Tag Archives: Christianity

An Open Letter to an Average Disgruntled Church Member

Dear Disgruntled:

I noticed that coming to church has become something of a dying habit for you (well, to call it a habit might be stretching it a bit; habits do require some sort of consistency). From what I’ve heard, you’ve become disheartened and disillusioned with the whole church “thing.”

Is that true? If it is, my heart breaks for you. Believe me, there’s not a single church-related heartbreak or disappointment I haven’t already endured. However, there is something simple you can do to turn things around.

What you need to do is develop a Christ-like love for your brothers and sisters, then even the worst of disappointments will have a hard time turning your heart cold.

You could start by repeating the following statement over and over: “Because He first loved me… Because He first loved me…” Why? Because He first loved you (1 John 4:19)! Believe it or not, Jesus loved you long before you were loveable…long before you stopped breaking His heart on a daily basis…long before you became perfect and quit messing up.

Wait, you are perfect, aren’t you? No? Wow! And He loves you anyway?

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, if you would just try to love others the way Jesus loves you – faults and all – His Spirit would turn those tears of disappointment into healing streams of grace.

Then, if you’d keep your worship more vertically oriented and less horizontally irritated, there’d be a lot fewer things to complain about.

Loving and missing you,

An Average Pastor (without a jet) 

 

P.S. Service times haven’t changed, and no one has claimed your seat.

 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, grace, Struggles and Trials, worship, writing

“Let God be True, and Luther a Liar”

The following post (and it’s a long one) was written 6 years ago in 2011, shortly after returning from Florida where I officiated a beach wedding.

Since I just officiated another wedding this past Saturday, and since the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” is only a week away, I thought I would share this post once again. I hope it provides some helpful insight.

St. Petersburg, FL

Forgive me, but I am not a big fan of St. Petersburg, especially in the winter when it is 45 degrees. To me, Florida is supposed to be HOT. The warmest it got last week was in the low 70’s. The water on both coasts was terribly cold; therefore, sightseeing was more appropriate than sunbathing on the beach (which I don’t prefer, anyway). But aside from all of that, I still don’t think I would have liked St. Petersburg, even if it had been in the dead of summer.

However, they did have a few nice museums.

From books to iPhones

One museum we (Katie and I) enjoyed was the Museum of Fine Arts (http://www.fine-arts.org/). Believe it or not, it was the first time that I ever had the chance to stand in a room full of paintings by Monet. It was impressive, especially when you consider how close a teenager could stand next to objects worth multiple millions of dollars. Fortunately for the paintings, teenagers have touch-screen phones to keep their fingers occupied.

Another place we went, at my insistence, was the Florida Holocaust Museum (http://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/). I felt that it was important for the girls to see with their own eyes what true hatred and bigotry, even false religion can do. Not as big, nor as impressive as the museum in Washington, D.C., this museum still told the story well and featured an original cattle car that once carried Jews to the concentration camps.

Amelia Island, FL

When we left St. Petersburg, in order to find another beach to help Haley with her science project, at the advice of my brother-in-law, we went to Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida. Now THAT was a change from St. Petersburg. Through priceline.com we even got a 3-star hotel for $52 a night! Not bad for a place with a huge, clean beach and a small-town feel.

“Big Guns on the Wall”

The highlight of the trip, for me, was when we got to visit Fort Clinch on Amelia Island. The fort was built back in the 1800’s and served both the Confederate (1861) and the Union troops. It was a massive, red brick fortress overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and was meant to protect the Cumberland Sound. Fully restored, with reenactors playing the part, it was meant to give you the feel of stepping back in time to 1864.

I was really impressed with the fort. Even my wife was amazed. As I stood on its walls with huge canons, or on its proud bastions, I could not help but remember the words of the famous hymn by Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress.”

 

“A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing.
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.”

A Painful Thought

But while at Fort Clinch a painful thought crossed my mind. Just the day before, my girls were able to read other words from Martin Luther in the Florida Holocaust Museum. You see, even though Luther has been regarded as the father of the Reformation, he was a rabid anti-semite. In one display chronicling centuries of hatred toward the Jewish people, the words from Luther’s book, “On the Jews and Their Lies,” was written in bold for every Christian to see. Here are some quotes from that book:

“He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw sow dung at him when he sees him and chase him away.”

