Faith is also a grace

Thoughts about grace…

God’s essence and character are love.

Love is expressed to the object of love.

Grace (gift, favor) is an expression of God’s love.

You can’t truly separate out just one aspect of God’s character from all the others.

Consider a red delicious apple – color, shape, aroma, texture, juiciness, flavor, peeling, seeds. It takes all those to make that particular type of apple.

When God extends his word, which contains his creative life, to me – an act of his grace – all his character is wrapped up in that word. (Does he believe his own word? Does he have faith in his own word?)

God’s own faith comes too.

Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast.” (NIV)

 

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Curious? Dissatisfied? Hungry? Desperate?

Who told Bartimaeus?

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.” (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)

Bartimaeus shouted. Not an accepted member of the community, he was a blind beggar, thus considered unclean, unworthy, and not permitted to enter the Temple. People in the crowd rebuked him, trying to shut him up, but he kept on shouting — and he wasn’t just yelling, he was declaring something, something important: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Questions:

  • How did he know about Jesus?
  • How did he know who Jesus actually was?
  • Why did he want to get Jesus’s attention?

Well, he was persistent. He got Jesus’s attention. He didn’t ask him for money, he asked for healing so he could earn his own money, and he got it. (Then he became a follower of Jesus. Neat.)

Who told Zacchaeus?

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10)

“Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man…”  Remember that children’s song? He was a rich man, a powerful man with a powerful position, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy him completely. He wanted to see this Jesus, to figure out who he was. Unfortunately, he was also an unpopular man, a Jewish man who worked for the Romans. Also unfortunately, he was a short man, and no-one would move out of the way and give him space to see. Undeterred, he did an undignified thing: he climbed up into a tree.

Questions:

  • How did he know it was Jesus coming his way?
  • How did he know Jesus was worth looking at?
  • Did he want something from Jesus?

He was persistent. Not dignified, but persistent. And so he did get to see Jesus, and Jesus also saw him! He didn’t ask Jesus for more power, a better position, or anything… instead he repented of the unjust way he’d been doing his job. He needed salvation, and he got it.

Who told the Syrophoenician Woman?

“Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret.

In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.” She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.” (Mark 7:24-30)

Although this woman’s name isn’t mentioned, her nationality is: Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia (part of Lebanon or Syria today). She was not a Jew. Jesus had come into her territory, however, and pretty soon word got out that he was there. She sought him out, determined to find help for her demon-oppressed daughter.

Questions:

  • How did she know Jesus even existed?
  • How did she know he could help her daughter?
  • When he seemed to refuse, why didn’t she just apologize for bothering him and go home?

She was stubbornly persistent. Not on her behalf, but on behalf of her daughter who desperately needed deliverance. And she got it.

Who told the Woman in the Pharisee’s House?

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.”

Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:36-50)

This woman’s name isn’t mentioned either, but her status in the community is: Sinner. The assumption is that she was probably a prostitute. From her boldness to enter Simon’s house while he had dinner guests, she was probably not just known to Simon, but familiar to him. Perhaps one of her clients? Who knows.

But she wasn’t just bold; she owned an alabaster box of perfume, an expensive item to be carrying around. Some scholars have proposed that it was her life savings, although Luke doesn’t make that clear.

In any case, she didn’t just walk in, she fell down at Jesus’s feet, cried over them, washing his feet with her tears. Then she dried them with her hair, finally anointing them with the perfume. Can you imagine what her hair looked like after that? Or what the room smelled like after that?

Strangely enough, Simon didn’t have her thrown out. He didn’t even rebuke her himself. No, he began to criticize Jesus in his mind, who of course knew exactly what he was thinking.

Questions:

  • How did the woman know who Jesus was?
  • Who told her that Jesus was in Simon’s house?
  • What gave her the courage to invite herself in?
  • What gave her the humility to attend to Jesus’s dirty feet in an act of loving worship, when no servant had bothered to wash them?

She was persistent, throughout this encounter. She was already forgiven, because she already loved the Lord — she wanted to give him the best she had, and she wanted to do it publicly, in the position of a servant. She had needed salvation, and she had got it.

