Unbelief can kill you

Hindrances to successful prayer

Living here and now, believers in Christ have God the Holy Spirit living inside of them, interested in their daily activities, their thoughts and wishes. Instructing, explaining, giving out assignments and directions, including what to pray.

If we are inhabited by God himself, and if we are praying what God desires for us to pray, then what might hinder us from getting those prayers answered?

Unbelief, which can come from (1) a willful refusal to believe, or (2) ignorance of who God is, his character, his love, his grace, and his will. The result is the same, a lack of active, energized faith. Faith and belief are from the same Greek word, pistis.

  • Matthew 13:58, Mark 6:5-6 – Jesus could do no mighty works in Nazareth because of unbelief.
  • Matthew 9:25, Mark 5:40 – Jesus put unbelievers out of the room (case of the ruler’s daughter).
  • Acts 9:40 – Peter also put unbelievers out of the room (case of Tabitha/Dorcas). Read the passage about Aeneas first, then this passage.

Peter put the unbelievers out of the room first, before praying. He prayed not for the dead woman, but to get God’s instructions on what to do about her. Then he turned and just spoke to her, as he had done to Aeneas, telling her to do something she could not do. And she did it. There was a good reason to put the unbelievers out, unbelief can kill you.

  • In Mark 9:23-24, the father of a demon-oppressed boy came to Jesus after the disciples couldn’t help him. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

Honoring the small faith the boy’s father did have, Jesus helped his unbelief – he healed and delivered the boy. (Jesus told the disciples, this kind comes only by prayer and fasting.)

Misbelief, a mistaken belief, believing the wrong thing, such as:

  • Miracles ceased with the apostles, not for today – yet more miracles occur today than ever.
  • Healing is not in the atonement, it’s not always God’s will – but Jesus healed ALL that came to him. The word for healing is the same Greek word for salvation. You can’t parse this word, it’s the same, single word: Greek sozo, soteria.
  • “Whatever will be, will be” – but that’s from Eastern religion, it’s not a Christian principle.
  • You can’t really know God’s will for sure – but He wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. See Colossians 1:9.
  • You don’t deserve answers to prayer because of past sins, or not being good enough. But salvation is by grace, it’s not deserved, it is by accepted faith. So are answers to prayer.

Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Current sinful practices may hinder answers, but it’s not because you don’t deserve answers. You put up a barricade to receiving answers by believing the wrong things.

Doubt. Doubt may come before faith, and frequently does. Doubt simply means trying to decide between two things; the choice and decision is yours. This is usually from the Greek word diakrino, to examine in order to make a determination; to judge, discern, contend, waver, determine; doubt.

  • In Matthew 21:21, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.”
  • In Mark 11:23, he said “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.”
  • James 1:6 translates this word as wavering, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.”

Doubt is not bad unless you remain there, never coming to a decision.

Note: Sometimes you have plenty of time, but sometimes you have to decide quickly. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God can you make the right decision when you don’t have much time…

  • In Matthew 14:26-32, Peter was headed to Jesus walking on the Sea of Galilee. As the wind arose he looked at two things, Jesus and the boisterous waves. Doubting his own ability (and perhaps his survival), Peter had to make a quick decision. He made the right one. “Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Belief problems can be solved. Hindrances to successful prayer, God-directed prayer, can be removed. Studying the scriptures and getting to know God’s character is essential to that, because active faith – belief – comes by hearing, present tense, the word of God (Romans 10:17).

(Notes adapted Class Notes, Principles of Intercessory Prayer.)

Weapons don’t wield themselves

GodsWeaponsMadeForYou“The worst thing the enemy can do to a believer in Jesus is to send him home to heaven early.”

Why doesn’t God stop him in his tracks?

It’s obvious that the enemy of our faith is at work in the world, sometimes very close to where we live. We wonder why he seems to be getting away with so many murderous acts, causing so much chaos, turmoil and tragedy.

Reminders of several basic facts:

  • War is being waged for control of this planet, control of the people who live on the planet, and eradication of the people inhabited by the Creator of the planet.
  • God gave control of this planet to human beings. Stopping the enemy is our job. We’re not doing a very good job of it, but it’s still our responsibility.
  • It’s not an even fight, the sides aren’t even close to equal – but you’d never know that from the way some folks act. Or don’t act.
  • We are the conquerors!

