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  • Rick LoPresti

The end of the flame

The scientific process is one of making observations, repeatedly testing those observations, and confirming those observations before making any conclusions. Three stages of this process are called hypothesis, theory, and fact. Before something is accepted as a scientific fact, there should be rigorous research done. Even then, honest scientists should always be open to new information that brings what they thought were established facts into question. This level of uncertainty is unsettling to some, but is necessary for real scientific inquiry. Unfortunately, not everyone in the scientific community is willing to acknowledge how little they actually know, and how much of what they claim to know as fact is actually just hypothesis. Prestige, position, grant money, and acceptance into the "club" depend upon conformity to an accepted narrative, even when there are valid scientific questions to be posed. Sadly, any evidence that contradicts the party line is suppressed. This is not new to the 21st century. Scientists of the past who are now revered were widely rejected in their day.

There are also accepted facts which are so recognized they are called laws. These are usually broad laws that govern how things behave in nature. The first law of thermodynamics is also known as the law of the conservation of energy. It states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant, and that energy can be transformed from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed. This along with several other laws poses a problem for the atheistic evolutionist, particularly when it comes to origins. Since energy cannot be created, where did it come from if there is no divine Creator? The second law of thermodynamics also poses a problem. It is also known as the law of entropy. It states that all ordered systems tend to break down into disorder. Yet the evolutionist asserts that the opposite is occurring. Evolution also cannot explain the origin of matter or information (including alleged increases in information), the immaterial, and life. The law of biogenesis is that life can only come from other life. There is no valid explanation for how the jump from non-living to living was made outside the Bible. The Bible provides answers to all of these and many more questions with scientific accuracy.

Returning to the law of the conservation of energy, there is no new energy - only energy which changes forms. Potential energy can become kinetic energy. A great example of how this works is fire. We think of fire as something that uses up or destroys sources of energy. When the fuel is burned up, the fire goes out. We even have the phrase "up in smoke" to describe how something that was no longer is. However, fire does not destroy matter. It transforms it. It changes everything it touches. The wood is changed into ash, not eliminated entirely. Ash also has uses. It is a source of potash for soil. It can be used for composting, deacidification, making lye, in insecticide, and as an ingredient in soap among other things.

I enjoy watching a fire in a fireplace or campsite. Not only does it give off light and heat, it is relaxing. The sounds and smells are only surpassed by the hypnotic beauty of the dancing flames. It is fascinating to watch the ends of the flames. As the flames rush upward away from the wood and the base of the fire, they just reach into the darkness and vanish. This happens over and over every second. If you watch the ends of the flames, it is impossible to perceive the where the flame ends. It just leaps up into the darkness and is gone so quickly. In a larger fire, many flames are doing this all at once at different speeds and heights, and the eyes cannot tell exactly where the flame ends and the night begins. The light ascends to a certain point and then it is gone. The energy goes from the visible to the invisible so fast we cannot distinguish the transition.

Fire plays an important role in the Bible. It can symbolize God's judgment (Gen 19:24, Deut 4:24), His presence (Ex 3:2), His power (Acts 2:1-4), His guiding light (Ex 13:21), and His righteousness (Is 33:14-15) among many others. There were 6 pieces of furniture in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and 3 of them used fire - the brazen altar, the lamp, and the altar of incense. The above mentioned natural facts about fire also have spiritual meaning. Fire transforms whatever it touches. As fire represents the Spirit and power of God, it changes everything it touches. How we respond determines what effect it has, but we are all affected. It can purge us of sin and renew us, or it can burn us up in judgment, but we cannot go without impact (Mt 3:10-12). The power of God is neither increased or diminished by us. That is impossible. God would not be God if that was the case. There is no new power of God. There is only the way we are transformed by it one way or the other.

As a flame rises from the base to disappear, the Spirit of God takes from the visible to the invisible - from the natural to the spiritual. This cannot be perceived by the carnal nature of man. It can only be seen by faith (Rom 8, 1Cor 1-2, 2Cor 4:18, Heb 11:1 & 27). As a flame gives off light and heat, the presence of God and His word give us light to see our way (Ps 119:105 & 130), and warm our hearts in this cold, dark, world (Mt 24:12). Fire turns potential energy into kinetic energy. That means it takes energy that is not accomplishing anything but has the potential to, and activates it. God created us all with purpose, but it cannot be realized without His power (Jn 15:1-16). His fire can fall on our altar of sacrifice and consume our offering to consecrate us (Lev 9:24), give us repentance (1Chr 21:26), make us dedicated (2Chr 7:1), and revive us (1Ki 18:38). Periodically, the Levitical priests would have to cleanse the altar by removing the accumulated ashes (Lev 4:12, Lev 6:10-11, Num 4:13). The ashes were a byproduct of producing a sacrifice that smelled sweet to God. There was also the special use of the ashes of a red heifer (Num 19). They were used as a cleansing agent from uncleanness. The Bible calls the sacrifices a sweet savor to God 88 times. Some people like the smell of a barbeque, but it is not usually thought of as sweet. It was the communion with His people, not the smell of burning animals, that God found to be sweet. There was a special temporary vow a man could voluntarily take called a Nazarite vow (Num 6). Part of this vow involved the man not cutting his hair. At the end of his time of special consecration, the man would come to the tabernacle, shave his head, and burn the hair on the altar. Anyone who has ever smelled burning hair knows it is not a sweet smell.

Since fire can also represent the judgment of God or destruction, let us look at it from that angle. When Nebuchadnezzar the pagan king of Babylon had a 90 foot tall idol built, he commanded everyone to worship it (Dan 3). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (their real Hebrew names) refused to worship anyone but the true God. Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace heated to seven times it normal temperature, and these three men were tied up in their clothes and thrown in. The only thing that burned in the intense fire was the rope used to bind them. Their hair was not singed, their clothes did not burn, and not even the smell of the fire had gotten onto them. When this world tries to attack us for our faith, the only thing that will burn from a spiritual perspective is their useless attempt to destroy our faith in God if we stand firm. They will watch the base of the fire to see if it can destroy us, but we will look at the end of the flame to see power of God work the miraculous transformation into His spiritual, eternal realm.

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