Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> EAGLES' REST: January 2007

Sunday, January 14, 2007

HAWKING, PILLARS & ME .....AGAIN


PART II

In case you're wondering why this one's been a long time coming,, it's because I figured everyone was at the party over at Wade Burleson's house, so no use my ranting and raving before an empty house, here. Let's say my mind has been somewhat "Klouda'd".

Some argue that the Acts 2 episode was Spirit-filled believers speaking other, known, languages. There are a couple reasons why that does not make sense.

First is that we have a bunch of people ... either all the disciples, or the dozen Apostles ... speaking a language they did not understand. That's what the Bible says, but it does not say what language. Well, if it had been all the distinct dialects listed right there in that chapter, nobody outside listening would have understood anything. There's also the possibility that it really was only the Apostles, since the nearest antecedent to "they" referred to the Apostles. So we would then have a dozen guys speaking 15 or 16 languages?

I doubt that.

There's also the fact that the people outside said each (singular) heard them (plural) speaking his own (singular) dialect. Nobody seems to want to even talk about that fact!

Since it makes sense if it was some sort of unknown language, interpreted by the hearers, but doesn't make sense as different then-current languages, I wonder why people seem set against the idea of a "heavenly language", the interpretation of which would similarly, and necessarily, be a God-given gift.

More about that, later.

The third of the couple of reasons is that the Bible does not describe what they spoke in any detail, but only describes what the listeners heard. And does anyone notice that not all listeners heard them declaring the wonders of God? Some heard gibberish, apparently, as they thought the believers were drunk!

I think my take about their speaking a truly unknown tongue simply makes the most sense.

There's another interesting aspect to that, and the reasons why it's not an "evangelical" tool. I don't see any evidences of unknown tongues leading to salvation. Folks manifested that gift after the gospel was presented to them in a manner they could understand. THEN came the unknown tongues.

"While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus. On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all." (NIV)

Goodness. What was THAT all about? They were apparently saved, already; the Bible calls them "disciples". Paul laid hands on them and baptized them into the name of Jesus. And they spoke in unknown tongues.

A) Who told them to do that? They probably were unaware of Spiritual gifts; they'd never even heard of the Holy Spirit!

B) If the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is God's sovereign act, then what happened there? Why didn't they ALREADY have Him?

In the chapter immediately preceding Paul's principal admonitions about tongues in the church setting, he said:

1 Corinthian 13:1: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (NIV)

I'm no Greek scholar, but it looks like he's describing two different events here .. speaking in the tongues of men, and speaking in the tongues of angels. And if there is a "tongue of angels", where would it be spoken? Heaven? And how could we interpret it, other than a heavenly gift? Hmmm....

I had the privilige of eating dinner next to Dr. Sam Storms, at Rev. McKissic's home prior to the Roundtable in Arlington. When I postulated that all the occurrences of "unknown tongues" might be what Paul said .. namely, speaking to God ... he mentioned that the Bible says there are "Different varieties of tongues" (but only One Spirit...). I was aware of Dr. Storm's credentials and was immediately intimidated and retreated into my shell.

A little later, on the way to the hotel, it was as if God said to me "Are there different varieties of talking to Me?" Whoa. Of course there are, I thought. There's intercession, there's supplication, there's praise, there's worship. Hmmm.... so maybe I wasn't messing up when I said that. Now, I respect Dr. Storms immensely. His credentials and presence are both impressive. But I'm getting the feeling God may not want me to agree with anyone based solely on that. So OK, then.

WELL NOW ... how about Paul's admonitions in 1 Corinthians 14? Well ... consider the context. First, those folks didn't have the NIV or the NASB or even the KJV. They had to rely either on the OT writings, or on prophecy. And of course they needed to hear from God in that New Testament context, as they were living out the events on which much of the NT was based. So when they gathered, they needed to hear from God.

I can see the Corinthians sitting around in one of their meetings. As I read Paul's writings (and those of smart guys who've commented on them), I believe Paul was taking them to task for abuses in the church. One of them was pride in their "Spirituality", and one of them was excesses in the gift of tongues. When they were sitting around, apparently many of the folks were exercising the gift of tongues, to the monopolizing of the meetings. They didn't need that! They needed prophecy ... they needed to hear a message from God!

