Exodus 19

touching fire

A few weeks ago I was standing on the rooftop of our church along the northern shore of Dakar. Our Sunday morning celebration was minutes away from beginning and I went up to inspect the construction of our children’s area underneath a veranda. My eyes were drawn by the deep blue of the ocean peaking through black crisscrossing electrical wires strung between beige concrete buildings and ramshackle constructions along a dirt alley.

I walked closer to the edge and looked down as hundreds of people moved up and down, left and right; men, women and children busy in the meandering tasks of morning. I was stirred that for every hundred faces and frames moving along the roads, ninety six of them have never heard the gospel. My heart began to cry out in intercession that our church would be planted firmly in the heart of this community and bring many unreached nations to Jesus.

Looking down I noticed two small boys, dressed in blue standing on our sandy stoop, peering in as the people gathered to worship. As the boys looked in through our open door I prayed. I prayed for us, that we would be living expressions of God’s love in their lives. I prayed them, that they would come to know Jesus and His kingdom that cannot be shaken.

All of a sudden the pierce sound of a woman shouted at the boys. Laden with a baby woven to her back in a bright colored wrap was a woman who had been watching the two boys intrigued by our presence. She shouted from across the street at the boys as if they were in danger of being hit by a car. “Careful!” she yelled as if they were playing with fire, a match in one hand and a spraying aerosol can in the other. “Careful!” And flailed her arms to shoo them away from the flames.

It all happened so quickly. The boys turning toward her bewildered and then ever so slowly walking away from our open door. As they retreated toward the street the woman continued to glance back to ensure their safety. I was left standing there, alone; the rooftop witness of a drive-by quelling. That woman’s voice echoing in my ears her warning, as if we were ablaze, the building spitting flames, our lives on fire.

But the more I reflect on that event the more she’s right! We are on fire. We serve a God who is an all consuming fire (Heb. 12.19). And unlike the people of Israel we are not warned from coming near His presence (Ex. 19.21). The Holy Spirit of the living God has fallen upon us like fire from heaven and the smoke of His presence raises up from our church like smoke from a kiln, like smoke from an unquenchable fire, like a smoke signal to the nations.

We have access to the very presence of the Sovereign God, we have access through our Lord and Savior Jesus who has placed His blazing Spirit within us. So, as the writer of Hebrews put it “let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire,” and the nations are watching.