As you can see, I have questions and some possible answers of my own, but to me the most important point is this:

Somebody had told each one of them about Jesus.  Who he was, where he was, what he could do for them.

Whether they were just curious, or dissatisfied and hungry for more in their life, or desperate for help, somebody had told them about Jesus. A  neighbor. A friend or a relative. Maybe even a stranger in the crowd – somebody told them about Jesus. After they heard, they sought Jesus out and they found him.

It’s not the job of the preacher, the teacher, the prophet or the evangelist, only. Telling is every believer’s job. Somebody told us, didn’t they?

Grief never dies.

Daddy died May 14, 1960. He was 46; I was 16. He had been scheduled for open heart surgery the following week, to replace a heart valve damaged by the rheumatic fever that daddy contracted during WWII. He’d had several heart attacks and was looking forward to regaining his health. But he had another heart attack in the middle of the night and this time, he died.

It was the night of my 11th grade Junior Prom, which I had reluctantly attended with some boy I didn’t really know, and whose name I can’t recall to this day. I had spent that evening sad, not knowing why, just sad. I’m sure my date had a miserable time.

I never recovered. I began dating guys mother didn’t approve of, marrying Paul when I was 18, basically to get away from my unhappy mother. He was loving, he was kind, he would give anyone a helping hand or give them the shirt off his back – when he was sober. Unfortunately he was an alcoholic.

Mother died June 22, 1970. She had never recovered from Daddy’s death. She had become a full-fledged alcoholic, in and out of rehab, wrecking her car, hurting herself, attempting suicide several times over the next nine years. She shot herself in the head on June 28, 1969. It was my daughter’s 4th birthday. Her concerned pastor and other church friends sat in her living room, unaware of her plans as she walked out into the back yard and fired the shot.

She lived in a nursing home for nearly a year, eventually dying of pneumonia. Her beautiful hazel eyes were open but she was non-responsive, non-moving, although a friend told me years later that she went often to visit and was sure mother heard her as she read the Bible to her and prayed. She was sure mother responded to her questions with eye blinks. I seldom went to see her, never talked to her, thinking that she herself simply wasn’t there, lying so still on that hospital bed.

For many years after mother’s death, I had nightmares every few months. Really it was the same nightmare: Mother was missing. In the dreams I was looking for her everywhere, going from house to house, friend to friend, relative to relative, business to business. Mother’s car was still in her front yard, her purse was still there in the house, but she wasn’t there. Sometimes other people were helping me look for her, sometimes she had just vanished that day; other times I was the only one still looking, she had been gone for a long time. The content was always the same: Mother was missing.

(It wasn’t until shortly after Tim died that those nightmares stopped happening. One night Father God graciously gave me a vision of heaven where I saw Tim, Mother, and Daddy living and working, full of joy and eternal life. I never had another of those nightmares after that.)

I never recovered. My marriage fell apart when my husband and I couldn’t just make things work. Several years later I met and married Tim, a wonderful man. With the Lord’s help we faced many challenges, especially Tim’s health problems.

Tim died December 15, 2006. He fell at home, broke his leg near the hip, had surgery to repair it, had a heart attack in the recovery room and lived one day. No-one had thought Tim wouldn’t recover; he always recovered! He’d had so many health problems in his life, but he always recovered! Until that day.

I never recovered. For days, even weeks, I couldn’t sleep in a dark house. I turned on every overhead light, every lamp throughout the house and slept – although I didn’t sleep much – with the lights on. I couldn’t drive down certain streets in town, I would take various detours to avoid familiar streets. I couldn’t shop on certain aisles in the grocery store; that’s where I used to buy Tim’s favorite foods.

I couldn’t do medical transcription for a certain doctor’s practice any more. He had been Tim’s doctor; that was the waiting room where Tim would wait, listen to a little pocket radio, sometimes chat with other patients. I tried to continue but didn’t last more than a few days. I just couldn’t go into that waiting room, not even into that building. They said they understood.

Gradually I could turn off the lights at night, drive down those streets again, shop in those grocery aisles again. But there are still some things I don’t do. While a year later I donated most of Tim’s clothes to shelters, I have never thrown away some of Tim’s belongings. I kept a collection of his favorite neckties, ties I had bought for him. I kept his South Carolina ID card, his wallet, his cologne, his watch. I sleep in one of his undershirts.

