Tag Archives: baptism of fire

Crown-worthy Preparation

2 Jul

My life took a tumble within the last few weeks. On top of surgery and recovery, I went through hard to swallow disappointments, discouragement, and dashed dreams. Paul wrote that I can rest assured that what I’ve experienced is not uncommon, so I know you can relate to me. Perhaps some are in the tossing, turning, and free fall of life right now. If so, take heart. God has a purpose.

Have you ever watched clothes in a dryer? Especially noticing your favorite shirt rolling up the side then dropping down, disappearing, catching a glimpse of it in the back before showing up again pressed against the glass? Knowing it will in the right time come out of the chaos dry and wrinkle free gives us patience to let it continue.

Recently, I read an article on how to polish rocks using a rock tumbler. I couldn’t help but see a metaphor for what I’ve been going through and of life in general, especially the Christian life. The rock polishing process begins with selecting the right stones. And once selected, they are scrubbed to remove surface crud. That may include knocking or chiseling off sharp protrusions before being put into the tumbler.

As much as we say we found Jesus, the fact remains he chose us–before the foundations of the world Paul tells us. And after our being joined to him, we often see much of our crud purged from our lives. Joy fills us when we realize for the first time how great it is to be free of those things.

When we think life couldn’t be better, we experience upset. Confusion, pain, and disillusionment tosses us like the shirt in the dryer and like the stones in the rock tumbler. Here is what to remember. After the choosing, scrubbing, and shaping, the craftsman puts several stones into the tumbler along with some hard grit and water. He then turns on the tumbler for a specific amount of time. At the end of that time, he turns off the tumbler, washed the stones, and checks their progress. Then the process is repeated.

Jesus is the master craftsman. He has a purpose for each one he chooses, a purpose far greater than scrubbing away our crud. He puts us together with others {we aren’t alone in our tumble}, uses the washing of the word and the power of the Holy Spirit to smooth out other imperfections. The stone-polishing process is repeated until the ugly rock shines with the brilliance of a precious gem. (Note: the gem was there all the time, but only the Master could see it.) And so it is with us. Jesus is changing us from “glory to glory.”

As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…”
Perhaps the next time life is a jumble with no stable ground to stand on we can remember our heavenly stone polisher. Instead of fearing or complaining we can say, “I’m becoming what God sees in me and shown to the world–a gem suitable for being part of his crown of glory.”

On Fire By not For God

26 Feb

I was six years old when the movie The Ten Commandments came to theaters. Certain scenes anchored themselves in my heart and influenced me greatly. I had never been to church nor had ever heard the story, so each time God showed up I wanted to know more about him. Even today as I re-read the account in Exodus, I marvel over the burning bush.

Picture it. God introduced himself to Moses as a bush engulfed in the fire of his glory, not needing the bush as fuel for his fearsome, raging fire. In that encounter, God ignited a fire in Moses and made him into his commander-in-chief over a nation that wasn’t yet a nation. The change in Moses whenever he left the presence of God could be seen. It was as if the fire within caused his face to shine.

To help guide the nation toward knowing him as Moses knew him, God established his law, statutes and precepts. With a list of things to do, the people tried to be righteous in their own ways, and they missed it when Jesus came to them to fulfill all the prophecies concerning him.

In John 9:5 Jesus calls himself the light of the world. And in John 12:44-46 he says, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

James testifies of Jesus, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning,” (James 1:17 NKJV).

John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Like Moses, the apostles had God’s fire ignited in their hearts, and they passed in on to all who would believe.

Now, more than two thousand years later, do outsiders see God’s fire in Christians or the law? For that matter, what do Christians see in the church? Historically, the fire created the desire to know more and brought change. Miracles confirmed the word. And the instructions served as guidelines to lead toward a greater relationship and knowledge. Let us pray for the fire.

We Can’t Enhance God’s Work. We Mustn’t Detract Either

20 Feb

Two separate scenes (seemingly two separate messages) recorded by Luke—one right after the other—captivated my thoughts. They made me wonder if they instead of being unrelated incidents were complementary to one another for a more complete understanding. Read them in Acts 5.

Ananias and Sapphira

In the first, we have the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. At the end of chapter 4 we are told the believers began living in deep community. Many, if not all, sold what they had so that the money could be shared and have all things in common. No one with surplus, and definitely no one in lack. Since it seemed to be the Christian thing to do, Ananias and Sapphira joined in. However, they agreed together to reserve a sum in hiding for themselves (for that rainy day). The Holy Spirit revealed their deception to Peter who confronted Ananias as soon as he presented his sale proceeds. He had no time to repent (possibly no heart to, either), but took his last breath and was carried out.

