Shining as Lights on Fire for God

If we want light in our homes today, we just have to turn a light switch and the lamp comes on. Back in Bible times, though, a lamp involved fire. You had a container for the oil, a wick to carry that oil, and when the wick was lit the fire gave light. In the familiar parable of the 10 virgins, the reason they needed to have oil was to keep the fires in their lamps burning.

In this parable, 10 virgins take lamps and go out to meet the bridegroom. I assume they were friends of the couple, probably the women who watched with the bride as she waited for her groom to arrive on an unknown day at an unspecified time (in keeping with Jewish tradition). The five foolish virgins took lamps, but not extra oil. The five wise ones had lamps and extra oil. When the bridegroom took longer to arrive than they’d expected, all ten of them fell asleep.

When the shout announcing the bridegroom’s arrival woke them, the wise virgins had enough oil to keep the flames in their lamps burning but the unprepared women’s lamps were going out. In the time it took them to run out and buy more oil, the “bridegroom arrived and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut.” When the other virgins showed up and knocked, they did not get in. They weren’t even recognized (Matt. 25:1-13).

Jesus ends this parable by saying, “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.” It’s one of the kingdom of heaven parables (like we talked about last week) which teaches us something about what we must do if we want to be citizens of God’s kingdom. In this case, one thing it teaches is that we need to be prepared, with our lamps burning and properly fueled.

We’re Supposed to Shine Like Lamps

The idea of Jesus’s followers having or being light comes up more than once in the gospels (Matt 5:14-16, to mention one). We’re supposed to shine as lights, having been illuminated by Christ’s light.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness. Therefore see to it that the light in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, with no part in the dark, it will be as full of light as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”

Luke 11:33-36, NET

Jesus’s intention after “lighting” us is not to hide us in a cellar or snuff us out with a basket or bowl (NET footnotes). He wants us visible, shining with His light. Therefore, we need to be constantly watchful to make sure the light in us does not become darkness (the “therefore see to it” instruction is an ongoing, “present imperative” [NET footnote]). Like our eyes take in light to let us see, our minds take in Christ’s word to let us live in His light. Internalizing His words puts light inside us too, so it can shine out. If we internalize other (especially ungodly) things, though, that can change the way we shine. What we let into our eyes, hearts, and lives matters to God and it can affect the way our lamps are burning before Christ’s return.

Fueling our Lamps with the Word

If we want to fill our eyes with light and keep our lamps well fueled, we have a source for light readily available. Whether you use print Bibles, apps, or search online, for most of us in the modern world God’s word is right at our fingertips. The more time we spend with His word, the more exposure we get to the Light.

Your word is a lamp to walk by,
and a light to illumine my path.

Psalm 119: 105, NET

Your instructions are a doorway through which light shines.
They give insight to the untrained.

Psalm 119:130, NET

For the commandments are like a lamp,
instruction is like a light

Proverbs 6:23, NET

One of the ways that we fulfill Jesus’s instruction to shine as lights in the world is by internalizing the light that God has given us through His word. “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all,” so if we want to walk with Him in the light we need to listen to Him (1 John 1:5-7, NET). Getting “dressed for service” and keeping our “lamps burning” as we watch for the Master’s return (Luke 12:35-38) involves filling our minds with God’s commands, instructions, and teachings while asking Him to help us understand His mind through His spirit. It is only by spending time in God’s Light that we can be light (Ps. 36:9; 43:3).

Clothed With Jesus’s Light

When writing his second letter to Timothy, Paul urged him “to rekindle God’s gift” because “God didn’t give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Tim. 1:6-7, NET). The spirit in us is like a fire, and we can either stir it up (i.e. rekindle) or let it die down to coals. That’s up to us. God gives us His spirit and His word, but whether or not we are on fire for Him is a choice we get to make.

And do this because we know the time, that it is already the hour for us to awake from sleep, for our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers. The night has advanced toward dawn; the day is near. So then we must lay aside the works of darkness, and put on the weapons of light. Let us live decently as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in discord and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.

Romans 13:11-14, NET

The statement “our salvation is now nearer than when we became believers” is as true for us today as it was for Paul’s first readers. The work God the Father and Jesus began in us will come to completion either with our deaths or at Christ’s return (Phil. 1:6), and that time is getting closer each day. We mustn’t waste any more time before we put off darkness and clothe ourselves instead with the true Light of Jesus Christ (John 1:4-5; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46). The more time we spend with Him and becoming like him, the more we will shine as lights on fire for God.

Featured image by Hans Benn from Pixabay

Water, Spirit, Fire: The Three Baptisms of Christianity

How many times have you been baptized?

Scripture talks about baptism — full immersion in water — as a first step in believers’ walks of faith. It’s an outward sign of our identification with God’s people and our commitment to leave our old lives behind. Some church groups stop there, some sprinkle people from a baptismal instead, and Messianics continue to mikvah on a semi-regular basis.

