Skip to content

See the Flames, Smell the Smoke

See The Flames, Smell The Smoke 

The  pastor at our church just took us through a series on prayer.  It has been a very good tune-up on probably one of the most important and neglected spiritual disciplines.  He wrote a booklet to go along with the series and I want to share an experience he had that vividly illustrates the importance of praying for others, being in spiritual warfare on their behalf.  This is directly from the booklet:


“We often do not see the answers we want in prayer and do not pray as we ought because we do not see the battle, the necessity of prayer, and the absolute desperate need we have for God to intervene on our behalf and that of others.

One afternoon, I was getting out of my truck for a meeting that was scheduled across the street from a park.  As I glanced at the park, I caught something strange happening out of the corner of my eye.  As I focused in on the action, I realized it was not two men fighting, but one man was on fire “literally” and the other was trying to put it out.  The strange thing was, the man on fire did not realize his clothes were on fire.  I watched for a moment and looked around – I was waiting  for someone else to respond.  Surely, someone else saw this going on and would rush to help.

I was at least 100 yards from the situation, and there were dozens of people much closer.  But it appeared that no on else saw.  Balls were being tossed, families were having picnics, and kids continued on their swings as the man in the middle of the park burned.  As foolish as I felt, I grabbed an old sweatshirt from the back seat and started running around picnics, through the middle of a catch game, right by the swings and right into the man on fire.  I held out my sweatshirt as I leapt forward, and the man landed on his back.  We both hit the ground and tumbled.  Still not aware of the fire, he began to fight back.

This is what it means to contend for others for the advancement of the Kingdom:  if you see a man on fire, it is up to you to respond.  We expect others to respond, but they are unaware.  It will seem bizarre as you run past others just living their life, totally unaware of the battle that rages for their souls.  Many times, those we contend for do not even know their need.  The truth, the Word of God, is our weapon, and prayer is how we wield that weapon.”


I think one reason we are not desperate for others around us is we don’t see their desperate state.  We may see them with some problems or a messed up area in their lives but burning is a little too graphic to describe their situation.  Others don’t seem too concerned with what they see and the people themselves don’t seem to excited about the mess they are in, so it must not be that bad.  They sense something is wrong, maybe get together and talk about their problems over a beer, but the smoke keeps them from seeing the main problem:  they are on fire.

We, with our spiritual eyes, see something else, at least we should if we haven’t been lullabyed to sleep by thinking happy thoughts that somehow we all will pull through this thing called life OK.  If we have, we have forgotten from whence we came.  But if we believe Scripture, then we know that “the wages of sin is death” and that’s not just eternal death but death here and now. This leads to messed up lives that many ascribe to bad choices and bad breaks or bad circumstances.  From God’s perspective, we know that what we see on the outside is not what is happening on the inside, “man looks on the outward, God looks at the heart”.  They are living desperate lives, trying to pull all the frayed strings together to make some sense of the hole in the fabric but it’s not working out.  We see this in our neighbors and the people we work with and our family members.  Are we desperate for them like in the story above?  I guess a better question is, do we really love them?  Because if we truly loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would do anything to help them put out the fire in their lives.

We may think that some direct intervention is what is most needed and prayer can wait.  I have been involved in such an action several times, and without God first moving directly in the person’s heart, it’s fruitless.  Some people are addicted to fire; they know they are being burned but fear of the unknown keeps them from accepting permanent help.  Some have lived with its glow so long that they can’t live without it.  Others smell the smoke but ceased wondering what it is and have gotten used to the fumes.   Others may feel they are living  just fine and don’t  need any help.  Their eyes haven’t been opened to their desperate plight to the point of wanting the fire put out.  This awareness can only happen through prayer and the move of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and minds.

Are you desperate for those you love?   Do you pray desperate prayers for them?  Do you really believe they are on fire and need rescue?  If we love them, it will spur us to action and the most effective action is prayer, desperate prayer.  Can we do any less?  Don’t assume someone else is interceding on their behalf;  you be the one to go to God for them, standing in the gap where they can’t or won’t.  Could the man in the above scene just ignore what he saw and gone to his meeting?  Not if he loved those around him, even people he didn’t know.

