Random Reflections on Tongues as Gifted Sign

PentecostLet’s be honest (and I’m saying this as a Pentecostal practitioner, minister and professor)…speaking in tongues is weird. I really can not get away from that. It seems illogical. It seems meaningless. It seems crazy. Paul even admitted as much (1 Cor.14.23). Yet, it was endowed by the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost and given as a gift to the Church.

As I reflect on this strange practice and its theological significance I am struck by several ideas (which are decidedly influenced by Karl Barth’s dogmatic confessions):

  • Tongues as gifted sign of the Creator
  • Tongues as gifted sign of the Reconciler
  • Tongues as gifted sign of the Redeemer

It is “gift” because it belongs from beginning to end to the Giver (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to bestow. It is always an act of grace. It is persistently an act of grace. It could be no other way (1 Cor.12.3-10).

That tongues are a gifted sign is meant to speak to the gracious testimony they give. They point to their Giver in His own self-giving. They are never a testimony self-reflecting from the human sphere, but only reflecting the act and being of the God who gives.

That tongues are a gifted sign of the Creator is a testimony of the gift of our creatureliness. We are those who are always contingent upon God’s own graciousness toward us. We exist because God has made it so. We exist as we do because we were created by this God to speak and to hear. Our tongues belong to our creatureliness and when we speak in tongues (while we do not speak with our minds) we speak with self-control in an orderly (if seemingly chaotic at times) fashion (1 Cor.14.14, 27). We speak in tongues because “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” and we cannot but testify to this good news.

That tongues are a gifted sign of the Reconciler is a witness to our sinfulness manifest in broken relationship to all and our own reconciliation with all in Christ Jesus as God’s Word to and for us. Tongues are for a sign of judgment (1 Cor.14.21-22), but better…an eschatological sign of the reconciliation of people from every “nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev.7.9) to the One who alone can, and has, and will reconcile this world to Himself.

That tongues are a gifted sign of the Redeemer is a response of prayer and praise by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus crying “Abba, Father” (Rom.8.15; Gal.4.6). It is a word we could never truly speak for ourselves, but always belongs to the very Spirit (the Spirit of the Son) who works our salvation into the age to come. Such tongues can only come from a faith that rests in the will and enablement of the Spirit to make such a prayer that is heard and answered (Rom.8.26-27) because it is the prayer of the Son redeeming the world to the Father.

Greek Manuscripts, Mark 1 and Nomina Sacra

Three Things That Keep Me in My Church Tradition

Rather than simply answer in the comments section to Dan’s post about “What Keeps You In Your Church Tradition?,” I have decided to reply via a post and offer it as my own personal answer (because I have in fact been asked this very question at other times).  I decided three was a rather Biblical sounding number…so that should make this a very spiritual response.

First, I remain in my fellowship/tradition (the Assemblies of God) because it is where my deepest roots and greatest familiarity lay.  By that, I mean to say, I am most fully aware of the church structures and practices of this particular tradition.  I am well integrated into this tradition as well as being heavily networked with other A/G churches, ministries and ministers.  There is something to be said about the knowability factor.  Were I to join another tradition it would mean moving into unknown waters.  This may seem a rather pragmatic approach, but, hey, this is reality.

Second, I am kept in my tradition by its Pentecostal confession and practice.  I am unabashedly Pentecostal.  I believe God desires to empower His Church via the rich outpouring of Christ’s Spirit.  I believe in the continuing demonstration of the ministry of the Spirit in and through the communion of saints.  I remain because the A/G emphasizes this desire and passion for God’s Spirit to glorify Christ in and among us (even if at times we have not followed through either as genuine practitioners of the life of the Spirit or have simply gone wacko and blamed it on the Spirit).  I still fully believe God’s Spirit is at work in the wider Church and see the A/G as playing (hopefully) a pivotal role in seeing the Spirit poured out in greater measure on all varieties of congregations and traditions.  I have told Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans and Catholics…Pentecostal experience of the Spirit is no respecter of denominational boundaries.

Third, and finally, I remain in the Assemblies because of missions.  This tradition stated from its inception that we are committed to “the greatest evangelization the world has ever seen”.  We remain committed to this and have continued to demonstrate it through our unprecedented mission program.  I am thrilled to be a part of a fellowship and tradition that makes its aim to reach the lost with the good news of the Kingdom.

So, how is that for my answer to the question Dan Thompson posed?  What are your thoughts on this?

Originally published at Bluechippastor.org on August 15, 2012

What Defines Us?

BoxIn a recent conversation with Andrea Wheeldon (a PAOC minister and friend, and staff member at Providence Theological Seminary), we were discussing what we are known by as the local church.  There are many who have identified themselves by their stance AGAINST certain hot-topic issues (like homosexuality, abortion, etc.).  But is this what should define us?  Then today I read Andrea’s blog on being “outside the box” (a REALLY great post if you ask me) and was reminded again that we cannot simply define ourselves by what we are against or not.  How about we define ourselves by what we are?

