Category Archives: Church

Over the Legal Limit

585479204I’m not real proud of my past.  I sure didn’t do some of the most honorable things.  Getting drunk on regular occasions were one of those things…sometimes to the point of black outs.  The usual Friday and/or Saturday night consisted of some type of alcohol.  Surprisingly, I never had to take a breathalyzer or sobriety test…probably because I refrained from driving while under the influence, except for once which I paid a dear price.  I look back and wonder how I survived sometimes.  Obviously by the grace of God.  Believe it or not, I was saved back in those days.  I truly believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that He died for my sins, and that God raised Him up on the third day.  I had no idea what that really meant, but I believed it nonetheless.

One thing I can attest to, a drunk will never admit when they are drunk, but it’s not hard to tell when someone is.  It’s not rocket science.  The dictionary defines being drunk as affected by alcohol to the extent of losing control of one’s faculties or behavior.  I’d say that’s pretty accurate.  They no longer have anything that inhibits them from acting in ways or saying things that they would normally refrain from.  That usually results in regret the next day, if they even remember what happened the night before.

 “Let all things be done decently and in order.” – 1 Cor. 14:40 KJV

Contextually, Paul was correcting the Corinthian church in regards to how they were operating chaotically in the gifts of the Spirit in their services.  Things were out of control.  I almost wonder if their church services were more of a competition than anything.  If one person had a word of prophecy, then someone else had a better one.  If one person started speaking in tongues, then four more people joined in.  When someone tried to interpret, someone else would correct them.  Bottom line, things were not happening as they should’ve been, otherwise there would’ve been no need for correction.

I have seen footage of church services – or “meetings” – gone awry and I wonder if they mirror what the Corinthians were doing.  I’m not talking about little things where maybe the speaker got off on a rabbit trail, or they extended the music portion an extra 15 minutes.  No, I’m talking about how people are acting like they are not in control of themselves – writhing around on the floor, laughing uncontrollably, those kinds of things.  I have been a first hand witness to some of those things and something never set quite right with me.

People claim it’s the Spirit of God moving and however the Spirit moves, you move.  You hear things like, “I just couldn’t stop ______.”  Fill in the blank with whatever action you “felt” the Spirit was moving you to do.  People will say they were just “drunk in the Spirit”.  This is where Christians will use Ephesians 5:18 and these verses from Acts 2 to justify their “uncontrollable” behavior.  That is a blatant misrepresentation of those verses.

The verse in Ephesians is supposed to be a contrast, not a similarity as many preach.  He’s telling them, and us, we shouldn’t be getting drunk.  Remember the dictionary definition earlier?  You’re telling me that the Spirit of God, the one that set the universe in perfect motion, caused you to lose control of yourself?  Sorry, I’m not buying it.  God does not possess people and make them do things, nor does He the opposite.

If you do some homework, you’ll find that being drunk was a shameful act in the Old Testament.  It was NOT something to be proud of.  So why on earth would we act that way and claim it’s the Spirit of God?  Peter tells us to be sober and vigilant.  Read what Paul told the Church in Thessalonica:

But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night.  But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

Be what?  Sober – calm, collected in spirit – temperate.  Strong’s concordance says it means to abstain from wine.  So tell me again that you’re “drunk in the spirit”?

In regards to the verses in Acts 2, I don’t believe they were caught up in uncontrollable, hysterical laughter or any such thing.  It’s clear that Scripture tells us people heard them speaking in multiple languages that were not their native ones.  (You can read about that here in Part 3 of my series on tongues.)  They were NOT acting drunk.  That was just people trying to explain away what was happening.  I also believe they were also trying to discredit the disciples, by spreading rumors that they were drunk at 9 in the morning.  Think about it: If people thought that followers of Jesus were ok with drinking wine – getting drunk –  that early in the morning, then that was further proof to the Jews that Jesus was not the Messiah and it would be easier to convince others of the same.  Read the first thing Peter told them in Acts 2:14-15

But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.

The first thing he told the people was that they were not drunk! I believe it angered Peter, and rightfully so, that people were equating a move of God with being drunk.  He specifically wanted them to know that they had not been drinking.  I believe Peter had a “how dare you” moment.  Know what I mean?  When someone says or does something so disrespectful, that you just can’t believe what you heard or what just happened.  I believe a little righteous indignation rose up within him and he was going to make sure they knew what was what.  Yet Christians today brag about being drunk in the spirit.  I think that if Peter was in some of the services or meeting which these things have happened, he’d have something to say about it and it wouldn’t be encouraging the behavior.