May we see the fire and smell the smoke of those around us who don’t know the Savior, and become warriors for their salvation, running towards them to rescue them from the flames that are destroying their lives.



A Prayer of Repentance

A Biblical Prayer of Repentance

I read this prayer in Daniel 9:4-19 recently and thought it encapsulated what repentance means and what such a prayer would look like.  I have changed the wording and edited it to make it personal and more contemporary.  Daniel prayed this prayer on behalf of Israel when she was in a real mess after God had judged His people.

Maybe you will see yourself in these words and the need to cry out to God in such a prayer.

If you don’t see yourself in this prayer, then you haven’t looked deep enough, for the pit is deep, the stench is horrifying, and it is covered over with false pride and inflated ego.  May God rip the facade off so you can see who you really are before Him Who is holy and pure and righteous.

I will pray to the Lord my God and confess and say,

“Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, Who keeps Your promises and lovingkindness for those who love You and keep Your commandments, I have sinned, committed injustice, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and laws.  Moreover, I have not listened to Your Word.  

Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to me open shame, because of my unfaithful deeds which I have committed against You.   Open shame belongs to me, O Lord, because I have sinned against You.  To You, the Lord my God, belong compassion and forgiveness, for I have rebelled against You;  nor have I obeyed Your voice, the Lord my God, to walk in Your teachings which You set before me through Your Word.   I have transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so hardship has been poured on me for I have sinned against You.

Thus You have confirmed Your words which You had spoken against me to bring on me great hardship.   All this has come on me; yet I have not sought Your favor, the Lord my God, by turning from my sinful life and giving attention to Your truth.  Therefore You the Lord has kept the adversity in store and brought it on me; for You, the Lord my God, are righteous with respect to all Your deeds which You have done, but I have not obeyed Your voice.

And now, O Lord my God, Who have brought many out of the bondage of sin with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, I have sinned, I have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from me; for because of my sins, I have become a reproach and embarrassment to all those around me.  

 So now, my God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to my supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate child.  

O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see my misery and loneliness; for I am not presenting my requests before You on account of any merits of my own, but on account of Your great compassion.  

O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, for I have been called by Your name.”


Wisdom for the Day

The question is not, “Is this wrong to do?”  It’s, “Is this the wise thing to do?”  There are lots of morally acceptable things one can do but they aren’t wise choices.

If you don’t forgive a person who has severely wronged you, you are saying their sin is 1000 times worse than yours, but the Cross says different.

God will let you trust in whatever you want but when disaster strikes, you will find out  just how bankrupt you are.

To really decide, to really commit your life to Jesus, means you cut off all your options.

Nobody is born content – we come into this world grasping tightly to anything we can get our hands on.  Contentment is a learned and cultivated state of being, because “I don’t need it” goes against the greed we are born with and everything our culture stands for.


Wood Tips and Tricks – Shim Material

This post may seem pretty basic but I thought I would share it anyway.  There are times (many times in fact) that things just don’t fit as they should.  Something didn’t come out just right (because your measured wrong?) or the wood changed shape overnight (or was it you cut it wrong?) , or the hinges just didn’t do what you thought (or you chiseled them too deep?) or the doors you ordered were an eighth of an inch too small (because you ordered them the wrong size) or the material was a different size than you figured (this does happen!).  This is a time you need the lowly shim.

Shim material is usually considered to be a piece of wood.  I have shaved some pretty thin wood shims on the table saw to get things to fit right.  But that is not the easiest thing to do and there are alternatives that are just as good and easier to use.

Story:  I was alone in someone’s house installing some cabinets and I needed some shim material. I searched my van all over and couldn’t come up with anything.  So I sneaked into their pantry and tore a section off the top of one of their cereal boxes (true story!  Didn’t tell them…).  It worked perfect. After that experience, I stocked my van with all kinds of cardboard for shims.