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 NIV, emphasis added.)

God’s goal:

  • “(God our Savior) who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (I Tim. 2:4)
  • “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:9)
  • God made a way for that to  happen: “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

The devil’s goal:

His goal is to destroy the things God loves above all – people, human beings created in His image. To do that, the enemy will try to:

  • Kill every human being he can, Christians or not
  • Prevent every human being he can from becoming Christians
  • Prevent every Christian he can from bringing other human beings to Christ

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” (I Peter 5:8-9)

Well, the enemy himself is not flesh and blood. He just stirs up flesh and blood to perform as his willing servants, or as his unwitting instruments.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12)

Stopping particular people the enemy is using will not stop him from picking other people to use. We should indeed do whatever we can to stop (or prevent) attacks by those people. But that’s certainly not all – we should also:

Learn how to fight the real enemy:

“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:4-5)

Changing the mind and heart of the person is the only answer to shutting out the enemy from using that person to do evil. Praying, sharing God’s Word, God’s kind of love and life (living the gospel), displaying a God-filled life, are steps toward that change.

“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26)

You can shout and yell at people, but that won’t make them listen. You can shout and yell at the devil, but that won’t make him listen either.

Only taking authentic authority over him will work to stop his activity. And first you have to know he’s real, and that he’s really the one behind the evil actions.

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’

“Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.” (Acts 19:11-16)

Weapons of war:

Acknowledge that YOU have been given spiritual weapons. Know what they are and learn how they work. Recognize who is actually behind the evil activity you see. Ask God what to do about it and listen for his reply. The Holy Spirit will tell you what to do. Some weapons at our disposal include:

  • Spiritual armor. (Eph. 6:10-18) This includes defensive and offensive equipment. “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph. 6:11) “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) Withstand and resist are the same Greek word.
  • Gifts of the Holy Spirit. (I Cor. 12) We need supernatural information, wisdom on how to make use of it, faith, miracles, healing.
  • Discerning of spirits. (I Cor. 12) We especially need to know whether the wicked behavior is caused by human or evil spirits. Believers can exercise authority over evil ones, but human spirits require other approaches.
  • The Word of God. (Hebrews 4:12) Knowing it’s in the Bible isn’t going to help if you don’t know the scripture itself. Study. Learn. Get it in your memory banks.
  • Prayer and intercession. (I Tim. 2:1-2) Ask specific requests, based on knowledge of the scriptures and who you are in Christ, being led by the Holy Spirit as you ask.
  • Love and forgiveness are powerful weapons. “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” (Luke 6:27-28) Remember, the kindness of God leads men to repentance. (Romans 2:4)
  • Your own testimony. “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” (Rev. 12:11)
  • Spiritual authority. (Matt. 28:18-20) Jesus told the disciples to do what he had been doing, and to teach others to do the same things. That includes you and me. He gave us this authority because he knew we were going to need it.

Matthew 18:20 says, “Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And “Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mark 16:20) Note: signs won’t confirm God’s word that isn’t preached, taught, or spoken.

  • Stand firm in the faith. Having done all to stand, stand. Stand firm. (Eph. 6:13)
  • Pray in faith, speak in faith. “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5:17-18)

If you look up those events in I Kings 17 and 18, you see that Elijah didn’t actually pray about the rain stopping and starting – he just spoke about the rain. Whatever praying he did, he did beforehand, surely to ask the Lord for instructions on what to do next.

  • Don’t waver back and forth in doubt, hoping for the best. “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” (James 1:6-7)
  • Confidently expect results. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Heb. 4:16) “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.” (I John 5:14-15)

Weapons don’t wield themselves:

The problem is, too many Christians think all this is automatic –  that they don’t have to be on their guard, don’t have to put on any armor, don’t have to exercise authority, don’t have to resist the devil, don’t have to pray for their enemies, don’t have to share the gospel, in other words, they don’t have to wield any weapons.

It’s as if they think, Let the preacher do it, let the missionaries do it, I don’t have to do it myself.  They may pay a high price for that mistaken belief.

Also see: https://estherspetition.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/armored-front-and-back/

(Originally published in 2015 — still appropriate.)

Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

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)

 

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.

