Archive for Spiritual Gifts

I Speak in Tongues

 

 I [Paul] thank God that I speak in tongues more than any of you.

1 Cor 14:18 NLT

I first spoke in tongues on a street corner in Dallas, Texas in 1979. It was not a highly emotional experience, but it was a surprisingly sweet and tender moment of encountering Christ in the Holy Spirit. Since then, the gift of tongues has lifted me out of times of discouragement, helped me to pray when I don’t know how, and drawn me into greater awareness of God’s presence. The greatest benefit to this most controversial of the spiritual gifts: deeper intimacy with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Tongues, or glossolalia, is a special ability from the Holy Spirit to speak in a language never learned: earthly or angelic (1 Cor. 13:1). Unintelligible speech directed in praise and prayer toward God for the edification of the speaker and for the building up of the people of God.

Speaking in tongues is normal, but not normative. That is to say, do not be surprised to experience the gift of tongues upon being renewed in the Holy Spirit. However, the experience of this blessed gift is not a requirement, but a grace-gift from God to assist us in praying when we do not know how to pray (Acts 2:1-11).

Tongues is “a way of responding to the inexpressibility of God, a way of crying to God from the depths and expressing the too-deep-for-words sighings of the heart.

The gift of tongues cuts at our pride. Receiving this gift surrenders our speech to the Lord and makes us like little children: humble, dependent and trusting.

The gift places us in unfamiliar territory and requires us to be childlike in prayer. But this may be why tongues are important. It is a means God uses to challenge strategies of control. It is a humble but also a humbling gift to which we should be open.

Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 172-173.

A benefit of speaking in tongues is the ability to pray when you don’t know how to pray, this gift enables us to speaks directly to God (1 Cor. 14:2), providing personal edification (1 Cor. 14:4) enabling praise and worship (Acts 2:11) increasing our personal intimacy with Jesus (Mark 16:17; 1 Cor. 12:10, 28; 13:1; 14:2, 4, 13-16 ,27). Best book on the practicality and joy of experiencing the gift of tongues is Jack Hayford’s The Beauty of Spiritual Language.

 

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Charismata (Spiritual Gifts)

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts (Greek: charismata). Use them well to serve one another.

1 Peter 4:10 NLT

We need supernatural power to fight and win a supernatural war, therefore the Father gives us spiritual tools and grace-filled weapons for the battle–the spiritual gifts. These weapons are concrete expressions of grace, charismata, which enable and empower every believer to do the words and perform the works of Jesus. The word explains the reason for the works and the works demonstrate the power of the word.

It is not enough to believe in the spiritual gifts or even occasionally participate in their practice; we must intensely hunger for their manifestation. The Apostle Paul admonishes us to “eagerly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Cor. 14:1). The phrase “seek not, forbid not” concerning the gifts of the Spirit is an unbiblical aphorism (1 Cor. 1:7, 12:31, 14:39; Heb. 2:3-4).

But while indeed the Church’s sacramental and apostolic order witnesses to the historical givenness of gospel and Church, there is need to remember the continuing lively action of the Spirit whereby alone the believers are Christ’s body. The many charismata shared among the Church’s members are not personal qualities or possessions so much as constant actions of the Spirit in which the liveliness of God touches human lives.

Michael Ramsey, Holy Spirit: A Biblical Study (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), 127-128.

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Spurgeon’s Word of Knowledge

Charles H. Spurgeon

 

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance (i.e., word) of wisdom, and to another the utterance (i.e., word) of knowledge according to the same Spirit.

1 Cor. 12:7-8 ESV

A word of knowledge is insight given to a believer into another person’s past which ministers God’s present love into their current problems and struggles. A word of knowledge reveals heart-felt secrets that only our omniscient God could know for the purpose of displaying God’s care and concern for that person’s needs. “A word of knowledge is usually defined within charismatic circles as the report of a specific piece of information that a person could not possibly have known naturally” (Adrian Warnock).