So Paul said something on the order of "Hey guys ... cut it out! ... one or two, fine, let someone interpret .. and then get on to the message from God". If speaking in tongues had been prophesying in an unknown tongue, why would Paul tell them to stop? Why would he say stop that, and let others prophesy, when tongues was merely prophecy in an unknown language?

Ah, but IF speaking in an unknown tongue is exactly what Paul said it was .. speakikng only to God ... then it's entirely understandable that Paul would have said limit it, and get on to the prophecy.

Paul also said if someone prayed in an unknown tongue, how could we "amen" his prayer? I don't think that would be a consideration now: I've never been in a church that forbid silent prayers, and Baptists seem universally (in my universe, anyway) to accept, and pray for, unspoken requests. How can someone "amen" them if he cannot "amen" a prayer in an unknown language?

The other night in church, our pastor had a visiting African pastor pronounce the benediction in Swahili. That was unknown to us, it wasn't interpreted, we said "amen" to it, and it was fine with everyone. And we didn't understand it, either.

I'll probably think of a lot of other stuff later, but I'd like to get this one up so I'll stop now. But I'll reiterate: the thought that every episode of unknown tongues was the believer speaking, in line with the gifting of the indwelling Holy Spirit, solely to God in a language that can only be understood by God, or by a believer under the gifting of the Holy Spirit, is the only one that makes sense to me as applicable to every occurrence in the New Testament. Every other explanation seems to require going beyond scripture in an attempt to set forth what God doesn't do any more.

I really don't know whether it's fear or jealousy that makes people look askance at the gift (like I used to do), but I wish everyone would adopt my pastor's view. Like Brother Mike says:

"It's in the Bible, folks!"

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

STEPHEN HAWKING, BIG STONE PILLARS, & ME

PART 1

Let's start with Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 14:2: "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit."(NIV) Speaking only to God. Not to man. Keep that in mind, then read on.

Stephen Hawking, the famous physicist, has been working on a "Unified Theory" .. a theory that describes everything. Sort of the universe and contents. That's quite a task, and it reminds me of what I've been trying to do about the gift of tongues. It seems that all the explanations, many and varied though they may be, have differing tasks for various manifestations of the gift. And I don't buy that. I think there's a simple principle we've been missing .. a sort of "unified theory" .. that nobody's come up with yet. I'd like to give it a try, and I think the answer is a lot simpler than we've been taught.

I'm reminded of the big stone pillars that Samson pushed on, to bring down the entire temple in Judges 16. He received the strength he'd previously lost, because there was a task which required it. If the pillars hadn't been there, God would have given him something else.

That's the thought that hit me on the way to the auto parts store, Saturday afternoon. When God manifests a gift, there's a purpose for it. The stage is set for its manifestation .. I doubt seriously He'd give the gift of healing to someone who was never, ever going to be around anyone who needed healing.

The same thought led to the fact that the gift of tongues, if given by itself, would be useless and of no purpose, unless He also manifested the gift of interpretation! Also, that would be extremely confusing where there had been no prior manifestation; the folks could hardly have connected Jesus' prior reference to snakes & poison & new tongues, with that. And God does not author confusion.

So the big deal: IMO, the gift of tongues in Acts Chapter 2 was accompanied by the gift of interpretation in some, but not all, hearers.

We can get a bit of the flavor of the moment and the hearers by reading what happened:

"When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language ... we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, "What does this mean?" Some, however, made fun of them and said, "They have had too much wine." (Acts 2:6 & ff., NIV)

Did you catch all that? Some heard them declaring the wonders of God in their own language. Actually dialect, which might be even more diverse. Each (singular) heard them (plural) declaring the wonders of God in his own (singular) language. I can only assume they were seekers .. believers .. folks open to the truth. None seemed to have made insulting remarks about "their God", etc.

On the other hand, those who didn't understand, did not simply say they didn't understand. They made fun of the Spirit-filled believers.

Taken together, I think we get a picture of the hearers outside, and the manifestation of the gift of interpretation makes perfect sense.

OK .. was that some sort of evangelistic message? Might be, but an evangelistic message to unbelievers would more likely, IMO, be a message of salvation, sin, etc, and not just declaring God's wonders. It makes much more sense to me to believe that they were praising God in a language they did not understand, and God let some hearers understand it. And what is interpretation, but the ability to hear another language in your own language?

Given all this, is it logical to assume that Acts 2 corresponded with Paul's statement to the Corinthians? It is, to me. In fact, it sounds , to me, like they were praising God!

