What is your most memorable gift? It’s Christmas morning (2015) and I’m remembering my brother Lee and I talking a couple of days ago about a hand-made wooden rifle made by Dad’s strong hands about 1950. Money was short, love was long. In the years since we have imagined what was going on in his mind and heart as he worked away with saw, plane, rasp, knife, and hammer. Oh, yes, many would say it was crude; we could see the knife marks and the trigger was merely a nail. However, it was fashioned with a father’s love, a love we didn’t understand when we first received the gift. In time, the gift was largely forgotten and lay unused on a trash pile.
Today, we celebrate the coming of The Gift who was Himself the gift giver. As He was about to ascend to Heaven, The Gift told the first believers to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then we read further in Scripture that the Holy Spirit gives gifts. As we keep reading, we see the Holy Spirit also called the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of God. All the more, we realize that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a trinity.
Some years ago, I took the old wooden rifle off the trash heap in my mind and began to relish it anew. I found that, in a way, I could still run my fingers over the barrel and feel Dad’s knife cuts. I could run my hands over the stock and put my finger on the nail. I could see it pointed and firing in play with other “cowboys.” Such a delicious joy!
This past year I started a blog in which I remembered and imagined another old rifle from over 40 years ago, a gift from The Gift who sent the Gift of the Holy Spirit who brought the least gift. I have found the least gift to be precious. Why is it precious to me? It is precious to Him. Like Dad, He fashioned it with His love, design, and purpose.
Imagine, when we pray in tongues, we are hearing words generated from the One beyond the heavens, the earth, the seas, and everything in them, (Acts 4:24) from the One beyond time and space speaking His will within time and space in our hearts and through our lips. What a mighty God we serve!
Some time ago a person asked me about the beginner’s gift, speaking in tongues. I answered mainly with an excerpt from my book, A DEEPER LIFE PRIMER: AN ANTIDOTE TO SHALLOW LIVING. It is copied below:
The gifts of the Holy Spirit as listed at 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 are more fully explained in the study of the least gift of the Holy Spirit as it is described in chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians. That least gift is the speaking in tongues which has both an individual and a group component. When one privately prays in the God-given language he himself does not understand, only the one praying is helped. In a group setting when one speaks in that God-given language and another expresses the gift of interpretation of unknown tongues, all are helped. The same is true of other gifts. One might alone by himself receive a word of knowledge and find help in a certain situation. However, a word of knowledge may come to one person to be expressed to another or to a group and thus help others, too. The gifts of the Holy Spirit originate with the Holy Spirit’s having merged with the human spirit, communicated to the soul, and are then expressed through the body. In the case of speaking in tongues, the soul becomes aware that the Holy Spirit desires it to yield to the Spirit’s leading in prayer or in a spiritual message. All three aspects of the soul are involved: the mind knows that a certain passiveness is needed to allow the Holy Spirit to speak, the will determines the starting and the stopping since the Holy Spirit’s flow is subject to man. Men are not automatons, not robots; we operate in rebellion or submission to the Holy Spirit. It is our love and cooperation that He desires. As the tongue is yielded and then speaks the unknown syllables, the emotions experience something of the fruit of the Holy Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22.
There is a hierarchy of fallen spirits that prefer you to be ignorant of spiritual gifts or to believe that they ceased after the last apostle died. Then, if gifts are still insisted upon, they are capable of providing counterfeits. A cursory study of world cultures will reveal an amazing array of supernatural experience that in some way mimic the true gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Two qualities must be present in a believer to receive only the true gifts: fellowship with the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who has guaranteed that He will not allow a scorpion to be received when one asks for a fish; and true humility before God. God gives grace to the humble. Many never enter into a life of the gifts because they have not the humility to begin with the least gift. The yo-yo has not yet descended.
A few nights before I wrote the finishing parts of this writing, I thought again of a message I preached years ago about the stream that Ezekiel saw flowing from the temple. I may be remiss, but the description found in the 47th chapter of Ezekiel relates to the temple Jesus referred to when He noted that rivers of living water would flow from our innermost being. It was an unusual stream that flowed from the right side of Heaven’s temple in that it deepened as it flowed. Downstream 1000 cubits, it was ankle deep. Downstream another 1000 cubits, it was knee deep. Another 1000 cubits, it was waist deep. After another 1000 cubits it became too deep to cross. When a person merely steps in the water as a new believer, he is only a little in the water. Lots of flesh is still showing. The more the immersion into the Holy Spirit, the more the understanding and the consecration, the more is controlled by the Spirit and the less is flesh exposed to the world and the self. The deeper the immersion the more the death to self, to selfishness. A new believer who has only stepped in ankle deep looks almost identical to the way he appeared the day before. His spirit was born again that one moment in time; his body and soul await transformation.
