Posts Tagged ‘Baptism of the Holy Spirit’

Icon: John the Baptist

To wash ceremonially in ancient Jewish times was to participate in a mikveh (or mikvah). For rituals, particularly washing from impurity, required “living” or flowing water such as a river or mikvot (the mikveh place) fed by a natural spring. It constituted the washing away of the old impurities and to mark the beginning of the new.

Matthew 3:1-2,
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” . . .  “I baptize you with [or in] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with [or in] the Holy Spirit and fire.

John the Baptist treated sin as the greatest impurity of all and called everyone who wanted a new start to celebrate a mikveh with him, right there in the desert, in the river Jordan. While priests, via the regulations in the Torah and other rabbinical writings, performed the mikveh for a variety of circumstances (after sexual relations for men, a menstrual cycle for women, after the birth of a child, upon declaring someone healed of a skin disease or leprosy, prior to Yom Kippur, and so forth), this may have been the first time that a mikveh was performed without a traditional priest.

John’s message was clear: prepare the way (prepare yourselves) for the coming Messiah. Release the old and make room for the new.

The water submersion was a ritual meant to mark a moment in time. And yet, John promised another moment, a time that would be marked by something more permanent than water: the Holy Spirit and Fire.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit came after Jesus’s resurrection, the gift was given (and promised) to all believers — the in-dwelling of God [Acts 2]. This in-dwelling changed everything and everyone. We tend to minimize this deeply motivating presence today.

There is so much “Jesus Junk” (Tchotchkes) and pat phrases like “Jesus loves you brother.” But it’s more than that. It’s not just that Jesus loves you; it’s that Jesus is you [Philippians 1:21]. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one. And once Jesus has been invited to occupy us, then the process of true sanctification begins, fusing me and the Christ. And with sanctification, unnecessary elements must, like chaff, be cast away and in some cases, burned away through experience, pain, persistence of motion, and repetition. We are all intended to “get it.”

The occupy movement from Wall Street to Washington, D.C., has nothing on the potential power and change that comes from the occupation of a human being by the Holy Spirit. This is the most authentic change of all.

Read Full Post »

Photo by J P Shuler

First, Paul chastised Timothy for “neglecting the gift” he was given through the laying on of hands and now, with the second letter, he goes one step further and charges him to be more active, to “fan the flame.”

II Timothy 1:6
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.

Apparently, it’s possible to kindle and even ignite the gift that is within us. Paul adds three words that must be part of this combustible process: power (that would be the Holy Spirit), love (that would be the Holy Spirit), and self-discipline (uh, in my case, the only way that would happen would be through the Holy Spirit as well).

Sometimes the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a wind [John 3:8, Acts 2:2], and sometimes fire [Luke 3:16, Acts 2:3], and anyone who has a fireplace or is building a campfire knows that you need air and an initial spark to get a fire going.

I am convinced, once again, that it’s the Holy Spirit who is critical to an authentic, passionate, and propagating faith in God and commitment to the Christ, that great mystery of all mysteries.

Come, Spirit, breathe on me. Light the fire again.

Read Full Post »

Tongues, or spiritual languages, are a mystery. Anyone who says they are not, probably hasn’t experienced them. I think it’s intriguing that a person’s spirit can both sing and speak.

I Corinthians 14:15
So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.

I’m not interested in the controversies of whether to use tongues or not or whether they are a sign of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” or the arguments that say tongues are “no longer needed in this age.” There are books a plenty that have disgorged on these topics. But I can share something of my own experience.

I came to my faith in Christ in December, 1979. Tom, who introduced me to the Bible and challenged me to read it (which is how I came to that Truth), followed up his introduction in the ensuing months with much talk about the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” At the time, I had no idea this was not the norm. Since I knew so little about being a follower of Christ, it didn’t seem odd that I wouldn’t know about this either. He said I simply had to ask for it in prayer, and so I did. Nothing happened. Oh well.

Then, about a week later, during prayer (and in those early months, prayer was downright fun), I found myself no longer praying in English but in Latvian, the language I grew up with as a child. Now, that may not seem like a miracle to most people, but anyone who knows about languages, knows it’s a “use or lose” situation. The less one speaks, the less one is able to speak. I had been totally disconnected from my parents’ native language. And yet, here I was, speaking fluently in prayer. I didn’t even care about “tongues” then; this was way better.

