Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Spiritual Fireplace

Spiritual Fireplace

Its Christmas time for us again. Though wet and cold like it usually is, Christmas however, comes to us like a beautiful and quiet season, silently and gently drawing the curtains down on every worn out year. This being our first Christmas together, I want to talk to you about a place. To me, this is a place that has everything to do with Christmas. In fact, Christmas can really be all about spending hours and hours of time at this place and enjoying the seasonal holiday!

No, this place that I am about to show you is not under the Christmas tree where pretty boxes hold delightful presents sit, nor is it at the window sill where you hang your Christmas sock for Santa. Neither is it the larder at the kitchen where your Christmas goodies are loaded.

It’s a place where you can sit down by ……. ; it’s there all along (only if you had it in the first place, of course!), even when Christmas comes and go, this place will always remain. It’s where you get your warmth in this cold and wet season. The place when you’d rub your palms together and breathe into them to keep you warm. Yes, that’s it. It’s the fireplace that I’m talking about here. Not every one of us has one, granted, but we all know what it is, and I can tell you just how much a fireplace can do for one like me!

As a young boy, there’s this soft spot for fireplaces which I fondly carried with me until now. I have always loved them; always enjoyed the thought of sitting beside one on a cold wintry day, and sipping hot cocoa, musing over a chat with my wife or enjoying a fellowship with a circle of friends. At every Christmas, I would almost be filled with envy as I wistfully think of people who can spend hours by the fireplaces in their homes as they take refuge from the cold night air. It was so much a passion in my heart that I think the Lord must have decided to give me, or at least allow me to experience, the desires of my heart, when He graciously granted me and my family an Australian holiday this June.

We stayed over at a farmhouse in Australia that winter. Entering the house, I was delighted and thrilled to see a fireplace right before me! A whole fireplace all to ourselves! What’s more, it was the winter season; this meant that we can light up the fireplace and then, before I knew it, my dream of a beautifully decorated fireplace materialised.

I remember sitting by the fireplace one night, appreciating the atmosphere and gratefully thanking God while adding firewoods, a piece at a time, to keep the fire kindled and strong. I was contemplating on the goodness of God when I heard Him asking me, “Do you have a spiritual fireplace within you?” “What?”, I thought I misheard God here - “a spiritual fireplace within every one of us? How?”, I thought to myself. Slowly, the Lord began to show me what He meant by that.

In order for a fireplace to be kindled and to function effectively, wood and air is very important. But of course! A marbled alcove is optional, a pair of strong brass tongs negotiable, and fresh green hollies surrounding the fireplace is luxury, but firewoods and air? Absolutely necessary. What fireplace can kindle up a warm flame without these two elements!? The wood is symbolic of the word of God, and the air, the Spirit of God that comes to breathe on the wood (the Word) and bring ignition to it. Then, of course, the bitter winter cold is the harsh and cold condition of the world that we live in.

In the natural, whenever the cold sets in, people begin to pile up the firewoods or coal to prepare for a nice warm fire away from the winds and frost. Friends and relatives gather around the fireplace for a cozy warm fellowship, out of the damp, wet weather. In the spiritual, however, the cold is colder than the coldest winter, and yes, like how people without a place to run to for shelter and warmth during the cold winter weather die from the bitter cold, we also can perish in this cold dark world that we live in if we do not prepare for ourselves a spiritual fireplace to keep the fire burning in our hearts to keep us warm and sheltered.

We are like the bricks of the house where the fireplace is planted - called as living stones, we stand like a house, and our spiritual fireplace (there should be one in every believer) is inside of us, right there in the courts where your spirit is. We stand like this house in the cold winter season - the winds blow mercilessly at our window shutters and the rains beat heavily down on our roofs, as if threatening to uproot us altogether. In moments like these, the inside of a house needs a fire to keep its inhabitants warm and safe from the frosty conditions outside. Likewise, when the storms of life hits us hard and the waters come overwhelming, we need a fireplace in every one of our hearts to protect our spiritual house. We, the house that stores all our convictions, truth and faith, need to be protected from the bitter cold that we are made exposed to. So what really must be addressed is this: Is our spiritual fireplace activated? Is the fire going strong still, or are the flames dying away with every weak crackle of the last firewood? Or is your fireplace still awaiting ignition?

The Spirit of the Lord is there for as long as we abide in constant communion with Him. The difficulty lies in getting the firewoods i.e. the Word. How do we gather enough firewoods to make sure that there will always be something there to keep the fire going? This takes meditation. Given the Bible, we are like being given lumber. It is only when we take time to meditate and assimilate them into truths that the lumber is being chopped into manageable sticks of firewoods, ready to be put into the fireplace for kindling. Unfortunately, this is not so for many Christians. Having no fireplace where warmth can be emanated on cold and hard days, they suffer from severe frost bites during the wintry season. The winds and hail catches on their skin and brutally peels it away, leaving them more vulnerable to the biting cold each time. Soon, all that is left is a life weathered away, and a heart frozen by frost. People need a fireplace - every one of us, we all need a warm place that will keep us sheltered and shielded in this cold dark world.

One day, while I was praying, I saw a vision of a church that stands under the parasol of an open heaven. Down from the clear heavens flow a strong steady stream of waters and in the ridge of this stream, I saw the words “Christlikeness”.

Father God is now pouring revival over His people. This revival is to mature His children and this time will be used to teach us the stature and fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13). This is a ‘gentle’ revival, and we perceive it to be one that will bring about the restoration of true love. God is infusing His love into the spirit of His children so that we may all love as He loves, and feel compassion when He does, showing mercy to whomever He would have mercy on. For unless we minister out of the mind and heart of God, we will never be effective for Him.

This is what the Lord has prepared for us. We can walk in it by first preparing our spiritual fireplace. This will happens when we take our lives seriously and are diligent to meditate on His Word as we continue communing with His Spirit. As we start kindling the fireplace of our lives this way, and as we also sit by it, the Lord Himself comes to refine us and make us presentable for His good pleasure (Mal. 3:3). The Word shakes the integral of our thoughts and renews our mind, the Spirit blows the chaff away from us and breathe life that transforms our being (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18).

This Christmas, let us not deprive ourselves of experiencing the nice cozy warmth a spiritual fireplace can bring to our lives. Let us gather the sticks, light the fire and feel the comforting warmth.

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