Have we fallen into the trap of allowing other things to define us than the God who conforms us to His image?  For example, are we against homosexuality, or are we for whole, reconciling, godly relationships because we have been reconciled to God in Christ and are being renewed by God’s own Spirit?  I thought it was good food for thought.  (Thanks Adrea!)


Originally published at Bluechippastor.org on August 1, 2012

Counterpoint Series and The Socratic Club

Counterpoints-TwitterSeveral other faculty members of Trinity and I started a “Socratic Club” this last year on campus (on the origins of such a group see this short synopsis). We gather every Thursday night and discuss matters primarily biblical, philosophical, literary, and theological. While our Club is not as targeted as the original one of Oxford we still operate along the same principles of an open forum where anyone can share.

It has included presentations by individuals on topics ranging from such topics as the nature of Christian preaching, what is the gospel and how are people saved, and engaging “spirit/s” in Greek literature. We’ve also had group counter-point discussions. Thus, this post.

This week only Zondervan is offering each of their Counterpoint series for only $4.99 (a steal of a deal). These have made our Club able of tackling all sorts of issues that we don’t have to be concerned with intense research or the stress of what to say. We simply provide a copy via our library, ask individuals in the Club to read a particular view/chapter and highlight the key points of the argument being presented. We’ve covered such topics as genocide in the OT and women in ministry, with plans to continue using this series. It also allows the rest of us the opportunity to hear a number of perspectives from within the broader scope of Evangelicalism on a topic.

If anyone is interested in starting such a group on their campus this is a great way to supplement discussions that is low cost and low stress.

You are a Wild Donkey in Heat

Sloppy wetI’m fairly certain we prefer a sanitized Bible.

I’m even more certain we prefer sanitized worship songs.

This morning we sang that epic wave-making worship limerick by John Mark McMillan: “so heaven meets earth, like a sloppy wet kiss…” and those leading the singing belted out the line with gusto. I was happy to join them. Most in the congregation probably were not. Even the projected words read the softened text: “like an unforeseen kiss”. Bo-ring!

The original simile is intentionally at once both striking and messy. It well describes the impassioned, all-in in-breaking of heaven on earth. Its the one I prefer. And its hard to sing. But I want to sing it because it reminds me of the many strange and powerful, disturbing and poignant poems of Scripture. Hey, I’m an Old Testament guy, so I don’t have the leisure to study safe texts.

Like this one from my morning devotional reading (just before heading to church and singing “like a sloppy wet kiss”):

“How can you say, ‘I am not defiled;
    I have not run after the Baals’?
See how you behaved in the valley;
    consider what you have done.
You are a swift she-camel
    running here and there,
a wild donkey accustomed to the desert,
    sniffing the wind in her craving—
    in her heat who can restrain her?
Any males that pursue her need not tire themselves;
    at mating time they will find her.” (Jeremiah 2:23-24 NIV)

Where is the song we sing about being “a wild donkey…in her heat”? By the way, I’m not really wanting to sing that one and thankfully it was not written to be sung (at least I hope not). Yet there it is…right in our nice little Bibles. And here we are…called to confess such as the word of the LORD (“Thanks be to God”).

How should we express such imagery in song? Are we only to sing songs our “sensibilities” welcome? Is there room in the Church to embrace such divine provocations?

A Dirty Secret About Me

Here it is…

Wait for it…Secret

I LOVE pastoring and I love my congregation and I love my community!  Okay.  So that isn’t “dirty,” nor a “secret,” but it is about me. :-)  I have found too often when speaking with pastors in an intimate setting that they either don’t love pastoring, or their church, or their community (or all of the above).  This is a sad state of affairs and my word to them is, “Get out of the ministry, because you aren’t doing anyone a favor by continuing.” Too often a pastor will remain a pastor just because that’s what they do and they don’t know what else to do.  I do go on to tell such “pastors” that they need to either quit their churches or find God’s love for what they are, where they are and what they are doing.

On the other hand, I meet pastors who genuinely enjoy what they are doing and could never see themselves doing anything else.  They love the folks who gather with them in worship, discipleship and mission.  They even love their community.  It’s a beautiful thing to behold…and I am encouraged by such faithful ministers of the good news.

So I guess I just wanted to share that “dirty secret about me”.  I really do love what I do, where I am…and even who I am (warts and all)!

[originally blogged July 12, 2012 at bluechippastor.org]


As an update, I also LOVE teaching at Trinity now three years after I first blogged this. Just in case anyone missed that in my status updates over the last two years. ;-)