Fast Moving Fires: Lessons on Sparks and Flames

This last week I watched from a distance over the horizon of media as my beloved California burned. It was sickening.

My wife and I made our first home in Napa. We lived in a little cottage near a grape vineyard. For a young poor couple, patching together income to pay living expenses and tuition, it was a busy time. But… LIVING IN SUCH A BEAUTIFUL PLACE MADE IT A TIME OF JOY.

As their October 2017 fires– the worst in their modern history–burned through trees, homes and lives, we were praying and stay saddened.

I spent over 35 years living in California. It taught me a lot about fires, and floods, and earthquakes.

As a kid, our house flooded, and we had to move. In my 20s and 30s, my wife and I went through two 7+ earthquakes (one in Nor Cal and one in SoCal). After 6.5, things get back quickly.  During one Sierra Nevada trip we came within hundreds of feet of a bad forest fire and saw first hand what others talk about: the roar, like a train, as fire moves through a forest.

The recent N.Y. Times article on the speed of the 2017 California fires shows how fast fire can burn up homes and lives:

This summer of natural disasters–hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and floods–have been bad enough.

Even more concerning has been the power of hate to burn through social relations and lives. The acts of violence in the shooting in Las Vegas and the bombings in Somalia show us how fast hate can burn through neighborhoods and lives faster than anything else.

Ellen White spoke of the speed of this type of hate: “The agencies of evil are combining their forces and consolidating. They are strengthening for the last great crisis. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.  The condition of things in the world shows that troublous times are right upon us. The daily papers are full of indications of a terrible conflict in the near future…. Men possessed of demons are taking the lives of men, women, and little children. Men have become infatuated with vice, and every species of evil prevails.” Testimonies, volume 9, p. 11.

Her fears became reality after her death as throughout the 1900’s, during two world wars, community regimes,  carnages in South East Asia, and the Cold War, we saw how quickly human life can be wasted by bullets, bombs, fueled by hate.

Hate–be it in an individual or in a nation–can develops quickly. First, it sucks away the oxygen of reasonableness, fans a slight into a warfare, talks a doubt and flames it into paranoia and then into over reaction.

Hate can’t think straight!!! What was the purpose of the Las Vegas shooting? It was senseless and meaningless slaughter? It was what we can expect from evil angels, but not from humans who love each other.

This is the agency of evil that should most concern us… not just in others, but in ourselves.

Last year, I remember jumping to conclusions on an event and almost hurting an innocent person. He forgive me for my impetuousness, but in that moment I saw how fast a slight can end up in a fight which can end up burning through social relationships.

While hope in the second coming is the ultimate solution to the tinder box situations of this early, we have the privilege now to spending time with the Water of Life and be a hose of cold water on the flames around us. We have the right to avail ourselves of a righteousness not tied to our good works but to His great works, and let that be the best fire retardant on our minds that prevents fire from jumping from our lives into those of others. Or, as Church Swindoll says, we can be a cool hand on a hot head (his classic line on what Abigail did for David).

We don’t need to Adventist who want to run away from these disasters. We need to support ADRA or other local initiatives. Plus we need to decide not to let Satan’s anger become ours. We should not be escapists-individuals who hide from the needs of others as any type of flame threatens lives. We can bring our experiences with the Prince of Peace and the Water of Life to this raging environment of hate.

For those of us in the U.S. who are called Christians, we can be cool hands on hot heads to keep the current rhetoric from spreading more flames. We can be peacemakers even at the risk of our lives.

God help us as these last movements become even more fast moving!!!!



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