Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 29 - June/July 2009 > On Fire for God (by John Morris)

On Fire for God

by John Morris

On Fire for God

My father was quite the athlete in his early years.

Our first record of his achievements is at age 13 when he was Cub Scout Champion for the Metropolitan District, and age and junior champion of the Western District Schools at a swimming meet held at Mortlake Baths in 1925. He was in the First Leichhardt Boy Scouts where he was a member of the Football team which won the Bert Taylor cup in 1927 and 1928.  He was at the same time active in the Sea Scouts being a member of the First Leichhardt Troop based at Rodd Island in Iron Cove , a location that many Sydneysiders know nothing about. We have pictures of him with other scouts on well equipped bushwalks, canoeing down the Shoalhaven River and, in his 20's, on walks with other young people of his age tramping through the Royal National Park.

My earliest recollections were different, never of an athletic Dad. Sure, he would play different games with us children. However, the early activities never seemed to be replicated. It was as if a door had been shut on that portion of his life.

When I was about 14 or so, Dad decided that it was time to show me that he still had it, that he could keep up with teenagers. He dreamed up a trip for himself, me and another teenager from the church we attended and a good mate at the time, Frank McLoughlin. We were going to re-live Dad's scouting days. The plan was to travel by train to Moss Vale, walk from Moss Vale to Kangaroo Valley, out to Nowra, and then take the train back to Sydney. We would be walking on the road from Moss Vale to Nowra, not bush bashing, and he estimated that we could cover the distance in 3 days without us (the teenagers ) collapsing.

We arrived at Moss Vale station (by steam train) at 9.00pm and began walking. Fitzroy Falls were reached at midnight and we decided to bunk down at the top of the falls. The choice of accommodation was limited. We selected the picnic tables under which to make our bed. It was a bad choice, the wind moved up the valley up the falls and across us. Frank and I seemed to get to sleep for a while until Dad succumbed to the cold and came over and tried to snuggle up to us to get warm. We lost the night and any further sleep and as soon as we could see we high tailed it down the road in the direction of Kangaroo Valley. Lunch was a gourmet's delight. The afternoon walk was pleasant and we reached the Kangaroo River crossing at sunset.

In the park on the north side of the road adjacent to the Hampden Suspension Bridge, which crosses the Kangaroo River, we found a level spot close to a fire place and took up residence for the night. The Hampden Suspension Bridge by the way is quite an engineering feature. Built between 1895 and 1898 it is now the only surviving timber decked vehicular suspension bridge in New South Wales constructed in the nineteenth century and the state's number 2 suspension bridge. After the evening meal and a little chit chat we decided to call it a night. We were lucky to find a log about a metre long and 500mm diameter and sat it on top of our fire which by now was mainly hot coals.

It worked! The fire made all the difference. We all slept like a log, and did not wake even for nature's call until piccaninny dawn when we found the log and the fire were just one small layer of ash across the fireplace. Frank and I felt great, and ready for the next part of the trek. However dad didn't. We went down to the local post office and Dad put out a help call to Mum to come and pick us up. Mum came under protest as that ruined her plans for the day. Dad never tried it again.

In the late 1960's I worked at Walkers Limited in Maryborough , Queensland. Walkers was an engineering company and was well known for its production of steam engines, boats and sugar cane mill machinery. When we arrived in 1967, the company had just finished production of a diesel hydraulic locomotive (Australia's first) that was being given exhaustive testing by the Queensland Rail system. During my stay in Maryborough, the company won a contract for the manufacture of a number of these "automatic transmission" locomotives. The company also won a contract for the assembly and part manufacture of the first Australian Navy patrol boats, the Attack class.

      HMAS Aitape off the coast of New Guinea (1)

The hull and superstructure were made by ComEng in Brisbane and brought up to Maryborough on the back of trucks where assembly was completed. It was a shock to come over a rise on the Bruce Highway to find police cars and bikes pushing you off to one side then a few seconds later to have a big semi-trailer with half of a boat hull coming for you at 100 kph (60 mph).

Sugar cane machinery, both new and repairs, was a big part of the company's business during the first 6 months of the year before the cane harvest began. Gear wheels, crushing rollers and other equipment ran off the production line in large quantities during these months. Most equipment was made by preparing moulds into which molten metal would be poured. After cooling, the mould would be broken off the metal form inside and various finishing operations occurred to put the product into operational condition.

The special part in the process was that of making the steel required. The company had a large electric arc furnace, cup shaped with a heavy lid through which carbon rods were inserted. Steel of various types, scrap steel, broken equipment, and new iron were loaded into the furnace, the lid was closed and the power turned on. The level of noise produced and the amount of dirt and dust released during the "melting" process was astounding. The heat made all the difference when the electric arcs were activated. The hard metals would melt, over a few hours, and with the addition of various additives, manganese for example, attained the qualities desired for a particular product. The rubbish floated to the top of the furnace was removed as slag, fit only for the dump. Another fascinating aspect of the process was the way the metallurgist would walk up to the furnace and look into it (wearing protective goggles) and tell from the colour if the mix was ready..