There were many instances of remarkable conversions at the Music Hall; one especially was so singular that I have often related it as a proof that God sometimes guides His servants to say what they would themselves never have thought of uttering, in order that He may bless the hearer for whom the message is personally intended. While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, “There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence ! ” A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, “Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?” “Yes,” replied the man, “I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and, under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened ? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place ; Mr. Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays ; and I did, sir. I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit out of it. I did take ninepence that day, and fourpence was just the profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me ; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul.”

Spurgeon elaborates that his experience of the word of knowledge (not his term) was not uncommon in his ministry:

I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ” Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did ; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.” And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, “The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door.”

Charles H. Spurgeon, The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Vol. 2: 1854-1860 (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1899), 226-227.

 

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An Open Letter to a Friend About Divine Healing

 

An Open Letter to a Friend About the Gift of Healing

It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

1 Cor. 12:10-11

Dear My Brother in Christ:

Thank you for your email and for your willingness to discuss theological ideas with which you disagree. This freedom to understand our theological differences under the umbrella of inerrant scripture is one of the pleasures that I enjoyed about our common seminary experience.

Concerning your statement, “If you, or I, or someone we knew had the gift of healing and did not go to that hospital and heal all those sick boys and girls, what kind of monsters would we be?” Your concern is a real and common objection to the operation of the gift of healing today. Allow me to speak to your concerns.

We all long for the second return of Christ when suffering and sickness will be no more and the innocent will no longer suffer tragedy. Presently, we experience the now and not yet of the Kingdom of God, a foretaste of heaven, but not the kingdom’s full realization. The Kingdom is an advance sample of what life will be like when dwelling in God’s exquisite presence in heaven. In this life, the people of God will experience freedom from sickness and deliverance from oppression, but deliverance from all suffering will not occur until the second coming of Christ. Therefore, we eagerly anticipate Satan’s total overthrown and the complete restoration of this fallen world.

I would take exception to your idea that Charismatics claim to possess the gift of healing. We do not possess the gifts of the Spirit: the Spirit possesses us. When God, the Holy Spirit, sovereignly chooses to heal through the spiritual gifts, then and only then, will a man or woman be healed (1 Cor. 12:11). The gift of healing is not something we own. Only God, the Holy Spirit, can heal physical sicknesses and he alone chooses through whom he will operate.

I have prayed for hundreds of individuals through the years: some were instantaneously healed, and some were gradually healed, and some were not healed at all, but all who asked for prayer experienced God’s love and grace. Again, the timing and nature of God’s healing work is his sovereign choice.

Numerous times, Peter walked through the Temple gate and passed a crippled beggar, but on that particular day Peter was filled with faith and for the glory of God touched that broken man and he stood up and walked (Acts 3:6). No doubt other sick people were begging at that very gate on that very day, but God choose to heal only that one man on that particular day.

A few years ago, I prayed for woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer. We prayed on Saturday night before her anticipated surgery on Monday. Before the surgery, the doctors took one final X-ray before her procedure. When they did, the cancer was no longer apparent. She was medically verified as healed.

However, I prayed many hours for a friend, just a teenager, who was suffering from lymphoma. Despite all our prayers, the situation worsened. She passed away. Why God chooses to heal some while allowing others to pass is not a question I can answer. I do know that in the light of eternity, we will know that God was good and loving to both the healed and the needy. By his love and grace, the Lord had something greater for us and them (Heb. 11:39-40).

You stated, “Since there were no hospitals like we have today, all the sick were at home.” I beg to differ. In John five, Jesus visits the Pool of Bethesda. Scripture says that, “Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches (v. 4). Jesus heals one man and one man only-the invalid who had lain there thirty-eighty years.  There is no indication that anyone else was healed at that location.

Bethesda was an ill-equipped and ill-informed hospital compared to today’s standards. However, Jesus entered that ancient excuse for a hospital and healed only one individual.  Jesus said, “I assure you, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does” (John 5:19). Evidently, the Father by his sovereign choice only desired to heal one person in that hospital on that day.

I will be the first to admit that there are many charlatans among us masquerading as divine healers. However, we cannot abandon the practice of praying for the sick even though some are abusing and misusing its practice (1 Thes. 5:19-22). When praying for the sick, I prefer the model that John Wimber of the Vineyard Movement developed: an off-the-stage, away from the cameras, unpretentious prayer ministry for the sick and needy.