I thought practicing mikvah once a year (more or less) was an odd idea when I started attending a Messianic group. Part of me still does, though I don’t really see anything wrong with it. However, while we are supposed to undergo water baptism at least once, it doesn’t stop there. When Scripture talks about multiple baptisms they’re not all done with water. Here’s what John the Baptist said about the baptism he was doing and the baptisms Messiah would do:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but the one who comes after me is more powerful than I am, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Matt. 3:11, LEB)

Water, spirit, and fire — those are the three baptisms that John tells us believers in Jesus will go through. I think this is what the writer of Hebrews means when he describes “the doctrine of baptisms” (plural) as a foundation of Christianity (Heb. 6:1-2). Read more

The Foundation: Doctrine of Baptisms

The next “principle of the doctrines of Christ” listed in Hebrews 6 is “the doctrine of baptisms.” It builds on the previous two, but we already have a post on this blog talking about how repentance and belief are a prerequisite for baptism, so that’s not what we’ll focus on today.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. (Heb. 6:1-3)

The Foundation: Doctrine of Baptisms | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Notice it says “baptisms,” plural. Why is that the case, especially in light of the “there is one body, and one spirit … one faith, one baptism” passage in Ephesians 4:4-5? Read more

Love On Fire

Sometimes, Bible study ideas can come from an unexpected source. One of the speakers at our Feast of Tabernacles site last month was a man whose messages rarely catch my attention, but he gave an excellent sermonette about falling in “true love” with God.

Though the holy days for this year are several weeks in the past, these subjects are relevant year-round. Since the Feast, or Sukkot, pictures Christ’s millennial reign, it’s also connected with the marriage to His church, which takes place a little earlier. We will be living and reigning with Jesus as His bride, teaching and serving alongside Him (Rev. 20:4). But first, we have to get there.

Love On Fire | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: Indi Samarajiva, CC BY via Flickr

True Love

God is love. it’s not just something God has like a person can have feelings of happiness or a sense of humor. Love (and the word is agape) is God. All real love — that selfless seeking of another’s good because you care about them so much — is of God.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)

When we’re filled with love, we’re filled with God’s essential character. “If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). The opposite is true as well: it’s impossible to love God or abide in Him while harboring an attitude of hate (1 John. 4:20).

He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. … If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. (John 14:21, 23)

Love creates relationship with God. It’s also inseparably connected to commandment keeping — if we love God, we’ll live as He said to, thereby showing love for God. This results in a relationship Jesus described as “abiding in” Him and His Father, and Them in us.

As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:9-10)

Perfect love results in perfect unity — mutual indwelling like the Father and Jesus have together and want to share with us (John 17:21-23). God’s love is the only love that can build the kind of relationship that leads to eternity, and that’s why we have to keep sharing the same love we’re being given (John 13:34; 15:12).

Burning Love

We’ve spent quite a lot of time on this blog, and in my God’s Love Story ebook (which you can download free), talking about what God’s love is like. Our love for God and each other is supposed to be exactly like God’s love for us. It’s selfless, sacrificial love. it’s unabashed seeking of what is best for the beloved. It’s love shared between the best of friends. It’s the highest form of romantic love (non-sexual; we’re talking about agape, not eros).

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave; its flames are flames of fire, a flame of YAH. Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised. (Song 8:6-7)

You might say these lovely verses from the Song of Songs are the Old Testament companion scripture to 1 Corinthians 13. Love is a fire fueled by YAH (which is a poetic form of YHWH usually hidden in English translations of this verse). Love like that can’t be put-out by anything the world throws at it, and it can’t be bought anymore than you can buy the holy spirit (Acts 8:18-21).

After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24). He walked with them incognito and “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” After they were allowed to recognize Him over dinner and He “vanished out of their sight” these disciples make an interesting observation (which I’m indebted to the aforementioned sermonette for connecting with the subject of God’s love).

And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”(Luke 24:32)

They recognized that “burning hearts” was a sign of Jesus being alongside them. When we’re abiding in Him and walking in obedience, we will be filled with the unquenchable love of God like a burning fire.

The Greek word translated “burn” in Luke 24 can refer to a literal flame, but there are several other places in scripture where it’s used to describe a condition inside people (G2545, kaio). John the baptist was described as “the burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). We’re told to be watchful servants and ordered, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning (Luke 12:35). Kaio is also the word used when Jesus talks about us letting our lights shine like a burning lamp in the world (Matt. 5:14-16).

Love On Fire | marissabaker.wordpress.com
photo credit: Ashton, CC BY-SA, via Flickr

We need to let our lights, fueled by God’s love, burn so they can be seen. As we walk in the love of God, keeping His commandments and abiding in Him, unquenchable love should flow out from us to our brethren and neighbors.

Empathic Feeling

I realized Tuesday night when I was reading Fire by Kristin Cashore and crying into the bath water that I wasn’t crying because I felt sad a character had died. I was crying because someone in the book felt sad that this character had died. Once I thought about it, I realized that at least half of the times when fiction moves me to tears, it is in empathy with the characters rather than my own feelings being affected. In other words, I’m crying because the character is crying, not because of what moved the character to tears. Sometimes it is both (Ender’s Game, for example).

