morning, 100 bush fires were burning across South Australia and Victoria. The smoke from the fires drifted over the beach where we were bathing, initiating many questions from our children. As my husband and I tried to downplay the severity of the fires to them, internally we were wondering whether we’d even be able to get home, as the main road into Victoria had been closed by the authorities.
With all this talk of fire it has got me to thinking about the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost. In the Bible the Holy Ghost is both symbolized by fire, and also directly referred to as fire. In the Old Testament the pillar of fire which the Israelites followed in the wilderness was the Holy Ghost. In the New Testament John the Baptist said of Jesus:
“I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” Matthew 3:11
And then in Acts 2:2-4 :
“. . . suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one set upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”
The thing about fire is that it is HOT. It is intense. All it takes is one little spark and a wild bushfire is ignited in a dry and thirsty land.
Leonard Ravenhill said : “Again, the symbol of the church is fire…..The cross is no symbol of Christianity. The symbol of Christianity is the tongue of fire that sat on the head of each of them….Our God is a consuming fire.”
Oh and we are in a dry and thirsty land here in Australia. Not just physically, but more so spiritually. As I sat on the balcony of our accommodation each night this week, I wept for the people, for my country. Yes, I could hear them drinking and laughing and singing drunken songs and I wept for them, for their state of barren-ness. It is oh so dry.
We went into the city of Adelaide last night and there were two old men there, handing out tracts and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. They’ve been there for 30 years. One of them preached, standing there shaking, in the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, and we helped them to hand out the tracts to passers-by, but hardly anyone took one. As he preached, warning that there is an eternal hell, I could tell his heart was broken for this people, these people walking past him laughing at him, smiling with the smile of those in the presence of a fool. Afterwards I commented on the hardness of people’s hearts and he answered sadly: “Oh aren’t they? They don’t understand that the consequences are eternal.”
How dry! How barren and hard is the landscape here in Australia!
But also how ripe and ready this land is for fire….. After all – the drier the land, the easier a fire is kindled. And a fire is powerful enough to change a landscape. Australia is a land of fire; but may we become a land of Holy Ghost fire!
All it takes is one spark. As followers of Jesus Christ, because He lives within us, we are to be that spark to a dry and barren world. But we cannot be that spark if we are not full of the fire of the Holy Ghost.
Paul says to: “…. be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” Ephesians 5:18,19. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit and fire. This verse in the original actually says: “Be being filled with the Spirit…” It is a continual process. Like in the Pilgrim’s Progress, there needs to be oil constantly poured onto the fire to keep it burning, because, just as surely, the devil is always seeking to put it out.
I love Leviticus 6:12: “The fire on the altar must be kept burning; it must not go out. Every morning the priest is to add firewood and arrange the burnt offering on the fire and burn the fat of the fellowship offerings on it.” (Emphasis mine). This verse is such a wonderful picture of what the life of the believer, of Christ’s church, should be. No, it’s what we need to be. We have a responsibility to this generation as the church of Jesus to carry this fire wherever we go. If we don’t, who will?
As priests we are to keep the fire burning. God sends the divine fire, but it is our responsibility to keep it burning. Just like a bushfire, once it has started it requires ongoing fuel.
I don’t know about you but I know when the fire is burning bright within me and I also know when it is burning low. When I am full of the Spirit I walk in the supernatural – amazing things happen. When the fire is low I find I am walking more in the flesh than the Spirit and the things of God become a struggle.
Wesley wrote a hymn, which goes like this:
See how a great a flame aspires, kindled by a spark of grace. Jesus love the nations fires; sets the kingdoms all ablaze.
To bring fire on earth He came, kindled in some hearts it is. Oh that all might catch the flame; all partake the glorious bliss.
When He first the work began, small and feeble was its flame. Now the word doeth swiftly run; now it wins its widening way.
More and more it spreads and grows, ever mighty to prevail. Sin’s strongholds it now o’throws and shakes the trembling gates of hell.
Sons of God, your Savior praise; He the door hath opened wide. He hath given the word of grace; Jesus’ word is glorified.
Saw you not the cloud arise, little as a human hand? Now it spreads along the skies, hangs o’er all the thirsty land.
May you be inspired to be the spark of Holy Ghost fire in your land in this dry and thirsty generation!