“If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country.”

“Moreover, they are nothing but thieves and robbers who daily eat no morsel and wear no thread of clothing which they have not stolen and pilfered from us by means of their accursed usury. Thus they live from day to day, together with wife and child, by theft and robbery, as arch-thieves and robbers, in the most impenitent security.”

“My essay, I hope, will furnish a Christian (who in any case has no desire to become a Jew) with enough material not only to defend himself against the blind, venomous Jews, but also to become the foe of the Jews’ malice, lying, and cursing, and to understand not only that their belief is false but that they are surely possessed by all devils. May Christ, our dear Lord, convert them mercifully and preserve us steadfastly and immovably in the knowledge of him, which is eternal life. Amen.”

What a contrast! One moment I am being inspired by a fortress that reminds me of the greatness of God, the next I am being reminded of the painful truth that men are sinners – all with the same song. How could the words of one man inspire both the Church and the Nazi party at the same time?

Martin Luther

Martin Luther wrote “A Mighty Fortress” based on Psalm 46:11, “The LORD of hosts [is] with us; the God of Jacob [is] our refuge. Selah.” God is our refuge and our hope in a time of trouble. The Psalmist also said, agreeing with Luther,

I will say of the LORD, [He is] my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. – Psa 91:2 KJV

What are we to make of this, then? Is my hope in God supposed to be dashed all because of the actions of some (or all) of his followers? Are we to assume the truth of God is a lie because of the hateful words of Luther, as opposed to his hymns and 95 theses? Martin Luther was terribly wrong in his observations of the Jews. For that matter, David wasn’t perfect, either. No, God is God. Man is man. That is why it is so important to keep in mind the following words from the Apostle Paul:

…[Let] God be true, and every man a liar…” – Romans 3:4 KJV

When Peter got it right, Jesus called him “blessed” and praised the fact that the Father gave him the words (Matthew 16:17). However, when Peter spoke in the flesh, out of his own selfish desires, Jesus said, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” (verse 23). When we speak out of hand about God, that does not change the truth about God.  Luther got some things right.  Luther also got some things wrong in a very bad way.

My God IS a mighty fortress…and He loves the people of Israel.  He has made that abundantly clear, despite the ramblings and false doctrines of men. God said, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Gen 12:3 KJV  Nothing has changed.  Let God be true, and Luther be a liar. Let God be true, and Peter a liar. Let God be true, and every one of us a liar. God is Who He is, whether we get it right or not. But because of Luther’s mistaken words, may we be ever more diligent to heed these words:

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

Why? Because Jesus said it right, and He ALWAYS got it right, when He said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” – John 17:17 KJV

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. – Pro 30:5-6 ESV

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Filed under God, Martin Luther, salvation, Uncategorized, World View

It Is Well…Even If

I was driving in to work this morning when this song came on the radio. I began thinking of a fellow Christian blogger who is going through a very tough time, her faith wearing thin. I then prayed, but something else happened.

It was just after 6 a.m., and just as soon as “Even If” by MercyMe quit playing, it played one more time. Now, who preprogrammed that into the station’s computer, I wonder?

At that moment I began praising God from my own perspective. Tears began to build up in my eyes as I listened once again, only closer now, until gravity turned the pools to streams.

You see, I’ve got burdens, needs, mountains that need moving, and questions needing answers. All the while I’ve got a host of others who need me to help with the very same kinds of things. And what do I say when the prayers don’t get answered? What do I say when the healing doesn’t come? How do I react when everything seems to be overwhelming me, but God seems silent to my cries?

I trust Him.

I mean, Jesus loved me enough to die for me; He promised never to leave me or forsake me; so wouldn’t it stand to reason He cares what situations I face? If He cares for others, shouldn’t he care for me as well? Yes! He does!

And I will trust Him.

Even if nothing turns out the way I hope, my real Hope is Jesus. Notice, my hope is not IN Jesus; it IS Jesus.

I will trust Him.

When peace like a river attendeth my way; when sorrows  like to see billows roll;  whatever my lot Thou hast taught me to say, “It is well with my soul…even if.”

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, God, ministry

Don’t Be Intimidated

Some of you might be feeling discouraged, afraid, worn out, or intimidated by the Enemy and his minions. I hope this helps.


