Praying in Tongues

I was at a small gathering of believers where we were enjoying dinner and fellowship, and sharing some testimonies, when one of the group requested prayer for his ongoing back pain. So we all gathered around him and laid our hands on him – about eight of us in all – and suddenly several in the group began praying in tongues. This went on for several minutes as three or four continued to pray in tongues, and when they finished we all just stepped away and sat down again.

Friends, this is not a proper function of praying in the Spirit. Spiritual prayer is private prayer. When one is deeply interceding for a person or situation, we may allow the Spirit to take over, knowing that our intercession is now entirely in sync with the will and Spirit of God. We may not know what we are saying or we may have some idea, but we can be confident that our prayer is effective and appropriate.

However, the point of praying together as a group is that we may all agree with one another by faith. To do this, we must be able to understand what each one is saying. Corporate prayer is to be prayed by the mind, led by the Spirit, with the body of believers all praying along in agreement. This “agreeing in prayer” is the Scriptural pattern (e.g. Acts 4:23-41), and you won’t find any biblical instance of multiple believers praying in the Spirit while gathered together.

The only “group” instances of speaking in tongues are found at the initial baptism in the Spirit that took place on several recorded occasions in the Bible (e.g. Acts 10:44-46). Even when public speaking or prophesying in tongues does occur, it is to be done one at a time, with someone to interpret, and if no interpreter is available, we are told to refrain from speaking aloud in tongues (1 Cor 14:27-28).

Remember that God is a God of order and sensibility, not disorder or confusion. Read through 1 Corinthians 12-14 for a more in-depth discussion of this and similar issues.

Peace to all,

~Don

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Jesus and the Constitution

I know we all like to say that America was founded on “Christian principles” and that most of the Founding Fathers were Christians, and this gives rise to the faulty notion that America was founded as a “Christian Nation.” But the truth is – now brace yourself – the U.S. Constitution does not specify that those seeking Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness must also agree to abide by Christian morals and norms.

It’s true. Although the Founders didn’t foresee the incredible moral decline of American society, they pretty much enshrined “equal rights” for all people into the Constitution, and when you give unsaved, un-regenerate people the right to “pursue happiness” you open the door for many non-traditional, sinful, or just plain whacky behaviors to be tolerated and protected by law.

As fine a document as it is, the U.S. Constitution does not proclaim or support the Kingdom of God, and it is absolutely powerless to curb our human appetite for sin. Rather it enshrines our right to sin, if sinning makes us happy.

Christians today are putting a lot of misguided faith in the Constitution to set things right in America. “If only the President obeyed the Constitution! If only judges would interpret it correctly! If only we passed amendments banning abortion and gay marriage! Then America would be great again.”

But Jesus doesn’t call us Christians to make America great, but to make His Name great among all people. And we can never accomplish that by passing laws that force unbelievers to act like Christians. There was a time when the Church ruled Europe and people were persecuted, jailed, and tortured for disobeying Church laws. Is that our vision for America? Because that is exactly where a “Christian nation” will lead us.

Unbelievers are incapable of living like believers! If you don’t agree, at least consider God’s Word which declares that “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7,8).

You see, it is impossible to establish a “Christian nation” on earth based on God’s Word and His commandments. Israel is the obvious example of this, who having God’s Law and prophets nevertheless descended into immorality and idolatry.

Jesus, on the other hand, never compelled anyone to obey or believe in Him. He showed love and compassion toward sinners, taught them with gentleness and respect, and invited “whosoever will” to believe and follow Him. This is also our job and pattern for building God’s Kingdom. The U.S. Constitution has nothing to do with our calling in Christ. We are fighting the wrong battle to achieve the wrong result.

The Kingdom of God proclaimed by Jesus is not of this world, and we are citizens of that Kingdom. It is not upheld by the force of human documents or laws, or politicians, but by Jesus Himself. It is manifested wherever the Church lives out the radical Kingdom precepts laid down by Jesus.

We manifest and build God’s Kingdom by consistently eradicating lustful and angry thoughts, turning the other cheek when insulted, faithfully loving our spouses, giving to others without expecting any return, always going the extra mile, showing love toward our enemies, always acting as peacemakers, sharing the gospel of salvation. In short, by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

This is what it means to be “salt and light.” Not voting Republican or Democrat. Not passing laws and prohibitions. Not changing our Constitution to better suit our Christian morality. And certainly not picketing, protesting, and insulting the very sinners that Jesus died to save. None of these is able to accomplish what Jesus has commissioned us to do.

So Christians of America, if you really want to transform your nation for Christ, then drop the divisive politics, re-read the beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount, and personally start acting like a citizen of God’s Kingdom by obeying the King in every attitude and action. Start fighting the right battle in the right way. Any other approach is not of God and destined to fail.

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A Letter to Christians in America

I’ve noticed an awful lot of upset Christians since the Supreme Court decided that same-sex marriage should be legal in all 50 states. Reactions seem to stretch from a simple affirmation of traditional marriage to angry condemnations of the court and warnings of God’s impending judgement on our nation. Some Christians are literally outraged.

The first thing I want to say is this: As Christians, we have no business being outraged by sin. Heartbroken, maybe, but not outraged. All sin is an offense against God (not Christians) and it is God’s business to be “outraged” if He so chooses. Jesus directed His own outrage toward religious folks who were outraged and offended by the sins of others. Let’s not be imitators of them.

I understand it’s upsetting when your country begins legally accommodating sins that were at one time unlawful, and you may feel that your Christian faith is under attack. For over 200 years we Christians have had it pretty good in America. We have enjoyed a cultural model based on Christian principles, with laws that often supported Christian morality. We have taken comfort in the Christian veneer of our society, but that illusion is over folks. The United States is and always was an earthly kingdom governed by the Constitution – not the Bible – and led by men, not the Holy Spirit. Now, in 2015, we are finally seeing the fruition of what it really means to grant sinful man the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” apart from any relationship with a Holy God.

And let’s be clear – gay marriage being illegal doesn’t stop anyone from being gay, doesn’t lead anyone to repentance, doesn’t inform anyone of God’s love in Christ Jesus. Instead, it simply helps maintain the “Christian veneer” of America so that Christians can feel comfortable believing that they live in a Christian nation.

As followers and disciples of Jesus – a friend of sinners – we aren’t commissioned to pass laws requiring sinners to behave like Christians, and we aren’t expected to maintain a “Christian nation” on earth. Instead, we are commanded to invite sinners into a relationship with the living God through faith in Christ Jesus, and to exemplify the Spirit of Jesus by bearing the fruit of love, compassion, forgiveness, and humility. Many of the Christian posts I see online right now essentially say, “Gay people, we oppose you! Gay people, you offend me! Gay people, your right to marry is an abomination!” It seems that some are hating both the sin and the sinner, forgetting that at one time, such were you.

Please, Church, get on your knees before God, repent of your self-righteous hatred and start thinking, speaking, and acting as children of God, who loved sinners so much He was willing to die for their salvation.

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