Just before I left for Germany last week, I was listening to a song by Chris McClarney and I was drawn into the lyrics, ‘Our God is an all consuming fire’
As I listened to the song, I was drawn into a vision where I seen my heart on an altar before God and He said to me
‘Will you give me your heart and let me consume you with my fire’
It would be lying to say that I was agreeable, I was 80% yes, 20% maybe… Somehow, There was something within me that was holding back. Somewhere hidden in that 20% was a challenge that I really wasn’t expecting, the sacrifice of my own heart.
As I’ve walked through the streets of Germany, I’ve seen people who’ve lost everything, refugees in a foreign country, alone and facing an uncertain future. I found myself being deeply challenged by my hearts response to their brokenness. At first, I was really shocked, unprepared to say the least, I had no idea what to do, so I looked away. Somehow, seeing these people in real life and not on my TV screen made me feel really uncomfortable and I found myself almost becoming defensive about my feelings of guilt and shame, justifying my hearts attitude towards them and turning a blind eye to their situation. I continued on my journey, spent an amazing night fellowshipping and praying with people and talking about how amazing God is and what he has been doing in my life, and yet, something was brewing beneath the surface, something wasn’t quite right.
On Saturday night, whilst at a Christmas choir concert, I witnessed something that I’ll never forget as long as I live! A lady walked on stage surrounded by her beautiful daughters, she was a Christian refugee from Syria. She began to sing a song that she wrote herself about how much she loved Jesus then sang ‘how great thou art’ in Arabic, and I was completely and utterly broken. I seen in her a heart that was upon Gods altar, consumed by His fire. And I thought,
‘Lord, if that was my family in their situation, would I be able to do the same?’
I can’t really explain to you what happened in that moment, my heart was filled with conviction and I ran to her, I knew she had what I’d been lacking. She had laid her whole life, her family, her plans and ambitions, everything, on the altar of God as a sacrifice and He had consumed her offering with His fire. As I spoke to her, tears streaming down my face, she took my hands and prayed for me in Arabic and my heart started burning. I knew something in me had forever been changed. The next day, God spoke to me and said
“Oh that you would have eyes to see the brokenness and not look away”.
He started speaking to me about how it takes bravery and courage to look at brokenness and not look away, that it’s fuelled by compassion and love which is a consuming fire. He reminded me of how the Father guided him, moved him and taught him, by looking into people’s eyes and saying “I’m here”. Jesus brought His Fathers heart into people’s brokenness and didn’t look away.
We got in touch with the family and arranged to go to their house that night, where they cooked a huge meal and opened their hearts to us. They told us stories of how they invited Jesus to come to work with them along a 15km journey through ISIS territory, how they knelt in prayer as missiles and bombs flew over their home, how every day they thanked Jesus that they were alive and safe.
I found myself sitting there, completely undone, looking at undiluted brokenness and trauma, not on a TV screen but right in front of me, uncensored and raw. They spoke of how Jesus was right there with them amongst it all and brought them to Germany where we now sat in “Jesus’ house”. All the while, through translations from Arabic to German then into English, they kept saying “Thank you Jesus, hallelujah” and I was completely amazed… After a time of praise where we took it in turns to sing worship in our different languages, we prayed together and left.
Since meeting this wonderful family, i’ve been reminded of the story of Abraham and Issac in Genesis 22, where God challenges him to lay down his son on the altar of sacrifice to be consumed with fire. I’ve been thinking about what this means, the parallel of sacrifice and surrender. Issac wasn’t just his son, he was his very heart, a symbol of the promises God had spoken to Abraham so many years ago, and yet God asked him to put it all upon the altar and surrender it to Him. I love the humanity in this passage, it tells us of how Abraham kept ‘looking up’ as if to say ‘Lord please don’t make me do this’, the passage highlighting “your only son Isaac, whom you love” (Genesis 22:2). God spoke to him and the next day he packed up and journeyed for three days to find a mountain of Gods choosing, can you imagine how agonising those three days would have been for Abraham? It’s beyond comprehension!
I see the parallel of this story in my own life at the moment. God is calling and beckoning me to lay down my heart on his altar and I’m looking up at heaven saying, ‘Lord please don’t ask me to do this!’ Placing your heart on Gods altar means placing all your hopes, dreams, desires and promises He’s given to you on the altar in complete surrender, as a sacrifice saying,
“Father, not my will be done but yours”.
It means handing over complete control and authority into His hands because His ways really aren’t our ways, His thoughts really aren’t like our thoughts and the way He works things out really isn’t the way we’d do it and so when everything is stripped away, it’s all on the altar, three things remain; Faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest of all these things, it never fails, it never ends and is a fire that consumes all the selfish desires of our hearts and brings them into obedience under the weight of Gods glorious presence.
When I looked into the eyes of a family who had lost everything and still praised God with overflowing hearts, I found myself bankrupt and back at the altar, challenged by the 20% in my own life that I’m holding on too. So, what are you holding onto? What’s your 20%? Maybe it’s even more than 20%… Is there something in your life that is preventing you from placing your whole heart on His altar?
Join with me today in surrender, and watch as God moves and weaves His plans according to his ways in and through your life, to His glory and His names sake. Amen