What I find odd, is hat the same Christians that get “drunk in the spirit” will also preach 4 verses down from Ephesians 18, that states “Abstain from all appearance of evil” as their basis for telling others that Christians shouldn’t drink alcohol.  Do you see the obvious conflict here?  Don’t actually drink alcohol, but it’s ok to act drunk.  Excuse me while I bang my head against a brick wall.  That make no sense.  First, and I’m not getting into it here, but it’s not a sin to consume alcohol.  It’s a sin to do so when you cross the line into intoxication.  Regardless, if you’re going to say that drinking alcohol is an appearance of evil (which it’s not), then you had better say the same about acting drunk, which really would be an appearance of evil.  I know how that sounds and I’m not apologizing for it.  It’s the truth.

Don’t mistake my judgment of these incidents as unbelief.  I believe in the gifts of the Spirit as outlined in 1 Corinthians 12.  I totally believe speaking in tongues is for us today.  I also believe we should be experiencing good heath and prosperity.  I believe God is good and that every perfect gift comes from Him.  I just don’t believe we should be acting in these types of ways and calling it God.

Was there a move of God that people experienced, but didn’t know how to describe or handle? Sure.  Did people get so caught up in the emotional side of things that they allowed their feelings to dictate their behavior?  Probably.  Can laughter be contagious?  Absolutely.  Is it possible many others joined in even though they really weren’t experiencing anything because they didn’t want to be “left out”?  Definitely.

Should our entire fellowship as a church be scheduled down to the minute?  No.   Should we never laugh in church?  That’s not what I’m saying either.  I totally believe that God can, and has, changed the course of many services and meetings.  If God is truly moving you, as a leader, a different direction, then you better go that way.  However, when things begin to seem disorganized and disorderly, that’s when we’ve moved over from the Spirit, into the flesh.

The flesh enjoys indulgence, no matter what it is.  Anger feels good to vent.  It feels good to gorge out on your favorite food.  When you’re in a certain mood, you want to enhance the felling, so you listen to songs that reinforce your emotions at the time.  If someone is experiencing the death of a loved one, we weep with them.  Compassion moves through us and it’s a natural reaction.  The opposite is also true.  When we are around others who are joyful and they begin laughing, it’s easy to begin laughing with them.  If  more join in, it’s probably going to spread throughout the entire group of people.  Emotions, good or bad, are both highly contagious and powerful.

It’s no different when we get into services that begin to manipulate our emotions.  We want to continue in it because it feels good.  I’ve been in many services where I would’ve loved the music to continue all morning  because I “felt” the spirit moving strong.  I’m not saying it’s wrong to experience emotion, but we just can’t let emotions dictate our behavior, no matter the atmosphere.

Thankfully, we have been given a fruit of the Spirit called temperance.  I like the dictionary definition of this word: moderation or self restraint in action, statement, etc.  Many translations use the word self-control.  In control of one’s self.  A Christians should NEVER use the phrase, “I just couldn’t help myself,” or any other like it..  It’s just not true.

The lost the only ones the have the potential to get away with statements like that.  They don’t have the Spirit of God inside them.  They don’t have access to the attributes listed in Galatians 5:22-23 like we do.  Can they control themselves?  If they really want to, but we have an advantage.  We have the same spirit inside of us that raised up Christ from the dead.

It doesn’t matter what you felt the Spirit moving you to do, you – as a Christian – always have a choice and you are always in control of yourself.


Playing Church

playgroundI will admit I don’t have a very diverse church background.  I’ve only regularly attended five different churches in my short lifetime thus far.  One was a Lutheran church when I was a very young child, one was just a simple Evangelical church when I was an adolescent, two have been “non-denominational, and the one I attend now is borderline “non”, but more closely aligns with the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention).  It’s by far the smallest one I’ve ever been to.

The largest one I’ve attended was living in Branson.  It’s where I grew the most spiritually and I definitely learned a lot of practical life lessons while I was there.  When I moved back to my home town, I went back to the church I had been attending before I moved.  One day I was having lunch with one of the leaders there and he asked me about attending church there in Branson.  I don’t remember much at all about that conversation, but I do remember specifically telling him, “They don’t play church.”

I might as well say this now, I am not against the local Church.  I think it’s a scriptural thing that we meet together locally, with other believers.  We need to fellowship, and hear the word preached.  These are good things.  Playing church is not.