Don’t be intimidated… into silence with regards to your faith – share it anyway.

Don’t be intimidated… by those who want to deny the reality or historicity of your faith, especially when the best arguments they have were learned in Philosophy 101, or from so-called atheists who only want to justify their lusts – their arguments aren’t as strong as they think.

Don’t be intimidated… by politicians and political hacks, especially those who support every kind of deviancy known to man – they will have to answer to the High King of Heaven one day.

Don’t be intimidated… by an increase in unexplained phenomena – the universe, and ALL that is in it was created by God for His glory. Genesis wasn’t just an Earth thing.

Don’t be intimidated… by those who believe truth is relative and morality is based on the flip of a coin – they’re afraid of a higher law.

Don’t be intimidated… by children who think they know everything – cause they don’t.

Don’t be intimidated… by a lack of experience or knowledge – get it.

Don’t be intimidated… by a mountain – it can either be climbed or tunneled through…or moved.

Don’t be intimidated… by the strength of others – if God be for us, who can be against us.

Don’t be intimidated… by the unknown – it’s not.

1Pe 3:14-16  – But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy [are ye]: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; (15) But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: (16) Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Rom 8:38,39  – For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, (39) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

2Ti 1:12  – For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.

I don’t know what you’ve been going through, or what you’ve been facing, but I hope this helps. May the Holy Spirit use these words to minister to you, as they have to me, and give you strength to stand.

Don’t be intimidated… “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4, the words of Jesus).

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Filed under Aliens, Apologetics, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Culture Wars, General Observations, God, self-worth, Uncategorized, World View

No Home Down Here

It is just after midnight on Monday morning. I’m in bed, ready to go to sleep, but something is keeping me awake a little longer, and it’s the sting of something my youngest daughter said.

Haley said, “I don’t want to live in another house…I want a home.”

You see, she had come home from an over-nighter with some friends, and it was their house that got her attention. She noted the artistic way the place was decorated; the years of family photos that graced the walls; even a special area where one daughter’s paintings hung for all to see.

We live in a parsonage, the second one in ten years. The last place we lived was only a temporary stop until this parsonage was livable. All other places we’ve lived during her first 7 years of life were rentals.

The fact is, sadly, we live in a house, but we don’t have a home. My 17 year-old daughter has never lived in a place where family would always be, put down roots, and call it our own. We are nothing more than transients.

That’s the life of a bi-vocational pastor and his family, just trusting the Lord to keep a roof over our heads till we are asked to leave or God opens a door. Not very glamorous, for sure.

But, to be honest, there’s a lesson that’s not been lost on me during all this. Simply put, nothing on this earth will last forever, not even the deed to a home. No matter who we are, we’re all pilgrims in this world. As a matter of fact, living in a borrowed place down here just reminds me of how this world is not my home, I’m only passing through.

No, I don’t own a home down here, but at least I know where my real home is. One day I’ll go there, and you’re all invited. I bet my daughter will even be impressed with the way the Builder decorated it.

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Filed under Life Lessons, ministry, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

My Testimony (by David Fuller)

Guest Post by: David Fuller (Non-Cessationist)


As a follow-up to my previous post, Tongues And The Church Today, I thought it would be relevant to share my personal testimony, because I think I understand the perspective of those who view the Pentecostal movement as something strange, and maybe even regard it with some suspicion. I grew up Baptist. My parents and grandparents are Baptists, we attended a Baptist church, and I attended Baptist schools from 4th grade on. I’m extremely grateful for the upbringing which God provided me. Baptists tend to be sticklers when it comes to the Word of God, which unfortunately can, and did, lead to the errors of legalism, but it also basically meant that I spent my all of my developmental years in Bible school, resulting in my mind being inundated with God’s Word to the point that it became inextricably woven into every aspect of my thinking. I was also taught to use the skills of critical thinking as did the Bereans in the book of Acts, who “searched the scriptures, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). Spiritual gifts, however, is one area my teachers tended to shy away from. Generally, if someone was talking about speaking in tongues, it was because they were debunking Pentecostal teaching.

