Tongues and Tebowing

Today’s reading is 1 Corinthians 14.

I must have looked at the schedule of dates, chapters, and writers nearly five times just to make sure that my day to write and topic was 1 Corinthians 14 on speaking in tongues. Yes..the schedule was the same the fifth time I checked as it was the first! Thankfully, a few weeks ago my brother in Christ, David LaFrance told me about Pastor John MacArthur’s Grace to You app which has sermons on every chapter in the Bible, and it had 4 on this chapter alone. In listening to a few, I didn’t feel quite as inept and nervous to write on it, not only because of John’s teaching and clarification, but also because John said this chapter was without a doubt the hardest to understand in 1 Corinthians and maybe the Bible. He also said he has read close to 50 books on this chapter and the topic of speaking in tongues and no two authors fully agreed on everything. That was my sigh of relief you just heard that I don’t need to get everything just right, and I just needed to pray for guidance and attempt to do my best.

John gives some great context in that the Corinthians were seeking a state of ecstasy, not only in their own homes and personal time with God, but also while in the church and around others. They were looking for an out of body type experience. It is also important as we read this to understand that John states the word “prophesy” was not used to describe predicting the future until the Middle Ages. In fact, defines prophesy as “to give instruction in a religious matter.” It also gives the word preach as a synonym. This is what Paul was referring to. John also states that the purpose of the church is to edify people about God. defines edify as “to instruct or improve…” If we understand these two definitions, then we can more clearly understand in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 what Paul is saying in that preaching and using your spiritual gifts within the church is to help others more clearly understand and to glorify God is what is important. Being in your own state of ecstasy by speaking in a tongue no one can understand is not right because it helps only yourself. In fact, John  MacArthur goes as far as to say that if you use a spiritual gift only for yourself it is a sin and you are prostituting that gift given by God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 that especially within the church, it is much better to preach because you are helping others.

Some may ask about Acts 2 where the Holy Spirit comes on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and many spoke in tongues. John clarifies this is different because when the Holy Spirit truly comes like in Acts 2, everyone understands each other and the different tongues/languages which are being spoken. In this instance, God is being glorified and edification occurs because everyone understands each other. In Corinth, each individual was speaking a tongue/language which no one else could understand in public in the church. John MacArthur also interprets what Paul is saying to be the singular word for tongue which is also translated as gibberish. No one can understand gibberish, except for the one speaking it, so it is not used to help others better understand God.

So, how can we put this into context within our world and lives today? As I mentioned in our introduction to 1 Corinthians two weeks ago, not too much has changed. We still live in a society seeking ecstasy and personal experience. We are encouraged by others, advertisements, and entertainment sources to do whatever feels good to you, and it is all about you. I could just say one word that sums this up..selfie. However, I will say two words that amplifies even more the gravity and depth of our self-centered nature and the all about me world we live in…selfie-stick.

Paul tells us here in 1 Corinthians 5,12, and 26 that it’s not about you. The purpose of the gifts God gives us is to build up the church and the purpose of the church is to bring beauty to her bridegroom, Jesus. Just a few days ago we studied 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “So whether you eat or dink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” And then in 1 Corinthians 10:33, “just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they might be saved.”

Let me use on example of the gift of athletic abilities and sport. I have heard many Christians even criticize Tim Tebow for his outspokenness about his faith, thanking God in interviews after victories, and for “tebowing” after a touchdown. I once read a book where Bobby Knight was quoted as saying he didn’t have his teams pray before games because God didn’t want his team to win more than the other team, and God was not going to parachute down and make a basket for them when they needed it. I think many Christians take this posture and for example, think it’s wrong to mix sport and faith. They think athletic gifts are just athletic gifts and not for God’s glory and that when Tebow thanks God after winning a game that he’s saying God wanted him and his team to win more than the other team. I didn’t used to like it when athletes thanked God after victories as well. However, I missed the point. Tim is not saying God wanted his team to win more. What Tim is saying is that it’s not about him. God gave Tim the gift of athletic ability in order to glorify him and not only is Tim thanking him for these gifts, but most importantly, he’s actually using these gifts to glorify God, spread the Gospel, and model the love of Christ so others can see and will be drawn to Christ’s love by what he does both on and off the field.