After some weeks, I discovered the Latvian was a gift of sorts and with it came a deep healing as I prayed about my father, who never did learn to speak English. Through prayer, I was able to sort out my grief, disappointment, anger, and sense of abandonment at a father who died when I was only nine years old. By praying in Latvian, I was able to speak through God to my father. I forgave my father and clearly heard my God answer, that He would never leave me or forsake me [Hebrews 13:5]. I met “the Father” part of God in a clear and significant way in those first months of my faith journey.

Days after that, the Latvian morphed into one of those mysterious “tongues.” No effort, it just happened and I reveled in it. Only in later months and years did I discover contentiousness about this phenomenon. But I never cared about those who belittled the capability. I had already experienced something authentic and meaningful and nothing would take that away from me. And since it was clear that spiritual languages are for personal growth and devotion, that was all that mattered to me. I am no more or less spiritual because of it and yet it has enriched my prayer life.

I have been in corporate settings where group singing has manifested in tongues. When it was genuine, it was quite lovely and mesmerizing. When it was forced or triggered by the determination of a leader or practiced by tradition, I found it hollow. In any event, it’s not something to be performed. Singing in the spirit is another form of personal prayer.

“. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” [Romans 8:24]

Read Full Post »

Acts 8:18-19
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

Poor Simon… he just didn’t get it. Here he had been following Philip and the other new Samaritan believers around and he was happy as a clam. That is, until Peter and John show up and take the next step… praying for the Holy Spirit to come upon those new believers.

Something dramatic must have happened. We are not told what. It could have been the speaking in other tongues as with the disciples, it could have been tongues of fire or wind or just an outpouring of great power. We will never know. But we do know that Simon the former sorcerer was impressed and all his old habits and desires and power came into play. Everything in him was saying, “gotta have it.”

He did not realize that this laying on of hands was a gift. It was a gift that came with devotion. It was a gift that only the Giver could choose to give or not give. And so, Simon made a mistake and lusted for it.

I have made Simon’s mistake. I have coveted the giftings of others. I have wished for the ministries of others. I have dreamed of God using me as a healer or a prophet. I have inwardly negotiated for more power.

God forgive me.

The old ways die hard. One of my besetting sins is a desire for fame. Generally, I have that well covered by grace. But there are days when it slips out like a little demon and sits on my shoulder spouting long monologues about recognition, notoriety, success and fans! Like the love of money, fame corrupts the soul.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Read Full Post »

Acts 1:4-5
On one occasion, while he [Jesus] was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Waiting is not the easiest thing to do. In fact, I think it’s one of the hardest. In this case, I doubt the disciples had any clue what it would mean to be “baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But they understood waiting and they understood this command to wait would test their trust and their faith. I always wonder if they all waited or did some fall away?

People usually use a period of waiting to fantasize about the end results (and generally, the result they themselves want). They begin imagining what the end of waiting will be like without living fully within the waiting period itself. I have come to believe that waiting is an active time. Waiting is a time of introspection and evaluation. Waiting itself is productive within.

Looking back over my life, I can see how many mistakes could have been avoided just by exercising a little waiting. But I have always been in a such a hurry for the next experience. As I grow older, I have been getting a little better at waiting, just because I have been forced to practice. And slowly, I see its merits and enter this time more willingly.

There is a popular phrase used by many Christians: “I am waiting on God…” Sometimes, it feels like they are in an outer office waiting for an appointment with a busy God who’ll fit them in when possible. They are passing the time, reading magazines, watching TV, or listening to their ipods. There is no relationship with the One on the other side of the door. While others simply use the phrase as a way to avoid making any decision at all. If one waits long enough, a decision is usually made for you. This method is rather passive aggressive in my book.

Waiting on God has no value in my mind unless it comes with contemplative study, prayer and worship.

This is true for the individual as well as a group. But I have very little experience with group waiting. I’m still working on the first hurdle. But that’s coming. Group waiting is even more difficult because the everyone needs to let go of their personal agendas and allow the best result for the group as a whole emerge: more patience, love, sacrifice, and trust.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: