Matthew 3: 11

As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Have you been baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire? What does a person who has been baptized in fire look like? Why does the prophetic word teach that Jesus’ baptism is not only in the Holy Spirit but also in fire?

Many days when I sit down to write the Word of the Day I ask the Father, “What can I possibly write that will ignite people? What will awaken their former zeal?” Too many of us have fallen asleep in our faith. I preach to myself as well. Am I aglow with the Holy Spirit as I once was? I believe Jesus wants us baptized in fire so that we will burn with devotion and passion. I keep thinking of people who are “on fire” for God. Where has our passion gone? Have we abandoned our first love?

This verse always reminds me of Moses and the burning bush. The bush was not consumed. It wasn’t a natural fire, it was the Holy Spirit. It got Moses’ attention and he turned aside to observe it. That is exactly what I think the baptism in the Holy Spirit and fire is supposed to do for us. We become those burning bushes which attract people. Look at this story more closely for a moment. “So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am,” (Exodus 3: 3 – 4). What an amazing encounter. Observe the dynamic though. The bush afire garnered Moses’ attention. When Moses took the time to turn aside and look at the bush, the next thing that happened is that God spoke to him. Wow!

We are to be those burning bushes. When we are on fire for God, people turn aside to attempt to discover what is so amazing. When they do, God speaks. We are called to be the catalyst though. When we burn brightly, people are drawn to God. I am concerned that our flames are beginning to go out. We just don’t seem to be red hot anymore. What does it take to get dying embers to burst into flame? Is it something I can give you? Is it something God needs to do? Is it something only you can do for yourself?

You have heard it said that Paul told Timothy, “Stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands,” (2 Timothy 1: 6). This is from the King James Bible and it’s a good word. However, many other translations, reflect back to the fire that was to come to us through the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This is how the Tree of Life version reads, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” The Passion version says, “I’m writing to encourage you to fan into a flame and rekindle the fire of the spiritual gift God imparted to you when I laid my hands upon you.” The fire and passion of Paul’s heart is heard in these words.

I wish I could lay hands on every single one of you and breathe upon the spiritual gift that has been imparted to you through Jesus’ baptism. However, I can’t, just as Paul couldn’t at the time he wrote to Timothy. We are going to have to fan the flames of the Spirit ourselves. I pray you become an inferno for God. I pray you and Jesus stir up those embers and rekindle the roaring fire you once were. And, if you have never been on fire for Jesus, if you have always been a bit lukewarm in your passion for Him, I pray right now, in the name of Jesus that the Holy Spirit touch you and love you into an unquenchable fire. Jesus, send your Spirit to breathe on each one of us. Refresh our anointing and our fire Lord. Amen!!

Compelled by Love

2 Corinthians 5: 14 – 15      (CSB)

For the love of Christ compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If one died for all, then all died. And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the one who died for them and was raised.

There are two pieces of this scripture, as I see it. Dying with Christ and living for him. Jesus died for us all, we know that, and our sinful selves were crucified with him. Thank God! Then, there is life after death, this life we now live in our mortal bodies is a life after our crucifixion and burial with Christ. Paul believed that the love of Christ compels this conclusion and compels us. Do you agree? Paul writes that because Jesus died for us, we no longer live for ourselves, but for him. Are we compelled by our conclusions and beliefs to live our lives for Christ?

Frankly, it is a privilege to live for Christ. I praise God that we can live our lives in and through Christ, but I believe this verse raises some large and rather personal questions. Do I actually feel compelled by his sacrifice to live for him rather than for myself? And if this compulsion is present in my thoughts and heart, have I followed through on it? What does it even mean to live no longer for myself but for the one who died for me and who was raised?

It is only in Christ that we have life at all. We were raised with him, sanctified and redeemed. Life without Christ is no life at all but as I ponder my life and the lives of other Christians, I find myself wondering if we do much justice to his sacrifice. Do I honor his sacrifice by truly living my life in and through him? Or is he an afterthought at the end of my day? What does life look like between morning devotions and evening prayers? Is the life I give him what he bargained for at the cross?