So what do I mean when I say “playing church”?  You should have a pretty good idea what it means.  Children like to play dress up.  Children like to play make believe.  Children like to play hide and go seek.  A lot of Christians like to play church.  Make sense now?

I know that sounds like a harsh rebuke, but it’s the truth nonetheless.  However, I’m not referring to the group of people you think.  Many people go to church simply because it’s “what you do on Sunday” or on major holidays.  Many go to simply soothe their conscience because of how they lived the previous week.  I can get past that type of hypocrisy.  The ones I’m talking about are the real holy rollers.  They, more often than not, play church.  Church for them is generally a social gathering under the disguise of religion.

You see, these people claim to know the word.  They don’t tell you that you have to be there every service, but it’s implied.  They shift their duty of service to missionaries overseas so they don’t have to get their hands dirty locally.  They all walk and talk like each other.  Their “small groups” only contain members of their own church.  It’s all about attendance and retention.  They are more internally minded.  Everything just seems picture perfect.  They are so preoccupied with “doing church” that they neglect BEING the church.

Be honest with yourself as a leader or a general “member” of a local church.  Do the people around your table all walk and talk like you?  Are you all somehow connected relationally or geographically?  Does your leadership table generally answer questions how you want to hear them?  How challenged are you by those closest to you?  Are you easily offended or defensive of someone who shares different views than you?  How often do you share your platform with someone of a different background/church affiliation?  Are the decisions you make conceding change in your church affected at all by trying to make the most people happy?

Those questions should reveal some indication if you’re playing church.  The things I want to touch on from here on out are obviously found in scripture, but are hardly ever discussed or (I doubt very much) put into practice.  Now, I realize that some of those things that the various writers said to the Churches of their time were specific to that particular group of people at that time.  However, there are many things that are applicable to the way we should be doing church today.  I’m going to go through a few things and you tell me if you’ve ever seen these things happen in a Church today.

  • 1 Timothy 5:20 – Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.

When was the last time the leader of your church stood behind the pulpit, pointed the finger at someone, and called out their sin before the entire congregation.  Yet ins’t that a pretty clear instruction of what Paul is suggesting to Timothy?  Does this passage mention that should happen in a church?  Not specially, but it doesn’t have to.  Paul had trained up Timothy to be a leader, one who Paul even instructs on how to handle an Elder in need of rebuke.  I believe that it’s applicable to how the Church should operate.  Now, I’m not saying that every week, the leader of the Church should spend an hour rebuking every person in the congregation for every little thing.  There is a balance here.  I believe that there would be occasions for it.  Sometimes people need to be called out on their sin publicly.  It’s too easy to sit behind closed doors in a “counseling” session and act like you’re sorrowful and repentant.  You can pull the wool over one person’s eyes, but it’s little more difficult to do so in front of a room full of your peers.  Some people are only sorry if they get caught.

  • Matthew 18:15-17 – Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Ok, this is pretty heavy too.  Here, Jesus is talking about something that happened between two believers.  I don’t think anyone would do any of this.  What I want to focus on is “tell it to the church”.  It does NOT say “tell it to the pastor behind closed doors”.  Sorry folks, when Jesus says the church, he means in front of all.  That is similar to what Paul told Timothy.  What’s even more powerful, Jesus tells you how that person should be treated if he doesn’t listen!  Tell me the last time a “church” did that.  Hmmm…I’m wiling to bet never.  You realize this statement is coming off the heels of when Jesus told us what to do if our hand or eye offend us.  Cut it off.  Not literally, but we are to deal with sin swiftly and severely.  Which is exactly how He told us how to deal with a stubborn offender.

  • 1 Corinthians 5:1;5;11 – It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wifeTo deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.

I know I’ve chopped together some scripture, but go read the entire chapter for yourself and you will see I’m not taking things out of context.  First, Paul says to basically excommunicate the person who was committing fornication with his stepmother (disturbing, I know).  There are things that Paul has no tolerance for.  We should be the same, despite the fact the world wants us to tolerate everything.  What’s more shocking to me is that in verse 11, Paul tells us not to associate those whom are called BROTHERS that are indulging in sin.  If someone is a “brother”, that means they are in Christ.  That’s right.  Those who have believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and have confessed him as Lord.  We are to cut them off from fellowship.  We don’t.  We coddle them.  We hold their hand.  We rub their back and say everything is going to be ok.  Can’t find that in the Bible.  Now this example that Paul gave was very specific to the Church at Corinth, but it’s still a clear guideline of how to deal with certain behavior.