People die. But grief? Grief never dies.

Some people will get this. Some won’t, the ones who think you’ll just “get over it.” Who say “Time heals all wounds.” No it doesn’t. Time may make the pain less, like a fading bruise. But underneath the invisible damage is still there, not throbbing as much but still there. Until…

          I never recovered – but I did heal.

There is a solution to grief. Even if grief doesn’t die, God can heal all wounds. Father God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit know exactly how grief feels. Accepting their understanding, comfort and healing is how I have survived intact, one more day, one more week, one more year.

I began writing a blog about heaven some months after Tim died. Maybe reading through those posts will help somebody else. Here’s my favorite one:  https://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

What is truth?

What is truth?

“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.” (John 18:38 NIV)

“Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Think on these things.

The true things… the truth.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 KJV)

Why?

Because “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” (Prov. 18:21)

And, whatever is in your heart will eventually come out of your mouth. Those words will either create, maintain the status quo, or destroy something: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” (Matt. 12:34)

What things are true?

Some of my favorite true things:

  • Jesus’s words are spirit and life – “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63)
  • “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3)
  • “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have [it] more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  We have an enemy, a thief (and murderer, and accuser, and liar, and deceiver), who does a lot of his destruction with whispered words like half-truths, innuendos, rumors, outright lies:

– You’re not really saved
– You’ll never be any good
– You can’t do it
– God doesn’t love you
– God did all those bad things to you

  • It’s our choice whether to listen to his lies and deceptions or not; we can resist him.  “Neither give place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:27) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
  • We will be judged by the words we speak – “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37)
  • So don’t repeat any of the devil’s lies to yourself or to anyone else, whether they are about you yourself or someone else. “Do not let any unwholesome talk (corrupt communication, KJV) come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Eph. 4:29 NIV)
  • Instead, repeat God’s creative words to yourself, such as the following, as often as needed until they get into your heart / memory banks:
  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Eph. 6:10) We have the choice to be strong.
  • “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Phil. 4:13)
  • “God shall supply all your (my) need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:13, 19)
  • I am the righteousness of God! ” For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2 Cor. 5:21)
  • One more fact that I know is the truth: I am a work in progress! “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil. 1:6)

There are many more of my favorite true things, but these seemed like good reminders for today.

Limitless capacity

“What are you like, Lord?” I asked him again, one night recently. I seem to ask that over and over. Who are you? What are you like? What do you like?

Those kinds of questions come to mind frequently, and sometimes I actually ask him, and he actually answers.

“Capacity. Do you know what that is?” he asked me. “Yes, I think so,” I said.

“Are you sure?” Well, of course then I wasn’t sure, so of course I looked it up. There are layers of meaning, I soon discovered. One refers to material facts, such as the number of gallons my car gas tank can hold. Another is psychological or mental ability, such as the potential for learning, understanding and retaining information. (Human brains, computers.) Still others are in the realm of physics, nuclear, space / time phenomena, metaphysical concepts. I had no idea there were so many nuances of definitions in that one little word.

“So, does that have to do with what you’re like, then?” I asked.

“Think limitless capacity,” he said, and began to show me some examples.

As images rolled through my mind’s eye, I realized that phrase doesn’t just describe what he is like, it describes what he does; what he does for his most treasured creation, man. Beginning before the beginning, God conceived his own idea, design, and construction of human beings and their habitat, the universe (or perhaps multi-verse).

Ideas. Inventions. Discoveries. Language. Wisdom. Understanding. Creations. Every branch of arts or science, every “ah ha” moment, every success in every field, at the moment it occurred depended on the capacity of the person involved to engender an idea, grasp a concept, understand the possibilities, calculate the logistics, remember the details, record the results, meditate on the whys and wherefores of failure.

And if they didn’t have the mental or emotional or educational capacity to get the thing done, the thing built, the thing accomplished, yet? Then the capacity needed was increased, enhanced and developed in that person or other person, even other generations of persons.

How long might it take to invent an airplane? How many ideas? How many principles? How many hours, years, attempts? (da Vinci’s ornithopter, above image.)