Christmas 2001 was going to be different.  The young people from the Thornleigh SDA Church, including teenagers and young married couples with and without kids decided to spend Xmas at Easts beach south of Kiama. Marcia and I were kindly made welcome for Xmas day. The beach was 3 hours drive South of Sydney and the day was perfect. There was not a cloud in the sky, the temperature of the early morn gave a hint at a day requiring sunscreen and hats and we set off early to make the most of the day at the beach.

After passing to the South of Wollongong some 50 km from home we could see "clouds" further to the south, big billowing shapes on the horizon. It was not long before we woke to the fact that the clouds were not clouds but smoke. It was clear there was a major bush fire but apparently well south of our destination.

Xmas at the beach, beats cold winds and snow any day. It was a terrific day, the water was deliciously cool, there were trees and tents for those that needed sun protection or a protected place to sleep. It was a relaxing day, time to forget those business worries, and what was happening elsewhere in the world and enjoy the company. It was a great time to catch up with friends some of whom traveled long distances to get to the venue.

We pulled out mid afternoon. We could not totally forget the rest of the world for the next day (Boxing Day to Australians and December 26 to the rest of the world), Marcia and I were flying to the USA for a mate's wedding and then a drive yourself holiday. On the way back up the coast we found from the radio news that there was more bushfires than the one we had seen on the way to the beach. The winds had picked up, arsonists had been having a field day and parts of Sydney and the adjoining areas north and south were under serious threat. We were forced to divert from the coastal highway across to the Hume Highway via Appin. We found ourselves in the middle of one of the fires. This time the fire was life threatening.  The farmlands to the west side of the Highway and the median strip were ablaze. The fire crews had us stop for a short while and then allowed cars through during a short period when the wind had died down. The result of the day's fires was the destruction of thousands of hectares of bush, farmland and property.

The fire we had on that night in Kangaroo Valley was great, it produced sufficient warmth to settle us down for the night and provided comfort and relaxation that was missing the night before. Yet most of the heating potential went in the direction of the heavens. Radiant heat was the reason for our warm night. Put a fire into an open fireplace at home and you get the same result. You benefit from the radiant heat almost totally. While the open fire looks great and has its own atmosphere "The catch is that open fireplaces are very inefficient; about 85% of the heat goes right up the chimney". (2) "Fireplaces are notorious for heat loss. While burning, the average fireplace is operating between 5% and 15% efficiency, drawing almost as much heat up the chimney as it is producing…" (3)

To be effective in most cases a fire has to be contained to enable the heat generated to be captured and put to use. Install an airtight slow combustion heater (which allows you to use both radiant and convection heat) and the heating efficiency jumps to between 55 and 70%. (4) Drop the coal into the firebox of 3801, the pride of the New South Wales "ferroequinolgists" (lovers of the iron horse), a streamlined Pacific Class locomotive, and you can create a record for the Newcastle Flyer running between Newcastle and Sydney of 2 hours 25 minutes that wasn't bettered until the introduction of the electric interurban cars.

Doctor Luke writing to his good friend Theophilis (recorded in Acts 2) identified the secret for being a record breaking Christian. The disciples were meeting in "an upper room" and had  been meditating, and praying and reviewing the last 3˝ years spent with Jesus together when following a sound of rushing mighty wind, tongues of fire appeared on their heads "and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:4 KJV). In 20 or 30 years the good news about Jesus had been spread throughout the Roman Empire and the world has never been the same. The early church was fired up and performed

The filling of the Holy Spirit was not limited to those attending the conference at Pentecost. Paul encouraged the church at Ephesus (see Eph 5) to "walk in love as Christ also loved us", to "walk as children of light" and to "walk circumspectly" and to be "filled with the Spirit". His directive to the church at Philippi was to allow God to "work in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure". And in his first letter to the Corinthian church, encouraging the church members to live wholesome lives, Paul writing almost rhetorically wrote "Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have received from God?"  And going back to the letter to the Ephesians Paul pointed out that "having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance" ie eternal life.

The Holy Spirit had been active in Old Testament times, though not as openly "visible" following Jesus return to heaven. Bezaleel was Spirit filled (Ex 31:3) to equip him for the design and construction of the sanctuary, Joshua was "filled with the Spirit of  wisdom" (Deut 34:9). Micah declared, "But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord" (Mic 3:8)

God will do the same for you today. Accept God's gift, allow the Holy Spirit to fill your heart and mind and be on fire for God. Don't be an open fire and waste the resource.



(1)  Used with permission. accessed 21 July 2008

(2)  "Put another log on the fire". Ham M. Accessed 20.02.2009

(3)  "Fireplaces and Woodburning stoves…may raise energy costs" Black Hills Power Dakota USA   Accessed 20.02.2009

(4)  "Choosing and operating a wood heater"  Energy Smart Information Centre   Accessed 20.02.2009

Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION Copyright 1973, 1978, and 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zonderman Bible Publishers.

KJV - indicates taken from the King James Version of the bible.

This article and the pictures it contains are Copyright © 2009 by John L Morris.  Used by permission.

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 29 - June/July 2009 > On Fire for God (by John Morris)