As a kid of 4 I was held spellbound by the dancing flames of a crackling fire in the kitchen wood stove. With paper in hand I would tease the monster… paper in, paper out, paper… whoooof ! Followed by a squeal of delight as the paper caught fire.

Kids love to play with fire!

But one day, my mum had sent me to the kitchen with a whole lot of newspapers. Mum would have freaked out had she known why her little helper was so eager to dispatch the old papers for her.

The game began. Paper in, paper out, …

But as I withdraw the large newspaper just one too many times, it exploded into flame and expanded as the pages unraveled. I couldn’t get it back into the stove opening. I stood there for an instant, panicked. I threw it into the bin where it should have been put in the first place.

The fire ignited the rest of the bin’s contents. Oh boy, I knew I was in trouble. Not for an instant was I going to call out to my mum for help… then she would know I did this…right? So what to do?

I thought I would cover it up with the rest of the newspapers at my feet. Hey, I was only 4.

But with the new fuel source added, flames leapt up and caught the kitchen curtains. So now what do I do?


My mum raced in and saved the day… just. The curtains were lost and the kitchen was quite scorched, as were my ears after the initial hug.

I was only 4. But how often do we see this scenario played out in the lives of adults?

Most strife starts out as as a small thing and quickly gets out of control.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
James 3:5

That dispute with a neighbour… court case! An unresolved argument with a friend or relative… estranged! A difference of opinion with a work colleague or boss… sacked!  That stubborn disagreement over some trivial thing with the spouse… divorce!

We all know when we are out of our depth. But we still push on… just adding fuel. Invariably we wait far too long before we call out for help.

For many, it’s like calling the fire brigade after the house has burnt down.

Swallowing pride is far better than the consequences of not calling out for help.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
James 3:13

Stop it! Stop playing with fire. And if it is too late and getting out of control, go get help early.


  1. Yes call for help but “buyer beware!”

    I have had many experiences of being abused, victimised, and humiliated by people purporting to be the “expert” help for my relational issues. The first one that comes to mind is a “christian” marriage counsellor who actually advised that my then wife and I would be better off separated. Needless to say this was the beginning of the end as all communication lines were cut and it was all down hill from there.

    On reflection on my own life and in the lives of others generally in our community that we are very vulnerable to the attacks of those forces that would seek to isolate us and then set us against each other. Husband against wife. Employer against employee. Church leader against church member. Mother against child. Father against child. In my own strength it seems hopeless. How can that estranged relationship between daughter and father be repaired. After what she did. After what he said. After what he didn’t do. etc played out day in , day out in lives right across our community.

    The first port of call is to realise that Jesus is the only true creator and healer of relationships and then to ask for his wisdom to have the right heart and find that “right” help.

    There is a lot more to say on this topic and I get your point of seeking help as opposed to letting the fire burn. I wish it were as easy as just calling the fire brigade and they come with the water. To extrapolate the analogy further what if the right solution is not actually water ie a chemical fire? and the fire brigade get it wrong? Even after the fire is out there is usually a lot of damage to repair. Is it sometimes better to control the burn?

  2. Hi Mark,

    I’m sorry to hear that when you called for the ‘Fire Brigade’ you got a kid with a bucket and spade. Yes, there will be some interesting conversations with some of the ‘helpers’ before the Judgment seat! I agree that there are plenty of meddlers out there.

    However, and according to the analogy, it is still better to call the Fire Brigade early because you couldn’t put out the fire yourself anyway… let’s just hope they are trained well to know how to deal with a specific type of fire. Just as they are evaluated on their performance, so will all who are called to help, be it this side of Eternity or the other.

    You are fortunate to now know that the first port of call is to realise that Jesus is the only true creator and healer of relationships and then to ask for his wisdom to have the right heart and find that “right” help…. He truly is the best Fire Brigade!

    Mate, thanks for sharing…it really is a sensitive issue. It doesn’t always go well for some…but far better than if no help is called and we see the result like the suicide we witnessed the other Friday.

  3. I was skeptical when I was first introduced to what you are doing however I think I can see how this sort of forum could really help some people with some serious out of control fires in their life.

    Suicide and what leads up to it is certainly a fire worth tackling.

    Often the person in that sort of fire just doesn’t know how or where to ask for help. Do you know of a organisation called “Beyond Blue”…I think it is called. Jeff Kennett has something to do with it. I don’t know much only that it has been set up to tackle issues of depression/suicide etc.

    I have heard stats quoted that 1 out of 5 people will have some sort of temporary or permanent mental illness in their lifetime. looking at CityLife alone this means 20% of at least 9000 members = 1800 and then out of that how many today even if we are conservative at another 20% of that which is 360 potentially struggling with depression or some other mental illness today.

    Maybe it is time for the church to be more confronting to draw out the people in the fire.

  4. Scary statistics, huh? As you know, the church is made up of its people and not a faceless organisation. It is each of our responsibilities to look out for one another. Leaving it just to the Pastors alone can never be an option. But as Pastors we are very aware of the stats and try to be diligent in follow up when we are made aware of any ‘situation’. At CityLife we have developed an emergency crew (the Pastors) and a good ‘Fire Brigade’ called CityLife Community Care:
    And yes, Beyond Blue is a good organisation for those suffering depression:
    LifeLine Australia – suicide prevention is another:

  5. Hey Pete, very very true. You brought back a memory of the same thing I did when I was a kid, although I think I was a little bit older. Mum asked me to put some paper in the bin which was in the kitchen next to the stove which was on. I thought to myself, I wonder what would happen if I were to put the piece of paper in the fire first and then throw it into the bin….so I did this and instantly found out….the flames started rising out of the bin. I called out to mum whom rushed in, grabbed some water and doused the flames. There was wet ash all over the kitchen floor. I thought I was gonna cop it bad but instead mum thought some how the bin caught fire from the stove and blamed herself for having the bin so close to it. It wasn’t until well into adulthood that I owned up to what had happened. Could have been worse….mum to the rescue and lesson learnt.

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