Life on Fire 5

In his conversation with Jesus about being born again, reborn by the water and the Spirit, Nicodemus recognized that a person cannot enter the womb a second time.  What he failed to see is that we are not supposed to enter the womb a second time.  When we are born again we are not to return to the safety of our previous life.  We are to move forward, advance into a new life.

As we receive the Holy Spirit we are born anew, born into a new life and a new way of having faith.  This is not simply an exciting and emotionally charged moment that is meant to fade.  It is a beginning.

The writer of Hebrews speaks about what we are to do as believers when we are born anew with the Spirit.  What are all the things we should do?  What happens when we fail to do that?

Many of us I am certain have felt that mountaintop experience when we are filled with the joy and love of God.  We may have been in a moving church service, or we may have been part of a rewarding mission project.  We may have simply seen the awesome presence of God in a sunset.  The moment is exciting, thrilling, breath-taking.  But so often we “come down” from this emotional high and life returns to that normal, mundane pace.

An encounter with the Holy Spirit is more than just a momentary high.  It is a chance to become a different person and start living out our faith in new ways.  If we will accept the presence of the Spirit, make it part of who we are and be changed by it, then we will live out our faith.

If we claim to believe in God and yet we ignore the moving of the Holy Spirit, refuse to allow it to make us new, then we have little hope.  Instead of embracing the fire of passion for God we will be consumed by the fires of regret and a failed faith.

Living with a new faith perspective requires that we pay attention to how we can help and encourage others, how we can share God’s love.  It means abandoning the old way of living, of working to avoid sinning.  It also involves being intentional in our faith life, attending worship and other gatherings of Christian brothers and sisters so that we might be part of the body of Christ.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How will you commit to meeting together with other Christians?  How will you spur others on to good deeds?

Life on Fire 4

In a recent meeting with other pastors we were taught that there are some things that cannot be brought back once they have passed.  Words spoken.  Time.  Opportunities.  When words are out of our mouth they are gone forever, unable to be brought back in.  When time has passed there is no way to get it back.  When opportunities come and we do not act on them they are lost.

The arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is recounted near the beginning of the Book of Acts.  From that point on we see the working of the early believers, the differences they made throughout the known world, the lives that were impacted.

Paul and Barnabas are traveling around the region sharing the good news of Jesus.  They have arrived in Pisidian Antioch, a city in what is now Turkey.  As they preach the Jews who have gathered are jealous that the message of salvation and God’s love is including the Gentiles – those outside the Jewish faith.  How do these two apostles respond?  Why do they preach to the Gentiles?  What was the response?

In his ministry Jesus declared that he was sent for the chosen people of God, the Jews.  But since so many failed to recognize his ministry and his authority he opened the message of salvation to the entire world.  Paul was one of the leaders in the early church who focused a great deal on the Gentiles.  He and Barnabas explained that the message was given to the Jews first, but since they rejected it the Gentiles were now invited to receive God’s salvation.

Like the wind that blows through the trees and over the fields, the Holy Spirit and the grace of God cannot be contained.  The Holy Spirit touches on the faithful and will remain with those who accept it.  But for those who ignore the Spirit they are passed over and the Holy Spirit moves on to others.

We can experience the presence of the Spirit time and time again in our lives.  The question is, will we accept it?  Will we allow the Spirit to change us?

If we do not, we do not stop the Spirit.  It moves on to others and we have missed that opportunity to live a life that is changed and on fire for God.  We must choose to receive the Spirit.  We must choose to be changed and made new.  We must choose to be on fire for God.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you choose to receive the Spirit?  Are you willing to be changed?

Life on Fire 3

In the movie “The Weather Man,” the character played by Nicolas Cage is a television weather man who is often frustrated with his inability to be accurate in predicting the weather.  He is told several times that there is little he can do about it, and reminded that “It’s the wind.  It blows everywhere.”

As part of his encounter with the Jewish religious leader Nicodemus, Jesus explains about the working of the Holy Spirit.  What concept should not surprise Nicodemus?  What do we know about the wind?  How is this like the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is just as the wind we experience here on earth.  It is an invisible force, unpredictable and unable to be tamed.  We cannot know where the wind will blow or when.  We cannot know where the wind will go after it passes over us.

In the same way the Holy Spirit is part of the working of God, something we cannot comprehend because God’s wisdom and ways are far above our own.  We do not know where or when the Holy Spirit might move in our lives.  We must simply be prepared for its presence and be willing to be moved by it.

The early believers had no idea where or when the Spirit would descend upon them.  It came unexpectedly and in a powerful way.  As it filled each of them it changed them.  They went from being timid followers to empowered leaders.