As I pose these questions, the answers are all too obvious and I fear I fall far short of the goal. I give him and those he died for so little when he gave me his all. I also find myself lamenting the lack of zeal in my generation. We seem to have fallen asleep at the wheel. I wonder what legacy we will have to give to the next generation of believers. Will they be even more apathetic than we? What can we do, no what can I do, to awaken an entire generation to the glorious life we could have in Christ? How can we stir up the gift inside of us, as Paul counseled Timothy, so that our passion is ignited?

I pray, in the name of the anointed one, that as we bask in the Christmas Spirit, something will happen within each of us so that every soul will be touched and renewed. I pray that we will share in Jesus this season and that his Spirit will kindle something within us so that we burn for him as never before. May your heart and spirit be blessed with the grace and love of the Lord Jesus, and may his life and light burn within you as an unquenchable fire. Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Bless the Lord, all you saints. Amen.

 Fire for Four

Daniel 3: 25

The king replied, “But look, I see four men. They’re untied, walking in the middle of the fire, and unharmed. The fourth one looks like a son of the gods.”

I saw a quote recently that makes sense to us and can be inspirational. However, taken out of context may also communicate a wrong message. There is so much misunderstanding in this regard that I thought it important to reassure us as to God’s position.

The message of the quote is that God is with us in every crisis. The unfortunate language quoted in this book was, “As sure as God puts His children into the furnace of affliction, He will be with them in it.” First of all, this may well have been lifted from a larger message so we bear that in mind. However, some people may read this and rather than take away the good news that God is with you at all times, even in the roughest of times, they may only hear, “God caused all this bad stuff to happen to me.” That is not the message of the gospel.

Of course the quote brings to mind the three Hebrews who were tossed into the fiery furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Do we think, though, that God put them into a fiery furnace? “Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with anger toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face turned red. He ordered that the furnace should be heated seven times hotter than normal. He told some soldiers from his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego so that they could be thrown into the blazing furnace. Then the three men were thrown into the blazing furnace. They were wearing their clothes, hats, and other clothing. The king’s order was so urgent and the furnace was so extremely hot that the men who carried Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the flames from the fire. So these three men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—fell into the blazing furnace. They were still tied up” (Daniel 3: 19 – 23 GW).

It wasn’t God who condemned them to burn in a furnace. That was Nebuchadnezzar’s doing, wasn’t it? This is the truth we need to embrace. Although God shows up when we are in hot water, it is not He who turned on the boiler. God is love. That is who and what He is and He cannot act in any way that is inconsistent with a full expression of love. Once you nail down this cornerstone of your personal theology then other pieces begin to fall in place automatically.

Romans 8: 28 is the seminal scripture regarding God turning lemons into lemonade. It reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” He takes those bad things and turns them around but He is not the author of them. When you combine this verse with James 1: 13 you begin to have a sustainable personal ideology about God’s role in calamity, “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” This tells you that God isn’t bringing these challenges on us but we are assured by Romans 8: 28 that He is the first on the scene, ready to rescue us and to turn the situation around so that it benefits us.

God sent Jesus into the midst of the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego when Nebuchadnezzar ordered them thrown into the furnace. That is the message I believe was intended to be conveyed in the quote. No matter how hot the fire or deep the water, God will always put Himself or His son right there with you so that you will not burn, drown or fail. He is not only the God of love but He is love. He is the strong fortress and the very first Red Cross agent. God gave His son and Jesus gave his blood so that we never have to face tribulation alone. We are intertwined with the most powerful force in the universe and we shall, therefore, prevail. Praise God!

Fire and Hammer

Jeremiah 23: 29

“Is not My word like fire?” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”

It is interesting to see how the Lord describes His word. In this passage the Lord was talking about the prophets. He was displeased because they were not telling the people what His word declares. He said in verse 28, “Let him who has My word speak My word in truth.” This is the job of the prophet. The mission is not to tell cute anecdotal stories and jokes. It is not the administration of the church. The basic function of pulpit ministers is to speak God’s word in truth. Why is this so? It is because the word is powerful.

What words would you use to describe fire? The word which comes to my mind is “consuming.” God’s word is consuming like fire. And why do you suppose God compares His word to a hammer. Is it because it is a tool with which a person can exert great force? Fire is full of power and energy as well. It seems that God is conveying to us that His word is a powerful force in our hands and mouths. He chastised the prophets because they were not equipping the people with the Word. The prophets were not giving the people that one tool which was able to overcome their problems.

What challenges are you facing right now? Make a list of them, actually write them out on paper. Don’t let your issue remain nebulous ghosts which haunt your waking and sleeping hours. Write them down. Now look at the list. Every single one of them has an answer in God’s word. Look in the back of your Bible for related verses for each. Search online, ask your pastor, ask me. There are answers. Don’t let those problems have free reign in your life. Light them up with the word. Burn ‘em down and beat them over the head with your Word hammer. The Word is more powerful than those challenges. Let’s get after them!

Jesus’ Baptism

Matthew 3: 11

I baptize you with water for repentance but after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

It is a new year and with the new year, hope springs eternal. I pray that you have great expectations for this year. I pray that you are looking for new revelation and new challenge. There is something fresh and optimistic about the beginning of a new year. Let’s pray together that we can challenge our assumptions and reach for the fresh new revelation that the Lord has for us this year.

Today’s verse represents one of those areas where we may challenge ourselves and perhaps open the door for new insight into the Lord Jesus and his hopes for our lives. John the Baptist was speaking. He spoke about his ministry and about the one who was to come after him, namely Jesus. Each, it would appear, has a baptism ministry. John’s baptism was of water and that baptism was for repentance. Most of us are familiar with water baptism. In fact, most readers of this devotional have been baptized in a water baptism. The curious part of the verse is John’s description of Jesus’ ministry of baptism. He revealed that Jesus would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire. What does that mean? Honestly, we are much more familiar with John’s baptism than we are with Jesus’. There is something in that truth that rankles. Since Jesus is our Lord, it seems we should be more familiar with his baptism.

I am not going to suggest what I believe it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire. Instead, I wish to offer this inquiry to you. This question can be our journey for the year. Each verse we read, each devotion may lead us into a deeper revelation of what John meant. Every word Jesus spoke may give us a glimmer into what it means to live in this baptism from Jesus. Each revelation from Paul and the other writers of the New Testament reflects on the ministry of Jesus even as the entire Old Testament was a prophetic forecast of the coming Messiah. My point is this, Jesus ministry is revealed in every Word from God. Every revelation since the beginning of time was intended to reveal the Messiah. Since the Messiah came to earth for the benefit of humanity, then each of these revelations was for the betterment of our lives.

I offer this question to you then, what is this baptism of Jesus? What is the baptism with the Holy Spirit and fire and what was it intended to accomplish in our lives? The Messiah is come. In his wake is a plethora of gifts and anointing and revelation. What will Jesus show us this year about himself? What does he long for us to understand? Have great expectations and allow the Lord, our Christ and friend, to fill you this year with more of himself.

Fired Up

Romans 12: 11        (Amplified)

Never lag in zeal and in earnest endeavor; be aglow and burning with the Spirit, serving the Lord.

Are you on fire for God? That is what this scripture is telling us we can be; that we should be. Do you know that glow that a bride has  on her wedding day? That is like the glow that should follow us. When we get a real revelation of the deep love the father has for us, it lights us up like a Christmas tree. Then we can evermore glow with the fire of the Holy Spirit. We need that. Stir yourself up so that you never lack in zeal for the Lord. Serve Him with a full heart because you want to; never because you think you have to. Remember He called you in love rather than in duty. Yet it is your love for Him that will draw you into doing things you never even thought possible. Let the Holy Spirit fill you to overflowing so that you will be aglow with His love and power.