Before you start throwing other scriptures at me in an attempt to discredit or prove me wrong, I’ll go ahead and give you one: 1 Peter 4:8 – And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.  That’s all great and everything until you look up the word “cover” and it’s the same in Matthew 10:26.  Go ahead and see for yourself.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter what scripture you try to use, it doesn’t change the truth of the ones I’ve presented.  Unless you’re comparing New Testament scriptures to Old Testament ones, scriptures don’t necessarily cancel or negate each other.  Besides, these are instructions to the Church as a whole, so these scriptures need to be taken literally.  Am I saying that they need to be carried out every single time Christians meet for fellowship and breaking of bread?  No, but they can’t be ignored either.  I’m not ruling out compassion, sympathy, or charity.  I totally believe there is a balance to  the scriptures.

I realize that this may come off as harsh, but it’s been far too long since the Church has acted like the Church.  Smith Wigglesworth comes to mind quite often when I consider how the Bride of Christ has waned.  I say this because too many local gatherings have become like rock concerts and social gatherings that are hardly distinguishable from their pagan counterparts.  Should we have fun in Church?  At times, yes.  Should we go all out in praising God during Church?  Sure thing.  Yet what has happened is that now if we dare present a challenging message or something that reveals our sin, people walk away.  Too many people want something to make them feel good no matter what and don’t you dare peek into my private life.  Smith knew the value of tough love, but tough love is only love if it’s spoken in sincere truth.

It’s sad for me to think that if we did any of the things that the Bible instructs, people would walk out by the droves, even if you showed them multiple scriptures to back it up.  Why?  People don’t want the Bible to get in the way of how they act or what they believe.  People want to play church.

One of my top 5 favorite scriptures is found in Galatians 4:16:

Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

I do not think you understand the power that is contained in that question.  In Galatians 3:1, Paul basically called the church in Galatia stupid for how they were thinking and behaving.  Our current dictionary defines foolish as someone lacking good sense or judgement.  First can you imagine how a local church would act if the leader got up and accused the congregation of being foolish?  Telling them they are being stupid?  We can’t because no one would dare do it.  Do you know what that equates to?  The leader don’t love them enough.  That’s right, if you don’t tell someone the truth, you don’t love them enough.  Paul loved the church at Galatia enough to risk losing them.  That’s what’s so powerful about that scripture above.  Love will risk all.

Paul risked everything he was to the Galatians because he loved them.  He risked them alienating him, hating him, because he told them the truth.  You realize the model Paul was using…the same one as Jesus.  Jesus risked all not only for us, but for the Jews when He was on the earth.  He told people the truth no matter what it cost Him.  He lost some of his own followers because of the truth He presented.

What are we willing to risk for the truth?  How strong is our love for others?  Do we love others enough to tell them the truth or do we “love them too much” to tell them the truth?  If your answer is the latter, then you really don’t love them at all.

In these dark times, however no darker than before, we must ask ourselves some questions:  What are we willing to risk to really be the church?  To actually act like the church?  The answer to those questions will either continue to withhold or release the power of God to bring Kingdom changes to this earth and usher in the second coming of our Lord Jesus.

Family can sometimes be the most difficult people to deal with.  As the body of Christ, and members in particular, whether Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Catholics, etc., if Jesus is our Lord, then we are all connected – we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are all part of the same family.  We are all to love one another as Jesus loved us.  He loved people enough to tell them the truth regardless of what it cost Him.  Paul did the same.  Isn’t it time we followed suit?

Bride, it’s time to get off the merry-go-round, hop off the swing, and make it your last trip down the slide.  Tear down the fences.  Grab the dozer and the backhoe.  Dig like you’ve never dug.  Lay the foundation and begin to build the Church the way it was intended.

Judging Others

I read something someone wrote the other day on a blog.  (I’m not going to link to the blog nor mention their name because neither of which are of any intrinsic value to what I’m writing about today.)  In it, was a quote that I’ve seen going around lately.  Here it is:

“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.” – Harlan Ellison

I’m figuring they got the quote off of Facebook, because that’s where I’ve seen it plastered the most.  The person that posted it had something to say concerning the quote.  They said, “No one is entitled to tell someone else what they are entitled to or to determine the level of someone else’s ignorance. Humans are not created to be judges. Not even of themselves.”  The last two sentences really got my theological juices flowing.  Is that true?  Are we not supposed to judge others or ourselves?

It’s real easy to jump on the bandwagon of “who are you to judge” or “how dare you judge me” or “you’re not my judge” or “what gives you the right to judge me“…  Do I need to continue?  As Christians, generally we will concede that God is the true Judge and that we have no business judging others.  But is that really what the Bible tells us?

