Controlled Burn

September 10, 2013

When on vacation, my family and I enjoy studying facts about the area where we are staying. So, at the start of our Gatlinburg, TN vacation, I bought the book “Great Smoky Mountains Trivia” at the Visitor’s Center.

While our kids had no idea, my husband and I immediately understood the reference to Smokey Bear in a few of the questions. For those of you who are too young to remember, let me educate you on Smokey Bear’s wisdom.

“Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires.”029c3232ce6c7a15355efd406fb8ecfb

Smokey Bear started telling people about fire danger in 1944. He was a cartoon bear used by the National Forest Service in a campaign to protect national forests from human-caused fires. In the campaign, Smokey Bear often pointed and declared that “Only YOU Can Prevent Wildfires.”

While still active, the campaign now features a realistic-looking bear, still pointing. However, those of us who remember Smokey Bear likely realize the significant absence of this campaign as compared to its heyday.

Great Smoky Mountains Trivia”explains that foresters now recognize fire can benefit nature. Today, park managers decide on a case-by-case basis whether or not to fight fires or allow them to clean the forest.

Additionally, the National Forest Service now educates people on the benefits of fire. They still educate about fire safety and being responsible to not carelessly cause a forest fire that could destroy homes and wildlife, but the finger-pointing pressure seems to be off of “YOU” just a bit. In fact, forest experts explain that fire can significantly benefit forests so much so that they sometimes intentionally start or “prescribe” them.

Prescribed FiresAugust 2012 (16)

Known as a “controlled burn,” a prescribed fire “refers to the controlled application of fire by a team of fire experts under specified weather conditions that help restore health to fire-adapted environments.”

Forest experts name the following as benefits of “prescribed fire”:

  1. Reduces excess brush, shrubs & trees that stifle new growth.
  2. Encourages new growth to flourish in space created by burned excess.
  3. Maintains structure for the many plants and animals that need fire to stay healthy.
  4. Reduces catastrophic damage from unplanned fires that destroy homes and other land beyond the forests.

The key with “prescribed fires” lies with their execution at the hands of experts who carefully plan the fires so they can be used in constructive ways.

The Last Days’ Fire

Forest experts understand the benefits of a “prescribed fire,” and that understanding transfers well into what Bob Sorge in “The Fire of Delayed Answers” says about “The Last Days’ Fire.”

Sorge says that “the righteous will understand what this fire is all about. They will embrace the fire, and rather than finding it destructive they will discover it to be constructive in their lives.”

The fire Sorge refers to are the “trials” named in Daniel 12:10: “Many will be purified, cleansed and refined by these trials… Only those who are wise will know what it means.”

Just like forest experts use “prescribed fire” to benefit the forest, God also uses fire to purify, cleanse and refine us. He uses it to prepare us as vessels for “honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Without God’s refining fire, we become overgrown with excess. We become distracted, our lives filled to the point that new growth cannot flourish. Even our basic structures become damaged because we can no longer fit in that (fellowship & time with God) which promotes growth.

God’s refining fire, his “controlled burn” in our lives reduces excess. This process purifies and strengthens our love making us increasingly aware of what Sorge describes as the “apathy, greed, lukewarmness, materialism, and the self-indulgent spirit” of the culture in which we live.

Unlike Smokey Bear, God does not point at “YOU” to prevent fire in your life. Instead, He asks that you look to Him as the expert in refining through fire, trusting that His “controlled burn” results in healthier and stronger lives.

DISCUSSION: How do you react to the “controlled burn” of God’s expertise?

This post connects with an Internet Book Study introduced to me by my friend Rick at Planned Peasanthood. In addition to Rick’s posts on the book, be sure to also check out those by Jason, Dusty, Sarah, and Glynn. The “club” covers a chapter in the book “The Fire of Delayed Answers” by Bob Sorge every two weeks.

28 Responses to “Controlled Burn”

  1. chashutch Says:

    Great post. Thinking of Smokey Bear takes me back to when I was a kid, watching TV with my Dad and remembering all the old shows.

    I'd like to think that I've reached a point where I welcome the cleansing fires, but as each fires shows up, I still have to stop and test it to see where it's coming from. Not sure if that's a lack of trust or is actually wisdom.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      You make a great point about testing to see where a "fire" is coming from. Satan is the great deceiver, so we can't put it past him to try and send us fire that destroys instead of cleanses. It's like the foresters who decide on a case-by-case basis whether to put a fire out or to let it burn. We too need to be educated on the Truth, so we know the fake when we see it. As always, the answer is more of Jesus. Getting to know Him and His Word more is the only way I know of to have the wisdom to discern a destroying firing from a cleansing one.

  2. cycleguy Says:

    I like the idea of controlled burn. Not an out of control one. God knows what He is doing and I have to trust Him to know when He will put out the flame.

  3. Deb Says:

    Kari, I just finished reading Stronger, by Jim Daly. He does a great job encouraging us to focus on God's work to strengthen us through struggles. I love your closing paragraph. Experience has shown me that His refining fires, though hard at the moment, have made me stronger and healthier in Him.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      I'll have to check out Daly's book when I'm ready for another book to read. Just like a controlled burn makes forests healthier & stronger, so do God's controlled burns in our own lives. As you mentioned, your life experience tells you that. Thanks for the testimony!