This feeling other people’s feelings (fictional and real) is something I didn’t have much of a grasp on until I discovered my Myers-Briggs type and started reading what other INFJs wrote about being overwhelmed with the emotions of others. Adding high sensitivity to the mix only heightens this (here is a wonderful article about Elaine Aaron’s research on the Highly Sensitive Person).

A Range of Empathy

The extent to which INFJs report feeling other people’s emotions range from an awareness of how others are reacting, to not being able to remember the last time you experienced a feeling that belonged only to you. “You feel it, I feel it,” an anonymous INFJ wrote. I may not be quite ready to claim my feeling of and for others reaches that extent, but I share her decision to try and avoid encountering strong negative emotions (e.g. a news story about child molestation, a film where a family is torn apart, real-life conflict) because of how overwhelming it is — emotionally as well as physically in terms of headaches and stomach pain.

Managing Feelings

In INFJ Coach’s series of blog posts on “10 Steps to an Amazing INFJ Life,” part two is “Manage Those Pesky Emotions.” Her article is mainly about dealing with our own emotions when they surface, but the comments point out that this is only part of the problem. One commenter named Jennie wrote that she asks herself,

“Is this my emotion that I’m feeling, or is it someone else’s emotion?’ Many of us INFJs are emotional sponges for the emotions that other people are feeling. Our NF gives us a very high degree of empathy, but sometimes taking on other people’s emotions can be too much to handle.

The other side to this is what INFJ writer Cheryl Florus points out in Personality Junkie’s INFJ Strategies for Dealing with Emotions: Part I. Because an INFJ’s feeling is extroverted, we often have an easier time understanding the emotions of other people than our own emotions (for more on function stacks, see this post). We feel emotions strongly, but need to make an effort to learn how to experience and express them in a way that doesn’t seem overwhelming or uncontrolled. Often, writing down or talking about our emotions is a way to get them outside us so we can look at them more objectively (I keep a journal and talk to my closest family members). Sometimes, until I’ve done this, I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m feeling, let alone how it should be expressed and dealt with.

What about you? Are you an INFJ with experience feeling other people’s feelings (or a non-INFJ who does the same thing, because I’d love to hear from you)? Or are you someone who has never had this happen and thinks we’re crazy?

Necessary Fire

I started this study intending to focus on the idea of Jesus Christ in us, but got distracted by the Greek word translated “reprobate” in 2 Corinthians 13:5. Digging into the root words, I found that it is a negative form of a word that refers to the process of refining metals with fire. Therefore, “reprobate” in this verse could be understood to mean someone who has not been refined by fire. Intriguing …

Untried Metals

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Cor. 13:5)

"Necessary Fire" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comThe word “reprobate” is from the Greek adokimos (G96). It means “Unapproved, unworthy, spurious, worthless.” It is the negative form of dokimos (G1384), which means “Proved, receivable, tried as metals by fire and thus be purified. … Hence, to be approved as acceptable men in the furnace of adversity” (Zodhiates). Here are a few places it is used:

For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. (2 Cor. 10:18)

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15)

So, we can say that to be “reprobate” means to be the opposite of approved and refined. It is someone who has not be proved by God and tried “as silver is tried” (Ps. 66:10). In several scriptures, our refinement is likened to the purification of metals, which must be heated in a furnace to remove impurities (Zech. 13:9; Mal. 3:3). Being tested and proved is a necessary step in becoming acceptable.

Burning Buildings

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul writes about building our lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). He is the only foundation upon which we can build a proper Christian life. However, we each build with different materials, and with differing degrees of success.

"Necessary Fire" a blog post by marissabaker.wordpress.comNow if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Cor. 3:12-15)

Note that the people whose work endures and those who get burned down to the foundation both have to go through the trying fire. No one is excepted from being tried in the furnace of adversity. Some come through stronger. Some “suffer loss,” but are saved to begin building again with better materials. It is part of God’s plan for making us part of His family.

If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Heb. 12:7-8)

Without refinement and trials, we would be among those described as “reprobates” and bastards.” We need to be purified to be part of God’s family and to become a fit place for Jesus Christ to dwell.

A Habitation of God

In the verse following 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, we are told what type of building we are becoming. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16). This is why we need to be refined. As we are now, we are not fit vessels to house God’s spirit and the presence of Jesus Christ. If we keep Their commandments and submit to Their work in our lives, though, we can be.

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (Jn. 14:23)

God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ are not in the habit of holding people at arm’s length. They desire a close, personal relationship with us. They want to dwell in us now, and they want us to literally be part of Their family in the future. The writer of Hebrews describes us as a house which is built by and belongs to Christ, “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:6).

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph. 2:19-22)

One of our purposes on this earth is to be the place where God dwells. There was a time when He put His presence in a physical temple here on earth, and now He puts His presence inside the people He has chosen — a people refined in the furnace of adversity and approved by Him.