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  For you will be treated as you treat others.  The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” – Matthew 7:1-2 NLT

That was a quote from Jesus.  So that should clear things up, right?  Well, I’m not quite convinced yet.  Let’s look at some other scriptures and see.

  • Romans 14:3 – Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
  • Romans 14:13 – Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.
  • 1 Corinthians 4:5 – Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

So there is a few more that tell us not to judge.  However, what are the context of those scriptures?  Romans 14:3 is Paul is talking about those who think that eating certain foods is wrong, not about moral or social behavior.  He is still referencing the incident in verse 13.  apparently there was some debate surrounding what was ok to eat and what wasn’t.  That’s not surprising considering the strict dietary laws the Jews followed then and many still do today.

The reference in 1 Corinthians Paul is talking about whether or not he’s or anyone else has been a good steward over the things the LORD has entrusted him with.  He’s basically saying that we have no idea the motives behind what people do, so it’s difficult for us to decide whether or not things are being done with good intentions.

There are some other scriptures that mention judging but in a slightly different way.  Let’s look at those.  The first is in 1 Corinthians 5 verse 3:

For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed

Whoa!  Hold up.  Did Paul just say he judged someone for something they did?!?  Oh no he didn’t!  Oh, yes he did!  What the heck Paul, don’t you remember what Jesus said?  So what gives?

First off, this is a pretty strong statement.  But what prompted it?  A man, who was supposed to be a Christian, was having an illicit affair with his father’s wife!  Paul even says this is not even heard of among the unbelievers in the area.  It was nothing to be proud of for sure, so Paul instructs them to not only  kick the man out of the church, but to ostracize him.  Look for yourself.  This is out of the New Living Translation because I think it really captures the heart of what Paul is saying.

When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin.  But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that.  I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believeryet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people. – 1 Corinthians 5:9-11

Now that’s harsh!  It also spits in the face of many Christians and “churches”.  Paul flat-out says DO NOT associate with Christians that indulge in those things.  Boot ’em out and lock the door!  (Not permanently of course.)  Listen to what he says in verse 12:

It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.  God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”

Would you look at that!  Paul instructs Christians to JUDGE other Christians inside the church.  Listen to what else the Paul says to Christians about judging.  1 Corinthians 6:2-3 NLT:

Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can’t you decide even these little things among yourselves?  Don’t you realize that we will judge angels? So you should surely be able to resolve ordinary disputes in this life.

Paul’s instructions were for them to bring their disputes before the church NOT in a “secular” court.  What’s even more surprising is that he likens that to judging the world AND angels!  I admit that I don’t know exactly what “judging angels” means, but it would seem to me that if we are unfit to judge disputes here on earth between believers, we are going to be unfit to judge the angels.

It would seem that those statements contradicts what Jesus said in Matthew 7, but it doesn’t.  Jesus isn’t saying not to judge.  He is saying that we need to be very aware of how we judge since how lenient we are with others is how lenient they will be with us.  It is not a command not to judge.  It can’t be or else Paul was contradicting Jesus.

Even in the OT testament, Moses was a judge over the people.  In fact, the Hebrew word for God, ‘elohiym, means rulers or judges.  Were we not created in the image of God and in that were we not given the power of dominion (to rule) over the earth?  Is that not what rulers do, is to judge?  If we were created in the image of God, then we were created to judge.  That takes us back to the comments I mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.  The comment, “Humans are not created to be judges. Not even of themselves,” is itself contradictory to the word of God.  We were created gto

Paul even tells us to judge ourselves.  When he was instructing the Corinthians on the proper way to partake of communion, he told them:

Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.  But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.  For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.  For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.  For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.  But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32

If we are to judge ourselves in such an important thing as communion, then surely we are not to leave the lesser things un-judged.  In closing, let me remind us all of something Peter said:

For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God’s Good News? – 1 Peter 4:17 – NLT

Once again, we Christians have missed it.  We’ve been guilty of what Paul said in Romans 2:1 NLT:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.

We, Christians, are called to a higher standard of living.  Yet we act like we’re still lost.  If we would hold each other to the standards that Paul, through the Spirit of God, gave us, perhaps the world would have less evidence to judge us as hypocrites.  No wonder the world doesn’t want to be like us.  We act worse than them.

Our directives on judgement doesn’t absolve us of our requirements to show compassion, mercy and forgiveness.  It’s just the opposite.  The more we step up and begin to correctly judge things, it will also increase the amount of mercy, compassion and forgiveness we’ll need to administer as well.