When Sapphira came in to meet up with her husband, Peter asked her if they sold their property for a certain amount. She confirmed what she and her husband had agreed to say. Peter confronted her for sharing in the attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit. The men who had carried Ananias arrived in time to carry her out, too.

Same error as Uzza

Their stunning account lacks meaning without considering an Old Testament example of similar quick judgment. In 1 Chronicles 13, Uzza died the moment he reached out to keep the Ark from slipping off the cart when the ox stumbled. In our minds we think like Uzza might have reasoned. I know we are commanded not to touch the Ark, but should I do nothing and let it fall? I doubt he had the time to think that through; he simply reacted. But he was judged for disobeying God’s commandment. Fair? We would say he deserved grace in the situation. Just? In accordance with God’s word. The Ark was sanctified holy.

In like manner, the Holy Spirit prompted a holy thing with the deep uniting of the hearts of the believers. It was holy. Ananias and Sapphira came in and touched it with unholy hands. Judgment came swift and complete.

Wisdom of one priest

After this account, the Apostles are thrown in prison for preaching Jesus again. The religious leaders—the keepers of God’s word and teachers for the people—became jealous over the numbers of Jews turning to follow the teachings concerning the Christ. Many wanted to put the leaders of the new sect to death, but one of them (Gamaliel) stood up with this wisdom:
“So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (NKJV).

In other words, like Uzza of old, don’t meddle with what is holy.

Our take-away

I’ve spent several weeks writing about the baptism of fire, a baptism I believe will be coming for the Church. It will undoubtedly bring about what some may think to be radical changes and will likely face opposition. John exhorted believers to test the spirit to see whether a teacher or his teaching is of God. We are not to accept or reject every new enticing thought without testing them by the Holy Spirit within us. And may we not confuse our natural discernment with the Lord’s. Come Holy Spirit fire.

The Seventh Glorious Fire

30 Jan

What if this Sunday someone stands and sounds a trumpet: taht-ta-da-DAH? Then across the room another sounds: taht-ta-da-DAH. Once more in harmony. Then someone else stands and announces, “THE KING IS IN THE HOUSE.” And before you have a chance to entertain your what-kind-of-stunt-is-this thought, a tsunami of awe and wonder floods the room. What if?

We see it with Moses

The baptism of fire of God’s glory is coming, and this should not be a surprise, it’s the seventh and final category of fire types I’ve found in the Bible. For a glimpse of what it might be like, step back into time with me to about 1446 BC. In Exodus 3 we find Moses knelt before the burning bush—a bush engulfed in a fire that didn’t kill the plant. The leaves didn’t even curl from its heat. God spoke to Moses from it and gave Moses his mission.

Later in chapter 19, Moses climbed Mt. Sinai. The mountain was covered in a cloud, thunder, lightnings, fire and smoke. The Israelites probably reasoned among themselves that he wouldn’t last ten minutes in all that. After forty days, they turned to Aaron and told him to make them a god to follow and “let’s get out of here. Moses isn’t coming back” (my paraphrase). But then he appeared walking down the mountain, carrying two stone tablets written on by the finger of God.

Approximately two years later and following Moses’ instructions, the priests put the final piece of the tabernacle in place. The fire and cloud that had been leading them through their travel came down and filled the tabernacle. Moses knew he would survive entering the fire of God’s glory. He had been there before. When he exited his meeting with God, his face shone with a light so bright he had to cover his face with a veil. And, it wasn’t this one time. Scripture records this happened every time Moses entered God’s fire of his glory.

And in the beginning of the Church

The first-generation Christians experienced a spiritual equivalent. The anointing upon the Church at first stupefied the religious leaders. Jealousy and fears then warred against the Church. With each generation the light dimmed until it looked like it had been extinguished. Then the period known as the Reformation ushered in a restoration process. Bit by bit through the centuries old truths came as revelations, bringing to life things forgotten from the original Church.

When the last detail ordered by the Lord is put in place in his tabernacle made from the lively stones of men, when the corporate Christ stands in the unity of faith as one, when the fullness of time has come; God’s fire of his glory will fill his house once more. Christians are looking for Jesus’ return. This is not it. Rather, God’s glory filling his Church makes the way ready for his return. In those days he can receive his bride without spot or wrinkle.