How long might it take to develop the math to calculate the distance of a light year, in miles? Or the usefulness of bread mold? To be curious enough to see if some things in dirt and grime and rot aren’t just dirty? (Think antibiotics.)

Or to realize that the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth? That the earth is not the only planet in our solar system? That our solar system isn’t the only one in our galaxy? That our galaxy isn’t the only one in our universe?

What gave space scientists the outrageous idea that they could land a spacecraft – the Rosetta spaceship’s Philae lander – on a comet?! And the technological know-how to do just that? (Also see https://bettecox.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/rosetta-and-the-comet/)

Who first suggested that an atom isn’t the smallest component of matter? Or that matter and energy are both forms of light? That concept is still being explored.

How to create a microscope, or a telescope, or a space camera?

Over the thousands of years of human history, every time the limit of material, creative, or inventive capacity was reached, stalemate happened. But it didn’t last, did it?

It doesn’t last, because the Creator, the God of limitless capacity, simply shares some of his own capacity with his most treasured creation. Ideas “happen.” Everything that has ever been discovered or invented came from him in the first place, dropped into a brain somewhere.

I meditated on all that for a few minutes, and then I heard his voice add this:

“When one of my people can’t find a solution to a problem, if they seek my help they will find it. If they need mercy, direction, insight, revelation knowledge – if they need more information, more wisdom, more ideas, more ability to calculate, more assistance, more understanding, more favor from other people, more patience, more strength, more stamina, more faith – they will find their capacity increasing in those areas.”

“Human capacity is limited. My capacity is limitless.”

I meditated some more. “So – what’s the goal of all this?” I asked him, not for the first time. And not for the first time, He said, “The universe is a big place, and eternity is a long time.”

Tongues: Prayer Language vs. Public Gift

The following is an easy-to-understand, helpful article from the website of Rev. Mel C. Montgomery. * (See Copyright notice below.)

Tongues: Prayer Language vs. Public Gift
By Rev. Mel C. Montgomery
www.brothermel.com

The most common question, or challenge, I receive from Christians who are unfamiliar with tongues, is to explain the term “prayer language,” and to prove its existence from Scripture. Somewhere in the last two thousand years, someone coined the term “Prayer Language” to differentiate private speaking in tongues from the public gift of speaking in tongues.

That there are two different kinds of tongues, private and public, is clear from the irreconcilable statements Paul writes about tongues. Paul first writes: For he [man] that speaketh in an unknown tongues speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him… I Cor 14:2.

But later in the same chapter Paul also writes: In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I [God] speak unto this people [men]… I Cor. 14:21. In verse two, Paul describes tongues as man speaking to God. In verse 21, Paul describes tongues as God speaking to man.

The type of tongues where men speak in prayer and worship to God, and no other man understands him, is what we have come to call the “prayer language.”

Paul left us written instructions in I and II Corinthians directed first to the Church at Corinth and also to us today, clarifying the purpose and identifying the proper way of accommodating speaking in tongues. Paul told us:

• Paul said that he used his ability to speak in tongues to pray, and to worship God. [verse 15].
• He was thankful to God for the ability to pray and worship God in other tongues [verse 18].
• He found this to be a deeply spiritual and edifying experience [vs. 4].
• Jude agrees with Paul’s assessment of the edifying power of praying in tongues [Jude 20].
• Paul urged all of us to speak, pray, and worship God in other tongues, “I would that ye all spake with tongues…” [vs. 5].
• Nowhere does Paul tell us that he ever identified the “other tongue” in which he spoke.
• Nor does he mention that he ever preached a sermon to anyone in other tongues.
• Nowhere does he state that we should try to identify the “other tongue” in which we are speaking, or to attempt to preach sermons to others in it.

But Paul also gave some common sense instructions concerning tongues – the prayer language. For example, if someone were to stand up in the public assembly, and speak out loudly to God for an hour in tongues – the prayer language – such an exercise would be entirely pointless and a waste of time. In exercises of the prayer language, “no man understandeth him.” So the congregation would understand not a single word, and be bored to tears.

Have you ever been to a concert where they sang in a language you didn’t know? I did recently. I went to a free zydeko – Cajun music – concert. I assumed that this concert would be in English, but was disappointed to find once I got there, that it was to be entirely in French/Cajun.