The Truth About Speaking In Tongues – Pt. 4 – Church Tongues

I don’t know how typical this is for a blog to have so many parts to one subject.  However, this is a controversial subject and it may take some time to really dig into.  To be honest, I’d prefer to preach this rather than type it, but alas, I don’t have the “platform” for that yet, so I must make do.

I’m going to dive right in, so if you haven’t read the previous posts about tongues or aren’t familiar with this subject, this will definitely throw you a curve ball.  So I encourage you to go back and read at least a couple of the posts before continuing.

I want to compare and contrast the church and personal use of speaking in tongues.  I would use the terms public and private, but I think those are too general of terms.  Public makes it sound like you are walking down the street or shopping in the mall and you start speaking in tongues and private makes it sound like you are trying to keep it a secret.  Neither of which are very accurate.

After the book of Acts, speaking in tongues is not mentioned in great detail until 1 Corinthians.  In chapter 12 verses 1-11 talks about “spiritual gifts” and in verse 10 specifically mentions tongues and interpretation of tongues.  These gifts, which I won’t go into great detail here, are also widely debated amongst Christians.  I believe that not any one person has a certain gift but that the gifts are manifested at the proper times in church settings.  That’s not to say that there aren’t certain people who excel in one particular gift or the other, but I don’t believe that those gifts are limited in that way.  I believe that any person who is baptized in the Holy Spirit has the ability to operate in any of those particular gifts if needed, but those aren’t anything we can “make” happen.

Now, real quick, don’t let my use of the terms “church or church setting” throw you off.  The “church” is the entire body of Christ.  Every single Christian is a part of the “church”.  You don’t have to be in a building with a Pastor preaching to be in a church setting.  Jesus talked in Matthew chapter 18 about this new thing called the “church” and verse 20 he said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  I personally believe that it takes no more than two or three people to be gathered together to constitute a church setting.  Moving on…

I believe the Christians at Corinth didn’t fully understand the different types of speaking in tongues so Paul had to devote an entire portion of his letter to them explaining the proper uses.  I want to also note here that in the King James Version, only the word “unknown” is in italics. That means it wasn’t in the original text but was added by the translators.  Let’s begin:

1Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

  • This is the beginning of Paul’s explanation of tongues.  He starts by saying this because the Corinthians were using tongues out-of-order.  Prophesy should be sought after more than tongues in a church setting if there is no interpretation, which we read Paul mentions this specifically later on.

For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries.

  • Here Paul is saying that the most common use of speaking in tongues is simply communication with God.  Prayer.  That’s why you hear Christians refer to speaking in tongues as their “prayer language”.  That’s what used for.  Don’t be thrown of by “speaking mysteries”.  That word mystery means something that is not obvious to the understanding.  This type of tongue is not to be spoken to people.

But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

  • The purpose or benefit of prophesy in a church setting is explained.   To build up, encourage and comfort those who hear.  Who couldn’t use some of that?

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.

  • Here we get another benefit of the personal use of tongues.  You build yourself up.  It’s intresting…the first definition of edify,according to Strong’s, is “to build a house”.  Prophesy by contrast is utterance in a known language (no need for an interpreter).  So it’s better for a church setting so that many will be built up not just yourself.

I would that ye all spake with tongues but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

  • This definitely shows the importance of speaking in another language, however, again, not in a church setting.  Paul is speaking to the church, or the gathering of believers, in Corinth.  So his instructions, especially in this section of the letter, are directed at believers gathered together.

Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?

  • The obvious answer here is that it wouldn’t do them any good.  Again, he’s talking about his personal use of tongues.  If he came to them speaking in another language with no interpretation, it would be of no use to them.  So he contrasts that by saying in a church setting, speaking by inspiration in a known language is definitely more beneficial.

And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?  For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

  • Here Paul compares using the personal side to speaking in tongues to something in the natural.  At that time, it was common place for a city to use a trumpet as a warning signal to the city that there was something wrong.  If the person whose job it was to sound the alarm made an unfamiliar melody, it would be confusing to the whole city.  Likewise when someone speaking in tongues that is reserved for personal use in a public setting, it’s going to be confusing to everyone around them.

So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.

  • I think a great way to put this in our vernacular would be “you will be blowing smoke.”

10 There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification.11 Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.