What I had gathered from the teaching I received, was that the gifts of the Spirit today consists of God bestowing on various people a supernaturally inspired disposition toward a particular virtue or area of service to the body. Since the Bible says that tongues and prophecy would one day cease, this was believed to have already occurred, assuming that “when that which is perfect is come” refers to the completion of the New Testament writings, and the compilation of the scriptures into a single volume, an interpretation which I think is debatable, since we still “see through a glass, darkly”, and not “face to face”. (1 Corinthians 13:8 – 12)

My earliest memories include being read the Bible and taught the gospel story. The first time I remember being consciously aware of God is when a man from a gospel group singing at our church prayed the prayer of salvation with me, and explained what it means to be saved, and be forever in God’s mighty hand. I was seven, I hadn’t actually asked to be saved, and I didn’t completely understand at the time, but I remember that encounter like it was an hour ago, and I don’t remember anything else around it. I believe now it was God’s way of personally introducing Himself to me. Knowing my understanding was incomplete at the time, when I was thirteen I asked my father to pray with me again, just to be sure it was my decision.

When I was 19, I worked at a dept store. One day a guy asked me where the men’s section was, and then asked if I was a Christian, and I said yes. He asked when I got saved, and when I told him I was young, he said, “Oh, your one of those.” He had met the Lord about a year prior, and proceeded to talk with joyful exuberance about how wonderful it was to know the Lord, and he felt sorry for those who had been saved so long they didn’t seem to share his excitement. I never saw him again, but I couldn’t help seeing his point, because I knew that my Christian life was more about believing the right doctrines, and keeping the right rules. It was not the experience of wonder and irrepressible joy that he seemed to exude, and that bothered me, so I began to pray about it. I wondered, should I feel that way? Was he just acting like a typical new believer, and some maturity would temper him down eventually?

Not long after, a coworker at the same store invited me to a young adults bible study group, hosted by a couple from a local Assembly of God congregation. I went, and got to know them, and began attending their church. Of course, I was all questions. What’s it like? How does it happen? Do you go into a trance? Do you know what language it is? What’s the point of it? Etc, etc. All I could squeeze out of them were dreamy looks and vague sounding descriptions of sublime feelings. I was prayed over a few times, and laid hands on, and even anointed with oil. I was told to just let go, that I might feel my tongue begin to move around in my mouth, as if it wanted to say something, and to just let it flow and trust God. I didn’t feel anything like that, or anything at all, really, but I tried anyway, tried to make the kind of sounds they were making, but I felt silly because I knew that’s all I was doing. I wanted answers.

So I checked out their church library, where I found a book called, “A Handbook on Holy Spirit Baptism”, by Don Basham. It was precisely what I had been looking for. The author, having traveled and spoken extensively, had naturally been confronted with all sorts of questions, and had compiled them into what was essentially a FAQ on tongues and Holy Spirit Baptism. The book was organized into several sections, with each question being a chapter heading, followed by an answer/explanation with pertinent scriptural and historical precedents, and designed so you didn’t have to read it in order. Near the end of the book, he had included a short prayer as a guide for requesting and receiving the Baptism.

I took the book home and perused it, starting with the questions I was most interested in, until I had read most of it. The section with the prayer had something similar to a plan of salvation series of steps, which included the author’s suggestion to read or re-read a particular previous section and look up the scriptures referenced. Now, I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted answers. Consequently, what had begun as a growing sense that something important was lacking in my relationship with God, had merged with my curiosity about spiritual gifts, and the result was a kind of science experiment. I was not looking for vague answers supported by verses that were used out of context, or dubiously interpreted to fit a preset conclusion. I had never desired the gift of tongues or any second experience. I wanted two things. I wanted to be closer to the Lord – to know Him better, love Him more and trust Him more; and I wanted to know, as certainly as it was possible to know, whether God still poured out His Spirit in this way today, since a closer relationship with Him seemed the obvious result, if He still did that.

I feel it’s important to note, that though my new friends were quick to encourage all to seek the Baptism and the gifts, and I was inquiring about them, I was not seeking these. I was seeking the Lord. I was ready to receive whatever His answer was. If it turned out that tongues was not part of His plan for me, I was completely fine with that. That would just mean that I could put the issue to rest for myself, continue asking Him to draw me closer by whatever means appropriate, and not worry that here was some form of intimacy with my Lord that I was missing out on due to pride or ignorance.

