Prophesy and the gift of tongues…

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1 Corinthians 14:39 So, my friends, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues; 40 but all things should be done decently and in order. 

Paul spent quite a bit of time in this letter discussing the use of the gift of tongues and prophesy in the church body. I’m a Lutheran pastor and I can tell you that tongues and prophecy aren’t typically part of our tradition. It’s rare to encounter a Lutheran who is well versed in the application of these gifts – at least the supernatural dimensions of them. For instance many in our tradition speak out against injustice in the world, which is a function of the prophetic. However, few people willingly share prophetic visions and dreams or words of knowledge from the lord. And tongues? Um, I don’t think so.

That said these are important gifts for the church and, as Paul says in v.39, we should “be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues”. I’ve been fortunate to lead a church that was quite free with these gifts and used them well. I realize there are places where spiritual gifts are abused or used improperly, but that doesn’t mean the gifts themselves aren’t useful, legitimate, and entrusted to the church for God’s purposes. My hope is that the church I now lead in suburban Dallas will grow in our openness to the supernatural gifts of God. That we will be a people eager to claim and use them “decently and in order”.

Lord, give us grace to be open to receive and use ALL of the gifts of the spirit, even the weird ones. Amen.

“Hurry” seduces me. All the time…

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Proverbs 7:21 With much seductive speech (the adulteress) persuades (a young man without sense); with her smooth talk she compels him. 22 Right away he follows her, and goes like an ox to the slaughter, or bounds like a stag toward the trap 23 until an arrow pierces its entrails. He is like a bird rushing into a snare, not knowing that it will cost him his life.

This is the third proverb in a row that discusses “the adulteress” and the dangers of following her. It’s similar to the description of “wisdom” as a woman. Hence the adulteress is less about marital infidelity but a metaphor for all things that tempt us away from God. This morning I’m reflecting on this idea and asking the Lord to show me the “adulteress” leading me in the wrong direction.

Where I am tempted most often is to allow other priorities to take precedent over time with the Lord. It’s the tyranny of the urgent. Gotta take care of this – right now! Gotta check on this other thing – ASAP! It never stops.

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Psalm 64: 2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the scheming of evildoers, 3 who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, 4 shooting from ambush at the blameless; they shoot suddenly and without fear. 

Verse 3 and 4 here speak to the power of words and the violence they can do when used carelessly. This is a particularly important word for extraverts like me who are prone to talk without thinking first. Lord guard my lips. Teach me to use words for building up and not tearing down. Amen.

Feast for the soul..

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Psalm 63:1 O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. 5 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips…

This psalm reflects such a longing and hunger for the Lord. I’m particularly drawn to v.5 “My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast…”. It reflects a satisfaction on the inside, a spirit that is at peace and does not want. It’s the kind of satisfaction that money can’t buy which only the Lord can give. It’s what we seek in a time of fasting as we ask the Lord to fill us with spiritual food. Lord let it be so. Amen.

 

 

Confessions of a clanging cymbal

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1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If you’ve been reading 1 Corinthians you’ve probably noticed that Paul is writing to a group of young Christians – young in the faith that is. He’s been offering counsel on basic stuff like what to eat and what not to eat, how to deal with male/female relationships within the church, addressing abuses of the Lord’s Supper. And then in chapter 12 he describes spiritual gifts which God has given to these young believers, and the fact that all the gifts are needed in the one body of the Christ – the church.

So here in chapter 13 Paul elaborates on the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit. In our passage above he mentions the gifts of tongues, prophetic powers, understanding and knowledge, faith. There are many more though they’re not included here. One thing you might expect in a church full of new believers is inexperience in using the gifts of the spirit to serve the purposes of God. And so Paul explains that, no matter the gift, it must be deployed in the spirit of “love” (“agape” in Greek).

This kind of love compels us to serve others, to use our spiritual gifts for the common good and not the self. Agape is patient, kind, not envious or boastful, and so on. It’s a love that is most powerfully demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

In my early years as a Christian I discovered I had a gift for speaking/preaching. Sometimes I think I was more interested in drawing attention to myself than in sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not proud of that but it’s true. I was like a “noisy gong or clanging cymbal” to borrow a phrase from Paul. Yet over the years I learned a lesson. I learned it’s possible to speak in a way that people find entertaining, but is not particularly fruitful. It’s sort of like giving people junk food to eat instead of the eternal bread of life in Jesus Christ.

Our reading today reminds me of this lesson, that the gifts of the spirit are given to serve God, not self. I’d like to think I have a much clearer understanding and practice of this now. Lord let it be so, by your grace. Amen.

Filled to overflowing…

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Proverbs 3:9 Honor the LORD with your substance (wealth) and with the first fruits of all your produce; 10 then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

This is a description of God’s abundance and an illustration of the tithe. Logic says that the more I give away the less I have, but things work differently in the kingdom of God. When I give to the Lord I will always have enough. I wish I’d learned this lesson sooner than I did. If you wonder if this can be true you should try it. Give a tithe of your income and see what happens. You won’t regret it. That’s a promise from God. Lord open our hearts to be generous that we might experience your abundance to overflowing. Amen.

Human help is worthless…

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Psalm 60: 10 Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go out, O God, with our armies. 11 O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless. 12 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes. 

Once again David is in trouble militarily and cries out to God for salvation. What I find interesting is David’s interpretation of his flagging military fortunes. He doesn’t name problems of military strategy or lack of adequate troops or inferior weapons technology or poor leadership from his generals. In David’s mind there is only one explanation for his losses. God has rejected him and the armies of Israel.

V.11 “O grant us help against the foe, for human help is worthless.”

I don’t often interpret my own struggle or misfortune as tied to my relationship with the Lord, but perhaps I should. There’s no doubt that I too often lean on “human help” rather than divine help. Lord have mercy upon me for I am a sinner in need of your grace. Amen.