Intercession, one definition

Esther's Petition

This week as I was thinking about intercession and how it’s different from other types of prayer, the Holy Spirit spoke clearly and distinctly to me.

“Interceding is My interfering with the schemes of the enemy.”

It’s God’s method to scotch the devil’s activities on earth. Prevention, intervention, substitution, whatever is needed for the situation. God’s way of throwing monkey wrenches into the devil’s designs.

It is not just praying what God says to pray, although it includes that. It is speaking what God says to speak – to the enemy, to circumstances, to your own spirit / soul / body, to other people (their spirit / soul / body), to whatever.

It’s different from petitions, which may be our own desires and needs for ourselves, our family or friends. That’s certainly not prohibited, it’s encouraged. It’s just not all there is to prayer.

Relax, be watchful, be mindful, be…

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Have you forgotten?

Symptoms of a “persecution complex” continue to pop up here and there on social media platforms, even affecting some believers who should know better.

Don’t they know what real persecution is? (Torture? Beheading? Bombings? Destruction of homes, whole communities, houses of worship? Murder of children?)

Differences of opinion and criticism simply don’t qualify. Yes, we should stand firm for what we believe. No, we shouldn’t react with drama, outrage, smart alecky or vile responses. A few reminders are needed, I suspect:

  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)
  • “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)
  • “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matt. 10:24-25 NASB)
  • “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23 NIV)
  • “Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets. But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:26-28)
  • “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
  • “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:17-18)
  • “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12)
  • “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”  (I Peter 4:12-14)

Comfort / Comforter

Comforter ComforterRescuer

What kind of comfort do you need?

The origin of the English word comfort from the Oxford online dictionary: “Middle English (as a noun, in the senses of strengthening, support, consolation; as a verb, in the senses of strengthen, give support, console): from Old French confort (noun) or conforter (verb), from late Latin confortare, strengthen, from com- (expressing intensive force) + Latin fortis, strong. The sense of something producing physical ease arose in the mid 17th century.”

Thus scriptural comfort is a reinforcement of strength – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical.

In 2 Corinthians 1:4 the Apostle Paul said this about comfort:

  • “who (i.e. the God of all comfort, v. 3) comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (KJV)
  • “who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (NIV)
  • “who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NASB)
  • “who comforts and encourages…” (AMP)

Note: The KJV word tribulation in this verse is from the Greek word thlipsis, meaning pressure, oppression, affliction, distress, straits; it’s translated trouble or affliction in other versions.

Comfort here is from the Greek word paraklesis (G3874, noun), defined in Strong’s as meaning:

– a calling near, summons, (esp. for help); importation, supplication, entreaty; exhortation, admonition, encouragement
– consolation, comfort, solace; that which affords comfort or refreshment
– thus of the Messianic salvation (so the Rabbis call the Messiah the consoler, the comforter)
– persuasive discourse, stirring address
– instructive, admonitory, conciliatory, powerful hortatory discourse

John 14:16-17 (NIV) says, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”

Advocate here in the NIV is translated Comforter in the King James Version. It is from the Greek word paraklatos (G3875, noun), defined in Strong’s as:

– one who is summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid
– one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate
– one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor
– of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
– in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant
– of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom

John used this word to describe the Holy Spirit. It is translated Comforter in KJV, Advocate in NIV, Helper in NASB, and Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby) in the Amplified Version. He is all that, in every imaginable variation and circumstance.

What kind of comfort did Peter need?

  • Understanding, wisdom, speaking ability, revelation knowledge
  • Angel for a jailbreak…

5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. 6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. 9 Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. 10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. (Acts 12:5-8 NIV)

What kind of comfort did Paul need?

  • Understanding, supernatural information, healing from beatings, resurrection from stoning, deliverance from mobs
  • Earthquake for a jailbreak…

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” 29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:25-30 NIV)

See the Book of Acts for these and many other examples. Also see I Corinthians 12 for Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e. God’s power tools, equipment, supplies, inside information, wisdom and weaponry.

God the Holy Spirit, the believer’s indwelling Comforter / Helper / Assistant / Intercessor / Strengthener does more than just bring emotional calmness and peace of mind which is what most people today tend to think of as comfort, although he certainly does that.

And he isn’t just called alongside to help, he’s INSIDE to help.

