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It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
and the book:
Charisma House (August 9, 2011)
Reinhard Bonnke began his missionary work in Africa in the early 1980s. Since his early days of tent meetings, he has conducted citywide meetings across the continent with as many as 1,600,000 people in attendance. Bonnke is the founder of the international ministry Christ for All Nations (CfAN), which has recorded 55 million documented decisions for Jesus Christ since the start of the new millennium. He and his wife, Anni, have three children and eight grandchildren.
Visit the author's website.
The gospel is not good news to people who do not hear it
…and an unpreached gospel is no gospel at all.
In the New Testament we never read about God going forth on His own, but that His followers “went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them.” In short, God acted when they acted.
Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke has led millions of people into a life-transforming encounter with God. In Evangelism by Fire he lays out the principles necessary for effective evangelism, showing how God operates through anyone who is willing to follow His plan.
The gospel is as vital today as it was when Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and nations urgently need the life-giving message of the cross right now. Filled with biblical principles, prophetic messages, and personal examples, Evangelism by Fire will inspire you to bring the focus of your life and ministry back to the Great Commission.
List Price: $15.99
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Charisma House (August 9, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Is Not a Crime!
God sets driftwood on fire. Dry old sticks can burn for God, just as Moses’s bush did! Hallelujah!
I do not pray, “Let me burn out for Thee, dear Lord.” I do not want to be an ash heap. The amazing feature of the bush was that it did not burn out. Too many of the Lord’s servants are burning out. The cause of that is some other kind of fire. I say instead, “Let me burn on for Thee, dear Lord.” The altar flame should never go out. Without fire, there is no Gospel. The New Testament begins with fire. The first thing said about Christ by His first witness concerned fire. John the Baptist, himself a “burning and shining light” declared that: He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. —Matthew 3:11
John the baptizer introduced Jesus the Baptizer, the Baptizer with a vast difference. John used water, a physical element, but Christ uses a spiritual element, the Holy Spirit. Water and fire—what a contrast! Not that John the Baptist had a watery religion (though there is plenty of that around, often combined with ice!). John the Baptist stood in the cold waters of the Jordan baptizing, but Jesus the Baptizer stands in a river of liquid fire.
The notable work of John was baptism, and he told the crowds that the notable work of Jesus would also be baptism! Jesus is the Baptizer—in the Holy Spirit. This is Christ’s major experience for you once you are born again.
The Gospel is a fire lighter. The Holy Spirit is not given just to help you preach eloquent sermons. He is given in order to put a flame into human hearts. Unless Christ sets you alight, you can bring no fire to earth. “Without Me, you can do nothing,” said the Lord (John 15:5). Jesus instructed the disciples not to do anything until they were to receive “power from on high” (Luke 24:49). When that power came, the Spirit revealed Himself as tongues of fire sitting upon each one of them.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. —Acts 2:3
Jesus previously had sent the disciples out in pairs (Luke 10:1). It reminds me of Samson sending foxes out two by two, as the animals carried torches for an arson raid on the enemy’s corn shocks and vineyards (Judg. 15). The disciples also were sent out two by two, carriers of the divine torch, incendiaries for God,
scorching the devil’s territories with the fire Gospel. They were new Elijahs bringing fire from heaven.
Until the fire falls, evangelism and church activities can be routine and unexciting. Pulpit essays, homilies, moralizing, or preaching about how you think the economy of the country should be run—all that is glacial work. No divine spark brings combustion to ice. No one goes home ignited. In contrast, the two who listened to Jesus on the Emmaus road went home with warmed hearts. I am sure that He did not talk politics
to them or offer suggestions and advice. That would not make their hearts burn. Jesus came “to send fire on the earth” (Luke 12:49). The mission of Jesus is not a holiday picnic—Satan is determined it will not be. He is a destroyer. The Lord sends out His servants with a warning of physical dangers.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. —Matthew 10:28
What is mere physical hurt, compared to a life ablaze with the joy and zest of Jesus? What is bodily danger compared to the crown of life or to the wonderful work that He gives us to do?
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
The Sign of the Son of Man
Fire is the ensign of the Gospel, the sign of the Son of Man. Only Jesus baptizes in fire. When we see such baptisms, it is the evidence that He, and nobody else, is at work. It is the identifying hallmark of His activity and of true Christian faith. Put your hand on such activities, and you will feel the heat. The prophet Elijah made the same point:
The God who answers by fire, He is God.
