The flames leapt hundreds of feet in the air, an enormous fiery tongue licking the sky as it darted from the peak of the volcano Fuego—“fire” in English; a tongue dead set on devouring and dispelling the darkness of the Guatemalan night. Beauty and destruction shared the stage as great, glowing jewels of lava streamed down the slopes of the cone-shaped behemoth, molten necklaces forged in the heart of the earth, destroying any- and everything in their path.

Barely a day earlier, our team of tourist missionaries had put the finishing touches on 14 homes built for the same number of families in the small village of Trinidad, a village lying squarely in the shadow of that fire-spewing giant. But not to worry—no villagers or their new homes were harmed in the making of that dazzling display of geological pyrotechnics. In fact, the Guatemalan locals no doubt had a “What—that again?” attitude about the whole event. Our vans and trucks filled with mission-trippers, though? Just the opposite. Any sense of personal space was all but abandoned as everyone piled to one side of the vehicle, noses vying for a spot to press against the windows, transfixed by the nighttime spectacular we were allowed to witness as we made our way back to the mission house after distributing food, clothing, and the love of Jesus to 300 families.

It was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The next morning, our last full day in the country, we made our way back to the village to dedicate the homes we had built and to share the gospel with the new homeowners. (Hopefully our interaction with our new friends throughout the week as we built their homes had done that as well, but nothing beats a good sermon delivered in Spanish with conviction and passion.) On the way we stopped for fuel and snacks and a chance to use up some of our local currency before leaving the next day. Fortunately, the station’s parking lot provided the perfect, unobstructed view of Fuego. In the light of day, we could see the scarring left by countless lava flows, including the one the night before. Although it had looked like a full-blown, end-of-the-world disaster movie from our vehicles, only the upper half of the cinder cone was actually scorched—the lower half of the mountain was totally unaffected. Instead of scarring, it was thick with lush, green vegetation, including a large field of corn and beans planted and thriving at the base.

Volcanic soil—borne of fire and incredibly rich in minerals—is the ideal medium for abundant growth. Without the fire, it would be just another mountain: rock-strewn, thick clay soil, almost impossible to till. With the fire, though, the soil was rich and black, supportive of life and encouraging growth.

Fire—it has the amazing power to change anything it touches.

There was another fire…

The flames blew about a second-story room in the Middle East by way of a noisy, gale-force wind, separating into fiery tongues and coming to rest on the followers of the recently-resurrected-from-the-dead and ascended-into-heaven Jesus; tongues dead set on devouring and dispelling the darkness—but darkness of the heart, not of the night.

Beauty and destruction shared the stage as the hearts of those in the room—those who would be the bearers of the good news of freedom and salvation—were both filled with that fire and purified by it. There was no scarring, though. Even though old habits and attitudes were burned away—selfishness, pride, jealousy—healing was instantaneous and thorough.

Barely a week earlier, just before Jesus disappeared from sight, He instructed them to sit tight and wait for that fire, a flame kindled by the one would come to take His place, the one who would guide them into all truth, the one who would enable them to, in His own words…

“…be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 NIV

He tried to prepare them before He left, but they misunderstood why He was there. They spent most of the time wanting to call down fire on people (and not the good kind of fire) and jockeying for cabinet positions in, what they perceived would be, His new government. He was only one man with a job to do—one that only He could do—and they were going to have to step up and carry on the mission once that job was finished. But they weren’t ready to carry on without Him.

At least, not before the fire.

The Holy Spirit—author of the fire that had taken up residence in the very being of those in that room—was the ideal medium for abundant growth. Without that fire, they would just be another group of admirers who were drawn to Jesus’ charismatic leadership; simple country folk amazed at His teaching; people inspired to be kinder, more altruistic, less driven by envy and covetousness. With the fire, though, they would become so much more. They would continue where He left off…

…even to the ends of the earth.

Fire—it has the amazing power to change anything it touches.

That same fire exists today.

Thirty of us on that trip to Guatemala felt that fire—not with the same spectacle they did in that room in 33 AD, with the wind and the tongues, but in a manner that’s no less miraculous. We raised money, got up at an indecent hour to fly almost 2000 miles (twice), slept five to a room, worked in the rain and the mud, cooked, cleaned, and laundered dirty work clothes, passed out food and clothing to over 900 families, played with children—and got up early the next day and did it all over again, all because of that fire.

That fire is a given—not an option—and causes a definite change in the recipient: sometimes a complete, 180° turn-around (like my conversion back in 2010), and sometimes a less dramatic course correction. Both are significant, though, and take us off the path to certain death and put us on the path to certain life.

In the heart of a true believer, that fire creates a new member of the body of Christ—the Church, capital “C”, universal—a member with, according to Paul, a specific role to fulfill:

We have different gifts… Romans 12:6 NIV

…which can include serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, leading, and showing mercy (vv. 7-8)—all gifts that make a mission trip possible.

He also said that we experience the changes wrought by that fire—strength, faith, and the knowledge of the depth of Christ’s love—

…according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:16-20 NIV

Fire… Change… Power… They come as a bundle. You can’t have one without the other; if you have one, you have the others.

If you’re a true believer, have you felt that fire? Have you let the Holy Spirit fan the flames? Or have you felt it but ignored it? Or, worse yet, have you felt that fire but gradually let it go out?

Granted, it’s not outside the realm of possibility to, just like Fuego, go through seasons where the fire smolders. In my six short years as a Christian I’ve struggled through that. But there is always an enormous sense of loss, an emptiness that I long to have the Lord refill, an emptiness that keeps me running back to Him…

…just where He wants me to be. And where He wants you to be, too.

If you’ve never encountered Jesus or placed your trust squarely in Him for salvation, click the link above named “Free” for information on how to do that. You could feel that fire today.

Fire—it has the amazing power to change anything it touches.

If you need proof of that, I can round up 30 references in a flash…

• • •

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21 thoughts on “Fuego

  1. Thanks Dusty for the reminder not to let that fire go out! Sometimes we get to comfortable where we are and do not serve as we should!

    • Same here, little sister! This idea hit me on dedication day right in the middle of two of our new homeowners getting saved. I took that as a sign.

  2. “Look it’s over there! Now it’s over here!” – couldn’t help myself.

    Nothing like laughing while we love on and feed others with the fruits of righteousness that the Spirit ripens among us. That fire burned off the old and worthless parts of my life and gave way to new growth. That is the cycle that the Spirit continues to work through me, while the fire is hot and worries me while it burns, i have such anticipation of what it will allow to come through. Praise the Spirit for being our fire and always keeping us well tended.

    Love the post and appreciate the reminder. Miss you all already!

    • That was indeed a raucous ride ’round the base of that volcano. (Never saw grown people act that way.) Thank you for this kind — and eloquent — comment. If you ever want to guest blog, I would love that. You have a spot here waiting for you.

  3. Beautiful words Dusty. I read them with tear filled eyes, reliving those very moments like I was there again, filled with the same consuming firery love. So blessed to have experienced it with you and to see it all from your perspective. Thank you!

  4. Hey Dusty, my friend! Thanks for those beautiful words. Wish I had been there to see it and to serve the precious ones below it!

    • Hola, Paul! So good to hear from you. Thank you for these kind words. I hope you make it back down there one of these days. (BTW, I’ve become quite smitten with some of your parishioners.) Take care, my friend!

  5. Thank you dear brother for the reminder, that if we belong to Him, we are purged with that fire daily!! That fire does indeed burn from the old person the sin that separates us from the Father, to make us new and purified before Him! I’m always blessed by your posts and always look forward to the next one! Love you dearly and hope to see you again soon!!

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