Praying in tongues is like getting into water over your head. There comes a time to shut your mouth and swim, a time to turn off your known language and turn the most unruly member of your body over to the Holy Spirit. Doing so, you lift your feet from the earth and lose some self control to trust the water. Speaking out whatever comes, you trust the promise that a good father with not give a scorpion to one who asks for a fish.
Yet, should you ask Jesus to baptize you with His Holy Spirit and know that it is received, should you speak in tongues and have confidence that you have the gift, do not think that you have arrived to full spirituality. Paul had both and yet proclaimed in 1 Corinthians 14 that he spoke in tongues more than everybody. Had speaking in tongues brought Paul full spirituality, he would have stopped praying that way. There are two conditions at which people like the Apostle Paul would stop praying in tongues: (1.) They have arrived at full edification, full maturity, and have no need of further growth, or (2.) they have met Jesus face to face and have been suddenly changed fully into His likeness. Speaking in tongues is not a badge of honor even though believers saw it as a sign that the Holy Spirit had been received. If anything, praying in tongues is a sign of humility before God and recognition of the need for growth. Paul’s deep humility before God shows when he says, “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all.” (1 Corinthians 14:18) Paul, knowing that privately praying in tongues edified him, kept praying that way and wished others to do the same. He especially cautioned against forbidding the practice. Paul wrote to tongue speakers at Corinth and called them fleshly. Experiencing water baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit present a way and an insight into further growth and understanding. They are not growth and understanding within themselves. Do not let the enemy of your soul, the opinions of others, and wrong thinking hinder you. Keep looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith.
A further word on personal praying and praising in tongues:
After a friend read the previous pages here about speaking in tongues, it was obvious in his response that he had yet no concept of speaking on tongues as anything but the gift to be interpreted in a church gathering. My friend’s blindness to see tongues as a prayer language reminded me of being fascinated regarding people’s past blindnesses in not remembering whole chapters in best selling books like Pat Boone’s A New Song and David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade. Both had large sections explaining that ability. Speaking in tongues was the only subject of the thirteenth chapter of The Cross and the Switchblade.
What is somewhat confusing is that some scriptures about tongues refer to the gift used in a congregation and the gift used as a private way of praise, thanksgiving, and prayer. I Corinthians 14 (NIV) contains more of the verses referring to the private way of praise, thanksgiving, and prayer which are for the edification of the prayer’s soul.
Verse two points out that this kind of tongue speaks to God not to a congregation.
2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.
Verse four has Paul explaining that private speaking in tongues edifies the speaker. Paul later said that he was glad that he was glad that he spoke in tongues more than anyone else. It seems to me that his claim shows that he fully understands the benefits of self-edification.
4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.
Verses fourteen and fifteen show Paul’s (and God’s) encouragement to pray and sing both in tongues and the native language.
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.
Verse sixteen shows again Paul’s understanding that speaking in tongues to God is praise, thanksgiving and self-edification.
16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
Still writing about personal prayer and thanksgiving in tongues, Paul writes in verses seventeen and eighteen: I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Paul made it clear that he spoke in tongues privately more than anyone, and he made it clear that doing so brought self-edification. Please realize that the apostle Paul is leading us to understand that we should consider that we yet have need for further edification and that our praying and praising and thanking in tongues edifies us. Do any of us live beyond Paul on our journeys to become conformed to the image of Christ? Seek all the gifts and especially that you may prophesy, but be willing and humble enough to seek first the least gift. The least gift is amazing and fruit bearing. Can one imagine a person’s believing Paul’s word explaining that one’s spirit is speaking directly to God and yet not be excited about and desirous of that least gift, that lowly beginner’s gift?
In a later part of the little book where I share a vision I experienced a couple of years ago, I spoke further about praying tongues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
Studying the least of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, praying in an unknown tongue i.e. with the spirit, as described in the 1 Corinthians 12 through 14 explains the mechanics. The knowledge of the gift begins with the Word of God – moves from God’s mind to the believer’s mind. We learn that it comes from the mind and will of God and that He wills and desires to use our souls and bodies to pray a perfect Spirit-led prayer. While some who pray in unknown tongues feel emotion during that kind of prayer, not all do. Perhaps the simple desire to pray in tongues can be considered emotion. The mind of the soul thinks to pray that way upon learning how it is done and that God wills it. The will of the soul decides to release the tongue to speak when it is in tune with God’s will in the matter. The emotion of the soul desires to experience God’s language flowing past his understanding and out through his mouth. It is written that the spirit of prophet is subject to the control of the prophet. Whoever speaks God words and prays His prayers has the control to start and stop. The gifts are given and not forced.