In summary, believers do not possess the gift of healing: we are dependent on the Spirit’s enablement. Jesus did not clean out hospitals, but only obeyed his Father’s will when choosing who and when to heal. The timing of the healing dynamic is God’s and God’s perfect timing alone. Healing is an outgrowth of the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom will not be fully established in this world till Christ’s second coming (Rev. 11:15).

May God use you, my friend, to advance his kingdom and proclaim his most gracious gospel.

Christus Victor,

Fr. Glenn

 

 

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Lessons from a Lion: Prophetic Ministry Today


And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the LORD to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings.

And the man cried against the altar by the word of the LORD and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.

1 Kings 13:1-2 ESV

I wrote an essay about prophetic ministry entitled, “Lessons from a Lion: A Fresh Look at First Kings 13.” My motivation for writing this article was twofold: prophetic ministry has fallen into disrepute and confusion exists in the Body of Christ regarding the practice of prophetic ministry. Is New Testament prophetic ministry identical in authority with the Old Testament prophets of long ago? How can I discern that a “prophetic word” is from the Lord or just someone trying to confuse me or even manipulate me? Can New Testament prophets be wrong? Is a prophetic word still valid if a prophet fails morally?

Essay

The Lord has used my essay to help Charismatics come to greater sense of liberty when sharing a “word” and a greater sense of peace when receiving prophetic declaration. “Lessons from a Lion” can be found here at Google documents.

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Prophetic Ministry

Prophetic Ministry

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers . . . .

Eph. 4:11

A prophet is a male or female called by God to hear his voice, display in his or her life that message, and proclaim that word to the people of God. A prophet is anointed to be a voice of encouragement and correction to the Body of Christ by exhorting God’s people to walk in holiness of life and obedience to the Word of God (Amos 3:7, Eph. 4:11, Acts 21:7-14). Not every believer is a prophet, but every believer can exercise the gift of prophecy. Prophetic ministry still exists today, but the prophets must be accountable to the governing authorities of their local church (1 Cor. 14:36-40).

We do have prophetically gifted people in the church today. Some of the most gifted of these can regularly predict the future, tell you the secrets of your heart, receive accurate impressions and dreams, see accurate visions, and some are even used to do miracles. I don’t really care what we call these people, as long as we are wise enough to see the value of their ministries and benefit from them.

Since the beginning of the New Testament church, God has given prophetically gifted ministers to each generation of believers, just as he has always given evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 69.

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Evaluating a Word of Prophecy

Assessing a Word of Prophecy

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said.

1 Cor. 14:29

Every believer can prophesy because every believer has indwelling within him or her the presence of the Holy Spirit. The word of prophecy has not ceased because the Holy Spirit has not stopped being our advocate, counselor, and guide (1 Thes. 5:19-22). In addition, the Holy Spirit endows every believer with the gift of discernment.

Evaluating a word of prophecy involves three elements: revelation, interpretation, and application. Revelation: Is a prophetic word genuinely from the Holy Spirit having a sense of eternity? Interpretation: What does the word mean to us? The correct interpretation is important as the revelation. Application: What do we do with this word?

The gift of discernment is insight from the Holy Spirit which enables a believer to know whether a practice, teaching, or gifting is from God, Satan, or a manifestation of the flesh (Luke 10:19, Acts 16:17-18, 1 Cor. 12:10). The Holy Spirit has not only graced the Body of Christ with prophetic guidance, but also, he has granted the church the ability to weigh prophetic words. Is a prophetic word from the Lord or simply a human creation? Is a prophetic word eternal, genuinely from the Lord, or a manifestation of the flesh, an emotional working up of concern? Could it be possible that a prophetic word is a distraction from Satan?

The gift of discernment operates in the congregation and within the leadership of the local church. This gift is enables the congregation to identify the source, content, and intent of a prophetic word. Individually, discernment is a check in one’s spirit with a question mark in one’s mind. A prophetic word may sound right, but does not register in our spirits as being from the Lord.

