The last couple posts about fiery experiences in my life raise the question of God’s protection as described in Isaiah 43:2,3. What does it mean that “we will not be burned”? What does God’s promise of protection really mean?

As a 34-year-old, I led a group on a weekend getaway during a mission trip in Indonesia. That day was an outdoorsman’s delight: hiking to the rim of a volcano! It hadn't erupted in 16 years so it was supposed to be a safe yet adventuresome voyage. Go figure—the volcano erupted.

The recent Waldo Canyon Fire that consumed our home has caused me to think about other times I have encountered flames. (I'm noticing a new theme in my life!) I remember one incident when, as a 27-year-old dad, I used "improper fuel" to start the gas grill.

As I write, the fire in the mountains above Colorado Springs is 98 percent contained and has consumed 18,247 acres. It has been surreal seeing the destruction. At one point there were more than 32,000 people displaced and reports indicate almost 350 homes have been destroyed. Including ours.We are stunned by all this and sobered by the road that lies ahead for us personally and the city as a whole.  We are keenly aware that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity where the hope of the Lord is needed by many thousands of dear souls.

Just a few days ago, my wife, Pam, and I stood on a hilltop in the dark, surrounded by others watching flames and smoke swallow the foothills of Colorado Springs. We knew some of those blazes might be swallowing our home. Those around us feared the same. That night Pam and I held each other close and wept and prayed.

Pam and I recently became grandparents for the first time. I had been told by more experienced grandparents about what would happen in my soul, but I don’t think I really believed them. Well, it’s begun. I get so excited to see little Arie. Even seeing his picture can make me feel, “this little guy has part of me in him!” And surely, we see characteristics of his mom (our daughter) and his dad in Arie.

Beginnings tell you a lot about any story. Try missing the first 15 minutes of a good drama, and you’ll spend the rest of the movie trying to catch up! The beginnings of our own lives tell us a lot about our own journeys.
 

As a young man I remember being told things like:

 
Jesus didn’t come to set up a religion, He came to establish a relationship with us and start a community of friends who would follow Him together.
 
or
 
Religion is man’s attempt to reach and find God; Jesus represents God’s attempt to reach men and women that they would find Him.
 
Yet, we have a world filled with people attempting to reach God, please God, or serve God through religious behavior, performance, and rule-keeping.

In the religious circles I grew up in, guilt seemed to be a prime motivator to keep me in line, or to prompt me toward obedience and good living.  Many people I’ve talked with over the years seem to identify with this performance-oriented spiritual perspective.  In fact, I was just with a friend who confessed that he feels like he doesn’t measure up and that God views him as under-achieving or handicapped in some way.

A couple of posts ago, I talk about some of the challenges I experienced during my years growing up: moving 10 times before college, being a “late bloomer,” being in a religious environment that put a premium on good performance as a measure of spirituality. All this made ripe the possibility of a performance-oriented view of life. I felt I needed to work hard, perform for others, and please significant people (parents, teachers, friends, even God). While that impulse taught me the value of hard work, it also created in me the belief that full or true life was to be found primarily in performing, achieving, and pleasing people.