  • Barbarian – one whose speech is rude, rough and harsh; one who speaks a foreign or strange language which is not understood by another; used by the Greeks of any foreigner ignorant of the Greek language, whether mental or moral, with the added notion after the Persian war, of rudeness and brutality. The word is used in the N.T. without the idea of reproachfulness.  Those are the three definitions from Strong’s.  So the point of Paul to use that name to describe someone who is using tongues out-of-order was dead on.  I’m sure that’s how we as Christians sound today when we speak in tongues out-of-order…we sound like barbarians.

12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.13 Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.

  • Just like he pointed out in the previous verses: we should be looking to build others up when we gather together.  We shouldn’t be looking for ways to get attention.  Unfortunately,  speaking in tongues is a way for many people to shout “look at me!”  However, he says that if tongues are spoken, then pray for them to be interpreted.  I believe that the spiritual gift of tongues and interpretation as mentioned in chapter 12 are what God intended us to use in the church.  If you do miss it and speak in tongues out-of-order, then at least, Paul is saying, pray to interpret so that everyone may be encouraged, not just yourself.  Keep in mind that back in verse 5, Paul says that tongues with interpretation is greater than prophesy.  Again, that’s why I believe we were given the gifts of tongues and interpretation.

14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful.

  • Remember, back in verse 2 Paul mentioned that speaking in tongues is speaking mysteries.  So your human understanding is not going to be increased at that moment.  However, that’s not to say that it won’t at all.  Remember, the personal use of tongues is another way to pray.  Our understanding doesn’t always benefit when we pray in our native tongue right away either.

15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

  • I believe Paul is referring to interpretation here.  Just back in verse 13, he says that if you do pray in tongues, pray to interpret.  So he’s saying if he is to pray or sing in the church in tongues he is confident there will be an interpretation.

16 Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?17 For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified.

  • Again, without interpretation, those that are around don’t’ know what you’re saying, so why would they give an amen (so be it) in agreement if they don’t know what was spoken?  Sure you may give thanks to God in that language, but you’ve not built anyone else up in the process.

18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all:19 Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.

  • That’s a pretty bold statement.  Obviously Paul was a fanatic about speaking in tongues, but he also knew the proper place for them.  He wants to do what is best for everyone.  We should, as Jesus did, look for ways to serve our fellow believers.  So if that meant he didn’t speak in tongues, then so be it.  He would that others benefit rather than himself.

20 Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.22 Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.

  • Verse 20: Grow up!  That’s what I gather Paul is saying.  They were like little kids left to themselves…what happens when kids are left with no direction?  Things get out of control real quick.  Verse 21 is Paul giving us the O.T. prophesy concerning this N.T. reality.  Paul is also specifically referring to the tongues that occurred in the book of Acts.  In my previous post, I touched on the fact that there were a specific type of speaking in tongues that were for unbelievers.  That type of tongues don’t need and interpreter because its spoken in languages that the unbelievers will recognize.

23 If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad?

  • This refers back to verse 10 and is apparently what the Corinthians were doing.  Everyone was speaking in tongues in their services and it was not good.  This would also seem to be a contradiction to verse 22, however it’s not.  Verse 22 was speaking about the signs type of tongues and Paul is talking about them speaking in their personal prayer language.  It’s that type of tongues that shouldn’t be used around unbelievers because they will think we are insane.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what’s happened and is why there is so much confusion about speaking in tongues.  I’ve watched “meetings” where everyone is going bonkers speaking in tongues and, yes, I agree with Paul…they appear to be “mad”.

24 But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:25 And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

  • Here is Paul going back to what he said at the beginning.  Unless you have an interpreter, prophesy should be sought after in a church setting and he even gives a benefit to what can happen when it occurs.

26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

  • There was obviously some selfish motives going on there, because not every single person in the church setting is going to have some type of psalm, teaching, tongues or revelation at the same time.  They were zealous of spiritual gifts, yet they were still very new to the things of God and they took it overboard.  Like I mentioned earlier about seeing meetings where everyone was speaking in tongues…that typically happens when people get on fire for the things of God and the moves of the Spirit.  Children have to be taught to control themselves.  We have to be taught the same.

27 If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.28 But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.

  • All throughout this chapter, Paul is not forbidding the use of tongues in a church setting, just ones without an interpretation.  He also refers again to our personal use of tongues, that it is speaking directly to God.

29 Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. 32 And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.  (Yes, I am skipping verses because 34-38 do not specifically pertain to my topic.) 39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.40 Let all things be done decently and in order.