Just like speaking in a tongue (gibberish), what good is the gift of athletic ability if you are only using it to benefit yourself and for your own selfish desires and not to bring glory to God and bless others? I’m very passionate about the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. The FCA’s vision is “to see the world impacted for Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” Tim embodies this. He is impacting others for Christ through sport and the athletic abilites God his given him just as God is instructing us to do in 1 Corinthians 10 and 1 Corinthians 14.

Let’s learn from this and ask ourselves today the following questions. How can we use the gifts God has given us (and he’s given us all gifts) to glorify him? How can we spread the Gospel as Jesus instructed us in Matthew 28:19? How can we help others know him and his saving grace on the cross wherever he has placed us whether that be in our home, neighborhood, athletic field/court, and yes, even our workplace? How can we make wherever we are a mission field for him and his glory?


Keep Watch

Today’s Reading: Mark 13

I found myself on the interstate last week during a heavy snow.  The danger was clear.  Drive too fast and you will careen out of control into the ditch, or worse.  I witnessed it happening all around me.  I also understood that my own efforts were not enough to control the risk.  Other drivers pose a threat to me.  Extra vigilance is required.  My focus intensifies.  This intense focus is true in the broader picture of our lives too.  Here are a few things that we regularly keep watch on:

·      Finances ·      Children
·      Leaky basements ·      Maintenance schedules
·      Fuel levels in our gas tank ·      Calendars

By watching these things in the present, we minimize the future cost.  The risk, of course, is when we fail to keep watch, or as Jesus says, we “fall asleep” (Mark 13:36).  What do you have difficulty keeping watch on?  How are you most likely to be found “asleep?”   Additionally, remember that others around us can amplify the risk.  As a culture, what is America not paying attention to?

·      Sobriety ·      Pornography
·      Idolatry ·      Selfish Ambition
·      Media –  Internet, TV, music ·      Community
·      Personal responsibility ·      Demystifying God

To be honest, I wrote a few things there that I did not want to.  Take sobriety, for instance.  When I hear that word, my mind races to an image of an unfit father who neglects his responsibilities.  This picture allows me to quickly dismiss it as, “not me.”  Look closer.  Consider how well do you “keep watch” after one glass of wine.  How about two?  Three?

Pornography is another issue that I would rather not address. But, I read a startling statistic this week that is worth sharing.  It says that 70% of all 18 to 34 year-olds are regular viewers of pornography.  And, on average, they started viewing it at age 11.  Do you hear danger?  I do.  James Emery White explains the consequences in this blog post.  It’s worth reading.  As I look around, however, I can’t say that it’s surprising.  Sexual images and viewing invitations are everywhere.  I am fully desensitized.  As Jesus puts it (Luke 22:46), I am sleeping!

Before you start losing hope, let’s look back at the promises of God.  He gives us the equipment we need to keep watch both offensively and defensively. Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:5-10.  It tells us to build a defense with “the breastplate of righteousness.”  This defense looks like integrity, holiness, and purity.  Where do they come from?

·       Prayer Matthew 26:41 tells us to watch and pray
·       Submission Hebrews 13:17 explains that our leaders are watching over us too. We should, therefore, listen to them
·       Community Ephesians 6:18 encourages us to be in prayer for all believers, everywhere.  We are in this together!