I enjoyed the lively music, but after two minutes, my attention wandered because I didn’t understand a word of what was being sung. By the end of an hour, I ranged from being nearly asleep, to almost climbing the walls and wondering when this concert would ever end.

Such would be the same reaction from people forced to sit and listen to uninterpreted tongues for an hour. Paul pointed out an example like this, and said that in Church he would rather speak 5 words that everyone could understand than 10,000 words in uninterpreted tongues that no one could benefit from. Referring back to the French concert I attended, I would have to say the same. I would rather go to a concert where they sang five words I understood, than ten thousand words I couldn’t make heads or tails out of.

So Paul gave the common sense instruction, that if someone felt they had something to say in other tongues to the entire congregation, let him do so. However, if he speaks for awhile, and no one seems to be able to interpret what is being said, then for Heaven’s sake [my words not his] have the poor brother sit back down, “and let him speak to himself, and to God,” and don’t have him bore everyone to tears. [vs. 28]. Note that Paul said, “…let him speak to himself, and to God,” thus explaining that such a manifestation is simply the person speaking in the prayer language “to God,” and not the full Gift of Tongues in which God speaks to men.

It is at this point in the narrative where we begin to see tongues used for something other than prayer and praise. When there is something to be said to the entire congregation in other tongues, this is not a manifestation of the prayer language. In prayer man speaks to God. And there is no need to interpret for the public the contents of our private prayers to God. If it is a public manifestation of tongues, then it is a manifestation of the actual Gift of Tongues – one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Chapter 12.

In the case where the Gift of Tongues is manifested, the contents of the message will be a message from God to men [vs. 21]. In an instance of a message through the Gift of Tongues — from God to the congregation — Paul directed that such messages in tongues were to be allowed and accommodated in a public service, but the Holy Spirit directed him to set reasonable boundaries within which we are to stay.

Namely, realizing that it is possible that several people may simultaneously feel they have a message in tongues for the congregation, he limited the number of individuals allowed to participate to “two or at the most by three,” [vs. 27]. Paul added that one person should interpret [vs. 27]. The rules he laid down, like all of the instructions given in God’s Word, make perfect sense, and keep a service from getting off the track.

All Charismatics – currently numbering 537 Million Christians – have experienced the prayer language of speaking in tongues. All born-again Christians have the Holy Spirit indwelling them. However, there is a secondary experience that not all Christians have received. Indeed, many do not know that there even is another experience from God to be received.

Jesus called this experience that is to be received subsequent to [after] salvation, being “baptized with the Holy Ghost.” Acts 1:5. He called it the receiving of power, “…ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you…” Acts 1:8. Note that He said “upon you” not “in you.” The believer in Christ already has the Holy Spirit within them. But the Lord desires for the presence of His Spirit to be within us, but also that the power of His Spirit be upon us.

As it was in the days of the Bible, so is it still true today: When the Holy Spirit fell upon the born-again Christians back in Bible times, they received the ability to speak or pray in other tongues. Acts 2:3, 4; 10:46; 19:6. Likewise today, when the Holy Spirit’s power falls upon a born-again Christian, the believer immediately receives the ability to speak or pray in other tongues.

All Charismatic Christians have experienced this prayer language. Far fewer have ever experienced the full Gift of Tongues enabling them to speak a message in tongues to a congregation that was then interpreted into English.

Concerning many Christians receiving the prayer language of tongues but very few receiving the Gift of Tongues that is to be exercised by giving and interpreting messages in public services, Kenneth Hagin, Sr. made an interesting comment. Drawing from his own experience in 60 years of ministry, he reported that by the early 1950’s he had laid hands on over 10,000 people and personally heard them speak in tongues.

But out of them all, he noted that only two received the full Gift of speaking in diverse tongues, who then went ahead giving messages publicly in their local congregation. The other 9,998 received simply the prayer language, and continued to pray and worship with it.

There is a considerable difference both in Scripture and in experience between tongues – the personal prayer language, and tongues – the public Gift. In my case, my pastor laid his hands on me and prayed for me to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. I began to speak in tongues. I prayed in tongues, and worshiped God in other tongues. I never understood a single word of what I was speaking. Paul didn’t either. I Cor. 14:2, 14.