Those were some great instructions for Paul to end that section with.  So, to sum things up, speaking in tongues in a church setting (where there is preaching and teaching), needs to be followed by interpretation so that everyone may reap the benefits.  It also needs to be done in an orderly manner as well as taking into account the likely hood of unbelievers in the midst.  I’m not suggesting that we never speak in tongues around unbelievers since I’ve shown that there are tongues specific for unbelievers.  However, we need to be sure that if we are about to publicly speak in tongues, that either we pray we will interpret or we must be sure that someone there will interpret, as in the gift of interpretations.

I realize this was a bit lengthy, but this is a very important chapter on the subject of speaking in tongues and I thought it best to approach it in a commentary style.  This didn’t touch too much on the personal benefits of speaking in tongues or what the purpose of that is.  There are other scriptures that go into more detail on that type of tongues and that’s what’s in store for my next installment, but this time I mainly wanted to show the use of the “church tongues” and how it differs from our personal “prayer language”.

If you’ve read all my posts on this topic, thanks for hanging in there.  I sure don’t have it all figured out yet, so if you’ve got any insight or feedback concerning these posts up to this point, it’s most welcome.

Relieving the Pastor

Let me start by saying that I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.  I’m not trying to say that how we do things in “church” is all wrong .  However, what if how we’ve been doing church isn’t how we were supposed to?  What if we’ve simply misunderstood what church is supposed to be?

I love my church.  The place where I go to hear and preach the Word of God is like no other.  The people there are awesome.  The leaders are awesome.  It really is a great place to get connected to people who are like-minded in their faith.  Is it perfect?  No, but neither is where ever you go.  No church is perfect.  None will ever be.  However, that doesn’t excuse us from endeavouring to make it a better place.

There is one particular thing that I have always struggled with when it comes to “the church”.  It’s one of the duties that we have somehow attributed to the pastor or whomever is presenting the sermon.  Not to say that the pastor isn’t capable of it, but that’s placing the responsibility on the wrong person.

The Bible, in Ephesians , talks about five different gifts that we, as believers, have been given.  They are commonly referred to as the “5 fold ministry gifts”.  Included in those gifts are pastors and it’s that particular gift that seems to dominate the church world.  I don’t particularly believe it’s the only position that is allowed to head a particular church body, but it is the most widespread one nonetheless, and it’s the one I will reference for this discussion’s sake.

Moving forward, there is one duty that we have attributed to the pastor: presenting the gospel.  We basically leave it up to them to explain in a five-minute “altar call” that in order to get to Heaven, one of the many reasons, they need Jesus.  That’s a crude explanation, but that’s all that basically comes across. 

I’m not saying that it doesn’t work.  I’ve witnessed it.  It does work, but that still doesn’t make it their job.  So whose job is it?  Ours.  Turns out the pastor is just picking up our slack.

Read those verses from Ephesians again.  Those gifts are for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry.  I read that as all five of those positions are for perfecting those who are already born again to go out and do the work of what we think is the pastor’s job.

Jesus called all believers to be the salt to the earth and the light of the world.  He told to be examples to others.   He told US to go into all the world.  Not just the apostles.  Not just the pastors.  Not just the teachers.  Us.  Everyday believers.

There is a mindset among Christians today that is simply put, “Get them to church and let the Pastor take care of the rest.”  I can’t begin to tell you how lazy that attitude is.  That’s no different from someone blatantly shrugging off their duties at their job and saying, “That’s the boss’ job.  I’ll get the client in the door, but the rest  is up to the boss.”  You know the next words you’d hear?  “You’re fired.”  It’s good I’m not God because I’d be tempted to fire some people from Christianity(no fire and brimstone pun intended).

Stop trying to drag people to church.  I can tell you that before I had an experience with God, you couldn’t have dragged me there.  In fact, I rejected every attempt that was made to get me to go.  They were honest attempts, but in all my splendor (that’s sarcastic btw), I didn’t need church and I wasn’t about to waste my time going.  Neither will whomever you’re trying to drag there.

I never did accept the invitation until my heart was changed.  Once that happened, I didn’t need someone to invite me to church.  I didn’t need someone to tell me I should read my Bible.  My heart was changed and on the inside, I knew both of  those things were things I needed to do.

You present the gospel.  Let your life for God be so loud that people will want what you have.  People will want to know how you have so much joy in the midst of the worst trials.  People will want to know why things always seem to work out for you.  People will tell you why they need to go to church if you would just listen.  Listen to their cries.  Listen to their hurts.  Then share.  Share about a God who loves them and sent his Son to die for them.

Don’t wait for church on Sunday.

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