Certainly in these Last Days, the church needs the gift of discernment more than ever before. All types of false teaching and wrong-headed leadership are attempting to subvert local churches. We are not only called to discern, but are commanded to do so. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1-2).

One aspect of discernment is the ability to judge not by what our eyes see, or our ears hear, but with righteousness through the Holy Spirit (Isa. 11: 2-4). The Holy Spirit can show us whether or not predictions will come true. But this is not the highest level of discernment that he has to offer the church.

The Spirit of Truth is given to the church, especially its leadership, what promotes the love, testimony, and glory of Jesus. If the leadership of the church would follow resolutely after these three things—the love of Jesus, the testimony of Jesus, and the glory of Jesus—it would be very difficult for them to be deceived.”

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Voice of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 198.

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The Word of Prophecy

The Word of Prophecy

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.

1 Cor 14:1 ESV

Today, many believers express confusion and consternation over the nature and purpose of the charismatic gift of the word of prophecy (1 Cor 12:10; 14:1-5). We will examine the gift of prophecy and prophetic ministry over the next several days.

The word of prophecy is spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible speech, orally-delivered to the church gathered intended for the building up of the people of God. In other words, the gift of prophecy is not planned, we cannot make the Holy Spirit give us a word. Properly, the word is not self-generated, but insight and instruction from the heart of God for the people of God. Biblically, the word of prophecy is shared by an individual for the whole Body of Christ in a language that everyone can understand. A word of prophecy, even if given to just one individual, should be submitted to the whole congregation for discernment (1 Cor. 14:29).

Prophecy can be both foretelling, insights into the plans of God; and forthtelling, God’s word for our present circumstances. Prophecy is an important gift for the Apostle Paul encouraged us to “earnestly desire” the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14: 1) and prophecy has the ability to “strengthen, encourage, and comfort” the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14: 3). New Testament prophecy is not inspired like scripture, but insights from the Lord for personal guidance and corporate direction.

In its broad meaning, prophecy is simply God communicating His thoughts and intents to mankind. When a true prophecy is given, the Holy Spirit inspires someone to communicate God’s pure and exact words to the individual or group for whom they are intended. It is delivered without any additions or subtractions by the one prophesying, including any applications or interpretations suggested by the one speaking. To be most effective, it must also be delivered in God’s timing and with the proper spirit or attitude.

Bill Hamon, Prophets and Personal Prophecy (Santa Rosa Beach, FL: Christian International, 1987), 29.

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What Do You Do With a Personal Prophetic Word?

Active or Passive Response?

Here and here, we defined the word of prophecy as a spiritual gift and how during this season of Advent, we especially need to seek the prophetic word. Today, we reflect on how to respond when a prophetic word is given by the Holy Spirit.

What should our response be to a confirmed prophetic word (1 Cor. 14:29)? Do we just sit around and wait? Do we just discuss it, debate it, or analyze it? Is it possible that the Holy Spirit desires for us to pray this move of God—an inbreaking of the kingdom—into existence?  The Holy Spirit calls us to obey Isaiah’s injunction, “Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near” (Isa. 55:6, NLT). We seek the gift of prophecy for we hunger for God’s direction in the midst of the chaos and confusion of this world (1 Cor. 14:1).

The prophetic word is an invitation to enter God’s promises, to receive God’s provision, and to release God’s kingdom (1 Cor. 14:1-5). When a prophetic word is given to us, we are called to pray the promise’s fulfillment, believe the promise’s pledge, and obey the promise’s command.  In other words, we are not to sit passively waiting for a prophetic word to come true, but we are called by God to be actively cooperating with the Holy Spirit to see that word fulfilled.

Elijah is a biblical example of responding to God’s prophetic word: he acted and prayed into existence God’s promise of rain (1 Kings 18:1, 41-46).

Elijah sought the Lord even when the word of the Lord was clear and unequivocal; he did not wait passively, but pursued Yahweh while he could be found. God promised Elijah, “Go, present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the earth” (1 Kings 18:1, NKJV). First, Elijah obeyed the word of the Lord and was immediately obedient to the heavenly command. For in verse two, Elijah went and presented himself to his greatest enemy King Ahab. He obeyed despite the threat of rejection, persecution, and even possible death.