But not understanding what was being said in other tongues did not stop Paul or me from going ahead and praying in tongues and worshiping God in tongues. But this was all a private exercise of this ability. I never once was led to stand up in the congregation and speak out a message in tongues. I had received the prayer language, but not the full Gift of Diverse Kinds of Tongues.

Eight years later, I was preparing to leave Sister Goodwin’s house. (Alternate link: http://brothermel.com/thegoodwinsandme.aspx) She had been used for 60 years in speaking public messages in tongues and in interpreting them. She laid her hands on me, and prayed for God to use me in the Gifts of His Holy Spirit. I felt nothing imparted to me at that moment. But a few weeks later, the Gift of Speaking in tongues suddenly began to flow through me.

I would feel an urging rise up within me to speak in tongues. I would speak out under that urging for a few moments, and when the urging or the “unction” subsided, the English words of interpretation would arise within me, and I would speak out the interpretation. Since then, over the last 17 years, I’ve spoken hundreds of messages in tongues publicly, maybe more, and have interpreted just as many.

I can speak at will in my prayer language to God in prayer and worship, as can any other Charismatic. However, I cannot speak messages in tongues in public at will. Nor can I interpret messages in tongues at will. Speaking and interpreting in public is a manifestation of the two full-fledged Gifts of tongues and interpretation. Those Gifts operate only as the Holy Spirit wills. I Cor. 12:11.

I have ministered the baptism in the Holy Spirit to a number of born-again Christians over the years. All received the prayer language, meaning the ability to speak, pray, and worship in other tongues at will. None yet have received the full Gift of Speaking in Tongues. None have given public messages in tongues.

Yet there have been a number of times in which believers who pray in tongues but have never spoken a public message in tongues that was interpreted have suddenly begun manifesting the gift of tongues as they heard me teaching on spiritual gifts. As I taught, God imparted the Gift of Tongues to believers who had already prayed in tongues for years. To God be the glory for the great things He has done.

Refuting Counter-Arguments:

I have read every imaginable counter argument which tries to argue against there being two kinds or manifestations of tongues – private prayer, and public Gift. I haven’t found one yet that takes into account all of the words of Christ, all of the examples in the Book of Acts, and all of the instructions Paul gave us.

One common argument is that all manifestations of speaking in tongues are those of men speaking in prayer to God. That argument is silent though concerning I Cor. 14:21 which says, “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people.” If tongues is always men speaking unto God, then surely God is not going to pray a prayer to Himself!

Others try to explain away this Scripture by claiming that it refers to a person standing up in a public assembly, praying to God in other tongues, and then someone else interpreting the prayer back to the congregation in the local language. But what possible purpose would there be in interpreting someone’s private prayers for the public to listen to? For that matter, why pray in tongues and have it interpreted into the language of the congregation? Why not just pray in the language everyone knows?

Any way you care to look at it, you have to admit that Paul indicated two different functions of speaking in tongues:

• Prayer from man to God.
• And messages from God to man.
• When man prays to God in tongues, “no man understandeth him.”
• When God speaks to man through other tongues, no man will necessarily understand the tongue, unless God simultaneously gives the interpretation to another.
• This same pattern of private prayer and public Gift is demonstrated in the New Testament, throughout the Early Church, resurfacing again and again during revivals over the course of centuries of Church History, and continuing among the 537 million born-again Christians who currently speak in tongues.

* Copyright 2006 Mel C. Montgomery. All rights reserved. Material may be copied and shared with others as long as it is done so without charge, in entirety, and if attribution is given. Source: www.brothermel.com.
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About the Author

The ministry of author, reformer, lecturer, entrepreneur, and revivalist preacher, Mel Montgomery is an example of God fulfilling a word of prophecy. Mel was mentored in ministry by Sister Goodwin. She and her late husband, the Rev. J.R. Goodwin had sat in meetings conducted by Smith Wigglesworth, Raymond T. Richey, and other early Pentecostals.