—1 Kings 18:24
Only one God does that, and Elijah was sure that Baal was incapable of it.
What does your spiritual thermometer read? Does it even register? Are you chilled? Are there cold altars in the church? Worship without warmth? Doctrines heated only by friction? There are theologies and teachings as fireproof as asbestos. There are religious books that only provide heat when put on a
bonfire. Such faith-chilling items have nothing to do with the Christ of Pentecost. Whatever He touches catches fire. Jesus melts the ice. Some church efforts to whip up a little enthusiasm are, spiritually, like rubbing two sticks together.
The fire of God is special. In fact, it is unique. Only the fire of God was allowed on the altar of Moses, not fire produced by any human means. Nadab and Abihu made fire themselves and lit their incense with it. It was labeled “profane fire.” Divine fire went out from the Lord and killed the rebel priests (Lev. 10:1–2).
Today, we have profane fire being offered. There are strange gospels, which are not the true Gospel, but theologies of unbelief, the thoughts of men and their philosophies, criticisms and theories. They bear no trace of the glory-heat from heaven. Nothing in them produces any combustion except controversy.
What lies behind all this is something that my friend Paul C. Schoch pointed out to me. He quoted Matthew 16:23, where Jesus addressed Satan when speaking to the apostle Peter: Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.
Thoughts exist on two opposing levels. There are the thoughts of God and the thoughts of men. The high and the low, as God said in Isaiah 55:8–9:
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the
heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your
Satan thinks as men think. He simply cannot grasp God’s outlook at all. That is strange when you remember that he was originally Lucifer, a throne angel of God, the “covering cherub.” Jesus bruised the serpent’s head, and I think He inflicted some kind of brain damage upon the devil! He is disoriented. Once Lucifer was full of wisdom, but today as Satan, the adversary, the “accuser of the brethren,” that prince of the power of the air is baffled by what God is doing, and especially by what the Lord did at the cross. This type of confusion is brought on by sin. Just as Satan thinks like men, so do men think like Satan.
They too find the cross foolishness and cannot grasp the things of God, as the apostle Paul remarked. Paul also could not “see” it at first. Cold fury against the believers ate away in his heart. He was a “dragon man,” breathing out threats and slaughter. Full of zeal, his brain was full of clever unbelief. Scales fell from his eyes, though, when he believed.
I wonder if hell would like to send espionage agents into the kingdom of God, just to see what secrets are there. The demons would not understand these secrets, anyway. Hell is completely baffled. To Satan, Christ’s sacrifice is a deeply rooted plot devised by God for His own personal advantage.
The devil devours others. That is his evil nature.
If we were to fight the devil on the level of human thought, we must remember that he thinks as men think. Satan invented a human chess game, which he has played for thousands of years. The devil anticipates our every move, and he will checkmate us ten moves ahead. Satan has experience from the time of Adam
onward, and he knows every trick of human ingenuity on the board. You cannot produce faith by the wisdom of words. The devil always has a counter-statement for whatever you say. The Gospel did not come out of somebody’s head. A university professor did not give it to us. We have to move into the divine
dimension, as there the enemy cannot follow us. The devil is no match for the mind of the Holy Spirit. If we plan, preach, witness, and evangelize as men, Satan will foil us. He can handle psychology and propaganda. The answer is—move in the Spirit and preach the Gospel as it is. Then the arch-confuser becomes confused and unable to follow the game at all. The devil does not even know the Holy Spirit’s alphabet.
We see this constantly in our gospel campaigns. We open the meetings to the Holy Spirit completely. The results are thrilling. Whole countries are challenged by the mighty power of Christ. Where false religion and doctrines of demons previously have prevailed, they are shaken and broken! No preacher could do this, no matter how popular or clever. Such success happens only when God does it His way. When He enters the field, there is a mighty victory. He can, will, and does succeed— every time we allow Him to take over.
These breakthroughs are part of the End Time blessings that the Lord promised. The Day of Pentecost continued—it did not stop at Jerusalem, but is for “the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). I offer this challenge: begin to work on the level of the Holy Spirit, and you will see the salvation of the Lord. This kind of evangelism will break the devil’s back worldwide, and he will be routed. It is this holy fire that cannot be imitated.
Live Ammunition and “Steam Up!”
