Where There’s Smoke

It’s been a horrendous year for forest fires. This summer we could barely see the sun for weeks. Smokers stopped buying cigarettes. Just stood outside and inhaled deeply. Seriously, I applaud those who risk their lives for us.

Did you know that these monstrous blazes can move at speeds of 20 kilometres per hour or 13 miles an hour. The flames travel faster moving uphill than down; an extra 10 degrees of slope will double the speed of a fire.

Large fires can create their own wind and weather, even causing fire tornados and hurricane-force winds.

One study found that 84% of wildfires have human causes. Unattended campfires. Discarded cigarette butts. Dropped matches. The deadliest wildfire last year was in Greece. It was started by an arsonist. With the careless strike of one match, 91 lives were lost.

Janice Stevenson stopped alongside the road for a smoke and tossed the still-burning match, lighting a fire that took more than a thousand firefighters two weeks to extinguish. The fire raced through the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, scorching more than 80,000 acres. Stevenson was sentenced to 25 years in the South Dakota State Penitentiary. “Rather than putting out the fire,” an affidavit said, “she looked at it and decided to leave the area.” She appealed, but the sentence was upheld.

One September night a small fire broke out in Thomas Farriner’s bakery on Pudding Lane. Flames spread from house to house and London was engulfed in the Great Fire of 1666. Over 70,000 people were left homeless. The blaze leveled eighty percent of the city.

James, the half brother of Jesus, warned us about the power of a tiny spark. James 3:5 (NIV) says, “…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.”

Few things are more destructive than the tongue. An ill-spoken word can set things ablaze. Gossip and slander spewed can cause destruction. But words can also be constructive.  Proverbs 16:24 says,

“Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

Paul, who once persecuted Christians, said,

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt…” (Col. 4:6).

Under the Holy Spirit’s control, tongues once used to ignite fires will begin to put them out.

Phil Callaway

Phil Callaway, the host of Laugh Again, is an award-winning author and speaker, known worldwide for his humorous yet perceptive look at life.

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