But this was not the only time the Holy Spirit has ever been present.  The Holy Spirit can and does move in our lives today.  And just as a sailboat may have to adjust its sails so it might catch the wind and be propelled forward, we may need to adjust our hearts and souls to receive the Spirit.  When the Spirit enters in, surrounds us, fills us, we need to be willing to be changed people.  We need to be willing to move forward in boldness and certainty in our faith.

And we must move with the Spirit.  It may be for a brief moment, a short time of working in a powerful way for God.  Or it may be a long lasting effect, the Spirit making us completely new believers who have the Holy Spirit of God as that constant companion to be with us in all that we do.

If we love God and desire to serve His kingdom and share His love we must be willing to be those changed people and live a life on fire with the Spirit in all we do.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How far will you allow the Spirit to take you?

Life on Fire 2

The experience on the Day of Pentecost after the resurrection is considered to be the birth of the Christian church that we are familiar with today.  The Holy Spirit descended on the gathering of believers and in that moment they were given power and authority and ability to preach the word of God to all the world.

In response to some skepticism in the crowd after hearing the believers speaking in various languages Peter explains the purpose of Christ’s ministry.  After Peter preached what was the reaction of the crowd?  What does Peter tell them to do?  What assurance does he give?  How far does this assurance go?

After the death and resurrection of Jesus the disciples were living in fear and avoiding contact with most of society.  But when the Spirit came upon them they were given a new boldness to speak about what they had witnessed.  Peter was able to stand in front of a large crowd and bear witness to the life and teaching of Jesus.  His preaching was so moving that the crowd was “cut to the heart.”  They knew they had to do something about their spiritual life.

Peter instructed them to repent of their sins, to be baptized in the new faith, and then they would also receive the Holy Spirit.  This invitation of the Spirit would not only change their lives and give them the promise of eternal life, but would also be something to change the lives of all the people they came in contact with.  Such is the power of God.

This promise is not limited to the disciples or the gathering of believers who first received the Spirit.  Neither is this promise limited to those who became followers of Jesus in those first years after the resurrection.  This promise of the Spirit, a presence that changes lives, that brings newness of faith, that brings a bold willingness to share the love of God, is meant for us too.

When we repent of our sins and we invite the Holy Spirit in we will begin living a life that is on fire for God.  We will be inspired – charged up – to spread the good news of salvation and the love of God with everyone we meet.  And in our sharing we will see others learn to invite the Spirit in to their lives and be changed.

We are called by God to be part of this fire of new life.  We are called to live a life on fire for the kingdom of God.  And we are called to share this fire with others,

DAILY CHALLENGE:  Are you ready to invite the Holy Spirit in to your heart?  Will you live a life on fire for God?

Life on Fire 1

Our worship services usually incorporate the use of candles as do most churches or places of worship.  These candles are not lit to bring light to the people who have gathered.  They are there to remind us of the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The flames we see on the candles are supposed to put us in mind of the Pentecost story – an event that happened on the fiftieth day after Passover (thus, “Pentecost”).  What was going on at first?  What happened?  How did the Holy Spirit appear?  What was the result?

Up until this moment we have been given the impression that the followers of Jesus have been fairly timid in their faith.  After the resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples twice as they hid behind locked doors.  In Acts 1:13 we see that they have gone to the upper room where they have been staying.

The Day of Pentecost begins with the believers being together in one place.  We have no other details but the implication is that these believers are again huddled in the upper room, a place of safety, a place removed from the world.  But the Holy Spirit invades this space.  There is a powerful wind.  There are flames.  And suddenly these timid believers are filled with the power of God and able to do incredible and miraculous work.

If we will move forward in our faith we must be different than these early believers.  Rather than hide our faith and ourselves from the trials and temptations of the world, we need to put ourselves in the path of the Spirit.  If we will be moved forward by God, pushed along by His mighty wind, we must put ourselves in the path of that wind and allow the Spirit to move us.

We may not see literal flames appearing above our heads, but when we allow the Holy Spirit to move within us we will feel the fire of God.  We will feel that burning desire to serve the Lord, that fire that lets us know we are not alone in our working.  We are full of the power of God.

We cannot spend our life of faith huddled together with other believers and think we are doing God’s will.  Neither can we remove ourselves from the body of believers and think we are doing God’s will.  We must position ourselves to be available to the Lord.  We must open our hearts and souls to allow the Spirit to enter in, to fill us, and to move us out into the world in life-changing work.

DAILY CHALLENGE:  How can you prepare yourself to receive the Holy Spirit?