When a gun loaded with blank ammunition is fired, the bang and recoil are the same as they would be with live ammunition. A difference can be observed in the use of live ammunition and blanks, but not in the noise.
The blank ammunition makes no mark on the target, because it never reaches it. The real bullet can hit its mark. We are not interested in mere bang and recoil, excitement and spectacular gospel displays, even if those draw hundreds of thousands of people. We want to see something live hit the target.
The crowds may come, but we must, by faith, let loose a true broadside of Holy Spirit firepower in order for something to be accomplished. Multitudes are born again, lives are completely changed, churches are filled, hell is plundered, and heaven is populated. Hallelujah!
The fire of God is not sent for the enjoyment of a few emotional experiences, although the fire of God does have that glorious result. Holy Spirit power produces lively meetings; however, just being happy and clappy does not satisfy God’s design. The Holy Spirit works for eternal purposes.
I think of this when I see those almost extinct old steam engines puffing away. These iron horses are like living creatures, breathing steam with fire in their bellies. The fireman’s job is to stoke the fire and get a full head of steam going. When the steam pressure is up, he turns to the engine driver and says, “Steam up!” The driver can then do one of two things. Either he can pull the whistle lever, or he can turn the lever that
directs power onto the pistons. The whistle will blow off steam until there is none left, making itself heard for miles around. If power is directed onto the pistons, however, the steam can turn the wheels with far less fuss, drawing no attention to itself. The train then rolls away, carrying its load across the land. Thank God for the whistle. It is important. However, if blowing a whistle were all that steam could do, making a fire under the boiler and stoking it up would not be worthwhile.
The fire of the Holy Spirit brings power. Never mind the noise—let us apply this power to get on the move. Thunder is justified after lightning has struck. The purpose of Pentecost is to get the wheels rolling for God in every church, thereby transporting the Gospel across the face of the whole earth. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.
The church of Christ is a “go” church, not a “sit” church. Look outward, to where our Lord is moving across the continents. Some are looking inward, everlastingly examining their own souls, incapacitated by introspection. Jesus is saving you—fear not. Now start helping Him to save others. If the Holy Spirit has
come, then get up and going. He does the work, not you or me. Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!
—1 Corinthians 9:16
And woe to them to whom we fail to preach it!
The Christian Ag e Is the Fire Age
Let me ask a question. Why was Jesus exalted to the right hand of God? In even the greatest of commentaries, far too little is written concerning this matter. Christ’s ascension seems to be a neglected study. Is it of such little importance? Jesus declared His ascension to be “to your advantage” (John 16:7). He told us that unless He went to the Father, a most essential experience would never be ours. Without the Lord’s ascension, we could never be baptized into the Spirit.
Look back upon all that Jesus did. John writes that His works were so many that, if they were all written, the whole world could not contain the books. So, what could there be that He did not do when He was on earth? John the Baptist said it—“He will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
He did not do that when He was on earth. Jesus came from heaven and had to return there, via the cross and the tomb, before the final part of His mission could begin.
Nothing that Jesus did on earth could be described as baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire. In none of His mighty works—His preaching, His teaching, His healing, or in His death and resurrection—did He baptize with the Holy Spirit. Jesus did much for His disciples. He gave them authority to carry out healing missions, but He went away without baptizing them with the Holy Spirit.
Such a baptism could not have happened until He went to the Father. Indeed, the Lord not only said it, but He emphasized it. He entered glory to take up this brand-new office, the office of the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit. This is the reason why He ascended to the Father. The Old Testament knows nothing of such a baptism. It is God’s “new thing.” Jesus brings us many other blessings now, of course. He is our High Priest, our Advocate, and our Representative. However, He Himself did not name these works. He only described the sending forth of the Spirit.
After He ascended, and not before, the Spirit came, and “divided tongues, as of fire . . . sat upon each of them” (Acts 2:3). Years before, the altars of the tabernacle of Moses and the temple of Solomon had been set ablaze by the pure fire from heaven. At Pentecost, the flames in the Upper Room came from the same heavenly source. Jesus has all power at His command. He is in the control room.
Tongues of Fire
If baptizing with the Holy Spirit is His work, what does it mean? It means that everything to do with Him and with the Gospel should be characterized by fire. It should burn. There should be fire:
• In those who witness and work
• In those who preach
• In the truth we preach—“Is not My word like a fire?” (Jer. 23:29).
• In the Lord we preach—“For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29).