From studying the least gift, one can gather the basic manner of normal Christian living, normal Biblical spirituality. Everything flows from God through the soul of man and out the body of man back to God and to the world. Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes upon us we would be witnesses to him in Jerusalem, Judea, and the uttermost parts of the world. We are first witnesses to Him and before Him as His message goes out from us into the world. It is sad that so many think the gifts are no longer given and that so many who think them yet available have not the humility to receive the least gift. Yet, whether or not one believes in or practices praying in tongues, studying Scripture regarding it reveals the Holy Spirit’s normal method of moving from His soul through our souls and out the body before God to the world. Perhaps many who refuse the least gift can never have the humility to receive the greater gifts as well. May God grant us the desire to humbly consecrate our bodies and souls to be His expression out to the world.
God’s Spirit freely flows to the world through the crucified life.
Blessed peace the world cannot give is ours. On April 21, 2015, my FaceBook entry was this:
I’ve been thinking this morning about how authentic praying and singing in tongues as shown in 1 Corinthians 14 engages the whole soul, the mind and will and emotions. The will is engaged in the very decision to worship that way. The mind is unfruitful in the sense of knowing what is being said but is at the same time centered on God. The emotion can be joy and other Galatians 5:22 fruit of the Spirit, but it is always peace because perfect peace is the product of the Isaiah 26:3 “mind stayed on Thee.”
THE SPIRIT-INFUSED SOUL
As I went to bed early on the night of June 6, 2015, my prayer which I wrote on FaceBook was:
“Lord, I crawl up on this bed tonight and consider it an altar. I am the offering. Take me anywhere tonight that you need or want me. If I am still here in the morning, use me here tomorrow as You will.”
Now, before 4:00 am the next morning (June 7, 2015) I awaken thinking of God and the phrase comes to me, “the Spirit-infused soul.” As I begin to write about that phrase, I remember writing in my book how that when one has stored up the Word in his soul, the Lord is more able to speak directly to that soul. Because over many years I have studied the body-soul-spirit-Spirit interaction in Scripture, that phrase, “the Spirit-infused soul,” means much to me.
If you have studied my July 19, 2013, dream/vision reported here, the Bible, as well as the resources cited in my book, A Deeper Life Primer: An Antidote to Shallow Living, you know when you were born again, when you believed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, that the Spirit of God joined with your human spirit and made you a child of God. Suddenly, God with all His power, wisdom, and authority, united with your spirit and made you perfect at the spirit level. The Bible is full of references to God being with you and in you by His Spirit, by His anointing. It is written that in Jesus is the fullness of the Godhead bodily and that the Spirit of Jesus is within you if you are truly a Christian. Your spirit initially designed for perfect apprehension of God was born fallen, empty, useless, and devoid of ability was at the moment of faith suddenly infused with God Himself. Oneness with God instantly arrived. One evangelist likes to say that our spirits became “wall-to-wall Holy Ghost.” That same evangelist likes to note that the moment after the Spirit joins with our spirits, we are just as stupid as we were moments earlier and we are just as ugly as we were moments ago. Our souls and bodies were not instantly transformed; our spirits were.
Because our souls and spirits are united and stay together through this life and then throughout eternity, when our spirits are saved for eternity with God, so are our souls. However, as we read the Bible’s words following the resurrection of Jesus, we see lots of Christian soul problems and imperfections, don’t we? The spirit is instantly perfected; the soul starts on a trajectory towards perfection. Those who are so untaught or so foolish as to not go on toward perfection in this life still can have the 1 Corinthians 3:15 assurance that imperfections of the soul will be burned away upon passage into the Heavenly presence. Those who do seek to go on in further obedience and fellowship will have less to burn away and will have more treasures that will pass with their souls through that perfecting fire. To realize that those kinds of treasures will be yours for eternity is to be motivated to seek more perfection in the soul while yet in this earthly life. See 2 Peter 1:3-10 and Hebrews 6:10-12.
If one knew only two things about what happens when one prays in tongues, there can be nothing but excitement and desire to want to pray that way. We know that those who pray in tongues are giving thanks and praise to God and that the Holy Spirit is praying perfectly through us. We know that 1 Corinthians 4:4 tells us that when we speak in tongues we edify ourselves, and when we speak in a tongue that is interpreted, God speaks speaks through us to the church. Wow! We edify ourselves, we build up ourselves. I would assume that not many ever elevate to edify their churches before spending some time edifying themselves with private praying in tongues. When you edify yourself, you enable yourself to better edify the church.