Since I had already read the suggested chapter, and looked up all the referenced scriptures, I was at first inclined to skip this step. Then I decided, if nothing happens here, I’m not going to be left forever wondering if it was because of some step I was too proud or lazy to take. So I sat on my bed, alone in my room at my parent’s house, as the night crept into the wee hours of morning, and re-read the chapter, as well as the entire Bible chapter in which each referenced verse was located. Then I prayed.

I prayed, “Lord, if you still do this today, if it’s possible for me to know you the way Paul and the other apostles knew you, then please do this for me. And if you do this, please do it in such a way that there can be no shadow of any kind of a doubt, that it’s YOU doing it, and not some spiritual deception or work of the devil, or something I’m doing and deceiving myself. And if you choose to do this in me, please give me the gift of tongues as the sign by which I will know for sure that Holy Spirit Baptism is what I’m actually experiencing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” I asked specifically for tongues, since there is apparently some debate over whether tongues is always the particular manifestation given with the Baptism, and again, I wanted to be as certain as possible. I didn’t want to wonder, did I actually receive the Baptism, only with one of the less obviously observable gifts? I wanted answers, not more questions.

I waited, the clock ticked, and nothing else happened.

Perhaps partly because of my Protestant background, or my own preference for authenticity in people and things, I’ve never had much use for recited prayers, but since the provided example prayer was the only remaining step I had yet to take, and I wanted to leave nothing undone, or any possibility of my own pride or presumption having hindered me, at about 4 in the morning I knelt beside my bed, alone in my room, and began to read the prayer in the book, and make it my own.

As I began to read and pray, my eyes inexplicably filled with tears, so that it became hard to see the page. By the time I was a couple of lines in, I was so choked up it was difficult to even continue, but I was determined to see this completely through, so I read through the river of tears and choked out the rest of the short prayer, and then let myself collapse beside my bed, where I sobbed and wept uncontrollably as if I had forever lost my best friend in the world, until my sides hurt and I could barely breathe. I can remember wondering why I was weeping. I had had bouts of teenage angst and depression before, but I hadn’t been depressed that day. I don’t enjoy crying, or feeling bad, so I reason my way out of it if I can (what am I really upset about? Is it really that bad, or do I just imagine it to be?, and so on). I couldn’t think of anything I was particularly upset about, certainly not anything that would have me holding my sides and wracked with sobbing tears. I remember thinking, “this is ridiculous, what’s wrong with me? I need to get a grip.” But I couldn’t. It was all I could do just to breathe through the tears and snot and choking sobs.

When it wouldn’t stop and I couldn’t take it anymore, I started asking God to help me. I don’t remember the change, or how, or the precise point at which it happened, but my praying changed from English to something else. It was effortless. Nothing at all like before, where I could come up with a few syllables of mimicking gibberish on my own, and knew that I was doing it. This just flowed, as if I were speaking a language I forgot I knew, though I didn’t understand what I was saying. I was still sobbing, but I was filled with joy like I had never felt before. I was aware that I was also still praying, but not with my understanding. At some point it just turned back into English, and I continued speaking to God, praising Jesus in more ways and by more names (all biblical) than I had ever even thought of in one day before, and I knew (can’t explain it) that what I was hearing from my own lips was the interpretation of what I had just spoken in an unknown language. It was beautiful. I remained on my knees praising Jesus, as it changed back and forth between tongues and the English meaning, for I’m not sure how long. I felt as if I would rather just speak in the new language, because it seemed to flow more easily than English, which seemed crude and inadequate by comparison, though the interpreted praises of Christ were themselves sublime, and certainly nothing I was coming up with on my own, either. I was by myself, but I had never felt less alone.

As with my first encounter with God, I remember these details as if it happened yesterday, but my memories of what immediately followed are less clear. At some point, I think, I must have become exhausted and went to sleep. I think the experience took place over an hour or two. The next day I would have been tempted to think it was just a dream, had I not, without even thinking about it, found myself randomly praying in the new language, still without effort, and also without the immediately following interpretations of the night before, which I believe were given to me in response to my desire and requests for certainty and the elimination of doubt, something difficult to achieve in a mind taught to maintain a healthy level of skepticism towards anything not concretely provable.