Cereal box material is a pretty dense cardboard and works great for shim material.  You can also use manila folder paper which is thinner but also hard, and can be layered to get the desired thickness.  Hinges are usually the place where shims are needed and this paper/cardboard is perfect for this, as it’s easy to cut and form to shape and it will glue into place easily.

Formica can also be used, it’s very hard and comes in varied thicknesses and can take pressures that cardboard can’t take.  It doesn’t glue well so you might have to use epoxy if you use it.  I just shimmed a table leaf with some very thin aluminum, as I knew this would have to take some abuse of the leaf being taken in and out of the table.  You can get this from the dollar store. Buy a throw-away aluminum baking pan/dish (like for a turkey).  The aluminum is fairly thick and can be used for lots of things besides shims.  I used one for a guard on a custom grinder I built.

Tin-can material has been the universal shim material ever since they have been made.  Cut it up, hammer it flat and it can be cut up for all sorts of uses.

In the rack behind my bench, I have a lot of different thicknesses of cardboard and constantly am pulling them out for all sorts of shims.  The cardboard box you get nails or screws in are good for this.  Collect lots of different thicknesses and you won’t need to scrounge in your wife’s pantry for something that will work.

Wisdom for the Day

You can tell if it’s an idol in your life by your reaction when it’s threatened.

If you want to serve like Jesus, you have to be willing to be interrupted.  Almost all His ministry to individuals happened while He was doing something else.

Large events swing on small hinges.

The only wrong doubts are those that keep your from acting.  Acting in spite of your doubts is true faith.

One of the most profound realizations you will have is that someday you will have to stand before God and give an account of your life.

Worship is radical self forgetfulness.

There is no lack of zeal, energy or enthusiasm in today’s Christian; it’s just sidetracked into distractions, amusements and sports instead of God.


Book Quotes – The Church Has Left the Building, by Hayford 3

More quotes from “The Church Has Left The Building, by Jim Hayford, An appeal for church leaders to get back to the basics”.  If you are a church leader, you need to read this book.

We are not to “use” people to accomplish our goals and agenda.  As leaders we have been told to “develop” people into all they can be in Jesus.

[Under section on looking for leaders]  Look for someone who is not interested in fame and power.  Jesus made it very clear that those who were going to be His disciples would have to settle  the “Gentile” or secular issues of coercive power.  He could only use servants – selfless people who were not seeking responsibility or position for the sake of “lording it” over others.

The local church looking to grow and reproduce needs a non-manipulated, Spirit-directed plan born in the Word and confirmed through prayer and fasting.

[Having a missionary guest come to speak on becoming a World Christian will challenge us to become one]  While they might help, no amount of missions conferences, missionary guests, trips to foreign countries, or book reports can take the place of one individual opening his heart wide to the world in a prayer of repentance for being self-consumed to the point of utter unconcern or disdain for a world full of alcoholism, sex perversion, HIV virus, child abuse, homelessness, hunger, occultism, paganism, and ignorance.  It’s time for all of us to become “World Christians.”

[In the last chapter]  Let’s burn our suggestions boxes and get out our Bibles.  Let’s cancel a few committee meetings and go to our knees, asking the Lord to show us what His church is supposed to look like in our town or city.  By keeping things simple and obeying the commands of the “Head of the Church,” we can then find excellence in doing a few things well, rather than in the trap of spreading ourselves thin, competing with the world’s program, and allowing our cultural expectations to define our churches rather than the way it’s supposed to be – the church defining the culture and it’s norms and behavior.



Wisdom for the Day

Everything that God has given you is ultimately not for your benefit or consumption.

Have you prayed about it as much as you have talk/text/blog about it?

An idol is something you fear losing more than your relationship with God.

By what star are you plotting your course?

Do you love Jesus for what He has given you or for what He has taken away?

The bigger the ego, the smaller the person.

When you die and end up in bankruptcy court, there will be no refinancing or bankruptcy loopholes for you to fall back on.

Why do people say, “I’m not afraid of God because He is good?”  Have they never been to the dentist?  cs lewis

God is “out of control” which means you can’t control Him.  He acts completely independent from your wants, needs and desires.