When you pray in a language you’ve never learned, what part of you is being edified? Is it your body? Of course not. Is your spirit edified? No, when you were born again, when the Spirit of God enjoined your spirit, your spirit became perfect and complete. In your spirit you now have the mind of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:16). In your spirit you now have the same mighty Spirit that raised Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11). You have Jesus in your spirit and in your heart. How awesome is that! Now, begins the process of edifying, building up, and in a sense, saving your soul. Your commingled spirit of man/spirit of God now is available to infuse your soul with the new nature in your spirit. That infusion is completed over time as your soul more and more submits to your new spirit. The more you let your soul be infused by your spirit, the more like Jesus you become. Truly, can you imagine in any way, shape, or form that anyone understanding that praying in tongues causes the Holy Spirit to infuse the soul could possibly feel that it wasn’t highly, highly, highly desirable? Let pride fall and let God have His way with the most unruly member of your body.
Yes, you can build your soul with true prayer in your native tongue, with Spirit-sensitive meditation on Scripture, with true obedience to the Holy Spirit’s direction, but why even question that God would create such a precious ability? How could God feel anything but disappointed were you to think you were beyond being edified as He designed?
The sad thing about the emphasis on praying in tongues is that so often and so easily the concerns about the when, why, and how of it sometimes overshadows the source, the baptism of the soul by the risen Jesus. How sad that some wear the ability like an “I’ve got it” badge and fail to go on to maturity, to the deeper things, to more intimate fellowship with God. Simply knowing that one can speak in tongues is so cheap and small when compared to knowing that Jesus Christ, the Son of God who is himself God, has personally immersed your soul in the Holy Spirit to be more intimate with you, to give you power to witness back to Him and to the world.
The note below is added after hearing pastor Joe Hismeh teach on 1 Corinthians 14 at Fellowship Bible Church on July 11, 2015.
Patty and I are still basking in how we felt after how our pastor, Joe Hishmeh, greeted us after church. Pastor Joe had given a wonderful message on the balance of love and gifts presented in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, he stated that with a church as large as ours surely all the gifts were among us. He talked of how he once thought and was taught that the gifts were not for today, but that now he knows differently and has friends that speak in tongues. As Patty and I were walking out of a side door, Pastor Hismeh made a point of coming over to us and noting that we were among those friends of which he spoke. What a warm fuzzy!
His message worked to give a balance to love and gifts that the apostle Paul presented. Afterwards, I thought again of how the much-vaunted gift of tongues is important but much below the other gifts in order of importance to the building up of the church. There are two types of tongues, the message type and the prayer type in the 12th and 14th chapters. The message type needs and interpretation to be of value to the body of Christ in a meeting. The prayer type of tongues only builds up the body in a less immediate way. The message tongue interpreted builds up (edifies) the church body. The prayer tongue builds up (edifies) only the praying believer who then by that believer’s future growth adds to the body. The more each believer is edified (built up), the more the whole body is edified (built up).
To sum it up, I have been noting here the gift of tongues that is to be interpreted in a church setting is different from the way of private prayer that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14. SPEAKING in tongues to be interpreted in a public meeting benefits the whole group. PRAYING in tongues is not designed to be necessarily interpreted for it builds up the individual soul. Happy praying.
Two days ago, (March 19, 2016) the following thought came regarding intimacy with Jesus:
“Can you think of anything more intimate with Jesus than to have His indwelling Spirit, conjoined with your spirit, speaking to God or man through your soul out through your yielded body?”
After I had written that, I thought more on all the apostle Paul had written about the Holy Spirit and the gift of speaking a message in tongues as a message to the church and the similar ability to pray in tongues as a way of prayer and praise. Suddenly, it became clear why he would exclaim at 1 Corinthians 14:18 that he was glad that he “spoke in tongues more than you all.” Not only does praying in tongues edify one’s soul (1 Corinthians 14:4), but understanding the intimacy with Jesus is occurring as you pray in tongues brings a depth of delight and understanding that would encourage anyone to pray in tongues more than anyone you know (1 Corinthians 14:18). Imagine, just imagine – the Spirit of the Jesus, the crucified and risen One, speaking through your yielded soul (your yielded mind, will, and emotion) and using your body to pray and praise. Truly, what can be more intimate?
“Can you think of anything more intimate with Jesus than to have His indwelling Spirit, conjoined with your spirit, speaking to God or man through your soul and out your yielded body?”