• In the power to preach—“Tongues as of fire” (Acts 2:3).
• In the Spirit by which we preach—“The Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt. 3:11).
Now let me show you some very important concepts about God’s fire.
All sacrifice must be consumed by fire.
There were two sacrifices on Mount Carmel. One was performed by the priests of Baal, the other by Elijah. The first one, the sacrifice to Baal, never burned. It was fireless. The sacrifice was there. The sacrificers were intensely earnest. They prayed to Baal all day, and they cut themselves with knives to show how
desperate their sincerity was.
So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.
—1 Kings 18:28
They put everything they had into it, and yet their sacrifice brought no fire. If the devil could have brought up a spark or two from hell to make a blaze, he would have, but the altar just stayed cold.
Fire did not fall because Elijah set up a sacrifice, either. It came when Elijah prayed and believed.
And it came to pass, at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near and said, “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that
You are the Lord God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.
—1 Kings 18:36–38
Faith brings victory. Elijah set everything up, as he should, that is true. He followed the instructions of Moses to the letter, but no fire resulted purely from his obedience. Faith brought the blaze.
God sent the fire on the sacrifice only. There would be no point in sending the fire without the sacrifice. Armchair Christians never receive fire. There is no such thing as an anointed “couch potato.” Sometimes people pray for fire when they are not yielded to God at all and subsequently do little for Him. They give up little time or money and render no effort. If they had God’s fire, what would they do with it? Sit at home and just enjoy it? The fire is not to save us trouble in winning the world—it is to empower us to preach the Gospel in spite of trouble.
It is the fire that matters. Laying out and setting up a sacrifice is not enough. God will not save souls or heal the sick until we lay our all on the altar for Him—that is true, but our sacrifice is not why He does it. He performs His wonders of salvation and healing because of His mercy and grace. Elijah’s godliness did not generate the awesome lightning that burned up everything on the altar. The fire did not come from his holiness. Your tithes and offerings cannot buy a tiny candle flame of the celestial flame. The fire of God comes, not because of our sacrifice, but because of Christ’s sacrifice. Therefore, thank God, the fire is for all. Revival fire is not a reward for good people. It is God’s gift. Why struggle for it? People talk about “paying the price.” But it is a case of “You pay much too much for what is given freely.” Fire comes by faith.
Truth needs to be fire-baptized.
We can be dead right, but dead nonetheless. We can insist on the “body of truth,” but it may be a cold corpse. Jesus did not merely say, “I am the way and the truth.” He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6, emphasis added). God said that He would put above Zion “the shining of a flaming fire” (Isa. 4:5). Jesus testified that John the Baptist “was the burning and shining lamp” (John 5:35). These are images of light and heat. The Gospel is a hot gospel, no matter how much the silly world smiles at it. I do not know how to preach the “living oracles” of God (Acts 7:38) without being lively. The Gospel is, and must be, on fire. To preach the Gospel coolly and casually would be ridiculous.
One day a lady told me that there was a demon sitting on her, although she was a born-again Christian. I said to her, “Flies can only sit on a cold stove, and on a cold stove they can sit very long! Get the fire of the Holy Spirit into your life, and that dirty demon will not dare to touch you, lest he burn his
filthy fingers.” The Gospel provides its own fiery power. It is natural, therefore, for a preacher to be fired-up.
God’s Fire in Jesus
In terms of human emotion, God’s fire translates into passion— the type of passion seen in Jesus. However, He was not only passionate in His words. When He was going to Jerusalem for the last time, we read:
Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid.
They saw how He urged Himself onward. Luke expresses it this way:
Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.
Somehow, the fire in His soul was manifested in His outward appearance. When they arrived at Jerusalem, Jesus saw the desecration of the temple. The disciples then had further evidence of His passionate feeling and were reminded of the words of the psalmist: “Zeal for Your house has eaten me up” (Ps. 69:9). Yet, it was a love-anger, not a cold fury. Jesus was not a frenzied fanatic. He loved His Father’s house. It was His desire to see people in the temple, worshiping with freedom and happiness. However, the commercialism in it had spoiled all that. His heart overflowed like a volcano. The fire in His soul made Him cleanse the temple. His actions were frightening, and many fled from the scene. “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them” (Matt. 21:14).
That was what He had wanted to do anyway, and that was the reason why His anger achieved furnace heat. His indignation aimed for joy. Jesus got the children singing, “Hosanna!”