I have a harder time summarizing Our offensive posture, so I am going to rely on N.T. Wright.  In his book After You Believehe describes how we must, as Christ-followers, make the hard decisions and take the hard actions that run counter to our flesh.  These are our offense.  Through them, we “develop, in the present, the character which will truly anticipate the life of the coming age.  …. Sooner or later, preferable sooner, each individual Christian must make the key choices to “put on” the things which genuinely anticipate, in the present the life we are promised in the future, the life we have already been given in Christ.  And, having made those key choices, each Christian must acquire the habit of making them over and over again.”

As you can see, keeping watch isn’t hard.  Keeping watch on the most important things – the things that affect our souls – requires focus and intensity.  My prayer today is that something here shines a bright light in your eyes causing you to awaken from your sleep.  I also pray that the darkness will forever be gone, replaced with the eternal light of love, made available to all of us through Jesus Christ.


The Holy Spirit

White Holy Dove flying in the sky panoramic view

Joshua 20–21; Acts 1; Jeremiah 10; Matthew 24

In Acts 1, the disciples are hanging around Jerusalem after Jesus’ death. While they wait, Jesus comes to them.  He talks with them about the kingdom of God. Talking to the one who died on the cross, brought them hope.  Hope that their dreams of a new life had not ended. In fact, their life with Jesus was very much alive. The disciples could feel the new world order upon them. This was the time that they had waited for. Jesus would now rule the world! Israel will finally be restored and all of God’s promises would now be fulfilled. The Bible explains these promises with words like freedom, liberty, fearlessness and peace, along with promises about healing our physical ailments and living prosperous lives. This was it. Israel will again be on top, the leader of all nations. Let’s go! But, Jesus wasn’t ready. He was holding them back. When they ask when it will happen, he responds, “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business” (Acts 1:7, Message). For now, he continues, “you will receive the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that will enable you to be my witnesses.”

In that moment, upon hearing Jesus’ answer, do you think the disciples were disappointed? Seriously, the victory party they were anticipating seemingly vanished into thin air. No doubt, they did not fully understand. Yet, they remained silent. Consider that their silence is an indication of their acceptance and submission. They trust Jesus with whatever is coming. Or, perhaps their hope is kindled in Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit. With his presence, Jesus explains, the disciples will receive power. In Greek, it is called “dynamis.” If you hear our modern words “dynamite” and “dynamic” in there, you are getting the idea. The Holy Spirit brings power that is explosive. His power provides “energy, ability, efficacy, and meaning.” With the Holy Spirit, Jesus explains, the name of Jesus will be extended “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

I readily admit that this scripture reveals my ignorance of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, this American Christian often misuses and misinterprets the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, selfishly claiming His good work for myself.  Similar to the disciples, I want to use this power to reign over all.  If I cannot reign over all, I’ll settle for health and good fortune.  You see, when the Holy Spirit indwells us with the power of God, we can easily use His gifts to get ahead in this world.  According to John Maxwell, this is a defensive posture resulting from focusing on my short life and not on servicing all of God’s creation, extending His rule for eternity.

Contrast that with true Holy Spirit indwelling. Jesus releases the Holy Spirit to us so that we can share God’s love and meaning with the world. Aligning with Him means that I will use my gifts in concert with His vision, not mine. This is what the disciples were able to grasp. They quickly dropped their own pursuits and limited vision in favor of His. As we move through the book of Acts over the next several days, we get to watch the Holy Spirit work through the lives of Jesus’ disciples. The Spirit gives power is both dynamic and explosive in the lives of everyone that the disciples meet. It is the beginning of Jesus’ great vision to take God’s message of love and hope to the ends of the earth.  Today, we continue to carry out this vision.  How are we doing with it?

In his book Forgotten God, Francis Chan offers several great questions that help us evaluate our relationship with the Holy Spirit. Take some time to consider them.

  • Can you say with confidence—from the depth of your being—that you know God and are known by Him?
  • Do I want to lead, or do I want to be led by the Spirit?
  • How would you be missed if you left this place? What would change? Basically, what difference does your presence here make? Or, as my youth pastor once asked me, what would your church (and the worldwide church) look like if everyone was as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?