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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

The Fire Still Burns

By Ada Brownell
June 8, 2014

"Fire!" I jumped out of bed when Mom shouted. Dad had already left for work. As I fled through the dining room, I saw flames coming through a tiny hole in the floor.

My brother, Joe, thumped down the stairs, ran outside, grabbed the water hose, and pulled it into our basement cellar where our coal-burning furnace had overheated.

When the fire truck screamed into our driveway, Joe already had the fire out. There was little damage.

The word “fire” causes such fear, in 1919 Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting ‘fire’ in a theater and causing a panic.”

Uncontrolled fire is one of the most feared elements on earth. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports an average of one fire death every 169 minutes and an injury every 30 minutes.

I mourned with the rest of the nation when 19 firefighters died in Arizona on June 30, 2013.

I’d already been thinking about fire when one of my favorite tourist attractions — the Royal Gorge Bridge, one of the world’s highest suspension bridges — was threatened by flames as a forest blazed near Cañon City, Colo.

At the same time, the Black Forest Fire, one of Colorado’s most devastating blazes because of lives lost, burned its way toward Colorado Springs and Monument. We have family in the area, and some were ready to evacuate.

While fire is a grave threat to lives and property, forest fires can bring good. Fire is the most important agent for releasing seeds from cones of redwood trees and giant sequoias, according to the University of California.

Redwood trees produce 2- to 3-inch long cones that remain on the tree for 20 or more years. Green scales that contain seeds cover the cones, located mostly near upper branches. Heat dries the cones, causing the scales to shrink and release seeds to the wind. Fire burns leaf litter below, creating a rich, well-drained growing medium.

When we look at this phenomenon, it helps me understand the Holy Spirit’s fire.  

John the Baptist said, “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matthew 3:11, NIV).

In writing the Book of Acts, Luke reported, “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” (Acts 2:1-4).

Peter was the boisterous disciple who bragged he would die for Christ, but after the Lord was arrested he denied he knew Him. Afterward Peter felt unworthy, so he quit the ministry and went back to fishing. Yet, he followed others to the Upper Room to tarry for the gift Jesus promised, and he received.

Now Peter noticed a large crowd had gathered.

 “What does this mean?” they asked.

Peter stood. Holy Ghost fire erupted in his spirit, pouring forth words from his innermost being like seeds sown on a fertile field, similar to what Jesus talked about (Mark 4).

Peter probably remembered the last words Jesus spoke before ascending into the clouds: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

So the Holy Spirit broke open Peter’s soul and he boldly proclaimed the fulfillment of an Old Testament promise: “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’” (Acts 2:16,17).

Peter continued to declare the gospel bravely: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:22-24).

Six weeks earlier, the crowd would have killed Peter for speaking that way.

“What shall we do?” cried the people.

Peter’s gaze connected with people throughout the throng. “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38,39).

Three thousand people accepted Jesus as Savior that day. A mighty spiritual fire flamed in believers and opened their mouths to proclaim the gospel of sins forgiven, lives restored, joy, peace, and eternal life.

The fire still burns.

ADA BROWNELL’s most recent inspirational book is Swallowed by Life: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal.


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