Barely able to contain my excitement, I told my parents what had happened, and they told me that “we don’t believe that still happens today”, and encouraged me to search the scriptures and seek God, presumably believing that my error would by this means be corrected. Others I tried to tell just looked at me like, ohhh kaaayy, you need help. So I left off trying to tell them about things they weren’t interested in. Since they were already believers, I left them in God’s hands, and cherished the new way He had given me to talk with Him, which I do all the time, everywhere, to this day. At work, home, church, the store, my car, everywhere. Often out loud (not loudly), sometimes not. Nobody ever seems to notice, or maybe they just think I’m talking to myself. I’ve felt the temptation to show it off, but I’ve always sensed that He frowns on that, and anyway, it’s too special to me. It’s a form of intimacy with Him which I prefer not to share with just anyone.

What’s it like? It’s wonderful! It’s a constant reminder of the reality of His presence and power. There have been times when my rational, practical, skeptical mind has wandered to a place where ideas like armies of horsemen coming out of the sky just seemed ridiculous, and I found it difficult to believe, then I find myself praying in the Spirit, who bears witness with my spirit, that truly “My Beloved is mine, and I am His” (Song of Solomon 2:16), and doubt flees away. How does it happen? By the power of the Holy Spirit. I can’t give you a scientific explanation. Do I go into a trance state when speaking in tongues? No. I always retain full possession of all my faculties. As I said above, it’s as simple and effortless as normal speech. Sometimes I “stir up the gift that is in me” (2 Timothy 1:6), but I frequently find myself praying in the Spirit when (perhaps because?), God and praying are the furthest things from my mind. Do I know what language it is? No. I have at times thought that it sounded like various different languages, and I’ve often wondered if someone with a different first language happened to hear me might they recognize it? But if anyone has even noticed I wasn’t aware of it. I do get the sense, as I sensed about the interpretations, that as a member of the body of Christ, the Spirit may at times intercede through me for people of various languages, in various places, whom I may never meet in this life. Also, Paul often calls it “speaking in an unknown tongue”, which could also mean unknown to anyone in this world, since he clearly refers to tongues of men, and tongues of angels (1 Cor. 13:1), and it seems reasonable to assume that if uncountable legions of angels were created before humanity, they would likely have their own language or languages. What’s the point of it? When I pray, I want to pray according to His will, and sometimes I don’t know how to pray as I ought, or words become inadequate, but the Spirit searches the deep things of God, and intercedes for us, so when I pray in tongues, I can trust that the Spirit knows how best to communicate my heart to His. (Romans 8:26, 1 Cor 2:10)

I should emphasize that this work of the Spirit in me did not eradicate the law of sin at work in my flesh, any more than His work of regeneration did. We will all receive that gift at the same time, when corruption puts on incorruption, and our last enemy is finally defeated. (Rom 7: 15 – 25, 1 Cor 15:26, 52 -54)

As beautiful as the gift of tongues is, Holy Spirit Baptism is much more than any particular gift you may receive, and obviously the greatest gift of all is the one I was actually seeking all along – an unending, ever growing intimacy with Jesus, the likes of which I had previously only heard about and dreamed of, which does not come from speaking with tongues, but from being filled to overflowing with God’s Holy Spirit. “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit” (1 Cor 6:17). What could be more intimate, than to be so closely united with the one you love that words of any kind become almost unnecessary? To know that not one tear escapes my eye, but that He feels the sting of it? And wonder beyond wonders, He shares His feelings with me also. It’s just as Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you”, “that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 14:27, John 15:11). It’s not all roses and rainbows, however. As He bears our grief, and carries our sorrows, we are also called to share in His sufferings, that we may also share in His glory. But empowered by His Spirit, His yoke truly is easy, and His burden is light. (Isaiah 53:4, 1 Peter 4:13, Philippians 3:10 – 11, Matt. 11:30)

While I could wish that those whom God used to draw me closer to Himself had been more knowledgeable or articulate, I now understand the dreamy expressions I sometimes saw when I asked them to explain. If you’ve ever tried to talk with someone who’s madly in love, about the object of their affection, then you might know what I mean. Their hearts had been captivated by Jesus and His amazing love.

And so has mine.