  4. jason1scott Says:

    God Himself is all-consuming fire, but the trials we endure are not. What a glorious revelation that is! These controlled burns take out what needs to be taken out and replenishes things. Great analogy and post, Kari. Thank you.

  5. Mark Allman Says:

    Wow Kari,…. Great Post!
    Our tendency is to run from fire; to think that no good can come from allowing ourselves to be burned. Running from God is like running from a fire. We think we are doing ourselves good but in reality we may need to be burned to learn that which no other way would suffice. I do not like to sit with pain and we want to do almost anything to lessen the pain instead of examining to see what is causing it and what we should do with it. Sometimes we need to ride it out to learn and other times we need to change something that will redirect the pain. I wish I often took steps to expose myself to the fire of discipline so I would not have to endure the fire of repentance.

  6. joellmorris Says:

    I, too, am reading this book with the gang and I have enjoyed everyone's posts so much! This book it is not for for wimps! Bob Sorge is getting right to the heart of whether we really trust God to know what is best for us as He gives us the answers we need to have, when we need to have them and allows us to walk through the fire as we wait. Your reference to Smoky the Bear made me chuckle a little bit. I definitely remember the commercials from back in the day. As I read your post, I was reminded about the fact that there are some seeds that can ONLY germinate and sprout as a result of a fire. They can lie there in the ground, dormant for years, just waiting for the right moment to grow. The same is true for us as well…that growth and maturity come as a result of the fires and trials of our lives. So glad you are joining in the discussion! Great post!

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Thanks, Joell. God's "controlled burn" in my life has benefited me in tremendous ways over the years. The biggest times of growth usually come after the time of purging brought by these fires. Trusting Him is the key, and it's an upward spiral sort of journey.

  7. rickd3352013 Says:

    We're the ones who go out of control – most often, for believers – by stepping in and taking our lives back out of God's hands and believing ourselves to know what's best for our lives. Dangerous, that course of action is <spoken in true Yoda fashion>

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Well, we don't know how to orchestrate a "controlled burn," do we? Only God knows how to perfectly "burn" in our lives for growth. And, by the way, anything spoken in true Yoda fashion sounds wise… doesn't matter what is said.

  8. Coach_Mike Says:

    Wow…I am showing my age when I say I can remember the early TV advertisements of Smokey the Bear back in the 50s and 60s. But on your reflection about controlled fires, your comments are excellent reminders why we go through trials and tribulations in our life – they are God's "controlled fires" to burn off unhealthy habits and attitudes in our life. The refiner's fire purifies and purges with His glorious purpose in mind. Do I enjoy the "fire"? Absolutely not going in, but prefer the result after the smoke clears and it becomes clear why it was necessary in my life.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      Must have been some ads in the 70s too since I remember them 🙂 No, the fire is not particularly enjoyable, but an awareness of the results to come sure makes going through it "easier" somehow. Knowing His faithfulness helps so much in realizing that good is coming. In fact, it's good like we've not known before (rivers in the desert and paths in the wilderness) because God seems to always outdo Himself, doesn't He?

  9. mary Says:

    I know I am really late in commenting but I am just now getting a chance to read a lot of this weeks emails. We are back in Wisconsin where I have better connection and we are rolling so my hubby is not using the modem that connects us to the world.
    I am reading an awesome book, Captive in Iran. It talks of 2 young women whose story is amazing. It demonstrates the hunger of those who have never heard the Truth. They were held captive in Iran for distributing Bibles and for not being Muslim. I encourage others to read it It is a good challenge to our complacency in our faith. The testing by fire is a good thing!.

  10. […] to Victory | Controlled Burn – Sorge says that “the righteous will understand what this fire is all about. They will […]

  11. danonleadership Says:

    What a great spiritual picture. God wants to burn away anything that holds us back from him. Reading this reminds me of John 15 where it talks about God cutting away the branches of our life that does not bear fruit (My translation). Great thoughts!

  12. TC Avey Says:


    I've started reading this book and plan on joining in the discussions soon.
    When I first started reading your post about fire, I thought, "wow, this goes great with the chapter I just read!" Then I kept reading your post and found out that was exactly the point you were making!

    These two really stood out to me, "Reduces excess brush, shrubs & trees that stifle new growth.
    Encourages new growth to flourish in space created by burned excess."

    I want new growth but that means some other things have to go!

    • Kari Scare Says:

      One of my motto's it "Get rid of the bad. Add in the new." I know, pretty simplistic, but it's really the answer to every area of life from mental to physical to spiritual. And, God's controlled burns do exactly that in my life. Thanks, TC!

  13. I heard that Smokey was based on an actual bear that got burned in a forest fire and survived. Not sure if that's true though.
    This is a powerful post. I taught recently on how good uses trials to purify us. Everything he gives us is good – even the painful times. It really has to do a lot with faith in his loving character.

    • Kari Scare Says:

      I read something similar except that the bear was named after Smokey because Smokey was actually in existence before this bear was burned in the fire. Anyway, faith and His loving character are everything. His grace & mercy will carry us through life. Think of Job… he had no written word yet he remained faithful, and that's due to the grace of God. More on that next week.

  14. This is very inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing this powerful post. Seeing an article about Smokey Bear throws me back to my childhood.

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