And when we think we can’t hold more

John prophesied Jesus would baptize in Spirit and fire. These seven purposes of fire do a complete work in believers’ hearts so the power in their lives becomes clear to all that the work is from God, not of men—his standard raised in the flood of evil. It’s a time when what we accept by faith to be spiritually true becomes true experientially. Our challenge–and it is a challenge because the flesh wars constantly against the Spirit–is to let the different fires do their perfect work. To not only allow, but also to pray for it. Oh, to hear, “The King is in the house.”

When Is a Fiery Trial Not One?

9 Jan

On Mountain Top

Whew! We made it through the holidays. I guess I’ve experienced almost every emotion around them over the years. The wonder, the nostalgia, the warmth and love, the joy of having family together again, and the emptiness of seeing an empty chair. There have been times I simply wanted to skip them altogether. Have you ever felt that? Not this year, though. Excitement about being with those who could make it to our Christmas gathering filled our hearts. One son finally was able to make last minute arrangements, but the other son told us he had to remain on base until sometime in January. We got a head start on celebrations when our son in army training walked out from backstage to greet us at the church Christmas Eve service.

To the Valley

We had a beautiful Christmas, but New Year’s Eve brought us back from our euphoria to the harsher realities of life. A feared event in one daughter’s life moved from possibility to reality, and we were in a fiery trial. We can’t escape them, friends. They happen. Sometimes they happen at the worst possible times. Sometimes traumatic. But they happen.

Peter and Paul warned Christians to expect them. And not only expect them, but also know that God is still in control despite appearances. Some Christians evidently had been told (as is the case in America today) that Christians have been set free from them. Somehow we have a blessed life void of hardships. Experiencing such difficulties must mean you have hidden sin in your life. Here are a few quotes that indicate otherwise:

Matthew 5:45 “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Hebrews 12: 7-8 “If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.”

Hebrews 12:11 “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

Fourth Example or Aspect of Baptism of Fire

If you have been following my earlier posts about the fires of destruction, judgment and purification; you would be right in asking why I list fiery trials as another fire of the promised baptism of fire. The answer is quite simple. The fiery trials have two definitions. We call major disruptions, traumatic events, and illnesses our fiery trials. Some may be so severe that we are tempted to doubt or even leave our fellowship with other believers. But these events are those common to man. No one is exempt from having these in our lives. For that reason they cannot be the fiery trials that are part of the baptism of fire promised to believers.

Peter takes the discussion to a different level as he writes his first letter to the churches. Persecution of Christians was still ramping up, and he wanted to give a word of direction and encouragement. We read this in 1 Peter 4:12-16:
“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”

I love it when he clarified two types of persecution against believers: that caused by peoples’ reaction to seeing Jesus in us and that caused by our bad behavior with claims of doing it in Jesus’s name. So, am I saying I believe fiery trials in the form of persecution of believers is coming as part of the baptism of fire? Yes, I am.

I am because judgment begins in the house of God.

I am because Jesus is coming for a bride without spot or wrinkle.

The Simple Truth

And I am because we turn our hearts to seek God’s face when difficulties arise. God desires a people who seek his face constantly, but our flesh wars against the spirit so we let down our guards and don’t realize it when we begin to slide away from him. The entire history of Israel and the church has included times of apostasy and falling away. With Israel, God sent other nations to war against his people, to bring oppression, and all forms of hardships until they cried out and turned their hearts again to him. Paul said in his letter to the Corinthians that these things that happened to Israel were given for our examples to learn from.

To the persecuted church James adds, “ My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. (James 1:2-4).

Now is the time for us to exercise our faith that we might be able to withstand the temptation to doubt or turn away when the true fiery trials come. Be strengthen by his spirit and the power of his might in us. The baptism of fire is coming. The last three types of fire we will look at are more fun and should lead all to say with John, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.”

Baptism of Fire Type 2

5 Dec

Can I ask you how many types fires are mentioned in the Bible, specifically God’s fires with divine purpose? This excludes references to camp or cooking fires or lighting a lamp. I’ve identified seven, and I believe each of them are parts of the Lord’s promised baptism of fire. Now, look at your list (if you wrote them down). Where did the fires of judgment place?