So – what kind of comfort do you need?

Antioch Christians

AntiochAncientCityThe disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

“Meanwhile, the believers who had been scattered during the persecution after Stephen’s death traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch of Syria. They preached the word of God, but only to Jews.

20 However, some of the believers who went to Antioch from Cyprus and Cyrene began preaching to the Gentiles[f] about the Lord Jesus. 21 The power of the Lord was with them, and a large number of these Gentiles believed and turned to the Lord.

“22 When the church at Jerusalem heard what had happened, they sent Barnabas to Antioch. 23 When he arrived and saw this evidence of God’s blessing, he was filled with joy, and he encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. 24 Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord.

“25 Then Barnabas went on to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he found him, he brought him back to Antioch. Both of them stayed there with the church for a full year, teaching large crowds of people. (It was at Antioch that the believers were first called Christians.)” (Acts 11:19-26, NLT)

Antioch was the Roman capital of Syria and the third greatest city in the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria, at the time of Paul and Barnabas. It was located on the banks of the Orontes River and at the junction of two mountain ranges. Antioch had grown to be a major Roman crossroads of civilization and power.

AncientAntiochA metropolis of between 200,000 and 400,000 people at the time of Christ, Antioch was called the Queen of the East, a sophisticated political, commercial, cultural – and religious center. “About five miles distant from the city was the suburb of Daphne, a spot sacred to Apollo and Artemis. This suburb, beautified by groves and fountains, and embellished by the Seleucids and the Romans with temples and baths, was the pleasure resort of the city, and ‘Daphnic morals’ became a by-word.” (BibleHub.com)

This great city was home to many pagan religions and housed many pagan temples. A great deal of money was to be had catering to the frequent traveling worshipers through the area.

At the time of Paul and Barnabas, those religions included Judaism and a new religion initially thought of as an offshoot of Judaism, followers of Jesus Christ – their worshipers enjoying relative peace, being tolerated by the multi-cultural Roman Empire of the day.

The word Christian means “Christ follower, of the household of Christ, or a partisan of Christ.”

But those who called them that didn’t mean it as a compliment, but as an insult. People using that term may never have seen Jesus themselves. They didn’t know him, but obviously they had heard something about him. Things like:

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38 NIV)

“And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.” (Matthew 4:24 KJV)

So, what did the people of Antioch see? They saw the acts of people who did know Jesus, people like Paul and Barnabas.

  • The blind could now see.
  • The deaf could now hear.
  • The dumb could now speak.
  • The crippled were now strong and healthy.
  • Liars no longer lied.
  • Robbers no longer robbed.
  • Cheaters no longer cheated.
  • Idol worshipers no longer worshiped idols.

The people of Antioch no doubt asked, “What happened?” The people who had been changed could answer that question. Jesus happened!

When Jesus saves a person, he inhabits them by way of the Holy Spirit, and he changes their behavior and character from the inside out.  (John 14:23, II Corinthians 5:17)

Now the disciples in Antioch were doing the same things that Jesus had done – healing the sick, casting out demons, cleansing the lepers and raising the dead. Jesus had taught the disciples how to do those things themselves, empowered them and sent them out to do them.

And so they did, in Antioch and elsewhere. Paul’s own testimony includes, “… by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of His Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:19 NIV)

When the people of Antioch saw believers doing the same things that Jesus the Christ had done, they mockingly called them Christians. Soon enough that insult became a badge of courage.

Because it became obvious that the lives of these new believers were very different from everyone else’s in Antioch. Wouldn’t you think that was wonderful? Well, not if you made your living off of sin… the worship of idols, for example. And so persecution soon followed.

People today may not recognize a Christian the same way Antioch did. While they may see changed habit patterns and changed character, they may not really expect to see today’s believers doing supernatural things.

But Jesus is the same now as he ever was. (Hebrews 13:8) When he is allowed to, he does the same things through his disciples today that he did then. (Matthew 10:7-8, 28:18-20) And more and more around the world, people are seeing those things.

I truly want to be an “Antioch” Christian.

To read more about this key city of the early Christian faith, click on these links:
http://www.pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/footsteps/footsteps_3_1.html
http://biblehub.com/topical/a/antioch.htm
http://libaniusredux.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html