Smokey the bear

Smokey the bear
by Joel Howard

"Only you can prevent
Forest fires" - Smokey the bear

For a long time, say 3 or 4 months, I have had that line ringing in my spirit.  "Only you can prevent forest fires".  As a child, I heard it over and over in commercials and at the occasional national park outing.  I was told by the media and by adults to be careful when having the recreational campfire to be aware of my plan to put it out.  

As a middle-aged man, with children of my own, and now as a man of God, I try to steward the voice of God through the Holy Spirit. Whether it is a prophetic dream needing to be submitted to the Lord in prayer, or a picture or word during a devotional time of prayer, I try to steward carefully what God gives me. 

So when I sit down to reflect on this one: "Only you can prevent forest fires," I do so with care and yet excitement, knowing in the Lord's hands it can yield fruit and benefit the body of Christ around the world and in my circles of connections.  

With recent events such as hurricanes, wars and violence, as well as famine, pestilence and inflation, I can't help but wonder what our responsibility is as humans in a time like this.  Yesterday, as I watched the headlines about Hurricane Ian in Florida and felt burdened to pray, I heard in my heart: "If you want me to make adjustments, what adjustments are you willing to make?"  I sensed the Holy Spirit speaking of his desire to have his church, Christ's bride, ready.  Holy. Set apart and pure.  

"What adjustments are you willing to make?"  

As we look at the circumstances on earth worsening, we desire and crave a resolve. "The new normal". Getting back to business.  I can't help but wonder if we are missing a piece: God's heart.  What is the new normal he desires for us?  What would need to change in order to make his heart happy?  Content. Satisfied - with us!

And so we return to my good friend, Smokey:  "Only you can prevent forest fires."  I know God is in charge. I know he is in control.  He can do anything.  Yet I also know, things are not right - and we have a part to play - not in controlling, but adjusting.  Not in making things right "over there" - but instead here.  In our homes. In our hearts. In our families.  In our spheres of influence.  

"Only you can prevent forest fires." In the book of Jonah, the people of Nineveh heard a similar call:  "Yet 40 days and your city will be overthrown!" (Jonah 3:4, ESV) And they responded.  They bowed down in humility and made the proper adjustments. And what happened?  God adjusted as well. Out of the goodness of his heart, and according to the mystery of his will, he relented from sending calamity. 

Friends, bride of Christ, Church:  Only you can prevent forest fires.  What adjustments are you willing to make in your heart, in your home and in your life - to see God's mercy unveiled in your region, in your "world"?  

As you see the patterns of destruction unleashed throughout the earth, consider what you can do to adjust to God's heart today.  And may we all see those "fires" prevented in our midst.  

One last consideration: Don't just think of protection for you and yours.  Consider enlisting in the long line of intercessors who pray for the nations of the earth, and not just their own.  Yes, pray for your home and your region. But also ask God to give you grace to contend for the body of Christ around the world!  See how he broadens your influence in prayer.  

Paul knew the significance of linking our prayers to those of the church worldwide: "I urge that supplications, prayers and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions..." (1 Timothy 1:1-2, ESV) and "you know that the same kind of sufferings are being experienced by your brotherhood around the world..." (1 Peter 5:9, ESV).  

We know that the world is at war, at risk and in turmoil, but do we know our invitation to a role in letting God revive the world through us?  Sparing souls through us?  This is our call to action:  Let us pray, and never give up!  

"Will not God give justice to his elect who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:7-8, ESV)

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