I’m going to guess that many if not most thought of it first. There’s good reason for that. God has said an all-consuming fire will destroy the earth in his final judgment. Peter described it with great imagery. John wrote in Revelation three times that Satan, his demons and lost souls will be cast into the lake of fire. Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” depicts man as a spider held by its thread over a fire. Evangelists over the centuries often employed such word pictures to scare people into Christianity.

We must not fear the fire John the Baptist prophesied. The promised baptism of fire from Jesus is for our good. Don’t lose hold of that fact—even when the fire includes judgment.

Several years ago, a friend of mine and I built me a garage. We did all the necessary paperwork with the city (plans, permits, inspections, etc.). In spite of the care we exercised, one extra measurement to doublecheck our work got skipped. As a result, the foundation was one-half inch out of square. We had two choices: tear out the concrete foundation or try to adjust as we went along. I chose the least costly approach, but that half inch niggled us through the entire structure, even to the last shingle.

Apostle Paul used a construction analogy in a letter to the Corinthian church. He drew a parallel to individual believers building Jesus into their lives and also corporately building up the Church.

1 Corinthians 3:9-15 “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Before I jump into the fiery judgment aspect, first note the foundation is perfect. No one can add to it. We can’t add a wing for our spiritual mancave. What we build must be on the foundation—no cantilevers allowed, either. We build upon (upward on) our foundation Jesus.

The building materials we use will have to go through the fire. Gold, silver, and precious stones refer to God’s righteousness, truth, love, grace, and mercy in all their forms including the Law and the prophets. The wood, hay, and straw (or stubble as some translations have it) are what we add and allow in our own tendency to err. Jesus spoke of them to the Pharisees as traditions of men. Peter mentioned them as private interpretations. In short, human imaginations that fulfill natural wants. New churches continue to be created over them, further dividing the Church.

Paul wrote this letter to end the schisms starting in the church in Corinth. Verses 12 and 13 above spoke as a clarion, warning them of the direction they were heading. Their work will be judged. I think most look at these verses—at least I know I have—and think this fire will test our work at the judgment seat. However, I believe now the Church in the last days will experience this as part of the baptism Jesus gives to his Church. The corporate man in the last days will not be deformed by the whims of men. It will stand erect as a true representation of Jesus to the world. We will see this more clearly as we examine the overlap with the fire of purification.

Fire that destroys the bad is a good thing, right?

28 Nov

I believe there is a coming baptism of fire for the Church. There. I’ve said it. If you have been following my blogs—especially the last few, you might have already guessed that. And for me to understand it better, I looked in the Old Testament for how fire was used by the Lord. My search uncovered a progression of fires leading up to the main event, so I hope you will stay with me as I take you through each step I found.

First, fire destroys. I know, over simplification. However, it is important that we consider this aspect of fire in the Scripture. And realize, too, destructive fire differs from the fire of judgment or purification. At times they overlap, but as we apply it to our daily lives, we can understand how much one is separate from the other.

Destructive fire is something we know all too well. The news often carries stories about home or apartment buildings making families homeless or taking lives. Forest fires must destroy thousands of acres and still be raging out of control before national news reports on them. God’s use of destructive fires, however, deserves pause for consideration.

For today’s blog, Daniel chapter three provides the best imagery of destructive fire in our lives. It’s the story of Daniel’s three Hebrew friends who were bound and cast into a furnace because they refused to bow to the king’s idol. The fire burned so hot that those who forced them on their way died. Yet, after fire cooled enough, King Nebuchadnezzar drew close to look in. He saw the three walking around unbound (he noted) with a fourth man whom he described as looking like the son of God.

The narrative goes on to explain that, when the king ordered them out, their clothes didn’t even smell of smoke. The fire destroyed only what had them bound.

Fiery trials are never fun, but I’ve learned they can be my friend. First note that we are never alone in them. It may seem like the opposite is true. Sometimes prayers feel like they hit the ceiling and crash in broken pieces around our feet. We want to see an immediate answer, but the flames burn higher and hotter.

Instead of pleading for escape, I’ve learned to ask God to use them to destroy anything in my life that has me bound. Anything that keeps me from being who he has created me to be. Those things that hinder me from doing or experiencing what he has designed for me. To be a better expression of Jesus to the world around me, I need to have some things in my life destroyed. I will be better off without them, and greater things happen when my goals line up with his purposes for me.

Self-determination and wanting things our way has brought much division in the Church. A baptism of fire is coming to burn this away so that once again we can be part of one body, a standard he can lift up as a light in the world.

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