But when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying
out in the temple and saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant.
This is the only occasion in Scripture where excitement about God is rebuked, the only time that a hush was demanded in the courts of the Lord. The silence was demanded by the Pharisees—the praise of the Lord was drowning the tinkling of their commercial tills. Money-music was muted! These reactions of Jesus are all part of the picture of “the fire of the Lord.”
A Museum of Marble Figures
A burning message, and nothing but that, is supposed to be presented to the world. There is no need for fireworks. Firebrands do not have to be hotheads. Everything about the church, however, should reflect the warm light of God. “In His temple everyone says, ‘Glory!’” (Ps. 29:9). We read that God makes His ministers “a flame of fire” (Heb. 1:7). His people should be torches. Not only the evangelists, but also ministers, church officials, leaders, workers, teachers, and administrators should all glow with the Holy Spirit, like braziers on a cold, dark street. The business meeting should see Holy Spirit fire just as much as the revival meeting, perhaps even more so.
A fish has the same temperature as the water in which it swims. Too many Christians are like fish—they have no more warmth of spirit than the cold, unbelieving world around them. Men are warm-blooded creatures. That is the way the Lord made us. That is also the way He chose us to take the good news—with warmth!
The Lord does not send us out because we have cool heads and dignity. Nor does He choose us because of our self-composure. He sends us out with live coals from the altar, as witnesses to the Resurrection, to testify that we have met the God of Pentecost. I have heard sermons that were like lectures on embalming the dead. Would such a talk remind anyone of the living Jesus? Neither Jesus, nor Peter, nor Paul left congregations sitting like marble statues in a museum.
Logic can be set alight and still be logic, like the logic of Isaiah or Paul. Logic need not belong to the glacial period. Fire implies fervor, not ignorance. Learn, by all means, but not if it puts the fire out. Remember—radiance before cleverness.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The Lord wants us to have an “on fire” heart and to radiate joy, compassion, and love.
Human dignity takes on a new meaning when people are engrossed in praise to God. Have you ever seen fifty thousand people weeping, waving, jumping, and shouting in gladness to God? What else would you expect to happen when a mother stands on our platform, testifying that her child has just been healed of congenital blindness or deafness, or perhaps of twisted limbs? I have seen these miracle testimonies so often. It is a glorious scene, the height of human experience.
It is not to our credit if we keep perfectly cool when the lame walk or the blind see. Such reserve is not clever—it is foolish pride. Dance! That is more in keeping with such moments. We should take joy in the presence of the Lord! Jesus said:
I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.
I look at all those precious men and women, black or white, many who were so sad earlier, standing in a meeting, hands pressed together in emotion or lifted in worship, eyes glistening with glad tears, faces turned up to God, lips moving in wondering thankfulness. I say to myself, “How beautiful they are!” In such moments I wish I were an artist. When dignity comes before our delight in God—that is a catastrophe! If God does not touch our feelings, the devil will. How can God convict sinners and help them come to repentance unless they feel moved? How can He grant them the joy of sins forgiven, without giving them any sensation in their souls? I believe that the job of an evangelist is to light a fire in the human spirit. Salvation is more than getting people’s names on a dotted line. Christianity is not a club for them to join. Salvation is spiritual surgery. What is the forgiveness that we proclaim? What sort of forgiveness did Jesus give? It was the real kind of mercy. This forgiveness made a cripple walk; it melted a prostitute’s hardness,
causing her to wash His feet with tears. It was the sort of forgiveness that made people love much. It was the kind that made them do something extravagant, like throw a party as Levi did. This forgiveness caused Mary to break open a box of spikenard worth a small fortune and Zacchaeus to give away a small fortune.
The disciples were crazy with joy when they cast out devils, but Jesus said that was nothing.
Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are
written in heaven. In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit.
Peter heard Him say those words, and he understood that lesson. Later Peter wrote this about believers:
Whom having not seen, you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.
—1 Peter 1:8–9
Rejoice in undertones? Worship in whispers? Participate in silent celebrations? That is not what the word rejoice means in this Scripture. It means “to exult; to shout; to be rapturous.” Try doing that without emotion, without fire!
The fire of the Holy Spirit is for real. It must flow through the church of Jesus Christ like blood through the veins. God’s people on fire, and the church as a whole on fire, will win our lost generation for Him.