Ah but how about this:

1 Corinthians 14:22: Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. NIV)

I agree, but let me ask: what sort of sign? Is someone speaking an unknown language, and someone else interpreting it (when it's not a language anyone has learned) a sign? It sure seems to me that would be a big sign for someone who did not believe! I can tell you if someone did that in front of me, I'd be a lot more impressed than someone simply saying "Thus sayeth the Lord..", and sure would have been before I was saved.

Add to that the fact that unknown tongues are interpreted via a Spiritual gift, which means unbelievers would not be able to interpret it.

I conclude that 1 Corinthians 14:22 and Acts 2 are consistent with Paul's statement that if you're talking in tongues, you're talking to God.

My carpal tunnel is yelling at me so I'll continue this next time.

Friday, January 05, 2007

VISION .. WHO NEEDS IT?

The word "vision" there means to see, as in a dream or revelation. It is derived (thank you, Mr. Strong) from a word that means to see by gazing at something.

Good verse, but I think it applies to more than just seeing down the road for some unattained goal (that's apt to stay that way, anyway). I think it may well also apply to the ability to see what's going on around us.

Over at Wade Burleson's Blog, there's been a brouhaha going on about the narrowing of parameters, and inversely how the differences "they" seem to be trying to eliminate don't seem to make any difference.

One of the regular commenters said the following:

"These phenomena have become a major issue in Southern Baptist life, and a clear statement needs to be made by those representing the majority of Southern Baptists. "


To which I must ask "Why?" I don't recall any continualists, or folks with the gift of speaking in tongues (I refuse to call it what the Bible doesn't...) trying to assert their will over others, that we ought to become charismatic. Quite the contrary, they'd just leave and go over to "the dark side" if that were the case. If I wanted to be in a charismatic denomination, that's what I'd do!

Neither do they insist that everyone adopt a continualist view. They simply want to read the BF&M, and in accordance with the priesthood of the believer, interpret scripture according to the light of the Holy Ghost, and stay right here as Southern Baptists.

And do missions and teach in seminaries, etc.

For some reason, that does not seem to have been good enough for various folks in SBC life. Sadly, some of them are in positions of power and influence.

Let me go back a couple paragraphs. The BF&M 1963 said:

"Baptists emphasize the soul’s competency before God, freedom in religion, and the priesthood of the believer." Clear enough. But the BF&M 2000 says:

"We honor the principles of soul competency and the priesthood of believers ..."

Both versions go on to reiterate responsibility to the local body.

I must ask why the change? Why now "believers" instead of "the believer"? Am I no longer imputed "priesthood" as an individual within the Body. Is my priesthood now defined by the local Body?

Is it an attempt to move the "priesthood" FROM me, as a Spirit-filled believer with direct access to the High Priest, TO the "body"? If it isn't, why change it?

And don't go yelling "Lone wolf wannabe". I want no such thing.

When I read what the New Testament said, I didn't have any trouble understanding the 1963 version. Now, I do. At least understanding the change.

Unless I DO understand it, and that's a scary thought.

So there we have it. A major issue, blamed on the people who object to changes that go beyond the BF&M. Some of the "blamers" even want, perish the thought, to CHANGE the BF&M to take a stand on the issues raised primarily by the change in IMB rules.

Normally, higher education clears some things up. In this case, it seems that a lot of highly educated folks can't see what's going on, and the fact that, by their actions, they are chipping away at what it means to be a Baptist.

Either they cannot see that, or there are alternate explanations I don't really want to think about.

I do know this, though: Wade Burleson, Art Rogers, Marty Duren, Benjamin Cole, and the other bloggers who refuse to sit down and shut up are NOT the cause of the "problems". They are there BECAUSE of the problems.

Thanks, God. You done good. Send some more like'em.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

MUCH ADO ABOUT SOMETHING


I don't propose to start many posts with a picture of Saddam Hussein, but I have a reason for this one. Look at it for a minute, if you would, please. With the knowledge that he died a few minutes later. I'll get back to it in a minute.

Jeff Richard Young has an excellent post (but then I love satire) about a seemingly common approach to evangelism. I'd like to take a look at the same issue, from a little different angle.