 

P.S. The book mentioned above is still in print, and you can Google it if you want to. Remember, though, the ONLY author who can give you the Holy Spirit, is the Author of our Salvation, Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you.

David Fuller


Note: The above post is not a reflection of my personal beliefs. You will be able to read a response in the next post. – The Recovering Legalist

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Unity, Liberty, Charity: Disagreeing With Grace


The Way It Should Be

Isn’t it wonderful to have a platform where we can openly discuss the Bible? Isn’t it wonderful to be able to express our thoughts over the web without fear of retribution or imprisonment? Unfortunately, we often misuse the wonderful gifts we’ve been given, the gifts of the internet and our blogs, to bellow out our opinions as we blast our opponents, rarely taking advantage of the freedom we have to show grace, mercy, and love to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

A few days ago we started this discussion of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) and its modern relevance to the Church. What I have seen so far, both by way of posts and comments, has truly been encouraging. The series is still young, but I’ve yet to see a single critical, ungracious comment! Everyone who has written has been cordial, even in disagreement. That is the way it should be!

Therefore, before I go any further or get any deeper into the discussion at hand, I feel it best to clarify some things about my personal beliefs. The reason for doing so is to lay the groundwork for any further posts or comments I may write while addressing this particular subject of contention and misunderstanding within the Body of Christ.

Clarifying My Position

First of all, I am happy to say that I have many dear friends who differ with me on the issue of glossolalia (speaking in tongues). Those friends are not only in the Charismatic/Pentecostal branches of Christendom, but even within my own Baptist circles. Therefore, it is not my intention to belittle or demean what they believe, nor is it my wish to harm our relationships by openly disagreeing with certain doctrines they hold dear – they are family, and I love them. No, my sole intention is simply to state what I believe and why I believe it.

To be very honest, there are times when I wonder if it would be best just to leave things as they are and never discuss our differences. For example, some of the most godly and faithful people I know have a different understanding of the passages on which I will expound in a future post: they truly believe that the 4th and 14th verses of 1 Corinthians both affirm and give evidence for the faith to which they hold. Therefore, when they enter into their prayer closets and humbly bow before God in intercession, should their view of secondary or tertiary doctrines be a concern of mine? So what if their persistent, fervent, private prayer leads to ecstatic speech? If they are encouraged in the Faith, and it only leads them to stand stronger in it, why should I care? Honestly, at least they are praying! Lest we forget, right theology does not a prayer warrior make.

Nevertheless, as a minister I am tasked with the responsibility to read the Book distinctly, give the sense, and cause the listener to understand what’s being read (Nehemiah 8:8). As a preacher I am supposed to be “instant in season [and] out of season,” speaking the truth in love, despite the consequence or mood (2 Timothy 4:2). And should I choose to remain silent, never offering a proper treatment of a particular passage, even if doing so would seemingly cause no harm, then my shame would be justified (2 Timothy 2:15). Scripture is not up to “private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20), so it is always appropriate and ultimately edifying to get closer to the interpretation that’s correct.

The second thing I would like to make clear is that I cannot, in good conscience, label myself a total cessationist (i.e., one who believes the spiritual gift of tongues ceased with the apostolic age); there is still room in my understanding of glossolalia for God to work outside my denominational box. However, it is of my opinion that the overwhelming majority of modern-day examples of glossolalia are nothing more than “ecstatic speech” (emotionally-induced language-like sounds). Even without referring back to the directives issued by Paul in1 Corinthians 14:27-33, the average example of glossolalia fails the most simple of linguistic tests, therefore demonstrating that whatever is being spoken may sound like a language, but it isn’t. Then, when one does insert 1 Corinthians 14:27-33 back into the equation, the average Charismatic or Pentecostal worship service becomes incredulous (i.e., ten people running around the sanctuary and speaking in tongues at the same time, all without an interpretation).  Simply put, if glossolalia is a gift still being given, the actual practice of it in public worship is probably extremely rare.

In my next post on this subject I am only going to address one particular verse of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 14:4. There are obviously several other passages which could be discussed, but for the sake of brevity (as if this post was short), this one verse, viewed in context, will be enough for me – at least for a while.

For the time being, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” (Rupertus Meldenius, circa 1627).

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Christianity, Relationships and Family, Theology