Second, Elijah grabbed hold of the word of God and believed it for he heard “the abundance of rain” before it was ever visible (v.41). Third, Elijah sought the Lord in prayer basing his request for rain on the promise of God (v.1).  Fourth, Elijah humbled himself before the Lord, not demanding, but requesting that God honor his promise of rain. “And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees . . . ” (v. 42). Fifth, Elijah was earnest; he wanted to see the word of the Lord fulfilled (James 5:17). He persevered until the answer came, for “seven times” he looked longingly to the sea for rain (v.43).

Sixth, Elijah was undeterred for he continued to believe God even after six times of seeing no results from his prayers. Seven, Elijah acted on God’s prophetic word for he gave Ahab instructions to drive through the Jezreel Valley before rain flooded the area. Elijah based his orders on seeing a cloud as small as a man’s hand, thus Elijah was a man of faith (v.44). Elijah saw his prayer answered (v.45) and became an example for us all (James 5: 16a-18). [F. B. Meyer, Elijah: And the Secret of His Power (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1978), 90-100.]

Conclusion, Elijah is biblical example for receiving a prophetic word: we should pray until the promise is fulfilled. The great prayer warrior, E. M. Bounds, instructs us in the same manner:

All revivals are dependent on God, but in revivals, as in other things, he invites and requires the assistance of man, and the full result is obtained when there is cooperation between the divine and the human. In other words, to employ a familiar phrase, God alone can save the world, but God chooses not to save the world alone.

E. M. Bounds, Purpose in Prayer found in The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1990), 360.

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Advent and the Gift of Prophecy

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Prophetic Hope

“Eagerly desire . . . the gift of prophecy”

1 Cor 14:1

In a previous post, I defined the spiritual gift of prophecy as spontaneous, Spirit-inspired, intelligible speech, orally-delivered to the church gathered intended for the building up of the people of God. Prophecy can be both foretelling; insights into the future plans of God, and forthtelling; God’s word for our present circumstances.

During the church season of Advent, the word of prophecy is important for Advent is the period of the Christian year dedicated to prophetic hope. Prophetic hope is believing and expecting God’s inspired promise of Jesus’ soon return. Advent means confident waiting: waiting on God to fulfill his word that Jesus will return in a physical body to bring his church home and judge the world (2 Peter 3:8-10). Advent is a prophetic season for we wait for the prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ second coming while marveling at the Old Testament prophetic fulfillment of Jesus’ first coming. The Old Testament prophets spoke of Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death (Gen. 3:15; Micah 5:2; Isa. 7:14. 53:4-7) and years later these promises were fulfilled. Today, we read the prophetic words of Jesus, Paul, John, and Peter concerning the Second Coming (Mark 13:26-27; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 3:8-10; Rev. 19:11-16) and with confidence we expect the prophetic words of scripture to be fulfilled again.

The word of prophecy is hope: knowledge that God is aware of our need and actively working to meet that heart-cry. The gift of prophecy points the Church to Christ, calls for obedience to his commands, and brings healing and restoration. The gift of prophecy reminds believers of their call to holiness, their dependence on God’s grace, and the faithfulness of God’s promise. Corporately, the prophetic gift calls forth repentance, restoration, and renewal in the Body of Christ. The prophetic gift builds up the Church in her call to be God’s witness to the world (1 Cor. 12:31, 14:1, 39; Heb. 2:3-4).

During the season of Advent, the church can expect the Holy Spirit to encourage, comfort, and strengthen all believers for the coming year.

True Prophets are the healers, preachers, and teachers who are “binders of wounds,” because they call people to genuine transformation and repentance. True prophetic words point to sin, to what is amiss in a life or in a culture; they warn of the consequences if one fails to repent (here a predictive element can come in); they console; they encourage. They do all this in conjunction with the fundamental truth that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy (Rev. 12:10).

Leanne Payne, Heaven’s Calling: A Memoir of One Soul’s Steep Ascent (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2008), 116.

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