The baptism of fire

Last week I enjoyed a wonderful vacation at an exotic location with my wife, daughter, and mother. We hadn’t been away on a true retreat in years and were at the same time remembering the anniversary of my little brother’s recent passing, so the week was truly a special one. Beautiful sunsets, crystal-clear ocean water, being unplugged from the internet; these were the ingredients for a very special time away.

Except for one lady. There’s always a stick in the mud!

At one point, while standing in line for a tram that would take us from exotic location A to exotic location B, we heard a conversation between a fellow vacationer and an employee of the tram system. The latter asked the former how her vacation was faring.

“Awful! Horrible! I’m never coming back here! And I’m telling all my friends to never come here, this has been nothing but trouble and inconvenience!”

Debbie Downer paused and looked around, as if gathering more energy for one last burst of narcissistic vomit. She then erupted a final sentence.

“And it’s too hot here!”

Hmmn, I mused silently. Lady, you’re at the beach. It’s August. You’re near the freaking equator. What were you expecting?

In like fashion, those of us who suppose to be followers of Jesus must ask ourselves, when the heat is turned up, and we feel perplexed: What were you expecting?

Because, people: God is a consuming fire. Jesus has literal fire in his eyes. The promised baptism of the Holy Spirit was one of fire. When the Spirit did first appear to the church, it was as tongues of fire on the heads of the congregants!

Going back in time in the annals of our faith, we find fire everywhere. It was symbolic of God’s presence in the burning bush of Moses. It led the Israelites through the desert in the form of a pillar. It burst upon the altar of offering for the Levitical priests. Often when God presented himself in some form to his people, it was as glowing metal in the midst of a fire.

What is all this fire for, you might wonder? Is it the wrath of God, his displeasure upon wickedness? Sometimes. Is it a symbol of unstoppable power? Sometimes. But there is a much deeper meaning of this fire associated with the Almighty that has a beautiful application to your life and mine. Simply put, the fire of the Father, Son and Spirit surround and engulf us because in the aftermath we emerge more precious and valuable.

The process of smelting metal is a common theme in the Scripture. Job knew that after being tried by God, as metal in a crucible, he would come out as gold. The Psalmist proclaimed that God had tried him as silver is tried, and that he was brought out to a place of abundance. The Jewish prophetic books parallel these ideas over and over.

This symbolic language is one more way that a loving God becomes incarnational, steps into our world and speaks on our terms, and says this to us: You are going through what you’re going through because I am upon you and I am making you more precious! You will emerge from this fire a better person. Do not be surprised! Accept the refining process, it is evidence that I am present in your life!

Is the fire of God upon your life? Don’t be surprised – you invited it. Sort of like the lady on the beach. Nobody forced her to go there. She did it willingly. She had some idea of the cost of her commitment to stand in the sand by the ocean. Nobody forced her into it; she should not be surprised that the sun was shining and the temperatures were hot.

We are no different. We invited the God that is a consuming fire into our lives. We willingly walked into this fire and even asked it to be stoked brighter. We had some idea of what we were getting into; is not the cross what we claim? We were not forced, but rather were invited, to carry this cross. And we should not be surprised, but instead rejoice. Something warm and wonderful is on the other side.

So come, baptism of fire! Let us now sing the old hymn of Isaac Watts with fervor and newfound passion:

Come, Holy Spirit, heav’nly Dove,
With all Thy quick’ning pow’rs;
Kindle a flame of sacred love
In these cold hearts of ours.

This Week’s Calendar

Click above for a list of groups meeting this week.

Upcoming Events

We meet every Sunday at 10:00 am
to worship God together, and throughout the week in home groups all over the city. Please click the link to the left for a complete schedule of home groups.

Our Community

At VCC, we believe that church is not a function: it is a family. Our religion is only as alive as we are, the people that pursue it. So, rather than acting as an organization, we want to act as an organism. We have no time for casual contacts and meaningless formalities. We are a fellowship on an adventure towards the stuff of God. Church means worshipping God together, studying the Bible together, fixing our cars together, hiking together, eating together, playing together, praying together... enjoying the warmth of the Holy Spirit in all parts of our lives together, not just in appointed meeting times.