Since I'm old and don't have a lot to do ... when someone asks me how my schedule looks for some possible meeting, my usual response is that I don't have a schedule ... I watch a fair amount of TV news. Thus, I've seen a number of spots about Saddam Hussein, and his final journey to the gallows. NOTE: I'm assuming he was not saved; more about that later.

I was struck by the utter sadness of the photo of his being fitted for the noose; here was a man about to die. Condemned. Hopeless. Not even knowing what he was about to experience, eternally. Sure, I was in favor of his demise, but it's just sad, regardless of how evil he may have been.

Let's switch to evangelism. The first plan I ever learned was the Four Spiritual Laws. That starts with the premise that God loves you (true enough) and has a wonderful plan for your life. True, again, but THAT cannot be understood by a lost person!

1 Corinthians 2:14: The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (NIV)

If we tell a lost person that God has a wonderful life all planned for him, what could he possibly envision? You can figure it out as well as I can!

What we frequently tell lost folks is that sin is standing between them and this beautiful life promised by the Four (non-existent) Laws. Solve that by applying Jesus, and they can have this terrific life we promised. I would imagine, under those circumstances, a fair percentage of responders would opt for that terrific life, and "say the sinner's prayer". If that happens, the plain fact is that they have not chosen to follow Jesus. They've chosen a life laid out per a "wonderful plan". And that is wrong.

God doesn't offer an "upgrade to first class" in his Word. He spells out a death to self and a spiritual resurrection to newness of life, on earth. And the real reason to do that, the only one that a lost person can comprehend, is to avoid hell.

Consider this question: What "spiritual" knowledge can a lost person appropriate? What can he understand, spiritually? As I read scripture, I see only 4 things. I think it's important to keep these things in mind, when we talk to a lost person. Hence, our "presentation" should be limited to these sorts of things.

1) He can know some stuff about God, and His attitude toward sin:

Romans 1:18-20: The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (NIV)

That's always been true, and when Jesus left earth, He said He'd send the Holy Ghost to convict lost mankind of some other stuff, too. Namely:

2-3-4) Sin, rignteousness and judgment.

John 16:8-11: When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (NIV)

When we're witnessing, to folks that are lost, we cannot go beyond those parameters. Unsaved folks cannot comprehend how God can be glorified through tragedy, nor what happens to babies who starve in Africa, or anything else in which the truth is spiritual in nature. To deal with those things is to confuse the non-believer.

Back to Saddam Hussein. Look at the picture above. Try to put yourself into his mind. He's about to die. He is condemned. All appeals are over. He has an appointment to die. Of course, you know that his belief was not in the only Name by which we may be saved, so know what he is presumably facing. Can you get a feel for the hopelessness and despair you'd feel, in that place?

Well, THAT is what lost people should feel. And that eternal prospect is what they need to be saved from. They do not need to be saved from a boring or frustrating life; from a lack of meaning or purpose. Yet I fear, as we too often present the gospel, that's what they're choosing to be saved from.

Side note: in my Sunday School Class, I spent a fair amount of time educating my classmembers on what they were saved from.

We do love John 3:16. Maybe even 17. But how often do we spend some time exploring 18?

John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (NIV)

What really needs to happen when we talk to someone? We need to put them, in their mind, in Saddam Hussein's place. About to die. Condemned. That's not a pleasant place to be, and of course only the Holy Ghost can really do that (Jesus did say He's the Guy Who'd be doing the convicting...). But, folks need to have some gut-level knowledge of what they are being saved from, and that best comes when they face the sin, death, and righteousness that only the Holy Ghost can convict them of. But, when that does happens, they can understand and appropriate it.

If my feelings on this subject are correct, I'd envision a lot of folks who "say the sinner's prayer", who subsequently see their lives pretty much the same as before, only with the added benefit of the devil trying to keep them from becoming more dangerous to him. If that happens, it'd be just like buying some new tool that didn't work like you thought it would. You might take it back (which you can't really do with salvation), but you'd sure quit using it.

Does that seem to happen in our churches, today? Do folks "say the prayer" in our outreach activities, only never to be heard from again?

The reason to be saved is that, unsaved, we're condemned to an eternity in hell, a place of suffering of an intensity that we cannot now comprehend. Anything less, shorts the gospel and the work of Jesus.

How about the folks who "opt for the Christian life"? Are they saved? How should I know? But when you're about your evangelistic activities, ask yourself:

What are you willing to leave to chance?

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