Then God had used the Goodwins as a bridge to the leaders of the Word of Faith move. The Goodwins taught John Osteen and Kenneth Hagin Sr. about the gifts of the Spirit. Kenneth Hagin patterned his prophetic ministry after the spiritual flow he had witnessed in the Goodwins.

Before her passing, Sister Goodwin laid her hands on Mel, asked God to use him in spiritual gifts, and prophesied that Mel would have “a strong ministry, and an anointed ministry, like some of the men of old.”

Years after Sister Goodwin’s passing, the Goodwin descendants and others asked Mel to host on his website rare audio recordings of early Pentecostal preachers that were recorded at the Goodwins’ church and elsewhere. Mel uploaded the recordings to his website, http://www.brothermel.com, making these treasures available to the world by download, for free.

Mel’s message and concept of ministry began to change as he listened to the recordings of the “men of old” like Howard Carter, Stanley Frodsham, F.F. Bosworth, the Goodwins, and others. He discovered that what the Pentecostal giants preached bears little resemblance to the extreme teachings common today in the Charismatic and Word of Faith branch of Christianity to which he belongs.

Sister Goodwin’s prophecy is fulfilled as Mel continues to speak in churches, preaching as did the “men of old,” the transforming power of the Cross and Pentecost. He authors articles and e-books, identifying which of our teachings are biblical and which ones are not. Brother Mel calls for a Reformation in Charismatic and Word of Faith circles.

Mel’s teachings have been well received, with some being translated and published in foreign countries. In 2007 and 2008, Mel’s website received over 723,000 hits from people in 78 countries. Mel’s monthly e-mail newsletter currently goes out to subscribers around the world.

Copyright Mel C. Montgomery. All rights reserved.

Keep on keeping on

Or, God’s timetable isn’t like ours…

Luke Chapter 1 tells the story of an old man named Zecharias. He was married to an old woman named Elizabeth who was a relative of the Virgin Mary. They lived in the hill country of Judah, exact location unknown.

Both were of the priestly line. They had no children – Elizabeth was barren, and in their culture barrenness was considered a punishment for sin. Yet both were righteous in God’s eyes, and to the best of their ability they continued to worship Him, keeping the law.

Zecharias (and no doubt Elizabeth) had long prayed for a son. But, he was old and she was barren, so it was now impossible. So, was he still praying? He was still faithful to do his job, in any case.

One supposedly ordinary day Zecharias was going about his business, doing his ordinary priestly job. This soon became an other than ordinary day for him, however…

“Now it came about, while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.” (Luke 1:8, 9)

It was his turn to minister before the golden altar of incense in the Holy Place, possibly for the first time in his priestly service. With so many priests serving in the Temple, entering the Holy Place and kindling the incense upon the golden altar was possibly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to Zacharias, standing to the right of the altar of incense. The angel gave him an extraordinary message, on this extraordinary day. His prayers had been answered; he and Elizabeth would have a child. And not just an ordinary child, an extraordinary son. He was to give him the name John. Read the chapter for yourself.

Some thoughts about Zecharias:

  • He was old. So was his wife.
  • He was childless, thought by the culture to be a punishment for sin.
  • He was considered by God to be righteous, however. Blameless.
  • He had prayed for a son, starting in the days when having a child was still possible, biologically speaking.
  • He was faithful to his job, his calling, despite that disappointment.
  • He was granted favor, mercy, compassion; an answer to his prayer.
  • His prayer wasn’t answered in an ordinary way, in an ordinary location – an angel came to his job site, while he was doing his job; being faithful to do his job.
  • He was human; he doubted the angel’s message. Considering his age and the length of time he had been praying, that was a quite understandable response.
  • He was corrected but not condemned for his doubt.
  • He wasn’t removed from his ordinary job, or replaced in his extraordinary new job: being a parent. A very old parent!
  • He was granted a device to help him assuage his doubt: silence until the baby was born.

How long have we prayed the same prayer, over, and over, and over? How often have we decided to give up, quit doing this job, quit worshiping, quit praying, quit believing? Until it will take a supernatural, extraordinary miracle for it to happen?

But those do still happen. Zecharias and Elizabeth were just two of many people who received miraculous answers to prayer.

Never quit being faithful to your current assignment. Never quit praying. Never quit believing.