In my years within ministry – and without – I have heard quite a few worship songs with the lyrics containing references to God’s fire or something similar. Typically they are composed as a cry for God to send down his “fire” or his spirit, seemingly to cleanse us, so that we may better serve Christ – or to “ignite” our hearts so that we may carry His power in greater measure and witness with greater boldness and fervor. When I hear these songs I often wonder if the lyricist – or the singer – is aware of what they are truly asking for.
Now before you write me off as a bitter cynic about to bash some very meaningful worship music, “hear” me out. I think you’ll enjoy the read…
There are references to fire throughout the scriptures. However, lyrically – in Christian music – references to fire are most often coupled with a request for God to “burn away the dross” as is mentioned in Malachi 3. Many sing this lyric without even a full understanding of what dross actually is.
Websters defines dross as scum, waste or foreign matter, impurity, and/or something that is inferior.
In times of scripture a refiner would stoke a fire until it would be heated to over 1700 degrees F, which is the melting point for gold. Precious metals would be placed in the fire and, as the gold would begin to liquefy, the impurities and waste would rise to the top and be skimmed away. The refiner would stir the molten gold to bring more dross to the surface to be removed, until no contaminant or corruption remained.
Let me reiterate. 1700 degree flames. Fire that is hot enough to completely liquidize one of the hardest substances on earth and expose all of the flaws for expunging. That heat doesn’t sound comfortable, or even pleasant. And most often that type of “fire” in our lives comes in the form of trouble, heartache, or soul-penetrating events.
Are you ready for that? For your life to be heated by tests and trials, struggles and challenges so that your hardened heart begins to melt – bringing your flaws of anger, mistrust, unforgiveness, and/or doubt to the surface and forcing you to rely solely on the refiner? Or perhaps your refining experience will involve finally grasping that overwhelming understanding of the Father’s white hot love for you and you will be overcome with agonizing gut-wrenching sobs, broken-hearted because of your own sin that you have attempted to hide in your encrusted heart.
Both sound painful. Hard. Excruciating even. Neither one are encounters that stir a desire for a no-holds-barred, bare-feet leap into blistering flames of fire. Yet that is what we ask for when we sing “Send the fire”.
I’m not asking that we do away with songs petitioning God for the refiner’s fire. I’m not arguing that lyrically they are incorrect, or that the songs have no value. On the contrary I believe they are most often penned from the hand of a lyricist who has endured extreme soul-anguish and, heart-broken, wants nothing more than to be purified and holy before God.
What I AM asking is if we, as worshipers – and as singers of songs – honestly consider the words that are passing our lips? And are we seriously, for real, desiring the sin-revealing, agonizing, refining flames to ravage and expose our heart when we sing? If we can authentically and heartily respond with a “yes” of conviction, then I say let’s throw our heads back, open our arms wide and cry aloud to our All-Consuming God: “Lord, Send the fire!”